An interview with Alan Scott
(Reprinted from the Astrological Society of New Zealand’s Journal of the Seasons, Summer Solstice 2001)
Back in 1980 I attended a two-day basic astrology workshop at Aio-Wira in the Waitakere ranges. I was there solely at my mother’s request so I would be able to assist her with the mathematics of the astrology she was endeavouring to learn. John Jenkins took the course and I well remember his strong Welsh accent, mop of unruly hair and boundless enthusiasm. It was this enthusiasm which hooked me into astrology — two days with John and my life changed. Whilst I was able to help my mother become a competent astrologer my own interest kept growing and astrology has been a big part of my life for many years. Although our paths have only crossed a couple of times in the intervening years I have always felt a debt of gratitude to John for introducing me to astrology, consequently I felt privileged to be asked by JOTS Editor Bernard Honey, to interview John for this issue. What I had thought would be a formal sort of question and answer session turned into a fascinating look into some of John’s experiences, his background and famous names he’s brushed shoulders with. Over the years John has fulfilled many roles for the ASNZ and encouraged many others into astrology with his enthusiasm, knowledge and direct humour. Thank-you John for not only giving your time for this interview but also for the inspiration you have been, and still are, to many in astrology. My occasional clarifications are in italics.
How did you get into astrology?
I was always psychic; my idea of psychic and astrology is very close together. I was always seeing things.
So when you were young you were naturally seeing things.
I was living in two worlds all the time, even then I just accepted everybody saw it, it was just one of those things you didn’t talk about. It gave me an understanding there was something else, but just what it was? — I still don’t know.
How did you develop it?
When I came out of the Army and after floating around all over Britain and getting into the Spiritualist Church I got down to London and joined the Marylebone Spiritualist Association. At that time it was the hotbed of psychism, occultism. A lot of people who went through there were very highly educated and certainly not fools. In fact floating about the place where Lord Dowling, Major Firebrace, Jeff Mayo — who went his own way, going to Scotland after a falling out with Margaret Hone — and the chap who became my teacher, his name was Shaun Desmond. No one seems to know much of him these days but he was a high flier at the time. He was my first teacher but it wasn’t just astrology, astrology for him was small time, he was of the Golden Dawn crowd, very old by that time.
You’re talking of when?
About 1952 after I came out of the Army, I stayed in a while and came out about then.
So you moved in these circles
I was just a young uneducated Welsh boy who happened to be quite a good psychic. I came in totally uneducated with a lot of natural ability. Shaun was a big well-spoken man, gigantically clever, long white hair, a gigantic showman still occasionally wearing frock coats by this time at least 30 years out of date. I was hanging around the outskirts listening to these people. Once spiritualist and psychic of the year in Britain he had quite a following, not just astrology; he taught Tarot, talked about occultism as a whole. The Tarot is the full story of a person’s life the way he taught it, at the same time he taught astrology.
And this lack of education?
I left school at 13½, didn’t have a lot before then because I was born in the depression, both my parents were dead, my father when I was nine and my mother when eleven. There wasn’t much work going at that time, it was a hard battle to get by and keep up but at the same time I had this natural ability — just give me an idea and I could latch onto it — and a great memory; though its dropping off now. I could always get the idea of a symbol so symbols were very easy with the Tarot and I picked up that story very easily. Then when he was teaching astrology he did teach the mathematics of drawing up the chart but I couldn’t get it. Everyone else there got it in one teaching; I just didn’t have enough mathematics. Let’s face it it’s not all that difficult if you know [mathematics].
I had to wait until I met Donn Forrest to learn how to really draw a chart up, I had no idea before then. What I did have and caught on to was houses, planets, and rulerships, and it is still the basis of astrology. I never caught on to squares, trines and yods and one thing or another. I worked hard at it, I used to go to Margaret Hone’s classes she ran from the YMCA at the time.
What was Margaret Hone like, how did you find her?
Well she drove out anyone who disagreed with her. She was strong-minded. Her way was the only way, she spent ages trying to teach people how to draw charts and I just couldn’t get it. Anybody who wanted to do anything but Equal house and drawing up charts her way was more or less driven out. She was wanting all the time for astrology to be a science, if she thought you were not thinking scientifically she had no time for you — that was one thing she had against me — I was a psychic. I see a symbol and I’d do what I do now, I see it and I say it and can’t understand why everyone else can’t see it. She was dominant, and was the kingpin of all those fellows who were bossy in their own rights. I knew them all but Sean treated me like a father. When I was complaining that I could not draw up a chart he would pat me on the back and say, “Don’t let it worry you John, all the people here can draw up a chart but they can’t read it for you, do what you can do.” He encouraged me by the fact he was kind. All I was was an uneducated Welsh ex-soldier who had an over (inflated) view of other people’s intelligence. When they put me down I took them at their word, he was my main encouragement. It wasn’t that we were matey but he never said a bad word to me and everything was encouraging. The others were often caught up. In the fact that I was lower class with a terrible accent he (Shaun) and a few other people came at the right time, people always came at the right time to give me a little push.
It happens to me too. So you came to NZ, can you tell me about that?
I came here, did a bit of psychic work in Napier. As a medium, a bit of astrology by word of mouth, I never really put myself out as an astrologer it wasn’t my big thing. If I had anything to offer it was Tarot and meduimship. If someone would bring a chart I would read it but at that time I still could not draw a chart up. My chief thing was pure psychic.
But what lead you to NZ?
The beginning of 1956 the weather was terrible. I met some Kiwis, they were all saying they wished they were back in NZ laying on beaches, all those girls. Then I saw a big advert in the paper for NZ ten-pound assisted passage, so thought do I want to go to Canada and freeze or go to the beach and watch women. I thought the beach in NZ sounded the better deal so away I went. Then after I got married to Gloria I didn’t have any time, I had to switch from doing the psychic stuff and not worrying about money too much to having a wife and a baby on the way.
So what lead you from there to astrological circles?
I got sick on the farm, we had bought this farm. How we got the money to pay for it after arriving broke is a story in itself. I knew I wanted to retire by the time I was 54, at that time I was 32. I had already started to get an education myself with correspondence courses before buying the farm. While on the farm I got leptospirosis, put my back out at the same time and my heart started playing up. Here was I in bed, Gloria trying to run the farm with one boy, me in bed moaning my head off and being very ungrateful. Gloria went upstairs and got an armful of books including all my astrology books. So she brought down these books and said, “Read these and shut up”.
By this time of course I’d got a little more education. In fact I’d done correspondence courses, in my spare time, what I had; I’d gone to night school and got my School Certificate but missed out on the U.E. So I wasn’t quite as far back as when I was doing it with Shaun and to a certain extent I did learn from Maggie’s books and Davison’s and a couple of others I’d picked up, and I had Firebrace’s sidereal.
So you had virtually been out of it for how many years then?
Oh I’d been out of it by this time for about 12 years, hardly looking at it. So I lay in bed and managed to draw up these charts and then get into it with reading and remembering, I could always remember practically anything Shaun told me because he never said a thing without telling a story. Those things stay with you. I later found I wasn’t drawing them up all that correctly, in fact I put you wrong once. As I started getting a bit better I wanted someone to talk to about astrology. I knew all these people in Britain but didn’t know anyone in NZ so Gloria looked around and she saw in the paper Donn Forest was running this course.
You were in Auckland?
I was farming at that time at Waimauku so I went around and Donn didn’t teach me how but I bought his book and as far as I was concerned it was the most clear writing on how to draw a chart up that I had come across in all the rest of the teachings I had done. So I taught myself how to draw up a chart and really do think he did it very expertly.
Of course those days it was working with logarithms etc., there was a lot to it.
Oh yes there was a long way around to doing it. And then I picked up something in the newspaper once (I don’t remember how to do it these days) to do with the Moon and the weather. I started doing my Moon astrology and was quite famous around our way. I wouldn’t cut the hay if the Moon was in the wrong quarter in the wrong way.
It became your speciality.
That’s right it became that way. I was getting very good at picking the weather especially during the hay making time, times when you had to bank on the weather being right. I used to get my leg pulled shocking, often I’d go to farmers’ meetings and they’d say “John the astrologer” and take the mickey out of me. But they started saying “How about doing my horoscope for me John” and I’d say “Oh yeah”. About two months later I wouldn’t have done a thing because I was busy. I always remember this chap came in and said “When are you going to do this horoscope for me John. Doesn’t work you know but I’d like to know what you have to say about it”.
“I haven’t got the time and you know time is money”
“How much do you want?”
Well I’ll always remember sitting there and thinking how much it would take to drive this fellow off. It was still in pounds in those days. So I can’t remember, I think I said about 30 or 40 pounds that will get rid of him. And he threw it on the table and said “Now do it”.
I’ve never worked so hard for 30 or 40 pounds in my whole life because I wrote it all out longhand. What took the time is my ability to write. I never learnt to write fast even when I sold the farm and went to university. I wanted him to be able to read it because I didn’t have the confidence to say “Sit down and I’ll tell you about it”.
So that was really your first chart?
That was the first chart I did for money. I did it for the family, you know if anybody in the family had a new child or came along. I had done my own; I sold the farm by the horoscope. That was the first formal one I had actually done for money. I tried to drive them off my back and they kept coming back. Next they said I was greedy, money-making, but they gave me the money just the same.
By this time you’d been to see Noel Tyl
After I sold the farm I went over there. By this time I’d read Noel Tyl’s books. And I think his course [Principles and Practice of Astrology now out of print but sometimes obtainable second-hand] is the best course on basic astrology I’ve ever seen. It fits in very well, especially in the early part with the way Shaun Desmond taught me, of the planets in houses and rulership. I still do a lot of round robining you see [Derivative house methods].
I like that very much too, you were the first person I saw use it and of course Noel Tyl does it. In this way you’re reading the complete chart aren’t you?
Yes, you’re going round and round and getting everything.
Did you go to America just to see him?
Partly I wanted him to do my horoscope to see how he would actually do it. Having read his books I wanted to see how this bloke performed. I went to America. I definitely wanted to meet up with Tyl, I also wanted to meet up with Barbara Watters, but I didn’t know when she lived . . . So when I went to Tyl and I paid him for the horoscope: then he threw me out at the end of the meeting and then invited me back in — and said: “You can’t afford to spend more time with the client than they’re paying for, if they’re paying for an hour when the hour’s up take them out; shake hands with them and say goodbye, you’re only there for an hour.” Very professional! So he marched me out. I thought, “How the hell did I get out here. As bad as royalty shaking your hand and pushing you on your way?”
He then said, “That’s how it’s done, now come on let’s have a talk”.
So you clicked with him?
Yes it’s funny we clicked fairly well. He gave me a lesson. I remember this one: “Us big fellows need to be very careful that we don’t bear down on clients, you notice I haven’t got my chair up very high (he forgot that his table was on a platform at that time)! and he said make sure that your client is sitting up fairly high to you on a chair, not too close to the table so they don’t feel put down by your size . . . and don’t raise your voice, keep your voice down.” Well he’s a professional bass baritone and it wasn’t long before his voice was getting louder and louder and mine copying. (Laughing) So I had a very good time with him. He talked to me about Hand [Robert], and said, “If you want to know about Uranian? There’s Emerson down in New York, but if you want someone to teach you about it, if you get a chance, talk to Robert Hand.” So I said I’d remember that.
I couldn’t get to see Rob because he was in a different direction to which we were moving and I didn’t know exactly where he was anyway. So low and behold he came over here [to NZ]. When he was over here he gave spellbinder talks, some of the best I’ve ever heard, I thought he was a crackerjack speaker. I saw him and said, “I a little while ago I was over in the States and saw Tyl, I wanted to know about Uranian astrology, he told me to talk to you, you’re the best teacher of Uranian Astrology in America”. He said, “That’s something coming from Tyl”.
Did you spend time with him?
I said, “What about giving us a lesson?” There were some of us went to where he was sleeping at Tauhara, about 6 or 7 of us got there at about 9 o’clock at night, we were there till about 3 o’clock in the morning. He brought out a disc, sat down so we could all sit around the table. He gave us this lecture, quite a long lecture on how to draw up the chart using a disc, told us where to get them from, gave us a hell of a good talk, did a couple of horoscopes from the floor.
So I really got hooked on it then. Things come like magic. I had another computer by then that had a slightly better program on it; it had the Uranians in it. I ran my chart with the Uranians and printed it. I found my wife Gloria had Hades=Uranus in her 7th house. Detchen was with me at the time and I remember protesting that I was not a derelict bum or no-hoper [Robert Hand’s definition]! and Detchen asked what my mother-in-law thought. She was right of course. It is not what you are — it’s the impression on other people.
Then I thought how do we get more information about it. About five days later (when a group of us were together) this German chap came to the door, and said, “I’ve got some books I want to sell do you want them? I’ve got the Hamburg book of rules and this Course that was put out by this early German in about 1930; he was one of the first German-Jews who escaped from Hitler”. I said, “How much do you want for it?” He said “$200”. I said, “I’ll give you $150 for it,” and he said, “Done”. Just like that! There we were sitting down there interested in this and in someone comes with the book of rules.
When the pupil’s ready . . .
The teacher comes in. There is no such thing as mistakes or chance. Of course I printed it out, it was terribly printed and quite frankly some of his charts were wrong; when you printed them on the computer they didn’t come out as he thought they would, so I came to the conclusion I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t do mathematics (laughing). He did it the early way of the Uranians, the 360 degree chart which I still use sometimes, plus the 90 degree, so it had the 360 degree one side and the 90 degree. The Uranians when they did the 360 degree used at least six different house systems.
From then on I got hooked on Uranian because at that time I was doing a lot of clients and a lot of my clients were money people. Don’t forget this was still the 80s and the stock market was flying and we were all thinking of getting very, very rich (laughter). Amazing how quickly that money disappeared (more laughter).
Then I predicted of course the ‘87 market collapse. I remember it was about 5 weeks before the market went, I looked at the New York stock exchange — I always worked the world stock exchanges from Wall St because as Wall St goes the rest of us go.
So you had lots of clients and were really into Uranian.
I was solid into Uranian and I was solid into business astrology and a bit of other stuff but very heavy business people were coming.
In the Forrest’s time we were booming, where did we go wrong, what can change this?
He was a good teacher. You don’t get many people like Donn who will stand up and can push. I certainly couldn’t, it was just Donn’s personality, he brought enthusiasm to it. He turned around and said, “John hang out your shingle in K. Rd as a psychic, you’ll never make much money in astrology. You’ll make a fortune doing psychic readings”.
What was the most significant event in your astrological life?
Meeting Shaun Desmond and hearing him perform from the stage. He’d do that, you’d just hand him a chart, he would fold up a chart in a certain way then unfold it and all the pieces would make up a square chart, that medieval chart, and that’s what he would work from. He also taught the round chart which he thought was inferior but all right for learners.
What advice have you for newcomers, there are so many differing techniques around.
One man can only use so much; find out what’s good for you and use it. Pick what you want, pick what you like, try everything — pick what works for you. I met so many different kinds of people. As I’ve said when I first started learning astrology (it was part of the psychic) on my shelf there are three or four Tarot packs. It is a bit of everything. The spiritual life is more important to me than the actual horoscope. The Horoscope speaks to me and it seems to help. We do what’s right for us. When I am teaching I teach the way I do it then they have to do their way. All I teach is telling people to see a thing and say it immediately.
So you encourage people to have the confidence to say what they see.
Don’t think about it. Say it. Meditate on them, meditate on the houses, meditate on the planets, meditate on the signs, fill your mind with it. If you are looking at the first house of Aries just think about Aries, its ruled by Mars, in the first house it’s exceptionally strong. In the second house it has to be a different way again. You still get the same force, its way of saying I want to do things my way but in the second house it’s saying of my whole self worth period I’ve got to be doing things my way. But in the meantime you come back to the first house and you’ve got Pisces on there which means I’m quite sensitive, I want to do things for people but with Aries on the second house I want to do things for people but in my way. And that’s without looking at any planets that are in there.
To say that and then you expand it according to which planets are in it, or where the rulers are. If Aries happens to be on the second house with Pisces rising and you’ve got Neptune in it you’re going to be in the state of I want to serve. I want to serve in my own way but I don’t know what I’m doing anyway (with all that Neptune stuff) so I’m liable to get myself horribly confused. So unless I can get into some occupation that’s going to make use of my imagination and mysticism maybe (depending on what else there is of course) I’m not going to do too well. I’m likely to go through life totally confused (and this of course has been my case for most of my life).
If I had Uranus here I will do anything I want, I’ll do it in my way but my way will change day by day and probably be slightly off the map in the way I think and do things.
That information using two signs, two planets and two houses. Someone starting out with that method just needs to have the confidence to come right out and say it.
Think about them when you’re doing it, don’t just reach for a book. Basically what I’m doing comes back to Shaun Desmond, you sit there and meditate. You become friends with the houses, you become friends with the gods.