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The Modern Revival of Astrology, with Nick Campion

Nicholas Campion

In episode 113 of the podcast I interview Dr. Nicholas Campion of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David about the revival of the practice of astrology in the west in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Nick is the leading historian in the world on the history of astrology in western culture, and he is the author of several books on the subject, including the authoritative A History of Western Astrology, Volume 1 and Volume 2, and more recently Astrology and Popular Religion in the Modern West: Prophecy, Cosmology and the New Age Movement.

Nick is the head of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, which offers an MA program in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. This is the only academic degree in the world which explores humanity’s relationship with the sky.

Below you will find the show notes and an outline of some of the main points of the discussion, followed by links to download or stream the recording of this episode of the podcast at the bottom of the page.

Show Notes and Episode Outline

  • The practice of astrology in Europe declined from the 17th century onward.
    • What were some of the reasons for this decline?
  • Last great flourishing in England with Lilly and some of his contemporaries.
  • The practice of astrology reaches a low point in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
    • Survives in the form of popular almanacs.
    • Additional esoteric strand went into masonry, then returns in magic & theosophy
  • Revival of interest and practice occurs in late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    • Begins with spiritualism and the Theosophical Society.
    • Beginnings of the New Age movement, modern millenarianism, etc.
  • The pivotal role of Alan Leo in reviving the practice around the turn of the century.
    • Connection with Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society
    • Writes a number of books and articles.
      • Books circulated widely and translated into other languages
    • Innovative way of doing mass market astrology delineations.
    • Desire to simplify the techniques to make them easier to learn.
    • Move towards character analysis.
  • Role of other figures.
    • Sepharial
    • Marc Edmund Jones
  • Dane Rudhyar and the birth of psychological astrology.
    • One of the first to incorporate Jung’s work on depth psychology.
    • Most prolific astrological author ever?
  • Invention of the Sun-sign column in the 1930s.
    • Subsequent popularization of astrology via Sun-signs
  • Explosion in popularity of astrology with younger generations in 1960s and 70s.
    • Part of the counterculture and New Age movement.
  • Aftermath. Flourishing of astrology in the late 20th century.
  • Postscript: the place of astrology in academia.
    • Why is it important to study the history of astrology?


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 113 transcript

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  • Thank you Chris another great podcast. As an astrologer who was raised on Margaret Hone and Dane Rudyhar And with the attending anticipations of the “New Age ” as being a time to look forward to, I have been struck lately in these podcasts that those assumptions might not necessarily be true. What I absolutely took for granted is not necessarily true as I had thought all these years.
    This has also been born out lately in the craziness of life today , which I guess can be seen as the struggle to get to the Aquarian Age. But still the glory days of the future coming has been dimmed in my thinking. To me that is one of the advantages of learning the history of astrology is that, as Nick just said . My belief system came out of a particular period in history from writers and teachers who had a vision , but not necessarily the absolute true one . The Aquarian Age is being formed and created now.
    Thank you again for the thought provoking discussions. I cannot remember a time when I was as anxious to learn more astrology from different points of view as I am now with these podcasts.

  • This was a really great episode, quite enjoyable. It gave a very wide view of astrology and its place in society. Nick’s books are great and this was a wonderful discussion.
    There were a few statements about Rudhyar that I’d like to clarify.

    –>Nick stated that Rudhyar was an “Esoteric Christian”.
    Rudhyar was broad minded and understood that he was in a basically Christian society. He had contact in the 1950’s with Rudolf Steiner’s teachings and followers, but didn’t seem to pursue the subject. While in Europe in 1962 he wrote a book called “Fire Out of the Stone” that was essentially a re-framing of Christianity into more metaphysical language. After this book, there wasn’t much else in his writings or teachings that would indict any particular Christian outlook. When he passed away, he was attended by chanting Tibetan Buddhist monks for three days, according to his wishes, not exactly a Christian way to leave the body.

    –>Nick stated that Rudhyar was a New Age believer.
    Rudhyar definitely believed in the coming Age of Aquarius. However, he often stated that many people would be disappointed in the New Age, that people had overly glamorized it. He thought that they may not like the collectivism and cold technology that would likely arise. He certainly wasn’t predicting mass enlightenment, peace and love automatically arising out this coming New Age.

    –>Nick stated that Rudhyar was a student of Alice Bailey.
    Rudhyar became friends with Alice Bailey in the late 1920’s. He greatly appreciated her help in getting his early material published and he praised her “dedication, courage and sincerity”. They were friends but Rudhyar didn’t join her Arcane School and was never a student of hers. It’s interesting that virtually none of her astrological ideas ended up in his books. Later in life he seemed to be distancing himself further from her astrology, while still praising her personally. So, it’s not accurate to characterize Rudhyar as a student or follower of Bailey.

    –>Charles Carter’s dismissal of The Astrology of Personality
    Nick told an amusing story about early reactions to Rudhyar’s work. Alexander Ruperti showed Charles EO Carter a copy of Astrology of Personality. Carter told Ruperti that he was a “silly young boy” for liking this material. This is interesting because Carter was at least nominally a Theosophist. Despite a reputation of being a nuts and bolts astrologer he wrote “The Zodiac and the Soul” in 1928. This sounds like a bit of competitiveness, maybe generational or maybe England/America competitiveness. Rudhyar went on to far surpass Carter’s work.

    I really liked the comment Chris made about the Hermeticism of 100-200 CE resembling an ancient version of the modern New Age movement. Currents of thought from India and the East had reached Alexandria and seem to have had an influence that is not clearly documented but seems unmistakable. And it seems that astrological knowledge traveled from Alexandria to India. The Theosophical Society was reviving an old dialog with the East, a dialog that is continuing.
    Thanks for the wonderful discussion!

  • Fascinating discussion, shame that the German tradition went largely unexplored – true heirs of Kepler’s proposed reformation? Perhaps a subject for a future podcast?

  • Thank you Chris and Nick,
    I am studying with Acyuta and am grateful for the work that you both do that compliments our understanding of astrology.
    I am planning to read your books Nick and thanks again Chris for your wonderful resource in having written all I need to know as I take one section at a time reading your book.
    kind regards
    happy day