Prediction, Accountability and the Spirit of Astrology

by Philip Levine, M.A.

To predict or not to predict? That is the astrologer’s question. To speak of what is to come into the life of another: isn’t this the realm of the sacred? Haven’t human beings always attributed this true or imagined knowledge of the future to God or to their gods? Haven’t we always considered it to be mysterious, inscrutable, numinous? When an astrologer presumes to have knowledge of this territory, they tread on dangerous ground indeed, especially if it’s done without humility.

I have argued that something is wrong with the way many astrologers give clients specific predictions of future events or outcomes based on what is in the client’s birth chart. Many astrologers argue that is exactly what we should do and what our business is all about. By setting aside the debate over whether it is right or wrong to predict for another, maybe we can gain insight into the question of how prediction is done.

I have felt for a long time that my "calling" to astrology has come from a deeper place within me than that of choosing a career. I believe there is a "Spirit of Astrology", as there is a Spirit of medicine acknowledged by the Hippocratic oath, or a Spirit of political rulership as at least referenced by an oath of office. But of course, an astrologer is not required to offer allegiance to anyone or anything, at least not by law or custom.

Astrologers have long argued that we and our field should be treated with more respect. But we are not accountable. Doctors are accountable to the Spirit within their oath. Political rulers are (if elected) accountable to the electorate, or if part of a monarchy, considered accountable to Spirit in some form – God, ancestors, or deities of various kinds. Lawyers are accountable to the Bar. It is this accountability, or our belief that it stands behind these other professions, that requires our respect.

What is there in astrology, as we see it practiced in these times, that commands a similar respect? There is nothing. Astrologers may earn respect by charging larger fees, by dressing well, by having a suitable professional persona, or even by reason of good work, but there is nothing in the practice of astrology that recommends any of us as worthy of respect simply because we choose to be astrologers. This is what sets us apart from these other professions, and the question of whether that can or even should be remedied remains open to debate.

The real issue is accountability. There is nothing that makes an astrologer accountable for their work. We can do or say anything we want and, as long as it doesn’t break existing laws, no one can hold us accountable. I can tell a client something completely wrong and they can have a nervous breakdown from the news, and I have no accountability. It’s not my fault. Either they should not have come if they couldn’t take it, or they were unstable to begin with, or they were gullible, suggestible, etc.

What is accountability? Liability, culpability, responsibility, answerability – these are what one thesaurus suggests. Liable for what, and to whom? Culpable means guilty. Responsible to whom and for what? Answerable to whom and for what? There are many astrologers who practice with a sense of accountability, feeling they are responsible to the client, or to themselves for doing the best job they can. But this is not enough.

Anything you or I predict is simply our best guess, theory, hunch, feeling, or interpretation of what we see in the chart. This is where we are accountable. All we have to do is tell the client or the public that this is OUR guess, hunch, or interpretation of what we see in the chart. Once we do that, we take on responsibility; we are accountable for our predictions. It is not astrology that is wrong if the prediction is not fulfilled, It is you or me. We put ourselves on the line, not the Spirit of Astrology.

Economists and meteorologists try to predict the future. But people know that they are just doing their best to interpret data and that they are usually wrong. What is different for us? Why don’t our clients know this about us? I believe it is because they sense the presence of the Spirit of Astrology in a consultation about their chart. There is just some larger hidden dimension present when we are basing our interpretations on the cosmos. To offer our own opinions, whether we are psychologically sensitive to the client’s response or not, without explicitly letting the client know that we and we alone are answerable for our predictions is to deceive the client as to the authority behind our predictions, to steal substance from the Spirit of Astrology for our own, and to avoid any accountability for our actions.

Most of us know how important a good reading at the right moment can be in a person’s life. It can be a sacred intersection of client, chart and astrologer, of the Universe with Itself. And present as well, at each and every reading, is something I have called the Spirit of Astrology.

I imagine this Spirit of Astrology to consist of an original and infinite Presence, which I imagine as feminine (though others may imagine a different face), offering us guidance or knowledge derived from witnessing the manifestations of our cosmic environment. It is simply the first knowledge we ever had about the relationship between each of us and the largest containing environment we can imagine. Religion took this a step farther and gave varying and competing interpretations and reasons for this relationship (the how of the relationship). But astrology is our primal source of the revelation that there in fact is an intelligent and organically meaningful relationship between what we see up there and our comparatively tiny lives. It says, before interpretation of how, "it IS so."

The Spirit of Astrology is also composed of the souls of the wisest and most enlightened astrologers who came before us. Whether we admit it or not, She is our Mother, the Source of our field in any of its forms, and She deserves to be acknowledged and listened to.

And I have been listening. In my imagination She is angry and disappointed, both at how She is being used and how She is ignored. Every time an astrologer looks at a chart and predicts for a client or in an article he or she is probably improperly using this Spirit of Astrology. If any prediction is stated in a way that says it comes from the chart, then we are saying that this is coming from the Spirit of Astrology. It is tempting to give our predictions greater substance or credibility in this way, but it is not right. This is an abuse of the Spirit of Astrology.

This is where I believe spirituality can be returned to the field of astrology. No matter what any of us may choose to name what I am calling the Spirit of Astrology, we ignore it at our risk. We inflate ourselves with something that is not personally and individually ours (of our ego). We must write, teach, and practice in the spirit of accountability to this Spirit of Astrology. If we do that, we will also find ourselves more accountable to our clients.

To sum up: if we say "this will happen because of something in your chart", then we are saying Astrology gives this particular interpretation, when it is we who are choosing it. All the impact and consequences from the prediction then (for good or bad) reverberate in the client, the astrologer and the space-between-them with their felt-sense of what astrology is and what it does. It is a habitual and self-reinforcing way of seeing.

Astrological consultation should not be a powerless client facing a powerful astrologer; it should be a humble and relatively powerless client and astrologer facing the power of the Spirit of Astrology.

Of course we can always make guesses or predictions based on trends, theories, the planets or our aching bunion, but the real Future, as "It Is Written", remains hidden, covered by a veil, except for a very few. We must remember to honor That. We must bend our knee in the Presence of the Great Mystery that is our Universe. We must with humility admit that we really have absolutely NO certainty about what will happen in the very next instant, even to ourselves, much less to another person. And we must do this inside our very own hearts if we ever hope to deserve respect.

If we are not accountable to the Spirit of Astrology, who is?

If we are not accountable to the Spirit of Astrology, then what are we accountable to?

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1996 Philip Levine