Once upon a time, towards the end of the last millennium, I used to earn my living as an astrologer. I’d have been happy to keep it as a hobby, but under duress from what was then known as the DSS, I’d undergone training so I could apply for a business grant.
Among the course participants was an ageing photographer I’ll call Norm, who followed me one day in the lunchbreak to inform me that, at around 3 one morning, God had guided him to talk to me. ‘Ask yourself,’ Norm said, as we stood near the teeming entrance to Central Station, ‘whether you’re doing God’s work or the Devil’s’, and this pedlar of unchristian images of red sports cars draped with bikini-clad women quoted the Bible verses from Deuteronomy about soothsayers being an abomination unto the LORD (the actual words in the King James Version, Deut. 18:10, are ‘an observer of times’ – although to ‘observe’ in the biblical sense means not just to watch but to obey). I replied to Norm that maybe God’s intention in pointing him my way was that he might confront his limiting judgements and open his mind. (And did I mention that the ‘New Enterprise Incentive Scheme’ was highly competitive, with only a limited number of grants on offer?) I received government funding not because the panel were astrological converts but because the figures in my business plan added up: I predicted the steady expansion I knew they required. (If I’d done likewise for all my astrology clients, instead of just telling it like I saw it, might I have come closer to achieving my imaginative cash flow forecasts?)
In my first year at high school, when I was 12, we were all summoned in turn to consult a vocational guidance counsellor – a prospect about as enticing as a trip to the dentist. A greying man in a suit deduced that because I’d shone at Maths and Art, I must be suited to a career in architecture. From then on, as if to deflect further misunderstandings, I spent Maths periods doodling desolate landscapes in my margins. Due no doubt to uninspired teaching, Maths seemed akin to Commerce: tedious. When I plunged into self-propelled astrological studies 10 years later, I discovered a discipline that combines maths (endless calculations) with the art of interpretation: a 4-D conceptual architecture grounded in a chart derived from a unique time–place combination, a dynamic blueprint for psychological unfoldment; a far cry from static plans for, or scale models of, projected external-world erections.
According to the latest edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, astrology is 1. a study which assumes, and professes to interpret, the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. 2. Obsolete astronomy. Definition #1 more or less sums up pop astrology (the kind typically found in a column near the back of periodicals, much as the weather report follows TV news programs), yet doesn’t do justice to the complex subject I used to teach, which assumes the interconnectedness of all life on Earth, and of everything in the universe; assumes that earthly events don’t have to be caused by heavenly ones to mirror them. Ergo, events that astronomers record and interpret can mirror approaching trends to experienced observers.
Internet enthusiasts have been known to over-hype the Web as a medium that grants high-speed connection to limitless information. Yet what is the Web if not a crude externalisation of, for instance, untapped potentials of the conditioned human brain?
No doubt the average punter would take the weather report more seriously than the week’s forecast for, say, Libra (and, really, how can one prediction fit roughly one twelfth of all readers?). But the paths of stars and planets can be predicted with staggeringly greater precision and centuries in advance of the movements of atmospheric pressure systems. In fact, reputable climate science (and common sense) tells us that weather will become more unpredictable as global warming progresses. The zodiacal position of, say, Mars 100 years from now, can be accurately predicted within a few minutes. Though of course, if or when NASA succeeds in its project of colonising Mars, a smaller planet than the one we’re currently stripping of resources, who’s to say what havoc humans can wreak, in a relatively short time, on its orbit?
While astronomy underpins astrology, which couldn’t exist without it, astronomers in general have disowned their ancient heritage and disdain reminders that, centuries back, the two fields of study used to be one. Perhaps it’s understandable that someone choosing to spend their nights focused on heavenly bodies, and most of them light-years distant, might not incline to close observation of the human psyche.
And yet it’s not just them and the Christians who rush to dismiss the much-dissed discipline. People who can’t resist reading their weekly stars will say, unasked, ‘I don’t know if I believe in astrology’, exhibiting the same confused scepticism with which Opposition leader Tony Abbott addressed (or didn’t) the climate change question pending his grudging defeat in the August 2010 election. (A competent astrologer might not have advised PM Julia Gillard to call an election on the day Mercury would go retrograde as Saturn formed an exact square to Pluto – though it could be argued the latter is no longer officially a planet; it’s an astronomer’s prerogative to change his mind.)
When friends used to introduce me as an astrologer at parties (cringe-inducing; I don’t care to be narrowly defined, and object no less to being categorised as ‘a writer’), predictably, someone would say, ‘Do you believe in astrology?’ as if it’s some sort of faith-based religion rather than a field of study requiring analytical rigour or, as one of the most astute astrologers I’ve ever met, Antero Alli, described it, a language. In a culture where science and art have drifted so far apart, it’s no surprise that a discipline requiring both computing precision and intuition/sensitivity would be viewed with irrational suspicion. The age-old biblical injunctions run deeper in the Western psyche than many care to admit – dare I suggest, in the common parlance that increasingly conflates biology and technology, they’re hard-wired?
This is not a blog. It’s a message in a bottle cast upon the cyber-sea to wash up where it will. It’s a clearing house for disruptive ideas that don’t fit neatly into my fiction, because it appears there’s no market, at least not locally, for most of them – or so I’ve been told by seasoned local literary mentors and editors. Which is why I’ve published a novel which treats un-PC ideas re ‘mental illness’ (a modern term that implies an artificial mind–body split and discounts the role of emotions in psychosis) overseas (in a country whose government funding for the arts outperforms Australia’s), from where my novel can be ordered more cheaply than it could be here, with free delivery, to reach your shore within 8–10 days.