|Exegesis Volume 3 Issue #64
Exegesis Digest Thu, 03 Dec 1998
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 22:28:44 -0800
From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Another approach to astrology.
Much discussion of statistical techniques, methodology of studies, etc, inevitably arises when an investigation of astrology is seriously discussed. There is, as well, a representative protestation that astrology cannot be usefully investigated, only experienced. S the discussion continues.
My purpose on this list, and in discussions of astrology in general, is to get the point across that it is *not* astrology that we need to investigate. We know what astrology is: it is a construct that allows us to order certain physical information with the intent of applying meaning and significance thereto. That is all it is and all it ever has been. What we get, hopefully, when we use this construct is the ability to discern something of the nature of the reality it reflects; specifically, the ability to discern the meaning and significance of that reality as it may apply to us.
What we need to investigate is the phenomenon that this construct is intended to mirror, to model, to reflect. Until we can understand something of that phenomenon, we have little or no real hope of understanding the construct we have developed to make use of it. In general, statistical studies are able to show where direct investigation may be useful; in specific, statistical studies can serve to confirm or refute hypotheses, about the nature of the item of interest. For instance, Gauquelin, if his work can be trusted, showed that some aspects of traditional astrology are valid. It did not show why they were so.
So far as I have been able to discover, no studies of a statistical nature have been done that were not so filled with assumptions and suppositions that they weren't inherently either invalid or meaningless even in concept, much less execution. I think this is to be expected. We are looking in the wrong direction. Instead of looking at astrology, we need to discover what astrology represents.
I have elsewhere suggested a fundamental theorem of astrology that has been seen as radical and so somewhat less than well accepted. I state it here:
***There exists a mechanism by which certain terrestrial phenomena are made subject to influence by certain celestial configurations.***
What we don't understand is *anything* about that mechanism. We've no idea whether it is a matter of cause and effect, embedded microcosm, linked by common source, etc., or even if the mechanism exists such that we could presently understand it. I would suggest, however, that we have to assume that we can come to understand it, else our efforts are in vain. There would seem to be reason enough to make that assumption: we are involved in that mechanism; it does not lie totally outside of our universe, our environment, indeed, ourselves!
> From the standpoint of scientific investigation, we need to understand that it is this mechanism we seek if we are ever to be able to validate astrological practice. The fundamental purpose of science is to achieve deep understanding. On the most basic level, science searches for a principle common to the phenomena of interest. Ultimately, however, the end result sought is the mechanism itself. And that is what we must seek if we are to truly understand astrology, I suggest.
Lest we fail to understand my use of the term "mechanism", let me say that I use this in its conceptual sense. Here, mechanism is the fundamental process itself, the "what", leaving out the "who", "where", "when", or "why". Investigation of that process (the mechanism) allows us to discern the "how". The rest, in this case, is of subsequent interest, I suggest. I want it explicitly understood that I am not advocating a mechanistic approach to astrology; I seek to know why astrology exists in the first place.
Now, it's probably relevant to think about how we might discover that phenomenon, and the form in which it might present itself. We still don't know much more about the electromagnetic force than the set of equations formulated by Maxwell, but they tell us enough about that force to be able to use it exceedingly well, and they give us a sense of the parameters of that force as it is one of the four known forces in physics. What we will discover about the e-m force eventually is a matter of fascinating speculation, but what we know now thanks to Maxwell gives us enough deep understanding to satisfy the intent of science to that extent.
It may be that at some point the phenomenon astrology reflects will become visible as a set of equations... in fact, that's the likeliest probability, I think. Unfortunately, we will be too busy looking in the mirror to have the ability and inclination to look at the reality when that time comes.
Now, Rog expresses an interesting insight into astrology. His stance, apparently, is that astrology is primarily to be experienced; the modeling and structuring is a useful intellectual exercise but does not address the essence itself. I would assert that his view is fully valid. It does not, however, conflict with mine, I submit.
That we are a part of the astrological mechanism, in that the phenomenon functionally includes us, is a matter of apparency; I think we can accept that as a basic assumption. If this is true, then I would suggest that it is reasonable to expect that some people are directly aware of that function, as they are a part of it. It could well be that a close study of that awareness might yield some insights, and so I would recommend it as one avenue of investigation. We are not dealing with astrology here, we are dealing with a sensibility of the function of the mechanism itself; it is fortuitous that some of those who are sensible also possess the ability to use the astrological construct.
If we think about sensibility of the phenomenon itself as a function susceptible to internal experience, then we can easily imagine a range of sensitivity, bounded on one end by a virtual lack of any sensitivity and on the other to some degree of complete and detailed consciousness. We can imagine that range having a Gaussian distribution, such that the bounds are probably not represented at all. This would leave most of us with some sensitivity, more or less. And so all of us then can facilitate the astrological phenomenon as a part of the function thereof.
Interestingly enough, this might also serve to explain something of the popular views of astrology. We might postulate that there is some degree of sensitivity that serves to define the nature of any given sensibility. As the sensitivity increases, so then does awareness in some form. Below that line of demarcation, sensibility is a negative experience, because it isn't strong enough to supply any useful value. The stronger the sensitivity, however, the stronger the negative response, because the more conscious the awareness. Above that line of demarcation, we might suppose that the sensibility is a positive experience, because it is found to supply some useful value. Actually that line is probably a zone of some size, within which those levels of sensitivity are found to produce discernible angst about the subject in general. So we can conclude that the most vehemently negative views about astrology might actually be held by people whose level of sensitivity is only slightly below the levels of those who have reason to hold positive views. Speculation, of course, but interesting, I think.
In short, discussions of how to validate astrology have so far proved fruitless, and any attempt to understand astrology in its own terms will almost certainly also prove futile. Astrology, as we practice it, perhaps as it has always been practiced, is not real; it is an illusion, a reflection. It is a virtual image. I submit we are better advised to see how to seek the reality it reflects: the real image.
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 20:02:35 +0000
From: "Francis G. Kostella"
Subject: Lost! Sorry!
The following two messages seem to have been lost, and I've only found out now.
Some moderator, eh? Well, Mercury is retrograde....
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 17:05:13 +1300
From: Andre Donnell
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V3 #62
We are saying *roughly* the same thing about NHT (which does indeed have a long history of criticism), so on to more germane matters.
> In astrology it is not difficult to obtain much smaller
> probabilities of some relationship occurring by chance alone, but I feel
> these must be "corrected" for the lack of randomness of the planetary
> motions, i.e. for something like persistence that we see everywhere in
> nature --daily temperatures etc.
Last year I used a "brute force" method to make these corrections: I simply wrote a program that generated two charts each day for every day this century, and recorded the incidence of every astrological factor I use. The results were enlightening - such as the 30-50% probability (orb of 6-10) of any given chart having a TSquare.
Mark, you mentioned that you had "tried some statistical experiments in astrology" (V3 #60): would you care to outline in greater detail what you did and where you feel any weaknesses lay - other than the matter of accurate birthtimes ?
(1) I would settle for a "test" that produces an individual, unique result which has a better chance of being compared to a unique birth chart...:) (2) What happened to any attempt to appreciate individuality in psychometric land...:)?
It is very nice to read your very interesting posts once again.
In (1) you make a good point which leads me to a couple of thoughts: Psychometric testing is social. People are measured and rated according to where they stand in a population., i.e. average, somewhat exceptional, highly exceptional, and so on. A person may be "unique" in the sense that he/she is rare - but of course the basis of the measurement is something that everyone is supposed to have in common ! Thus, nothing truly unique is being measured - only the 'quantity' is unique (or not, as the case may be). So psychometric testing measures everyone in terms of how they are the same, and in the sense of something unprecedented, a "unique" result is of course beyond it.
In that sense, I fear that astrology too is (practiced as) a social knowledge, and so subject to the same limitation.
But to pursue the idea of 'unique' as uncommon rather than as unprecedented, psychometric tests *can* generate unique pictures, perhaps in a similar way to how some astrologers do it.
This occurs where the test rates the person on a number of dimensions, and these ratings need to be 'blended' by a skilled interpreter to be meaningful. The California Psychological Inventory, for example, looks quite a bit like a chart. It has 20 dimensions (from memory), and those which register as 'exceptional' for the particular person are those that can be blended to produce a picture of what aspects of that person may her/him "unique".
As for (2): well, I suspect that many of the developers/users of psychometric tests (of personality) were/are motivated by a wish to appreciate individuality. Perhaps for that reason most psychologists, motivated as we are by wishing to attain scientific credibility in the sense of repeatability (does that sound familiar ?), look down upon the idea of a 'something' that has been labelled personality, and the testing of it.
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 3 Issue 64
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