Geoffrey Cornelius and the Development of the Divinatory
If you are encountering this essay for the first time,
I hope you will find it a helpful guide in understanding
the emerging (or perhaps more accurately, re-emerging)
perspective of divinatory astrology, especially as
articulated in the work of the English astrologer
Geoffrey Cornelius. For those of you who have already
read my first version of this essay, I hope you will
find enough new here to justify your continued interest.
Later in this introduction, I will direct you to what
is truly new, so that you can skip to those sections
if you like. While much of the original essay remains
intact, I have corrected several errors and made a
number of stylistic changes throughout the whole paper.
Over the past quarter of a century, in a series of
journal articles, lectures, and two editions of his
book The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination,
Cornelius has developed his critique of our western
tradition of astrology by examining its philosophical
underpinnings and comparing them to what we astrologers
actually do in everyday practice. Those philosophical
assumptions, first clearly defined by Claudius Ptolemy
nearly two millennia ago, provide a rationale for
the model of astrology which has predominated in the
West since his time. For the most part, those assumptions
have remained largely unchallenged.
In challenging these core beliefs, Cornelius has not
only articulated a powerful critique of our tradition,
but at the same time has developed an understanding
of astrology which has come to be called the divinatory
approach. His Moment of Astrology (Wessex
Astrologer, 2003) provides a wide ranging discussion
of astrological theory, research and practice - and
in doing so, articulates the divinatory approach.
This invites us to understand our astrology as essentially
another form of divination, much like the I Ching
or Tarot. Unlike the ‘science’ of astrology
rooted in Ptolemy, which views the stellar art as
the interpretation of planetary causes, Mr. Cornelius
suggests that astrology consists in a reading of signs.
Yet this seemingly simple change in perspective results
in enormous differences, both philosophically and
practically. Those differences are the subject of
both his book and this paper. Even if you find this
new perspective incommensurate with your experience,
it is an important one to understand.
This paper is divided into four parts.
Part I: The Problem of Astrology is (with
the exception of minor corrections) largely unchanged.
Part II: The English Context has a whole
new section on the influence of Derek Appleby in the
development of Cornelius' ideas.
Part III: Divinatory Astrology contains the
bulk of what is new in this essay. The first two sections
are unchanged, however, I have dropped the section
on Divinatory Natal Astrology and added seven new
sections. The first six sections allow me to address
various aspects of the philosophy of divination and
are based in part on Geoffrey Cornelius' original
Astrology Quarterly "Moment of Astrology"
articles from the 1980's. In the seventh section,
I have also taken this opportunity to elaborate upon
Cornelius' use of a Christian hermeneutic, which he
calls the Fourfold Interpretation. Throughout these
sections, I have attempted to connect his ideas to
other strands in contemporary thought.
Part IV: Astrology Whither? remains unchanged.
This essay initially arose out of my own desire to
better understand the implications of the divinatory
perspective. Along the way, I have benefited enormously
from the feedback and suggestions provided by Garry
Phillipson. His perceptive comments enabled me to
clarify a number of passages and to rethink some of
my own assumptions. I have also benefited from the
gracious feedback provided by Geoffrey Cornelius,
who read an earlier version of this paper and provided
extensive comments. Despite this aid, I should make
it clear to the reader that this essay necessarily
reflects my own views. It is my hope that this paper
provides you with a proper context for this renascent
view of our ancient art.
March 31, 2006
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