Matrix Interview with Astrologer Tom Brady
Our interviewer is Michael Erlewine January 15, 1986
Tom Brady is one of astrology’s bright new stars. He cuts through a lot of what clogs up most discussions and reveals the inner struggles of our field. His accent on astrological experience as something to live rather than to think about is right on target. The following is a conversation with Tom Brady & Michael Erlewine.
Erlewine: I feel that you have a very down-to-earth approach to astrology and to harmonics. Tell us about that.
Brady: Everything that I have been involved in within astrology has an underpinning to it. The underpinning is that it was all done as a critique of current intellectual trends in this society.
The people that I had gotten involved with astrologically were involved with the ninety-degree dial. We had gotten interested in Uranian astrology, and Cosmobiology, simply because we found those techniques, especially the ninety-degree dial, useful. Within Uranian we eliminated a lot of stuff.
But we found the ninety-degree dial to be a tremendously concise and precise tool. We were off in the desert all by ourselves. We didn’t have any teachers in the formal sense. This tool was popped into our hands, and we began to play with it—literally. We never got terribly involved in midpoint pictures, and the more traditional Cosmobiological way of using the tool. What we got involved with was using it as a rather complex aspectarian.
I am sure you are familiar with the dial. You are looking at conjunctions, squares and oppositions at one point on the dial. At any point across from that you are looking at semisquares and sesquisquares. At anything at right angles to that, you are looking at 22 ½-degree aspects. You can further divide that quarter down into eighths. Then you are looking at 11 ¼-degree aspects. We began to find in our work that those very minor aspects, if they bunched up together, seemed to be as important in terms of predictive situations or in terms of explaining situations that we were looking at, as some of the more traditional major aspects. We were doing that independently, and noting some of the things that happen when you work with a ninety-degree dial. Number one: it begins to condition you to look solely at hard aspects, and you begin to forget about trines and sextiles. There was something that disturbed me about that, although at the time, I didn’t understand it.
In 1978, I went to Chicago, to an NCGR conference, and I heard Charles Harvey speak. He wasn’t talking directly about harmonics. The lectures were titled 'Harmonics', but he was really talking about the wave theory ideas that Addey was toying with near the end of his life, and that Rob Hand picked up on. That whole little group was involved in it.
We did pick up a copy of Addey’s book, Harmonics and Astrology. At one point in that book, he talks about the fourth harmonic as a series of hard aspects, and suddenly it dawned on us that what we were using the ninety-degree dial for was looking at a harmonic family. Any time you take a number and continually double that number, you get the aspects that derive from dividing the chart by those numbers that you arrive at. It gives you a harmonic family
This idea occurred to us: Why not do dials for those other harmonics? As on person expressed it, “My god, I am so glad there is something more involved in astrology than the ninety degree dial.” We began to look at these different dials. The first thing we found out was that we were so conditioned by the ninety degree dial that every other dial we attempted to interpret came out sounding like the ninety degree dial. So we began to question the role of language in the whole process. This is what I meant when I said it was a critique of the thinking we were involved in at that time. We began to realize that our language was completely conditioned by the manifest world, or the external conditions. We take the fourth harmonic to indicate how a person “outers” himself: how they manifest themselves, how they externalize themselves. We were so conditioned by those kinds of things that we were looking at other harmonics just like we looked at the fourth harmonic (although we had gotten key words from Addey such as creativity for the fifth harmonic, spiritually the seventh, and final forms and destiny for the ninth harmonic). We were all attempting to talk about these phenomena with a language that was conditioned by fourth harmonic experiences.
Erlewine: This whole society is geared on the fourth harmonic: the whole idea of materiality and materialism. It is not a totally unattractive thing, it’s just unbalanced.
Brady: Unbalanced, yes it is. The first time I was around harmonics people was in 1978. I sat in on this discussion where people were speculating about the meaning of the 125th harmonic and the 67th harmonic. That seemed absolutely mad to me. It was just a feeling, a feeling of the West gone wild and western thinking. “What can we speculate on now that has absolutely no meaning for any of us, but we will pass another half hour in our lives?”
Yes, this was the parallel experience to work that I had been doing in other areas of formal academic training at a previous time, which I had never fully understood. Suddenly through the use of this dial things began to click for me. We began to experiment with these other harmonics. Perhaps the reason that astrology was locked into a set of aspects, namely the conjunction, square, sextile, trine, and opposition, and was not paying too much attention to the septiles and noviles and quintiles was because we as human beings had lost touch with what these aspects were really attempting to talk about. We had words for them, we had a language for them, but somehow it was a flat language.
People were always saying, “Sure the fifth harmonic is creativity, sure the seventh harmonic shows the spiritual aspect in your chart,” but it was always brushed over very quickly, and never really dwelled on.
Addey dropped on hint that we thought was very important. And that was: Why should certain aspects be more important than other aspects? Why aren’t all aspects –in some sense-of equal weight? We began to toy with the idea that the English school was making a very large mistake by attempting to interpret these higher harmonics in terms of systems of thought that had been conditioned by the cultures that were in effect for the last 2,000 years.
So, what our harmonics work really amounted to is negative aid. That is, we have been throwing stuff out, saying, “It is not this, it is not this, etc.” We have pared things down. At this point in time, we understand that the fourth harmonic family seems to be oriented toward things that are external to us. We found this to mirror a history of consciousness in this century.
The Uranians and the Cosmobiologists are very interested in that hard aspect series, because they were attempting to establish a verifiable astrology. The Uranians themselves were hypothesizing planets like the physicists were hypothesizing particles.
When I went to Chicago to the ACT conference in 1982, and sat on that ACT
panel on harmonics, my reaction to what I was hearing from the other people on the panel was that they, like all of us in astrology, were not critiquing the way that they were thinking. They were busy thinking in the mode that they were thinking, whatever that was. I really feel that astrology at this point in time has to critique what it is doing at a very very basic level. To my mind, it is simply a very conditioned state, and that conditioned state does not lead to the degree of freedom that astrologers have the illusion that they are realizing for themselves.
This reminds me of another thing we realized early in the harmonics work. That what these harmonics seem to be talking about seem to be states of being, and not types of thinking. Astrology seems to be locked into a highly verbal pattern, as if everything in our experience can be talked about in the same way. I think if we look at any of the major religious traditions, particularly the Buddhists or the Sufis, we begin to see that there are whole areas of experience that they realize as non-conceptual, or beyond the limits of language. But they can still be codified, and what I mean by codified is simply expressed, through the use of gesture, the use of dance, the use of the human body as an instrument of expression. I think that in whatever way a person can do it, if they begin to widen their modes of expression, it begins to have an effect on our understanding of what some of these specific aspects within an astrological chart are talking about.
I think those are two things you can do that are quite important. If someone were to undertake one or both of those, it would be quite a major thing. I think that a lot of people, in one way or another, are doing that. I know what you are doing here at Matrix certainly is a manifestation of that sort of approach. People within experiential astrology are making a lot of quite clumsy attempts, but at least they are out there. I think it is quite interesting that the work being done in astrodrama is considered as entertainment. At the conferences, it is Saturday night entertainment, not a core issue within it. That is a revealing prejudice in terms of language.
A lot of this is an intuitive thing on my part. It is me reacting to what I am exposed to. When I go to an astrology conference and I brush up against the astrologers, for the most part, I do not get the feeling of highly developed people. I get the feeling of highly specialized people.
Erlewine: That can’t surprise you forever. So what do you do?
Brady: I think what you do is you become a model. You make an experiment of your life. You simply say, “OK, if I am correct in this intuition, then the best thing I can do is to begin to be what I say to the degree that I can.” If that is a correct process, through time it will be verified in the quality of my being.
Erlewine: What about supplementing the West by going to the East? That is what many of us have done.
Brady: The other point is that maybe the best way to get back to what the early Greeks meant is to go to the East. Because the East is alive at this point in time. By touching that we actually find out where our roots come from. In a certain sense we really are in a planetary situation here. The East does seem a source of this. The Greeks defined being as the quality of a person’s presence.
Erlewine: Shakespeare says, “You are no more yourself then you now here live.”
Brady: OK, same thing! He was onto it too. This has a thread. All we can say is that in some sense, the culture lost it. But, I think being communicates itself in the person’s presence. When you are in the presence of a person who has developed their being to some wide degree, that is communicated to you in non-verbal ways.
Erlewine: And in verbal ways!
Brady: OK, I won’t eliminate the verbal ways.
Erlewine: All ways.
Brady: Yes, all ways, better yet! I believe that astrologers were they to begin to see that it is important for the quality of their astrology to develop the quality of their being, would begin to communicate to themselves. Then they would communicate to the culture at large a whole different quality of presence that would actually be attractive.
Erlewine: Yes, I think they have to develop that.
Brady: Yes, they have to consciously develop that, and I really think the best way at this point in time is to do what you suggested; to look to some of these lines that have come to us from the East.
Erlewine: Some of which are not broken.
Brady: Some of which are not broken at all, some of which are very continuous, and some of which are actually more alive here at this point in time then they are in their homeland. It is as if astrology at this point in time has maxed out on technical stuff. That whole end is developing finally. Nobody has to worry about that.
Erlewine: It’s launched.
Brady: It is a well-oiled machine. It’s cranking on all by itself. In kind of an ironic way, it seems to me as if astrologers have temporarily to turn their back on what they think astrology is, and experiment with some of these other types of human discipline. This will eventually affect the quality of their astrological thinking. Sometimes we read a book, and we don’t get what the person is talking about, so we go off and we experience other things in our lives. Years later, we go back to the book, and we know exactly what they are talking about. Even though we haven’t been studying that material. It is as if we have caught up through other areas of our life.
In the Tibetan tradition, there is a real distinction made between a person’s knowledge and a person’s being. It is emphasized in many of the stories, especially about Marpa and Milarepa. There comes a point in time, sometimes, when you are way overloaded with knowledge and you have to go out and develop your being to catch up to yourself, so that your knowledge has a context, and wholeness and completeness about it.
Astrology at this point in time is top heavy in the knowledge end. That knowledge does not have a basis in what we could call the heart. The Pueblo Indians say they think with their heart. They don’t think with their head. When you ask a Pueblo where he thinks, he points to his chest, rather than his head. And that is from personal experience.
It seems to me that when I look at astrology, and other astrologers, that is the direction of evolution for us as a group.
About Astrologer Tom Brady
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