Graham Pemberton
25 min readSep 27, 2023

Astrology — the Alternative Approach of Geoffrey Cornelius

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This is the latest and last chapter from Part 2 of my unpublished book on Astrology. (For what has preceded please see this list. Part 3 to follow.) In previous chapters I have developed some ideas about how Astrology might work. That is what I am referring to, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, at the beginning of this chapter, where I explore the ideas of someone who has a completely different approach.


That seems to be it then. Astrology has been sorted out. I invite you to pause for a moment at this point and reflect just how convincing you think my arguments have been, to what extent you now believe in Astrology more than before you started reading. I believe that if you put together my original theory about the birth-moment together with the ideas I developed in chapter 16 (especially Elwell), you will obtain a more or less complete theory of how Astrology works, (although, given the limits of the human standpoint, it is obviously not possible to understand in detail how the archetypes operate).

Although they may use different terminology, I would suggest that this explanation, allowing for some quibbling over details, is compatible with the world-views of just about all the modern astrologers whose work I have been discussing: Harvey, Addey, Elwell, Halevi, Rudhyar, Arroyo, Greene. Going back to the Middle Ages we can include Ficino, Paracelsus and others. Going back further we find the Hermetic, Kabbalistic and Arabian traditions, Plato and Pythagoras. All of these subscribe to a world-view, thus an explanation for Astrology, similar to the one I have proposed. It is therefore consistent with the mystical system of Halevi (the Kabbalah), which itself has strong affinities with Hinduism and other spiritual systems, and also quantum physics and Analytical Psychology. I understand that it is not a scientific theory, that it is untestable and ultimately unprovable, and therefore in Karl Popper’s eyes worthless, but I don’t care. If Astrology is true, I believe that this is the explanation which sustains it.

Wouldn’t it be awkward therefore to find an astrologer who actually thinks that Astrology is not like this at all, that the whole tradition I have just listed has basically got it wrong? I am not talking about someone like Michael Harding (as discussed at length in earlier chapters), who in my opinion, although he practises Astrology and calls himself an astrologer, would be more accurately described as an existentialist trying to force Astrology to conform with his pre-existing philosophical views. I believe, if it is anything at all, that Astrology is a spiritual/mystical phenomenon. Suppose, therefore, we found a ‘true’ astrologer, one who believes in ‘superstitious and mystical mumbo-jumbo’, who nevertheless makes a convincing case against the established tradition.

I hope that Geoffrey Cornelius will not mind me describing him as a ‘fly in the ointment’, since he himself, discussing Kepler’s entreaty when criticizing Astrology, not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, Gauquelin’s liking for the metaphor of a “grain of gold” in the dross of the tradition, and the Astrological Association’s aim to “sift the wheat from the chaff”, says that he finds himself “somewhere amongst the dross, the chaff and the bathwater”¹.

Cornelius is a specialist in horary astrology, the use of horoscopes to answer specific questions, as outlined in his book The Moment of Astrology¹. For example, there is the famous case of William Frankland who was able to assist the police to find a dead body, from a horary cast for the moment a relative put the question to him². Cornelius would not want us to deduce from this that he is simply a practitioner of a different type of astrology, in the same way that some chefs may specialise in French cuisine, others in Italian, but both are obviously equally worthwhile. He believes that the edifice of traditional astrology, derived from Ptolemy, has actually been built on unstable foundations, and that his understanding of horary Astrology challenges many of its assumptions.

Horary has a bad press amongst the natal specialists. It is clearly a form of divination, and is analogous to consulting the I Ching, having a Tarot reading, or the ancient practice of consulting an oracle, for example the famous one at Delphi. Ptolemy himself was against it. Cornelius also discusses attacks by Ficino and his Renaissance contemporary Pico della Mirandola, including the latter’s Disputations against Divinatory Astrology. Modern astrologers are unsympathetic, Dennis Elwell speaking for many: “The persistence of the horary art, and its resistance to the obvious criticisms, is one of the paradoxes of astrology today… Not surprisingly, many modern astrologers have rejected horary as a throwback to more superstitious times”³. There was also an article written in 1962 by Charles Carter, at that time the “big man of English astrology” (p127). In it, while conceding that he finds it “difficult to believe that there is nothing in horary astrology”, says: “My own experience with figures cast for me by horarists has been unfortunate. In fact, they have usually been downright wrong and never strikingly right”⁴.

For the sake of the argument, let us agree with Cornelius and adopt the hypothesis that horary astrology is valid. The burning question would therefore be: what are the implications for natal astrology? Horary is often seen as equivalent to fortune-telling, one of the favourite ‘dirty-words’ of serious natal astrologers. It does not require much thought, however, to see that natal astrology is actually a special case of horary. One is asking a question ‘What is the meaning of this individual’s life?’ and using a horoscope to obtain an answer. When a client consults an astrologer, it is usually to address some personal issue. There is therefore an implied question, ‘How can I resolve this problem?’, which the birth-chart and progressions are used to address. So the question is really: How does this special case of horary differ from other more divinatory applications? What are the real objections to horary?

How valuable or indeed accurate is the Ptolemaic model?

Cornelius refers to the Gauquelin and other studies (discussed early in part 1 of my book) which “have obliterated most of our symbolism. All that can be retrieved from the Gauquelin findings are a few fragments of planetary symbolism, excluding the Sun, and a broad indication of the significance of the diurnal circle. Nothing of traditional horoscopy survives, and on all the evidence we are unlikely to find any way of rescuing it. As far as Gauquelin is concerned, the major part of our tradition is simply unsustainable — ‘the horoscope falls down’ ” (p57). He is unconvinced by objections that Astrology is too subtle to be subjected to this kind of survey, and concludes bravely that “on the evidence of this research, our beliefs appear to be folly and our perception an imaginative delusion” (p58). West and Toonder are equally scathing: “What has happened to Pythagoras? Is this the legacy of the Egyptian sages? How could Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos remain an astrological textbook for sixteen centuries? And how could a sane man commit such nonsense to papyrus in the first place?”⁵. (Despite these inadequacies, Ptolemaic ideas seem to survive; in Cornelius’s estimation “mainstream astrology today is as thoroughly Ptolemaic as at any time in the last two millennia” [p98].)

If there are serious inaccuracies in the application, this obviously suggests that there may be something wrong with the underlying theory. Cornelius identifies three significant areas, firstly: “This research threatens to undermine the whole way of proceeding with symbols… Astrology has had a big fall… The astrologers who, implicitly or explicitly, make signs (symbols) the basis for their astrology had better put their position more clearly. If they do not, they will find that science has picked up the pieces and arbitrated the whole of their subject for them” (pp61–2).

The second (the role of subjectivity) and third (the problem of timing) are interconnected and affect each other, so I shall discuss them together. The Ptolemaic tradition sees itself as interpreting a pre-existing, objective state of affairs. This is manifested most obviously in the search for a precise as possible birth-time; it is believed that if this is achieved, the astrologer will gain accurate information about a hidden blueprint for the individual. Cornelius tries to explode this idea by suggesting that horoscopes derived from an inaccurate birth-time can sometimes be just as meaningful, noting wryly that “this is not a popular topic with most astrologers” (p242). As he explains, even with the best will in the world, obtaining an accurate timing in the first place can be fraught with difficulties: “With all the opportunities there are for error, compounded by the hazy memories of mothers, wrong records, time-zone teasers, calculation catastrophes and general sloppiness by the astrologer, getting an accurate horoscope based on reliable data sometimes appears to be a noteworthy achievement”. The implication is therefore that in many cases the birth-time used is not an objective fact of nature, but is assigned by consciousness. Thus “the unwelcome opportunity for experiments with wrong charts therefore arises over and over again… The wrong chart apparently working is a fairly common occurrence” (p243). (He gives the example of Princess Diana whose birth-time was uncertain, two alternatives being given. Astrologers worked for years with both times, and obtained meaningful interpretations with each.)

Cornelius concludes that “what we ordinarily think of as ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ in terms of objective time and horoscopes is at best over-simple and at worst completely misleading. The classical Ptolemaic theory with its prescription for the objective time moment does not offer a reliable description of what actually happens in our astrology” (p252). We can see why his ideas would make the hackles of natal astrologers rise. He is actually suggesting that the precise birth-time, their sine qua non, is not especially important! Critics of Astrology would jump in at this point, saying that this indicates the subjective, therefore illusory nature of Astrology, which they would see as being merely the projected fantasies of the astrologers.

This element of subjectivity in Cornelius’s views on natal astrology is derived from horary where it is actually inevitable, thus presenting a serious theoretical problem. Other forms can relate themselves to objective clock-time. When trying to decide what time to use for a horary, this is impossible. Should it be the time when the question is first thought of? The time when the horoscope is cast by the astrologer? Or some other time? In practice, the astrologer chooses which time to use and yet, according to Cornelius, often gets successful results: “Which moment is taken up in each particular case depends entirely on the astrologer, in the light of the circumstances. It is not to be predetermined by any fixed rule, unless the astrologer has chosen to follow a convention or adopt such a ‘rule’ as part of the ritual of his or her practice of astrology” (p151).

If the moment can be chosen independent of clock-time, and the features of the horoscope being used are not thereby objectively determined, it is clearly not the interpretative skills of the astrologers that are being tested, rather their ability to make a creative contribution, and use their ‘imagination’! Far from disagreeing and defending Astrology against the criticism of subjectivity, Cornelius actually agrees, and says that this is its true nature and its strength: “It is one of the most characteristic features of humanistic astrology and its derivatives that the significance of symbolism operates primarily in consciousness and the psyche, rather than in the forces of nature” (p101). Unlike the astrologers I discussed in chapter 4, he does not just concede that sometimes intuition and ESP will be involved and there is nothing wrong with that, he believes that they are the major, perhaps only, factors and positively encourages them. It is not surprising therefore that he places more importance on “the perception and skill of the astrologer rather than the supposed objective correlations of astrology” (p62). In this context he notes: “However objective we astrologers try to be about our material, however much we may experience it as a clockwork machine, there is always something else going on just beneath the surface. When our astrology is really successful, it can be as if some unexpected blessing or providence has led us to our conclusions” (p190). (We can thus make a direct comparison with those experimental subjects who proved to be especially successful in J. B. Rhine’s ESP experiments — discussed in part 1. Perhaps there are some people who are ‘naturally’ better astrologers, in that they are more psychic, more intuitive. The traditional schools would probably agree to a certain extent, although they would lean more towards the direction that Astrology is a skill which can be learnt.)

He says that this approach has made an impact in the consulting-room, over and above that which happens as a result of the accidents described above: “A significant development in recent astrology has been to follow through the implications of context and self-referencing into natal practice. This opens up the question of what Jung has termed the secret mutual connivance, drawing the astrologer into the client’s material” (p236).

Cornelius’s ideas would seem to undermine most of the Astrology that I have been discussing — including my own theory! He mentions the criticisms of other astrologers, including Norman de Gournay who says that Cornelius’s method was “contrary to the nature of astrology”, and an elderly French astrologer who said that it “represented a destruction of astrology as he knew it” (pp39–40). Also Patrick Curry says in his preface that the attitude of “astrology as something continuously happening ‘out there’, for example, which the astrologer-as-magus need only tap into” will have to be sacrificed. “Nor can it any longer be talked up as a universal language (or algebra, or code) of life, whose potential validity and relevance is therefore necessarily also universal. Those are the delusions of the old order” (Pxiv). He has previously described the following as coming unstuck: scientific research, psychological astrology, and “the original ‘machine of destiny’ itself… devised by Ptolemy, perfected by Aquinas and finding its apotheosis in John Addey’s harmonics” (Pxi).

Cornelius argues for a transformation of theory, which would replace all of the above with an understanding of astrology as astral divination, “open to multiple perspectives or truths” (Pxiv), saying:

“To call horary divinatory astrology implies that the rest is not divinatory” (p119).

“The interpetation of horoscopes is properly to be understood as a form of divination. It is divination despite all appearances of objectivity and natural law. It is divination despite the fact that aspects of symbolism can be approached through scientific method, and despite the possibility that a few factors in horoscopy can arguably be validated by the appeal to science” (Pxix).

What are we to make of Cornelius’s ideas? I have to say at the outset that I am a big fan of divination. At the beginning of the film The Song of Bernadette it is said: “For those who believe in God no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible”. In the context of this book, I could change that slightly and say: “For those who believe in Astrology no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible”. Having heard about astrologers who dismiss horary astrology out of hand, it would seem that a further modification could be made: “For those who believe in divination no explanation is necessary; for those who do not, no explanation is possible”. Therefore, if I give a few examples of my experiences with divination, it is obviously not with the intention of trying to convert you. Make of them what you will.

I have been especially impressed by the I Ching, agreeing with Jung and probably everyone who uses it on a regular basis, that meaningful readings are the rule. Unfortunately, in some peoples’ eyes it has the appearance of seeking a prediction, and can therefore be equated with the lower fortune-telling form of astrology, the tall-dark-handsome-stranger-lottery-winning variety. Even someone as knowledgable as Alan Vaughan says: “The I Ching is only one of countless methods of divination that man has used through the ages to foretell the future”⁶. Dennis Elwell is also unimpressed: “Astrology is not a close relative of hand reading, the Tarot, witchcraft, the I Ching, and the rest of the gipsy band”⁷. This is a shame, since by describing the I Ching in this way he is dismissing an ancient tradition just as profound and expansive as his own version of Astrology, whether or not they are related. In the same way that there is a deeper, truer Astrology, unknown to the general public, there is also a deeper, truer divination, and the I Ching is one of its profoundest forms. As Cornelius says: “Divination is in our times most frequently described... as a means of foretelling the future. Yet on all the evidence across many cultures, this gives an entirely misleading definition of ancient divination, where a possible prediction is in the majority of cases incidental to the main task, which is to consult with the gods” (p142, his italics). (It can clearly be argued, whether or not it is considered literal, symbolic, metaphorical etc., that to interpret a horoscope is to ‘consult with the gods’.)

I am not so familiar with the Tarot. (That was at the original time of writing; I have become much more familiar with it since then.) However, in that it is intimately related to the Qabalistic tradition, I would say that it has impeccable credentials. My two encounters with the Tarot (at the original time of writing) are as follows:

1) I was attending a weekly ‘self-development’ course. One evening the leaders suggested that we spend some time doing Tarot readings. The whole approach was light-hearted, not at all serious. It did not matter that we had no experience, to say what came into our heads was OK. So we split up into pairs and small groups. The readings were based on a four card spread. One person shuffled and selected, another interpreted. Nothing that anybody said was significant enough for me to remember it now. However, I had two opportunities to pick four cards for others to interpret. I noticed that one particular card was present in both sets of four, which seemed significant. The next time I visited him, I mentioned this to a friend who was deeply interested in these matters, and a Tarot practitioner. He immediately went to consult his book on Qabalistic Tarot to look up the card. What it said was highly relevant to my situation at the time, therefore ‘blew my mind’, and the content has stayed with me and greatly influenced my understanding of life.

2) I have a friend whose daughter is an amateur, even irregular, Tarot reader. On one occasion I had a consultation with her. I had no personal reason for doing so; she was offering them for fun at a party. Her method is that there should be a mental question asked, but she does not know what it is, and thus interprets the cards without knowing to what issue they are referring. On the basis of a ten card spread she spoke for ten to fifteen minutes. Everything she said in every detail was directly related to my life situation. In all that time she did not once lose the thread.

The I Ching and the Tarot are big systems with a long tradition. Divination on a relatively trivial level, however, has also infiltrated my life. One day my wife and I were going out with two good friends of ours for a picnic in the countryside. We arrived the night before so that we could make an early start the next day. I noticed on my friend’s bookcase a volume called Fortune-Telling by Dice⁸. At that time I was actually doing some reading on divination. I was therefore interested, and asked if I might borrow the book. He agreed but said that we should take it to the picnic anyway — I got the impression that he had been intending to do this before I mentioned it, so the idea of dice-divination was clearly something that was on his mind at that period as well. The idea of the day was total relaxation — lazing around in the sun, eating well, drinking champagne and port, playing charades; it was a precedent we had established the year before. Late in the afternoon we decided to try the dice-divination. I had to decide what type of question I wanted to ask, general, finance/business, or love/affection. I chose a general report, and in order to obtain an answer I had to throw three dice three times, once for an up to three month timescale, a second for six months hence, and a third for a year hence. My first throw was ONE-ONE-ONE, and the meaning provided by the book was as follows. “General situation: Plan to spend an entire day doing nothing except enjoying yourself or have a lazy time with friends. All those important, complicated tasks which you ought to be getting on with will still be there but today you should unwind and take it easy”. You can judge for yourself how accurate the first part of the judgment was; I can confirm that the second part was equally accurate, that there were difficult, complicated issues bubbling away beneath the surface, which needed my attention. I believe that the total number of possible outcomes was 6x6x6 =216, so the odds against my attracting that reading by chance were 215 to 1 against. Although it could be argued, and it is probably true, that some of the other readings would have seemed accurate to a certain degree, I feel sure that none of them could have been more accurate than this, after all 100%, and that if, without throwing any dice at all, I had read all 216 entries, and been asked to pick the one most appropriate to that day, the one quoted above is surely the one I would have chosen.

On another occasion around the same time I had another experience on the same theme which involved an astrology column in a newspaper. In the Introduction to Part I, I related how I used to read the Patric Walker columns in the Evening Standard when the paper crossed my path. That idea is relevant to this story. I have a friend who I have known for nearly thirty years, but whom I don’t see as much as either of us would like because of her heavy work commitments. So when we do meet it is something of a special occasion. We had been planning to have a day out together that Summer, and on the agreed morning I was ringing up to make the final arrangements. At the exact moment that I put the phone down, I noticed an Evening Standard in the room, which my wife must have bought. In accordance with my usual practice I turned to the horoscope page. Although I am sure I have kept it somewhere, at the time of writing unfortunately I cannot find the original, but the gist was: Take time out today to spend with a special friend…, followed by a couple of lines which seemed equally important.

If sceptics were to read this out of context, they would of course say that it is vague, that anybody reading it could then make arrangements with a friend and delude themselves into thinking that they were attuning themselves to God knows what. In context, however, it is completely different. The arrangement had already been made, and the precise timing gave it a meaning, admittedly not earth-shattering, but nevertheless impressive to me. The newspaper had been in the room for some time, and I had managed not to notice it. Yet at the exact moment that I finished speaking to my friend, I suddenly saw it and then made the connection.

So I have no doubts about the reality of divination. The question is therefore: can divination be achieved through Astrology? I have no personal experience of this, so cannot make my own assessment. (My last story, even though it involved an astrology column, was of course a synchronistic event.) I therefore have to comment on Cornelius’s work as an outsider. The first thing that stands out is that his ideas fit very neatly with one of the major tenets of quantum physics and Eastern religions, namely that there is no objective external reality independent of the observer, who participates in its creation. Here, for example, is Cornelius sounding more like Fritjof Capra or Fred Alan Wolf: “It is a habit of unreflective thought to take for granted that the world can be described without particular reference to the act and context of perception, where the nature of things and the laws underlying phenomena are treated as having a neutral ground of existence independent of any consciousness positing that ground” (p195). (Such an idea would help to explain how it is that a wrong birth-time can work. In many cases, in the absence of an accurately recorded time, an approximate time is assigned by consciousness. Once a time has been assigned, it becomes the ‘official’ time registered as such in the collective unconscious. In future statements by astrologers, the contents of which may be influenced by intuition and ESP, this time may therefore attract energy to itself, thus to some extent influencing these statements. Such an idea seems weird according to our normal ways of thinking, yet appears consistent with quantum thinking.)

He also explicitly incorporates psi into Astrology, psi arguably being a manifestation of the quantum level⁹. Not only is his thinking consistent with modern physics therefore, it can reasonably be said that no other frontline astrologer has incorporated modern physics into their method as much as him. Cornelius is therefore off to a good start. From my perspective, another plus-point is that “Jung’s ideas on divination and synchronicity, and his treatment of the nature and interpretation of symbol… are important features in my argument” (Pxxi). (He would have to explain in greater detail what he means by this, since I am sure that other astrologers whose approaches he is criticizing might make a similar statement. I take him to mean, in that omens and divination are prominent in his thinking, that he sees Astrology in terms of synchronistic events, rather than synchronicity as general correspondence, as I was discussing earlier in chapter 5.)

I am obviously closer to him philosophically than many of his astrologer-critics who do not accept certain interests that I share with him. Yet I cannot bring myself to accept that Rudhyar, Addey, Elwell, Harvey, Halevi, Greene, Paracelsus, Ficino, Pythagoras, Plato et al., have somehow all got it wrong. Cornelius describes his book as “a critique of the foundation of the false defences of astrology, and in particular the rationale given to us by Ptolemy. This has been adopted virtually without further reflection by the whole tradition of astrology down to the present day” (Pxxii). It is not actually clear that Ptolemy has been adopted down to the present day to the extent that he is claiming. However, even if we accept that those following Ptolemy adopted his principles, was it without reflection? Surely these people thought about what they did. Surely one of them would have noticed if their results seemed more attributable to ESP than to the horoscopes.

I have some experience of telepathy and clairvoyance experiments. It is always clear when some factor external to the ego ‘wants’ the subject to think a certain thing, the experience is always of an unexpected, ‘foreign’ content arriving. Cornelius does say that the sort of things he is talking about, although occurring frequently, tend to get swept under the carpet, and are thus not discussed, implying that other astrologers do not want to confront the possibility that their systems are unstable. It may well be true that psi plays a more prominent role in Astrology than generally acknowledged. That does not mean, however, that all astrologers for nearly 2,000 years have been deluding themselves in this way. Surely there must be something in the traditional systems. Cornelius may well say: “It is only in a ‘Machine of Destiny’ (i.e. Ptolemaic) interpretation that we come to routinely imagine that life and character are laid down in advance for the hapless infant” (p214). Yet that was exactly the experience referred to earlier (in my introduction, part 2) of Christopher Bollas, who probably knows nothing whatsoever about Astrology and did not for one instant consider it to be the answer he was seeking to his question. (West and Toonder say: “The one strong point of modern astrology, the one aspect of it upon which astrologers are consistently willing to stake their reputations in public, is their ability to analyse character upon the basis of the horoscope”¹⁰.

I can also mention a consultation by a friend of mine with a famous astrologer, who said many insightful things purely on the basis of the chart, without having met her previously or listened to her. It is not inconceivable that some kind of advanced ESP was at work, but this explanation would seem less likely than that the astrologer was an expert chart-reader.

I can also offer a personal experience, simple but nevertheless relevant. I have an acquaintance who studies Astrology as a hobby. She would not describe herself as an expert, or even experienced. On one occasion she worked out some progressions of my chart, and discussed them with me. I hope she will not be offended if I describe her as not especially intuitive. She certainly did not give the impression that any ESP was being brought into play, on the contrary she seemed to be offering standard interpretations based on symbolism from text-books which Cornelius would undoubtedly say were derived from the Ptolemaic tradition. Yet she said, Gauquelin’s findings notwithstanding, several things about me which fitted perfectly with my own understanding of my life-journey, and which she could not possibly have known from other sources.

For these reasons I find it hard to let go of the traditional approach. I wonder therefore whether the ideas of Cornelius can be integrated into the traditional system, even though both sides seem to have decided that they are incompatible. To try to resolve this question I think it will be useful to consider in detail the whole question of levels in the universe and its processes.

Cornelius’s astrology is focussed very much on the paranormal: ESP, omens, divination etc., which would operate at the level of the irrational psyche. This tendency is clearly illustrated here: “The introduction of creative interpretation and imagination into the very definition of divinatory astrology leads to the possibility that the psyche as revealed through modern psychology may be the hidden worker in the astrological phenomenon… Where we astrologers have got stuck in an intellectual time-warp that has lasted for two millennia, psychoanalysis has dug back towards the roots in the mysterious field of the soul wherein astrology grows” (p287).

Important though it is, the psyche is not the only dimension of the universe. The language that Cornelius is using is reminiscent of James Hillman and Thomas Moore, whose work I discussed in chapter 16. They frequently refer to psyche/soul as an intermediary between body and spirit. We therefore have to take spirit into account. A comparison can be made with quantum physics, especially David Bohm’s version in which quantum processes are an intermediary stage by which the implicate order (cf. spirit) becomes the explicate order (the physical universe). The quantum world is described as acausal, indeterministic, unpredictable, and in it the scientists seriously consider the concept of particles moving backwards in time. It is easy to see therefore how this can be identified with the irrational psyche, and some of its manifestations, omens and divination⁹. Yet this indeterministic level gives rise to a universe ordered enough to convince materialists that it can be explained completely by mechanistic laws of cause and effect.

And, according to Bohm, behind the quantum world there is another order (the implicate). The use of the word ‘order’ is in this context itself significant, in that the levels of the universe in the astrological tradition are highly structured, there being precise correspondences between the higher and lower realms. (The same principle is alluded to in modern chaos theory, where a deeper order is believed to exist beyond the apparent chaotic unpredictability.)

So there are two levels of order, spirit and matter, and an intermediate level of disorder, psyche. Most of the time our universe seems ordered, causal. Occasionally bizarre, acausal events intrude. The orderedness neither proves nor disproves the weird things. The weird things neither prove nor disprove the orderedness. Simply, they both are. They have their source in different levels. Does the existence of psyche disprove the existence of spirit, and vice versa? Of course not, they are simply different levels. If, however, we dress up this question and say instead, ‘does the existence of horary astrology disprove Ptolemaic-style theories, and vice versa?’, it somehow seems more reasonable. That is how Cornelius is arguing here:

“The fact that there exists another class of astrological moment, not itself obviously reducible to causal-temporal origins, yet capable of interpretation for particulars, throws the Ptolemaic model into disarray”.

He then backs off slightly: “At the very least, that model is dethroned from supremacy as a complete description of astrological reality”.

But he then returns to the idea that other levels will have to be reinterpreted to conform to the horary/psychic model: “Beyond this lies the possibility that in seeking a description of the moment of horary, a more fundamental treatment of all of astrology, including the horoscope of birth, will be required” (p111).

I believe that the second statement is the accurate one: if there is validity to horary, then it is unlikely that spirit can be claimed to be the explanation for all astrology, we need to introduce psyche. The other two statements, by suggesting that psyche should be adopted as the total explanation, commit the same fault that he attributes to the Ptolemaic astrologers who reject horary. They do not throw the other level into disarray, they merely introduce another one, thus another type of astrology, both of which I suggest are valid.

The whole debate reminds me of the physicists’ search for a Grand Unified Theory of the Universe¹¹. One aspect of the problem is as follows. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (which relates to gravity) works on its own terms, and is considered to be true. Quantum theory has been described as the most successful description of physical reality, and is also considered to be true. Yet somehow the two don’t fit with each other. There is therefore a search for a quantum theory of gravity. Yet there are not Quantum and General Relativity factions, arguing about who is right and wrong. The physicists accept that both theories are right in their own way, but limited in that they haven’t as yet managed to synthesize them. They are willing to hold the creative tension in their minds. I normally think that scientists could benefit greatly by listening to astrologers, but on this occasion I think the roles are reversed. Instead of squabbling about who is right, why can’t astrologers entertain the possibility that both the traditional and horary forms are true in their own way, and that at some point in the future a Grand Unified Theory of Astrology will be discovered? Why in fact do they not start looking for it?


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  1. The Moment of Astrology, Arkana, 1994, p54

2. see pp 122, 133 et seq.

3. The Cosmic Loom, Urania Trust, 1999, p221

4. as footnote 1, pp121 and 120. Carter’s article is reproduced by Cornelius in full as his appendix 3. Interestingly it contains a horary performed by Carter himself, asking the question ‘Is there anything in Horary Astrology?’ His reading of the horoscope leads him to conclude that “horary astrology has given a pretty clear verdict in its own favour”. Cornelius, discussing Carter’s interpretation, points out that he “finds no need to employ traditional horary rules and reverts to a broadly natal style in reading this symbolism” (p125). When he applies horary technique, Cornelius uncovers other levels of meaning, noting that “the chart’s symbolism is found to reflect accurately the themes of Carter’s own discussion”, and concludes that “horary astrology has given a manifestly unequivocal affirmation of its reality” (pp 128 and 127).

5. West, J .A. and Toonder, J. G.: The Case for Astrology, Macdonald & Co., 1970, p72

6. Patterns of Prophecy, Turnstone, 1974, p105

7. as footnote 3, p3

8. by David and Julia Line, Diamond Books, 1997

9. See, for example Space-Time and Beyond, Toben, Bob and Wolf, Fred Alan, 1982, Bantam, p63 et seq., and Through the Time Barrier, by Danah Zohar, Paladin, 1983

10. as footnote 5, p212

11. See, for example A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking, Bantam, 1988, chapter 11, and God and the New Physics, Paul Davies, Penguin, 1984, p155 et seq.

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