Exegesis Issue #1

March 28, 1996 12:26pm 40N26 80W01

Fran rambles on and on and on…


More Exegesis Info

Welcome and hello!

A few folks have made comments to my original "proposal" and I thought it would be useful for me to share the answers I gave them and see if anyone else would like to comment. I’ll also deal with some organizational details below. But I suppose that I should first throw out a few words about my vision of what this discussion group is and how I imagine it might work. First, note that I say "vision" and "imagine". I have no idea how the group will REALLY operate, the potential dynamics and direction are a mystery to me at this point. I have an idea of what I want to see, but don’t want to rigidly impose that idea on others--how boring that would be. I see this as something of an experiment along the lines of the old tale about the condemned man who offers to teach the King’s horse to sing in exchange for his life. You all know the tale, I suppose, but once we invoke it we must continue…as the man enters the stable he’s told, "You fool! Horses cannot sing!", to which he replies, "Who knows what will happen? Perhaps I will die. Perhaps the King will die….and maybe the horse will learn to sing."

In short, (and in typical Aries fashion) I’m optimistic in the face of potential disaster {g}.

I know something about the way I think and express myself, and the things that I feel are worthwhile. I endeavor to be honest with myself and have some purposefully vague idea of natural balance. My personal approach is to take what is at hand--my experience, my mind, my intuition--and to work with it and test it. I know something of astrology and I find it wonderfully worthwhile, but I also find certain aspects of it unsatisfying. I am, after all, a child of Western culture and a product of the 20th century, for all that implies about attitude and belief. To live in this era and to be a student of astrology is to present oneself with a unique perspective and to set before oneself a special set of problems to overcome. But perhaps this is true of any worthwhile quest.

As I think it might be a good topic for discussion, I’ll avoid delineating my view of the perspective and problems I allude to above. But I would like to point out that such a perspective can be potentially perilous. When faced with the task of resolving the differences between modern attitudes and astrological attitudes, it is easy to grasp at any explanation of astrology that quells our fears and concerns without examining that explanation in detail. What I want to suggest is that we look at those explanations and defer seeking immediate resolution to the difficult issues posed by astrology, in the hopes that we can dig deeper into the hard shell of the dilemma and bring back something worthwhile, for ourselves and for our peers.

My purpose for proposing this discussion is to attempt to form some sort of ad hoc group of diverse viewpoints in order to examine the difficult issues posed by astrology. In some way what I’m proposing, assuming a bit of Jungian lingo for a moment, is that we deal with the shadow of astrology. I believe that this is worthwhile, and that it is best performed in a group setting, and that it can be done thoughtfully, honestly and with humor. I also believe that it might be difficult to achieve anything of worth, and that results are my no means certain. In some way this is an electronic quest, but how does one turn it into a meaningful experience? How does one maintain a human perspective in such an abstract medium? Is it possible to bring something good out this little experiment? I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn. Who knows, perhaps the horse will learn to sing.


OK, I’ve shaken that out of my system, and I’ll try to keep my meandering soliloquies in check {g}. In the original "proposal" I presented a broad structure for the group and requested comments. As I was gathering " subscriptions" the comments mostly came in the form of questions, which I tried to answer one-on-one, but my feeling is that most of these questions were of the type that could be discussed by the group, or might simply be informative for those seeking more information than provided by the " proposal".

My intention is not to be heavy-handed, and I come from a clan with a strong democratic impulse, and I also feel that a bit of "meta-discussion" at the start might help us set any ground-rules that we feel is necessary. Therefore, I’m posting the following questions and replies for open discussion. My only strong feeling is that we avoid name-calling and flame- wars, there are plenty of other places to do that. Also, I’d like to avoid the posting of announcements that have nothing to do with the discussion. Beyond these, I’m open to creating a group charter for the purposes of: providing a public description of what the group is about and giving newcomers an idea of what is inappropriate; providing an internal focus to the discussion; and giving participants a chance to address issues raised by other forms of online discussion (for example, things that annoy you about the format of unmoderated newsgroups).

I’ve also a very selfish motive here, I don’t want people to confuse my role as moderator with my personal point of view in a discussion. If I say something stupid I don’t want other people hesitating to take me to task simply because I’m moderating the discussion. My hope is that a charter will help the group be somewhat self-governing and that my role as moderator be minimized, allowing me to freely participate in the discussion as an equal and as a peer and not as an authority.

If you want to debate the parameters of discussion, now is a good time to do so. We can revisit it later, but I’d like to clear up any immediate issues at the onset. On the other hand, some people would rather not bother with these details and might feel that this is my job to be done outside of the group process. Some might prefer that any format or structure be clear up front and not open to debate. That’s also fine by me, I already have a good idea of what the charter can be and if there’s no discussion I’ll post a charter of my own devising for comment. You may or may not have noticed the details in the "proposal", expect something along those lines if this occurs. I want to be sure that people are comfortable with the character of the discussion, and I especially want to avoid any sense that I am imposing arbitrary restrictions on them.


What follows are questions I received during the "subscription" phase, and the responses I made. Take this as a jumping off point for the discussion of the charter. I’ve left the questions anonymous since I didn’t warn anyone that I would post their private email in public.

Q: Why the seconday address?

Because the internet is anarchy. Your provider or my provider might become "invisible" for a period of time with no warning and I’d hate for you to think that I simply stopped sending the discussion to you for mysterious reasons. I’m not going to add you to some bizarre mailing list if you sent me your street address, don’t worry. I’ll keep that confidential. I would, however, prefer that we all use our real names. Incidentally, if you really need to, you can get my home office telephone number from me, just ask in email.

Q: I can reach the web, are you really going to post the discussion there?

Yes. At the very least I’d like to post the charter, information on how to join, and archive as much of the discussion as possible. I just found out that my web site is active and I supposedly have about 50 Megs of space, but that may not be accurate. If it is, that should last us a long time.

Of course, I’ve only assumed that people would be willing to have their words published on the web. If there is a problem here, it should be discussed before I actually create web pages.

I see the web eventually becoming the "place" where the group will meet, but this is still in the future.

The following series of questions were from one person, I’ve grouped them together because I feel they address a few issues that may not have been emphasized enough in the "proposal":

[Querent has been studying for a few years and considers self a beginner.]

Q: I am assuming that for a serious discussion group like this, you will be choosy about the level of knowledge each participant has, and I still have a lot left to learn!

We all still have a lot to learn! I'm not "choosy" in the way you indicate, I want people who are going to think as opposed to spouting dogma. For instance, some folks like to bandy about "karma" but seem to have no idea what karma really means in its original context, and then suppose that they can talk about karma in a chart with authority. But there's no way we can check a person's karma with our "normal" human abilities. And what basis do we have for supposing that we should advise others about THEIR karma? So, if the subject of karma comes up, the discussion is NOT going to be about "How to detect karma in a chart", but rather: "What do we know about karma? Where did the idea come from? What does it mean? What are the ethical concerns surrounding making claims about a person's karma? Is "karmic astrology" reliable?" and so on.

Although not part of my original reply, I now note that my suggestion about how to handle that topic is not exhaustive, and that perhaps we might want to talk about "techniques" if it serves the discussion and/or illuminates the issue of karma. Assuming we ever discuss karma.

[same Querent]

Q:Secondly, I am curious as to what specific topics you would like to discuss. Is it possible for you to give me a list of those topics, or tell me what topics you're interested in?

That's tough, I don't want to tell people what they can and cannot discuss, I want to find a consensus for treating "low-level" concerns: What is astrology? How does it work? What about the contradictions? What do we know about astrology from the past? What philosophical basis do we have in the modern world, when the modern world seems to reject the implications of astrology?

This last point is a good one and shoots off into many directions. The answer to that question that I reject is "The New Age is almost here, and then astrology will magically be elevated to its proper place." That is not an answer to my mind, that is a way of avoiding the question and the problems at the root of it. As I said, I'm not seeking more dogma and I envision Exegesis having a strong anti-dogma orientation. But that's just me.

Yours is the second request for a "topic list" to come up, so perhaps I'll put something together. Are there subjects you'd like to discuss? I'm sure there are things about astrology which don't sit really well with you, but you deal with them in some way, what are those things?

[The Querent replied with a list, and other points, but I will let them take that up on their own. Another question from the same person follows.]

Q: The only thing that makes me uneasy is the "we would like to avoid constant clarification of thoughts that have not been put in order" part.

It makes me uneasy also, and I pondered that sentence for a long time. But I let it stand, I only want to suggest that people think about their discourse rather than rave about a topic. A rave is a fine expression of strongly held beliefs, but not appropriate to the structure sought for the group; I want us to touch on some raw topics and make an attempt to reason them out within a group setting.

But I really have no idea if such a thing is possible. In some ways this is an experiment, and my experience is that experiments like this can easily go awry.

[A contiuation of the same question]

Q: Or just that you would like questions to be intelligent and stated clearly?

Right! Or at least I hope that will be the case. Let me add one thing, I'd like to avoid questions about interpretations: "What does Mercury square Pluto mean?", that is, there are other places to ask those kinds of questions. I'd like to focus on questions like: "Why do we use squares? Where did aspects come from? When did minor aspects appear? What are the systems of aspects being used?", etc. And that might lead to orbs, even more fun!

In any case, I think that the kind of questions you asked above are good questions, you nailed many of the problems I considered when drafting the " proposal". As more folks come on board, and the group starts up, I want to have a brief discussion about the topics you raised, so hang on until then and see how you feel about the character of the group. At this point I have no idea if it will reach "critical mass" or not....

I received a lot of other good questions and remarks, but I believe that people will gladly raise the points they've made to me in the group discussion.


Yes, I’m often a long-winded sonofagun, but this may be the only chance I get to toss such a long monologue on the table, so bear with me just this once.



I’ve debated this with myself as it seems that we should all know each other if we’re going to talk. But, usually, the introduction does not really tell us how the person thinks, or where their attention and concerns are focused, but their words in the evolution of a discussion usually will tell us something about that person, and our reactions will tell us about ourselves. But nonetheless, we do need to know who is here and I’d like to suggest we tell something of ourselves such that others might understand who we are, rather than post a short resume.

I’ll start with a short description of what seems important about my attitudes and thinking. I was born in the foothills of Western Pennsylvania ( USA) and grew up there thinking the world was such and such and so and so. At some point, at age 14 or 15, I stumbled upon a Whole Earth Catalog in the library and suddenly realized that the world was not as limited as I had supposed, here were people doing things I’d never imagined anybody but the truly great artists, thinkers and adventurers in history would be able to do. Following my instincts, I delved into all of the exciting things I’d newly been exposed to, art and music and everything else I now gave myself permission to explore. One major focus ended up being the I Ching and Taoist ideas. I was amazed to discover that divination still existed in the world, I had supposed it a dead art! Later, at university, I had an older mentor figure say to me that my Eastern studies were well and good, but that I should also look into the Western traditions. I took his suggestion on faith and began studying, at some point it became "obvious" that astrology was the " Queen of the West", so I visited the astrology book store, walked out the door with books by Meyers and Rhudyar, and an emphemeris and table of house, and 18 years later, here I am. I find Taoism, divination and astrology as the "three pillars" of my inner life, but I really don’t have anything to say about the first two. Astrology, on the other hand, has really captured my mind and attention, and by an odd series of circumstances and efforts to better understand astrology, I’ve started this group.

So, post your own short introduction if you like, or tear into my remarks in this message for a more direct introduction {g} or give a list of topics you want to address.


The Question List.

In the off chance that nobody has anything to say, here are a few topics for discussion. One of the ideas I had concerning the web site is to build up a "question bank", a list of good questions for us to ask ourselves as astrologers. I’m not suggesting that what follows are good questions, or unanswerable, but only that I find them interesting:

Perhaps we cannot deal with EVERY issue, but the idea of an archive of good questions appeals to me, anyone have questions?



I’ve tried to discourage lurkers in the initial "proposal", but upon reflection, I’m thinking that this may be a bad idea. My purpose was twofold: first, to cut down on my workload until such time that we move the discussion to some mailing list software; second, to discourage "entertainment seekers" from giving me a false sense of how many active participants will be in the group. I don’t see my purpose as being a free "content provider" for folks who are unwilling to invest in the discussion, but that’s an arrogant attitude on my part, as others have certainly given me plenty without asking for anything in return. My attitude has changed, but I’d rather wait a while before "throwing wide the gates". At the very least until I find a listserver site.

But, then again, folks may prefer a small group of active participants, and I do hope to put the discussion up on the web…



I didn’t mention evangelists when talking about things I don’t want on the list, did I? For my purposes here, I define an evangelist as someone with strongly held beliefs who can only reason about those beliefs to a certain point and won’t change their mind, and most critically, won’t stop talking about it when it is obvious that they’re getting nowhere. For a good example just get into a discussion with a sKeptic on alt.astrology {g}. I think we can all do without evangelists, of all stripes, in this group. Deprogramming them is hard work, a thankless task, and doesn’t pay well.

I like to think that folks here will adapt to new ideas and change if necessary, or at the very least not argue in circles.


Finally, some administrative details:

First, until such time that a Exegesis listserver is up and running, send your messages to me at my current email address: fgk@ix.netcom.com. [NOTE: This address is no longer active, see the subscription link above] I’ll assemble them into an "issue" and mail them out to all participants. Please try to quote only the parts of the messages to which you are responding so that those few folks with limits on their email will have a bit more breathing room, and to avoid confusion try to cite the person to whom you are replying. Also, don’t feel a need to hurry your replies in order to fill up the list, if silence develops then take it as a sign that people are thinking, even if they really are not {g}. My own style is to let things " cook" for a while if my thoughts aren’t clear or on the mark, and usually the result is something richer, so I’d like to suggest that a slow pace is not a bad thing.

The web site and listserver will hopefully be available soon, I'll post details as they become known.

Most of you do not know it, but my wife and I are expecting our first child, the due date is April 19. If he’s a true Aries I’m sure he’ll hurry to be born, if he’s a true Taurus I’m sure he’ll want to wait {g}. The way he’s been jumping about and doing acrobatics this weekend makes me suspect an Aries! The issue here being that at some point I may suddenly disappear for an unspecified period of time, so don’t be surprised if I do not answer mail for a few days within the next few weeks.

And last, but not least, thank you all for joining! I was half certain that there would not be enough people to bother starting the list, but I was happily proven wrong.


Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996 their respective authors.

[Exegesis Top] [Table of Contents] [Next Issue]