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By Michael Erlewine (

[A number of my astrology friends have asked to see a little more of my astrological history with Matrix Software. Here is a start.]

Over the years, we held some 36 astrological and dharma-related events at Matrix and the Heart Center here in Big Rapids, Michigan. Actually, if we count all the lama-related visits, there were a lot more. The memory of the first Neo-Astrology Conference held here at the center stays with me. The conference was just that, a memorable event. It was held on July 21-23, 1989.

Not only did we bring together some of the finest research astrologers in the world for a three-day weekend of exchange and discussion, but it turned out that we had a lot of fun too. As host of the conference, it seemed that I was in constant motion.

Some of the panelists at the conference included Michel Gauquelin, Thomas Shanks, Robert Donath, Lee Lehman, Doug Pierce, Dr. Suitbert Ertel, Rob Hand, Charles Harvey, John Townley, Mark Urban-Lurain, Ken McRitchie, Alois Treindl, Robert Schmidt. Aside from the U.S., we have participants from Canada, Great Britain, France, Austria, Germany, and even three folks from Australia.

With a few exceptions, almost the entire conference was held in panel format, which permitted a liberal exchange with all present. In fact, perhaps more than any other conference I have ever attended, the difference (in expertise) between the invited speakers and the conference attendees was irrelevant. It got lively.

One memory from the conference is very vivid. I think it was Saturday night. I was worn out and took the first opportunity I could to say goodnight and crawl into bed. As I drifted off, Rob Hand and John Townley were playing some impromptu music outside my bedroom window. I knew that John Townley was a veteran musician, but I had no idea that Rob was one, too. With Rob Hand playing an alto recorder and John singing plus playing the concertina and the pennywhistle, I went to sleep to some very lovely melodies. It was a good moment.

The Heart Center guest rooms were lodging for most speakers, which meant the conference grounds were the scene for after-hour mixing. I hate to think how late our nighttime goings-on lasted. I know for a fact that one large contingent closed down the local bar and were still going strong.

There is not room here to go into all the material we went over. In general, the conference was devoted to examining the Gauquelin research methodology. And while

this in fact happened, there was a lot more that went on in both formal and private sessions.

It was significant to me that Rob Hand gave me a big hug when he left. Being competitors had not always been fun, and that weekend did a lot to let us get to know one another better. Rob told me on leaving that, although he had been apprehensive about coming here to our center, as soon as he stepped into our kitchen, he knew things were going to be fine.

Another highlight for me was meeting Robert Schmidt and Ellen Black. John Townley just showed up with Schmidt in tow. I had to take John aside and ask him, who is this guy? Does he belong on the panel or did he just come to observe. “Put him on the panel, for sure” was John’s response. We did and it was great.

In a sense, Schmidt and I met each other in the middle of that first panel discussion. In those first moments, we both knew we had met one of those people in our lives with whom we not only have a strong connection, but that will require repeated meetings to satisfy whatever craving it is that draws people to one another. Schmidt, a theoretical physicist and mathematician, was not an astrologer at the time. His interest in modern Chaos Theory and his ability to turn the light of his mind on almost any problem made him an instant hit with the rest of us, most of whom had known each other for years.

Schmidt and I had so much to go over that he and his wife (Ellen Black) decided to come back for a visit soon after the conference. We then found so much to exchange that Bob and Ellen decided to relocate and become a permanent part of our staff here for a number of years. Robert and Ellen became some of my very best friends, and still are. I would guess that I am responsible for his becoming an astrologer.

This is getting a tad long, so I will close with one event that everyone loved. On that last very hot summer day, some 36 of us ventured away from the conference tables and onto the local waterway for several hours of leisurely floating down the mighty Muskegon River. What can I say? The enclosed pictures tell all. I am sure this has to be the first astrological research conference partially held on open water. Later that night, home safe and dry, the party continued.

Another view is at this link: ... 657&type=3

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At the table, from left to right, Robert Hand (top of head), Mark Urban-Lurain, Michael Erlewine, Michel Gauquelin, Lee Lehman, John Townley, Robert Schmidt (hidden), Not sure next one, on right, Kyle Pierce.
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Drawing John Townley and Rob Hand. On the right, group heading for the river.

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Part of the group floating down the river.

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Page from original article in Astro*Talk.

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Dr. Suitbert Ertel in center photo.

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Getting ready to float.
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Michel Gauquelin on left, Charles Harvey on right.

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Left to right, Michel Gauquelin, Charles Harvey, Alois Treindl, Ken McRitchie.
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