The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 54, titled:
With Chris Brennan and Deborah Houlding
Episode originally released on November 26, 2015
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Gulsen Altay and Andrea Johnson
Transcription released October 21, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Wednesday, November 25, 2015, just after 1:25 PM, in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 54th episode of the show. For more information about subscribing to the podcast, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe.
This is a follow-up to Episode 52 where I presented a lecture on whole sign houses which I framed as an advocacy piece that was structured around 12 arguments for why I think that whole sign houses is the best approach to house division. There was a bit of controversy on Facebook after I released the episode last Sunday partially due to how I framed the lecture as whole sign houses being ‘the best system of house division’, but also because some astrologers felt that I did not give an accurate or a nuanced enough depiction of the history of the development of the house division issue in the Hellenistic tradition, and specifically the role that quadrant houses played in the early part of the tradition.
There were also some additional points raised about other arguments that I made in favor of whole sign houses during the course of the lecture. The most vocal critic of the lecture was Deborah Houlding who said that most, if not all, of my arguments were either false or misleading and expressed that she was concerned that I was misleading the public with my presentation. In response I invited her to join me for an episode of the podcast so that we can talk about and debate some of the specific points that she raised and so that she could offer an alternative point of view to my arguments. She accepted the invitation and asked what the earliest date was that we could have the discussion and then we scheduled the episode for two days later.
In the first half of the episode, we mainly focus on some of the debates surrounding the development of different forms of house division in the Hellenistic astrological tradition which occupies roughly the first several hundred years of what is essentially the practice of traditional Western astrology. Then in the second half of the episode, we shift our focus towards some of the other arguments that I made elsewhere in my lecture on whole sign houses.
I believe that this is the longest episode of the podcast that I’ve ever done and during the course of that we covered a lot of ground. On the description page for this episode, on the podcast website, I will include links to a number of different papers that deal with different aspects of the issues that we discuss. So please be sure to check those out if you’d like to research these topics further.
With that introduction out of the way, let’s get started with the episode.
Hi, Deb. Welcome to the show.
DEBORAH HOULDING: Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me.
CB: All right, well, I’m really glad to have you. This is the first time you’ve been on the podcast but I’ve wanted to have you for a while. Part of the context for this episode was that I did a lecture last week for a group of just general modern astrologers on whole sign houses, and I did a really simplified version of that of my presentation on whole sign houses where I removed or glossed over a lot of important nuances and details, especially when it comes to the history of astrology. I know that some people were kind of annoyed by this simplified historical picture that I presented in that lecture and it caused a little bit of controversy.
You and I have had several discussions about house division before in the past and we have different views on the development and the origins of house division in ancient astrology, so I wanted to have you on the show to discuss some of our differing views and to showcase how we see the development of house division and where some of the disagreements from a historical standpoint lie.
CB: Yeah, so should we jump into it, or do you have any comments before we get started?
DH: Well, only to say, Chris, before we get started that I listened to your podcast with Geoffrey Cornelius last night and I just thought it was an excellent podcast. It was good to see him cover some of the points that I guess I would have liked to quote myself in regards to what he was saying about best techniques. And the fact that there is a relevance in that your lecture was promoted as being something that proved whole sign house division to be the best technique, so I think we have to bring that in.
But I love the points that he made. I loved the whole podcast. I think it’s a credit to Geoffrey Cornelius, who’s always brilliant, but what you’re doing yourself. Yeah, it was good to get his views on that. So I wanted to congratulate you and thank you for doing that and also say that to follow Geoffrey is a big task to follow, I guess.
CB: Well, I think you’re up to the challenge personally. You have quite a body of work behind you, yourself, especially in terms of scholarship on the history of astrology, both with your book on house division which is titled The Houses: Temples of the Sky, as well as everything that you’ve done on Skyscript. So you’re a great person to talk to about this.
So yeah, let’s jump right into it. I actually apologize. I misspoke yesterday when I did the interview with Geoffrey. I framed it as sort of offhand when it came up, as if this was going to be a debate about whole sign houses versus quadrant houses, which is not quite what we’re doing here exactly. That would be kind of an absurd debate that neither of us necessarily is trying to have.
DH: Yeah, absolutely.
CB: Instead it’s just more about some issues regarding the development of house division where different people have different interpretations about the history of the subject.
DH: Yeah, absolutely. But it has to be said that with the suggestion that I speak on this podcast, I did actually put into one of my messages that I did not want to talk about trying to distinguish the best kind of house system, but to unpack the issues that your presentation generated.
Although you say it was a very simplified lecture which was aimed at modern astrologers, it was actually a very substantial delivery of information. And the way that I saw it was that it was so one-sided in its bias towards pumping up the arguments for whole sign, and I would say a lot of the arguments that you were pumping up had no foundations to them, so I have issues with that, but presented as something in a very provocative way which I think was deliberate. I think it was part of a deliberate plan and you pretty much say as much in your introduction that you toned it down a little from ‘the best house system ever’ to…
CB: Literally ever.
DH: …literally, without any doubt whatsoever in your mind…
DH: …to tone it down as to ‘the best’. That is such a loaded value system; it’s not an argument that I want to get into. But the very fact that astrologers are still trying to prove that their technique is better than everybody else’s is something that I see as quite damaging to the community as a whole because we really got to get away from that.
We’re in a community now where the internet binds us and there’s lots of different people with different approaches. There’s astrologers using tropical zodiac, astrologers using sidereal zodiac, all sorts of techniques, and there’s all sorts of really wonderful work that’s being done in astrology through different perspectives. I think it’s important as a community now to just drop this whole ‘this is better than this and if this works then that can’t work’.
DH: I guess what I’m trying to say is the reaction to your presentation was partly provoked by the fact that, on one level, by your own admission, it was quite a bombastic presentation that you knew you were taking liberties. But throughout, when you listen to it, you spend a great deal of time in the introductory period, and I would say probably up to about a third of the presentation is given to authenticating the legitimate importance conceptually of whole sign houses. By the time you got on to demonstrating the way that you work with in practice, which I thought was really, really interesting, any new, any modern astrologer that is listening to this presentation for the first time has now absolutely concluded there is no reason not to use whole sign houses because this was the original system.
This is what houses are conceptually supposed to be. This was authorized by a thousand years of consistent, exclusive practice where you say that all astrologers, ancient astrologers used it. You’ve taken them so far that I felt that it’s actually potentially capable of causing damage to our understanding of the history and the tradition of astrology because some of the statements that you made were, in my view, very, very exaggerated.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I definitely take full responsibility for pitching the lecture in that way as an advocacy piece where I was trying to make the case for whole sign houses; I was simplifying the history. I did not say anything that I personally believe to be inaccurate or a distortion of the truth in terms of the history but we’ll get into that later. I know that you do because we have different opinions about certain things in terms of the development of house division.
I did try to close the lecture on a note that despite this being an advocacy piece, the lecture for whole sign houses, that I don’t really care and I’m not trying to tell everyone that we all have to switch to whole sign houses and that’s the only house system that anyone can use. But I tried to leave it on a note that, honestly, whole sign houses probably will need to be combined with quadrant houses in the future and that’s where my research is going to go in the future.
Also, I personally think that people should use the house system that works best for them, but I just think that they should have good reasons for doing so.
CB: I was trying to sort of lead by demonstration by making the case for the form of house division that I use primarily by outlining some of the reasons why I personally use it. I did pitch that due to marketing…
CB: …in a way that created more controversy than I could have if I had presented it in a different way. And so, I’ve learned the lesson there in terms of how to present my case, but I don’t want to give people a false impression. That’s why I’m having you on the show in order to provide the other piece, the missing piece of the argument, and to talk about some of the things that I left out especially in terms of the history.
CB: So let’s get into it with the very first point which was the main one that you took issue with. The synopsis of the first argument that I made–on one of the first slides when I got into arguments–was that whole sign houses was both the original form of house division in Western astrology, in horoscopic astrology, as well as the dominant form of house division for the first thousand years of the practice of Western astrology.
So you take issue with that on two points, right? On the one hand, you question whether it was the original form of house division, and on the second point, you question whether it was the dominant form of house division for the first thousand years of the practice of Western astrology.
DH: Yeah, and it seems to make logical sense to follow these 12 points that you’ve presented, but we can’t actually do it precisely in a sequential manner. Some of the points that you make throughout the presentation combine, and it’s the combination of them that creates the falseness of the impression that I thought you were giving.
We’re absolutely united and we both agree that people should understand the principles of what they’re doing. I totally agree with you, and this is why I have an issue with what you presented. I don’t believe that you actually did give people a true understanding of what the situation was with whole sign houses. I think that you exaggerate the argument in favor of it to the extent that a false impression was created.
So yes, you’ve got this whole sense of were they the original form of house division. Let’s keep that separate from the dominant form of house division, although we’re definitely going to have to bring that in.
CB: Well, I think that’s a good starting point. That’s something I take for granted but you seem to question whether that’s actually the case, whether it was the original form. That’s sort of not the basis of my…
DH: Yeah, so let’s start with that. First of all, there’s this issue that definitely came across not only in the PowerPoints in your synopsis. When you listen to the presentation as a listener– listening to your words and the arguments that you’re making over and over throughout the presentation–you stress the point that it is the original system. You don’t just make the comment that it’s an early system that’s in the original material, or it’s some of the first material that we’ve made, you really stress and emphasize the fact that conceptually this is what house division is supposed to be.
And there’s little nuances throughout your presentation that support this concept that actually are quite unique to your view. You don’t see them elsewhere. You don’t see it in the texts. You don’t see it in the academic papers or the assessments made by other people.
CB: That statement that it’s the original system of house division, you think that that’s unique to me?
DH: It’s the way that you were conceptualizing the whole thing to be this is what houses are supposed to be. The way that I listened to your words, I took from it that houses are supposed to be a sign of the zodiac, which would you not agree is pretty much what you were saying?
CB: I was saying that that was how they were originally conceptualized, yeah.
CB: I’m not saying that quadrant house division did not become a form of house divisions but there was a shift.
DH: You actually never really mentioned quadrant system at all, except you pretty much gave the impression they didn’t exist until around the 9th century and then probably for some reason that wasn’t well-thought through. But the point is that throughout the whole presentation, you didn’t cross-reference to the use of quadrant systems.
So it’s almost like anybody listening to that presentation would assume that there was no existence of quadrant systems until around the 9th century when they appeared very suddenly and took over for a reason. That’s the way that it came across because there was no reference to quadrant system and because you started the whole thing with an argument that suggested that conceptually whole signs generated house meanings, whole signs are what houses are supposed to be, and you did that throughout the presentation in a little ways.
For example, when you gave your definition of the Ascendant and you talked about the meaning of the horoscope, you dwelt over conveying this understanding that the word ‘horoscope’, or horoskopos, is supposed to be pointing us to the sign rising on the Ascendant. Whereas everybody else that has looked at the origin of that word and what it’s supposed to convey, it’s quite clear that the word ‘horoscope’ is about time-marking in a specific way.
The way that we have it in the texts, it’s being used to point out the marking of time and particular details that are used in order to get a specific time. There’s nothing in the ancient traditional material that says that the Ascendant is supposed to be a rising sign. Wherever you get a clarification of what it’s supposed to be, the clarification is showing that is supposed to be showing us the degree of the zodiac that is rising.
Throughout the whole build-up to your showing the elegant practice of it, over and over again the listener is having perpetuated in their head that this is what it is supposed to be, with no contrast or other argument about the fact that actually when you look into the philosophy and the principles of the houses, what they’re trying to do is give quality to the meaning of space and time and that they’re doing something quite different from what the ecliptic signs are doing. The ecliptic signs are one form of measurement but houses are intended to be offering a different kind of measurement that takes into effect diurnal revolution, the issues of culminating, the issues of declining.
And so, because none of these details were included, but over and over we get this sense of this is the conceptual origin with no reference to any other views…
CB: Whoa, wait a minute. Hold on. First, I don’t want to be painted as if I’m the one that’s unique in my view about this…
DH: Fine, fair enough.
CB: …that whole sign houses was the original form of house division. It’s actually the dominant theory at this point in time that is held by historians like James Holden, Robert Hand, Robert Schmidt, even Joseph Crane who write a book on Hellenistic astrology says that, and even Dorian Greenbaum who recently wrote a PhD dissertation on it says that it was by far the most prevalent form of house division amongst Hellenistic astrologers.
DH: Chris, separate the issue of prevalent and original because what I’m saying is there’s two arguments here.
CB: Yeah, they’re separate.
DH: The argument that you were stressing that I’m taking issue with here is the fact that you spent time to dwell on developing this idea that conceptually whole sign is what houses are meant to be. None of the other authors that you’ve mentioned do that. I’ll certainly want to give you a chance to respond.
When you mention James Holden, as you know, one of the issues that I had with your presentation was that you referred to his paper, and you summarized what James Holden had to say. If I can quote you from what you said in your presentation, you quote James Holden as saying that all of the ancient astrologers were using whole sign and this is the summary of the paper that he wrote in 1982, whereas James Holden never says anything remotely like that.
He gives five different methods of house division. He talks about Ptolemy using the equal house system. He never makes any of the points that you were making in your presentation.
CB: And I went back after we talked about this last night privately to double-check and what I said was that it was the dominant form of house division. I may have misspoken and said it was the only form of house division. I don’t think I did that, but if I did, then I was me misspeaking. You can clearly see on the slides…
DH: It’s on your tape many times where you actually say that phrase.
CB: Okay, that’s fine. Well, on the slides itself, it says that it’s the dominant form of house division which is the way that I usually try to phrase it. I went back and looked at what Holden says in his paper that I cited from 1982 and he actually says, “This was the origin of the houses of the horoscope. They began with the rising sign and were numbered successively in order of signs.”
DH: But you’re talking about the decans at this place where he’s talking about the origin. He’s not talking about the whole sign system.
CB: No, he’s talking about whole sign houses. I mean, I can bring out the full thing. And then I have a separate quote from Holden which was an exchange, which I quoted on the Skyscript forum four years ago, where clearly he says it was the original system, and it seems to have been the primary one used for the first 500 years of horoscopic astrology. So again, that’s somebody else …
DH: Let me just turn to how you quoted it in your paper. You were referring to a paper that he wrote in 1982…
DH: …which I’ve read that paper, and there’s nothing in that paper that–there’s little details that I might balance off and say I think we have a different emphasis on that now. But I actually think Holden wrote an excellent paper; he wrote it in 1982. I think it’s really remarkable not only just in what he says but the little details that he puts in that make you aware, if you’ve gone into this. He’s very much informed on important things behind little technical details, but there’s nothing in this paper that I’ve been able to read he talks about whole sign. He says that “Starting from the rising sign, the houses were numbered off in succession,” and the example given below. Probably this is what you were quoting here. Is this the same passage?
CB: I wasn’t actually quoting that paper. I was just quoting his combined works which is that paper, plus his History of Horoscopic Astrology, plus other things that he’s written to me.
DH: Now I’m back to where you were, where you’re saying this was the origin of the houses of the horoscope. He’s not actually talking about the use of whole sign at that point. What he’s doing is he is talking about marking the beginning of the circle by the Ascendant. So I don’t think where he is using the word ‘origin’ of the houses is not in context to the use of whole sign.
I don’t think there’s any need to labor this. I’m using you as a hook to open up this discussion, and I think you’ve been very generous to allow me on your podcast to do this, so I don’t really want to dwell on this. But I think what would be a great thing to do is just upload Holden’s paper, and I’ve got permission from the AFA to do that. Then people, if they want to see Holden’s position on it, they can read it for themselves. So I’m quite happy to upload that up to Skyscript.
The only point that I’m making in terms of the reason we’re having this conversation is I don’t find anything that I would dispute in Holden’s paper. But what I would dispute is when somebody says that in 1982, James Holden published a paper and then Project Hindsight came along and confirmed his conclusion that all of the ancient astrologers were using it because James Holden had said…
CB: No, what I said was that it was the original form of house division. I want to be very clear about what my actual statement was and what you’re disputing. What I cited Holden for was the discovery that it was the original form of house division which was later confirmed by Project Hindsight. So do you disagree with that?
DH: I do because I actually typed out the words that are in minutes 6:22 to 7:34 of the presentation and…
CB: No, we’re talking about the actual issues here, so I’m not going to parse what I may have said in the lecture or whatever; it’s more about we’re discussing the actual issues here. One of the points is that you as a researcher and as an astrologer and historian, you actually disagree with Holden, and Hand, and Schmidt, and Crane, and Greenbaum, and myself about whole sign houses being the original house system and being the dominant form of house division because you interpret the way quadrant houses was being used differently than some of these other researchers are interpreting it, so I’d like to get into that issue.
DH: Yeah, let’s get into that, that sounds fair enough. Like I said, those are different issues. The originality of the concept–I hope we’ve packed that away–I think it was a mistake for you to try and convey the sense that whole sign is what house were intended to because I would have very different views on that, and I think that the tradition gives no support of that view.
Now in terms of were they one of the first and earliest approaches to interpreting the charts, here’s where I would have an issue with what Holden writes in his paper. He makes no sense of these were the original but he does say that there’s different systems, and he talks about whole sign as being the first that we can see evidence of. In order to do that he refers us to the book, Greek Horoscopes, and pages in that book. When you actually look at those pages in that book, there is no clear examples within that section of this ‘sign equals house’ approach being taken.
CB: So in your interpretation of Greek Horoscopes, you don’t think that whole sign houses is being used in any of those charts.
DH: Within the pages that Holden references in his paper.
DH: But without doubt, where you do get it is in the Valens’ material, which the Greek Horoscopes is kind of packed with that.
DH: And so, to go into the background of this, although you said that Holden was interpreting these texts for himself back in 1982…
DH: …it seems pretty clear that he was very well aware of what was in Greek Horoscopes before Project Hindsight started out, as was I, because I was also somebody that had taken out tasty bits and tried to get everything I could from this content. And it was already out there, the idea; even Neugebauer and Van Hoesen give sources of other people who have presented this idea. So it was not unique to Holden, but his work was so important and so valuable, and I think astrology owes him such a debt.
But here’s where I would have an issue with what he was saying. In those pages that he references, those particular examples are not examples you can use for it; the examples are later on in Valens’ work. So if you wanted to say that’s the first evidence that we have and pin this claim ‘origin’ in terms of the earliest examples that we have show whole sign approach, I would have an argument to raise with that.
Actually going through the charts that are available in Greek Horoscopes, which includes examples that were never presented in the Project Hindsight material, there’s actually examples which give us very, very interesting questions that don’t show whole sign, that seemed to show something much more specific. Those examples haven’t been explored and I think they really need to explored.
CB: Sure. So just really quickly, one of the issues that people run into or that historians run into that Robert Hand pointed out in his paper on whole sign houses in Culture and Cosmos in 2008–as you are referring to–the vast majority of the surviving horoscopes from the Hellenistic tradition they just list the planets and they list the rising sign and that’s it. They don’t list the Midheaven, they don’t list intermediate house cusps or anything else,
DH: They also don’t give any astrological details at all, most of them. Most of them are just like a very brief summary of some kind of astronomical record of positions.
CB: Right, there’s scraps of papers that somebody has calculated somebody’s chart and then that would then be used to interpret it.
DH: Well, you [?] the whole chart. What Hand did in his paper on whole sign was he did lack statistical analysis of how many of these charts include the Ascendant, how many include the horoscope.
DH: To look at the numbers on paper, it doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know the material. When you know the material, you know that, well, yeah, there’s 80 chart examples there, but you could take out 47 of them straight away because they’re absolutely meaningless in any way.
CB: Well, no, I mean, he raises a valid argument even if we don’t agree with his argument. His argument is that these literally hundreds of surviving charts all calculate the planets, the sign of the planets, and the sign of the rising sign, and they don’t mention the Midheaven. He says the reason for that, in his opinion at least, they were using whole sign houses. Once you know the rising sign, the house placements of all the planets already, so that’s why you wouldn’t need to list anything else like the Midheaven or the intermediate house cusps. So it’s okay if you disagree with that or something, but I just want to outline what his argument is.
DH: No, I don’t disagree. I think that is a very good point that he’s made. What I was trying to say was looking at statistically numbers without knowing the material itself, it lacked any form of statistics. But no, he’s made a valid argument. I don’t want to take away the good work that Robert Hand has done, but there’s a reason why I feel that Robert Hand’s work needs a renewal of interest and a reappraisal which I’ll probably get back to in a moment.
I just would like to really dwell on the fact that in Greek Horoscopes, there are these early examples which haven’t been explored by Project Hindsight or astrologers. The oldest and the first ones that we find in the original documents that were available–that show any sense of detailing planetary positions in meaningful astrological sense–are examples that include details of the degree positions of the Ascendant, the degree position of every angle.
But also–I’m just trying to find the page right now–there’s very intriguing references to what appears to be use of a house system where there’s definitely a record of degrees or something. For example, on the first one, they talk about after giving the positions of the Ascendant to the degree–in fact, in some great detail, the detail that is in this example is amazing.
CB: Sure, this is a really good point that there are existing chart examples and there’s chapters. I want to make this point for you really quickly that there’s existing chart examples and chapters in Hellenistic astrologers’ texts where they clearly outline quadrant houses, including Porphyry and the Alcabitius and other systems.
DH: Well, what we seem to have here is evidence of something where house cusps are given 2 degrees and not in a way that is equal house or whole sign.
DH: There’s two very interesting examples. They’re actually very full astrological texts, but they’re loaded with difficulties because they’re so old; they’re bringing up techniques that even Project Hindsight hasn’t explored. What the editors do is that they notice that there’s references to the Lot of Agathos Daimon…
DH: …which was the 11th house, with degrees and references to degrees. And Neugebauer notices that there’s a few charts where there’s a mixing up of references between Lots and topoi and the use of degrees, which is indicating in this old and early material, yes, things are marked by degrees and cut in ways that are clearly not just showing this very simplistic look at the rising sign and number everything on from that.
CB: Sure, let’s get into that because really the primary thing that this argument centers on is the fact that there were quadrant house systems used in Hellenistic astrology. Part of the dispute is that it’s become common after Schmidt–and Schmidt’s been followed evidently by Hand, and also during Greenbaum–to say that quadrant houses were used in addition to whole sign houses, but they were used as a secondary overlay on top of whole sign houses only in order to determine planetary angularity and not to determine the topics of the houses like marriage, parents, whatever, which was the primary use of the houses.
Instead, they were only used to determine angular, cadent, succedent, and thus how active a planet was, or alternately, they were only introduced in restrictive instances within the context of specific techniques, like the ‘length of life’ technique, for example, which is the argument that I made in a podcast in 2011. That’s the point of disagreement where you really disagree and have your own viewpoint about that. So how you see that?
DH: Let’s go to that. Although this argument has been made, I think it’s an argument that you have made more strongly than anybody else. Although Schmidt introduced the idea as you say and speculated on it, I’d like to go back to why that might have been the case. What we have in the tradition is so many clear, to me, undeniable references telling us how to calculate houses in texts that are supposed to not have this information. I struggle to understand why people are trying to, what I call, ‘add another epicycle’ into this theory that only whole sign houses were used. So why put this in?
I think we have to understand why people like Schmidt, Hand–and I don’t know that Dorian has made this argument so strongly. I know Dorian’s very careful and scholarly writer, so I suspect that what she would have done is followed what Robert Hand wrote.
CB: Yeah, I have the quote from her dissertation right in front of me, if you want it.
DH: I’m not disputing that she said it, Chris, but I doubt that she would push this theory; I think that she might raise it as a possibility. By the way, the paper that Robert Hand wrote, I was at The Warburg when he delivered that paper and this whole issue was brought up, and he was very clear in his presentation.
What Robert Hand said that at the time was they don’t understand but he has a theory. He has a theory that it could have been that whole sign houses were using in general interpretation, and yeah, the use of quadrant system was kind of reserved for gaining potency and power, and he did attribute the theory to Robert Schmidt. He said, “There is no evidence for this. It’s a speculation. It’s what I favor myself.”
And so, when I was there and saw Robert Hand deliver this, it was fair enough. He made it clear, “This is a view, and I favor it. There’s no evidence for it.”
CB: Well, I disagree. I mean, I think Schmidt outlined the evidence and that’s why it is a theory because it was based on an attempt to interpret what the astrologers were doing. One of the things that Schmidt noticed was that all of the Hellenistic astrologers, they’d be using whole sign houses most of the time, especially in the introductions, but then at some point, they’d get to the chapter later in their works where they dealt with the ‘length of life’ technique. For the ‘length of life’ technique, you need to know if the significator is angular, cadent, or succeedent. It’s at this point, in Valens, and in Ptolemy, and in Dorotheus that they first introduce their quadrant house systems and really go into it.
And so, that’s why you have this question then of why they are just introducing this now even though they’ve been talking about and using houses up to this point that seemed to be whole sign. Schmidt’s interpretation was that they were using it as a technique-specific thing within that context. Now you have people like Dorian Greenbaum who also states that as what she thinks to be the case.
In her dissertation, in a footnote, she says, “But the whole sign place/system showed areas of life, while the rising or culminating angles and those setting and anti-culminated described relative strength or power of signs or planets within the system, so it’s like she’s following after Schmidt.
DH: Does she reference anybody there, or does she say that as a matter of fact, which would surprise me if she did.
CB: No, she’s citing that chapter of Valens where he does the ‘length of life’ treatment, and she is citing other authors throughout here. I mean, it’s a dissertation, so she has like 20 citations.
DH: I disagree with it…
CB: Yeah, and that’s fine.
DH: …but what we must take into consideration is the background. Dorian and yourself were influenced very strongly by ideas developed by Robert Schmidt and Robert Hand. If that is the leading theory out there then obviously you’re going to default to their position. You’re learning the system through them and developing this whole Hellenistic package which has started from the very beginning by saying, “We’re adopting the position that there is nothing but whole sign in these texts,” which is what Project Hindsight did with the very first release of the first book, which was Paulus. Robert Hand introduced this notion that there’s no sense of houses in these ancient materials except the use of the signs for houses. It;s very clear that was a false position to take.
CB: I don’t see anyone taking that position, I honestly do not. I mean, Schmidt was introducing this argument. I don’t see how Schmidt could have been making the argument that we just referred to about there being quadrant house.
DH: Robert Hand actually introduces it in his introduction to Paulus where he says that Paulus has no concept of anything but houses equals signs, which was the predominant system in India, and he takes that opportunity to present that right at the start of the translation project.
CB: That was literally the very first translation they did, right?
DH: Yeah, I believe so. It’s the first text that I have as part of the release. And within the text of Paulus…
CB: Okay, well, they didn’t…
DH: Within the text of Paulus, there’s nothing that you can judge one way–there’s no chart examples, and there’s no clarification on the calculation of houses. But everything that Paulus goes on to say about the Midheaven and the meaning of the houses, in every way the 10th house is connected with this principle of culmination of being the Midheaven. So it’s a text that really does not, in my opinion, favor a whole sign view.
CB: I disagree, and I just want to outline why I think that. As Rob Hand discussed in his paper on whole sign houses, Paulus actually talks about the Midheaven falling in signs other than the 10th whole sign house. Actually Dorian cites this–in the same passage accidentally that I’m just looking at–where Paulus says the Midheaven can fall in the 9th whole sign house or sometimes that the 11th…
CB: …which only makes sense in the context of whole sign that you would be talking about why they would be falling…
DH: No, no, and I’ll come to an example why I would disagree with that. But just to go back to the importance of Robert Hand’s paper, by the way, I don’t want to suggest that I have anything but huge, huge, massive admiration for the work that Robert Hand does because I think that it’s amazing. I also want to say that Robert Hand is aware of the fact that I have disagreements of views of certain things, and despite this we have a very good, friendly relationship.
He’s been wonderful in times when I’ve actually developed work to contradict things that he’s published in the past. He’s actually helped me by supplying me Latin translations of texts that I needed in order to disprove something that he‘s published before. So let me just flag up the fact that I don’t want to be attacking the wonderful work that Robert Hand has done.
CB: Sure, and he wrote the introduction or the forward to your book, so he obviously respects your work as well.
DH: Yes, by no means, I want anybody to assume that I have disrespect for the things that he did, or the fact that some of the arguments that have been made about this have led us towards a development. But when you read Robert Hand’s paper–which has kind of cemented the authority of the argument that you feel that it already has–he admits that and he concludes his paper by saying that even before they undertook the project they were–I don’t want to misquote him. What he’s saying is that they had already seen, even before they’ve begun the translations, they knew that there was this system in India of whole signs and they were looking for it. He says that in his conclusion.
CB: Well, Hand says that he read an Indian text once in the ‘70s and then he felt like suddenly he understood what Ptolemy was doing. So he had this inkling that whole sign houses might have been used in the Western tradition early on as well, but he had no approve that.
DH: Okay, yeah.
CB: It wasn’t until Project Hindsight that they did the translations, and then suddenly they see that whole sign houses is actually being used by a bunch of the authors, in Schmidt’s opinion.
DH: Yeah, so I think it’s irrelevant to. In the conclusion of his paper, he says that “Other examples of whole sign are still in existence. It’s a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, it was the knowledge of this that caused several of us involved in the study of Greek astrology to be on the alert for the possibility that this was the practice of the Greeks and Romans and Ptolemy, especially Ptolemy.” And he says again that when they undertook the project, they were looking for this.
CB: Well, I don’t think that’s a good argument to make that they wanted to find it or seeing it. They could turn around the same argument on you because you’re a proponent of quadrant houses…
DH: No, no, no.
CB: …and so, they think that you’re doing the same thing which is reading…
DH: Let me just clarify.
CB: …quadrant houses into ancient astrology where it wasn’t there, so I don’t think anybody should make that argument.
DH: It’s a fair point to raise, and it’s good that you have raised it. I use a Regiomontanus house system in my horary work…
DH: …which is the main practice and consulting work that I do, but actually I’m very, very often asked about the issue of what’s the best house system. Anybody that has heard my reply on that will know that my view is for horary. What I’ve said is that I think that the astrologer has to choose, and there is no one system that is perfect. The astrologer has to choose that.
I use Regiomontanus for a pretty pathetic reason, you might argue, which was simply that when I got into the study of horary, I wanted to understand and follow and learn from William Lilly. So I adopted his system without giving much thought to it, and I have used it and it’s become my custom and practice. I make it very clear to people that that was my motivation, not because I think it’s any better than any other system.
But that’s just the case and it’s served me well, and I have no reason to change. I’m not on a hobby-horse to tell people that they should be using this house system or the other house system. That’s not really what I’m about.
CB: Well, you don’t think that whole sign houses though is really a house system on some level though.
DH: Yeah, this is part of our discussion that we had last night, when you concluded and said “Do you actually think it is a house system?” and I said I think it is a non-use of a house system, which I know is going to sound pretty controversial.
CB: No, it’s fine. I can see how somebody could argue that.
DH: It’s the fact that the process of dividing and calculating according to what all the references to house calculation tells us–still, I hear you using the words ‘all the astrologers did it’, and that’s not true.
CB: And just to be clear, I say it’s the dominant form of house division. The only astrologer that did not–I credit you for really, not pointing this out to me, but holding my feet to the fire and to make me recognize this. Olympiodorus is the only one who I think only used quadrant house systems probably for topics.
DH: Well, it’s good that you say “I think” because I think that is really important, Chris. When you say “They all did this,” or “Nobody else did this,” you are presenting your opinion and that’s all any of us can do, really. I mean, there is no final word of this; this is a hugely complex issue.
CB: Yeah, that’s true. Although…
DH: I want to come to a particular example which I think is one that’s interesting and could possibly save us a lot of time because it also relates to this paper that Robert Hand wrote. The fact that this reference wasn’t given, he had no awareness of it at the time that he published his paper and pushed out this whole sign was the original house system theory.
CB: I don’t know if we’ve presented the case about the quadrant thing. Before we get into specific examples, just for the sake of our audience, there’s probably a lot of novice people that aren’t familiar with the history or with what we’re talking about in terms of why there would be a debate in the Hellenistic tradition. So maybe we should just talk or expand on that a little bit more.
One of the things that you sort of suggested is that whole sign houses, partially because you viewed as sort of a non-house system, it’s been trumped up in modern times, so that proponents of it are seeing it where it’s not there. Instead, you reverse it and you kind of think that everybody was using quadrant houses on some level, right?
DH: No, absolutely not, absolutely not. I don’t say anything about who was using this and who was using that, or try and make conclusions. What I try and do–and where I think people see me as being a little bit counter to the movement–is simply point out what the authors say. Like Ptolemy, for example, the focus is on, well, what does he actually say? This is what he actually says when he defines how the houses are calculated. From this, like James Holden, you can only conclude that what he’s describing there is something relates to an Equal house system and not a whole sign system.
I actually do have speculative views on that, but they’re not views that I would push because it’s not there in the texts. But what it is in other texts is the statements of contemporaries saying that Ptolemy did this and we can see what they were doing. That’s of interest in its own right, whether Ptolemy was doing it or not, or they were trying to claim Ptolemy’s authority for what they were doing. The fact is they were describing clear examples of how to calculate houses by quadrant division and systems that we know existed. They were doing it and they were describing in detail, in texts that we have easy access to, the ways to make these calculations, how to do it. I mean, [?] over my head.
CB: And nobody disputes that;literally nobody disputes that. Everybody acknowledges that quadrant houses, and Equal houses, and Porphyry, and everything else was in the Hellenistic tradition. Different authors mention them; almost every author mentions some form of quadrant division. But the dispute at this point in time is that it seems like the majority of the historians and scholars think that that was being used as a secondary system and whole sign houses was being used as the primary system, so that’s a point you can argue.
DH: Part of the problem is that the people that are leading with this argument are people that are heavily invested, for the most part, probably not true. It’s certainly not true for somebody like Dorian Greenbaum. But still, I know that Dorian Greenbaum was somebody that was very much into the Project Hindsight movement when it began and learned through their conclaves and took up that whole viewpoint.
So I think it is quite difficult for people that have been very heavily invested in Project Hindsight material to not in some way pick up some of the bias. You seem to feel that I have a bias in the other direction, but really I don’t feel that I have a reason to have a bias. I don’t claim that the house system that I use is the one that I would even take up again from the beginning if I knew then what I know now. I would use a different house system than the one I actually use, and I’m quite honest about that. But the fact is that I‘ve got a custom and practice and this works for me, so I have no reason to change, so I’m not attached to any particular type of system and.
CB: So you’re arguing then, in effect, that everybody else is biased because of what they got into first, but you’re the only one that’s not biased in some sense.
DH: No, and really I’m not the only person that’s making these points either.
CB: Who else is making this? Well, I see a lot of your other Skyscript moderators. A lot of people on Skyscript seem to have adopted your views, I’ve noticed recently.
DH: I don’t think they’ve adopted my views. I think that Skyscript has a lot of interesting debate from all kinds of different astrologers, each with their independent views, and it tends to act as a meeting ground for people that are seriously look to the issue. So you’ve got somebody like Martin Gansten, for example, there’s no influence that Martin Gansten is getting from me except perhaps if I put an interesting piece of text up there, he might find interesting.
But these people are all independent; we don’t hang around in a bunch. Everything that goes on at Skyscript is what you see on the page and what you contribute to yourself, so there’s not….
CB: I’m just saying that your arguments have been influential with people that pay attention to your work, that’s all.
DH: Okay. I would really like to get on to this piece of quote from Valens. Chris, yesterday when we spoke about this, you said this was known about years ago, but actually it wasn’t
CB: Which one?
DH: What I wanted to look at is there’s two interesting references in Valens. Here’s the point I have to make. We have a whole abundance of texts in the tradition that makes it clear to us that there was knowledge of quadrant systems, there were explanations that in order to calculate your houses this is what you do. You say that all of those were only meant for certain techniques. Doesn’t even make sense to me from the start.
Why? Why would you go to the trouble of being specific about a certain technique and then not for anything else? It doesn’t make sense. And if it doesn’t make sense then I just kind of like leave a big question mark over it.
CB: Sure, so that’s your objection to the argument about that, that astrologers may have used quadrant or other forms of house division like Equal houses for specific techniques but not used it more widely. You don’t think that makes sense?
DH: I don’t think it makes sense for an astrologer to say that we calculate the houses one way when we’re generally judging a chart, and then for something that needs very careful attention, then and only then, do you bother to do it quite precisely. Especially when you’re talking about texts that throughout the texts gives us constant reminders that they teach these principles in generalities but errors are a mistake. Errors are made if careful attention is not given to the degree and to giving precise calculations, so I think that has to be brought in mind.
I want to get on to this example from Valens. Valens is the one. It’s his case notes of charts that appear to show that whatever was said in theory, in practice at least Valens appears to take this approach of just going with the signs are representative of the houses…
DH: …which could have of course just very simply be explained by the fact that we’re talking about an era where it was what is complex business to know what time it was, let alone do all the hourly calculations.
Ptolemy’s work that gave the tables that were needed for calculations wasn’t available around that period, sot he didn’t have easy access. And here, he does say, “I talk in generalities but the details are important.” So we have no reason to expect that he must calculate each chart example precisely when what he’s trying to demonstrate is a certain technique that doesn’t hinge on that matter.
However, Valens has become the definition of the reason why we believe the whole sign argument so strongly because he is the one that gives us most of the charts. We don’t have a lot of material outside of Valens. We have scraps here and scraps there, but Valens is the treasure trove of charts that demonstrate this. Take into consideration that all of this is coming from the work of one astrologer. So the possibility of misunderstanding what the whole situation was in that era is huge when all you’re basing it on is one individual’s work.
CB: Well, Valens has the most chart examples, but he’s not the only text in Hellenistic astrology. There’s other huge texts like Firmicus, Ptolemy, Paulus…
DH: There’s nothing else that compares with Valens in terms of the chart examples that are offered. When you look at Firmicus, I cannot see why anybody would argue anything but that Firmicus is using an Equal house system because it is just doesn’t make sense.
CB: Well, that’s fine. But Hand and Holden both have argued that he did in the majority of his work, so you’ll have to take that up with them.
DH: I don’t know that. With Hand, you see, Hand tried to make an argument that Firmicus’ work could be interpreted in a different way if you shift your emphasis on this. Again, it was something that he looked up but wasn’t convincing. I don’t think there’s a convincing argument there.
Again, Hand wasn’t at that time aware of this passage in Valens which was in the eighth book of Valens, the one book that Project Hindsight never translated. Let’s also remember that when they started this translation of Valens, there were a number of texts; they were complicated texts. Really they were making assumptions from the early volumes of the work–being unaware until quite later on in the process, I would imagine–of the references that were in the later volumes of work that actually completely contradicted the points that they were making about the work in the first place.
CB: I mean, that’s true to some extent. Although Schmidt read ahead in the Greek texts, and you can see him doing that by referencing later books of Valens. He referenced a quote from Book IX of Valens when he still hadn’t published translations past Book IV, or V, or something, so to some extent, he was already aware.
DH: I don’t know. But the fact is that most of us did not have Book IX available until Mark Riley made it available by giving up his translation. And it’s in Book IX that you’ve got sections there that really have to give what he said in other passages a different light. Hand did not have this material available when he published his paper.
So I think we have to look at this again in the light that some of the evidence might have caused Hand to not be as convinced as he was had he known about this material later. And I do know that Robert Hand has said to me in conversation, “That’s the situation now. Well, nobody informed me about that.” I think that whatever Schmidt’s position was Hand had to wait until whatever was released was released. What we get…
CB: So one passage of Valens has completely changed Rob’s entire interpretation of the Hellenistic tradition?
DH: There’s actually three passages in Valens where he gives details. The point I didn’t make earlier that I wanted to make, Chris, is that we do not have throughout anywhere in the whole tradition–despite all the thousands of examples of astrologers telling us how to calculate houses–there is not one single text, not one astrologer anywhere that tells us in order to use the houses what you do as you put the signs on the houses.
There is not one theoretical argument or piece of instruction that tells us that theoretically we should be using signs for houses, not one. So we have to bare that in mind and consider the possibility that when there seemed to be a very simplified approach being taken, it was for practical convenience. It made sense because the latitude wouldn’t make a lot of difference to them anyway. Maybe they didn’t even know at the time that degree of precision wasn’t necessary unless you’re going to do something like try and calculate the ‘length of life’ and then it certainly was. But there’s other things too that astrologers will strive to precision, if they can.
Now in Valens, what we have is three sections, one where he talks about the use of Porphyry, which is the one that’s been analyzed in the past, and where the argument was made that they were just doing this for ‘length of life’ calculations. But we also have two other sections in Valens, and one is in the fifth book where he talks about how one place can hold two signs, and this is something that cross-references with what we see in Masha’allah.
Masha’allah seems to be following Valens. What Masha’allah does is he might judge a chart and he’ll look at what the positions are with the planets in terms of the quadrant houses, but then he will also look at how it impacts on what he calls ‘the places by counting’. Now to understand what Masha’allah is doing…
CB: Right. So they’re using quadrant houses and whole sign houses at the same time?
CB: Yeah, that’s what everyone argues.
DH: But what he does seem to be doing is following what Valens is telling us. I think there’s two very important passages in Valens that really need to be looked up again, and the first one is where he introduces it. If I can get it handy–but he talks about how this one place can hold two signs. Can you just give me one minute and I’ll see if I’ve got it handy?
CB: You can pull it up if you want, but we could just refer to it because I know the passages in Valens where he talks about these things.
DH: Yeah, I know that you know it, but I think it’s something that’s–anyway, I don’t have it at hand. Anyway, that was known about. Also, clearly Schmidt knew something about what was in Book IX because when he did it his introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, he made a very brief quote from some of the information that is available in Book IX; but he cut that quote short so that when you read it, it doesn’t seem to do much more than what does Valens in Chapter V.
But then when you actually see what’s in Book IX, I just can’t see how anybody–I know that you have different views on this. But let’s just look at what Valens is doing because most people don’t bother to check these texts.
CB: So he introduces Equal houses in Book IX within the context of doing derivative houses.
DH: Well, let’s just look at what he does. He starts off this chapter and this chapter is about the 12 places. This is where he really focuses and gives attention to the issue of the houses, what they mean, and how they are calculated.
CB: Well, he actually does that much earlier in the book. In Book II of the Anthology is when he first introduces the houses. This is a much later treatment that treats it in a specific…
DH: And it’s a lot fuller and…
CB: No, it’s actually fuller earlier because he gives actual delineations for what each of the planets means when they’re in the houses in Book II.
DH: Okay, that is material that you’ve got to read a lot to extrapolate. Here, he has a section that is specifically dedicated to the issue of the 12 places. He starts of by saying that this is material that he’s got from ancient Egyptian sources and he gives the 12 houses. He gives an explanation of each of the 12 places–we should say ‘places’ because that is more correct–what they mean and what their interpretations and their significations are in a way that any astrologer will look at that list and immediately have a sense of, “I totally connect with what he’s put in there with what I can understand in the Medieval tradition right up to modern day.”
So he gives the meaning of each house and what it would mean if you turned the charts. For example, if you’re looking at the 9th house, this is the house of God, of foreign lands, and in relative to the 7th house, it becomes the place of brothers because it’s the third house from the seventh house.
CB: So derivative houses?
DH: Yeah, a pretty non-controversial, easily digestible explanation of what each of the 12 houses means. And then he goes on to say from that that when you chart these places, what you need to do is you need to look at whether the planets in them are benefic or malefic, you need to look at if these places are in moist signs, and you need to look at the star signs that they coincide with and whether these signs, the zodiac signs, are tropical, solid, moist, etc., etc.
And then he says, first of all, it’s necessary to calculate the positions of the places in degrees. He gives very, very clear, specific instruction that we count these degrees from the point of the Ascendant and that each place runs 30 degrees from the point of the Ascendant, and that first 30 degrees from the Ascendant is the ‘place of life’,and then you count another 30 degrees to get the ‘place of livelihood’; so each house is 30 degrees in length.
And then this is what’s really relevant because then he says often two places will fall in one sign and will indicate both qualities according to the number of degrees each one occupies. He makes it very, very clear that one place, one house of the chart will usually cross over two signs He goes on to say that it’s very rare that one house, one place will only hold one sign, and when that happens, it’s not a good thing to happen; he gives a negative indication of that.
I mean, I know this passage, but what seems pretty clear to me is this is straightforward stuff. If he was to say this is what is used in the calculation of life, he would put it there, and he doesn’t. He gives this explanation of this is the approach you take and you use this also in the proper determination of chronocrators, and you use them in all the ways that we would expect to use them. So this passage in Valens is very clear really in showing support for what we would recognize as an Equal house system.
CB: Right, and nobody disputes that. I mean, Valens clearly outlines Equal houses here. He does it within the context of his only discussion of derivative houses and he may be quoting, it’s suspected, an earlier author named Asclepius who he mentions at the very beginning of the paragraph.
But the problem you have here is two things. One, much earlier in the Anthology, he, within the context of the ‘length of life’ treatment’ outlined Porphyry houses. So that means he’s outlined Porphyry houses and he’s outlined Equal houses now. And then you have a third issue which is that in all of his example charts, as Rob Hand has shown, if you try to apply Porphyry or Equal houses, they don’t line up with the placements. Only whole sign houses matches what he’s doing in the vast majority of his chart examples. That’s the reason why some people have come to the conclusion that certain forms of house division are introduced within the context of certain topics.
He’s introduced Equal houses here within the context of derivative houses, and earlier, he introduced Porphyry within the context of the ‘length of life’ treatment. How do you reconcile the fact that he’s introduced Equal houses and Porphyry? Which one do you think is Valens’ preferred form of house division then if you’re focused on this passage?
DH: The point is that, for one thing, what we ought to acknowledge is the fact that a lot of these decisions that were made were made before people were aware of this. So this may have impacted on people’s feeling that they should have gone from the start by saying that only whole sign houses were used in the early tradition and putting that point out.
CB: No one’s ever, ever made that assertion aside from maybe the early days of Project Hindsight, but that was quickly rectified by 1995, 1996, which was only like a year or two later.
DH: You also endorsed it, Chris, when you give presentations that tell us that all…
CB: That it’s the dominant form of house division, which is still true in what I see from Valens in that in the vast majority of the chart examples, he uses whole sign houses. Even in these two chapters, within the context of specific techniques, he seems to introduce two separate house systems.
DH: The other point that you made, he’s introduced Porphyry, and here, he’s introduced Equal house. So what do we make about–well, first of all, what I want to see is proper evaluation of these kind of issues. I don’t want the firm conclusions to be drawn at a stage where there’s so much material out there that is being unearthed. Like so many conclusions drawn mainly based on one astrologer’s approach–and the fact that we suffer from lack of chart examples to know exactly what all the other astrologers were doing–except we know that so many of them were telling us that what we should do it is calculate by degree.
So when you look at something like Ptolemy’s definition, which appears to show this Equal house, each house is 30 degrees, in order to get a sense of what that could mean–and I don’t know that it means this because I can only judge from his words the same as everybody else does. But we have the reports of authors in texts such as Antiochus who tell us that what Ptolemy was saying was only meant to apply as a general principle and then go on to explain that where you have those situations where the Midheaven doesn’t make a 90 degree angle to the Ascendant, what you’re supposed to do is divide it by a quadrant system and calculate by degree. So it is quite possible that a lot of these–well, I don’t know, Chris. I don’t pretend to know.
Certainly, we have textual evidence for the use of Equal house. We have many, many references telling us that what we should do when we calculate the houses is do things to make divisions of time and space. There is not one, not a single recommendation that is given to us by any astrologer in the Western tradition that I’m aware of that has said that what you conceptually should do is use the signs of the zodiac because the signs are supposed to represent the places.
There’s actually a really interesting piece in Valens that is only properly understood by putting it…
CB: Really quickly before you get into that, you’ve made that assertion a couple of times.
DH: I [?] to it because I just don’t have–although I have the paper somewhere, I can’t put my hands on it right now. So unless we took a break and let me find it and dwell on that more, I guess there’s other points that we should probably move on to. It’s really important…
CB: So quickly, you’ve made the comment a couple of times. One of your arguments you’ve made is that because whole sign houses is not explicitly explained as how to calculate the houses in the texts in the same way that they go through and deliberately and sort of laboriously explain how to calculate different forms of quadrant division that that means that it didn’t exist, or that it wasn’t the primary system. The problem is that you can see in the charts that that’s what they’re doing and it’s that the only system that accounts for many of the chart positions.
Furthermore, it became the dominant system of house division in India for the past almost 2,000 years, and that’s also arguably because whole sign houses was the dominant system in the Hellenistic tradition when Hellenistic astrology was transmitted to India, which is another piece of evidence to bolster that argument.
DH: When you say they didn’t give laborious explanations of how to match up signs with houses, it wouldn’t need a laborious explanation, would it, because it would…
CB: No, because it’s taken for granted. It’s such a simple thing that they assumed you understand it.
DH: These texts don’t assume you take things for granted because they cover pretty much everything, so there’s very little that is expected to be taken for granted. The absolute absence of…
CB: They don’t cover everything. That’s why Porphyry said in his Introduction, Ptolemy talks about all these advanced concepts but he never even gives an introduction where he defines his basic terminology. And Valens refers to a book of introductory material that never shows up in the Anthology that we were supposed to have read before we got the Anthology; it doesn’t exist.
DH: And we don’t have access to all the material that would really put us in a more informed position, and that’s the truth.
CB: Yeah. That doesn’t mean that we can’t form conclusions though. Everybody else is forming conclusions about the material by reading it, whereas you’re trying to push for more uncertainty surrounding everything. And within that gap of uncertainty, you’re trying to suggest then that quadrant houses was more prevalent than it was or than it appears to be according to other…
DH: Look, I don’t know is the simple answer, and I wouldn’t pretend that I do know.
CB: Well, you are though suggesting…
DH: Let me go back to a point–let me stress this. I am not talking about one astrologer failing to explain something because it’s presumed the reader will know this already or take it for granted–which is what we could have with anything else–but there’s no other technique that is completely, utterly, not acknowledged in a single text anywhere.
This is what I’m saying. The point with whole sign, there isn’t anybody anywhere that says theoretically what you are supposed to do is just use the sign.
CB: They all do. They all do implicitly, and it’s in every single chart.
DH: You say ‘implicitly’.
CB: Well, not just implicitly.
DH: You mean doing it in practice. But I’m saying…
CB: We have hundreds of surviving chart examples of them using whole sign houses, just the same as if we had a hundred examples of them using Porphyry cusps.
DH: I don’t know when you say there’s hundreds because I would imagine that there’s quite a few that you would look at that I might take a different view on.
CB: It would be really hard to look at a chart that just lists the rising sign and the planets in the signs and interpret that to have any other form of house division than the only one that they could calculate based on that, which would be whole sign houses.
DH: [?] authority said that there’s a number of examples in Greek Horoscopes where there seems to be evidence that they were calculated.
CB: I don’t deny that.
DH: One of the earliest literary horoscopes that we have, one of the earliest has this curiosity that Neugebauer and Van Hoesen can’t understand because the way that the information is presented is in the 12-fold sequence of the houses, so that each house should be dedicated a sign. But when you get to the fourth sign, they can’t understand because two signs are listed there, and there’s this strange notation that they’ve never seen it, and it appears again.
And they’re saying, “We’re having the same problem with the house 10. There’s a lacunar[?] for the information that should be there for house 10.” So we can’t clearly see what House 10 says except you know that there is this strange marker that appears there, that is also in House 4 which they can’t understand why.
Why have they gone one, two? One is Gemini, two is Cancer, four is, oh, they’ve to two signs there. That doesn’t make sense, and they’ll carry on, and we’re back to something that would make perfect sense if what has happened is the use of a quadrant division. But because the mentality is not there to see the possibility of that it’s just written off an anomaly. So there are interesting examples that quite frankly beyond me to dissect, and what we need is people to get more involved in this. If there was a will to really understand what the ancient astrologers were doing, pieces like this would have been explored.
Now what happens on Skyscript is that interesting references get brought up for attention, and it’s one of the places where people will put this. Even so, I’ve observed that actually the astrological community doesn’t really want to look at this. Most of us are practicing astrologers, very happy with our techniques, and a lot of astrologers have adopted whole sign as their chosen technique, which is fine; I don’t have a problem with that.
I do understand how in order to do the practice of astrology, you don’t really want to be concerned about is this valid. It’s valid because it works for you; it works for you. There comes a point where we have now a whole sign house system because I see it as a modern development in the tradition.
CB: Right, you don’t think that it existed in ancient astrology.
DH: The idea that people were just associating the house meanings with signs and using them in that way was definitely there in the material. There’s no doubt about it, and I’ll never make the…
CB: In what way can it be characterized as a modern development?
DH: The fact that there was no theoretical approval of that until modern times, until after the development of Project Hindsight material, which wasn’t simply a translation project but also worked hand in hand with a whole new school of thinking about astrology, again trying to buy astrologers into this is the way to do your astrology. Learn our techniques; we’re not really opening up this discussion. You come into this project and develop these–it’s all gone hand in hand.
It’s not been a project that exclusively and from a completely independent position analyzed the material without trying to draw a technique that they want to popularize or give a sense of authority to. If you [?] to make a point.
CB: And that’s a valid point to some extent. I’m not going to try to defend Project Hindsight or the thinking and the systematization that sometimes occurs there surrounding that. However, there were people working outside of that independently such as Holden who came to his own conclusions based on his own translations. There are other people that are not associated with Project Hindsight I think would declare that very loudly like Dorian Greenbaum or Joseph Crane, who even if they may have studied some of that material…
DH: I know that Dorian had a lot of involvement with the Project Hindsight in the early days. I think that she would like to be known and generally does deserve–she’s an independent scholarly thinker. But all the people that you are mentioning, Chris, were people that were very heavily committed themselves to the Project Hindsight project when it was at its beginning and had a huge amount of people enraptured with what they were doing and were very enthusiastic for it.
CB: Okay, that’s fine, but I think that’s a very….
DH: [?] is not independent of that movement that happened at that time.
CB: Sure, and you can say that Hand and Schmidt’s arguments colored a lot of people’s thinking, but I still think it’s a little bit problematic to say that all of our thinking has been clouded by Project Hindsight, or by Schmidt, or everyone else and that you’re the only one…
DH: No, I really don’t want to say that. I think…
CB: I’m just saying be careful about this.
DH: [?] because as you say, there’s other astrologers that have contributed to the Skyscript forum, but we’re all very, very busy with our lives. I have an absolute fascination in understanding what ancient astrologers were doing and astrologers of all periods, so this is of huge interest to me, but I know that I am not qualified.
I’m seeing anomalies and I have always seen anomalies from the start when people were saying this passage. It started off with a clear message that all the ancient astrologers were using whole sign. We’re in a position now where we can see that was a presumptuous position to take.
And then for anything that went wrong in that there were a thousand other benefits that came out of it, so I don’t even want to sound like this was a bad thing that happened. It drove a lot of interest into texts, and I have texts in my possession now that have been translated by Robert Schmidt which I am so grateful for because how would I get them otherwise.
But certainly, there has been a process where we expect to see something and there’s a lot of material that really needs attention, but because it’s not in those texts, it’s not got the central focus of the community. It’s kind of getting ignored.
CB: I think there’s many specialists in Hellenistic astrology that have examined those texts. I don’t think anyone is just taking Schmidt or Hand’s word for it. They’re actually digging into the material and looking at it and people are forming specific conclusions.
Yeah, so part of the reason we’re having this debate though is because….
DH: Neither am I the only person that’s making this argument. I mean, you say that I’m trying to make out I’m the only person that’s seeing it in this way, and I don’t think that’s true at all. I think that I’m speaking as somebody a representative of a fair number of people who have difficulty in buying wholesale this idea that whole sign houses was the original, it was the intended, and all the astrologers used it when there are so many passages that just don’t fit into that mold.
CB: All I’m saying is that you are the only authority that I’m aware of…
DH: Well, I’m not even an authority because I’m just a horary astrologer with an amateur interest.
CB: Well, you wrote a book on the houses to the extent that you did; you’re viewed as an authority. So I was saying that you’re the only authority that I’m aware of that argues this far for quadrant houses as being as prevalent in the ancient tradition and whole sign houses not being the dominant or the original system of house division.
Part of the reason we’re having this debate, and I invited you to come on, is because you specifically said that most, if not all, of my arguments in my lecture on whole sign houses were false, and so I wanted to give you a chance to debate the specific points that you thought were false. But I wanted to be clear that if you’re calling me and my arguments out as false, you’re also calling out the arguments of Hand, and Schmidt, and Crane, and Greenbaum, and other people who hold the same opinion.
DH: What I said was that the delivery of your presentation was so biased and so complex. I don’t have a problem with the work that James Holden does, everybody should read it. And yet, when I hear through your summary of what James Holden was supposed to have stated and proved I’m shocked because you’re putting words in his mouth that he never made.
CB: No, he did make those words.
DH: No, he never said–you have quoted him as saying that all of the ancient astrologers were using whole sign, and James Holden never said that and neither was…
CB: Okay, let’s just encourage the audience to read Holden’s original paper, to read his book, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, and to read other works by Holden. I feel confident that they will see that he does in fact state that it was the original form of house division.
DH: In the paper, he mentions five different methods of house division that were prevalent in the ancient period. As he introduces them, he says the first one is the sign equals house and then he moves on to Equal house, then he moves on to Porphyry, then he moves on to Alcabitius. He gives a fair summary and assessment of what was available and being used in the ancient period, but in that paper…
CB: And just really quickly, I’m looking at page 15 of A History of Horoscopic Astrology, his book published in 1996. In footnote 17, he says that “The sign-house system, ‘this is my own name for the original system of horoscopic houses.”’ I am not putting words in James’ mouth, and it really bothers me when you make that accusation because people take what you’re saying seriously.
DH: Does he say that all of the ancient astrologers used it? Does he say this is the original system that all of the astrologers were using? Because this is the information you gave out in your presentation.
CB: Yes, I have a separate quote from Holden where he says, “It was the original system, and it seems to have been the primary one used for the first 500 years of horoscopic astrology.” Therefore, you saying that what I’m saying is false or that I’m attributing false words to Holden really is inappropriate within that context, and I would appreciate if you would not say that.
It’s okay if you disagree or if you have a different interpretation, but do not say that I’m making disingenuous arguments. Just say that you disagree with them or that you have a different interpretation, and that’s fine.
DH: Okay, I don’t want this to be something that is exclusively on that point. But the point that I do have to make, Chris, is that within the context of a presentation where not just that point was made, it was presented as an argument, conceptually, this is what houses are supposed to be, and your other points qualify that. I think it is a good idea to move on.
DH: One of the points that you make is the fact that only the whole sign approach makes sense of the significations that we give to the houses.
CB: Sure. Yeah, this is an area where we have a good, legitimate disagreement because I know you have actually a really good point to make on this you could make in favor of quadrant houses.
DH: Yeah, the points that you make are very valid, and one of the things that we need to consider is, I would call, ‘the aspectual connections’, that these regions, in an idealistic sense, would be expected to make the Ascendant. And of course, the use of a sign will cover a house does not marry very nicely with that sense; idealistically, it would. But because you focused only on that you make points that then don’t make sense in terms of our understanding of the houses.
There’s no reference that you make to the fact that house signification very much takes into account the active rising, the active culminating, the fact that a planet is rising in the sphere, or that it’s already reached the Midheaven and it’s retiring towards the Descendant. All of those details, which are about the emphasis of the angles and planets reaching angles or declining from them, it’s right there in the center of what the houses mean.
DH: So when you talk about the meaning of the 6th house, for you, there’s no concept of the fact that its meaning has–certainly I think in your mind there actually is. But what you failed to get over in the presentation was that this act of the houses–what I would say that they conceptually try to do is get the quality of the space around us.
Now we always have a problem with house division, and this is why I’m never going to argue in favor of one house as opposed to another. Pretty much every house system we have has to grapple with a difficult and inherently flawed concept which is what we’re trying to do is mark the quality of the space around us and the rising and the retiring of the planets and then squeeze that circular vision of what is happening through an oblique circle that we use as our primary system of astrological analysis. So you are always going to have this inherent problem of houses not being as ideal as they should be, unless you do something like adopt an Equal house method or a whole sign adaptation that you’re using.
Still the arguments that you said when you said only whole sign supports the signification of the houses doesn’t stand up. Actually what supports the meaning that we draw from houses is the fact that a planet in the 10th house is culminating, this whole sense of being risen, of being at its highest place, of being repute in the place where we applaud people, and being at the top. So these things are important too and whole sign doesn’t make sense of that. Actually it kind of contradicts it.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I think that’s a great counterpoint. I mean, I do want to be clear that in that slide what I said is that many of the core significations of the houses were developed in the whole sign framework, and so there’s many significations that I think only make sense in that framework.
But you’re right to then raise the point, well, the counter-argument is that there’s some significations that may only make sense in a quadrant house framework because of that process of rising and culminating and setting and moving away from the angles or towards the angles which is something I think you talk about in your book, right?
DH: Yeah, I mean, the point of my book was to look at all the different things that fed into this sense of, well, where did the meanings come from. Quite clearly, I would say beneath everything else is the sense of a cycle of rising on the Ascendant, culminating on the Midheaven, retiring and losing light on the Descendant, and then having this transition point at the IC. So this whole sense of connection with angularity is so vital.
I guess if I had a practitioner’s concern about whole sign–although as I said I don’t want this to sound like I have issues. Actually there was so much in your presentation that I did enjoy, Chris, and I hope that we don’t run out of time that I don’t get to the point where–you did a really brilliant job in demonstrating the efficacy of what you, yourself, do as an astrologer through using whole sign.
One of the things I ought to say–because I really think I should say this in case we run out of time and I don’t–I found listening to your presentation a very interesting experience. I heard some of it and my heart was like, why? Why are we having a ‘best’? Why has this not happened? And so, there were definitely parts, and you know this, but I just felt that it was disappointing to me to hear it.
But there were other parts where I was thinking, gee, I get it now. I really get why people can be so sold on this system and get so excited about it. Seeing your delivery of what you do and your enthusiasm for the technique has shown me something that I think has kind of given me a respect for practitioners that do enjoy using this.
And I’m really pleased that Geoffrey made the points that he did yesterday. I think that anybody that’s listening to us–in fact, for every reason, listen to the podcast that you had with Geoffrey Cornelius; it was so important–ought to understand the points that he was making that the beauty of the technique lies in what the astrologer makes of it.
You do something quite wonderful with your use of whole sign houses. It would never work for me. It would never work for many astrologers I think that don’t go into the whole system that is part of your package. I don’t think your system is the only system that works. I think there’s other systems and there’s many beautiful things that are being done in astrology.
DH: I would never be somebody that would want to be doing the things that you are doing because it’s not just my path, but I think you do a wonderful job with it. But even so, as a practitioner, I have certain questions. The reason why it wouldn’t work for me so much, one of them I guess, if I can bring this up, is this idea of, to me, the use of whole sign houses has a danger of demoting the value of angularity.
DH: What you get with the quadrant systems is you get a very clear focus on the power and the importance of angularity. Now you recognize it in your suggestion that when you’ve done what you were doing with your whole sign, the next stage of development for you might be to look at how you reconcile that with the use of quadrant houses…
DH: …in order to bring in this recognition of strength and power and other things. My argument I guess would be I don’t see the sense of that. I recognize that some people like to do that and that’s fine, but myself, I can’t see the point. If you’ve got a good house system and it works for you, I don’t think there’s a need to then work with two house systems simultaneously. I can’t see what benefit you would get, but that’s a personal view. So let me be clear, this is my personal view.
DH: The idea of the demotion of the importance of angularity is a concern for me. I would say that throughout my working life as an astrologer, and people have heard me said this, if I had only one thing that I could leave behind and even have it on my gravestone is always take notice of angular planets. Planets on angles are so important.
And the use and the understanding of the houses, the fact that those houses, those significations are so clearly drawn from this sense of, is a planet gaining strength by moving towards the angle? Is it in strength because it’s on the angle? Is it like the eighth house? It’s going into a period of decline and death because it lost that strength. It’s in an unaspected connection with what you were saying, but also it’s retiring towards the Descendant.
So, to me, there was a whole other side. To say that only whole sign houses make sense of our understanding of house meanings, for me, I just would end with a no…
DH: …and I think that you get that already.
CB: Yeah, and I think that’s a hugely important piece of this. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to have you on because I thought you’d make a good case of that, and I think you are.
One of the components I didn’t get into in the lecture because I didn’t want to go into all of the theoretical principles underlying how the significations of the houses are developed. But one of the things that I talk about in other lectures or other papers that I’ve written is that idea that you’re talking about that some of the house significations are derived from this idea of focusing on what Schmidt refers to as ‘angular triads’, which is just the houses that are at an angle or the two houses flanking an angle, so that you have planets that are moving…
DH: Yeah, that are rising to power, they’re declining from power.
DH: There’s three sets of houses. The angles should always be in the center of them.
CB: So they’re centered on the angles and you have planets either moving up to an angle or moving away from an angle. In the whole sign framework, I conceptualize that as planets in signs that are either moving away from or coming towards angles in an idealized framework, but in a quadrant framework, you’re dealing with that much more directly because of the use of the Midheaven.
DH: Yeah, so I bring that point out. For me, I don’t see it as a point against the use of whole sign for me as a practitioner, but it also impacts on my not being able to see the logic when people–and certainly, the argument, as you were rightly saying, was made by others before you. So you have other people who have authoritative standing in order to say, “Well, other people have said this, so I felt quite confident in saying that.”
CB: Of what?
DH: Of the fact that–I don’t know. I’ve just forgotten what I was saying, Chris.
CB: Okay, no problem. Yeah, I think just in the context of whole signs, it’s more of an idealized framework of using the rising sign and then the 10th sign relative to that as the 10th whole sign house and then you have one sign that’s moving away from that and one that’s moving up towards it. I understand though from an astronomical perspective how somebody could feel much more compelled about focusing on the Midheaven.
DH: That’s one of the reasons why I look at these “well, maybe they were doing this to this,” it doesn’t make sense to me. To me, just understanding the meaning of the houses as I do and what was the thinking behind them, it doesn’t make any sense to me at all that they wouldn’t put the emphasis on the angles and wanting to connect to the principles that we attach to the 10th house with the angle that generates those symbolic connections.
CB: Sure, and what I pointed out in my lecture at least, even though I didn’t go into a lot of other nuances, is that in the whole sign, in the Hellenistic framework, I think that they recognized both. They would use the 10th whole sign house but they’d also pay attention to the degree of the MC as a sensitive point that would import 10th house significations into other whole sign houses. So it’s not that I don’t recognize that, I’m just not only using that or draw…
DH: I actually have a different view on that, but I can’t qualified it at the moment, I’m afraid. This reference that I wanted, I can’t put my hands on it, but it’s probably something that I need to put together another time.
DH: One of the points that I wanted to ask you–shifting the direction a little bit, but keeping on this idea of angularity–kind of sparked me. I saw something that Tom Callanan wrote in response to your Facebook post, and it seemed that you had a very positive impression on him with what you did in your podcast. He was saying that he’s going to take it seriously now again because of that.
Afterwards, I was thinking about a comment that he made. He said something about what’s selling this for him is the Donald Trump horoscope, and it doesn’t make sense to him without it. I couldn’t understand…
CB: Oh, right.
DH: …why he was saying what he was saying. Basically, what he’s saying is Donald Trump, as you know, has a very, very late Ascendant at 290 58’ Leo. If he’s born 30 seconds later, it’s in Virgo. And he has Mars rising on the Ascendant around 270 Leo and…
CB: Sure, on the 12th house side of the Ascendant.
DH: So Tom said something about this doesn’t make sense in a quadrant system unless you include this 50 orb. I just thought, why wouldn’t you include the 50 orb when so many traditional authorities tell us that we should? And the reason for it is to acknowledge the influence of the angles and the fact that when a planet is near an angle that resonance really counts.
A planet on an angle is so very resonant, it doesn’t end the second that crosses the mathematical point of the angle. It doesn’t make sense astrologically to think that it would. So I couldn’t understand why he would say “unless you did this.” To me, seeing a quadrant house system and using the 50 orb makes perfect sense of that Mars on the Ascendant.
DH: But what it made me think about was if it had been 30 seconds later, and his Ascendant had immediately fallen into the first degree of Virgo, would that mean that this Mars on the Ascendant within two or three degrees would not get recognition of its power because it’s now in a very weak place and it doesn’t connect to the Ascendant?
CB: No, it’d still be within orb of a conjunction of the Ascendant, so it’d still be relevant.
DH: That’s fine because this seemed to me from the demonstration that you were giving that if it moves into a sign that’s it, everything changes then. And so, I was curious to know if a planet is in the sign that is not on the Ascendant but just behind it would this whole sign approach that you’re advocating still recognize the power of the angularity of that planet, or would it not because it’s not in the same sign?
CB: Yeah, I think it would still be relevant. I didn’t get into that because those are unique cases where you have a planet right at the end of the sign but still within an orb of conjoining the Ascendant. I don’t think Donald Trump is a good example necessarily that Tom was using. Because it’s within that 50 orb, it really could go either way in terms of being relevant.
It would have been a better example if the Ascendant was extremely late in Leo and Mars was extremely early because then you have a much more stark difference about is this a 12th house Mars or is this a 1st house Mars. And that’s one of the ways that I encourage people to test the system and see if it works, or to test whole sign houses and see if it comes off to them as a 1st house Mars or a 12th house Mars. Obviously, the conclusion to that is going to be somewhat subjective, but to me at least that’s always been an impressive way to attempt to check it, I guess.
DH: Yeah, that’s not even something that was part of your podcast anyway. It was just something that, for me, conceptually this whole notion of angularity is the key issue. We can lose sight of that if we get into this house system or quadrant house system. If a system allows the recognition of the importance of angularity then it’s doing its job. But angularity is so important and there has to be a way to bring that in.
CB: Sure. I definitely think that’s a major component that needs to be considered. And that’s a huge area where quadrant houses really brings something to the debate and where there’s something to really argue for because of, as you explained, the astronomical situation involving the Midheaven.
DH: Yeah, so one of the points that you made in your presentation was the fact that using whole sign, it provides the solution to the fact that there’s too many house systems to choose from. Well, I guess you could say that with any of them, couldn’t you? You could just say if you just use this house system, you don’t have to worry about the rest.
CB: Well, I mean, part of the point there was that it solves a dispute that only seemed to really get going once we moved further away from whole signs, from my perspective. Based on what I understand about the history, there wasn’t as much of a dispute in the earlier part of the tradition. Although certainly there were different systems being used, but there weren’t 20 or 30 different systems of quadrant house division in the whole sign tradition.
DH: This is one of the places where I felt you overstated the case. Whilst you weren’t necessarily incorrect to say we got this problem that there are 20-30 house systems to choose from, do we really? I mean, I can’t name 20 different systems of houses; I can’t. Do we really have this problem?
CB: Well, there’s probably something like 10 or 12 major ones that are commonly used but…
DH: I wouldn’t even say 10 or 12 major ones, unless you really have a very broad vision. Certainly, Holden would and different people would, and I would say maybe a half a dozen have been serious contenders, and within them maybe three or four. At anytime, there has never been this, we’ve got 30 different options for you.
CB: Well, no. I checked this with Ben before I gave the talk, and Ben actually cited me a specific work on house division that cited 20 different systems in the Medieval period, so it did exist. Now whether all of those were used as prominently, certainly not.
But part of the issue there is that sometimes the reason that a specific approach to house division becomes popular is not necessarily practical or that’s working better or something, but sometimes it is just sociological…
CB: …like Holden arguing that Placidus became prominent in the 20th century because that was one of the only ones that tables were available for. It’s more of a sociological motivation or a practical one than a technical reason.
DH: Well, yeah, but then you have to ask why were the tables available for Placidus. What created that demand for the Placidus tables when previously, in the 17th century, other tables available were the Regiomontanus ones; something created that shift.
And it was one of the points that I made myself in my coverage of the pros and cons of the different house divisions in my book. It’s a fact that Placidus is one of the most popular house systems.
DH: Possibly the reason for that is because of the easy accessibility of the table, but that undervalues the fact that philosophically there’s a lot of strength in the Placidus system; the use of hour–markers, the way that it aligns with the use of planetary hours.
I’m certainly not trying to use this as an argument to say that Placidus was there right at the beginning of the system. It could well have been; some astrologers have felt that’s what was being used. But there’s a lot of good philosophical reasoning why Placidus would become, as people thought through the issue, that makes a lot of sense in what the houses are supposed to be doing, which is giving qualities to time.
DH: It works so nicely with the use of planetary hours. It fits right back into the tradition and the early use of decans, and the decans being used as hour-markers in horoscope: little minor horoscopes, 36 minor horoscopes, and the major one that marked the Ascendant.
CB: Sure, I didn’t mean to–I think that’s a good idea to point out the good points and the philosophical or conceptual reasons that Placidus is positive or what other forms of house division have going for them. I guess I was just saying we can’t immediately assume that just because something is the most popular that that means it’s the best because that’s not necessarily always the case.
DH: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I totally agree with you on that. No, I agree.
CB: Yeah, that might be true someday with whole sign, which I’m sure you would take that position. If whole sign becomes the dominant form of house division that would be a position that somebody could easily take. And I’m sure there will be proponents of whole sign or people that use it that pick it up without thinking very deeply about the matter, and that kind of frightens me in a sense.
DH: I don’t know that we need to be frightened by it.
CB: Well, not frightened. At the end of my lecture, the main thing I tried to emphasize to everyone is whatever form of house division, use the one that works best for you, but just have good reasons for doing it. That was the main thing that I was trying to demonstrate with the lecture even more than I was trying to sell whole sign houses to people.
I was actually just trying to lead by example by demonstrating somebody having a specific approach to house division they prefer and then trying to present specific reasons for why they use it and that everybody should try to do that, which is something I think you did very well in your book. You presented some of the strong cases for each of the different forms of house division.
DH: Yeah, and I don’t think that I returned the favor on any or try to say this system is the best. If you’ve read my book, you would agree that what I tried to do with each system is bring out its benefits…
DH: …and also the arguments that could be made against it. My conclusion was there is no house system that stands above the others in having all the solutions. Each one has merits of its own and each one can’t do something that another house system can do. So really what you’ve got to decide is what is important to you, and what are the principles that you are seeing as important and choose your system accordingly.
In fact, I make this point about the whole sign where I say, certainly, the argument could be made and has been made that when we’re using something that is pretty much symbolic in its basis anyway–they’re not actually out there as astronomical realities–then why not just go for the system that is easy to apply and spare yourself all that astrological trouble. It’s a selling point for the system and there is no doubt about that.
CB: I felt that I was actually doing a slight bit of disservice to whole sign. You did a very good job with all of the quadrant houses in the book, presenting the things that make them unique and that you might want to use them for. I did feel like there was a little bit less of that for whole sign and that was one of the reasons I wanted to present a lecture like this to present what I see as the case in favor of it. I know that on many of those points, you don’t necessarily agree about my rationale for the things that I think are benefits for whole sign houses.
DH: The problem for me was that the length of time given to justify, or in my view, it gave over this answer, “this was authentic, this is what they should be,” and then everything that followed from that was a given because why else would you present it to [?] I just want to make this point, if I may, Chris.
DH: The dilemma that we had–and I know I mentioned this briefly to you yesterday, but it’s worth saying for the benefit of the tape–is that I saw you as being in a very difficult position. You are a phenomenal presenter and somebody that works are medium extremely well, so you are so influential. If it is your intention to popularize the technique, you are going to do that very successfully.
But the discomfort that I had was clearly parts of this were meant to be provocative. You were deliberately bombastic. You started off with this title that is going to be as provocative as it can be.
CB: Well, provocative but also playful or kind of like joking.
DH: I think you knew it would get the attention to get people to listen to what you were going to say. You knew it and that was…
DH: …cute; it was a good thing to do. But you cross over because you are also known as somebody that is representing–you are seen as an authority in terms of understanding your subject and the history of it. And so, this is where I felt there was a blurring.
It was difficult to know, is this joking, is this meant to be taken seriously? But clearly, when you presented your material about the history and the conceptual origin, you sounded so very, very informed that nobody would think to even consider that there may be other things that you’re not saying.
I felt, and it may sound very unfair, the reason why it is important for you to give that balance is that you have such an important standing in the community. You have such an influential position that if you are speaking as somebody that is representing the historical position, I think you have to be careful to get the balance right.
I mean, it’s so difficult because what this was about was selling a certain system. You wanted to sell the use of whole sign system to your public through this presentation. And so, you were in a very difficult position because you were neither one thing or the other. I think you sell a system–I don’t know if I put this across very well.
What I’m saying is these are unique criticisms for you because you are so good at representing the practice of what you’re doing. But to say that this was just a simple popular presentation aimed at modern astrologers kind of denies how very persuasive it was as an authoritative statement to where we stand historically. It wouldn’t have been a problem with somebody else because somebody else wouldn’t have that expectation that you have, being somebody that is known as an expert and authority in your field.
DH: Do you get my point on that and understand what I’m saying?
CB: Yeah, I take your point, your point is well-made. There’s a certain point where that’s really good for me as a learning lesson.
DH: It’s actually meant as a compliment and not just a criticism in saying that these are unique criticisms for you because of your importance, of where you stand with things. If somebody else were saying things and not getting the balance right, and they were not really very effective or important, nobody would notice, and nobody would care. It would just pass over.
But I think you straddle two roles really. When I try and look at the history of ancient house division, I really do try very hard to not let my views on the practice influence me. We’re all influenced by the way that we think; we can’t help it. I have my biases too, I guess, but those biases, the way that I see them are just from thinking, well, this makes sense of what’s there. Anyway to go back…
CB: Just to respond to that really quickly, I mean, that’s a learning lesson for me in terms of being careful. I have this issue sometimes now with this podcast where, on the one hand, I want to sometimes do a survey and present all of the different views that astrologers have and the multitude of different positions, and viewpoints, and opinions, and traditions, and things like that as a showcase, and to showcase the diversity, but also to explore the pros and cons of different approaches.
But then sometimes there is a tension between wanting to present my own view and present the view after doing whatever research that I’ve done into the issue, especially in issues that I’ve done a lot of research where I present what I think to be is the case. That is definitely a tension and it’s something I’m going to have to be more cognizant of in the future. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m always just giving my own opinion without giving due weight to other viewpoints.
But on the other hand, I also didn’t feel like I made–certainly the lecture was simplified did not include a lot of historical nuances. At the same time, I did not make any historical arguments that I do not personally believe or feel that I can back up or defend in the talk, whether I fully justified them in the talk itself as I’ve tried to demonstrate today by going back and forth with you about some of these specific points.
There are debates about it and, there are differences of opinion or viewpoints about the history of astrology, but for the most part, I tried to present what seems to me to be my own opinion as well as part of the general consensus of other authorities in the field that I respect. I definitely in the process did not end up presenting your opinion about this, but I’m totally open to discussing and talking about it and showcasing your opinion as well, so that it’s out there and people can see both and make up their own mind.
DH: Yeah, and I have to say that with this dilemma that you talked about with your podcast, one of the things that I think is really to credit you is you do a great job when you do let people give their views. I’ve witnessed you doing it, and I think it really is good when I can see you entertaining ideas that are not your own, and you do it really good.
I would recommend that you do that because it’s great when you do. Keep a separate platform for presenting your own ideas. I think you do that really, really well, and it’s something that deserves applause with this work that you do.
DH: Going back to some of the other points that you made, to just bring up this idea of the Gauquelin zones. I would say when I made the comment that I could argue each and every one of the points that you made, yeah, we could carry on. I don’t think that this argument about proving the Gauquelin zone does anything. But to be honest, is there any value in that? I don’t know that you were seriously making that argument anyway.
CB: No, I wasn’t. To respond to Paul Kiernan who asked about that and sort of challenged me on that recently, the Gauquelin results aren’t even accepted scientifically and have been questioned in and of itself. So we can’t even use that at this point in time as an objective piece of data to even test because nobody’s even validated it fully.
My only point was that when Gauquelin did publish those results, there were several decades where astrologers then debated why is the peak zone or the plus zone above the Ascendant rather than below the Ascendant. I was simply pointing out that whole sign houses strangely is the only system or one of the only systems that could provide an answer to that hypothetically if it was a valid piece of data. So that doesn’t mean I’m going to spend the rest of my life working on Gauquelin’s statistical results.
DH: Yeah, there’s different arguments; the fact that Lee Lehman has actually tested the data through whole sign and quadrant systems and said it has zilch effect on it.
CB: Well, she seemed to say in that thread that there was one test where it came out positive and one were it came up negative, which seemed to imply that they canceled each other out. That was her conclusion about it, which I didn’t fully understand, and I’d like to see whatever paper she published where she showed the results for that.
DH: Yeah, she published a paper and the results were that it had no impact, so she looked at this.
CB: Actually I don’t think she’s published a paper on it. That’s why I asked that because I’d like to see her publish her results on that rather than it just being a statement on a forum. Until that’s done…
DH: I actually emailed Lee about that and got some information, and she did provide me with some more information about that.
CB: Did she publish a paper on it?
DH: I’m trying to scroll down. I find it difficult to–I put some notes in case they were needed. I can open up and check the e-mail. She’s definitely run the tests. We’ll move on to something else. I’ll open up the e-mail and see what she wrote because it wasn’t major.
DH: Yes, she’s done the research, she’s got all the data, she’s run it through. In her opinion, it’s been tested; it’s not supportable in terms of testing it. I have also given my own views, and I know there were views in the thread that that discrepancy could be explained in other ways.
To me, I don’t think that was a serious argument. it was another plug-in to your pitch, if you like.
CB: Well, I mean, it was part of the pitch. It was also a serious potential because the house of whole sign houses extends above the Ascendant, whereas it, at the very most will only extend 5 degrees above the Ascendant in quadrant houses. So I don’t see how that could not be seen as a serious argument in favor of that when viewed in light of those results.
Now I’m not going to put my entire case on that or die trying to defend it, but it’s seriously worth thinking about, at least.
DH: Okay. Well, then I can tell you what Lee’s test of the data has to say. Also, I made the point that, to me, if you wanted a solution that makes sense of it, it’s the fact that most birth times are reported after the event, so you’re naturally going to get a lag, and the tradition allows for it anyway in the orb that it attaches to angles.
CB: Sure, I think that’s an interesting argument. The only issue I’d have is just that if the birth time lag thing was true, it’d have to be true on a massive scale, that everybody’s birth time was recorded very late in order to have the statistical results be skewed that much. I’m not sure if that’s fully plausible. I don’t know. That’s a little bit of a stretch to me, but I don’t know. It’s at least an interesting argument to think about.
DH: Okay, so Lee published some research some time ago in the Quarterly that Mark Urban-Lurain had confirmed. She’s run the data and it has no impact on it. “I ran the Gauquelin data on my system for years in whole sign and the results are mixed. Whole sign slightly improved the sports data and it slightly reduced the effect of the scientists’ data.” In other words, there was no argument either way.
CB: Well, that’s actually interesting because the sports data is the only data that’s ever been replicated by other scientific organizations, and that’s what led to the controversy surrounding the ‘Mars effect’, whereas I don’t believe that the scientific data was ever replicated in other studies.
DH: The problem that we have with this Gauquelin data–like you say, there’s a problem with the data–is the fact that we know we don’t have accurate data. If you look at what the data is so much of it is rounded up to the nearest hour, the nearest [?].
DH: What it’s not the nearest hour is the nearest half hour and then there’s some to the quarter of the hour…
DH: …so there is a rounding-up effect. And so, what I would say is that that rounding up is naturally going to occur after the crisis and dilemma of birth when whoever is recording the time has got the head together and thinks, okay, well, we better record the time now.
Nobody is ever going to err on recording birth time before the birth has happened. So you’re never going to get a gap of early birth times; everything’s going to be slanted to a delay. Either it’s going to be accurate or it’s going to be late, so there’s going to be natural lag about it.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that’s all interesting stuff that I hope somebody researches at some point; I mean, it probably won’t be me. This was seriously kind of a blow-off lecture that I put together in about four hours just based on various things I had been thinking about for several years or based on pieces from other lectures that were incomplete. Obviously, this isn’t a complete treatment of anything.
So yeah, I hope somebody does some interesting studies on that at some point. It was just a point that I raised that seemed to make some sense conceptually in maybe providing an answer to the data. If somebody publishes a paper saying that it doesn’t or it does at some point then I’ll read it with great interest.
DH: Yeah, yeah, and I think that that’s a fair point to make, totally. It’s an interesting point to make. Again, the problem was all about the presentation of this informal presentation but is actually headed as a lecture producing this strong support for the whole sign.
I guess what I would say, I don’t want to go into any more details because we covered the issue really.
DH: The disturbing point for me was the feeling, the lack of acknowledgement to the fact that there were well-known references to other systems of houses. What I felt was an implication that came across was that quadrant systems were an unknown quantity until they suddenly emerged in the 9th century for reasons that were not well thought out, which I felt again just slanted the new astrologer’s mind towards the belief the quadrant systems had no age-old lineage, had no principles behind them.
And my fear is or my concern is that astrologers do need, or I believe ought to be, when they’re making these decisions, as informed as they can be. I just hope that what we get across as a result this is the fact that the issue is more complicated. It’s not a black-and-white thing. There’s a whole history and tradition of astrology that deserves a lot of respect and thinking about.
And I guess I worry as well, Chris–there’s a comment I made very offhand to you–we have this whole new generation of astrologers and they’re learning through the internet. And astrology is changing. When I started studying astrology, you had to learn how to calculate, you had to learn what the principles of the houses were because you had to calculate those houses. You had to use tables of houses in order to construct and draw up your charts. What we have nowadays, everything’s changing with the internet. Astrologers are learning through the internet. I think we’re in danger of losing the art of chart calculation to some extent.
I think there’s many, many astrologers out there that don’t possess a Table of Houses, let alone know how to use them. And so, for me, there’s a feeling like let’s not lose that. There is a beauty in whole sign, in the points that you made and the simplicity of it. But let’s still retain awareness of other systems and the value of them and understanding of what they were trying to do. So that I guess would be a summary of where I stood in the need that this issue needs opening up and unpacking because of the impact that you’ve made.
CB: Sure, I think those are all completely valid points and criticisms to raise, and I’m really glad that you did and I appreciate it. I did not present the full history of house division in this lecture, and I did not go into the complexity and the relationship that quadrant houses have to whole sign houses because I was just trying to present the case for whole sign in that lecture.
I just rediscovered yesterday, I completely forgot I had done a whole other episode on my old podcast called Traditional Astrology Radio where I did spend an hour-and-half going through my perspective and also talking about some of the controversies involved in the history and the development of quadrant houses and whole sign houses in the Hellenistic tradition. So I really encourage people to listen to that, to go to Skyscript and read some of the past discussions on house division that have taken place there because lots of really good points have been made and with the citations given, so that different people can read up on that, to read your book, Deb’s book on house division, and to read some of the papers that she has on Skyscript where she really goes into that and talks about the pros and cons of different approaches. I mean, I’m not averse to that.
I went a little bit too far in going over the top in promoting it because it’s my system and because I personally think it resolves a lot of issues with house division. I didn’t even go in all the issues. I actually forgot to talk about one of the main points, which is that it resolves the distortion of the houses and quadrants in very high Northern or Southern latitudes.
But I did not mean to close the door or say that everybody should adopt it right away, or to say that quadrant systems were invalid. I tried to close on that note, but I didn’t do it as emphatically as I should have, so I hope that we’ve been able to rectify that a little bit today.
DH: Certainly, I think almost to the extent that you’ve been too generous and too indulgent with me.
DH: I feel that the emphasis has fallen too heavily on things. I saw the lack of balance in picking out your good points and that’s something I’m going to worry about after this, that I get so involved in the conversation.
CB: Well, that’s fine. I think these two episodes will balance out each other, so we’ll call it even just based on that.
DH: Yeah, yeah. I mean, there’s so much here that is of interest. Each of the points that you made is a fascinating point in itself. Yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff that’s going to come out of this review I think.
But ultimately, what struck me yesterday was what a pity that you haven’t had that podcast with Geoffrey Cornelius before you did this presentation because I know that you would have done it differently.
DH: That was just such bad timing because the points that he made are really the ones that the whole community has to take on board now. Yeah, there’s going to be people using this system, there’s going to be people using that system. The last thing that we want in astrology is a sense of, well, that system’s wrong, this system’s better, or you presenting your ideas, me feeling that if I discuss these ideas, I’m anti- what you’re doing, which is not the case at all.
So I hope that that’s where we move to as a community and all of us. I think engaging in dialogue like this in a very honest way is a step forward to that. I think it’s a good thing to do.
CB: Yeah, definitely. I think Geoffrey had, as usual, some very sensible comments. Somebody, I think Eve Dembowski, characterized Geoffrey’s statements as very sensible. I think that’s a good way to characterize them, especially about house division among other things, and maybe I would have toned it down.
It’s actually funny because when Adam first told me to give a talk on whole sign houses, I was like, okay, and I gave just this over-the-top title. My girlfriend was like, “That’s probably not a good idea. That’s probably going to annoy some people.” And I’m like, “Well, I’ll just say ‘Literally the Best System of House Division Ever’. And it’ll be kind of funny and everyone will understand that I’m kind of joking a little bit with that.” Initially, she was like “No, you shouldn’t do it” and I’m like “Okay, I’ll just change it to ‘Whole Sign Houses’.”
DH: The best.
CB: Yeah, I’ll change it to ‘Whole Sign Houses are Sort of Okay, Maybe sort of’. But then Adam said, “‘No, that’ll be great title. Let’s just go with that,” and I was like “Okay, let’s do that.” And I forgot that I had that initial debate about how to frame the argument and that this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people and it’s also very nuanced and detailed. It’s not a simple topic even though I presented it as simple in the lecture. There’s a lot of complex, historical and technical and practical issues behind it.
DH: It was the combination of the two, Chris. I think what would be great is if you just went out there and said ‘The Reasons I Love Whole Sign’ and just be as outrageous as you want to be…
DH: …you’re taking of your authoritative, historian’s hat while you do it and you go out, which I know you do. As I said, it was the combination of it was supposed to be a simplistic presentation but actually there was so much depth in the points that it was hard to know whether this should be taken lightheartedly or not.
CB: Sure, and I was summarizing things that I think are true in the history of astrology, but I did not give adequate weight to other opinions and counter-arguments into the subtleties and nuances that are involved. So I hope everybody understands that and views the lecture in that context if they listen to it again in the future.
Thanks for helping me to fix that and to get back to more of a moderate position, Deb.
DH: Thanks for being so indulgent with my views.
CB: No, it was great. So I’m glad I finally had you on the show. One of these days, like I was talking about yesterday, I’d like to have you back again to talk about other things. I know that you have a huge research interests that are very vast, and I’m sure there’s other things that we could talk about that would be really interesting and that would be not like points of disagreement or something but instead more like explorations.
DH: Exactly, exactly. It’s a wonderful thing, Chris, when astrologers that are actually in different viewpoints on things can engage in discussion and do it just freely because that’s what you do when you’re really interested in a subject. You discuss, you debate, you argue, if you take people seriously.
But what would be good is to just talk about what I would love to talk about as an astrological practitioners. So yeah, we’ll do that some time.
CB: Excellent. Well, I look forward to it.
DH: Thank you.
CB: All right, well, thanks for coming on the show.
DH: Thank you for having me.
CB: All right, and thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.