Many of us who love the study and practice of astrology began as skeptics.  Some of the questions I had as a 20-year old beginner were:


1.                  How can sun signs be valid if thousands of people are born under the same Zodiac sign in a given month?


2.                  Why are there so many house systems, and which one is the right one to choose?


3.                  How can planets that are so far away, let alone stars, affect human life and character here on Earth?


4.                  What scientific mechanisms and/or principles are behind the physical interactions between humans and the heavens?


These are reasonable questions and I have spent a lifetime seeking the answers to these, and others.  My study of astrology began at age 20 when I was given a copy of The Astrologer’s Handbook by Frances Sakoian and Louis Acker, a manual setting forth the rules for practicing Ptolemaic, or Greek, astrology, the system of astrology most widely used in the West.  I was amazed at the complexity of the subject and, at first, felt overwhelmed by triplicities, quadruplicities, dignities, rulerships and aspects, but I was hooked.  The answer to question number one above was immediately apparent.  The Sun, our star, is only one influence in the horoscope – the Moon and the eight other planets in our solar system each have a sign, not just the Sun.  Having two or more celestial points in the same sign (this is called a Stellium) can outweigh the Sun in influence.  I soon realized that the challenge of astrology is to synthesize all celestial influences into a unified whole.  This is a daunting task, best conquered through practice. 


Learning astrology takes hours and hours of practice, like learning a musical instrument or a language.  Astrology has been called the language of the stars, and it takes time to learn.  A “cookbook” report generated by a computer application is not a horoscope delineation.  A “cookbook” report that goes through the wheel house-by-house, sign-by-sign, and planet-by-planet, giving a separate analysis of each category, does not synthesize the components of the horoscope into a complete picture and will not give much insight into the character and personality of the individual.  To understand a horoscope, a skilled astrologer has to be like a trial lawyer who knows all of the components of not only his or her case, but that of his or her opponent, and sees all the facts in her or his mind at the same time.  One of the finest lawyers on the planet, Robert K. Tanenbaum (who never lost a case and is also a best-selling author), calls this technique, “mastering the case.”  A conscientious astrologer should do the same thing with a horoscope delineation, i.e., master the horoscope.  This is not something you can learn from a book or computer program, but only from actual practice and direct experience.


A 20-year old today would face most of the same challenges as I did (without the benefit of computers), but there are more choices available to today’s beginner, such as:


1.                  Use of the asteroids, or “Uranian” planets;

2.                  Use of Sabian Symbols;

3.                  Use of Chiron;

4.                  Use of “psychological astrology”; and

5.                  Use of Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud objects.


The general principles of astrology can be found in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblios, and also in the works of William Lilly, Jerome Cardan and Guido Bonatus, among others.  These are accepted authorities, but recent developments in astrology are still being tested by time, open-minded inquiry and practical experience, or results.  Furthermore, since there are no academic standards governing the study and practice of astrology, astrologers are free to choose which modern principles to use and which to discard.  There are valid objections to the use of all of the categories listed above, some of which are set forth as follows.


The Asteroids or “Uranian” Planets.


In 1925, a German surveyor and astrologer, Alfred Witte, along with his colleague, Friedrich Sieggrün, established the Hamburg School of Astrology.  The most famous innovation of this school was the introduction of “Transneptunian” or “Uranian planets.”  Witte was looking for ways of making accurate predictions and came up with the asteroid theory to try to “fill in the blanks.”  Although many modern astrologers have adopted this theory, even more have not, for the following reasons:  (a) The “Uranian planets,” which are located between Jupiter and Saturn, are not planets, they are asteroids.  I believe they are the remnants of a missing planet.  The largest, Ceres, was discovered in 1801 and is now considered a dwarf planet.  (b)  Astrologers who eschew this technique argue that it merely shifts attributes of the five inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn to fragmentary bodies that have little, or no, influence on human beings.  Adding Cupido, Hades, Kronos, Zeus, Appollon, Admetes, Vulkanus and Poseidon to the traditional horoscope only muddies the waters.  To me, a horoscope that includes these characters looks like a hopelessly cluttered mess.


Sabian Symbols


On an unknown day and month in 1925, noted astrologer, Dr. Marc Edmund Jones joined forces with a clairvoyant, Elsie Wheeler, to channel “psychic” images of each degree in the 360-degree Zodiac, a “tarot” of astrology.  This is channeling, not astrology, and has nothing to do with the actual stars or planets.  It is a subjective projection by a non-astrologer, and has little to do with the practice of astrology.  The fact that this entire operation took place in a single day, a day which remains secret, is in itself suspect.  Clearly, the proponents of this theory did not want it to be subjected to any scrutiny, astrological or otherwise.  This is reason enough to leave it out of the serious practice of astrology. 



Discovered on November 1, 1977 by American astrologer, Charles Kowal, this dwarf planet is commonly used by most astrologers today.  Of all the modern innovations in astrology, the addition of Chiron has been the most widely accepted.  Called, “The Wounded Healer,” Chiron is the one new addition to modern astrology that does not borrow attributes of the other planets, but has its own character that seems to be a higher octave of Saturn and Pluto.  Chiron is located between Saturn and Uranus.  I believe it is the core of the missing planet.  In the violence of the destruction of the original planet, its core was propelled outward to rest in between Saturn and Uranus, while the remains were captured in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Saturn.


Why has Chiron been widely welcomed into modern astrology over and above the other modern innovations?  There is an incisive article discussing this subject in the August, 2015 of Dell Horoscope.  In, “The Clarity of Planetary Consciousness,” by astrologer Roderick Benns, the author states:  “For nearly 38 years, Chiron has received an inordinate amount of attention from astrologers and quickly gained widespread acceptance, relative to other finds that have been known to exist for even longer durations.  . . . Chironian themes have resonated easily within the collective.”  It as if the collective mind of mankind recognizes Chiron as the core of the missing planet and gives its unique attributes validity in today’s astrological lexicon.


Psychological Astrology


This recent development in the study of astrology can be attributed to the brilliant mind of psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, who was not only a medical doctor, but also an astrologer.  Modern psychology has an affinity for astrological symbolism, but psychological astrology is neither.  It is common for “psychological astrologers” to scorn what they refer to as “jargon," or astrological citations.  It is inconceivable to me that an astrologer would refer to the tools of his/her trade, i.e., astrological citations used in support of a given delineation, as “jargon.”  This is blatantly disrespectful, and is akin to a lawyer who would write a legal brief without supporting case law citations.  Perhaps “psychological astrologers” are not comfortable with the “jargon” of astrology because they are not astrologers.


Psychological astrology is neither, it is a hybrid, but wise psychologists who use astrology to gain insight into solutions to their clients’ problems are to be commended.  On the other hand, careless astrologers who scorn ”jargon” and substitute for it flowery generalities are doing both their clients and the profession a great disservice.


Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud Bodies


Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud objects are not part of the inner, personal solar system and are not relevant to the practice of astrology.  Small celestial objects like comets and dwarf planets that are billions of miles away from the Sun do not affect human beings on planet Earth.


These are my personal observations and beliefs based on a lifetime of practicing astrology.  I am sharing them for the benefit of the beginning student to try to give a clear picture of the choices available to the young men and women who are drawn to the subject of astrology, but uncertain as to how to proceed.  The most important task at hand for the brand new student of astrology is to learn the basics.  Master the many basic rules of astrology.  To be an effective advocate for your future clients, you need to learn as much as you can, but it is imperative to have a solid foundation in the basics.  Start with mastering the qualities and attributes of the Sun and Moon (called the “luminaries” because they generate (Sun) and reflect (Moon) light) and the five inner, or “personal” planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  This brings us to an important philosophical principle, and the mission statement of this article.


Occam’s Razor


In my sophomore year at the University of Connecticut, I attended a lecture by Ruth Geary.  This was a profound and life-changing event for me, which sealed my commitment to the study of astrology.  The speaker was a student of Marc Edmond Jones.  She said that Dr. Jones required expertise in at least three academic areas before he would consider allowing a candidate to become his student.  On that night, I realized that an astrologer was, or should be, a serious scholar.  My respect for the ancient profession was sealed and I began a lifelong pursuit of the study and practice of astrology.  That same year, while studying philosophy as a student of Dr. Arthur S. McGrade at the University of Connecticut, I learned one of the most basic principles of life, which is also applicable to astrology, the concept of Occam’s Razor.  This is a fancy term for the universal principle that the simplest solution to a problem is usually the right one.  There are many ways to say it, but I like this collection of quotes from http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/occam.html


"when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better."


"If you have two theories that both explain the observed facts, then you should use the simplest until more evidence comes along"


"The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be accurate than more complicated explanations."


"If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem, choose the simplest."


"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."


Astrology is anything but simple, but there is great benefit to simplifying the horoscope into the Sun Moon, and the five inner planets in the initial analysis.  This is how our predecessors in the ancient and classical worlds practiced with great success and something we need to re-learn their way, the “Occam’s Razor” way.  It is a useful exercise to prepare three separate horoscopes for a person, one that includes everything:  The traditional horoscope, the asteroids and the Kuiper Belt bodies; one that includes only the Sun, Moon and eight planets in our Solar System (many would include Chiron); and one for only the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  Try this with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, or a person of your choice, and compare the results.


Michel Gauquelin brilliantly expressed Occam’s Razor in his “Mars Effect.”  He focused on the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and came up with statistically verified results. He emphasized heir location, with angular location dominating, especially in the Midheaven.  Try to delineate with the Occam’s Razor method, and progress to the others of your choice.  With the bewildering array of choices available to students of astrology today, it is easy to get lost in speculation about which techniques are valid and which do not work.  For clarity’s sake, try the Gauquelin method of focusing first on the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  Then, add the Sun and Mercury.  Finally, observe how the three outer planets modulate the inner planets, keeping in mind that their influence was once considered generational in nature, as their lengthy periods of revolution around the Sun can make them extremely oppressive in transit on a personal level. 


The results of Gauquelin’s research were very specific.  While he proved statistically the influence of the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn when located in the Midheaven of a horoscope, he was skeptical about the Zodiac, the Sun and Mercury (and did not consider the three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto).  He also gave little credence to house divisions, which brings us back to question number two posed at the beginning of this article.  One of the many challenges facing the young student of astrology is which house system to choose.  There are so many:  Placidus, Equal House, Regiomantus, Koch, Whole Sign, Campanus and Porphyry, for example.  One of the most popular house systems is the Placidus system because it takes into account the curvature of the Earth, but choice of house system is a personal and subjective one.  Regardless of what house system you choose, keep in mind that planets or luminaries near the four cardinal points have the most influence in the horoscope, especially those on or near the Midheaven. 


This is an exciting time for astrologers with respect to questions three and four at the beginning of this article.  Science and astrology are getting closer all the time.  British astrophysicist, Dr. Percy Seymour, who knew Gauquelin and picked up where he left off, claims that resonance between planet and person is one of the ways astrology works and that frequency is the key factor, rather than strength of signal.  There are so many exciting discoveries in science, one hardly knows where to begin.  The discovery of entangled photons, particles that remain connected despite vast distances, could be the answer to the question of how rays from distant planets and bright stars can affect human beings who are so far away.  For a discussion of other key scientific developments that support astrology see:  http://www.sisterrayastrology.com/works.htm


Although the mission statement of this article is Occam’s Razor, i.e., keep it simple, there is nothing simple about the study and practice of astrology.  To complicate matters, there is an abundance of excess baggage in modern astrology.  In addition to the foregoing questions about modern astrology, another objection arises when people question why the Ptolemaic, or Greek, system of astrology does not match the current positions of the stars.  The answer is simple:  I believe that the Ptolemaic theory is a mathematical theorem based on the use of the Vernal (Spring) Equinox as the beginning of the Solar Year.  It is said that the positions of the fixed stars of the Zodiac did coincide with the Vernal Equinox in Ptolemy’s time, but that does not affect the fact that Ptolemy’s system is a mathematical and philosophical theorem using a hypothetical clock that begins and ends with the Eastern horizon (at zero-degrees Aries) and sets the four cardinal points at the two equinoxes and the two solstices:


0 Aries – Vernal Equinox March 20-21 (Ascendant or 1st house cusp);

0 Cancer – Summer Solstice June 20-21 (Nadir or 4th house cusp);

0 Libra – Autumnal Equinox September 22-23 (Descendant, 7th house cusp);

0 Capricorn Winter Solstice December 21 22 (Midheaven, 10th house cusp.


Using only the cardinal points and the five inner planets, our ancestors made incredibly accurate judgments.  They did not have the benefit of knowledge of the three outer planets and used the dual-sign system of rulership depicted in the illustration at the beginning of this article.  Perhaps it is time to re-learn their techniques.  A very strong case can be made for their brand of pure astrology.  Gauquelin led the way, and other brave and brilliant scientists, like Dr. Percy Seymour, are continuing with the open-minded and scholarly path towards enlightenment and truth.  The end result should surprise no one:  Life is magical.


Postscript:  This transcript from Sister Ray’s Aspectarian, originally broadcast on WHUS radio in April, 1978, and updated in October, 2007, was meant to address concerns of the beginner.  The title is, “A Celestial Encounter with Sister Ray,” and its contents still hold true today.  http://www.sisterrayastrology.com/encounter.htm