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The Astrology Podcast

Ep. 416 Transcript: Early Project Hindsight Interview with Hand, Schmidt, and Zoller

The Astrology Podcast

Transcript of Episode 416, titled:

Early Project Hindsight Interview with Hand, Schmidt, and Zoller

With Jeanne Mozier and Robert Hand, Robert Schmidt, and Robert Zoller

Episode originally released on September 3, 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: theastrologypodcast@gmail.com

Transcribed by Andrea Johnson

Transcription released September 13th, 2023

Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com

JEANNE MOZIER: We have with us today the three principles of one of the most exciting projects in astrology today, the Hindsight Project. And let me turn it over to Robert Schmidt—who in many ways was the father of this little project—and have him introduce his colleagues here and tell us a little bit about what Project Hindsight is.

ROBERT SCHMIDT: I’m Robert Schmidt. This is Rob Hand, and that’s Robert Zoller, so you can keep us straight. We are translating all of the Greek astrological material that survives in manuscript or in edited form. We’re starting with the material that is basically part of the Western astrological tradition. And we probably will not confine ourselves to that but that’s where we’re beginning. And right now we have begun two tracks. We have a Greek track and a Medieval Latin track. I’m the Greek translator. Robert Zoller, on the far right here, is the Medieval Latin translator, and Robert Hand, who you should all recognize, is the general editor of the project.

ROBERT HAND: I translate the translation.

RS: That’s right. Which, believe us, is necessary. So this project was actually only announced in April of this year, about three months ago, where Rob made an announcement about the project at the NORWAC conference—

RH: Right.

RS: In Washington state. And it has had a rather overwhelming response so far. We have astrologers, professional astrologers, grassroots astrologers, people who are maybe a little skeptical. At all levels people have been supporting this project and the way this is done—go ahead.

JM: I just wanted you to tell them exactly what that support means and how they too could be part of it.

RS: What that means is that every month the translators at this point, Robert Zoller and myself, translate a unit of astrological material from an original language. That’s usually about 75 pages in the original. And as we do that we also annotate it fully, trying to explore difficulties and raise philosophical issues. And at the same time Rob Hand is then trying to translate this into material that’s more familiar to modern astrologers and sometimes this can be very difficult. Well, these booklets, when they are done, probably are about a hundred pages. We have one right here. This is the first booklet published by the Hindsight Project, and it is Paulus Alexandrinus, a Greek who wrote at the end of the 300s. This work has never been translated into any modern language. It was translated into Latin in the 1500s, and nobody has read it since then which means nobody really has any idea what’s in it. Even the scholars who did the critical edition and put it into book form evidently didn’t pay too much attention to its content.

Well, we chose this as the first work, and it’s very representative of the kinds of things we’re doing. It’s done in booklet form. We consider this to be a provisional translation, and this is somewhat of a technical term for us. Since nobody has read this material for hundreds of years, it would be somewhat pretentious of us at this point to try to give a definitive translation of any one of these works for the simple reason that nobody understands a lot of these concepts and you can’t get everything that you need to know from one work. So what we are doing is we are doing a first time through, instead of doing what scholars oftentimes do—spend their entire lives or entire career doing one work and doing what they think is a definitive edition. We think this is a very poor strategy. Instead, we are going to go racing through the entire corpus, doing the best translation we can on this monthly basis. And after this, after we’ve covered all the material and we find out the mistakes that we made in the early one—because we certainly make mistakes—then we will return and do more definitive editions. And these will be published in hardback form and we hope represent the fruits of Hindsight and will be some permanent acquisition to the Western world.

JM: Well, good, guys. That’s part of what you have to do. Okay, Bob, you’ve been through that first book. You did the translations, you’ve read it. Tell me the most exciting thing you discovered in reading that book and doing that translation.

RS: I discovered that this writer—who was considered to be a wretched writer according to the scholars—actually had a very sophisticated philosophical understanding and symbolic understanding and mythological understanding, and he had embedded his astrological thinking into that framework, into that matrix. This was really quite amazing.

JM: And how about a usable piece of information? I know that appeals to you as a scholar, but for those of us who are out there, are we gonna find out something that says, “Oh, well, if you have the Sun square the Moon it really means this instead of that?”

ROBERT ZOLLER: One of the things that that these two fellas did with that book was to solve the pressing question of the dreaded monomoiria, which scholars heretofore had been unable to solve, has now been put in clear English and is a usable technique in this Alexandrian astrology. But for exactly what they are, I think you should hear what Bob has to say.

JM: Okay, so let’s hear about the dreaded monomoiria.

RH: The dreaded monomoiria. The ‘dreaded’ is not part of the original text. The monomoiria—there are actually two systems in Paulus. The one that got the epithet ‘dreaded’ was a system in which each degree of a sign is ruled by a planet. And in this particular case the planetary rulerships are assigned according to triplicity rulers, which is another layer of complexity, but it turns out the system is used to rectify horoscopes. And in fact there are a number of ancient techniques that astrologers know of, the two most outstanding are the Trutine of Hermes and the Animodar of Ptolemy. Well, there are at least four others in Paulus that are totally unknown to modern astrologers of a similar nature.

JM: So that means that there will be astrologers mining these little booklets for topics to talk about at conferences at least from now to the end of the millennium, right?

RH: Oh, I think so, yeah. I hope so. I’m sure that some of it will probably be very inspired and creative and some of it will probably be best left in the dustbin of history.

JM: But isn’t that what provisional was all about?

RH: Oh, yes, yes. To answer the question you asked of Schmidt—of myself, I already mentioned the second issue. I don’t want to go into that again in another context today, but another one which I found personally enormously gratifying was several years ago I wrote an essay in my book Essays on Astrology on the 13th harmonic, and this was based on a reference in Neugebauer to a system the Greek astrologers used. And ever since I read that reference in Neugebauer, I was finding instance after instance after instance of this technique done differently from the way I described it in the essay, and I was beginning to wonder if Neugebauer had hallucinated and I had been led down the garden path by Neugebauer. Well, there high, wide and handsome, sitting in the middle of Paulus is exactly the method that I got from Neugebauer, complete with examples of how to use it and what its significance is. Including some things that were noted by no one else, and they also appear in these rectification techniques. So we not only have this technique supported by Paulus, but also practical illustrations of its use.

JM: Now do you feel that this will make those of us who practice astrology with individuals better astrologers?

RH: Eventually. But there’ll have to be a great deal of interpretation done between now and then. Not instantly, no.

JM: I see.

RS: More thoughtful perhaps.

RH: Yes. One thing I am looking forward to eliminating is lines that begin, “Well, the ancients said,” and you never gonna find out who said ancient was, or “Gee, according to our teachers, this is an ancient practice. We’ve merely brought out the date.” Again, no reference.

JM: Are there ancient astrology books in translation right now?

RS: There’s only Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos primarily.

RH: And Manilius.

RS: And Manilius.

RH: And Firmicus.

RS: But not in Greek. Of course that’s only Latin.

RH: Latin.

RZ: That’s a relative term.

RS: Which is a relative term.

CAMERAMAN: I knew it was there, okay.

JM: Well, Bob Zoller, do you have a treatise ready to come out?

RZ: I have. Al-Kindi’s On the Stellar Rays is already completed and coming out probably by the second week of August.

JM: And what did you find exciting in that?

RZ: Well, it’s a text on magic, and the entire subject is a very intriguing subject because the premise is of course sort of tacitly addressed in this particular text. But something that modern astrologers are always troubled by is, namely, once I figure out what the problem is, what do I do about it? And while this particular text doesn’t give specific instructions as to what to do about it, it lays out a theory as to why something can be done about it or how something might be able to be done about it, so that of course is the first step. And in an indirect fashion it alludes to other known texts which we also intend to translate, such as the Picatrix, which are quite specific and not quite as tightly philosophically conceived as this particular one is. So they complement each other very nicely.

JM: And is this Latin material that you’re translating original material, or is it Greek that was translated into Latin?

RZ: Well, this is an interesting question really because it shows the nature of the tradition. This text is by Al-Kindi. He was a 9th century Arab philosopher who was translating Greek texts into Arabic, and this is a Latin translation which is all that survives of his Arabic work. It was an original work for him, but it was based on his Greek translations of other works. So it’s interesting that you see the actual transmission of knowledge from the Greeks to the Arabs, from the Arabs back to Latin in the Middle Ages.

JM: And one of the problems in all of this must be that you’re finding that the translations through multiple languages have altered what the originals were.

RS: Yes. In some cases it appears that the intermediate language—even though it may have shared part of the original meaning of the concept when it was further translated into English—lost all connection with the original. This happens in the Greek term zoidion. We have the word ‘zodiac’ which is related to this. That’s the Greek word that corresponds to ‘sign’ of the zodiac. And through the Latin translation of the word zoidion into signum and signum into sign, we’ve lost all contact with the original semantic field. The Greek word—it’s totally gone. You have no contact.

JM: Are you and Bob gonna be overlapping any translations where you might translate something from the original Greek and he translates it from a Latin derivative and find out what that gap is?

RZ: Well, we’re trying to stay away from duplicating each other’s efforts, but we are in contact all the time comparing notes. For instance, just before we started this filming, we were talking about a situation where the Latin tradition, Latin Medieval tradition, speaks about a planet being in somebody’s term, some other planet’s term. But Bob has found that the reference to the terms in Greek is always in plural: a planet in so many degrees is in the terms of another planet. So there are some subtleties of that sort that have to be looked at ultimately. Also, one of the things that Rob just mentioned, the dodekatemoria, which is basically a 13th harmonic, may very well turn out to be handled in the Medieval system as the Latin equivalent of the dwadasamsas or the duadekaimon, duadenias, depending on the translation, being just a 12-fold multiplication position.

RS: There are a few cases of interesting overlap, for example, a work by Abu Ma’shar, very important. We will have an Arabic translation eventually. We don’t have it working yet, but it was very important in Medieval times. Some of those works in Arabic, even though they were based on Greek material, got translated back into Greek at different times. So there may be bits and fragments of Greek material that would be helpful for even finding out what was in other tracks. Sometimes they would be translated from Greek into Arabic and then sometimes from Arabic into Greek again and then sometimes into Latin, so there are all kinds of confusing overlaps. In most cases we would translate a very important work, for example, some of Abu Ma’shar’s works in Latin, Bob Zoller would translate that. Even though the Arabic text might survive we later translate it from Arabic because the Latin translation itself would have been so important. Historically, people would have learned from that rather than the original Arabic. But then we would do the Arabic so that we can make a comparison with the actual truth of the work, you might say.

JM: Do you expect this work to have repercussions in the scholarly community—for example, having works translated from ancient Greek that have never been translated before—that actually people who are not astrologers would be interested in these translations?

RH: Well, there are two different communities outside of astrology that would be interested in this material. One group I am sure we will attract the attention of, the other one we may attract the attention of. Conventional classical scholars is the second group we may attract the attention of—yeah, that we may attract the attention of—but we’re not really counting on that. And that will be interesting if it happens but it isn’t our primary concern. The other group however is people who are students of symbolism, students of archetypal form, psychotherapists, creative artists, these areas—these people I think will be interested much more rapidly than the orthodox academic community because they are more concerned with the quality of the material than they are the source.

JM: And what will they be finding in this material? Will they be finding indications of Greek patterns of thought that were not known before?

RH: Oh, actually much more artistic than that. For example, the Picatrix and the Liber Hermetis both have pictures—descriptions of picture representations of sections of the zodiac which allow you to get into the symbolism through a completely non-intellectual, nonlinear, non-rational means. You look at the pictures and sort of allow them to resonate in your mind. It’s a very New Age kind of approach, except of course it was done over 2,000 years ago.

RZ: There’s one other class of scholars who I think will probably also be interested in some, not all, but some of these texts. For instance, the Liber Hermetis at the very beginning contains this list of decans to which Rob was referring, and the list itself associates a particular god name with each of these decans. These god names are for the most part Semitic god names not Egyptian god names. So we run across the first decan of Aries, for instance, it’s associated with a god named ‘Sabaoth’. We also find a ‘Yaos’ which is clearly a corruption of Yahweh. Now scholars that are working in the field of Gnosticism in particular are gonna take note of this sort of thing and see interlinking between the astrological and the Gnostic movements.

CAMERAMAN: This goes onto the cutting room floor.

JM: This is the nightmare in life. So do we have any questions from our audience here today that you’d like to address to ‘the Bobs’?

CAMERAMAN: For ‘the Bobs’.

JM: Oh, I know what I wanted to ask you about.

CAMERAMAN: Good thing. This audience is dead. Wake up. Wake up.

JM: One of the treatises that you’re going to be translating—I believe your December treatise is going to be on weather prediction. And it seems to me that you could find an entire group of people very excited that you actually came up with—

RS: The meteorologists, yes.

JM: And everybody else. I mean, weather is big business in America. There’s a whole weather channel on TV. Do you see yourself being invited on to do the morning weather?

RS: Who knows if it would come to that.

RH: I wouldn’t care to hold my breath waiting.

RS: However, there is material here which could just, historically speaking, be important for people doing weather prediction. Because the real early Greeks—we’re talking about the Greeks contemporary with Plato— even if they may have not been doing astrology of the horoscopic variety were clearly correlating meteorological events and the basic weather with the positions of the fixed stars, particularly the heliacal risings and settings of those stars. And this work by Ptolemy, which will appear toward the end of this year, in fact contains a catalog or a calendar in which every day of the Alexandrian year is correlated to a certain weather prediction. On the first day of Thoth, which was the beginning of their year, you can expect that the Etesian winds will begin to blow at a certain latitude, whereas there’ll be thunder and lightning over here and so forth. Now these were actually empirical observations that had been compiled over a number of centuries by leading Greek astronomers, contrary to what most of the academics would believe. These were the primary astronomers of ancient times. Eudoxus, Hipparchus, and so forth were all trying to correlate basic weather patterns with positions of the stars, particularly the heliacal rising and setting.

And so, there’s so much of this material that at least it could be compared to modern weather patterns. However, we would have to realize that the modern environment, the modern weather patterns are not solely influenced by natural events any longer because you have smoke stacks and all kinds of other things that are interfering with the natural pattern, so you would have to certainly compensate for anything like that. Plus, there may have just been climate changes and whatnot. But yet the fact that the Greeks did this with some regularity and some precision leads us to think that maybe this should be looked into again. But even Ptolemy himself said that it needed to be supplemented; the celestial weather predicting needed to be supplemented with actually more planetary material. You needed to determine where the major planets were at the same time as the stars were heliacally rising and setting.

RZ: But maybe the Syrians and the people in Israel would be interested in the Etesian winds.

RS: They might.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have a question. I don’t know if it’s relevant or not. I was always told or kind of heard that the Church fathers always used astrologers and so on and then it fell in disrepute at some point. Would your scholarly work by any chance give respect again or honor to the astrologers that may have advised popes in ancient times or not?

RZ: Generally speaking, the term ‘Church fathers’ refers to the early Christian period, the first few centuries of the Christian period, and the popes of course are a separate group of guys. The popes in the 15th century and 16th century did use astrologers. For instance, Luca Gaurico predicted the ascension to the papacy of Alessandro Farnese and was made Bishop of two sees in Italy as a result of his successful prediction, but it isn’t something which is generally done as far as I know since that time, nor was it a big deal for popes to use astrologers in the Middle Ages, per se. Although some of the popes were astrologers or at least were facile enough in the mathematics and astronomy to be so. Gerbert, who became Sylvester II, is one of these fellas who’s reputed to have been a pope who was an astrologer, and also by some claimed to be a magician as well. As far as what we’re doing, it’s hoped that what we can do is bring about a certain elevation in the standard of astrology among astrologers and make people in the general public realize that there was far more to astrology and is far more to astrology than is generally thought to be the case. Perhaps that will have the effect of raising astrology to an acceptable science. Perhaps it won’t. But at least it will certainly make better astrology.

JM: Will we find astrologers are gonna need to go out and learn Greek philosophy and have a broader worldview so that they can absorb this material?

RH: I’d be a little reluctant to say that every astrologer has to go out and learn Greek philosophy, but I think an understanding of Greek philosophy needs to become much more widespread in the astrological community. A thorough knowledge of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, or whomever is not exactly essential for a day-to-day counseling session. But at the same time if astrologers had a better philosophical foundation in these areas, they might be less easily caught up by skeptics, scientific types, debunkers and so forth who basically trip astrologers up in part because they get the astrologer operating from the modern worldview and then trying to defend astrology within it, whereas the correct practice is for the astrologer to be operating outside of the modern worldview and in the more ancient one in which astrology is not a problem.

RZ: Yeah, I would say that it’s not so much a matter that astrologers should be told to go out and study this stuff. I don’t think it’s gonna be necessary. I think what’s gonna happen is that when they see what’s being done, they’re gonna want to go out and get this stuff. It’s gonna be a spontaneous sort of an affair.

RS: There’ll be a great amount of that in the notes to these books by the way, so it’s not as if you have to go take a course in it. I mean, we’re not talking about reading all the works of the ancients. I mean, to some extent it’s a matter of presenting the major concepts to people which will be presented and represented again and again, and I think they can be assimilated fairly readily in that fashion.

RH: As a matter of fact let me take the controversial position—it might not be controversial on this couch, but it might be controversial elsewhere—of saying that we strongly recommend they do not go out and take university academic courses in these philosophies because they have been systematically gutted by 18th and 19th century misunderstandings of what they really are about. What is actually much better for them to do is to encounter the philosophy through these books and then go and read the original books, hopefully with us steering them to the better rather than the worst translations—or maybe even at some point providing our own—so they can actually experience the philosophy on its native ground without being read through the positivistic and materialistic biases of the modern scholars.

JM: So obviously you who are doing the translating are holding in your hands a responsibility that goes far beyond saying that ‘this word in Greek means this word in English’—that you must be versed not only as linguists but as philosophers to understand the background, and as astrologers to understand how to put it all together—so that what people are going to be getting is not just a literal translation of ancient books but truly a remarkable work that takes these original works and puts them in some sort of context and explains and interprets them.

RS: As a matter of fact all of us are quite steeped in philosophical issues and have read widely the original sources. So I feel that our prior training really allows us to deal with these philosophical issues with some success.

RH: We all have a curious strength—which would probably be viewed by mainstream society as a weakness—which is that it is a tendency of our culture to specialize to the ‘nth’ degree; the old joke being a specialist is a person who knows more and more about less and less until finally he knows everything about nothing. Well, we’re generalists. We have knowledge in a wide variety of fields. And the virtue of this is that we can actually look over this wide variety, see the interaction, and see the interplay without somebody saying, “Well, you can’t do this because you’re not trained in this field, you’re not trained in that field,” and so on and so forth. To do this work properly actually requires being this kind of a generalist. And we seriously question whether your typical university-trained scholar would have the overview necessary to put these things together.

JM: So we’re talking about an ecological point of view here where you recognize how all the things are connected together and are able to present them in some unified pattern.

RS: Yes, I would say so. I mean, the annotations in the booklets will reflect that continually. Some of them will be speculations too. Again, one feature of this translation program is that we are not trying to speak ex cathedra here. The idea is that we want to be free to speculate about things, that “I think that this means this,” and then in a later edition say, “I was wrong about that. It doesn’t mean that at all.” We would like to open up discussion, and we particularly would like to encourage responses from the people who are subscribing. This is very important to us. Not only does it help us do the work better, but it keeps us from getting stale. I mean, it’s easy to fall into a pattern and you say, “I think that this is what this is about,” and you keep following it through so you start ignoring other bits of evidence. But sometimes a kind of open reaction from people who don’t necessarily know much about philosophy can sometimes be very, very healthy for this kind of project.

So when we say we want feedback from the readers, this is not just an advertising ploy, it’s really serious; at least it is for me.

RH: And me, too.

RS: As a matter of fact we’ve already had that from some of our people. I received a phone call from a person who is actually in our audience I believe at the moment, and he was responding to a rather scholarly article that I had written in ARHAT Journal which happens to discuss a lot of the sort of really abstract and somewhat difficult issues that come up in the translation project; that’s what its intention is. And this person had read this article and had responded to it from an astrological point of view saying, “There’s something here that isn’t consistent. In other words, you’re saying that there’s an Aristotelian way of looking at what the planet Venus and the planet Mars—or the planet Venus and the Moon does to the atmosphere, whereas it seems to me that isn’t consistent with astrological symbolism.” And this was very interesting as an interaction because it caused me to go rethink how I had translated that passage. And so, this is an exceptionally valuable way to have interaction with the readership. And so, we’re not trying to dictate, we’re just trying to open up.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have another thought. If you got the attention—you were talking about the scholars, Rob, in the university—would there be hostility to what you’re doing? I was thinking about anytime there’s a breakthrough in science or medicine and it breaks with what they thought was the truth or the laws that were operating, and now you’re coming up with these. You’re not going for that kind of audience.

RH: I have no doubt we will be regarded as being exceedingly presumptuous and our credentials will be questioned right and left. And I have also no doubt that if we do attract their attention and are not instantly dismissed as being incompetent a priori that they will pick the translations apart left and right. Now the last move, picking the translations apart left and right, I think I can safely say our translators would welcome because it would give us something to respond to and possibly quite improve the translations. We’re not opposed to that. If, on the other hand, we are simply rejected out of hand—no pun intended—because we’re astrologers and not highly-trained university linguists and for that reason they condemn us, then I think the proper reaction and the reaction of the astrological community should be to ignore them.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I have another question for Rob. What is your vision? I heard you say something earlier today, that this is what you were born for, this work that you’re doing right now. And I’m curious as to what your vision is over the next 4 or 5, maybe even 10 years, where this is going. Perhaps you’ve said that already.

RH: Well, where the whole thing is going is a little hard for me to say clearly beyond what I’ve said already, but I’ll give you my plan.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, that’s good.

RH: Outside of being involved as editor of the translations, I see my role as being the conveyor of the material to the astrological community in such a form that it can really begin to digest it and integrate it into a contemporary practice. I’m not saying I’m the only one doing this, but that is a task I see for myself and anyone else who cares to take it on. One of the things I started doing before the project even began was writing an introduction of the astrological tradition of the West as it actually is rather than modern astrology, and I quickly began running into issue after issue where I simply didn’t know where things were really unclear. Let me give you a concrete example of one issue that is surfacing but I can’t yet say is fully proven.

In astrology, from the Middle Ages and forward, a great deal of emphasis was placed on the qualities of the elements in the triplicities. Okay, this is something every astrologer is familiar with. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are fire signs. Well, most modern astrologers simply say they are fire signs. But to a Medieval astrologer that meant they were hot and dry, and astrological medicine from the Muslim period through the Renaissance was based on these qualities. I’ve seen a great deal of evidence which suggests that the elements in the triplicities are not in fact elements made out of double qualities like that at all. See, there are two sets of four elements in the ancient world. There’s the Aristotelian set where every element is a pair of qualities, like fire is hot and dry, water is cold and wet, air is warm and wet, and earth is cold and dry.

Well, it appears that shortly after Aristotle, the Stoics redefined the elements, same four elements, but fire instead of being hot and dry was merely hot, earth instead of being cold and dry was merely dry, water instead of being cold and wet was merely wet, and air instead of being warm and wet was cold; total change. And the astrologers who were the first that we see using the elements for the triplicities appear to be Stoics. We don’t see Ptolemy, who is an Aristotelian, using the elements of the triplicities at all, not even implicitly. Whenever Ptolemy talks about elements, he’s talking about Aristotelian elements and he seldom does. He usually talks about hot, cold, wet, and dry. Well, the theory of the four humors, which is the basis of all Medieval and early Renaissance medicine, is directly related to this idea of the triplicities being made out of elements that consist of pairs of qualities. And now it turns out possibly that this was an error in the tradition and that consequently whatever validity the humor theory may have—and I think actually it may have quite a bit of validity as long as you’re not thinking mechanistically but psychosomatically—then it turns out that all diagnosis based on the horoscope using the emphasis on the elements of triplicities could have been wrong. And this would of course weaken the tradition right from the get-go because there’s a fundamental factual misunderstanding about the nature of the elements.

JM: And so, do you think today that we may find ourselves in a place, five years from now when you have translated a total of a hundred of these various works, that we may find ourselves in a place where there is no tradition supporting what modern astrology is doing, and there’s a requirement to rewrite it or redo it?

RH: I don’t think it’ll be that bad, but I think we’ll have to rewrite and rethink an awful lot of modern astrology. Modern astrology is not so much wrong as it’s a small piece of the whole, and what we’ll do is put back the other pieces. There are some things like the elements of modern astrology that may be out-and-out wrong, but mostly I think it’s a matter of putting back pieces.

RZ: Yeah, this issue about the elements and humors and the elementata, or primitive qualities is an interesting question with regards to the development of astrology from the ancient period through the Middle Ages. Because you find, for instance, in Guido Bonatti’s Liber Astronomiae a description of the relationship of the elementata or the primitive qualities to the elementa, or the elements, which to some degree seems to support Rob’s analysis of the situation. But you have a very big body of medical lore quite apart from astrology which is thoroughly based upon the humors and elemental theory deriving not directly from the Stoics but from Galen and Hippocrates. In Greek science, Hippocrates being in the old direction and Galen’s work being the Greco-Roman period, which is still in fact the major medical system used in the Islamic world in areas like the Far East and in Afghanistan, so on and so forth. So before we get too certain about what’s happened here, we have to compare not just the astrological tradition, not just the philosophical tradition, but also their interface with the medical tradition as well.

RH: Yeah, I don’t think in fact that the discovery that—or rather the potential discovery that seems to be looming here about triplicities is actually going to disturb the humoral theory of medicine particularly so much as it disturbs the attempt to diagnose from a horoscope using the humoral theory. And it’s that interface between astrology and medicine that this challenges, not the actual medical method.

JM: Much of modern astrology today has moved into the computer field where people are able to do intricate pieces of work that they never would have been able to do before computers ‘cause the calculation time would have been just unacceptable. When you talk about the ancient astrology, does it lend itself to computerization? Does it have its little defined boxes, or is it much vaguer? I mean, how will it translate?

RH: Actually I can answer that question very clearly because I’ve already begun working on it, being a computer programmer among other things. The answer is it is much more ‘computerizable’ than modern astrology because it has much more definite procedures for doing things. There’s much less room left for impressionism, intuition, and fudging. It’s still going to require a great deal of intuition to actually turn a collection of squiggles on a page consisting of the horoscope into a concrete analysis of a person. But we already have some of our software printouts that break the chart down into dignities and debilities according to a Renaissance technique that is really a pain to do by hand. Not impossible, just a pain. And there it all is laid out and you can immediately start applying techniques like this very rapidly, so I think this is actually an extremely ‘computerizable’ system. Hindu astrology has the same peculiarity. It’s very, very ‘computerizable’ because, as I said, there are definite techniques for going from A to Z. Now we may have to adjust these techniques, but they’re there.

RZ: On the other hand, one can also say for those people who are not inclined to use computers, and particularly for those who are somewhat gun-shy of mathematics and arithmetic, that Medieval astrology in particular lends itself to simplified mathematical methods. The whole thing is, wherever possible, symbolic and just a matter of counting. It’s quite different from the ‘19th century style, primary directions-based, Placidian, mathematically-intensive and very scary to many people’ astrology. It’s something which is user friendly, to be a little bit anachronistic in my medical.

RH: As a matter of fact, when I say the stuff lends itself to computerization, I agree with you. It isn’t usually mathematics the computer is doing, it’s just simply doing table look-ups for you fast. It is quite possible to do it by hand and infinitely easier than doing the kind of astrology you were just talking about, which isn’t even easy on a computer.

JM: Do we have any other audience questions here?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: What was the reason these books weren’t translated before, if there’s so much valuable philosophic material in there? Was it just prejudice against astrology?


JM: Yes? No? Okay.

RZ: He says ‘yes’, I say ‘no’.

RS: Go ahead.

RZ: All right, before is perhaps the point in which Bob and I would differ on this, where the ‘before’ happens. If we place the ‘before’ in the 19th century, the reason is largely because of the change in the nature of society, the change in the nature of education that occurred in the 19th century. You had the rise of industrialism and that necessitated an entirely different viewpoint in terms of education, how people were educated and how much emphasis was placed, for instance, upon classical languages. Then on top of that you had the whole scientific and Enlightenment attitude that moved people out of the area of astrology entirely. The latter part of it is a matter of prejudice, there’s no question about that, but the former part of it is a matter of the selectivity. There were different designs or needs of the society as a whole, so there weren’t as many people around who had any ability to get into these older texts.

RS: Although most of the texts were translated into Latin. Most of the Greek texts were translated into Latin in the 1500s and so forth. And it’s a bit of a mystery to me why it didn’t create a kind of astrological renaissance at that time the way the translation of Greek mathematical writings created sort of a mathematical renaissance and scientific writing was creating a scientific renaissance. But for some reason it didn’t quite happen with the astrological material.

RH: I can offer a theory.

RS: Yes.

RH: I don’t think astrology in the Renaissance had quite the sense that the other sciences had of being a broken tradition. Now, in fact, it was a broken tradition, but I think astrologers felt they were in fact in possession of most of the important information, so that what you find in the Renaissance is astrologers citing other Renaissance astrologers and Ptolemy but not too many of the other people.

RS: It could be that. And also, in the mathematical area, for example, the people in the Renaissance were able to point to very clear cases in which the ancient techniques were superior to the ones they had. I mean, just unequivocally certain Greek mathematicians were able to solve geometrical problems that the people in the Renaissance simply couldn’t solve, and as a matter of fact would tend to consider impossible in some way, but the Greeks were able to do that. But in astrology you wouldn’t have unequivocal evidence of the superiority of ancient astrology. You wouldn’t have some example of something that somebody had been able to do better. So the idea that there had been a wiser age of astrologers would not have quite such a profound effect on people at that time, so that seems to be supporting what you do along with your—

RZ: The paradox is the great astrologers, from the point of view of the Renaissance, were 9th century Arabic fellas like Abu Ma’shar.

RS: That’s right.

RZ: And they had Abu Ma’shar’s work. There’s no question about that.

RS: But in more modern times, these texts, these edited texts have been available all throughout the 20th century, but the problem is they were not in the hands of astrologers. I mean, they were just in the hands of academic scholars who were doing even the text editing for reasons that had nothing to do with astrology. Usually they were trying to find something about the history of astronomy that they could find in the astrological texts. Occasionally they were interested in cultural matters—what was Egyptian temple life like or something like that—but there were always ulterior motives. Nobody ever read the texts on their own for their own sake just to see what they have. And we think it’s very important never to prejudge a book in that way.

RH: I have a point I want to make about this. There have actually been a few astrologers in recent times who have read some of these books. One of the things that Project Hindsight is going to be a corrective to is the attitude of these astrologers—I won’t name names ‘cause quite a few of them are still alive.

JM: But not in this room.

RH: But not in this room.

JM: Certainly not on this couch.

RH: There are a number of people who have written about ancient and classical astrology in modern times who have done so just dripping with superiorities, “If only modern astrology understood the profound wisdom of the ancients.” And you can just sort of see as footnotes underlying the whole text written in visible, “I can read this stuff. You guys can’t. You’re all ignoramuses.” What we’re here for quite frankly is a democratization of this process. After we’re finished with our work, if astrologers are ignorant of the ancient material it’ll be by choice. But the fact of the matter is these people who have read some of the ancient works were by and large lucky that they had access to the material. They were in a town with the right library nearby. They had the right connections. A few of them have done translations which are creditable and do democratize the process, although there’s one translation in particular I can think of that’s currently in print, you have a hell of a time getting out of its publisher even though it’s an astrological source. And just generally speaking, astrologers made the tragic mistake of using this to establish their own superiority over other astrologers rather than sharing the information with the community. This is not something we are going to do.

RZ: Right at the beginning of the reintroduction of astrology into Western society in the 1870s particularly, the early 1900s, the Theosophical Society played a very major role in this transmission of astrology into the society. They weren’t alone but they really goosed it up quite a bit. In this country they were abetted very largely by 30 or 40 years of Transcendentalism that had happened prior to the rise of the Theosophical Society where an interest was redeveloped in astrology. But the philosophical and moral preferences of the Theosophical Society led them to adopt a peculiar attitude towards what kind of astrology they were going to talk about, what kind of astrology they were going to promulgate, and what kind of astrology they would support. Though the Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875—Americans always tend to be pretty Eurocentric really—it wasn’t long before the Theosophical Society relocated its main offices to London and then over to Adyar in India. And the English domination of the content and direction of Theosophy has the effect of increasing the Calvinistic preferences of the Theosophical Society over what kind of astrology they’re gonna talk about. So right there you have kind of a censorship, not necessarily an intentional one, but a certain preference and direction that the whole tradition went in.

JM: So to bring us back to where we began for all of our audience, we are standing at a major threshold in astrology where not only are we getting enormous amounts of information from what could be called all new discoveries—talking about quasars, talking about asteroids, talking about all kinds of new astronomical pieces of data that we couldn’t have known about because we didn’t have the instruments to know about it—and that’s bringing in new energy and dealing with how to interpret that and how to integrate that into working with individuals. And then at the same time, as you say, you are democratizing the past and bringing it forward and putting it in people’s hands so that astrologers of today, as opposed to astrologers even 20 years ago, will have this incredible array—

RH: Even three years ago.

JM: —will have this incredible array of information available to them that will take them from ancient Greece to the 21st century. And hopefully the ferment that comes out of finding the synergy and how one blends those pieces of information together will indeed take us to that astrological renaissance that didn’t happen in the 1500s, that hopefully will be happening with the work that you’re doing here with Project Hindsight. And I think that all of us can say as astrologers who will be benefiting from this, thank you for your work, for your foresight in putting together Project Hindsight, and for dedicating your talents and your whole accumulation of life knowledge to handing to all of us some remarkable pieces of information that could have never been known otherwise.