In the midst of another wave of resurging debates within the field of astrology, there are two voices and perspectives that I want to amplify:
In a recent conversation with Chris Brennan on The Astrology Podcast, Demetra George offered perspectives on how we might do our best work within this tradition:
“… what I care about is that you do good astrology and let the success of your work stand on its own merit rather than on destroying the work of others.”
“My main concern is that we as astrologers can best serve the astrological community—and the entire discipline, the tradition of astrology—if we do the very best we can with the approach that we have been called to. And we present those teachings with clarity and good, solid foundations and cohesiveness and integration, and we give good astrology to the community rather than using our creative energy to attack and destroy each other.”
I feel deep resonance with Demetra’s words, not only because her teachings have been foundational in my approach to astrology, but also because she articulates a way of being with each other that exemplifies my values within any kind of community of practice. Doing good astrology, doing the very best we can with the approaches to which we are called, is how we not only serve the astrological tradition but also how we direct our astrology toward supporting people in living meaningful lives.
Demetra’s words reminded me of something I read nearly 20 years ago. Elizabeth Grosz wrote in her introduction to Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power (2005):
“Rather than undertake the expected path of political and philosophical analysis, in which a thinker’s position is subjected to rigorous criticism and its errors, contractions, and points of weakness singled out or overcome, I am more concerned with seeking out positivities, crucial concepts, insights on what is of value in the texts and positions being investigated. There is not a single position or text addressed here that does not raise valuable, relevant, and perhaps even irreplaceable insights; the task is to find what relevance it might have for contexts that are yet to be developed, whose horizon is not yet elaborated. The critique of texts never actually transforms texts or even necessarily produces better, more elaborated and developed texts; nor does it commonly change the opinions of adherents to the positions and claims elaborated in these texts. Critique tends to generate defensive self-representations or gestures of counter-critique, which give the complacent reader a vague sense that one need not bother with a position once it has been adequately criticized. It tends to function as a form of dismissal of texts, rather than as an analysis of the embeddedness of critique in that which it criticizes. I have instead tried to seize and develop what is of use in a text or a position, even in acknowledging its potentially problematic claims or assumptions. No text or position is without problems, contradictions, weaknesses, points of uneasiness. I have tried to develop an affirmative method, a mode of assenting to rather than dissenting from those ‘primary’ texts … one can write most generously and with the most inspiration working on those texts one loves the most intensely, which have had the most direct impact on one. The rest, those one deems too problematic, can be left aside.”
This affirmative method of writing generously with those texts—or performances or figures or traditions—that one loves, seeking positivities, crucial concepts, and insights of value, has been my approach to how I engage with the work of others throughout my academic, artistic, and astrological careers. For me, it is a matter of directing my creative energy toward the amplification of those voices and perspectives and approaches that contribute to the emergence of more of the world in which I want to live, rather than investing my energy in the destruction or dismantling of other people’s work.
This does not mean that I do not engage in various forms of political resistance when life and livability are on the line, but even in those currents in which I stake a position of resistance, I am more likely to do so by contributing to the generation of more possibilities rather than directing my energy toward those forces that I oppose. If access to abortion is under threat, let’s raise money and create more alternative forms of access to abortion. If trans or Black lives are threatened by legislative bodies, let’s create more contexts in which trans and Black lives are affirmed and supported. If ecosystems are violated by human consumption and greed, let’s contribute to regeneration efforts at the same time that we protest and protect the land and water under threat. And so on.
But when life and livability are not directly at stake—in witnessing a performance or reading a book or engaging with different techniques within the astrological tradition, for example—I choose to devote my energy to those contributions that move and inspire me. I talk and write about the performances that embody something of the world in which I want to live rather than giving any energy to criticizing performance work that I do not appreciate. I quote and cite and reference the books that inspire my thinking and living rather than wasting any of my writing or speaking on books that frustrate or disappoint me. I utilize the astrological techniques and amplify the work of astrologers that I think support us in more meaningful living, and as Grosz writes, I simply leave aside those with which I don’t find that same significance.
Sharing these perspectives is not to insist that everyone live their lives or approach their work in these ways, but it is to offer them as possibilities, and to hopefully invite some reflection on what it might be like to embody these values.
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Michael J. Morris is a witch, an astrologer, a tarot reader, an artist, a writer, and a teacher.