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|For Astrology -- But Which One?
(Paris CURA's Symposium Proceedings -- Dec. 2000)
by Patrice Guinard
-- translation James Elliot --
The astrologer and the trickster
"Why blame art for the worker's fault, and must we blame a science, because those who want to practice it without ability abuse it?" (Eustache Lenoble, Uranie)
I welcome everyone to the last French astrology congress of the millennium. Jacques Halbronn organizes astrological congresses since 1974-1975. He has launched in France the dynamics of congresses, and the majority of French astrologers have participated at one time or another, plus numerous foreigners.
This year, Jacques Halbronn's M.A.U. teamed up with C.U.R.A. I hope this association will be fecund. This symposium will be essentially an exchange forum between astrologers, scientists and historians, a debate I hope will be fruitful and show the signs of sound criticism. With time, the M.A.U.'s congresses, compared to other congresses that existed before, have become what the Washington Post is to the National Enquirer.
Inherently, an astrology congress cannot be a congress like any other, because astrology is not recognized as a public service, nor does it receive the public's respect. Therefore it should be considered a private service. In 1878, Nietzsche noted that "The State must defend science, not religion, astronomy, but not astrology. The latter remains a private matter."
However, as shown by historian François Furet in 1978, since the French revolution and the attainment of human rights inaugurated the secularization of moral conscience and the dissolution of private and social life in the public domain (witness today's State involvement in all levels of individual existence as soon as one's birth: health and hospitals, schools and education, banks and property...), one can ask if the States would not profit by controlling and managing astrology, that has to do with the mental representations that a person makes of himself and his environment, since it mainly gives information - or should - on the psyche, on the balance of one's own "urges", on the energy of desires, and on the intimate perception of reality and the environment.
For that to happen astrology should be a reliable discipline, that should come up with quantifiable results that can be reproduced, exploitable by the officers of public thought. Which is far from being the case, and which makes astrology a knowledge that is essentially elusive. Hence the relative freedom and autonomy of astrologers, that still live in a no man's land of thought, exempt from the cultural controls that affect other fields. Astrology is a pleasurable activity that eludes state controls. The question I am always asking myself is: Up to what point is that freedom desirable?
Nowadays astrology has entered into a feudal phase: everywhere local lords, insubordinate condottieris, rebellious to any type of common goal. No central authority. By withdrawing, with bibles and idols, in the alcove of the consulting-room, fearing that we will take away his freedom, isn't the consultant-astrologer falling in the trap of the charlatan ?
Hence the paradox of astrological organizations, of the statutes and codes of ethics: Who will define the astrologer's competence, who will designate him a worthy practitioner of astrology instead of another? Following what criteria? Certainly not because of the unverifiable application of hazardous rules, motivated by the interests of the organization, but mainly to test the true abilities of the candidate. Astrology schools and organizations should themselves be examined before testing candidates!
Astrology is caught in a stranglehold, on the one hand we find a loss of interest from the researchers and contempt from the intellectuals and on the other the charlatans' and businessmen's rapacity, who proclaim, as does the consulting astrologer, their ability to make and sell astrology, to attract and satisfy clients. What is the difference between the charlatan and the practitioner, if they hold the same arguments, if they more or less spread the same pipe dreams, if they both refuse to learn and perfect themselves, if they adopt an identical attitute towards research ?
Settling the debate is not for institutions, mainly because they don't care about astrology's fate; furthermore astrologers don't really want institutions to take care of the matter. The astrologer member of an organization cannot hope that he will be guaranteed a certain security inside his cocoon, while he refuses to debate on ideas. He sort of wishes the state would protect him from charlatans, as in the times of Alfonso X the Wise, while he is not ready to support research, and more often inclined to deny it, if not obstruct it, as I have experienced it in the last ten years.
Alfonso took legal measures against incompetents and those who wrongfully assumed a title, but granted credits for publishing, translation and research. It is the same in all periods in which astrology made some progress. The price to pay for the freedom astrologers enjoy is the lack of any means to do research. The world of astrologers remains a marginalized cultural field, isolated from state systems, countrary to psychoanalysis that has adapted itself to modern ideology.
There is only one solution: that astrologer's organizations support research – be it historic, psycho-statistical, scientific, anthropological or philosophical – and that each practitioner pay a tax or tribute for research, as in the medical field. It's the only worthy rule of "deontology". This tax does not mean that the research would validate the types of practices (counselling, courses, newspaper horoscopes, Minitel and Internet business...), but that there is a price to pay to use or abuse the title of astrologer.
Then it will be possible to organize an international debate under the conditions that worthy astrologers talk about 1) the initial experience that makes them take astrology seriously, 2) their type of practice, 3) the techniques they use, 4) their sources and why they chose them, 5) what is the intrinsic logic (if any) of their model of astrology, and finally, 6) their conception of the history of astrology and the evolution of models. There is no way out for astrology if we skip that debate.
Astrology's ban from the field of knowledge dates back to the XVIIth century. Following the catastrophe of the "Lumières" in the XVIIIth century, and the positivists in the XIXth century, astrology even lost the right to be mentioned in historical treatises, notwithstanding it's ubiquity and the radiating status (the queen of sciences) it had in the past. Because of it's ambiguous status, it only occupies a minor and occasional place, often non-existent, in the different histories, be it the history of science and astronomy, philosophy or religions.
The situation is now changing : in Seattle, Southampton, Zaragoza and Amsterdam. One can only hope this congress will participate in it's renewal and create vocations for research. Certain obscurantists believe that the return of astrology in universities is pure fantasy, and minimize it's importance in the past. It is those same obscurantists that have been presiding over or honouring (!) small organizations for several years, enough time to demonstrate, if not the impossibility for astrology to be reinstated in universities, at least their incompetence!
Whether they like it or not, this symposium will be focused on research. The title of the annex of the symposium, from Nostradamus to the Gauquelins, emphasizes the influence and prestige of French 'astro-esoteric' thinking in the world. No author in the field of prophecy gained such an influence as Nostradamus. So did the works of contemporaries Michel and Françoise Gauquelin that had a considerable impact abroad, so much so that the works became a starting point impossible to circumvent for astro-statistical research. The 'Mars effect' is abundantly discussed between anglo-saxon researchers (and also by the sceptic committees in universities), so much so that I have been able to talk about the 'Gauquelin effect' on anglo-saxon psycho-statistical research.
The object of this symposium, the Frontiers of Astrology, is twofold:
- One can try to outline the frontiers of astrology to determine in which way astrology gives information on fields that, a priori and considering the modern cultural environment, have no relationship with it (history, geography, medecine, biology, psychology, psychiatry...)
- We can also, in this problematic, try to define what is astrological from what it is not, in other words question the nature of astrology itself.
What is the permeability of the frontiers between the astrological and the non-astrological? Is astrology able to define its own frontiers? Which astrology? And who can speak for it? Is the astrologer the astronomer-philosopher of olden times? Can the practitioner – that is one that draws charts, claims the status of professional astrologer, has a clientele, gives courses and/or belongs to an organization - define what is astrology and what it is not?
Astrology between Knowledge and Belief
"And not only the arts, but also all wars, all governments, and everything which our brains produce, receive their guidance from the stars now and for ever. And were all musicians and all craftsmen to die, this schoolmaster would remain ... and would always instruct new ones." (Paracelse, Astronomia Magna)
Are astrologers really practicing astrology? Or does it lie beyond what they are doing? Are the discourses and delineations made by astrologers legitimate by the mere fact they exist? Or is there a field of knowledge, astrology, that should be discovered, a knowledge with its laws, requirements and constraints, like mathematics, or better a perspective of knowledge, independent from the models developed in the past by the astrological community?
In other words is astrology an independant branch of human knowledge that holds an intrinsinc potential for development, or is it a simple reflection of an activity confined by its cultural and historical hazards?
We could resort to ancient astrology, to Schmidt's or Hand's Greek astrology, to Zoller's or Bezza's medieval astrology. One can only ask how that knowledge of astrology can give rise to a modern vision of astrology. Because there only exists one astrology: the present one and above all the one to come. Robert Schmidt's Project Hindsight is unconceivable without an Elwell type Project Foresight.
Knowledge of the history of astrology should not be used to imitate the Ancients, nor to disqualify present astrology (like for the historian), but to understand the evolution of astrological models: the reason for a multiplicity of models in the course of its history is - mainly - tied to the failure of predicitive astrology. Understanding past mistakes, starting with astrology's subservience to aristotelian philosophy, is giving astrology perspective and future.
Can one find unity through the practices, delineations and discourses that claim to belong to astrology, or do they contradict themselves? What "works" in astrology? Is the feeling that astrology works only autosuggestion? Does it stem from a harmony and truth that is beyond all understanding? Does astrology stem from a unique influence that modern science could explain if it would take the time to do it? Rationality or irrational?
There only exist three answers to the astrological fact:
I have proposed the following explanation for the existence of the astrological fact:
- Nothing works. Astrology cannot be thought of as anything else but artefact, autosuggestion of the astrologer, placebo effect. It is astro-statistical astrology à la Geoffrey Dean's ultimate answer; or to be more precise the skeptic interpretation of astro-statistical results.
- It always works. If astrology is a symbolic language, a simple delineation tool, anything can work, so finally nothing is reliable, except maybee the interpreter's panache. So everything works, even the random chart, the "wrong chart", because astrology is nothing more than delineation and hermeneutic. The astrologer is a narrator, that tells a story about ourselves - and plays at make-believe! It's the common answer of the practitioner, brilliantly defended by Geoffrey Cornelius in his Moment of astrology (1994).
- A third answer says that "work" or "doesn't work" are meaningless: astrology is a conception of reality depending on certain scientific imperatives. There exists a real physical relationship between planets and living matter, a relationship that produces changes in the psyche, and implies an astrology able to define and give an account of these relationships, somewhere objective, between the psyche and planetary cycles.
The symbol is possible because the astronomical signal permanently innervates consciousness and leaves neuro-psychic traces. Hence causality, because of an exterior energetic origin, at least in appearance. Synchronicity still, in the sense that there is spatial coexistence and simultaneity of separate realities: processes are coordonated, here in the consciousness and there in the cosmos, within common dynamics. Cyclicity also, because these resonances only impregnate consciousness through the temporal repetition of phases, cycles and rhythms. Finally matriciality, because these rhythms cannot be implanted without a structural cristallisation. In other words causality is synchrone, synchronicity is cyclic and cyclicity matricial. Among the four conceptions of astrology (causality. synchronicity, cyclicity and matriciality), only the latter is likely to render astrological reality in its entirety.
- The astronomical signal is integrated in the neuro-physiological organization.
- The astral impression (impressional) is the inaperceptible psychic effect of that signal. It is "almost-lived".
- The astrological symbol is the cultural and psycho-mental translation of that impressional.
And the Matrix is definitively not what some people think it is, notably Jacques Halbronn who recently snatched the term ("matricial" or "matricialist" approach of the heavens), after he read my Manifesto. There is no need to use the term "astro-matricialist", since all approaches to astrology are by definition "matricialist", including his own, from the moment they put in place a model, be it the one reduced to Saturn, the luminaries and two stars. The first proto-astrology used by men of the paleolithic was even simpler: it only used the Sun and Moon, which did not prevent it from being matricial.
The Matrix is the most difficult concept I have introduced in my 1993 thesis. The impressional and matricial reason do not pose a problem; it is quite different with the Matrix that ties in at least three things:
- 1) The matrix is astrology's final cause, as I just demonstrated it. And to reason, here, with Aristotle's terminology: causality would be the driving force, efficient, exterior, synchronicity the formal cause, and cyclicity the material cause. (note that this quaternary organization is typical of what I named "matricial reason or logic", that philosophers quite often use with more inventiveness and genius than astrologers do!)
- 2) The matrix is the source of encounter and harmonization of astrological structures (Zodiac, Planetaries, Dominion and Cyclics), and not one of those structures. A set of twelve signs is a structure, nothing more, the same as with a group of ten planets. The matrix is the ideal object of encounter for these structures; it must not be confused with one of the structures, even less with the models that explain it.
- 3) By definition the matrix is unknowable: it is the eternal object or project of astrological knowledge.
But why is it so difficult to justify astrology? If astrology's vivacity was only due to the resurgence of the irrational in our modern culture, as stated by sociologists, then why aren't voodoo, Plato's philosophy, alchemy or religions dismissed by academic research? Why should astrology, that has maintained itself after more than three thousand years of existence among people's awareness -- although other "beliefs" and religions have become mere curiosities -- be subjected to the endless ostracism of intellectuals remunerated by governments? Failing to understand that it is basicaly an ideological problem, the astrologer is paralysed. Either astrology is a knowledge, then it is some kind of inate form of cognitive awareness, as understood solely by Paracelsus in the XVIth century. Or else it is a simple belief, and in that case: it's garbage!
(translation James Elliot)
All rights reserved © 2002 James Elliot & Patrice Guinard