Kindred Births study at the Qualitative Research Methods workshop

On Sep 8, 2018 I gave a presentation on kindred births, at the Qualitative Research Methods online workshop. The following link is to a hypertext document that served as a guide for my presentation. Now I want to make it available as a guide to this topic of kindred births. It includes two new case sketches: Aretha Franklin and Che Guevara, who are among Time magazine’s 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century

I have added some things that I didn’t have time for during the presentation, including a section on Doing the Math and another on a private study:

Kindred Births workshop guide

Also, here’s the current pdf version of my Introduction to the Kindred Births method, with additional sections on details and research topics:

Kindred births and planetary recurrences


Philosophers and the question of the meaning of life

(This is an article that I’m republishing here, from, by Kieran Setiya)

Philosophers ponder the meaning of life. At least, that is the stereotype. When I risk admitting to a stranger that I teach philosophy for a living and face the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’, I have a ready response: we figured that out in the 1980s, but we have to keep it secret or we’d be out of a job; I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. In fact, professional philosophers rarely ask the question and, when they do, they often dismiss it as nonsense.

The phrase itself is of relatively recent origin. Its first use in English is in Thomas Carlyle’s parodic novel Sartor Resartus (1836), where it appears in the mouth of a comic German philosopher, Diogenes Teufelsdröckh (‘God-born devil-dung’), noted for his treatise on clothes. The question of life’s meaning remains both easy to mock and paradigmatically obscure.

What is the meaning of ‘meaning’ in ‘the meaning of life’? We talk about the meaning of words, or linguistic meaning, the meaning of an utterance or of writing in a book. When we ask if human life has meaning, are we asking whether it has meaning in this semantic sense? Could human history be a sentence in some cosmic language? The answer is that it could, in principle, but that this isn’t what we want when we search for the meaning of life. If we are unwitting ink in some alien script, it would be interesting to know what we spell out, but the answer would not have authority over us, as befits the meaning of life.

‘Meaning’ could mean purpose or function in a larger system. Could human life play that role? Again, it could, but yet again, this seems irrelevant. In Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s books, the Earth is part of a galactic computer, designed (ironically) to reveal the meaning of life. Whatever that meaning might be, our role in the computer program is not it. To discover that we are cogs in some cosmic machine is not to discover the meaning of life. It leaves our existential maladies untouched.

Seeing no other way to interpret the question, many philosophers conclude that the question is confused. If they go on to talk about meaning in life, they have in mind the meaning of individual lives, the question of whether this life or that life is meaningful for the person who is living it. But the meaning of life is not an individual possession. If life has meaning, it has a meaning that applies to us all. Does this idea make sense?

I think it does. We can make progress if we turn from the words that make up the question – ‘meaning’ in particular – to the contexts in which we feel compelled to ask it. We raise the question ‘Does life have meaning?’ in times of anguish, or despair, or emptiness. We ask it when we confront mortality and loss, the pervasiveness of suffering and injustice, the facts of life from which we recoil and which we cannot accept. Life seems profoundly flawed. Is there meaning to it all? Historically, the question of life’s meaning comes into focus through the anxiety of early existentialist philosophers, such as Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, who worried that it has none.

On the interpretation that this context suggests, the meaning of life would be a truth about us and about the world that makes sense of the worst. It would be something we could know about life, the Universe and everything, that should reconcile us to mortality and loss, suffering and injustice. Knowledge of this truth would make it irrational not to affirm life as it is, not to accept things as they are. It would show that despair, or angst, is a mistake.

The idea that life has meaning is the idea that there is a truth of this extraordinary kind. Whether or not there is, the suggestion is not nonsense. It is a hope that animates the great religions. Whatever else they do, religions offer metaphysical pictures whose acceptance is meant to bestow salvation, to reconcile us to the seeming faults of life. Or if they do not supply the truth, if they do not claim to convey the meaning of life, they offer the conviction that there is one, however hard to grasp or articulate it might be.

The meaning of life might be theistic, involving God or gods, or it might be non-theistic, as in one form of Buddhism. What distinguishes Buddhist meditation from mindfulness-based stress-reduction is the aim of ending suffering through metaphysical revelation. The emotional solace of Buddhism is meant to derive from insight into how things are – in particular, into the non-existence of the self – an insight that should move anyone. To come to terms with life through meditation for serenity, or through talk therapy, is not to discover the meaning of life, since it is not to discover any such truth.

Albert Einstein wrote that to know an answer to the question ‘What is the meaning of human life?’ means to be religious. But there is in principle room for non-religious accounts of meaning, ones that do not appeal to anything beyond the given world or the world revealed to us by science. Religion has no monopoly on meaning, even if it is hard to see how a non-transcendent truth could meet our definition: to know the meaning of life is to be reconciled to all that is wrong with the world. At the same time, it is hard to prove a negative, to show that nothing short of religion could play this role.

Philosophers are prone to see confusion in the question ‘What is the meaning of life?’ They have replaced it with questions about meaningful lives. But the search for life’s meaning will not go away and it is perfectly intelligible. I cannot tell you the meaning of life or give assurance that it has one. But I can say that it is not a mistake to ask the question. Does life have meaning? The answer is: it might.Aeon counter – do not remove

Kieran Setiya

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


Owsley, Escher, Grof: A Celestial Golden Braid

(Follow this link to previous case studies: Introducing Kindred Births Method article)

One question that’s been on my mind is, where does the concept of kindred births find its natural place in the order of things? For now, I see it as a means of honoring, or paying tribute to, someone who holds or deserves a place of honor.

I’ve been in an online course with Stan Grof and Rick Tarnas recently, on Archetypal Astrology and Depth Psychology. Following an excellent session on synchronicity, I felt inspired to compose an astrological salute to Stan on the class forum. I’ve been studying a phenomenon of planetary recurrence: aspect patterns that recur over the course of decades and centuries. This particular figure consists of Saturn opposing a Mercury-Pluto conjunction. Stan’s birth data is on

So it turns out that Stan Grof has a “kindred birth” which took place in 1898: M. C. Escher, the famous Dutch artist who opened up new visual dimensions with his mind-bending lithographs. At Escher’s birth, the same planetary figure just noted made another recurrence. I can see a clear analogy here: think of Stan Grof as an Escher of inner space, not necessarily as a visual artist but as one who has revealed hidden dimensions of selfhood. I see this kind of “celestial kinship” as another marvelous creation of the cosmos-as-artist.

I just found a quote from Stan: “I spent much of my later childhood and adolescence very, very involved and interested in art, and particularly in animated movies.” I believe the visual artist is in there, after all.

Then there’s the cosmos-as-trickster, or in this case, as Merry Prankster. Looking farther back for another recurrence of this same planetary figure, we find Augustus Owsley Stanley I, born in 1867, a notable Governor and Senator but also the grandfather of Augustus Owsley Stanley III. Seeing that distinguished name made me laugh out loud. Owsley was the first private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD. D’ya think maybe some of that Owsley Acid made it from Berkeley to Esalen? Stan was a pioneering LSD researcher and psychotherapist, back in the day, at Esalen.

I don’t know if I need to connect more dots here, so will leave it at that for now and let others connect them as they see fit. Thank you Stan for your forgiveness, I hope.

I think of this kindred birth thing as a phenomenon, but one could argue that it has not yet earned this label, being largely confined to the mind of one person. This is why I have documented consistent patterns of planetary synchronicity in several case studies. I would like to give others a chance to experience these more directly. I’m currently working on a tribute to Stephen Hawking and another on Ursula Le Guin, two great minds, so recently departed.

(By the way, the title is a takeoff on Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, a Pulitzer winner from 1979.)

Steve Bannon and “Canada First”

I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like getting overly much attention, and yet here I am, posting something about Steve F. Bannon. I guess FB is warping my mind. In any case, I have very little to say about S.B. personally; it’s his celestial kinship that I want to present. I’m working on studies of other political figures as well.

It turns out that S.B. has a chart pattern formed by Venus with Uranus and Pluto, that pretty well dominates his chart, especially when we focus on the planetary events closest in time to his birth date. To review what this is about, I will borrow from the intro to my article posted earlier:  Introducing Kindred Births Method article

“In the zodiac, the planetary aspects are based on the simplest geometrical patterns, and combine to form more complex ones. When planetary events coincide within a few days of each other, they are also participating in a different kind of pattern that is time-limited. This pattern I will call a time-figure for lack of a better term. We are exploring the question of whether recurrences of a time-figure can reveal similar themes and forces in the life stories of those whose birth charts share that figure. A kindred birth is selected from a list of candidates who have the chosen time-figure at birth, as the one whose bio stands out as the best fit for the native as well as fitting the symbolism of that figure.”

Based on my analysis, S.B.’s most prominent kindred birth is the Canadian nationalist William Alexander Foster. He also was born during a recurrence, in July 1840, of this same 3-planet figure, formed by Venus trining Uranus and squaring Pluto. As the link shows, Foster is best remembered as a co-founder of the Canada First movement, which tried to promote a new party with nationalist ideals during the 1870’s. This movement fizzled out after a few years. This is the sort of striking parallel I like to find, so you heard it here first, “Canada First” was first, before “America First”.

Discovering Kindred Births

I’ve been working on this article and blog for a while and it’s about time I shared more of what I’ve been doing. Now that I’m no longer in the workforce, I can do more with my astrological work and make it more presentable. This is a major shift for me and I’m documenting my own work with historical charts to demonstrate a type of astrological investigation that I haven’t encountered before. I hope this will be of interest and I look forward to posting new case studies to this blog, mostly in PDF form as I’ve done below (please click to load PDF article):


Introducing Kindred Births Method article

Why am I doing this?

The name I chose for this blog is Symbolistics, in honor of a piece of software I have developed, with the code name Symbolist, that has made these investigations possible. This is an experimental piece of software that lays the groundwork for future efforts if there is enough interest. I am not looking to start another software career, I just want to get these findings out there, because I believe the Kindred Births method is a great way to demonstrate the power of astrology, even to those who don’t know much about it.