A woman named Ida C. Benedetto proposes that “Astrology isn’t fake–it’s just been ruined by modern psychology.”
Wait, what? Who is Ida C. Benedetto?
She’s an Experience Designer. It says so right there on the Firefox tab I’m looking at right now.
I’m not exactly sure what an Experience Designer is, though it kind of seems to have the flavor of Life Coach about it.
I’m also not sure what Experience Designing has to do with astrology. Though I did learn as I perused this website that Benedetto said in early 2016 that “I don’t believe in astrology but can’t help getting into it.”
Perhaps her motivation for writing that article is because astrology does seem to be making the news a lot lately. You know, jump on the gravy train and all.
- Astrologer, investigative journalist, and Renaissance man Eric Francis Coppolino was recently featured in The New York Times. I wholly credit my interest in astrology to Eric: Back in 2006 I was googling some Bob Dylan lyrics (long story) and landed on Eric’s Planet Waves website. I forgot about Dylan that day and kept reading astrology. I’ve never stopped reading astrology, actually.
- Again from The New York Times, dated 1/1/2018: “How Astrology Took Over the Internet.”
- Yet again from The New York Times, a student opinion dated 1/3/2018: “Do You Believe in Astrology?” Because, it seems, inquiring young minds want to know.
- The National Review (those party poopers!) then wondered aloud, “Why is the New York Times Taking Astrology Seriously?” (Feminism, apparently. But, really, they just mean, “You damn kids! Get off my lawn!”)
(Obligatory Clint Eastwood–the same guy who once talked to an empty chair for 12 minutes. Enjoy, National Review folks!)
- Though it’s fair to say that Newsweek beat both TNYT and TNR to the punch, back in 2013: “Checking In with Susan Miller, who Saw October Coming.” Susan Miller, of course, is the proprietor of the very successful Astrology Zone website. (It’s kind of hilarious to me that the author introduced Ms. Miller as an “astrologist.” And yes, I do read Astrologist Miller’s forecasts every month.)
There are many more examples; I just posted these for flavor.
But let’s return to Ms. Benedetto’s assertion about the ruination of astrology.
“Astrology isn’t fake–it’s just been ruined by modern psychology.”
This may be the most fuckwitted statement I’ve ever heard someone make about astrology.
But, hey, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
Problem No. 1: Fundamentalism
The following definition of fundamentalism is from Wikipedia, but it’s suitably footnoted and highlights several important points.
- Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs.
- However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups—mainly, though not exclusively, in religion—that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Benedetto apparently wants you to know that she is one of the Cool Kids. And you’re not.
- Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established “fundamentals” and their accepted interpretation within the group is often the result of this tendency.
Well. Just as Benedetto thinks psychology is ruining astrology, Christian fundamentalists also think that psychology is ruining the Bible too. (Background: I grew up in the church. I didn’t set foot in a public school until college, and that was after completing two years of Christian college. I know those fundamentalists and their thought processes intimately. And, gosh, you’re in such esteemed company there, Ms. Benedetto.)
Astrology isn’t a religion, but the fact that groups of seekers congregate around its study and practice makes it vulnerable, to some degree, to the cancer of fundamentalism. Unfortunately, Benedetto’s statement reeks of it.
Some relevant questions to ponder:
Q. Does The Existence of Older Astrological Texts Invalidate the Usefulness of Psychologically Applied or “Modern” Astrology?
A. No, it doesn’t.
The astrological method a practitioner utilizes can, to some degree, depend on what they’re trying to learn via a chart reading. Some astrologers work predictively; some astrologers work psychologically; some astrologers merge these approaches. Some astrologers, for example, do lots of natal, transits, and progressions astrology, where their clients are interested doing personality and soul work. Others do lots of horary astrology that attempts to answer specific questions about personal situations or current events. And many astrologers do all of these types of readings and more.
Q: How far back do we go to decide what’s valuable and what’s not? Who gets to decide where we stop and what is most valuable?
Yes, I understand. Ancient Greece is the cradle of Western civilization. But Mesopotamia was a cradle of … civilization (no qualifier needed). Babylonians practiced astrology–in fact, theirs was the first organized system of astrology. Astrology was also practiced in pre-modern India and China. But if the age of the texts matters so much, why stop at ancient Greece? Did astrologers who practiced older systems back in the day turn up their noses and sniff disdainfully at those upstart Greeks tryna do some astrology? Who knows. Maybe they did. And they’d have been just as wrong as Benedetto is now. All of these civilizations created astrology that was relevant to their own time and place. So too do we, broadly speaking.
Of course there is relevance to be found in ancient texts. But it’s not necessary to exclude things we’ve learned in the modern age. This is a matter of the astrologer’s personal interests and preferences, not a matter of dogma.
Stretch this question to consider the validity and legitimacy of religious practice today (e.g., Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and more), and you further see that it’s all relative.
Q: Who has the authority to enforce an “accepted” definition and practice of astrology on all astrologers?
A: No one. I repeat: NO ONE.
I respect the astrology work done by Rob Hand, whom Benedetto cited to support her polemic statement. Hand is widely respected in the astrology community, even as people disagree with him about one thing or another.
Astrology doesn’t have a Pope. Nor should it.
Problem No. 2: Legitimacy
Owing to the deep-rooted Puritanism that’s part and parcel of the U.S.’s early history, astrologers who want to practice their craft as a serious discipline here continue to face potential legal problems in the United States. And in this case, perception is everything.
Local ordinances still exist in some places that define astrology as “fortune-telling” and deem it a crime. This reality forces some astrologers to feel that they must disrespect or disavow the legitimacy of their own work on some level by flipping it off as “entertainment only” in order to keep people happy who, like “Experience Designer” Benedetto herself, have no business telling astrologers what to do or how to do it.
The work of Project Hindsight could potentially help to legitimize astrology as a scholarly discipline rather than just a bundle of woo-woo. Not that there’s anything wrong with occultism and mystery except, perhaps, to the Kim Davises of the world. But modern psychology can help to legitimize astrology too. Why pit the traditional against the modern in some fevered and pointless battle to determine which astrology dick is bigger?
Richard Tarnas, a cultural historian who has also cultivated a significant background in psychology, wrote a fairly weighty tome in support of the idea that the planets do reflect causal relationships to conditions on earth. Tarnas’s background and writings effectively illustrate one way in which classical study and modern psychology can work together to validate astrology’s usefulness.
Q: Does astrology have to be just one thing?
A: No, of course not!
Part of the beauty of astrology is that the use of this tool crosses arbitrary ideological and cultural lines and thus in some form can be useful for anyone of any religion–or no religion at all. That is, until people like Benedetto come along and drop their stinky deuces in the pool.
Q: Does using psychology with astrology create some bastard form of New Agey bullshit?
A: No. But I grant that others’ mileage may vary.
Benedetto stated that “New Age psychological astrology, which over [sic] accentuates internal matters of the mind and spirit, opens up far too much room for confirmation bias.”
Who’s to say what is overaccentuated? The same could be said at one time or another of any religion or spiritual tool or spiritual practice. Shouldn’t we, then, eschew religions, spiritual tools, and spiritual practices so that we can avoid confirmation bias? Geez, how about we not throw the baby out with the bathwater?
A much larger problem, in my view, is the number of people who’d rather call astrology anything from “New Age crap” to “Satanic” if doing so helps them to avoid taking a much-needed look into the mirror at themselves. Just sayin’. Astrology isn’t the only mirror, but it’s a helpful mirror in any form.
Too, Benedetto’s implication that “psychological” astrology might be functioning on the whole as a means of spiritual bypassing is absurd and insulting. Does she think it’s easy for the words, “opportunity for growth,” to pass our lips or even enter our minds when we’re stumbling around in confusion or laid out flat in despair?
Give me a break. If something is one thing, that doesn’t mean it isn’t also something else. It’s not an either/or question. That’s the problem with fundamentalist thinking: Life itself is rarely so simple.
Holy Confirmation Bias, Batman!
“Calling out the remnant” within the astrology milieu is counterproductive to learning. It creates ivory towers through which no new ideas may pass, even for purposes of testing. This happens in academia and religion all the time.
By arguing against the legitimacy of new thought and the application of modern concepts such as modern psychological principles to astrology, Benedetto is unwittingly facilitating the same confirmation bias that she decries.
And invoking Rob Hand’s appearance on Chris Brennan’s The Astrology Podcast? No confirmation bias there for Benedetto’s polemic statement, is there? [*snort*]
(BTW, I listen regularly to Brennan’s podcast. It’s interesting and informative to me, in spite of the fact that I’m not a traditional/Hellenic astrologer.)
Q: Is it possible to practice modern psychological astrology and apply understanding of Fate and destiny to that work?
A: I do it every single time I look at a chart.
I am a pagan, a hard polytheist, a witch, and an occultist. The workings of Fate and destiny comprise a topic that I’ve spent no small amount of time studying and considering. In the broader occult milieu, there are a number of texts available for study, both older and newer, that shed light on the nature of Fate and destiny.
My longtime and widely varied occult studies cannot help but inform my view and practice of astrology. Benedetto’s assumption that only traditional astrologers and astrology can offer anyone a correct or proper view of Fate and destiny–or any view of it at all, in fact–is simply wrong.
Benedetto invoked Carl Jung to say…something… about astrology. I think it was that even though Jung decided that astrology had no causal relationship to conditions on earth, “New Agers” were using Jung’s work to justify the practice of “psychological astrology.”
I don’t see the problem here. For me, astrology has the potential to illuminate and elucidate not only causal, but also potentially acausal relationships. That’s just one example of how Jung’s work can be used in the practice of astrology. Though, sometimes, the mystery of synchronicity can only be appreciated for what it is.
Astrologer Austin Coppock wisely notes:
Astrology is not psychology, however it does include psychology. Astrology speaks to our encounters with both the internal Self and the external World. Thus the first decan of Aquarius represents our initial foray into the unknown, both within and without. It is at this point that discoveries are made, and the unknown begins its transformation and translation into the known. It is, of course, a delightful “coincidence” that Jung had this very decan of Aquarius rising. We have the option to explore these new horizons as brave explorers, or as unhappy exiles. Though what we encounter is not likely to change, what we learn from and make of it most certainly will.
In my opinion, sun sign horoscopes are a pretty decent marketing tool. But there’s nothing innately flawed about the astrology that’s used to produce them. Sun sign horoscopes are small bites of information that often persuade people to seek out bigger bites of information. What’s the big deal?
Benedetto wraps up by exhorting traditional astrologers to “come out into the light.”
Within the astrological community, traditional astrologers such as Hand, George, Brennan, and others are well-known, and they rightfully enjoy the respect of many, even as we disagree with them at one time or another. They’ve hardly been scuttling around in the walls like cockroaches.
However, astrologers and other spiritual practitioners often don’t know how to effectively market their offerings to the wider public. And advertising can be a huge production now in The Information Age. You can hire people to build and manage a website and to handle your social media presence, and that can cost thousands of dollars of initial investment–and that’s money that astrologers may not be willing or able to part with. But there’s no nefarious effort by some shadowy cabal of modern astrologers to keep traditional astrologers out of the spotlight.
Wait, I dunno…maybe there is something nefarious going on here … (Art: Jay Fossitt)
Here’s my truth: There’s a wellspring of beauty and utility to be found in astrology’s diversity.
So, y’all, don’t worry about modern psychology ruining astrology. It hasn’t happened. And it’s not going to happen. Let people discover and experience and practice astrology in a way that’s most interesting, helpful, and relevant for them.
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