For years, I had derided the computer-generated interpretations of horoscopes which occupy the marketplace. They seemed inevitably to consist of unrelated paragraphs strung together. Usually, the format was such that you would read: Your Sun is in Gemini and that means .... Then you would read about your Moon sign (and possibly house), etc. There was no attempt to connect the various paragraphs.
In 1984, I was given the challenge of writing a natal interpretation which would be computer-generated. I did not know whether I would be able to come up with something I would be willing to admit to having created, but I decided to try. My first determination was that my program would somehow SYNTHESIZE themes within the chart. I was determined to avoid the old cliché of “Your Sun is in... and that means...” The creative process was surprisingly rewarding and I learned much more than I anticipated along the way. I would like to share the outline with readers as I think it helps to illuminate the process of chart delineation and can offer useful ideas in our own analyses and consultations.
In outlining the challenge, I first had to establish what I hoped to accomplish and what I would not even attempt. Accepting realistic limitations (good old Letter 10) is an important part of life! I knew my program would never replace a one-to-one consultation. No computer, no matter how detailed its analysis, can match the human exchange that occurs between two people. In addition, to write a program which would match the degree of complexity in a skilled astrological analysis would be the work of years and years.
A typical computer print-out has one paragraph for anyone with the Sun in Gemini. If they get a little more complex, they have different paragraphs for the Sun in Gemini in each of the 12 houses. (That is already 144 paragraphs for any of the 12 signs in any of the 12 houses and we are only doing the Sun!) To try to distinguish the Sun in Gemini trine Saturn, quincunx Mars, semi-sextile the Moon and Ascendant and square Pallas would mean writing for quite a long time. Yet that is exactly what a skilled astrologer does in a few moments of analysis!
My goal was to create an interpretation which would be able to pick out MAJOR THEMES within the horoscope and within the psyche of the individual concerned. Aware that astrology is redundant—important issues are said again and again in the chart—I pinned my hopes on the astrological alphabet to assist me in pinpointing central drives and motivators within the chart. I envisioned a program which would be a useful summary for astrologers wanting to “hit the highlights” and might also be a convenient gift to clients at the end of a personal consultation, a permanent record of the central issues.
Having those limited goals in mind, I tried to define my territory further. Given that all of us are different people at different times and in different situations, I felt it would be helpful to break the analysis down into sections, each section addressing a major life area. These sections changed somewhat over time and a few came along after the initial selection, but the end result was the following divisions:
An Overview (of the whole chart, summarizing major themes & issues)
Basic Identity (instinctive action, what comes naturally)
Work and Career Potentials (handling the physical world)
Relationships (one-to-one, committed)
Parents (relationships to our mother/father or parental figures)
Mind and Communication
Children and Creativity
Beliefs and Values (which lead to goals and what we make of our lives)
Money and the handling of finances
Once the sections were established, it became relatively easy to determine which factors should be examined for each section. I used the logic of the 12-letter alphabet, and one of the advantages of using a computer quickly became very clear. As a human, it is easy to overlook factors in the horoscope, especially if they are not readily perceived, or if they do not fit our preconceptions or assumptions about the subject. Since computers are “dumb,” they do only what you tell them to. Thus, they will ALWAYS examine EVERY factor you tell them to, and ALWAYS include everything you have programmed them to consider, even if you, as a human being, might overlook some factors with certain clients.
Let us take the example of the relationships section. Here, I was concentrating on long-term, committed relationships. So, I defined the area as Letter 7 and 8 of our astrological alphabet. This meant instructing the computer to consider ALL the following factors:
Conjunctions (within a specified orb) to Venus, Pluto, Pallas and Juno (natural rulers of the area or associated with 7 and 8). (Parallels were added somewhat later, rated as similar to conjunctions, while contraparallels were considered similar to oppositions.)
Conjunctions to rulers of the signs on the 7th and 8th cusps.
Conjunctions to rulers of other signs within the 7th and 8th houses.
Planets (and asteroids) occupying the 7th and 8th houses.
Houses ruled by planets in the 7th and 8th houses (e.g., if Jupiter was in the 7th, on what cusp did Sagittarius fall?). [This is one factor which is easy to overlook.]
House placements of Venus, Pluto, Pallas and Juno.
House placements of rulers of the 7th and 8th cusps.
House placements of rulers of other signs in the 7th and 8th.
House placements of the West Point and Vertex (which I treat as auxiliary Descendants).
Sign placements of Venus, Pluto, Pallas and Juno.
Sign placements of rulers of the 7th and 8th cusps.
Sign of the Descendent.
Sign placements of rulers of other signs in the 7th and 8th.
Signs of the West Point and Vertex.
All of the above factors were classified in terms of the letter of the astrological alphabet involved. For example, if Jupiter was conjunct Venus, there was a Letter 9 theme for the relationship section. Each factor was assigned a weighting. The list above approximates the weightings I established from greater to less weight. Basically, I followed the principle that planets and aspects show the most emphatic themes so they were weighted most heavily, followed by houses with signs last. Thus, Venus conjunct Jupiter would contribute considerably more to a Letter 9 theme in relationships than would the sign Sagittarius (unoccupied) falling in the 7th house. (Lest readers envision me slaving over a hot computer, let me make clear that I just established the weightings I wanted. A computer programmer—my brother, Rique—did all the programming. That was a considerable challenge—and another story.)
Here one of the advantages of the computer shone. The computer was not about to skip over or forget any of the listed factors. A human might—but a machine would not. The challenge for me as the creator was to be sure that all the relevant factors were listed AND to try to establish some kind of reasonable weighting system. The latter was, by far, the more serious challenge. I came up with some numbers, but still consider them quite arbitrary and am gaining feedback from people who have taken the time to carefully read and analyze their interpretations and point out what they feel is accurate and what is not. Further down the road, I hope to use some large groups of data (e.g., professional groups) to test the program and see if any meaningful statistics will emerge.
Alert readers will note that I have not mentioned aspects other than the conjunction and parallel. My theoretical decision was that conjunctions represent themes inextricably mixed with a certain area. They are blended in (comfortably or uncomfortably) and must be included when that area is analyzed. Other aspects, I felt, indicate different sides of the nature. Thus, I set up a structure to record sextiles, trines, oppositions, quincunxes, squares, octiles and tri-octiles to the above factors. The sextiles and trines were grouped as “harmony” aspects; the rest were grouped as “conflict” aspects. My assumption was that the harmony aspects symbolized other sides of the nature which were relatively easy to blend with relationship needs, parts of life which would smoothly be combined (perhaps even to excess) with the desire for one-on-one encounters. Conflict aspects represented parts of the individual which were more challenging to blend with relationship desires. The “stress” aspects pointed to inner ambivalences between relationship needs and other parts of life. Again, I had to establish (arbitrary) cut-offs for the orbs of the various aspects.
As well as being grouped as to harmony or conflict, aspects were analyzed in terms of the planet, house and sign involved. For example, if Venus squares Pluto, that includes some weight for Letter 8 (Pluto), letter 3 (if Pluto occupies the 3rd house) and Letter 5 (if Pluto is in Leo) in terms of “conflict” patterns to the relationship area. So, conflict and harmony were also summarized in terms of letters of the alphabet. Here again, the computer was great. It would not overlook those “harder to spot” aspects. If we eventually gather more information on the meaning of aspects such as the septile and novile, computers will be marvelous tools for spotting them all.
At this point, we had lots of numbers for each letter of the alphabet for the various sections (relationships, identity, etc.). The next obvious question was: what do all these numbers mean? Fortunately, since all of this was occurring at Astro Computing Services, we had access to some large data files. What Rique did next was to run the program he designed to my specifications on 28,000 charts of ordinary people. Using that information, he ascertained means (averages) and standard deviations for the population of 28,000.
Most readers will be familiar with the concept of the bell-curve into which many human attributes fall. Generally, two-thirds of a given population will fall within one standard deviation of the mean in a bell-curve (one third above the mean and one third below). About 95% will fall within two standard deviations of the mean while 99% are within three standard deviations.
We now had some ideas about what was “meaningful” and what was not! So, we decided to look at any themes which registered as one (or more) standard deviations ABOVE the mean. (We could have examined themes falling one or more standard deviations below the mean as well. I decided not to. I felt that generally below average emphasis in an area was the flip side of above average emphasis in other areas. I preferred to focus on areas with above average emphasis.) Thus, one individual might come out with an emphasis on Letters 9 and 10 in relationships while another had an emphasis on Letter 1 and 2 in relationships. The first might have a Letter 4 theme in terms of identity while the second had a Letters 1 and 11 theme. And so on.
However, I was not about to limit myself to only the 12 “pure” letters of the alphabet. Elements and qualities were also available. It was easy enough to establish totals for them. Fire, for example, was just the sum of the scores for Letters 1, 5 and 9. Means and standard deviations were also established for the elements (fire, earth, air, water), the qualities (cardinal, fixed mutable) and the element combinations (fire/earth, fire/air, fire/water, earth/air, earth/water and air/water). Means and standard deviations were established for other themes with which I have worked (e.g., Letters 9 and 12 combine for a theme of idealism; Letter 1, 9 and 11 make a freedom theme, etc.). In addition, I considered the polarities, and for some of the sections, I created short-hand summaries of any combination of two letters of the astrological alphabet.
Now the program can print out interpretations for element emphasis, quality emphasis, element combinations, the polarities, 12 letters of the alphabet, any of about 15 additional themes and—in some cases—combinations by twos of the letters of the alphabet. Thus, one individual might get a printout with an interpretation of a fire emphasis, a Letter 11 theme, a risk-taking theme and a freedom theme all in the relationships section.
Aspects form a separate area in each section. Again, we used standard deviations and means established on the 28,000 charts to establish cut-off points for the harmony and conflict groups. Thus, a person might have an analysis which suggests harmony in combining relationship issues with Letters 2 and 6, but conflict with Letter 11. Appropriate paragraphs are printed out.
Here again, was where one of the advantages of the computer emerged. Planet/house/sign combinations are very obvious and easily spotted in a chart. Certain aspect themes are not quite as obvious. For example, the fact that one ruler of the 7th is square Pluto, another is semi-square a planet in the 8th house, and the natural ruler of the 7th (Venus) is square a planet in Scorpio MIGHT leap out at the individual examining the chart—and it might not. But, a computer which sums all the information together will spot the repeated theme for us!
Because I wanted the interpretation (which eventually received the name of PLANETARY PROFILE) to be useful to professional astrologers, I worked with Rique to include something called “Astrological Annotation.” This option lists ALL the factors which went into the theme which emerges as significant. For example, someone who had the theme of “freedom” emerge in terms of relationships might have an annotation which includes: Mars in the 7th, Venus conjunct Uranus, a ruler of the 7th in the 1st house, a ruler of the 8th in the 9th house and Aries in the 8th house. (All of these factors tie relationships letters—7 and 8—with freedom letters—1, 9 and 11.) In addition, when a theme might be present, aspects between like planets—or like planets in each other’s houses and signs—were given extra emphasis. Thus, if freedom were an issue, aspects between Mars, Jupiter and Uranus added to the freedom theme (ANY aspects other than the conjunction and parallel which were already counted); Mars, Jupiter or Uranus in the 1st, 9th or 11th houses OR in Aries, Sagittarius or Aquarius all added extra weight to the emphasis on freedom.
There were a few exceptions to this general format of element and quality analysis, element combinations, letters of the alphabet, themes, alphabet combinations and aspects. For the health section, I basically provided only an analysis of possible psychological roots of illness. I did not attempt to analyze or predict health or illness in any way—not wanting to key into any self-fulfilling prophecies. I briefly described some of the correspondences between astrology and areas of the body. Readers with a physical problem can consider the psychological issues related to that physical organ or body part. Gaining and maintaining health is aided by seeking to become aware of and to integrate psychological conflicts while the medical doctor analyzes and treats the body.
In the karmic lessons section, the focus was on Saturn and the South Node as keys to karmic challenges for this lifetime. In the future section, we included a mini-progression of certain factors along with the regular analysis. In the overview section, we looked at the WHOLE chart in terms of element balance, qualities, etc. (In judging element and quality emphasis, we weighted planets—in terms of aspects—and occupied houses as well as occupied signs.) We also looked for stellia by house or sign and major aspect configurations. The aspects were analyzed for a combination of the planets, houses and signs involved. (One could argue for including conflict patterns such as T-squares and Grand Crosses in the karmic lessons section. Water factors, being at least partly unconscious also fit a common concept of Karma since they are often associated with events that are not consciously chosen or initiated.) These sorts of decisions are basically personal choices, depending on one’s philosophical definition of “karma.” Planets in the Gauquelin sectors were also analyzed in terms of keywords established by the research of Michel and Francoise Gauquelin.
The end product ranges from twenty to thirty computer pages (which hold much more text than typewritten pages), depending on how many themes emerge as significant for that individual. We are still in the process of gathering feedback (although it has mostly been highly favorable) and we continue to alter our weightings as we decide is appropriate. (Every time we change the weighting of one or more factors, the means and standard deviations must be re-run for the 28,000 charts.)
The shortcomings of a computer (and confirmation of the fact that computers will not replace people) were highlighted in working on the section on parents. One of the challenges in a personal interview is to decide which parent is in which house (4th or 10th)—or whether one parent is taking over both roles, or the parents share both houses, etc. This is complicated enough for the human being to accomplish. It proved far beyond the capabilities of writing a computer program. It is simply that the variables are so many, it would take too long to include everything.
With computers, you have to break things down to the level of: if this condition exists, do this. If it does not exist, check for that. If that doesn’t work, try the other thing, and so on down the list. The computer may not care how long the list is, but believe me—the person writing the list cares! I did begin to work up a preliminary attempt to discriminate between the parents. The following will give you an idea of how complex it would be (and hopefully give you some appreciation of the tremendous synthesizing task you all do very naturally in a personal consultation).
This is set up as a decision tree. That is, the computer looks for each of these conditions in turn. If the first does not exist, the computer checks for the second, and so on down the line. The second is considered ONLY IF the first is not present.
If Saturn is conjunct the Moon—assume one parents played both roles OR parents shared the roles OR parents have similar natures. (The interpretation will cater to all three possibilities.)
If Saturn is conjunct Ceres—assume one parent played both roles OR parents shared roles or were similar.
If the Moon and Saturn or Ceres and Saturn occupy the same house (4th or 10th), assume one parent played both roles, the parents shared roles or the parents were similar.
If Ceres and the Moon occupy the 4th or 10th and Saturn is not in that house, assume that house is Mom’s.
If Saturn occupies the 4th or 10th and the Moon and Ceres are not there, assume that house is Dad’s.
(A hazard which can be handled in a personal consultation is the rare but occasionally seen case where Saturn is a key to mother and Moon is a key to father.)
If Cancer occupies the MC or IC, assume that house is Mom’s.
If Cancer is within the 4th or 10th, assume that house is Mom’s.
If none of the above are true, proceed with the following: Weight the nature of any planets in the 4th, houses ruled by planets in the 4th, house placement(s) of ruler(s) of the IC and any signs in the 4th, sign placements of any ruler(s) of the IC and signs in the 4th plus signs present on the IC and in the 4th house. Summarize in terms of letters of the alphabet. Then, follow a similar procedure for the 10th house—summing planets in the 10th, houses ruled by planets in the 10th, house placements of rulers of the MC and any signs in the 10th, sign placements of any rulers of the MC and signs in the 10th plus signs present on the MC and in the 10th house.
Next, summarize the placement of the Moon and Ceres by including any conjunctions (or parallels) to Moon and Ceres, house placements of Moon and Ceres and sign placements of Moon and Ceres. Summarize the placement of Saturn (and the Sun if you choose to use it as a secondary key to father) in terms of conjunctions (and parallels), house and sign placements.
Compare the summaries for the Moon and Ceres to the summaries for the 4th and 10th houses. Do the Moon and Ceres share a letter of the alphabet with either the 4th or 10th houses? Do they both share an element or a quality with either house? Do they both share a theme (e.g., obsessive-compulsive)? Compare the summaries for Saturn to the summaries for the 4th and 10th houses. Does Saturn share a letter of the alphabet theme with either house? Does Saturn share a quality, element or other theme with the 4th or 10th house?
Use the following discriminations: If the Moon and Ceres share a letter of the alphabet with one house and Saturn shares a letter of the alphabet with the other house, assign Mom and Dad to those houses, respectively.
If the Moon and Ceres share a letter of the alphabet with one house, but not the other and if Saturn does not share a letter of the alphabet with either house, assign mother to the house which shares the Moon/Ceres letter of the alphabet. Assign father to the other house.
If Saturn shares a letter of the alphabet with one house and the Moon and Ceres do not share with either house, assign father to the house which shares the Saturn letter and mother to the other house.
If the Moon/Ceres share an element with one house and Saturn shares an element with the other, assign Mom and Dad to those houses, respectively.
If the Moon/Ceres share an element with one house and Saturn does not share with the other, assign mother to the house which shares the Moon/Ceres element and Dad to the other.
If Saturn shares an element with one house and the Moon/Ceres do not share with the other, assign father to the house which shares the Saturn element and mother to the other.
If Moon/Ceres share a theme (e.g., freedom, closeness) with one house and Saturn shares a theme with the other house, assign those houses to mom and dad, respectively.
If Moon/Ceres share a theme with one house and Saturn does not share a theme, assign the first house to mom and the other to dad.
If Saturn shares a theme with one house and the Moon/Ceres do not share a theme, assign the first house to dad and the other to mom.
If the Moon/Ceres share an element combination with one house and Saturn shares another element combination with the other house, assign those houses to mom and dad, respectively.
If the Moon/Ceres share an element combination with one house and Saturn does not share an element combination with a house, assign that house to mom and the other to dad.
If Saturn shares an element combination with one house and the Moon/Ceres do not share an element combination with any house, assign the first house to dad and the other to mom.
If the Moon/Ceres share a quality combination with one house and Saturn shares another quality with the other house, assign those houses to mom and dad, respectively.
If the Moon/Ceres share a quality with one house and Saturn does not, assign that house to mom and the other to dad.
If Saturn shares a quality with one house and the Moon/Ceres do not share a quality with either house, assign the first house to dad and the other to mom.
If none of the above apply, but the Moon/Ceres and Saturn summaries share a letter of the alphabet, a theme, an element or a quality, assume that either one parent played both roles or the parents shared roles.
If none of the above apply, assign the 4th house to Mom and the 10th house to Dad.
The above should give you a hint of the complexity involved in such programs. Most of us forget the incredible amounts of data we are processing minute-to-minute! Working on the Planetary Profile gave me a greater appreciation of the usefulness of computers as a tool—and also of their limits in certain respects. It reaffirmed my belief in the complexity and uniqueness of each human being on this Earth.
If anyone is interested in looking at what this computerized interpretation can do for their chart, they can order a “Planetary Profile” from Astro Computing Services (PO Box 16430, San Diego, CA 92116-0430) for $18.00 (plus $2.00 postage and handling). Be sure to request that “Astrological Annotation” (which is FREE) be included, so that you can see the factors going into each interpretation.