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Astrology Has a Scarcity Mindset Problem
For a group of future-seers, we don't seem to be very wise
I came to astrology as an agnostic, materialist, deeply skeptical software developer full of doubt. But I found myself reflected in the few scattered books I managed while searching in the dark, alone, stumbling across both good and bad sources. As my technique and insight developed, I began to see the entire world through astrology, and grew a deep respect for this intricate and powerful art. It showed me the beating heart of existence, experience, and everything, and bowed me to it. Not just that, but I was encountering the loose, half-forgotten strands of a lifeline of power and wisdom stretching back to the dawn of human civilization.
The more I learned, the more desperate I became to meet other astrologers. People with whom I could share, develop, and bounce ideas and refine my technique. I figured there must be other people out there who understand what we are so incredibly blessed to have, working with humility and passion to reconnect the world with these lost links to our past which might help us once again understand our place in the scheme of life. I adopted the moniker @sadalsvvd and decided it was time to find the community.
I found the community, but it didn’t feel like one. I found in-fighting and squabbles. I found posturing and status struggles. I found people trying dig out territory in the margins of sacred texts. I found argumentation and debate about clients being stolen, of lost opportunities and lost money. On an individual level, I found that this was not a safe environment to ask questions, and I quickly learned that if I wanted to ask questions I’d better be ready to feel condescension from the “elders” of the community—most of whom seemed to be reading and understanding the exact same source material I was.
I found a wizened art full of people cannibalizing it and themselves in the process, drawing lines and recruiting ideologues in the pursuit of not constructive debate or learning but proving and winning. Most incredibly, it seemed that being close to certain types of personalities in the community meant you could not just be a bystander doing your own thing. Expressing the wrong opinion could lead to snide subtweets and even direct vocal opposition from people you respected peers or teachers, or a “friendly check-in” behind the scenes to nudge you in the right direction.
I wanted community, but instead I found competitive industry. Eventually I learned to never participate in debates or propose new ideas, at least not on Twitter. I did make connections with individuals I felt like were in the same boat as me: in love with the sky and wanting to play with it, and maybe one day make a full-time living doing it. But the broader astrology community seemed like it was in the grip of scarcity mindset: the ever-present fear of not having enough, not being enough, and eventually having so little that you die and disappear from the memory of the world.
Peering Inside Fear
There are very valid, understandable, human reasons which I think have led to this situation. I would like to take the time to point out the major cultural and socioeconomic forces which I believe have led to such dysfunction in the astrology community, as well as a few thoughts which may make those forces easier to take in stride. Please lend me your patience as I try to thread this needle.
The fallen state of astrology in the public sphere has caused a fair amount of bitterness within myself, and I expect also within others and the air in general. Alan Leo’s compromise with English courts may have saved astrology in its hidden form as a personality typecasting system, but it also buried most cultural and intellectual regard for astrology and relegated it the realm of scammers, liars, and the gullible. Most astrologers have had direct encounters with skeptics of all kinds, but the pernicious hardline skeptic type leaves a deep mark. I know much of my personal fire was out of an initial desire to prove astrology both to myself and to the skeptics. I think that this can lead to an underlying pressure as an astrologer to present oneself as knowledgeable, formidable, even unassailable. This can sometimes extend in a knee-jerk manner to questioners and doubters of any kind including within one’s own community, and lead to doubling down on topics which do not require doubling down. Eventually, it can ossify into elitist posturing and exclusionary behavior, both as a self-affirming mark of skill as well as protective shell against dismissal and attack.
This is exacerbated by the limited pool of clients which it can sometimes seem as if we compete for. After all, there are only so many people who believe in and are interested in astrology, and most people only get one or two readings per year. For most astrologers running their businesses out of Twitter, it’s a mark of great success to be fully booked out for months. Most of us would like to be able to do astrology and divination full-time, but a thriving social media presence is practically a must as well as a line of clients out the digital door. But it seems that there are only so many clients who are interested in the type of deep, holistically integrated, thoughtful, and pragmatic sort of astrology that many of us practice. This leads to a similar sort of urgency of competition and territory-grabbing behavior in educational products such as conference talks, lectures, courses, books, and so on.
Finally, there are also occurrences of genuine greed, theft, harm, bad faith argumentation, outright manipulation, and magical attacks. None of us are immune to the ego-inflating, mania-inducing effects of proximity to wisdom and power. Astrology is, and always has been, deeply integrated with the esoteric world of spirits and magic. Sometimes people lose the plot, develop magusitis, and forget that they are surrounded by other people in touch with those same powers. Sometimes corrections must be made, and bad actors must be called out, defended against, and disentangled. I’m not sure what leads to people to think that this is ever a good idea, but it happens, presumably for similar reasons described. (By the way, as a general note, perhaps it would be best to avoid engaging combatively with peers who can literally see the future.)
To be blunt, the egregore of colonialist thinking and extractive utilization is alive and well in the astrology scene. Many people seem to operate on a scarcity, crabs-in-bucket mindset which brings us all down. I’m not condemning anything here (except going out of your way to intentionally hurt others), because quite frankly this world is hard and we learn early to be tough to survive. But I think in most cases that toughness is misapplied. Despite how grim it can seem, there are opening perspectives which may let us take a step back from these grasping states.
A Breath of Fresh Air
How many professional astrologers do you reckon are in the astrology Twitter scene making a full-time living doing it? A thousand? Ten thousand? That seems high, but it’s probably low. In 2021, the astrology market was valued at $12.8 billion, and projected to reach $22.8b by 2031. If you do some naive math and slice that $12.8 billion pie up for 100,000 astrologers doing full-time astrology, that’d be $128,000 a year. Not all of us even need that much to make a living, but this is just the beginning as people reconnect with the lost art and seek to navigate epochal changes.
Speaking of epochal changes, on December 2020, we entered the Age of Air with the first grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius. One of its significations is a return to spiritual belief, and in Aquarius, the union of the old and new. Mundane astrologer Dan Waites (@danwastro on Twitter) presents a fascinating and compelling vision for the future of culture and the internet in his video on The Age of Air (available in written form here):
I have written about my own views on the early stages of the Age of Air in my future-looking essay Speculating at the Edge of Infinity which includes a section on astrology. Through the work of thoughtful data-oriented astrologers who extend the ancients’ work of compiling delineations and examining techniques, we will be able to demonstrate for once and for all that astrology works—if you can muster the tooling to examine it in its full spirit-full nuance. Frankly, I do not expect the scientific establishment to pick up our work; in fact, I expect them to wholly ignore it, until they are dragged into confrontation by popular culture, kicking and screaming all the while. We have already defended astrology sufficiently at length, and anyone who actually practices it immediately understands that the mainstream scientific establishment has missed… well, a lot.
It’s my opinion that attempting to appeal to mainstream science is wasted energy. In the Age of Air, when a cherished intellectual institution becomes an arbitrary gatekeeper of even the simple questioning and investigation of the nature of reality and its phenomena, they are routed. Obstructions are flowed around like wind over castle battlements. I think most of us do know this, but we still carry the old secular habits. For many years I found myself apologizing for my developing beliefs—for daring to believe that life or reality could have intrinsic purpose. That bold, staring-you-in-the-face-and-daring-you-to-blink coincidence could mean something. I felt shame to discover this truth in a culture which would have me chastised, mocked, vilified, libeled, and discredited.
But I’m done with that. So let me say this for any who wants to claim it: materialism is factually incorrect. It does not bear up under even the most remote investigation of the esoteric arts. Think about a Rubik’s cube too hard and you immediately see reality bend. The scientific establishment did not bother to understand astrology’s claims and mechanisms correctly (or any other “pseudosciences”), and completely lacks the tools to deal with it. So instead, they say: old news! Astrology is fake, we already figured that out, stop talking to me about this, get out. Embarrassingly bad logical contortions are deployed as a defense against the possibility one might be wrong or the effort required to dig any deeper. Our scientific institutions and its most ardent representatives are no longer the profound empiricists they once were, and cannot be given blanket respect as being capable of actually observing anything. They’re stuck in their heads. I can’t help but laugh at the deep irony of our science of light being considered representative of an age of darkness.
Fuck all that. Wisdom is back, baby.
Many people coming to astrology come from the implied but dominant cultural frame of a paradoxical simultaneous evangelical Christian moral system and secular intrinsic-meaning-free intellectual tradition. We import the bad habits and spend hours squabbling over technical definitions and texts which we know are incomplete, translated secondhand from languages most of us cannot read, insisting that our intellectual understanding is more sophisticated, as if we could just argue better and harder we’d finally get acknowledgment for what good little scholars we are from some kind of daddy, whether that be the specter of absurdly misapplied materialist scientific argumentation or our favorite parasocial relationship with a celebrity astrologer.
But nobody is coming to save us, give us the pat on the head, or tell us we’ve made it. Except us. We’re already here. We’re making it. We’re doing it. We have access to most extant discovered ancient works, and more and more people are learning about astrology. Principles are being recovered and insights are being rediscovered and ideas are being tested. We are the sole safeguards and stewards of what astrology is, and what it becomes is fundamentally up to us. This includes not just the content but its culture of education, discourse, and transmission. An open question is: where do you want to see the world of astrology go? Are we living and acting in ways that are supportive of that vision?
When I think about the incredible depth required to gain a mastery of astrology, I understand why the clientele for deep astrology consultation work seems so small. Astrology works, but only as well as the astrologer does. It takes work, personal development, and discernment. For casual or fresh learners, the full depth of a contemporary astrology curriculum and the worldview challenges implied is significant. Even just the idea of an astrology reading can be very intimidating. I have heard many personal anecdotes from people who were fully pushed away from learning astrology or feeling like they were capable of it by astrologers with large followings who used their influence to dismiss, negate, or attack the ideas these learners were just getting enamored with. I wonder how many potential clients or students we all lose every time the astrology scene erupts in conflict and debate.
Nothing New Under the Sun But the Moon
I want to talk about something delicate. At least in much of the world of traditional astrology, I don’t believe anything new has been invented in a long time. The further back we look the more we find that most of our ideas are rehashes of what the ancients knew ages ago. We are not discovering new things but trying to cast a line from now to the past in the hope we can pluck it like a violin string finding resonance. Arguments about what is or isn’t a “variation from the texts” are laughable when most of them also did not agree, and when we could discover “new” ancient texts at any moment. It seems that we keep discovering that some new-actually-old-concept is a precursor to what we know now, and it’s all in the old writing. Some principles are very likely the direct result of gnosis (divine revelation) as the jyotishis explicitly state is the case in their lineage. I myself have experienced forms of astrological gnosis which were later corroborated in texts I had never read before. It took time, but I now accept this as an even greater complicating factor.
In this sort of epistemic context, it’s next to impossible to actually say for sure who is correct from logical argumentation. The fact is that astrology works. There may be variance, there may be a range of nuance, but master astrologers have made accurate and precise predictions throughout the ages. These techniques apply to real life and its experiences. However, there’s a vast metaphysical and conceptual space to travel between the positions of planets and the events that happen here on earth, and much argumentation is wasted breath. Does it work or not? Most astrologers are not actually equipped to answer this question in a conclusive way.
Let’s do some simple math. Assume that you begin offering professional astrology services at the age of 35, and do a reading for 7 clients a week for 5 years (the rough amount of time at which astrologers—by which I mean me—seem to begin feeling confident enough to start shouting on Twitter). Assuming you only ever see new clients, that would be about 1820 charts. These charts will probably be from people within your generation. These charts will also probably be the specific types of people who resonate with you as an astrologer, meaning that your experience of what you see is biased by fate. Even 5,000 charts is not that many for one astrologer against the vast and infinite possibilities the sky can paint.
There are 8 billion or so and counting people in the world, all with wildly different experiences. Everything that can happen and can be experienced, happens, and can be subsequently (or antecedently) described by astrology. Some astrologers seem blissfully unaware that their perspective does not represent the totality of all experience, but act as if it does. The moment you come to a conclusion, you stop learning. So we’d better be pretty sure before we take a hardline approach to any idea. Better yet, we should probably try it ourselves, rigorously, fairly, with an open mind, before discarding it. Am I saying not to debate or try to make your case? No. I’m saying debate with the amount of confidence your argument actually deserves, or perhaps find new ways of relating ideas and information to people that don’t require you to feel like you’re staking your intellectual reputation on it.
All that being said, we all live the new moons of our own lives. The hard intellectual and spiritual work of discerning metaphysical truths from the sky and the patterns we see is intrinsically valuable, because we are doing it, even if we are doing or extending upon what has been done before. Attribution is essential and important, both for acknowledging the work and effort someone devoted time out of their lives for, and for allowing others to learn the lineage of astrology and the pathways that our art took to become what it is now. We should all have the opportunity to look for sources, identify influences, and be rewarded for our work in the public sphere.
I believe that as much of astrology should be as accessible as possible, at a level that is appropriate to the seeker’s initiation. Don’t teach total beginners zodiacal releasing first thing—perhaps don’t even mention it exists outside of some circles. There’s a reason you never hear about death prediction. In ancient times, astrology was inherently inaccessible. These secrets were protected in guilds, secret societies, and the minds of wise practitioners and not possible to duplicate with the click of a button. Today, we live in a different information landscape. There is demand, desire, and need for wisdom in the form of astrology and many other arts.
I feel that as astrologers, at least those who consider themselves the stewards of our art, it’s our obligation to make the appropriate level of information available. Not everyone will agree on the best way to do this. No one ever has. But at this current moment it seems to me that the astrology scene is excessively inaccessible, due in large part to the culture that has accumulated around it as so many wounds. Apparently, there’s billions of dollars in services that people are willing to pay for out there. If they can’t get it from us, they’ll get it from apps that intentionally upset you to drive engagement, from subpar content creators who cast as wide a net as possible, from the schools and practices you accidentally made them sympathetic toward by vilifying them.
Eventually, they’ll get it from an artificial intelligence who can easily summarize basic astrological delineations from the countless modern psychological profile typology astrology books which have value but only help certain types of people with certain types of problems. Can you imagine how far the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of astrology will go once people can ask an AI all of their naive, unknowing astrology questions? (At the moment, ChatGPT will often refuse to answer your questions about astrology, citing it as a pseudoscience with no scientific backing. I’m not sure if this is better or worse.)
In this new age, when people stop being wise gatekeepers and guardians at the threshold and become obstructions operating out of pride, fear, and grasping, the world will simply route around. I’m sure many of us can think of at least one or two people whose work we will inevitably use but not cite because doing so would seem like an endorsement of their conduct. In the span of a few months or years one person’s lifetime of contributions can be erased and forgotten. Perhaps there are ways we can relate to and talk about publicly that don’t set Twitter on fire and burn bridges every time we have a disagreement about technique or even something that actually matters to clients who just want to receive wisdom.
I believe we are larger than these problems, but operating in an illusory small context. After all, are we not the descendants of the Chaldeans, seers and seekers who hold the entire world and all its possibilities within our gaze? There seems to be a misconception that spiritual or wisdom attainments mean someone is now elevated and cannot run afoul of egoism, insecurity, greed, lust, envy, excessive nosiness, or any other sin. Unfortunately, we all must remain humble, because that comic book adage is completely true: with great power comes great responsibility.
We as astrologers are the ones who can make our market bigger, wiser, more well-informed, and turn it into a self-generating productive cultural conversation around fate and fortune and how the world works. Every time a competent astrologer has a reading with someone, that person’s life is improved. We offer a unique service to the world that is literally irreplaceable, and can be forgotten again. Never forget where our tradition comes from and what we have survived to get to this point. We are besieged on all sides by skeptics, charlatans, and evangelists, both secular and religious. We are the only ones who can speak for our art. We must learn to speak for it well.
And even beyond that, at the end of the day, all we have is people. I want to spend my days surrounded by fascinating and interesting people who share all of their ideas and with whom I feel comfortable sharing my ideas. I want friends and business partners and for all of us to flourish. As a guiding principle, I like to ask myself: do I feel better after that interaction? Do I like the other person more or feel like I appreciate them more? Did I learn something new? Or do I feel worse? Do I feel like that person likes me less than before and vice versa? Did I just end up feeling like I need to double-down on what I already believe?
At the end of all of it, fittingly, is Saturn. In the end, we too will be overtaken. We will die. We will be forgotten by the sands of time. If we are lucky, our work will resonate in the fiber of the art we leave behind. Hopefully we are remembered for our wisdom and not our petulance; for our contributions and not our messes. But those will only be ghosts in comparison to the lives we actually impacted and touched, the people we reached, and how they felt as they pored over our works.
Memento mori. Amor fati.