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Q & A

(Much of the material below is excerpted from the revised and expanded edition of
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

QUESTION. How can an intelligent, educated person possibly believe astrology has any merit?

ROB BREZSNY. Many of the debunkers who're responsible for trying to discredit astrology have done no research on the subject. They haven't read smart astrological philosophers like Dane Rudhyar, don't know that seminal astronomer Johannes Kepler was a skilled astrologer, and aren't aware that eminent psychologist C.G. Jung cast horoscopes and believed that "astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity." The closest approach the fraudulent "skeptics" usually make to the ancient art is to glance at a tabloid horoscope column. To match their carelessness, I might make a drive-by of a strip mall and declare that the profession of architecture is shallow and debased.

That's one reason why these ill-informed "skeptics" spread so many ignorant lies. For instance, they say that astrologers think the stars and planets emit invisible beams that affect people's lives. The truth is, many Western astrologers don't believe any such thing. Astrologer Richard Tarnas says it well: Just as clocks tell time but don't create it, the heavenly bodies show us the big picture but don't cause it.


QUESTION. Because you pack your column with doses of humor and wild imagery, some people think you don't take astrology seriously.

ROB. On the contrary, I think this proves how much respect I have for astrology--I mean REAL astrology. Not astrology as a superstitious belief system that generates boring predictions in dead language about trivial events that only our neurotic egos are obsessed with; but rather astrology as a mytho-poetic symbol system that expands your imagination about the big cycles of your life, liberates you from the literalistic trance that the daily grind tends to trap you in, and opens you up to the understanding that you're much more beautiful and full of potential than you've been taught to believe.


QUESTION. You have said that you believe in astrology "about 80 percent." What's up with the other 20 percent?

ROB. I use the same 80-20 approach with every belief system I love and benefit from: science, psychology, feminism, and various religious traditions like Buddhism and Christianity and paganism. I take what's useful from each, but am not so deluded as to think that any single system is the holy grail that the physicists call the "Theory of Everything." Unconditional, unskeptical faith is the path of the fanatic and fundamentalist, and I aspire to be a rowdy philosophical anarchist, aflame with objectivity and committed to the truth that the truth is always mutating.


QUESTION. But don't you risk playing the same role the tabloid astrologers do: enticing people to take on a superstitious approach to life and seducing them into believing their fate is determined by supernatural forces beyond the influence of their willpower?

ROB. I call what I do predicting the present, not forecasting the future. My goal is to awaken my readers to the hidden agendas, unconscious forces, and long-term cycles at work in their lives so that they can respond to the totality of what's happening instead of to mere appearances. I want to be a friendly shocker who helps unleash their imaginations, giving them the power to create their destinies with the same liberated fertility that great artists summon to forge their masterpieces.


QUESTION. How do you write your column? Do you use actual astrological data, or just go into a trance and let your imagination run wild?

ROB. I draw up a weekly chart for the sun, moon, and major aspects of each sign. It's the framework within which I improvise. The artistic part of the work is harder to pin down. One of my guiding principles, though, is to treat each sign's horoscope as a personal love letter--to speak as intimately about the mysteries of the moment as if I were addressing a close friend.

Where do my inspirations come from? Dreams, letters from readers, overheard conversations, meditation, lots of reading in a wide variety of texts both sacred and profane, and the intensive cultivation of my own receptivity. I have come to suspect that I am in a kind of ongoing telepathic communion with my readers, so that I'm constantly being informed by them what's going on with them and what issues they would like me to address. In a sense, then, my horoscopes are the result of a collaboration between us.

I also rely on fact-finding missions I call whirlygigs. During these, I steep myself with the intention of attracting lessons I don't know I need, then meander through the world at random, going places I've never been and striking up conversations with strangers with whom I apparently have nothing in common.


QUESTION. You confuse me in the way that you praise rational thought and the scientific method, yet reserve the right to believe in astrology, angels, miracles, and other woo-woo.

ROB. Thousands of amazing, inexplicable, and even supernatural events occur every day. And yet most are unreported by the media. The few that are cited are ridiculed. Why? Here's one possible reason: The people most likely to believe in wonders and marvels are superstitious, uneducated, and prone to having a blind, literalist faith in their religions' myths. Those who are least likely to believe in wonders and marvels are skilled at analytical thought, well-educated, and yet prone to having a blind, literalist faith in the ideology of materialism, which dogmatically asserts that the universe consists entirely of things that can be perceived by the five human senses or detected by instruments that scientists have thus far invented.

The media is largely composed of people from the second group. It's virtually impossible for them to admit to the possibility of events that elude the rational mind's explanations, let alone experience them. If anyone from this group manages to escape peer pressure and cultivate a receptivity to the miraculous, it's because they have successfully fought against being demoralized by the unsophisticated way wonders and marvels are framed by the first group.

I try to be immune to the double-barreled ignorance. When I behold astonishing synchronicities and numinous breakthroughs that seem to violate natural law, I'm willing to consider the possibility that my understanding of natural law is too narrow. And yet I also refrain from lapsing into irrational gullibility; I actively seek mundane explanations for apparent miracles.


QUESTION. Can you sum up your approach to seeing the world?

ROB. My outlook combines the rigorous objectivity of a scientist, the "beginner's mind" of Zen Buddhism, and the compassionate friendliness of the Dalai Lama. I blend a scrupulously dispassionate curiosity with a skepticism driven by expansiveness, not spleen.

To pull this off, I have to be willing to regularly suspend my theories about the way the world works. I accept with good humor the possibility that what I've learned in the past may not be a reliable guide to understanding the fresh phenomenon that's right in front of me. I'm suspicious of my biases, even the rational and benevolent ones. I open my heart as I strip away the interpretations that my emotions might be inclined to impose.

"Before we can receive the unbiased truth about anything," wrote my teacher Ann Davies, "we have to be ready to ignore what we would like to be true."

At the same time, I don't want to turn into a hard-ass, poker-faced robot. I keep my feelings moist and receptive. I remember my natural affection for all of creation. I enjoy the power of tender sympathy as it drives me to probe for the unimaginable revelations of every new moment. "Before we can receive the entire truth about anything," said Ann Davies, "we have to love it."


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