The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 128, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest John Townley
Episode originally released on October 13, 2017
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released April 17th, 2021
Copyright © 2017 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Tuesday, October 3rd 2017 starting at 1:56 p.m. in Denver, Colorado. And this is the 128th 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 John Townley about the invention of the composite chart as one of the major innovations in modern astrology. John, welcome to the show.
JOHN TOWNLEY: Hey. Thanks, Chris.
CB: Yeah, I’m excited to have you on the show. You’ve been a long term sort of influence in my astrological career at different points through your books and through your writings. And so this is the first time I’ve actually talked to you, and I’m excited to do this interview. So thanks for joining me today.
JT: Absolutely love it.
CB: All right, so let’s sort of go back to the very beginning here cuz this is one of the–I’ve run a couple of interviews with you in the past, but I don’t know for my audience a lot of these people are just coming into the field in the past few years. And so I wanted to start by talking a little bit about your background as an astrologer and how you got into this subject and things like that, and then we’ll talk about the history of this concept and this technique known as composite charts. So, would you agree–I usually refer to you as the inventor or the originator of the composite chart technique. Is that an accurate designation?
JT: Yeah, pretty much so. It was invented back somewhere before. We don’t exactly know when, but it certainly was never in anybody’s major consciousness until I wrote the first book on it.
CB: Okay. And that was titled The Composite Chart, your first book on the topic which was published in 1973, right?
JT: Right. Mhm.
CB: Okay. Going all the way back then, so you were born August 17th of 1945. And the time you have listed on your website is 1:51 a.m., but it says it’s rectified in Washington, D.C. So was that rectified from like a known time?
JT: No, it was rectified from the birth certificate which is I think 2:06 or something like that. I forget exactly when. Al Morrison did the first rectification before I ever even knew what rectification was, and it turned out to be spot on. That 26 degree of Gemini and Sag back and forth just turns up everywhere, people that are in my life and events that happen. But it’s perfect. I’m not sure exactly how he did it because I didn’t know enough at the time to discuss it.
CB: Okay, brilliant. And Al was your first astrologer or he was the first person that exposed you to astrology? Or maybe we should start with–So you were born in Washington, D.C. So where did you grow up?
JT: Well, I grew up originally about two years of time in Fairfax, Virginia. My dad was in the army, and he took some time to get out of that. He was a lieutenant in the Adjutant General’s Corps, and then we moved to California for about four years and then onto a boat to educate me for two years because the California school system was teaching a terrible whole word recognition. And it was nothing they wanted me to learn, so we just took off for two years until I learned to do all that and then settled in Coconut Grove, Florida after that.
CB: Okay, so you were sort of around to a few different places early on in your life?
CB: And so eventually the way you got into astrology was kind of unique or kind of not typical cuz it happened in almost like a happenstance type way, right?
JT: Totally. I was in the music business I had started in New York. the first. I come out of Columbia Records not happy with the way the recording situation was going there. The folks who later wrote all The Turtles’ hits and stuff were in the group called The Magicians, and nobody was happy with the way the recording was done. So I started the first super multi-track 12-track studio in the city and the first 16-track studio in San Francisco as well. And in the middle of this after I’d had a reading from Al Morrison I guess really just the fall of ’67 which is when the studio was founded. And he was looking for a new place for his office cuz his lease had expired up in the 80s East 80s where he was, and I had a bunch of room on the sixth floor one of the floors I was renting for the studio. And I said, “Well, we’ll give you a space for free if you do all the charts for our regular clients like Frank Zappa and The Mothers and various other people too who were regulars at the studio.” And that was the deal, and he did everybody’s chart. And it was like sort of integrated. We had the chart of the studio painted on the ceiling, and I started to learn from him while I was still doing all of that. And I didn’t really think of becoming a full time astrologer until a few years later when the studio itself basically was eaten up by the major labels and we were driven out into the cold. And I found that I had the skill I didn’t know that was saleable, and that’s how I became an astrologer.
CB: Wow. So, yeah, that’s a pretty good deal. In terms of that exchange with Morrison, what year was that? Approximately you were in like your early or mid 20s at this point?
JT: Yeah, that was 1968 when he moved in. And like exactly sure when in 1968, I forget. But it was definitely ’68. Well, I was what? 23.
CB: Yeah, 23.
JT: About to be 23 that year.
JT: So, it was a great arrangement. And it worked for him, and it worked for us.
CB: Yeah, and that’s interesting cuz Al Morrison has somehow become more interested in recent years cuz he’s kind of a shadowy figure from my standpoint or like the standpoint of like looking back at influential astrologers of the late 20th century for I feel like a lot of younger astrologers cuz I’m realizing how influential he was in some areas. Like there’s been a lot written lately about his influence on popularizing the concept of the void-of-course moon in the late 20th century. But he self-published a lot of his books, and so they haven’t stayed in circulation as well as like some other books like, I don’t know, like some of the Para Research books like Planets in Transit or something like that that are just like continually in print. And so that’s interesting that he played such a pivotal role in terms of introducing you to astrology at that point.
JT: Yeah, it was. And he was a maverick in every sense of the word which is why he didn’t have the larger publishing companies to fall back on cuz he didn’t like them and they didn’t like him. And I started there because it happened to be him I ran into and because he was a maverick and I was similar in that kind of fashion. We got on very well earlier I remember when I worked for him after the studio collapsed for a while. We were stuffing void-of-course moon ephemeralities to mail out to mailing lists and whatnot cuz that was his big thing. And then it got into politics, and that’s where great falling out happened as so often occurs because he was president of the Astrologers’ Guild of America which was second only to the AFA at that point in terms of membership in this country. And he had to step down according to the bylaws and basically put me in as president. I had been editor of the astrological review. And it was a political thing. And he didn’t really realize that when you put me in anything, I’m gonna run it fairly much by the book. It was a democratic organization, and I ran it letting the board of directors basically do their thing. And they didn’t get along with him, and he didn’t get along with them. And the result is that he decided that I was an awful person, and then a long war went on that went right up through the court in fact and ruined the guild, killed entirely. And–
CB: Wow. What year was that?
JT: That was in ’72 ’73–
JT: –actually. And it was the reason it was the big New York organization. It went from like 100 members to when I was president because I brought in this whole youth factor that it never had. It was a bunch of old ladies in pillbox hats for most of its time in the last 20 years of that period. And I brought in all the new people from the music biz and from the whole new generation. So I guess we had like 500 600 members by the time it reached its peak, and then it totally self-destructed because Al decided that he wanted to be president again and he would do anything. And he had a record of doing that in general. He would get very close to someone, and then there would be a falling out. And he would be convinced they had turned on him when in fact it had been the other way around. And it was a tragedy because he was a great astrologer. But because he did that so often, he never could get along with people that expected you to sort of act in a normal fashion in relation to a business.
JT: –there it was. Unfortunately, I had had a balancing situation cuz Al was a very highly intuitive astrologer. And that was good. And he would go in places where no one would expect you to go, and that was something that I liked in general that, don’t go just the standard way. Go to something that makes sense and that’s intuitively correct. But also, I studied with Charles Jayne at that period which balanced it very much and really set me on where I was going to go ultimately later which was starting with cycles and trying to integrate astrology into some kind of accepted form of regular real life dialogue that wasn’t another world disconnected with science and normal reality which it tended to be. And Charles himself was a mix of that. He was a theosophist and was very connected with that kind of stuff or [unintelligible 00:11:58.05] He wasn’t a real full time theosophist, but he did a lot of things that were very much towards the mystic area. But he also did a lot of stuff that was very hands-on cycles in history and connecting things with at least reality as we knew it, and I just sort of took it from there.
CB: Okay, so that raises a couple of questions really quick. So, one is with the void-of-course moon things. So, do you feel like then that’s true that the void-of-course moon as it’s used commonly or it’s established at this point in the early 21st century was really partially or largely a result of the popularization efforts undertaken by Al Morrison? And two, so did Al Morrison and Charles Jayne become your primary influences then at that point early in your career or were there other major factors who influenced you at that point?
JT: Basically, yes to both. Void-of-course was certainly due to Al. He just promoted it like crazy, and it caught on cuz it’s very easy to get a handle on. And it works very well, so that was his big success. And as for influences really, Charles was the second major person. And after that, I sort of concocted my own situation. There weren’t really any other big people around to talk to that I could relate to at any rate. Charles and I shared an office on Madison Avenue for a while, and it was a great influence in partnership as well. So, on from there basically.
CB: Sure. So, yeah. So, you’re in New York. It’s like the late 1960s and early 1970s. There’s an explosion of astrology taking place in popular culture at this point, and a lot of your generation and the people that were born in the 1940s are seriously getting into it at this point. And you have like the most best-selling astrology book ever published in ’68 which would be Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, so you’re really coming of age and coming into the field at a really crucial time in the history of astrology when things are just really taking off. And you’re interestingly coming at it almost as an outsider because you are already almost established in a different field, and then you sort of make your way into astrology.
JT: Right. And I was coming at it from a lifelong, not only from the music business, but more from a lifelong interest in anomalistic stuff. I cut my teeth on, thanks to my parents really, books like Willy Ley and Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan Sanderson who were all the early like Charles Fort the early Fortean and anomalistic people. And astrology just fit in there. It’s something that works so well. But you don’t know why, what’s going on, let’s find out. And that’s really why it interested me the most.
CB: Right. And that’s really an interesting thread that comes up a few different times in your careers. But let’s see. Before we get there, so in the early ’70s eventually you published your first book which was in 1973 the book The Composite Chart. And this would have actually been, from what I can tell, during your Saturn return basically, right?
CB: Yeah. Okay, so it was like that was happening. And then it sounds like the whole sort of falling out with Morrison was happening around the same time.
JT: Yes, it was.
CB: Okay. So, yeah.
JT: And fairly quickly after that I spent another four or five years staying in the astrological community. And in fact the reason NCGR got founded was the people who fled the guild started that. And I was sort of left behind fighting the end of that fight. But NCGR took over the whole New York seed and then spread around the rest of the country. So it was exciting, but I really hated the politics. And after a few years I just said, “I don’t need any of this.” And so I became more of a lone person than an astrological community kind of person.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Hearing some of that is just bringing me flashbacks.
CB: So it sounds like the more things change, the more things stay the same when it comes to–
JT: Oh, absolutely.
CB: –to politics whatever–
CB: –field you’re in. So, the book was published in ’73. But when did you actually come up with or how did the idea of The Composite Chart actually come about?
JT: I was on a bus going home on the M15 bus going up First Avenue from a astrologers’ guild meeting. I was on the same bus with a woman named Arlene Plekan who was in the guild and an astrologer and a Mensa member which is one of those truly peculiar things, and we were discussing things. And this came up that she had heard that an ISAR meeting that or someone from ISAR said that Everton Fox or someone back then in the 20s of that crew and the German bunch had made up this idea that you can make a chart out of mutual midpoints, and that was kind of an interesting idea. And I said, “Yeah, that’s an interesting idea.” And then I had to get off the bus. That was rough. We started talking at the 59th Street Bridge, and I had to get off at 68th Street. So, that was really all that was just barely mentioned. But then it occurred to me, “Wow, that’s an interesting thought.”
So I started making up those charts and discovered that they had a real dynamic to them, and they seemed to describe something that was happening in relationships that wasn’t quite the same thing that you got out of synastry. And so, why not? So I experimented and came up with it and then wrote the book because people started getting really interested in it. And my good friend palaeontologist Christine Janis was a big fan of that. And she said, “Well, if you don’t write this book, I’ll write it.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll write it.” So I whipped this thing out on the train from Boston to New York on the equivalent of a laptop, a little portable typewriter. And it’s just a tiny book. It’s only 48 pages long. But it laid out what the composite chart was, what it basically seemed to do, and then some sort of general theories of where you might go with it and what you might experiment with it and everybody go try this out and see what happens. And that was the beginning of it all, and it took off from there. And it’s been utilized by all kinds of people ever since.
CB: That’s a really interesting and like fortuitous exchange that you had on the bus that day. Do you actually know what the date was when that happened?
JT: I don’t, and I wish I did. [laughs]
CB: Yeah. How far before? Was it like a year or two or three years before you wrote the book? Or–
JT: Maybe it was somewhere in ’72. Probably about a year before. And–
CB: Okay. So this will happen like super quick, then?
JT: Yeah, it did. And time was compressed when I looked at everything that happened between 1967 and 1972 or ’66 maybe. In my life it was just, and in anybody else’s life, we were just watching the Vietnamese war or Ken Burns’ movie. And it was astonishing how quickly everything happened just from month to month to month. Everything was different every month, and it was hard to believe things move that fast at that point. And then they kind of slowed down. [laughs] But they’re moving kind of fast again now not particularly in a good way but with a lot of parallels.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I know what you mean. So, ’72 is probably when that exchange happens. And just for historical purposes, so have you ever seen any evidence that–So she must have been talking about either the cosmobiologist or the Hamburg School which is the school of astrology in Germany starting in the 1920s that originated the idea of midpoints. And that was one of the major technical innovations in 20th century astrology coming out of the Hamburg School which some people know as Uranian astrology as it’s usually referred to today and then cosmobiology which is sort of like a spin off of the Hamburg School and Uranian astrology.
JT: Yeah, it was that bunch. And she wasn’t sure exactly who. And I sort of chased it down and asked around later, and the best I could come up [unintelligible 00:21:27.11] that was that maybe it went back possibly to Koch of Koch the Walter Koch of the Koch house system. But maybe not. Nobody seemed to be terribly sure. And I think you mentioned to me in the email that it may have gone back to Bonatti which I would never have thought. But why not? because some of the concepts in midpoints themselves I think spring from the ideas of the besiegement and the idea that if something’s exactly in between something, there’s a translation from the one thing and the other thing that it’s in between translation of light and so on. And I think that midpoints really probably come from that, so maybe Bonatti had an idea like that. Who knows?
CB: Yeah, it’s been a mystery to me for a while just because in The Combination of Stellar Influences which is Reinhold Ebertin’s most influential book–
CB: –that was sort of the foundation of cosmobiology he–
CB: In the introduction he says explicitly at one point that the Hamburg School or that the Uranian astrologers got the idea of midpoints from the work of the 12th century astrologer Guido Bonatti. But then when Bonatti was actually finally translated just 10 years ago by Ben Dykes and I asked him about this, he said, “Yeah, I was aware of that. But I’ve never seen any indication that Bonatti used midpoints.” So it’s actually been this mystery to me of is that true or was it a misreading of something in Bonatti or were they reading something and then extrapolating from that. Like perhaps like you said maybe the idea or the general like theme that they sort of riffed on in order to create the midpoint theory taking it from something else like a concept like transfer of light or collection of light where that’s not precisely the same as a midpoint in the strict technical sense. But maybe you could draw like some broader idea from that which then could–
CB: –lead you to develop the idea of a midpoint as a strict technique. I’m not really sure.
JT: Or besiegement is the same idea that’s close to the midpoint as I think anybody comes because usually besiegement is considered to be exactly in between not just somewhere in between. So–
CB: Okay, yeah, that’s a good point. Practically speaking, it’s like usually when I think of besiegement it’s like I think of just the idea that there’s one planet in the middle and then there’s a range of like–Like in the Hellenistic texts, they said if you have two planets aspecting a third planet within seven degrees on either side. So I often think of it as like a general orb thing, but you’re right that the most strict or idealized version of that would be like a conjunction of three planets in a row with one right in the middle between the other two.
JT: Yeah, like ideally, yeah. And the farther it gets apart, the less they would speak of it as if it were besiegement. Everybody’s out there together in the ozone, but the concept itself could become a midpoint. And I think that’s as far as anybody got because my justification for why would be anything. It’s not anything that any of those folks have said anything about, so it would have to come from just sort of a general idea that, “Well, if you’re in the middle, it must be important.”
CB: Okay. Well, that’s really interesting cuz this is honestly in this conversation we just had is probably the closest I’ve ever heard of anybody coming to any sort of explanation about how that could have had some sort of traditional basis or how that actually could have been a legitimate thing that they sort of derived from reading or at least being influenced by reading some of those texts in the Hamburg School in the early 20th century perhaps cuz I’ve never been able to figure that out. So that’s interesting. But in the Hamburg School and then subsequently in the cosmobiology school which is more like from the 1940s onwards, you get this technique of midpoints which becomes this really crucial, foundational, and very innovative technique. Cuz even if it was inspired by in some sense the idea of besiegement or other things like that from centuries earlier, there was nobody prior to the early 20th century that was using midpoints in a strict sense. And that is a concept. It’s probably something interesting that we should expand upon as the sort of basis for what came later with the composite chart. So what is a midpoint or how would you describe it as a technique?
JT: Well, I think people used to say things, “Oh, we do this because of midpoint theory.” And I never saw any theory ever mentioned in any of those folks. They just said, “Well, midpoint, here it is and this is what it does.” But a theory has to have some kind of conceptual or theoretical basis to the specifics in why it would be exactly in the middle as opposed to being three quarters of the way from one to the other. Accept that you’re in the middle, so that looks important. But what does it really do? And if you go back to thinking of planetary meanings and weights as being something that’s part of a cycle whether it’s the cycle of the planet coming back to its own point or whether it’s something as quick as the Moon hitting it, going around hitting it again, coming back to it and strengthening it at that point or highlighting it. And then that moves on to the next planet over, and then it highlights that planet. And where it’s right in the middle the dynamic power as influenced by whatever transits happening is equal and shifting from strengthening one planet to strengthening the next.
So it’s actually a switchover of strength between the two, and therefore it’s that point where they meet as why kind of use the term of a shoreline for a composite chart which is made up of entirely of those midpoints. Because it’s where the power dynamic shifts, and one gets stronger. And the other gets less strong meeting right in the middle. And it’s the power dynamics shift, and I think that’s what midpoints are about physically. And when you see something there, you see those two planets undergoing a transfer. When you say transfer of light, that’s it. It’s literally the transfer of this cycle power whichever cycle you’re looking at going from one to the other. And it’s at that point that the one becomes more. It’s like somebody getting out of office and the next person getting in. It’s like any kind of shift, power shift.
CB: Right, that makes sense. And for those listeners if they’re like absolutely new to astrology just to clarify, it’s like a midpoint from a technical standpoint is like a sensitive point or a sensitive degree just sort of abstractly where in a chart you take the position of one planet like let’s say Venus. And then you find the position of another planet, let’s say Mars, and then you calculate the distance between the two and find the point that lies right between them. And that degree becomes like a sensitive point in the chart that’s somehow connected to both Venus and Mars essentially, right?
CB: Okay. And that’s the basic foundational concept of midpoints. And then what happened in the early 1970s when you heard this idea is that you heard the concept. And as far as I know, nobody ever did anything with it even if that was true and that sort of exchange that she had heard the idea happened. But you heard about this idea and really ran with it that what you could do is use midpoints in order to create a whole separate chart for two people or for taking the averages between the positions and two charts and creating a third chart, and that becomes known as the composite chart. But what you’re doing in the composite chart is that you’re averaging the positions of individual of the same planet into different charts. So for example you’re taking the position of Venus in one chart and the degree that it’s in in a specific sign of the zodiac. And you’re taking the position of Venus in the second chart, and then you’re finding what the midpoint is between those two positions. And then you’re doing that for every planet in the chart in order to create a third chart which is the composite chart basically, right?
CB: Okay. And so you sort of started doing this like you went home evidently after that bus ride and started actually applying that and calculating charts. What were you looking at initially? Were you looking at relationship charts when you first started experimenting with it or what were you looking at?
JT: Well, the only way one could look at relationships previously to that was simply putting one chart on top of another and seeing where those particularly important where each degree area would fall on another person’s planets and so on. And that still works like a charm. Because if they both have something else on Moon or something like that then whenever that spot is hit, they both got hit. But it seemed that there was another kind of feeling you got when you got to shift from one in other words of composite Sun were 60 degrees apart. If two individual natal signs are at 60 degrees apart say and you got the Moon hitting first person’s Sun and now that’s gonna make them up and moving a little bit more than they would be otherwise. And then when that finally reaches the other person’s Sun, then that person is gonna be up and moving a little more. And when it’s right in the middle, it’s like the shift over of emphasis. The one person becomes a little bit more important than the other a little bit less in terms of their energy, their overall dynamics together. And so when that point is hit, you see the relationship the gears of, “I’ll take over.” or “Hand me that.” or whatever starts to happen in a relationship. And it happens in terms of symbolic whether the Sun or the Moon or the ascendant or Venus or whatnot, and it’s like a handoff point where one person starts to get more power than the other and they work with it.
And the idea that it’s a horoscope of a relationship meaning like sort of the third person in the room which is it’s a nice metaphor, but I’m not sure that really describes it properly. It’s simply a shift. It’s a power shift from one person to the other. And when those power shifts happen in a nice regular away in easy aspects one to another, then the relationships are gonna be fairly easy if they happen 90 degrees apart. Anything that’s in there by synastry 90 degrees apart is going to be emphasized, and therefore you’re gonna have a more harsh relationship, the dynamics a little bit rougher, a little bit more conflicted. So what you sort of started to see was the dynamic picture of how well things were going. And over time, that built into something. It doesn’t happen right away. And that was an another really interesting dynamic. And it led me back to actually composite charts, led me back to a reverse engineering how a physical basis of astrology might be actually settled. Because the one thing that pretty much every not just myself but everyone else noticed were two different things. One was that composite charts seem to grow strength. They gathered strength over time.
And second thing was that–And Rob Hand in particular does come in to me on this. We both seem to discover that progressions don’t work in composite charts. Secondary progressions don’t work particularly. That could be because it’s an artificial map anyway. It’s not a chart of something. It’s a derived chart entirely. It’s not gathering strength cuz a progress chart keeps moving. And every time you get a hit from another cycle, it’s in a different place. So it doesn’t gather any strength to that particular point cuz that point keeps moving whereas in the natal composite that point is fixed. And every time something comes there, something happens. And then the next time it happens again, and then the third time people are beginning to expect it. And the fourth time they figure that’s just the way things are. So it gathers power as transits sort of accrete to the chart. The chart itself becomes an accretion like a sedimentary rock or something or a cave crystal or something like that. So you’re sort of gathering strength as it goes along.
And this was something that everybody that I talked to about it would try to seem to agree. And that led me sort of backwards to the thought that, “Well, maybe that’s an essential thing that happens in astrology. That maybe just the natal chart itself isn’t all powerful at the beginning.” But because it is something that is subject to cycles over and over and over again as you grow up as you become a teenager as you become an adult that you begin to lock in these patterns of behavior because you receive reinforcements of certain aspects of yourself either for the better or for the worse and in order. The order of your chart will very much [unintelligible 00:36:46.09] if you have Uranus ahead of the Sun for instance. It’s gonna hit your Uranus first, and then it’s gonna hit your Sun. So every time something weird happens for instance and then it hits your Sun you feel, “Oh, weird thing means that it’s gonna be good. So I’m gonna get a rush the next thing after that cuz it’s hitting my Sun.”
Whereas Saturn ahead of the Sun, you begin to associate things restrictions as having to give you some power afterwards that things shut down but it works for you and so on and so forth. And it began to be more and more at least conceptually reasonable to think of a chart as something that is an accretion, that it’s not something that remains the same that’s set in stone from beginning to end. And the interesting thing about a composite was that was very useful in a composite because it meant that if you saw a composite chart–You met someone and you saw a composite chart that was a disaster, you had time to get out. You could say, “Okay, I’m not locked in here. I’m not gonna reinforce this anymore. Let’s kiss and say goodbye.” Whereas if it’s a really strong one and you just let it go, it would tend to bond you into a relationship that would be that much the better for both of you. Basically, you had some warning. Whereas in the natal chart you have none. You’re stuck with it. And by the time you’re old enough to probably even have any real, actual memories, most of that’s probably the expectations of one cycle leading to the next leading to the next as it goes around and around your chart whether it be the Moon or the degrees rising every day, that sort of sets your horoscopes done by the time you would be aware of anything you could do to contradict it.
CB: Right. The sort of basis of astrology that you were talking about there as you were describing it like this sort of image that I had in my head was it’s almost like you have like a weird set of wind chimes that are in a row, and then you strike each of them in order. But if you put that in a circle and then struck each chime but in each person’s chart, it’s like those are different spaces from each other and they’re different shapes. But that with the transits the way you’re describing it, it’s like over time each of those would be struck over and over again. And they would ring each time they were struck. But every time they get struck by let’s say a transit, it would become louder and louder. It’s almost like the analogy or the metaphor it seemed like you were drawing there.
JT: Yeah, it does. It seems that it’s not only that it gets louder, it’s that you begin to expect it. And because of the expectation–Expectation is half of the game for most of life. You see something common and you take advantage of it. Or you expect some comment and even if it doesn’t, you kind of hold off to see if it’s really gonna happen. And it becomes like a tune. You expect this D to come after the C. It happens that way and around and around until you know the tune by heart. If it’s an E that comes after the C and you’re going to a C chord or C E G or something like that, then that becomes your tune that you’re used to and the pattern that gets reinforced more and more. So it’s like it has greater weight. My metaphor would be more like a rock, more like an accretion. But you could put it like a tune because it’s not only about what’s happening but also the expectation of what’s going to happen, and you fall into that. It becomes a rut in a bad way if it’s not a good thing or it becomes a blessing that good things happen all the time cuz I see this, and then the next thing it’s gonna be good. And I just go with it. And it can be either one or people who say, “Oh god, bad things happen every time I see this.” And then, “I know what’s gonna happen.” And, “Oh my god, it did happen again. What can I do about it?” And of course, you can do things about either one but only to a limited extent of what’s actually going on in the environment around you.
CB: Right. It’s like you can’t necessarily change the fact that that chime is gonna get hit at that point in your life like when Saturn squares Saturn at that specific angle every whatever it is like 23 to 24 years.
JT: Right. Yeah, what you can do is you can get used to it and cope with it. And the people say that easy charts progress out into more difficulty cuz people get lazy. And then when they get bad progressions later if your charts easy, a lot of easy aspects and then it progresses out, it’s gonna progress into the next set of aspects which will be hard aspects. And that means as you get older, life gets more difficult. Whereas if you have difficult aspects to begin with, they progress into easier aspects later on. And it’s more of a metaphor than anything else, but it means that you can actually having recognized a pattern you can do something to either take advantage of it or avoid it when you need to and jump onto one that’s working for you. You begin to recognize that there is one. And that’s one of the things that astrology is nice about. It allows you to see patterns that you might not have seen otherwise, recognize them and then take them into account and use them to make your life easier hopefully.
CB: Right. Brilliant. I like that. I hadn’t heard of that, that progression sort of statement before. So that’s kind of interesting. So all right. So backing up a little bit, so it’s really interesting just in terms of the historical context. And I think that really drives home why this was such a big deal is that prior to this time in the early 1970s like the go-to technique for relationship analysis for 2000 years had been synastry. And in synastry you just compare, you take the both charts and you compare the positions and sort of superimpose them on each other in order to see where the positions are relative to each other. And that is then supposed to describe something about each person’s attitude towards the other and how they get along or how they don’t get along and things like that. But then all of a sudden, starting in the early 1970s you came up with this new technique for looking at relationships in a completely different way from an astrological standpoint. And this was not comparing the two charts to each other, but it was actually literally creating a third chart that’s almost supposed to represent the relationship itself on some level.
JT: Right. And it can be most influential when you see one or the other of the partner’s charts themselves being reinforced by a position in the composite chart because it puts whoever’s getting that extra boost–If your Sun is on the composite Moon, it means you’re one up and you get an extra boost that you wouldn’t be getting otherwise from just being in that relationship itself. And that can in fact make the dynamics of a relationship the power dynamics very different from one relationship to another. It can favor one person over the other very much so. But it can also explain why people who basically don’t have much in common–You can look at synastry charts. And you particularly see these in Indian arranged marriages where there are two people who don’t know each other. They weren’t attracted together because of anything that happened in their lives. They were just laid on top of each other by other people. And they very often have very little direct synastry. They may have something trying something here or the other mutually, but the degree areas that each chart occupies will very often be quite exclusive from the degree areas of the other chart. And ideally that should separate them because there’s a shepherding effect.
As cycles go around a chart, other people who have those particular degrees tend to get shepherded towards you. It’s kind of like when you shake a jar of pebbles of different size, one size rises to the top and the other size goes down. There’s a physical reason for that. But there’s a general principle of birds of a feather and all that kind of stuff that people who share similar degree areas will show up in your life with you, and people who don’t have any degree areas sharing with you will not show up as often. It’s sufficiently good that you can rectify your chart whether just with your friends, and you can do more than just do it with your friends. You can do it with things that happened during the day when phone calls happen. They’ll happen with degrees either happening to your planets or just something else which would be your angles. And if you don’t know your angles, you can find them that way. When you put two charts together if you don’t share anything, then the ordinary expectation would be that you don’t relate at all or that life would just put you into two different orbits which in a natural state of affairs even in physics and planetary orbits, that’s exactly what happens.
But when you put a dynamic composite chart in the middle of it, sometimes you will find that the composite relationship as power transfers from one to the other, it very much pings the other chart. And so suddenly you have things in common that you might not have otherwise seen with a synastry chart. With synastry overlays you would start seeing things that were about the power shifts, and that’s what will be fueling the relationship and what will tie people together. And again, you see this more outlined in arranged marriages. You see that phenomena happen more often which has always been fascinating to me because I’ve always thought of arranged marriages as a horror show. And very often they are. But sometimes they will just like click and without anybody being on top of the other one particularly, and you’ll look through the composite chart and say, “Oh, there’s a lot of dynamism going on.” That actually transfers kind of from one to the other, and they work together increasingly well as time goes on even though they were strangers when they met.
CB: Right. So that really introduces a really important and radical innovation in terms of just the broad sort of field of relationship astrology or comparative chart analysis let’s say as a subset of usually of natal astrology although I guess it has other applications. And just the idea that sometimes you could have two people who do not have particularly remarkable synastry but when you do their composite chart, sometimes it can create a very powerful chart that in and of itself the chart for the relationship or whatever that is whatever it represents itself can be powerful enough to really indicate something significant when those two people come together or come into each other’s lives.
JT: Yeah, the relationship itself pulls the people together in ways that you would not expect to normally have happened. And of course it takes some time to being stuck together. Because when you let people be together or not freelance, you don’t have time for the composite to really happen. Unless just for some reason fate puts them in the same classroom and they have to interact for a while until they get going or they manage to get pregnant and then they have to be stuck together and raise the child and so on. There are ways that fate can stick you together even if your degree areas aren’t necessarily on top of each other. But the composite, given a little time, can tell the difference whether something’s really gonna happen there or it really is just two people who are alone in the same room.
CB: Right. And that brings up another point which is that even though composite charts are most commonly applied to look at romantic relationships really, you can do a composite chart for any two people. And that will create a chart that will show the dynamic of whatever the relationship is, whether it’s–
JT: Yeah, whatever will develop. Because it isn’t there at the beginning. It is something that is a developmental thing primarily. And you can do it not just with people. You can do it with a person’s chart and a company chart or a national chart in some cases if anytime you got two charts. And you’re gonna have interplay either synastry or dynamic between midpoints. So, you can apply that to a lot of different areas the same as you can with anything else in astrology.
CB: Sure, so it’s like two sort of bubbles merging or overlapping if the charts themselves are a bubble almost like a Venn diagram? Or that’s only–
JT: Yeah. Sure. Absolutely. Well, but when you lay one on top of the other, you find how much actually is shared and how much isn’t. And there may be in some cases nothing shared and yet the dynamics of it, if it’s held together long enough, it starts to bubble up. It’s kind of like holding two fissionable materials together. If they’re the right fissionable materials, they’ll eventually if you hold them together long enough, they’ll get into a chain reaction. if they’re not, you take two chunks of U-238 and hold them together and they will go into fission. If you hold U-238 and some other thing that isn’t terribly related to it, it won’t happen. There are no midpoints, so to speak. But it has to do with holding them together long enough for that to happen.
CB: Right. And then there’s also this additional component that comes into play which probably ties into the developmental sort of analogy that you’re talking about which is that composite charts themselves can receive transits and sometimes that composite chart receiving a transit can show development in the relationship.
JT: Absolutely, you get to any big planet there. And that will be the one that’s holding the whip end of it. And you get Jupiter over composites on. And even if it’s not hitting either one, both parties will benefit more greatly from the relationship itself. It’ll get more profitable relationship even though neither of them is getting the Jupiter transit directly.
CB: Right. And that’s pretty wild in and of itself cuz it could mean something that’s not showing up in either natal chart. But if you were paying attention to the relationship chart of these two people, you would understand that why together suddenly something significant is happening in their life–
JT: Right. Mhm.
CB: –in their shared lives.
JT: Yeah, absolutely. And if it’s happening in both, then everything’s gonna be supercharged. I hate to say it, but if you look at the chart of the US and Trump and then you look at the composite, that supercharges. Not only does he got stuff all over the US chart or you put a composite in there and it adds even extra. So they represent each other, and they fire each other up in ways that are highly dynamic. Not necessarily good ultimately, but you can’t escape it. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re here. [laughs]
CB: Sure. Sure. Right. So while that happens occasionally or sometimes when you’ll have like two charts where nothing’s going on but the composite chart is really getting activated and that’s describing something that’s happening in reality with really important relationships and events within relationships, oftentimes it’s probably more the case that you’ll be getting important activations in each individual’s charts let’s say through transits or secondary progressions or what have you. But then also the composite chart will be getting hit and will be showing something significant. So it’s more of a doubling up or adding additional factors that are echoing or sort of sounding the alarm that something very major is happening in people’s lives rather than something where it’s only showing up in the composite chart or something like that.
JT: Yeah, it’s the more the merrier basically. The more indications you see and when you include the composite, it just gives you a different set that can combine into something that is even highly more dynamic than you would expect it to be otherwise or in fact less than. You could have two people that have great synastry and then the composite chart’s being really afflicted or conflicted and either by transit or just the way the quad chart is. And they’ll have a difficulty ever getting to first base. And you see that particularly with composite houses. The access of the 12th house and sixth house if you put either the lights in there makes it very difficult for even an otherwise ideal synastry to keep going. They keep going off the rails somehow for unexplained reasons, it seems. So if you’re looking at doing counseling and you see somebody getting into a relationship that is composite highly 12th house or 6th house, it’s something to warn them about. These are things that can be avoided, just say goodbye or set it up in such a way that you’re not trapped. One of the horrible things about relationships particularly abusive ones is that you get trapped in them. And it’s not just abusive when you get trapped in good relationships that I can’t leave this because it’s doing me too much good. And that may have its drawbacks later down the line as well, but it’s at least good to see that you can see all these things, you can see the extra added, it’s an add-on that gives you unexpected dynamics where you might have not found or seen them.
CB: Right. And just that idea is really fascinating that you could have two people who have really good synastry. So, it looks like they should be really compatible on paper, but when they come together like the relationship itself doesn’t end up being anything remarkable or vice versa two people that have terrible synastry or have really tense synastry positions where they should be enemies or they should be two people whose personalities really clash but when they come together in a relationship, for some reason it works out and it holds together despite all the odds.
JT: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The composite chart is a really good indicator of just that, of something that ought to be good, but isn’t or ought to be bad, but isn’t and you’ll see the playbook they’re writing the composite chart. And in the case of where both work out, then it’s just an additional thing and in the case of whether they’re both terrible then it’s so much the worse. It’s an additive factor but one which comes along and would explain things that you wouldn’t normally have thought to be the case.
CB: Sure. So, one other last early thing here in terms of setting this up is just that one of the things that’s important to talk about is that a composite chart is not technically a real horoscope in the in the strict sense of like a chart at all in that it does not reflect an actual chart with a time and a location but instead, it’s like a mathematical construct or it’s like an extrapolation from two charts. And in some instances, because it’s an extrapolation, you can get positions in this chart that reflect like astronomical positions that couldn’t possibly happen in the actual solar system, right?
JT: Yeah, you can get the Venus opposition, the Sun but basically, you take it as a midpoint axis anyway but you would still get things that would never be actually happening in the sky. But that’s not important. What you’re looking at is a set of dynamic relationships, not something that’s happening in the sky at all. It’s just another map and you’re reading into that, it’s an extrapolated map and it’s not something that occurs naturally. And therefore, you can’t, for instance, relocate it the way you would normally relocate a chart. Normally, a chart is a chart, you relocate it trigonometrically. And you can’t do that with a composite chart because it doesn’t have a basis of trigonometry to begin with. So therefore, if you’re going to relocate a composite chart, for instance, you have to take the two relocated charts, natal ones, and make a composite of that and then it will work.
CB: And relocate those and then do that composite? Is that what you are saying? Okay. And that actually brings up another related topic, of course, which is that, for some reason, I never thought this was a good argument but somebody once said that they prefer the Davison chart because it’s an actual chart that you can do things like do perfections or that you can relocate it or something like that, and that never seemed like a great conceptual reason. It just almost seemed like a practical reason of just that you want it to be able to do that and therefore, other people use the Davison. So, maybe I should ask or I should raise that question. What is the difference then? Or it seems like the Davison chart was introduced not long after you introduced the composite chart and how would you describe the Davison chart or what’s the difference?
JT: Well, Davison chart is a midpoint in time. And because it’s a midpoint in time, you will get the outer planets will be pretty close to what it would be in a regular composite chart simply because they have fairly regular orbits and the Sun and Moon will tend to be that or the opposition of where they are in a composite chart, the angles will be all over the place, they won’t have anything to do with it. But basically, it’s a chart of something that isn’t real. It happens in a place in a time that neither person ever existed in and therefore, it’s not a chart of anything that’s actually directly related to either individual whereas a composite chart is fundamentally integrated between the two charts. It is the interaction of the mathematical interaction and therefore as things pass over, the interaction of what’s hitting those two charts simply because it’s moving from one Sun to the next Sun, and it’s the midpoint that’s the dynamic change over as regular midpoint usage in a chart would do exactly the same whereas a time composite does none of that. And it’s also another one where I will definitely go along with Rob Hand who also found that it tells you the story of the outer planets because they’ll be there no matter what, but the rest of it is not particularly relevant and doesn’t work very well.
But it was one of those things where everybody was doing variations on a thing and mixing apples and oranges a whole lot during the ‘70s because they wanted to come up with new techniques, everybody wanted a new technique or a new planet which was when all the asteroids are brought in and nobody did asteroids before then and so I used to joke that one of ways to become a famous astrologer was to invent something, preferably discover a new planet if you could or manufacture one, then publish the ephemeris and then go out on the road and show everybody how amazingly this changed astrology [John laughs] just like people discovering the 13th sign and saying, “This is it. Now you can really understand astrology.” Not, and very frequently would be by taking something and simply adding something else onto it or multiplying something by something. I mean, why just divide things by two when you could divide them by three, why not? And then multiply them by the square root of five and then you’d have something that was related to phi and then that will be very natural and Fibonacci, yes. [John laughs] And so it is all these completely unrelated things thrown into a barrel and multiplied by each other and then people think something might come of it and in fact, nothing does because they’re not related. It’s truly apples and oranges.
CB: It seems like that was a pretty common theme in that era of there’s a lot of value being placed on innovation and coming up with new things and new perspectives and adding in new variables. And so, people get really excited and people are often trying to come up with new things, or sometimes making careers out of new innovative discoveries and things like that.
JT: Sure, absolutely. And it was done, in many cases, without thought to the fundamental structures to say the things they were doing actually made any sense or whether it was just throwing in random factors and multiplying and dividing or something like that. The great problem of all of that is that there is another principle that scientists run into all the time that astrologers particularly run into one are particularly gullible about and that is the first-time success. When you first do an experiment in regular laboratory science, you’re going to get better results first time around than you will ever get the next time. And that’s just one of the of general rules of life. And it’s because basically, you’re looking for results and you’re looking to get what you are looking to get and you notice what’s there and you say that it’s a confirmation bias. And astrologers they are just full of that when they get a new Teague. They say, “Well, I’ve worked on my wife and my grandmother looks just like that. And boy, you should see it worked on my mother-in-law.” And [John laughs] pretty soon they go on the road with it and it’s nothing at all later. Three years down the line, it turns out it didn’t really work for anybody. And that’s how a lot of these enthusiastic techniques, particularly of the ‘70s, came and went and some of them have lasted because they were based on actual realities of some sort, it was a real planet and not a theoretical one, or it was a real mathematical function that does come up over and over again and therefore should be looked at. So, they were wild and wooly times and it was fun to be there but you got a lot of things that people didn’t think through like people would look at composite and say, “Well, isn’t that adding up and dividing by two? Why don’t you add all the planets together and divide by the number of planets?” And then you get a point that [John laughs] has nothing to do with anything.
A point, yes, the composite point of what Michael, I forget, I mentioned him in the book, a friend of mine who was an astrologer back then thought that up. He said, “Why not do that?” And at that point, I said, “Well, do what you want. Figure it out if that’s great, if that works for you.” Another one was relocating, trying to do a composite where you can change the Ascendant according to latitude. You took the, say, the composite midheaven and then you change and then you looked on where that was in your table of houses and then change your latitude, change the Ascendant too for different latitudes. But that means [John laughs] the midheaven is a real midpoint and the Ascendant [John laughs] has nothing to do with anything.
CB: Wow! I think in one of your articles, you call this the why not approach that you felt like was prevalent at that time?
JT: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And it’s a useful approach to have an invention, but it can lead you into some dark corners or mainly blind alleys if you say, “Well, why not try this? Why not add by three and subtract two and multiply by the square root of either?” You might get something out of that, but then you might not or you might get something that’s… In real life, when you do that stuff, why not can lead you into some real dark alleys. And again, we run back to real life politics. I’ve heard so many people say, “Well, why not? What could be the harm? Yeah, let’s try them. And we’d all like what we got in office, let’s just try this.” And that’s not a responsible way to do things either in astrology, or in politics, or in economics or anything else because actions have consequences and real math has its real math coming from it and if it doesn’t fit, then it’s not going to work. And you need to take that into account ahead of time before you start rolling with a new technique. It’s got to for a reason that you’ve thought through down to the bedrock. And if you haven’t done that, then the chances of it working are increasingly slim the less thought you’ve given to it.
CB: Right. And in that regard, actually, that’s one of the things I found interesting about some of your more recent articles talking about composite charts where you publish the first book in 1973 on the topic and this was introducing it and it was a relatively short less than 100-page book. And then in the year 2000, you actually published a much thicker full treatment titled Composite Charts; The Astrology of Relationships that was published by Llewellyn and one of the things I’ve noticed in some of your writings on the composite chart over the past decade is occasionally you almost look back at your first book and some of the speculations that you put forward as being maybe too far or maybe not panning out or maybe you had some ideas that upon reflection and continued testing over the next few decades didn’t necessarily end up working out as far maybe that you went too far in some areas. Is that the case?
JT: Well, yeah, what I was doing was taking something that sounded like an interesting thing and just running with it and happened to be lucky me, something that had real substance by itself. I could have picked something else up and for the same reason, then say, “Well, this looks scary. Why not try this?” And it could have been nothing. And that happened with a lot of people. It has to do with whether something is solid or not. And then the next, I took 30 years to really look closely at everything I’d done with composites and come to determine least what I’d found really suited that what they really did and what they really didn’t do a lot of which the suggestions in the first book won’t try anything because we don’t know and I did not at that point have an underpinning theory as to why they might work. And in fact, it was through working with them first that I came back to the idea of what the physical basis or the cyclical basis that might be behind anything physical, basically a title step down theory of physical basis for astrology. And then when you take that as your basis and run it back through composites again, then you start seeing really what works and what doesn’t because you have now at least a theoretical underpinning for the entire area and then you see whether composites or anything else fits in with that fundamental explanation, or whether you might go back and look at either the technique you’re viewing or maybe adjust your fundamental theory as well, which is the scientific method, which is something that people don’t do very much in astrology. This is one thing I’ve always found mystifying to me about astrologers is that they tend to be so indiscriminate because there isn’t something immediately accessible and they’ll say, “Well, I do astrology because astrology works. Well, it doesn’t mean anything. Yeah, it works, but why does it work? And usually, when you ask people will say, “Well, we don’t really know and it isn’t that important. What’s important is that it works.” [Chris laughs]
And that [John laughs] will keep you out of being accepted by the real world forever. And that’s why we’re where we are still even though it does work and there’s a tremendous amount in it if you can’t justify why it works and why it doesn’t work because it doesn’t work all the time. In astrology, you can get up to an 80% success rate in it, but the other 20%, you’re going to be mystified why it didn’t and if you don’t have something like the normal science does to go back and go back to the basic math and say, where did I screw up? What didn’t I see that made this come out wrong? Astrologers have no way of doing that so they’re at sea. If it doesn’t work, there is no explanation and you just found her. And that’s, at least in modern thinking terms, nobody is likely to accept that as a legitimate approach to things. It’s early attempts which 20 years ago, would you run your car on [John laughs] Windows 2000? No, I wouldn’t. [John laughs] Sorry, it doesn’t work well enough, often enough to put my life on the line even if it works most of the time. And that’s the problem with astrology still. And it’s not because it is impossible to get there, it’s just people aren’t bothering to organize the data or organize the research that way, and it’s beginning to happen a little bit and mostly it’s happening from actually inside the scientific community where they’re doing more and more stuff about how a tidal theory of wave interaction affects any given circadian rhythms and there’s whole areas of research which impact directly on proving astrology that astrologers are only vaguely aware of and that approach to it is coming and it may wind up co-opting astrology a bit, but that’s okay. If people find out what really works and what really doesn’t and why, that’s what you want to know.
CB: Right, yeah. And I’d actually like to circle around to that because that ties into two other really important points about your philosophy of astrology and some of the work you’ve done on both the physical basis of astrology and your work on Kammerer. But before we get there, I want to wrap up the composite chart thread so we can get there. And so, you published the book in 1973, the technique really took off. And in that decade, we get a bunch of spin offs or we get other people who are contributing to the dialogue. So, we’ve talked about Ronald Davison who was an astrologer from the UK, he was the president of the Astrological Lodge of London, and he published a book. It was actually a pretty relatively influential book on synastry in 1977 because that actually stayed in print over the next few decades and is still around and is frequently cited because it’s one of the few books you can get instant on synastry but that’s where he introduced the Davison chart. And just to clarify and define that because I think I forgot to earlier, the Davison chart is when you take like a person who is born, let’s say on November 10th, and then you take a person who is born on November 13th, and then you create a chart for November 12th which is the midpoint in time between those two and it creates an actual chart, but then it’s just for a time that somewhere in between the two and for a location that’s between the two. So that’s that other alternative chart. So that was happening and a bunch of other spin offs of things like composite charts and Davison charts and all this other stuff started happening once people got the idea that we’re not just confined to synastry anymore, but we can do this why not approach and coming up with different stuff and testing things out. Composite charts themselves really took off and there was already another book that was published a couple of years after yours which is Rob Hand’s book on composite charts which was titled… What was it titled? Actually, do you remember the title?
JT: Planets in Composite. Yeah, I wrote the introduction for him because we were good friends at the time and still are, right, I don’t see him anymore. And he was offered basically a number of the up-and-coming astrologers at that point of which I was one and he was one. We were offered by [unintelligible 00:21:28:27] research to write cookbooks of every planet and every sign and every house and every aspect that could be used later as a computer report. And that’s where [unintelligible 00:21:45:13] research was ahead of the game because no one had really done that yet and it was a plug-in book and [unintelligible 00:21:53:19] research wanted to each a different take one with the composites, one with the transits, one will become planets in and they picked me to do Planets in Love because I really actually [John laughs] had the accidental credentials for that more than anybody else did because not only did I do a lot of stuff about sexual astrology, but I was actually editor at Sexology Today magazine, which was an old standby from the ‘30s and so, I was managing editor there and we had on our board of advisors, every major sexologist from Kinsey on up. So, I was right in the heart of modern psychological sexology at that time. So, they said, “Well, he knows what he’s talking about,” which was, I guess, considering the tenor of the times probably true, but that meant that that was the one I got. So now they had composites which would have been otherwise logically went to me and they say, “Well, we’ll give that to Rob Hand and see if he wants to do it.”
CB: And so, what year was Planets in Love published, that was your book?
JT: Planets in Love was ’78 and I think Planets in Composite was roughly around and all of them were within two or three years of each other that whole series. And basically, it was about the money in the distribution. They gave you good money that it wasn’t even advancing as royalty. It was cash that they bought the computer rights for and that was a time when everybody needed money. So, Rob took it even though composite charts hadn’t evolved enough to do a definitive work on it or to attempt one. He just basically took them and wrote the text as if they were like a natal chart which is easy enough to do. And it worked well enough for people to want to take a further look at it and at least start off from that because that is where you’re going to start off anyway, so it was perfectly legit to do that. But there were a lot of stuff that developed over the years that don’t apply to composite charts that do apply to natal charts and vice versa that you have to sort out before you can really use them more successfully. So, it helped to spread the technique for sure and it was what everybody went back to for a long time and that was all I can say is good for Rob. I wrote the intro to that book and when I came and did my definitive book, he was nice enough to write the intro to that, so we scratched each other’s backs as it were.
CB: Right. And so, his was like a delineation text where it contained delineations for what it means when the composite Venus is in the seventh house or when-
JT: Right. And my eventual one did that too because it was also used originally for the Apple Time Cycles Research program and then it was used for the book as well, so it was a cookbook as well, but it had a lot of theory in the front whereas the Rob’s didn’t because that theory hadn’t really been developed.
CB: Right. And so, and it’s like that became one of the things because it’s like I often look back or I’ve asked people why is Rob Hand who Rob Hand is or when did Rob Hand become popular? And it seemed like that book, The Composite Chart book and especially Planets in Transit in particular-
JT: Planets in Transit, yeah, that was his best book of that series and that was a really good book and there’s no doubt about it because that was something he knew well and it was established and he was very insightful and he could go with a Mercury in Sagittarius. He could spin a lot of sentences out of every single one. He was very good at that. That was something I had to learn to do with Mercury zero Virgo. I said one sentence and then he’d say, “What else, John?” And I say, “Well, go back and read the sentence again.” Right? [John laughs] Whereas Rob could just spin a yarn on forever, which is one of the reasons for his success.
CB: Yeah, those Mercury in Sagittarius do not have that problem. Yeah. So, I wanted to mention that just because it’s like I had heard this rumor or something and I realized in retrospect that it was from somebody who is probably not on good terms with Rob so that it was probably not the safest source to get that information from but they tried to allege that you were somehow ripped off by him for the composite chart idea or that there was some bad blood there as a result of that. But the counter argument that is always seen against that was that you wrote the introduction to his book on Composite Charts and then years later, he wrote the introduction to yours. So, it seems clear that just objectively speaking, you guys were friends and were on good terms and it was-
JT: Oh yeah, absolutely, we’ve always been on good terms. And would I have liked to have had the money for Composite Charts [unintelligible 00:27:24:28] but it didn’t work out that way. And in retrospect, it really doesn’t matter because that was something that we were both going through at the time and he ultimately went as you know in a totally different direction as did I. I went really to theory of, but it was that that led me there and he went to classical stuff which is where oddly enough, the conjunction of all of that was Bob Schmidt who came to astrology through me because Ellen Black was a client of mine briefly and I told her that until Kammerer’s translated, you’re not going to have a lot of the major information theory you need to explain astrology, and she went out and found the book. It was very hard to find at that point. There was no internet to just pull it out. And then Bob translated it, he was a mathematician at the time, a historical mathematician and he became so fascinated with the astrology part that he became an astrologer [John laughs] and that’s what he’s known for now.
CB: Right. And so, when was that then? Was that like the early ‘80s?
JT: Yeah, that was in mid-80s, yeah, ’86-’87. And we wrote the book about Kammerer which he translated Kammerer’s and we together wrote an updated explanation of what Kammerer’s thinking was about and why it applies and how it integrates with chaos theory and stuff like that which… Kammerer was way ahead of his time. He was biologically what he was run out for the midwife told or run out of the scientific community turns out now he’s considered to be the father of epigenetics because he discovered that there are inherited characteristics that aren’t explained by Lamarckism but they’re ones that he found and now we know that’s the case, but back then he was rejected for it. So, I was very glad that Bob came in and we managed to get the translation going on and we did as yet unpublished book about it which you can get copies of just to look at, but it’s important to… Now that was an odd fated thing that in astrology that that’s how Bob happened to come to astrology and Rob happened to come to Bob and astrology too and they both did it.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really weird intersection of three really pivotal astrologers in astrology over the past few decades and the significant work that all three of you have gone on to do in the field and this weird intersection and crossing of your paths at different points.
JT: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s fascinating. And Rob, as he’s often pointed out, is also a musician [John laughs] and there are many thought patterns that we share for those kinds of reasons.
CB: Sure. So, really quickly about the Kammerer thing, I just want to explain that because that’s one of your big things that you’ve done and a really important piece of background work that you’ve done on the philosophy and theory of astrology was some of your work on this guy Kammerer and some of his theories actually ended up influencing or were very influential in the development of Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity, right?
JT: Well, no, Carl Jung went the opposite direction from what he did. He was the other side of the coin on trying to explain what anomalistic events that seem to be what we call synchronicity, what Jung came to call it, but Jung went for the idea of a causal synchronicity and Kammerer was of the opinion much earlier in 1919 when he wrote this, that it was not a causal at all. It’s entirely causal, but you didn’t see all the causes. In other words, so when some two weird things happen together that seemed to be disconnected, they were actually connected but at another level, another informational level, where you didn’t see they come from and there was an ultimate cause but not a proximate cause. And without a proximate cause, we figured they can’t be connected. But in fact, they’re connected by a deeper segmenting of information that’s basically within the environment that surfaces at the same time, kind of like wave peaks surfaces at sea. And that was his way of looking at things. It was a very physical way of looking at things and he felt that these kinds of things were natural phenomenon, they weren’t a mystical phenomenon, they weren’t psychological phenomenon, they were, in fact, actually happening for real. And that’s been my approach to astrology as well that you can put mysticism and everything else on top of it, but fundamentally, you’ve got something that’s there. It’s the planets, it’s real, it’s the atmosphere, it’s the ocean and the tides, and the downward or upward depending on how you’re looking at it increasingly, entrainment of cycles one to another which bring the same set of information to constantly come back to you in which astrology because it’s looking at the big lower cycles, you’re looking at regular events during the daily or the upper partials of those deep bass cycles. In other words, you are looking at music that’s the bass and drums, but way deeper and these very, very, very slow cycles that then resonate at higher and higher upper partials until you get where we are which is the structure of nature in general whether it’s sound waves or electromagnetic waves, they all basically work according to the same sets of interactions mathematically and the planetary astrophysics of it works long in the same way using the same mathematics and the same patterns. So, I think that basically a later date, we’ll be saying all it’s really obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to anybody for many years before.
CB: Right. And so that’s actually really interesting and somehow unique at this point because I feel like where you adopt and you think there is a physical basis for astrology as the mechanism underlying it to some extent and I wanted to talk about that because it seems like over the past couple of decades, especially after the failures of some of the scientific testing that was happening in the ‘70s and ‘80s, one of the reactions to that was there was one school which was like the Jeffry Cornelius school, where he argued in the moment of astrology which I think was published in ‘94 that all astrology is divination and that horary astrology is not a unique weird thing unto itself, but that horary astrology is actually what all astrology is and by extension, all astrology is divination. And a lot of people, it seems like over the past couple of decades, have really adopted that and it’s become a very common belief or viewpoint. In addition to, you have the other psychological schools like the Tarnas school or a lot of the Jungian astrologers who following some of Jung’s work on synchronicity argue that astrology is based on some sort of a causal principle and therefore is not due to some strict physical laws that are taking place which is causing astrology to work, but you take the position that there is a physical basis to astrology.
JT: Absolutely. And those very positions are examples of why not gone completely mad, is that you don’t have a central real physical theory and so hey, it could be psychological, it could be spiritual, it could be the seven rays coming down and manipulating you from beings on the astral plane and so on and so forth. Why not? [John laughs] So, I’m sorry. I’m just not buying any, I never have. And I think the reason it failed the testing all failed is because they were testing stuff that wasn’t there to test. It’s not psychology because it doesn’t fit with the Minnesota personality index or the California one, that somehow rather that means it’s failed the test. It’s failed the test that it’s psychology, which it’s not. It should fail that test.
CB: Well, and I mean, they’re also doing stupid tests like Mars and redheads or something like that.
JT: There’s amazing set of things because they are saying, “Why not school of testing? We’ll test anything.” And that’s not how you do things. Scientists get to say, “Oh, this disproves astrology.” And they’re being as silly as the rest of them because that’s not how you’ll go about it to test anything in the normal sciences. You wouldn’t just take some random little thing like that and say, “Well, that proves it or doesn’t prove it.” Not at all. You have to have an underlying theory and then you have to have predictions from that theory and then you have to have them come out right or adjust them accordingly, and astrology hasn’t had that. And for that reason, it is not as legitimate as it should be. And unfortunately, because it’s been taken over by people who will claim it’s this or that based on nothing at all except their particular personal whim or their attempt in the case of psychology to try to tag on to something that looks like a soft science, and that was a big thing that oh, it’s really just psychology and drag. No, it’s not. And that was prostitution of the worst sort and it didn’t work for anybody in terms of getting test results and I don’t think it ever really will. And the same thing with a causal, there’s no such thing as a causal. [John laughs] Things are put together. They hang together because they hang together. [John laughs] If there wasn’t a connection with the main things then it wouldn’t be there, which is just the most obvious thing should be too anyway.
And so, the idea that there’s some mystical thing that’s all quasi genetic or it has to do with the latest and worst is a quantum theory which quantum people themselves have hard enough time within astrology [John laughs] and don’t have a clue what quantum theory is about, and you could get the quantum theory if you wanted to use three-dimensional time and some of the stuff that I’ve suggested, you could get there and you could connect astrology with it nicely. But you can’t just do it over the transom like that because what you’re looking at what astrology is not subatomic particles, they don’t work the same way, they really, really don’t and it’s all trying to attach to some other legitimate science. Oh, we’ll just say this is real psychology or whatnot. Are we legit? No, you’re not if you’re doing that. But there was this need to be recognized by astrologers which I have always found to be self-serving to say the least. If you don’t know something, say you don’t know it and then go find out.
CB: Right. I mean, that’s interesting because that’s almost one of the reasons why it seems like sometimes people fall back to or end up with like a causal or a divinatory approach to astrology is like one of the points or one of the arguments is that we don’t have really any known physical basis or mechanism that could account for the things that astrologers say that astrology is capable of doing. And it seems like one of the positions that you’re taking is that despite that, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t one or that you’re comfortable with not knowing necessarily what the specific mechanism is, but still positing that it probably is some physical mechanism.
JT: Yes. And you can get a lot done without ever knowing how actually things work. Engineering is the greatest example, the Roman engineers in particular, who did miracles without really having a lot of the basics of what they were doing or underlying it. They just did it until they got it right. The same with building great cathedrals, you built it until one fell down and then you say, well, that doesn’t work, [John laughs] so we’ll stick with the smaller ones. Not sure why, but that’s the way it works. And you can do medicine even there’s a wonderful book of 200 years of medicine in the Royal Navy within the 1600 and 1700s and they made huge advances in medicine even though they had no modern medical theory at all, they just did seat of the pants, they clean things up, they did organizing of information and statistics up the wazoo, it was fantastic. And the result was that they had got a much healthier navy and a much healthier country as a result of it without ever getting to modern medicine as to why it happened and why you could make them then the next leap to connect it all together. And we’ve done that with astrology. It works, yeah. You can make it, you can fly it seat of the pants and it works, but the problem is that a lot of people are going to be flying it saying it works because of this or that and that’s where you fly right over the edge and then you start to get things wrong or you start to mislead people or mislead yourself. And if you can’t provide something that you know then just say it. Now, that’s what kills me that people figure they have to know and they have to be right for some reason even if they don’t actually know what’s going on and that is the why not school of whatever and they say, “Oh, sure, it could be that. Why not say it’s that?” Well, there’s good reason why not say it’s that because it probably isn’t and you’ve got no reason particularly to say that. And we will no doubt end up getting all of this much more nailed down and right and in retrospect, it will be obvious as so many things are in science. So, that’s how it works. Oh, why didn’t anybody see that before a while? It’s just that way, things develop that way.
So, I hope that astrologers will be at least that I mean, you can still do it, I still do astrology from seat of the pants, but I try to use at least the physical basis theory such as like how to make that better, to make it clearer and to see why it doesn’t work sometimes and why it does particularly work other times and the metaphors involved once you get for instance, into just the simple back and forth cyclical gravitational pull of the planets in and out, you get those basic cycles going, you’re pulling away from them half the time, you’re being pulled towards them half the time which means you’re heavier at one spot and you’re lighter in the other spot as a planet big time and we do when we fly which takes a couple of 100,000 kilometers out of our orbit and those things combined to entrain us and train our environment and to filter down into the more details of our environment, which is much more organized as an environmental science than we have previously given it credit for. One of the problems of dismissing great many things in immediate sciences is the second law of thermodynamics which seems to say that everything’s going to get more chaotic. But if you look at the development, even of the universe itself, that’s simply not true. You had things were most chaotic at the beginning of the universe and most organized as they start going into galaxies and then into solar systems and so on, things actually become as the systems separate themselves out, they become more self-organized. And that’s true at the micro level of information around you as well and which is why we keep running into all those degree areas all the time. That’s your micro structure happening around you that’s settled in over a number of billion years, but certainly, over the last few million as far as everything has been basically resonating the same way and any environment is going to reflect the echoes of all of that. And even looking at it that way allows you to use the metaphors of basic wave-like phenomena, whether it’s in light or in the ocean waves themselves as to how they work or how they conflict about, you looked at astrology and you say, “Oh, my goodness, it works.” If you look at it that way, it expresses what happens in people very much. You look at waves that pile on to each other as one thing, waves that are crossing each other and have those rough peaks and are like a square, it’s all one set of the way things are put together.
CB: Right. And so just to bring things back around and to complete the previous discussion, you really feel strongly that whatever the final physical basis of astrology or the scientific basis of astrology ends up being someday that this theory known as seriality or this concept of seriality developed by this Austrian scientist, Paul Kammerer, in a book and I think you said 1919 that that’s going to play a very pivotal or a central role in the overall conceptual basis of astrology.
JT: Yeah, he was going in the right direction. And if you read his stuff, you can see that he was going in the right direction. He again didn’t have a complete… He was postulating some physical theory stuff that is not real bottom line central, but it’s in the middle, why things attract each other, why things tend to cling together, this kind of stuff, why inertia has its own quality and ways that people didn’t necessarily give it credit for, that we’re rebounding in the physical sciences at this time. And when Einstein came along, he eclipsed that very mezzo scale way of looking at things. When Einstein came along, suddenly everybody’s attention jumped to the cosmic scale or to the atomic scale and the way things interact, the way information interacts within the middle range or got lost until chaos theory came along and suddenly started seeing patterns where no one had thought there were ones and he presaged all of that. So, is he the foundation? No, but he was part of the right direction. And we need to put all of those right directions together until you actually have something that is sufficiently consistent that you can call it a real science.
CB: Sure. And so, you guys, you and Robert Schmidt had translated Kammerer’s work and that was something that you guys were going to publish but then got sidetracked. I mean, I guess he basically got sidetracked by Project Hindsight at that point, right?
JT: Yeah, he lost interest in it. He was doing the other thing entirely and no one was up to publish it. And right now, it’s a mostly completed manuscript. It’s a script which people are welcome to see a copy of, you can write to me at the site and I give it to people to look at as long as they’ll tell me what they’ve done with it because the information needs to be out there in order that people can step in that direction.
CB: Sure. Yeah. Well, yeah, I definitely like to hear more about that and then people can get in touch with you to hear more, and I think you have written about it as well a bit on your website, right? Okay, so people should check out your website, of course, which is astrococktail.com. And yeah, guess to bring things around and start wrapping things up, I think we covered a lot today. I’m actually surprised at how much we were able to get in, so thanks for taking the time to have this conversation with me. Are there any major points about Composite Charts or your work with Composite Charts that we should have touched on that we’ve overlooked at this point?
JT: I don’t think so. We’ve covered an awful lot. There’s an awful lot of areas, there’s lots more to be covered in the physical whys and whereas of astrology as you look back on composites but really, we’ve touched on all of it. And you can see, I’ve written extensively in a lot of different articles on all of these things on the site, so you can see how all those theories including three-dimensional time and what have you flesh out when you actually apply them to astrology, but that’s to further look at another time. Yeah.
CB: Yeah, and you were really one of the first bloggers and you’ve been extremely active in the past through your website. I mean, I’ve been following your website at least since the mid-2000s and I know you’re writing long before that in terms of that, but definitely, you have a pretty frequent writing schedule where it seems like you crank out an article like every week or so or something like that, right?
JT: Well, it varies. It depends on whether I have anything to say or not. For a while, it was quite frequent and right now, it’s been taken aback a great deal by just circumstances in general of where the country has been at and I’ve really fleshed out the basics of the basic theory across the board on a lot of things which you can see. So, when something new comes along, I’ll write about it, but it varies and AstroCocktail’s been going since 2005, I guess.
CB: Yeah. Well, I really appreciate your work there. And you and your wife have been a team for a while and it’s your shared website in astrococktail.com, right?
JT: Yeah, absolutely. Susan has been a part of it since the beginning and it’s been a labor of both love and professionally for a long time. So, basically, on we go, we’ll see what the next step turns out to be in terms of what can be then gleaned from all of this. A lot of things need to be researched, needs to be done, commercial research needs to be done. I can’t tell you the potential money in just doing some of the basic research here that people can make just in advertising alone, it would be an enormous amount of money. People are trying to focus on what people’s tastes are while you got their charts, what their tastes are and you don’t even have to research it further than that in many cases and you have a database already there. All you have to do is bring in an astrologer to tell you what the likelihood of this or that are, and suddenly rake in the money in it if anybody would do that. All they need to do is to take it, do a sample market research using it and then start the pulling the money in, but no one’s been willing to do that because they don’t think it’s a science.
CB: Sure, yeah. I mean, it’s such a vast field and it seems like there’s still so much we don’t know about it and still so much that’s left untapped or isn’t fully explored.
JT: Yeah, and the people who would do that don’t think much of astrology at all. The people who are in that business are not interested in astrology and they should be because there’s a lot of money there, but that’s the way it is. Somebody will do that eventually and they’ll make a lot of money.
CB: Sure. Well, yeah, and there will continue to be different people like yourself who continue to push the boundaries of and expand the scope of what we even know about or what we even think astrology is where every once in a while you can have somebody who comes along like you did in your 20s and can introduce a completely new technique that completely broadens the scope of some branch of astrology that had been well established for like 2000 years up to that point, and then somebody comes along and doesn’t completely upend the entire approach because it’s not like what you did invalidated synastry, but it just added this completely different dimension to it almost as if you were looking at that as a two-dimensional thing and then you came along and you added this third dimension to relationship analysis through astrology.
JT: Absolutely. And the dimensionality is really what it’s all about and we’re missing a couple of them and the more we know we are and know to look for them and find out where to find them, the more you’ll start to explain all kinds of anomalistic things that we can’t explain when they’re actually fairly simple and staring us in the face. So, it’s there and it doesn’t contradict anything that’s gone before, it envelops it. The same ways how science develops, we didn’t disprove Newton to get to Einstein. And it has to do with the context in which these things are used. So as the context changes, you add and broaden your view of things.
CB: Right, brilliant. All right. Well, I think that’s a perfect point to end, so awesome. Well, this has been great, so thanks a lot for joining me today.
JT: Thank you very much. It’s been a delight. Thank you, Chris.
CB: All right. And everyone should check out John’s website at astrococktail.com and sign up for his mailing list which I’ve been on for 10 years because then I always get the articles as soon as they’re delivered. And yeah, thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.