The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 36, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Benjamin Dykes
Episode originally released on July 12, 2015
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Gulsen Altay and Andrea Johnson
Transcription released August 31, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. For more information about subscribing to the show, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe. Subscribers who donate a dollar or more an episode through Patreon get access to some exclusive benefits such as a private discussion forum or early access to new episodes. Today is Thursday, July 9, 2015, at approximately 5:29 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 36th episode of the show.
In this episode, I’m going to be talking with Benjamin Dykes about his new series of books on mundane astrology titled Astrology of the World: Volumes I&II as well as some other things related to translations that he’s been making from ancient astrological texts over the past year or so. For more information about Ben’s work please visit bendykes.com.
Ben, welcome back to the show.
BENJAMIN DYKES: Thanks, Chris, for having me again.
CB: All right. So these books actually came out–the first one came out in 2013, Volume I, and then Volume II was released sometime last year, right?
CB: Okay. But these are not tiny, little pamphlets, these are pretty thick works. How long did it take you to complete these two books?
BD: Oh gosh, well, I started several years ago. Part of the issue was that I started translating a lot of material directly from Arabic, and there was also a steep learning curve when it came to some of the historical mundane material because I had to learn a lot of things about how they did mundane that I had never known before. I had to learn some things in Ptolemaic astronomy and that took a long time. So it’s taken several years and these books I think were more complicated for me than some previous ones.
CB: Okay. So these books basically, these two volumes are a compilation of different texts on mundane astrology, and you primarily translated them from Latin but also some Arabic and also referred to some Greek authors, right?
CB: Okay. So maybe we should start from the very beginning by defining our topic. Give a definition of what exactly is mundane astrology and how do you define it.
BD: Well, I would define mundane astrology as the astrology of phenomena and processes that go beyond the choices of individuals and the fortune of individuals. And by fortune, I mean the normal web of events that surround us and things that happen to us. So it’s really about interpreting the results of mass behavior and systemic changes in the world.
CB: Okay. So basically, contrasted with something like natal astrology which refers to individual lives and uses a singular birth chart for the birth of a person, instead it’s focused on larger groups–not the individual but instead the collective–like groups of people such as cities and nations.
BD: Yes, cities, nations, dynasties, and also the behavior of markets and weather and things like that.
CB: So essentially, any type of astrology that can be applied to large groups of people would fall under this general category of ‘mundane astrology.’
BD: Yeah, large groups. And I’d say also the key here too is that it’s summing up huge classes of causal events in the world like, for example, with the stock market. When you’re looking at commodities, it’s not just that it applies to groups of people or is on a large scale, but when you’re looking at commodities many, many different types of causes and events go into making the price rise and fall. So there’s some systemic, causal things that are going on that are trying to be analyzed in mundane as well.
CB: Okay. And so, in terms of the terminology, usually in most contemporary forms of astrology, or most academic texts, they refer to it as ‘mundane astrology.’ I know in Greek texts, it was referred to as ‘general astrology’ or ‘universal astrology.’ Basically, the translation which you refer to it as is the Astrology of the World, right?
BD: Yeah, the word mundanos in Latin means ‘pertaining to the world,’ and so I decided to call it Astrology of the World, this series, but it’s mundane astrology, Astrology of the World.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. All right. So what are some of the main sources for mundane astrology, or what are the sources that you drew on to compose this compilation of texts?
BD: Well, for the first two volumes, I’ve divided them up really based on the sources and what the material is applied to as best I could. I see there being two main streams of influence. And so, the first one is Ptolemy, and it’s what I called the Ptolemaic inheritance. And what Ptolemy’s mundane astrology was about was a couple of things–eclipses, using lunation charts to look at things like weather–and he also had some ways of doing what’s called ‘chorography,’ and that is dividing up the world into different regions and assigning zodiacal signs or planets to them.
But the funny thing about the Ptolemy is that in his own mundane material there’s not a lot of interpretive material. When he discusses eclipses, he’s more interested in how to time eclipses and how to make predictions about when the effects will happen. But as far as interpreting an eclipse chart, he doesn’t have a lot to say, and it’s similar with lunation charts. Other later authors used his techniques and built upon them but his material still forms kind of a class of its own. So he was mainly writing about weather, some material on prices, very little on politics, almost nothing on politics, and then eclipses.
The other class of material comes really from the Persians and Indians, and we see most of these texts show up in Arabic. And this was the time among the Sasanian Persians when they were developing new areas of mundane. So they were working with the Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions, the Mars and Saturn in Cancer conjunctions. They were using other time-lords, mundane profections. And in fact, they applied a lot of natal techniques to mundane charts. Many people have heard of firdaria in a natal chart, that’s a Persian technique. Well, they had mundane firdaria too. But that creativity, especially with the Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions comes from the Persians with some Indian influence.
CB: Okay. And those become many of the core techniques used in Medieval mundane astrology essentially, right?
BD: Right. Yeah.
CB: And one of the things that’s funny, mundane astrology, just taking this back historically, was the original form of astrology in Mesopotamia, and then eventually they developed natal astrology in the 5th century BC or so. And it’s interesting that Ptolemy is really, as you’ve said, one of our only Hellenistic sources for mundane astrology. You don’t see a lot of other mundane astrology outside of Ptolemy largely, at least it seems like from our vantage point, because most of the texts in the Greek or the Hellenistic tradition were dedicated towards natal astrology.
So it’s interesting that Ptolemy becomes one of the only sources for that and that stream of influence then influences the later Medieval tradition after the 7th and 8th centuries. But then you get this other stream that you’re talking about that’s coming in from Persia and from India that has things like the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions and other things that don’t show up in the earlier Hellenistic tradition.
BD: Yeah, it came full circle, but by the time it came back to mundane in that same region of the world, they were using Hellenistic astrology and were no longer really doing omen astrology anymore.
CB: Right, that’s really fascinating. And one of the things this brings up is something I’ve heard talked about a few times which is the question of just how much material from the earlier Mesopotamian tradition, if any at all, did the Persians preserve from prior to Hellenistic astrology. Did any of that material survive and then almost circumvent the Hellenistic tradition so that it shows back up in the Medieval tradition as this new thing that we hadn’t otherwise seen previously?
I know there’s some astrologers that argue for that, that the Persians may have preserved more than we think or more than we know. And then there’s others that seem to think that it was more likely invented or developed things in the Sasanian period that were later introduced in the Medieval period and became more prominent but they were somewhat recent innovations.
BD: Yeah, I think at least with the material that I’ve translated, I don’t really see anything that seems like it could come from old omen astrology. But there are still a lot of earlier Persian and Indian writers in Arabic that have not been translated yet, that is on my list of things to do. But it could be that some of these guys that were writing in the 600s and the 700s, say, before Masha’allah and before Umar Al-Tabari, they might have preserved some of that material…
BD: …but it doesn’t seem to be in the mainstream of the new Arabic language astrology from the late 700s.
CB: Sure, that makes sense, and that’s kind of what I would assume as well. But I guess it’s just this ties in more to this argument or the debate over the origins of Hellenistic astrology and how much of Western astrology existed as a system, or how many of the techniques existed prior to the emergence of Hellenistic astrology in the 1st century BC versus how much was developed or invented around that point.
BD: One reason to think that maybe not a lot survived, if anything I suppose, is because of the influence of Hellenistic astrology on the Sasanian court. It’s well known that when the emperor Justinian closed the school of philosophy at Athens, a number of philosophers who were also astronomically trained fled to the Near East, including to the Sasanian court and they stayed in the region too. And I suppose if there was still a flourishing astrological tradition in Persia, they wouldn’t have had so great an influence on the Persians, or the Persians wouldn’t have been so eager to have them there in the first place.
CB: Right, that makes sense. Yeah, the closing of the philosophical schools, all of the philosophers pack up their books and their libraries and travel and relocate in Persia briefly. Okay, so maybe bringing it back, I think we’ve touched upon some of the specific techniques, but let’s go a little bit more in depth into some of the specific techniques that are used in mundane astrology from this period.
I know one of the biggest ones, the one that gets the most coverage–perhaps because it was one of the most important–was the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions as one of the main, long-term predictive methods. Let’s talk a little bit about that and how it’s calculated and what they did with those cycles.
BD: Okay. What they did was they observed Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions which occur about every 20 years, it’s every 19.8 years. Now there are a couple of things we have to understand, and the first thing is that they were looking at something called a ‘mean conjunction.’ This is something that we don’t have anymore in modern astronomy, and I’ll have to explain what that means but it’s very important.
So they were looking at something called the mean conjunction. They were especially observing an unusual pattern that happens with Jupiter and Saturn, because of how fast they move, and that has to do with something called ‘triplicity shifts.’ So we can talk about the triplicity shifts in a moment, but let me just briefly say that Saturn and Jupiter, when they conjoin every 20 years, they conjoin in a backwards trine from where they were 20 years before except that they creep forward about 2.5°.
So if they were conjoined, let’s say today at 0 Aries, then in 20 years they will conjoin again at about 2.5° Sagittarius, so a backwards trine but creeping forward a couple of degrees. And then 20 years later, they would again conjoin in a backwards trine in Leo but again creeping forward up to about 5° Leo. So they do this a number of times, slowly creeping forward, and then after a certain number of conjunctions, they no longer are in the fiery signs, they will shift to the earthy signs. And when that shift happens, the Persians say that things like new dynasties will appear, or new religions or new prophets will appear, or there will be changes in world power and so on.
So that’s the larger pattern they’re looking at. They’re looking at individual conjunctions and the 20-year periods they govern, but then they’re also looking at a series of conjunctions in the same triplicity and when it shifts.
CB: How often does one of the elemental or triplicity shifts take place?
BD: Well, officially the standard theory was every 240 years, it would be 12 conjunctions per triplicity. So it would be every 240 years. It so happens that that was an idealized theory that is not astronomically possible. And really depending on whether you’re using a tropical zodiac or a sidereal zodiac, it might be anywhere from maybe 200 to 220 years, maybe 240 years.
CB: Okay, 200 to 240. So every 200 to 240 years, there is a shift where the conjunctions move from occurring in one triplicity like Fire to moving in another triplicity like Earth.
BD: Yeah. In the tropical zodiac, the number of conjunctions will be 11 or 10. In the sidereal zodiac, it’ll be 11 or 12.
CB: Okay, got it. And so, for example, right now, we’re in the process of a shift, or we’re sort of on the border, on the cusp of a shift depending on which calculation method you use. For example, in the 1980s, we had a conjunction in Air in Libra and there’s going to be one more conjunction in Air in 2020, but we’re in the process of getting out of that and shifting to Earth.
BD: Well, this is where the mean conjunctions versus true conjunctions comes in. In the old original theory in the tropical zodiac, some astrologers use a modified sidereal zodiac. But if you follow the tropical zodiac then we are already in Air. We shifted into the airy triplicity in 2000.
CB: Okay. Right. So it’s been in Earth for the past 200-some odd years and now we’re getting right to shift, or we have shifted into Air.
BD: Yes. The shift to Earth was in 1802 and the shift into Air was in 2000. Now that is using what’s called the mean conjunction and that was one of those important learning curves that I mentioned. It’s the difference between something that is a mean and something that is true. And this is from Ptolemaic astronomy. It’s not something we have anymore but it’s actually a fascinating topic. You have to use these mean conjunctions in order to generate these triplicity series.
CB: Sure. This is something that came up I think at the AFA conference. Something that people were really interested in was your statement that typically the shifts from one triplicity to the other were calculated with the mean conjunctions which are based on Ptolemaic astronomy. And then there was this underlying question that came up at that point of if it was based on Ptolemaic astronomy–which involves astronomical things that no longer seem to be valid such as epicycles, for example–then is there a way that it’s still a valid phenomenon, or is it something that’s perhaps not relevant anymore in this time frame.
BD: Right. Let’s talk about what mean and true conjunctions are to explain this because, yeah, people need to ask themselves should we doing this. So when I was first learning this theory–the official, idealized theory of 12 conjunctions per triplicity every 20 years and so on–I went to my computer program and printed out the ephemeris of all the Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions for the past few centuries. And what did I find? That in the ephemeris, not only were there not 12 in each triplicity, but sometimes there might only be 9 conjunctions in a triplicity, and then maybe it would shift to the next element and then it would shift back for maybe 8. It was all over the place. I couldn’t even tell where any triplicity really began much less identify 12 of them.
The reason is because your ephemeris–your book ephemeris and your computer ephemeris–and any chart that you look at, these give what are called ‘true positions.’ And in Ptolemaic astronomy, if something is a true value it means as observed from Earth. So when you look at a chart or in your ephemeris and you see that Jupiter and Saturn are conjoining exactly, then you should be able to walk outside and look in the night sky and see Jupiter and Saturn conjoined right there–because as astrologers what we are interested in are the true positions, where do they appear to us in the zodiac–so that’s a true position.
Ptolemy’s astronomy, there was kind of a two-step process when you calculated a planet’s position. The first thing you did was you found what was called its ‘mean position,’ and this was the position of the planet as measured from a spot out in space where the planet would seem to move at a constant rate. And what you did was then you applied a correction called an ‘equation,’ and when you applied that correction that would give you the true position. In other words, the ephemeris was calculated for a point out in space from which the planet would appear to move at a constant rate, and then you’d add a correction that would shift the perspective to the Earth and that would tell you where the planet truly was.
So what a mean conjunction is, in fact, the mean position of these planets is where the centers of their epicycles are. So a mean conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter is a conjunction of the centers of their epicycles. If there was a mean conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, you would look up into the heavens, and if their circles and epicycles could glow in the dark, you would look up in the night sky, you would see the center of Jupiter’s epicycle, and then just beyond that you would see the center of Saturn’s, and just behind them you would see the part of the zodiac that they are conjoined in.
BD: They, themselves, the bodies of Saturn and Jupiter, because they rotate on their epicycles, they might be elsewhere in the sky. Saturn might be direct and about to retrograde, so he might be far off to the left. And maybe Jupiter is retrograde and about to go direct, and he’s off far to the right so that their bodies are not actually conjoined–there isn’t a true conjunction. But because the centers of their epicycles are conjoined, they are in the mean conjunction.
CB: So what it is, is an average, in a sense.
BD: Yeah. And in fact, that’s exactly what the center of the epicycle does, it measures the average position.
BD: Now this all sounds really strange to people but there’s a very easy way to explain how this works, and it’s simply this: Ptolemy had to explain two types of data. First, he had to explain the fact that the planets on average moved around the zodiac at a certain rate, and that is what we normally call their ‘planetary period.’ So that’s approximately 30 years for Saturn, approximately 12 for Jupiter. And then they move forwards and backwards direct and retrograde.
Well, all Ptolemy did was he put their cyclic zodiacal motion on a big circle, and put their retrograde motion on a little circle, the epicycle, and made each of those circles turn exactly once for their cycles. So the center of Jupiter’s epicycle will rotate all around the zodiac exactly once in this tropical period, and he will rotate around his epicycle exactly once in between retrogradations. So the idea of using the center of their epicycles is based on a real number.
CB: Right, it’s based on basically the average number or the idealized number of their actual cycles.
BD: Yeah. For Jupiter, it’s 11.86 years, that’s a real number. You can go onto NASA’s website, and they will have that number as the tropical cycle for Jupiter. It’s a real number, a real cycle. What Ptolemy did was that he defined what kind of circle would rotate at that rate, and the point that rotates is the center of their epicycle.
CB: Okay. So…
BD: Sorry. Go on.
CB: So the way that this is relevant to astrologers today, or the reason why somebody that let’s say is a modern astrologer just coming in and wants to learn this technique, why they might want to think about this is… I think people’s initial reaction upon hearing that the mean conjunctions are calculated involving epicycles–which is a rejected astronomical theory at this point–they might immediately jump to a conclusion and think that they should reject the idea of using the mean conjunction because it doesn’t represent the true or the actual positions of the planets, and instead it represents this more idealized position that may or may not be accurate.
So this raises a question then. There may actually be a valid reason to use the mean conjunction because it does represent an actual idealized cycle. In the same way, if people are familiar with other types of planetary periods that were used in Hellenistic or Medieval astrology–such as the lesser years of the planets like the 8-year cycle of Venus or the 15-year cycle of Mars or what have you–those are actually very useful, practical periods of time to use and to work with that can be very good to use as actual techniques. So it’s actually not a given that you should immediately reject this technique just because it doesn’t perfectly fit the true or the literal positions of the planets.
BD: Right. If you think that other planetary cycles have timing value and interpretive value then there’s no reason not to look at mean conjunction cycles because those are based on those very same planetary periods. One thing that they were doing was they were using these conjunctions as structuring devices.
Like I said, if you look in the ephemeris over a number of centuries, you can tell that the Saturn and Jupiter are trying to cluster in a certain triplicity, but because there are so many true conjunctions that happen outside of that, you might not be able to see the underlying structure that they’re expressing because they go direct and they go retrograde. So if you recognize that the planets go retrograde then you might say, well, were it not for the fact that they go retrograde, they would have conjoined in properly in this triplicity in the first place. So what the mean conjunctions do is they help to structure periods of history even though we know the bodies of the planets aren’t there.
BD: Now not every astrologer agreed with the use of mean conjunctions, and one important astronomer and astrologer was named Al-Battani, and he did not agree with using mean conjunctions. He thought that you needed to look at the place where the planets actually were in the signs, their true positions, and he wanted to look at true conjunctions that happened within a couple of days of eclipses. So he wanted to bring the Persian Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions together with Ptolemaic eclipses, and he thought that only the true conjunctions were the good ones…
BD: …and that’s certainly a way you could go.
CB: So this is relevant to us now because we’re shifting from Earth the past 200 years, or two centuries basically from Earth into Air somewhere around this time, around the beginning of the 21st century. But basically, you’d have to say that either the first conjunction that occurred in Air which would have been in Libra in the early 1980s was the beginning of the shift–which would be one of the first true conjunctions in Libra or in the Air triplicity–or if you use the mean conjunctions then you would say that it occurred in 2000. I think that’s what you said earlier.
BD: Yes, it occurred in 2000. Now what you could say sometime around the shifts, the true conjunction might still be in the old triplicity, or it might be in the new triplicity a little late or a little early. One way to look at is like in 1980. In 1980, using the older theory, it was still Earth. It was absolutely still the earthy triplicity but the true conjunction was in Air. Well, maybe that means that some of the events between 1980 and 2000 gave us a kind of preview of what will be the norm in the airy period. So it could be that a true conjunction gives us a peak forward if that happens, so to speak, too early in the next triplicity.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And then of course the final shift where we get the next true conjunction in an Air sign and then it’s all Air signs from the next 200 years after that point will occur in 2020 with the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Aquarius. So that becomes a third additional piece of information about the shift into this airy triplicity to the extent that that’s the final one where in both systems, after that point, we’re firmly in the airy triplicity.
BD: Right. But people should know that for us to interpret things that way and to look at it that way is our own innovation. This is not what the traditional astrologers did, which doesn’t make it wrong. It just means that they didn’t do certain things that to us might seem obvious…
BD: …like coordinating true conjunctions and mean conjunctions. If I could say something else about this Ptolemaic astronomy–it can get complicated so I’ll try to make it simple–the idea that some of this terminology we no longer use because we no longer believe in Ptolemy’s astronomy. One important point that many historians of science have pointed out is that there was a place in Ptolemy’s astronomy. Remember, I said there was a place you could go to in a spaceship out in space, and from that point, the planet would seem to be moving at a constant rate around you. That was something called the ‘equant point,’ it was an invention by Ptolemy. For each planet he calculated where that would be.
And there were a lot of old astronomers who didn’t like this idea because they said this is just a hypothetical position. He invented it for the sake of the math, it’s not real. So even in Ptolemy’s–so even in the Middle Ages, there were people who didn’t like this idea because they didn’t think it was real. It turns out in certain modern models of the planets moving in their normal, elliptical orbits around the Sun. We all learned in school that when the planet goes around the Sun, it forms an ellipse, and the Sun forms one focus of the ellipse, right?
BD: But you’re never told what’s at the other focus of the ellipse. That’s empty space. Well, it turns out that for certain planets where the geometry and Ptolemy’s model works this way, Ptolemy’s equant point is at the location of that other focus.
BD: So Ptolemy accurately found a place in outer space that is part of the ‘real’ orbits of the planets that he used. And people criticized him at the time because they said it wasn’t real and he turned out to be right. So we shouldn’t be too quick to reject things just because they’re mathematical constructs. There’s lots of things in astrology that are just mathematical constructs but we couldn’t read charts without them.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that makes sense. And backing up just a little bit, we’re talking about this from a very technical and almost historical standpoint. But one of the things that’s interesting about that point–about these two or three different entry points in terms of this transition from the earthy triplicity to the airy triplicity–is some of the changes that have occurred in the past 20 to 30 years in terms of technology, and just where things have been headed in the world at large in terms of the very drastic shift that has occurred in terms of the development of computers and the internet and mobile phones and everything else. And I think even from a traditional astrological perspective, just in terms of the way that the Air signs were interpreted that’s very in line with and make sense in terms of this being an important turning point in history.
BD: Yeah. I think what we should also consider is weather, changing of the atmosphere.
CB: Okay. Right.
BD: That’s also going to be a big issue: changes in weather, changes in the atmosphere. That, to me, sounds like a good interpretation or good topic in the airy triplicity.
BD: In the earthy triplicity, we saw material progress and the growth of material comforts, industrialization, manipulation of nature, and also the growth and collapse of great land empires, that, to me, sounds about right for Earth. And for Air, it would be a different cluster of topics.
CB: Right, a different cluster of topics in line with the Air signs and just the general symbolic meaning of Air in astrology.
CB: And you’ve also seen some evidence that the mean conjunctions are useful in some charts from early in the 20th century, right?
BD: Yeah, I’ve released a couple. Today I’m releasing my second one–a couple of mundane astrology lectures–and the one that I’m just releasing now centers on World War I. And I’m looking at eclipse charts and the nativity of Franz Ferdinand–the man who was assassinated in 1914–some ingress charts. And my initial results are that for key charts during key periods and for a key nativity like Franz Ferdinand’s, you can find that the degrees of the mean conjunctions are showing up again and again in these charts. We’re talking about, for example, that there are two key planets in Franz Ferdinand’s nativity that exactly square previous mean conjunctions within about a degree.
BD: The Aries ingress for Sarajevo–where he was assassinated, the ingress of 1901 which is when the Capricorn conjunction happened–the Ascendant for that city exactly squared one of the conjunctions that’s key for this period. So even though it’s a mathematical construct, my initial evidence is showing that the degrees of these mean conjunctions are being activated by eclipses, nativities, transits. I show a transit of that on the day that he was assassinated. And so, these mean conjunctions really should be paid attention to.
CB: And then more broadly, I guess one of the general conceptual or technical principles that you could derive from that is just the idea that important, long-term mundane events like Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions in the chart cast for those moments, those set the tone for very large spans of time for 20 years, or for 200 years, or what have you. If somebody has a chart that is somehow very closely connected with that then it can show events in their life having much greater importance that go beyond just their individual life, but could end up affecting masses of people, or people in the world at large in the same way, in the example of Franz Ferdinand, that his death sparked basically World War I, right?
BD: Yeah. For example, he has an exalted Saturn exactly on his Midheaven, I mean to the degree, and both of these square the degree of the 1901 conjunction. So what that says to me is that his reputation, the Midheaven and Saturn on it, his reputation is closely aligned with the events between 1901 and 1920…
BD: …or 1921. But for that conjunction, and likewise, with other positions in his chart, something about his life and the meaning of his life is closely associated with certain mundane events that can be timed because we know which conjunctions fall on which degrees.
CB: Okay. And that actually ties in or brings us to a topic that I was going to mention later but actually might be more appropriate here, it’s like a brief comment that Ptolemy makes where he’s talking about mundane astrology in Book II of the Tetrabiblos. And he says something very briefly about the birth chart, and especially the 10th house of the leader or the King of a country sometimes actually more broadly representing things that will take place or trends that will occur in a country in general…
CB: …when it’s activated by transit or by other things. And I thought this was a really interesting concept partially because we saw a little bit of that recently over the past few years in Obama’s chart, where we had the Saturn ingress into Scorpio into his 10th whole sign house which occurred in October of 2012, right before the presidential election. And then it was just a few months later that we had the Snowden revelations about domestic spying and international spying on the part of the United States, and a lot of that became this whole thing that was very evocative of just Saturn going through Scorpio, but one of the things is it was clearly hitting Obama’s chart at that time.
And I always thought that was kind of interesting in that perhaps that principle of Ptolemy was accurate in that instance, in that it was Saturn transiting through the 10th house of the leader of this country, and then you get this very evocative event that’s symbolically very similar in terms of something that affected the entire country and him as a representative of it.
BD: Right. Yeah, that definitely is there in Ptolemy. And when you’re talking about Obama, you’re talking about someone who was the leader of many people.
BD: If you look at it the other way, is there an astrological way to tell in an everyday person’s birth chart if their life will be affected by a greater event, by a large-scale event? I mean, for example, something like a million Frenchmen died in World War I. Well, the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction of 1901 fell on 15 Capricorn. I would have a hard time believing that in all one million of those charts, 15 Capricorn was a prominent place in it.
So is there an astrological way to look at someone’s chart and say, “Your chart says this about your life, ‘but’ it will probably be cut short because of this war, and I can tell that from your chart?” Not sure about that. It will be easier to look at a leader’s chart, someone that you know who already is a leader, and say the things that happened to their chart will also be reflected in the nation.
CB: Sure. So that brings up two really important conceptual principles. One, the leader of a country, when they become the leader of the country and the representative of the country, things that happen in their chart may reflect greater trends in the country that they are in charge of in general. And then, secondarily, this separate thing that’s always been kind of a philosophical issue–or an area of debate from skeptics of astrology, but also within the astrological community–is when it comes to an event that affects large groups of people like a disaster or something like that, is it going to show up in every person’s chart. And that was a common, skeptical critique of astrology 2,000 years ago, it still is today.
But in response to that there was the development of this idea I’ve heard Rob Hand refer to as the ‘doctrine of subsumption.’ And I’m not sure where he got that specific terminology from or if it predates the 20th century, but it’s the general idea that when it comes to large groups of people that there’s other charts or other mundane astrological factors that all other individual charts are subsumed underneath. So if a building collapses, not everybody’s individual birth chart is going to specifically say ‘building collapse,’ but the chart for the building itself might–or the company that owned the building or something like that–and everybody who was involved in that event, their charts become subsumed underneath the broader event that they’re caught up in.
BD: Right. Yeah, is there an astrological way to tell from a certain nativity whether their normal course of things will be interrupted by some greater event, some mass event outside their control? That would be an interesting question. I don’t think it invalidates astrology for this reason: actuarial tables. If you know, for example, someone’s zip code and gender and race and maybe how much they make per year, insurance companies can predict with extreme accuracy maybe what diseases they’re likely to have or how long they’ll live.
Now suppose that neighborhood got bombed with a nuclear bomb. Does it invalidate the science of actuarial tables that everyone in this neighborhood got killed because of a bomb instead of dying when the actuarial tables said they would die? I don’t think it would. It wouldn’t invalidate what the actuarial tables do. The problem for us astrologers is, is there a way to tell astrologically the difference between them?
CB: Sure. And that brings up a topic that I talked about in the last episode, which is the difference between, terminology wise, making a prediction versus a forecast, and if in some way due to the almost conjectural nature of astrology, or the nature of taking into account so many variables–or only being able to take into account so many variables, so many other variables being outside of our comprehension–whether the term ‘forecast’ is appropriate in some instances when you’re talking about an astrological prediction.
BD: Well, one thing that comes to mind that some of the electional astrologers did in the Middle Ages is if they were electing a time for someone–whether it was getting married, or going on a journey, or whatever–they would prefer to have the person’s natal chart so that they could elect a time that would not only look good but would bring out the best of the natal chart.
BD: The next best would be if someone asked them a question and did a horary chart, or even if they could look at a Solar Return chart for that year, they’d try to bring out the best of that horary or Solar Return. And then as a last resort, they said if you can’t do anything else look at the mundane ingress for the year and try to make the lord of the year in that chart strong in the election. If you can’t strengthen anything personal about this person’s life in your election chart, at least try to make sure that they aren’t at the mercy of a mass event.
CB: Right, that actually makes a lot of sense.
CB: If you can’t take their natal chart into account, at least try and tie it into one of the broader charts that their natal chart would be subsumed by in order to make sure they’re not going to walk into, I don’t know, a big bridge collapse or something terrible like that.
BD: Yeah, exactly, and maybe that’s one way to think about it because the mundane astrologers always looked for something called the ‘lord of the year,’ and there was a process, a procedure for finding that planet. Also, Masha’allah talked about a planet called the ‘significator of the king.’
But if you looked up the lord of the year, maybe in the year of some disastrous event, if Venus was the lord of the year then maybe people with prominent Venus’ will be especially affected that year because Venus is acting mundanely for the whole country or for the region, so that might be one astrological way to tell.
CB: Yeah. And that’s a whole other different technique that actually we might want to go into in terms of one of the things that you get into in the book, which is ingress charts or Aries ingress charts which set the tone for an entire year, right?
BD: Yeah. The Aries ingress chart would always set the tone for the year, but depending on the rising sign, they might also add extra charts. So the rule was that it was based on the quadruplicity of the rising sign. So if you cast your chart for the Aries ingress for a city or the capital of a nation, if the rising sign at that moment was a fixed sign, then you just need one chart for that year. If it was a common, or double-bodied, or mutable sign like Gemini, you would need two charts, the Aries ingress and the Libra ingress. If it was a movable or cardinal sign like Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn then you would use four charts for the year. The Aries ingress would always be the most important but you would have to look at the other seasonal ingresses too. And each season would have its lord of the year and so on, even though the Aries chart would be dominant.
CB: Okay. So the Aries ingress chart acts like the start of the year from an astrological standpoint. So you’re casting an inception chart for the start of the year, and then depending on whether the rising sign is stable or not, you may be casting other charts to study different parts of the year as well.
BD: And then of course along the way, if there was a seasonal ingress coming up, if you were interested in prices, you would look at the New or Full Moon that preceded the ingress and you’d look at that chart for that topic. So some charts were more general like the ingresses, some charts were specific for things like prices and weather–that would be the lunation charts. So in a way, a lot of what mundane astrology comes down to is a chart within a chart, within a chart, within a chart, and you are looking at broad expanses of history. The way I sometimes put it is “no chart stands alone” which can make it very complicated.
CB: Sure, that makes sense, but you can still do some pretty impressive things. For example, Nina Gryphon used Aries ingress charts for predicting the 2012 presidential election, and that was her primary methodology I think…
CB: …for figuring out what the outcome of the presidential election would be. And then Robert Zoller used Aries ingress charts and eclipse charts I believe for his prediction of 9/11.
BD: Yeah, he used the 9/11 eclipse chart for that, and the peak period during that happened during the month of September.
CB: Right, because it was like right after Saturn ingressed into Capricorn or something like that, which I believe was important as one of the angles of the Aries ingress chart.
BD: Yeah, I can’t remember that bit, but it was the August ‘99 total eclipse. And among other things, he used straightforward, Ptolemaic rules for timing the peak of that eclipse. And the eclipse of 1912, as I show in my new release, the eclipse of 1912 includes the summer of the outbreak of the war and the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.
CB: Okay, so that’s a whole separate area. When you look at eclipses and things like that, what’s the general technical approach?
BD: Well, Ptolemy had a simplified approach. Basically, for interpreting, he looked at the sign the eclipse was in and who ruled that sign, and then he wanted to see if any other planets were doing anything interesting like making a station or coming out of the rays. But he didn’t do normal things like look at the lord of the Ascendant, okay, that’s what the later Persians and Arabs did. They must have thought to themselves, “Look, obviously this chart can be interpreted by looking at the lord of the Ascendant, so let’s look at that too.”
BD: So what you do is you take a look at the eclipse. It’s got to be a visible ones, so it’s got to be above the horizon. And the main thing that Ptolemy did was he was really interested in the timing, and he divided the heavens up into three parts: an eastern third, a middle third, and a western third. And for the number of hours that the eclipse lasted, you have to know what you’re looking for if you’re looking at this in a newspaper or something. They don’t always report properly what the length of the eclipse is. But for a Solar eclipse, the number of hours would equate to years of effects. So a two-hour eclipse, two years of effects.
And then based on where the eclipse fell in the heavens, in what third it fell in, that would tell you roughly when the effects would start and also when they would peak. So if an eclipse happened in the first third of the heavens, let’s say it was a two-hour eclipse, that’s two years of effects. If it fell in the first third of the heavens then those two years of effects would begin within four months, and the effects would peak in the first third of that two years. So the third of the heavens tells you what third of the effects will have the peak in it and will also tell you how long it will be before the effects begin.
BD: So it can be confusing at first because it’s an unusual way of looking at things that we don’t look at nowadays. But you can see the 9/11 attacks happened during the peak of one eclipse, World War I breaks out during the peak of the 1912 eclipse, and those charts also happen to connect to other charts. Like in the 1912 case, the eclipse chart connects to Franz Ferdinand’s nativity, and I believe there’s a connection to one of the mean conjunctions as well.
CB: Okay. So this is important stuff for anybody that’s interested in investigating or even predicting world events essentially.
BD: Yeah, being able to do eclipses, look at eclipses. Now people like Bill Meridian have done amazing things with eclipses looking at previous 20th century work on eclipses, and they were doing things that Ptolemy never dreamed of, but his method is one that was in use for many centuries.
CB: Okay. And what other topics or applications of mundane astrology are covered in your books?
BD: Well, in terms of areas of life or areas of mundane astrology, we’ve got weather, prices and commodities, eclipses and comets, there’s a lot of material on ingresses. In terms of techniques, there’s a lot of material on war. For other techniques, there are the Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions and the triplicity shifts. There’s also the Saturn-Mars conjunctions in Cancer, or rather the beginning of Cancer that happens every 30 years. There are other time-lord systems like mundane profections which I demonstrate in my new release, mundane profections, mundane firdaria. And many of the astrologers also discuss when the date of the Great Flood was and they built that into their chronologies.
CB: Right, because that becomes an important starting point for some of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle work for many of them.
BD: Yes. So sometimes when they say, “by profection, the year reached this sign,” sometimes what they’re doing is they’re profecting from the Flood or from some major time-lord period that’s based on the Flood. They were not using accurate parameters, so the most common date that was given for the Flood was not accurate. I mean, not only was there not a flood on that day, so far as we know…
BD: …but the planets were not even conjoined quite in the way that they said they were.
CB: Right, because they were using their astronomy to project back thousands of years and things get a little sketchy once you go that far back.
BD: Right. As a scholar named van der Waerden showed, if you use the parameters that Abu Ma’shar uses in his mundane system, the parameters for Saturn and Jupiter are really good within about a century. So if you were doing a natal chart, the values were very good. But if you were trying to project back to 3102 BC–which is when he thought the Flood was–then you’re going to get great discrepancies in where Saturn and Jupiter are.
CB: Okay. So it might not be the best way to find when Noah’s Ark was and stuff like that.
BD: Exactly. Yeah.
CB: All right. And one other last thing–as we get towards the end of this discussion–I thought that was interesting is, in modern times, a lot of the discussion ends up focusing on what is the birth chart for a country, what is the birth chart for the United States or something like that because oftentimes in modern astrology, the only access point towards talking about broader mundane issues is either that or using just very large outer planet cycles like Uranus-Pluto conjunctions or something like that. But in this book and part of their approach back then was a little different. What they would do was use astrological chorography to assign signs of the zodiac or planets to certain geographical areas, right?
BD: Yeah. They had something called climes, and they also had ways of dividing up nations into the cardinal directions, that was something that Ptolemy did. So let’s say if Venus in an ingress chart was being harmed then areas of the Earth that are ruled by Venus would be harmed.
BD: Climes are ways of dividing the Earth according to latitude, so that’s where we get our idea of a climate. Ptolemy had a way of dividing the Earth based on triplicity lords which were originally associated with wind. And he divided up the world that he knew into four parts centered on the Near East, and he had a complicated way of assigning the triplicity lords around the Earth.
CB: Okay. I wanted to say this is the astrological equivalent of modern-day astrocartography or something like that, but this is a little different than relocational astrology. This is actually assigning qualities and astrological symbolism to specific countries and areas.
BD: Yeah. You can see different people, they’re trying to figure out different reasons why a certain country might be ruled by a particular sign or a planet. Ptolemy gave arguments as to why much of Europe was ruled by the fiery signs. He was basically doing kind of an astrological ethnography.
BD: But other people might say based on whatever some country had been doing for the last couple centuries, if it was a very war-like country they might say, “Obviously, they are ruled by Mars or Leo,” or something like that. So there were many different ways to do it. It’s not always clear why some authors were assigning things in the way that they were.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that seemed like one of the areas where there might be the greatest disagreement amongst different people due to different systems or different discrepancies.
CB: Okay. So it sounds like this book pretty much covers everything if somebody wants to get into astrological weather prediction, prices and timing markets and things like that using ancient methods, eclipses, long-term cycles with the Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions, and even applying time-lord systems or advanced timing techniques to national charts or to other types of charts.
BD: Yeah. And because this material can be complicated, I should let people know that each book has a lengthy introduction with many sections in which I explain what the techniques are, what they mean. I have lots of diagrams and tables to help people understand what’s going on in the sources. You really do need someone to hold your hand and guide you through it, otherwise it can be confusing. But I think I’ve done that with my introductions, been able to explain it to people.
CB: Sure. And this is a landmark set of works because this is the combined tradition of all ancient mundane astrology in two volumes. Much of this material is being translated for the first time ever, right?
BD: It is. It’s not only being translated for the first time, some of it, but also it’s being used for the first time. Because like I said, once there was the revolution in astronomy and Ptolemaic astronomy was rejected, the whole idea, for instance, of a mean conjunction no longer had meaning. So we are in the position of being able to use it now for the first time in centuries because now we know what it is, whereas even a hundred years ago, they would not have known what a mean conjunction was.
They wouldn’t have learned it at school. There wouldn’t have been any ephemeris to show them. They weren’t using Ptolemaic tables anymore, not to mention, things like firdaria, or knowing the date of the Flood. All of these things have been researched and translated in the past few decades. So we’re now for the first time in centuries able to actually investigate it and use it and see how it works.
CB: Brilliant. All right. And is Volume II the final volume in the series, or is there going to be another volume?
BD: Volume III will be a translation of Abu Ma’shar’s On the Great Conjunctions from Arabic. It’ll be my own translation. I believe there will be probably a fourth volume based on a manuscript I recently discovered that I haven’t seen cataloged in the primary bibliography of Arabic manuscripts in astrology. And it is between 200 and 300 pages of straight-up mundane astrology from authors with titles that in some cases I’ve only heard of the titles before and had no resources to find the books. They’re naming Indian astrologers I’ve never heard of. So this is all early astrologers, Indians and Persians, up through not more than about 825 or 850 AD. And it’s got a lot of interesting material that might form Volume IV sometime in the future.
CB: Wow, that’s exciting. So you’re still discovering essentially lost manuscripts in some sense from your sources on an ongoing basis.
BD: Yeah. There are long excerpts here in this manuscript in Arabic from Hermes on mundane astrology stuff that I’ve only seen the titles to, material from Masha’allah that I thought was lost, all sorts of authors. And they all seem to be early folks, so I don’t think Abu Ma’shar appears in here. It’s all earlier sources, so a lot of it might have been translated directly from Persian instead of being originated in the Arabic culture.
CB: Excellent. So it sounds like you have your work cut out for you. What other projects are you working on, or what do you have coming up in the future?
BD: I’m finishing up a translation of Leopold of Austria which I’m not going to release right away but I’ll release soon. I’m also working on my mundane series and we’ve got volumes of Gaurico and Montulmo coming up. This is going to be Renaissance natal astrology but also Gaurico’s Book of Notable Nativities–he’s got about 200 nativities. He’s also got a lengthy work on medical astrology. And probably next year, maybe next spring, we should have the complete extant works of Theophilus of Edessa which I’m very excited about. And I’ve already found some of his material reflected in the Arabic material I’m already translating now for the new volume of Sahl.
CB: That’s incredibly exciting. Theophilus is one of the last Greek authors, the last authors who wrote in Greek, but he straddles the very end and the very beginning of the Hellenistic and Medieval traditions, and nobody’s ever translated any of his works before.
BD: Not only that, but he says something really interesting in his introduction, and I am paraphrasing, but he said, “I looked at all of the ancient authors when it comes to military astrology and they don’t have much to say, so I basically have had to invent this all by myself.” And so, he wrote two works or really two editions of the same work on military astrology, and as far as I can tell a lot of it never found its way into Arabic. So this is an authentic Hellenistic style, military astrology, using classical Greek terminology, much of it was never used by the Persians or Arabs, and so it will be a completely new glimpse into an area of astrology that we never really knew existed and didn’t know what was in it.
CB: That’s brilliant because he was accompanying some of the kings at the time on military campaigns and helping them to elect charts and stuff.
BD: Yeah, he was a working astrologer at the location of battles, and so a lot of his questions are very interesting because some of them are familiar. They’re the kinds of questions like “Should I besieged this city?”
CB: Which is a common question that I have from time to time.
BD: Right. But there’s also a lot of other kinds of questions that an active general would need to know, “When will I get reports on troop movements?” So there’s a lot of questions that you can tell come from the battlefield in his work, and I think it’s going to be very exciting when it comes out. He’s also got other works too, not just the military material, but that’s some of the most notable contributions that he’s made.
CB: Brilliant. Well, I’ll be looking forward to that, I’ll be looking forward to the other work that you’re about to release. And you’ve just also released you said a new lecture too on mundane astrology itself.
BD: Yeah, the first version was from NCGR in 2013, based on that, and then today I will be releasing part two of that which begins the World War I studies with mundane profections, the 1912 eclipse, the nativity of Franz Ferdinand and a couple of other things.
CB: Okay. So it’s taking a lot of the techniques that you’ve translated in these works and showing how they get applied to actual real-world mundane charts.
BD: Yeah. And I’m starting to interpret the earthy triplicity and talk about the trends of the earthy period, trying to put this material into practice in a way that a modern astrologer can easily grasp and use the tables and material in my book.
CB: Excellent. All right. Well, it sounds like you’ve got a lot of work to do, but you’re doing some amazing new and very innovative things reviving and recovering the tradition.
BD: Well, it surely is very fun and exciting for me, that’s for sure.
CB: Sure. All right. Well, I think that’s it for this show then. Do you have any last words on mundane astrology to leave people with?
BD: I thought I would have something clever to say in response to that and I don’t.
CB: That’s fine. I think we’ve touched upon all the main points that we wanted to cover. And yeah, if anyone wants to learn for more information or order a copy of the books that we’ve been talking about, they can find them on your website at bendykes.com. And I think you’ll be launching some other new things pretty soon as well like courses and other stuff, right?
BD: Yeah. I’m finally going to start working on the natal course, and a new volume of Sahl translated directly from Arabic is going to be probably the main coursebook for that along with other stuff that I’ll have translated in the course itself. So that is going to take a year-and-a-half maybe two years, but I’m going to start work on that this summer.
CB: Excellent. Well, I’m sure there’s a lot of people looking forward to it. And yeah, I’ll have to have you on again next time once you release another one of these landmark books. So thanks for coming on the show.
BD: Thank you for having me.
CB: All right. Well, that’s it for this episode of the podcast. If you enjoyed it then please give it a good rating on iTunes, and of course you can support us on Patreon. If you want to subscribe for the cost of buying me a cup of coffee a month, you can support the show.
So thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.