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Dennis Elwell is a world leader when it comes to championing the cause of 'good astrology'. Notable for his outspoken views against rigid adherents to traditional astrology (he attracted notoriety in the US by venturing to create 'Project Foresight' just as 'Project Hindsight' gained the backing of the astrological world), his views upon horary astrology and its practitioners have often been controversial and challenging.
In this article Elwell calls for astrologers to take a new look at the art of horary; to recognize that the innovative and creative input of the astrologer is the key element of successful and worthwhile judgement.
This work is adapted from Elwell's classic text Cosmic Loom
, a truly remarkable book which should be studied and contemplated by anyone who claims to have a legitimate interest in astrology. We welcome your feedback
to the opinions presented here.
t any given moment there is a whole complex of interacting ideas seeking vehicles of manifestation. Rich rewards undoubtedly await those who have insight into the uniqueness of the moment, and the skill to act as midwife to whatever is struggling to come to birth. The universe seems to be so constituted that it matters not at all that the planets are continuously moving on: because of its uniqueness the cosmic signature of every moment remains eternally.
For centuries astrologers have practised a technique of divination which relies on this same moment-by-moment interconnectedness of mind and universe. In 'horary' astrology our human concerns are referred to the heavens by setting up a chart, and the pattern of the planets for that time and place becomes a sort of 'exploded diagram' of the problem in hand, and is presumed to point to the likely outcome.
By attempting to answer any and every question, ranging from the whereabouts of a lost cat to whether the Channel Tunnel would ever be built (the astrologer was wrong on that one), horary astrology offers a tempting target to sceptics. They point out, with some justice, that if you can answer questions like 'Will the favourite win the two-thirty?', or 'Will this stock be a good investment?', then horary astrologers would have the world at their feet. The inconvenient fact is that while offering to pronounce on a wide range of clients' problems, as a group, horary exponents themselves seem to have loftily spurned the advice the stars might give them on practical affairs. Challenged, they are apt to retort briskly that not everybody is obsessed with money and success.
Yet the persistence of the horary art, and its resistance to the obvious criticisms, is one of the paradoxes of astrology today. It is certainly true that by encouraging clients to ask questions to which the answer is either a plain yes or no, the horary consultant can count on being right half the time, a feat that could be replicated by tossing a coin. Finding you are correct in fifty per cent of cases encourages you to perfect your skills, and press forward towards the elusive hundred per cent.
Not surprisingly, many modem astrologers have rejected horary as a throwback to more superstitious times. The astrology of any age is fitted to the mind-set of that age; indeed, what applies to astrology is true of all the other activities that are subject to historical development. Both astrologers and those who turn to them for help are products of their era. It could hardly be otherwise.
Therefore we can learn from Greek astrology, or from the astrology of William Lilly - that persuasive voice of horary speaking from the seventeenth century - how people thought about the world and their place in it. We can discern their priorities, their values, for the simple reason that astrology has always sought to make itself relevant to current concerns, to be of service.
For most of astrology's long career its 'consumers' had a very elementary yardstick. They wanted simple answers to their pressing problems. They wanted to know if good fortune awaited them, or the reverse, as if all were being dispensed by some fickle god. If astrology has changed, and become less black and white in its determinations, it must be because the Western mind-set has changed, and more sophisticated evaluations are required.
Horary today has the hallmarks of a fundamentalist belief system, with its practitioners harking back to the extraordinarily finessed rules of judgment propounded by exponents like Lilly, and arguing theologically among themselves. Quite recently there arose among contemporary astrologers a defence of what was deemed to be the astrological tradition, and at one extreme, horary has become a seventeenth century time capsule. Its rules are to be venerated, not interrogated, and contrary opinions are simply dismissed.
One problem with defending a tradition is to know what tradition, whose tradition? In astrology's long career there have been a number of traditions, nor at any one time have their upholders agreed among themselves. Moreover, acknowledging the stature of Lilly and others, one cannot in conscience gratuitously insult their intellect by supposing that, given the opportunity to embrace more recent advances, they would have remained behind with the cobwebbed thought-forms of their period. The minds of these pioneers were nothing if not lively and inquiring. Indeed, had they been content merely to perpetuate the tradition of their day, their own original observations would have been lost.
Those who have glimpsed the riches waiting to be mined from an enlightened astrology can only deplore this failure to keep up with the times. While other branches of knowledge strain to advance their leading edge, horary die-hards have pronounced that there is nothing left to be discovered. The tragedy is that they happen to be the custodians of astrology's central truth, namely that our human minds are embedded in a cosmic mind, and from moment to moment reflect its nature.
How might the tradition embodied in the horary approach be brought up to date? There is a way, which not only preserves the integrity of the tradition but enhances it.
A client who takes a pressing question to a horary astrologer is entitled to ask: 'If you're so smart that you can tell me the answer, why can't you tell me the question?' After all, it might be argued that before listening to the client's concerns, the astrologer is already mentally asking what the question is going to be! So why should not the heavens be answering that?
It is a highly instructive exercise to try to discern the question posed by the chart, before the client gives his or her version. This may not be the precise question as formulated by the client, who may not actually have yet understood the real issue, or may simply be reluctant to reveal it. The heavens may be answering not so much the question as the questioner.
Two charts culled from the Astrology Quarterly (summer 1998) will serve as examples. A woman asked:
'Will I travel or stay at home the next few months?' Now if the astrologer had attempted to unwrap the question from the chart, without the help of the client, a cluster of planets around the cusp of the fourth house (home and family) would have been instantly noticed. The planets included a conjunction of Venus and Mars, the 'rulers' of the first house (the questioner) and the seventh house (the husband).
The inference was that the real question concerned the home she shared with her husband. Indeed, it turned out that her husband wanted money to be spent on overdue repairs to their house. Her preference was to blow it on a trip, hence her question about the likelihood of travelling.
When bringing their questions to the heavens clients are encouraged to enter the fated and deterministic world which horary astrologers suppose reality to be. Instead of asking 'Will I travel in the next few months?' she might have asked 'Should I travel in the next few months?', because in view of the conflict with her husband, it was undeniably a should issue.
A modern art of horary would go beyond the strict wording of the question, and offer positive insight by exploring why it was being asked in the first place. That Venus Mars conjunction speaks volumes. Venus is about 'we', while Mars is about 'I'. Relationships are often a conflict, or at best a balancing act, between what we desire for ourselves, and how far we are prepared to go along with the wants of the other person. Probably the holiday issue was a sample of what was currently happening in her marriage, and she may even have hoped that the astrologer would detect the underlying difficulty and throw light on it.
This chart offers another important clue. Horary astrologers say that a planet in the ascendant describes the questioner, and elaborate descriptions have been compiled of the appearance and personality disposed by each planet and sign. Here the moon (females) rising in Libra (partnership) indicates a married woman. Of course many questioners will be married women, but when their status is spelled out so clearly it indicates that being a married woman is somehow important. The fact that the moon squares the Venus-Mars conjunction, and also the sun, suggests that her marital role was becoming a problem.
A journalist for most of his life, Dennis Elwell
has explored any byway that might throw light on astrology, leading to a study of science
on the one hand, and occultists like Rudolf Steiner and Gurdjieff on the other.
Teaching himself the basics as a teenager, he became a regular contributor to
; a platform for the leading astrologers of the day.
The association continued for twenty years. He began lecturing to astrologers in 1963 and has subsequently gained an illustrious reputation as
an original thinker and stimulating speaker.
In 1987 Elwell attracted considerable media attention through forewarning the shipping company P&O of impending disaster
. Ten days after their reply, expressing complete confidence in their safety standards, the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' capsized of Zeebrugge with the tragic loss of 188 lives.
His book Cosmic Loom
, was published in the same year and was recently republished by the Urania Trust in an updated and expanded version.
[ More articles by Dennis Elwell
© Dennis Elwell