The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 408, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Michael Erlewine
Episode originally released on July 11, 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 Mary Sharon
Transcription released September 16th, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m going to be talking with Michael Erlewine about the early history of astrology software programs. Michael is the founder of Matrix Software, which is one of the first companies to produce astrology software in the world and it was one of the most popular astrology programs for the first several decades. So hi, Michael. Thanks for joining me today.
MICHAEL ERLEWINE: It wasn’t one of the first, it was the first.
CB: The first astrology software company in the world.
ME: Yeah, there was no other that I’m aware of.
CB: Okay. Well, let’s talk about that. Maybe let’s start with that timeframe and then work our way backwards. If it was the first software company, roughly when did you start the company?
ME: Hard to say. The name Matrix became the company name but it became the name that I use. I wasn’t using the term ‘matrix’ in its mathematical sense of defining a mathematical thing, but it is Greek origin, which meant ‘womb’, that in which things are born. I was aware that I was birthing a new astrology. Not just a computerized astrology, but I have many other things we could talk about that have birthed that came directly out of my effort. And so it wasn’t concerned to me until sometime later that matrix became the name of a company when I had to register with the state of Michigan. But that was, I don’t know, quite a few months later. And I basically began sharing programs in 1977 but I’m not sure exactly when. It would be when I first could get a computer because what I had was a Commodore PET 2000, is the name of it, and then I soon had an Apple IIc or IIe or whatever it was, and a RadioShack machine. But to begin with, I was computerizing astrology for the first time.
I don’t think that I was the only person that was trying to program, but as far as I know, I was the only person that made programs and that first gave them away to my fellow astrologers. Other people may have been trying to make a business and being proprietary. I’m kind of a child of the ’60s, I wanted to share it and I did. And I shared programs for a long time. Back then there were no hard drives, there were no floppy disks, everything was done on tape cassette. The same kind of cassette you record music on. You had to tape them and you had to rewind them and verify every byte to make sure there was no dropout. This took an enormous amount of time and pretty soon I was doing this and sending it out to people. Also, I was talking with many different people. I can’t remember exactly when I started Matrix magazine, but Matrix magazine was a magazine that had most of the more technical astrologers subscribed to it. And I think there was, I don’t know, I’m not sure how many, maybe 13 issues or something like that. So I was busy… I was totally blown out by the fact that I could do this and that we could have a computerized astrology. And so all I wanted to do was to get it in as many people’s hands as I possibly could, and I did, anyone interested.
CB: What was the advantage? Up to that point, everyone was calculating charts by hand. Right?
CB: And that’s how you learned how to calculate birth charts.
ME: I did it professionally. I was doing all the charts for Circle Books, a metaphysical bookstore in Ann Arbour, Michigan. My wife and I were. She has a wonderful hand to draw them out. I was calculating them and then she did, too. Drawing them out and turning them into the store where people came and picked them up.
CB: So the chart calculation was a service just in and of itself?
ME: Yeah, that I was doing for the book… My brother Stephen and his friend John Sullivan started the first metaphysical bookstore in Ann Arbour, Michigan called Circle Books and I went in there and helped them rebuild the store. It was just a bunch of shelves and I went in and helped them build the whole store in redwood and fish tanks and globe lights and stuff like that. It was a very beautiful store. A lot of that was my influence or certainly my helping them do that. I was like the older person.
CB: Okay. So you’d been studying astrology for quite a while up to that point, or do you know if we’re talking about the late ’70s, you’d been studying astrology for a decade and a half since around 1960?
ME: Late ’50s and ’60s I was interested in astrology and studying it but I was also studying tarot, the I Ching, Pythagoras. I was studying everything that had any alternative spirituality to it other than the Roman Catholicism in which I was raised.
CB: Okay, maybe we should back up. Do you mind sharing your birth data?
ME: No, I was born July 18th, 1941 at 5:03 pm Eastern Daylight Time in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
CB: What degree is your Ascendant?
ME: It’s about eight degrees Sag. Sagittarius.
ME: You disappeared.
CB: Can you see me now? So here’s the… I’m just going to put the chart up on the screen.
ME: It just makes me too late, I don’t want to do this. I know my chart. You look at my chart, you can mention something, but I don’t want to see it.
CB: Yeah, I just wanted to show it very briefly for the viewers so they could see. So your Ascendant’s at eight degrees of Sagittarius, your Sun is at 25 Cancer, and your Moon’s at 23 Taurus. All right, so you’re born in 1941 and you said that around 1960 you moved to California. Right?
ME: What I said was that in 1960, I quit high school. Never finished high school. I don’t have a diploma to this day. And I hitchhiked to California and lived in Santa Monica in what’s called Venice West on Muscle Beach. I wasn’t in the Muscle Beach but I was living in an abandoned basement of an art gallery called The Gas House, which any book on Beatniks and stuff knows about that place. I was living in the basement and in an abandoned walk-in wood freezer. I was sleeping on oak shells and at that point I thought I was going to be an oil painter. I was going to paint oils. My mother was an artist, I was raised with a certain amount of ability, and so that’s what I was doing living on almost nothing trying to give a Beatnik.
CB: What drew you there or what motivated moving there in the first place?
ME: The Beats was one of that, and then I also went and lived in North Beach. I was going to the places and to Greenwich Village. I think I hitchhiked to New York like 10 times. I was going to the places. I was following you know Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg and people like that, trying to hop on that train. But I really was just a little too young. But I still would do all the things you did, I would smoke cigarette butts from the street. Whatever they did, I did. It was just a totally copying and wanting to be part of something that was already… Just like with the Gertrude Stein line, before friendship faded, friendship faded. Before I could become a Beat, it kind of went out of existence. It died out. I was trying to get the last gasp of that in whatever authentic way that I could. So, that’s what I was doing in 1960.
CB: Okay. And somehow, in California, you got exposed to other divination and other alternative forms of astrology and I Ching and other things.
ME: Exactly, but I did that even more… More so in 1964, I spent a year living in Berkeley, California, and there it was much more so. For instance, in 1961, I traveled and hitchhiked with Bob Dylan. He wasn’t famous. He and I hitchhiked from New York City to Boston just on the road together. That was how life was then. He was just a very bright person, but he wasn’t Bob Dylan. He was called Bob Dylan but I didn’t know that he was going to be famous, right?
CB: This is before his popularity exploded.
ME: Yeah, his first album was made later that year in ’61. At some point in the fall, he played an album with Belafonte or something, maybe he was playing harmonica or something. Mostly, he wasn’t writing any songs, he was singing folk songs. That idea.
CB: I have his chart correct. He was born… His chart’s actually very similar to yours.
ME: It’s because of the grand trine and stuff. He was born a couple of months before me.
CB: I’m going to put it on the screen just for a minute just to glance and people-
ME: Can’t you put that in later? I find it very disruptive. I didn’t know we were going to do that, we should have talked about this.
CB: Yeah, it’s something I do.
ME: Because when you do, it blows out my light completely because it gets hugely bright here and it breaks the whole mood.
CB: Okay, I’ll describe it for the audio people. But if I have this right, and I know there’s some questions surrounding his birth data, but he has Sagittarius rising as well like you with the Moon in Taurus conjunct Saturn [crosstalk] and Uranus. There’s a few other placements like that that are very striking. That’s funny that you had that connection with him early on just because you would have had similar charts, and sometimes people with similar charts sort of have a way of growing together.
ME: Well, I also happen to put on one of his first shows in Ann Arbour, Michigan, and stuff like that and sat around with him. I can remember just sitting around smoking cigarettes within the next morning, seeing the review coming in on The Michigan Daily, which is the University of Michigan student newspaper, to see what people thought of it. And he got a good review and then he just got his stuff and got on the highway and hitchhiked out of town. So I spent some time with him, both in Ann Arbour, in New York, in Boston, and stuff like that. And I had no idea that I was spending my time with Bob Dylan other than he was just a really bright guy like many of us were.
CB: Were you… So you said that was around 1960, the early ’60s-
ME: That was ’61, in the spring of ’61.
CB: Got it. And it wasn’t until ’64 that you really got into astrology when you moved to Berkeley.
ME: No, astrology was one of many of these called sciences or whatever you want to call them. When I went to Berkeley in 1964 supposedly to study with a professor and ended up just being my mind blown by Berkeley. I discovered Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and just a million things that I came from Ann Arbour, which was like a weak sister. At that point it’s not any more, it’s a powerful center. But then Berkeley was an incredibly powerful center. I lived there and worked in a record store as assistant manager of Discount Records on Telegraph in Berkeley. I worked at Lucas Books, which people don’t even remember. I worked at cafe Mediterraneo or Mediterranean, whatever the name was, as a busboy just trying to stay alive and also figure out what the heck was going on there because it was a wild place. Wonderful place.
CB: Berkeley was.
ME: Yeah, then.
CB: What was the astrology scene like, or what was the scene like? This is right in the middle of the ’60s at this point.
ME: I wasn’t part of any astrology scene in Berkeley, I was just interested in it the same way I was interested in Gurdjieff, I Ching and stuff like that. Any of these psychic sciences or called sciences or whatever we call that, New Age– later I think it was called New Age but that’s kind of a gross term for me. I precede that. We weren’t calling it that, it was just… I mean, hippies weren’t there yet. Hippies didn’t start till 1965. So there’s a little area between the late ’50s and the middle ’60s, it’s not very well documented, but it’s when Dylan happened and when I was doing stuff. A lot happened there that’s not really recorded too well.
CB: Okay. Yeah, because I’m noticing if you’re born in ’41, you’re just slightly older than some of your other contemporaries of, like, the people that became the leading astrologers were born during that period in the early to mid ’40s. But you’re in California in your early 20s basically at this point when everything was starting to take off or right when astrology is about to take off and become massively popular in the United States towards the middle to late part of the decade.
ME: You know more about it than I do. I’m saying I wasn’t concerned about astrology in 1960 or even in 1964, other than interested in it. I didn’t think of myself as primarily an astrologer then.
ME: I became that way.
CB: Do you know when you read your first chart or started reading your first charts professionally?
ME: Oh, professionally, when I hung a sign out was when I found out that we were pregnant with our first kid. And I was totally freaked out. How could I provide for a family because I had no idea, I barely could provide for myself. And so I think it was in 1972, in the summer of ’72, that actually I put a sign out and became officially an astrologer. I began offering classes and eventually, we had a mail-order business selling astrological materials and stuff like that.
CB: Okay, so you’re pretty far into it at this point because that’s a time jump from 1965 to ’72. Were there any other notable things that happened in that period in terms of your interest in or studies of astrology? Because I know, like Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs came out in 1968 and that was wildly successful. I know that’s not a huge technical book, but at least is indicative of a lot of people got into astrology at the end of the decade, it seems like.
ME: It may be helpful to know that from the middle ’60s from 1965, I started a band with my brother called The Prime Movers Blues Band. And our drummer was Iggy Pop, young Iggy Pop. So I was doing that. We named him Iggy because he came from a band called The Iguanas. And we teased him for a while, we called him Iguana because they were to us a frat band and we were a new kind of band. And later he liked the name himself and called himself Iggy. And so I was doing music and playing, you know, opening for Cream, San Francisco, and playing with Jerry Garcia and all this kind of stuff. Opened for different kinds of… Backed up different kinds of bands like The Shangri-Las, The Contours. But during that time, I wasn’t doing much astrology because I was doing that.
CB: Okay, got it. So yeah, you’re in the middle of the music scene in the height of the ’60s, basically, moving in a lot of those circles. And then do things start to calm down then with music by the early ’70s? And in terms of your studies of astrology, you’re at least familiar with it for like a decade by this point, right? You’ve got more than 10 years.
ME: Right. But it was a familiarity like, yeah, I was familiar with it, but I didn’t think that I was particularly adept at it or anything like that. It just was one of the things that I was interested in, and if you and I are drinking coffee late one night and smoking a lot of cigarettes, we’d talk about that. I think that when the band kind of broke up, but naturally we went through I think 38 musicians. I was the leader of the band and also the making it happen; I did all the silkscreen, all the advertising materials I did myself and stuff like that. So when that kind of happened like that and then when I got married in 1971, I had other responsibilities. And so I began to get more and more into astrology, especially when the bookstore Circle Books opened in the spring equinox of 1968– and I talked a bit about that– I helped them rebuild it. I began to give classes at night there, not only did the charts for them. I began to teach astrology in probably 1968.
CB: Okay, that’s a pretty big landmark. So your brother opened that bookstore, that metaphysical bookstore, on the spring equinox of 1968 and you started teaching classes there.
ME: Exactly. Well, no, I started doing charts for them. First of all, I helped them rebuild the place so that it didn’t look like a ‘nothing’ store but it looked beautiful, right? As I said, it had redwood and globe lights and fish tanks, saltwater fish, a big chart wheel we made you could show the daily…
CB: Oh, well.
ME: I’m sure we all worked on it, but mostly a lot of that was just my influence.
CB: Do you have any pictures of that still?
ME: Yeah, I can send that to you.
CB: Yeah, send them, I’ll see if I can display some of them so people can see what that looks like. It sounds really cool. So, you’re doing the charts in terms of calculating charts. Does that mean you had some technical aptitude or ability in terms of math and the ability to do that stuff quickly?
ME: We’re talking about doing charts with log tables and ephemerides and stuff like that, you don’t need a lot of math for that. But I did begin to… I think that the four-function calculator, we know that add, subtract, multiply, and divide, didn’t come out until I think 1972 or 1973.
CB: Right, which is crazy that it was that late. For somebody like me born in the ’80s, thinking in retrospect, it’s one of those things you assume has always been around, but that was actually only introduced at that point.
ME: I think we started… My brother Stephen and I made Circle Books’ calendar, an astrological calendar, starting in nineteen… What was it? I think it was 1960s, must have been 1969, and it went on for 40-something years. AFA did it, took it over at one point, but we still produced it.
CB: You produce what? Sorry, can you say that again? What was it that you started?
ME: Circle Books astrological calendar.
CB: Calendar. Okay, got it.
ME: It was something you put on the wall that had… I did all the writing for it, and Stephen and I did the calculations, and eventually, Stephen did most of the calculations because I was off to do other stuff. But what I was trying to get at is that in that calendar in the back, I had a couple pages to introduce stuff. And one of the things I did was introduce a way of using the four-function calculator with your ephemerises and your log tables to save you a lot of time. That was the beginning. Later, I did the same thing on programmable calculators. Then with programmable calculators that could read little magnetic strips. So then I had full… And even Hewlett Packard– and I can get you the date, I can’t remember exactly– somewhere in there, Hewlett Packard published one of my programs on a programmable calculator, the HP-97, Hewlett Packard-97, in a special book they wrote just on astrology. So gradually, I was upping my game as things came along that I could use to do this stuff more and more simply. And in 1977 when home computers finally became available, I produced my first astrology program that is absolutely accurate within a couple minutes of arc for all the planets, plus heliocentric, geocentric, local space, and all that kind of stuff. And then it’s off and running. Then I eventually had a company that I didn’t start out thinking I was going to be selling astrological software.
CB: That’s really interesting that though the first steps were actually with calculators and that was the genesis of moving that direction, but also because you were doing chart calculations for the bookstore, that’s part of the motivation is to be able to do those more quickly and more accurately and reliably. Because you must have had huge demand if they opened that bookstore in ’68, there must have been just tons of people wanting to get their charts calculated.
ME: That’s true, but it wasn’t quite like you say it. It’s like I wasn’t in a rush just because it would save me time producing stuff for the bookstore, I was in a rush because I was excited with new technology and wanting to implement it and share it with other people.
CB: Got it. Okay, so it’s the excitement about being able to use this technology and that you had a good… Because astrology is a great application case for a lot of those things. Like, the application of computers or of calculators is really obvious and something that you would want to jump to use it and apply that to.
ME: But it was a step, and I can give you a little story because I think stories are good. We had no money, nothing, and we just scraped along. I worked as a stage crew, I helped mix pottery with a good friend of mine who was a really fantastic potter and did stuff like that. And my parents gave me one of their cars because they got a new one. So I parked it, and we lived on a main street across from a junkyard by a river in Ann Arbour, Michigan, and the only place we had to park that car was right by this busy highway because people left Ann Arbour going out Main Street going north or coming in. And that car got crashed, someone rear-ended it and totaled it. Broke our hearts, it was like the one thing we had. And so I had to try to go… I wanted to go and get my first real calculator and so I went to the bank, and I was really proud of being an astrologer. I needed to get a $500 loan, which is not a lot of money, but back then it was for me a lot of money. And I’m sitting there with the financial guy, whoever he is, and he says, “Well, what do you do?” I say, “Well, I’m an astrologer,” and he took out a long sheet of paper, looks down and says, “Yes, you’re listed right above migrant workers as a risk. We’re not going to give you a loan.” And they didn’t. So I had to go back three times over some months until finally they gave it to me and of course, I paid it off. But then I was programming with a real programmable calculator. Literally, I had no money. I had no way to get money. Whatever money I made was just to have food and stuff like that. But we didn’t need money, we were living a wonderful life on very little. I’m just saying that’s the story of how I got my first programmable calculator.
CB: That’s incredible. You literally had to take out a loan to buy your first programmable calculator.
ME: Exactly. I didn’t have any money.
CB: And it cost… Is that the full amount that it costs, roughly that? Like $500 or?
ME: No, no, I think it probably cost more than that. I don’t remember, I’d have to go look it up. HP-97 or HP-67 before that, I’m not sure which is the one I bought with them, but I needed some help. I didn’t have anyone to give me any money. I would ask… First of all, I don’t like to borrow money and I’ve never… Well, I think I borrowed money on a house, you have to do that, but I’ve always lived within my means without borrowing money. If I didn’t have any money, I didn’t buy anything. That idea.
CB: Yeah, I’m just looking it up on Wikipedia. It says in 1967, it had an MSRP of $450. So yeah, that’s-
ME: Which one was that? The 67 or 97?
CB: It says HP-67, but then it says slash 97 and I’m not sure.
ME: 67 didn’t have a printer. 97 was a larger machine with a real keyboard. It was about this size. It had its own printer and it took… Yeah, you didn’t just have to program it, it had really great magnetic strips that you can store stuff on.
CB: Got it. Okay. Yeah, it looks like the-
ME: Probably the 67 did too, I just don’t remember.
CB: Yeah, it looks like maybe the 67 might have been introduced in ’76 but then the 97 was introduced in ’77. That’s the timeframe we’re talking about and that’s the programmable calculator. But this is still we’re talking about calculators here, this isn’t technically… This is prior to what became Matrix, the software or the personal software program, right?
ME: Well, Matrix wasn’t a… I mean, what came was home computers. Right? They came in, you know, the Apple what? IIe or IIc or just the original Apple happened in that time period. And what I was interested in was a Commodore PET 2001, which was a computer that had unscreened block graphics and it had a memory of 8K. That was total. Right now you you would use 8K just to press a key on a keyboard.
CB: Right. Yeah, I could… [chuckles] Yeah, 8K is not. I think my refrigerator has like 10,000 times the computing power of that at this point. that’s a jump, though. So, what did you… You had to take out a loan, I just want to clarify this point, to get the first programmable computer around ’76-’76.
ME: Okay, calculator or computer?
CB: Sorry, calculator. What did you use that for? What was the… To take out a loan, that’s a major thing to do. Why were you pressing so hard to do that to get that specific piece of equipment?
ME: Because I had ideas. I had things in my mind. I wasn’t just an astrologer that wanted to just read what was there, I wanted to… I had questions in my mind. For example, I’ll give you there’s lots of them. But one example would be I developed a technique that’s now I don’t know what they call it anymore but it’s called Local Space astrology. Basically, it’s a way of using azimuth and altitude in a way that’s often used for relocation. So it’s a relocation, it’s different than astrocartography which uses a completely different approach. And so to do that required trigonometry. First of all, math was my least favorite. I think I took Algebra 1 three times. I think they just goosed me through and said, “Just go. We’ll give you a D but we don’t want to see you again.”
CB: Yeah, they’re just like, “Get out of here.” That’s interesting that you didn’t have a particular affinity with mathematics.
ME: No, but I was really good at geometry. I got all As in geometry because it was a picture, I’m very graphic. So one of the things I wanted to do was to calculate what became known as a local space chart. And to do that required trigonometry. So originally I did that with trig tables, tables that you looked up in the book. It would take me an entire day to calculate one single chart. So when these programmable calculators came along, my God, here’s a chance to program that. Not take an entire day, but maybe take 20 minutes or 10 minutes. All I had to do was learn how to program the trig stuff. And I knew nothing about math but in the process, I learned a lot of math just because I was that interested. I think that that’s true of any one of us that has interest. That interest can take us very far in terms of what we’re willing to do and sacrifice in order to take advantage of it. And so that-
CB: Right, and in directions that you might not otherwise gravitate towards just inherently. But if you have an interest or passion for something, it can lead you to want to do or learn things that you might not learn otherwise.
ME: Yeah, another example would be in 1975 using a programmable calculator, I created a 400-year Ephemeris from 1653 to 2050 in a little book that you needed a four-functioning calculator to use it, whether it gave you accurate heliocentric positions for 400 years. Nobody had that, that didn’t exist. The only place you could find any helio stuff really that was accurate was the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac from the government. You had to have it for every year. So I would be going to the physics library in University of Michigan and copying the helio stuff year by year by year by year, stacks and stacks of xeroxes and stuff. So in 1975, I published a book that was called The Sun is Shining. The Sun is Shining. Oh, that’s one thing I did. Another thing I did was with a friend of mine on a mainframe computer was calculate what I call interface planetary nodes, the heliocentric relationship of all of the orbital planes. The inclination or disinclination, whether you’re inclined or disinclined, every planet to every other one, I published that in 1976. Also in 1976, I published what’s called Astrophysical Directions. It was the first book… It was a whole book that I paid for myself and actually got printed and laid it all out with a typewriter. Also, seven-star maps. I created seven-star maps with press type, basically giving astronomy to astrologers in astrology language rather than astronomy language, you know, in longitude and latitude rather than right ascension and declination. That was called Astrophysical Direction and now I’ve republished it’s called The Astrology of Space. But it was introducing astrologers to pulsars, quasars, black holes, all the different systems. You know, the galactic system, the supergalactic, the local group of galaxies, the local group of stars and stuff like that, all with accurate and all with a typewriter. And this was all before computers. So if you ask me what did I need programmable calculators for, that. That stuff.
CB: And you’re self-publishing with typewriters, which is amazing, but also… So it seems like part of your motivation during this period is it seems like you developed an interest in incorporating new astronomical advancements and things that were happening in astronomy into contemporary astrology and that that’s part of your motivation. Because you’re talking about things like heliocentric astrology, local space astrology, quasars and pulsars which are like new astrological or astronomical concepts, and bringing those into astrology. So that’s part of your motivation during this time period.
ME: Oh, yeah, this was happening and the only thing that prevented me from using it astrologically is the ability to use it effortlessly through calculation of one kind or another. And when I wanted to, and I did a lot of other stuff I’m not even bringing up, but I wasn’t doing it… I was doing it out of interest because I wanted to know. I needed the calculators. I didn’t start out… And when computers came along for me in 1977, I didn’t see myself starting a software company. I saw myself really being able to use a computer in a big way, in a much bigger way than a calculator. And to begin with, what I did was I made a program– and I was in touch with many astrologers by that point– I would give all my programs away for a long time for months and months and months. I didn’t charge anyone. Anyone. In fact, I got a letter from a very famous astrologer which I won’t name, I’m tempted to, just telling me that… He was some of those interested in money and made his money by helping other people make money through astrology. He later said to me, he says, “You don’t have any right, Erlewine, to charge for your software anything more than the cost of the cassette in the mailer.” This is because he could see that there’s no way he could get any piece of that because he didn’t have the chops to do it. But actually to receive that letter kind of blew my mind. Right?
CB: Well, there was some– because I’ve heard some of this in early stories about Microsoft and stuff as well– but there was some sort of tension between there was a really idealistic component to some other early software companies and programs and stuff about them being free or not commercializing things or other things like that was actually like a contingent of what people thought this was supposed to be about or something like that.
ME: I’ve never heard anything of that. My first program, my first astrology programs were bought by [FIFO]. They were advertised right next to the first spreadsheet, it was called VisiCalc. There was VisiCalc and astronomers were buying it, mostly amateur ones, because they had not figured out how to do astronomy on a home computer. But I had. So even though it was an astrology program, all these astronomers– mostly amateur ones, people like myself– were buying it so they could do calculations. That was before they had been within a few years then they had their own programs. But for a while, they didn’t have any.
CB: Wow, so that’s interesting. So the astrologers developed programs first before some of the astronomers then?
ME: Exactly, for home computers.
CB: I want to ask you about a couple of things, I guess maybe because I want to switch to talking about the personal computer at this point but I also want to… You mentioned heliocentric and local space astrology and I know those are specific things that you really came to specialize in and did some of your own technical innovations in. Should we circle back around to those or should we address those now?
ME: Well, we can address those now. They are big deals.
CB: So, with local space astrology…
ME: Let’s start with heliocentric because that came first.
ME: And it’s important to go in that order because local space was something that I first published an article, “Astrology of Local Space”, in… Astrologer Charles A. Jayne, he had a thing called Cosmecology Bulletin. And I forget that was… Somewhere I have the date of that too, but the real thing that happened to me that changed my life in astrology was heliocentric. Let me tell that story a little bit, and you can ask whatever questions you have but it’s very important in understanding who I am and what I was after. And it simply came out of when I finally had a computer, home computer– Commodore PET and later different Commodores and many Commodores– there were no disk drives. There was only cassettes, there were no printers. My first printer was a 65-pound teletype machine. I had to program the Word processor for it that would justify type. It didn’t exist, I had to do it myself. And I made a book on it that the AFA sold called Manual for Computer Programming for Astrologers. With the money I made from that, I never made any money, but I was able to get a Spin Writer printer, real printer. And that was enough for me and they had the rights to that book forever afterward. Anyway, one of the first things I did when I began to program is say, “Okay, here’s my natal chart. Here’s the one that I’ve worked with all these years. This is me as I know it in astrology. And there are other things. What is this heliocentric? What’s that?” I didn’t really know. I mean, I knew what it was, it was a chart from the center of the Sun rather than a chart from the center of the Earth. But I didn’t know what to do with it. So I figured out how to program it and I created my chart and I looked at it and studied it. And then I took all of the techniques that I used, you know, we all have a bag of tricks that we have for interpreting things that… Well, I guess I can give you an instance. In my geo chart, my Mars is in Aries. That’s hot stuff, right? Just interpretively.
CB: Sure, fire sign, impulsive. Yeah.
ME: But the truth is that in the helio chart, Mars was not. The Earth saw Mars in Aries, but in relation to the center of the Sun, my actual Mars was in Aquarius. So I would say to myself stuff like this, this is the stuff that I carried with me like baggage. I said, “Okay, I’m kind of hot-headed, my Mars in Aries. But maybe my hot-headedness has an Aquarian background, maybe it does. My energy serves an Aquarian purpose. Maybe my energy and aggression to do something actually ends up having something that benefits people. And certainly we can say that programming for astrologers is an example of that. That’s what I would call the kind of interpretation that I came into heliocentric with.
CB: Were there other astrologers doing heliocentric before that, or were you one of the first that started looking at casting charts with the Sun with just that approach?
ME: I can’t say. There was a guy named Butler that had a rough ephemeris. There were different people who used it, but really all they did– I don’t know how to say that without patting myself on the back, but I don’t care, I can pat myself on the back. The point is that they never got empowered. And this is something you can maybe make as a separate thing or something but the point is that about 500 years ago, Copernicus pointed out to astrologers who were astronomers who were astrologers, both, he said, “Hey, guys, everything does not revolve around us, the Earth. Actually, the Earth revolves around the Sun.” And everyone went, “Oh, my God!” But astrologers never took to that. The astrologers who became astronomers walked away from that time with two charts. One, the traditional geocentric chart that we all know, the traditional one, but also this heliocentric chart. And if you look at the history of academics, the two oldest disciplines in academia are botany and astronomy. Astronomers make a decent living, astrologers I don’t believe do. And still don’t. And I think that the reason that they don’t is because they were not empowered when Copernicus pointed out the obvious and they said, “Oh, well, that’s not useful. We don’t live on the Sun. We certainly live off the Sun and of the Sun.” I’ll spare you the lecture.
CB: No, I mean, what is your answer to that? Because I think that’s a question most geocentric astrologers immediately raise is why cast the chart for the Sun if we live on Earth, or what’s your thought process with that?
ME: For one, they love to label me a heliocentric astrologer because I use it. I’m not just a heliocentric astrologer, I use heliocentric astrology and I use geocentric astrology. I never stopped looking at my geo chart but I already knew it by heart and I’ve done everything in my ability to squeeze the juice out of that that I could.
CB: So they’re not mutually exclusive, you just look at them as different-
ME: No, of course not. And local space is another. One of the things that I’ve taught to the best of my ability is that there are different views, each view has its own. It’s just like algebra. There’s different kinds of algebras, each one expresses a particular view. It’s the same with charts. But because I said, “Hey, look at this helio view,” everyone says, “Oh, you’re a heliocentric astrologer.” Just like being a minority, right? It was pretty painful because… What?
CB: Yeah. Yeah, it reminds me of other debates in the community, like tropical versus sidereal, which I think Rob Hand told me that even that debate was a major… There was a very intense debate about that, I think in that timeframe in the ’60s and ’70s.
ME: Well, they did. But that was ridiculous because what you really want to know is where stuff is in the surrounding universe. It’s a slightly different place if you use one of the sidereal options than it is if you just use tropical zodiac. So I got around that by just simply saying, “I don’t care which one you want to use, I want to know where’s the center of the galaxy. Where’s the center of this? Where’s the local system? Where’s all this stuff?” Because it’s largely empty. But where the stuff is that we gather about that we orbit, that’s something that’s important to know. Anyway, we don’t have to get off into that. First of all, I think that to me, another one would be houses; trying to decide what’s the right house system. That’s ridiculous. And we can talk about it if you wanted to but…
CB: No, let’s not get into that. So with heliocentric though, we can just leave it that you became a major part of focus and major proponent of looking at the heliocentric chart as another point of view and then you also started doing work on local space astrology. I needed some clarification on that. Is that terminology of local space and is that an innovation on your part, or is that something that existed already to some extent when you came into the field?
ME: No, I call it local space. Not only did I call it local space, but like Jim Lewis did with astrocartography, I had a story that went with it. I could show you why it was interesting. And I did, I wrote pretty eloquently about it. But no, no one ever called it local space. And I don’t know what they call it these days. For a while, they said that I developed it, and after a while they dropped my name and they don’t say anything about where it came from.
CB: Well, and that’s what I’m trying to understand, is whether… Did you do something? Were there specific technical innovations you made in looking at local space? Because I know, for example with Jim Lewis, he copyrighted or is credited with the astrocartography line chart that shows lines across the globe and things like that. But you also developed some specific techniques for local space or-
ME: Of course. But I didn’t try to get trademarks on it, I didn’t. I’ve never cared about that stuff. Right? They can do whatever they want with it. Jim was hysteric about owning everything to do with astrocartography. I knew him as a friend and he’d call me up sometimes. First of all, he called me up and said I had no right to do local space just because it was relocation. I said, “What? It’s nothing to do with your technique, Jim. It’s a completely different technique.” So what I did was take azimuth and altitude, that’s as old as astronomy. Means local space. If your dad picked you up just after you were born and walked outside, and in the horizon was this Venus in this night sky and there’s the Moon rising, that’s local space. Local spaces in that direction when you were born was Venus, in that direction was the Moon. Not only that, that direction goes through planets and stars and something that also goes through cities on the surface of the Earth. And I told that story and showed them how to do it. And then a number of people wrote books about it– I have one book just about it– who got the idea from me and said so. And after a while, everything they say so where it came from… Whatever. I mean, we’re all old and… But yeah, people don’t get… They don’t credit people for what they’ve done.
CB: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons I was trying to establish it here. One of the things– actually, two things– one, so the title of that book if I’m correct is Local Space: Relocation Astrology.
ME: Yeah, something like that. Local space is the point. The idea of local space based around surrounding your locality. And if you walked outside just like I said, there’s the Moon due tonight. Are those directions meaningful? I don’t know, I find them meaningful. If I went out and Jupiter was in the direction of Ann Arbor, Michigan where I ended up living and where did all that. All that work was done in Ann Arbor. All this computerization, local space, heliocentrism, all done in… Jupiter, in Sanskrit, the word for Jupiter is guru. Basically, it’s the path you must follow. It’s your guide. So yeah, it worked for me.
CB: One of the things that-
ME: Go ahead.
CB: One of the things I just happened to glance at and notice as I was doing some work actually on Jim Lewis’ chronology for another episode yesterday, and today when I was getting ready and I pulled up your chart for this interview in my database, I just happened to notice that you were born July 18th, 1981 and he was born-
ME: No, no ’41. 1941.
CB: Sorry. Yeah, right, ’41. He was born just a month earlier, June 5th, 1941. So I find it really striking actually that both of you ended up making notable contributions to locational or relocation astrology or whatever one wants to call it in the astrological community. And you were both born within a month of each other is just an interesting piece of trivia or astrological information.
ME: And what do you think that’s based on?
CB: I don’t know. Probably just something in your charts that maybe gives you more of an awareness either or an interest in local astrology and the astronomy underlying astrology, or perhaps it was something similar where both of you were interested in innovations and incorporating new knowledge into the astrological tradition that perhaps you felt like in other instances had been overlooked or not adequately incorporated by astrologers.
ME: Well, in the chart, Jim’s chart, my chart and Dylan’s chart, the most profound aspect that’s happening is the trine between Uranus and Neptune. Uranus breakthrough with Neptunian whatever, that’s what I say we shared more than anything else, that single aspect.
CB: So in your chart, for example, Neptune’s at 27 degrees of Virgo and it’s trining Uranus at 26 Taurus. That is a really close aspect.
ME: Right, and Venus is conjuncting, heliocentrically, Neptune. And the Earth is… Six planets are making a grand trine with Earth at 25 degrees Capricorn 48 minutes. I have six planets making a single grand trine. That’s hard to find.
CB: Yeah, that’s so interesting. That’s funny I was just reading, because I’d cast your heliocentric chart and the positions I just read were heliocentric, but it just switched back to tropical. Neptune’s at 25 Virgo and Uranus is at 29 Taurus. I haven’t worked a lot with heliocentrics so I didn’t realize the outer planets they don’t change positions much, it’s the inner planets that move around a lot.
ME: Well, obviously, the inner planets Mercury and Venus can be anywhere.
CB: Right, heliocentrically.
ME: Beyond that from Mars on out, it’s a declining difference.
CB: Interesting. Okay.
ME: Plutos don’t differ much between helio and geo, but Jupiter does. Mars really does. All this stuff needs to be… For me, astrology is cultural astronomy. I think the astrologer Moby Dick was the first person that said it. I think his son J.H Jacob kept that going. That’s what astrology is. If you’re not following the astronomy of it, you’re not an astrologer. Astrology is not a psychic, that’s something else. We can be astrologer and be a psychic, I’ve nothing against any of that. I spent a lot of time with psychics, especially early on when they were all… Any conference I went to, there was a ton of psychics. I would go to their camps and visit them there. But I’m saying that just like I don’t know what to think of predictive astrologers, you can predict astronomy to the millisecond, right? There’s no question. But our job is what does it mean? What’s the meaning of astronomy? That’s what we’re supposed to be doing. If we’re not doing that, we’re doing something else, just not astrology. That’s my view.
CB: Right. There was something I wanted to ask you about that. Oh, yeah. Well, that brings up a really interesting question because one of the ironies, though, of the convergence and time in your chronology of the period we’re talking about in the rise of personal computers is that up until the rise of personal computers, astrologers needed to know how to calculate charts by hand in order to be able to practice astrology. And it sounds like part of your motivation in bringing astrology to computers was allowing people to do all these calculations and use all these other techniques, and in some ways to make them more familiar with the astronomy by producing some of those tables and some of the star charts you mentioned. But one of the weird side effects now that people talk about in recent decades is that a person doesn’t know how to calculate a chart by hand and they don’t necessarily need to know the astronomy in order to just have a chart calculated and interpreted. So there may be an irony there that astrologers are now in some ways less familiar with the astronomy than they were before the rise of personal computers.
ME: Well, we probably have to say that we can’t expect much ingenuity from them if they don’t know the astronomy enough to be able to see what it is they want to interpret. I think it’s great if you can just make a chart, and I helped that happen. And yeah, you can try to interpret it but I’m just repeating myself that if you don’t know the astronomy– first of all, they don’t know how to make a chart anymore, and most astrologers don’t know any astronomy, either. So what are they doing? And we know what they’re doing. I think we had 40 or 50,000 customers at Matrix when I was there, so I’ve met and served a lot of astrologers. If you asked me, “Well, what are they doing?” Good luck, I don’t know what they’re doing. You know?
CB: Were they any more familiar with the astronomy though before computers, really than they are now? Or is that just an idealized thing?
ME: Yeah, that’s just an idealized thing. I don’t think they were, not to my knowledge. The point is that if they don’t agree that astrology is cultural astronomy, you know, we’re there to tell the world what astronomy means. What’s the meaning of Saturn conjunct Mars?
CB: That’s what you mean by cultural astronomy?
ME: Yeah, that’s what we mean. Oh, what does it mean? What does astronomy mean? What’s the meaning of astronomy? That’s all we have to go with. We’re not going… If we’re not using that accurately, then we’re just… First of all, you know that I know that a lot of people are just using astrology like a touchstone just to wing it with some kind of psychic stuff they have. I’m not saying that’s wrong, I’m just saying that’s one way of using astrology, not the way that I know or was ever remotely interested in. First of all, I went to many psychics and they’re like– no offense to chiropractors– in the sense that you end up being dependent on them to tell you what you should worry about. And I don’t… Any kind of stuff like that I don’t like. I want to empower people to do it themselves. That’s why I wish that astrologers could take the empowerment that Copernicus put out there with the heliocentric, which has an empowerment, because it will change their life forever. It changed mine forever. When I began to understand my heliocentric chart, within a matter of months, I transferred my identification as to who I was, from my geocentric chart, which became the child chart, to the mother chart, which is Helio, which is that which the Earth is dependent on is the Sun. And when that happened, I began to feel it’s a kind of transmigration. I began to recognize myself as someone different than I’d imagined, and I became that. So, it doesn’t go the other way. I’ve never gone back to thinking myself as solely… First of all, I think of both charts. But the way I teach it, and wrote a whole book about it, is that the heliocentric chart is the chart of your dharma– what you’re going to do, what you’re here for. While the traditional geo chart is the chart of the circumstances and the karma in which you’re embedded in. And those two work together like hand in glove. But the important thing is to know who you are and why you’re here. And to me, the heliocentric chart does that. That’s why I call it, it’s a chart of your dharma.
CB: Right, and that brings that you developed, at some point, a lifelong interest in Tibetan Buddhism, right?
CB: And that’s incorporated as part of your philosophy of astrology to some extent?
ME: I don’t know, not particularly. Only in the sense that Tibetan Buddhism, which I’ve done for… My teacher just died a couple of years ago in 2019, but I was with him for 36 years.
CB: What was his name?
ME: Name’s Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. He was Tibetan, spoke no English ever. I’ve been to Tibet with him. So as you say, well, how did it affect my astrology?
CB: When did you develop that interest in Buddhism?
ME: Oh, back in the late ’50s, there was an interest in Zen Buddhism. We used to stay up late, watch Ingmar Bergman movies, talk about Zen Buddhism, smoke cigarettes, drink instant coffee with powdered creamer, and that’s how I… My interest in Buddhism, it took me until 1974 to realize that Buddhism was something to do yourself and had something to talk about. Because I’d had a lot of fun talking about it but didn’t realize. I met Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche who was a very famous Tibetan Rinpoche in this country, I got to be his chauffeur for time. And he taught me that Buddhism isn’t something to talk about, it’s something to do. It’s your action, actions you must take. Never occurred to me. Wow, I don’t know I could do it. It’s much harder than astrology, I can tell you that, much more difficult. But my point is that one of the first things I learned from it is astrologers don’t train their minds. Astrologers think– and people, not just astrologers– people think that the mind, just as it comes out of the box, so to speak, is good to go. Tibetans don’t say that. It’s not good to go, it’s whatever it is. You’re going to have to take whatever it is and train it. That never occurred to me. I thought that everything was… My mind was just all 100% good and I found out through dharma training. And I’ve done a lot of it, and according to Hoyle. I did it exactly the way they asked me to, instead of my own way, and I’m still always doing my own way but I did all the hundreds of thousands of prostrations, hundreds of thousands of mandala offerings and et cetera. It’s a very, very difficult… There’s a whole hierarchy. Talk about trying to learn something. Buddhism is very difficult to learn because you actually have to do stuff every step of the way and you can’t get around it. There’s no way to… There’s no backdoor to it, you have to go through it. If you don’t go through it, okay, you don’t. And if you’re going to go through it, you’re going to go all the way through it.
CB: That’s part of where you incorporate terms like dharma when you’re talking about heliocentric astrology and how you conceptualize the difference between that and the geocentric chart.
ME: Yeah. Well, you can say that. And absolutely, I feel that the dharma, what it is that we have no choice about but to go that path. That is something that the Tibetan… And Tibetan astrology, I’ve also studied and wrote an 800-page book on Tibetan astrology. But I’m not a Tibetan astrologer, it’s a book about it. I don’t know it by doing it for 50 years.
CB: Where did you get the knowledge of that?
ME: Rinpoches, from everything I could. I brought over people, brought over two different… I’m proud of this. One person came and lived for years with us; his name is Singye Wangchuck. He was from Bhutan, and later, we taught him how to use… He was a great artist and some of his drawings, about 500 of them, are now in the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, which is very famous, as a part of their premiere collection. He… I’m trying to think of what I was trying to say.
CB: He was a good artist, you said, and we were talking about where you got the knowledge of Tibetan astrology.
ME: Yeah, I got it from him. He lived in… I also brought a young astrologer from Rumtek. There are two basic kinds of astrology that we know most about. We know the Dalai Lama was called Gelugpa tradition. He’s the 14th Dalai Lama. My teacher is the Karmapa. Karmapa is the 17th. Karmapa is the oldest tradition with the reincarnate Lama. And I’ve been to Tibet. You’ll meet the young Karmapa when he was 12 years old. I took most of my family with me and I’ve met him other times at video crews and stuff, worked with him. So I’ve tried to learn all this stuff and I guess my point is that they have taught me, and I would love to pass this on to astrologers but I wouldn’t even really try, you have to train the mind. If the mind just cannot learn to meditate… People don’t even have the vaguest idea what meditation is. They think they do. Meditation is very difficult to learn. And you have to learn most of all not to do this, that, and the other thing, but learn how to rest your mind in the nature of the mind. Well, there’s two different kinds of meditation. One is what we’d call dualistic, you know, subject and object. “I’m going to do this. I’m here and you’re there.” And then there’s non-dualistic where you’re totally submerged. An example of that would be Mahamudra, which is a non-dualistic kind of… They don’t even call it meditation, they call it non-meditation. There’s also Dzogchen, which is another very similar…
Anyway, I’ve learned all that. I’m not an expert at it. I’m an expert at a lot of astrology but I’ll never say I’m an expert in dharma, I’m just doing my best. But it’s certainly more interesting. Here’s the way my teacher pointed out to me. He came and taught astrology, Tibetan astrology at our center because I asked him to and he knows how interested I was in it, and he said to me and he says that maybe some of you out there will benefit from it. He said, “Michael, astrology is one of the limbs of the yoga. It is not the route. Astrology can help you get from here to there in samsara in this world we’re living in. But even at its best, astrology is like the old saying of trying to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s never going to…” Here’s the way I… The way I used to teach it was imagine the Earth is a ball covered with water, winds are blowing. And on that ball of water is a little sailboat. I used to race sailboats, I know a lot about sailing. And this is what astrology is like. You can take that sailboat and you can set the sails to a different tack, and you can sail from… Astrology can help you get from here in samsara to somewhere else on the globe where you’re better off, but it’s not going to ever get you to the center. You’re still going to be in samsara, you’re still going to be on the Titanic, you’re still going to die and have to go through all this stuff. That’s the way he taught it. Astrology is not the route, and they love astrology so they weren’t deprecating it, they’re simply saying, “Hey, this is what it’s good for. It is not good for everything.” I want to learn more about everything, though.
CB: That makes sense.
CB: Let’s circle back because I wanted to get that heliocentric and the other pieces that you’ve specialized in, and local space and Tibetanism. But let’s circle back to the story of software, which is, you said your first personal computer was the Commodore PET and that came out in 1977. This was not too far after you got your first programmable calculator by taking out that loan, then you wanted to go the next step by getting a full-fledged personal computer.
ME: Literally. You know, something bigger and better and that I could do more with.
CB: Okay. If you had to take out a loan, though, for the calculator, how are you able to get this personal computer? Or what was the time gap between those two?
ME: Well, I think I was also trying to… I think I established a home business, mail-order business of astrological materials. I could buy them wholesale from Luellen or AFA and I could sell them to you, either in Ann Arbor or I can mail them to your house or wherever, and I could do whatever I could do to make it easier for you to learn. I never made that much money from it, it was very hard to have enough money to have an inventory. Just to put something on the shelf costs money and it sits there until you sell it. So I was probably making, I think the Commodore PET 2001 cost me $795. That’s all.
ME: But that was, to me, a huge amount of money then.
CB: Yeah, because that’s a lot more in 2023 dollars, I’m sure. But that’s around the time that you created Matrix and you started creating software for other people was around ’77-’78?
ME: Right. Remember, I also had Matrix magazine. All kinds of people, Robert Hand and John Townley and just right on down the line, Bob Schmidt, they all subscribed to that. We all shared. I believe in sharing stuff and that was sharing. I think I put in that magazine the complete code, BASIC code, code written in BASIC, of how to do charts.
CB: Is that where you were programming in, was BASIC?
ME: Well, I programmed some in Forth, if you know what Forth is, BASIC of reverse Polish notation. And mostly in Visual Basic eventually. Yeah, Visual Basic can do just about anything. That’s what most of Matrix software’s programs are written in.
CB: Okay. So you start with the Commodore PET, and do you know what the first program was that you produced? Like, what did it accomplish or what did the first software do?
ME: I absolutely do. It produced geocentric, heliocentric, local space charts.
CB: Like birth charts?
ME: Well, whatever kind of chart you wanted.
ME: It also had the aspectarian in it and it just did… And this was an 8K of RAM.
CB: Wow. This is in ’77-’78 or is this a little later?
CB: Okay. What about the atlas, like timezone lookups? Because I know that’s a challenging thing and sometimes controversial thing even today. What data did you draw on for that?
ME: I think we started out with just using the old books. We had to enter it in, but then eventually I made an agreement with Neil Michelsen to use his atlas and paid him a royalty.
CB: Okay. I’m drawing a blank on the… But that’s the main atlas, is-
CB: ACS atlas. Okay, thank you. Okay. But you had to manually type in and enter the data for the ACS atlas?
ME: No. First of all, if you’re using ACS books, yes. But once you had a digital copy, no, you didn’t. Any more than you do now.
CB: Yeah. And ACS is Astro Computing Services, right?
CB: Okay. What about the ephemeris? Where did you get the data for that in the early days?
ME: I created the actual algorithm producing them on the spot, right? I didn’t use anyone’s ephemeris because I was able to calculate an ephemeris of my own if I wanted to.
CB: Got it. Okay. But that’s really– as the first person doing that, you’re having to come up and figure out all these problems, I’m sure, in terms of how to do these things on the spot and I’m sure there was a lot of innovation in terms of that.
ME: Yeah. I mean, it’s a struggle, right?
ME: It was exciting, absolutely wonderful, but also constantly coming up against stuff that were almost impossible.
CB: Were there other people that you were able to talk to about it?
ME: Sure. Remember Matrix magazine, I’m going to send you a bunch of stuff not too long from now and I’ll give you all of the different magazines, there was everyone you could think of that ever did anything. I mean, Tom Shanks, all these people contributed to that magazine.
CB: Do you know when you started it?
ME: What? I started it, Matrix magazine.
ME: Oh, it must have been in ’77.
CB: Oh, so the same time. So right when you’re founding the company, you also start the magazine?
ME: Yeah, I was already doing this. I was trying to gin up, get people involved with their stuff, right?
CB: Okay. Yeah, so then having that magazine gives you connections to a lot of the other astrologers who had subscribed. Did you find a lot of people having immediate interest in what you’re doing and wanting to use your software?
ME: Well, a lot of people wanted to use my software that people in the magazine contributed to the magazine, it was hardly any just readers. These were people that were contributing to it. We were sharing what we knew.
ME: And maybe there were 50-60 pages, each one, I don’t know, I can’t remember it. But there’s lots and lots of stuff. It’s a trip, but you can have one, I’ll send you all the stuff to go through. And then after that, there was Matrix journal. And to see the history of people sending stuff and seeing what it was and who it was, what date they sent it and stuff like that, I was going to be interested in that. But someday, if there’s enough interest, maybe they will be interested. Somebody will be doing some research or write a paper on it or dissertation, stuff like that. Because it was not nothing, it was a lot of work and a lot of sharing. It was a wonderful time. To be living astrology was very… Astrology was changing in a way it had never changed for many centuries.
CB: Yeah, that’s an amazing historical shift to be on the cusp of, and I’m sure it was very exciting at the time.
ME: Oh, just like you guys are into looking into the past and different languages and stuff, that’s a very exciting thing that you were part of, right? Still are, right? And that was profoundly… We’ve talked about Bob Schmidt and stuff, Robert, and yourself, and you have a whole group of people that are doing the different languages, you know, Latin, Greek, whatever. That’s something that didn’t exist before hardly. That kind of enthusiasm.
CB: So this was a few decades earlier was the technological and the personal computer revolution. You said the Commodore PET was your first personal computer but then you said there is an Apple not long after that?
ME: Yeah. Once I became a business, not everyone had Commodore PETs. Some of them had Apples, so I would program it on Apple.
CB: What was the Apple again?
ME: I think it was Apple… First of all, there was Apple, then it was Apple IIe and IIc. It had an integrated, hi-res screen. But then also RadioShack, and I just wanted to mention my brother Stephen who’d been an astrologer and was actually a more serious astrologer than I was to begin with, he came and joined my company and he took over the TRS-80 and did all the programming for that. He’s still working for Matrix today.
CB: Your brother?
CB: Okay. Yeah, so did you co-found Matrix with him or what’s the-
ME: No, I did Matrix on myself and invited him in, but we both shared astrology and he was more serious about it than I was. I was interested in astrology and I Ching, as I said, and tarot. But he was more interested just in astrology. So I became more interested in astrology too, at some point.
CB: Got it. And it looks like the original Apple II was released in 1977, the Apple IIe was released in 1983.
ME: Oh, no, then I’m not… ’77 or ’78 would be when I had it. I don’t remember the numbers.
CB: So, then you started programming for Apple. And the Apple II, I think that was the wildly successful Apple, right?
ME: I mean, nothing was too wildly successful in the beginning. It could not do as much as the Commodore PET, as far as I was concerned.
ME: And RadioShack was kind of a junky computer, difficult to work with just because it would fail at this and that. Then they had an Osborne and all kinds of computers. And then IBM came along and we had IBM computers, which were never all that interesting.
CB: It looks like the Apple II had a disk drive, so we’re talking about the big square floppy disks at this point. Right?
ME: I don’t know what– In the beginning, the Apple II was just with cassette tape.
ME: Yeah, period. All of them were. Nobody had disk drives.
CB: And is that how you sold the first software program was on cassette tapes?
CB: Do you know how big? What was the storage capacity or what was the size of that program?
ME: Well, we’re talking about 8K, however long it takes to write that out and then to rewind and verify it byte by byte. That’s what I did all day long and send those out to people, originally as I think I mentioned earlier, free, just because they were interested. I was thrilled that anyone could even care about them.
CB: How many do you think you sent out for free?
ME: I have no idea but it was months.
CB: Like, hundreds?
ME: And it cut into my ability to take care of my family.
CB: Okay. So at some point, you realize you can’t keep doing this for free so you start charging for the software.
CB: Okay, and then you incorporate by ’78 and you start selling the software. There’s somebody, you said you got a little bit of pushback for that, but otherwise, did it start being successful pretty quickly?
ME: Yeah, I would say astrologers were what they are today, not quick to risk themselves. Another example would be when we began to produce written reports, astrological reports, nobody wanted to admit that they were buying reports from us. But famous astrologers would be calling us on the QT saying I want to be able to sell $5 worth of astrology to these people who aren’t going to come and have a reading. I want that report writer to send me some, but I don’t want to talk about it.
CB: So you had some reports which are like pre-written delineations of different planetary placements like in the birth chart, and you’d sell those computerized reports.
ME: This is down the road a little bit. Yeah, we were doing… Astrolabe did the same thing.
CB: How far down the road, though?
ME: I don’t know.
CB: Okay, I’m just trying to establish the early-
ME: No, somewhere down the road. First, you had to have disk drives and you had to have floppies and… But further down the road, I remember Charles Jayne and I used to put on, I think I might have told you the story before but it would be good place for it, the ACT Conferences. In 1980, Charles Jayne and I put on the first ACT in New Orleans at the AFA. So instead of just lecturing– I’m not a big fan of lectures. I don’t like to lecture and I don’t want to sit in a lecture. What we had was roundtable discussions, starting in the morning, every hour and a half or whatever it was, all the way through the day. Each one we’d have 10 or 12 experts, like on local space or whatever it was, they would all meet. I don’t know if you ever worked on any of those or not. They were at many different– at UAC a couple of times– and we would talk about that. And anyway, one of them was on written reports, talk about written reports. And we might have 10 people or five people or whatever it was, and they have a monitor for the room. Somebody’s monitoring the room about who can come in and out. We’re talking about computer reports and there’s this young lady standing by the door just bawling her eyes out because to her, written reports was the end of astrology for her. She couldn’t do that. She couldn’t compete with that.
Anyway, I’m just saying that people do not welcome… First of all, they didn’t… I first published an astrological calendar in I think 19… What is it? I don’t remember which one, but it had to be ’77, ’78, or something like that. I put on the cover of the Commodore PET with an aspectarian drawn on the screen on the cover of astrological calendar the whole year. People freaked out! A whole lot of people did not like the idea of calculating or using a computer. Some of them said that they loved doing it by hand with log tables and such. There was a kind of meditation for them. Then to do it in a second or two was anathema for them. That’s just the worst thing in the world. These people, you know, that didn’t last long.
CB: So there were some fears, though, initially about the rise of computers and about astrologers saying that this would disconnect people from knowing how to do it by hand.
ME: Exactly, there couldn’t be anything meditative. It’s happening right now with the advance of AI.
CB: Yeah, that’s what I was just thinking of.
ME: People are freaked out. I just finished over 10,000 images on Midjourney, which is an AI graphics engine. I’ve learned that I believe in not running from this stuff, but mastering it. Use it, learn to use it. And I’ve learned to use Midjourney and I use it for almost all of my graphics illustrations. Not I don’t think of it as art, I think of it as a way of illustrating blogs that I write every day on Facebook.
CB: Right. Well, in terms of the parallel, there’s also an inevitability, like in your case with personal computers, that was happening one way or another and that was going to happen one way or another. So it was just a matter of embracing it or sort of putting your head in the sand, but the world was going to become computerized no matter what. And it wasn’t necessarily something astrologers could fight or something like that.
ME: You’re not going to be able to fight AI, are you?
CB: Yeah, right. That’s what I was thinking.
ME: Not going to happen. It’s already done.
CB: I guess I’m just trying to figure out what the core, if that was the core lesson of that epoch-changing time period, that epoch that you were in, if that was part of the lesson from that that’s still applicable today of trying to embrace and see how you can use technology to accentuate or accelerate or enhance what we already do, rather than trying to fight it in a losing battle.
ME: It’s déjà vu all over again. AI is doing… We see the same thing happening today that was happening, in a smaller scale, with astrologers and computerization.
CB: Well, although interestingly, with the report writing thing, I could see how early on people might think that that was going to be a bigger deal than it became. But I don’t feel like report writing, that didn’t end up actually replacing astrological consultations or other things like that as much as I think people thought it could.
ME: Right, it didn’t. And it hasn’t. And I think that’s always the case. If people learn to use it, people get used to it, become dependent on it. Yeah, but the AI is going to be a big deal.
CB: Sure. So in terms of software, by the early 1980s, would we say is that when Matrix became super successful as a software company, or at what point do you think Matrix was?
ME: Here’s where I’ll say I don’t know, I don’t remember. I just know there was… I can tell you another little story. 1980, it wasn’t then. Because I went to, as I said, New Orleans at the AFA convention with my little software company, and I remember walking into the ballroom where all the different sellers of stuff were there. I had a little card table and I had two chairs, that’s it. And a little tiny sign. I knew that there was a thing called a Digi-Comp, which was a hardwired computer that did astrology. So I began to look around the room at all the other tables and other little displays, but where are these Digi-Comps? Where are these people? I couldn’t find it. Then I looked across the back of the room and the whole back of the room from left to right was one huge display, that Digi-Comp, whatever computer or whatever name they had. It totally blew my mind. Here I was sitting with my card table with my little cassette programs or whatever it was by that time, I’m not sure exactly what it was, but here was this company that was monstrously huge, covering 20 feet or something, some huge amount of space. So I’m saying that it was 1980 so I was not being successful then.
CB: Right. So within a few years, you weren’t the only astrology software company and you started having competition.
ME: Right. One of the things I did when I first began to do astrology is call Rob Hand, who was a friend of mine, and say, “I’m going to do this software company.” Because he had a little weighing computer that he was programming but he wasn’t making anything about it. “And I wanted to tell you that if you had any ideas about it, we’d talk about it.” He said, “Oh no, I have no interest in that at all.” And then a few years later, without ever having called me, he came out with Astrolabe and I said, “How come you didn’t even tell me?” He says, “Oh, I just changed my mind.” But anyway, that was upsetting. But then I didn’t care.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I’m sure things started changing really fast in terms of the adoption of personal computers and starting to see what they could do and what the potential was. I’m sure a lot of people started getting more serious or more interested in that and maybe initial perceptions changed. So he founds Astrolabe and that becomes another software company. Were there any other major… I know Astro Computing Services, ACS, you could write them at one point and send away and they would send you charts, they would calculate charts for people.
ME: Yeah, absolutely, they did. That was a service. Yeah. Well, Neil Michelsen, Tom Shanks, Pottenger. There were other people that were programming astrology, they just were not making those programs available to rank and file people.
CB: Okay. So, did that precede then Matrix, like ACS?
ME: Oh, absolutely.
CB: Okay, got it. So it was just that it wasn’t available for the personal computer so people would calculate themselves, but there were companies that you could write to that would—
ME: Right, you’d get back in the mail or, yeah, written stuff.
CB: Got it. So, part of the revolution that you’re involved with was just putting the software in astrologers’ hands so they could do it themselves.
ME: Exactly. That’s exactly all that I did. I wasn’t the only person that could… First of all, I was probably one of the worst ones. Michelsen knew much more than I did about the calculations involved in all of this, at least to begin with. They just were not interested in sharing that with others so that others could do that themselves. I was interested in just what you said. I said everyone could have this and should have this.
CB: Their business model was completely different, that’s interesting, and they were also producing printed ephemerises and tables and things like that.
ME: Yeah, wonderful stuff. Yeah.
CB: Okay. So by the mid-1980s, though, certainly Matrix is successful or starts to become successful, maybe perhaps with the further adoption of personal computers throughout the course of the ’80s?
ME: Yeah. I’m not sure when everything happened but absolutely it just kept going upward. We became a real center. Almost everyone who was anyone back then came to us, either for software or they came… We put on 36 different conferences here at our center, mostly astrology but also Tibetan Buddhism and stuff like that. Jim Lewis and people like that would come here, and Rob Hand, John Townley, Robert Schmidt, scores of them. And so we were… I think we were what was happening for a while. Just like everything’s like that, right? We had our day. I mean, I think that software companies now aren’t even what they used to be. I don’t think a lot of people are using software anymore. They’re going online and using Astrodienst or something like that. I don’t know what they’re doing.
CB: Yeah, things have kind of shifted towards the internet after that took off from the mid-’90s forward. But prior to that time in the late ’80s and early ’90s before the internet, this was the big thing. It was everybody started having a personal computer and all astrologers wanted to be able to calculate charts on their own so they could calculate as many as they wanted to. And yours was one of the main software companies that really was in the right place at the right time.
ME: Exactly. And David Cochrane came and worked with me for a couple of years and he went and created Cosmic Patterns, stuff like that.
CB: Sure, yeah.
ME: But we’re still good friends.
CB: And you mentioned you built the Heart Center, which was like an event and there was a library and a meeting center, right?
ME: Heart Center was established in Ann Arbor in 1972 to 1973, about the first couple of days in January of ’73. It was established as a communion center, a place for people to commune, and then it was moved to Big Rapids in 1980 and it’s still there, we still keep it up. For a while, we had… It had eight bedrooms at one point, and I’ve taken a lot of them back for this and that, but we had people like… We had a swami, we had Neil Black, Gary Duncan who did some of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory code and Brown’s lunar theory. We had a Sanskrit scholar and we had the head of the Harikrishna astrologers. They all lived together. Robert Schmidt lived there for quite a while.
CB: Right. So you had this facility and these traveling scholars would come out and stay for a while and talk and do work and exchange ideas.
ME: Schmidt lived there for a couple years or more.
CB: Yeah. And that was crucial because, in reconstructing his chronology, there was this really important turning point where him and his wife Ellen Black became interested in astrology and became friends with the astrologer John Townley. And then one day in 1989, Towneley brought Schmidt to a conference that you were hosting, a Matrix conference.
ME: I think it was a Neo-Astrology Conference.
CB: A Neo-Astrology conference, okay. And there was this panel and for some reason, you and Schmidt hit it off and you brought him on to this panel. But what was weird about it was he wasn’t an astrologer at the time, he was just this very intelligent person that had a really interesting background in classics and mathematics and philosophy and physics and things like that. But this panel had this amazing lineup, which included Michel Gauquelin, Lee Lehman, Robert Hand, Charles Harvey, Alois Treindl, and yourself and possibly others. But that was like Schmidt’s introduction to the astrological community and after that you and him hit it off, and then he lived there with you at Matrix for a couple of years.
ME: I invited him to come live there and we tried to find things for him to do. But I really didn’t care, we had enough money and he didn’t do much. Mostly, we talked and had meals together for a long time. Yeah, that’s how it was. We had a cook that cooked for everyone.
CB: Right, which is amazing because one, so the software company by the late ’80s had become so successful that you’re able to do things like that. And I think from what I’ve been told by different people, you just had a very generous spirit and you were always interested in hosting these discussions and stuff and making things available so people could talk and think and exchange ideas and hosting those conferences and things. But I know that that also, Schmidt, that was where he started researching. I think at one point I was told that he was researching a digital encyclopedia project that you wanted to create for the computer and so he was supposed to use some of his language skills to go back and start researching things. That may have been the first time that he started studying some of the older texts and doing a literature review to see that some of this work on ancient astrology existed but just hadn’t been translated yet.
ME: I think that’s not right. I think that that sounds very romantic, but that’s not really how it was in my knowledge. My memory is that I think he did some. You’re talking about Astro Index, just like a massive thing. Gary Duncan did an enormous amount of just what you’re talking about. Robert didn’t. I don’t know whether he was researching Greek and stuff like that, I don’t remember any of that. I think that he and I worked on chaos theory for a while. He was a mathematician as well, we were trying to do stuff with that. I was trying to find stuff to do with him. And finally, and I think I’ve told you this before, since he spoke German, I had him translate the book by Theodor Landscheidt who was one of the greatest astrologers that I know of, about “Children of the Light”, about solar activity. And he did translate that whole book. That’s a serious thing that he did, creating a wonderful book in English that still doesn’t exist in English. Anyway, I don’t know what to do with it exactly, I don’t have any particular rights to it, but a lot of people want to see it and they’re welcome. I’d like to read it and stuff like that.
CB: That’s on solar phenomenon, right?
ME: It’s about solar phenomenon, solar flares, but it’s mostly about their effect on creativity in the sciences and the arts. The coincidental discovery of this or that, mentally, the time of an intense solar flare. He came also to my place, Theodor Landscheidt, and he and I were good friends. I think I’ve told you this before that I think in 1978, I sent him to Germany. He was a Supreme Court justice of Germany, one of them, and also a climatologist. I sent him a Commodore PET, his first computer in which he did a lot of his climatology research and stuff like that. He and I were friends. We’re not close buddy friends like Schmidt and I were close buddy friends, but he was like my elder, and the only astrologer I think that I learned from other than as a friendship something that I couldn’t have learned on my own. Or that he introduced me to cosmos in his book, “Cosmic Cybernetics”, the whole idea that organisms of any size and every size, in order to cohere and not deteriorate, have to have an information flow. And he sketched out how that might work cosmically with the galaxy and stuff like that, and that was profoundly seminal for me.
I loved astrologers. I mean, I met Dane Rudhyar and I knew all these people, and they were all great. There’s nothing against anyone. It’s just that the stuff that sparked me came from Landscheidt.
ME: And I did a lot of stuff that he never did either. He did geocentric nodes, I did heliocentric planetary nodes. There was kind of a difference. I wasn’t interested just in the Earth’s view, I wanted to know how all of them worked with each other since they’re a system, called the solar system. So, that idea. Yeah, I can’t say… I mean, Bob Schmidt, Robert Schmidt, was one of my dearest friends. I don’t know if I was one of his dearest friends, I think I was pretty good, but I really loved him. And we would talk not about astrology– we talked about astrology tons. And older enough, I think he went away and said he was an astrologer after he left here. But we talked about work. I think I told you this before. We talked about how we worked and how we used our minds, how we spent our days exactly what we did. That was our main thing that we talked about. But anyway, I don’t think he did a lot of stuff with Astro Index. That sounds nice but it didn’t happen.
CB: No, I know he didn’t end up doing a lot of work on it but just the idea that maybe he, at some point during that time that he became aware that there were older texts that existed that hadn’t been translated yet because I know I think it was at one of your conferences I always hear this famous story of Rob Hand tells Schmidt that at some point if he’s ever not doing other work, if he’s not working for you, which he was at the time, he told Schmidt that he should come find him and they’ll get together and they’ll do something together. And then eventually, that’s what happened in 1992 and Schmidt went up to Hand at a conference and said, “I’m free, let’s collaborate on something,” and then the rest was history and they created Project Hindsight. But you played a really crucial role because it seems like with the success of Matrix and the software in the late ’80s and early ’90s, that you were hosting a lot of events and you were very much at the center of a lot of community efforts and a lot of things, and a lot of important astrological discussions were taking place under the auspices of Matrix and some of the related things.
ME: Yeah, he was here for years, a couple of years at least. And there was endless, endless meals that we shared every day.
CB: Yeah, after we did that interview last month about Schmidt, I realized it was what you created there with the Heart Center and having that ability for traveling scholars to come and stay and do research and talk and exchange ideas, that was actually then implanted and was the blueprint for the vision that Schmidt and his wife, Ellen, later had for Project Hindsight. Because they always talked about wanting to have the ability to host traveling scholars at this big house that they had inherited, and that in fact, ended up being what I benefited from when I ended up moving there and living there was a similar thing for about two years. But I didn’t realize until last month and talking to you that it was actually what you had created with the Heart Center and with Matrix that they originally got the idea from, in some sense, or the inspiration from.
ME: Yeah, that’s true that I think that they liked… For instance, we had meals, lunch every day free. And every Friday night, we’d open it up to all employees and their families, big meal– and really, really good meals– and brought in people from the town, lawyers or whatever, just we were friends. I think the difference was that we were fueled by quite a lot of cash in order to do that, and I think they took away from… It was quite a wonderful place to be at. And I think he took away from that, what you said, and they had the perfect house down there to do it. I just don’t think they had enough flow of money to do it.
CB: Sure, for sure.
ME: Maybe they weren’t good at doing it. I mean, I’m pretty friendly. I brought everyone that I could.
CB: Yeah, well, let’s talk about it a little bit because prior to… I know in the ’70s and earlier, I’m told often that the AFA was one of the only games in town in terms of major astrological organizations that was hosting conferences and stuff. But then it seems like you were hosting essentially conferences with Matrix by the mid to late ’80s.
ME: The smaller ones. We weren’t trying to do these big ballroom things that UAC does. We had maybe 20 or 30 astrologers there. Mostly, we didn’t care. Most of our conferences were for the people that were there to speak, we weren’t really for the general public. We let people come, but they had to take care of themselves. I couldn’t put them up or feed them all. But mostly, that’s the difference. And since instead of putting on one for the whole astrology community, we just had this one for the speakers who came out of ACT. We just wanted the speakers to get together and be able to talk about what they loved and were interested in. And if someone else wanted to witness it, that’s great, but we didn’t cater to that.
CB: And what did ACT stand for originally, again?
ME: Astrological Conference on Techniques.
CB: On techniques. Okay, so those are the early ones you’re talking about from 1980 circa. And then eventually, you did a series called Neo-Astrology Conferences. Or was that just one conference?
ME: No, they were two Neo-Astrology Conferences that were just part of the same stuff. It wasn’t really for people. That was for the people that you rattled off, right, that you said were there at the table. There weren’t a lot of people there witnessing it. That’s the difference.
CB: I mean, those are some of the leaders… That’s a pretty notable list, the one conference in ’89 that I know about, which was Michel Gauquelin, Lee Lehman, Robert Hand, Charles Harvey, Alois Treindl. And Alois Treindl was the founder of Astrodienst, which I know eventually in the mid to late 1990s became a major website and one of the first websites that offered chart calculations for free. And now in retrospect, that has been a huge shift and that’s been a major thing in the community over the past 20 years or so. But Astrodienst was formed earlier in the ’80s and was already doing… What was it? Mail order, chart calculation, and report writer services or something. So that’s probably why he was at that conference.
ME: Yeah. Well, I have no idea why he was at that conference other than he was doing… They were kind of like Astro Computing Services but they were more like a hippie version of it or a more open version, more sharing, sharing lots of stuff. It wasn’t that Asto Computing Services or whatever didn’t share, it just wasn’t in the wind or in the mind back then. People didn’t do that, they just ran businesses. I think Treindl, he was not fully open, but pretty more open sharing with other people. And so yeah, I think that is a wonderful thing and he’s a very nice person and a lot of fun to be with. And he’s done really wonderful stuff.
CB: Yeah, for sure. Okay, that brings us to the early to mid-’90s, and then at some point, the internet comes in. From the mid-’90s forward, it starts becoming popular and starts becoming widely adopted. At some point, there must have been a shift from when you were selling the program in the late ’80s and early ’90s, you were probably sending it out on a bunch of floppy disks, right?
CB: Do you know how many? It wasn’t just on… Was it on one floppy disk or did you have to send out a stack of disks for the program?
ME: Well, it depends on how many programs we got or how much database was there. I had an email in 1979, that’ll tell you something. And so I was a pioneer. Matrix isn’t the only thing that I did, I also did something much bigger money-wise, which was… Allmusic.com is still the largest music database in the world, with hundreds and hundreds of thousands. I think there’s 95,000 biographies of musicians and producers and directors and stuff like that. Also, I started one of the two largest databases for film and movies in the world called movie.com. Did the same for games, and I also did all by myself the largest rock and roll database of rock and roll concert posters. Not the cheap stuff that you see and buy for memorabilia, but actual ones that were for a concert. I personally photographed about 33,000 important, expensive posters and stuff like that. So I’m saying there’s a whole other thing going on that we’re not talking about and what I’m saying is… First of all, I did 110 web pages for Microsoft on the New Age.
CB: What do you mean?
ME: That means that I did… We have astrology, tarot, 110 different websites for them– part of their MSN, which didn’t last too long. And also on CompuServe, I had film and movie databases early on before anyone. Before there was the World Wide Web, we were filling large quantities of data on what’s called Gopher sites. Gopher sites preceded the World Wide Web. We were a major player in that. So at the same time this astrology stuff continued, I was also pioneering music and film. I’m an archivist of popular culture, it’s what they call me.
CB: Right, archivist.
ME: I’m an archivist. And the music database I had, I moved it to Ann Arbor, Michigan, finally. It took up two floors of a very expensive building, and I had 150 full-time employees and 500 to 700 freelance writers that worked for us.
CB: For just the music site?
ME: Music and film.
ME: Music and film.
CB: And that ended up being more lucrative than the astrology software company.
ME: Oh, yeah.
CB: So it wasn’t that the astrology software company and its success was able to help you fund other things.
ME: No, it did. Astrology helped fund All Music Guide, AMG, helped allow it to grow into something important. In fact, some of the employees at Matrix used to say because I was averting funds, I tried to nurse this music and film database like I was pouring money down a rat hole. They didn’t like it, but yet it turned out to be certainly the most important public thing that I ever did.
CB: Right, I think some people in retrospect now have taken great interest in that, and some of your collections actually are now incorporated into university collections or donated to them.
ME: Absolutely, I have very little left. Almost everything’s at major universities, the Bentley Historical Library for the University of Michigan. Illinois… Illinois University also there, and then out in San Francisco. All these different ones. And I think we didn’t talk about, you started to talk about it, is that the Heart Center astrological library, certainly one of the largest libraries on astrology ever produced, and then was all donated to the University of Illinois. It took an Allied Van Lines huge moving truck to move it, plus a UPS-sized truck just to move my papers on correspondence and stuff. All of that stuff is safely in the hands of any researchers that want to play with it. Another copy of some of my material has been at Historical Library and another one’s out in poster databases in two places. I think I mentioned the Tibetan art we produced here’s in New York at the Brooklyn Museum.
So I think I’ve been a good curator and steward, made sure that all of this work that it did is now available to everyone. These were all donations, I didn’t get any money for anything. It’s there for researchers, Ph.D. people, dissertation people or whatever, to do whatever they want with. What do I have left? Not much, just the kind of stuff I’m going to send to you and maybe another person. All these interviews. This astrology stuff, you’re going to be one of the stewards of that soon. As soon as I can get it all together. Still waiting for stuff to come back to me, I’m not holding it up.
CB: Yeah, and I think some of your astrology books were also donated to Jenn Zahrt and the CAELi Institute out in Washington in Olympia, right?
ME: I gave her all… She came and took away a vanload of duplicates.
CB: Okay, nice. And that’s now a big, huge astrological library in Olympia, so some of your collection then sort of lives on in different places through that—
ME: And I sent some to Philip Graves in UK.
CB: Okay. And he has to have the biggest astrology collection in the world at this point, Philip Graves.
ME: No idea.
ME: And I doubt that he has the ability to house what I housed.
CB: Sure. Right.
ME: I had a 40-foot by 20-foot… Well, you’ve seen pictures of it.
CB: Yeah. If you have any pictures, I have before, but if you have any, you could send me and maybe I could splice some pictures in now into the video at this point.
ME: Actually, I should. If you haven’t seen it, it was huge, and I don’t think Philip has anything. But maybe it does because I know he’s a great guy, I just don’t know that he has that much stuff. And you can ask him. Ask him, does he think that he does?
CB: Okay. So, eventually, things started to shift. We have the rise of the Internet by the late ’90s and computerized software programs, astrology software still becomes used even to this day. We have started to see more of a shift towards using either phone apps or to using website-based software programs, but there are still other programs that exist. Matrix is something you eventually moved on from and sold the company, right?
ME: Sold to David and Fei Cochrane. [crosstalk]
ME: Well, we used to work here, you know? We’re friends.
CB: Okay. So some of that lives on and I know that Matrix website is still there and still has some of the old stuff on it from maybe before you sold it.
ME: Also, one of the sites that I built and then sold to David was called astrologyland.com. And on that site is a very nice free chart wheel that does helio and geo. If you’ve never seen it, you should go look at it. Very pretty, very nice looking chart.
CB: Yeah, that is cool. So, that’s at astrologyland.com.
ME: Yeah, and there’s a lot of other stuff there too. But if somebody needs a chart, they can get it there. I think they’re as nice as any other chart that I know of that’s free.
CB: Yeah. Okay, so bringing things full circle in terms of your career in astrology as an astrologer, as well as specifically being at the forefront of the rise of astrology on personal computers and astrology software programs, I guess we started to talk about some of the parallels between that time period and today with some of the things that are emerging with AI. Are there any other core lessons or important historical reflections from that shift to personal computers and to astrologers starting to use software that you think are important or notable for people to understand and know about what that was like?
ME: I don’t really understand what you’re asking unless you want we go through the whole thing again, which we don’t.
CB: No, I guess I’m just trying to think about… So maybe, one of the things I—
ME: And I’m still thinking. I just published today on Facebook. I publish a blog every day on Facebook, often on astrology, talking about gravitational… There’s some recent events in terms of gravitational waves, cosmically, in the news now. I was talking about this many many years or decades ago, the whole idea that gravitational radiation, unlike electromagnetic light waves, light waves are bipolar, which means they oscillate like that. But gravity waves are quadripolar, which means they oscillate like this and also like that. And decades and decades ago, astronomers said that gravitational gravity waves, which they call the weak force because it’s so delicate and subtle, would take an antenna. So, the antenna for gravity waves would be a cross. An astronomer said it would take a cross antenna the size of the solar system to be able to interpret gravitational radiation. And it occurred to me, well, the planets and the Sun create those crosses all the time. So a very important part of my helio work which I just wrote about today online on Facebook is– and this ties in with Landscheidt, again, the whole idea of cybernetics– at any large scale system, any system, whether it’s machine or living, in order to cohere or to have coherence, not to decay and fail, has to have a stream of information keeping it alive. I just wrote about that again. So I haven’t stopped thinking about what was important, it’s just a question of, “Who am I speaking to? To whom am I speaking?” Astrologers aren’t that interested in what I’ve done. Some of them are interested, but not mostly. And you must know this from your work, even the kind of work that you and the language people did. What do you call that anyway? What do you call the whole group of you that does ancient languages?
CB: Just the revival of interest in ancient astrology or traditional astrology, I guess, is what it’s called.
ME: Okay. Well, then, you must know by now that not everyone in astrology is interested in that.
CB: Right. Sure.
ME: Right. And so it’s the same way with a lot of my research and a lot of the things I developed. But what do you do about that? You just do it for yourself because you’re interested in it and you can’t count on anyone else witnessing it. Certainly, many of the techniques I’ve developed never had anyone come and talk to me that was the least bit challenging, that they learned enough about, say, heliocentric enough to make me learn with them. I’m sure you have something similar and some things you’ve done. I just say, what do we do with that in our life? And I think that we would do this for ourselves. We don’t do it to make money, we don’t do it… I mean, it’d be nice if we could make money. We do it because we’re interested in it. So I don’t know where astrology is going now. I know it’s going out of computers, going on real-time on the web, because I think software companies must be struggling. I lived in a happy time, a lot of money, a lot of interest. But it fades too, everything does. We’re going to grow old and die. So, what do we leave? Good question. Whatever else do I have to say about what’s going on? Only that I’m interested in what I’m interested in. And it’s still astrology, but it’s more spiritual stuff, which I always have been. I’m particularly interested in dharma because dharma is so deep-seated and so important, but there’s not many people interested in that either. Not really.
CB: Well, I think it’s striking and impressive and encouraging that you were able to make a life following things that you were interested in and passionate about, and that you were able to have that support you and also be able to make major positive contributions to the astrological community as well as other communities through that work and through those efforts.
ME: That was intentional, in the sense that what I didn’t do is take the road less traveled by. I mean, that’s what I did do. Did not go to college– actually, I went to University of Michigan for three weeks and decided it was just like high school. I went where I wanted to go and I made my living doing things I loved. I’m also a very skilled photographer of nature. Stuff like that. So I made an encystment, but you might not know is it took a long time for any of the things that I loved and was interested in to make any money.
CB: Right, it wasn’t that you got into it and that you knew this was going to be the thing and this was going to make you lots of money, it was just that those were your interests and you wanted to follow what you love doing. And that’s what you did.
ME: Yeah, no matter what. It’s going to go, whether it’s successful or not and for a long time, it wasn’t successful and we lived on a shoestring and pretty happy, anyway. I have four kids and eight grandkids and I have enough money to get to the end of my life, which isn’t that far away. So I don’t have a lot of money, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I could not have… I did go to work for NBC for a while as a senior consultant in astrology. You know, astrology.com or whatever was theirs, I don’t know where it is now, and I worked for them and found out I actually could work with them just fine. Wasn’t so bad as I thought, taking direction. It’s still not what I like to do, I’d rather lead.
CB: Yeah. Well, I’m glad that… It seemed like the community, while you were at one of the center points of it, it seems like you did a lot of good during that period.
ME: Thank you.
CB: Yeah, and I think a lot of people are thankful of that. So, thanks a lot for your efforts and your contributions.
ME: I appreciate you saying that. Yeah, to me, it was wonderful. I’ve met a lot of great people. John Townley is an incredible person. All of these wonderful people. Michel Gauquelin was here many times. All these people. Robert Schmidt, as I said, a very close friend. Noel Tyl, he and I were close friends. He used to call me his little leprechaun. He was outstanding in our field because he was six foot six or whatever it was.
CB: Right. Yeah, he was a big man. For people that want to follow your work or your current writings or get in touch with you, it seems like your Facebook page is where you write pretty regularly at this point different blog posts.
ME: Oh yeah, there’s that. But mostly I have a whole website called spiritgrooves.net or .com. And that has, I think, 300 and some free eBooks, not all on astrology. 300 of them are on posters. But mostly maybe these 50 or so free books on all the astrology that I’ve done are for downloading, I don’t charge for anything. Some time if you want to make this, put that on the screen or something so people can find it.
CB: Yeah, I’m trying to see if this is the right website. It says dharmagrooves.com, is that correct?
ME: It’s both. They both go to the same place. It should be a dark blue…
CB: Is this it?
ME: Yeah, that’s it. You got it.
ME: And to the left, it says free eBooks, right? Yeah, those are all astrology books that are free.
CB: Got it. So this is where some of the books that you mentioned are located.
ME: All of them.
ME: Hundreds of them. But even in astrology, there’s a whole big bunch.
CB: So there’s the Local Space one, there’s the Tibetan Astrology one, and I’m sure that is the heliocentric one up here, too.
ME: Yeah, but there’s still. One’s called Dharma Chart and the other is called StarTypes. You passed them.
CB: StarTypes Visual Ephemeris?
ME: No, that’s something else. That’s just a visual ephemeris.
CB: Oh, there it is. StarTypes: Life Path Partners. Got it.
ME: Yeah, Life Path Partners. It’s about relationship, using heliocentric astrology and bringing people together in a relationship.
CB: Got it. Okay. And then I don’t know if this website is still active, but you also have michaelerlewine.com. Right?
ME: It’s still there, just a bunch of other stuff. Different stories of Ann Arbor, stories of music, stories of this and that. Just for people who haven’t had enough, that’ll give you more than enough.
CB: Got it. Okay. Awesome. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today and sharing your story with me and helping me to document some of this oral history. I really appreciate it.
ME: Well, it’s been my pleasure. And I thank you for doing it and I think you’re doing an excellent job. I’m proud of you.
CB: Thank you, I appreciate it. All right. Well, thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of the Astrology Podcast and we’ll see you again next time.
A special thanks to all the patrons that helped to support the production of this episode of the podcast through our page on patreon.com. In particular, shoutout to the patrons on our Producers tier, including Thomas Miller, Catherine Conroy, Kristi Moe, Ariana Amour, Mandi Rae, Angelic Nambo, Issa Sabah, Jake Otero, Mimi Stargazer, and Jeanne Marie Kaplan. If you appreciate the work I’m doing here on the podcast and you’d like to find a way to support it, then please consider becoming a patron through our page on patreon.com. In exchange, you can get access to bonus content that’s only available to patrons of the podcast, such as early access to new episodes, the ability to attend the live recording of the monthly forecast episodes, our monthly Auspicious Elections Podcast or another exclusive podcast series called The Casual Astrology Podcast, or you can even get your name listed in the credits at the end of each episode. For more information visit patreon.com/astrologypodcast.
If you’re looking to get an astrological consultation, we have a list of recommended astrologers at theastrologypodcast.com/consultations. The astrologers on the list are friends of the podcast that have been featured in different episodes over the years, and they have different specialties such as natal astrology, electional astrology, synastry, rectification, or horary astrology. You can get a 10% discount when you book a consultation with one of the astrologers on our list by using the promo code ASTROLOGYPODCAST.
The astrology software that we use and recommend here on the podcast is called Solar Fire for Windows, which is available for the PC at Alabe.com. Use the promo code AP15 to get a 15% discount. For Mac users, we recommend a software program called Astro Gold for Mac OS, which is from the creators of Solar Fire for PC and it includes both modern and traditional techniques. You can find out more information at astrogold.io, and you can use the promo code ASTROPODCAST15 to get a 15% discount.
If you’d like to learn more about my approach to astrology, then I’d recommend checking out my book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune where I go over the history, philosophy, and techniques of ancient astrology, taking people from beginner up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. You can get a print copy of the book through Amazon or other online retailers, or there’s an ebook version available through Google Books.
If you’re really looking to expand your studies of astrology then I would recommend my Hellenistic astrology course, which is an online course on ancient astrology where I take people through basic concepts up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. There’s over 100 hours of video lectures as well as guided readings of ancient texts, and by the time you finish the course, you will have a strong foundation on how to read birth charts as well as make predictions. You can find out more information at courses.theastrologyschool.com.
And finally, thanks to our sponsors, including The Mountain Astrologer Magazine, which is a quarterly astrology magazine which you can read in print or online at mountainastrologer.com.