Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand The following article is the (edited) transcript of a talk Robert Hand

gave at the Astrological Conference 2005 of the British Astrological Association in York, UK. What is post-modern? First of all I should define the term “post-modern”. Post-modernism as the term is usually used refers to a set of philosophical movements largely arising out of contemporary French philosophy featuring in particular the work of Jacques Derrida, post-structuralism and the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. This is not what I refer to, because something else has been going on in astrology. Astrology has never been part of the modern world and cannot have in the same way a post-modern period. I would actually suggest that astrology is ideally suited to be both pre-modern and post-modern in the French philosophical sense. But what I refer to instead is a very real historical phenomenon in astrology, which is this: we have astrology up until about 1700, which had certain consistent patterns, ideas and principles and which had a more or less a continuous tradition from something like – this date is extremely flexible – the fifth century B.C.E. Then, in the 18th century we had a very long break. Conventional historians refer to this as the Enlightenment. I prefer the term “Endarkenment,” based on what happened in astrology – it almost died. And then in the 19th century a revival began, which for most of the 19th century was a revival of a portion of the tradition that had nearly died in 1700. But then with Alan Leo, and more recently people like Dane Rudhyar, and on another level people like the Hamburg School and Cosmobiology of Ebertin, a rather new kind of astrology began coming into existence, which it might be appropriate simply to call 20th century astrology, but I would like to call modern astrology. So what I am really going to be talking about is the question, what next? The beginning of what I will call – for lack of a better term – post-modern astrology actually happened quite a few years ago now. Two people are largely responsible for this new beginning. They are in the United States: Robert Zoller, who began studying medieval astrology in the original Latin in the 1970's, closely followed in this country [Great Britain] by the late Olivia Barclay, who began teaching her students horary directly from William Lilly’s text. In both cases what was being taught was a reborn pre1700 or pre-modern astrology. They had tremendous impact. In the States this led to the movement of which I was a part – or am a part, but am no longer associated with the name – the project called Project Hindsight, of which I and Robert Zoller along with Robert Schmidt were founders. Subsequently Robert Zoller has gone his own way, and I have gone my own way, but the movement continues. There is also of course an extremely meaningful translation movement in Spain, and also one in Italy. Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 1

And we have to ask. it is said by some. We are not trying to do astrology exactly as it was done. For example. Surely. all of whom looked at the traditional astrology as they received it. who are really trying to revive completely an intact pre-modern astrology. This is not the case. Morinus. I don’t think he would object in my characterizing him this way – is that he would smile. pre-modern type of astrology is coming back fairly rapidly. rather we’re trying to recreate astrology as it would have been if it had never stopped being an active tradition. If you want an example of what I mean I refer you to Patrick Curry’s excellent work Prophecy and Power. Understanding this point is very important. and believed that reform was needed. about the only general characterization I can make is that of defining it as astrology pre1700. My favorite image of Robert Zoller – and believe me. traditional astrology must have been terribly lacking. Are we talking about Arabic astrology. first of all because it is the actual Indian term. sublimely rub his hands together and say: “The old ways are the good ways!” Yet. or – as I prefer to call it – Persian-Arabic astrology. Yes. I think if you do a quick calculation you will realize that most history happened before 1700 – billions and billions of years in fact. the predictive techniques Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 2 . there are people – and I think I can say this without offering any insult – such as Robert Zoller. “which traditional astrology?” Hellenistic/classical? Jyotish? Jyotish is a term I vastly prefer to vedic. because it is often stated and believed that traditional astrology must not have been all that effective because it died out – almost. So. and therefore modern astrology represents an evolutionary improvement from it. otherwise known as traditional astrology. we are not doing traditional astrology. In this respect it is like most of the rest of History. and secondly because (I know I am going to get some arguments about this later) there is not all that much horoscopic astrology in the Vedas. The influence these movements have had is not quite what you might expect. is not really a revival of traditional astrology. But. However. Rather it’s a healing of the break that occurred in the 18th century. which is basically the same as PersianArabic? Or are we talking about early modern astrology – and I don’t mean Alan Leo? Early modern astrology actually consists of persons like Placidus. Traditional astrology died out for reasons that are much better described as socio-political than scientific. because it’s actually much more Persian than it is Arabic? Are we talking about Latin language medieval astrology. since some people regard Alan Leo’s astrology as traditional astrology. we are healing the break that occurred in the 18th century. and what I certainly align myself with. that process was not limited to Britain. Traditional Astrology First of all: What is traditional astrology? Unfortunally. what appears to be happening. pre-modern may be a clearer term for pre-1700 styles of astrology. So which one are we talking about? I have bad news: all of them! We have not fully digested traditional astrologies – to use the proper term – we have not mastered the techniques. other than that it’s difficult to characterize. Kepler. But I assure you. where he describes the process of astrology’s near death in Britain.So the pre-1700.

Arabic or Latin medieval. There is in fact in Western astrology an underground tradition of mitigation much as there is in Indian astrology. Both Islamic and Christian astrologers had to constantly explain why astrology did not interfere with religion. But the goals of 20th century astrology are absolutely commendable. There may be some of this in Jyotish. from which astrology was largely disconnected. My only criticism of it is that in the hands of some of it’s less competent practitioners it has been an extremely mushy sort of astrology where anything can be made to mean anything. Every astrology deals with the culture in which it lives. They did have the tools if they had had the philosophical reasons for doing it. The language of 20th century astrology as a language tends to be imprecise. Some of us have been calling this traditional astrology neo-traditional. All three of those traditions were completely oriented towards dealing with everyday. mundane situations. makes sense and is clear enough to tell if it is working. and even some of the predictive techniques of medieval astrology are still not widely used or experimented with. they may also turn out to be a major break-through. but that is really putting the emphasis in the wrong place. inarticulate and unclear. therefore it was okay. I do not really know.of hellenistic astrology. Astrology in the 20th century But this infusion of elements from the various traditions into the modern astrological tradition represents the essence of the change from modern to post-modern astrology. But Dane Rudhyar in particular introduced a radically new way of thinking about astrology. nor did it contradict religion. events will happen. and if it doesn’t it’s irrelevant. 20th century astrology we keep. but it has always been an underground tradition. did not impinge on the same issues. namely religion. It is in the ordinary language sense of the term a postmodern astrology. Twentieth century astrology should be kept in so far as it works. The reason is very simple: In both the Islamic world and the Christian world there was something else that governed that process. in so far as it speaks to the needs of modern humanity. They may turn out to be not too useful.” Now you Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 3 . I do not share the contempt that many traditionalists feel for psychological astrology. as astrologers. depending on the emotional frame of mind of the client and the astrologer. I think it is extraordinarily important. The single most important advance in 20th century astrology was the recognition that astrology actually could be used as a tool for human potential and self-actualization. Why did the tradition – at least the branches of it I have mentioned – not deal with the issue of self-actualization. But we have had to pretend that we. It is called magic. Okay! What do we do with the 20th century? This is where I will demonstrate conclusively that I am not a traditionalist: we keep it! We keep its best features. but until we have actually systematically examined them we don’t know. are not connected to it in order to survive in what has been until recently a Christian world – or Islamic. but there certainly is not any of it in Hellenistic. So. vague. To illustrate what I mean by “clear enough” (or rather not clear enough) here is a style of prediction (admittedly an absurd one) that illustrates the problem: “In the next year. Closely related to his astrology is the idea of psychological astrology.

altruistic nature of this person and so on. Hindu astrology. so that I could tell if the statement I was making was right or wrong. but here is what it does need: First of all. Twentieth century astrology is not to be thrown out. the question often arises: is traditional astrology – in any form – better than modern astrology? And of course the traditionalists immediately say: “Why. And the reason is that I have always placed great stress on the articulation of the astrological language. “This is crazy. and insofar as they can say things clearly you can tell whether what they say is true or not. psychological exploration. But the problem was that he was taking advantage of the inarticulate nature of much modern 20th century astrological language. which I suppose some will believe is perfectly fine. except in the case of Jyotish. he announced that it was the chart of Charles Manson.may laugh. this chart can’t possibly be right. or even enlightenment. So when he finally admitted that it was Charles Manson I said to myself. Jyotish does have a coherent philosophical Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 4 . I am going to make what some may think a rather outrageous statement which has been contradicted by others a number of times during this Conference: I have not ever cast a chart that was wrong that worked better than the one that was right. or it will of no use at all. except as entertainment. of course!” They say that it is more effective. Modern astrology has had one really tragic flaw in addition to its inarticulate language: its complete lack of a philosophical foundation rooted in any coherent philosophical or spiritual tradition of the world. but I have heard astrological predictions made that were just about that “clear. these early astrologies can say things clearly. and there are a number of schools that have contributed extremely valuable ideas too numerous to mention. Geoffrey spouted modernistic astrological garbage about the unselfish. I am not saying it cannot happen.” And then after he had the entire audience convinced. but not for the reasons you may think. are more articulate.” I also think there are some other tools from 20th century astrology that are well worth keeping. By way of a side-note. So that is why he was able to suck everybody in. This is probably true. as languages. and for that matter hellenistic astrology. This must change! The object of self-actualization. But it must be done in a clear language. the astro-carto-graphic map of Charles Manson had the line of that Mars-Neptune-conjunction passing through the deserts just to the east of Los Angeles. such as the use of mid-points. One of the strangely backhanded compliments I used to pay to the Cosmobiology of the Ebertin system was that I liked it because it is one of the few systems of astrology where I could tell when it was not working. the 90-degree dial. through astrology is a perfectly noble goal. all have a much more elaborate language than 20th century astrology. Simply put: these languages. arabic astrology and medieval astrology. I remember a lecture by Geoffrey Dean in which he was lecturing on a chart that was supposed to be the chart of Petula Clark. I said to myself. but it has never happened to me. “I knew it couldn’t be Petula Clark!” They were born a year apart on the same date. – Geoffrey does not remember this incident but I do – with a very close conjunction of Mars and Neptune. a noble task.

in part because they are not in fact foundational philosophies. what scientists keep telling us astrology lacks: a theoretical foundation. And let me explain why: The contemporary scientific paradigm. Of course. We have to go back to these philosophies (as I will hope to demonstrate in part tomorrow) because all modern Western philosophy – with the possible and likely exception of phenomenology – is born out of an idea-set that occurs after the West made a fork on the road of philosophy which rendered astrology inherently impossible. at least any paradigm constituted according to the larger metaparadigm of modern science. It needs to be correctable. and it is just grinding off to a stupid. we are trivial and unimportant. we just happen to be practising the Western branch of it) also has a firm foundation in philosophy derived from persons with names such as Plato. Now you have to understand that a theoretical foundation does not necessarily need to be correct at the outset. meaningless. Western astrology (by which I really mean Middle Eastern astrology. reestablish the roots. according to the prevailing version of the modern scientific paradigm are epiphenomena of the laws of inanimate nature. you have to ask the question: “Meaningless” to whom? You can’t have meaninglessness until there is somebody to whom something is Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 5 . Alfred North Whitehead may also be a philosopher who has something to say to us. and bring them forward into the 20th century or 21st century. Blavatsky. We have a brilliant example of this in the work of late John Addey whose astrology was rooted firmly in Neoplatonism but pointed toward a radical new kind of astrology. such as the philosophies of Hermes. second level prenomenon. But we do not want to use 19th century mystical “philosophies” such as those of Mme. even based on a reconnection with ancient philosophy. with exception of a few areas of quantum physics. What they taught was a modernized and obscured form of Neoplatonism. For those of you that are not aware of it. Astrological theory. will not be a theory that science will recognize as theory. but for philosophy let us go back to the real thing. So we have to go back to the philosophies in which astrology is not inherently impossible. I am not saying their works are of no value. An epiphenomenon is a superficial. It just will not function according to the scientific paradigm – any scientific paradigm. the world is essentially meaningless.and spiritual background derived from the religions of India. in some form. pointless end. Alice Bailey and so forth. but it will in fact function as a scientific theory. Plotinus and has roots in other philosophies that we cannot attribute to any actual person. but until I can get him to say something to me that I truly understand – those of you that have tried to read Whitehead will know what I mean – I cannot tell what he may have to offer. not central to the whole system. Pythagoras. In other words. largely ignores the role of consciousness in the Universe. Astrology lacks a theoretical foundation The reason for having proper philosophical foundations is that it actually leads to the creation of. Putting it in its boldest form: Life and consciousness. modernize our understanding of those philosophies. Aristotle.

meaningless. I am not. as if putting zeroes after a one made things more significant and more meaningful. There is no ancient astrology that must be completely recovered because it. that astrology. believe me. to whom are we unimportant. By the way. It may be complete and perfect eventually. Balancing modernist and traditionalist attitudes So we need to strike a balance between the modernist’s attitude and the traditionalist’s attitude. Unfortunately. so we can learn from them. which is most gratifying. mind and consciousness are central to the functioning of the Universe. but they are not necessarily “truer” than what we do. To whom are we minor? If there is no aliveness in the Universe. and things that talk must be alive and conscious. or at least are coeval with. that is to say. But we have to recognize. matter and energy. There are also Lilly fundamentalists. and precede. The idea that life and consciousness are epiphenomenal is the exact reverse of the astrological world view. I just want to make one thing clear: If I seem to be taking a slam at the only at certain members of the Jyotish/Vedic community in talking about astrological fundamentalism. Hellenistic fundamentalists. according to one modern “scientific” writer. Something is talking to us. It was not revealed whole. That was someone’s description of life in the Big Bang. perfect and complete to anyone at any time. in some meaningfull way. We are said to live on a planet that goes around a minor star in a minor galaxy in an infinitely huge Universe. We recover them to the best of our ability. but not in that narrow biblical sense. let us remain so! But I think many astrologers do not draw out the logical implications of what they do. and since when was sheer magnitude the criterion of excellence? Billions and billions of stars. like bacteria living on a dust particle in a sneeze. they made the whole meaningful/meaningless issue undefineable. when the 19th century threw God out of science. as long as it isn’t modern. Arabic fundamentalists… You take any system. yes indeed. is completely. We are. absolutely and overwhelmingly reject any form of astro-fundamentalism. We can leave that for certain insane fanatics in the Jewish. Thank God! Now another aspect of the new kind of astrology: I totally. alone. But it is probably never going to happen quite that way. And by all means. In my humble opinion (which means: “arrogant statement follows”) astrology makes no sense unless we postulate that life. Do I think that astrology came as the result of a divine revelation in the biblical sense? Maybe in some other sense yes. and they are 21st-century-ordinary-every-day-mechanist-materialists when they do anything else – I find that this true less and less as time goes on. but only because we have done the work of uncovering the revelation. Islamic and Christian religious comunities. and the metaphysics of science – also known as scientism – are indeed incompatible. They are astrologers when they are in the counselling room. and you will find somebody who believes in it as a Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 6 . I just do not want to exclude the possibility. the late Carl Sagan used to say. coeternal with them. Our ancestors were human beings. just like us. entire. This is why we are heretics. absolutely and positively true for all time. irrelevant and academic.

but that is neither their purpose nor their value. Without qualification – these positions are both wrong. But of course. significance. I am convinced that Masha Allah or the work attributed to him is of two people. we had a cartoon on the wall which showed a rather generously endowed. we have the varied styles of medieval primary directions. because we have got to the point where the next level of astrology must be carried on in environments similar to that of universities. (We do not read Manilius. and on the wall behind her is a sign that says: “Next Week: Astrology and Your Pet”.” but it is a liberal arts degree nonetheless.fundamentalist. Astrology is no more entertainment than psychology. saying: “We will not rest until astrology has found it’s proper place in Academia”. The alternative? At Astrolabe. the company that I used to work with. with ‘learned’ in twosyllables. but working in a limited way. Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 7 . and people like him. But this is a thrilling development. as I am sure many are quite aware. the University of Canterbury program. take it or leave it! (I have a Scorpio Moon). The modernist attitude believes that only the most recent work is any good. it also has to be recognized the amateur astrologer will have a role similar to amateur scientists – far from irrelevant. This is not the sort of topic that I think would draw a very large crowd at even an AA conference.) Here in Britain there is of course the Bath Spa curriculum. and the traditionalist attitude thinks that anything modern is hopelessly flawed and corrupt. where there are conferences held among professionals in the field. Post-modern astrology must recognize that astrology is a learned art. Which is to say that both can create entertaining diversions. one who believes that the books are literally and completely true. because nobody can read Manilius. or – to use a term more fashionable in religious circles – a literalist. and there are probably others that I am not aware of. and the AA conferences are a good deal more sophisticated than many other conferences. One of these is Kepler College. but a learned art. but which is too technical or esoteric (in the original meaning of the word) for a general astrological conference. definitely a subject of interest only to specialists. To that end. But that is my position. fine. there has begun a movement towards the creation of academic institutions within astrology. What do I teach there? I teach ancient history. It teaches within a genuine liberal arts program that happens to be – this is the unofficial motto of the school – filtered “through the lens of astrology. We read John of Seville in the course. the Southampton program. And while we invite the enthusiast and the amateur to participate. the Latin is not all Cicero. Not a learned art with one syllable. application and so forth. For example. Just to give you one idea of something I have noticed. because there are two different kinds of astrology going on. And if you disagree with me. medieval history and Latin. who report work that is very important. but I have not figured out how to rigorously document this yet. their origin. portly woman standing behind a lectern with a very stern and severe expression on her face.

I am now in my fourth year of graduate school. but that we can at some point refer to our tradition as a completely restored and continuous tradition. if you use the wrong technique in analysing an unknown substance. what they meant. That is not the same thing. The “Astrology and Your Pet” aspect of astrology has been going on for quite a long time. It is right on the verge of being forgotten already. For the most part we do not yet have that. Ironically. You can read them or download them. We need modern researchers documenting what happened in the 20th century. And appropriateness will be determined in terms of our modern needs – excuse me – post-modern needs. it is not even clear that we will ever be integrated with academia. So this is why this increasing movement toward academia is required. We need all these journals. you will not find out what the substance is. At this point I have to make a very important statement about this process. but on the internet there is something called “Early English Books Online”. as you choose. I do not know how many of you are aware of this. We need that exact same thing in astrology. but for our own use. or to Bonatti.Now. talking about their lives. there is nothing wrong with that. so I am beginning to get a sense of what goes on in Academia that is good and useful to the further evolution of astrology. It does not mean we use all their techniques. Every book printed in England before 1700 that has survived is in that data base. or any one you can chose. with all the astrologies of the past. scan them and make them available to researchers. but for the efficacy of our art. We will not convince academics that we belong in academia because we say so. and I do not suggest that it should cease. but these are two different aspects of astrology. Post-modern astrology will not simply be going back to William Lilly. if I can make a word. But they will be in there. We are trying to force astrology to get its internal act together. for example. all the old texts. but I have to agree with Geoffrey Cornelius in his talk yesterday that improved technique in the way it is usually understood is not what we are trying to do here. It is for ourselves. or to Vettius Valens. In chemistry. not for our respectability. but we are getting it. their works will be known. the most endangered single part of the history of astrology is the history of 20th century astrology. We need to find all those old astrological journals rotting away on our shelves. Vahara Mihira. So this academization. We need international libraries of astrology texts. either in book form or online. We will be more effective if we do these things. evaluated and employed where appropriate. historically. Here is the key point: we will have succeeded in creating post-modern astrology to the degree that our astrology is completely continuous. It does not matter. explicating their ideas. who said what. is an extremely important step. does not mean we use all their elements. we need to preserve all of this. not so that we can be respectable. Now I could make a long list of things I think might like to change technically-speaking in astrology. We are not trying to make astrology respectable. the making of astrology more academic. everything to be accessible to researchers. At the moment a great deal of astrology is on the verge to disappearing for all time. Technique in chemistry is an absolutely necessary set of procedures designed to Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 8 .

But the issue here is not whether these techniques are “correct. and is an answer to the question clear enough so that we can tell if it is right or wrong? Fate versus free will There is the wonderful problem of fate versus free will.” What they made clear in this statement is there is no one such thing as fate. All of us could have a number of times in which we might die. career. They are. And Hermes after much intermediate material ends up with the statement along the lines of. The moment of your death has not yet been written unless it is to occur very soon due to circumstances that are not any longer changeable. as the name is usually transliterated. So we will look times that may be dangerous. It is physical law. to use the philosophical term. called necessity. I actually have arrived at an answer to this. But technique in astrology is actually the articulation of language not merely a set or proper procedures. not times of death. which I will briefly outline. We might. or whatever. You cannot fly without a plane – unless (perhaps) you are a certain kind of meditator – you cannot walk through walls without a door. however. that are dangerous and maybe in these times you will have to watch out for them. If you pick up any traditional astrology book that is at all influenced by Ptolemy. because we have all these Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 9 . Is the nativity viable? That is to say. No matter how hard you try. Then there is the really big part of fate.” the issue is whether these techniques are clearly articulated. providence and necessity”. There is a fate that is due to our being material beings of a certain species. “Fate concerns the body. Tat asks: “Tell me again about fate. in which Hermes is talking to his disciple Tat. there is the fate due to ignorance. what do we do to answer a question. necessity concerns that part of the mind that works only with the body. I found the answer in one of the Stobaeus fragments of the Corpus Hermeticum. is the entity born in this nativity going to live? What is the wealth and rank of the parents? What about brothers and sisters? What about money. Let me give you a concrete example. That is the fundamental meaning of fate in ancient Greek philosophy. contingent. These Ptolemaic questions use very definite techniques for answering the questions. But I have demonstrated to my satisfaction one thing about this and similar things in astrology. we will probably continue not to say too much about the nature and manner of one’s death. for example. become a bit more articulate about saying: these are the areas of our life you will have to watch out for. But the issue here is. children? All of these constitute a standard set of what I refer to as the Ptolemaic questions. you will find that it poses a collection of questions to be answered. you are limited by natural law. and providence is concerned with the mind that is fully conscious. But in the ancient world things that can be prevented now could not be prevented then. Some of these questions we will not choose to ask. no amount of free will will ever convert you to a dog or a cat in this life time. We get ourselves caught up in situations where we simply cannot conceive of an alternative. you cannot see through walls without a window.achieve a particular result.

called providence. or will not. That is what I see coming.considerations about what must be so and what must not be so. We evaluate. What is written in the stars is how to do it – if we could but read the chart from that point of view. That is most of what our fate consists of. is not inevitable. Post-modern astrology will not be a fatalistic fortune-telling astrology. It has nothing to do with the planets! And then finally there is the other fate that is absolutely irrevocable. accidents and of course the ever-present stupidity. self-realization. self-actualization and consciousness. and we are determined by the consequences of past decisions and current stupidities. we judge. And I would go so far as to say that who you really are preexists who you are at the present moment. and we integrate. Your getting all the way there. Copyright by Robert Hand 2006 Towards a Post-Modern Astrology by Robert Hand 10 . But it is not written in the stars whether we will. becoming a fully realized being. I have found techniques in Greek and Medieval astrology that actually suggest how it can be done. how it can be read in the chart. and it is pulling you forward to itself. and that pull is inevitable. This is one of the things the 20th century has taught us. it will be an astrology of enlightenment. ever be fully realized. You have no choice but to be who you are. Your choice is to be who you are at the highest possible level or not. Circumstances. Thank you very much. that just happens to include all of the rest of astrology. Whereas. or unconsciousness – whatever you want to call it – will all in varying degrees prevent us from getting to that perfect self-realization. but the 20th century has been a little weak on how to do it.

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