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Professor Seward's Foray from the Beyond by John Townley

Back in the middle '70's I was privileged to enjoy a series of remarkable events which quite altered my opinion of the presence of the dead among the living. I was on an astrological lecture tour, speaking on some rather technical, no-nonsense (or so I thought) aspects of astrology when I was invited to speak by a spiritual group in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

They were very hospitable and friendly, although a bit too New Age for my taste, but my lecture was received quite well and I had an enjoyable evening. After my lecture and some coffee and cake, I was invited by the leaders of the group, a man and a woman who did channeling, to participate in what was, for all intents and purposes, a seance (this was before Shirley MacLane arrived on scene). This was not my cup of tea, but I could hardly refuse, being the guest of honor, so I went along.

Everyone sat on chairs in a circle, and after some time for meditation, the two principals began to speak in what seemed to me decidedly phony voices. He claimed to be the spirit of the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius and she an American Indian princess. They addressed each member of the circle, giving them various nuggets of advice that seemed pretty much like watered-down Theosophy. Sort of HPB meets Readers' Digest. Finally, they reached me.

"Someone is trying to reach you," they declared. "An astrologer who has something to tell you ."

I inquired as to who that might be and when had he lived. "Professor Seward," was the reply, and he was from the early 20th century. That was it -- no message, just the promise of one. I thanked them politely and thought no more of it.

Several days later, back in New York City, I was doing some research for my next book at the Public Library, going through an index file drawer of about 1500 cards, looking for information on astrological cycles and mapping techniques. Out of curiosity I also did a quick search for Professor Seward, to see if such a person ever had existed, but to no avail. Then just before closing the drawer, I thought what the hell, try a poke at random -- so I stuck my finger into the middle of the drawer and pulled the first card at hand. It was The Zodiac And Its Mysteries -- by Professor Seward! Of course, I immediately asked for it at the desk, but alas, it was missing...

The next day I was talking to my publisher at Weiser's Book Shop on another subject when it occurred to me to ask if they had this book in their used book collection. They said they'd look it up and get back to me, and I went back to struggling with the spherical trig-based 3-D charts I was trying to design for my next book.

That night I had a very vivid dream, which quite impressed me. I appeared before an older man sitting behind a massive, carved oaken desk. On it were a large brass armillary sphere, brass telescope, and other astronomical/astrological instruments. Behind him was an impressive wall of leather-bound books. Everything designed to appear the astrological authority. I asked him about some of the mapping problems, and he brusquely brushed me aside. "You need to have the zenith, the azimuth, the local horizon. Here's how to do it." And he proceeded to show me some overlay templates to put on a graphed version of a horoscope that would reveal it all, he claimed. I thanked him politely, and the dream faded as I awoke, when I took down specific notes on what he had said, just in case.

That day I called up a well-known technical astrologer friend of mine (Rob Hand) and described what I had been told. He was quite impressed and said that as far as he could see, the techniques were very clever and quite accurate. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, I worked on the new approach that night and found it to be very useful, and something I would never have thought up myself.

Two days after that, I got a call from Weiser's. "We found the book you were looking for," they said, "but it's really nothing but a popular Sun-sign work from the early part of the century, called The Zodiac And Its Mysteries." Nevertheless, I was going there anyway, so I figured it was worth checking out. Sure enough, as I paged through it, there wasn't much there, as they had said.

Then I turned to the frontispiece, a picture of Professor Seward in his office. There was the carved oaken desk, the armillary sphere, the telescope, the leather books, and the exact, self-same fellow in my dream! Needless to say, I was speechless...

Later I got some more details about Seward from my mentor Charles Jayne, who had actually met the man. He was called the "Boardwalk Astrologer" because of his ornate offices in both Chicago and Atlantic City. Indeed, later in life, during the 1930's, he even had his own railroad car, decorated with all kinds of mystical and magical objects, a real astrological sideshow. He was apparently quite well-known in his day, even publishing his own yearly almanac. Most important of all, Jayne told me, was that behind the show biz facade was one of the most brilliant technical astrologers of the day, something hidden from all but his professional colleagues.

So, here's to you, Professor Seward -- this astrologer is most grateful for a friend in need.

And also: to Marcus and the Princess -- thanks for the tip!

From: Fate magazine

Note: the complete original book The Zodiac And Its Mysteries has been made available online at  by Roger Dafreman, who also colorized the two originally black and white images seen here from the book -- thanks, daf!

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  Copyright © John Townley 2005. All rights reserved.
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