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week of May 24, 2018
You Know What to Do and You Know How to Do It

Here's a link to my free weekly email newsletter, featuring the Free Will Astrology horoscopes, plus a bunch of other stuff, including good news, lucky advice, and tender rants. It arrives every Tuesday morning.

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Below are excerpts from my book
Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. It's available at Amazon and Powells.


We call our organization the Beauty and Truth Lab and not the Beauty and Truth Think Tank because we want to put our ideas to the test -- to apply them in unpredictable situations beyond our control and see whether they're useful to people who aren't necessarily steeped in the mystique of pronoia, as discussed in the book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia.

One way we've gone about that is to encourage the public to testify and ask questions about their practical experiences with pronoia. Below is a taste of the exchanges that have unfolded.


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: I read about the concept of "pronoia" in your book. Here's my question: Does pronoia make you feel like you're falling in love? Not just with a person but with life itself? And can that be scary?

Is it possible that you might feel a chord of gorgeous terror resound in your gut when you entertain the thought that every person and even every animal and plant and rock in the world is ganging up to make your life interesting -- almost more brilliantly interesting than you can bear?

Does pronoia threaten to cause all perceptions, all sensations, all interactions to verge on being orgasmic?

I've been heading in this direction lately and it's freaking me out. Can extreme happiness be dangerous to my well-being? —Butchtastic

Dear Butchtastic: First thing we'll say is that while pronoia inevitably feeds the soul, it doesn't necessarily further the agendas of the ego. The anxiety that's welling up may be the result of your old self-image clinging to the shrunken expectations it had gotten used to thinking of as essential to its identity.

The second thing is that when people invite pronoia to take over their perceptual filters, they often feel as if they're falling in love with a Scary Yet Friendly Vastness that kicks their butts until they wake up to the secret beauty they've been ignoring.


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: I was lying in my bed basking in a sunbeam this morning, too comfortable to get up and take my Prozac, when I thought, Hey, what if I'm not, you know, emotionally challenged? What if I'm just lazy? Maybe if I worked harder at cultivating happiness, I'd just sort of outgrow my depression -- you know, render it irrelevant. Do you have an opinion about this theory? —Slothful Slack Seeker

Dear Slothful: We'd have to know more about your personal history to evaluate whether laziness is the cause of your depression.

We do know this, though: Many people are extremely lax about their pursuit of happiness.

Here's our question to you: What tricks would you have to play on yourself in order to get more aggressive about mastering the art of feeling really good?


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: I've wrestled all my life with fear. But lately it's been even worse than usual. My personal demons seem to be winning, or at least getting the better of the fight. I think it's related to the fact that when I caught wind of the idea of pronoia, I started working hard to lose all my illusions. Now I'm thinking maybe that was a mistake. Perhaps I needed my illusions to keep the demons at bay? —Crybaby

Dear Crybaby: Hang on. This is the toughest part of your struggle. It may seem that the illusions you dissolved were the main barriers safeguarding you from your demons. But what's more likely is that those illusions were food for your demons. Very soon now the demons will have devoured the last of their fuel and will start to starve. If they don't die off, they will at least fly away in search of other nourishment.


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Dear Flow-Meisters: If you were, like me, setting out on a 10-year project to become a beautiful truth-teller, having the simple goal of actually expressing the things that Everyone Ought to Say But Doesn't, what would you do? Other than to bother your favorite truth-tellers for advice, of course! —Aspiring Fount of Truth

Dear Aspiring Fount: One of the best ways to increase your mastery is to regularly tell yourself the truth about yourself with kick-ass kindness.


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: You must be kidding with your Pollyanna crap. Either that or you're lying to get gullible people to love you and give you money.

The truth is, life is not in the least bit kind. It's a brutal struggle for survival -- at best. We are, sadly, animals who are stuck being conscious of our own mortality, forever stalked by death, and trying to avoid both that knowledge and the inevitable appearance of the grim reaper. Wake up and see the sickness and misery that life on this planet really is. —Your Good Cheer Makes Me Puke

Dear Puker: It's true that the Beauty and Truth Lab errs on the side of optimism, but only because so many so-called experts and leaders err on the side of cynicism. Our calling is to overcompensate for the relentless propaganda that creates the false impression that ugliness rules the world.

By the way, when we urge people to more fully appreciate the multitude of blessings they take for granted, it's not the same as advising them to pretend there's no suffering in the world.


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: My mom calls me fat but feeds me pork rinds. My strongest supporter is a person I want to wrap up like a mummy, shove into a canoe, and push into the middle of the lake.

My exuberant imagination has taken me hostage, violating its own principles. I'm so ambivalent and indecisive about everything that even my addictive nature can't figure out what to be addicted to.

I'd embrace my contradictions if I could, but they've got me surrounded like a pink-haired, cross-dressing SWAT team frothed up on multiple espressos. Can you point me in the direction of the pronoiac exit from this circus-like hell? —Crazy Crank

Dear Crazy: We detect a lot of wit and style in your meditations. Maybe that's the purpose of the limbo you're in: It's an opportunity to build your skill at being lively and feisty and smart no matter what your outer circumstances are.


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: The chemo treatments burned out all the math skills in my brain, which were already pretty meager. On the other hand, they awakened my ability to feel perfectly at ease while in the midst of paradoxical situations that everyone else finds maddening and uncomfortable.

The chemo also made me ridiculously tolerant of people's contradictions, sometimes even their hypocrisies, and freed me to enjoy life as an entertaining movie with lots of interesting plot twists rather than as a pitched battle between everything I like and everything I don't like. I guess I could say that my cancer helped turn me into a pronoiac! —The Chaos Artist Formerly Known as Risa Kline

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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: I'm sorry to report that your bright and cheery outlook for the future did not come true. The gods have laid the cosmic smackdown upon me. My metaphorical buttocks are still smarting. I don't blame you, mind you. It is entirely my fault. My wishes were different from what the gods wished for me; I was utterly out of sync with the Grand Scheme of Things. My question now is: Being that I am in the habit of desiring pleasures that are good for my ego but bad for my soul, how do I break the habit? —Contrite Karma Chameleon

Dear Contrite: Not blaming others, but rather taking responsibility for your actions, is the best way. And you've just done that.

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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: I used to give fear a free rein to crawl around my mind. But your philosophy has inspired me to fight back against that bad habit. I made a pronoiac shield for myself, and I sleep with it every night.

It's a hubcap on which I've glued protective symbols, like the fragment of a mirror I stole from the hospital where I was born, the toothbrush of an ex-lover I'm still good friends with, 20 Tylenol pills arranged in the shape of a peace sign, a notebook page on which I wrote my best dream ever (in which my mom and dad were Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama), a library card from Princeton University with both my name and Einstein's on it, a painting of a mutant butterfly dive-bombing a rainbow that's on fire, a bumper sticker that reads "Adrenaline is my drug of choice," and a million dollars in money I made out of cut-up photocopies of all the people I love. — Laughing at My Anxieties

Dear Laughing: If we ever market a line of pronoiac products, we hope you'll contribute a whole batch of your shields.


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Dear Compassion Police: Can you tell me why my trivial prayers are often answered (please don't let the light turn red, please let there be enough milk for one cup of coffee, etc.), but never my big life-changing prayers (please send me a soul mate, please help me make money at what I love to do)? Are God's priorities screwed up, or is it me? —Dumb Luck Collector

Dear DLC: There's an old fairy tale in which two old folks are given three wishes by a magic dwarf, but impulsively waste them on the first silly whims that pop into their heads. I'll tell you what I would have told them: Proceed on the assumption that only a few of your fervent prayers will be granted. Don't use them up on pleas for convenience when you're tired, cranky, or desperate. A Tibetan proverb says, "The person who gets stuck on petty happiness will not attain great happiness."


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Dear Beauty and Truth Lab: I'm a very analytical person, with a doctorate in nuclear physics and a high-tech job. All my training and business savvy tell me that Rob Brezsny's astrology column is superstitious mumbo jumbo, yet every time I've faced a crisis in the last 10 years, his horoscopes have provided accurate wisdom and counsel when things seemed darkest.

The same is true about the book Pronoia. The scientist in me knows that you Beauty and Truth Lab people are utopian nutcases. It's absolutely demented to regard the universe as friendly and to fantasize that there's some vast, invisible conspiracy of blessing-bestowers. And yet I have to confess that whenever I try the pronoiac strategies you describe, my life veers in the direction of synchronicity and delight.

On the one hand, none of this makes any sense. On the other hand, I don't care that it doesn't make any sense. Somehow I'm able to draw sustenance from something whose power I don't understand or even believe in. In any case, thank you! —Humble Genius

Dear Genius: You've described a quality that we aspire to in our efforts to cultivate pronoia: the ability to be helped by powers that are beyond our ken.


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MUTUAL AID SOCIETY

If you would like to support my ongoing work, please visit my Virtual Tip Jar at Paypal.

You can also contribute to my well-being by buying the Expanded Audio Horoscopes I create every week. These forecasts are different in tone and content from the written horoscopes I provide here. They're my four- to five-minute-long ruminations about the current chapter of your life story. They're available here.


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QUESTION. How can an intelligent person possibly believe astrology has any merit?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. Many of the debunkers who try to discredit astrology have done no research on the subject. They haven't read smart astrological philosophers like Dane Rudhyar, don't know that seminal astronomers Johannes Kepler and Galileo were skilled astrologers, and aren't aware that eminent psychologist C.G. Jung cast horoscopes and believed that "astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity."

The closest approach the fraudulent "skeptics" usually make to the ancient art is to glance at a random horoscope column in a newspaper or on a website. To match their carelessness, I might make a drive-by of a strip mall and declare that the profession of architecture is shallow and debased.

That's one reason why these ill-informed "skeptics" spread so many ignorant lies. For instance, they say that astrologers think the stars and planets emit invisible beams that affect people's lives. The truth is, many Western astrologers don't believe any such thing. (You can read more comments about this below.)

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QUESTION. Because you pack your column with doses of wry humor and wild imagery, some people think you don't take astrology seriously.

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. On the contrary, I think my humor and imagery, along with my passion for crafting cliché-free language, demonstrate how much respect I have for astrology. With the vigor I apply to writing my oracles, I feel I'm alerting people to the possibility that astrology may have more credibility than both its sloppy practitioners and careless debunkers have afforded it.

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QUESTION. You have said in the past that you believe in astrology "about 80 percent." What's up with the other 20 percent?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. I use the same 80-20 approach with every belief system I love and benefit from: Qabala, science, paganism, transpersonal psychology, postmodern rationalism, feminism, and others. I take what's useful from each, but am not so deluded as to think that any single system is the holy grail the physicists call the "Theory of Everything." Unconditional, unskeptical faith is the path of the fanatic and fundamentalist, and I aspire to be a rowdy philosophical anarchist, aflame with objectivity and committed to the truth that the truth is always mutating.

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QUESTION. But don't you risk playing the same role the lazy astrologers do: enticing people to take on a superstitious approach to life and seducing them into believing their fate is determined by supernatural forces beyond the influence of their willpower?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. I call what I do predicting the present, not forecasting the future. My goal is to awaken my readers to the hidden agendas, unconscious forces, and long-term cycles at work in their lives so that they can respond to the totality of what's happening instead of to mere appearances. I want to be a friendly shocker who helps unleash their imaginations, giving them the power to create their destinies with the same liberated fertility that great artists summon to forge their masterpieces.

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QUESTION. How do you write your column? Do you use actual astrological data, or just go into a trance and let your imagination run wild?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. I draw up a weekly chart for the sun, moon, and major aspects of each sign. It's the framework within which I improvise. The artistic part of the work is harder to pin down. One of my guiding principles, though, is to treat each sign's horoscope as a personal love letter—to speak as intimately about the mysteries of the moment as if I were addressing a close friend.

Where do my inspirations come from? Dreams, letters from readers, overheard conversations, meditation, lots of reading in a wide variety of texts both sacred and profane, and the intensive cultivation of my own receptivity.

I also rely on fact-finding missions I call whirlygigs. During these, I steep myself with the intention of attracting lessons I don't know I need, then meander the streets at random, going places I've never been and striking up conversations with strangers with whom I apparently have nothing in common.

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QUESTION: Many modern skeptics/scientists' assumption imagine that astrology is based on the belief that the gravity or movements of the planetary bodies themselves is what influences us. Is that a misconception?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. Yes. It's another case of scientists not acting like scientists -- not bothering to research the subject they speak about authoritatively.

In his book *Cosmos and Psyche*, Richard Tarnas says the planets don't emit invisible forces that shape our destinies as if we were puppets. Rather, they are symbols of the unfolding evolutionary pattern. Just as clocks tell time but don't create it, the heavenly bodies show us the big picture but don't cause it.

Quoting Greek philosopher Plotinus, Tarnas writes, "The stars are like letters that inscribe themselves at every moment in the sky. Everything in the world is full of signs. All events are coordinated. All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together."

So it's not just the distant globes whose movements and relationships serve as divinatory clues. If you're sufficiently attuned to the gestalt of creation and pay close enough attention to its unfolding details, you can read the current mood of the universe in the arrangement of red onions in the grocery store bin or the fluttering of sunlight and shadow on the mimosa tree or the scatter of soap suds in your sink after you've finished washing the dishes.

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QUESTION. You confuse me in the way that you praise rational thought and the scientific method, yet reserve the right to believe in astrology, angels, miracles, and other woo-woo.

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. Thousands of amazing, inexplicable, and even supernatural events occur every day. And yet most are unreported by the media. The few that are cited are ridiculed. Why?

Here's one possible reason: The people most likely to believe in wonders and marvels are superstitious, uneducated, and prone to having a blind, literalist faith in their religions' myths. Those who are least likely to believe in wonders and marvels are skilled at analytical thought, well-educated, and yet prone to having a blind, literalist faith in the ideology of materialism, which dogmatically asserts that the universe consists entirely of things that can be perceived by the five human senses or detected by instruments that scientists have thus far invented.

The media is largely composed of people from the second group. It's virtually impossible for them to admit to the possibility of events that elude the rational mind's explanations, let alone experience them. If anyone from this group manages to escape peer pressure and cultivate a receptivity to the miraculous, it's because they have successfully fought against being demoralized by the unsophisticated way wonders and marvels are framed by the first group.

I try to be immune to the double-barreled ignorance. When I behold astonishing synchronicities and numinous breakthroughs that seem to violate natural law, I'm willing to consider the possibility that my understanding of natural law is too narrow. And yet I also refrain from lapsing into irrational gullibility; I actively seek mundane explanations for apparent miracles.

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QUESTION. Can you sum up your approach to seeing the world?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. My outlook combines the rigorous objectivity of a scientist, the "beginner's mind" of Zen Buddhism, and the compassionate friendliness of the Dalai Lama. I blend a scrupulously dispassionate curiosity with a skepticism driven by expansiveness, not spleen.

To pull this off, I have to be willing to regularly suspend my theories about the way the world works. I accept with good humor the possibility that what I've learned in the past may not be a reliable guide to understanding the fresh phenomenon that's right in front of me. I'm suspicious of my biases, even the rational and benevolent ones. I open my heart as I strip away the interpretations that my emotions might be inclined to impose.

"Before we can receive the unbiased truth about anything," wrote my teacher Ann Davies, "we have to be ready to ignore what we would like to be true."

At the same time, I don't want to turn into a hard-ass, poker-faced robot. I keep my feelings moist and receptive. I remember my natural affection for all of creation. I enjoy the power of tender sympathy as it drives me to probe for the unimaginable revelations of every new moment. "Before we can receive the entire truth about anything," said Ann Davies, "we have to love it."

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INTERVIEWER: Can you provide a 25-words-or-less summary of what "Free Will Astrology" is not?

ROB'S BREZSNY'S ANSWER. My Free Will Astrology horoscopes are not rooted in or justified by any belief system, doctrine, fairy tale, authoritative teacher, elaborate secret joke, mystical wishing, well-rationalized bias, or rebellion against science. My horoscopes are fueled by poetry and in service to the liberated imagination.


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ARCHIVES OF FREE WILL ASTROLOGY

Here are the Free Will Astrology horoscopes from a year ago. (When you reach the link, scroll down to read your horoscope.)

Here are the long-term, big-picture horoscopes I wrote for you at the beginning of 2018. How are they working for you?

Here are the Free Will Astrology archives for the last 15 years


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CRITICISM

Below is some reader email that came in recently. (If you'd like to tell me your opinions on my work, either positive or negative, send them to [email protected])

Mr. So-Called Astrologer: I was browsing through the Folio Weekly newspaper in Jacksonville, and saw your horoscopes, and really had to say: what the hell?!

One horoscope has a bunch of synonyms and antonyms mushed together. What is “strong softness” supposed to mean? Or “daring acts of nurturing”? Just sounds like nonsense to me.

Another horoscope has a weird story about the history of cars (although thanks for providing the moral of the story, because otherwise I would not have realized the point)

So this is just my request to, if possible, give us more of a horoscope and less of a game of words that really do not have any usefulness.

Hold off on the irrelevant stories and be more direct in giving some practical advice about my finances or who I should date. Maybe put in some numerology or even what to watch out for in the current week.

I love reading horoscopes but yours were very confusing and disappointing.

Thank you :)

Fran R.


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SUPPORT

I was born under the sign of Cancerian the Crab. One of the potential weaknesses of our tribe is that we can tend to be almost pathologically self-sufficient. Some of us may find it challenging to ask for help and support. In my continuing effort to overcome this inclination, I'm asking for your support!

If you would like to contribute to me and my ongoing work, please visit my Virtual Tip Jar at Paypal.

You can also contribute to my well-being by buying the Expanded Audio Horoscopes I create every week. These forecasts are different in tone and content from the written horoscopes I provide here. They're my four- to five-minute-long ruminations about the current chapter of your life story. They're available here.


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LOVE RULES

"I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
- Vincent van Gogh

"Everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything exists, only because I love."
- Leo Tolstoy

"Until you have loved, you cannot become yourself."
- Emily Dickinson

"Love imperfectly. Be a love idiot. Let yourself forget any love ideal."
- Sark

"For one human being to love another is the most difficult task. It is the work for which all other work is mere preparation."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell

"If you do not love too much, you do not love enough."
- Blaise Pascal

"Love is everything it's cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk everything, you risk even more."
- Erica Jong

"Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don't stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even galaxies."
- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

"To love is to tilt with the lightning, two bodies routed by a single honey's sweet."
- Pablo Neruda

"The most vital right is the right to love and be loved."
- Emma Goldman

"Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Letters to a Young Poet," translated by Stephen Mitchell

"There are two ways to reach me: by way of kisses or by way of the imagination. But there is a hierarchy: the kisses alone don’t work."
- Anaïs Nin


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