Steffan Vanel: The Reader’s Reader
Full Interview by Martha Quill
What makes you different from other astrologers?
- Almost no one uses the Hilarion information. It’s absolutely incredible
and accurate information.
- The way I combine it with the Tarot. Astrology will show the lessons
your soul agreed to go through and work on in this life. Then you can look
at the transits and it shows what’s hitting you now. But with astrology by
itself you can’t see how you’re doing on the lessons, what growth you’ve
achieved having worked on them. After these many years, you would expect to have made some progress. That’s what I can see in the cards. The best analogy is that the chart is the curriculum you signed up for in this life,
the transits are your current exams and the reading is your report cards.
- No reader can help you to gain insight into anything they don’t
understand themselves. Apart from whatever knowledge or techniques or symbol system an Astrologer or Tarot reader uses, you’re still going to be dependent on the quality of consciousness and insight and experience of the reader. I’ve had a pretty intense life. By age 40, I experienced Pluto conjunct Mars, Venus, my Mid Heaven, Mercury, my Sun, Saturn, Neptune, my Ascendant. That’s pretty unusual and intense. Most of that was by age 28. A lot of Plutonian death/rebirth. Pluto makes sure things are serving the higher self and love and not the lower self and fear. It brings the unconscious into consciousness.
What kind of work have you done to raise your consciousness?
I practice Vipassina Buddhist meditation, I have strong Catholic roots, more in an esoteric Christianity sense now. I study native North and South American shamanism.
I’ve seen UFO’s.
How did you get involved with the Tarot?
I got my first reading in 1971 and I was fascinated by the pictures. I
bought a deck and studied and did readings for free for the first ten years.
I think that helped me to evolve and deepen in my work before I ever started charging for it.
How does the Tree of Life tie into Astrology?
The Tree of Life is like a skeleton or structure which shows the way in which the universe is created from pure spirit down to physical form through 10 phases corresponding to the numbers 1 through 10. But it’s also the key to the deeper meanings of the Tarot cards. All 78 tarot cards correlate to the Tree of Life in one way or another. There are also Astrological correspondences to the position on the Tree of Life and to the Tarot cards. So it’s one unified system. Tree of Life is the skeleton and Astrology and Tarot fill out the skeleton.
Where did the Tarot come from?
We know through the work of people like Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell that myths have symbolic meaning even if they are not historically accurate. The myth of the Tarot’s origin is that when the sacred libraries of Alexandria, Egypt, were burned to the ground….this was a tragic event because these libraries were said to contain all the ancient wisdom and secret knowledge of the Mystery Schools of the Mediterranean at the time…. there was a secret meeting of all the wise people of that time and the purpose of the meeting was to devise a way to secure their knowledge, a way to insure that their knowledge could survive what they saw as the coming dark ages. They came up with the idea of putting their knowledge into symbolic pictures on cards. They knew they would be used for lower purposes, for gambling and fortune telling, but for anyone who knew the key, they would be able to unlock all the wisdom and knowledge that was hidden in the cards. The symbolic signifgance is that the Tarot provides profound insight into the inner workings of the universe and into the working of our selves in relation to that universe. The key to this knowledge is discovered in the relationship between the Tarot and the Tree of Life.
What is the secret?
The secret is knowing that there is this correspondence. Paul Foster Case
says that the Tarot are images created by master minds who knew that the
symbols and pictures themselves would evoke awareness and consciousness
without even a rational understanding.
Nonetheless seeing that in the context of the dynamics of the Tree of Life is
even deeper and gives an incredibly coherent and unified system of understanding.
There are 2 kinds of books on the Tarot: those that say a lot and no one can
understand them and those that say nothing.
I have some unique insights into the Tarot system and I have some pretty
unique ways of applying that knowledge. Because all the books that teach
Kabbalistic Tarot have very little or nothing in terms of actual application
of that knowledge besides meditations. I think I present that knowledge in a way that people can understand it.
How do you use the information about the Kabbalah in Tarot readings?
All the major arcana cards are initiations into higher forms of consciousness, they are transitions form one level of consciousness to another on the Tree of Life. These are the macrocosmic, metaphysical realities of the Tarot, while they also have a personal, microcosmic psychological reality.
But the more you are in touch with that higher metaphysical reality of the
cards, it adds a whole new dimension or depth or a quality of presence as
you do readings for people. Knowing the background for the significance of the card.
What I consider my deepest work is the Tree of Life reading. It takes about
two hours and it’s nothing about past or future. One client said it was like
six months of therapy in two hours. It’s like a Kabbalistic ceremony invoking your Tree into visible appearance. On every level from the way you present yourself in everyday life to your experience of the divine at the top of your head face to face and everything in between. It shows your inner archetypal experience in relationship to the feminine, your inner archetypal experience in relationship o the masculine principle. Often half of the reading is sorting out those two positions because that usually involves mom and dad and all your past relationships and it gives real insight into what’s going on in your relationship life. Other positions relate to love, work, health, spirituality and so on. But it’s nothing about past or future. This helps put people in touch with themselves so that they can make decisions in their life. I’m more of a therapist and counselor than a fortune teller. I can help with questions and decisions, but that’s not my main function.
Can you do all this over the phone?
Yes I can do all of my readings over the phone. In an Astrological Reading I mail you the chart ahead of time and we look at it over the phone and I tape record it for you. I can do my various Tarot readings by phone, from my short 1/2 hour readings which are usually for quick answers to specific questions and decisions to the longer Celtic Cross and Tree of Life Readings.
One of the most interesting things about you is your range. You are a rock
and roll prophet. You quote Ascended Masters and Pink Floyd. A lot of people in the metaphysical community are just metaphysical, in kind of a moralistic, unidimensional way.
Again, you can’t help people with things you haven’t felt or experienced
yourself. I was told by a psychic one time that I was made to go through a
number of quite intense experiences in my life so that I would have a source
of empathy with my clients. I guess looking back I would say that made it
worth it, but I don’t think I would have signed up for it beforehand if I had
known. Something I can honestly say is that if I didn’t have a strong
personal faith that there is a God or Goddess or Higher Reality behind life and that there is a reason for everything that happens and that no matter how seemingly difficult or painful something is that it is really there to help us in our growth or evolution or of our unburdening of karmic debt, then I couldn’t do the work I do, it would be too depressing. The things I have to look at everyday, or I’d have to get professionally numb. But it’s because my own life has been such a challenge that I have developed that faith. It’s not something I read in a book.
What is your overall philosophy?
I believe that the purpose of life is for God to become known to himself.
I believe we are here to evolve into the divine. The Astrology shows the
specific karmic lessons your soul agreed to work on and grow through in this lifetime based on it’s previous life karma.
Personally I don’t think the world has a chance unless we get off the blame
game. And accept that what we are going through here is a world in which
every action has an equal and opposite reaction and that is not just on a
physical level, but also on an emotional, mental and spiritual level. Which
in the east is called karma and in Christianity is referenced by the phrase
“as you sow, so shall you reap” and also relates to the belief in reincarnation. Until we realize that there is karma here and that everything
is a lesson, it’s always going to be somebody else’s fault – your parents
your spouses, your neighbor’s next door, the government, another race,
another nation, and we’ll never have anything other than greed, hostility and anger that is so prevalent in the world. For example the story Princess Diana and Prince Charles. I’ve written a not yet published book about their Astrological Karma. I’ve seen that their story is not very different than many couples I’ve counseled. The difference is that every detail of their relationship had a global audience. Some people blame Charles for their problems, some blame Diana. There are unfortunate distortions in the way people apply the ideas of karma. Until we can get off the blame game, we are going to be caught in the victim/victimizer program. If you don’t want to be a victim you have to be a victimizer and if you don’t want to be a victimizer, you have to be a victim. And there is only one way out and that is through the positive side of the planet Neptune. Which is unconditional love for yourself and others, total forgiveness for yourself and others, spiritual faith, trust and surrender, where there are no victims and victimizers, but just all us frightened little boys and girls doing the best we can. Charles and Diana both had their own stuff and they totally
deserved each other.
That’s how I use Astrology. Astrology shows you what you agreed to work on, and it shows you which lessons are hitting you now. But to just show you what your lessons are and what is hitting you can be depressing. The Tarot gives more of an indication of how your are doing spiritually and
People often expect Astrologers to tell them what to do in certain
situations. Personally with Astrology there’s no way for your answer not to
be flavored by your personality or opinion and to make that choice or
decision for someone I actually feel is almost unethical. Now personally I can use Astrology to show you why you are in the boat you are in and what your lessons are and I can look at two charts and give I think pretty amazing insight into the karmic setup between you, what you knew you would do to each other, positively and negatively and we can look at the percent of difficult and positive aspects but I would never use that to say you should or shouldn’t be with this person because who I am to say what it is that’s really in the best interest of your soul. If someone really wants an answer or has a question, I will let them ask the cards. One card is for yes, one is for no. I have faith in the objectivity of the answers. It’s you asking Spirit directly for your own higher guidance. You’re not asking me.
In some ways a Tarot reading is like dream work. A dream is a symbolic
communication from the unconscious through images and symbols and a reading is also a symbolic communication from the unconscious. to the conscious through images and symbols. The symbols involved have a coherent system of meaning. To interpret either dreams or the cards you have to listen to what the symbols are saying. It’s a symbolic language.
People ask me if you have to have a gift to read Tarot. I tell them it takes
two things. Faith that it works and a willingness to listen. I started
doing readings right off the bat that were accurate. They took four hours
because I was still learning the language. I had to read the book with every
One reason why I ask questions of the client in a Reading is because a chart will show you a pattern of energies, but it will not show you the level of consciousness of that individual. Some people who have a higher level of consciousness will play out a pattern completely differently than someone of a lower level of consciousness. I would say there’s no way you can specifically predict what someone is going to experience out of this energy. So I ask a lot of historical questions to determine how these energies have been played out by this particular person in the past. I’ve seen famous Astrologers do what I would consider significant damage and create major confusion by saying things off a chart without checking it out first. The client is vulnerable. They don’t know what it means and they trust you. But occasionally a client will say he just said back to me what I said to him. Even though people during the reading accept and agree what it is I’m telling them, afterwards they may go back into that river in Egypt we call denial because they don’t want to stay with that confrontation of themselves. At times they may have to reject me to reject the information. I understand and sympathize with this. I don’t enjoy it but I don’t take it personally anymore. Fortunately this occurs very seldom. Most people who
come to me and are willing to pay me what I charge for a reading aren’t
there not to hear what it is I tell them. Most people are very appreciative of what I say. People may be a bit overwhelmed with all of the information I give them, but thata is why I tape record the Reading, so they can digest it later.
In what specific applications is your work useful to people?
There are several areas of specific application where I see my work as
One is working with teenagers. They need a lot of help. It’s a difficult
time of life. They need a lot of help, but they need help from someone other than their parents because that’s what they need help about. They can’t get it from their friends because they don’t know any more than they do. And they don’t trust anybody over 30, so it’s a difficult place to be. The Tarot works really well for them because they can see it for themselves and they can see that it’s not just an adult trip I’m trying to lay on them. I find that once they see it, and the proverbial cat is out of the bag, they actually relish the opportunity to talk about their deepest spiritual and psychological issues. It’s kind of neat for them because it doesn’t have the stigma of a mental health issue. It only last a couple of hours; it’s not every Monday at three o’clock for six months. It’s very rewarding for me because in working with adults, their issues are old, ingrained patterns that are like etched in stone. But with younger people it’s like their issues are etched in sand on the beach and if I can reach them early enough and get them to understand and forgive their parents, I can save them from having to play it out through two or three divorces.
It has a certain optimism to it.
I can even do readings for children down to 9 years old. Because of the
pictures, they can see it for themselves. When I was younger I set up a
table on Venice Beach and I charged $10 to $20 for a reading. A woman came up and asked me what I charged for kids and I said, oh.. 5 bucks. This was a nine year old boy and I remember he had some pretty heavy cards. One was the Three of Swords which is called Sorrow. But it’s the Universal Sorrow. It’s what Buddha meant when he said ‘life is suffering.’ Whenever you have life, you have the inevitable experience of death. As soon as you have the potential for joy and pleasure, you have the inevitable experience of pain and sorrow. That’s the way life is at this level of duality. Most people are trying to cling to the pleasure and push away the pain. In reality it is impossible. And the only real peace is when you can attune your consciousness to that which is beyond this level of duality. It gives a sense of meaning and purpose to the inevitable pain and sorrow we experience here. But as long as you are trying to cling to pleasure and push away pain, you are not really able and willing to seek that higher connection. And that’s why the Buddha started there before he said anything else. But it is a major test of faith as to why life has to be so painful at times. The Sorrow card is a pretty heavy card for a nine year old to have. And he also had the Four of Disks which is called Power, but it’s the kind of power you have that you get from being in a walled castle or fortress. And without the walls, you don’t have any power, and if someone attacks your castle it can become a prison. It’s stable, grounded balanced but in a holding pattern. In those readings I would only ask one question and that was what would you say is your greatest question, concern or problem. And he said, “Well, we’re moving to a new town and I’m
going to be moving to a new school.”
And I said, “And you’re going to have to be making all new friends?”
And he said, “Yeah.”
But I could tell there had to be something more. There was a heavier thing
going on. and I said, “Is there anything else that is bothering you right
And he said, “Well, my parents are getting divorced.” This was obviously
why they were moving, but he wasn’t even going to tell me that. But that
made it clear what that sorrow was about. I was able to use that card to
speak to him pretty directly and heart to heart and to say,”This card is
called sorrow, and its a time when you are really wondering why life has to
be so painful and why it has to hurt so much and it’s pretty hard and the
thing is that as you get older, you can always look back and see how
difficult times made you get stronger or made you learn things you needed to learn or you gained some wisdom. But nine years old is pretty young to have to deal with something this heavy.” I told him how my own parents divorced when I was nine years old, but how I could look back and see how it made me grow up and mature fast. I said to him, “Right now your tendency is to put these wall up around you to try to not show what you’re feeling and to try to protect yourself. Which is ok. You might need to do that for a while just to give yourself some temporary protection and security. But you wouldn’t want to stay there the rest of your life. You wouldn’t want to stay inside those rigid walls.” And I believe that boy understood perfectly everything I had to say to him. And it was all stuff that he really needed to hear but nobody could tell him. With the cards he could see it for himself. He could see that I wasn’t just laying my adult rap on him. If he had gone to a regular talk therapist who had tried to tell him the same thing, they would have just run into those walls. So I could say the mother got a good deal for her five bucks.
Another area of useful application is in relationships. I’ve already said
how I can use Astrology to do a synastry between two charts. It’s usually the positive aspects of a relationship we feel in the beginning. When it’s too late, the negative ones kick in. I can do a relationship intensive. That’s a three hour Reading for each person with each person being present for the
other’s reading. It’s often more interesting to see your partner’s reading as it is to see your own. Then there’s an additional reading on the synastry of the relationship.
I also do relationship readings between a parent and child. First I show
the parent the child’s chart so the parent can see what the soul of their
child agreed to work on and grow through in this lifetime. After that we
look at the synastry or karmic set up between that child and the parent. But
in doing that I always say it’s not my most joyful work. It’s one thing to
explain to adult why they had to go through what they had to go through and it’s another thing to explain to a parent why their child may have to go
through what they are going to have to go through. But it’s useful for a
parent to be aware of a child’s strengths and sensitive to their weaknesses.
But I also feel that it can help the parent to do that which is the hardest
thing for a parent to do and that is to surrender your child to his or her
own fate and into the hands of God. It’s hard enough to surrender yourself to your own fate into the hands of God and it’s a whole other thing to do it with your own child. And yet every parent has to do it. But seeing their chart you can see they weren’t born lily white. You can see that before they even opened eyes on you for the first time, they had their own karma, their own lessons, their own things they came here to work on, and you are only a part of that. Parents always tend think that they’ve screwed their kids up or someone else screwed them up and then we’re back in the blame game and victim/victimizer program.
I also work with people in the gay community, those on the path of
homosexuality. It’s a valid path in life. In my view it doesn’t matter
which way you’re playing the game. You still have to deal with your stuff.
If you go to a straight therapist they’re either going to think something is
wrong with you and try to change you or they’re going to be into showing how cool they are and not confront you on your stuff. It’s probably better to go to a gay therapist, but they may be into making you feel comfortable about being gay and not confront you on your stuff. Healing always includes healing and balancing your male/female energies within you. I did a reading for a lesbian woman once who had the Empress in the masculine side and the Prudence card in her feminine side. I told her she needed to open up to her feminine side and she could see the card and she knew what I was talking about. Whereas if the card hadn’t been there, she might have gotten defensive at being told that by a basically straight man. I told her I would have said the same thing to a man with the same cards.