Grant Lewi: The Pop of Popular Astrology
1940s astrologer Grant Lewi completely overhauled natal horoscopes for the masses. And his influence continues to color astrology today.
“Two agendas are prevalent in your life: Heaven’s and yours.” —Chin-Ning Chu
YOU COULDN’T STOP STARING at the book’s black and white cover. The stylized emblem of a nude woman, her body, curled backward into an impossible loop. The image mesmerized me throughout grade school. And with it, the book’s seeming ability to escape the laws of physics.
A hardcover version of Grant Lewi’s Heaven Knows What appeared everywhere in our house (seemingly) simultaneously. In the kitchen atop my mom’s shopping list, in our den and dining room, and in the living room in place of watching television. The laundry room too. I once took the book to bed with me to tackle the contents. What was it, exactly, that had captured everyone’s attention?
In the morning, I awoke to my mom stomping about the house—room by room, assuming she’d misplaced the book. Why the urgency? She’d eventually figured out my aunt’s Moon sign, and she wanted to consult Lewi’s innovative approach to delineating planetary aspects in a birth chart.
I don’t imagine my experience was unique in the late 60s. And most likely occurred in homes across America, especially after astrology’s explosive counter-culture renaissance.
A Milestone in the Moment
Heaven Knows What was first published in 1946 and must have sold over a million copies by the time the book made its way into my childhood home to capture my imagination.
And yes, so much was telegraphed by the book’s cover. Even as a kid, I got the message: Each part of our anatomy was aligned with a specific secret symbol—those glyphs that comprised the Zodiacal circle.
A direct transmission like that carries a definite effect. For myself, that meant eventually learning astrology unmediated. And how fitting my autodidact nature. This is what Grant Lewi wanted from each of us too.
His good pal, the astrologer Carl Payne Tobey notes in the charming forward to a modern edition of Heaven:
“Grant believed that a person’s life is something very individual and personal…He felt the same way about a horoscope. It was something very individual and personal that was only for its owner. He would be glad to help with it if someone needed help, but one should learn all about it for one’s self.”
Exactly. And this has been my modus operandi for decades—as a full-time astrologer and teacher.
Science and sports were my banes as a kid. Despite my half-hearted efforts to impress my father, both pastimes bored me. But Heaven Knows What was akin to a mega vitamin. A catalyst for the mind’s ability to skirt the boundlessness of space, where astrology waits for everyone. And so it claimed me, too.
Could you judge the book by its cover? For me, absolutely yes! Considering my path now, fifty-plus years later—after I’d absorbed Heaven Knows What and Astrology For The Millions and his potent (and most poetic book) Your Greatest Strength—I can see that it was Lewi’s approach to astrology that inspired me most.
But that realization occurred many years after the fact. I’d forgotten about Heaven Knows What after wandering into the labyrinth of psychological astrology in the mid-80s. Compelling books by Liz Greene, Stephen Arroyo, and Dane Rudhyar appeared annually, composing a new prologue for astrology.
Could astrology garner an academic, more competent patina? Those modern astrologers and a slew of others tried. Their efforts to move astrology away from event-based prognostication and into the world of psychology—with its rich lexicon of characterizations—was a necessary shift for the art.
But Grant got there first.1
Reinforcement and Reflection
One summer night in Hawai’i in the early-80s, after I’d started to teach astrology, I recall lying in bed one night while attempting to trace my astrological roots.
The path zigzagged through a maze of teachers, peers, and clients—study groups, churches2, and organizations. Including my early foray into astrological writing and publishing. But how had my incursion commenced? What was the seed impulse?
Do you ever ask yourself this question? It’s a good exercise to engage in. As astrologers, we know that from the moment something appears, much can be revealed about its path forward. But more importantly, concerning the origin: what reached out from you—beyond space and time constraints—to touch the timeless?