Between 2005 and 2011 after I had decided I had found a holy grail in Vedic Astrology a few things happened. By 2008, half of my work included Vedic Astrology sessions. I was not a stellar astrologer by any means, yet people kept asking me to do their charts. Despite the fact I did most of my work either for free or by donation up to that point, many clients were becoming uncomfortable not knowing how much to donate for a session.
This is an odd thing. You may have experienced it, or known someone who has. Someone offers a service for free or by donation, and you feel bad, because you don’t know how much to give. Then you ask them to tell you how much it’s worth. My common response was, “Well, what are you comfortable giving or how much is it worth to you?”
Finally, I set a price and decided to accept that my work was moving towards the research and analysis of client’s astrological charts. Having a degree in psychology and a deep interest in alternative healing, I did derive quite a bit of good information from my client’s charts. Transits would help me understand health issues and their duration. The positions of planets in houses and from other planets helped me understand a client’s psychology and how to relate to them. It wasn’t a stretch by any means to incorporate astrology into my work.
I was still holding on to my skepticism though, because the charts didn’t always work as clearly as I would expect from a science. I know I didn’t know EVERYTHING there was to know, obviously. To this day, I know very little. But I still expected the processes (formulas to come to a conclusion about what the chart means) I was taught to work out a little more often than chance. I kept practicing because, my intuition worked very well and every time it worked I was surprised. That was a lot of fun. I still longed for a systematic approach that did not rely on intuition (my reasons for that would take up a whole book on its own).
I noticed that rarely did the use of the signs give any significant meaning to the session. Wondering if this was just my lack of understanding about astrology, I questioned many astrologers about their procedures and noticed that in the Vedic community, sign usage was more of an after thought. There was more emphasis put on the houses and memorizing yogas.
I also noticed that there didn’t seem to be any systems of how to read a chart. Most people would say, learn the principles and then use your intuition. Let yourself be guided to the right interpretation. I did this very well. Yet it still bothered me that we had this body of information, yet there was not repeatable system. But my intuition kept carrying the day. Despite my doubts, people kept referring friends and family to me and returning for repeat sessions. I continued onward, studying, wondering, being surprised it worked when it did.
In 2008 two more astrology events related to my career began to take shape. Richard Fish and I decided to turn his astrology course into a book. The second event was moving to Asheville, North Carolina.
Why did the move to Asheville have such a big impact on my astrology
career? Well, I used to live in a small town in West Virginia of 30,000 or less people. Few of these people were interested in alternative healing at that time. I studied and practiced Ayurveda, Emotional Freedom Technique, Reiki, Yuen Method, Massage, CranioSacral Therapy and Kriya Yoga. Relative to the size of the population, in my small town, I was one of few serious practitioners in the healing arts. Now I move to Asheville, where everyone (aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, pet squirrels) are all either a guru, a Reiki Master, a massage therapist, a channeler, a raw food coach, a massage therapist, a counselor, a yoga teacher, etc., etc., etc.
This was a problem. I am good at my skill sets, but believe it or not I am a terrible salesman. Moving to a community where competition is fierce and territorial was the end of my healing career. I hate people trying to sell me their skills. It makes me feel creepy. I hate trying to sale my skills. Then I feel like a creep. I figure, either you want the service or you don’t. At the end of the day, you are only going to know if it works if you try it anyway.
Once, at a community event, a man said to me, “I’ve been given the business cards by all these other massage therapists and energetic healers. You’ve got a good energy about you. But why should I call you for a session instead of these others?” It was then I realized my problem. (My grandmother knew my problem all along. She said I had a bad attitude! “Sweety, why don’t you try to get people to like you?” she would say. God Rest Her Soul.) So, I said to him, “Look, either you want to work with me or you don’t. I’m not going to tell you how wonderful I am or how I know more than these other folks. So call me or don’t. Either way, enjoy the party.” Then I let him walk away.
Later, I realized there was one skill set I had that was rare in Asheville. That was an understanding of Vedic Astrology. So I decided to shift my work full time to astrology. I began offering introduction seminars, teaching basic classes, giving free talks at local spiritually minded stores. I did a lot more donation work and free sessions. I started my web site Asheville Vedic Astrology.
To the chagrin of those who wish I would be a little more entertaining, I wasn’t trying to wow anyone, I was sharing what I knew. Slowly, over time, my practice began to grow enough that I could pay my bills, buy healthy food, have plenty of free time to meditate and not worry too much about if I was going to have enough funds to cover our mortgage.
It was during this time, I had begun the grueling process of turning
Richard Fish’s correspondence course into The Art and Science of Vedic Astrology Volume I. He provided much of the material. I edited, added details and chapters and designed the book. This took many years, but like all the books I’ve written so far, it was a labor of love and taught me a lot about myself and the subject of study. This book speaks of the sidereal ayanamsha for signs.
My work life proceeded in this way until 2011, when I was introduced to the use of the Tropical Zodiac with Vedic Astrology. (Foreboding orchestral music plays…)
By 2011, my practice was busy enough to keep me out of trouble.
In 2010, I had a brief astrological session with Richard Fish to discuss two areas of my life where difficulties were occurring. During this session, he mentioned the outer planets. I knew he used them as a Western
Astrologer, but never had he mentioned them to me seriously in relationship to Vedic Astrology. Why would he? According to Vedic Astrology at that time, the Outer Planets were irrelevant. Remember, he lived on a farm in the back country of the UK. I lived in Asheville, NC. We rarely had time to chit chat, so he knew nothing of my problems when I requested the session. Yet, when his response came, he explained both issues in detail, both referencing two outer planet transits over sensitive points in my chart. This stuck with me.
Now back to 2011. It was December of 2011. A client I had worked with for at least 4 years now had requested a yearly report. As I was sitting at my desk on that cold winter evening staring at her chart, the thought occurred to me, “find out what the outer planets are doing.” At first I scoffed at it. No real Vedic Astrologer would look at the outer planets! That’s what Rahu and Ketu are for. Then I remembered my session with Richard.
I knew nothing of the outer planets. So I searched the Internet. The first link that appeared was Ernst Wilhelm’s audio class on the Outer Planets. I had been in touch with Mr. Wilhelm briefly 10 years earlier. I purchased his software Kala when I began studying astrology, mainly because I was just out of college and broke, and his was the most affordable software. Remembering, he created my software, I decided to order the course. I devoured the course, and used the little I learned and weaved it into my client’s 12 month report.
A week after sending out the report, I received a glowing review from the client. Her particular focus was on what I had ascertained based on the Outer Planet transits. I then thought, maybe I should learn more from Ernst Wilhelm.
Then the unexpected most dreadful thing happened. I began listening to
his free courses. One of these courses was his Ayanamsha and Rashis course. It is in this course where he summarizes his research into the use and application of the Tropical Zodiac. As soon as I heard this, I immediately stopped the playback and decided Ernst Wilhelm was a crazy nut. I held this view for a while. Yet, I couldn’t help reflect on what I learned on the Outer Planets. I had begun incorporating this information into client sessions, and each time, the response was to the positive.
I began to wonder, was I being rash in ignoring the possibility that maybe I did not have all the facts about my sense of the origins of Vedic Astrology? So I grudgingly listened to the entire recording of Mr. Wilhelm’s. This was very difficult.
I was told from the beginning of my study some very convincing reasons why sidereal was the one true astrology. Being young, and thinking anything from India MUST be accurate, I swallowed it all without thinking about it. Why? Because it came from India, and the sages and teachings of India are pure and without question the highest wisdom available! There is absolutely no way, that the teachings of India might have been copied, recopied, recompiled and lost some of their original truth. Sure that could happen to the Bible and other spiritually inclined texts, but most definitely not in India! Anything from India is sacred and pure. Isn’t that right?!
I wrote to him immediately sharing my outrage and told him he must be crazy. He wrote me back, very kindly, simply telling me to look at a few charts following the Kala Software Settings he advised at that time. Essentially, this was to shift my charts from a sidereal zodiac to a tropical one. So I did. I also pulled up charts of friends and family I knew very well too.
Grudgingly, trying to be impartial, I thought it would be good to look at each of the charts I had in front of me as if they were from people I had never read before. I treated these charts like brand new clients. I followed the same system I knew with each chart. I was still using bhava yogas, vargas, dashas, dignities, shad bala, etc. My response was akin to my friend’s the first time I gave her some of my homemade lime pickle.
As you can tell by now, up to this point, I was an Indiaphile. Not only did I leave my Western Catholicism for Eastern Mysticism, choose Eastern Astrology over Western systems, adopt an Ayurvedic lifestyle in place of the Standard American lifestyle, but I also had adopted a few Indian cook books, which I used nearly every day. One of my favorite condiments is
lime pickle. One of my cook books had a recipe for this. I love to cook, so thought I’d give it a try. I followed the recipe, put the jars of small limes, drenched in spices and oil out in the Sun every day for two weeks to cure. A friend of ours came to visit on the weekend that the recipe told me the pickle would be done. She had never had anything like this before. Being a lover of carrot pickle, mango pickle, lime pickle I was excited to share. So before dinner I toasted a chapatti and told her, “You’ve got to try this!”
I opened the jar, tried it myself to confirm it was as tasty as I’d hoped. The sour saltiness was perfect! I put a spoonful on the chapatti and gave it to her on a plate. She bit into it. Her face twisted in a way I’d never seen before, then a slight moment of delight played through her eyes. Then she put the chapatti down and exclaimed, “I don’t know if this is the best thing I’ve ever had or if I want to vomit!?”
This is the reaction I had to looking at charts using the Indian Astrology Principles I had learned up to that point, through the lens of the Tropical Zodiac. I wasn’t sure I wanted to murder Ernst for challenging those long standing beliefs I had, or if I wanted to throw a party in his honor, for giving me a chart that made so much direct sense.
The questions I had about these charts that I couldn’t figure out sidereally locked right into place with the tropical. The dashas began to line up magically, without having to overthink the reasons. The signs of the houses, then made perfect sense. Because of this I went back and made a thorough study of sign meanings. Finally I could use the signs in a meaningful way. The dignities were the biggest clincher for me. Both for my own chart, and for the others, the dignities made so much more sense tropically. This makes sense. The dignities are based on the signs.
The dignities were also the hardest thing to swallow though. They reflected how the areas of life actually played out, rather than how we might have wished or hoped they would’ve. I’ll get into this later, but this is one of the reasons astrology is so hard to study. People are looking for reasons to hold on, and to think things either are or will get better than they are. If your dignities are not correct, it’s easier to believe in change. Because if you are given the wrong information, and you see it play out differently, well surely it’s because it was possible to change it!?
I’m sure its because of my own chart, but personally I feel to study astrology as a science well requires a good Saturn. Because then you can look on in a detached manner without getting side tracked by hopes or beliefs. Most people come to astrology because of hope and belief! You can see the problem.
The other problem occurred was that now I had to learn a correct system of astrology, not the hodgepodge of techniques and yogas that no one ever seems to put into any sensical order. Now I had to go back and actually think through Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra to find out, when is Ishta and Kashta applied. What IS the difference between the ascendant and the atmakaraka. They do not represent the same thing. When do we use rashi aspects and when do we use graha aspects? They are for different areas of understanding. How do the vargas apply to the rashi!? We can’t use them as separate birth charts as many claim. Why does Parashara give SPECIFIC aspectual points? Most astrologers are taught the general aspects when the aspectual points are what Parashara actually teaches.
Again, you can see why I was torn. On one hand, so much made sense. On the other, hand, now I couldn’t be a psychic astrologer relying on my Ishta Devata to guide me and save me from my lack. I had to actually LEARN THE SCIENCE! I think this might be one of the reasons why there is so much resistance to the tropical zodiac. But that’s really just speculation on my part.
Luckily, Ernst Wilhelm had done a lot of work in this regard, so many of his courses helped to guide my process. (Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page for some of my favorite courses he’s done.) Over these last few years, I would still benignly curse him from time to time. But at the end of the day, I was quite thankful. Now astrology had the capacity to be truly scientific in my mind, at least as best as it can be with what we have to work with presently. Again, that’s for a later discussion.
Now back to this initial discovery. I started this personal account to help illustrate how I did not wake up one random day and decide:
- to be a difficult person in the thorn of the side of the ACVA
- to confuse the study of Vedic Astrology for students
- or to be a white supremacist neocolonialist (as some have implied)
- or because I’m an idiot with no sense (which is debatable, depending on what side of this debate you may choose to take)
- or to attack and demean a sacred tradition
I made the discovery by accident. I sat with it. I denied its validity. Yet, something kept pulling me back. I spent many weeks staring at my bookshelf in denial. I researched charts from my database, and each time found it more convincing.
I struggled with this intensely for about 6 months. If you don’t believe me, ask my wife. One day, as I stared at my bookshelf contemplating what this meant, she asked me what I was thinking so hard about. She knew what I was thinking about, because I expressed my disdain and simultaneous wonder almost daily.
But at that moment, what came out of my mouth was, “Either Ernst Wilhelm is a f***ing nut, or he’s brilliant!”
She then said, “Why don’t you talk about this with Richard?”
Now why hadn’t I thought of that? He was an excellent patient teacher, and so far the best astrologer I had ever met. So I set up a time to Skype.
I told him the whole story. He just laughed and said nonchalantly, “Well that makes sense. I’ve been using both the sidereal and tropical together for years.” From there ensued a conversation that convinced me to explore this more fully.
During this six month window of intellectual despair I had continued to research and do sessions. However, I kept doing them sidereally, and then would refer to the tropical when I reached a sticky point.
Then I made the final decision, to do all charts tropically! This was either going to be brilliant, or the end of my work as an astrologer. I was concerned. It had taken me many years to build a solid practice by word of mouth, one that was able to meet my financial needs adequately for myself and my wife and to provide valuable service to my clients. Was I about to destroy the one vocation I had which gave me a reason to participate in the world?! (Remember, I’ve got Saturn on the ascendant, so yes I really do think like this from time to time.)
Another thing you need to know about me, is I have a very hard time acting like I believe in something, even for the sake of others. I could not go on doing astrology sidereally even for the sake of my career or reputation, if I did not see it as valid as tropical. Despite the fact that deep down inside I foresaw myself cleaning latrines from this point forward, I had to do it. After that 6 month window of analyzing charts, staring at the book shelf, cursing Ernst, being amazed at the perceived accuracy of the tropical zodiac, wondering why Richard never told me this before, and fearing my career was doomed, I switched completely to the tropical zodiac.
Here is the funny thing about all that stress. Within another 6 months of switching, my practice took off. Again, this was all by word of mouth. In June of 2011 as I continued to work sidereally, I had clients steadily scheduled 2 weeks ahead of the current date. That’s not bad. By January of 2012 after the switch to tropical, I was booked out 3 months ahead of the current date, and hired a part time secretary to help with emails and scheduling. This all happened by word of mouth. Many clients would ask, “What happened? You were good before, but you insights are clearer than ever now!?”
Now of course, I went through a long period of trying to explain the change of zodiacs to clients. I had spent the last 10 years trying to explain why the tropical Sun sign is not as important as the sidereal ascendant, and now I am trying to explain why the tropical ascendant will beat it all!? But I decided, if they don’t like my work, I’ll give them their money back. That didn’t happen. They referred more of their friends and family for work.
According to my database, between June 2011 and January 2016, I have analyzed 1,322 charts using the tropical zodiac using the same techniques taught in Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra and Jaimini Sutras. This does not include charts of clients from before that date that continued to hire my services in that time frame. I could’ve done more. I’m very slow when it comes to analyzing charts, but I think that’s a good number.
After I give a session I send a feedback form. Clients have the potential to answer anonymously if they choose. It specifically asks about quality of service, accuracy and professionalism. In these last 4.5 years, I have had 2 negative responses. I don’t want to be an astrologer if I am doing a bad job or misleading anyone. I enjoy doing good work. At this time, I am currently booked about 3 months out, with a waiting list that would add another two if I had scheduled them all at present.
You can see, that I did not choose the tropical zodiac. In way, it choose me.
This has been my path through astrology to present. My experiences and those of others who have also started using the tropical zodiac with Eastern Astrology Techniques have found it quite rewarding. It takes A LOT of work, but still worth it.
Remember, any thoughtful questions or comments you may have, I’d love to hear.
Now we can move on to the other topics in this series. Our future topics yet to come include:
- Previous Section – Introduction and Personal Story Part 1 (click here).
- What are the Zodiacs
- What is the Tropical Zodiac
- What is Tropical Vedic Astrology
- Arguments against Tropical Vedic Astrology put forth to date
- Arguments for the use of the tropical zodiac with Eastern Techniques
- The subjective difficulties in coming to an irrefutable conclusion
- What is “Vedic” Astrology?
- Are there really different kinds of astrology, like there are different kinds of chemistry or physics?
- How do the Yugas influence our understanding of Science?
- Can the Yugas be proven?
- How is a science defined? Do scientific understandings change over time?
- How is it possible for adherents of both systems to claim real life validity? They both can’t be correct, right? Or can they?
- What kind of research is needed to accurately explore zodiacal claims of greater accuracy?