If I discovered astrology today, I would probably not be interested. But what exactly is it?
I was barely barely interested in the 1990s, but one writer got my attention. His warm-blooded, intelligent, soulful approach to the work — and his impossible-seeming accuracy — got my attention.
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“I look out across the slumbering sea of humanity and I whisper these words in the night. And I know that I address a great being sleeping still in ignorance of itself. I know that if the wild winter winds of your communication systems send tatters or fragments of this message echoing in the darkness, it will still be to the unconscious that I speak. For the conscious have seen the sky start to brighten in the east and have felt the warming spring of eternal life begin to thaw the hardness of their preconceptions.”
— The Starseed Transmissions
Dear Friend and Reader:
FOR A LONG TIME, I had no use for astrology. I even knew a professional astrologer, who taught me many of the basics (and quite a bit about journalism). I also knew someone intelligent who practiced astrology as part of his spiritual path.
But nothing either of them said about astrology seemed relevant or useful. It sounded like a bunch of complicated jargon that I could not connect to the spiritual principles that I was learning from A Course in Miracles, Eastern philosophy or even tarot.
At the time, I was a world-renowned investigative reporter covering toxins lawsuits and the history of GE and Monsanto. I also had more than a decade of serious spiritual study, starting in high school with the work of Hugh Prather (Notes to Myself).
By comparison, anything astrology had to say seemed like pseudo-intellectual or pseudo-spiritual bullshit. As a serious student, reporter, editor and deep reader, I was not interested. Astrology had never told me anything I didn’t already know.
Discovering Astrology in the Unlikeliest of Places
What finally got my attention was the New York Post horoscope.
Someone in my community — I don’t remember who, but thank you — knew that I liked tarot, and suggested I read the horoscope in the Post. She was sincere. I had nothing to lose; I picked up a copy of the paper, and the writer — Patric Walker — had me from the first day. And then the second day.
Packed between Jumble and Family Circus, back by the sports section, every word did its work. He knew things that I did not know. He could see something that I could not see. To this day, I bank on what Patric taught me (gems like “Saturn always gives more than it takes away”). My expression “It’s all in the houses” comes directly from him. I learned the houses from reading his little 50-word interpretations.
He could actually write, and he had intelligent things to say. He made no magical promises; he was mostly an analyst, philosopher and advocate. After about a week, astrology was real to me. Astrology had a voice, and it spoke — through Patric.
That it seemed so unlikely or even impossible that the New York Post of all places could include a font of spiritual wisdom made it even better. Who knew?
Eventually, I could not stand it anymore. I had to know how he did it. So bought an ephemeris and, each night, I studied his column for clues. I used the Crowley tarot as a reference to the basic energy of planets in signs. About 14 months later, I started my own column, The Navigator, which became Planet Waves, and have written it ever since. You may read that history in long form.
(Astrology is usually “astral.” Patric was working advanced soul-level. I have reason to believe he’s been my teacher before.)
What Digital has Done to Astrology
Digital consciousness is largely illiterate. While people can read and write in the technical sense, the digital mentality waters down spiritual and intellectual topics, and is brutal on acquired knowledge. Read the first page of Google results and you too are an expert. In digital consciousness (as with TV), there is no such thing as critical thinking. This is because one’s train of thought is wholly captured, and one’s imagination is externalized.
That is the “competition” of the digital age — the attempt to seize not just your attention but your submission. In as few words as possible, with some emotional hook to anesthetize you.
Digital (like anything electrical, but worse) takes people out of themselves, turns us into faux tribal beings, and in most people, it extinguishes curiosity. Snapshots become substitutes for experience. Digital conditions decentralize us, and the first thing taken out of its center is consciousness.
The strange feeling of our times is people walking around like phantoms in the Bardo, unaware we’ve been separated from our bodies.
This leaves the way open for all kind of “spiritual solutions,” one of which, sadly, is reflected in the current condition of astrology. There are real ways to address this, and plenty of false ones. The people who emerge as leaders are not the better astrologers, they are the ones who are better digital wizards.
Set up an Instragram account and you, too are an astrologer, and maybe a shaman as well. Say things people like to hear, and they will follow you. Most astrology contains so much jargon and can be made to seem so complex that few can tell the difference between someone who knows what they are talking about and someone who does not.
There are three basic flavors: Pollyanna, Gloomy Doomy and Medieval Technical Overload (digital retrieves medieval). When something real comes along, it has none of those properties. It will feel helpful in a nourishing and lasting way. You will keep thinking once you’ve finished reading.
It’s now possible to “be an astrologer” and have never studied with an established professional. Many have never read an astrology book and cannot use an ephemeris, the most basic tool. I would estimate that 99% of astrologers you may read have never had their work reviewed by an editor. There is no accountability for ideas that are intended to change people’s lives, and enter their consciousness unfiltered.
Astrology is a traditional art form. To master it requires contact with the tradition itself, which has been blotted out by digital conditions.
Easy Answers are Neither
MOST ASTROLOGY DOES SOMETHING that I and many other traditional teachers consider dangerous: it offers “easy answers.” It either gives cotton-candy spiritual “insights” and various lines from pop psychology. Most of it adheres to social and political trends that are subjected to no serious analysis or critique whatsoever.
These “answers” (such as false hopes, or negative things said about your chart or your sign) can stick in your mind, and alter your perception of yourself.
If I encountered astrology for the first time today, I would not be interested. It would have no appeal to me in its current form.
The only new astrology that I read these days is what the few people I consider my friends and colleagues write to me in emails — and the New York Post horoscope. Now written by Patric’s successor, it’s still relevant every day. And my readers send me interesting ideas as well, and sometimes a one-sentence email from you becomes a whole article.
I am interested in your questions and observations about astrology. Please add them to the comment section below.
This is all happening in a time when people can do “therapy” by text message, but moreover, when many, many people are suffering spiritually and psychologically and are susceptible to what are presented as solutions. This is a vulnerable state of being.
We need good astrology — with a respectful and curious approach to the human condition. We need astrology that understands that most people are struggling and need friendly encouragement, not enlightenment. We need astrologers who can handle going into deep territory with their readers and their clients. We need astrologers who are interested in what is really happening in the world.
Under digital conditions, which amount to total chaos, astrology is one of the few thought forms that has the capacity to handle our seemingly random state of affairs. Astrology is about pattern recognition. That is a very important skill to have right now. It’s also about aligning outer events with inner events, which has the potential to call us back into ourselves — and see ourselves as part of something larger.
Anyone who is struggling with the feeling that the events of their life are random and senseless, and encounters well-crafted astrology, can start to get the sense that they are more in sync than they thought. You are not random; your life is not a game of chance. Some know this; for others, there is a slow journey to recognition.
My Approach is Different
When I wrote my first astrology column in April 1995, I had done serious therapy for three years, which morphed into supervised therapy training (in Holistic Therapy, an offshoot of Gestalt Therapy, and later, Hakomi Therapy). These approaches are holdovers from a time when (unlike today) there existed an acknowledged need for self-understanding.
I had studied and practiced A Course in Miracles for nine years, which included wide exposure to Human Potential Movement approaches to growth. At age 14, I chose my religion, which is Quaker (The Religious Society of Friends). Good astrology must have a spiritual center. Not doctrines or dogmas — but an actual central principle. For both Quakers and Course in Miracles, it’s the same thing: the inner light.
Astrology is inherently devoid of meaning, until we bring that meaning. It must come from somewhere; it must be trained. The astrology you get is an expression of the values of the astrologer you’re listening to. This is why it’s so important to know about the person you’re reading, and to know enough to be able to verify what you hear for yourself.
My other early influences included the books of Alan Watts (The Way of Zen, The Supreme Identity), Ram Dass (Be Here Now), Robert Pirsig (the indispensable Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) and many other writers. I learned a lot from John Steinbeck and T. S. Eliot. As a grad student, my focus was 20th century women poets (Marge Piercy, H.D., Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich). In high school, my favorite novelists were Russian.
Good writing was and is very, very important to me. There is no good astrology without good writing.
I was (very, very) fortunate to meet two experienced astrologers early on: Laurie Burnett, the uncredited coauthor of Pluto: Evolutionary Journey of the Soul; and David Roell, who owned an astrology bookstore that worked directly with the authors.
They taught me the basics of the craft, introduced me to Alice A. Bailey and Chiron, and got me studying progressed horoscopes and horary astrology (two of the most difficult techniques) from my first days.
Entering Astrology as a Journalist
At the time I entered astrology, I was an investigative reporter covering scientific fraud. This work came after many other journalistic tours of duty — municipal government (especially land use and development), education law, medical and nursing education, beverage alcohol regulation, and student affairs and campus governance on the university level.
Covering fraud is where I found my home as an investigator. So I had developed deep understanding of how to distinguish real knowledge from counterfeit. True journalism involves finding out for yourself, no matter how long it takes.
Using my journalistic skills, I dug deep into astrology, its many claims, and its history.
David Roell, the owner of the Astrology Center of Southern California bookstore, gave me the phone number of any astrologer I wanted to speak with, and I called (or met with) many, and interviewed them, and learned everything I could. Meanwhile, I’ve always had an interest in astronomy, and have developed a form of astrology that relies on in-depth knowledge of planetary science. (Centaurs, the Kuiper Belt and the history of the asteroids are among my favorite topics.)
Today, I pass forward the goodwill that was offered to me by many of my elders who took the time to answer my questions, provide me with ideas, tutoring, books and articles, and even worked with me on projects.
They include David Arner, Martha Lang-Wescott, Robert Hand, Robert Schmidt, Geoffrey Cornelius, Louis Acker, Lois Rodden, Richard Tarnas, Melanie Reinhart, Juan Revilla, Barbara Hand Clow, Dale O’Brien, David Solté, Kalli Halvorson, Debbi Kempton-Smith, Robert von Heeren, Sally Brompton, Jonathan Cainer and many others. I got to learn firsthand from the great astrologers of the 20th century. Note to my clients: You taught me more! (I have quite a 9th house by the way.)
Before long, I was writing in the British tabloids where Patric Walker had written years earlier — The Daily Mirror and The Daily Mail, and was eventually the last exclusive astrology columnist for The New York Daily News. For me, this was all like being invited to play guitar in The Grateful Dead.
The Goal of Planet Waves: A Place of Refuge
Planet Waves is here to pass all of this forward. We are here to make astrology accessible and affordable. My goal as a journalistic writer is to make the ideas of astrology useful, and to speak in plain language. “Inclusive” means understandable.
More than anything, I maintain Planet Waves in its many forms as a place of refuge.
No matter what I may do as an astrologer or author, my goal is to hold a place open where people can show up and be themselves, and not be judged. Learning is only possible under those conditions, especially about oneself.
Says A Course in Miracles, “Everyone teaches, and teaches all the time.”
Teaching is always by example.
Planet Waves turns nobody away for lack of funds. Our doors are open to everyone. We provide many types and levels of service, including in-depth personal and business consulting, my fantastic, affordable prepared readings, plus education and training, and an ongoing stream of articles and horoscopes.
And of course, there is Planet Waves FM, which provides a calm, relaxed place to hang out for anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. If you’ve never listened, please try it out. Catch my late-night free-form radio approach, which you would love if you were driving across the country at 3 am and needed some company.
We are a service organization in a time of global and personal crisis.
We answer our email and return phone calls. We have an editorial policy and code of ethics, and we follow it. You might think: this would make a pretty good charitable organization. In fact, I started one, which trains journalists, and serves as a publisher and owns Planet Waves FM — called Chiron Return.
If you need something that I do not do or have, I will make the effort to find someone who can help you — that is, someone I trust and can vouch for.
And I remind myself of this:
The journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always, and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed. Truth can only be experienced. It cannot be described and it cannot be explained.
If I stumbled upon Planet Waves in 2023, I would definitely be interested in astrology. Please take advantage of what we offer, and pass this message on to anyone you think might benefit. Thank you for that, and your time, your business and your trust.
“Eric has been deeply dedicated to astrology for decades, and his prolific work is based on the application of astrology to the living field of human experience — bringing awareness to the journey of deepening and awakening, both individual and collective. He engages with the full spectrum of astrological considerations, from the philosophical to the experiential, and I’ve been grateful for the many illuminating (and fun!) exchanges we’ve had down the years.”
— Melanie Reinhart, author of Chiron and the Healing Journey