I have been involved in the advance of technology as it relates to astrology for the last 35 years or so. Aside from helping to implement astrological algorithms on microcomputers, I have explored a great many astrological techniques and in real detail.
Like so many astrologers before me, I too searched for the astrological grail, some physical proof as to just how astrology works, proof enough that my scientific friends would stop ignoring astrology. That proof never was found, at least by me.
I would be searching today had not a couple of lucky breaks upset my apple cart and sent me off in another direction. Forgive me some personal comments, but the story is probably worth relating.
This was many years ago now. I was living here in Big Rapids and busy running Matrix Software, a company I started in 1977. I received a phone call from an old friend who lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the place where I grew up and first became a professional astrologer. My friend, busy on his own quest, was always finding one teacher or guru after another. I was used to him being ‘gone’ on this or that revelation.
At any rate, he called to tell me that he had just met this incredible Tibetan lama who was visiting Ann Arbor. I listened to what he had to say, told him it sounded good, and then explained to him that I did not have time to run down there and check the guy out.
I was after all a businessman and doing business was what I did in those days. I had neither interest nor intention in changing my schedule and popping doing to Ann Arbor. And that was that. Thanks for the call.
And then a funny thing happened a few days later. It was just before dawn and I had this incredible dream, a dream that was more like waking life than waking life. In the dream, I was driving to Ann Arbor to meet this incredible golden man, who shined like the Sun. I awoke and sat up in bed. My wife had a similar dream at the same time.
An incredible sadness overcame me, a sadness over the fact that my life had hardened so much that experiences like I just dreamed were no longer possible. My life had become so routine, so businesslike that there were no gaps for chance happenings. And the result was that I could not go on as I had been and right then and there determined that I would not go to work that day. Instead, I would go to Ann Arbor to meet this man that my friend had told me about.
I phoned him (although he sleeps late) and it was very early in the morning, but after all: what are friends for? I woke him up and said I was coming to Ann Arbor. He told me that it was too late, as the man was leaving Ann Arbor that morning and it is a 3-hour drive from where I live. I said I don’t care. I am coming anyway and at the worst will have a day out and away from my routine. I got my wife and kids, toothbrushes in our mouths, into the car and headed out.
As it turned out, the man was still there and my friend was even down by the road to wave us in and make sure we did not miss the driveway. As I pulled in the drive, I could see a young Tibetan sitting on the front step. This man looked nothing like the one in my dream. As it turned out, this was the translator, who later became a close friend to me.
As we waited in a small room, in walked the man in my dreams, perhaps sixty years old and shining like the Sun. I didn’t know what to think and so just let go. It was a momentous meeting, more than words can say. I was meeting sheer kindness. And although the Tibetan lama had to leave town only a short time later, my wife and I wandered about Ann Arbor in a transcendental state, filled with kindness ourselves, and this effect lasted for some days. We had made a connection that would be with us the rest of our lives.
I had studied Buddhism (via books mostly) for the preceding ten years, this after meeting another Tibetan lama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1974, which is another story. But books alone can’t really replace one-to-one contact, and I had drifted away from whatever initial insight that contact had created. But I was reconnected now.
To make a long story shorter, I began actively to really study, but I longed to see the ‘golden man’ again and set about to do just that. It turned out that this lama lived in a Buddhist monastery (Karma Triyana Dharmachakra) on a mountain high above Woodstock, New York, where he was the main teacher and abbot. I just had to go there.
It was around the turn of the year, the very last days of December and, as it turned out, the coldest days of that year. My wife and kids and I drove over 800 miles in some bitter weather, so cold that as we drove up the tiny mountain road to the monastery I had to scrape my window again and again to get even a tiny spot to peer out as we drove along.
And finally there we were, tapping at the door, being invited in, and seated in a small waiting room. The lama did not know we were coming. After some time, into the room came the lama, whose name is Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. He sat down and smiled at us, at my family and myself, all sitting on the floor before him. We talked.
I explained to him that I had been doing astrology for many years, had taught classes, had done years of counseling, and so on. I had come to ask him if I could begin a very intense practice called ‘ngondro’, which is a kind of prerequisite for even more advanced practices in Tibetan Buddhism. He listened to all I had to say, told me he could see that my astrology was good and that I had never harmed anyone with it. However, he went on to say, when it comes to these practices I was asking about, even though I was quite advanced in astrology, he could also see that I was not advanced in meditation. In the end, what he said was that it was best for me to go back to the very beginning and start there by learning to meditate properly.
And then he also gave us some other instructions. Pretty soon it was over, the lama left the room, and we left the monastery and headed back down that icy mountain road to stay in a small motel, one of those with a tiny gas heater in the wall. There we sat, all in one cold room, looking at each other. The gas flame from the heater flickered in the dim light. I didn’t know what to think. I guess I was hoping that due to all of my years of spiritual work to perhaps place out of meditation 101 and get into those more advanced practices. But that is not what the lama had suggested.
I was in my forties and it was a struggle for my pride to have to go to the end of the line. I was tempted to ignore his advice and just keep going as I had been and figure my own path out, with no guide. The choice hung in the balance that night and it could have gone either way. In the end, I admired and was so affected by the sheer kindness of the man that I swallowed my pride and decided to start at the beginning: basic mediation practice.
I had been shown how to meditate years before and had done some, but never with the back and forth that working with a teacher can bring, even a teacher who lived at some 800 miles distance. And so I retook the meditation instructions and began to practice in earnest. And here is the point of all these words:
That decision ended up affecting my view of astrology, changing that view from an ever-looking outward to an also-looking inward at ‘who’ in the world it was that was looking for this physical or scientific basis of astrology and why? Enough words for now. In my next post, I will go into more detail on what this type of meditation actually is. I certainly never understood what it meant back in those days. And it is not what most people imagine mediation to be – some sort of relaxation therapy or stress reducer. That’s not it. What it is changed my entire way of looking at astrology, and I would guess my life.
My next post in this forum will be on "Mind Practice"
- Michael Erlewine