by Hand Week 5
Challenge of Horary
week I said that we would examine a branch of astrology
that truly challenges the scientific paradigm. Here goes!
those who do not know, horary astrology is the ancient art of answering
specific questions through astrology. And what makes horary a challenge
to the scientific paradigm is not just that it attempts to answer specific
questions, but how it tries to do this. After all, conventional natal
astrology also sometimes tries to answer specific questions, such as if
a person will marry, or what their talents are. Even humanistic astrology will attempt to answer questions, but it asserts that the most likely
answers given by the chart are not irreversibly fated, merely probable.
makes horary astrology seem weird to those who are not used to it is that
it attempts to answer questions based not on a birth chart or the chart
of an event but on a chart erected for the moment of the asking of the
question. I was among the number of skeptics for years. I thought that
horary astrology “worked” in some strange manner, but that it consisted
of an arbitrary set of principles that practitioners could bend at will
to get either whatever answer they personally wanted out of the chart,
or whatever answer they needed in order to reinforce a conclusion they
had already come to psychically.
and think about this for a moment. In how many fields of study would you
ever find “psychic powers” used as a “rational” explanation for results
that seem impossible? We do this all the time in astrology. It means that
strange as psychic powers may seem to people outside of astrology, we
astrologers regard psychic powers as being ordinary compared to some astrological
effects. And we wonder why astrology seems strange to scientists?)
the history of astrology, but especially in the years in which astrology
was most on the defensive, would-be “scientific” astrologers regarded
horary astrology as an embarrassment and bordering on charlatanry. I never
regarded it as charlatanry, but I did regard it as a different case altogether
from natal astrology. Needless to say, I have changed my mind.
astrology is not arbitrary; one cannot derive anything one wants from
a chart; and it does not require psychic ability. (All of this assumes
that horary is done well and according to some kind of rules.) The normal
degree of intuitive ability to put together combinations of symbols is
all that is required in horary, not special psychic talents.
friends who had been practicing horary for years before I did, who know
my old attitude and how it has changed, love to rub my nose in it. Well,
consider my nose rubbed! Horary works, and may very well be more indicative
of what astrology really is than natal astrology, with its alleged greater,
although I think specious, claim to be scientific.
“Birth” of the Question
is a book on this topic that I think everyone who is interested in the
philosophy of astrology should read. It is by Geoffrey Cornelius, and
is entitled The Moment of Astrology.* It is an exhaustive
discussion of the whole issue of astrology and causation, and with regard
to horary in particular. It is a book that every serious student of astrology
and philosophy should read and confront, even if one may not agree with
everything in the book. Regrettably, it is out of print, although the
author is planning to produce a new edition of it on his own. I cannot
go into all of the issues Cornelius raises in this column, but let me
raise ones that I think are especially important.
practitioners have tried to fit horary into the framework of natal astrology
by saying that the horary chart is the chart for the “birth” of an idea.
If we could accept that, then we could say that horary is at least no
worse than natal astrology in challenging the scientific paradigm. (Before
I get too many letters on this point let me say that I know that there
is more than one scientific “paradigm” and that it is difficult to generalize
about all of them. Yet there are certain things that are common to all
of them to which I have already alluded in previous installments. This
is what I refer to as “paradigm” in the singular.)
I don’t think that this “birth of an idea” concept holds much water because
of rules that are associated with the asking of a question. These rules
vary somewhat from school to school, but all schools of horary hold to
enough of these rules to make the “birth of an idea” theory really hard
week we’ll look at these rules and begin to see just how bizarre their
Geoffrey. The Moment of Astrology, Origins in Divination.
London: Arkana Books, 1994.