Should an astrologer gild the lily or paint a true picture?

Should an astrologer gild the lily or paint a true picture when reading a client's chart?

The following question was put to the audience at the recent Federation of Australian Astrologers conference by an international presenter: "Which is the more compassionate approach for a counselling astrologer to present a constellation in a person's chart- to present the planetary energies from the most positive perspectives or to give them the raw truth of their more difficult expressions?"

A. My reply to this is that you need to provide both, along with some counsel as to how to bridge the often seeming chasm between the two. Too much of one is like an excess of spin - sounds good initially but doesn't last long, while with the other, with some constellations, you might as well put on your Leonard Cohen LPs and contemplate your end.

Astrology as a profession has suffered enormously in terms of its credibility by generations of well intentioned practitioners presenting charts from a lightweight, idealistic, highest possibilities perspective where the spirit of the Age of Aquarius lives on.

It's totally understandable to do this early on in one's astrological journey, when you get access to an extraordinary system that has the potential to magically re-arrange your whole view of life. Trouble is, if it goes on for too long, you get a long line of clients who come away with, " Well that was interesting but how do I get to these 'potentials' in my real life?" The inevitable crushing of unrealistic expectations fuels the "flaky", "unrealistic" and "unprovable" tags that have given the field such a bad name.

And then there are the Pluto/Saturnian/Chiron schools who come from the premise of "it's only from the place of absolute, raw truth of things that any real change and healing can come!"

My regular readers will not be surprised when I say that I'm more of this orientation, so much so that I often think I should put warnings on my readings. But this approach can be just as out of balance as the original primal therapy, a brutal process that re-traumatised some people more than it healed, or psychological systems that reject the importance of the spiritual life of its clients. For some people, this is just too despairing, especially as despair often comes with already existing beliefs that you can't really change anything anyhow, particularly the painful stuff.

Alongside the relative ruthlessness of this, there is compassion in the approach as well. There's nothing like having a relative stranger articulate and empathise with something you've struggled with, often alone. This gets even better when you get to explore the meaning of your experience and its implication for both past and future. It all seems to put your very personal experience in a much larger context that has something to do with your healing and spiritual life, with your sense of place in the universe. At the same time, it comes with a sense that we're not going to mess around here. As they say, life is not a rehearsal.

My take on this is that the astrologer should be able to articulate both dark and light sides of any constellation, and provide information about appropriate tools to be able to work with the shadow as part of getting to the higher, more creative possibilities. The practitioner needs to have a broad range of awareness, and ideally experience in, spiritual and therapeutic tools that match both the energies and archetypes involved in the chart and where the client is at. This can range from the very subtle to the very primal, depending on the client and the situation. But the important thing is that you can help the individual create a healing pathway with workable techniques.

The other reason why I take the more hardline position is that underneath every wound, old pattern and blockage, lie extraordinary gifts, skills and powers. All of us were born with exceptional abilities, but it's what we do, or don't do, about our issues that profoundly influence our ability to manifest them. This notion is tempered though with some awareness of the karmic limitations and cycles that the individual brings with him or her. Otherwise, it can encourage the person to do the healing equivalent of repeatedly bashing their heads against a brick wall, a wall which has its own timing beyond our control.

What astrology can't do clearly is to differentiate between the effects of free will versus that of destiny or karma, a debate as old as the trade itself. There are certain planets and points that are directly related to obvious karmic cycles, but for the rest, we have to rely on intuition and our subtler senses. This comes with maturity and experience and, hopefully for all of us, with wisdom.

Daniel Sowelu (BSc Dip Ed) is a therapeutic astrologer, primal therapist and groupleader in his 22nd year of private practice. He is very welcoming of
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