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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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!
original book The Zodiac And Its
Mysteries has been made
Dafreman, who also colorized the two originally black and white images seen here from the
book -- thanks, daf!