|Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #14
Exegesis Digest Thu, 18 Feb 1999
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 01:22:22 +1300
From: Andre Donnell
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #13
> At this point, it appears that we have established a few insights that are
> of value, I think. The original question in this present thread, however,
> is still unanswered.
> What appears to be true:
> 1) There *is* an astrological "mechanism", a function, if you will, by
> which celestial configurations are linked to terrestrial phenomena.
> Although it would be easy to assume that this function is of a cause-effect
> nature, it seems prudent to avoid doing so. The reason we know that the
> function exists is because it is necessary to use an ephemeris to practice
> astrology, which means that a knowledge of the celestial configurations is
> primary to the process. If this were not true, then a random sort placement
> of the planets, etc. would serve dependably, and if the tradition of
> astrology has any validity at all, this is not the case.
Whilst I don't like to nitpick, I wonder whether the distinction concerning "cause-effect" is not merely semantic. We have, as yet, no compelling _explanations_ for the four forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong, and electroweak): merely _descriptions_ of highly dependable correlations. Essentially, once we discover such a correlation, and demonstrate that we can vary one part of the correlation by varying another part of it, we call the part we have manipulated the "cause", and the part that lay outside our immediate manipulation the "effect". That may be about as much as the distinction is worth (especially when one considers the symmetry of time in physics). So the distinction may be merely a convenience for locating where in the phenomenon human agency was able to play it's part.
So, essentially, if astrological correlation is convincingly demonstrated, it will be said that there is an "astrological force", and initially at least there will be attempts to locate it within existing forces, and if _that_ fails then a fifth "force" is what it will be called.
Nevertheless, I agree with the gist of this insight.
> 2) As a part of the terrestrial sphere, we ourselves are part of that
> function, at least to the extent that we can be aware of the influence of
> the effect, and especially if we magnify that effect in any way by our
> behavior, etc.
By "magnify" do you mean "demonstrate" ?
> Even if there is no awareness, it must be assumed that we
> are affected, and so should be able to discern, somehow, something of the
> experience thereof. Of most relevance to the bulk of the astrological
> community of practitioners is the probability that such awareness not only
> does exist, but can be enhanced and cultivated by astrological practice.
> The result is that, for very many people, it is the *experience* of the
> astrological effect that *is* the essence of astrology. Such an assumption
> appears to be a commonly held article of faith, and apparently not without
> solid basis. Rog has made a compelling case for this.
> 2a) It seems that most practitioners are satisfied to limit themselves to
> the astrological investigation of the human experience of the astrological
> effect, leaving it at least tacitly, if not explicitly, understood that they
> are not interested in pursuing more fundamental astrological issues. We are
> left with the impression that most practitioners, therefore, are content
> that astrology remain, at least in most common usage, a subset of
This _might_, of course, be it's proper domain. Certainly no physicist seems upset by the discovery that e.g. for particles with no charge the electromagnetic force does not exist. Thus, there is no reason why the mechanism could not be selective, and (your point 3 next) indeed be confined to "living" organisms.
I guess it depends on what you and I mean by "psychology". On one hand, I am fairly sure that psychology and astrology _overlap_ but are _not_ identical, thus I cannot accept the proposition that astrology "is a subset of psychology" (which I guess is what you are hinting at anyway). On the other hand, I would like to enlarge what we mean by psychology: "psychology" being merely a special (restricted) _human_ case of some more general level of "consciousness" operating behind all life. (I use "consciousness" merely to indicate some "hidden" level which might connect astrological influence with behaviour, without pretending to define what this means. Perhaps this is what you mean by "the more fundamental...issues"?. In the case of humans, I would be tempted to talk about the "cognitive" level. But in any case there is danger of reification here).
> 3) It is still not clear whether or not the presence of sentience (life?)
> is required for the astrological mechanism to function.
On the one hand, whether or not such a selective force as I hint at above exists or is possible, I can certainly conceive of models in which sentience is the primary requirement. I would further suggest that such a requirement would be commensurate with a view that 'life' is, at some level, essentially independent of causation as we normally understand it (ie, at the brute level where if the wind blows the apple is dislodged from the tree and, under gravity, falls). The existence of such a further level might be where, popularly, 'free will' would be located.
On the other hand, if the astrological mechanism (AM) does _not_ require sentience, then presumably the AM affects living and non-living things alike. If both are subject to the same "laws", then this would seem tantamount to life seeming to be "fated".
I prefer the first possibility, if only because the _character_ of sentience as it appears to be in human experience suggests it is possible. (The constructionist account of human behaviour - which is gaining increasing acceptance - _depends_, I suggest, on sentience having some real influence, rather than being merely epiphenomenal).
> Historically, astrology has yielded to science in the effort to discover
> what the astrological mechanism(s) might be. The function of the Moon in
> the affairs of earth are well understood in large part, primarily as a
> result of the discernment of the existence of the gravitational effect. The
> function of the Sun is understood as well, primarily as a result of both
> gravity and EM (radiation=heat). As these discoveries occur, they are
> wrested from the realm of astrology and placed within the body of science;
> the reasons for this are of central concern to astrology and astrologers. I
> suggest that a rigorous interpretation of the word astrology mandates the
> inclusion of *all* such effects, whether or not they are understood by
> science. Astronomy concerns itself with the stars (and planets) in their
> own right, and should not have oversight of how they affect the earth, which
> is the concern of astrology.
I get from this that it matters if in so wresting the domain from astrology, science "throws out the baby with the bathwater". On the other hand, if science does the job astrologers will not, well...too bad.
> I suggest that the question I have put is at or close to the center of this
> issue, and as such, should be of a nature that can be addressed by science
> on behalf of astrology. If it can be determined that the astrological
> construct can derive significance concerning phenomena involving
> *non*organic matter on earth, we can begin to suppose that astrology has obj
> ective existence apart from the empowerment we tender the astrological
> construct itself; we can contemplate the proposition that we did *not*
> invent astrology (and the mechanisms thereof) but did in fact discover it's
> existence and develop a means of gaining insight into its significance in
> our lives.
Well, this suggests something different to what I thought you were getting at in 2a) and 3). I return to the point that I don't see any _necessity_ that the AM include "non-organic matter" in order to have "objective existence". Perhaps this is merely a semantic difficulty, but I'm sure that if repeatable correlations between organic behaviour (properly operationalised to meet reasonable standards of objectivity) and planetary positions (no problem about objectivity here) are demonstrated, then the AM will be considered objective.
Parenthetically, perhaps we discovered _and_ invented astrology. So much of it seems to bear the stamp of culture and of different forms of rationality. Perhaps we discovered, long ago, some valid kernel and have since heavily embroidered it.
> If this can be done, then we can begin to use good science in the
> investigation of the nature of astrology. We can use data the can be
> demonstrated repeatedly as matters of fact to search for insights that can
> yield testable hypotheses, and at that point, we can argue on solid ground
> that we must be accepted as appropriate for scientific consideration. When
> we can do that, we can look the rest of the world in the eye and say:
> "Yeah, we *don't* know, but we *are* working on it!" And we can command the
> respect of the general public as a result.
> And, of course, there's one other thing that, as far as I'm concerned, is of
> profound importance: we *may* finally begin to have some sense of when we
> do and when we do not know what the hell we're talking about!!!
> So again I ask: does astrology require life (indeed, does it require human
> life), or can it be discerned in the absence thereof? Mary Downing has
> asserted that it does not. Most others either disagree or consider the
> question of little concern. Is there *anyone* out there who is willing to
> step forward and look at this with me. Is there anyone who can see why the
> question has value?
Whilst my contributions to this list are modest, I hope that this one at least will help matters along.
> Are we to allow astrology as a fundamental concept to disappear, absorbed by
> a recently developed subdiscipline of medicine? Are we ready to acknowledge
> that astrology has no inherent and objective validity in its own right, that
> it is totally subsumed in a particular usage? It would seem so!! If this
> is the case, then why don't we rename this practice astropsychology, or some
Well, such seems to be the modern trend! Perhaps it is too late. On the other hand, if some bandwagon better than psychology appears, it will surely take over.
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 02:12:58 +1300
From: Andre Donnell
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #12
> Temporal templates embedded heirarchically, according to size, perhaps.
> That there is not an orderly fit is what makes it work, I think: there are
> no convenient harmonics, such that some small number of faster cycles are
> found to fit exactly within a larger cycle. What would be fascinating would
> be to find that one or another of those "fits" produces an irrational
> number, like pi, etc..
A very good point. Presumably, such harmonics might cancel, although that would leave _one_ of the cycles as the effective one for each harmonic group. I suggest that there is a principle of cognitive orientation that favours the longer cycle.
Otherwise, the effective (independent) cycles are all those that are completely distinct: no harmonic inter-relationships.
> Here, you have also touched on the original question I asked months ago:
> does the "astrological effect" require life? I think the answer to that
> question is fundamental to any effort to discover the mechanism(s) thereof.
Agreed. See my other post of tonight.
> < snip >
> When it comes down to it, the issue is whether one can discern and
> accomodate this deeper thread. To do so is to find the Tao, etc. Among
> many other tools, astrology provides a means to do this, but it must be
> lived, not just studied or practiced, and this is the principal argument of
> those who would have astrology be simply as subset of psychology. And here
> we find the crux of the argument between fate and free will.
I commented on fate and free will in my other post, though I am sure I was speaking of it in a different sense.
I am not sure what kind of psychology those who see astrology as a subset of it are thinking of.
> As William states, fleeting and irregular events such as the 'presence' of
> doctor may well influence life but could not provide any basis for
> regulating or
> timing ongoing processes. Cycles that are more or less *eternally* present
> necessary. The planets in our solar system may happen to perform this
> This is the popular assumption. As I have said, cause and effect is not the
> only type of mechanism that is possible; the involvement of the planets *is*
> the basic tenet of astrology, however.
Well, I suspect that what I mean and "popular assumption" may be different things. It seems rather trite to say that astrology involves cycles, a bit like saying that motoring involves wheels or running involves feet. Yet there is another way of looking at it (or am I mistaken?) that, admittedly granted a few assumptions, makes the significance of cycles rather fundamental and almost inevitable, without involving cause and effect per se. (If by cause and effect you mean some kind of mechanical action). I see it as akin to the thought experiments of Einstein (following Machian principles) concerning the meaning of simultaneity in terms of observers and clocks, and hence his revolutionary view of time that led to special relativity. My own particular thought experiment also concerns an observer suspended in empty space, and a single event that the observer is able to be conscious of in some way (let's say that a light turns on and then off). Take a moment to imagine this situation, and then answer the question: how would the observer be able to say (measure) 'how long was the light on?'.
I submit that the observer would have no way of answering this question, not even in such subjective terms as "briefly" or "for a long time". The observer would be unable to tell the difference between a "microsecond" and a "millenium". (If you like, you can also put this in terms of distance. There is an object (just one) visible to the observer. Can the observer tell whether it is close (and relatively small) or extremely distant (and huge)?
However, add a second event, which occurs within the duration of the first event (ie, it is shorter than the first). Although there is still no absolute answer, there is now I submit a sense of dimension, or perspective. The second event is framed by the first. It is now meaningful to speak of longer and shorter periods of time. Time begins to take form.
Now bring the thought experiment 'down to earth' by adding hundreds or thousand of events, both overlapping and enveloping each other. We now have a convincing illusion of time as something real and meaningful, or useable. But note that the events of longest duration have a special status, for they frame (or organise) all those that are shorter. Note also that whereas in physics it is convenient to use the shortest possible quantities as fundamental units, as far as "conscious" experience (the observer) is concerned the fundamental quantities are actually the longer or longest units.
If this thought experiment is accepted as I have framed it, then _any_ longer (and reliable) cycles within our experience _of which we are reliably and continuously aware_ will provide this framing or organising function. I submit that the planetary cycles are examples of such cycles - but it depends on our _being reliably aware of them_. So long as we _are_ aware of them, then _that_ is the only "causation" required. I submit that this organising function has _profound_ influence over our behaviour and responses. And this, I submit, _is_ the astrological mechanism, and it's "influence" upon behaviour.
> If there is not some as yet undiscovered force at work, a gravitational
> mechanism such as William speculates may be plausible. The question then
> whether the hypothetical mechanism by which we sense the gravitational
> is direct (which suggests some *highly* sensitive, inbuilt biological
> or indirect (which suggests the Earth itself and it's environment is the
> and we in turn pick up these rhythms through our immersion in this same
> I would suggest that both modes are active, that we sense directly as well
> as indirectly through the response of the planet. In fact, it may be that
> the annual cycle is indirect and the diurnal is direct. There is said to
> be some good science that supports this.
> The direct case I imagine might be rather easy to test in the
> laboratory (at some inconvenience to participants !), because all we need
> to do
> is to arrange a (hidden) gravitational oscillation over some cycle
> those we already know; the second case more difficult because it depends on
> hypothesising what senses we use to detect these *particular* rhythms in
> environment. An isolation chamber perhaps?
> I don't think this is a fruitful direction, as it does not take into account
> how the gravitational field(s) affect the EM fields (of the earth).
Indeed. The idea as first formulated is fairly simplistic. But I get the impression from my colleagues and from my own efforts that this is exactly how research ideas always start, and are progressively refined until they become something useful through dialogue. Then the experiment begins.
> It may actually be useful to reread some of Gauquelin's work in this regard,
> as he actively searched for good science supporting the presence of some
> "astrological mechanism". Citation:
> Translation in English. Michel Gauquelin: "The Scientific Basis of
> Astrology", Stein & Day, NY, 1969, Saunders of Toronto. Ltd, CA, 1969.
> LoCCC# 68-31679.
> Anyone who has a copy like to reread it and contribute here?
I have the book, and absent anyone else bothering to do so I will endeavour to reread it at some future date - once I have satisfied my supervisor that I have done the reading _he_ requires ;-).
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 14
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