The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 27, titled:
The Life and Work of Astrologer James Holden
With Chris Brennan and Demetra George
Episode originally released on March 6th, 2015
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 Gülşen Altay
Transcription released November 12th, 2018
Copyright © 2018 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi. My name is Chris Brennan and you are listening to the astrology podcast. You can find the show at the astrologypodcast.com and you can also listen to it by subscribing through the podcast app or iPodcast app such as Podcast Addict for Android phones or through iTunes if you have an iPhone. Today is Thursday, March 5, 2015 and this is the 27th episode of the show. It is approximately 02:07 pm here in Denver, Colorado.
In this episode I will be talking with Demetra George about the life and work of the late astrologer James Holden. Demetra and I both spoke at a conference in AFA conference in honor of James Holden in 2011. Next month we are teaming up with Benjamin Dykes and Deborah Houlding in order to host another AFA conference that will take place from April 9-11 in Tempe, Arizona. For more information about that conference visit the AFA website at astrologers.com.
With that introduction I will be away.
Demetra, welcome to the show.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Okay. Thank you Chris for inviting me and I am especially pleased with today’s topic of discussion on James Holden. He perhaps was the most important and influential astrologer of the past century and it is relatively unknown by a majority of the astrological community so I am very thrilled to be working with you to make his legacy more well known for the wonderful work he is done.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and I am really excited to be talking to you about it in particular because I think it was through taking some of the history classes at Kepler back 10 years ago that I first became familiar with James Holden’s work and he just for those who don’t know he was an astrologer, he was a historian and a linguist and he just passed away not too long ago in August of 2013 at the age of 86 so I wanna to spend this show talking about who James Holden is, talking about what he did in terms of his work in the field of astrology, why he was important and how his legacy will be important in terms of the future.
Maybe one of the good starting point is, I think his most famous work or the work that has been the most influential so far and how I originally came to be familiar with him and I think many other people did was his 1996 book titled A History of Horoscopic Astrology which I think I still view as probably one of the best, if not the best books on the history of astrology out there, the only other book that sort of arrival is Nick Campion’s two volume History of Western Astrology series but Holden’s book even though published back in 1996, I think still is one of the best books on the history of astrology today. Would you agree with that?
DEMETRA GEORGE: With absolutely agree with it and looking back on it, he included excerpts from the writings of the Hellenistic astrologers way before they had be conquerably available by other means in our community. I first encounter that book in some detail in the late 1990s, shortly after was published because at that time Kepler College was starting up in the summer of 2000, we had finally gotten our authorization and the first few programme was the history of astrology that I assembled with Nick Campion and Rob Hand and Lee Lehman and Holden’s book was the core book that we used and exposing our students to the rich and rare spectrum of the history of astrology, its influence in politics and philosophy and religion and the help shade what we have come to use now and so that was one of the key books that we used and I think that it was during your studies, I am in Kepler in the early 2000s that he was well encountered at then.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, it was in the 2003-2004 since that I was the main assigned reading for the history track and what made the book unique is that Holden had fluency in not just a number of modern European languages like French and Italian but he also spoke and read Ancient Greek and Latin so that he was able to read many of the source texts in the original languages and so that is why he was able to include excerpts from those different authors when he was talking about each of them over the past you know 2000 years because he was actually reading the texts in their original languages and he didn’t need to rely on translations in order to look back into the history of astrology.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right. Well, I want to say about that why his work was so seminal why this is one of the most exciting times to be an astrologer was that in the early centuries of 2000 years ago there were hundreds of astrological texts that were written primarily in the Greek language but also in Latin by astrologers from all over the Mediterranean basin and because of the confluence of politics, rise of Rome, loss of the Greek language, the coming of Christianity in the outline of astrology as well as the Germanic and ……..….of Rome and might be the known education. Many of these original text of our tradition, we are lost and fell into archives, in the bottoms of monasteries or private collections and so as astrologers we had a huge reservoir of primary source texts of what are astrology look like in the very beginning of our tradition but we didn’t have access to them and it would be 2000 years later that we would finally see what are original astrology was like and James Holden was the first person really predating the work of Project Hindsight to start bringing that those translations into English for our community to use so I remember how thrilled I was when I finally realize the impact of what we had in front of us and I thought I would have been like so depressed and horrified to spend a life time in astrology and never known what the origins of our practise was like and thanks to Holden and then following him, others but he was the very first, we have this treasure throw of the jewels of our tradition just late open for us.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and when you are talking about ancient texts and the importance of that we are talking about not just text that contain like theoretical techniques or things that are only culturally relative back them but we are talking about the collective experience of thousands of years of astrological practise that is being passed down from generation to generation through written books and the importance of sort of being able to receive that but the fact that for very long time we weren’t able to receive that collective experience of that collective wisdom because of sort of locked away in ancient languages that nobody read any more.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right so it was when we finally met Jim a number of years later and we discovered that in fact he had started his translations as early as 1950 but I think that as you will talk about he was not an astrologer by profession, he was an engineer and astrology was his hobby and he did the translations in the spare time so it would be a number of years before the sage volumes of translation work that he had done would be fully available to the astrological community.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. Yeah, let’s do that in a circle around and start talking about his biography…
DEMETRA GEORGE: Okay.
CHRIS BRENNAN: … a little bit to get some sort of background information on him. I will be giving a speech on Holden for 30 minutes at the AFA conference next month in order to honor him since I think this is the first conference since he passed away or at least…
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes. Okay, but Holden and some of my biographical research is it is interesting because he started, he says that he developed an interest in astronomy at the age of 11 and then eventually in astrology at the age of 13 and Holden is interesting because he evidently he was born early enough that he was involved in and was in like the naval reserve in World War II but after that he ended up completing a Master’s thesis and he was basically pursuing his interest in astrology within an academic context and completed a Master’s thesis on the astrologer William Lilly in 1953 so it is like as far back as the early 1950s, I mean there is a few things that are significant about that. One, this guy is going back and he is studying Classics and he is getting an actual Master’s degree in Classics back in the 1950s and starting to go back and look at some of the older texts from previous centuries, decades before anybody else was really doing that or before that became like a fad or trend but two, he is actually looking at some of the specific astrologers like most people for example Nick Campion wrote this article where he traces back the origins of the traditional revival and he traces it back to the early to mid 1980s with the republication of William Lilly’s Christian Astrology, in like the 1980s by some astrologers in the UK and the subsequent excitements surrounding that and the revival of traditional style horary in the 1980s which then acted as a sort of precursor to the revival of traditional astrology in general and some of the other traditions but here we have this guy from Texas that is in his like 20s or 30s who is already writing a Master’s thesis on William Lilly three decades earlier in the 1950s and at that time I guess he also started looking at other texts, then started to trying produce translations of those texts and one of the earliest I think that he was working on, was Firmicus Maternus.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: But that wasn’t really like his primary career. It seems like there was some sort of interruption where he got his Master’s thesis into that in Lilly in 1953 but then he seems to have gone back to school and got another Bachelor’s in Mathematics and for most of the next few decades his primary career was actually that he was a telecommunications engineer and he worked with Bell or what is now AT&T from the 1950s until his retirement in 1986. Holden is interesting because he comes into this, he is one of those interesting figures and interesting astrologers of which there are many many in astrological community who they are people who I would personally define as and who we would think of as an astrologer despite the fact that their primary profession is actually not astrology that astrology is almost what some people my classify is more of a hobby to them in some sense since it is not their primary form of income but nonetheless they are so focused on the subject and they are so interested in and sometimes producing interesting work connected to the subject that we would certainly consider them to be astrologers. Right?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes. I would like to take his biography back just a little bit before you started in the mid ‘50s. When we had talked to him at one of the AFA conferences we asked him, not know if you are agree or remember the story how he first got into astrology and he says ‘Well’, he was 13 years old he had studies, studies in astronomy began at 11 and he lived in a very tiny town in West Texas that is no longer even on a map but that he would go to the beauty parlour with his mother each week with have her hair done and he had to sit in a lobby where there were magazines and there are just two kinds of magazines there and one were the astrology magazines so that is when he began reading the astrology and his spark, his connection was ignited that would then result in this incredible work he would do over the course of his life.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That is really interesting. Yeah, I have forgotten about that but I am sort of remembering that conversation in the AFA library now and really sort of humble beginnings in that obviously but at the time he is in college he must be really wrapped up or immersed in the subject of he is doing his Master’s degree on Lilly. He starts working on translations in private but he must just be doing these in his spare time for a few decades because he is working his primary employment is in this other job as an engineer and then eventually it seems like he is starting in the mid1970s, I am not sure how this happened but he basically stumbles across the AFA and starts getting involved in the AFA, first by passing an exam to become certified by them in 1977 and starting to work loosely with their staff of from 1977 forward and then eventually in 1982 he was appointed he became the Research Director for the American Federation of Astrologers and they set about publishing their first research journal or journal of research in that same year so it seems like things start happening for him seriously in astrology or he starts pursuing it and getting more involved in the community in the late 1970s and in early 1980s.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right. When he first became involved with the AFA in 1977, we need to understand that, that was the only astrology organization that existed at that time and it is actually the oldest of all of the contemporary astrology organizations, it was first formed in 1939 and held the foundation of astrology in the United States at the beginning of 1900s so it was his association with that organization that then gave him the platform or foundation in which to have an increasing audience for his work.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Yes, the AFA was the main…, was the only game in town at that point in the late 1970s and Holden becomes the Research Director and one of the things that is interesting, one of the first things that he see does he releases this research journal and this is actually really historically significant even though it wasn’t recognized as such at the time but one of the papers that he published in that first research journal in 1982 was a paper on ‘Ancient House Division’ where he basically talked about the origins of all of the primary forms of house division and what systems were used during the earliest strata of the Western astrological tradition and in this paper he actually points out he was the first to say I think even not just within the astrological community but even in the academic community they are still catching up on this but he was the first that point out that whole sign houses was the first system of house division in Western astrology and that it was the primary system of house division in Western astrology for the first few centuries of basically the use of houses so that was actually really huge discovery I think at the time that was published but it wasn’t until it seems like this knowledge of whole sign houses which he called the sign house system didn’t really become fully I don’t know not prevalent but fully aware of in the community’s consciousness until may be 10 years later when Project Hindsight started and then Robert Hand and Robert Schmidt basically confirm like rediscovered or confirmed the same thing about whole sign houses and then became very prominent , proponents of it, it started to popularize the system.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right. I certainly remember that time period and this sort of shock and crisis that created for many people in the astrological community. We have all grown up using quadrant house systems primarily Placidus because before the advent of the computer revolution when we were casting charts by hand, it was the Placidus table of houses that was the one that was most readily available and so the majority of the astrological practitioners were firmly entrenched in Placidus houses with a few people on Koch or the Porphyry or Campanus and Rob Hand and Robert Schmidt began educating us about whole sign houses and by enlarge the astrological community did not want to relate to them and it was a few years afterwards when I started teaching the Hellenistic astrology at Kepler College that I began to employ them and sometimes people would have asked me why?, and I said well because Rob Hand has been shaking this finger at me for the last three years, telling me to do it but at that point when I would present charts for lecture presentations and people would say what is going on with the houses and no one knew about them and it created a lot of identity crises but now in the more recent years going to give a lecture and you asked the audience how many people know about whole sign houses, I have to tutors of them raising their hands and more and more people are utilizing them but even 10 years ago it was a radical new concept and Holden was the person who was there even 15-20 years before that making that information available to us.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and I mean some of that is partially I mean is sort of cultural or circumstantial in that like in the late 1970s when Holden joined the AFA it was the only organization in town but then by the 1980s there are other organizations that started being founded and some of the other generations of astrologers started sort of promoting things like the NCGR or ISAR or AFAN and maybe there was less, I don’t know how to frame it buzz attention towards then would have been if that was still the organization like maybe Holden’s discovery would have been more well known, I am not really sure.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right. Well, I agree with you and that is up interesting sort of bridge that we are looking at again today that as younger generation comes into its enthusiasm and rising through at the peak of its maturity there can be a tendency to not pay so much attention to one’s elders so as new generations of astrologers became enthuse with their own creative directions at the beginning of the 1980s. They are occured a certain depth between the continuity of transmission, occurring between earlier generations that were affiliated with the AFA and new astrologers coming into their own organizations and in fact I hear the same sort of discord happening now and that certain astrologers of my generation are complaining that the young astrologers aren’t interested in their work, their field with, the excitements of their own. I said yes, it is no different than how you know we were 30-40 years ago, it is just the nature of youthen age but in that process that is a natural process that did happen. The contemporary astrologers for the most part lost full linkage that would have allowed them to have known the groundbreaking work that Holden was doing and that is why I am glad that we are having this conversation and then we are stitching back together that sort of break in the transmission process.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and I mean ironically many of the people that I know that are younger astrologers that are my age that are in their like 20s or early 30s now are very interested in traditional astrology or there is a decent segment of them that are and so now we are going back and looking at people like Holden’s work, you know publishing a paper like that in 1982 and saying you know why is nobody paying attention to this amazing work that was going on during that time?
Holden becomes Research Director in 1982, he publishes that paper and starts a research journal with the AFA, he evidently retires from his primary job as a telecommunications engineer by 1986 and at this point it seems like he really starts to ramp up his production and he starts publishing some of his first works aside from the research journal so one that was actually I feel like I don’t know as widely circulated but I know that it influenced to a number of traditional astrologers was his translation of Abu’Ali Al Khayyat on the Judgements of Nativities in 1988, I don’t think it was like widely influential but I remember seeing like a few…, there was a period where that was one of the only Medieval text that was available in translation…
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: …. and I remember seeing some people like John Frawley siding that as one of the text that influenced him for example.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes, it was a little green book that what is printed look like a come off a typewriter
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, like an old 1980s dot matrix printer?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yeah, yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: All right.
DEMETRA GEORGE: But what are audience might want to…, there might be some of you out there thinking ‘Well, who is Abu’Ali Al Khayyat?’, and that brings us back to a little bit more of the history of astrology and as the Hellenistic astrology around the Mediterranean basin was already beginning to be loss because of loss of the knowledge of Greek language in the approaching forces of Christianity and Rome and the German countries, the astrology slowed it for Hellenistic astrology was picked up by the Persians during the Sassanian Persians then translated the Greek back into Persian and among the texts that they had, Dorotheus was an important one as well as some of Valens and a few others and Abu’Ali Al Khayyat was an Arab who then encountered the Persian translations of Greek texts and he then translated texts into Arabic and his book follows a lot of work of Dorotheus who was an important Hellenistic astrologer so this is when which there was the preservation of the Ancient Greek of astrology that was been lost in the West but it went through the Persian culture and the Arabic culture and then back into through the Moors and Spain, it reentered the Europe in the 12th century to then translated into Latin so it was the Latin translation of the Arabic translation of the Persian translation of the Greek translation that Holden translated and produce this sort of first volume of traditional astrology in 1988.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, which is just crazy because it links to threat all the way back from the 20th century back through the Middle Ages and the Islamic or the Arabic tradition and then the Persian tradition all the way back to the earliest Greek tradition and he published it is in 1988 not necessarily to great fanfare though because again it is still…, I mean even like organizational differences aside and in terms of whatever the new generations of astrologers were focused on, there was also still not a huge interest or focus on traditional astrology at this point in the 1980s especially in the US, there is starting to be a little bit in the UK with the revival of interest in Lilly and traditional style horary but it wasn’t until a few years later in 1992-1993 when Project Hindsight got started with a lot of fanfare because of the involvement of Robert Hand and Robert Zoller and Robert Schmidt that suddenly traditional astrology became something that was sort of more mainstream interest to people in someway or would you say?, I mean, I guess even the mainstream interested at that point but it seems like there was a lot of fanfare surrounding the launch the Project Hindsight initially.
DEMETRA GEORGE: There is certainly was because they were looking to the astrological community to bank roller fund their translation process through subscriptions affording …… but I don’t know if this isn’t accurate statement to make.but I think that by the time of Project Hindsight in 1993, those initial astrologers had an agenda to bring about a revival of the ancient teachings into the astrological community but I don’t know as if James Holden had an agenda, he was simply following his interest and that let him to the very source of astrology writing his papers, translating his texts, beginning to publish his works slowly but he wasn’t out on the conversion mission that seem in retrospect to me to be part of what was going on with Project Hindsight.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Well, Yeah. I mean Holden himself was…, I don’t wanna say he was like an astrologer but he was almost primarily like a historian of astrology in some sense and that is what his work eventually culminated in is that this whole time he has been working on this book, this like huge dissertation on the history of Western astrology that he eventually releases in 1996 and that is A History of Horoscopic Astrology and that comes out at the time when Project Hindsight is in full swing and they are fully trying to popularize Western astrology and Holden had already released a couple of translations at this point that weren’t necessarily gaining a lot of attraction but then he releases this book and suddenly this is probably the first time that anyone could have like seen his work and seen what was it all about and seen the full breath and death of what he has been studying over the course of past four-five decades.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Exactly and it wasn’t simply a recounting of the history of Ancient astrology but the brilliant of that book was that was filled with translations of primary source texts, not say okay Vettius Valens he lived in the second century C.E. etc, he actually had excerpts of Valen’s work and the texts and there must be dozens and dozens of ancient astrologers whose work had never seen the light of English translation, pieces of all their works were part of on Holden’s a history book.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right and what made his book unique and one of the unique things about Holden’s writings is that, that wasn’t just a like a linear sort of history of astrology from A to B to C but it was actually more like a whose who of the history of astrology because he focused primarily on the biographies and the works of the most prominent astrologers over the past 2000 years so it is really like you know telling you who the important astrologers were in different time frames and who the most influential astrologers are and that was kind of his unique take on the subject but he also in doing that writing a biography of each of the most prominent astrologers, he demonstrated that he had actually read all of those texts and that he could compare you know who was using what techniques and who influenced who and he even challenged some of the dating in order to like he would recalculate the horoscopes that were contained in some of these books which were often the only way you could date some of the oldest astrologers and sometimes he would challenge like the contemporary academic dating of some of those astrologers like Dorotheus or some of their works just based on his recalculation of those charts.
I mean even that of itself that is an interesting approach to doing, to studying the history of astrology I think, I don’t wanna say fully unique to him but I don’t think there is anybody else who has followed that particular approach and that seems to be both with that book, A History of Horoscopic Astrology in 1996 and then his final book that he published in 2013 which is his biographical dictionary of Western Astrologers, he seems to have a particular interest in that kind of approach to history to looking at it from the lands of biography.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes and you know we are not up to 2013, we have all these other works that were published it between but in the final biographical dictionary of Western astrologers, there are what over a thousand or more entries documenting lineage in the names of astrologers who have been important links in the chain of transmission. It is a brilliant work that will be used as a source text for many centuries to come into future. I get very emotional thinking that he gave honor to all the people who have been involved in the process of passing on astrology to each other.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and not just the Ancient astrologers but…
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right but contemporary, right. Well, I think he said that he uses cut off date that they had to have been born before 1935 to have been included the book and he was joking that he didn’t really want to have to deal with all of the contemporary astrologers. Write an email, …………….. and include my name.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That is funny, he cut it off it at the Pluto in Leo generation.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Exactly
CHRIS BRENNAN: That is good. Yeah so backing up to 1996 he releases this book, I don’t really know how widely known it was even though even at the time but after that point he slowly eventually actually takes a few years as far as I can tell from his publication list but eventually he starts publishing other books starting in the early 2000s largely for a while just focused on everyone in a while he would release a translation of a new part of Morin de Villefranche’s book on different topics, first in 2002 one on solar returns then in 2004 he translated another bit of it on progressions and transits, in 2006 another a little bit on a few other books but then suddenly by 2007-2008 something changes and like Holden’s output picks up and it is in this space between about, I don’t know, 2006-2007-2008 that he really just releases this torrent of translations that evidently he had been working on privately and in some instances circulating to just handful of people that he knew privately for decades and he actually starts to publishing them publicly for the first time.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right. I mean I was also aware that some translations were circulating in private and I remember while we are in Kepler College, one of our members there Scott Silverman who is very interested in the traditional work had many phone conversations with James Holden and he contacted me one day and he said ‘Do you know that Holden has a whole translation of Rhetorius?’ just like stacked in a couple of boxes in his garage. I still laugh at that conversation anything else, we are skimming like how can we break into the garage to learn what Rhetorius had to say and so there was this awareness of how much he had but I also believe that the AFA publishing house was a place at that time when they facilitated the publication of much of his work and that is how there was this rush of translations that were then released. It also I am sure, well I don’t know but I would imagine and it had to do partially with his retirement from his day job and he wanted to go back over all the earlier translations and checked them, we find them as anyone who does translations would before making the final releases so I think that it was a combination of those factors.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Yeah. I think that makes sense mentioning his retirement in 1986 because on many of the translations that came out he released at least 10 or 20 in the past decade, there is these notices in them that the first sort of copyright date is like for Abu Mashar’s the Flowers it says copyright in 1986 circulated privately then published you know publicly in 2008 or in Rhetorius it says copyright 1985, 2000 and 2005 circulated privately then published publicly 2009 and almost every translation is like that where it looks like, he really especially we know that from Firmicus for example because he finally published Firmicus Maternus in 2011 that he says in the introduction that he had been working on the translations since the 1950s and at some point he stopped and got frustrated and put it away for like a decade and then came back to eight years later so that some of them were like things that he was working on for large parts of his life but starting in the mid 1980s that seems like there was definitely an uptick or a huge flurry of activity that he started doing into translations and some unnamed sort of individuals I guess must have been giving him feedback or he must have been showing few people these translations at that time presumably within the AFA but I don’t really know and then finally there is some sort of change in both I don’t know about him but some change in policy at the AFA where getting his translations published seems to become much more of a priority and …
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: … suddenly they started coming out very quickly by 2007-2008.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right, I could say looking at the original dates and then the later dates, right now one of the presentations I am working on through my AFA lecture next month was based on material I translated 10-12 years ago and at that point I had these big question marks what is this mean?, what are they talking about there? I don’t understand that as always writing in the margins of my printouts and now having had all these years in between I went back to the material it was quite clear to be what was being said so there is a may have also been that process it can that initially when you start translating, the terminology the concepts are different in that form what you have known that you are not sure what is being said but after you build up a body, the experience, they become increasingly clear and I imagine that it is a later dates he went back to his earlier work and broad it more into clarity and focus based on his accumulated understanding.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay, that makes a lot of sense. Some of his initial stuff especially in the ‘80s were probably like initially explorations where he is the only person and he doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about this.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: It is not like there are other people that are experts in Ancient astrology at that point that he could balance ideas out of when he is translating the passage and understand what this 2000 years astrologers talking about, he is just kinds of own his own to piece it together starting in the 1980s and then eventually he is read enough and he feels like he knows enough that by 1996 he is comfortable sort of writing a summary of who the most important astrologers are and what their contributions were and then eventually 10 years after that he finally decides to that is time to put this stuff out and he feels confident about it to do some final versions of the translations so in the meantime though like backing up a little bit Kepler College had started already by the early 2000s and you guys had put together a curriculum where the first entire year of that school was focused on the history of astrology and that was really unique because they weren’t like other programmes that were focused on and had that sort of component of the history of astrology at the time and one of the side effects of it was that you start churning out sort of whole groups of astrologers, of astrology students they were suddenly proficient in and interested in history of astrology and for many of those people Holden became sort of like a celebrity of source.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes, definitely because there was a new group of students who had the understanding of the impact of the fourth house in year tradition of astrology and who was who and then could see the impact and import of the work that Holden had done. I am looking at your timeline here, Chris. I also like to point out in 2004 where you have that he spoke of a hard scope in history conference and this was a conference that took place in Amsterdam under the an auspices of the University of Amsterdam and particularly Informatic Institute and I attended that and you had a living academics in the history of astrology where all invited for this symposium and James Holden was included in that very lead speaking list of presenters and so well the astrological community may have not been so aware of who he was and what he was doing and the larger international academic community he was totally recognized and acknowledged for his work and I believe that this was the first time that I met him in person and I remember being impressed at what tall and elegant man he was and he was dressed at discipline his Texan origins and that he had on cowboy boots and sort of bolero botai on his more formal clothes and he was a very striking figure carrying a huge amount of gravitas and respect that he had from the leading academicians of the time
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, and he had a really charming like personality and charming like the Saturn sort of droll. Is that right?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Droll, yeah, very toned Saturn droll and extremely knowledgeable not only in the history of astrology and also in mathematics so you could ask him you know questions about planetary cycles or time lord process these and he could go through all of the mathematical astronomy behind the techniques that were used by astrologers and I remember I ask him a question and he wrote out on the napkin, all these like algebraic and calculus formulas for me that explains the astrological technic.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And that is funny because that is basically what it used to be like in terms of what you needed. He had the type of background that you used to need to have to in order to do astrology in the first place which is having that sort of background in mathematics and that technical training to be able to calculate charts and do the sort of advanced mathematics and other things as well as training in languages in order to be able to read the older texts so he has sort of this unique background that put him in the perfect position to be able to study these things and sort of summarize them and he was able to do it in a very approachable and very concise and understandable manner.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right and he have advanced mathematical background that he get actually do the mathematical astronomy computations to test and to verify some of the techniques that were been presented by of the text he was translating.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right which is huge…,
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yeah, which is huge.
CHRIS BRENNAN: …which is kind of crazy to think about because even if you took the time to go through college and you focused on and specialized in ancient languages and became like a crackerjack Greek and Latin scholars who could read the ancient texts, suddenly you could pick up one of them and suddenly you realized that you have to know ancient mathematics and you have to know like you know the astronomical theories and everything else in order to be able to understand what you are even reading so it is not just having proficiency in languages, it is having all of these other skills as well.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: By 2004 it is like Holden is becoming a celebrity amongst this group of astrologers that are coming out of Kepler because suddenly the history of astrology like people are learning it again for the first time and becoming, seeing the importance of it and that is new and it is like that sounds not that important or might not sound that important to some people if you are not familiar with the history of astrology but it is the difference between you know most people, most astrologers have no idea where astrology comes from or how it was developed or how it got to where it is today and that is not seen as like a problematic or that is not really a problem or not relevant to them but the difference of what was happening at Kepler is, you went being that sort of like the standard where basically nobody has any idea what the history of astrology is about or has any knowledge of it to suddenly large groups of people becoming fully conversant in the history of astrology for the first time in quite a long time. Right?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes and this was one of the culture shocks of it era that prior to the education and the history of astrology most, I would say like 98% of the astrological community, on one hand we took prior in the antiquity of our discipline when you are around for thousands of years but not only did we not know any of the details of that but we also assume that the way we did astrology then which is now, that is the way it had always been done and one of the things at the study of the history and the translations the texts reveal to us was that astrology had been done in very different ways for at least a 2000 year period before the modern time. Now it is true that we have planets, signs, houses and aspects that remain continuous but within that there had been many different approaches and understandings of how to work the system and that there was actually a system that could be thought and could be worked. Right and that was a huge revaluation to us that the kind of astrology we were doing was quite different than what the tradition had been in the prior 2000 years.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and so you are one of the first people that really went back and sort of made that realization because you went back to get a Master’s degree and in studying Classics in the late 1990s and then subsequently started teaching the history of astrology at Kepler where you are drawing on Holden’s work at that point or what pointed become realized that he had done some of this work.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Let’s see if I could think back. Project Hindsight started in 1993, I would say at that time I was at the height of my career in mythic or archetypal astrology, the Astreoid Goddesses and so on but I remember that by 1995 -96 I had already engaged in conversations with Robert Schmidt and Robert Zoller and that Robert Zoller gave me a huge yelling at when I had to admit that I have never read like Claudius Ptolemy and he said ‘You should be ashamed of yourself. How could be a self respecting astrologer calls themself as professional whose never read Ptolemy’ and you know that started this, it has been so ashamed that I sat down and read that book and that sort of sparked I was at age of my children were grown and adorn on their own and I wanted to go back to school so I enrolled to the graduate ….. University of Oregon and went into the at Classics because initially I thought it would further my work in mythology but then after learning the languages and as I was halfway through that programme, Kepler College got authorized and they asked me to teach there because I would have a Master’s degree in the right subject so that is how I made that transmission from Asteroid Goddesses into Ptolemy and the classics did green Kepler College and it was in that process of encountering Holden’s book as my mind was being increasingly open to assembling the historical structure of astrology as I was gaining the skills and the translation of the ancient texts.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
DEMETRA GEORGE: I would put it definitely in the late 1990s that I first became exposed to his book and it was only over the next few years that I began to realize what a huge and deviant accomplishment it was as I became more knowledgeable, I became increasingly aware of what he have done.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and this sort of importance of that statically history of astrology had actual practical importance or practical implications as well?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay and then you start teaching groups of students and Holden’s book become your primary texts and so that starts to producing these whole groups of students who have a real appreciation and interest for the history of astrology and Holden suddenly becomes sort of like a very famous figure amongst to them but then at the same time it is interesting like you said earlier, by 2004 he is sort of recognized in this unique way by some elements of the academic community by being asked to come out and present a paper at the horoscopes in history conference in Amsterdam in 2004 so that Holden is this interesting figure from that perspective as well because he is one of the first people who bridge the astrological and academic communities and show that astrologers when they sort of get it together and when they learned the right skills that they can contribute, they have something to contribute or unique and useful perspective to contribute when it comes to studying the history of astrology or the history of science. That was at least one of the takeaways that I have from that.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yeah. Right, because also the speakers included other…, a few other members of the astrological community Patrick Curry and Nick Campion and Robert Zoller was there as well but what was unique was that the academics had no idea of how to look at a chart or how to interpret it or what that meant whereas the people such as Holden had experience not only in the history language translation but the practical application of the text that they have been involved in translating, studying.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and that sort of unique perspective broad something to the table?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes, yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Then after that basically there was some sort of policy that changed and suddenly Holden’s books start coming out very quickly.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes. He published Five Medieval Astrologers in 2008, Sahl’s Introduction also in 2008, Abu Mashar’s the Flowers in 2008 then Rhetorius was published and this was huge, it was the last major work on Hellenistic astrology from the sixth or seventh century that was originally written in Greek and he published that in 2009 that contains some of the earliest preserved like complete delineations of the rulers of houses in different houses, he published Six Treatises or six text of Masha’allah in 2009, he translated Porphyry’s Introduction together with Serapio’s Definitions in 2010 so one of the earliest and most important books of definitions of basic astrological text terminology, he published Firmicus Maternus in 2011 which is the longest Hellenistic text that is survived into modern times, Paul’s Introduction he published in 2012 and then finally the last book that he published I think that came out rather on the same time that he died was his Biographical Dictionary of Western Astrologers in 2013 so just as huge fludd of translations and texts and things that he had been working on for decades came out on the last, basically like the last ten years of his life.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: What is the impact then? I mean now that there is much more people that are becoming interested in traditional astrology and I think one of the things that we showed with the turn out at the AFA conference on traditional astrology that you and I and Ben organized in 2011 was that there is a real not just need for this but there is a real interest in this type of material now in the community and so from that perspective I mean what is the impact of Holden’s work going to be at this point in terms of the future of the astrological community?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Well, certainly in terms of the study of traditional astrology provides us of all of the primary source texts so the instruction is not simply so and so said to do this but here you can retrieve yourself how what it was it they said and you can have a subsequent generations of astrologers studying the text to gain new understandings and insights of this foundational material without that it is all here say but with the actual primary sources themselves, there can be a direct connection between each modern astrologer and the works of the predecessor of our tradition.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure so it is not just a matter of like picking up his history book or somebody else’s history book and reading about what somebody supposedly said, it is actually pick up the book and read the techniques yourself.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That is huge and I think that Holden…, I mean because Holden also completed something that certainly in the mid ‘90s Project Hindsight especially when Robert Schmidt and Robert Hand were at the sort of high point of their calibration and of their creat of output they produced a lot of translations and that is one of the interesting, I mean on the one hand that is one of the weird things about Holden releasing a lot of this stuff later is that because he didn’t release until the end of his life, there was some overlap where Robert Schmidt had put out these translations of some of these texts like Paulus in the introom about ten years before Holden released his but now with the release of Holden it allows us in some instances to compare translations.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes and that you know pile the process then involved with all of the time as there are several translations of the same text. It isn’t as if one can simply open the text and read what they say and understand what is going on. It requires another level of comprehension and when certain things are confusing to the reader by having several different translations and seeing how other people did the translation, sometimes that can be to clarifying insight to understanding the meaning of the technic or how it is actually used and so it is quite valuable that there are multiple translations that exist but many of the ones that initially Robert Schmidt did were preliminary translations that he had plan to go back and revise them and finalize them but that hasn’t happened yet but meanwhile we have the whole body of work that Holden has provided for us.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and then many of those, some of those translations were ones that had not been published by Schmidt or anyone else at that point.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right and I don’t know if you have stress that Holden was not only translating from Ancient Greek but also from the Latin and many of the Arabic astrologers that he has on this list, it was there worth to have been translated from Arabic to Latin that Holden was able to used to bring into the form that we have it now.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and those would have been the same Latin text that like William Lilly was reading and what have you.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And then some of those texts of course we also at the same time Benjamin Dykes in the past ten years has been producing his own translations and so we have now secondary edibility to compare Holden and Ben’s translations in some instances.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right. Yeah and we should just add that you know Ben Dykes is also now translating directly from the Arabic so that is another whole body of works that has been increasingly made available for us.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right of which he is basically sort of like a troll blazer in the same way that Holden was.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: All Right. Well, I think that gives us a pretty good idea in terms of Holden’s books are going to continue to be reference now for decades, if not centuries to come and that is going to have a huge impact on the astrological tradition because it is going to be through him that many new generations of astrologers are able to read the original source texts and start using some of the techniques contained in them. I guess then that is kind of part of what we are going to be involved into certain extent next month in terms of just to bring this full circle the conference that the AFA is holding since that was his organization and they seem to be uniquely I almost wanna say because I don’t wanna necessarily put the other organizations down but the AFA seems to have stepped up in really surprisingly sort of coming out no where in being one of the main organizations that is really promoting traditional astrology and sort of recognizes it as the next big upping coming thing and that was certainly the case with there sort of unique 2012 conference that they allowed us to put together or that was entirely on traditional astrology and we have kind of got a bit of a reputation of that where we are going back to that topic for this conference next month. Right?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes. It is not exclusively traditional but for the most part we are going back to the ideas that form the foundation of our practise and trying to bring them forwards so that they are useful and understandable for the modern astrologer.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure so the theme of the conference as like the cosmic clocks…
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: …and we are going to be focusing a lot of on timing and things connected with timing whether it would be through electional astrology and when the pick and auspicious time to start something or through using various timing techniques which allow you to determine when certain events will take place in a person’s life but yeah, I mean I see that as partially like a continuation of Holden’s works in some way because especially for example in my lecture on the Rulers of the Houses, I am basing a lot of my delineations or at least the starting point for learning the basic conceptual apparatus of how to delineate the ruler of one house in another was partially derived from his translation of Rhetorius that he published back in 2008-2009 so this is sort of the full manifestation of some of the end results of some of his works and publishing those translations because now it is a demonstration of how some of these techniques actually work in practise.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes and likewise I am doing a talk on the timing of the synodic Mercury cycle but for my source material I am going back to paragraphs in Paulus on planetary phases that Holden translated as well as in Porphyry from his translations so this is the way in which those texts that giving us the starting points for material that developing and making accessible now for use in modern practise.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and what is crazy is, when you start taking some of these techniques and applying them on modern charts that actually works in this really striking and surprising way.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, anyway I guess that sort of bring distinct full circle in terms of that really being the influence within the astrological community of Holden’s work is that he showed a lot of astrologers the importance of the history of astrology and through his work in translations he reconnected us with our tradition and thus gave us back a lot of techniques and a lot of books, a lot of doctrines that we have previously lost so I guess ultimately that is probably his greatest legacy in some sense,
DEMETRA GEORGE: Certainly and you know it is a my hope that was the AFA being the oldest astrology organization in America that they also are taking up the guard land of preserving the tradition and with Holden’s passing is the research director he had asked that, I take over that role in the AFA, that office and so part of my hope in moving that forward is that both the conferences and the organisation can be a nexus for the preservation and passing on of the tradition and we can see Holden is plain really the central, the core, the crucial hold that center space and allowing all of that to happen.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. I think that is a perfect note to end on then so for those…, you are currently in the process of finishing up as series of webinars on the houses. Right?
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes, I have 11 and 12 left to go but I have been developing webinars on each of the 12 houses and how it is developed is in looking at the significations of the houses as given by the Hellenistic astrologers, the Arabic astrologers, the Medieval and Renaissance astrologers and the early Modern and then living together all of that understanding into a presentation and so all of this primary source translation by Holden, by Schmidt, by Ben Dykes and by others is the material that I am using to develop this series.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay, brilliant and you will be doing the next webinar some time in March.
DEMETRA GEORGE: I think in May after the AFA conference. Right now I am focused on getting my presentations together for that and I hope all of your listeners that some of you will be inspired to attend, it is a wonderful conference with try grazing the bar and the quality of the presentations that also as I said making the material accessible to the audience, it is a planetary style so that were all together and it is a beautiful venue and affordable prices so I hope we will see you there and to partake of really stimulating conversations that happen both within and around the conference presentations.
CHRIS BRENNAN: All right. Great.
All Right. Well on that note I think that sort of brings us to the end of the show. Thanks for joining me and I will have to have you on again some other times to talk about the houses.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Yes, we shall do that Chris.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Well, that is it for this episode. Thanks everyone for listening and we will see you next time.