August 01st, 2014

The Internet: Astrology’s Tower of Babel


“Is not every civilization bound to decay as it begins to penetrate the masses?” –Michael Rostovtzeff

Did you ever stop to think about where fortune cookies are created?

Picture a fortune cookie factory. Naturally, there’s the cookie-making division and then, too, there’s a crew that writes the fortunes.

Now, imagine a fortune cookie factory calamity.

Let’s say that the fortune scribes become confused and all of the cookie scripture gets blended together, willy nilly, into streams of nonsense that form an infinitely long strip of paper that stretches from here to Pluto.

That endless ticker tape of gibberish is the equivalent of the massive amount of babble that passes for writing (or talking) on a majority of blogs and websites dedicated to astrology. Gigs of bandwidth are gobbled —  eyeballs scan and scrape — but very little of import or relevance is ever composed, ever consumed.

Consider Google Trends, a service of the search engine where you can choose a topic, enter it into their data mine and see for yourself how interest in astrology has declined over the past fifteen years. (And is projected to continue its glide towards the bottom in the years ahead.)


This is not because astrology has become less interesting as a subject. No, as any professional astrologer will tell you, there has never been a better time to be an astrologer or become interested in the craft, especially as the research and published discoveries of the traditional school dovetail into the psychological and spiritual ethos of modern astrology.

No, the problem, as related to the internet, is threefold:

This entire article is included in the new book Skywriter: Notes on Modern Astrology. Order below!

For the past ten years, Frederick Woodruff’s AstroInquiry has become the ‘go-to’ spot for readers in search of illuminating commentary on astrology, popular culture, spirituality and the pitfalls of New Age charlatanism.

Woodruff’s 40-year career as a professional astrologer, artist, and pop-culture critic have honed a perspicacious writer who doesn‘t pull punches as he explores radical new views on astrology, the shortcomings of New Age magical thinking and the precarious minefield that dots our tech-obsessed cultural landscape.

Thankfully, he’s funny and also keen on suggesting creative ways forward for everyone.

And now there’s an e-book that collects Woodruff’s most popular and provocative articles into one comprehensive and engaging book. You won’t want to miss any of them!

This volume includes:

• The Truth About Mercury Retrograde
• Planetary Ennui: The Nostalgia for Samsara
• How To Make Facebook Your Slave and Preserve Your Creative Drive
• The Power, Beauty, and Wonder of the Horoscope’s 12th House
• Imbeciles at the Gate: How The Internet Destroys Astrology
• How To Escape From the Torture of Self-Help Hell
• Depression and the Solar Consciousness
• Secrets of the Heart: Love is an Action Not A Feeling
• Create Your Own Archetype & Call It You: An Escape from Evolutionary Astrology
• Redefining the Oxymoron of Sex and Marriage
• Death is the New Black
• How To Write About Astrology (Especially How Not To)
• Astrology, Ants, Hives, Essence, and Types: A Gurdjieffian View
• Final Notes About the Life-and-Culture-Changing Uranus-Pluto Square

Order your copy now!



Opening illustration, The Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré (1865)

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Filed Under: Astrology and Charlatan
November 20th, 2013

Cue Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

“I try to get her out of my mind as much as possible, but the damage she does to unsuspecting people in crisis situations is just atrocious.” — Gary Dufresne, Browne’s former husband

Goodbye Sylvia Browne, an individual who elevated the art in con-artistry to a level of sophistication and grandeur comparable to Picasso or Rembrandt — if such extreme fraud existed in the world of fine art.

Just hearing the news of Browne’s death made me want to light up a pack of cigarettes and throw back a couple of highballs — such was my visceral association between her gravely, grating voice and my old ardor for nicotine and whiskey.

The pain and confusion generated by Browne, in the name of New Age nitwit-ishness, is a dark taint on the entire realm of ‘alternative’ spirituality. From a recent Huffington Post article:

Although Browne claimed to have a psychic success rate between 87-to-90 percent, a 2010 analysis of of 115 predictions she made on “The Montel Williams Show” by Skeptical Inquirer magazine put her success rate at zero.

In some cases, she charged a police department $400 for her services.

In 2002, Browne told the parents of missing 11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck on the Montel Williams Show that the child was dead and kidnapped by a dark-skinned man with dreadlocks.

Hornbeck was found alive in 2007 and his accused kidnapper, Michael Devlin, was Caucasian and short-haired. Hornbeck’s stepfather, Craig Akers, told Anderson Cooper that Browne offered to do a more extensive psychic reading off-camera for $700.

Browne’s parade of chicanery is a strict reminder to scrutinize and yes, even doubt, a lot of the foolishness that passes for modern day otherworldly succor: Foggy notions like The Secret and other ploys that appeal to the deluded and addled.

I’ll never forget the first time I watched this clip of Browne, as it originally aired on Montel Williams‘ talk show. My heart broke for the women asking, in earnest, the question regarding her incapacitated mother’s final words.

My compassion morphed into anger when the host and his cipher broke into careless mockery following the woman’s inquiry. The segment displayed the sort of harm and trauma that occurs when con-artistry and gullibility collide.

I’m sorry for the Browne family and their loss, but I am equally relieved for those in the larger human family who will no longer be susceptible to the wiles of fraud.

Finally, I’ll repeat the sentiment shared by the actress Bette Davis upon hearing the news that her longtime nemesis, Joan Crawford, had passed:

“I was taught to speak only good of the dead. Joan Crawford is dead. Good!”

BONUS LINK: Take a cruise with Sylvia Browne, the Titanic of psychic predictions run amok. (Thank you Tom Blunt).

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Filed Under: Charlatan and Con-artists