NOTE: A concern for ethical treatment of clients is the hallmark of any service profession, and astrology has come a long way in the past decade. Most major astrology organizations now have codes of ethics for their professional members and there are ethics symposiums at major conferences, and yet many practicing astrologers still have no training in this important issue. I’m delighted to announce the first text on this subject, a 210 page collection of chapters about a variety of important issues, written by a dozen fine professionals. Issues and Ethics In The Profession of Astrology, edited by Glenn Perry, can be ordered at http://www.aaperry.com/index.asp?pgid=76. Today’s post is an excerpt from one of my own contributions to the book, and I’m hoping to get permission to reprint excerpts from other chapters as well.
For many years, I’ve had a monthly advice column in Dell Horoscope Magazine, a Dear Abby type column in which readers write their problems and I answer based on their astrology charts. Part of the job description for that column seems to be putting out fires that other astrologers have set, for I get many letters from readers who are devastated by the way their chart reading was handled. These letters point to the need for true and responsible professional training in our field and the need, especially, for a certain amount of counseling training. Like it or not, counseling is what an astrologer does each time a client comes for a reading.
I’ve heard from any number of terrified young mothers who were told terrible things about their babies’ charts. Astrologers, please exercise extreme caution and empathy for the parents if you decide to interpret children’s charts. Nothing upsets me more than hearing about astrologers who make dire forecasts based on an infant’s chart, as they are prone to do when the outer planets are strong.
Predicting death is another area where astrologers cause a great deal of alarm–so much so that it is specifically prohibited in the codes of ethics adopted by several astrological organizations. One woman wrote to me saying that she’d been to an astrologer who said that one of her parents would die, based on a Pluto transit to the IC. Knowing the textbook litany of POSSIBLE manifestations of astrological placements isn’t enough. While his interpretations of the woman’s transits are POSSIBLE manifestations, there are myriads of other possibilities inherent in each aspect as well.
More often, in my practice, Pluto transits to the IC or to the Moon have corresponded to the parents retiring and moving away, a major relocation for the client, the purchase or renovation of a home, parenthood, uncovering family secrets, or the healing of old family wounds–or several of those at the same time. Numerous times, when transiting Pluto aspects both the IC and the Midheaven simultaneously, it has accompanied a major and powerful career change. As the transit affected the MC/IC axis, some such clients started home-based businesses. Often, political struggles in the workplace like mergers and takeovers impacted the client. These are some potential expressions of Pluto transits to the MC/IC axis, but I wouldn’t have a clue as to which outcome was foreshadowed here without questioning this woman about her situation.
It IS true that occasionally a parent dies when Pluto crosses or otherwise aspects the MC/IC axis. To discern whether that’s a possibility, I judiciously question the client about the parents’ situation and health, but do not mention death as a possibility unless the client presses. Some do press, especially when a parent is already in poor health. IF the client seems to be able to handle it, then the necessity to resolve any remaining issues around that parent does become part of our dialogue. Possibly that is exactly what the astrologer in question did also, but all that the client came away with was a sense of doom. Clients tend to remember selectively and focus on or even exaggerate our worst predictions-another reason it is helpful for them to have a tape of the session to listen to later.
Another Dell reader wrote to say that he had a devastating chart reading years ago. The astrologer told him never to give his birth information to anyone again, as the chart showed he would have a difficult life and meet a disastrous end because he has a Mars/Saturn conjunction in the 8th house. Naturally, he had been extremely fearful about the future and leery of astrology ever since. My reply was that way back then, it sounds like he ran into someone whose reading began and ended with C.E.O. Carter or some of the other fatalistic oldies.
By about 1968, when I came into astrology, we’d started mixing in psychological and humanistic perspectives on challenging chart aspects. In my 40-odd years of experience with clients who have difficult charts and lives, calamity is seldom a one-time experience, apart from plane crashes or natural disasters. The calamity prone-both psychologically and astrologically-seem to have periodic upheavals and devastating experiences. These periodic eruptions correlate with transiting planets triggering exceedingly difficult aspects in the chart-aspects that portray chronic, self-defeating behavior patterns and a propensity for taking unwise risks. The reader’s Mars/Saturn conjunction, impressive as it may have been to the astrologer he saw, is nothing compared to really difficult chart patterns I’ve worked with. (Try a Mars/Saturn/Pluto t-square in the fixed signs on for size.)
In recent years, it’s been hopeful to see astrology conferences include lectures, seminars, and discussions on ethics, as well as to see articles on the topic in our organizational journals and on their web sites. The trend doubtlessly relatedto the transit of Pluto through Sagittarius, although like many of the manifestations of that placement, such discussion can become dogmatic and, alas, humorless. Some principles are non-negotiable, like not exploiting clients. However, many other ethical questions are situational rather than absolute, and all the factors and parties involved must be considered before arriving at a conclusion as to correct behavior.
This is an excerpt from Issues and Ethics In The Profession of Astrology, edited by Glenn Perry. It can be ordered at http://www.aaperry.com/index.asp?pgid=76
UPDATE: It’s only 7 hours later, and this post has apparently stirred up quite the controversy on FaceBook. I’m not a member, but Matthew Currie (http://matthewastrology.blogspot.com/) was kind enough to relay to me. Let me add just a bit to clarify how I operate with the question of Pluto and death. I know it’s a very controversial point. I never tell a client that a parent would die, but I do often ask after the parents and how they’re doing—you would, for any aspect to the Midheaven. It is the client who will ask, “Will my Dad/Mom die?” I then say that it is one and only one of the possibilities, but then describe the others like career changes. If the parent is seriously ill and the client seems to be in denial about it, it is a self-protective mechanism that as a psychotherapist as well as an astrologer, I know not to touch. I also point out that Pluto makes at least one aspect to the Midheaven (or the Sun or Moon for that matter) during it’s transit through each and every sign of the zodiac, and that the parent has survived thus far, so the current aspect doesn’t have to mean their demise this time either. Western Astrology does not predict death, and even Vedic Astrology, which is more matter of fact than we are, only points out windows.
READERS: Has an astrologer ever told you anything that scared or seriously upset you–some dire prediction, perhaps? Please tell us about it in the comment section so astrologers can understand how powerfully their words affect their clients.
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