Rod Suskin at Graduation. 2015 Photo: Nichola Smuts Allsop
Rod Suskin enrolled on the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology in 2009 and graduated in 2015. Rod began his private astrology practice 27 years ago where he teaches a 3 year online diploma course. He has a You Tube channel and is the author of several books on spirituality and astrology. Rod has also broadcast on South African radio for 17 years covering many esoteric and metaphysical topics. For the last 9 years he has been well-known for his slot on South African TV show, Free Spirit.
Since completing the MA Rod has founded and is chief editor of SPICA, the Postgraduate Journal for Cosmology in Culture, which showcases some of the best work produced by current students of the MA. He is also a freelance lecturer in 'African Medicine' at the University of Cape Town and in 'Medicine and Culture' for the University of Stellenbosch.
Rod talked to Jennifer Fleming about the impact of the MA on his life and work.
JF: When did your interest in astrology begin?
RS: Well, since childhood. I was about eleven or twelve when I went on a family holiday and met a family friend who was drawing charts. I began asking a million and one questions and he recommended some books for me to read. One of them was Derek and Julia Parker's Complete Astrology and I think that came out in 1975 when I was twelve years old. It was the sort of book that taught you how to calculate charts. And that's where I started.
JF: You have already achieved so much with your teaching, writing and lecturing Rod. What attracted you to the MA?
RS: The MA was being promoted in my home town of Cape Town and I attended the event along with a few of my current and former students. It was here that I had a conversation with one of the course lecturers about the possibility of doing the MA. Poignantly, it was the anniversary of my father's death. My father struggled initially to understand my interests in the subject and now I think it would have tickled him that my love of astrology has opened the door to a PhD. At the time I decided I didn't want to parachute into a new field of research, along with the fact that I hadn't been at university for 25 years and I felt it would be very different than when I had last been there. As it happened, an opportunity to apply for a scholarship came up a few weeks later and it was then that I decided to submit an application. So in 2009, six months after my initial conversation, I found myself beginning the MA and I haven't looked back.
JF: What modules did you find the most interesting?
RS: I did love the Introductory module, I have to say. It really inspired the hell out of me. It allowed me to access some of the theory and philosophy behind this kind of study and it gave me a lot of the philosophy that I wanted. I didn't really get to do philosophy at university and after 25 years suddenly I was right back into what makes university so exciting. It was full of stimulating ideas, so I loved that. And I loved the Sacred Geography module. That module triggered something for me and I wrote my best essay ever for that one.
JF: How did the MA affect your attitude to astrology?
RS: It gave me a deeper understanding of astrology's history and some of the reasons why different sky-based cultures are like they are. But for me, I think it made me a better astrologer. It certainly made me a better astrology teacher, that's for certain. Being able to give my students context and depth in everything we talk about, a lot of that comes from the MA and from interacting with everyone, especially at summer school which, for me, was very important.
JF: What was the focus of your dissertation?
RS: I focused on the cosmology of 'sangomas' or African shamans and whether the increasing initiation and mixing of cultures in South Africa is affecting their cosmology.
JF: Did your thinking change as you researched my dissertation?
RS: Not in any significant way. It really just clarified some things I knew 'non verbally' from training and practice as a sangoma and confirmed what I did understand, although I certainly learned a whole lot more.
JF: Did researching and writing the dissertation affect your role and participation in the community?
RS: Not at all.
JF: Do you plan to publish your dissertation?
RS: I have no plans to do that at present, perhaps in the future.
JF: What books are you reading now?
RS: At the moment I'm reading Astrology, Prophecy and the New Age by Nick Campion on my kindle. I have a rule in life though, that if the sun is down or it's a Saturday afternoon it has to be fiction. That's a very good rule in life to ensure that you read some novels that are good for you. So now I'm also reading The Fifteen Lives of Harry August by British author Claire North.
JF: Do you have any projects planned for the future?
RS: I have so many, you know. I discovered that I had started writing a book, which would be my sixth book, when I started the MA. I came across it on my laptop recently. So I think I will finish that. I can say that what I learnt on the MA has influenced how I want to develop this book but it's too soon to say more, so I'll have to keep you in suspense. I also want to think about putting some of my earlier books back into print and making two books I wrote ten or twelve years ago digitally available, so I'm working on that.
Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Rod. We wish you all the best with your ongoing projects, practice, and with your PhD studies in the future.
Jennifer Fleming, MA
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