The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 384, titled:
The Nature of Astrology, with Bruce Scofield
With Chris Brennan and guest Bruce Scofield
Episode originally released on January 29, 2023
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released February 1, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode I’m going to be talking with astrologer Bruce Scofield about his new book titled The Nature of Astrology: History, Philosophy, and the Science of Self-Organizing Systems. So, hey, Bruce, welcome to the show.
BRUCE SCOFIELD: Thank you. Hi.
CB: Yeah, thanks for joining me today. And congratulations on the release of the book. I literally just finished reading it this morning before we did this interview, and I’m honestly legitimately pretty blown away, so I’m excited to talk to you about it today. And first, I just wanted to say congratulations ‘cause I realize this book is kind of like your magnum opus. Not that I didn’t expect that going into it, but I didn’t really expect this summation of a person’s life’s work in astrology to a certain extent to be in there. And I realize it’s not everything you’ve ever done in astrology, but certainly there was a tone to it that you were trying to make this a really great book.
BS: Well, I was trying to answer the question that I’ve had for about 60 years now, which is, what is astrology? And I’ve approached it from a lot of different angles, and I thought before I start falling apart physically, or possibly mentally, I needed to get something written. And the pandemic helped a little bit; I was able to get more done then.
BS: So I’m glad I got it off my chest and it’s out there. I still have other thoughts as well, but I was primarily trying to answer the question that I’ve had for so long. You know, what is astrology? What is it? How did we get there? You know, why is it marginalized? Those are big questions.
CB: Yeah, the book is divided into three specific parts. Could you just briefly summarize what those three different parts are?
BS: Yeah, they’re kind of standalone in some ways. You know, you probably could make three books out of it. But the first part is trying to show that what astrology is measuring is pretty much the same thing as what some of the other sciences—particularly biology and geosciences—are trying to measure as well.
BS: I have an account of my own experiments with astro-meteorology, and I try to bring the reader into a way of thinking scientifically about astrology.
CB: Yeah, one of the things that’s really unique about your book— and like right away from chapter one you get into it—is contrary to the prevailing trend over the past two or three decades, you explicitly try to argue for some sort of causal mechanism behind astrology. You open the book basically talking about a number of different ways in which the Earth itself and its inhabitants are influenced by different things going on in the solar system or in the universe. And it seems like through that you try to start making a case that perhaps there is something then that could make room for some sort of causal mechanism in astrology.
BS: Yeah, I’m not saying that astrology can be based on physical mechanisms, but I am pointing out there are plenty of physical mechanisms we already know about that kind of fit that bill; I’m putting that out there. I’m not taking a ‘physicalist’ position; I’m not necessarily materialist. I’m not taking an idealist position that the universe is all consciousness. I’m basically saying I don’t know, I’m really more of a naturalist. I’m the kind of guy that’s out there studying what’s around me and trying to see it as all part of one larger scheme.
BS: But yeah, you’re right. It does start off in a way that would imply that there are physical mechanisms to astrology because there are quite a few.
CB: Well, also, because later in the book you explicitly go out of your way to reject the model of astrology that tries to contextualize it or view it within the context of divination that’s become so popular over the past three decades through the work of Geoffrey Cornelius to a major extent but also other astrologers that have followed him. And so, I guess that’s why I got the impression that you were trying to look at the other side and you were trying to present a case for a more naturalistic view of astrology that views it as a natural property of the cosmos rather than something that’s purely linked to religion or divination or magic or other things like that.
BS: Yeah. Did you notice that my image is now frozen? I can move my neck in this reality here. Anyway, yeah, in regard to the idea that astrology’s divination, I just think it’s a counterproductive idea. You know, divination is not really explained except maybe in the context—oh, look, I’m moving again—except maybe in the context of Neo-Platonism or some kind of Hermeticism. You know, to me, it’s like that’s too easy of an answer; it gets you off the hook. You know, “It’s divination, we don’t need to really explain what divination is.” And I think one of the things I say is that what people call divination is largely the activity of the subconscious, which we know a little bit about: intuition and maybe some extrasensory perceptions could be added to that. What I’m really trying to say is that astrologers have faced this issue of ‘what is astrology’ for a long time, and in modern times the explanation it’s divination I think is a weak one.
BS: That’s what I’m basically saying.
CB: I think you also sort of give a similar, albeit, slightly lighter treatment to synchronicity as an explanatory mechanism for astrology, and I think you call it a ‘non-explanation for astrology’ mechanism at one point.
BS: Yeah. And I also said that Jung dropped it himself. He was gonna publish it, and then when he heard about some of the work that I think John Nelson, maybe Jane Blizard and a few others were doing with planetary alignments around the Sun correlating with solar storms and radio interference, that sort of thing. Yeah, he kind of dropped it.
CB: Yeah, I did a previous episode with Keiron Le Grice where we explored how like most astrologers, Jung entertained a number of different theories for how astrology worked during the course of his life, and he had at least ten different theories that he entertained at different points.
BS: Yeah, yeah. He hung around with some physicists, Pauli and a few others probably. And he was a scientist. You know, he was looking for answers. When you’re doing that you don’t really jump on any one bandwagon or another, you keep your mind open to different things.
BS: So the explanation of synchronicity as an explanation I think is really not much better than the Stoics explanation of sympathy.
BS: It’s an interesting idea, but where’s the evidence?
CB: Yeah, so to circle back though your book is unique to me because you’re one of the only major astrologers I’ve seen in recent times that is arguing that there may be some sort of mechanism behind astrology that is not…
BS: Or at least some of it.
CB: Or at least some of it.
BS: I make that clear.
CB: Maybe that’s how we should approach it. You do set up and try to revive the ancient distinction that there may still be some validity to the Medieval distinction between natural astrology and judicial astrology. And maybe your goal with the first few chapters is to set up some instances where there’s genuine celestial influences on earthly events, especially on biology, on weather, and other natural systems on Earth.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, I like to make that distinction anyway. I mean, I think it’s a good one. You know, one of my big arguments in the book is I think astrologers ought to get rid of this idea that astrology is nothing more than a practice. I mean, I think that’s really counterproductive. It’s a subject. You know, if you don’t think it’s a subject, what’s going on here? So medicine, there’s a practice, and then there’s theory, and then there’s research, and then there’s a history, and I think astrology is the same. Psychology’s like that as well; most subjects are like that. But subjects like psychology and medicine and astrology are big on practice. I mean, that’s a huge part of it. But in the astrological community today of people that call themselves astrologers, 99.9% of them think that astrology’s nothing more than a practice, and then they go on and argue whether it’s a science or an art. And, to me, that’s ass-backwards.
CB: Sure. You emphasize in the book how the majority of astrologers are practitioners of the subject, but because it doesn’t have, for example, institutional support there’s not a lot of focus on broader scientific or statistical research—or even to a certain extent broader attempts to provide a new philosophical and cosmological context for astrology or create a new overarching paradigm for it that meets up with modern science and other contemporary views about the world and the cosmos—that those are few and far between.
BS: Yeah, the lack of institutions is a terrible thing because if you want to do research, you’re not gonna get paid for it; that’s what it comes down to. So if you want to make a living at astrology—like when I was younger, I was very interested in it and I realized that to sustain that interest I needed to practice it, so I did that. I started a consulting business and went on for a long time, and it was very satisfying, but I always wanted to know these other things. You know, I would break it down into basically two categories that could use institutional support: theory and research. And theory could be overarching, but it could just be a hypothesis. And hypothesis is great because then that guides research. And then when you get into research there’s different ways of doing that. Statistics is usually applied, but there may be other ways of doing it. I mean, certainly correlation studies go on all the time. Publishing a list of famous horoscopes was the original way of doing astrology research, anecdotal evidence, but there may be other ways of going about it. But those two areas I think really could use some help, and other people recognize that. Organizations like NCGR and ISAR were founded because of that recognition that there needed to be some attention paid to these topics.
CB: Yeah, and I think that’s really important. ‘Cause something you emphasize is how, in the 1960s and ‘70s, there was much more excitement and a feeling of potential in terms of astrological research, and astrologers were more interested especially in attempts to validate astrology scientifically and even set in some instances organizations that were specifically supposed to be geared towards that, such as International Society for Astrological Research or the National Council for Geocosmic Research. But at the same time period, when there was that huge influx of younger astrologers into the community from the baby-boomer generation who came of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and astrology became so wildly popular with the public, there was also the rise of major pushback against astrology from skeptics and scientists to a certain extent. And you sort of document to a certain extent in the book the history of some that and how that sort of squashed some of the enthusiasm, at least in the astrological community, for pursuing scientific research of astrology.
BS: Oh, yeah, it was terrible. Astrology went from being pretty respected in the ‘70s to in the ‘80s, it was on the bottom shelves of the bookstores right after tarot cards. I mean, it really lost a lot of credibility and status, and I think that was because the self-appointed ‘pit bulls of science’ that called themselves skeptics went at it. It was astrology that largely created the Committee for the Investigation of the Claims—what is it? CSICOP. Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal, something like that, right? That was a result of fear of astrology, right? Astrophobia.
CB: Right. Wasn’t CISCOP partially founded—wasn’t one of their first tests an attempt to replicate Gauquelin’s studies of astrology?
BS: And they cheated.
CB: Right. That’s one of the great terrible incidents that happened. They initially replicated his study, but they were so convinced ideologically that astrology couldn’t be true, that they were convinced that there must be a flaw. So they held back releasing their results basically. And one of the founders of the organization was so disgusted with what they were doing that he wrote an article putting everything out explaining exactly what had happened and how terrible that was from the perspective of the skeptics.
BS: Yeah, ‘sTARBABY’ with a small ‘s’ and a capital ‘T’; that was Rawlins. And he published it in Fate Magazine. Do you remember that magazine?
CB: I don’t ‘cause I was born in 1984. So I was more into Ghostbusters and stuff like that in the ‘80s than reading scientific journals at the time. But I did do a whole episode on this, on Gauquelin and his work with Ken Irving several years ago, so people can definitely check that out, but that’s a good example. So backing up a little bit, that’s something you go into a lot in this book; especially in the second part you go into the history and the circumstances behind the decline of astrology in the Western world around the time of the Scientific Revolution. And then I think in the third book you focus more on some of the recent history of scientific research into astrology and also talk about the future of astrology from your perspective. So like you said, this could be three separate books all in one, and that’s why I called it your magnum opus in some sense at the beginning. Could you explain a little bit of your academic background? ‘Cause I think some of your prior academic work is tied in with at least the first part of the book, especially your PhD thesis, right?
BS: Yeah. In the ‘60s, I was a kid in the ‘60s and playing in rock-n-roll bands in the early ‘60s. I went to Rutgers, I started in 1966, but it was really hard to stay focused. I was a geology major and then I changed to meteorology, but mostly I was getting stoned and taking acid and playing rock-n-roll, so I dropped out. And then when I dropped out I went out to Haight-Ashbury and I met all these people—I was from New Jersey—and people from New Jersey and some of them were into astrology. My girlfriend was into astrology. And this I had to check out. I mean, being a science guy originally, I had to check it out.
And I read some books, I picked up some Alan Leo books and there was some Sepharial, you know, old stuff, and I said, “Wow. The heck is this?” And I calculated my chart, I knew enough math to do it pretty easily, and that convinced me I had to go back to college ‘cause I had to figure out what this was. So I went back to Rutgers and I got a degree in history. Actually I tried to get an independent major based around astrology. And Ken Negus was gonna support me but the rest of the committee wouldn’t, so I wound up taking a lot of history and philosophy courses and kind of sharpening up my mind.
After another ten years off I got a master’s degree and I focused on the history of science, and I wrote a master’s thesis on John Goad—who shows up in the book quite a bit—who was a 17th century writer who actually tested astrology and wrote a massive book on it. I would consider it to be the most serious piece of astrological research of the 17th century and maybe from up until the 19th century or so. And so, I worked on that. And then there was another gap or so and I went to UMass and got a PhD in geosciences, and I was lucky enough to have an advisor, Lynn Margulis, who was an evolutionist and microbiologist. Do you know anything about her?
CB: I know she was married to Carl Sagan at one point.
BS: Yeah, that was her first husband. But she was associated with James Lovelock and Gaia theory, and she’s most famous for her work on symbiosis as a driving force in evolution, so I was really lucky. I met her at a book signing—I was writing hiking guides—and we became friends, and she recruited me. But to be around somebody like that was a real stroke of luck. I met her when my solar arc, half-solar arc Sun was conjunct my Saturn. So yeah, she was a very intelligent woman and very sharply focused. But she said, “Hey, if you do science, you can do astrology,” and so I did my PhD thesis on astro-meteorology. And I took the idea out of a book by Johannes Kepler called Tertius Interveniens, ‘Third Party Intervening’, and I tested the Sun-Saturn aspects with weather and came up with evidence that showed there was a correlation. As far as the cause was concerned, that was more complicated.
So I have this academic background, but at no point during those three episodes in my life was I concerned with making a living from the academic work. So I went into it with the idea of, okay, this is just a good way to learn. And it was great. I learned how other people learned. I learned a lot about other subjects. I learned a lot about the social sciences. I mean, technically, my master’s degree says ‘Master’s Degree in Social Sciences’ from Montclair University, although I focused on history and history of science, and in history at Rutgers, history and philosophy, and then geosciences and biology and microbiology and climatology at UMass. So that comes through in the book, you can see it, and I see a lot of the subject matter in those terms, which I think is very helpful.
CB: Yeah, and it’s really interesting because then it allows you the ability to talk about and discuss a wide degree of different scientific studies that have been done in some of these different fields that might even indirectly relate to the question of astrology in some broader sense. And I want to get to really quickly, do you share your birth chart?
CB: What’s your data?
BS: 07/21/48. 7:59 AM. New Brunswick, New Jersey.
CB: 7:59. Is that from the birth certificate or is that rectified?
BS: That’s rectified. The birth certificate said 8:00. It’s a little bit of a change there too.
CB: What house system do you use?
BS: Porphyry, usually. I use the real Ascendant as the cusp for the 1st house.
BS: But you can do whatever you want.
CB: Is it showing Porphyry right now?
CB: Yeah, okay. There we go. So Leo rising.
BS: Leo rising, yeah. Saturn conjunct the Ascendant.
CB: Leo rising. Saturn conjunct the Ascendant. Day chart. Sun in Cancer. Mercury in Cancer. Moon in Aquarius. I’m a big fan of that placement as fellow Aquarius Moon. Venus conjunct Uranus in Gemini and Jupiter in Sag.
CB: Cool. All right, sorry for that digression. I sometimes when I’m doing interviews like to be able to document that from the person themselves what their birth data is as a form of data collection.
BS: And that’s now AAA data.
CB: Yeah, exactly.
BS: You got it from the horse’s mouth.
CB: Right. It’s like I met a guy who knew a lady who met him at a conference who wrote it down on a napkin or something like that. So circling back, before we move into part two and part three, I want to go back and understand better part of what you were talking about in the first two chapters of the book. You really did spend a lot of time talking about the solar system, about the Earth, and different natural processes and ways in which there are different things like not just gravity, but electromagnetism, that different studies have shown may influence biological life on Earth and other systems in different ways. What are some of the things that you could talk about in terms of that, that are kind of relevant in this discussion?
BS: Well, there’s a lot of study in regard to solar and lunar influences. So if you just look at biology marine organisms in particular are gonna be sensitive to lunar fluctuations partly because it causes the tides, and the tides change hydrostatic pressure.
BS: There’s evidence that they’re responding to the light of the Moon, the gravity of the Moon, there’s all sorts of connections there. There may be a transfer from the gravity of the Moon to the depth of the water, to the phase of the Moon to the amount of light that’s coming through, but life is very sensitive to it.
CB: And some of that’s been observed since ancient times about how the Moon affects the tides or how there’s different marine life that’s affected by the Moon in different ways.
BS: Yeah, yeah. One of the points I try to make—and I’m sure you picked up on it—is that life evolves in a spatial environment, and that’s what almost everybody talks about. If you take a course on evolution they’re gonna talk about things like geographic isolation or competition from other species or changes in the environment itself and so on. But there’s a temporal environment. I mean, there’s the alternation of day and night, there’s the phases of the Moon, and there are all sorts of fluctuations with solar cycles and orbital cycles that modulate the weather and the climate and so on. So this is a real thing. This is a real environment. The rhythms of the temporal environment cannot be overlooked if you’re gonna understand how life has evolved on this planet. And it is the case that life has internalized a lot of these movements and motions and cycles and built structures around them. I mean, the most obvious one is that we sleep at night and we’re up during the day usually.
BS: And we have probably about 2-or-300 other circadian rhythms running off that one, but there are lunary things and so on. Humans are a little more disconnected from nature these days, so we may not show consistently all the rhythms that potentially existed 200,000 years ago.
CB: Right, but that’s really an important point. So your point is that life evolves not just in a spatial context but also in a temporal context.
CB: And one of the ways of looking at the temporal context that life evolved could be through different things that are going on in the celestial environment, since the celestial environment has always been one of the primary ways of measuring time or measuring temporal states or temporal movements.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, I think especially with cycles, these sort of pegs in the flow of time. Organisms learn to recognize and then remember them and build structures around them.
BS: The most obvious ones are things like reproduction and metabolism, things like that.
CB: So let’s go into some of that. Let’s not take anything for granted in terms of the audience. The audience, let’s just pretend, doesn’t know anything about what we’re talking about or about the book. What are some other instances—even not human ones—of, like you said, that phenomenon of life internalizing the sky?
BS: Yeah, well, the classic example would be the circadian rhythm, the alternation of day and night. And there was a long debate as to whether organisms were actually reading the light and day or there was just some kind of natural rhythm. And this was a debate that went on for a long time and it was called the debate between the ‘exogenous and endogenous’ circadian mechanism—outside or inside—and the answer is both are going on at the same time. But what has happened is that these clocks—you could call them biological clocks—have evolved, and they’ve evolved separately in different organisms at different times, so it’s not one that was passed on and inherited.
In the cell, you have these special ‘clock’ cells and they produce a certain protein. And when the protein gets up too high, it turns off a function, and then gradually that protein is absorbed, and when it gets too low, it turns back on, so it’s a thermostat. From single cells on up to complex megafauna like us, we have these cells that are basically replicating the cycle of day and night internally and they’re doing it with a thermostat-like mechanism, and it sets a pattern. They did these experiments where they would take people and put them underground for a month or longer and just leave all the lights on and see what happened, what’s called ‘free run’. And they would settle into a pattern that I think was slightly more—well, actually it would vary. I think in general it wasn’t exactly 24 hours, it was near that. Circadian means ‘approximately’, ‘circa day’, that sort of thing.
So what that proved was that there was an internal mechanism that could clock this time that closely approximated but didn’t exactly equal the rotation of the Earth. And further, the fact that it didn’t equal it was actually a good thing because that allowed for phase resetting once the organism is exposed to the source of the timekeeper; in this case, day and night. So that’s the classic example of structure that we all have in us, and even single cells have. And it can run with or without light, but it was obviously designed to follow the pattern of the day. And there’s some cases, some studies—for lunar things that are similar, but it’s not clear about that—the circadian cycle is also used particularly by plants to predict photo period: the length of day vs. length of night that happens seasonally. And it’s so sophisticated that even organisms at the equator can do that even with very subtle changes that occur there, but they can do it.
CB: And the length of day and length of night of course classically gets translated in astrology into something like the tropical zodiac.
BS: Exactly. Photo period is what it’s called by biologists, but astrologers could say tropical zodiac.
CB: Yeah. And then one of the points you make in the book is some of these different influences or ways in which some smaller organisms may be influenced by different things; not just gravity, but I think you also mentioned the possibility of electromagnetism at a certain point. Sometimes life can be sensitive to very minute changes in the environment. But then when you go up the food change, little organisms are being influenced by certain things and their behavior or certain things are being influenced by that. And then let’s say if fish are hunting and eating those things then it’s affecting the fish in a certain way and then whatever else is feeding on the fish and everything else, so that there’s a chain reaction effect that happens in terms of the environment or in terms of nature.
BS: Yeah, that’s true. Well, the microorganisms get all excited and small fish start eating them and then the big fish eat the small fish. It goes right up the chain there and they all become entrained on whatever that rhythm is. And fishermen know it as ‘moonrise, moonset’ and also ‘sunrise and sunset’, the fish will tend to bite more. And it probably has something to do with the gravity of the Moon stirring things up very small microorganisms. But we know that microorganisms and megafauna are responsive to the magnetic field.
You have these bacteria called magnetotactic bacteria which are extremely common; they’re all over the oceans and lakes and what not. And they biomineralized these little tiny chips of magnetite, and they read the Earth’s magnetic field and aligned themselves accordingly to find their ideal location in the mud or in the water column. But other organisms—birds navigate with that, and turtles, and cetaceans. There’s some argument about whether people have it or not. But there have been some studies that show that if you take kids out of the city, blindfold them, put them in the woods, they can kind of figure out what direction it is back home, that sort of thing.
CB: That’s a really funny study. That’s one of those funny areas of science that we could test if there weren’t moral restrictions on certain things, but we don’t or can’t just because we can’t just round up some kids and just let them go in the woods and see what happens.
BS: Yeah, yeah. And every few weeks I come across some weird study. I found one when I was getting to the end of the book there about dogs aligning their body to the magnetic field before they take a dump. They point in a certain direction, so they’re obviously reading the magnetic field.
CB: Right. Or less grossly, I think you also mentioned at one point that there’s been an observation that sometimes animals will react around the time or sometimes shortly before earthquakes occur, and that there’s been speculation about them reacting to different subtle things that maybe humans are not picking up but that you start seeing in animals prior to major earthquakes happening.
BS: Yeah, in China, they pay a lot of attention to that, have used that for earthquake prediction, but it is apparently true; other people have looked at it. You know, the animals might sense if there’s pressure building up in a fault; they might sense some kind of electrical change. A lot of times if you get quartz in the rock—say it’s granite—and there’s a lot of pressure on it, it could be something that’s readable by the organism. But, you know, this all comes back to the idea that from cells on up life is pretty sensitive to very subtle influences. Electromagnetism’s what we’re talking about now. It’s all over the place and it comes in different cycles. You know, it depends. The Moon is modulating the magnetic field around the Earth. The solar wind hits the Earth’s magnetic field and stiffens it up, and then the Moon is going around that and that modulates it a little bit, so there’s all sorts of things that go on. There was a guy—what’s his name? Zane. Anyway, he was interested in that and showed in a couple of articles that were in The Mountain Astrologer years ago correlations between lunar aspects and very slight shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field as recorded at certain stations.
CB: Okay, so that’s really cool. And one of the things this brings up that you mention in the book at one point is that even though we think of space and we conceptualize it as empty, there’s actually a lot going on out there in terms of our environment in the solar system.
BS: Yeah, they call it plasma now. You know, there’s all sorts of particles zooming around in space. It’s not as empty as people thought it was. So this is a whole area that’s just beginning to be explored; exactly what effects it has on the Earth is another matter. Then there’s always gravity, although it’s kind of a weak force compared to some of the others. But the study that I did correlated weather records with Sun-Saturn oppositions. Now a Sun-Saturn opposition means looking at it geocentrically; we see it as the Sun on one side and Saturn on the other side. From the heliocentric position it’s Sun, Earth, Saturn. So basically that is when Saturn is closest to the Earth and it’s in the Earth’s annual orbit around the Sun. Anyway, so I took that—I mean, I went through a lot of other things before I got to that and decided to focus on it—and I correlated it with weather temperatures in different parts of the country and the world and found that in certain sections there was a drop in temperature pretty consistently. And I would stack these on top of each other, like a hundred years of records, so I was able to show that that was pretty significant.
You know, I did this for my PhD thesis and the committee was kind of impressed by it. But how to explain it? Now I calculated what Saturn’s gravitational influence would be relative to the Sun’s, and Saturn is less by four orders of magnitude; it’s much, much lower than the gravitational effect of the Sun. But some people have told me that that was not that bad, that was something. And you begin to wonder that maybe these very small forces do account for something, and maybe in this case it’s the weather system that we’re looking at. And what I found is the effect was very strong when Saturn and the Sun were near the equinoxes, and when they’re near the equinoxes, they’re due east and west, and so they’re at 90° to the poles. And so, maybe at that point the gravity was such that it was enough to flatten the Earth’s atmosphere enough to push down a cold cell and that would then distribute itself as it moves south, breaking down, moving towards the warmer areas. In other words, there might be a gravitational effect here that the weather can feel. The question is, well, can organisms feel that too?
CB: Right. And before we even get there, more broadly, you also spent a lot of time talking about how gravity from some of the larger bodies in the solar system and gravitational attraction drops off rapidly as distance increases, which is part of the issue with gravity as an explanatory mechanism for astrology that skeptics and astronomers commonly bring up. The major players in the solar system in terms of the Moon and the Sun and potentially other planets do have gravitational influences on natural processes on Earth, like earthquakes or volcanoes or other things like that.
BS: Yeah. Well, there have been a few studies that have come up here and there that show planetary aspects with the Sun and Moon correlating with earthquakes. But the best evidence that we have for something like the other planets having to do with Earth processes is in the Milankovitch orbital cycles. Now you have to kind of step back and think in terms of deep time; this is what geologists and geoscientists do. You know, a million years, that’s like the equivalent to a minute in the scheme of things. But on that kind of a scale, the planets are playing a role in modulating the shape of Earth’s orbit and this has tremendous effects. It causes ice ages. It causes huge changes in water level. You know, you have the Mediterranean drying out every 23,000 years; the cycle of precession did that, I don’t know, 50 times or something.
And there seems to be evidence that the Earth’s system—which is atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere all interacting, entangled with each other—that is picking up on these very, very subtle influences and at times becoming very entrained to one particular cycle; but then as that cycle breaks, it loses that entrainment and maybe entrains on another one. This is, I think, an interesting way to think about how life on the planet reacts to these solar system motions. Maybe it’s not hooked up to one cycle all the time. Maybe it’s shifting from one to the other or combinations of them.
CB: And isn’t the barycenter of the Sun and Jupiter somewhere just outside of the Sun due to how massive Jupiter is in terms of its gravitational influence?
BS: Well, the barycenter of the solar system is outside the Sun sometimes, yeah. And Jupiter does have a lot to do with it, but so do the other planets.
CB: Okay, so that seems relevant just in terms of our solar system, in terms of the gravitational influences. And then you’re also talking about things like the solar wind or solar flares and other background radiation that’s happening at different points.
BS: Yeah, there’s a lot going on. You know, I’m glad you brought this up because the truth is that the planets are interacting on the Sun so much that they yank it out of the center of the solar system. This is also a way that exoplanets have been discovered. This is common. Other stars—they’re wobbling, they’re moving around—so on the basis of that they postulate where a planet is located relative to the sun. So the planets do modulate the Sun, and in turn, the Sun’s activity is modulated.
There’s a point where the Sun is actually orbiting around the barycenter—the center of mass of the solar system—and there’s a couple of points where it kind of makes a quick jerk. It swoops around real fast and that’s correlated with solar storms and eruptions and so on, but there are constant signals coming from the Sun’s solar wind and all sorts of high particles coming from flares, coronal mass ejections, and what not. So we’re bathed in it and a lot of it’s rhythmic, and that rhythm is driven by the planets. So one explanation for at least some kinds of processes on the Earth that we could call astrology.
CB: Right. And then that really raises a question at a certain point of what is your definition of astrology, and depending on what definition you adopt some of that may constitute astrology or may constitute a form of astrology. If, for example, you adopt a common definition—I just did a Google search for astrology, and the definition it gives is, “The study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.” So that’s pretty common for most definitions.
BS: That’s a good definition, yeah.
CB: Well, one of the issues with that definition I’ve talked about is that a lot of astrologers that follow the synchronicity model would object to that definition because it centers on the notion that there’s a celestial influence on earthly events, and if somebody’s arguing that acausal then that definition actually doesn’t fit. However if you did adopt that definition—and I think that is the definition that you’re adopting in general—then you could say it starts getting ambiguous at one point something is just astrology vs. whatever else you want to classify that as, and I think that’s kind of an interesting ambiguity in the first couple of chapters of your book.
BS: Yeah, well…
CB: In the sense of what used to be classified as natural astrology, which is just the influence of celestial bodies on Earth—and life on Earth or different things like that—through natural, or let’s say, scientific means. Some of that at this point is viewed as legitimate science vs. this other area that’s not viewed as legitimate science at this point, and there’s a little ambiguity between the two of what constitutes astrology.
BS: Yeah, when you get to people it gets a little weird. But my argument is this—and this is my definition of astrology, I’m gonna state this first—astrology is the subject that maps and analyzes and computes trajectories in regard to the behavior of self-organizing systems of all types. Now self-organizing systems—this is a category, this is a class of phenomenon in nature, and I’m arguing that astrology deals with them and only them and nothing else. So astrology specifically applies to self-organizing systems.
CB: What is a self-organizing system?
BS: Yeah, I was just about to get there.
BS: Okay, let’s start with a cell. You know, a cell is an organic life form that is self-regulating, that is self-making. It has a boundary, but the boundary is permeable ‘cause it has to take in things like water or light and food. It slows down entropy for sure. A lot of people would argue that life is a phenomena that just slows down the breakdown of the universe, entropy.
CB: In other words something that resists dying or has self-preservation as a motivation.
BS: Yeah, and it has a way of harnessing energy. For example, in photosynthesis, you have the creation of energy from sunlight. A photon hits a magnesium atom in the middle of a carbon-hydrogen ring of some sort, and an electron bounces down through stages and it’s captured and stored in certain proteins, or certain molecules rather, and they are used for energy to run the business, the organism. And organisms that do that, like algae, plants, and cyanobacteria are called autotrophs. They make their own food; they make it from solar energy. There are chemotrophs that can make it from chemical energy. The rest of life is heterotrophs, like us. We just eat the plants or we eat the animals that eat the plants, so the energy gets transferred.
But getting back to self-organizing systems, you start with the cell and then you can move up to, say, an organ, or a simple animal, or a simple plant of some sort. You move your way up and the next thing you know you’ve got a human being, a domesticated primate, and we are self-organized. We have all this coordination going on. If we don’t eat, we die. If we don’t drink, we die. We need a certain amount of sunlight to produce Vitamin D. We move around. We reproduce. We’re operating on an edge, on a boundary or a gradient; we’re at the edge of a gradient. You know, one thing can kill you. You get old, and who knows, and it could happen in an instant. You’re a little tougher when you’re younger. You have a little more resiliency; the organism has the ability to bounce back faster, but it’s a self-organizing system.
But then you have this other thing going on in the natural world. You have things like hurricanes or tornadoes on a short scale, which are kind of self-organizing for a while. A hurricane will retain its existence as long as it can be fed enough hot air, and a tornado as well. You need a gradient between hot and cold air to get these things running. On the longer scale is weather, which is driven by incoming solar radiation and also by the rotation of the Earth and wind patterns and so on. And then you step back even further and you see climatology, which is weather over millions of years. Or you could look at the Earth itself. The Earth has maintained pretty stable temperatures for three billion years. Why? Largely because of the way life has interacted with the atmosphere and the oceans and the Earth, and has been able to produce organisms that draw down carbon and keep it cold as the Sun gets hotter and maintain a pH of the oceans that’s favorable for life. This is the Gaia hypothesis. But the idea is that the Earth itself is—well, the surface of the Earth basically, where the biosphere is—is a self-organizing system. And we know that that’s very sensitive to the Sun, the Moon, and the planets in terms of climate and climate cycles and so on, but now we get back to life.
CB: That was a really important point in terms of your broader discussion in the first few chapters; you view the Earth as a single organism in some sense. Then thinking about all the different cosmic things that are happening outside of the Earth that are influencing the Earth in different ways, even on a very long time scale, or other times on a short time scale, you realize there’s a lot going on in our neighborhood that’s influencing the Earth in different ways as an organism.
BS: Oh, yeah, yeah. But I’m just trying to lay a foundation for understanding what a self-organizing system is and that self-organizing systems are sensitive to their environment, including the temporal environment.
BS: One of the things about self-organizing systems is they can be incredibly sensitive to very small influences. Like Lorenz said, the butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and you get a tornado in Texas. Self-organizing systems is part of systems science, which would include chaos and complexity and cybernetics and a lot of other subjects spread out over different disciplines. But now here comes I think one of the toughest yet most important parts of my argument: Humans in communication form groups and this is another level of a self-organizing system. Let’s do something simple, like take the stock market. You’ve got millions of people hooked up to the stock market and they’ve all got their own ideas, but the stock market behaves in a certain way. And anybody that does astrology knows that it does kind of respond to the planets; there are people that do that entirely, in fact. But what is that? Actually you have charts for the stock market, like the opening of the New York Stock Exchange and so on.
Or let’s take a nation. You have a bunch of people living in a country over a long period of time and they develop certain characteristics—there’s a thing that we call a national character—and it’s remarkably stable, even though the people don’t live very long. A nation goes on, people drop off, new ones come in, but the character is fairly stable. There may have been an origin point for it—we could have a chart for that—but it’s a self-organizing system; any kind of group can produce that kind of an effect. And there are a number of writers, philosophers—in philosophy it’s called emergentism. And this has been going on for a while, for a few hundred years, I guess people have been talking about emergence, something that comes out of a lot of people coming together. It lives its own life; it emerges. And I think things like personality emerge from behavior and brain activity. And out of personalities combined something else emerges, which could be the stock market or a nation-state or a community group, and these things are also sensitive to planetary influences. And this is what astrology is studying. It may offer some insights into how horary astrology works.
CB: Right, ‘cause that’s something you go into. You’re not just trying to limit astrology to biological things, like natal astrology, or things like mundane astrology and weather forecasting or other major natural events, but also you do try to make some room in your model for electional astrology and horary astrology.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, I talk about that a lot and I try to explain in the context that I was just describing. The idea that we have these higher order, self-organizing systems that emerge—in the case of humans—out of human mental activity and communications, they are self-organizing in their own way. They’re not physical, but they’re based on physical; they come out of physical. Whether they exist when everything physical disappears, I’m not sure about that, but what I’m drawing attention to is a subject area that has been worked on and is taken very seriously by a lot of people in philosophy and sociology and other fields of inquiry, and I think that their ideas apply very strongly to astrology because what they’re trying to describe is the nature of these higher order, self-organizing systems. Meta-cybernetic is what one author calls them. They have some coherence on a non-physical level. This is a broad topic and it’s not located in any one subject area. Like systems science in general, it’s spread all over the map.
CB: What would be an example of something that is not a self-organizing system for a contrast?
BS: A block of wood or a rock or how fast a rock falls. The flow of electricity through a wire. Things that physics tackle are generally not self-organizing systems. Now physics has had a hard time tackling self-organizing systems, and they have tried, and that’s where you get chaos and complexity; two subject areas that are mostly handled by physicists and mathematicians.
CB: Okay. Just trying to get a sense for what in your definition would be under the purview of astrology vs. what wouldn’t, but I think that starts to give us a better idea of that. So you want to make room though for some causal pieces to astrology at the very least, and it seems like that’s a large part of the purpose of part one of the book, right?
BS: Yeah, I wanted part one to kind of set a ground, set a base level that there are things in the physical world that do correlate with astrology. And also, when you look at the components of astrology, they basically capture what the biologists and chronobiologists and geoscientists have been finding, particularly the biologists, that photoperiod is important and that phase is important. Photo period would be the tropical zodiac and phase would be aspects. And that diurnal motion, which would be houses, is important; they’re found to be important in experiments. The form that astrology took about 2,000 years ago captures a lot of that, and that I think is remarkable in itself. I haven’t seen anybody else talk about it that way.
CB: Well, that actually provides us with a good transition point into part two of the book where you focus on the decline of astrology during the Scientific Revolution, or at least around that period, and what happened and why there was a decline of astrology which put it in the state that it’s in today over the past few centuries, where it’s on the outskirts of intellectual credibility and how that happened. And you kind of summarize what the usual narrative is surrounding that, but then you try to explain that the stories surrounding it are actually more complicated than that, the reasons for astrology’s decline, in especially the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries.
BS: Yeah, the standard model, as it’s taught—or as it’s assumed—is that Copernicus showed that the Earth was orbiting the Sun and that killed astrology.
CB: Right. There were a series of discoveries during the Scientific Revolution, especially with respect to cosmology, which ended up displacing astrology or making it intellectually untenable. There’s a separate presumption which you also address, which is that astrology was tested scientifically during the Renaissance and found to be false or lacking, but in fact that wasn’t really true necessarily either.
BS: Well, yeah. First of all, there were a number of astrological discoveries, plus Copernicus. He has the theory that the Sun was more or less the center of the solar system, but there were some discoveries, and a couple of them were novas that were determined to contradict Aristotle’s idea of barriers between the different spheres of the planets. And then you had Galileo with his telescope seeing things like spots on the Sun and the phase of Venus, so you had a lot of these that discredited the old models of Ptolemy and Aristotle, which when pressed astrologers would say that this is backing up their work. But I argue that astrologers in general have not been that concerned with theory, that astrologers are actually pretty quick to get on the Copernican bandwagon; they were promoting it before a lot of other people were. So you really can’t say that these changes in astronomical theory were really killing astrology.
CB: That’s good.
BS: They made a difference, but they weren’t killing it. What killed it was probably more attacks from the Church, issues over fate and free will, and the fact that the new science, as it developed, was pretty good; and it was kind of a brain drain and astrologers were left with just doing practice. In the past the same guy was usually an astronomer, an astrologer, and a mathematician and that went right through the Middle Ages pretty much. But by the Renaissance things were changing around a lot; a lot of roles got messed up.
CB: Let’s get into all of this because in the last episode—the rough title right now will be released under “Explaining Astrology to a Skeptic”—I was talking about it in an interview with a science journalist. And I did talk about how in the 2nd century Ptolemy—who was like a polymath—wrote these major academic texts on a number of different fields of natural science that became authoritative. He kind of set the paradigm not just for astronomy in the 2nd century that lasted for over a thousand years, but also as a result of being so authoritative as an astrologer, he also wrote a very influential, perhaps the most influential text ever on astrology. He tried to provide a conceptual rationale for astrology that fit within his cosmology that many subsequent people followed for a number of centuries. So when you did get this sudden string of discoveries that disproved part of the Aristotelian cosmology that Ptolemy based his models on, it did suddenly throw that paradigm of how astrology worked into disarray to some extent amongst intellectuals.
BS: Yeah, it did. Basically, Ptolemy’s model was Aristotelian with a few modifications.
CB: And by that we mean it required things like the Earth being at the center of the solar system.
CB: It required perfect circular spheres, that each of the planets were on perfect circles. It required a crystalline structure in order for the planets to transmit motion or change through the planetary spheres to Earth and other things like that.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, it was the idea that you had this stacking, like layers of an onion, around the Earth, and each layer had its planet. There was some unknowable, prime mover in the back that would knock on the outside window and the sound would be transmitted down, down, down to the center, which is where the Earth was, under the orb of the Moon, so it was called sub-lunar, and that would explain astrological influences that were coming down. Ptolemy had a couple of subtle variations on that. I think Schmidt translated one theory of the planets; one of the early Project Hindsight translations. You’re probably familiar with it.
CB: Right. But Ptolemy wasn’t the originator of astrology, and he was coming in like two or three centuries after the development of Hellenistic astrology and the form of astrology that’s dominated the West over the past 2,000 years. The primary thing that he did is he just adapted it and tried to explain it in a way that made sense within the context of the prevailing scientific paradigm of his day. Just like if, for example, there was a polymath or a genius or like a Stephen Hawking-type figure today who took astrology, but then explained it and placed it within the context of modern scientific thinking and theories and made it seem plausible within the context of what we currently know about the universe. And then if a thousand years from now the scientific understanding of the universe changes, and all of a sudden the old paradigm is thrown out, to the extent that the astrology was attached to that paradigm, it would accidentally then be tossed out at the same time if it was too closely connected with that paradigm.
BS: Yeah, well, I think astrology was connected with that paradigm, with the Aristotelian paradigm, with some modifications that Ptolemy used to describe astrology. And then of course Ptolemy had worked out the mechanics of it. He had worked out a way to calculate where the planets would be, so that gave it some authority. But when errors were creeping up by people who were doing much more exacting observations—like Tycho Brahe—that was just another nail in the coffin of the Ptolemaic model of astrology. But what I’m saying is that that wasn’t all that important to astrologers, the ones that were practicing. It was important to other people, people outside of astrology.
CB: Yeah, well, that’s the point where I wanted to push back a little bit. That’s a really good point that you’re making and that argument makes sense that it didn’t matter to astrologers. Astrologers, as you pointed out, were at the forefront even of adopting some of those new astronomical changes. But the way in which it was important is that it did probably make it seem to intellectuals that astrology was no longer tenable because they always continued to assume that that Aristotelian model was what astrology was based on, even though astrology and the practice predated that Aristotelian model of Ptolemy from the 2nd century. It had a long practice of study, empirical observation, and the collection of correlations between celestial moments and earthly events outside of that Aristotelian context for many centuries.
BS: Yeah, I think you’re right. For the intellectuals, it meant something. Intellectuals are probably like 0.01% of the population, but that meant something to them because they were in strong positions. It really kind of comes to a focus with Kepler. When you read Tertius Interveniens, which was not available until Ken Negus translated it into English—it was not available in English. I guess it was in the ‘90s that he translated it. And I’ve always been friends with him, the late Ken Negus, the president of the Astrological Society of Princeton, the founder of it. Barry Orr is the president of it now. But you can just see Kepler at that edge between astrology and science, and what he’s saying is ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’; I mean, that’s actually in the subtitle of the book. And the book is an argument, like a three-way argument between a doctor, an astrologer, and Kepler, and they’re going back and forth on things.
Kepler complains all the time of what a horrible job it is to work for these stupid people that just want to use astrological information to manipulate the world and they don’t really understand anything serious. And then the scientist complains about, “Well, how does astrology work?” and he’s got a couple of ideas; one of them is resonance. So, you see, he’s kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. He likes astrology, but he can’t continue it as a practice. You can come up with some theories about how it works, but you can’t really nail down what it does. Meanwhile, somebody like Galileo is dropping cannonballs from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and measuring the amount of time it takes to get down there and the distance, and he comes up with a formula and it’s 100% predictable; there’s no question about the accuracy of what he’s doing. And Kepler himself comes up with the mathematical modeling of the solar system; a real good prediction of where the planets are gonna be based on elliptical orbits and knowledge like that. So I think what we see here is this kind of split between astrology as a practice and astrology that’s linked to some kind of theory, but that didn’t kill astrology.
CB: Right. But one of your points in the book that was really good, one of the points you just made was that the mechanism for astrology that was assumed to be the case up to that point was lost during the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, and partially due to a brain drain at that point astrology started being kicked out of universities. You would get these major intellectuals who were not just astronomers or mathematicians but also would do work in astrology, like a Kepler or a Ptolemy or what have you. You stopped having figures like that, so that we never had another person who stepped up and was able to propose or introduce a new explanatory mechanism that explained and justified astrology, so therefore that’s the other part of the reason why it fell into decline in intellectual circles.
BS: Yeah, I think that’s true. It’s too hard of a problem to solve. And John Goad tried to do it by this massive meteorological study and he was a little too early. If he had done it two centuries later, he would have had good instruments and he would have had statistics, he would have been able to do something with it. But in the 17th century, he didn’t have that, and so he just had correlations and subjective data that he worked with. It’s really an interesting piece of work though—I’ve summarized it in a couple of articles and it’s in the book—but astrology at that point was unable to come up with a theory or model or some kind of mechanism that made sense. There are two other factors that you’ve got to consider in the decline too; one is the bad behavior of astrologers. Once they got a hold of printing presses or you work with printers and start putting out almanacs, it became a competition. It became just like the internet. Now everybody’s trying to blow their own horn as much as they can and get everyone to go along with the program.
CB: Yeah, I was thinking of Twitter and the proliferation of social media and the ability for any astrologer or anybody calling themselves an astrologer to have a platform and issue sometimes wild predictions about different things. That’s kind of the analogy today of what you’re talking about in terms of the explosion of things after the printing press, after the 15th and 16th centuries.
BS: Yeah, I think that the printing press for the next hundred years could be compared to the first 20 or 30 years of the internet. It took a little bit longer, but people were just getting used to this new way of transmitting information. And the astrologers were printing almanacs with prognostications about things like floods and they got a little carried away with that. Disasters—every astrologer wanted to be more dramatic than the next one because that would sell more almanacs; it’s kind of like tabloids. So I think that’s a factor to be considered too, because that cheapened the reputation of astrology, and eventually a writer on the level of Jonathan Swift just made fun of it.
CB: Well, yeah. And also, astrologers always have had and will always have pressure on the part of the public based on their expectations about astrologers’ ability to predict the future. There was always that societal pressure on astrologers to attempt to make predictions about major events that are coming up in the future. So it was not merely sensationalism necessarily, but I’m sure that played a role in terms of some of those predictions that were.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, I think so. I think that those problems could be avoided with good institutions, but we don’t have those. Astrologers never had good institutions. Astrologers for the longest time had patrons, and then suddenly they had the ability to market their own product, and it’s been competitive a little bit like that all along and that has produced some problems. And then the other issue was the issue of astrology being interpreted as deterministic and the Church’s role in that you can’t have any kind of deterministic universe if you’re gonna have sin and so on in religion. And there was a steady, concentrated pressure on astrology for that reason.
CB: That was a really interesting point to me because in researching my book and the period on Hellenistic astrology and the rise and popularization of astrology in the early Roman Empire and then the decline of astrology in the later Roman Empire, it coincides with the rise of Christianity, and that conflict between astrology and Christianity primarily had to do with the theological or philosophical problem of fate and free will. Astrology became so much associated with fate and that ran into conflict with Christianity that put free will and choice as a major tenet of its theology. But a major point that you make at one point in passing in these chapters in the middle of the book—this very large section that I thought was really interesting and compelling—was not just that issue with astrology having this tension with the Church—cause that had been going on for over a thousand years by the time of the 16th and 17th centuries—but it was the rise of humanism and how that ironically from a different direction also emphasized free will and ran into a potential conflict with astrology. It was kind of an interesting point ‘cause it was something that was a little bit new at that time.
BS: Yeah, that fed into it via the rise of humanism. It really explains a lot about the Renaissance, the emphasis on the human being. I look at it as the rise of intense anthropomorphism. I’m sorry, anthropocentrism, that man is the measure of all things. You’ve got the Leonardo da Vinci drawing and all that.
BS: Just this incredible focus on people, on how people have their own choice and their free will; people can almost be like gods and so on. And then you get Pico della Mirandola attacking astrology. He was one of the great humanists of the period and wrote this massive attack on astrology and that was taken very seriously. I think that played a big role in the decline of astrology. Lot of people read it and took it seriously. Look, I’m frozen again on the screen for some strange reason. Oh, I got freed up.
CB: So yeah, humanism and the idea that man is the pinnacle of nature in some sense.
BS: Crown of creation.
BS: Jefferson Airplane.
CB: So you do start getting some major pushback from astrology in this period from people like Pico that wrote one of the most comprehensive criticisms and attacks on astrology ever. A few pages that I really liked in your book was this table that showed the classic anti-astrology arguments summarized and then how astrologers have responded to those arguments or how they’ve dismissed them in pretty straightforward ways. But one of my favorite parts of the book was just that three-page table, I think.
BS: Yeah, good.
CB: I can’t pull that up on the screen right now—I might put it up later—but let me see if I can find it really quickly ‘cause some of your responses were great. I’ve been meaning to do an episode on that topic for a while about some of the classical objections to astrology and that would make a whole separate podcast episode. So you just contrast Carneades’ arguments and summarize saying, “Precise observations of the heavens are impossible.” And then the response of the astrologer, as you say, is, “Observations must be done carefully. Better technology improves observations.” You say that Carneades, “People born at the same time have different destinies.” And the astrologer says, “People born at the same time, born under life circumstances, but they’ll experience similar events at the same time.” So you just keep going back and forth and it’s a really nice summary because that eventually gets into the Renaissance and some of the arguments that came up against astrology at that point.
BS: Yeah, I thought that was a good way to do it because they did come up over and over again in different forms; yeah, just a little summary there. But Pico used all of those and he had some of his own. He went on and on. I don’t think that it’s entirely translated into English, but I was able to read some pieces that were translated, commentaries on it by other people. It’s a big, big book.
CB: Yeah, it’s huge. But I think there was somebody who was translating it at one point and I don’t know what happened with that, but I think we’ll eventually see it in translation one of these days. Okay, so I’m trying to think of other factors that led to the decline of astrology. You also mentioned political stuff and social stuff, that astrologers were getting wrapped up in politics in Europe because they were serving as court astrologers or because they were printing almanacs that contained predictions about political events.
BS: Yeah, like Lilly.
CB: Like Lilly. And Lilly’s taking sides in an actual war that’s going on. And sometimes when political tides shift in different ways that can shift against the astrologers when the party that the astrologers were supporting falls out of power or what have you.
BS: Yeah, that’s what happened with the English Revolution. Lilly was an anti-royalist and predicted all these battles that Cromwell was involved in; apparently he was fairly successful with those. But after that happened the country was a mess and a lot of people resented it and since Lilly had taken a position that affected his reputation to some extent. I’m not sure exactly how far that went. He seemed to have been a pretty clever character and was able to relate to a lot of different people. At least he wasn’t taken out and drawn and quartered or burned alive or anything.
BS: But yeah, you’re right. I think that the social position of astrologers is important, and I think that with the rise of reductionist, mechanistic, and materialist science, and astrologers not having anything to do with that they couldn’t really test their subject material, given the knowledge and the means and the understanding of the time, the technical understanding. I think that astrologers just found themselves more and more isolated from the higher levels of society and basically survived in the middle classes and in the lower classes as almanacs and I guess conjurers. But in the middle class, people probably like Sibley wrote in the 18th century, basically copying what came before him, nothing really new, but operating in that safe middle class zone, probably around London, having some clients.
CB: Yeah, well, there continued to be some practitioners of astrology that cast natal charts or did horary charts or electional or what have you, but it wasn’t operating in some of the same higher level intellectual spheres as previously, with figures like Kepler, Ptolemy or what have you.
BS: Oh, yeah.
CB: So what seems really important to me though, or something I was learning about recently was the development of statistics and averages not really happening until somewhat late around this period. The important point is it wasn’t that astrology was tested statistically during that time using the type of scientific testing that we would think of as common nowadays and that’s how astrology was disproven in the 16th or 17th century, but instead there was primarily this paradigm shift that made astrology seem not plausible anymore.
CB: And that, combined with a bunch of other social, political, and other factors.
BS: And religious.
CB: And religious factors—or non-religious in some instances if we’re talking about humanism.
CB: So that was the point at which that astrology declined. And really what you spend several chapters talking about is how complex that was just in and of itself.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, there were a lot of things going on. It was a perfect storm and knocked astrology right out of its higher position. But it was always under attack from religion, there was always that problem. And I think that astrology had previously been in a fairly precarious position because in order to maintain the practice, you had to have a patron of some sort. So in the patronage system you’re pretty much at the mercy of who you’re working for. Some of it was going on in the institutions of the time, which were the church institutions. But of course they didn’t want to have a lot of ‘people’ astrology there, so you did have some work on astro-meteorology and natural astrology, maybe a little bit of medical. But institutions make a big difference. They can keep something going.
CB: Sure. Yeah, so there’s this decline of astrology in intellectual circles. It falls out of the universities where there used to be chairs for astrology and it was integrated into other fields like medicine. But then I think by the end of the 17th and 18th centuries all of that’s disappeared from universities, but the practice of astrology persists among individual practitioners who are just focusing on casting charts and interpreting them for clients and passing on part of that tradition in terms of the practice without necessarily trying to do high level theorizing about how it works and how it integrates into modern cosmology and science and other things like that.
BS: Yeah, it was middle class, people that probably had other jobs. They were hobbyists, antiquarians interested in this sort of thing—and mostly in England. I don’t know a lot about how much astrology survived elsewhere but everything I’d read said not very. In France it was kind of banned from the scientific circles, and there were probably astrologers in France and Italy and Germany, but not a lot. England seems to be the place where it really kept going, it kept being passed along. But like you say, it was not theoretical, it was practice. I mean, that’s what we inherited here in the 20th and 21st century. We inherited astrology strictly as a middle class practice.
CB: Yeah, as a practice and also as part of a collective, empirical tradition. That’s actually something you emphasize a lot that I thought was a really interesting point in the book. Astrology has—going back to Mesopotamian times—a long empirical tradition that started with the collection of observations between celestial movements and earthly events and then writing those down on clay tablets and passing that down from generation to generation as observations about these correlations that they were seeing. And when we say ‘practice’, part of what we mean by the practice—or what you mean by the practice—is that collective or cumulative empirical tradition to a certain extent of astrology.
BS: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. It’s been pretty consistent. I mean, this is a great argument, I bring this up to people. I say, “You know, Saturn’s been pretty much the same thing for the last 3,000 years, if not longer.” I mean, it’s cold and hard. It’s associated with temperaments and so on. Astrology has just become more sophisticated in terms of its understanding of the primary symbols and that’s an empirical project. That’s the result of centuries of observations. Of course everything takes place in the context of the culture that you’re in, but they have accumulated, and we’re the beneficiaries of it.
CB: Right. And I think one of the points you make at one point is that you can collect not just in astrology but in other scientific fields a series of observations about a correlation and the outcome of something that you’re seeing that’s happening in nature without necessarily knowing the mechanism of why that’s happening or how that’s happening. Eventually you want to get to that point, ideally, but it’s not necessary in all instances for the practice to persist, just by observing the outcome of that process or just collecting the correlations themselves.
BS: Yeah, I think that science can’t be limited to reductionism. The naturalist does exactly what you described. He’s looking at what’s going on and trying to make sense of it. If it gives rise to a theory, all the better, but it doesn’t have to; you’re still observing the behavior. Suppose you’re studying squirrels in your backyard, like I do. You watch them carefully, and you learn to distinguish between the individuals and follow their behavior and so on; that’s doing science; that’s a kind of science. I mean, really, biology was doing that for a long time, right? And the biologists were so excited when they finally got a good theory of evolution, and they got even more excited when they got some kind of molecular model.
CB: Right. I mean, Darwin developed the theory of evolution eventually after a long series of observations and field studies, going out into the field and studying things.
BS: Yeah, I mean, one of the big characters in biology is Carl Linnaeus. He started classifying organisms, genus and species, so classification precedes all this other science. So it’s a science. I’m very clear in this book that when people say ‘follow the science’, I say to myself, “What in the hell are they talking about? They should be saying ‘follow the reductionist, materialistic, mechanistic, deterministic science’.” That’s what they’re saying. They don’t even know what they’re saying, they just call it ‘the science’. But science is bigger than that. There’s just a lot of people that want to make everything physics. Science is a collaborative, democratic method—a collection of methods—to make knowledge about the natural world; that I think is a good definition.
You just can’t make something up and say it’s true. I mean, you can do that in religion, but you can’t do that in science. If you say, “The sky is blue,” you have to get some confirmation from other people; that makes it democratic. Science is a sophisticated body of knowledge that is greater than simple know-how, which is more like trial-and-error; you can fix a car, but you don’t know how the car works. Science takes that further and analyzes every step and tries to understand how the car works.
CB: Yeah, you meant ‘drive a car’, I think.
BS: Fix a car. As I was speaking, I was imagining myself under one of my old Chevy Stewart or Volkswagen, taking it apart.
CB: Okay. Well, I was thinking of an analogy that I use sometimes that astrologers are like people that know how to operate a technology or an advanced technology. I know how to use a microwave, for example, to heat up a burrito without necessarily knowing fully the mechanics of how a microwave works or being able to construct one if I had to build one from scratch. It’s possible to know how to use or operate a technology without necessarily knowing fully what the theoretical principles are underlying it.
BS: Sure. We could apply that to the study of electricity. People don’t know exactly what electricity is, the movement of electrons and so on. It’s an ongoing process, but they figured out what to do with it pretty quickly. You got electric light bulbs, motors, and things like that. But they didn’t really know what they were dealing with; they were dealing with a force of some sort.
CB: Or even gravity, for example. People used gravity to their advantage in different ways prior to Newton coming up with a theory for what gravity is.
BS: Yeah, you make a water wheel, it runs on gravity. Or a clock, a pendulum of some sort, of course. So I have a very broad definition of science and I don’t think science should be limited to taking part of nature into your laboratory and dissecting it into pieces and then coming up with a mathematical equation to explain it and say this is the only definition of reality. I mean, even to get to that place you have to do a lot of other things. As long as it’s done in a way that’s democratic—you try to get a good consensus—and it’s done logically and you follow a method, that’s science. And I think astrology is like a lot of these other subjects—like electricity that I mentioned—where we’re dealing with something that’s not easily explained in the context of current knowledge. There are ideas about it, which I talk about all through the book, but you still know how to work with it. You still know what to do with it, and there’s a lot of evolution of technique.
So I think one of the good things that’s going on in astrology now is you have a lot of experimentation with techniques from the ancient world and the modern world and other parts of the world, India and so on, and people are testing these things out. Presumably the testing will get more rigorous over time. I think right now the field of astrology’s in kind of an exploratory phase, and it’s also in a phase where it’s trying to gather itself together to be a little bit more coherent and create some institutions.
CB: Let’s take a little break, if you’re okay with that.
BS: Yeah, that’d be good.[break]
CB: All right, we’re back from our break. So we’ve kind of covered what you cover in the middle of the book which is the decline of astrology. Now we’ve started getting into part three of the book where you focus on the history of the revival of astrology in modern times, and some of the conflicts that have happened, especially with the skeptical and the scientific communities, as astrology has tried to reestablish itself as a respectable intellectual discipline. And then eventually you get into some reflections, some personal life reflections about your experience as an astrologer over the course of your life, as well as some statements about the future and how you think astrology’s gonna go over the course of the next century.
Like I said, as somebody that didn’t come into the astrological field until I started studying astrology in 1999, and I was studying at Kepler in the mid-2000s, partially with you. You were one of my teachers at Kepler College. I studied, but I wasn’t around for some of the things that happened with the attempts to study astrology scientifically in the 1960s and ‘70s and ‘80s, and it was interesting hearing in some instances about your firsthand experience with some of these tests where you were actually one of the astrologers that participated in some of studies that were done during that time period.
BS: That’s right, yeah. Yeah, Shawn Carlson, that study. And that was a terrible study, and yet, because it was published in Nature it’s taken very seriously. These guys, they test one thing. In this case they tested astrologers’ abilities to connect charts with personality profiles that were created by the California Personality Inventory. And I point out that’s like comparing apples to oranges; it’s not really fair. And people tell me that he did the statistics wrong. I never checked him out. I don’t even know if I know enough to be able to find those differences, but other people that seem to know have said that, yeah, that was flawed as well. But in any case it got out there as kind of a ‘nail in the coffin’ thing that really showed that astrologers don’t know what they’re talking about.
CB: Right. One of the ones that was more interesting was the early study, the Vernon Clark study, which was astrologers matching charts to clients which was initially positive for astrology. But one of the observations that you made in terms of the issues with astrologers replicating studies like that is the lack of standardization in the field and the skill of practitioners kind of being all over the place because of the lack of standardization and the distinctions between who’s a skilled astrologer vs. who’s not being somewhat ambiguous sometimes.
BS: To say the least. Hey, anybody can be an astrologer today. It’s a free-for-all. And I point out in several places that if you’re a good hustler, you can get somewhere. I have Mars in Libra conjunct Neptune, so I’ve never really had the hustling instinct. I had other things going on in my mind, but I just stuck with it and I have persistence since I did manage to make a living at it for a long time. But it’s a chaotic situation when you have people in a field and there’s no way to know who knows what. If you’re an outsider, you come to astrology, “Well, who should I have?” So they usually go by word of mouth and that can work pretty well today with the ease of advertising. Pre-internet advertising was hard to do; you had to print up newsletters. I used to have a newsletter I would send out by mail and that sort of thing; you had to do that. But today it’s very easy and so it’s even more the case that somebody having good PR skills and a little bit of knowledge of astrology can develop a bigger clientele than somebody who’s very competent but is not comfortable blowing their own horn. So that’s, I think, a big, big problem in astrology today. There’s no way for the outside world to make sense of what the heck is going on.
CB: Right. And you said in one of the studies they just collected astrologers from one local astrology group or something like that, and then that was supposed to be sufficient in terms of testing astrology, even though just collecting astrologers from a random astrology group is not necessarily gonna net the highest or most skilled or even proficient practitioners from the field.
BS: Oh, yeah. That one in particular, I think it was in Ohio, Indiana or something like that. But this guy from a college goes out and he finds some nice people that have an astrology club—which I had never heard of—gives them a psychological test—probably similar to the one that was in Nature, the Shawn Carlson one—and then takes the results and shows that nothing happened and it’s evidence that astrology doesn’t work. And then that gets published in a psychological journal and people refer to it and it gets around and it’s ridiculous. A lot of that has happened. There are some very bad, horrible studies of astrology that have gotten published in decent journals. They call them peer reviewed, but nobody’s really qualified to peer review an astrology article in those magazines, probably not.
CB: Right. ‘Cause most scientists that would be on a peer review board of a scientific magazine not only wouldn’t have any background in astrology, or sufficient background, but they’d also have an ideological bias against it, which is one of the other issues that’s a common recurring and major thing and some I was reflecting on recently. I feel like in my experience that the skeptical community was much more vibrant—maybe ‘vibrant’ isn’t the right term, but bigger in the mid-2000s when I was first in the field for the first decade, and I feel like that’s declined over the course of the past decade. But the period of time we’re talking about was probably the time when the skeptical community was perhaps the most organized and motivated and—I don’t know if ‘militant’ is the right term, but there was just a lot more…
BS: I think it might be.
CB: Yeah, in the 1970s and ‘80s just in terms of what that was like operating as an astrologer during that time. But not just that, with people like that, there tends to be an ideological motivation or implicit assumption that astrology can’t work. Just cosmologically or philosophically there’s a preconception that it’s not possible that this works, so therefore any attempts to try to validate it need to be stopped and need to be dismissed in some way, even when sometimes that runs counter to realistic or acceptable scientific practices. And that was the big issue with the Gauquelin studies and the different attempts to replicate the ‘Mars effect’.
BS: Well, I think that if you’re in science and you’ve gone through all the education, and you basically have settled on a reductionist, physicist kind of perspective, astrology makes no sense in that context, none whatsoever. And if you accept astrology it means you’ve got to throw overboard everything that you’ve learned, or at least a lot of it. And I have had people in physics and some in philosophy—I have friends in those fields—and that’s what they’ve told me. They’ve said that, “If I buy astrology then I’ve got a real problem because that’s gonna interfere with everything that I’ve come to conclude as true and real.”
CB: Because there’s no known mechanism about how astrology would work?
BS: Yeah, and also, the implications of it for a person, for example. I mean, the whole astrology of the person is the real touchy area. Nobody cares about the astrology of the weather or the climate, or at least not as much.
CB: Yeah, it’s hard a little bit to understand because oftentimes that presumption, that strong presumption, it’s based on whatever limited understanding the person has about astrology is to begin with because it usually doesn’t extend to even knowing about or being familiar with birth charts or that astrology is more than just Sun sign astrology or something like that. So there’s this perception or sort of prejudice against it intellectually before you even get to the point that there’s more to it than just what the person is familiar with, or what a person from the general public would be familiar with.
BS: Yeah, they have a knee-jerk reaction. Lynn Margulis—who I worked for, and she’s the one that was my advisor for my PhD program—the only thing she knew about astrology was that there were a lot Scorpios in her family, like way more than there should have been, but she was busy with her own thing; she never had time to learn anything about it. But she and I were very good friends, and she used to test out astrology on some of her peers in science, and she would mention she has a graduate student that’s studying astrology. She said that one guy almost had a heart attack. She described him as just going all off the deep end; he almost started shouting at her. And almost everybody said, “Well, that’s a lot of crap. Come on, what’s the matter with you?” But there were a couple of them that popped up out of the woodwork that had been studying astrology on their own; they just weren’t gonna open their mouth about it.
And I was at a conference, a science conference in Italy one time and one of the guys there came to me at a break and said, “I heard from Lynn that you study astrology. I don’t tell anybody that, but I do as well, and I have some of my own ideas. Do you want to hear them?” The guy was a paleontologist, but he had this whole little thing on the side that he was doing with astrology. And it was interesting. It was kind of his own flavor of it. He had gotten a lot of ideas from mainstream astrology, I can’t recall offhand what some of those were. But that was fascinating to me. There were at least two people that I ran into in the sciences that kept their mouths shut and were exploring astrology on their own, but most of them had knee-jerk reactions. Don’t even bring it up.
CB: Yeah, that’s got to be one of the most interesting things from a social standpoint. Because astrology in intellectual circles is viewed as—as Tarnas usually says—‘the gold standard of pseudoscience’ or the paradigm of what a pseudoscience is supposed to be about, there are a number of people, a surprising amount of people that will not be open about their either interest in or practice of astrology to people around them or people in their social circles or especially their work circles due to a fear of major repercussions, negative repercussions, if they were to divulge that to people openly. They could suffer career setbacks or issues with religious family members or just a number of different things like that.
BS: Oh, yeah. I know quite a few people who work for corporations or teach at universities that I talk to, they ask me questions about astrology. Or I, in the past, give a presentation somewhere and they come up to me afterwards, and they just say, “Yeah, I do it. I bought a copy of Solar Fire and I’m exploring it and trying out all these different things, but I don’t tell anybody that I work with about it.”
CB: Right. I mean, I think every practicing astrologer knows that and has that experience. Because as soon as you start being a consulting astrologer on a long enough timeline, you see people from all walks of life and many different professions and many different stratas of society and everything else who have an interest in astrology, and you realize that they can’t always be open about that in public.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, well, I’ve had that problem too. Early on, I mean, when I really got seriously involved in astrology, I was in my early 20s, I guess, and even people in my family had a little bit of a problem with it and that came up for a while. My uncle who was a Sagittarius with a Gemini Moon could handle any position defended me. He says, “Hey, leave him alone. He’s not stupid. He’s learning about something. What do you guys know about it?” I thought that was great. He’s a good uncle. But there were other times where I was in group situations where people would start attacking astrology, and I got good enough to be able to stop it, put them down. That was a bad thing. I mean, I got in trouble a few times for that, like I was being some kind of meanie putting somebody else down that was trying to put me down because in the larger scheme of things astrology couldn’t possibly be real. It was just some kind of hobby that Bruce was having, was involved with. So yeah, I had to deal with it a lot early on and after that I just didn’t care. I didn’t care what people thought. And if somebody didn’t like astrology, the hell with them.
CB: Yeah, I mean, on the one hand you get the scientific orthodoxy being against astrology and that becoming increasingly militant through the rise of scientific skepticism in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and then on the other side of society and culture you also still have centuries of pushback from religious sectors of society and the religious objections to astrology. So it’s within this context that some of the attempts to even try to validate astrology scientifically are happening in the 20th century, and the primary one, or the one that was the most promising was the Gauquelin studies. And that’s something that you spend time talking about at a few different points during the course of the book and seems like you still think is relevant and needs to be part of the discussion today.
BS: Oh, yeah, I think it was the most sustained, complex, and sophisticated astrological study so far because he spent his whole life, and his wife was working with him, Michel and Francoise Gauquelin. And it was rigorous. I mean, that study holds up to any great scientific study. There’s a lot of garbage out there that’s done that allows the FDA to make a drug legal, but Gauquelin’s is just as tough and tight, and more so than most of these. And it’s been challenged. If you interview Ken Irving, you know all that. I mean, he’s the one who’s—The Tenacious Mars Effect is the name of the book, right?
BS: Ertel and Irving.
CB: I guess I’m bringing it up because there was a lot of excitement surrounding Gauquelin’s work and other attempts to do scientific studies of astrology like that where you can pick out one factor or a couple of factors in astrology and you try to test it scientifically. But I feel like the astrological community hit a wall in the 1980s and 1990s with some of those studies where for different reasons things were not going as well as had been hoped, sometimes through underhanded means, like some of the replications of Gauquelin’s studies that were withheld or swept under the rug initially.
And it seemed like especially starting in the ‘90s there started being a lot of reflections in the community about why this was, attempts to explain it, and a sort of decline in enthusiasm and questions especially about whether that was even an appropriate way to attempt to validate astrology. So you get the works of people like, most notably, Geoffrey Cornelius and his work The Moment of Astrology that tries to explain why scientific tests of that sort, statistical tests primarily, might always be doomed to failure or might not be an appropriate way to attempt to study the phenomenon of astrology. But it seems like in your book that’s something where you don’t agree with that viewpoint and the way things have gone over the past three decades, and you try to push back on that to some extent.
BS: Yeah, I mean, I agree with him in the sense that reductionism in testing astrology—at least initially—is not gonna give good results, so it’s gonna look bad for astrology. In astrology you’re testing a self-organizing system, and self-organizing systems or emergent systems resist quantification. They’re very hard to test, so we’re working with a difficult beast here. But I think there are some openings and it depends on refinement; for example, there was the NCGR suicide study. And so, they got a lot of charts of suicides—people that had committed suicide—and they tried to see what was common with them. And they tried everything. They threw the kitchen sink at it, Uranian astrology, everything, and they didn’t really come up with anything that was statistically significant.
Now my take on that was that there’s different suicides for different reasons. And then sure enough when I was working on this book I came across this paper that somebody wrote on a study of suicide ideation. The correlation between suicide and what is generating suicide showed some statistical significance with one set of reasons rather than another. So I don’t remember the details offhand right now, but to me that’s like a lot of science; you have to start refining your sample set. Gauquelin got results because he didn’t take all athletes, he took athletes that were good.
BS: And then he had to find some way of saying how they were good, so they had to have scored in major competitions or be listed in books or whatever. And that was checked by Ertel and a number of others and it works. That’s called extreme sampling. And so, you do have to do that. I mean, there are people that are doing it.
CB: Yeah, so the point was that the phenomenon should have been the charts of eminent athletes, not just any old athlete. But then there became an argument around what constitutes eminence and whether there’s some subjective issues in terms of deciding who’s eminent vs. who’s not.
BS: Yeah, yeah. But that happens doing any kind of social science. Astrology’s subject matter is complex, but so is psychology ‘cause it’s almost the same. And psychology has all the institutions and it’s aligned itself with the medical field, so it’s got that advantage. And so, they keep working on these personality inventories and mostly they’re self-created. The studies there are questionable. They have as hard of a time testing their subject as astrology does, but they’re not astrology. Astrology’s scary to people because it interferes with fate and free will, and because the physicists don’t like it. There’s a lot of prejudice towards it. Astrologers, they have to do 10-times as much work to get any kind of attention. Meanwhile, Gauquelin’s study stands there. It’s like a giant edifice in the field of astrology. It’s a big building and they don’t want to look at it. Still goes on. There’s still arguments pro and con, but I think it’s pretty solid.
CB: Right. I wrote down a sentence that you wrote at one point later in the book where you said, “It should be obvious by now that astrology does not lend itself to reductionism because it does not study easily reducible phenomena.”
BS: Yeah. Self-organizing systems—they’re in motion. You’ve got to take one shot at it, take one piece of it. Like what I did with the weather, I explained it. Now you’ve got to remember—a little aside here—the people that were doing astro-meteorology were using the same techniques as the people that were looking at natal charts of people, right?
CB: Yeah. And, I mean, that gets into some complicated stuff though in terms of weather prediction and things like that.
BS: I was gonna say they all agreed that Saturn was cold, dark, damp, not good. And I took one of those qualities, temperature. And then I got daily temperature data and I ran it against—in this case, as I mentioned before—the Sun-Saturn opposition, and lo and behold, I got a result that was pretty consistent. So that’s reductionism applied to a system, but it doesn’t have that much to do with free will, so it’s not earth-shattering.
CB: Yeah, well, I was thinking the Gauquelin studies are a better example of that to the extent that you’re talking about isolating one factor, which is Mars, and what sector of the chart it’s in essentially and whether it’s rising or culminating at the Midheaven.
CB: But you’re focusing on just that one factor in isolation of everything else, which is hard because that’s not usually how astrologers operate when looking at charts; but instead they’re looking at the totality of the chart and how the alignments of the planets alter the expression of different planets based on how each of the planets in the chart are aligned relative to each other.
BS: Yeah, astrology is synthesis. You’re blending things and it’s done intuitively like an artist does. That’s why the practice of astrology is not a science, it’s an art. But astrology’s a subject and it has a component like other subjects do that could be called theory and research, and they can be separate or they can be working together or whatever, but that could produce a science. That’s what has happened with psychology.
CB: Yeah. One of your primary contentions is that you think that someday astrology will be validated as a science.
BS: Yeah. People really didn’t understand the mechanisms of evolution when Darwin published—he knew that there was variation, but he didn’t know how variation was produced—his theory of evolution; that came later. Ironically, it was coming at the same time Gregor Mendel was working at inheritance with studies on peas, but it wasn’t until another 50 years where that got integrated with evolution, and then it became Neo-Darwinism.
BS: So similar things could happen with astrology. You can build up some kind of model that works pretty well and then start filling in the details later as you get to it.
CB: Yeah, but in terms of your response to that last question, that was kind of a non-committal ‘yes’. And I think based on the book you actually have a much more strongly affirmative answer or personal view on that. You do strongly believe that astrology will be validated scientifically at some point as opposed to astrologers such as Cornelius who say ‘no’ that that’s actually not gonna happen because there’s something about the intrinsic nature of astrology that makes that not possible.
BS: Yeah, I don’t agree with him at all. I mean, he says a lot of interesting things. I read the book, I got a lot out of it, but I disagree. I think that calling it divination is easy and it solves the problem for the time being, but I think that there’s a lot of reality to astrology. You can see it working. And it’s affecting other self-organizing systems like weather; I mean, I tested it myself. And Gauquelin tested natal astrology by noting significant correlations in the diurnal cycle of the planets, which we call the houses in astrology. Of course he called them ‘Gauquelin sectors’. He used 12, 18, 36 or something like that; 24. He used different sectors depending on what the study was. But I think that as time goes on and astrology begins to build better institutions, or institutions in the first place—I mean, what do we have? A few schools and a few organizations? That’s about it, right?
BS: So maybe some billionaire will come along and start something up, who knows. I don’t know. And if you read carefully I’m talking in terms of centuries really. I’m not saying this is gonna happen in the next 20 years, right?
CB: Yeah. I mean, you spend the entire last chapter—which is an interesting contrast because earlier in the book you talked about some of the ‘dicey-ness’ with making predictions. But you spend a large part of the last chapter actually making some predictions about the future trajectory of astrology and the astrological community just based on your observations of what actually seemed like when I was reading it a very interesting and perceptive set of observations about the astrological community and the type of people in it, and a sort of realistic projection, although sometimes idyllic or best-case scenario projections about where astrology could end up in the future and its place in society based on certain things that astrologers might do now.
BS: Yeah. Let me be clear and say I’m not making—and you know this—that I’m not making an astrological prediction about where astrology’s gonna be.
BS: I’m just making some comments and observations that may be supported by some ideas that I’ve gotten from studying history. And do see astrology as a legitimate subject that’s about 3-or-400 years behind the other subjects. Maybe not quite that. Maybe 300 is about right. And so, it has not gone through its significant revolution like biology did or geology did or physics. These subjects have gone through these big revolutions and they’ve become changed and organized. And I think that conditions have just not been ripe for astrology because astrology is the subject that studies, analyzes, and maps self-organizing systems, and self-organizing systems are relatively recently recognized as a distinct phenomenon. Systems that have emergent properties, I mean, these are not easily reducible, so that’s why astrology’s behind; one of the reasons why astrology’s behind the times on having its own revolution that would allow it to be better organized as a subject.
And I also want to make perfectly clear that I’m not concerned with astrology being accepted by the rest of the world. Oh, look, I froze again. How about that? I have a transiting Saturn on my Mercury now, so I guess my image, video image freezes from time to time.
CB: It’ll go away in a moment.
BS: Yeah, it’ll go away if you just wait long enough with Saturn, right? There we go. We’re back moving again. But over time astrology if it improves and gets serious about itself and gets organized, will just become recognized. It doesn’t have to prove itself to some authority, it just has to get tighter and better. And you can’t have a free-for-all and you can’t have a situation in astrology where getting astrologers to cooperate is like herding cats, and the reason why is in order to make a living at astrology, you have to have a little business. You have to be an entrepreneur, a self-proprietor, and you have to do a lot of things. Now you have to know the internet and you’ve got to be a broadcaster. You have to publish, you have to do all these things. I mean, I’ve had to do them. I feel I was fortunate to live a lot of my life before the internet. I don’t know. Maybe I would see it different if I was born later, but I see the internet as a bit of a nightmare.
CB: I could see you being a big hit on TikTok right now. Possibly you might consider that at some point.
BS: Maybe. I’m spending most of my time just trying to keep my health going.
BS: Lead a ritualistic, daily routine of little exercises and so on just to keep the whole system going. I don’t have a lot of extra. I felt sad. I sold my old skis the other day. I hadn’t used them in a long time; sorry to see that go. But anyway, getting back to the subject, I think that if astrology internally improves itself that will make such a difference. The subject will be better recognized by others, but who cares, it’ll make it on its own. It’ll show itself that it can be a subject and it can contribute to the conversation.
BS: Astrology’s not really contributing now to the world in any significant way and I think it should. It has a lot to say, a lot to offer.
CB: Yeah, for sure. In the last chapter of the book, while you spend a good deal of time talking about external pressures and issues that have kept astrology relegated to the fringes of society for the most part—especially in intellectual circles—you also spend a good deal of time talking about some of the internal issues in the astrological community and areas where we need to clean up our act and get it together as a community in order to take astrology into the next level or into the next era.
BS: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, astrology operates as an ‘outsider bubble’. It’s a ‘bubble’ culture. It has its own rules and regulations. And when you get in those situations it’s really a survival crisis of a collective. And you help yourself along, and everybody’s an astrologer. “I’m an astrologer.” “What does that mean?” You decided you’re an astrologer, right?
BS: “I’m a professional astrologer. I make some money.” “How much money? You make a living at it or is it part-time? Is your spouse covering you or what?” It’s just not clear. It’s a free-for-all.
BS: You can go on and on for a while with a free-for-all, but it doesn’t really work in the long run. And so, in the meanwhile it’s a cultural bubble, it’s isolating, and it’s still recovering from the centuries of attacks from the Church and ostracism by the physicists, the skeptics and so on. It’s in bad shape, so it needs some work. It needs some focus, some agreements on how best to proceed to develop astrology as a subject that can contribute to the global conversation on what is nature and what is life, how things work.
CB: Yeah. So one of your points was that because astrology fell out of the universities and because it’s a largely unregulated field at this point—while there was a push in the ‘80s and ‘90s to do some certifications of astrology in order to set some standards—there needs to be more of a push towards that, otherwise there’s no way to distinguish between who’s a good practitioner of astrology or one that is either ethical or skilled, well-educated and other things like that vs. somebody who just started studying astrology like a week ago and started calling themselves an astrologer right away or something like that.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, I think that there’s no perfect solution. Let me just be clear about that—there’s no perfect solution—but education and testing is probably the best option available; and other subjects have agreed, have done that. When you go to see a doctor, you want to see a doctor that went to med school. Although the medical field produces certified doctors not all of them are that good—there’s a range of difference—but at least it prevents the quacks from holding a high position. It’s a sorting out mechanism. It’s an establishment of some kind of standards. I’m saying that a set of standards is better than none for multiple reasons, one of which is it’s better for the astrological community because it will allow institutions to grow, which will then allow astrology to progress and develop itself.
BS: I don’t believe astrology’s perfect as it is. I think astrology is a work in progress.
CB: Right. But even if we had better certification and better standards in astrology, just like any other field or other discipline, there’s gonna be a range of different practitioners in terms of their level of skill at their job or what they do, as well as their ethics or other things like that. It would at least give some baseline for when people try to do studies like the Vernon Clark studies where they’re trying to get together a group of skilled practitioners of astrology and have them match charts in a controlled setting. Because in a test like that you want to be able to have some sort of distinction between who’s a practitioner of this subject, or a skilled practitioner, vs. who’s not.
BS: Yeah, I think if you were doing a Vernon Clark-type study now what you would do is you would select the people you were testing to have, say, some level of astrological certification plus some number of years of practice, and then you’d be more likely than not to get people that knew what they were talking about.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that would increase certain things. There’s definitely other things you could maybe add on top of that that I think I would like to see in terms of standardization if astrologers were to start engaging in tests like that again. That actually raises an issue that I’ve been having recently I’m kind of nervous about, going back to an observation I made, where I feel like in the past decade the skeptic community has kind of fallen apart, and we’ve seen it kind of decline in the leadership sometimes due to the loss of major leaders like James Randi who were at the center of things for several decades, or in other instances through the sidelining of some of those figures due to social issues and politics and things like that. But I’m a little nervous that the current generation of astrologers who came in this huge influx or this huge wave into the community over the past few years have so little experience dealing with the more militant variety of scientific skepticism that they’re gonna be a little caught off guard and a little under-prepared for how to deal with some of those arguments compared to people back in the ‘80s and ‘90s where that was a more common thing that you had to deal with more frequently.
BS: Maybe. I don’t know for sure because I haven’t really been all that active in astrology in the last 10 or 20 years really. I’ve kind of kept one foot in it, but I was doing other things and had my own health problems. But I think it should be part of any kind of astrological education—an understanding of criticisms of astrology; that should be a required course in my opinion.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Or doing research to understand some of the different studies that have been done in the past and some of the pros and cons for those studies, like when it comes to the Gauquelin studies or the Vernon Clark trials or other things like that; like having done maybe a literature review of some of that stuff.
BS: Yeah, and people have written things about it. There was an article called “Debunking the Debunkers” and that stirred them all up. Valerie Vaughan was the author of that. There’s a history of arguing between astrologers and the skeptics, and if somebody could put all of that together that would be a great book right there, a great document, and very useful for people new in astrology, so that they would understand what the criticisms are and what the responses are.
CB: I mean, is arguing with skeptics fundamentally productive?
BS: No, it isn’t.
CB: I feel like there’s a tendency early in one’s studies of astrology to have that motivation to want to defend it more and to get into some of those arguments. But then eventually later, sometimes, not always, people mellow out or realize that sometimes it’s not productive or that it’s a waste of time and maybe don’t engage in that as much.
BS: It’s a waste of time to argue with these people most of the time. But I think what would be great is a collection of arguments between skeptics and astrologers in a book, but written by a sociologist, for example, or a psychologist who would really be able to analyze where these people are coming from and what the argument means in a larger context, the various arguments, maybe historical connections to them and so on. Yeah, that would be interesting. That’s the kind of thing that astrologers would benefit from, being able to step out of the bubble and see, okay, there’s an argument going on with this one group. We know it’s just a waste of time to argue with them because they have a positivist philosophy and they’re not gonna really budge on it. But let’s look at it in perspective. What does it say about our culture? What does it say about who’s in charge and who’s making definitions? And what does it say about astrology’s strengths and weaknesses? These are the kinds of things that we could learn from, the astrological community could learn from.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I think the ability to look at astrology critically has always been one of the major hallmarks of some of the greatest figures in the history of astrology, the greatest astrologers and the ones who made the greatest contributions to the understanding of the theory and philosophy and the way that astrology integrates with science and the natural world. And that’s often a tension within those figures, like the Ptolemy-type figures or the Kepler figures. On the one hand they can sometimes be highly critical of certain parts of the astrological tradition that they view as not valid or doesn’t work or superstitious stuff that they want to reject and set aside vs. the other parts of astrology that they view as valid or useful or effective in some ways and they want to retain. And that’s where you get Kepler’s famous ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,’ phrase.
BS: Yeah. Also, Francis Bacon had a good deal to say on astrology and what should be thrown out and what shouldn’t. People have done this. People have talked about it, people in science, nobody’s really done it. The distinction between astrology theory and astrology as a practice comes into play here. The practice follows its own path just like medicine. A lot is determined on the fly through experiences, then it kind of gets back to the research area and they test it out and find out what might really be going on. But we don’t have that in astrology, we just have practice, and it moves at its own pace. But what we need is to have some way of organizing what’s being learned and capturing it. These days we have some really good practitioners. Eventually they write a book and you learn something about it.
CB: Yeah, that used to be part of the role of the astrological organizations, and I feel like that’s something that’s changed recently. The issue with the community is that the astrological organizations are struggling to find relevance and to stay relevant in contemporary times. And one of the things that they did that was a service previously, prior to the internet—that was unique and was a very important feature of the community—was have journals and publications, so that there was some sort of centralized, almost repository for publishing astrological research or for having discussions in the community. But that’s one of the things that with the rise of the internet that’s almost become less relevant or useful, and it’s one of the ways that the organizations are kind of struggling to reinvent themselves in the early 21st century.
BS: I don’t know if I would agree with that. NCGR, for example, has continuously published a journal. They had a magazine and a journal, the Geocosmic Journal. What was the other one? There were two of them that came out. Now it’s just down to one a year and they publish articles. Some of them are quite good. Scott Silverman edited one on newly-discovered bodies, Kuiper Belt objects and things like that. I thought it was pretty good. People wrote some pretty good articles about it and talked about their experience. The problem is that if you’re a practitioner, you don’t have the time and probably not the knowledge to do a first class, reductionist science experiment on astrology and publish it.
So the organizations, even though they may have been formed around the idea of doing that—International Society for Astrological Research, National Council for Geocosmic Research—that’s what they wanted to do, but the reality is nobody’s got the time or the knowledge to do it. It’s just too hard to do without some kind of support. I worked at the university for a long time and I know what that’s about. You go begging to the National Science Foundation or somebody else to get money. And then you get $100,000 and half of that goes to the university, and now you’ve got $50,000 to work for a year on your project or however long it might be. That’s how you get stuff done. We don’t have anything like that in astrology.
CB: Yeah. Well, I guess part of my point is that the astrological organizations are nonprofits that are largely run by unpaid volunteers whose numbers have declined drastically over the course of the past few decades, and the contributions to those journals are just from whatever’s available.
BS: Membership. They’re from membership largely.
CB: Yeah, from membership. But then the membership is largely just practitioners who are not necessarily researchers. These aren’t primarily scientific journals at this point.
BS: No, they can’t be.
BS: ‘Cause the astrologers don’t know how to do reductionist science and the subject’s too hard to test and there’s no support for it. Give somebody $100,000 that really knows astrology and they might be able to come up with a good test. And it might take them a couple of years, and namely 50,000 a year.
CB: And I think that was part of your point about conferences as well, which is that oftentimes it’s more market factors that drive the types of discussions that happen at conferences. People are more interested—or astrologers or astrology enthusiasts are more interested in learning techniques that they can use to apply to their own birth chart or to the charts of clients than hearing about tests of astrology or statistical analysis of astrology. And lectures like that tend to attract less and therefore not be featured as much, and that’s also a major shift I feel in the astrological community in the past few decades.
BS: Yeah, I mean, astrology’s market-driven largely and it spills into the conferences. You have to have a topic that’s gonna draw people because then that brings in more people to the conference, and that allows the conference committee to pay for the expenses of having a trade show and all that.
BS: That’s just how it works right now, that’s how it’s going. I mean, I think that the organizations have had their challenges. They still seem to be going fairly well. They have certification programs. NCGR has an old certification program that is separate from NCGR now that I’m involved with. One of my feet in astrology is in that. It’s called the Professional Astrologers Alliance. And there’s an effort to update the exams and it’s geared off of Ken Negus’ vision of a four-year college program in astrology.
So level one, there’s an exam and it’s your freshman year. And there are equivalencies. Like if you go through the Kepler program, and you get their certificate, you automatically qualify for levels one, two, and three. It’s like you have your freshman, sophomore, and junior year completed. And then the senior year is more like you do your own report and there are different requirements for that. But it’s something, the organizations are doing something, and I think without them astrology would be more impoverished. They play a role, and so do the schools: Kepler College and IAA and a few others. The organizations and the schools right now—they comprise the institutions that astrology has. They’re not much, and they’re mostly volunteers, as you point out, but they’re what we got.
CB: Yeah, they’re what we got for sure. I’m curious how that’s gonna grow and evolve and what steps could be taken to improve some of those things. And I do feel like there’s a struggle to maintain relevancy of them to a certain extent amongst the younger generation of astrologers who haven’t seen as much about why they should become involved in those things or what the benefit or advantage is. So something that’s kind of going on is a generational thing right now where it was more necessary 30 years ago. Those mailing lists, for example, that the astrological organizations put out—that’s where you heard about what was going on in the community. But nowadays you hear about what’s going on in the community more so through social media and things like. So that’s why I’m saying there’s an attempt to reinvent themselves or to understand what their relevance can be in the modern period where some of those things have shifted a little bit.
BS: Yeah, I think that the organizations which were formed in the time where there was no internet need to adjust to the internet. I mean, that’s what happens. My son is 35-years-old. He knows exactly how to work in that world. I’m older. I’ve figured it out enough to get by, but I’m no expert. If I had to market myself as an astrologer right now, I would have to do a lot of work. I would have to put a lot into it.
BS: So it’s a different medium and the organizations are using it; they’re not using it entirely. I think that there are other factors involved too. If you’re a libertarian you don’t really want a group; you just kind of want to operate on your own. And I think that the organizations represent a kind of social responsibility aspect, not that they all deliver it, but it comes out of a group model, like ‘we’re all in it together’. So again, it does reinforce the astrological bubble in some ways, but it also provides a community where information can be shared that’s focused around something. Those two organizations, ISAR and NCGR, were originally focused around research, as you point out, and now the research is too hard to do and nobody’s qualified to do it. So what are they? They’re a social group of some sort. They’re a social group that brings together amateurs, people who love the subject, and some professionals. And I think you’re absolutely right. There is a search for relevance and meaning as time goes on. We’ll see how that unfolds.
CB: Yeah, I mean, the fact that both of them have research in their titles, but that research and what that means is not the same as when they were set up in the 1970s and ‘80s I think is a good example of that shift. One thing I wanted to make sure I ask you about is a term and a phrase that you use multiple times throughout the book that I always associate with you and I always thought was like one of the best phrases ever for a birth chart. You call it a ‘time-slice’; for an astrological chart, you call it a ‘time-slice’.
BS: It is.
CB: What does that mean? Could you expand on that?
BS: Yeah. Well, first of all, I don’t like the use of the word ‘horoscope’ for a chart because I don’t think it’s quite that accurate. As I understand it, it means ‘view of the hour’, right?
CB: It means ‘hour-marker’.
BS: Hour-marker. So it’d probably refer more to the Ascendant, I would think.
CB: Yeah, it originally meant the Ascendant and the 1st house.
BS: In the history of trigonometry the challenge of calculating the Ascendant goes down as one of the biggest things ever. I mean, that’s what they were going for. They were going for that Ascendant, that horoscope. Anyway, I think the word’s been ruined by all of these newspaper columns and so on, so I prefer to call it a ‘birth chart’. But the birth chart itself is a photograph of the sky. If you’re in the northern hemisphere you’re looking south, east is to your left, and west is to your right. It’s a shot. It’s a time slice.
BS: It’s a snapshot or a time-slice ‘cause that’s what a snapshot is. And it’s a term that’s used in the sciences. In geoscience, I’ve heard it used there, but I think there are a few other places. But it makes the most sense to me. I see it as one of the two primary techniques that this subject of astrology employs in analyzing the self-organizing systems that are its subject matter, the time-slice.
CB: Did you get it from geoscience? Is that where you picked it up?
BS: I may have. I’m trying to think where else I may have gotten it from. Philosophy—I’m not sure.
CB: ‘Cause that actually makes sense. Sometimes when you drive through the mountains here in Denver, like a highway that they’ve cut through a mountain, sometimes you’ll drive through and on the side you’ll just see the different layers of sediment. And you realize that you’re seeing stuff that built up over hundreds and thousands and millions of years, but one of those little layers is what you’re talking about, is a time-slice.
BS: Yeah, you see that in marine cores and ice cores where you’re looking for the history of the atmosphere and the oceans. So you have a core and you slice it at some point, and since you’re measuring time and what was going on in those times, you can call it a time-slice. But that’s a good question. I’ve been using it for a long time and I probably got it from geosciences, but I’m not positive. I may have run across it in some other—anyway, it stuck with me.
BS: I just thought it made the most sense. This is what we’re doing as astrologers. We’re analyzing a time-slice, calculated for a moment or a tipping point of some sort, a transition point. Bifurcation is the word I use in the book often. But we also use cycles. In the past in astrology those were called revolutions: cycles of Jupiter and Saturn, things like that. Kind of a broad use for the term revolution, wouldn’t you say? But you’re not talking about time-slices or charts with revolutions, except when something crosses, say, the vernal equinox.
CB: Yeah, revolution, going back to the original meaning of that, which is a return to something for a cycle to be completed and for something to come back to where it started.
BS: Yeah, it’s kind of like a cycles thing. So I would say astrology analyzes time-slices and cycles and those are the two main approaches.
CB: And I love that. There’s something really important there about phrasing it as a time-slice that gets to the heart of—like the title of your book—what is the nature of astrology. But when you conceptualize let’s just say a birth chart for the sake of argument instead of generalizing it to any astrological chart, you’re taking something where time is always flowing. You have a start point, Point A, and then eventually it flows to Point B, but it’s like a continuous process that never stops moving, and the planets always keep moving in their orbits and their cycles and their movements through the solar system. But then at the moment of a birth chart you freeze that and you take a snapshot of that moment in time and where the planets are placed relative to each other in their orbits. And there’s something about that slice of time that becomes important for describing the nature of what happened in that moment as well as its future essentially.
BS: Yeah, yeah. Because the time-slice shows where you are amongst all the various cycles that are going on, all the revolutions, right? And so, astrology has developed all sorts of techniques to unpack information stored that way in the time-slice.
BS: Aspects, like applying and separating, that would be like one obvious approach.
CB: And that’s fundamental to your conceptualization of the nature of astrology and what it is, that it’s the study of those time-slices within the context of self-organizing systems like humans, but also other self-organizing systems on Earth.
BS: Yeah, like non-human animals; you can do charts for gorillas.
CB: Yeah, I think you actually cited a study at some point that somebody had done about dogs.
BS: Dogs, yeah, right.
CB: Different types of dogs that had different measurable not just personalities in a weird sense, or in a human sense, but in terms of different dogs have more aggressive personalities or different things like that, and somebody had tried to study that.
BS: Yeah, the breeders write down the personalities of the dogs because the buyers want to know that. And what’s her name? Pouchot? It’s a French hyphenated name. I can’t think of it off the top of my head right now, but she wrote a number of scientific papers that related astrology to biology and they’re very good. And she did one with the dogs and it’s basically a replication of Gauquelin except using dogs. So it tracks the diurnal cycle correlating with the personality of the dogs.
CB: So the point there would be in your view that there’s something universal about astrology and how it works; that it doesn’t just have to be applied to humans—even though it’s most commonly done in that context through birth charts—but astrological charts as time-slices can be applied to other living entities that have a life cycle or a temporal component to their existence.
BS: Yeah, and things that are not living, things like decisions. Electional astrology—you compute your own time-slice when you want to make a move. But there is a tendency in astrology to be very anthropocentric and I think that’s not good. In general, I think that’s a bad thing. I think that humans got to get out of that. That’s the equivalent of the Earth is at the center of the solar system; it’s like humans are the center of the solar system.
CB: The application of that to electional and horary astrology was the part that I was most uncertain about in terms of the extension of some of the causal arguments to astrology and how that would work because that’s the point where astrology starts to be much more abstract and symbolic and sort of removed from the more biological considerations that might be more relevant when we’re talking about humans or dogs or what have you.
BS: Yeah, well, the subject of higher-order systems, self-organizing systems—which would include personality, the mind, group behavior and so on—it’s pretty new; we don’t know a lot about it. And I try to explain some of it in the last chapter and then show how that information could be very relevant to explaining horary and electional astrology. But I mentioned a number of authors there, and if somebody was really interested they could see that, yeah, papers are being published on it. Philosophers talk about emergence and so do scientists. It’s a new area. I think I mentioned somewhere that I think it’s as radical as quantum mechanics, except that it just hasn’t gained traction because it’s spread out among a whole bunch of disciplines.
CB: Yeah, one point that you started getting into that I thought was really interesting that might be at the core of it—and could perhaps be developed more at some point—is it almost seemed like you were almost saying at one point that any self-organizing system has a bifurcation at some point to the extent that you can cast a chart or a time-slice for that moment of bifurcation, or that moment where something in its existence meets a fork in the road where it can go one direction or another. That temporal moment in time and anything that experiences that, you can use astrology to analyze both that temporal moment in time, as well as project it out into the future.
BS: Yeah. Yeah, you can see its trajectory. Yeah, it’s almost reminiscent of Lorenz, ‘the butterfly effect’ guy. He put in all this information about weather to model it and he found that if he changed the starting point, the results were completely different. So, to me, that’s like kind of an analogy to what happens in astrology. You have this starting point. In the case of people, it’s the transition from water-breathing to air-breathing, and the separation from the mothership. So it’s a bifurcation point, a big shift in change. And you look at that time-slice and then you’ve got a good sense of where things are going, but it could have been at a different time and things would be different.
CB: Yeah, to me, that gets into some really important things because the study of astrology starts to become more about the nature of time. There’s something there that starts getting to the mechanism underlying astrology and something much broader that has to do with time, the nature of time, and the role that time plays in our experience of reality or nature that’s hard to articulate, but it was something you were starting to point to there that seemed very important towards the end of the book.
BS: Yeah, and there’s so many unanswered questions. But yeah, what is really going on in astrology is going to require a lot more knowledge than we have right now about things like time and about things like internal time. I bring up ideas about imprinting in cases of human development; the planets’ timing windows of imprint vulnerability and basically encoding certain kinds of patterns—they’re related to the planets, some of the inner planets. I don’t say that that’s an explanation for all of astrology, but I think that’s kind of where things might be going. I do state pretty clearly that I think that a lot of astrology might be explainable, maybe not right now. There needs to be more work done in some of the other sciences.
The present moment in some ways is like poor John Goad trying to do his study of astro-meteorology in the middle of the 17th century and not having access to reliable thermometers and barometers and weather vanes—actually he had that—hygrometers, all sorts of instrumentation. I mean, modern science is based on instrumentation, which produces units that you can do reductionist science with. He also didn’t have statistics. He had averages, more or less, that sort of thing. So I think astrology today is at a similar point. We just don’t have the science. We have the beginnings I think of the science, the science of self-organizing systems. We have the beginnings of that, but we don’t have enough. But I think that astrology as a field should pay more attention to that and should define itself as a subject; and whether it doesn’t have the institutional power to fund research and theory, it should just be more aware of it.
BS: Whether the internet is gonna be able to bring that to enough people and if enough people are gonna get it, I don’t know. But I think astrology will survive as a subject, but I think it could do a lot better if there was a little more awareness that it’s not limited to practice.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I think after reading your book it’s up there on the level of Cosmos and Psyche in terms of important discussions about the nature of astrology that will be very impactful on the next generation of astrologers. And it doesn’t have the same aim as Cosmos and Psyche, in that your book is not trying to prove astrology or necessarily demonstrate its validity through case studies or something like that, for example. It’s trying to explain astrology and where it’s at now and how it got here and present that to a more intellectual audience in order to give people a heads-up about the subject and what the deal is with it, as well as some statements about where it might head in the future and how the trajectory of astrology might be improved, so that the place of astrology might be improved in society at some point in the future.
BS: Yeah, yeah, that’s just about it. I think it’s a call to break out of the bubble and look around. Stick your head out of the bubble and look around, like that old, Medieval woodcut, or Renaissance woodcut.
CB: Right. On the one hand that’s an encouragement for people outside of the astrological community to stick their head outside of the bubble and see that there might be something to astrology. But then on the other side it’s also an encouragement for astrologers to stick their head outside of the bubble of the astrological community to try to engage in other fields of research and other disciplines that might be helpful to astrology or might be interrelated and might be necessary to learn and specialize in in order to get anywhere closer to either creating a grand unified system of astrology, again, that integrates with other sciences, or in terms of getting closer to demonstrating some sort of validity of astrology to the public.
BS: Yeah, yeah, raising the level of the field. Raising the level of understanding, the caliber of the practitioner, the general understanding of where astrology has been, where it’s at, and where it might go—that’s what I hope for. I invested a lot of my life in astrology. It’s one of my major identity points, and so I hope to see it progress.
CB: Yeah. Well, definitely I can already see and anticipate that works like this and like Cosmos and Psyche together will probably be the works that are necessary in order to appeal to and explain astrology and to sort of make the case for astrology to somebody in the future that’s gonna come along at some point, just like at times in the past when we’d get a Ptolemy figure or a Kepler figure who are just like these polymaths that try to take astrology and integrate it with the contemporary views about how the cosmos worked and creates a new paradigm then that lasts for several centuries at that point and makes astrology acceptable again by giving it a cosmological framework. And I have a pretty good feeling that your book will be one of the ones on the bookshelf of the person who comes along at some point in the future and does that.
BS: Well, that’s nice to think about. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody from outside of astrology comes into the field at some point and really does something with it ‘cause I’ve seen a few things like this. I’ve seen some people in meteorology, for example, really apply some pretty sophisticated and complex astrological techniques to weather formations, stuff that I would never think about because I don’t know meteorology. But somebody from psychology, for example, could come into the field and revolutionize it.
BS: And we have the software now. That’s one thing that is wonderful, having this software to do astrology. Wow, I remember the days when I was cranking it out on a slide rule.
CB: Right. Yeah, yeah, back in the old days with cuneiform tablets and stuff.
BS: Yeah. Well, actually I summarized what I learned about calculating charts in a book. Did you ever see that book that I wrote, Astrological Chart Calculations?
CB: I did. That was very heavy. That’s actually surprisingly more of a heavy read than some of the science chapters in this book.
BS: I think I sold a hundred copies.
BS: But Margaret Cahill, from Wessex Astrologer, also puts it out now. It’s kind of a summary of what I learned before computers.
CB: Yeah. One of the last things I wanted to say was just that I was very influenced by Geoffrey Cornelius’ argument for the past 15-20 years or so, and as well I got into ancient astrology and studied Hellenistic astrology and understood the pre-Ptolemaic views of astrology that were more based on the mechanism of astrology working through signs and omens and something approximating synchronicity. I’ve been very taken by that argument and very taken by the notion that the mechanism underlying astrology is acausal for a number of years, but I’ve had this thing in the back of my head for a number of years where I also realize that traditionally astrology was associated with Mercury. And there’s many different areas when it comes to Mercury where Mercury traditionally always straddles the divide between two different seemingly irreconcilable positions, like night and day, masculine and feminine or what have you, and oftentimes with astrology you run into a similar issue where sometimes you have what looks like an either/or situation and sometimes it ends up being both.
And one of the biggest things that your book kind of impressed on me was that while I’ve thought about astrology entirely and conceptualized it in an acausal framework, definitely the first few chapters have opened up the question that maybe one shouldn’t completely reject the notion that there could ever be any sort of causal mechanism to astrology that could play some sort of role in the overall reason why astrology works or the reason why it does what it does, and that doesn’t have to be fundamentally incompatible with the other view necessarily.
BS: Yeah. One of the things I’m trying to do in the book is emphasize the importance of natural astrology, right?
BS: Which would include astro-meteorology, it would include mundane astrology and all that, and pay a little bit more attention to that and see that there are causal mechanisms for it. And then look at the human situation as a particular case in nature and try to understand that as best we can using what’s known about self-organizing systems; higher order, self-organizing systems, which some people call meta-cybernetic. More complicable, physical, and mental at the same time and learn what we can learn. You may have also caught my drift that I don’t make any claims for one thing or the other; I’m just kind of this harmonious observer that’s going along in my life. I make some statements about things, like calling astrology divination I don’t think is helpful.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I do think you strongly reject the conceptualization of astrology as divination.
BS: All of astrology as divination. And divination—you could call a lot of things. Like a good guess is a kind of divination. Election predictions are divination for some people. They make a call and they don’t use statistics on it.
CB: Well, no, divination is actually a very specific class of practices that often take a random or chance-like allotment of something in nature.
BS: Yeah, throw the dice.
CB: Yeah, throw the dice, throw the tarot cards, or throw the coins in I Ching. But then contrary to how that would work out if you kept doing that over and over again on a long enough timeline, statistically, and it would always just be 50/50, you take this singular moment of that chance-like allotment and you interpret it as having symbolic significance, and in that moment it actually does. Even though if you were to take it outside of that moment, statistically, it wouldn’t necessarily work out if you just kept doing it over and over again. It’s something about the nature of chance having a real symbolic import in that moment of the inquiry, if the inquiry has a charge or something important to it, and the argument is that’s what birth charts are, that’s what horary charts are and everything else because they’re connected with this notion of a chance-like allotment.
So that’s contrary to the notion that astrology is based on regularly recurring causal celestial forces that can be tested and analyzed statistically, like through the Gauquelin studies and stuff like. And in the future, post your work, the debate that astrologers are gonna have is between those two different camps because they’re a little bit in conflict with each other. And while that debate’s shifted more on the divinatory side over the past 30 years, your book reminds me that different astrologers have different views on that, and that it’s not necessarily always 100%, per se.
BS: Well, I think that labeling astrology as divination and labeling astrology as nothing more than a practice I think is the easy way out; I mean, that’s the simple answer. I think it’s a little bit more complicated, and I’m not saying that I have the answer to it. I mean, I’ve experimented with different kinds of divination systems. I published a book on one based on ancient Mexican divination and astrology. I’d be playing with my band a lot—I used to play every weekend—and I would have astro-dice, and I would entertain people on breaks with that. I’d think of a question, roll the dice, and I would give them an answer, and I was pretty accurate on it. And then I decided to put together a deck of business cards, so I collected all these business cards from people and I would carry that along with me. I basically used a tarot-like pattern and I would read the business cards and I would get good results from it, so I know that stuff goes. I think what it has to do with is some of these emergent self-organizing systems out of human minds. And this is an area that has just not been fully researched. So basically what I’m saying is that even divination at this point is a candidate for a much better explanation for what it is.
CB: So you’re not fundamentally opposed to the concept of divination, the practice, because you practiced it yourself to some extent in the past.
BS: Yeah. I can dowse. I dowse. I can do that stuff.
CB: But you think it’s sort of like a cop out when it comes to saying that that’s all astrology is.
BS: Yeah, yeah.
CB: And that’s the purpose of some of your first two chapters in talking about different ways in which the celestial influences do influence Earth and its biosphere and life on Earth to a certain extent.
BS: Yeah, there’s plenty of evidence behind that. Life has evolved in a temporal environment, and a temporal environment that’s driven by geophysical and astronomical realities. The Moon is swinging around and the Sun is doing its thing, and the length of day is changing. We’re bombarded with this information; it’s baked in.
CB: Right. But the question will be—and this is what will be debated between astrologers—is there a jump getting from there to saying that Mars in the 7th house in a day chart, or let’s say Saturn in a night chart in the 7th house will correlate with somebody that gets a divorce at the age of 30, at their Saturn return or something like that? There starts being what seems like more symbolic considerations in astrology, and sometimes the more naturalistic or causal explanations—it’s harder to see how those would apply or how that would make sense.
BS: Well, it is hard to see that. I mean, I’m suggesting a perspective looking at these higher order, self-organizing systems which may be hypersensitive to all sorts of little things that go on. And there may be other forces yet to be discovered, we just don’t know. All I’m saying is that, yeah, there are many ways to look at astrology, and just reducing it to divination I think is a lazy way out. That’s not to diminish anything that Geoffrey Cornelius has done because he’s written a lot of really good things and looked at ancient astrology, and I liked his book. I just think that there may be a lot more to divination than we think.
CB: Yeah, and I think the point is also just that there shouldn’t be any blanket rejection that there could be a mechanism just because a mechanism is not currently known, and that people perhaps need to keep an open mind about that possibility, especially if the phenomenon of astrology itself keeps pointing to these correlations between celestial movements and earthly events.
BS: Yeah, I think that at any given point in history, we don’t know everything. I just read Foucault’s book Madness and Civilization. I found it at the dump the other day. He’s this French structuralist, post-modernist writer, but it was good because he basically showed how the societal understanding of madness has changed drastically over the centuries, and only recently are we starting to get it together. And of course even right now the psychologists are still trying to work out what a personality disorder is. If you look at that and how recently our understanding of mental illness has come into focus, you got to look at astrology and say, “Oh, come on, we got a long way to go.”
CB: Right. And I think you actually cite a couple of instances in the past in science where there’s been a phenomenon that was discovered or identified and recognized before the mechanism for it was known.
BS: Yeah, like electricity.
CB: Okay. Could you explain that a little?
BS: Or heat. I think that was the example I gave. You didn’t know what heat was. It took years, decades before it was reduced to an understanding and a formula.
BS: It wasn’t known what it was, but you could do a lot with heat. You can get a stove going and boil water and make a steam engine.
CB: Right. And all of those things were done before eventually developing a scientific understanding of the processes behind heat and how to control and recreate it. I mean, even before then people were controlling and manipulating things like fire and were able to use it before it was known exactly what a fire is or how it works.
BS: Yeah, knowledge progresses, isn’t static. First you start with know-how on something like that and then maybe you eventually build a theory and you model it. Other things start with theory first and then are discovered. So acquiring knowledge is a time-consuming process, but I think it’s the way to go.
CB: Yeah, and this is, primarily by the end of the book, encouraging or asking astrologers to take that next step beyond the practice, to start exploring and trying to formulate a theory of how astrology works and to try to find that.
BS: Yeah, to look at other fields. When you’re isolated in a bubble, you don’t look to anything else. But that’s not saying everybody in astrology’s like that. I know people in astrology that are involved in other fields of research as well, but cross-fertilization is what you really need to grow something like astrology as a subject.
CB: That makes sense.
BS: So anyway, I just think that the search for a simplistic answer right now doesn’t contribute to growth. It solves the problem pretty quickly and then you’re done with it. But I think, as you’ve pointed out, my first two chapters are just throwing all this reality up on the table and saying, “Well, what do we do with this?”
CB: Right. Yeah, and the book itself ends up becoming partially your personal reflections and research after a lifetime’s worth of research and work in the field of astrology, and I think it’s a really major achievement from that standpoint for sure and was really brilliant. Yeah, I’m really glad that you wrote it, so thanks for writing this book.
BS: Well, thank you, Chris. I appreciate that.
CB: So the book is titled The Nature of Astrology: History, Philosophy, and the Science of Self-Organizing Systems. It’s published by Inner Traditions, which lately has started getting into publishing astrology books, and they’re just doing an amazing job publishing a ton of really great books lately. I think I’ve interviewed two other authors. I interviewed Eric Purdue last year who did a translation of Agrippa that was published through them. So people can find it in bookstores. They can order it online on Amazon or anywhere else.
BS: We can order it directly from Inner Traditions. I think they give a discount.
CB: Okay, good to know. So just Google ‘Inner Traditions’. It looks like their website is InnerTraditions.com.
CB: What’s next for you? Are you gonna publish other 500-page tomes? What are your plans for the future?
BS: I’ve got to survive. I had a couple of accidents and two spinal surgeries. I have cervical myelopathy and there’s a lot that you have to do to maintain it, and it kind of slows you down a lot.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I noticed your Saturn is at 22 Leo on the Ascendant to 24 Leo, and your Moon, like mine, is in Aquarius. So you’ve been going through a Saturn opposition recently, and Saturn opposite your Ascendant. And before that, starting in 2020, it was going over your Moon. So hopefully that upcoming ingress of Saturn into Pisces and finally getting out of Aquarius after the past three years will help.
BS: Maybe. But you get older and then you have these slowly degenerating situations. To bring in some Uranian astrology, I have the Sun square to Hades, which is deterioration. So I have basically a very slowly deteriorating situation with my spinal cord that needs to be slowed down. One of the effects is just being dizzy, having what’s called cervical dizziness. You can look at it in my chart. You can see that health problems are an issue, and with Saturn, they come on when you’re older.
CB: Yeah. And you mentioned Uranian astrology; it’s one of your other specialties.
CB: And you’ve also done work on Mesoamerican astrology or Mayan astrology.
BS: Well, Uranian astrology I got into very early. Gary Christen and I kind of got that going. We knew Hans Niggemann. The two of us went over to his house one time, and we saw him at conferences, so I learned a lot of Uranian early on. Got into ancient astrology early with AH Blackwell back when pretty much Manilius and Ptolemy and a few fragments were just about all that was known, so I got into that. And then I got interested in Mesoamerican because here was an opportunity to understand how astrology might have originated in an entirely different culture, and so I got into that and wrote on that extensively. Meanwhile, I just practiced kind of a mixture of standard astrology, a few ideas from here and there. Old ideas, new ideas, Uranian ideas and built a practice around it.
CB: And it seems like that’s given you a great perspective and an amount of depth, especially when you start analyzing the astrological community and the different trends and different things in the final chapters of the book that are very perceptive. And just your analysis of those was very on point in terms of things you said about the community and your assessment of the community, as well as your predictions about current trends and where some of that might take us in the future.
BS: Yeah, well, I hope people get to read it and get something out of it. To answer your last question, I mean, this was a big job and the pandemic helped in a way; the quarantine helped me get it done. But at this point I’m not sure where to go. I may write some technical papers, but I don’t think I could ever do anything like this again. I wouldn’t want to. Some scientific papers. I have a few on ResearchGate and Academia.edu. You ever go to those places?
CB: Yeah, of course. I mean, Academia’s been amazing over the past decade for making research more accessible than it used to be.
BS: I think I have one of your papers linked in one of my Kepler courses.
BS: And I have an online course called Symmetry and Astrology, and I think I have a paper that you wrote on the parts, the lots.
CB: Okay. Yeah, theoretical rationale for those.
BS: Did I get it from Academia? Did you have it up there? Where did I get that from?
CB: Probably, yeah. I’ve posted my papers there on Academia. I have an account, so that is probably where you got it.
BS: Yeah, so I linked it, and so my students have to read it. So thank you.
BS: It was public, so I just took it and linked to it.
CB: That’s fine. I’ve got a book as well.
BS: I know your book, yeah. A very good book. Thank you for doing that. Somebody had to do it.
CB: Yeah. I know I need to wrap this up, but that was actually an interesting point, that you also expressed some reservations about astrological fundamentalism and why you appreciate looking back into the sources—especially the historical reconstruction of astrology—which is something you’ve taken advantage of to a certain extent in your book, in a huge chunk of it. You also warn against too much fundamentalism and seem kind of nervous about that trend.
BS: Well, I think that there could be a little bit too much of certain things. There are people that tend to get into, say, Vedic astrology and it becomes their whole world. People get into Hellenistic astrology and it becomes 100% of their work. I mean, it’s okay if you want to do that, but I see it as a subcategory.
I always think of my friend Bob Zoller. We used to go camping and hiking together, and we would have all these discussions. He would say, “The old ways are the good ways,” and he would do that. You learn from the past, but it’s like do we want to practice Hippocratic and Galenic medicine in its pure form? I don’t think so. There’s a lot to be learned from it. I think that ancient astrology, all kinds of astrology, just needs a lot more testing and sorting out and so on. How well the profections work is a good question. What you do I think is a great thing, to try and flesh out what these people were doing. We have to know what they were doing before we can decide whether the technique works, as well as how it is to be employed. So somebody’s got to do that.
CB: Yeah, for sure. One of the things that’s funny about my history with you is I got into ancient astrology and studying Hellenistic astrology just a semester before I started taking your courses back at Kepler. So unfortunately one of my regrets in my educational history is I got super into it and did that initial ‘passion of the convert’ type of thing by the time I was studying with you. So I would sometimes be at Kepler reading those translations of the ancient texts instead of focusing on some of the more modern texts that we had moved into at that point, where we were talking about things like secondary progressions or solar arcs or things like that, and I remember some distinct instances like that at symposiums when I was taking some of your classes.
So I’m happy, with this book, that things have come full circle, and I feel like I’ve come back around to the position of seeing the value of both ancient and modern astrology. And this book has brought me full circle on some other philosophical issues to a certain extent, so I’m happy at how things sort of worked out like that in the end.
BS: Yeah, I remember George and I were teaching a course on progressions and solar arcs and transits and you were in and out of it. You asked for permission to sit in. Nick was giving lectures in the other room or something on ancient astrology.
CB: Oh, yeah, on the history of astrology.
BS: Yeah, we trusted you. We just said, “Yeah, go ahead and do what you want to do.”
CB: Yeah, I am sorry about that. I apologize. I mean, part of the issue was just that I had studied modern astrology for four or five years.
BS: Well, you seemed to know what you were doing. I mean, we grilled you, and you seemed to know what you were doing. So all right, fine. We weren’t gonna bust your chops. I mean, if you didn’t know the subject matter, we wouldn’t have let you do it.
CB: For sure, yeah. But you were very gracious about it as I was going through that early stage of being fascinated about traditional astrology. And the beauty of that stage of Kepler College was having all these great lectures and different things at the time, of astrologers teaching astrology at a very high level, and I always felt like I was super lucky to be the beneficiary of that from people like you, and from Rob Hand and Demetra George and Nick Campion and everyone else.
BS: Well, you were at the perfect time to get immersed in ancient astrology. As I mentioned before I was interested in it 20 or 30 years earlier, there just wasn’t that much known.
BS: And then when ‘the three Roberts’ got together and started translating that made all the difference. And you were right there when that was happening.
CB: Yeah, and then I went and lived there at Project Hindsight for two years. That’s why I was sort of caught up in all of that.
BS: Great opportunity really.
CB: Yeah. But still, drawing from my influence of learning modern astrology and different things from you at Kepler, I knew not to go full astrological fundamentalism. And that’s why I sort of ended my book on the note that I did. Even though I’m encouraging people to go back and study ancient astrology and that there’s something valuable to be learned from the past, astrology is always in a constant state of flux and change, bu that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t synthesize and integrate with some of the great insights and develops in the future. And I think that’s a lot of what you’ve focused on in your work and tried to show the best pieces of, doing a sort of high-level modern astrology as an intellectual.
BS: Yeah, in a way. I mean, you got to know your roots. You have to understand where astrology came from. And I credit people digging into the history of astrology with giving astrology the foundation that it had lacked. It was being owned by the historians and the historians of science, and they weren’t very friendly, so this is a very good thing. But in regard to astrological fundamentalism, to me, the coincidence of Project Hindsight, the rise of fundamentalism taking over the Republican party, and my own interest in Mesoamerican astrology—they were all at the same time.
That’s kind of what I’m referring to; I did notice that that was happening. Maybe it had something to do with the outer planets moving into different signs. Pluto went through Sagittarius and then through Capricorn as a lot of this was happening. Particularly in Sagittarius, you had this rise of fundamentalism, and it seemed to have a little effect on astrology as well, and I was part of that. I mean, Project Hindsight was going on at exactly the same time as I was digging into Mesoamerican astrology. Unfortunately I couldn’t communicate it exactly the same and nobody else was really doing it, but it was the same kind of thing.
CB: That’s really interesting ‘cause also the focus on Indian astrology in the West…
BS: And Indian came in on that too, yeah.
CB: What I saw in retrospect, or what I’ve studied—I did a paper on this at one point; I think it was in the NCGR journal—was how that coincides with the Uranus-Neptune conjunction in 1992-93. And if you project that back, every time that conjunction happens you’ll see astrologers suddenly doing this thing of looking back into the past and then synthesizing what they find with the contemporary astrology of that time period. And there’s a bunch of astrologers like Lilly or Bonatti or other people like that down through history that have gone through similar time periods.
BS: Yeah, yeah.
CB: So that seems to be what we’re in right now in terms of the synthesis of modern and ancient. And you’ve made a really great case for integrating some of the modern insights and philosophy and conceptualization and scientific studies that have happened over the past century with all of that ancient wisdom that’s been revived relatively recently.
BS: Yeah, yeah.
BS: Hey, I’ve got to thank you for allowing me to articulate some of the details there because there are some things in my book that could be misunderstood if people didn’t read thoroughly or didn’t read all of it. But you’ve allowed me to clarify where I’m coming from, and I appreciate that.
CB: Yeah, thank you for so much of your time today. I know this is a three-hour episode, so we’ll wrap it up. But yeah, I encourage people to read the book. I tried to get in as much as I could. I just finished reading this like 10 minutes before we started and there’s so much more there. So I definitely recommend people checking it out because we’ve only skimmed the surface of some of the great things. I know my friend Nick Dagan Best who read this and really like it, he was telling me to ask you about a couple of figures—we’re not gonna be able to do, but maybe in a follow-up episode—like John H. Nelson, for example, or Edward R. Dewey and some of their work studying celestial cycles and how that’s actually shown up. But maybe we can save that for a future episode.
BS: Okay. Yeah, I’m not going anywhere. I’m just staying right here.
CB: Okay, good. All right, well, great job on the book. Thanks a lot for writing it again, and thanks for joining me today.
BS: You’re quite welcome. Thank you too.
CB: All right, thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.
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If you’d like to learn more about my approach to astrology then I’d recommend checking out my book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune where I go over the history, philosophy, and techniques of ancient astrology, taking people from beginner up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. You can get a print copy of the book through Amazon or other online retailers, or there’s an ebook version available through Google Books. I also recently published a new translation of The Anthology of the 2nd century astrologer Vettius Valens, which is one of the most important sources for understanding the practice of ancient astrology. You can find that by searching for ‘Vettius Valens, The Anthology’ on Amazon or other online book retailers.
If you’re really looking to expand your studies of astrology then I would recommend my Hellenistic astrology course, which is an online course on ancient astrology where I take people through basic concepts up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. There’s over 100 hours of video lectures, as well as guided readings of page texts, and by the time you finish the course you will have a strong foundation in how to read birth charts, as well as make predictions. You can find out more information at courses.TheAstrologySchool.com. I also recently launched a new course there called the Birth Time Rectification Course where I teach students how to figure out your birth time using astrology when the birth time is either unknown or uncertain. You can find out more information about that at TheAstrologySchool.com.
Each year the podcast releases a set of astrology calendar posters for the coming year, and we’ve just released our 2023 Planetary Alignments and Planetary Movements Posters, which are now available on our website at TheAstrologyPodcast.com/store. There you can also pick up our 2023 Electional Astrology Report where Leisa Schaim and I went through the next 12 months and we picked out the single most auspicious date for each month using the principles of electional astrology. You can get that at TheAstrologyPodcast.com/2023report.
And finally, thanks to our sponsors, including: The Mountain Astrologer Magazine, which is a quarterly astrology magazine which you can read and print or online at MountainAstrologer.com. Finally, thanks also to the Northwest Astrology Conference, which is happening May 25-29, 2023, just outside of Seattle. This year’s conference is going to be a hybrid conference where you can either attend online or in person. Find out more information at norwac.net.