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October 19, 2007 – 3:23 am | 62 Comments

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Home » history and philosophy of astrology

A Reply to Glenn Perry’s Article ‘From Ancient to Postmodern Astrology’

Posted by on January 8, 2008 at 3:32 am14 Comments

Glenn PerryI just finished reading a surprisingly misinformed article by Glenn Perry in the latest issue of the NCGR Journal titled From Ancient to Postmodern Astrology, Toward a New Synthesis. Normally I would just let the uninformed ramblings of some random astrologer pass by without taking much notice and then continue on about my day, but I was kind of caught off guard by the rather caustic nature of the article, as well as the string of inaccurate and uninformed statements that it was riddled with. So, I thought that I would take the time to address some of the issues with his article here. Such a misinformed and misleading tirade published by anyone deserves to be rebuked and admonished, but especially when it is coming from a guy with a PhD who should know better than to publish such a shoddy paper in an international journal.

Diatribe Par Excellence

While the title of the article implies that Perry intends to introduce or propose some sort of synthesis of modern and traditional astrology, the vast majority of the rather lengthy 18 page article actually turns out to be just one long diatribe directed against traditional forms of astrology in general. Actually, the emphasis of the article is directed towards disputing and ridiculing the author’s own rather skewed and minimal understanding of traditional astrology, which is not the same as saying that it is a legitimate critique of traditional astrology per se. I say this because the author is clearly addressing the tradition without much background knowledge about it (which Perry himself later admitted in the comments section below).

Perry actually reminds me of many of the modern day “skeptics” or “debunkers” of astrology who attack the subject without really knowing much about it, and subsequently tend to make some pretty obvious mistakes in the process. Perry even invokes the Barnum effect at one point on page 31, much like many modern debunkers of astrology such as James Randi and Richard Dawkins are fond of doing. In general Perry also follows the same framework that many modern “debunkers” do, in relying mainly on his rhetorical abilities in order to get his point across, rather than say, something more than a superficial understanding of the subject matter. This is an interesting case though because Perry is actually an astrologer that simply has some sort of axe to grind with the earlier traditions of astrology, for whatever reason. In the process of doing so Perry shows himself to be quite an aspiring rhetorician, but rather incompetent when it comes to actual research and scholarship.

Here I will focus mainly on some of the more blatant technical mistakes in the article, many of which showcase Perry’s lack of background or understanding of traditional astrology, as well as the history of astrology in general. The point of this overview will be to highlight the fact that Perry’s academic shortcomings far exceed his rhetoric, and thus undercut pretty much any point that he was attempting to make.

Firmicus Maternus

On page 27 of the article Perry states that Firmicus Maternus’ Mathesis

…is considered the most detailed work on astrology to survive from the classical period

This is not really an accurate statement. While the Mathesis may be the longest text to have survived into the present day, largely due to Firmicus’ cribbing of delineation material from other authors, it is generally accepted by most people who have studied the tradition that the most detailed treatise on astrology that has survived from the classical period is Vettius Valens’ nine book Anthology. James Holden writes in his book A History of Horoscopic Astrology, which Perry cites at one point, that

…the Anthology affords us our best look at the materials available to and the procedures used by a Greek astrologer of the Classical period.” (pg. 57)

Robert Schmidt makes the statement in his catalog of Hellenistic astrologers that

More than any other astrologer, Valens may represent the mainstream of the Hellenistic tradition.

Perry appears to know nothing of Valens’ work, outside of a few scattered quotes that he was able to collect from secondary sources, so naturally this point escaped his notice.

Speaking of secondary sources though, if you look through Perry’s footnotes you will notice that citations of primary source texts from traditional astrologers are conspicuously absent. He quotes from Wedel’s The Medieval Attitude Towards Astrology for quotes from Bonatti, McCaffery’s Astrology: Its History and Influence in the Western World for Ptolemy, West’s The Case For Astrology for Kepler, and Barton’s Ancient Astrology for quotes from Firmicus and Valens.

So while Perry did a pretty good job of perusing the secondary literature in order to pick out catchy one liners from various authorities, he never actually took the time to read any of the actual source texts! This completely undercuts any argument that he makes about the techniques of traditional astrology being “highly questionable,” not working in his “experience” or being “unconvincing” because when it comes down to it he doesn’t actually know anything about the techniques, having never read any of the traditional manuals or authors. This fact can be clearly demonstrated in the rather sophomoric mistakes that he makes in the rest of the article, as we will see.

Case Studies

In the next paragraph, on page 28, in order to somehow negate delineations provided by traditional astrologers Perry speculates

we must assume that ancient astrologers were seriously compromised by a comparative lack of reliable charts to study.

This statement is shown to be somewhat faulty and meaningless when one examines the 100+ example charts used in Valens’ Anthology, most of which clearly come from Valens’ own personal case studies, as well as those of his predecessors. Perry would probably respond that he is speaking in relative terms, since he follows up his speculation with the statement that

the modern astrologer can study more reliable charts in a week than a 1st century astrologer could study in a lifetime.

Here Perry equates the number of charts that an astrologer has studied with the depth of his understanding of the subject. This is arguably a rather questionable assumption to make.

Misunderstanding Sect

On page 29, in the context of attempting to discard the astrological concept known as “sect,” Perry tells us that

some planets are allegedly stronger during the day (Sun, Jupiter, Saturn), while others are stronger at night (Moon, Venus, Mars). For example, if a person is born during the day and Mars is above the horizon with the Sun, its functionality is allegedly weakened.

The problem with this statement is that sect isn’t a quantitative measurement, it is a qualitative measurement. The sect status of a planet does not make it “stronger” or “weaker,” as Perry assumes, but its main function is to augment the benefic or malefic status or functioning of a planet. Perry’s ineptitude with respect to the subject matter as well as his rhetorical ability shine through here because he is vehemently rejecting and even mocking a technical concept that he doesn’t even fully understand. He even goes so far as to say that it is “impossible” to test the validity of the concept of sect, and

If there is no conceivable way to test the merit of a claim, then it is vacuous.

This is the very epitome of a straw man argument, in misrepresenting the nature of an opponent’s position, in this case a technical concept, and then rejecting it based on nothing more than your own mistaken assumptions as to its purpose. Indeed, how could Perry test the concept if he doesn’t even understand how it is supposed to be applied?

The Terms or Bounds

On the following page, in the context of disputing the “terms” or “bounds,” Perry makes the faulty technical statement that

a planet at 27 degrees of any sign would be in Saturn’s bounds…

Although I am not sure which version of the bounds he is referring to here, since there are several different sets, this is a false statement nonetheless since Saturn’s bounds are not always located at the end of the signs, no matter which system of bounds you use. So, Perry has made a universal statement here, which happens to be universally wrong. While this may be a simple technical oversight on Perry’s part, it is a rather obvious mistake that he would have avoided if he had anything more than a passing understanding of the techniques underlying traditional astrology.

The Exaltations

On the same page Perry attempts to dispute the exaltations, which are still used by modern astrologers, because

“unlike domiciles” they do “not follow a logical scheme for sign assignment”, and thus they “constitute an arbitrary system…”

Perry, being less than knowledgeable as far as Hellenistic astrology is concerned, doesn’t know that there actually is a logical scheme underlying the exaltations, which even ties them in to the domicile assignments. Antiochus and Porphyry point out that all of the diurnal planets have their exaltations in signs which are configured to one of their domiciles by trine, and all of the nocturnal planets to one of their domiciles by sextile. There is even a link to the houses that each of the planets are placed in when viewed in the context of the Thema Mundi, which Schmidt points out in his forthcoming translation of Antiochus, and a pretty straightforward rationale for how the domicile lord of each of the exaltation signs compliments the tendencies of the exalted planet. This theory about the interaction between the domicile lord of a sign and an exalted planet is spelled out by Rhetorius in his commentary on Antiochus’ work:

Why is it that where the Sun is exalted, there Kronos is depressed; and where Kronos is exalted, there the Sun is depressed? We say that it is because the Sun is the storehouse of fire and light, and is the master of the day; while conversely, Kronos, signifying the darkness, is cold. Then, at the place where the light of day is exalted, there the darkness and the night is depressed, and that which is cold is warmed. But at the place where the darkness is exalted, there the light is depressed and the day becomes shorter.

And again, why is it that at the place where Zeus is exalted, there Ares is depressed; and where Ares is exalted, there Zeus is depressed? We say that it is because Zeus is the overseer of the life-breath and abundance, while Ares is the overseer of death. Then, at the place where the life- breath increases, there the bringer of death is depressed; and where death increases, there life is depressed.

And again, why is it that at the place where Aphrodite is exalted, there Hermes is depressed; and where Hermes is exalted, there Aphrodite is depressed? We say that it is because Hermes is the master of arguments, while Aphrodite is the overseer of desire and intercourse. Then, at the place where the intellectual increases, there the desire and the pleasurable in intercourse is depressed. And where the appetitive and pleasurable is, exalted, there the intellectual is depressed. … (Antiochus of Athens, The Thesaurus, trans. Robert Schmidt, ed. Robert Hand, The Golden Hind Press, Berkeley Springs, WV, 1993, pgs. 7-8.)

So, in fact the exaltation assignments are far from arbitrary, but they simply have their roots in a tradition and a conceptual structure that Perry is entirely ignorant of. His ignorance of their systematic nature in the astrological construct speaks more to his competence as an astrologer and a researcher than it does to their validity or legitimacy in the system though. Even with their origins being somewhat obscure, it seems strange for Perry to be disputing a concept that even many modern astrologers take for granted and use in their practice.

More on the Exaltations

Perry continues to exhibit his ineptitude with respect to the subject matter further down the page when he makes the totally inaccurate and rather ridiculous statement that

In modern astrology, a dispositor is a planet that rules the sign that another planet is in… However, in traditional astrology, a dispositor is a planet that is the exaltation ruler of a sign; thus, if Venus is in Aries, then the Sun would disposit Venus since the Sun is allegedly exalted in Aries. But if the very concept of exaltations is questionable, then the traditional method of assigning and assessing dispositors is likewise thrown into doubt.

Since he apparently didn’t read any of the source texts related to the subject matter of his article, Perry appears to have gotten the idea that dispositorship only relates to the exaltation ruler of a sign, and that it was only recently in modern astrology that dispositorship came to be associated with the domicile lord of a sign. Such a statement is obviously as absurd as it is inaccurate, as the use of domicile lords as dispositors can be seen in every single text on astrology from the 1st century through the 17th century. Perry of course gives no citation for this bogus notion that he concocted, since none exist. It is interesting though, because it seems to explain part of the reason why he doesn’t understand the function of the exaltations, and thus why he would reject them, since for Perry a lack of understanding or insufficient knowledge of something apparently does not preclude its rejection.


On the same page Perry makes another obvious mistake when he says

I may observe that someone with Venus in Pisces in the 8th house negotiates financial transactions in a deceptive manner… To say, however, that Venus is exalted in Pisces and is in the house of its detriment are simply vague value judgements.

What he did here was to equate the signs with the houses, which is commonly done in modern astrology, but was not done in traditional astrology, particularly in the Hellenistic and Medieval traditions. The notion that the 8th house = the sign Scorpio, the sign of Venus’ “detriment,” is more of a modern notion, which makes this statement totally anachronistic, not to mention misleading since he also implies that a delineation of some sort would not have been made for that placement by a traditional astrologer.

Misunderstanding the Time-lords

Later Perry dismisses the Hellenistic “time-lord” systems with the rather abrasive and prejudiced statement that

the technique of time lords in which different planets allegedly rule various periods appears so obviously made up and arbitrary that it is difficult to understand how any person of discernment could believe in it. Each planet is assigned a period of time, which purportedly determines the general tone of the life for that duration, e.g., Saturn rules 11 years, the Sun rules 10 years, Mercury rules 13 years, and so on.

In a footnote right after the first sentence in the above statement he explains that

Time lords are tied to bound or term systems, of which there are several variations – Ptolemaic, Chaldean, Egyptian, and one created by Vettius Valens. Variations of the division of signs into differing periods underscores that the system is made-up and arbitrary.

There are two problems here. The first is that in the footnote Perry refers to one specific time lord system, sometimes called “circumambulations,” or primary directions through the bounds. The problem is that the actual time periods associated with the planets that he listed (i.e. ‘Saturn rules 11 years, the Sun rules 10 years, Mercury rules 13 years’, etc.) come from a completely different Medieval time lord system known as Fidaria, and the Fidaria system isn’t actually based on the bounds at all, as he claims all time lord systems are his footnote. He is conflating two entirely different systems or techniques.

Second, the circumambulations time lord system is the only time lord system that is based on the bounds; there are several other time lord systems that have nothing to do with the bounds. If not for the random conflation of the Fidaria periods in the same paragraph in which he defines the time lord systems as always being “tied to bound or term systems” in the footnote, then one would be led to assume that Perry is only aware of one of the many time-lord systems. Instead he appears to be aware of, but not quite able to accurately define, two time lord systems.

While I guess that knowing about two time lord systems is better than just knowing about one, there are at least 7 major time lord systems in the Hellenistic tradition alone, as well as a host of others in the Medieval and Indian traditions. With Perry’s lack of familiarity with the numerous time-lord systems in the different traditions, as well as his inability to even properly define the two systems that he is apparently aware of, what basis does he really have for rejecting them?

More Faulty Statements About the Time-lords

Later in the same paragraph on time-lords on page 31 Perry trumpets his minimal attempts at research even further with the statement that the time periods used in the time-lord systems

do not correspond to actual planetary motions, i.e., they are not observational statements, but random suppositions.

While Perry may simply be referring to his previous confused statements about the only two systems that he appears to be aware of, this statement can be proven wrong in at least two other time lord systems contained in Valens’ Anthology, which are partially based on the synodic cycles of the visible planets (i.e. the 8 year period of Venus, the 12 year period of Jupiter, etc.), which are “actual planetary motions.”

The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy

On page 31 Perry makes what would be a pretty normal historical statement about 30 or 40 years ago, prior to the widespread advent of scholarship on the history of astrology, with the statement that Ptolemy was

the grand master of Hellenistic astrology.

This view was prevalent back when Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos was the only real Hellenistic astrological text available, and astrologers like Perry simply assumed that Ptolemy was the most competent and representative astrologer of the Hellenistic tradition. Since the mid-80’s this common assumption has been rejected though, once more texts from the Hellenistic tradition became available and it was realized that Ptolemy was actually not representative of the mainstream of Hellenistic astrology, but rather he was more of a reformer. Some people such as Holden have gone so far as to question whether Ptolemy was even practicing astrologer:

Ptolemy cites no astrological authorities by name, he gives no example horoscopes, and he certainly was not a practicing astrologer. (Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, 1996, pp. 48-49.)

The Luxury of Ignorance

Towards the end of Perry’s article it culminates with what seems to have been the implied premise of his rather dubious argument all along

Exponents of traditional astrology frequently claim that superior, ancient techniques are now being recovered for future generations. I find this claim, like the techniques themselves, unconvincing. The history of science is one in which ideas that prove to be insufficient, untestable, or invalid are gradually eliminated, like vestigial organs that no longer serve a purpose. It would appear that this is what happened to much of traditional astrology…

Realizing that he is making a totally bogus claim, and likely in an attempt to soften his diatribe, Perry backtracks a bit before he ends the sentence

…although it can be argued that its near demise in the 18th century was more for sociopolitical reasons than scientific.

This last statement appears to have been tacked on in order to lessen the impact of the dubious historical argument that he was trying to put forward with respect to the reason why much of traditional astrology didn’t make it into the 20th century. Here lies, I believe, the crux of Perry’s argument, as well as his prejudices against traditional astrology.

Perry’s writing indicates (and he later confirmed) that he knows very little about the techniques or the concepts underlying traditional astrology, as I have demonstrated, thus his evaluation of the tradition is not based on his actual experience with the techniques, but instead it is almost entirely based on his presuppositions about their nature and provenance. Perry appears to be approaching the entire matter under the dubious historical assumption that the techniques of traditional astrology were consciously discarded because they were found to be of no value. This is a common, albeit mistaken, historical assumption that is made by many modern astrologers, particularly by those who have not investigated the history and transmission of astrology. Perpetuating this myth is quite possibly the biggest mistake that Perry makes in the entire paper.

Modern astrology, as it was practiced in the 20th century, and as it is practiced even today by the majority of western astrologers in the early 21st century, was not the result of a linear development and refinement of the subject over the centuries which culminated in the form that it is in today. This is one of the great myths surrounding modern astrological practice. Rather, modern western astrology is largely the result of a handful of influential 20th century astrologers who inherited a few fragments of the astrological tradition and then created a new construct around it which was then infused with their own religious, ethical and theoretical speculations. Robert Hand talks about this issue in his article Towards a Post-Modern Astrology:

…we have astrology up until about 1700, which had certain consistent patterns, ideas and principles and which had a more or less a continuous tradition from something like – this date is extremely flexible – the fifth century B.C.E. Then, in the 18th century we had a very long break. Conventional historians refer to this as the Enlightenment. I prefer the term “Endarkenment,” based on what happened in astrology – it almost died. And then in the 19th century a revival began, which for most of the 19th century was a revival of a portion of the tradition that had nearly died in 1700.

But then with Alan Leo, and more recently people like Dane Rudhyar, and on another level people like the Hamburg School and Cosmobiology of Ebertin, a rather new kind of astrology began coming into existence, which it might be appropriate simply to call 20th century astrology, but I would like to call modern astrology.

Although recognizable in some of its basic technical principles, Modern astrology is actually quite different than any system of astrology that was practiced in the various ancient traditions of the past, both technically and in its theoretical and philosophical approach. The reason for this disparity between the ancient and modern traditions is largely due to this gap in the astrological tradition between the 17th and 19th centuries when astrology fell into disrepute and the techniques and concepts of the tradition stopped being transmitted. While Perry’s inability to truly comprehend and accurately identify these distinctions between modern and ancient astrology make the majority of his technical and philosophical critiques completely worthless, his argument about the historical evolution of astrology which disregards the fact that there was a break in the transmission is completely unfounded and inexcusable.

Concluding Remarks

Simply put, Perry has no business critiquing, much less rejecting or berating, a form of astrology that he knows so little about.

My critique of his article has mainly been directed towards highlighting his technical mistakes and assumptions, and I have not addressed the faulty philosophical arguments made in the article. A critique of Perry’s philosophical misassumptions would be as long as this article on the technical issues has been, although I am confident that these problems will be addressed by other astrologers in the near future who find his rather shallow philosophical treatment to be as misleading and reprehensible as I did.

Ultimately Perry’s article is more annoying than anything, because instead of engaging in some sort of productive research or dialog he wastes his time writing frivolous and inaccurate attacks against the work of his colleagues. He of course pays lip service to the main figures who have been leading the movement that he just spent 18 pages attacking when he says towards the end of the article that

Regardless of why traditional astrology fell into disrepute, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to researchers like Robert Schmidt, Robert Zoller, and Robert Hand for restoring our history.

The ironic part about these concluding remarks is that the work of these three scholars has already made a major impact on the astrological community and will probably continue to influence astrologers for generations to come. While their names will go down in the history books as those who made an effort to recover, improve and reunite the astrological traditions, the names of others who engage in the type shallow scholarship exemplified by the article under consideration will simply be forgotten.


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About Chris Brennan

Chris is a practicing astrologer from Denver, Colorado, USA. He is the former President of the Association for Young Astrologers, as well as the former Research Director of the National Council for Geocosmic Research. He offers personal consultations and teaches online classes through his website at

Hellenistic Astrology Course


  • Linea says:

    Hi Chris
    Excellent rebuttal of Perry’s article. It’s troubling that the editors of this issue of the NCGR journal (I’m a member of NCGR by the way) weren’t more diligent in fact-checking his submission. A similar event occurred in the ISAR journal a year or two ago, when Perry published a similarly ill-informed and hostile article about Evolutionary Astrology. It’s like the editors don’t have the nerve to insist on the usual requirements.

    In editorial fairness, your article should be published in the next NCGR journal. Too bad we have to wait a year for it.


  • Doug Noblehorse says:

    Perry says:

    “The modern astrologer can study more reliable charts in a week than a 1st century astrologer could study in a lifetime.”

    While this may be true in a quantitative sense, Perry ignores the qualitative aspect of this statement. The System of Hermes is a complex, richly detailed system of horoscopic analysis that takes time to apply and understand.

    I can say I’ve studied more Modern charts in my lifetime than most Hellenistic astrologers did in theirs (then again, how would you prove such a statement?) – but I couldn’t honestly say that my Modern horoscopic studies even began to approach the depth and comprehensiveness of theirs…

    Perry also fails to address the simple fact of the longevity of Hellenistic practice. If it was so bogus, why did it thrive for 800 years? Why has its immediate descendant Jyotisha (albeit in a hybrid form) survived for close to 2000 years? Modern’s been around for what… 150 years? Perry betrays his deeper arrogance and historical chauvinism – apparently believing that our Hellenistic, Persian, Islamic, Jewish and Indian ancestors (to name just a few) all really didn’t know what they were doing – by virtue of continuing to practice astrological systems that didn’t work – which fact they supposedly were too ignorant to even notice!

    Hellenistic appeared around 200 BCE. The human condition – in whatever field of endeavor – has continually demonstrated that if something doesn’t work, it is discarded in favor of something that does – and it’s discarded quickly, not 2000 years later.

    It is sad to see astrologers – who fail to take the time to become even superficially familiar with classical astrologies – adopt such a hysterical, irrational, knee-jerk reaction to older astrologies. What is the perceived threat? More importantly, what does that say about them personally as astrologers?


  • sunrunner says:

    Kudos to you for writing this!

    Glenn Perry has been beating this drum for years and years, not only in writing but in lectures at conferences. The stump speech has not changed one iota in all this time.

    The idea that traditional astrology has fallen into any more disrepute than “modern” astrology is hilarious. Since when (in the last several hundred years anyway) has any form of astrology been generally respected by “outsiders?” One just has to look at the legal travails of Alan Leo (arguably the great-granddaddy of modern astrology) to see what I mean.

    On a similar note, I am just as irritated by the way in which many traditional astrologers, who know nothing about psychology, trash and ridicule “psychological” astrology. Psychology is part of modern human life, and if you believe that astrology can describe internal reality (eg temperment) than using astrology to understand the psychological backdrop of a native makes sense (eg: bi-polar disorder is a reality of modern life). My criticism of many so-called psychological/modern astrologers is that they know as little about psychology as they do astrology. It is worth noting that Glenn’s approach to psychology is every bit as superficial as his approach to astrology–he takes the most rudimentary Jungian concepts and superficially juxtaposes them with lackadaisical astrological concepts. Traditional astrologers who don’t “get” this make themselves look as ridiculous as Glenn.

    As for NCGR–Sadly, it would seem that there is no one in that editorial department who knows enough about what Perry was “trying” to write about to even begin to catch the inacurracies. My guess is that their main criteria for accepting articles is whether or not the writer has a “known” name, rather than the merits of what they write about.

  • Gary Calderone says:

    Perry’s article sounds like an instance where William Lilly would have said, “he hath not the wit of a lobster”

  • Rebecca Shanks says:

    Well done.

  • Glenn Perry says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for takikng the time to respond to my article. I’m always open to learning more about traditional astrology, and I benefit from others pointing out my mistakes.

    I make no claims to being an expert in this area of astrology. My knowledge is fragmentary at best. So, mistakes and short sightedness are to be expected. However, on the whole, I think some of the differences and comparisons do hold up. Please don’t make the same mistake that you accuse me of: throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    I would, of course, prefer a fair-mined, objective rebuttal with an openness to dialogue, as I think then that both sides could benefit in learning from one another. Joseph Crane did write something for the NCGR e-news, and invited me to respond. It was quite respectful and appreciated that.

    Dialogue between opposing camps can sometimes be painful, but if we don’t at least try then as a community we’re like children engaged in parallel play. Not a very mature way to get along.

    You’re doing terrific work in your own area of astrology. In fact, if nothing else comes from my article, it at least gave me a better appreciation of your mastery of the topic.

    All the best,

  • Marilyn says:

    Dear Glenn and Chris:
    Thank you both for the education. Thank you Glenn for your article. Chris your response was well presented. Both have enriched us with the dialogue of astrology. And I learnt something from both of you.

  • Stephanie Clement says:

    If you truly mean to demonstrate difficulties with Glenn Perry’s article, then it seems you should follow your own dictum of sticking to logic. But you don’t. I won’t get into the argument of which is better, traditional or modern astrology. However, I will point out that you have gone on the attack and left some of your logic skills back at the ranch. In the following, with the exception of a quotation from Lee Lehman, the quoted paragraphs are from your blog, and represent things you said or things you quoted from Glenn. I have isolated a few examples of illogical statements:

    “Here Perry equates the number of charts that an astrologer has studied with the depth of his understanding of the subject. This is arguably a rather questionable assumption to make.”

    No, he does not. He simply states “we must assume that ancient astrologers were seriously compromised by a comparative lack of reliable charts to study.” By inference, Glenn suggests that because we have very accurate chart calculation capability and access to vast numbers of reasonably accurate birth times, we may have a huge advanatage in studying specific astrological techniques. For my money, this is true on the face of it. We have very little evicdence to suggest that birth times were typically recorded with accuracy to the hour, never mind the minute, any time before the Twentieth Century. If you have evidence of such general care in recording o birth times, please present it now. I am not convinced that about 100 accurate charts provides a viable research database for anything unless all 100 charts relate to the same human event or condition.

    “The problem with this statement [Glenn’s sattement] is that sect isn’t a quantitative measurement, it is a qualitative measurement. The sect status of a planet does not make it ’stronger’ or ‘weaker’, as Perry assumes, but its main function is to augment the benefic or malefic status or functioning of a planet.”

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean to say here, but this is an interesting way to deflect Glenn’s statement. Just for fun, I looked up the word “augment” in my collegiate dictionary. Augment means “to make greater, more numerous, larger, or more intense. To increase.” Are you suggesting that making greater, more numerous, larger, or more intense does NOT constitute strengthening? To me it seems just the opposite. To augment a benefic is to make it more benefic, and to augment a malefic is to make it more malefic.

    I suppose we can argue whether the “more” involved here is quantitative or qualitative. I confess to being inexpert when it comes to sect. However, when I read the following in Lee Lehman’s book Classical Astrology for Modern Living, I get the idea that the impact of sect is indeed quantifiable: “Mary Shelley’s … Sun is out of sect. … We would be safe in saying that the solar principle would not exactly be strong in her chart!” (p. 139) This is readily quantifiable on a graph with stronger—in sect—being above the line, no sect being on the line, and weaker—out of sect—being below the line.

    “’If there is no conceivable way to test the merit of a claim, then it is vacuous.’ This is the very epitome of a strawman argument, in misrepresenting the nature of an opponent’s argument, in this case a technical concept, and then rejecting it based on nothing more than your own mistaken assumptions as to its purpose.”

    Unfortunately you muddle your own argument by inserting statements of your own opinion that Glenn’s assumptions are incorrect, another logical fallacy. A better argument, in my opinion, is that there are indeed ways to test the merits of traditional astrology (see my example above concerning sect). By failing to take a direct approach such as this, you give away the argument, in my view. The operative word in Glenn’s statement is “if,” and not “vacuous.” That’s the way logical statements work.

    “the technique of time lords in which different planets allegedly rule various periods appears so obviously made up and arbitrary”

    I feel that Glenn makes the same mistake that you made, as this statement apparently incorporates his opinion of time lords with no proof.


    If you want me to take your arguments seriously, it seems you would spell this word correctly. Even your own link is to a page that spells it differently!

    “confused and conflated”

    Here you use words to state your own opinion, when leaving them out would have been more convincing to me.

    “second-rate scholarship”

    You are quick to accuse Glenn Perry when your own blog engages in some of the faults of so-called second-rate scholarship, such as the lack of quotations from your original sources If those sources are so important, I and interested astrologers like me will need those references in order to pursue your arguments further. That, coupled with the above logically flawed statements, makes me question your logic.

    For the record, I have studied modern psychology and transpersonal psychology deeply, and I follow what I would call an eclectic method of astrological delineation that suits work with clients. I do not pretend to be a scholar. I did not need years of study of either traditional or modern astrology to see the logical gaps in your blog.

    When I receive my NCGR Journal, I will read Glenn’s article with far greater interest because of the controversy it has sparked.

  • I just have a few brief points to make in response to Stephanie’s comments:

    1. With respect to your statement that “We have very little evidence to suggest that birth times were typically recorded with accuracy to the hour, never mind the minute, and time before the Twentieth Century.” If you want evidence of accurate birth times being recorded to the hour and the minute then see Neugebauer’s book Greek Horoscopes, Baccani’s Oroscopoi Grecci, and Jones’ Astronomical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus. Even Sextus Empiricus gives an account of some time keeping proceedures used by astrologers in book 5 of his skeptical work Against the Professors: “For by night, they say, the Chaldean sat on a high peak watching the stars, while another man sat beside the woman in labor till she be delivered, and when she had been delivered he signified the fact immediately to the man on the peak by means of a gong; and he, when he heard it, noted the rising sign as that of the horoscope. But during the day he studied the horologes and the motions of the sun.” (Loeb edition, 1949, pg. 335)

    2. The point that I was making about sect is that it is a qualitative factor in the Hellenistic tradition, not a quantitative measurement as Perry says. The use of the term ‘augment’ was probably not the best term to use in that sentence, but the point still stands. For example, in Hellenistic astrology Saturn was thought to be more constructive and supportive of the native in a day chart, but more destructive and problematic in a night chart. This doesn’t say anything about how strong Saturn is in the chart, but it pertains to the quality of Saturn’s significations in the chart. Also, this IS a testable technique or factor. All you have to do is see whether or not Saturn tends to be more problematic for a person who has a night chart, or more constructive for someone who has a day chart, other factors aside. Who has a more subjectively difficult Saturn return for example? In my experience this has proven to be a useful factor to take into account, but I didn’t get the sense that Perry fully understood its application in his article.

    3. Fidaria is a transliteration of an Arabic term that is used to refer to that technique, and translation conventions from Arabic to English vary. In addition to that, some of the ways that the word is spelled in English are the result of it being transliterated into Latin from Arabic first in the late Middle Ages, and then into English. Different people spell the word in different ways like firdariah, firdaria, fidaria, etc. In this article I simply went with the way it was spelled on the page I linked to, while in an article I posted in October I went with the spelling of another site that I linked to. I’m not really sure what you are talking about when you say that “Even your own link is to a page that spells it differently!” I actually did spell it exactly the same way as the Skyscript page that I linked to. On Skyscript it gives the singular ‘firdar’ and the plural ‘fidaria’.

    4. “When I receive my NCGR Journal…” So, you haven’t even read Perry’s full article yet?

    The ‘controversy’ surrounding Perry’s article does not stem from the fact that he attempted to write a critique of traditional astrology. The reason that there is a controversy is because he wrote it in an arrogant, antagonistic and dismissive manner, even though it is clear in the article and he even admits himself that his knowledge of traditional astrology is “fragmentary at best.” Once you have read the article I suspect that you will have a somewhat better appreciation for the nature of my response, although naturally you can only understand the issues inherent in the article to the extent that you understand the concepts and techniques underlying traditional astrology, which the author apparently did not know, as I have attempted to demonstrate in this article. However, there are different standards for an article that I post on my blog, versus an 18 page paper published in an international journal.

  • Stephanie Clement says:

    1. From your quote, I understand how birth times were noted. I don’t have any sense of whether this was done for all births, or only for births of notable individuals. I wonder if all the peasants could afford to hire someone to note the birth time, or if there was a Chaldean available at all times, who would note every birth. Seems unlikely, when compared to the fact that hospitals have large clocks on the wall in surgeries and delivery rooms. And were there persons comparable to the Chaldeans throughout Europe? And what about nights when there was a storm to obscure the rising sign? The problems with recording accurate birth times seem aparent to me, just as we depend on the time on a clock AND on timely observance by medical staff in hospitals.

    Maybe I don’t know enough about traditional techniques. Is it possible that they do not depend on birth times to the minute? The Vedic methods, particularly for forecasting, benefit from accurate times, this I do know.

    2. Sect — So. The evaluation of sect is qualitative. someone has to decide whether Saturn is “better” in a day or night chart. This is the very problem psychologists encounter in evaluating patients. Ther is no yard stick to measure mental health, no way to measure the exact quantity of one’s neuroses.

    3. What I meant by the spelling of fidaria in your article is that when I go to the link you used, the preferred (first) spelling includes two r’s. The same sort of multiple spelling problem exists between Sanskrit and Pali languages for words like karma and dharma (kamma and dhamma), in which case knowing the cite for a quotation tells you how to spell the word.

    4. No, I haven’t read the article yet. We could say that for the pruposes of this discussion, Glenn’s article is the primary source, right? I will read it when my journal arrives, as will a lot of other people who are still waiting. Only then can I fairly assess what he wrote.

  • Martien Hermes says:

    Hi Ben,

    Big kudos to you for your fine reply.

    I would like to add something to your excellent comments, which to me explains the problem modern astrologers have in giving traditional astrology its due place.

    I think there are three fields of knowledge – and also three fields of excellence – in astrology.

    First we have astrology itself, as a worldview, stating and defining the paradigm(s) that are fundamental to its precepts, methods and techniques. It is the ‘why?’ of astrology. Basically it says the heavens are the Logos of God, either in speaking (Cosmic Soul), or in writing (the Christian view). This is knowledgebase #1.

    Second we have horoscopy itself, which is applied astrology as a worldview. What is stated in the first field of knowledge, is applied and worked out in the astrological instrument, the horoscope. Methods, techniques and doctrines follow from the first field of knowledge, that explain the rationale behind the applied astrology. This is the second field. The ‘how’ of astrology, what do you do with it? This is knowledgebase #2.

    The third field, which is a modern one, is consultation skills. As we find no instructions at all in ancient texts on how to deal with the people who have astrological readings, this field of expertise developed in the wake of modern astrology. It was sorely needed! Client centered astrology is of course a much needed skill in addition to being a good reader of charts. Communication skills enhance effective astrology, which itself is also a language. It also addresses ethics: ‘must you really delineate and say everything you see in a chart?’ ‘Is it wise to talk about matters of life and death in a chart to a client?’ et cetera. This field of kwnoledge can be further enhanced with therapy based on astrological findings or chartreading. This is knowledgebase #3.

    Okay, now here’s the problem. I have found that many modern astrologers exchange this third body of knowledge with the first one, i.e. they confuse consultation skills, and the philosophies behind it, and the psychological dynamics of it, as being the worldview of astrology, that inspires horoscopy.
    This means that ancient cosmology (of knowledgebase #1) is replaced with secular humanistic psychological themes. Cosmos becomes psyche, which is a much more narrow field of knowledge, and self-contradictory. Many a modern astrologer is annoyed with traditional astrology as it refers mostly to knowledgebase #1 and #2, while the forte of modern astrology is mainly knowledgebase #3.
    Hence their confusion.

    Kind regards
    Martien Hermes

  • […] out there seems a lot more interesting…as I scroll the astrological ‘net, I notice a few things out there that I am looking forward to having some fun […]

  • Roland says:

    Nice work Chris. I agree that Perry’s article was more of a vehicle used to dispense his own negative unsupported opinions instead of creating any kind of constructive synthesis whatsoever. It was very disappointing to endure such an unscholarly article. I am neither a traditionalist nor a modernist when it comes to Astrology and I only have a basic knowledge of Freudian and Jungian psychological concepts. However, even with my own limited knowledge and skills, I can recognize poor scholarship and prejudice very easily. The “Journal” should be ashamed and issue an apology for allowing such an article to be published.

    I appreciate Glenn’s polite willingness to open a dialogue, however this does not explain the reason for his blatant, unfounded cynicism against “Traditional” methods or the purpose behind publishing his article. In fact, I am most upset by the fact that the promise of synthesis found in his title was passed off with the excuse of: “space will not allow me to go into further detail…” As a reader, I should not be teased into spending much time reading a long article with the anticipation of a positive bridge between two subjects, only to be misled and disappointed by a prejudiced diatribe spent solely attacking one and barely mentioning the other. I don’t know which is a worse waste of time, reading Perry’s article or feeding his need for attention by posting this, my own critique. I guess we wouldn’t be having this issue if he had been more honest with his title in the first place. I don’t care if he has a negative opinion of Hellenistic or Medieval Astrology. But I do care that he tried to disguise it under the false pretense of constructing something positive. Worst of all, as Chris has already pointed out, is the total lack of sholarship or knowledge for the subject he attacked. I hope this will be a good lesson for us all.

  • NR says:

    Great post, Chris. Like Marilyn, I learnt much from it: thank you!