Exegesis Volume 3 Issue #15

From: "Joanna M. Ashmun"
Subject: #2 Practical matters: a challenge

From: "Joanna M. Ashmun"
Subject: Exegesis

From: "Joanna M. Ashmun"
Subject: #1 "Modern Astrology: A Critique"

Exegesis Digest Tue, 10 Feb 1998

Date: Sun, 8 Feb 98 14:21:42 -0800
From: "Joanna M. Ashmun"
To: exegesis
Subject: #2 Practical matters: a challenge

You have seen what Roger does with charts. I do something similar, though I explain it more simply than Rog's method. About 20 years ago, an older astrologer gave me the best advice I've ever had: study Paul Grell's "Keywords" and then listen, because people will tell you their charts. I found this very useful.

Then a few years later, while I was publishing (and writing most of) "The Seattle Astrologer," I did each issue on the theme of the sign/house/planet of the month, selecting articles by (!) keywords. This had the result of producing an astrological journal of higher than usual literary quality and also almost entirely without charts or astro jargon in it. Because I object to the tasteless speculation on the private lives of other people (witness the list discussions on President Clinton's recent misadventures), I required that contributors who talked about anybody else's chart had to furnish their own data for publication as well. In fact, almost everybody who contributed also furnished data. I found this interesting, because my main interest has always been synastry and elections, and there were obvious connections between astrologers' charts and the charts of people they chose to write about.

Additionally, I made myself stick to my own program, and to get in the mood of the month, practiced living whatever my natal pattern was. This was very interesting, too, as I hadn't previously been conscious of "doing," say, Aquarius on my 12H. (I'll note here that one of the standard objections to astrology is that it works by self-attribution. I think this is beside the point -- I couldn't do it if it wasn't in me as a potential.)

Anyhow, Rog and I recently worked together on an item I suggested. My daughter and I play around with charts and guessing charts, and spend a lot of time listening to her music in the car and diagnosing charts for the performers, so the items below are all recent topics with us. I'll warn you that we have a marked taste for the expression of messy, murky, mixed-up emotions. These come from four different artists, all singer-songwriters who've had pop hits in the '90s, though these quotes are not from their most popular songs. As a control, I don't know their data, except for the first; I want to see if other experienced astrologers will agree with us.

(1) "sunrise like a nosebleed" -- context is *still* being falling-down drunk at 6 a.m. [This is the one Rog and I worked on; he did it his way and I did it my way, and we agreed on which planets were emphasized.]

(2) "from slime to apes, we can learn to fly" -- this is cheerfully optimistic, not sarcastic, though it's in a song beginning, "I'm a member of the great white race at the arsehole end of the twentieth century."

(3) "I will not control myself: I'm not a vegetable" -- this is defiant; my daughter remarked, "He must be airy, since he sings that like he thinks not being a vegetable is the justification of all kinds of bad behavior."

(4) "At the things she asked at the end of the day, Caligula would have blushed. 'You stay in the house far too much,' she said, and I naturally fled."

So what do you think? What planets do you hear in these words?

I look forward to hearing from you.


Joanna M. Ashmun ICQ#4802655 http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/


Date: Sun, 8 Feb 98 18:45:52 -0800
From: "Joanna M. Ashmun"
To: John Reder
Subject: Exegesis

On Thu, 5 Feb 1998 22:07:28 -0500 (EST), you wrote:

 > You don't need to raise up a leader because he know how to do logarithms.

Thank you for saying this.

 > The study of astrology should be about passing on the ability to use it and
 > not proselytization of a philosophy. It is far more important to pass on
 > "HOW" it works instead of "WHY".
 > Which is something this list could do a bit more of. It's all
 > philosophy and no technique. A little more sharing of technical detail
 > would be far more instructive.

Yes. This list has been mostly an outlet for pompous bullshit artists, though actually they aren't very artistic. You motivated me to send two longish posts, one very long and one only sorta long, to the list -- so I'll be disappointed if you don't have something to say.



Joanna M. Ashmun ICQ#4802655 http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/


Date: Sun, 8 Feb 98 14:21:18 -0800
From: "Joanna M. Ashmun"
To: exegesis
Subject: #1 "Modern Astrology: A Critique"

The journal Psychological Reports (1997, 81, 1035-1066) published an article, "Modern Astrology: A Critique," by I. W. Kelly, University of Saskatchewan. As far as I can tell, this journal is not available on the Web.

Here's the abstract: "Summary. -- Astrology, as presently practiced (in either its traditional or psychological form), has no relevance to understanding ourselves or our place in the cosmos. Modern advocates of astrology cannot account for the underlying basis of astrological associations with terrestrial affairs, have no plausible explanation for its claims, and have not contributed anything of cognitive value to any field of the social sciences. Further, astrology does not have the theoretical or conceptual resources to resolve its own internal problems adequately or external anomalies or to adjudicate between conflicting astrological claims or systems."

Then there's this quote from Arthur Mather (1979): "The initial assumptions of scientists and astrologers were not so very different until quite recently. Some astrologers, however, fearing that science was catching up to them, have backtracked very rapidly, creating a smokescreen of symbolism, inner reality, holistic understanding." I will note here that this quote is from two years after the publication of Dean and Mather's "Recent Advances in Natal Astrology," which did have the very striking Plutonian effect of terrifying many research-oriented astrologers into thinking there was no hope for a scientific astrology.

The article has four full pages of bibliography and discusses the relevant literature since about 1970, earlier work by Michel Gauquelin, concluding with this sentence: "Astrology is part of our past, but astrologers have given no plausible reason why it should have a role in our future."

Ivan Kelly is an ed psych guy whose specialty is the psychology of belief. He is also a CSICOP guy. You can see his picture, biography and bibliography on the Web at: < http://www.usask.ca/education/program/edpsych/profs/kelly.htm > Over the past 10 years or so, Kelly and I have both served as referees for Geoffrey Dean on several papers, and he sent me this article at Geoffrey's suggestion, but Kelly and I have never been in direct contact before. Below is a copy of my letter to him after reading the article. He's a good sport, though I'm sorry I can't say as much for the others. (I will point out that I wasn't specific enough about Freud criticism. There has been a great deal of that in the past 20 years or so, but what I was thinking of was CSICOP and other skeptics, who are much harder on astrology than they are on other comparable pursuits.)

I will be interested in the thoughts of other list members. Please have a heart, though: I have worked closely with these guys for many years, and though we often disagree and have argued ferociously over this stuff, they have always been darlings to me personally, and it will get my back up and hurt my feelings if there is a *hint* of abuse of any of them.

I'm interested in the practical problems of astrology and am not terribly concerned with theory or philosophy. I'm sending a second post about that stuff.



 > Subject: Modern Astrology: A Critique
 > Sent: 03.02.98 3:10 PM
 > To: Ivan W. Kelly
 > Rudolf Smit
 > Arthur Mather
 > Geoffrey Dean
 > Nick Campion
 > Dear Ivan,
 > Thank you for sending me your very interesting article. It had the
 > welcome effect of clarifying my thinking a lot. Geoffrey thinks highly of
 > you, too, and you and I admire him, so we must be on the verge of a mutual
 > admiration society.
 > I'm sorry to have to say that I think that the article is
 > superficial, a lot of it is unfair, and some of it is so incomplete as to
 > flirt with dishonesty. I really wish it were otherwise, because it's
 > beautifully written and seamlessly constructed. A review of the
 > literature can't cover what hasn't been published, but a critical review
 > should point out work that hasn't been done yet. Astrology deserves to be
 > criticized, but there are good reasons not to be convinced by the
 > research. I've had one foot in each camp for a long time, and nothing I
 > have say here is going to warm anybody's heart.
 > I've hung around astrology for 25 years because I've wondered why the
 > experts weren't doing a better job on either side. It hasn't been an
 > edifying show. Astrology is not difficult to understand in a practical
 > way (though you won't find it explained in any astrology text or anything
 > written by Geoffrey Dean). It has intrigued me perennially that
 > astrology's critics don't dig deeply enough to locate the real problems,
 > but only splash around in the superficial silliness. Lawrence Jerome's
 > Astrology Disproved was appalling -- I wanted someone to tell me what goes
 > on and I was disappointed and offended by this book: he got the astrology
 > wrong, he got the thinking wrong, and he insulted astrologers gratuitously
 > since, as I said, he got the astrology wrong and he got the thinking
 > wrong. There's plenty to gripe about in astrology, but even astrologers
 > deserve to be criticized for their own errors. I had just given birth the
 > day before I first heard about RA, so for several years I was too busy to
 > get acquainted with it. Then in 1982 I read it, and I adored it, of
 > course, though it's always been most interesting to me as a sort of
 > symbolic novel, a picture of an interesting mind at work. Bear in mind,
 > though, that RA was written by an astrologer and that's how you have to
 > read it.
 > The basic notion of astrology is "as above, so below." It's been
 > elaborated to mean a lot of things, many of them goofy, but its basic
 > meaning is that the heavenly pattern is reflected in the individual, as if
 > the horoscope is somehow embedded in the person. It's just assumed that
 > there is an identity between the natal pattern and the person.
 > Astrologers don't consider the most basic question about astrology: how
 > do we know whose chart this is? The answer is: we don't know. Birth
 > records are not scientific evidence and, lacking an objective way of
 > establishing a person's age, and thus correct birth information, we can't
 > know that any particular horoscope goes with any particular person.
 > Astrology is founded on the assumption that the chart and the native go
 > together in a meaninful way, so it's not surprising that astrologers don't
 > question it. It's interesting, though, that many astrologers do have the
 > intuitive understanding that scientific research into astrology is beside
 > the point and that statistics is misapplied here.
 > The odd thing is that researchers also ignore the fundamental lack
 > of any objective test of who goes with what chart. This means that all
 > research involving natal horoscopes is ungrounded in objective fact;
 > research is just as speculative as what astrologers do. Both sides claim
 > to be doing science (!) and, when I'm most exasperated with the lot of
 > them, I think that what astrology is good for is playing "let's pretend
 > we're scientists." There's a critical shortage of critical thinking on
 > both sides. But everybody's serious, and a huge amount of work has gone
 > into playing scientists. Anybody who knows anything about how charts work
 > knows that they are effectively random. Considering the way charts work,
 > anything but random results must indicate either error or magic, so if
 > you're going to talk about magical thinking in astrology, you'd better
 > take a critical look at what the researchers have done, too.
 > An important part of most astrologers' belief is that astrology is a
 > science or used to be a science or will be a science in the Age of
 > Aquarius. Researchers also evidently believe that it's possible to do
 > science with astrology. I don't get it. Astrology is non-falsifiable
 > which doesn't mean not true but does mean not testable, and not testable
 > means you can't do science on it -- though you can do statistics, of
 > course. Geoffrey's done a fine job of explaining the deficiencies of
 > inferential methods -- to a point. Maybe next he'll turn to the logical
 > problems of inferential statistics.
 > The only facts in astrology -- and, thus, the only testable items --
 > are the birth data. For practical reasons, these are converted to
 > astrological notation in horoscopes. Competent astrologers can work
 > backwards to extract the birth data from information in the chart. A
 > chart either expresses the birth data correctly or it doesn't. This is
 > testable, but it's trivial. Things may have been different once, but as
 > astrology is practiced now, the horoscope is a just a tool, a key to open
 > up the vast body of interpretive lore. The meaning sought in astrology is
 > in the lore and the point is to get from the data to the interpretation.
 > Computers could do this without needing the bridge of the horoscope, but
 > such simplification isn't attractive to astrologers because it would make
 > it all too clear what is going on.
 > It's a cheap shot to ridicule astrologers for insisting that the
 > whole chart is required for interpretation and testing. There is a sound
 > astrological principle here. The whole chart is unique, whereas no
 > individual chart factor is unique. Granted a whole chart is too much to
 > think about at one time, so there's a practical problem here. But, based
 > on their principles (and they have principles), astrologers are right to
 > try. Critics would be more responsible to point out that uniqueness can
 > be preserved in less than the whole chart. For instance, you can derive
 > the complete birth data from this much (or this little): SA sign, JU
 > sign, MA sign, VE sign, MO sign, and the degrees of the angles. (This is
 > the same set that the Gauquelin work found significance for in 30 years'
 > hard labor; you can test its uniqueness with an ephemeris and table of
 > houses in 30 minutes.) Everything else in a horoscope is superfluous to
 > preserving the unique birth data.
 > As to philosophy and stuff, nobody writes about what's really going
 > on. Astrology in this century is pervaded by Theosophy and
 > Rosicrucianism, largely unacknowledged (and unrecognized by most
 > astrologers). Both these belief systems are occult and gnostic, by which
 > I mean they posit an invisible world that is more real than the sublunary
 > sphere of phenomena. Gnostic beliefs also hold that the material world
 > and material methods, such as science, are not merely wrong but that they
 > are evil; this is a serious problem in astrology. I regret that sometimes
 > astrologers have bad taste in religion and philosophy, but that's an
 > educational problem -- "I have no religion and I don't know what's what"
 > ("Zooropa," U2, 1993). Almost every day I bless the fact that I am just
 > old enough to have had an old-fashioned Lutheran education; I learned more
 > about critical thinking from the pastor who confirmed me than I ever heard
 > at the university or anywhere else.
 > It's another cheap shot to drag magical thinking into this. There
 > are other ways of understanding astrological symbolism (but too long a
 > story to go into here; I don't mean archetypes and mythology, etc.).
 > Geoffrey showed years ago in "Does Astrology Need to be True?" that people
 > think about astrology the same way they think about other things, a sort
 > of rough and ready inductive empiricism or intuitive science. That also
 > means that most people think about most things the same way they think
 > about astrology, which gives me pause, but astrologers don't do anything
 > special or unusual, and they know it. It's true that some astrologers are
 > also superstitious, also practice magick, and so on, but the vast majority
 > of astrologers are ordinary people with ordinary lives and educations. I
 > will point out here that the methods of reasoning and research employed by
 > astrologers are taught in university humanities courses and are not
 > objected to in other fields. This is the reason that astrologers ignore
 > research and developments in other relevant fields, and the reason that so
 > many feel there is a conspiracy against astrology. I don't think they're
 > paranoid. Critics are harder on astrology than they are on, say,
 > psychoanalysis, which is no more scientific -- and a lot more expensive.
 > Psychoanalysis had the inestimable benefit of Freud's writing, of course,
 > for which he was awarded the Goethe prize for literature (but, note, never
 > the Nobel prize for medicine). Astrology has had to make do with Dane
 > Rudhyar and more's the pity.
 > Astrologers do some good, and they do very little harm. They should
 > stop claiming that what they do is science. But researchers should also
 > stop claiming that what they do is science.
 > For the record, I am most familiar with astrology on the Internet,
 > and Glenn Perry, Charles Harvey, Nick Campion, and Geoffrey Dean have next
 > to no influence on North American astrologers (there are many fewer
 > British astrologers on the Net). Few astrologers on the mailing lists
 > could identify even one of those writers. I realize that your article was
 > written for psychologists, but they will get a very odd idea of
 > astrologers if all they know is what they read in journals.
 > Thank you again for sending me this interesting article. By the way,
 > the arctic explorer was Robert E. Peary.
 > Best regards,
 > Joanna Ashmun

Joanna M. Ashmun ICQ#4802655 http://www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/


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