Questioning popular astrology (3) : the ‘smoke screen’ effect? Anne Whitaker replies to Victor Olliver…

We live in a vast energy field of constant movement, most of which is totally invisible to mere humans with their limited perceptual apparatus. The rippling patterns of order and chaos, that fundamental dance, govern everything. I have come to see the art of astrology (helped by what I am able to grasp of what the quantum world has revealed to us) as one which enables us to map those patterns as they are viewed from Earth via the constant shifting energies of the planets in their orbits.

Then astrologers take the step which in our reductionist, materialist culture pulls down all sorts of opprobrium and scorn upon our heads. We attribute meaning to those patterns.  From ancient times, right up until the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century caused a major split between form described by astronomy, and content described by astrology, the maxim “As above, so below” governed people’s world view. We lived then in a cosmos charged with meaning, where form and content reflected and informed each other.

We are all particles...

We are all particles…

Some of us still live in that cosmos. Others do not. Where you have such a powerful clash of world views, you get polarisation, and prejudice. I think that Victor Oliver was right in his eloquent and well-argued response to my doubts and questions about popular astrology, to point out that the real enemy of astrology is prejudice.

Prejudice from outwith the astrological community, from those who believe that our lives are the product of cosmic chance, thereby devoid of meaning. Prejudice from those within the community who consider themselves to be ‘serious’ practitioners, towards the populist, mass-market astrology which millions avidly consume across a vast range of media on a daily basis, looking for some glimmer of meaning in life.

What do we do about this? In reflecting on how I might “wrap up” Victor’s and my debate, which has generated a very great deal of interest (traffic to this site quadrupled in the few days that our posts were most active!) across the Web, the word “occult” came strongly to mind. So I pondered on it for a few days. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the original meaning of the word is from the Latin ‘occulere’ ie ‘to hide, conceal’. It also (in a more physical sense) means ‘to cut off from view by interposing some other body’ as in, for example, the occultation of one planet or heavenly body by another.

The word ‘occult’ in recent times has taken on a more sinister connotation, referring more to magical or supernatural practices. But I became more and more interested, on reflection, in the original meaning of the word. It has led me to a conclusion about the status of astrology, especially in our modern world.

This is it: the true depth of what astrology can reveal about human affairs both in the collective and the personal sense, will always be inaccessible to the large majority of people. Astrology is an occult subject. As such, its influence and its great value is likely to remain masked, hidden from view, operating powerfully but behind the scenes of everyday life.

For example, in very ancient times its practice was held in high esteem eg by Babylonian or Egyptian rulers, whose astrologer-priests scanned the stars and advised the kings (and sometimes, even, the queens!)  of the fate of their nations. There were no personal horoscopes then. The general public were in no way consulted or informed regarding decisions made which affected all their lives. Astrological knowledge, deemed sacred, was deliberately kept hidden from ‘ordinary’ view.

In our time mass-market popular astrology – paradoxically – could be seen as fulfilling the function of concealing the real power of astrology pretty effectively. Most of the public remain unaware of the depth which exists behind the mask of the Sun Sign columns – although I do agree with Victor that there is a very big difference between the glimmer of truth which a quality Sun Sign column can reveal, and the kind of trashy stuff which any old tea lady could dash off. (I have been a tea lady in my day, so please, no offence given or taken!)

Sun Sign columns are also rather effective in raising the ire and spleen of reductionists who thereby are permanently deflected from benefitting from astrology’s true depth, which at times could have been life-saving as evinced in a powerful example of astrologer Dennis Elwell’s prescient warning in the 1980s.

Dennis Elwell, the late well-known and respected UK astrologer mentioned in Victor’s post, was revealed as having written in 1987 to the main shipping lines to warn them that a pattern very similar to that under which the Titanic had sunk, was coming up in the heavens very soon. He strongly suggested that they review the seaworthiness and safety procedures of all their passenger ships. His warning was duly dismissed. Not long afterwards, the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry boat went down, with the loss of 188 lives.

It is true, as Victor points out, that mass market astrology is the stepping-stone which enables people who are seekers after deeper meaning than the Sun Sign columns can provide, to step from relative triviality to much greater depth.

If you want to understand the profound link which exists between your small personal existence and the larger, meaningful cosmos which your unique chip of energy has entered in order to make its contribution, then you need actively to seek out a good astrologer to offer you a sensitive and revealing portrait of your moment of birth via your horoscope. Those of us who are in-depth practitioners know that a quality astrology reading with the right astrologer at the right time can be truly life-changing.

However, only a small percentage of people who read Sun Sign columns take that step into deeper territory. Most do not. Either they are quite happy – or put off – by the superficiality they find there, or they spin off into active enraged prejudice and sometimes very public condemnation of our great art…

My pondering on the word ‘occult’ therefore, has led me to quite a peaceful place, Victor – I am sure you will be very pleased for me!  I can now stop being annoyed with my colleagues who are Sun Sign astrologers: they are offering a valuable service in providing a smoke screen.  This helps greatly to maintain astrology in its true place as an ‘occult’ activity, leavening the lumpen ignorance and crassness of our materialist, consumer age  from behind the scenes.

Readers, what do you think of this view? I’d be most interested to hear.

(as before, any offensive comments will be ruthlessly binned)


Mars being reasonable - must be in Libra....

Mars being reasonable – eh?!


1100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

12 responses to “Questioning popular astrology (3) : the ‘smoke screen’ effect? Anne Whitaker replies to Victor Olliver…

  1. Hi, Anne! I write a horoscope column for a magazine, but I completely agree with what you said. I make no hesitations in helping people to understand that Sun sign columns merely scratch the surface when it comes to our entire makeup, and anyone interested in exploring themselves fully is required to go well beyond that step. In short, seeking out the services of an astrologer who can facilitate awareness of one’s multidimensional nature.


    • Hi, Sag Mind! good to hear from you again. Many thanks for validating my viewpoint – I think it is important for astrologers to support one another if possible, even when there are differences of orientation and/or opinion.


  2. Pingback: The Anne Whitaker/Victor Olliver debate: Questioning popular astrology (3) : the ‘smoke screen’ effect? | Writing from the Twelfth House

  3. Dear Anne, you put your point across very eloquently here and I do agree with you about the ‘smoke screen’. Perhaps people come to the deeper level that astrology can offer only when they are ready in themselves, like travelling through a gateway, and perhaps then only the few. And that could be how it is meant to be. So many of us became astrologers reading Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs first, didn’t we? And perhaps that applies to the ‘general public’ too, in that some intuitively know that there is more than the reductionist scientific worldview and are searching. But the majority will not question the current paradigm. Sending hugs! Love, Louise 🙂 xx


    • Hello Louise, lovely to hear from you here, and many thanks for your equally eloquent comment! The book which turned me on to astrology, Alan Oken’s ‘The Horoscope, The Road and its Travellers’ , was thrust into my hand in 1981 by a friend whose opinions I respected, at a time when I was totally dismissive of astrology (from the standard dismisser’s mindset of not having a clue what I was talking about…) but felt I had to try and read the book out of deference to my friend. I shall never forget what happened. About three pages in, it felt as though a hand was reaching out of the book, grabbing me by the collar, and saying ‘You’re for me!’

      And that was it…

      Hope to see you this autumn! Love Anne x


  4. An excellent and considered response Anne, I think the smoke screen effect and it’s link the word “occult” is fascinating and a great example of how our existence has so many little correlations which reverberate both the conscious and the unconscious. It also led me to think that perhaps people tend to seek a quick fix or magic answer to life and it’s problems. “Real” astrology is a wonderful guide to the human condition but it takes effort and experience to master the subject of Astrology, its application and indeed life itself (or is that Saturn in Sadge speaking)…. Perhaps for this reason, only those dedicated to the long haul will scratch deeper into the subject. However I am always cautioned by this quote… The wise man realises the more he learns the less he knows.

    Fabulous and illuminating topic Anne, thanks to both you and Victor for your thoughts, Carole xXx


  5. Glad you enjoyed it all, Carole, and many thanks for all your thoughtful comments. Victor and I are now working on what our next creative conflict might be…


  6. I’ve always thought it absurd that Mercury exclusively rules Virgo. It has to stop.


  7. Aloka[Bronwyn} Maddison commented on BIOG – 1st April 2015

    Dear Anne,
    I hope this is the right place to leave a response to your article on sunsign astrology-I am not great with technology,so please direct me to the correct place if this isn’t it…..quite simply,as a “real” astrologer,I resent the fact that most people,if I say I am an astrologer,will assume I do only sun-sign astrology-& I do so hate being misunderstood & misinterpreted!I understand that this is mainly because,as you point out,astrology is occult,but also because of that so many people simply don’t know there IS any other kind of astrology,& I feel that part of my life purpose is to assist people,via astrology,to gain access to their own soul,or spirit,not sure which.I believe we would have a better world if people knew more about real astrology,& I feel a kind of passionate obligation to offer my small part in this.I believe people should have as much access to their inner being as possible,& popular astrology destroys this-because it is false.
    Thank you for your generosity in providing this column,tis much appreciated,
    Aloka x
    PS:I presume I am a 12th House person,as I have North Node conjunct Neptune in Scorpio in the 12th,& my moon & mars are conjunct in Pisces in the 4th,in a wide trine to Neptune & the node.I also have Jupiter in Libra in the 12th,also conjunct the others.What do you think?I think my experiences qualify me as a 12th House person!


  8. Many thanks for your impassioned comment on this topic, Aloka, which certainly arouses strong feelings on both sides of the ‘sun signs’ fence. There really isn’t any ‘solution’ to the issue, since people just have to consider the issues and make up their own minds where they stand.

    And yes, I would certainly give you honourable membership to the Twelfth House Tribe on the basis of that line-up!


  9. Pingback: Questioning popular astrology (2) : media astrologer Victor Olliver’s robust reply… | Astrology: Questions and Answers

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