Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #30

From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #29

Exegesis Digest Wed, 28 Apr 1999

Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1999 01:56:39 -0700
From: "William D. Tallman"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #29

Susan Archer said:

 > I am leaping in here, probably unwisely but here goes. I'm an astrologer
 > living in New Zealand and a member of the Panplanet list to which Andre
 > belongs. It was Andre who suggested I join this list which I am enjoying
 > enormously. I share Andre's strong interest in the astrology/science
 > interface and agree that astrologers need to do a lot more work to
 > understand and explain how astrology works. This may or may not be in
 > the terms of science but it's not a bad intellectual framework to start
 > with.

Welcome, Susan. Your contribution is well received, rest assured.

I recommend the framework of science because it is most appropriate for what I have in mind: a legitimate investigation of the physics of astrology.

 > Re: testing. Is it too simple just to take one astrological event, eg
 > Uranus crossing each of the angles of a natal chart, apply it to a large
 > number of accurately timed births and make a specific statement about
 > what is likely to happen and when? Working with several indicators at
 > once it's too easy to fudge results: "Oh well, of course timing was
 > going to be fuzzy with Neptune at a critical degree and Mercury
 > retrograde!" It's much harder to fudge when you're working with just one
 > factor. Progressed Sun crossing the Ascendant and MC, and Pluto
 > transiting conjunct the Sun are other events we could use. Astrologers
 > will disagree mightily about the selection of events - and everything
 > else - but the ones I've mentioned are high-impact, low-frequency
 > occurences that are clear-cut in time and hard to miss. And I'm assuming
 > that Andre would work out protocols, controls and double-blind whatsits
 > to make sure it's all properly done!

Your point is exactly that of the good Abbot. In practice, it means test the simplest idea first, and that means the one with the least variables. If you can develop a testable hypothesis that has just one variable *and* contributes something to the understanding of the matter at hand, then that is where one starts.

One of the ideas I had was to look into the idea of parans, where two planets are found at angles.. topocentrically, if I remember correctly. Well, at least one works with oblique ascension, etc, instead of Zodiacal degrees. This means that the physical phenomena of placement isn't just symbolic. It may be that this is altogether too frequent a configuration for any sense to be made of it, I don't know of the top of my head. But there, at least, one is working with a single configuration that can be fairly precisely defined.

 > Testing is the heart of the matter, isn't it? If we can prove &
 > repeatedly demonstrate that astrology really does work, then our
 > speculation about the astrological mechanism becomes a serious
 > investigation. Synchronicity has been my favoured runner but I don't
 > rule out some as-yet-undiscovered cause-and-effect mechanism. Or
 > something else altogether - like a god. That's because I'm not entirely
 > sure the Big Bang wasn't the splitting of a single atom in some other
 > super-cosmos.

Synchronicity is one of several types of linkages, as is cause and effect, although it lacks precision of meaning, I think. As far as the gods are concerned, that hoary chestnut has been a well-fed subterranean stream of speculation since the discoveries in Mesopotamia (Iraq?!) in the middle of the last century, and I must say there are some compelling arguments to be heard < grin > . If you want to take a rather wild ride guided by a respected cosmologist, read Frank Tipler's effort to reconcile science and religion... sorry, don't recall the name of the book. At one point, he states, and there is general agreement, so I understand, that the least refuted, if not best received, current theory in cosmology is the "many worlds" concept. While that doesn't specify the hierarchical format you imply, I don't think it refutes it either.

 > But that's a another story! I'm sorry this post doesn't match the
 > intellectual rigour of other contributions but I just had to wade in
 > with my current thoughts. Look forward to more good stuff from William,
 > Andre and co.
 > Kind regards,
 > Susan Archer

Your apologies are unnecessary and inappropriate, Susan. Simple and clearly stated opinions, such as yours, are often more substantive than those couched in formidable verbiage < grin > .

Ian Thurnwald says:

 > Hello Mr Tallman and others,
 > I have been following this list for some time. I wrote this respose about
 > two weeks ago but never posted it. On the one hand I find the ideas
 > expressed here of intellectual interest, on the other hand my experience
 > tells me that astrology works on some 'other' level. To be quite frank I
 > don't hold much hope that anyone will prove an astrological mechanism to
 > the satisfaction of the hard sciences anytime in my lifetime. Nonetheless,
 > I do have some basic ideas that others might want to run with, and, as the
 > discussion seems to be grinding to a halt I thought it was time to throw
 > some more suggestions into the ring. However, my original response rambles
 > around a bit and my style is rather imprecise so I think I'd better
 > summarise the main points here.

Welcome, Ian. Rest assured that your views will be taken seriously; form isn't as important as content, at least at this point, I think.

 > My position on "the search for the astrological meachanism" is:
 > 1. To convince scientists that astrology has validity one must show that
 > the geocentric model of planetary motion upon which it is founded has a
 > measurable effect on human behaviour. Since retrograde motion is a
 > fundamental feature of this model this is an obvious place to start.
 > 2. The easiest and cheapest way to objectively analyse any astrological
 > effect, like retrograde motion, is to find and utilise already extant data
 > sets which apply to that specific astrological effect.
 > 3. My suggestion is that retrograde Mercury periods could be studied in
 > relation to road accident statistics.

Okay... that seems to be a reasonable idea. I would really be interested in the results of such a study. If a clear correlation can be shown, then one can suspect that *something* is going on. But such a study has to be squeeky clean, impeccable, bright and shiny, and with a strong enough sample that... well, Andre makes these points. Gauquelin's work was said, at least by him, to have been shown to be impeccable. Even so, he was hounded to death, literally.

 > In reference to "the search for the astrological mechanism." Mr Tallman said
 > It is not enough to show that a thing may or may not work. It is the why
 > and how of a thing that is convincing, and that is true for astrology as
 > well. Until we can link the astrological effect to measurable phenomena,
 > science and the world at large will continue to refuse us any kind of
 > legitimacy.
 > < snip >
 > Well, I think we have to start somewhere and propose a few hypotheses about
 > fundamental astrological principles which are open to being tested
 > empirically. As I understand the methods of the social sciences it is a
 > valid technique to utilise statistical, or quantitative, data to support an
 > qualitative analysis, no? And I would suggest that the most convenient (and
 > cheapest) way to do this is to think of ways to employ already extant data
 > sets which might apply to the astrological effect we wish to test. (A
 > recently released book has done this for Sun signs utilising the databases
 > of insurance companies and so forth - those of you into statistical
 > analysis can check his methods and delve into the raw data included: "The
 > Astrology File: scientific proof of the link between star signs and human
 > behaviour" by Gunter Sachs, Orion Books.)

Mary Downing, are you out there listening? Mary? < He calls, hoping the echoes don't dwindle into silence... > Here is a suggestion right down your alley!!!

As I understand it, though, Sun signs are probably not the most powerful astrological indicators, and so I would be surprised to find any really compelling evidence, but then... Your point is imperative, however. Any such effort *must* be thoroughly vetted before a responsible group can support it. The question occurs to me: are we such a group? Can we be? If so, what would it take to become such a group? As I've said, surely the talent in the subscription list of Exegesis is enough to form such a group. The Exegesis Roundtable?

 > Personally I think it is a mistake to look at anything to do with natal
 > astrology if one's aim is to convince the scientific community of the
 > validity of astrology. My position is that astrology somehow measures, but
 > only partially, the impact of the 'galactic weather' on the Earth. As such,
 > I believe astrology has a more measurable effect at the mass level than at
 > the level of the small group or the individual. To restate the obvious,
 > astrology is founded on a geocentric model of planetary motion and what we
 > now know to be only the 'apparent' irregular motion of the planets 'around'
 > the Earth is basic to this model. After all, the Babylonians were concerned
 > about predicting the motion of the Gods/planets in the sky not just because
 > they followed a regular course against the backdrop of fixed stars, but
 > because their Gods/planets exhibited anomalies in their motion; because
 > they periodically slowed down, stopped and went backwards! (see Lee
 > Lehman's account of this in chapter 2 of "Classical astrology for Modern
 > Living").

Ah, you are taking an obviously unpopular, but a not unfounded, position: the first usage of astrology, as we understand it, was what we might call Mundane astrology. I would argue some of your points, however.

It is not at all clear that astrology was necessarily founded on a geocentric model. While we accept that Claudius Ptolemy created such a model, and that it (the Almagest) was the basis for many centuries of astrological practice, it has not been conclusively demonstrated that more ancient astrologers/astronomers were not aware of the nature of the solar system; in fact, there is some implication in the very early writings (pre-Assyrian, I believe) that they did indeed recognize that the system was heliocentric. As I understand it, not enough literature from that time survived that we really know what they did or did not understand.

The usual notion of the assignment of god-forms to natural phenomena as a matter of ignorance has some fairly good sized holes, I think. This is not the forum to discuss such matters, though. One of the arguments that *is* relevant, I think, is that those people were quite sophisticated in many more ways than the lay person might imagine. Their culture seems to have sprung into being fully developed, with no apparent ramp-up to the comprehension of matters and subjects that we would expect only a modern technological society to understand. Why, then, do we assume these people didn't understand that the system was heliocentric, (and why did they explicitly report the physical existence of the gods with the same matter of factness as they reported the details of their agriculture, trade, civil engineering, etc.) But, as I said, that is another (hoary old chestnut of a) subject.

 > The traditional astrological view is that retrograde planetary periods and
 > planetary stations have powerful and/or malefic effects on the Earth itself
 > and on the way people feel and act, but always in keeping with the symbolic
 > meaning attributed to the planet concerned. For instance, Mercury stations
 > and retrograde periods are said to coincide with glitches and breakdowns in
 > communications and transportation both personal and commercial. The
 > implication is that these glitches and breakdowns are usually caused by
 > human error or oversight. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this is so, and
 > when one takes notice of these periods there seem to be spectacular real
 > world accidents one can point to which fit the bill.(For example, during
 > this period of Mercury retrograde we have seen a couple of mass transit
 > accidents caused by vehicles (trucks) transporting commercial goods: the
 > Mont Blanc Tunnel accident of March 24 caused by a truck transporting
 > margarine and flour catching fire; and the Amtrak passanger train crash
 > near Chicago on March 15 allegedly caused by a truck hauling steel
 > attempting to run the rail crossing.)

As I said, at first appearance, this seems to be a workable effort. I think it is imperative to define very closely the nature of your expectations, and that probably means some amount of detailed elucidation. What would have to be shown in each case, following the usual MercuRetch period (like that? < grin > ) interpretation, is that each case was clearly founded on an error in communication that was the result of human malfunction, and not some random mechanical failure. If you do include such a random cause, then the premise must clearly state that the astrological mechanism does not require the intervention of sentience.. and there are probably other cautions that I'm not recognizing at the moment.

 > However, this is not the way to study if this effect applies, because
 > accidents occur throughout the year and one could probably find similar
 > accidents which reflect these Mercury ruled themes during Mercury direct
 > periods too. I suggest a way to test if this effect applies generally is to
 > utilise road accident statistics. Most cities where car use is prevalent
 > keep such statistics. Given the astrological notion of the retrograde
 > Mercury effect one would expect that minor accidents (i.e., those caused by
 > bad judgement or simple distraction like rear-end collisions) will peak
 > during retrograde Mercury periods.

Exactly the point. There are always accidents, unfortunately. It remains to demonstrate that Mercury retrograde periods contain more accidents such as you described.

 > Of course, in and of itself correlating gigabytes of crash data against
 > retrograde periods would be a fairly boring, if relatively straightforward,
 > exercise. But, should such a study show that this Mercury effect operates,
 > a benefit for astrologers would be to settle the issue of when the
 > retrograde effect comes into play and when it ends.

This might also imply that sentience is not necessary for the astrological function. So this might well be an important study!

 > I have no ideas about how one would go about verifying retrograde Venus and
 > Mars effects but I suspect a more qualitative (hence, more complicated and
 > expensive) methodology would need to be employed, perhaps involving focus
 > groups and questionnaires and the like.

Anyone else want to step in here?

 > As to the outer planets, my own observations of recent Pluto stations seem
 > to suggest that these are significant and that the signs themselves colour
 > their impact. It would be difficult to get any hard 'evidence' for this
 > but a first step may be literature searches of current affairs at the time
 > of the stations followed by analysis of the results to see what sort of
 > themes predominate. Then again, with Pluto we'd very soon run out of
 > accurate historical data to utilise. (Solar eclipses might also be studied
 > in this way. The research benefit here is that information would only need
 > to be gathered for the geographical regions where the eclipse was visible.)

The transSaturnian planets are of a different order. They all, as does Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, arrive at a station twice a year, in general. The problem is that their influence is not clear enough to be useful, I think.

 > To illustrate what I'm talking about, the past four Pluto stations in [snip interesting stuff]
 > side of a lab bench and rematerialisng on the other. Profound Pluto in
 > Sagittarius stuff, eh?

This is interesting data, but how can you use it? It is imperative that the results of the investigation be clearly predicted, and the work upon which those prediction rest must be a part of the (full) statement. This is fairly easy with the traditional planets, but the transSaturnians are too recent for there to have arisen enough tradition to be useful.

 > At the beginning of this discussion Mr Tallman posed the question of
 > whether the 'astrological mechanism' is dependent on sentience. I suppose
 > the logical implication of my very broad environmental view is that this
 > matters little, or at least that it would be extemely difficult to show
 > that the existence of the effect is somehow dependent on our recognition of
 > the effect. Badly stated, I know, but this area of the discussion is, I'm
 > afraid, beyond my ken.

Well, I don't think that this is, or would be, as difficult as you suppose. And I do think it is important to look at this, for if it is not, then we can infer that there is a physical effect at work here that we don't see at the moment. If it is required, then the matter is much more complex, and I think we need to have some inkling of which of these is true.

Janice and Dennis say:

 > As above, so below seems to encapsulate the premise of the astrological
 > belief system. Vehicle for transmission of ancient wisdom, embodying
 > consensual perception, cited by many for millennia; or a statement of
 > faith, a mere superstition?

Welcome, Janice and Dennis!

MIght I suggest that you make certain that you are posting in an ascii text format? Your posts will be much easier to read.

[snip lots of material I've saved to review...]

And at this point I discover that Dennis has posted a mini-dessertation, and I am not prepared at this time view or respond thereto. I just finished reading through it and find that I like some of his views, take issue with others, and suspect that we have seen and described certain matters from different perspectives, but have done so complementarily.

And I also have another book to read!!

Okay. Now we've got something going on here, and I can't tell you how edified I am to have received this edition. Can we keep it going without my having to continually prime the pump? I hope so!!!!

And then, Andre says:

[Lots of important technical stuff about statistics, etc....]

Ah.... bless you, sir; you have more than adequately demonstrated my suspicions that indeed there existed in this list subscription the necessary talent to do what can be done. I bow to your competency; you can bet I've saved this as well!!!

What has been posted in this edition should be the subject of some vigorous discussion. Dennis has provided a proverbial banquet; shall we all to the table go!!!



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