Warren Kenton (aka Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi) was born into a Jewish Sefardi family. Educated at St Martin's School of Art and the Royal Academy School of painting, he worked in a variety of occupations including general and psychiatric hospitals, the Royal Opera House and a theatre workshop.
He has studied Kabbalah for 40 years. During this time he researched and visited important ancient Kabbalistic centres in Israel, Spain, France and North Africa. While this was going on, he published 11 books on Kabbalah including a novel and 3 books on astrology and cosmology. His works have been translated into 12 languages. Has also written articles for the magazines Temenos, Gnosis, Caduceus, Maitreya and The Open Centre
He has taught Kabbalah since 1971 and runs his own Way of Kabbalah
courses in Britain, France, Holland, Germany, the USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Israel. He also ran courses for the Wrekin Trust for many years and lectured for the Prince of Wales's Institute, the Temenos Academy, the New York Open Centre, Omega Institute, Centre for Psychological Astrology, Interface Boston, Karen Kabbalah Atlanta and the NY Kabbalah Society and the Jungian Institute of Santa Fe New Mexico as well as rabbinical colleges and synagoguges. He is now Director of Tutors for the Kabbalah Society which has groups worldwide.
for more information on the organisation and its tours etc; and for details of Warren's books, www.kabbalahsociety.org/books.html
Q: How did you get interested in astrology and kabbalah in the first place, and which came first?
Well I suppose initially it was fairy tales. The character of the astrologer always seemed to be the most interesting in any story. I was always aware that, behind fairy stories, there is some kind of teaching. When I was in my early 20's I had a group of friends who seemed to know answers to certain things. I discovered that they belonged to a school of the soul, which I later joined - this was about forty years ago.
From then, I became involved with esoteric work. While studying and practising, I encountered kabbalah and astrology.
Q: What was this 'school of the soul'?
It was the Ouspensky line; this was my initial training. However, I'm a Jew, and so kabbalah had a particular appeal. My grandfather was a very devout Spanish Jew. When I asked my parents, 'How come I was were never told about this?' 'Ah, you're not supposed to study kabbalah…' was the reply.
Kabbalah introduced to me the principles of cosmology and psychology. Astrology ran in parallel to my esoteric education. There was no conflict between them, or with what I had learned from the Ouspensky work.
Q: Do you believe that, if you go back far enough, these traditions all come from the same point?
My understanding is that they ultimately all come from the same point, in that the basic teaching is present in all traditions, be they Oriental, Occidental, African, or Native American tradition. Kabbalah clearly goes back to the ancient Middle East: pre-Babylonian; pre-Ur of the Chaldees. Where Abraham came from. So I would say that, being in the Levite lineage, I'm connected back to that source. Some people believe that kabbalah came from Egypt, but actually if you look at Jewish mythology and metaphysics, there isn't much of Egypt about it. It's said that Moses learned everything in Egypt - well, where are the gods? Where is the obsession with life after death? The Bible clearly has roots in the Mesopotamian occult tradition.
So to answer your question: yes, all esoteric teachings go back to the same source. Human beings are essentially the same, so what has been received by revelation from the higher worlds is often identical in essence, though it may be coloured by a particular culture. There are of course degenerate or even distorted versions of the Teaching or Torah.
Q: Do you feel that astrology needs an underpinning of kabbalistic philosophy to make sense of it?
Astrology is an independent line. But (as I say in the book I'm re-writing at the moment, The Anatomy of Fate*) if you put these two disciplines together, you get a kind of three-dimensional picture. This is because you can put the horoscope on the Tree of Life diagram, and see the psyche, or astral body, more precisely. One can gain insights by a combination of the two that are not possible otherwise.
* Published as Astrology & Kabbalah (A Rewrite of The Anatomy of Fate) by the Urania Trust in 2000.
Q: Could you give an example of how that works?
If you take your basic tree, there are several strata to be seen: there's the physical, the emotional, and the intellectual levels. You can divide these into active and passive pillars. For example, if the emotional level of Mars and Jupiter are seen, from a kabbalistic point of view, Mars acts as the contractive
, and Jupiter the expansive
principle. When these two planets are connected with the Sun, which is at the heart of the tree - half-way between the top and the bottom - then you get what is called a triad of the soul. This triad is the area within the psyche that is capable of self-consciousness and choice. The inferior planets Mercury and Venus (which constitute the biological and lower levels of the mind) are under natural law; that is, they work as rhythm and reflex, you can't stop them.
The superior planets - that is, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto - are at a transpersonal level in contrast to the soul triad where the self of the Sun permits free choice. The Moon or ego level is more or less automatic.
Supposing for example that you have Mars in Libra: this makes people very indecisive. Let's assume that Jupiter is in Capricorn, in square. That means that there is a tremendous stress at the emotional level, in that they can't make up their mind. This is because the expansive principle of Jupiter is constricted by Capricorn, while Mars dithers. The position of the Sun may mitigate the situation, or it may make it worse.
That tells you much about the inner life of that person. When you look at Venus, Mercury and the Moon, you can define the everyday reaction of a person. This is not so discernible with the superior planets, which only affect most people in a general way.
With practice, one begins to build up a picture of the structure and dynamic of the psyche. At the base of the tree is the ascendant, or body, with the Sun as the self on the central axis running up the middle of the tree. Their astrological juxtaposition (taken in combination with the position of the Moon/ego) will tell you how that person relates to the external world.
The ascendant, Mercury, Venus, and the Moon form a big triad which contains the three triads of action, thought and feeling - in which, for example, an afflicted Mercury will afflict the thinking process. In contrast, if Venus is particularly well-aspected, the action triad will be highly efficient. By understanding how kabbalistic and astrological functions interact, much can be learnt from a birthchart.
Q: At least two of the astrologers I have talked to have touched on the need for the astrologer to encourage people to work on the qualities of their Sun, to stop them from being dominated by the Moon. It sounds as if you would agree?
That's what I would call individuation (in modern Jungian terms). But I would like to add to that, if you introduce the kabbalistic view, the Sun has three faces: a physical, a psychological, and a spiritual level. When somebody lives off their physical Sun, you get perhaps a great adventurer, or great mountaineer - a very physical person. With the psychological Sun comes self-knowledge. The spiritual level of the Sun represents a highly advanced state of being. Such a person knows what their destiny is. In kabbalah, the Sun is where the three lower worlds meet. Neptune is where the divine comes in.
Q: Is it possible, do you believe, to tell which of those levels someone is working on from their chart?
A chart may reveal potentiality, but until you see the client you don't know if they are living off their ascendant, their Moon, or the Sun. You can only perceive that when you actually have the person in front of you. I've seen people with brilliant charts who are simply living off their Moon, while others with less talent are exploiting what they have to the full. This is the factor of free-will.
Q: How do you get someone to change, to grow?
You can't! You can recommend, you can advise, but theirs is the choice. Generally speaking, if people ask to see me they have usually got a serious problem. A man came to me once - obviously highly intelligent - and said, 'I'm always being fired from my job. Why?' I looked at his chart and said, 'You always tell the boss how to do his job'. He said, 'It is a habit of mine'. I said, 'You are a natural leader. You should not work for anyone else, be your own master'. He was much relieved, when he realised that was his problem. On the other hand, I did a chart for a friend's mother. She said, 'Isn't everyone like that?' - she had no concept of individuality. For instance, you can have twins, born within four minutes of each other, and yet one is positive and one is negative. Same chart, individual reaction. In an extreme case, one can be a maniac and the other a depressive.
Q: How much time do you take to prepare before a reading?
The practice I use is, to draw up a chart but not look at it in detail before I sit down in front of the client. I then look at them, to ascertain their level, and then consider the chart. First I give an outline, and then say, 'What do you want to know?' That's when the reading becomes interesting, as the reason for the consultation emerges. Sometimes the real question is avoided so prompting may be needed - or the subject avoided as its not the right time to discuss the issue.
Q: When you talk about looking at someone and finding out what level they are at; is that something which is basically applied common-sense, or is there some kind of psychic faculty involved?
It's experience. An old doctor can look at a patient and say, 'Measles'. How does he know? It's because he has seen measles hundreds of times. It's a mixture of experience, observation and intuition. If you've done hundreds of charts, then one comes to a point when a glance at a chart and face will conjure up an insight or comment.
You should know your astrological principles, kabbalistic theory, and understand psychology. Of course, one can only see up to one's own level; you can't see beyond that except by inspiration. But by the time one is forty (and I'm now sixty-six) one should know something about life, and be able to recognise things about people who come along. By the age of fifty, one should no longer rely on books.
Q: Talking about books - whose books did you study in the first place?
Well, the interesting thing is that I didn't learn from books. We had a kabbalistic-astrological study group, and we learned by doing a series of exercises such as bringing in a poem or a picture which described one of the planets. Then we would spend weeks working through the zodiacal signs. We had a wonderful arrangement of inviting someone who was dying to have their chart done to cook us a supper, on the basis that we did their chart. After a slap-up dinner, we would do the cook's chart, influenced no doubt by the standard of their cooking.
After doing many charts, we began to recognise archetypal patterns and the way they affected temperament or fate. One could see the way the planets would harmonise, or generate discord and strife.
Q: Is that an approach you would recommend to anyone who wants to become an astrologer?
What I would recommend is to get someone who knows the basics of astrology and kabbalah, and a group of keen people. Once you have established a regular day to study it will take on its own momentum, especially with the meal for a chart reading routine. Then it can be great fun.
Q: So how much do you need to know before you begin?
The leader of the group needs to have some knowledge and a certain amount of intuition - without this factor of insight and experience the exercise could become mechanical. Also, most important, the level of the client needs to be ascertained - at least by the teacher. Take the classic case of two people who came to see me many years ago: one had a chart full of harmonious aspects, and the other had just the opposite. You couldn't have a greater contrast. The one who had trines was lazy and arrogant, as she sat slumped in the chair. The other one sat upright, alert and disciplined. Normally one might have thought that the one with the squares would be disadvantaged, and the other would be riding high - but it was not so. The former had conquered her problems, the latter was oblivious of hers. One cannot just interpret according to some book. What people do with their charts is the crucial part.
Q: I was interested to see, in The Anatomy of Fate, how important you regard the three recently-discovered planets (Uranus, Neptune, Pluto) as being. How does that fit with your use of such an ancient system as the kabbalah?
Kabbalah, like astrology, is not stuck in the past. As new discoveries are made, so they are included in the growing body of knowledge about the influence of the cosmos on the psyche. Uranus is clearly the planet of revolution and revelation, and fits neatly with Hokhmah, while Neptune is obviously related, as the ruler of Pisces, the mystical sign, to the Divine. Pluto, which is half-way in and half-way out of the solar system is perfect for Daath, the dark window into the beyond. Likewise, on the vertical axis, Pluto and Neptune relate to vision and illumination. Time has shown that these three planets match the sefirotic archetypes.
Q: You mentioned earlier [outside the interview] that you are "the rabbi" for this area, did you mean that literally?
No, I'm not an official rabbi. 'Rabbi' simply means 'a teacher', and I do teach groups all over the world. Some people call me 'rabbi', and I perform the rabbinical role - whether I like it or not. People come to me with their problems and for advice. The traditional term for a lay rabbi is a maggid or a Melamed. My Hebrew family name is Haham, indicating that my Spanish ancestors were habbonim.
Q: One of the astrologers I talked to is Roman Catholic - I asked him how his astrology sits with his Catholicism; he said that the Pope has said that astrology should be renounced, and he felt that at some point he would have to give it up.
That is interesting, as the medieval Popes used to have their coronations set according to astrology…
Q: I take it there are no such problems with the Jewish approach?
According to orthodox Jews, it's forbidden; but it's interesting to note that in the Middle Ages most of the astrologers in the courts were Jews - most of the rabbis were well-acquainted with astrology. It was only Maimonides, the great Aristotelian rationalist, who said it was superstition, but then he was not an astrologer. I always remember Sir Isaac Newton's retort to an anti-astrologist; he said that the man spoke either from great knowledge or ignorance. It is also important to note that many rabbis considered that Maimonides was too rationalistic in his outlook. While the Babylonians and other ancient peoples might worship the planets, the Jews did not. They saw the heavenly bodies as God's servants - the planets were considered to be angelic beings. Moreover, Abraham came from Ur of the Chaldeans, which was the city of astrologers - he was considered to be a master astrologer according to Jewish tradition, which led him to question which of the stars was the supreme one. Clearly, none of them are. So he concluded that there must be an absolute beyond the stars.
Q: Would you be willing to have details of your chart published?
No problem. 8.30 am, London (about a mile from Greenwich) 8th January 1933. My ascendant is 23 Capricorn, my midheaven 27 Scorpio.
Q: What factors would you pull out from your chart as being particularly descriptive of your approach?
Capricorn Sun in the 12th house - I work very much at home, and this is reinforced by my Moon Gemini which is in the 5th house. This means that I also go out and lecture occasionally! I think they are the two most important elements in my chart.
With a Capricorn ascendant and Sun, my life's pattern has been a classical Capricorn path of a slow, tortuous climb towards my life's objective. I wanted to be a writer on esoteric matters. This, after much effort, has come to pass.
Q: From that experience of having written so many books, and having feedback from people all over the world - what do you feel are the most important things that you can bring to people through your writings?
As a Capricorn I'm very methodical, and with Moon in Gemini I gather data into a philosophical structure. I also try to get to the heart of any matter - what is the essence of a situation or subject, and how does it relate to esoteric theory and practice? I have three planets in Virgo, and so I take great pains to try and get my exposition as precise and simple as I can. Most of my books are relatively easy to read, I'm told. However, they aren't simple to write!
Q: Your style is Capricornian also, it seems to me, in that it is very authoritative - there is no ambiguity or uncertainty.
The Jews are ruled by Capricorn, so I come from a very traditional background, which says: 'This is the structure of existence and its purpose, these are the rules and the laws…' No doubt in future lives I'll be doing much the same thing as I did in the past, going through the centuries writing and teaching, but in contemporary terms to fit the time. That is how I see my destiny.
This room of mine is full of books on philosophy, science and history - very Capricornian. I love history. However, my Gemini Moon means that I can mix with very different kinds of people and travel a lot. As I have the ascending node in the first house, it's no problem if I have to talk to audiences around the world.
Q: Do you have any experience of your previous lives?
I have many memories. When I was twenty I hitch-hiked to Spain, and when I arrived in the Spanish medieval town of Toledo it seemed very familiar. Later my father told me that we were Spanish Jews. I said, 'Now you tell me?!' Suddenly, I knew why Toledo was like a home town. I have memories of London in the twelfth century. I can remember coming up from the Thames towards Cheapside, where Old Jewry is. Another quite sharp memory is in Russia, probably in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. I recall clearly a village street, with Cossacks riding up and down burning the houses, I remember the glint of their sabres. Whenever I've been to Israel it feels very familiar; as do parts of France… I've been around a long time! To me it seems perfectly normal to be reincarnated. I don't see how I can know what I do know - because I was never taught it, in this life. The man who introduced me to kabbalah remarked how quickly I picked it up. I replied that I was remembering what I already knew from a former life.
Q: So could it be then, when you talk about how you learned astrology, that you had an unfair advantage?
Unfair advantage? No! I'd done my homework! What is more, many of the people I teach, particularly Jews, say 'It is as if I know it already' - I say, 'Yes, I'm just reminding you!'
One of my tasks is to make kabbalah modern. This of course creates a certain friction with orthodox rabbis, who tend to look backwards, at tradition. That's their job. In a hundred years time my books will possibly be quite acceptable. Maimonides had his work burnt as heretical, and now he is more than respectable.
Q: Do you think it's possible to see anything of previous lives in the chart?
Yes. If you look in the 8th house - the place of death, legacy, inheritance, karma, nemesis - you will find much information depending on the sign, celestial bodies and aspects there. In fact, a horoscope is primarily a read-out from your last life. You wouldn't be given that fate if you hadn't earned it - it's the law of action and reaction.
Q: When you talk about memories of past lives, are these things that just float into your mind in the way that a memory from a week ago might? Or have you ever worked systematically at remembering them?
Over the years I've reflected on this question, especially when travelling through certain countries - when I went to Safed in Israel, I tuned psychically into the remarkable atmosphere of this 16th century kabbalistic centre, and was shown a number of images of my time there and its inhabitants. In another case, when walking through the temple at Karnak, I recalled being dressed in a woollen robe. The Egyptians wore cotton, Israelites wool. I thought, 'I know this place'; but could not place the period when I last visited the temple. Jews have lived in Egypt on and off for many centuries.
I used to be amazed by such things, but now it seems quite reasonable if you believe that the psyche is immortal. It strikes me that one life is not enough, one needs many to learn certain lessons. It seems quite logical that, just as you go to sleep and wake up each morning, so you pass from body to body. This is part of the kabbalistic tradition, and explains why some people are wise or fortunate, and some are not.
Q: Are there any cases which you would consider to be particular successes in your astrological work?
I can think of one which was a disaster, though a very curious disaster. Two people came to me and asked, 'Should we marry?' I looked at the chart, and said, 'I think you should think twice about it', because it was very clear that the woman was going to grow much bigger than the man over time. She was going to become like an oak, and he was going to remain a sapling. Despite my advice they decided to marry, as they were young and caught up in their passion. At that point he was her superior, but she eventually outgrew him. The strain caused him to take to drink. They parted company. That was my successful disaster!
In another case a woman met me; about a year after I had done her chart, she said, 'You know, you were wrong. You told me that I would meet my partner in the first week of September. It wasn't, it was the second week…'
I'm very reluctant to do predictions these days. I usually stick to the current year - because I think, rather like weather forecasting, it gets more hazy the further you get away from your point of reference.
Q: What techniques do you use for predictions? Is it the standard mix of transits and progressions?
Primarily transits. So if I was doing your chart, I'd scan the year and say, 'Around November you've got Mars and Uranus going through your 7th house - you're either going to have woman trouble, or problems with colleagues, because Mars conjunct Uranus in the 7th house usually indicates a disruption of partnerships (unless it is mitigated by Jupiter or some trine). Of course, any prediction has to take into account all the astrological factors, plus the level of the person and their particular situation.
Q: Don't you find, though, that sometimes you'll see an upcoming transit and think, 'right, I know what to expect here' - yet it passes off without any noticeable effect?
That happens, but I often find that, a year or so later, what really happened comes out. Very often the event is purely psychological - like a shift in attitude precipitated by the pressure of Mars or Saturn. Of course, one does make mistakes. Sometimes people give you wrong birth data, for example. I work on the basis that, if you are right eight or nine times out of ten, you are not doing too badly. You can't be right all the time - there are sometimes factors that you miss, such as several aspects that add up to a large factor such as an unconscious crisis. A critical mass built up over years is not always apparent until a Uranus transit triggers it. Many nervous breakdowns come into this class.
Q: Speaking of wrong data for charts - do you think you can get a 'right' reading from a wrong chart?
Sometimes people give you the wrong time of day because their parents cannot quite remember the hour. This will change the position of the houses - however, if one examines the positions of the celestial bodies then one can 'correct' the time. For example, one can be sure the retiring wall-flower was not born just before dawn, but more likely a little after sunrise when the Sun would be in the 12th house.
Q: What changes would you like to see in the world of astrology?
I think it's doing very well, because we have now got wonderful machines which save all the drudgery of calculation. These are also more accurate and less liable to make mistakes. However, such automation does create problems, in that people become so enamoured with what science can do that they forget that astrology is an art. People sometimes get so caught up in this or that detail that they can't see the wood for the trees.
Q: What changes would you like to see in the way astrology is regarded by the world?
Astrology is a very useful discipline. It saves a lot of time when you are dealing with people's relationships and problems. It would be wonderful if people training in psychology learned astrology. I think it's re-establishing itself as it was during the Renaissance. There are certain crazy novelties, but that's true of many subjects including the sciences.
An example of this reinstatement is that business people use applied astrology to assess market trends. In one case an astrologer who happened to be living opposite a cabinet minister advised the minister's wife to put off a crucial meeting on a foreign issue until an eclipse was over. She said, 'He won't take any notice, but I'll mention it anyway'. Later on, on the news, it was announced that 'The minister has decided to postpone a decision pending further talks…' After the transit had passed, the difficult negotiations took a turn for the better and were satisfactorily completed.
Q: Is Nostradamus a particular interest of yours?
Not especially. He was, I think, what is called a lesser prophet - that is, a man with psychic abilities. In my experience, psychics are 50% right and 50% wrong. So while I will listen to them, I take into account their gift and personal limitations. Nostradamus has come up with some remarkable predictions, but there were also a lot of mis-shots. I accept him as a remarkable man, but with a certain reserve.
Some people do have prophetic power, there's no doubt about that. What fascinates me is that if what happens today is a result of the past, then it follows quite reasonably that the future already exists - though it hasn't come into a form where it has coalesced. Now somebody with a prophetic capacity can theoretically see a situation develop to its conclusion. Take the case of a Scottish seer called Behan, who foresaw ships going through the (as yet unbuilt) Caledonian canal. He couldn't possibly have known about what was to happen two or three hundred years ahead - and yet historically, it was inevitable, like man eventually reaching the Moon. There appears to be a general plan of time, but with variable details.
Just as you can look at someone's chart and say, 'This is the horoscope of a writer', so one can predict the general fate of a nation. England is Capricornian with an Aries ascendant, so it's no surprise to see it slowly develop from a small offshore island into a great empire based on trade and war.
Q: William Lilly said, "The more holy thou art, and more neer to God, the purer judgement thou shalt give". In your experience, is that basically true?
Yes. You can't be a good astrologer unless you try and live your own chart as best you can. That's why I see kabbalah and astrology as a common discipline; kabbalah is about self-development and spiritual service. If you can combine the two together, it can be sometimes quite effective. The alternative is what some psychologists call 'shifting the furniture about'; that is, never moving to the next floor.
Q: It's hard to really be honest with oneself. How can be sure whether one is really progressing spiritually?
By the fruits of your actions. If your life is harmonious, and there is a developmental flow, then you will find out what you are meant to do. If you break the rules of existence, there's usually a block to progress until you have connected things. Now, obviously there are transits that can give you a hard time. But as one ancient text says, 'If you are on the right path, you can ride the severest storm, because you are balanced.' Here is where kabbalah and astrology are of practical use, in that they set out the fate and how to live it.
has practised astrology since 1976. His other interests include Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. Astrology in the Year Zero
published in 2000, resulted from Garry's study of astrology - in particular, from his investigation of the philosophy and assumptions that underpin the subject. His articles and lectures have appeared under the aegis of groups including the Astrological Association of Great Britain, the Astrological Lodge, the Company of Astrologers, the Urania Trust, the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism, The Mountain Astrologer, and Ascella. He is currently working on a PhD about astrology and truth at the University of Wales, Trinity St. David.
Visit Garry's website at http://www.astrozero.co.uk/
© Garry Phillipson