The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 103, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Kelly Surtees
Episode originally released on April 11, 2017
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 June 22, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is April 10, 2017, starting at 2:14 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this I believe is the 103rd episode of the show. So today we’re gonna be doing a Q&A episode, and joining me is astrologer Kelly Surtees. Kelly, welcome back.
KELLY SURTEES: Hey, Chris, good to be here.
CB: Yeah, we talked not too long ago, only like a week or two ago for the last forecast episode.
KS: I know. I feel like this is great. I get to chat with you a little more often this month.
CB: I know. It’s much different than the every four-to-five-week scenario that we had before. So for the 100th episode a month ago, I guess, we did a Q&A episode. But we got such a huge amount of questions—and a lot of them were really good—that I actually wanted to do a follow-up with you in order to answer some of the ones that we didn’t get a chance to last month, especially since we started this series of just doing Q&As together last June with the first Q&A episode.
KS: No, that’s great. I’m looking forward to it. There’s some really good questions here.
CB: Awesome. So before we get started a few announcements. So since this is the first episode of the month for April, we’re gonna announce our giveaway prizes this month. So I’m excited about this because the Northwest Astrological Conference—which is happening in Seattle in May—they’ve given us another free pass to give away to one lucky listener who’s a subscriber or a Patreon supporter through our page on Patreon. And we’ll be giving away a free pass to that conference at the end of this month on the next forecast episode at the end of April.
So the Northwest Astrological Conference—this is the 33rd annual conference. It always takes place at the end of May. This year it’s May 25-29, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. There’s over 30 speakers giving dozens of different lectures, including pre- and post-conference workshops. There’s a banquet, which is always a lot of fun, and it’s always a really great time; it’s one of my favorite conferences. And it’s gonna be the biggest conference of the year. It’s the last really major, major astrological conference that’s taking place in 2017. There have been several people who have been guests on the podcast that’ll be there giving talks, and then of course I know a lot of listeners are gonna be there as well. So, Kelly, you had mentioned doing some sort of meet-and-greet at UAC next year, which I thought was actually a really good idea. And I might do sort of a test run at NORWAC with that to see how that would go if we sort of a meet-and-greet with podcast listeners.
KS: Look, I’m definitely an ‘in real life’ kind of girl. I would be what’s called a ‘slow adopter’ to all this online stuff. But, yeah, I think big conferences are a great chance to kind of meet listeners in person and get to connect with people. You just never know what can come from sitting around and having a glass of wine or a drink after a day of astro-conference chit-chat.
CB: Totally. Yeah, so we might set something up like that. And, let’s see, so the last thing about that is that the discounted registration rate for NORWAC ends on April 22. So if you’re thinking about going, it’s a good idea to sign up before April 22 because you’ll get in at a slightly discounted rate. So you can find out more information about the conference at norwac.net. The other prize we’re giving away this month is actually a free translation or a free copy of Ben Dykes’ new book, which is coming out later this month in April, which is a new translation of the text of the 1st century astrology Dorotheus of Sidon. So Dorotheus wrote a text somewhere around the year 75 CE, and it was this hugely influential astrological text that primarily dealt with natal astrology in the first four books, and then in the fifth book it deals with electional astrology. And it’s actually the earliest-surviving text that deals with electional astrology; so some of the earliest rules for that practice actually come from this text.
But what’s tricky about it is that with Dorotheus, the original text didn’t survive. So what we have actually is an Arabic translation of it that was translated from a Persian translation of Dorotheus, which itself was translated from the original Greek text, which was written in the form of a poem. So Ben has done a new translation of that Arabic text, and he’s gonna be releasing it later this month, including a bunch of fragments that survived from Dorotheus that have never been translated before. So I’ll be interviewing him about that either later in April or in early May. It sounds like you’ve got a thunderstorm going on over there or something.
KS: We have the most wicked—I’ve just watched the sky go from being blue to dark gray. So, yeah, I’m gonna have to apologize for thunder and rain—even hail, which has just started to come down. But, anyway, back to Ben’s translation of Dorotheus. That’s gonna be amazing.
CB: That’s hilarious. I’ll take that as a positive omen for some reason for Ben’s translation of Dorotheus.
KS: Jupiter is saying something.
CB: Right. Let’s see, so I’ll interview him about that pretty soon, but we’ll give away a free copy of that translation later this month. And if you’d like to find out more information about it, you can go to his website, which is bendykes.com. And I think if you sign up for his mailing list, you’ll get the announcement as soon as he releases this new translation of Dorotheus, which is gonna be amazing. So I’m looking forward to that. All right, so those are our two giveaway prizes this month. All you have to do to enter the drawing is become a patron on the $5 or $10 tier, and you’ll automatically be entered in for a chance to win. So for more information, go to theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. All right, so let’s get into our Q&A questions. I sort of tried to rearrange some of them. There were two though that were sort of similar, or there were two or three that were focused on a similar theme or a similar topic that had to do with what are the different schools and traditions of astrology, and I thought that that might be a good starting place. What do you think?
KS: Totally. And I actually recognize the name of one of the people asking this question. Because I do think it’s really confusing for people coming into astrology. It raises a lot of questions for newer students about what’s right, what’s valid, what am I supposed to do. So I think, yeah, starting by differentiating the different branches or the different options is definitely gonna be helpful for people.
CB: Yeah, I mean, there’s different ways to look at this. So the first question—this came from a listener named Julie Evans who said, “Can you explain the different schools of astrology? It’s difficult to switch gears if you’re following the titans of each school. Simply, what is esoteric, classical, traditional, whole sign, Hellenistic, and any of the other schools? The difference is the attributes of each might be useful for some of us thinking about where our future concentration might lie.” Sort of related to that—I’ll read this other question by another listener named Lena. She says, “With so many different schools of astrology (that often strongly disagree with each other), how can a new or intermediate student like me discern the overwhelming options and decide on a path? It appears that traditional studies are focused on more reliably predictive work and that modern studies lean more towards psychological and spiritual insights and growth, but both are equally important to me and I believe many others. How does one reconcile this and choose? Or is it possible to synthesize the two, and might this be the future of astrology?”
So those are kind of closely-related things ‘cause they’re both dealing with this issue of what are the different schools of astrology, and then what do you do with the fact that there’s such a wide diversity of different approaches and different things like that. When did you become aware of that? Or what was your experience in terms of getting astrology and seeing the different traditions? Did you go through any sort of similar thing like that?
KS: Yeah, I think a little bit like you, Chris, I started very modern. I remember my very first lecture that I gave at the Astrology Association in New South Wales a long time ago was actually on Chiron and the cycles or the transits of Chiron. So it wasn’t until I went to a conference in Melbourne in 2004 I think where I heard Demetra George, John Frawley, and Lee Lehman speak. Now by that point I had been studying astrology formally for about six years, and I’d actually already been working as an astrologer; I was starting to see my first clients for a couple years. But those three astrologers—each very traditional or Medieval. They certainly weren’t practicing mainstream, modern psychological astrology; they were how I first discovered some of these older techniques.
And the interest there for me was a little bit more on how they applied the tools that they had rather than what the outcome might be, and that was a very personal thing for me. And so, to answer Lena’s question, or even Julie’s question about which direction are you supposed to go in—I don’t know. I always feel a bit like a flake when I say this sometimes, but the direction which you’re supposed to go is kind of revealed to you over time just by what you’re naturally interested in or drawn to. I was very drawn to Demetra’s idea of the chart as a ship, and this helm, the planet ruling the Ascendant sign, was the planet with the hands of the steering wheel navigating. And just that simple concept seemed to ring a bell inside of me and I wanted to know about that, for instance.
So I definitely started in modern mainstream, and I don’t think that’s a bad place to start. Because what I say to students these days is just pick someone and study with them for a couple of years, so that you get the main concepts. And then if you want to specialize or if you want to go into a more esoteric or more psychological or more evolutionary direction, once you’ve got the basics down pat, it will be easier to do that anyway. ‘Cause I know you started very I guess modern mainstream too, Chris, didn’t you? The traditional thing emerged for you over time by accident, almost.
CB: Right. That’s what I talk about a little bit in the introduction of my book. And how I’ve been pitching my book is not “I got into astrology and learned Hellenistic, and now you all should learn ancient astrology or Hellenistic astrology,” it’s more like I got into astrology as a modern astrologer and then somebody forced me to take a class on older forms of astrology, which I didn’t want to do because I assumed they were old and outdated and no longer relevant. And then it turned out I was wrong and there were things there that were relevant and useful and applicable to me as a modern astrologer. And I kind of had that experience in the same course at Kepler. They had me take an intro to Indian astrology course, and so I actually found things that were interesting there in that approach as well. And that’s sort of been my experience. I didn’t repeat the exact same process, but it’s at least been my experience that there’s something useful that you can gain by studying almost any different tradition of astrology if you approach it with an open mind.
KS: I agree. ‘Cause I think the different traditions almost reflect a different application of a philosophy or a different philosophy itself. And if you want to understand the art and craft and the practice of astrology, I think there’s a natural curiosity to at least have a basic understanding of how it’s applied in different traditions or according to different techniques.
CB: Sure. Yeah, and it’s like somebody asked me about this the other day when I gave a lecture. And at the end of the lecture, he asked me a question about this, which was like, “How do you deal with different traditions that conflict or don’t agree with each other?” I always like the analogy—it’s almost become cliché, but it’s still an appropriate analogy—which is that sometimes it’s better to think of the different traditions and approaches in terms of different languages. And I know we’ve talked about that a few times before on the podcast, but if you look at it from the perspective of each tradition of astrology is like learning a new language then it becomes less of an issue. Just because you learn French doesn’t mean that German is wrong. It’s just that German has a different syntax and a different way of expressing meanings or conveying meanings and saying things, but it still conveys information from the speaker to the listener.
KS: That’s a beautiful way of putting it.
CB: Yeah. I mean, once you look at it from that perspective, you start to understand how there can be so many different traditions of astrology, but also how it’s not necessarily that learning one invalidates all of the others. There could just be different ways of going about forming sentences and using different vocabulary. And while you might not end up saying the exact same thing in some languages you might run into the issue where we don’t have a word for this in this language, whereas this other language has a word for this specific scenario, and perhaps there are some languages that are better for certain things. They say that some languages are better for technical writing, whereas other languages might be better for poetry or what have you. I mean, there’s different ways in which you could use that analogy of astrology as a language, which is a pretty old analogy, which goes all the way back to the Mesopotamian tradition and this notion of the stars and the planets acting as a heavenly script that writes out the intentions or messages from the gods or what have you. So it’s a pretty old analogy, but it’s still a pretty useful one when dealing with this question.
KS: I agree absolutely. And, as you said, different languages are better for different things. And, similarly, with different types of astrology, they have different priorities or different things that they would focus on more that other types might not. Some techniques by their nature are more, what I would call, dry—if you use that ‘dry’ temperament word. They’re more clear-cut or more structured that A leads to B, leads to C, and I always think about rulers of houses qualifying that, for instance. But there are other techniques that are more ‘wet’, where there’s a bit more of a gray area, or there’s more open to interpretation. That may not be the best example because even in the more structured approaches or techniques that have a little bit more structure or more of a system to them, there are still a set of possibilities that you can end up with, but it’s more of a targeted set rather than a broad set, I guess.
CB: Right. And another thing maybe distinguishing between different types of astrology is when there’s differences between them that are technical differences versus when it’s just philosophical differences or what the application is. Because there’s different, for example, subsets of modern astrology that are largely using the same techniques, but sometimes they’re just using them to approach the chart from a different perspective. So, for example, just pure psychological astrology—like Liz Greene or Stephen Arroyo or Howard Sasportas or something like that—versus, let’s say, Evolutionary Astrology; it’s still very much modern astrology and is oftentimes using very similar, if not the same tool set, but it’s approaching the chart instead from more of like a past life perspective in the attempt to look at the chart to see how it relates to past lives or approaching it from that spiritual or philosophical standpoint.
KS: That’s a really good point too, Chris, to make that distinction between different types of astrologies that are differentiated based on using the same tools, but in a different way or in a different priority sequence versus different types of astrologies that actually use different tools. I mean, one of the differences between maybe modern versus some of the older—which could include classic or traditional or Medieval—might be the application of planets as sign rulers, for instance, ‘cause that’s a distinction in technique versus what you’re saying with the modern. There are subsets of modern that are using the same techniques, but applying them in different ways or with different priorities.
CB: Right, right. And it’s also important just because there are certain traditions that tend to focus on certain approaches or certain philosophical or spiritual approaches more, that doesn’t mean that you can’t take one astrology as a technical system and then approach it with a different philosophical or religious approach or something like that. And that’s kind of important to realize as well that even though there’s certain ones that might have that tendency. So the questioner, for example, said that modern astrology seems to have a tendency to be more spiritual, whereas traditional astrology has a tendency to be more predictive.
And while that’s true broadly speaking, there’s also crossover between those two because there were some ancient astrologers that were focused on what could be classified as spiritual or religious-type questions when it came to the astrology; or they had philosophical or religious motivations for what they were doing with the astrology. And then similarly with modern astrologers sometimes you will run into schools of modern astrology that are very much just technically- and predictively-focused or oriented. Cosmobiology to some extent you could say is a much more technical, sort of bare bones system that’s not necessarily focused on looking at past lives and things like that; it’s just interested in interpreting the placements as they relate to the person’s life and attempting to make predictions about that.
KS: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s an interesting distinction the questioner makes. When people say traditional is more predictive and modern is more maybe psychological or spiritual, I think that is more of people having just a surface view of these different approaches rather than having that ‘inside-looking-out’ view.
CB: Yeah. I mean, there was a tendency in modern astrology to reject prediction to some extent.
CB: Or at least theoretically reject prediction. I was talking to somebody about this—I think Kenneth Miller—the other day when he was visiting town, and he said he was really struck by that. He attended a lecture by somebody that was a modern astrologer who in public articles rejected and attacked the idea of making astrological predictions, but then when he attended the lecture, he felt like he was making statements that any other astrologer would make, which are fundamentally predictive. And so, that brought up this issue that I’ve come back to a bunch of times, which is just even though there is this tendency to reject prediction to some extent in modern astrology, some of it almost seems to come down to this question of ‘what is a prediction’ or how you’re defining that. And sometimes what people are saying is not a prediction and another astrologer might say, “Well, that’s still predictive,” or what have you.
KS: Totally. So there’s some gray area in terms of defining that word, for sure.
CB: Yeah. I guess we’re getting kind of far afield, but one of the things I will say is that I did do an episode—it was Episode 29 of the podcast—a couple of years ago where I talked about branches and traditions of astrology, and I would recommend listening to that one to hear a little bit about some of the different branches and some of the different approaches. I’m not sure how much of that we can really cover here. I mean, she mentioned esoteric, but the term ‘esoteric astrology’ has been applied to several different schools of astrology in modern times; that’s one of the most nebulous classifications, I think.
CB: Do you feel that way? I mean, I don’t know.
KS: Absolutely. And even the idea of classical versus traditional astrology—maybe these terms are just bandied about without a clear understanding of the time periods that they might be referencing or the specific techniques.
CB: Yeah, maybe.
KS: The one—sorry, go.
CB: Maybe clarifying that—classical and traditional are usually just synonyms for the same thing. Traditional astrology, as I define it, is the type of astrology practiced prior to the 17th century. So between approximately the 1st century BCE and the 17th century CE.
KS: Yeah, that’s really good. And then there’s the one piece of this question about how you reconcile this and choose. I mean, you didn’t really make a clear choice, did you? You just got forced into it, and then by having to learn about it you enjoyed it traditional.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I could have gone just one way or another, but being forced to study so many different approaches, I ended up taking a bit from each of them. And I think that’s what always happens in the history of astrology. Oftentimes when astrologers are exposed to different approaches, they end up having a sort of synthesis of a few different pieces of them historically. And usually the important turning points in the history of astrology are when there’s a bunch of translations of different texts from different traditions all at the same time and usually some sort of synthesis comes out of that. Because once the astrologers learn all these different ways that they could approach astrology, they start taking some of the best pieces from all of them and put them together. And, to some extent, that’s my approach. Although there’s nothing wrong with getting into a specific tradition or approach and then really choosing to specialize in that, if that’s something that really speaks to you.
KS: Absolutely. So maybe the point for listeners who are confused about how to choose is that maybe the whole thing is that you don’t have to necessarily make an absolute choice, that doing this is at the exclusion of doing that. You can have that crossover, or you can marinate a few different techniques into how you work with astrology.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I’d recommend for newer students of astrology to study as many different types of astrology as you can really early on and do a sampling of each before really settling down into or fully specializing in one just so you can get a whole cross-section of the entire field. ‘Cause one of the things that’s really tricky about this is you literally don’t know what you don’t know, or you can’t know what you don’t know about the different traditions until you’ve had some exposure to them. And it has to be a good introduction to that tradition and not something too shallow because otherwise you could also run into the risk of having presumptions about that tradition, especially if your only exposure to it up to that point has been from a hostile source who’s reported what they think that tradition or that approach is about. So just getting a good, neutral cross-section of a bunch of different approaches and then at some point deciding which one or which ones you want to specialize in. And that doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself into that one tradition or approach, but sometimes it can mean that you’ll choose to make that your primary baseline, or your foundation, and then you’ll add a few things on top of that perhaps from other traditions that you’ve found.
KS: Yeah, that’s a really nice way of putting it. Because I think the other thing that happens is that when you sort of commit to the path of astrology, for most of us it becomes a lifelong theme or thing. And over the course of your life, you will be curious about different things, and you might be very ‘one stream’ to begin with, and 10 years later you might decide to take a couple of years and really dive into a different approach. So, yeah, it’s sort of an evolving thing really, isn’t it?
CB: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And that’s a really good point that it’s a lifelong study. There’s no astrologer that I’ve ever met who stopped learning new things about astrology at some point.
KS: Yeah, that never happens.
CB: Right. It’s too massive and too extensive of a field for anybody to get complete mastery of it in one lifetime. I mean, that’s just a fact. And there’s too many different variables; there’s an infinite amount of different combinations and things that could happen in any one chart. And once you get past a certain point—once you’ve been doing it for long enough—you’ve seen certain things happen enough times or over and over again, or you’ve seen certain correlations repeat themselves and you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what that means, you can start using that to impart that to other people, or do consultations, or what have you. Every other consultation sometimes you’ll see a new and unique way that a certain thing will manifest, and in observing that you’ll learn something new.
CB: Do you feel that way too? I mean, I don’t want to oversell. You don’t want to make it seem like the astrologers know absolutely nothing or something like that ‘cause that’s not the case.
KS: That’s not the case at all. No, I do agree that little bits and pieces of new information will enrich or enhance what you’re already doing. And so, it is this sort of constant, perennial student type of thing.
CB: Right. But then at the same time, on the other side of that coin, it is important to expose yourself to different types of astrology really early on because people do tend to have this tendency to get locked into whatever approach it is that they find early on. And it’s only typically in really unique cases like mine—my trajectory would have been much different if literally somebody hadn’t forced me to take this course on Hellenistic and Indian astrology. Either I would have never come to studying traditional astrology, or it would have been 10 years later before I ever had the experience of starting to look into that more seriously. So people have a tendency—pretty early on, within the first few years of their studies—to get locked into a specific approach or a specific application of astrology and that’s one of the reasons why it’s important to expose yourself to a bunch of different ones early on.
KS: Yeah, that’s a really good point.
CB: So the last thing we should say about that is just that there’s a distinction between different traditions of astrology and different branches of astrology. So in different branches of astrology are applications of astrology—for the most part in Western astrology—that are pretty consistent across the traditions, and traditionally there’s four different applications of astrology or four different branches. There’s mundane astrology, which is studying world events and studying astrology as it relates to groups of people, like cities and nations, as well as events, like natural disasters and earthquakes and things like that; so there’s mundane astrology. There’s natal astrology, which is casting a chart for the birth of an individual and all of the subsets that are derived from that. So that includes subsets like synastry, which is comparing two people’s natal charts to determine compatibility, or medical astrology, which is looking at the birth chart to study the person’s health or things related to it. Basically anything that’s a subset of natal astrology would fall under that specific branch.
Then there is electional astrology, which is the third branch, which is choosing an auspicious moment to start a new venture or undertaking; or, conversely, to look at a chart for something that’s already started. It’s basically like casting a birth chart for the birth of any sort of entity or any undertaking under the premise that that chart will describe both the quality as well as the future of whatever was initiated at that time. And then finally the fourth branch is horary astrology, which is casting a chart for the moment that a question is posed typically to an astrologer—although some people cast a chart for when a question occurs to them—and then attempting to answer the question based on that chart. So those traditionally are the four branches of Western astrology and that’s sort of distinct from the traditions. I mean, does that stratification of the four branches make sense to you, Kelly?
KS: Totally. I learned that very early on when I started learning about how astrology was done and it was really differentiated into those four strands. And I think the hierarchy you used is important: the mundane, natal, electional, and horary. And when I was taking my horary studies years ago, one thing I was taught was that learning horary is actually a good entry point into astrology because you learn all the rules of how planets move in charts and work and things like that, but you only have the pressure of applying them to a specific question or a situation. And the way I was taught was that you learn horary first, and then once you’ve got that you would learn electional, and then you would learn natal, and then you would learn mundane because these techniques—or the branches if you like—become increasingly complex. So, yeah, I definitely agree with those four. And I think maybe for people to think about them like that is a really good thing too.
CB: Yeah, ‘cause then sometimes those branches will carry over between traditions. And then the traditions come up because the traditions are typically different types of astrology in the sense of different eras in which astrology was practiced. So it’s typically either an era in which astrology was practiced that was particularly unique, that’s readily identifiable by the time period in which it flourished, or the traditions of astrology relate to different schools of astrology within a specific time period. So, for example, in terms of different eras, you have Mesopotamian astrology that was practiced in roughly what is modern-day Iraq between 2000 BCE and about the 1st century BCE. You have Hellenistic astrology that was practiced from the 1st century BCE until the 7th century CE. You have Medieval astrology; that’s the 8th century through the 12th century, and so on and so forth. So those are different eras and then there’s also schools.
So there’s what people broadly classify as modern astrology, which is essentially the type of astrology that was practiced in the 20th and the mainstream astrology in the 21st century. But even within that you’ll have different schools or different traditions or approaches like purely psychological astrology that only looks at typically natal astrology from the standpoint of the native’s psyche. You have cosmobiology that uses things like midpoints and other techniques like that. What are some other modern traditions or things that you define as a tradition?
KS: Uh, modern approaches. Psychological. Evolutionary—did you say that one already?
CB: No. Yeah, that would be a good one. Evolutionary Astrology roughly comes out of a specific teacher or a specific set of teachers—from Jeffrey Wolf Green and Steven Forrest—and has a specific philosophy, and to some extent, a technical structure that’s very similar to modern astrology. Although in some instances it emphasizes or focuses on specific technical things.
KS: Yeah, it’s like a subset really of modern, isn’t it?
CB: Yeah, there’s a lot of things like that where there’s different traditions or schools and then there’ll be subsets within those broader things. In the same way with the branches of astrology, you have natal astrology as an overarching branch of astrology, but then you have a bunch of subsets within that like synastry and medical astrology, and so on and so forth.
KS: Absolutely. And maybe just fleshing out some of this structure is gonna be helpful for people—like what we’ve just done—to understand that. Yeah, ‘cause there are so many ways—even within horary, for instance, within that branch, there are different teachers. You sort of alluded to the evolutionary being sort of connected to Jeffrey Wolf Green and Steven Forrest, and they’re not the same either. Like there’s the ‘Jeffrey Wolf Green’ evolutionary versus the ‘Steven Forrest’ evolutionary, and there are some similarities, but, again, some differences. So, in some ways, as some teachers have become really well-known their methodologies or their approaches become really widespread, and I suspect that that’s happened throughout the history of the tradition.
CB: Yeah, that’s always a huge thing. Because each teacher, or each tradition, is the result of whatever approaches to astrology that teacher studied and the synthesis; ‘cause it is a synthesis. As long as they’ve studied more than one book on astrology—which every astrologer has—if they’ve read two books on astrology, it means that whatever their resulting approach to astrology is, is partially a synthesis of those two books that they read and the pieces that they took from those two books. So, in reality, each astrologer will have read, I don’t know, between a dozen and a hundred astrology books that will have contributed to their initial understanding of what astrology is. And then they’ll further develop a unique approach based on their experience in actually practicing the subject over the years, and the insights and feedback that they got from clients, and how that molded and shaped their approach as a result of that.
KS: Yes, I like that idea. Anywhere between 12 and a hundred books, a conservative estimate I’m sure.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really conservative estimate.
KS: Like a hundred books.
CB: Astrologers like their books. That’s definitely always been the case.
KS: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, do you feel like we’ve answered those questions?
CB: I think we need to move on ‘cause it’s like 30 minutes into this.
CB: I do not feel like we answered this sufficiently ‘cause it’s such a huge question.
KS: And as you said, you’ve done a whole show just on this, so that’s how big a question that is.
CB: Yeah, so people can go back and listen to that—it’s Episode 29—for more information, and then we can come back to this later. So one other—actually we’ll skip that for now and come back to it.
KS: Yeah, skip that one and come back. Let’s go to page two.
CB: Okay. I mean, this one’s slightly related, and this is from Yves Calderone. He says, “It seems as though astrology over the past 10 years has been going through a kind of renaissance. How do you see the discipline evolving over the next 10 years? How do you imagine it will be viewed with the profession and amongst the public? And what are the steps needed to get there?” So that’s kind of related only in so much as the revival of all these different types of astrology. So a bunch of older forms of astrology have suddenly come back into the fold again. They hadn’t been accessible previously because there didn’t exist modern translations of many of the texts from prior to the 17th century, and then suddenly, in the past 10 years, we have access to all these texts again.
So one theme I’ve constantly come back to on the podcast is just the idea that we’re going through a revival of older forms of astrology, and they’re gonna be synthesized with some of the modern form approaches to astrology, and that’s gonna create a new hybrid approach in the next few decades here. And that’s probably largely what mainstream, 21st century is gonna look like by the end of this century. It’s gonna be a hybrid of several of these different traditions and approaches that are coming back at this point and being revived and being practiced again, for better or worse.
KS: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. Because as this older information becomes more widely disseminated it’s then more accessible. So newer people coming into astrology have better access to better quality materials from the get-go. It’s interesting, isn’t it, the question about how you think astrology will be viewed amongst the public. That’s always a ‘million dollar’ question. I never quite know how to answer that.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I always err on the side of pessimism when it comes to that. Because astrology never in modern times had good PR. And it just has too much stacked against it. If it continues to be not validated from a scientific standpoint—which astrology essentially has not been at this point—then it will continue to be outside of mainstream intellectual circles, and it will continue to not be seen as a subject that has any credibility. And so, astrologers have had this question for two or three decades now, which is, can astrology be validated by the scientific method, and has it just not been yet? And if it has not been then how could we go about doing that? And what kind of things could we get together in order to attempt to validate it, if that’s what we want? And then, two, if astrology cannot be validated by the scientific method and is still a valid phenomenon in some way, for some reason it’s not something that can be validated in that way, for example, due to the fact that no two astrological charts that you look at will ever repeat in exactly the same way.
And so, there’s this issue of replicability—I’m mispronouncing that—but just repeating the same experiment over and over again in a close or controlled setting and the difficulty in doing that, and whether the tests designed so far for astrology have not taken that into account, but have been possibly proceeding from not a good premise, from an inaccurate premise. Anyway, those are the two questions. But as long as astrology continues to be not validated scientifically, it’s not gonna be received well in the public. At least in terms of intellectuals and in educational circles in terms of getting degrees in astrological studies or something like that.
KS: Yeah, that’s true. And I think one of the steps that would help astrology maybe have a better profile in the public would be for astrologers as a community to work on useful or practical applications of astrology that would be relevant to mainstream needs. How can astrology help solve a problem that somebody might have in their life or in their organization? Two examples come to mind. There’s been a couple of people writing lately—publishing books and things—on how astrology can help with learning methods and learning tools. And there are some very different techniques in astrology that can help with that to do with temperament or to do with Mercury and the Moon and such. And then of course the fertility. I’m just thinking of Nicola who’s just released an app, who’s done some great work on fertility.
So I think that one of the steps that would help astrology as a good PR move, if you like, is for those people who are interested in developing or working on how astrology solves a mainstream problem basically. The timing tools, for instance, that Nicola’s using with her fertility app and fertility work has been shown to be really helpful. So things like that where I think astrology can speak to modern life—that is one step. But, yeah, as you were saying, Chris, the idea of can astrology as a whole be proved, I’m not sure that it can. I’m not sure that it doesn’t really need to be. But if we can show how astrology does help solve some of these issues or deal with certain problems, we may be able to, like stealth, have astrology come out or just be more useful and be more incorporated.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Maybe I shouldn’t be conflating those issues of will or can astrology be validated scientifically versus will it still be accepted by society, or can astrology have some sort of revival from a societal standpoint, even if it’s not validated by the standard means through which we typically in modern times validate legitimate practice or something along those lines. So, yeah, I mean, it very well could be. I mean, I think the persistence of things like Sun signs and the role that has in popular culture and the general awareness—to me, I think that still exists and still persists partially because there’s something about that that people see as valid; some people do resonate with their Sun sign. And when you do that you have sort of like an immediate personal experience of some piece of astrology—even if it’s not the whole thing that’s coming off to you as valid—you resonate with that, or if you’ve observed that to be correct. And that might not be true for everybody. Not everybody may resonate with their Sun sign. Maybe they have 10 planets in Cancer, even though their Sun sign is Capricorn or something like that.
KS: Totally, yeah.
CB: Even though that may happen, there’s still those people that do resonate with that, and so there is still that access point. And it’s been interesting seeing, on the one hand, rising opposition to Sun sign astrology and attempts to discredit through the ‘zodiac’ controversies over the past few years, which are essentially propaganda campaigns against astrology that are largely inaccurate. But then at the same time you’re also seeing this interesting way in which Sun sign and popular astrology is getting out there into the mainstream through new mediums, through podcasts, and through YouTube—
KS: Broadcasts, yeah. Instagram.
CB: Yeah, Instagram, Twitter. People are actually getting exposure to and consuming Sun sign astrology or popular astrology on a much broader level. And then sometimes you’re seeing the astrologers that are putting that out there also slipping in more advanced astrological concepts. And so, you have other ideas like Mercury retrograde or the Saturn return becoming more mainstream. And I’m wondering if we won’t see other concepts like that become more mainstream over the course of the next century. One of the next ones I know Leisa often talks about, that she thinks will go mainstream at some point, is the Uranus opposition, which happens around the time of—
KS: The midlife. Yeah, I agree.
CB: Yeah, the midlife crisis.
KS: Yeah, the Uranus opposition and the Neptune square, which are like two age-based transits that happen in the early 40’s. I agree with Leisa. I think that’s gonna be next. We’ve already got Saturn returns out there, so this is kind of the next one, I think. And then it’d be lovely if we could get profections out there, but that might take a little while.
CB: Right. That’s gonna take a little while, but we’ll see what happens. So there’s probably gonna be ways like that where astrology will sort of leak into mainstream culture in different ways, and sometimes it’ll be kind of minor and other times it could be much more major. I mean, I’ve always been surprised that nobody’s produced a competent documentary on astrology ever at this point. There have been some really short clips, and there have been usually skeptical clips, and then there’s been some disastrous attempts at larger mainstream documentaries that haven’t gone well. But I’ve been surprised that there hasn’t even been from anthropological standpoint somebody who has come into the astrological community and just documented this weird, fringe group in society and what they believe and what they’re doing and how the community operates. So I think at some point that’s gonna happen. I mean, there’s one possible one on the horizon. There’s that movie that’s gonna come out in a few years by that group that’s surrounding Rick Tarnas, and I’m having a hard time remembering what the name of the movie is gonna be at this point. Do you know the movie I’m talking about?
KS: I know vaguely of what you speak, yes. Isn’t it to do with his school, the CIIS, out of the West Coast? I’m not sure.
CB: What’s it called? I think the movie’s called The Gods of Change or something like that. No, that’s totally not right.
KS: That’s Howard Sasportas’ subtitle for the outer planet transit book, which is very good for what it covers. Very good. I mean, maybe they’re using the title. Is it kind of based on Richard’s book, Cosmos and Psyche?
CB: Yeah, it’s based on Cosmos and Psyche and called The Changing of the Gods.
KS: The Changing of the Gods, there you go.
CB: Right. I mean, that has some potential to be a mainstream or quasi-mainstream documentary about astrology, or at least that’s revolving around astrology and the work of Richard Tarnas, or at least some of the things connected with it. It could be good. It could receive more mainstream notice than other astrology projects have in the past. Don’t really know yet ‘cause we haven’t really seen it. It is supposedly focused primarily on the Uranus-Pluto square, which makes me a little bit nervous because we’re gonna be kind of past that, or moving past that by the point it actually comes out. But, I don’t know, at some point there could be things like that where astrology suddenly breaks into the mainstream. And even though it hasn’t been validated by the typical way that you would validate something like that—through the scientific process—it could still get picked up and become more of a cultural phenomenon again. Whether that’ll happen or when that would happen, who knows. I don’t know. That sounds kind of pessimistic. I feel like I’m being kind of a downer here about it.
KS: No. I mean, I think you’re being realistic. I mean, on the one hand, I feel like astrology has never really gone away. The horoscope columns, for instance, have been around for a long time. They’re significant in even print media and in websites and stuff because they do drive traffic. So they will not go away completely, and they are a wonderful entry point for people. So, I don’t know, will astrology go back to being what it was in the Renaissance period and how well-respected it was in the academic world? Maybe not. But I’m not sure that it needs to go to that place to still be really functional and really useful.
CB: Sure. Yeah, and one of the things is that astrology will keep getting better and better. I mean, one of the things that’s exciting to me is I feel like because astrology fell out of intellectual circles in the 17th century and sort of died out for a couple of centuries, it came back and it was largely only practiced within the context of initially the Theosophical Society and the New Age movement and things like that, and it was kind of this fringe thing. And it didn’t get treated in a very serious way by people that were necessarily intellectuals, but sometimes it was just people where this was a hobby that they were doing on the side in addition to their primary career, which was something else, and sometimes you would have really brilliant people working on it in that way. So James Holden, for example, was an electrical engineer. He was an engineer or something, and he had a full, several-decade-long career from the 1940s through the 1980s before he retired in the 1980s. But it was just like his side job was translating Firmicus Maternus starting in the 1950s, and then eventually he published it in 2011 or 2013 or something like that.
So you have people like that. But then more recently you’ve had some people that are treating the subject much more seriously, and they’re making it their primary career and their primary focus. And when you do that you have much more time to think about it and do it deliberately and do it well. And there is something exciting about that to me where you’ve got some great generations of astrologers who are coming in and treating the subject seriously and approaching it in a way that I think will naturally lend to more credibility being given to the subject. Because if you have people like that that are also seeing clients then on a day-to-day basis there’s more people in the world that are having positive experiences of having interactions with astrologers, and realizing this person’s not just a crazy person, or this person’s not a crackpot. They’re actually really serious about this and they’re doing good work and this actually seems to be a legitimate subject. And so, I don’t know, to whatever extent that’s the case that might have some long-term impact over the decades or over the course of a century as well.
KS: Totally, totally. It’s so much about how we carry ourselves as astrologers and the credibility that we engender within our client base or within the public just by the way we conduct ourselves.
CB: Right. Yeah, definitely. And, I mean, it’s hard because I also see the flip side of every coin when it comes to things like this.
CB: So the other side of that is there’s literally sketchy people out there that are using astrology as a cover to do sketchy things or to rip people off. And so, unfortunately, that also reflects badly on astrology and actually detracts from the good work that people are doing. And that’s problematic because that almost becomes a community issue. And this is something that the community started sort of dealing with 10 years ago by instituting ethics guidelines in the early-to-mid-2000s, but there’s not a lot behind them. In other fields, if you violate a major ethics guideline you lose your certification or something and your ability to practice.
KS: Yes, you lose your license, for instance.
CB: Right. So we don’t have that in the astrological community and that’s somewhat problematic because that means there’s no regulation on the field, and therefore the quality varies pretty wildly. But then that is tied in with the other issue that we talked about at the beginning of the podcast, which is the many different traditions and approaches. And actually one of the issues for certification and for regulation is that there’s so many different approaches and things like that that you run into and issue about can one person who specializes in this tradition say whether or not an astrologer that’s specializes in this approach and what they’re doing with their practice is appropriate, or whether it’s unethical or what have you. You run into some issues like that when it comes to certification.
KS: Absolutely, absolutely.
CB: So, again, this is another topic that we have not really answered.
KS: It’s a big one.
CB: Right. We should probably move on. I hope we’ve at least raised some thoughts in both positive as well as negative ways. ‘Cause there’s gonna be both positive and negative ways in which astrology’s gonna develop over the course of the next few decades, and some of them are gonna be good and some of them will not be so good. But hopefully it’s a net-positive in the long term, and hopefully we’re on an upward slope rather than a downward one.
KS: All we can do is hope and just keep plodding along really, can’t we?
CB: Yeah, keep doing what we’re doing and keep trying to do good work and put good work out there. And to whatever extent you do that then you’re participating in the improvement and the positive expansion of the field.
CB: All right, so moving on, next few questions—there’s two, and these are kind of related. Do you want to get into these two philosophical ones? Or have we gone too philosophical?
KS: I feel like we’ve done a lot of philosophical. I always feel like we should try and do a ‘fast five’ and deal with some of the more technical ones that come next. We could circle back to this philosophical one as a way to wrap up, I guess.
CB: Sure. So what catches your eye? There’s one on secondary progressions.
KS: Yeah, that’s an interesting one—the secondary progressions and elections. The one I think from Kate about night charts with Saturn in a good state, or a day chart with Mars in a good state. I thought that would be a really interesting one to get your take on for our listeners. And then, yeah, the other one about the whole sign versus quadrant houses—I don’t know if you want to get into that though ‘cause I know you’ve talked about that a lot on other shows.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I feel like we’ve talked about it a lot, so I want to avoid the ‘house’ one and come back to it if we have time later.
KS: Okay, cool. Do you want to do the electional one with the secondary progressions?
CB: Sure, that sounds good.
KS: Okay. Do you want me to read out the question?
CB: Go ahead.
KS: Okay, cool. Shall I say the person’s name?
CB: Yeah, I’m never sure if I should mention just the first name, or first and last. Maybe just the first name.
KS: I’ll just do the first name. Okay, so this is from Barbara. “Here’s my question: I love to use secondary progressions. I’ve seen how they work time and time again in my own chart and those of my family. When you’re selecting a chart for an election, do you think about the secondary progressions [transits], what the secondary progressions/transits might be a few days or a week or whatever later?” She’s had the experience where a hard aspect happened four years after an electional chart, and if she’d only waited four days that aspect would have passed, or at least been separating. And she’s talking about a Sun opposite Pluto conjunct Chiron aspect. So what do we think? Would this make electional astrology impossible? I definitely had a few thoughts on this. Do you want me just to jump in, Chris?
CB: Yeah, go for it.
KS: I mean, my first thought is I don’t really consider how the electional chart will progress, per se, but what this sounds like is that you picked an electional chart that had an applying opposition aspect between the Sun and Pluto, for instance. And if the Sun was the Ascendant ruling planet for this particular election, or it’s ruling one of the main houses relevant to the topic of the election, then I probably wouldn’t have picked an electional chart with that aspect. Because the idea is that—as far as I can understand it—we want to have the main planets in the electional chart involved in more helpful aspects or applying to helpful aspects; so therefore applying to helpful people or situations, all other things being equal.
And then it sort of comes back I guess to that electional piece where you can’t always have every good thing in an electional chart. There’s gonna be a couple of tricky things; you can pop them in maybe less functional houses. But I guess the idea here is if you are trying to anticipate, from an electional chart, what progressed aspects will form in the years to follow then you’re probably gonna make it really hard to pick an electional chart. What were your thoughts on this one, Chris?
CB: I mean, there’s only so many variables that you can take into account. I think Leisa and I were talking about this on the last private electional episode that we released to patrons a few weeks ago. Electional astrology is less about picking the perfect chart, and it’s more just about having a hierarchy of your top considerations and then ranking them in order. I mean, oftentimes you’re trying to pick the least-bad chart in the timeframe rather than picking the most ideal chart. It’s just a matter of figuring out the low-level things you want to avoid versus the worst-case scenario-type things you want to avoid. And that’s just for picking the chart itself and picking a static or fixed electional chart where you’re paying attention to things like applying and separating aspects, and so that’s a really good point. If she’s talking about an aspect with the Sun—I think it was the Sun—
KS: Yeah, Sun to Pluto conjunct Chiron, I think. Like Sun opposite a Pluto current conjunction.
CB: Right. And applying with 4°. So your point was that you would have avoided that in the first place if it was an applying opposition within 4°.
KS: Yeah. I think especially if the Sun was really significant in the context of that electional chart. Because, yeah, it’s like the Sun applying to an opposition to Saturn for instance; I mean, you might try to avoid that anyway. We don’t know the scenarios under which the electional chart was picked, so maybe there wasn’t the option to do that. But, yeah, I think the first step would be to try not to have such a tricky aspect in an applying condition in the chart.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s just a good demonstration of why electional astrologers focus more on applying aspects, and why if you have an applying aspect between the Sun and Pluto or Mars or Saturn, and then you have a separating aspect, that you would go with the separating aspect, even if it was really close because of this idea that applying aspects indicate things that will happen in the future and separating aspects indicate things that’ll happen in the past. So that’s already built into the premise of electional astrology and some of the basic rules, but this is probably the reason why. It’s because if you keep moving the chart then at some point that chart basically becomes like a natal chart and you’re gonna have transits and secondary progressions and other things too.
So I guess my answer to this question is that I don’t actually typically look at the secondary progressions for electional charts because that’s just adding other variables. But I would be sort of generally aware that if I have applying aspects in that chart that that’s gonna indicate something that’s gonna come up in the future, but sometimes you don’t know if that’s gonna come up due to transits. So it could have actually been an event that happened four days later—like four days after the electional chart started. And I will sometimes be aware of the transits, but other times it could be a secondary progression, or it could be a solar arc or what have you. It’s a difficult question because you’re taking that into account to the extent that you know that any applying aspect is something that’s gonna be activated by some technique in the future. But at the same time you can only go so far with that; like you can’t apply every timing technique to every electional chart. Because if you did that then you’re really gonna be driving yourself crazy, and there’s never gonna be any chart that you can pick.
KS: Totally. I mean, the other thing too is that maybe the Sun didn’t rule any of the key houses, and maybe there was a beautiful Moon-Venus-Jupiter configuration that was worth having. Do you know what I mean? I guess sometimes too I’m like, “I need more information.”
KS: Because you can’t have a perfect electional chart with no tricky aspects.
CB: Yeah. I mean, if she had an option to wait, and she could have put that as a separating aspect rather than an applying one and still had a good chart, then, yeah, the answer is it probably would have been better to do that as a separating aspect rather than an applying one because applying aspects are both transits, as well as secondary progressions and other things that will complete in the future. And if it’s a positive aspect then that’s a good thing and you want to have it, but if it’s a challenging aspect then you probably don’t want that in the future of your venture, and that’s exactly why.
CB: So that’s a good question.
KS: You want to pick another question, Chris?
CB: There’s another one that’s actually related to elections that might be good for that reason. It’s a little long. It’s from Marlene, and she says, “Can you talk a little bit about New Moons and the darkness of the Moon in relation to elections and starting new projects? I’ve read two things that seem to be contradictory: One is that it’s good to start new projects at the New Moon, and the other is that it’s not a good time to start things during the dark phases of the Moon since it creates a blind spot in our awareness—that there’s something hidden from our view which might impact our decisions or actions we choose to take. If valid, would this dark time or hidden aspect be even stronger during the New Moon eclipse? And also if valid, do we hold back and actually start our new projects in the next phase of the Moon as it waxes?” So do you have any experience with that?
KS: Yeah, so I think part of what happens with this issue about the New Moon, ‘is it good or is it bad for elections’, the energy of the New Moon in terms of that idea of fresh starts or new beginnings is very helpful, but it’s better to have a Moon that is technically late in the New Moon phase, where the Moon has got some light. So in modern astrology, when we talk about Moon phases, we just break the Moon phases into eight, equal 45 phases. But if you look back to how it was done, say, by the ancient Greeks, I believe they had 11 different Moon phases that were unequal in size and shape that differentiated between these specific periods of darkness or light; particularly in the first 90° of the Moon’s phase, yeah, which I’m sure you know about, Chris. So the idea of wanting a New Moon, you do want a New Moon if you want to maybe have the really fresh, new energy, but you don’t want it too close to the exact New Moon itself because the Moon is still in darkness then. So a good rule of thumb would be to have the Moon at least about 20° away from the Sun. A little bit more is gonna be better still. What are your thoughts on that, Chris?
CB: Yeah, I mean, the basic distinction is that one of the rules of electional astrology, or one of the general ideas, is that you want the Moon to be waxing, which is just after the New Moon. It’s the phase of the Sun-Moon relationship where it’s just after the New Moon, which is when the Sun and Moon are conjunct, and then it’s all the way through the first quarter phase, when the Moon reaches its first square with the Sun, and then all the way up to the opposition. So during that period, the Moon actually goes from being really dark at the New Moon part to getting brighter and brighter. So in the Greek texts, they actually literally call it ‘increasing in light’ because the light of the Moon is building up and building up, and it’s getting brighter and brighter, until it eventually culminates to the Full Moon. So it culminates to the Full Moon, and then after the Full Moon is exact—which is the exact Sun-Moon opposition—the light of the Moon starts decreasing. So that’s called the waning phase, or in the Greek texts they call it ‘decreasing in light’ because the brightness of the Full Moon starts diminishing and diminishing until it eventually gets to the next New Moon and then it’s completely dark again.
So the traditional electional rule has always been if you want to initiate a new project that you want to grow and increase then do it when the Moon is waxing, and if you want to start a project where you’re wrapping something up or bringing it to culmination or ending something then do it when the Moon is waning. So I think an example of this in Dorotheus, for example—in Ben’s translation of Dorotheus—they say if you want to build a building, do it while the Moon is increasing in light and waxing, but if you want to destroy a building then do it while the Moon is decreasing in light and waning. So that’s one rule, but then there’s a separate rule where they say you don’t want the Moon to be under the beams of the Sun.
You don’t want any of the planets to be under the beams of the Sun because if you put a planet under the beams of the Sun, it’ll be something that’s obscured or hidden about it, and sometimes this can be detrimental to whatever you’re initiating at that time. And the range of under the beams of course is within 15° on either side of a conjunction with the Sun. So what Marlene is bringing up here is these two separate rules where people often hear the part about wanting to be in the waxing phase—just after the New Moon, when you’re beginning new things, and that’s often recommended in modern texts on electional astrology—but then there’s a separate rule that’s mentioned which is don’t put planets within 15° of the Sun, and that’s where you run into a little bit of a clash here. So the answer is just, ideally, it’s better if the Moon is waxing if you’re starting something new, but also more than 15° away from the Sun, and if you do that then you completely avoid the entire issue.
KS: Yeah, I think that’s what happens, isn’t it? It’s just a misunderstanding of the different terms.
CB: Yeah, or just the conflict that comes into that where sometimes people will hear ‘you want it to be waxing’, but then you’ll hear another rule that says ‘don’t put it within 15° of the Sun even if it’s waxing’. So it’s just that there’s a lot of different rules for electional astrology and sometimes they overlap, or sometimes they can contradict or slightly encroach on each other’s territory in figuring out how to navigate those. And which ones to prioritize is really one of the tricky things about learning electional astrology, and it’s one of the things you have to learn the most.
KS: Yeah. And even if you take the ‘wait until the Moon is more than 15° away from the Sun’ right up until the Full Moon then you’ve got almost two weeks of time; the Moon is waxing in all of that timeframe.
CB: Yeah, which is a pretty large amount of time, so it gives you a lot to work with. It’s really just avoiding what is essentially just a day ‘cause the Moon moves, what, about 12° or 13° in a 24-hour period.
KS: Yeah, 11°-15° depending on if it’s fast or slow. Yeah, so it’s just one day after the exact New Moon that you have to wait basically.
CB: Right. Yeah, so that’s it. So that could be a good, simple electional rule. Like we could make that—we could popularize that as an easy electional rule to remember. If you’re starting something new, do it under a waxing Moon, but wait for a day until after the New Moon to initiate your project.
CB: All right, so that’s a good rule.
KS: Yeah, because the lightness, yeah, that adds something, the visibility.
KS: Cool. That was easy—tick.
CB: Yeah, that was very easy. Okay, so other things—there’s similar questions here. Marlene asks another question, saying, “Did the Hellenistic astrologers or Medieval ones relocate charts? If not, why or why not?” As far as I can tell there’s no traditional use of relocated charts, as far as I’m aware, at least in the Hellenistic and early Medieval tradition. The whole premise of astrology was just that the chart you cast for the moment that something begins, in the location that it begins, indicates its quality in the future. So everything goes back to that chart that was originally cast at the beginning or at the inception and that’s what’s important. Even if the person moves somewhere else that doesn’t necessarily change the basic natal chart.
And I think that’s true even for most modern astrologers that practice relocation astrology. Even though they’ll emphasize that if you relocate the chart or move to different parts of the world that may emphasize certain energies in the chart or highlight certain planets more than it did in your basic natal chart, I don’t think anybody necessarily thinks that the relocated chart completely replaces the basic natal chart, right?
KS: I don’t know ‘cause I don’t do it either. But I’ve heard, for instance, Lynn Bell speak on solar returns and things like that, the relocations, and it does seem to be that everything happening in the natal chart, or the natal chart location are the origins or the foundations of everything.
CB: Sure. I mean, I think it’s important just keeping in mind that it was the chart that was cast for the moment of the origin and the specific place in both time and space that the entity—whether it was a person, or whether it was the founding of a city, or whether it was a marriage, or what have you—even if it relocates somewhere later, and relocation astrology is valid, which I think it is to some extent; at least I’ve seen it work in my own chart. Sometimes it can emphasize certain planets more than maybe they were emphasized in the natal chart, but that doesn’t erase or invalidate the natal chart. The natal chart is still primary in all things. So, I don’t know, that would be my answer to that.
KS: Yeah, I was interested to hear about that. So it’s not a historically done thing is what you’re saying.
CB: Yeah, I don’t think so. I mean, I’ll have to ask Ben about that. But I don’t remember ever seeing it, certainly not in the Hellenistic tradition. I don’t remember seeing that in the Medieval tradition either, so it’s more of a modern convention to do relocated charts. And then of course astrocartography and stuff like that, where you’re drawing actual lines on the map in terms of different parts of the world where certain planets are emphasized more—that’s a completely modern invention. It was only developed in the past 30 years or so.
KS: Yeah, very new, very new.
CB: Okay, so what are some other questions that we could do?
KS: Let’s have a little look. Well, there was Kate’s question. It’s almost like a question about sect versus dignity, if you want to address that. A couple of questions about the Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit and the different formulas for night and day.
CB: Right. And Marlene had a question about that, about Fortune and Spirit. And I think I’m gonna be talking to Michael Ofek later this week. We’re gonna do a show on the concept of light and darkness in astrology and that will tie into this question of the Lot of Fortune and the calculation for it. So I think we can save that one for later.
KS: Okay. That’ll be a great show.
KS: That’ll be a great show. There’s a question about planetary speed.
CB: Right. Did you have something? I didn’t have a lot for that.
KS: So the question is, “What does a planet’s speed or rate of change of speed indicate astrologically? For example, how does a quickly-moving Moon differ from a slow-moving Moon? How is a planet that is slowing down different from when it is speeding up? And how does a planet at a stationary retrograde differ from when it’s stationary direct? How do the speeds and directions of two planets in aspect affect the interpretation of the aspect?” You don’t do a lot with speed, Chris, do you?
CB: No. I mean, I know how it was treated traditionally in terms of the planet will manifest its significations much sooner or earlier in life if it’s moving fast or faster than its average motion, whereas if the planet’s moving slow then it was thought to indicate delays in the manifestations of the significations of the planets. It’s just that it’s not a thing that I’m often looking at or checking in charts. And so, I haven’t developed much of an opinion or much experience with it, just ‘cause I’m not paying attention to it very frequently.
CB: I think everybody has had some experience when you’re looking at a retrograde cycle and seeing the difference between Mercury stationing retrograde versus Mercury stationing direct, and maybe that’s something we can talk about. But, otherwise, just in terms of planetary speed in general, it’s not a major thing that I’ve put a lot of emphasis on in my practice. Have you?
KS: Sorry, I just missed that, Chris.
CB: It’s just not something put a lot of emphasis on in my practice. Have you put much emphasis on it in yours?
KS: I have actually.
KS: Yeah, a couple of years ago I did a really focused relationship reading for clients. So basically over the course of about two months, I sat down and looked at maybe 50 or 60 charts, just looking at relationships, and I was focusing a lot on the ruling planet of the 7th as an indicator for what they could expect in relationships and timing around relationships and that type of thing. So I got the opportunity to really consider some different charts around what happens when the ruler of the 7th is moving quickly or moving slowly, and it was really interesting and that prompted me to work more closely with planetary speed. And I find that particularly for the inferior planets—the Moon, Mercury, and Venus—the speed plays a huge role in their ability to manifest or manage the topics that they’re responsible for.
So, for instance, if you have Mercury ruling your Gemini Midheaven, and Mercury is ‘boot-scooting’ along at 2° or more than 2° on the day you were born—which is very fast for Mercury—that’s gonna indicate exactly what you were saying in terms of the theory that you fall into it more quickly, that you can pick things up more quickly. With Mercury moving quickly, you can churn through things more quickly—certainly, that faster ‘mind’ energy, if you like—but it would be a positive thing. Particularly for a planet like Mercury, it’s better to have Mercury going fast. The converse would be if you have Mercury ruling your Gemini Midheaven, or 10th house, and Mercury’s in station. What I saw with the relationship research initially—and then what I have seen with other topics—is if you have a planet ruling a house and it’s in station natally, the topics of that house will be delayed or slowed down in some very obvious or significant way.
So if you have the ruler of your 7th house moving slow—now what is slow for the Moon is gonna be different from what’s slow for Venus, for instance—you do have to just make sure you get the right data. But, yeah, if it’s stationing to go retrograde or stationing to go direct, it doesn’t matter so much; it’s the fact that it’ll be in station, so that’s definitely something to keep an eye out for. Quickly-moving Moon versus slow-moving Moon speaks a little bit to the learning process. So the idea of the Moon and Mercury as ‘mind’, one of the factors you consider when you’re weighing that or assessing that are the speeds of the Moon versus the speeds of Mercury. So you can have both moving quickly, you can have both moving slowly, or you can have one moving quickly and one moving slowly.
A faster Moon is gonna talk about someone who is very good with things like intuitive- or imagination-based learning. A quick Moon can do well with inferred learning—so they can make leaps between factual gaps—whereas a slower Moon might be a more methodical or measured kind of learner or processor. Think about the Moon’s speed as processing speed, like what you might get in a computer or some other technical gadget. Then a fast Mercury can be someone who’s more technical or more mechanical, just has a better grasp of language, full stop, whereas a slower Mercury might be maybe a little bit more research-oriented or a little bit more analytical and certainly more methodical in its approach. So I do think the speed, particularly of those inferior planets, has a huge impact, but it’s not something you see unless you go looking for it.
CB: Brilliant. Right. And how do you tell the difference? I mean, I know you can in an ephemeris. And I know you can set it up—I have a layout in Solar Fire where if I want to look at it, I can pull it up to see if the planet’s moving faster or slower than it usually does. How do you usually do that? Or how do you recommend people look that up?
KS: Yeah, if you have Solar Fire, just the default horary page layout in Solar Fire does include a table that has a column called a ‘Travel Column’, which is basically the speed of the Moon, or Mercury—all the planets actually. It’ll also give you the declinations if you want to work with out-of-bounds. I have to confess my understanding of the magic of Solar Fire is very basic, so I’m sure there’s about 10 different ways you can get this info from Solar Fire, but that’s just how I get it. But the totally low-tech, ‘no expense required’ is just google the ephemeris for your year of birth and compare the Moon’s placement or Mercury’s placement on the day before you were born with the day you were born. ‘Cause you just need a 24-hour differential, and you just have to do a simple addition or subtraction to get that.
CB: In order to see if it’s moving faster or slower?
KS: So that will give you the speed, and then I guess you have to figure out what is the fast or slow ratio.
KS: Is that what you mean?
KS: Yeah. So let me just grab my ephemeris, which will involve just moving something here. I have some data—hang on, I’ll have to put this down. Of course now I’m trying to look up you, Chris, while we’re talking to see what you have. I shall keep all of our personal bits private. I actually pulled this info straight out of John Frawley’s The Horary Textbook, where he gives some averages if the Moon is faster than 13°30’ a day, he considers that fast, and if it’s slower than 12°30’ a day, he considers that slow. The idea is that each planet has an average. And when you’re working with planetary speed, if you’re close to the average then we can expect some kind of norm or average or median-level function. What we’re looking for with planetary speed are more extreme diversions from that average or norm.
So if you have a Moon moving at about 12° or 13°—maybe 12.5° all the way through the 13°—that’s pretty standard. If your Moon’s going 11°, maybe just 12°, that would be on the slower Moon. And if your Moon was going 14° or 15° that would be quite quick. I can share a little table if we want to put that in the notes for this.
CB: Yeah, that would be great.
KS: Yeah, it’s a fun thing to look at because it’s one of those things that of course is tied to a visual-type of astrology. And I always feel it gives you a little bit of a deeper layer of like what is this planet really doing. It looks like Mercury in Virgo, but if it’s Mercury in Virgo stationing retrograde that’s gonna be different. I consider speed to be one of the characteristics that I would use to qualify the strength or functionality or the challenges of a planet.
CB: Right. And just the overall planetary condition in a chart.
KS: Absolutely. People would often ask me when I lecture on this, “What about when it’s going retrograde?” In what I have seen with clients over the years, just going retrograde isn’t so much of a problem as actually being in station. ‘Cause you can reverse down the street in your car kind of quickly, but when you actually have to stop and make a turn—when the planet actually hits the station that tends to be more of that really classic delayed energy, whether it’s the station retrograde or station direct.
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s the area where it’s easiest to see, or that I’m the most familiar with, just the station. ‘Cause sometimes they can be so dramatic if it’s tied into—not usually in a natal chart, but sometimes timing if a person’s experiencing a transit that’s really tied into a retrograde period, or if it’s a mundane event. Like one of the most famous mundane events that I’ve thought about in the past few years that was a really good Mercury retrograde one—which kind of demonstrated this station—was when Obamacare was rolled out in the US a few years ago, the first part of it, or the first phase was to launch the website for the entire country to sign up to get healthcare for that year. And they launched it right at the start of a Mercury retrograde period, right when Mercury was stationing retrograde; I think it may have launched within a day of that. And the website just went haywire and was on the fritz, and it was a big fiasco that was largely centered on some of the technical glitches surrounding it.
So sometimes when it’s something like that—it can also be Venus retrogrades, or even Mars retrogrades—you’ll have an initial event or a circumstance that’s set up at the start when the planet first stations and then it’ll go through the retrograde period, and then eventually there’ll be some resolution that comes about when the planet stations direct on the other end of that. So it stationed direct and then eventually, not long after that, they started getting the website issues under control, and it was rectified, and then everybody signed up for it, and then that was sort of the end of it. But there was an issue or an initial problem at the start of the cycle and then there was a resolution at the end of it.
KS: Which is exactly how the theory suggests it should play out, right?
CB: Yeah, exactly. Because if you think about what a retrograde is it’s a planet going forward like normal but then suddenly turning around. It’s stopping its forward motion and turning around and then retracing its steps essentially, going back to something that it already passed previously in order to revisit it and in order to almost do it over again.
KS: Totally. It’s like that reverse loop basically. So there’s an emphasis there, I guess. I think the idea of the speed—I don’t know. I don’t necessarily want to confuse people, but from what I’ve seen with the work I’ve done, a planet being in station can be a bit of a tricky planet for an individual. But in different branches and different traditions of astrology sometimes they consider that to be a great strength. That hasn’t borne out with what I’ve seen around the ‘fast and slow’ piece, but it’s definitely an interesting extra for people to start working with.
CB: What’s considered to be a great strength?
KS: Well, I seem to recall the idea—and I don’t want to misquote, but it might have been Kenneth—about a planet in station. Because it’s so well-removed from the Sun, it’s often fairly bright—for instance, with Venus or Mercury—and that can sometimes indicate a real positive around that planet basically.
CB: Oh, right. Yeah, there is a bit of a debate in some of the traditions about whether stations are debilitating or weakening factors or whether they’re intensifying factors.
KS: Yes, the weakening versus intensification.
CB: Yeah. And, I mean, that’s tough because sometimes you do see an intensification at least of prominence, let’s say. Let’s not say strength or that it’s better necessarily.
KS: ‘Prominence’ is a good word.
CB: Yeah, ‘cause it’s doing something. It’s a sort of anomaly in the planet’s movement which is noticeable. It’s like many of the basic concepts of astrology seem like they’re derived based on when the planet’s doing something different than what the other planets are doing—that almost becomes the basis for being able to draw an interpretation from it—whereas if the planet’s just doing what all the other planets are doing, or doing something the same, then there’s not really anything unique about it that you can draw any information from.
KS: Yes. So when the planet’s doing something different from the other planets—I would flesh that out further by saying when the planet’s doing something different from what it normally does, or what its regular thing is, I guess.
CB: Right. Totally. Yeah, okay. Well, I think that’s really good.
KS: That’s cool.
CB: Do you have a lecture or a recording where you go into that more?
KS: I was just thinking I’m sure I do ‘cause I have included it in a few lectures, so I can make sure we get the link for that. It might be in my ‘Planets, Passions, and Problems’ lecture where I talk about some of these special considerations that can enhance or inhibit a planet.
CB: Okay, awesome. And tied into that is one of the questions we skipped earlier. Somebody asked, “How do you understand and integrate the myriad of new astronomical findings?” So by that I think they mean like new—
KS: Oh, yeah, that’s a good one.
CB: Planets that are being discovered or new planetoid bodies, or—what are we even calling them at this point? Minor planets?
KS: Minor planets, I think.
CB: Minor planets or asteroids, which have come into use since the 1970s. There’s not just fixed stars now. There’s also some of the fixed stars or some other things. There’s some people doing—I think they’re calling ‘deep sky’ or ‘deep star’ astrology where they’re trying to incorporate black holes or—
KS: Oh, wow.
CB: Other astronomical factors that we know that are out there and either you can see or you can’t really see. In the ephemeris, in The American Ephemeris, it lists where the Galactic Center is, and I think that’s somewhere in Sagittarius or something like that, and so some people try to incorporate that.
CB: Well, no, I mean, the fundamental question is a pretty solid one. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re aware of in the universe—there’s a lot going on in the universe—and traditionally astrologers have tended to just use a small set of things, which is not necessarily completely true. But for the sake of argument it’s true that traditionally, for the first 2,000 or 4,000 years of astrology, they primarily used the seven visible planetary bodies—which are the five inner planets, and then the Sun and Moon. I mean, in reality it’s a little bit more complicated than that because they would also use things like the lots or Arabic Parts, which are mathematical points derived from two or three different points in the chart, and then they would also use sometimes the fixed stars. There was a text in the 4th century by ‘Anonymous of 379’ who wrote a text on the 28 bright fixed stars and how to interpret those when they’re closely conjunct a planet in a natal chart. But in more recent times of course, through advancements in astronomy and in our understanding of the cosmos, there’s a bunch of other bodies that some astrologers do incorporate into charts. And the question is how do you do that, or should you do that, or where should you draw the line?
KS: It’s a big question, isn’t it? And it’s so tricky because what I want to say is I like to use things that we can see, which is part of the reason why I like the traditional piece where we focus on the traditional planets as sign rulers, for instance, and then the outer planets are kind of treated a little differently. But I do incorporate Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, but there are so many extra things out there. One of the earlier questions around where we see astrology going, I’m quite curious as to how many of the things people are bringing into chart work now will endure. Are some of them going to be passing phases? I mean, the work around asteroids has been around for a long time, but now we have these trans-Neptunians. And I think you said people are using black holes and things now as well, so this is quite phenomenal really.
CB: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot that you could take into account. I’ve seen where sometimes an astrologer will throw up a chart like this, or sometimes I’ve seen some skeptics throw up a chart like where it’s like here are all of the possible astronomical bodies you could take into account if you put it in a chart and throw it in. And you’re talking about either hundreds or thousands of different chart points and then all the aspects drawn between those bodies and then the chart becomes just this blob of different stuff. And there’s a little bit of an issue there, and this is one of the crises I think in modern astrology. The initial inclination was that modern astrology in the 20th century had this tendency to focus on innovation and things that are blazing new trails and stuff like that. So things that were new and fresh and innovative were seen as good and tended to be focused on.
So when new bodies and stuff were discovered people would jump on it and start incorporating it and figuring out how to use it: like Chiron, for example, and its integration into modern astrology; and obviously, the important role that Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto played, even though those have been around for a while. So some of the significations with Uranus and Neptune—astrologers have had time to get a handle on those; whereas Pluto was only discovered in the 1930s, but it was very quickly, within a few decades, started getting integrated into astrology, and some traditions of astrology go really far with that. Some of the Evolutionary Astrologers, for example, their entire system is just based on Pluto. Or not just based on Pluto, but there’s this tendency to put Pluto as the center of the entire system or something like that.
And then you have the asteroids and some of the first ephemerises were produced in the 1970s for that, and some of the first books that astrologers made came out in the 1980s, like Demetra’s book, Asteroid Goddesses, and we’ve had the discovery of Eris and Sedna and other minor planets like that. And then I remember a year ago there was a team of actual legitimate astronomers looking for another planet that they think is out there right now due to the gravitational effect it has on other planets that we do know about. And some of their models are being thrown off because they think that there’s this other planetary body out there that they’ve been looking for over the course of the past year.
So there’s a lot of things that you could take into account. The answer though is that every astrologer basically has to draw a line at some point because there’s only so many things that you can take into account, and there probably is a stratification in terms of what’s more important versus what’s less important. And I think a topic or a theme that we’ve come back to a few times so far in this episode—and that’s probably a good one to come back to here—is just what’s more important in your approach versus what’s less important. And you’re gonna have a tendency to emphasize some things as being more important and some things as being less important—but what that is can be different for different astrologers depending on what their interest is and depending on what their approach is.
KS: Totally. And I think the idea of understanding and integrating all these different new things is there’s no obligation to integrate them all or any of them. And I think for people who are learning or still trying to develop their own practice—or if you’re just getting started in client practice, for instance, now may not be the best time to want to throw extra things into your chart. You want to really get grounded in your chart work using maybe the seven original planets, or if you want to use the 10 modern planets with Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Even if you want to use Chiron, the idea is that setting yourself some limits as you’re getting started or as you’re working will give you focus and help you really deepen what you’re doing in a way that it becomes almost like that intuitive skill, and then at that point you might feel more confident to try one or two new things. But I think baby steps are usually a good strategy with this type of thing.
CB: Sure. So integrating things and starting from the basics and the most important or obvious things and then building up from there rather than just going crazy from the start with it.
KS: Totally. I mean, if you throw in all the asteroids you could use, or even all the fixed stars, a chart can become very cluttered. And I think anything that overwhelms the astrologer is going to be not very helpful and probably overwhelming for the client. So, yeah, that’s usually how I would suggest getting started.
CB: Yeah, I mean, everybody had to draw the line. Every astrologer does draw the line somewhere.
CB: Figuring out what your lines are and where you want to draw them is a good starting point. You know, one of the distinctions that you mentioned, Kelly, that I think a lot of traditional astrologers use now is this distinction that wasn’t as recognized in modern astrology until recently, which is just that the seven traditional planetary bodies—the five inner planets, Mercury through Saturn, and then the two luminaries, the Sun and the Moon—are all visible to the naked eye, and that’s why astrologers have been using them for 2-to-3,000 years. Because if you look up at the night sky those planets look like fixed stars, except unlike the rest of the fixed stars, they will move if you view them over the course of successive nights, or weeks, or months, or what have you; you’ll see those star-looking things move past other fixed stars. So it’s apparent that they’re doing something weird and something unique compared to the rest of the stars in the sky, and that’s what sets them apart. So that may still in fact be an important conceptual distinction compared to, let’s say, the other major, large planetary bodies that modern astrologers use—like Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto—where you can’t actually see them with the naked eye.
KS: I think that’s a really important distinction, and I think it’s important philosophically. It’s also important in terms of understanding—as you were saying, Chris—how and why certain things had been used and certain things weren’t used. But I also think it’s important from a perspective of how we get influenced by different planets through transits or according to natal placements. The quality of experience that you might have with Jupiter or Saturn, which your physical body can directly interact with, has to be different—to my mind at least—than the interaction you might have with an outer planet like Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto where there is no direct contact. Like you can’t go outside and see it; you need an intermediary piece of technology, I guess. And I find that to be really interesting. They have to operate differently if we connect with them differently.
CB: Right. And, I mean, to me, this ties in with something that we were talking about earlier. It ties into the topic of retrogrades and it brings up this overall point, which has always been really important for me since I started to understand it about 10 years or so ago when I was studying—what was I studying? I was learning about synchronicity as an idea for a mechanism of astrology, and then also studying Geoffrey Cornelius’ book, The Moment of Astrology, and his arguments about astrology as divination. But one of the arguments is that astrologers—what they’re doing is interpreting symbolism, and they’re interpreting astronomical phenomena as conveying information symbolically. And what that means is that you’re not always necessarily looking at something where that planet is having some sort of direct physical influence on you, but instead you’re looking at it doing something unique, or having a movement that’s weird or different compared to the other planets and then interpreting that as having some sort of greater symbolic meaning or symbolic significance relative to you or relative to whatever you’re studying at that moment in time. And that’s why a distinction between planets that are visible versus planets that are not visible to the naked eye is relevant.
In the same way retrograde planets—the phenomenon of a planet going retrograde in motion is actually a visual illusion and it has no actual—I don’t want to say no physical basis because that’s not necessarily the correct way to frame it. But it’s not that the planet is literally stopping its forward movement around the Sun and then changing direction and moving backwards; it’s just that there’s a visual phenomenon from our standpoint here on Earth, as we revolve around the Sun on Earth, and as we see other planets revolving around the Sun as well. And then from our vantage point, or from our perspective, they appear to start moving backwards, and so we interpret that appearance of backward movement as having symbolic significance, even though it’s something that’s just a purely visual or apparent phenomenon.
So there’s something about that that people actually really need to understand because it gets to the very heart of what astrology is fundamentally and what astrologers are doing that’s not widely recognized. And it’s also important because this is a point that skeptics sometimes jump on. In a show on astrology, I think on that History Channel episode a year ago, they sort of jumped on that point. They pointed out even though Mercury retrograde’s becoming this common trope in society as an astrological phenomenon, they pointed out that retrograde is just an apparent phenomenon and that the planets are only appearing to move backwards. And so, as a result of that that should have no actual relevance to our lives if the planet isn’t actually doing that, but it’s just a visual illusion. In fact, from an astrological standpoint, an astrologer would argue from a symbolic standpoint that that visual phenomenon is exactly the reason—
KS: The point
CB: Yeah, that’s the point. We know and acknowledge and realize that we’re interpreting the visible appearance as symbolically significant and that’s actually what we’re trying to do.
KS: Yes. And you’re right. We often get pinned down on this by outsiders not understanding that astrology is ultimately designed from almost that visual and experiential perspective of what we perceive from our position here on Earth. What are we seeing? And that may be different I guess from particularly the retrogrades. It doesn’t actually go backwards, but it appears to do that from our perspective here on Earth.
CB: Right. On the one hand, that provides us an access point possibly for making a distinction between the visible planets and the ones that are not visible. But then you still have this question of how do you incorporate the planets that can’t be seen with the naked eye? Do you distinguish between those huge bodies—like Uranus and Neptune, which are huge planetary bodies just beyond Saturn—versus Sedna, or versus Chiron, or an asteroid like Ceres or something like that? Like where do you draw the line between these different things? And I feel like for the most part there’s a tendency in modern astrology not to separate these things enough, or not to create categories for them. But as the solar system and the universe is being restructured in different ways through successive astronomical discoveries, astrologers are gonna have to start making some of those distinctions and attempting to impose some sort of boundaries or dividing lines between them. Even if it’s somewhat arbitrary, or even if it’s just in terms of your own personal practice, somehow segmenting these out into different categories needs to be the starting point.
KS: It’s a big thing to consider, for sure.
CB: Sure. Anyway, I think that’s it. I think we answered that sufficiently. Just start with the basics. If you want to experiment with and test new astronomical bodies and things like that, and incorporate them into your practice, you can. Probably best to do it slowly and piecemeal rather than going nuts with it. It’s a little biased of a statement, but I do feel like there are some astrologers where they’ll just have like a million things in a chart. And I do think there’s some point where there’s diminishing returns the more and more bodies you incorporate into a chart. And sometimes you can actually get a lot of something very simple or using only just a few points, and it’s not necessary always to resort to having a bunch of different bodies in order to get the most out of a reading, or the most out of a chart.
KS: I think that’s a really good point, Chris. More things in the chart is not necessarily going to give you a better reading. I think if you get a really multi-layered or rich or deep understanding—I find that aspects, just one aspect, if you interpret the many layers of an aspect according to the topics that come up with the planets, not just in the physical houses that they’re placed in, but the ones they rule, and if you bring in some strength consideration, or even consider sect, there’s so much that you can get out of one aspect, or even just one planet placement in the chart, and those things can be incredibly rich and insightful. And I think you just have to work the chart a little bit to pull out all the layers from one thing. And sometimes it appears superficially easier to throw extra things in and to ping around the chart like a ping pong ball, but I’m not sure that you’re getting the depth or the richness, the juiciness, I guess.
CB: Sure. And I guess part of what’s happening with recovering some of the traditional astrology is learning that there were more basic distinctions that were applied to the traditional or the visible planets than we realized, that we sort of lost along the way: like sect, or like planetary speed, and things like that.
KS: Absolutely. Yeah, I feel like learning how to do as much as you possibly can with what you have can sometimes be just as useful, if not more, than just putting more things in. And that’s what I mean when I say figure out how to do everything you possibly can with those original chart inclusions, if you like, before adding the extra bits in.
CB: Right. Okay, that makes sense.
KS: Totally. Okay, where to next today with our Q&A show?
CB: Yeah, we’re almost getting through all the questions. So why don’t we push through a few more we could do concisely. There was one question about mitigating auspicious placements. I don’t have a ton to say about that. Do you? I mean, I know you do some things in terms of a little medical astrology or little things like that.
KS: Oh, the mitigating and auspicious.
CB: I mean, do you have anything relevant? Do you feel like taking that? I don’t necessarily, but if you do, we can. Otherwise, we’ll go on to another.
KS: Let’s go onto another ‘cause I hadn’t really looked at that one.
CB: Okay. So, let’s see, we did secondary progressions. We did relocations. So there were three big ones left by a listener named Christopher. Two of them were about the philosophy of astrology, and one of them was about a chart placement that you asked me about with the birth data before the show.
KS: Oh, yes. I don’t know whether that’s going to be some mess to open up.
CB: Okay, well, we can skip that one. I mean, why don’t we talk about just the two philosophy ones.
KS: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I think the question is valid, maybe just not the chart example used. I mean, I think it’s a valid question, but we could probably answer it really quickly, I guess. We just can’t get sidebarred by the chart.
CB: Yeah, it’s really tough.
KS: Or we can just do the philosophical one—the validity—‘cause we said we would come back to that.
CB: Yeah, let’s just do that ‘cause we’re already an hour-and-fifty-minutes into this. So let’s do these two philosophical ones. So one of them is, “What are some of your reasons for believing in the validity of astrology?” And then, two, “What are some of the strongest arguments against the validity of astrology?” I mean, what do you think are some of your reasons—maybe your top reasons for believing that astrology is a legitimate phenomenon?
KS: I guess I was just sort of struggling with some of the word choice in the question, so I kind of reframed it around the idea of what I think the purpose or the role of astrology is. Maybe because I think the question about whether astrology is valid or not valid—I’ve obviously assumed that it is valid because I use it. This was really thought-provoking, this question. And the whole idea about believing in astrology or not believing in it—I don’t know whether I’ve just assumed that I believe in it because obviously it’s become my life’s work, or whether I just use it and it seems to be useful. It’s the idea of people believing in religion.
KS: And that led me to these questions about, well, what is really the purpose or the role of astrology.
CB: Right. Well, let’s break it down then. Let’s break down some of the words because they’re important word choices. So one of them is ‘believe’ or ‘believing’. One of them is ‘validity’. So that’s maybe a good starting point. So is astrology a valid phenomenon is one question, and that ties back into our earlier thing, which was, “Where do you see astrology going in the future, and do you see it becoming widely accepted in society?” or something related to that, and that question of, a) is astrology valid, versus, b) can astrology be demonstrated from a large societal perspective or standpoint as valid.
And I think both of us are on the same page in terms of we believe that astrology is a valid phenomenon, and by that we mean if you define astrology as a correlation between celestial movements and earthly events, if somebody asked us if that’s a true or false statement, we would say, “Yes, I believe that’s a true statement.”
CB: It’s not just, yes, I believe that’s a true statement, it’s, yes, that’s something I’ve observed, and therefore I do think that’s a valid statement and a valid phenomenon, right?
KS: Yeah, totally. If that would be the definition of the validity of astrology, that I’ve observed it, yeah, for sure, I would say that. But then it’s like what are my reasons for believing in it? Well, I think the reasons for believing in it are repeated observation of the correlation or the connection—and that’s where I’m not sure of the exact words to use, but I feel like we feel the same way.
CB: What are the top things that you think are the most compelling that made you early on in your studies think that astrology was a valid phenomenon rather than something that you shouldn’t waste your time with? I mean, for me, for example, one of the things that I always thought was the most impressive early on—because it should be true and it shouldn’t work—is the concept of transits and the observation of a transit working was always one of the most compelling things to me. Because if you break down and think about what a transit is, it’s the positions of the planets moving across a sector of the sky that’s somehow sensitive relative to where the planets were at the moment that you were born.
For example, let’s say somebody was born with Saturn in Sagittarius about 27-28 years ago in the late 1980s, and then right now Saturn has returned back to where it was in that region of the sky, or region of the ecliptic, when they were born. And so, they’re experiencing a transit that we would categorize or we would classify under the setting of a Saturn return. Anyway, the idea of transits—not just the idea, but the observation that transits work has always been one of the most compelling things to me. Because it’s something that you can observe pretty quickly and determine if it’s something that’s working or not working, and it’s typically pretty straightforward and obvious when it is working.
KS: For sure. Okay, yeah, that makes it a bit more clear. It’s funny. Like I can’t even say why I do this.
CB: Right. You can take it as an overly-broad question. But if we break it down to what are some of the most compelling things—if you had to try to convince yourself or something before you started studying astrology, or if you had to convince somebody else—what would be the things you would pick out that you think are the best demonstrations that there’s something to astrology rather than nothing?
KS: For sure. So that takes me back to, in the very beginning, what I was very struck by was the connections around synastry. So the idea of being able to describe, if you like, through the symbolism of your Saturn is on my Venus, or your Uranus is square my Moon, or what have you—the application or the ability I guess of astrology to describe the interactions or the quality of connection between two people, that was very compelling to me in the beginning.
CB: Oh, yeah, totally.
KS: Yeah, right.
CB: And how obvious it is sometimes when people have really good synastry, whether it’s somebody you know and this is a personal observation, or whether you’re observing in other people and their interactions—whether it’s a romantic relationship, or whether it’s a family dynamic, or whether it’s a dynamic with friends—and just seeing how those two people interact is very evocative of the placements that they have in their charts as they refer to each other.
KS: Totally. One of the first things I did with astrology—and this is what happens if you discover astrology when you’re still a teenager and you’re a ‘love-struck, boy crazy’ girl—you write in your journal about how your astrology connects to the person you have a crush on, and whether it works or whether it doesn’t work. So that was very personal, way back in the day, but it was a good way. But then to see that with clients and students and understand it in family dynamics—probably the family dynamics that you alluded to is another big one for me—because I’m from a very large family—understanding some of the differences between my siblings and myself; so I’m the eldest of six. Looking at the Moon signs is the other thing, and I see that a lot in my own family with the way fixed sign Moons versus mutable sign Moons, or water sign Moons versus air sign Moons, and the differences along those lines.
But that idea of the compelling arguments around the validity of astrology—the other one is its ability to describe the nuances within a personality, and even just the difference between your Sun’s story, your Sun sign placement indicates this, your Moon sign placement indicates this, and your Ascendant-ruling planet adds in this. And those three pieces—sometimes they’re contradictory, but humans are inherently contradictory types of things. So the ability of astrology to describe personality in all its nuances and conflicts and all the messy magic of being human is another, I think, really compelling reason for the validity of it.
CB: Yeah, definitely, especially if you’re looking at it from the perspective of people that you already know, or you have that experience of them and what their personality is and what they’re like and what some of their quirks are and things like that. But then to see that externally described by this third party almost—as if you were talking to a third person, and you were like, “Describe my friend,” then they start describing your friend and articulating things about that person’s personality, or that person’s life that you know, but you would never otherwise had verbalized maybe, or you never put in those exact terms, even though it’s totally fitting and appropriate for who that person is—except it’s not a third person you’re talking to. You’re looking at the person’s chart or their transits or something, and for some reason this thing is describing them perfectly even though it shouldn’t otherwise be able to do that.
KS: Yes, yes. ‘Cause when you first start, it is a lot of describing friends or family. Like understanding my dad, for instance, that was really helpful to have his astrology, even without an accurate time, just looking at his planetary aspects. And nowadays, sitting with clients, and you’re 15 or 20 minutes into a session, they could be saying things like, “I do not know how you know these things,” or whatever they happen to be saying, but they’re dumbstruck by how accurate astrology is in describing their nature, or their tendencies. And that is an argument for the validity, but also, I think, the whole point and magic of astrology.
CB: Right, definitely. And then the follow-up question to that, the second question from Christopher DeCarlo, he says, “What are the strongest arguments against the validity of astrology?”
KS: Against the validity of astrology. Wow. I mean, I know the arguments that are often thrown out against astrology is that it’s not scientifically substantiated and things like that. And I guess the arguments against come from the perspective or point of view that if those qualifications or proofs are required then astrology doesn’t have those proofs or those studies. I guess we sort of touched on that earlier, didn’t we?
CB: Right. I mean, one of the strongest arguments against the validity of astrology, if it’s a valid argument—and some astrologers would take issue with me saying this—is there are no current scientific studies that validate astrology or show the validity of astrology. It’s like some astrologers would take issue at that and they would point to the ‘Mars effect’ with Gauquelin or something like that where there have been some stray studies that almost showed that there could be some kind of limited validation through statistical analysis of certain placements, but those have all been highly, hotly debated, and have gone back and forth on whether they’re valid or not valid and different things like that.
The strongest argument though, at this point in time, in the early 21st century, is that nobody’s done extensive scientific tests with basic scientific controls and statistical studies that have demonstrated the validity of astrology. And there was this whole period in the 1970s and ‘80s where a lot of astrologers got on that train and were like, “We’re gonna validate astrology scientifically through statistical studies (or other things related to that) in order to prove that this is a valid phenomenon and that we’re not just making it up, or that we’re not just crazy,” because they wanted to have that external proof, and, ideally, in order to legitimize astrology in terms of science and academia and the world in general. But in the studies that were done, they weren’t able to do that. And so, for most astrologers—when they start wrestling with this question—a question that a lot of astrologers need to confront at some point in time is if what each of us is doing is a valid phenomenon, why is it that it hasn’t been validated through statistical means thus far? Is it something that will be validated at some point in the future through those means, or is there some reason that it cannot be for some reason?
KS: Yes, these are good questions. I always sort of think, does it need to be? That’s just a bit of a personal opinion.
KS: Maybe it would add to its mainstream credibility in some sense, but it is a functional tool. It is valid, if you like, without having been proved, I guess.
CB: Yeah. I mean, it’s like astrologers often don’t worry about this question very much. Most astrologers aren’t necessarily coming from a scientific background, and so that’s not something that they’re necessarily concerned about. Or most astrologers are doing it on the side, or it’s like a hobby, or something they’re interested in, but it’s not their primary focus or profession in life. But most astrologers don’t have to worry about it that much because astrology is being practiced on the fringes of society in some sense. It’s not at the center of society in terms of where the astrological community is located, and it sort of flies largely under the radar.
And this was a concern in the 1980s and some stuff resulted from that where there were some anti-astrology laws that were coming up. And that’s the point where it would become more of an issue that astrologers would become more concerned about if people started passing laws where they’re like, “Astrology hasn’t been validated scientifically, and therefore it’s not a valid phenomenon. And therefore what astrologers are doing is wrong because they’re practicing a non-valid phenomenon. And they must just be ripping people off, therefore we should make it illegal.” It’s like if that started happening then astrologers would really need to care much more about whether astrology has been validated scientifically because that becomes the litmus test in the modern world for determining what’s valid versus what’s not.
KS: It is interesting, isn’t it? It’s a commentary on a few things in terms of how scientific proofs are respected in the modern world. So, yeah, I guess in those instances then it would become more important to have that.
CB: Yeah, I mean, hypothetically or theoretically. And I think we might get there at some point. I mean, that is one of my concerns tying back to the question about what’s gonna come up in the future of astrology over the next hundred years or something. I do think that might be an issue at some point, and I always wonder when or how it could, just because sometimes with skeptic groups that becomes their rallying call that things that are not scientifically validated need to be prohibited. Because if it’s not scientifically validated or hasn’t been validated scientifically, therefore it must be something that’s deliberately false that’s being perpetrated by people who have bad intentions, which is not the case for the majority of astrologers, but it’s sort of an assumption that’s made.
KS: Yeah. So do you have any other arguments against the validity, Chris, that you would throw in?
CB: Against the validity of astrology? I mean, you could throw in a lot of different things that are the standard things, like why do so many different astrologers disagree with each other, but then it ties back into the whole is astrology a singular thing that you can measure in terms of a singular, universal phenomenon that is uniformed, or is it something like different languages. Therefore could you have different approaches that are valid in the same way that you have different languages? So it’s like some of the arguments just depend on where you’re coming from and what your perspective is, and you might not necessarily make the same argument, or there might be counterarguments for them even if they feel like strong arguments. So it’s really just the scientific one that’s an issue, and that’s something we’ve discussed a few times before on the podcast, but that probably deserves more serious discussion at some point in the future. There’s this book called Astrology in the Year Zero by Garry Phillipson.
KS: It’s a great book, isn’t it?
CB: It’s a good book. I mean, it’s one of the books that I read at Kepler that gave me a serious crisis of how to deal with this. It interviews a bunch of astrologers, and it does a good job of doing that, but it also interviews some astrologers who at least say or claim that when the scientific tests came back negative for astrology, or failed, or were unable to validate it scientifically, they were forced to give up their practice. To them, they interpreted that as meaning even though we have this personal experience where we seem to think that astrology is working—because we can’t validate it externally using this third-party mechanism, it must mean that what we’re doing is actually wrong and that we’re just delusional or something like that. It’s an accidental effect that we think that what we’re doing is valid, but if we can’t validate it scientifically then we need to stop doing it. And that was a really interesting chapter to read. I could see different people interpreting that and sort of going different ways with it. And I think that every astrologer needs to look into that and wrestle with some of those questions because they are ones that you should at least be aware of in terms of your career as an astrologer.
KS: Yes. And that book is quite thought-provoking, for sure.
CB: Definitely. All right, well, I think that’s pretty much all of our questions. That’s kind of downer to end the show on. Is there any better closing—
KS: I mean, we did cover a lot of the questions. I mean, the one thing—maybe just to go back to believing in the validity of astrology—there used to be universities in the Renaissance or even pre-Renaissance period in Europe a chair of astrology and a chair of mathematics or a chair of astronomy. So I guess one of the ways I take comfort around the validity of astrology is that it has been incredibly well-respected in academic circles in the past. And the fact that it’s not today is maybe more of a commentary on the people in academia today. I’m not sure, I don’t know. But I always take comfort from knowing that astrology was so integral in academic life in the past.
CB: No, that’s actually a really perfect point to make. Because the corollary with that is that it hasn’t been there for several centuries, and as a result of that for the most part, in the 20th century, major intellectuals or scientific researchers, or a Stephen Hawking or people like that are not the people researching astrology and trying to demonstrate it and prove its validity. What you’ve had for the most part is just hobbyists and people who have a variety of different backgrounds, often not necessarily college educated, or not educated in the sciences or history or other things like that who get into astrology and do the best they can to learn it and practice it effectively.
But then what happens with some of the scientific tests—and this has been some of the downside to the scientific test that I’ve seen—is that the academics and the scientists come to those people and they say, “Design a test for astrology,” and astrologers, for lack of a better term, don’t know what the fuck they’re doing in terms of designing a test for astrology, but those were some of the tests that I saw from the 1980s and stuff that they did. And so, one of the reasons that I’m personally not that concerned about the lack of the fact there have not been any scientific tests that have demonstrated the validity of astrology thus far because the ones that I’ve seen that have been designed so far are flawed both in the theory and practice of astrology not being very well fleshed out in the 20th century. And the training of both the astrologers and the scientists and what they were even attempting to accomplish weren’t that great either.
So I don’t think that necessarily preludes something in the future that might be more successful. But to the extent that we’re still recovering the tradition in the past 20 years, astrologers didn’t even take basic concepts or didn’t even understand where the houses came from, or where the aspect doctrine came from, or that there were these advanced techniques called time-lord systems, or weren’t even taking into account basic astronomical distinctions like sect—which is the difference between day and night charts—I really view a lot of the tests and things that were done in the 1970s and ‘80s with very little importance as a result of that because so little work had actually been done to work out the theory and the practice of astrology by that point. And so, a lot of that work still has to be done, but we’re still recovering and piecing together astrology and reconstructing and putting together what it is in its practice and working some of those things out. And once that work is finished then maybe it’s time to look at some of those questions again and see if astrologers can provide better answers to them.
KS: Yeah, that’s a really good point you make, and maybe that’s a happier note to finish on. I know you didn’t want to end on a down note.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good note to end on. All right, yeah, so I’ll put up links and different things on the description page for this episode if we have anything. If you find a link for the planetary speed thing then I’ll put that up.
CB: People of course can find out more information about you on your website, right?
KS: Yes, kellysastrology.com. I write a lot. So there’s a lot of articles there, plus a bunch of old lectures. And I think the one where I talk about planetary speed is called ‘Special Chart Inquiries’ where I’m looking specifically at rulers of the Midheaven, 10th house, and 7th house. But I’ll get that table ‘cause it’ll be good for people just to have that as a record, Chris. We can include that on the page for this podcast.
CB: Perfect. That would be awesome. Okay, cool. And people can of course find out more information about my work at chrisbrennanastrologer.com. You can subscribe to the podcast. Of course if you listen to us on iTunes, don’t forget to give us a good rating. And you can find out more information about how to subscribe at theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. So thanks a lot for joining me today, Kelly. That was awesome.
KS: Oh, my pleasure, Chris. It’s always lovely to connect and chat, so thanks for having me.
CB: All right. And thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.