Imagining the World: Contemplating the Reality of the Astrological Horoscope

Carole Taylor

ABSTRACT

I reflect on the ‘reality’ of the astrological horoscope[1] and the order of knowledge offered by it. Because the question strikes to the heart of astrological practice, the endeavour is potentially huge – I have chosen to focus on the broad division between literal and imaginative ways of viewing astrological information and to follow the views of a few notable writers in respect of the horoscope as imaginal landscape.

I explore a few key strands in the early development of the horoscope. From there, I look at how Western astrology reflects the dichotomy in the Western mind between mythos and logos, symbolic and scientific modes of thinking, resulting broadly in two perspectives within its practice – the chart as an objective body of knowledge versus the chart as a device to engage the symbolic imagination of the astrologer.

I consider a significant, but still somewhat controversial, viewpoint in contemporary astrology, which is the idea that all judicial astrology[2] is a form of divination. Pioneering this approach have been Geoffrey Cornelius, Maggie Hyde and Patrick Curry, who have all questioned the Ptolemaic inheritance of astrology as a form of natural science.

I also explore an idea suggested by Nicholas Campion, that Baudrillard’s ‘simulacrum’ might be a useful image in understanding the horoscope as an imaginary realm, created by human consciousness, which then obligingly ‘works’ in line with the expectations of the viewer. Although not a practising astrologer, James Hillman too questioned the objective status of the horoscope, offering an alternative image of it as a ritual container for psychological work.

[1] The astrology referred to in this essay is what is usually termed Western astrology, to distinguish it from Jyotish astrology, Chinese astrology, and the wide number of astrologically-related indigenous practices which grew up independently of the Western tradition. Wherever the term ‘astrology’ or ‘astrologer’ is used, this refers to Western practice.

[2] ‘Judicial astrology’ is distinguished from ‘natural astrology’, the former being the application of astrology to human affairs in which some kind of interpretation or judgement is required.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carole Taylor holds a BA in Geography from Cambridge University and the MA in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred from Canterbury Christ Church. She has worked as an astrologer since 2000, running a private practice and teaching for Heaven and Earth Workshops and at the Faculty of Astrological Studies. As the Faculty’s Director of Studies, she oversees its syllabus, course material and Summer School programme. Carole continues to pursue the interests she followed during the MA, including a study of myth, divination, sacred experience, and the philosophical foundations of astrology.