Astrologer meets client
An abridged translation of L'astrologue face a son client: les ficelles du metier
Abstract -- The present emphasis on tradition, techniques, and speculation, should be reduced in favour of making astrologers more aware of what happens during a chart reading. Astrologers should not be deceived by the apparent success of their experiences. Such success is due not to any inherent truth in astrology but to their strategies and tricks of the trade, or what scientific researchers would call artifacts. We should avoid training astrologers who become entrapped by bad habits. Article is illustrated with ten cartoons.
There are three parts -- the underlying astronomy, astrology as knowledge, and the consultation itself -- with a postscript on teaching. The text is addressed to astrologers and students of astrology. Ten cartoons drawn by Larissa Halbronn to my captions illustrate the key issues.
1. The underlying astronomy
The birth chart is both your badge of authority and a necessary component of astrological speech. Today this trick of the trade is calculated by computer, which avoids your becoming too emotional about it. It also makes you look erudite in a field that is not strictly astrological. The jargon, the cabalistic signs on paper, its actual validity, none of these matter provided the client is led to believe that the service you provide depends on the care you have taken in preparing his birth chart.
If necessary you must of course display your knowledge of astronomy, even though this is mere rhetoric, for you are not concerned with astronomy as a science, only with astronomy as something to distinguish you from the fortune-teller. What matters is your public image, what the client perceives. Without astronomy, the astrologer is naked. You are purveying a reassuring well-regulated universe whose truth is good or bad to hear, a parallel world that your client wants to be truer than the real world.
An important part of the trick is your attitude to astrology. You must understand that astrology is a means of communication, not a source of knowledge. The chart tells you only that your client shows an interest in astrology and is open to any speech that pretends to be based on astrology. So the important thing is not your ability to read charts but your ability to exploit this interest. You must understand why people want to believe that such an irrational tool can allow a certain psychic intimacy. Your aim is to be trusted by your client as an astrologer. As we explain below, there are many more tricks for achieving this.
The need for precision
Another trick is to discuss the precision of time, the nature of time zones, and so on, in front of your client so that he smells confidence in your abilities. For example you need to point out that although France for one century had only one time zone except during the Occupation, the hour in Strasbourg in the east is not the same as the hour in Brest in the west. The task of finding the "true" hour hidden under time zones, daylight savings, and other compromises is highly symbolic for the client, who sees this as further reinforcement of your abilities. Of course the more books you can consult the better for your image.
Customer satisfaction is further improved by your finally managing to complete his cosmic portrait. Even though it is not yet interpreted, the fact that it is now known is already a moment of philosophical significance and a great psychic relief. It prompts the client to see you as an all-knowing astrologer even if you have no skills.
The freedom to manoeuvre
For example you can make it known that house position is not as simple as sign position. Not only are there differences between house systems, it is generally allowed that a house influence can extend beyond its cusp. Against this sudden imprecision you can mention that aspects are not a concept invented by astrologers. They can be found during centuries in the treatises of astronomy, where they make it possible to locate one star compared to another. And so on.
Your freedom to manoeuvre allows you to configure the topic to your advantage without letting the client know, because you have the privilege of "forgetting" to interpret any particular factor. This trick is especially valuable. It is normal to use it constantly.
2. Astrology as knowledge
Clients want to know what parts of astrology are reliable. Some astrologers believe this cannot be known because astrology cannot pass systematic examination. Some even think it necessary to inform their clients of this. We disagree. We think you should behave as if you had extraordinary knowledge along with your astronomical and mathematical luggage.
The trick here is to use whatever reliable knowledge you have, supplanted by the panoply of astrology. Here a planetary typology is useful because it looks rigorous and scientific, and need not be based on the birth chart. You merely identify the planet that best matches the client.
For example, if you reformulate the findings of Michel Gauquelin, you can allocate Saturn to the organiser, Moon to the artist, Jupiter to the leader, and Mars to the controller. Or you can simply rely on current language, where Mars people are martial, Jupiter people are jovial, and so on. Or you can match planets to age, where faster planets are the first part of life, and slower planets the second.
This matching of planets to what is already known is an infinitely better trick than using signs, which have the defect of not satisfying tests of validity. Better to use something that cannot fail than use something devoid of any utility except that your client knows about it. It is also better to present as specific for your client that which applies to everybody, since this will spare his ego.
Signs and houses
Despite what we said above, the client often requires you to say more about signs. But once again this can be done without approaching the birth chart. Thus the sign can be seen as the need for membership, not for individuality, which is the birth chart itself. That is to say, as a model to be followed rather than a reality to be explored. In astrology you have to be pragmatic.
The act to expect
We must always distinguish between nature and nurture. To us the birth chart cannot be a viable scientific reference even if it remains an excellent focus for conversation. Nevertheless you will locate your client within the cosmic framework, which will require the various indications to be combined so that individually they disappear, leading to a Harlequin suit, a costume made up of all the individual colours.
But here we leave the scientist for the artist, for you have an embarrassment of tricks for mixing the colours and making them gleam in front of your client. It is a question of alluring the client with a drop of Bull, a slice of Lion, a pinch of Capricorn. The cocktail is made ready to drink.
You must explain to your interlocutor that it is never a case of Lion or Scorpion with clean characteristics. You must scramble the tracks, note the contradictions, play the subtle planetary mixtures, and choose whatever best fits the client. In this way a discreet mixing will enable you to avoid the reproach of uniformity and generality.
3. The astrological consultation
The astrologer is not a soothsayer even if perceived to be one by the client, regardless of what you say. So it is at the same time necessary to be and not to be. You need to be an actor who acts in accordance with the popular image of the astrological profession, one that promotes divination, while strenuously avoiding it. A true dilemma!
Astrology as language
You have to say more than can be seen in the birth chart, but in such a way that the customer has the feeling of being in good hands, as when calling a client martial or jovial, even when this does not correspond to anything in the birth chart. You must deform the astrological language and make it serve his impressions, so it is merely a way of saying things and ceases to be an access to a transcendental knowledge.
Do not forget that your client will read into whatever you say as if it applied only to him. So do not search for specifics but instead try general philosophies that he can build on. In this way he will know of what you speak! Do not send your client on a "great adventure"!
Profile of the client
In short, the client needs protection against astrology. He needs to explain his request for astrology so that you can deal with it in terms of psychology. For example some event may have happened to explain his attraction for astrology, and knowledge of the event may be more helpful than knowledge of astrology.
Profile of the astrologer
Next, you should not crush your client under a flood of words. Just because he came to you with a certain aim does not authorise you to go beyond what was wished or what was imagined, wrongly or rightly. The only thing that matters is client satisfaction. You are seen as someone with particular assets that could possibly justify confidence. You are the interlocutor of the last chance before despairing of living in the world.
Profile of a consultation
Remember that the client needs the strangeness of your astronomy and mathematics and extraterrestrial links, to agree to listen to you. Just receiving the birth chart can be more decisive than its interpretation, see Part 1. But the birth chart cannot tell you about a client. At best, it merely provides a focus that allows therapy by conversation to proceed, in the same way as the idea of previous lives might do.
Another trick. The astrologer should not be as negative as his client. It is vital for you to have a positive philosophy that will cope with the client instead of leaving it to astrology. Without imposing morals on your client, you are there to reconcile him with the world of men, not to reconcile him with the stars. In fact you should here ignore astrology altogether.
So start by talking about the problems of living, its loneliness, its uncertainty, and anything else that you have found to apply generally to clients. Stress that, thanks to astrology, such problems are well encircled and solvable. Start a conversation and keep it going until feedback is occurring. That way you will know in advance what the client wants to know and what the answer should be. You do not want to be dependant on astrology.
Of course, you avoid giving this impression, and you avoid giving the impression that you have done it all before with other clients. Your client needs to feel special. Once his confidence has been obtained by your general attitude, astrology can gradually grow blurred, leaving you to focus on the feedback. Soon you and your client will be closely joined in a dialogue, and astrology can mostly be ignored except as a convenient means of changing the subject.
In this way, by excavating the past, your goal is not to prove the validity of astrology but to locate the traumas that will reinforce his interest in astrology. The unknowing client will see this as exorcising his past, leaving him free at last and very satisfied with the consultation.
Postscript: Teaching astrology
Just as the client wants the astrologer to have extraordinary knowledge, so the pupil expects astrology to solve the mysteries of Man and Life. But because astrology cannot do this, it is important to resort to pretence. You pretend that the fit between chart and person (which can always be found even if they are unrelated) is remarkable and striking. You pretend that any interpretative failure is the fault not of the stars but of the astrologer. Such pretences prove exceedingly positive for the dynamics of the course.
Astrology is mainly an imaginary science. It is a pseudo-competence resting on tricks of the trade. To us, many teachers seem dangerous, irresponsible, and unconscious of what they convey, because their personal relation with astrology is too strong. They are a fanatic of astrology. They see reality where there should be pretence, so they lack antidotes. They should revise their values and give up their naivety.
The problem is that the majority of astrologers are unable to hold such views. For twenty years we have organised conferences devoted to rebalancing their views, but with little effect. The paradox is that such rebalancing would establish their detachment and credibility. Had they been trained properly in the first place they would not have developed such bad habits.
We plead for a homeopathic low-dose astrology, whereas most astrologers give their clients and even more their pupils an extreme high dose. We should avoid training astrologers with bad habits who become trapped by situations for which they are not prepared. Astrological consultation is more a massage of the client's ego by an involved caring astrologer than an all-knowing message from the stars. What matters is the astrologer not the astrology.