The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 223, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Alan Oken
Episode originally released on September 24, 2019
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 email@example.com.
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released December 7th, 2019
Copyright © 2016 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, starting at 8:10 PM, in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 223rd episode of the show.
In this episode, I’m going to be talking with astrologer Alan Oken who’s the author of a number of highly influential astrology books, such as Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology, and Rulers of the Horoscope.
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.
Hey, Alan. Thanks for joining me today.
ALAN OKEN: Oh, a pleasure to be here, Chris. Thank you.
CB: Where are you joining me from?
AO: I live in Bali, Indonesia, where I’m proof there is a tomorrow because right now it is Thursday morning, at 10:12 AM, here in Bali.
CB: I love that, yeah. It’s eight o’clock at night here in Denver, on September 18th. What I also love about that is our charts for the start of this episode are just completely different based on our relative locations as well.
AO: Absolutely, yes.
CB: All right. Brilliant. Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m excited about this partially for almost purely personal reasons because your book on astrology, Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology, was actually one of the first astrology books that I ever bought and that I learned astrology from. So it’s actually a great honor to have you on this show because you were essentially indirectly one of my first astrology teachers back when I was still a teenager.
AO: Thank you.
CB: You actually started learning astrology as a teenager as well, right?
AO: No. Actually I started learning astrology at 23 years of age, after what would be called a mystical experience.
AO: Shall I share that?
CB: Sure. What was the experience?
AO: Well, I wasn’t on any drugs or anything like that. I wasn’t on alcohol or anything that would disturb the focus of my awareness.
CB: What year was this, by the way?
AO: This was 1967. It was about 10:10 PM. I’ve already drawn up a chart for it, of course. 10:10 PM, on the 24th of October, Sun at 0 Scorpio, exactly trine my 0 Cancer Mars in the 8th house. So there was a rebirthing, if you please.
I had been meditating from the time I was about 19, studying yoga and meditation at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York, under the late Swami Satchidananda. And so, that evening, I was meditating and a Tibetan monk appeared in my inner eye and said to me, “Study astrology, my son. That will lead you to your path in life.”
So I bowed low. I said, “Yes, sir, I will do that.” And the next morning–I was living in a commune in the Village because it was those years, you know–I called my mother who lived in the suburbs and I said, “Can I come home and study for a while, and can you lend me some money? I need to buy some books,” so my mother said yes to both of those.
I went to the suburbs, got some money, looked up in the Yellow Pages where there was an astrology bookstore. There was one in Manhattan, on 67th Street or something like that, and Lexington Avenue. So I went right back into the city, bought the astrology books, came back to my mother’s house, locked myself in and started studying, and that’s how it began.
CB: Wow, at 23-year-old?
AO: Yes. Up until that point, I was taking post-graduate work in Romance languages.
CB: Right, because actually one of your great skills is you have a way with languages, right?
AO: Thank god, yes. I have Mercury trine to Jupiter in the 9th house and they both sextile to Saturn in Gemini, and Saturn in Gemini rules grammar. Saturn rules structure. Gemini rules language. Saturn in Gemini, structure of language. So I’m pretty good with grammar, and I speak, lecture, write many languages.
CB: How many languages do you know?
AO: I speak seven languages. I can lecture in five in them, and the two other ones I’m quite conversational in. I’m very conversational in Indonesian, in German, but I wouldn’t lecture in either of those languages. I lecture in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and of course, English.
CB: Okay. Brilliant. So you’ve always had a way with languages. Did that come in handy in your early studies of astrology?
AO: Astrology is a language, so I had to learn the vocabulary. But instead of translating from one part of my lower mind to another part of my lower mind–i.e., French to Italian or something like that–I had to translate from my intuition into my intellect in order to be able to be in touch with the archetypal dynamics of astrology, and then come into an intellectual explanation of what those archetypes mean relative to the level of consciousness of my client and to what the client needed from me. The ability to choose the right keywords and the right level of applying those keywords, that was where language capability came in handy, absolutely.
CB: Okay. Brilliant. And do you share your birth data?
AO: Oh, easy. I was born on March 28, 1944, in the Bronx, New York. I have 23:56, I believe, Scorpio rising, almost 7 Virgo at the Midheaven. The birth time is 11:04.
CB: 11:04. It looks like my database has the wrong time.
AO: Well, that’s the published chart and I rectified it.
AO: So when it’s rectified, it will be 11:04.
CB: Got it. You said AM?
CB: I’m sorry.
AO: Yeah, that would be 11:04 PM, and that would be Eastern War Time.
CB: There we go. So 23:48 Scorpio rising.
AO: There we are. That’s it.
CB: Brilliant. And what form of house division do you prefer? This just defaulted to whole sign.
AO: Well, I’m an old fashioned astrologer. I use Placidus.
CB: Okay, no problem. Let me throw it up using Placidus.
AO: How nice it would be if my Mars were in the 9th house, but it isn’t.
CB: Yeah, well, it’s not like you ended up in a foreign country, or speak many foreign languages, or do astrology or anything.
AO: No, no, not like that at all.
CB: Right. So here it is: 23 Scorpio rising and your Midheaven is at–what is it? 7-8 Virgo?
AO: It’s 6:47-6:48 of Virgo, 7 degrees of Virgo.
CB: Got it, okay. So you’ve got that Jupiter, Pluto, North Node conjunction up in Leo in the 9th quadrant house. Mars is over in the 8th…
CB: …and the Saturn, Moon, and Uranus in Gemini in the 7th.
AO: That would be it, yes.
CB: Okay. And there’s the Mercury you were talking about; that it’s trining Jupiter and sextiling Saturn.
AO: Exactly. Very strong Jupiter, very strong Mercury, yeah.
CB: Brilliant. All right, well, thanks for sharing that.
CB: So back to your story. It sounds like you started studying astrology right when it was hitting its heyday in the late 1960’s basically.
AO: Absolutely. I came in on that wave.
CB: Okay. So what was that like? We’re having a similar but I want to say smaller wave right now, where suddenly there’s a new generation of astrologers coming in, in their 20’s, and even late teens. Astrology’s suddenly become popular or trendy in the past year or two and gotten a bunch of media attention.
Relative to the late 1960’s, it’s nothing like what was going on during that time, right?
AO: Well, the 1960’s, for many of us was incredible because there was an infusion of consciousness into the human collective. A lot of us were discovering that there was a relationship between the visible and the invisible that had never existed before because those definitions were always subjugated to the boundaries of orthodox religions.
Many of us were finding our communal spirit orientation outside of our ethnic and religious background, and I have to say one of the great helpers in that respect was LSD. The use, not the abuse of LSD was so helpful for so many of us to be able to go beyond the boundaries of inherited responsive patterns to life and to move into a very strong focus of individuation with a very clear identity to Spirit. Unfortunately, many of my contemporaries got lost in that drug dynamic.
I remember the last time I took LSD, the spirit of LSD gave me a message. It was, “You are now higher than where we can take you. Stop, or you’ll go down.” I said, “Thank you,” and that was the last time I ever took any substance at all, and that was many, many years ago.
I’m very grateful to that lifting up of a veil that allowed me to come into a spiritual quest, and that’s what the inner teacher told me when I was 23 and I was not on any substances. The inner teacher said, “Astrology would lead you to your path.” And I was, if I might say, intelligent enough to follow what he said, and here we are.
CB: Sure. So if you were already meditating by that point, did you have an interest in other metaphysical studies or theosophy at that point?
AO: Absolutely. Well, let us say that I had always, from the time I can recall–seven, eight years of age–visited different churches and temples. I lived in Midtown Manhattan. There were many different churches and temples available just in my neighborhood. And if I searched out further, which I did as a child, I would be finding myself in Buddhist service. I’d be finding myself in a Catholic service. I’d be finding myself in a Jewish service. I just had a real interest in things of the Spirit, but at that time, it was all cloaked in religion.
When I was a teen, a late teen, I came in contact with Swami Satchidananda, and I started practicing hatha yoga, becoming a vegetarian, meditating. Then when I found astrology, when I went shopping at the astrology bookstore–no, it was a little before that. No, I beg your pardon. I was 21. I was still at graduate school at New York University.
There was a place called Weiser’s. Weiser is a very famous astrological publisher. But before Weiser was an astrological publisher, he owned a used bookstore, a huge used bookstore in Lower Manhattan. The basement of Weiser’s was all esoteric books. So you would go down there and you’d meet other teens and young people who were interested in all these esoteric subjects.
For $5, I saw on sale a two-volume set of Madame Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine, which is a cornerstone to theosophical teachings, and it was on sale for 5 bucks. Even in 1966 or ‘61, whenever it was–I was 18, 1963–even 5 bucks was still cheap for these two, big, beautiful volumes. So I took out my 5 bucks and I bought them. I started to read them, couldn’t read them at all, and I said, “Wait, Alan. In a few years, you’ll be able to read these books. So just put them away for now.” And I did.
Then when I started studying astrology, when I went to buy my first astrology books, at the time, I thought I had Leo rising. I saw a book on the shelves called Esoteric Astrology by Alan Leo, and I said, “Oh, well now, this is interesting. We’re both named Alan, spelled with one ‘l’. He’s Alan Leo, I have Leo rising. It’s esoteric. I like the sound of that.” I grabbed the book.
He was a theosophical astrologer. So I started studying theosophy, in broad terms, ancient wisdom teachings, simultaneously to studying astrology, so the two went hand-in-hand.
CB: And that’s really crucial for your future career because there were a number of prominent astrologers of the theosophical lineage, starting with Alan Leo in the early 20th century, and then onto Marc Edmund Jones, and even Dane Rudhyar. But I really consider you to be one of the most recent, most prominent astrologers, broadly speaking, of the theosophical lineage. I feel like you were the most prominent one.
So that would really come to influence your entire philosophy of astrology, as well as some of your technical approach?
AO: And my way of living. It’s at the center of my spiritual life, and then my spiritual life is at the center of my life. Also the theosophical material plus astrology helped to structure this link between my intuitive perceptions and my intellectual abilities to express what I’m perceiving. And it’s also helped me to have a healthy distance from the physical life, even though, of course, I’m physical. I believe the older you get, the more physical, you have to pay attention to. But I’m able to keep a certain dynamic of abstraction possible so I can really see what’s going on in the chart, as best as I can.
CB: So you came in as part of that wave. This is basically the Pluto in Leo generation, especially the people born in the 1940’s and mid-1940’s that all came into astrology at the same time in the late 1960’s and early ‘70s.
Besides Alan Leo, what were some of your other main influences astrologically at that point early in your studies?
AO: Marc Edmund Jones.
AO: Marc Edmund Jones has written some of the most boring books a person could ever imagine, which I highly recommend to everybody, because once you get through the dry and dusty language, there’s treasure after treasure of astrological wisdom. So Marc Edmund Jones, especially the book, Essentials of Astrological Analysis, absolutely one of my bibles.
Isabel Hickey. Isabel only wrote two books that I know of, but I studied with her personally. She had a short career in astrology, only 10 years. She started at 65, she passed away at 75, but I was one of Izzy’s kids. She had a group of young people, and we followed her up to New England to study at her home in New Hampshire, and just followed her around. So Isabel Hickey was a wonderful influence on me.
CB: Wow, that’s crazy that you’re one of the students of Isabel Hickey because she also mentored, or at least very briefly had a number of other students that would go on to become prominent astrologers as well, right.
AO: Yes. Yes, we were Izzy’s kids. We were all in our 20’s and she was our mom, our astrological mom. At the time, in the ‘60s, you formed families. So you lived in communes and you formed families. And so, our astrological family were all Izzy’s kids that surrounded her.
I remember one time her lover was a black man and just this wonderful guy. She was invited to teach a group of all-black astrology students based in Harlem, and she invited me to come along. I was the only white guy that was there, and I was met with all sorts of negativity, because at the time there was this incredible tension of the civil rights movement.
I had to confront this group of black students to say, “I think you’re all prejudiced. Can you get over my skin color and let’s get on to study astrology?” Well, that did it, and we all made friends, and it was a beautiful weekend together. It was fabulous. I’m glad I was an Aries. I could stand up there and say, “Wait a minute.” So Isabel was very influential in my life in many ways.
And then there was a man I never met who died before I came into contact. His name was Rodney Collin. He was a student of Ouspensky’s, and he wrote a book called The Theory of Celestial Influence. That’s another one of my bibles, The Theory of Celestial Influence, an incredible book. And then, of course, I have to speak about Max Heindel, who was the founder of astrological Rosicrucian in the 20th century, who wrote these astrological books in the Rosicrucian modality, and so, he was a strong influence.
Finally, I would say Alice Bailey’s book, Esoteric Astrology, which was written by the Tibetan Master D.K. through Alice, led me to write my book, Soul-Centered Astrology. It helped me to shape my approach to integrate exoteric and esoteric astrology as a practical means of interpreting the chart.
CB: Okay. Yeah, I know Alice Bailey’s work definitely influenced your Soul-Centered Astrology book, which came out in 1990, right?
AO: It came out in ‘88. That approach, the integration of exoteric and esoteric astrology was a major factor in shaping my approach.
CB: Already, very early in your studies, it was a major influence?
AO: Absolutely. I’m a little mystical. Little–I have a strong mystical orientation. So this sense of knowledge being passed on through the descent of wisdom, from a link to a lineage has dominated my life from the time I was 23-years-old, and still dominates my life.
When I read a horoscope, I read for bankers. I read for housewives. I don’t just read for mystics. One of the abilities that one acquires is to be able to take astrology–which really is an intuitive science focused through the intellect–and being able to attune one’s self to the archetypes, and then apply them also through the opening of the heart because you’ve got to be in contact with the person the person that you’re reading for.
I’m not a medium, but one is receiving a certain degree of understanding about things that one has worked very hard to achieve the mind that can receive that understanding, and then apply that on the level where it’s appropriate. I just yesterday did the horoscope of a Indian man from Singapore who was just totally interested in money and business. The transcendent life didn’t interest him at all. So I read for the gentleman because that’s what he required of me.
CB: How do you balance that then if your primary interest is more philosophical or spiritual in terms of the astrology, when people are coming to you with really practical concerns about the concrete, day-to-day events in their life?
AO: I’m not prejudiced. I’m not prejudiced racially. I’m not prejudiced on levels of consciousness. I mean, wherever I can be of help, I try to be of help. Now I’ll give you a little secret because you’re a Scorpio, so I’ll tell you the secret of it. I always throw one in for God. No matter who I’m reading for or whatever, I always try to get in there and pick it up a notch.
In the case of this gentleman, I reminded him of his Hindu traditions, and I reminded him of the writings of the rishis and things like that. He wanted to learn how to get out of a certain situation, so I recommended some works of some Hindu rishis to him. So I’m always trying to bring the level up, but never trying to convert anybody. That’s not my karma. It’s just that I’m an astrologer; I try to help people.
CB: Sure, so you’re not trying to force anything down people’s throats, necessarily.
AO: Not necessarily, no.
CB: It sounds like your influences or your interests in the authors that you gravitated towards in your astrological studies were more theosophical and more philosophical or spiritual. It seems like some astrologers were going for more of this psychological or depth psychology route at that point.
Was that a direction that didn’t interest you necessarily as much? To what extent were you influenced by some of those strands of the tradition?
AO: Oh, I definitely am interested in humanistic astrology. I’m a pretty good nuts-and-bolts, practical astrologer. I live in Bali, but where I’m coming from is I’ve raised a family for God’s sake. I have grandchildren. I mean, I’ve had to earn a living. I’m from New York. I’m not ‘woo-woo’. I’m just a man who lives a ‘spiritual life’.
In other words, when I say live a spiritual life, the sense of the spiritual as a reality is in my heart, and the grace of God, I hope is in my heart, and that means a great deal to me. But I’ve certainly studied some wonderful modern astrologers who have contributed enormously to the realm of humanistic astrology, definitely. I’m not ‘woo-woo’, but I do definitely stand on a spiritual foundation.
CB: Sure. I guess I was just thinking, one of the other people that studied under Isabel Hickey was Liz Greene. I don’t think she studied with her long, or maybe they had a falling out or something.
AO: I would think they would have had a falling out.
CB: Okay. Why do you say that? Are you just making an assumption?
AO: No, comment.
CB: Okay. Strong personalities are something maybe. But she very much focused on the work of Carl Jung, primarily focusing on that approach to psychology and integrating that into astrology. I guess I was just wondering to what extent–it seems like you focused more on a different part of the 20th century tradition…
CB: …and even though you kept things relatively grounded that wasn’t necessarily your interest primarily.
AO: I got a lot out of Howard Sasportas. I got a lot out of–oh, what’s the name of that gentleman, a very famous book on transits–Rob Hand, a man for whom I have enormous respect. Quite the scholar, and a wonderful contributor to astrology. So I’ve read his books–not the ones on Latin and Greek, but the ones on transits–and I’ve attended some of his talks when we were at congresses together.
There are people who I have a great deal of respect for, for whom they’re not necessarily ‘spiritual astrologers’, but who definitely know their stuff.
CB: Sure. So you started studying astrology in the late 1960’s, and the book that I primarily know you by and that I feel like is your most well-known book is Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology. But this is actually a compilation of three smaller works that you wrote in the 1970’s, right?
AO: Correct. That’s right, I did. I wrote three books that were called As Above, So Below, The Horoscope, the Road and It’s Travelers, and Astrology: Evolution and Revolution. And 2-1/3 of those books were incorporated into Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology by the original publisher which was Bantam Books.
It’s had several publishers since then, and it’s still selling. People are still finding it useful. The first volume came out, I think it was 1972, As Above, So Below. So here we are, what, 47 years later and the book is still in young people’s hands like yourself, Mr. Brennan.
CB: Right. That means that you wrote the first portions of it, or the first book that eventually went into it maybe four years into your study, if it was 1972.
AO: Yes, that’s right. I wrote my first book, and it’s completely out of print now, but it was called An Astrological Guide to Living in the Age of Aquarius. It was a 300-page, little paperback. I wrote it in 1970 and it came out in ‘71. And then I was picked up in 1970 or early ‘71 by Bantam Books, and they gave me a three-book contract. The result of that three-book contract were the three volumes that were later synthesized into Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology which they also published.
CB: Wow, and this started prior to your Saturn return it sounds like.
AO: Listen, I put together the first computerized astrology program ever used.
CB: When was that?
AO: That was in 1969. In 1969, I was hired by a huge record manufacturing company. I had been a translator of rock ‘n roll songs for famous rock groups in the late ‘60s because of my languages. So I would take the groups into the studios and teach them how to pronounce the words so they could sing in French and Spanish, Italian, what have you.
The owner of the company, a big corporation, that owned this record producing, they knew I was also an astrologer as well as a translator, so they hired me, and I was 25-years-old and I was to pick an astrology team. So I chose some very well-known at the time astrologers who were old enough to be–well, one of them, Rod Chase. And then there was another one–I forget their names now. My short-term memory is not always the best these days. I’m 75, but I remember my astrology and I remember my French.
Anyway, I had this team of very fine, established astrologers that were hired by this record company, and they set me up in an office on 5th Avenue and 53rd Street. I had this secretary, and I’m 25-years-old, and they gave me a whole bunch of money. I had just gotten married and just about to have a baby. I was like, hallelujah, but the other astrologers, because they were old enough to be my grandparents, they were a little–anyway.
We put together a program called Aquariscope, and it first opened in Grand Central Station in 1969. They had 1,600 places where they were going to put these computers. I had gone to Atlanta, Georgia to work with an insurance company who were part of this much larger New York corporation who were innovative in computer design, so that we could then program all the astrology that I had gotten together–the copy that I had gotten together from these other astrologers and myself–to make these astrological reports. And it opened up to great fanfare in Grand Central Station.
AO: I owned 15-percent of the company as part of my deal, and I said, “Oh, God. I’m going to make a fortune here. My kids are going to go to the best schools. This is fabulous.” And then the lawyer came up and he said, “Alan, sell us your 15-percent. We’ll give you $25,000,” which at the time would have been about $200,000.
I said, “No,” and he said, “Trust me. Sell.” I said, “No,” and within six weeks, the entire company went bankrupt…
CB: Oh, no.
AO: …and that was the end of Aquariscope and the end of computerized astrology until some other company picked up on it, and then it became extraordinarily popular.
AO: But that was that story.
CB: So there were some road bumps along the way in terms of your career–speed bumps.
AO: My dear friend, I can remember having no money for rent one month and having to take on a job which required three hours of transportation to Long Island from Brooklyn and three hours back in order to get for eight weeks of traveling enough money to pay my rent. Yes, there were bumps along the way.
CB: Sure. So you had some lean times, but do you think it was when your book came out, the thick book, Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology–was that in 1980? Do you feel like that’s what established your career and established you as a well-known, international astrologer?
AO: It certainly helped. It certainly helped. I can assure you there was a period of time in the ‘70s, middle ‘70s, when I was on food stamps; married with a child on food stamps and still an astrologer. It only started to really open up in the early ‘80s.
Yes, I remember being 40-years-old in 1984 and going, “Phew, okay, financially we can handle life right now,” so yes, that’s true. And at the time, of course, there were no emails, so people contacted you by telephone for readings.
CB: Okay. Yeah, that’s something that’s really changed over the past few years where bookstores are virtually on the way out…
AO: On the way out.
CB: …and all the astrologers are moving to self-publishing, and major publishers are hardly publishing astrology books anymore. And there’s also so many different platforms online, and social media platforms that people are establishing themselves and becoming famous as astrologers without publishing a book. So there’s a question now of if publishing a book is even still necessary in order to establish oneself as leading astrologer in the field today.
But I feel like back in the ‘60s and ‘70s that was just one of the things you had to do in order to establish yourself.
AO: Essential. Absolutely essential. If I hadn’t had these books, I wouldn’t have had all these clients, and I wouldn’t have been able to be respected as someone who knows what they’re talking about when they talk about astrology.
AO: But also, writing books, aside from being a wonderful exercise for a person, I don’t know anymore if it’s leaving behind a legacy because so many things have different platforms, as you’ve just said. I mean, what is an intellectual legacy at this point? Can it be manifested in terms of written material?
I have three or four manuscripts sitting right here in my office waiting to be finished and edited and wanting to be published, and I pray to God to finish them over the next couple of years and get them out as books. Will I send them to a publisher? I doubt it. Will I publish them myself? More likely.
CB: Right. What are those books, just out of curiosity? What are the topics?
AO: One is a book on prediction techniques. I won’t mention the title now, but the theme is prediction techniques because it’s something I’ve really specialized in over the years. Although, certainly–remind me of that gentleman’s name, that one from New England.
AO: Rob Hand, yes. Although Rob Hand’s book is very authoritative, and although Sasportas has some wonderful work on this too, I’d like to get something out by Oken on transits and progressions and add to the body, to the library of work on that. And then I have another book on the astrology of self-transformation which speaks about the use of astrology as a technique to evolve consciousness.
CB: You said that consciousness has become one of your focuses or main areas of interest in terms of astrology.
AO: It’s the main focus.
CB: Why is that? Or, what do you mean by consciousness? Why has it become your main focus? What’s of interest there?
AO: Look at what’s going on in the UK. Look at what’s going on in the United States. Look at what’s going on in Russia. Look at what’s going on in Bulgaria. Look at what’s going on in China. We need some consciousness, thank you very much. There’s too much unconsciousness.
And by the way, consciousness, to me, is love. I’m a ‘60s kid, you know, love and peace. So, to me, consciousness is love, and love is consciousness, and I don’t mean romantic love. I don’t mean Venus trine Neptune located in the solar plexus; I don’t mean that. I’m talking about love as a power to manifest the higher will. And I believe that an important aspect of the higher will is love in action.
As I work to, in my small way–really, this is not false modesty–to bring consciousness into the lives and to support the efforts that growing consciousness in the lives of all my students, all my readers, all my clients, and in my own life, it’s a work in progress. My master said to me in 1967, “Become an astrologer. That will lead you to your path in life, my son.” He didn’t say astrology was my path. He said it would lead me to my path. So astrology has led me to my path and that’s the path of the evolution of human consciousness.
I love astrology as a science, and I hope as a science, I’ve contributed to its techniques, especially through my book, Rulers of the Horoscope. I hope I’ve helped with giving people some delineation techniques through that book. So I’m very respectful of the science that I love and that I share with you and our hearers, but my job is to help develop human consciousness.
CB: Sure. So maybe you see astrology not as the end goal, but as a means to an end in some way.
AO: The idea is quite correct. Astrology is a branch of the ancient wisdom teachings, and my focus is on the ancient wisdom teachings, and my specialty within that is astrology, absolutely.
AO: That’s why a long time ago, I had a choice. I lived in New York, and I had a choice to become a very rich and very famous astrologer to the stars and to these people who had corporations and all of that, but in order to do that I had to focus my astrology on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. I had to focus my astrology on success. I had to focus my astrology on winning over men or winning over women, banking investments and things like this, and then go to all these fancy parties where I’d be a noticed, invited guest, and so there would be a lot of drinking involved.
I would be on Park Avenue, but I’d be lost. So I left that, went on food stamps, and moved to New Mexico. That was a conscious choice and then the conscious choice continued to be an astrologer to the masses, or to have niche where I was focusing on people who were working to develop themselves as human beings. I took that niche. I never became a wealthy person, but I certainly had become a person full of joy and full of purpose, no doubt about it. Oh, yes, and at 75, I’m still healthy, thank you.
CB: Yeah, which is not necessarily the case for everybody from your generation that didn’t necessarily go that route or that got stuck in some of the more, I don’t know, ephemeral focuses or what have you.
AO: Yes, sir, that is true–and the drugs, and the alcohol.
CB: Sure. Consciousness though, circling back to that, there’s sort of a debate that comes up a lot, and I was curious what your opinion is. There’s a debate about to what extent consciousness does make a difference in terms of how the horoscope play out for a person, in terms of their birth chart.
It became very common, it seems like, in late 20th century astrology to say that that was the entirety of the answer, that the chart itself will only manifest in certain ways depending on the person’s level of consciousness. But sometimes this would almost set up a hierarchy, as if there were people that were more or less evolved.
And there became questions about whether that was true or not, in the sense that will a person experience bad things if they’re not evolved as a consciousness and if that’s not a great way to look at it, or not a great way to frame things because it almost makes negative events in a person’s fault their fault when some things might be outside of their control.
Where do you come down on all of that? What’s your perspective?
AO: Well, first of all, Chris, that’s a beautiful synthesis of many different streams of thought, all of which are current and active, and I can’t address in one response all of those currents.
CB: Yeah, it’s like 20 different things.
AO: Yeah, but let me address certain of them.
AO: All right. First of all, from a point of view of politics, I love Bernie, okay. I mean, I believe in everybody having a free, higher education and everybody having free medication and everybody having enough food to feed themselves and their kids. Okay, but from a spiritual point of view, I’m not a socialist.
There are different levels of consciousness. Certain people are born aware. Certain people have to learn awareness. Some people are born aware and lose their awareness. They dynamics of human consciousness are malleable. In order to grow in consciousness, one needs a discipline; Saturn has to be involved.
It is hierarchical. There are levels, okay. And just because a person is at such a level, and one person’s at another level, the higher you are, the more humble you get. The higher you are, the more inclusive you become. The higher you are, the more loving you are. The higher you are, the more perceptive and less judgmental you are; it’s as simple as that.
And you are born with a certain fate. You are born with a certain karma, if you will, never mind the question of past lives. I’m not going to get into that right now. But at the very least, you’re born with a synthesis of your biological inheritance that comes through your genes and lives in your cells. At the very least, you’ve inherited that much from the past and you play it out.
And you play it out until, symbolically speaking, there is your progressed lunar return and then your progressed Saturn return, that 27- to 29-year-old stage in there, where one begins to get the awareness that, “Wait a minute, I can objectify my antecedents.” I can objectify my antecedents and I can create a dynamic of consciousness that is connected to my own process of individuation.
Now to be able to come to that realization intellectually is, “Hello, how are you?” I mean, that is a ‘come to Jesus’ moment, hello. A lot of people don’t know that in those terminologies. I give it those terminologies because I’m a teacher of this path. But it comes as a realization that, “Wait a minute. I’m not just my mother’s kid. I can be myself.” Simply said, that’s it.
How you go about becoming yourself can change the orientation of what’s in your horoscope. A very old, old astrological saying is, and I’m sure you know it, Chris: The horoscope impels, it doesn’t compel.
AO: But it compels more if a person is living in their Moon, if a person is living in their solar plexus and below. The compelling dynamic lessens when the instinctual power over the material life is raised up by being centered in the heart. Once we become centered in the heart, the dynamic of a certain degree of free will begins to express itself.
And then as we move out from the heart, this little point here, this 3rd eye point, this center of Buddha begins–to combine ‘Westinese’, the center of Buddha combines with the center of Christ. These two synthesize, and then all of a sudden, you’re finding yourself on a path, a path of self-creation.
The material you have to use to create that self is in your natal chart. But are you bound in that natal chart? In some ways, you are, and in other ways, you can be free. In other ways, sometimes, you can be free.
CB: That’s the question though. Can one through one’s state of consciousness or level of consciousness actually be free to any great extent from their karma and from their fate, or does one’s level of consciousness alter? Does that necessarily mean if you’re more spiritually evolved that you’re necessarily going to have a better life, materially speaking?
AO: No, it doesn’t mean that, but you’ll certainly have a more joy-filled life.
AO: I live on an island where the majority of people are very poor. This is Bali. People come here and they go to the tourist parts of the island. They live in lovely hotels, or they rent lovely villas, and they have these nicely-dressed, Balinese who serve them and all of that, but the villages are very poor. Some Balinese have money, most of them don’t, but they have a very deep, religious life.
They believe in an animistic form of Hinduism, or Hindu form of animism. And they have a caste system here too, only nobody is an untouchable in Bali. And they’re happy, and they’re kind, and they’re a generous people within their poverty. They’re joy-filled, and they’re spiritually aware. One of the main reasons I live is I’m surrounded by these people that are spiritually aware. They’re not necessarily educated, but boy, are they spiritually aware.
So that makes all the difference because I’m surrounded by people who are centered in their hearts. That’s kind of nice. It makes things rather gentle in the neighborhood, you know.
CB: Sure. There was one extreme version of some of the ideas that came out of the New Age movement that I think went in the direction of The Secret and stuff like that…
CB: …where by simply changing your intentionality or setting your intentionality, depending on your level of consciousness, you could literally manifest whatever material benefits you want versus the other extreme of the spectrum, let’s say, the ancient Stoic perspective that you can’t change the fate that is in your horoscope, but you can only accept it or choose not to accept it on an internal level, and that’s where freedom resides, an internal quality.
Where do fall on that spectrum of those two extreme versions?
AO: Yesterday, I was doing the horoscope of an Indian gentleman who is a businessman from Singapore, a handsome man in his mid-30’s, so filled with anxiety. Saturn squaring Mercury in the chart in mutable signs; so filled with anxiety, so filled with negative thoughts. He also had this Mars aspect which showed he had high blood pressure.
I said, “You’re going to burst all your blood vessels if you keep this up.” I had to speak to him really strongly. He was very male and I had to be very male in return for him to get what I was saying. And I said to him, “You know, you need to meditate. You need to recognize that your mind is not you and that you have the ability to program your own mind. And that once you get into that place, your avenue in business will be a lot easier, and you’ll have much less anxiety.” And I talked along those lines with him for a while. It didn’t go in very far.
In any event, what I’m saying is that’s an example of working on mutating your life. Any of our listeners who have been working on doing certain types of exercises, or following certain diets, or following certain meditation procedures have seen very positive changes take place in their lives which otherwise the horoscope would say, “You don’t stand a chance, buddy.”
So I do believe we can make certain qualitative changes in our way of being. Quantitatively? I don’t know, that’s a big question, but certainly, qualitatively.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I guess one of the internal debates that astrologers have been having for a long time is just what you can change or how much you can change in your life.
AO: Absolutely. It’s a huge question. But I tell you, just as you can’t change your color, unless you’re Michael Jackson, there are certain things in your karma you can’t change because that’s the coloring of your energy field. And then there are certain things you can do to modify your energy field, and that requires, to me, certain disciplines of mind that create avenues for the descent of a higher awareness that can be practically applied in the daily life.
CB: Sure. I guess one of the ambiguities or the thing that was always hard for me is that you don’t ever fully know which certain things are changeable versus which things are not changeable. In some instances of your life, there’s that ambiguity.
AO: You’re right.
CB: Sometimes the best thing is just to attempt to make the change when you can, no matter what, to whatever extent you can. And if you can, you can. If you can’t then you did your best, at least.
AO: I agree with you a hundred-percent. There’s a certain thing called self-acceptance where you go, “Phew, okay, I’ll accept that and get on with it.” But the human nature has a certain grace connected to it, and unless you are disabled in some mental or emotional way–in other words, you’re schizophrenic, or you have a severe mental deficiency, or you’re paralyzed–there are certain things that cannot be changed. But in many ways, there are things that can be changed, and we just have to find the methodology of doing it.
That is the relationship between Virgo and Capricorn. Virgo are methodologies, processes, and techniques of self-improvement, and Capricorn, 0 Capricorn, is the degree of fulfillment, the degree of attainment; an attainment that comes from doing all of those disciplines that Virgo requires.
CB: Brilliant. That makes sense. All right. Let’s see, moving on to some other topics. Consciousness was a big one, but I think we could get stuck there this entire time pretty easily, but that’s probably good for now.
One of the things I’ve always meant to ask you, one of the treatments I always liked in your books–actually before we get there, you already mentioned it first in passing a little. But one of your other books that was very influential for me was a somewhat later book that you wrote in 2000, I think, titled Rulers of the Horoscope.
AO: That one, yes.
CB: Like I said, your Complete Astrology was one of my first books, but I found Rulers of the Horoscope several years later when I was at more of an intermediate stage. And it just happened to be that perfect, intermediate astrology book that dealt with the technique of looking at the ruler of one house when it’s in another house. It seemed like that was a concept that was less prominent or treated less in late 20th century astrology than it was in earlier forms of astrology. Did you get that impression as well, and is that why you wrote the book?
AO: Yes. You see, I had some pretty good astrologer teachers who were older, much older than myself. Therefore, their roots were in an earlier astrology. Dispositorship and rulership were fundamental to making our way through the labyrinth, and I recognized that modern astrologers, later astrologers were not using that technique. I find that that technique of dispositorship and rulership is fundamental–I’ll use the expression again–of making our way through the labyrinth because the natal horoscope is a labyrinth.
So how do you get in there? How do you make your way through without getting lost in the energetic maze? I developed a system which I called a system–I don’t know if I developed it–but I call the system ‘energetic affinities’. So I try to find the energetic affinities between planets, signs, and houses using the energetic affinities. For example, Jupiter is always going to be related to your 9th house. It may not rule your 9th house natally, but it rules it naturally, and Jupiter’s always going to be related Sagittarius planets.
So you try to find all of these relationships, and by finding these relationships and these actual rules–in my book, Rulers of the Horoscope, I give out rules, the rules of following dispositorship. Mutual reception–what is that all about? Final dispositor–what is that all about? And by being able to follow the energy patterns, you will be able to make your way through the labyrinth without getting lost in the maze. That was the purpose of the book. And it was specifically written for intermediate astrology students.
CB: Yeah, well, it was perfect for that. It’s very concise, but very straightforward and very practical. One of the issues that you deal with in the book that’s become much more prominent, even in the 19, almost 20 years since you wrote it–due to the revival of older forms of astrology and traditional astrology–is now there’s much more debates about modern ruler schemes of Uranus ruling Aquarius, and Neptune ruling Pisces, and Pluto ruling Scorpio versus using the traditional rulership schemes of Mars ruling Scorpio, and Saturn ruling Aquarius, and Jupiter ruling Pisces as well as Sagittarius.
CB: And you actually dealt with or tried to reconcile that issue in this book.
AO: I did.
CB: So I was curious to talk to you about that. How do you reconcile that issue?
AO: Okay, first, I want to tell you a little story because old people tell stories. I’m going to tell you a little story.
CB: All right.
AO: I was 26-years-old, or 27 at most, and I met a 75-year-old swami from Madras named Rama Thirtha. I don’t remember where I met him, but I invited him to our home in New York–I had met him some place outside of New York at this conference–and he came and he stayed with us for a couple of weeks. During that time, Swami-ji asked me to read his horoscope, and I knew nothing about Vendantic astrology.
And so, I said to him, “Sir, at home, in India, you would be a Leo, and I have your horoscope as you being a Virgo, and I really don’t know how to reconcile those two.”
CB: It’s the difference between the tropical and sidereal zodiac?
AO: Yes, sir. 23 degrees, currently. And he looked at me with a smile, and he said, “My son, the universe is all the same for us all, we just look at it through different lenses. Now how sharply is your lens focused?” And that gave me an enormous relief. It gave me two things. It gave me the inspiration to sharpen my own lens and to make sure that I had a lens that was individually focused but connected to universal principles and that I would be true to that lens. So then I kept going in that direction to create and to synthesize from various aspects of astrology, facets of astrology, my own approach to the delineation of the man.
I use both the traditional rulers and the ‘new’ rulers: i.e., Neptune/Jupiter, Pluto/Mars, and Saturn and Uranus for Pisces, Scorpio, Aquarius, respectively. And it’s just the way you apply them.
CB: You realize that’s kind of a weird approach. By 2000, it seemed like most of your contemporaries had jettisoned the traditional rulership scheme and everyone was just using the modern rulers. So that did set you a little bit apart, right, or was that not the case?
AO: Yes, but Mars is the shooting of the gun–bang, bang, you’re dead. Pluto is what happens after you die. So when you have Mars and Pluto in relationship to Scorpio, you have this entry into create destruction because that’s what Scorpio has to do, even when it’s coming from–I’m Scorpio rising myself.
Even when it comes from even its highest nature, it’s going to go in there and smash the status quo, leaving a space. Mars always creates space, leaving a space for something higher and more refined to come through, or if it’s negative, leaving something sinister to come through. So you’re going to smash the status quo, right? Okay.
Then you have a process of transformation which is not martial at all. Martial has no patience for a process. No patience for process, but Pluto is the process of transformation. So by taking that approach just to Scorpio, I can see Mars as the ruler of Scorpio in more immanent things, more personality-centered things, and Pluto as a larger and longer process of transformation.
So that would be just a hint, if you will, of my approach to using the traditional and the new rulerships relative to a sign.
CB: Sure. So you pay attention to and you actually provide delineations for both when looking at each one.
CB: So you have one delineation for looking at the ruler of your Scorpio-ruled sign, if you have Scorpio rising, paying attention to where Mars is placed. And then you have a separate delineation for looking at if you have Scorpio rising where Pluto is placed in the chart.
AO: Yes, I do. And we have to remember levels of consciousness. To a person who functions from the solar plexus downward, Pluto is going to represent the will of the personality to transform whatever is in the life for the purposes of personality. But if we’re functioning from the level of the heart center upward, Pluto is going to represent the will of the soul. And the will of the soul is, no matter what destruction has to be done, the purpose is to create greater love and greater awareness.
And Pluto is a painful process even at its nicest. Something has to be sacrificed. That’s what the will is about. It’s the will to sacrifice. If I can get a big Christian here, and why not, God so loved humanity that He gave to humanity his only begotten Son, and the Son manifested love through the sacrifice of divinity. I mean, to me, that’s a Pluto principle.
CB: Okay. Brilliant. And that actually leads us, or it could lead us to, if you’d like to, one of my favorite treatments that you have in Complete Astrology. I don’t know if this was unique or if you had gotten it from somewhere else, but just your treatment of the symbolism of the planetary glyphs always stuck with me. I always found very interesting and compelling the way that you broke down the fundamental symbolism or symbolic meaning of the planetary glyphs.
Was that something you had developed, or you had gotten that from an earlier source?
AO: Oh, I had studied symbolism as indicated by the Rosicrucians, as indicated by that marvelous book by Manley P. Hall, his encyclopedia of esotericism. I forgot the original name. I had studied Qabbalah. I had studied tarot. I had studied–oh, my goodness. I’m a student, you know, so I spent years and years studying symbolism and then was able to synthesize those studies and apply it to the symbolic language of astrology, and hence, my interpretations.
AO: Look, my friend. I’m a very 9th house person in so far as I’m connected to lineages.
AO: My ruling planet is in the 9th house, my North Node is in the 9th house, my Jupiter is in the 9th house, and they all connect to my Sun. So I’m very connected to lineages and putting forth lineages.
CB: Sure. So definitely it would be hard to distinguish because you were drawing on all of these sources. There would have been a lot of things that would have influenced your views, especially when it comes to interpreting symbolism.
AO: Yes. I mean, there’s no doubt that Oken has an ego. There’s no doubt to that at all. But my ego is not for me to be the prime genitor of astrology. It is to be a student of an ancient science, and in some way, contribute to the world.
CB: Sure. So if we could just maybe run through a little bit of that, just because I think it’s an interesting treatment.
CB: You break down the planetary glyphs into, I think, two or three core pieces, and then say that every glyph is a rearrangement of one of those two or three core pieces, and that provides the symbolism for what the planet is actually supposed to mean in astrology.
AO: Absolutely. So we have the cross which is Earth and manifestation and personality. I mean the Passion of Jesus is the redemption of personality and the fusion up into the soul where one becomes an initiate and merges with the Father, in terms of merging with Spirit via soul. I am the way, and through Me, we get to the Father’s house. So the cross of matter is the field through which this drama takes place.
And then you have the semi-circle which indicates, if I put it this way, facing upward, a reception to the incoming energies of Spirit. And if I take the semi-circle this way, it’s going down through what we call in the teachings, the antahkarana, or the Rainbow Bridge, the link between the higher self, the soul, and the personalities. So now the soul is pouring itself into the personality.
And then the final one is the circle which is the all and everything, Spirit. So the Sun, it’s the dot within the circle, the manifesting one atom of solar energy known as you or me.
CB: Okay. Brilliant. So for example, there’s several glyphs that incorporate the cross into them. The two contrasts that’s actually really nice that you talk about in the book is Jupiter versus Saturn, both of which have a cross in their glyphs, right?
AO: Yes. So here you have Jupiter with the semi-circle of the soul above matter, and then in Saturn, you have the cross of matter above the soul. In other words, when Saturn is used incorrectly, the orientation is to have power. There we go–there’s Jupiter. All right, so we’ll take Jupiter.
Here you have the energy of light, the energy of love, the soul, manifesting over the Earth. So you have love infusing into matter.
CB: Okay. Because the semi-circle is in the top part of the Jupiter glyph…
AO: That’s right.
CB: …it represents the soul being above or elevated above matter, which is matter being the cross..
AO: That’s right.
CB: With Saturn, it’s literally almost the reverse, exact reverse glyph where the cross is…
AO: I’m sorry.
CB: …elevated above.
AO: I’m so sorry.
CB: No, go ahead.
AO: Yes. Well, the illusion of Capricorn is the illusion of power. It’s the illusion of Trump. It’s the illusion of anyone that puts matter above Spirit. They get limited. Eventually, they get limited. They come across kronos, which is the Greek word for time, and it’s also the Greek word for Saturn, Kronos.
They get in touch with Kronos and they die. They expire. Poof! There goes their power. So in this sense, Saturn, to me, stands as a warning.
CB: Okay. Interesting.
AO: I like Saturn. One of my first embodied teachers was a man named Isidore Friedman. He came into my life when I was in my mid-20’s and he was in his mid-70’s. He was a Capricorn, and he looked at this wild Aries guy and he said, “Alan, structure, order, process, and form. You have to learn those.”
Well, I didn’t like Isidore very much. I was an Aries. To heck with structure. Who had patience for form? I mean, let’s just go! You know, Aries from New York. But I loved him, and I realized–that little bit of me that was awake at that time–that he was telling me the truth. And so, now, in almost all my teachings, almost all my situations with my students, I teach them process, order, structure, and form. Thank you, Isidore.
CB: Brilliant. There’s a similar symbolism in terms of the reverse of the Venus and Mars glyphs, right?
AO: Absolutely. Here, in Venus, you have the circle. Yeah, there you go. On Venus, you have the circle of Spirit over the cross of matter, and in Mars, you have the cross of matter over Spirit. Hence, the king carrying the orb with the cross on top, which is the inversion of the King of Heaven. It’s the King of Earth.
Now when the King of Earth tries to impersonate the King of Heaven–or the Queen of Earth trying to impersonate the Queen of Heaven, however you want to phrase it–there’s chaos in the world and there’s war.
CB: Okay. Brilliant. Finally, I guess Mercury combines a lot of those, or several of those pieces all into one glyph.
AO: Yes, it does because Mercury is the midway point. In esoteric astrology, Mercury occupies a very major position as Lord of the 4th Ray, but I don’t want to get into that. We don’t have time and it’s too huge a subject.
AO: But Mercury is the midway because Mercury rules Mind, and Mind stands in between soul and personality. I’m not talking about lower mind. I’m talking about the functions of higher Mind as higher Mind relates to lower mind.
When we have a link between higher Mind and lower mind, when that link is consistent, we are opening the door between soul/personality fusion. Mercury helps to do that.
CB: Okay. Brilliant. Yeah, so this is a whole treatment that you have when you get to the planets, and that’s one of the things that you start with in introducing the planets in Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology.
AO: And in Soul-Centered Astrology.
CB: Okay, let’s mention that quickly because one of your other major book that you published in 1990 was Soul-Centered Astrology. You mentioned Alice Bailey published a work on astrology, and she introduced in that book a radically different approach to astrology compared to traditional astrology up to that point.
CB: I never saw after the publication of that book–I think she published in the 1930’s or 1940’s…
AO: 1930’s, yeah.
CB: It didn’t seem like it took off or caught on. But you’re one of the only major astrologers that continued that lineage, or really tried to write a major work as an exposition of that approach, right?
AO: Well, I consider the Tibetan master who wrote that book to be my teacher, and he said in the book, I am looking for a group of astrologers–and I’m paraphrasing. I’m looking for a group of astrologers who will–now I quote–“make fair experiment with what I am teaching.” “And with making fair experiment with what I’m teaching, allow that to go forth into more people’s lives and what this book is.” So I said, yes, sir. I will do that. That’s what I said to myself. I said, yes, sir. Yes, I will do that. I’ll take that on as a task.
So what I did was I took the principles in the book, Esoteric Astrology, and I merged them with the principles of traditional astrological delineation, so that in the process, a person could have an esoteric lens into the life of a human being through the natal horoscope. Just as the master Tibetan only gave us hints about the meaning of the first two houses from an esoteric point of view, I extrapolated from that and I gave the meaning as I perceived it, the esoteric meaning of all the 12 houses compared to their exoteric meanings.
And then I tried to do the same thing with the signs and give how signs worked on an esoteric level and how they work on an exoteric level. Then I divided the exoteric level up into two, into people functioning from the solar plexus downward and from people functioning from the heart center upward.
In that way, I was trying to present the view of what we could call ‘transcendental astrology’, and by so doing, hopefully bring in the ancient wisdom teachings in an imminent sense into traditional astrology. That was the purpose, and to serve what the master requested of his students. So I hope I did my job.
CB: One of the ways that Esoteric Astrology is radically different that’s notably different is it has a different rulership scheme for the planetary rulerships over the signs of the zodiac, right?
AO: That’s true, for the most part, yes.
CB: Okay. You published that book in 1990, right?
CB: Do you feel like it’s had as much of an impact as you had hoped? How do you feel looking back on it now in retrospect? I guess that was, what, 20 years ago now? It was 30 years ago now, sorry.
AO: Yeah, pretty much. Here’s the deal. I didn’t write that book to make money. I didn’t write that book to become famous. I didn’t write that book so I’d be known as an esoteric astrologer. I wrote that book out of a sense of duty and love to my master. And when that book was put out, I let it go. God bless it. God bless that work. Whoever reads it, reads it.
The point is it’s 30 years later, it’s still in print. And I get letters about it from people, so I’m absolutely delighted. Tonight, here in Bali, it’s Thursday. I’m going to be giving a second of eight webinars two China on esoteric astrology. I have a translator. I’ve been called by Nodoor. It’s a large astrology school in Beijing. They teach Western astrology, and it’s not the first time I’m teaching for them.
But the students wanted esoteric astrology, so now I’m teaching esoteric astrology in China. And they have no books, no reference books. None of the Blavatsky books have been translated into Chinese. None of the Bailey books have been translated into Chinese. I had to write a glossary and do special diagrams for this group of students. It was 52 or 55 of them, so I’m so grateful, you see.
You go to a rock concert and there’s 20,000 people screaming and paying hundreds of dollars for a seat. I’m delighted people pay a few dollars and they come, 50 of them, to an esoteric workshop. It’s being part of a larger work. Just as you, my friend, are holding the seeds of astrology for your generation and are doing your part to become successful, God bless you, but also to contribute to astrology.
So I have become successful, and I’m seeking more and more just to contribute. It’s as simple as that really.
CB: Right. Brilliant. So yeah, you published that book in 1990. You went on to publish other works, other books since then, including Rulers of the Horoscope in 2000, and I think two or three other books in the 2000’s as well.
AO: And I haven’t had time to publish anymore books. I’ve been so busy teaching. So busy teaching. So busy putting out my own newsletter. So busy working with clients, and loving this part, being a mentor to students on a one-to-one basis. This has been a delight.
Do you know know what, Chris? I have a dozen such one-to-one–you can’t take too many at a time. I have a dozen of these private students that meet with me, some once a month, once every two weeks. The four most advanced of my students are Chinese, two of whom speak English very poorly.
I mean, it’s wonderful that this wave is going to China and opening up in that world, that very materialistic world, seeds are being planted right now. One of the biggest contributors to that is David Railey from Atlanta, Georgia, who’s the director of this school. And that gentleman has been in Beijing now, I don’t know, maybe 10 years, maybe more.
My hat’s off to David Railey for the wonderful work he’s doing to bringing Western astrology and Western astrologers to China, so I just wanted to mention that in passing.
CB: Yeah, I did a whole episode, 204. David actually visited me in Denver, and we did a whole episode talking about his door, the Nodoor Astrology School, and his work to bring Western astrology to China over the past decade.
AO: I’m delighted. I’m delighted you two had a chance to meet, and I hope you’ll personally get a chance to go and teach there.
CB: Yeah, definitely, one of these days. I’m talking about having my book on Hellenistic astrology translated into Chinese at some point before too long, as well as Japanese. That actually raises a question several listeners asked, and I wasn’t sure if it would actually be a good question, but that provides a segway into it, if you wanted to go there.
Over the past 10 or 20 years, there’s been this revival of older forms of astrology from prior to the 20th century, and some people were just asking how you felt about that, or what your reaction is to that becoming a trendy thing over the past decade or two.
AO: I work with lineages. Hellenistic astrology is part of a lineage, and these ancient forms of astrology are part of the lineage. I’m delighted that they have resurrected. Now will I study those books? No. Why? I don’t have time. And also, that wonderful, Hindu rishi told me so many years ago to polish my own lens.
I’m 75, and my lens is pretty polished. It’s still a work in progress. But to go and study Hellenistic astrology, with all do respect–or Roman astrology, or Arabic astrology–at this stage of life, I don’t have the time for it, but I certainly support the effort of showing the roots of our ancient science. I certainly support those efforts.
CB: Sure. It seems like people developed their studies at some point in the first decade or two of studying astrology. They put together their own synthesis and their own system of the sources that they draw on, and then they spend the rest of their career refining that system. And it’s very rare that somebody just radically drops whatever approach they’ve been refining and developing–for as perfect as they can, for most of their life–and drop that and walk away from it because you’ve spent so much time refining it.
I think that’s one of the commonalities in the astrological community. Even for somebody only two decades into their approach, like I am, or into their studies of astrology, you develop an approach relatively early on in your studies, and then you spend the rest of your life trying to refine that as best you can.
AO: Yes, but it’s not the same for my personality, for example, because I’m learning lessons all the time. And so, when people say, “Alan, you better check this out,” or when life says, “Hey, Alan, you’ve got a little resistance there, you need to check this out,” I’m always open to becoming a better person, which is different than dropping my astrological system to change it to another.
AO: There is this sense of a work in progress, and therefore I’m not one of those older people that refuses to change on a personality level. I’m open to that.
CB: Sure. One of the things I noticed is you actually quote some authors like Manilius in Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology.
AO: Yes, sir.
CB: So you did a relatively thorough literature review when you got into astrology.
CB: And you have a college education, so you knew how to do research at that point. And one of the reasons that your early books stand out is they were very comprehensive in terms of how you tried to approach everything.
AO: I had a postgraduate, university education, so I was writing term papers and theses and things like this. If I may say, I’m very scholarly-oriented. I love to study and to learn. It’s always been that way. But when I first started writing, when I was much younger, I had a lot more energy for it. And that’s why when you’re young, you can just [vocalization] like this.
AO: And now, as I’m older, I need longer periods of rest in between studies.
CB: Yeah, I’m feeling that. I’m only in my mid-30’s, but I understand that feeling now of that exuberance of first getting into the field and just reading and consuming everything that you can. But at some point, that’s slowing down a little bit and there’s only so much time in the day that you can devote to study versus teaching or doing consultations or what have you.
AO: And then there is something wonderful and that is a level of magnetism which draws you to your goal. That magnetism requires more and more and more one-pointedness, and so things get eliminated automatically. You begin to assess what needs to be gained and what needs to be eliminated. That you get intuitively and then you just have to obey.
And what happens is–and it’s a very interesting dynamic–the more one-pointed you get, the more inclusive you become in terms of acceptance. It’s an interesting process. The closer you are walking to your own path, the more accepting you are of life. It’s a nice balance.
CB: Yeah, I like that. That’s brilliant. I had a follow-up question there, but it escapes me at the moment. One of the last major areas I was curious about is over the past decade or two, just in my lifetime, I’ve seen a pretty radical change in terms of society but also in the astrological community, in terms of acceptance of LGBT issues and the LGBT community.
I know that’s been part of your life. It’s not been a major thing that you focused your career on necessarily. But I was curious, as an astrologer who came up in a different time period compared to how things are now, if you’ve reflected on that, and how that has been an experience for you in your life.
AO: I appreciate you asking me that question, and I take inspiration from Ram Dass in that respect. First of all, I’ve been married. I have grandchildren, I have a child, I raised a family, but I’ve never been bisexual. I’ve always been homosexual.
It just so happens I married a homosexual woman. It just so happens that we were best friends. We fell in love with each other and then nature took its course. I’m being very frank with you and our audience. The first time I ever made love to a woman fully, after that took place, I looked at her and I said, “You’ve just conceived a male child.” And she looked at me and she said, “I know. I was told to come to you and to make love with you.” I said, “Great. Now we have to talk about what we’re going to do with each other about this.”
And then we found ourselves two weeks later at Woodstock, and I was in the entourage of a very famous rock group because I was a translator and part of this large entourage.
CB: Wait, you were at Woodstock as a translator?
AO: I was in the entourage. I was invited by them because I was their translator. They didn’t need me to be a translator then but I was their friend. They gave me a ticket and they said, “Come and stay at our house and be with us,” because I became friends with them.
CB: Wow. That’s really wild.
AO: Yeah. They had their sound engineers and they had their publicity agents, and they rented this huge mansion. They said, “Bring anybody you like,” and so I brought Karen with me because she and I were lovers at the time. So I was part of this entourage that went to Woodstock.
So Karen said to me–we didn’t know Woodstock was going to be ‘Woodstock’–she said, “We have some important things to discuss. Everybody is going to the concert. Let’s you and I stay here and talk about what we want to do in life.” And so, while everybody was at the concert, I promised to love and cherish this woman and to take care of that child as a father, and she agreed to have the child.
And then in our group, we were the only gay people in our group. It was the ‘60s, for God’s sake; everybody was sleeping with everybody else. But we were the only really gay people in the group, and we were the first to get married and the first to have a child. How do you like that?
So then I spent those years of crazy, gay expression–wonderful but nuts–as a married man, raising a child, so I wasn’t exposed to AIDS. I wasn’t exposed to a lot of things, praise God. I was struggling with how to be married and how to have a child and that not being my life orientation.
CB: So you were fully open with that in terms of yourself and your own self-recognition…
CB: …but it was just something where because you were in a monogamous relationship, you didn’t go outside of that?
AO: No, I respected that. I tried my best to convert, if you will, and so did she. Don’t forget, there were certain prescriptions about being a family at that time, and trying to raise a family, and living within a family, and having a heterosexual child, for God’s sake.
It was extremely challenging because from the time I was 7-years-old, I knew I was attracted on the level of the soul and men on an emotional/physical level. And of course, I made friends. I was attracted to guys on the soul too. But I knew that my primary attraction was to women as dear friends and to love them and protect them, but not to make love with them and not to have relationships because that wasn’t my orientation. I knew it from the time I was 7.
It was agonizing between 7 and 16 or 17 years because I was raised in the ‘50s in a very heterosexual environment. Who wasn’t, for God’s sake? And then, after I was about 18 and 19, and it was the ‘60s, it was whoopie-doo, everybody is sleeping with everybody else. Everybody’s experimenting with everybody else. I went, phew, okay, now that’s become easier. So I accepted myself as homosexual at about 18 or 19 years of age, and I never had a problem with that. Other people had the problem with it, I never had the problem with it.
And as I said, I was married for 10 years and eventually we separated. It was decided by the three of us–me, my ex-wife, and my child–that I would raise the child, and I raised my son on my own for 9 or 10 years until he met a girl and ran off with her and started his own life.
So I’ve had the advantage, if you please, when you counsel people and they’re married and they’re having problems in marriage, or they have children and they want to know about their children. I’ve been married, I’ve had children, I have grandchildren that I’m very close with, so I can be a good counselor. No matter what my sexual orientation is, my natural-born-as, born-this-way, sexual orientation, I have the experience as a father and a husband living in a heterosexual world, so I can be a good counselor to such people. Been there, done that.
But the truth of the matter is, Chris, it was not easy. I’ll just give an example that involves you, okay?
AO: I remember the second time we met, and I saw in you that you were going to become someone very important in the astrological community. I saw this skinny kid who needed a good meal.
CB: When I was 19, by the way.
AO: Yes. You had come to a lecture I had given in Seattle, and you came up to me after the lecture. You were 19-years-old. You said, “Mr. Oken, you are one of the greatest astrologers of the 20th century.” And I looked at you and I said, “Young man, I’m still alive.”
AO: It was 2005 or something like that. I said, “Are you going to come to my weekend workshop?” And you said, “Sir,” you were so polite, “I’m a student and I really can’t afford it.” And I said to you, “Young man, anybody who thinks I was one of the greatest astrologers of the 20th century deserves a scholarship to my weekend workshop,” and I gave that to you and I’m very happy I did.
Then we met again when you were working at UAC conference.
CB: ISAR conference in the summer of 2005.
AO: Oh, ISAR conference, a few years after that. I saw you and I said to my son–now this is going back to this whole gay thing. I saw you and I said, “That young man needs some food. There’s no doubt about it.” So I went up to you–excuse me, I don’t want to embarrass you because you’re very successful right now…
CB: No, that’s fine.
AO: …but at the time, you looked hungry. And so, I took a few 20’s, and quietly, I put them in your hand. And I said, “I’m investing in your future in some small way. All the very best to you, Chris,” and I walked quickly away.
The reason I walked quickly away is that I didn’t want anyone around to think I was gay, coming on to you. The reason I walked quickly away is that I didn’t want you to think that I was coming on to you by giving you money. That’s the frame of reference. I couldn’t just stand there and have a decent conversation with an up-and-coming astrologer without people looking and thinking, hmmm. That’s what I lived under, that type of pressure.
AO: I came to another astrological conference with a man I was having a bromance with. He was heterosexual with kids. He was my very dear friend. We loved each other as brothers. We had separate rooms at the conference; I like having my own room. And a woman came up to me and she goes, “How dare you bring a lover to this conference!”
CB: Oh, wow. Once you left your marriage, and you were a single, gay man in the astrological community, you had to deal with some weird, societal things that came along with that within the community.
AO: Absolutely. And the thing was, I never had a problem with my sexuality. I always felt that it was normal and that I was born this way. It was other people that had the problem. And I can tell you, I was raised at a time when some of my friends were put in mental institutions by their families. It was awful.
I’m so glad that being human is allowed nowadays. The point is, just to bring us up to date, I went through a ‘gay’ phase, but I’ve always been homosexual. By that I mean my life has never been focused on the gay life, except for a very short period of time where I experimented with it.
My life has always been centered on my astrology, on my education, on teaching, on my inner spiritual life. My particular sexuality added a certain degree of sensitivity to my nature which helped me to be, I believe, more compassionate, more accepting, and certainly good with arranging furniture.
So it’s always been a gift to me, this sexuality, but I’ve never focused politically or as an exclusive lifestyle. This is the truth: 95-percent of my friends are heterosexual because 95-percent of the world’s population is heterosexual, or 93-percent, whatever you want to count it.
It’s never been this big deal to me, you understand? It’s never been the center. But I’m certainly happy that I was born this way. It has given me an extra dose of sensitivity that I don’t think I would have had otherwise.
And I’m very happily married to a Balinese man. I’ve never been happier. I was married in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Six year, never been happier in my life. Beautiful. I’m very grateful. That’s my story.
CB: Brilliant. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And I want to expand on the story–you talked about our second meeting–just because that was an important moment for me, and I always felt like it was a testament to your character and something else about you that was hard to articulate a little and a little intangible.
So we had met at that workshop. I was living in Seattle for a few months, but I was a broke college student. I was just scraping by and basically eating spaghetti and peanut butter and jelly, sort of alternating everyday for like eight or nine months.
By the time I showed up to this ISAR conference, I just barely made it there. It was in Chicago, at some resort in the middle of nowhere. So there were no restaurants or grocery stores in walking distance because ISAR has a knack for doing their conferences in the middle of nowhere.
I just showed up there with about $20 in my pocket which I was somehow supposed to survive for the course of the next week. And I was crashing in my friend, Nick Dagan Best’s hotel room on the couch or something like that and I had no plan for how I was actually going to survive. I just knew I wanted to go to his astrology conference, and I was going to basically starve myself to make it through the week so I could attend some lectures and meet some of these famous astrologers whose books I’d been reading.
One night, I think it was after the conference opening, very early in the conference, I had to spend most of my money at that point to get a meal or two at these expensive restaurants at the hotel, and I was pretty much broke and looking at five days of not figuring out how I was going to eat. And you just came up to and you shook my hand really quickly, and you passed me $40 or something and said to the effect, “I think that you need this,” then you walked away.
It was only years later that I told you how absolutely broke and destitute that I was and wouldn’t have survived that conference probably without you having come up and done that for me. So I always remembered it fondly and felt like I owed you for that, or at least I was very thankful for it, and I’ve attempted to pass that on to other younger astrologers in similar situations in following your example.
AO: Thank you, sir. Thank you. But I hurried away because I felt that we would be judged, otherwise, I would have stayed and talked with you.
AO: But it’s because of my little extra sensitivity that I could tune in on the needs of a young man, and as a father, help provide for him.
CB: Yeah, I was kind of mystified because I had no idea how you knew intuitively that I was in that sort of situation, but it just saved me out of a very difficult situation. I’m sorry you had to feel that way in terms of the social situation, but it was something I was always grateful for. So thank you.
AO: Well, you’re very welcome. And my reinvestment in you and my deeper, real belief in you has paid off. Look at you. You are one of the leading figures in contemporary astrology. You’re going to stay in the forefront of this science for many years to come. If I may say, without being patronizing, I’m very proud of you.
CB: Thank you. Well, thanks for being one of my first teachers. Yeah, thanks for delving into this part of your life and career with me. Although it’s not well-known and it’s not something you’ve made a major part of your career or writings or anything, I thought it was notable now, in retrospect, that you were one of the leading astrologers in the late 20th and early 21st century and that you were a gay man during that time; during a time when we lost many other gay men who were leading astrologers like Jim Lewis or Howard Sasportas.
AO: Yes, or Richard Idemon, or Buz Myers.
AO: Just to name a few.
CB: …during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
AO: Yes. And thank God I was married and monogamous during that period.
CB: Yeah, it’s kind of interesting how that happened and almost protected you in some way.
AO: Yes. And I might say, my marvelous, handsome, intelligent, lively, 20-year-old grandson was just here in Bali, and we had a splendid time. And I did something very foolish, I decided to climb temples in Java. I climbed Borobudur which is an amazing Buddhist temple, and then I climbed Prambanan which is this 9th century Hindu temple. When I got back home to Bali, I had muscle spasms for a week.
AO: But I had to climb with my grandson. I had to get to the top of that mountain. Yeah, it is still a very interesting and blessed life, Chris. I’m very grateful.
CB: Brilliant. Well, I’m glad you’re still active and you’re still healthy, and you’re still producing hopefully new books pretty soon here. And you’re also doing webinars. That seems to be one of the main things in terms of your intellectual output at this point in your career.
AO: Yes. Now I’m giving two series of webinars. One is on the four angles of the horoscope, called The Four Gateways, and next Monday is the third of the fourth. This is my second, eight-week series of webinars to China, and I’m just thrilled about that.
And then what I’d like to tell people is that I’m giving a webinar in December, the middle of December. It’s just one session in December. It’s when I view 2020 and what I think is coming up for 2020. And I advertise that through my newsletter and on Facebook, so I hope some of you will attend that particular webinar.
But webinars and Zoom and Skype have given me the freedom to live in Bali and to have clients all over the world and to have students all over the world. If it weren’t for this 21st century technology, I couldn’t live the way I do, and I’m so grateful for that because this is a beautiful place to live, Bali. And I’m just really grateful to be here and to be able to do this type of an interview because of 21st century technology.
CB: Yeah, and I’m really grateful that we were able to do it. You’ve been living in Bali for quite a long time now, right?
AO: I first came here in 1983 with my son, who was 13 at the time. Then I opened up a little business and stayed from ‘83 to ‘86. I took a little hiatus from astrology, the only time I’ve ever done that since ‘67, and started exploring my other talents: designing jewelry, designing furniture and these kinds of things.
And then in 1986, I went back full speed into the Alice Bailey books and full speed into astrology, and then I moved here, Skype in hand, computer in hand, Alice Bailey books in hand. I moved here in 2004, and I’ve lived here pretty much ever since. It was lots of going back and forth to Portugal, but Bali is home. It’s been real home since 2008.
CB: Right. You speak Portuguese, and you taught at an astrology school in Portugal for a long time, right?
AO: For six years, I taught at the Chiron Center. It’s there in a very minuscule way at this point, but when I taught there, it was the largest astrology school in Europe. It had 1,500 associates on a seven-year program, and I was in charge of the sixth year, which was esoteric astrology. And I do speak Portuguese, so it was an honor and a privilege to live in Lisbon during that time, from the ‘90s until the early 2000’s.
I’m going to Portugal in about three weeks for three months because I have a great deal of heart-centeredness and lovely friends and students in Lisbon, so we go back every year for three months.
CB: Wow. Have you had your books translated into other languages?
AO: Yes, in Portuguese, Norwegian. I’m sitting in front with a book here translated into Czechoslovakian, if you please. My monitor is sitting on top of it. Italian, oh, a number of languages.
CB: Because that’s an issue I’m getting into right now, translating my book into other languages and some of the issues that come along with that. But I guess you had the advantage of being able to oversee some of your translations, since you know some of those languages. Although you probably didn’t necessarily do the translations yourself, right?
AO: No, I never did them, but they’ve been translated into languages I don’t speak like Dutch and Czechoslovakian. I think one was translated into Hindi. And you don’t get supervision over those. Sometimes I’ve found that there were translations of my books out that I had no knowledge of, never mind no income from. So it’s dicey, it’s very dicey.
And this is one reason why, in the future, I want to publish my own books, so that people deal with me directly about the translation rights. That’s pretty important. Yeah, that’s pretty important.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. What is your website, and where can people find out more information about your work?
AO: Sure. Very simple: AlanOken.com.
CB: Okay, I like that. That keeps it simple.
AO: Simple. And I put out a free newsletter every month, usually every month unless I’m overworked. I’d say about 10 times a year, I put out a newsletter and it’s free. Yeah, anybody who wants to sign up for my newsletter, please go to AlanOken.com.
CB: Cool. And that’s where they’ll find announcements about upcoming webinars and other things like that?
AO: Absolutely, all of that.
CB: Brilliant. All right, well, people should check that out at AlanOken.com. And I guess that’s it for this discussion. Thanks a lot for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
AO: Pleasure. All the best to you, my friend.
CB: All right, well, thanks everyone for listening or watching this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you next time.
Thanks to our patrons who help to support the production of this episode through our page on Patreon.com. In particular, I’d like to give a shout-out to our patrons, Christine Stone and Nate Craddock, as well as the Astro Gold astrology app available at AstroGold.io, and the Portland School of Astrology at PortlandAstrology.org.