Guest post: How I became an astrologer…by Frank Clifford

I run an occasional series here in which well-known astrologers tell the always intriguing tale of how they became involved in astrology. I’m delighted this week to be featuring a distinguished guest, a star of the astrology world, on my blog: the UK’s very own Frank Clifford, prolific author, editor and world-wide teacher, who has run the London School of Astrology for the last fifteen years. 

Enjoy Frank’s story!

Frank Clifford

Frank Clifford

Anne invited me last year to write a brief ‘How I became an Astrologer’ piece and it’s taken me all this time to sit down, ignore the other deadlines on my desk, and think of something I haven’t said before in an interview. I’m not quite sure I’ve succeeded in that last aim, but here goes.

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s with a very political, Pluto-type father who was a respected and feared personal injury solicitor (long before they were unlikely stars of ambulance-chasing adverts). My dad was so contrary and difficult that, even if the legal system had interested me (and I did study Law at A Level), I was never going to follow in his footsteps. Instead, I wanted to teach, be an architect, or write TV drama (I later did a degree in media studies, and my first extra-curricular job was writing comedy at the local BBC Radio York).

My mum has Sun–Mars in Aries and Moon-Jupiter in Libra and she eventually went into the legal system, too, but in my adolescence I shared her fascination with psychics and anyone who might predict the future. By fifteen I’d chosen to immerse myself in the more interesting world of the unknown. Or perhaps it chose me. I had grown up hearing mum’s stories of psychics that she and her friends visited. There were fascinating tales of predictions of moves abroad, foreign marriages and even a car accident. I had also loved the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and longed to have his special talent of reading symbols and predicting the future!

I didn’t seem much like an Aries at fifteen – much more like my Virgo Moon and Saturn rising. I was a shy, good boy who appeared overly serious to others. But when reading Linda Goodman, Teri King and Bernard Fitzwalter (Eccles), I aspired to be the Aries they described in their books.

In mid August 1989, on the day of a lunar eclipse in Aquarius (I write this now at the lunar eclipse in Aquarius some 28 years later), my mum and I visited Tad Mann, who was based in London at the time, and we both had readings with him. Tad’s Life*Time Astrology is fascinating but not the easiest introduction to the subject for a sixteen year old. Nevertheless, I took my chart home that afternoon with one of his books and taught myself the glyphs and began self-study. (I took a correspondence course with one astrology school but the assignments were so formulaic and the approach so rigid, I wasn’t inspired.)

One of my great discoveries around that time was the Electric Ephemeris shop in Caledonian Road, run at the time by Brian and Ananda. I bought a copy of the programme and picked up Lois Rodden’s Profiles of Women, which was a treasure trove of charts, biographies and observations. Soon after, Paul Wright’s book Astrology in Action entered my life. Thanks to these books and working with people like Lois, much of my astrology developed by reading a biography in one hand and looking for ‘why’ and ‘where’ in the horoscope in my other hand.

Thanks to my mother’s masseuse, I was introduced to Amrito (Derek Hawkins) and visited his place in Sheldon Avenue, NW London, to explore his floor chart with his students. The Astrology Shop had just opened, too, and I spent many an hour browsing and buying books there. The end of the 1980s/early 1990s was a burgeoning time for astrology – lots of classes, talks, conferences and new students. In fact, many of the people I now work alongside began astrology during these years.

As I taught myself ‘real astrology’ (a regrettable term to suggest going beyond Sun signs), it was easy to be embarrassed by Russell Grant’s camp, over-the-top TV appearances or snooty when watching Cainer’s limp defence of the subject when challenged by sceptics like James Randi. But on TV, it was harder than it looked. I never took up the challenge of defending astrology on TV or radio, although writing about my other subject of palmistry meant I was often asked on TV or radio to read hands and defend that subject.

I also steered clear of lecturing on either subject until around my Saturn return. I was too shy and probably a bit fearful of ‘who does he think he is?’ comments. Having Mars (conjunct Jupiter) on the Midheaven, it would have been easy to appear like a young upstart, which no doubt I did to some. Funnily enough, just before I gave my first lecture for the Lodge, the German woman introducing me said, rather cattily, ‘Your bio says you wrote your first book at 24. My friends and I all agree that no one knows anything about astrology until after their Saturn return.’ I asked if she knew that Liz Greene had written Saturn at the age of 28.

Yes, some years before, I had published a book on the birth data and biographies of British entertainers and published other people’s books, too. It took a while to even consider writing a ‘proper’, full book on astrology. Writing two on palmistry was much easier because you’d be on the bookshelf with some unscientific twaddle and scary nonsense – a sensible, psychological approach can stand out among them. But with astrology, you’ll be on the shelf with Liz Greene, Rob Hand, Melanie Reinhart and Howard Sasportas – and you need to earn the right to be there!

I used to joke ‘I love astrology but don’t like astrologers’ and what I really meant was that I didn’t want to get wrapped up in the political and ego battles that I watched taking place in our community (even worse now with online forums and Facebook groups). Joining a committee seemed to bring out the worst in people. I used to hear about people plotting and scheming and wondered, ‘What for? To be the president of an association no one inside or outside of astrology cares much about?’ To this day, I’ve avoided committees – it’s guaranteed my survival and sanity. And it suits my Aries nature to do things by myself. I joke that I’m a ‘benevolent dictator’ – I hire people to teach, pay them on time and do my best to treat them with kindness and respect. My dad had a good philosophy that he turned into a song, ‘If you don’t like me, then leave me alone.’ I hang around the people I like being with, and stick to compliments-only when I write on Facebook.

I’ve just published my new website and on there is a chronology of much of what I’ve done over the years (http://frankclifford.co.uk/chronology/). Dozens of books, magazines, around a thousand lectures/talks/seminars, and trips to a dozen countries in the past few years. I’ve written, researched, published, lectured, consulted, and edited books and magazines – almost everything you can do in astrology. Why? Because I wanted to try everything and visit everywhere at least once. It’s been a true labour of love, so it’s never felt like ‘real’ work. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to do it when young and energetic enough.

I compiled the chronology to remind me of what I’ve done when I’m asked to write biographies for books and lectures! There are some crazy, fun things on there like ‘reading Saddam Hussein’s hands’ (not quite, but check it out to see what I mean) and advising Universal Studios, working on television pilots and documentaries, and all sorts of travel adventures. A lot of people have come into my life in these years and some of the brightest people I know are astrologers. For the past fifteen years, I’ve been teaching and running the LSA in a building that overlooks my birthplace in London (University College Hospital). So much for going places in life!

Zodiac

Zodiac

1400 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Frank Clifford 2017

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page of Writing from the Twelfth House

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19 responses to “Guest post: How I became an astrologer…by Frank Clifford

  1. Totally delighted to read Frank’s writings here on your blog Anne – especially since I’ve had the pleasure of taking one of his webinars as well as listening to him on Youtube. What I like the most about both of you is probably coming through all that Fire (Aries for Frank and Leo for Anne) – straight forward talk that strikes at the heart of what is important in this symbolic/astrological world (combined with great humor). Love reading these kind of stories – it brings warmth and a friendly human face to those we look up to as mentors – so thank you both for taking this time to share!

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  2. It’s amazing and yet so astrologically satisfying how your chart reflects how you got into astrology Frank . I remember first meeting you when you came to speak for Aquarius Rising some years ago now and thinking WOW! Your have an amazing way of “getting to the heart” of your subject and making it all seem so simple. That’s the gift of a great teacher to inspire and enlighten. As we say in Glasgow “lang may your lum reek” (here’s to many more years of success”) for both you and Anne. You’ve both brought so much to the astrological world – Thank you!!!

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    • Thanks so much for this, Carole! It’s been great to see you taking up the teaching and public speaking baton yourself in recent years, and making such a success of it.

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    • Another “Ditto” – I’m so delighted you’re teaching, Carole, and I imagine your students are, too. I hope I get the chance to sit in and watch your energy and enthusiasm. I’ve been filing and compiling recently (loved that retrograde Mercury in Virgo) and I’m always astonished – when I look at old diaries and flyers – at how much I get about (!). I’ve always loved coming up to Scotland and I get the warmest of welcomes (must be that Local Space Moon of mine through Scotland). Thanks for always being such a great support xxx

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  3. Excellent piece of writing Frank Dale

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  4. Via Facebook:
    23.9.17:
    Elaine Seefeldt:
    Really interesting to read Frank’s journey. I love reading astrological forecasts and articles but it looks so complex to learn, looking up to the sky at night is something l do before bedtime and l’m in awe of the universe beyond. Don’t know if You’ve heard about Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh Anne but it is such an educational journey through the tour and the special effects really hit home of how planets were formed and it certainly is as enjoyable for adults as kids. My awe of the universe increased doublefold after that.

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  5. That’s a great suggestion, Elaine! Will investigate…glad you liked Frank’s story.

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  6. Via Facebook:
    23.9.17:
    Brenda Lee Johnson:
    My early childhood was in northern Canada, in the province of Manitoba. My parents had what would almost be considered a trading post. I found it very difficult to be inside the house and spent much time outside looking at the sky, the magic of it, the darkness, the mystery. We had many animals around, domesticated and otherwise. A very elemental upbringing. Considered to be “unorganized territory” yet so rich in texture. Not “organized” or ” civilized”. In other words it had a “wildness”, a freedom. To find out later, in shamanic Astrology training that my moon was in Scorpio and that indicated a shamanic past, made so much sense. My orientation thus, was to be the explorer of the cosmos and live in the world using those early developed senses to try to understand how people and the world worked. I first began with the Linda Goodman versions then proceeded to go deeply into Astro psychology with Liz Greene etc. As well, Dane Rudyar, Ebertin, etc. All filled a gap in thinking at different times. Studied shamanic Astrology near my Chiron return realizing Chiron was conjunct my moon but in sag rather than Scorpio. I am continuously in awe and wonder of this powerful symbolic system, much to me of which is unexplainable ( although James Hillman, Stanislavsky Grof, Richard Tarnas) certainly bridge understandings.

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  7. What wonderful feedback, Brenda! I have found exactly the same writers to be immensely helpful in developing my understanding in recent years. Thank you so much for this. I think a compilation post next week is definitely on the cards!

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  8. Via Facebook:
    23.9.17:
    Lindel Barker-Revell:
    I was fascinated to read Frank’s astrological journey too. I admire his work and have attended a few of his lectures here in Oz. It’s strange how we are led to our path. I grew up in Tasmania where a dim view was taken of anything outside of a fairly rigid religious norm. However, the 60s did even reach Hobart and we had an influx of different thinking and beliefs. I met my first palm reader in 1969 and I began to learn what I could. I moved to Sydney in 1974 and after a few years I began to learn astrology at the first “school” in Paddington. What a journey!

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  9. Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving this interesting feedback, Lindel. I, too, grew up in a part of the world where there was a strong fundamentalist (protestant) ethos: but the wildness of the landscape and weather, and the clarity of the night skies and stars, invoked in me from early on a decidedly pagan sensibility which has never left me, leaving me open to all kinds of perspectives on interconnectedness. So I guess it was inevitable that astrology would eventually find me…you can find my particular “how I found astrology” story on the blog.

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  10. Via Facebook:
    23.9.17:
    Anita Pascoe:
    My lovely tutor 😊 wonderful man x

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  11. That’s good to hear, Anita!

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  12. Via Facebook:
    23.9.17:
    Rena Hdesign:
    Reading these, I feel I must share my story too! After spending the bulk of my life fighting my way through the challenges of the particular archetypal energies indicated by my birth chart, it is no big surprise that astrology finally claimed me heavily about 5 years ago. My 1st big step into the “occult”, (as it was known in the bookshop’s section back then) was to have an astrological reading. Although I don’t remember much- the astrologer’s reaction to my chart scared me a bit; I was fascinated and tried to begin studies. But it wasn’t time and there were too many fears dogging my mind to be able to maintain the type of objectivity necessary to do justice to the symbolism – so I went into massage and energy work. Working with people at that level forced me out of the mental/intellectual and I spent many years learning to hold internal silence/space for others as witness to their processes- and I gradually got through the personal challenges. Twenty five years later, being in a good place in life, there was obvious need for a further challenge – and that is where I finally found Dane Rudhyar, Liz Greene, Bil Tierny, Stephen Arroyo and many others through people like Anne Whitaker, Dawn Bodrogi and Frank Clifford’s guidance & stellar example.

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  13. Well, Rena, I’m glad your fellow commenters have inspired you to share your unique tale…and it’s great to have more quality author recommendations for other readers. Thanks so much!

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  14. It’s been really brilliant to have Frank Clifford as my guest this week. Thanks, Frank! To see some more interesting comments, drop by my Astrology Q and A Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Astrology-Questions-and-Answers-381046495339417/

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  15. Pingback: Do you find astrology – or does it find you? | Astrology: Questions and Answers

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