|Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #42
Exegesis Digest Tue, 01 Jun 1999
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 00:33:16 -0400
From: "Cynthia D'Errico Clostre"
Subject: Re: Hearts, Minds, & Jellybeans
Gee, Roger, just because we can't (yet) find a convincing basis for=20
examining astrology "physically" doesn't mean a possible answer is not ou=
there. Anything derived from consciousness is manufactured in our heads,
hearts, and hands. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. I'm just=
average person, too, and what I want to know is: where do I fit, in the
scheme of things, as an astrologer, and what is it I do when I practise
Astrology and practise it well--and practise it well so consistently?
Psychology, remember, had a disruptive agenda when it first appeared =
the scene and then lapsed into yet another socio-political mechanism
promoting conformism, "good mental health", and all that. (Help me out
here, Andr=E9!) Freudian psychology, originally, was descriptive, not
prescriptive. The psychological model of our era is just a baby and very
little related to the origins of psychology as a nascent discipline.
Astrology appears to have the inherent ability to do both: describe A=
prescribe. Doesn't that pique your interest the least little bit? Residi=
in the selfsame discourse or symbolist arena is this anomalous concatenat=
of history, myth, legend, mathematics, astronomy, psychology, omen-readin=
and, God knows, a little wart of toad!
Don't you find that curious?...and troubling, persisting as it
(Astrology) does, this deathless thing, in an age so advanced that I can
email you this in a nano-second, virtually on a thought-wave. A UFO "thi=
homesteading somewhere in the fissures of a culture so scientifically
anal-retentive that it no longer recognizes its own imperialist, rapaciou=
praxis (action). (Okay, Bill said I should dumb my language down, so I a=
trying to, and Dennis is reserving judgement until I admit that I'm a
It reminds me of a story (yawn) Glenda Jackson once told of Laurence
Olivier. Performing his umpteenth Macbeth on the London stage, he happen=
to have given a magnificent performance this one particular night.
Immediately after the curtain fell, he ran to his dressing room and locke=
the door. Everyone clamoured at his dressing-room door, singing his
praises...'never was such a wonderful performanc seen' etc. He refused t=
open the door to anyone. Finally, Glenda cajoled her way in, and said:
"Whatever's the matter? You have singlehandedly redefined the way Macbet=
will be played in future!" Olivier, holding his head in his hands and
nearly tearing out his hair, responded in a hoarse cry: "Yes...but I DON=
KNOW WHY this performance was so wonderful, and if I don't know what made=
so wonderful and unique, how can I ever reproduce it?"
That's how I feel about Astrology. I want to know how it works and W=
it works! It can't just be hit-and-miss, because hit-and-miss is gamblin=
sheer luck, unclassifiable, uncodifiable, that little bit of chaos. See w=
I mean, jellybean?
> From: Metalog
> To: exegesis
> Subject: Exegesis Digest V4 #40
> Date: Thu, May 27, 1999, 4:37 PM
> Exegesis Digest Thu, 27 May 1999 Volume 4 Issue 40
> From: "Roger L. Satterlee"
> Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #39
> Date: Tue, 25 May 1999 15:15:06 -0400
> From: "Roger L. Satterlee"
> To: Exegesis
> Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #39
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Metalog
> To: exegesis
> Date: Tuesday, May 25, 1999 7:39 AM
> Subject: Exegesis Digest V4 #39
> Dale wrote:
> < snip >
> "[..]If Saturn
> and the Moon can be seen conjoined on the horizon, is Saturn really
> almost 20 degrees further from the Asc (or Dsc) than the Moon, or is
> there a flaw in the logic that implies that it should be?
> I have never been able to find any convincing argument for a mechan= ical
> model of astrological "influence". Granted I'm just an average person,= not at
> all an academic one, but every bit of questioning leads to physical non= sense
> and a much more intriguing psychological model for the existence of ast= rology.
> Yes, I mean astrology is truly all in our head, heart, and hands...a ve= ry
> human creation.
> End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 40
> For information on how to subscribe and unsubscribe, etc.,
> send a message to: listserver and in the body
> of the message type the word: help
> This list is archived at:
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 1999 11:14:57 +1200 (NZST)
From: Andre Donnell
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #40
Dale - nice to see you writing. Dennis, Bill, and Cynthia - I wish I had the time to reply to some of your recent posts. This one will have to do instead...(BTW, Cynthia I thought your two last posts were excellent. Near the bottom of this one is an indirect comment on your language post, about astrology acquiring other discourses. Dennis, this only very slightly and indirectly addresses some of what you wrote, except for one point which I comment on at the end).
BTW Dale - yes, I think you are right. I tried to elucidate the meaning of those statements in my last post, but of course the gremlin got it and nibbled it into incomprehensibility. It was probably incomprehensible anyway ;-). The key point though was whether the postulated astrological 'mechanism' propagates instantaneously or at the speed or light, and Gauquelin's research *does* support the latter idea, or in other words just exactly what you wrote. =========================================== Rog wrote:
I have never been able to find any convincing argument for a mechanical
model of astrological "influence". Granted I'm just an average person, not at
all an academic one, but every bit of questioning leads to physical nonsense
and a much more intriguing psychological model for the existence of astrology.
Yes, I mean astrology is truly all in our head, heart, and hands...a very
I would like to use this as a jumping off point for a brief discussion of the philosophy of science that Bill has suggested. I'm not claiming I will do a good job. Others here - such as Dale or Joanna Ashmun can say much more. This is just a way of getting things started.
Dennis hauled me up recently for a "Freudian slip" when I wrote "the paradigm of science". It was certainly a slip Dennis, but not a Freudian one! Psychology is in interesting times at present because it is in the process of recovering from its decades long obsession with 'hard science' or positivism. It has recently (in the last 10-15 years) found itself able to embrace once again at least three distinct knowledge paradigms: positivism, which is what Rog is criticising; critical theory; and the constructivist or interpretivist paradigm. In so doing, incidentally, it is partly rejoining other social sciences such as sociology and social anthropology.
I suggest that the first and third of these are most relevant to our immediate purposes. I suspect Cynthia might enlighten us further about critical theory, but positivism and constructivism will nicely illustrate two different approaches to research, and two broadly different interpretations of astrology.
Positivism is essentially what I think Dennis called the Newtonian paradigm, or what Rog just called a mechanical model. The nature of reality is regarded as independent of consciousness, as 'external', (loosely) 'material', and objective. Because it is "out there", it can be studied independently of the inquirer. Thus, different observers should arrive at the same conclusions, and it contains general and immutable laws which operate independently of our ability to do anything about them - except to the extent that we study, understand, and harness them toward our own purposes. One might say that the rise of technology (interpreted in its broadest sense., i.e., in terms of tools such as many organisms utilise) is intertwined with the story of the struggle for survival. The features of predictability and control have been major hallmarks of it, right up to the present. One could note that astrology appears to have been preoccupied with both those features throughout at least its recent history. One could also note that a fair strand of positivist thinking - quite independent of scientific enterprise - exists within occult and some mystical thinking., to wit, that there is a single, unified reality with which we can harmonise or attain peace by knowing it properly. Further, it is worth noting that relativity, quantum mechanics, and recently chaos theory shook up these ideas in various ways. Quantum mechanics introduced probability (or probability-like) notions, and chaos theory banished the idea that we can predict many outcomes with confidence, *even if they are fully objective and deterministic in nature* (e.g., the 'sensitivity to initial conditions' of many simple but nevertheless non-linear equations).
The constructivist view has been touched on by Dennis recently. Reality is essentially subjective, and "truth" is a construction which is located within our experience (historically, culturally, experientially). Thus, there are as many realities as there are people. Whether or not there is a singular, pervasive reality of the kind potulated by positivism, there is no-one who occupies the privileged position of being able to know it anyway. (If anyone *should* happen to occupy such a position, they could not demonstrate it with certainty to anyone else, as it will be perceived or 'constructed' differently by everyone else anyway). Instead, our varying views of reality may compete, not only at individual levels, but also at wider levels such as the group. In principle, truth *could* exist privately (although the possibility of private experience is moot), but in any explicit sense it necessarily exists in the form of consensus between numbers of individuals. Naturally, certain conditions are necessary for this to happen - such as their immersion or "location" within a reasonably common culture and epoch. The type of inquiry or research sanctioned within this paradigm recognises the notion that the researcher is *part of* the reality he or she seeks to understand - always a participant, never just an observer. Moreover, research "truth" - if such arises - is always ultimately negotiable and contestable, i.e. consensual.
It is also important to point out that positivism is reductionistic. The general and unchanging laws it postulates underly the 'mess' of superficial appearance, and can only be explored by carefully screening out irrelevant factors from those few that pertain to the law being investigated. Hence in psychology for example much is made of careful experimental design and the control and isolation afforded by the laboratory. A simile for this is that it is like mining for precious metal - although another that may be more fruitful is the notion that the carefully constructed experimental context also constructs the findings!
In contrast constructivism is holistic and idiographic (descriptive). Excluding 99.9% of reality is silly at best: the "meaning" of experience lies in the TOTALITY of it, not in just a few particular features. Thus, the quality of an event is not determined by just one facet of it (e.g. a single chance remark, or a single transit) as law-like or causal explanations might have it, even though we generally talk as if it does ("I was having such a good day until he said *that* to me"). Jung articulated this in his synchronistic notion. Unlike the postivist notion that events are produced by laws and therefore are repeatable (e.g., repeatable rocket launchings; repeatable experiments), all moments are unique and *nothing* repeats itself.
I believe Rog has offered many compelling examples of the holistic process and perspective, and Dennis has also touched on it in part when he mentions "right brain" and "lateral" processes of thinking.
It is possible, but probably wrong, to characterise the two views in
terms of a polarity between an external and an internal reality. As it
happens, positivism can lead to a constructivist notion of sorts (e.g.,
relativity. Also, my supervisor reached constructivist views from
behaviourism!). Even if one insists on a singular reality in principle,
if one determines that it cannot however be perfectly "known" (somewhat
like Plato and shadows of the forms), then reality becomes an amalgalm
with both positivistic (predictable, controllable) and constructivist
(subjective, negotiable) features. Nevertheless, strong forms of
constructivism will rightly point out that if the singular reality cannot
be perfectly known, then there is no proof of its existence!
However, I believe I can state the following things: it is valid to speak of science as a *social enterprise*. It consists of groups of people who construct consensus truth, and (usually unwittingly) suppress other possible truths or constructions. It is paradigmatic., i.e., what seems credible and what does not is dictated historically and culturally. (Indeed, cognitive psychology provides plenty of evidence for this, in terms of 'cognitive schema' through which we perceive, evaluate, and interpret the world. Thus positivist and experimental science critiques itself!).
But science is also empirical. It does not merely *talk* about things (build theory): it also experiments, observes, and tests, to ascertain whether things are *really* as they are thought to be (tests theory). This is the interface within which (Kuhn) historical breakdowns occur when a mass of evidence accumulates against a theory and finally all attempts to patch it fail. Such periods are ripe opportunity for the 'paradigm' shift.
There is clear evidence of these paradigm shifts within the history of
science. Hence, science now generally considers itself a TENTATIVE
enterprise. The notion that we can ever discover the ultimate nature of
reality - although it is still entertained within large parts of Physics
- is essentially no longer held as self-evident. What we have instead is
an unending fact-finding enterprise. Any theory, no matter how
successful, may eventually be refuted. Newton's theory of gravitation
was highly successful in terrestrial and local-space terms (the
trajectory of cannon balls could be predicted, and the orbits of the
planets satisfactorily computed); but it was undone by a number of
subtle flaws which were anticipated by the *radically* different theory
of Einstein which it appears is able to be successfully applied to
prediction and exploration within the 'visible' universe.
Thus, Dennis is quite right of course. There is no "the" in front of scientific paradigm! And in particular, it has created the possibility of research that employs methods and tools that were once considered contradictory. At present, for example, I am replicating classic "reductionistic" experiments in "group polarisation" which use quantitative measures and analyses as well as experimental control, but combined with discourse analytic methods which are constructivist and holistic in their origin and practice.
So it seems appropriate at this point to mention a little of the pragmatism of William James. Parallelling the notion of all discovery as tentative, and that no final truth is possible, pragmatism is quite happy with the notion of using as many different paradigms, perspectives or theories as are fruitful. If they "work", in whatever way one cares to interpret that (insightful and meaningful for constructivists I suppose, revealing laws for positivists), then they are worth using.
The lesson for us - and I think Bill illustrates this approach quite admirably - is that we don't *have* to reach a consensus philosophy or theory before we begin work. We can, singly or collectively, work with the most absurdly contradictory theories if we are able, and still achieve things. In fact, this is a fairly good operating procedure in any enquiry, anyway. I mention this because I think we sometimes (and I have been guilty of this) spend too much time trying to persuade each other to a single (our own) view, and consider that we have made no progress when we fail to do that. In fact, it is better to be the master than the slave of our (collective) ideas. Allow them all a say, then they can inform and illuminate our work as their turn comes due. ============================== I think these views have useful implications for astrology, and I shall try to be succinct here.
If we take a positivist view of astrology, then the situation is roughly this. We assert that there is an unknown mechanism, by which certain repeatable effects are observable in the behaviour of persons, and possibly entities other than persons (nations, weather, volcanoes etc). These effects are 'lawlike' in the sense that we can reduce their 'cause' to the motions of the planets. When Saturn transits some person's (in fact, millions of people's) Venus, there are certain effects (or a general class of effects) that ensue. Hence, we have reductionism, empiricism, and predictability neatly wrapped up together. My attempt to outline a design for Dennis's Uranus-type events is an example of the type of (positivistic) research that would be carried out.
Incidentally, the postulated "mechanism" is of more than academic
interest. It's nature determines the "size" of the astrological
effect. Is it a compulsion, or a tendency? (For comparison, there are
no compulsive influences that I can think of offhand in psychology, only
tendencies). Does it operate at a "deep" level of the entity - in which
case the behaviours that eventually emerge will have acquired complex
overlays and tonalities which make it difficult to recognise? Or does
it operate at a "shallow" level, hence emerging in an easily recognised
form almost every time? How does the mechanism interact with other
mechanisms from other sources? For example, does a social or cultural
context with limited options create greater astrological predictability
(or, apparently, fatalism)? That is, were astrologers of the (distant)
past able to predict things more successfully than is even remotely
possible in those societies of today which are privileged with endless
choice? (This question is confounded, incidentally, with the 'compulsion
or tendency' question. If the astrological mechanism is compulsive,
then astrologically generated behaviours are independent of the society
or the historical epoch - implying that generally speaking what people
do and are today should not be radically different from what we have
As I dimly remember it, Jung's idea of synchronicity was firstly the recognition that coincidence happens, but then further than *some* coincidence are "meaningful". They acquire their meaning from the total context, and they are *meaningful* to the particular person at that particular moment. In constructivist terms, there is no need to reductionistically analyse this and say "show me the repeatability". Sometimes I listen to a Beethoven String Quartet and I am transported. At other times I am not. That is just reality. Sometimes Venus transits my Saturn and something amazing happens (e.g., I rediscover Beethoven). Sometimes I do not. That is just reality too. In each moment, there is far more going on than we are aware of, or can ever be aware of. Astrology is part of that context, so it is part of meaning, and that is just that.
And, astrology is NOT predictive. We constructed it (in varying forms, mark you, as varied as our cultures and races) long ago in our past. It is part of our history, our stories, our reality; and, supposing our future society permits it, it shall remain part of our future too.
And in this case, there are no questions about mechanism to ask. Rather, fruitful forms of astrological enquiry are: what new stories can we add to it that resolve our doubts and dilemmas and increase the meaningfulness of our lives? What new "theories" contribute to this? What other stories and discourses (e.g. psychology, philosophy, etc.) can we borrow from to bring about this enrichment? =============================== I have slanted the two portraits above to lead toward things that I think astrologers actually do. We *do* generally talk of astrology as a "tendency" not a "compulsion"; and we are extremely fuzzy about the effects of a given transit. So two of the questions about the nature of its mechanism are (possibly) answered already, and so we have a slightly better idea of what *sort* of mechanism to look for.
On the other hand, that very fuzziness sits perfectly well with the constructionist perspective too. It is my experience at least that we *construct* stories *with* our clients. They are not (generally) passive recipients of some sort of received wisdom; rather they actively participate in and negotiate the nature of what they are told.
Moreover, as astrologers we have been actively importing other
discourses into astrology for some time - doubtless from the very
beginning in fact. Jungian analytical psychology was a big influence
thanks to Rudhyar and Greene; William James through Jones; and
among those assembled here more recently there is Physics thanks to
Dennis; developmental psychology thanks to Dale; and I am quite sure
personally that it is possible to bring facets of social and discursive
psychology to astrology (and vice versa). So what is the language of
astrology? Perhaps it is, and can only be, the language of those who
listen to it and so make it their own...
After a few years of doing astrology, I became interested in a naturalistic basis to planetary meaning. This differs slightly from the 'as above, so below' or the universe as an inter-connected whole idea, as I thought that the meanings we gave the planets might in fact reflect our psychological experience and interpretation of their appearance. (One could then build a constructionist and cultural explanation of astrological influence, rather than a causal one in the usual sense). I was thinking more of obvious things (pointed out by others!) such as the redness of Mars, the brightness of Venus, and so on (I am not claiming this is a new idea btw). It is also worth pointing out that there are certain inter-species signalling implications here.
The idea broke down somewhat when it came to invisible planets such as Uranus, Chiron etc. (However, to rescue the idea, these planets *are* fully "visible" in our discourse, and hence available as cultural constructions to which we might collectively respond in the patterns of our talk. Here might be a basis, I suppose, for interpreting the planets from the standpoint of mythology and archetypes, although again I suggest that an examination of how the planetary names are used in everyday discourse by non-astrologers might be more fruitful).
This led me back toward another feature of planetary appearance: the length of each planetary cycle, and its constancy and rhythm: to wit, time. I have written before on exegesis and will not repeat here about why time has certain non-obvious (to me, anyway!!) properties that are important in structuring experience, without having to attribute an abstract 'structure' to time per se. To make this idea work however, I still have to suppose a causal link between the planets and terrestrial organisms, but not in the mechanical sense of say "As he ran, the ground unexpectedly fell and he stumbled". Rather, the idea is that the 'causal link' is merely the provision of a set of different clocks to our underlying consciousness, by which we structure (and hence actively direct) our cognitive experience, and that astrological influence is NOTHING MORE THAN THIS (italics rather than shouts intended here!).
I must mention here - although many will already be aware of this - that Dale has developed a strikingly similar idea and in rather greater detail than I have, though he perhaps posits a different mechanism.
The implications that I see here are that planetary meaning can be derived *directly* from the durations (and certain other details, such as eccentricity etc.) of the planets, taking into account the planet on which the organisms are born and develop. Thus, it is possible to say (a) the 'meanings' of the planets depend on where one is located in the planetary system; (b) the number of planets and the distinctiveness of their orbits in a given planetary system is a direct moderator of the complexity of experience and action that arises in organisms sensitive to that system; (c) planets with similar orbits have similar meanings; (d) organisms sensitive to such systems become capable of behaviours, or able to construct experience, in ways that are entirely independent of their *immediate* environment and ecology. I thus regard the idea as fairly generative, although (a) and (b)[(d) follows from (b)] of course are not yet even remotely testable. I *did* use the idea to generate (or rather guide) thinking about the possible meaning of Chiron (assuming it has any astrological significance at all!), and came up with rather different ideas than 'the wounded healer'.
The most interesting implication - and this is one that Dale has explored and commented on much more extensively - is that it certainly does remove the idea of planets "causing" or "fating" our behaviour, at least in the way these terms are understood in 'ordinary' discourse.
To say that the planets *structure* our experience (perceptions, reactions, evaluations) and *hence indirectly* determine our actions and choices *is* causal, but it involves a much more indirect, complex, and subtle model of that causation that permits much greater variability and richness of behaviour.
There is also the interesting corrolary for me - which I think is what led to your comment - though perhaps it is already present in the cyclic ideas of Rhudyar et al. (I don't really know), that 'causation' can be expected to operate in 'either' time direction. That is, the 'effect' of a transit does not necessarily only follow nor coincide with the transit itself: it may precede it.
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 42
[Exegesis Top][Table of Contents][Prior Issue][Next Issue]
Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996-1999 their respective authors.