July 3, 2012 by Nina Gryphon
The Astrology News Service has published an interview with me regarding my methods of politico-astrological analysis, thoughts on the role of astrology in the corporate and legal worlds, as well as a little about my background. Happy reading!
January 3, 2009 by Nina Gryphon
NG: Can you discuss your use of the Arabian parts in natal delineation and rectification? On a theoretical level, why do you think they are so accurate, even though they are abstract points, rather than bodies?
DH: Arabic Parts (or more properly Hellenistic Lots) are essentially customized Ascendants for specific life activities. Take the 7th house. Its significations include the marriage partner, business partners, and open enemies. Now this is a real handful! How does one sort out one topic from the other? If someone ends up with a lousy mate, will they also be similarly doomed with business partners and open enemies? Or is there some differentiation between the three house topics? The first way these topics can be sorted out is a delineation technique attributed to Al-Andarzagar based on triplicity rulers of the sign on the house cusp. For whatever element falls on the 7th cusp, take the relevant diurnal, nocturnal, and participating triplicity rulers and assign them respectively to women, controversies, and entering into covenants.(footnote 3) Or in modern terms: marriage partners, legal conflicts with open enemies, and business partnerships.
The second way to differentiate these three topics is with Arabic Parts. There are specialized parts for marriage and lawsuits. There are no parts specified to open enemies I am aware of; apparently since they are ‘open’ enemies their actions are sufficiently obvious to void the need to fine tune with specialized parts. Returning to marriage, should the Part of Marriage be placed in a favorable house and by aspected by a ruler which is in good condition, this mitigates affairs for marriage.
This is not to say that a favorable Arabic Part configuration can nullify effects of a malefic on a house topic; yet a favorably positioned Part of Marriage adds some bounty to the marriage topic which might appear relatively bleak if a malefic otherwise rules or falls in the 7th house.
NG: You’ve tackled rectification. What’s next?
DH: As I have stated on my site, by the end of 2008 I plan on releasing my own rectification of the July 4, 1776 United States Declaration of Independence figure. It features a Sagittarius Ascendant, like the well known Sibly figure, but is a bit later. At this point the book is about finished.
Besides documentation of a few hundred solar arc and primary directions what makes this rectification unique is Abu Mashar’s System of Distributors and Participators which I also refer to as Directing through the Bounds in my book. What I found was directing the Ascendant through the Egyptian bounds yielded most major American social movements. I guarantee people’s jaws will drop to the floor when they read it.
Another project on my plate is physiognomy. It turns out that decans are in fact related to physical appearance as most texts indicate, but the Chaldean decan rulers do not work. One has to use the set of decan rulers based on triplicity (e.g., for the sign of Aries, the three decans are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius). It’s an important technique to master because if the Chaldean decan rulers do not work, we need to replace them in al-mubtazz scoring.
And if the decan rulers based on triplicity have an influence on physical appearance, then by default the ruler of the rising decan needs to be included in temperament computations. Nobody is looking at this issue at the moment. Because of the additional publishing expense for photographs, the web may be the best vehicle to present this kind of research.
Via the web, one can also keep adding entries to a physiognomy database as time permits. It would take a subscription service of something like $20/month for a subscriber base of 300+ individuals to make this a viable business model. I mention this not because I think such a market exists today, but with the power of these written words, such a market might exist in a few years. There is nothing I would rather do than pure astrological research: to create a rectified database of several hundred charts which would be fodder for testing of the complete range of medieval delineation and predictive techniques: everything from temperament to religious faith to friends and enemies. It’s a project which needs to be done and I am more than willing.
Footnote 3: Al-Qabisi: The Introduction to Astrology. London: The Warburg Institute, 2004. p. 53.
Read Part 1 of the interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology here.
Read Part 2 of the interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology here.
January 3, 2009 by Nina Gryphon
This is Part 2 of Gryphon Astrology’s three-part interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology. Read Part 1 of the interview here.
NG: What is another technique you worked with that did not prove accurate?
DH: A more general delineation technique I have had problems with is the hierarchical style of evaluating planetary condition by both quality and quantity. Much of this can be traced to Bonatti (if not earlier) with his demands that planets be ‘fortunate and strong’ to deliver effects. In my early student days, I was led to believe that should one of the Ascendant rulers be in detriment/fall and located a cadent house (usually 6th or 12th) that surely the person would reject significations of that planet as a life outlet for something better signified by a planet with some essential dignity in some other succedent or angular house. But this doesn’t hold water.
In the example I gave – an afflicted malefic in the 6th house with some claim to the Ascendant – whenever the malefic in the 6th was activated dynamically the individual suffered tremendous pain, illness, or took on a position of servitude. The individual appeared incapable of choosing a better life outlet. While this is a natal example, this kind of behavior has important implications for mundane astrology.
Bonatti, for instance, rejects a planet conjunct the Midheaven in an Ingress figure as Significator of the King should it have no essential dignity. So he would discard Saturn/Aries on the 10th cusp in favor of some other planet to delineate the actions of the King. Maybe Bonatti is wrong. Perhaps the planet most closely aspecting the MC signifies the King whether or not it has any essential dignity.
NG: I think you’re right about Bonatti’s rejection of potential significators of the King if they had no essential dignity, or other afflictions. Do you think this is more an issue of bad astrology, or more of self-protection or buttering up the boss by the astrologer? If we use Bonatti’s method, as in your example, it would mean nothing bad could ever happen to the King.
DH: First off, even if the significator of the King is itself benefic, an aspect from a malefic can still harm the King so I have to disagree with your last comment. The March 2008 Aries Ingress is a good example with Sun/Aries a logical significator for the King in many geographical locations yet the Sun is square Mars/Cancer. This does not bode well for the King.
In any case, I don’t think it’s self-protection because the only way an astrologer can truly protect himself is to quit his job if he sees bad events for the King on the horizon, especially if a fall from power is forecast. I don’t think it’s buttering up the boss either because the only way the King would know the astrologer is buttering him up is for the King to have a sufficient understanding of the methodology that the King would know the astrologer was intentionally biasing his predictions. Since most Kings probably did not have that level of expertise this is really a moot question.
But more to the point: why would Bonatti go to such lengths in creating a checklist of over 50 questions for determining the significator of the King if instead he could just lie and make something up! Instead I think what’s going on here is Bonatti’s hierarchical style of delineation reflects his own personal philosophy which is extremely class conscious. That’s my instinct based on my read of Bonatti.
Besides Kings, another example is his discussion of sexual proclivities when delineating marriage. When he starts delineating conditions for ‘foul and filthy coitus’ we should ask ourselves: foul and filthy for whom? Heads of state wouldn’t want to get caught up with this. But suppose one is dealing with a professional hooker whose life is enhanced by ‘foul and filthy coitus.’ Is this such a bad condition for a hooker assuming she uses condoms for protection? Maybe not.
Regarding other techniques I tested, I also have problems with the notion of quantity: that angular, succedent, and cadent planets respectively deliver 100%, 50%, and 25% percent of their power. Consider the delineation of children. In Bonatti’s approach, children are promised if any significator of children (Jupiter, Venus, Moon, Mercury, Lord 5th, P.Fortune, P.Children & their lords) are located in houses favorable for children (1st, 11th, 10th, 7th). Significators must also be in the fruitful water signs or the rather fruitful signs of Taurus, Sagittarius, and Aquarius. As an example, both Mercury and Venus in the sign of Taurus are correct planets in the correct sign; but if placed in the 12th house children would not be predicted.
DH: A rectified chart can be likened to an econometric model whose independent variable is time and whose dependent variable is life. Models are based on a data sample; for rectification the sample consists of life events. Out-of-sample data is simply life events which occur during a time period not used to build the model.
A second approach is to use all life events to date as the sample used to build the model. Then treat new events which occur in real time as out-of-sample events. Test these events against the model in real time. The second approach is what I have taken with Obama.
For Obama, I published a rectified time of 7:54:28 PM, Ascendant = 27AQ09’17”, on November 20, 2007 and have been watching the chart unfold ever since. Any predictive method used to create the rectification model can be employed in a real time test. Some techniques, like monthly profections, can help confirm the Ascendant sign. Other methods, like directions and dynamic activity to Arabic Parts, can confirm the exact degree and minute of the rectified Ascendant. So let’s get our hands dirty.
Consider this solar arc direction:
July 24, 2008. direct solar arc Ascendant trine Sun.
This is actually the only solar arc direction of a planet to either the Ascendant or Midheaven for the entire calendar year of 2008. So for using solar arc directions as a tool for out-of-sample tests, this is it.
Sun is the universal significator of fame and power. In the sign he rules, Sun/Leo is flamboyant and should produce an event conducive to projecting fame and power which is long lasting. What happened? This is the exact date Obama spoke at the Victory Column in Berlin, the most high profile campaign event of the year prior to the Democratic National Convention. The following day he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. In mundane astrology, France is assigned to Leo. Obama met with the French (Leo) President and discussed what amounted to a partnership with France for defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Business partners and open enemies are assigned to the 7th house, the location of Obama’s Sun.
This event appears a match to the solar arc direction. It is evidence in favor of the rectification, but more events need to be tested. Arguably, one could make the case that this solar arc Ascendant trine Sun should really time his August 28 acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, meaning the rectified time is in error by four minutes of degree, the amount needed to change the birth time to push the recomputed solar arc Ascendant trine Sun measurement to August 28 instead of July 24. One can go crazy with this, making adjustments for every new event. I prefer to wait at least six months and preferably a year before making an assessment.
One also has to realize that making these micro adjustments not only changes the Ascendant trine Sun direction but literally every other direction measurement used to build the initial model.
Dynamic activity to Arabic Parts is also helpful for out-of-sample tests. I first started to look at the Part of Servants 25AR54 and its antiscion 4VI06 after Obama’s foreign policy advisor Samantha Power was fired after making some ill-mannered comments about Hillary Clinton. It turns out that Power’s March 7, 2008 resignation was timed by the transit of Saturn located at 4VI08, only two minutes of degree from the antiscion of the Part of Servants. Continuing the saga was Jim Johnson’s forced resignation from the Vice President vetting committee on June 11, 2008 timed by the converse transit of the South Node located at 4VI05. Finally, after Saturn went direct and passed over the part’s antiscion again, Wes Clark stuck his foot in his mouth on June 29, 2008 when he made the following comment on John McCain: “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.” Saturn was positioned at 4VI25 on that date, a bit wide of the part’s antiscion, but still close.
While Clark was not officially employed by the Obama campaign as far as I know, he was up until this time a contender for the VP slot. Shortly after his June 29 gaffe he disassociated himself from the Obama campaign. Maybe the Wes Clark gaffe is irrelevant. But there is no doubt that Samantha Power and Jim Johnson were employees and were terminated from the Obama campaign.
Identifying Saturn and the South Node as significators for the termination of employees is crucial to the logic of this out-of-sample test. Employees are assigned to the 6th house. While some might assign employee termination to the 9th house (4th of the end-of-the-matter from the 6th by derived houses), I have found the 1st house (8th from the 6th) more reliable for employee termination. For Obama, Saturn rules the 1st; South Node is positioned in the 1st. Both Saturn and the South Node are significators for the death and/or termination of employees based on rulership and position.
There are some other events I have looked at, such as the transit of Pluto to the Part of Faith as a timer of Obama’s earlier Reverend Wright fracas. Overall I remain happy with the rectified model despite the official birth certificate time of 7:24 PM posted on June 12 by the Daily Kos blog. At the end of the day it is the horoscope which consistently works on an out-of-sample basis that I will always choose as a professional astrologer.
This is hard work; real roll up your sleeves kind of stuff. After doing it awhile one gets a better appreciation of why dedicated medieval predictive astrologers can take on only a handful of clients. I doubt I could ever service more than two or three clients if I use all the tools at my disposal.
Footnote 2: b. May 28, 1944, Brooklyn, NY, 6:02:37 AM EWT, Ascendant – 14GE454; Dr. H’s rectification.
Read Part 1 of the interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology.
Read Part 3 of the interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology.
January 2, 2009 by Nina Gryphon
I am very pleased to present an interview with a rising star on the astrological scene, Dr. H., the anonymous author of two recent books on predictive traditional astrological techniques. The first is A Rectification Manual: The American Presidency, first published in 2007, where the author uses medieval methods to find the birth times of all U.S. Presidents and their spouses, and then applies various predictive methods to determine the usefulness of such methods. Primary directions, for instance, are found to be more reliable than solar arc methods. The most recent edition of the Manual also includes rectified times for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election candidates.
Dr. H.’s latest book is America is Born: Introducing the Regulus U.S.A. National Horoscope, where the author uses mundane events to rectify the birth horoscope of the United States, and while he is at it, conducts a test of the efficacy of Egyptian vs. Ptolemaic bounds. He also introduces Abu Ma’shar’s method of participators and distributors (the mingled effect of the rulers of bounds through which directed planets are passing as they make aspects), and applies it to the U.S. horoscope.
His books have reawakened my own dormant interest in primary directions, and I suspect this is the beginning of a new resurgence of this topic, as serious astrologers rediscover its efficacy.
NG: Tell us about your preferred astrological techniques. You are a traditional astrologer; what methods do you use for natal delineation and prediction?
DH: Unlike many astrologers who seem to gravitate towards a particular favorite technique, such as transits or progressions, I do my best to use all the tools all the time. That said, the nature of my current practice has focused my attention on some specific delineation topics and specialized tools. Delineation techniques which allow me to profile an individual I may never interview, meet, or know is my current focus. Techniques including the Al-mubtazz Figurae (“ruler of the chart”) and character profiling based on analysis of the Moon, Mercury, and their rulers are the two most helpful methods for this purpose.
In profiling, I am interested in how benefics and malefics impact an individual. Is the person fundamentally good or evil? And do they stay that way? Do crimes signify a person who has been irrevocably lost to the dark side? or do crimes signify a temporary lapse of an otherwise good person? Are malefics a sign of an evil person or do they signify malefic events an otherwise good soul must suffer? And if people suffer, how do the malefics impact job performance? Does a physically impaired individual have the ability to focus his mind and achieve brilliance like Stephen Hawking or do physical limitations create obstacles too large to navigate? These kind of questions really cut to the core of the horoscope.
After reviewing the Al-mubtazz Figurae and analysis of the Moon and Mercury, I might examine how the Al-mubtazz Figurae interacts with the good spirit of the 11th house and the evil spirit of the 12th. By ‘interacts’ I mean examining how relevant aspects apply and separate (by zodiacal degree or antiscia) and which planet ultimately wins out through rulership and reception.
I also like to see how the Moon separates and applies. If the Moon applies to the 12th house ruler or a planet in the 12th, there will be some kind of problem. Usually the person becomes evil or suffers some other type of 12th house effect. If benefics are properly configured, some good may result of a 12th house confinement. Frida Kahlo comes to mind with her artistic career triggered by a crippling automobile accident which required multiple surgeries and a lengthy period of physical confinement.
As for prediction, because directions rank at the top of the predictive hierarchy for their ability to time discrete events within 24 hours, they rank among my most frequently used tool. Besides primary directions which are the mainstay of the medieval toolbox, I am an ardent supporter of the more recently discovered symbolic directions known as solar arcs.
NG: Your recent work, A Rectification Manual, is the fruit of many years’ astrological research and testing. What were some of your goals in your research and writing the book?
DH: There seems to be a consensus one needs to work through 200 charts before reading a chart professionally for a client. In attacking that goal as a student, I faced a problem common to all astrologers: how can one be sure the chart under study is accurate? Because the last thing anybody wants to do is waste time studying an incorrect horoscope. The answer today is to rely on third party databases for accurate birth data; North American astrologers primarily use Astrodatabank. As much as reference databases like Astrodatabank are helpful, I consider their data as starting points for investigation.
Even accurate horoscopes backed up by birth certificates timed to the minute usually need slight adjustments before one can attack the figure with directions. And these are the best cases. I have found many Astrodatabank A-rated figures presented with times rounded off to the nearest half hour to be inaccurate. So much so that in a small sample I recently looked at, I determined that 15-20% of A-rated figures did not appear to have the correct Ascendant!
So the choice to tackle rectification was made in order to develop a set of accurately timed horoscopes as fodder for further educational study.
NG: Can you give a big picture overview of the method/order of operations you advocate in the Manual?
DH: I have outlined a three-stage rectification process:
1. Determine the Ascendant Sign
2. Determine the Ascendant’s Range within 1-4 degrees
3. Determine the exact Degree and Minute of the Ascendant
Stage 1 starts by confirming the Moon’s sign and proceeds to eliminate large sections of irrelevant time periods through planetary period techniques like Firdaria. The sequence of Firdaria rulers is different for diurnal or nocturnal figures. Usually the native’s life events can be easily matched to either the diurnal or nocturnal Firdaria sequence even without knowing the Ascending sign. Right away this knocks out about half the day’s 24 hours from consideration. There are some other techniques like the Moon’s separation and application which can also be used to cull large blocks of time from consideration. Using robust predictive techniques like Firdaria is quite effective in honing in on the correct Ascendant with very little effort.
Stage 2 begins with physiognomy in order to select the rising decan and proceeds to Arabic Parts which further narrow the Ascendant’s possible range. Arabic Parts are the bread and butter of Stage 2 rectification. I would go so far to say that no rectification can be declared successful unless event timing with Arabic Parts passes muster. Directions are used in Stage 3 to finish the job. They are the diamond drills of rectification.
NG: One of the topics you address in the Manual is the length of life and the potential cutting off of the predicted lifespan due to uncontrollable external influences, such as natural disasters. I am referring to the doctrine of subsumption (articulated by C.E.O. Carter); the natal chart is subject to bigger picture mundane horoscopes that can overrule it and produce death earlier than the individual horoscope shows. I am somewhat uncomfortable with this concept: shouldn’t major life events, especially death, be shown in the natal chart? How has this played out in your research?
DH: Considering American Presidents, there is only one individual I found whose natal horoscope did not indicate death: William McKinley. His assassination was timed by a Saturn direction in the Regulus USA National Horoscope of my own computation; to be released by year end 2008.
In making a more general answer, I will give you my thoughts but disclose they are not more than that; I have not undertaken any original research on this topic. I suggest that the larger the disaster, the less likely it will be promised in horoscopes of the dead purely on statistical grounds. Probably the best way to test this is to start with a small sample and then work larger.
Ken Gillman’s “Who Will Survive?” analysis of the Dunblane School shooting of March 13, 1996 is an excellent example of a small sample approach (footnote 1). Among his findings are angular benefics are helpful to survival and the presence of the Moon on the Ascendant-Descendant axis is not. It appears that angular luminaries make one stand out from the crowd. This is good for raising one’s status in society, à la Ptolemy’s Rank of Fame model, but not so great if one is trying to avoid an assassin’s gunfire. Also a reason why individuals with the Sun in 12th are able to fade into crowds without detection.
Now suppose instead of gunfire, Dunblane School was attacked with a nuclear bomb. I don’t see how having an angular Jupiter would be of much help in survival. So the larger the catastrophe, the less likely an individual with a ‘favorable’ delineation or ‘protective’ dynamic activity will be able to withstand the event.
NG: In researching the various traditional methods, you must have run into more than a few dead ends – methods that are esteemed but proved ineffective. Can you name a few such techniques?
DH: Treatment of latitude in primary direction calculations has been botched by most everybody. This business of reducing the latitude by one-half for sextile or trine aspects advocated by Morin and others is bogus. Probably the greatest technical discovery I made while preparing A Rectification Manual is the solution to the latitude problem. I call it the ‘primary direction sequence.’ I leapfrog the question of optimal latitude by computing a pair of directions for planet-angle directions; one with the full planet’s latitude and a second with a zero latitude planet assumption. This yields two dates. What happens are two events on each respective date, often linked, as is the time period between the two dates which tends to be marked by additional events whose nature conforms to the delineation of the planet involved in the direction.
If readers take away a single topic from this interview, it should be the primary direction sequence. I name it the Holy Grail of Rectification because the odds of computing a pair of directions corresponding to a pair of life events – often separated by a year or more – is so low that the statistical odds of a correct rectification solution quickly approach 100%.
NG: Can you give an example of this method in a horoscope?
DH: Let’s turn to Barack Obama. As his campaign got underway in the spring of 2007 there were questions raised concerning stock market and real estate transactions. The real estate deal with Tony Rezko had been covered earlier in the local Chicago press but the stock market transactions were new charges. On March 5, 2007, thestreet.com broke a story that questioned the ethics of Obama’s purchase of two small cap stocks whose activities benefited from Obama’s legislative actions. Obama was forced to make a press conference on 7 March regarding his activities.
This event opened up a series of events which forced the Obama campaign to scrutinize its campaign donations. Financial dealings with Rezko and his associates resurfaced during this review process. Concluding this episode was the decision by the Obama campaign to make dollar-for-dollar donations to charities with the amount equaling the total campaign contributions received from associates of Tony Rezko. These donations were made on June 2 and June 8, 2007.
Now that the life event is outlined, let’s look at how this might be shown in the natal figure. Who is Tony Rezko to Barack Obama? He is (was) a friend, a valuable political alliance for his fundraising expertise, and a real estate developer. As of 2008, Rezko is also a convicted felon and has been a source of embarrassment to the Obama campaign for Obama’s prior financial dealings with Rezko. Because Mars cuts and Virgo is an earth sign, Mars/Virgo signifies the real estate developer Tony Rezko. Mars is the exalted ruler (and al-mubtazz) of the 11th of friends and political alliances and the 12th of enemies, using Alchabitius quadrant house cusps. Mars falls in the 8th house of investments. So by position and rulership, the houses Mars are involved in are consistent with Mars’ signification as Tony Rezko. Financial dealings can be sought from the Part of Fortune, especially with Obama’s criticized real estate transaction with Rezko because the Part of Fortune falls in the 4th house of real estate (whole sign houses).
Using primary directions software built by Janus 4.0 and choosing the Placidus under the Pole method of directing, compute the following direction:
Dexter square of Mars d. => Part of Fortune (POF).
Hold the POF constant and direct the square aspect of Mars until it meets the POF. So far so good. There are a few assumptions made here, but nothing out of the ordinary. It is at this point where the primary direction sequence comes into play. To handle the latitude of Mars [00n43’22”] compute two directions. First compute the direction using the full latitude of Mars. Second assume Mars has zero latitude.
The two dates are March 9, 2007 and June 2, 2007. This pair of dates essentially forms a set of bookends which match the events cited above. Considering the difficulty of computing a pair of dates using primary directions which matches a pair of life events, it is virtually impossible to make these kinds of calculations unless the rectified birth time is highly accurate.
Now it turns out this particular example is a bit more complicated because if one also includes solar arc directions (for which the latitude concept employed in the primary direction sequence does NOT apply), one finds converse solar arc POF opposed Mars computed for March 5, 2007. This is the exact date of the investigative report by thestreet.com. Sometimes it happens that with all permutations of directions (e.g., latitude assumptions, solar arc and primary directions, direct and converse motion) that this kind of overlap occurs. The trick here, and this is my own finding, is that solar arc directions tend to time events which have a distinctly public character to them. Press releases, promotions, this kind of thing. So often when I see a major life event which makes waves in the public sphere, I will look to the solar arc direction more than the primary direction when rectifying the event. Vice versa for events which are important but whose effects are felt within the normal realm of an individual’s sphere of influence.
Footnote 1: http://www.considerations-mag.com/articles/whoWillSurvive.htm
Read Part 2 of Gryphon Astrology’s interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology
Read Part 3 of Gryphon Astrology’s interview with Dr. H. of Regulus Astrology
September 7, 2008 by Nina Gryphon
JH: You asked me are there any particular techniques or areas that I favor. I guess looking back over the years I have been particularly interested in reading personality out of a chart. In fact, I wrote a paper on that that was published in our Journal of Research a few years ago. As you well know, trying to make predictions and put specific dates on them is hard to do with great accuracy, but we can do it to some extent. And we all try it. I mean if somebody gives you their birth date, then you put the chart up, and you can look at the thing, and you can pretty much tell what kind of person you’re dealing with there. To me that’s particularly fascinating, to try to work out the personality from the chart.
I might mention what’s in my paper, and I have a devised a technique that works for me, and I’ll mention it to you. It’s very simple, and you might try it yourself. The first house, the ascending sign, shows you the animal nature of the person. Now what I mean by animal nature is that this is the instinctive thing. If somebody suddenly says something to you, asks you a question, or somebody trips you up, or hits you, or says, “look at that.” You have an instant reaction to it, and this is a reaction that’s without thought. It’s what’s natural – that’s the ascendant, as I said.
And I will give an example with animals. If you have a rabbit sitting in the floor in front of you, a pet rabbit, and you throw a ball of yarn down in front of it, he’ll turn around and run away from it. If you throw it down in front of your pet cat, he’d pounce on it. That’s animal nature. This is the thing that you see with the ascendant. It’s what you do without thinking!
The Moon is the conscious mind inside your head, it’s what you think. And the Sun is a kind of a censor that sits there in the background. It’s kind of like a backseat driver. It says you’re going too fast or turn left here or something like that. And I think if you look at a chart like that, why it makes a whole lot of sense and you can read personality pretty well with that kind of technique.
And since there are three areas, and each one can be in a different sign, or in the same sign, or something, you’ve got 1,728 different combinations. And that’s about how many different kinds of people we might run across in the world. Now if you’ve got a planet in any one of those, obviously, that modifies it. For example, if you’ve got Mars in the first house then violence, to some extent, comes natural to you. If somebody comes up and hits you on the shoulder, you may turn around and slap them without even thinking about it.
On the other hand if you’ve got Mars in conjunction with your Moon or strongly configured with it or something like that and somebody slaps you, why you may think, I guess I ought to hit him, but I don’t know whether I want to do it or not. You’ll think about it before you do it.
And if you’ve got Mars with the Sun, then the Sun says it’s okay to hit if you want to. It’s kind of a censor. I see the Sun as a censor. It doesn’t necessarily tell you what to do, but it tells you what it thinks is right and what it thinks is wrong. We have all had the experience of saying something and then instantly wishing we hadn’t said it. And very often, why that is the Sun down there saying, oh No, that wasn’t righ; you shouldn’t have said that. And it popped out because either the ascendant popped it out instantly, or the Moon thought it up and put it out. But the Sun said: that doesn’t suit my personal, ethical standard; you shouldn’t have said that. I think if you look at a chart like that, I believe it’ll make more sense than the usual way that people do.
Now part of that you can trace back to some old writer. I think Alan Leo said something that agrees with part of that, but not the whole thing. I have found in the old books that there was always a lot of confusion over what does the Sun mean and what does the Moon mean and which one is the personality. Well, I think the personality really is the ascendant.
When you first meet somebody, you see him. You size people up from their looks, their physical appearance, and that’s the ascendant. When you get to know them, then you talk to them and then your Moon is evaluating what their Moon has them say. And if you get to know them real well, why, then maybe you get down to the Sun sign level and you see that their ethical standard either agrees with yours if you’ve got the same Sun sign or else it’s different.
One other thing that I’ve been interested in over the years is the house problem. Are we going to use Placidus? Are we going to use Regiomontanus? Are we going to use Koch? Are we going to use Sign-House? What are we going to use? And I would like to recommend that you take a look at what I call Sign-House, and some people call Whole Sign. But Sign-House is what I call it.
The way this works, you look at the ascendant, and no matter what the degree is, the sign that’s there, the whole sign, is the first house. Now if you’ve got twenty degrees of Aries coming up, then all of Aries is the first house. And all of the next sign is the second and the one after that’s a third.
Now this was the original system. This is what the people that invented it in the 2nd century BC came up with. And I’m not saying that they were smarter than us, or that since they did it that way, why, we ought to all fall in line and say hi-ho we’ll use it too, and so on. But I recommend you try that. I have tried it and I usually put a chart up in Placidus if it’s a natal chart. And then I look at it the other way.
I wrote a paper sometime back that was published in our monthly publication, Today’s Astrologer. It had the horoscope of Mussolini. And if you draw the chart in Placidus, or Regiomontanus, either one, I don’t think the house position suit him nearly so well as they do if you use Sign-House. For example, I think if you do it with either Regiomontanus or Placidus you’ve got the Sun and Mercury in the ninth house. If you do it with Sign-House, they’re in the tenth in Leo. Look at the kind of guy he was. He was a flamboyant speaker. He got up and blah, blah, blah to everybody, and people just ate that up.
Also, the other thing, is that he had the Moon and I think Mars and Saturn in the seventh house with Placidus and Regiomontanus. But if you do it in Sign-House, it’s in the eighth. How did he die? He got nailed by some partisans and they strung him up and machine gunned him. And that perfectly fits.
And all I’m saying is, try it. Now here’s the other advantage to that: It’ll work everywhere. If you take the city Murmansk. Now it is above the Arctic Circle and there’s 300,000 people that live there. And using Regiomontanus or Placidus, you cannot draw their horoscope. But with Sign-House you can do it. And even if somebody’s born at the North Pole, they’ve got zero Libra rising and you’ve got a sign for each house all the way around. And it seems to me that if the thing’s true it ought to work everywhere.
I’m not saying that Placidus is wrong or Regiomontanus is wrong,but I’m saying try this other one, and I think you’ll see some samples right in your own chart. And if it moves some planets into another house, well, look at it and say, now which one of those really suits me best. And the further north you are the more likely it is that they are going to move them into different houses. And I think putting up a chart using any of the quadrant systems in Stockholm, for example, where you can have houses that only have eight or nine degrees in them and others that have two whole signs; that doesn’t seem to make any sense.
I’m just saying here’s something that I discovered that people used at the dawn of time, and maybe you ought to take a look at it.
NG: My last question was if you’re related to Sir William Herschel [the discoverer of the planet Uranus].
JH: Oh, I’m sorry to say that I’m not. Sir William was German. He was born in Hanover I think. And I’m nearly all English with a tiny bit of Scotch in there some place. I don’t know where the name Herschel came from. My grandfather Holden’s middle name was Herschel. He was Albert Herschel Holden.
And he was the first in our family that ever used the name Herschel, and why in the world he had that middle name, I’ve never been able to discover. He’s long since passed away so I can’t ask him. I wish I was kin to Sir William, but I’m not.
I’ve got to tell you something funny though. I’m interested in genealogy. I discovered quite by accident that I was kin to Doris [Chase] Doane [former president of the AFA]. Yes. She and I were about tenth cousins I think. Now that isn’t very close but her maiden name was Chase, and if I go way back up to my great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfathers, one of them was named Chase. [Doris Chase Doane] was directly descended in the Chase line from that one. I was indirectly descended, I think one of this granddaughters married a man named Sergeant; and straight down the Sergeant line was my paternal grandmother, who was Cordelia Sergeant Holden. And so Doris and I were very distantly related. And I found that out just a few years before she passed away, and we kind of had a little bit of a laugh over that.
JH: This is for you or anybody else that’s bought one of my books. If anybody has got one of my books and they read something they don’t understand, let me know about it. Send me an e-mail and say, hey on page thirty-seven it says this, and that desn’t make any sense, or I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I’ll be glad to answer their question.
And let me say this about my latest book, The Five Medieval Astrologers. I solicit comments from anybody that’s bought the book. If you like it, tell me you like it. If you say, well, you should have done so and so in this part of it, or I read this, and I don’t understand it, why, let me know about that too, because this is feedback. And if we can fix it, we will.
JH: [On William Lilly] I’ve got a Master’s Degree in English and I was able to write my thesis on William Lilly. “William Lilly Christian Astrologer: a Biographical and Critical Study.” How about that? It’s probably the only astrological thesis that the University ever accepted.
But anyway in Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales, which I suppose you have read. You remember the Doctor of Physic? And in one place it says of him, “Gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.” And I have adopted that as a motto. I mean I like to learn things, and if somebody asks me a question, then I’ll do my darndest to answer it.
September 6, 2008 by Nina Gryphon
This is the third part of an interview with astrologer, author, and translator, James Herschel Holden. Mr. Holden has a number of translations coming out in summer and autumn of 2008, including Books 16 and 17 by Morinus, and a collection of ancient astrological texts in Five Medieval Astrologers. To catch up, read Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview.
NG: I was curious what prompted all your recent translations.
JH: There is one thing that’s causing some of them to come out pretty close together. I don’t know if you’re aware of it but the AFA was reorganized last year. And now we have a new chief executive officer, Kris Riske. For about six months or a year before last summer I don’t think the AFA had printed very many books. And this was partly because people hadn’t offered any and said, “Hey, I’ve got a book; would you like to print it?” And then when the AFA was reorganized, why it took six months or a year to get the office straightened out, because there were a lot of things that needed to be done with a leadership change. So during that time they didn’t publish any books, because they were busy doing other things. And it’s just in the last few months that Kris Riske, who also is the principal editor, has had time to deal with anything like that.
And so some of the things that she’s done for me, I had done in earlier years, but they’re coming out close together now, not because every month I did something new, but they’re just kind of sitting around waiting to be published. And there’s more to come.
If you’re interested I can tell you a little bit about the Morin Method. Twenty years ago, and for two or three decades before that, there were only two people to my knowledge in the United States that knew anything about the Morin Method and they were the only ones that had ever even heard of it, except for the Morinus system of houses which is kind of a joke. But anyway, one of them was Zoltan Mason, and he was in New York City. And the other one was a man named Gerhardt Howing who lived in Dallas. I used to be in Dallas. And I attended some classes with Gerhardt and he taught the Morin Method. Now those to my knowledge were the only two people in the United States that knew anything about it. And both of them taught classes. And Bob Corre was a student of Zoltan Mason.
Mason died a couple years ago I think. And he hadn’t been teaching any for the last few years of his life. But Corre has picked up where Mason left off and he is a very active teacher of the Morin Method. He travels all over the world. He’s lectured all over Europe and Australia and every place else on it. And he also has a correspondence course over the Internet that you can sign-up for. And Corre has encouraged me to translate a good many of the books of Morin’s Astrologia Gallica.
And that’s what caused me to do most of those. And I think the method is good, and Corre finds them useful in his course so I havel translated aquite a few of them.
I have a new translation of Firmicus, for example, that I hope we can get printed this year. And I think it will be a considerable improvement over the Bram translation that’s available now.
And also, there’s several other things. Like I said, Book 25 is going to come out on Meteorology and Mundane Astrology, which I think people that are interested in either one of those will like.
Incidentally, if you are interested in Meteorology, Kris has written a book on that. Kris did something that I think a lot of people didn’t do. She actually collected statistical data on notable hurricanes and all kinds of storms and things like that and studied them astrologically. And [she] took some of the old rules that were in the old books; and well, she tried them out to see if they work. And so the book that she wrote is based on practical experience, and she gives a whole lot of examples in there. So, if you’re interested in that subject, I recommend that book.
NG: Are you also a practicing astrologer, whether amateur or professional?
JH: No, I’m not. Actually, I’m a retired telephone engineer. I worked for the phone company all my life. And I was a senior engineer, and then I got put in charge of the engineering budget for the state of Texas. That was when I was living in Dallas; I’ve only been here in Phoenix since `93. And prior to that, I was living in Dallas. And I would say that I never did practice professionally to amount to anything. I have read charts and answered questions for friends and family, for free of course. I think we all do that. And I had have done some work for pay in the past. Nothing in recent years. But if somebody came up to me that I hardly knew and wanted me to do their chart or answer a question or something, I charged those people. And I did it partly for this reason: I thought, well some other professional might have gotten this job and if people get the idea that they can get it done for nothing, why then I’m sort of knocking somebody else out a fee. And since I was a Professional Member of the AFA, I thought I guess I really ought to charge people that weren’t close friends.
But as far as having a standard practice or putting my name on the door and having the public come in, I never did that at anytime, because I didn’t have time, for one thing. And after I retired, I spent most of my time studying and writing books. That’s all I did.
JH: You were curious about how I got started in astrology. You’ll laugh at this. I think I was about twelve when I got interested in astronomy. And I studied up on the planets and their orbits and the stars and eclipses and all that kind of stuff. And the next year I took note of a publication that we got every year which was an almanac that was printed by the Telephone Company. And on the front, they had the figure of a man with the signs of the zodiac all around, Aries for his head [and so on]. And then they had some Sun sign material. I think they had one page of that in there; and I read that,and I got fascinated by that. I thought, hey, this is something really interesting.
And then that was age thirteen. I guess when I was thirteen and maybe early fourteen, I used to occasionally go to the beauty shop with my mother; she would pick me up at school, and then stop off at the beauty shop to get her hair done, or something like that. And here I am a teenage kid sitting there with nothing do. They had two kinds of magazines. They had movie star magazines and they had astrology magazines. Well, at thirteen or fourteen, I couldn’t care less about reading about movie stars. But I began to read astrology magazines. They had Horoscope. They had American Astrology. I think there was one that used to be called World Astrology, and there were two or three others. Back in those days there more of them than there are today.
And I read those and I looked at the charts and I got fascinated. And I found out they were sky maps and I looked at the numbers around the edge, the cuspal numbers. And I wondered how they figured those. And I got real interested in all of that, and I guess in a way, that’s what really sucked me into astrology. Like I said, when I was around eighteen I got hold of a copy of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. And about the same time I found the Latin text of Julius Firmicus. I’d had four years of Latin in high school so I could read Latin pretty well. And at the University I had had nine hours of Latin, in which I guess would be fifth year and first half of sixth year. So I could read the Latin without much trouble. And both of those books fascinated me. And they got me interested in the old stuff, and then I began to apply the astronomy that I had.
Well, I did quite a bit of those things like you saw in the introduction to The Book of Flowers, I was working on that thing back in the sixties. When I’d get bored with doing anything else, I’d say oh, I’ll get that out and translate another page or two, something like that. And also I had in the late fifties and early sixties begun to acquire the Greek texts of some of the classical Greek astrologers that had been published in Europe. And I taught myself Greek and I began to translate some of those.
NG: You must have a real gift for languages.
JH: Well, I guess I do or I wouldn’t have been able to have done it then. I can’t take any credit for it, I guess you’re born with that sort of thing. I have thought to myself sometimes, and I don’t say this as a piece of braggartry, but just as a fact. I think of all the people in my high school that took Latin I’m probably the only one that ever did anything with it.
To show what you can do, I got that Latin text [Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy]; I guess I’ve had that thirty years or so. And I sat down one day and I made a table of contents for it. The pages aren’t numbered, but they ave what they call folio numeration every fourth page: why, you’ve got B and then you’ve got one, two, three, four and then you’ve got C, and so on. And I made a complete index of the whole thing, so now if I want to look up something, well I get that out. I can open up the book and find a page that’s got that information on it. So it’s kind of handy. And then I discovered the Universal Bookstore (or something like that) up there in Canada that reprints old books. Anyway, they’ve reprinted a lot of the old books,and they offered Coley’s book, for example. And I bought that thing, oh, I guess twenty-three years ago.
I got several other of the 17th century English books that they reprinted, and those are very handy. You can find a lot of stuff in there that you’d be hard put to locate in the modern books. Like I said, Coley had done the three Centiloquies, and that was the only place I knew where you could find all three of them. And I don’t know that anybody ever did al-Mansur, or I guess somebody must have translated it, but I’ve never seen it. Anyway, that’s some of the stuff that I put together over the years.
[Read the final Part 4 of the interview with James Holden.]
September 4, 2008 by Nina Gryphon
This is the second part of an interview with translator James Herschel Holden, an astrological author and translator. If you are just joining us, read Part 1 of the interview here.
NG: You have a book that just came out, The Five Medieval Astrologers [read the Gryphon Astrology review], and you have picked the very books that I would have wanted in that one book. I’ve always wanted to read The Book of Flowers, but as far as I know it doesn’t exist in English right now other than in your translation.
JH: Well, this is true, but if you read the preface you could see that I actually translated that thing a long time ago. It’s been sitting here in my house and I never had a chance to get it published until recently. And when the executive secretary of the AFA said: “Jim, have you got any books that we can publish?” I said: “Yeah, I’ve got some.”
And I thought immediately we can put The Book of Flowers in there because I think the thing’s interesting. If you’re interested in mundane, I think we’re [AFA] going to publish a book in a few months that will probably interest you. I have translated half a dozen or so of the Jean-Baptiste Morin books from his Astrologia Gallica. Book 25, I have translated that; it’s on mundane and meteorological astrology.
NG: Other than mundane astrology, my other favorite topic is weather astrology, so I’m looking forward to it.
JH: You’d probably like that book, and I would think that maybe by October we may have it published. Right now, we’re working on Sahl’s book on horary and elections. And also, I have translated [Astrologia Gallica] Book 16 on aspects and Book 17 on astrological houses. Both of those will be published later this summer.
When they publish Book 25, we will have nearly all the books from 13 down to the end. The last book, number 26, is on horary astrology, and elections. And I’ve translated the first half of that. And I don’t know whether I’m even going to finish it or not. Morin didn’t like horary astrology. He thought it was silly rubbish that the Arabs had invented. I have a great deal of respect for Morin. A lot of his stuff is good and his Astrologia Gallica is good. But if you think about it, the main emphasis in the Morin Method is on what you would call accidental significators, that is, rulers of houses and things like that, rather than on universal significators.
For example, if you read some of the older books, you find that Mars rules warriors and Venus rules women, and so on like that. And that if you have a chart and you’re reading the thing. and you want to know something about a woman, well you look at Venus. And like if it’s a marriage question, well, look at Venus. Well, Morin says, No, look at the seventh house. See what’s in the seventh!
See what the ruler of the seventh is and how it’s related to all the other planets, then you can look at the fifth house too, but look at the seventh mainly. And what he’s doing that he didn’t seem to understand, is that he’s applying the horary method to natal astrology, because that is exactly what you do in horary if somebody comes in and says; “I have a question about my son,” what do you do? You look at the fifth house. And this is precisely what Morin says to do in reading a natal chart. If you want to know something about money look at [house] two. If you want to know something about marriage and business relations and open enemies you look at [house] seven and so on like that.
And this is exactly the horary method, and yet he says horary doesn’t work. But the reason he said that was two-fold. First, though, he didn’t know anything about the history of astrology. People didn’t in those days.
The old standard was Ptolemy, and they didn’t know there was anything else. And most of the books that were available were books that had been translated from Arabic in the 12th century, and he read those things, and he knew that those books had been written by Arabs. Morin didn’t like the Arabs because he was a devout Catholic, and those people, to him, were infidels. Also, Ptolemy never mentions horary astrology any place in the Tetrabiblos. So plainly it must have been invented by those wicked Arabs.
I think that this is one thing that sort of illustrates the advantage of knowing something about the history of the art. If you know the overall history of astrology, you know where the different techniques came from; you realize that people were making horary charts back in the days when astrology was a Greek science. And that it was medieval, and it wasn’t something the Arabs invented. Arab astrology is basically Greek astrology, because if you read my history book, in the 8th and 9th century Arabs got hold of Greek books on astrology and translated them into Arabic and that’s where they learned the business.
But Morin didn’t know that. And in one place, I think it’s maybe it’s in Book 16 or 17 some place, he even accuses Firmicus Maternus of having copied the Arabs. Well, Firmicus lived in the 4th century, and the Arabs didn’t know anything about astrology till the 8th century. So that didn’t make any sense, but like I said, he plain and simply didn’t know the history of the thing. Nobody did in his day. It wasn’t that he was ignorant and other people were aware, because it hadn’t been studied. This is why I think that it’s important to know something about the history.
Now back to The Five Medieval Astrologers. I had gotten a copy, I guess thirty, forty years ago of a 17th century book that had translations of the three Centiloquies in it. And I’ve been using that all along but I got to thinking, well, if we’re going to put The Book of Flowers out, well, maybe we ought to print all three of the Centiloquies too, because otherwise, let’s say you wanted the Centiloquy of Hermes where would you have found it?
You would have had to have located some old, out of print book or something to get the thing. Henry Coley had translated all three of them, and they’re in his book that was published about 1660 or the late 1600’s. And you can get a copy of that. Maybe you’ve got one. You can get a copy of his book.
NG: I did, before yours came out, but yours is much better, because he translated, but often he just paraphrased and it’s not the same.
JH: He not only paraphrased, but he actually left out about a fourth of it. He didn’t even have it all in there. And that one’s hard to read; I think the Latin’s bad. You can see in the footnotes that I had to struggle with part of it, too. Anyway, I thought to myself it would be nice to have all three of those things in one place. And then also there was The Hundred and Fifty Propositions of al-Mansur, which I don’t know where you’d ever find that. I have never seen it any place, so I thought we’re going to put all this together, and if anybody is interested in this old stuff, there it is all in one book.
NG: That’s wonderful. I’m really glad that you did, because I think a lot of people just don’t know it’s out there.
JH: I guess you read the little thing I put down there about why would anybody want to read a thousand year old book. But anyway, some of these books that I put out, well, I have to think about what Mark Twain said about a book once. “ This is a good book for people that like this kind of a book.”
[Read Part 3 of the interview with James H. Holden.]
September 2, 2008 by Nina Gryphon
Last month, I spoke with James Herschel Holden, M.A., author of A History of Horoscopic Astrology (now in its 2nd edition), and translator of countless astrological texts, including a dozen or so by Jean Baptiste Morin, and texts by famed astrologers such as Sahl ibn Bishr, Albumasar, Abu ‘Ali, and Masha’allah. Mr. Holden has been Research Director of the American Federation of Astrologers since 1982.
NG: What got you interested in the history of astrology and how does one kind of get into working with these texts as you have?
JH: Well, all my life I’ve been interested in history, history of everything. When I was in school I didn’t care anything about modern history but I was interested in ancient history. If you say why was that, the answer is I don’t know; that’s just the way I was. And I guess it was perhaps a little exotic, and so it appealed to me more than every day things that you see around you.
And when I first learned something about astrology; I got interested in where it came from, how it got started, and that led me back to the origins of it in the old books and so on
I was about eighteen when I ran across a translation of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos and I read that. And then about the same time I found a Latin text of Julius Firmicus Maternus. And since I could read Latin, that was another one that sort of whetted my appetite for the old stuff.
NG: So you were hooked. Is there a particular era in the history of astrology that you find interesting? It sounds like you’re very interested in the ancient texts, even before the medieval era, is that accurate?
JH: Well, not to the exclusion of anything else. I would say that I’m interested in all periods of astrology, except maybe what somebody thought up last month. I can say that I’ve been more interested in the older things than I have in a few of the modern things that have come up. But I don’t have any particular [favorite] period. If you’ve got my history book [History of Astrology, 2nd Ed., AFA] you saw how it was divided up into sections.
And each section in that is interesting to me; I’m interested in the classical section, also in the medieval section, what the Arabs had to say, and early modern, and so on. And there’s a whole lot of material to read in each one of those eras.
NG: I saw you have a new edition of your History of Astrology. I know it’s one of those books that it seems everybody I know has it and has read it.
JH: Well, I hope they like it. That’s the distillation of many years of reading about astrology and thinking about it. And you asked the question about the 2nd Edition whether there was any significant change, and I guess the answer is No
What had happened, is that the first one sold out, and we had noticed maybe as many as eight or ten typographical errors in it; most of them trivial, so we had a chance to correct those, and I was also able to correct some omissions that were in the 1st Edition. One of them was rather significant. Being a member of the American Federation of Astrologers, I had written that 1st Edition and never even mentioned our President, Doris Chase Doane.
I just forgot about it. I think the reason is that of the modern people that were alive today, or we’ll say the 20th century people, I was trying to think of those who had done something a little bit different or had acquired some notoriety in recent years or something. And Doris wrote an awful lot of books, but she hadn’t written any very recently at the time that I was putting that history together, and for some reason I just didn’t think of her. And I know the lady personally, or rather knew her. She passed away a couple years ago but, this is one of those things you slap yourself with your hand on the forehead, and you think how in the world could I have forgotten her.
In the 2nd Edition Doris is in there, and also I had left out three or four Europeans that I think were of some importance, and I simply forgot them the same way. So they’re in there now. And one of my friends in Greece, Thomas Gazis, was kind enough to rewrite the whole section on modern Greek Astrology, so that’s revised from the 1st Edition.
And I have a little bit more information about astrology in other countries. And of course in the ten years that went by, some of the people mentioned in the 1st Edition had passed away, so I’ve got their death dates in there.
I think there’s five hundred and some odd [people] in there. And so percentage wise…leaving those few out was a small error, but I regretted it.
NG: What do you think are some of the biggest changes in our knowledge, what we’ve learned in the last ten or twenty years that we didn’t know about the history of astrology before?
JH: I would say that maybe going back as far as thirty years ago we began to get some old books, and I’m talking about English speaking countries, I think what I’m saying is largely true of foreign countries too. But in this country, if you go back about thirty years, about the only old book you could get was Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. And many astrologers, not being aware that anything else existed, assumed that Ptolemy invented astrology and that everything that was original about it was in that book, which isn’t true.
Ptolemy was a science writer. He was like Isaac Asimov who wrote books on practically everything. I suspect that Ptolemy had been hired by some rich man who said: “I’ve got a nice, private library in my house and I’d like to have some books on the sciences. And I’ll pay you good if you’ll write them.” So Ptolemy wrote him a book on astronomy, and he wrote one on geography, and he wrote on two or three other subjects.
And then the man said: “Oh, and astrology; write something on astrology.” So Ptolemy wrote something on astrology. But if you look in the very first chapter of the Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy says he has left out a whole lot of what was current in his lifetime, and he said: “My book is not complete, I’ve left out a whole lot of things because it’s a big subject and if I wanted to put everything in it, it would be a whole lot bigger book.” Why, I think hardly any astrologer after his time ever bothered to read that part of it. Most of them assumed that he was first so he must have invented the whole thing.
For example, there was a man who was a professional astrologer, named Vettius Valens who was living in Alexandria from about 150 to 175 AD, which would have overlapped Ptolemy’s lifetime. He didn’t know Ptolemy and never mentions him once.
I’ve written a paper on this that hasn’t been published yet, but I think what happened is that Ptolemy wrote his books for a client or a patron whose name was Syrus. All Ptolemy’s books are addressed to a man named Syrus who is otherwise totally unknown.
When he finished he gave all the books to Syrus, the guy stuck them on the shelf, and they sat there for 150 years. They were not published or made available to the general public until around 300 AD. And Valens lived in the same town with Ptolemy and never heard of him, though Valens was a professional astrologer and also had a school of astrology. He would have known if the Tetrabiblos had been available; he would have had a copy; and he would have known all about it. And yet Valens’s book is true to what was going on at the time. For example, I think it’s got almost a hundred example horoscopes in it. Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos doesn’t have a single one.
So one is a theoretician, and the other one was a practicing astrologer. Ptolemy went down to the Alexandrian Library and got out two or three books on astrology, read through them, and then thought, well, I’ll talk about this part of it, and wrote the Tetrabiblos. Now, what he put down there is good, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not complete, that’s the point I’m trying to make.
And yet, I don’t think up until thirty years ago, hardly anybody knew about that. But since that time, various people have translated some of the old books. I think Robert Schmidt translated all or most of Vettius Valens, for example. A translation of Firmicus came out in 1974, I think. People little by little began to get some of the old books and found out, hey, there was more to it back then than we thought.
Then, in the last ten or fifteen years, why there have been people who got interested in medieval astrology and began to read the medieval books. And that opened up a whole new field too. So those are things that have happened in recent years that have expanded our knowledge. Now, if you are a working astrologer and you’re dealing with clients and so on, you probably don’t have time to sit around and devote yourself to reading the history, and as a result many astrologers today haven’t read any of the old stuff. They havn’t read my book. They haven’t read any of those old texts either. So they’re not familiar with that. I think it’s good to know how things started.
Did you ever see the movie Fiddler on the Roof? Well, there was something very significant in that. At one point some fellow says to Tevye the dairyman, “why do we do this particular thing?” And Tevye says, “it’s tradition.” And the man says, “Why do we have this tradition?” And Tevye says, “I’ll tell you, I don’t know.” That’s kind of situation that I think many astrologers are in. They learn the rules and they even learn to read charts pretty well, and so on. But if somebody said: “why do we do it this way?” all they could say is: “Well, that’s the way I learned it.”
And where did the rule come from? It says that Mars rules Scorpio? They were using Scorpio, and so on like that. Well, somebody made that statement 2000 years ago and we’re stuck with it.
I think that’s interesting, but most people don’t. I guess I could say that if you have any interest in the old stuff, I think my book is helpful because it not only mentions a lot of the old timers, but it gives some excerpts and it gives you a lot of footnotes and refers you to where you could find additional material.
[Read Part 2 of the interview with James H. Holden here.]
August 17, 2008 by Nina Gryphon
The 5th and last part of GA’s interview with astrologer and translator Benjamin Dykes, where he discusses his upcoming translations. To catch up, read Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3 , and Part 4 of the interview.
NG: That actually leads to my last question. I was curious what your next publications are going to be and why you’re going that direction?
BD: My next book is going to be called “Revolutions and Nativities.” It will be a collection of Arabic astrologers writing on nativities and solar revolutions—both of the native and of the world. While I was writing the Sahl and Masha’allah book I was disappointed with the natal material in it. It has largely to do with life expectancy and then a little bit about some general issues in the native’s life. But other than that there’s not much there. And there’s almost nothing on the revolutions of nativities. So, since most traditional astrologers practice horary or native astrology, and there aren’t a lot of books on natal astrology out there, I wanted to devote my next volume to that.
I’m very excited because several of these works have never been translated out of Latin. And some of them were never even printed: they’re still in manuscript form. But I’m really excited about them. There will be works by Sahl, Masha’allah, Abu Ma’shar, Abu Bakr, and others.
NG: That’s wonderful. So I take it you’re still working with the manuscript collector that you met or have you now branched out to other ways of obtaining manuscripts?
BD: I’ve branched out. I have slowly been collecting my own printed editions and manuscript editions for the last few years. I have plenty of material to work on for years to come.
NG: That’s great. I think the traditional astrological community and really the whole astrological community owes a lot to you and your efforts because only now is someone putting these works out in a very accessible form.
BD: It’s very fun for me and I hope I’m performing a good service for other astrologers. I’m learning a lot ,so I’m going to continue doing it.
August 13, 2008 by Nina Gryphon
This is Part 4 of Gryphon Astrology’s interview with astrologer and translator Benjamin Dykes. To catch up on prior parts of the interview, read Part 1, Part 2 , and Part 3 here. In Part 4, Benjamin discusses traditional thought and its application to astrology.
NG: It seems like in some ways it’s almost not possible for us to get away from traditional thought. We can maybe layer it over or twist it but you can never really get away from certain concepts entirely.
BD: Yes. Traditional thinkers worked for a couple of thousand years on a set of themes and questions that were of interest to people in many different times and many different places. And in order to get these conversations going we need to know what they said. There are a lot of fantasies that modern people have about themselves and about what it means to be modern. And traditional thought can sometimes be a corrective that can help dispel these fantasies.
NG: I think conveying that traditional knowledge back into a modern person’s language might be a challenge. Have you experienced that? Or do you feel, as you said, that people just kind of naturally are open to what you’re saying?
BD: It depends. I have met both clients and people in social settings who are modern astrologers, and even if they don’t take on clients themselves, they’re modern people who have mainly studied modern astrology and understand its ethical, cosmological, and social claims. And when I can look at their chart and speak frankly about both good and bad things that are going on in their lives it comes often as a breath of fresh air. They are appreciative. There is a belief out there, and part of it is because of modern fantasies, that you can’t ever say anything bad to the client, because the client is so fragile and probably has so many traumas and so many potential mental illnesses that are just waiting to be unearthed, that you might scar them forever—so someone comes to you for advice but you are not supposed to recognize conventionally bad things in their lives. But clients, even those studying modern astrology, often know the bad things that are present or on the horizon, and they themselves consider it bad, and they are pleased when you acknowledge that. That is one of the things I mean about modern people being receptive to traditional thought: because in traditional thought we can say something is conventionally good or bad.
NG: Perhaps that is why for many people that’s a relief when they start studying traditional techniques that hey, you are allowed to acknowledge the whole of the life or the whole of the person rather than just start working with these fantasies about everything about being good or beneficial.
BD: Or even indulging in fantasies, as I said, about most people having mental illnesses and neuroses and having all sorts of traumas that you have to tiptoe around.
NG: I suppose people are slightly hardier than modern thought would allow them to be. What do you think the current revival of traditional astrology, where do you think that fits on the astrological timeline? At first, we have traditional thought, then for a few hundred years it really goes into dormancy, and now we’re experiencing this revival. Why do you think that is happening now? And where do you think it might go from here kind of on a very large timeline? What do you think it means?
BD: I think several things are happening. First, there are issues of modern culture in general, having to do with people not really being sure what value system they hold, or who are even afraid to say what is good or bad. And I think this leads to people feeling adrift and alienated: so they might naturally turn to traditional thought. And then in various New Age, occult, magical, or astrological circles there are trends back to traditional practices. I’ve met a lot of modern astrologers who say that after studying and practicing for a long time, they’re exhausted with modern astrology. And I think it is partly because astrologers are experiencing some of the same problems that are in the culture in general. There’s always a new technique, always a new vision of the universe, but very little agreement on how to even read a chart.
And so what traditional thought does, I think, is to help ground us. You don’t have to believe everything that medieval people did in order to feel a lot more grounded and confident in talking about stuff in ways that they do. You don’t have to stop being a modern person. But a traditional dialogue on matters of good and bad, or of fate and freedom, helps to articulate issues and values in ways that modern people often have not been prepared for, because we have modern myths that blind us to alternatives. In one sense modern conservatives are right about how an extreme multiculturalism and de facto moral and intellectual relativism has bad effects on people. But you don’t have to be a judgmental jerk in order to cure yourself of that. Traditional thought often has a very realistic, down to earth way of dealing with these issues.
NG: I think one of the things that people find perhaps confusing with modern astrology is they find issues of morality or things not being right or wrong. In that sense, the traditional astrologers can be very refreshing. They say this person is going to be on the evil side and they don’t have to tell you what exactly evil means because we all understand some of these basic concepts.
BD: And it’s not only more refreshing but it’s more helpful. For example, a modern astrologer recently wrote that we should not give bad news to a client if we see something terrible in the chart about the native’s relationships. Now you wouldn’t even treat your best friend that way, leaving them in the dark about something important like that. But there is a certain strand in some modern astrology that says we just can’t talk about that stuff. Someone comes to us for help and we just can’t talk realistically about it.
The issue of good and bad is also interesting because there are a couple of ways that we can look at matters. In traditional astrology, when you look at the houses, the houses are filled with things that are conventionally good and bad, and I think that’s the key. They’re conventionally good and bad: wealth is good, God is good, death is bad, slavery is bad, friends are good. These are conventional values and they are the ones embraced by a philosophers like Aristotle and most of the astrologers in the tradition. The chart, in essence, presents conventional, Aristotelian values.
But there are other ways of looking at things, and this is where you can adopt different philosophical views and adopt a different cosmology. You can say that from God’s perspective, none of this is good or bad. The planets are doing nothing more than carrying out their natures as God has willed their natures to be. Mars, from a God perspective, is not evil. Mars does what he does. But what he does may be conventionally bad for us.
You could take this further in a Stoic direction, a philosophy which is implied but not often articulated well in many Hellenistic texts. This could be useful in astrological therapy. The Stoics disagreed completely with how Aristotle grouped values together. And their whole attitude towards philosophical therapy and healing emotional problems had to do with realizing that what we conventionally recognize as good and evil are not good and evil in themselves; they’re things we should select or deselect in accordance with our natures and what the situation requires. But getting too wrapped up in conventional values sets you up for either misery or false happiness.
So when we’re talking about good and evil with a client, we can talk about conventional good and evils, but we can also talk about—and I think in the future we need to start doing this—something more of a Stoic approach, in which we realize that we are part of a universe in which everything acts according to its nature. And if we can get a bit of critical distance from these conventional values we’ll be a lot more happy and relieved and confident about what we get or do not get, than if we only think our happiness has to do with having these conventional values, and either get scared out of our wits when we lack them or have a false sense of joy when we have them.
You asked about where are we going in the future. I don’t know about the reception of traditional astrology among astrologers generally. But I am confident that within the next five years we will have all of the major and most of the minor works of these key medieval astrologers translated. And we will have resolved issues like whole-sign houses versus quadrant houses, and other matters. I think we’ll have resolved all the main issues and have all the material there. The next step will be to train a new generation of traditional astrologers to work with it.
[Read part 5 of the interview with Ben Dykes.]