Astrological Musings

Astrological Musings

Traditional vs. “Modern” Astrology

by Lynn Hayes

This article was originally posted in July of 2007.

Somewhere along the line astrologers split into two camps as some moved forward into humanistic or psychological astrology (leading into evolutionary and transformational astrology) and some moved backwards towards traditional or medieval astrology. Rob Hand was one of my favorite authors, and his book Planets in Transit is still one of the very best resources available on that subject. In 1992, just as Uranus and Neptune conjoined in Capricorn where the flood of new ideas (Uranus) confused and befuddled (Neptune) established conventions (Capricorn), Rob began a study and collection of ancient astrological texts called Project Hindsight. I’ll come back to Rob Hand in a moment.


Modern astrology has its roots in the work of Dane Rudhyar, who pioneered the concept of self-actualization through the astrological system in what he called “humanistic astrology” which was more psychological in nature than the predictive astrological system of the past that was more event-oriented than person-centered. Although Rudhyar had studied and written about astrology since the 1920s, it wasn’t until the Uranus/Pluto conjunction of the 1960s that he revolutionized the astrological world with his book The Astrology of Personality. Rudhyar had been influenced in the 1930s by the archetypal studies of Carl Jung and depth psychology, and he utilized these ideas in his revolutionary approach to the new astrology.


Chiron’s discovery in the late 1970s brought with it the ancient idea that the key to healing is found within the wound, accelerating the movement towards an astrological system that
provided healing of psychological wounds. The outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) became known as the “transpersonal” planets which accelerated that personal growth and healing from outside of the individual, and the inner planets were revealed as functions of the inner world of the person.

Predictably, after the “New Age” explosion of the Uranus/Neptune conjunction there was a backlash in the astrological world against modern astrology which, rejecting the classic attributes of certain planets as “bad” or “good” and instead as tools for change, they considered “mushy” and unscientific. As most conservatives do, traditional astrologers find comfort in the past and are reluctant to move forward into the unknown, which they find frightening and without regulation. A recent interview with Ben Dykes on the fabulous Skyscript site reveals a basic lack of understanding of “modern” astrology that is found in non-astrologer skeptics:


First of all, I believe much modern astrology is plagued by a lack of clear instruction, inconsistent and unclear delineation techniques, and rather poor predictive techniques. Now, the idea that there is something lacking technically in modern astrology, might seem strange. There are so many books, so many authors, so many different ways to do astrology! But what I found was that much of it is treated either anecdotally, or subjectively, or without the sense that one can know whether one understands what is being taught. I felt as though I ought to have some vivid personal “feeling” about, say, what Virgo was. Since I didn’t have this feeling, I thought maybe I was hopelessly doomed to fail at astrology. [While it’s true that there are many different approaches to modern astrology, there certainly is a basic understanding of the twelve zodiac signs.]


Consider that there are many psychological or pseudopsychological approaches to astrology – but what if one is not a Jungian (or Freudian, or whatever)? Or there are scads of asteroids and other new bodies – what justification is there for using them in the ways they are, not to mention as substitutes for the traditional planets? For instance, why should Pluto now cause difficulties with power and violence, but not Saturn? Nowadays Saturn has been demoted to being the planet that kindly points out our limitations. [This is incorrect – Saturn is known as the “Celestial Taskmaster” who is often far less than kind.] Or one is supposed to use mental associations of symbols in order to delineate – but how do I really know whether this native’s Moon has anything to do with blood, water, vaginas, caves, witchcraft, and all the other possible associations one can make (I’m thinking of Liz Greene here)? [It’s hard to believe that Mr. Dykes has read Ms. Greene’s work, in which I have never seen vaginas or witchcraft mentioned although she may have thrown in a cave or two.] Again, plenty of modern astrologers insist they have their own personal ways of doing things – but why should the stars obey us, rather than the other way around? [Again, this shows a complete lack of understanding of the way modern astrology has evolved. Astrologers have not commanded the “new” outer planets; their influence has been clearly noted through painstaking research and observation.] Finally, there is so much emphasis on a native’s character, that astrology seemed plagued with self-absorption. [This is the same argument that has been made about all of the “self-help” processes since the birth of psychology in the 1930s, along with the discovery of Pluto.] This is especially true in people’s dependence on the trans-Saturnian planets to explain, and find pleasure in, their own problems. [ Explaining the problems is only the first part – the second step is in using this knowledge to help the individual work through those problems and heal dysfunction.]


Rob Hand has a better understanding of modern astrology, which he practiced before rediscovering and falling in love with the ancient texts. Rob says:

The single most important advance in 20th century astrology was the recognition that astrology actually could be used as a tool for human potential and self-actualization. There may be some of this in Jyotish, but there certainly is not any of it in Hellenistic, Arabic or Latin medieval. All three of those traditions were completely oriented towards dealing with everyday, mundane situations. But Dane Rudhyar in particular introduced a radically new way of thinking about astrology. Closely related to his astrology is the idea of psychological astrology. I do not share the contempt that many traditionalists feel for psychological astrology. I think it is extraordinarily important. My only criticism of it is that in the hands of some of it’s less competent practitioners it has been an extremely mushy sort of astrology where anything can be made to mean anything, depending on the emotional frame of mind of the client and the astrologer. The language of 20th century astrology as a language tends to be imprecise, vague, inarticulate and unclear. But the goals of 20th century astrology are absolutely commendable. …


As with everything else, balance is the key. Many traditionalists are disturbed at the lack of educational foundation of modern astrologers, as they should be. Before we can step into the future we must understand the past. But remaining rooted in the past because we fear the unknown is short-sighted in the extreme. There is no doubt that human understanding and knowledge is gro
wing by leaps and bounds in all areas of life, including a scientific understanding of the workings of the universe. Why should astrology, the study of the planets, not keep pace with this?

  • Southeast0027

    Mr. Dane Rudhyar, Mr. Robert Hand, Ms. Liz Greene and Ms. Lynn Hayes are undoubtedly great & un-matched names in the field of Astrology.
    Muslims and Hindus have always misused the energies of Planet Mercury, Number 5, Colour Green and the Zodiac Signs of Gemini & Virgo.
    Planet Mercury, Number 5, Colour Green and the Sun Signs of Gemini & Virgo are associated with [Praying 5 times a day in Islam], [Pakistani Cricketer-turned Religious Figure, Saeed Anwar], [Pakistani Cricketer-turned Religious Figure, Muhammad Yusuf/Yusuf Yuhana], [Pakistani Singer-turned Religious Figure, Juned Jamshed], [Lebanese, Hasan Nasrallah], [Saudi Wah’habi Faith], [Iraqi, Muqtada Al-Sadr], [Al-Qaedah’s Aiman Al-Zawahiri], [Palestinian, Yasir Arafat], [Pakistani M.Q.M. Chief, Altaf Husen], [Green Colour of Saudi State-owned Television’s Graphics], [Israeli Captured-Soldier by Hamas, Mr. Gilad Shalit], [Concept of 5 Holy Entities {Panjtan Paak} in Sunni & Shi’ah Faith], [East-Indian Actor{Bollywood}, Akshay Kumar], [East-Indian Actress{Bollywood}, Kareena Kapoor], [Rising Sign of India], [Sun Sign of Russia].
    All these aforementioned figures have always challenged and have always been playful with Jupiter, Saturn, Supreme Court, Time, Law, Order, Structure, Unity, Faith and Discipline.

  • Southeast0027

    Thank you, Ms. Lynn Hayes, for sharing such an in-depth and informative article.

  • Yoshinogawa

    Lynn covers a lot of ground with her summary of these 2 trends in astrology. I came to this interesting article through a link at a news site; here are some of my thoughts:
    Robert Hand has an exceptionally capable intellect, which comes through in all of the articles of his I’ve read. Certainly not as psychological as Liz Greene, and I can see why traditional astrology would stimulate his spirit of inquiry more. The practical streak Hand shows in “Planets in Transits” would serve him well with the older studies.
    We can have our feet in both worlds (if we have the ability, the notion, the time).
    Modern astrology as ‘mushy’? Well, some authors really can make it sound that way…’new agey.’ But as the world is how we each see it…if mushy astrology works for us, then why not? No one is going to be able to prove it otherwise, since being mushy there will be no hard-and-fast predictions.
    Am not familiar with Ben Dykes (don’t get around much now in the astrological world), but it immediately struck me that he just doesn’t have the sensitivity for astrology. Why doesn’t he stick with what he has the capacity for (e.g., if one doesn’t ‘understand’ modern art, is it necessary to criticize it)? Though I don’t feel he’s an out-and-out debunker (I may be wrong but think there’s a real concentration of them in the U.K…..we sure have our share here in Canada).
    Here’s some ammunition for Dykes. Noel Tyl once wrote, of all things, a book of predictions…a lot of preditions. When I got to it, it was well past when they were due. Talk about throwing caution to the winds !!! Save for what he said about the British royal couple, Charles and Diana, all the rest of his forecasts were wrong. And here was an astrologer I had admired for his language with astrology. Yet (modern) astrology, from my experience, can be a truly predictive art. What happened with Mr Tyl?
    Re. Uranus, Neptune, Pluto…a while back I used to read that these were ‘generational’ planets, or affecting the collective more than the individual. But individuals make up the collective, so why couldn’t we ‘feel’ them? On a personal note…I feel (= am aware of) most of the bodies up there down here, i.e., in me (the main planets / asteroids in general use, and others a bit esoteric)…with the exception of Jupiter and Ceres. Why not Jupiter and Ceres? Beats me. You’re right, Mr Dykes…I’m not sensitive enough.
    Getting back to the problem of mushiness…which is, I feel, a problem of consciousness and of language. Preciseness means that, first, clarity of awareness needs to be present, and second, also the capacity to bring forth the appropriate language to express what is on our mind. But there is an issue which precedes the foregoing…and that is that we may know we are definitely experiencing something. I.e., the experience may have serious definition within our inner perception…yet we cannot quite wrap our usual everyday mind around it to articulate it satisfactorily for others.
    Now, if we could prove that mushiness is a Neptunian reality, we’d be away.
    Well, the onus is not on any need to prove something by the experience. Rather to live it, and to ‘know’ its result or influence in our own life…whether ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ or indifferent. Now…does that sound mushy? Yes, I know…it might be hard to make our living with the likes of such…but our living can be enriched therewith.
    And if mush reminds you of lumpy porridge, what’s wrong with the word ‘mystical’? Or ‘numinous’? The ‘scientific’ basis of astrological calculation is not invalidated by / does not invalidate artful interpretation. The ‘art’ of astrology need not be amenable to science !!!

  • Chiron

    Ben Dykes is a renowned and accomplished astrologer in his own right. To quote the lead in from Nina Gryphon’s marvelous interview with him on her site, the Gryphon Astrology Blog, she states “I was delighted to speak with Dr. Ben Dykes, a traditional astrologer and translator of ancient astrology texts. He published a comprehensive translation of medieval astrologer Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy last year (a first in English), and, just last month, Works of Sahl and Masha’allah, two 8th-9th century astrologers. I will be reviewing his latest book this coming week. Ben Dykes studied astrology with Robert Zoller, earning his AMA degree. A traditionalist through and through, he also taught philosophy at the University of Illinois. He currently practices astrology and translates texts full-time from his home in Minnesota.” Yes Dykes is a traditionalist ( and a philosopher, sic ). I would hesitate to equate modern versus traditional astrology with modern versus traditional art except that in the art world, to truly be a great artist and to practice the craft successfully within the context of the modern forum, an artist has almost always benefited from a strong foundation in traditional basics. The impressionists were all classically trained. Unfortunately one cannot say the same for astrologers. Too many have plunged into tepid practice without learning the fundamentals. The Mountain Astrologer, as an example, is rife with ‘cupcake’ styled articles based on hypothesis, karma, and mystical off the cuff, stab in the dark, meanderings meant more to establish a ‘1st on the block’ theoretical position rather than a firm basic analysis utilizing astrological tenets. My own personal preferences are akin to Rob Hand’s ( one of the most accomplished, insightful and practiced western astrologers on the planet) beliefs that there is nothing inherently wrong with psychological astrology. Sometimes you can discover a diamond in the bowl of mushy oatmeal. Much of well reasoned humanistic practice is quite valuable and insightful, but it really becomes singularly effective in the hands of a traditionally trained practitioner. I disagree that traditionalists simply find comfort in the past and are reluctant and frightened. Rather for an astrologer to understand in depth what they are saying to a client, and as Dykes states, a firm and complete mastery of the canon is preferred before one goes gallivanting off into psychological possibilities.

  • Marianne

    I have a question. When Chiron was discovered, how was it decided what Chiron rules? How do they know? Who decides?

  • Yoshinogawa

    As an unpublished, self-taught lay astrologer of the more or less ‘modern’ Western variety (with some Eastern and Cosmobiological thinking), I’d like to try here for a prediction / forecast. If Noel Tyl can have a whole book of them issued and hit only one right, with my credentials the chances of trying with only one may be exceptionally slim.
    Well, “Go for broke,” as they used to say…and that was a long time ago. But if they weren’t up for it, they wouldn’t have said it…as the history of those who used the expression has shown.
    The one drawback with my choice is that I haven’t even worked out the precise timing, at least the start of it…so will certainly be cited on this point for vagueness — especially if I say it’ll be somewhere within the next 15 years. Yes, I can hear the snickering now. Perhaps you’ll give me some slack if it’s understood that (so far as I’m aware) something like what I expect has never happened during my lifetime in North American society in a big way.
    What follows is based partly on astrological insight, partly on intuition, partly on my own experience with the issue at hand. And will add, it’s not at all a difficult prediction to make.
    We’re going to see a somewhat drawn-out exposure in the media of the problems present in the practice of general and specialized dentistry (at least in Canada, and probably in the USA)…the institution of dental practice as it’s known today / experienced by the public at large. This exposure is something that should happen, by necessity, except it may be postponed by Fate, it being very busy with our ongoing economic crisis (come to think of it, the deep downturn has to be really stressful on people’s teeth, what with all the grinning and ‘bear’ing, and the night grinding).
    Well, not very exciting…but there it is.

  • mmagnolia2

    Greetings, All–especially Ms. Hayes!
    Merci, Ms. Marianne…Your query on the “who” is dearest on any issue!
    Dear Yoshinogawa….also, Merci for marrying art+science. My footnote is that rather than being “amenable” or not, those partners should n-o-t be *inimical*! Fine examples of art+science are within *medicine* and art–itself, wherein science of pigments can warn us that mixing red & yellow will never render green!
    Nature left innumerable reminders about immutable connections!

  • Yoshinogawa

    To emphasize…I think I can understand the reason for Lynn putting out this article. Simply that recently Mr Dykes wandered into unfamiliar territory, and Lynn felt a need to straighten him out a bit before he started leading people over the edge.
    In-house criticism is very valid but only if the critic knows enough about his / her target. Since Mr Dykes doesn’t, by his own admission, have a ‘feeling’ for Virgo, I think right there that precludes him from making credible statements about psychological astrology. How can you understand your own psychology if you cannot feel the different parts of yourself? Dangerous if you do it only with your head. And how can you consult then with clients and fully provide psychological guidance via astrology?
    Obviously, Mr Dykes is a high intellectual with a well-developed thinking function. Which is why he would do well with translation and traditional astrology. As Jung might say, the opposite of the thinking function is that of feeling. And if the former were prominent, the latter would remain hidden, unless work was done to free it from the hold of one’s unconscious. This is elementary.
    I feel that Jyotish is a strong event-centred astrology which has practitioners capable of making accurate predictions…something harder to do with modern western astrology. If, according to poster Chiron, Mr Dykes is such “a renowned and accomplished astrologer in his own right” in the traditionalist vein, s/he needs to tell us how we would know that (apart from his educational credentials). Would he like to do a Noel Tyl (as mentioned in my comment above)? Robert Hand did a great job in The Mountain Astrologer (of all places) in the month before the 9/11 attack. Credentials are one thing, practice is another bag…and there is practice and effective practice.
    In talking about asteroids, Mr Dykes asks: “…what justification is there for using them in the way they are, …”? Because they are not part of the so-called ‘classical’ tradition does not mean there is no justification. The justification is simple…it’s called ‘experience.’ You try them out and experience the results (geez…almost sounds as if that method could be referred to as ‘scientific’).
    Getting back to the poster Chiron…why would you even think to ‘equate’ modern versus traditional astrology with modern versus traditional art ??? Now if you were just going for an analogy, as I was, that’s a different matter, isn’t it? Or can you not bend your mind around the difference?
    I think there is no end to this discussion…a good thought to end mine here. Would someone else give it a try ?

  • Lynn Hayes

    Wow, sorry I didn’t get to jump into this earlier. I find this a fascinating topic.
    Chiron, are you intentionally anonymous or would you post your link so we know who you are?
    One of the things I’ve noticed, as an astrologer who is not only psychological and humanistic but also intuitive, which shoots me off the mat in some circles, is that traditional astrologers sometimes become too much about the technique and the details and not enough about the potential of human beings to evolve into mastery of their chart. On the other hand, I am fascinated with some of the horary and other traditional techniques that attempt to give the astrological consultation more precision. I wrote this article before I had spent some time on Deb Houlding’s Skyscript site and read some of Nina Gryphon’s work, which I respect greatly.
    I think that a blending of the two approaches would be ideal: a more disciplined approach to chart interpretation combined with a sensitivity to the complexities in the way each individual utilizes the base materials they’ve been given in their chart.
    The reason I posted this article was to revive this discussion is not to criticize Ben Dykes, who is eminently qualified. But I think that this is an interesting argument. I have also found myself in the position of cleaning up a misinterpretation that a client has received at the hands of a “traditional” astrologer who, rather than assisting a client through a difficult transit, instead predicted specific and frightening events.
    Marianne – the question of Chiron’s rulership is still in debate. You will still see some astrological texts which claim that Chiron rules Sagittarius because the image is a centaur. But I feel, and sometime I’ll dig up the blog articles I wrote about it, that Chiron very accurately serves as the transformational ruler of Virgo.

  • Beth

    I agree with Lynn that a blending of the traditional and modern techniques would bring the most benefit. Traditional, Jyotish, or Modern – They all leave something to be desired, which of course can be found in the other techniques.
    However, specific to modern astrology (and being a part-time modern astrologer myself), I must warn of the pitfall in interpreting everything from a psychological perspective which often leaves the client confused and unsatisfied. Not everyone understands psychology. All that people want to know most of the time is what likely events could happen and what options they have in responding, and, what kind of outcomes are possible?
    I don’t think there is one best method, yet.
    We just need to keep questioning in the hope that the right solution will be found once we’ve asked enough good questions.

  • Chiron

    LOL Lynn, I am not trying to be intentionally anonymous, but prefer to remain under a nom de plume when I comment. I have no link to offer since I’ve not set up an astro web site, although I’ve practiced now for well over twenty two years. Houlding and Gryphon’s sites are quite interesting, as is Meira Epstein’s site Bear-Star. Meira has worked and written with Rob Hand at Arhat, and has also wonderfully penned an essay on just this topic, and it is indeed insightful. Here is the link..
    I actually also believe that a blend is the ideal methodology in which to approach a consultation. Funny, on Joni Patry’s site I had to comment in her defense when several Indian Jyotish traditionalists berated her for utilizing the outer planets in her mundane monthly forecasts. So I find myself advising both mindsets to be open to the influence of both schools. And I also agree with you Lynn that an astrologer also should better utilize their own intuitive sense while simultaneously being precisely versed in technique. When I read; I complete a natal and/or transit & progression update, then find it quite useful to follow up with a tarot house spread around the chart I am reading.
    Yoshinogawa, I would urge you to visit Ben Dykes’ site. He is far from a debunker. Here is the link.
    and the art discourse was in counterpoint.

  • Astrosage

    Hi Lynn
    I find both ancient and modern methods useful for their purposes. It will take a while to integrate the best of ancient practice with the best of modern practice.
    It is a work in progress. Joseph Crane has recently published the first major work which attempts to explain ancient technique to the modern astrologer. I find it extremely valuable.
    The ancient works themselves are treatises written by people a the very top of their academic field in their time. This cannot be said for many modern writers, though Mr Hand makes a refreshing exception.
    If I were to suggest the most significant lack in modern astrology, it would be its lack of academic rigor. Astrological premises are rarely the subject of rigorous debate among scholars, they are more often the subject of flame-wars among amateurs on blogs and e-lists. The result of this lack is that all discipline within the field has to be exercised by the practitioner, who also has to be the final arbiter in the assessment of any astrological premise.
    It is virtually impossible to develop a clear academic model for modern astrology under these circumstances.
    Modern astrology is, however, a very useful craft in spite of its academic pedigree, and one which still inspires the “how the hell did you know that??” from clients of mine on a regular basis.
    Many (if not most) students of ancient astrology appear to be unwilling or unable to appreciate the value of modern astrology and reject it outright, but I think this will change as ancient methods become more readily accessible to modern astrologers, and as more writers on ancient technique are less dismissive of the modern craft.

  • Chiron

    Sage comment. BTW Rodney, I enjoy your blog.

  • Lynn Hayes

    Beth writes: ” I must warn of the pitfall in interpreting everything from a psychological perspective which often leaves the client confused and unsatisfied. Not everyone understands psychology. All that people want to know most of the time is what likely events could happen and what options they have in responding, and, what kind of outcomes are possible?”
    This is exactly what modern psychological astrology as taught by Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas, which is my frame of reference. accomplishes. Astrology describes the psychological underpinnings, and the client will understand that when it is explained properly (just ask any of my clients). The root of the problem also holds the promise of the response that can lead to the optimum outcome.
    Thanks Chiron, for your comments regarding blending the traditional with the modern. One of the problems with having astrological programs so readily available is that all it takes is a software program to call yourself an astrologer, and I agree that without a solid background in technique you really can’t be a competent astrologer. You can call yourself an intuitive, but to add the “astrologer” you need to have skills.

  • Brandi Jasmine

    “All that people want to know most of the time is what likely events could happen and what options they have in responding, and, what kind of outcomes are possible?”
    Unfortunately that’s all too true. It’s one reason I don’t do readings for the public that often anymore. I don’t see the value in that sort of thing – it may be entertaining, but in the end, I found clients almost never acted on that information.

  • Bill W

    This is a debate that we are engaged in the field of Indian astrology too. Traditional Parashari and Jaimini astrologers do not agree with the principles of newer systems like Krishnamoorthy.
    When I compared the traditional horoscope at with the kp horoscope I found many differences even though the basic chart was same.
    I have witnessed a lot of argument on this topic among Indian astrologers, but I think you have presented a balanced outlook.
    Though in Indian astrology, there is very little validity for the western system.

  • Traveler

    Miss Hayes, can you please explain what “self-actualization” as used by Dane Rudhyar means? He is one of the most confusing astrologers I’ve ever read. What is the goal of a “humanistic” astrologer?

  • LoO

    @ Traveler.. Going out on a limb here to help answer your question to Miss Hayes, I would have to say that Dane Rudhyar’s “self-actualization” is in line with the importance of knowing one’s self more intimately through psychological understandings as well as through spiritual alchemy. Or in other words, I look at it like this, as we can use astrology to divinate for the better of the “outer” self, so you can use it to benifit the growth and transformation of the “inner” self. All humanists strive to better themselves through practical means, not only one’s self, but all selves. SO if you take the classic deffinition of a humanist, and put it with astrology/alchemy/psychology… well, there u go. To me.. it is great. It really serves to help push people towards greater integration with the divine. Whether or not the masses flock to it or not is besides the point if you ask me.

  • Indian astrology

    Astrology is a big concept, but many people understand and learn it, because it is only on the planets, the ruler’s position and found that housing be explained by combination of useful information on the interpretation does not explain their lives. A book on astrology, many of the most reliable knowledge of the investigation is just their star signs.

  • Mansi Sharma

    Wow…this is really very beautiful to see your blog….!

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