The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 30, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Kenneth Johnson
Episode originally released on May 1, 2015
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Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released February 19th, 2020
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. You can find the show at theastrologypodcast.com, and you can also listen to it by subscribing through a podcast app such as Podcast Addict, Stitcher, or iTunes.
Today is Thursday, April 30, 2015, at approximately 5:19 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 30th episode of the show. In this episode, I’ll be talking with Kenneth Johnson about ancient timing techniques employed by astrologers in the Hellenistic and Indian traditions. For more information about Kenneth’s works, he has a website at KennethJohnsonAstrology.com.
Kenneth, welcome back to the show.
KENNETH JOHNSON: Good to be here again, Chris.
CB: Yeah, I think it’s been about two years now since we had our last discussion, which was about the relationship between Hellenistic and Indian astrology, and I think this is a good follow-up topic to that. Some of the parallels in the timing techniques that were used in the ancient Hellenistic and Indian traditions–which modern Western astrologers are not as familiar with today–are starting to generate a lot of excitement as some of these ancient traditions are being recovered.
So the starting point for our discussion, or the focal point for our discussion is that ancient astrologers had a collection of timing techniques that they worked with that were different than modern techniques. Modern techniques are oftentimes very much focused on real-time events or real-time transits; like transits for example, which is the position of the planets in the sky relative to where they were in the birth chart.
Modern astrologers often have this experience that’s sort of widely remarked on, that having the experience of seeing what looks like an important transit come up and having a general idea of what it should mean or how it should affect a person’s life or what area of the life, that it comes and goes and nothing really significant happens. Or sometimes, it happens in a much different area of the person’s life than what the astrologer expected.
And one of the things that’s interesting, or one of the things that’s getting people interested in ancient forms of astrology is that ancient astrologers actually had an answer to the phenomenon because they had these collections of techniques known as either time-lord systems in the West or dasha systems in the Indian tradition that would tell you which transits would coincide with a hit, by telling you which planets were activated in a person’s chart at a specific moment in time.
So I wanted to use that as sort of the point of departure, and maybe you can talk a little bit about what these timing techniques are like in the Indian tradition or what got you interested in them and how long you’ve been working with them.
KJ: I’ve been working with the astrology of India for over 27 years now. And I will not say the timing techniques–or planetary periods as we will probably describe them–I won’t say this was what drew me to it. Actually, what drew me to that system was a handful of very personal experiences. But I will say that when I first became introduced to the dashas, the planetary periods, it sort of burst upon me like a revelation.
In so many metaphysical systems that pass in and out through the New Age world–whether they be older systems like numerology or more recent ones like the Destiny Cards–we see life divided into a series of planetary periods or cycles. And in astrology, where we would most likely expect to find planetary periods, where we would really anticipate finding one’s life segmented into periods of time governed by specific planets, this is what we don’t find–we don’t find it in astrology.
And as you pointed out, we rely primarily on real-time events, the transits, the actual movement of planets through the sky as they affect certain areas of our birth chart. Another event-oriented system is solar returns wherein the Sun returns to the spot that it occupied when you were born. This is a real-time event, planetary periods are not.
In India, they have countless planetary periods, and a lot of research that you and others have been doing into the Hellenistic system keep revealing more and more and more levels. Who knows how many planetary periods we will find by the time the whole of the Greek astrological corpus finally gets translated–there may be many more. In India, there are countless such systems. The best known is the Vimshottari dasha system.
When people speak of a dasha–which by the way means “a state of being”, “a condition of being”–when people speak of “what dasha are you in?” they’re usually talking about the Vimshottari because that is the most common. And there are others which I hope we’ll be able to get into, notably the Kalachakra.
But to go back to this original idea of the interface between planetary periods and transits, it’s true that not all transits are regarded as equal in the astrology of India. For example, let us say that the principal time-lord of your dasha is the Moon and the secondary time-lord is Saturn. Now maybe 15 years ago, you went through an episode of Saturn making a significant transit to your birth Moon, and yet, the challenges that you anticipated, that you geared yourself up for, as you say, sometimes they just fail to arrive, they don’t happen.
However, if a transit involves the two time-lords, if, in fact, you were in the planetary period of Saturn and the Moon, and then along comes Saturn and bumps into your Moon, that’s going to be significant. We need to of course distinguish between faster-moving planets, slower-moving planets.
We can’t necessarily get ourselves all filled with excitement at every little thing the Moon does, but certainly, we could be mindful of slower-moving planets that make transits to the Moon. And with Saturn, which is slowly moving, it could go either way, transits to or from. So not all transits are by any means equal. Those that fall within the parameters of the planetary periods, however we define those planetary periods, are by far more effective and more potent than others.
CB: Sure. And one of the things I really like about the way that Indian astrologers describe this theory is they talk about planetary placements, or the placements in the natal chart being dormant or certain placements almost indicating a promise at the moment of the person’s birth, But some of those positions lie dormant until they become awakened as time-lords, and it’s only at that point, once they’ve become awakened, that they can actually manifest themselves through things like transits or what have you.
That sort of language has been very useful for me also in reviving some of the Hellenistic methods and conceptualizing what’s going on when we’re applying some of these ancient timing techniques.
KJ: Yes, absolutely. Not every single aspect of our lives, as shown in the totality of the birth chart, not every single aspect of our lives is fully awakened every moment of our lives. There comes a time when certain issues are going to present themselves with more force than others.
Now of course, in Hindu philosophy, this would all be part of the general theory of karma, in the sense that it may be your karma to have a marvelous marriage in life as shown by the fact of, let’s say for example, you have Jupiter conjunct Venus in the 7th house. And so, you think, “Oh, well there’s a wonderful marriage coming up.” But when will it come up?
If it comes up when you’re 17-years-old, let’s say you go into your Jupiter-Venus period at the age of 17, you might be one of these individuals who marries their high school sweetheart. On the other hand, let us suppose that the combination of Jupiter and Venus as time-lords, if you will, rulers of the planetary period, let us suppose that this doesn’t actually come ‘round until you are in your 50s.
So we can see the unfoldment of karma, to use the Hindu term. I’m not sure precisely what the Hellenistic equivalent would be, whether it would be Heimarmenê, one’s destiny, one’s fate. There is more or less built into the template of our lives, there’s a timing for it. So if you received that Jupiter-Venus combination when you were in your 50s, then instead of marrying the high school sweetheart, you’re one of these people who perhaps after many ups and downs in relationships in life, finally when you’ve reached your maturity and your age of common sense and wisdom, then it happens.
It really is a whole different way of seeing the unfoldment of human life as opposed to, “Well, when the transit comes ‘round, any ole thing might happen,” which tends to be more of the modern perspective. Yeah, there’s definitely a framework here. Of course, that brings up certain questions about destiny vs. free will–one of the oldest and probably least-soluble questions in all of astrology as well.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think the Hellenistic equivalent definitely would be Heimarmenê, or fate, or the concept of fate, and the idea that one person might be fated to meet the love of their life when they’re 17-years-old vs. someone else who’s sort of fated to meet let’s say the love of their life later in life, at the age of 50 or what have you.
That’s a really interesting and important point. It should be obvious how important that would be conceptually and from a technical standpoint, but also, just the way that it’s sort of pictured. Instead of having these discrete moments where you have transit and it goes exact, or sometimes it goes retrograde and direct and goes exact two or three times, but nonetheless, they are often conceptualized as specific dates, or dates within let’s say an orb of a few days or a few months or what have you.
But the time-lord systems and the dasha systems instead are spans of time that can encompass entire decades, sometimes multiple decades, like two or three decades of a person’s life, or they can encompass multiple years of a person’s life that are under the control of a specific planet or that activate a specific part of the chart. And this is really important from a technical standpoint.
It’s much different to conceptualize some part of the chart as being activated for an entire duration or an entire let’s say chapter of a person’s life; that’s my favorite conceptual model to use for it.
What you’re doing oftentimes with these time-lord systems, or the way that it looks when you calculate them and put them on paper is that you’re really dividing a person’s entire life up into different chapters and subsections as if the native’s life was a book and you wanted to know where to put the chapter breaks and where to put some of the paragraph breaks, as well as how to identify what some of the most important chapters are in a person’s life, or what specific topics will become the major focal point of specific chapters, and so on and so forth.
Would you say that that’s conceptually how it’s done in the Indian tradition as well? What’s the conceptual model of these spans of time?
KJ: I’ll take it even farther than that. One of the exercises that I’ve asked students to do–and this has changed a lot since I began to study Jyotish, the astrology of India. In the old days, when I was in my early 30s and actively teaching contemporary Western astrology, I would sometimes ask people to write an autobiography of themselves which focused on the major transits of the outer planets. And then, after I began teaching Jyotish, I started asking students to write their autobiography as if each dasha was in fact a chapter, precisely as you have suggested.
Of course, one interesting thing about time-lord systems–whether we look at the Hellenistic or at the Hindu–is that sometimes the duration can be quite, quite different. For example, we have the dasha of Venus which lasts for 20 years, followed by the dasha of the Sun which lasts only 6 years, followed by the dasha of the Moon which lasts for 10 years. And quite often I’ve noticed the same thing happens with at least some of the Hellenistic systems; we can have very, very different spans of time for these planetary periods.
Some chapters of a human life–if we were writing our autobiography as such–some would be longer and include more material, giving us perhaps more pause for reflection and contemplation. It does put a whole different spin on things, yes.
CB: Okay. And part of what you were talking about there–and this goes into another, more specific technical part of this approach–is that when different planets, when specific planets are activated in the person’s chart and the natal potential of that planet becomes awakened in the person’s life, the actual condition of that planet becomes extremely important.
So if you have a 20-year Venus period then you have to know what the condition of Venus is in the chart, and if it’s well-placed in the chart, or if it’s poorly-placed, it’s descriptive of the quality of that period of the native’s life and what types of experiences they’re going to have during that period and what types of events will occur.
KJ: I could give quite an example from someone I know very well. This person’s Venus is exalted in Pisces, and it’s in what you would call a kentron in Greek, or a kendra in Sanskrit. It’s in an angular house, the 4th; so it’s at an angle and it’s exalted.
And so, the 20 years that this person experiences during Venus dasha will be quite, quite different than the 10 years of this individual’s Moon dasha because the Moon happens to be the ruler of the 8th house, and it’s in its last day of waning. So yes, the conditions of the planets become all-important as to the kind of experience that we’re likely to have.
CB: Okay. Yeah, there’s a similar chart example I use: the director, Francis Ford Coppola. He has a similar sort of contrast between some planets in his chart that are extremely well-placed, like Venus being exalted in Pisces in the 3rd house, or Jupiter being in it’s own sign in Pisces in the 3rd house, or other planets that are not as well-placed; for example, Saturn in the sign of its fall or depression in Aries, in a night chart, under the beams of the Sun in the 4th house.
The contrast between when one planet was activated as a time-lord during a certain part of his life and him just experiencing extreme difficulties and doing important work in his life, but just having a very tough time and having an uphill battle just to accomplish what he needed to accomplish during that time period vs. other parts of his life where the planets that were more well-situated were activated as time-lords, then he received many of the accolades that he got in his life and things went rather smoothly and rather easily and they were enjoyable.
So sometimes just something as simple as that, of seeing a really well-placed planet in a person’s chart–in terms of planetary condition and contrasting that with a really challenging placement–can really be instructive in terms of seeing how these techniques work and seeing the importance of having a technique that can tell you when certain parts of the chart are going to be unlocked or awakened in that way.
KJ: Absolutely. Probably if it were studied, we would see how Coppola had a number of early successes that were just stunning, and then went through a period where his work was not doing as well at the box office and critically was poorly-reviewed. When we look at planetary periods, and in particular, when we assess the condition of that planet and how able it is to reach its fulfillment–or to use a more Hellenistic term, how capable it is of accomplishing its business, conducting its business–this is when we really begin to see more clearly than we could see with mere transits alone the ups and downs that often accompany a human life.
For example, in Hindu astrology, it would have been very, very easy to predict certain people coming into fame for unusual reasons at very unusual times. In Vedic astrology, we personify the nodes of the Moon in a way that we do not in Western astrology. They become characters with their very definite personalities.
The North Node of the Moon, it’s a head without a body, so it’s wild and it’s crazy. It tends to be very talented, but perhaps fierce and reckless. Because it’s also a greedy planet, people often will reach unusual and extraordinary fame during a Rahu period but for peculiar reasons.
One example I could cite is that just before he went into his 19-year Rahu period, Bob Dylan was nothing more than a folk singer in Greenwich Village. He entered Rahu about the time that Joan Baez took him under her wing and he came out with Blowin’ in the Wind.
CB: Oh, wow.
KJ: Boom. Another one that you would not even imagine–and this really does show the disparity in ages–for example, Robert Bly had spent most of his life as a gentleman-farmer in Minnesota who occasionally wrote poetry. And since he was almost 70-years-old by this time, he had been through many transits; many transits that had not really made a huge impact on his quiet life.
But it was when he entered his Rahu period, when he was close to 70-years-old, that he wrote Iron John, about the wild man–that’s as North Node/Rahu as one can possibly get in terms of archetypes–and he’s catapulted at a very late age to fame for unusual reasons. So it does really help us to distinguish when these dramatic changes in life are supposed to take place.
I know you’ve been working with a technique, in particular, called the ‘releasing from Fortune and Spirit’, which includes jumps where the sequence of zodiacal signs will jump and leap to something completely different. So I’m assuming that these periods of time would also show dramatic changes in the person’s life.
CB: Yeah, zodiacal releasing, that’s the primary technique that I have focused on over the past 10 years that I teach and use in consultations. There is a part of it that Vettius Valens–the 2nd century author who’s the source of the technique–refers to as ‘the loosening of the bond’ or ‘the breaking of the sequence’, and it can sometimes represent or coincide with a sudden and very drastic career transition in a person’s life.
One of the best examples is Arnold Schwarzenegger hitting one of these special transition periods in zodiacal releasing from Spirit in his career periods in 2003, where he had been in one period for 17 years and he had been a movie star for almost two decades at that point. And then he hit this transition period, and within the span of a few months, virtually overnight, he suddenly becomes a politician and becomes the governor of California.
Yeah, there’s definitely, using at least that technique, ways to determine major, sudden shifts in terms of a person’s career and life trajectory. And maybe to back up a little bit, one example of the most simple and widespread time-lord technique in the Hellenistic tradition was annual profections. This is the other major technique that I use pretty regularly and teach.
In the basic method of annual profections, for those who aren’t familiar with it, you start from the rising sign–or the sign that contains the Ascendant in the chart–and you count one sign per year, so that whatever sign the Ascendant is located in, the planet that rules that signs becomes activated as a time-lord for the first year of the person’s life.
Then when the person gets to their first birthday, once they’ve completed their first year of life, it moves to the second sign in zodiacal order. So whatever sign follows after the Ascendant in zodiacal order, which is always counter-clockwise, the ruler of that sign becomes the time-lord for the year and becomes activated in whatever it signifies in the natal chart. Then after that year is completed, you move to the third sign in zodiacal order, and so on and so forth.
So that’s a really simple technique, but it’s one of those really effective techniques that can be very useful for determining what the quality of an individual year is going to be like, as well as which transits are going to be more important in a given year. If you’re in a Taurus profection year, for example, and Venus is activated as the lord of the year, then you know that any transits to Venus or by Venus that year are going to be much more important than they would be otherwise.
Yeah, so that’s an example of a simple time-lord technique, and then all of the other ones that we’ve been talking about–like zodiacal releasing in the Hellenistic tradition or the Vimshottari dasha system in the Indian tradition–are somewhat more advanced because they’re based on planetary periods, like you were referring to earlier, which are sort of a mixture between actual astronomical periods or cycles that planets have and a symbolic take on some of those periods or cycles.
So it’s kind of a blend between actual, real-time transits and symbolic thinking. Is that how you’d describe it? I mean, I’m trying to come up with a decent way to describe that, and I’m not sure if that really fits it perfectly?
KJ: Well, I think many of the Western time-lord systems do have some practical basis. One of the long-standing debates in the astrology of India is just precisely what is the Vimshottari dasha based on. We have the Sun for 6 years, followed by the Moon for 10, followed by Mars for 7, followed by the North Node of the Moon for 19, and then Jupiter for 15.
As you can see, with the possible exception of the North Node of the Moon and the 10-year Metonic cycle, none of these planetary periods seem to have any basis in real astronomy, which brings up the whole issue of symbolic systems vs. systems that are based on identifiable, astronomical phenomena.
CB: Sure. All of the planetary periods add up to a specific number, or something like that in the Indian system?
KJ: They add up to 120. That’s what Vimshottari means, yes. In that particular system, they add up to 120. And that’s true of most of them, but they don’t necessarily correspond to the orbital periods of planets or anything that we might really put our finger on in terms of logical timing.
Even if we were to take the position that directions are symbolic, still there’s a frame of reference here depending on the different variations–whether it’s primary directions, solar arc, Navamsa arc, whatever–we’re basically moving everything by 1° per year, and in secondary progressions, the 28- or 29-day cycle of the Moon is expanded into 28 or 29 years. So still, somewhere along the line, we have an actual, physical basis that the symbolic systems are based on.
But sometimes, with some of these Hellenistic systems–I’m specifically thinking here of the decennials, and also the releasing from Fortune and Spirit–it’s hard to link these up with anything tangible in the sky.
CB: Sure. I mean, with zodiacal releasing, it’s based on the minor years of the planets, which are based on synodic cycles largely. So the period associated with Venus and the two Venus-ruled signs–which are Taurus and Libra–is 8 years, and that’s based on partially that Venus will go retrograde in the same sign, or approximately the spot in the zodiac every 8 years, around the same date. Similarly, Mars has a 15-year planetary period, and that’s based on the fact that it will also approximately every 15 years go retrograde in the same part of the zodiac.
But despite the symbolic nature of the Vimshottari dasha system, it’s still an effective technique, and that’s sort of the strange or mysterious thing about it. Despite the mysteriousness surrounding how they came to those specific periods, you still find it to be useful and effective, right?
KJ: Well, it has an interesting history. Your earliest dasha systems are all based on assessing the strength of a planet– who’s angular, who’s exalted, who’s debilitated–and assigning in order and assigning the length of their periods based on their strengths. And then the Vimshottari dasha–which is one that’s primarily used in India today, almost to the exclusion of all others–it simply seems to come out of absolute nowhere.
It first appears in a text called the Brihat Parasara Hora, and this was put together, I have no doubt, by a number of writers in the 8th century. I should also mention that this same text, the Brihat Parasara Hora, introduces almost all of the dasha systems that are now known to us. It completely overturned all previous dasha systems and introduced a host of others of which the Vimshottari rapidly came to dominate over any other dasha system.
And we still have no idea what it’s based on at all. We have no idea why these values in time were allotted to it since they don’t correspond to anything astronomical. So that is a mystery; that’s one of the major mysteries. And yet, as you have pointed out elsewhere, during the 2012 presidential elections, most of the astrologers in India gave the same prediction because they were all using the Vimshottari dasha system.
CB: Right. I was actually really impressed; that was one of the more impressive things. I did a survey of every prediction I could find that was published online or in any of the major astrological journals or magazines largely in the West, but this included a lot of Indian astrologers or people that were practicing Indian astrology.
Just about every single one of them used the Vimshottari dasha system, which led to a surprising amount of similarity and coherency between different astrologers that were practicing Indian astrology. They were almost all basically on the same page because they were all using the same technique as their baseline predictive technique.
And while some of them would then branch out and incorporate other things–like transits or solar returns or other things like that–every one of them ran the Vimshottari dasha systems for Mitt Romney and for Barack Obama and almost every single one of them, except for one guy, concluded just based on that that Obama would win because the planetary placements that were being activated in his natal chart–according to this dasha system–were activating very strong and very successful parts of his chart at that time indicating that he would win.
There’s just something very interesting about that, about the fact that you have this single, powerful timing technique that’s used by every astrologer virtually in a specific tradition leading to greater consistency or coherency between an entire tradition of astrologers that are all practicing that form of astrology just because they’re all using the same technique. There’s something interesting about that.
KJ: Yeah, and I would say that it does lead to a stronger consensus. Typically, in Western astrology, when we have an election, we place our greatest emphasis on the transits to the candidate’s birth chart, perhaps using subsidiary techniques that are among our favorites– whether they be secondary progressions, solar returns, or whatever–and this can lead to a lot of wide variation, to many people making very different kinds of predictions.
Whereas, if everybody is using the Vimshottari dasha, then they all agree on what planetary periods Obama would be in. They all agree that transits to those planets are going to be the most important ones, and they’re all making a vast distinction between a planet which is debilitated and a planet which is powerful because it’s in its own sign.
So yeah, it’s hard to get around these basics. It’s hard to try to argue against what appears to be just a very straightforward kind of matter, and it does lead to a lot more consistency in that respect.
CB: Sure. And it’ll be interesting to see in the future–as more of these Western time-lord techniques are rediscovered and as they become more integrated into contemporary astrological practice–if you’ll start to see greater consistency in some Western astrologers’ predictions, if several astrologers are all using zodiacal releasing for example, as my friend Patrick Watson and I did during the 2012 election.
At the time, we predicted Obama would win based on the zodiacal releasing technique because the zodiacal releasing technique is effective in showing peak periods in a person’s career and reputation. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s more of a consensus amongst Western astrologers in the future as some of these advanced time-lord techniques become standardized.
KJ: Yeah, and that’s an interesting question for the future. Initially, if we look back to Hellenistic astrology, and if we look back to the first few centuries of the common era when that form of astrology was introduced into India, we do find that the emphasis is on time-lord systems, planetary periods.
And of course, India being the highy-conservative civilization that it is has never changed. In India, your planetary periods, your dashas systems are still the primary method of assessing future trends, whereas, everything else from solar returns to transits is definitely secondary. And yet, somewhere, somehow, the Western world lost all of this.
What has always sort of boggled my mind, since it seems so essential to the very concept of astrology itself, is the idea that our lives are made up of chapters which could be entitled according to the different planetary periods. It seems so quintessential to the very concept of astrology that I wonder how we ever lost this.
CB: Yeah, I really have no idea either, other than that some of the texts in the West that contained these systems–like the text of Vettius Valens, for example–just never got translated. We had texts like Ptolemy, but Ptolemy, really he only pays lip service very briefly to one or two time-lord systems, one of which is just primary directions, which is more of a directive technique. He very briefly alludes to annual profections and that’s pretty much it.
So due to the loss of the ability to read Greek amongst normal astrologers, we lost the ability to read those texts, and we also just didn’t have access to them until the past couple of decades. And now, all of a sudden, we’re reading those texts again, we have access to them, and we’re finding all of these timing techniques that we didn’t know we had lost that were extremely important.
And that raises an interesting point, which is that because Indian astrologers have been using these systems continuously for the past 2,000 years, it’s actually interesting that Western astrologers have a lot we could learn. Western astrologers could learn a lot from Indian astrologers about how to use the time-lord systems that we’re rediscovering right now.
In many instances, the application is very similar, but there will sometimes be little tips or little variations of the technique that Indian astrologers have used that are actually very useful and very applicable within the context of the Hellenistic time-lord systems. And I’ve already learned a lot from just studying how Indian astrologers apply the dasha systems that I’ve found it to be very useful in rediscovering how to apply the Hellenistic time-lord systems in modern practice.
KJ: Yeah, I really do think that we have preserved a lot, and a lot of it comes from oral tradition. It wasn’t even necessarily written down all the time. For example, when we are working with a major time-lord rather than a secondary time-lord, in a sense, we’re seeing the whole chart as if that time-lord had become a secondary Ascendant, or a temporary Ascendant.
Also, when we look at time-lords, let’s say you were in a major period of Moon, minor period of Jupiter, then the Moon forms the background of this time period, but the daily events and circumstances are more likely to be ruled by Jupiter. All of this is stuff that we seem to have simply retained because of the conservatism of the culture over centuries and centuries, in the sense that no one can really tell where all of these ways of reading the time-lords have originated.
It could be presumed that we could at least experiment with reading Hellenistic time-lords the same way because one of the things that I noticed when I began to read the Hellenistic material is we get a whole lot of theory. I guess it was Antigonus of Nicea who gave us several, fairly well, worked out horoscopes of several pages each, but doesn’t really consider the time-lord systems. Then Vettius Valens gives us many illustrations, but sometimes they’re maddeningly short, like only a few sentences.
KJ: So we don’t really have a complete run-down on how all of this was supposed to be employed, how all of it was supposed to be used. And I think in that sense, an open dialogue between India and the West would be very fruitful as we begin to reclaim some of these time-lord systems from the Hellenistic period of time. Some of them actually are closer than we would imagine.
For example, as I mentioned, the Brihat Parasara Hora gave us most of the time-lord or dasha systems that we use today, including the most popular, which is the Vimshottari, but the writers themselves say that the Kalachakra dasha was the finest and most splendid.
Now in this dasha system, we have two two beginning points: one is called deha, which is a sign that represents the human body and everything that happens to it, and then we have the jeeva, which is one of many Sanskrit words for soul, more relates to the fiery, vital energy that drives the soul.
We can start from either point, and we proceed with the signs of the zodiac and the planetary ruler of the time, whichever planet rules that sign. And then, bingo, all of sudden, we have what we call a gati, which is a leap that goes from one sign to a completely different sequence of signs. So obviously, this is the releasing from Fortune and Spirit.
CB: Right, so that’s almost…
KJ: All of the essentials with the deha taking the part of the Moon or Fortune, and jeeva being the part of the Sun or daimon. It tells us, for one thing, that probably a little bit more than Ptolemy was preserved.
I’m going to do a paper on this at some period, but virtually the simplest explanation is that writers in the very northwest of India–where Pahlavi was a well-known language along the Silk Road–must have been reading the Ptolemy version of Vettius Valens.
CB: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
KJ: We don’t need to go to wild lengths as to why they were able to find this system. But I think you’re absolutely correct when you say that the majority of astrologers who reclaimed Hellenistic astrology during the early Islamic period, they were relying mostly on Ptolemy. Which is why if you go to the early Arabic astrologers like Masha’allah and Abu Ma’shar, you’re basically ending up with directions, primary directions, and profections, which as you stated, are the two that we got from Ptolemy.
CB: Sure. I mean, even they had things like firdaria for example, which appears to be a Persian time-lord technique. They did have access to other texts; they had parts of Valens, and they had Rhetorius and a few other authors. But it’s really later in the tradition that as the tradition goes on, we see any reference to most of these time-lord systems completely dropping out in the West.
And finally, the only one that kind of survives is annual profections, which is referenced I think in William Lilly, but then by the time of most of the 20th century authors, it’s just this completely forgotten technique despite it being so simple. You just find the rising sign and that sign gets activated, and then the next year, the next sign gets activated, and so on and so forth.
KJ: Oh yeah. It’s definitely the simplest of all the techniques. In many ways, when working with Western astrology, I’ve found it also to be among the most valuable. My own personal feeling from talking to the Hellinists is that certain time-lord techniques are capturing your imaginations, whereas others maybe not so much so.
In fact, Firmicus describes decennials as being a very common technique, but I haven’t met any of the Hellenistic students who are actively working with decennials, whereas the releasing from Fortune and Spirit has clearly captured the imagination and enthusiasm of most Hellenistic students.
I think we’re going to see a lot more from the releasing from Fortune and Spirit in times to come. Profections are so simple and so quintessential that I would expect to see more use of profections in the near future as well.
CB: Sure. And I think there are several other time-lord systems in the Hellenistic tradition that just haven’t been explored that much or don’t seem as impressive as zodiacal releasing or profections so far. Although it’ll be also interesting to see if anybody does decide to pick those up and really work them out and how to use them and demonstrate how they can be used just as effectively as zodiacal releasing or what have you.
You referenced decennials, which is mentioned by Firmicus Maternus and Hephaistio, and I think Valens as well. And then one other that’s actually being used now is ‘circumambulations through the bounds’, or ‘primary directions through the bounds’ and using that as a type of time-lord system by activating the rulers of the bounds in the number of degrees that the planet rules for a certain number of years or a certain amount of time. That’s something that Benjamin Dykes and Demetra George have both given presentations on recently that have been very impressive on how to use that as a time-lord system.
KJ: It was actually Demetra who taught me how to do it. And of the various Hellenistic techniques that I’ve experimented with, I have found this to be one of the most fascinating. You’re going to come up with what we would call dashas maybe as long as 7 or 8 years, maybe as short as 5, but it’s a nice chunk of time that can be worked with.
Trying to write my own autobiography, seen in terms of the lords of bounds during circumambulation, just as we talked about writing our autobiography with transits or other time-lord periods, this has been very helpful to me. I would really like to see more people working with circumambulation of the bounds.
CB: Yeah, and I definitely think we’ll see that. So far, there’s been a lot of enthusiasm from people like myself and others around techniques like zodiacal releasing just because it was so different, but also so impressive because it did things that we didn’t know that you could do with astrology: like identifying when a person would hit the high point of their career, or when a person would get in a relationship that would last for three decade of their life, or get in the most important relationship of their life or what have you.
Those types of techniques didn’t really exist in modern Western astrology. Now that we’re reviving them, there’s a lot of excitement around that, but also there’s some things that we have to work out. There are a bunch of philosophical issues that these techniques are raising largely derived from the fact that almost every single one of them you can calculate just based on the birth chart from the moment of birth. The problem with that philosophically-speaking is that you then have basically an outline of all of the planetary periods, and all of the chapters of a person’s life are clearly set in place from the moment of birth.
Oftentimes, the prediction that you would make based on looking at those periods–about different parts of the person’s life–you would basically make the same interpretations when a person was 5-years-old as you would when a person was 30-years-old, to the extent that you know what planets are going to be activated at specific parts of the person’s and therefore when certain things are supposed to happen.
There’s something a little bit eerie or a little bit philosophically-unsettling about that to many Western people because it appears to imply that things are more predetermined than we originally thought.
KJ: It certainly does raise the age-old question which has beleaguered astrology for centuries now as to the degree of free will and the degree of predestination, which goes with us all. I agree. It does raise a lot of questions.
I think practitioners of Jyotish who grew up here in the United States and started out with Western astrology, we would be very, very careful about saying, “Well, let’s see. You’ve got a debilitated planet coming into play when you’re in your late 60s. Boy, when a planet that’s that difficult comes up when you’re getting along in life, unlikely that you’re going to get through that one.”
And yet, when we make these kinds of predictions, you’re right, you could look at the chart of a 5-year-old and you could see this, right?
KJ: It does sort of make everything sound predetermined. I think astrologers with a philosophical bent of mind really need to take a hard look at how much freedom of will do we have to shape the experiences within the boundaries of, “Okay, I’m right in the period of a debilitated Saturn right now. I can expect these challenges. It’s in my 9th house, so I can expect this, this, this, and this.” But then maybe we have to look at how important our response to those challenges are if we want to keep reclaiming and reasserting, reaffirming our free will through all of this.
CB: Sure. And I guess, at least in India, because you have the backdrop of some of the philosophical and religious concepts of Hinduism and belief in karma and things like that–there’s already a spiritual or religious backdrop with which to couch the astrology–some of these ideas about things being perhaps somewhat more predetermined than a normal Westerner that you pick up off the street might think maybe isn’t as crazy of an idea, or doesn’t strike people the wrong way necessarily culturally.
But I guess it’s when you’re reviving some of these techniques in a Western context that I think you can maybe startle people, or that it appears a little bit startling from that standpoint just because maybe we’re not used to thinking about life in that way–in a sort of philosophical or religious context–as being that much more predetermined than we might expect.
KJ: Right. Although, even in India, they do feel that certain amounts of your karma are predetermined, whereas other facets of karma we make for ourselves. It’s pretty much too late in the discussion to get into a whole philosophical background on that, but it is taken into account. There is much more of a juggling act between destiny and free will than one might imagine at first glance, but that may be for another time.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that’s certainly the case even in the Hellenistic tradition as well where there’s sort of a spectrum. So the last point to touch upon was just something that you already raised, which is some of the ethical and practical issues that come up in applying these techniques in modern practice with modern Western clients.
What you say and what’s appropriate to say and what perhaps you shouldn’t say or what should be held back when you’re doing this type of predictive astrology is a whole area that I think Western astrologers largely have not had to wrestle with at this point. But now, it becomes a major issue where some sort of guidelines have to be made, or at least astrologers are starting to struggle with some of these issues because they’re coming up within the context of using techniques like this.
So that’s another area where many of the practitioners of Indian astrology and the Westerners that have studied Indian astrology would probably have a lot to say that would be helpful and instructive because you’ve already done a lot of that work.
KJ: Oh, we had a wild time at the beginning, back in the 1990s when we first started holding conferences. We would bring senior astrologers over from India, and they would sit down with Western clients who were completely unfamiliar with the Indian system, and they would say things like, “Well, judging from the dasha and the sub-dasha period, it looks like your father’s going to die next week (or next year).”
We would have to take them aside, and we would have to explain to them, “Look, you’re in a different culture. We just don’t do this here. We just don’t.” Then we would have to look at ourselves, and we would look at the chart, and we would look at ourselves and say, “Well, it does kind of imply that, doesn’t it?” and then we would have to look back through all our psychology classes that we had taken in college.
I think it’s an ongoing process. I don’t think we’ve anywhere near reached the end of it. We’re still reenvisioning this ancient art in a way that makes sense and harmonizes with a culture that is more strongly-founded in free will and a culture where it is totally inappropriate for counselors to make off-the-wall statements like that.
CB: Sure. And it’s just really interesting how Westerners using Indian astrology–and how that movement started in the 1980s and ‘90s–how you guys have probably a 20-, almost 30-year head-start on the traditional Western astrology movement, which I feel like is just now in the past 5 or 10 years really starting to gain a lot of steam and see a lot of practitioners and a lot of movement and energy in that direction. Now we have a lot of catching up to do, but it’ll be interesting to have some of those discussions and some of those exchanges in the future.
There’s even a spectrum amongst Western astrologers at this point where sometimes you do have people doing traditional astrology that feel like they just give it to the person straight, and there shouldn’t be any filters or necessarily restraints. Rober Zoller, for example, is somebody that’s widely-reputed to be somebody that really delineated the chart and gave it to people straight even if that was not pretty or even if there were things that were said that a psychological astrologer would think was totally inappropriate for them to just throw out there in the context of a consultation.
CB: And so, you have that spectrum even amongst Western traditional astrologers now where there’s this debate that’s happening or still needs to happen about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate, and so on and so forth.
Anyway, I think that brings us towards the end of our discussion. We’ve been talking about a lot of specific time-lord and dasha systems, but you regularly apply some of these dasha systems in practice in your consultations, right?
KJ: Oh yeah, absolutely. Like everyone else, I was founded in the Vimshottari, which is common everywhere, but I also have been doing a lot of experimentation with the Kalachakra dasha for one thing because almost no one else does. Also because of its clear links with the releasing from Fortune and Spirit and the sort of cross-cultural outlook and view that this implies, I’ve been working a lot with the Kalachakra dasha system and a few other things in terms of solar returns. We do have a Hindu form of solar returns. I use quite a number of techniques, yes.
CB: Okay. And I always appreciate having these discussions with you because of your familiarity with both having a deep understanding of Indian astrology. But also being very intimately familiar with Western astrology, including many of the ancient traditions like Hellenistic and Medieval astrology puts you in a unique and really great position to be somebody to talk to about or to have a consultation with to go over some of these things because you’re able to converse in both realms and have discussions using the technical terminology of all of the different schools.
KJ: Well, thank you. I mean, I was as thrilled as anybody when the first Hellenistic texts began to be translated and to be more available. It was a big thrill for me too. Just another part of my astrological awakening.
CB: Sure. All right, well I look forward to the future. We’ll have to have you on again to maybe go into the details of the Kalachakra system and see what you’re finding and compare that to some of the work that I’m doing with zodiacal releasing.
CB: All right, and what’s your website again?
CB: All right. Excellent. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I guess that does it for this episode. So thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.