Introduction to Sue Toohey's 'The Individual and the Cosmos'
by Deborah Houlding
|In theological teachings the most controversial of all concepts in regard to astrology was the notion of free will. God had given humankind the ability to choose one's fate. Yet, to many, astrology implied that this fate was fixed. It was this concept that remained uppermost in the philosophical battle between the Church and the astrologer. Sue Toohey explores through history an issue which remains pertinent to today's practicing astrologers.
Sue Toohey was such a regular contributor to this site that she was very much a creator of the 'spirit' of Skyscript. She passed away suddenly on 11th February - a great loss to astrology and those who knew her.
This paper was part of the work that Sue submitted for her Masters degree in the history of astrology and religious thought in the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. She sent me several of her papers, so that if there was anything that I wanted to use for the site, I would have something 'usable' to hand. Under normal circumstances she would have taken some time to adapt this paper, to make it seem more like an article than a dissertation. I don't think it needs any changes at all, so I am publishing it just as she wrote it - even though I know she would probably have moaned about the fact that she could have improved it in the light of her ever expanding knowledge.
Sue was pursuing a doctorate in Classics, History and Religion when she died, and her motivation was only that she would be studying within a structure whereby she would be constantly motivated to increase her understanding of the topics she cared about, and which she wanted to be properly qualified to comment upon. It was the knowledge she was interested in, not the qualification, and although pursuing an academic path, she hated all forms of 'academic snobbery'. Her insistence on publishing work that could be freely accessed on the web was part of that urge to avoid the trappings of knowledge that is jealously guarded rather than freely shared with others. She was an intensely private person, but she chose to expose herself frequently on this site (most of all informally in her forum exchanges) because she learned to lose the fear of being rejected or ridiculed, and stuck to her motivation of sharing whatever information she believed could be of value to another.
I can think of few people as passionately committed to astrology as Sue was. She always treated the subject with the greatest of respect, and expected others to do the same. I want to share some details of a private correspondence that I had with Sue, to demonstrate just how deeply astrology was in her heart. Below is a comment that she wished to include in the introduction to her dissertation of which this published paper is a part. I advised her to take it out, on the grounds that although she was capable of understanding and controlling her own biases, other people are not so capable of withholding their own. Sue did not want to give way on this, and the comment involved her in a great deal of controversy in which she fought her corner well. She argued that other academics had drawn credence for declaring a bias against astrology, and how could the subject ever hope to be treated seriously whilst those who did hold respect for it were never allowed the same freedom of expression? Finally, and with the greatest of reluctance and frustration, she was forced to give way. She did not do so before ruffling many feathers about the fact that theology students are allowed to express a belief in, and respect for, their subject matter, and she should have been entitled to the same rights.
"As someone who has studied astrology and has had years of experience with the discipline, particularly in the area of traditional astrology, I am more likely to take seriously the extensive writings on astrology than would a scholar who has no interest in astrology or dismisses these writings as less important than other works. In the same way, a Christian scholar, searching for Christian meaning in the works of tradition, will find it in abundance, leaving writings that are less able to be identified as Christian to fade into the background. Sometimes it is not possible to align oneself so emphatically either way. However, it is perhaps crucial that one is alert to and candid with any biases that may interfere with the direction of the study. For a theme that is as open to controversy as is astrology it may be wise to articulate one's standpoint where one exists. I will approach my research as someone who accepts and supports the validity of astrology but also as someone who does not accept all issues unquestioningly."
The details of Sue's passing, and messages of sympathy, are in the forum post at www.skyscript.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2220