Book review: Harmonics in Astrology

John Addey (1920-1982) was an English astrologer who wrote Harmonics in Astrology (first edition in 1976), a book which represented his vision in astrology: All astrological effects can be understood in terms of the harmonics of cosmic periods”. Charles Harvey see the book as “the single most important contribution to astrological theory and practice since the emergence of astrology in the ancient world”.

Part One – The General Theory

The idea with which the book starts is that we don’t have a strong basis in astrology, an obvious fact if we think why we are dealing with problems like: which is the best system (Eastern or Western) in astrology, what is the correct house system, where is the cusp of a house, the delineations in “good” and “bad” aspects or “good” and “bad” signs. The fact that we can’t solve those questions shows that we don’t have good, reliable principles at the foundation of the astrology we use. The author propose a solution:

“What is needed is a vision of the underlying realities of our science in the light of which astrological concepts can be co-ordinated, simplified and unified. […] The picture that has so emerged is one of the harmonics, that is, the rhythms and sub-rhytms of cosmic periods, which can be demonstrated to provide the basis of all astrological doctrine both ancient and modern.”

Then, in chapters 2 and 3, the author presents the basic elements of the theory of harmonics: a wave is a determined by length, amplitude and phase, which shows where the peak is. In astrology, the period where waves are measured is the Zodiac circle (ecliptic) which has 360 degrees, so this is the maximum length of a wave, or the fundamental wave. The length of other waves is given by the number of the harmonic which divides the basic period, for example a wave of 180 degrees (half of the circle) corresponds to harmonic 2, a wave of 90 degrees to harmonic 4 and so on.

After the theory, the author presents a first application of harmonics 3 and 4 using Michel Gauquelin study about the planet Saturn on the charts of scientists and physicians – see Cosmic Influences in Human Behaviour.

Chapter 5 is about the astrological symbolism which can be better understood with harmonics, as the author explains:

the limits of the conventional houses do not correspond to the realities of situation” – houses in the traditional system don’t fit well on harmonics for many reasons (for example phase positions in harmonics can be at every 45 degrees);

“we are always dealing with a circle of potential relationships; the symbolic significance of the relationship is based on the number by which the circle must by divided to yield a relationship.”

the traditional emphasis on number twelve (twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve houses of the horoscope, twelve main aspect points) is shown to be one of extreme poverty. Once the harmonic principle is grasped it can be seen that all numbers play their part in the symbolism of astrological relationships”

Why don’t divide the Zodiac in 36 or 4 parts, for example? Why 12? Indeed, this observation should be like a red flag for astrologers, because if those divisions of houses or signs in 12 are not the most important, not only that don’t help us, but more they put obstacles to a better understanding. It gives to the chart reader additional distorting information which will distract attention from the important points of the chart.

In Chapter 6 the author shows how to calculate a harmonic (4th in his example) and her sub-harmonics (12th in his example). Another very good observation can be found:

“If we divide any circle into a number of sectors of equal length (say four sectors of 90 degrees or nine of 40 degrees) and set down our totals for each sector in order then this will have the effect of revealing more clearly the harmonics which will fit in that sector length, because it also has the effect of eliminating, in the result, all harmonics of the whole circle which will not fit into that sector length.” 

In Chapters 7 and 8 – “Harmonics in the Ecliptic Circle”, the author shows another time that the division of the Zodiac in the well known 12 signs is limited because the signs distinct boundaries from which the influence should change radically and between which the influence should be equally the same don’t reflect the reality because every small group of degrees has a different symbolism, a fact emphasized with harmonics.

Also, in Chapter 9 – Harmonics in the Aspect Circle, the author presents an analysis of the aspects between Sun-Saturn in the charts of 972 nonagenarians using harmonics. His conclusion is that using the traditional aspects no special relation could be found, but, by using harmonics he could identify the 24th (15 degrees), 36th (10 degrees) or the 108th (3 1/3 degrees) harmonics to be relevant.

In conclusion, harmonics gave good results in this case. In fact the author gives a very good mathematical and philosophical explanation:

Astrology is full of circles and circular motions. Three of these are usually given precedence: first, there is the circle of the Zodiac, that is, the circle of the ecliptic in which positions of the planets in their orbits are determined. Secondly there is a circle of houses, that is, the diurnal circle of the planets as they rise, culminate and set each day. Thirdly there is the circle of aspects as a planet moves from its conjunction with another body round to the opposition and back again to the conjunction. In each of these circles the astrologer studies the relationship of one factor to another and places an interpretation upon that relationship.”

“Everything in the realms of manifestation owes its existence to the dynamic power of Ideas. Ideas in their highest aspect are spiritual wholes or unities. Such wholes, existing above time and space, are yet formal causes of everything in manifestation. 

What is unitive above is multiplex below. Thus Ideas express themselves objectively through parts, the parts representing in their inter-relationships the outworking of the subjective potentialities of the whole from which they are derived, each fulfilling or expressing a function or aspect of the parent unity. The Idea, as a unity, manifests as the entire circle of the ordered relationships of the parts. In the realms of time it manifests as the whole cycle of the stages of unfoldment  of the Idea by which the inherent potentialities are actualised in the order of succession.”

So, we can say that everything is the unfolding of ideas! Those are very powerful philosophical positions.

“It is a fundamental principle that the number by which the circle is divided holds the key to the interpretation of the relationship involved.”

Part Two – Practical Applications

In Chapter 11, the author presents the Navamsa chart, which is an astrological technique used in Indian astrology which consist in dividing the Zodiac in nine (9) and then in 12 (twelve) parts and is said to show the marriage partner. The author show that is an application of the 9th harmonic, as there are others in Indian astrology: Hora or 2nd harmonic signify possessions, Dreshkhana or the 3th harmonic signify brothers, Chaturthamsa or the 4th harmonic signify home and property etc.

He also writes about the number 9:

“The number 9 (nine) is associated with the Ideal to be realised and with Completion. […] The number nine, though not identical with the idea of entelechy, yet represents the gateway to that fulfillment.”

In Chapter 12, the author presents in the same manner the Panchamsa chart, an Indian technique which is based on the 5th harmonic, an indication about creativity, mental power, art.

Chapter 13 is a lesson of numerology where the author writes about the symbolism of numbers: 7 (seven) is about mysticism, sacred matters, inspiration, creativity, 6 (six) is about health, 3 (three) is about form as opposed to matter, the formal principle of a thing, 4 (four) is about the material cause, effort, will, challenges, to manifest in the world ones potential. He also gives examples, like:

“Sun – Jupiter septile (a.n. – 51 degrees 30 minutes) often tends to give an interest in mystical philosophy. Mercury – Saturn might give an interest in the mystical or symbolic aspect of numbers.”

Part Three – Problems

In Chapter 18 the author wrote about “what determines phase” using Gauquelin studies. In Chapter 19 are presented several points of view about the debate on tropical or sidereal zodiac:

“In the light of the concept of harmonics one can see where some of this confusion arises. Part of it evidently comes simply from the over-emphasis of the twelve-fold division and the neglect of other valid divisions which must be just as strong if in a sense less basic. But another distorting factor comes from that view of the ecliptic which sees it, astrologically, as twelve box-type sectors, each sign having a uniform quality from start to finish, instead of as a complex of wave forms.”

In Chapter 20 – Astrology, Harmonics and Genetics the author writes about how astrological positions are inherited:

“To put the matter in a nutshell, we know that there are laws of heredity by which natural characteristics are transmitted from generation to generation. We also know that the natural characteristics of each person are described by the horoscope calculated for his date, time and place of birth. It therefore follows – and we must be clear about this, it does inevitably follow– that the astrological code by which the horoscope is interpretated must be in agreement with the genetic code by which natural traits are transmitted from one generation to the next. The two things must be parallel expressions of the same theme.”

One of the first observations is the study of Michel Gauquelin which showed that a planet rising or culminating in parents charts had great chances to be in the same position in children’s charts. Also he presents practical examples like the Moon taking the same position or opposite for the women in the author’s family.

The subject is indeed very interesting and needs further researches because the simple hereditary astrological positions can already be observed by any astrologer.


Conclusion. The author wrote himself in Chapter 14 a good conclusion for the book and, in the same time, a lesson for understanding aspects and the relation between major aspects, recognized by almost all astrologers, and minor aspects, some of them not used:

“In summary, a clear recognition of the relationship between the symbolism of number and divisions of the aspect-circle, combined with a definite norm for deciding upon orbs, enables one to move freely and think creatively about the whole field of aspect relationships. Major aspects are more important in the sens that they are more general and more comprehensive in their significance, but minor and unusual aspects can reliably be given full weight when the orbs are kept proportionately small and when their meaning has been defined and understood. The former reveal the character and balance of the horoscope in general terms. The latter can contribute most valuable insights into the precise direction and flavour of the chart. Such minor aspects will often supply the key to those things which make one person so different from another, his special aptitudes and not only in what he does but how goes about it.”

Generally, the book is an invitation to rethink astrology in some of her fundamental parts. Why 12 signs, why 12 houses, why only the traditional aspects? Why to use  only the 12th harmonic when we divide the Zodiac? Why a zodiacal sign has the same influence, characteristics through the whole length? These are questions with no definitive, clear answers upon which harmonics could throw a new light and give us new ways to see astrology, maybe more close to reality. The author propose the theory of harmonics as a logical, mathematical, realistic approach, as a theory based on the symbolism of numbers. Could be a cornerstone in the evolution of astrology.

On the other hand, what John Addey wrote is only the seed. The theory of harmonics in astrology needs more research and development in order to see how can be better applied in practice. Unfortunately it didn’t made much progress since 1976, when the first edition of the book was published. My evaluation is 8,45.