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This article was recorded by Garry Phillipson

More details of Garry's work, including other interviews are available on his website

An Interview with Benjamin Dykes by Garry Phillipson

Benjamin Dykes received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has seven years' experience as a college instructor, concentrating on the ancient and medieval philosophy that informs much ancient and medieval astrology, and many years' experience in ritual practice in the Western Mystery Tradition, including the Golden Dawn, Wicca, and Thelema.

Since earning his Diploma of Medieval Astrology studying with Robert Zoller, Ben has been active in translating and publishing works that focus upon medieval astrological techniques. His own text, Using Medieval Astrology is available through his website at He has also recently translated Abu Mashar's Flowers of Astrology, and the eagerly anticipated Book of Astronomy by Guido Bonatti, which is due for release in July 2007. Upcoming works include selected works in mundane, horary, and natal astrology by Masha'allah, Sahl ibn Bishr's Introduction, 50 Judgments, Questions, Elections, Prediction and Al-Kindi's The Forty Chapters.

Continuing his research into what moves and inspires astrologers, Garry Phillipson recently interviewed Professor Dykes to get his views on how medieval astrology and magic still play an important role in modern astrological practice.

Q: How did you become involved with magical groups?

I had been interested since I was a child. In the Twin Cities there is a great variety of groups to choose from. I began with Wicca, then switched to Thelemic practices, then the Golden Dawn. The intellectual background and structure of the Golden Dawn appealed to me.

Q: Could you say what you have gained from this involvement?

Any kind of spiritual practice is difficult to do alone. It is important to have good teachers and other like-minded individuals.

When working alone, it is easy to get wrapped up in illusions and fantasy. It is also important to learn from others who are good at coming up with good ritual ideas. One thing I have learned from group practice and an organized form of advancement is that many of the legendary features of ritual practice are accurate, but not quite like you might imagine. For example, the common image of evocation and the like is close to reality, but not quite. I don't feel like I can comment any further on it in this place.

The lone magician also can easily get wrapped up in the image of being a powerful individual, wildly bellowing and making frantic images in the air. Advanced magic (whether working with planets, angels, etc.) often has a more quiet, loving atmosphere. You also learn the value of brotherhood and trust, which has several helpful applications in practical magic.

Q: How, would you say, does magic relate to astrology?

It has important implications insofar as the various traditional spheres of reality are inextricably linked to planetary intelligences and beings. Since the magician seeks to work through, and know, various levels of being, the planets and signs are necessary to understand. The planets should not be thought of primarily as objects that have "energy" or "gravity" or "force" in the way that many astrologers seek to link them with modern physics.

Traditional magical orders have much in common with medieval and ancient astrology. But due to the creation of modern psychological astrology, many magicians possess a dual and incompatible attitude toward astrology: on the one hand, we work with the various herbs, Divine names, colors, and so on that traditional astrologers worked with; but outside of ritual, when actually looking at astrological charts, many magicians revert to psychological interpretations. This is one unfortunate outcome of the historical break between traditional and modern astrology.

Q: Were you inclined to believe that astrology would work as soon as you heard of it?

I think at first it was part of the esoteric "package deal." I was inclined to embrace (at least tentatively) most of what I encountered.

Q:At what point did you become convinced that there was 'something in it'?

For a long time since I began studying it I was convinced in a broad and vague sense by modern horoscopy, but it was something that I tended to have to put down out of frustration. My study of mystical and magical astrology (in connection with Kabbalism) was much more productive, but of course that is different from practical delineation.

It was only when I felt impelled to give practical horoscopy a final chance, that I really discovered and began to study the older writers, and then saw traditional/medieval astrology's power, systematic rigor, and accuracy. I think if I had not done so, I would have quit trying to understand charts altogether.

Q: Were there any experiences which convinced you, or made you doubt astrology?

In terms of doubts, my experiences/observations can be divided into two areas: technical objections and content/value objections.

First of all, I believe much modern astrology is plagued by a lack of clear instruction, inconsistent and unclear delineation techniques, and rather poor predictive techniques. Now, the idea that there is something lacking technically in modern astrology, might seem strange. There are so many books, so many authors, so many different ways to do astrology! But what I found was that much of it is treated either anecdotally, or subjectively, or without the sense that one can know whether one understands what is being taught. I felt as though I ought to have some vivid personal "feeling" about, say, what Virgo was. Since I didn't have this feeling, I thought maybe I was hopelessly doomed to fail at astrology.

Consider that there are many psychological or pseudopsychological approaches to astrology - but what if one is not a Jungian (or Freudian, or whatever)? Or there are scads of asteroids and other new bodies - what justification is there for using them in the ways they are, not to mention as substitutes for the traditional planets? For instance, why should Pluto now cause difficulties with power and violence, but not Saturn? Nowadays Saturn has been demoted to being the planet that kindly points out our limitations. Or one is supposed to use mental associations of symbols in order to delineate - but how do I really know whether this native's Moon has anything to do with blood, water, vaginas, caves, witchcraft, and all the other possible associations one can make (I'm thinking of Liz Greene here)? Again, plenty of modern astrologers insist they have their own personal ways of doing things - but why should the stars obey us, rather than the other way around? Finally, there is so much emphasis on a native's character, that astrology seemed plagued with self-absorption. This is especially true in people's dependence on the trans-Saturnian planets to explain, and find pleasure in, their own problems. I have found that astrological magic, and the astrological associations in the Tarot, have been more practical, realistic, objective, and fulfilling.

The second broad problem I found was that I either did not understand, or did not agree with, or did not see the point of, the political and spiritual pronouncements that one often reads in modern astrology. When it is not socialist or otherwise leftist, it is often Indian-derived, which is a practice that began in the late 1800s in many esoteric circles. The Enlightenment gave many people the idea that the West no longer had a rich tradition to participate in. Therefore, they turned to India. You can see remnants of this in many esoteric groups. But the West's richness was only abandoned, it did not die out. For example, Plato taught reincarnation. But instead of talking about Plato, many Western esotericists (including astrologers) will talk about karma and dharma instead. As someone trained in both the philosophical and esoteric tradition of the West, I have found this strange, unnecessary, and irksome. I don't want astrology to abandon the West.

The other side of this problem is the devotion to mythology. Instead of using Hermeticism, alchemy, and so on to understand the deeper meanings of the planets, modern astrology has largely turned to psychological interpretations of myths. So it has largely rejected Western spirituality, and adopted secular and questionable myth interpretation, along with pseudo-Indian spirituality. My own opinion is that if authors spent less time on Perseus and Tiamat, and more on the rules to follow to delineate houses accurately, modern astrology would be much more worthwhile.

Recently astronomers discovered what they believe is a new planet. Astronomers say it is bigger than Pluto, and they want to downgrade Pluto's status to that of a sub-planet. By modern logic that would mean that power (a typical signification of Pluto) is no longer important. And what to call the new planet? In the last few centuries, astrologers have tended to associate the discovery of a planet with social facts at the time. But I ask you: are people objectively healthier since the discovery of Chiron (who allegedly heralded the self-help movement in the late 1907s)? Modern astrologers must resist the temptation to repeat the mistakes of the past: terrorism is a big problem in the world now, and the US is getting a bad reputation; but please don't call this new planet Terrorismo, or Satano-Bushus. Leave this new planet alone.

Q: If you experienced doubt at some point, how (if at all) was the doubt resolved?

For me, the break came when I began studying William Lilly, Ptolemy, and then medieval astrology under Robert Zoller. In other words, doubt was resolved when I began learning genuine medieval delineation and prediction techniques.

But astrology continues to surprise and humble me. Traditional techniques are geared toward the concrete and the objective, so they frequently force the astrologer to say things he or she would never think of saying, especially if he or she were trying to "feel out" the client. I mean, for example, that the native's girlfriend is connected to his secret enemies, or that the native will go overseas this year in connection with family. Such statements are usually beyond the sort that modern astrology is capable of, in terms of the rules that are taught.

Q: What is your attitude towards doubt now, and is there any further research/experience etc you wish to pursue in order to move on from your current position?

To be quite honest, I think doubt is inevitable if one continues in the modern vein. Moreover, modern skeptical attacks are often parasitic on modern astrological confusions, so it is no wonder that skepticism is an ongoing issue. I think we would help ourselves more through the translation and teaching of traditional texts, and a deeper learning of traditional techniques.

Q: Do you think you could 'prove' that astrology works to someone?

I think it depends on the standard of proof that is demanded. Some skeptics will not accept any standard, but of course they are used to dealing with modern psychological astrology. In my own practice I see every day that traditional methods of delineation and prediction work. They do not work 100%, but no discipline meets that standard.

Q: If so - could you do this (a) if they were undecided, (b) if they were antagonistic? If antagonism would be a barrier, why? What would you do to 'prove' astrology?

I think that being convinced of something requires the ability to listen. Some people claim they want you to prove it to them, but they either ignore you, dismiss you, or simply return to their default sense of anger and contempt.

I guess if I had to "prove" astrology, I would do what I normally do: make some predictions, both retroactive and future-oriented, using some profections and firdaria (traditional predictive techniques) and a solar revolution.

Q: Overlapping with the previous question - Do you think it is possible for an astrologer to win James Randi's $1 million prize for demonstrations of the paranormal? (Anyone unfamiliar with Randi's 'challenge' will find details on .)

I do not believe it is possible. He is not serious about testing astrologers. There are several reasons for the sham nature of his challenge.

First, Randi groups astrology with the paranormal, so his model of how astrology works is like that of someone sitting isolated in a little box, seeing visions from afar with no data or stimuli. He does not understand that a working astrologer is a client-based professional. We sometimes have to ask clients questions to understand how given planets work in their charts. For example, suppose a native has an afflicted Saturn in the 11th. This could mean dashed hopes, or older and untrustworthy friends, or, if it were a nocturnal chart, an afflicted father. Now, you do not necessarily know which it is. In many people's lives they are connected: an afflicted father who makes a child lose hope; untrustworthy friends who make the native feel that the world is predatory and unsafe. But you need to talk about the 11th, so you need to ask the native by listing the most likely things it means. Then, armed with this information, you can speak more authoritatively when you make predictions and give advice. If you find out his 11th signifies bad friends, and an afflicted Saturn is in the 11th house during the solar revolution, you can say, "you will have a run-in with one of these friends, and it will be ugly." Clearly this is not the same thing as asking leading questions so as to invent flattering interpretations.

In terms of other client-based professions, the parallel with medicine and law is strong. Imagine going to a lawyer with a written summary of the issues in an upcoming case, and asking - without his being able to probe the witnesses - whether the plaintiff will win or lose. If he is wrong, does that prove law is worthless? Or imagine a doctor who simply looked at a chart but never bothered to ask penetrating questions of the patient - would medicine be nothing if he were wrong in his diagnosis? Now these disciplines are different from each other and astrology in various ways. But Randi believes that astrology is more like psychism, and that astrologers should have no need to ask anybody anything. Few disciplines are like that.

Second, predictive astrologers often give qualitative information, despite naming specific time periods when a predicted event takes place. Reasonable people understand how to evaluate qualitative information. But I'm sure Randi feels free to dismiss predictions if they do not match his preconceived notion of what counts as an accurately described event.

For instance, suppose I say that in a certain time period a male native will be occupied with, or be in a relationship with, a "foreign" woman. That is a standard way of referring to people signified by the 9th house. Now let's suppose that the man meets a Latina woman from Chicago, whose parents moved to the USA when she was young, she is an American citizen, but identifies mainly with Nicaraguan culture, and speaks with a strong accent. That is a perfectly respectable 9th house alternative to actually being a foreign citizen. Or, perhaps he engages in a long-distance relationship with someone living four hours away, and he must drive to her every weekend. That is also a fine example of a 9th house relationship. But while a normal person would count my prediction as accurate, Randi could make up all sorts of reasons why I was unclear or wrong. He could say, "What does he mean by being "occupied" with a foreigner? People are "occupied" with each other all the time!" Or he might say, "The woman is not literally a foreigner!" Or, "There are so many immigrants nowadays, and so little bias against interracial dating, it stands to reason that an average single man would find a woman of different ethnic background to date in an average year!"

Now suppose instead of simply saying "foreign" woman, I'd said, "A foreign woman, or one from a very different culture, or a long-distance relationship, or a spiritual woman." All of those are 9th house types of people. He would say, "Now Dykes is coming up with all sorts of categories to cover just about anyone." Or, "Most people are spiritual - that's why the Randi organization exists!"

The problem here is that normal people, experienced in life, know what to expect and what not to expect. They know that if an astrologer says "You will be in a relationship with someone who is a foreigner or who is from far away," that having an affair with the neighbor doesn't count, while one with a world-travelling flamenco dancer or someone four hours away does.

Third, Randi subverts the possibility of "blind" testing of astrological skills by refusing to provide the sorts of materials needed to test accurately. I remember reading an offer on his site from an astrologer who wanted to match some unlabeled natal charts to individuals he did not know, but whose histories he'd been told. He wanted Randi to supply the unlabeled charts. All in all, a good experiment. But Randi's organization declined, saying that they were not in the business of supplying anything! Then they said that it made no sense for him to supply the charts, because there was no guarantee the natives would even cooperate. Of course, if he had offered to supply the charts, and found willing natives, Randi would have refused on the grounds that he was probably colluding with the natives.

So, any way you look at it, Randi's bad-faith test is a waste of time.

Q: Can you understand the viewpoint of (some of) the skeptics?

Yes. But I should point out that skeptics' ignorance of traditional techniques (which is an important flaw of theirs) is parasitic on modern astrologers' own ignorance of the same, so the two sides are often well-matched.

On the side of astrologers, there is too much flim-flam in modern psychological astrology. Modern astrologers have too often lost the old techniques of delineation and prediction, while heaping new planets, asteroids, and whatnot into a chart - which cannot then be reliably delineated. Of course one of modern astrology's worst innovations is Sun-sign astrology - the relating of individual character to the Sun sign must stop. People must stop saying, "I'm a Leo, so…" Skeptics love making fun of that, and they should.

Moreover, skeptics are emboldened by many astrologers' defensiveness and ignorance of science. One way that astrologers often respond to skeptics is the "end of the road" approach. Here the astrologer says that when physics is all said and done, it will end up looking a lot like esotericism and mysticism. In other words, once scientists reach the end of their path, having worked all of the science out of them, the astrologer will be waiting there. Usually this is done by saying something like, "As everyone knows, physics is coming around to esotericism!" As though scientists are involved in a secret cabal to hide the alleged emptiness of science from us!

A related strategy is to make exaggerated "tu quoque" statements about science's limits: in other words, the astrologer says, "Well, science has its problems, too!" Usually this is done in a grand, sweeping way that misunderstands individual scientific disciplines. Geologists are scientists, but their discipline is very different from theoretical physics.

Third, in general, modern astrologers are too preoccupied with employing scientific concepts in order to attain respectability. These concepts were often defined so closely to a particular scientific paradigm, that the attempt is doomed from the beginning. Here astrologers are not alone: people in general often cite Schrodinger's cat, or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, to support all sorts of claims - but it is rather inappropriate, since these principles don't have much bearing at all outside of particular scientific problems.

On the side of the skeptics, their attitudes do puzzle me. For one thing, there is the anger and sneering - why are they obsessed with astrology, and why do they feel such a desperate need to defend modernity as though science is not actually surrounding us every moment of the day? Their objections are often simply a form of ridicule, i.e., that astrologers don't belong to the cool modern club. They do not attack history departments, economics departments, the business schools, and so on.

I think one answer to this is found in the mythological and martyr-like self-perception that many skeptics (who align themselves with scientific heroes) have. You can see it right in the title of Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. It is important to these skeptics that science be perceived as this slow, modest attempt to help people and find a little truth in this bad world - it is as though they are still fighting Galileo's battle against the Church. By the level of their hysteria, you would think that scientists receive no money, no Nobel Prizes, no professorships, have no academic departments, that science is never taught in schools, and so on. I mean, really: how in the world do astrologers, with our non-existent political power and measly incomes - not to mention our constantly maligned reputation - pose a threat to the many institutional interests that come together in the astronomical sciences?

Skeptics might be forgiven due to their ignorance of traditional techniques, but even some of their default attacks are irritating to encounter again and again because they are based on simple misunderstandings. My favorite one is the objection concerning the constellational zodiac. It goes something like this: "Due to the precession of the equinoxes, the Sun at a given time of year is no longer in the sign it was 2,000 years ago. Therefore you are not really an Aries, but a Pisces!" This objection is simply misguided because it does not understand what a "sign" is. The constellation Aries is not identical to the tropical sign Aries (defined by the vernal equinox). Western astrologers determine the "sign" of the Sun by the tropical sign, which is an even one-twelfth of the ecliptic. If the skeptics paid attention to the constellations, they would see that Aries is a small constellation, much less than one-twelfth of the ecliptic. There is no way the Sun could ever remain in it for a month, either now or in the past. This should be a clue to them that astrologers mean something else when they speak of a "sign." If you are born, say, on March 25th, your Sun is in Aries, period - tropical Aries, that is. A more interesting question would be, "Why the tropical zodiac at all?" But the skeptics are not interested in that.

Q: What do you make of the argument that whenever astrology appears to work, this can be explained either by 'cold reading', or by reasoning errors?

There are two answers to this.

One way to take the argument is, "does anyone ever use cold reading or rely on clients' errors in reasoning?" The answer is: of course, and shame on those who defame the Art by doing so. In this sense, astrologers have got to recognize there are flim-flammers among us: astrologers who can't read a chart, astrologers who pull out the Tarot cards when stumped, astrologers who are actually liars and "cold readers," and so on.

Astrologers - especially modern astrologers - have got to wake up and realize that the nature of psychological astrology encourages this sort of activity and lack of skill. If astrology is about saying how the client feels, or making unverifiable statements about past lives and so on, then this sort of cold reading - whether intentional or not - is inevitable in 1-on-1 consultations. If an astrologer feels insecure because he or she feels he should have special powers and insight, but through lack of technique he knows he doesn't; and if he should be trying to find out about how the native feels; and the native is sitting right there, it is all too tempting to start fishing for information.

But in a more general sense, the argument is simply wrong, for several reasons. First, nowadays many clients are internet clients, so "cold reading" is impossible. Many client requests I receive have little or nothing in the way of comments or questions when I first receive them. Second, with medieval/traditional astrology in particular, the argument totally fails. Medieval/traditional astrology is about objective events in the native's life, and objective facts about his or her character. There is no way I could sit down with a client I don't know (or especially a client who pays over the internet and with whom I never speak), and know by "cold reading" that the native's spouse is in law enforcement; or that a marriage failed because of the spouse's serious illness or affairs; or that the native has had an abortion or miscarriage. We often don't know such things about people we work with every day, so how could a medieval astrologer get it through a "cold reading?" But cold reading is much more likely with a style of astrology that expects the astrologer to say, "you are a loving person, but sometimes you hate people"; or "you are smart but underestimated."

Q: What is your attitude to scientific/statistical research into astrology? Do you think that this has proven, or could potentially prove, astrology?

I think this is a losing game. Although traditional astrology is verifiable in a broad sense, it will never pass muster among scientists, because physical science is usually defined in such a way that it is impossible to pass the test. Astrologers are using a totally different language and conceptual system when we are looking at the world. But we are in good company. Every discipline has standards, criteria, a defined subject and mental world it occupies. If you started using physics jargon with a bunch of historians, they would stare at you blankly: neutrons just don't pertain to the types of events historians deal with. And yet they write accurate, important history books. Likewise, you could be a great economist or sociologist, and make compelling evaluative and predictive statements about the world - and not be challenged by the astrology skeptics.

The funny thing is that educated people know how messy and complicated all of these disciplines are. We like to think there is something clear and settled about what "science" is. But there is a whole spectrum of practices which count as science, some evaluative, some experimental. Most are based on presuppositions and value-laden self-conceptions of one sort or another - which is not a bad thing, but it's something to be aware of.

Now it just so happens that because we talk about planets and stars, astronomers think we are stepping on their toes, so there is a lot of silly outrage and defensiveness. Consequently, astrology skeptics demand that we meet them on their own ground in ways they don't demand that a historian justify himself. You don't see any "history skeptics" who go around demanding that historians explain whether and how history books are in line with the latest version of string theory or whatever, even though historical events take place in the physical world the physicist describes.

So I think the desire for "scientific" approval is a red herring. Who exactly are we trying to please? Astronomers? It is a waste of time. Economists? Well, there are plenty of financial astrologers out there making a good living, so some financially savvy people must be impressed.

I think astrologers ought to deal with this issue by simply ceasing to use the language of physics to justify astrology: no more talk of gravitation rays, energy fields, and so on. Just drop it. Let's go back to our roots, resurrecting some of the older philosophical and esoteric views of the universe (for example, from the Neoplatonists), and don't apologize about it. Let's separate our language and concepts from theirs. We must concentrate on recovering and improving our art, not engaging in contests with people who will never accept what we do. Astrologers should concentrate on making verifiable, clear delineations and predictions. Accuracy and clarity will tend to make their reputations rise.

Q: How would you characterise your work in terms of traditional and/or modern astrological techniques?

My practice is medieval. I use some Hellenistic material (which of course filtered into the medieval period), but not much beyond Lilly, and that rarely.

Q: Is one better than the other? Why?

I think medieval provides better techniques, is more accurate and rigorous, and is more teachable and learnable. Soon Project Hindsight will be publishing its updates series of Hellenistic material, and based on some of the demonstrations of it they have made, it looks rewarding. I would be more likely to go back and incorporate that once I have digested it.

Q: Why have astrologers not arrived at one consolidated, consensual, 'best' technique?

Medieval astrologers did have something like this sort of consensus; the better questions are (a) why is there no agreement between medieval and modern techniques; and (b) why is there so much division within modern astrology?

The answers are many, but they come down to several themes: (1) the rejection of tradition and desire for the new; (2) valuing personal idiosyncrasy, subjective feeling, and arbitrary freedom over objective description and fate (broadly speaking); (3) an accumulated loss of knowledge through unfamiliarity with Greek, Latin, Arabic, and traditional texts generally.

Q: Are some people more naturally talented at astrological interpretation than other people?

Sure, pretty much in the same way that some people can be naturally talented at anything. In the natal chart, a strong Mercury or Jupiter as professional significators, or in or ruling the 9th, are a couple of traditional signs.

But in terms of how to learn and practice at least basic astrology, there are qualities that are needed.

o Objectivity
o Lack of fear or favor or flattery
o Use of rules

Q: Do you feel more comfortable studying and thinking about astrology, or actually reading charts?

Currently I am engaged in several translation projects, so I spend a lot of my time crouched over Latin texts! But it does not become really concrete unless one also takes on clients, which I also do.

Q: It can be difficult to give non-astrologers an idea of the kinds of readings which astrologers give their clients. If you are happy to do so, I'd therefore be very grateful if you would give an example from your own practice which shows astrology working. (Whilst, of course, preserving client confidentiality.)

In one case I was delineating the client's relationships. I described her soon-to-be ex-husband as someone who was a big partier with a strong sex-drive, and that two things led to the relationship breaking down: (a) religious conflicts; (b) the destructive way the native had fun. She told me that he had had a religious conversion and had become very dogmatic - he had actually been more pleasant while a partier! Then she said that, after his conversion he began to lift lots of weights and was rough, and used to have fun by sitting on the children, humiliating them. Since the planet signifying his destructive fun (Saturn) was in the 11th, signifying his own children by derived houses, I said it looked like he was meaner to his own children (they had each brought prior children to the marriage) - which was true. By a traditional technique called "firdaria," I identified the time period in which it looked like things got bad - which turned out to be when he had left her.

The client was in divorce proceedings at the time, and I did a solar return for her. The 8th house (his money) was severely afflicted, and I asked if he were under financial obligation to her at the time (yes). They had some upcoming court date, and I told her that at court he would claim he had no money and would renege on all of his financial obligations. Sure enough, when she got to court a month or so later, her lawyer sat her down to tell her the bad news. But although during the reading she was depressed about the financial situation, by the time of the court date she was expecting it, so she was able to take the lawyer's news in stride.

Something else I remember about that solar return was that it indicated a foreigner or learned person was working against her (this is like the 9th house example I mentioned above). After some thought she remembered that her ex-husband's girlfriend was an illegal alien and was always trying to stir up trouble in the divorce. This allowed the client to focus attention on the girlfriend.

Q: "The more holy thou art, and more neer to God, the purer judgement thou shalt give" (William Lilly - C17th astrologer) - do you believe that there is some mental or spiritual quality (which Lilly calls being 'holy' and 'neer to God') which, over and above technical competence, affects the success of an astrologer's work? If so, how would you describe it?

I think that having a sense of wonder and reverence are important. I don't want to commit myself to saying any particular notion of God is key. But wonder and reverence, I think, helps us open ourselves up to a chart, and helps us maintain an objective approach. When we look at a client's chart, or a mundane chart, or whatever, we want to align ourselves as much as possible with the objective principles that administrate the universe. This attuning of our minds, and alignment with cosmic rationality, I think, is something like what Lilly meant.

Q: What can an astrologer do, in order to maximise the chances of a chart reading being of good quality?

It is important not to filter the features of a client's chart through one's own personal and political viewpoint. I know from experience that this will lead one astray. Another point is that we ought to be familiar with many ways of living, many religions, many customs. Finally, we ought to be able to turn what we see in the chart, into good advice. This requires that we know something about various philosophical views of what happiness consists in, and what sort of happiness the native him/herself can achieve.

Q: When an astrological reading gives inaccurate or irrelevant information, do you think this is always due to the astrologer overlooking something in the chart, or not having full mastery of astrological technique? Or do you think that, no matter how good the astrologer and their technique, there will always be times when accurate information cannot be obtained through astrology?

No technique in any discipline enjoys 100% accuracy and relevance, although mastery of valid techniques must be increased in the astrological community.

Q: In theory, could the information an astrologer arrives at, be derived equally well by a computer program?

I don't think so, due to the fact that astrology is a client-based, consulting profession. To be "computerized" requires a tightly-defined algorithmic process with well-defined goals. But like other consulting professions, we have a number of goals we pursue in conjunction with a client's needs. We need to ask questions and make judgments about the relevance of information to the chart. How clients respond, and what their backgrounds are, is relevant.

Q: What changes would you like to see within the astrological world?

The main thing I would like to see is a continuation of the current interest in astrology's roots and traditional techniques/approaches, with research focusing on those. There is a lot of quantitative research that many modern astrologers are pursuing, but I think it would be more fruitful if they were applied in conjunction with the rigorous standards of the past.

Ben Dykes, thank you very much!

Garry PhillipsonGarry Phillipson 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

© Garry Phillipson

Professional Astrology

Book of Astronomy

Bernadette Brady
Darby Costello
Benjamin Dykes
Bernard Eccles
Dennis Elwell
Kim Farnell
John Frawley
Dorian Greenbaum
Darrelyn Gunzburg
Robert Hand
Mike Harding
Deborah Houlding
Warren Kenton
Maurice McCann
Garry Phillipson
Christine Skinner
Shelley von Strunckel
Komilla Sutton
Robert Zoller

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An Interview with some American Astrologers

by Deborah Houlding