The following interview was for the Nodoor Academy in Beijing, China, where I started teaching in 2013. It’s a good introduction to my thinking about astrology.
The Chinese Interview
Hong: Students at Nodoor requested a Glenn Perry interview. So, what makes you become an astrologer? How does your story begin?
Glenn: I was 16 when I discovered astrology. In the beginning, I was simply reading books and comparing Sun sign descriptions with people I knew well – family and friends and, of course, myself. Like any teenager, I was still figuring out who I was. The validity of astrology was immediately self-evident and allowed me to understand myself with a clarity I never had before. Likewise for everyone else I knew, the personality descriptions were uncannily accurate. Later, when I was 21 and had graduated from college, I began studying it more seriously and learned how to draw up charts by hand. There were no personal computers then. The more I studied astrology, the more its value became obvious. The nature of the subject was so extraordinary it was like falling in love.
Hong: Who has influenced you profoundly in your astrology learning and study? Whose philosophy has influenced you most aside from astrology?
Glenn: My main teacher was a man named Richard Idemon, who taught in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970’s and 80s. We became close friends, and I continued to apprentice with him for twelve years until his death in 1987. Other than Richard, my background is fairly extensive with multiple influences. I’ve been a licensed psychotherapist for more than thirty years, so of course that’s a major influence, but I’ve also studied the perennial philosophy, eastern psychologies like Taoism and Buddhism, consciousness studies, and sciences such as General Systems Theory, evolutionary biology, and new physics.
Hong: How much does psychological astrology help you find answers for deep personal issues and directions in life? Are there stories you can share with us about this?
Glenn: Psychological astrology is something that stays with you for life, like a headlamp attached to your forehead that allows you to see further into the darkness ahead. Perhaps a better metaphor is that it’s like a torch that more fully illumines the significance of the present. When I was 37 and transiting Saturn conjuncted my natal Moon in Sagittarius in the 8th house, my teacher, Richard Idemon, died. But the symbolism was apt. For with Richard’s passing, there was also a passing of the torch, a sense that I inherited his legacy and had to carry it forward.
The Moon symbolizes family; Richard was like an older brother to me. And whereas Sagittarius represents teaching of theory, the 8th house signifies death and transformation. With Richard’s death, I was transformed from student to teacher, and began writing about astrology as a tool for transformation. Saturn only conjuncts my Moon every 29 years, so this was a powerful time of transition and astrology helped me to understand its meaning. It marked a time when I began to own my own authority, as is befitting with a major Saturn transit.
Hong: In an article you write, “My personal belief is that our individual consciousness derives from and is embedded within the greater consciousness of the Universe. Further, this greater consciousness is always assisting us in the unfoldment of our innate capacities, growing us, as it were, so that we can become more fully conscious of our true identity……The overriding question, however, is how can the individual best harmonize with the intent of the Universe?” Can we really correctly guess the purpose of Universe when different astrologers may have different guess for us? How do we know we are on a right path or have found an astrologer who can better help us in tune with the purpose of universe for us? In some spiritual teaching, there are methods training students in this area, what’s your method?
Glenn: The best way to use astrology is not to rely upon any teacher for discerning the meaning of your birthchart, but to discover it yourself through serious and sustained study. Understanding of your chart is something that deepens over time. I believe you know you are on the right path when there is a confluence of meaning between inner experience, outer events, and the symbolism of the chart. There is no single right path, for you lay down a path in walking. Paths, like souls, evolve and branch in new directions that reflect our growth.
Events provide feedback that helps us learn from the consequences of our choices. Astrology simply provides a language that helps to clarify the meaning of feedback (events). Again, there is generally no single event that points the way, but rather a series of events that concur with the birthchart and with one’s own emotional truth. At its best, astrology validates and helps to make conscious what is already known in one’s heart.
Hong: You emphasize the harmonizing of personal consciousness with the greater consciousness of the Universe. How can you achieve that with the practice of psychological astrology? Your potential students may be curious how you practice your belief in mundane life. Do you use astrology to plan your routine life and make mundane decisions? How often do you use it?
Glenn: I never use astrology to guide my life, but rather to understand it. The goal is not to become dependent upon an external source of guidance, but to use astrology to deepen trust in one’s own internal guidance – the God within, if you will. Many people exploit astrology for the sake of controlling future events. They use it to predict what’s going to happen and what to do (or not do) in order to achieve preferred outcomes. For the most part, astrology is not very good at this sort of thing. In my opinion, astrology’s best and highest use is to illumine the purpose and meaning of events as they actually unfold day to day, moment to moment. I try to stay in the now as much as possible.
If nothing else, study of astrology should deepen one’s faith in a larger intelligence. That it works is the best evidence of this intelligence. Everyday experiences are consistently in accord with the symbolism of transits to natal planets. For me, this reinforces my conviction that there is no point in trying to outsmart the Universe, for Its Intelligence and Purposiveness exceeds us in every way imaginable. Transits confirm over and over that the Universe is intelligently orchestrated right down to the details of everyday experiences. So, in trusting the cosmos, I seek not to use astrology to gain personal advantage, but to glean insight into the meaning of my experience so that I can more efficiently evolve, grow, and learn from it. In this way, I gradually come to identify with that larger intelligence that seems always to be guiding me back to Itself.
Hong: Now that you have experienced many planet cycles, do you still experience unpleasant emotions generated by challenging planet cycle? Is your method to handle them now different from that of your younger years? Based on your experience with clients, to what extent can we heal the issues present in our natal chart?
Glenn: I still experience some unpleasant emotions in response to difficult transits, but such feelings are minimal and I recover more quickly than when I was younger. To the extent that I trust that all experience has purpose and meaning, I’m better able to flow with whatever life brings. There is less resistance to challenging events; there’s no sense of being a victim of ‘bad luck’ or mistreatment. Astrology helps me to see that difficult periods happen for a reason, have a specific duration, and are necessary for growth of character and realization of potential. And because astrology is actually the study of change (the planets are constantly moving), it teaches one to have less attachment and more resilience. No matter what happens, good or bad, my attitude is increasingly “this too shall pass.”
Used in this way, astrology facilitates a state of flow. Experience has taught me that the Universe is constantly orchestrating events to help us learn, heal wounds, and actualize our gifts. Astrology helps one to see exactly how this is occurring, and to trust the process. Seeing how astrology operates in the lives of my clients, even without their conscious awareness, has also strengthened my belief that the very nature of life is to grow, evolve, and realize the higher potential of our charts. It’s hard to say ‘to what extent’ one can heal issues symbolized by the natal chart, for that depends on factors that are trans-astrological, e.g., the degree of difficulty involved and the level of motivation within the person. However, it’s the journey not the destination that counts, so what’s important is that we simply move forward, one step at a time without becoming overly attached to outcomes.
Psychology, Astropsychology and You
Hong: We know that you are a licensed psychotherapist. In China, counseling psychology is quite popular now. Can you tell us more about your background in psychotherapy? Is it demanding to obtain a license?
Glenn: In California where I obtained my license, it requires at least three years of postgraduate study in an accredited program, a multi-year internship, 5000 hours of supervision by a licensed psychotherapist, and passing an oral and written exam administered by the state. Generally, this takes a minimum of five years. I’ve been in private practice since 1979. For every client, I do their birthchart and use it as a diagnostic and prognostic tool. This does not necessarily mean that I talk about the birthchart in the context of psychotherapy, but it accelerates and deepens my understanding of the issues that brought the client to therapy. Having the client’s birthchart is like having an X-ray of their soul. Not only does it enable me to see their internal psychological structure, it helps me to understand the meaning and duration of specific cycles and the import of external events.
One of the advantages of using astrology in psychotherapy is being able to observe clients over relatively long periods of time, anywhere from several months to several years. In so doing, I learned that the chart actually symbolizes more of an unfolding process than a set of predetermined outcomes. Since the whole purpose of psychotherapy is to support a process of change, I was able to see how clients express their charts at higher levels as they heal, mature, and evolve. Granted, sometimes this process is painfully slow, like watching grass grow; other times, it seems to happen miraculously and instantaneously. Very often an intense period of change will be reflected by a particularly challenging transit. Without my having to even say anything, the transit simply does its work; the client is challenged, and growth results. The real therapist is the cosmos itself. At best, I’m merely a witness and facilitator of a process that seems to be built into the very nature of the Universe.
Hong: Which school of thought in psychology has influenced you the most? Which therapeutic skills do you frequently use in practice?
Glenn: I am fairly eclectic in my use of psychological concepts and theories. Over the years, I’ve studied humanistic psychology, family systems theory, psychodynamic theory, archetypal psychology, object relations theory, control mastery theory, and cognitive behavioral and narrative therapy. All of these have been integrated into my model of AstroPsychology to one degree or another. As for therapeutic skills, I am particularly interested in ideas from psychodynamic theory that show how human beings tend to behave in ways that recreate problematic scenarios from childhood in an attempt to gain mastery over them. The technical terms for this are ‘projective identification’ and ‘repetition compulsion’, both of which explain how we get other people to feel, think, and act in a manner that recapitulates relationship dynamics with earlier figures (usually parents), all for the sake of resolving unfinished business, healing childhood wounds, and actualizing latent potentials.
Hong: Can the concepts of psychology smoothly translate into concepts in astrology?
Glenn: Yes, absolutely. In fact, the two models—psychology and astrology—are mutually enriching. Astrology helps to reveal how the inner and outer worlds are inextricably related, which is something that is not well understood in psychology. Jung’s concept of synchronicity is useful here, but astrology shows the full extent to which psychodynamic processes are mirrored by the specific nature of external events and relationships—what has traditionally been called ‘fate’. On the other hand, psychology provides a wealth of ideas that clarify and deepen our understanding of how astrological symbolism relates to the complex, inner workings of the psyche. AstroPsychology shows how psyche and fate are circularly related such that inner and outer coincide, reflect, and transform each other.
Hong: Please introduce your school, The Academy of Astropsychology. How did it occur to you to establish a school? Do members often interact with each other?
Glenn: The idea for the Academy began in 2002 in response to the traditional revival that had been underway since the mid 90’s. I had been invited to create a track in psychological astrology for Kepler College (an astrology school in Seattle), but Kepler students had already become so indoctrinated in traditional astrology—Hellenistic, Medieval, and Vedic—that there was insufficient interest in psychological astrology to support the program. The resurgence of traditional astrology entailed a general revolt against the sloppiness, vagueness, and lack of precision that had come to be associated with 20th century humanistic astrology. Many of these criticisms were entirely warranted, although not so much with regard to my approach. Over several decades, I had developed a model that was quite rigorous, systematic, and precise; yet, which also recognized the inescapable ambiguity and indeterminacy of chart outcomes.
Since I believed there was value to this type of astrology, I founded an academic program—the Academy of AstroPsychology—that offered an alternative to the rigid, rule-bound traditional method and the fuzzy, feel-good psychological approach. The Academy provides a self-consistent, integrated model for students. Reading assignments are supplemented by over 100 audio files taken from my lectures, seminars, and classes. All the materials are seamlessly coordinated so that students are not learning a contradictory, confusing mish-mash of techniques and theories from different teachers. AAP goes beyond the predictive, event-oriented astrology that typifies most programs. Moving from inner to outer, AstroPsychology reveals the circular feedback relations between subjective and objective reality. I think this approach is empowering to practitioner and client alike.
Our program is also comprehensive and cross-disciplinary. Not only does it cover the tradition and history of astrology; it integrates relevant concepts from contemporary psychology and the new sciences. The resulting synthesis is maximally relevant to 21st century human beings. With regard to whether Academy students interact with each other, the answer is a qualified ‘yes’. During online classes, students participate by making comments and asking questions. There is also the option of participating through ‘Discussion Boards’ that enable students to discuss specific ideas related to AstroPsychology. Finally, they can also break into study groups for work on various projects. These latter two options—Discussion Boards and Study Groups—are features that I intend to develop more fully as the school evolves.
Hong: How can a client benefit more by not giving them an event-oriented prediction? Can you give an example about it? (This question is for people to better understand the value of Astropsychology). For a neurotic client, can we make them satisfied without giving precise event-oriented prediction?
Glenn: I like to say that with traditional, event-oriented astrology the most you can be is right. However, even assuming that one’s predictions are correct, this is not the same thing as actually helping someone. Predictions tend to reinforce the client’s dependency upon the astrologer and, in so doing, diminish confidence in their own capacity for decision making. The alternative is to describe the quality and meaning of a particular duration of time while encouraging the client to face the uncertainty of the moment with the intent to do what is morally and spiritually correct, not merely what is advantageous to the ego. Of course, determining what is correct is a collaborative effort between astrologer and client. As I see it, my purpose is not to ‘satisfy’ the client’s need for certainty when confronting an uncertain future, but to help them face uncertainty with greater understanding, trust, and willingness to learn from opportunities inherent in the time. One can do this in a single session or over a longer period.
I once had an astrology client whose 8th house Sun squared her 11th house Saturn, and she was very anxious about career. Although she was both smart and beautiful, she had deep fears of inadequacy, and irrational feelings of inferiority. She compensated via illegal activities as a prostitute that earned her a great deal of money; yet, she lived in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud, for people assumed her lavish lifestyle was testament to her success in a legitimate career. When she came for a reading, she wanted me to tell her if she would be successful in a new career that she was considering—psychology! She was in a graduate program at the time and doing quite well, but had a tendency to sabotage herself academically. So, rather than use the chart to discern whether she would ultimately succeed at this new profession (it would have been guesswork anyway), we spent time exploring the source of her fears, why she chose a vocation (prostitution) that generated feelings of inferiority and shame, and the underlying cause of her self-sabotage at school.
The aforementioned aspect (8th house Sun square Saturn) enabled me to quickly understand the underlying problem, and to offer her insight that was of greater value than merely predicting her future. In fact, her future was up to her; she merely needed support and encouragement to achieve what was always within her. Today, she has a highly successful practice as a psychotherapist in San Francisco.
Hong: You say, “In my opinion, authentic helping entails putting clients back in touch with their own source of knowing.” How can you achieve this in limited number of sessions since the amount of time expended in the process is far less than psychotherapy?
Glenn: I do the best I can with the time I have, whether that’s one session or one hundred. In my experience, even a single session can powerfully confirm a client’s inner source of knowing. This often occurs by pointing out that the choices they’re making are already in accord with what the chart indicates. I think clients need less advice as to what they should do, and more support for moving in directions that feel right to them. It’s virtually impossible for a client to behave in ways that are not consistent with their birthchart. The only real question is at what level they’re living their chart.
Encouragement for moving up the ladder to yet more integrated versions not only validates where the client is at, but inspires them to actualize higher potentials over time. In other words, my interpretations need to include descriptions of how a configuration can manifest in more fulfilling ways as the client continues to grow in that area. This gives them a sense of direction and possibility. While a single session may only allow the astrologer to plant a seed, we need to remember that the acorn can mature into a mighty oak.
Hong: Most people go to therapists for healing but go to astrologer for an answer. This is a phenomenon existing in China. But you say in your article you don’t help clients take advantage from astrology for their personal interest and you don’t tell your client who they should love, marry, have children, divorce, go to vacation, start a business, or sell a business, which are common questions people asking in a session. Young astrologers like us not only can’t help in jumping into answer machine role from time to time but also often are pushed by clients. How do you respond in such situation in practice? Say, for questions ‘what kind of vocation best suits me?’
Glenn: Clients will always behave and make choices that are consistent with potentials indicated by their chart. It’s impossible for them to do otherwise. This means that if they’re already in a profession, then it naturally suits them; though, it may merely be a steppingstone to something better but equally consistent with their chart. Or, if they don’t yet have a career, they probably have certain aspirations or dreams they would like to pursue. These, too, will reflect what the chart indicates, so you merely need to ask, “What would you like to do? Is there something that you dream about but have been afraid to try?” Or perhaps they have a career but would like to shift their focus to a different profession that is archetypally similar to the one that they have, but would more closely approximate their higher potential (like changing from prostitute to psychologist, both 8th house professions).
So, my job as an astrologer is to confirm and support what the client already knows but does not trust that they know. Sometimes this means helping them resolve an internal conflict that is holding them back, or to disconfirm a pathogenic belief that undermines their confidence. If the client pushes for a specific answer to a question, I will invite them to explore their thoughts and feelings with regard to that question. For example, when they want to know if they should start a business, I might ask, “What would stop you from starting the business? What is your concern?” Usually, this will be a fear of failure that is rooted in a deeper life issue reflected in the symbolism of the chart. The horoscope is not going to indicate whether they should or should not start the business, although it may suggest they are struggling with the issue.
The bottom line is that astrology cannot reliably answer questions about what’s going to happen, or how one can avoid unpleasant events, or how to exploit opportunities for preferred outcomes. However, astrology can provide clients with something of far greater value. A good consultation will clarify and help to resolve fears that prevent clients from actualizing the potential of their chart. I tell my clients that astrology has a very poor record as a predictive system, even though astrologers like to pretend it is more reliable than it actually is. At best I would be making an educated guess as to what is going to happen or what they should do with regard to a particular concern. And even if I’m correct, it is rather useless information. My real value is in encouraging them to trust their own instincts and the Universe, which in the end is really the same thing. I use astrology to guide the client in discovering why they are behaving in self-limiting ways, and what they may ultimately become.
Hong: Do you think that we can construct a brand new personality psychology based on the astrological system? Have the psychological astrology in the West done this job very well?
Glenn: With regard to your first question, I definitely believe we can construct a new personality theory based on astrology. Again, that’s been the thrust of my work the past several decades. As for your second question, I would say ‘no’ I don’t think psychological astrology has done this very well in a general sense. Most efforts have been somewhat sloppy, with lots of half-baked ideas and superficial correlations without any coherent system, depth, or precision. Despite this, some good work has been done, but I would say it has been preparatory for a more full blown, highly organized personality model based on a more complete synthesis of astrology and psychology.
Hong: For those who want to learn and practice psychological astrology in China, what kind of psychological knowledge should they learn? Which particular psychological theories and schools should they learn? Are there any basic psychology books to refer to?
Glenn: Different theories all have something to offer. Psychodynamic, Jungian, humanistic, cognitive behavioral, object relations, control mastery theory, narrative therapy, family systems theory, and developmental psychology are all models that I’ve drawn from in my own synthesis. I tell my students they will learn astrology and psychology in an integrated way, simultaneously. That’s the nature of the model I teach. There’s no requirement to do any preliminary studies in psychology; however, I do recommend specific books for additional reading in all my courses.
Again, other astrologers have come up with their own blends. Almost all tend to focus on Jungian or humanistic ideas in relation to astrology, but not in a systematic or inclusive way. That’s not to say there aren’t good astrologers with psychological training who have written books, but no one has organized their material into a comprehensive, coherent personality theory. This is what I have tried to do. It remains to be seen how well my theory will be received. I can only say it’s been a passion of mine for the last thirty years.
Hong: This is a funny question. Do predictive astrologers live a better life than psychological astrologers in western countries? If we do a different astrology in the way you provoke, can we really make a living as an astrologer when the public image of astrology is still more prediction-oriented in China? I say this for you to provide good suggestion for students in China.
Glenn: Well, I have a funny answer: I don’t know! It may be that some predictive astrologers are very busy, but I think of them more as psychiatrists who dispense medication too freely. They give clients a quick fix that makes the client feel better for a while, but soon the client is back for more. You can never get enough of what you don’t really need. This type of astrology keeps the client dependent and childlike, and actually reinforces their neurosis.
Most of what we call neurosis is rooted in anxiety about the future, fears of impending doom and the like. To a great extent, predictions are predicated on the assumption that there is, in fact, something to worry about, but that we can head trouble off at the pass. “Forewarned is forearmed,” as predictive astrologers like to say. I disagree with this approach. The more one caters to a client’s fears by giving warnings and telling them what to do (or not do) at specific times, the more the astrologer unwittingly undermines the client’s confidence in their own decision making ability. No amount of money could make me do such a thing. I realize that may sound harsh, but it’s how I see it.
However, there is a happy medium, a compromise that allows the practitioner to both offer predictions and support the client’s development. One can do this by predicting qualities of durations of time that afford opportunities for growth while also acknowledging that a given transit can manifest in a multiplicity of possible outcomes. The concrete outcome is less important than its meaning, since any outcome provides feedback that facilitates learning. The event, in other words, serves as a catalyst and vehicle for an evolutionary process. In this way, one can predict without being overly concrete or dispensing advice on what to do or not do at specific times.
Again, the key is to support the client in making choices that are in accord with their own interests and potentials. If the astrologer’s attitude is one of trust in the future, an unshakable conviction that whatever happens serves an evolutionary purpose that can be worked with in a participatory, conscious way, this faith will naturally uplift the client. If one does this well, clients will multiply and the astrologer can profit financially without compromising his or her integrity.
Practitioners can also use astrology in conjunction with a job they already have—for example, as a teacher, or career counselor, or therapist. Or, they can do astrology in parallel with a job that provides a more steady income; thus, astrology becomes a second vocation and supplementary source of income. In these ways, the person is not dependent on astrology for their entire income, and so need not feel pressured to give quick fixes to needy clients who want astrologers to take responsibility for their lives!
Hong: According to your own experience, how long will take a beginner to become a professional astrologer?
Glenn: While astrology is a lifelong study, at the Academy a new student can become a professional astrologer in two years.
Hong: What’s the most effective way to learn astrology in your experience? Could you provide some advice on learning astrology for students in China?
Glenn: The biggest mistake aspiring astrologers make is thinking they can learn astrology from a hodgepodge of books and audio recordings. To master the art of astrology requires learning a single, integrated system in a methodical, step-by step manner. It should ideally include structured assignments, practice exercises, quizzes, and live interactive classes with a trusted instructor. This is what we offer at the Academy of AstroPsychology.
Your personal life
Hong: What’s it like being an astrologer living in Connecticut? We know you used to practice in California and most Chinese know California but not familiar with Connecticut. Why do you move from California to Connecticut?
Glenn: I was so busy in California with my private psychotherapy practice that I had very little time to write books or develop my school. In 2006, I realized I would never do those things unless I drastically changed my life. Suddenly an opportunity arose to move to Connecticut and live in a beautiful country-home right on the Connecticut River. Not only was the home given to me, but it was the perfect place to write and build my school. So here I am, blessed with good fortune and doing what I wished for. God works in mysterious ways.
Hong: David [Railey] says he thinks you like boxing. And we have a photo of you riding on motorcycle. It looks great. We’d like to know about all these things.
Glenn: Yes, it’s true I love my Harley Davidson motorcycle. When I moved to Connecticut, I actually drove across the country on it—3000 miles—and had an opportunity to visit places I had never been, like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. That was quite an adventure. Regarding boxing, my grandfather was a professional boxer (state middleweight champion), and my father liked to box, too, but he was a state champion in swimming. And I set state and national records in the javelin when I was in high school, so there’s three generations of athletes on the male side of my family.
On the day I was born, my father was watching a boxing match when my mother asked him to take her to the hospital because her water broke. But he wanted to wait until the boxing match was over. Understandably, my mother was angry! In my horoscope, Mars (fighting/ anger) is exactly opposed my Moon (mother, womb), which certainly describes the quality of the birth moment. So, I guess boxing is in my genes and in my chart! I certainly had my share of fights when I was younger. I’ve often wondered if that has something to do with my willingness to fight for astrology. When I believe something deeply, I can be quite fierce. Sometimes this gets me in trouble with other astrologers. But as my father always said, “Have the courage of your convictions.” And so I do.