Last week, I had lunch with an astrologer friend and we talked about how attitudes to astrologers have changed in the past couple of decades. She commented that if you said you were an astrologer 20 or 30 years ago, you might be greeted with scepticism, but you never ran into outright hostility.
These days you do run the risk of getting attacked by a cheerleader for scientism – or a Christian or Muslim convinced that astrology is the devil’s work. You’d think that getting the boot in was only important if astrology really represented a threat to the prevailing belief systems, yet the public status of astrology — maybe especially in this country — is apparently pretty low right now. Astrology is not widely seen as a smart person’s thing. It’s dismissed as a subject that sits next to the comics and puzzles in the paper. Horoscopes are for hairdressers.
So I started to wonder: why is scientism so very worked up about astrology? And why does the Alpha course — the Church of England’s evangelising outreach programme — waste any time on us? Could it be that, on some level, astrology is actually making it’s way back into the general culture?
In fact, if you asked a random person on the street about Mercury retrograde or the Saturn Return, he or she might well have heard of these phenomena. What is more, these are both serious astrological concepts that require you to have at least a passing acquaintance with the astrological worldview. In fact, dig a little deeper and you might find your interlocutor was aware that Jupiter is “good” and Mars, well, Marsy. I think this is partly thanks to horoscope writers — Michael Lutin, Jonathan Cainer, Shelley von Strunkel, Steven Forrest, Jessica Adams to name a few — who have used their columns in the mainstream print media to educate the public for decades.
On the other hand, my friend pointed out, and speaking of print, the astrology shelf has shrunk to nano-size in bookshops. It was quite laden for a while in the 1990s, and in the 1970s and 80s everyone had a copy of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. My friend should know, she has written a lot of popular astrology books and she’s found commissions drying up recently.
The shrinking bookshelf is directly linked to the rise of the internet, of course, and here’s the other way astrology has been getting back into popular consciousness — or subconsciousness — for the last decade or so. I know that an awful lot of people read this blog, and I assume it’s the same for many other serious astrology blogs on the internet. The public discourse about astrology has moved here, simply bypassing mainstream media entirely. The internet is a Uranian space and Uranus is the astrologer’s planet. The two work together well. If you have a specialist interest such as astrology, the internet is where you can find fellow seekers — so much easier than an evening course at the local college might have been. Not only that you have access to some top-class courses and teachers.
Interestingly, there has also been a Saturnian response to the freedom of the internet: the creation of institutions, certificates, apprenticeships, degree courses and hierarchies. The world of astrology has always had this Saturnian side, and these Saturn types have gradually been chipping away from inside academia. There’s the MA in Cultural Astronomy & Astrology in Wales and there’s also the Cosmology graduate program at the California Institute of Integral Studies. This latter is under the aegis of Richard Tarnas, author of the Passion of the Western Mind.
Tarnas is behind an interesting and potentially valuable film project The Changing of the Gods which is currently being crowdfunded. Film is, of course, the way to influence people on a much bigger scale — especially during the era of Neptune in Pisces. Maybe those science evangelists are right to be a little bit worried.