The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 10, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Austin Coppock
Episode originally released on August 8, 2013
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: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released September 25, 2022
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, I’m Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is Tuesday, August 6, 2013, and this is the 10th episode of the show. You can find the show at TheAstrologyPodcast.com, and you can also search for us on iTunes. My co-host today is astrologer Austin Coppock, and his website is AustinCoppock.com. Our topic today will be the future of astrology and talking about some future trends that we see happening in the next few decades.
Before we get to the main topic, I just wanted to touch upon a few pieces of astrological news. The first is that The Mountain Astrologer has actually been picked up this month by the grocery store chain Whole Foods. And if you go to I think just about Whole Foods in North America right now, you’ll find the latest issue of The Mountain Astrologer Magazine there at that store. So this is actually a great thing because it increases their distribution hugely to hundreds or thousands of additional stores across the US. And it would definitely be a good idea if other astrologers could help to encourage them to make this a regular thing. So you should probably go out and buy issues of The Mountain Astrologer at Whole Foods if you’d like to see them pick it up more regularly.
In other news related to one of the last podcasts I did with Kelly Surtees where we talked about Mercury retrograde, at one point we discussed Edward Snowden and briefly mentioned I think that that point that he’d been sitting in the airport in Russia for about a week, and that was during the middle of the Mercury retrograde. Interestingly enough, the retrograde ended and he started to finally wrap that situation up. And then eventually by the end of the Mercury shadow period—just within days of the end of the shadow period—he finally, I guess, was granted asylum for a year in Russia. So that’s actually a really excellent example of Mercury retrograde and Mercury retrograde shadow periods to look into. If you look at both the start date of when he officially was outed by The Guardian as the sources for their stories—or when he was first announced as the source of their stories, which took place at the beginning of the Mercury shadow period before the retrograde—then eventually he was granted asylum in Russia at the end of the shadow period. So check that out.
And the third piece of news is that the NCGR is hosting their major conference in Philadelphia next week from August 15-19, and that’s actually gonna be the biggest conference—the biggest astrology conference of the year. So I’ll be there, and I’m doing a lecture and a post-conference workshop on a timing technique known as zodiacal releasing. And there’s lots of other people that will be there, including my friend Austin Coppock who is here. I think this is the first time you’ve been on the show. So, Austin, welcome to the show.
AUSTIN COPPOCK: Thank you, Chris.
CB: Yeah, so, Austin is the president of the Association for Young Astrologers. So I thought that he would actually be a great person to talk to about this topic that I’ve been meaning to discuss on the show for some time, which is what is the future of astrology, where is astrology headed, and what kind of things might we anticipate, or what might the astrological community look like in future decades. Let’s say later in this century at some point. So that’s the access point. So, Austin, why don’t you tell us a little bit first about your organization, about the Association for Young Astrologers?
AC: All right, Chris. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s ‘my’ organization. You know, I’m sort of entrusted with it at this period. But the AYA, or the Association for Young Astrologers, has been around since 2004, and basically we’re here to help bridge young people who are interested in astrology, to help connect them to what’s going on in the astrological world, to help orient them. Although we have a special focus on young people, some people can be, we would say, ‘young’ to astrology. You know, if you’re 35, and you’re just getting serious about it, we have just as much to offer you as if you were 15.
And so, you know, we have a couple of different ways that we carry out this mission right now. One of them is that we have kind of a treasure trove of lectures that astrologers have donated to us. They’re free to members. We’ve got people like Demetra George and Steven Forrest and several others. The late Robert Blaschke. Really excellent astrologers who’ve donated hours and hours of material to our members, which is great. And I would note that we’ve gotten material from a lot of different subtraditions with astrology. It’s not all traditional or all, you know, therapeutic. So that’s one of the ways that we carry out our mission.
Another that’s very simple but very important is that we organize room shares to help get people to conferences who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. You know, I think that everybody’s pretty clear on how limiting financial factors can be in America right now. And, you know, the difference between paying 30 or 40 bucks a night for a hotel room and paying 160 is make-or-break for a lot of folks.
AC: And so, AYA has been doing that for a long time. We’ve got a room share organized for the NCGR coming up. We have a couple of other projects on the horizon. In terms of connecting people who are getting into astrology, we have a reboot of the website coming up, which will have social network and chat functionality, so people can connect to other people who are getting into astrology. And we’d like to help facilitate mentor relationships as well. And finally, we hope to publish our first yearly journal before the AYA’s 10th birthday next month.
CB: Oh, yeah, it has a cute name as well, doesn’t it?
AC: Oh, yeah. Right now the working title is Ascendant.
CB: Oh, yeah, that’s great. I’m a fan of double-entendres like that.
AC: Good. Good. You know, I hope it’s not too cheesy. I like it.
CB: No, it’s perfect. Ascendant—that’s good. Okay, so that’s the Association for Young Astrologers. And you guys are actually doing—I guess we’ll talk about this more later in the show—but you’re also doing a pre-conference workshop. The organization is actually organizing it the day before the NCGR conference starts in Philadelphia, correct?
AC: Absolutely. And I should point out that NCGR was kind enough to offer us this space. And so, it’s a little different from the other workshops. We’ve got three hours. And I didn’t feel right about handing it to one person. I wanted to showcase some talent and a variety of good ideas. And so, we actually divided the time among four people that are going to be covering very different topics.
AC: So we’ve got Jenn Zahrt who’s going to be covering really a forgotten bloom of astrology in the Weimar Republic in Germany, which was basically up till the ‘30s when things go bad. And Jenn—although somewhat new to the astrological community—actually got her PhD in that period of German history, so she knows a thing or two about it.
AC: We’ve also got Wonder Bright who’s going to be discussing the soul and astrology, but from a different angle than most people are used to. She’s going to be discussing the concepts and understanding of the soul from the Hellenistic era and how they might have approached the question of the soul in the chart, which I think is really interesting.
AC: And then Rebecca Crane, who’s been a therapist for some years, is gonna share some of her insights into relationship astrology, sort of building off of the traditional synastry material we’ve all encountered but adding to that her working experience as a therapist. And then finally, Eric Pride who is both an astrologer and identifies as a pagan, and I believe a witch, will be talking about some of the historical and practical overlaps between astrology and various magical traditions. So I think it’s gonna be really interesting.
CB: Excellent. Well, yeah, that sounds like a pretty good cross-section of some of the major themes that you see going on in the astrological community today in terms of where things are headed and what people are interested in or focused on.
AC: I hope so. That was my intent.
CB: Sure. Okay, well, that then provides us with a good segue into our topic, which is where is astrology headed in the future and what is the future of astrology. So what do you see as some of the main themes in terms of coming generations or in terms of where astrology is headed right now? Where do you see astrology in, let’s say, 10 years or 20 years?
AC: Yeah, that’s a huge question.
CB: A minor question. You have two minutes to answer that.
AC: Well, you know, as an astrologer working with a lot of traditional techniques, I’m actually asked about the future pretty often.
CB: Yeah, Nick Dagan Best always makes that joke. He always says, “If only there was some tool or technique that could tell us information about what was happening in the future.”
AC: Yeah. And what I do first is I try to look very clearly at the present, right? There are often disruptive factors that kind of change the trajectory of things, but I think you can see most of the future in the present.
AC: And so, I think that’s true on a personal as well as a cultural level. And so, I guess one of the things I see right now is that astrology is in this place where we’re dealing with the past in an unprecedented way. And I don’t simply mean what is now being called ‘traditional astrology’. But it’s sort of like if we just look back from here—if we look back from 2013—we have the entire 20th century of innovation and aberration in astrology, where we’ve got the emergence of humanistic, and later, psychoanalytic astrology. We have the advent of Evolutionary Astrology. Earlier in the 20th century, we have Uranian astrology. And, in addition, we’ve also very recently been almost buried in a sort of tidal wave of translations. We have more access to the deeper past as well. I think right now the astrological community as a whole is in a very confusing place of trying to assimilate this glut of material.
CB: Yeah, definitely. There’s been this huge revival of traditional astrology. I was talking to Kenneth Johnson during the last episode about the revival or—not revival ‘cause it never existed—but the excitement surrounding Indian astrology starting in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and how that’s become a major tradition in the West. And then even more recently is the advent of a more modern school, which is the Evolutionary Astrologers, which I’m finding are very well-organized and there seems to be quite a lot of them. There’s a lot of people who identify themselves as Evolutionary Astrologers at this point.
AC: So just as a personal observation, since I assumed the role of the president of the AYA I’ve sort of become a magnet for conversations about, you know, what are the kids into, as well as, you know, talking to the kids.
AC: And so, I’ve been meeting and talking to a lot of people who are just really getting into astrology. Mostly I’ll ask, “What are you interested in? Do you have any particular subfield that you’re interested in?” And I get a lot of Evolutionary Astrology and I hear a lot of traditional.
AC: An interesting bifurcation.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And sometimes it’s unfortunate, but sometimes people tend to—whatever system that they first find or whatever good book they first pick or were recommended when they first got into astrology—sometimes that tends to be the line of thinking that they tend to stick with, I’ve noticed as well. Sometimes it can be more difficult to break out of a certain approach or a certain system once that’s how you’ve learned astrology and that’s how you’ve conceptualized what astrology can do and what it is. Have you noticed that?
AC: Absolutely. And I think there’s a very sympathetic reason behind that. If you’ve ever gone through a point in your practice where you—I don’t want to say switched traditions—but I’ve tried to incorporate a lot of materials that were foreign. I’m thinking of myself, I don’t know, maybe seven years ago, when I was first exposed to Hellenistic astrology at Project Hindsight. I was pretty thoroughly schooled in the modern at that point. I had a little bit of exposure to Vedic astrology. But it kind of broke my brain ‘cause it ‘problematized’ all of these assumptions that I had—and I would say for the better at this point. But I guess I can see, to a certain degree, if somebody teaches you, or you get to a point in your own personal study where you can do astrology—you can sit down with a chart and a person and make something happen. It’s almost like a delicately-crafted machine. Like some sort of Antikythera mechanism.
AC: And to really incorporate new material, you have to take it apart, right? Which means that for a little while you’re not gonna be able to use it. And so, I sympathize with people’s resistance to change. But I think at this point, you know, in the history of astrology those of us who I guess feel a duty or an obligation to take on what’s happening in astrology in earnest kind of have to accept that, and we’re gonna have to keep taking apart our machine and putting it back together.
CB: Sure. Yeah, a couple of episodes ago, Kelly Surtees described her process of having to transition to a new house system as almost like having a sex change. It was such a major transition for her. Yeah, that’s one way of describing I guess how serious sometimes it is for people once you’ve, you know, adopted a certain approach to astrology. And you start conceptualizing your own chart, and indeed, your own life in that way that sometimes changing that can be pretty major or pretty important.
Yeah, so I guess we’ve talked a little bit about some of the current trends right now, things like the revival of traditional astrology, interest in Indian astrology. We have this sort of weird—not weird branch—but this branch of modern astrology that has its own philosophy and some of its own techniques, which is Evolutionary Astrology. And that seems to be one of the modern schools that’s doing best right now, although they’re dealing with some of their own internal issues in terms of having a split between evidently one school that follows Steven Forrest and one that follows Jeff Green. I guess we don’t need to get into that right now. So that’s a major school. And then we have some of the other schools that I feel were more popular and seemed like they were more upcoming even two or three decades ago, like Uranian astrology, for example, which doesn’t seem to be necessarily on everybody’s lips at the moment. What’s your perspective on that?
AC: Well, actually your comments regarding Evolutionary Astrology, is the split that you spoke of philosophical in nature? If so, that might be worth talking about. If it’s something else, we probably don’t need to get into it.
CB: Yeah, I think it has to do with personal issues and allegiances to teachers and stuff like that.
AC: Well, let’s leave that alone then.
CB: Yeah, let’s skip over that.
AC: I’m not sure where exactly to begin. So one thing I think is interesting about Evolutionary Astrology, as I understand it—I’ve been exposed to a lot of it, but I wouldn’t say it’s been a focus for my practice, but I’ve spoken with some of the major proponents and practitioners—the focus is on understanding the soul, and understanding what, let’s say, baggage and/or gifts the soul might be saddled with.
AC: Most of them that I’ve spoken to use the language of ‘karma’, right? They’re looking primarily at past-life karma, right? You know, there’s a big difference between the karma generated in this life and the karma generated in a previous life that one experiences in this life, right? Like karma in this life is, I don’t pay the electricity bill and the electricity stops being pumped into my house—but I don’t think that’s the focus, right?
CB: Yeah, I mean, it sounds like they have some technical disagreements. Like one school really emphasizes Pluto and the point opposite to Pluto and the nodes and the rulers of the nodes, and another school has less technical distinctions. And there may be some philosophical disagreements. Although I’m under the impression that the main draw of Evolutionary Astrology is the premise that you can look at the birth chart and say something about a person’s past lives and that’s the main draw of that school.
AC: I think ideally those comments about past lives are things that are directly relevant in this life, right? Like it’s unresolved. So we’re talking about where did the energy that is currently behind Evolutionary Astrology come from, besides Jeff Green’s solo revelations, which explain why he got into it, but not why anybody else did, right?
AC: You know, I think you have the merger of astrology and depth psychology, which I suppose is best represented by Liz Greene.
AC: You know, that lays a precedent for, you know, using astrology as a lens or as sort of a microscope with which to examine the hidden details of the psyche, of what’s going on within a person, right?
AC: And so, in a sense the psychoanalytic method often goes back to the past, to concealed traumas or, you know, negative events in order to unearth them and then correct them, right? And so, in some ways, it seems like a logical movement in the same direction to go back deeper and go, you know, to things which didn’t even happen in this life, to expose those traumas and hopefully correct them. And so, I think that the psychoanalytic depth astrology might have dug a tunnel which the Evolutionary Astrologers dug a little deeper. And then I also wonder about—as you mentioned earlier—the introduction of Vedic astrology to American audiences, to American astrologers. The word karma is Sanskrit.
AC: You know, you can’t separate Vedic astrology from Hinduism and karma is a very important mechanic of reality in Hinduism. And so, you know, I think the combination of a greater karmic focus with this sort of psychoanalytic depth tradition might have laid the ground for Evolutionary Astrology. I don’t know. Does that make sense?
CB: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense to contextualize the emergence of Evolutionary Astrology and the interest that it’s drawn as this confluence between two different traditions. You have the earlier, New Age tradition on the one hand that comes down from the Theosophists and the interest in spiritualism that began in the 19th century, and then it sort of gets filtered down through Alan Leo and Rudhyar and Marc Edmund Jones. You have this interest in karma and reincarnation and a spiritualistic view of astrology. But then you get this other thread starting in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s of this push towards a psychological astrology that incorporates some of the insights from depth psychology. So definitely viewing Evolutionary Astrology as a result of those two threads sort of coming together makes a lot of sense. Especially since many of the Evolutionary Astrologers I’ve met are psychologists trained in psychology, but they’re still using it for this alternate, spiritualist purpose.
I’m not sure how Indian astrology ties into that. It’s interesting, you have a tradition where you do have literally the origins of some of those concepts—like karma and reincarnation—at least as terms. You know, Indian astrology is much more concrete and is much more event-oriented. It’s much more about this lifetime. And even if some of the placements are the result of past actions and past karmas, it’s interesting how the Indian astrologers tend to be much more focused on the concrete realities of what will take place in this lifetime. And in that way, it sort of sets itself apart. Indian astrology comes off more like traditional Western astrology to me than what we conceptualize as karmic, you know, past life astrology of the Evolutionary Astrologers or what have you.
AC: Yeah, I would agree. So if we’re looking at different astrological traditions, they’re able to say: “This is so.” “You are broke.” “You are rich.” “You are happy.” “You are strong.” Every astrology makes a statement or a series of statements about a person’s life, either internally or externally.
AC: And every tradition has different explanatory mechanisms. You know, it could be lots of things. But why did it—why? And if we look at Vedic astrology, the ‘why’ is karmic, primarily karmic, right?
AC: And Evolutionary Astrology also has the same ‘why’, right? Yes, it’s karmic. But what I see Vedic astrologers doing is saying, well, your life on the outside is shaped this way because of your karma, whereas the Evolutionary Astrologers seem to be focused on the internal landscape and saying that your internal landscape is this way because of your karma, right? And then both have different methods of remediation. You know, the Vedic methods of remediation—there are a lot of them, right? There’s mantra. There’s basically a talismanic tradition. There’s ritual. Whereas the method of remediation in Evolutionary Astrology seems to be primarily therapeutic. And so, I guess where I see them connecting is in both using a karmic causation model.
CB: Sure. And that actually makes sense and leads us to probably one of the future trends. On the one hand, late 20th century astrology tended to be more psychologically-focused and tended to conceptualize most things in a person’s birth chart in terms of a person’s psyche or character.
CB: And one of the trends that we’ve seen recently with the revival of Indian astrology and traditional astrology is a more outward-oriented, event-oriented type of astrology. So perhaps that’s one of the threads or themes that we will probably see played out over the course of the next one or two or three decades—people attempting to synthesize these two different approaches. You have these two different extremes where you either are focused on the internal realities of the person’s psyche and character vs. the external realities of their circumstances and the cards that they were literally dealt in their life, and the attempt to reconcile those two approaches.
AC: Yeah. Okay, let’s see if I can just talk a little bit about that. You know, I learned a pretty thoroughly modern astrology. I’m one of those self-taught people. And I was lucky enough to find used copies of Noel Tyl’s entire series of how you learn astrology books. I don’t remember what they were called. There were like eight or nine of them.
AC: And they had all of them at a used bookstore for like $1.25 each.
CB: Wow. Nice.
AC: Yeah, it was a good find. And so, I don’t know, after five years of reading those and working with those, and as a student of psychology at the time—this was back when I was in college—I got pretty good at understanding what was inside a person by looking through their chart. And with myself—one of the greatest, early benefits I got from astrology was a language of self-understanding. But, you know, I remember when I first got really oriented to traditional techniques—I came through the Hellenistic door rather than the Medieval or Renaissance door—and I was like, “Oh, my God. You can actually predict things? Like events?”
AC: You know, a lot of the books I guess in the ‘80s and ‘90s—maybe the ‘70s—had made this case for astrology that was like, “Hey, no, you can’t predict the future, but you can do all this other wonderful stuff.”
AC: And I had started to accept that, and I was like, “Hey, this is good enough. This is a really useful too.”
CB: Yeah, that’s like the first thing you learn when you get into astrology nowadays—that astrology is not concretely predictive and you cannot predict events. You can only predict psychological states and things like that.
AC: Right. And I’d accepted that and I was cool with that, but I had some experiences doing some readings for people and seeing some things play out really literally. And then, you know, many years later, I encountered the Project Hindsight material and it was like, “No, you can totally predict stuff.” And, you know, given six months to play with it, I was totally predicting stuff. You know, we’re talking about a technical reorientation when you incorporate material from another part of the tradition and that’s one thing, but there’s also sort of a philosophical reorientation when you go from just looking at internal states to events. You know, it was sort of like, “Oh, my God. You can predict things.” It sort of frames the ratio of fate and free will, or, you know, the matrix of choices and necessity that we’re inside of in a whole new way.
AC: And, you know, people are as beholden to their paradigms as they are to their techniques, and I think it’s very difficult to separate the two in astrology. Because if you can predict events, well, that has really huge philosophical ramifications, right?
CB: And ethical ramifications.
AC: Ethical ramifications as well, right? So, you know, there’s just a lot packed into what seems like a, “Just do this with the chart.” “Just use this different house system.” You know, there’s a lot riding on what seems like a small technical shift.
CB: Right. Yeah, I mean, I guess we shouldn’t then beat around the bush. I mean, we have this list of topics to focus on, and we’re gonna talk about all these different things. But in reality, I think you and I, and many of the people that we know would both agree that the synthesis of modern and traditional astrology—of late 20th century astrology, which is what we’re defining as modern, and traditional astrology, which we’re defining as the type of astrology practiced from the 1st century BC to the 17th century CE—that the synthesis of those two approaches and all of the technical and philosophical and ethical issues that come up during the process of doing that, from our perspective at least, that’s one of the great issues or great things that are gonna be worked out over the course of the next few decades. And presumably, eventually we’ll see a synthesis of it, but it’s gonna be interesting seeing the exact details of how some astrologers choose to deal with some of the specific issues that come up during the process of that.
AC: Yeah, I think it’s huge. I mean, it’s certainly been a big theme in my own practice for at least the last decade or so. I guess here are my thoughts on that—my working notes on that as of right now—and it’s simply that life is composed of events. You know, there’s an external event and there’s also an internal state. I disagree with attempts to simplify life to merely fate events which happen to us or merely to internal states. There’s an interplay between who we are and what’s happening in our life. I don’t like the idea that what’s happening to us externally is totally a result of our own mind—that if we were just, you know, more positive thinkers nothing bad would happen. I think that’s very limited. I think there’s a degree of that in play, certainly. But then the implication of that belief is that every single thing that happens to you is your fault, and if you weren’t such a ‘negative Nelly’ it would be better.
AC: It becomes absurd at a certain point. And then I think the very hard determinist model also breaks down to absurdity. We certainly have the experience of choice. I guess from a pragmatic point of view, we have the experience of meaningful choice. We totally have seen ourselves. We have experience making meaningful choices and see the results, and then we’ve also experienced situations in which we have no say whatsoever. One good example—because it happens to almost everyone—is a person’s parents dying, right? There’s no positive thinking that’s gonna keep that at bay, right? That’s a huge experience and there’s no stopping it, right?
AC: And so, just taking very basic experiences, I think an important place to begin the synthesis is just to agree that there are things we’re in control of and there are things we aren’t in control of and to just abandon these extreme positions which some people seem to hold.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that’s definitely an issue. It’s sort of an off—not offset, but it’s a side effect of one of the modern viewpoints. I don’t know where it came from. I guess it came from the Jungian school, although it must have existed elsewhere because it’s really been picked up and advocated very hard by the people that are into The Secret and the Law of Attraction and stuff like that. It’s not psychology. It’s some side, New Age thing, and that belief that, you know, you completely create your own reality by the things that you think about or what you focus your attention towards. But it’s interesting that that’s so popular now with The Secret and some of those things in the past decade.
But even if you look back in the 1970s, and you read Robert Hand’s Planets in Transit, you’ll see him sometimes saying, you know, if you have this transit and if you do not internalize it psychologically—if you don’t internalize it yourself somehow and play it out—then it will manifest in your life as an external event, and I think that’s what you’re referring to. And that is kind of dangerous for things that are completely outside of the person’s control and are not their fault at all, if they suffer trauma or extreme hardship or tragedy or what have you. And to place that in the person’s lap and say that it’s their fault for not, you know, internalizing some sort of transit or psychological impulse, that’s certainly one of the shadow sides that’s come out of psychological astrology in the past decade or two, one of the downsides.
But on the plus side, obviously there’s a lot of positive things that we have to say about psychological astrology, and that’s definitely gonna be one of the mainstream approaches and schools that we’ll see continuing to develop in the future. But it will be interesting seeing how psychological astrology and those schools interface with some of the more traditional and more deterministic and more, I guess, event-oriented schools.
AC: Yeah. You know, one note about let’s just say the set of astrological approaches that seem to predict events. I don’t think I’ve read a single traditional text that claims that every single thing in a person’s life can be predicted. I think it’s extremely important to note that because some things can be predicted, it doesn’t mean that everything can be predicted. Does that make sense?
CB: Well, yeah. I mean, there’s two questions. There’s a) is everything predetermined—yes or no? And then b) if everything is predetermined, can it be predicted—yes or no?
CB: So there’s a scenario where everything is predetermined, but you still can’t predict everything with astrology.
AC: Sure. I guess my question is a little to the sideways from that, which is that I think people make the assumption that, oh, my God, if you can predict one thing—like I don’t know, if we’re running a releasing from Spirit procedure on someone’s chart, and we can figure out the two years where their career really hits its stride and they gain recognition for what they do—does that mean that everything is predictable? You know, just because one thing is predictable doesn’t mean another thing is predictable.
I encountered some maxims in a Vedic text I was reading sometime back. I can’t recall the name. It was basically a rule of thumb. It was sort of like if there’s one strong indicator for something—let’s say wealth—then it’s possible. Two strong indicators, it’s likely. They’re gonna have to try really hard to mess that up. And then three strong indicators, no, that’s just the way it’s gonna be.
CB: Right. The rule of three.
AC: Yeah. You know, what that suggests to me and sort of how I approach charts is if there is a spectrum of control and the degree to which something is determined. You know, ‘cause some things, good luck stopping them. And then there are other things, hmm, you know, it sure seems like we have a lot of control over certain parts of our lives. I don’t know. Part of the reason I’m so determined to take sort of a pragmatic, boots-on-the-ground look at this is because we can’t know ultimately, right? You know, there’s no access to any method of surety. Sure, everything could be totally determined, but it’s impossible to make an airtight case for that. And the same for the extreme position that everything is a choice, right?
You know, I guess from where I see it, from the human perspective, it looks like there’s plenty of both going on in human life. And insofar as astrology is a tool that looks at human life, it should allow for both categories. And I think between the modern approach and more traditional approaches we have the technology to look at situations from both angles, and hopefully, to be able to tell what kind of situation we’re looking at—whether it’s gonna be pushed along regardless, or rather it’s really up to them.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to go too far afield with this just because I’m sure we could do an entire show about this issue of just determinism in astrology. And I would very much like to or could easily adopt the counter-position and make the hypothetical argument that, you know, astrology implies that things are more predetermined than we might like or than we might think initially, even than most astrologers might think. But I don’t necessarily want to completely refocus the show on that.
AC: Yeah, I think it’s sufficient to say that this hornet’s nest is part of what astrology has to deal with in the decades going forward, you know, both collectively as well as individually, right? You know, we started talking about modern and traditional and this came up, and I think that this isn’t the only conversation where modern and traditional will come back to this issue.
CB: Yeah, definitely, because it gets to the heart of what is the purpose of astrology and what are you doing it for. Because depending on what philosophical model or conceptual model you adopt, you’re gonna have a different answer to that question. If you think everything is predetermined, and that astrology can tell you something about the future, you’re gonna have a certain specific purpose for wanting to know the future vs. if you don’t think everything is predetermined. If you think there’s some things left open to free will, then that’s gonna leave you with a completely different reason for wanting to know things about the future.
And that brings us back to one our points, which is one of the trends that was happening for a while, especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s, is because astrology became so much focused on psychology, there are a lot of astrologers who contextualizing astrology in a purely consulting setting and that astrology was purely for psychological analysis. And a lot of people were trying to get degrees in depth psychology in order to be more respectable and be able to fully, you know, have people as clients or patients or what have you and to be able to treat them psychologically and use astrology as an additional tool for that. However it seems like things have broadened. It seems like there’s many different applications of astrology, or many different people are using astrology in different ways or different contexts. And that might be a fruitful area for discussion in terms of what the future looks like and what the different roles are for astrologers in the coming decades.
AC: Certainly. What does an astrologer do, right?
AC: So, as you were saying, from my understanding, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many astrologers were therapists or doing something very close to therapy…
AC: …and I would juxtapose that with the older model. This is how I frame what I do, personally, as a consultant, right? The astrologer can look at certain factors and answer certain questions about what’s going on, so that the client can make informed and strategic decisions. This is sort of the older role of the astrologer as the, you know, advisor to the monarch, or to the nobility. You know, they’ve got what they want to do and they consult the astrologer to see what might be the best time to do that, what factors that only the astrologer—with access through the technology we have—is going to be able to ferret out that the person might not be able to see, right?
AC: And there is a psychological side to that. I don’t think it’s beyond the limits of traditional astrology to look at a client’s chart and say, “Yeah, you will be in ill health and lacking vitality for these few months,” right? And so, that’s a factor if you’re planning something. If you’re planning your, I don’t know, your big book launch, you might not want to plan it while you’re having a terrible health transit if that could be avoided, or the time-lords are playing out that way.
AC: So again, there is some, let’s say, personal information there, but it’s a different role than the therapist who’s more of a healer in a sense, who’s going to sit down with someone and help fix problems or heal wounds or walk through that healing process with someone.
CB: Yeah, and to do it regularly, also. That’s another potential difference. If you’re doing it within the context of therapy, it’s really more of a repeat thing. It’s like a process that you go through over a number of years vs., you know, somebody just reading your chart one time and telling you some things about your life and then that’s really the end of it. You don’t need to go back to them again necessarily repeatedly for some process-oriented approach.
AC: Right, right. Or, again, from sort of an advisor model, checking in every three to six months to get the lowdown on the quarter ahead in order to plan and make decisions and set realistic expectations.
AC: That’s very different from working out and working through old traumas with someone, where if you’re only doing it every six months, you’re probably not making much progress, right?
AC: It demands a consistency.
CB: And then we also have the use of other branches that sort of dovetails with what you were saying about, you know, people checking in every few months ‘cause then you have things like the revival of horary astrology. So you have some astrologers now who primarily or solely take horary questions and cast the chart for the moment that they receive the question in order to answer just a single, specific outcome. And that’s pretty non-therapeutic for the most part. That’s pretty event-oriented. And then, also, if you have people who are doing electional astrology. Like I want to say it’s become more popular lately because I don’t feel like there were a ton of books about electional astrology for most of the 20th century. And now—especially with the revival of traditional astrology where electional astrology was used a lot more—it seems like it’s becoming a little bit more popular. I don’t know if that’s true.
AC: I think so. I certainly do elections, and so do you. I know a lot of astrologers who may not advertise that they do elections, but they sure look at where everything is when they’re planning something.
CB: Right, like the void-of-course Moon and Mercury retrograde. I mean, there’s some popular stuff like that, that at the very least, is taken into account.
AC: If there is a comeback or a rising popularity in electional astrology, I think it is intimately related to our re-encounter with traditional texts. Not simply because there’s electional material in there, but really you have to be grounded in traditional techniques in order to make electional work.
AC: I think this is actually a huge difference between a lot of modern astrology and a lot of traditional astrology. In traditional astrology, we’re very concerned with judging the quality and efficacy of a given planet, right? Can it do its job? Is it debilitated? Will it do its job with terrible side effects? Is it bonified? You know, we’re very interested in a vertical ranking of how good or bad that planet will play out, or how favorable or unfavorable, to use your terms.
CB: Right. Making distinctions like strong or weak, good or bad.
AC: Right. Whereas when you’re in a therapeutic environment, it’s really important for therapeutic language to be as judgment-free as possible.
AC: That may be a fantasy if you look a lot of the way mental health has been handled. You know, it all starts with the sane/insane dichotomy. But still, you know, the therapeutic approach is to say, “Okay, so this is what you’re feeling. We don’t need to judge that, but we just need to get to it and see it clearly.”
AC: And you see the way that the planets and their positions and conditions are interpreted as is very different in a therapeutic setting, with good purpose, than it is in a traditional setting or for an electional setting, right?
CB: Right. Yeah, I guess one distinction—within the context of psychological astrology in the ‘70s and ‘80s—that was really rejected was the concepts of benefic and malefic planets as being inappropriate. Well, being inappropriate in a consulting setting, or in terms of judging people’s charts or people’s lives like that. But then, also, they questioned the efficacy of that distinction technically, whereas something like that is absolutely crucial for electional astrology. Because you can’t figure out what an auspicious date in the future looks like unless you know what an inauspicious or a bad-looking date, for lack of a better term, would look like in the future, hypothetically.
CB: And that very much relies on distinctions like benefic and malefic.
AC: Yeah, the astrologer is being hired in that case to make a judgment and to rank one date above another.
CB: Right. And that’s the main issue that you would run into if you’re a modern psychological astrologer trying to do electional astrology. You’ve already adopted an approach that it’s all good, that it’s all the same, and that everything has its pluses and minuses, but it’s all essentially on the same level at some point.
AC: Value neutral language.
CB: Sure. Okay, so to move this discussion along one thing that’ll be reexamined is some of those distinctions and things like that, and how to reconcile some of those approaches or extremes between those two viewpoints in terms of making those distinctions or not making those distinctions, or when to apply them and when not to apply them, or whether they’re valuable. Whether there’s something to them or whether they’re useless, a lot of those discussions will have to take place. So we’re talking a lot about the revival of traditional astrology and some of those concepts, and we’ve talked about psychological astrology as sort of a new innovation in the modern period, but there were also some other innovations and there’s some continuing innovations in the modern period.
Early in the century, we had the innovation of Uranian astrology and cosmobiology, which were almost completely different schools of astrology that sort of sprang up out of nowhere and were using techniques that were completely unique or independent. Then later in the century, we have the innovation of things like the continuing discovery of the asteroids, and more recently, minor planets or planetoid bodies sort of floating out there in the solar system, and the solar system itself keeps expanding and growing. And many astrologers seemed to right away integrate some of these new bodies into their charts, like the asteroids, or some of these minor planets, like Sedna or Eris or what have you. So that’s something that we’re gonna have to figure out what to do with as well.
AC: Yeah, absolutely. In many ways that’s one meaningful beginning. So there’s been a lot of discussion about what is ‘traditional astrology’, right? When does it end? When does it start? And if we’re talking about the difference between modern and traditional, you know, one place to position that boundary is the discovery of Uranus or ‘George’, right?
AC: I mean, it problematized a lot—between the discovery of Uranus, and the Copernican revolution, the re-centering of our understanding of our world on the Sun rather than on the Earth, right?
AC: Since then, as you’ve said, there’s been a continuing torrent, a slow torrent of challenges and additions to the traditional model. And I think we’ve been talking a fair amount about what challenges modern astrology faces that psychological astrology needs to come to terms with. But I think that the traditional community needs to develop as a whole some more sophisticated responses to, “What about Uranus?” “What about Neptune?”
CB: Yeah, definitely.
AC: Again, I think this is, as you framed at the beginning, ideally, it will be shaped like a dialogue.
AC: I don’t know if everyone will conform to that standard. But I think it’s at least dialectic, right? There are definitely issues on both sides of that.
CB: Yeah, I mean, one of those big issues is the rulership scheme. ‘Cause that’s been one of the big technical changes in the transition from traditional to modern astrology, and it’s one of the big things that astrologers are starting to really fight about now with some of these changes that are going on. What’s the rationale for assigning planets to signs through the rulership scheme? And, you know, should new planetary bodies be included in that scheme, or should some asteroids be included in that scheme? Or should the original rulership scheme be maintained, and if so, why? And contrary to what some traditional astrologers think, both modern and traditional astrologers have some weaknesses in the arguments that they’ve been using.
I mean, modern astrologers will say right away their entire conceptualization of sign rulership is that planets have an affinity through similar meanings with certain signs and that’s what the rulerships are based on. But that’s kind of flawed because over the past century, they’ve completely swapped many of the significations. They’ve taken some significations from certain planets and applied those to certain signs, and they’ve taken some significations from certain signs and applied them to certain planets. So at this point, they would think that because that’s how the system’s been completely rebuilt over the course of the past century, but that wasn’t necessarily always the case.
AC: Yeah. And as I think you’ve made clear in some of your work, that’s not the original rationale. You know, what’s glorious about the present is that we have unprecedented access to texts which seem to present much of the original rationale. The Thema Mundi being primary among them.
CB: Yeah, and that seems to have been the core rationale initially for sign rulership. But then that leads to this other issue where traditional astrologers try to make this counter-argument that sign rulership has nothing to do with affinity between planet and sign or there is no connection. And that’s actually kind of a flawed argument as well, or it’s not a fully consistent one even if you just based rulership on the Thema Mundi. And the premise of the Thema Mundi is that you start from two signs that coincide with the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere—the hottest and brightest part of the year—and you assign the two luminaries, or the two lights to those signs: to Cancer and Leo. And then the rest of the signs get assigned flanking out in zodiacal order, from Mercury to Venus to Mars to Jupiter to Saturn. But then there’s a problem there because even if you use that traditionally, the modern assignments of Uranus to Aquarius and then Neptune to Pisces would actually follow that rationale quite nicely. So traditional astrologers have to be careful about that argument because it’s still not entirely a fully consistent argument that could be used against them if they try and completely have recourse to that.
AC: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So I just want to share a brief anecdote. I was just looking at this astrological pamphlet. It was published in 1903. It’s all tattered and worn away. And I was just, you know, looking through it, and not only is rulership in there, but all of the lesser dignities, which people associate with way old astrology. Like Medieval stuff was in there as well. The triplicity rulers were present.
AC: Terms. The decans. I encountered that material, as I mentioned, through the Hellenistic doorway, right? So I have it associated with this, you know, much older period, and of course it’s present in the Medieval and Renaissance material. But I suppose the narrative you hear in modern astrology is that they abandoned that, you know, sometime in the 17th century or in the 18th century. And this text is the only astrology book you’ll ever need of its day. It’s written in a very approachable tone. And that’s not consistent with the way that people describe modern astrology. When people say ‘modern’—I think we’ve both been guilty of this even in this conversation—what they’re actually referring to is post-‘60s astrology.
CB: Right. Yeah, I mean, some parts of traditional astrology—like everything prior to the 17th century—made it much further into the 20th century than we would think. And that’s actually part of what most of the books that people are familiar with today—like Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology or Noel Tyl’s work or some of Rob Hand’s work or Liz Greene’s work—when they’re rejecting concepts like benefic and malefic, they’re rejecting stuff that was still being used when they all started entering the field in the ‘60s. So there was much more continuity, I think that’s what you’re alluding to.
AC: Yeah. And just, again, to head back to one of my first statements to understand where things are headed in the future or what future we can create, I think it’s very important to have an accurate idea of what happened in the past. And imagining that people chucked rulership sometime in the 19th century is not true, and therefore, not useful. I think that, ironically, part of the movement towards greater scholarship—especially in regard to the history of the tradition—is uncovering that even the modern period is very different. You know, only a couple of generations back is different from the way that it’s often presented.
CB: Sure. Yeah. And, I mean, things can change. One of the take-home lessons for that—and I think for us in looking at the future—is that things can change very rapidly much quicker than you would think over the course of a decade or maybe a decade-and-a-half, maybe two decades. That’s really how long it took for what we conceptualize as modern astrology to take over in the late 20th century, probably around the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s.
And you can see evidence of that, for example, in what Kelly and I discussed a couple of episodes back, which is the striking number of people who suddenly have adopted whole sign houses just in the past five years, basically; maybe 10 years tops. Suddenly that’s one of the major competing forms of house division, and it’s happened almost overnight, especially considering that it’s a form of house division that was previously not known about in contemporary astrology up until very recently. And now, all of a sudden, everybody’s using it. It hasn’t displaced Placidus yet, but it’s certainly become a runner-up, which is quite surprising, I think.
AC: Yeah, and I think what’s even more remarkable about that or more interesting about that is that whole sign houses operate under a wholly different set of assumptions, right? It’s not another quadrant-style house system. It’s not another way to divide the space between the angles, right?
AC: The Ascendant marks the 1st house, and the entirety of that sign is the 1st. And so, it’s a radical departure from, you know, the list of 15 other house systems that people use.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s a great example of something that just comes out of nowhere. I mean, that was an old thing that was rediscovered that’s completely changing the landscape of how many astrologers look at astrology and conceptualize charts, but it just almost happened overnight within the broader, you know, timeline of things. Like a decade is not a very long period of time. Or five years is not a very long period of time for hundreds of astrologers to suddenly switch how they’re looking at charts.
I mean, we can’t anticipate changes like that. There could be things that come up in the next decade or two decades or three decades that are like that, where suddenly there’s some new technique or some old technique that’s recovered that people start using and that people think makes sense, and everyone just starts adopting it very quickly. There’s something about that that—unfortunately, while we’re having this discussion—we won’t fully be able to anticipate because of this factor where you can’t really know all the things that could come up or be recovered, or conversely, be discovered or invented. Yeah, so let’s transition. One of the things that I think you attended recently—and this is less of a technical thing and more of a social thing—but you attended the first Queer Astrology Conference in San Francisco that took place last month, July of 2013, right?
CB: How did that go? What was the focus of that conference? I mean, what was the focus? Were there things that were new that you saw there? Was it about reorienting astrology towards a certain viewpoint? Was it about making room for it? Was it about acknowledging techniques or interpretative principles that were not previously acknowledged? What was the purpose of that conference?
AC: Well, to paraphrase the organizer Ian Waisler, I think part of it was to bring a lot of questions to astrology from a variety of viewpoints and to see what came out of that. So let me give you some examples of what I thought were some of the really interesting questions that came up. You know, it got pointed out that the etymological root of the word ‘queer’ is ‘query’, right? To question.
AC: And so, I believe the first presentation pointed out what I thought were some really great things. The astrologer’s name was Yolo. I don’t remember his last name. But what he pointed out is that a lot of the ways that astrologer’s write is to heterosexual people who want to get married, right?
AC: That’s built into a number of counseling astrologers’ approaches, and it’s certainly built into the mass market astrology.
AC: You know, with the horoscopes and the books. Some of the Linda Goodman books that have sort of a horoscope audience in mind. And I think it’s simply drawing attention to that and saying, “Hey, you know what? There are a lot of people who don’t want to do that.” Not all the heterosexual people want to get married. Also, not all the boys are interested in girls. And not all the girls are interested in boys. Part of what was really interesting and I think educational for me—you know, I’m a straight guy—there were some things I hadn’t thought as hard about. Listening to people who were more sensitized to those assumptions and were in some ways alienated by it, it was just interesting to rediscover some of the texts and unpack some of the assumptions that were there. If you asked me, I would have said, sure, that’s there. But I hadn’t thought as hard about it because of my relationship to the material. So I’m not ‘yay’, but there are a lot of people who are heterosexual who nonetheless maybe aren’t oriented towards marriage. You know, there’s a lot of traditional techniques and there’s also a lot of typical questions, like “When am I gonna get married?”
AC: And so, just questioning that assumption, you know, to lead a happy and successful life, that should be one feature of it. The Queer Astrology Conference I think helped bring my attention to the fact that a lot of astrologers and a lot of astrology are reinforcing these very culturally-bounded assumptions about how should you be living, right? And in many ways, I think it brings up a viewpoint that I like to think is sort of inherent to astrology, which is that everybody has a different life, you know, and there are different forms of happiness and satisfaction. Even if you’re doing a more traditional form of consulting, pushing someone towards a social norm that may or may not be appropriate for them is not terribly helpful, right? So there was a lot that went on that weekend, but I think asking these questions about the assumptions that are built into a lot of texts was really useful.
CB: Sure. Yeah, definitely. And that’s certainly something I would expect to see explored more in the coming decades—how astrologers deal with things like gender roles and, you know, different types of relationships, sexual relationships or romantic relationships or what have you. So I’m sure that that’s a huge area that’s gonna be redefined and is gonna perhaps look somewhat different. I don’t want to say quite different. It’s interesting ‘cause in some of the traditional texts, there might be more of an access point for this because of in some instances how they were more capable of dealing with certain gender roles or certain things pertaining to sexual identity. Although, obviously, in some ways, they were not necessarily as enlightened or whatever you want to call it.
AC: Yeah, one of the examples that got brought up was how in traditional texts, it will say as an indicator for a man being homosexual, “He will be a sinner and a sodomite,” right? There are traditional texts that, you know, convey the cultural norms at the time and place they were written. And so, maybe that’s a useful technique, but that language is not very helpful. And if that’s you, I mean, those aren’t pretty words.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things that’s funny about reading, for example, something from the Roman tradition. Some of those delineations are in there, but you get weird cultural things. Like they’ll say stuff like that, but it’s only cast negatively if you’re the passive partner in a homosexual relationship. If you’re the active, you know, partner that’s essentially on top or what have you, that’s fine, culturally-speaking, in a Roman context. But the negative delineation is if you’re the passive partner.
AC: Right, right, right. And so, I don’t know. I think that’s part of where my head went. It was sort of like, “Oh, I wonder if these are actually useful techniques,” but we need to strip away some of the culturally-based value judgments.
CB: Yeah, I think there is because what’s funny is in some of that stuff, it will talk about homosexuality and different things. But oftentimes, in the Hellenistic texts, they’ll contextualize it as like active or masculine vs. being passive or feminine through looking at things like if Venus is a morning star as being more masculinized or more, let’s say, active vs. Venus being an evening star and being feminized or being more passive. And I think some of those delineation tools can be applied usefully if they’re just redefined in some of the language to gender neutral delineation techniques in the modern period. I think it just needs to be looked at with fresh eyes.
AC: And value neutral as well.
AC: “Congratulations, you’re a straight guy.” Like, no, no, no. It’s not better to be a straight guy than any of the other variations we’re talking about, right?
AC: Anyway, so there was a lot of questioning going on. There were a number of presentations. I really don’t think I have time to go over everything.
AC: But I would like to say that Christopher Renstrom gave just a tremendous talk. I was really blown away. It was titled, “The Saturn Return of AIDS.”
AC: So I guess he began with what I think is a really interesting astrological project: Can you find a chart for AIDS?
AC: And so, the chart that he worked from—which was the result of some pretty serious research—was the meeting where I believe the National Institutes of Health named this virus that they had been seeing on and off for a few years and didn’t know exactly what to make of it. It was the meeting where they gave it a name, right?
AC: It’s interesting. I don’t know. That’s an interesting moment to cast a chart for. And then basically he talked about the history of AIDS as bisected by the Saturn cycle, which is interesting, and lined up perfectly with some of the big turning points. But he also wove that in with a personal narrative about that time and about living through that. It was just extraordinary. We were talking about where astrology’s at right now. He integrated explicitly traditional techniques. He looked at house joys, for example, as well as what I thought was a very nuanced version of the mythological approach. That’s something we might also talk about in terms of recent modern astrology vs. traditional and the interpretation of planets in a mythological context. Instead of saying, “The Sun is Apollo, and he’s like this,” he really dug through the myths that the Hellenistic practitioners of astrology would have known. It was a masterful talk, and not a few people cried. It was great. I just feel like I need to give my apologies to everybody else who was there and did fine work, but Christopher really did something special.
CB: Yeah, I’ve heard that from a few different people. So I hope that talk is available as a recording at some point or he does it elsewhere, or publishes that as a paper or something so we’ll be able to learn more about it. You brought up myth as an interpretive principle. And that’s a really important one because that’s become such a core tool. It’s a technical tool that’s being used in order to understand not just the planets and their significations in astrology, but also the asteroids and some of the newly-discovered planetary bodies. Like that’s become in the late 20th and early 21st century the first thing that astrologers look to when they’re trying to figure out what a new astronomical body means. They’ll look at the mythology associated with the name of that planetary body. And that’s interesting because that’s one of those techniques that was innovated in the 1960 and ‘70s. And that’s become so commonplace that people don’t realize that it wasn’t really used that much prior to the late 20th century.
AC: Yeah, I think it’s an interesting and very thorny thing to bring under the lens of criticism.
AC: Because you definitely don’t see it, well, let’s just say Bonatti, right?
AC: And it’s not that you see it explicitly in Hellenistic texts, but if you were in a time period where everybody who you’ve ever known is familiar with Greek myths—almost the entire Mediterranean is Hellenized at that point. You know, the Greek gods and goddesses may not be the dominant form of religious praxis in every area, but everybody’s heard of them, right? Simply saying, “Zeus/Jupiter is doing this,” is going to bring up a huge string of associations, right? A lot of that doesn’t have to be written when you’re writing in that context.
AC: In my work on the decans, if you look at the Hellenistic interpretations of the decans, like all of the meanings are encapsulated by mythical figures. Oh, this decan powers are represented by this demigod. Or this decan’s powers are represented by Leto, who is the mother of Apollo and Artemis, right? I mean, the decans are their own weird, funky strain of astrology, right?
AC: But there is Hellenistic-era astrological material that does use, you know, these often minor mythological figures to communicate a complex of meanings.
CB: Sure. I guess the question or the debate that’s gonna start taking place is, is that the first thing that you think of when you start interpreting a planetary body or an astronomical body in a chart? Also, to what extent or what percentage of your delineations should revolve around myth? Because I think one of the critiques is that very recently, like the past 30 or 40 years, that wasn’t the first thing that astrologers had recourse to when they were trying to figure out what a new planet meant. They instead started actually placing it in charts, trying to see what it correlated with in reality through transits or through just natal placements.
So we get these funny stories like the one about—God, I can’t remember his name. John Varley from the 18th-19th century who was a painter, but also an astrologer. And there’s that great story about how he’d been following Uranus for some time, and he kept seeing it show up in certain contexts, so he thought it meant an unexpected disruption or an unexpected violent event. And he saw that it was gonna be hitting his chart in a particular way, on a particular day, so he shut himself up inside his house and wouldn’t go outside. And then at the specific hour at which Uranus was hitting his chart exactly, his house catches on fire and it burns to the ground. And he runs outside and starts scribbling in his notebook right away in order to record the event.
AC: Yeah, yeah.
CB: So it’s like we have funny stories about astrologers doing empirical work in order to understand what the planets mean, and that’s their first and that’s their primary access point for coming up with the significations of new planets. But that’s completely changed. Like nowadays, the first and the primary access point for new planetary bodies—like Sedna or Eris—is what is the mythology associated with the name. And there were a lot of astrologers that couldn’t do anything with it—that didn’t do anything with it—until the planetary body was named because they were so at a loss for how to even approach figuring that out otherwise. That approach had become so ingrained—the use of the mythology of the name—that it’s like the primary thing at that point. And I think that’s where there might be some room for criticism, and there will be some debate in coming decades about the appropriateness of that.
AC: Yeah, so I think it’s useful to recognize that there’s often a level of resonance between a name and what the planet does astrologically. But to take one name—let’s take Neptune—and say that all of the stories that the Greeks associated with this god are totally relevant to what Neptune in the chart does, I don’t think anyone would agree that that’s a great way to deal with the astrological Neptune. Does Neptune have to do with water? Yeah, it seems to. But the planet Neptune also seems to have a lot to do physically with gases. Also, the standard things that it’s associated with are drugs or drug states, or states where consciousness is altered. Dreams are very commonly associated with Neptune. These have very little to do with the mythological Neptune. You’ve got the water thing, right?
AC: Even astrologers who are really mining the myth, I don’t think any of them are going to argue that the mythological Neptune, who’s a big dude who bulls are sacred to, is really the best window into the astrological Neptune. I think it’s important to note there is a resonance, right? It’s like if you start with the ocean and what that represents—and also, physically, water—I think you get to some places that are very relevant for the astrological Neptune. But there are also a lot of dead-ends. Also, this is a very important distinction to make—different cultures have different myths that they associate with different planets. You know, the Vedic stories about Mars are not the same as the Greek stories about Ares, right? They’re not the same. And Venus, Aphrodite to the Greeks, is Shukra to Vedic astrologers. Not only different stories, but different gender.
AC: And so, it’s like if we do want to take this mythological approach, we have to be aware that there isn’t just one culture’s set of stories that’s gonna do the whole thing, you know.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good point. There are a whole other mythological set of deities associated with the planets. For example, in Indian astrology, Indian astrologers sometimes do have recourse to those stories to explain what the planets mean, but in many instances, they’re completely different and have no bearing on the Western Greek or Roman myths.
AC: I’m sorry. One thing I just should bring up. I feel like it would be wrong not to mention the Babylonians and their associations between planets and gods. I think that’s the earliest, really clear association we have between stories and planets.
CB: Yeah, it is. And the Greeks were naming and associating some of their gods in the Greek pantheon with certain planets at a specific date. Prior to the 4th or 5th century BCE you don’t see those associations, but then all of a sudden they show up. But the Greeks explicitly matched the gods in their pantheon with the gods in the Mesopotamian or Babylonian pantheon. And that’s why Zeus is associated with Jupiter, and that’s why Aphrodite is associated with Venus because they tried to pick the god that matched in their pantheon the same god in the Mesopotamian pantheon.
AC: Right, right. Well, Marduk, Zeus, close enough, right?
CB: Right. I like Mars’ name. In Akkadian or in the Mesopotamian tradition, it was Nergal.
CB: Does it not strike fear into the hearts of many when you hear the name, Nergal?
AC: Nergal is far fiercer than the Greek Ares, though. What’s interesting is he had rulership over, I believe, plague-bearing winds, pestilent winds that would bring death to many.
AC: And he did have an association with intemperate heat as well, which is not so much there with the Greek areas, but is totally there in our traditional understanding of Mars. Intemperate heat is his thing.
CB: Sure. So speaking of intemperate winds, one other point that could potentially be important for the future and that might be worth discussing is the issue of the possibility of new scientific discoveries. Since our scientific understanding of the universe is always expanding, could there be additional scientific discoveries that have implications for astrology? One thing that came out very recently—it was a story in the news in the past week or two—was that some Swiss researchers found evidence that the lunar cycle may have an effect on sleep patterns. They found that the total time of sleep that a person has is lowest at the Full Moon, and that there was some statistically-significant percentage of people that this correlated with, so that it actually seemed to be an actual thing. And a lot of astrologers were taking this and sort of trumpeting this as proof of astrology. How do you feel about that?
AC: Well, I think that astrology makes a lot of assumptions that go pretty far beyond that. So I think it’s hyperbole to say it validates astrology as a whole. I think it’s interesting. I’m not surprised. I don’t think many astrologers or even many people would be surprised by the findings of that. In some ways, it’s sort of like when the latest, you know, diet study comes out, and they’re like, “If you eat a bunch of fat, it makes you gain weight,” you know. It’s sort of like, really? Thanks, science.
AC: It’s interesting. I think it gets people thinking about the relationship between life on Earth and the various other bodies in our solar system, which just sticking to a strictly materialist, scientific perspective is really fascinating. You know, all of life on Earth has grown up under the pull of the Moon and the alternation of day and night and the wax and wane of the seasons and those are just the really obvious factors.
CB: Sure. Yeah. You know, there probably will be more of these—or maybe more of these types of discoveries in the future. I mean, one of my objections to it is it goes back to this debate that astrologers have had for over 2,000 years now, which is, do celestial movements cause earthly events to happen? Or does astrology work because the planets merely act as signs or omens of future events? Which is kind of different. They’re not directly causing things to happen. They’re just mirroring or indicating what will happen for some weird, sort of unknown reason; through some explanatory principle like synchronicity or what have you.
It seems like astrologers make a lot of claims about astrology. And astrology seems to be capable of doing things that, to me at least, don’t make sense within a causal framework. And therefore, I don’t see things like this as necessarily evidence for astrology directly. Like it might be evidence that there’s something that overlaps with astrology, but this in and of itself is not necessarily astrology. It’s a causal mechanism that’s correlating with certain things. But to jump on this as evidence, you know, of astrology seems a little weak or jumping to conclusions, just because astrology claims so much more than this in and of itself is evidence of. We just might want to be careful about that. But still, I don’t know. I’ll perhaps be open to it in the future.
AC: Yeah, it’s a really weak case to say that that validates all of astrology. That’s not a position that holds up to any critique, right? ‘Cause astrology just makes much more extraordinary claims.
CB: Right. And so, that’s an important point actually ‘cause that leads us to one major issue, which is the issue of astrology and science, astrology’s relationship to science, and the issue of astrology and skeptics or skeptics of astrology, and what the future holds when it comes to those things. I don’t think it looks good. And I think this is one of the areas that there’s gonna be major problems as the skeptical community continues to become more organized and become more powerful and become more—what’s the term? Like trying to actualize their potential.
And I think that because I can understand from a skeptic’s perspective how they would think that they have the moral imperative to stop astrologers from what they’re doing if you take science as the litmus test—like current scientific understanding of the universe as the litmus test for what’s happening in reality, and what is real vs. what is not real. And if astrology does not—as it currently doesn’t—have any great evidence that completely validates it, then from a skeptic’s perspective, they’re gonna say that astrologers must not be doing anything that has to do with reality, or what they’re doing must be false. And therefore, if they’re doing that and if they’re practicing astrology, and if they’re seeing clients or accepting money for it or what have you, they’re doing something fraudulent.
And from that perspective, I can understand a skeptic’s line of thought where they would think that they have some sort of moral imperative to stop people from being ripped off or to stop astrologers from doing what they’re doing. And that line of thinking to me—I’ve been seeing this because the skeptics are becoming more active and becoming more organized about doing various things against certain fringe groups. I see this as becoming a bigger issue for astrologers in the future that they’re not really thinking about, but that will become an issue in the 21st century. I feel like that’s actually a very minority viewpoint, though. ‘Cause usually when I talk to other astrologers, they don’t think this is a big deal. I think you’re one of those guys that’s kind of skeptical about my fear, I guess, of skeptics.
AC: Well, I follow and concur with the entire line of reasoning you just laid out. I think that’s solid. Here’s the thing, in America, at least. The recent rise of fundamentalist Christianity is so widespread and so politically active that I think that that’s going to keep the skeptics—which are very tightly tied to and often synonymous with the atheists—busy for decades to come. I think that if astrology was this giant thing that people were debating in public policy, and were threatening to change laws, you know, if it was that visible, I think absolutely the skeptics would go after us. However, in a sense, we’re pretty ‘small potatoes’, politically speaking. And there really aren’t that many of us who are full-time professionals. I don’t think we’re gonna draw that much ire. Which doesn’t mean that it won’t happen from time to time. But I just think, you know, if you’re thinking from a contemporary skeptic’s point of view, there are much bigger fish to fry in terms of public action.
CB: Maybe. I don’t know. I mean, it might be the case that I focus too much on it. Although, conversely, it could be the case that a lot of astrologers don’t pay enough attention to what the skeptics are actually doing and what their mindset is and what their operational procedures are when it comes to other groups. I don’t necessarily endorse some other things outside of astrology. I don’t necessarily have any personal experience, I don’t know if it’s valid or not valid—things like homeopathy or just about every fringe thing that’s sort of, you know, deemed as not being valid. I’ve seen instances of it coming under attack by skeptics either publicly or through other means.
I mean, one example of this that’s actually affecting astrologers now is that the skeptics are very organized on Wikipedia. And there’s more skeptics who edit articles on Wikipedia than there are astrologers who edit them. And as a result of that most heavily-trafficked astrology articles have a heavy slant against astrology on Wikipedia. So it’s not neutral. It’s not like an in-between. It’s like most of the high-traffic astrology articles—like the main one on astrology—if you read it, every other section is just about how there have been objections to astrology at various points. Even when it’s talking about it historically, it gives an abnormally long section to talking about historical objections to astrology from 2,000 years ago.
That’s like one of those examples to me where the skeptics have won because virtually all of the astrologers who used to edit articles on Wikipedia and who used to kind of do battle with the skeptics in order to keep the articles neutral, they’ve lost. And they’ve all had to pack up and go home; so the skeptics have sort of won that battle. And I just wonder how many other battles like that there are, and at what point astrologers will be on the losing end.
This actually came up recently where, in the UK, the prime minister has proposed this porn filter—this filter for internet service that filters out by default pornography. It’s an opt-out service. So you have to opt out of it. You have to publicly say, “I want to watch pornography,” or what have you in order to opt out of it. Otherwise, by default, all those websites will be blocked that have anything to do with that. And Wired Magazine in the UK, they actually ran a story recently saying that there were a bunch of other subtopics that were also filtered in this default filter, and one of them ‘esoteric’ subjects.
So that’s another one of those instances where things might become more difficult for astrologers. Even though the internet is gonna give us so much greater access to information and the ability to look things up, at the same time, there’s like a crackdown in certain places. You have the astrology articles on Wikipedia becoming slanted against astrology. You have the potential of internet filters blocking content or access to astrology websites. I mean, there are some ways in which the future of astrology looks very good. But, you know, we shouldn’t start dancing to the “Age of Aquarius” song at this point. Like the Age of Aquarius is not gonna dawn tomorrow and then everyone’s gonna accept astrology. It’s actually gonna be, in some instances, much more difficult than that potentially.
AC: No, I agree. I think some of it comes down to what your expectations are for astrology’s public acceptance. And, you know, as far as having a poor reputation publicly, in terms of how much truth people assign to astrology, you know, we’ve been in the dumpster for a couple of hundred years. You know, when I got into astrology it was in the dumpster, culturally-speaking. And so, I guess I’m not so worried that people are publicly saying bad things about astrology still. You know, in my brief practice of astrology that’s been the case the entire time. I haven’t been in any groups other than very small gatherings of like-minded folks where people thought that it was a reasonable thing to be studying astrology.
AC: So I think to a certain degree this is sort of par for the course. It will be interesting to see if that proposed legislation in the UK actually goes through. It specifically targets esoteric sites. And one thing that’s interesting about the UK is that the fifth most popular religion right now is some form of neo-paganism or Wiccanism.
AC: And I know that that community—which I would consider myself a part of, a pretty big banner—are up in arms about it, and it’s not, you know, 20 people. We, astrologers, again, there aren’t very many of us, right?
AC: And so, I think it’s unlikely that that’ll go through. And a lot of the heavy lifting legally—if it does need to be done—will probably be done by what we call the pagan community, which outnumber the astrologers vastly and are much more organized legally.
CB: Sure. I guess in terms of astrology being a fringe group and being on the fringe of society and having issues—earlier we were talking about skeptics and the objections to astrology from scientists, and you brought up skeptic/atheist movement—since the two have sort of coalesced into one essentially—and then doing battle with Christians. Although astrologers are in the unfortunate position of not just having objections from the scientific community, but also having to deal with and not being on friendly relations with the fundamentalist religious community of almost any denomination, or of any branch. So it just puts us in a weird position as a fringe group in that way.
AC: Yeah, well, what’s really interesting is if you look back at the various purges or what people call the Inquisition—although there were many inquisitions—much of the activity that’s portrayed as inquisitional is actually secular law as well. I’m thinking about the series of witchcraft acts in Britain, for example, which forbade, you know, intercourse with spirits of any kind and any of the services associated with that. Astrology is sort of last on that list. And so, back then the people who got the full wrath of the Church were basically people who were claiming to have relationships with spirits and to be able to perform magic of some sort or another.
And, yes, we have some stories about astrologers getting in trouble. John Dee, for example, gets in trouble for reading I believe Mary, Elizabeth’s sister. He gets in trouble and is put on trial for reading her chart. And I believe Lilly got into some trouble as well. What’s important is both of those guys got off. We don’t have any sort of mass persecution and burning stories. I guess what this leads me to is that when it comes to the wrath of the Church or churches, astrologers were on the list, but they were pretty far down it. And I would argue that that’s kind of the same position that we’re in relative to, you know, the skeptic/atheist movement. We’re the smallest fish to fry. And I think that’s contributed to the historical survival of astrologers. We’re rarely the biggest menace.
CB: Sure. I guess just there’s been some instances where that has not stopped us from problems. Like even a few years ago—remember the whole zodiac controversy? It’s things like that that really bother me because there are clearly efforts at disinformation that are being falsely put out in order to make astrologers look bad or look worse than they already do or what have you. Like putting out this release of this story that suddenly takes off and every news outlet in the North America—even around the world—is talking about it, saying there was a new constellation, or there was a new 13th sign that was recently discovered and it’s completely thrown off the zodiac and astrologers are now wrong.
And that’s exactly how it was framed even though the astronomers themselves knew that that was false. They knew that there wasn’t anything. It wasn’t like a sudden thing. Astrologers have been aware of precession for 2,000 years, and they’ve been deliberately using—at least tropical astrologers have been deliberately using their specific reference point for 2,000 years now, and yet, it was put out as this piece of disinformation. And I still run into people every once in a while who remember that story from a few years ago, and they say, “Didn’t the zodiac change recently?” or “Weren’t astrologers wrong about that?” or what have you.
And I wonder what things like that do in terms of the long-term psyche of the public’s view of astrology and understanding of astrology. I wonder if we will see numbers go up or go down in terms of interest in astrology in the coming decades, or interest in horoscope columns or Sun sign columns or what have you. I tend to think based on the trajectory that it’s currently going at that we’ll see a decrease and a lack of interest in at least popularized forms of astrology, but I’m not really sure.
AC: Okay, there’s a lot of interesting stuff there. One, I was around for the great zodiac controversy, whenever it was.
CB: I think it was like 2010.
AC: Yeah, hoary old days.
CB: Right. Long ago.
AC: I wrote a brief piece explaining precession in what I hoped was approachable language, and I’d never gotten more traffic for a piece than I got for that one. It’s such an easy thing to explain. You know, it’s the problem with making a weak argument. Like even if you can spread a weak argument everywhere, it’s so easy to dismantle. And the person who made the weak argument then ends up with egg on their face.
CB: Yeah, and that’s true for almost all modern skeptical arguments against astrology, or at least most of them. The skeptics themselves don’t know a lot about astrology, and therefore, make weak arguments. Although astrologers have been resting on that for a while, and that’s not gonna be the case forever.
AC: And I personally wouldn’t mind a rigorous critique of astrology’s claims about how reality works.
AC: More of us should be conversant with the implications of the material we’re working with. I think that might actually be positive.
AC: You know, I’d like to see the skeptics actually critique astrology as it’s practiced rather than these, you know, ideas that really have very little to do with the practice of astrology now or in a past period.
AC: Now another thing that you said I think brings up something really important historically. You were talking about a possible decrease in the number of people who read or are interested the horoscope columns or various popular forms of astrology.
AC: And you could argue that there were some popular applications of astrology in the Renaissance and previous periods in the tradition. The printing press, and then really the modern era—and I’m speaking of the historical modern era, beginning sometime in the 18th century—saw the rise of astrological almanacs and then newspaper columns and the mass-produced paperbacks. Linda Goodman’s a great example.
AC: I don’t know how much I think those have actually helped astrology. They have helped individual astrologers make a living and given them, hopefully, the time to pursue more serious studies. But I don’t know that for astrology to succeed or to be strong and vibrant it’s necessary for astrology to, you know, have a horoscope column in every paper. You know, that’s something you can do with astrology. And as someone who wrote a horoscope column for eight years, it’s a very interesting challenge, but I don’t know that we need that. Honestly, I would be very satisfied if we had a more serious, dedicated, rigorous core community that didn’t extend out as far.
AC: I don’t think that would be a terrible thing.
CB: I mean, that connects to another topic that came up recently on Facebook, which is not just the validity, but whether Sun sign columns were helping or hurting astrologers. And I don’t necessarily want to go too—‘cause that actually would be a really great discussion on its own, and I wanted to make that an entire episode. So perhaps I could have you back and we could talk about that next time, but that would be a really good topic. And I guess just the question—because, you know, newspapers are on their way out. So there’s no longer gonna be this, you know, section that’s reserved for some form of astrology—some form of popularized astrology. Yes, people can still get that online and perhaps have a greater ability to access things like that, or even more advanced forms of astrology, like the transits that you can get on Astro.com, on Astrodienst. You know, maybe that’ll be good for it.
I guess in terms of the way that science is taught and the extremely antagonistic and negative view of astrology that most people will get just taking a normal high school science course or astronomy course—and the scorn and mocking that anybody would get from that—I feel like that’s worse than it was in previous decades, and perhaps will lead to less people even considering astrology as something that’s possible at all in the first place, or even considering it. And obviously I understand that viewpoint and I can sympathize with it because astrology as a premise sounds absolutely absurd if you’re not familiar with it. And if you haven’t looked into it and haven’t seen it work in practice, I can understand how that would sound absurd. I don’t know. Just in terms of the future and in terms of whether astrologers are gonna have an easier time or a harder time making that pitch to the average Joe, I think they might have a harder time in the future as things progress rather than an easier time.
AC: Yeah, I mean, that’s a valid concern. I think that one issue that’s tied up with what’s being said in a classroom is, you know, how is the scientific discourse behaving, right? But then the question of course is how much do people trust that discourse? And I think that one of the hallmarks of the period in which we live—what some people would say is the hallmark of postmodernism—is that because there’s so much information and so many points of view, people are becoming increasingly accustomed to holding multiple points of view or being a receptacle for a variety of conflicting opinions and conflicting discourses. And then simply because something is being said doesn’t mean that it’s being absorbed and repeated verbatim.
You know, I think if you polled Americans about how much they trust conventional medicine right now—I don’t know, actually it would be great to have a poll like that on hand—I doubt that the percentages are going to be higher than they were 30 years ago. There’s a lot of distrust for the great Western institutions right now. And the economic ideas, as well as the medical ideas have been problematized from a variety of angles. I think that’s one of the many results of globalization—the internet being a prime engine thereof. So they’re saying it, but then there’s people believing it, and there’s a gap between those two.
CB: Sure. That’s a fair point. I guess that brings us to one of the last points that we meant to talk about, which is one of the trends I think we’ve seen recently in the astrological community is the ability to hold multiple viewpoints. And now that there’s so many different types of astrology and different traditions of astrology—and sometimes conflicting traditions of astrology—we’re running into this issue where there’s these two different options that people are often faced with, where you adopt a specific approach which is the approach that either, you know, works best for you—or the one that makes most sense to you—or maybe it’s just the one that you learned when you first got into astrology, and therefore, that’s why it’s your preference or what have you. You just pick a specific approach vs. this other thing where sometimes people will say, “You know, I do this, however I acknowledge that there are these other positions that are valid,” or just as valid, or may have validity as well.
And there’s a bunch of instances where astrologers are gonna have to make a choice between those two different options. And it’s not necessarily that one of them is right and the other one’s necessarily wrong, but there is gonna be a choice in a number of different instances. For example, one that’s getting debated a lot recently is the tropical vs. sidereal zodiac issue, and the question of, you know, if I use the tropical zodiac, and it works for me, does that by extension automatically mean that the sidereal zodiac is wrong? Or does the tropical zodiac and the sidereal zodiac mean the same thing? Can they both work? Can they both have the same system of rulership? Does it make sense for them to both have the same system of rulership or the same qualities associated with each of those signs?
Or other issues—like with house division. If I use whole sign houses, does that mean that Placidus doesn’t work? Can you use two different forms of house division at once? And is there an ability to synthesize the two, or is it really a mutually-exclusive thing? There’s so many different issues like that in astrology that it seems like one of the things that astrologers are gonna have to navigate over the next few decades due to this plurality of different traditions at this point.
AC: Absolutely. And I think that part of that process is understanding when two claims are truly in conflict vs. situations where they’re simply revealing two different sides of the same object. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the old parable about the blind men and the elephant. You know, one blind man grabs the elephant’s tail.
AC: Another grab’s its leg. Another grabs its trunk. The guy who grabbed its leg says, “Oh, it’s a tree.” The guy who grabs its tail says, “Oh, it’s a snake,” etc. I think some of these techniques, you know, are simply this kind of situation and that by looking at them and comparing them, we actually have the opportunity to further define exactly what we’re looking at when we use the tropical zodiac. What angle is whole sign houses giving us on a person’s life? In those situations where we can further define exactly what it does, then we know when to use it.
You know, one of the things that I’ve certainly thought a lot of lately when I’ve encountered people who are more grounded in the depth psychology application of astrology, in looking at some of the technical differences between what they’re doing and what I’m doing, I’ve thought to myself, “Huh, that seems like the perfect tool for that job.” If I tried to use that tool for my job, I would fail miserably. But that doesn’t mean that they’re stupid and wrong.
AC: Like you said, I think, you know, it’s consciously developing that ability to say, “Hmm, I don’t know exactly what they’re doing with that. I’m going to investigate.” I’m going to investigate it before just saying, “Well, that’s not what I do.” You know, it’s not what I do, and it’s probably stupid. Or it doesn’t work for the purpose I have, right?
AC: If astrology is a tool, you know, a hammer and a wrench don’t do the same thing, but one is not superior and the other inferior.
AC: And so, I think just making room in the discussion for that is very helpful. I do think there’s probably just some bad ideas out there…
AC: …and I think we’ll get to the root of that. But I think there are a lot of ideas that aren’t bad, they’re just good for this specific purpose. And, you know, my hopeful, Jupiter-on-the-rising perspective is that with these various techniques and schools fighting it out—or dialoguing or both—that astrology will become richer and more coherent over the next decade or so.
CB: That sounds like a good goal or endpoint to strive towards. Yeah, so I guess we should start winding this down. Did you have any other major points about future things in astrology that you think are worth noting?
AC: Yeah, I had a few. I’ll be brief.
AC: So, you know, we talked about the impact that the Vedic tradition had on astrologers in America and the English-speaking world. Well, there’s this other country that’s not too far away from India. You might have heard about it—it’s called China, and there are a lot of people there. There’s a Chinese astrological tradition. There are actually a couple of different systems. And from what I hear from people who have spent time in China—Chinese and otherwise—culturally, divination, you know, going to a fortune-teller, a diviner of some sort never really went out of style. It’s something that’s still done in a lot of forms.
And so, I guess, one, what happens if we get some of these good Chinese astrologers or astrologers coming from the Chinese tradition who translate and present the material very clearly? What effect will that have? And then, two, as every international business has been asking themselves for the last 15 years, what impact will the Chinese market have on what we’re doing? I know that there are some astrologers—I know Steven Forrest has been doing workshops in China, and they look like they’re much better attended than the workshops in the United States. You know, it’s a lot of people. And if it’s a culture that—or if there are elements of the culture that end up being very receptive to what we’re doing—you know, the variety of things that Western astrologers are doing—that may very well change things.
AC: I mean, I think that China’s worth considering. Another thing that I think is important that I see happening and that I’m personally involved in is in recovering the history of the astrological tradition, what you find is that it’s riding shotgun with Hermetic practices for, you know, well over a thousand years, or for several large periods. There’s a very strong interplay between Hermetic magical traditions and astrology—the very tip of the iceberg being planetary magic, which is a sort of whole different angle on remediating a chart and remediation in general. And I see a lot of people doing work in that area.
The quickest and cleanest example being the translation of the Picatrix—which is an 11th century Arabic book of planetary magic—and that being translated into English for the very first time ever in this decade, or in this last decade by Ouroboros Press, and then by Christopher Warnock and Greer. And so, that material has become available very recently. This has a lot of material. And I see that material and the implications of that material impacting a number of astrologers’ practice—my own included—and so, I think that’s also worth noting.
CB: Yeah, definitely. As part of the revival of traditional astrology, the revival of traditional magic and traditional approaches to astrological magic and talismans and amulets. Yeah, well, it looks like the main theme that we keep coming back to is the revival of older forms of astrology and just the importing of other forms and other traditions of astrology—whether from India or from China or from far back in the Western tradition—and suddenly the practice of those techniques by contemporary Western astrologers today, and the interface of those traditions with some of the modern approaches.
And that seems to be the main thing that’s coming in the next few decades. It’s already happening. It’s already in the process right now. Because there’s a bunch of astrologers running around who are practicing traditional and modern astrology at the same time and are introducing interesting mixes or interesting syntheses of those approaches. But it will be really interesting to see in the next decade or two decades, or maybe even three decades, what the result of that synthesis actually is, and if anybody is able to successfully pull it off, like if the result of the revival of all these traditions is the synthesis of or the creation of some new form of astrology, or if you just get a bunch of different traditions sort of running around that are practicing their own unique approach independently of one another, and they don’t really have any access point. So you get this fragmentation of the tradition rather than seeing it come together.
AC: Yeah, I think we’ll probably see something in between. It’ll probably shake out to a couple of schools. Maybe three.
CB: Should we place bets on what those schools are?
AC: Oh, no.
CB: This is being recorded. I don’t know if you forgot. But they’ll be able to hold us to this in two or three decades, if anyone’s still listening to this show.
AC: You know, I think we’ve done a pretty good job covering what ingredients these schools will have. I don’t know exactly how it’s gonna shake out. I can’t say that I know. I will say that I think there will certainly be in the foreseeable future a very distinct Vedic tradition. You know, it has very deep roots culturally and has been around for a very long time. There may be offshoots and admixtures, but I think there will still be a very traditional Vedic astrology in 40 years.
AC: I think that the Evolutionary Astrology movement—being probably the newest of those that we’ve talked about—is probably gonna end up absorbing ideas and techniques from a variety of places before that stabilizes. I think that’s still growing and kind of becoming whatever it’s gonna stabilize as. I guess here’s a question primarily for you, Chris. When we’re looking at what people call Western traditional astrology, and we look at, let’s say, the Medieval European period vs. the Hellenistic period, do you think that the traditional community will stay coherent from Petosiris to Lilly? Or do you think that that will fragment into, “We’re the Renaissance people,” “We’re the Arabic-phase people,” “We’re the Hellenistic people?”
CB: Right. I don’t know. That’s difficult. You know, I did that study on the Uranus-Neptune cycle, which is about every 160 years or so, and every time there would be a conjunction there would be this revival of older forms of astrology, and they would get synthesized together with whatever the newer forms of astrology or the contemporary forms of astrology were. And then that would create a new tradition, and it was just this never-ending process of transmission and synthesis. But it’s hard to say because looking back in the past, we don’t see all of the texts surviving. We see the texts that were the most influential surviving. And oftentimes, those are the ones that best represented some sort of synthesis and what came out of that synthesis just before that time.
But it’s never clear how much the old guard stuck around, or how much of those refused to adapt to the times or to whatever the new astrology was. Like the 1st century BCE, you’ve got, for example, these Babylonian horoscopes written on clay tablets. They don’t have the Ascendant or houses or aspects. And that goes all the way until about 50 BCE, and then all of a sudden they just drop off, and they just disappear out of nowhere. And then at the same time, out of nowhere, is this other form of astrology—Hellenistic astrology, that uses the Ascendant and aspects and houses and everything else, and transits. The charts begin at the same time out of nowhere and then it just completely takes over.
So it’s kind of like that where sometimes you have other forms of astrology, but then suddenly something new comes along and it completely displaces the old tradition; but sometimes it’s in a way that it builds on top of it. And it’s not that the old tradition just disappears entirely. It’s just that it gets assimilated or it, itself, assimilates some of these new concepts and techniques that are introduced, and then everything’s different going forward. I kind of see that as where we’re going at this point. Just looking at things like the use of whole sign houses amongst a wide variety of different people—it’s not just traditional astrologers who are doing it. There’s psychological astrologers. There’s Evolutionary Astrologers. You know, just about everybody’s adopting whole sign houses. And that gives me some indication that it’s possible for things to completely change all the way across the tradition very quickly and to completely displace what happened prior to that.
AC: Yeah, yeah. No, I think that’s really interesting. And one of the things that that leads me to is if these grand synthetic and translation movements can be pegged relatively reliably to the Uranus-Neptune cycle, then I would expect some really interesting things to be happening when we hit the first square.
CB: Yeah, I’m trying to remember when that is. Do you recall offhand when the first Uranus-Neptune square is?
AC: I’m looking it up right now.
CB: I am also looking. It looks like it’s many, many decades into the future. Something like the late 2030s/early 2040s.
AC: Yeah, they’re square by sign and close in the late 2030s.
CB: Okay, so that’s when it starts then.
AC: Yeah, yeah. They’ll be square by sign it looks like most of the way, through the ‘40s. So if that is any indicator of the timing, it might take a while. But perhaps it will be on the waxing sextile, when we get something approaching synthesis. So apart from, you know, the Chinese or the Vedic tradition, I guess the question is, will there be a workable and popular synthesis between what we call modern Western and pre-modern Western?
CB: Will there be a workable synthesis? In some instances there can be. ‘Cause things like whole sign houses, it’s just like a switch, and in some instances, you can use both at the same time. But there’s other areas, though, that’s more difficult. Like the rulership thing is tough.
AC: Absolutely. You either use rulerships or you do not.
CB: You use rulerships or you do not. And then, you know, whether you use Neptune or Jupiter, for example, as the ruler of Pisces, or whether you use Mars or Pluto as the ruler of Scorpio makes a huge difference interpretatively. And I know that there’s some people, like Alan Oken, for example—in his book, Rulers of the Horoscope, that was published about a decade ago—who advocate using a system of dual-rulerships. It’s tough because there’s some techniques that really require you to use one system or the other. And I feel like in some of those instances people are gonna have to come down on one side, and I’m not sure which direction that’s gonna go.
AC: Yeah, yeah. I guess what it looks like at this point is that modern astrologers are grafting certain aspects of traditional doctrine onto what they’re doing. You know, you can read a horoscope with a psychological focus with whole sign houses.
AC: I also think that you can take sect into consideration from a psychological angle—the difference between day and night charts. And what you’re doing with it, if you’re looking at it from a psychological angle, is not the same as what a traditional astrologer might be doing, but there may be a psychological dimension to, you know, a traditional division between day and night charts.
AC: I think for the next decade at least it’s going to be a lot of experiments and a lot of hybrids. And some of those mutants will thrive and some of them will be shown to be nonviable.
CB: Yeah, and that’s gonna get hashed out. I hope I get to see the one text that synthesizes it altogether. ‘Cause I think there will be one text or one school that does it, and then that’ll just become the popular thing. You know, everybody has certain astrology textbooks in their library and that’s like their main go-to text. Planets in Transit, for example, that really established Robert Hand’s career. And everybody knows Robert Hand is like one of the greatest astrologers in the world, and it’s primarily because of that text, and he’s influenced many generations of astrologers. And then there’s other texts like that. Like William Lilly’s text has influenced tons of traditions over the past two or three centuries. And then William Lilly himself was drawing heavily on Guido Bonatti.
CB: Sometimes somebody writes a textbook and it often contains their own personal synthesis of a bunch of different pieces of the earlier and contemporary traditions and that just happens to be the one that catches the zeitgeist, or the astrological feeling of the era and that’s what gets transmitted, or that’s what becomes the standard in future generations.
AC: Or Ptolemy.
CB: Yeah, Ptolemy. Well, Ptolemy’s funny because a lot of people think at this point that Ptolemy innovated his own system. He took some parts of the earlier tradition, but then he completely reconceptualized what in his day was a scientific theory of astrology—that the planets physically caused things to happen on Earth through emitting different levels of heat and moisture. He completely reconceptualized early techniques and basic technical doctrines around that.
AC: One thing I wanted to point out about Ptolemy that I think is good to add to what you’re saying. He doesn’t necessarily represent the mainstream of what astrologers were thinking at that time.
AC: But those are the books that people read. You know, those are the books that the Arabic astrologers read. They read a lot of Ptolemy. They didn’t necessarily have Valens, right? I don’t know. It just brings up a lot of questions about what gets remembered and if it was necessarily the best thing, or the most masterful take on astrology, or if it’s just how it shook out.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Ptolemy became the most influential text ever in the history of astrology, but Ptolemy’s astrology itself wasn’t a continuation of the earlier tradition. It was something very, very new. It was more of a new innovation. But later astrologers looked back to Ptolemy. And because Ptolemy’s text was one of the only texts that they had from that period at the time, they often assumed that Ptolemy was what astrology looked like back in that period. So in William Lilly’s day, there were these periodic efforts to go back to doing what Ptolemy was doing, even though what Ptolemy was doing was never a part of the mainstream of the tradition until much later.
So that could happen for us today. The modern-day example is if somebody like—I’m trying to think of a polymath. He’s not a polymath, but Neil deGrasse Tyson, if he suddenly wrote a book on astrology, but it was from a more scientific perspective. And he stripped out a bunch of things about astrology that he didn’t like and then that became the popular text for like the next century or few centuries. That would be a good example of what happened with Ptolemy.
AC: Yeah. Or if an anthropologist from the future is looking back at the 20th century, and they’re like, “Wow. This Linda Goodman Sun Signs book way outsold everything else. This is probably what people were doing.”
CB: Yeah, right. Or if somebody grabbed one of the Uranian astrology books and used that, and was like, “Wow. Astrologers really dug these hypothetical planets and used them pretty frequently.” I guess we never did come back to Uranian astrology. But maybe we’ll save that for another show. Okay, well, unless you have anything else to mention, I think we’ll wrap up this two-hour-and-sixteen-minute discussion on the future of astrology.
AC: Oh, I am an empty bucket, my friend.
CB: Okay. Well, thank you for sharing your wisdom and perspective with us. Your website is AustinCoppock.com. And if people want to join you next week for the pre-conference workshop for the Association for Young Astrologers, that takes place on what day?
AC: That’s the 14th. August 14.
CB: August 14 in Philadelphia. And it’s, what? $40 to attend?
AC: $40 to attend. All the workshops are 40. You should choose us.
AC: We have a smorgasbord of great young astrologers who are there to offer a variety of really intriguing viewpoints on a lot of the things that we’ve been talking about in this discussion.
CB: Excellent. Well, people can find out more information about that on the AYA website, which is YoungAstrologers.org. Or you can go to the NCGR website, and I’m sure you can find out information about it there. Yeah, so thanks for coming on the show. And I’ll definitely have you on next time, Austin.
AC: Well, thank you, Chris. It was a lot of fun.
CB: All right, well, thanks everyone for listening. I guess that’s it for this show. Remember to subscribe to the show by email. If you go to our About page, you can find out how to do that. If you enjoyed this episode of the show, and you listened to it through iTunes, then please be sure to go through and rate it and give it a five-star rating on iTunes. That’ll really help us out. And please let us know what you think of the show. And let us know what future things you think are happening in the future of astrology. What currents and what things perhaps we discussed or didn’t discuss would you add to this discussion? So that’s it for the show. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.