Considering Ourselves Professionals
This column explores the consequences
of considering ourselves true professionals. It addresses the issues
of ethics, finances, professional competence, and responsibility
toward our profession.
A few days ago, I received an unusual
phone call from a woman. She had seen my name in the Yellow Pages and
wanted some advice following a consultation with another astrologer.
Her question was direct: "Is it feasible for an astrologer to predict
the death of a close family member?" My response was equally direct:
"No!" The answer was a thank you which felt full of relief. I added
that the astrological chart can show major life transitions, but can
never show actual physical death. As we continued talking, sensing
this woman's awareness, I said a few words about symbolic versus
actual physical death. We ended up talking about the ethics of
predicting the time a person would die. I made it very clear that I
consider such a prediction totally unethical. She was very angry and
wanted to take some actions against the astrologer. I suggested she
write this person a letter.
As I made that suggestion, something happened inside of me. I suddenly
became concerned for the astrological profession if she decided to
make a big public fuss about the issue. This woman needed to do
something for herself, she needed to voice her anger. However, while
supporting her, and making a suggestion, I may have been in denial
about the conflict which was arising within myself: such an action is
totally unethical and unprofessional, therefore the astrologer has to
be told so; however, if a big deal were made publicly that reflects on
the astrological profession, I would be suffering from it too.
Within days of this event, a similar
and more direct conflict arose. A friend contacted me with some
anxiety stating that she had just consulted an astrologer who computed
her ascendant as Pisces and her Moon in Libra while for years she had
believed her Ascendant to be Aquarius and her Moon to be in Virgo.
Listening to my friend, it seemed that she was going through an
identity crisis: "Who am I, a Pisces rising or an Aquarius rising?
And what about my Moon?" What was most disturbing to my friend was
that the astrologer's description of her felt "right on." She,
indeed, recognized herself during the consultation but had always
believed in her Aquarian and Virgo qualities. I offered to compute
her chart. She was born on the East Coast during the winter 1942;
therefore, the time zone for her birth was EWT which gave her an
Aquarius ascendant (EST computed a Pisces ascendant). Her Moon,
however, at 28 Virgo 50, could not have changed from Virgo to Pisces
in one hour! I reassured my friend and she later told me that the
astrologer was going to call me because she wanted to learn what error
she made. I was happy to help and agreed to talk to her. The
astrologer called and stated that she was very new at astrology. She
told me that, until recently, she had used her computer software to
calculate charts for a friend of hers who was handling the
delineation. She was very open and understood her error. She also
felt that my friend knows so little about astrology that she could
have misunderstood the Moon sign, which is possible. Then she added
something like: "I guess I know just enough astrology to be a
danger." Again, there was a conflict in me. I wanted to tell her:
"Yes, I believe you are a great danger at this point and need much
more training before you even dare interpret a chart for anyone
else." But who am I to judge, who am I to decide whether a person I
do not know is capable or not? How many of us have done correct
delineations with the wrong chart? I heard myself partially copping
out about confronting her, yet sincerely answering: "At least you are
aware that you can be a danger."
In the wake of these two events, I
reflect, more than ever upon our professionalism and ethics. It might
be advantageous to explores the issues so that each of us can pay
attention to the response our inner voice to the suggestions presented
I want to suggest that we prepare yourself before giving any
consultation. This means questioning our ability to help that
particular person, questioning our own emotional state, centering
ourselves the best we can so that our personal issues interfere as
little as possible with our delineation. An astrological chart is the
map of a person's psyche, a map of a person's soul, a map of the
Sacred; it must be treated as sacred.
I would like to think that every teacher and lecturer in astrology would
remind their students of the sacredness of our work and of the ethical
issues associated with it. Even though many of you may be aware of
it, I would like to quote here the Code of Ethics of Aquarius
I will always endeavor to represent a positive approach to the practice
of Astrology and will maintain ethical and professional standards.
I will only interpret a chart as 'natal horoscope' if it has been erected
from the accurate time, place, and date of birth - unless I inform the
client that the chart has been rectified by acceptable astrological or
alternative methods. In interpreting a chart verbally or otherwise,
my conclusions will be drawn from astrological analysis and will be
completely relevant to the science of Astrology. My reading of any
progressions will be based on directive methods and awareness of the
free will rather than a predictive premise.
As a counselor, I promise to keep confidential all information entrusted
to me by my clients.
I will use astrology as a tool to recognize the potential of life
consciousness as a creative force, and not for self-seeking or
If you agree with the principles of this Code of Ethics, take a moment to
reflect on its meaning for you. Have you always followed these
practices? If not, what practice did you ignore and when? How do you
feel about your actions? Do you recognize why you deviated from the
code? Have you made a conscious decision to behave in accordance with
Personally, I would like to add several points to this Code of Ethics.
They concern the areas of finances, professional competence, and
responsibility to the profession.
First, let's look at the ethical
aspect of our finances as it is connected to our responsibility to the
profession. I believe we ethically should charge a fee that conforms
to the professionalism of our practice: we are consultants like they
exist in many different disciplines.
Referring to the experience with my fiend described earlier, I do not
know how much my friend's astrologer charges for a consultation.
However, my friend said that she (my friend) ought to have a
consultation with me and asked me how much I charge. I answered that I
charge $100 for one-and-a-half hours - which is what I believe the
market can bear in my area for my specialized astro-psychological
service. My friend looked a touch surprised and said that she could
not afford this amount at this time. Her reaction made me wonder how
much she paid her astrologer. I thought that the fee must have been
rather low, which would go with the fact that the astrologer clearly
stated that she considers herself a beginner.
It is not the first time someone has
been surprised by my fee which I do not consider high at all compared
to some colleagues. I have heard countless times that astrologers are
still charging $40 or even $20 for a one- or even two-hour
consultation. Is this what we are teaching the public to expect from
us? I even encountered someone who was surprised that I charged
anything at all!
How can we be taken seriously if we do
not value our services in the same manner that other professionals
value themselves and their work? Many of us may feel like we are in a
double-bind situation: "I am a beginner or an amateur; therefore, I do
not know enough to charge a 'professional fee." My reaction to such
reasoning is this: if you feel you do not know enough, if you feel you
may be 'dangerous', do not give consultations, continue to study, ask
your instructor to teach you the specifics of consultations, go over
her chart with her as if this was a consultation, practice and
practice before you start seeing clients. When you feel you can
delineate a chart in a professional manner, then hang your shingle and
professional fee. In other words, ask yourself: "As an astrologer am I
worth $80? $100? $200?" When, from the depth of your guts the answer
is a clear "yes!", you are ready to give consultations and to do so in
a professional manner. You owe this not only to yourself, not only to
your clients, but also to the astrological community at large. Every
one of your actions is a reflection of and on the astrological
It has been my experience that those
who claim that astrology is of the spiritual world and should not be
rewarded with money either have a low self-image or have other sources
of income - or both. In either case, they are not helping astrology
as a profession.
The issue is the same for our teachers and instructors. They ought to be
paid professional fees. I received a well-deserved "kick in the butt"
a few months ago from a preeminent astrologer because I had accepted
to talk at a conference for free. The preeminent one did not hear any
of my so-called "reasons". She said: "I do not care. When you give a
professional talk, you ought to be paid for your professional work!"
She was right, and I have learned my lesson.
Here again, sometimes we are in a
double-bind situation. I have noticed that few astrologers can, or are
willing to, pay for their training. As a program chair for Aquarius
Workshops, I recently organized a lecture and a one-day workshop by an
internationally known astrologer. In most professions, attending a
lecture by a speaker of that caliber would cost at least $30 and at
least $100 for a one-day workshop. How much do associations charge in
most cases? Often it is $5, $8, $10, or a maximum of $12 for a
lecture and $20, $25, or $30 a one-day workshop. With so little
intake there is no way an association can pay a speaker the deserved
professional fee nor take care of the traveling and lodging expenses
as other professionals require.
Now I know that not every one
considers him/herself a professional. Many of our members just love
to study astrology for their personal growth. To these I ask the
question: "How much do you spend on other hobbies? How much is your
personal growth worth?"
I also believe that when necessary, exceptions should be made. There are
emergency cases. There are times of crisis when we need to help each
other. I do see clients at reduced rates in such cases. However, I
am also aware of the psychological binding that such a special fee
creates for the client who may well feel she "owes" you and who,
unconsciously, resents you for it. In these cases, I advise the
client to consider passing my gift later on to someone else in
whatever form is appropriate when the opportunity arises.
Another aspect of our responsibility
to our profession involves keeping up to date with what is happening
in our specialty within the field of astrology. As we are looking
specifically at counseling, I would recommend investigating other
methods of counseling others than talking with the client. There are
numerous experiential approaches which are enriching and fun in both
the field of astrology and the field of psychology.
Specifically in astrology, I believe that to be recognized as a
professional we need to be kept abreast of astronomical discoveries
and, little by little, incorporate them in our work. Few Western
astrologers would consider delineating a chart without Uranus,
Neptune, and Pluto. Since the discovery of Pluto, however, there has
been many more discoveries which have been computed in astrological
terms: the asteroid belt, the novas, super novas, black holes, comets,
etc. It is already difficult for the public to understand why the
tropical astrological view of the sky does not match the actual
astronomical planetary positions. If astrology does not stay up to
date with astronomy, how much longer will we able to call astrology a
principles go way beyond our contacts with our individual clients. We
owe ourselves, our profession, and the public, to value ourselves, to
respect ourselves, to train ourselves, and to live with our times.