The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 71, titled:
Medical Astrology with Lee Lehman
With Chris Brennan and guest Lee Lehman
Episode originally released on April 20, 2016
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Gulsen Altay and Andrea Johnson
Transcription released August 2, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, at approximately 2:08 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 71st episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a Patron, please visit the astrologypodcast.com/subscribe.
In this episode, I’m going to be talking with astrologer Lee Lehman about medical astrology and a book that she wrote on that topic just a few years ago. So let’s go ahead and get started. Lee, welcome to the show.
LEE LEHMAN: Thank you, Chris. I’m glad to be here.
CB: All right. I’ve been wanting to interview you about this book for a while. It actually came out in 2012, and the title of the book is Traditional Medical Astrology, correct?
CB: Okay. So let’s start by talking a little bit about your background. What’s your interest in astrology and medicine, or what drew you to that topic?
LL: Well, all these things that we do in astrology end up being strange progressions as I’m sure you’ve gotten on the other 70 episodes of the podcast as well.
LL: When I was–jeez, how old was I–eight-years-old, I had an accident on a scooter and cut up my knee rather badly, and went to the hospital and was stitched up by a woman physician which in those days–this was the very early ‘60s–was still a fairly unusual thing in the US. And that instant, that moment actually told me, “Oh, you could be a doctor.” And so from that time forward, as I went into high school and then into college that was my intention. Now I got sidetracked by the environmental movement and then I got sidetracked again by astrology. But I’ve had the interest for that long which means that I’ve now been reading on the history of medicine for close to 50 years, and so that interest is a very old interest.
The thing is, once I got into classical astrology, one of the things that became very obvious wherever you go in the history of astrology, you run across the connection between astrology and medicine. And I think you could make a very strong case in portions of the late Hellenistic and into the early Arabic period, and even going forward into the Latin West that if it weren’t for the astrological applications, it would’ve been much harder to transmit astrology at all.
CB: Sure, just because of the way that medicine and astrology were integrated in that way, and how crucial it became for the practice of medicine as a diagnostic tool, but also for other reasons during that time.
LL: Well, also and conversely, it was important when astrology started having to adapt, let’s say, to the different issues of monotheistic culture, whether Arabic or Christian. Medicine was one of the ways that people could see a very clear use for astrology that didn’t intersect too closely on some, let’s say, uncomfortable theological issues like how astrology could predict characteristics of the soul which was definitely interdicted at various points. But the fact that it could operate on the body was much less controversial.
CB: Sure. That makes sense, and that’s an interesting point. So the application of astrology to medicine puts it in the realm of what they called natural astrology rather than judicial astrology, and therefore makes it potentially more acceptable to the Church and to the theologians than the other forms of astrology that were viewed as too predictive or perhaps dealing with things that were not just naturally-occurring phenomenon.
LL: Well, yeah, not only the naturally-occurring phenomenon. Consider from a philosophical standpoint the difference between operating with, say, a horary. The very act of asking a horary and then presuming to answer one is implying a state that isn’t exactly free will. In fact, if you’re serious about your horary, you’re probably saying–at least with regard to this question in the short term–there is no free will. Well, this was not an acceptable position to the Church. Speaking in a Christian context, we had to have the free will to have salvation or damnation, otherwise you could not have a just God.
And then you have the very uncomfortable idea–which you see transmitting for a long time in astrological history–which is basically the variations of what’s called the ‘wit of the native,’ where you’re doing actual assessments. You find them in Ptolemy, you find them later on in most of the Arabic and medieval astrologers using variations of how to combine Mercury and the Moon and occasionally a few other factors. But what they were essentially doing is an assessment of how strong–depending on which words you used–reason or the will was compared to the pull of sensation and emotions, which was really saying, can you resist temptation?
LL: Now if in reality–in our bodies, in our astrology, in our stars–there is a difference between how easily you can resist temptation and how easily I can resist temptation, then maybe again we don’t have a just God because then the deck is actually stacked against people. Now that kind of assessment was pretty dangerous. On the other hand, talking about the fact that you might have a condition that tends toward a liver problem and I might have a condition that tends toward a kidney problem is much less dangerous.
CB: Sure. That could be sort of rationalized as just the celestial influences in that Ptolemaic model of astrology that came to dominate around the same time.
LL: Sure. Exactly.
CB: Okay. So the period we’re talking about is, on the one hand, the early Middle Ages but also especially the late Middle Ages in Europe when there was the revival of astrology again. At that point, astrology is hugely integrated into medicine and becomes part of the medical training at that time, right?
LL: Sure. And of course this was happening earlier because you had this kind of integration going on in Galen’s time in the Hellenistic period, even if Galen himself didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
CB: Sure, just in terms of some of the different doctors or different medical practitioners using astrology or resorting to astrology for different purposes.
LL: Well, yeah. I think the other point on that is that the popularity of the Aristotelian modifications to the Hippocratic medical system was the way that people were viewing medical systems in the first few centuries CE. Galen came into that, added in a huge piece of Stoic philosophy as well as the ideas of the Pneumatics, but that became the standard medicine.
Well, the moment you start dealing with these particular issues together, you’ve got the question of elements, you’ve got the question of the computation of temperaments, and you start getting into those areas where astrology overlaps with the same things that are of interest to medicine.
CB: Sure. And this is something you cover during a large part of the first portion of the book which is what you call the Hippocratic/Galenic philosophical basis, or underpinning of Western astrological medicine for much of its history, right?
CB: And what is that, for those that don’t have a background? First off, what’s the Hippocratic school, and what is the Galenic school?
LL: Okay. Well, to begin with we have to go back actually to about the 4th or 5th centuries BCE. And what was going on in those days is the natural philosophers–which they would have simply called themselves philosophers–were examining how does matter work, and are there primary properties or primary particles that underlie the vast differences that you see, just for example, looking at a landscape.
And what happened during this period is there were attempts to say there was one primordial element, and then there were ideas maybe it wasn’t one, maybe it was more than one. There were a couple of ideas about primordial forces. Eventually, the philosophers settled on the idea of four different elements that were going to be present in–as they would have put it–the ‘sublunary sphere.’ And then when you get above the sphere of the Moon, you could have a 5th perfect element which didn’t exist on Earth, except possibly in the structure of the soul. But as far as matter was concerned, we had four.
Well, during this time where they were, so to speak, duking it out between each other as to is it three, is it four, is it two, is it one, Hippocrates lived. Now Hippocrates was a real man, and he formed a school in medicine. Basically he believed that you could observe people who were sick and follow the course of their illness, and based on your observations–if you then saw somebody else with the same symptoms–if treating the first person with a bone set worked then bone sets should work on the next person, and then the next person, and then the next person. In other words, they said that there is a rational basis and a kind of, as we would say, cause and effect between the development of disease, how it will play out, and what you can use to treat it.
Now there were schools of medicine at that time who denied that possibility, so this is an important distinction. And this is also happening in a time where the most popular school of medicine was actually the sacred idea that if you decided, for example, to sleep in the Temple of Asclepius–who was one of the gods of healing that you could ask for a boon, you could ask for a favor–you could be cured, we could say magically, or we could say miraculously.
LL: So you have those secret schools and then you had Hippocrates coming along, doing some very, very clear observation, and very precise observation…
CB: And is this the empirical school?
LL: …and then recording it.
CB: So is this the empirical school, or is this what you’d classify as empiricism?
LL: Yes. So what you’ve got going on there is this development of a corpus of if you see this symptom then two days later you’ll see this symptom. And it was very important to have that level of observation and to be able to develop ideas. Well, now at this time, the astrology that was going on was going on in Mesopotamia, in the area that we would generally call Babylon. So it was in the Babylonian era that astrology was happening, and actually this is just about the time that they were starting to develop individual charts for people. Hippocrates himself didn’t know astrology except possibly as that thing that the Chaldeans did.
LL: So there was no initial linkage. However, in the Hippocratic corpus–which might be Hippocrates’s, it might be the first generation or two after him–there was a series of observations about fevers. The Greeks had noticed that there were a number of different kind of fevers that repeated on a regular basis, and Hippocrates correlated many of these fevers with the phases of the Moon. So he developed a doctrine that goes through well into the Middle Ages called ‘critical days.’ It was based on the idea that when you become sick, it’s like you lock the position of the Moon at that time. Although the way they would have described it, more specifically, is not as we would lock it and say the Moon’s at 24 Scorpio. They would lock it as the phase of the Moon is the 3rd day.
So now what they would do is they would take that position of the Moon and divide up the Moon phases into eight, and then each of those eighths would be what was called a ‘critical day.’ And a ‘critical day’ meant that on that day, the patient would likely have what they call technically a crisis, which meant that it was a point where the disease could shift. Maybe it would shift better, maybe it would shift worse. Maybe they’d just have a crisis and there would be no net plus or minus. The point was that these were the times where you could either go downhill or go uphill. So you could die potentially because of the crisis, or you could be cured because of the crisis, and it was very clear that that was related to the phase of the Moon even without astrology. But that’s the only astrology you find actually in Hippocrates.
LL: And I think this is the point–to get to astrological medicine as we would conceive of it, you had to go forward in time to the point where astrology started being studied in the Hellenistic zone, and it’s in that era where we pick up Galen.
CB: Sure. So you have the emergence of the Hellenistic tradition which then results in the emergence of a more widespread astrological tradition among the Greeks and other Europeans.
LL: Right. Now in the meantime, medicine’s been developing. They’ve had a group called the Anatomists that were doing dissections of humans as well as animals to really understand something about physiology and anatomy and how that played into medicine, you had other developments. But when Galen came along, what he was looking at was this idea that there was a whole philosophical system that was being developed primarily by the Stoics having to do with the breath–the pneuma as it’s called–and how the pneuma related to soul processes.
They were interested in soul processes in part as a nexus with body, and what they had realized is that they could relate these soul processes to the kind of teachings that Aristotle had done. Because Aristotle himself had been very interested in medicine, he’d been interested in biology, and so he had a great deal to say about balance issues. This was actually one of the critical pieces of understanding ancient medicine and then astrology comes into this, and that piece was when you are in balance you do not have disease. Disease happens when you go out of balance.
And in this Hippocratic-to-Aristotelian phase, the balance was of the qualities hot, cold, wet and dry. This comes to be expressed as elements with two of these qualities so that fire, for example, is hot and dry or water is cold and wet, and so you have a natural balance. Your natural balance is different from my natural balance, is different from anybody else’s natural balance, but when we are at our own balance, we’re healthy. When something happens to bring us out of balance now we can have blockages in the system. And when that starts to happen, if it gets bad enough, the person becomes ‘dis-eased.’
Where astrology comes into this–and so we’re talking now the 1st, 2nd century CE–is astrology can now predict what it is that’s out of balance. And not only what it is that’s out of balance, but on the basis of connecting herbs and other medical substances to astrological rulerships, you can now also hypothesize what you can use to treat a body out of balance, so it becomes a very powerful system.
CB: Sure. So on the one hand, because Hellenistic astrology is largely focused on natal astrology, they developed a system for determining what a person’s temperament is and what their natural, let’s say, balance is, and then identifying if or when that gets out of whack, and if it does, how to counteract that in order to bring the person back into balance.
LL: Yeah. Now we have to say here, I mentioned that Galen himself was not into astrology, and he criticizes at various points in his works. What seems to be happening there is Galen had–I could very simply say–a huge ego about his ability to diagnose people.
LL: And it raises a point. I’m not being entirely critical of him because what he did, in a sense, was the same kind of minute observation that the Hippocratic school was noted for. If you really pay attention to somebody and you notice how they operate–if you see them when they’re well, and you see them over a period of time–you should be able to tell what somebody’s temperament is. You don’t need astrology.
However, if you don’t have that ability to spend from a few days to a month with a perfectly well person to find out what their temperament is, but now you’re called in and the person is already sick–which means they’re not operating according to their natural condition–that’s where astrology can be very useful because now you can say, what should this person’s balance have been? So Galen was priding himself on being able to do by observation what we can do by chart.
CB: Sure. I think that makes sense. And just using it as a diagnostic tool, in ancient times, 2,000 years ago, they didn’t necessarily have any of the diagnostic tools that we have today. Therefore you can see how astrology would be a useful shortcut or means of establishing things that you otherwise shouldn’t be able to know about a person’s constitution, or about what might be bothering, or otherwise you know causing disease, or illness, or other issues for a person.
LL: Yeah. You have to imagine because we see this over and over again in the transmission of astrological medicine into Arabic and then with the transmission of astrological medicine into Latin. There are contemporary references, for example, in England when Roger of Hereford started bringing astrological medicine into England. People were just amazed because here is this system that they didn’t even dream existed. Suddenly they had what for them were these amazing medical tools that just hadn’t existed before Hereford was able to start bringing these translations into England.
CB: Sure. So this is maybe the 12th century, or something like that?
LL: Yeah. This was hot stuff.
CB: Sure. It’s kind of like if you don’t have X-ray machines but you want to know what’s going on inside of a person–and suddenly you have this other system that might be able to tell you things about a person’s internal dispositions–I could see how there would be something very valuable about that. Of course that’s the reason why many doctors would then have training in astrology in order to do diagnosis like that.
LL: Yes. You can actually pretty clearly follow these transmissions. They started before the 12th century but it certainly accelerated then that–many of these early transmissions–just the impact was enormous. And then of course the next thing is that when you started getting the formation of the university system in Europe–the medical schools were one of the two driving forces in this development at the universities–the need for teaching astrology for medical purposes was gigantic, and so astrology comes into the medical faculties very easily. To get into the regular faculties, into the MA faculty, it had to go through the process of the theologians deciding just how much could be taught, and what’s natural versus what’s not natural, and so it was a much more difficult, and we might say, backdoor process.
CB: Sure. And just backing up a little bit, it seems like it was around the 8th or 9th century that you get the full fusion of Western astrology–and the different branches of Western astrology–with Galenic medicine just because of some of the translations that were happening at that time. Then you get a full fusion of that with also Aristotelian philosophy which had a resurgence by that point.
LL: Sure. We should mention the fact of what this did because that fusion of course was going on in the Abbasid dynasty. In the Middle East that style of medicine is actually still practiced today. It’s considered a traditional form of medicine in Iraq and in Iran. There are a few practitioners of it in the United States. There are a few books out on it. And if you go in and look at the books, you’ll see that they have gone into the use of the temperaments, of diagnosis, and it’s actually very sophisticated material.
CB: Interesting. I didn’t realize that. Okay. So we have the emergence of this medical tradition. It gets formulated finally with the synthesis of all this stuff in the early medieval period in, let’s say, Baghdad around the 8th and 9th century. Then it gets transmitted to Europe, the Europeans go crazy with it, and it gets integrated into medicine fully. And the universities are set up where astrology is taught to doctors, and there’s actual chairs for astrology at the major universities. So in terms of the actual technical practice, I guess there’s really three branches that became relevant to medical astrology, right?
LL: Yeah. You have a natal branch. You have a horary branch. You have an electional branch.
CB: Okay. So natal astrology is looking at the birth chart of the individual and things like dispositions, but also to some extent timing. Electional would be used for things like the development of the decumbiture chart. I guess that’s one that’s perhaps worth talking about on its own.
LL: And of course also just for doing any kind of procedure–whether you were bloodletting, whether you were taking an herb, whether you were doing surgery– it would be considered extremely important to do it at the right time.
CB: Right. So you’re actually picking elections for surgeries and other procedures. And then for horary, how was horary integrated into medical astrology or used?
LL: Well, there are two different ways. You mentioned the decumbiture chart before, let’s define that. A decumbiture chart originally, to decumbo—to use a slightly Englished version of the Latin word–is to lie down.
LL: And the understanding of a decumbiture chart was it’s the moment when you have to lie down because you were sick. Now there were variations of what counted as a decumbiture chart, but it was basically that moment when you realized it got you.
LL: So this is an event, of course. The interpretation of a decumbiture chart was also realized to be essentially the same as if someone in that moment had said, “What is the nature of my disease, and what will happen as a result of it?” In other words, a horary question.
CB: Sure. So there’s this sort of overlap between the two.
LL: Yes. Now the event of the decumbiture would be considered a somewhat stronger chart than a horary but that’s the typical assessment.
CB: Okay. And then from the decumbiture chart–which is essentially the inception of the onset of the illness in some sense–they would try to both diagnose the quality of the illness but also the length and severity.
LL: Yes. And I want to point out that this is a very important concept in medicine from–now switching terminologies a little bit–the Roman era up through about 1700. The reason for that is from the period of Roman law to 1700, there was something called the ‘contract for a cure.’
For example, you have just had a decumbiture. You’ve had a moment where you’re too weak to get up, so you send your servant to me, I’m the physician, let’s say. And so I do a chart for the moment of, in this traditional case, receiving a sample of your urine. This was called ‘urine casting,’ and it literally meant casting a horoscope. It was traditional in informing a physician, to give the physician something to actually look at–and that would be a sample of bodily fluid–and urine is the most obvious one.
So I have cast a chart now for learning of your illness, and from this chart I should be able to determine what’s the cause of your illness, what the course of the illness is going to be, and ultimately whether you could be cured completely or not, or whether you will die from it. Now the importance of this having to do with the ‘contract of a cure’ is now I need to be able to decide am I going to take this case. Because in this system, if I tell you that I can cure you, and I don’t, I don’t get paid. And there actually were courts that adjudicated differences of opinion about this between physicians–or barber surgeons, or herbalists–and their patients, so they were quite serious about this.
CB: Right, because of the whole conceptual thing. And you talk about this in your book on horary, The Martial Art of Horary Astrology, especially in a horary chart, how the 7th house always represents the astrologer because they’re the one that’s being consulted with on the part of the querent who’s the 1st house.
LL: Yes, that’s part of it, but of course there’s specific rules in terms of disease. So as a physician I want to know that your disease is treatable, because if it’s not treatable, I have to honestly tell you that.
LL: If I say to you, “Look, I can ameliorate your pain but I can’t really cure this condition,” you may decide at that point, you want to have your pain ameliorated, in which case I get paid for ameliorating your pain. But this is a very different situation from what we have now where you get diagnosed with cancer, and the oncologist gets paid whether you walk out of there or not.
CB: Sure. So going back to natal astrology a little bit, one of the primary technical things that you focus on in the book is just determining the temperament through the natal chart, and therefore how to, by extension, balance one’s temperament in order to maintain long-term health, and in order to deal with preventative care in some sense.
CB: What are some of the techniques, or broadly speaking, what would you say is involved in determining a person’s temperament?
CB: That might not be concise enough.
LL: That was two gigantic questions, so let’s deal with them separately.
LL: First of all, there are all sorts of different formulas for determining temperament, but let me list some of the common factors.
LL: Among the factors, first of all, the Sun always has to do with vitality because it basically has to do with getting into the philosophical side of this. The Sun was considered to be the seat of the soul, thumos, which was your spirit in the sense of if you talked about a spirited horse. It was that sense of passion and engagement with life. Now you’d want to look at this for vitality always because if the thumos is being threatened then your very life is being threatened. No sense of spirit, no life. The thumos was considered one of the important souls, so the Sun was always involved.
The Moon was another factor for vitality because the Moon’s job from a soul standpoint was to basically run this body that we have. So the Moon was there to oversee the digestion, oversee the growth, oversee what we would call the somatic processes, the body processes. So again, the Moon is always important.
In pretty much everybody’s temperament assessment, you wanted to look at the Sun and the Moon as pieces of vitality, and also to compute a point which was called the hyleg. The hyleg was called ‘the giver of life.’ Now in virtually everybody’s system, you wanted the Sun or Moon to be hyleg, but the Sun or Moon had to be strong enough in condition to be hyleg, so you had to test its strength.
First of all, the first factor in this is going to be–if you’re looking at the Sun–the Sun is generally considered stronger if it’s a diurnal chart just starting right there. But not all of the diurnal houses–which would be the houses from the 12th house to the 7th house–are considered equally strong from a vitality standpoint. The 12th house is not considered at all strong from a vitality standpoint. So you can have a diurnal Sun but if it’s in the 12th, it’s not considered strong enough to represent the hyleg. So they would do a determination on the Sun.
And with the Moon, the major consideration in most of the systems of computing was whether the Moon was in an angular or succedent house. Again, you’re looking at a very simple concept which is that very early on, the angular houses were considered the strongest, the succedent houses were considered less strong, and the cadent houses were considered weak, if not malefic.
Now that is such a strong statement that in a book like Firmicus, there’s references in the translation to the eight houses, and yet you read the text and it’s talking about the 12 houses. What you realize is the eight were actually the angular and succedent and the other four were the cadent–they were so weak that it was almost not worth talking about. So that was what went into the Moon.
So you went through a whole testing system to come up with hyleg–and as I said, preferably you’d have the Sun or the Moon–but then everybody had different machinations for what to do if the Sun and the Moon weren’t strong enough…
CB: Sure, there’s a whole system.
LL: …but that would be a factor. But as far as the temperament calculation, the phase of the Moon represented one of these processes, one of these cycles. The waxing and waning cycle was considered primary to temperament. The season of the Sun was considered important to factoring temperament. And then there were other factors like aspects of planets to either the Ascendant or to the Moon, those might be other factors. In the medieval period, they came up with a point it was called the ‘ruler of the geniture’ that came into the calculation.
But as I said, there are a lot of different systems that were used but you can see what they were doing. If you were looking at the Sun as a temperament indicator, you would look at, for example, if it’s the summer Sun. So if you’re born in the Northern hemisphere, you’re talking about a person with the Sun in Cancer. Okay, we know that’s a summer Sun. The summer is considered to be hot and dry, so that would add into the temperament points. If you also considered the sign of the Sun, then the Sun is then a water sign, that’s cold and wet.
With the Moon, you’d consider both the Moon sign and the Moon phase, where you’d start at the New Moon–and this was like hitting spring–and then you’d go around. And then with the other bodies if, for example, you have Mars trine the Ascendant, if Mars is in an Air sign then you would add to the hot and wet points. So all of these things were point-based systems where you’d come up and say, “Okay. Well, according to the points, this person is hot and wet, and so they’re sanguine in temperament.”
CB: Okay. So it’s sort of a complex, holistic, overall chart calculation just to determine what the dominant, or what the predominant theme is in the chart.
LL: Yes. Actually what you discover is that the four temperaments we normally talk about are sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic. Sanguine is the Air temperament, choleric is the Fire temperament, melancholic is the Earth temperament, and phlegmatic is the Water temperament. In fact, you also had temperaments that were hot, cold, wet, and dry. And you can tell by inference that there was a 9th temperament, which is what I call in the book ‘none of the above’ or ‘balanced’–where I usually put ‘balanced’ in quotation marks–because you get into this question when you’re doing these point-based systems. If you’ve got somebody who has nine points of hot and eight points of cold, do you really call that person hot?
CB: Right. They’re not really predominant. It’s not really dominating. It’s almost balanced.
LL: Yeah. And it seems that that’s what they were doing when they came up with these situations like dry and wet. What that meant is if somebody is calculated as dry, they’re acknowledging that they’re hot and cold, or essentially balanced in nature, or equivalent.
CB: Okay. And once you’ve determined a person’s temperament, this has all sorts of implications. They had like a typology that had psychological implications and dietary implications. What can you describe from a person’s temperament, would you say?
LL: Actually quite a bit. And it’s a good thing you brought up the psychological material. When people in the 20th century started looking at the Renaissance philosopher Marsilio Ficino and started talking about his astrology, it was really exactly this temperament material that he was talking about. Then people started to say, “Oh, he was the first psychologist.” Well, what he was doing was what people naturally did with this.
For example, a sanguine person, okay, that’s the hot and wet, and I mentioned it was the Air type. The description of a sanguine person is–I’m going to shift over into Shakespeare a little bit–”Hail fellow, well met.” This was the John Falstaff character that was in a couple of Shakespeare’s plays. This would be a guy who was–well, he was somebody you wanted to party with at the bar. He would probably have a pretty good turn of phrase. He’d be fun to be with. He’d be social. He might have a quick wit but he’d forgive you. You didn’t feel threatened, and it was entertaining, so that would be how they would have conceived of the sanguine type.
The moment that they had you classified as sanguine, they knew certain things about how you would act. And one thing about the sanguine type is it’s a very social one. So what this says is you take somebody who is naturally sanguine, and you put them in isolation for some reason–like in a business situation, you send them off to be by themselves to do a project– they’re miserable, and being miserable, they’re not going to do as good a job. So yes, there are psychological components.
There are diet components. The other thing–and this is why they were doing this medically– knowing that someone was sanguine, you also knew something about the kinds of foods that would agree with them, the kinds of foods that would disagree with them. And you would know that as a result of this, it would be better if they ate certain things and avoided other things.
CB: Okay. The primary access point for balancing one’s temperament is doing things that sometimes are in alignment with, or sometimes almost counterbalance your primary temperament, or at least if your temperament has been thrown off temporarily, doing things to bring it back into balance or into alignment.
LL: That’s right. And so the ways that they viewed this was food was big, herbs. Now if you talk about bulk food, bulk food is something like bread, meat, or vegetables. If you talk about bulk food, while they can have these properties–the hot, cold, wet and dry– they tend to have them in kind of a lesser concentration.
Whereas some of the herbs, something like cayenne or ginger have those qualities in a much higher degree as it would be called quite literally. You could use herbs to kind of tweak the body, and so that was something that was done routinely. For example, right now we’re in spring. It was very common to change the diet in spring, to bring in herbs that would basically start to detox the crap that everybody ended up eating over the winter because there wasn’t any fresh food.
The body tended to built up toxins, so you needed to bring in those spring greens that come up to try to get those toxins of the body. Now this is going to be more true of somebody, for example, who shows tendencies toward liver problems, which the liver was considered to be ruled by Jupiter.
So now, this is where the power of the astrological medicine comes. You can look at the chart, and say, “Do I see tendencies here for Jupiter to be involved in disease?” Well, what’s a tendency? If Jupiter rules the 6th because the 6th house is disease. That would tell you the liver probably is more sensitive in this person than in your average Joe, so now you’ve got to do the herbs that would fortify the liver.
CB: Okay, got it. So that becomes your access point for identifying either what parts of the person’s body, or what organs, or what issues are going to tend to arise a little bit more for individuals than others.
LL: Yeah. Now I think it’s very important for us to understand that the traditional medical ideas about disease are different from ours. If you took an average, early 21st century man or woman and said, “If you could predict something about your future disease path, what would it be?” the things you would basically get are, “Will I die of cancer?” or “Will I have heart disease?” We have ideas in terms of our medical practices that there are things we can do with our diet or with our lifestyle patterns that could make our situation better.
If you’re worried about cancer, you take antioxidants. If you’re worried about heart disease then you worry about how much exercise you get. That’s not how they conceived of it. So you can’t read, say, Saunders on medicine in the 17th century and have him talk about, “Well, now this is the astrological chart that will produce someone who will have a heart attack,” it’s just not there. The way that they thought of heart and liver and stomach was–let’s call it a more holistic way.
If you saw liver problems, you weren’t looking for cirrhosis, but you were looking at the idea that you might have to–to use an old term–’tonify the liver.’ Basically, they thought that the way that it worked is if you have a tendency toward liver problems, the liver could be said to get ‘hard,’ for example–that was a word they used a lot. It’s like the liver took in stuff, and it became blocked. Now of course, ‘block’ is a classic Saturn word, so we can translate that piece too.
So if you wanted to unblock the liver then you are going to have to use some of the herbs like greater celandine that were specific to the liver, and so this would hopefully unblock the liver. In more modern, kind of New Age, or alternate medicine lingo, you might be talking about detoxifying the liver, and that use of liver would be much closer to this kind of traditional medical usage.
CB: Sure. And another thing that’s interesting here is how even though some of the specifics are a little bit different, this traditional Western approach to medicine is extremely similar to the Indian approach to astrological medicine or Ayurveda that has some of these concepts integrated into it as well.
LL: Sure. And of course, we know historically that there was a lot of back and forth in the trade routes between India and the Hellenistic zones precisely during the period that Hippocratic medicine was developing and then Hellenistic astrology was developing, so it’s hardly surprising.
CB: Sure. So getting into more technical stuff, at one point in the book, you focus on specific houses and the analysis of those houses from an astrological standpoint in the natal chart as being related to or helpful for identifying patterns, or potentials for the prevalence of disease. I wanted to talk a little bit about that. What areas of a natal chart would you focus on for health or for illness?
LL: You just raised a very important one, Chris, which is that you would never talk about illness in the absence of talking about health. The traditional understanding was always that the baseline state is healthy and that’s the important thing for us to understand.
The baseline state is given by the combination of the Sun, the Moon, this hyleg point I talked about, and the Ascendant. So from a house standpoint you’re looking at the 1st house. In the various historical periods, you get somewhat of a difference in emphasis on whether the ruler of a house is more important or the planets in it more important, but obviously both are going to be used.
Looking at the Ascendant first as a key to vitality is where you start, and that begins to tell you how well does this person interact with the concept of vitality at all. I’m always reminded that in classical readings, you actually talked about the 1st house is relating to the happiness of the native which has become almost a nonexistent subject in many modern readings. But happiness was considered to be related to health, so you started there.
The 6th house was the other primary house that you looked at from the standpoint of disease. And now, just getting into a little more of the technicality, the sign on the 6th house cusp would be relevant as far as having something to do with illness. The planet ruling the 6th house would be very important in looking at that. And then the sign that planet is in is important, and the dispositor of the ruler of the 6th house would be considered important. In other words, I’m just naming the usual suspects.
LL: If you’d ask me about career, I’d be using a different house but I’d be using essentially the same kind of process. So basically, if you’re looking at the chart of someone, if you look at the general strength of those factors relating to the 1st house–if those factors tend to be stronger than those factors related to the 6th house–then you’ve got a person who on average is healthy. If you have more difficult factors related to the 6th house then you may have the reverse. Especially if you have the malefics–Saturn, Mars, and the South Node–associated with the 6th house then you’re looking at some of the more serious forms of illness.
Now it’s also important to remember that what the natal chart is showing you is basically those organs or those situations which will produce disease at various points in your life that are, so to speak, more important. But it’s not saying whatever is on the cusp of the 6th house is giving you something where everyday of your life you’re going to be plagued by that.
LL: And that’s a really important distinction for us always to remember.
CB: Yeah. That’s really interesting. An important distinction I’ve been coming back to periodically with traditional astrology in general is that sometimes it’s harder I think for traditional astrologers. Modern astrologers, if you’re interpreting the chart in an entirely psychological context, there’s some ways in which some of the statements that you make might be true the entirety of the person’s life without pause. Whereas sometimes when you’re dealing with concrete events that are indicated in the natal chart, you might be looking at something that only manifests one major time in a person’s life, or that manifests two or three times, or maybe periodically but may not necessarily be something that’s constant and ever-present necessarily.
LL: Let me give you a trivial example of this. In my own chart, I have Aquarius on the cusp of the 6th house. Now we can look at that in terms of Saturn, and so my Saturn’s in Libra. So I can say that, okay, in the long run, I will probably have some problems that are related to the bones or the teeth. Those would be the obvious delineations of Saturn. Since my Saturn’s exalted, I might have fewer problems with them than other people. Now I can say to date and with the proverbial knock on wood, I haven’t broken any bones or anything, and I haven’t had any kind of major dental problems.
So first of all, that means I’ve gotten through 60-something years where I haven’t had to even think about that. But a couple years ago, I had a problem with my ankle. Now ankle is a specific Aquarius point. So this ankle problem has just stayed, and stayed, and stayed, and come to live. Now it’s not that this is something where every day of my life I’m miserable with this. But the point is, is that I realized from a symbolic standpoint that when I realized I had an ankle problem it was, “Oh, that.”
LL: It was something I was going to have to deal with more aggressively than the kinds of things that–you get flu this year, and the next year, you get the measles or whatever. If you see that those are conditions that really aren’t described by your 6th house then you just go through the routine of whatever you want to do with them. But when you do see the relationship to the 6th house, you realize that this is going to be probably more of a theme that you’re going to have to deal with, and so you may have to, as a result, think about how you approach it differently.
CB: Sure. And sometimes it can be surprisingly literal. You have the assignments, the traditional assignments of each of the signs of the zodiac to the different parts of the body, and sometimes even those and where they fall in the chart can be surprisingly descriptive about recurring ailments, or things, or problems a person sometimes deals with.
I was always impressed when I first learned some medical astrology and some of those assignments. I had Cancer on the cusp of the 6th house, and I had always had stomach issues at different points in my life growing up–Cancer and the Moon of course being associated with the stomach. So sometimes it can be very simple and very literal like that just in terms of looking at a person’s birth chart. And I’m sure that’s not always the case, but I’m often impressed by how literally some of those placements can manifest.
LL: It’s interesting because I had a horary come in this morning, and the querent who had asked the question was having some symptoms that looked to her rather like a mild stroke. And I have a number of clients who are not happy to have to go into regular medical but if they have to they obviously will. So she had asked me what’s going on, and I had pulled up the horary chart and none of the indicators of stroke showed up. But what did show up as the ruler of the 6th house was Venus. And of course, this morning, as you were giving the date and time of this conversation, the Moon was also in Libra.
So you’ve got two indicators there of Venus being involved in the illness, and the Moon was actually in the 6th house. And so I said, “Well, looking at this, it doesn’t look like there’s anything related to stroke, but you probably should have this looked at,” which is always a wise thing to say because we are not the doctors. We are not the treaters of these conditions, and we have to acknowledge that there are people who can check these things out for us.
Well, she decided to go to her chiropractor, and she gave him the symptoms of what was going on and he worked on her. What was interesting was he told her the problem she had–because she was having something going on very specific in her visual field. He said, “Well, those are the cervical vertebrae.” And when she’s telling me this, I’m cracking up because, of course, the cervical vertebrae are the vertebrae of the neck, and through Taurus, Venus rules the neck.
CB: Right. Interesting. Well, that raises a question though I was going to save this for later but maybe this is a good time. I’m sure there’s a lot of ethical and legal issues connected with the practice of medical astrology in modern times. How do you deal with, or what your thoughts on some of that stuff?
LL: Well, I think the first thing is that what I acknowledge–and I say this when I’m doing medical horary to people–is that I’m not a physician I am a doctor but it’s a PhD doctor. But I am not a physician. I do not have any licencing to treat medicine. Ultimately, what astrology is doing primarily is timing. But what I’m doing when I’m doing horary, or I’m looking at a natal chart is I’m looking at how a practitioner in the 17th century would have looked at it. So this essentially should be understood as a historical analysis. Now people can take whatever meaning they want to out of the historical analysis, but this should not be substituted for licensed medical advice.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I would think that with most clients that are dealing with serious medical issues, perhaps there are some where you’re just like, “Go to a doctor,” or “This is not necessarily something that you need astrology for, per se.” I guess I wonder sometimes, in some instances, do you feel like you use medical astrology more as a tool for maintaining overall health? Do you then refer clients for other immediate, pressing medical concerns? Are there any tendencies in terms of that?
LL: Well, I would like more clients to be interested in maintaining their health rather than calling me in emergencies.
LL: So I try to do that for myself obviously and for the people around. But mostly, I think what I find myself doing as far as clients is really looking at the timing of things. And you get called in about questions about, “Is this particular doctor appropriate for me?” To just give you some examples of that, in the last couple of days with medicals I’ve been dealing with, I have a client whose husband was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Now multiple myeloma is a cancer that nobody in the Hellenistic period, or in Lilly’s period, or anything in between would have even been able to diagnose. It’s a condition of the bones and the production of blood cells in the bones, and that’s not something they were even able to analyze.
I didn’t have a decumbiture chart on him to do the diagnosis–he went into the hospital because he was in pain–but I have the hospital admission time. The hospital admission time is considered a completely valid decumbiture, so I have some ideas about how this illness is going to proceed. But the major thing I’m doing right now is with his wife, we’re timing all of his chemo treatments. Now I did not say, “Well, don’t go for chemo.” I mean it was completely their choice as to what medical procedures they were going to use.
CB: Sure. So most of the time it’s not a matter of giving specific advice about what a person should or shouldn’t do but more to help the treatment along–if they’re already going to be doing certain things–helping in terms of electional astrology with picking dates that might be more effective in terms of the administration of certain treatments or things like that.
CB: Okay. Got it.
LL: Now I think it’s also worth mentioning, Chris, that one of the things that truly is a shame about modern medicine as it’s being practiced is that they have stepped out of having very much interest at all in causation. The human mind is massively interested in causation.
For example, I had a guy who had contacted me about a week ago about his daughter who was about two-years-old–two- or three-years-old. Anyway, she had a seizure. He took her in, and the docs went through their whole routine of looking at every possible thing they look at and couldn’t come up with any kind of idea about what caused the seizure. All of their tests came back negative, so they couldn’t tell him whether he could expect her to have seizures again. But what happened was he asked me a horary question, and specifically, he wanted to know what the cause of the disease was. And the specific piece was about two weeks before, she had a couple of vaccinations.
Now from our standpoint, we can look at causation because in the 17th century–or in the 5th century, or in the 9th century, or in the 2nd century–causation was vital to understanding the nature of the treatment that you could give, as well as what the course of the disease was going to be. So it’s a gray area, but it’s an area that essentially modern medicine has abandoned.
CB: Sure. So perhaps through the astrology and through the timing, and astrology’s ability sometimes to trace back periods in which originating causes of things may have occurred–because of that sort of heavy timing component of astrology–maybe being able to have an alternative access point to identifying the source of ailments.
LL: Sure, when you can find the timing of something because very often your client can say, “Oh, well, at that time. x, y, z happened.” Some of it’s just as simple as a chemical basis. I had a woman a number of years ago who was having one of these mysteries diseases, and she wanted to know what had caused it, and what came up was the liver.
So we know that when the liver’s involved, speaking in a modern sense, the liver has to process every toxin that goes through the body. Any substance, any chemical that we can’t normally digest pretty much is going to either go to the liver or kidney. I’m just speaking standard physiology here.
What I got out of the horary was when the problem had occurred. And it turned out that the day that the horary said that the problem had occurred, she had been outside washing all of her fence posts on her property with this cleaning chemical. So you get by that, okay, there’s something in the chemical that caused the condition that you’re having, and it’s affecting your liver.
CB: Sure. I can think of another example of that where a friend of mine, or somebody I know, he suddenly fell ill last summer, and he didn’t understand why, or what was going on. They knew what the symptoms were but didn’t know what was causing it. And then it turned out that just a couple of months earlier, he had gone to a place where there were a lot of ticks. And it turned out that he must have had one get under his skin, and he didn’t realize it, and so he got–what’s the name of that?
LL: Lyme disease.
CB: Yeah, Lyme disease. So he developed Lyme disease, and he was showing the early, onset stages of the results of that. And I’m sure in some instance like that where you have a mystery illness, if you could trace back the origins of that, or see when it might have started that would be very useful for treatment.
LL: Yeah. The thing is the way that medicine works right now, they’ve got a massive number of tests that were never available in the past, but it’s basically simple chemistry. And you’re looking at, well, what’s the level of creatine? What’s the level of B12? What’s the level of this? What’s the level of that? If they don’t have a disease which matches those numbers then they don’t have a way to diagnose it.
CB: Sure. And in terms of that and sort of leading to one of the final topics with this–which I think you deal with a little bit in the book–is just the final stage in terms of predicting illness through the ‘critical day theory,’ but also longevity and issues surrounding the length of life, since that was traditionally tied in with this topic as well. That’s something you deal with very carefully and in a pretty nuanced way I think, right?
LL: Yeah, I think it’s very important. We know in the history of astrology, it was typical–at least in the medieval period–to include an estimation of the length of life as part of the more detailed natal readings that were done. I’ve always had my doubts about this, and my doubts basically come from my scientific background.
Basically having been very interested in the topic of demography for a long, long time, one of the things you get into is that, for example, you can go online and you can look at how different countries in the world have different disease patterns as far as either what people get or what people die of. For example, some of the kinds of cancer that we have in the United States would be unknown in some places in Asia, or there’s different rates of heart disease, there’s different rates of particular kinds of cancer. And some of this is as simple as, well, these people smoke and these people don’t. There’s some rather serious cause and effect pieces here.
LL: Basically, if you think about it, at any point in time, you’ve got multiple people being born. You can have somebody born in the US who has a very similar chart to somebody born in India, but were both put into matrices that are very different in terms of diet, in terms of lifestyle, and these all affect what can happen to us. So I don’t believe that the absolute calculation of length of life was ever really that effective.
LL: But I think what astrology gets at–and I think this is actually a very important thing and a much less scary thing–is that what we can examine are what Jane Ridder-Patrick and I came to call ‘exit visas.’ Now whether the technique you want to use is transits–or profections, or progressions, or solar arcs, or solar returns, or take your dynamic method of choice–if you look at that method over decades in a person’s life, you are going to identify a whole series of what we could call ‘critical points.’ You will typically see maybe two, maybe three or four, maybe a few more in the course of a decade, and in every decade. And what Jane and I independently had realized was going on is that we are mortal beings, we will die. Astrology can identify these points in our life where things become very difficult. And when things become difficult, so to speak, physiologically, death is a possible alternative.
Now this is not the same is saying the person will die, it’s saying the person could die. Now when you can move away from people just having an instinctive recoil against the word ‘death’ to realizing that if we can predict these times, this also means that the person who understands this can understand that at this time, if you get sick don’t just take an aspirin.
LL: This is one where you do need to consult the doctor, this can be life-saving. I think the problem with the traditional predictions of death–and we do have some people in the community who do this–is that the person who hears this, especially if they weren’t expecting to hear it gets traumatised.
LL: They spend that year absolutely going out of their mind, and if they survive it, they’ve pissed off astrology. But the point is that they went through angst essentially for nothing. Now we see the psychology of how this works because everyone of us who lives to the age at which are individual parents died goes through issues that year. It’s when you realize, “Damn, I’m the age my mother was when she died.” That’s a pretty scary year.
LL: And psychologically, it’s hard to do that. When psychologically you’re starting to feel that way, you can drag your physiology along with your brain. I think the thing is that if we can find ways to identify these difficult times in advance–and say, hey, you need to pamper yourself a little bit this year, you need to be consciously aware that illness is a possibility, but look at the bigger matrix of your life, look at how you can choose to remain here–now it becomes a way to really make it a period of more introspection and reflection than a period of, “Oh, my God! I’m going to die a horrible death.”
CB: Right. And it sounds like reframing them as periods that may be difficult for vitality…
CB: …since that’s really what the primary technique in its setup indicates. You’re trying to find the significators that represent the person’s vitality, and then you do primary directions for the most part until they hit something difficult. And in that year, it doesn’t necessarily mean the person will definitely die, but it may be a period that could be potentially difficult for their vitality.
LL: Mm-hmm. And then that also gives you the opportunity in looking at these traditional ideas about the qualities to say, “Okay, in this particular year, you need to be more concerned about how much water you drink.” “In this year, you need to be more concerned about how much exercise you get.” “In this year, you may need to be more concerned about how much sleep you get.” So you’ve got various practical ways to approach this.
There’s a very wonderful story that I mentioned in the book about a Chinese master who when confronted with what we would call an “exit visa” year, looks very carefully from a Chinese perspective about exactly what kind of elemental balance he needed to be around to survive it. And he simply took himself for the entire year and put himself in a natural environment that had precisely the right elemental balance, and he survived.
The interesting thing is that within the idea of traditional Chinese medicine, he went on to have even greater eminence and fame as a doctor because everybody said, “Wow! This guy practices what he preaches.” Whereas to astrologers, we all look at somebody like Jerome Cardano and say, “Wow! He predicted the day of his death.”
LL: Now I would say I’d go with the Chinese guy.
CB: Yeah, that does sound more impressive, the guy that predicted when he could potentially die but then survived versus the guy that just died when he predicted that he would.
CB: That’s a good anecdote, I like that. All right. Well, I think that sort of brings us towards the end of most of the major topics that I wanted to cover. Are there any other main points that we were supposed to mention that we didn’t have a chance to get to?
LL: I think one of the things that comes up as an issue is what do we do about the fact that, to quote Mary Baker Eddy here, the number of diseases is increasing daily, which sounds rather like Al-Biruni talking about the Arabic Parts.
CB: Right. The number of Arabic Parts are increasing, they increase daily, I guess was the quote.
LL: Yeah. In one sense, studying medical astrology is very daunting. Right at the beginning, you listed off the three areas as far as involvement with natal, and electional, and horary. That already is saying that the subset of astrologers who are going to practice this is not the entire group of astrologers because a lot of astrologers simply don’t study electional or horary that much, and wouldn’t feel that comfortable with it. And even if you studied it in general sense, there are a lot of astrologers who don’t feel comfortable dealing with medical issues. But one of the things that people mention is, “But yeah, I was talking about this guy with multiple myeloma.”
A couple of years ago, I was working with a mother whose child had retinoblastoma–which is a cancer of the eye that shows up in very young infants–and if you don’t treat it right it leads to blindness. But these are conditions that people didn’t necessarily even know about even 20 years ago. And so how do we deal with this? When I say I’m doing basically what William Lilly would do, well, I’m doing what William Lilly would do, but William Lilly didn’t know about retinoblastoma.
LL: So how do we deal with this? Well, the answer–and I think this is the answer to a lot of things in astrology. You practice a primarily Hellenistic version, I practice a primarily late medieval version, but either one of us gets the question, “Okay, now, what do you do with podcasts?”
CB: Right. What rules podcasts?
LL: Yeah. So this is a perennial astrological problem. It doesn’t matter what style of astrology you do, you’re going to run up against this. I think the better way to assign rulerships is to really think, and ponder, and observe what kind of characteristics this new noun has as to how you can classify it. Medically, it’s fairly easy because you can look at the part of the body that’s affected.
For example, when I got the case on retinoblastoma, it’s a disease of the eyes, and so immediately I knew that I could go to the Sun and the Moon. Well, it turned out that in this kid’s chart, he had the Moon conjunct Aldebaran. Aldebaran is the fixed star that’s the eye of the Bull.
LL: A number of years ago, Diana Rosenberg in her work on the fixed stars had pointed out that the part of the body represented by the fixed star in a constellation is highly significant. And what you can often have is if it’s an ‘eye’ star, you can have acute vision, or you can have blindness. So it’s simply it’s atypical. Looking at this boy’s natal chart, I could say, “Well, there is a possibility of blindness showing up,” so that told me immediately this has to be dealt with carefully.
Now I didn’t say, “And he will be blind,” and I think this is the important thing. What you’re always looking for when you’re doing medical is can you by knowing what the factors are help the person to achieve the best possible outcome? That’s what your goal is. And we’re simply saying that by controlling timing, there’s a lot that can do to help the process be as optimal as possible.
When you think about it, a number of people learn, for example, in history that George Washington was very badly treated in the last months of his life by being over-bled. And he complained mightily about the fact that in those days bleeding was a very common medical procedure, and he felt like all of his blood was being taken out of him.
Well, the thing is, if you think about this, here we’re talking about the 18th century, which is the period when this traditional medicine had disconnected from astrology. And that means that there was no medical astrologer saying, “It is Tuesday, don’t bleed the guy,” or saying anything else about this is not a good time to do it. We don’t know this of course, but to me this is an intriguing question.
You had this traditional system that was good enough to operate under the ‘contract for a cure,’ and yet, later on in the absence of astrology, you get all these complaints about how it worked. So I find this very interesting and something for us as astrologers to contemplate. But this idea that we can look at the part of the body that’s being affected as a way to bring in the new diseases actually makes it fairly simple for us to start to apply these as diagnoses change, as ideas about how to treat them change. But again, we’re not so much determining the treatment piece, we’re trying to look at a more holistic view of what and when.
CB: Sure. Yeah, it sounds like there’s this, not a tension, but multiple motivations in terms of, on the one hand, reviving some of the ancient techniques that were used in the context of medical astrology–because that’s really where the medical tradition comes from and hasn’t been practiced that way in hundreds of years–so that there’s not a continuous tradition of medical astrology through to modern times to draw on as much as there might be some other traditions. But then at the same time, to some extent, the cultural relativity of astrology demands some level of updating, or some level of refinement in order to adapt it to modern times and modern medical notions. I’m not sure if bleeding a patient is not going to be at the top of a doctor’s to-do list most times.
LL: No, it’s not. On the other hand, we also have to know what the symptoms of stroke are, and we can’t be stupid.
CB: Sure. And I noticed that you do that to some extent, even though a large part of the point of your book is to set that foundation. Once you’ve established what the foundation is–and you understand the core underlying symbolic principles of medical astrology, as you’ve demonstrated–you might be able to then understand how to contextualize a modern disease, or a modern ailment that doesn’t have an ancient precursor. I noticed in the book that you do take some steps to sort of update it and incorporate some things from modern times that are relevant. For example, I noticed that you used, or showed where the outer planets are in all of your chart examples.
CB: So does that represent an element that you feel as important or useful on some level to incorporate into medical astrology in modern times?
LL: Well, as you also noticed, I haven’t used those planets as sign rulers. I simply use them as placements.
LL: Yeah, I think there is some relevance of it. Now as far as the way that I practice with this, I’m looking at the outer planets as essentially harbingers of longer term processes and particular ideas because we have certain metaphors that are useful when we deal with the outer planets.
For example, electromagnetism is a useful metaphor that’s associated with Uranus. Neptune certainly is associated with fluids. A good old-timey term for Pluto actually is ‘rust.’ And also that kind of decay process can be important with Pluto. I don’t use them a lot, but I certainly look at them. I think, in one sense, they were discovered, we should at least give them the courtesy of putting them in the charts.
LL: What I think is of more importance to me in terms of delineation, and just as a couple of general ideas, well, some of the electionals that we get now are very different than the electionals that Saunders would have gotten, or Cardano, or Bonatti would have gotten, or any of the other ancients.
For example, we get asked to do charts, elect charts for something like quitting smoking.
LL: We do have references to smoking in some of the 17th century texts. There’s a very good probability–and I talked about that in a Mountain Astrologer article–that Culpeper himself died of COPD. And the symptoms that are given now would be pretty striking although you can never be sure, but you can look at some of these ideas as models.
In the 17th century, when they talked about lung problems, they’d talk about–and I’m not even sure how to pronounce it–let’s call it phthisis. We’d now translate that as tuberculosis. Culpeper, it turned out, was one of the people who was a big smoker. Even his friends noticed how much he smoked and wondered when he developed the lung condition if there wasn’t some connection with it. So you can see there that kind of thought process that people developed as they confront a new condition.
LL: So we have some historical models for how you adapt. Certainly in the 16th century, in the 17th century, people were having to figure out rulerships of parts of the globe that people didn’t know existed. That never occurred to any of the astrologers that the Americas wouldn’t have a rulership. So we’re basically applying many of the same rules that we would do in any other area of astrology as we adapt to changing times.
CB: Sure. That makes a lot of sense. And this is a great area where that’s very vivid just in terms of reviving some of the ancient techniques and ancient approaches, but at the same time incorporating new information and new things that exist in the world that perhaps didn’t exist, or weren’t as prevalent, or weren’t known about back then, and trying to create a synthesis between those two.
All right. Well, I think you did a great job of that. The book’s over 300 pages. It has this awesome layout. The format of the book–it’s one of the first things people notice–but it’s more of a rectangular format where it opens to the side.
LL: It’s landscape instead of portrait.
CB: Right. What was the motivation? Is it so that it lays open?
LL: Actually it wasn’t my idea, it was my publisher’s idea. I had a hiatus in publishing between The Martial Art of Horary Astrology and Astrology of Sustainability while Kepler College was going on, and I was mostly putting my time into writing classes. But when I got back to it, the thing was–and this is always an issue–how do you set up your chart forms on your computer?
LL: Because I had been using a table of essential dignities on everything for all these many years–a chart form that worked for me on my computer–it made the most sense to go a landscape mode. Now of course most computer screens are in landscape mode naturally. So when I was submitting the charts for Astrology of Sustainability, they got all these landscape mode charts. And I thought, “Okay, well, they’ll shrink it down, and there will be a little bit of type above and a little bit of type below.”
And the guy who was doing the book design at the time said, “Why don’t we just make the page mimic the chart rather than the other way around?”
LL: So he came up with the idea for these landscape mode books. Well, the downside of them is they’re a little awkward to store, but the good side of them is that means that the facing page is talking about that chart.
This has actually been an issue that I’ve had some discussions with my publisher on. For example, how useful is an e-book format when you have a lot of charts in your book?
LL: When you’re trying to study a chart, and the author is talking about delineation, you want to flip back and look at the chart. And so it turns out that this landscape mode has been very nice especially because the chart can be bigger. For those of us whose eyesight is not quite perfect anymore, that’s especially nice, too.
CB: Brilliant. Yeah, I love it. You’ve got tons of chart examples in the book. You’ve got a big glossary as well as some terms for people that aren’t familiar with horary which is very useful. Although even then I think the book acts as a nice companion to your earlier book, which is still my favorite. It was my first book on horary and still my favorite one, which is The Martial Art of Horary Astrology. I think it’s sort a nice companion piece to that at least for the horary bits.
CB: And you’ve got two others that I’ll have to talk to you about at some point in the future. Are you working on any other books? What do you have coming up right now?
LL: I’m actually doing some preliminary work for a book right now where I am spending an inordinate amount of time reading Aristotle.
LL: As you know, the way I like to structure my books is with a very large chapter one which talks about the history of whatever the technique or the method that I’m doing is. There are many issues. Just to go back–like medicine–to these philosophical discussions that were going on, if you skip over the philosophy and say this isn’t important, you lose a great deal about understanding why they did things.
CB: Yeah. It’s really wild how much a lot of Western astrology still represents a sort of applied, practical version of many aspects of Western philosophy with things like the elements, or the temperaments, and things like that that you can trace right back to Aristotle, and Plato, and earlier pre-Socratic philosophers.
LL: Yeah. Of course, the other thing there is we’re due to have some much more serious discussions of soul. I think now that we’re in a period where–at least among astrologers–we’re not necessarily forced to synthesize everything through a final Christian soul on top of the original Greek souls that we need to go back to some of these earlier concepts of soul to understand our astrological concepts. Because these ideas are developing at the same time that the astrological tradition is developing, it’s such an important overlay that–ignore at your peril.
CB: Yeah, definitely. That would actually be a lot of fun. That’d be a great discussion to have it at some point. That’s something I’ve been interested in looking at as well in terms of how some of the different Hellenistic astrologers dealt with and conceptualized the soul, and this long, astrological question in the tradition of where is the soul in the birth chart, or is the soul represented in the birth chart.
LL: Yeah, it’s a huge issue. Of course, I think one of the things is that we got into the idea, and that’s why I say we have this need to do this in a post-Christian context. When you got the Christian soul sitting on top of these various things, it then became very easy to just take all these multiple souls and collapse them down–and, oh, they’re ruled by the Moon–and these are important.
I mentioned earlier the concept of thumos. This is one of the souls that I’ve been putting a lot of thought into and a lot of emphasis on because it’s so critical to how we stand in our body, and basically the ultimate question–why are we here?–but it’s only one. An attempt to not talk about the others, or to pretend that there’s only one really affects how we deal with the chart. I’ve talked about it a little bit in the book. One of the other very old things that you had to consider in the course of doing medical astrology is, is the disease of the body, the mind, or the soul?
LL: This is such an underused method today. Our community certainly talks about what we would call issues of spirit. We’ve got this whole concept called spiritual astrology, but we’re not grounding it in the biology of the being who is part matter and part soul.
CB: Brilliant. Yeah, that would make for a great exploration, especially in modern times. I was recently talking to somebody about some of the modern schools have certain assertions like Pluto is the soul, or whatever. Eris, I’m sure in a few decades will be the soul. It might be interesting to have a wide-ranging discussion like we’ve had today about some of the ancient conceptualizations of the soul.
LL: Yeah. Absolutely.
CB: All right. Excellent. Well, we’ll save that for next time. In the meantime, I’ll put the link to your book, which is titled Traditional Medical Astrology, on the description page for the podcast website. And then of course, people can find out more information about you on your website. What’s the url for that?
LL: It’s leelehman.com.
CB: Excellent. Well, I definitely recommend people check out your website. You teach different courses, and you recently finished a redesign for the full International Academy of Astrology course, right?
LL: Yeah, we changed the curriculum at IAA just within this last year to a program that completely integrates classical astrology with modern astrology from the very beginning. And of course, your experience of something sort of like this was the original Kepler BA and AA program. It was a degree school where we did ancient, and modern, and Jyotish all of one program, which was just grand and wonderful.
This isn’t quite the same because IAA’s is more a vocationally-directed program. But I found it very refreshing to be able to put the two together and really get people to start thinking about where techniques came from.
CB: Right, which has always been one of your main things and which you demonstrate really well with this book. Great. Well, people should definitely check that out, and check out your website at leelehman.com. And we’ll definitely have to have you back again to talk about some of the other books that you’ve been cranking out over the past few years, as well as some of those other tricky topics like the soul.
LL: All right. Well, thank you, Chris. It’s been fun.
CB: All right. Thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.