Astrology in the Year Zero
Astrology in the Year Zero

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Fragments of an Interview with Boris Izraitel

Recorded by Garry Phillipson

Biographical Note

Boris Izraitel was born in Moscow, May 7th, 1960.

A graduate of the Moscow Telecommunication College with a Master's degree in Telemechanics and Guide-Control Electronics, Boris since 1982 was engaged in designing of signal sorting equipment for Medical Industry. In 1977 he became interested in esoterics and later on began to study astrology.

Boris is well-known in Russia and other countries as the founder of ‘Russian Astrology’ Journal - the first publication for professional astrologers in Russian. A full-time counselling astrologer since 1986, lecturer at Moscow Astrological Academy since 1990 and editor-in-chief of ‘Russian Astrology’ Journal since 1991, in 1995 Boris became a co-founder of Euro-Asian Chapter of the National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR) and since then runs the NCGR Education Program in Russia.

Articles by Boris Izraitel have appeared in ‘The Mountain Astrologer’ (USA), ‘Hamburger Hefte’ (Germany), ‘Astrolog’ (Switzerland), etc.

His books ‘The Complete Guide to Rectification’ and ‘The Russian Book of Charts’ became bestsellers in 1996 and 1999 respectively.

You can always reach Boris at the Astrologers' Forum

And you can email him here (this is his regular address) or here (this is his hotmail account)


Introduction & Explanation (by Garry)

In 2002, Boris and I began recording an interview by email. One particular point of interest, for me, was to try and get some kind of idea of what life had been like for astrologers in the USSR, with a government which imposed a total prohibition on the practice of astrology.

As you are about to discover, Boris has quite a tale to tell. Unfortunately what we are presenting here is not a full and comprehensive interview. There were many more questions which I would like to have asked, but so far, pressures on Boris’s time - coupled with the lack of a specialist Russian translator - have prevented the interview from progressing beyond the fragmentary stage in which it is now presented. There are (as will be obvious) many questions which cry out to be asked, which must remain mute for the time being.

It seemed, however, that it would be better to make available what follows, rather than leave it locked away on my hard drive. I hope that this presentation may inspire other astrologers from the former Soviet bloc to recount their experiences. And perhaps someone willing and able to translate Russian to English will finally step forward and volunteer their services!

In the meantime, my thanks to Boris for his participation as both interviewee and translator.

Q: Astrology was banned in Russia for many years – I wonder if you could say a little about how and why it was banned, and then how the ban was eventually lifted?

A: To begin with, one should be reminded that the corner-stone of Communist Statehood was the ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Interestingly enough, this was itself a peculiar blend of vulgar materialism and elements of the most bizarre idealism. Anyway, the main concern of Communist propaganda was maintaining the ideological virginity of the Soviet people, along with the debunking of other ideologies and philosophies.

Religion was considered the number one enemy. Occultism, magical practices, and all sorts of divination - including palmistry, astrology, etc – were, on the one hand, viewed as evidence of Capitalism’s decay. On the other hand, the Kremlin’s ideologists told people that by introducing “ most odd prejudices”, capitalists tried to distract working people from the class struggle”

The Soviet regime considered Marxism-Leninism as the one and only world-view possible for Soviet citizens. Diversity or pluralism in one’s ideological stance was seen as an unforgivable sin.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of ‘perestroika’ encouraged what was termed ‘glasnost’ – freedom of speech, thought, press and pluralism of ideas. All ideological bans were lifted in 1989. And immediately newspapers were flooded with astrological stuff.

Q: How were you, personally, introduced to astrology?

A: Ironically, the first sparkle of astrological knowledge came from the state TV. In December 1977, Channel 1 broadcast a programme about how different nations celebrated New Year. The correspondent from Japan had a story about the South–East Asian Calendar with its Year Signs. The year of Horse (1978) was coming... Something clicked in my mind. I wrote down the names of the animals that constitute the traditional Asian Calendar. Somehow I got a feeling that this 12-year cycle might serve as a key to the broader dimensions of meaning. In 1980 – still with zero knowledge of European astrology - I tried to apply my findings to everyday life (compatibility issues mostly). On one blessed day that year my sister-in-law who lived in a faraway town visited us and got impressed by my pursuit. She told me confidentially that she had heard about an underground group that had regular meetings in the suburbs of Moscow. In late 1982 I became a member of this group.

Q: So astrology was still banned by the state at that time; what effect did that have?

A: We studied the subject under a veil of secrecy that made the whole atmosphere unforgettable. The apples on the other side of the wall are always the sweetest. We observed strict conspiracy and constantly tried to figure out who is a KGB agent among us. (This is the theme for a separate monograph…!)

Q: Did you ever hear of anyone who was punished by the authorities for practising astrology? And if so, what happened to them?

A: As you may guess, a totalitarian state has plenty of opportunities to instil its world-view into the minds of the people. Every child in the Soviet Union was brought up in a full confidence that even a small deviation from THE–ONLY-TRUE-IDEOLOGY meant nothing but a kind of mental disease. In the USSR, psychiatry was a routine instrument for fighting ideological heresy. There are still ‘scientists’ in Russia who consider an interest in astrology as a symptom of schizophrenia.

In fact, a friend of mine underwent treatment for schizophrenia when, during his period of military service, it was noticed that he was reading a photocopy of an astrological book.

According to a legend that circulates among Russian astrologers, in 1929 Stalin’s government decided to rid the Soviet Union once and for all of the remaining astrologers, who still operated behind the scenes. The secret police managed to organise an astrological conference, and with most of Soviet astrology assembled in one place, they wiped it out. Participants were invited to a state-sponsored banquet, and once they boarded the bus, they were spirited away to quite a different destination – concentration camps. Hardly anybody survived.

Q: People who are sceptical towards astrology sometimes suggest that it would soon die out if people weren’t constantly encouraged to indulge in superstitious behaviour by astrology columns in the newspapers and so on. Having lived in a society where there was no astrology, what is your perspective on this?

A: My own meeting with a real astrology was a true fascination of mind. I felt like a thirsty man who at last reached a lake of pure and tasty water. For the first 7-9 months I experienced a series of powerful insights that radically changed my worldview. The same or similar feelings were reportedly experienced by most of my friends/colleagues.

For me it’s obvious, that astrological knowledge is not something that is imposed from outside (by external institutions or whatever) on our minds. On the contrary, it is an inherent part of the deepest structures of our minds. I’d describe an interest in astrology as the most fundamental urge in humanity’s search to understand the world we all live in.

Q: What is the state of astrology in Russia now?

A: Though astrology is not acknowledged officially as a valid occupation yet, the common view is that astrology is one of the most credible helping professions. Given that psycho-analysts failed to win wide public acceptance in Russia, astrologers are usually considered as a natural substitute for this kind of specialist.

Just after the ban was lifted, Russia saw an immense popularity of astrology. Just a few facts: The Academy of Astrology in Moscow managed to recruit some 1,200 pupils in the course of the first year of its existence. Funnily enough, it occupied the office of the former Communist Party Ideological Institute (!). The ‘Russian Astrology’ journal (under my editorship) reached a circulation of 20,000 in 1991.

Channel N1 of state TV transmitted daily astrological forecasts that took twice as much time as the weather forecasts. We all had a feeling that newspapers gave astrology as much room as astrologers were able to utilise.

That boom is over now. However there is an astrological association in every big city of Russia. There are newsletters, conferences and books with circulations of up to 10,000.

The three main areas of astrological activity are: teaching, writing and counselling. It’s not easy to detect what kind of work is in greatest demand. My guess is that professional astrologers in this country have to cover all 3 types of activity in order to survive.

Q: What are your, personal, interests and areas of specialism in astrology?

A: Basically, I percieve astrology as the Universal Language.
My concern now is to refine this language and to find the most effective fields of its application and sound ways of translation to other more «primitive» languages. I see the vast areas of possible astrological application and try to introduce astrology to new stances. Particularly, I think that art criticism is one of the most promising directions of astrological pursuit.

I am fond of the rectification process. Rectifying celebrities’ charts is my ‘hobby’.

As to techniques, I am trying now to be as simple as possible. I am sure that simple and sound explanation has always advantage over complex and fuzzy one. Some 10-12 years ago, I paid tribute to ‘modern approaches’. Now after being in the field for 20 years, I am back to the core set of symbols. Asteroids, midpoints, Uranians, converse tertiary progressions, Arabic parts, and the like stuff is only employed in extraordinary cases when traditional tools deliver no satisfaction. My pupils more than often hear: if you lack something – dig deeper, never call the department store.

Q: What is your attitude to sun-sign columns?

A: I have ambiguous feelings about this issue. As a professional I am usually annoyed when I read sun-sign columns. However I myself wrote this stuff trying to educate the public and introduce some astrological elements into the cultural mainstream. I hope this was not in vain.

Q: How would you describe your beliefs about the world?

A: Having Gemini on the 9th house cusp and 3rd house Jupiter, I am pragmatic with an unstable belief system J

Nevertheless, I believe in a Higher Intelligence and am sure that HI communicates with us using symbolic language

Q: Are you (when you do astrology) a magician?
To a very slight extent. I am mostly detective and also care-giver. I love people and love to help them to solve their problems.

Q: How is your astrological time divided up?

A: Consultations – approx. 40%, writing, editing, translating – about 30%, teaching –10%, researching – 10%

Q: How do your clients first get in contact?

A: I have never used ads, and regard mouth-to-mouth recommendations, along with teaching, as the best ways to get clients. The latest developments put forward the Internet as a means to acquire clients

Q: How do you define success in your astrological work?

A: My most brilliant readings are usually interrupted by this sort of client’s outcry: “Now I get it all! I see the whole picture clearly!” My prime objective in counselling is to get my client to a higher level of self-understanding. My best counselling sessions result in self-insight and total self-acceptance by my clients.

However I’d like to tell another story. Some 10 years ago I did a consultation for the mother of a 12-year boy on the issue of vocational guidance. My advice was to encourage the boy to choose the career of dramatic actor. His mother seemed very sceptical, and asked me to try to find something more real. However I insisted that her son (with MC ruler in the 5th house and 5th house ruler –Jupiter- on Asc) should try to become an actor. Last summer he appeared on Russian TV screens in a prime-time movie. Needless to say that it was my little personal triumph.

Q: What have been the different stages of your astrological development?

A: Basically, there were 2 main stages:
1) an extensive stage when I broadened my awareness and uncritically accumulated new techniques;
2) an intensive stage, characterised by a selective approach and concentration on the most important issues.

Q: Which astrologers, and which works, have mainly influenced your approach?

A: Dane Rudhyar and his ‘The Astrology of Personality’ influenced my fundamental take on astrology and spiritual development altogether. Among my other favourite books are ‘The Real Astrology Applied’ by John Frawley, ‘The Literary Zodiac’ by Paul Wright, and ‘Recent Advances in Natal Astrology’ by Dean, Mather et al. I hold in high esteem such authors as Steven Arroyo, Geoffrey Cornelius, and Robert Hand.

Q: What changes would you like to see within the astrological world at large?

A: That is a serious question that requires deep analysis. What I can say for now is just one observation.

The way international conferences are usually conducted hardly can promote any real exchange of ideas and hence any further improvement of techniques

Q: What changes would you like to see in astrology within Russia?

A: I’d expect the language unification process to be speeded up!
The period of amateur enthusiasm is over, it’s time to become pragmatic professionals...

© Boris Izraitel 2004