Advice to a Budding Pro-Astrologer
by Paul Mayo

August 2014

Up until the 16th century, universities and teachers everywhere taught that the world is a living being, as are all stellar and planetary bodies. It isn't just human beings that have souls and feelings; all animals and plants do too, they said.

Then, with the rise and rise of people like Newton, Galileo, Descartes and co and the new world-view of Mechanistic Materialism, all this ancient wisdom quite quickly dropped by the wayside as the human race learned that all this old stuff was nothing but animistic nonsense. In reality, every living creature is just a machine and every action, thought and feeling is 'explainable' in terms of hormones and other functional chemicals, apparently.

The concept of 'God' was kept-on for a while in the role of Prime Mover; then even that dropped away to be replaced by an equally strong belief, that of Atheism.

Suddenly there was no such thing as genuine freewill; the mind was merely an echo of brain-function and the soul did not exist outside of imagination and fantasy. The result was an explosion of invented mechanisms (like looms, engines and pumps) that led to a physical easing of life for some, greater enslavement for others - also to an impoverishment of most of the things that give life all of its meaning and purpose.

The great thing about astrology is that it did to some extent preserve the ancient world-view, as it is a system that doesn't work properly when operated from a purely mechanistic-materialistic stance. This is why reductionists and other materialists make crap astrologers (and usually end up adopting an anti-astrology stance or simply losing faith in the ability of astrology to be any more accurate than chance).

That's not to say that modern astrologers are themselves entirely free of materialistic views or values; indeed many years ago I heard the great Rob Hand himself say, with a perceptible note of sadness and regret in his voice: 'I guess that in the end we just have to bite the bullet and accept that life has no purpose, no intrinsic meaning'.

That is a classic mechanistic/materialistic position, and Rob is not alone in holding fast to one or more fundamental tenets of materialism whilst operating a system, astrology, that is profoundly pre-materialist. A great many astrologers have one end of it or the other; how could they avoid it? Materialism has been so entrenched in human society for so long that it seeps into our very bones and sinews unnoticed. It lurks unquestioned at the back of every human mind, waiting to spring out and twist the path of clear perception.

So my first and most fundamental bit of advice to the young astrologer is: seek out those hidden corners of materialistic philosophy that almost certainly lurk in many layers of your psyche (often hidden in plain view) and reason them through properly. You will have inherited these values and assumptions through your parents, schoolbooks, teachers, peers, plays, films, music, news - almost everything you've ever been exposed to throughout your growing-up years and youth. It is no less than the foundation layer of modern life - all to be removed brick by unconscious brick if you want to be an effective astrologer.

You cannot safely remove anything from the psyche without replacing it with something better, or you'll create an aching void that craves to be filled, which will quite likely randomly attract some passing concept that may be worse that what it replaces! So please have your better idea lined-up before you extract the one you have decided to get rid of.

What world-view? I affirm that what the ancients said was correct; it is the mechanists who have deluded themselves about the nature of reality. But you have to sort out for yourself what works for you. All I ask is that you do it consciously, knowing why you do it and keeping an open mind in case your view (or mine!) is subsequently shown to be misapprehended or plain wrong.

Astrologer, understand thyself

Only the most special people are attracted to become astrologers. All that arcane language, strange concepts and heavy-duty studying (both in theory and practice) is enough to discourage the average person from bothering. It's at least the equivalent of studying to be a vet or an architect.

Special people are prepared to go the extra mile; prepared to do the self-development; willing if not keen to meditate on their own faults and failings uncritically; open and humble enough to consult the wise ones that litter the Earth hidden in many guises in every country, for the leg-up or extra insight that is often needed along the way.

So my second piece of advice is: study and understand yourself broadly and in detail if you want to understand others; try to understand others in all their simplicities and complexities if you want to understand yourself.

Dealing with real people

As a grown-up astrologer you'll have to deal with real people, not ideal people. I've never forgotten an advert I saw in an American journal back in the 1990's.

'Wanted', it said, 'genuine quality clients'. The rest of the advert made it abundantly clear that the astrologer concerned was really fed up with having to put up with ornery folks messing him around, contradicting what he told them and 'wasting my time'. He wanted clients who conformed to his understanding of their chart - not people he would have to really try to understand as they actually were.

The majority of fully-trained and qualified astrologers fail to make a go of it within a few months of beginning their professional practice and have to close down. Why is this?

Apart from the two things already mentioned, there is another major factor at work, a very simple one. Astrologers do their training and are allowed to imagine that this fits them to work as paid astrologers. It does not. This is no fault of the trainee, but very much a result of the way the training system works.

Admittedly I've been harping on about this for decades; admittedly it has made no difference so far to the way astrology courses are run. But I live in hope.

During your training you are given charts to work on, virtually unlimited time to work on and understand them, and as much time as you want to prepare your analysis of the chart. 'Don't rush!' 'Take your time!' 'Take as long as you need to!' is the theme. This is so wrong to teach trainees these bad ways. Slap on the wrist to course organisers! Apologies to any I don't know about that may be teaching a viable method.

May I politely ask just how anyone is supposed to make a living (or even half-a-living) from reading birth-charts if they are unable to erect the birth-chart from scratch, understand it and give their full interpretation of its salient points of current interest within one hour (or maybe two hours for more money)? With horaries it needs to be much less - maybe ten minutes.

The late great William Lilly saw an average of six clients a day in the 17th century and prospered. Many of those clients were well-heeled and could pay handsomely for the privilege. Nowadays many clients are of fairly modest means (for example apparently the majority of Americans are just one pay-check from bankruptcy). So, for realistically-modest consultation fees you'll need to see six-to-ten people a day to make a reasonable living - which can be done with computers doing all the heavy work of calculating and drawing the chart. I used to see up to twelve clients some days, so I know it can be done.

I'm talking proper face-to-face readings of course. But nowadays a lot of work can be had at so many pence/cents a minute on phone-lines (where the operators and phone companies make plenty of money and you merely scrape a living; yes, that's the one). I did it myself for a few months in the 1990's. I used to keep 'em listening for an average of 17 minutes, which was the top score at the time. For that you have to launch straight into some very good stuff and keep it coming, otherwise the line suddenly goes dead and you're not earning.

The trouble with phone-line readings is not the sheer numbers of callers you may speak to in a day (dozens) but the fact that you have to be hyped-up constantly ready for the next call, whether that comes a few seconds or an hour after the last one. I personally found it too frustrating and bad for the nerves, so I quit before it got to me.

My advice therefore is (right from the start - right from the beginning of training) to artificially limit the time you spend understanding a chart to a few minutes, during which time-span you actively talk to someone (preferably the chart's native) about your developing understanding of the chart. Having got a sense of the chart, explore it as-you-go, speaking the whole time and minding your bedside manner - completing the job within the hour (or half-hour, or whatever shorter interval you set yourself). Do it for free and explain your student status and they won't mind. On that basis the native will teach you far more about their chart and therefore about how astrology works than any teacher or book can.

Don't worry or fret about what you don't know (there will always be plenty of that), but merely make a mental note to study that bit of the chart further after 'the experience' is over. It is an experience! It needs to be, both for the astrologer (if it ain't fun, why are you doing it?) and for the client (that's half what they are paying for; the other half is usable and correct information).

If you can look at a birth-chart from cold and tell its native to their face, live and real-time, three things about them from their chart that they can confirm is correct, you're on your way. Those three things are worth more than the hundred you can think of later at your leisure, or on reflection and extended study.

One professional lady astrologer (who unsurprisingly made her living from writing pop books on the subject) said in print that she liked to meditate on each chart for 24 hours before she did the reading. That's very nice, but what kind of fee would she have to charge to cover that investment of time? I'm damn sure none of my clients would pay it.

So my advice to the budding astrologer is: ignore it when the tutor tells you to take your time with a chart! Always hit a cold chart running, as if there were only a few minutes left before the end of the world. Say what you can, live, to a real person (even if that has to be your long-suffering best mate or spouse and not the native), having never looked at the chart until seconds before you begin to speak.

Then - and only then - do what the college wants you to do, as an aftermath of the real thing, learning a lot more about that chart as you go, taking as much time as you want or can afford to give to it.

In that way you'll learn right from the start to think on your feet. You won't need confidence to speak as a pro to real people, as you'll have experience to fall back on when they prove to have minds and thoughts of their own!

Cutting off

Of course, to see one person after another without a break requires psychic discipline as well. Real people have vibes - and some real people have very strong vibes, often rather negative, repressed or conflicted.

For you this means a deliberate act of cutting off from each client is necessary, which you may only have seconds or a minute to complete. If you don't know how to do this you need to learn, pronto, or you'll soon be exhausted or ill from it.

When I was a young professional astrologer I had on a number of occasions to apologise to a client after realising that I was talking to them as if their chart was the previous client's chart! I had to learn fast the habit of forgetting people completely within a few moments of saying goodbye to them. Not good when they ring up again for another appointment and you don't remember them, but better than the alternative muddles that can arise. Anyway it helps you to focus on the moment, which is supposed to be a good thing.

Trust your own judgement - not what you're told!

Another bit of advice I'd give is not to take too much notice if a client denies what you are saying, or provides you with information that you cannot see echoed in their chart. Some clients deliberately lie in order to test their astrologer; others simply cannot imagine how what you are saying could possibly be correct, particularly about the future. Many people have a timeline of plans in their heads and if what you are saying diverges from that, you must be wrong. Many more clients will think it but are too polite to say it.

When you're in the business for a while you get very used to people coming back to you and saying 'To be honest I thought you were talking rubbish when I saw you before; but I happened quite by chance to listen to your recording the other day having forgotten all about it and oh my God! It was so right after all!

Don't be offended by this kind of thing - why should anyone trust you, a perfect stranger, above what they know for themselves? You, on the other hand, need to be able to trust yourself. Allow yourself to accumulate enough experience uncritically and you will. That means making your mistakes and learning from them.

This is one good reason to make a recording of everything you say. Some clients will actually review it later in the quiet of their own time and place - and understand a lot better what you were on about. It is also a reputational and possibly even legal protection of sorts, as long as you are careful not to say things you shouldn't - and to phrase things reasonably carefully and precisely. It's all part of the art of being an astrologer.

Check your charts

One more bit of advice: never trust another astrologer's chart calculation. In the 'old days' of doing it all by hand I came across some shocking miscalculations in other folks charts that were presented to me 'to save me calculation time'. But to my surprise even the advent of computers didn't eliminate the problem, as miscalculation was simply replaced by far too many astrologers casually mis-entering data. I think the worst I came across was a chart with a night-time birth and the natal Sun shown high in the sky in the birth-chart! The client had paid several weeks' wages to a 'professional' astrologer for that bit of nonsense.

The obvious thing to learn from that, is that the simplest visual check that the Sun is roughly where you'd expect it to be for that time of birth will save you for example entering a.m. instead of p.m., an easy mistake to make. Particularly over the phone, data can get garbled, so I always go through it digit by digit with the client to double-check.

In this day and age clients may come from any part of the world and may not speak your language very well; with these you need to be particularly careful, preferably getting them to write down their name and details themselves in your handy little notebook (whilst hiding other people's data of course) and keep this original as proof that you used the information they gave you, as now and again if you do enough charts some folks will come back to you and tell you that you used the wrong information, particularly with the time of day.

You may need a back-up skill

Some clients from the backwoods of nowhere simply don't know their date of birth let alone time - nor even the place. I've had clients who didn't even know how old they were. If you turn that person away you've lost an hour's work, so it pays to learn back-up skills in card-reading, palmistry, runes or whatever. I find some clients only ever want a card reading anyway. Ideally you need a connection with a spirit-guide for that, as cards are really only an enhancement of your psyche. But if you don't try, how do you know you can't do it? Learn it the same way you learn astrology - a keyword or two for each card, then practice on real people for free, the same. Use a circle of twelve cards and it's almost like reading a birth-chart.

Another practicality is that fewer and fewer people use cash nowadays, so as soon as you can stand the expense (minimum of about £500 sterling per year at the time of writing) it pays to get a merchant facility - i.e. one of those machines that can take credit and debit cards. How could you get payment from someone round the other side of the world without it?

Years ago in the 1980s I had to get people to send an international bankers draft a month in advance, guessing the exchange rate and likely charges, and then send it on to a centre to get it 'negotiated'. Very often I ended up out of pocket for the time and trouble involved. A merchant facility is so much easier and well-worth the cost overhead.

Giving advice

Finally, although I'm liberally giving advice to the budding astrologer here, I very rarely give advice to a client and I suggest you don't either. Giving advice is a minefield; you will always get the blame if it goes wrong.

For example a good-looking young woman sat down in front of me for a reading back in the 1980's. I could see from her chart that she had an impossible decision to make. She asked for my advice as to which proposal she should accept from two men I'd mentioned that were interested in her, whom she recognised. I knew very well that neither of them would be right for her and said so. She repeatedly insisted that I tell her which one she should choose, and got quite annoyed with me when I refused. But I knew very well that if I were to buckle under her pressure and say one or the other, she would later come back to me full of blame because it hadn't worked. So I didn't. She went away, chose one and made her own mistake, not mine.

Really, people must be left to make all their own decisions. Any other is disrespectful to their freewill. So what if they make the mistake that you can easily see them making? People learn more from their mistakes than their successes - and that's what this sojourn within the material realm is all about.

I'll tell you this one last story, which is memorable to me because it was quite dramatic even though it happened long ago. A lady came back for a third or fourth reading with me. She told me that in the previous reading I'd told her about her son. I'd warned her, she said, that he should on no account drive a vehicle on a specific date, which fell many months after the reading took place, so there was ample time to consider what had been said.

I had apparently added that if he absolutely had to drive, he should on no account be late, i.e. behind schedule; then he would be absolutely fine. She also told me that I was very clear that she was not to worry about her son, as he would not be physically hurt either way. This is exactly what the lady told me about what I'd said to her. It was not advice, but it was a stark warning.

It turned out that the son was a professional lorry driver and on the given date he found out he was expected to make a delivery in London, a 120-mile drive each way. What was he to say to his boss - that some weird astrologer (for God's sake!) had told his mum that he shouldn't? He decided that he would go, but got-up four hours early to make the trip, to make sure he wasn't late. He then discovered that he couldn't find the keys to his lorry and it took him four hours to find them. That would have been a clear signal to me to abort the trip, given the precise warning.

But as he wasn't actually late he decided to risk it and made the delivery in London on time. On the way back he ran out of diesel fuel, which required someone to drive out to him to bleed the engine and refuel him. He was now well-behind time. If he'd known what was coming next he'd have abandoned his vehicle there and then. He could have come back for it next day, but would have faced accusations of his superstition causing everyone logistical problems and he didn't want that.

As he was driving back into his home town (no doubt with a sigh of relief), a lady in a big American car pulled out right in front of him, giving him no chance to avoid her. She was crushed to death by the big lorry. My client's son the lorry driver was unhurt, exactly as I'd suggested.

Eighteen months later, the son could still not get back behind the wheel of a vehicle. He had learned a valuable lesson, nothing to do with never consulting astrologers again. He had learned that there are more things in Heaven and Earth than can be accounted for rationally, let alone mechanistically. If he had taken too much notice of what I'd said to his mother, he would not have learned that lesson at that time and may have needed something even worse further on to drum it in.

Anyone with kids knows that you have to warn them not to touch fire, then let them touch it for themselves so that they can assess the value of the warning the parent gives. That tiny finger-tip burn soon heals up and can save a massive scalding later. It is no different with adults; the astrologer is almost in loco parentis with many clients, dishing out information, alerts and warnings and hoping the client will ignore it and learn more as a result.

If you're to become a proper astrologer then you're here to do some good in the world. Do that and you'll be looked after regardless of any other consideration, both in terms of your continuing learning process and the clients who arrive to help that process along, and also in terms of money and earning enough to support yourself and your loved ones. That is my advice to you.