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A condensed version of this interview was first published in the AA Journal Vol 47 No.5 Sept/Oct 2005.

Garry Phillipson is the author of Astrology in the Year Zero:

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

An Interview with Bernard Eccles by Garry Phillipson

Bernard Eccles has been teaching and lecturing in astrology for over twenty years. A prominent member of the Astrological Lodge of London since 1978, he was its President twice between 1988 and 1995. He taught 'Techniques of Prediction' courses at the Marylebone-Passington Institue for seven years, and now teaches short courses for the Lodge and at the Faculty of Astrological Studies Summer Schools. In recent years he has been closely involved in the Sophia Project and the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at Bath Spa University College. In his commercial guise, he writes sunsign columns for magazines worldwide, and his books have sold over half a million copies.

Q:I wonder if we could begin by talking about the book which you co-wrote, Dark Stars?

Dark Stars is a very funny thing. It was a collaboration between me and Eric Morse, and it's really an exercise in creative symbol work. Eric Morse had a friend, Boris Kamenenko - a Ukrainian astronomer.

Now, whether Eric actually met Boris Kamenenko, or whether he even exists, I have no idea at all. But the story as I have it, is that Boris claimed to have mathematically glued together the asteroids - to create their original missing planet. (On the assumption that the asteroids were originally one planet, which blew up and fragmented.) He created this thing by working it all backwards - how exactly, I don't know.

Anyway, he created a position for (as it were) the ghost of the centre of the asteroids - which he called Phaethon. He produced an ephemeris for it; it went around the Earth in about 5½ years, and - like a slightly further out version of Mars - does some rather nice retrograde loops, whilst at other times it really belts along. So it's actually quite a nice thing to work with.

We came to the conclusion that Phaethon was to do with the memory of loss. This isn't hard, if it's a planet which blew up! And then perhaps it might have ecological links - as in, a broken Eden, a world which is no longer perfect and we're trying to remember that. So perhaps in a personal sense it has something to do with ancestry; that is, who you were.

So, armed with those as original core concepts, plus the ephemeris which Eric created from Kamanenko's figures, we created a series of possible meanings for Phaethon in various signs and at various times. Then proceeded to put it into thirty - randomly selected - horoscopes of famous people. The usual people - Jung, Hitler, and so on. It worked brilliantly, so we proceeded to go on with this and create house meanings for Phaethon, and of course when we came to put the book together we appended the ephemeris in the back, so that readers could play with it themselves. And that, basically, is the core of the book.

And when I've put Phaethon into charts, I've generally found that it's very significant. As a body part, we assigned it to the bone-marrow, and to DNA manufacturing processes - which are, again, to do with ancestry. There are people all over the world who have got copies of Dark Stars, and they really get on with Phaethon.

Only about three weeks ago I got a letter that had come via a magazine, through the internet - you know, the usual trail that people go through to reach me. The Phaethon ephemeris ran through the second half of the twentieth century, and ran over to about 2003. So we are off the scale now. This chap said, 'could I have the next bit, please?' - and I forwarded this to Eric Morse who, bless him, has just worked out the ephemeris for Phaethon for the next fifty years. So I sent it back to this chap, and now when anybody writes we'll send it out to them… this little core user-group of Phaethon people all round the world!

But seriously: if you're going to have Sedna, if you're going to have Quaoar, you may as well use Phaethon.

Q: Do you use it, if you do a chart for somebody now?

Not now, no. We used to use it quite a lot in the 80s. We had programmable calculators then, it was pre-computers, and we wrote a suite of programs which calculated planet's positions. And one of the little programs did Phaethon.

But if ever anybody is interested in where they came from, rather than where they are going - as it were, what echoes and resonances they have with history - then it's well worth looking at Phaethon. And you do get people whose ancestry is very important to them. Such people are constantly searching for their roots, and if they find something about, say, their ethnicity - that they are a quarter Native American, or that their great-grandfather was Persian, or something like that - it seems to strike a huge chord in them. They will say, "This is the essence of my self…" and you say, "Don't be ridiculous, it's an eighth of you, and you didn't even know until last week…". But they say, "Oh, I've been looking for it all my life". For those people, I suggest that you stick Phaethon in the chart. Probably you will find that it's exactly on the IC or something - it is pulling them down, it is that root that they wanted to find, it clearly is an issue for those people.

Q: How do you feel more generally about hypothetical planets and newly-discovered bodies such as Sedna? How should astrologers evaluate what to use?

The thing that bothers me with Sedna specifically is not that it's so far away - which is what some people would argue. I don't subscribe to the view that 'planets have a physical influence, therefore the nearer they are the stronger the influence'. So there are people who say Sedna's too far away to have a physical effect - well, none of the planets have a physical effect, that is just the fallacy of celestial influence.

What does bother me about Sedna is that it's so slow. Because for me, astrology is built on movement; it is rhythms, it is cycles, it is planets moving from one place to another as your life moves and develops. And something as far away as Sedna, or the other bodies in the Ort cloud, or the Centaurs and so forth - their movement is minute. And that gives me a problem with my astrology, which is dynamic - in that sense. (I don't mean that it's tremendously popular stuff - I mean that it moves; I like astrology to move, and these things don't.)

So that's not an objection, it's the reason why I find them of less use in my own practice. But if other people find them to be valid symbols, then fine. Astrology being a language, it's simply a question of vocabulary. So if this is a phrase that has resonance for you, then use it. Other people may not find that it does it for them.

I'm still a bit of a traditionalist really - seven planets will do. I certainly find it difficult to stick Chiron in…

Q: That's interesting, because that's what I'd got you pegged as - a traditional, seven planets kind of man. Then to discover that you've been involved with Phaethon…

Yes, it's weird isn't it? Actually, Dark Stars went on further than that. We also worked out that if the planets went round the Sun in ellipses, and ellipses have two foci (the Sun being one), then each planet must also have a mute focus, which can be projected onto the zodiac from a geocentric point of view. We said, 'Well, if the energy comes out of the planet at you - where does it go?' And the answer is, it goes back down that hole; it's like a returning circuit. So we created a whole range of black planets. Again, these have no physical substance so they were dark stars. And then we decided that planetary nodes, although they are fixed, when you view them geocentrically, seem to move about a bit. Therefore they could apply to you and separate from you.

So we came up with this fantastic ragbag of symbolism - just working on the basis of, "if the symbol means that, and it's in that sign, here is a possible meaning for it - let's put it into a chart and see". That's what Dark Stars was about, but people have taken to it as if it was some kind of revelation. It isn't a revelation, it's an exercise in creative symbolism from me. But people who have read it, love it. It's a cult classic! Well, I shouldn't say 'classic', but it's certainly 'cult'!

Q: Do you think that Phaethon has some kind of absolute, objective (as it were) validity; or is it a case of, if people put enough creative mental work in, they tend to get a reciprocal effect back? So they will see what they expect (or hope) to see?

Yes to the second option, but then these things have a habit of surprising you and coming out where you didn't expect them to. Except that I don't think it's quite a case of self-fulfilling prophecy. Because what tends to happen is you think, "Ah, this person's got Phaethon conjunct Venus (or whatever) because he keeps going on about his lost loves" and then you put up the chart and find out that it's not with Venus at all, but it is against the ruler of the fifth house. And you hadn't guessed that. So you get confirmation, but it's not the way you expected it to be. And it's that ability of the astrology to surprise you, that makes you think there's something odd going on here.

I'm quite fond of Phaethon, because it represents - as it were - one of the harmonic notes of the universe. It's almost like a xylophone with a key missing. And if you have grand music to play, then either you can be very careful and avoid that key, or you can stick in an ersatz key to fill the space and say, "OK - that's for when you need that note".

It just happens that this place where there should be a planet is just full of dust - the asteroids. But the space is there; Phaethon fits in with Bode's law of where planets ought to be and its orbital rate is what it should be. It has a circular orbit, it's definitely within the LP record of the cosmos (as we all used to think of it!) So it fits more neatly than, say, things from the Ort cloud which have very elliptical orbits - meaning that they buzz off into outer space for millennia and then come back in again - they are much more random; whereas the asteroids are always there. As we say in the book, you ought to think of it really as 'outer planet zero' - between Jupiter, first of the outer planets, and Mars, last of the inner planets.

I think the important thing is to be consistent with the way that you use astrology. So in other words, you don't muck about with the symbolism; if you work with some new point in the chart, you give it a value and you always use it as that value and don't alter that. And then, when you interface it with the other values of sign, house and that kind of thing, it takes on some of the colour of other astrology and it blends in quite nicely.

Q: So you're happy with the idea that there are different astrologies which can be equally valid?

Oh yes. I think astrology is always valid, no matter how simple you make it. As a Sun-sign astrologer I've got to say that, but I've certainly thought that astrology is like a language - an idea which I originally got from Patrick Curry, and it always rang true for me. It doesn't matter how simple a language's structures are. If you've ever taught a toddler to speak, you'll know that language structures can be pretty simple, but the communication is still real - even though the vocabulary and grammar are limited. It's the same with fortune-telling. If you've got something as complex as the I Ching or the tarot pack, or astrology, this gives you tremendous nuances of meaning in your definition. But you can also tell fortunes by tossing a penny. You say, "If it's heads I'll take it as a good omen, if it's tails I won't". You've only got two outcomes there, but the action is still there; the validity of it, the belief behind it is still there.

The universe responds to what is, in effect, a prayer. It's a question - as Patrick Curry says, the paradigmatic question of divination is, "will my present enterprise (or intended enterprise) succeed?" And you can do that with a penny, if you wish.

Q: If astrology is a language, what is communicating with what?

When I was at university - back in the days of flared trousers and long hair - I used to have a badge that said, "Religion is Man's attempt to communicate with the weather". I think I'd say that you're trying to have a conversation with your larger environment. Even if the larger environment doesn't talk back, you can make it have a conversation with you - in the way, perhaps, that your children prop up their dolls and teddies and have conversations with them.

But the great thing about astrology is that the thing you are positing as the other party to the conversation, is itself dynamic; it moves. And therefore, at odd times, it will produce extraordinary effects and patterns, collections and clusterings of bodies. You have to take these as being communication. Even though you can say, "Well it's all arbitrary, the planets simply are going round, so these patterns would occur anyway" - it's all to do with the time that you do it.

I think that, in a way, ignorance is part of the procedure. Because I do know that some horary astrologers get to the stage where they know the sky so well, they know when is the time to ask the question. Now, for a start that's election - it's no longer horary. But if you're that good, then I think it spoils the process, because what you've got to do is to ask in a state of ignorance. And then be surprised that the sky has turned out just so. That's being part of it. You mustn't try and control the system. You must surrender yourself to it. And that is part of saying, "the bigger environment is grander than I am; how do I fit into this?" And that is what the conversation is all about, I think. It's the surrender to the larger environment; the desire for union with the larger environment; and, because we're a communicative species, communication with the larger environment. So that's how it works.

Q: Let's take that case you mentioned of an astrologer who knows what's going on in the sky so well, that they can no longer ask a horary question without already knowing, to some extent, what the chart will look like and therefore what the answer would be.

Suppose they had a randomisation routine in their astrology software, so they could select an option which would draw up a chart for - say - any time in the last two thousand years. Would that be any good?

I don't know. It's interesting. Something that is very akin to that certainly does work - and that is the astrology of the wrong chart. Every astrologer knows from experience that a wrong chart, if it is not known to be wrong, will yield very valid astrology, excellent symbolism, and indeed predictive qualities - until the very second that you discover it's the wrong chart, calculated for three years too soon or whatever. At that point your 'wrong chart' collapses, and your next chart springs into being - and can be read from that point forwards.

Q: Is it part of your experience of astrology that sometimes you just don't get a meaningful answer?

Yes. Less so now. It used to be that I went in looking for an answer, expecting to see perfection of aspect, or certain significators in the relevant places. Now I accept that when I see a chart and it doesn't make a lot of sense, often it's… well, it's not that I'm asking the wrong question, it's that perhaps I haven't understood the larger situation. Then you look at the larger situation and think about it again, or you put it to one side and maybe go back to it later. Because sometimes factors are at work which you don't find out about until much later.

I think not getting an answer is really about going in too hot, too fast, too deep - and not taking time to consider.

Q: Are you saying, then, that there always is an answer in the chart, if you pull back sufficiently to get perspective?

No, although I can see that what I've said sounds like that. There are times when it doesn't work. But that doesn't rock my faith in astrology - it's part of the mystery. If it worked all the time, it would be too mechanistic. It would be a reliable technology. And one of the great things about astrology is that it is not a reliable technology. Mind you, that doesn't make me like Microsoft's product any better… (laughter)

But you know what I mean. I don't want astrology to be like Meccano, with simple bits bolted together and a structure which is entirely understandable. That's not how it is; there has to be that mystery. And if sometimes things are withheld from you, well, that's the game. But that's the game with any kind of divination, I think. You seek to penetrate this veil of unknowing; and sometimes you reach out into the fog and you get more fog! That's what makes it scary, and that's what makes it - I won't say 'fun', but it makes you realise that you are dealing with something. It's an essential quality in life. If life was entirely predictable and knowable, mechanical in that sense, then I think you'd die of boredom.

So for astrology not to work every so often is quite good!

Q: Do you incorporate any ritual or magical element in your practice when you're casting a horoscope (or flipping a coin, for that matter) - something to put you in an appropriate frame of mind?

No. But there's so much of my life which contains small ritual. Let's say I'm going to toss some coins for fortune-telling purposes. If I've got three coins of the same kind in my pocket, I will do so. I don't like to do it with coins of different values, because it alters the weight. Now, if I've got three pound pieces I tend to think of them as being solar. If I've got three 10p pieces I think of them as being lunar. If I've got copper coins then I think of them as being Venusian - and so on. And no, I don't throw bolts if I want to address a Martian question… (laughter)

It's conscious but it's so well-engrained that it is no longer anything out of the ordinary. To just pick the colours, pick the values, before you do it. Now, if you want to describe that as a kind of settling ritual, where I'm putting my mind in the frame, then so be it. Even when I'm writing Sun-sign horoscopes for a magazine, I draw the chart from scratch on a piece of paper with a ruler, pencil and so on. I won't get the computer to print it for me. That exercise, of playing with circles, drawing in house lines, writing in the planets, creates the sky for me. I could do much the same thing by getting Solar Fire to print it out for me - but then I wouldn't have made that sky, and that's not my sky to play with.

Is it because I'm old-fashioned? Because I like playing with crayons? I was talking to Nick Campion about this, and he said that he couldn't remember the last time he had drawn a horoscope by hand. Whereas for me, the answer is, "Well - yesterday, actually". His answer was, probably ten years ago.

It's a little ritual, and I like the idea of the craftsman; I like the idea that I did it with my hands. At this point, of course, everyone can say, "Ah - Virgo rising!" (not for the exactness, but for the hand-craft). So there are these little rituals - but I live in a magical world. I do care whether I walk in the sun or in the shade; I orient myself in that kind of thing. And it's not sub-conscious, but it is deeply embedded.

Q: Having mentioned your chart - would you be willing for it to be included as part of the interview?

I think it's in the public domain. Many people know my chart, because it's such a pig to read! It's not for beginners. Try and make sense of it - or even find any benefics in it; it's absolutely hideous for almost everything. Almost all the traditional planets anyway, are either in detriment or fall…

Q: Could I have the data please?

Yes, it's 3rd December 1953, at 1.03am, in Derby. Which gives you 27 Virgo rising.

Q: What you've said already gives the impression of someone who's really steeped in astrology, so I wonder if we could now look at how you first discovered it, and got into it, and trained?

I'll tell a little anecdote, which is actually true. In my school nativity play, where most people get to be the angel or the sheep, I got to be King Herod's astrologer. I had seen the star in the east, and I had to tell Herod. For this, my sister (who is somewhat older than me) made me a splendid conical hat - a real wizard's hat - to wear, with stick-on stars and moons and things, and I thought this was fabulous. I obviously had found my role! This is a great anecdote to spin to the media, and I have done so many times - indeed, it appears in the foreword of one of my books. But it is entirely true.

I lived in a house which was not particularly cultured. Although my father was a musician, he was not a well-read man, and we didn't have many books in the house - maybe a total of about six, of which one was a Bible. One of the books that we did have was a war-time all-sorts-of-things book, containing everything from folklore to recipes for jam and how to make metal polish out of lemon juice and salt. But it had the zodiac signs sprinkled through it, and it gave you character definitions for each of them. I loved these little definition (which I suppose were probably lifted from something like Alan Leo's 'Penny Guides') - and that was my first introduction to the idea of the zodiac.

Well, that and reading the horoscope in the News of the World, which my auntie used to take. I used to get carted round to see my auntie on a Sunday afternoon, and being a bored little six year old I used to sit there and read the newspaper. At that time, Edward Lyndoe used to write the column for the News of the World - and I've now collected quite a few of Lyndoe's books. I think he's a much underrated astrologer, particularly if you remember that he came from a dark era when astrology wasn't as lightly thought of as it is now.

Anyway, I used to read these horoscopes from the age of six - so astrology was always there.

Q: Have you ever seriously doubted astrology?

Doubt comes, I think, if your first world-view is a mechanistic one, a scientific one. I think you get that scientific world-view, where everything is explainable, when you do school science - when you're about fourteen or fifteen. Then you think the world is completely explainable, and anything that is mysterious is bunk. But there's also something to do with the way that boys grow up in this. Because I think boys are very bothered about losing control and not being able to control their environment and themselves. So for instance they are bothered about whether they are doing the right thing, or with the right people, and this kind of thing. It's all part of adolescence.

And boys like to feel that the world is understandable, and that if they knew enough science they could master it - and then, nothing would catch them by surprise.

But before this world-view was pushed onto me as a teenager doing science at school, I had already met religion in quite a deep way - because I went to church a lot as a child. And before that, I had met astrology through this little book that we got at home. And before that, I had met myth and legend - when you are about three or four you believe in fairy tales. So I was already well-aware of an interconnected world of the miraculous. Which is not explainable.

So I laid my science on top of that, but it didn't uproot the miraculous world beneath - for me. Whereas I think there are a lot of people, these days, who have the scientific world-view as the base layer, and then, it's really hard to put the miraculous over the top.

Q: What was your introduction to actually practising astrology?

Through reading books like Colin Wilson's The Occult, and Richard Cavendish's The Black Arts and all that kind of thing, around 1969-70. There was a lot of stuff that came onto the market then that was what you might call 'popular occultism' - a wonderful oxymoron, isn't it! - including books with titles like 'How to Calculate Your Horoscope'. There was a lot of it about, and - as a teenager - you just soak this stuff up.

I bought the Parkers' Compleat Astrologer - the one with the ephemeris in the back - when I was at university in the early 70's, but by that point I'd already read a lot of occult philosophy including Agrippa (in the Latin!). The point really is that there was a lot of that kind of thing around, it was all part of that extraordinary hippy sub-culture where you got Indian mysticism at one end and death cults at the other, and a lot of drugs and rock 'n' roll in the middle. You just plunge into it, don't you - and eventually you come out, with a horoscope between your teeth. That really is pretty much how it was for me - I came out of university with a degree in classics and the ability to draw a horoscope!

Q: So you studied - what, Latin and Greek?

Latin and Greek, yes.

Q: Do you translate old texts? Or could you, if you wanted to?

I can if I want to. You really need to read a lot of Latin to get the nuances of vocabulary right; also, then, you need to be aware of the peculiar vocabulary that was in use in the particular era that you're dealing with. It's quite an academic endeavour.

But yes, I suppose I could. My Greek is very rusty, but it's good enough to play around - for my own purposes - with things like Ptolemy, which I enjoy doing, although it is complex stuff, and very technical. So it's there if I exercise it. My Latin's better than my Greek.

Q: Presumably you earn a living as an astrologer now - when did you start to be able to do that?

Well, I earn a living from writing Sun-sign columns - as everybody knows: 'Boo, hiss!' I wrote my first Sun-sign column in 1979, simply because I felt like it; the astrology was bursting out of me. I'd come to live in London, working as a schoolteacher. I'd joined the Astrological Lodge, and was attending Derek Appleby's ILEA [Inner London Education Authority] evening classes. I felt as if astrology was radiating from me, and I had to do something with it! So I wrote an article about how popular fashion corresponded to the shifts of Uranus through the signs: The rock 'n' roll, Elvis era is Uranus in Leo; the Mary Quant, mini-skirt and Beatles era is Uranus in Virgo; Libra covers the hippies, Scorpio covers the punks.

We were just about to go into Sagittarius with the 'New Romantics' and all that kind of thing, so I wrote a set of predictions about that, and sent it off to a woman's magazine - the only one I could find in the newsagent's which didn't have a line at the bottom saying, 'No unsolicited manuscripts'. And they bit! They said, "Yes, we'll have this - and would you like to write the regular Sun-sign column for us?" I naively asked, "Who does it now?", and they said, "We make it up"! (laughter)

So that brought in the grand sum of £75 per month, which wasn't bad in 1980 - and so I found myself with an alternative source of income. And of course, when you're doing one column, other people come to you. And what often happens is that the features editor of one magazine moves to another magazine, and immediately says, "We'll have a new astrologer - and I know just the guy!" So in that way, you can diversify.

Meanwhile, I moved from teaching into computing - in its early days, working for companies in the City writing code for mainframe computers. But all the time, by now, I was teaching astrology in evening classes and still very much part of the astrological scene in London in my spare time. It completely dominated my spare time, and eventually I made the jump to living solely from astrology in 1986. And I have done nothing since, but write books for the popular market and magazine columns.

I make my living doing that, and I continue to study, lecture, and just practise astrology around the sides. I'm one of the people who's got a foot in both camps - you know, you're known as an academic astrologer and speaker, and at the same time you're known as a commercial astrologer, with your picture in the magazines.

Q: So there's the whole debate amongst astrologers about the ethics of doing Sun-sign columns, and a lot has been said about that already. What's your personal perspective, given your experience of actually doing it, and getting feedback from readers? Presumably you think it's a good thing to do?

Yes I do, because I think you're sowing seeds. The next generation of astrologers are going to come from people who took an interest in Sun-sign columns to start with. I don't think it's possible any more, actually, for someone to come to astrology and not have met the Sun-sign column. Therefore the Sun-sign column is going to be the thing which piques people's interest, and you must make sure it's always as good as it can be.

I also think there's a message which you can put out through these columns, and it's quite an important one. Although you must do it at quite a low level, and there's a limit to what you can do in eighty words! Essentially, I want to tell people that life goes in cycles. And this cyclical view is much more reassuring, I think, to people than the linear view of orthodox science. Because the linear view, with the idea of progress in it, suggests that life is going on further and further ahead, and you're getting left behind. Whereas the cyclical view says, "You missed it this time, but don't worry, you'll get your chance again". It's tremendously reassuring. And I think the average guy in the street doesn't feel as though he's cutting edge at all, he feels he's playing a game of catch-up in which, somehow, he's losing all the time. And just when he gets to where he wants to be, they move the goalposts… So the cyclical view is nice.

I also like to show people that there are powers beyond their own, there are worlds beyond their own, and that they are part of those worlds too. And that, sometimes, fate has nice surprises for you - and if you have a bit of faith in yourself, and you're an honest, decent kind of guy, then eventually fate will scoop you up and take you forward, and your time will come. That again, is very reassuring for people. Perhaps the reason I emphasise this is because I've got so much experience at the low end of the market, where people's lives are not always so marvellous, and that kind of folksy reassurance can be important.

What my horoscopes do, more than anything else, I think, is to say, "Here is the right moment. The planets have moved here, here and here - so here is your fine opportunity to do - this". Which firstly shows that I'm looking at the sky, but also I want to show people that there are doorways of opportunity which they might have missed because they don't know how to look for them, or because they are pre-occupied. And I say, "You could do this, you know; this would be good". And they like to know that there's someone who's steering the boat, who knows where he's going.

Fifteen years ago, people who read Sun-sign columns would want to know how to do it for themselves. Now they don't; their lives are too busy. But what they do want to know, is that there's somebody who they can trust, who appears to have a map of the cosmos and knows more or less what's going on. So you have to build up trust with your readership.

Shelley von Strunckel says that a horoscope in a newspaper is like a toffee. The paper yells at you: "world crisis, people killed, disaster, floods, war, famine…" Then there's this horoscope, which says, in a rather elliptical way, "You are thinking like this, but here is an opportunity…" And you chew it over. It's like a toffee, it only takes two minutes - you unwrap it, pop it in and chew. But for those two minutes, you are the centre of the universe. The astrologer says, "Yes, you are the centre of the universe; I'm talking to the core of you, to the Sun in you". And people think, "Yes, this is just for me…" - and that is the toffee in the newspaper. So you're making them aware of this miraculous world, as well as the linear world. That, I think, if it's done well, is of enormous value to people. That is what a Sun-sign column should aspire to do - and which I try hard to make sure that mine do.

My Sun-sign columns are never, ever made up as in, 'Oh my God, what shall I say today?' Every one of them is simply a scenario created from the aspects of the day or the aspects of the week. And if you're smart, you can deconstruct mine and get back to the ephemeris. So in a way, they're a series of footnotes to the ephemeris. And as an astrologer, what else should I do? I'm not a psychic, I'm not a seer, I'm an astrologer; I look at the planets and I tell you what they mean. That's what I do, and there are enough people out there who like what I do, to keep me in a living. I'm lucky.

Q: Referring to the Sun as the 'core' of the chart - when you do a natal reading for somebody, do you encourage them to emphasise their Sun, as the planet whose qualities a person needs to 'own' if they're to get the most out of life, be true to themselves, etc?

No. But there again, I'm not very practised in doing consultations. Basically, I don't do them, although I do them for the odd person in need, or the odd person who comes to me, and very very occasionally I'll do one for money, but that's really rare. Most of what I do is Sun-sign stuff.

What I do when I talk to people about their horoscopes is to make them aware that they are not one-dimensional. Because often they become fixated on one area of their life, which is causing the problem. And you can take them out into the rest of the chart, and say, "Look at this, this and this which you are not using, which you have forgotten about" - and encourage them to step back and see the bigger picture. So that's what I try to do - to show them that all the chart is them, not just the particular area of concentration that they currently have. If people have concentrated too much on their career, on one aspect of their personal relationship, on a personal failing maybe, if they have (say) a drink problem - there will be a lot of stuff which is not brought out in the chart; and it can be.

So people say, "I don't have any prospects, I don't have any options, there isn't any more that I can do with my life". And you say, "Oh yes there is - there's the rest of this chart here; here's a map to the rest of your life, let's go and explore". So I suppose that's the very opposite of the focus on the Sun you were asking about.

I always try to show people patterns through time; how things unfold, where they are, and where it goes next. And to get them to take the long view. They think that a year is an impossible amount of time, whereas a decade is barely enough to unfold an episode of your life.

Q: When you do your astrological work - natal, horary or whatever - what are the main influences that shape your approach?

You mean in style?

Q: In style, but also in substance - you know, are you following Lilly's techniques, or what?

I suppose my way of approaching a horary is Lilly-esque. I think it would be hard to find anybody for whom that wouldn't be the case. If you're English and you've done your astrology in the last twenty years, then you will almost inevitably be in the 'School of Lilly'. So that deals with that one.

I take a traditional view with elections - I don't try and fix elections for anything that has got Uranus or Neptune involved.

So yes, I suppose I'm a neo-traditionalist. You asked this earlier in the interview - you thought I was such a traditionalist that you couldn't imagine me playing around with things like Phaethon. I do play around with the outer planets by transit, not as rulers of houses, not as significators, but by transit - for the simple reason that I've tried it and it works. I have a series of about a dozen key dates in my life that are unmissable - things like the deaths of my parents, the births of my children, the dates of my marriages, surgical operations - these are milestones, they are not falsifiable, they are a matter of public record.

So you look at them all by secondary progression, by primary progression, by transit of this and that and so on - and I've tried them all. And the only one that works all the time, and gets a complete series of twelve hits, is outer planet transits.

Q: You're on the 'steering committee' of the Sophia Trust I believe, I wonder if we could talk about what that involves?

I got drawn into it - not against my will, certainly not, but I knew nothing about it until I was approached. Which seems to have been a move on the part of Charles Harvey. He asked Geoffrey Cornelius to approach me. Now this is fantastic, because Harvey and I were never that close - though I recognised what he did, and came to appreciate him much more after his death. And Cornelius and I have had our differences in the past, though we respect one another's astrology. So for Harvey to ask Cornelius to get me into Sophia was - well, it was big of him, and far-sighted, and shows that he really did understand the need to bring in all of astrology's people of influence. (I suppose you can put me in that category.)

So we had this huge meeting at Latimer House in 1999, from which grew the entire format of what we would do. A small committee was formed, and there were various elections where people from the various organisations put forward their representatives, and I found myself on the committee.

There's not a lot to say about Sophia; it always wanted to seed astrology as a serious topic within universities, in different ways. And we tried it in different ways. Firstly we tried the idea of sponsoring research students at places of very high academic renown - things like the Warburg Institute, we sponsored three students to go, one a year, on a visiting fellowship. Then there was the idea of running a small, focussed, research group within a university - which we did with the Research Group for the Critical Study of Astrology at Southampton University. Then we thought of creating a module within an established course within an established faculty - which is what we set up at Kent. And finally, there was the 'do the whole house' approach, where we would create a department from scratch and build the building to put it in - which is what we did with Bath Spa.

So we've got every level, and every way of doing it. Some have been more successful than others, we've learned as we have gone on. The thing is, that it's a finite project. It's a starter project; it's supposed to get the ball rolling, it's not supposed to keep things going with indefinite funds. It surprised a lot of people in the astrological community who, on hearing that there was a generous sponsor coming along with lots of money, went, "Oh good! Lots of money!" They hadn't really thought high enough; hadn't really thought, how would a university want to see astrology? How would you get astrology into a university; in what way? It's not enough to take hobby astrology - where people greet one another with, "Ooh, I love your Mars!" - that just wouldn't work at a university. And many people in astrology couldn't see that. But you do have to take a completely different view of the subject.

At the same time, we wanted to create what I refer to as an escalator, where you get people from 'club astrology' to move up, through things like the Faculty of Astrological Studies and maybe undergrad courses at suitable places, eventually to get to the top and be doing research and PhD level work. So Bath Spa is the top level of the exercise. And we had to create this 'escalator' to enable people to get there. But of course you change their astrology as they go. It's not a vocational course - we realised early on that we couldn't teach vocational astrology. The Faculty can, but a university can't do that. And a lot of people couldn't get their heads around that. Also, the idea of getting people in who were academics but who weren't astrologers - because their expertise in philosophy, literature, historical studies, religious studies, whatever it is, is absolutely vital to show the astrologers the bits that they haven't got. And there should be an interface between the two, and these people should be learning about the astrologers' views. But if you just take practising astrologers, and take them to university, it would all fall to pieces.

There was an issue for a while about how secretive Sophia was being. It was because we didn't want to be deluged with people saying, "Give us some money"! Because we'd already taken the decisions about how the money would be used. Many people hadn't worked out that this was essentially a private thing, which one private, very generous, individual wanted to do. Now people who have got private, large amounts of money - we're very lucky if they want to give it to astrology. Usually they want to buy football teams! And at the end of the day, it's their money - so you can't tell them what you want to do. You've got to say, "Gosh, thanks for being so generous - how can we make best use of this?"

It required everybody to learn, very fast, how organisations work. I found myself having reasoned conversations with people who are directors of studies at universities; talking with architects; talking about planning permission. And occasionally I'd think - "Hang on, all I do is draw horoscopes…" It was a huge jump up. And, bless them, these people at universities would always take us very seriously. So you don't offer to do their chart, or read their palm, or whatever! We needed to grow up. I think it's been a marvellous thing, absolutely marvellous, and I hope and pray that it will stick. Because we have set things in motion, we have put a huge amount of time, energy and goodwill into it. And the initial intake of people at Bath Spa were extraordinary - stellar people involved, Bernadette Brady and the like. And all of them put their practice to one side, concentrated on the history, and have produced some amazing stuff.

So I hope that can continue, I really do. There is still internal politics involved - you can't get away from that. You know, the little camps of astrologers with their various loyalties. That's all we cared about in the 70s and 80s - sometimes I wonder how we ever did any astrology. And it's still there, not far beneath the surface.

But the great thing about all the Sophia projects is that they are so different. The kind of stuff that happens at Bath, at Kent, and at Southampton is different - and that's good. When you say, "We're looking at astrology in different ways, seeding the study in different ways", you are laying yourself opening to the criticism that you have no idea what you're doing, and that it's a scatter-gun approach. It isn't. It's a broad approach; a high-risk strategy, I'll grant you that, because if any of the projects go down, I don't think we've got enough money to start again. But it's worked.

Q: So presumably what Bath Spa needs, if it's to continue in the long-term, is for people to start signing up for courses who aren't astrologers.

It's true, although there have been some people right from the beginning who weren't astrologers and knew absolutely nothing about it. They were, in many ways, the most fascinating people, because they brought a knowledge and a world-view which was parallel, but not 'the same as'. We got people from other mystical traditions, people from pagan backgrounds and so on - terrific. And those are the sort of people you want to get more of. It's so difficult to go out there and find them, they are so well-hidden! You can't go around digging up alchemists and saying, 'Oh by the way, would you like to come and do an MA?' You'd love to, but where do you find these people?

Dealing with anything esoteric, the people who do it are so used to hiding from 'regular culture', it's a real problem. They are hiding their light (as it were) away from the artificial light. Theirs is sunlight underground - it sounds bizarre, but it is. They are working with a true light, an inner light, very different from the artificial light by which most of the world lives. And we've got to go and find these people! They might ask, "Why do I want an MA?"; and the answer is, "Well, actually, you don't". But that's not what a university is for anyway. A university is (or at least, should be) a thing which grows knowledge. People bring their knowledge to it, and exchange it, and through that process, views are changed within academia and within the larger, wider world. It's like a beehive - there's stuff happening there all the time, as everybody brings their little contribution. And the more varied the flowers the bees can feed on, the better the honey - as any apiarist will tell you. So I think there's a need for people to see the university as a beehive, rather than as a place where you can buy yourself a better job. It doesn't work that way; never did; and I think the present government is to be criticised for putting out the view that if we all had degrees we would all have top jobs.

Q: Would you argue that people become better astrologers by immersing themselves in the history of the subject?

Ye-es, though that isn't to say that you can't be a good astrologer without the history. I think the history gives you a context, and helps you see your own astrology as being part of the era in which you learnt it, and applied to the world in which you live. It's misleading to take an astrology out of its context - something very old, like Ptolemy or Babylonian astrology - whiz it straight into the 21st century, and say, "This is valid now". In a universal sense, yes it is valid, because all astrology is. But you need to see where it was coming from; why it is that shape. And doing the history of astrology will help you put things into that deeper context, which you can then draw on.

But in terms of the actual mechanism - can you read a chart, and do you have a meaningful interface with your clients, and do you get results - no, you don't need the history at all.

Q: Looking back on the history of astrology, it seems that there have always been fierce rivalries between astrologers. It certainly is the case now. Why is that, do you think? Why is the world of astrology broken into factions, rather than being ruled by peace, love and understanding?

(laughs) Because we're human! And also because we've got to make a living. It's very sad, but I've found that one of the most important mellowing factors in the astrological community in the UK, is whether you've got a job or not. People who rely on their astrology (particularly in peddling their particular view, or their particular school) - they are, in many ways, the most vociferous factionalists. And the people who have a day-job - are not.

That's always been the case; Lilly wanted people to buy his pamphlets. I think it's the same with any creative individuals. Because astrology is a creative process, an artistic process, as well as a craft. And that, I think, is what leads to the factions. I think it's naïve to think that artists can all live in peace and harmony. The thought-process that goes into making an astrological judgement is intense. And this produces high temper; temperamental people.

Q: One thing that interests me is the role of faith, or confidence, in what the astrologer does.

What, whether the client has it, or the astrologer has it?

Q: I think both come into the picture, but certainly it seems to me that it helps an astrologer if they are confident.

Yes. As regards clients - well, when I say 'client' I also mean 'reader', because most of my clients are readers - people write and ask me for a written analysis of their chart or whatever. I've found that their faith is absolute. It stuns me, how much faith they have in the things I've written, to what extent something I have said has struck a chord and shown them something which seems true. And in many ways, the faith of the astrologer is buoyed up by that. Particularly for someone like me, who writes all the time. You're kind of writing for a vacuum; you know, you send your text off, it appears in magazines, and you think, "Well - does anybody actually read this stuff?" Then somehow, somebody comes back, and it's overwhelmed them. And their faith is so marvellous; they never doubt your ability to do it.

Q: That's scary!

It is scary, and yet somehow it works. They come to you, and this stuff happens. I don't know what 'this stuff' is. I often refer to it by asking people if they've seen Star Wars - you know, 'the force'. There's that lovely bit in the Millenium Falcon where Luke can't hit the flying ball, and Alec Guinness tells him to put his helmet on backwards, so that he can't see with his own eyes, but only with his inner eye. Then, of course, he hits the ball every time with his light-sabre.

And astrology's like that! You think you know what you're doing, you think you can manipulate it, as if it were just a trick. As if it were just sleight of hand: as if you just put these symbols and images together in a mechanical way, and get a result. Well, you don't. But if you stop doing that, and let it just happen - wow! Then you hit it. And people come to it with this marvellous sense of innocence and trust - which is faith - and say, "Yes, I believe you can do this, you can tell my future". And you might even say to them, "No, actually I can't, I'm just somebody who turns out Sun-sign columns" - they still say, "Yes you can".

People come with the most extraordinary stuff. They have lives that are so fractured, so damaged, you think "How can they live?" And the astrology flows; at the end of it, you think, "Well, I hope that's been useful". And they're in tears and say, "It's been wonderful" - and you think, "But I didn't say anything". Well, perhaps you are just giving them permission to accept a truth about themselves. I don't know; I don't know what it is, but it is miraculous stuff. It is that world of the miraculous again, which I think most people actually live in. The technology that we enjoy does not come of that world - and we know it to be only a technology. The world of the miraculous is where most people feel themselves to be, most of the time. I don't think that anybody actually feels that they are part of a machine. Or if they do, they're screaming to leave it. That world of the miraculous is what people want to dip into - and astrology is there for them.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you have a lot of debilitated planets in your chart. How do you think about that?

Constantly, and with regret! (laughter)

Q: Because on a simplistic level, that would suggest that you're going to have a really grim life.

Well, you just have to get on with it. My chart is short of essential dignity, but accidentally good. For example, I have Mars in the 1st house. It's in detriment, which is not good at all, but it's in the first. Jupiter's in detriment, but it's very high in the 9th, virtually on the Midheaven. So in terms of accidental dignity, that's good.

The Sun is - famously - unaspected in my chart. Cadent Sun, unaspected. Great - what do you do with that? And the answer is, it's like tumbleweed; you drift, you find places to be. There's no career structure, no path. You have to live with transparency, I think, because you don't have the internal resource to fall back on if it all goes pear-shaped. You must deal honestly with people.

I'm very taken with the 'Wheel of Fortune' - you know, the tarot card. As you go up one side, there's somebody coming down the other. I think I've been up and down a fair few times! But as my dad used to say to me, you have to be nice to people on the way up in the world, because you meet them again on the way down. And that is to do with the whole wheel of fortune thing, I'm very aware of that and so try to live reasonably transparently, and deal honestly with people.

Q: Here's one which, as you know, I sometimes like to ask people: What would be your desert-island astrology texts?

I've thought about this a fair bit. It's interesting. I think I'm allowed to have an ephemeris? I think I'd have to say Lilly (Christian Astrology), otherwise people will say 'How dare you not?' There's so much in it, and apart from the fact that it's a great text-book, it's funny! And I like that, I like my astrology to amuse me.

If we're really playing the game about a desert island, there's not much point in taking stuff that's natal - because there's only you on it! Lilly's horary skill is possibly what you would want. But really, when you talk about a desert island, you mean 'five works that you couldn't do without', don't you?

Q: Yes.

Well, Lilly is one. I think Ptolemy - because the older I get, the more I see in him. He's not writing a 'how to' book, he's writing a tremendous philosophical work. I think he perhaps wrote it at the end of his life. I take the view - which many disagree with - that it is not impossible for the person who wrote the Almagest also to have written the Tetrabiblos.

The Tetrabiblos is in many ways infuriating, because it is inexact. But eventually you realise that it's very high astrology, and it doesn't have to be exact because that's not what it's talking about. It's great stuff - very high philosophy indeed, and yet at the same time it sees itself as almost scientific, which is why a lot of people so dislike Ptolemy. They argue that he's trying to take the mystery out of it, and make it scientific. To me, he's got both the science and the mystery, and I really enjoy reading Ptolemy.

I like Al-Biruni (The Book of Instructions in the Elements of the Art of Astrology), for the simple reason that it's so romantic. It's lovely, it really is. The idea that he wrote it as a sort of 'gentleman's education' in one volume, for a young noblewoman, strikes me as very romantic, and in a way very liberated - as if he's asking, why shouldn't you educate a young woman in these things. Throughout history you have these heroines, who are young women who - in a way - take on the role of being a young man. They don't lose their femininity in any way, they gain in charm through being able to compete in a man's world and being just as clever. It's the Minerva archetype, if you like. And you get them throughout history in romantic literature, and I really like that. The idea that Al-Biruni was writing for just such a woman is very charming.

And his material is surprisingly level, surprisingly free of bias. It encompasses geography, mathematics, astronomy and astrology; there's numerology as well as hard maths - it's a fantastic attempt at one-volume civilisation for somebody in central Asia in the 11th century. There's this wonderful avuncular quality to it, which doesn't patronise the person it's written for, but it's as though he's… it's almost like a love-letter to her, but realising that such a thing would be inappropriate and perhaps impossible because of the age difference or other differences between them. It's like the Arabian Nights for astrologers - it's delicious.

I really ought to include Reinhold Ebertin (The Combination of Stellar Influences) because it's just so good! Everything you want is in Ebertin. You think, "What on earth does that mean?"; you look it up in Ebertin and it's spot on the money every time. How did he do it?

In exact contrast to Al-Biruni, Ebertin is mechanistic. He is of the Germany of the 1930s - it's really quite terrifying in its reductionism: "I have taken a thousand people who all came to hospital for this reason, and I now believe that these planets have created gall-stones in all these people… " You think, "God, no, please, it's not like that, astrology doesn't work that way"; you half-expect him to say, "You will be assimilated, resistance is futile…" But for all that, you just can't beat it for accuracy.

My fifth book will surprise people, I think. It's either of Grant Lewi's books (Astrology for the Millions or Heaven Knows What). Lewi is just wonderful, because he is electric in the sense of 'electric light'. You see, Britons in the early years of the 20th century were pretending that Edwardianism was still there. We were looking back to a previous golden era. Whereas in America, they were getting on with being modern. They had discovered electricity, and it was transforming their lives. That sense of excitement that comes with movies, electric light and electric power, is all part of America's wonderful age during the 1910s, 20s and 30s. They were building skyscrapers, it was very futuristic, switched on, optimistic, it was electric in every sense.

Now, when you read Lewi's stuff, he is not just recycling (say) Sepharial, or Lilly. His take on people's lives and times, and what they're after, and their personal characteristics, is very modern in a 20s and 30s sense - and now that gives him a pleasing period feel. His view of Uranus is, quite simply, electric. It's marvellously modern, and quite different from the Victorian and Edwardian, semi-mystic table-tapping stuff that Leo produced and which everybody after him simply repeated. So Lewi is refreshing in that sense. I don't know where he gets it from, but it's remarkable stuff, and always seems to hit the mark. Whereas sometimes, referring to the 19th century astrologers for character traits, you think, "Oh, this is just so tiring! People aren't like that any more!" But Lewi's delineations are still completely relevant, he never even seems to hit a wrong note. Tremendous stuff.

Q: How do you think about the relationship between religion and astrology?

I'll get some flak for this, but I can't see much difference between: 'As above, so below', and 'On earth as it is in heaven'.

That blurs the edges between astrology and religion a bit, doesn't it. And if you look at some of the early Christian fathers, and you look at some of the non-canonical teachings attributed to Jesus - things like the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gnostic writings - it's there; this idea of the correspondence between heaven and earth, of the two worlds and the life that is within both. A series of archetypes become manifest, and once in manifestation, then begin to reach back up for the universal and divine. It's the dual flow between the two that energises the whole thing.

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

No. Because I think the idea of 'proof' derives from a paradigm which astrology is not best measured by. You've got two sorts of people: There are those who want to be shown astrology - and in their case, showing them is a delight. And then you've got people who defy and deny astrology. They want proof. But as Mavis Klein says in a wonderful little rhyme, 'A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still'.

So if you want to find astrology, then have someone show it to you. If you deny astrology and want it to be proved to you, well, firstly you must let go of this barrier you have, and open yourself to it. You cannot be shown astrology against your will, because you will say either, "It's not a proper proof", or "It's a trick", or whatever.

Over the years your astrology changes, of that I'm quite convinced - and so it should, you don't want to be painting the same pictures after thirty years as you did when you began. And I think it becomes a solitary thing, a pathway for the individual's own spiritual development and for his own realisation of truths. And in a way, therefore, you don't need to prove it to anybody else. But if they want to find it true for themselves, and perhaps communicate to you and share with you their joy of the experience and that sense of companionship on the road, that's fine. But companionship on the road does entail that both of you are taking the journey.

Q: Nice way of putting it. I'm aware that by asking the question I paint myself into the position of appearing to think that astrology should be able to prove itself, which I don't…

There are a lot of people who want astrology to be proved, in some way that would legitimise it for them. I don't need astrology to be proved, in the same way that I don't need religion to be proved. If you can believe in the Trinity, the Resurrection and the Virgin Birth, astrology's easy. What is it that is particularly indigestible about astrology, that the Trinity doesn't have?

Q: To what extent, in your view and your experience, is there an overlap between astrology and religion?

For myself, personally, an enormous one. Because it provides me with a universal vocabulary, or a vocabulary of transcendent forms and images, which I find useful in my own religious development, in my own faith, in my own devotions. I don't expect other astrologers necessarily to take my view on that.

I don't treat it in a simplistic way - as in, 'Astrology's to do with the sky, and God lives in the sky, etc'. Although there are plenty who do, and if that is of value to them then that's good. But I see it as a metaphysical vocabulary. And religion is essentially a metaphysical thing, and so therefore this vocabulary must surely be of use. For me it is.

Astrology is not a religion in itself, by the way.

Q: Sure. That is an important proviso, isn't it?

Yes. I believe astrology, but I do not believe in it. I would not, for instance, address my prayers specifically to astrology - as if in some way it held revelation and salvation for me. Which it can't.

Q: When you do astrology, do you, and do your clients, experience something religious in nature when astrology works?

I don't know. I wouldn't label it 'religious', but I think it is something metaphysical. 'Spiritual' might be a better way of describing it; or, 'affecting the soul'. It does seem to have an impact on an inner dimension, which is interwoven in daily life but normally ignored or suppressed. Astrology brings that much closer to the surface. It does seem to nourish that part of a person. Whether you choose to call it 'spiritual' or 'religious' or whatever is maybe a matter of choice.

The word 'religion' in present English seems to be inevitably tied up with the idea of institutionalised ritual - 'the church' as a political and social organisation and as a construct. Whereas if you are meaning something more personal, more individual, but still metaphysical, I think people use the word 'spirit' or 'soul'. And yes, I do think that every astrological consultation touches on that, and in some way eases, feeds, nourishes, expresses, reaches, that.

Q: It's tricky isn't it, because the word 'spiritual' will strike some people as too new-age and vague.


Q: It's something that interests me a great deal, because it seems to me that, by its working, astrology is showing that we are interconnected with the world and that this world is shot through with meaning. Which is very much the same terrain as religion.

It is, yes.

Q: Do you have an example you could share of astrology working, from your own practice?

It depends what you mean by 'working'. Horaries 'work' - you say, "This is going to happen", and it does.

Q: That's certainly 'astrology working' as I mean it. Do you have an example or two?

A very early horary that I did - in fact, probably the first horary that I ever did. My wife woke up, having dreamed of a small house. We were living in a flat at the time, which we rented. She obviously wanted a house of her own - not just to rent, but to own - and she thought, "I wonder when I will ever get a little house of my own" - looked at the clock, and jotted the question and time down on the pad by the bed.

I drew the chart, and worked out that it would occur the following April (or whatever, I don't remember the exact date). Which seemed a ridiculously short time-span, then. We thought nothing more of it, and I put the chart away.

Several months later, a colleague of hers burst into her office at work and said, quite angrily, "You don't want to buy my house, do you?" By which he meant, "I am selling my house, I have lost my buyer and now I am in trouble". She said, "Well, I don't know, how much do you want for it?" And the short version is that we bought that house; and as we were packing up papers to move, we found this horary and it was correct to the day.

Q: Whoa!

Yes, that type of thing you occasionally get and it makes you think, "Wow, that's good!"

Q: It seems to me that the real payload of astrology is the simple fact that it works; so that any information which is given is actually a secondary phenomenon. What I mean is - no matter what difficulties someone comes to an astrologer with, and no matter how useful the specific advice they get might be, the most enduring impact will be what is implied by the simple fact that astrology works: that there is meaning in the world.

Yes. It isn't just that they were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, it's something that was there to come to them. It's something that they need to get through. It's in their hand of cards, and they must play the game on that basis. I use a lot of these little metaphors - like playing cards, jigsaws, and so on. They often go into my Sun-sign columns, and they help to give people a sense of location. After all, most of the people who come to see an astrologer are lost - so what do you do? You give them a map. And that's what a horoscope is - it's a map, a map of the sky.

I remember, many years ago, I put an advert in Time Out asking for clients. This guy came, and didn't have a time of birth. I thought, "Oh great, what are we going to do?" We just reconstructed his whole life out of transits, taking sunrise on his date of birth as the starting point. So we had no houses to work with, just planetary transits. We reconstructed his childhood. He came back the next week, paid me some money, and we reconstructed his teens. Basically, he paid the grocery bill for two or three months! Until we'd basically brought his whole life up to date. At which point he said, "That's fine, thankyou" - and went away. I still wonder what that was about!

Q: Did you pin down an accurate time of birth in the end, do you think?

No, probably not.

Q: You just worked with a solar chart all the way through?

Yes, and it worked really well. He was just interested in these recurring rhythms which seemed to set off stressful patterns in his chart - which were there in the natus - and we could then date the recurrence of hardships, failures… I think, in the end, he was interested in rationalising his mistakes.

Thank you Bernard, this has been absolutely fascinating.

Bernard Eccles can be contacted by email at

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, 2005 - all rights reserved.

Professional Astrology

Books by
Bernard Eccles

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

Plus ...

An Interview with some American Astrologers

by Deborah Houlding