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Long Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Master’s Musings, January 2022

As you read these words, I’ll be completing my seventy-third journey around the Sun. That’s over forty-two trillion miles – and that doesn’t count the fact that our solar system is moving around the galaxy at 448,000 mph. I’ll spare you the math on how much distance that covers in seventy-three years, but it spells serious progress. What do I have to show for it? Well, for one thing, I’ve become a better astrologer. And it took time.
Steven Forrest
Steven starting out on the road of life
In his book, Outliers, the brilliant Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes “10,000 hours” of practice to get good at – well, anything. The number is impressionistic, of course. Obviously angels aren’t standing there with stopwatches. But it seems about right. It’s hard to know exactly how long I’ve been doing this work, but with astrology I started early. I probably hit that magic ten thousand hours a little before I was thirty years old, just before I got the deal to write The Inner Sky.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” ― Malcolm Gladwell


I know that many of you are probably feeling overwhelmed at the project you have taken on, learning astrology here in the FCEA. It’s not easy! And if you feel daunted or discouraged, please don’t read that as ineptitude. You probably just haven’t done your ten thousand hours yet. Stick with it, in other words. How long would it take you to become a medical doctor? Or a fine violinist?
I actually kind of envy you. I learned astrology the hard way, completely on my own. With the FCEA curriculum and community supporting you, I think you can follow a bee-line to mastery. My route was a lot more circuitous. I want to share a little bit of my own story here. Maybe it will encourage you. As an astrologer, I think I turned out pretty well. With persistence I’m sure you can turn out well too.
As a teen, I asked my mom what time I was born. She told me “6:15 in the morning.” Two or three years later I found my baby book and learned that I was actually born closer to 3:30 – but that I weighed six pounds fifteen ounces. Mom’s error was actually helpful. I didn’t know the math of chart calculation back then, but I had set up a crude chart for 6:15, putting the winter Sun just below the horizon. It gave me a massive first house and Sagittarius rising. That was totally wrong, but it was exactly what a shy little second house Capricorn needed to hear. I had to live up to that chart somehow. And I think that was probably when the first seeds of “evolutionary astrology” took root in me. I began to look at a chart as something to which you aspired rather than something in which you were “trapped ‘til death do us part.”
Joseph P. Goodavage’s Write Your Own Horoscope fell into my lap as I was recovering from a late-in-life tonsillectomy at age seventeen. He was pretty old-school, but he gave me over a hundred little paragraphs describing each of the planets in each of the signs. That book got me going as to how astrology really worked at a technical level. I am grateful for Goodavage’s work, but the people he described seemed more rigidly defined by their traits than my friends actually were. So I did something that turned out to be really smart – to check out his work, I started keeping a spiral-bound notebook about the sign positions of the planets of everyone I knew. When, for example, I wanted to understand Mercury in Aries better, I just looked up everyone I knew with Mercury in that sign – and, voila, I saw not only the common denominators among them, but also a spectrum of possibilities. Some people seemed to be doing better with that Mercury position than others. Some improved over time. Again: the idea of evolution was pressing at me.
Around that time, I started reading more metaphysical astrology too, mostly the British Theosophists, like Charles E.O. Carter and Ronald C. Davison. I liked their references to spiritual evolution and how someone’s life-purpose might be revealed in a chart. But, in all honesty, their work was still pretty “descriptive” – all the Virgos were meticulous and responsible, and so on. But somehow the idea of personal evolution on a day-to-day basis began to percolate up into a broader scope of change over time. Tellingly, I had been reading about “the sleeping prophet” Edgar Cayce since I was maybe thirteen years old. He was not an astrologer, but he was all about reincarnation. Two plus two came together in my head. What if our evolution happened over many lifetimes? What if our charts gave us some clues about all that?
Steven Forrest
Steve in the 1970s with his practice starting and theories behind The Inner Sky hatching.
Sometime during my college years, I got my first ephemeris and a copy of Dalton’s Table of Houses, and I began to learn how to set up accurate charts. Inevitably, I found myself beginning to do readings for my friends – you can’t do this work for long without people asking you what their chart says. I still didn’t foresee a career as an astrologer. That never crossed my mind. I didn’t even realize that astrology could be a profession. For me, it was still really just a hobby. But after a couple of years in college, I switched my major from Economics to Religion. When friends asked me if I planned to become a minister, all I could think of to say was “I don’t think so.”
After I graduated, I worked for a while on a sociological survey for the National Institute of Mental Health, then I got a soul-numbing job working in an administrative capacity for a university. It was a blessing that I hated that job so much – if I’d found a more copacetic work situation, I might have remained in it. Meanwhile, strangers – friends of friends mostly – had begun phoning me and asking me if I would take a look at their charts. Somewhere in there I charged someone for a session for the first time. I think my fee was $10.
By the time I was twenty-seven, I had my full-time university job, plus a thriving astrological practice in the evenings and on weekends. I was starting to behave, in other words, like a Capricorn with Saturn on his Midheaven. It was the time of my progressed lunar return too, and my Aries Moon called. I needed an adventure to help me sort out my midlife direction. So I quit my dead-end job and bought an aging 22’ sailboat called Puffin for $4000 and I sailed away. My sweetheart and I spent a summer cruising from New York harbor, down the fabled New Jersey coast, through the Chesapeake Bay, and all the way down to the Virginia line. By the end of that life-changing journey, I was resolved to take a shot at really “being an astrologer.” We returned to North Carolina, and in November 1977, just before my twenty-ninth birthday and my first Saturn return, I cut the umbilical cord to the American Dream and hung out my astrological shingle. Inside of a year, I was booked ahead for several months. I never looked back.
Three or four years later, in 1981, my phone rang and it was a literary agent in New York asking me if I might like to write an astrology book on spec. I’ve told that story elsewhere, so I won’t repeat it here. Three more years passed and The Inner Sky came out. I entered the national and, eventually, the international stage as an astrologer.
Steven Forrest
Steve in the early ’90s as things began to take off . . .
The main drum I want to beat here is that long before I “became famous,” I had a thriving local practice. I could have remained in that relatively anonymous context and been a counseling astrologer for the rest of my days, living a meaningful and reasonably comfy life more or less at the level of any other successful mental health professional. That’s not what happened, but it would have been fine.
I am guessing that I reached my fabled “ten thousand hours” sometime around this pivotal period of my life. My language was smoothing out, and I mean that very specifically. I had developed a huge storehouse of stories and metaphors, most of which I had by then used countless times. I could sort of mentally “punch Play” on those lines while my mind was planning where to go next. It took me a while to realize how helpful these “oral formulas” were to me. I know that even today when I am fielding random astrological questions, I probably seem to be sort of supernaturally articulate. I also understand how many of you comparing yourselves to me might feel daunted. If you read the last few sentences again, you’ll know my trick – it’s really just another facet of that fabled “ten thousand hours.” And if you ever just hang out with me, you’ll see that in normal conversation I am just as tongue-tied, ungrammatical, and dependent upon expletives as anyone else.
Probably in about 1985 or 1986, about the time that my second book, The Changing Sky, was coming out, I was invited to speak at my first astrology conference. It was an National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR) event in New York City. I got off the plane and climbed onto the stage with a few of my astrological heroes, notably Robert Hand. Amazingly, this was the first time in my life that I had ever met another serious, professional astrologer. Rob was kind and welcoming, and I will always love and honor him for that. To this day, I wonder about the effects of my early isolation from the larger community of astrologers. In some ways, I wasted time “re-inventing the wheel.” In other ways, it compelled me to think freshly and not to be swept along by the tides of group-think and the search for approval.
Along the way to that conference, I went down an awful lot of astrological rabbit holes. I read voraciously across the wide scope of the field. I had no map and no plan. For every technique I use today, back then I probably learned ten. Some seemed to be empty of any practical meaning. Some were effective, but just not as compelling as others. I realized how vast a field astrology actually was. I also realized how helpful it is to keep it as simple as possible and to master a defined arsenal of techniques – ones that actually speak to people. I came to realize how supportive it is in pursuing that particular holy grail to have a private astrological practice. There is no positive reinforcement more effective than a tearfully appreciative client – and no negative reinforcement more telling than glassy eyes and suppressed yawns. Half of what I know about astrology comes from simply sitting with my clients.
Earlier I said that I envy all of you who are enrolled in the FCEA. I know it’s a long slog, but I hope it’s mostly a joyful one. We are aiming for a four-year program, much like any university –  the field of astrology deserves to be taken that seriously. Being a soul-doctor is not something you pick up in a weekend workshop or on a Youtube video.
The idea of “leaving the world a better place than the one we found” is a cliché of course, but it’s still a noble one. I think of the FCEA proudly that way and I anticipate that it will live on after I’m gone from this body.  If this school had existed when I was starting out, I might have circumvented some of those ten thousand hours, or at least spent them more wisely. I might have cut the number to eight thousand.
I’m smiling as I write those last words, but they are honest. You are all embarked upon a Great Work. May the great god Saturn smile upon your faith and your persistence.


Steven Forrest
January 2022