The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 68, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Nick Dagan Best
Episode originally released on March 8, 2016.
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Sheila Reynolds
Transcription released June 18, 2017
Copyright © 2017 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
(This transcript begins with the interview itself. Information about prize giveaways and announcements which occur at the beginning of the podcast have not been transcribed)
CHRIS BRENNAN: In this episode I will be talking with astrologer, Nick Dagan Best, about the famous astrologer, Joan Quigley, and her relationship with Nancy and Ronald Reagan, as well as the Reagans’ use of astrology.
Nick, welcome back to the show.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Thanks for having me again Chris.
CHRIS BRENNAN: As usual, I am excited to discuss this topic. The genesis of the topic is on a sad note because recently, on Sunday March 6th, Nancy Reagan the former first lady, died at her home. It was covered in the media and a number of obituaries were printed. The first one I read was in The New York Times, it was a really touching and interesting obituary that I’ll link to in the notes for this episode. One of the things it touched upon was her use of astrology, since that became one of the big media stories while she was in the Whitehouse.
I was surprised by The New York Times’ obituary because, although it was a pretty nice piece, they used the ‘official’ story. The way they described it in just a few paragraphs was almost as if she only turned to astrology after the assassination attempt on her husband, which took place on March 30th, 1981. I thought that was weird because she is known to have used astrology prior to that time. The story about her only using it in the aftermath of her husband’s attempted assassination, was part of the narrative, or damage control that the Whitehouse undertook in the aftermath of the story breaking, that they were using astrology in 1988. So, I wanted to do a show to talk about that and to explore what actually happened and what we know in terms of the Reagans’ use of astrology and in particular the astrologer who wrote a book about it after the fact, named Joan Quigley.
One of the problems for me is that I was only a few years old when this story broke. Were you cognizant of what was going on in the 1980s?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes, I was 19 years old, I was quite politically aware for my age and I certainly remember the story coming out at the time. In fact, in the Spring of 1988 I was the news editor for my college paper so I was especially attuned to what was going in the news because I was pretending to be a journalist, as it were!
I remember the story, I was still seven years away from discovering astrology myself, so like much of the population I thought this was a quaint story and a chance to kick a little sand in the President’s face and really not much thought was given to it after that. It sort of lived on in infamy but there were a lot of things about the Reagan presidency that had that kind of quirky tone to it and this was just something in that sea of news stories I think.
It was only later when I started studying astrology that I read Joan Quigley’s book out of curiosity. The notion of an astrologer having that level of influence on a head of State became more and more of an intriguing idea and something I wanted to know more about. Also, it is obviously in keeping with a longer tradition – Joan Quigley was far from being the first person to advise a head of State on astrological grounds, so that is what fascinates me as well.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That’s a good point. It used to be a much more common thing and that’s what was so striking: that it is 1988 – it’s the modern period of the 20th century and there’s a President evidently using astrology to some extent to time events while in the Whitehouse. Maybe we should back up a bit and set the stage by outlining the story and the controversy as it happened, starting in May 1988.
In early May of 1988, the media starts talking about a new book due to come out by Ronald Reagan’s former Chief of Staff, who’s name annoyingly was Donald Regan – you can confuse them!
NICK DAGAN BEST: The news was funny in those days for that very reason.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Ronald Reagan’s former Whitehouse Chief of Staff is about to release a tell-all book due out later in May of 1988, but in early May excerpts from the book start getting dropped. One of the big stories the media ran with, and it’s one of the things he opens the book with, is the revelation that the President’s wife, Nancy Reagan, regularly consults with an astrologer from San Francisco. Through those consultations the astrologer is feeding the First Lady dates and those dates are being used to time things, using electional astrology, for when the President should do a bunch of different things, including taking trips, giving speeches and possibly interacting with other heads of State.
This story becomes a media firestorm in which magazines such as Time magazine and People magazine run front page stories, that there is an astrologer in the Whitehouse or that astrology is running the Whitehouse and different things like that.
So, you were generally aware of that happening at the time? Or that was a big thing?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes, it was a massive story at the time. And keep in mind there is a back drop to all this because in May 1988, the country has already been going through the Iran-Contra scandal, which was a massive controversy involving a lot of people in Reagan’s administration and there were televised hearings and all of that stuff going on. Then the Black Monday on Wall Street happened in late 1987, so also the economy is shaky, meanwhile Reagan and Gorbachev were really coming to the peak of all their peace talks which began in Reykjavik and by the end of 1987 they had a summit in Washington. In May 1988, right when Donald Regan’s book comes out, Reagan goes to Moscow and signs this big treaty. It is the peak of a resolution, an ending of the Cold War if you will, at least in terms of the gestures of good will between the United States and Soviet Union. Reagan speaks at Moscow State University on May 31st, 1988 at the same time as the book is coming out and the anti-nuclear treaties are being signed. This is a huge time. Donald Regan’s book comes out at this peculiar period of great fall and great triumph. Reagan is literally in the middle of both of those in his Presidency and so that is the backdrop which I think is important to note. It was very close to the end of his term as President. By May 1988 his vice-President, George Bush, is already campaigning and well in the lead to be the Republican candidate in the ’88 election. These are lame duck years. The book couldn’t really hurt Reagan politically, so it was just one of those things that was a side story to all this other big stuff going on with his Presidency at the time. <0:9:32>
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes, that’s a really interesting point: it is literally in the last six months, or the last year of his Presidency. We’re now almost at the end of May 2016, so it’s basically where Obama is right now, he has been in the Whitehouse for seven years and is on his way out practically, in the last year of the Presidency. Then this book is released and the title of the book was, for the record, From Wall Street to Washington and it was partially pay back because Regan had been fired. The official story (in his Wikipedia biography) blames his handling of the Iran-Contra affair, which had just taken place but behind the scenes it seemed that it may have been much more to do with the conflicts that he had with Nancy Reagan and her controlling the President and the Whitehouse’s schedule, based on some of the astrological information she was getting from the astrologer. While some of the previous Whitehouse Chiefs of Staff had gone along with it, this Chief of Staff who was in the Whitehouse from 1985 to 1987 was not. Initially in the book he seems perplexed or surprised and kind of annoyed but as time progresses he says this became one of the most frustrating things he ever had to deal with in his 45-year career in any field: having to schedule and re-schedule or alter schedules based on the astrological advice that was being given to the First Lady.
The press had a field day with this story. It became a huge media sensation, the Reagans were roundly mocked and criticized, especially by the scientific and skeptical communities, but also by religious communities where many Christian denominations think that astrology is not acceptable on religious grounds. They were critiqued from both ends – from both the scientific and the religious communities.
NICK DAGAN BEST: That is the unique space that we occupy as astrologers, it is like the one subject that can unite those two otherwise very splintered groups. The religious fanatics and then the hard core so-called sceptics.
CHRIS BRENNAN: It’s a lovely position to be in, in society. I think we have talked of this a few times before.
The Whitehouse is forced to release a statement on whether or not these rumors/accusations are true. And the Whitehouse does, early in May, end up confirming that indeed astrology is used to some extent for scheduling purposes but they emphasize that it does not affect their policy decisions in any way.
The press is going crazy because now the Whitehouse has confirmed it and initially in the book by the Whitehouse Chief of Staff, he didn’t know who the astrologer was, just that it was Nancy’s astrologer and she was from San Francisco. He never mentions her name because he doesn’t know who she is (in the book), which is really interesting given that he is literally the guy in charge of the Whitehouse. The press very quickly identifies her as the San Francisco-based astrologer, Joan Quigley. Joan Quigley is away on a vacation when this story first comes out. She flies back and is swarmed by the press and completely unprepared for this and, according to Nancy, says a little bit more than she should have when confronted with these questions about whether she’s the astrologer that is working for the Whitehouse.
It becomes a huge controversy, especially in May of ’88 but it seems like it lingers even longer than that over the next few months. Maybe the news cycle was a little slower back then than it is today where news stories seem to have a 24-hour burn rate sometimes.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Keep in mind that people really only started watching CNN as a part of the culture with the Gulf War in 1991. So this is still an era when people watch the six o’clock news at dinner for the most part.
CHRIS BRENNAN: All of the major news networks, ABC, CNN etc. are covering this and investigating it and I think Quigley does some interviews. But by the end of the year we have the election of 1988; George Herbert Walker Bush wins and subsequently in January becomes President.
In 1989 Nancy publishes her memoir which is titled, My Turn. Very early on in the book she dedicates an entire chapter to the astrology controversy and it’s interesting because she tries to frame the use of astrology largely as a reaction to the assassination attempt that occurred in 1981. She uses terms like, calling it an ‘emotional crutch that eventually became a habit’ and in some parts of that chapter frames astrology in a negative way, as a shortcoming that she knew was perhaps not good for her but that she gave in to out of fear, or something like. She goes back and forth in framing it that way and downplaying astrology, maybe even downplaying her belief in it. On the other hand, she will sometimes reverse her opinion and defend it a little bit and say that she didn’t see what the big deal was. She points out that in the Hollywood culture of which she and her husband were a part, that is just what you did – you consulted your horoscope. It didn’t necessarily mean that you believed in it or would die trying to defend it. So she kind of vacillates back and forth but for the most part she tries to push the narrative that it was largely something that was done in the seven years between 1981 and 1988.
She does acknowledge however, very briefly, her prior interactions with Joan Quigley before 1981 but she kind of downplays them and says, “I guess I met her this year but I don’t remember it very well”. She also alleges that her husband wasn’t really aware of her use of astrology (to the extent she actually used it) but that she made him aware of it at some later point but she doesn’t specify when.
There is a sense of ambiguity and downplaying a little bit and undertaking damage control, because even though Ronald Reagan is out of office at this point, they are in that stage of the Presidency where the presidential family consider their legacy or how people will judge their presidency in retrospect, perhaps? <0:17.07 audio>
NICK DAGAN BEST: It certainly felt like it at the time and still does because regardless of whether it is true or not, there is something just tone-perfect about Nancy’s response: it seems very political, playing on the anxiety of having one’s loved one be in physical danger like that, which is something that anyone can sympathize with pretty easily. That may be the actual truth but what you and I both suspect is a much longer and more detailed involvement in astrology than she was claiming, so this adds to the sense that she was disingenuous or that there is something being covered up or downplayed.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes, and that evidently ended up being the way it came across to Joan Quigley, the astrologer herself who consulted with Nancy for all those years, because one year after Nancy’s book came out, Joan Quigley published her own book called, What Does Joan Say? My Seven Years as Whitehouse Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan.
In the book she says that she wants to set the record straight on what she did or didn’t do for the Reagans, and she says in the opening that she wrote it in reaction to Nancy’s book because she calls Nancy’s book, essentially, inaccurate and “evasive”. She gives a detailed account of her relationship in her work with the Reagans.
So that is the backdrop to the story, in terms of the sequence of events and chronology of this controversy and how it exploded over the period from 1988 through 1990. It raised many different questions and different points of contention that are still debated or speculated about today and that is what we will talk about for the rest of this episode.
One of the questions is: how long had Quigley been working for the Reagans? This is a point of contention and the genesis of this episode because in the official obituary for Nancy Reagan, it makes it appear that Joan Quigley came in, in 1981 after the assassination attempt. That she worked for the Reagans for that time period only and it was only a crutch or something that Nancy gave into, as a sort of shortcoming, in which her husband then indulged her.
One of the things to come out in Quigley’s book and which she tried to address, is that that narrative was actually false: that their interactions were limited to that seven-year period. She says, and Nancy acknowledges this in her book also, that she knew the press already realized Nancy had prior interactions with Quigley in the 1970s and 1980, but Joan Quigley outlines it very explicitly by saying that they first met through the Merv Griffin Show in 1973. Quigley says that Nancy was a client from 1973 through 1976 at least and that she first met Nancy in person in 1976, so their client/astrologer relationship was extensive enough that even though they were previously doing phone consultations, they actually met in person in 1976.
Both Joan Quigley and Nancy Reagan, in her book, acknowledge that Quigley had done some work for the Reagans during the 1980 presidential campaign. Joan Quigley says she wasn’t really involved until after the Republican National Convention that occurred in July 1980 but one of the main things she did, which is extremely interesting, was to select either the date or the time for the presidential debate with Carter. Carter is the current sitting President and Ronald Reagan challenges him and they are in the middle of a heated race … it’s not like today where they have three or four different debates, there was only one presidential debate in the 1980 campaign and it took place in October.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes, that’s half true. There was an independent candidate named John Anderson and Reagan debated him on Sept 21st, 1980. Carter at that point was still refusing to debate Reagan and he was only compelled to because Reagan went ahead and debated this other guy, John Anderson. Indeed, it was only on October 28th, 1980 that the one and only debate between Reagan and Carter occurred, that’s when Reagan had his famous line, “There you go again!” And that was the beginning of the end for Carter, although he was already having a pretty rough time with his presidency. I remember the debate quite well and it was clear from that night on that Reagan was definitely going to win, I think.
CHRIS BRENNAN: One of the interesting historical things behind that, is that Quigley says she picked an electional chart for that debate specifically to help increase the odds that Reagan would win and be successful. One of the interesting things that she details in her book, is in terms of her methodology. She admits it was little bit unorthodox or weird/non-standard, but at least she had an astrological rationale for it. She tried to emphasize the grand trine in Carter’s chart because of the normal mid-20th century idea that grand trines are positive but sometimes they can make the native lazy because they don’t have the pressure which is involved in a square or opposition.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: She claims she tried to emphasize the grand trine in his chart because she thought it would make him lax and over-confident and as a result of that he would slip up. Then she tries to claim that that is exactly what happened when some statement was made, but in terms of what the actual effects were … perhaps that is up for debate?
Generally speaking, Reagan came out of that debate looking much better and did go on to win the presidency just a few weeks later.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Pretty much a week later I think. The debate was more or less seven days before the election. It was very, very shortly before the election. <0:25:02 audio>
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, but one of the points here is that already Joan Quigley is doing some work for Nancy Reagan and, by extension, for Ronald Reagan in 1980, long before the assassination attempt. The assassination attempt takes place in 1981 and both of them acknowledge that their work together ramped up after that. Given that Nancy and Ronald Reagan’s relationship is often characterized as being very, very close there is probably some truth to that – that Nancy was deeply affected by the near death of her husband and perhaps would have been more willing to focus on whatever she could to avoid a further assassination attempt in the future.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes, emphasizing her fear after the attempted assassination and implying that it was only that which drove her to seek astrological advice, when clearly there was a prior astrological relationship between the two women. I think that is really the point of disingenuity we’re talking about. Anyone who saw Nancy’s reaction when Ronald Reagan died, knows that she deeply loved the man and I’m sure it was very distressing.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. At some point after that, from 1981, they worked together very closely for the next seven years and then the last time that Joan Quigley and Nancy Reagan talked, or at least had a consultation supposedly, was in April 1988, which is right before the media broke the story.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That is one question addressed: how long had Quigley been working for the Reagans? Since at least the mid-1970s and definitely by 1980.
The next relevant question in terms of this overall saga is: had the Reagans used astrology in the past? Were there other instances, aside from interactions with Quigley or the things which she documented in her book, which largely pertain to Ronald Reagan’s time in the Whitehouse in the 1980s; were there other instances prior to that when they had used astrology?
One of the most interesting and notable instances earlier in Ronald Reagan’s career, is when he became Governor of California in 1967 and may have used astrology to time his inaurguration. The inaurguration was apparently delayed and held at a weird time, at 12.10 am on January 2nd, 1967.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I actually have 12.14 am from the Reagan library but that is only a four minute detail and indeed, it is pretty weird to inaurgurate someone into office around midnight, isn’t it?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, even if it was midnight – there was a statement they delayed another 9 or 13 or 14 minutes, so it wasn’t even at the stroke of midnight, it was at a weird time slightly after that.
The New York Times says that news reports at the time speculated this was due to astrology. There was already speculation in 1967 that this weird inaurguration time was due to astrological considerations and even Ronald Reagan’s executive secretary at the time had to address these rumours by saying, “He does not believe in astrology. He is not guided by the stars.”
This is really interesting because they’re already being accused of doing things at weird times earlier in his career, whereas later of course they continued to adjust and shift times for different things but then it was revealed he actually was using an astrologer in the later instances. I spoke with Christopher Renstrom (?) about this recently (he’s also researched this issue and did some interviews with Joan Quigley), and appreciated talking with him about his perspective. One of the things he pointed out was just the cultural context of Ronald Reagan picking an electional chart in 1967 and how, for example, it was only a year later in 1968 that you have Linda Goodman’s book on sunsigns coming out and being the highest-selling astrology book of all time. So that really gives you an idea of the cultural context of astrology being practised, especially in California in the mid to late 1960s.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Sure, I mean they were from old Hollywood and I am reminded of Gloria Swanson in the movie Sunset Boulevard making reference to having an astrologer. And astrology in Hollywood having this old tradition which apparently continues to this very day, thanks to Megan Fox this week!
The Reagans’ early exposure to Hollywood, pre-Linda Goodman, pre-Dane Rhudhar – or at least the phenomenon that he was in the 60s, they were into it before any of that became culturally popular, before “Hair” and the song ‘Age of Aquarius’ became a big sensation.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And that’s because, just in terms of background, they’re both actors and that’s how they met.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Their meeting story is kind of funny. He was the president of the Screen Actors’ Guild. Her name was Nancy Davis and there was another actress named Nancy Davis who was on the blacklist of communists, and so ‘our’ Nancy Davis contacted the president of the Screen Actors’ Guild to make sure that he knew she wasn’t the Nancy Davis who was a communist. I know, it’s really romantic! (laughs).
CHRIS BRENNAN: Their introduction was literally, “I’m not a communist. Please take me off the blacklist!”
NICK DAGAN BEST: (laughs) Yes! If there was one way to capture Ronald Reagan’s heart it’s to tell him you’re not a communist, I guess.
So something happened not long after that, they had a fling. I do know that she got pregnant and they married because she was pregnant. He was already divorced and obviously it was a perfect match.
CHRIS BRENNAN: They’re both actors at that point and then, it seems like struggling actors for a bit but one of the things that’s interesting is they are in Hollywood … and in Hollywood there was an astrologer. Maybe this would be a good time to segue into the next section which is ‘Other astrologers prior to Joan Quigley?’
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: There was a very famous astrologer called Carroll Righter, who was a Sun-sign columnist and started a column in or around 1950. Some of his documentation shows that he is already aware of and, perhaps, having interactions with the Reagans as early as 1952, because he mentions Nancy Davis, as she was then, in his 1952 column saying that she was a rising star and mentioning some things about her chart.
Carroll Righter had lots of celebrity clients in Hollywood and, while he was known as a socialite and for throwing great parties, he was clearly a prominent astrologer. In his 1965 autobiography, Ronald Reagan actually referred to Carroll Righter as a “good friend” and confirmed that he and Nancy regularly read his column and his writings saying, “Every morning Nancy and I turn to see what he has to say about people of our respective birth signs”. So they are religiously reading this guy’s Sun-sign column every morning in the newspaper. Later reports would confirm that that would be the first thing Ronald Reagan would read in the newspaper.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right, but they are also partying within the cocktail circuit in the evening, so there is a full involvement.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes, and some time later there are pictures of the Reagans with Carroll Righter and then supposedly he, Carroll Righter, had a picture of himself with the Reagans sitting on his piano at his house. There was some sort of close connection there and in later sources this gets downplayed in terms of Reagan’s acknowledgement in the 1965 autobiography – that he read his Sun-sign column every morning. Later sources try to say he was just doing it for fun or that he didn’t take it seriously, but that’s really not the way it comes off. <0:35:42 audio>
This is only a year or two before he writes his autobiography in 1965, and then two years later in 1967 we have the incident where he becomes the Governor of California and sets the inauguration at a really weird time of 12.10 am or 12.14 am.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: When the story broke in 1988 about Reagan using astrology, People magazine did a really interesting piece where it interviewed several people, and that article from May of ’88 suggested it was Carroll Righter who was always very focused on timing things astrologically, who might have been behind the inauguration chart of 1967, which was at the weird time in the night.
So, Righter was definitely connected with them and generally thought to be one of the primary astrologers they were consulting for much of the 1960s and ‘70s. One of the odd little factoids that really blows my mind, is that Carroll Righter actually died on April 30th, 1988 which is exactly when the Ronald Reagan astrology story broke in the media.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I know! It’s a really bizarre time for him to go and boy could we have used his insight during the ensuing controversy. He might have been able to shed some light on some otherwise dark areas of our story.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, well his agent or somebody was approached and the agent said, ‘Neither I nor my client give out any details about our clientele’. It’s interesting, you wonder if we would have had any additional details or if Carroll Righter would have been more circumspect about it.
NICK DAGAN BEST: That’s a good point.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That’s one of the weird things here and is perhaps worth talking about at some point – the astrologer-client relationship and how some aspects of that ended up being violated by Quigley. This becomes an interesting and debatable point about the morality of what Quigley did, in writing a tell-all book about it. Where, from her perspective I guess, she is trying to set the record straight because she thinks the true story is being downplayed or perhaps even that she is being defamed. Nancy makes an offhanded, but still reads as a weird, statement that she thought Joan Quigley would do the work for free like she did during the 1980 campaign. But then it turned out that that wasn’t the case and while Nancy says she’s not going to reveal what she paid the astrologer, any more than she would reveal what she paid her doctor, it wasn’t cheap. She almost implies that the astrologer was making really good money as part of this narrative, almost as if Nancy was being taken advantage of in a moment of weakness.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That becomes a part of what Joan Quigley reacted very strongly to and responded to by writing the book but nonetheless, there is still the lingering question about whether it was appropriate for her to have spoken so openly about the relationship she had with the Reagans.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Definitely! Whenever I have talked about this story with other astrologers over the past 20 years, that is the point everyone brings up; because any of us, should we ever find ourselves in a similar predicament, could probably do better. My feelings on the matter, not that they are by any means law, is that it’s the astrologer’s responsibility to fall on their sword in those situations. I suppose sometimes the threat of total ruin can be so daunting that you can certainly understand why she would be compelled to write the book.
CHRIS BRENNAN: I don’t fully understand what her motivations were so I guess I can’t say, but certainly from some of the ethical guidelines that have been adopted by the NCGR and ISAR and the other major astrological organizations in the past ten or twenty years, I think she would probably be in violation of some of those ethical guidelines and therefore probably kicked out of some of those organizations unless she had a really good reason, I guess if she was being defamed or something like that.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, it’s touch and go. It’s definitely a situation that no other astrologer in our day and age has found themselves in, not in our culture anyway. It’s hard for anyone else to judge it in one sense because it’s not an ordinary case. That being said, in terms of the general rule of thumb, this is a pretty gross violation of any sort of ethical principles that astrologers could or should be operating under.
CHRIS BRENNAN: An interesting point is that, it’s not like she was against them politically or even, I think, personally because she herself was a Republican and she was a very active supporter of them politically and of other Republicans politically. She came from a wealthy family and I think inherited a lot of money and went to Vassar College and was well educated and had a degree in, I think, Art History but then decided to pursue astrology. She was otherwise very much politically aligned with the Reagans, so it wasn’t like it was a ‘hit’ piece or something like that. I read this one book which deals with the question of Reagan and astrology and it criticizes Quigley as puffing up her own role in the Whitehouse at the time. When you read the book you can see that a little bit. She is telling you what she did and you can see the astrological rationale, what she thinks she’s doing and why she thinks she is doing, but at the same time she definitely gives off this air of .. not of superiority but of …, coming from a high class background. I don’t know how to explain that.
NICK DAGAN BEST: That’s definitely what I remember – you’ve probably been watching more of her interviews. The one interview I remember from back in the ‘80s showed her being very defensive about astrology, insisting it’s scientific and what have you. It looks like she’s been caught off guard while walking home (laughs) in this interview so I won’t take her too much to task. But yes, there was a defensiveness which is, I think, similar to what you’re describing there, like a need to justify her role in all this.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes and maybe that was it. Maybe that was her primary motivation because it is something which comes through very clearly in her book. It’s also a point that Nancy wants to press as well which is, it seems the way the press dealt with the astrology thing was to infer that Voudou was also being practised at the Whitehouse! I remember even now, decades later, it’s still this generic joke about Nancy being into weird metaphysical or occult stuff. There is a clip you can find online of Obama from 2009, he is asked a question as they are moving into the Whitehouse and he says that he’s not going to do anything crazy like Nancy Reagan in the Whitehouse, that he’s not going to hold a séance or anything like that. So, she wasn’t holding seances in the Whitehouse, she was consulting an astrologer but in terms of the public perception, it was worked up into this big thing about crazy occult stuff going on in the Whitehouse.
That is partially what Joan Quigley was trying to address with her book and with her openness with the media, that there was this legitimate, well-educated person from a high socio-economic background who did astrology. Who was very professional about it and that it was much more complicated and, what she would try and characterize as, scientific than people thought. It was more than just Sun signs or horoscope columns.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Anyway, she had different motivations and I don’t know how we got on that track but, backing up a little bit .. Carroll Righter dies just when .. one of the articles I read said that literally the first story about this, which was the starting point breaking in the media, also came out on May 30th. So he may have actually died, the Reagans’ first astrologer, the day the story started to break, which is weird.
NICK DAGAN BEST: He died of cancer but who knows, maybe he saw the newspaper headline that morning and it just finished him!
CHRIS BRENNAN: Either way that’s tough. Even so, aside from him there was another astrologer. In 1966 the other astrologer/psychic, Jean Dixon, predicted on the Mike Douglas show that Ronald Reagan would be President. In the expose of 1988 and from the Whitehouse Chief of Staff, Donald Regan’s, book he actually asserted that the Reagans used to consult with Jean Dixon starting around the time that he was Governor, so around 1966 or ‘67 but then at some point she lost favour with them and they stopped consulting with her. <0:46:56 audio>
According to Donald Regan, in his book there was another astrologer they consulted with, at least in the 1960s. That actually makes sense because she is documented to have made this prediction that Reagan would be President in 1966 on national television. That wouldn’t have escaped the notice of at least Nancy, if not others and then of course, it’s only a year later that Reagan is inaugurated and has that weird inauguration time when he becomes Governor.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Do you know what else besides having done astrology for the Reagans, do you know what else Jean Dixon and Joan Quigley have in common?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Err .. the T-shirt?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Natal Jupter at 18° Pisces, where tonight’s eclipse, as you and I speak, is happening. (Laughs).
CHRIS BRENNAN: Nice (laughs). That’s an eclipse that is going exact right about now.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Exactly! Carroll Righter had the Moon at 19° Pisces right on his Descendant. So, all these astrologers and psychics of the past that we’re conjuring this evening, are deeply tied to the eclipse that is currently happening. And I for one am amused by that!
CHRIS BRENNAN: There are other connections, because Carroll Righter – one of his teachers, at least someone he got a consultation with, was Evangeline Adams. Adams of course has connections to past political stuff, or at least she is supposedly a descendant of John Adams. That may or may not be true. Jean Dixon is alleged to have been a previous astrologer they worked with and Carroll Righter of course, and their close connection with him.
That brings us to the next question which is still a lingering point of dispute, which is: did Ronald Reagan himself believe in astrology?
This is problematic because a lot of astrologers just take it for granted, like yeah, of course, it’s just the context of everything or, it’s just assumed as general knowledge. But if you read some biographies on Reagan sometimes it’s not taken for granted. For example, this book I was reading recently titled “God and Ronald Reagan” by Paul Kengor. He has an entire chapter on the astrology issue and he really takes Nancy’s line very seriously, about putting it on Nancy and especially that she used it as a crutch after the assassination attempt. He uses the line that Ronald Reagan was humoring or indulging his wife but that he himself didn’t believe in it. Paul Kengor specifically seems to push that point also in light of Reagan’s Christian beliefs, somehow viewing those as incompatible with astrology.
This is actually a legitimate point of debate, especially since Joan Quigley herself was always consulting with Nancy. So even if you wanted to say that Ronald Reagan was consulting and his career was being affected by the things that Nancy passed off to him, you have to acknowledge that Nancy was always the intermediary, so there is always some ambiguity inherently underlying this question.
Part of the damage control in the late ‘80s is that Nancy takes all the credit for this. In her memoir, My Turn published in 1989, she says that Reagan was unaware of the astrology thing but then eventually she told him and he said “OK, but be careful since some people would be upset and wouldn’t understand if it got out”. She doesn’t specify when this was, so it is left ambiguous. It could have been any time during the seven years in the Whitehouse or it could have been long before that. It’s not specified and that is one of the things Quigley refers to when she says that Nancy’s account was evasive or perhaps disingenuous.
One of the things I found interesting, frustrating and perplexing in researching this over the past few years was Ronald Reagan’s diaries, he wrote a diary for every day that he was in the Whitehouse, starting on the day of his inauguration. An edited version of them was published in 2009 and he actually has entries for when the astrology story broke, starting May 3rd and 4th of 1988. One of things that’s annoying about those is that he says the press has a new story which they’re running with, but there’s nothing to it, it’s completely false and they say that we have been consulting with some astrologer from Los Angeles but we have no idea who they are talking about. This is what he writes in what is supposed to be his personal diary.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Kind of perplexing isn’t it!
CHRIS BRENNAN: It’s perplexing on a number of different levels because there are all sorts of different things .. you then have to come up with a rationale for why that is and there are a few different possiblities. One of them that I have to .. you know it is so incongruous with what was going on and with both their background as well as what Joan Quigley later detailed, that you almost wonder .. the first option is that he is just not being honest when he is writing this down in the diary. One of the things, it’s like I don’t want to accuse him of dishonesty but the only reason that might make me think that is true is because this is only ten years after Nixon resigns after the Whitehouse tapes where he recorded everything that was going on in the Whitehouse and the Oval office and as a result of that was about to be impeached and then resigned?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yah, fourteen years after, so close enough. Pretty recent.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Fourteen years ago from this year, from 2016 is only 2002 so that’s relatively recent enough to remember that sometimes the things that you’re doing, especially when you’re documenting things on a day to day basis when you’re the President are going to get out there in the public arena and so that’s a question … this is kind of addressed by the editor of the diaries when he says that Ronald Reagan was extremely honest, even in instances where maybe he shouldn’t be and that kind of contradicts that theory a little bit perhaps.
Another possiblity is whether the writings themselves are edited after the fact, which then becomes another sticky issue of ‘Well, do you really want to accuse the editor of changing things after the fact?’ He says in the introduction that he made some editorial changes or some omissions at Nancy’s request but he says that he is going to mark those with an ellipse when he has to do so. At least in this section there do not appear to be any ellipses, so who knows if that is still a possibility.
Someone else suggested to me what if he really didn’t know at that point? What was the extent to which he really did know that astrology was being used and is there any scenario in which he really could be that oblivious? I find it really hard to believe he could have been completely oblivious, based on the extent to which astrology was clearly being used during his time in the Whitehouse. Somebody said maybe there is a scenario where he supposedly was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994 and then, you know, his condition really deteriorated over the course of the next ten years until he died in 2004. Sometimes people speculate about whether or not that was affecting him prior to 1994 i.e. during the course of his presidency, although that is a very sticky and sensitive topic.
That is one of the few scenarios where I could almost see that astrology was being used extensively, but that he is completely unaware of it – it would have be something like that, but even then I have a hard time buying that.
NICK DAGAN BEST: There were stories about him falling asleep during important meetings and forgetting some important details after he’d been briefed. This would suggest that he was a lot more ‘out of it’ early on, six years before the actual diagnosis of Alzheimers came about. It is a tricky thing to speculate on.
He was old, he was the oldest man to hold that office at that point. He was in his seventies. So, Alzheime’rs or no Alzheimer’s he might have just gotten tired more easily and lost his memory gradually, so some of it might have just been that.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure, but in terms of his awareness for an entire seven year period, the underlying issue is that when you take Quigley’s actual documentation of what she says occurred to its fullest extent, a lot of things were being micro-managed using electional astrology, in particular in the Whitehouse and we’ll get to what those specific things were in just a few minutes. But if even half of those things were true, there are major decisions being made and sometimes changed on that basis and it seems like it would be very difficult for him to be unaware of that. You’d have to look at him much lesser or you’d almost have to treat him as if he weren’t very intelligent in order to make the argument that he was completely oblivious to the extent to which things were being changed and manipulated, based on astrology. <0:58:20 audio>
Also, it doesn’t make sense because that ultimately becomes one of the primary points of contention with his Chief of Staff, Donald Regan, which leads to Reagan firing his Chief of Staff which is the event that set this whole thing off. Regan himself seems to think one of the primary reasons for his dismissal is because of his clashes with Nancy over her constantly messing with his schedule based on astrology. He opens his book basically with that accusation.
Reagan would have to be oblivious to the true reason why his Chief of Staff wasn’t getting along well with his wife and … one of the things we will get to is that he nominated a Supreme Court Justice at a specific time based on that, and then when you take into account the weird timing of when he was inaugurated Governor two decades earlier. This really stands out because it is done at a really weird hour just after midnight but this is the same type of thing that Quigley was doing for them in the Whitehouse. So Reagan would have had to have been oblivious to all of those things for two or three or four decades in a row! Nancy would have had to have been painted as someone who was really manipulating her husband and that he was almost like an idiot, in order to make that case. I think it is a very difficult case to make, especially because the people often making that case are trying to improve or defend his image. They are usually supporters saying that he didn’t believe in astrology but then inference you’re making an argument that he was completely oblivious to how much it was being used.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, it’s a sticky point and there’s no easy way out for them. I think you’re right – he’s either a liar or an idiot, depending on which version of the story is true. Or at least he can be seen that way.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Or at least as somebody who is just like any other modern politician, who is very sensitive to how certain private beliefs can sometimes be perceived by the public. Sometimes it’s not politically or otherwise advantageous for people to know what you actually believe if it is something that goes against contemporary or prevailing beliefs at the time. For examle, if you believe in astrology that puts you on the short end of the stick both with the scientific as well as the religious community. It becomes imperative for you, especially if you are dealing with the public where you might not want to be fully forward about that belief.
That is honestly the direction I’ve gone with that. I think they may have been cavalier about it in 1967, in taking whoever’s advice it was, either Carroll Righter or maybe Jean Dixon’s, for the midnight California inauguration. That created a mini-media controversy where the Press Director, or whoever, had to address it and say, “It’s not true, he doesn’t believe in astrology”. Subsequently, I think they knew going forward that if they were to continue to use it, they would have to do so very privately and carefully and to have him shielded from it and to have some plausible deniability. This is what ends up happening by Nancy taking the fall for it.
One of the points that helps to clarify this in Quigley’s book, and to settle the matter – not definitively but a little more definitively than we might have otherwise, is that Quigley says there were a few points which Reagan enquired about through Nancy. An important one that stands out is in the immediate aftermath of the Challenger disaster, when Nancy calls Joan saying, “Ronald wants to know whether to hold a full investigation in the aftermath of the disaster and whether there was foul play at work or what to do”. That is one specific point that is really plausible, unless you dismiss Quigley as a liar which I don’t, because so much of what she says is validated in Nancy’s and Donald Regan’s books. I think this shows it is obvious that Ronald Reagan was in on what was happening and that in some instances, while Nancy may be the driving force who is really obsessed with the astrology, and is maybe using it a lot more now because she wants to protect her husband after the assassination attempt, there are instances where he is really curious and he has Nancy contact the astrologer in order to get some insight into what is going on.
Ultimately, it is hard to say. In 1988 it became such a media firestorm and they were mocked and attacked so viciously, that I think they saw it was doing damage to his reputation towards the end of his presidency and probably decided to keep it under wraps. So Nancy wrote her book and that ends up being one of the final PR statements about it and that is the narrative which is cited in her obituary, it was largely on her and it wasn’t something he really believed in.
One other interesting question is: “Well, what do other people who were around during that timeframe think?” and in the book, God and Reagan, Paul Kengor has a chapter in which he argues against Reagan himself believing in astrology. He cites interviews with three different associates who all say, essentially that they never heard Reagan talk about astrology and that it seemed out of character for him, even though he was into some other weird stuff. Contrary to that, Colin Powell wrote a memoir just a few years ago and he said basically that it seemed perfectly in character given Reagan’s other quasi-mystical beliefs. He even cites the specific instance when they were about to sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was a missile treaty with the Russians in 1987. Colin Powell relates this story about how his office in the Military had a time picked out of 11.00 in the morning because that was the most optimal for the schedule and for the other negotiations later that day. Then he was contacted by the Chief of Staff who said, “No, it has to take place at exactly 1.45 pm” and after some wrangling, saying “That’s going to throw everything off” Colin Powell was forced to give in without them telling him why. They changed everything so the treaty could be signed at 1.45 pm and he found out a few weeks later when he pressed the Chief of Staff on it. He was informed why and that he was only one of a half dozen people in the Whitehouse at that point in time that knew the truth and knew what was going on.
Colin Powell said once he knew, it made sense to him because Reagan had this mystical streak to him that made him look more open to something like. Not in a hippie, new-age type of way but in the way that he talked of the role he had to play which was inspired by providence or by god or something and that he was into biblical prophecy and all sorts of other things like that.
NICK DAGAN BEST: That adds to the evidence against Reagan being oblivious. It raises some problems for those diaries.
CHRIS BRENNAN: It doesn’t make sense because the diary dates of May 3rd and May 4th, basically say there is nothing in it and, we don’t know anything, but on the same days in the New York Times articles it says, “Whitehouse confirms Reagans follow astrology up to a point. President Reagan and his wife Nancy are both deeply interested in astrology the Whitehouse spokesman, Marlon Fitzwater, said today.” And two former Whitehouse officials said Mrs Reagan’s concerns had influenced the scheduling of important events.
So the diaries don’t make sense because the Whitehouse is publicly confirming ‘yes, the rumors are true, this is going on’; but privately … I’ll just read the diary: it says, “Tuesday May 3rd. The press have a new one thanks to Donald Regan’s book, we make decisions on the basis of going to astrologers. The media are behaving like kids with a new toy, never mind that there’s no truth to it”. He was writing this on the 3rd May, so a day before the Press Secretary confirms this is happening!
Then on May 4th, “A short meeting, some talk about this astrology mess Don Regan’s book has kicked up. Some gal in LA claims she is a visitor to the Whitehouse and that she gives us frequent readings. She even claims she advised me on choosing George B. for vice-president. We’ve never seen her in our lives and don’t know her at all”. <1:09:03 audio>
I don’t know if on May 4th he is referring to Quigley, if he is then his diary entry is just flat out false because she did visit the Whitehouse for a state dinner in 1985 and met and spoke to Reagan himself. However, I found in some earlier media reports that there was another astrologer .. because Quigley herself didn’t claim that George Herbert Walker Bush was picked as Reagan’s running mate based on astrology, she never mentions that as a claim. I found another astrologer in that time period who may have been claiming that that happened. I don’t know if that can be clarified because there was another astrologer in play making claims that maybe were not true?
Either way, the personal diaries don’t shed any additional information on this except that for the next few days they’re completely hooked on this whole issue. May 7th for example: “After another bright day but temperature only around 60 °F. Watched TV talk shows, they’re driving Nancy up the wall with their gossip that we both, but especially Nancy, live by our horoscopes and won’t make any decisions without checking the stars. It’s phoney but the press is making a big phoney thing out of it.”
They are at Camp David while he is writing this?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Wow!
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, so there is this weirdness in terms of the personal diaries and what’s going on there because I don’t know if that is genuine, or if it has been changed after the fact, or if he is writing this being conscious about his image and legacy or maybe if Nancy had lied to him up to that point, which seems implausible.
NICK DAGAN BEST: That would be like gas-lighting, for a marriage. At that point they have been married for over 30 years. For her to be conducting affairs at that level and not informing him would be really bad.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, that would be like House of Cards type stuff!
It seems implausible but there is a discontinuity, so you can understand how ultimately it is still an open debate because a lot of it is going to rest on inferences and he said/she said stuff, and which sources you put more weight on or which sources you trust versus don’t. Ultimately, a lot of the people – let’s say professional historians, if they are coming from certain approaches, are not necessarily going to trust the astrologer’s account as much as they are going to trust another account.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Naturally.
CHRIS BRENNAN: We’ve been talking a while but we haven’t gotten to the most important part and we should address this next, which is: exactly how did Joan Quigley use astrology for the the Reagans and what did she do during her time in the Whitehouse? In other words, when people say astrology was being practised in the Whitehouse in the 1980s during Reagan’s administration, what does that specifically mean?
Some of this was confirmed in Don Regan’s book, some in Nancy Reagan’s book but the most detailed information comes from Joan Quigley’s book since she was the astrologer and she wrote a very detailed account of exactly what she did, including oftentimes the specific charts and times with commentary about what she was trying to achieve with certain elections. The main thing she seems to have done is give dates for different things using her approach to electional astrology, especially focusing on things that happened most frequently, like: dates for press conferences, for speeches, for trips and other public appearances.
We’ve already talked about the 1980 debate with Carter, where she picked either a date or a time which she thought would emphasize something in Carter’s chart which was negative or which would cause him to slip up. This is fascinating to me because just imagine the historical implications for that, in terms of one side using astrologers in order to get a leg up in a Presidential debate, especially if that Presidential debate had any influence on the outcome of the election. That blows me away.
That debate is a little tricky though because I read a story recently about a controversy a decade or two later, where it came out that some of Carter’s preparation notes may have been leaked to the Reagan team in advance of the 1980 debate. If true this would be an additional thing that gave them a leg up, although that is also the subject of debate.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, but if you know the story of the Iran hostages and how a deal was made that they not be released until the day of Reagan’s inauguration in January 1981, if they were willing to do that, and it was well documented that that was done. If Reagan’s election people were willing to do something like that at that stage in the game, it would have been a week or so off the debate with Carter, then pulling this other thing with his notes seems to be in keeping with other shenanigans that are on the public record as having occurred.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes, but even having an astrologer influence the date or the specific time that is chosen for the debate, there is no way that Ronald Reagan is oblivious to that. At the very least he is complicit in it and putting Nancy Reagan in the role of micro-managing parts of her husband’s campaign and is willing to use whatever he thinks might give him some advantage, astrology being just one of those potential things.
The next thing Quigley details are other things in chronological order that she did for them: she elected the chart for the launch of Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984. This is the start of his entire presidential campaign for re-election and that one is interesting because, if I remember correctly, Quigley actually talks about this in the book and says they wanted to launch the campaign earlier but she wanted them to delay; they wanted to launch in November or December but she forced them to delay until January. That is another one of those big things where we’re talking about a major change in the entire political apparatus behind the President, relaunching his re-election bid, potentially being delayed by weeks or months due to the advice of the astrologer.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I can speculate that in 1984 Saturn is in Scorpio where Reagan had Jupiter conjunct the north node and it is in January of ’84 that Mars joins Saturn in Scorpio and she might have been waiting for something like that. I mean I am just trying to think like an astrologer here. You can see an astrologer saying that. You were born in November of ’84 so you know where the planets were (-)
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, I would have told them to wait as well! (laughs)
NICK DAGAN BEST: Exactly! (laughs) I can see the astrologer’s rationale. It would be the 2nd or 3rd week of January that Mars would finally go into Scorpio. That would be this astrologer’s advice as well.
CHRIS BRENNAN: After that, Joan Quigley claimed to elect the times for the debates between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale during the 1984 presidential election, so again helping to pick electional dates in order to emphasize positive things in one candidate’s chart and negative things in another candidate’s chart. This is one of the few instances where she acknowledges really messing up, where she says she screwed up one of the charts and that it backfired and Mondale did really well and Reagan slipped up.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Did she say which debate that was?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes she does but I don’t have it written down here.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I have the charts for those debates in front of me so I was just curious which one was the slip up one but we don’t need to get bogged down in it.
CHRIS BRENNAN: She says that she selected the electional chart for Reagan’s second inauguration. This one is a little tricky though of course, because the Constitution says that the President becomes official at noon so you have to hold the inauguration very close to noon, so she was only able to adjust it a little bit. <1:18:54>
NICK DAGAN BEST: There is something interesting about the 1985 inauguration because in this case, 20th January fell on a Sunday and whenever that happens the inauguration happens on the following Monday, on January 21st. This was the case for Eisenhower’s second inauguration in 1957 and it was also the case for Reagan’s inauguration in 1985. However, he and Bush did take the oath of office on 20th around noon and then the public inauguration was held on 21st at 11.49 am.
CHRIS BRENNAN: I’ll be damned! I didn’t realize that! It’s the same thing as Obama did a few years ago.
NICK DAGAN BEST: There was also something about the ’85, I’m trying to remember the details, if it was because it was so cold or something but the inauguration used to happen in a different part of the city; it hadn’t happened out there on the … National Mall? They used to do it in a different place but in ’85 they changed the location. I don’t know if Quigley had something to do with that or if it was the really cold weather. I’m sorry I’m fuzzy on the details of that particular event but I do remember it was the 21st January that the inauguration happened and the oath of office was a day earlier.
CHRIS BRENNAN: The one she gives in the book then is the private ceremony they would have held and that’s the chart she uses. She has adjusted it to be a few minutes earlier before noon and she gives, in the book, 11:56:50 on January 20th, 1985 in Washington D.C.
That chart is particularly interesting because there is a Moon/Jupiter conjunction at 25° 26’ Capricorn and the MC is over there at 25° Capricorn as well so it is almost like she adjusted the MC a little bit so it would be just before the Moon/Jupiter conjunction rather than just after it, or something like that?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, that’s what it looks like to me, that’s exactly what it looks like to me.
CHRIS BRENNAN: She moved the MC because at 12 noon exactly the MC is at 26 ° Capricorn and so, especially if you’re using quadrant houses, it is the difference between having the Moon/Jupiter conjunction in the 9th house versus having it in the 10th house. And she basically adjusted it to put it on the 10th house side of the MC rather than the 9th house side.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Brilliant! So, you can see exactly what her rationale was and she is taking traditional astrological concepts, that is a concept which goes back 2,000 years! The idea of angularity, the cadent side of the angles are less powerful or less active than the angular side of the MC or the exact angles. So she is taking what is at its core at least, an ancient and traditional concept and you can see her applying it for the inauguration of a President.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, pretty straight forward A,B,C astrology to me.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That is probably one of her more prominent charts and Quigley definitely elected the chart for Nancy’s mastectomy surgery in 1987. Donald Regan, the Chief of Staff, asserts that when Ronald Reagan had to have surgery to remove a polyp in his intestine, there was initially talk of delaying it from Nancy, presumably due to the advice from an astrologer, but it was something that was time sensitive and needed to be done as soon as possible. Regan says that Ronald Reaga n may have rejected the advice as they didn’t delay it and he ended up having the surgery as soon as possible. That is something Nancy gets really defensive about in her biography, saying there was never any delay and there would never be any delay over a time sensitive surgery, based on astrology.
At the very least we can say, according to Quigley, the mastectomy surgery was elected in 1987 but whether the President’s surgery was at all is a subject of debate.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right. In my file, the chart I have for Nancy’s surgery comes from a news report and it just says morning. When it comes to Ronald Reagan’s surgery, on July 13th, 1985, I have that it started at 11.28 am in Bethesda Naval Hospital. So, I do have a specific Descendant for Reagan’s surgery but just a vague idea of when Nancy’s surgery might have occurred in October 17th, 1987 – two days before the economy collapsed!
Reagan’s polyp surgery was the same day as Live Aid which, if you were around in the ‘80s, was a pretty big deal.
When I look at the chart for Reagan’s surgery, it doesn’t look elected to me. It doesn’t look particularly bad but it doesn’t look like it was delicately chosen by a meticulous astrologer. <1:24:40 audio>
CHRIS BRENNAN: She doesn’t ever mention that in the book so I don’t think she tried to take credit for it and I think Regan himself said whatever later date was proposed, was not followed up.
One of the things we should be clear on is that for some of the really important events, like launching the campaign, where it was possible she probably cast an electional chart. However, for the rest of the time she was giving a weekly or monthly calendar of good and bad and moderate days. Donald Regan refers to this and it’s one of the accusations that he makes in his expose which came out in 1988, that he was so frustrated with having a color-coded calendar on his desk in order to schedule things. Like green was for good days, red for bad days and something like orange for moderate days.
Nancy tries to take issue with this and rejects that in her memoir and says she didn’t think that was the case, or that she had never seen a calendar but I think that was part of her damage control. There probably was something along those lines in terms of what Joan Quigley was doing on a day to day basis and that was probably connected with her looking at the chart in general but also looking at Moon placements. Maybe a good day would have been the Moon/Jupiter conjunction and that would have been marked as green, where a bad day would have been a Moon/Mars square and she would mark that as red, perhaps? Just speculating.
Donald Regan actually gives an example of this in the book. I’m guessing he is excerpting whatever Nancy had given to him in terms of however the information was conveyed from Joan, the astrologer, to Nancy, the First Lady and then from the First Lady to the Chief of Staff. He quotes, “Late December through March bad. January 16th through 23rd very bad. January 20th nothing outside the Whitehouse, possible attempt ..” which I think means a possible assassination attempt. “February 20th through 26th be careful. March 7th through 14th bad period. March 10th through 14th no outside activity. March 16th very bad. March 21st no.”
One of the big things that Joan Quigley claimed and was confirmed by Donald Regan in his expose, was that Joan Quigley strongly advised Ronald Reagan to keep quiet for an extended period of time during the Iran-Contra scandal and not to say anything and not to make any public appearances, and for the most part not even to leave the Whitehouse, but to completely stay out of the public eye for a very extended period of time. This of course drove his staff absolutely nuts because everybody thought he should address the scandal and try to dismiss it.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Those dates that you were just reading, that was for 1986 going into 1987. Is that correct?
CHRIS BRENNAN: I don’t know, it doesn’t say.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Because I’m looking up the chronology of events that I have in my chart database and that was kind of working and kind of not. I can give you the chronology I have. October 5th, 1986 is when the Sandinistas shot down the US Contra supply plane that is going to unravel the whole controversy. Six days later as the story is exploding, that’s right when Reagan and Gorbachev are beginning the Reykjavik Summit and Reagan is kind of embarrassed by that story coming out right at that time.
November 13th ’86, this is about five weeks after ‘the crash’, Reagan denies the story publicly. But then he doesn’t say anything again until January 26th, 1987 when he gives his first testimony to the Tower Commission. He gives a first testimony on January 26th and then he testifies again on February 11th of ’87 and the commission gave the report on February 26th and then on March 4th Reagan finally spoke to the nation on TV and gave an address. That’s the timeline of when he did talk about it. Everyone who was alive at the time remembers that in both his testimonies to the Tower Commission, the President couldn’t remember any of the conversations or anything that he was being asked about.
We were talking earlier about the suggestion that possibly his Alzheimer’s was affecting him this early on. If there is anything about the President’s behavior that led the public to suspect this, it was his performance at the Tower Commission. Definitely his age was showing, he couldn’t seem to remember any of the stuff that was going on and some of it was pretty important.
So, that’s the deal and it does sort of correspond with the dates that you were giving, although not perfectly. It looks as if he might have had to speak at times that Quigley wouldn’t have advised him to.
CHRIS BRENNAN: I think you’re right because I’m reading through this again and it is talking about the release of the Tower report and other things in this time frame, so we are talking about early 1987 for this list of dates that has been given. And this would have been in the last year before the Chief of Staff got fired.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes, exactly.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Advising the President to be quiet in terms of the Iran-Contra scandal, Joan takes credit for that in terms of it being a successful strategy, ultimately because it didn’t end up ruining the President or lead to an impeachment. But that incident is so famous that it gets quoted by Nicholas Campion and he tries to connect it up with an ancient tradition that goes all the way back to the Mesopotamian period, from 500 to 1,000 BC and he says this from a book titled What Do Astrologers Believe? : “During the Iran-Contra crisis, there were fears that unless Reagan publicly addressed allegations that his government had sold arms to Iran to raise funds for the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, he would be caught up in the scandal. This quickly drove the Whitehouse staff to distraction by instructing the President to do and say nothing for a period of about four months. Quigley was echoing the 7th century BCE Assyrian astrologer, Bhalossi, who advised his emperor ‘not to go outdoors’ and another astrologer, Manabitsu, who cautioned the emperor to stay in his palace for a month. Quigley’s work may have been ridiculed in the press but it offers fascinating evidence of an underground tradition of political advice which extends in an unbroken line back to the emperors of Babylon.”
Campion, who tends to really emphasize continuity from the ancient Mesopotamian tradition through the Hellenistic and Medieval and later, Modern traditions, loves finding instances of continuity for that. He really loved this episode because the type of advice that she gave was very evocative of, or had parallels with, some of these ancient Assyrian traditions. The high point of state-supported astrology in Mesopotamia was in the 7th century BCE where you had ten different colleges of astrologers that were serving the kings directly and sending reports and recommendations to the kings about what to do.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Wow! That almost sounds like it would have read like a Facebook group or something, like an astrologer’s Facebook group, that kind of college. When you have that number of astrologers all advising the same politician I can just imagine!
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yes, and in more ways than one because some of the cuneiform tablets are funny – the astrologers get into fights with each other and have disagreements about interpretation and all sorts of things. Some of that is documented in a really great book about Mesopotamian astrology recently republished by a prominent astrologer who died just a few years ago and I have forgotten his name for the moment. He was the one who wrote The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Do you know who I am talking about?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Michael Baigent.
CHRIS BRENNAN: The book was originally titled, From the Omens of Babylon but it’s been republished by Inner Traditions or something under the title, Astrology in Ancient Mesopotamia. It’s a great book on Mesopotamian astrology and it details some of those funny interactions between the astrologers or between the astrologers and the king.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I love it! Astrologers don’t change, do they? (laughs) <1:35:07 audio>
CHRIS BRENNAN: That was one of the final, major pieces of advice that Quigley had some control over, at least her advice had some effect in terms of the administration. There were three last things I wanted to mention because they are really important. One of them is really relevant to today and funny in terms of that because Quigley says that she elected the time for the announcement of Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court, who was later confirmed to the Supreme Court and is still there to this day. She says she picked an electional chart for the announcement of that nomination to ensure it would go smoothly. This is interesting in the context of today of course, because that was in the last year of his presidency, the somewhat late Supreme Court nomination in Reagan’s term that everyone is pointing to now as a parallel to Obama also having a Supreme Court opening and wanting to nominate a Supreme Court Justice in the last year of his presidency. Also, the fight that occurred over the previous nomination, where Quigley tries to say that she was not involved in electing the chart for the previous guy that failed .. (-)
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, Bork.
CHRIS BRENNAN: There was a big fight over nominating Bork once he was nominated and the Senate rejected his nomination basically, or voted against it. It was a big controversy and became an early 1980s meme, where they called it, ‘getting Borked’ because he was basically sacked from getting on the Supreme Court.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, that was a peculiar nomination in the first place. Bork was the guy who had basically fired the Attorney General for Nixon when the Attorney General wouldn’t stop the Watergate investigation, so he had this very tainted history as well as some other things and that is what prevented it.
It is interesting. It reminds me of today because ironically the shoe is on the other foot. Back at the time, Democrats were saying, ‘It’s so late in Reagan’s term for him to be nominating a Supreme Court Justice’, just like some Republicans are saying of Obama today! Some things remain the same, even when the parties cross their stories.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, Vice-President Biden had to write an off-ed. piece in the New York Times recently, where he was urging people to allow the nomination process to go forward but then he also had to refer back to, or address, that there was a similar situation in the 1980s and he was on the other side saying that they would not confirm anyone because it was so late in the process.
This one is really fascinating because Quigley says there was somebody in the audience with a stop-watch which gave the signal at the precise moment when it was time to begin the press conference to make the nomination. This is a little bit weird and ambiguous and there might be some cool history there, because I found a media report which states a camera was set up at the back of the room and they circle what looks like a woman sitting in the audience and then she raises her hand and a few moments later the press conference starts. You see the President begin the press conference and the nomination process. They circle the person who is raising their hand and imply that that was the person but then I spoke with Christopher Renstrom and he said that in his interview with Joan Quigley, about a decade or so ago, she claimed they actually had George Herbert Walker Bush do it because he was a navy man who had a stop-watch and always carried it with him! And that he was the one in the room who was timing it and gave the signal it was time to begin.
I don’t know if that is true. I am a little suspicious of that story only because it wasn’t in the book and I am surprised that she wouldn’t have mentioned that if it was the case. So, I’m a little hesitant to accept that because it was a story she gave towards the end of her life. Additionally, in Donald Regan’s book, he talks about George Bush Snr and says that George Bush Snr didn’t know how much astrology was being used in the Whitehouse until later in the presidency, or something to that effect. When he found out, he uttered some expletive that Regan said was very strong for George Bush Snr at the time. It sounds like he was not appraised of the subject at the time but also, he wasn’t happy when he heard what was going on.
A counterpoint to that is that Quigley says, close to the very end of her book, how in terms of George Bush Snr, that she had been told towards the end of Reagan’s time in the Whitehouse, they had a date set for the launch of George Bush Snr’s election campaign to become president in 1988. The date had been set for a Thursday or Friday and Quigley looked at it briefly and said she liked better a date earlier in the week, like on a Tuesday based on some consideration. She says she never found out if that information was relayed to George Bush Snr’s team but when the campaign was eventually launched, they did launch it earlier in the week on a Tuesday rather than the later date that they were, supposedly, going to use.
She gives that story, not non-commitally but there’s an element of that since she didn’t correspond with anyone in that campaign, but if it’s true then it is possible she even had some effect on Bush’s presidential campaign in 1988. Who knows! And who knows about the story of the stop-watch in the audience. All we can say is that she didn’t make that claim and it’s probably true that at the very least they did time the nomination.
The last two things she did which are really notable and prominent: one, she elected times for important negotiations between Reagan and Gorbachev, for example the Reykjavik Summit – she supposedly did some work on that. Finally, she elected the chart for the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty between the US and the Soviet Union in 1987. That one even has the external confirmation from Colin Powell who, in his memoir, gives a whole story about how his team was all set to sign at 11 am as that was the best time for practical reasons and then the Whitehouse literally forced them to move it to 1. 45 pm or something like that. Quigley talks about this a little bit in her book because she was disappointed with the outcome. She elected the chart for 1.45 pm, or 1.48 pm and if you look at the chart – it’s December 8th, 1987 at 1.48 pm in Washington, DC you see the Ascendant is exactly on Jupiter at 19° Aries. But what happened, she writes, is that the treaty wasn’t signed until 10 or 15 minutes later so that Jupiter had moved off the Ascendant into the 12th house. She speaks of this as being really annoying or depressing because she thought it would be a really great chart if it had had that. <1:44:11 audio>
NICK DAGAN BEST: The chart for the signing from news reports is 10.10 am. “Washington Summit opens, President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the IRNF Treaty .. blah, blah” and from the Reagan archives I have that the summit began at 10.10 am but that might have been when they first joined together, not when the actual signing happened.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That would match … if they got together at 10.10 am that matches what Colin Powell says should have been the time, which is 11 am to sign it. But that means they got together at 10 am and dicked around for two or three hours until this chart came up with Jupiter on the Ascendant the astrologer had picked out, and was passed on through Nancy and then through her to the Whitehouse Chief of Staff!
The time that Quigley gives – she says the actual signing time was 2:01:59 pm, so she has it down to the second. Not only is she picking out the time, she is in San Francisco, she is relaying the information through Nancy, Nancy is relaying through the Whitehouse Chief of Staff directly but also, somebody is there timing it and then relaying the times back up the chain of command! Presumably back to Nancy and then back to Joan, of the exact time, down to the second! That’s a little wild in itself and it is much more elaborate and involved than you would think Ronald Reagan could just be oblivious to.
NICK DAGAN BEST: There are some astrological factors to all of this that Joan Quigley could not possibility have planned but which are still really interesting. For starters, Nancy died on March 6th with Jupiter in Virgo, Ronald Reagan died June 5th, 2004 when Jupiter was in Virgo and Jupiter had also been in Virgo in July 1980 when he was nominated to be the Republican candidate, which is right around when Joan starts working with them specifically on the campaign, leading to her choosing the time for that debate with Carter in October. Isn’t that what she says? She didn’t start working with them on the political stuff until he was nominated July 17th, 1980.
CHRIS BRENNAN: She said she made contact in July.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Well, Jupiter was in Virgo when that happened, Jupiter was in Virgo when Reagan died and Jupiter was in Virgo when Nancy died recently. Nancy was born with Jupiter and Saturn both in Virgo, so there is a lot of stuff going on right there in that part of the zodiac in the story!
The other interesting thing vis-à-vis Joan and the scandal and the death of Reagan, he died June 5th, 2004 and Venus was retrograde on the Mid-heaven at 19° Gemini. If you go back to May 1988 when the story broke, Venus was on its way to going retrograde in Cancer, to return to Gemini and back on July 17th, 1980 when Joan and the Reagans started keeping up, as it were; Venus had stationed direct not far from 19° Gemini. So that Venus cycle in Reagan’s political career is very interesting and it even ties in to, like a bookend, the beginning and the ending of Joan Quigley’s involvement in his presidential career.
CHRIS BRENNAN: That’s pretty wild!
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, it gets a little wilder. That same Venus cycle was in effect when he got divorced from his first wife, Jane Wyman, in 1948 and it was also in effect when he filmed the famous movie Knute Rockne, where he says the famous line, “Win one for the Gipper”. Filming of that movie was between April and May of 1940 and that was the famous line he used in his presidential campaign. He would have filmed that movie during that Venus retrograde, divorced Jane Wyman – it was finalized June 28th, 1948 during that retrograde and then again, all that political stuff the beginning and the end of his relationship with Joan Quigley and then his death in 2004. Those all occur in that same little Venus retrograde that went from Cancer to Gemini once every eight years!
CHRIS BRENNAN: That would be a fun extended thing to do in terms of looking at some of this and the actual charts. It’s a shame we don’t have his birth time. There was some ambiguity surrounding this because Quigley made a statement at some point in the early ‘90s, (she became a famous astrologer and was asked to speak at some conferences). One of the lectures that you can listen to still, is a keynote address she gave at the 1992 United Astrology Conference, which is really interesting because that was a huge history-making conference. That was the conference where Project Hindsight got started, where the Kepler College was first coming about and where the American Council of Vedic Astrology was just coming together. So, you have Joan Quigley giving a keynote lecture where she talks about her role in the Whitehouse. She doesn’t say a lot of additional things but she said that she didn’t want to reveal Ronald Reagan’s birthtime until after he had passed away because she thought it would be inappropriate. I thought was really weird but it later turned out she was using a rectified time for him of 3.43 am apparently, from family information that just said he was born early in the morning.
One of the weird things after the fact, is that she never really had a birth time for Ronald Reagan to begin with, she just had a general idea that he was born sometime early in the morning. She did have an exact birth time for Nancy, and of course we also have an exact birth time for Joan Quigley herself, which would be interesting to do as a study as well.
I’ll probably put some of these charts in the notes for this episode so if anyone wants to look those up they can. I’ll also probably link to some different interviews and media segments and things that I found on Youtube to give you some additional information that you can look into for research purposes. If you want to look into this, the primary thing I would recommend checking out is Joan Quigley’s book, What Does Joan Say?. I would also recommend checking out Donald Regan’s book, For the Record, where he talks about some of the stuff going on; then finally, Nancy Reagan’s book, My Turn where she has that chapter dealing with the astrology issue. <1:52:09 audio>
If you are looking for a more skeptical take, or the argument against Ronald Reagan being into astrology, I’d recommend this book, God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life by Paul Kengore which was published in 2004, which is weird because that is the same year that Ronald Reagan died.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I remember listening to that keynote speech that Quigley gave in 1992 and I did find it quite interesting so anyone who enjoys listening to old recordings from astrology conferences – that comes highly recommended. Just to hear her quasi-official account, the most official account she ever gave of her involvement.
CHRIS BRENNAN: I got that off the UAC website so if you search on Google I’m sure you’ll find it. The last thing is, you know I am trying to base most of what I’m saying, with a few brief exceptions, on things that were actually written in some of these books that can be cited but when it comes to some of these issues, especially with Reagan’s history of interactions with astrologers like Carroll Righter in the 1960s and ‘70s, I’m sure there are a lot of astrologers that are around and still alive that might have additional insight or information and if there are any listeners who have any interesting anecdotes or personal stories about that, I would love to hear them in the comments section for this episode or you can email me privately.
I would like to avoid crazy or far out hearsay and innuendo, I don’t want anything too far from the original source, ie. if you’re talking about something that is five times removed from whoever said it, but if anybody happens to have any interesting points of research that I’ve overlooked or perhaps is not public knowledge, go ahead and let me know in the comments section or leave me an email as I would love to hear it.
That’s it. I think it worked out really well. This is probably one of the most extensive treatments of this topic because when I was trying to research this there weren’t many good treatments of this issue. Have you come across any?
NICK DAGAN BEST: No and I think the reason is that some of it was sort of embarrassing to astrologers because Quigley did write this book. Everyone read it but when I would bring it up with the older generation of astrologers they didn’t want to talk about it too much, I think.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Maybe that’s part of the dynamic that I’m overlooking as well, because I’m familiar with the dynamic that there’s the astrologer who thinks they are intrepid and is going to take on the media and prove astrology is real or scientific, but then they can just end up looking bad or making an ass of themselves. I’m not necessarily saying that Quigley did that in this instance because it could have gone much worse than it actually did and for the most part, in that time period, she came off relatively well for what she was doing and respectable, but perhaps there was some embarrassment surrounding it because of how she decided to become part of this story even more than she already was.
NICK DAGAN BEST: That being said, there is a success story in here. Reagan was called ‘the Teflon President’! So many members of his staff were indicted for crimes committed while being members of his staff and yet he got away with everything and his reputation only suffered very temporarily from the whole Iran-Contra thing.
It really frustrated his opponents and his political enemies at the time that he seemed so untouchable, that no matter what happened he seemed to get away relatively untouched. That also plays into the mythos – here he had the protection of an astrologer who may very well have guided him through eight years of office, out of harm’s way, at least after the 30th March, 1981.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, and rightly or wrongly, the astrologer Joan Quigley takes credit for that in her book and has a chapter titled, ‘Astrology was the “Teflon” in the Presidency’.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right or wrong, she gets to make that claim and go down in history. Certainly, if I had been Lyndon Johnson’s astrologer or G.W. Bush’s astrologer, I would not be writing a book about it.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, trumpeting your successes!
NICK DAGAN BEST: Or Nixon, you wouldn’t be able to do the same thing because their presidencies ended on quite a bitter tone. So, it would have to be someone like Reagan who really did get away with a lot and so right or wrong, she gets to take credit for that. That is the success story. <1:57:53 audio>
CHRIS BRENNAN: I think that is a great note to end on. People can find all the show notes for this on theastrologypodcast.com. They can find out more about some of the … you used presidential charts and things like that a lot in some of your workshops, especially with Venus and Mars retrograde cycles on your website, right?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I do and I’m going to be posting a whole bunch more soon, seeing as we have the election coming up. American politics is a hot topic so I’ve got a lot of stuff on American politics coming up.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And what is your website?
NICK DAGAN BEST: My website is nickdaganbest.com.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Excellent. Well thanks a lot for coming on the show.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Thanks for having me back, Chris.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And thankyou to the listener for doing what you do and listening! And we’ll see you next time.
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