by Lynn Bell
This article was published in 2018 and we are posting in memory of André Barbault who passed away this year
I remember my first encounter with André Barbault’s work on mundane planetary cycles. I was sitting on the floor of the library in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, poring over one of his books, Les Astres et l’histoire, and grasping the remarkable precision of the Saturn–Neptune cycle in world history. A thrill went through me. The excitement I felt, and the insight gained, lifted me all at once into a totally new dimension of astrology. I had not seen this work anywhere else, and it was a revelation. Barbault had found the larger picture by plunging into the painstaking work of history and scholarship — detailing cycles with great rigor in the charts of countries, politicians, and world leaders.
In 1936, at the suggestion of his older brother Armand, Barbault began exploring astrological planetary cycles. He was 15. André tested everything, poring through history and biography, tweaking long-term cycles through minor and major aspects. Over the years, his forecasts were astonishingly prescient. For instance, he predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union many years before it happened.
André Barbault is now 96 years old and has retired from practice. He was born at a solar eclipse on October 1, 1921, at 5:00 p.m. in Champignelles, France, and he rectified his chart to 4:54:21 p.m. (See Chart, at right.) Oddly, for someone eclipse-born, he showed little interest in the lunar nodes. His New Moon comes fresh from a Jupiter–Saturn conjunction and carries the potency of this newly formed “royal” conjunction. In each generation, there are individuals born with a Jupiter–Saturn conjunction who carry an imprint for an incoming 20-year cycle. It may be a creative impulse, a philosophy, a political dynasty. In Barbault’s case, it was a reinventing of the art of astrology. That he came in with the power of both an eclipse and the Jupiter–Saturn conjunction perhaps explains, in part, his outsized influence. The Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter are conjunct in Libra, bringing airy fertility: Barbault’s words and ideas flowed from his pen into nearly 50 books.
André is, in many ways, perfectly Uranian. Uranus is a singleton in his birth chart, lying in the 1st house, 13° from his Ascendant. Uranus adds to André’s brilliance and singularity. Uranus is also part of a grand trine in water — with Mercury in Scorpio and Pluto in Cancer — giving wide scope and focus to his mind. Many of his ideas became books as Uranus and Pluto came together in the 1960s. In resonance with the cycle, André was profoundly modern, discarding techniques that he believed did not work and promoting the use of transits over older traditional tools, such as primary directions.
His mundane work, like that of Kepler, emphasized the planets and paid little attention to signs. But elsewhere, in personal chart work, he took the signs closely into account. His twelve-volume zodiacal collection for Éditions du Seuil has been in print ever since it was first published in 1957. It made him famous. The depth of his psychological insights into each sign, along with his pioneering use of ancient images, has made it a lasting reference, with a prominent place on the shelves of bookstores in each new edition.
In his book, La Prévision de l’avenir par l’astrologie (Paris: Hachette, 1982), Barbault argues that the emphasis placed on transits as a predictive technique is one of the major shifts in 20th-century astrology. “Our solar system grew from seven to ten planets,” he points out. “It means astrologers went from 17 possible transit combinations to 45. With the mutation of the macrocosm, we must not confuse tradition and conservatism.” He defines transits as “linking living beings to the cosmos, through the rhythms of time.” [my translation] Barbault didn’t bother much with retrograde planets, progressions, or solar returns in his practice. This was a fairly radical position during the last quarter of the 20th century.
In 1984, Charles Harvey, Michael Baigent, and Nick Campion synthesized many of Barbault’s ideas in their volume, Mundane Astrology: Introduction to the Astrology of Nations and Groups. And English-speaking readers now have Rick Tarnas’s impressive Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (2006) to pore over. Tarnas is more concerned with the archetypal sweep of history, while Barbault’s work is detailed and meticulous, determined to work out proofs to support his findings.
André had been gracious when I first visited him in 1979 on the outskirts of Paris, in the 19th arrondissement, to talk about his work. He immediately left the formal “vous” for the more intimate French “tu” — a token of equality and friendship. This Uranian openness was natural for him. Despite his accomplishments, André was never arrogant; he still called himself a student of astrology into his 80s. His wit, his vivacity of thought and language, his sheer energy all came through in his lectures as well as his writings.
Although he retired from astrology a few years ago, he still lives with his wife Jacqueline in the same home, surrounded by books. He no longer looks at transits for individuals, but the larger planetary cycles continue to animate his thinking. He remains optimistic about the new world that will emerge in 2026, when the outer planets are sextile and trine in air and fire signs.
André arrived in Paris in 1944, and as the war ended, he was part of an informal group of friends who formed the CIA: le Centre Internationale d’Astrologie. The first congresses in Paris grew out of this group. André’s work, like that of other astrologers of the time, was originally prepared without the help of computers. It may be difficult to imagine now, but until the 1970s, astrologers did not have access to the historical, pre–19th-century positions of the outer planets.
In 1966, André was approached by a computer company, Astroflash, with the idea of using his texts to create a computer report. In exchange, he asked if they could calculate a thousand years of planetary positions. This collaboration was the first of its kind and wildly successful. When Astroflash opened its boutique on the Champs-Elysées in 1968, people poured in, and the company averaged 6,000 chart reports per month. These reports were remarkably influential, despite their simplicity of design. Many of my own French clients would bring their computer printouts to our sessions. Other French astrologers hated the computer reports, and André was roundly attacked for “selling out.” His critics were many, and some even threatened to come to his house and punch him in the face. Lawsuits were initiated. As a result, the CIA group collapsed during Uranus’s transit to André’s natal Saturn: a terrible time for someone with so much Libra and so many planets in the 7th house!
Soon after this split, André launched the astrological magazine l’Astrologue, which continues to this day. Among those he interviewed for the journal were C. G. Jung, Mircea Eliade, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and André Breton — some of the great intellectuals and cultural shapers of the time.
By the time I met André in 1979, I had a soulful, Jungian, and humanistic approach to the horoscope, so I was less sensitive to his pioneering work linking psychoanalysis and astrology. His Freudian approach jarred me, and I didn’t share his dark views of Neptune and Pluto. Still, this has made no difference to our cordial connection over the years. I had initially wanted to help translate his mundane work into English, but this turned out to be a task beyond my ability.
In 2005, just before his 84th birthday, André was invited to open the Astrological Association Conference in England. Knowing his dislike of travel and his limited English, I wondered if he would actually make it. Danielle de Diesbach, a student and videographer, agreed to help make a film just in case. We interviewed André over the course of three days, and Danielle edited the footage into an hour-long video. What a delicious experience that was! André’s intellectual gifts were keen and quick, his humor ready, and he could still read an ephemeris without glasses. When back pain prevented him from traveling, we rushed to get the video ready. I had to jump in and translate live during the conference. It was an honor for me to present André to an English-speaking audience, though I regret that he couldn’t appear in person.
At 89, on his third Saturn return, he returned to the subject of Saturn in his final book, l’Univers de Saturne. André Barbault’s work has long been available in Spanish, Italian, and other European languages, but his dense literary style defied translation into English until 2014. Kate Johnston and Roy Gillett of the Astrological Association finally managed to accomplish this with The Value of Astrology (2014) and Planetary Cycles: Mundane Astrology (2016).
After we first met, André gave my name to the organizer of a French astrology conference, and thanks to this introduction, I gave my first talk on astrology to other professionals in early 1981. I am immensely grateful to this bright spirit — this brilliant astrological mind — who opened the window of cycles to me, and welcomed a young American astrologer to France. Author’s Note: Some biographical information came from “L’interview d’André Barbault par Fabrice Pascaud,” in L’Astrologue, no. 161, 1er trimestre, 2008, Paris.
Chart Data and Source
André Barbault, October 1, 1921; 5:00 p.m. GMD; Champignelles, France (47°N47', 03°E04'); AA: From his birth certificate, obtained by Didier Geslain. The chart presented is Barbault’s rectification (4:54:21 p.m.).
© 2018 Lynn Bell – all rights reserved