The Magical Ornament in the Christmas Tree of Life Copyright © 2005 All Rights Reserved

by David Cochrane


Divinatory OR Scientific Paradigm:
Among the various approaches to astrology, none would seem more disparate than the divinatory and scientific. At one extreme is the astrologer who uses the astrological chart like a magical mandala with a story written by the characters (planets) on the stage of life, being colored and characterized by the signs and houses which they occupy and rule, and interacting with one another via the aspects. At the other extreme is the scientific astrologer who may view the astrology chart as streams of cosmic energy. One might view the psychological, mythologicial and other approaches to astrology as lying somewhere between these two extremes.

It appears that the majority of astrologers are either inclined to a divinatory and/or psychological approach to the birth chart, and few approach the chart interpretation primarily visualizing the chart as an energy process or in some other paradigm that closely resembles a modern scientific view. Nevertheless, the divinatory and scientific approach appear to be two extreme ends of a spectrum. Different astrologers fall on various ends of the spectrum in their approach to the birth chart, and some astrologers use an eclectic approach of drawing upon different paradigms and philosophical premises depending on the context of the work in which they are doing.


Interestingly, in the hard sciences there is no clear distinction between the divinatory and the scientific. Although divination superficially seems antithetical to science, it is not completely foreign to the hard sciences.

How can science be divinatory?
When analyzing a discrete, measurable phenomenon, science usually employs clear formula that measure precisely. Note that the measurements do not always involve cause-and-effect, as is widely and erroneously believed.

Kepler's laws of motion and Newton's theory of gravity do not specify what the causal mechanism is; they simply state a formula that works. Newton emphasized that he could not imagine a causal mechanism for the instantaneous action of gravity which operates at a distance (a magical concept alien to common sense), so he had to assume that there was one waiting to be discovered in the future. Newton was correct that a mechanism would be discovered but it was not based on a cause-and-effect concept but rather the mind-bending and space-bending model of Einstein's theory of relativity.

Bell's Theorem, which indicates that there are intantaneous relationships between activities that are separated in space, has been strongly supported by scientific research and analysis. According to science the universe in reality is not as we humans perceive it. The universe in reality is far more magical than the intellect of a human can fathom. Scientists need not be concerned about the philosophical implications of their discoveries. It is not the concern of science to philosophize on what is discovered; it is the domain of science to understand reality, not to be concerned about the impact of science on philosophy and religion. However, every scientist agrees that the implications of modern science disturb our common sense notions of what reality is.

While the world as a whole is magical, we can apply simple formula to measure and predict phenomena and we can use the law of cause-and-effect as well within certain frameworks to solve many practical problems.

In short modern science has no problem jumping between a simple, concrete paradigm and a magical paradigm as needed, and to continue to use quantitative methods within all of these paradigms.

Similarly, astrologers need not pit the divinatory and scientific against each other. Although these two approaches seem diametrically opposed, one need not feel that resolving this apparent contradiction. Ironically, it is the limitations of our finite, logical faculties combined with a narrow view and understanding of the breadth of astrology, that inclines us to be certain that the divinnatory and the scientific cannot function simultaneously and to feel that we must choose one or the other.

In reality, the nearly infinitely complex tapestry of life is so finely integrated and functions as one massive wholistic process in accordance with Bell's Theorem that the analytical methods of science simply follow threads in this cosmic tapestry and unravel the relationships within a very small domain within the larger unified universal system. This is a viable paradigm for science and it is a viable paradigm for astrology.


When analyzing a birth chart, some astrologers have for decades succesfully employed analytical methods that view the chart in terms of processes. American astrologer Dane Rudhyar emphasized that zodiac signs, the Sabian symbol degree meanings, the twelve houses, and other astrological influences are best understood as cycles of life, or the "pulse of life" as he often referred to it. Taurus builds upon what Aries initiated, etc. Rudhyar emphasized the astrology chart as a pyschological process. Liz Greene, the great contemporary British astrologer, views astrological influences as revealing mythic stories within the birth chart, and these stories are based on dynamic processes within the human psyche.

Both Rudhyar and Greene introduce a sense of dynamism and process to the astrological interpretation rather than static properties. Rather than seeing Gemini as a series of adjectives (quick-witted, versatifle, etc.), one can view Gemini as a function of curiosity and discovery of the world around oneself. The adjectives are true but priaMarily as a result of a pychological process.


A scientific model of astrology can go one step further and posit that the dynamic processes of astrology are not primarily psychological but rather are cosmic energy processes. These cosmic energy processes, upon affecting a human being, activate the psyche of the human being. The human psyche operates primarily by pictures and stories and only secondarily in a logical, verbal, and cognitive manner. The impacting of these cosmic forces on the human psyche inspire and direct the myths in the human psyche. According to this scientific model, the planets and stars are not gods at all; the gods are within ourselves.

The gods and myths only appear to be in the planets and stars because their motions do correlate with the changes and development of our psyches. Whether the planets and stars are inherently of a mythic nature or are the fuel upon which we build our myths and stories may seem like a moot point and may seem to be of little consequence to some practicing astrologers, but the application of crticial thinking skills to more clearly understand the mechanisms by which astrology functions does, have profound affects on one's consultations and one's understanding of astrological influences.


In horary astrology one is faced with the question of the moment. A horary chart is a bit like asking "What is the sum total impact of this moment at my location?". The birth chart, on the other hand, lives out its mission over the lifetime of a person and interacts more complexly with the genetic and environmental influences, and the cycles and experiences that the individual has through the life.

The birth chart is very amenable to the psychological and scientific approach. The horary chart, on the other hand, can be interpreted very simply and directly. If the Moon is in approaching sextile to Saturn, and Saturn rules the first house, and the Moon rules the 7th house, the quesited (the person asked about) is approaching the quesited (the person asking the question). Through the instantaneous interconnected of a completely integrated and whole universe (a viable, but not proven, concept given Bell's Theorem and other scientific concepts), the chart can "speak" to the astrologer in quite literal terms.

In horary astrology one can dispense with many details such as minor aspects, etc. because the question usually is about the outcome of a situation, not the quality and strategy to be employed. If the question is "Should I marry this lady?", one can see the momentum of energy in very literal terms in the horary chart. The octave harmonics (conjunctions, oppositions, squares, etc.) indicate the fundamental energetic patterns and what processes are fundamental, while the sextiles and trines indicate the fundamental supporting energies to enable the activity. More subtle issues of how creative and playful the individuals are (quintiles and biquintiles), etc. are relatively unimportant.

The rules of horary astrology are like a beautiful and intricate Christmas ornament on a tree. Horary astrology can be exhilerating. Questions are answered and one can proceed with greater clarity. The Universe provides an answer. The experience is magical and beyond human reason. Horary astrology, by virtue of its narrow focus and concentration on the current moment, relies on the relevant astrological influences that describe the moment. Amazingly, the rules can be taken quite literally, rather than metaphorically and without all of the various options that are needed when interpreting a natal chart.

Interestingly, applying the rules of horary astrology to birth charts has more limited success than when applied to horary astrology. This is not just my view; this is why the rules are for horary astrology and not natal astrology! Similarly, applying the rules of natal astrology to horary astrology also meets with more limited success.

Scientists have no problem shifting between using Newton's laws of gravity and Einstein's theory of relativity, depending on the application and accuracy desired and in terms of what is appropriate to answer the question being asked. Astrologers must also gain this same versatility to overcome the present chasm between the divinatory astrologers and the psychological astrologers and the scientific astrologers.

The Intoxicating Effect of Horary Astrology
As one works with classical horary astrology, one can become so facile and sensitive in using the rules that one becomes like a grand chess master or a brilliant artist who knows how to deftly work one's way through the rules to rapidly provide accurate and useful answers. The rules are so literal and require so little ambiguity of interpretation that the methods of the psychological astrologers seem extraordinarily clumsy and silly.

Entering the world of classical horary astrology is analagous to drawing closer and closer to a gleaming and awesomely beautiful Christmas ornament on the tree of life. As one becomes more immersed in classical horary techniques, it is as if one enters inside this Christmas ornament and all looks perfect, whole, and complete. Little does the devotee of horary astrology know that he has become enthralled with one very spectacular ornament in a vast cosmic universe that contains endless secrets and mechanisms that far transcend the domain in which we have become embedded. On the other hand, the expert horary astrologer has demarcated many intricacies of this fascinating and beautiful world which they inhabit.

Rocking the Boat of Horary Astrology - Gently!
William Lilly, the great icon of classical horary astrology was, in fact, not a perfect purist. He would experiment with a modern technique like the quintile aspect. The quintile aspect is anathema to some horary astrologers because it introduces a concept foreign to the well-established "base 12" of horary astrology. The horary astrologer may feel that the great master had his moments of weakness. Actually, Lilly was looking beyond the confines of the wondrous world of classical horary rules, with an eye to incorporating a wider perspective, and hopefully also improve, the methods he employed.

One should not rock the boat of these classical rules with a cavalier attitude. Modern astrologers can be tempted, like the proverbial kid in the candy store, to taste every intriguing astrological technique and to intermix them at will. However, one astrologer cannot quickly develop a new methodology that supercedes an accumulated wisdom. Astrology is based primarily on anecdotal evidence and periodic inspirations of many great thinkers and one should proceed cautiously. My view is that we should neither rever a particular set of astrological rules and be resistant to adapting and developing them, nor should we have so much hubris as to imagine that we can easily and quickly build new structures without precedent.

In exploring many different astrological traditions and models in depth, I have found extraordinary points of agreement and interconnectedness among the ideas. Many contradictions are only apparent contradictions from one particular viewpoint.

David Cochrane AUTHOR: David Cochrane