Unlike the usual conference, where the individual speakers more or less “do their own thing,” the PHASE Conclave features A HIGHLY INTEGRATED PROGRAM in which the different presentations play off against one another in such a way as to bring the fundamental issues into relief and show the tradition at work - and working.
Rather than cataloguing the accomplishments and credentials of our speakers and instructors (which they have in abundance), we thought it would be more interesting and informative for you to learn about the strange and diverse paths that led them to the study of ancient astrology in the first place.
Kenneth Bowser (Babylonian Beginnings) : During a long apprenticeship under the best of the Western sidereal astrologers, Ken gained a healthy respect for astronomical and mathematical precision in the practice of astrology. Grappling with the problem of the tropical versus the sidereal zodiac convinced him that he needed to have a more direct experience of astrological phenomena in order to address this question responsibly. The only avenues open to him were direct observation of the heavens and gaining familiarity with ancient astrological texts wherein such a direct experience was recorded. So compelling was this desire that he returned to college in order to learn Akkadian and Greek. Although he feels that he is very far from mastering these difficult languages, he hopes that one day he will have the credentials needed in order to gain access to the collections of Babylonian cuneiform texts tucked away in university libraries. It remains one of his life's ambitions to observe personally the heliacal risings and setting of the planets at sea or in the clear skies surrounding ancient Babylon . Anyone know what to do with a sextant? Ken does.
Demetra George (Hellenistic Astrology) : Way back in 1993 Demetra had a past-life regression in which she learned that she had been a translator of ancient astrological texts in an earlier life in England . Almost immediately thereafter she heard about the translation program proposed by Project Hindsight and became its very first subscriber. As a result of this eerie synchronicity - wouldn't you know it? - Demetra went back to school to learn Greek and Latin and obtained a degree in classics. Then came the crisis. In furtherance of her teaching duties at Kepler College , she decided to study Hellenistic astrology with Robert Schmidt. Although she had had a successful astrological career for 25 years, had been a pioneer in the use of asteroids and the mythological interpretation of natal charts, and had published four books, she began asking herself whether she was really “doing astrology.” It was not so much that she questioned the value of her earlier approach to chart interpretation; in fact, her clients continually affirmed it. It was more a matter of whether she was entitled to call herself an astrologer in the truest sense of the word. Since her whole life had been dedicated to astrology, she determined that with the time she had left in this life she would find out how astrology was originally practiced. Demetra now sees her role as a bridge between the greater astrological community and the ongoing research into Hellenistic astrology being conducted by Project Hindsight.
Robert Schmidt (Program Coordinator; Hellenistic Astrology) : Robert did not exactly begin his study of Hellenistic astrology with the expectation of finding an astrology that actually “worked.” Although he did try to approach the subject with an open mind, his original motivations were somewhat indirect. The great translation program of the late Renaissance that sought to recover the lost wisdom of antiquity had fascinated him for years, particularly the way in which those intellectual archaeologists managed to create something entirely new all the while thinking they were restoring something old. Robert wondered what would happen if a similar translation program were conducted in the field of ancient astrology. He also believed that the study of Hellenistic astrology might possibly provide a new access point to the study of the classical philosophical tradition, one of his abiding interests. But of course the joke was on him. As Robert began to reconstruct the original Hellenistic astrological system in pursuance of his responsibilities as co-founder and Greek translator of Project Hindsight, he came to regard it as an extraordinary intellectual construct fully deserving of study on its own account. Of course he could not resist the temptation of actually trying it out for himself - just as an experiment, you understand. And to this day he has not entirely gotten over the shock of seeing it work - again and again and again.
Benjamin Dykes (Medieval Astrology) : Ben had a youthful interest in astrology and the Western mystery tradition generally. However, early on he put his study of astrology on the back burner out of dissatisfaction with the standard astrological delineations available at the time, which did not seem to be based on any consistent rational principles. In college, he studied classical and Germanic philosophy, having a special interest in Stoic and Aristotelian ethics. For him, these ancient ethical teachings were not some abstract, ivory tower subject; instead, they were alive with real practical wisdom that could find immediate application in actual counseling sessions. In his career as a university professor of philosophy, he even had his students do practical projects relating to these issues. His interest in astrology revived as a result of encountering Medieval astrology. He not only found this type of astrology to be more satisfying conceptually than the astrology he had studied as a youth; he also saw that it contained a worldview that was compatible with that of the Stoics. He feels that Medieval astrology has brought his own esoteric and scholarly interests together, as well as providing him with a powerful counseling tool. So strong is his commitment to ancient astrology that he is currently putting his language skills to work on a complete translation of Bonatti's Liber Astronomiae and other Medieval Latin source texts.
Kenneth Johnson (Vedic Astrology) : The myths and legends of antiquity have enthralled Ken since he was a child. He has never really felt at home in modern times and actually believes that he possesses a medieval mentality. Ken has been a professional astrologer since 1974 and not surprisingly embraced mythic astrology with enthusiasm, although he is sure that had traditional astrology been available to him when he commenced his career, he would have found it irresistible. The glamour of antiquity never loosened its grip upon him, however, and the growing Vedic movement in this country soon attracted his attention. Ken's serious interest in ancient astrology dates from 1999. Since Hellenistic astrology and Jyotish bear a closer resemblance to each other than to any other forms of astrology in the horoscopic tradition, he feels that the potential for interface and mutual dialogue is very rich indeed. It is his goal to help create such a dialogue.
Bill Johnston (Rudhyar's Modern Astrology; Hellenistic Tutorial): Bill has been a planet watcher since early childhood. Enthralled by the night sky, he was less interested in memorizing constellations than he was learning to recognize and follow the planets' wandering paths. This affinity seems to have been reflected in his own rather circuitous life path; he's worked as a musician, engineer, businessman, administrator, and computer technician in fields as diverse as public broadcasting and the horse racing industry. He began studying astrology in his late teens after having had occasion to re-examine his prejudices against the subject. Although the conceptual coherence of Dane Rudhyar's astrology appealed to him greatly and formed the basis of his own practice, he also learned much from the comparative study of other astrological traditions. An early supporter of Project Hindsight, Bill describes his experience of attending the first PHASE Conclave as life-changing. He became convinced of the special value of the study of Hellenistic astrology because of what it had to offer on the nagging problem of house division. He'd been wrestling with the problem for twenty years when Bob Schmidt convinced him to give whole sign houses a chance, the only house system he had not tried in a tropical context. Learning that it was the original house system of the western tradition, it took him all of five minutes in looking at his own chart with its trine between the ascendant and MC to realize he had the solution to the problem. His continued studies have deepened his conviction that the original Hellenistic concepts hold keys to the solution of other important problems in modern astrology.
Alan White (Hellenistic Tutorial): It is a commonplace in the astrological community that those who begin their study of astrology with an intention of refuting it end up becoming converts. Alan is one of those persons. A Vietnam veteran (special forces), Alan had long been happily practicing his own “no nonsense” brand of modern astrology when Ellen Black more or less ordered him to attend the second PHASE Conclave in 1995. (Try coercing a special forces guy sometime.) Since the conference was going to be held in the American Legion hall, Ellen insisted that Alan moreover come fully decked out in his military regalia so that he could act as a liaison between the veterans that frequented the American Legion hall and the somewhat non-conservative astrologers. Alan acquitted himself of his responsibilities. While sitting in the bar with some other vets who were grumbling and making fun of the flaky astrologers, Alan looked them straight in the eye and informed them that he was one of attendees. No more problems. As a result of the second Conclave, Alan found his astrological home with Project Hindsight. As he put it, even though he realized that we had not yet found the answers to all of the questions that still nagged him about astrology, “you were asking the right questions.” Alan is now a regular participant in the ongoing Project Hindsight “work sessions” here in Cumberland, where we continue to test and validate the techniques of Hellenistic astrology.