Astrologer and Author
Q: How and why did you decide to move from Australia to Bristol? What part did astrology play in forming the decision?
We had commuted to England seven times in the last nine years. I had contacts in Europe and the UK for my film/theatre work and Bernadette has done extensive astrological lecturing in the UK and Europe. In April 2001, Bernadette and I were originally going to spend Passover with my cousins in Israel. Bernadette was developing Starlight and working with Sarah Ashton, the mathematician behind the program, by email. She had planned to spend a couple of days with Sarah en route to Jerusalem. When the Middle East started to heat up, we cancelled the trip to Israel but I suggested Bernadette still go to England and work with Sarah for the duration instead.
One morning Nick [Campion] said, 'Come over, and I'll show you what I'm doing with Bath Spa University', and he took her to see the Sophia Centre. As soon as Bernadette saw the campus, she knew immediately that she wanted to be part of it. It was such an overwhelming feeling that as soon as she got back to Sarah's place, she rang me and said, 'Would you move to Bristol with me?' I had spent three months on an Australia Council Writer's Residency in Paris in 1992. That was my first encounter with Europe and my DNA just loved it! I had returned to Australia aching to return to Europe but at the time it was impossible for us to even consider moving away from Adelaide.
In the intervening years we had developed our system of e-learning (distance education) for teaching our students astrology, so when Bernadette asked if I would move to Bristol with her, she knew two things: firstly we had an e-business we could transport with us to the UK; and, secondly, that I had always wanted to live in Europe. So the course at Bath Spa University was the catalyst that allowed this to happen.
Q: I'm interested to hear a bit more about Astro Logos and how your move is going to affect the organisation.
Astro Logos is a graduate astrological school and we prepare students to undertake the International Diploma of the Astrological Guild of Educators, International (A.G.E. Int.). This body is a collection of schools in the UK, Europe and Australia that share a common syllabus and standards and mark each other's students. Astro Logos is proud to be part of this teaching process. All our teaching is done through e-learning, email and student forums. We've been educating astrologers through e-learning since 1993 and pride ourselves on our completion rates. Astro Logos also offers accreditation in Fixed Stars, Bernadette's speciality, of course, as well as a two-year Diploma in Medieval Astrology for astrologers who are coming from a psychological background and want to get more nuts-and-bolts into their consulting work.
Our International Diploma Course is a two-year course consisting of 6 modules: the first two modules are five months' duration each. the final four modules are each ten-weeks in length. There are assignments to complete for each module.
Q: What is the entry qualification for the Astro Logos International Diploma?
Anyone who has some basic form of astrological knowledge, including planets, zodiac signs, houses and aspects, as well as calculations.
Q: E-learning - that means that people can go through the entire course and never see you?
Yes [grins]. However, it doesn't mean they feel separate from us. Our preferred method of giving feedback on their assignments is by audio tape, so students are continually hearing our voices as their one-to-one tutor and have continual access to us by email.
Q: Why should someone study with you, rather than with any other school?
Because we turn out a well-rounded astrologer. Our Diploma modules cover the following topics: Whole Chart Delineation, Predictive Astrology, Children's Charts, Relationships, Weft and Weave (techniques) and Time and Space. These cover all the things you need to know if you want to set up as a professional consulting astrologer. We prepare the student as much as possible for the issues clients bring to the consulting room, for people come for an astrological consultation for all sorts of reasons and you have to be prepared for all of them.
Astro Logos has a very high success rate in terms of students gaining their AGE Int. Diploma, so we must be doing something right. We empower the students to set up as consultant astrologers and that is what has happened with a large number of our graduates. Some don't want to be full-time consultants and astrologers but they will combine astrology with their other disciplines, for example, if they've come from the medical field, they will combine it with that.
We have extremely high benchmarks and we expect a lot from our students.
Q: Is it really possible to develop someone as a well-rounded astrologer without having face-to-face contact with them?
The onus is always on the students to start testing what we teach them in the market place, that is, on friends at first and then by seeing clients. Even when we taught at foundation level, we would always encourage first year students to talk about the Cross of Matter with their partners or friends. Getting empirical feedback is so important. It not only consolidates what we have been teaching them via lectures but it also gets them over the hurdle of 'talking to a stranger' about what exists in the chart. That is something we can never do for a student, whether we have face-to-face contact or not.
Q: From teaching with Astro Logos, what have you found to be the main difficulties that people have in learning to be effective astrologers?
Their own biases. The obstacles and challenges in their own charts. Some students find it difficult to let go of their particular world-view and find that astrology clashes with that. So they either go through a mini-crisis and give way, or they leave the course.
We used to tell our students in their very first class (when we had them for four years), 'Astrology will change you. If you don't want to change, leave now.' Four years was a long enough time for them to go through a major life-crisis and learning astrology will provoke that, for it will act as a mirror or catalyst to their own blind spots. Suddenly they are seeing the world differently and they feel more empowered. We've had students who had never before used calculators whose husbands would call them silly or dumb and in learning to use a calculator, they became empowered. Such a small action leads to an imbalance in the roles within the marriage and thus catalyses crises.
Many times we find that if the relationships the students are in are in any way weak or imbalanced, then unless they are sharing their insights and changes with their partner, and the partner is changing as well, the relationship breaks up. That happens innumerable times and we always say, 'Don't blame us! We told you in the first class!'
So to sum up, it's the notion of change. Astrology asks: "Can you change? Can you become more empowered in your life?" and if you can't, then astrology will either cause crises or strengthen it.
Q: That's interesting to hear. It seems to me that people can grab hold of astrology and just use it to reinforce their ideas of how they are. But there's this other approach, which you are talking about, where it can flip us into a new way of seeing things.
Q: Is there a problem, where people learn to do their own chart and then every chart they look at, they are just talking about their own chart more or less?
Right from the word go we teach students universal techniques so that they can read any chart, not just their own chart. We also set assignments. We're particularly rigorous with students in that regard. We don't believe that you learn anything by sitting in a class and just coasting. People need to have what they learn reinforced and whilst students pay lip service to the idea of hating assignments, they love assignments when they do them, particularly when they get feedback and see that they've really understood a concept or a technique. So it's acknowledging their growth and understanding of what we are teaching them which is an aim of the course.
Q: You also work in other areas, not just astrology?
Yes. I have, in the past, made documentary and short films and written plays. The last few years I have been writing a book on grief - and changing countries! (grins). I always thought astrology was just an adjunct to what I did. I didn't realise until a few years ago that it actually underpins what I do. It is the true lingua franca of the world. Someone told me that I'm a Renaissance woman, so now I know who I am! [grins again]
Q: Was this book on grief one which you decided to write for yourself or was it something you felt needed to be written, from experience of the difficulties students have in communicating astrology properly?
I think you always write books for yourself. It's work that's been ongoing for a long, long time, beginning in the early 1980s when I started to explore loss and grief. In 1985 the title of my graduation thesis when I was at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) was "Grief in Theatre". I was investigating how playwrights dealt with grief. At the end of that year, my first ever lecture at my first ever international astrology conference in Sydney, Australia, was "The Astrology of Grief" and it's just developed from there.
Q: Is the book all about grief, or are there completely other areas of astrologer/client interaction covered?
It's all about grief, what it is and how we deal with it - or don't deal with it - in the West. Statistically, once every 9-13 years we will lose someone we love. If the grieving process takes between 2-5 years to complete, then 30% of all clients we see as consulting astrologers will be going through this process. That's a huge amount of clients. Normally they don't come to you with that as the issue but if it emerges in the consultation, then both the consultation and the client's predictive work needs to be handled in a totally different way than if someone is not in grief.
Q: Spiritual teachers sometimes almost force people to look at the fact of death, to meditate on it. That's saying that we need that grief.
I totally agree. It's really interesting to live with an awareness of death all the time. This is not being morbid. I could walk out of here and a lorry could hit me. The line between life and death is so fragile. A small action can produce horrific consequences; someone can end up a paraplegic or in a coma in a split second and if you haven't done the work of grief, if you haven't looked at what your relationships are about and can't fully articulate what is happening for you, if you haven't considered what the connections between you and others mean and how they can enrich your life, if you are still living with blame at how your life has turned out and regret at things you haven't said or things you haven't done, then when someone you love dies, there will be a whole lot of undelivered emotional messages which can never get delivered. No matter how good a relationship is, the brutal fact is that the person isn't there and you can't ever say anything to them again directly. Yes, there is still plenty of work that can be done to complete those incomplete emotional messages. However, if you live life as fully as you can in the moment, while the person is there, then the unsaid messages and actions don't accumulate and you don't carry that forward with you into every other experience of loss. It's always better to complete karma than to create karma.
The Romans had an interesting philosophy. When a military hero entered Rome in triumphal procession, riding in a golden chariot, hailed as a god, a person wearing the mask and costume of Death stood at his shoulder, preserving him from the sin of hubris by saying each moment in his ear: 'Man, remember you will die.'
Q: How did you start astrology in the first place? What got you hooked in?
In 1982, after a relationship break-up, someone suggested that I have my astrology chart read. I did, and it just felt like coming home. Within a few months I started studying astrology with a teacher in Sydney. I studied with him for two years and at the end of those two years he ran a conference to which he'd invited Bernadette to lecture. She'd just returned from a tour of Canada lecturing on the BRG, as it was then (the Brady Rectification Graph, which has since became part of the rectification tool in JigSaw). I had just begun my training at NIDA. Once I'd completed NIDA, I went to Adelaide to work in theatre, threw out all the astrology I'd learned up to that point and started studying with Bernadette.
Once I got my FAA Diploma, Bernadette asked me to help her teach astrology at TAFE (Technical And Further Education - a post-secondary education network in Australasia). Astrology was the most successful course they had and it was subsidising every other course. At the end of that year they closed down that branch of the TAFE system and we set up Astro Logos. The year was 1990.
Q: How would you characterise Astro Logos's approach to astrology in terms of medieval-modern?
The International Diploma Course is quite modern, as it is an international syllabus, so we could call that modern-humanistic in its orientation. Of course each school involved with the AGE Int. Diploma will always put their own mark or twist on their teaching. Our medieval orientation is contained within the Medieval Diploma which is totally separate from and independent of the International Diploma. Of course one could really define Astro Logos' astrology as post-modern, as at its heart is contained a deep connection to the history of the subject of astrology from its ancient techniques, the vault of the whole sky, but at the same time embracing the principals of psychological and mythological astrology.
Q: In your talk about the Centaurs [at the AA Conference Swansea, September, 2002], you were being careful to evaluate whether these new bodies give us information which we really need in the chart.
The Centaurs are with us now, we can't deny that, so I think it's worth looking at them, exploring them and asking, 'Do we need these things? Are they useful? How are they useful?' We live in a time when there are outer planetary issues which affect us as a collective. Understanding death and grief is essential to our wellbeing as a society and we continually sideline and ignore them. So my approach was to suggest that maybe the Centaurs are important on that level, to teach us how we can be more open about issues of loss and grief. So yes, it really was an exploration and I'll continue to explore it and see if the Centaurs do have links with us on a personal level or if they are only relevant in the charts of prominent people who show us what it is to be in pain, like Michael J. Fox with Young Onset Parkinson's disease.
Q: How is your astrological time divided up - between writing, teaching, and so on?
Well, I probably shouldn't base anything on this year, because it's an atypical year. [laughs] But for twelve years Astro Logos held attending classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Some classes were held during the day, others at night and most weekends there were workshops. So it was fairly full-on in terms of teaching. Into this rigorous schedule I would then fit consulting work. I'd probably take on four to five clients a week - and that depended on whether I was writing a play or putting together a documentary proposal.
Q: If you were going to be marooned on a desert island and could only take the work of six astrologers with you, whose works would you take?
Bernadette' Brady; Guido Bonatti; Rob Hand; Rob Zoller; the Liber Hermetis; and Omar of Tiberius.
Q: What does it mean, in astrological work, to help a client?
To me it means to empower them, so that they walk out of the room feeling that they can cope with the dilemma with which they walked into the room. It means being able to say to them, 'Look - I don't need to see you for two or three years. After that there is a difficult time coming up in your life, so come back then and let's look at it again after you've dealt with the issue you came to see me about and have more tools in your tool kit t handle that period.'
Q: It's a difficult thing, don't you find, to tell someone that there's a tricky time coming up without striking fear and dread into their heart?
Well, it's called "chart side manner", as Bernadette would say, knowing how to tell a client that in order to deal with that rain cloud there, they have to do this work here. Hopefully the session will have unfolded what that challenge may ahead of them is about, so that you send them out of the consulting room with a plan in mind that fits in with what they are trying to achieve with their life, so that when they get to that rain cloud, they have a lot more resources and tools and are able to handle it better.
I think it's incorrect not to tell a client that there are difficulties ahead. Life is not all smooth sailing, it's not bright shiny days all the time. It has seasons and cycles and unless the client knows how to deal with those seasons and cycles, then you haven't done your job as an astrologer. You have been dishonest in not alerting them to the terrain ahead of them. If you are clear with a client, then when they reach those difficulties they feel better prepared and will return to you at later stage for an update because you have been honest with them at the outset.
Q: How about sun-sign columns - do you think they're a good thing, or a bad thing? Would you write one yourself?
We did for a time - for several years, in fact. One was for a ditzy women's magazine in Australia and we were trying to do something a little less ditzy. In the end they didn't want that, they just wanted ditzy, so we parted ways. Then we wrote for a very good-hearted alternative magazine in Australia called Australian Wellbeing, and that was wonderful. We wrote the first half of the annual magazine for several years using medieval astrology to formulate the sun sign columns. The editor was delighted at the articles Bernadette wrote, fantastic mundane columns looking at the year ahead using the lunation cycles, or using the cycles of Saturn and Neptune. People were really blown away by what we did. So yes, I think there is a lot of value in it. If you do it properly, there is absolute value in it.
Q: Darrelyn, many thanks for making time for this interview. I hope you and Bernadette will enjoy life in Britain and that you keep on keeping on with all your excellent work for the astrological community!
Thank you for asking for the interview, Garry!
Garry Phillipson graduated from the University of East Anglia in 1976 with honours in Philosophy. In 1986 Garry decided to devote time exclusively to the study of Buddhist philosophy and meditation, ordaining as a monk with the Aukana Trust. He left the monastery in 1993 but remains actively involved with the Trust. He works as Resources Manager for an internationally-based software company. Astrology in the Year Zero resulted from Garry's study of astrology. He is now furthering his studies as a PhD student at Bath Spa University College.
|If you would like to read an interview with Garry Phillipson by Darrelyn Gunzburg, "The Interviewer Interviewed", please go to the Articles page.|