The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 1, titled:
With Chris Brennan
Episode originally released on June 29, 2012
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Nicole Miller
Transcription released December 7th, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
Chris Brennan: Hello! My name is Chris Brennan, and this is The Astrology Podcast. Today is June 29, 2012 here in Denver, Colorado, USA. This is the first episode of The Astrology Podcast, and the purpose of this episode is to give an overview of what this podcast is going to be all about and to talk about what sort of topics I plan to discuss during future episodes. This episode is going to be more of a solo show, although in the future I will probably have other guests and co-hosts on the show from time to time so that there’s a bit more of a dialogue involved.
I should probably start by introducing myself and talking a little bit about who I am and what my background is for those of you who aren’t familiar with my work. As I said earlier, my name is Chris Brennan, and I’m a practicing astrologer from Denver, Colorado. I’m currently 27 years old, and I’m actually on the brink of my first Saturn return, which actually begins later this year when Saturn moves into Scorpio.
I’ve been studying astrology for about 12 years now, since I was 15 years old. I actually stumbled across it when I was still in high school, and I became very intensely fascinated by it at that time. I was fortunate to realize pretty early on that I had found what I wanted to spend the rest of my life pursuing, and luckily at that point I also, when I was still in high school, found out about a new college that had just opened its doors in 2000 called Kepler College, which was offering college-level courses in astrological studies. I was fortunate enough to begin attending Kepler, starting in late 2003, and I spent a few years working there on a bachelor’s degree until about 2006 or 2007.
At one point during my second year of the program, I was sort of forced to take an introductory course on Indian and what’s called Hellenistic astrology, which is the type of astrology that was practiced in the Mediterranean roughly about 2,000 years ago. And this actually ended up igniting my interest in studying ancient astrology and studying the history of astrology in general. So at that point, I left Kepler in order to pursue a sort of internship at a translation project for ancient astrological texts, and I spent two years there studying.
Somewhere during that time I started practicing astrology professionally and giving lectures and teaching classes on the subject. I’ve been working on a book on ancient astrology for several years now, and I hope to publish it sometime in the very near future; hopefully sometime within the next year. So that’s basically who I am.
As a result of Kepler, I developed a background in both the ancient and modern traditions of astrology, and this gives me a unique perspective on the astrological community. I’m currently the host of another podcast called Traditional Astrology Radio, but my interests are actually kind of diverse; much more diverse than just focusing on traditional topics. So I actually feel kind of bad sometimes when I’m doing the traditional show for deviating in certain areas, for example, by occasionally talking about the outer planets or what have you—things that weren’t used or didn’t exist 2,000 years ago.
So that’s actually part of why I’m starting this podcast because I thought it would be a good idea to have more of a general show where I’m not restricted about what topics or areas I can discuss. I still plan to continue recording the Traditional Astrology Radio podcast from time to time; however, I just like the idea of having a much more—a broader and much more diverse show, in which I can also discuss both modern and ancient astrological approaches and techniques.
So my interest in the different traditions of astrology extends to an interest in the different techniques that astrologers in different eras, but also in different parts of the world, use, either today in modern times or at various points in the past. And along with that, I also tend to be very focused on and interested in historical issues as well as philosophical issues that relate to astrology.
And so I would like—the purpose of this show is to have a platform to very quickly, and sometimes somewhat informally, express some of the things that I’m currently thinking about and trying to work out or trying to research in those fields, or in those areas, as it pertains to techniques, the history, and the philosophy of astrology.
At the same time, I’m also interested in contrasting different viewpoints and trying to really understand where different astrologers are coming from and what the merits of their arguments are. The astrological community, because it’s so diverse and because there are so many traditions and approaches and viewpoints, sometimes you’ll see some of these different approaches coming into conflict or clashing in some way due to astrologers having disagreements either about technical issues or about fundamental, conceptual, or philosophical issues regarding astrology.
And I’m very interested in contrasting the different viewpoints, not necessarily in a combative way, but in a way where I try and look at the different viewpoints that people are taking on different astrological topics or subjects and trying to basically give a sympathetic take, or make a sympathetic look at each person’s argument or viewpoint and try and understand it from their perspective, or try and make the best argument I can for the validity of that perspective and then to go ahead and then contrast the opposing view and similarly try and make the best argument I can for that viewpoint.
And I find that in that way by contrasting and trying to recognize the merits in the different viewpoints that it’s—it actually helps a lot in order to develop your own viewpoint on astrology and where you come down on those specific issues because as long as you are honestly and carefully and very deliberately looking at the different approaches and the different viewpoints that people take, then that allows you to make more of an objective analysis or an objective decision about which one you prefer your own, even if you can see the validity in some other viewpoint.
So a recent debate that I’ve been involved with that’s a good example is a debate that some traditional astrologers have been having about the outer planets and whether or not the outer planets should be used—incorporated—into the traditional, or the ancient, astrological system or if they shouldn’t and somehow it sort of messes up the continuity or the consistency, or coherency, of the astrological system. And it’s actually a really interesting debate because there’s points to be made for both sides.
I ended up—I was actually arguing that the outer planets—I personally use the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—and I was arguing that they could be worked in in certain ways into the traditional framework without necessarily completely violating the systematic integrity involved in the early traditional astrological construct.
But I understand that everyone has to draw a line at some point, and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with if somebody wanted to use a system that only used the seven traditional planets because I think that that system in and of itself is coherent, and it has a coherency and a consistency, and you could practice astrology in that way, and it could still be perfectly valid and meaningful and provide a sufficient level of information that there’s not necessarily a need to incorporate other things—other techniques or other planetary bodies or what have you.
The traditional system in and of itself already has, with just the seven visible planets, has quite a bit of stuff in it. There’s a lot going on there already when you take into account the manifold significations of just the seven traditional planets, which themselves bring this great diversity.
So you have the seven traditional planets; you also have the fixed stars. You also have the Arabic parts, or lots. So already in just the traditional system there’s a lot there, and there’s a lot of information that you can get just from that. One additional counterargument that I could see somebody making who’s arguing for more of a traditional standpoint that you have to draw a line somewhere is many people who are, let’s say, traditional astrologers that use the outer planets, some of them may not necessarily—they themselves may draw a line at that point, and they might not incorporate other bodies like the asteroids or other minor planets that have recently been discovered over the past few decades.
Everybody has some sort of line that they draw, or at least most of us do. I guess I’ve seen a few people who have charts where they just have hundreds of asteroids, and that’s really out there. And from my perspective, that’s going too far, and perhaps some people don’t feel that way, and that’s fine. But even from my perspective of arguing that the outer planets should be incorporated into the traditional system, I myself still draw the line somewhere. And that line is at the point at which I feel like I have a sufficient number of variables in that the planets that I’m already working with are providing a sufficient level of information that even if I know, because I think I do acknowledge that the asteroids and some of the other minor planets can have a significant astrological correlations—it’s not that I would necessarily discount that the asteroids mean something. And sometimes it can be very interesting and sometimes relevant or even perhaps important.
However, just because I could incorporate all of those other bodies, there’s not necessarily the necessity that I do. I’m not necessarily compelled to or required to, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that my astrology will be insufficient as a result of that. And I think from the perspective of a traditional astrologer—or like a hardcore traditional astrologer—that they could make the same argument when it comes to the outer planets, and that’s fine. I think that’s a perfectly legitimate viewpoint, and that’s also, I might mention as sort of a digression, it’s sort of a viewpoint that many Indian astrologers take, since most people who practice traditional Indian astrology do not use the outer planets, even though they’ve been around for a couple of centuries.
So, yeah, so that’s just a sort of example of a specific topic that has come up recently, and it’s a topic that I’m interested in, and it’s a topic that some astrologers are debating today. There are debates going on out there about which bodies should be used and how many bodies—celestial bodies—should be incorporated into astrological charts and delineations. So that’s just a preview of how I like to approach some of those debates by looking at both points and trying to make—to whatever extent I can—the best argument for both. This is a topic that we’ll probably return to at some point in the future because that was a very brief and somewhat shallow take on both arguments or both sides of that argument.
But that’s just an idea of the types of discussions I would like to have in the future, and I’d like to talk to different people that hold extreme viewpoints on both sides of the spectrum because that’s how you get the—by comparing those widely different viewpoints—I think that’s how you can fully develop a viewpoint of your own that sometimes, in some instances, would tend more towards the middle, while perhaps for some of us in certain instances, we might tend towards the extreme. But the idea is at least to understand what both sides are talking about and then make a decision about what you think or what works best for you from there.
So that’s an example of the type of approach that I prefer to take and the tone that I’d like to adopt for the purpose of this show. But as far as the specific topics that I plan to cover in the podcast in the long run, I’d just like to give an overview of what that might look like and some of the areas that I’d like to focus on and then what are some of the questions within those areas that I’d like to raise and discuss and hopefully try to address or answer to some extent.
So the first area that I’m very interested in is the philosophy of astrology. And when I mention the philosophy of astrology, I’m using that term very broadly to talk about and—trying to find what is astrology? What is it capable of? And what are its implications for the world or for our understanding of the world and the cosmos in general? So some topics that I’d like to address and cover under the broad heading of the philosophy of astrology are things like what exactly is the definition of astrology? And I’d actually like to take a minute to talk about that just because this is the first show, and this is the quote-unquote “astrology podcast.” So it’d be a good idea to go ahead and define what this topic is that I’m going to be talking about for the foreseeable future.
So, what is the definition of astrology? Usually, if you go online—I actually wrote an extensive, a long, article on my blog a few months ago. If you go online, or you pull out a dictionary, and read just about any basic, mainstream definition of astrology, it defines it as something like: “the study of the supposed influence of celestial bodies on earthly events.” And that’s basically the definition that most people give to astrology. That’s not really an accurate definition though. It’s not a fully inclusive definition of the way that astrologers around the world, both in modern times and ancient times, both in the West and in the East, actually define the subject though.
Instead, the definition that I’ve recently put forward for astrology is that—here it is. So astrology, according to my definition, is the study of the correlation between celestial and earthly events. The study of the correlation between celestial and earthly events. So it’s the basic premise that sometimes the certain movements of the planets and the position or appearance of certain celestial bodies will somehow correlate with or reflect certain developments on Earth in various ways. So that’s a really broad definition; in fact, some people might even want to criticize it and say it’s overly broad just to say that it’s the study of the correlation between celestial and earthly events.
But I think what it lacks as a result of its being to broad, it makes up for in being accurate or being more accurate than most definitions of astrology because it’s more inclusive. And this is why: it’s because, traditionally speaking, over the past 2,000, even 3,000 years now, there’s always been two major—for about 2,000 years, there’s been two major definitions of astrology, or two major ways of conceptualizing astrology amongst astrologers. Now, one way, the original way, is to conceptualize astrology as, like I said, the correlation between celestial and earthly events, and what that means is that astrologers, for example, in Mesopotamia 3,000 years ago, or roughly modern-day Iraq, believed that celestial events, like when an important event happened in the sky, it would correlate with or signify some event that would happen on Earth. But they did not necessarily say that it caused that event to occur.
So it’s not a belief that celestial events are directly influencing, either directly or indirectly influencing, events on Earth. But instead it’s a much different philosophical premise, which is that for some reason, celestial events are capable of acting as signs of earthly events, rather than causing them. So the distinction—a good analogy of the distinction is that, for example, the clock on the wall can reflect that it’s 3 o’clock in the morning right now, but the clock—just because it’s reflecting that it happens to be 3 o’clock in the morning, it does not mean that the clock itself is causing it to be 3 o’clock in the morning. It’s simply mirroring or reflecting the state of events at this present point in time, for whatever reason. That’s the original, apparently, conceptualization of astrology in Mesopotamia that the planets or other celestial bodies simply reflect or correlate with earthly events, without necessarily causing them.
So that’s one major viewpoint about how astrology works. Another major viewpoint is the view that celestial events either—celestial movements, like planets and other celestial bodies—either directly or indirectly influence earthly events through some sort of force or some sort of physical mechanism or, in some traditions, some sort of spiritual mechanism, which literally causes things to happen on Earth as a result of some sort of influence that the planets themselves exert.
And that’s the definition that some astrologers, starting especially around the second century CE, especially the famous astrologer, Claudius Ptolemy, really championed, and that was, for many astrologers, the basic model for hundreds of years. And it eclipsed and, in some traditions, completely overshadowed the previous model that had to do with the planets acting as signs of earthly events rather than causes. And that’s the reason, actually, why most mainstream sources, if you pull out a dictionary, basically define astrology in that way as the study of the supposed influence of celestial movements on earthly events.
But the problem is that there is this other conceptualization. And it’s not just the original ancient conceptualization, but it’s also the way that many modern, especially Western psychological, astrologers define astrology today as well. They usually use a modified form of Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity to explain how celestial movements can correlate with earthly events, not as a result of some direct causal mechanism, but through the principle of synchronicity, which is this theory that there can be a causal connection between two events that doesn’t have to do with a direct physical mechanism or cause between them but instead has to do with an equivalency of meaning; that there can be a symbolic connection between two things and that the symbolic connection itself is sufficient to act as a connection, regardless of if there’s any physical mechanism that’s actually tying those two things together.
So, for example, if somebody is having a major Mars transit, and transiting Mars comes up and conjoins the ruler of their ascendant or conjoins their Moon or what have you, and they get really angry that day, or they get into a fight or an argument with somebody, it’s not a result of Mars physically exerting some sort of influence, which causes the person to get angry that day, but instead it’s the result of Mars simply correlating with and symbolically in the same way that Mars is becoming prominent, the person—whatever that archetype is or underlying meaning or signification that Mars represents is also becoming prominent in the person’s mind. But it’s not as a result of some direct cause.
And that’s the way that essentially a lot of modern, Western, humanistic, and especially psychological astrologers define astrology. So for that reason, to the extent that they don’t define astrology as the influence of celestial events, they don’t believe that celestial events are causing earthly events to happen. But they don’t think that a person got angry or got in a fight because Mars was influencing them that day, that Mars was simply reflecting that they would get angry that day to the extent that a lot of modern, Western astrologers do not define astrology in that way as some sort of causal science.
That’s the reason why I think that applying or adopting a much broader definition of astrology is much more appropriate because then my definition includes both of those major approaches. If you just say that astrology is the study of the correlation between celestial and earthly events, that becomes an umbrella definition that can include both the viewpoint that celestial events cause earthly events as well as the viewpoint that celestial events merely correlate with or reflect earthly events without necessarily causing them.
So that’s one type of philosophical and conceptual issue that I’ve been very interested in for a while, and that’s probably a topic that will return too often as we explore different ways in which people define and conceptualize astrology.
This ties into another question of how does astrology work? So I basically just discussed that, but basically does astrology work as a result of the planets causing things to happen down here, or does astrology work as a result of the planets merely mirroring things on Earth for some reason? And if that’s the case, then what is the mechanism, or why does that happen? If the planets aren’t causing things to happen on Earth, then how is that possible? Or if the planets are causing things to happen on Earth, what would the mechanism for that even be? It seems doubtful, even though some small segment of astrologers still argue it, but it seems doubtful that it would be something like gravity. So are we talking about some other mysterious force or mechanism? Or is it some known force? Those are some questions that we might ask when it comes to the issue of how does astrology work.
Other issues are things like what are the implications of astrology from a cosmological perspective? So most, I think, people listening to this podcast are already probably astrologers or astrology enthusiasts, so you already have some sort of assumption that astrology works. But sometimes I like to—and I find it healthy to—step outside of that and pretend that I don’t have any background in astrology and pretend that I’ve never seen astrology work or that I don’t have any practical experience with it just to imagine what the implications are if astrology is true; if there is some sort of astrological mechanism or if astrology—if celestial events or celestial movements actually do correlate with earthly events, what is the implication that that has on our cosmology? Or what would be the implication of that on modern cosmology? How would it change our understanding of the world? Or what would it mean within the context of modern science or even modern religious debates? So that’s a pretty large question in and of itself. And there’s a lot of people who are doing very interesting work in that area at the present moment in time.
There’s other philosophical issues; the big, looming philosophical issue that’s been around for a couple thousand years—it’s like the big elephant in the room—is the issue of fate versus free will and the question of how much is fated if astrology works, and do we have as much free will as we think we do? Or that as we experience—that we have the experience of having free will, and is that true? Or is our experience of making choices and decisions—I don’t want to say valid—but is it an accurate reflection of how much things are actually indeterminate versus how much are things laid out ahead of time before us?
One of the issues—and this is a big issue. I think this kind of gets swept under the rug, or, to a certain extent, it has been swept under the rug in the past 20 or 30 or 40 years in the astrological community, to a certain extent. Because most of the astrologers, it seems like, in the 60s and 70s came in and were very pro humanistic astrology and were very much about using astrology partially as a consciousness-expanding tool but also as a means of actualizing their potential and as a means for, they felt, for developing more self-awareness and thus, in their perspective, developing almost more free will or more ability to alter one’s life or alter the parts of one’s life that they didn’t necessarily want to stay the way that they were.
But now, in the past 10 or 20 years, it seems like there’s some problems because of the revival of more traditional forms of astrology is bringing back more of a hardcore predictive astrology and astrology that does more than simple character analysis or psychological analysis but that’s actually capable of predicting concrete events in a person’s life. And, to the extent that that astrology works and is capable of predicting events in a person’s life based on their birth chart, which is simply a diagram that represents the positions of the planets at the moment that that person was born, to the extent that some of those techniques are capable of predicting specific events about a person’s life or the course of a person’s life based on their birth chart, that does raise some fundamental questions about free will and about fate.
And this is kind of a controversial issue, and I have kind of a controversial position on it because I tend to think that, or I’ve certainly come to the conclusion over the course of the last decade very slowly, that we probably don’t have as much free will as we think that we do. And the basic premise of astrology basically—this is probably a debate I’d love to have with somebody who would want to take an opposing position at some point—but my basic premise is that if astrology works at all, then it indicates that we’re not just a blank slate when we’re born. Or at least our life is not a blank slate that is filled in and developed or created from scratch as we go along. But there is certainly—at least to some extent, the basic premise of astrology is that some parts of our life are predetermined from the moment of birth.
That’s—a lot of modern Western astrologers have an issue with that because it does contrast—or it does rub you the wrong way if you’re a modern, humanistic person like most of us are. But that’s the basic premise of astrology; the basic premise of astrology is fundamentally that there are some things about our life or our character or personality or events that will occur in our lives that are predetermined from the moment we’re born. And the implications of that are philosophically very interesting and very, in some cases, problematic for certain viewpoints if you hold a viewpoint that contrasts with that as most modern people do.
So figuring out what to do with that raises some questions because we have to figure out a number of things as a result of that; we need to figure out how far that goes. How much is everything fated? And in what level of detail is everything fated? Or to what extent is astrology capable of predicting things about a person’s life, even if a lot of things are fated? Or even if a lot of things are fated, is there still some room for negotiation, basically; can things be changed? Does it set up a template, but it’s a template that you can work with or sometimes you can sort of draw outside of the lines, so to speak? There’s a lot of questions like that that I’d like to raise and talk about and discuss the different approaches and viewpoints that we might take and argue from different perspectives.
Those are some of the different areas in the philosophy of astrology that I’d like to touch upon. In addition to that, another area, of course, that I’d like to focus on is on astrological techniques and concepts, both ancient ones as well as modern ones or, I guess I should say, both modern techniques as well as ancient ones.
So in my personal opinion, I think that astrology is actually going through a very important period of synthesis right now or resynthesis. What I mean by that is if you go back and look at the history of astrology, periodically, right about the time there are these great rebirths or renaissances of astrology and these great periods in which astrology flourishes, it’s always preceded by a transmission and a revival of older and foreign techniques and traditions, which are then merged with and synthesized with whatever the prevailing astrological tradition or paradigm is at that moment in time.
So this has happened a bunch of times in the past; it happened in the 1st century B.C.E., and that’s what led to the development of Hellenistic astrology as a result of a synthesis of Mesopotamian and Egyptian astrology. It happened in the 8th century with the birth of Medieval astrology as a result of a synthesis of Hellenistic and Persian and Indian traditions. It happened in the 12th century during the late Medieval tradition. It happened again during the early Renaissance; it happened during the 17th century. It’s happened a bunch of times in a bunch of different places.
And basically it’s happening again now because what we’re getting is a revival of older techniques and concepts, which are then getting, or in the process of, but will certainly over the coming decades be synthesized together with the prevailing modern paradigm, which is essentially modern Western astrology. So modern Western astrology has developed and developed over the past hundred years, but it kind of developed in isolation of the earlier traditions. Modern Western astrology, contrary to the popular belief, is not a result of a gradual evolution of the subject. The way that modern astrology is practiced today is not a result of some sort of deliberate evolution of the subject where astrologers tested out different techniques, and then they discarded ones that didn’t work, and they incorporated new elements, like the outer planets, after much discussion, and everybody was in agreement and everything else.
It really wasn’t like that because—part of the reason is that modern astrology was built, or rebuilt, and predicated on just a few pieces of what had survived of the astrological tradition at that point. And there’s two reasons for that: one reason is because astrology fell out of favor in the West after or during the 17th century. So astrology basically dies out after the 17th century, and then it gets revived again in the early 20th century.
But they didn’t really have access—so at that point astrology gets revived, but it gets invented anew because a lot of new stuff had happened in the interim. We discovered that there were other planets out there; there was the development of psychology—depth psychology. Cosmology science changed; everything changed from the 17th century to the early 20th century. And as a result of that, the astrology that was created, or recreated once it was revived in the 20th century, was a lot different than what came before it.
So that’s one reason that 20th century, or modern, astrology is different. The other reason is because over the course of the past 2,000 years, before the invention of modern printing and the Internet, it was a lot more difficult to transmit books and texts, and the transmission of astrological doctrines and astrological techniques has very checkered history, a very spotted history, because they were basically—for most of that history, books had to be copied by hand on pieces of papyrus or parchment or what have you. And books had to be copied, and it was this huge, laborious process, and then on top of that, they wouldn’t always stay good; and on top of that, you had wars, and you had famine, and you had fires and the destruction of libraries and the rise and fall of different empires, and so on and so forth. It wasn’t just like a continuous tradition in the West over the past 2,000 years.
On top of that, what you’ll have is, for example, you have the Roman empire, so you have Hellenistic astrology being practiced in the late Hellenistic and early Roman period. But then the Roman empire falls, and so what happens at that point is astrology gets transmitted to the Persians, and then it gets transmitted to the Arabic tradition in the 8th century. Then it gets transmitted from—and this is from different languages. So in the Roman tradition, it was going from Greek and Latin, then it was transmitted to the Persian tradition, so it was translated into Pahlavi, which is Middle Persian. Then astrology gets transmitted to the Arabic tradition, so it gets transmitted—the texts themselves get translated from Persian to Arabic.
Then in the 12th century, the texts got transmitted again, and we have a transmission from Arabic texts to Latin texts. And then eventually, by the 17th century, we get a transmission of a bunch of the Arabic and Latin texts into other European languages, like French and English. So in the 17th century, we have some of the first English texts on astrology. And they were largely predicated on earlier Latin texts, which themselves were predicated on Arabic texts, which themselves were predicated on Green and Latin texts from earlier, from the Roman period.
So basically the reason I’m going through that long and convoluted explanation is to give you some idea of what the history and the transmission of astrology has been like over the past 2,000 years and how difficult and chaotic it’s been. And unfortunately, as a result of that, for most of the 20th century, astrologers had no idea, basically, what astrology was like prior to the 18th or 17th century. People simply did not have access to texts from those earlier ages, so they didn’t have access to the astrological tradition. Or at least they didn’t have access to the entirety of the astrological tradition.
There were some books that were kept in circulation, like Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos or other texts of that nature. However, they weren’t necessarily fully representative; you can’t have just one book, and then think that that’s fully representative of whatever tradition it comes from because there’s always going to be other authors who have different viewpoints and different approaches or different takes to that subject. And, in point of fact, Ptolemy is kind of weird in certain ways, and he’s kind of different than what other astrologers were doing at that time around the 2nd century.
So what’s going on now is we have a revival; all of a sudden in the past 20 years, there’s been some translation projects. And dozens and dozens of translations have just been cranked out from various languages, like from Greek and from Latin and from Arabic and from Persian and even some texts from Indian and Hebrew, and so on and so forth. So all of a sudden, we have a ton of texts that have a bunch of—sometimes, a very foreign techniques that we didn’t even know that we had lost.
And so what we’re doing now, or part of what is going to take place in the course of the next 10 or 20 years, is people are going to start evaluating—and people are already starting to evaluate—the usefulness of some of the techniques and some of the doctrines contained in those texts. And there’s going to be a dialogue about what parts of those techniques, or what parts of those traditions—how they can interface with modern Western astrology and the type of astrology that’s been developed in the West over the course of the past 100 years.
So that’s a lot of what I would like to do during the course of this show is comparing and contrasting different ancient and different modern techniques and maybe to introduce some new technique or talk about some specific technique, either an ancient one or a modern one, during the course of each show and give people a sort of interesting look into how some of these different techniques can be used and conceptualized.
So other than that—so that’s astrological techniques and concepts. Another issue that I plan to cover in the long run in future shows is: I’d like to do some shows to discuss topics related to ethical issues in the world of astrology because it’s kind of a vast area. There’s an interesting and not very—it has been discussed a certain extent, but it’s not something that we often—it’s something that comes up for me a lot and that I often think about, which is: if you’re a practicing astrologer—if you’re a modern Western person, and you’re practicing astrology in the Western world—there are some obvious ethical issues that are raised as a result of that.
For example, one of the ethical issues that’s been debated a lot over the course of the past 20 or 30 years is the issue of prediction. So the basic question is: is it okay to predict? Or, first, there’s a philosophical and conceptual issue, which is: is astrology inherently predictive, which some people say yes, and some people say no. I would say that the answer, to me, is yes, that astrology, by virtue of its very nature, is inherently predictive. And I think I could argue that case very easily.
But the question is even if astrology itself is inherently predictive, there’s different types of prediction, and there’s a different scope. It depends on how it’s being applied, or, for example, within the context of an astrological consultation, I think that, fundamentally, if you’re looking at a person’s natal chart, because it’s just based on the position of the planets at the moment that the person was born, it’s already kind of inherently predictive on its own because it’s saying that somehow those positions have something significant to say, something informative about both the nature as well as the course of a person’s life. And that’s just based on where the planets were at the moment they were born. So that’s inherently predictive to me.
But saying or making statements based on a person’s birth chart, there’s different ways which you can do that. You can make character analysis statements, which in a way is predictive in and of itself, but in a way it’s just depicting or stating what already is or things that are already the case with respect to the person. And that’s kind of different than making a prediction that, for example, this native will get married when they’re 26 years old, or this person will have a career peak when they’re 35, or this person will have a difficult Saturn return, or what have you.
So there’s an underlying issue—there’s a fundamental umbrella question when it comes to ethical issues about prediction, especially if a person is practicing more predictive forms of astrology, or forms of astrology that are more capable of making concrete predictions about a person’s life. And at what point is it okay to do that, and at what point is it not okay to make predictions about a person’s life or about a person’s chart?
For example, if during the course of a consultation, an astrologer sees something coming up in a person’s life based on their birth chart, what is the obligation of the astrologer? Is the astrologer obligated to tell the person about it or not? And regardless if that looks bad or good; obviously, most of the time that topic is going to come up within the context of if it’s something that the astrologer thinks looks bad, or looks difficult, that’s coming up in the future, what is their obligation to talk to the person, and should they? Or is that not necessary? Especially if it’s something that the person wasn’t asking about necessarily. Because this raises some other issues like: is it wrong to freak people out if the client isn’t prepared to deal with certain information? Is it the place for the astrologer to judge or to decide whether or not the person even is prepared or is capable of dealing with whatever it is that they think that they see in the person’s chart?
So astrology itself—to whatever extent astrology is true, if you accept the basic astrological premise, which is essentially that a person can make predictions about someone’s life based on the position of the planets at the moment that that person was born—that obviously means that raises some ethical issues when you actually start putting it in practice and when you actually start doing consultations for people for normal, modern, Western, humanistic-type people. And if you’re doing that—astrological consultations for people—obviously, that’s going to have some—it has the potential to have some impact on that person’s life, whether it be positive or negative.
And so, if you’re going to take that responsibility, then obviously it’s important to think about what the lines are and what the rules are and what some of the ethical issues are and where you should tread lightly. So that’s one area that I would definitely like to talk about during the course of this podcast. And I’d like to bring up some different ethical issues and talk to different astrologers to see how they deal with them and what their viewpoint is.
The other topic that I’m very interested in, because it’s one of my main passions at this point, is the study of the history of astrology. So, some things I would like to talk about in future shows are: where did astrology come from? And how were certain techniques developed? That’s a question really that belongs in the domain of the history of astrology. And, to me, those are interesting questions. And I think that they’re useful questions; even if you don’t want to become a history buff, it’s a good idea to have some general working knowledge of the history of astrology and where the techniques that you use came from and why they were developed. Like what was the motivation underlying certain concepts and techniques?
For example, where did the houses come from? Or why do we have 12 houses? And why did they mean what they mean? For example, why does the seventh house indicate or signify or correlate with relationships or marriage? Or why does the 10th house correlate with a person’s career or reputation? Why does the 11th house have anything to do with friends or social groups? And so on and so forth. Another question we might ask is: why do we use aspects? Where’s the concept of aspects come from? Or what is the distinction between, and why do we make a distinction between, major aspects and minor aspects? Is there any sort of conceptual distinction there, and if so, what is it, and why are we making that distinction?
So those are all technical issues that can be dealt with in the broad context of the history of astrology. Other historical issues that I’d like to touch on, or shows that I would like to do are perhaps some shows on notable astrologers, like either brief or sometimes extended segments on certain astrologers that you should know about and just to do a show on who an astrologer was, when they lived, what they did, and what the significance was of their contribution to astrology.
For example, it’d be interesting to do a show on Claudius Ptolemy and to talk to somebody who specializes in his work and can tell us who he was, what he did, and why he’s significant to us today; or do an interview with somebody about the 17th century astrologer, William Lilly; or talk to a modern astrologer, somebody who specializes in 20th century astrology; about Dane Rudhyar, who is one of the founders of modern, Western, humanistic astrology; or even some astrologers who are still alive today. So I’d like to do some historical shows where we talk about specific astrologers and who they were and give the listeners a general familiarity with who the big players are in our field, both ancient and modern.
Finally, there’s another area in the history of astrology, which is historical debates that are occurring in the community today. So, history is difficult because history often involves different interpretations of events. It’s not always the case that you just have an event, and everyone agrees on that event and agrees on what happened and why it happened and what ultimate effect that it had on everything that came after that point. In fact, usually when it comes to history and the study of history, there are debates about those topics because different people have different interpretations of how things happen and why they happened and what significance certain historical events had in the long run.
That’s true of history and historians in general, but it’s also true when it comes to the history of astrology. There’s a lot of different types of historical debates that are taking place about the history of astrology and where it came from and how it was developed and how it was transmitted and who introduced certain techniques, how certain techniques were introduced and why they were introduced, and so on and so forth.
An example of a famous historical debate—it’s not famous, I guess, at this point, but it’s a debate I’m very interested in that’s still going on and is getting more and more serious today—is the debate over how Hellenistic astrology and how what is essentially Western astrology, the type of astrology that’s been practiced in the West over the past 2,000 years, as a system, how that system developed. And specifically to the extent that the four-fold system of Western astrology that involves certain significations of the planets, the 12 signs, the 12 houses, and the aspects—the major aspect doctrine—to the extent that that represents a coherent tradition or approach or system, there’s some debates going on in the world today, in the historical world, about how that system came together and where it came from and when it was introduced.
There’s one group of scholars who says that the system developed gradually over the course of many centuries, and it was a result of many different traditions, or a few different traditions who developed different parts of it and introduced it but that unfortunately due to loss of many texts, it just shows up on the historical timeline. But that’s because we’ve lost so many texts from these traditions that we don’t know what was going on during the period in which this system was developed.
There’s another group of scholars on the other side of that debate who say that no, this system, this four-fold system that has planets and signs and houses and aspects, seems to A. show up on the historical timeline rather suddenly or abruptly, which seems to imply that it was developed somewhat suddenly or abruptly, and B. the system has a sort of systematic or integrated coherency so that it comes off like some sort of deliberate construct or invention that somebody came up with. So there’s one group of people who argue that for all intents and purposes that Western astrology, or the type of astrology that most people in the West practice today, was a deliberate invention that was introduced sometime around the first century, B.C. in Egypt. And that’s actually a legitimate historical position that some people argue and take.
So that’s a debate that I would love to talk about and show the different sides and show the different arguments and what the strengths and weaknesses are of each of those positions. And it’s not just for random antiquarian purposes, but this has real, tangible meaning and usefulness for astrologers today because basically it’s a question of was Western astrology developed slowly and gradually as a result of hundreds of years of empirical observation and development? Or was Western astrology invented as a result of some—does it represent some sort of theoretical construct that was invented by some person or perhaps some group of people over a relatively short period?
And that’s huge because if either—whichever one of those is true would really have an important bearing on the nature of astrology and on how we understand Western astrology and how we conceptualize it and how we come to understand where the techniques came from and what they mean and how they’re supposed to be applied. That actually has some pretty significant implications depending on where you come down in that historical debate, or there’s the potential that it could.
Okay, so that’s the history of astrology. Another topic that I’m going to have some shows on is just interviews with other astrologers. I’d like to bring on other astrologers, especially other practicing astrologers, and other astrologers that are doing interesting work, and other professional astrologers and interview them and ask them questions about their practice and about their views on astrology and about their philosophy and how they answer some of these ethical questions, and so on and so forth.
So I’m not really interested in bringing on random astrologers and just—or famous astrologers—and just throwing them softball questions, but I’d like to do something unique by having some astrologers on and asking them tough and deep questions about their work and their views of astrology. No—maybe tough isn’t the right word; I’m not going to necessarily grill some guests or some astrologers that I have on. But I do want to get to the heart of how different astrologers and different people in the world today are thinking about and conceptualizing and practicing this subject and really get to the heart of what they’re doing with it and why they’re doing it and how they’re doing it. So that’s another type of show that I plan to do over the course of the next several years.
And the last area that I’m really excited about that I would like to do is just a segment, perhaps during each show or maybe every other show, which is just an astrology news segment where basically I just talk about recent events and events either in the astrological community itself or news and events that’s relevant to astrologers. So, for example, events that took place recently, just in the past month in the astrological community, let’s just do a brief segment really quickly on what the astrology news has been in the past couple of months.
The big thing that occurred, of course, in the astrological community was the United Astrology Conference, also known as UAC. So the United Astrology Conference took place in New Orleans last month, and it was a huge conference. The United Astrology Conference: it only takes place—what happens is all the major Western or American astrological organizations get together and pool their resources—there’s like four or five of them—and they pool all of their resources, and they throw just a huge conference that has a couple thousand people in attendance; it has one or two hundred speakers and takes place in just this huge hotel. So the last one that took place was in Denver in 2008; so right now they’re doing them about roughly every four years, although sometimes they can space them out even longer than that.
So UAC took place in New Orleans last month; it was a huge success, there were a ton of people who attended, there were a ton of speakers, and there were a bunch of really significant events that took place during the course of the conference. I can only—there’s a bunch of things that happened, so obviously there’s going to be a lot that I leave out, as I can only fully speak of the portions of the conference that I was present for or that I took part in.
But one of the important events that did take place at the conference was the final graduation of Kepler College. So in 2010, Kepler College—which opened in 2000, it received state authorization in the state of Washington to give out accredited degrees,accredited Bachelors, Masters, and Associate degrees, in the year 2000, and they opened their doors that summer, and the first class started in the summer of 2000. In 2010, Kepler, due to some of the laws that were changed in the state of Washington, which was probably specifically changed in order to get rid of Kepler, some laws were changed, and Kepler’s ability to grant degrees was revoked. So, fortunately, the students who were currently enrolled in the program at that point in time in 2010 were given two years to finish their degrees, and they were all allowed to finish the programs that they had already started.
So what happened, basically, is there was a bunch of people who were finishing their degrees over the course of the past two years, and then Kepler held the final graduation at the United Astrology Conference last month. So it was a really significant event because Kepler College was a huge community undertaking; it’s something that first started being organized all the way back in 1991 and 1992. So they spent almost 10 years getting it together before it even opened in 2000, and then—it opened in 2000, and they had their first graduating class in October of 2004, and then their final graduation just took place in late May of 2012.
So it was a huge event; I actually gave the main commencement speech at the graduation. And I accepted an Associate’s degree because before I left Kepler, basically in the middle of my Bachelor’s degree, in order to go work at this translation project and do this internship for two years, I had finished enough credits to receive an Associate’s degree. So I accepted my Associate’s degree and gave the—was selected by the students to give the commencement speech at the final graduation.
And the commencement speech that I gave was basically a discussion of something that I discussed earlier in this podcast about the current period of transmission and synthesis that we’re in, and part of the purpose of my speech, basically, was to talk about and try and urge people not to adopt what is essentially fundamentalist viewpoints. I think that’s one of the potential problems—or it is a potential problem that could develop and is developing in the astrological community today, which is fundamentalism, or different types of fundamentalism that’s being developed or sometimes adopted by astrologers in different schools of astrology, who basically are shutting themselves off from studying other traditions of astrology and other approaches but also becoming antagonistic at the same time towards other approaches to astrology and other traditions, even though they haven’t studied them.
And I think that that is a problematic development, and it’s something that I hope that we can avoid as a community in the future as we are encountering so much more diversity. I think it’s going to be tempting for some people, as a result of that diversity, to pull back and become defensive, rather than embracing that diversity, but I think the best approach is probably some form of embracing it. So you can read that speech; I posted it on my blog at horoscopicastrologyblog.com if you’d like to watch the video or read the full commencement speech where I have the transcript posted.
Okay, so other events at United Astrology Conference: there was also a presidential panel at the very end of the conference. So at every UAC, they conclude the entire conference with a panel where five astrologers get up and analyze the upcoming election in the United States. So later this year, the election will take place in November between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and the result of the panel was that—all five astrologers predicted that Obama would win or will win re-election in November of 2012.
There was also a panel at the last UAC in 2008, in May of 2008, and at that time the entire panel was also unanimous that Obama would win. So the panel has a decent track record so far. It was a new group of people, and I was actually one of the people that got added at the last minute because I took over for my friend, Nick Dagan Best, and I represented the Political Astrology Blog, which is a blog that I write along with my friend and co-writer, Patrick Watson, and Nick Dagan Best. And I represented the Political Astrology Blog, and we had already made some predictions about Obama winning in 2012, so I ended up also on the panel.
And this was a significant event, actually, because the panel got a lot of coverage by media outlets after it took place. It was picked up by Reuters, and, as a result of that, it was syndicated in a bunch of other magazines and other mainstream media outlets, like MSNBC and The New York Times and, I think, The Chicago Tribune and a bunch of other places. It was also in USA Today, and one of the panelists, Nina Gryphon, actually did an interview the following day—the day after the panel—with CNN’s headline news. So astrology got a lot of press as a result of that panel, and even the United Astrology Conference itself ended up getting a lot of press during the course of that week.
Let’s see. The other major event that happened at the United Astrology Conference—it was definitely significant for me and that I was present for—is that Austin Coppock took over from me as the president of the Association for Young Astrologers. We actually did a sort of handing over—sort of informal handing over ceremony at a party that we threw one night and passed the torch. I had been the president of the Association for Young Astrologers since, I think, approximately 2007, so I handed it over to Austin at the conference, and he’s bringing in a new group of people in order to lead the organization, and I’m very excited about some of the directions that he’s planning on taking it.
Okay, so that gives a broad overview of my vision for this show. Basically, the purpose of the show is to have high-level discussions about a broad array of topics that are important to astrologers and astrology enthusiasts. Sometimes I’ll do solo shows, like I’ve done with this episode, and other times I will have a guest or a co-host on the show to talk with me. I’m very open to taking topics and questions from listeners, so if there’s a specific topic that you’d like to see me cover on the show, or a specific question or issue that you have about astrology, then please use the contact form or the email address on the Astrology Podcast website in order to let me know.
If you’d like to follow the show, then the best thing you can do is probably just to subscribe to the email updates, which, at least at the present moment in time, is over on the right-hand, top right sidebar of the main website. You can just put in your email address and hit subscribe, and, basically, you will receive a new email any time I post a new show on the website. So it’s a pretty good deal, especially since it’s free. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or through our RSS feed, or you can follow our pages on Twitter and Facebook, since I’ll also post notices about new episodes in those locations as well. So if you don’t use RSS, or you don’t have iTunes—whatever—you can just follow us on Twitter or follow us on Facebook, and you will also receive the notifications.
If you enjoy the show, and if you’d like to see me keep doing it, then the best thing you can do is probably just to help me to promote it by doing things like telling your friends about it or sharing it on social media sites, like Facebook, or Twitter, or Reddit, or StumbleUpon, or what have you. You can also do other things like giving the show a good rating on iTunes, because that will help me to promote it, or other things like putting a link to the Astrology Podcast on your blogroll if you have a blog, or on the links page if you have your own website, just so I can help to—that will help to get the word out. Basically, the idea is that the more listeners, and the more positive feedback I have about the show, probably the more I will feel compelled to keep posting new shows.
And so hopefully, in the long run, I will be able to create what I hope is an interesting, educational, and useful free resource for people who are into astrology. So that’s it for the first episode! Thanks for listening, and I hope you will join me again for future shows.