by Kenneth McRitchie
Written in response to the need for a theory of astrology, this book is a conscientious attempt to find a common ground that can realign the discourse between science and astrology. Skeptical views of astrology are critically examined and recent developments in statistics, psychology, and chaos science are used to clarify key concepts in astrology. Astrological concepts may appear to be counterintuitive but have rational consequences, and this leads to the discovery of coherent theories. Through a process of abductive analysis and theory reconstruction, a thesis emerges that positions astrology as not so much the study of planets, stars, or even people, but of the relationships between mind and natural symmetries in the environment.
Paperback: 144 pages with Bibliography and Index
Publisher: Cognizance Books (Dec. 2004) ISBN 0-9736242-0-5
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Author Ken McRitchie, the one-time editor of the journal Above & Below, was asked by a university professor for a book on astrological theory. This stimulated him to investigate the rational basis of astrology. The result is this book, which describes the theories he has come up with. It makes for fascinating reading.
He begins by briefly reviewing the findings of Michel Gaquelin and Suitbert Ertel and then responds to the standard set of critical questions that all astrologers face from time to time: "Twins have similar charts, but many have different personalities and behavior;" "Predictions do not come true;" "Interpretations are not specific enough." His thoughtful responses will be useful cribs for readers who are posed with these and similar criticisms.
The author then gets to his theories. He begins by defining five organizing principles and relates these in turn to concepts such as an individual's native centricity, "as above and so below," the horizon and meridian, and the seasonal development cycle. He then moves on, in separate chapters, to relate: psychographic values types to the four quadrants; astrological skills to the houses; lifestyles to opposing pairs of signs; essential urges to the planets; beliefs to aspects; an individual's development to planetary phases; and projection and transference to different stages of a planet's cycle around the Sun, whether oriental or occidental, direct or retro-cycle.
Simply listing the different associations and relationships proposed in this book, as I have done here, completely fails to do any justice to the writer's theories. Each is compelling, each meaty enough to get the reader chewing over what is involved, and to go to pull out charts to check if McRitchie's ideas are as effective as his descriptions imply.
We do need to be better at relating astrology to the different approaches sociologists and psychologists take in categorizing people, to find ways of translating what we know and use into terms more familiar to scientists and others. This book attempts to do just this, and the attempt is very good indeed. In the process it provides some excellent ideas for astrologers to consider, some intriguing fresh approaches to how one interprets a natal chart. Strongly recommended.
- Ken Gillman, Astrology Considerations, Volume XX, No. 2
The title Environmental Cosmology derives from the author's understanding of the planets as an environmental code of each individual. Astrology is a convergence of common sense, intuition, and reason, which brings these streams together as a meaningful system of knowledge. To quote from the back cover, "astrology is not so much the study of stars and planets as it is the study of environmental symmetries in nature."
In this intelligent book Mr. McRitchie succeeds in his aim of improving the quality of astrological debate. Though much is aimed at removing ignorances about astrology, which to us might read as preaching to the converted, he raises many useful observations that can certainly help to improve our astrology in a practical and personal sense.
To take just a couple of examples, he gives a list of complex aspect patterns (yod, grand cross, etc.) with useful descriptions of their functions and associated beliefs in short phrases that are of great value in interpretation, and includes odd configurations like 135°/90°/135° or 150°/90°/60° for which we don't usually get simple catch-phrases suggested.
There are edifying thoughts like "the horizon is the axis indicating relationships of equality," while "the meridian is the axis of hierarchical relationships," plus original observations on the quadrants. I found it particularly interesting to read the descriptions of the different dilemmas facing cardinal, fixed, and mutable signs.
In all there is a great deal of astrological elucidation in these pages, fascinating because much has been arrived at or examined from a starting-point different from the norm. The book's cover depicts a fractal image showing chaotic congruence, a relevant symbol for the understanding of how the microcosm echoes the macrocosm.
- Paul Newman, The Astrological Journal, Volume 48, No. 2
McRitchie's premise is that astrology is not so much the study of the stars and planets as it is the study of environmental symmetries in nature. He explains this premise very thoroughly.
The book opens with a chapter on critical thinking. In it, McRitchie discusses just about every tired old objection to astrology that scientists have ever thrown at us, from Astrologers haven't taken precession into account, so all their interpretations are wrong to Astrology works by placebo effect. He gives credit to scientists where credit is due, for example, he agrees that there are no significant findings that validate compatibility of Sun Signs by element in marriage. Mostly, though he demolishes scientific dogma and shows you how to deal with them if you meet up with them. This chapter alone makes Environmental Cosmology a must-have for anyone dealing with scientists or the media.
A second chapter explores some fundamentals of the natal chart, including angles, aspect phases, the galactic center and some of the celestial mechanics behind them. Those of you who believe in the Age of Aquarius will be disappointed with this chapter; the author calls this a persistent urban legend and tells you why he believes this to be so.
The bulk of the book is based on various theories — values theories, skills theories, urge theories — as they relate to the natal chart in terms of success, intelligence, social urges, and more. I found the chapter on lifestyles theories to be particularly interesting. Here McRitchie details six styles of love and six styles of authority. He also gives you some tips on how to use these with clients. There is a small but reasonably thorough bibliography and an extensive index. You will probably need the later.
McRitchie writes for intelligent readers. The prose is not stuffy, but don't expect to be spoon fed. This is not a cookbook. The author seems to write with an expectation of making you think. If you can live with that, then you can probably live with this book on your bookshelf as a valuable addition to your library.
- Donna Van Toen, NCGR Memberletter, August-September 2005
Last updated February 5, 2012.