I’ve had a week to process the conclusion of one of the most formative experiences of my life: the 9th United Astrology Conference (UAC), which was held here in Chicago from May 23 to May 30. Sponsored by the International Association for Astrological Research, the American Federation of Astrologers, the National Council for Geocosmic Research, the American College of Vedic Astrology, and the Association for Astrological Networking, UAC is the world’s largest international astrology conference, and it gathers every three, six, or nine years somewhere in North America. I felt so lucky to have had this 2018 9th gathering take place so close to my house, which definitely helped as a cost-saving measure; I certainly wouldn’t have been able to attend if it were held elsewhere.
This week-long “staycation” for me was prompted by a profound inner urging to not just accelerate the developments of my skill sets in astrology as a profession, but to heed the soul’s prompting to undergo a profound journey of self-discovery and self-actualization, a journey which entailed a major healing process for me as well—one that I didn’t (consciously) know that I needed. So many of us ask “the biggies” about what we are doing here on this earth, the lessons our incarnation brings us (as well as how to resolve past lessons so we don’t tote around so much karmic baggage!), and how to find our true purpose by maximizing the gifts we were born with and living a fulfilling life of self-development and service to others. And through it all, we acknowledge the acutely limited time allotted to us as mortal beings, which definitely adds to a sense of urgency to “figure it all out” before we grow too old and convince ourselves that our dreams have eluded us.
As Above, So Below
That’s the beauty of studying astrology. By highlighting the interrelatedness of the cycles found in the “Greater”/Cosmos with the cycles in the life of the “Lesser”/Individual—yoking together an understanding of “the Without” with “the Within”—astrology affirms a worldview based on the assumption that Divine Intelligences exist and are constantly orchestrating a meaningfully notated symphony of All That Is. Using the tools of astrology, people can pinpoint the section of the symphony that they are tasked to play and see how their individual parts relate to the whole. I’m not using this musical metaphor blindly because the perfection of numbers (yes, I’m a Pythagorean!) is at the heart of it all.
The greatest joy for me as an astrologer is to hold up that veritable cosmic mirror to a client and see how he or she lights up when coming to a profoundly joyful acceptance of their Being and Becoming as revealed through the language of planetary positions and placements in their natal and progressed charts. The “Aha!” moments of self-recognition are facially expressed with widened eyes and huge grins: yes, that’s why I knew I never wanted children—Saturn in Cancer in the 5th House!
I had a plethora of such “Aha!” moments myself throughout the entire magical week of UAC 2018. If you’d care to take my hand, I’ll walk you through my experiences by day, each of which seemed to have its own distinct Elemental character.
Day 1: Governing Element: Earth (Manifestation)
Wednesday, May 23, 2018: Org Day Workshops
The workshop I attended was Part I of “I-Astrologer” entitled “How to Successfully Launch or Enhance Your Astrology Practice,” led by the wonderful Maurice Hernandez, astrologer, author, and current president of the Organization for Professional Astrology (OPA). The workshop expressed the dynamics of Uranus newly entered into Taurus as well as the mandate of astrology as a practice itself: Bring the sky down to earth and make it sustainable. How do we, as astrologers, do that? By asserting the value of our profession in a culture determined to see it as frivolous, at best (the legacy of scientific materialism’s skepticism), or spiritually dangerous, at worst (the attitude of Abrahamic religions towards astrology).
True to its title, the workshop delineated the “nuts and bolts” of overcoming the challenges to creating or maintaining an astrology practice, from understanding what it is you bring to your clients and learning how to diversify your suite of products (in-person readings, online classes, etc.) to the importance of joining and networking at professional associations, marketing, and advancing in your studies. Since I’m not yet a full-time astrologer and I have a day job in digital marketing and advertising, I have advantages over my peers when it comes to understanding the importance of cross-channel marketing and implementing best practices in website design in particular. Indeed, I relished the portion of the workshop dedicated to live website critiques of current practicing astrologers’ business pages: with Virgo-Double-Aquarius aplomb, I gently and objectively pointed out to my fellow attendees the features that hindered the effectiveness of messaging for each site.
There was quite a digital divide evidenced in the room based on the ages of the participants, with Baby Boomers and older folks sheepishly raising their hands when asked if they did not yet have a business website; there’s no getting around not having one, so it’s time to get out of your comfort zones, my dears! Maurice encouraged me to keep going, and after I joked (not really) that I needed to bill $100 an hour for my impromptu marketing consultant services, I outlined my “must-haves” in web design: prominent visual branding elements, effortless navigation (especially clear path to purchase for commercial transactions: don’t bury your “Click to Buy” tabs at the bottom of the page!), clean background with legible, consistently applied fonts to all pages (we saw some hideous examples of aberrant fonts to a site’s various ancillary pages—I giggled quite a bit), copy kept to a minimum and above the fold as much as possible, and modular, modular, modular integration (of video, social media widgets, etc.).
Pat the Virgo-Double-Aquarius on her neatly groomed head! That was my moment of service to humanity for the day, and it felt good. It also felt good to have exchanged contact information with several people afterwards, and several of the cool people I met that day have since become very dear friends to me.
Day 2: Governing Element: Fire (Stoking the Inner Will to Overcome External Obstacles)
Thursday, May 24, 2018: Pre-Conference Workshops
The only frustrating aspect to my UAC 2018 experience was having so many amazing astrologers speak concurrently at the same time slot, forcing me to make tough choices as to which session I wanted most to attend in person. For this pre-conference day, I decided to go with one of the most revered teachers and authors in the field: the inimitable Robert Hand, who wrote the seminal and venerable astrology tomes, Planets in Transit and Planets in Aspect. The topic he chose to present was as formidable as his intellect: “Dealing with Difficult Chart Combinations.” This workshop was held in one of the hotel’s largest conference rooms and it was absolutely packed for four solid hours of learning at the feet of the Master!
A Traditional Astrologer with a twist, Robert advocates that “Nothing in the chart is inherently ‘bad,’ perhaps difficult to deal with.” In the ancient world, the seven planets observable by the naked eye were thought to be divided into benefic or malefic camps. Robert says that these categories are not accurate or helpful. “A malefic is only an energy that is handled badly; a benefic is only an energy that is handled well.” He showed a slide with a proverb in Latin, of which the translation in English reads: “For those who do not have knowledge, there is no freedom.”
Three Levels of “Fate” as Understood in the Ancient Hellenic World
He then went on to discuss the three levels of “Fate” as understood in the Hellenic world of Classical antiquity. Heimarmene relates to that which is subject to or determined by a being’s material nature according to physical law; in this sense, we are all fated to die by virtue of being incarnated as physical beings subject to the laws of nature and temporality. The Greek translation is literally “that which has already been allotted.” Heimarmene determines the physical structure within which you have to work; you do not get to choose. It resonates with the planetary energies of Saturn.
The next level of “Fate” is Ananke, “necessity” or “ignorance,” which is cognate with the Sanskrit avidyā, which also means “ignorance.” It’s a function of the level of “unreason” within us and its power over the mind: the fate of an individual can be shaped only in so far as the actions of that individual are the result of ignorance. Ignorance limits the possibilities for achieving self-actualization; to the degree ignorance is minimized and replaced with awareness, the individual has the capacity to follow a path more determined by the next and highest level of “Fate”: Pronoia.
Pronoia literally means “foreknowing”: the highest function of reason, it is knowing who and where you are in the present time and where you are going. There are potential destinies for any given person, all of which fall within a certain range of possibilities. As Robert declared:
“The function of astrology is to dispel ignorance and to show the way of pronoia.”
And here’s how astrology resolves the Fate vs. Free Will debate: what is absolutely Fated falls under Heimarmene. What you do in working with the material constraints of physical law falls under Pronoia: you have the Free Will to self-actualize, grow wise, understand, and further your personal evolution so you become more and more free.
Sounding increasingly more and more like a Left-Hand Path magician as his talk went on (I couldn’t help but notice his all-black attire, either), Robert expounded on the ancient Greek concept of entelecheia: the final perfected form towards which living conscious energy strives. “The soul,” he noted, “is the entelecheia of the body.” Using a Whole Sign House system, Robert identified the Lot of Daimon (also known as the Lot or Part of Spirit) in a natal chart as the point of pathway to self-actualization. Like music to my ears, he then went on to discuss what the ancient Greeks (versus medieval Christians) meant by “Daimon” as a spiritual being and then took us on a marvelous digression on how the Marriott hotel where the conference was being held must have a magnificent Daimon, or tutelary spirit!
My suspicions of Left-Hand Path allegiances seemed to be confirmed when Robert next encouraged the audience to engage in the kind of self-inventory work I’d seen advocated in the writings of Setian magician, Don Webb. “Self-realization’s first step is to clarify what it is about yourself that bothers you,” Robert continued. “Make a catalog of everything that bothers you and notice every time you get triggered. Then ask yourself, ‘Is there any way this could be a virtue in disguise if I accepted it?’” He tied this injunction to the observation of a chart’s nocturnal or diurnal emphasis. Nocturnal planets (the Moon, Venus, Mars) are disadvantaged in diurnal ones, and vice versa.
“If you give space to the symbolism of bad transits in your chart, your life will work.” Robert Hand, UAC 2018
For the remaining half of the workshop, Robert kindly fielded birth data from audience volunteers who sought help in overcoming challenging planetary aspects in their charts. I now regret that I didn’t volunteer my own data from the outset, as I certainly would have loved his input on my stellium of Libra planets in the 8th House and their square to my Saturn in Cancer conjunct my South Node in my 5th House. Ah well. I definitely paid attention to everything he said to each of my peers who sought his insights.
I also learned that as a Traditional Astrologer, Robert dismisses modern planetary rulerships to the signs of Scorpio, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. “The biggest problem of modern astrology was making Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto sign rulers!” he roared. “Aquarius is Saturn’s preferred sign. It represents New Order. Old Order is Capricorn. That’s the difference,” he barked.
Beloved for his pugnaciousness in being a total Satya Graha, a “Truth Force,” Robert was greeted with thunderous applause when his talk concluded. There truly was so much to absorb and ponder, not just during his talk, but at every UAC lecture that I attended, that I needed to inject moments of levity—and yes, retail therapy—in my UAC 2018 experience.
There was a three-hour window of time between the end of the pre-conference workshops on May 24 and the conference’s official Opening Ceremony that I decided to spend my time buying books (they weren’t fun to lug home on the subway later that night!), a moldavite ring set in sterling silver (treat yo’self!), and hanging out with fun folks like The Leo King, Mr. David Lawrence Palmer himself! We chatted about everything from the upcoming Mars Retrograde in Aquarius, to my own natal chart (“You have your Virgo Sun conjunct your natal Mercury in the 7th House?! You’re the best marriage partner there is!” he shouted, which warmed my heart. “I hope you’re with someone who truly appreciates you!”), to the best places I think he and his crew should go to experience delicious deep-dish Chicago pizza (Lou Malnati’s)!
I had a delightful day and evening and eagerly anticipated all the astrology-related experiences to come in the days ahead. So many adventures would befall me!
Read more about them in Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this special UAC 2018 coverage!
- American College of Vedic Astrology
- American Federation of Astrologers
- Association for Astrological Networking
- David Lawrence Palmer
- Don Webb
- International Association for Astrological Research
- Left-Hand Path
- Maurice Fernandez
- National Council for Geocosmic Research
- Organization for Professional Astrology
- Robert Hand
- The Leo King
- United Astrology Conference 2018