The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 115, titled:
The Tropical Zodiac in Indian Astrology, with Vic DiCara
With Chris Brennan and guest Vic DiCara
Episode originally released on July 7, 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 April 13, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, starting just after 5:02 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 115th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit TheAstrologyPodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with astrologer Vic DiCara about the use of the tropical zodiac in Indian astrology. Vic, welcome to the show.
VIC DICARA: Thank you so much, Chris.
CB: All right, so this is a topic that actually came up last month. I interviewed Ernst Wilhelm and we had a brief digression at one point—since one of the things that Ernst is known for is his arguments and his use of the tropical zodiac in Indian astrology—and that caught some of my listeners a little bit off guard and we sort of glossed over the topic. But over the past month I saw some of the debates that you’ve been having on the subject and that you’ve talked quite a bit about it, so I wanted to have somebody on the show to talk about what the deal is with this, what the debate is about, and sort of outline it. Most of my audience is Western astrologers, but there’s obviously a lot of debate even in the Western tradition about the correct zodiac to use, so I thought you would be a good person to talk to about this debate in the Indian tradition. So where do we start? Where’s the starting point for you?
VD: That’s really hard, right? Where to start? I think the best place to start is probably with your epistemology ‘cause that’s a real problem amongst astrologers because in the old, old, old days there were really, really brilliant people doing astrology, like Ptolemy and Galileo and da Vinci, I don’t know. All the great scientists were doing astrology, so all the greatest minds were considering it, but I think since the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, it never really came back into focus. So it’s actually pretty hard to argue anything because people don’t have the training really, the intellectual training for a debate or logic or even just the epistemology. I wonder how many people even know what the word means.
CB: Sure. Maybe we should back up. How long have you been studying astrology, or has astrology been in your life?
VD: Directly on astrology, for 10 years.
CB: Okay. And somewhere around 2012, you said, that was when you sort of started studying this zodiac issue more deeply or when you actually decided to make the change to using the tropical zodiac instead of the sidereal zodiac, right?
VD: Right. It was exactly at the beginning of 2012.
CB: Okay. And just to set the context, I mean, it’s fair to say that at the present time the majority of practitioners of Indian astrology or Vedic astrology, or whatever term you want to use for it—what term do you prefer for it?
VD: Well, it’s just so awkward not to say ‘Vedic astrology’ because everybody calls it Vedic astrology, although it’s not Vedic astrology.
VD: It’s not Vedic astrology, ‘cause Vedic astrology is a real thing and what’s done by Vedic astrology is not that thing. But it’s just so commonly called Vedic astrology that it just seems like kind of a shame not to call it Vedic astrology. But you can call it anything you want—Indian astrology.
CB: Sure. I was watching an interview with Jeffrey Armstrong recently, who was actually taking credit for that renaming of Vedic astrology a few decades ago or something like that. Do you know if that’s true? I’m not actually familiar with what the history is.
VD: I’m like Saturn. You have a poster of Saturn behind you. You’re just looking also at Saturn right now. There’s so many people that say they invented everything; it was Al Gore that invented the internet or something.
CB: Sure, sure.
VD: So everybody invented everything. Who knows who invented it. I don’t really care either.
CB: But generally it’s probably more of a recent term that’s come into vogue because astrologers in India just called it Jyotish until recently.
VD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Obviously it’s got to be recent because it’s only been recently that Indian astrology has come into the English-speaking world, and it’s an English phrase. The actual term for it is Jyotish, which means ‘science of stars’. People love to just make everything super spiritual and say, ‘it’s the science of light’. It’s called ‘light’ because of the dots of light in the sky, the stars, those are called the jyotis. So it’s the Jyotish, ‘the science of the stars’.
CB: Got it, okay. And so, it’s fair to say that at the present point in time, the vast majority of practitioners of Indian astrology use the sidereal zodiac and the vast majority of Western astrologers use the tropical zodiac. So one of the things that interested me in this topic is that you’re part of a relatively small, but I do want to say growing group of practitioners of Indian astrology that use the tropical zodiac, right?
CB: Okay. What has that been like? I mean, that must have been a big change for you given that the majority of the current tradition—at least at the present time—of practitioners of Indian astrology—one thing that everybody knows—use the sidereal zodiac. So what prompted you to make that change?
VD: It’s also just karma and destiny. It’s just my nature that I never really fit into any group that I’m in.
VD: You know, I never really subscribe completely to somebody else’s idea. My nature is to analyze things, so nothing is ever 100% perfect. So what’s it been like? It’s been a real pain in the neck, to be honest with you. It’s a real pain in the neck to be part of a group but not fit in that group.
CB: Right. Actually it’s funny ‘cause that’s why I’m interested in this and I want to have another episode later this month contrasting another group. You’re a fringe group, which is within a fringe group, which is within another fringe group in that you’re an astrologer for one, so you’re already sort of on the fringes of society on some level. Then you’re a Western person, a person from the West, who practices Indian astrology, which at least in the Western astrological community would almost be another fringe group in some ways; I mean, I realize that’s arguable depending on where you’re at. But then within that, you’ve then joined a smaller fringe group where, compared to your other contemporaries, you’re using a different approach than they are essentially, right?
VD: Yeah, yeah. Everything about me—vegetarian in Japan, punk rocker, hardcore punk rocker, Hare Krishna—it’s like everything about me is like, “Who are you? You don’t fit here. Go away.”
CB: Sure. So that’s a recurring theme.
CB: When you first came across the argument—I came across the argument first about 10 or 12 years ago in the work of Ernst Wilhelm—he was the person who initially influenced your views on this, or that’s how you got started as well to some extent, right?
VD: He’s the one who exposed me to the idea.
CB: Okay. And what was that like initially? I mean, did you have reservations? I think it was his paper, right? It’s called “The Mystery of the Zodiac” or something like that.
VD: Yeah, this was back in 2007 or ‘08, so I was just doing as much reading as possible, and I was gobbling up all these books and having a real unsatisfying experience of reading a lot of books. The best book that I found was Light on Life.
CB: Yeah, by Hart Defouw and Robert Svoboda.
VD: Yeah, that was quite a good book. The rest of them were really hard to deal with. They were so disorganized and self-contradictory, and between each one, totally contradictory. Also, before I had come to astrology I had been practicing bhakti yoga and living in India and studying Sanskrit and all these things. So had this background already of expecting things to be logical because the Upanishads were all logical, the Vedic shastras are logical, everything’s logical. So I expected that Indian astrology would be similar, but it was all over the place and messy. And nobody was actually studying or quoting anything. Nobody was actually referring to any standard text, everybody was just giving their ideas. And that’s so antithetical to the Vedic nature. The Vedic nature is always you reference the Vedas, or you reference some authority, or you reference some expert.
CB: Sure. So there was more drawing on the contemporary tradition instead.
VD: Well, they were just drawing on their ideas. Everybody was coming up with new ideas ‘cause, “This works for me. This worked. This technique works.” It’s like people trying to practice medicine just by seeing what’s gonna work and not relying on what the previous doctors have discovered.
VD: So I was really taken aback by that. But then I found Ernst’s writing and he was actually looking at Sanskrit, like Graha Sutras. He published Graha Sutras, which are selected slokas from Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra, which is supposed to be the main astrological text for Indian astrology. And I thought, “Oh, this guy, at least I can relate to him. And I can see that he’s actually studying something, so I’ll take his ideas seriously.” But then somebody told me, “Yeah, but he’s crazy because he thinks that the zodiac is tropical.” And I said, “Ooh, that does sound pretty crazy, but the rest of the stuff he says is good.” Then it took about another three years—there was a pretty terrible event in my life, and I wasn’t able to foresee it at all. So I just reevaluated everything. Maybe this crazy idea from this guy, Ernst, who has no other crazy ideas—actually he has a few crazy ideas. He’s the most scholarly, reasonable person I’ve found. Maybe this so-called crazy idea of his has some weight. Let me see why he’s talking about this. So then I read that paper ‘cause I’m in contact with him directly. It’s not so hard to get in contact with people in astrology, the group is so small.
VD: And then I said, “What’s going on here?” And then he just said, “Yeah, look at Surya Siddhanta.” It’s just exactly the way that my mind operates. Refer me to an authentic statement. So he referred me to these authentic statements about the zodiac, defining the zodiac, and I said, “Oh, how can you argue with that?” Then I start to try it, and then I say, “Oh, look at that. I would have foreseen this event. This makes sense now. That thing I couldn’t get to work before. I couldn’t make sense out of this configuration before. Now it’s gone.”
CB: Mm-hmm. So do you feel like that did clarify that specific event that was the initial point for you?
CB: Okay. And what struck me when I read Ernst’s paper is that initially it seemed like a textual argument. It was an argument that after going back to the earliest texts, it seemed like they were defining the zodiac tropically much to everyone’s surprise. And part of his initial argument was almost like a purely textual argument that the earliest Indian tradition seemed to be using the tropical zodiac despite the assumption up to this point that it had always been sidereal.
VD: Which is important to Indian tradition. You see, Western people and modern Indian people are influenced by New Age philosophy. We’ll all be like, “Well, who cares? The text or the books—who cares about books?” It’s all what you think and what you feel and what works for you. But that’s fine, that’s a nice ‘New Age-y’ feeling. But that’s not the Vedic tradition. That’s not the Indian culture. The Indian culture is, what does it say in the Vedas? What does an authoritative expert on this subject say, an ancient rishi or something? What does a seer say about this? So just saying that it’s just a purely textual argument, to a Westerner’s mind, it seems like it’s irrelevant. But in the context of what Indian astrology is supposed to be, a purely textual argument is the most important argument to make.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I mean, that’s also the case I think in the West with traditional astrology. Typically, your starting is, what does the tradition say, what do the ancient sages or ancient masters of the art say, and that becomes more of a starting point. And usually that is more compelling to astrologers that are tied in with older or longer traditions vs. something that’s seen as new or an innovation often is viewed less authoritatively in contrast.
VD: Yeah, I agree.
CB: Sure. Okay, so what are some of the textual—I mean, I’m trying to make sure we outline this correctly, the scope of it. What are some of the textual arguments then? Because I’ve seen that you sort of endorse and point to some of the same texts that Ernst does in terms of substantiating this argument, right?
VD: Yeah, I mean, there’s not that many texts to point to. I mean, how many times do you need to define something? So the Surya Siddhanta defines the zodiac in one place. The Surya Siddhanta is really like the bible of Indian astronomy. And then there’s the Puranas. People who have no idea what the Vedas are about but pretend to be yogis and things, they’ll say, “Well, the Puranas are religious.” And there’s all this anti-religion phobia also as well. If anything sounds remotely religious or dogmatic then everybody runs away from it and is like, “How can you say that you’re right and somebody else is wrong?”
But the Puranas are not religious books. They’re not bibles and things like that. The Puranas are histories of Indian knowledge, records of Indian knowledge, and they have 10 key subjects. And one of the key subjects is astronomy. The configuration of the cosmos is one of the key subjects of the Puranas. So in almost all the Puranas you’ll find descriptions of the stars, the planets, etc., so they also give a definition of the zodiac. And the really important thing is that it’s not like you can pick out and you can find a tropical definition of a zodiac somewhere if you look for it—that’s the only thing you’ll find. You won’t find a sidereal definition of the zodiac anywhere in the Siddhanta or in the Puranas.
CB: I mean, one of the counterarguments that I sort of thought of when I was looking at that argument was just it seemed like the Surya Siddhanta was an astronomical text for one, but it was also from the Medieval period, and there seemed to be some back-feed from the Western traditions. So to what extent is that authentically representing what astrologers during that time period are doing vs. to what extent is that representing some possible Western astronomical theories that are influencing Indian astrology?
VD: That’s a good question. But then you come into this messy zone of like, okay, now you have to do your textual analysis, you have to get a critical edition of the text, right? And the way that any classical literature works is there’s no printing presses. The printing press is recent and then digital is like completely recent. So the way books actually used to work is they weren’t written in stone, literally, they were copied by people. And there were certain parts that would get updated and people would add in a comment here or there, so things weren’t unchangeable. So when you do textual analysis of things, what you’re really analyzing is what’s the most recent copy that we have of something, when did it stop getting changed. So you can date the Surya Siddhanta to a Medieval period, and you can find a Greek influence or this or that, here and there. It may have come in later, but that’s also gonna show you where this comes into India. If the tropical zodiac is an influence from another culture, that’s fine, but the Surya Siddhanta is the thing. It’s the place where it got codified, so it shows how the Indians were using it.
VD: Once they were influenced by it, it shows how they were using it.
CB: Right. Yeah, I mean, I guess that’s just the question. ‘Cause in the Western tradition it seems like there was some uncertainty for the first few centuries after Hipparchus, where Hipparchus’ discovery of precession wasn’t immediately adopted or endorsed by everybody. But it was just kind of like a theory and nobody was sure if it was correct, and the astrologers seemed to have not necessarily picked up on it fully until Ptolemy. And then Ptolemy becomes the first Western astrologer to both recognize that Hipparchus was right in the 2nd century, but also to explicitly adopt the tropical zodiac. Although he tries to say that he believes that this was the intention of the earlier founders of astrology as well in the Western tradition, we don’t know. That may or may not be the case. So one of the things that’s tricky in the Indian tradition is in the Western tradition, we’re able to look at charts, like birth charts, and see whether they’re calculating them tropically or sidereally. Do you know what the earliest charts are in the Indian tradition that survive in terms of that, where we can check and compare what zodiacs they’re using?
VD: No, but I’d like to say something. Can we come back to that exact question? Because in relation to what you said before, it is very, very interesting that the way that most of the world now knows about Indian-everything is because the British sent everybody to India and started explaining all this stuff in English. For example, Surya Siddhanta is Burgess. Ebenezer Burgess, I think, is the main translator; he’s a British person. And they were unabashedly condescending actually.
VD: Very rarely were they complimentary to the things they were explaining or translating about Indian culture, so a lot of times they ignore things or pick out a flaw where it doesn’t really need to be there. So they doubt—the British translators doubted that the Indians exactly knew about precession, but it’s obvious that they knew something about the reference point from the solar point of view, from the tropical point of view, from the length of days and nights and that drifting in relation to the stars. The reason why that’s obvious from very, very early times—the earliest record that we have is Rig Veda, which is like 3-5,000 years old. So the undeniable proof there is that they say that Krttika, the Pleiades, is the first of the stars—you know, Krttika’s the first—but then in later texts they change it to the Ashwini, which are some little stars in Aries.
So they’re changing; they’re updating their concept of what’s the beginning and what’s the end. And also, if you look in the Puranas, they say you need to draw a line from celestial north through the two stars of the Big Dipper. I’m not sure which ones they are; the two that rise first. I know them in Sanskrit: Kratu and Pulaha. Through these two stars you draw a line from the North Pole—not the North Star, but the North Pole—and where it falls on the ecliptic, that changes as centuries progress. Because the North Pole is what trepidates—it doesn’t trepidate, but it’s what precesses.
VD: So they know about the Earth’s tilts moving. And the reason why the British didn’t like this was because they call it ‘trepidation’. They said it wasn’t exactly precession, it was trepidation because they seemed to think that it moves forward and then comes back, whereas precession is just it goes around like this, right?
CB: Right. That it’s constant forward movement rather than something that oscillates back and forth, which was one of the ancient theories.
VD: But the ancient theory of moving back and forth is based on the North Pole going through the Big Dipper. That will trepidate because it’s like a retrogression thing.
VD: So they just didn’t figure it out enough. But the ancient Indians did know about precession of equinoxes. They didn’t measure it so much by how it’s progressing along the whole circle, but they measured it by this line going through the Saptarishis through the Big Dipper. But the question about the ancient charts—that’s also a big problem because, like I said in the beginning, there is such a thing as Vedic astrology but it has nothing to do with the stuff that we’re doing today.
CB: Yeah, it’s not horoscopic astrology, or it’s not using birth charts, right?
VD: Right. So the real old stuff doesn’t talk about people.
CB: I mean, that’s a controversial point, though, in the Indian community. I mean, one of the issues when it comes to debates is there’s a debate about how old Indian astrology is, how far back it goes, does it have any reliance or influence from other traditions, and did it exist in the Vedas; does it go all the way back to 3000 BC, or what have you.
VD: Yeah, well, it definitely does.
CB: The entire thing does, or parts of it?
VD: Parts of it do. The Vedas are textual, right? It’s transmission of knowledge and words. So when you’re gonna use words, you have to supply people with a whole bunch of other things to know how to understand the words. So the Vedas come with these six appendices; they’re called Vedangas. They’re things like how do you pronounce these words (that’s one of the appendices), how do you sing these things, what’s the meter, what’s the poetry (that’s the second appendix), what do words mean, dictionaries and things like (that’s the third appendix), how do words go together; that’s grammar (that’s the fourth appendix). And then there’s two more appendices for when you do these things. The Vedas are telling you how to do these actions to get certain results. When do you do them?
And there’s just two more appendices. Two of the six appendices are about that. One is called Kalpa, which means when something happens, when you have a certain decision, when you have a certain event in your life, do this. And then the other one is called Jyotisha. When the calendar is a certain way, when it’s a certain time, do this. And that’s Vedic astrology. The right time to do this kind of an activity is now or not now or then, and it’s based on the Moon and the 27 nakshatras—27 fixed stars, 27 lunar mansions—and the Sun is involved. And the relationship between the Sun and the Moon is important. The rest of the planets, the five starry planets don’t play a big role, are hardly even mentioned. The rashis don’t play a big role. They’re hardly even mentioned; they’re not mentioned.
CB: Right. I mean, there was some argument about a ‘wheel with 12 spokes’ or something like that that I think David Frawley makes about trying to attribute knowledge of the zodiac or of natal astrology to the Vedas based on that, but it’s really kind of thin.
VD: No, it’s cool. It’s true. They have it. Everybody knows that there’s 12 months in a year. I mean, practically everybody looks at it that way. It’s just some people that have nine months instead or they use different cycles, but practically every culture says, “Oh, there’s 12 months in a year,” because the Moon goes full 12 times, more or less, in the course of a year. So we divide it into 12 and then you can measure time based on that, and that’s what rashis are. They have a calendar based on that. It’s a different kind of calendar. It’s a calendar for different kinds of ceremonies: planting ceremonies, harvesting ceremonies, things like that. But the old Vedanga Jyotisha was like, “When the Moon is in this nakshatra, do this or do that.”
CB: Right. So the indigenous ancient astrology of India is the nakshatras. And something that you and all the tropicalists agree is, sidereal, is based on specific stars, right?
VD: Right. See, that’s pretty amazing too. Western astrology, as far as I know, already has this idea that there’s fixed stars and then there’s zodiac signs, and the fixed stars are at a certain point in relation to the zodiac. But that’s true today, and in 5,000 years it’ll be in a different place. Aldebaran will be in a different place in 5,000 years relative to the zodiac, relative to Taurus, relative to wherever it is right now, right? So that’s already a concept that’s in Western astrology. It’s just the same concept. We just realized that nakshatras are the fixed stars, they are the stars. Aldebaran is Rohini. That’s the yogatara, that’s the main star for Rohini.
CB: Sure. And the assumption I guess that’s often been made is that because the Indian tradition had the strong sidereal component with the nakshatras, that almost provided a premise for why they could’ve or would’ve stayed sidereal, whereas in the Western tradition, once precession started leading the zodiacs to diverge, some of the Western astrologers went tropical for whatever reason. Perhaps they didn’t have anything holding them back to that sidereal reference point, whereas maybe in the Indian tradition they did with the nakshatras. But you’ve argued that the zodiac should be seen as separate from the nakshatras, and that even the way that both sidereal and tropical astrologers conceptualize the zodiac is not completely aligned with the constellations, but instead it’s just an idealized division of 12, right?
VD: Right, right. And that’s where the complication comes in because you have to relate stars to signs if you want to do anything with the stars because it’s very, very difficult to measure where stars are. In old books there’s all kinds of errors all the time. And even today, NASA uses tropical coordinates for things. It’s so much more easy to get an accurate measurement from a tropical system. So that’s why you have Ayanamsa because you measure everything tropical and then you have to convert it to know how does this particular pertain to stars. So I think that’s why it becomes confusing because you’re gonna have definitions in books that say, for example, “bhacakra-nābhau visuvad dvitiyam samasūtragam.” “This circle of stars, the core, the nabhi—the core of the circle of stars is a line drawn between the two equinoxes,” bam. The core of the zodiac is the line that’s drawn between the two equinoxes. And then, “ayana dvitayan,” and also, “through the two solstices.”
CB: And that’s from the Surya Siddhanta?
VD: Siddhanta. Yeah, so there’s the tropical definition. But then you also hear in the same book, “And Aries begins with Ashwini,” and then they’ll start to say something like that. So in this one there’s these two statements where Aries begins when the Sun crosses the equator heading north, and then in the same book they Aries begins with Ashwini.
CB: So is that indicating some confusion or some nebulousness? ‘Cause one of the things you pointed out is the further back in the tradition you go, the less of a difference there would be due to precession, that precession would be less. So perhaps there could have been some confusion, or they could have used one placement or another and either not recognize the difference or the difference may not have made a big difference at that point.
VD: I don’t think it’s a confusion. I think it’s a necessity. Like I said, you have to map the stars to the rashis. You need to do calculations. So in one place we define what the rashis are, and now we describe the relationship between the rashis and the nakshatras.
CB: Why do you need to connect the rashis, or the signs of the zodiac, with the fixed stars at all?
VD: Because how do you measure fixed stars without coming from tropical measurements? All of the measurements are based on the lagna.
CB: I mean, with the tropical you just establish the equinoxes and the solstices and then you’re done. You can measure the zodiac, right?
VD: Right. Now that’s very easy. You have your grid of 360°. To measure stars it requires all this equipment, with these angle measures and all these things, and you get it wrong anyway. That’s why there’s so much error, even in Surya Siddhanta, about trying to measure where these stars are. There’s an error of 1°-4° conspicuous everywhere ‘cause it’s really hard to do measurements by eye to the stars. So it’s much easier to do it from a tropical point of view.
CB: Okay, right.
VD: If you want to know about the nakshatras, where they start and where they end, the easiest way to do it is just describe it relative to the tropical scheme of 360°. So that’s why they have Ayanamsa so that you can translate between one and the other.
CB: Now I understand the point you’re making. The point you’re making is that even when modern or contemporary Indian astrologers calculate the sidereal placements, they’ll first calculate the tropical placements and then they’ll offset for where the sidereal placements are relative to that. And that’s what the Ayanamsa is. It’s a calculation of how much you do an offset relative to the tropical zodiac.
VD: Right, right. And so, that’s why in old books there’s gonna be a statement that’s saying, “This is the Ayanamsa,” when they say, “Hey, Aries and Ashwini.” That’s like saying, “That’s the Ayanamsa right now.”
VD: And those kinds of statements would be the ones that would get updated when people would copy a book. “Oh, this is no longer true. Let’s change it.” And that’s why in some of the old texts that have survived, you don’t hear about Ashwini being the first one; you hear about Krttika being the first one. But then after a certain point printing presses came. And even before that the Dark Ages came. People kind of forgot what’s supposed to be updated, what’s not supposed to be updated, what’s a statement that’s just an observation vs. what’s a statement that’s a definition.
CB: Sure. I mean, you do acknowledge that for probably the past several hundred years the sidereal zodiac has been the primary zodiac used in India, right?
VD: Certainly. Definitely.
CB: Okay, so your argument though is just that you think in the earliest textual tradition that wasn’t the case, and then there’s sort of separate practical argument in terms of how you feel that that’s more effective just in terms of your personal practice as well.
VD: Yeah. Yeah, see, the thing is I would just let people do their own thing. I mean, why would I care if somebody wants to do sidereal zodiac? It doesn’t bother me.
VD: But there’s just this problem or politics in the world when you’re a great teacher, and you’re the leader of such-and-such organization, and then some Joe comes around and says, “But ‘so-and-so’ over there says you’re wrong,” even though ‘so-and-so’ over there doesn’t bother saying that you’re wrong, ‘so-and-so’ just does it different. Or the guy says, “Hey, teacher, great ‘Guru-ji’, ‘Joe Schmoe’ down the block says it’s different than what you say.” So then what happens is great ‘Guru-ji’ says, “Well, that guy down the block is just a jerk. He’s completely wrong.” So that’s what bugs me.
CB: Sure. So that’s where some of the debates come in. ‘Cause the tricky issue is when you’re dealing with techniques like this, or what are essentially conceptual or technical disputes, it becomes very personal very quickly because astrologers both sort of pattern their lives and their views of their own lives on their charts, but also because that represents the system that they use on a day-to-day basis. And essentially if you’re arguing that the zodiac in one tradition is not one way but it’s supposed to be another, it sort of implies that you think that some people are using the wrong zodiac or something to that extent. And so, people get defensive or they want to defend their practice.
VD: Right. And then I get defensive ‘cause I’m also a human being. But the thing is you can use the wrong zodiac, that’s fine. ‘Cause let’s be honest, first of all, a lot of astrology is not math. A lot of astrology is your intuition, your feelings. A lot of astrology is just being a therapist and being somebody for people to talk to, being somebody who’s gonna listen to somebody and say something kind to somebody. That’s a good part of being a great astrologer. It has nothing to do with your calculation of this or that. And then even if you go with the calculations, even if you change the beginning of Aries, there’s still a lot of things that don’t change.
CB: Sure, like the nakshatras. If you’re using them sidereally those stay the same, and even some of your timing techniques that are based on that stay the same, right?
VD: Yeah, and other interesting things too, like the relationship between the planets. The geometric relationship between the planets doesn’t change. You’re changing them all the same amount, so all your aspects between planets stay the same. Or at least they hold their own with a lot of integrity; they stay pretty much the same. The relationship of planets to the Ascendant is gonna stay the same, ‘cause the Ascendant’s gonna move also. Everything’s moving the same amount, so a lot of things stay the same. That’s why it’s kind of uncanny how you can almost just interpret a chart, either one, sidereal or tropical.
CB: Sure. And that becomes part of your rationale for why what you view as an error in the tradition has sort of persisted for so long. Because in many major instances it might not make a huge difference, or there may be ways to still use the system effectively without essentially using the ‘correct’ zodiac from your viewpoint.
VD: Yeah, and then I think it also leads to—what do you call it? Endemic? Pandemic? I don’t know. I come from a more Vedic background. I didn’t go into astrology—astrology was not my first foray into the Indian world; it’s my latest one. So it’s disturbing for me actually to see this endemic of, “Well, we don’t care about what the Vedas say. We don’t care what they say. We do what works.” ‘Cause what happens if you start calculating something wrong then you have to stop caring about what the classics say because you have to still make it work, so you have to have the freedom to adjust things. So you’ll find a lot of what they say about planets is mushy.
They’ll always say, “Oh, but Mars debilitated is great.” Well, what do you mean Mars debilitated? It goes completely against the whole theory of debilitation. You’re gonna say Mars debilitated is great because it’s not really debilitated; it’s supposed to be in Leo. But you’re saying it’s in Cancer, but you’re making it work, so you’re inventing some new theory. It’s the cancellation of debilitation because this quadrant of that, and this didn’t happen, and that’s why this is not the way it’s expected to be. Or actually it’s not so bad that it’s debilitated because ‘blah, blah, blah’. So I think by having the wrong calculations then it just sends the whole thing into this spiral where it’s like, “Let’s just do whatever works.” Whatever works. Now it’s not a system anymore. It’s not a science anymore.
CB: Right. So you feel like the system may have been partially changed or adapted in order to make up for this change that’s become more and more substantial over the course of the past thousand years or so.
VD: Yeah. People are saying that the 9th house is the father and not the 10th house.
CB: ‘Cause Andrew Foss—I should actually mention him just because how I found this was your response to his article. He wrote an article in the March 2017 issue of the British Association for Vedic Astrology Journal where he criticized—he didn’t actually name—but the assumption was that he was referring to Ernst Wilhelm. But he just sort of did a blanket criticism of tropical users of Indian astrology basically where he brought up several points, and then you did a video responding to that, and that’s actually how I first came across this again after not following it for about 10 years. And one of the points that he brought up is that he said—maybe you could actually explain what his point was and then what your counterpoint was.
VD: Yeah, well, to be fair to him, I think what he’s actually trying to say is to separate that nakshatras from the rashis is bogus. I think he’s got a caveat that if you want to use tropical zodiac, that’s fine, we love you too. But if you want to separate nakshatras from rashis, that’s not fine, we can’t tolerate that.
CB: Right. ‘Cause one of his issues is there’s been a lot of rationalizations about why the zodiac signs mean certain things in Indian astrology that are tied in with the nature of certain nakshatras and their alignment with the zodiac. So for him, unhinging the two or removing the two from alignment is a major problem conceptually.
VD: Right, right. So for example, the thing that he brings up is Magha. Magha is this nakshatra of ancestors, pitri, but its symbol is a throne because it’s about what you inherit. This nakshatra is about inheriting power, and in the sidereal system it’s at the end of Leo.
VD: So he says that’s why Leo is Leo because it has Magha in it. That’s his way of thinking. But what about those other nakshatras in it? It also has other nakshatras that aren’t Magha.
CB: Sure. And what was the 9th house thing?
VD: What about those parts of Leo? Anyway, my point to that is, isn’t it because the Sun owns Leo that Leo is Leo? The Sun owns Leo, and it’s fire and it’s fixed. You have to bring Magha.
CB: Right. Astrologers often have different and sometimes overlapping rationalizations for why certain things mean certain things. And when it comes to debates like this, a lot of those get drawn out and there’s often a question of what is the actual original motivation or rationale for this meaning. Was there just one, or were there multiple? Which one was more relevant?
VD: That’s why I started off by saying epistemology is so important. Now you have two contesting ideas and you have to have a system for how you’re gonna evaluate them.
VD: And the system that I would suggest—because it’s accepted by all scientific institutions—is simpler solutions are better. Simpler solutions are better and things which don’t have contradictions are better than things which do.
CB: Sure. So your objection then is there’s a contradiction there. If you’re just focusing on the nature of one nakshatra in Leo, you’re ignoring the other two, and that’s a bit of an issue.
VD: Yeah. And also, you’re contradicting definitions. In order to say that Leo is Leo because Magha’s in it, you have to contradict the Surya Siddhanta and the Puranas, which say that Leo is Leo because it—what is it? It’s the second sign after the Sun gets to its most northerly point.
CB: Right. Otherwise, at least in the northern hemisphere, it corresponds with the height of summer, although that’s something that you object to. There’s a bit of a debate there that I noticed that was interesting because Foss was trying to say that the tropical zodiac still has some usage when it comes to talking about the weather or the seasons.
CB: But you responded saying you don’t think the zodiac has anything to do with the seasons because you’re aware of the issue of having to reverse it in the northern and southern hemisphere, and that’s something that you want to avoid.
VD: Well, obviously they have something to do with seasons because it’s the progression of the Sun through the months of the months of the year. So obviously the weather changes, but that’s not the core of what the signs are. The core of what the signs are is what planet owns it, what element is it made of, and what modality does the Sun have while it’s in it. Modality means what direction does it move, what kind of movement does it have. Is it cardinal, fixed, or dual? And the fourth factor could be what sequence is it in from the starting point. Those are the four essential components of what makes a sign a sign.
In the northern hemisphere, there’s different kinds of weather, and in India, it’s the rainy season. It’s not a hot season. Am I right? I think I’m right. You’ve got to check this. I might get my facts, my details wrong, but what I’m basically saying is there’s no permanent correlation of specific weather to specific signs. It’s all different in different places in the world. What the signs really are is the Sun’s going north and south of the equator. Regardless of where you are on the globe, the Sun goes north and south of the equator. And because of that it has a different relationship to cardinal directions, because of that it has different relationships to elements associated with those directions, and because of that it has different modes of movement. And then you just have the Sun taking the most northerly point. It takes the most northerly point, which is fixed and fire. Not exactly the most northerly point, but it takes the point that it likes to most. Kings like the highest point. And then the rest of the planets just line up in their order of speed underneath him, taking rulership of the signs. So that’s a simple, simple description of the zodiac.
CB: Sure. I mean, the way that you presented in your video was almost—I don’t want to say purely numerological—but there was almost like a numerological component to it in some sense, in terms of thinking more in terms of sequences and things like that rather than tying it directly or closely into seasons.
VD: Yeah, why should you tie it into seasons? It’s like saying, “Smoking causes cancer, so cancer is part of what builds a cigarette.” Cancer’s not what builds a cigarette. Cigarettes are made of tobacco and they have an effect that causes cancer. So the rashis might have this effect that it’s coincident with the beginning of summer in some part of the world, but that’s not what makes the rashi what it is; it’s something that’s coincident with it.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s been the debate or something that we’ve talked about on the podcast a few times. On the one hand, you do have authors like Ptolemy in the 2nd century explicitly saying that because the days are the longest when the Sun moves into Cancer and Leo that the two luminaries, or the two lights, are assigned to those two signs of the zodiac—one to a feminine sign and the other to a masculine sign—and then the rest of the planets are assigned in zodiacal order from there. So there’s almost some sort of rationale that’s very much tied into what is essentially a seasonal component. But then there could be this other rationale that has to do with the amount of light that’s being emitted or things like that, but it still runs into some issues in terms of the hemispheres.
VD: Yeah, so he expressed it like that in terms of the longest day, but the way I just expressed it was it’s the most northerly point. Kings go to the highest point. The royalty goes to the highest point.
CB: That makes sense because the question then is what would make, for example, Aries a viable starting point in both the northern and southern hemispheres. I guess from that perspective you’re arguing what makes 0° Cancer and the 1° of Leo the points to assign the two luminaries to, and that would be your argument for that.
VD: It’s almost exactly what Ptolemy says except instead of saying it’s because the days are longest—which could be even a translation error—it could mean this is the highest point.
VD: I don’t know Greek or whatever it was written in, so I can’t say. But what I’m saying is this is the highest point, so the king goes there.
VD: He doesn’t go exactly to the highest point ‘cause he likes fire better than water, it’s ‘cause he’s the Sun, so he goes to the closest place that he likes.
CB: Right. I mean, do you use ‘masculine’? You use ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ signs as well, right? It’s like ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ in the Yavanajataka.
VD: Yeah, fire is the most masculine, and air is a little bit less masculine. Water is the most feminine, and earth is a little less so. And then as for Aries, 0° Aries, this is the most important point. When you have a circle, circles are infinite. So where does a circle start and end? That’s why it’s confusing. The zodiac is a circle. So where does it start, where does it end?
VD: Well, you’ve got to pick a spot. You should pick a reasonable spot. It’s the same thing as a year. Where does a year start? Where does a year end? That’s the same question. Where does a day start? Where does a day end? So things begin when they become visible to us. Things begin when the Sun comes up. That’s our basic symbolic association to a beginning. Sunrise—the Sun coming over the horizon is something beginning. Now we can see things. They become real. So what you have in terms of a day is the day begins. Astrologically, it doesn’t begin at midnight. Astrologically, the day begins with sunrise. And then a year—or the zodiac, which is a measurement of the year—begins when the Sun rises, when the Sun comes over the Earth’s equator, heading up.
VD: North doesn’t just mean north towards New York, north means up. South means down. So you’ve got the plane of the Sun relative to the Earth, so now you’ve got a sense of up and down ‘cause you’ve got a plane and something else like this. So the Sun comes up and goes down. When the Sun comes up over that plane that’s like the sunrise, right? So that’s what they’ll say in mysterious ways in the Puranas. They’ll say that the beings who dwell on the Moon, in this higher realm, they have a day which lasts for six months and a night which lasts for six months—that’s what they’re talking about. There’s another kind of day which is six-months-long and a night which is six-months-long. It’s when the Sun rises up over the ecliptic, or the equator. When the Sun rises over the equator then it becomes daytime and that year the day starts. That’s the point of Aries. That’s the vernal equinox, as we call it by convention, but it’s just the northerly equinox; the ‘upwards’ equinox.
CB: Sure. That makes sense.
VD: And that should be the start point.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that provides an actual conceptual rationale for why you would want to use the vernal equinox as the starting point of the zodiac vs. the other equinox.
CB: I know we’re running out of time here, so I want to make sure I get in some questions from some of my sidereal friends or listeners who might have objections. So let’s see, what would some of those be? I mean, what if the textual argument was removed? What if it turned out that the textual argument was not there? Do you think that would change your mind or do anything significant to remove your adoption of this argument? If it turned out that the Indian astrologers, let’s say, as early as the 7th century CE, were using the sidereal zodiac for the rashis, would that change things? Or is it really more of a practical consideration at this point, or is it both?
VD: No, with epistemology there’s three things to consider. There’s shabda, or your ‘source of information’, which is like a text. Then there’s anumana, which means ‘logic’. The text has to conform with logic; it has to be comprehensible to logic. And then there’s pretyaksha, which means ‘experience’. The experience will be fuzzy if the logic and the education are not there. If you start from pretyaksha, if you start from experience, you come up with anything; anything that works.
VD: But if you start from text then you understand it logically and then you can see it very clearly. So if you remove the text, you still have logic. So here’s the logic: Why are there 12 signs? Why aren’t there 15? Why aren’t there 53? Why are they equally-sized? People will say, “Well, look, there’s 12 constellations in the sky.” Well, why are there 12 there? ‘Cause somebody picked it? ‘Cause some fanciful guy said, “Look, there’s a Virgin?” And there’s not 12. There’s 13. I forgot the other one that I can’t even pronounce. Ophiuchus?
VD: And then you’ve got this other question of why are they equal-sized? Virgo’s, what, 48° or something?
CB: Yeah, the actual constellation of 48° is actually huge.
VD: It’s huge. And Pisces is also ginormous.
CB: Yeah, and Aries and Cancer, I think, are much smaller.
VD: Yeah, and if you look at Scorpio, if you include the ‘Ophiuchus’ guy, the 13th one, then Scorpio got squished down to 7.
VD: So it’s not because they’re stars—that’s my first logic. The second logic is why are there modes? Why is the Sun cardinal in one place, fixed in another, and dual in another place? This is only explainable in relation to the equinoxes and the solstices. Why are there elements in certain places? This is only explainable relative to the cardinal directions, which is only explainable relative to the northern/southern solstices and then the upwards-and-downwards equinoxes. So many of the key points of what makes the rashis the rashis—the elements and the modes and the very nature of why they’re 12 and why they’re 30° each—has no logical basis if it’s just ‘connect-the-dot’ stars, but it has a very compelling logical basis if it’s all based on equinoxes and solstices. So even if you take out the text, the argument is even stronger actually.
CB: Sure. And it’s like I don’t object as a tropical astrologer myself, but I want to make sure that I’m not letting you get away without debating some of the points that maybe a siderealist would make if they were on the show right now. And I think as a follow-up to this, I’ll probably interview Kenneth Bowser who’s a Western astrologer that argues for the sidereal zodiac. And I know you’ve responded to some of his arguments because then he would be coming at it from the other perspective, trying to make the best arguments he can. I can already anticipate one of the arguments that he would make.
He’ll argue—and most Western siderealists will argue—that the zodiac originated as sidereal in the Mesopotamian or Babylonian tradition with those constellations that were first recognized, where the planets would move through them on the ecliptic. And there were 18 of them or what have you originally, and then by the 5th century, they were standardized to contain 12 signs of 30° each. And he’ll argue that because they were already sidereal in the Babylonian tradition that it was a mistake or an unfortunate change that happened later when astrologers switched to using the tropical zodiac at some point and divorced themselves from the constellations. I mean, I guess we’ve heard part of your response to that. I mean, is there any other response that you would make outside of what you’ve already said?
VD: It seems to me—because I’m not an expert on the MUL.APIN and all that stuff—but it seems to me that it’s very similar to the ‘nakshatra-rashi’ situation. If they didn’t have 12 constellations then they weren’t talking about rashis, they were talking about stars. They had 18 constellations.
CB: Sure, originally. Although by the 5th century BCE, by the time they developed natal astrology, they were using 12 signs of 30° each.
CB: So by the 5th century BCE.
VD: So where did they come up with 12 signs of 30° each? Why didn’t they stick with their 18?
CB: Right. I mean, that is one of the million-dollar questions? The academics usually say it was just a convenient measuring choice, but usually most astrologers would say that there was a deeper symbolic or divinatory meaning to that or attribution to those 12 sectors.
VD: To me, it just seems like it’s very, very similar to the Vedic situation. The original thing that they were doing was looking at stars because if you want to do astrology, it’s not so exciting to do it during the day.
VD: You can’t see nothing but clouds and blue sky, but at night you see stars. So in India, they’re looking at the Moon relative to stars, and probably they were doing a similar thing in other parts of the world too. You look at stars when you look at the sky. So your first system, or the system that you rely on the most, is the system that has to do with sidereal things, stellar things. And then you start to think about how you measure things more accurately and what not, then you start to put cones on the ground and measure shadows and come up with equinoxes, and then you come to a different way of thinking about things. Now we’re measuring from the Sun’s movements relative to the Earth. Now the question is, are they the same? Are these measurements the same? And then over time, or maybe since whatever, they realize that it’s not the same.
CB: Right. I mean, when do you think that they did realize that it’s not the same? I mean, when do you acknowledge that the Indian astrologers probably did go sidereal by that specific point in time?
VD: It seems like it’s been for about 1,300-1,700 years.
CB: So since the time of Varahamihira, like the 7th century or so? 7th century CE?
VD: It may have been always because, like you said, you have books like Yavanajataka, and then you have Tajik Neelakanthi and things like that, which are obviously coming from other cultures in their very name. There’s the name of the country that they come from. Tajik is Persia and Yavana is like the Mediterranean area. So these are like very, very seminal texts of the first time that you have natal astrology in India. So maybe just right from the beginning, as soon as they started doing rashi things, they just correlated it to their nakshatras and stuck with that.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s always been my assumption. But I guess that’s why I’ve been interested in this argument that Ernst made, and now more and more people like yourself are making, that perhaps there was this tropical component early on. And you guys do point to some of these interesting things, like a reference in the Yavanajataka, or a reference in an astronomical text, like the Surya Siddhanta, where they may have been defining things tropically like some of the Western astrologers were doing. And then there is the question of what does that mean? Does that mean some of the astrologers were doing tropical? Does that mean it’s just the astronomers that are sometimes defining things tropically, but the astrologers are doing things sidereally? That’s kind of the question I’m curious about.
VD: Well, astronomy and astrology didn’t become divorced until one became silly and the other remained scientific. They used to be the same thing. You would have to calculate your chart before you could interpret it. So whatever an astronomer would be calculating would be what an astrologer’s gonna be looking at. It’s not like they’re two different disciplines.
CB: I mean, maybe. At least in the Western tradition, you do sometimes have astronomers, just like today, who are doing astronomy just purely for the calculation vs. sometimes there are astrologers who are about the interpretive art.
VD: That today, though, right?
CB: Well, I mean, even in the Western tradition, in the 4th century there’s a reference in one of the astronomers, Theon of Alexandria who lived around 415—who seems to be really interested in doing the calculations—but he says astrologers would go to him to learn how to use Ptolemy’s tables so that they could calculate birth charts, and that they weren’t really well-versed in the mathematical astrology. So there may have been a diverse division between the astrologers and astronomers much earlier than we sometimes think just because they are sometimes different practices.
VD: Yeah, sure.
CB: As soon as you have the invention of an ephemeris you don’t necessarily have to be able to observe the stars in order to calculate them because you have tables that’ll tell you where the planets are. So at that point astronomy and astrology could at least theoretically start diverging.
VD: Sure, you have specialists. People would specialize in this and specialize in that. But who’s writing the ephemeris that the astrologers are using? The astronomers.
VD: Astrology is always based on interpreting astrological calculation—reverse that. Astrology is always based on interpreting astronomical calculations.
CB: Right. But just to play devil’s advocate, just as modern astronomers define 0° of Aries as the vernal equinox—even though they don’t believe that has any actual relevance—they’re just using that as a reference framework. I could see somebody making the argument that whichever astronomer wrote the Surya Siddhanta a thousand years ago also was just using that as a reference or a framework and that may not necessarily, unless you have it in a specific astrological text, reflect what the astrologers were doing, so I could just at least see that as an argument that somebody could make.
VD: Yeah, well, I think it’s wrong to say that the Surya Siddhanta is not an astrological text. In India, astrology is thought of as having three components: ganita, hora, and nimmita. So ganita is the science part. The astronomy part is Ganita Jyotish. And then the hora part is the interpretive stuff, but it’s also calculative interpretation. Like all the formulas for calculating dignity, prominence, bala, strength, all this stuff. And nimmita, it means how you just interpret things with intuition using the intuition. So astrology has three components in the Indian mind—intuition, interpretation, and calculation—and they’re not divorced. People want to say they’re divorced because if somebody disagrees with you, you say, “Well, they’re irrelevant.” They’re not irrelevant. Astrology’s based on astronomy, and astronomy is a part of astrology. It’s the foundation of astrology. It’s like if you’re saying, “I’m a tarot card reader, but I don’t use tarot cards.”
CB: Right. Yeah, you made that point in a comment. I forget what you were responding to, but it was actually a really good point. Do you remember what you originally made that point in reference to?
VD: Yeah, just to people saying that Surya Siddhanta’s not about astrology, it’s about astronomy, and “We’re a super science. We don’t rely on science, we rely on our intuition.” You have to rely on all three.
CB: Right, that was it. You were responding to some people who said you were focusing too much on the calculations and astrology’s not about that; it’s about something bigger. It’s not just science; it’s bigger than science. And so, you responded saying, no, calculation is important because if you were to attempt to read tarot cards without having a deck of cards, you have nothing.
VD: Yeah, all three have to be there. You definitely need intuition, it’s so important. And a whole bunch of other things like manners, caring, heart, love—that’s all totally important. And then you also need some system of interpretation—that’s hora. Like what system will you use to sort out all these symbols? How are you gonna prioritize them, and which ones are you gonna look at first? And then you need calculations. If one of those three is missing then you’re weak. You’re like an animal without all its legs.
CB: And, I mean, just returning back to that point though, do you feel like most modern astrologers, most contemporary astrologers have sufficient background in the astronomy of how planetary motions and other things work to calculate a chart?
VD: No, and that’s what also makes this really hard. People will get into arguments about things that they’re not qualified to get into arguments about, and then when I say that I look like a big jerk, like a big pompous jerk. But I’m just saying you shouldn’t get into an argument about something that you’re not qualified to argue. Like it would be silly for me to argue the Greek in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos ‘cause I don’t know anything about Greek. So people who don’t even know what sidereal means—like what does this Latin word ‘sidereal’ mean? It means ‘stars’. And what does ‘tropical’ mean? It means ‘turning’; how the Sun turns or moves in a circle. Or what does nakshatra mean? It means ‘stars’. And what does rashi mean? It doesn’t mean stars. It means a bunch of light.
CB: Sure. If you agree that that’s the case now, at what point do you feel like that became the case where astrologers weren’t necessarily proficient in astronomy, or not necessarily astronomers?
VD: Well, I don’t know. I think I just got a good idea from you ‘cause you just said if you go all the way back to ephemeris, as soon as somebody publishes an ephemeris, you don’t have to do it yourself.
CB: Yeah, I’ve sort of argued that that’s the point at which astrology and astronomy started diverging and that it was much earlier than we usually assume it was. We assume because you have figures like Ptolemy who was a famous astronomer, as well as an astrologer, and wrote books on both, that all of the astrologers were fully proficient in both, but I’ve been surprised that that may not always have been the case.
VD: Yeah. But you’ve done charts by hand?
VD: Your mind gets sharpened by trying to do that. So even that, having an ephemeris, it seems like, “Oh, no, now you’re not an astronomer anymore.” But even if you just use an ephemeris, you have to do a lot of math, and you have to have a lot of patience, and you have to follow systems and have a logical mind to be able to just calculate a chart. So it would be great if people would even just go back to using an ephemeris. That would make everything a lot more scientific and logical.
CB: Right. Yeah.
VD: But now we have programs. And that’s the whole thing that got me into this thing with Andrew Foss ‘cause he just said that he released a new edition of his software. So I just asked him, “Did you put in the option to make the rashis independent from the nakshatras?” And he said, “No, I don’t believe in that. See this article.” And I just thought, “Man, you won’t even put this in.” People who write astrology software don’t have to believe in every option that they put in their software. You put it in just in case. You have astrology software, you should enable research, right? So I just thought, wow, that’s really weird.
CB: So that was the genesis of that whole back-and-forth between you and him?
VD: Yeah. Like you’re so against this that you won’t even consider it, or allow other people to consider it?
CB: Sure. And so, taking this position strongly has had actual ramifications for you just in terms of your relationship with other Vedic astrologers.
VD: Yeah, how did you know that?
CB: I mean, I’ve seen some discussion recently about some of your videos and stuff, just in terms of people seem to have very strong reactions either in support or against what you’re saying, and it’s very rarely somewhere in the middle.
VD: I wish it was about what I was saying. That would be awesome. I would be so turned on by that. But it’s not about what I’m saying, it’s just about me, which is such a joke. Who cares about me? I’m gonna be dead in a couple of years. Or maybe hopefully in a couple of years—but who cares about me? Sure, I’m abrasive, whatever. I have Mercury in whatever. My Mercury is really, really strong and harsh, fine. I apologize for that or whatever, or you can love that if you want. But that’s not the important point; the important point is what I’m saying. If people would actually be talking about what I’m saying then I would feel really happy, but people don’t.
They just say, “Oh, this guy’s a jerk. He’s not being nice.” Being nice? What do you mean being nice? I am being nice. I like you, I just want to talk about this point. I don’t even know Andrew Foss. I’m not talking about Andrew Foss, I’m talking about this thing that he wrote in his article. The concept that he spoke about in his article is what I’m addressing. He might be the nicest guy in the world, or he may not, I have no idea—and it doesn’t matter. I might be a jerk, or I might not be a jerk, but it doesn’t matter. Can we please talk about science? Can we please talk about ideas, right? That’s what bothers me.
CB: Sure. Just because it becomes very personal very quickly, just because people are very invested in whatever the correct answer is, or whatever answer they’ve chosen.
VD: Yeah, and that’s what I hate, they’re invested in it. And that word ‘investment’ actually has a nice connotation of a financial investment. They’re very financially-invested in their position of being an unchallengeable guru. Even though they’ll say, “No, no, no, I’m not guru,” they’re taking the position of a guru, and they have so many students. “No, no, I don’t do any readings,” but they do do readings. “No, no, I don’t make any money from this,” but they charge for everything. But then because they do, “No, no, no, nice, nice, nice,” everybody thinks, “Well, this guy’s so nice, but this ‘Vic’ guy over here is such a jerk, so abrasive.”
CB: And that’s a really funny and interesting point just because I’ve seen this crop up in other areas in the astrological community in general. There’s almost a political component to it where typically everybody adopts either what their teacher did or they adopt the system that they think works the best for them, and it’s usually one of those two, but there’s often a reluctance to say, “This approach, I think it works best and other approaches are wrong.” But from a political standpoint, people want to be open and embracing of other approaches or other cultures or things like that, and sometimes in astrology it almost becomes taboo to say, “No, I think that this is the best approach,” or “This approach does not work.”
And one of the things I thought was interesting about your debates is you’ve been very open about saying, “I think that this is the best approach and these are the reasons.” And sometimes other people have either chastised you for that because they think you’re wrong and that you’re using the wrong approach, or they’ve sort of criticized you for saying that there is one right approach.
VD: You got it.
CB: It’s not that all approaches are equally correct, but you’re saying that there is a specific approach that is correct and an approach that is wrong.
VD: You got it. And, you know what, I’m actually fine with this idea of, ‘you’re okay, I’m okay’, right? I’m fine with that idea. I can roll with that idea. But can you please also apply it to me? Like if you’re okay, I’m okay, then how about, I’m okay, and there’s no need for you to debunk my system of saying that nakshatras and rashi are separate?
VD: Andrew Foss published this article criticizing my system, but I’m the guy who’s the critical one. I don’t know why. Because I speak more clearly and I’m not afraid to name a name. And that’s the thing that bothers me. We should name people’s names. ‘Cause people should be accountable and not just, “Amorphous person so-and-so is a bad guy,” and these bad guys are out there. Name the person who it is so we can go in and investigate this person and talk to that person directly, and that person has a chance to respond. But when I name a person, people feel like I’m attacking people.
CB: Yeah, it is interesting observing the two approaches. And I was surprised that he seemed to refer or allude to somebody who was promoting the use of the tropical zodiac in the Indian tradition without naming him, and I thought that was a little bit strange.
VD: Yeah, and we don’t promote our thing either. Neither Ernst, nor Ryan, nor myself, nor Michael definitely, promote, right? We’re not on a crusade, going around saying, “You guys are wrong. Everybody has to switch to this new system.” We say, “We use this system.” And then when people say, “Why do you use it?” we explain it.
CB: Sure. I mean, there is something where you are implicitly, if not explicitly, saying that other Indian astrologers are wrong, in that you’ve said, “I think this is the correct zodiac and the other one is not correct or not accurate,” or is not gonna give effective results. So there’s an implicit challenge there that some could take, but I guess it is a question of whether they engage with you and how they engage with you and then what your response is to that.
VD: Yeah. But, Chris, let’s look at it this way—I bet you when you go back and listen to this interview that I’ve done, I’ve said a couple of things at least that are wrong. I probably got the name of somebody wrong, or I maybe skipped some word or messed something up. People can be wrong, that doesn’t mean they’re totally wrong, right? So yeah, I’m saying that the sidereal zodiac is wrong, but I’m not saying that Andrew Foss is wrong. I’m not saying a reading from Andrew Foss is junk. I’m saying that the sidereal zodiac is wrong. That’s one part of the way some people do their calculations, but they probably also have a way of making it work. You don’t need to use a certain brand of screwdriver to turn a screw. You can use a different brand. You can even use a wrench—if you have good ingenuity—to turn a screw; or pliers or something.
CB: Sure. I mean, you don’t have to back down too much on that ‘cause that’s part of why I’m interested in this as a topic. I’ve had other debates in the past where people have used that as a rhetorical device to say all systems work and you’re wrong for arguing that there’s one particular approach. And sometimes when it comes to debates like this, I’m personally honestly not sure what the correct thing is. I personally use the tropical zodiac myself, and I think it makes more sense conceptually, and also works better in practice—sort of like you—but I don’t know if that means that the sidereal zodiac is not correct or if it could be used in a different way that’s still effective but from a different perspective that I’m not seeing perhaps. I don’t really know personally what the answer to that is. I just know that the tropical zodiac works better for me, and so that’s what I use and advocate. But it’s interesting—yeah, go ahead.
VD: Oh, sorry, I get animated. Maybe ‘cause we need to end soon, I can say two closing things. I think it does work. Like I said, people can make things work. But then you get all kinds of things adjusting to make this work.
VD: And so, that’s not so cool. It’s better to make it work cleanly than to make it work with a whole bunch of patches and new connections between things. The other thing that I want to say is on the point of whether or not there’s a right or wrong, my feeling on that is just divorce it from everything and just look at it logically. As you just said, some people say, “You’re wrong for saying that one thing is wrong.”
VD: So there you go.
CB: Or that astrology is divination and everything will work because there’s something else about it that’s not purely about the external. I mean, there’s different arguments along those lines.
VD: Astrology is divination, so anything will work. That’s just saying that it’s only intuition.
CB: On some level. Or that you can make anything work as long as you’re systematic about it. It’s not a very clear argument usually.
VD: Yeah, okay, I can agree with that. But that doesn’t mean that red is not red and orange is not orange. You can make red work. You can wear red and it can work. Or you can wear orange and make it work. Change the way you walk or something or change the sunglasses that you combine with it, but it doesn’t mean that red is not red and orange is not orange. I’m not saying that things don’t work with the sidereal zodiac, I’m just saying that the zodiac is inherently tropical.
VD: You can make it work if it’s not, that’s fine. And if you want to say there’s no right or wrong, well, you’ve already contradicted yourself. If you say there’s no right or wrong, you’ve just said what’s right.
CB: Right. That it’s only right that there’s no right or wrong.
VD: No right or wrong.
VD: And that can’t be true.
CB: Sure. Okay, well, that might be a good note, ‘cause I know we’ve got to wrap up here in the next few minutes. So I wanted to mention your website. So what is your website, again?
VD: It’s just my name, Vic DiCara, V-I-C-D-I-C-A-R-A.com.
CB: And you’ve been killing it on YouTube over the past few years. Your channel is amazing in terms of your videos and your output. And seeing them grow over the past few years, it’s just great, so I recommend people check out your channel. Do you know what your URL is for that?
VD: First of all, thank you. That’s cool. Great to hear. I think the channel name is Vic DiCara’s Astrology. Vic DiCara’s, D-I-C-A-R-A-S, Astrology. Or just go to YouTube and search ‘Vic DiCara’.
CB: Yeah, and I’ll put a link to the YouTube channel and to your website on the description page for this episode. And then are you giving any talks this year or speaking at any conferences or anything?
VD: Yeah, this is nice. I’m gonna speak in Sedona, at the conference in Sedona. The Vedic Astrology Conference in Sedona, which is really nice. And I give a shoutout to Dennis Harness for being a really upstanding person. He’s not a tropical guy, but he’s not involved with all this stuff, politics, “Oh, no, we don’t want Vic there because he’s a rabble-rouser.” And I’m not gonna rabble-rouse there unless somebody provokes me. I’m gonna talk about nakshatras.
CB: That’s awesome. Yeah, I’m really glad to see that you’re speaking there. That looks like a great lineup at that conference in Sedona later this year. I think it’s in October. And I’ll put a link for that in the description page for this. Dennis is awesome, and I’m hoping to have him on the show sometime soon. He was actually my teacher in Vedic astrology when I first learned it. So, yeah, good luck with that, and thanks for joining me today.
VD: Thank you, Chris.
CB: All right, and thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.
VD: Thanks everyone.