Author: Garry Phillipson
Reviewed by Hélène Haw
Agrégée de l’Université (La Sorbonne); DF.Astrol.S; R.C.Astrol.
Tutor of the Faculty of Astrological Studies
‘Astrology in the Year Zero’ by Garry Phillipson is a book which has been long overdue. Long overdue because there seem to have always been two entrenched camps: detractors of astrology versus believers in astrology. What was needed was a clear, analytical mind reviewing both positions in an unbiased way and taking stock of the situation. Who better to do this than a philosopher with a Libra Ascendant, able to weigh the pros and cons in a spirit of fairness? What better time than a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction to bring together Saturnian doubt and need for proof with Jupiterian faith in a meaningful universe? The dawn of a new Millennium being the ‘icing on the cake’, bridging the end of a world view and the birth of a new one.
This, however, is not a dry philosophical book. It is a greatly enjoyable book. For a start, its lay-out makes it very readable. There are 12 chapters - the first one being really an introduction - with clear sub-headings moving easily from one to the next. Over a number of years, the author has interviewed 33 leading astrologers and researchers in the English-speaking world, from Australia to rural Britain via the USA, whose practices range between business, medical, psychological, sports and other types of astrology. Reading the book is like watching a very informative TV documentary based on solid research, which is presented grouped around clear themes. There are unforgettable little vignettes. One of them shows Christeen Skinner as a child walking back home from Brownies with her dad. Her father is pointing at the constellations and at the planet Mars and saying:" Some people think that they influence life on earth", adding after a pause: " Don't say anything to your mother about that". Christeen then says: “It was almost like some great sexual secret. I’d been told something, but I didn’t know what the next question was.” An incongruous vision is that of Robert Zoller, the expert in Medieval and Renaissance Studies - who had to work at one stage for an electrical utility company - perched up a telegraph pole and "freezing his tail off at 10 degrees below zero".
The fierce controversy about Sun-sign astrology receives a fair hearing in a lively debate which owes something to court-room drama, the case for the defence and the case for the prosecution being clearly and impartially presented. We are also shown astrologers involved in a multitude of activities, from some hush-hush political stuff and the detection of fraud in business to the prediction of disasters and the prescription of herbal remedies for stressed journalists. ‘Tips’ are given out about the possible trigger of migraines and about the sort of chart that wins you lots of money.
Throughout this lively exploration, some important philosophical issues are touched upon, such as the issue of fate and free will, and the question whether astrology is an objective science or a subjective art. The holistic nature of astrology is considered, as in medical astrology, which looks at the body as a whole and not as a machine with interchangeable parts, or in predictive astrology, where events are seen as a meshing together of various factors in a form of ‘cosmic loom’.
The book has a Hegelian dialectic feel about it, but with a dramatic quality. The Thesis having been presented, i.e. the case for astrology, with its buoyant, inspiring mood, then comes the Antithesis, the case against astrology, with its sobering and even dispiriting tone. Astrologers are shown as having doubts as to what astrology can and cannot do and the scientific community is brought in with researchers offering proofs against the validity of astrology. The final chapters, however, offer a Synthesis in which the latest views of modern science and philosophy are presented. Modern science is not reductionist, i.e. it does not believe that isolated parts make up a whole which can be broken down into its constituents and rebuilt again. In modern physics, everything appears to be interconnected, including the observer and the reality he observes, and this is much more in line with astrology. The methodology of modern science is also different, particularly in the new field of social sciences, for it does not seek to prove a particular theory but allows patterns to emerge, which is something very familiar to astrologers.
This book, which makes captivating reading, invites astrologers to reflect upon the nature of their art in a spirit of genuine inquiry. It also provides a thorough introduction to the subject for non-astrologers with comprehensive appendices to explain any technical terms and provide pathways for further research and study; it will be a rich source of information for future historians about the state of astrology and about the attitude of science at the present time.
ASTROLOGY IN THE YEAR ZERO
by Garry Phillipson; Flare Publications
Flare Publications, 29 Dolben Street, London SE1 0UQ, UK
Tel: 020-7922-1123; www.flareuk.com