It is with great sadness that I bring you the news that Dennis Elwell passed away on 13 November.
I referred to Mr Elwell in my May, 2014 newsletter in regard to the Herald of Free Enterprise, the ferry that sank in Zeebrugge harbour in March 1987with the loss of 188 lives. It was Elwell’s belief of an imminent disaster at sea that inspired him to write to two shipping companies warning them of such an event. Neither company took him seriously, which P&O discovered to its cost some nine days later.
It was this prediction that brought Elwell to the attention of the media. And this prediction, followed by a second in the same year regarding the fire at King’s Cross Underground Station, which in many people’s minds represents the sum his work. However, his contribution to astrology is considerable.
I cannot claim to have known Dennis Elwell well. He was one among a pantheon of gods on astrology’s Mount Olympus whose lectures I attended as a young student at the Astrological Association of Great Britain back in the days when the National Liberal Club was the venue for its weekly meetings. He was a singular figure. Dapper in a suit and tie, and, speaking in a quiet voice, he would make clear and candid statements about astrology, which was, and still is, most unusual.
His precise language and investigative style came from his background in journalism; his innately spiritual approach to the subject from his early identification with the work of Gurdjieff and Rudolph Steiner.
Dennis was self-taught; he had his first article (on reincarnation) published in Prediction magazine in 1953, and by 1963 his star was rising, so to speak, in serious astrological circles. During his astrological career he lectured all over the world and in 2007 was given the Charles Harvey Award for Exceptional Service to Astrology. He wrote one book, The Cosmic Loom (1987) and many articles, including How Far Can the Future Be Predicted (1987) and Astrology is a Foreign Language (2005).
Nonetheless, Elwell actively courted controversy. Not only did the publicity over his 1987 predictions stick in the craw of the astrological fraternity but of those astrologers steeped in academia more than one criticized his stance on modern astrological research, most notably the work of Hans Eysenck and Michel Gauquelin - Dr Suitbert Ertel going as far as to say, “The way Elwell uses his intellectual capacity to downgrade scientific research on Gauquelin effects is utterly irresponsible.”
Elwell was both a scientist and a mystic. He had an analytical mind which he applied to the exploration of the astrological universe. Yet many of his theories had a greater resonance with Buddhist philosophy than mainstream astrological thought. Elwell was of the view that we are born at a time which enables us to meet our destiny and contribute to the development and realization of the greater cosmic purpose. He considered that, unlike the physical universe which is based on cause and effect, the astrological universe operates on an effect and cause principle.
“The astral is a script which has to be read backwards... Circumstances are all the time being shaped by the pull of the future. .. Our destiny may be indicated at birth but its realization lies in the future... It is our future that lays down the law of our today...Instead of ‘character is destiny’ I would suggest destiny is character, in the sense that we are automatically given the equipment to accomplish what we are invited to do... The true significance of our [life] journey lies in where we are going not where we are coming from.”
Elwell believed there was a place for prediction in astrology, and it was this view combined with his scant regard for modern astrology’s reliance on psychology and statistics that brought him into such conflict with mainstream thought.
“The astrological community needs to develop a more experimental and forgiving approach to prediction... There ought to be a climate where it is possible for astrologers to speculate, to brainstorm, to be tentative, without putting their reputation on the line.”
Not that Dennis was in any way a flag-bearer for sun-sign columns; rather the opposite, “I think a special place in hell is being warmed for those who cynically trivialise a great truth.”
On the day that Elwell died Mars was precisely squaring Uranus – a transit that in turn picked up his natal Moon-Uranus opposition and squared his natal Pluto – while the transiting node – the degree of October 8th’s total lunar eclipse – fell on his natal Moon. The significance of such connections would not have escaped him, and we might tentatively speculate that the words of T.S. Eliot came to him at that moment - “and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know it for the first time.”
In 1999 the astrologer Garry Phillipson asked Dennis how he would like to be remembered.
“I would not wish to be remembered for any predictions, but for trying to point astrology in a new direction. It has much to offer those troubled souls who are desperate to find some meaning in the apparent chaos of events. It also contains the seeds of a radically different world view, which embraces the mysteries of time, evolution, cognition, personality, and the greatest puzzle of all, the nature of consciousness.“
According to his daughter Sarah, astrology was her father’s passion, his life, and his quest was to see astrology established as a legitimate science. Elwell may not have lived to see his mission fulfilled but he leaves a vast and lasting legacy, which will inspire others following in his wake to pick up the baton.
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