Earlier in my life, as a hippie teenager and in my 20s, I found astrology a topic of interest, to the extent that I took courses, bought ephemerides, learned how to cast charts, and pored over the fascinating archetypes – a cast of characters with timeless appeal.
Later, in my forties, I was drawn into a multi-year fascination with the Human Design system, which creates a different kind of chart purporting to map energetic connections in the body, but still based on birth-time. Due to my increasing maturity (I guess), and in the process of creating and interpreting a Human Design chart (as a paid endeavor) for a close friend who I knew quite well, I had an attack of conscience because his Human Design chart and characterization as a Reflector really did not jibe with my experience of his character. I was having to twist myself up into too much of a pretzel to fit my own experience of him into the prescribed characterization of his supposed Reflector-ness. Once I began to question the whole premise of birth-time as primary determinant of a person’s character and life-map, my belief that there was some validity to the astrological endeavor evaporated quite rapidly.
Reasons I had believed in it: RG’s genius chart throwing; Psychic attunement explains what is emphasized and what is discarded.
Pretzel-izing my own experience to fit the mold. Then I reached a pretzel-breaking point.
How people read charts – what they focus on. Cognitive errors, confirmation bias in validating results.
Why it could be somewhat harmless.
Why it could be harmful. TV show about Taiwanese woman whose family sent her away based on negative astrological forecast upon her birth. REALLY??!!! Extreme example.
Your own integrity as a counselor to others. You can justify it as benign, in the sense it allows people to talk through their current dilemmas with someone and bounce them off archetypes, thus expanding their own sense of how they really feel, to help them make decisions. Since there are plenty of archetypes and symbols to choose from within the vast array of options within a birth chart (signs, planets, houses and their infinite combinations) there will always be something resonant for the client to pick up on, and the sensitive astrologer will (mostly unconsciously) follow the client’s responses to emphasize those aspects, allowing them to essentially counsel themselves about a decision or dilemma they are dealing with in their lives.
In order to be a benign astrologer, you would have to have a selective approach to applying the supposed rules to the person in terms of the overall interpretation of the chart. To do THAT you will have to use the rules when it suits the energy of the client, and ignore them when the energy goes another way. For a typical chart, that is not screaming some very specific message, and within the vast array of interpretation options, it’s usually easy to find a way to please them, give them what they need to resolve some issue they need to resolve, and feel OK yourself that the reading is a service of overall benefit to the client. However, if you were really true to your training, you would apply the rules more rigidly. Such as, if an AI or robot simply interprets charts.
So do you really believe the system? Or not so much, just feel it’s a justifiable, close-enough system of overall benefit. It does not have the stigma which psychotherapy STILL has, even in 2018, and has the added benefit of sticking a finger in the eye of scolding science-types, to affirm your own alternative values (both the client and the astrologer / Human Design practitioner).
Progressed charts of the times, NOT based on birthtime, would be more of an open system. Tarot cards, throwing the I Ching, etc. have no inherent bias as each reading is fresh and random within the system. To me that is a better use of an oracular system (another word). The excuse is that people would not be as interested in something if they don’t believe it’s specific to THEM, does not in my opinion justify the selective application of traditional rules.
In most charts, the chart itself is general enough that it supports a wide array of interpretation options, so you can emphasize and downplay aspects of the chart according to the client’s responses without any real noticeable contradiction. However, in a subset of charts, let’s say 12%, the message the chart presents would be so specific or extreme that you couldn’t really in all good conscience ignore it and in that case you would be kind of obligated to present it in at least some way to the client.
So ultimately I had to stand up for not supporting astrological charts. Once a friend who was exploring some life dilemmas asked my opinion if she should consult an astrologer and, when asked a direct question, I could not conceal my true opinion, and told her, “Well, I think the whole thing is a load of crap.” I told her more about my whole journey in this realm. But normally, I will just smile and nod when astrology conversations arise and even offer my sun sign and smile when people say, “Oh, I can see that. You are such a Leo!” … or some such based on my mane-like hair volume. Next time I’ll say Sagittarius and see what people say … Actually, try that yourself – say a different sun-sign than you are – when with people who don’t know you well and whether they are able to find a way to affirm how you are a good example of that sun-sign.
So, to return to the title of this post, Is the practice of astrology really harmless? It would depend on what your own definition of harm is. And that would depend on your own appetite and capacity for self-evaluation, and metaphysical certainty. So in my own context, I could no longer in good conscience offer chart readings, whether astrological or Human Design, because my standards for how my behavior might affect another’s life became stricter, and my view of the nature of reality more fine-grained.