Exegesis Volume 07 Issue #110

In This Issue:

From: "Dennis Frank"
Subject: [e] Re: exegesis Digest V7 #106

Exegesis Digest Thu, 19 Dec 2002

From: "Dennis Frank"
Subject: [e] Re: exegesis Digest V7 #106
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 17:41:22 +1300

In continuing my dialogue with Dale on issues of astrological belief, practice & scepticism, I will try to make the discussion relevant to other readers by switching to the third-person perspective when suitable...

 > >On 14 Nov 2002 Dennis wrote:
 > >that I wrote:
 > >>>But how do you identify "significant correlations" in the first place?
 > >
 > >Dennis:
 > >>You intuit that some kind of occult meaning connects them. Reason has got absolutely nothing to do with it < snip >

 > >Yes, I think I'm reasonable, but your argument style, when you appear to
 > >have no argument, is simply to claim or imply your approach is valid without
 > >bothering to justify it. Like you say, reason has nothing to do with it.
 > >Naturally, you think your approach is valid anyway, naturally I think this
 > >kind of argument strategy is a dodge and a copout.

Think what you like. I'm not arguing with you, merely explaining how I see things. How I see that a credible contemporary astrology may be articulated, I mean.

Your rejection of intuition as a valid way of knowing is surprising. In the '60s it would have seemed normal, but most of us have lived and learnt since then. Are you aware that acceptance of intuition is now a cultural norm of western civilisation?

 > >>< snip > I notice correlations & cite
 > >>them as examples, some of which are according to my expectations, others
 > >>not. A physical scientist correlates observations with pre-determined
 > >>selection criteria & cites them as examples in the same way. Been there,
 > >>done that.
 > >
 > >You seem to think you've gone beyond science, but you make no effort to
 > >demonstrate it. Do you truly understand the science that you think you
 > >are supplanting? Is there any reason I should accept no reasons as an
 > >argument?

I don't expect you to accept anything I write as an argument. That would be unreasonable of me. My understanding of the aspects of science that I find fault with is relative, of course, and subjective. It is important to my personal evolution, but is relevant to issues discussed in this list only to the extent that respondents make it.

 > >>First, I agree that reliable correlations are preferable, according to
 > >>residual value-driven expectations produced by my scientific education. < snip > I try to assess
 > >>what does actually happen instead. In other words, I apply the empirical
 > >>discovery approach to the subject. I have a (naive?) faith that I may learn
 > >>something new therefrom. As I seem to recall mentioning previously in
 > >>Exegesis, this stance of mine is a `controlled folly' a la Castenada.
 > >
 > >"Residual value-driven expectations" makes clear how opposed you are to
 > >science and logic. Yes, it is too bad astrological correlations aren't
 > >scientific. They'd be better if they were. But it's a reach to oppose
 > >empiricism and then describe yourself as empirically assessing "what does
 > >actually happen". You made the same claim in your assessment of your
 > >interpretation of the Exegesis chart, in [6:7]:
 > >
 > >>I test my personal understanding of astrological theory via application
 > >>to case study situations and appraisal of the extent of match between
 > >>theoretical prediction and reality. I call this the empirical approach
 > >>to learning how astrology works. The Exegesis launch reading is a
 > >>typical example.
 > >
 > >That launch reading, in [6:2], was a demonstration of how you believe
 > >astrology works, not an attempt to find out how it works. You had advance
 > >knowledge of the entity whose chart you were interpreting, having been a
 > >frequent contributor in the year or two prior to your interpretation.
 > >Knowing or at least having an informed opinion of the nature of Exegesis,
 > >and knowing what configurations were present at its launching, you simply
 > >described both Exegesis and the symbolism in such a way as to make them
 > >fit together. That process you referred to, and discounted, as "personal
 > >artistry" [6:7]:
 > >
 > >>Disregarding the element of personal artistry that weaves interpretation
 > >>into a literary composition, I'd like to point out that the result was
 > >>produced by use of the language of astrology (in a Rudhyarian sense).
 > >
 > >That element, which you suggest comes after the interpretion, is in my
 > >opinion practically the whole of it. Commenting on your interpretation in
 > >the same digest [6:2] in which you proffered it, you claim:
 > >
 > >>I try to do any case study interpretation purely as an exercise of
 > >>applied theory. Any correspondence between real life and what theory
 > >>suggests is better assessed after completion. This is an internal
 > >>discipline resulting from having been trained as a scientist. I'm well
 > >>aware that most astrologers force their interpretation to conform to
 > >>their prior knowledge, or expectation, of the subject of the case study.
 > >>That said, my rigour does sometimes lapse sufficiently to allow me to
 > >>note, during the interpretation, a correlation between the theoretical
 > >>feature predicted and what has actually happened.
 > >
 > >As if you were unaware of the nature of Exegesis, to which you had been
 > >regularly contributing, until after you finished your analysis. If you
 > >truly believe that, I have a bridge you might be interested in. The fact
 > >is, the lapse you refer to is not occasional but the norm, for you and
 > >all other symbolist astrologers. Getting the right answer when you know
 > >in advance what the right answer is, isn't what I mean by empiricism,
 > >nor is it a meaningful test of your interpretive principles.

Okay, a reasonable critique, but it misrepresents what I do. [Unintentionally, I suspect, and probably due to my own insufficient prior descriptions.] First, I must point out that I have always been aware of the inadequacies and flaws of my own astrological practice and theory. I have expected these to be exposed in this list. Interestingly, some of the main weaknesses have yet to be mentioned by others. Second, my application of astrology is performed to the accompaniment of the ever-present internal sceptic. Instances of significant chart features being contradicted by real life features of the chart subject are always noted, and often cited. If this has not become evident to readers, I assume it is because I have never chosen to present them to the list. Unlike Dale, I contribute to this list as an advocate of astrology - the astrology I know. Thirdly, the perception of right and wrong interpretation is subjective and simplistic. I suppose Dale really refers to the accuracy of the match between theory and reality, but the qualities are many and various in both those arenas. Valuable information is lost by pretending that colours are either black or white. Fourthly, I operate according to an internal discipline that is effectively the devil's advocate. I mean, I have an internal policeman demanding that I evaluate according to the sceptical values Dale espouses. Of course Dale will doubt this. The crux here is that internal selection procedures differ, reflecting subjective evaluations. The devil is in the details.

Further to the second point above; I'm open to discussing case studies that demonstrated the insufficiency of astrology as I know it, but have always felt the constraint that discussion of case studies has been explicitly ruled out by the Exegesis terms of reference.

 > >>>>I agree that a disciplined aproach to empirical discovery is long-overdue
 > >>>>in astrology. I agree that symbolism is used by astrologers instead.
 > >>>>I agree that qualitative correlations tend not to be predictable or
 > >>>>testable. I do not, in principle, agree that symbolism usage prevents
 > >>>>anyone being able to separate sense & nonsense. The rest of the human
 > >>>>race agrees with me on this point, since they keep using language to
 > >>>>communicate.
 > >>>
 > >>>Not always. For instance, I specifically identified symbolism as a
 > >>>special KIND of symbol usage - ie. not language per se - and you appeared
 > >>>to agree but then argued that because people use language to communicate
 > >>
 > >>Okay, I have just checked 7/91 and I see you did indeed, but without
 > >>explaining why you think the behaviour of astrologers is special. If you
 > >>think you have actually done that previously, obviously I still don't get
 > >>it.
 > >
 > >Yes, I have done it previously, but I'm willing to repeat myself. Here
 > >I'm quoting from a letter I wrote you almost exactly one Jupiter cycle ago.
 > >
 > >"A typical example of the way traditionalists use language is found in
 > >Noel Tyl's _The Horoscope as Identity_, in which Tyl delineates the
 > >chart - with Saturn opposite Neptune from the eleventh to the fifth
 > >house - of a man who commented that his sex life had tapered off
 > >normally during his mid-thirties. Taking the opening line from Grant
 > >Lewi's _Heaven Knows What_ description of Saturn square or opposite
 > >Neptune - "Ambition has a way of going to sleep on you" - and noting
 > >the fifth house connection with sex, Tyl exclaims excitedly, "Ambition
 > >_throughout the sex spectrum_ had fallen asleep [Tyl's emphasis]!"
 > >And with that clever play on words career ambition, which was what
 > >Lewi had in mind, becomes sex drive. . . .

Extremely loose reasoning on Tyl's part. I agree that this example serves your critique effectively, but mine also. I was never impressed by that style of astrology. It struck me as being empty of content.

 > >"A second example of traditional usage comes from a Dane Rudhyar
 > >criticism of the Equal House system, as quoted by Alexander Ruperti in
 > >the October 1977 edition of [The Mercury Hour]: "An ambiguous situation
 > >exists in such a system, because the meridian is no longer a line of
 > >reference. Consciousness is thus deprived of its 'verticality' - which
 > >means, of a basic spiritual and social dimension." Word games such as
 > >this are what I mean when I refer to "astrological symbolism"."

Well, I agree with Ruperti and Rudhyar as to the meaning of the vertical axis of the horoscope (meridian). Dunno why Dale sees a word-game here. Perhaps he thinks people do not have "a basic spiritual and social dimension". More likely he rejects that this is the meaning of the meridian, I suspect.

 > >In the preceding examples Tyl uses "ambition" metaphorically, Rudhyar does
 > >the same with "verticality". Tyl should have collected a set of people with
 > >Saturn conjunct Neptune, Rudhyar should have collected and systematically
 > >compared people with planets conjunct the MC. If he had OBSERVED that their
 > >spirituality differed depending which planet was on the MC, that would be
 > >evidence that the MC is in some way involved with spirituality. But coming
 > >to that conclusion by playing with words is backwards thinking. By taking

I agree with Dale here. Scientific learning preferably comes from observing a pattern of regular correlations, and deducing meaning therefrom. Astrological practice pretends to do so, without actually doing it.

 > >>I agree that symbolism is often misinterpreted due to its inherently large
 > >>subjective component. I can't see that astrologers are any different from
 > >>other humans in this respect however.
 > >
 > >Humans using language aren't usually using it to make claims about the
 > >natural world. Philosophers do, but are less concerned than scientists
 > >with observation and evidence. They are very concerned, however, with how
 > >they use words, even willing to go to great lengths to spell out what they
 > >mean when they use a particular word or phrase, while astrologers and
 > >occultists in general are systematically careless. Using wordplay rather
 > >than observational evidence to make a claim about the general nature of
 > >reality is characteristic of symbolism.

Yes, agreed. Dale, however, clearly doesn't want to acknowledge the extent to which symbolism pervades human communication because it weakens his argument.

 > >>>Yes, I am blaming the tool itself. Where you see rampant incompetence
 > >>>I see a SYSTEM which lacks falsifiability, the ability to differentiate
 > >>>between right answers and wrong ones, because in this system all answers
 > >>
 > >>Yes, the falsifiability point is one I've long recognised. Are you aware
 > >>that the theory of evolution "lacks falsifiability"?
 > >
 > >Not so. It explains certain facts. If those facts were different the
 > >theory would be impugned.

I have lost count of the number of times that the unfalsifiability of the theory of evolution has been noted by scientist-authors and science writers. I cited it merely as an indication of the extent to which Popper's doctrine of falsifiability has become unfashionable in recent decades. If Dale prefers to cling to Popper, that's his prerogative. Readers baffled by the term may be reassured if I interpret the issue as being whether you can prove evolution (or astrology) `wrong'. All those wishing to lose themselves in the never-never land of proof, please enter via this portal...

 > >>Denial of the evidence is an old trick of scientists. Rather than lose
 > >>their security blanket, they knee-jerk straight into denial.
 > >>< snip > some world-changing events do not have Uranus exact on
 > >>the MC. I suspect that no dramatic sudden shift in power relations applied
 > >>in those cases (WTC attack, for instance).
 > >
 > >Denial of the evidence is no trick if you make an effort, as I have, to
 > >explain what's wrong with the evidence, why it fails to make the case, why
 > >it doesn't constitute evidence after all. Changing the subject - "Denial
 > >of evidence is an old trick . . ." - rather than showing what's wrong with
 > >my argument is where the trick comes in.

Isn't it obvious? The evidence is the data. The events, the chart correlations. Naturally, I don't expect you to take my word for it, but the mere fact that you consistently failed to ask for the data so you could independently verify it reveals your ideological aversion to the reality that the correlations reveal/suggest.

 > >>Think it was Geoffrey Dean who wrote "There are lies, damn lies, and
 > >>symbols." Not sure what his problem was though. Symbols are not the
 > >>problem. Their misuse is. I don't consider myself a symbolistic
 > >>astrologer, because for me the symbol merely represents the archetype. The
 > >>symbol can evoke, or seem to trigger the activation of, the archetype in
 > >>the psyche, but so what? Merely a catalyst.
 > >
 > >Yes, the problem is the misuse of symbols, and symbolistic astrology is
 > >a particular kind of misuse. However, I define it not in terms of what the
 > >symbols represent but how they're used, and you use them the way Rudhyar
 > >did, the way Tyl does, the way practically everybody does. For you words

Wrong. You can't tell the difference. I hoped that my explanations would suffice to make it clear. Too bad they didn't.

 > >and images stand for something, archetypes, rather than being the pragmatic
 > >means of communicating repetitive functional relationships that you have
 > >observed.

No, words and images don't "stand for" the archetypes. They function as a conduit for the meanings of the archetypes. Each keyword partially conveys part of the whole meaning. Typically it will capture/describe a prominent feature/aspect of the archetype, or the way it manifests to our collective experience. Images can convey several features of an archetype, or suggest several ways it operates. They seem to typically encompass rather more of the archetype than keywords, which are more precise in conveying specific qualities.

An interesting alternative view of this issue is comprehensively advocated by the English astrologer Dennis Elwell in his book "Cosmic Loom: the new science of astrology" (1987). He uses Koestler's concept of the holon (rather than the archetype). At the time I found his thesis unpersuasive (despite always finding his writing profound and rewarding), but perhaps a reappraisal would be a good idea. Even better if someone else could add their views.



End of exegesis Digest V7 #110

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

Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996-2003 their respective authors.