Adventures in Consulting: The Rule of Three

I’m going to confess something here that I have never heard a professional astrologer confess before.  And I’m going to do it right at the top of our journey through this blog together.  I have intermittent crises of faith.  Not in astrology itself.  Oh, no.  Astrology tracks me down and shakes sense back into me whenever I have the audacity to turn away from her.  I have had too many ‘ah ha’ moments, where astrology has explained in a flash what would otherwise have been a spaghetti bowl of conjecture, false leads and misunderstanding.

No.  My crises with astrology have do with the practice of it.  It’s one thing to help a student on his or her own journey to self-awareness through astrology.  Helping someone learn to use astrology as a tool is very rewarding.  Why, then, is this so much different from giving a standard consultation, particularly a consultation for someone who is not at all versed in astrological symbolism?

It may be my double-Virgo trait of trying too hard to get it right.  It may be my inability to just stick with the simple explanation and leave things alone.    Our job is to make the pathway more clear.  Do we do this well enough?  I wonder.  We have all had clients we just couldn’t reach, in spite of our best efforts.  Those sessions can haunt us for years.  Why didn’t I get through?  What did I miss?  Our clients ask us for a way forward, and aside from assaulting them with information, there is precious little we can do.

Most of us got into this because we felt a sense of rightness in the numinous symbols.  There was a kind of truth there that we had not sensed before, a way of understanding that was a straight path to intimate knowledge, bypassing all of the mental confusion and emotional wreckage and refuse that we all gather along the way.  And we began consulting because we wanted to pass that sense of truth and rightness, that sense of clarity, on to others.  The crises come when, in spite of all our learning and experience, our best efforts miss the mark.  Astrology itself isn’t to blame.

I find, more and more, that folks are coming to me after having had a reading with someone else that seemed interesting, but irrelevant.  (For all I know, my own clients are running off to other astrologers, too.)  The biggest complaint is that astrologers are going to great lengths to explain things that seem peripheral to the clients’ lives.

More information is not necessarily better information, it’s just more.  In a difficult consultation, we may bounce from one aspect to another, searching for the key that will let the information in.  What we find important or interesting in a chart may not be important to the client at that time.  We may have to change tactics when we meet the client and realize that they are more/less aware of their own development than we originally thought.

The key to having meaningful consultations is to spend time on chart synthesis.  One of the earliest mistakes almost all students make is to give equal weight to all objects. The information gathered from the chart quickly becomes overwhelming.  Students often look to obscure contacts to explain something that could easily have been explained with a better knowledge of the basics.  Lack of synthesis encourages us to twist meanings to suit our concepts.  While I don’t want to discourage exploration, I feel that we need to place more of a focus on practical results when we give consultations.  We need to focus on the information that is meaningful, and we need to provide some relief and find some way forward through the knowledge found in the chart itself.  Information that can be used as a tool is a powerful thing.  Information for its own sake is not.

I propose going back to an idea that Tracy Marks once put forward, that was once a general rule in astrological practice:  the rule of three.  If something can be explained by three different occurrences in a chart, then that issue is an important one to the client. For example, if I have Mercury in the eighth house, Moon in Scorpio, and Pluto in the fourth, I’m not going to be all that forthcoming about my inner life, and may need to be coaxed to express what really matters to me.  That natural secrecy may lead to other difficulties in life.

Likewise, if an outer planet influence can be seen in a number of ways, then that planet will be dominant.  If my Mars is in Pisces, my Sun is conjunct Jupiter in the 12th, and Neptune is squaring Venus, Neptune’s influence is widespread in the chart, and Neptune issues will be the ones I will need to grasp in order to make any sense of my life.  When Neptune becomes strong by progression or transit, it may be overwhelming, forcing the client to come to terms with long-term issues that may alter the life completely.

We need to be aware of our own traps as well.  If, as an astrologer, or by natal chart, I’m very ‘into’ Pluto, I may be honing in on an upcoming transit of Pluto to the Moon in a client’s chart.  However, if Pluto barely registers in the client’s chart, the transit may fizzle out with barely a hiccup.  Our emphasis on Pluto will leave the client bewildered.

Speaking of threes, it’s also a good idea to take a quick look at our old friend Mercury.  (Mercury, ruler of the third sign, is connected to the number 3, which is about transcending the oppositions represented by the 2.)   Communication styles can vary tremendously, and my quick and wordy air Mercury may overwhelm a water Mercury, who is sensing my words as well as hearing them.  My air Mercury might be off putting to the earth Mercury, who doesn’t say much but wants a practical solution to problems.  Take a look at Mercury via secondary progression, as well, to see if there is a change into or out of retrograde movement.  A simple thing like that will avoid a lot of confusion.

Another set of threes is Age, Experience, and Spiritual Orientation.  It’s impossible to know from a chart how much life experience a client has had and whether or not they’ve been able to put that experience within a meaningful context.  Age itself isn’t always the answer—you can have an older client who has led a very limited life, and a younger one who has put his or her limited experience through a philosophical wringer and extracted every bit of possible wisdom from it.  Sometimes clients come to an astrologer because an old mode of expression is outgrown–they are ready to move on into new territory, but are unsure how.  It would be a mistake to focus on areas the client is already familiar with; focusing on the untried and unfamiliar would prove more fertile ground.  For example, a client has lived with a Moon/Pluto conjunction all his life.  He may have grown comfortable with the intensity of the emotional energy and its effect on his relationships.  However, it’s possible that a Mercury/Uranus trine has gone unexplored (trines being what they are) and is currently being squared by an outer planet.  This client may be primed for brand new intellectual adventures and leaps of intuitive wisdom in the houses that Mercury and Uranus rule.  New astrologers often forget that it’s okay to ask questions.  It’s the only way you can learn what matters right now.

No consultation is guaranteed, but it’s up to us to keep a check on how we communicate what we know.   Important knowledge, intelligently presented, can aide a client for a lifetime.