Lynn has a post about the ethics of predicting death. She begins: “Most professionals agree that predicting death in the chart of a client or a client's loved one is unethical.”
It’s an interesting issue, and there is a lively discussion of it over at Lynn’s site. I suppose it partly depends on what you mean by ‘predict’, because we usually have in mind a psychic peering into the future and seeing an event. And this is possible, some people do see actual events. Like Jung having a vision of rivers of blood a year or two before World War I, when no-one was foreseeing a major war. Or just having a sense of a place you are going to live one day, and then it happens to you.
But I don’t view astrological prediction in this way: it is about dealing with possibilities and sometimes, when you take circumstances into account, near certainties.
And I don’t personally view death as a special case (hello Pluto! – he sometimes turns up and stands behind me when I write.) Death is a straightforward and natural part of life. If you feel your client can handle the subject of their own or a loved one’s possible death – only if – then it is a very helpful area to go to, it is very deep.
I think a big confusion that creeps into the ethics of predicting the possibility of death is our cultural attitude to it. A lot of people are terrified of death, they don’t want to discuss it, and I’m sure the Christian background we have, and its possibility of eternal damnation, has something to do with it. I mean, how do you cope psychologically with the idea of eternal torment? You can’t, no-one can cope with that. And we also have nihilistic materialism, where death is the extinguishing of an ultimately meaningless sojourn on earth. Who can cope with that idea? I for one can’t.
A couple of friends have in their time tried to commit suicide, and what was interesting was the reaction of their friends afterwards: in one case, her friends cut her in the street, they didn’t want to know her anymore. In the other case, her friends, who regarded themselves as ‘spiritual’, wrote her damning letters, insisted she was mentally ill and tried to have her sectioned, and one of them formally ended her friendship with her. I find all this much more shocking than the attempts to commit suicide.
People often can’t handle death. Of course it is a huge and often difficult issue, but we also have all this cultural baggage. This, I think, is why some astrologers can be so absolute and damning of other astrologers who are prepared to predict it.
As I said, Death is a straightforward and natural part of life. This doesn’t mean we know what lies the other side. I don’t think it would be helpful to know, and I don’t think we can know. I mean, we don’t know what’s going to happen this afternoon, so how can we possibly know what’s going to happen after we die? What we do know is that we shift out of body-based experience. If you’ve read any Oliver Sacks (‘The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat’), you’ll know just how deeply neurologically created is our experience of the world, divided as it is into 3 dimensions, time, separate 'things' and ‘in here‘ and ‘out there.’ It is a construct that enables us to cope. I think this was Kant’s point also. If you lose your body, you lose all that. But those are the only terms on which we can understand anything. So even if a ghost came along and tried to tell us what death is like, we wouldn’t be able to understand.
That said, I think that in life if you don’t approach things too literally and rigidly, if you see all your understandings as provisional and in the moment, if you see life and other people as flowing and changing, then you start to move away from the 3-D box inhabited by things that our brain builds for us, and towards the completely open dimension that death stands for.
In this sense, death is a very positive and open experience, and it’s only terrifying if you’re clinging to the security of the 3-D box.
It’s also a matter of trust, which with Neptune stationing at the moment, is very topical. Trust in the basic process of life is something that we can lose, but we can’t do without it if we want to grow and unfold. Hanging on to things and to people and to money shows mistrust in life. If you have trust in life, you know that you are like a tree that is continually growing and putting out new branches, that you have a beginning, a middle and an end, all of which are deeply appropriate. Yes, you might get struck by lightning or lose a branch now and then, and you suffer, but there is still a basic flow and unfoldment that is benign and can be, needs to be, trusted in. You can always trust there is a helpful next stage to your life, and the more you trust in this, the more your experience confirms this. So why should it be any different with death? It is simply about moving onto the next stage. And if life has taught you anything, it is that at a deep level you can trust it, even though you may have been dragged through some pretty rough times.
So that is why I don’t see a problem with looking at the possibility of death with clients. Of course you have to be careful, and with a lot of people you wouldn’t dream of it. No transits on their own suggest death. No transits on their own suggest anything concrete. As with all prediction, there has to be a reason to suppose that death might occur, like age or ill-health. Or you might advise someone to be careful on the road under a Mars-Uranus transit if you knew they were a careless driver.
A few years ago I did a reading for a woman in her 80s who’d nearly died the year before and was clearly not well. It was also clear from her chart and from talking to her that she had an unlived sensitive/psychic side that it was now time to explore, and it was a bit like she hadn’t died because there was still this thing left to do. I was able to point to another time, a couple of years down the line, when it was possible she could die, and she was very happy with that, because she had come to terms with dying, and it showed her how long she might have to get on with what she had to do.
Another time a friend was caring for a fairly young person who had terminal cancer. The specialists told her she had another year to live. I looked at the chart and said I reckon she has only a few months. I was right, and it confirmed the intuition that the patient herself had.
I have a prediction going currently with a friend’s elderly mother, who she is caring for. She says it helps her feel that caring for her mother, who doesn’t really want to be around any more, is not a life sentence!
Another friend I deliberately held off with recently. A close relative of her’s had a recurrence of cancer. The astrological prognosis (Pluto about to oppose natal Sun), given the circumstances, was not good. I didn’t discount the possibility of death (which eventually occurred), but it didn’t feel at all appropriate to discuss it.
So I think that discussion of death can be an important part of an astrologer’s work. Of course you have to be sensitive, but that applies to whatever you’re discussing. That said, I think there are 2 areas that lead to confusion: our unhealthy cultural attitude to death; and misunderstanding of the nature of astrological prediction, which people are often too ready to take as certainty, as fixed fate, however carefully you explain it to them. Or it will turn into certainty in their mind subsequently!