November 20, 2016
ADRIAN: Chris, hello and welcome! Thank you for taking my invitation to discuss about some of the least known but most fascinating branches of astrology. I am honored that you accepted to have this interview.
CHRIS: I am glad to be here! It’s funny, I’ve been around for a long time but because I don’t go to conferences or things like that, it’s hard for me to gauge how well known I am. When I translated Picatrix with John Greer, I was feeling like, “oh wow, I’ll be famous and people will be asking me to come and speak and all that sort of stuff,” but it didn’t happen. Certainly, people know about Picatrix and if you get into it you may have heard of me, but I’m not super famous.
ADRIAN: Although you’re not a historian, you seem to be focused on a pre-1700 knowledge…
CHRIS: Actually, I am a historian!
CHRIS: Yeah, I have a Master’s degree in history from the University of Saint Andrews. I’m not a professional, I’m not employed as an historian, but I was certainly trained at a post graduate level as a historian.
ADRIAN: Nevertheless, this seems…
CHRIS: Sorry I messed up your introduction!
ADRIAN: I’ll rephrase!
CHRIS: It’s very interesting, when I went to St. Andrews because I was interested in history, the best department there for history was basically the Modern Department, which focused on Renaissance history. So, that’s what I studied, not because I was particularly taken with that area originally, but because that was the best area to study there. And it is interesting that when I then came back to astrology, that was the Renaissance period which I was already very, very familiar with as a historian. That background as a historian really helped influence me in a lot of ways, in terms of how I approach astrology.
ADRIAN: This interest of yours in the pre-1700 knowledge seem to be quite strange though. Those guys lived in a completely different world, they believed the Sun was moving around the Earth, so they did not know too much about the world. They barely used soap and they didn’t have technology. What do the ancient ones seem to know…
CHRIS: Oh! I disagree with that 100%, I really do! You know, we are like fish, we can’t see the water we swim in. We can look at other societies and we can have a better idea of how they thought about things, we can understand that they had a belief system and of course it’s wrong! I mean, because what we do is right, obviously! It has to be correct. We wouldn’t do it unless it was right, is our automatic assumption. And so, one of the… I hate to call it a myth, because a myth has this connotation of being false, but we could call it a cultural archetype, these sorts of principles that we use to organize our thinking and one of those principles for contemporary people is the idea of progress.
This idea of progress is that the further you go back in the past, the worse things were, the stupider people were, the less they knew, the more foolish they were… And vice versa, the further you go into the future, the better things are, so we’re smarter, we’re better, we’re more technologically evolved and, when you get into New Age thinking, we’re more spiritually evolved, so things are just getting better and better and better and better. That’s one of the basic principles that we unconsciously use in our thinking. Now, a classic example of our assumption of progress is the idea that people before, I don’t know what time, 1400-1500 or something, thought the world was flat. Well, that’s just not true! Any educated person from about 400 BC onward was perfectly aware that the world was round. I’m sure there’s people nowadays that are uneducated and think the world is flat and they certainly existed before that, but again, the idea that everyone was stupid then, it just makes us feel better about ourselves too, I think there’s also an egoic basis for that.
So, that’s what I would say: there’s no doubt that previous to 1700 or so, they had a very different way of looking at reality. In fact, that view was shared by most traditional societies. The modern society is really an outlier, is very unusual in how we see reality and that there really is a major difference between modern thinking and the Renaissance or pre-1700 view, and the way they saw reality is something I found very congenial.
So, I never actually studied modern astrology. When I first got interested in astrology, I read a few books, but it just didn’t seem to be very substantial to me, it seemed like there should be more to this. Then, when I stumbled on traditional astrology which is the pre-1700 Medieval and Renaissance school, I really was taken with that. It was an almost instinctive reaction and I really got interested in it.
But this view that somehow… obviously, it must be better now, it has to be…
ADRIAN: You mean the modern astrology must be better than traditional astrology, because it’s more modern!
CHRIS: Exactly! That being modern means that automatically it is better is certainly something that a lot of people think. But let’s step back and look at it, look at the twentieth century and the twenty-first century: you have mass genocide, you got World War I, World War II, we’ve got all sorts of horrible stuff. We have the worst mass extinction of species since 65 million years ago, we got mass environmental destruction. That doesn’t seem very spiritually evolved to me! Technology is great. You’re halfway across the world and we can talk on Skype, this is wonderful, but the cost of all this technology is tremendous and we really have to wonder about the reality of this idea or myth of progress.
Ultimately, I found traditional astrology to be really interesting and really delved into it. There’s a smaller group of people interested in traditional astrology than those interested in modern astrology but certainly traditional astrology it’s becoming more and more popular. I’m not sure if I answered your question. Let’s go back and tell me your question again and I’ll see if I can get back to the answer.
ADRIAN: What I wanted to ask is: What do the ancient ones seem to know that you, a man living in the twenty-first century, could find so interesting?
CHRIS: What I really found most exciting or attractive about traditional philosophy and traditional astrology is that if you go back before 1700, the spiritual was not separated from the material. In the schema of knowledge, the theologians for example, who specialize in spiritual things, could talk to the scientists who specialize in material things, there was not a split, there was not this schizophrenic thinking that we have now.
For example, if you went to Albertus Magnus, who was a famous philosopher, what we would now call a scientist, he wrote in the thirteenth century a book about stones for example, and if you asked him about the spiritual, he’ll say: “Oh yeah, that’s important, certainly important, I’m just focusing on stones in this book” He was a bit like a chemist now. If you went to biologists and said: “well, is chemistry important?” He’d say: “oh, certainly! I mean, I don’t study it directly but, obviously, chemistry plays a role”.
If you ask a scientist now about spirituality, if they’re polite they’ll say “oh, well, we don’t have anything to do with that, that doesn’t come into what we do, that’s a completely separate realm”… And if they’re not being polite, they’ll say: “well, it’s not scientific, it isn’t real. I mean, we know there’s no God, we know there’s no spiritual realm, it’s just there’s no scientific proof of it and in fact it’s impossible. You know, nothing exists except matter and energy”. And so, that’s the predominant philosophy of the modern era, that nothing really exists except matter and energy and energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, so they’re the same.
ADRIAN: That’s the religion of atheistic materialism, right?
CHRIS: Exactly! But I think the real religion is the worship of the ego, of the Self, that’s really what’s primary, that’s the most important thing nowadays. Obviously, the Self is important throughout history, but before the 1700 in Europe the purpose of your life was to glorify God, and even though people were doing all sorts of terrible stuff, they had this view that there was more to life than just the physical and more to life than just the life that we had here on Earth.
I’ve just found the idea that the existence of the spiritual is rational very fascinating, and the traditional astrology or astrology in general is a practical application of the idea that the spiritual exists and that you can work with it, so you can predict future events. If you ask a modern astrologer how astrology works, they’ll point to magnetism or gravity or string theory or something like that, basically they have a material or energetic explanation for it. If you test that, in fact there’s no discernible material or physical or energetic cause for astrology.
You can see that particularly with horary astrology where you ask a question, then you do a chart for the time of the question and that chart gives you the answer. Now, natal astrology, which looks at the chart of a person’s birth, is weird enough, but I suppose you could explain that somehow Pluto has got some beams coming out of it and somehow that’s causing something. But horary, where we ask a question and get the answer from the time of the question, that just seems totally bizarre. Horary can only work if everything in the Cosmos, if everything that exists, is connected spiritually and these spiritual patterns underlie material reality. Then if we understand the underlying spiritual patterns and cycles, then we can see the material effects caused in the world and in our selves by these patterns and cycles.
That’s what I found really exciting and interesting about it, this idea that there was a spiritual reality that underlies the physical and in fact is primary to it. And the idea that we can work with it in a practical way so that with astrology you can make very accurate predictions. It’s not a hundred percent, but it’s accurate enough that we can see that it works. And if astrology works, it shows us that the idea that everything’s random and that there’s nothing except matter and energy and no spiritual anything just isn’t true.
It’s great to predict, but the realization that what scientists or the atheistic materialists are telling us is just not true, is probably the most valuable thing that I learned from astrology. That was what was offered to me by the traditional astrologers, you didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I didn’t have to figure this all out of myself, I could just go back, I could read what they wrote, I could read the pre-1700 philosophy and it was all laid out for me, it was very simple once I realized what was going on. So that’s really what drew me to Renaissance Astrology. Of course, the Renaissance itself is a very interesting period, the art was extremely beautiful and it has a very high culture, so that was also attractive as well. Renaissance Astrology reflects that beauty and harmony of that culture in a lot of ways too, so that’s a bonus.
ADRIAN: But we live in a material world, right? Then what is the spiritual?
CHRIS: Really? Do we live in a material world?! I mean what you see right now, if you’re hearing me, what’s happening? The process is that I speak and make sound waves, which are going into a microphone, right? And they’re being transmitted electronically; they’re coming out your speakers, right? And then there’s sound waves come out your speakers and then into your ears. And then your ears convert that into electrical impulses or chemical impulses and it’s sent to the brain, right? And then that it’s in the mind. So, those sound waves are not physically going into your mind, right? The same thing when you see, the light doesn’t go anywhere, it’s being perceived. Everything you experience is in mind. Every experience you have is in mind. I mean, it’s an extrapolation from the physical. Maybe there is a physical reality out there, we certainly believe in it, but all we actually experience is mind, all we experience is mental activity. So, I don’t think we do live in a material world, in fact we live in a mental world.
And that mental world is really very much made up of our beliefs and our filters. If you have a particular view of reality, that’s what you see through, that’s what you use to understand reality. That’s why all my students, when they start my courses, the first thing we’d work with is world view. World view is your view of reality but even more than that, it IS your reality. And the weird thing about that is that it’s possible to have different worldviews! You can actually switch between them. At this point I have essentially a traditional world view.
You could think of worldview like an operating system: in order to run the hardware on the computer, you need to have an operating system. You can run on Mac OS, you can run on Windows, you can also run it on Linux… each of those operating systems is necessary, you can’t run without it. When you use a particular operating system, you need to work within the confines of it and what’s not available in that operating system just isn’t available to you at all. But the interesting thing is you can wipe that hard drive, if you got a Windows computer, you can wipe it and you can put Linux on it. And so that’s kind of what happened to me, I start off with a modern worldview and now, after 15 years or 20 years, I have essentially a traditional worldview. That’s the reality that I’m in, it’s different than the reality of modern people. And that’s important, because if you’re going to do astrology or magic, which are spiritual arts and you are trying to work with the reality where those don’t even exist, it’s going to be very, very difficult to do that and you are going to have to twist yourself around and have all sorts of blind spots. That’s the whole New Age thing. The New Age thing is very spiritual and they may do magic, but their underlying philosophy is atheistic materialism. They are not even aware of that, but that’s how they structure their reality. It’s very weird to try to be doing spiritual work, when you don’t even believe in the spiritual.
ADRIAN: Can you extend this subject with the New Age and their beliefs?
CHRIS: It’s not a particularly rigorous philosophical movement. People have an instinctive natural attraction to the spiritual and to wanting to work with that. But they’re actually kind of dull, you can talk about the stars or whatever, but actually the underlying New Age worldview is modern so they layer their spirituality on top of an underlying conviction that everything’s random, and life is meaningless, you live and it’s full of pain and then you die. The hero of the modern worldview is the scientist who stands up against the lack of meaning and the purposeless of life and he is strong and he makes life have purpose. But ultimately, I think this is basically existentialism, that’s a very depressing and ultimately a hopeless philosophy.
So the New Age approach attracts people because are drawn to spirituality, but they’re not looking at the underlying beliefs and philosophy very deeply, they just follow trends blindly. We can see the origins of this around the 18th and 19th centuries when there was a sort of a truce between the scientists and the religious people. It was tacitly agreed that the scientists would determine reality and reality was just matter and energy, atheistic materialism, but the religious people would be allowed to be irrational and they could go ahead and believe in God and angels and whatever they wanted to. But ultimately the underlying philosophy of New Age is atheistic materialism. This is why professed atheists get upset, really upset, because obviously, and everybody knows it, there’s nothing but matter and energy, there is no God, there’s no spiritual realm, yet most people persist in being irrational and believing in God. And they’re right, in the modern worldview it just doesn’t make any sense. You’re asking them how reality is and they’re going to give you a materialistic explanation. You then ask them if they believe in God, they’ll say yes. It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
So, I decided I wanted to be more rational, but it also is an instinctive thing with me. Again, that’s why I went back to the traditional philosophy and traditional way of looking at things. In most societies outside the modern society, people have exactly the same view of reality. I mean you could go anywhere, you could go to China or India or you can go to Native Americans, wherever you are, it was always the direct sense of living within the spiritual, whether you’re talking about individual spirits or you’re talking about an underlying reality that was spiritual.
What really is going on here is that we had to face up directly to this difference in world view and it’s interesting seeing it in academia. I’ve noticed that academics have softened a bit recently. If you’re an academic and you studied magic or astrology twenty years ago, you really almost had to start off the book or the article denouncing how ridiculous magic or astrology was, and they certainly couldn’t believe in it officially. You couldn’t write a peer reviewed article, in a journal as an academic saying that astrology worked and officially that’s still the rule, but they’re a little more sympathetic now. I think the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times is changing and we’re getting academics just a bit more open to astrology than they were previously, so that’s very exciting. But the New Age stuff is always a little bit fluffy, it’s not a really deep stuff and again, part of their problem is they have never thought about the underlying philosophy. Like I said, it tends to be this belief I heard that “oh, science and religion are coming together” and I say, “no!” In their current manifestation religion and science are directly antithetical, there’s no way they could ever come together. They’ll have to be changed pretty drastically if they were to be unified.
ADRIAN: How about the future? Would it be possible for science and spirituality to be unified like it was before?
CHRIS: Well, the problem we have right now is, we’re living in this industrial civilization which has a pretty limited shelf life, clearly. All you have to do is look at the global warming… here in Iowa, the state I live in, we just had the most bizarre weather. It’s November, which is winter time and yet, a couple of days ago, it was 68 Fahrenheit, which is about 20°C. That was just ridiculous, the weather is just really, really messed up and we’re seeing these effects… The Internet is wonderful but in order to have it, there are these huge server farms that suck up a tremendous amount of energy, just in running the computers and also in cooling them. Our civilization is not sustainable on the long term, it certainly is not sustainable for 7 or 10 billion people on the planet! I don’t think it’s going to suddenly fall apart, we’re looking more at something like the fall of the Roman Empire type thing, we have a sort of a slide, they’re not able to maintain the specialization and the technology. It’s just not able to be continued, it can’t. Again, like I was talking about the destruction of the species and the biospheres, now we have the worst mass extinction in the last 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs were wiped out.
So, I don’t think atheistic materialism is going to last, because it’s so antithetical to the human experience! The reason that people basically believe in atheistic materialism is because of technology. If we’ve got plasma screen TVs and we have Internet and we can fly in jets, anything that could produce that must be true. But if the technology starts to be seen as a problem or it fades, then the philosophy that underlies it is also going to be as persuasive anymore. I think people are going to be suspicious of technology, because of the negative effects.
And so, in terms of the future I think about a pendulum: we’ve had 300 years of atheistic materialism and now more and more people are interested in astrology. Around 1700 elite people stopped believing in astrology, but even after that time it continued as a sort of blue collar thing, we still have in the Sun Sign columns in newspapers, a very unsophisticated form of astrology, which is basically false, because it’s so broad, that it really is meaningless.
One of the things that I was interested in doing was astrology for intelligent people and doing it in a way that was not totally ridiculous, in a way that made sense, in a way that had a philosophical underpinning. We’re reaching more and more people and also they have been really excited by the magical aspect of it, as well. Traditional astrological magic is something that I really have helped revive. I certainly wasn’t the only person doing traditional astrology, but I probably was one of the first people to come back and actually work with Picatrix, an ancient grimoire. I was one of the first at least publicly to have learned traditional astrology well enough and then to actually start making talismans based on what’s put forth in Picatrix or Cornelius Agrippa’s “Books of occult philosophy“. Most magicians, if they use astrology, they’ll just use the Moon phase and maybe the planetary hours, but to go and do full chart elections, nobody was really doing that, at least not publicly and on such a large scale. That’s something that’s been very exciting, people have been really interested in traditional astrological magic and got into it in a in a big way. I am pleased to be a part of reviving it. We have a renaissance of renaissance astrology so to speak! But again, that takes a lot of willingness to step out of the idea that there is no magic, because you could not make a talisman if magic is impossible. So, that just right there, that’s a difficult thing for people to do.
ADRIAN: My question was if you believe that sometime in the future, science and spirituality will be again linked or fused somehow?
CHRIS: Science as it’s currently constituted is based on a specific philosophy of science, because you can’t separate the techniques and technologies from the underlying philosophy. Science is essentially based on this idea that either there is no spiritual realm or that the spiritual is separate from and irrelevant to what science is concerned with, i.e. matter and energy..
Key to the practice of science is the concept of objectivity which assumes is that the observer is separate from the things that are observed. This idea has been questioned in quantum mechanics but is still the prevalent assumption and working practice in other areas of science. In the scientific method, you have a hypothesis, you come up with an experiment to test that hypothesis, you isolate the variables and proof the hypothesis so that experiment is replicable. But that only applies to a small portion of phenomena because you’re not talking about anything except material things, that limits it. And if you’re only talking about stuff that’s repeatable, that limits it again and if you talk about stuff that happens every time, that limits it as well.
And the scientific method works well for a discrete area of reality. For example, in chemistry, pretty much every time you put together bleach and ammonia it’s going to cause poisonous gas, that’s just a chemical reaction! But if you talk about something like psychology, you may do something and a person may not react that same way every time, because it’s more complex. So, I think science would have to change really drastically in order to take in the spiritual, I don’t even know if it would be science anymore. I think you’d have to lose the objectivity. I don’t see objectivity as a reality; I think that everything is subjective. Like I said, what we know is our sense impressions in our mind, so we don’t really know if there’s an objective reality, we can’t verify that. All we’re going to get is subjective things and so the idea that there’s objective reality is simply a belief, science itself is a belief system. Science is a type of non-religious religion, it doesn’t admit it is a religion but in fact it has certain premises that cannot be tested. And so, we have to ask whether or not that particular belief system is going to meld with religion.
In addition, the modern religious belief system has become very ossified, very fossilized, too. I don’t know, perhaps we’ll have a melding of things from science and religion but I really can’t predict exactly what it’s going to come about. I’m not a big fan of science but that’s also partly a little bit of a bias of mine, that the atheistic materialism really is problematic, it’s not a good operating system. This cause a lot of problems and I prefer the traditional spiritual operating system which is just more congenial to my personality. I think spirituality it’s probably a better way of understanding reality, it certainly is more accurate than atheistic materialism.
ADRIAN: What is the spiritual, then?
CHRIS: Okay, well… it’s hard to define these things. We have a sense of materialism, if you go and knock on a table, you have the sense of material, but really when you knock on that table, is there actually an object there? Most of the table seems solid from the perspective that we’re at, but if we take an electron microscope, if we look at it and if we magnify and magnify this table to an atomic level, most of it is empty space. I mean we think there’s electrons orbiting, neutrons, protons, but that’s very much of a conceptualization too. In fact, if we look very closely at anything, what is it? Anything you look at closely disappears. And so, our idea of the material itself is conceptual!
But let me just start and give you a useful example to think about with the spiritual. If you think of an African savanna, when you look at it, you’ve got a certain amount of sunlight, you’ve got a certain amount of moisture, you have these regular cycles, weather that it goes through. So, given the soil, given the moisture, given the sunlight, then there’s a certain ecological carrying capacity for vegetation. You’re not going to have pine trees, you’re not going to have a sort of tundra type vegetation or peat moss, you’re going to have a particular vegetation that’s appropriate and can live within those parameters of the heat and temperature and everything. So, let’s say you have a million tons of vegetation. Well, when you have that million tons of vegetation, that provides ecological niches for a certain amount of number of herbivores, say a hundred thousand tons of herbivore. And then, with a hundred thousand tons of herbivore, you have maybe a thousand tons of predators. So even before there’s any animals or any life on that savanna, all these ecological niches and all these interrelationships are already built in. You could have a certain amount of variation, but given the basic set up there, of the land and ecology, is that there only so much you can have. That’s a bit like the spiritual, you can understand those ecological niches as all these potential patternings built into reality. That’s one way of understanding the spiritual.
Here’s another way of understanding the spiritual. If you think about cells, they reproduce by fusion, that was the original way of reproduction. Eventually they figured out that they could take some of their genetic material and put it into another cell and that’s sexual reproduction, and that causes a lot more variability in the genetic makeup of the cell. So once you have sexual reproduction with one celled creatures, you’ve got gender, you have fatherhood, it essentially all flows from that for all creatures all the way to humans and their complex gender and parenting. You can’t see fatherhood, but that relationship of fatherhood is inherent when you have fathers and sons. So again, those relationships can be seen as these spiritual patterns that underlie reality. They are preset patterns that matter will follow, and although we can’t see them materially, we can only see the results of that patterning and so that’s basically the spiritual.
ADRIAN: That’s a great example, I like the metaphor. Let’s get personal, can you speak about your background and say some words on how you met astrology?
CHRIS: I grew up in the Midwest, in America, in a very suburban middle class family. I remember my parents went to this very straight Protestant church, they believed in God, but I asked them if they prayed and they were like “no”. “Then why do you go to church?” “Well, we want to be part of the community.” They were very much in the mainstream of the American kind of consumer capitalist, and their views were standard atheistic materialism with a bit of Christian overlay.
I knew that, given the kind of person I was, that I needed to go to college, so I went to college and that was a beginning of the difference because in my junior year, I went to Scotland. Originally I was going for a year of foreign study but I ended up staying. So I did my undergraduate degree in history in Scotland at the University of Saint Andrews. Living in Scotland for three years was a really, really important experience because it took me outside of my American culture. To the point that after three years in Scotland it felt normal to me to live there and it was really a shock to go back to United States! And Scotland is a regular, modern society, they even speak English, but being there for three years and living like a Scottish student had a really profound effect on me in helping break me out of my conditioning as a suburban American. Then I went to law school and after graduation I went to Washington DC. In DC I just spontaneously fell into being a spiritual seeker.
Spiritual seeking involves a sort of looking around at various types of things and I remember I was interested originally in Zen. I then got interested in Sufism. There was a Sufi meeting place in Washington, DC so I joined that and I was initiated as a Darvish. And as part of seeking I was looking at various other spiritual areas and astrology just kind of came up. I remember reading some modern astrology and while it seemed to be very interesting, it was a bit like a fog. The further you went into the fog, you could never get anything solid anything that had precision and detail.
Then I discovered traditional astrology. I studied first with Carol Wiggers and then with Lee Lehman, who were both students of Olivia Barclay. Olivia Barclay was an Englishwoman who in the 80s got a copy of Lilly’s “Christian Astrology“, the most important horary astrology text, written in 1647 and she said, “oh, this is really interesting” and started actually working with and using it. So, she then taught my teachers, who taught me, so I had the advantage of learning horary astrology from people that were in a lineage that actually used it in a practical way. That is very important, it’s a bit like trying to study carpentry from someone who’s never actually picked up a hammer or a nail; it would be hard to learn it. Since astrology is very practical in the sense that you’re trying to predict reality, if you’re going to learn it, it’s absolutely necessary to have a teacher who has a lot of practical experience with using it. So, I started with horary astrology and I really found that fascinating, and to this day I find it exciting, I do a lot of horary and I teach it as well.
Then I started studying electional astrology which is picking a time when it’s astrologically appropriate to take action, like for marriage or start a business or take a trip. Electional is known as the sister of horary because, for example, if you have a horary that says yes, this is likely to happen, if you took that same chart it would be a good election. As I started working with electional astrology, I stumbled into astrological magic, because in order to do astrological magic you need to be able to pick appropriate times, you need to do the elections. Back then no other traditional astrologers were studying astrological magic, so I pretty much had to pick it up on my own and learn it myself. That was again very interesting and exciting to do! Then I just started teaching and now I have the Renaissance Astrology website which has courses and talismans and things like that. I’ve restricted the talismans lately to what I call the Inner Circle, I don’t sell them to the public anymore, it’s just private sales now, for various reasons. One, I was feeling that too many people were doing talismans as kind of the last ditch effort or they were looking for really quick results and they would be disappointed with talismans. I mean they work, but you are not going to instantly win $1 million in the lottery. Second, I really wanted to take a more spiritual approach as opposed to just focusing on the material effects and benefits of the astrological magic.
So that’s basically what’s happened, I’ve became a professional astrologer around 1998 and I’ve been doing it professionally since then. In a sense, it became a business, but it is a spiritual path for me as well, because it’s led me to a lot of other interesting things. It really started out as just a part of my spiritual seeking. I have a friend who said I fell down the rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. That’s really true, I’m still sort of falling down that rabbit hole now, learning more and more and getting a deeper and deeper understanding of it. That’s my story in terms of how I got interested in it.
I think it’s very, very important to not only study something but to actually practice it, if you want to understand it deeply. If you were studying about music and you never played an instrument, you would lack a certain depth of understanding of what it was like to really do it! That’s one thing that I like about astrology, it has a theoretical component, but also there’s a lot of practical application. You can test it too; it’s imperative that we test it. If I do a horary for somebody and I get it wrong, then I need to go back and think about, “Well, what happened with this?” and most of the time if the prediction is wrong, it’s because I made a mistake in the analysis. It’s very rare that the chart seems to be wrong, usually it’s because I didn’t interpret the chart properly. I also keep a record of all my horaries, I do them in writing and if I get feedback, I keep a record of that. I have hundreds of horaries where I have the chart, the question, the analysis that I gave and then I got the results; to me that’s the gold standard of astrology. It’s very important to understand when you got it right and when you got it wrong rather than just thinking that you got it right all the time. This knowledge is something that more and more people are getting interested in it, so it’s really been a privilege for me to be involved with that and be in the vanguard of traditional astrology.
ADRIAN: Besides an astrologer you’re also a lawyer, right?
CHRIS: Yeah, at the moment I live in a very conservative state, which went for Trump, pretty resoundingly and unfortunately the government seems to be a little skeptical about astrology. So, it was made clear to me that I needed to keep my legal practice strictly separate from my astrological practice. So it’s true that I’m a lawyer but unfortunately in this interview I’m not going to be able to talk about that.
Being an astrologer is a nice existence, I like that, when I think about the fact that what I get to do for my work is do astrological readings. On the other hand, it is a little nerve wracking because I have to provide all my income and I have to do everything myself, so self-employment can be a real burden, but I really enjoy teaching and readings and I like marketing, to come up with new products and things like that. It’s been a really great opportunity with the internet, without internet I couldn’t have done it. The internet has given me the ability to reach many, many people all over the whole world. The short answer to your question is, they’re all hobbies. Everything I do is a hobby.
ADRIAN: But ones that you do very seriously.
CHRIS: Yeah, it’s funny, my wife and I are the same way, everything we do is very serious, we’ve got to go like really deeply into everything. At times it’s a little bit problematic because we can’t just mess around with things, but usually it’s been very helpful. My spiritual teacher says to me: “you know, if you want to dig a well, you can’t dig a bunch of shallow holes, you have to dig one or two deep holes.” So, as a spiritual seeker if you’re interested in an area, if you just do it on a very superficial level, you never going to get much out of it. If you want to get the benefit from something, you need to get very serious about it, go deep with it. That certainly has been my experience in the areas that I’ve been involved with. I feel like I’m doing work that’s important and that’s also helping people as well; I guess that’s the key to doing what I do.
ADRIAN: Can we delve deeply in the key concept of world view? What does worldview mean exactly?
CHRIS: Worldview, yes… on one sense you could say it’s your philosophy. But it’s deeper than that, because a philosophy is conscious. Worldview is also your unconscious assumptions about reality and, as I said, with all my students, that’s the first thing we start talking about. What I say to people is this: when you go to a movie, say Lord of the Rings, you enter into the movie, you accept it, at least for the time you’re at the movie, you don’t get up in the middle of it and shout, “there’s no elves, there’s no this and that, that’s ridiculous, this could never happen!” Instead, you enter into it andyou let it be. That’s exactly what I suggest to people with the traditional world view, because the idea that there’s any kind of spiritual thing at all, or that’s not just energy beams or something like that, is very foreign to most people.
Now, a lot of people actually have an instinctive understanding of it. I mean I have been very drawn to the Japanese approach. I’ve studied Zen, I have been actually initiated in Zen and Shingon, Japanese Tantric Buddhism. I’m about to go back to Japan again on the 1st of December, this will be the fifth time I’ve been there. They have a very interesting view in their native religion, Shinto, that essentially everything is alive, everything has a spirit. I also feel like that and there’s a lot of people that have that instinctive reaction to it, even though they’re taught that we’re just sort of meat tubes walking around and it’s all biology. That everything is just matter and chemistry, there’s no love, it’s just pheromones, that genes control everything. People instinctively don’t accept that, they have a natural spirituality that manifests itself. There are more and more people that are willing to be open about that view. My personality tends to that as well, so it’s useful to see that there’s an actual rational basis for seeing everything as alive and awake, that’s not totally crazy to think that sort of thing.
We discussed earlier that the modern view is that nothing exists except matter and energy. Everything else is just a fantasy and if you talk with neuroscientists who study the brain, you’ll even have them doubting that there’s consciousness. To them there’s just the brain, consciousness is a brain function and the mind is nothing more than a fiction. The brain excretes thought the way the gallbladder excretes gall. It has to be that way because there’s nothing except matter and energy, so the idea that there would be anything else, is just impossible. Therefore, with no spirit or soul what actually exists has to be your brain. So who you really are, is your brain or your brain in your body or something like that. And everything is filtered through those automatic assumptions and anything that doesn’t fit those assumptions just doesn’t exist.
I’ve heard scientists say about astrology that, “well it’s impossible, astrology can’t work, so if you try to prove it works you have to have an even higher level of proof that you would for a normal scientific experiment. Since it’s extraordinary claim, you have to have extraordinary proof.” You can’t prove something that’s impossible and you know it’s impossible because your worldview tells you what’s impossible. That’s just an example of I deal with on a regular basis. Thought what I’m finding is that if people are coming to the site, they’re mostly interested and open to it. Now and then there is a little bit of a problem with the government or academics, because the elites really tend much more strongly towards atheistic materialism. The average person is open to it, though their thinking still is somewhat atheistic materialistic, because that’s the culture that they’re brought up in.
ADRIAN: I think part of the difficulty that people have in order to accept astrology is the concept of determinism and free will. Can you elaborate on this?
CHRIS: There tend to be these dualities that characterize various professions or areas of thought. For example, in law there are the dualities between justice and mercy. Justice is giving everyone exactly what they deserve, which is very harsh, and mercy is letting everything go unpunished, so there’s a dance between those two. You don’t want either one to be exclusively in control. The same sort of duality operates between fate and free will, but there’s a tendency to want to believe that one or the other is primary. For example, there’s the idea that fate means every single thing is determined in advance, it’s all written in stone, there’s no possible free will. And then there is the idea free will means everything can be changed, anything you want, you can have, you can change anything. As an astrologer we work with fate and free will; that’s a predominant duality that we’re dealing with in this particular profession. My view is the basic Renaissance astrologer’s view, which is that both fate and free will exist and that certain things are determined and other things appear as a choice. Which is operating, depends on the circumstances. If you ask about crossing the street you probably have a pretty high level of free will, if you’re terminally ill and you’ve got 3 months to live, that’s likely pretty fated.
So that’s what we really do as astrologers is to do our best to see the situation clearly, and determine how much is fixed and how much flexibility there is. There is also a deeper spiritual question here. The dichotomy between fate and free will exists only from the perspective of the separate self. So in so far as you see yourself as an individual being, then fate and free will are meaningful. As long as you see the difference between good and evil, then you need to be make a choice. This choice, this combination of intent and action. is what produces karma. In other words, karma is the consequences, to yourself, other people and other things from the intent and actions of separate beings. I’m a Buddhist and so I tend to look at things in a more of a karmic way, as opposed to the Christian idea of sin and punishment. So if you stick your hand in the fire you get burned. It’s not that you’re being punished, that’s just what naturally happens. If you act in a positive and good way, if you go through the day and you’re happy, you smile, you’re going to tend to get positive reactions back. If you walk around being upset and you’re angry, you going to tend to get those reactions back to you, that’s a very simple example of karma. And so, it’s fated in the sense that you’re going to have good results or bad results depending on your previous actions. Of course, your actions and your karma affect more than you and you are affected by the karma of others..
Free will is another difficult concept too, because it involves the idea of choice. Let’s put it this way: if I’m greedy and I want something, that’s not really free will. Am I really making a choice when I’m controlled by my greed? Or, if I am manipulated by someone or something, for example advertising for some expensive brand of something. I see it on television and I want it because of how that ad interacts with my conditioning, is it a free choice? When I’m being manipulated into it? When you’re in the control of your emotions or when you’re in control of someone else, these situations don’t seem like free will! I tend to see free will as more of a potentiality even in my own life because many things actually seem fated. If I look at my natal chart, I can see a lot of my basic drives and impulses and my way of approaching things and so a lot of what I do falls within those patternings. But there’s always a lot of unexpected stuff, astrologers can never predict everything 100%, it’s just not perfect.
So at least at the level of the individual self, the general level that we’re operating at, there does seem to be fate and free will at the same time. It’s very paradoxical that you’d have both fate and free will operating but that does seem to be what’s happening. Then the practical question is how much fate or how much free do we have in any particular circumstance, because that depends on our circumstances.
ADRIAN: Do you believe in God?
CHRIS: Do I believe in God?! Do you believe in atoms?
ADRIAN: Atoms simply exist!
CHRIS: Well, there you go. I mean, that’s a different order, right? Atoms are real, right? And we know they’re real because scientists, who are the people that have the highest prestige and legitimacy in our society have told us they’re real and it makes sense to us. I mean I’ve never seen an atom, but it fits my worldview and people that I trust have told me about them, so therefore I accept, I trust that they exist.
Belief is more like: “do you believe in Santa Claus?” That’s ridiculous, but I believe in it anyway, because I’ve been told to do that by someone, the church or someone else in authority, but there is no rational basis for it. That’s the thing about that question, “do you believe in X?” that’s a really loaded question.
I don’t believe in anything, in the sense of do I accept anything without a rational basis. For example, I’ve never been to Hawaii. But it makes sense to me that the world is round and there’s definitely islands out there. I’ve just gone to Wikipedia and seen the article on Hawaii and I talk to people that have been there and they didn’t seem totally insane, so yes, I accept the existence of Hawaii, it makes sense to me. The belief in God… first of all I’m a Buddhist, so “God” is a bit of a loaded concept for me and a many other people. But there were times in my life when I had the experience they talk about that, “everywhere you look is the face of God”. So, I don’t need to believe in God, like I don’t need to believe in my headset because I can see it, I can feel it, I can experience it. Same thing with God: it’s possible to experience God and once that happens you don’t need to worry about belief anymore.
The problem with the belief in God is that it typically exists just as a separate thing that just sort of floats out by itself. I know a lot of people that say they believe in God, but they don’t act like it, they seem to go ahead and live their little lives and do all sorts of crazy stuff and everything without understanding the consequences of the existence of the spiritual. And also, there’s this strange modern belief that there is just God, there’s nothing else spiritual, there’s no angels, there’s no spiritual causality, there’s just a sort of isolated belief in God for whatever that’s worth. So then again, I think that’s a function of the atheistic materialism as the main philosophy of things, it just doesn’t make sense to believe in God, but you do it anyway in a very limited, irrational way. As for myself, I’m not interested in believing anything. I’m interested in experiencing and in particular knowing my true nature, that’s what my spiritual focus is. And my true nature is the same as everyone else’s, in fact it is everything. And ultimately everything, in the Buddhist view, is consciousness. I’ve experienced that or rather it has been experienced.
ADRIAN: From your point of view, is there any contradiction between astrology and religious faith or spiritual practices?
CHRIS: It depends on which one you’re talking about. Certainly, Orthodox Christianity and Orthodox Islam absolutely do not like astrology for a number of reasons. Christians, for instance the Catholic Church, says: “well, we don’t like astrology because it’s fated and it denies free will”, which is just a lack of understanding of the true nature of astrology. There is this idea of Providence in Christianity, that God has created everything and everything works together, even though you have free will, that’s within the context of God’s overall plan. That’s basically the same as astrology. So the real reason they don’t like astrology are, first of all it’s not as much of a problem now, but previously they were concerned about the association of astrology with magic, because they felt like all magic was satanic and demonic and therefore the fact astrology was associated with that, or has connections to that, made them very nervous.
The other problem is because astrology is an alternative spiritual knowledge that’s not under the control of the church. They wanted to make sure that they had control of everything spiritual. Orthodox Christianity wouldn’t let anyone else be in spiritual competition with them, like the Cathars or the Gnostics early on, they stamped out every spiritual alternative as heresy. The only spiritual practitioners are priests and bishops and they keep control of everything. It’s a question of control and also fear..
All of the astrologers in the Renaissance, like Lilly and Agrippa, they were all Christians. Ficino was even a priest and they didn’t see any particular contradiction between Christianity and astrology. I don’t see that there is one, either. The reality is that if you see the incredible order of astrology and the predictive ability of it, it just shows the beauty of the Creation, of the Cosmos that God created, so it’s perfectly possible to integrate astrology into it. But most orthodoxies, like orthodox Islam or orthodox Christianity are just up in arms about it.
Also, nowadays you see the Catholic Church saying things like, “astrology it’s not scientifically provable, so it’s garbage”, which is a ridiculous argument because astrology makes more scientific sense than the Mass, where somehow the bread and the wine are miraculously transmuted into the body and blood of Christ. Whereas the fact that there might be some connection between the cycles of the heavens and the cycles on earth, doesn’t seem totally crazy. But they’ll use whatever weapons they can against astrology. But in many ways, this is a last-ditch struggle because orthodox and mainline religions are dying because for the most part they’ve lost any spiritual core. Basically, they’ve got the money, they’ve got the power, they have the doctrines, but they don’t have any real spiritual life. The breath of the spirit that animated them in the first place has almost entirely disappeared and they’re just dying, whereas all the action is in the new or in the old alternative spiritual movements.
When I went to Japan the first time I had a Japanese who was a Baptist minister as my translator. The Japanese found the Baptist church really fascinating, but to me was like: “oh, that’s so boring” you know, Baptist is just so mainline Protestant, they’re really dull. On the other hand, I was interested in Zen and they were, “oh, Zen…” they have the same attitude about Zen, that saw it as dull and boring. You almost need to go outside your own culture to see the benefits and the attractions of these religions again. But the key is to have the real experience of the spiritual and that’s something that the orthodox religions have been very nervous about, because you had that happen 2000 years ago, but it doesn’t happen now. Or they don’t want to admit it happens because they can’t control it. If anybody can just go and have these spiritual experiences, then what’s the point of having the church? How to handle that has always been sort of problematic for them, but I don’t see any contradiction between astrology and spirituality. What I’ll say to people is basically you have celestial spirits, the spirits of the planets, the fixed stars, etc., and they are like archangels, so they have a particular job that they were given to do and God set up the universe and gave them a job to do. Planets and stars are just really important spiritual beings within that hierarchy, they are high powered angels so to speak. That’s not the orthodox view, it’s somewhat heretical but it makes sense if you are open to it. Certainly, in Buddhism they have the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas and then on the lower level they have a lot of devas and gods and stuff and the planets are already there. Astrological magic has already been a part of the Buddhist practice in both China and Japan. In Japan the esoteric Buddhist schools like Shingon or Tendai, or the syncretistic Buddhist-Shinto mountain priests, the Yamabushi, and the Taoist influenced magicians and astrologers of Onmyodo, all do astrological ritual and magic. One of the nice things for me with the Buddhism was that it was really easy to put Western Astrology into it because it’s already there.
If you’re going to be an astrologer magician I think it’s important to be following a spiritual path and to have a focus that way, because it’s very easy to misuse it. Any kind of power can be misused so it’s necessary to have a spiritual path and a spiritual ethical system that you’re operating in, in order to keep your head together.
ADRIAN: So, astrology is basically a way to put us back in tune with the rhythms and powers of the cosmos?
CHRIS: It’s very interesting that you mentioned that because essentially astrology is a type of orientation. The English word orientation comes from the Latin “orient” or “east”, so it’s directional. In electional astrology, for example, which is choosing an astrologically auspicious time to take action, you’re moving in tune with the cycles of the universe as much as you can and you do this in a temporal way, through timing.
But astrology provides a way to go beyond that, because for example if you make a talisman, like a Sun talisman, you would do it on Sunday, which is the day of the Sun (I assume you know the names of the seven days of the week are from astrology). And you do it at sunrise which is also Sun’s planetary hour, because the original planetary day began at sunrise which makes sense because the day begins when the Sun rises. So, Sunday, Sun hour, and you would like to do it when the Sun was in Leo or Aries, when is strongest. Then if you make a talisman, you make it of materials that are appropriate for the Sun, for example gold, which is yellow or another yellow metal or you could have sunflowers or you could use a feather from a rooster which is also ruled by the Sun. So, in fact you’re orienting yourself in terms of material objects as well. This spiritual orientation is really at the root of most traditional spirituality, you do a ritual because this is the way that the ancestors did or this is the way the Gods did it. And that by doing it yourself you partake of that, you put yourself in the space. In fact, one of the most important things about magic ritual is that you create a sacred space, you partition a certain space off from normal reality and then you cause yourself to come into orientation with the spiritual realm within that space. When the ritual is over you go back to normal with it. It’s like an altar space. I talk about a talisman being like a cell phone, or a window to that particular spirit…
ADRIAN: An antenna?
CHRIS: Yes, an antenna, a way of getting in the communication with the spirits. So you’re a hundred percent right, cause you can see in our modern societies we’re really out of touch with reality. I mean we have artificial light, so we could stay up during the middle of the night, we don’t worry about the weather because we have heating and cooling and shelter and so we’re not paying attention to the natural rhythms. The result is we’re causing a lot of ecological damage because of that. Part of what’s wonderful about astrology is that it brings us back into balance and it brings us back into orientation with these natural cycles.
ADRIAN: Are you aware of the famous Doctrine of Signatures of Paracelsus? He said: “What is Venus but the Artemisia that grows in your garden? And what is iron but the planet Mars? And Venus and the Artemisia are both of the same essence, while Mars and iron are manifestations of the same cause”. What does this mean?
CHRIS: Well, first of all that’s a lot older than Paracelsus. Certainly, he was one of the most famous exponents of it in the Renaissance, but the “Doctrine of Signatures” is really ancient. Agrippa models his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, on the three worlds: the divine world, the celestial world and the material world. The same forces or the same spirits or the same energy exist in all three worlds. In the divine world things exist as thoughts of the Divine Mind or the Soul Of The World. You can think of a triangle, and while it exists perfectly in mind, when you manifest it in the material world it’s always going to be imperfect, because the matter resists the imposition of form. And so when you draw, your hand shakes a little bit or the printing isn’t exactly perfect, nothing as perfect in material forms as it is in mind. This view of reality is that things exist in their most perfect form as ideas in the Divine Mind and then they manifest through one of the seven planets or, in other words, that the planets are the intermediaries between the Divine and the material world. For example, Justice, there is the ideal of justice in the Divine Mind, that appears as the planet Jupiter in the celestial world and then acts of just people and justice here in the material world.
That’s what Paracelsus’s talking about in terms of Artemisia and Venus. That energy or that spirit that’s present in Artemisia is the same essence as in Venus. This is what is know as planetary rulership. For example, a rose which we think of as ruled by Venus because it’s beautiful and is sweet smelling. It is manifesting energy in the material world that also exists in Venus and also in the divine mind. What’s interesting about a rose is that we think of it as ruled by Venus, because the predominant characteristic we’re focusing on is the beauty and the sweet smell. But the thorns of a rose are ruled by Mars, because Mars is the God of war and sharp, spiny things. Also, the sap of the rose is ruled by Mercury because the sap moves and Mercury is so fast and the roots of the rose are ruled by Saturn because Saturn is of course the Earth and the foundation of things. As we can see, everything in the material world is a combination in different levels of the energies of the spirits of all seven planets. Depending on what the thing is and also depending on what we’re focusing on, it’s going to have more Venus, or more Saturn or more Mars or whatever. But all seven planets and the energies they embody, are in all material things. What this shows us is the universal application of astrology. Astrology really gives us a universal language and a way of understanding everything in the material world. It can express all concepts and encompass all things that exist.
ADRIAN: What is the difference between modern astrology and traditional astrology?
CHRIS: If we look at the history of Western astrology, it arose in Babylonia and Chaldea and then quickly diffused into the Greek and the Roman worlds in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It was very widely practiced and used, but you need to have a pretty high level of civilization to practice astrology because you have to have a lot of math skills to do it. When the dark ages came after the Roman Empire fell, astrology died out in Europe, because there just weren’t enough mathematicians left to be able to practice it. It was preserved in Byzantium and then passed to the advanced Islamic civilization. Then the Islamic civilization created a new type of astrology synthesizing Hellenistic, Vedic and Persian astrology. Western traditional astrology derives primarily from this new 9th & 10th century Arabic astrology. Traditional astrology is a really just a shorthand term for medieval, Renaissance and early modern astrology, which is kind of a mouthful. So traditional astrology is the astrology practiced in Europe between about 1100 and 1700. It then died out around about 1700, not because it was disproven, but because people stopped believing in spiritual causality, which astrology relies on. Around 1900 people got interested in astrology again as part of the occult revival. It came back mostly as natal astrology with a focus on psychology, because there were laws which exists to this day against doing fortune telling. So astrologers would say, “well, I don’t do fortune telling, I look at personality, I look at character”. That fit in nicely with the idea of free will because modern people really dislike the idea of fate and they didn’t like the idea of prediction, but they did like the idea of looking at personality. Modern astrology looks at the map of the heavens at the time of your birth as a map of your psychology, and it’s very good for that. The ironic thing about it is that one of the things I do best in natal astrology is psychological analysis. I really like it! So, I don’t reject modern astrology, by any means, because I think that psychological astrology works very well, it’s a really interesting way of understanding people. If I was a social worker or a psychologist I think I would do a natal chart of every single person that came through my door, because it gives such incredible insight in people’s psychology.
The problem with modern astrology is that psychological analysis is all that it can do. I think this is because it’s based on a psychological paradigm and that for the most part everything in modern astrology is positive. There’s very little that is negative in modern astrology, you want to be upbeat, you want to be able to not depress anybody, to help people, that comes from being based on psychology. When you go to psychologists, they are not going to tell you, “oh, well about third part of the people don’t benefit from this”, they are tell you to give a try and be upbeat to you about your chances, regardless of the actual outcome. Whereas traditional astrology, because it’s trying map reality, has to have the ability to predict everything from the really good events all the way to the very bad events in your life. Traditional astrology tries to accurately map all of reality, so you’re going to have predictions of both negative and positive events happening. In modern astrology, all the negative stuff seems to come from traditional astrology, for example retrograde Mercury it’s considered to be terrible, a void of course Moon is considered really disastrous and that’s about it. These are really awful because they have to carry all the weight of negativity for everything. So, people really seem to get freaked out about retrograde Mercury and the void of course Moon. I get all these e-mails about void of course Moon, like that’s a real disaster whereas for traditional astrology, I don’t think void of course Moon it’s really that bad. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s not necessarily a disaster either, it certainly is not as bad as being a detriment or a combust or something like that.
Traditional astrology and particularly horary astrology is much more focused on outward concrete events and in predicting things. People come to me and say, “will I marry this particular person?” and I’ll say, yes or no. If I say no, they often ask why? I say, well, if you want to know why, you probably should do their natal chart to look at it and use modern astrology to understand their psychology. But what is clear from this chart is that you’re not likely to marry this person, that isn’t going to work out. That’s really what the difference is.
Another difference is traditional astrology comes with traditional philosophy and has a rational basis for it, based on the philosophy of Renaissance and the earlier thinking, whereas modern astrology doesn’t have a rational basis. Why does it work? Modern astrologers don’t really know! They’ll either talk about quantum mechanics or string theory or some other scientific or pseudo-scientific explanation, which is demonstrably false or they use Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Well, for Jung synchronicity is an “acausal connecting principle” which is not an explanation, which doesn’t work as a causal explanation. It should not work because it doesn’t have any material cause for it and if there is no cause, then it really shouldn’t be working… But it works and modern astrologers don’t know why. At the same time, like I already mentioned, I really like modern astrology for what it does well, which is psychological analysis. But if you’re looking to it for accurate prediction of concrete events, if you want to know the answer to questions, if you’re going to pick a time to do something, that’s all going to be better with traditional astrology, because it’s a better tool. If you want to put in a screw: you don’t use a hammer, you get a screwdriver. It doesn’t mean that is anything wrong with the hammer, it’s just that’s what it does. That’s my attitude about it, I don’t think there’s anything wrong particularly with modern astrology as long as you understand its limitations and what it can do, but that’s also true of traditional astrology as well, is that it has its limitations, it can’t do everything. People come and they say, for example: I want you to look at my natal chart and tell me everything is going to happen to me for the next year. I’m not personally able to do that. I’ve never been able to do the timing techniques in natal astrology accurateley. Some people say they can, I don’t know but I am just not able to accurately time events using natal charts. Which is frustrating to clients, it frustrated me at times too, but I know what I can do and what I can’t do. The key here is understanding these various areas, what they can do, what they can’t do, so you have a full tool chest. With both modern and traditional astrology, we have a good number of techniques and a whole bunch of potential information that’s available now to people and this is very exciting. So, I’m not against modern astrology, even though I predominantly practice the traditional, but I do think that it is important to understand the limitations and the abilities of each area.
ADRIAN: Your specialties are horary and electional astrology and also astrological magic. Let’s discuss about each of them. Maybe you have some examples?
CHRIS: Yeah, again, when we think about astrology, people almost always think about natal astrology, which is looking at birth charts but that’s only one part of traditional astrology. I do Natal Astrology but, as you mentioned, my real focus is on the Horary, Electional and Astrological Magic.
Horary astrology is very interesting. If someone asks a question and it’s a serious one, a question they care about and it’s a focused question – typically you need to ask a yes or no question to focus the answer, though you get more information than that of it, I take the time of the birth of the question, rather than the birth of a person as the chart. The best time for a horary chart is when the astrologer understands the question. People often get confused about that, they’ll say, but this is my question. Well in fact, you really need to complete the circuit by asking the horary question to the astrologer. What’s really happening here is that even though you may have thought about the question for a while, the birth of that question is really when you actually go ahead and say to the astrologer, “I’d like to know the answer, here’s my question.” The astrologer then looks at the chart of the question and is able to judge the answer from that chart.
Another difference between natal and horary astrology, is that in horary you don’t look at the entire chart, you just look at the relevant houses. For example, if someone was asking about marriage: will I marry this person? You look at the first house for the querent, the person asking the question, and at the ruler of the first house and the planets in the first house. You also look at the Moon and at the seventh house, which is the house representing the person they’re hoping to marry, the house of marriage. You look at the ruler of the 7th house and the planets in that house. These are the significators. You’d also look at the house placement of significators and what planets they aspect, but this is basically all you look at in a horary. You focus on the relevant parts of the chart rather than look at the entire chart, for example third house, which is short journeys or neighbors is probably not significant in a marriage question, so you probably wouldn’t be looking at that house or the rulers of that house. That’s very useful, because it gives you a very focused and accurate answer. It’s much more focused and much more accurate than natal astrology in terms of specific questions. Horary astrology is very useful for most people’s enquiries; they want to know about specific things: “should I marry this person?” “Should I go into business with that person?”, “should I go on this trip?” Anything you can ask as a concrete question with a yes or no answer, you can get an accurate and precise answer to it using horary astrology.
Electional astrology is used to chose astrologically auspicious times to take action. The whole basis of astrology is that the beginning of something is meaningful, that the time of birth of something allows you to predict the course of its entire existence. Electional is sometimes known as the sister of horary astrology because when we look at a horary and predict a particular outcome based on the chart, with electional we pick a chart in order to try to achieve the outcome set forth in the chart..
Now, it is important to realize that while elections are helpful, the electional chart is not the only factor involved. Sometimes people think that if they choose an election that means automatically I have success and a lot depends on what you’re doing. If I elect a time to begin my personal campaign to become president of the United States, no matter what I time I chose, I, Christopher Warnock, am not going to become president of the United States. There’s too many other factors against me, the election is just one, and likely not the most important of many interlocking cycles of fate. To make it easier to understand, if you’re born in Poland in 1939 and you did a really good election, you might get to be a refugee instead of being dead, just because of all the other things that were going on at that time period. So while elections are useful and worth doing for important things, they do not guarantee success..
Astrological magic is using electional astrology and picking times for the creation of talismans using ritual or ceremonial magic for the celestial spirits, that is the spirits of the planets, or the fixed stars or the Mansions of the Moon and other celestial factors. We call upon those planets or celestial factors at the appropriate time astrologically and then we ask them to basically infuse a talisman with their spirit and then we can get their influence and appropriate effects. For example, if you want love and Venus was not afflicted in your chart, you could make a Venus talisman because Venus is the planet ruling love. You make the talisman at a time that is astrologically appropriate for Venus, out of Venus ruled materials with designs on the talisman appropriate to Venus and then that would bring the energy of Venus or the spirit of Venus to you and assist you in Venus related areas. I’m really privileged to have played a major role in helping to revive traditional western astrological Magic. Translating Picatrix and teaching is probably the most valuable thing that I’ve done in this area. I teach horary, natal and electional astrology and also, I have an astrological magic course that people can take. This is a really a great way to learn, if you’re interested in getting deeper into these areas.
ADRIAN: Who was William Lilly and what is “Christian Astrology“?
CHRIS: William Lilly was an English astrologer who lived in the seventeenth century and he was probably the most famous horary astrologer. He certainly was one of the most famous astrologers for his period, he was living in a very interesting time in England, during the period of the English Civil War. While there had been a good deal of interest in astrology, so long as the monarchy was in control, there was censorship of all books. But because during the English Civil War there wasn’t any censorship, there was a huge explosion of publishing and many different kinds of books emerged during this period, including astrology books. There was a lot of free thinking and upheaval, and so there was an upsurge of interest in astrology. So many astrologers were able to publish and openly practice astrology and as part of this William Lilly wrote this book “Christian Astrology”. I think he chose the title “Christian Astrology” as a cover, because there is nothing in particular Christian about it and it’s pretty much standard traditional astrology.
The focus of the book is on horary astrology and he has also a section on natal astrology. It’s an excellent book because he lays out all the rules he knew and used for horary astrology, he summarizes the traditional sources, he talks about his own experience and gives a lot of example charts in it as well.
ADRIAN: We came closer to the Picatrix, which I’d like to discuss, but first I would like to know: did William Lilly do astrological magic?
CHRIS: Oh, definitely! There is a mention in “Christian Astrology” about the affairs of the fourth house, which has to do with houses and real estate where he’s talking about haunted houses. He says definitely there are haunted houses and there’s a way to deal with them by using talismans, but he puts it in Latin. Because it was hard enough for him to practice astrology, so he had to call his book “Christian Astrology” to disguise it a bit, but astrological magic got people really nervous. They were worried that you’re working with demons or do some kind of black magic – which is not true, at least not necessarily true – so he put it in Latin.
Then there’s also a mention in “Religion and the Decline of Magic”, by a contemporary academic historian, Keith Thomas, of a letter of Lilly’s to Elias Ashmole, a very famous Renaissance occult researcher, where Lilly talks about sending Ashmole a whole chest full of astrological talismans. Also, Lilly had his own manuscript copy of Picatrix, the most important astrological magic grimoire. So we have a lot of evidence that Lilly, despite keeping a low profile, did practice astrological magic.
ADRIAN: What is the origin of astrological magic?
CHRIS: If you look all the way back at the Greek Magical Papyri, which is a collection of Hellenistic and Egyptian magic from around classical period like first or fourth century A.D., that has things like doing magic according to the phases of the Moon, like towards waxing and waning, so it’s clear that it was normal for people to do astrological timing. The Greek Magical Papyri even has planetary hour timing for magic. So it is clear from even the Greek and Roman period that magicians had been doing astrological timing. For example, if you want to make a Mercury talisman, of course it would make sense to make it in Mercury’s hour, that was pretty widespread.
But the idea of going beyond that, in the form that we’re using it now, as Picatrix explains, and doing full chart elections, where we’re essentially creating almost a birth chart for the talisman, with a much more complex set of criteria, that requires that you be a pretty adept traditional astrologer. For example, if I make a Mercury talisman – actually I don’t make Mercury talismans myself, I have a jeweler who does it for me – then I would be looking for a time when Mercury is dignified by sign or exaltation, when Mercury is rising or culminating, when is a Mercury hour and when Mercury is not afflicted and when the Moon is not afflicted. Basically you need to be able to read an astrological chart and understand the basics of traditional astrology.
My sense is that astrological magic either originated or was codified and brought to its height by the Harranian Sabians. Harran is a city in southern Turkey that’s thousands of years old, now abandoned. These Sabians apparently had a religion based on the worship of the celestial spirits of the planets and stars which they were able to keep throughout the Christian and even into the Muslim period. The Harranian Sabians were the source of a lot of astrological writings. Thābit ibn Qurra. who was a very famous scientist and astronomer and astrologer was a Harranian Sabian and wrote a book of Astrological Magic called “De Imaginibus” which John Greer translated in English and I published. The Harranian Sabians seem to me to be the source of this highest form of astrological magic, because we don’t see it practiced before them and they are traditionally given credit for its development.
Our astrological magic appears to come pretty much directly from the Harranian Sabians through the Picatrix, that’s my sense of it. We don’t know historically exactly of course, but they are the first evidence of this full blown astrological magic system that we use whose complexity is unmatched anywhere else. Contemporary Vedic astrologers do a form of astrological magic, but it seems pretty basic. They look at your natal chart, prescribe appropriate gemstones and then consecrate the stones using the planetary hour, and that looks like about all they do. I think that may be Vedic texts that are more complex but their current practice as far as astrological timing or creation of talismans is pretty basic. Of course, Indian ritual, like mantras, is incredibly complex and sophisticated. Western traditional astrological magic appears to be the most sophisticated, the most complex type of Astrological Magic that currently exists and it’s based on the Picatrix and the work of Harranian Sabians.
ADRIAN: How is the Astrological Magic different from the astrological devotional practices which you can see even now in India? They have temples of the planets, planetary pujas and all the rest…
CHRIS: The way I practice very simiarl because I’m less than of an astrological magician and more of a celestial priest. My approach to the celestial spirits is to treat them like angels or saints. I don’t have the sense that I can command them and I don’t have the sense that they’re just sitting around waiting to give me stuff. I don’t have the sense that their purposes to give me whatever I want. These are extremely powerful beings, they’re way more powerful than I am and I’m really privileged to be in contact with them.
Let’s take for example Venus, the planet that rules love. The typical approach would be to expect that I can use Venus magic to change the outside world so it conforms to my desires and make someone come and love me. It’s true that this is a possible effect of astrological magic using Venus. But a more subtle and in the long run more powerful effect of Venus is that her power and influence changes you so that you experience spiritual and psychological changes, you become a more loving person, you become more capable of love. In fact, an excellent way to get love and to get someone to love you is to change yourself! This fits with a more devotional, as opposed to magical approach. The Hindu devotional approach is very much like the devotional approach of the Harranian Sabians who are a major source for Picatrix. So that’s a very natural, traditional approach to take and that’s what I’m increasingly drawn to.
Even though I’m not using Sanskrit in the daily planetary ritual that I do, I do chant the mantras of the planets. Since today is Sunday I’ll do the mantra of the Sun. In Vedic astrology they also have planetary charity, where they’ll give a donation for Saturn, for example. If Saturn is a problem in your chart and you want to get in touch with Saturn, you give a donation to a Saturn person, like a homeless person whatever number is appropriate for Saturn, say 3 or 9 times. Or, if you’re in India, you go to a Saturn temple and make a vow to give them a donation 9 successive Saturdays, the day of Saturn. I find those traditions very congenial, like I said, the only difference between Western traditional astrological magic and Vedic I see is that the typical Vedic astrological remedies are gemstones, that they don’t seem to really create talismans at a particular time and they also don’t have a sophisticated astrological timing. But, on the other hand, their rituals are far more sophisticated than I’m capable of doing, for instance, they have Jupiter temples and Jupiter priests and that’s way beyond anything I’m able to do. So, I have a tremendous amount of respect for their ritual practice. In fact I’ve been very inspired by it and that’s the direction I’m moving in as opposed to “if I give you then money, then you give me the talismans, I get what I want”. Instead, my view is more like, “I want to have a better relationship with Venus and, I like the material benefit of it, but I’m looking for this to have a spiritual benefit as well.” Those are the people that I think are most happy with talismans, the ones that are really looking for that kind of long term relationship with the spirits. Again, there’s material benefits, but there’s also spiritual benefits and transformation as well.
ADRIAN: So, just recently, after almost 800 years after it was translated into Latin from Arabic, you translated in English one of the most controversial book of all ages: the 1000-year-old Picatrix or Gayat al-Hakim. Why did you do it and what is this book really about?
CRHIS: For Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Picatrix is the most important grimoire or book of astrological magic. Interestingly enough, Picatrix is only one of many books that existed in Arabic on astrological magic, but it’s the one that was translated in Latin, that got the most attention and was most widely disseminated. In the Middle Ages the Islamic civilization was the most advanced and had received the knowledge of the Greeks. They then combined Hellenistic astrology with Persian and Indian astrology to create this new tradition of Arabic astrology that we still use as traditional astrology.
That school of astrology passed from the advanced Islamic civilization into Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries, mostly in places like Sicily or Spain that had been under Moorish or Islamic control. The Picatrix was translated in 1256 at the court of Alfonso the Wise of Castile. He had translation teams of Arabic, Jewish and Christian scholars working together to translate many, many books. All the knowledge, the philosophy, the science of the Arabic civilization and of the Greeks that was available, they translated it into Latin and also into Spanish. Picatrix was one of these books. It’s very unusual in because it has a great deal of philosophy in it. If you look at the Solomonic and other magical grimoires from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, they’re mostly recipe books. They only explain how to do the ritual, but don’t provide much theoretical explanation. The author of Picatrix also calls himself Picatrix, so the author and the book have the same name. He says he consulted over two hundred books of astrology and magic. That he compiled them and took all the most relevant parts out of them. He’ll often mention the books that he’s citing in Picatrix. As I mentioned, in addition to having a lot of specific information about how to make particular talismans, there’s a lot of philosophy in Picatrix, predominately Neo-platonic and Hermetic, that explains how astrological magic works.
There are parts of Picatrix that are controversial, like the sections on animal sacrifice. These were pretty typical in Middle Eastern religious practice, for example there were many sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem, but it’s not something I would ever do because I’m a Buddhist. I just couldn’t kill something just for devotional or magical purposes. It certainly is potentially powerful but I don’t think is necessary and, besides that, death it is not the kind of energy I want to have associated with my magic. Also there are talismans for negative purposes. It is possible to create a curse with a talisman because just as you can help people with magic you can also hurt them as well. It’s a bit like a doctor, if you understand how to heal you also going to understand about poisons. If you are going to treat poisons, you will understand how to use them. But I do not do any malefic magic. The closest to malefic magic I’ve done is pest control magic. This is malefic for the pest but most people would say it’s probably okay to get rid of rats.
ADRIAN: Rats be gone?
CHRIS: Rats be gone, yes! I have a whole page for this on my website. It was one of my first talismans I ever made. It supposed to make the rat leave and, in fact, the rat actually was killed in a trap. What I recognized was it was a very malefic election for the rat. And I understood that the problem with malefic magic is that you can’t necessarily control the results. Even though you might want it to be rats be gone, when you do a curse talisman, it’s going to have a negative result. Now, it was nice to get rid of the rat, we didn’t like to have it around, but it just really sobered me up in terms of the idea of using this or any other kind of malefic magic..
Picatrix existed in Latin, and was widely used. Agrippa had a copy, clearly because you can see pieces of it in Three Books of Occult Philosophy. We know William Lilly had a copy because have his manuscript copy of Picatrix. While it circulated widely in Latin manuscript it was never translated into English or printed as a book until the modern period because it had this bad reputation. There’s a Latin critical edition of Picatrix and we used that as the basis for the translation. It took me 12 years from when I first heard of Picatrix to finally finish the translation. John Michael Greer is a famous noted modern magician who has a very good command of Latin. My contribution to the translation was mostly getting it moving, getting him to do it and also, I translated about 25% of the text. Many of the astrological portions are very technical and you need to have an actual practicing traditional astrologer to get it the astrology translated correctly. There was an earlier “translation” into English of one manuscript of the Arabic Picatrix, but the translation is almost unintelligible and was done mostly so it could go out of print and reap astronomical prices. We really tried to make our translation accurate and usable by both scholars and practicing astrological magicians. If you’re at all interested in astrological magic, you definitely need to have a copy of Picatrix.
Now we have Picatrix in English the only problem is if you’re not trained as a traditional astrologer, you won’t be going to do much with it. My own Astrological Magic Course, all the 14 lessons of it, is essentially just how to use Picatrix. Picatrix is the central text for the course which teaches all the astrology, how to make astrological talismans and how to do talismanic ritual. To simply have the book it’s a bit like having an advanced neurosurgery textbook and not having all the basic medical training needed to apply it. So my Astrological Magic Course gives all the astrology and basic training you need to use Picatrix. Picatrix is a fascinating book beyond explaining how to make hundreds of talismans it also gives a great deal of explanation about the philosophy that underlies astrological magic and how astrological magic works. Translating and publishing Picatrix are some of the most important things I’ve done in my life, along with teaching, because teaching people how to do astrological magic is a very practical way of passing on this knowledge and making sure that it’s available to later generations.
ADRIAN: Some people may wonder if Astrological Magic is not a Faustian pact, a dirty and ultimately a wrong and harmful way to acquire material results. What is then the true magus, is he more like a mystic or merely a sorcerer?
CHRIS: Well, it’s interesting, because even though we’re officially atheist materialists, we have the sort of Christian DNA in our culture. For 2000 years we’ve been getting it drummed into our head that any kind of magic is bad. In fact it’s funny, people don’t worry at all about pesticides or chemicals, they’ll go drink all sorts of stuff and dump it all over the place, but magic, oh… no! People are very, very nervous about magic which I think is our basic cultural conditioning. And obviously, something you’re not familiar with, you’re going to be nervous about. Certain tools lend themselves to negative use. For instance, it’s very easy to shoot someone with a gun because that’s what’s made for, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be used for an evil purpose. I think this is like electricity: is it evil or good? Well, it can be used for good or can be used for evil, and that’s definitely true for magic as well. Magic can be used in a positive way or in a negative way and that’s one of the reasons it’s very important to have a spiritual path that you’re following in addition to doing magic. Robert Zoller, a very well-known contemporary traditional astrologer who focuses on natal astrology and on teaching the traditional world view and the philosophical background for astrology, also launched me on this path as a magician. He really made it clear to me how important is to have a spiritual path that you’re following in addition to doing magic. That was one of the most important things I learned from him.
A spiritual path keeps you oriented. That’s necessary because I’ve met people that had the impression that if you do a curse on somebody it’s sort of a joke. “Ha-ha-ha, I’ll curse somebody and maybe will work or maybe it won’t work, but I don’t really have to take responsibility for it, because it’s all fake anyway, right? I mean, we all know there’s no magic! So, if it works great, but if it doesn’t work, it’s not really my fault.” But in reality, cursing someone is the same thing as if you walk over and hit them over the head with a brick. Doing evil magic to somebody is just as bad as physically attacking them. You have a choice to make with magic, like with any kind of power. With anything that has power, you can potentially use it positively or negatively. But if it doesn’t have the ability to do evil, then it’s probably not very powerful at all anyway.
But compared to magic it’s a lot easier to do evil stuff with technology. For example, a car, you can easily run one into a crowd of people. With a gun or dynamite you don’t need any training at all, so it’s very, very easy to cause a tremendous amount of damage with technology. It takes a lot of work to become an astrological magician and to do a spell on somebody is really hard work, too. But again, people are not worried about technology, they accept it and they have a very positive attitude toward it while they are conditioned to be afraid of magic. A mage is not a mystic and not a sorcerer. A mage is a wise man or woman who knows how to take action.
ADRIAN: Like Gandalf?
CHRIS: Like Gandalf?!! Yeah, except Gandalf is a fantasy! This is the problem with a lot of our views of magic, it’s all based on this fantasy stuff. I’m talking about someone like Cornelius Agrippa, he was a magus, or Giordano Bruno. Now, I always like to bring it back to reality, because if we spend too much time thinking about this, it’s just a fantasy thing. What people tend to do is compartmentalize, I know a guy who is a computer programmer and he says: “I’m a regular person, except when I go home I do magic”. But for myself I don’t see how you could practice magic or work with astrology, without it having a strong effect on your whole life. Once you start realizing this stuff works and the spiritual realm exists, it seems to me that it would have a very strong effect on the rest of your life. Once you see it works, then you have a responsibility to do good with it, as long as you can see the difference between good and evil. That’s important, I think you rather want to have good karma than bad karma, if at all possible.
The ability and the willingness to act is key here, the magus is basically the wise man who acts. Sorcery on the other hand is acting only for your own personal benefit or doing evil stuff. And the magus has a bigger role to play than that, in reality the magus links Heaven and Earth, he has a duty to serve the greater good and does so through their knowledge and through their wisdom, through the spiritual power that they have. That’s the difference between a magus and a sorcerer.
ADRIAN: Beautifully put! On exactly the same note, I remember an astrological talk given by Dr. Claudia Welch, the reputed ayurvedist. She asked herself what is the main difference between devas and asuras from the Hindu tradition. She was confused because sometimes asuras were doing good things and and devas were doing sometimes bad things, also. So, what was the criteria for good and evil categories? She said the the devas are different because they have just the wish to do good for others while the asuras have the wish to do good for themselves.. Now, you mentioned several times one of the tools of the magus, the astrological talisman. What is this, can you give some examples and talk about the conditions used to make one?
CHRIS: Right! This is the thing, we tend to have a very limited conception of talismans. We think of them as a pendant or a ring, that’s pretty much it. Well, in fact, anything that you make or inscribe, or takes on its final form at an astrological appropriate time can be an astrological talisman! For example, in the Renaissance they would do gardens or buildings. In Picatrix they even they talk about the city of Adocentyn on the Nile that was created by Hermes; a magical city that was created on astrological magical principles. So almost anything can be made as a talisman. The ones that I sell are basically pendants, rings are very complicated because you have to size them, so we don’t do rings any more. I also do mirrors, because I can etch them myself at a particular time.
So, a talisman is basically an object made at an astrological appropriate time, it has to take on its final form at the appropriate time. What people want to do is to just make it any time and then consecrate it. That clearly doesn’t follow the instructions in our astrological sources which insist that the talisman has to be actually made at the elected time and then consecrated. So I think making a talisman any old time and then consecrating it at an elected time would be very weak in terms of having any astrological power. Maybe if we consecrated again and again and again and again and again with a lot of ritual it might start to build up some power, but really the talisman needs to be made at an astrological appropriate time and then consecrated at that time so the spirit is being invited into it. After that moment, that talisman functions basically like a cell phone or like a mirror or like a door into the realm of that spirit, it is a way to communicate with that spirit. If you wanted to have love, Venus is definitely the planet for love, then you could make a copper talisman, that’s an appropriate material. But the material is less important than the timing. As Thabit Ibn Qurra says the material is not that important, you can make the talisman out of iron or gold or whatever you want, but you need to get the astrological timing right. Certainly, if possible, you want to make it with the appropriate material for the planet and you want to use appropriate designs, in this case there are some traditional images of Venus that we have, for example a woman with an apple in one hand and a comb in the other, that comes up in Picatrix many times.
ADRIAN: The apple being the symbol of the pleasure of the good taste and the comb being a symbol for beauty?
CHRIS: I don’t know, actually. Often, we don’t even know why certain images or designs are attributed to planets, mansions or fixed stars. One of the images of Saturn, for example, is a man with the head of the stag carrying a spear and riding on a dragon. Much of the celestial symbolism is very mysterious in terms of what the meaning is. We know that these images have been used traditionally for hundreds and even thousands of years. I think originally the sigils and things like the symbols often came direclty in dreams or in visions from the celestial spirits themselves. Also, understanding the images is not as important as the fact that these images are powerful. Certainly, often we can look at a design or image and we can understand it. Other times the images are simply mysterious.
To get back to our example of astrological timing with Venus, Venus’s day is Friday. But actually, planetary hours are more important than planetary day! But you could do it Friday at sunrise because this would be Venus’s planetary hour. Then, you would like to have Venus dignified, perhaps by sign in Taurus or Libra or by exaltation in Pisces. Then you’d like to have Venus rising on the horizon or culminating directly overhead. Lastly, you need to have Venus and Moon not afflicted. So, those are the basic conditions.
Now, the Picatrix will give other specific conditions: for example, there’s an interesting Venus talisman that’s to be made when Venus is rising in the very first degree, so 0 degrees, of either Pisces or Taurus or Libra. That particular talisman has a very interesting image of a bird headed woman with the feet of a bird, which is a really interesting, very weird ancient image; there’s some images of Innana, who is the Babylonian or a Chaldean Venus, from 2000-3000 years ago, that have the same bird feet. So, I think some of these images are very, very ancient. But the real key here is that we need to have the correct timing, we need to have the invocation and that it’s also useful to have the materials that are appropriate for that planet or fixed star.
We can make talismans of the planets, of the fixed stars, we have 15 fixed stars for which we have images and structures for consecration, of the 28 Mansions of the Moon, of the 36 faces, we could do house based talismans as well. We’re most familiar with the planets but there are many, many other types of talismans that can be made using astrological magic. And Picatrix and other sources give us instructions for making these talismans.
ADRIAN: What would you think was the source of the knowledge of the ancient astrologers?
CHRIS: Like I said, I think that originally, particularly the images and ritual of astrological magic came from the celestial spirits directly. That’s probably the ultimate source of a lot of this information… Again, it depends on your view of reality. For example, there’s this idea that primitive peoples, we of course characterize them as primitive, that they run around eating everything and if they died then well, we don’t eat that anymore. If it tasted good, it was good. I mean they figured everything through this kind of trial and error out because, of course, that’s the only possible way to do it. That’s what we do.
I don’t if you’re familiar with Ayahuasca, this hallucinogenic medicine of the Amazon? One of the books I was reading recently was talking about a healer and she said that when she took Ayhuasca, the spirit of Ayhuasca would come to her and tell her which plants were good for healing and what they were good for and so she would write that down. What’s interesting is when the author looked at her list of plants and checked it against the generally used medicinal plants in the Amazon, they pretty much corresponded. We’ve lost a lot of our knowledge of traditional herbs and traditional medicine and things like that, but my view is probably that a lot of knowledge was gained by direct spiritual contact, like by visions or dreams. Not by the modern idea that these traditional people were stupid and aimlessly went walking around discovering by trial and error. Instead they had a much more direct way of learning these things. So, like I said, we don’t know exactly where the knowledge and practice astrological magic originally came from. In addition, in the traditional societies they respect the lineage, they respect their traditional knowledge. I mean, you can test it and work with it, but you would tend to respect it, until you find it didn’t work for you.
ADRIAN: I have another quote of Paracelsus. He said: “medicine is without value if it’s not from heaven.” This looks a hundred percent electional to me. How do you see it?
CHRIS: It’s interesting, when you say about electional astrology because I think that’s a way of taking it, that you should know how to time it.
ADRIAN: It may be like a talisman…
CHRIS: Yeah, definitely. That’s a very interesting quote, it has a lot of different possibilities. The other sense I got though is the idea that you can’t heal if it’s not in accordance with the will of Heaven. If out of touch with Heaven you can’t heal and things go the way they’re meant to go. But also I get a sense from if that you want to heal, you have to have your heart in the right place, a good and pure person is going to be a better healer. There’s a moral quality that goes along with that, that’s probably important as well to truly be a healer..
It’s funny how when I heard that, it set off a lot of different thoughts and a lot of impulses, there are a lot of things you can come with. I think you’re correct with the electional part because traditional western medicine was very astrological. When you studied medicine in University in the Middle Ages, you’d very often study astrology as part of your education, It was a normal part of the curriculum and indeed the physicians were using astrology. They have a special kind of a chart called the decumbiture chart which is for when the patient it sick enough to be in bed and they would use that to gain information about the sickness. They also had the concept of crises or certain days when the illness was believed to get worse. If you would have got through the crisis, you’d be okay. Much of their diagnosis was astrological, a lot of the cures that they would provide for people were astrologically based. So astrology was certainly a very important part of traditional western medicine. We’re very focused on traditional Chinese medicine now, but in fact there’s a traditional western medicine that nobody practices anymore. It’s similarly holistic and interested in bringing the body back into balance. But, we tossed all that aside. Modern medicine is allopathic, in other words the physicians are all are focused now on treating symptoms. They don’t try to bring the body back into holistic balance. If you mention the humors or something they just think that’s ridiculous, that’s all outmoded stuff, we don’t do anymore. So we have lost all the wisdom of western traditional medicine that we otherwise could use.
ADRIAN: Are there different zodiacs? Can we speak about a a solar and a lunar zodiac?
CHRIS: Zodiac clearly means circle of animals, the twelve signs arranged in a 360 degree circle around the Earth. If you look up at the sky from the Earth you see the Sun, which appears to rise in the East and set in the West. From the particular vantage point we live in, from this geocentric perspective, it’s perfectly accurate. if you do celestial navigation on a ship and you got your sextant out to figure out where you are, you would use geocentric astronomy. You would do your calculations as if the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Similarly if you are a surveyor and you’re trying to figure out where you are on the planet and set up boundaries, geocentric astronomy works perfectly well. Whatever the ultimate view of it is, geocentric astronomy is very accurate in terms of celestial navigation or surveying or prediction, which is what we use it for in traditional astrology.
So, the apparent orbit of the Sun in the sky is called the ecliptic and there are 12 constellations that basically lay within that circle which are the 12 signs. The constellations themselves are all irregular in size, but the signs are regular, at least in the tropical and sidereal Zodiacs. The Tropical zodiac is a zodiac of 12 signs, 30 degrees each, oriented to the seasons. When Spring starts at the spring equinox when the days are equal with nights, the sun goes into Aries. Then at the summer solstice, the Sun goes into Cancer and then in the fall equinox, Sun goes into Libra and then the winter solstice, Sun goes into Capricorn. So, it’s 12 signs, 30 degrees each and it’s oriented to the seasons, we always have the same seasonal orientation with the tropical zodiac. The original constellations in the ecliptic never corresponded exactly to the signs, because the constellations are irregular. In addition, there is a process called precession of the equinoxes that changes the orientation of the earth over approximately 26,000 years. This means that the average fixed star moves about 1 degree every 72 years, so the original, irregular constellations that gave rise to the signs are even more out of alignment with the signs. Of course, the signs stay in perfect alignment with the seasons and the constellations in the ecliptic are far out of alignment with the seasons. So, you can take your pick!
In Vedic astrology, they use a sidereal Zodiac also has 12 signs of 30 degrees each, but the starting point is based on the fixed stars, so that moves so the sidereal zodiac doesn’t relate to the seasons, but it doesn’t correspond exactly to the fixed stars.
A constellational Zodiac is a third possibility, that’s something that modern people, all focused on matter and energy, have invented. Their view is that the signs are wrong and the only possible measurement is actual constellations. Of course, they are all irregular in size, you have Leo, 45 degrees long and Aquarius like 3 degrees long. This constellational Zodiac has never really been used by anyone for astrology. Modern people like it because it fits their world view, but no real astrologer actually uses it because it’s just too confusing. Ultimately, I suppose you could use it, but we’ve been using tropical zodiac for more than 2000 years, we know how to work with it.
This argument between zodiacs it’s a bit like the difference between shoe sizes. In the United States my shoe size is 10.5 but in Japan it’s 28.5. So, what’s my real shoe size, is it really 10.5 or is it 28.5? It’s just different measuring mechanisms, centimeters versus inches! You can do perfectly good astrology with the sidereal zodiac in Vedic astrology, but if you’re going to do Western astrology we use the tropical Zodiac, you don’t pick and choose. This would be like taking the engine out of your Mercedes and put a Ford engine into it. We need to work with the zodiac that’s appropriate for your style of astrology.
What you’re getting at is the 28 Mansions of the Moon. It takes about 27 and a half days for the Moon to orbit the Earth, so in Vedic astrology they have 27 nakshatras which are very much like the Mansions from Arabic and Western Astrology they have 28 mansions. Either 27 or 28 makes sense based on the Moon’s orbital time. It is sort of a lunar zodiac, but I’ve never seen anybody use it as a substitute for the solar zodiac. Zodiac refers to the 12 signs of the orbit of the Sun. The Mansion of the Moon are really only used in Western astrology for astrological magic. In Vedic astrology, they use nakshatras in natal astrology and they do have a predictive use for that.
ADRIAN: Let’s discuss a bit more about these fascinating Mansions of the Moon.
CHRIS: Well, the zodiac and the 12 signs are one of the most important tools we have because the signs and their nature and measuring by Zodiacal longitude are some of our most basic tools in traditional astrology. For example, if you want to do a horary question and you need to know which planet represents the person asking the question, you have to look at the sign that’s on the Ascendant, on the cusp of the first house. If it’s Aries, that sign is ruled by Mars, so Mars would represent the querent. So tropical zodiac is really built into a lot of technique in traditional astrology and modern astrology as well, the signs are really basic.
The Mansions of the Moon are a more like a secondary or tertiary technique; they’re not as integrated into the basic predictive techniques. They were used in traditional astrology mostly for magic and for making talismans. Each of the Mansions has a different purpose and has a different focus and different things that it does. For example, there are the 2 Mansions that I focus on, the 3rd and 7th, which are both for all good things. Every month when the Moon comes to these Mansions – I have it marked on my calendar – I’ll do a consecration or a ritual for those particular mansions to keep my relationship going with the spirit of those mansions and to keep that positive energy, the positive home spirit going for me.
ADRIAN: If you had the chance of a one hour meeting with a famous astrologer of all times, who would you choose and what would you ask him?
CHRIS: Hmm… Well, it need to be someone who spoke English, because I don’t speak Italian, so that couldn’t be good… And not Arabic, that kind of limits it…
ADRIAN: If we remove this barrier of language?
CHRIS: I think I would probably choose Thābit ibn Qurra, the Harranian Sabian. I’d like some more guidance about astrological magic so I would be interested to talk to him about astrological magic. There’s a lot of mysteries about astrological magic that I’d like to know. I also think that will be really interesting to talk to William Lilly, one of the most famous horary astrologers. It would be very interesting to see what he has to say, if you read his books, he seems like an exciting person, very opinionated, and very knowledgeable. It’s hard to decide, I think all those guys would be interesting to talk to, Thābit ibn Qurra, Agrippa or Lilly. I don’t have anything specific to ask them, but it would be interesting just to rap with them and see what their view of reality was and just what they where coming from. Just hang out with them for an hour would be really interesting.
You know, that’s fun, I really enjoyed talking to people like Rob Hand and Rob Zoller. I had a few chances to talk to them, just to be with them and just soak up in their knowledge and their wisdom. Having a teacher it’s a great thing, it’s really a great opportunity. That’s one of the things I like about having students, they can ask me questions which is really useful for them. It’s interesting to interact with somebody who really mastered the area, so I think that’s probably what I would be most excited about, just to kind of see what they’re like and pick up their vibe.
ADRIAN: And if you would be offered the chance to spend some time with a planetary archetype or with a star, which one would you choose?
CHRIS: Oh, boy… that’s an interesting question! That would be a really difficult decision for me to make, between Saturn or Jupiter. In my chart, I have Aquarius rising and Saturn rising in Aquarius and then conjuncting the Ascendant are the Moon and then Mercury in Aquarius. Also in the first house I have Sun and Jupiter in Pisces, so I’m very, very much split between Jupiter and Saturn or Pisces and Aquarius. So that would really be hard for me to say because, ultimately, both of them are wisdom.
Saturn rules really the deepest occult esoteric wisdom. I don’t know. I might go with Saturn, it would be very hard for me to say! I think I sort of feel a pull toward Saturn in a way, but it’s interesting because even though Saturn is rising in my chart, Jupiter’s the almuten of my chart, I’m just so split. It would be very hard for me to decide between those 2 planets. But I don’t have to, that’s the beauty of it, I can hang out with all of them. The wonderful thing is I ldon’t have to make a choice, on Thursday I can honor Jupiter and on Saturday I can honor Saturn. I can keep in touch with all of them, luckily you don’t have to make a choice, thank God!
ADRIAN: As a final question, I would like to know how do you translate the famous quote from the Bible “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?”
CHRIS: There’s a couple ways you can play with that. First of all, you could say…
ADRIAN: What would that mean for you?
CHRIS: Well I’m just saying, I’m just talking about how it resonates with me and it’s never one thing, these things that are resonant, they have multiple meanings. The first I get the sense of fear of the Lord as opposed to myself, the recognition that there’s more than my own desires, that there’s more than just myself, that’s pretty key. There’s also a willingness to not be so arrogant, like you need to be put in your place, because today we first start out with just me, me, me, me, me… And also that seems to me about consequences, to get a sense of fear of consequences of our actions. But the other thing is fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and not the end of wisdom. I don’t like the idea of fear as somehow being wisdom, so the fear of the Lord is just the beginning of wisdom.
If you are not even afraid of Lord at all, if you have no worry about consequences, if you’re into yourself then you cannot be wise, but that’s not enough. That the fear of the Lord is just the beginning of wisdom and wisdom, is so much deeper than that.
But that’s the beginning spot, you need to get outside the self and outside the consequences of the self, you can’t be totally into your own view of things, but I’m not happy with fear. I don’t think wisdom is based on fear and wisdom is not composed of fear. Wisdom is, you know, you think of the Manjushri in the Buddhist thing is the Bodhisattva’s manifest wisdom and it’s fearless. It’s very sharp, very precise, but it’s fearless. So ultimately fear is only the beginning of wisdom.
ADRIAN: Thank you for this great interview!
CHRIS: Well, I appreciate it too. I mean it’s just a great opportunity for me… As you can see I like to talk and when I have a good interviewer who’s interested and has good questions really helps to pull the information and knowledge out of me. I really had a great time and thank you very much!
ADRIAN: Well, for me it was a way to honor you and this ancient knowledge. Thank you!
CHRIS: Thank you very much. And we’ll talk again.