According to the astrologer Geoffrey Cornelius, astrology is a form of divination that does not involve any causal effects between the heavens and human existence.

The book  “The Moment of Astrology.  Origins in Divination” is, as the author Geoffrey Cornelius claims in its introduction, “a review and critique of the conceptual foundations of Western Astrology” with particular reference to a number of false defenses, especially the rationale provided by Ptolemy.   

Ptolemy’s Broad shoulders

Western Astrology takes Ptolemaic assumptions for granted i.e. that the key moment of astrology is the time of birth.  According to Ptolemy there is a continuous process of celestial influence, playing at all instants upon terrestrial affairs – an influence that is particularly effective at the time of birth; transits can be considered to be an extension of this influence.  Since the course of the planets can be predicted mathematically and  a cause-and-effect relationship is postulated to exist between the heavens and human existence, the concept of a sort of Machine of Destiny, a fateful conception of the cosmos, was introduced.  These assumptions were formulated on the basis of the limited knowledge of physics of Ptolemy, which is now no longer accepted.  Although the interpretation of the Ptolemaic assumptions became more flexible over time, “the Moment of Astrology in Western tradition” nevertheless rests on “Ptolemy’s broad shoulders”, which have crumbled in the meantime.

Divination:  the interpretation of signs of divine will

There is one exception and that is Horary Astrology, according to which another Moment of Astrology exists besides the moment of birth; moreover, it  is not based on the cause-and-effect principle.  Here the Moment of Astrology is the moment when the astrologer receives the question and astrology belongs to the field of omens and divination.  In order to understand what Divination is, we have to understand the cultural context of the magical-religious world view, in which religion was the ultimate authority and everything depended on divine will.  Divination was not fortune-telling.  It was the interpretation of signs leading to the interpretation of the will of divine beings – a will that could be modified by propitiation.  The signs “illuminated” the circumstances of the querent, who could change his/her behavior to satisfy the Gods and thus change the ultimate outcome. 

The impact of science on astrology

Today science is the ultimate authority in judging the validity of any teachings and this has induced astrologers to take one of the two following positions:

1)      Astrology is a “hard science”.  These astrologers believe that physics (See Planets and Magneticfields) and empirical psychology will provide the appropriate explanations and that  trials can be carried out resorting to statistical analyses to prove the validity of astrological teachings.  This approach has failed (see websiteAstrology and Science)

2)     Astrology is a Revolutionary Science that requires reshaping of its methods (see Vibrational Astrology) and that is oriented towards metaphysics (see Consciousness).  This approach has not been accepted by mainstream science

Divinatory Astrology

According to Cornelius, when astrologers take these positions, astrology “finds itself on the losing side on both counts, excluded from magical world view and from science”.   Astrology came into existence as part of an ancient magical-religious world view and Cornelius believes that astrologers should acknowledge where astrology comes from rather than cloaking it with pseudo-science and/or masking it with depth psychology taken from psychoanalysis,

Cornelius points out that science regards only the objective outside world and imposes a sharp division between the objective and subjective realms that is artificial and reduces consciousness and life itself to a secondary by-product of the world.   He criticizes scientism  i.e. “the inappropriate extension of scientific method to phenomena and domains of experience which cannot be reduced to objective and positive assertions of a literal nature”.    In a scientific trial, outcomes are based on means related to large populations that cannot say anything about one individual of that population.

Divination, on the contrary, overcomes the objective-subjective division, by means of the interpretation of the planets in the astrological chart as signs that are meaningful in the light of the unique circumstances of the life of an individual.  This is consistent with Jung’s concept of “Synchronicity” whereby events may be connected not only through the cause-and-effect connection laid down by science, but also just by meaning.  Indeed, the famous psychologist listed astrological configurations and events on Earth as an example of this phenomenon.   

Consequently, the planets are not to be considered causal factors, but rather signs to be interpreted.  Cornelius calls this kind of astrology “Divinatory Astrology” – “a mysterious and beautiful Art”  that can provide unique wisdom.