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This interview was recorded by Garry Phillipson on 8/9/02 and published in the Mountain Astrologer, issues 108 & 109, April & June 2003.

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 Robert Hand by Garry Phillipson

Robert Hand has been a professional astrologer since 1972. He is well-known as a pioneer in two separate fields: He was one of the first to develop astrological software for astrologers (his organization, Astro-Graphics Services, metamorphosed into Astrolabe, Inc). As a researcher and retriever of ancient astrological methods, he was a founding member of Project Hindsight and now works with his own organization, ARHAT (Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts). His books include Horoscope Symbols, Essays on Astrology, and Night and Day (Planetary Sect in Astrology).

Robert graduated with honors in history from Brandeis University and worked as a graduate in the History of Science at Princeton. He has recently returned to academic life as a postgraduate student of Medieval History at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

He has served as chairman of the National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR); is a member of the Association for Astrological Networking (AFAN), the International Society of Astrological Research (ISAR), the Astrological Lodge, the Astrological Association of Great Britain; and is a patron of the Faculty of Astrological Studies. He lectures at conferences, seminars, and workshops worldwide.

Robert was born December 5, 1942; 7:31 p.m. EWT; Plainfield, New Jersey (40°N37', 74°W26'). His books can be ordered from his website at: I spoke with Robert on September 8, 2002, at the conference of the Astrological Association of Great Britain.

Q: When Saturn went through Cancer in 1974, the United States went through Watergate and the final withdrawal from Vietnam. Have you looked at the next transit of Saturn through Cancer and what that might bring for the U.S. and for George W. Bush?

Particularly with George Bush's Sun on the Sun of the United States, I imagine it's safe to assume that there will be repetitions of that sort of thing - which does not augur well for any involvement in the Middle East being successful.

Saturn conjunctions to the Sun do not necessarily mean failure, but the Saturn-Sun cycle is one of the few cycles where the conjunction is a culmination rather than a beginning. The cycle begins at the opposition, for some reason. So, what happens when a culmination transit occurs is that any matter for which the foundation has been properly laid works well, and any matter for which the foundation has been laid poorly falls apart. So, that means we want to go back 14 years from 2003, which takes us to 1989. And lo and behold, guess who was the president? George the first (i.e., George Bush, the elder)!

So, this would be the culmination of the cycle that began with the Gulf War! I hadn't really thought of that, but that is the case. That does argue that the Gulf War will get its comeuppance, in some form, over the next couple of years. I don't need to be an astrologer to forecast this, but it's curious to see the way the cycles reinforce it.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on Bush's chart?

The thing that really throws a lot of people when they look at Bush's chart is that his Sun is in the 12th house [see Chart, below]. That is generally taken to indicate a withdrawn, secretive nature - someone who does not like to be in the limelight. Yet, he's ended up in the glare of the ultimate limelight. So, many astrologers have wondered what's going on with that configuration.

There are two things we can do here. One is to consider how this will influence his style as President. But before doing that, we should look to see whether his Sun is really stranded in the 12th house, or if the picture is more complex than that.

Bush's Sun is in Cancer, so it's ruled by the Moon and is in the sign of Jupiter's exaltation. His Moon and Jupiter are conjunct in Libra and are in square to his Sun. So, the Sun is strongly received by its rulers. Traditional astrology would be much less concerned by the aspect being a square than by these receptions being in place which strengthen the Sun a good deal.

Q: Could we dwell on that point for a moment? Because I wondered if you were going to say that the Moon and Jupiter receive the Sun into the sign of its fall (Libra) and that, therefore, they actually weaken it further.

No, traditional astrology would see this as strengthening, not weakening, the Sun. The issue here is that an aspect between a planet (the Sun, in this case) and its ruler or rulers is always productive. It is always better to have it than not to have it.

Where you have such an aspect, you have "reception." It doesn't matter so much whether the aspect is "good" or "bad," as long as there is an aspect. And even if the planets don't form an aspect but are in the same sign or in signs which behold one another (that is, signs in which planets would form sextile, square, trine, or opposition aspects if they were in the same degree), there will be some reception. Technically, without the aspect, you don't have reception; you have what is called "generosity." This is something which astrologers are not always clear about, and I include William Lilly here.

So, the fact that Bush's Moon and Jupiter are in the sign of the Sun's fall is significant, but it doesn't override the basic point that the Sun is stronger, not weaker, for having these receptions. Above all, this shows us that the Sun is definitely not stranded in the 12th house.

While we're on the subject, it's also worth looking at the movement of the Moon in Bush's chart. It is, as we've noted, in square to the Sun. But this square is separating, and the Moon is applying to a conjunction with Jupiter. This shows us that the Moon is pushing, as it were, the Sun's power onto Jupiter. This factor makes the reception from the Sun to the Moon and Jupiter even stronger and more dynamic than it would otherwise be.

Q: I see. Is there any more to say about Bush's Sun?

There is. His Midheaven is in Aries. The exaltation ruler is, of course, the Sun which - since Bush's is a daytime chart - is also triplicity ruler of Aries. The Sun rules his MC by exaltation and triplicity, which gives it more power over the MC than Mars has, so the Sun rules his career and social status.

On top of this, Bush's Ascendant is Leo - ruled by the Sun, both as domicile ruler and triplicity ruler. The fact that the Ascendant and Midheaven are ruled by the same planet connects them, and it begins to show us why Bush was motivated to seek public office in the first place, despite the 12th-house Sun. Then, there is the fact that the Moon-Jupiter conjunction, which receives the Sun, is in the 3rd house of communications. The Moon rules the public, and Jupiter is generally a positive and easygoing energy. So, people with Moon-Jupiter combinations are often well-liked and have little difficulty understanding other people's moods.

The conjunction of Mercury and Pluto in the 1st house, close to Venus, suggests a strong drive for power, the ability to communicate, and the ability to charm others. I believe that Bush's 12th-house Sun will eventually create difficulties in such a public role, but I do see how he has gotten there. He obviously has a capacity for public life.

Q: So, how does the 12th-house Sun come out? What difficulties would it create?

It seems to me that we still do not know who George W. Bush is. For example, during the election campaign, he made a point of not clearly distinguishing himself from Al Gore except on issues such as religion and personal integrity, things that he (rightly or wrongly) attacked Gore for not having. But on other issues, he was extremely unclear, even when he took a position. This is a 12th-house quality. But the fact of the Sun combining with the Moon and Jupiter largely prevents this from being a problem in the public perception. We may not know who he his, but enough people are okay with this that he was able to become President.

I believe that, during Bush's administration, he will keep his private life as far away from the media as possible. Also, the process of government will be quite secretive - the public will have little idea of what is going on in his administration. To put it in the most general terms, what we see is not quite what we are going to get.

I suspect that Bush is not so much the head of our government as he is the public head of a committee that is actually in charge. Some of the other members of that committee have almost as much influence as Bush. None of these things need be negative, but I think we can say that Bush's administration is going to be one of the less straightforward and more secretive ones in our history. And given some of the things that have happened over the last several administrations, that is saying a lot. Incidentally, I covered similar ground in an article I wrote for the Star IQ Web site not long after Bush's inauguration. [1]

Q: What of the future?

The main thing you need to know is that the whole Afghanistan campaign, from the fall of 2001 till a couple of months ago, was conducted with Jupiter going back and forth over Bush's Sun. That's over; he no longer has any "protection." And the next major event will be Saturn conjoining his Sun, as we discussed. It is time for him to truly get his act together; the controversy going on between members of his administration is not a good sign.

Q: It struck me that, whilst we've been sitting here and talking, a couple of people have come up and asked you questions based on their worries about what's going to happen in the next few months - to their loved ones and to the world at large. Could you say something about how we, as astrologers, should deal with people's concern about the way things are going?

In my lecture this morning, I said that if we [i.e., the U.S.] don't get things right during the present crisis, we may have to pay the piper around 2031. But in reality, I have to say that if we can avoid major conflict for six months to a year [from September 2002], we'll probably continue to avoid it. This is because the energy is at its worst at the moment and is getting less intense, not more intense. I'm not saying there won't be more terrorist outbreaks and things like that, but - let's face it - 9/11 was a little bit more than the usual terrorist outbreak! In more hysterical and less controlled times, it could easily have triggered a major war.

One could argue endlessly about the response of the United States to 9/11, but - so far - it's actually been a remarkably restrained response, given the popular emotions that were whipped up at that point.

Q: In Planets in Transit, you give three rules for timing events and add that "with the dawn of the computer age, it is possible that we will be able to work out precise techniques for transit timing, based on the principles described in this text."[2]

It's possible - but nobody's done it yet!

Q: Okay, that answers my question, which was: Are we any closer to this?

No. There's a judgment call in there which defies computerizing, and that is the problem of deciding which transits are relevant to the event. And since one doesn't know what the event is ahead of time, you can go around in circles there. I'm not saying it can't be solved, but it's not obvious how to solve it.

Q: In Essays on Astrology, you propose working with parans in transits.[3] Have there been any developments there?

I haven't followed that up, because it's somewhat cumbersome from a practical standpoint. I don't subscribe to the idea that it should be done instead of zodiacal transits, but I hope that at some point we can start doing transits that way routinely.

It's not so much that it requires a computer, because that's not a problem. We have the computers, and it's a very easy program to write. The problem is that you have to know where a person is going to be in order to make a prediction. Because if you change latitude, you will change the timing of the transits - completely. You could utterly alter the scenario of a year's transits by going from New York to London! However, this might actually give you dynamic indications of which latitude ranges to avoid or to take special advantage of.

Q: Hmm, there are already enough people who think they can remodel the events of the coming year by traveling somewhere to "fix" their solar return chart …

The idea that the significance of transiting parans will change depending on location has, I think, actually more merit than that. There are some serious technical problems associated with it, but they could easily be solved by a computer. They just haven't been.

Q: In Planets in Transit, again, you expressed a tentative leaning toward precession-corrected transits.[4] Have you swung toward or away from them in the intervening years? Why?

At this point, my position is that they both work [i.e., that precession-corrected and regular, uncorrected transits both work]. I wish I could figure out when to use which, but at the moment, I just consider that a transit is not over until the precession-corrected position has been passed. The transit begins, however, with the tropical position. So, transits last a little longer as you get older, because the two positions are spreading out. At age 72, there's a difference of one degree between precession-corrected and uncorrected transits.

Q: So, your model is that both are relevant? They just convey slightly different information?

You see, the basic problem, theoretically, is that there is no such thing as a position that is stationary with respect to everything, that is, an absolutely defined position. All positions are stated with respect to something else: A sidereal position is stated with respect to the fixed stars; a tropical position is stated with respect to the vernal equinox (which, along with its cousins, the solstices and the other equinox, constitutes the most important determinant of the basic cycles of the Earth). So, obviously, from an a priori philosophical point of view, they are - potentially - equally functional. There's no possible theoretical prediction as to which should be better.

Q: For astrologers who are grappling with the dilemma of modern versus ancient astrology, what advice could you give them about how to reconcile ancient and modern techniques?

Actually, one of the nice things is that there's no need to reconcile them. Modern techniques are a subset of the ancient - especially of the medieval. So, what astrologers have to do is to simply expand the set. You see, going from modern Western to Hindu astrology is a real cognitive leap, because there is such a tremendous difference in the methodology of the two. But going from modern Western to traditional Western is simply an expansion of what you already know. That's why I would say that, from the learner's point of view, it's advantageous to go from modern to traditional Western, rather than from modern to Hindu. But I'd say that the efficacy of Hindu and Western techniques is roughly equal.

Q: If you were setting up a school to teach people how to do astrology, what would be the core texts?

At present, I or someone else would have to write one!

Q: Well, I wish you would. What would be in this textbook?

I'd provide readings in various aspects of medieval astrology. And I'd probably wind up with readings in various modern systems as well. For instance, although I'm not specifically a Jungian astrologer, I think that reading Jung is a very valuable thing to do, because he's one of the few moderns who thinks like an occultist. So, you can see how that style of reasoning is applied in a modern context. Jung's style of thinking is basically magical in the proper sense of the word, not the negative sense. People don't understand that Jung is actually a product of that underground tradition of thinking in the West. The lineage runs something like this:

First of all, you have the native, ongoing magical subculture of the Middle Ages, which wasn't terribly influential outside of a few small circles of students. Then, during the Renaissance, you have Pico della Mirandola in Florence and Johannes Reuchlin in Germany, both of whom bring out the Cabbalah - that is, they bring it out of Judaism into Christianity. Reuchlin was a lawyer who defended many prominent Jews in Germany against various kinds of political harassment in court. As a result, the Jews so respected him that they honored him by introducing him to their secret teachings. And Pico, of course, found a rabbi who was willing to teach him both Hebrew and the Cabbalah. That began the Christian Cabbalistic tradition, which in turn led to such thinkers as Jakob Boehme (who, it is generally recognized, had considerable influence on fields outside of his immediate mystical circle). This surfaces in 18th- and 19th-century Germany as what is called Naturphilosophie, which simply means "nature philosophy." This was actually a generic term for all of science - but it meant something more specific; it was a very vitalistic philosophy, talking about properties of nature that would generally be regarded as occult.

Both Jung and Freud, but especially Jung, came out of that tradition. So Jung is … I wouldn't say the "end product," because he's not the end, but he is a product of that tradition. So he's not "New Age" either, if you follow my meaning!

Q: I was reading a biography of Dion Fortune recently. She recognized that Jung's works were largely rooted in the magical tradition and said that she just needed a "Rosetta stone" which would translate his terms back into magical terms.[5]

Yes, and I'd say that's probably been pretty well accomplished by New Age thinkers since then.

Q: I did some work with Peter Case on how Jung's "four functions of personality" were actually derived from the four humours in the astrological and alchemical traditions.[6] Systems like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator have elaborated on Jung's basic typology and now present it as an entirely scientific, empirically based approach. But in the end, it's resting on a magical understanding.

Yes. I read that paper and found it very interesting. But that's the thing: Every empirical system is resting on something that isn't, strictly speaking, empirical. It's impossible to have a purely empirical tradition. In fact, in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, a lot of groups that we would now classify as "occult" were referred to, by the then-scientific types, as "vulgar empiricists" - because they based their material purely on observation, with a minimum of acceptable philosophical theory behind it.

In fact, they were not vulgar empiricists; they were just following an alternative philosophical tradition. But this is true of just about every major tradition. So, I don't really think this is something to hold against Myers-Briggs, but it is interesting that an astrological and pre-modern worldview has changed its clothes and surfaced now as a scientific worldview! And it is fairly effective. The really odd thing about the Myers-Briggs test, to the best of my understanding (and I don't claim to be an expert), is that it is a very effective test.

Q: So it seems - and hugely popular. If astrologers could tap only a fragment of that market, we'd be doing a lot better financially than we are now.


Q: Could you address how astrology influences your life? Obviously, you spend a lot of time working on it in one way and another, but how does it influence the way you approach life?

First of all, let me dispose of one obvious question: Do I run my life by astrology? The answer is no. Do I look at my major transits to see what's coming up and try to anticipate them? Yes. I think I'd be a fool not to. Occasionally I'll cast a horary, but it's usually a bad idea to cast horaries for oneself. But, in my opinion, the main influence of astrology is that I think differently as a result of studying it. I have tried to stop thinking like what I refer to as a "mechanist-materialist" and have started trying to think consistently, throughout all of my life, the way I think as an astrologer. As a 20th/21st-century person, that isn't easy! But I think I've attained a slightly less intense level of schizophrenia in this regard than most astrologers. Most people who do astrology think like astrologers when they're doing astrology, and they think like modern people when they do everything else - blissfully ignoring the fact that these two worldviews are completely incompatible.

I don't mean that you can't "believe in" science and "believe in" astrology. (I use these terms in quotation marks, because it is inappropriate in both disciplines to "believe.") But you cannot "believe in" the positivistic, materialistic worldview and also believe in the implications of astrology. You just can't.

At this point, I'll challenge anybody who thinks they can come up with an acceptable scientific explanation for the phenomena of astrology, because it isn't do-able! Parts of it maybe - but very restricted and limited parts.

So, astrology has affected my way of thinking in general, but I don't run my life by it - because I think astrology should never be a substitute for experience. You should be there with your experience, having things happen. But you should use astrology to understand that "this too shall pass," if it's a particularly difficult period, or occasionally use it to take advantage of an excellent opportunity. But to actually get up in the morning, look at your transits, and say, "Well, how shall I deal with today?" No way. That's crazy-making!

Q: Buddhist philosophy considers that we rarely see past our preconceptions about ourselves and the world. One way to address this problem is by learning a traditional method of dividing up and analysing all experience - such as the five khandhas[7] - in terms of that framework. It strikes me that it might be possible to apply astrology this way, too.

I don't know if I can add much to that. But yes, constantly relating things to their astrological correlates is something one can do, and it's actually not a bad thing to do, because then you begin to understand that the energies of transits and other types of predictive indications can work themselves out in ways that are quite different from the psychological/behavioral/experiential dimension that most people expect to see.

I remember, for instance, I was here [in the U.K.] during a Mars transit several years ago. And as Mars was transiting my chart and crossing the Midheaven where I was, my host took me to see the remains of an old Roman military fort. And that kind of thing kept happening; it had nothing to do with my feelings of aggression or anything of the sort. The Moon was applying to an aspect of Saturn at the same time, so I also saw old ruins, old this and old that - it was working out in an entirely external, benign way.

The virtue of this is that you can reasonably attempt to alter the impact of a transit or indication - by consciously putting the symbolism into your life in a benign way. I used to call it astrological alchemy; where you give the symbolism all the room it needs but in some way that it is not harmful, difficult, or whatever. In fact, it might even be useful and expanding.

The classic example of this, which I've mentioned several times, is the client of mine who, in 1998, had a particularly horrible-looking year from the point of view of general mental health and drug usage. I gritted my teeth and asked her what she had done that year. She looked at me, smiled, and said, "Oh, I was very happy and I made over $1 million." I asked, "What were you doing?" She said, "I was in a musical, playing Judy Garland." The role she played bore the symbolism, because the transits were a perfect description of Judy Garland. And since my client created the space (inadvertently, I might add, but she nevertheless did it very well), the symbols were able to manifest creatively, and she had no harm from it. Indeed, she benefited from it.

This is not some sort of Pollyanna stuff; this is real. This really works. It's an aspect of astrology which has been grossly underestimated in the literature. It's much more effective than saying, "Oh, just grit your teeth and think pure thoughts, and you'll come through just fine." Because it's an acceptance, a nonresistance to the energy. And I think that the answer to coping with difficult indications lies in that direction. Sometimes you just can't figure out how to do it. It would work if you could just figure it out, but sometimes you can't.

Q: With the woman you're talking about, there wasn't anything in the chart …

I didn't see any "benevolent" energy at all! And I've seen other instances like that. What it does is to validate the statement made by Ficino - and by Plotinus, his major influence - that, in fact, none of the planets are inherently malefic. The "malefics" are just more likely to be experienced that way than other planets, if you don't handle them properly. And that's not their problem - that's our problem.

Q: You're talking about a whole area of astrology which ought to be there but isn't. We've got the diagnostic tools but almost nothing on the remedial side.

It isn't really there, no, because there's been no real opportunity to create that body of lore. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, astrology was largely a practical tool, designed to deal with specific problems and issues. I would say that probably the most widespread use of astrology in that period (outside of medicine) was as a branch of political intelligence. Consequently, it was never incumbent upon anyone to look at these issues.

We have to understand that this is the first time in history that astrology has been used as a popular coping device by masses of people. In the past, you also had your street-corner fortuneteller, even in the Roman period. But I would argue that most of them were probably not particularly good at what they did! They were like the modern "Madame Zu Zu" type, with a flashing neon hand, or zodiac, in the window. (Hmm, I've always wanted one of those neon hands …)

So, this is the first time that reasonably competent, well-trained astrologers have been providing a service to a large mass of people. And it's the first time that we've had the leisure and the opportunity to think about that issue. So, I would say that this is the logical time to develop that body of lore.

I've said it again and again: I'm not an antiquarian. I believe that astrology should be firmly rooted in its tradition for the very simple reason that anything which has been around that long bears investigation. We should not conclude that astrology has evolved beyond its traditions and jettison them without thorough testing. Especially when it's demonstrably obvious, historically, that astrology didn't evolve, it de-volved. Astrology was almost forgotten, because it became socially, politically, and intellectually unfashionable. But rebuilding astrology on the tradition does not mean an uncritical acceptance of the tradition. I accept nothing from traditional astrology until I have demonstrated to my satisfaction that I can use it and that it works. Nothing! But I have found that an astonishingly high percentage of it does - and, indeed, we have been jettisoning good material.

What I find really humorous about this is that the most common allegation made about traditional astrology is that it is fatalistic and not oriented toward human potential. And I've actually found, from studying ancient philosophy as applied to astrology, that this philosophy gives the only system which has a solid philosophical rationale for human potential! Modern astrology just does it by wishful thinking or by varyingly appropriate or inappropriate applications of depth-psychology through astrology. But the ancient material has it built into the astrology.

Oddly enough, the person who did the most to integrate self-actualization into astrology is Aristotle. In the Aristotelian notion of causes is a firmly built foundation for seeing the evolution of a human being as the actualization of a soul within the body, and that self-actualization is what life is really all about. That sounds very modern, and Aristotle wouldn't have put it that way. What he did do was to say something in one place, and something else in another, and so on - and when you put all these statements together, you think, "My God, look at what he's saying!" I think if you had asked him, "Is this what you mean?" he would have said yes. But he wouldn't have thought in Californian alternative psychology terms; he would have said that a human being is a soul actualizing itself in a body. Period!

Q: Translated into astrology, would that mean changing things around so that you are doing Mars and the other planets, rather than viewing them as external forces which are doing unto you?

Absolutely! It means just that. It means changing astrology in that way completely. The natal chart has to be understood as a statement of intention by the soul. To put it in Aristotelian terms, it is a symbolic description of a formal cause. A "formal cause" is the description of an essence.

Now, the formal cause, as embodied in the chart, is one that is capable of having many different kinds of outcomes, depending on the level at which the person actualizes it. I believe that any chart has the potential for actualization that would lead to an enlightened being. But the circumstances, contingencies, and accidents (as they would have been called in medieval times) simply do not allow that to happen most of the time. And in some charts, the force of self-actualization is much greater than in others. So, there are charts that are more likely than others to get to that level of manifestation. But it's not a matter of "Some charts have this capability and others don't." It's more a matter of "All charts have this capability - some are really driven to it; others are not."

Q: What kinds of indicators show a person who is driven in this way?

The best way to say this is that it's usually the charts that you would look at, from a modern perspective, and say, "God, this is a really hideous chart!" So, with that type of chart, it's a case of "Sink or swim, friend!"

To give a rather fuller answer, there are two types who self-actualize rather well. There is the extremely turbulent, driven type, and there is the person who just has this incredible ability to attain peace and tranquility. Usually, the latter type doesn't seem particularly striking, but every so often, you run into these people who go through life happily, doing everything just fine and taking everything in stride. You could say, "Oh, but they're not really being tested" - bull! They're absolutely real people. They've arrived! And people around them are happy. They make people feel good - these are very divine people. But they're not trendy-divine. You might say that these are the individuals who have realized horoscopes. And there really is such a thing. We have this notion that, to be a really enlightened being, you have to go through hell first. That is frequently the case, but it's by no means universal.

I know a couple of people for whom everything just flows beautifully. They're happy, their families are happy, they are loved, they love other people. Everywhere they go, there's a little more light than when they arrived. And there's nothing spectacular or dramatic about them at all - but they're really beautiful human beings. What can I say? May their tribe increase!

Then you get people like Gandhi, who is of the first category. Gandhi was a genuinely tortured soul who overcame that condition and attained a very high degree of self-realization. But he really had to overcome in a most fierce and extreme way! And the power and energy he generated liberated a nation. His is probably the most extraordinary single life of the 20th century, in terms of impact and how he made it. His is probably also the most universally ignored life since Christ, in terms of people actually looking and seeing what he did - and following up on it.

The thing about satyagraha, as they called it, is that it ennobles the opponent.[8] The British have the remarkable distinction of being the people against whom it was used, and it ennobled the British as much as the Indians, ultimately. That's what is beautiful about it, whereas ordinary conflict diminishes both sides. But I have to admit, people have to be at a certain level of culture and civilization for satyagraha to work. The British and the Indians found themselves the ideal opponents for that particular game. There were lapses on both sides, but nevertheless it was, overall, a remarkable episode in history.

Q: Do you think of astrology as a way to enlightenment for yourself?

It's a tool. It is not in itself a body of techniques for enlightenment. It is, however, a bit of a roadmap. It's one of the tools that can be used for the purpose, and this is probably the main respect in which modern astrology will come to differ from traditional. Post-pagan astrology - after the classical period ended - grew up, of course, in a Christian framework, and it was not even permitted to entertain the issue. Those few Hermeticists and astrologer types who decided that they really wanted to use it as a tool for enlightenment got a rather "hot" reception from the church. Giordano Bruno comes to mind, who was burned in 1600.

So, the idea of astrology being a tool for self-liberation, as well as all the other things it does, is probably a modern idea. Even in India, I don't think it has been a major tool for that purpose, because they have all those other tools in their many spiritual traditions and techniques, including the various forms of yoga. Astrology has been, I gather, a largely practical tool for the Indians also. But in the West, where the opportunities for spiritual enlightenment through traditional means are relatively scant, astrology is beginning to take that kind of role. And I think that people who regard astrology as a barrier to enlightenment and religious evolution are about as wrongheaded as they can get. Having said that, I acknowledge that astrology can be made that way - quite easily. But that's because astrology is a technology that can be used for good or ill. Like magic, like nuclear power.

Q: I'm reminded that Buddha once compared his teaching to a snake: If you get hold of it the wrong way, you will get bitten.[9]

Yes, and nowhere is that truer than in Tibetan Buddhism, because there, you have a blatantly magical form of Buddhism - and where there is magic, there is inevitably the temptation to subvert that power for personal ends. And I don't say that as a critic, either. I have been more impressed by Tibetan Buddhists than by people from any other tradition I've met. Not merely that they seem to know what they are doing, but also because of their warmth, their humanity, and their lack of self-righteousness. I won't name names, but I've met members of other Eastern persuasions who have not struck me quite so favorably! That, to me, is a sign that Tibetan Buddhists have something right, that they do have that capability of just being, well, folks - who happen to be on a very intense spiritual path. Even more potently, the Western disciples that I've met, with one or two exceptions, have that same quality. I don't know whether you know Roy [Gillett] very well, but he's a Tibetan Buddhist, and he doesn't exactly slap you in the face with it. But Roy's definitely doing the teaching. I know this from personal observation.

Astrology is going to be a tool for self-realization, which means enlightenment, ultimately. The reason I am not a Tibetan Buddhist is that I have not come to the point of denying an essential self. It's very difficult to tell the difference between the essential self not having been attained and the essential self not existing. In almost everybody you will ever meet, the oscillating, waffling, and squirming around of the manifested self covers such a large range of modes of being, with respect to the essential self, that you really seriously question: "Is there an essential self behind all of this?" So, the Buddhist position is very plausible, but my own position is so influenced by Platonism that I find it necessary to say, "Yes, there is an essential self." The problem is that it isn't at the center of everyday being, it's at the end of it. So, it's basically like a drunk driving down the highway; at the end of the highway is the essential self, but the drunk is weaving all over the road en route. So, that's why I'm not a Buddhist. But as I've talked with friends of mine who are deeply into Buddhism, I've come to the conclusion that the difference may be largely a matter of definitions, rather than a real difference.

Q: Yes, either we have the model that there is God, with whom the individual self can merge, or the Buddhist model which just says that those individual selves were illusory all along. Either way, we are being pointed toward a reality which is beyond separation.

The Platonist is actually much closer in this respect to the Hindu, with an idea of an Atman. And when I refer to Platonism, I mean "Neoplatonism." You won't find most of this stuff in Plato. This isn't generally recognized, but what we have of Plato are largely popular treatises designed to illustrate philosophical method, not actually to teach his position. We can say this because, when Aristotle talks about what Plato actually taught, it bears little resemblance to what you see in the dialogues.

Q: So, is that to say that the real Plato was closer to, say, Plotinus?

Closer, yes. Exactly the same, no, but certainly closer. Plotinus definitely represents a substantial evolution beyond Plato, and part of that is due to Aristotle. Because the Neoplatonists by and large treated Aristotle as a Platonist.

At any rate, to the Platonist, the highest state of being - well, even that's not correct; we're getting into that territory where all the words fall apart - the ultimate (we'll leave it at that) is the One. There is some disagreement about whether there is a hidden One versus a manifest One, or there is only the one One - but it depends which One you're talking about. (Sorry about the word play here!) The archetype of Oneness comes from that, and it takes the form, basically, of integrity, of unified integrated-ness. And our essential self manifests when we have achieved exactly that level of oneness and integrity within ourselves - in our own particular way.

Now, of course, the One is universal oneness and integrity and has no particular quality. We, as physical manifestations of it, do. We have our own incomplete oneness. That is, we are one within ourselves; we are not necessarily integrated and at one with everything else. That's another step yet. So, that larger oneness is the essential Platonic equivalent of the Atman.

Where I disagree with the late classical Platonists is that I do not regard the physical plane as being degraded, a mistake, an accident, or even far removed from God. I tend to regard it as the place where God is in a state of becoming rather than being. And what we are all doing here is doing that becoming. So, what this leads to is a philosophy that is virtually identical with Mahayana Buddhism, which holds that the end result of all of this will be a completely enlightened physical universe, where God is fully present. Only that last part, of course, the Buddhists wouldn't say. And even when I say it, I mean "God" in an extremely expanded sense; I don't mean it in the Judeo-Christian sense. That's actually one of the hardest parts in the reconciliation of Christianity and Platonism: The Platonic One is not a personal God. It transcends personhood.

But I've begun to realize that, if I'm right about my, shall we say, "inverted" Platonism, then it is absolutely necessary that there would be human beings who would be fully realized in their divinity - and physically incarnate. And that does lead to figures such as Jesus and Krishna. So, I wind up coming to the same conclusion as the Hindus: Yes, of course, the Son of God - there are quite a few of them! It's just the insistence on this one episode in Bethlehem that I find a little hard to accept, but I think this is a statement of the Divine's commitment to this project, the physical world. The Divine fully injects itself into the world and suffers along with it.

So, Jesus didn't die on the cross to save us; Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate that our suffering is God's suffering. And the only difference between him and us is that he knew it. "I am suffering, I am going to die, and I know I am God. And I am here to tell you that your suffering is God's suffering. You just don't know it. And if you did know it, you'd be saved." That is actually quite explicit in the non-canonic Gospel of Thomas.

Q: You're in the vanguard of astrology's return to the universities, both through your involvement with Kepler College and with your own return to university as a postgrad student. Where do you see this leading, for astrology?

There's a narrow-range and a broad-range objective. The narrow range is that I would like to get some of us astrologers credentialed, to the point where historians of science will listen to us when we tell them they're doing it wrong!

When I say "doing it wrong," it isn't so much that they disbelieve in astrology that bothers me but that they don't know the subject very well. So, every major text that deals with the history of astrology is full of simple factual errors that people wouldn't make if they knew the subject better.

That's the narrow objective. A slightly less narrow objective is that, as we astrologers become more integrated into the academic community, this also gives us access to its resources. The lack of resources has hamstrung astrology these last several hundred years. Access will help astrology to grow as a discipline. And I do agree that the only people we have to fear in this whole enterprise are second-rate physicist-astronomers and people like that who are incompetent at doing what they are supposed to be doing, so they have at us instead of doing their own proper work! I've met some of these people, and that's exactly what they are: half-baked hacks in their own fields.

If you try to engage in dialogue with scientific types about the philosophical issues that astrology raises, you find that they are more interested in winning than in finding out the truth. They act like debaters, and as a good Sagittarius, I don't have time for that. I want to know what's true; I don't want to debate for the sake of winning points!

One of the increasingly popular things on American TV (CNN, especially) is to have people on who are "debating." I refer to them as "dueling dimwits," because all they do is scream at each other. And that's not debate in the classical sense; it's not even debate in the trivial sense. It's just dueling dimwits.

Q: There's been much talk of Pluto's passage through Sagittarius as being significant for the opening up of academia.

Yes, it's caused all Sagittarian institutions to open up or break down. Partly, academia is opening up simply because the New Age generation is now old enough to be in the Establishment. Although, as we know from our current president, not all of that generation are exactly New Age!

So, that's part of what makes academia grow. But on the other hand, more rigid institutions, such as the Catholic Church in America, have been facing a breakdown, because they have been sweeping stuff under the rug for so long. And again (on the subject of predictions), that was predicted. The precise form wasn't, but it was most definitely forecast quite a long time ago that there would be major breakdowns and scandals in the established churches, as a result of Pluto in Sagittarius. It was even said (though I don't recall where this comes from) that it would be when Pluto entered the second half of the sign, which dates it rather closely. I think this is because of the tradition that one half of Sagittarius is animal and the other half is human - traditionally, that dividing line is at 15° Sagittarius.

Q: What is the source for that?

It's all over traditional astrological sources. When they list the human signs, they say "all of Gemini, all of Libra, all of Aquarius, the second half of Sagittarius, and all of Virgo."

Q: As an astrologer, how did you handle the decision to go back into academia as a student? Did you, for instance, draw up a horary?

No. First of all, it was abundantly clear from my chart's transits that I was entering a new phase of life [chart below]. I became a professional astrologer on my first Saturn return. On my second Saturn return, I have radically transformed the nature of that career. There were Pluto transits all over my chart; it was perfectly obvious that there had to be some major change in the thrust of my life. I couldn't just keep on doing what I had been doing.

So, there was no need to do a horary. What I intend to do instead is this: If what I do is supported, I will follow that path; if it is sufficiently resisted by circumstances, I will modify the path. Horary should never be used as a substitute for experience, self-knowledge, and common sense. It should only be used when you really have no control over the outcome and you have a desperate desire to know. But I have control over this outcome.

Robert Hand

Q: So, you're doing this postgrad work. Is it an MA or a PhD?

At the moment, I'm in an MA program, because I have to get the MA before I can go for the PhD.

Q: Oh, so you're doing both.


Q: What's going to happen to the work that you do for that? Is it going to come out as a book, eventually?

I'll let you know when I've done it! It's certainly my intention to cross-fertilize between my astrological writing and my academic writing. I am trying desperately this term to bend a seminar into an article that will actually be of interest to historians of astrology - but it all depends on whether I can find the proper resources to do it. My professor has no problem with the idea.

One of the reasons that I want to do graduate school - aside from the need for jumping through hoops, which is a trivial reason - is that I really don't know about the literature apparatus, the journals, how to access them, where to look - that sort of thing. And insofar as I do, it's 30 years out of date; it's what I learned at Princeton, 34 years ago. This is something I desperately need to learn. This seminar, whatever it does, will make me confront that issue, and I'm hoping to have an hour or so with my professor, saying, "Help! I don't know where any of this stuff is." I don't know where to find the journals I should be looking at. This professor gave us a humongous bibliography, but it's a forest, and I need to find a path through it.

If I manage to continue going to school full-time, it will be two years for the master's (in Medieval History). Then another year of classwork for the PhD, and then however long it takes to write a thesis. My current choice for thesis topic, which may get shot down in the course of time - I'm aware that this is very early innings to be picking a thesis topic - is a historical/sociological examination of the roles of astrologers in medieval history. This would be based on their own writings and would include a comparison of what they say with the opinions of historians since then.

For example, Wedel's book on the medieval attitude toward astrology [10] was written in the early part of the 20th century and, as far as I know, hasn't really been superseded. What I've seen so far in this book is really primitive. It doesn't seem as if he read any actual astrologers' writings.

This weekend [at the AA Conference], I was able to talk to one of the delegates from Italy about Guido Bonatti, the 13th-century astrologer. Now, the only thing I knew about Guido Bonatti's life was that he was the astrologer to the Duke of Montefeltro and that he lived in the mid 1200s in northern Italy. And he had a nephew (because he dedicated his book to him). Well, it seems that the Italian historical literature knows a good deal more about him, not surprisingly. He was a professor at the University of Bologna. And he learned astrology as a student at that university. That rather changes the picture! I thought he was a self-educated, rather cranky sort of guy who also really learned how to do astrology. Now, it turns out that he was a pillar of the local intellectual establishment. This is the sort of information we need.

Q: Absolutely. Because it also suggests, doesn't it, that if he learned his craft at Bologna University, there would have been other people doing the same thing.

Oh, there were! The conference delegate I was talking to started reeling them off by name.

The typical view of historians, from what I've seen so far, is that astrology in the Middle Ages was effectively a branch of the entertainment industry. In this view, the court astrologer and the court jester were birds of a feather; it's considered that, if astrologers were taken seriously at all, it was only because they pandered to the nobleman's weakness for silly superstitions. But in any case, they were marginal and had no real impact on history.

Whereas when you read the astrologers' own accounts, they do not brag about what they do, they just say (for example), "Okay, if you need to arrange armies on a battlefield, here's how you do it…" Or, "When you are going to start a battle, make sure the Part of Fortune is over here, and the rulers of the 1st and 7th are arranged thus and so." Now, would they be describing these methods in their books if they didn't use them? And if they did use them, that means there were battles fought in the Middle Ages, not according to military principles, but according to astrological principles. What happened in those battles? Do we have examples of battles where highly counterintuitive things were done that were brilliantly successful? Where no one could figure out why the leader of the army did what he did? This is like Ronald Reagan becoming Governor of California at a weird time, after midnight. Was that hour elected? When people do things at strange times of day, you know there's an astrologer hidden in the woodwork somewhere!

This would suggest that the astrologers, at least those in northern Italy, had a fair amount of historical influence. So, it would be much more accurate to describe them, as I said earlier, as members of the intelligence arm of their governments. The most obvious example of this - although it's just beginning to become clear to scholars that this is what he was doing - is John Dee. I am not saying that he went to the continent of Europe with Edward Kelley primarily as an intelligence agent for Queen Elizabeth, but that was one of the things he was doing. He was reporting to Walsingham on a regular basis, and he signed all of his documents "007" - which is very funny, in view of James Bond!

So, John Dee went all over Europe describing what was going on. And there is a very strange thing about Dee's travels: Especially when he was traveling in Catholic countries, he was constantly one step ahead of the police. I don't think they were after him because he was a Protestant; there were a lot of Protestants traveling in Catholic Europe, and by and large they were left alone. I think they were after him because they knew he was a spy of some sort.

Q: I read a biography of Dee recently. His travels seemed very episodic and disconnected, so it makes good sense that he was following some covert agenda.

There's been some pretty good work on Dee, but the definitive work is yet to be done. And of course, it is well known (and no one argues this point) that he elected the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

Q: Which suggests he was on the money.

Yes, and in addition to Dee, we have the even more outstanding example of the founding of the city of Baghdad. The laying of the cornerstone was elected by Masha'Allah.

If you have this sort of thing going on historically, then the influence of the astrologer in history is perhaps a tad more intense than is generally acknowledged. That is what I want to do my thesis about, if I can find people to advise me and if I can put it in a form that is acceptable to the academic powers that be; I have no way of knowing these things at this stage. But at some point, I hope to do that.

And my other major intention is to do a complete translation of Bonatti - annotated, with commentary, and (somewhat, at least) cross-referenced to the various other writings that have survived. It isn't just because I want to read Bonatti, and it isn't even because I think that astrologers should read Bonatti. It's just becoming abundantly clear that the academics who study the history of medieval astrology need to read Bonatti, because they don't have a comprehensive text of medieval astrology at their disposal in English. And most of them don't read Latin very well.

They read the Burnett translation of The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology of Abu Ma'shar. I see it quoted all over the place. Frankly, in the structure of medieval astrological textbooks, that Abbreviation by Abu Ma'Shar is "Book One." And it's an abbreviation of a Book One at that. The typical arrangement of the material in a medieval astrological textbook is that you have "Terms & Definitions" in Book One. The best example of the genre that's available in English is Ibn Ezra's The Beginning of Wisdom. (And what he means by that title is "The Beginning of Astrology"; in other words, Book One of Astrology.) The first and second books of Schoener's Opusculum Astrologicum are also that kind of work. Just terms and definitions - what refranation means, the point system of dignities, all that kind of thing.

Then, you'll have books on special topics such as horary, electional, natal, revolutions[11] (both personal and in the world), and weather forecasting.

Well, Bonatti's book covers the whole lot. It's a little weak on the revolutions of the world, but it covers them. It's incredibly strong on interrogations and elections, like most medieval works. So, Bonatti needs to be read, just to see what the scope of the subject actually was. And of course, there are all these little vignettes in there about what he actually did during his life. Robert Zoller has collected all the materials on the art of war and translated them.[12] They were originally published in the Lodge Journal as a series of articles. I took my copies of all the journals containing those articles, put them together, and photocopied them into one continuous piece, and in the process, I discovered something. In those days, the Journal was still being cut-and-pasted - literally. And somebody had cut out an entire paragraph. I know Zoller translated it, because it breaks off in the middle of a sentence! So it wasn't very carefully proofread.

But that material is very interesting, and it speaks volumes about the role of the medieval astrologer. Were these guys bragging? No! How do I know they're not bragging? Because they're not making a big deal out of what they do. They just say, "If a man and woman are going to marry, here are the relationships"; "if you are chasing a thief, this is what you look for"; "if you are going to lay siege to a castle, here is what you do." No big deal.

Q: Whilst we're talking about these traditional texts, there's an anomaly which I've been trying to figure out, and I wonder if I could ask for your perspective on it. In Ptolemy, Venus is described as hot and moist; by the time we get to Lilly, it's cold and moist. What's going on there?

I believe the answer is that it's moist. And these principles of hot/cold, wet/dry are easily demonstrated: Does love heat you up or cool you down?

Q: Heats you up.

And cools you down. If you're angry, love cools you down. Don't just think of sexual love, think of all love. On the other hand, if you're alienated and disconnected, love heats you up. This indicates that it's a perfect balance between hot and cold. You can do this with all the planets whose hot/cold, wet/dry status is not clear. For example, Neptune. Does Neptune increase or decrease energy levels, typically?

Q: Decrease.

So, it's cold. Does Neptune create clear, distinct, disconnected, discrete parts? Or does it sort of mush everything together?

Q: The latter.

Therefore, it's wet. Neptune is cold and wet. Now, Uranus. Does Uranus connect or make separate?

Q: It makes separate.

Does it increase or decrease the energy level?

Q: It increases energy.

It's hot and dry. Now, Pluto gets tricky. You can make an argument for Pluto all the way around, but here is my suggestion: Pluto is the reverse of Mercury. Mercury attains its quality from whatever it contacts; Pluto inverts the quality of whatever it contacts. So, it turns the cold and wet into the hot and dry, and the hot and dry into the cold and wet - because Pluto represents, actually, the turning of that cycle. Wherever Pluto comes into the picture, things tend to turn into their opposite. I wouldn't say this is the most essential quality of Pluto, but I think it's one aspect of it. And we have unconsciously chosen a glyph for Pluto that has approximately the same parts as Mercury's, but slightly differently arranged, which suggests that there might be a connection. (I'm talking about the "cocktail glass" glyph that we use in the States mostly, not the P + L combination.)

Pluto is hard to pin down, and Mercury is impossible. Mercury, by definition, has no quality of its own. Maybe slightly dry - warm or cold, I can't tell - but it's so nearly neutral on all fronts that it takes on the quality of whatever it contacts, because Mercury is conveying the essence of whatever it is in touch with. It's the messenger. The messenger should have no message of his own. That's solid, traditional astrology.

Q: It's beautifully lucid, I have to say.

Well, that's the thing about the traditional foundations of astrology. They are beautifully lucid: That's exactly it. So, here we are - able to sort out immediately the elemental qualities of the new planets. No ambiguity at all, except for Pluto. And I think that Pluto is irrevocably ambiguous.

Q: Is there a straightforward method for calculating temperament from a natal chart? Lilly gives a method, but then doesn't stick to it when he works through a natal chart …

He is, at best, marvelously waffling. Lilly's natal astrology is the weakest portion of Christian Astrology, far and away. I don't think he had a whole lot of truck with it, to be perfectly honest. The description of temperament actually comes from Ptolemy - but of course he evaluates the personality in terms of hot/cold, wet/dry, not fire/air, earth/water. So, hot and dry would be choleric, hot and moist would be sanguine, cold and dry would be melancholic, and cold and wet would be phlegmatic.

That methodology is basically laid out by Ptolemy, and everybody else follows it pretty much as he describes, except that the phases of the Moon, as followed by Ptolemy's successors, have different qualities from those that Ptolemy assigned. This is due to the original Greek texts. They are not actually ambiguous, but we have two versions of Ptolemy's text (one of which is simply wrong): what we generally consider to be the original Ptolemy text and a second text, usually referred to as the Proclus paraphrase, which was written several hundred years after Ptolemy. The Proclus paraphrase has changed things a little bit. One of the things I need to do eventually, with somebody, is to study the differences between the Proclus paraphrase and the Ptolemy original, so we can track down where these changes occurred. I don't have the Greek text of the Proclus paraphrase; all I have is the Greek of the original Ptolemy, because that's the one that was edited for the Teubner edition of Tetrabiblos. I can't find a Teubner equivalent for the Proclus paraphrase. Also, Robbins, in the Loeb edition, did his own editing of the original Ptolemy - and then proceeded to translate it hideously!

Q: Really!

Oh, it's really bad, you've no idea. It's a pity, because he [Robbins] was actually quite good, but I guess he just regarded this as a hack job that he just had to dispose of as quickly as he could. There's an astrological papyrus (usually called simply the Michigan papyrus[13] ) of a fragment of astrology that he also translated, and there he did a pretty good job. I guess he took that more seriously. You know: "Ptolemy - he's been translated before, what the hell … " I may be slurring the guy, but it looks like he was just doing it for hire, basically, and wanted to be rid of it as quickly as possible.

But some Renaissance astrologers give quite a good description of the process of deriving temperament. There's an unpublished - and, I would say, also unfinished - manuscript by my colleague Dorian Greenbaum, on astrology and temperament types. [14] She has assembled a lot of excellent material, but she and I both agree that it needs to be ripened and worked on a bit. At the end, she includes a study she conducted with teachers in a Waldorf school.

All Waldorf School teachers are trained to evaluate their students empirically as being various humoral types, and as a result, the students are all taught differently, according to their type. Dorian was correlating the teachers' judgments of the students in the school with her judgments of the students' birth charts. This was a research project she originally did for NCGR. But she has now embedded this in the context of a longer work. I think that, when she adds some more material to it, it will be a very interesting book.

Q: Sounds like it!

Yes, it will be the first modern book on the subject, really.

Q: What most excites and disappoints you - regarding the current state of affairs in the astrological community?

I'm happy to say I'm relatively un-disappointed. I think things are going in the right direction. What excites me is the increasing maturity of the discipline. Astrology still has an identity crisis about whether it's a hobby or a profession - and the answer is yes! It's a hobby and a profession. I don't have a problem with that, but I do think the two aspects of the astrological community have to work to distinguish themselves from each other and, at the same time, maintain bridges for people to cross over from the hobby side to the career side.

One disturbing sign, which may be more apparent than real, is the graying of the segment of the astrological community that I know. So, there is a question as to whether there are enough young people coming in. I have the impression that there are great quantities of younger people coming into astrology, but they are not participating in the traditional organizations very much. Also, I do have to say that it is a convention, in the history of 20th- and 21st-century astrology, that most of the people who come into the field do so in their late 30s or early 40s. In that respect, actually, we are doing okay. There are still people getting into it from that age range. But we no longer have people in their 20s and early 30s coming into it so much.

Q: Just to judge from the reducing size of the astrology sections in bookshops here [in the U.K.], astrology's not doing so well.

Yes, it has declined a bit. You don't have New Age bookstores in every town anymore. There has been a retrenchment, no question. But astrology is nowhere near as obscure as it was before the explosion happened [in the 1970s]. And I think that integrating ourselves into the rest of the culture, as we are doing, will help. It's not that I'm so interested in being respected - I don't really want the respect of people I don't respect! But it happens that traditional academic disciplines do certain things right. And there's no other way of doing it reasonably well, so we should follow them in those areas, for our own sake. It's not a matter of being legitimate. We should follow the academic methods of accrediting for our own sake.

Where this becomes ambiguous is: What do you do with someone - and in fact, I'm one of these - who is a completely self-taught, unaccredited astrologer, who follows none of the institutional procedures but is fairly good at it? I think we should always create space for that sort of person. I think we might insist that these people demonstrate to us, and to themselves, that they have really learned the craft - but this should not be a case of going to school for no other reason than to demonstrate that one doesn't need to go to school. It should be more like an examination program, including observation by trained counselors and so forth.

I think "fluffy astrology" (as I like to call it) is actually on the decline, but it's still very much with us. I don't want to name names, but there is some extremely fluffy stuff going on at the moment!

Q: Is it really on the decline? It seems to me that not only are the astrology sections in bookshops shrinking, but there are also less serious books there and more books that give people a quick hit.

Well, serious books on astrology fall into a rather odd category. Where, for example, would you expect to find (if I marketed it more aggressively) a bound edition of Schoener's Three Books on the Judgment of Nativities? It sure as hell doesn't belong in "Astrology in the New Age"!

There's going to be a dilemma, as more of that kind of work starts to be published - not just historical, but modern works too. A brilliant example of the latter is Geoffrey Cornelius's The Moment of Astrology. It is a very serious book! And the only place you're likely to find it is on the astrology shelves, but anybody who goes from The Year Ahead for Aries to Geoffrey is going to get a real jolt! (laughs)

Truly serious astrology has no category, because the culture does not define us as inherently capable of being serious. And, you know, until recently they've had a case. There was a wonderful cartoon (I don't remember where I saw it); it showed a rather corpulent middle-aged lady lecturing to an astrology club, and she's pounding the table and saying, "We will not rest until astrology has found its rightful place in the universities…" And behind her is a sign reading, "Next Week - Astrology and Your Pet." You can look at that and say, "Well, okay, I see the problem!"

Having said that, is there anything wrong with "Astrology and Your Pet"? No, but we need to be very clear that these different levels exist within the subject. I remember when I was in my early 30s and living in Boston, there was a woman who went around telling everyone that she would be the first Harvard professor of astrology. And she didn't have a clue! But she was very arrogant about it. I don't think she even set foot on the campus, let alone became a professor. And I think it will be a rather cold day in hell before there is a professor of astrology at Harvard. Actually, I don't think there will be a professor of "Astrology" anywhere. There will be professors of something else who may teach astrology, in connection with their "Cultural Mythology" or "Religion, Mysticism, and Divination" programs. That's the way it's going to be, and I have no problem with that. Actually, this is already happening in both the U.S. and Great Britain.

I have no problem with that because, as I've said to many people, there is something kind of trivial about the idea of us being influenced by the planets (whatever that means). Astrology is not important, in and of itself; it's important because it's an instance of something much bigger. The "something bigger" is what's important. One possible formulation of that bigger something (though I certainly wouldn't limit it to this) is that it's a demonstration of the Universe as an intelligence that is constantly spreading communication throughout itself, to its parts. Our task, then, is to learn to read - and astrology is one of the languages, but there are lots of them. Astrology is only one.

That's the important thing. Jupiter - that blob of gas out there, with all its satellites - doesn't do a damn thing to us. It is simply a sign in the sky, as Plotinus and Ficino said. And we participate in making it a sign. It wasn't done to us; we create the astrology. Which means that astrology is not a discipline with an absolute, constant body of received truth. But on the other hand, look at the transition from 18th-century physics to 21st-century physics. The same thing happened: The discipline evolved, and some of its most fundamental laws changed. Now, of course, we know that there is an absolutely real set of physical laws, and we're getting better and better at understanding them … Except that, if you stop and think about it, there's no evidence of that. It's equally plausible that the laws of physics are constantly changing! (laughs)

Q: Touché!

This comes under the heading of what philosophers of science would call "an unfalsifiable proposition." You can't tell which it is [absolute or constantly changing laws]. It is purely an assumption of faith that it's either one or the other. What I find most hilarious about scientism is its utter lack of awareness of the extent to which it is based on articles of faith. One of these is that scientific law is constant through time and space. Where is the evidence for that?

Q: Where, indeed. We have to close now, so let me just say thank you, Robert, for making time in your busy schedule for this interview. It's been absolutely fascinating.


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

Notes & References:

  1] In the "Astrology by Hand" series; see particularly #36:
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  2] Robert Hand, Planets in Transit, West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1976, p. 44.
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  3] Two bodies are said to be in paran if, when one is rising, setting, culminating, or on the nadir, the other is also on any one of these four points. Planets need not actually be on the angles to count as being in paran: If directing the chart forward through 24 hours produces a time when those planets would simultaneously occupy angles, they are in paran. Parans may not be visible in the chart as aspects; in fact, they may even appear as different aspects. For example, a "square paran" (where one planet is, say, on the Ascendant at the same time that another is on the MC) may involve two planets which are in a trine aspect in the zodiac. Unlike zodiacal aspects, parans are very sensitive to precise location on the Earth. See Robert Hand, Essays on Astrology, Chapter 7: "A New Approach to Transits," Atglen, PA: Whitford Press, 1982, pp. 65-66. See also Garry Phillipson, "An Interview with Bernadette Brady," in The Mountain Astrologer, Feb./Mar. 2001, particularly Diagram 2 on p. 18.

  4] Hand, Planets in Transit, pp. 29-30.
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  5] Gareth Knight, Dion Fortune and the Inner Light, Loughborough, U.K.: Thoth Publications, 2000, p. 291.
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  6] Garry Phillipson and Peter Case, "The Hidden Lineage of Modern Management Science: Astrology, Alchemy, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator," in Culture & Cosmos, Vol. 5, No. 2, Autumn/Winter 2001, pp. 53-72.
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  7] The five khandhas are: Matter, Consciousness, Feeling, Perception, and Volitional Formations. See Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Dictionary, Kandy (Sri Lanka): Buddhist Publication Society, 1980, pp. 99-105.
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  8] Satyagraha (literally "truth force") is an approach developed and advocated by Gandhi, which entails the uncompromising practise of the highest ideals - including nonviolence and truthfulness - in the pursuit of all ends, whether spiritual, social, or political.
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  9] "Discourse on the Parable of the Water-Snake," in Middle Length Sayings, Vol. 1, trans. I. B. Horner, London: Pali Text Society, 1954, pp. 167ff.
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  10] Theodore Otto Wedel, The Mediaeval Attitude toward Astrology, Particularly in England, London: MacMillan, 1950.
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  11] Revolution, in this sense, is defined as judging the meaning of a planet's return (by transit) to either its original position or another significant point in the chart or in the zodiac, such as in the case of an Aries ingress. A central text is Masha'Allah's de Revolutionibus ("On the Revolutions"), currently available only in Latin. Robert hopes to make a translation available through ARHAT at some point in the future. The subject is also included in many staple texts of traditional astrology, e.g., William Lilly, Christian Astrology, pp. 734-740; John Gadbury, The Doctrine of Nativities, pp. 209-241.
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  12] Guido Bonatti, On War. Can be downloaded from: Back to text

  13] See the Web site for the Michigan papyrus collection at:

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  14] This book is now published by the Wessex Astrologer and available from their website. A review is on site at and excerpts are available at

© Garry Phillipson

Professional Astrology
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Planets in Transit

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Chronology of the Astrology of the Middle East and the West

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