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The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room

Episode 147 of the podcast features a discussion with Rick Levine about a recent controversy in the astrological community that centered on a lecture that Glenn Perry gave at a conference in India attacking the sidereal zodiac.

Background on the Discussion

The event was the 28th International Vedic Astrology Conference, which took place in Kolkata, India, from January 30 – February 4, 2018. The conference was held under the auspices of the Krishnamurti Institute of Vedic Culture for Public Welfare.

This year was unique because there was an open call for speakers, and more than 40 western astrologers gave talks at the conference.

On February 1, Glenn Perry gave a 30-minute presentation at the conference, arguing that the tropical zodiac is the one true zodiac and the sidereal zodiac is wrong. This presentation was given to an audience of Indian astrologers, where the sidereal zodiac has been the primary reference system for centuries.

The talk was widely viewed as disrespectful, both by Indian and western astrologers who attended the conference, not so much for the points argued in the talk but instead due to the tone, which came off as mean-spirited and divisive in what was otherwise set up as a more conciliatory east meets west conference.

There was a lot of discussion about the talk online after it occurred, and a number of people filed complaints with the International Society for Astrological Research (ISAR), since Perry was representing them at the conference as their ethics chair, research director, and longtime board member.

As a result of the controversy and subsequent complaints from the membership, he was eventually given an ultimatum by the ISAR board to either step down as ethics chair, or leave the board entirely, and he chose to leave the board.

The purpose of this discussion with Rick was to talk about the incident and hear what happened first-hand, since he was there in the room when the lecture was given, and also to get some background on other incidents like this one in the past, in order better contextualize what happened and why the community backlash was so strong.

Original Lecture Video and Video Commentary

A video recording of Perry’s lecture was released by the director of the conference, Gopal Bhattacharjee, in order to help set the record straight about what happened. You can view that video on Gopal’s YouTube page here.

Gopal also gave me permission to record a commentary on the lecture, in order to highlight some of the problems with it, and you can view that video here:

This video complements the broader discussion that was recorded with Rick for this episode of the podcast, although it was not meant to replace it, and you can find the links to download the audio recording of the discussion with Rick below.


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 147 transcript

Listen to This Episode of the Podcast

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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  • Hello Chris,
    I have watched your podcast and feel many things: fascination, amusement, respect, and shock. Foremost I am grateful that you took your time and experience in research to give us a play by play commentary for something that so blatantly needs it for so many who need to know what went on in India and what was the big deal with it. Right now we are finishing the editing of the next ISAR Journal, and in the spirit of Intelligent discussion of academic rigor, we are including a critique, Glenn’s full paper on the topic, and a rebuttal from the Vedic viewpoint on the controversial comments that Glenn made about the siderealists’ ineptitude in knowing or dealing with the precession. Richard and I are glad that the discussion between East and West is blasted open despite its contentious and stormy beginning phase. Thank you for all you do, and your collaborative and conscientious contribution.
    With high regards,
    Victoria F. Smoot,
    Editor in Chief
    The International Astrologer

  • ultracrepidarian
    [uhl-truh-krep-i-dair-ee-uh n]
    Spell Syllables
    Word Origin
    noting or pertaining to a person who criticizes, judges, or gives advice outside the area of his or her expertise:
    The play provides a classic, simplistic portrayal of an ultracrepidarian mother-in-law.
    an ultracrepidarian person.

  • The most glaring, even unspeakable affront against Indian astrologers is Glenn’s initial illustration of a sprawling elephant on a couch, “The elephant in the room.” The Indian elephant god Ganesh has become the standard symbol of India’s astrology, revered and respected as a sacred Divinity. If Glenn was unaware of the sacredness of Ganesh, there is no excuse for such abysmal ignorance. If he purposely chose the symbol of an elephant, in the Indian view it would be like desecrating Jesus Christ or a Christian saint.

    Speaking of Glenn’s historical and cultural holes, it’s a sad day indeed when a public spokesman for astrology simply doesn’t know what he is talking about. If there was ever a call for standardized education for astrologers, this is it. Having a Ph.D. in psychology doesn’t help if the astrologer is unaware of the rudiments of astrology’s historical development. Thanks, Chris, for the podcast and your superb book on early developing (Hellenistic) astrology!

    But Glenn (as well as Aristotle) is right about one concept. It makes no sense if a sidereal sign is said to have the same characteristics as the tropical sign of the same name. This is where sidereal astrologers are missing the boat, because there can be only one set of characteristics or meaning for any small or large segment of the ecliptic (influence from stars or otherwise). Thus, any tropical true-to-life observed characteristics must be transplanted to an entirely different sidereal segment.

    Tropical Aries is not sidereal Aries. Tropical Aries is sidereal Pisces with an entirely different underlying rationale based partly on domicile and triplicity lords; in this case the primary lords for Pisces being Mars (triplicity) and Jupiter. The same principle applies to every sign of the zodiac and every tiny segment of the ecliptic. Which set of observed characteristics is stable through the centuries? Tropical or sidereal? That’s the key to the zodiac question.

  • I had never heard Rick Levine speak before, what a charming man. Also, it was nice to hear the accent of a fellow New Yorker, it warmed my heart! I will definitely check out his You Tube channel and monthly forecast.

    A thought provoking discussion with lots of interesting tidbits and community info, but also, it got us thinking about an important question: How should astrologers in differing schools treat each other? Not only tropical vs siderial, but also traditional vs psychological vs evolutionary and so on. Are we to dismiss traditions other than the one we practice out of hand? How can we disagree, yet at the same time show respect? These are questions that surely bear thought.

  • In reply to Rhys Chatham:

    Since astrology has no universal standards at present, it seems that all we can do is accept with respect contrasting views. Academic people do argue different views, but generally these views are supported by research. Unfortunately astrologers tend to shy away from research studies. The majority of astrologers counsel others with little or no academic training in counseling. Each astrologer determines his own practices and beliefs.

    I think we have to accept that astrology at this time is an undisciplined field with multiple views and practices, along with a wide range of education (or lack of it) for astrologers. It’s good that astrological organizations are working on ethics and standardization. This is an on-going process, and I think we’ll see many changes over the years.

    • To Therese Hamilton:
      Your point of the importance for training in counseling is well taken! Liz Greene, who in addition to being an astrologer is also a qualified Jungian analyst with a PhD in psychology, tried to address this issue in her Centre for Psychological Astrology by requiring students to undergo at least one year of therapy themselves. My own view is that training in counseling should be part of the curriculum of any astrologer aspiring to working with other peole on a professional level. Whatever one’s view on the subject, this is definitely a question that deserves attention.

  • Rick is such a voice of reason. I find him very balanced for an Aries Sun ( I am Aries so I get to say that). He sees both sides. Love the comment about astrology being a window – that it is not about how we do it so much as the fact that we do it. The reason I say this is that I firmly believe there is more going on in a reading than the technique one uses – that there is synchronicity and dialogue with the client etc that is critical, that they will hear what they need to hear, and that there is more than both the astrologer an the client in the room so to speak. In a lot of healing arts, and I consider the metaphysical to be healing, people are certified but work differently. We as the client pick what and who works best with us. Some basic standards and then it is kind of a crap shoot really – hit and miss. This man, Glenn Perry, is just rude and should not be in position that requires diplomacy and even handedness and a scholarly and philosophical approach. Glad Rick redeemed the Americans at least.

  • These conflicts crop up quite often, this incident has been more public and contentious. Glenn is correct from a rational, academic or psychological point of view that you can’t be two psyches at once. Often radically different after seeing Sidereal or Tropical Astrologers. This latest manifestation of the chaos might help Astrologers split off more easily into those keen on finding empirical evidence and those disinterested in doing so. Ethical arguments are complex in this field, as without evidence you could argue the practice of it is unethical, past lives or not. It is important to make it quite clear to a client it is for the moment a religious (supernatural) belief.

  • Jen wrote:
    “Rick is such a voice of reason. I find him very balanced for an Aries Sun…He sees both sides.”

    To help alleviate zodiac conflicts, I can’t resist a small comment related to the zodiac. I don’t know Rick personally, but surely with his tropical Ares stellium, his personality reflects that sign.

    Sidereal Pisces lies beneath tropical Aries. Consider that Rick is a lifetime astrologer and teacher, writer, poet, etc. He also seeks “to bridge the gap between physics and metaphysics.” All much more Piscean (Neptune) than Aries symbolism. And he’s “very balanced….He sees both sides.” These aren’t attributes of Mars, but fit many-sided Pisces very well–the exaltation of Venus. Also Jupiter is universal, able to understand different viewpoints. We aren’t negating observed personality traits of tropical Aries, but we need the sidereal sign to help describe life patterns that can’t be easily explained with Aries symbolism.

    So many times tropical Aries can be many-sided or (worst case scenario) two faced and quick-changing, the underlying sidereal sign. But no one notices because they’re not looking for these traits in Aries.

    O.K., time for me to be quiet. I might take up this topic on the Skyscript forum or submit an article to the ISAR journal. If I’m overstepping the comment area here, I apologize.

  • It is this type of behavior that discredits astrologers. Ignorance of the rules of research is the true elephant in the room.

  • There is a classic psychology book titled “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”. It looks to me that Glen Perry mistakes his beliefs for fact. The truth is that he is pulling a Trump.

    Both Chris and Rick use up a lot of energy trying to figure Glen out and understand him when I think that this is a waste of time. It sounds to me that Glen is a narcissist which means that he runs on a view of the world that has him at the center and is focused on trying to make the world fit the mold that he desires. A narcissist surrounds himself with a wall of self-reflecting mirrors and does not want to and will no allow in any other point of view to enter his domain.

    You don’t have to spend time asking “why did he do this?’ “He doesn’t seem to care or recognize that he acted inappropriately.” Of course he doesn’t! He is doing a Trump and like Trump he only cares about himself.

    In terms of Jungian psychopathology this is a classic shadow process. I have found it a waste of time to try to wake someone up from their shadow possession. Only their running into fate in some way seems to be able to do this.

    I have noticed two broad classifications of people that are helpful for understanding their behavior. There is one group of people for whom the world is and MUST BE only one reality. Then there are others for whom their world is one of multiple realities that can exist side by side with others. Children usually life in a one reality world which is why they throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. The astrological community is primarily one with people who enjoy exploring multiple realities. After all we know that there are at least 12 realities. Every sign of the zodiac has its own take on the reality of the world, each valid in their own way. Every planet in every sign also has a different reality. The the process goes on and on and on.

    I have found that people who must live in only one reality are terrified to the point of death of even the hint that there might be a reality other than their own. To combat this they can become extremely aggressive in suppressing different realities. Their aggression can go even to the point of your death if you try to interact with them and make them aware of an alternative point of view or even hold an alternative point of view without bothering them with it. All repressive regimes operate in this fashion. People who require one reality will not come out of their reality to talk to you. You can only interact with them if you crawl into their reality and agree with them.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting only one reality. Humans had to tolerate very unchanging lives for thousands of years and so there was probably a genetic selection for one reality people. People who complained too much got killed by The Powers That Be or went crazy with boredom or moved to another continent. But now the world is a much different place where the speed and impact of change is growing daily and the one reality people are feeling under more and more threat. I think that this is a lot of what is behind our current political and social divide in the world now.

    The problem as I see it is that when one reality people feel threatened, they attack others which is exactly what Glen Perry has a history of doing. I am personally against trying to legislate ethics and certification in astrology for the very reason that it is almost guaranteed that whatever is decided upon can easily then become the only one reality that is then accepted. Every ecosystem that does not have enough diversity in it dies. I also think that it is impossible to legislate ethics and certification. Just look at how screwed up the medical profession on things like medicare fraud, sexual abuse, drug addiction and more and they supposedly have very stringent licensing rules. People who are ethical will behave so and those that aren’t won’t be constrained by any rules and regulations. All you can do is have classes on what ethical and professional behavior looks like, and even this can vary with the circumstances.

    I think that the astrology community needs to admit and declare publicly “We are a multiple reality and point of view community. If you want to be a presenter at our public forums, you must be willing to accept the existence of points of view other than your own. You do not have to agree with others but we will not tolerate any attacks or denigration of other’s ideas here. If you want to debate a point of view you must do it elsewhere and on you own time.”

  • Just curious– is he some sort of malignant narcissist?
    I get such a toxicity from this person as I hear of his track record.

  • I may be wrong, but I get the impression that Dr. Perry and many others have been making an important attempt to bring Astrology back into to the “scientific” establishment, and use their credentials and historic examples to support their claims. But I find it interesting that Dr. Perry doesn’t realize that it was the “scientific” establishment that declared, I assume, all of Astrology as hokum in the first place. It seems to me he is undermining his own years of hard work and those of his contemporaries and predecessors, and that’s unfortunate.

  • I am an avid student of astrology, not a professional, and so I want to ask a question to professional astrologers: to what extent was Perry’s lecture some sort of reaction (albeit beyond egregious) to the perception (real or not) that Western, tropical astrology is often deemed faulty because it does not follow the sidereal zodiac? I hear this all the time from my Vedic astrology friends, in YouTube comments, and periodically in the mass media and such; that the sun signs are all off due to precession and so all of astrology is bunk, while not recognizing or knowing the basics of the tropical zodiac system. Of course, Perry’s behavior during his presentation, from his constant complaints about the technical difficulties to his totalizing discourse and narcissism, are the true issue at hand, agreed. Yet, the other issues he raises are important: if all traditions are valid from the “multiple realities” perspective, then is astrology fully not a science and purely an art? My appreciation to anyone who might respond.