Sunday, September 21, 2008

The harm in astrology, Part 2

I'm going to go ahead and spit this one out, not because it's easy for me to talk about, but because I just need to get it out there, both to get it off my chest and out of the way, and in the hope that it might help some hypothetical person who might be considering consulting an astrologer for their problems. We will return to our regularly scheduled perkitude soon!

My father, because of his many problems, was never an emotionally well man. But because he was convinced he had achieved initiation into higher realms of knowledge, he was arrogant in thinking he had all his problems under control. In fact, he decried all other counselors (besides himself!) as ignorant quacks with no understanding of whatever subtleties he saw in his own situations.

His own counsel was... the counsel of the Stars!!! Yes, astrology. Sigh.

Most of my father’s friends were women who were emotionally vulnerable, either because of a great transition like recent or imminent divorce, or because they just had a screwed-up life full of hardship.

My father was an emotional predator. He would do their astrological charts (for about 25 dollars) and give them counseling based on his chart interpretation. These women thought him immensely wise and sensitive. He always knew exactly the right thing to say to make them depend on him. This usually led to sleeping with them.

When my mom divorced him, he began corresponding with a woman in another state whose chart he had done. She had a demanding, emotionally distant mother who relied on her for everything, and she had just gotten out of a marriage to a much younger man from another country-- he befriended her, persuaded her to marry him so he could more easily get a green card, then after a few years he drained her bank account and divorced her. You can easily imagine her fragile state of mind and heart.

My father told her it sounded like she just needed to be held.

This, of course, achieved the result of making her fall head-over-heels in love with him. She asked him to marry her before they had even met face to face.

He’s very charming early on, apparently, but it wasn’t long until he started emotionally abusing her in just the same way he had done with my mother-- blaming her for everything, making impossible demands, constantly needling her self-esteem. Classic abusive behavior.

Six years later he moved out, but she insisted on staying married to him so he can keep using her health insurance.

So. He. Can. Keep. Using. Her. Health. Insurance.


If only this were an isolated incident! Alas, it is a pattern I've witnessed throughout my life. He advertises his services as an astrologer in a periodical with seemingly receptive readership. A woman, scared and emotionally vulnerable, requests a natal chart plus interpretation, which he supplies for a relatively small fee. She writes back, impressed with the accuracy of the chart interpretation, and asks his advice on a knotty personal problem. A correspondence begins. They meet face to face and begin a physical affair. Repeat until one of them grows tired of the arrangement. It is emotional abuse, pure and simple, to con people, not out of their money, but out of their love.

I remain convinced my father is 100 percent a believer in what he does-- because if he were of a mind to grift, he could have retired a millionaire.

My observed profile of a typical person seeking astrological guidance:

Divorced or with marriage on the rocks
Low self-esteem
From a background of abuse
Desperate for answers, desperate for approval

I hate astrology. I have seen it ruin lives.


mr_subjunctive said...


Just when I think I've gotten cynical enough, at last, something like this comes along and makes me realize I've still got so, so very far to go.

Perky Skeptic said...

Hi, Mr. Subjunctive! This was a difficult post to share. Thanks for reading. Hey, you even waded through Patrick's comments on the previous post, so you've established your cred here as HARD-CORE! :)

Also, I just looked at your blog and SQUEEEE, I love plants!!! I have added you to my blogroll so I will be able to pop over and share the planty enthusiasm.

intrinsicallyknotted said...

Wow, that's a tough story to deal with. I confess I have always considered astrology one of the less harmful types of woo, sort of a it's-pretty-silly-but-you're-free-to-believe-it kind of thing. Now I'll have to rethink the amount of harm it can do. I'll be keeping this post in mind the next time I encounter astrology.

Perky Skeptic said...

Thanks, Intrinsically Knotted! Yeah, it's amazing how any woo can start to resemble a cult once people start giving it so much power over their lives.

...omgdrool-- you have math on your blog!!! :)

Jochem said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It deserves to be added to 'What's the harm' [1]. However, they probably want details (i.e. names and places) you might feel uncomfortable to divulge.


Perky Skeptic said...

Thanks Jochem. :) I thought about submitting it to "Where's the harm" but you've nailed exactly the reason I didn't. My father is extremely elderly and I'd like to preserve our remaining relationship... and I want nothing to do with his wife, least of all a libel lawsuit.

intrinsicallyknotted said...

Perky Skeptic, anyone who drools at math is a friend of mine!

Stew said...

Nice blog, you're a nice person. it's going to take me a while to read thru this stuff, coz you're pretty prolific.

I'm guilt-wracked because I haven't blogged for over a month.

Keep perky

ps got here via Skeptiko

alexiabrown said...

I just happened to stumble on this (older) post of yours. How did I do that, you might ask? I have non-stop googling astrology information for days now because I just found out that Saturn in my 7th house means that I am DOOMED in the love/relationship department. (Hmm. How do to tell my loving boyfriend of 4 years that?) Thanks for knocking some sense into me. The past few days I've been reading astrology nonsense and it's done nothing but make me feel as if I have no options. I can go back to being normal now. Thanks for your story.