Today my Astrology and African Americans series continues with an interview with New York based astrologer and psychic Max S. Gordon! Max has brilliant insight into the psychic legacy of black families, new age spiritualities and their appropriation of indigenous cultures and much more! Enjoy!
You are professional astrologer and psychic. When did you first feel a pull towards astrology or an awareness of your intuitive/psychic capabilities?
I think I have always been “sensitive” even as a very young child, but I didn’t know that that had anything to do with being psychic. I thought it was normal having a second sense about things and people. I began giving professional tarot readings when I was in my early twenties, and around that time I went to a party and made a joke about seeing someone’s future by taking her hand.
I told one woman about the vacation she took, the color of her new bathing suit, her career and the work she was currently doing – again, all as a “joke”. The thing is – everything I told her turned out to be true. It was one of my most accurate readings I’d ever done and I didn’t have cards around me or anything. I thought, “Wait a second, maybe there is something to this…” and began practicing with strangers whenever I could. I wasn’t right all the time, but sometimes I got some amazing “hits” and that encouraged me.
It is often said that “gifts” such as yours are hereditary. Who do you believe you inherited your abilities from? Is their a deep pull towards the psychic/intuitive/astrology in your family?
My mother taught me to read tarot cards. She used them for meditation and never read for anyone but herself. She’d done a reading for a neighbor friend, a few years before I was born, and saw something in the cards that suggested the woman’s husband might be having an affair. Let’s just say the information wasn’t welcomed and the friendship ended. At that point my mother refused to read for other people, but she taught me everything she’d learned through books. It was like having a metaphysical mentor right in the house. I spent hours learning and I was fascinated, mostly because of the pictures and the meanings. We talked specifically about the major arcana as archetypes for life, and how the first 22 cards relate to the hero’s journey.
My grandmother was also into spiritual books, but her take seemed much more fear based. Her relationship with the supernatural had to do with books on warding off evil, psychic protection and that’s never been my thing. My great-grandmother, however, was known in the family as a faith healer. She was a devout Christian, as I am told, and she is rumored to have healed one of my great aunts who was bed ridden because of a incapacitating back injury. There was also a story about a white man who had collapsed or had some kind of attack somewhere in the street, and my great-grandmother was nearby and laid hands on him, which wasn’t something that happened all the time between black women and white men in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1930’s/40’s, and he fully recovered. Again, these were family legends, I have no way to verify them, but the stories I’ve heard about my great-grandmother feel true. I only knew her briefly as a child, but she was that kind of woman.
On my father’s side, I’ve never heard any stories of the miraculous, but my grandfather was a minister and had his own church in South Carolina, so the faith is there.
3. How did you learn astrology?
I’m self-taught, but I’ve had some great teachers through books. And I’m still learning. The tarot cards I grew up with have astrological and Hebraic letters and symbols on them, and that was one piece of the puzzle my mother didn’t have, so we always skipped that part. But I wanted to know.
I remember after college, I was on a plane to San Francisco with some friends, and for the ride, I brought an astrology book I’d gotten somewhere the week before. It was Jan Spiller/Karen McCoy’s book Spiritual Astrology. That book is so deep, I still, almost 20 years later, read parts of it as if I’m reading it for the first time. On the plane, I looked up my friend’s birthdays and my jaw just dropped over and over again. I couldn’t believe it. It was like having a cheat–sheet on life. I kept thinking, “How can they know all this from a birthday?”
3. Have you encountered prejudice as an African American practicing astrology?
To be honest, I have to say that I really haven’t, at least that I’m aware of, and I’m pretty sensitive to that kind of thing. I’d like to think that for the most part the people who are attracted to this work are already coming from a higher vibration, and are more open, less inclined to prejudice – however, I am not naïve, and I know the racism exists everywhere. I’m sure there can be some categorization, where someone might say, “Oh he’s a Black Astrologer” as opposed to “He’s an astrologer” but I think the bottom line in this field is, do you have information that people ask for? Because when someone really needs help or wants to know why she came to the planet, she doesn’t care who’s giving her the information, as long as it is accurate.
The New Age movement is notorious for taking the knowledge of indigenous people of color communities, appropriating it and selling it to a white market. In fact, many suggest that Quantum physics is merely a regurgitation of major themes in indigenous spiritualities all over the world. Have you experienced this phenom? What are you feelings/thoughts about it?
I feel that you can’t appropriate the truth. There are universal truths that belong to all of us and if you dig down deep in most religions, philosophies, cultures, you’re going to find the same truths. I’ve definitely seen the appropriation of black culture in the entertainment industry and I’ve been critical and written about it. I guess if anything bothers me, it is the way that sometimes certain things are appropriated from Native American/Indigenous Indian cultures….I’ve been to workshops/retreats where someone just puts on headdress with feathers, and someone else beats on a tom-tom, or starts taking people into sweat lodges, like the recent tragedy with James Arthur Ray, and I really wonder, do they have an authentic relationship to and respect for these powerful spiritual icons, rituals, etc, or can just anybody do a “rain dance” because they watched a video on You Tube. I would never just go into a Catholic Church light a candle and assume I could lead a Catholic mass. There has to be reverence. I’m not saying don’t experiment or try new things, just understand and appreciate the tradition something comes from.
Do you believe that factors such as race, gender and sexuality, impact how an individual will express their astrological energy?
Absolutely. I believe we are all incredible, beautiful expressions of God, and that, like different flowers in the garden, we are meant to express that beautiful in different ways. Who wants a garden, flower or vegetable, with just one thing growing all the time? We come to the planet at a certain time and space, and we have to deal with/come to terms with what is happening on the planet as it relates to race, gender, sexuality. I live in New York. This is a very interesting time for me, having incarnated in this lifetime as a gay man. And I am a black gay man too!
So I have some very interesting things to tell you, whoever you are, if you are interested, about what I see out my window. Now if you are a heterosexual, white woman living in Farmington Hills, Michigan with two kids, you probably see something different outside your window. But we’re living in the same house. So we have to tell the truth about our experience. And I am constantly fascinating with the way astrology expresses itself through our chart. A Pisces man with his moon in Cancer is going to have a much different experience working in a high school, than in the military. There are so many factors that make us who we are. I’m learning to love the mystery. I actually just wrote a song about that last week.
Why do you believe you have come to this lifetime?
I feel I have come to express love, which is why we have all come, to be my authentic self, despite what may or may not have been “done” to me, to be the beautiful creation that God made, without having to ask everyone permission to shine, or take a poll to see if I’m good enough every day. And that’s true for all of us. I think specifically I have a message that is related to my identity as a black gay man because I can talk about race, sexuality, and, with the mother I had and the things I saw growing up, I am committed to having a progressive view and analysis about gender too. I believe I am meant to use my gifts to bring people to a place where they see the divinity in their brother, their sister, and lead and encourage us into the new era of love. It really sounds so 1960/1970’s, but I was born in 1970, and actually love the hope some felt during that time. I hope it comes back again.
What is the core of your spiritual belief system, if any?
My belief, when I am conscious myself and not caught up in fear, is that we are all precious, all valuable, all vital. Yes, there are some people out there doing some hurtful things and behaving in ways they shouldn’t, but that doesn’t diminish the potential beauty. It’s our responsibly to say to those people, “We love you, and because we love you, we’re not going to let you act out here – we’re not going to let you destroy. We’re trying to build.”
I truly believe there will be an age – I still hope to see it in my lifetime – where a black woman will turn to a white man and say, “This is my brother” and there won’t be a pause, or a stutter, and we will see ourselves as a “world community.” I find it so hard to talk about these ideas without it sounding like clichés, or the corny side of New Age movement, where we all just “pour pink paint” over everything, as Marianne Williamson has sometimes said, because we don’t want to deal with our anger, our grief. But I’m not saying that. We have to talk about the pain, we have to go through the grief. There aren’t any short cuts. But the movement I’m envisioning is one where everyone is fed, everyone is valued, everyone is encouraged to contribute, REGARDLESS. And expressions of unconditional love are the rule, rather than the exception. And I believe we will get there. Our future depends on it.