Tips on Visiting an Astrologer

Both skeptics and masters in the field will agree: astrology is not an exact science. It is a fluid, subtle symbolic system with interpretive results as varied as those who practice it. In the ancient world, when there was less distinction made between art and science, and none at all made between science and religion, astrology was considered a philosophical art form.

And there is an art to going to an astrologer. It isn’t like signing up for a workshop or going to a lecture, where you just sit there and listen to information that could apply to anybody.

Astrology is an uncharted sea of misconceptions for most people. Not only do they not know what astrology is, but they don’t realize that they don’t know. This article is an attempt to rectify the situation. It addresses some frequently asked questions, some not-frequently-enough-asked questions, and some questions which, from your astrologer’s point of view, are asked altogether too frequently.

Consciousness raising

An appointment with an astrologer should be an investment in having your mind blown. It is meant to be a consciousness-raising dialogue, and you will find that it is a uniquely intimate one. You’ll be sitting with someone who sees your inner complexities and your core potential. Though your astrologer cannot see how you express all this — the chart shows it only in raw, abstract terms — she or he will be able to see a lot about your inner self, which constitutes a rather daunting set of data. Good astrologers are aware of the care and respect that should surround this information, and an informed client should be aware of it too.It is a point of faith with spiritual seekers that one is drawn to just the right teachers at the just the right time. To believe this is to expect that you will be drawn to the appropriate astrologer when you are ready. But it will greatly enhance the experience if you come in with your eyes open.

Especially for those new to the mystical healing circuit, it’s a good idea before setting up the appointment to have a sense of what an astrologer can and cannot do. You will avoid disappointment by dispelling expectations you might not have even known you had. And you will get more information for your time and money spent.

How do I find an astrologer?

Downloading a computer-generated chart and its interpretation is easy and inexpensive. But even the best program cannot feel out and synthesize the meaning of your birth chart the way a real astrologer can.The best way to find any service practitioner is word-of-mouth. Otherwise, look at ads on the web or in a magazine related to psychic arts, and apply the same criteria you would use looking for a therapist. Check out several websites and see what inspires you. Call the person up and get a feel for them. Do they speak in a way you can understand, and do they seem intelligent? Sensitive? Professional? How long have they been in practice? Do they have the kind of background that might indicate a worldview compatible with your own?

What can an astrologer tell me?

An astrologer can give you a nonjudgmental overview of who you are (natal reading) and what is happening to you at the time (transits and progressions). He can translate to you what the chart says your soul is trying to learn — in this lifetime in general, and right now.

Should I come in with questions?

It is always a good idea to have questions, so long as you understand that the questions you come in with are not always what your deeper self really wants to know. Your astrologer will be able to see what your chart’s questions are, which may or may not line up with what you were going to ask. She will see, for instance, what really motivates a job change that you may assume is a financial move. She might see a karmicly-ordained emotional shift, which would be occurring no matter where you were working and no matter how much money you were making.

And sometimes what you are asking will line up quite predictably with the hot spots in your chart. Before addressing your questions, your astrologer may re-frame them in terms of the big picture of your life.

Does my chart tell about other people in my life?

Say you come in worried about your mother. It is likely that your chart will reveal a complex of factors that point to the maternal relationship. From them, your astrologer will be able to infer the meaning, for you, of your mother’s activities and issues — that is, what they symbolize in your life. This is not the same as describing what your mother is specifically doing and thinking.

That said, certain practitioners, most notably clairvoyants, do specialize in the kind of sight that receives pictures about what your mother is doing and thinking. And most astrologers, too, possess a degree of psychic sensitivity that informs their readings to one extent of another. But the chart itself does not describe your mother. It only describes your perception of your mother. It is axiomatic in metaphysics, no less than in the New Physics, that there is no such thing as an objective, absolute truth about anyone or anything. Reality exists only as relative to the observer (called in some divinatory practices the querent).

Your astrologer’s focus is upon what your Higher Self needs you to know about the changes you’re going through, and about other people entering your life who reflect those changes. You may come into the reading wondering what’s going on with your best friend, and leave the reading with a new understanding of what your best friend’s soul is here to teach your soul.

Likewise, if you ask your astrologer for a chart comparison between yourself and a new love interest, what you will get is a general picture of the two personalities and their soul intentions. Astrology can be very useful in comparing and contrasting one chart’s needs (Moon) with another’s; one chart’s communication style (Mercury) with another’s. It will allow you to see how the two modus operandi (Mars) compare; how the belief systems compare (Jupiter); and so on. There is a tremendous amount of information there. Indeed, making selective choices as to what to include in your session is one of the challenges your astrologer faces.

What should I tell my astrologer?

Your astrologer sees what is up for you by looking at your chart. He doesn’t need to hear your description of your new boyfriend, though he may ask you certain key questions (it is not a guessing game, remember; you are here to get perspective, not to watch a magic show). Your time would be better spent listening to him talk about the boyfriend, in the archetypal terms of astrology.

Your astrologer will welcome any questions you may have that haven’t been addressed, as well as requests to go back over something you did not understand. But whatever the subject of your reading, you will learn more if you just listen. You will be relieved, later, that you avoided the classic astro-virgin scenario of going home to listen to your tape only to hear mostly your own voice, saying things you already know.

What if I get confused?

Remember that the tape of your session is ideally going to be something you listen to over and over again, and it will take on new meaning each time. You are not expected to get it all on the first hearing. Your reading will contain many layers of information, the implications of which extend well beyond the particulars at the time of your visit.

Naturally, what you are most concerned with is what is happening right now; but your astrologer is focused on why it’s happening. It’s sort of an apples-and-oranges difference. Keep in mind that your astrologer’s bigger picture includes — but does not confine itself to — the meaning of what’s happening in your world at the moment, so it has more information in it. Thus it would be to your benefit to follow where she is leading the discussion. When you allow her to re-frame your concerns in terms of your chart’s lifelong themes, they will make sense not only right now but when you listen to your tape ten years from now.

At the same time, it is perfectly permissible, and often quite welcome, for the client to reel the practitioner in if her rap is looping out into the esoteric stratosphere and you’re getting lost. At any juncture you may ask her to sum up the last paragraph, to repeat the main point, or to rephrase what she is trying to say.

Can my astrologer tell if my relationship is the real thing?

If you are having a chart comparison done, you will of course be itching to ask whether the relationship with your new boyfriend will work. You can ask, but beware of any astrologer who gives you a definitive Yes or No.

If we agree that the goal of a reading is self-understanding, we would have to agree that you’d get nothing out of a black-and-white answer like that, even if your astrologer could give you one. But in truth he cannot, because the chart shows only potentials: its scenarios are multiple, mutable and totally up to you. The Ultimate Rule of Metaphysics, we-create-our-own-reality, prevails in relationships as everywhere; though it may be harder to accept where other people are involved.

Your love interests are reflections of your own psyche, even as in a dream every character is a version of the dreamer. This is what makes relationship astrology so educational. After the reading you may see not just your new relationship, but your whole relationship history, with new eyes.

Consider that we each carry around a certain definition of what a good (or “real”) relationship is, which we vaguely imagine to be a universal constant. Part of what we want (or think we want) comes from our unique set of criteria, part of it comes from our culture. But astrology relies on very different assumptions. An astrologer’s take on relationships is based on the principles of metaphysics, not on social or psychological notions of what constitutes health, happiness or normalcy. From your astrologer’s point of view, why you and your boyfriend came together may have nothing to do with your conscious choices, nor with your society’s (or your age group’s or your family’s) definition of a successful relationship.

Astrology posits that people connect in order to mirror back insights about the self that the self cannot see alone.

Does astrology say whether the relationship will last?

What a chart comparison will reveal, most likely, are some natural compatibilities as well as some potential conflicts. An astrologer can enumerate and explain these, putting into words distinctions and underlying themes you may have been intuitively aware of, but didn’t have words for. Whether or not you choose to work on the conflicts, of course, is not in the charts. But forewarned is forearmed, and you will find it useful to have your relationship patterns isolated and named. That way you’ll know what’s underneath otherwise-confusing dynamics. Knowing this will allow you to choose with far more clarity what you want to do.

But please do not ask your astrologer “What signs am I compatible with?” It will make him whimper softly and begin to dream about a desk job somewhere.

Will my astrologer give me advice?

Like good psychotherapists, good astrologers refrain from telling you what to do. They traffic in self-understanding, not advice. And they will not tell you what will happen. They cannot, because of the wild card in all this: free choice, which has been on the increase since the Age of Reason. This is the good news. The more we see ourselves as individuals and as masters of our own fate, the harder it is to predict what will happen.

The astrological symbols and their placements merely indicate trends in your chart, not specifics. The specifics are up to you. And the more aware you are of your chart’s fundamental purpose, the more sublime and effective those specifics will be. This is to say that we really do create our own reality.

It is too bad that this premise has become a New Age cliché, and the deal-breaker for many would-be metaphysical thinkers. As a concept, it is resented, misused and half-understood. But astrology would not work if it were not so.

What if I don’t like what my astrologer is saying?

If you’re not sure how much of what she’s saying applies, just go with the old “if the shoes fits, wear it” rule. You’ll be taking the tape home, and you may get more out of it the next time you hear it.

Remember, too, what spiritual teachers say about such discomfort: often when we hear something new about ourselves, it throws us out of our comfort zone, which is actually a good sign. If you are ambivalent about some of the things in your reading, it could be just growing pains. Our egos tend to get disturbed when faced with heretofore-unconscious information. But it is not the ego that gets us to grow and change. That is the job of the Higher Self.

And it is your Higher Self that your astrologer is there to validate. She is not there to validate your self-image. Her job is to explain what your chart says about your life purpose: a set of pure potentials. Your self-image is your own business.

It’s a lot of information, but that’s all it is: information. And there is no quiz at the end.

Forget what you think you know about astrology

Unfortunately, astrology’s bad press is more than enough to make a new client wary. Astrology is often misconstrued as a caricaturish personality-typing system that seeks to stereotype people one way or another. Newcomers may worry that they must defend their view of themselves against that of a stranger who claims to have an inside scoop — reductionistic but somehow magically authoritative — on who they are.

The first misconception will be dispelled as soon as you are introduced to the astounding subtlety and complexity of your own chart. As to the fear that astrology wants to make people out to be who they are not, the truth is just the opposite. Your astrologer’s goal is to get you in touch with your essence; so that you can go forth and express that essence however you want.

It may be that because the information involved is so profound, and the experience of hearing it is sometimes so unexpected, that a client who usually doesn’t take things personally may do so in the case of an astrological reading. But you will get the most out of the session by remembering that your astrologer is a professional you have hired to read your chart: he is not your best friend, your parent, or your judge. He does not need you to agree with his interpretation. He respects you as the master of your chart.

Your chart as mirror

Your chart is a mirror of who you are. You are far more familiar with its contents than your astrologer is; it’s just that she sees it from a distanced point of view, and is not caught up in its stories. The beauty of going to an astrologer is in having someone who does not know you from Adam describing, from a dispassionate perspective, your likes and needs; your motivations, comforts and discomforts, your ideological struggles and intensities and fears, your talents and aspirations; your purpose in having been born into this particular epoch and place.

Nothing you don’t already know. If you are paying attention.