From Primitive Mentality to haecceity: the Unique Case in astrology and divination by Geoffrey Cornelius
The question before us is the nature of divinatory intelligence,1 which is the mode of thought whereby meaningful interpretations are sustained in divination. This paper supports the view of some anthropologists that divination involves a distinctive mode of consciousness, mental pattern or cognitive faculty.
Most practices of the people we name as shamans, witch-doctors and medicine-men present our modern rational understanding with an impasse. The logic of much that is done defeats us, it is absurd and often disgusting. Treatments are offered that can have no empirical value, yet the simple primitives seem to believe in them.
My subject today is the subtle question of whether astrology is divination. I assume most of you saw Thomas Moore give the keynote address yesterday. Moore surprised many in the audience when he expressed praise for the divinatory aspect of astrology.
I will begin on a personal note. Monteverdi’s music has been a catalyst in my life, awakening me to a ‘spiritual eros’, as the Platonists would describe the intimation of, and yearning for, an experience of union with an ineffable, and undefinable, ‘other’.I have also been an astrologer for nearly forty years, and a central focus of my academic life has been the challenge of addressing the revelatory function of the symbolic in a world which no longer values poetic metaphor as a primary mode of knowledge. Instead, such knowing is assumed to be ‘merely subjective’, incompatible with the sharp scalpel of the rational mind.
This paper will discuss the relevance of the ‘four levels of interpretation’ of medieval theology – literal, allegorical, moral, anagogical – to the teaching of astrology at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In an educational system increasingly bound to positivist assumptions a way is required to lead students to a deeper perception, and experience, of the symbolic.