The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 225, titled:
With Chris Brennan, Helena Avelar and Luís Ribeiro
Episode originally released on October 3, 2019
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released June 17, 2021
Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan. And you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Sunday, September 22nd 2019 starting at 2:21 p.m. in Denver, Colorado and this is the 225th episode of the show. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with astrologers Helena Avelar and Luís Ribeiro about their new book on traditional astrology. 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. Hi, thanks for joining me today.
LUIS RIBEIRO: Thanks for having us. Hi.
LR: It’s good to be here. [laughs]
CB: It’s good to talk to you. I’ve corresponded with both of you for many years now for over a decade, but I think this is the first time I’ve talked to you in person over Zoom.
HELENA AVELAR: Yeah, I think it is.
CB: Yeah. All right. I guess in order to introduce this episode I should say that you’re both actually the authors of one of my favorite introductory books on astrology. I have a list of books that’s like my top six beginner astrology books, and your book from 2010 is on that list as one of the best books that I recommend to beginners titled On the Heavenly Spheres: A Treatise on Traditional Astrology. This was published–
HA: Thank you.
CB: –by the AFA in 2010. When did you originally write this book?
LR: 2007 if I’m not mistaken.
LR: Yeah, the Portuguese publication came out in 2007. It took us about three years to write it.
HA: So 2004.
LR: 2004-2005. That’s–
HA: Originally, it was to be a very small book. [laughs]
CB: Okay, yeah.
LR: And it grew and it grew in length. [laughs]
CB: I’m familiar with that process of how that happens. So, where are you both from?
HA: I’m from Lisbon.
LR: And I’m from Setúbal which is a few kilometers south of Lisbon, so around the area. Yeah.
CB: Okay. And how old are both of you roughly?
HA: I’m 55.
LR: I’m 45.
CB: Okay. And how long have you both been studying astrology and then practising it?
HA: Do you want to start?
HA: You mean together or individually?
CB: Let’s start individually and then talk about how you started doing it together.
LR: Mhm. So we have been doing from since I’m 17, so quite–
HA: Some time. [laughs]
LR: That’s some time ago. Yeah.
CB: Quite some time. Okay.
HA: Well, I began studying astrology seriously in ’92, I would say. Before that, I had read books, all the books I could get my hands into. I was aware of astrology I think all my life. Not only the Sun sign astrology. I was always looking for something more serious. So, I think I never discovered astrology. It was always something that I was aware of.
CB: And when did you both start getting into traditional astrology? Cuz you started with modern astrology I assume, right?
CB: And were you largely reading books that were written in Portuguese? Or were you reading books that were written in other languages as well?
HA: Well, both I would say.
LR: Both. We had lots of software in English at the time. Some were translated into Portuguese, some were not. A couple of things in French, Spanish, I think.
LR: We began studying tradition sometime around 2002-2003.
LR: We slowly began to gain interest in the tradition. We had some books on tradition that were translated into Spanish.
HA: Castilian, yes.
LR: Yeah, ’50s ’60s. So they began the translation process quite early. We started by that, and then we took Zoller’s course, the beginners’ course. And that started to open up and decided to move further into astrology and we got to a point where we simply transitioned [Helena laughs] to traditional astrology. Just stopped thinking modern-wise, I think.
HA: Yeah. Yes.
HA: We also studied with Sue Ward.
LR: Oh, yes.
CB: Okay. Sue Ward, and she’s one of the primary practitioners of Renaissance astrology and like specializes in the work of William Lilly, right?
LR: Yes. Yes, she’s one of the best I think specialists in the practice of William Lilly because she’s quite good.
HA: Yes, and that was what? Like 2001 perhaps?
LR: 2002. Yeah, somewhere around that time. Yeah, 2002.
CB: Okay. And by this time you were both already practicing astrology and already teaching this subject, right?
HA: Yeah, we are together since ’99 1999 but we were both practicing astrology before. So, yeah, we were for a long time. We began with contemporary astrology.
HA: We call it contemporary astrology because we are both historians. And for us when we say modern, means like 16th century. So–[laughs] [Luis laughs]
CB: Yeah, the idea of the early modern period versus the modern period.
HA: We call it contemporary, but you call it modern. And it’s the same.
HA: We began with contemporary, and then I would say like 2001 and just–
LR: I think the big shift was in 2004 when we renamed a school. The school wasn’t called academy, it had another name. And then when we transitioned to a traditional course and teaching traditional astrology, then we shifted to the Academy of Astrology. And that was the mark that made the shift. That was sometime in the beginning of 2004 if I remember correct. Yeah.
HA: And then we decide to go, as we say as a joke, to be born again traditionalist.[Helena and Luis laugh]
CB: Okay. All right. And then I remember by the late 2000s you were very active and you had launched a few different websites it seemed like for traditional astrology including the tradition journal which was the journal for predictive traditional astrology that you did four volumes of, right?
LR: Yes. Mhm.
HA: Yes. It was a very good experiment. And if we could, we would have continued but simply we had no more time. That the–
LR: Yeah, the thing was that it got extremely time consuming.
LR: Journals are always very complicated. Then we managing all the collaborations, doing all the revisions. We had a team of people doing that, but it got too much. And it’s difficult. And then by that time we started again to engage in our academic studies, and the academic studies start consuming a lot of your time. So, we decided to stop it while it was in its heights, so not to let it fall too much.
CB: It’s always very time consuming. Yeah, it’s always very time consuming to edit a journal. But it was really good, and I think a lot of people appreciate it now 10 years later where traditional astrology has become so much more popular. So I’ll definitely put some links to it on the description page for this episode, and then eventually you’re gonna be reposting it on your website in the next few months. So I’ll put links to it there when that’s available as well just for listeners who are not familiar with it.
HA: One of the good things of The Traditional Journal was the people who cooperated with us like you, they wrote very good articles. And I think that was very new then in 2010.
HA: So I think for now it will be very nice for people to read it if they want.
CB: Yeah, it’s still unique. It still stands out even today. I was just looking at it and surprised it was from 2008 and 2009, but the quality of the articles as well as the design and layout still stands out as being above and beyond what most astrology journals look like.
HA: Thank you.
CB: So I’m sure people will really enjoy that. So, republishing that in like 2008 2009 and then your book came out in 2010.
CB: And that was actually translated into English by a friend of mine, Maria Mateus. Right?
LR: And she also translated the new book.
CB: Yeah, and she’s–
HA: Yeah. Well, also translated the new book.
LR: She’s excellent.
HA: Actually, she’s in the ideal position because she is Portuguese, she speaks English as her primary language, and she’s an astrologer. So she’s the ideal person to translate. [laughs]
CB: Yeah. Well, she’s a really brilliant astrologer that knows a lot about traditional astrology and I think she’s also a graduate of Kepler College, so she has a great background in the history–
HA: Yeah, she is.
CB: –and everything else. But after that, you guys were very active. It especially seemed like in the English-speaking astrological community, but then it seemed like you kind of disappeared for several years or you just weren’t as active. And it seems like you decided to, at one point, go in a different direction and focus more on academic studies, right?
LR: Yeah. We decided at one point–
CB: What motivated that?
LR: We decided at one point that we wanted to do let’s see a very primary research. So we wanted to do really serious research and structure research, and we thought that the academic environment would be ideal for that. Helena took history–
LR: –as her primary academic area. I came from geology and chemistry which is completely outside of this, but then I took also history art history. And then we followed through to master’s degree and now the PhD, so we’re trying to do as much as we can for at least for two to four hour really good, focused research on astrological practices in terms of historical research so we can have good sources and academic evaluated sources and analysis on astrological practice because I think that’s very important to organize the knowledge that we have and try to create new knowledge that might be useful in terms of–
HA: But we–
LR: –understanding astrology.
LR: It’s fine.
HA: We also wanted to came out from the–I would call it the opinion level, and go into the research level.
HA: And as you can imagine, it was not easy to enter the academic environment. But we were very, very lucky because now we are both researchers in history of science. And we found some people with an open mind.
HA: So, I think we were very lucky.
HA: Because we could have been just barred and not allowed to pursue academically.
HA: But instead we were actually very supported.
HA: So, yeah.
LR: So there is a growing community of scholars that is interested in really knowing what was the function of astrology historically. And in many periods we have been focusing on medieval and early modern periods but can go do that analysis almost in any period of history. And there is this growing interest in knowing what exactly was the function of astrology in history and in our case in history of science. What was the participation?
LR: What level of participation did astrology have in the whole process of knowledge building? And that’s basically the area where we’re working now.
HA: Yes. When I began my MA in 2010 I think, it was difficult to explain what I wanted. What I did was a very simple thing was to research what we had in medieval Portugal astrologically speaking–
HA: –and try to analyze what they have. And my supervisor then she was a bit hesitant, I would say. She was a bit worried about this. But as soon as she saw the draft of my work, she understood what I wanted. And she’s an historian, and she comes from a different area. But she understood what I want. And she said, “Look, this is great. Let’s do it.” And also I had a second supervisor. I think you know him. He is a German scholar Kocku von Stuckrad. You know Kocku von Stuckrad? He was my second supervisor.
CB: Yeah, he wrote some major scholarship on the history of astrology. And, yeah, I’m familiar with his work.
HA: He was my second supervisor. So I was really lucky to have these two people, one Portuguese supervisor very good and also Kocku. So my MA went well. And then I decided to move on to a PhD, and I applied for a grant. And again, I was very lucky because I got Professor Charles Burnett as a supervisor which is really–
CB: Burnett’s one of the leading scholars on medieval astrology. He is actually the leading scholar in medieval astrology probably in the world today–
CB: –and just recently published a huge translation and critical edition of the work of Abu Ma’shar.
HA: It is here.
LR: Which we have it here. So yeah. Yeah.[Helena and Luis laugh]
CB: Yeah, which I’m reading through right now and finding some really amazing stuff actually. So that’s really exciting.
HA: Yes. And also not only a good scholar but an exceptionally good supervisor, so I was very lucky.
CB: So, yeah. That’s really–
HA: And he’s also Luis’ supervisor.
LR: He’s my co-supervisor also. Mhm.
CB: Okay, and so both of that’s happening then. You did your degrees at The Warburg Institute?
CB: What is The Warburg Institute for those not familiar with it?
HA: Well, The Warburg Institute is a part of the University of London.
HA: It was also part of the work of Aby Warburg, a German scholar and researcher who moved into London before or–
LR: The 30s, I think.
HA: –during the Second World War.
LR: Before the Second World War.
HA: Before, I think. Yes. And he researched everything that’s related to symbolism, magic, esotericism, astrology mainly through the history of art, art history–
HA: –but also history. I’m a student of history, and I’m an historian. So I think it was the ideal place for me. When I got there, I thought like, “Well, I’m very lucky to be here.” Because it’s like first of all, we have people from all different countries not only English people because that’s in London but from different countries. And the environment, the way that we relate to supervisors or to other students is really, really good. So we feel at home all the time. And we have access to an amazing library.
HA: And I mean amazing library. That’s one of the things that I really miss here in Lisbon. [laughs]
LR: You have shelves and corridors of shelves only dealing with history of astrology.
LR: So, every critical edition, every little–
LR: –obscure article that you can imagine, it’s probably there. So, it’s wonderful.
CB: Yeah, I visited once–
HA: So you could just live there.
CB: –in 2008. And I’m pretty sure that has to be the best library just in the world for astrology books and especially for traditional and older astrology books and critical editions and things of that nature.
LR: Yes. Yes.
LR: Yes. Yeah.
HA: And the way it is organized, actually you don’t need to ask the book to a librarian.
HA: If you are a student of the institute, you can just go there to the shelf and see. And they are organized by topic not in alphabetic order. So you go there to pick one book, and you end up with 500 books because they are all related. So, it is organized in a way that–
HA: –you can make the best of the library–
HA: –make the best of your study because of this. So it’s really amazing. If you have the opportunity to go there, I would advise you to go because it’s an amazing place.[Luis laughs]
CB: So actually before we get to your PhD dissertations, so that’s really important because it seemed like for most of the past century there were in the early part of the century suddenly there was academic interest in the history of astrology. And there was a growing but relatively small group of academics who were doing important work making critical editions and doing projects like the CCAG to catalog all of the surviving Greek manuscripts on astrology. But–
HA: The vétusté? You mean the work of the vétusté?
LR: No, no. The early ones. The–
HA: Oh, yes. Yeah.
CB: More like Franz Cumont and some of those people in–
HA: Oh, yes. Yeah.
CB: –the early 20th century where there was growing academic interest in the history of astrology. And then eventually later in the century astrologers started getting interested in traditional astrology, but they were kind of like separate groups for a long time that didn’t intersect. But more recently over the past two decades, there have been individual astrologers who have been making an effort to go back to school and get advanced degrees especially in the history of astrology or the history of science in order to sort of merge those two worlds or merge that gap between the two groups.
HA: Yes. For instance, in The Warburg Institute we have Dorian Greenbaum.
LR: From there. Yeah.
HA: Dorian was one of the first, I think. And I always say that she broke the ice for us because she was one of the first scholars to openly study astrology at this level. I think you interviewed Dorian some time ago.
CB: Yeah, she appeared on the podcast–
CB: –just a couple of years ago.
CB: Like you, she was an astrologer. And I think she had like a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in Egyptology but then became an astrologer. And she did a translation of Paulus Alexandrinus in I think 2001 but then eventually in the early 2000s decided to go back to school and get her PhD. And she went to The Warburg Institute where I think Charles Burnett was also her advisor.
CB: And she ended up doing a dissertation on the daimon in Hellenistic astrology.
LR: Mhm. Mhm. Yeah.
CB: So she was really inspiring to you. And seeing what she was able to do is part of maybe what motivated you guys to make that such a big move yourselves?
HA: Yes. Not only she was inspiring, but she was actively supportive because we know her personally.
HA: And she was very, very supportive of both of us.
LR: Yeah. Yeah. And it is important that we have a study of history with astrology. Because speaking from an astrological perspective, it’s like you were saying, there were many groups. And there still are to a certain degree because we have pockets, that’s how I’d say. Pockets of people who studied specific works, specific authors and sort of less orbiting those authors and those lines of books to astrology. We are now experienced. Although, of course, you always go to a certain technique or practice or author that you prefer. That’s almost natural. But one thing that lacks is to have a complete view of astrology, a view of the tradition so that we can see how it evolves, how it develops. And we can extract the–
HA: Basic concept.
LR: –the basic concepts instead of having a basket full of contradictions because people sometimes discuss a lot of contradictions in astrology, and they forget to see what everyone talks about. And it’s common to everyone. And it’s that fine line where you have the column of astrology with the consistent tradition, the consistent [00:22:06.13] of astrology throughout times. That’s where we should focus, not so much in little differences.
CB: Sure. And it seems like the study of history and culture kind of go hand in hand with the revival of traditional astrology. Because in modern or contemporary astrology you just study the techniques, and you don’t really need a lot of contextualization because it’s written in the same period that we’re living in now.
CB: So there’s just things you can take for granted that everybody knows or accepts. But as soon as you start going back into history, you have to understand like the culture and the time period and everything else. And so it seems like that’s part of what you felt like you needed to specialize in more or wanted to become more authorities to talk about is just that process of understanding the history and the context in which the techniques emerged or were practiced.
HA: I think what we value is what we call astrological culture. Because contemporary people and most contemporary people I don’t know what they do. I don’t know all of them, but most contemporary people would just focus as you said in the practice. And they don’t worry about the way the technique evolved or the way the technique was created.
HA: So what happens is that that opens the space for all sorts of opinions.
HA: If you don’t know how the technique is generated, if you don’t know the rationale of a technique, you might have your own opinion or you say, “Oh, because in my own horoscope it works, that’s the main argument.”
HA: “It works for me.”
HA: And so this would generate all sorts of what we might call personal astrology, for me it works.
HA: So if you know where the technique comes from, if you have this context all the context, if you understand the idea, you will be able to criticize in the good sense of the word. You will be able to criticize and say, “This, I think it makes sense. This, I don’t think it makes sense. Because it’s not rooted in the tradition. That is the main thing.” And also probably because I’m an historian, but I think it’s very important for any kind of practice to understand how it developed. Otherwise, you have no root. You just live in–
LR: Say things without–
HA: –the superficial level.
LR: Yeah. Say things without any substance.
LR: But we’re living in a world where people say things without any substance anyway.
HA: Yeah.[Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: It seems to be a common thread right now.
CB: It seems like that’s what’s drawn a lot of people to traditional astrology over the past decade is–
CB: –wanting to go past oftentimes like doing modern astrology but hitting a wall in terms of your understanding of the subject and realizing that if you wanted to go deeper into it and wanted to be able to actually synthesize charts or know the reason why you’re saying certain things at a certain point–
CB: –you have to go back into the tradition in order to figure some of those things out.
LR: I think what happened, I’m talking a bit historically here also. But in the 20th century we had a move slow move from the tradition and natural escape from the tradition because of the whole cultural movement of the 20th century. And we got to a point where things get to a level of abstraction which had no connection to reality. So we have a lot of astrological practices nowadays that don’t have any connection to reality and sometimes not any connection to astrology itself.
HA: Yeah. [laughs]
LR: So, most of the time we see people say they’re astrologers and they have studied astrology. But they explain astrology through several other systems, esoteric, psychological several. Spiritual or something else or scientifically even. And they don’t explain astrology by itself, and any form of knowledge such as astrology must be able to explain itself. It must have an internal rule which we can fall upon when we have a doubt.
LR: It’s like mathematics comparing. It’s an easy comparison to do. If you have a doubt, you go for the mathematical rule. You go for the geometrical rule that will give you the answer if you’re progressing correctly or not. And astrology lacked that for a long time. Now it’s recovering that, and we’re starting to see a nucleus a hardcore nucleus of astrology of the doctrine that’s coming out again which was completely lost until we started to have translations. And we’re here speaking in English. So in the English-speaking community there weren’t many translations of the old texts until two decades ago three decades ago. So if they were known–And now we have it. And now you had already enough time for that information to mature and to result in a community, let’s say, of people that are practicing traditional astrology and have a common language or as the ground up which is not William Lilly. It’s not Hellenistic. It’s not medieval. There’s already a nucleus which is common to any tradition in astrology, and that’s where things need to be worked upon. It’s to understand exactly what the nucleus is composed of although we can have of course certain techniques that exist in different cultures in different books. That’s natural. But still, there is a common ground to hold–
LR: –these essential dignities, the qualities of the planets. All of that is the nucleus, and we can see it in astrology book. Any astrology primer will have to have those principles which are absolutely lacking in most of the things that were written in the 20th century. You don’t have a common ground. You don’t have an explanation for the meanings of the planets. You don’t have an explanation for the aspects.
HA: Or you have an explanation that is outside astrology–
LR: Yeah. Yes.
HA: –like psychology for instance.
LR: I call it numerology symbology mythology. For example, one of my main glitches with the rationale of astrology now sometimes in present days is mythology. You fall back into mythology to justify why a planet works in a certain way, but we’re forgetting that mythology was forged from the observation of the planets. So we’re doing things incorrectly.
LR: Yeah, it’s not the methodological god that gives the planet a certain quality. The quality of that god was derived from the observation of the planets’ actions in nature. So we’re doing it incorrectly. You cannot do the process inversely, so it gets complicated.
CB: Right. And there was also the presumption that that’s the way it’s always been done, and that assumption was projected back into the tradition that mythology has always been the primary interpretive principle for understanding celestial bodies. And therefore it’s getting projected forward into the discovery of new ones. So that’s the primary–
HA: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
CB: –way that they’re approaching like new bodies is by thinking about the name and the mythology or other things associated with it instead of observing it astrologically and seeing what it correlates with in practice.
LR: Yes. That has been the problem with the new planets, the modern planets since their beginning it’s for once we don’t have any rules for new celestial bodies. The corpus of astrology has very little. There are some. And that is something that has to be studied more–
LR: Yeah. But you don’t have a way or methods, let’s say, of interpreting new celestial bodies. Because for millennia, the skies were supposed to be immutable and perfect. So you wouldn’t have change in the heavens. When you got to the early modern period, and I’m talking about this because it’s exactly the area where I’m studying currently, you have a lot of changes. You have the supernovas. You have a lot of things popping up that need to be explained. And there’s no techniques to explain them, but you still see the astrologers trying to somehow incorporate all of that. Unfortunately, when you get to the new planets, as you very well know, astrology was already almost dead in terms of tradition. So we didn’t have a proper–
LR: –digestion. Yeah, the proper background and proper digestion of what the new planets could mean in terms of astrology. And we still don’t. This is my point of view. People might think differently, but we still don’t. We still assume a lot of things. What are the characteristics we project into the new planets?
HA: And there’s another thing that–
LR: It’s supposed. It’s assumed. But mythology and there are other points.
LR: I’m sorry.
HA: No, that’s fine. And there’s another thing that astrology is for us, at least, the way that men humanity looks at the universe. That’s why it’s geocentric. It’s not because we don’t know that the Sun is in the center. It’s because we look at the universe from this window from Earth. And also we look at the universe with our own instruments. So when we look at there outside, we see Jupiter, Saturn. And then we don’t see Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
HA: So, if we think of astrology as the way humanity looks at universe, the way that we absorb the universe, we wouldn’t need the new planets. I know a lot of people don’t agree, and I’m not trying to push this idea. But this is our view. So–
LR: Yes, if you find yourself without any instrumentation.
LR: You don’t have a table, you don’t have anything else. You still–
HA: You still can–
LR: –look at the sky.
LR: And try to build up a basic chart.
HA: Actually, something that we do with our students.
LR: Yeah, we do.
HA: We take them outside and say–
LR: Outside. Okay.
HA: “Look. Imagine that a baby is just born. What is the chart?” And they are like, “Can I look at my iPhone?” “No, you cannot.”[Luis laughs]
HA: “Just look at the universe.” And they begin looking at the universe, and they end up calculating the ascendant and the planets because they can see some of them or they remember where they are. And they can calculate a chart without any instrument.
HA: That is one of the things. Of course, it’s not an exact chart. It’s just a calculation.
LR: A calculation, of course. And you can’t do that with the new planets, so that places a problem. But this is a nuclear problem into astrology. How do you incorporate such a thing? And I think it hasn’t been thought out completely because people are too stuck to the practice. And for us it was difficult when we transitioned to–
LR: –tradition to leave the new planets alone and–
HA: We have to divorce the new planets. [laughs]
LR: Exactly. There’s a whole process of mourning there.[Helena laughs]
LR: But what happened is as we moved into a traditional interpretation, we still had new planets there in the chart. And suddenly we weren’t using them. And we talk and we say, “Well, let’s take them out and see what happens.” And–
HA: “Let them go.” [laughs]
LR: –they have never returned since. [laughs] But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be integrated into astrology. But that needs to be done astrologically, and that takes time.
LR: I think that will take centuries.
HA: And also–
HA: When we look at contemporary astrology or modern astrology, most of the readings begin with the new planet.
HA: And if we are really honest, some of the modern astrologers they don’t really know how to interpret without the new planet. They always focus on the new planets. If you take them the new planet, it’s like if you take them a leg and then you want them to walk. They cannot. So even when we have students who have already studied contemporary astrology, we say like just, “Okay.” It is difficult to learn something the second time because you already know astrology in a certain way. So now you have to take all these things that you know, just put them in a mental box, and just let them be there. And then you have to begin. And they always think like, “Oh, I have to go back again and study what I already know.” But they found out very soon that it’s not a repetition. It’s not what they know. It’s starting–
LR: A completely different way of studying. Yeah.
HA: Exactly, it’s starting from the beginning. And then I say if you want to incorporate the new planets, that is fine. But first, learn astrology. First, you learn astrology. You’ll learn the idea of astrology, the symmetry of the astrological system, you learn the way it works. And then if you need the new planets, that’s fine. Just use them. And when they really learn astrology, they don’t need a new planet. And they have to make this kind of mourning for the new planets, and that’s fine. We have nothing against that, and we would love to–
HA: Actually, we would love to have people studying the new planets with a really serious astrological basis.
HA: That would be lovely. Not just because it works in their own chart, not just because they read in some magazine but really a very scientific study of the new planets.
LR: Within the astrological community. That is–
HA: Without the psychology, without Jung without all those things, you know? Astrologically speaking.
LR: For that to work, I think we would need to first clean up all that we assume that the planets do. And then arrange a method that could study them with astrological rules.
CB: It seems like one of the things you’ve recovered, one of the things that’s clear is that in traditional astrology the perspective of the observer matters and is a major component. And that’s something that was a huge part of traditional astrology in a number of different techniques but kind of fell out of modern astrology as it assumed almost like a universal sort of view that the perspective of the observer isn’t relevant or wasn’t paid attention to as much. But that almost seems like a philosophical Or a conceptual premise that’s important.
HA: Yeah. Yes, there are two main ideas. One is that astrology is the language of someone some human humanity looking at the universe. So, yes. And the other is that astrology reflects nature. So, nature it will be the first guide.
HA: If it doesn’t make sense, if it’s not natural, we have to think about it. We have to rethink about that.
HA: And this will bring us to another thing that is one of the things that Luis has worked a lot which is the way of teaching astrology. I think you might Because we learn astrology contemporary astrology in a certain way. And we teach traditional astrology in a completely different way.
LR: Yeah. And I’ve been trying to research how astrology is taught which is something we still don’t know today.
LR: So if we go back in time, how do they teach astrology? What’s an astrological curriculum for a university in the Middle Ages or in the early modern period? What do they do? That hasn’t been enriched yet. But what you can see is that there is an important integration of astrology not only with itself but with the philosophical system where things are explained, and that’s quite important. Of course philosophical systems as Aristotelianism have fallen out for centuries, but we still use the basic premises of Aristotle’s system to explain the astrological conditions. We still do that today because their way of interpreting the nature and the universe, it’s not that they are updated. Of course, we know that matter is not constituted by the elements.[Helena laughs]
LR: But still the four elements represent certain characteristics which we can use to describe certain natural effects. So, that’s still valid to a certain point. We might update it, but it’s still there. And–
HA: So, this is what we begin teaching astrology–
LR: Yeah, that’s–
HA: –by the elements.
LR: Yeah. Well, the book that was an attempt for us to write something which was if someone has never heard about astrology how would you explain it to it?
HA: Without anything else.
LR: And in terms of structure, I must say we started with the aspects. And the first chapter to pop up I think was the more complex interactions of the aspects abscission and all that. And the last bit we wrote was exactly the introduction and the first basis. How do you start to explain astrology? And that’s nature really that needs to be our guide and all the natural principles. Sometimes people go for the mysticism and for the magical part and the spiritual part and forget that all of that comes from the natural cycles that we experience in this Earth and this daily life every time. And that’s the key for anyone studying astrology.
HA: Because people speak of astrology or magic as if they are separate things from life, but they are actually part of life.
LR: Yeah. There’s one question that we always ask our students which is, why do we have 12 signs of the zodiac?[Helena laughs]
LR: There are a lot of people practicing astrology that don’t know this without getting into very numerological or symbolic nature which is correct of course. And you have a symbolism there, but you have 12 because you have in the course of the year sort of cycle of seasons you’d have 12 lunations. So, 12 stations of the Moon and the Sun which will give you a basic division of 12. And it’s because you have that basic division of 12 in the lunar cycle that 12 becomes endowed with a certain meaning of completion and of cycle. And then you have the two and the seven. Then the seven comes from the planets. And all the symbolism starts to derive from the structure of the universe as itself, and astrology is the basis there. And this is something people sometimes don’t understand which is astrology is the mother of all sciences in a certain aspect.
HA: Yeah. [laughs]
LR: And here we would say astronomy/astrology because we’re talking about the same kind of knowledge at this period which is you’re seeing everything moving around you, and you’re trying to interpret it and trying to extract meaning from that. That’s the basic of astrology, numerology and mysticism. And all that comes from the experience that we as human beings have of nature.
LR: So that’s quite important.
HA: And that takes us to another thing that astrology was for us, we think. And this is something that we talk a lot of times. Astrology was not invented.
HA: There was not a moment where people were looking at the sky and saying, “I’m going to call this Capricorn, and I’m going to call that something.” Astrology was probably a part of human development.
HA: And since the beginning because you can see that the concept of correlation, the correlation between the movements of the planets and the cycles of the Moon and all those things and the correlation of these things with the event on Earth–This concept which is actually the basis of astrology, it is always present in humanity.
HA: Even I would dare to say that it’s also present in some animals like the birds that use the constellations to fly to other places and all the animals that regulate their cycles by the Moon. So in a very, very basic system we all–
LR: Instinctive level astrology is there.
HA: It is there–
LR: Biologically engraved. Yeah.
HA: –in a very simple way. Yes. And then as you–
CB: But historians used to recognize that some techniques were introduced at different stages or that there was some variation in tradition.
HA: Of course. Yes, of course. Of course. And I’m not talking about horoscopic astrology or anything like that.
HA: Of course, I’m talking about the basic correlation between planetary movements and events on Earth on a very, very basic level. So as humanity developed, we began to make it more complex until we get to the completely intellectual understanding of astrology that involves techniques and all sorts of things. Of course, you’re absolutely right. But I was talking in a very, very basic very grammarly level.[crosstalk 00:45:18.08]
CB: That makes sense. And it ties back into what Luis was saying about that there’s an astronomical basis for the zodiac and that a lot of the traditional techniques go back to some sort of astronomical basis that is not purely. It’s not just psychological. It’s not just purely numerological or something like that.
CB: But there’s often an astronomical reason the rule is based on in some way.
LR: Mhm. Yeah.
LR: Yeah, the structure. For example, measuring of cycles you have it. It’s astronomical. It’s basically astronomical. Most of the meanings of the planets, traditionally speaking, come from their cycles. So, there are appearances and probably a lot of those older systems which we don’t really have a history for. For example, the essential dignities as we’ve seen from various academic studies derive from that kind of cycle. The terms for example being the most obscure origin of them all [unintelligible 00:46:14.07] They’ve come from some sort of astrological cycle that is being observed and computed into that tables for some reason that we don’t know and probably changed a long time before we have a written proof testimony of that change. But it’s still there. So, all of that, it’s very embedded in the core of astrology. And we need to understand that. And sometimes people say, “Oh, but that takes the mystic out of things.” And it doesn’t.
HA: It’s impossible to take the mystic out of things. [laughs]
LR: You can’t. There’s still the spiritual level of things. That’s still the spiritual living, but that’s being–If you want to talk being one with the universe means to understand how the universe moves around us and surrounds us. And then I think astrology is quite a doorway for that and has been historically speaking a large doorway for–
LR: –mystical interpretation and mystical experience.
HA: And when people say that takes mystic out of things, it’s like keeping the ignorance is better.
HA: And It isn’t because the more you understand intellectually or in any other way–the more you understand, the more wonderful things are.
HA: There’s the wonder. And every time you get a new level of understanding be it intellectual or any other kind, you become more aware of the wonder of life–
HA: –and the wonder of astrology because it’s really something that has been with us since the beginning.
LR: Since ever. Yeah.
LR: And that’s quite important, and I think people lost that connection to astrology being derived from the observation. And we see that. For example, I’ve seen that in recent years where people sometimes have no idea that you can actually–And I’ve seen this a couple of times, and I will say this kind of it’s just a joke. But it’s true unfortunately. Which is people who practice astrology and didn’t know that the planets were visible in the sky.[Helena laughs]
LR: And this importantly occurs, and this means that you have a cleavage. A complete cut between what the reality of astrology and its practice which is frightening.
LR: And today we–
CB: Which is just a completely abstract thing cuz people are just looking at a computer screen or even ephemeris or that ephemeris does a better job of showing the movements.
CB: It’s still abstracted to a certain extent.
LR: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Yes. They have no idea that astrology reflects nature.
HA: We had people who said, “But we can’t see the planets. Can we see the planets if we go outside?” I said, “Well, yes.”
LR: Duh. [laughs]
HA: And I’m talking about astrologers practicing astrology.
HA: So it’s kind of a joke.
LR: Mhm. Yeah, it’s a joke. But it’s unfortunately very serious and worrying joke.
LR: Yeah. And I think tradition at some level stops this or at least blocks it because you need to understand things, but it’s still a problem. For example, I was thinking another problem we have is the lack of mathematical knowledge that a lot of the astrologers today have.
LR: Because computers do everything. And thank God they exist or else we would spend weeks calculating charts before we can have anything done. But for example, primary directions have been strangely out of predictive work for a number of years–
LR: –partially because people still get them confused a lot and there’s a lot of opinions on systems and what to call what. But basically because you don’t have a good program that calculates them.
CB: Mhm. Okay.
LR: Or and again, you don’t have people who have a correct understanding of what they’re looking at cuz you simply can’t do a list. For example, here we detected a lot of the time people coming from contemporary astrology who had the basic teaching would interpret the direction like they would interpret the transit. So if you have Saturn conjuncting Venus in the transit way, you’d see Saturn affecting what Venus represents in the chart. But people forget that with directions things work otherwise. So with Saturn as your significator is moving towards a conjunction of Venus, it will be Venus as the promise of the chart that will affect what Saturn represents in the chart. Let’s say it’s the ruler of the ascendant. And this kind of rationale is lacking. So people really can’t use directions because they don’t understand them.
LR: And for example, this goes on to other directions which are used currently for example secondary progressions which we stopped using a long time ago. But if we go and see where they come, from secondary progressions have the same rationale as primary directions or any kind of direction or–
HA: And they applied only to luminaries.
LR: Yeah, and they applied only for luminaries basically. And that got a bit math, but that’s a whole other history of late 19th century early 20th century astrology construction. And still, there’s a rationale there that wasn’t understood. So sometimes some certain techniques are applied incorrectly because you’re not respecting the structure in which it’s built. And we have a problem there.
LR: So you’re not understanding it correctly. And it then falls back to what we were talking about earlier on, people don’t really understanding the logic within astrology and going outside to get things and without really an understanding of the things.
CB: Sure. So the revival of astrology, one of the things it’s revived is obviously that logic and some of the philosophy and the conceptual structure of traditional astrology from prior to the modern period. But the other thing that’s happened is in the past two or three decades suddenly–One of the reasons why your first book was important in 2010 when it came out is because there weren’t other good introductions to traditional astrology. There were more advanced books that you could get, but you already had to take a lot for granted. And that’s one of the reasons why your book has become so important over the past decade because it was one of the first ones that you could really start studying astrology with from scratch, and maybe you might still have to refer to some other things or maybe it might be a lot to dive into from the start. But you could pull it off, and that partially came through you guys being sort of like the second generation of traditional astrologers who had been using the techniques for over a decade at that point and had internalized them enough to be able to not just know what it meant abstractly but had been applying in practice for a number of years.
LR: Mhm. Yeah. Yeah, that was basically our idea at the time. Because when we started to write the book the treatise, we [unintelligible 00:53:42.00]
HA: Portuguese name.
LR: Portuguese name.[Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: What happened is that the books basics that exist were reinterpretations of pre-existing books. For example, you have all the work that Zoller had done with Bonatti and similar works where people were interpreting the words of someone else. And early, we started to see that being stuck to a same author or to one or two sources, it’s not very healthy in terms of astrological education because you’re not seeing things on the wider perspective. For example, I remember problems which we had with Zoller’s determination at the hyleg cause he was reading Bonatti. And he was saying, “Well, Bonatti does this. But it doesn’t clarify.”
LR: Yeah, that’s true. But if you go beyond Bonatti and start to go to the sources Bonatti is reading, there are people who explain it better. There’s always someone who explains a little bit better the technique than another author’s way of expression.
HA: And Bonatti’s a bit–
HA: –confused. And then Montumo criticized Bonatti a lot. Yeah.
LR: Yeah. And you have Montumo criticize. But what’s–
HA: Criticizing Bonatti and yeah.[Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: That’s a funny thing going on there. But, for example, we–
CB: Yes, seeing the ancient astrologers criticizing each other. I was reading recently. It seems like the primary motivation for Al-Qabisi writing his introduction is he thought that Abu Ma’shar was too long-winded–[Helena laughs]
CB: –and that the lesser introduction was too short but that the greater introduction was too long-winded. So he wrote something in between the two almost.
LR: Yeah, exactly. And you can see for example, one author that I like a lot is Haly Abenragel because Haly Abenragel goes on and on saying, “Well, this guy says this. This one says that. And there’s someone who has this opinion.” And then he thought, “But they are all wrong. I’m going to tell you how it is.” And then he’ll explain, “Is this just another whole thing?” Or for example Ezra which is quite a sharp-edged author who simply dismisses things. He has one very funny which is the one–
HA: Yeah, it’s about a technique for calculating something the life of life–
LR: Whichever you think.
HA: –or something.
HA: Yeah, and–
LR: And there’s this author which he said–Well, there’s this author. I don’t recall the name, but you can check it later if you want to. Yes, which he calls it the ovens or something. I’m not sure what it was like.
HA: It’s a very strange name for a technique.
LR: He says something like–and I’m paraphrasing here that, “But the technique is worthless and that all of that should be thrown into oven because it’s completely useless.” [laughs] And–
LR: And he destroys or dismisses that. And we have no idea what it is because we don’t have the surviving book.
HA: Yeah, I think it’s a very unknown obscure author.
LR: Yes, I don’t think he’s known outside of this comment. But it’s interesting–
HA: Ezra is very funny because he’s just so sarcastic about everything and so blunt. Like this is not good and that’s not good.
CB: What’s interesting though is the traditional authors will usually state what the tradition was or what the inherited tradition was or what their sources are saying, and then they’ll state their opinion. And it seems like that was like a continuous thing throughout the tradition that we lost a little bit of in modern times.
LR: Yeah. Yes, it is.
HA: That is also–Sorry. That is also because books. We have lots of books today, as you know. But the books you have in your library are probably more than the ones in the Library of Alexandria in number. We have lots of books, and they didn’t because the books were manuscript. So they used the books also as like a [foreign 00:57:30.19]
LR: It’s a, yeah, repository of knowledge. So they would repeat. Yeah.
HA: Even if they didn’t agree–
LR: They would repeat the knowledge that came to them.
LR: And then they would add their own, so this is a time technique. It goes out until the modern age. It wants to have the commentary. So there’s this commentary thing, and you have Ptolemy for example which is known through a lot of commentaries throughout the ages.
HA: Or John of Saxony commenting on Al-Qabisi’s.
LR: Or John of Saxony commenting on Al-Qabisi’s. And sometimes a word of the commentator is quite important because it’s going to explain something that the original author didn’t put forward.
HA: Sometimes they use books as repositories of knowledge. So even if they didn’t agree with something, they would write it down. They would keep it. And so we can see this all the different opinions, and they don’t eliminate them.
HA: They just keep them.
LR: Keep, yeah.
HA: And then they give their own opinion, and they add their own knowledge from their own experience. Yes.
LR: And this widening of sources, it’s quite important because then you can see things being clarified which are a little obscure in an author. And it’s quite important. As I was saying Haly Abenragel, for example, was quite important at the point because his treatise is very complete.
LR: Although, I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners because it is quite complicated to read it. It’s a medieval construction. He doesn’t organize things, and that’s for example one thing which is quite important when reading sources is sometimes the information you want is not in the order or in the chapter where you would expect it to be. For example, I recall Haly Abenragel has something on the importance of essential and accidental dignities. So we’re always fighting about, “Oh, which one is more important? Which ones are really essential? Which ones are just add-ons that you do?” And suddenly you have he’s discoursing on the length of life, and I think it’s the [unintellligible 00:59:36.20] bit or somewhere around that. And then suddenly he stops what he’s saying. And he says, “Essential dignities are these ones, and the most important ones are these ones which are done the opposite of those.” So all of a sudden, he’s giving you very precious information in the middle of something completely different.
LR: And this happens constantly. And that’s why we sometimes need translation of an entire book because something that might clarify technique which is not clear will be in an early chapter where he’s talking about the signs. And we would say, “Well, we’re going to translate this because it’s equal to everyone else. And sometimes it’s not.” And this is complicated to manage in terms of reading.
HA: Yeah, the book should be translated integrally. Yes. For instance, this author Haly Abenragel I don’t think you have an English translation.
LR: Yeah. Fragments, I think.
HA: Fragment. When he talks about the terms–
CB: Yeah, and he’s translated part of that a lot. And you’ve had access to that through translations from Castilian, or how did you access that?
HA: Castillian, yes.
LR: Well, yeah. And that one was translated by Alfonso X–
HA: Of Castille.
LR: –in the 12th century. So there is a Castilian version from very early on from the 13th century on. And there’s an addition. We have an addition of the Castilian version. Although we speak Portuguese, we can manage with medieval Castilian.
CB: Okay. So you’re able to cuz you speak Portuguese, you can read that translation in that critical edition? And was it translated directly from Arabic into Castilian?
HA: And they very interesting. They calculated the chart, an election chart to begin the translation. And they incorporate this in the book. It’s very–
LR: Yeah, so we have the date–
LR: –the time and date of the beginning of the translation and the time and date of the ending of the translation. It was quite interesting.
HA: Returning to Haly Abenragel, for instance when he talks about the terms, we think out, “Well, the terms they are the same for everybody.” But he explained the terms in a very interesting way. He says that the sign for instance Aries is like one color. For instance, red. Aries would be red because of Mars. And then the term of Saturn in Aries would be a brownish red, and the term of Venus would be a very soft red. And the term of the Moon would be like a whitish red.
LR: [unintelligible 01:02:17.17]
HA: Yeah, the Moon is [unintelligible 01:02:19.18] The term Jupiter, well, and it goes on explaining the terms inside it’s fine in–
LR: In colors.
HA: –terms of colors.
LR: Which is quite interesting.
LR: And it’ll give you an insight to how are they doing that and how do they interpret the terms. Yeah.
HA: So they are like mixing colors.
LR: So these are very subtle things that you pick up as you go to source. And sometimes it’s a phrase, and I’ve been studying manuscripts for the last three years very highly for my PhD. And if you don’t read the whole thing, you miss some important phrase that will give you the answer to what you need. And this is quite important. And what happened in going back to our book and how the way how we build is as we started to widen our sources, we were able to then filter out what is the essential. On the Heavenly Spheres was built in this principle, “So let’s now explain this without having to recur constantly to the other author.” And that was a choice which was we’re not going to always being–
HA: Quoting. Yeah.
LR: –qouting another source. We’re just trying to say which sources we are using generally, but we’re going to build the rational up from scratch. Cuz I think that sometimes you need to do that. Of course, if you’re working more academically as we are right now, you have to revert back to sources. And that’s quite important if you’re studying historically and if you’re going back to sources. But at some point, if you want to teach someone astrology, sometimes you need to get your own things and then you say, well, if you want to read a little bit more about this, then you go to Ptolemy, or you go to Abu Ma’shar, or you go to another author which explains it. But I think that’s a level two in terms of astrology for someone who’s learning, First, you need to have an idea of the system and then you can advance to the right source.
HA: And mainly because our students, if they have a good idea of the system, they can deal with any source. They don’t get stuck in small differences like this author says the orb of Venus is seven and the other says that it’s six and they get stuck. And if they understand the idea, they don’t get stuck because they have the concept. So, this is something that we wanted to do to teach astrology from scratch without any other explanation exterior to astrology and in a way that collects and I would say, well, collecting this tile so to say all the sources that we have read instead of quoting.
LR: Yes. And one of the things that we opt for is when you have a divergence of techniques for example, the aspects, how are you going to calculate the aspects and that’s still an open question nowadays. Is it all sign, is it not all sign? Are they using 5°, are they using 7? Do they use the orb as a plan as…? How does it work? And there’s not an answer for that yet because sometimes that’s not in the in the books. But we did was we gave the two options that were at the time our understanding of how it worked and William Lilly’s moiety system which was at the time one of the major sources for English readers and traditional readers and still is in a certain way. So, people would know, okay, there are different approaches to this but the idea of the aspect is still the same thing, and I think that’s important. And it’s good for people to know that there are different opinions on certain minor aspects.
CB: How do you do deal with that divergence at this point? Because one of the issues that I’ve noticed over the past decade that astrologers are starting to run into in studying traditional astrology is that there used to be just a few sources so it was very easy just to master the just handful of traditional astrology books that exist. But now, there’s such a huge diversity of different sources from the tradition because Ben Dykes has translated 30 books and there’s tons of academic translations that seem like they’re coming out all the time and now, it seems like there’s such a diversity of opinions in the tradition at this point that sometimes people are struggling to figure out how to reconcile all of them or what to do with the case.
HA: I think you gave the answer already. You gave the answer already. You said the diversity of opinions and that’s exactly that, the diversity of opinions. Because if people read the sources, I think sometimes people just fall in love with one source and they like that source very much and that’s fine. But they get this idea of this author and this source so that what you mentioned is exactly what you said, the diversity of opinions. If you read different sources and if you approach not horizontally, but if you approach that from another perspective, you can see these sources. And you must understand that each source comes from a different period probably or from a different culture or from a different slightly different education. If you understand that, you can see what emerges is what they have in common so you just don’t get stuck with one degree of difference or something.
LR: Yeah, we’ve got example. Let me see. Usually, the divergencies occur with minor facets of the technique. I was thinking on receptions and definitions of reception, for example, that’s usually people struggle with that. But we have to think at one point how important really is reception in an interpretation. Can you interpret the whole thing without giving that much importance to receptions? I think people are sometimes stuck because they’re giving too much importance to that small detail. And okay, we might have a doubt and we’re interpreting something so we might get it slightly off because we don’t have the whole data and we have also to assume that with astrology as with the other interpretive technique, but you have to test it and see, okay, it might do this, it might do that, let’s see. And the problem is people mostly use these things in natal charts. And in natal charts, it’s complicated because it’s extremely subjective. And if it’s our own natal chart, it’s going to be even more subjective. And sometimes these things have to be tested in horaries, events, stuff like that, which is more concrete. You have a result either that happened, or didn’t happen, or it happened like this, or it happened like that. With natal charts, it’s quite complicated to test certain things. House systems is another major thing and I think we’re going to struggle with that one [Luis and Helena laugh] forever.
CB: It was clear even that the medieval history some of the stuff that’s come out from Abu Ma’shar recently, it seems clear that they were struggling with it to some extent where they were inheriting both a sign-based tradition and a quadrant or degree-based tradition and different astrologers were trying to figure out what to do with it, but nobody ever really solved that. It just didn’t completely go away as an issue, but the whole sign was jettisoned and then it just became a debate over which quadrant system to use for a few centuries.
LR: Yeah. And still, I don’t know if there’s an answer or if it’s ever going to be a good answer for that, which one is best, and why? Because it’s just which one is it’s why is it better than the other one. But still, I think we need and I’m now speaking as an historian, we need examples as much as we can get them. And unfortunately, examples are rare. And as you go further into older periods, you have fewer and fewer examples. And it’s only examples that clarify exactly how they use their techniques. Because there are books and sources that have examples but usually, they’re incomplete, they’re not very clarifying and people tend to have this tendency to pick the worst examples possible to [Luis laughs] clarify something. There’s always something off that doesn’t really explain it. And examples are very good. With the house systems, what I usually recommend, we use our computers and we have been using our computers since traditional, the old system. And mainly it’s not, well, I’m speaking personally. Now I like the way it’s calculated and the structure of the calculation, but I don’t think a mathematical justification will do it alone. What I’ve been stuck with Alcabitius since then. Because in predictive work, I’ve found out that at least in the example choice I’ve been making in all these years, the cusps work better in terms of explaining events in predictive work. And I’m talking about cusps of intermediate houses. For example, if you’re having a doubt in the cusp of the fifth and it’s either Leo or Virgo and you see people having children or having issues with children when the sun is ruling something, it’s a ruler of the year or it’s the ruler of the sub period of the third eye or something similar, and not Mercury. And this is constant throughout the predictive work. And then you say, okay, so let’s see which house system here will give me Sun as the ruler of the fifth house and not Mercury. And then you try to select and Alcabitius for me has been working fine. That doesn’t mean it’s the correct one, of course, because who knows?
But I think things have to be tested on this level and with very objective things. And it’s not going to be the way I relate to whatever subject in the chart that’s going to really explain if the cusp is one sign or the other because that’s subjective and it’s difficult to understand. I think we need to work it out with horaries and predictive work, stuff like that that’s very precise either describes an event or it doesn’t describe an event. And if it doesn’t describe an event, then we have to go back to the calculation, to the mathematics, to the logic around it and redo it again and rethink it again. And this is a very complicated process and it still hasn’t been properly done with astrology nowadays.
HA: And also, yeah, practice and also, sometimes I don’t understand why people discuss certain methods in the sense that it does not contribute to a better practice. It’s just a theoretical thing. So, I think we should revert to practice because some of these discussions are completely theoretical and they don’t actually test or they test in their own chart which is not actually [Helena laughs] a test. And they just discuss some details that are not useful, I would say. So, if they revert to practice, if they really put this in practice as Luis said, I think most of these discussions would just, I wouldn’t say go away because they are important. I have to say-
LR: Or they would raise the proper question. Sometimes, we don’t need the good answer, we need the good question and this question should be asking at this point, and we can’t assume. And I think the problem with astrology, and this is traditional, modern or any kind of astrology is people tend to assume, people get too confident and then do assume things. We all commit that error. It’s a grave sin, but [Helena laughs] we all do it. [Luis laughs] And sometimes we need to go back and well, let’s turn down this to basics and see if it’s really working or if we just wishful thinking it into action. And it’s complicated. It’s a complicated process. We need to revise a lot of our pre-concepts on something and sometimes that’s complicated to do scientifically.
CB: Sure. Well, one of the things I’ve been noticing that’s been happening in the traditional communities is there’s a lot of new, sometimes debates that are coming up based on textual analysis when there’s an ambiguity in the text and it’s spawning multiple interpretations which then are becoming new sub traditions and of itself, like one of them is the void of course Moon definition, there’s become a new debate about that. You guys must be familiar with it because it’s based on Sue Ward’s interpretation of what Lilly was doing with the void of course Moon which is based on an apparent inconsistency from how he defines the void of course Moon versus how he seems to use it in the chart examples. And one approach to defining what void of course means in that context versus the other alternative interpretation which is the more common one versus even now, there’s an older Hellenistic one that’s been revived in the last 10 years where we found the original definition and it was just talking about the Moon not completing an aspect in the next 30° which is completely different than those. So now all of a sudden, there’s three void of course Moon definitions that are being used in contemporary practice that are all derived from different textual reads of different texts from the tradition.
LR: Yeah. Well, now I’m thinking historian and astrologer as a historian what I would do, and this is a project that we tend to do at some point is we just comb whatever sources we have from the earliest one to the latest one and see how that is defined. How do you define how the concept develops? And not only the theoretical manuals which is usually 90% of our data, but also in practical examples where they are considering in interpretation. Are they considering this void of course or not? And then astrology-wise in terms of interpretation, what I usually say to students is this, well, just look at it. Instead of worrying too much if it is void of course or it’s not void of course, what do you have there? Which is, for example, we don’t know exactly how to extend the void of course of a Moon, for example, but because for example, some people say, well, it’s has to not make an aspect until it goes out of a sign, so there’s that sign boundary thing. But the thing is, you have a chart with the Moon that is not applying to any aspect. Is it void of course, is it not void of course, is it going to change sign, it’s not going to change sign? All of that can be interpreted before you label it void of course or whatever you want to call it. So sometimes, for sake of clarity, and this means in terms of astrological interpretation, you just have to forget the concepts and the names and the labels and read the chart and see what’s happening. Describe what’s happening to that planet then you can at the conceptual level, discuss and study, should I go to that void of course or shouldn’t I do it? So, I think that’s the basic-
HA: But we have to be able to interpret first of all before labeling anything.
LR: Yeah, for example, a void of course Moon in Horary, for example, it’s just something where in the natal charts it’s not a big issue. But in a horary or an event, you have void of course Moon and so the Moon does not complete an aspect in any orb until it changes the sign. For example, it’s going to change the sign, it’s going to be at the end of Taurus, for example, it’s going to shift to Gemini. And only when it enters Gemini, it will start replying to a certain degree of an aspect to a planet.
CB: So just to clarify, is that the definition of void of course that you use and prefer is the one where the sign boundary does matter or do you ignore the sign boundary, let’s just say for-
LR: I usually ignore the sign boundary on this.
CB: Okay, so you do follow Sue’s interpretation?
LR: Yeah, yeah. Because there’s a practical issue there and that’s what I was going to. For example, how do you describe this in terms of an event? You’re having a Moon in a certain sign, it’s going to shift to another sign, and then it’s going to apply to an aspect. And that’s the order, the sequence that you need to be aware of when interacting that event or that question. Is it void of course, is it not void of course? Well, forget about that if you’re in doubt because you’re going to be stuck with an interpretation of what a void of course Moon is and implies in the chart, which is important. But you have that chart which is a unique moment in time which you need to interpret at that point. And what you’re going to do is that you have the Moon with a certain characteristic when you’re doing the question, and you know if the Moon is your indicator of action or movement in that chart, it’s going to have to shift to another sign in order to accomplish something. That’s what you need to interpret. Probably until something happens, there’s going to be some change in circumstance that you need to be aware of in order to answer that question, and then you have the context of the question that might allow you to understand exactly what does that mean in that specific case.
And I think this is more important in terms of interpretation than being stuck to the rigid definition of what the void of course Moon is or not, same thing with reception which is also a big struggle for people. Should we consider it? Should we consider if it’s with triplicity in terms? Should we consider if it’s two dignities, if it’s one, if it’s a major, if it’s not? Well, don’t worry about that too much. Forget the names, look at the chart and see what’s there, what’s happening there and then you can put in all these concepts and make out something important. For example, if you read tradition, you see that they give a certain amount of importance where you have reception by term. But that doesn’t usually pop up too much if you read the chapter on reception. They don’t usually refer to reception as a term. But when you go into the interpretation and the delineation of the houses, that pops up constantly. Are they being in reception by term? Does that give it strength? So that means that they’re attributing some strength to that configuration. Is it the reception or not? It doesn’t matter. What matters is it’s something that you might need to focus your attention on because it might be important.
These kinds of things might help a student or someone who is interpreting to forget about these things. That doesn’t mean that it’s not important to discuss technical issues. How do we go on these situations and how do we go in to define our own art and the terms of our own art? That’s important. That’s extremely important, but we can’t be stuck there. And that’s a way that we’ve been dealing with tradition and the contradictions of tradition a lot in this time, and sometimes we have to have in mind one thing, sometimes there are mistakes. Sometimes you’ll say, “Oh, our boom is hard to find something strange.” I was reading the other chapter there and then I said, “Well, he made a mistake here, or the translation made a mistake here, or the manuscript copy somewhere along the timeline made an error.” And it’s obviously an error because everyone else says something different. So, we need to have also a good sense in this aspect which is, well, they might do errors and we’ve seen them doing a lot of errors.
HA: Yeah, I can give you an example of an error, of several errors. I went to The British Library with my teacher Liana Saif, I think you know her at least by name. Yeah, and she’s amazing.
CB: Yeah, she has written work on Abu Ma’shar and also at The Warburg Institute, she just did a translation of the Picatrix that I’m excited about.
HA: Yeah, she’s amazing. She’s amazing. We went together to The British Library and I asked for this book of Haly Abenragel in Castilian and she asked for the manuscript in Arabic. And she read and we had to speak very quietly because we were in the middle of The British Library. She read a segment in Arabic and I read the same in Castilian, and we both translated it into English and there were grave mistakes. For instance, they…
CB: In the Castilian?
HA: Yes, because the Arabic was the original. For instance, they have confused Saturn with Venus. They couldn’t be more different. Also, there are words in Arabic that are, well, you know Arabic. Sometimes they are difficult to translate. For instance, they had something in red. We had noticed they had something that they said it is red and it should be green because red and green in Arabic are similar. They are written in a similar way. It’s easy to make a mistake between red and green in Arabic.
LR: For example, in the Western manuscripts, sometimes they mix up Venus and Mercury a lot because if you don’t draw the crescent of Mercury on top well and sometimes they’re just scribbling up, you’ll get an error.
HA: It is very important to look at the originals as much as possible. And as Luis said, to look at the whole thing, not just a segment because medieval books are not organized the way we organize our minds. They are different.
CB: Yeah. I’ve talked to Ben about this. He’s been on the podcast recently to talk about some of his recent books because he went back and learned Arabic so he could go back to the original manuscripts because he realized that the Latin translations were sometimes wildly different or were shortened or the meaning was changed or that the original language was richer than the Latin translations so that there was a good reason to go as far back as you could in the original text.
LR: Yeah, that’s a very important thing and important to do different manuscripts also in terms of translation. Because sometimes, if you stick to a manuscript, you’ll get the version. If you stick to another, it’s slightly different because we’re talking about hand copies so people do make mistakes in hand copies. Although I must say, sometimes you do have wonderful copies and that was a whole art of copying books and sometimes they didn’t even know what they were talking because they couldn’t read too much or they didn’t know the language too much. But still, you need to do the critical editions which is to comb the most manuscripts that you can find the most important ones and then see if there are differences, and sometimes there are. Even in Arabic versions of a manuscript on astrology, you might find chapters that don’t exist in other manuscripts or errors in copy where they simply jumped a segment because either they didn’t have it or they were making a mistake, and it happens. So, it’s important to have this analysis. Sometimes it’s irrelevant in terms of the matrix of the doctrine, but sometimes it might clarify something that we were doubtful of. But even so, and again, I stress this again because I think this is very important for people studying astrology although this is important and this is absolutely vital work to be done and the translations offers rich opportunity to do this, we still cannot be too much strict with terminology, or else it’s going to be a nightmare. Yeah.
For example, I’ll give you an example from my work I’m working on at the time. So, the transition between the 16th and the 17th century where you have a strong focus of mathematics in astrology. So, it is a time where you get those long tables where they attribute a point to every little configuration that you can find. And you can have that in a simple version like having William Lilly and notice I’m calling William Lilly’s table simple, or you can have it two aspects, every single aspect. So, if it’s more 6000 Mercury, you would give it one point. If it squares Mercury, give it minus one point. And you get these very minute things which I don’t know how they would apply that because the hours [Luis laughs] to calculate the whole counting of value of a planet, but you have these things. And if you get too much stuck into what point am I going to give to a configuration, you’re not interpreting it. You’re going around if it’s value four or if it’s three and then there’s a struggle because you have all faction that says it’s three and a faction that says it’s four and perhaps it’s meaningless, and that has to be said. And then, of course, there’s experience. We see it. Does it work? Doesn’t it work?
CB: Yeah, and that’s what’s so important now and that leads into your new book because you had about 10 years of traditional astrology under your belts by the time you wrote the first book On the Heavenly Spheres which at least the English version came out in 2010. But then it’s now been another 10 years and you’ve written a follow-up book which is meant to be a companion or almost a commentary to the first book and it is titled Traditional Astrology Course: Essential Concepts & Interpretation Basics and it just came out this year in 2019, right? So I looked at the old book again on Amazon and I noticed there was a review where the top voted review gave it a good review and said it was an amazing book, but that it said that there were so many concepts that were thrown at it that it might be overwhelming for a new student of astrology and it almost needed some commentary or a teacher to guide you through the book, the first book, and it almost seems like that’s what the role that this book serves is to walk the person through and take them as a teacher and take them by the hand and guide them through learning traditional astrology from the basics?
LR: Yeah. What we did was, let me think, I think it was 2010 when the English came out. We decided to do a course based on our classes, our live classes in which we would like to write it down and say, okay, if we’re going to teach that as a class. So, we’ve done the subject, the theory, now we we’d like to do with the practice. How do you teach this in main lessons? And that’s how this book pops up. So, it was published in Portuguese around ’12 – ‘11, I don’t recall exactly the date, but sometime around that. So, the transition comes a few years after, so the book is already old, I must say, in terms of how we see things and how we do things although this is a revised version. [Helena laughs]
CB: One of the things that’s funny is I saw the other day on a forum, somebody was recommending your book, it was on Twitter or Reddit or something like that and they recommended the English translation. And there was somebody that wrote in the comments, they were like, “I wish there were more books like this written in Portuguese because I can’t read English very well.” [Luis laughs] Then the person had let them know that, actually, I pointed it out. I said, “Well, the book was originally written in Portuguese.” And gave them the link. So, there’s people finding your work in English that don’t realize that there’s Portuguese versions of it and that are very excited to learn that.
LR: Yeah, yeah. It’s funny how information gets out there. Yeah, it’s very interesting. But yeah, we did the book as a companion. So, like we’d do, we would find in an academic manual of some sort, you always have the theoretical book and then you have the exercise book that guides you into the practical aspects thing so we try to teach interpretation a bit more in this book, this new book than the original one, the one On the Heavenly Spheres allows because you can give examples but you cannot be interrupting the whole thing. And as to the person to comment, and that is not the first time that it’s too complicated, it has many concepts. It’s true, but we need to see astrology is complicated. I think that’s one thing that traditional astrology, it’s complex. That’s not complicated, it’s complex. It’s a complex knowledge. And that’s one thing that tradition offered us is the view of this complexity. I remember always as a tradition, I think it’s from I might be mistaken on this, but I think it’s Robert Hand’s translate. I think it’s the [unintelligible 01:32:54.12] I think it’s in that one. Where he makes a rather nonacademic footnote, a very personal footnote which I think is very interesting. And he says, “Well, this is much more complex than anything we knew Western astrology had till this point.” And this is something done in the ‘80s, I think, one of the first very first translations and it’s interesting because that’s true. When you come from what they knew back in the ‘80s and then suddenly, you get into these complexities, wait a minute, this is much more complicated, much more complex, much more than what we are used to and it’s true and it’s very difficult. And I understand for someone who’s coming into astrology, it’s difficult to observe all of these concepts. It’s true, but-
HA: We try to make them palatable. [Helena laughs]
LR: Yeah, we try to make them [Luis laughs] as palatable as possible [Helena and Luis laugh] but it’s still complex, yes. And sometimes you as a student, you have to digest it properly to be able to apply it and that’s sure the gap, sorry, that’s the gap we try to fill with the second companions I would say.
HA: Exactly. Also, because most people had studied some astrology before and there’s nothing more difficult than to learn something the second time because you learned something once and your neurons just get this path [Helena laughs] and then you need to redo all this idea. So, it’s difficult to learn the second time. And one of the things that this our second book has, the second English book has is we try to develop, we are always doing this because we think this is absolutely essential, we try to develop a specific method to teach astrology, very specific. It’s not a contemporary method. We don’t begin with the planets or this, we begin with the system and then we develop from there and we try to think as a medieval or astrologer, yeah.
LR: The structure of On the Heavenly Spheres is based loosely on how an astrology manual would teach astrology in the past, in which you start by the system and then you build the whole rationale through the system out and how with a few changes for a more contemporary way of thinking because we need to adapt to current day thinking can be expected to come back to that frame of mind that they don’t have anymore, but it’s still basic.
HA: Exactly, they don’t have anymore. And because we know we are very, I would say very Cartesian. We are very Cartesian. There’s no other way to put it. And this is a pre-Cartesian frame of mind. And we have to relearn this kind of thinking and it’s like learning a different language. We cannot just go with our own language and try to apply it. We have to learn a different language with a different grammar, different rules, not only different vocabulary, not only different ideas, but different methods of applying these ideas.
LR: Yeah. And someone coming from modern astrology, contemporary astrology, this might get difficult because you learned as Helena was saying, you learn the different way so you structured your mind in a different way. Then that’s a very difficult point for some of the students. And we usually start, for example, Morinus which was for a long time, one of the major sources we had of a traditional thing, but Morinus is a very dangerous tradition because he’s a revisionist. Yeah, he’s not giving you the normal way that an astrologer coming from a medieval tradition into the modern era would work on. And for example, in that aspect, William Lilly is much better. And I think being one of the latest sources that we have and for English speakers, it’s wonderful because it’s in English and it can be understood in English, he still thinks as medieval traditional astrology will do in which he does a very good mixture of specific meanings coming from house positions or house rulerships with a general meaning coming from the planets themselves. So, he managed to do that very well. So, he’s a good author to study if you’re trying to understand how to think certain interpretations. And at the same time, because he gives you a lot of examples, you can see where he bends his own rules because he’s working with a specific case, which is something that you see every astrologer in practice does that. You have the rules. And it goes back to what we were talking about in terms of are you going to label that void of course or not? It’s okay you have that problem, but then you have to shift the rules for that specific guess without violating the rules of astrology at the same time. So, you have to keep on those boundaries of what’s permissible in astrology, but adapting it to a specific configuration that you’re facing.
CB: It’s interesting that you mentioned Lilly because recently I spent 10 years focusing on the Hellenistic tradition and I finally got my book out and then I’ve been more recently going forward to the end of the tradition and studying Lilly and I just did an episode on Lilly last month with Nina Gryphon and also starting to study Morinus and some of those other authors. So, I’m almost going the reverse direction from some other traditional astrologers that started with the Renaissance and then went backwards. But it’s interesting that contrast that you had with Lilly where you feel like Lilly is more of a traditionalist, whereas Morinus is more of a revisionist in some ways?
LR: No, no, I do. I do. Morinus was revising astrology to fit a specific belief that he has and a specific belief of that time in which they’re trying astrology to fit the scientific changes and the mindset changings that are occurring in the 17th century. And he starts to do a terrible thing which they all do in one point or the other at that period which is they start extracting out parts of astrology they think are not rational. And their definition of rational is dangerous because [Helena and Luis laugh] It’s very narrow. For example, the system of terms gets completely dumped out and a lot of interpretations get them. I think that is a process that’s much earlier than Morinus and it’s-
CB: Sure. Well, it’s interesting how Lilly’s already changing some stuff through the back to Ptolemy movement as one of his things. Is that one of the major areas? Because you guys seem like you specialize more in, let’s say, medieval astrology roughly speaking compared to Renaissance astrology. Where is Lilly, although he’s a good synthesizer, where does he differ in major ways from the medieval tradition? Or how do you see as medieval astrologer Lilly is different from what the medieval astrologers are doing aside from his back to Ptolemy thing and the fact that he sides with Ptolemy so many times when there’s discrepancies? Is that one of his major differences with the medieval tradition or are there other major departures?
LR: Yeah, there are. Let’s see. We have to see that Lilly, although he’s good and I keep what I’ve told earlier that he’s a very good example to study, he’s on the end line of a tradition that has been changing since the late 15th century and Helena in her PhD thesis focused on those changes of Ptolemy astrology and others discussions should we use these terms or the others. So, you have a shift in essential dignities, you have a shift on meanings of houses, you have a shift on several minor aspects of the tradition, some are completely driven out. So, when we get to Lilly, there’s a lot of these changes already occurring and already setting down. So, for example, he’s changed the triplicities. So, he’s using only two triplicities, so any interpretation that you have in the medieval tradition and then the Hellenistic of using three triplicities to calculate times, meanings, whatever, it’s gone. It has been gone for two centuries almost. They lost it. The terms are Ptolemaic, are not Egyptian but that’s cheap and to alternate, I think that would be the main major problem. But for example, the use of the predictive techniques is completely different. Although his, I would recommend and we do that with our students to study his textbook on how he does the prediction because it gives us a wonderful interpretation of primary directions even if we consider that he’s using the Kepler aspects what we call today, the minor aspects. If you ignore the minor aspects, if you’re not going to use them, at least we can look at how easy interpreting certain connections of the planets, whether if it’s a big quintile, or a square, it doesn’t matter. We just need to see what he’s doing.
But for example, he remits the perfections to a very low role in the whole system while the perfections are the core of any interpretation of predictive work since whenever they come up with them [Luis laughs] and then invoke the system. They are the central core that makes the whole system unite in which you have the revolutions and every other information coming in by the guidelines of the perfections. So, he lost that, he is not using that although he makes excellent work with combining directions and solar revolutions. So, there’s a major change from the tradition in which he dumps completely the ruler of the year almost doesn’t make any-
CB: Okay. And that actually raises the question for me just about your practice. Do you perfect by sign or by house because I’m noticing that this is becoming a large debate in the tradition, partially due to the house division issue, but also due to that splitting off in the medieval tradition as a result of the house division issue?
LR: Well, by sign, we do what we do and teach is we do the whole movement of the points of the chart of the significator’s degree by degree throughout the year, so they will all do the 30° in one year and the aspects they do to the natal chart and to changes and for example, in terms of ruler of the year which is a major central focus of interpretation, if you have a change, so if you say you have 20° Capricorn rising after four months in terms of timing, it will shift what Capricorn with Aquarius with examples will be Saturn, but there will still be a shift. So, for example, for 20 Aquarius four months afterwards, you have Jupiter coming in as the ruler of the year. And this is what we’ve been doing and our experience, and here again I will lead to experience, has been giving excellent results in terms of if you see the shift in the in design where the Ascendant moves representing a major shift in the person’s life. And we’ve been using directions, solar returns perfections and transits occasionally for the predictive work. And you see very well the major shifts, the timings work excellent with the perfections most of the times and you would work with the direction or transits which is interesting.
CB: Just to clarify, because last month, there was an episode on perfections that will come out before this episode, but that means so you calculate the degrees and then you move everything forward at a rate of 30° a year and therefore, it will mainly like the Sun, Moon and Ascendant?
HA: The Sun, Moon, Ascendant, and the part of fortune, and the Midheaven, yeah. Because we replace the CGD by the Midheaven in perfections.
CB: Okay, so then it’s also almost more like a progression or like a primary direction and that it’s moving forward at a certain rate each month and then some of those points that you’re directing will change signs at different times during the year which will then indications during the course of the year?
LR: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. That’s it. And you can of course, use the other plans that you two were talking about to like during the primary directions, but it’s too fast to have all the planets moving there. You might do that if you’re looking at a specific house ruler, for example, for someone if a person that asks you for a specific topic. But if you’re doing just the general thing, you use the high-level points basically to do the major shifts in the year. And this is something that we extracted from our reading of Haly Abenragel and other authors because they seem to hint at this movement in one point or the other, in between certain words you see that if he’s saying this, he has to be using a degree technique, not a sign technique or a house technique. But you still see for example, in Ezra I think it’s Ezra. My problem is so many [Helena laughs] authors, I sometimes mix them up. I think it’s Ezra at some point lists the main movements that you will consider in prediction and he states both the perfection by sign and by house. So sometimes they doing two things or they’re doing a quick method by house which is easier to calculate and at the same times, they’re doing the directions by degree. So, I would love to say why they are doing this or doing that-
CB: And there was one other area I meant to… Sorry, I skipped [Luis laughs] for a second, I didn’t mean to interrupt. But there was one other area I meant to ask when you were talking about reception, which is another debate that’s come up recently again amongst traditional astrologers based on different textual interpretations where some of the Renaissance astrologers are reading Bonatti and there’s a couple of delineations where he’s doing like horary questions for the 6th and 8th house where they’ve interpreted it to mean that malefics are mitigated when they receive other planets in their domiciles but that malefics do not mitigate when the malefic is in the domicile of another planet and there’s reception that it’s not a mitigating thing. And this seems to be coming out of, again, it’s a textual interpretation of one text primarily of Bonatti but then there’s a debate compared to the other medieval authors who seem to say that reception is a universally mitigating factor when it involves malefics. Is that a debate that you’re familiar with, or do you have a strong opinion one way or another on that debate?
LR: That’s one of those where I would look at the chart first before making a decision. I was thinking, for example, if you have Saturn in Cancer squaring a Mars in Libra where you have both debilitated malefics.
HA: And the Moon in Capricorn? [Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: Well, if you have that configuration, it’s going to be a harsh configuration whatever it signifies even if you consider that there might be receptions or stuff like that. So, it depends really. What I would like to do at this point when I have a 72-hour day [Luis laughs] to work with is would be to really look at the sources and see what’s happening. I’m always very cautious of Renaissance interpretations of medieval authors because by the end of the 15, as I was telling early and the 16th century, they were revising a lot of things, so we need to be very careful how they’re interpreting things. I would go for the medieval. Usually, the medieval sources are more in line with the tradition. They’re more consistent throughout the tradition with a lot of exceptions, of course, than the Renaissance because in the Renaissance, there’s a cut there. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have excellent works going there and an excellent synthesis of astrology quite good, but still they’re changing certain concepts within astrology. They’re cutting down, they’re simplifying, they’re trimming it down for a more logical approach to astrology and we need to be careful when doing that. So that’s where I think history of astrology is very important to understand.
HA: Yeah, especially the history of techniques. That’s our project, studying the history of techniques. And also, when you ask something like, do you think reception is better this way or better that way? My question is, how much does this… I really need to do to look at the chart and see how much does this change. Because as Luis said, both planets would be debilitated. So, in practice, how much does this change?
LR: And in practice, if you’re looking for a reception to mitigate a hard configuration, then you have the answer. You’re already trying to search anything that might soothe something that you know it already that’s difficult. So that’s a big point, I think reception can mitigate certain difficulties of course, but it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a third level of the interpretation of that configuration. Okay? So, they might change things. A term might do that, for example, I verified if you have a debilitated planet which is in some term, it usually gives you a much more efficient way of acting that one that it’s not and that in itself might mitigate a difficult configuration. So, we really need to look for it.
HA: I think one of the main problems here is like one of the main questions in astrology would be to understand how much each factor really is important. For instance, if you have the reception as Luis said, is it something that is life changing or it’s just a detail in a difficult configuration as it was or if you have a good term that will help slightly? So, how much does all these factors contribute to the chart? And we have to look at the chart. And again, we have to go back to the chart and look at the chart as I would say like a singularity this chart, even if we have people with the same chart, they are different people. So, these charts each chart is a singularity and we have to look at the chart integrally. If we focus too much in one thing or if we just extract one of the concepts and discuss the concept theoretically, we might lose sight of its practical application. And by saying this, [Helena laughs] we are not trying to escape the question, it’s really the way we work. [Helena laughs]
LR: Yeah. And I was thinking, for example, the debilitated planets which is always a question or where’s it debilitated? Is it not? Does it harm the planet? How much does it harm? Is it useful? And these are questions that pop up as you study. And what I’ve always say to students, we have to see that even when a planet is debilitated, the planet will have a certain interpretation. For example, you see that in manuals and where you have, for example, let me think if I can get a good one, Mars in Cancer where they sometimes say they’re good in businesses and they’re good. Yeah. So, you have a debilitated planet and they give it good attribution so they give it a specific attribute for that configuration. And it’s still debilitated and it probably will have its problems, but it’s still able to act in a specific area and produce a specific effect which is positive or constructive or the person can use it constructively. And we need to focus that because if we’re getting too much into again, labeling, this is a debilitated planet, this is whatever it’s complicated, and I only see it in practice and you will cite, and for example, in debilitated planets, usually this type is seen in practice and in textual evidence which is it’s only when a planet is extremely afflicted that you really see the bad things when you have a debilitated planet, which is at the same time retrograde and has a square of Saturn and its combust and everything just comes in together, then you have a huge red alert because you might have a problem being signified by that planet but you need to have a very heavy configuration to be clear on this, just debilitated planet. It’s not-
CB: Right. And that’s one of the things where I think mitigations are important though it represents something that’s unique that traditional astrology is brought to the table in contemporary astrology because in 20th century astrology or even concepts like benefic and malefic were rejected under the premise where they would say, we’ll see Saturn in this chart, sometimes this person had very terrible events in their life. I’m sure, it looks “malefic”. But then they’ll point to another chart and say, this person, Saturn is perfectly fine in their chart so it’s not okay to call it a malefic. But part of the technical thing that was missing from that discussion was that traditional astrologers would always take into account a host of mitigating conditions that could alter the condition and the manifestation of any planet. But that’s where one of the considerations like reception comes into play because it’s one of many potentially mitigating conditions that help you to identify what is the worst-case scenario versus what are the shades of grey in between.
HA: And they are more than 50. [Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: Yeah. And it is a complexity, the ideas. I would say it’s more organic in terms of tradition because you have all these subtleties that have to come into mind. For example, I’m thinking, again, a debilitated planet which is right on the MC, it will define a lot of the profession and it doesn’t need to be negative in itself. Again, the dispositor of that planet might be in a good condition and in a good house and with certain dignities. You might have an aspect of a benefic planet or of a luminary that stabilizes that. You might have an IC condition, for example, which stabilizes the action of the planet. So, you need to have that into account and it’s extremely useful.
HA: And the planet, although in the 10th house is not the only one to define the person’s perfection. For instance, the ruler of the 10th, the three planets of location, all-
LR: The three planets of location, all of that. And so, you need to mix up these things properly and you’re correct. It has a palette of mitigations and of complexity of interpretation which is important, but we cannot be too stuck on it or else we’ll… I think the problem with the discussion sometimes is that we stick too much to definition. And again, I say it’s an important thing to define one’s tools and one’s concepts in science in the body of knowledge as astrology is, but then we have to practice and we need to sometimes go over it to get an answer.
CB: Sure, I guess I just wanted to establish if you guys see reception involving malefics as a universally mitigating factor which seems to be the statement that’s in a lot of medieval texts, or if there are exceptions where you don’t see mitigation as a mitigating factor at all, which is a new development or a new opinion that some traditional astrologers are stating.
LR: Well, what we see is that it is a mitigating factor because-
HA: It is a mitigating factor, [Helena and Luis laughs] but it depends of what reception we’re talking about. If they are both debilitated-
LR: Exactly. If you have both debilitated planets, they will assist themselves, yes, they will assist each other, but they’re debilitated. So, the level of assistance one can gives it’s limited. It’s like you have to follow the root principle of that which is disposition. So, if a planet is moderately dignified, let’s think, but it’s dispositor is very weak in the chart, it will affect the outcome of that planet because the planet that gives you, even if there’s no reception, so if the planet that rules that area which defines part of the characteristics of the sign is injured, so it won’t assist that much. Or if you have a reception, it won’t assist that much. So that’s the root principle. So, reception has to come from the basic which is disposition is the development of a specific condition of this position. So, if we say that, well, the ruler of the Ascendant has triplicity, but it’s dispositor is exalted. So, the moderate condition of dignity is a bit uplifted, okay. So, if it’s on fall, it stumbles a bit. It’s more unstable. So, the same principle should be applied to reception. So, if the planet is debilitated, it can help, yes. There’s goodwill, yes. But if it’s debilitated, it doesn’t have the power to act in its full. So, it helps, yes. I would say it mitigates somewhat, but it doesn’t help as much as a reception by a strong planet. So that would be our position on the topic, I think.
CB: Sure. And I wanted to ask you while we still have time about your academic projects because one of you just recently completed your PhD and the other is about to finish that, right?
LR: [Helena and Luis laugh] Yeah. Well, you first. You’ve finished. [Luis laughs]
HA: Well, I have. Yes, I have [Helena and Luis laugh] finished my PhD and now I will be in Germany for six months for a postdoc again with the topic of astrology, so I’m really very lucky because I get to work in what I love. And Luis is finishing his PhD I think in May.
LR: Yeah, in May, we are organizing a conference here an academic conference on the history of astrological techniques. We should have details about that around November, I think
HA: With wonderful scholars, we have-
LR: We’ve got five to seven scholars. We still have to confirm everyone and we’ll be discussing exactly history versus astrological techniques in several aspects.
HA: Oh, we can say the names of people who already confirmed.
LR: Yeah, we already have Charles Burnett, Dorian Greenbaum which we have already spoken for today, we’ll have Shlomo Sela. Professor Shlomo Sela is also coming who’s an expert in Ezra and he’s done wonderful translations and editions of Ezra which I would recommend anyone to get. And Steven Vanden Broecke is also coming. He’s worked a lot on astrology teaching in Renaissance period. And who am I missing? And David Juste, which is a wonderful researcher on terms of astrological manuscripts and also techniques and authors. So, I think we got a nice team to start up. [Luis laughs]
HA: There’s someone else. There’s Dorian, Charles, Steven, David and? [Luis laughs] Well, us, yes, but there’s someone, I think it’s six people. Well, there’s us.
LR: Well, we had a few people confirming, others unfortunately couldn’t come so we’ll have it but we’ll have that information soon and we’ll send it to you.
HA: And that will be in May in Battaglia, which is a gothic monument is a very beautiful monastery and now it’s converted into a cultural center so beautiful monument, I think.
LR: So, we’re going to be talking about astrology and history of astrology an academic context, of course it’s academic sponsored conference. And let’s say, it’s going to be the startup of a project which we think it would be useful to get into the history of astrological techniques and astrological practices, which I think is quite useful for especially those studying tradition. I think it will be a good output for them in the project.
HA: And this is part of our ongoing project, The Astra Project, which is exactly the study of astrological techniques. And it’s more like an internalist study because we have very good work in the history of astrology, very good, I would say. But most of these works are from the externalist point of view, like the impact of astrology in society, or the impact of astrology in religion or something or political aspects like Monica Azzolini, she has done a very good work in the political aspects of astrology or Renstrom, yeah. So, we have people doing excellent work. Yeah, Renstrom is always in order. Renstrom is also coming with us. Yes.
CB: That’s a dream team of all of the current leading academic scholars on the history of astrology right now.
HA: And the place where it’s going to happen is also very, very, very nice.
LR: We expect to publish the results then we’ll see. This is still in the making, but yeah.
HA: We were saying most people have done very good work from the political, social and religious aspects of astrology and there are a few works on the technical aspect of astrology and this is what we want to develop. We want to collect all the work that is already done, and it’s very good. There’s another scholar we would love to have with us, Stephen Eileen–
LR: Who published a very excellent article on the terms and the domain terms and its historical background. Unfortunately, he couldn’t come. But he’s still on the team, I could say. And in the following next years, we will hope to produce some good work on historical research of astrological practices technical and how they influence it. Because one of the things that has been very important in the history of astrology nowadays is that people are starting to realize, historians are starting to realize that astrology has influenced a lot of the technical advances, for example, with astronomy for example, instruments reflect a lot of the astrologer’s needs, and it’s opening up the field. Nowadays, we can find a lot of excellent scholarly work done on this topic, but we want to do it from the point of view as Helena was saying, from the internalist point of view. How does astrology operate itself as a knowledge in several epochs? How does it develop? How does it work in a discussion? What we are talking about how this were to win in a discussion of concepts for example, the example you’re giving reception, how does it change from a certain concept mystic or medieval traditions and then pops up into the Renaissance with a certain different perspective? How did that come to be? Is there what you call reason? Is there a rationale behind that change? Or it’s just, as you said, possible interpretation of a specific text which became influenced at a certain point. So, if you understand that, if you understand this history and this development, you can more or less understand practice and all the consequences that this kind of changes in thinking might have on practice.
HA: And hopefully, not get stuck in problems.
LR: Yeah, it might help solve practical aspects. Should I consider this? Should I consider that? How does the concept change through time? And then if we know that then if we have a good research done on that kind of aspect, then we can make better decisions in how to use it in terms of practical astrology.
CB: Sure, or at least to make a more informed decision if you understand all the different options that are available.
LR: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it’s always a myth. There’s always room for opinion and personal experience in astrology, and then sometimes they are the answer for everything. You see that we see that in the tradition, and people have different opinions.
CB: Are there ever any instances where you two have notable practices that are different from each other? Or are they all largely the same?
LR: Well, in general, they’re the same. Although sometimes–
HA: We are like Siamese twins.[Helena and Luis laugh]
CB: Right, yeah.
LR: Sometimes we might give different emphasis to certain aspects of the chart. For example, it’s–
HA: The thing with astrology is that there are different emphasis that we can– I always say it’s like going to a museum. If five astrologers talk about the same chart, it’s like five people going to a museum, looking at the same painting, and then coming out and someone asks the five of them like, “Describe the painting to me.” If they are good and if they all looked at the same painting, they should describe the same thing. But each of them would use different words or they would emphasize different aspects of the same painting. And it’s a bit like that. We might probably emphasize a few things.
CB: That’s a great analogy.
HA: It is because they are all looking at the same image, and they should describe the same thing. But some of them would say more about the–
LR: Column, the color. Yeah.
HA: –landscape or the color or the frame or whatever. It’s always the same thing. And it should be coherent. There’s no contradiction in terms.
LR: Yeah, it’s intuitive. There is room for interpretation, and the interpretation will be slightly different from person to person. But it still needs to give us the same result or within the expected results. And I think that’s–
HA: Actually, I would like to tell you something that we presented on an academic conference. It’s about a comet just for you to see how the astrological system can be flexible and solid. Because it’s so old and so time-tested that it’s become very flexible at the same time. It’s about the 1618 comet.
LR: Yeah, we were doing this very small study for a presentation that we have to give on the anniversary of the 1618 comets which were they had a very strong impact on the scientific level because there was this discussion, were the comets a phenomenon of the upper atmosphere? So, the fire region of the four elements. Or was it a celestial event? And according to Aristotle, it couldn’t be because the heavens would be perfect. So this is a discussion in the early 17th century.
HA: And then there’s this big comet, really impressive.
LR: And there are these set of comets which help measure the parallax so they can place them properly in the heavens. So they would place them in the upper spheres, so they will be a celestial phenomenon. And the question we might ask, and this is interesting, how did this impacted the astrological interpretation of comets? How does it work? And you think, “Well, they would have to destroy the whole system.” No, they didn’t. What happens is those that interpret it as a sublunar phenomenon or a physical phenomenon of the upper atmosphere use the old traditions to ascribe the characteristics.
HA: In this specific case they would say the comet look like so and so and therefore it’s of the nature of Mars and Mercury.
LR: Mars and Mercury
HA: Mars and Mercury
LR: There’s a rationale. And then we have this man who’s writing also an almanac in Portugal an interpretation of comet who says, “No, no, no. They’re wrong. This is a celestial phenomenon which is located in the sphere of Mars.”
HA: And Mercury. [laughs]
LR: And if it’s located in the sphere of Mars, it will have a Martian quality. What happens is immediately and without any question you simply shift the interpretation. Okay, we need to know the nature of the comet in order to understand its effects, in what sphere is its position? In the sphere of Mars. Then it would have Martian qualities. Really there was no change in the interpretation. Simply, the reason why they’re attributing a significant quality shifted because there’s new knowledge for it.
CB: So it’s a minor modification of the system?
HA: Yeah, it should be like something destructive to the system. Because the comets, after all, they are not sublunary. They come from the outer space. And it is not destructive, it’s very simple. Simply, the astrologers would fit the comets in the system but in another part of the system. It’s almost like an anecdote, just for you to see how flexible and resilient the system is. So I think all these discussions that we are having about reception or the orbs or all sorts of things, they are not a threat to the system.
HA: They are simply something that should be integrated in a different level. That’s the thing.
LR: It’s for example the aspect. In the end, the orbs you can say we do have all signs. We can use all signs and then forget about the orbs. And you see sometimes that in practice in which you have astrologers that are using orbs, but at the same time these planets are not in orb but they are in opposing signs. So there’s an opposition. And if they’re in opposing houses, there’s an opposition there. It might not be a strong one because it’s not within the orb and that doesn’t have the specific degrees in which we’ll consider aspects, but there are still two opposing forces within that sign and those houses. So you need to count them. And they will do it in practice and–
HA: To a certain degree.
LR: To a certain.
HA: And it’s a matter of degree. And, for instance, in my PhD I studied a manuscript, a late 15th century manuscript. And it had examples which is really good. So this man this astrologer, he would account aspects by degree, as he said, and by house. And he writes that. And once he says Jupiter is not aspecting whatever, neither by degree nor by house. So we can see that he uses both for instance.
CB: Could you explain your PhD and what that was on?
HA: It was about a manuscript. Well, it’s actually interesting because I found out a manuscript. We both found out the manuscript. We knew of a manuscript in Lisbon. And it was like an almanac from 1468 to 1480. So, 13 years. And in the end of the almanac–
LR: Sort of an ephemeris.
HA: Sort of an ephemeris.
LR: With positions of the planets.
HA: Yes, planetary positions. Just dry planetary positions. But in the end of the manuscript, we had about more or less 40 horoscopes of 15th century French people like kings and things like that.
LR: Dukes, princesses… famous people from the– [laughs]
HA: The rich and famous from the late 15th century France.
HA: And then I went to Professor Charles Burnett. And I said, “I think I would love to study this document. Could this be enough for a PhD?” And he said, “Yes.” And he was very supportive, and then I began my PhD in September 2014. And when we got to the Christmas break December two months in, Charles said to me, “You should talk to David Just.”- who was there in London- “Because he has something that is very similar to your document.” And I had my computer with me and David has his computer, and I said, “Okay, I’m going to show you my document.” And I open my computer. David show me his document. And when we turn the computers, it was absolutely equal. We had something in the La Bibliothèque nationale de France in France in Paris, and I had a document in Lisbon. And they were both written by the same person, but it was not the same document. There were different documents, but they were written by the same person. It was absolutely the same handwriting, the same astrological symbols. And there were cross references. We found out that there were cross references between the document, and the other document the one that David had was signed. There was a name there. There was an explicit with a name. Sorry, an explicit is the end of the document in Latin. This was Latin.
LR: This was written by–
HA: And, yeah, this was written by me S. Belle. So it was the same person. So I got the second document. And this was astrological doctrine all over and several examples of charts that he interpreted.
CB: So it’s like an introductory text?
HA: It was more like he collected them for him–
LR: Mhm. So they are personal notes.
HA: –from different authors. He collected this like a student. And that’s why I called my PhD The Making of an Astrologer because it’s like how he studied, how he collected, all kinds of mistakes he had. And then he has another collection of charts also in the second document, so it’s very, very rich. On the one hand, I have an almanac with horoscopes. On the other, I have astrological doctrine and–
HA: Interpretations, yes.
LR: Exactly. Yeah.
HA: Most of it in Latin but one of them in old French, so it was just a matter of translating and then commenting this. And because I had examples, it was very rich. I had theory and practice. It was very, very rich.
LR: And this is what I was telling you earlier which is with examples you can know how they’re applying the techniques.
HA: How they actually did it. One of the very interesting things I saw because he draws the maps, as you can imagine. He uses the five-degree rule graphically. For instance, in one of the horoscopes the ascendant is let’s say for instance eight degrees Taurus. Eight degrees Taurus, for instance. And Mercury is like a five-degree Taurus. Technically, should be in the 12th house. But he draws Mercury in the first although he keeps the degree. And if you don’t know what it is, it looks like a mistake because it’s like in the wrong place. But what he is doing–And he does this consistently. He’s pulling the planet into the right house because of the five-degree rule but keeping the right degree in the planet. It’s puzzling for someone who doesn’t know the rule but if you know the rule–
CB: Yeah, I love that. That’s the advantage of you being astrologers and having that background is that something you immediately probably recognized or realized whereas somebody maybe an academic coming that doesn’t have that background might not catch it perhaps.
LR: Very important.
CB: Somebody really good like Stephanie Hyland would probably catch that, but some–
LR: Yeah. Some are good.
HA: Oh yeah.
LR: They are good. Yeah.
CB: Not astrologer, there’s others–
HA: No, Stephanie is great.
LR: For example, let me tell you one that’s usually wrong. Just the other day I was reading an almanac, and I popped up with a good proof of that which is people used to say when a certain person is born under a sign and a person with the normal culture would say, “I was born under the sign.” So he was born with the Sun in that sign in this specific date of the year while on an older almanac. So until the 17th century. What they’re saying is the person was born with that rising sign.
CB: Right. So if they say when you’re born under that sign, it means your rising sign not your Sun sign?
HA: Sure, yes.
LR: Yeah. And you can see that what you’re talking of. What the problem is when you’re looking at almanacs, for example, you’re seeing this packed in together with weather interpretation as well for that sign. And weather interpretation depends on the solar sign because you’re talking about the season of the year basically. And–
HA: It’s confusing.
LR: –it’s confusing.
LR: But if you read exactly what they’re talking about, you will see that they’re talking about ascendants and are not talking about Sun signs.
HA: And you can give the example of Taurus.
LR: Yes, and the example here in this almanac was obvious because he said something like if people have Taurus rising, they will tend to provoke their own illnesses. Because the sign in the Venus rules, both the sign in the first house and in the sixth house.
HA: Which is little.
LR: So he using [unintelligible 02:23:08.27] three degree equal house to exemplify this. But there you have, it the proof. This can only work if you’re considering a Taurus rising sign not the Sun sign. It wouldn’t make sense.
LR: And these little things that pop up in there and they change the perspective in which you’re seeing things. Because I’ve seen people saying, “Well, yeah, but the Sun signs are not as modern as you think because you see the Moon almanacs.” No, you don’t. Unless they state it specifically, and there might have been some almanacs that it’s stated. But most of them if you look again, it’s not the Sun sign that they’re talking about. It’s a rising sign. So you will immediately extrapolate. Probably earlier texts are also mentioning that. Yeah. You wouldn’t have that problem in a primer of astrology of course because then you’re having a serious trouble. I think these small texts probably done by more amateur astrologers or for the greater public, you need to understand exactly what you’re saying.
HA: And sometimes you have people that collect knowledge, but they also tend to condensate knowledge. And they just collect some parts. And it’s confusing if you go there without knowing what they are saying and read because it is confusing. They are mixing a sign as a rising sign and then a sign for weather for instance.
HA: And we talk a lot about this. We think that there’s a great part of astrology that was transmitted directly from teacher to student orally.
LR: So we don’t have that. Or don’t have too many [unintelligible 02:24:57.23].
HA: The personal experience, the little tricks of the trade, the secret, this was probably transmitted directly not written.
CB: Yeah, that’s something that’s only being revived now all of a sudden with traditional astrology where we’re suddenly having a living, breathing tradition of traditional astrology again. But it’s only what? Two generations old, maybe three generations now. And we have very little documentation of that although there’s little hints of it like Abu Ma’shar’s student Shadhan in his little text that I don’t think has been translated at this point that is like anecdotes from his teacher Abu Ma’shar where he talks about his students sitting around and watching a chart reading of Abu Ma’shar and then afterwards asking him like, “Why did you say that to the client?” And then him explaining.[Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: Yeah. Yeah.
HA: Because I would love to read that text of Shadhan, I saw references to it. But there’s no translation, I think.
CB: Yeah, there’s like an article by Lynn Thorndike where he paraphrases a bunch of it and Ben [Dykes] has done a little rough translation from the Latin. And I’m encouraging him, and he’s in the process of gathering up Arabic manuscripts to translate it now. He told me recently that there’s some academic he met in the process of doing that who may be doing a critical edition of the text.
LR: Mmm. Wonderful.
HA: Oh, that will be wonderful.
LR: That will be wonderful.
LR: That’s one thing that we need a lot. It’s critical editions of sources specially from languages which are not easy to– Because even if we knew Arabic for example, one thing is Arabic and other thing is medieval Arabic. It’s complicated. Latin is not an easy language. Fortunately, we can handle it. But it’s still a complicated language to read from. And that’s a very valuable resource which is academic translations.
HA: Oh, yes.
CB: Yeah, it seems like language skills, learning ancient languages, and developing having an academic training in historical studies and some of the things that come along with that are two of the most valuable skills that traditional astrologers can have today?
LR: Yes. And it’s very great.
HA: It is very important to have at least some kind of historical context for things. Because, for instance, one of the things that when we discuss techniques or which is better, or what kind of reception or what is better, we have to think of sources and cultures and periods. Because some things are natural for a certain period or for a certain author because he lived in a certain place. And it is immersed because he was immersed in a certain culture, so we need to have context. We need to have historical content.
LR: Mhm. Mhm.
HA: There’s not one technique I think that is immutable throughout all the history. They all change a little. And they change, but still they keep the concept there. It’s there.
LR: The essence there.
HA: The essence is there.
LR: Yeah, that’s an important thing to understand.
HA: So if you discuss the details, we have to have context to make sense. Otherwise, it seems like they are just making it up.
LR: Yeah, I was thinking for something. For example, one, I don’t think anyone can still catch up to that in terms of practical terms which is the value of dignities. We usually do with five to house for exaltation three to triplicity two to term one for phase. But there is a point where you see that the Arabs are doing a switch on the terms and the triplicities where they’re giving three to term and giving more importance and triplicity in terms of weighing and that will change Almuten and scoring of planets significantly. Not terribly but significantly. And you see them saying, “Well, the old ones did this. But the moderns do that.” So we see the shift occurring sometime around the 8th century 9th century, somewhere around there. You see this shift. The dignity remains the same, the use remains the same, they have the same role and function in the system. But the way is shifting from one to the other. And this is interesting. And it changes a lot of how we interpret the text. But it’s something that is very subtle within the text,. and no one really catches it. It’s–
CB: Sure, or even Ptolemy was only assigning one point to each dignities. There’s changes. Pingree said that every time astrology was transmitted to a new language or new culture that it changed in some way. And it seems like the study of those changes from transmission to transmission is the main thing that all of us are focused on so much now just in reconstructing what the history of astrology actually was.
LR: And sometimes the problem is the blanks. For example, Ptolemy. Ptolemy is problematic as you now well know. Because he’s half transmitting things, so it doesn’t make a good picture of astrological practicing this time. So sometimes you think, “Well, Ptolemy is doing this or he’s doing that.” I really don’t know what he’s doing. Because we have others to compare, and they’re not doing anything of what he’s talking about. So it’s a complicated author, and it’s such an influential author to the whole history of astrology and the development of astrology throughout the millennia, two millennia really. So, it’s complicated. Everything has to be weighed properly. For example, I have this opinion which techniques–you can see certain techniques developing through time and accompanying the history of astrology until its end around the 17th century where everything more or less collapses, if we can say this. But there’s a tradition that falls there. The other techniques would simply disappear from the map.
LR: What happened there? For example, I’m thinking of the Hellenistic use of the lots. So things are lost there. Why are they lost? Are they lost because they’re not used so much? So we don’t have the complete picture. So this is a very specific technique that probably the majority doesn’t use. Do we lose them because there’s some kind of cultural shifts and some destruction in the information due to a war or an event that makes us lose that information which was common at a given the different point. Or this simply doesn’t accompany the technological development of the art of the knowledge. So we really need to see these things. Because, for example, some certain things of Hellenistic tradition, you can still see hinted in the Arabic authors a lot and throughout the medieval period. They’re not as explicit as you would find in the Hellenistic source, but the idea is still there traveling along.
LR: It gets more tenuous as you go along, but it’s still there. And it’s this history and this understanding that we have, how do the knowledge travel? How do concepts travel? How do they flow? Do they really fall out of importance, or we simply don’t have a full picture of the practice? So–
CB: Yeah, sect is a big one that I have questions about where it’s so prominent in the Hellenistic tradition and then it’s maybe moderate or less so in the medieval tradition and then it seems to completely disappear by the Renaissance.
LR: Yes. Yes.
HA: Which is strange because sect has to do with day and night and–
LR: It doesn’t disappear. Yeah, I was thinking it doesn’t disappear so much. And it’s always mentioned.
LR: I’m working on manuals of astrology from the 17th century, and it’s there. The concept is plainly explained there as Ptolemy explains it in Tetrabiblos, and you see the content there. But you don’t see so much the practical use.
LR: And here I don’t know if this is because we’re looking at the manual which only has a theory. Are we missing the practical side? Perhaps if we see enough practical examples, we might see it pop up more than we would expect. So, this is a problem. It takes you to one of those questions, the interesting questions. How does it change? Does it really change? Or does it change in the mainstream manuals? Or do people still practice it? What’s happening here? How is this developing through time? And that’s an important point for example. It’s in one of the basis. It’s a core concept of doctrine which is important to see.
CB: Yeah, it’s–
LR: These are all things to explore. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. It’s hugely important for me coming from the Hellenistic perspective, but it’s just interesting because there is some times in the revival of traditional astrology become different camps like as you guys know with like Renaissance versus medieval versus Hellenistic. And sometimes the disparity between them leads to differences in practice, so sect is one of those things where Renaissance astrologers today that follows sources like Lilly don’t tend to either use or emphasize it whereas Hellenistic astrologers do. And contemporary medieval astrologers integrate it somewhat moderately. So it’s interesting seeing modern, contemporary astrologers imitating the sources that they’re drawing on in some ways through the ways that they’re being influenced textually.
LR: Yeah, yeah. It’s true. And because there it is. Because we do not have a complete line of tradition, so we had a break here. So we lost a bit of the line. We are reconstructing really a tradition at this point, so it really depends on where you’re drawing your information. For example William Lilly was for a long time the first major source for the practice so you had that pop up in [unintelligible 02:35:33.28] You’ll see that influence popping up as neutral translations came available, and you see the shift coming up again now using a great deal of Arabic texts coming into translation and being available. So you’re going to see new level of information coming in, and at one point I think we would have enough sources available in modern languages and enough people working properly on them to rebuild. I wouldn’t say we would rebuild tradition, if that’s even possible, but at least to create a better view of what astrological tradition is. And this is one of the points why we usually say that we are traditional astrologers. We wouldn’t say that we are the medieval or Renaissance or Hellenistic because although I must say that we focus very much on medieval practices and we draw much of our practice in there, we’re not ignoring everything else. We’re looking at the whole picture. There’s adjustments there as we come along. So that’s–
HA: And actually, that’s what we want to do. It’s not to focus on one aspect of one period. It’s to understand how the tradition lives and develops and grows and all those sorts of things and understanding this as almost like a living creature. This knowledge, this corpus of knowledge that is astrology. And that has accompanying us from the beginning almost like a living critter that goes throughout all these different periods and gained different colors from different periods gained new shades, new shapes also.
LR: Exactly. Understand why does it gain new shapes again.
HA: Yeah, why does it change?
LR: Was it lost? Did it became useless? Was it a shift in mentality? What’s happening there? And we need to see that although we did lose things and things get lost in the process of history, probably there are some other aspects of astrology which were dropped by a question of what’s–For lack of a better word, a technological evolution within astrology itself. And certain things which were simplified were transformed into complex, more complex calculations or different approaches due to more astronomical points of view. I don’t know. I’m just not–
HA: But simply because they–
LR: I can’t give you a specific example of this, but you–
HA: They would follow different things.
LR: Yeah, so things change.
HA: Because sometimes people ask, “But which one is the true tradition? Which one is the real astrology? Which one is the best? Is it Hellenistic? Is it medieval? Is it Renaissance or?” And, well, it’s like all any other kind of knowledge or science if you want to use the word. Any other kind of knowledge. It just grows, it’s alive. It’s–
LR: It bites itself. There’s always debate. Yeah.
HA: It questions itself. Yes.
LR: There’s always an inner debate on things, and that’s healthy.
HA: So there’s not one true good astrology. There’s a system and if you understand the system, you can have a critical view on ideas on astrological ideas and you can understand, “This is okay. This is coherent with the system. This is part of the system, and this is not.” And most of the things–I wouldn’t say everything, but most of the things in contemporary astrology are not really coherent with the system. That’s fine. If people want to practice this, that is fine. That’s not our thing. [laughs] But what we would like to understand is how this knowledge that expands for centuries lives and breathes and develops. Not to find out which one is best, which period is the best… but to understand all of these, all of these periods.
LR: And I know to understand- and this is a point of view that we’ve been finding out- is they all orbit one central corpus which maintains more or less stable throughout.
HA: It’s very strong.
LR: It’s history. And then there are the major divergences there here and there, and topics that can pop up into discussion go again disappear. But the idea the core is always there and is exactly the same.
HA: Exactly. We always say it has a very strong core and very flexible external boundary. It’s a bit like very hard core, if you want. And then very flexible in the boundaries, and these external layer changes.
LR: Yeah, according to time, cultures, regions, etc. You will see the shift in these discussions.
HA: It’s almost like a face. And you can put different kinds of makeup, but it’s always the same face beneath.
CB: I like that. That is another good analogy. You seem to have a way with analogies that I really like.
HA: Well, I like analogies.[Helena and Luis laugh]
HA: Sometimes I feel–
CB: I meant to ask, are you gonna publish your PhD dissertation now that it’s finished?
HA: Eventually, yes. Yes. What I had–And again, I’m a lucky person. Because as soon as my PhD finished, there was this scholar. You probably know him. Jean-Patrice Boudet in France. He writes about medieval astrology also. And he sent me an email and said, “Send me the PhD. I want to read it.” And I was like, “Oh my god.”[Helena and Luis laugh]
HA: “What’s he going to say?” And he sent it back to me with a few questions. Not about astrology itself but few questions about manuscript and sources.
LR: Historical context.
HA: Historical context. Just a few things. And then David Just which I know personally said, “Send the PhD to me, please.” And I was like again, “Oh my god.” And then I sent it to him. He lives in Sydney, Australia. And he shares his time between Sydney and Germany basically because of his academic projects. And he said, “I am going to print it, and I’m going to go to the seaside with my red pencil. And I will correct it.”[Luis laughs]
HA: And I was terrified. And then it took him several weeks. And I was like every day that’s–
HA: And I thought like, “Oh, this is probably horrible because it is going on and on and on and correcting everything with his red pencil.” But then he send to me also a few corrections, not about astrology again but about historical details. And I emailed him and said, “Oh my god. Thank you, David because I was terrified. I thought you were correcting everything, everything was wrong.” And he said, “No, no, no, no, it’s okay.” So, all this to tell you that I had to wait for this and then I incorporated these corrections.
LR: To do more translation to complete the next edition.
HA: Yeah, a few other things and then I sent it again to Charles Burnett. Now it’s back to me again and it will be-
LR: It’s being revised so it can fit a book format because there’s a big difference between a PhD format and a book format. So, we hope that it will be published at some point but it’s on preparation, I would say.
HA: I just wanted you to understand that this was a [Helena laughs] process.
CB: Right. And that’s after doing it for many years and then defending it and everything else, so you’re still going through a long process afterwards? And Luis, you’re in the process of finishing your PhD dissertation now?
LR: Yes, I’m writing. My PhD hasn’t at this point form parts I would say. I hope, I’m not sure. It’s still an ongoing process. At some point, I might decide otherwise. And two of them are finished, which are the core part of the analysis and I hope not to do the introduction and a fourth segment, and it’s coming along fine. The problem when you’re working on this study is that you’re swimming in a sea of information which is not only your sources and the information that you’re drawing from your sources, but sometimes it’s too much. And the sources of studies that have been made around the topic and sometimes it’s difficult. It’s a difficult process to keep up and not to miss a key document or a key paper that might elucidate or might clarify or might discuss a certain aspect that you’re trying to understand. So, I’m still in this process, but I hope within the year to have everything finished and then I hope to publish it as well.
CB: And what’s the focus or what’s the title? Or you don’t have a title, but what’s the focus?
LR: The title, I never recall the title correctly, but it’s something like transgressing boundaries. I hadn’t discussed this yet, but it’s not a secret. I’m studying the teaching of astrology here in Portugal within the Jesuit context because at the passage of the 16th and the 17th century, we have teaching of astrology in Portugal by Jesuit priests by the college which had this special class on mathematics which included basic mathematics, astronomy, navigation, all the major topics of mathematics at that period when included astrology. And so far, astrology had been thought out within this context especially because we’re talking about Jesuits in a religious context and we know the prohibitions coming from the church two decades earlier, we think, well, this might be an oddity of some sort. And what I’ve been able to prove so far is that it’s not an oddity. Astrology is there as part of the major program of mathematics in that school and this is not a university, this is a pre-university knowledge so talking about the secondary and equivalent to today’s secondary kind of a high school level, teaching more or less, it’s not exactly the same because they just are a bit different, but the idea is that. So, I’m studying how they teach it, how they transmit it, and how this pop up in a religious context because we’re talking about the Jesuits which are supposed to be orthodox and reject completely these kinds of things. And the interesting aspects of history is that you find that things are never so black and white and there’s a lot of discussion surrounding this. So, you have these people which are church-obeying priests, clerics trained in theology, trained also in mathematics and natural philosophy and they are teaching astrology, but they’re teaching it in a religious context and proceeding with the religious strictures that are in place.
And this is the debate I’m doing is how they teach astrology, and what are the limits, how are they doing? And this is the ongoing process of research and it’s quite interesting and it has been allowing me to understand how do a lot of these shifts that we were discussing early in Renaissance astrology from the medieval to the Renaissance come about with all these discussions because it’s just the church prohibiting things regarding freewill. It’s a whole internal discussion on astrology is coming from the past, coming from the period Helena studied, and she’s already detected that in her PhD and then you see it going around and you’re seeing it in teaching form, which is rare, whereas I say it’s very rare that we have an astrology program and we have the syllabus, and here we were lucky enough that the manuscripts contain the complete course I have survived. So, I’m doing that and probably, if I’m mad enough in the future, I might translate at least one of them to English because all of this is in Portuguese. But well, the PhD is in English, so it will have a lot of it translated but I might consider translating one of these manuals because I think it would be an excellent source for people studying this period to see what are they teaching in terms of basic astrology. It’s very late period so it might not be so interesting if you’re looking, it is interesting always, but might not be so interesting if you’re looking at technical practices or comparing it with the richness of medieval or Hellenistic astrology. But it’s still interesting to see how astrology shifts in terms of teaching at this period with all the conversions of religious prohibitions and also the astrologers changing astrology, which is something you could not see.
HA: And in the middle of these prohibitions, it still survives and thrives. [Helena laughs]
LR: It still survives, they are being practiced and you can see the discussion going on. You think out the rhythm, the church and the Pope emitted the bull and astrology was forbidden. No, it wasn’t. There was a discussion. You can’t do this, you are not going to practice medicine. And you see the discussion and the impact of these things and it responding back, and it’s very interesting. It’s a very interesting process and I hope to transmit at least a part of it with this research work.
CB: So, you’re doing a dual thing then in that you’re studying how astrology was taught traditionally in the past, but then also you guys are gearing up to it seems like launch a new phase of teaching astrology to astrologers in contemporary times, right?
HA: Well, we hope so. Even, we would love to have people work contemporary astrologers and intend to go on being contemporary astrologers, but we’d love to have them. Well, it happens already in Lisbon to have them teaching the tradition like suspending their thoughts for some time and teaching and learning the tradition, and then going back to whatever they like to do contemporary or other kind but with the knowledge of the tradition with this solid grounded basis, yes.
LR: Good ground base so people can then build their ideas and their thoughts. Because I think most of contemporary astrology at this point, it has more to do with your belief system than really on the technique you’re using. There’s a general technique which we could find which is not traditional but it’s the modern technique, and then you have your belief system, your philosophy of life coming into and interpreting that for the client or whatever use you give to astrology. But that’s okay, that’s a way of approaching it. And then there’s always been the personal belief or the personal philosophy coming in to practice in astrology or no periods, but we need to assure that the astrology is there. And the problem is that most of the time astrology gets lost in our own belief system and it goes out the window when people don’t know what you’re doing anymore. And I think that’s the best contribution that can be given right now is to have this is astrology, this is the core basis, this is a knowledge, this is… I don’t want to call it a science because the concept of science nowadays is different because it’s not the science in the industry world of today’s corresponds, but it is a body of knowledge with a certain method with a certain core of concepts that need to be preserved and I think this is the most important part. Then you might explore it differently, you might put it two different uses, but you need to have this ground core, very well defined enough so that it regains this solidity that we see throughout history and I think that’s the major work to be done today for today’s partitioners and today’s people.
HA: And then people can do whatever they want knowing that this is astrology and this is something astrologically inspired, not necessarily astrology. This is one of the things but it would be very good for everybody at least to have a basic knowledge of the tradition. And the other thing, the other consequence, and we talk about this a lot, is also that people who know only contemporary astrology, I think sometimes they feel or some of them at least, they feel there’s something missing and so there is this consumerism. Every time there’s a new idea, a new technique, a new book, they want to get it because there’s something missing. And even if they don’t admit it and sometime well, most people understand. We’ve all been there. Yes, exactly. There is something that is how do we put this together? And then there’s new book or a new technique or a new asteroid [crosstalk]. [Luis laughs] Yeah, even if it’s small like a peanut, but it will be the one that solves the problem. So, if you know the tradition, you don’t have this hunger for novelty and you just focus on this.
CB: Right. Hunger is like a thirst. That’s a great keyword for that.
HA: Yeah. And then you can look at things. We also love the asteroid. I do love everything that’s new and it’s out there. It is okay. We just don’t need to put everything in the chart. We look at this astronomically and it’s fascinating, and we don’t need to force everything to be astrological. It’s different, but it is fine. So, when people learn the tradition, they are not as much bulimic with new things if you want. [Helena and Luis laugh]
LR: Yeah. They’re more in tune with understanding and being able to apply it and being able to perfect the practice rather than to gain new knowledge. Knowledge can be gained to practice. How can I apply this correctly? At what extent can I stretch a certain definition or a certain-
CB: Sure. There’s not much of a feeling that there’s something missing or that there’s a hunger to find the missing piece that will make your system work, but instead, you already have a relatively strong foundation, it’s just a matter of applying that consistently and learning more and more as you go and continue to apply it in practice through your empirical studies.
LR: Yeah, gaining expertise in the system. That’s the key point. It’s becoming an expert on a specific arch.
HA: Because one thing in our culture in our contemporary culture is the new thing is the good thing, what is new is good. So, if someone invents something new like a new aspect or whatever or discovers a new planet or something, the new thing is the good thing. It’s the good that is going to solve all the problems.
LR: And sometimes, the new thing is not even astrological. [Helena laughs] I think people sometimes don’t think about this. There is all this input of information coming in. And that happened. We were a bit, I must say we have been a bit off the contemporary today’s discussion of astrology because we’ve been off conferences and electronic and all that for quite some time, but what I remember is that people were adding these things and sometimes they’re adding things to astrology which are not astrological. And we need to be very careful with that. Is that astrology, or is that something else that we’re adding in because we’re missing something or because we like something? And that’s something that needs to be thought because there are things which are not astrological at all. They’re not astrology. They are something else or astrologically based, but they’re not astrology. And we need to be a bit more strict with that. I don’t mean to be fundamentalist, but we need to keep the… If we want a solid core practice and a solid definition of a body of knowledge, we need to get some boundaries of what it is and what it is not, and that’s an important work to do in the next generations.
HA: Because if people want to do something non-astrological, that’s fine. That is fine. Just don’t call it astrology because it’s not. And also, apart from this search for the new thing, it’s also the temptation, I would say, of syncretism. Everything has to do with everything. We know that, we all know that forever, but it doesn’t mean that you put everything in the horoscope. And just because I always say this as a joke, there are seven planets, visible planets counting with the Sun and the Moon, and seven planets, seven chakras, seven musical notes, seven dwarfs, Snow White. And so, we don’t put a dwarf in every chakra because it doesn’t make sense. We don’t need to put everything into astrology.
LR: Not everything is equally equivalence and we have to be careful about that.
HA: Although everything has to do with everything, we don’t have to deal with everything every time, you know? [Helena laughs]
CB: If there’s one quote that survives in the centuries from now, I hope it’s that quote that you don’t have to put a dwarf in every chakra. [Helena, Luis and Chris laugh]
LR: Which might be very cryptic if you said over the Sun or where, for instance, did the tail disappear out of. [Helena and Luis laugh]
CB: There’s going to be a debate about that.
HA: Centuries from now I will be known for this. [laughs] Centuries from now.
CB: Right. There will be a whole academic conferences with people writing papers to interpret what you meant by that arguing about the correct interpretation [Helena laughs].
HA: But I think you know what I mean.
CB: Yeah, I know it. You guys have been gone for a while and I think now that you’re coming back and if you start because I know you’ve both been intensely focused on your academic work for much of the past decade and focused on your PhDs, but the community has changed rapidly and traditional astrology has taken off way faster than I think anybody expected over the past decade. But part of the reason for that was, and you guys affected that, was due to your book and your book may have had a greater impact over the past decade than you realize in helping to spur the traditional revival and act as one of the first books that allowed people to make that their entryway into astrology rather than having to go through modern or contemporary astrology first. So, there was something I said recently, a quote that I came up with on Twitter which was just, it seems like one of the main things that people are feeling as with a traditional revival lately is that which is old is new again and that which is new suddenly seems old and outdated and that’s almost like a mindset that a lot of people have adopted over the past decade as part of this traditional revival. So, it’s exciting that you now are launching the next phase of that which is this new book and you’re also launching a course soon to go with it, right?
HA: Yes, and it will be managed by Maria Mateos. She’ll be a part of this.
LR: Well, our only problem right now is time. Academic work, unfortunately, is very time consuming. So as soon as we have the system all set up, we’ll be launching. I hope by November, I’ll have that ready, but we’ll have to work it out. But we will announce it soon enough.
CB: Okay, brilliant. And that your two books will be required reading for the course and people can find both of those on amazon.com and that’s the primary way to order the books, right?
LR: Yeah, right. That’s how it is, yes.
HA: Yes, yes, we tried other methods but this is the more practical.
LR: It reaches people more and it’s easier to-
CB: Yeah. Will you be republishing the first book at some point? Because the one thing I love about the new book is you self-published it and just the layout and the design is really beautiful and it’s like a hugely not improvement to insult the first book but just your design skills because I know you, Luis, you are a professional designer or you do graphic design.
LR: I did. I did. I did a lot of professional design and the diagrams in the book are my authorship. This cover I must say is from our editor because we have our editor that does this design and he reconstructed the way the book looks. I’m not sure if I have it here. It’s there. The Portuguese book it’s more or less within the same design level so it works and the other one is white. So, it goes with the same design. It has the same structure and we reconstructed it wonderfully from the earlier edition in Portuguese. The English edition is now managed by the FAA so it’s up to them to change design or structure of the book and I’m not sure if they’re going to do that or not. There are some updates to the book that should have been done at some point because knowledge evolves and we have adjusted a couple things. The Portuguese edition already has it but that is a matter of publishing rights and you know how those things work and can be complicated, but I don’t know. Who knows?
HA: We would love to have the two books with this look, the one in blue and another one in white.
LR: Exactly. Right now, we’re going to do… The next books that will come out probably from us will be more academically oriented, of course on the history of astrology and would be the output of our second research. We have other books also planned on more history of astrology. So, there are at least possibly three books on the way in the next three years. Helena’s PhD, another book that we’re preparing and my PhD eventually probably will be published after hers. I’ll try to do that, that has to be finished first. And who knows if we’re going to do some continuation to the On the Heavenly Spheres? It’s possible. Part of Volume Two has been written for some years now, which is the book that teaches how to delineate each house and go into the interpretation of the chart, but it has a lot of work yet still to be done. And the predictive techniques which is also a major part of astrology, which still needs to be properly taught and needs to be revised, I think which will spread out. Now, we have a couple of works already starting to come up with a concise approach to prediction but that’s the work that we would love to do in the future. But who knows? It’s still ideas and projects.
HA: The book, the second part of this book would be, I don’t know, it would take some time because we don’t want just to show the techniques like these are the techniques and that’s it. We want to really take the student by the hand and say, “What we do is this. And in case of doubt in this case, we do this and we do that.” And there is-
LR: They’re exceptions. There’s an exception A, exception B, exception C. Why do they occur? How do you handle them? It takes time to write these.
HA: We don’t like to give only one example because if you give one example, it’s exactly the one that is not useful for the student. So, we want to give at least two or three examples for each thing. And we write the book as the book that we wanted to have had when we were studying. So, it really takes time. [Helena laughs]
LR: Yeah, so that I think you have an idea. I think one of the chapters that is already written which is on resources, money, resources, substance, all that work as if I’m not mistaken, around 12 example charts, each one for highlighting a given aspect of the delineation. So, we are this complicated. [Luis and Helena laughs] We are explaining and writing books, so it takes time. [Luis laughs]
CB: There’s a lot going on. But right now, you just have an under-construction page but you’ll be relaunching your website soon. And what is the URL, or what is the address where people can sign up or can find out more information about you?
LR: So, it’s Academia de Astrología. I know it’s Portuguese, but you probably could press the link. That will have the Portuguese and the English version. We don’t have no longer the access to the English link that we had a couple of years ago, but we’ll have probably with the new website when it’s ready, it will immediately shift into Portuguese and English according to the region and the language that you’re using in the browser. So, we hope that will make things easier for people to access it.
CB: Brilliant. Well, I’ll put a link to the website on the description page for this episode or below the YouTube video in the description if people are watching this on YouTube. But yeah, thanks a lot for joining me today. Is there anything we should have covered or mentioned that we didn’t get a chance to? I’m trying to think we covered a lot here.
LR: I think so. I think so.
HA: Well, I think we covered the basics, yes. We can’t speak for hours, but [Helena and Luis laugh] you don’t love that. There’s a limit for your patience.
CB: All right. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today and congratulations on the launch of this new book and thanks for writing the first one and the impact that you’ve had on the tradition so far.
LR: Thank you.
HA: Thank you, and thank you for your feedback. It’s really important for us. We had no idea. Thank you very much. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And hopefully, people can leave some comments in the comment section for this episode just to express if they had read your book or where they found it in their studies and what impact it’s had on them because I think there’s a fair amount of people that it has had an impact on so maybe we’ll get a sense for that with the release of this episode. All right. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today, and thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast and we’ll see you next time.
Thanks to our patrons who helped 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.