The Astrology of Death by Richard Houck: a Review
While the lack of desire to discuss the ultimate departure is totally understandable from a private point of view, it is a shame that Western Astrology as a whole is unable to predict death. Yes, announcing to someone that an astrologer thinks he will die at such and such date in most cases would be cruel and pointless. However, in real life there are numerous scenarios when it can be important to know for how long a certain person is going to live.
Both Medieval Western Astrology and Hindu Astrology do pay a major attention to defining the longevity of a person.
The Astrology of Death by Richard Houck is perhaps the only widely available and easily readable and comprehensible text on the astrological prediction of death. The author bravely, sometimes even with humour, approaches the tabu topic. The book is full of real life examples and practical insight.
However, if you hope that after reading the book you will learn a specific method or technique that will allow you to 100% reliably predict a person's date of death, you might be disappointed. Here is how Richard Houck himself defines the scope of his book (p 215):
As usual, my approach here is not one of presenting sweeping rules and generalizations. Rather I am interested in strengthening within you an incremental ability to appreciate how a matrix of considerations coalesce into a uniquely informative message.
Here is another person's opinion about Richard Houck's approach in the Astrology of Death, taken from the Foreword of another book by the same author (Digital Astrology, p 15) and written by William Bodri:
... In its own witty but reality-based way, it introduced several new robust techniques and unique insights that were very well-suited to our modern computerized era.
Basically, Richard Houck demonstrates on many examples that certain methods, like tertiary and secondary progressions, transits, stationary positions of planets in all the three listed methods as well as eclipses, including prenatal ones, can be very useful when attempting to determine the possible date of death.
The author demonstrates his ideas on a large number of examples where the outcome was already known. In a couple of cases, the reader can see how the author tried to predict a result which wasn't known beforehand, and the outcome wasn't very impressive, in my opinion. This is actually quite typical when freely using a bunch of methods on historical cases: they all seem to work in one or another way. But when you try to approach with recently gained confidence a fresh live case, it can prove to be a lot more difficult.
In fact, Richard Houck failed to predict his own death. A page ad AstroDatabank devoted to him offers the following information:
In April 1999, he was diagnosed with cancer. Using diet and various alternate healing methods, he thrived through the year, feeling strong in spite of some weight loss. However, in November 1999, Rick released the information that the right lobe of his liver has six tumors the diameter of a baseball and cancer is wrapped around the aorta and has metastasized through the body. On 4/01/2001, his wife Paula send out the announcement that Rick had died.
Some time before, he had been interviewed for a program on Prophecy on television's Learning Channel. After explaining that is wasn't too hard to come up with the date of death for most charts he went on to say that he expected his own death on 9/13/2031 by heart attack.
This is of course perfectly understandable, from a human perspective. Even someone who is writing books about death, and joking about death, can find it difficult to face his own final date. However, it has to be said that the freeform nature of Richard Houck's approach leaves a lot of space, probably too much space, for interpretation, which reduces its reliability.
Interestingly, the book pays a substantial attention to the existing methods of predicting the lifespan of a person in Jyotish (the Hindu Astrology), but mostly from the critical point of view. However, one of the methods, the one used by Dr Vedavyas (p 108 - 111) and demonstrated in more or less sufficient detail, was quite successful in defining Richard's own lifespan.
If you follow the example in the book, the birth details were clearly those of Mr Houck, and the conclusion was: this gives the minimum ayurdaya [lifespan - AK] of 49 years and 4 months which is 13-Aug-1996 A.D.
Since cancer was diagnosed in 1999, I wonder if the specified date was close to when the problem in the body started to develop.
The book is definitely full of interesting ideas and insights. Here is one of them. In 1994 Richard wrote in his book (p 173): It was also based upon my conviction, insupportable by medical data, that I have a weak liver.
Now, pay attention to what was said above about the location of his cancer...
This book has also attracted my attention to a number of other works an ideas, perhaps the most interesting of them is the Life Span Revolution (LSRev) by Ross Harvey. I am going to explore this idea properly, and will share with you any findings.