Sunday, January 29, 2006

What It Means To Be A Public Astrological Intellectual

What It Means To Be A Public Astrological Intellectual

7:19 AM 1/29/06 Sun

I frequently get emails and other communications from colleagues and astrologically interested persons, as to the nature of my writing; why I state the things that I do. As one might guess, some of it is favorable, offering additional insights that they think I might be interested in, and a large part of the replies are sent with a harsh tonality of criticism behind it. This I don't mind, in fact, I live for the debate of ideas, and this plays a huge part of why I write what I do.

I don't think it was an accident that someone like myself - a young, African American, Muslim male, inner-city born and bred - would be interested in Astrology. Over the years, I could have made a mint of money for everytime I heard from someone upon meeting me face to face saying, "you don't look like an astrologer". While I'm sure all those people meant well, the implication is explicit enough - the world of Astrology is in the main, dominated by a certain archetype - White, middle-aged, usually female, usually suburban, often liberal college educated. And while these days it's not nice to give any stereotype anywhere any creedance, I think it safe to say that all such stereotypes come with them at least a grain of truth.

Like other astrology enthusiasts, I read all the extant modern literature by all the "name" astrologers of our time: Hand, both Green(e)s, Forrest, Braha, Cunningham, March & McEvers, Tyl, Zondag, you name it. And so very much of it sounded so very distant to me, so far away removed from what my world looked like, sounded like, smelled like. This isn't just a statement of the "personal" - I know there are many of those same "well wishers" I spoke of earlier who are chomping at the bit to tell me that it's all in my head - but that there was a serious disconnect in what I read and what I actually saw being played out around me, in the lives of everyday working and living and breathing folks.

Many of my detractors like to pithily point out that Astrology is "blind" to such trivial mundane matters as race or class, ethnicity or sex/gender; this supposed superiority raises the astrologer above the fray of political debate and serious sociological inquiry. But again, that keen analysis falls apart in the real world, where real things happen to real people.

This is what lead me onto the path I'm now on today, that of being what I like to call a Public Astrological Intellectual.

As the name infers, I take my cue from other public intellectuals in other fields - sociology, the humanities, history, economics, politics - and apply the tools of the Astrological Academy to real life conditions being played out on the world stage, to get underneath the issues and points of view that inform us all.

I take a hard look at many of the things that so many of us here in the astrological community either just don't think about - or, and I think this is more like it - simply don't want to involved with. Take the issue of Class, for example - what does astrology, and we astrologers, have to say about that? Aren't the bulk and mass of us interested in "humanistic" pursuits? What about Sexual Politics, and the drastically shifting landscape socially, between men and women, it has left in its wake?

IS there a such thing as a "blue state/red state" divide in our ranks? Has the astrology community, both in terms of its mindset and the very real fact that so many of its adherents and "members" are women, become feminized?

Should astrologers merely be "soothsayers" - people who divine the oracle as it were, and leave it at that - or are we to be advocates for a particular cause, a certain way of life?

Like so many astrolgers who have gone on before me - Marsilio Ficino immediately comes to mind - I aim, through my writings, to take a hard look at the State of Our Art at the dawn of a new Millennium. And like Ficino, who's Saturn is prominent in his horoscope, my own drives me to ask the hard questions - and to get at some tough answers.

In the past year, I have written at length and in detail about such issues as Abortion and the seachanges afoot at the US Supreme Court; the very real issue of Class (and its close cousin, Race) with regard not only to the Katrina crisis but as well, to the question of "interdating"; I dealt with the topic of the Working Poor, of the unintended consequences of the Sexual Revolution, of the hard choices regarding the War on Terror that have to be made, perhaps the challenge of our time - only to name a few.

I took up the issue of Stanley "Tookie" Williams from a decidely different point of view, when so many other colleagues went the other way; dealt with pop cultural, and as it turns out, eternal themes by putting the "Goldigger" into astrological context, to say nothing of the treatments I gave to pop culture figures such as Dr. Phil, Terrell Owens, Ron Artest, and TV programs like "Commander in Chief".

Say what you will of me or my writings, but I think it safe to say that few if any others in our field have levelled such a close and keen astrological eye at some of the people, issues and themes of our Times, as I have.

I personally think, when I get the emails and rants from the detractors, that there is just a weebit of Hater-Aide seeping through between the lines. Afterall, I don't hesitate to stomp on toes and roll a few sacred cows on the spit. I'm uber critical of some of the most hallowed voices, ideas and concepts of the Western Modern (or Post-Modern, I should say, LOL) Astrology Movement, again much of it coming from my particular circumstance as one who does not fit the demographic, experience or worldview of the current community of astrologers, and at least of much of it coming from my intimate experience with, and knowledge of, other systems of astrological information, namely the un-retouched Vedic astrological model. I put it that way because, as has been the case with a large part of Western astrology, Vedic astrology in the West has mutated into something that many continental Indians would have trouble recognizing. I've been doing Vedic astrology since 1998, have many Indian born clients, and have NEVER once had one of them coming to me for "the meaning of life" session. Most Indian clients, in my experience, have concerns that are much more mundane and to the point. The whole business about the spiritual dimensions of Vedic astrology are at best overblown in reality, an American/Western innovation, dreamt up by and profferred to middle class White folks who have a bit too much time and/or money on their hands.

I have long held the view, that so many in our community are living in a socially, ethnically, politically, "spiritually" hermetically-sealed bubble, where they only have to come into contact with others like themselves; I have believed, and this belief is reinforced day by day, that the vast majority of my colleagues simply could not do my horoscope - that is to say, that they wouldn't be able to take the funny looking symbols looking back at them that is my chart, and be able to put it into context of what my life actually is. The reasons for this is simple, and should by now be apparent, it's because so many of my colleagues simply have no understanding of life for most African Americans. Because our community is also top-heavy (pardon the pun) with middle-aged women, many of my colleagues wouldn't know how to relate to me as a man. Because so many of my colleagues in the field are old enough to at least be my parents if not grandparents, most of them wouldn't be able to deal with topics and themes relevant to the times in which I live and have to confront. But I know I could do any one of their charts, and in fact, my experience in Astrology over the past decade and a half has borne witness to this - for every one Black client I have, I have as many White, Indian, and so on. Because of my "marginality" I'm able to see things that so many of my colleagues either can't see - or, don't want to see (take a wild guess which one I think is more true?). The "bubble" syndrome extant in our astrology community today, is something that we have to be serious about confronting if we want astrology to be around in the years ahead. Much of my writing to date has been centered around this issue.

But I guess more than anything else, I strive to make astrology meaningful and relevant to the average Joe and Josie on the set, as it were; I try to winnow away flowery talk and new-agey asides about the Arkashic Records, because for the many people whom I come into contact with, they might as well have bought a real record and played it for all the difference it would have made. The Public Astrological Intellectual works to make astrology accessible to the masses of folks, by taking matters that actually means something to said folks, and brings astrological insight to it, by applying to tools of the Astrological Academy. And yes, I do take stands on the issues - Astrology is, afterall, a Human endeavor - it means nothing if the Human is taken out of it. This is why my position has always been, that attempts to dehumanize Astrology by making such pithy remarks as "the horoscope doesn't determine male or female" are largely disengenuous and intellectually dishonest; such proponents would do better to simply say that they are in full agreement with Gay Marriage rather than to try to put the Old Jedi Mindtrick on one of their own. Mine is a rather new effort, but one that I hope to contribute something meaningful to, for the benefit of new astrologers to come.



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