I am responding to Carol Tebb’s call for discussion on astrology and education. I agree with her that we need to have some real dialog on education and astrology, astrology and certification, teaching methods, and much else. Since I tend to be critical in some of my opinions, I want to point out that my criticisms are not to be taken as those of an outsider. There are few issues in my life more important to me than matters of education. I have tried to do my part by creating and maintaining the “Heart Center Library,” what may well be the largest astrological library in this country or perhaps the world.
In addition I taught astrology classes for many years, ran my own school of astrology (with diplomas) and even now have an 1100 page (2 volume) course on astrology in paperback on Amazon.com. In fairness, I should also should point out that I have not personally had much experience with formal education, since I never graduated from high school and pretty much hated being in school every day up to that point. I also am more or less an old hippie, having done home birth, home educated most of my children, and am into preventative and alternative medicine. So be warned.
Education is such an important issue, especially for astrology, where there is so much diversity of opinion on what astrology is and does. And there are different ways to learn, and not all of us can grasp abstract logic. I happen to be a ‘hands-on’ type in that I usually need some practical real-life experience in order to understand much of anything, some kind of touchstone so that I can feel and get the sense of something.
To give you a sad example: I had to take Algebra One three times because it was way too abstract for me, but I got all A’s in Geometry. They finally passed me in algebra just to get me out of the class. And as awful as that was, it does not make me a total dummy, just clueless in certain areas. I could not wait to get out of school and into the real world to experience life for myself, a life without instructors or guides. I like guiding and teaching myself.
So I have registered here my general skepticism when it comes to education. I have looked at various astrological courses and certification attempts, and so on, and, while supportive of these in principle, I have never been that convinced that we have quite the right approach or mix. But, in all fairness, I have not much liked what I have seen in society’s conventional academic scene, such as the politics and the way professors treat one another, and so on. Their behavior is nothing to emulate. The behavior of lawyers, doctors, and other well-respected professions have not much endeared themselves to me either, so I remain skeptical (and a little cynical) to some degree as to what formal education can provide.
If academic professors can’t manage to take the high road, how can we expect astrologers to be much different if we can manage to join them? Astrologers are no saints either, and they are underpaid or almost not paid at all. As for credentials, experience, approaches, etc., we are all over the board and it is almost hopeless to try to create one path or test that will suit all of what we collectively are.
I have written elsewhere and ad nauseam how I cannot in good faith accept that astrology can predict empirical things like the stock market, especially when there is no sign of this, which leaves astrology, in my experience, as a kind of shamanic or spiritual discipline. I do believe that astrologers, at least of the counseling variety, are to some marked degree acting the role of shamans in modern society.
As you see, I already have excluded myself from a good section of the astrological field by not being (at least myself) able to predict anything practical (like make money in the stock market) and by proclaiming that astrology for me is a shamanic journey about knowing myself and my work in this life, and perhaps helping others to do the same.
I do have high hopes for Kepler College, but must say that I am disappointed (and somewhat embarrassed) to see us parading around in cap and gowns and declaring that anyone without a college degree (or whatever) cannot teach at Kepler College. It sends the same message that too much of modern society already broadcasts, something to the effect of ‘Please help us build the railroad, but you won’t be on the train.” On the personal level, since I never got out of high school, I guess I won’t be teaching at Kepler College anytime soon. Many other astrologers I have spoken with feel the same way.
This is not meant to discourage the Kepler folks, but only to offer sincere criticism and to say: look to your roots, people! I have never wanted astrologers to become like doctors and lawyers anyway. What I hoped for was that we would someday be respected and attain a reasonable social status for being just what we now are, spiritual guides and counselors - just like priests and ministers, but secular.
Yes, I am for losing some of the astrology hokum, but I vote to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s face it: astrologers are an eclectic group. I was at the UAC convention at Denver in May of 2008, and I can assure you that it was not all black coat and tie - far from it. So I am not looking to throw all of those astrologers who use what I think are ridiculous techniques out of the club and band the rest of us together. Forget about that plan.
This idea that we can somehow separate astrology (and a select group of astrologers) from the great unwashed by clinging only to those qualities that society finds acceptable is not a direction I can respect. How do we take what I consider a spiritual discipline and measure it by meters and feet? Who is going to decide which astrologers get on the Ark of respectability and which are left behind? I can’t imagine that working and it would only imitate what we already have in society, a division between the ‘haves” and the “have nots.” This type of accreditation would not stop the “have nots” astrologers from practicing.
So while astrology’s efforts to pander to or fit in with society don’t intrigue me all that much, I would welcome efforts to better organize the whole bunch of us, warts and all. The UAC conference was well organized, but I came away with the impression (which was pure déjà vu) that as a group we are still so underpaid that we have to sell ourselves every which way we can just to survive. This is indeed embarrassing to me and somewhat sad.
On the one hand some astrologers are suggesting we try to pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps so that we can conform and appear like the rest of society and be paid like them, while on the other hand we lack (as a group) the money, formal training, perhaps the discipline, and most of all (I believe) the ‘heart’ or desire to pass for conventional. We have been rogue for a long time.
It appears to me that we don’t really as a group want to be all that conventional. You might say that a little money and respect would make us more conventional, but I would respond: I am not sure that is all that attractive a goal for us, although we could use the money.
The fact is, folks, we are very unconventional! Let’s accept ourselves just as we are and make our eclecticism a feature rather than a liability. I have no interest in wearing a suit and tie ever again. I can see from UAC that we are indeed a wild and crazy bunch and I for one am glad about that.
NCGR and Other Courses
I have examined the courses and requirements of the NCGR education and certification and it all looks good. I am all for learning and teaching astrology, but I am not so keen on testing and certifying anyone based just on pencil and paper alone, mainly because I am not clear about how this can be done, except in a very dry, formal, and technical way. Astrology is for me primarily a spiritual discipline and I have not seen the test yet that can measure that. We have not even tried to do that.
I would welcome adding courses, etc. that would teach counseling, shamanistic approaches, meditation, mind training, esoteric astrology, and any and all of the spiritual knowledge that also is required to make up a good astrologer. We can’t test it, but we can share and promote it. This is a direction I would like to see education going in. Instead of mimicking traditional colleges (and yes I understand the low-hanging fruit of having accreditation), I would like to see a curriculum that more mirrors what astrologers actually do, which I believe is, as mentioned, primarily shamanic. Most astrologers counsel. Period. Those that do not are a small minority in my experience.
So, if we want a college, let it be as much a college of the spirit as of the current so-called testable techniques. Why not let education be a mirror of ‘who’ and what we actually are. Now that is something I could get into. And let us not forbid those of us who don’t have enough formal degrees (like myself) from helping with the teaching and mentoring. How foolish to waste any one of us, if we want to and can help.
Astrologer Lee Lehman has written an article titled “A lot has happened while you have been asleep… Education and Professionalism in the Age of Pluto in Capricorn.” It will appear in the next ISAR journal and is a good read.
In that she suggests (I don’t know if this is her personal opinion) that instead of trying to gain accreditation, we might better position astrology as a craft or art. I feel this is an excellent suggestion and one that would not require us to contort ourselves in trying to fit in. It also would better accommodate our natural spiritual or shamanic side, so the technical part of astrology and the shamanic part could co-exist and be promoted together.
I would like us to be accepted and come into our own for who we are and have always been, I have no interest to somehow follow the dictates of society and just go along in order to fit in. Astrologers have something very special to bring to society. I know that and you know that. I don’t want that to be diminished in exchange for respectability and acceptance. I am reminded of a wonderful scene someone described to me.
It was early evening on a farm, and across the lawn marched three cats walking step-by-step, with tails raised, in a single line. And following right behind the three cats was one skunk, walking right in line after them, and trying to act as much like a cat as could be. I am not saying that astrologers are the skunk in the line of cats, but I do believe that whatever we are, we probably will never fit in by trying to just go along to get along.
For myself, I want to do the best I can technically, but much more important to me is to protect, share, and provide a future for the spiritual or shamanic side of astrology. For me, that is the heart and soul of our field. We have been bending over backward to protect the outer or testable areas of astrology. I suggest we do the same kind of bending to share and preserve the spiritual core of astrology. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening… enough. Our spiritual core is being taken for granted or assumed. I love the old saying “It goes without saying,” but I have to add “or you can say it again,” and in this case I feel we have to say it again and remind ourselves of our shamanic function. We cannot afford to lose that. Astrology is, for me at least, always a sacred portal to learning what the cosmos is trying to tell me and I value that.
I apologize for the length of this entry. I know there is great disagreement on many of these issues, and respectfully offer my personal opinions only to get a dialog started here.