[This informal review is a reproduction of Tom's forum post - where he was asked, as a 'traditionalist', to give his opinions on Elwell's work]
Having been goaded by Deb and Sue, I’m finally getting around to what I promised, my own review of Dennis Elwell’s Cosmic Loom. Deb wrote that this book has been revised and updated, for the record, I read the original 1985 edition.
I think this book can be divided into two parts. The first part spends a bit of time on a justification for astrology and a proposed method of validation. The second part attempts to demonstrate how the author’s philosophical understanding of the cosmos can be employed in chart readings with a superior result to those he was familiar with in 1985.
Elwell cites modern physics frequently and uses new discoveries in that field to demonstrate the credibility of astrology, and to discredit those who are skeptical of astrology’s claims. “The new physics, which has been immensely fruitful in practical terms, contrasts starkly with the old Newtonian model, with its simplistic reliance on cause and effect. The new orthodoxy is agreed that Newtonian physics no longer adequately explains what is happening. Yet when it comes to the business of discrediting astrology, scientists happily scamper back to Sir Isaac’s arms demanding to know how the planets can exert significant gravitational or electromagnetic effects at a distance. Then they have the temerity of accusing astrology of clinging to an outmoded model of reality."
And we’re off on a scientific and philosophical explanation that, reduced to essentials, is that the universe is a unified whole, and therefore what the planets do in the cosmos are certainly related to people and events on Earth. If this sounds like it fits the traditional model pretty well, it is because it does.
Elwell suggests a unique method of demonstrating the validity of astrology that is the opposite of what Gauqelin did. Michel Gauquelin looked at the charts of thousands of individuals to determine whether or not a statistical relationship between planetary positions at birth and subsequent choice of profession could be established. He established it to the howls of “science.” They cried foul, they lied, they would have revoked his PhD if they could, and to this day, while acknowledging the work is statistically sound, claim that it really doesn’t mean all that much. Science never reveals itself so fully as it does when it is confronted by something it does not wish to believe.
There are problems for astrologers in Gauquelin’s work, not the least of which is the sheer number of charts required to perform such a study. Elwell proposes a different technique. Rather than look through thousands of charts, use one at a time and demonstrate over and over again an astrological principle with that chart to the point where it can no longer be considered coincidence. A quick example: My favorite chart - George Patton’s - meets the Gauquelin criteria of having Mars on an angle and Patton was a successful military leader. But lots of people have Mars on an angle, in fact millions do. Elwell would take Patton’s chart and use that Mars and other planets to demonstrate how the chart as a whole describes Patton’s life. He would site astrological principle after principle to the point where it would be up to the scientists to prove coincidence, which manifestly they could not do. From this and the new physics Elwell postulates that at some point science will have to come to grips with the validity of astrology. I’m not holding my breath.
The second part of the book goes into depth on the subject of the unity of the universe, man’s role in it, and from this, how to read a chart properly. Space does not permit my going into any depth here, but a few of his observations are striking. One is that contemporary astrology is obsessed with description. OK you have Leo rising, you’re proud; you have Taurus rising, you love chocolate; etc. Very nice but what good is it? The same could be argued for prediction. George Bush will win re-election in 2004. OK exactly what does that mean to me and what can I do about it? The answer to the latter question is “not much.” So then what do we do with this knowledge that astrology can give us?
Elwell wants the astrologer to assist the client in fulfilling their potential therefore less time is spent on swooning over the client’s minor vices, and more time is spent on finding ways to express the potential of the birth chart. In a somewhat traditional context this would mean the answer to the question how do I best order my life to get the most out of it? This is of course, possible because due to the unity of everything, the chart will reveal what you need to know about yourself and point you in the correct direction. This is not mere vocational astrology. We’re talking about the whole life, not just the way we earn our living.
There is more, much more. I’m limiting my post to these main themes in order to keep from writing a book of my own.
Regarding the author’s first claim, the eventual acceptance of astrology by the mainstream. I don’t see that ever happening. I don’t know if I want it to happen, but that’s for another time. The ability of a human being to rationalize the truth is limitless. The thought of the late Carl Sagan, or Richard Dawkins standing and applauding the new head of the Oxford Department of Astrology is delightful to contemplate, but is as fanciful as anything Walt Disney ever created. Elwell can peel away as many layers of as many charts as he can find and they will all be dismissed as “vague coincidence.” Gauquelin may have not proved astrology, but he certainly proved the intransigence of science. It took them 40 years to admit he followed the rules, but they then said it didn’t matter. He didn’t beat the odds by much. Not only is this statement false, but it contradicts their rules, and ignores how many times he did it. I am impressed with the technique, but I’m too cynical to expect much from it.
I find myself in general agreement with Elwell’s proposed use of astrology. Readings that consist of, “You’re more sensitive than most people realize, if you had better parents you’d be a better person, and you have real potential to be a healer,” just aren’t very useful, and don’t, to Elwell’s point (and others) take full advantage of the potential of astrology.
There are things in here that I found disagreeable not the least of which is the overuse of Neptune. I’m coming to the conclusion that the modern astrologer only needs that single planet in a chart to give a full reading. Rotten marriage? Neptune! Rotten job? Neptune! Depressed? Neptune! Idealistic? Neptune! Creative? Neptune! In today’s mail, I received a notice of upcoming events in the New York City chapter of the NCGR. I opened it wondering who would be discussing Neptune in the upcoming weeks, and found it. I may banish Neptune from my printouts in protest.
The other eye-popper was his assertion that modern astrology teaches too much emphasis on the personal planets. Would that it were so. I’ll concede the shoe may have been on the other foot in 1985 in England, but it sure ain’t that way now in the US or I would venture in the UK either. I would suggest that if Mr. Elwell’s prediction of the acceptance of astrology is to come true, astrologers are going to have a lot more in their arsenal than Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
Elwell is thought provoking, seems fair-minded if a bit taken with the outer planets, and he presents his case in an orderly way. The book is well worth reading, if it can be found as I imagine it is no longer in print. There are points that could stir up a good discussion and I would think Deborah might want something just like that.