QUESTION: I had to put a little distance between a friend and myself this week. He has plunged down the astrology rabbit hole, confusing his recent learnings with the order of reality. A danger of learning a new philosophy is allowing that ideology to color the entirety of one’s existence, or to use your analogy in Shadows on the Path, "loving the stick and ignoring the moon". Metaphysical systems of belief should swirl like atoms, particles made stronger by acknowledging and being influenced by other matter, not of your own. Reductive worldviews that dead-end into simple charts and graphs do nothing to describe the poetry embedded in our bones. What say you? Is this astrology a real thing or useful? Am I off here?

ANSWER: You have stated this all clearly. The danger of a detailed study of any map is confusing it with knowledge of the actual terrain; deep understanding of a two dimensional map is different from physically walking the terrain. There are several issues here that further complicate the matter, regardless of one’s belief.

Many times, we reach for such disciplines when we are in a state of confusion. We find ourselves in such states because we can not connect with our inner knowingness and do not have the patience to wait for truth to be revealed. We can not tolerate the anxiety of being in the unknown and have not learned how or are not willing to go within. We are grasping externally for an answer or insight, and hence are vulnerable since we are divorced internally from our own wisdom. This leaves us vulnerable to the trappings of devices that can provide external answers while maintaining the separation between us and our inner compass.

Added to that, as with any such system, the purity of the information is affected by the maturity of the practitioner, or rather the amount of their own inner work. For example, one might be inquiring about a topic that the practitioner has not healed in their own psyche. The response will then be muddled by that same unclarity in the practitioner’s own life.

Another danger of setting the course of our life solely on such a thing is not being open to all the messages that are coming in on a daily level. Many times, we grasp at things that promise firm ground because of our abject terror of the impermanence of this realm. Our death is the only certainty we can bank on. The control freak in all of us loves to try to control the uncontrollable. These systems are pointers at best and are not as set in stone as many of us believe. We all need some solace or handholding from time to time to know that a rough patch will pass or to get some clarity about an issue. But we must always be cautious of giving our power over for the false promise of certainty. 

In my own path, I have found readings useful at particular times in my own life. The most useful were the times when I was the least desperate and was approaching it more as a tool for self-introspection and examination and less as a compass. I have found it best used to investigate one’s archetype, not as a minute by minute guide of what to expect. It’s like moving to New York from California and being told that the winters are tough and last several months. This information can help us prepare accordingly. But it is not to be approached as a day-to-day guide of what to wear, where to buy those clothes, and what color. Our minds can make stories of even the most clear information.

I would end by saying that it is always crucial in such interactions to not leave our sound mind at the door. We can not and need not abdicate our power, as it would only invite disaster. When working with any esoteric system, teacher, therapist, or healer we need to do our due diligence. Investigate their credentials, talk to people who have experienced their work, etc. We deserve no less.