When Astrology Readings Do More Harm than Good

Mark Jones podcast

Mark Jones and Tony Howard talk about the problem of astrology readings that limit people or even worse, feel wounding.

When Astrology Readings Do More Harm Than Good Transcript

TH: Hello, friends, and welcome to this episode of the Astrology University Podcast. Today, I am joined by Mark Jones from Wales. Hey, Mark, thanks for joining me.

MJ: Pleasure, always a pleasure, Tony.

TH: And we’re going to talk to you today about how to avoid causing harm in a reading or astrological consult. So, this is both of our favorite topics to talk about, we talk about it in private all the time. So, I’m really happy to share this conversation with all of you. So, thanks for taking time out of your schedule today, Mark, to chat with me.

MJ: Pleasure, and it’s just such an important subject, isn’t it? Because you can say the whole principles of medicine were founded around the Hippocratic Oath, “Do no harm.” But then, there’s a danger. You can’t just be harmless either, can you? If every astrologer was so tepid, they were so homogenized and safe, they were like yoga or something, then people don’t change. People look to astrology for some kind of edge, they look for astrology for some kind of comment on their life. They’re prepared to take a risk on it, that it becomes super important for the people prepared to take that risk with them of finding that answer that we uphold certain principles.

And I would argue… And I’m not alone in this, I think of that book, Antifragile by… Is it Nicholas Nassim Taleb? And he devotes a whole chapter to the strange word “iatrogenics,” I don’t know if I pronounced that right.

TH: Iatrogenics, yeah.

MJ: Yes, the whole study of the way that medicine or attempts to help people have actually caused harm. And it’s a super important area of studying, it’s clearly the shadow of a profession, isn’t it, and it’s part of the shadow work of astrology that it contemplate its own relationship to that process.

TH: So, let’s just… For people who may not know what we’re talking about when we just say how do we avoid causing harm in a reading, let’s just map that out a bit. And I’m going to ask you several leading questions today to map out all the ways that you and I have talked about ways that can cause harm during a reading.

And based on experience, basically doing damage control, and what I mean by that is that a client will come to us and say, “Another astrologer told me this and I’m really stressed out about it,” or “I’m worried about it,” or “I’m wounded by it,” worst case scenario, right? And, “Is it true?”

MJ: And sometimes, that’s so bad. And one can’t be sure if it’s their recollection, one can’t be sure if the practitioner, which they sometimes name, obviously, which is delicate politically, one can’t be sure the astrologer actually said that or if it’s their hearing of it. But sometimes the things they say make me so concerned, yeah. I have my moments, as you well know, where I wonder how much good astrology is doing on the whole because of the things that people say in readings.

TH: And yet, you just had a week where you were just telling me before we started where people were having really wonderful healing experiences. And so, it definitely can be a profound tool for healing.

MJ: It so can, and yet it seems to me to operate that way, you have to be able to be prepared to see through so many potential problems they could bring up. The greatest one of all I would argue conceptually being taking astrology too seriously. The biggest problem astrologers have is astrology, and making the whole reading about the charts or about the astrology, and then the reading isn’t about the chart.

The chart is the gateway to the person and the reading is about the person. And if it’s not about the person, there’s a problem. If it’s about the astrologer’s latest project, their great book idea, and you thought you came to see me because of that book I wrote 10 years ago, but now I’m interested in this thing and let me tell you all about this thing whether you wanted to know about it or not, then we’re suddenly in a very different territory, aren’t we?

In the classical therapeutic sense it’s anti-Rogerian, the work of Carl Rogers. And I don’t just agree with Rogers’ approach out and out, I’m certainly not a Rogerian practitioner. And to explain to people what that is, just someone who just follows entirely the client’s lead. No, I’m much more directive than that. I do take something from the chart and try to offer it to people.

But if you can’t follow the client’s lead at all, if you can’t even ask them… I start every reading by going, “How can I help today?” It’s really important to address the thing they answer that question with and you can’t possibly know that beforehand. No matter how good an astrologer you are and no matter how you’re looking at that transit picture in whatever house or in whatever sign, the idea that you know the question beforehand that they’re going to ask is not true.

You have to genuinely listen to it in the moment and be prepared to be flexible and plastic in your response to answer it. Even if that answer might take the whole reading. More complex questions, you can’t just answer like that. And also you have to be clear what you can’t answer, what’s simply beyond your remit.

TH: Yeah, definitely. And if you’re not talking about why they’re there, then they’re not getting what they need.  From a really practical perspective, they may not get as much from the reading if they’re not getting their questions addressed, their specific questions. Because even if somebody says, “Oh, I’m just curious to see what astrology is about,” there’s always a reason, I find.

MJ: Exactly.

TH: If you ask them, “Well, what makes you curious about astrology? Is something going on in your… ” “Well, yeah, actually, I’m considering a move or… ” There’s always something behind the desire.

MJ: Probe the reason why they chose now for this high investment, risky situation. That this person that they don’t know that well for hundreds of dollars might be useful for them, there’s always a reason. Absolutely, I agree with that. And it behooves the mature astrologer to probe a little for that reason, not just accept the first answer of “Why are you here?” or to help them clarify, is a gift.

But it’s worse than that, isn’t it, Pal? It’s like people pay hundreds of dollars and take this gamble with this strange figure in their wisdom, and then the person doesn’t even try and answer their question or even listen to it. Some astrologers consider it almost like a minor annoyance, like a mosquito’s just come in the room and it’s kind of buzzing away in the background, and can we get it out of the way as soon as possible, and get on with my magic show, my box of tricks for you. I look at your ascendant and I look at the moon, then I look at the sun and then I tell you this about it and tell you this about it and how it’s going to lead to this.

And it’s just a blatant ignoring of any reality they brought with them and any needs they had. And I find that’s inherently detrimental. It’s a way of avoiding people’s humanity and their crisis for suffering or meaning. So I would say even that subtle way of ignoring them, just doing your own astrology and not listening to them is a form of ignorance and even potentially gentle abuse in a certain sense. Abuse is a loaded term. I don’t like that term. What, a failure. A failure to engage with the richness of their humanity.

TH: A missed opportunity too, right?

MJ: Yes. Exactly, exactly. Well put.

TH: Talking a little bit more about answering questions you aren’t qualified to answer. This one seems like simple on the surface because the way to work around this as a consultant is, if you don’t know the answer to something, just say, “I don’t know.” But let’s talk a bit about that the feelings of…

MJ: Yeah, remove the guilt like, “How would you be expected to answer?” Let’s say someone comes to you and they say, “I’ve been diagnosed with stage II esophageal cancer, but it could be stage III, they’re not sure, they’re in the final biopsy. Is it stage III or is it stage II? And will I recover from it?” Well, why should you be answering that question? Even if you’re a medical, if you’re not a medical astrologer, just don’t go there and even if you are, should you be answering that when there’s a biopsy? It’s a case of holding someone, isn’t it, until they get the results back, until someone who has actually taken a slice of this cancer and analyzed it in an expensive high-tech lab, comes back with the intel.

Hardly any field in the world, an attorney, a high-level attorney will tell you their area of specialization and expertise with no loss of confidence. And a specialist divorce lawyer will not touch a property case or a land rights issue. It’s just, they’ll just tell you straightaway, “You should go to my colleague.”

And it’s like, why as astrologists we feel we ought to be psychics or answer questions about any area of the person’s life. I would argue, as I said to you before, it’s part of our insecurity as a profession that we feel we need to prove ourselves in this extra natural, this almost supernatural kind of way, that we can just pluck great truths from the psychic ethers and offer them to people, and it’s dangerous game, in my view. Even to say exactly and specifically, what the meaning of a transit is, is a potentially dangerous game.

Someone says to you, Neptune’s coming to my IC in Pisces in two years’ time, what does that mean? I don’t try and answer them straightaway. I ask them more questions about where they’re living, what their family structure is like. What’s some kind of complex and confusing change in their family might look like at that point? Is there an ill parent? Is something going on? Were they considering moving ever? I look more into their life on the themes of IC or fourth house or cancer or moon or Pisces themes first, because otherwise it’s a sort of temerity to think the first imaginative fantasy from all the possibilities of Neptune transiting your IC, that I pluck out of the air is the thing that’s going to likely happen in their life.

Look at the sort of vanity in that and the kind of crazy, almost like being a screenwriter or something and writing the plot of the next TV show. Like I’m brainstorming it, but it’s their actual life, it’s not some TV character that some producer’s going to tell me, “No, that’s not realistic. We need to rewrite the episode.” No, this is someone’s life and I urge caution and listening.

Most of the time, the great art of astrology readings is understanding the life they’ve already lived and therefore, the way the chart symbolism might apply for them. And Rudhyar said it, he was fantastic, he made this amazing observation, saying that most astrologers read a chart as if the person was born a few seconds ago, as if they’ve never existed, and now there’s this chart just bursting into reality. And they fail to ask them what happened in the previous 40-something, 50-something years of your life before we met to have this reading.

Because from that analysis, you can work out how they live that chart and therefore how the specific symbolism of astrology works in their life, and that’s a huge part of my readings. Working out how… Where they’re already at, the way they already lived their chart.

TH: Definitely. And I think one of the things that makes it appealing, even on a subtle unconscious level are the power dynamics, the power dynamics of being the one with the information, and so I think that’s one of the hooks for people where they get drawn into, you talk about it as playing the role of the wise astrologer.

MJ: Yes. Yes. And look how many people do it in lectures. Look at keynotes around conferences in the last decades, the number of people that subtly get into a talk how this big occasion, I predicted this and this thing and I did this analysis and I said six months before anyone else that such and such was going to happen. And they conveniently don’t discuss all the times that they didn’t get that.

TH: Right. That might be the one time out of 50 or a 100.

MJ: Exactly. They totally cherry-pick, just like astrologers cherry-pick examples for talks, they pick the examples that show their method working the best. That’s why recently I’ve started working with a researcher and we pick interesting life examples. So when I spoke recently on artists and their callings, I didn’t pick based on their chart. I picked Tchaikovsky And John Lennon and George Harrison and various people ’cause I like them or I thought they had an interesting life story, and I didn’t look at their chart very pronouncedly beforehand, I selected based on life evidence and then I investigated what was going on astrologically.

‘Cause the whole danger of astrology is that you can have one kind of crazy idea from reading a few old astrology books, turn it into something, and then there are so many charts out there. You just cherry-pick the ones where it works really well, and you’ve got this talk that you can take on the road, haven’t you, for years, and potentially talk to people about, and yet it’s never really been tested in a great majority of people. And then people think astrology’s so magical, but there’s only 360 degrees, and there’s 7.7 billion people on the planet. Imagine some of the teaching on synastry and composite charts, yeah?

You must have 100,000 soulmates because blah blah is exactly conjunct your blah blah. The thing is, you’ve never met them, and you never will because that’s not how life works. You meet your soulmate because when you met them, your soul lit up or your heart lit up. It’s not astrological, is it? Loads of life’s got nothing to do with astrology. It’s got to do with your heart and mind.

TH: And yet, you find when you look at two people who are connected that you can assume that there’s some synastry there.

MJ: Exactly. And then the brilliant thing is once they are together or they are connected, you can then explore that synastry and that composite chart to help them grow. That’s its great gift. That’s such a profound gift. I can’t tell you. When you approach it like that, the transformational energy around my client work and mentoring at this point is so extraordinary. It’s just a pleasure to be with every day, but it’s linked. And I say this… I guess we’re concerned, aren’t we, ’cause both of us are in the astrology community and we care about it. And I can sound like I’m almost not an astrologer. It’s like people could go, “Geez, Mark. If you say all this about it, why are you even an astrologer?”

Well, because I say to you quite passionately when you disabuse it and its fantasies, and its chimeras and its veils of allusion, and you separate them out and you use it for when something real is happening to someone, to help expand the understanding of that real thing in their life, it’s so beautiful. The symbolism is so expansive. It helps people find their true nature, the depth of themselves if it’s held in a certain way. But it needs to be held that way, otherwise the danger is it’s the opposite of that. It’s subtly pushing people away from that and slightly imprisoning them.

TH: Definitely. Well, let’s talk about some of those things that can push them away from it and imprison them. And this is a touchy subject, but especially for both us and our backgrounds. But talking about past life dynamics can be really problematic, in my opinion.

MJ: Oh, my God, yeah. Let’s just… People project onto me because of my relationship to evolutionary astrology and being considered an interpreter, at least in the past, of Green’s work, Jeffrey Green’s work, that I’m all about past lives. I don’t talk to people about past lives in a reading unless they had a past life regression, or they woke up from one night with the most intense dream and they’re convinced it might be, or a psychic told them this and then I look at their chart and we can help corroborate it. I don’t bring them in for no reason. And even if I do talk about them, I don’t talk about them in a literal sense like, “Oh, Tony, in 17th century Hungary, you were a young noble who was left by his partner and killed himself on the bridge.” No, I don’t do that kind of trip.

I’m looking at just what might soul memory, what might the core of you be carrying as an emotional pattern or a deeper complex. Because I would say to you just… Viewers listening to this, even people trying to study ways of understanding past lives and charts, let’s just be very careful for a moment and consider the not-so-subtle vanity that somehow we are like a person’s higher self, or God, or something, and we can see their karmic history. Let’s just take that in for a moment. If you were shown even a brief moment of their karmic history, it’s probably ’cause their higher self or their guardian angel, however you wanted to frame it, helped you see it. Let’s be humble about this.

We’re healing practitioners. We’re open to a certain transformative relationship to the field. We’re not like some divine memory. We’re not like a voice of the akasha or something. And the fantasy that we are is extremely dubious and dangerous, I would argue. And it’s just a kind of vanity of the professional, that you could just do that.

TH: Definitely. I think there’s a lot of hubris involved to think that you could guess what was going on in someone’s past life from the birth chart. And I’ve done a lot of damage control on specifically negative past life stories, which in the techniques that are used in evolutionary astrology that’s the focus is the negative past life stories, and I think it’s…

MJ: Oh, and you could argue that’s a glamorization of trauma, couldn’t you?

TH: Yeah, yeah, definitely. I was aware of it when I started learning evolutionary astrology. I could see how people get really entranced by the negative past life stories. But it took me a while to kind of put my finger on what was really happening. And then as I started doing readings and then over the years started hearing from people with negative stories who would come to me and say, “I was told I was a Nazi prison guard in a past life. Is that true?” And I just say, “No. It is not.” Well, even if it was, there’s no way that we could know that. Do you have recurring nightmares about being a Nazi prison guard? You could maybe get at it that way.

MJ: No, one person brought that. In fact, two people have brought that to me. In my entire therapeutic career of 18, 19 years, and literally having worked with over a thousand people, in fact, maybe several thousand people, two people have brought that themselves. I wouldn’t say that. I could say there was a potential to have been exposed to tyranny. “Why do you even need to talk in these terms?”

I tell you, there’s a fundamental misunderstanding in the West. We cannot understand karma like the Eastern mind. We project it as good and bad. We project it as sin because of the Judeo-Christian monotheistic traditions. And it’s just an incorrect analysis. Look, in this world, anyone could have been a perpetrator in Nazi Germany. A collective madness took over the whole society. Who’s to say if we’d have been immune? You can’t know in the circumstances of that period. I don’t even judge some of the Nazis on those terms, ordinary soldiers fighting for the Nazis were just ordinary German men trying to respond to their national calling.

TH: We’re just trying to survive in the moment.

MJ: Exactly, exactly. Who can say what we’d do if we were tortured? I don’t know what I’d do if I was tortured. I have ideals, I have integrity. But if someone really tried to hurt me or my family, I don’t know how I’d respond. You just can’t know those things until they happen.

But the key is to understand that astrologers themselves have projections. It’s a community that doesn’t examine itself enough. For all the flaws of psychotherapy and counseling, at least the whole training environment has this idea that you work on your stuff first, and that’s almost entirely missing from the astrological community.

And we can see the sort of subtle or not so subtle power dynamic, ’cause I think it’s hubris to tell someone what a transit means without considering it fully in their life circumstance, to just off the cuff go, “Oh, you’ve got Saturn hitting your seventh house in three years. Oh, yeah, you’ll marry that guy.” Well, as you well know, we often work with the people four years later, who didn’t marry the guy and are frustrated with what the astrologer said to them.

Because it’s a literalization, it’s what James Hillman called the sin of literalism. It fails to understand the multifaceted nature of the archetypes and of people’s life potential. And their life context, ’cause you can say, “Oh, why hasn’t that Jupiter transit through the second house made this poor person richer,” or something like that. Something simple, simplistic and naive like that, but if that person is truly broken from a broken home, and they have vicarious trauma and post-traumatic stress of being abused and the unresolved transference issues with their parents, who is to say they’re in good enough shape to embrace that transit in any meaningful way. If you don’t have enough of a self, then the transits… You can miss entire transit windows for years.

TH: Like if you don’t, in a real simple example, if your self-worth isn’t there to ask for a raise when you might actually get a raise if you just ask for it, but if you don’t ask, you can’t get it. And then the transit just passes by. And I think it’s more interesting to think about how we can engage with the energies and learning.

The coaching model really opened things up to me, too, about putting things back in the client’s court and helping empower them to see options and choices and ways that they can work with the energies, and it’s more interesting to figure out how it’s manifesting in their life by having a conversation with them and having them tell you. Because it’s way more interesting than anything that you could try to dream up beforehand.

MJ: Well, there’s so many points here, it’s A, it’s why I encourage not too much chart preparation, because then you start to get emotionally invested in the fantasies that you’ve dreamed up by analyzing their chart endlessly before they came into the room. It’s why I’ve sought so specifically about counseling skills and coaching skills for practitioners of astrology because just identifying things isn’t enough.

Imagine, right, this rare thing, you’re actually brilliant at it. I mean, very few professional astrologers actually are this good. But let’s imagine almost every insight you saw about the chart was actually right. And clearly this is a fantasy example. It’s still not a solution-based focus to people, is it? You don’t necessarily have anything to then offer them.

I mean, I’m forever just giving people private reading lists, talking about mentoring with them, talking about the tactics they can do, talking about the journaling work they can do on the principles we’ve spoken about, tangibles they can bring into their life to stay with the process of transformation that we’ve opened up, because what one reading can completely change everything without them doing some work.

And of course, it’s why I created the counseling skills for astrologers course, which is really misnamed. People think it’s a practical-based skill set for would-be astrologers, but it’s actually mainly a self-developmental contemplation of how to be authentic in your own life and therefore how to be authentic with people you work with, because that’s the great trial.

If astrologers don’t have this idea of working on themselves so that they’re ready to be present with people, for all their intellectual skill and incredible reading, they’re not going to be very good at working with people. And that’s why I’ve proposed that we create two streams in astrology, consulting astrologers and research-based astrologers. And research-based astrologers could have that weight of working people that it doesn’t suit them removed from that remit, in a way.

But it’s hard because of the financial and practical elements of the career, that if you don’t do any client work, unless you’re incredibly internationally famous, how do you make a living from the modest sales of books etcetera. So it’s very tricky to achieve in practice, but it’s an important goal, I think, to contemplate in the profession, because it’s an increased honesty to the service user.

It’s like a user interface contemplation, it actually takes seriously the fact that people are trying to use this as a service, and it demarcates for them that some people are research specialists, and even if you seek them out to have a reading you might be somewhat disappointed by the amount of investment they make in you personally.

It’s very complex, isn’t it? But it’s a sign of the growth of the field that we’re even having these conversations so often, that people are listening to this kind of conversation and still liking us as people or professionals or even continuing to engage in an astrological educational service with the Astrology University when it points to so many of these things. I think that would have been much more difficult in the past.

There is this wave of enthusiasm for astrology right now and it does include some quite psychologically-minded people who are ready to hold it in a certain more nuanced way, which is what I’m advocating for. Astrology certainly works. I’m just saying let’s just hold it in a more mature fashion, in a more symbolism-aware way. It’s a symbolic field, it’s not real. You’re real Tony Howard is real, Tony Howard’s chart is a symbol map, Tony Howard’s soul, his heart, his mind, your being is real. So, you have ontological reality philosophically, your chart doesn’t. We just need to hold it in that way. The chart only exists to serve you, not the other way around. It’s not a real thing in its own right, it’s a thing that points to a real thing.

TH: Well, this seems like a good place to talk about making imperative statements. We could talk about astrological determinism and we can blame that on traditional astrology. But I find in practice I have a lot of friends who study and practice traditional astrology and in practice, they’re not deterministic. Even people think, oh, Rob Hand must be the most deterministic astrologer ever, but he’s actually the opposite, he’s all about free will and choice. But we still are at risk doing any kind of astrology in making imperative statements like, “You’ll always this,” or “You’ll never be able to do this because your Mars is in detriment,” and I just… Those statements are so damaging and they’re just not true.

If you look at thousands of charts, like Frank Clifford is a data collector, and one of the things that he learned in looking at thousands of charts and trying to prove certain things like, “Oh, I have this idea about Mars in Cancer must always be like this.” And then if you look at thousands of charts with Mars in Cancer, it negates your assumptions. And it shows you a multiplicity of expressions.

MJ: Well, this is why since I hired an independent astrologer as a researcher and started working with them for the last three years, why my stance on this has grown rather than retreated. Because when you look into empirical evidence, astrology doesn’t work in a linear, one-directional or literal way. Again, we come back to the sin of literalism, and that’s so important to understand.

You see, Robert Hand is philosophically into that Greek area of thought. He’s philosophically into Plotinus or Aristotle’s four causes. It’s a philosophical exploration of fate and determinism. It’s not the same as an actual practical orientation to people’s lives. They have to be understood differently, they’re in a different category. One’s a sort of study or contemplation of ultimates, and the other is the psychological emotional style you have of being with people.

And psychological astrologers are just as prone to the determinism as traditional. Now, our traditional teachings can underline it, and they say, for me, some very uncomfortable things. Even people I intellectually respect, their sincerity, their teaching says things to me that just seem untrue or that I’m very uncomfortable with. But I would observe that even though psychological astrology purports to be more mature or more fluid, its frequent practice is not that distinguishable, because it makes that fundamental assumption, that category error. It assigns astrology reality, and it doesn’t have it. Only the people have it. Only your being has reality in life. The chart’s either a window to that being or it’s a closed wall.

And you mentioned earlier, tactics, what do people do to… I’ll just say it. If I take this white little journal of mine as a chart, this is your chart. “Tony, it’s so good to meet you today. I know I’ve prepared your chart. Yes, Tony, your chart.” And for the next 15 minutes of the reading, I read your chart, Tony, your chart. I’m not even looking at you.

The chart is literally just this thing between us. That’s what I’m trying to get away from. I’m trying to… Even the way I frame it, even if we were doing a reading now talking on Zoom, your chart would be to the side of you. And that would mean most of my reading is eye contact and listening to you, and then occasional glances at the chart for clarification, to see what it can add.

And it’s like the intellectual project of learning astrology, whether it’s psychological, modern or traditional, it can get in the way of serving people. It can become the obsession of astrologers rather than the use of it in service. And it takes a special kind of awareness or training to make it service-oriented, it seems to me.

And psychological astrology is prone to it, everyone’s prone to it. People come out of my lectures where I’ve philosophically critiqued astrology in certain ways and they go, “Oh, yeah. I totally agree. I’ve always thought that way.” And then 10 minutes later, they’re having a chat with a friend who just said, “Yeah. My relationship broke down because of Saturn transiting my Venus.” That’s not why your relationship broke down.

Your relationship broke down because of a series of factors in your and your partner’s life, yeah, that were conversant, ’cause I’ve seen Saturn to Venus or Saturn to the descendant that’s in Taurus, meaning you meet the person you marry.

That’s commitment, yeah. Maturation, commitment to the serious figure that you end up taking seriously enough to spend the rest of your life with or something. It’s just people want to… The human ego’s always looking for an out, man. The suffering of life, the problems we have, the sheer complexity of being alive as a human, we want an out. And astrology’s such a convenient out sometimes.

“Look, it wasn’t me. It wasn’t me, guvnor. It wasn’t me, Officer. It was my chart, see? It was my chart. It wasn’t me that committed that crime. It wasn’t me that ruined that relationship.” And it’s like we’ve got to watch that tendency, even however subtle it creeps into our language. People get so excited at an astrology conference to meet all these people that speak the same language. But then they end up saying nonsense to each other, potentially, or things that hide their actual responsibility within a situation.

TH: Yeah, personal responsibility is a big one. We should do a whole podcast on that one.

MJ: Yeah. I would love to, in fact, because I’m designing a Saturn course at the moment. ‘Cause I feel that Saturn has become an archetype in our contemporary world that’s in danger of being maligned or pushed to the side, pushed into the shadow. That there’s a kind of false Saturn operating in the world, and I want to explore Saturn again entirely. And it’d a lovely theme because I link the true Saturn to psychological maturation and the ability to shoulder responsibility for your own existential and moral burden of your life in a meaningful, even joyful at best, kind of way, and I’d love to talk about that.

Yeah, that’d be nice, because it’s right on my… It’s right on my mind right now. And when I look at our contemporary world and its different divisive politics and social situations, I don’t see a balance around a constructive Saturn very often.

TH: Well, I think and one of the shadows about not taking personal responsibility that astrology can help play into, if you have that problem, is that, like you said, we’re using astrology as an excuse. I’d call it an excuse for bad behavior, but an excuse… It might be an excuse to not make positive change, it might be an excuse to keep acting out in a way that you’re attached to, and to say, “I can’t do this because my Saturn… “

MJ: Tony, I have north node. I have north node conjunct Jupiter in the first house and south node conjunct something bad in the seventh. And I’ve got a lot of planets in the twelfth. I’m not meant to have a relationship. I found relationships very difficult earlier in life. I got my heart broken, and I never want to risk loving anyone again. And I don’t want you to tell me any different, because look at my nodal axis in my chart. It tells me I shouldn’t have relationships, and I should avoid any intimacy or challenge to myself in that kind of way.

The chart’s a Rorschach test at that point, isn’t it? It’s like it’s whatever you want, it’s what you want to make it. Then we’re working in healing fictions. And yet weirdly, some of those fictions are more real than others. And to try and say that astrology is empirical in some ultimate kind of way, in some linear directive kind of way is I think naïve.

We have to hold this complex field in a more subtle, mature and nuanced way, when we’re not making it a literal direct pointing to reality. It’s much more poetic, it seems to me, than that. It operates more like a really soulful poem does than a literal map, a literal pointer.

TH: Definitely. And you know, you were using an evolutionary astrology example, but every form of astrology is subject to that same problem, so this isn’t like beating up any form of astrology.

MJ: I know, oh, yes. It’s across the entire field. It’s super, because it’s about the ultimate way you hold the meaning and purpose of astrology and how you philosophically identify it as significant. Yeah, it transcends just approaches, specific approaches.

TH: Because we would, you know, at the end of the day, we would love to have the manual on how to live a happy life or a full life, and if somebody, if we think somebody can tell us that, we would pay a lot of money for that.

MJ: Oh, yeah. And in America too, look at all the people in the spiritual YouTube market telling you, or the self-help one, what an amazing life they’ve got with their super white teeth and their beautiful California Malibu home, telling you, “You could have this too,” subtly telling you that.

But the thing is, I mean, the part of people that wants to get better is so genuine, the child-like yearning, the bit of hope that someone’s been through a very difficult life is so genuine, it’s so profound, it’s so touching. We need as a profession to honor it more, because it’s why people are drawn to us, sometimes in real desperate times. Often people turn to an astrologer at the desperate time. They may have tried a number of other things. It’s not like for most people astrology comes up as the first thing. We want to receive that.

And then my second point is, if astrology was so good at delineating the future, why are so many astrologers’ lives… I mean, if they really knew the future, their lives would be just so much more successful and bright, wouldn’t they? And then we wouldn’t have had that fiasco, where in a conference they made a big deal and even brought in journalists to say, “Look, we’re debating the American presidential election.” Every single astrologer wouldn’t have got the prediction wrong. Because that’s what the prevailing wind at the time looked like.

We’ve got to own our own shadows, we’ve got to own the way psychological and unconscious biases work in this field, and realize that we’re doing that not just for our own integrity, but in order to honor that deep yearning in people that seek us out, who really want and need something from us. Really need to reconnect with their own soulful potential, and they need a trusted figure to do that with. And I urge us to stand up.

It’s so fulfilling when that happens, I know you know this, Tony, and you’ve worked with people like that. When you get that right with people, in just the last few days I’ve done like more than a handful, like more than… I’ve done a whole chunk of readings where the person is immediately grateful in the moment after a short, very real conversation, that they feel like something really profound about their life was held.

And it’s so rewarding. It’s so much more rewarding than just feeling like you’re on this solo intellectual voyage of reading about different astrological signatures and having to create a little theatrical drama. That’s what some astrologers feel the need to do. They have to sort of dramatize their intellectual theories for the client, like a dog and pony show, or a little carnival trick. The transformation that emerges from real dialogue is so much more gratifying than that for both the practitioner and the person receiving the reading. It’s just so much more fulfilling and heartfelt than that. It’s a joy to be part of this profession then.

TH: Beautiful. Well said, Mark, thanks for that. And that’s probably a good place to stop for today’s conversation, but we will have another one, I’m sure. Thanks, folks, for tuning in. If you’d like to learn a little bit more about how Mark works, you could check out his Counseling Dynamics with Astrology course online, where he goes into a lot of these topics in more detail, and also talking about certain counseling dynamics that you can be aware of in the consult, that can help keep you in check, if you want to think of it that way.

MJ: And also, yeah, loads of free resources on the website Plutoschool.com or Mark Jones.

TH: Yeah, awesome. Well, thanks so much, folks, for listening today, and to learn more about Mark, markjonesastrology.com. We will see you again very soon, and until then, take good care and thanks again, Mark.

MJ: Thanks, Tony.

Browse Mark’s classes here.

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Dawn Silver

Thank you.

Pamela Oliver

An interesting and thought provoking podcast. It’s great to hear Mark mention the free podcasts available to all.
A question, do Astrologers become Astrologers because they truly want to help people….. if so why do they charge such a lot for a consultation, so much in fact that most of us can’t afford to visit a professional Astrologer.

Astrology University

Hi Pamela. Pricing for readings is very personal, but the fees reflect both the amount of time it takes to prepare a reading and the years of study involved to practice at an advanced level. Many astrologers will do a sliding scale if you have financial challenges and ask them.

Hitomi O.

Thank you Tony and Mark for reminding us of this rich and meaningful conversation when I need it most!

A friend of mine and I have been discussing this topic recently. She used to study vedic astrology seriously for a few years but she quit it after having a depressing reading from her teacher about her kids, one of whom has chronic health concerns that would last a lifetime. (This teacher is one of the most prominent vedic astrologers in Japan and is a direct disciple of a very reputable Indian vedic master. )

Deeply disappointed in astrology in general, she half-jokingly recommended me, a student of astrology, not to mess with medical astrology no matter what. She (cancer Moon in the 5th House, by the way) says that, from her own experience, parents can become so desperate that, when it comes to their kids’ well-being, can be easily devastated by or become too dependent upon what an astrologer says. I think she’s onto something here: that’s not the kind of relationship we’d like to have with our clients.

Lastly, thank you for talking about “past life karma” readings à la Evolutionary Astrology and problems they might pose to us readers and clients. I can imagine that things can get tricky with Node stories if you’re not careful enough with your words. You need to be really skillful at storytelling while remembering to give enough moral support to your clients at the same time. Otherwise, you could run the risk of leaving your clients humiliated and devaluated. Compassion first always!

Astrology University

Great feedback, thanks for sharing this Hitomi.

Carla Sharp

Tony, I am so grateful for these deeply meaningful podcasts with the world’s top astrologers at no charge to us. Thank You.

Astrology University

Thanks Carla! Take care.

Dorothy Barr

Love, love, love this…thankyou Tony for the amazingly rich and thought provoking podcasts and discussions.

Tony Howard

Thank you Dorothy!

Astrology University

You’re welcome Dorothy! Thanks for your support and kind words.

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