Astrology Takes a Detour

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention first that I’ve been what is known as a “psychological” astrologer since the term gained popularity in the early 1970s.  British astrologer Alan Leo – often called “the father of modern astrology” – was the first practitioner of what he called “the science of tendencies” rather than event-based prediction, mainly because he was trying to wiggle out of prosecution for fortune-telling in 1914. There were a number of celebrated British astrologers who championed Leo’s methods in the decades after his death, but in the United Sates the two that stand out are Marc Edmund Jones (famous for his “Sabian Symbols” but in fact an early adopter of  psychological chart interpretation) and Jungian acolyte Dane Rudhyar. They were largely responsible for the mid-20th-Century surge in the use of astrological principles and language to create a psychological blueprint of an individual’s potential at birth, later expanded exponentially by Robert Hand and others. It’s probably safe to say that the overwhelming majority of popular books published on Western astrology during the New Age era following this watershed period were psychologically focused and owed a huge debt to Carl Gustav Jung.

But a sea-change was in the forecast beginning with Project Hindsight, which surfaced in 1992-93 and continues today. According to AstroWiki, it was a joint initiative of Robert Schmidt, Ellen Black, Robert Zoller, and Robert Hand to “retrieve and translate astrology texts of the past and to teach traditional astrology, with a current emphasis on Hellenistic astrology.” This sparked a renewed interest in the pursuit of classical methods of horoscopic synthesis, including Greek, Persian, Renaissance and “pre-Enlightenment” European  techniques of event prediction and character analysis. A vanguard of modern astrologers appeared who turned away from the current fascination with Jung’s ideas and the expansion of astrology into the increasingly thorny bramble-patch of astronomical minutiae (“How many asteroids will fit on the head of a pin?”), choosing instead to employ the seven original “planets” (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn), the Arabian “parts,” the fixed stars, the traditional system of zodiacal dignities, and the four classical elements of Empedocles (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) as the vital core of their work.

At a personal level, I’ve largely evolved (some might say devolved) along traditional lines; I still use a few features of modern astrology to a limited extent in my natal practice (primarily the three “outer,” or trans-Saturnian, planets) but I draw the line at the abundance of minor asteroids and “planetary artifacts” that seem to be in vogue today (a symptom of the “Everest effect” – if it’s there it must be conquered and assimilated). I’m also inclined to discount the minor “Keplerian” aspects (semi-sextile, semi-square, sesqui-quadrate, and quincunx)  and the “harmonic” aspects (novile, septile, quintile, etc.) unless they form part of a larger aspect pattern. I now lean more toward the four “temperaments” – choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic – and their permutations for character analysis, and away from the complexities of the Jungian viewpoint. Needless to say, this creates a tremendous economy of detail in my reports. Where my computer-generated reports once surpassed 40 pages, I can now summarize the key elements of a horoscope in around three pages, including the chart graphic. This is probably as much psychological jargon as the marginally interested layman can absorb anyway, so the astrologer’s workload shrinks to meet the expectation.

Predictive practice is another matter entirely. In the 1980s I received a facsimile edition of William Lilly’s 1647 magnum opus, Christian Astrology, which then sat mostly unopened on my bookshelf for nearly 30 years. Lilly might justifiably be described as the pre-eminent horary astrologer of all time, and his book is a goldmine of practical guidance for both event prediction and event planning. When I joined the tarot forums in 2011, I encountered an English astrologer who was a proponent of traditional methods, and of horary techniques in particular. I had first been exposed to horary astrology in the mid-’70s but never went anywhere with it; this time it dovetailed neatly with my event-based approach to tarot divination. I bought and studied a few books by modern writers in the ancient ways, took what they said to heart, plunged into those uncharted waters, and never looked back.

Here is an earlier, related post that provides more information on traditional source material by modern authors:


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