The Rediscovery of Astrology in Modern Times
In the West, astrology experienced its heyday during the Renaissance. Astrology was considered the royal science at the universities and courts. In the course of the 17th century, astrology was increasingly viewed critically by the emerging natural sciences. In the turmoil of the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), the increasingly sensationalist forecasts of astrologers still gave people comfort and support. But from the 1650s onwards, a rapid decline set in. The art of astrology seemed increasingly antiquated compared to scientific discoveries in physics and technology. In 1666, astrology was finally banned from universities in France and shortly afterwards sent to the realm of superstition throughout Europe. Thus astrology sank into a long twilight sleep until it was rediscovered at the end of the 19th century. Thus was born the astrology of our modern times.
Rediscovery by Theosophists and Rosicrucians
The English theosophist Alan Leo (1860 – 1917) is often called the father of modern astrology. He cleared out classical astrology and vested it in a contemporary garment. Compared to traditional astrology, his doctrinal structure was considerably simplified and easier to understand. In addition, Leo shifted the focus away from predictions of fate and towards psychological character interpretation. With his data collection “1001 Notable Nativities” he laid the foundation for empirical astrology. It contained the horoscopes of 1,001 famous personalities and historical events. For decades, this work was considered the data bible for researching astrologers. But Leo was also a resourceful businessman and was the first to recognise the potential for success in trivialisation. By reducing the complexity of a birth chart to the position of the sun, he was able to reach an audience of millions for the first time. “Star Sign Astrology” with its twelve human drawers was born and with it the popular newspaper horoscopes. He was also the first to produce horoscopes using text modules. With these two innovations, horoscopes were no longer elaborate custom work. They could be produced on an assembly line and sold cheaply to a mass audience.
In the Anglo-Saxon world, the first modern astrologers were mainly members of esoteric circles and spiritual associations, especially the Theosophists and the Rosicrucians. The best known of them were the Rosicrucian Max Heindel (1865 – 1919), the Theosophist Alice Bailey (1880 – 1949) and C.C. Zain (1882 – 1951), founder of the “Church of Light”. A prominent figure of this early phase was America’s first female astrologer, Evangeline Adams (1868 – 1932). She attracted a lot of media interest and made astrology really popular with her numerous striking predictions. She is said to have foreseen the fire of the Winsor Hotel in New York in 1899 as well as the stock market crash of 1929, the Second World War or the death of King Edward VII. Her clients included numerous celebrities such as the opera singer Enrico Caruso or the famous financial guru John Piermont Morgan, to whom the saying is still often attributed: “Millionaires don’t use astrology – billionaires do.” In 1911 and 1914 she was impeached for fortune-telling. In court, she convinced the judge of her astrological skills, so she was acquitted. In the media, which had followed the trial with keen interest, this was interpreted as scientific proof of astrology. Thus Adams became the first major media astrologer. She received her own radio broadcast and in 1930 also her own newspaper column.
Astrology in the German-speaking world
Around the turn of the century, rediscovered astrology reached the German-speaking countries. One of the first pioneers was Karl Brandler-Pracht (1864 – 1939). He published his first work “Mathematisch-instruktives Lehrbuch der Astrologie” in 1905. In the following decades he founded astrological societies and research groups in many Austrian, German and Swiss cities, as well as several journals. Brandler-Pracht is considered the grand signor of modern German-language astrology. Many well-known astrologers of the first half of the 20th century were students of his.
After the First World War, astrology entered two decades of enthusiastic optimism. Numerous doctors and professors were seriously engaged in it. They were sure that it would only be a matter of time before astrology could be proven by modern technical means and established as a science. Many astrologers from that time are still legendary today, for example Johannes Vehlow (1890 – 1958), who compiled a systematic collection of astrological knowledge from antiquity to the present with his eight-volume monumental work “Lehrkursus der wissenschaftlichen Geburtsastrologie” (from 1925). However, his house system, which places the Ascendant in the middle of the 1st house, was not able to assert itself. Also Frank Glahn (1865 – 1941) was very influential. His first astrology book “Erklärung und systematische Deutung des Geburtshoroskopes” (Explanation and systematic interpretation of the natal chart) was published in 1923. While the merit of Brandler-Pracht or Vehlow is above all the collection and compilation of traditional knowledge, Glahn shone through innovative techniques and new inventions. The house rhythms, still popular today, for example, can be traced back to him.
Uranian Astrology (“Hamburg School”)
The most groundbreaking technical approach was founded by the surveyor Alfred Witte (1878 – 1941) with the Hamburg School, later known in the Anglo-Saxon world as “Uranian Astrology”. He presented his system in several articles from 1919 onwards and was soon the talk of the scene. In the course of the First World War, Witte had calculated thousands of horoscopes of comrades and had to realize that crucial events such as bombings, wounds or marriages were often not visible at all in the horoscope with the classical methods. He compared the birth pictures of people with similar experiences, as well as of people with the same birthdays, and found that the same zodiac positions were triggered at the times in question. These positions moved slowly. So Witte assumed that they must be planets beyond the orbit of Neptune that had not been discovered yet. Using the fall curve of the known planets, Witte calculated the distance and orbital period of these points and came up with the orbits of his four additional planets: Cupido, Hades, Zeus and Kronos. Witte called these undiscovered celestial bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune “Transneptunians”.
Whenever someone from the front went home to attend a big family celebration, Cupido was triggered. Death, destruction, decay, filth or harlots and thieves were indicated by Hades. The point that triggered lightning attacks, steam engines or gunshot wounds Witte called Zeus. Kronos stood for rule and authority, for the high and sublime. The following list shows in short bullet points the orbital periods and significance of the transneptunians found by Witte. They were later extended to eight by Witte’s student Friedrich Sieggrün (1877 – 1951).
|Cupido||262 years||Family, Marriage, Art, Community|
|Hades||361 years||Solitude, abscence, dirt, disease|
|Zeus||456 years||Leadership, procreation, targets, fire, machines|
|Kronos||522 years||Self-Reliance, State, Ruler, Grandness|
|Apollon||576 years||Fame, success, expansion, science|
|Admetos||618 years||Inhibition, separation, standstill, rotation|
|Vulkanus||663 years||Greatest force, power, energy, violence|
|Poseidon||740 years||Spirit, Idea, Insight, Light, Enlightenment|
The Transneptunians of Uranian Astrology (“Hamburg School”)
Witte’s second innovation were the “Planetary Pictures”. Classical astrology only knows relationships between two planets, whenever they correspond to certain angles, the aspects. Witte’s planetary pictures instead consist of three or more planets, provided that one of them lies exactly in the middle between the other two. The introduction of these midpoints, together with the transneptunians, allowed much more differentiated statements than traditional astrology. Thus the houses and signs of the zodiac, the two basic problems of astrology, could be largely neglected in the interpretation. The “Planetary Pictures” were the new focus of the horoscope.
Especially in times without computers, this meant aconsiderable additional effort in calculation. On the other hand, the Hamburg School had the reputation of achieving by far the most exact forecasts and the highest accuracy. With the help of numerous experiments, their students proved the superiority of their system over the other astrological schools. They calculated the birth of a child to the day or predicted exactly the winners and victors of boxing matches. Or they cast horoscopes to find the place of disappeared persons. To what extent such hits were the exception or the rule remains open. In any case, hopes were high that Witte’s system would soon establish astrology as an exact science. Therefore the Hamburg School used to put its astrological rules in mathematical formulae. Their bible was the “Regelwerk für Planetenbilder” (“Rulebook for Planetary Pictures”, first edition 1928). It contains hundreds of formulas such as:
Moon + Cupido – Aries = Weddings. General social clubs. Public balls and societies.
Venus + Uranus – Mars = Hot but refined sensuality. Sudden acquaintanceships that turn intimate.
Lunar Node + Hades – Zeus = Being sharply rebuked for shortcomings. Coming into contact with the police as a result of crime. Being affected by fire.
Sun + Kronos – Neptune = Confused authority. Incompetent leadership. Experiencing deception or rejection by leaders or self-employed persons. Destroyed by state power. Deposition of princes. If = Mercury: the confused leader or the intuitive leader.
Uranian Astrology remains a curiosity even today within the astrology scene. On the one hand, many of its followers enjoy a high reputation, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, where Witte’s teaching is still known today. On the other hand, the extremely mathematical approach never gained widespread acceptance. It was too complicated and detailed for a mass movement. Many astrologers were also disturbed by the strongly deterministic character of Witte’s disciples. Their claim to practice an exact science left no room for free will. Everything and everyone was precisely calculable. However, one should not overlook the fact that this strong orientation towards fate was very widespread in astrology until well into the post-war period.
The Transneptunians brought the most rejection to Uranian Astrology. The existence of these eight additional planets was deduced from the analysis of thousands of horoscopes. But to this day, none of these bodies could be astronomically discovered. Moreover, it made many astrologers suspicious when the ninth planet Pluto was discovered in 1930, but it did not correspond to any of the Witte planets. Since 1992 tens of thousands of Transneptunian Objects have been discovered in the Kuiper Belt. But the Hamburg Transneptunians have no correspondence except for their names. Therefore they are now rather called “effective points” and no longer planets. Thus, the Hamburg School still leads an exotic existence, even though its achievements are considered undisputed in the astrology scene. The Midpoints and the Mirror Points, two techniques (re)discovered by Witte, have become commonplace in astrology.
One of the most famous astrologers of the 20th century originally also had been a follower of Uranian Astrology: Reinhold Ebertin (1901 – 1988). He was the son of Germany’s first professional astrologer, Elsbeth Ebertin (1880 – 1944), who wrote the annual astrological forecast “Ein Blick in die Zukunft – Unabwendbare Geschehnisse in nächster Zeit” (A Look into the Future – Inevitable Events in the Near Future) in the interwar period. In 1928 he founded the Ebertin publishing house and published the journal “Neue Sternblätter” (“New Starpaper”), which was renamed “Mensch im All” (“Man in Cosm”) in 1933. This quickly became one of the most important mouthpieces of German astrology. Ludwig Rudolph, one of the main representatives of Uranian Astrology, or the well-known chirologist and physiognomist Ernst Issberner-Haldane published numerous articles in it. From 1932, the weekly magazine “Der Seher” (“The Seer”) appeared and soon reached a circulation of over 50,000.
Ebertin’s fame was also due to his organisational talent. In 1932 he organised the “Congress of Astrological Pioneers” with over 600 participants. It brought together all the leading figures in the astrology scene of the time. One of the aims of this congress was to critically examine the overflowing flood of astrological methods and to filter out the most successful techniques. To this end, Ebertin set 75 practical tasks over the course of time. Each astrologer, each school could solve them with their preferred methods. An evaluation of the techniques was then made on the basis of the correct or incorrect results. On this basis, the “Ebertin method”, later also called cosmobiology, developed in the course of the 1930s. The first edition of Ebertin’s main work “The Combination of Stellar Influences” was finally published after the war and is still considered a standard work of astrology today.
The “Ebertin Method” is less an independent approach to interpretation than an eclectic summary of the most generally accepted methods. From each school Ebertin integrated what seemed most useful to him and made numerous simplifications. This is the reason for the great success of his cosmobiology. From the Hamburg School, Ebertin adopted the Midpoint technique and the 90-degree disk. He rejected the Transneptunians, however. In addition, he turned away from the one-sided event and fate orientation of Witte’s teaching and emphasised the psychological side much more. To avoid the problem of the various house systems, his method dispenses with them completely.
Astrologer Persecution in the Third Reich
Like many astrologers of the interwar period, Ebertin initially tried to come to terms with the Nazi regime. He was a co-founder of the “Geistige Front, Reichsvereinigung für wissenschaftliche und praktische Menschenkenntnis, Berlin”. His journals contained articles on Germanism, racial physiognomy or “The Hitler salute as a Sign of Character” as well as horoscope analyses of Adolf Hitler, which astrologically confirmed his mission as a great leader. However, the association tried in vain to establish a professional body for astrologers in the “Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur” (“Militant League for German Culture”). Although Nazi greats such as Hess and Himmler were very fond of the occult, astrologers were soon blacklisted in the Third Reich. In 1939, the “Astrologische Zentralstelle” (“Astrological Center Office”) was abolished and astrology was banned. After Rudolf Hess fled, numerous astrologers were arrested and deported in a great wave in 1941. Tons of astrology books were confiscated and burned. Many astrologers, such as Karl Ernst Krafft or Hubert Korsch, died in the concentration camps. Alfred Witte avoided arrest by committing suicide. Thomas Ring only narrowly escaped deportation when the well-known Freiburg parapsychologist Hans Bender (1907 – 1991) appointed him director of the Parapsychological Institute at the University of Strasbourg, thus helping him to leave the country.
To this day, the German astrologers of the interwar period are legendary. Like in hardly any other country, astrology had developed rapidly and aroused great interest even in scientific circles. Astrologers had already imagined themselves at the gates to the universities. But the Third Reich brought a double break. On the one hand, astrology was stigmatized by the public as a dubious occult practice due to its flirtation with the Nazi regime until 1939. On the other hand, many of its most important representatives and works were wiped out by the reign of terror.
The cosmobiology of Reinhold Ebertin survived the Third Reich best. In the post-war period, he succeeded in rebuilding his publishing house and making his teachings popular in America and Australia as well. Ebertin was active as an astrologer until the 1980s. In contrast to many German colleagues, he was also very active internationally and thus laid an important cornerstone for modern astrology. Since his death, however, his teachings have lost much of its radiance. The Ebertin publishing house finally went bankrupt in 2005. After the Second World War, Uranian Astrology (“Hamburg School”) was continued mainly by Ludwig Rudolph (1893 – 1982) and later by his son Udo. However, the great days were over. The great revolution in astrology faded. With its innovative approaches, Uranian Astrology had initiated modern times astrology after the First World War. But today it seems strangely antique and alien to theour modern mind.
The original version of this article including all sources can be found in the following book:
Niederwieser, Christof (2020) PROGNOSTIK 03: Trends & Zyklen der Zeit, Rottweil: Zukunftsverlag, S. 132ff