Book Review: Moment of Astrology by Geoffrey Cornelius

I also posted this review on

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I only read this book quite recently on the recommendation of a friend. The book has been around since the mid-90s. In my defense I had gotten interested in horary astrology in the 80s and spent a decade reading everything I could find and doing hundreds and hundreds of charts. In the late 80s I wrote my first book on horary (published in 1991 and now out of print). It was subtitled “Horary Astrology: The History and Practice of Astro-Divination.” This subtitle is significant because in reading Cornelius’ book, I realized that he had read the same sources and come to very similar conclusions as my own. Maybe that’s why I like his book so much. By the time Cornelius’ published his text, I was feeling saturated with the horary literature and needed a hiatus, so I never got around to reading ‘yet another book on horary.’ Now, 15 years later, I have read the Moment of Astrology and I’m astounded by how thoughtful and erudite it is.

This book is not for everyone. It is highly philosophical and some readers may be put off by that. Nonetheless, it is extremely well written and tackles the thorny philosophical issues that plague astrology. What I love about philosophy is that it forces us to make explicit the beliefs we live by. Cornelius does a superb job in fleshing out the beliefs that underlie the practice of astrology and makes a critical study of whether those beliefs hold up to logical or scientific scrutiny. He ends up contrasting the “rational” Ptolemaic model of the universe with the divinatory model in which astrology originated. Cornelius feels that all branches of astrology are rooted in divination (and based on my experience as an astrologer and student of divination, I agree with him). He rejects determinism, as most modern astrologers do, but he goes further and challenges the ancient Greek notion that the time of birth in some fundamental way is the key moment that determines the birth chart.

While I understand what Cornelius is saying, I’m not sure I agree with his position in dethroning the moment of birth. This is based on my experience both with horary astrology and with numerous birth charts. I view the moment that the querent and astrologer jointly agree to cast a horary chart as the birth moment of their joint enterprise. If the querent is sincere and the astrologer understands the question and will be able to help, then the chart is almost always radical. In addition, I have had repeated experiences with birth charts which simply didn’t look right based on my knowledge of the native and my gut feel for the chart. Invariably, when I ask the native to check the birth time or I review historical sources, the initial time given is inaccurate and a new ‘more radical’ birth time emerges. I wrote an article about this process that was published in the 2010 Winster Solstice issue of the NCGR journal.

I’m not ready to give up Ptolemy’s doctrine of origins just yet. It feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps that solution lies in an analogy with quantum physics. Is the electron a wave or a particle? It behaves like both and seems to exist as a probability wave until we try to observe it. Then it constellates in particle form. Maybe the birth moment and birth chart act something like an electron in the quantum world. They may resonate as a kind of probability wave and only constellate in divinatory form when the querent or native asks an astrologer to observe them in the world of human meaning and imagination. It seems to me that the world of astrology is much closer to the realm of quantum physics than the Newtonian world we all act as if we live in.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is truly one of the best astrology books I have ever read. It is wise, learned, and thought-provoking. It helps us understand that astrology is no science and cannot be proved or disproved by the scientific method. Instead, astrology is a symbolic divinatory system whose truth belongs to another realm of experience, just as the truth of poetry or great music belongs to other than the scientific realm.

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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3 Responses to Book Review: Moment of Astrology by Geoffrey Cornelius

  1. I think this is among the most significant information for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The website style is ideal, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

  2. I’m re-reading this book right now, and I have similar reservations regarding rejecting the doctrine of origins. Glad to hear that I’m not alone. Thanks for the review.

    • HI Chris,
      If you have further thoughts about Cornelius’ thesis, please post them. As you know, I greatly admire your scholarship and thoughtfulness and would love to hear more about what you think about “the moment of astrology.” How can we understand why a chart cast for a special moment symbolically captures something essential about that moment? And why should various ways of advancing the chart in time say anything about the future development of that moment? Fascinating questions that are hard to fathom.

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