DIY Astrologers Vs. Standardized Astrological Education
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
This article was originally published on the main blog on October 19, 2009. Jupiter, Chiron, and Neptune were in Aquarius at the time, and Aquarian energy and themes are just about to be ramped up again as transiting Jupiter and Saturn move near-simultaneously into the sign of the water-bearer next month.
Different philosophies/teachings/wisdom (Jupiter) pertaining to groups, communities, vision, and future propulsion (Aquarius) will be at the forefront in 2021 just as they were in 2009, and I think this article is just as relevant now as we move into this Aquarian infusion (Jupiter, Saturn, and then Pluto in Aquarius) as it was nearly one full Jupiter cycle ago. I've updated it a little for re-publishing here:
DIY Astrologers Vs. Standardized Astrological Education
I'm a self-taught intuitive astrologer. It's been a relatively short but sometimes brutally intensive course of study. Books, internet, astrology message boards, practising on people (sorry people!), and daily observation of transiting planets were the main avenues I took. The ideas and techniques of other astrologers have certainly influenced the development of my own astrological take (as I've influenced others), but there is no one who can take credit for my personal astrological analysis or perspective. I worked hard for it, and it's mine. I haven't learned from any one astrologer or any one course of study and didn't take formal courses at an astrology school. This was not necessarily because I didn't want to - at least in the beginning. I was open to the idea. It was moreso that it just wasn't in my stars, so to speak, to learn that way. Initially, I didn't have the money to take classes or courses, so I learned on my own. Then I realized that this was actually the way for me to go - choosing my own course of study, bit-by-bit, as an autodidact and letting my particular practise of astrology come into existence on its own terms. I think for people who are meant to access it, astrology is inherent in a lot of ways. One day you start to read it or hear about it and it just means something to you. From there, a process is triggered by which it is drawn to the surface, into conscious, day-to-day life. It feels as if you've always had the knowledge inside. It just takes a while to fully develop the language and techniques used to access and express it. I think a do-it-yourself (DIY) style is fairly common among astrologers, and as a Plutonic punk/anarchist astrologer myself, a DIY path would be particularly apropos.
At the same time, it's also fairly common to take a specific course of study under specific astrologers as teachers, including at established astrology schools. My view is that it depends entirely upon the individual which way of learning is preferable. To each his/her own. I wouldn't suggest one way of learning astrology is better than another or makes a person more of an astrologer. A mix of formal classes and self-study would be a potent way to learn, but again, it depends on the situation and the means available. It depends what's in the stars and what's in the bank account. It depends what you have access to and whether you have the expendable fiat currency to throw down for it. From what I can surmise, the vast majority of the most publicly established and lauded professional astrologers are upper-middle class or at least comfortably middle class. They've had the means to pay for astrological education from established astrology schools - often more than one school - or even to set up astrology schools of their own. They've had the educational, networking, and promotional opportunities that come from jet-setting around to astrology conferences and retreats all over the country or the world. They've had a financial cushion as they established their professional astrological careers, providing comfort, confidence, and resources not available to poor or working class astrologers. Maybe most importantly, their similar economic statuses and experiences in life have shaped their perspectives so that they are "acceptable and respectable" according to the dictates of the broader astrological establishment. Their views and astrological interpretations are harmonious with that middle and upper-middle class scene and would most likely not hit a sour ("negative," "fear-based," "lower vibration") note within that group of people - at least, not a serious one.
The considerations and conditions for a poor or working class astrologer would be much different from those of a middle or upper-middle class astrologer in most cases. Learning and practising astrology and establishing oneself as a professional astrologer could be much more of a scrappy-ass daily battle without those resources or connections. But hey - isn't the scrappy daily battle for survival in a classist and money-driven world part of what makes the poor and working class so admirably strong, spunky, and independent? I believe it is. There is a push in many astrology circles these days, including in Canada, for standardized astrological education. I'm, of course, opposed to this because I feel this is not necessary across the board, and I think it would be quite stifling to the creative side of astrology - the spiritual art aspect - to have this imposed on people. I understand that people who want standardized education want to weed out the fakes. They wish to make astrology more accepted and respected in the mainstream by making it necessary for astrologers to have a certain standardized education before practising professionally. I just don't think this is the way to go for aforementioned reasons but also, I've never been a mainstream-accepted kind of gal, and I don't think mainstream acceptance is something we should demand all astrologers strive for. Mainstream acceptance, if it comes about, should be based on the stellar work of astrologers impressing people to such an extent that they say, "Hmm...there might be something to this." Acceptance and respect in the mainstream could naturally come about as a byproduct of excellent astrological work, but just as I found out that it wasn't in my best interests to try to get in with the popular kids in high school, I think making mainstream acceptance an across-the-board goal is not a good idea. I think this push is biased to the scientific/psychological side of things and is quite masculine-driven, as well. I don't consider astrology a hard science, and I don't consider myself a psychologist, so again, this is not something I can personally get behind. And let's be honest - this also has a lot to do with money, increased public status, and the desire for a broader customer base. There's nothing wrong with that. I just don't think imposing standardized astrological education on everyone is the way to go to achieve that. (A little control freak-y and paternalistic, no?) Yes, there is a basic system of astrology, and to call yourself an astrologer, you need to know and use that system. But even what that basic system is depends upon whom you ask. I was shocked when I first found out that some astrologers don't use signs or houses in their analysis! They use only aspects between and among the planets. Other astrologers don't use the outer planets at all - meaning no Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto. Then there is the choice between tropical and sidereal, the choice of house system (there are many - and again, some astrologers don't use any!), what planets/bodies/points you consider important enough to include in your analysis, and then the variations in interpretation among astrologers. There are so many choices to make over the course of developing one's practise of astrology that I really feel that there are as many variations as there are astrologers - at least, if astrology is being practised as a energetic, metaphysical, spiritual, or healing art. The art and flavour are in the style and interpretation of each astrologer. And yeah, that leaves astrology open to watered-down versions practised by people who have not really put the time and effort into it, people who practise "soft astrology" and deal in textbook generalities or who water astrology down with a lot of other concepts to the point where it's more of a token kind of thing. This bugs me, too, at times. I totally get that. On more than one occasion, practitioners I've come into contact with have started promoting themselves as professional astrologers after only weeks of study. Knowing how much time, effort, dedication, and practise it takes to gain any mastery of astrology - especially enough to do paid readings - I know it would be impossible in those cases to be practising anything other than "soft astrology" mixed with other concepts or modalities.
Being a professional astrologer is a major responsibility and requires gradual initiation into the weight of that responsibility, including the development of a paid practise. There is no such thing as an "Insta-Astrologer." So yeah, I get it. It's irritating and even insulting when you've personally put the time and effort into it, really committed to it, lived it, sacrificed for it, and then people latch onto the label of "astrology" or "astrologer" in a very watered-down sense to sell a few more readings. This definitely could be damaging to the credibility of astrology in the mainstream. But I can't personally stop people from selling watered-down astro-babble, as long as they're keeping it legal. All I can hope is that the proof will be in the pudding and these shortcut-takers will eventually reap what they sow. The other side of the coin is enforced standardized astrological education, which bothers me just as much, if not more. Because who determines what the "standardized" astrological education is? Who determines what we all "have to know," how we must come to know it, and how much we must pay to learn it? Who determines what is important to teach and what isn't? Which astrologers have their work included and which don't? Which versions of astrology are the accepted ones and which ones aren't? From whose perspective is it taught? Outside the very, very basics, it's up for debate.
For example, the vast majority of the most popular and well-established (also well-moneyed) astrology comes from a foundation of New Age ideology, an ideology I staunchly oppose.
Recently, I've seen two semi-high profile astrologers portraying transhumanism and the Singularity as good things for humanity, as things to be celebrated and welcomed as organic, inevitable, and the logical next steps in humanity's "evolution of consciousness." These views are most likely stemming from New Age thought, and I find them horrifying to the core. Would these types of views be taught as part of a standardized astrological education? Considering the extremely powerful influence of New Age and these types of ideas within the broader astrological establishment, I unfortunately think the answer to that would be yes. I cannot promote a standardized way of learning astrology and, as an anarchist astrologer, would see enforcement of this as authoritarian. What I can get behind is this: do what's right for you as an astrologer. Follow your passion and what interests and excites you at the time. Certain areas will draw you in and just make sense, and there's your personal track. This is how people get to the astrology that pours out of their souls. This is how they get to the astrology only they can practise, from the perspective only they can bring. Early on, as I moved away from relying on other people's interpretations and started doing my own interpretation of the zodiac, I erroneously believed that I used an "evolutionary" perspective of the chart. Now, I can't say where I first saw these words or in what context, but this was the way I felt I personally looked at the birth chart. It was also the way I looked at my own life, pre-astrology. It related to an idea that there were broader reasons for my personal life, including my trials and tribulations, and that there were broader soul-based goals and dynamics going on that I couldn't necessarily see. There was a force underlying this personal life of mine, ensuring that I hit my marks while I was here. In basic terms, this way of looking at the birth chart meant holding as a working hypothesis that we're born at the time that we are under the conditions that we are for developmental or growth-related reasons, both personal and collective. Our personal lives are connected to broader collective forces, dynamics, and trends related to what has come before, to what exists presently, and to what is yet to come. Our astrological themes,even the most difficult ones, are purposeful with this outlook of the birth chart. The signs of the zodiac are complex and layered, relating to unfolding processes, rather than to fixed traits that we "are" according to our astrology.
Through my course of learning and practising as a fledgling astrologer, I read books, articles, and analysis by a lot of astrologers. I had read books by Jeffrey Wolf Green, Steven Forrest, and Jan Spiller, among others, and enjoyed learning about different techniques and interpretations from a variety of sources. I participated on internet message boards with professional astrologers and astrology students and hobbyists (the fun and dynamic Astrology tribe on now-defunct Tribe.net), and I found the work and insights of all variety of astrologers to be interesting. I contributed my own insights, integrated what was meaningful to me from what I read, and didn't much bother with the rest.
From very early on in my studies and practise, my favourite astrology book was just the good old ephemeris.
In my "solitary practitioner" naivete, I had no idea that Evolutionary Astrology (TM) was a specific program of study stemming from astrologers Jeffrey Wolf Green, Steven Forrest, and Jan Spiller. I had no idea there were entire Evolutionary Astrology schools turning out a particular brand of Evolutionary Astrologers.
I was quite surprised by a conversation I had with a customer at the store where I worked in around 2007. It came up that I was an "evolutionary" astrologer. She said, "Oh, so you've studied at Rose Marcus' school!" I had no idea who Rose Marcus was at the time, but it turned out she is an astrologer in Vancouver, B.C. who teaches the Jeffrey Wolf Green et al. school of Evolutionary Astrology.
So you can see how this would be a bit of a dilemma with me (early on) referring to myself as an "evolutionary" astrologer. I knew my perspective of the chart was development- and process-oriented rather than fixed, but I didn't practise astrology in the particular way taught by those astrologers. For example, that specific school of Evolutionary Astrology uses the concept of past lives as integral and has quite a strong psychological tone whereas I don't use psychology as the driving force behind my analysis, and I don't use the concept of past lives.
There is a strong element of critical thinking necessary for anyone to learn any subject and then do their own thing with it. Looking at the chart with an "evolutionary" or developmental eye doesn't require using the specific techniques of any one astrologer or group of astrologers...but it was certainly helpful to learn about the most famous version of Evolutionary Astrology!
After discovering all this, I stopped referring to myself as an evolutionary astrologer. It became apparent that I was actually a Plutonic punk astrologer and an anarchist astro-reporter!
What I've come to understand through my interactions in astrology circles is that for every astrologer who gains some level of mass appeal and name recognition, there are probably 30 more working away in comparative obscurity, and many are doing work of equal quality. Their work, too, is an important contribution to the energetic body of astrology as a whole, to the growth and development of the collective astrological databank as it builds and does its thing in the world. I think the singling out of certain big name astrology stars (haha...as much as there is such a thing!) is a bit of a Pluto in Leo throwback. There are some problematic elements to that level of acclaim and applause, including the amount of influence those astrologers have as far as the parameters of accepted astrological discourse and the direction of the astrological community as a whole, including educational elements. This isn't taking away from the excellent work these astrology stars have done and are doing, but I always have to look at the people who are not being as recognized and applauded, who are not afforded that same public visibility within the astrological community. They keep on keeping on with this beautiful work, making their contributions to much less public fanfare. This other side of the coin is what balances the story of astrology out for me.
I'm a self-taught intuitive astrologer who has fought every day to do my work in this world. I can sincerely say that the proof of my competence is in the pudding. I'm a professional astrologer. I'm a professional astrology writer. I'm an intuitive healer who uses astrology and words. There's no school or organization or person in the world who can take that from me. It's who I am, it's what I do, and I've earned it every step of the way.
I extend my recognition and respect to all initiated astrologers who take on the work of sharing the magic of astrology in helpful ways in this world, no matter what their personal stories may be. Whether we like it or not, doing this work in the world makes us all members of the wild and ragtag, structured and serious, modern and edgy, traditional and rooted, spiritual and intuitive, scientific and rational astrological community. Let's enjoy that.
Another article on the subject: The Diminishing and Marginalization of "Those Types" of Astrologers Within the Astrological Establishment
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