Review from The Mountain Astrologer April-May 2001 issue - by Mary Plumb

Reprinted by kind permission of The Mountain Astrologer

This is a unique book for astrologers, presenting an honest inquiry into our art. The book is comprised of interviews, recorded between 1996 and 2000, with astrologers and scientists about their experiences with astrology. In this book, Garry Phillipson weaves current astrological prac­tice together with a consideration of the assumptions and attitudes upon which that practice is based. Noting the potentially strident dialectic inherent between science and astrology, Phillipson writes, "... if this book appears frag­mented and contradictory, I claim. that as a virtue - if it were otherwise, it would not be a faithful account."

This collection is a survey of contemporary astrology through the eyes of some of its most renowned practitioners - and critics - and includes worldviews, methods, personal stories, and all manner of things that inform the astrologer's mind and style. Although the tone is occasionally a bit jagged, with fragments of conversations, one provocative idea truly follows another in this book. Complicated and subtle concepts are discussed throughout, and 33 voices are heard; yet Garry Phillipson's remarks and questions steer ideas into a highly readable, intelligent whole.

The book opens benignly with the ever-intriguing question of how these various astrologers first got interested in the subject. The brief life stories presented here are fun to read and give glimpses into the breadth of astrology's attraction - some had an interest in the occult or curiosity about power; one declared, "I'm going to learn how to do this and earn a million bucks!" and others felt an irresistible pull rooted in a sense of astrology's possibility as a tool for self­understanding and wisdom.

The next six chapters cover a range of topics about how astrologers approach their work. Included here are peeks into Christeen Skinner's approach with business astrology; Graeme Tobyn's practice in medical astrology; Shelley von Strunckel and Nicholas Campion (and others) on Sun-sign columns; Mike Harding on psychotherapy; and Martin Davis on astro­locality.

Chapter VIII, "Doubt in Astrology," sets the tone for the second part of the book. The readers encounter the idea that doubt - in a particular technique, in oneself, in astrology as a whole - is inherent in astrology, especially because "one factor that distinguishes astrology from most other subjects is that many people do not believe that it relates to reality in any way."

‘The Researchers’ are then interviewed, with their words condensed into Chapters IX and X. Geoffrey Dean and Suitbert Ertel are among five researchers from around the world whose views are collected here in the daunting task of attempting to cover “the main issues that arise between astrology and sci­ence." These two hard-hitting chapters treat issues related to the failure of astrology to stand up to scientific research.

The focus of the book then returns to the astrologers, who speak about the status of astrology and the question of whether it is science or magic. These chapters include words from those who are not especially interested in astrology as a science as well as astrologers with a scientific or research back­ground, offering a critique of the methods generally employed in research and their thoughts on the limitations of science.

The interviews in the book touch on philosophy, modern science, and practical experience and contain terrific vignettes, e.g., Robert Hand on astrology as related to a Neo-Platonic, kabbalistic view of a "multi-layered world"; David Hamblin's discomfort with - and eventual abandonment of - astrology; Robert Zoller on the need for humility in the astrologer's mind; and Bernadette Brady satisfying her scientific bent with her understanding of Mandelbrot sets and fractals as a possible explanation for how astrology works.

The Appendices include horoscopes (for most of the astrol­ogers interviewed), a glossary, index, and bibliography. Geoffrey Cornelius, Lee Lehman, Dennis Elwell, Robin Heath, Warren Kenton, and Adrian Duncan are some of the other fine astrologers who have contributed to this wonderful book. Heartily recommended to all, especially those who enjoy intellectual jousting within astrology's paradoxical and mysterious take on the world.

- reviewed by Mary Plumb