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Misconceptions About Older Forms of Astrology

Misconceptions About Older Forms of AstrologyIn episode 59 astrologer Leisa Schaim joins me to talk about common misconceptions about ancient astrology, which is one of a series of podcasts I’ll be doing related to topics I’m thinking about as I go through the process of writing my forthcoming book on Hellenistic astrology.

During the course of the show we talk about both of our experiences in transitioning from solely modern astrology to a more traditional approach, some of the common misconceptions that people hold about traditional astrology before they begin to learn about it, and some of our resulting astrological perspectives today after having gone through that process.

For more information about Leisa please check out her website at LeisaSchaim.com.

Below are notes on some of the topics that we discussed in the episode, followed by the link to listen to the recording of this podcast.

News and Announcements

The price of Chris’ online course on Hellenistic astrology is being raised from $297 to $397 on January 1, so sign up now if you want to get in at the lower price.

Topics Covered in the Episode

  • Technique-driven changes in perspective
  • It is often necessary to try out techniques firsthand, which can lead afterwards to broader changes in astrological views

Some Misconceptions Discussed:

  • Both astrology and humanity have evolved over time, and therefore the astrology of the past has been superseded by more modern approaches
  • Traditional astrology is more fate-oriented and predictive, and both are inherently bad.
  • Potential positive and negative views of fate.
  • Traditional astrology doesn’t use the outer planets or newer astronomical discoveries and is therefore incomplete.
  • Some techniques seeming too simple to work, such as whole sign houses.
  • The feeling that if one’s approach already works, then don’t need to learn another approach, or that the other has to be wrong.

Positive Surprises from Learning Hellenistic Astrology:

  • The power that lies in simplicity and systematization
  • The gain of greater technical distinctions that allow one to see a person’s concrete life circumstances in different areas more clearly
  • Greater capability of prediction, which among other things can put the relationships between personal effort and luck into greater perspective
  • Some techniques working so well it prompts the need to reevaluate philosophical issues about how astrology and the universe work
  • The possibility of learning Hellenistic astrology but still integrating previous astrological learning and tools


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 59 transcript

Listen to This Episode

You can either play this episode of the podcast directly from the website or download it as an MP3 to your computer by using the buttons below:

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  • Chris – I am looking forward to the publication of your book. In the spirit of the current Jupiter in Virgo square Saturn (sometimes) I would say less is more. I for one would want to jump right into the meat of it and am not particularly interested in the debate as I have my own philosophical beliefs (moon/saturn/NN in sag trine merc and sun) and am dying to learn technique. I would think the publication of the book would spur interest in the on-line classes and would be a lower initial price point for this initiation into the world of traditional astrology. I really appreciate your comment about the loss of understanding in translation – it is bound to happen, from as you say, a lack of understanding of cultural context and the inability to translate completely, ever, from one language to another. I have often wondered what it would be like to think in Aramaic – a multi dimensional language spoken by Jesus, years later translated into the one-dimensional Greek and so on down the line. Lost in translation indeed. At the 1:02 point you talk about the chart showing a “signature built into people’s lives” and I can see that. I believe that we are set up from the beginning for a predisposition to a certain experience. All the while, that same planetary signature could play out in a way that varies from individual to individual. I see this as the fate component – it is there in any chart, using any technique. The free-will part as far as possible, is how we deal with that set-up – and that could open up a whole other debate regarding conscious will and ability which I do not think is apparent in a flat print of a chart. To my mind – the bigger question, the more interesting one, is why? In the meantime we have tools such as astrology to help get us through our plodding unknowing. I think predictive astro, or at the very least, a weather report of natal plus transits is affirming – it helps us organize on a psychic level and to process, and it is a re-assurance that “this too shall pass”. Certainly a more precise technique would be most welcome and I am looking forward to learning it at some point. Right now I am just trying to find a good source chart on dignities and that is hard enough to find. I hope that will be included in your book. I am curious about whether a progressed chart is used etc. Please hurry! Don’t sweat the small stuff – write three books instead of one or something. People like me just want to learn and test drive. Thank you for pulling this all together – it is much needed.

  • First off, I think this is one of Chris’s best podcasts to-date. The discussion is very candid & Leisa is a great guest as always. Her comment on the use of tarot, astrology & the desire to flat out -predict the future- was quite insightful. Likewise, I wholeheartedly agree with her comment regarding that though Hellenistic astrology uses less “objects”, there is a manifold increased depth of technique, though these aspects of Hellenistic astrology are difficult to explain in brief. As a student of Chris’s class I can say that what’s covered in the class would be too many books & it wouldn’t make sense if you removed the techniques from the conceptual framework. That’s what started the degeneration of astrology after the Hellenistic age.
    Though modern psychology is a very useful tool to explore the inner self, minds far greater than ours spent 5000+ researching astrology which doesn’t exist in a philosophic vacuum in itself. The conclusions reached by 400AD are at once more complex in philosophic depth than what we work with today, but also offer an integrated view on life and the art of living. Though they did not all agree, the Hellenistic astrologers as a whole saw time, cause, effect, experience, perspective & perception in a far different light than we do today. It’s quite sad that all of this was thrown not because of new research, but because the original research was done by someone of another religion which conflicted with the ideology of new religions. Such is our situation barely 1000yrs later, we have lost the unified framework upon which astrology is founded. We agree that it works, but we can’t agree why it works…is this not odd? Shouldn’t we know what we are doing & why it works to understand why we are doing it? Even if we use it and it tells us “things”, we will be unable to see the bigger (mundane) picture unless we understand the mechanics upon which these events operate in the fabric of life. I would think that as astrologers, to go back and review & discuss these topics in earnest would be far more constructive than any other “studies” we can perform on astrology at the present time. It’s easy to say “ancient knowledge” or “wisdom of the ancients” while projecting modern ideas onto what “the ancients” said; it’s quite another to actually -read- what they said about love, relationships, events, psychology, religion, free will and fate.
    Looking forward to your book Chris. Take your time.

  • By referring to a distinctly non-homogenized group of astrologers as Modern Western you may find many reluctant to engage with you, or this podcast. There are many types/schools and they not infrequently possess few shared semantics as regards planets, signs, houses, aspects, etc. Even less in respect to aims and objectives, or cosmology. Prior to the arrival of the Internet this was less noticeable or even noteworthy as Astrologers of the same schools of thought tended to stick together both in person and in respect to the publications under scrutiny. I’ve noticed a number of misconceptions about traditional ideas held by folks who would label themselves Modern in the broader sense but one wonders if those who largely operate with pre 20th century horoscopic schemata’s don’t hold as many if not more misconceptions as to what numerous more recent Astrologers actually think or do. Perhaps a future podcast addressing this issue might be stimulating and useful. As to who might be the guest, or able to discuss this with sufficient insight and erudition, is a good question. Rob Hand (very good podcast with him, btw!) might be able to, other options might be Liz Greene or Nick Campion, if they were willing of course.

    • Yes, given the time constraints of a single program, we did refer somewhat generally to modern astrology/astrologers at times. When you look at only modern astrology, there of course exist different subgroups. But when you zoom out further than that to the entire history of astrology, modern astrology also exists as its own category, and there are some meaningful differences from older forms that can be discussed in terms of generalities. It is doubtful that any of the people you named would disagree with that point, or with the way that we characterized some of the mainstream trends in modern astrology. One could equally say that there are varied types of traditional astrology that we also didn’t talk about, which there are, but discussing the distinctions one can make within either modern or traditional astrology was not this episode’s focus.

      As explained in our introductions, we are both coming from the perspective of having been immersed in modern types of astrology before learning a traditional approach. We are also proponents of synthesis when it seems beneficial, and we are also both active in the contemporary astrological community, so we are not at all unfamiliar with the spectrum of different opinions about astrology today. It is a notable phenomenon, though, that most people who use traditional techniques were practicing modern astrology before that, and so are familiar with both (and sometimes use both). There are exceptions, but the majority take this trajectory. So we were simply discussing one aspect of that experience, having personally been in that place of holding these misconceptions about older forms of astrology ourselves, and then learning firsthand why they were not true later.

  • I am trained in modern astrology and find it fascinating that after just the beginning study of traditional concepts such as sect how much more information comes forward – enriching the original interpretation and never negating it so far. I struggle however, with the negative connotations of some of the houses in the traditional interpretation. I struggle with the language used as well, but if I take a lighter look I see it as less foreboding. For example, the Sun rules the 12th House planet Jupiter by sign in my chart, and in traditional astrology one would say that it is not a profitable place to do business, the worst in fact. Great. So what am I to do? It goes on from there in great detail of course and I seem to pull this Jupiter out of the fire a bit (some favorable indications) but the 12th H placement is so negative it is hard to let go of, as is the 8th H placement of the Sun. This is what hangs me up. At least in the modern interpretation, refuge, spirituality and compassion are also held in the 12th H, and the 8th H holds the possibility of a transformative end to the crisis often experienced there, as hard as that may be. We have to live the lives we are “charted” to live to a great extent. It is a conundrum of sorts how simplistic the meaning is in the traditional, yet how much more information is provides in many ways. I am finding the combo of the both to be fascinating. I think it is important to keep it less doom-saying, and maybe that is why humanistic astrology came about – to give us meaning and some hope.

  • Thank you for a great discussion of current themes emerging in astrology. I was recently at NORWAC and met Chris and Leisa and attended his talk on the Master of the Nativity. I am also immersed in his course through the audio classes and listen to them daily on my commute to work. I have Pluto retrograding over my Mercury all of this year and these gods are having their way with me.

    I wanted to relflect on where my psyche drifts when listening to these issues and learning more about what is being astoninshingly discovered about astrological techniques which were in used circa first century CE. I was drawn into astrology by Rick Tarnas’ “Cosmos and Psyche” and now tend to approach human history and cultural evolution in broad planetary cycles. I am wondering about where this Hellinistic “revival” fits into the current Uranus Pluto Square and the Uranus Pluto cycle. Tarnas’ theme of humans using astrology as a tool to engage positive human cultural evolution is where my thoughts drift. His demonstration of how human cultural evolution can be correlated with the cycles of the outer planets can be connected with the current Hellenistic revival. The amazing timing techniques that are being dug up can be used by humans to more effectively engage positive human cultural evolution. This is my hope.

    The discussion about whether everything is determined or whether we have free will is an interesting and important discussion. However, simply because we are having the conversation leads to the expansion of our ability to use our free will to engage reality. To me the question is how are we going to use it? I think that the more we learn about these amazing techniques the more we will be able to consciously engage our own lives and positively engage in the ongoing evolution of human culture.

    These podcasts are amazing and thank you for all of them. Again, I look at this explosive use of technology and the internet as a positive manifestation of the Uranus Pluto cycle and applying this theme to the paradigm of our individual and collective worldviews is exciting.