The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 389, titled:
Robert Hand Responds to Deborah Houlding
With Chris Brennan and guest Robert Hand
Episode originally released on February 12, 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 21, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: All right, hey, Rob. Thanks for joining me tonight.
ROBERT HAND: Yeah, good to be here. This is a moment when several of us have to get together and talk.
CB: Yeah. So the occasion is earlier this week, Deborah Houlding released a lecture on whole sign houses where said that it never existed in ancient astrology, and she blamed you and Schmidt for inventing, she says, whole sign houses in modern times, or something to that extent.
RH: Yeah. Well, the only thing I invented was that term, and I didn’t invent it because of Project Hindsight. I was in an astrology gathering being conducted by BV Raman from India and he introduced the concept of signs as houses.
CB: And this was in the 1970s?
RH: At that point I think our friend was a rumor. She was at the feet of her teacher, I think. Actually I leaned over to the person next to me, I said, “This is a whole sign house system,” and the term was born. And when we started finding it in the Greek material, it just got transferred.
RH: It is, by the way—regardless of anything she says—the most commonly-used house system on the planet because there are more astrologers doing Indian-style astrology than any other kind.
CB: Right. Yeah, there’s a bit of an issue there. And she doesn’t know how to account for the Indian tradition and sort of sidesteps that question or ‘others’ the Indian tradition in order to get around it. But I remember you telling me once that you were in a bookstore in New York and you looked at book on Indian astrology—and you were reading Ptolemy—and you said something like, “So that’s what Ptolemy was doing.”
RH: I had that reaction. I’m still not entirely clear what Ptolemy was doing. Nobody is. I mean, his description is so ambiguous, it’s ridiculous.
RH: What we have here is we still have multiple house systems, and we are not responsible for the statement that whole sign houses were used for a thousand years as a general house system—that is that astrology computer company.
CB: Co-Star. Well, they were actually quoting me.
RH: Oh, okay.
CB: They were paraphrasing me actually. So Houlding was actually trying to argue with me without quoting me directly, which is more of a proper academic convention. But what I was saying was actually not very far from something that James Holden said at one point.
CB: And actually I have a quote from that where he had written a paper on whole sign houses at one point in the year 2000. I don’t know if you can see this.
RH: Yeah, I can.
CB: So it’s titled “The Sign-House System of House Division.” And he says in the second paragraph…
RH: Oh, lovely. I don’t have this paper. If you could send it to me, I’d love it.
CB: Yeah, I’ll email it to you.
RH: What book is it in? Or is it an article?
CB: It’s in an AFA periodical from 2000.
RH: Okay, send it to me if you would, I don’t have a copy. If you could do that conveniently.
RH: Otherwise, I’ll just get it off the screen somehow. Yeah, go ahead.
CB: So he says, “But the original system of house division was what I have called the “Sign-House” system. It was devised by the Alexandrian astrologers who invented horoscopic astrology in the 2nd century B.C. It was used by the majority of classical astrologers for half a millennium.”
RH: Actually I accept that figure if you start with the 2nd century BC, yeah.
CB: “[The] system was very simple. The rising sign—all of it—constituted the first house. The next whole sign was the 2nd house, the next…after that the 3rd house, [and so on and so forth].”
RH: Yeah, yeah.
CB: So when I say ‘a thousand years’, I start from the 2nd century BCE, all the way into the early Arabic tradition. The Arabic astrologers like Masha’allah and Sahl were still using whole sign houses very frequently, even in that early era, and even though they were starting to also integrate quadrant houses on top of it.
RH: And in the Arabic translation of Dorotheus it’s completely whole sign houses.
RH: That was one of the most influential texts on early Arabic astrology.
CB: Yeah. And you also translated On Reception by Masha’allah, which was written in the late 8th century, and that has some of the earliest horary charts that use whole sign houses as well, right?
CB: Okay. So one of the things I wanted to ask you though is James Holden published that paper in 1982 where he talked about whole sign houses; I have a clip from that. So this is what Holden said in his 1982 paper where he said, “Starting from the rising sign, the houses were numbered off in succession. In the example above, the first house would have been Leo, the second Virgo, the third Libra. This was the first system of house division. I have not encountered any name for it in the literature, so, for convenience, I shall refer to it as the Sign House system. Note that the reckoning was by whole signs.” And he says, “This is the primitive form of [the] Equal House division. [It’s] found in the papyri…from the earliest to the latest, and…is still in widespread use in India.”
RH: Almost exclusively, in fact, except for the Tajik astrologers. Tajik, by the way, is Indian for ‘Persian’.
CB: Right. So the very first Project Hindsight translation was Paulus Alexandrinus. And one of the things I noticed is that in your introduction to that translation, right at the start, you said one of the most notable features about it is that it uses the signs as houses, or it uses the whole sign house system. So already at that point, you guys became aware of it. And since you referred to it as the ‘sign house system’ or ‘whole sign houses’, were you familiar with James Holden’s work at that point?
RH: Probably not then, but I was familiar with it shortly thereafter because when I started working with the Latin stuff, I found the same thing you found, that the Latin texts had whole sign houses in them—the Latin translations.
CB: Sure, ‘cause that’s what I was trying to understand. It seemed like there may have either been some awareness of Jim Holden’s work.
RH: James Holden is one of the best well-kept secrets in the bibliography of astrology. It’s a shame.
RH: A matter of fact, he used to mock other astrologers for their irrational concern with the correct house system.
RH: Which I think was a little unnecessary because a lot of the ancients did come up with quadrant house systems of one sort or another. Yeah, I was aware of it fairly quickly.
CB: Okay, ‘cause one of the things that Houlding says is that you guys invented whole sign houses. But it seems more just that you made an observation in Paulus pretty early on, that you thought he was using the signs as houses.
CB: Do you remember anything about how you guys figured that out, or when you first discovered that or came to that realization? What was the context of that?
RH: I think we realized it pretty fast, as I recall. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t think it because it kept getting confirmed by all the texts. Paulus was actually a rush job. What’s the name? This is one of my problems, I have ‘name’ problems. The lady who worked with us.
RH: No, no, she lives in Massachusetts and frequently in London. She was at the Warburg.
CB: Oh, Dorian Greenbaum.
RH: Yeah. Her translation is quite a bit better than ours.
CB: Right. That’s one of the things about yours that’s really important—all those were supposed to be preliminary translations.
CB: And then you guys were gonna circle back and do a final translation series. But that seemed very important ‘cause that was the point where she said that you guys came in with this full-blown package or system of astrology and you already knew everything.
RH: Oh, that’s bullshit. That’s errant bullshit.
RH: That pissed me off more than just about anything else she said. All we knew was the old astrology was different.
CB: Right. It was different than modern astrology.
RH: Yeah. I mean, keep saying to people we started it because we wanted to find out if there really were ‘secrets of the ancients’ in astrology and we found out, yes, there were.
RH: That was one of them.
CB: But you kind of didn’t know what you were gonna find ‘cause many of these texts had never been translated into English before, right?
RH: Correct. The translation that Schmidt did of Paulus was the first translation, as far as I know, ever done.
CB: Yeah. Also, Valens was the first English translation ever done.
RH: Oh, most of them were. They were first efforts and they gradually got better. He was teaching himself the material from doing the translating.
CB: Yeah, so that’s actually two questions. So one of the points is even though I wasn’t around in the 1990s for Project Hindsight, I studied all of the translations and both of you and Schmidt’s, as well as Zoller’s writings very closely when I lived at Project Hindsight a decade later, and I could see the evolution of your thinking in the translator’s prefaces and the footnotes. You were always very open about when you had ideas about stuff, or that there were speculations, or things were provisional, or sometimes things would be revised later as you went. It does seem like there was this process of learning and growing and evolving as things went on, right?
RH: Yes. Yeah, there was a good deal of that. We did not come in to prove a method that we already knew about. We came in to find out what the hell was there.
RH: It was an honest research project. And as far as this being some sort of money-making device—which was implied occasionally in that video—it wasn’t. There were money-making devices that became attached to it like PHASE conferences and things like that, but the thing he was mainly gonna do was make an instructional booklet about these techniques and they never did.
CB: Yeah, Demetra said last night that in her observation—when I interviewed her last night—you and Schmidt and also Zoller just had an overwhelming excitement about this whole process of going back and finding all this stuff that nobody knew about, and that was really the driving force behind what you guys were doing—reclaiming the history.
RH: Yeah, that for sure. That was exactly what we were doing. One of the things that I was annoyed at is I was being made a villain, and she and I, I thought, were friends because I always respected her respect for authentic older traditions. She’s not a modern astrologer. She’s an early modern astrologer.
CB: Right. Practicing Lilly and Renaissance astrology.
RH: Yeah, with Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto added, of course. I mean, she doesn’t exclude those from her work.
CB: Right. Nor do you.
RH: I don’t either. I even use Chiron. I have a whole chapter on the transits of Chiron.
CB: And that was actually something I was surprised about—the extent to which she blamed you for this and that there was so much vitriol behind it. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure you wrote the introduction to her book on the houses, right?
RH: I think I did. I don’t remember the experience, but I’m pretty sure I did. I don’t know if it’s in the new edition or not.
CB: Yeah, I mean, in the edition that was published by Wessex in 2006, it has a forward by Robert Hand…
RH: That’s it, yeah.
CB:…that’s like a page or two long. So I don’t know what edition that was or the standing.
RH: That was the first edition, I’m pretty sure.
CB: Okay, ‘cause you were already talking about whole sign houses. So one of the things that’s bizarre is that you were already promoting this discovery of whole sign houses, but then you wrote the forward to her book on houses. So at some point she thought that it was advantageous to have you do that.
RH: You have to make a distinction between the idea of houses and the methodology of houses. How you calculate them and what they mean are two different things.
RH: Here’s my history with house division. First of all, you’ll be thrilled to know that I’ve been studying astrology for 63 years.
CB: Your father was an astrologer, right?
RH: Not professionally. He used it for financial forecasting, but that’s what got me into it, yes.
RH: And my initial reaction was to regard houses as horseshit because I saw astrologers using them to explain everything without any rigor or discipline at all. And I couldn’t make them work. Needless to say, I was stuck with the Placidus house system at the time because that was the only one that was readily available.
CB: That was the only one that there were tables for in book form.
RH: Yeah, it’s Grammar of Astrology by—I forgot the author’s name—but he was a 19th century astrologer of some standing.
CB: So is that true? ‘Cause James Holden said that statement. And I always wondered if it was true that one of the reasons Placidus was so popular in the 20th century was because that’s the main one or the only one that there was tables for.
RH: Yes. A man named Cooper translated Placidus into English, most of it, in the late 18th century—or early 18th century—and everybody went with it because it sounded so scientific. But here’s the basic problem—and this one whole sign houses addresses beautifully, as do equal houses, of course, but they have the same problem with the floating Midheaven—and that is that there is no fixed relationship between the Midheaven and the Ascendant. At one point in her lecture, she talks about how you point to the south and you spread your arms, and you’ll come down at the Ascendant and Descendant. No you don’t. You come down to the east and west points, which are not the Ascendant and Descendant because the circles are all oblique in various ways to each other.
RH: And that’s what astrologers have been trying to solve.
CB: Technically, even though we generally associate the Ascendant with the east and the Descendant with the west, they’re not actually exactly due-east and due-west.
RH: They are only due-east and due-west when you have either 0 Cancer or Capricorn on the Midheaven.
CB: Okay, got it. So that’s an important point in terms of how much directionality is actually crucial to house division and the underlying premise.
RH: Yes. I grant you the Sun is on the Ascendant at dawn, but the Sun is not at the east at dawn except around the equinoxes.
CB: Right. Yeah, so going back, for example, you wrote horoscope symbols, but you weren’t big into houses. You were always kind of skeptical about houses. And then I was wondering actually if you could tell me—‘cause I’ve never gotten this as oral history from you—but how did Project Hindsight start?
RH: 1993, I think there was a UAC.
RH: ‘92, thank you. It was in Crystal City, Virginia, in Arlington.
CB: Even before that you first met Schmidt at a Matrix conference in 1989, I think, when you were both on a panel together.
RH: Yes, and that’s when I first met him, but Project Hindsight was born at that UAC.
RH: Actually it was originally called Arhat. I kept that name, he went back to his. He had an earlier Project Hindsight. It was on the history of mathematics, called Project Hindsight. So he decided to retain that term for the series of translations which a group of us were going to translate. The original committee was Meira for Hebrew, Schmidt for Greek, myself—I called myself, “I am your humble front man,” ‘cause I wasn’t expected to do any translating—and then Zoller did Latin. Zoller left early, and it wasn’t because, as she said, we tried to dictate. Here’s what we wanted Zoller to do. We wanted Zoller to look over the Latin a little more carefully because he was making whopping translating errors.
RH: And that’s what I discovered with a little refreshment. My Latin was better than his, and now it’s way better than his; of course he’s dead. But now I have a PhD in an academic field which requires a very good reading knowledge of Latin.
CB: Right, ‘cause Zoller was also there longer. I think she said he was only there for a few months. But he was actually there from 1992 to 1995, I believe, right?
RH: Yeah, I think he was there for a few years, yes.
CB: ‘Cause he published six translations I think with the project in the end.
CB: So obviously it didn’t happen over a few months.
RH: No, it didn’t happen over a few months. But I think the straw that broke the camel’s back—or should I say he was ‘crushed under a falling redwood tree’—was his translation of the Liber—oh, not that Liber.
CB: Yeah, it was the Liber Hermetis.
RH: But that’s not the one that did it. It was al-Kindi’s Stellar Rays.
CB: That was the first one you translated though. That couldn’t have been it.
RH: No, I think he did the Bonatti first.
CB: Well, I don’t know which one was translated first, but al-Kindi was volume one of the Latin track.
RH: Okay, then that’s what began to do it. And I have gone back over that several times. I do know his Latin translations were not very rigorous. That’s an almost unreadable book. You know the Esoterica YouTube channel?
RH: They did one on al-Kindi and they mentioned the Stellar Rays. And they mentioned our translation ‘cause Schmidt and I edited—almost redid the whole thing—and it still was gibberish. The Latin was gibberish. And some people at Oxford have done it again and their translation makes sense. But I think they must have had a medium helping them with it because I find it hard to see how they got that very coherent English out of the incoherent Latin.
CB: Yeah, so part of the issue was just there were translation conventions. But at least in terms of the beginning, you and Schmidt and Zoller met up at UAC in 1992, and it was like over a series of dinners you guys came up with the idea for this project.
RH: Actually we called a meeting of people who either were interested in or had books of old astrology texts.
RH: And in that meeting—it was a couple of meetings—we formed an informal organization which we called Arhat, which was the Association for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts. I put together one journal of it, which I still have a copy of. And then we decided to do the translation project, and the only people who were really useful to us were people who had a language they could translate. Meira Epstein did the Hebrew. And since that’s her native language, she did it rather well.
CB: Yeah. One of the things is early on, it wasn’t just about the Greek material, but your plan was actually to translate texts from Arabic, from Latin, from Hebrew. And there were even interactions with Sanskrit astrologers.
RH: Not very fruitful ones, but there was discussion of it, yes.
CB: Sure. But the point is one of the allegations made by Houlding…
RH: No, it was not intended to be primarily about Greek astrology. You’re right. I’ll give you that point readily. If you’re gonna pin it down at all, it would be the Greek tradition through the end of the Latin tradition in the West.
CB: Right. Which would take it all the way up until the 17th century.
RH: Astrologia Gallica, for example, has never been completely translated and that’s a very interesting work.
CB: Yeah, I just found a passage in it the other day in Book 18. Morinus has an example where he uses whole sign houses and quadrant houses at the same time.
CB: Have you seen that?
RH: I have of course. I have PDFs of the original book, which is one of the most elegantly-produced books I’ve seen.
CB: I actually have it right here. It’s like a gigantic book.
RH: Yeah, it is. Do you read Latin?
CB: Yeah, I mean, I can piece through. I’m not a Latin PhD scholar like you necessarily.
RH: I wouldn’t describe myself as being a great Latin scholar. Modern Germans writing in Neo-Latin I cannot read. Cicero gives me a bit of a hard time because his Latin was a little archaic and some of the words are different. But yeah, I read Latin pretty well.
CB: Can I show you this passage really quick that I found in Morinus?
RH: Yeah. You got it in Latin or English?
CB: Well, I have the Latin. I’ll pull the Latin out later.
RH: Oh, English is fine.
CB: Here’s Anthony Louis’ translation. I think it was actually from another Spanish translation, but I had somebody check the Latin and they said it was fine. So it says, “In a similar way, in the natal chart of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, Saturn is formally in the 8th House and accidentally in the 9th House.”
RH: Aha, yes! Ooh, I like that. I like that. That may be the answer, by the way, except that, still, we don’t know which quadrant system. That’s still a problem.
CB: Right. So there’s a quadrant chart on the left and there’s a whole sign chart on the right.
RH: So that’s the accidental houses.
CB: Well, I think this might actually be different. Oh, yeah, it’s the Saturn placement. So in the quadrant house, on the left, it’s in the 8th house, but in the whole sign house, it’s in the 9th house. So what he does is he mixes the delineations. So it’s in the 8th house by quadrant formally, but accidentally, by whole sign, in the 9th, and he says it’s “exiled [in Detriment] in Leo, a fire sign, damaged by an almost partile square from Mars in the 12th House and also opposite to the ruler of the Ascendant in an almost partile manner.” And then he says, “Therefore, to the extent that the 9th House was affected, it signified unfortunate and deadly long journeys away from his homeland; [but] to the extent that…[Saturn] pertains to the 8th House, damaged by the square from Mars, [it signified] a violent death by burning lead because among the metals, Saturn signifies lead.” So what happens is he’s the person basically died in this way as a result of the blend between the whole sign and the quadrant house.
RH: Yeah, I’m just trying to figure out Sweden. That’s a great place for doing this sort of testing because you’ve got really bonkers house systems. But the whole sign chart—that’s what he calls accidental. I’m not sure which one I would assign to the categories, but I like that. Except ‘formal’ and ‘accidental’ aren’t really opposites.
RH: Morinus is a very difficult character philosophically because he revised Aristotle. It’s just as Aristotelian in its style, but he uses the terminology differently.
RH: And the whole text is written on the assumption that you understand immediately what he’s done with Aristotle.
CB: Right. So it goes on and then eventually he just talks about him dying while traveling or dying in a foreign country and concludes by saying, “Thus Saturn carried the meaning of both the 8th and the 9th Houses.” And he actually goes on and gives other examples as well on the following page that mix whole sign and equal, but we don’t have to dwell there necessarily.
RH: Yeah. Did he translate the entire work or just one section of it? The person who did this book, this edition.
CB: This was just Book 18, which was the AFA translation.
RH: Oh, okay. Okay, yeah, that’s the one that’s been around forever. Yeah, that’s a book that definitely—had we continued, we would have done it.
RH: Morinus’ Latin is pretty easy. He was trying to be, except for his philosophy being a little weird. I mean, when I say ‘weird’, it sounds Aristotelian, but it isn’t quite.
CB: Yeah, I think it would have taken you a little bit to translate this monster.
RH: I know. Yeah, I have a picture of the monster on my computer. I have it on a PDF file and probably that edition. It looks like the same one.
CB: Yeah. So going back to the early stages of Project Hindsight, just to get some of the oral history and actual context, initially it was the archive, but then eventually you came up with the idea to do an actual translation project and decided that texts needed to be translated. And then by 1993, you created this subscription service where astrologers could subscribe to get a translation every time it came out and then you started producing translations. I know that you primarily did modern astrology up to this point, but one of the allegations…
RH: Well, ‘deviant’ modern astrology, yes. I never did conventional modern astrology.
CB: Right. One of the things I know about you is that you’ve also had a long interest in the history of astrology, and that you also had an interest in studying different forms of astrology, including studying Ptolemy. You mentioned going to that Vedic conference. So it’s not like you weren’t familiar with traditional astrology by the time the project started, right?
RH: Well, it was difficult to be terribly familiar with it. All we had was Lilly and some of the other English writers.
CB: Like Lilly and Ptolemy and Manilius.
RH: Yeah, Manilius is a real piece of work.
RH: His poetry renders simple translations virtually impossible.
CB: Yeah, ‘cause he was trying to create an entertaining work of art, but there’s problems in terms of the way he describes things being very ambiguous. And some people try to place a lot of emphasis on saying what system of house division he used, even though it’s a very ambiguous text.
RH: Yeah, I would have to say trying to find out what Manilius actually saying at a practical level is somewhat in the same area as biblical exegesis.
RH: You have to make inferences of very small hints.
CB: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve never tried to put too much emphasis on saying what for sure Manilius was doing because it’s so ambiguous.
RH: It was intended to be a literary work for people who liked astrology.
CB: Right. And he was also supposed to be impressive because he was putting some mathematical calculations in verse, which is kind of impressive.
RH: I’d have to look at it again to find those. I’ll take your word for it, if you know them, I don’t. I’ve never sat down and read the whole thing because it’s a very weird work.
CB: You mean, you’ve never read it in Latin, rather than the translation?
RH: Oh, I’ve gone through the book pretty thoroughly, but I can’t say that I’ve read it systematically. I picked it up and read a bit of it. I have one line I can actually quote, “The fates rule the world.”
CB: Oh, yeah, I always liked the way that you quoted that passage. Do you still have it in memory?
RH: “Fatum regit omnes,” but I don’t have the rest of it now.
CB: That’s okay.
RH: But I know where it is.
CB: So with the early days of Project Hindsight, you guys got together, you created a subscription model to start translating these texts, and then you started translating them. And one of the things that I never understood is it seemed like so many translations came out in such a short span of a few years; I always marveled at how industrious you were.
RH: We were driven, no doubt about it, then politics started getting in the way among the four of us—three of us.
CB: Yeah, we can get to that in a minute. But what was driving you?
RH: We just wanted to do this very badly. We felt it was necessary.
RH: Because nobody had done it. Astrology was this ancient art, which supposedly we had handed to us directly from the ancients and hasn’t changed one whit in two millennia—and it has. It’s evolved a lot.
CB: Right. So up to that point all astrologers knew that astrology was a very old subject, but they largely assumed that the way we’re practicing it today was more or less the same as it was 2,000 years ago.
RH: Anybody who assumed that was really ignorant because there were already passages from Bonatti in translation and they were observably different, although they were not too far removed from Lilly.
CB: Right. Bonatti and Lilly are not too far apart. Oh, yeah, I forgot. We skipped over the part of were you purely a modern astrologer? Did you know anything about traditional astrology prior to Project Hindsight?
RH: I knew somewhat of the history of astrology, a fair amount, but I hadn’t tried to employ it because the translations were so hard to get. No, I did not have access to Latin. The Schmidts performed a great service. I have the complete CCAG in my library, xeroxed.
RH: I have a horrible time remembering names at the moment.
CB: Describe them.
RH: Schmidt’s wife.
CB: Ellen Black?
RH: Ellen Black, yeah, used to go down to the library in a town in Maryland, which name escapes me right at the moment; a mining town at the end of Maryland.
RH: Cumberland, thank you, and xerox madly.
RH: She had free access to the machine, and, boy, did she ever do it. And she made multiple copies of the xeroxes and one of them was the entire CCAG.
CB: Right. One of the things is that all the academic scholars had created these critical editions of all the Greek and Latin and other texts over the past century, but they were in their original languages, and most astrologers didn’t read those languages.
RH: That’s right.
CB: So they were sort of locked away in these texts up to this point.
RH: Exactly. Most astrologers, if they could read more than one language, it would be modern European languages. Except of course for Meira who speaks an ancient language, Hebrew.
CB: Right. Although there was a few years before some excitement over the reprinting of the Regulus edition of William Lilly in 1985.
RH: That’s when the Renaissance and older astrologies began. And that’s what she’s trying to preserve because that was for her the be-all-and-end-all and it wasn’t.
CB: Right. I mean, one of the things I realized in watching her lecture is that Deborah Houlding got into traditional astrology in the late ‘80s, not too far before you guys. Probably only four or five years because she got her horary diploma in 1989.
CB: So that’s only, what, three or four years before Project Hindsight.
RH: And that did give us initiative, yes.
CB: So for example, did you read Lilly? Did you get the Regulus edition of Lilly or any of that?
RH: Yes, I have the Regulus edition of Lilly. Now I have several other editions too, but I’ve got that original, very expensive Regulus edition.
CB: Sure. I was just trying to understand at what point you started studying Lilly or became aware of texts like that ‘cause even if you weren’t reading the Latin texts or Arabic or Greek prior to Project Hindsight, I think you had some awareness of Lilly and some of those authors.
RH: Yes, I did. It’s amazing. For most people in modern astrology, astrology started somewhere in the 19th century. That bad.
CB: What do you mean by that?
RH: Maybe with Placidus. That’s how much history they knew.
CB: Right. In terms of late 20th century astrologers’ awareness of the history of astrology.
RH: They were aware of earlier astrologers’ names, but not content-wise. One of the things that really impressed me in Lilly—and I still think it’s something every astrologer should study—is he assigned planetary and sign rulerships to just about everything you could possibly imagine.
RH: For example, in a house, the 4th house represents the basement, the 10th house represents the roof.
RH: That sort of thing. It’s very concrete astrology, whereas mostly what was going on was astrology as a psychological tool. And while I have perfect respect for the idea of psychological astrology, where I’m at now is astrology that has some nodding reference to the ancient philosophical traditions in which astrology actually grew up, and what people think of Stoicism but actually was Neo-Platonism.
CB: Right. Yeah, so the revival of Lilly and some of the excitement. It seemed like there was a lot of excitement about the revival of traditional astrology coming out of the UK starting in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
RH: And Zoller was a voice crying in the wilderness over on this side of the Atlantic, although I took him very seriously. We used to get together in New York and talk about these things a lot. I knew Zoller before I knew Schmidt.
CB: Yeah, I forgot. ‘Cause Zoller published his book on the Arabic parts that draws on and quotes Bonatti in 1980.
CB: So he was promoting traditional astrology since then and you guys had been friends way back then.
RH: Yeah, he studied with Zoltan Mason who was a Hungarian-American astrologer, who had an occult bookstore in New York. And Zoltan Mason was really deeply in touch with early modern astrology—Bonatti and people like that. That’s not early modern, that’s Medieval, but he knew about the greats of the Renaissance also, which most astrologers didn’t know anything about.
CB: Yeah, he seemed to be interested in Morinus as well.
CB: I found one of his books recently that is connected to Morinus.
RH: Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised.
CB: So you had a connection with Zoller, and you guys talked astrology going back to, what? Like the early ‘80s or ‘70s?
RH: I’d say early ‘80s. I lived for a while in New York and I didn’t know him then. I didn’t really meet until we started running into each other at conferences in New York.
CB: Got it. Okay, so that’s intersecting. And then of course he is very into the traditional methods, and he said, “The old ways are the good ways.”
RH: No, he said, “The old ways are the good ways.”
CB: Right. That’s much better at capturing the intonation than I can. All right, then you meet Schmidt. Schmidt is not an astrologer, which is one of the things that makes him unique, but I think in 1989 he was working for Michael Erlewine.
CB: And I’ve tried to piece together this history, but I think that Erlewine wanted to build a digital encyclopedia or something for astrology and he asked Schmidt to start researching it. And I think that’s when Schmidt started going back and looking at some of the critical editions of the older, ancient astrological texts just in order to do this research project. Is that true? That’s been an inference of mine.
RH: He did work for Erlewine. I think Erlewine had an encyclopedia of astrology on a grand scale, yeah. I do vaguely recall that that’s what got Schmidt looking at this stuff.
RH: But he didn’t get along with Erlewine very well, so that was short-lived.
CB: Yeah, and that’s the thing. At a conference one time, I was told that you told him, “If things don’t work out with Erlewine, come find me and we’ll do something together.”
CB: And you said that a few years before Project Hindsight. And then what happened is that Schmidt stopped working for Erlewine in 1992, then you and him crossed paths at UAC in 1992, and he came up to you and said something like, “I’m no longer working with Erlewine, let’s do something,” and that was kind of the birth of some of those discussions. Is that true?
RH: Yes, that’s true.
CB: Okay, cool. I’ve been trying to piece together some of this history because it was a decade or more before my time, so I’m really glad to verify some of this with you.
CB: Okay, you create the translation project,1992, the subscription service, and actual translations start coming out in 1993. They’re coming out at a pace of, what? One a month?
RH: That was the original goal, which turned out to be a trifle ambitious.
CB: Well, the entire endeavor actually seemed very ambitious, I’d have to say.
RH: Yes, actually, but it got the ball rolling.
CB: Yeah. You said you had some Latin background and you worked as an editor. You really came at it with the knowledge of the history of astrology and the practice of astrology in different traditions, and I see your comments and your footnotes—where you edited and you wrote footnotes—for both the Greek texts that Schmidt was translating, as well as the Latin texts that Zoller was translating essentially, right?
RH: I connected the Greek tradition to later traditions. And Schmidt’s footnotes were more technically-oriented toward the Greek.
CB: Okay. And so, you’re translating these different texts. I noticed in the different translations—like when you get to different books of Valens or other things like that—there’s like a sense of excitement that you’re discovering new things.
RH: Oh, God, yes.
CB: For example, the time-lord systems.
RH: Yes, because I knew about time-lord systems from Indian astrology, and I also knew about firdar, which was a Medieval system.
RH: In Valens, the count of time-lord systems went from 0 to 60-something in a matter of a few months.
RH: One of which is zodiacal releasing.
CB: Right. So zodiacal releasing was a technique that hadn’t survived in the transmission and wasn’t in modern astrology at all.
RH: At all. Zero. And that kind of a time-lord system I don’t think exists in Indian astrology either.
CB: Yeah, there’s a version of it that Kenneth Johnson pointed out. There’s something that’s almost like zodiacal releasing in Parashara that uses the same periods, but it’s calculated just slightly differently. And I know Rhetorius mentions zodiacal releasing, but he’s citing Valens. And then Abu Ma’shar mentions the periods associated with zodiacal releasing, but then I don’t really see it show up in the tradition after that.
RH: No, and he also did firdar pretty rigorously. Alfridaria in Latin.
RH: Alfridaries in English.
CB: So you started translating all these texts, you start finding these different things. And one of the things I’m curious about is there was an allegation in the lecture that there were no discussions and there were no questions that were being asked, nor was there any openness to having things questioned or challenged.
RH: Bullshit. In the group we did a great deal of that. I mean, even Schmidt wasn’t totally secure. Schmidt was not terribly knowledgeable in astrology. He hadn’t done astrology. He was a mathematician basically.
CB: Yeah, and like a philosopher.
RH: A philosopher and mathematician, yes.
CB: So he had the language skills and the training in philosophy, as well as mathematics, but was not as firm in terms of his views on astrology because he hadn’t been practicing it for a number of years like you or Zoller had.
RH: Yeah, and neither of us were so firm that we would reject anything that showed up in the texts. We’d say, “Fascinating,” and try to understand it.
CB: Right, and sometimes there were questions that were coming up. But also, I know you guys started hosting events and conclaves…
RH: Yeah, conclaves.
CB: …and there were discussions and different presentations and stuff during the course of those.
RH: Yeah, I’ll give you an example. I think it was the second one. I only went to three. After that, I had dropped out. In the second one, the discussion was on houses reckoned—or places reckoned from the Lot of Fortune. And I don’t know how this came up, but the idea was that the—oh, yeah, it came up in Valens. The 11th sign from the Lot of Fortune is ‘a place of acquisition’.
RH: And people started looking at their charts and an awful lot of people had one of the following things true: the Lot of Fortune was in a sign ruled by Mercury, or Mercury was in the sign of the Lot of Fortune, or those same two conditions applied to the place of acquisition, which is the 11th sign from the Lot of Fortune. And to this day, if I don’t find that in a person’s chart, I wonder about their credentials as an astrologer. Frankly, this is for making money by astrology, by the way, it’s not for studying.
RH: All you need to study it is a good, solid Mercury. Not Uranus, dammit, Mercury.
RH: That was one of the things I learned.
CB: Traditional astrology.
RH: The only reason why Uranus rules astrology is because most people consider us to be social deviants, and social deviants are ruled by astrology.
RH: But it doesn’t capture the essence of astrology at all.
CB: Were there other debates that were had early on in Project Hindsight, or things that were discussed, or ideas that you had early on that later you shifted or changed on?
RH: I can’t think of any at the moment because we usually hashed things out pretty thoroughly, but I’m sure that somebody else could probably remember a couple of them. But I think I’m probably your only source at the moment, and forever actually. We did work from a position of consensus, by and large. That was part of the problem with Zoller. He thought his translations were the be-all-and-end-all and we didn’t agree.
CB: Yeah, sometimes it seemed like you guys had—especially you acting as the editor—editorial suggestion, and sometimes that sort of rubbed Zoller the wrong way, or he didn’t want to be told what to do.
RH: The book we were talking about a moment ago.
CB: Liber Hermetis.
RH: Liber Hermetis—no, not the Liber Hermetis.
RH: Al-Kindi, yes. The al-Kindi translation was, a) unreadable, and b) substantially incorrect. The unreadable part we never quite dwelt with, but at least the translations are literally plausible, even if they’re not intelligible.
CB: Yeah, I mean, especially if the publication history is true—just this being the first one—that would have been you guys’ first translation together with Zoller. So there would have been, I’m guessing, probably some getting used to, especially Zoller. He had been on his own translating stuff and studying the texts at least for like a decade or two. So all of a sudden working together with two other guys of a similar level of intellect would have taken some getting used to.
RH: Yeah, he did do several more of the Bonatti translations after that.
CB: Right. Four Bonatti translations. So let’s see, what are the other questions?
RH: You have the chart list. You have the list, I don’t know.
CB: Yeah, I’m just pulling up—so whole sign houses. Do you remember—oh, yeah, that’s it. I was just rewatching her lecture. One of the things she claims is that you guys only talked about whole sign houses and you claimed that that was the only system. However, I know that you guys were talking about quadrant houses in Valens, in your translation of Book 3 of Valens, and I know even in Schmidt’s translation of Book 3 of Ptolemy he talked about how Valens had a passage outlining equal houses. So I know that you guys were discussing the different methods of house division and trying to figure out the history of how things happened and how those systems of house division integrated with whole sign houses, right?
RH: I would say it’s probably more accurate to say that we regarded whole sign houses as one of the alternative old house systems, which is, I think, true. My own use of it has evolved where I have kind of integrated the two, as I said; like looking at the Midheaven houses, but not the way the Iranians do. They look at the Midheaven as the cusp of the 10th house, and then the equatorial Ascendant is the cusp of the 1st house, then they do equal houses from the Ascendant in longitude. It is my belief the Midheaven should be treated as a lot, in the same way the lots were treated. Wherever the planets fall in regards to the sign of the Midheaven that’s the chart of your praxis, your action.
CB: Right. I think you took that partially from Book 5 of Valens where he teaches you that the Midheaven can float around the top part of the chart, and whatever whole sign house it falls in it marks that entire sign with those topics, and they double-up with whatever the whole sign topics are in that sign.
RH: Absolutely. Yeah, I was just looking that up yesterday. Yeah, it’s on page 30 of the Schmidt translation to be exact.
RH: And I looked at the corresponding part in the Riley, and I would have to say if I had encountered that first I would never have observed that demonstrating the practice I described.
CB: Right. ‘Cause you got the idea and was inspired by reading that passage of Valens.
RH: Yeah, Schmidt’s translation of it.
CB: So one of the things you guys did that’s really cool is you went through and every time Valens had an example chart, you had a diagram next to it, and you often had footnotes where you connected it with Greek Horoscopes and the correct date of the chart. And then you would also comment on the placements in the chart and explicate and commentate on Valens’ delineation and why he was saying certain things.
CB: One of the things that’s really important is that if you go through the examples, the vast, vast majority of his charts use whole sign houses.
RH: Yeah, if there’s mention of a Midheaven in the list, there’s no mention of the Midheaven in the text describing it.
CB: Yeah, and that’s one of the things that Houlding is arguing. Even if the Midheaven is not mentioned in a chart, she says that it can still be calculated if you know the degree of the Ascendant. But the obvious problem with that that anybody that’s read Valens knows is that the vast, vast majority, about 95% of Valens’ charts don’t contain the exact degree of the Ascendant. They only tell you the rising sign.
RH: Yeah. What she also doesn’t know is his ascensional times for the signs were totally bullshit.
CB: The ascensional times outlined in Book 1?
RH: Yeah, they were the ‘System B’ of the ancient chart system. ‘System A’ was an earlier one. They were accounting for, in some strange way, the precession of the equinoxes, and by the time Valens had come along System B was out of date significantly.
RH: That’s one of the reasons why Ptolemy is so unambiguous about the tropical zodiac because this doesn’t happen anymore. You actually compute the damn rising times for the date of the chart if you’re gonna do it that way.
CB: Okay. But generally speaking, in Valens, just seeing his chart examples over and over again that only list the rising sign—oftentimes even the planets are only given by sign; they’re not given by degree.
CB: Was that the thing primarily that led you to think that whole sign houses were being used in most of the chart examples? I was just gonna pull up a chart for example. Here’s a common chart for Valens.
CB: I’ll just actually scroll through to a chapter; he’s got a bunch. So this one’s about profections, and Valens says, “Another example: Sun in Taurus, Moon, Venus, Ascendant in Aries, Saturn in Capricorn, Jupiter in Virgo, Mars in Scorpio, Mercury in Gemini.”
CB: So that’s all the data that Valens gives and then from that, as the reader or the student, we’re supposed to construct a chart based on that.
RH: Yeah, that is a pretty good argument for his doing totally sign-wise charts, which is another way of saying whole sign houses.
CB: Right. I mean, I assume that just because that’s basically 95% of his charts. If you flip through The Anthology, he’s only giving the rising sign and the rest of the planets by sign. But then it’s not just that he’s giving those placements, he’s then delineating or interpreting those placements. He says, “Mars in the <VIII> Place of Death [where Mars is in the 8th sign and that it] transmitted to Saturn in the…Place associated with children,” which for him is the 10th place.
CB: So he’s actually connecting actual delineations of things that happened in people’s lives with the actual whole sign house placements.
RH: I would say that’s a very good argument of just how powerful that technique is that you can do that.
RH: You can take a chart where all you know is the rising sign and the signs of planets and get something meaningful out of it. I personally wouldn’t do that, but I think that argument is for the power of the system right there, assuming this isn’t entirely a work of fiction, which I don’t believe.
CB: Yeah. Well, I just wanted to make that point because she’s arguing that whole sign houses didn’t exist at all in ancient astrology, in any tradition whatsoever, prior to modern times.
RH: It would be hard to explain Jyotish. It’d really be hard to explain Jyotish.
CB: Yeah, the Indian tradition. She can’t explain the Indian tradition. She can’t explain also Arabic horoscopes that have been found that use whole sign houses.
RH: And in the translation that—God, I’m having trouble with names today. The guy at AFA we were talking about.
CB: James Holden?
RH: Holden, yes. His translation of Abu Ali al-Khayyat, he talks about the issue in connection with whole sign houses somewhere I was reading today. And he believed the Midheaven had been put into the charts by subsequent editors, that they weren’t there originally because quite consistently, he doesn’t.
RH: I would not put in the Midheaven sometimes and not in others, so I took the Midheaven seriously as a house cusp.
CB: And even if the Midheaven is in the chart, one of the things that Valens proves is that they’re sometimes treating the Midheaven as a floating point in the top-half of the chart that can fall in a whole sign house.
CB: So it’s like sometimes even when there’s a Midheaven, it’s still being used in a whole sign house context. Unless they’re actually trisecting the cusps between the degrees of the quadrant Midheaven and the quadrant Ascendant and actually dividing the chart into quadrants, it’s not ever fully 100% certain that they’re using quadrant houses even if there’s a Midheaven.
RH: Yeah. Until you see intermediate cusps, you can’t assume anything about the house system they’re using.
CB: Right, like in Solar Fire, for example. Let me just share a chart. This is a chart for right now. This is me and how I have my chart set up, and I have the Ascendant and the degree of the Midheaven and the degree of the Descendant and IC in the chart because I’m paying attention to those as sensitive points and what whole sign houses they fall in, and what planets they’re emphasizing.
RH: Interesting we’re doing this ‘cause we’re both in signs of Mercury, aren’t we?
CB: The Moon and Mars, or—no, both of the angles. Yeah, you’re right.
CB: We started with actually 0 Virgo rising.
RH: Yeah, good thing you picked the sign of the long ascension.
CB: Right. Eventually you wrote a couple of articles on whole sign houses in The Mountain Astrologer Magazine.
CB: Aside from the translations, that’s one of the ways that you first started publishing.
RH: I also had the book on it.
CB: Yeah, I think you took the two TMA articles that were written in 1999 on whole sign houses and you took some of that material and turned it into the book in 2000, right?
RH: Yeah. Yeah, the book’s still in print, by the way, for anybody who’s interesting.
CB: Right, on your website. I think people can get a PDF of it.
CB: One of the things for you is you were actually impressed and excited about whole sign houses once you had seen it in the Greek texts first, or in Valens, and then once you started using it in practice there was something about it. Even though you had been kind of skeptical about houses up until the 1980s…
RH: First of all, I saw that it consistently worked.
RH: That’s the answer. Now there are a few gotchas here, one of them is the floating Midheaven because wherever the Midheaven is does pertain to career, action, and so on and so forth, even if it’s the 11th house or the 9th house. And I had an example that happened today. I had a person who wanted an appointment with me for a consultation, and she was born in Nicaragua and her birth time was sort of approximate. So I reckoned the time for the approximate time of birth and I looked at what had happened in her life and said, “This chart can’t be correct.” And using whole sign houses, I also used the almutans, as well as sign rulers, if they’re not the same. What I wanted to see is the ruler of the inhabitant of the 9th house either ruling or aspecting a planet in the 4th house. Now the 4th house involves the Midheaven, the IC namely, but it also involves the 4th sign from the Ascendant. And when I spoke to her again she found that’s when her mother had gone to the hospital. She was born somewhere between 2:00 and 3:00 PM, so I did the chart for 2:30, and I said, “That one had it.” She was born in a foreign country, namely in Nicaragua.
CB: Wow. Okay.
RH: She lives in Florida now.
RH: It was just immediately. No ambiguity. I can’t do that with any of the quadrant house systems.
CB: Right. So one of your realizations during the course of the 1990s was just that you felt like personally that was a compelling house system, and all of a sudden you felt like your delineations were working better than you were used to in the years up to that point.
RH: Yes. I got a little improvement with Koch, but I’ll tell you the biggest problem I had was the succedent houses didn’t work worth a damn. They are more badly affected by the difference between quadrant house systems and whole sign house systems than any other group. I didn’t get the right significators, the right dispositors. When I started using the whole sign house system I could talk about a person’s money. I could talk about their borrowing money. I could talk about them having children and friends and groups and associations, and it made sense.
CB: Right. Yeah, that was my experience as well. So you mentioned the Koch system of house division. And actually there’s something really funny about that that you’d probably love to hear that I wanted to share with you. I found this old, obscure astrology book that Walter Koch, the inventor of the Koch house system, wrote together with another German scholar named Knappich in 1959 that was on house division, and I found in that book that they recognized that whole houses existed in the Greek tradition.
RH: Oh, wow. That’s impressive. You read German?
CB: No, but it was brought to my attention originally on the Skyscript forum. A German astrologer pointed it out and then I corresponded with him privately. And my friend Jenn Zahrt—I got a hold of the book—translated the passage for me, if you want to hear it.
RH: I see it. Oh, yeah, Knappich. Okay, yeah, I didn’t recognize the second name. Yes, horoskopos. Heavenly houses. Foundations in ancient times.
CB: Yeah, so foundations in ancient times.
RH: I read German.
CB: Okay. No, here I’ll just do Jenn’s translation. Is that fine?
RH: Yeah. Oh, I’m sure her foreign language is quite good.
CB: Yeah, she got a PhD in German. So it says, “The Egyptian lay astrologers, who were, as Bouché-Leclerq accurately said, in “absolute rebellion” against the intricacies of the theory of the ascensional times, sought to determine the rising ecliptic degree or Horoskopos with their [on mere progression touching] “table of Petosiris” and used no other cardinal points. They placed, as shown in the horoscope from Abydos, the planets and the Horoskopos in the twelvefold schema of the zodiac and viewed the sign, in which the [horoscope] resides as the 1st house, the next sign as the 2nd, and so on. They equated signs and houses. The oldest, actually house-less manner was used later also by learned astrologers, like for example Palchos (around 490), who, alongside the Horoskopos, also inserted the true [Midheaven] into the diagram. This “sign equals house” method was also adopted by…Indian astrologers and is still used today by orthodox Hindu astrologers.”
RH: I was not aware of that passage since I never had a copy of the book.
CB: I know. It’s actually a very rare book. And I checked Holden’s bibliography and James Holden didn’t have this book in his library. So Holden basically discovered whole sign houses independently. You and Hand basically rediscovered whole sign houses…
RH: I’m Hand.
CB: Oh, sorry, you and Schmidt. Thanks for catching me. Now I’m the one with memory stuff.
RH: I can detect mistakes, but I have trouble not making them.
CB: Sure. But the point is that James Holden discovered whole sign houses independently—he wasn’t aware of this book—you and Schmidt also independently.
RH: It keeps popping up. And that paragraph actually is key because I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but a friend of Dorian’s, a colleague actually—they worked together at the Warburg Institute—published an article which is available online, except for some reason they chopped off the end of the edition that’s online.
CB: Are you talking about the Micah Ross article?
RH: Yes. He clearly indicates that the Ascendant was discovered by the Egyptians as a concept.
CB: Right. They said that the rising decan acted as a precursor to the development of the concept of the 12 houses.
RH: Well, when it was combined with the zodiacal concepts of the Babylonians you’ve got the whole sign house system.
CB: Right. ‘Cause then you’re paying attention to what is the rising sign at that hour and then that becomes the start of the sequence of the 12 houses or 12 signs.
RH: Yes. And you may not have heard this translation, but horoskopos should be translated as ‘hour-marker’ or ‘time-marker’.
RH: Not ‘watcher of the hour’, which is absurd.
CB: Yeah, that was one of Schmidt’s early things. ‘Cause he was always so focused on not accepting whatever the current convention was, but instead going back and finding out what the original Greek or Latin word was and then coming up with a word that more accurately conveyed the original meaning in that original language.
RH: Yeah, I do this all the time with Liddell and Scott, the unabridged edition, which happens to be computerized and found on a website called—I guess you pronounce the name as Logeion, L-O-G-E-I-O-N. They have the complete Liddell and Scott Unabridged Greek Dictionary and the Latin equivalent on there, and you can see this.
RH: You can see this is absolutely reasonable. What usually you find in the shorter dictionaries is the common usage of the word, which would not be the usage of the word when it was originally used.
RH: And it cites the locations in what accounts for the vast majority of surviving ancient Greek literature. It cites the locations of them in the text.
CB: Right. Nice. So then as a result of that, as a result of you guys not just accepting historical precedent in terms of different terms sometimes you ended up introducing new terminology that has since become popular. So one of the phrases—even though you didn’t invent it—you do want to take credit for coining the phrase ‘whole sign houses’. Is that accurate, or is that not necessarily accurate?
RH: It’s absolutely accurate, but it wasn’t in connection with Project Hindsight. I told you I was at an all-day seminar by BV Raman, an Indian astrologer in the early ‘70s.
RH: And he started to blow our minds by saying they’re not particularly concerned with the degree of the Ascendant because all they want to know is what sign it is.
RH: And then the other signs just fall right in. He said there are systems that do Porphyry-type houses in India, but the dominant house system is the whole sign house system using the sidereal zodiac, so it’s not exactly equivalent. And I had leaned over to the person I was sitting at the table with—we were set out with tables—and I said, “That’s a whole sign house system.”
CB: Right. Okay.
RH: It’s possible it may have been the other person. No, it can’t. He called it ‘sign house’, which I think is equally good.
RH: I’d be perfectly happy to use that term too. Although I’m remembering it as ‘sign as house’, when I looked in the book today it’s just ‘sign-house’.
CB: Right. Yeah, it’s funny how that didn’t catch on, but the one that you preferred did.
RH: Well, Holden was an obscure astrologer in the AFA, George Noonan was another one who did a lot of work in ancient astrology in mostly, I think, Latin, and these two guys got no recognition whatsoever from the AFA. They were voices crying in the wilderness. They were the first ones in this country actually to do that.
CB: Going back and looking at the traditional texts and starting to do translations?
CB: From my vantage point I inferred that part of the reason for that was it seems like there was a generational shift where a lot of the younger astrologers that came in in the ‘60s and ‘70s ended up kind of rebelling against the AFA and creating their own organizations, like the NCGR and ISAR.
RH: No, Noonan has always gotten credit, for anybody who knows about his work, outside of the AFA. No, it was the AFA that kind of just tolerated them because they were that generation of older astrologers we were rebelling against. But in one respect, you’re right because the time was better in the early ‘90s because people had enough of what we’ll call excessively ‘airy-fairy’ astrology. They wanted some meat and potatoes and here was meat and potatoes galore. But it also works on the ‘airy-fairy’ level too, I might add.
CB: Yeah, just in terms of the rise of traditional astrology. But I guess I was just saying why it seemed like James Holden’s work wasn’t widely-known or recognized until much later, and it seemed to have to do with the AFA not being as popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s as the other organizations were or something like that. So maybe people just weren’t as aware of what he was doing.
RH: I don’t think it was the AFA. People bought AFA books right and left, but Holden they just thought was weird.
CB: Okay, just ‘cause it was traditional astrology.
RH: He was premature.
RH: It wasn’t his fault. But on the other hand he was an influence on what followed.
CB: For sure, right. Okay, so getting back—one of the things that’s interesting about your publication history when I was looking at the dates is that you didn’t publish the TMA articles on whole sign houses until 1999. So, to me, that implies that even though Project Hindsight was talking about whole sign houses and promoting it and saying that this was in the Greek texts—in addition to quadrant houses and equal houses…
RH: Yeah, I’m paying attention. I’m just looking through my book pile. Okay, I can’t find what I had.
CB: But you didn’t start actually publishing stuff about whole sign houses yourself to promote it in that way until the late ‘90s or something. When did you start?
RH: It was originally an Arhat book. It became one when I separated. I took my books away from Project Hindsight. Not my translations, the books.
RH: And there it is, okay. I just want to look at the original copyright date here. Well, it’s actually copyright 2000, but it was written before that.
CB: Yeah, I just got scans today of the—where is it?
RH: Oh, it’s night and day. It started out as a Project Hindsight manual on the discussion of sect. No, this one was written while I was on my own.
CB: I just got today from Jenn Zahrt, from her library—she’s building an astrological library in Oregon.
RH: Oh, wow.
CB: But she scanned these two TMA issues from 1999, and on the top-left you can see it promoting “[Rob] Hand on Whole Sign Houses.”
RH: Yeah, yeah.
CB: So this is 1999.
RH: Yep, that’s a picture of me when I still had some color in my hair.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good picture. So this is the original article from June-July 1999, Mountain Astrologer, page 43, “The Oldest House System: Whole-Sign Houses.”
CB: So this was the original publication that a year later was turned into the little booklet.
CB: One of the things you’re saying there is that you’re calling it ‘the oldest house system,’ and that’s one of the things that I’ve also done. In my book, I ended up writing like a 50-page chapter in order to validate and substantiate the claim that it was both the original house system in terms of the use of the 12 houses, but also that it was the most popular system in the Hellenistic tradition.
CB: Do you still feel, for the most part, those two points are still true today? Or how would you frame it?
RH: I’d say in the Greek tradition, definitely. In the Arabic tradition, it was beginning to wane in favor of Alchabitius and Porphyry. And there were uses of Porphyry clearly implicit in some of the Greek material. But yeah, I still stand by that otherwise. As I was going through my stuff today I could see it still held up. But I would certainly recommend it if anybody wants to study astrology. The only problem is that I have not written a book where I’ve described how I do whole sign houses. There’s a lot more to it than simply omitting the Midheaven.
RH: For example, the Gauquelins unequivocally proved the reality of the Midheaven and the Ascendant. Those were the two places where the profession-determining planets most frequently appeared. Although it’s not quite the same as it is in astrology because the 12th and 9th houses, speaking in terms of quadrant house systems, are the ones where most of the action is. But the practices that I have, for example, for when the Midheaven falls in something other than the 10th sign, I read, as per Valens, both the sign it falls and the 10th sign to talk about career and profession. I don’t think most people are doing that.
CB: Right. Well, it’s actually become really popular at this point today, whole sign houses, and that’s part of the reason these debates are happening.
CB: Over the past decade it’s sort of taken off. According to some polls, Placidus is still the number one house system, but I’ve seen a couple of polls indicating that whole sign houses has become the second-most used house system today.
RH: Yeah, I’m not familiar with the polls, but it doesn’t surprise me. Whole sign houses have not taken off because they’re easy. They’ve taken off because they work. Now is it possible that there is a valid quadrant house system? Yes. But how do you define the intermediate cusps? There’s no a priori, theoretical foundation for the intermediate cusps in any of them. Placidus argued that he was doing something reasonable. He was doing something reasonable only in terms of doing his interpretation of Ptolemy’s primary directions, proportional positions of the semi-arcs. If you don’t accept the semi-arc idea as being a valid position then they fall apart completely.
And nobody could do them anyway because it wasn’t till the 20th century that somebody came up with a rigorous algorithm for computing the intermediate cusps in Placidus. They were all done by rough approximations in the model of Regiomontanus. They were within a degree, but they weren’t accurate. American Astrology Magazine had an astronomer prepare a table of houses that was done in this rigorous manner, and I might add the current astrology software does the rigorous version of Placidus also. We all learned from that. The reason it was impossible is you can’t calculate a Placidian cusp without iterating the calculation until the values converge. And you don’t want to do that without a computer.
CB: Right. All these systems can be calculated so easily today. It’s one of the things I noticed on Twitter as a lot of the younger astrologers are reacting to Deborah Houlding’s statements that whole sign houses is ‘lazy’ or that it’s ‘for lazy astrologers’.
RH: It’s not. It takes no more energy to hit that button than the other button.
RH: It’s all a matter of selecting the right button.
CB: So one of the things you mentioned is paying attention to the degrees of the angles and the Gauquelin results still being relevant.
CB: And that’s actually important because part of the argument that Schmidt came up with, but also you sometime in the mid-’90s (1995-1996), was that you saw that most of the charts—for example, in Valens—used whole sign houses, or in Dorotheus. But then when the different astrologers would get to the length-of-life technique, when they were trying to determine the predominator or the hyleg, they would often introduce their degree-based forms of house division like Porphyry in the case of Valens, or possibly equal houses modified in the case of Ptolemy. So Schmidt introduced this distinction saying that whole sign houses were topics and that quadrant houses were for dynamic purposes or busyness essentially.
RH: I would accept that as a good approximation of what he said, yes. I wouldn’t say that exactly that way for myself, but it’s essentially the same. Yeah, there are two kinds of houses. I remember that discussion. I hold to something like that, yes.
CB: Okay. And that was in order to attempt to reconcile the fact that there were different systems being used sometimes in the same author and trying to figure out what role those systems were playing, and if they were reconciled in some way or if they were just completely separate.
RH: Something you’ve probably never seen because you were too young is the CPM microcomputer version of chart wheels. They were fully graphic. Didn’t use a mouse though. Fully graphic and it had the capacity to compute charts on the ecliptic, on the equator, in the Placidian proportional semi-arc system, Regiomontanus, Alchabitius. You could convert to any one of those in the coordinate system. Amongst siderealists, by the way, in this country have been very innovative in that way. They recognized that it may be a matter of different coordinate systems for different questions, and Schmidt’s idea is an example of that.
CB: Sure. And that’s something that you still use a little bit to some extent when you’re talking about paying attention to the angles and angularity based on the degrees of the angles being something you’re still paying attention to, to a certain degree.
RH: Yeah, I think proximity to the angles is more important than being in an angular house.
RH: In fact, half the time, the Midheaven isn’t in an angular house.
RH: It’s either in the 11th or the 9th.
CB: So in terms of angularity and busyness or prominence or strength in a chart, you emphasize the degrees of the angles, even though you’re still paying attention to the whole sign house placements primarily for topics.
CB: Okay. So that’s the formulation that it seemed like Project Hindsight came up with in the mid-‘90s, and I know Schmidt outlines that and talks about the different forms of house division in his 1996 preface to Book 3 of Ptolemy. But one of the problems with that formulation is I can kind of see in some of the publications, and I can kind of infer from hearing some of the debates that some of the astrologers from the Renaissance tradition by the time of Lilly—Lilly was using entirely quadrant houses for both topics, as well as what you might call dynamic purposes. So you guys started getting some pushback from some of the other traditional astrologers about some of those ideas.
RH: I don’t remember personally experiencing it, but I think you saw Deborah Houlding’s video pushing back with a bulldozer, I might add.
CB: Yeah, she’s a little emphatic. She can sometimes be a little dramatic about things. Which, ironically, she also accused ‘whole sign house’ people of being very emotional and being too enthusiastic or too dogmatic.
RH: There’s always a subset of every astrological partisanship that does that.
RH: I mean, we had the same reaction from advocates of Placidus in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
CB: Pushing back against Koch or something?
RH: Yeah, or anything else.
CB: Okay. And what is that? I’ve been trying to reflect on the psychology of that. I guess it’s partially because as astrologers we become very invested in whatever house system and whatever techniques we settle on. And it’s also part of the lens in which we view our own birth charts, and therefore, our own lives.
CB: So I’m sure there can be something that can be very difficult if somebody’s saying, “No, that’s not true,” or “No, this other system works better,” or something like that.
RH: Yeah, the problem with astrology is—and this is the sense in which astrology is not a science—and that is there are no final types of theoretical foundations that can be given in any argument or disagreement. We all have to have a little bit of unquestioning faith in how we do things or we can’t do them. But I have several times in my astrological career found techniques that everybody uses that I just could not make work. Placidus houses were one of them.
CB: Yeah, it’s one of those tricky things. I guess what you were saying is we have to believe in what we’re doing. Or at least we do things because we do believe in them and we believe it works, otherwise we wouldn’t be using those techniques.
RH: There are two categories. There are things that obviously hit you between the eyes and you can’t deny them. Then there are the things that seem to be theoretically consistent with the rest of your system that you watch for, look for, and you get reinforced every time it happens. So that’s where we have the disagreements.
CB: Yeah, and that’s really an issue here. On the one hand, Houlding is accusing us, and you guys, of reading whole sign houses into the ancient text where they weren’t there. But then on the other hand, conversely, from our perspective, we’re seeing her trying to project anachronistically the quadrant house systems backwards to where they weren’t necessarily as prevalent; or at least to override or ignore the existence of whole sign houses, even though the evidence for it is very prevalent.
CB: I think you actually ended your 2007 paper talking about that, and I was actually trying to understand if that was a response to pushback you had gotten at that point in some way.
RH: No, I don’t get a lot. My stature in astrology makes people tend not to question me to my face.
CB: Right. Until today apparently.
RH: Well, until today, yeah.
CB: Technically, not to your face, I should say.
RH: What I didn’t like about her tone—well, not about her tone—about what she actually accuses us of doing is we always cite sources.
RH: We’re not making this stuff up out of thin air. We cite sources. We have footnotes galore. I mean, sometimes the texts almost look like a running commentary on the footnotes.
RH: There are ambiguities, no doubt, in the surviving texts of Greek Horoscopes. There are absolutely ambiguities. And she cites John North in her talk, his historical—what’s the actual title of the book?
CB: Not Horoscopes and History. What is it?
RH: I think that is it, but I’d have to flip that one back.
CB: Yeah, Horoscopes and History.
RH: Yeah, Horoscopes and History. I read it today, and I now take you back to that second conference on the history of astrology at the Warburg Institute, which Deborah Houlding attended, and she gave a brilliant lecture on the Ptolemaic vs. Egyptian terms where she really did cite all these examples. And what she found out was that nobody could agree on where the Ptolemaic term boundaries are.
RH: The Egyptian terms, however, subsequent to that meeting in London, have been found in cuneiform sources. They’re not Egyptian, they’re the Chaldean terms, if we called them properly based on the country of origin. I suspect they originally were connected with asterisms and this is how they got their original meanings. Now what was I…
CB: I guess you had said before that you had always been on cordial terms with her, so you were a little surprised and baffled about where some of this was coming from or where some of the insinuations were coming from.
RH: Yes, because I’m not a pedantic academic in that I cite every use of the word ‘the’, but I do get everything from sources. And today I was reconstructing the chain of authority, and the only gap I found was I had never read Valens Book 9 in English.
CB: From Riley’s translation ‘cause Schmidt hadn’t translated it.
CB: Although he did translate a portion of it where Valens outlines equal houses, which was published in Book 3 of Ptolemy.
RH: Yeah, so I didn’t have a piece of evidence at hand. But I still maintain that predominantly even when they give the Midheaven, they don’t do anything with it.
CB: Yeah. Well, in your 2007 paper for Cosmos—that was presented at that conference and that you later published, I think it was titled “Signs as Houses”—you kind of pioneered that approach of actually going through and doing the work and counting up all the charts, so that you can actually say how many times the Midheaven is mentioned or different points like that which allows you to get some tabulation of how frequently whole sign houses were used vs. quadrant houses vs. equal houses, or what have you.
RH: Yeah, I think that was probably based on Greek Horoscopes.
CB: Yeah. I went through recently and calculated those charts again. A friend, Michael, helped me with this. And we went through the example charts and counted up the number of chart examples where it only lists the Ascendant sign only, with no degree of the Ascendant.
RH: That’s the blue mark there as the Ascendant sign only?
CB: Yeah, Ascendant sign-only is the overwhelming blue part of the pie chart. So that’s 98 charts that only list the Ascendant sign, therefore, they can only be used to calculate whole sign houses.
CB: Then there’s 34 charts that list an Ascendant degree, there’s 2 charts that have an Ascendant plus a Midheaven by sign, and there’s at least 5 charts that have an Ascendant plus a Midheaven by degree.
RH: Yeah, that’s based on Vettius Valens.
CB: Yeah, it’s just Valens’ chart, but it’s following the same approach as you. But instead of just focusing on the Midheaven, I expanded it to also count…
RH: Oh, that’s very nicely done. That’s a very powerful point.
CB: Yeah, because Houlding, when she’s talking about the Midheaven argument, she keeps saying that you can calculate the degree of the Midheaven if you know the degree of the Ascendant. And so, she’s actually targeting the argument in your paper where you focused on how many times the degree of the Midheaven was listed.
CB: She is ignoring the fact that in my book, 10 years after yours, I expanded your argument to include this piece, which is how many times did they ‘only’ count the Ascendant sign vs. how many times did they actually mention the Ascendant degree.
RH: Yeah, if you have the sign, the rising time system can’t work.
CB: Right. If you just have the sign, you can’t infer the Midheaven from that.
RH: You could ball-park it, but that’s about it, you know, get it down to this sign or that sign.
CB: Right, so that’s a really important point. I heard that Schmidt and Houlding started having some major blowouts on some sort of online Project Hindsight email list or something like that in the mid-‘90s that were supposed to be legendary fights, and it seems like it was those two primarily that were arguing about house division and other things like that.
CB: I assume you were still around for that, but I don’t know if you remember it.
RH: I don’t think I was in on it.
CB: Okay. Was there a Project Hindsight mailing list of some sort or discussion forum?
RH: Yes, there was various times that I wasn’t necessarily involved in.
CB: When did you technically leave Project Hindsight? Do you remember the dates? I think it was like Thanksgiving. I thought it was later, but I think I inferred at one point that it was either Thanksgiving of ‘96 or ‘97.
RH: Would you like to know something that most people don’t know?
CB: What’s that?
RH: This is why I left Project Hindsight. I had met a woman that I fell in love with. They had friends who knew her and they were saying all sorts of terrible things about her, none of which were true. We’ve been married for 25 years.
CB: Yeah, when I came in 10 years later, there was a huge rift in the community after you and Schmidt split up because the community got divided into different camps. I always tried to infer what happened, and I realized later…
RH: It wasn’t astrological.
CB: No, it was a personal dispute that snowballed into a professional dispute.
RH: Well, that was an excuse.
RH: They made it intolerable for me to be in their presence ‘cause they would just sit there and tell me evil things about my now wife. I’ve had a good marriage.
CB: I know, from their perspective, in slight defense of them, they had concerns and were worried about their friend getting in this new relationship. But then your point basically is true that in retrospect they ended up being wrong because you’ve now had a long and successful marriage for like 20 years.
CB: 25, almost 30 years. Okay, got it. But yeah, that was a huge tragedy because it seemed like things changed. There was this ideal, golden period that I always think back to in the mid-‘90s where you guys were just cranking out these translations constantly, there was all this excitement, and then it kind of ended very abruptly.
RH: My brother’s significant other also bought it completely, and I lost my brother too.
CB: Okay. So it caused a rift in your family at the same time.
RH: Yeah, I just lost him literally earlier this month. He died.
CB: I’m sorry to hear that.
RH: Yeah, we never made up because of that.
CB: Wow. Okay.
RH: It’s very good to edit the lunatics out of your life. That’s what I had to do.
CB: Right. So you felt like you had to isolate yourself from Project Hindsight at a certain point because the personal relationship broke down and it became really toxic.
RH: And it was primarily with Ellen. If Schmidt had been left to his own devices, it probably wouldn’t have happened.
CB: Yeah, I definitely had some of my own experiences like that, so I know.
RH: You have some inkling of what I’m talking about.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been trying to learn how to tell the story of the revival of Hellenistic astrology and Project Hindsight and to do it in as neutral a manner as I can, and do it well and recognize both the really positive things…
RH: You don’t have to publicize what I just said. I’m not expecting you to. Let’s just say that the personal issues began to crap up the work and let it go at that.
CB: Yeah, that’s fine. So you split and started doing your own thing and started publishing your translations under your own banner.
RH: Yes, at Arhat. Instead of being the Association for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts, it became the Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts.
RH: Arhat Publishing.
CB: And you published your whole sign house booklet and your booklet on sect. ‘Cause it wasn’t just whole sign houses that you were excited about and were promoting that were new discoveries. Sect was another one of those exciting, new discoveries as well, right?
RH: Yeah, I thought of revising it, but I think Demetra has done a better job of treating it in her book.
CB: The concept of sect.
RH: Yeah. I didn’t realize there was a fourth factor in sect, and that is rising before or after the Sun.
RH: I didn’t realize that was a sect issue. I thought that was oriental/occidental or something else completely, and then I realized it was the fourth criteria of sect.
RH: A diurnal planet should be in a diurnal chart, rising before the Sun, in the sign of the right sect. Well, it should be if it’s a diurnal planet. If it sets after the Sun, it’s in a nocturnal sign, etc., that’s fully in sect also. And she was the one that made that connection, I hadn’t made it.
CB: Right. So after you left Hindsight, you’re publishing stuff. Also, you go back to school. You’re actually part of the movement of astrologers that decided to go back into academia and get advanced degrees, and you did a dissertation eventually on Bonatti.
RH: I did. My dissertation was titled “Evidence for the Use of Military Astrology in Late Medieval Italy.”
RH: And the thesis, the actual thesis was inspired by the fact that I kept reading scholars debating what astrology was actually used for in the Middle Ages, and a lot of people were poo-pooing it, and it was really only trivial. And I introduced Bonatti who wrote this encyclopedia of Medieval astrology—that’s what it is essentially—and I said there’s a peculiarity about Bonatti. When he talks about something without citing any particular source or anything, it’s generally received and he agrees. If he disagrees, he cites the source.
RH: Or he’ll go like this, “On the subject of initiating a battle,” he will cite the opinions of the various experts that preceded him, and then he’ll begin a paragraph that says, “But I say,” and then you know this is something he discovered himself.
RH: Now when you people parroting things that have been said by everybody else in the Middle Ages, you realize they’re just transmitting the tradition. The innovations come when they take pride of authorship in them.
CB: Yeah, that’s actually a really important point ‘cause that was one of the allegations made in Deb’s lecture. She claims that at Project Hindsight people refused to look at astrology in the context of the entire astrological tradition, and that you guys didn’t care about the Arabic or the Babylonian texts because it wasn’t Hellenistic. It was all about one golden era and anything that followed was a corruption of things, so that lots of things that were part of the tradition, she said, before and after this period, were not recognized by them.
RH: Well, they weren’t recognized because pre-Hellenistic astrology is very undocumented. We have cuneiform fragments, we have some fragments in Coptic, but trying to come up with something coherent—except for that Ross paper that we talked about earlier—there wasn’t enough. The literature of Hellenistic astrology is huge. I would include Medieval astrology as part of the golden age actually. I was not only Hellenistic. I think the Medievals did some good stuff.
CB: And that’s the point that I’m making. She claims that you guys were only interested in the Hellenistic tradition and you ignored all the rest of the tradition, but in reality that’s completely false. Because right from the start you were looking at the entire tradition in continuity, and you were also translating texts from not just the Arabic authors like al-Kindi or Masha’allah, but also some of the later Medieval authors like Bonatti, or even some Renaissance authors. So it’s not true that you weren’t taking the rest of the tradition…
RH: It’s a matter of running out of time and energy. Oddly enough, the Greek material is more accessible if you’re not associated with academia before the internet had not yet been invented. The internet revolutionized everything. I have an amazing library on my computer of PDFs of original sources in Medieval and Renaissance astrology. Latin, mostly. I don’t do Arabic. I can’t read it. I have almost all of the Arabic translations into Latin, and I have almost all of the great Latin works in several editions.
CB: Yeah, so that’s the important point. You have always, from the beginning of Project Hindsight, been interested in the Latin tradition and the Medieval tradition, as well as the Hellenistic tradition.
RH: Yes. It’s a historical accident that it didn’t get completed.
CB: Right. Just because of the falling out.
CB: In your initial vision for Project Hindsight, the plan was eventually to translate everything and make everything from the entire tradition available.
RH: That wasn’t already available, yes.
RH: And actually the later Medieval and Renaissance tradition is extremely poorly-documented in translation. The only reason why I don’t have a problem with that is I’m pretty fluent in Latin.
CB: Right. So you just read it in its original language instead of needing to translate it.
RH: The only language I’m fluent in outside of English is Latin.
CB: One of the things I’ve wondered about is, one, Deborah Houlding speaks as if she was at Project Hindsight, but I don’t know that she ever actually visited Project Hindsight.
RH: I don’t think she ever came.
CB: Okay. So she may have subscribed.
RH: She may have subscribed. She may have been at that meeting in Washington, Alexandria, Virginia, but I don’t remember.
CB: I don’t think so. I know others, like Nick Campion and Lee Lehman, were there in 1992 at UAC in some of the early discussions. But I think Deb Houlding was publishing a magazine called The Traditional Astrologer Magazine starting in 1992-93, and she also started a publication company called Ascella, which was publishing reprints of different texts.
RH: Her website is one of the glories of the astrological community. I mean, if you’re looking for stuff in the early modern and Medieval period that’s been translated, it’s there.
CB: Yeah, Skyscript is a really great resource.
CB: I mean, she was publishing all that stuff. And one of the things I’ve speculated—‘cause I’m trying to understand where some of the animosity is coming from—is if it had to do with…
RH: I didn’t know there was any animosity until you sent me that video.
RH: That was a real shock.
CB: Yeah, I mean, I think that whole sign houses has just become very popular and she partially blames you for that. Technically, your role in the history of astrology is that you really did become one of the leading proponents of whole sign houses in the 1990s. And because you were such a famous astrologer, and a well-respected astrologer up to that point, it was a pretty big deal that you did adopt whole sign houses at that point.
RH: Yeah, I adopted it because in my private practice it worked.
RH: The first time I had houses that I could count on.
CB: You didn’t do it simply in order to make money or sell lectures or something like that?
RH: No, no.
CB: Yeah, I know.
RH: That’s always the last refuge of a scoundrel—to accuse the other person of trying to make a lot of money out of something. Believe me, I am a man of modest means.
CB: Right. And one of the questions I always meant to ask you—because I think about this sometimes, or I’ve thought about it—is when I came into the astrological community, you were always seen as one of the leaders in the astrological community, and one of the most famous astrologers in the world, and I’ve often tried to understand because I wasn’t around how you got to that height and established that reputation.
RH: I think Planets in Transit was the killer because nobody had ever done a really comprehensive book on transits before. I only regret—and this is where she gets away with calling me ‘a popular astrologer’—I wrote them in the second person. I addressed the reader because they were computer text, but the astrology was dead serious.
CB: Yeah, and it’s still used and it’s still popularly used today, especially ‘cause it’s used on Astro.com.
RH: Yeah. And, by the way, I have nothing whatsoever to do with that computer company. They contacted me and we had some conversations, and they realized I was too much of a purist to touch them with a 10-foot pole, you know, the one she talks about that uses whole sign houses.
CB: Oh, Co-Star.
RH: Co-Star, yes.
CB: No, the ‘Co-Star’ thing was dumb. It’s an astrology app that’s very popular. But ironically, the page she was citing was just Co-Star announcing that they’re integrating whole sign houses as an option, but their default option is actually Porphyry houses, so they actually default to a quadrant house system. So the fact that she was having this fit about this company just offering whole sign houses as an option and saying it was the oldest and most popular house system for a long time was just kind of unnecessary.
CB: Your 2007 paper, that I just saw last night, I thought it ended on a really good note that’s relevant here. You said—actually, why don’t you read it? It’ll probably sound better in your voice.
RH: “Finally, whatever one may think of astrology in general and Greek astrology in particular, some of the practitioners were very learned men. We should assume, therefore, that what they did, they did intentionally. We should not evaluate the integrity of ancient astrology based on criteria derived from a backward projection of later medieval and early modern astrological techniques onto the ancients. They must be evaluated on their own terms.” Yeah. I might add that if they have any real value, they should be evaluated in terms of modern astrology also.
RH: Can you make it work for what you do with astrology? That is the question.
CB: Yeah, and if you can make it work yourself then good, and whatever practice you develop, that’s great, but you don’t necessarily need to impose that or deny somebody else’s practice. And I feel like that’s something you’ve always been pretty good about.
RH: There is a divinatory aspect of astrology. There’s no argument. There is something real going on. I want to end this with a little philosophical flourish. My dominant influence in my thinking these days is Neo-Platonic; I seem to have a lot of company on YouTube for which I am grateful. But I seem to be the only one who’s noticed that it explains why science rejects a whole of ideas, like the existence of the soul, for example. It’s basically regarded as a kind of fancy computer program. Well, in terms of Neo-Platonism, they’re absolutely right, except that they haven’t identified the programmer. What happens is evolution occurs according to natural law, but eventually something evolves which can receive programming from the ‘World Soul’. That’s us—and probably quite a few other beings too. So the chart I see as a symbolic map of your relationship to the World Soul. That means that any chart, in theory, can be lived in a totally debased level or a divine level, or usually somewhere in the middle, but I see physicists actually converging on this territory.
For example, they say—what’s his name? A Danish physicist who lives in America now. At any rate, look for a YouTube that’s entitled “What Explains the Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics?” And the answer is mathematics do not exist in the physical universe, they exist in the World Soul. That was asserted by the Platonists. All we do is receive the program. We receive the programming according to our capacities. I am facing death in the not too distant future, I’m quite sure, because I am 80-years-old. I mean, I’m not being gloomy here, I’m being realistic. But I don’t expect to cease to exist, I just won’t be here. And I won’t necessarily be exactly what I’m like here either, but I’m going back to the hard drive, so to speak.
CB: Right. So one of the last things, to close…
RH: You can edit that out, if you want.
CB: No, it’s good. One of the most notable things I’ve ever heard you say was in one of your most notable lectures. It was actually a private lecture at Kepler College that you gave one night in 2005, I believe. And I had been studying Hellenistic astrology for maybe a year, but it really impacted me. It partially had to do with some of your tensions with Schmidt and that there was a feeling of too much fundamentalism to a certain extent that was coming up at a certain point.
CB: And I remember how you ended that lecture on the note that we shouldn’t become fundamentalists about our techniques or our different traditions. Because if we do that then all of this work that we’ve done to revive the ancient traditions will just sort of be thrown back in the trash heap if we let things devolve into that sort of in-fighting and fundamentalism.
RH: And Deborah has a shovel in her hand, yeah.
CB: Yeah, I think it’s partially an issue because it seems like the tradition was dug up in stages where the Renaissance tradition started first in the ‘80s. Zoller got a little bit of a headstart with the Medieval tradition. And then the Hellenistic tradition, we’ve only finished recovering that fully recently with the publication of me and Demetra’s books.
RH: Yeah, you’ve made them learnable.
CB: Right. But it’s accidentally created three different groups that have slightly different versions of traditional astrology—the Hellenistic, the Medieval, and the Renaissance groups—and there’s these natural tensions between them as a result of some of the differences in the techniques or the traditions that they represent, and I was just wondering if you think that that’s something that can be overcome or can be reconciled at some point.
RH: We’re looking for the Newtonian synthesis of all of these traditions.
RH: Unfortunately, Newton was also wrong. Now they’re looking for another one in physics.
CB: The grand unified theory?
RH: A grand unified theory. I wouldn’t put ‘the’ in front of it.
RH: I’m not sure there is one. While we are not computers, we operate differently according to the structure of our relationship with the World Soul. The body creates the personality. The fact that we live, can think, can get inspired and do all that stuff, that’s coming from the World Soul. Intelligence, artistic creativity, that’s coming from the World Soul. The fact that we can talk and speak is nice. It was necessary actually so a caveman wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over and over again. They could communicate, “Hey, you cut the corner of a rectangle enough times then you get a wheel.”
CB: Do you think there’s something useful to be gained from each of the different astrological traditions?
RH: Yes, I think we’ve proven that. The question is, which synthesis is the best?
RH: But I think anybody who thinks they can do it entirely with books written after 1900 is nuts.
CB: Was that the point of Project Hindsight, when you say there is something valuable about each of the traditions and that was the purpose of going back and reviving them?
CB: Okay. All right, well, that might be a good point to wrap up on. Do you have any final thoughts or final things that you meant to mention that might be relevant?
RH: Don’t think so, except congratulations to Demetra on that book. It’s quite a piece of work. So is yours of course. I’ve already told you that. You have done a good job of making that tradition learnable.
CB: Thank you. Yeah, I think Demetra and I both just felt like we were trying to bring to completion what you and Schmidt and Zoller started in the 1990s, as well as all the other astrologers that were involved in that revival. It took a longer time, maybe than anybody expected, but I feel like it’s done. And now traditional astrology has been revived and is in practice again today, and it’s being merged and synthesized with modern and contemporary astrology to create this new synthesis that’ll define our era, but it’s largely thanks to you and some of your contemporaries that we were able to do that.
RH: Yeah. Well, let’s just say that the history of astrology is now operational and the future of astrology wouldn’t have been without this.
RH: A future astrologer will be descended from the entire tradition rather than the previous generations’ rendition of it.
CB: Right. So now that the entire tradition has been revived as an almost entire entity, the next version can develop from that rather than just from one small piece of the tradition.
RH: Yes, and I’m sure it can be improved enormously. We still have the issue of constellations vs. tropical signs, for example; that’s one issue. You probably haven’t seen it, but I did a webinar—I’ll give you the argument briefly: Why is the tropical zodiac valid, experientially? Well, first of all, you can’t say that it’s a moving zodiac—and the sidereal one isn’t—because the fact is they’re both moving. The sidereal zodiac, the stars are moving individually. And if you looked at some of the modern constellations 10,000 years ago, you can’t recognize them. The stars have moved that much; proper motion it’s called.
The other thing is many siderealists originally objected to tropical astrology on the grounds that you can’t perceive the influence. How can you find where 0 Aries is, where the vernal equinox is in the sky? My response is I don’t know, it’s a pretty good task. But I can tell you this, the Irish figured it out somewhere around 1,500 BC because Newgrange in Ireland still accurately gets this winter solstice. No ancient astronomical alignments done by stars work anymore.
CB: Right. Just like Stonehenge and stuff are aligned with the equinoxes and the solstices.
RH: Yes, because they were dealing with the seasons, which is an operational experience.
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s a good point.
CB: So that’s a workshop that you’ve given recently?
RH: I gave it a couple of years ago. Yeah, it’s available online. I’ll get you a copy. You might find it interesting. In my day, one of the big arguments was sidereal vs. tropical, and there is no ‘vs’, they both have their uses. But I think the constellations should be constellations, not sidereal signs. The actual images.
CB: Yeah, I think at this point it’s similar to the house division thing. It’s not ‘vs’, but it should be somehow together.
RH: Yeah, I think some of them will turn out to be genuinely useless, but I’m perfectly prepared to believe there are quadrant house systems that will contribute things that you can’t do with whole sign houses. And I know damn well whole sign houses can contribute that quadrant house systems can’t, like reliable succedent houses.
CB: So you’re still available for consultations. You have some of the workshops and stuff available on your website.
CB: And you’re still working on Planets in Transit: Part II, or the new version, right?
RH: It’s called Cycles in Time.
RH: It’s a total rewrite.
CB: And you’ve finished writing it?
RH: I finished writing it, but they don’t want to edit it.
RH: That’s their polite way of—so I’m slowly editing it, but it’s gonna take me a long time. My wife, fortunately, is perfectly capable of editing it. And she’s a lot younger than I am—I mean, not a lot—but she’s one Jupiter cycle younger, roughly. Yeah, so it will come out, and I do some things in it which have nothing whatsoever to do with transits as such. I have a theory, a philosophical theory, for explaining the division of planets into malefics and benefics, and it’s absolutely completely created by the state of an individual’s consciousness.
RH: There is no inherently malefic-anything. That’s one of the things I’ve learned from Platonists. The heavens are completely benign. We make the stuff go wrong.
CB: Right. Plotinus has an essay on that.
RH: Yeah, well, not just Plotinus. There Iamblichus and Porphyry—not Porphyry—Proclus. Yeah, Porphyry actually is one of them, but he didn’t write that much. Actually he wrote The Enneads, but they were all taken from his transcriptions of Plotinus’ lectures.
CB: Okay. All right, well, I don’t think I have any more questions. But thanks for coming on to clarify some of that history and some of that stuff for me.
RH: Okay. Right.
CB: All right, I’m gonna stop the recording.