Alan Leo

From Theosophy Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alan Leo

Alan Leo, born William Frederick Allan (1860-1917), was a British astrologer, author, and publisher, and a member of the Theosophical Society. He has been called "the father of modern astrology".[1]

Early life

William Frederick Allan was born on August 7, 1860 in Westminster, England. His Scottish father, an ex-soldier, left the family when his son was nine years old, so William was left with his mother, a member of the Plymouth Brethren and a rigid Biblical literalist. He had little formal education, left home as soon as he could support himself. From the age of sixteen, he was employed in many jobs, mostly in sales.

Introduction to occult studies

In 1885, while he was managing a grocer's shop in Manchester, he met a Dr. Richardson who taught him the fundamentals of astrology.[2]

It was customary for professional astrologers to work under pseudonyms in nineteenth-century England, so Allen used his surname and rising sign to create the nom de plum "Alan Leo." Eventually he changed his name officially by deed poll. Leo joined the occult society, The Celestial Brotherhood, run by the Welsh seer and mystic John Thomas (aka Charubel).

Leo was a regular writer for the Brotherhood's magazine, The Occultist, which appears to have had a connection to the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor...

In 1888, Leo was living in Peckham, London as a salesman for a confectionary firm when he met the astrologer Frederick Lacey (Aphorel), also a member of Thomas' Brotherhood. Leo made contact with Lacey after seeing his letter in Astrologer magazine, which asked for astrologers to contact him so that they might meet.[3]

Lacey introduced Leo to Theosophist/astrologer Walter Richard Old, one of Blavatsky's Inner Group and General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in England.[4] "He introduced Leo to theosophy in the summer of 1889 by taking him along to one of the many gatherings held at the Society's headquarters in Lansdowne Road."[5]

Marriage to Ada Burch

Ada Elizabeth Murray Burch was born in April 5, 1858 in Salsbury, Wiltshire as the daughter of Samuel and Murray Burch.[6]

Bessie was not drawn to the religious beliefs of her father, an orthodox Jew, and sought among texts of other religions for inspiration. Her Christian mother had left the household when Bessie was sixteen. The young woman took up phrenology and palmistry.In November 1890, an elderly Theosophist gave her a copy of Esoteric Buddhism by A. P. Sinnett. She wrote, "I had thirsted for the truth and had at last found the living water and knew I should never thirst again." A month later she heard Annie Besant lecture at Southampton.[7] After discovering that a very active Theosophical Society lodge existed at Bournemouth, she applied for membership and was admitted on September 29, 1892.[8] A friend of Alan Leo, H. S. Green, persuaded a friend at the Bournemouth Lodge to subscribe to the Astrologers Magazine that Leo was publishing. Bessie asked for Mr. Leo to do her horoscope, and "was so impressed with the results that she arranged to meet Leo. In February 1893, Leo called on Bessie and they immediately hit it off."[9]

In the spring of 1893 she married John Joseph Spark, but in 1894 petitioned for nullification of the union, which was granted on June 17, 1895.[10][11] Evidently she preferred a chaste union, which she later found with her second husband.[12]

After she married Alan Leo around 1896 they became members of the Blavatsky Lodge in London. In 1897 the Leos helped to establish the Hampstead Lodge. She served as President and he as Secretary, and the lodge’s official address was their home at 9, Lyncroft Gardens, Finchley Road, N.W. Mrs. Leo also presided over the Surbiton Centre.

Henry Steel Olcott wrote of Miss Burch in 1895, before she married Mr. Leo:

Among my notable visitors of that time was Miss Brich, F.T.S., of Southampton, now so widely known as the wife of my good friend, Alan Leo, editor of Modern Astrology, and one of the most interested members of our Society in London. The lady has a decided gift for palmistry and, I believe, for psychometry as well. I know quite a number of persons who have been astonished at her power to trace out the varying incidents of their lives in the lines of their hands....

For my part, I hold to the idea which I have expressed before, that, seeing that the Eastern and Western systems of palm-readings are quite different, and yet that equally successful tracings of the subject’s life events have been made by proficients in both of the schools, it is not so much the hard-and-fast system of interpretation of the palm-lines as the possession of a psychical insight which enables the palm reader to trace out the vicissitudes of the subject’s life. This Mrs. Leo seems to have.[13]

Theosophical Society involvement

Alan Leo was admitted as a member of the Theosophical Society in Hampstead on April 14, 1891, less than a month before the death of its founder, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.[14] His address was given as 9 Lyncroft Gardens, London, N.W., and he continued living at that Hampstead location until his death.

Soon after becoming a member, Leo and Frederick Lacey established the Philalethian Lodge in Brixton. After marrying, Alan and Bessie Leo "founded another theosophical lodge, the Hermes Lodge, in which astrology was a prominent feature."[15]

Leo became very well known among Theosophists in the Adyar-based Society and in other branches of the broader Theosophical Movement. He was quoted in The Theosophical Movement, the journal of the ULT [United Lodge of Theosophists] India, and in the Esoteric Astrology book of Alice Bailey. His allegiance was to the Theosophical Society headed by Annie Besant. Alan Leo frequently lectured at Theosophical lodges in England, and donated dozens of books to the Adyar Library and Research Centre. He contributed dozens of articles to Theosophical journals.

In 1909, the Leos visited the headquarters in Adyar, Madras, India, and they traveled with Dr. Besant and Isabel Cooper-Oakley from Adyar to the annual convention at Benares.[16] In England they hosted visiting Theosophists in their home.[17]

In 1911 the Leos returned to Adyar with Dr. Besant and Jiddu Krishnamurti. They were early members of the Order of the Star in the East.[18]

Work as an astrologer

On November 21, 1889, Leo and Frederick Lacey began publishing The Astrologer's Magazine, later renamed to Modern Astrology. Within two years the venture was breaking even.

The most attractive feature of the magazine for most readers was the offer of a free horoscope for new subscribers. In the first year alone, Leo and Lacey worked flat out to produce the 1,500 horoscopes ordered.

Although Leo and Lacey had no experience in publishing magazines, they did have experience in what astrologers wanted to read...

Lacey's other commitments led him to resign from AM in 1894. Leo continued the magazine while combining his day job as a commercial salesman with giving lectures in astrology and theosophy, and rented an office off Fleet Street to run the magazine.

The year 1895 was a difficult one for AM. Over 4,000 free horoscopes had been sent out, many resulting in requests for more detailed work. Although a horoscope service wasn't originally intended, it became almost unavoidable. From 1893, Leo charged for more than the most basic delineation. This was to become extremely profitable. Leo still sought to convert astrologers to his idea of astrology as a spiritual science and AM became Modern Astrology, and a theosophically oriented publication in July 1895.[19]

Building on this success as an astrologer, writer, and publisher, Leo was able to found the Astrological Society. It opened on January 14, 1896 in London with Robert T. Cross as vice-president and H. S. Green as treasurer. Within a year the Society had one hundred members. In 1901 he resigned as president and founded the short-lived Society for Astrological Research.

Profits from Modern Astrology and horoscopes went into publication of astrology books for mass consumption. The Modern Astrology Office had nine employees. Leo was very popular with the public despite some criticisms of his occult view of astrology, and accusations of plagiarism.

Leo’s next project was the founding of the Astrological Institute in 1912, which offered a range of facilities, including qualifying examinations and a library. It announced a complicated system of membership and multiple regulations. The Institute did not do well and was already floundering when war broke out.[20]

Later life

In 1914, Leo was charged with fortune-telling, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Three years later, he was charged again, and this time he was convicted on July 16, 1917. He paid a small fine and court costs, but the stress took a toll on his health. During the next six weeks, on holiday in Bude, Cornwall, he wrote extensively on how to restate astrological work as character readings and to take out the element of inflexible destiny that had led to accusations of fortune-telling. On August 30, 1917, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.[21] His colleague H. S. Greene completed the final work.

Mrs. Leo wrote of her husband:

he devoted himself to the one ideal of purity in thought, word and deed, and for twenty-five years he was engaged in putting his ideal into practice; and his progressed horoscope and death figure are significant of that embodied purity which he succeeded in bringing into the physical and making an accomplished fact. All his lower vehicles became obedient to the master hand that controlled them.[22]

He did not smoke or drink alcohol, and his diet was vegetarian. Bessie wrote a biography of her husband and took over his work editing Modern Astrology and publishing books.

Book cover


Alan Leo was quite a prolific writer and editor. On average he completed a book every three months, in addition to editing his astrological journals, and contributing articles to other theosophical and astrological journals.

Articles in periodicals

Leo served as editor for The Astrologer's Magazine and later Modern Astrology. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 46 articles by or about Alan Leo. Mrs. Bessie Leo also wrote for Theosophical periodicals, at least 16 articles in all.

Alan Leo also wrote for many other periodicals. In January, 1909, for example The Co-Mason printed his article on "Astrology and Co-Masonry."[23]

Astrology for All series

Astrology for All was a series of seven books that began by with the stated objective of restoring the Astrology of the Chaldeans. In 1917 W. S. Randall published a "reference index" to the seven volumes, in which he listed their titles:

v.1. Astrology for All.
v.2. Casting the Horoscope.
v.3. How to Judge a Nativity.
v.4. The Art of Synthesis.
v.5. The Progressed Horoscope.
v.6. The Key to Your Own Nativity.
v.7. Esoteric Astrology.

Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series

Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series refers to popular books by Alan Leo and his closest associates that were collected into a series under Alan Leo's famous name. Some were printed as miniature books.

No. 13 in series
v.1. Everybody's Astrology.
v.2. What is a Horoscope and How is it Cast?
v.3. Planetary Influences.
v.4. The Horoscope in Detail.
v.5. Directions and Directing: a Sequel to The Horoscope in Detail.
v.6. The "Reason Why" in Astrology, by H. S. Green.
v.7 Horary Astrology.
v.8. The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolised, by Charubel [John Thomas].
v.9. Medical Astrology, by Heinrich Däath.
v.10. What Do We Mean by Astrology?
v.11. A Thousand and One Notable Nativities, compiled/corrected by Alfred H. Barley.
v.13. Mundane or National Astrology, by H. S. Green.
v.14. Weather Predicting by Astro-Meteorology, by H. S. Green.


Alan Leo acted as publisher for most of his own books, using the Modern Astrology Office and his home address. L. N. Fowler & Co. published some volumes and were trade agents for sales of the books. Most titles were issued in multiple printings and editions, and by other publishers. The works are listed here in alphabetical sequence:

  • Alan Leo's Dictionary of Astrology, edited and completed by Vivian E. Robson. London 1929. 11 editions. Available at Google Books.
  • The Art of Synthesis. Originally published 1912 as the second volume of How to Judge a Nativity in the Astrology for All series, but later considered to be Volume 4 of that series. 18 editions. Available at Google Books.
  • Astrology for All: To Which is Added a Complete System of Predictive Astrology for Advanced Students. London: L.N. Fowler & Co., 1899. Available at Internet Archive and Hathitrust. The fourth edition used the subtitle "Individual and Personal Characteristics as Represented by the Sun and Moon" and was published in 1910. Available at Hathitrust.
  • The Astrologer and His Work.
  • Casting the Horoscope. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1912. Volume 2 of the Astrology for All series. Available at [Google Books.
  • Character Is Destiny.
  • A Comprehensive Glossary of Astrological Terms.
  • The Connections of Jupiter with Substance and the Material World.
  • The Degrees of the Zodiac Symbolised. 1898. Author name given as Charubel. Number 8 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Directions and Directing: a Sequel to The Horoscope in Detail. Author H. S. Green. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1910. Number 5 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Esoteric Astrology, London: Modern Astrology Office, 1913. Volume 7 of the Astrology for All series. At least eighteen editions. Original subtitle: "a study in human nature." Available at Hathitrust and Google Books. 1925 Second edition is available at Hathitrust.
  • Everybody's Astrology. Number 1 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Fresh Sidelights on Astrology. Co-Author C. G. M. Adam.
  • Horary Astrology. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1909. Number 7 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series. Available at Google Books.
  • Horoscope and How to Read It. 1902.
  • The Horoscope in Detail. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1906. Written with H. S. Greene. Number 4 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series. Available at Hathitrust.
  • How to Judge a Nativity. 1904. Volume 3 of the Astrology for All series. Reprint, London: Modern Astrology Office, 1928. Available at Google Books.
  • Jupiter: the Preserver. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1917. Subtitled "being the substance of a course of Public Lectures delivered before the Astrological Society in the months of October, November and December, 1916, with an introduction." Available at Hathitrust.
  • The Key to your own Nativity. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1910. Volume 6 of the Astrology for All series. Available at Google Books.
  • Mars: the War Lord. 1915. A course of public lectures presented before the Astrological Society in the months of January, February and March of 1915. Available at Google Books. Limited access to 1970 edition available at Hathitrust.
  • Mundane or National Astrology.. 1920. Author H. S. Green. Subtitle "a short introduction to the study of the effects of equinoxes, solstices, new moons, eclipses, and other celestial phenomena upon the different countries of the world and their inhabitants." Number 13 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Planetary Astrology.
  • Planetary Influences. Author Bessie Leo, revised and supplemented by Alan Leo. Number 2 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Practical Astrology.
  • The Progressed Horoscope. London, L.N. Fowler & Co.: 1906. Co-author Heinrich Däath. Volume 5 of the Astrology for All series. Subtitle of 1906 edition: "a sequel to How to judge a nativity, wherein the progression of the horoscope is exhaustively considered, to which is added 'The art and practice of directing,' a complete treatise on primary directions, by Heinrich Däath."Available at Hathitrust and Internet Archive.
  • Rays of Truth. Co-author Bessie Leo.
  • The "Reason Why" in Astrology or, Philosophy and First Principles". 1910. Author H. S. Green. Number 6 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Saturn: the Reaper. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1917. Subtitle ""Being the substance of a course of public lectures delivered before the Astrological Society, in the months of January, February, and March, 1916." Limited access to 1970 edition at Hathitrust.
  • The Soul of Astronomy.
  • Symbolism and Astrology.
  • The Symbolism of Astrology.
  • A Thousand and One Notable Nativities. 1917. Subtitle of the second edition: "the astrologer's 'Who's Who.' 1930 fourth edition included corrections by the sub-editor of Modern Astrology, Alfred H. Barley. Number 11 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • Weather Predicting by Astro-meteorology. 1912. Author H. S. Green. Number 14 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • What is Astrology?. London, 1907. Available at Hathitrust.
  • What is a Horoscope and How is it Cast?: a Book for Beginners. 1910. Number 2 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series.
  • What Do We Mean by Astrology?: a Book for the Enquirer. London: Modern Astrology Office, 1910. Number 10 in Alan Leo's Astrological Manuals series. Second edition stated: "Being the second edition of "The rationale of astrology."
Boxed set of Alan Leo works on DVD

Collected writings

Leo's journals and books have been collected by Philip M. Graves and released by as a DVD boxed set under the name "Godfather of Modernity: the Alan Leo Legacy".

Volume 1 - Godfather of Modernity - Early Astrological Journals, 1890-1912.

  • All 60 issues of The Astrologer’s Magazine edited by Alan Leo jointly with Frederick Lacey from August 1890 to July 1895.
  • The first 205 issues of Modern Astrology edited by Alan Leo from August 1895 to December 1912. These were issued monthly except for four Decembers when it was not published.
  • The first two (of four published) issues of The Astrologer’s Annual, a short-lived publication that was issued instead of Modern Astrology in December 1905, 1906, 1907 and 1908 only.

Volume 2 - Itinerant to Eternity - all issues of Modern Astrology published from 1913 through to around 1938.

Volume 3 - Books and pamphlets - not yet released as of early 2021.

Kim Farnell biography of the Leos

Additional resources

  • Harris, Philip Sidney. "Leo, Alan" in Theosophy World. Originally published in Theosophical Encyclopedia Quezon City, Philippines: Theosophical Publishing House, 2006.
  • Farnell, Kim. Modern Astrologers: The Lives of Alan and Bessie Leo. 2019.
  • Leo, Bessie. The Life and Work of Alan Leo: Theosophist—Astrologer—Mason. London : Modern Astrology Office, 1919. Foreword by Annie Besant. Available at Hathitrust.



  1. Gavin Kent McClung, “What Makes A True Astrologer?” ‘’Dell Horoscope’’ (June, 2000), 66-77.
  2. Kim Farnell, "A Brief Biography of Alan Leo" at
  3. Kim Farnell, "A Brief Biography of Alan Leo" at
  4. Leslie Price, "Theosophy's Influence in the British Isles" The American Theosophist 75.10, (Nov 1987): 369.
  5. Kim Farnell, "A Brief Biography of Alan Leo" at
  6. 1871 England Census.
  7. Bessie Leo, "How I Became a Theosophist" The Theosophist 49.4(January, 1928), 493-495.
  8. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at See book 1, entry 8568 (website file: 1C/67).
  9. Kim Farnell, "A Brief Biography of Alan Leo" at
  10. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915.
  11. England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1918.
  12. Kim Farnell….
  13. Henry Steel Olcott, Old Diary Leaves, Fifth Series (1893-96) page 363-364. This visit took place in 1895. See this link.
  14. Theosophical Society General Membership Register, 1875-1942 at See book 1, entry 7800 (website file: 1C/46).
  15. Astrological Lodge of London, "History".
  16. The Theosophic Messenger 11.7 (April, 1910), 420.
  17. Annie Besant, "On the Watch-Tower" The Theosophist 32.10 (July, 1911), 476.
  18. Kim Farnell, "A Brief Biography of Alan Leo" at
  19. Kim Farnell, "A Brief Biography of Alan Leo" at
  20. Astrological Lodge of London, "History".
  21. Bessie Leo, The Life and Work of Alan Leo: Theosophist—Astrologer—Mason (London: Modern Astrology Office, 1919) 72.
  22. Bessie Leo, "An Accomplished Ideal" The Theosophist 39.7 (April, 1918), 86-87.
  23. "Studento," "A New Era in Masonry" " The Theosophic Messenger 11.1 (Oct 1909), 40.