Horary Astrology Rediscovered

Olivia Barclay, Q.H.P.

Whitford Press, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
ISBN 0-914918-99-0
$18.95


The following is Robert Hand's introduction to this book.


Inanimate nature may be subject to immutable laws but the techniques of consciousness expansion are human arts and statements about the essence of a culture and its people. Cultures and peoples change. Therefore a change in an art of consciousness is an indication that the art is truly relevant to human needs. It is not an indication inherent flaws or weakness. Astrology has undergone change in the twentieth century, and as with all such changes, there is much that is good and much that is not so good.

The greatest change within astrology has been the movement of astrology from a primarily predictive tool to a tool for the exploration of human consciousness; the Humanistic Astrology movement, led by the late Dane Rudhyar and the late Marc Edmund Jones. These two and their many disciples saw that the old astrology was no longer appropriate for modern humanity. We needed something more than an astrology that saw life as the working out of blind fate in the lives of individuals. Most modern humans do not perceive life purely as the result of fate. We feel a strong sense of our responsibility for the creation of our own lives. Even in those moments in which we feel most victimized by conditions seemingly beyond our control we try to glimpse energies flowing from within us that help to create the circumstances in which we live. We needed an astrology that would help make us more aware of our own energies, to help us take responsibility for them and acknowledge our own creativity within our own destiny.

This new astrology saw the planets and other symbols of astrology as signs of our own unfolding and of our creative potential, of what we could be as well as what we would be. We saw the older astrology representing us as victims of whimsical fortune leaving us with little to do but await the inevitable. It was rejected as "fatalistic". For the most part, the new Humanistic astrology was an evolution, a step forward.

But some change may have been simply for the sake of change. Some change is simply wandering off track. And whenever this happens, further change is needed to bring us back on track. As we gained a new perspective of ourselves and our relationship to destiny, we also nearly lost much that was of value in the old astrology, which we needed to reclaim. Much of this is embodied in horary astrology, the art of answering questions by means of astrology.

Horary astrology has held an ambiguous place in the transformation of twentieth century astrology. It seemed to many of the practitioners of the "new" astrology to be a kind of atavistic survival, a fortune-telling technique in a time of the quest for self-development. Yet it has been practiced by many of the best and brightest of modern astrologers, the late Barbara Watters for example. One member of the Humanistic Astrological movement even attempted to bring horary in line with ideology of that movement in a book on humanistic horary astrology. But despite the vitality of horary in modern times, it has reminded many of Kepler's description of all of astrology in the early seventeenth century. He described astrology as the "foolish daughter" of her old mother, astronomy, who nevertheless justified herself by earning the money needed to keep her old mother well. It seemed to many that there was conflict between what horary astrology had to show us and the program of Humanistic Astrology.

More recently in the 1980s a new movement has begun in astrology. At first look it seems to be a kind of counterrevolution, an attempt to go back to the "old-fashioned," fortune-telling astrology of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It consists of a reaction to excessive modernism and a return to the study of the classics of Western Astrology from ancient times through the Renaissance. But it was much more than a mere reaction, a turning back. A major effort was under way to recapture and hold on to what was being lost by the humanistic school.

Different astrologers will give somewhat different accounts of exactly what was at stake and what follows is simply this astrologer's effort at describing what seemed to be the limitations of the humanistic school.

Modern astrology as a whole, not merely the Humanistic school, has broken with the past on much more than the fortune-telling issue. And simple ignorance of what the old traditions really said was as much of factor as was a conscious effort to improve. Granting that many of the older authorities simply parroted astrologers that had come before them without critical review, many moderns went to the opposite extreme and began promulgating teachings that completely contradicted tradition without being themselves any more thoroughly though out. Everyone felt free to innovate on their own. While this was not all bad, the various opinions of the various authors began to muddy the waters of astrology to the extent where one could not see anything clearly. We have run the risk of restructuring the symbols so that everything in astrology always and at any time can mean anything.

Typical of this trend is the current work on the symbolism of the planetoid (now known to be a comet), Chiron. Chiron is obviously important to modern astrology, but a reading of the literature on the subject leads one to believe that Chiron has rulership over everything. Symbolic rigor is lacking here. And the work on Chiron is not significantly more defective than the work being carried on in other areas of symbolism as well. Is the Ego symbolized by the Sun, the Moon, the M.C., the Ascendant or Saturn. In modern literature we find all of the above. Nor do we usually find a definition of the term Ego.

We have other sources of muddiness as well. Pollyanna is rampant! In modern astrology nothing is bad, nothing is necessarily good, any aspect can be wonderful and all is love and light! This, despite the fact that even in the best of lives there is considerable pain and almost every astrologer, at least in private moments, will acknowledge that, while nothing is necessarily evil, there are many symbols that usually designate discomfort.

What modern astrology often overlooks is that if everything means everything then nothing means anything. It lacks any kind of symbolic rigor. The goals which modern astrology seeks to serve are worthy, but they are not clearly thought out. But horary astrology is a practical astrology. Questions demand answers. Answers demand rigorous and logical interpretation of symbols. Horary can serve to bring us back to symbolic rigor. Symbolic rigor can help us build a truly solid and therefore useful astrology. We should all realize as well that symbolic rigor only improves the communication that the symbols have to offer us. It does not in any way make our view of life more fatalistic. It makes the many alternatives clearer.

A second point is related to this first one. Modern astrology tends to be very abstract. We have seen the literature of modern depth psychology, especially the work of C.G. Jung, and it is good. It provides a language that modern humans can relate to. It promises to bring astrology back into the mainstream out of the backwater of strangeness and disrepute. But is has also brought into being a language that is none too precise in its meaning and which is often divorced from everyday experience.

I do not reject the discriminating use of modern psychological vocabulary and concepts in astrology. It would be arrogant as well as wrongheaded to assume that the astrological tradition knows all and has nothing to gain from mixing with other traditions, but we must be careful about how we do this. Depth psychology might describe an individual as an introverted, sensation type. Astrology might describe another individual as headstrong, rash, easy to anger with a tendency to take foolish risks. Language and human nature being what they are, neither description is completely precise in the way that physics might be in describing the path of a projectile. But the second description, a description that an astrologer might give of an Aries or angular Mars type, is much more readily intelligible to most people. Astrology is capable as a language of giving very clear and definite descriptions of human personalities. We must be careful not to lose this strength with a new language that sounds academic but may be meaningless.

But the older astrology was even more concrete than that. Saturn was not merely an aspect of the human ego. It was also anything old, rejected, solid but lacking in glamour, bones, teeth, and rocks. It was low places on the earth. In the vision of the old astrology everything bore the signature of the astrological symbols. We were not dealing only with a device for human potential but with a language that gave insight into all aspects of the working of the world, a world in which ourselves and our consciousness were integral parts. All of the symbols were immediate and at the same time showed a spiritual dimension of existence that would speak to us constantly if we would but listen.

Divination is a word that has not been wholly respectable in recent years. Yet what does it mean? It means knowing what the Divine is doing, what the state of the spiritual underpinning of reality is. It is prophecy in the original sense of the word, not the prediction of the future, but the explanation of the present.

If one truly understands the word mysticism, astrology is applied mysticism. Materialists should be banned forever from using the word. To them mysticism is simply mystification, a source of confusion and of an irrational understanding of the nature of things. Mysticism is much higher than that. It is the understanding that beneath the apparent diversity of the universe and despite the seeming alienation of all beings from each other and nature, it is all One. Our inner and outer worlds are one. We are all one with each other, despite our barriers. The old astrology showed us a world in which Venus was within ourselves as well as in our gardens, that Saturn was an old bone dug up from the earth as well as our inner sense of order and strength. By showing us that the same symbols exist in the outer world as exist within our psyche, it showed us that we and It are one. Astrology is the day to day experience that the universe is one. In such a universe it is not necessary to ask how astrology could work. How could it not?

This immediateness of symbols is the main thing that horary can show us. A practical art with practical methods and objectives, it seems at times to be mundane and without spiritual depth as it pursues its ends, yet it reveals the working of spirit in the most seemingly ordinary of human activity. It is therefore an art to be used with care and discretion. One should not bother Spirit needlessly with trivial questions. But yet even when one asks a question that seems to be purely of interest for personal gain, the answer reveals that the spirit is working within nature. Horary in the hands of the skilled practitioner is capable of waking up the blind and materialistic to what really lies within the world.

In this book Olivia Barclay shows that very dimension of horary. Even the lost pet cat precedes in a universe where the symbolism declares the nature of the cat's essence, a universe where at some level the cat matters. She reveals that nature ourselves are bound together by a network of living metaphors. And she does so completely within the tradition of Western horary. Her astrology is scholarly without being stuffy and academic. She has read the classics as well as the best of the moderns and she uses what they teach in her practical art. The practical and the spiritual become one. Horary at its best is truly living astrology and this is that kind of horary.


Orleans, Massachusetts
April 1989

Robert Hand





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