What is the best way to begin the study of astrology?
I'll be perfectly honest, real authentic natal astrology is extremely inaccessible-but that shouldn't discourage anyone from studying it, but I say that because many don't know the difference between esoteric and exoteric astrology. Exoteric astrology is what you'll find at Barnes and Noble, not to say there aren't some possible gems here and there in mainstream bookstores, but they are extremely hard to find. Your best bet is to go to new age bookstores, or to used book stores in large cities, you'll likely find lots of unique and possibly out of print books. The problem with astrology is that, besides from its apparent 'popularity', which is supposedly increasing, the real meat of the subject people aren't interested in-or they truly would have no idea of its value or even its existence. Because of this a lot of the really good stuff doesn't circulate for very long, because there isn't a big enough market for it, so they go out of print and we're left with a lot of cookbook astrology that might be somewhat illuminating, but is mostly just entertainment and useless in terms of practical application. With that said, I would suggest just starting with the basics, learn the alphabet, the symbols, and how they all interconnect through ruler-ship. Once you have a firm grasp of the basics, you can begin to expand that into deeper realms, but it's definitely an art and a science, and something you need to truly love and stick with....like anything it takes practice and discipline, and most of the time people give up out of discouragement. I can't tell you how I learned astrology, I've never been formally taught, and all the resources just sort of fell into my lap, it all just came together so perfectly for me. When people ask me how I learned I tell them I just remembered it, because it came so fast and so easy for me, and I'm convinced I have utilized it extensively in lives previous to this one. That doesn't mean that you need to have been a court astrologer or a priest at Dendera in a past life to "get it", but out of complete honesty, it isn't something that a lot of people will "get" right away, because it's an entirely different way of thinking. It really helps to actually delve into stuff like mythology, and the study of symbolism, because that's really how you approach astrology, from a creative and 'mythical' state of mind. It's actually not about studying the symbols and learning what they mean in an academic way, but rather, what they embody, how they feel within the body, what their essence is in a multivalent sense. You can't approach astrology from a left brained approach, which we are all, in this culture, conditioned to be dominated by. You can learn it this way, and that's actually how I started, but you will not be able to successfully apply it to real life or to a real human being unless you have the other perspective. It is true, however, that the study of astrology can actually assist in bridging both hemispheres. In terms of resources I always recommend a beginner's book, such as Steven Forrest's The Inner Sky, which is very well written and approachable, or even something as basic as "The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need", by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, which the title may be a bit incorrect in its claim, but it really is a good start. Also there's tons of resources on the internet that a simple google search could easily unveil.
Are there any downsides to astrology?
Absolutely! There's a dark side to everything, and astrology is certainly no exception to that rule. I feel that in my study, I've definitely fallen prey to the darker realms of astrological application, in that it was an obsession for me in my early stages of learning. In it's lower vibration, astrology presents a lot of temptations, enticing the ego to control reality and, to a darker aspect, to the control of other people. One can easily get lost in trying to "figure it all out", in order to have control of their lives, and that's really a dysfunctional way of approaching astrology. It can become a highly intellectual and mental discipline, and when taken too far, has one worrying and dreading what a particular element in their horoscope might create for them. It can really take one "out of the moment", into a very mental plane where they are constantly looking to the future, to whats going to happen, instead of just using it in the moment to work to become synergistic with the energies as they currently are. It can also feed into a lot egocentric delusion, where one is so focused or convinced of a sense of higher destiny, which may or may not be true for them. The biggest downside to astrology actually comes from its practitioners, because it's kept so secret and inaccessible, there isn't a lot of proper training out there, there's a lot of practitioners who give very damaging information to their clients. I'll admit that I've done it myself, and I've never actually been formally trained. I would recommend avoiding any 'astrologer' that gives immanent predictions, or absolutes, such as "You'll never have children", or "You're going to get a divorce this year", such things, in my opinion, have no use and are in no way healing or of therapeutic value. I don't make concrete predictions using astrology, I have of course in the past, but it doesn't work for me, and I feel that it's very limiting. Any time someone makes a concrete prediction, they create a limitation for that person, and that idea or that belief is very powerful, and who is to say that the client doesn't go on to manifest that based on what they were told, into a sort of self fulfilled prophecy. Astrology is not about predicting the future, it's about perceiving an unfolding and aligning oneself with that unfolding to manifest the most positive and functional outcome. I also believe that astrology is definitely used for a darker agenda by many religious, political, and entertainment institutions for the use of social manipulation; it is very clear that many wars and so called 'natural' or man-made disasters occur very precisely timed astrologically toward the benefit of governments and elitists. You could say, of course, that perhaps it simply proves the validity of astrology, and that those events actually occurred in synchronization with the astrological event, which is true to an extent, but in looking at the evidence, certain events are just so beyond that, it is very clear that foreknowledge was used. There are many secret societies and similar groups that use it to herd the masses into particular directions and cultural shifts, and today that is a very real and powerful reality we are faced with, and sadly it is, I believe, the most common negative application of it. The details of this, and the evidence of it, is really not something I care to go into here, but I do talk openly about it, even if for some it sounds completely far fetched. Perhaps in the future, after I secure more solid research, I'll be able to write about it in more depth.
Which astrologer or astrologers have had the greatest influence upon you and why?
Well I've dabbled with just about every astrologer's work I could get my hands on, from Ptolemy to Rudhyar, but I would have to say that I'm very heavily influenced by the work of Barbara Hand Clow, Noel Tyl, Steven Forrest, and Jeffery Wolf Green and his school of Evolutionary Astrology. Quite a varied bunch, I'll admit, but they have actually been the most influential on my work thus far. Noel Tyl, though not a favorite to many I've come to find out, has created a very highly functional system of horoscope analysis, synthesis, and interpretation that can be readily applied to reality, and so much of his work is a foundation for how I approach a horoscope. Barbara Hand Clow is just amazing, I don't think there's anyone that can deny the value of what she's done, whether she did it all herself or not, I do not know, but it's highly insightful and useful in terms of acknowledging the deeper spiritual dimensions of astrology. Of course, her brother, Robert Hand, is just as influential, albeit perhaps, a bit more practical; his masterpiece, Planets In Transit, is like my bible. Barbara's work is so tantamount to gaining a broader perspective of how and why it all works the way it does, and even though it can be pretty far out, it actually makes astrology a lot more relatable in terms of giving it more meaning and tangibility through mythology. Jefferey Wolf Green's work is truly remarkable, and has deeply therapeutic implications. In fact, the mention of his name invokes a sense of depth for me, his work really woke me up to just how deep astrology can go within the psyche, and provides a look at the more karmic dimensions of personality, and how reincarnation plays such a crucial role in what we are currently experiencing in our lives. Most of all, I have to give a lot of credit to the unseen masters I've worked with, though I don't know their identity, or whether it's all the byproduct of claircognizance, much of the insight I've gained comes through spontaneous channeling and the amateur shamanism.