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Interview with John Townley Date Published: 6/20/2001 John Townley by Clarke Fountain
Bio: John Townley John  Townley

John Townley is a lifelong astrologer, author, composer, and historian. His professional experience has spanned the fields of business, science, journalism, maritime history, and the creative arts. He may be reached at


John  Townley

Clarke Fountain: By my count, after briefly scanning the Amazon, Astrology Et Al and Llewellyn websites, you have written at least seven books on astrology. They range from those dealing with relationships to several that concern planetary and life cycles. Clearly you have a lot to say about cycles. What got you so interested in them, and what keeps your interest in them alive?

John TownleyI have from the beginning been interested in approaches to astrology that integrate well with other disciplines. Cycles and cycle analysis is shared with so many areas of study - from weather, to biology and medicine, to history - so it is a central area to focus larger views of how things are structured, including astrology. When I first read Charles Jayne's section on cycles in DeVore's 1947 Encyclopedia of Astrology, it hit a chord with me, which resonated further when I subsequently had the opportunity to study and work with Charles. After that, a pursuit of the ever-elusive physical basis of astrology has kept me returning to cycles for a framework upon which to hang it all.<


CF:Since the cause of our interest in subjects often contains the seeds at least of how we learn about them, you might already have answered this question, but how did you learn so much about cycles? What was your learning process?

JT:It has been a cyclical process, appropriately. I have a number of other career pursuits, both in and out of astrology, including music, history, and science and technology, and I sort of rotate. As I add development in each, it lends new substance to the next - a cycle of progression, so to speak, which includes cycles.


CF: I'd like to ask the same two questions about your involvement in relationship astrology. What prompted your interest, what about it holds your interest, and how did you learn what you now know about it?

JT:Relationships and especially sexuality have held my interest since, well, puberty. As with astrology, there is an alluring combination there of physical structure and the generally ineffable. I spent three years as managing editor of the venerable monthly Sexology Today, which connected me with the top people in that field and led me to a synthesis of contemporary opinion on sexuality and astrology that turned into Planets In Love. It has really been my uncovering and development of the composite chart that has kept me engaged in the area, however, as that technique is truly a child of cycles and reveals so much about how and why astrology works.


CF: In the astrology report you wrote for Matrix, "Relating Potentials," you take a novel approach to the chart, exploring every part of it in terms of relationship. This tells me that you have an interesting perspective on the issue of how people live in society. Would you care to expand on that a bit?

JT:It's actually more of a perspective on astrology itself, a recognition that every planet is involved in everything you do (including relationships of all sorts) and that planets, according to the speed of their cycles, coexist with and correspond to the development of our internal and external social frameworks. Beginning with that on an individual basis, we then interact with each other and overlying planetary cycles in a wonderfully arranged way. In its essence it is so simple, like the formula for a fractal set, yet it expands into the awe-inspiring complexity of the whole universe, at once immediately palpable and yet ultimately beyond our grasp. Society is just a part of it, but we ourselves (and thus society) are the filter through which we necessarily experience the universe, so that is the most accessible point at which to start.


CF: I've been trying to find out how our community's better-known members got to be where they are, so I've got a series of questions here that relate to that. How did you get started in astrology? Tell me about your journey as an astrologer, and how you became a professional astrologer and finally a teacher. What astrologers inspired you originally, and whose work do you still find exciting and inspiring?

JT:I discovered studying astrology when I traded space in my recording studio complex to Al Morrison in exchange for him to do charts for the musicians I was working with there such as Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention. Al was a very intuitive and inspiring teacher, though he burned a little hot, which often caused him to become alienated from others, eventually including me. It was Charles Jayne that most influenced me to stay in the ball game, and I began astrological practice and teaching after I had begun developing new ideas and books of my own, especially on composites and cycles. Eventually, however, I found that my heart was really in the area of writing, research, and theoretical development, and that's where I have mostly remained since the early 1980's. The most exciting and inspiring work I see today oddly enough is not actually in the field of astrology itself, but in fields that may help transform astrology and lend it a more consistent set of underpinnings, especially chaos, complexity, and catastrophe theory.


CF: Since you began writing, the world of astrology has grown a lot more organized. There are a great many more books out there, for one thing, and societies with new professional standards and so forth. What thoughts do you have about where the astrology community came from, where it is, and where it's headed? Do you think we've got a healthy crop of young people who are getting involved in astrology? If not, what do you think needs to be done about that?

JT:I have seen astrology both grow and splinter since its big renaissance in the 1970's. On the plus side has been a greater awareness of where it came from and developed historically, and on the minus side the general market for it, which is of necessity neophytic, has nurtured what could be generously called "falling off the shallow end" even on the part of some good astrologers, ranging to what is no less than charlatanry on the part of many more. Efforts to maintain professional "standards" have been largely ineffective, as such standards rely on a variety of conflicting traditions not yet united by the kind of underpinning that the physical and even some social sciences enjoy. If you don't agree on what makes it work (if/when, indeed, it really does), you can't do much that's consistent with what ensues. Modern thinking since the Reformation pretty much relies on laying down a foundation theory and developing or questioning from there. It's like building a ship. You can do it from plans, or simply rough it out by eye. The Viking shipwrights built some of the most beautiful vessels in history by eye and rule of thumb alone, but you'll never build a cruise ship or an aircraft carrier that way. Astrology is still pretty much at the Viking level, for all the good and bad that implies. You can discover new continents by the seat of your pants, as they did, but you can't maintain a presence there that way. To do so takes a more consistent, thought-out structure that has staying power beyond the occasional artist or inspired practitioner. In conjunction with other disciplines, astrology has the potential to take the next steps in that direction, supported by new structural views of reality in other areas, but that may take some time.


CF: You undoubtedly have lots of projects that you're involved in. What are you up to these days? Do you have an upcoming lecture series, book or report that you'd like to tell us about?

JT:Actually, of late I've been alive and well and living on the Internet, working as a journalist writing on media technology. It's another one of those steps in the repeating cycle, and with the release of my new book Composite Charts, I'm being led back to a focus on astrology, along with music and history (I also have a new historical sea music CD label just born). I'll be consolidating some of the astrological reports I've done, finally completing a long-gestated cycle analysis program and report, and probably working on something on Lunar returns, among others - much of it in conjunction with Matrix, I am happy to add.


CF: How do your other projects in journalism, music, and technology influence your work in astrology?

JT:They are all of a piece and mutually affect each other. When I'm writing astrological interpretation, for instance, personal journalism and music are never far away, whereas theorizing on how and why it works brings the technology experience to the fore. Conversely, when I'm writing about technology, astrological cycles are often a key insight into what's happening in that field, as they are in the very cyclical world of musical taste and style. Each supports and enriches the others, hopefully adding greater compass to the whole.


CF: Are there any astrological, national U.S. or world trends that you think our readers should take particular note of in the near future?

JT:Actually, there are quite a few. As I said, I cut my cycle teeth on some of Jayne's mundane work and I still keep my eyes open. If you like the Sibly U.S.A. chart, this country is just seeing a Pluto/Ascendant transiting conjunction for the first time -- an end to the country's solo image and a better integration into the world community, perforce, perhaps? Even if that chart's not your cup of tea, the U.S. will be seeing it's first Pluto return in the coming generation, no small thing. When you look at the changes with which the first Neptune return coincided, you have to ask what might Pluto bring? And there are lots of others. Neptune in Aquarius, for instance, which has traditionally accompanied crippling plagues around the world. Go to Africa. It's already underway there, at a level to rival the Black Death, and Neptune's not even past the first decanate of Aquarius. The global trend, in general, is hang together or hang separately, but that's not news. The news will be which one we manage to astrology and all else, we are in uniquely interesting times, where only time can tell...


© Copyright: Matrix Software





Other Interviews by Clarke Fountain

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Barbara Shafferman

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Bernie Ashman

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Gloria Star

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Linda C. Black

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Ray Merriman

Fountain, ClarkeShantam Zohar Interview

Fountain, ClarkeInterview With Trish MacGregor - Part I

Fountain, ClarkeInterview With Trish MacGregor - Part II

Fountain, ClarkeInterview with Steven Forrest and Jeffrey Wolf Green



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