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Defining the Moment

- Geoffrey Cornelius and the Development of the Divinatory Perspective

by Kirk Little

Dear Reader:

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.

Kirk Little
Gorham, Maine
March 31, 2006

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