Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #60

From: Dale Huckeby
Subject: A Role for Horary?

From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: V4#58, V4#59

From: Andre Donnell
Subject: Bits and pieces

Exegesis Digest Wed, 21 Jul 1999

Date: Sun, 18 Jul 1999 12:04:39 -0700 (PDT)
From: Dale Huckeby
To: Exegesis
Subject: A Role for Horary?

In Exegesis [4/54] Cynthia writes that:

I said:
 > >>If the question is, what causes [the correspondences] to come
 > >>into being in the first place, the mechanism is biological evolution.
 > >>If the question is, why do the events or motives comprising a given
 > >>correspondence pattern keep occurring on schedule, the mechanism is
 > >>the inherited genetic program and associated neurobiological processes
 > >>that trigger activities or needs. If the question is, by what means
 > >>does the organismic clock use a planet to reset itself or otherwise
 > >>stay "on time", the mechanism is the material interaction between the
 > >>two, including the biochemical means by which the organism is able
 > >>to use that interaction for its own "purposes".

to which she responds:
 > >If the point of italicising purposes here is to imply its cognate,
 > >needs, then could I also supply "question" in its place, questions
 > >being part of the neurobiological process of complex homo sapiens,
 > >or perhaps one of the results of that process, and if I am permitted
 > >to do that, could I then generate a plausible argument for horary
 > >astrology? . . . could horary predicate its existence with your
 > >commentary as a starting-point? . . .

I honestly don't see how, Cynthia, but I'm uncomfortable saying so given how nice you've been. Purposes imply needs, as you suggested, but I didn't realize until just now that I used needs/purposes on two different levels. Using "a planet to reset itself or otherwise stay 'on time'" is the implied purpose, and the quotation marks are there to indicate that the imputation of agency shouldn't be taken literally. It implies that the organism *has* rhythms and is temporally organized because it serves its "purpose".

Purpose in this sense implies that the organism has a "need" to be temporally organized, to *have* a program. "Needs" as I used it above, however, refers not to the organism's "need" to *have* a program but to the various needs, this time literal rather than figurative, that the program specifies. I'm saying that it's these needs that are predictable. "Question", however, can't be made to work in this sense, and the sense in which it does work doesn't involve a horary *chart*, although there may be horary-like aspects to the predictive effort.

If we feel a need, for instance, to question things, which I believe is more or less the case with Saturn/Mercury hard-angle transits, it's the need itself, the uncertainty, the doubt, that's predictable, not the answers we come up with or the actions we take. That's the difference between oysters and humans in my comparison. We know what the oyster is going to *do*. We know in a general way what the human is going to do something *about*. We don't, however, know *what* she's going to do about it. For me the specific outcome or answer is precisely what is *not* predictable for humans, unlike oysters.

That doesn't mean it's not useful to know where we are in a rhythm and what its nature is, the needs or orientation we can expect to come to the forefront during the next rhythmic peak. Next year Saturn will be opposing my natal Mercury. I've been most rigorous and have had my most penetrating insights during the transits of this cycle, Saturn conjunct, square or opposite natal Mercury. (During the last one I looked for and found, via an intensive reading program following a serendipitous insight, a Uranus/Neptune rhythm running through history, a set of cultural efflorescences recurring with metronomic regularity at 171-year intervals. I'll be happy to email copies of the posts detailing my findings to anyone who hasn't seen them and would like to. Just email me.) Is my knowledge of *how that rhythm has worked in my life* useful? I think so, not because it tells me what projects I might inaugurate or how they might turn out, but because I think I know in general where my head's going to be at and what sorts of activities are most likely to be successful.

I can't see a rationale for a horary *chart*, or for predictability in how things will ultimately turn out or where a lost article might be found, but I think we can know where we're at in our various cycles, where our *head's* at, and where it's *going* to be at, and I think this can be useful knowledge.

That's how I've tried to ground astrology in reality, Cynthia, by insisting there there be something *in nature* that astrology is about, some actually existing correspondences that can plausibly exist within the organisms that apparently display them. That's how I deal with my doubts. Your own doubts seem considerable. In your response to Candy you remark that you're "on sabbatical from consulting partly because I needed to examine the ostensible contradiction between horary (which is a devinatory practice) and the usual natal astrology (which should never be devinatory . . .)", and that there is a part of you that "seeks something more concrete" than your existing understanding of astrology. And you continue in your post to me:

 > >. . . I dearly would like to know, for as I've said, I am seeking
 > >a less nebulous reason to justify my work. My success at it fails
 > >as an underlying logos, so to speak. . . .

I admire your integrity and intelligence in seeking answers rather than pursuing business as usual. I don't know if my response will help or hurt. From my perspective in order to justify your work you might have to change it. What I do is take a personal history and look for patterns in it, then extend those patterns into the future. That involves only the natal chart and transits.

 > >Horary begins, after all, at the moment a felt need to know
 > >something, to have a questioned answered, becomes purposeful such
 > >that it fulfills part of the program of the organism, and further,
 > >it is timed according to specific and recognized planetary "pulls",
 > >planetary "pulls", none of which is programmatic, since each
 > >question is unique to the moment and the individual . . .

I don't think the organism schedules questions such as, Where is my lost ring? or Will my new business succeed? and I'm sure it doesn't know the answers in advance, nor do the heavens. But the person who's wondering if her new business will succeed has in starting it acted according to predictable needs. If Saturn is transiting opposite natal Venus it might be worth asking what was going on in her life, and how well it worked out, during the opening square, the conjunction and the closing square (however far back you can go). If she has regularly done this sort of thing during these transits and been successful at it, that tells us something about her current prospects. If she's been successful sometimes but not always, comparing these episodes to one another might give us a sense of what she needs to do to insure her success this time, or at least improve the odds.

 > >What do you think? Is this too laughable an application of what you
 > >wrote, or is it a feasible area for further study?

I think you've taken my arguments and words out of context and imported them into your own contexts, doing violence to them in the process. I think that illustrates not bad faith or ignorance on your part but paradigm differences. Learning to *do* astrology by following delineative examples (astrology's "paradigms" if we go by Kuhn's original intentions) is how we learn to reason like other astrologers, but we're not aware of this assimilated underlying logic that tells us what makes sense and what doesn't. It's what Michael Polanyi (*Personal Knowledge*) called "tacit knowledge", which I like to define as what we know that we don't know we know. I think you and other thoughtful, intelligent astrologers are bothered by something, can't quite put your finger on it, and so far haven't been able to get outside the box that is the cause, in my opinion, of what's bothering you. But anyone who's honestly looking for answers is not silly or laughable, whether or not I agree with you or you with me at the moment.

Take care, Dale


Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1999 01:04:04 -0700
From: "William D. Tallman"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: V4#58, V4#59

I've been asking for some sort of coherent view of the astrological mechanism that makes some sense. Dennis has given a good effort here, with lots of supporting material, and it seems to me to be an acceptable place to start, just as he presented it. It will no doubt be picked to shreds, but what will be gained in the exercise will hopefully lead us closer to seeing how to develop a theory of astrology. I will assert that, thanks to Dennis, we can now begin that process.

Good job, sir!

Inevitably, there are some comments I would make.

I think there is a rush to damn science with too little understanding of what science is and what science does. At root, science is the pursuit of knowledge with the awareness of the problems that arise in that pursuit. All of what we know today of science is what has been (sometimes rather painfully) developed to further the pursuit, such that the results are useful and dependable. We speak of the "scientific paradigm" with little or no understanding that it is what works best at the moment, based on previous experience; it is not cast in stone, nor can it be.

The process of reducing a matter of interest to manageable dimensions has been powerfully productive, and it is one that we use in daily life constantly. We call it a little differently: we say "One step at a time, and we can (whatever)", and we break things down into manageable steps when we confront an otherwise overwhelming task or situation. At other times, we step back and try to make sense of what we have seen and experienced; sometimes we look at the trees and sometimes we look at the forest. And so does science.

I suggest we watch what is happening in science these days and discover how science is inventing new ways of looking at things now that the need has arisen to do so. Those guys are a lot smarter than some of us realize, smart enough to see exactly the same sorts of things we do and smart enough to be actively searching for better ways of proceeding.

With reference to Systemic resonance, I think that there has already been some theoretical work done in this regard, work that goes back some way. The last of these was the work of John Addey, I think, and maybe a solid exposition of Addey's work and a critique thereof is in order here. In the main, however, as I understand it, the problem lies in the fact that there is no current mathematical approach to adequately describe the entire System, or the System as a whole. If this is so, then we simply lack the tools to demonstrate Systemic resonance, even if we suspect that it exists.

I suspect that there are some number of people for whom this matter is a competency who are also practitioners of astrology, and I'd be willing to wager that we are far from the first people to wonder about this. If there are any on this list, I would >>>invite you to step forward!! < (carets used to gain attention there... < grin > ).

The figure for the mean lunar day is, as Dennis said, about 24 hours and 50 minutes; he asserted that the human circadian cycle is approximately of the same length. What is your source, Dennis? It may well contain more material that would be of use for us here.

The reason I was struck by this fact is that I had never associated it with the fact that I have this problem with the (apparently) natural rhythm of my own day, which would have me stay up an hour later each night. If this is indeed the length of the human circadian cycle, it would explain much, and my own foible would be a very small part thereof!!

All the Lunar cultural and social artifacts would have a very strong base upon which to assert some manner of ascendancy over solar based cultural phenomena. The amount of speculation here threatens to flow like the proverbial cow on the flat rock, but that's outside my immediate interests here. I would, however, suggest that this is prime meat for discussion in the psychological/experiential thread.

Another thing that caught my attention was the damping/bandwidth aspect of resonance processes (resonant phenomena). Yet another tidbit from undergraduate physics that meant virtually nothing to me then leaps up here < grin > . The idea I had was that a system whose resonant frequency is within the bandwidth of two larger systems whose frequencies are not within each other's bandwidth will receive energy from both and thus be a local negative-entropy phenomenon. Is this relevant? What is the actual length of the human circadian cycle ? Does anybody know? Does it vary from individual to individual? One of the citations indicated that some internal clocks apparently needed to be reset on occasion; is individual variation a factor here? If it isn't that variable and is very close to the lunar day, one would tend to conclude that the lunar cycle is pretty much the sole driver of that cycle . But is this so?

In either case, what is the bandwidth of the human circadian cycle? Does anyone know? Could it also be variable from individual to individual. Could it (or it's range if it is variable) in fact include both the lunar and solar day? From the observation that we take several days to really recover from jet lag, it would seem the bandwidth would be fairly wide. Does this make sense?

Do any of these questions make sense?

Working from two sources that agree that the mean length of the Moon's sidereal period is 27 days, 7 hours, and 43 minutes, we get a figure of 13.405 sidereal months in a sidereal year, which means that there should be approximately one month less in a solar year. The same sources give the Moon's mean synodic period as 29 days, 12 hours, and 44 minutes, which gives a figure of 12.368 synodic months in a solar year. If these sources are valid, then there is indeed about 12 and a third plus months in the solar year. Is that close enough to twelve itself to be significant?

I don't think I'd worry about blunders of the first kind here, Dennis; it seems to me we would be more ill served by blunders of the second kind. We still scratching around in the dirt here, and papers are a long way off, so while we're scratching don't be afraid to holler if you think you've found something. < grin >

Again: very good, Dennis!

Bill Sheeran joins us:

Welcome aboard Exegesis, sir! Your reputation has preceded you, and from a very worthy source, I might add.

If I gave the impression that I thought that mathematics was causative, I'd best do some remedial work on clarity of expression! The math is, of course, a description of such a mechanism, and one that can be precisely and rigorously manipulated (one hopes..). As we still do not have means to observe the phenomena of interest directly, as I understand it, we are left with the mathematical model.

My purpose in using the term "mechanism" is to point out that there is *some* reason that astrology works. Astrology, as we now know it, is a construct created by the discipline of the older studies of the celestial sphere. Like your example, the construct is a model that doesn't *do* anything except interpret the "astrological effect". I call whatever *does* produce that effect the "astrological mechanism".

I have elsewhere descended into various rants about the problems that this addresses, and they are all posted in the Exegesis archives. So I'll merely ask: does this make sense?

Complex mathematics has had to give over some of the presumed abilities for which has in the past been dependable, but then complex mathematics is addressing stuff that would have been thought impossible not all that long ago, so I'm given to understand. We are led by the nose by what we discover, and in order to stay employed, scientists keep on digging at ways to proceed in the face of what they discover. I have no problem with recognizing the diminishing relevance of mechanisms, as it appears the time has come to move to "Object Oriented Science" (Physics ++, with a dash of hot coffee), no functions or procedures or mechanisms or reductionist rules, but phenomena (objects?) that have to be understood in a different way.

If I've left the ball park here, don't worry; I've got a car out in the parking lot somewhere... < grin >

Now, we are told that between order and chaos lies complexity, and as some would have it, the rules there are best viewed as simplexity and complicity. To some extent, a lot of it seems to be some form of an admission that there are not presently the tools to proceed, and so trying to do so yields diminishing returns. We all assume that new tools will be developed at some point, if the history of mankind in general and science in particular is any indication, that is.

I would point out that the predictable and effectively linear cycles of the planets produce amazingly complex and sometimes apparently intractable configurations. Just like life. We start out with some simple assumptions and wind up scrambling out of the tar pit, if we can; remember that astrology is not a static practice, all sorts of dynamic tools are available and appropriate. So the Hermetic maxim is probably appropriate from that view; the problem is, so what?! Most of us have a hard time making sense of either of these levels!

Starting from the paragon of predictability... < grin > the horoscope?? Nahh, if that's what you are referring to, let me point out that it is exactly as good as the data upon which it is erected, and often that's not very good. The simplistic part is when professional astrologers start assuming that the data is reliable, not the horoscope. That's why any professional should have several levels of rectification tools available, or so I claim.

 > >Order is seductive. Its presence fosters a sense of security. On the
 > >other hand, too much order produces stagnation, freezes processes
 > >(flowing water turns to ice) and evolution, and restricts the
 > >emergence of novelty. This sets up a tension, which is evident among
 > >astrologers in terms of attitudes to prediction, which is a function
 > >of order. For some it promises existential security and the ability to
 > >exercise control. For others it triggers thoughts about the need to
 > >feel the existence of free will.

That's very good, Bill! I'm a sucker for elegance in expression, and this said in five sentences what some books fail to communicate at all. I like that!

As far as astrological tradition is concerned, we actually haven't the foggiest notion of what that really was. Astrology effectively died in the beginning of the 19th century as the last Chairs in Astrology were vacated. Even by that time, what had survived to come west was but a shred of what had been, or so the old texts tell us. What we have is what Alan Leo invented out of what he had available, and it works pretty good if kept within it's proper limits, but nothing like the old traditions, that is, if they could indeed do what they said they could do.

I'm really interested in what Rob Schmidt is putting out at Project Hindsight. He says he's figured out a working version of the Hermetic tradition, and he says it must be used as a whole system, not as pieces and parts. He's insightful there, because the modern practice has been to pick up what "feels right" and leave as detritus what doesn't "seem right". Bah!!!! How does anyone know what does or doesn't work until they try it out?? So Rob has something to offer, it appears, and I hope to be able fairly soon to get hold of it and see what it's all about. Incidentally, it appears that Rob has no intention of stopping with that work, as there is still a lot of stuff to look at in other traditions. *Maybe* we'll get a chance to see what astrology actually could and could not do, and maybe we'll be able to get some insight into what needs to be included in the theory.

As far as modern Genethliacal practice is concerned, I think it's pretty clear that most people would rather bend their own minds than have someone do it for them on the basis of presumed authority. This is *good*!! It speaks of a slow development of individual responsibility which can only help the state of the human condition, in my not so humble opinion. < grin > The horoscope is the map and the individual is the territory. The map had better match the territory or it's not the right map (invalid horoscope... bad data, probably). And then, if you are a service provider (astrology is a service), then you work with and not against the client. It's just that simple and has long been so in the very basics of good business practice.

In other applications of astrology, these considerations may not apply, but when it comes to the individual client as astrological object, those are the rules. In my not so humble opinion... < grin >

On to Horary: I stand by what I've said. I view astrology as a practice that has many applications, because I claim that that is the simplest way to view it. If evidence demonstrates that this isn't so, then I will regroup. For the moment, however, I will seek to see how Genethliacal and Horary are similar, what they have in common, not how they are different.

Astrology, in the erection of the horoscope, is said to be able to read the nature of the moment in time and space (here on Earth) for which it was cast. How that is manifest is an important consideration, of course, but I must assume that the basic principles (astrological mechanism, etc) are at work in all cases. It remains to look at what is being addressed.

In the individual, the astrologer is reading the fundamental nature of the individual. In Horary, the astrologer is reading the fundamental nature of the question as and when presented to the astrologer. Only the astrologer can use the tool of astrology to view the question. One might say that Horary erects the horoscope for the moment that astrology itself receives the question.

Incidentally, has anyone ever pursued the use of the tools of Horary in a Genethliacal reading? The spinning of the figure to read the strings of connections via the Houses that is a basic technique in Horary can produce s ome rather astounding insights in Genethliacal. In addition, I have always used the Dispositors for the low level immediate reading of the life as being lived, and it never fails to engage the client with its insights. It can be, and often is, the hook that grabs the client's involvement. One then, of course, proceeds to other levels of work....

Exact birthtimes are only useful when vetted by rectification. Period. End of story. Otherwise, one assumes at the risk of making an ass of oneself, I think. One of the more interesting tools for rectification turns out to be Jones' Sabian Symbols, and they are far more useful in Jones' overly turgid schema than they are in Rudhyar's spiritual rendition, at least in this regard. I've never attempted to do precise work with them, but they can be a means of adjustment when the client and astrologer have enough rapport to use them. Otherwise, the classic ways that used to burn up reams of paper are the tried and true techniques.

As far as an objective astrologer is concerned, I've never met one and I don't think the animal exists; not that it is extinct, just that it was always a myth used for the same purposes for which myths are commonly used. In fact, I've never met a really objective person! If there actually were such a thing, science wouldn't have nearly the problem it has in getting at what is really going on in *it's* own right!

I will say this: as astrology is currently viewed, not much of *anything* makes a lot of sense, and so it seems perfectly reasonable to me that an attempt to make a connection between these two applications could well be a nightmare! I think your conclusion is exactly to the point, Bill; astrology *does* need some very radical rethinking, and that's what I'm trying to do by driving this thread on this list.

As far as Cornelius is concerned, it seemed to me that his fundamental assumption was that astrology was only a convenient psychological language. I reject that assumption, and therefore his entire argument. It is, however, important to note that Cornelius appears to have a good command of concepts appropriate to the complimentary thread here, that of the subjective experience of the astrological mechanism, and the effects of the use of astrology itself. So, while I reject his basic premise as invalid, I suspect he's got a lot of good material in that more specific regard. I will be interested to see how his work fares in the unfolding context of these threads.

I'll tell you this, sir, if you customarily think like your post here indicates, I'm going to be very pleased to test my arguments with you in this marketplace of ideas, and to sit in silence and learn whenever possible. Again, welcome!

And then, in V4#59, Cynthia said:

 > >>>>...although, and I'm sure Ptolemy wouldn't mind, traditional horarists still
 > >privilege ptolemaic aspects when judging a horary chart. However, there is
 > >some research currently being done that seems to contradict certain other
 > >parts of ptolemaic horary tradition, such as dignity as interpreted by
 > >William Lilly, who revised Ptolemy's tables.

I suspect that Lilly did indeed revise Ptolemy's work, at least as he got hold of it. The problem with all this is that we still have no way of knowing what is actually the case. We believe that we've got a dependable copy of Lilly in Christian Astrology and we believe we may have a dependable version of the Tetrabiblos available, if there is such a thing, but we don't know for certain. Furthermore, it is not at all unknown for those guys to deliberately mis-state things for any of quite a few reasons, and so what was published may or may not reflect their actual practice.

 > >But he (Cornelius) was simply equalizing things, I believe, since modern astrology,
 > >following the lead of modernist thinking, had in fact swallowed the
 > >subject-object presumption whole as well as the pattern recognition of
 > >science in its relentless quest for legitimation, and stripped itself of any
 > >subjective traits, like intuition. Cornelius' argument centered, in my
 > >opinion, on the tyranny of temporally-bound thinking whence all other facets
 > >of Father Ptolemy.

I guess I find this a surprising view. In my experience, the fight has been to be able to tell what was astrology and what was intuition! I know that other areas, with other practices (like doom and gloom predictive Medieval astrology.. feh!), may well have had this problem, but I certainly never ran across it.

Was it the people who decided that astrology was Jungian divination who worked this way? The astrologers I knew had little or no use for modernist thinking (scientism?), because the basis of their recognition of astrology quite often was that of metaphysics and the occult, and those people had no problem knowing their own intuitive capabilities.

 > >>>>Exactly so. I'm afraid the question I was asking Dale may not have been
 > >clearly expressed, and perhaps, Bill T., you were seeking similarities
 > >between genethliacal and horary where there are none, or at least too few to
 > >constitute an overall set of assumptions, much less an argument.

Nonetheless, there is this inconvenient little matter of their having a common foundation in the horoscope. To assume that there is no connection (similarities.. commonality..) between Horary and Genethliacal is perhaps to assume that the celestial sphere obligingly changes some aspect of its nature according to the whim of the user, but of course that's probably reductio ad absurdem. I think I make my point, however. I make the same response here that I did to Bill Sheeran, and that is that we simply don't know enough about astrology to make these sorts of statements.

What is happening instead is the reliance upon the opinions of astrological "authorities" or other such people who wrote books as matters of fact, and I reject that summarily.

 > >It may
 > >be horary that harbours the answers we seek exclusively in genethliacal,
 > >rather than the other way round, or rather than looking to science. It

This make well be so, I think. The application is enough different that some aspects of astrology itself may show through.

I submit, however, that it is getting the cart before the horse and going in exactly the wrong direction to make the application primary. Genethliacal and Horary do not at all indicate anything particular about astrology itself, except that it appears to be a valid tool in both areas. What appears probable, however, is that they will show forth different aspects of the practice of astrology, different applications of the principles applied to both (and any other valid application of astrology, such as corporate, financial, etc.), etc..

Your comment is intriguing, though. How would you proceed? Can you share your insight here? It might spark someone else in this regard.

 > >seems that until we start regarding astrology as a rebus with the
 > >concomitant freedom to turn it in all directions, we will continually return

This is exactly what we *are* trying to do here. I'm trying to free it from the assumption that there is in fact no physical basis for astrology, that it is only a psychological or spiritual language, and that any connection to the celestial sphere is incidental. If it can be demonstrated compellingly that there is no basis, then I will suggest we simply change its name and have done with it, for it will no longer constitute the study of the stars. Until that point, let's stick with the celestial sphere as the foundation, I suggest; we can certainly turn things upside down and inside out without losing that orientation.

 > >to a linear, time-determined exegesis of its mechanisms that only stymies
 > >growth, leaving us jumping in place on a pogo-stick: lots of movement but
 > >no progress. The compulsive return of the repressed?

Once again I'm going to suggest that there are two different and probably (eventually) complimentary threads going on in this group. There is the thread that seeks a theoretical base for astrology, and there is a thread that seeks to understand the subjective experience of astrology. For one of these threads to seek to validate itself by bashing the other is an exercise in futility, I think. Neither of these views invalidates the other, nor should they expect to, I submit.

One of the most powerful demonstrations of this is something that I have often (continually?) brought up here, and that is the advances in neuroscience. What was "fully understood" to have no possibility of existence in the physical realm, actually is now known to have a relatively understandable representation in that very realm. It was thought that the mind and the brain were two separate entities and never the twain should ever be confused (there *are* some things man is not meant to know!!!!). Not so. It is now clear that the best model is called the mind/brain (brain/mind?).

Neuroscience has rather neatly demonstrated the basis for clinical observations in psychology that were strongly refuted in the lay public: emotions *don't* rule the mind, the public said!! The are entirely separate matters, they said. The psychologist suggested that our initial response is emotional rather than intellectual , even for those people who could demonstrate a powerful intellect and a powerful will besides.

We now know the psychologists were right, but we also know that the other side had its own validity as well. Emotions are among the first inputs the cerebrum has in any matter, as they are the experience of the body preparing itself according to flagged memories. The cerebrum develops its own response and includes the emotions as part thereof, and one of the cerebrum's duties is to preside supreme, ruling the emotional reality as appropriate. So we do respond with our emotions, and we are well served by being able to control them as appropriate. Traditionally, and now with some solid biological evidence, maturity was defined as the ability to control one's emotional being when appropriate or necessary.

Ahhhh... before I get roundly bashed, this does >>>not < mean that the emotions need to be summarily or routinely repressed. Strong men, stoic in battle and unswerving in the face of danger and death, traditionally broke down in complete emotional disarray afterwards, and the man who did not was seen as suspect (in need of help?). Emotional maturity means cleaning house and also tending the flowers (one's mate and children) as well. And with that I'd better get off scot free < glare!!! ... awright, grin!! >

Both of these apparently mutually exclusive views had validity and actually worked together quite well long before we discovered that they did; indeed, long before we came to believe that they shouldn't! Let's take a lesson here for our discussions about astrology. We've really not got a clue about how this all works, and I will be *very* surprised if it turns out that all views are not well represented as valid.

This is one of the lessons we can take from science. And from the arts. And from our forebearers. And from life itself.




Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1999 16:24:43 +1200
From: Andre Donnell
To: Exegesis
Subject: Bits and pieces

Hi all,

My last post for the next 12-16 weeks owing to increased demand on my time.

Welcome to Bill Sheeran - fine post. I haven't so much ~replied~ to you as used some of your excellent comments as launching pads for additional points, later in this post.

Meanwhile, hi Bill (Tallman).

Bill >Andre.... assumes that the Planets, the Signs, Bill >the Houses, and Aspects (in principle) are archetypes, and that the Bill >combinations of these are thus types in themselves. Bill > Bill >I see the archetypes as the Zodiac, the Circle of Houses, Bill >the Planets, etc. In this scheme, then, each Sign, House, Planet, Bill >etc is a type. People are then unique combinations of types and Bill >not separate types in themselves. Bill > Bill >The result here would be that there is much more that we hold in Bill >common that astrology would otherwise suggest. Astrology would see Bill >us as different manifestations of the same (astrological) substance. Bill >Thus, uniqueness is a quality that astrology can reveal, but it Bill >does so on a basis of our commonality. Bill > Bill >Does that make sense, Andre?

I'm glad you made this response Bill. I think I agree with "people are unique combinations [rather than] types", but there is a lot more to this issue than meets the eye. True, the ~basis~ of (one form of) astrology is simply 12 signs, 12 houses, 10 planets, and a collection of aspects - let's be really simple here and say just the five majors.

In that case, perfect understanding of these 39 basic elements guarantees perfect understanding of every combination? Yes? No?

Moreover, it should be a ~simple~ task to identify which of these elements are uppermost in any given person, without needing to see the chart.

I think not - to both propositions!

A piano produces only 12 notes, yet the ~combinations~ (with only ten fingers) are essentially infinite. The same is true of the so-called "productive" property of human language: a finite lexicon or vocabulary, and a few rules, but a capacity to produce an infinite range of utterances. Indeed, humans are said to constantly produce "novel" (never before produced) sentences.

The "combinations" we produce in language tend to be strikingly different. Thus, different speakers, writers, composers, artists, and thinkers are generally able to express themselves freely without being unduly concerned that they will unwittingly duplicate (plagiarise) someone else. Indeed, that would seem to be a fairly hard task, without actually ~copying~ that other person's work fairly closely.

To complete the analogy, the simplicity of the astrological framework is deceptive: the expressive properties are essentially infinite, and "understanding" (or knowing, or having experience of, whatever you like) the basics no more gives us any notion of what this or that person "is" than "understanding" the 12 notes of the piano allows us to anticipate, analyse, or "understand" Beethoven's 'Hammerklavier' sonata.

In fact, (modern?) astrologers have formalised the notion that the astrological framework has this infinite property in the principle of ~synthesis~ (or holism). This is an important assumption inherent in the formula I presented, but didn't mention at that point.

Here's a statement of that principle as ~I~ see it just to put us on (somewhat) common ground: "No configuration in the chart operates in isolation, but rather interacts with every other configuration present in the same chart. This means each factor modifies every other factor, and is modified in turn. Moreover, the ~overall~ result is unique." To borrow a bit of physics terminology, there can be "strong" and weak versions of the principle. Let's call the one I just stated 'strong synthesis'. A 'weak synthesis' version might end "....modifies every other factor ~slightly~ and is modified ~slightly~ in turn. The overall result is not unique: some apparently different charts may produce a similar interpretation".

Let's also assume the framework of simple (contemporary) traditional astrology (TA), by which I mean Signs, Houses, Ptolemaic Aspects, and Planets (NB: although I shall refer to TA in other parts of this post, it does not imply that this is the kind of astrology or astrological framework I advocate!). Then an example of a 'configuration' is

(1) Mars Aries 7th house Sextile Venus Gemini 10th house. Neither Venus nor Mars make other aspects.

Now, according to strong synthesis, if any single detail is changed in (1) e.g. "Mars is in Taurus" (1.1) or "[as well] Mars Square Sun" (1.2) then the "meaning" of the configuration is changed. This means each of these cases has a different meaning. All (1, 1.1, 1.2) share "Mars Sextile Venus", but produce a different 'manifestation' of it.

Indeed, strong synthesis would take issue with abstracting any feature such as "Mars Sextile Venus" at all, since the (chart) context alters its meaning in each case. The only way to fully "understand" Mars Sextile Venus is to consider all possible cases of it. Interestingly, no single astrologer lives (to my knowledge! < g > ) long enough to see all cases, and nor does our literature stretch sufficiently far to do so. (Even if it did, there are also cultural and social modifiers to consider. We might assert that culture and society derive from prevailing astrological conditions of course: but unfortunately that probably ~worsens~ our problem!). The same applies to the abstraction "Sun in Aries", or indeed ~extreme~ abstractions away from everyday experience: "just Sun" or "just Aries".

Strong synthesis produces the basic formula I presented in [4, 54]. It implies that arriving ~finally~ at such things as "the meaning of the Sun", "the meaning of Aries", "the meaning of Mars Sextile Venus" is a formidable, even impossible undertaking - especially if (as sometimes asserted) we believe that astrological knowledge derives from 'thousands of years of observation'. That would seem hardly enough, and hence my point about different times producing different ~parts~ of the truth, our own included.

So ~if~ we accept strong synthesis, it seems more likely our ideas or beliefs about the meanings of Aries, Sun, Sextile etc. [which we normally discuss as isolated entities] are mostly speculative, imaginative, or theoretical; approximations. Like scientific knowledge, they are ~tentative~.

Countering this thesis, Marc Edmund Jones (somewhere in his weighty texts) asserted quite the opposite: each configuration ~does~ stand alone. Two people both with Mars Sextile Venus are ~exactly the same~ in that respect, even though they may differ in other ways (Aries/Gemini versus Taurus/Gemini for example).

This being so, (and let's consider 'weak synthesis' as the same case for now), then really all we need to know are the 120 Planet/Sign combinations, the 120 Planet/House combinations, and the 45 Planet/Planet combinations (for aspects). That's not nearly so bad as about 10^18 different types of person! It also implies clients given computerised charts are getting value for money. Hmm...

Bill, and others concerned at my use of the term "type" [4, 54], I hope it is now clearer what I meant by it. If it sounded like the tidy personality typologies that ~classify~ people into "introverts", "aggressives" etc (as they are usually understood!) then it was a bad term to use. My point was rather the opposite: 10^18 variations rather strongly suggests we ~can't~ "classify" people. It suggests that TA in combination with strong synthesis agrees with the interpretivist notion of truth; and raises strong questions about the nature and status of astrological knowledge: most definitely "a" knowledge. Indeed, whereas TA is usually understood to produce a linear and Newtonian picture of it's subject (human being, problem, nation etc.), in combination with strong synthesis it produces quite the opposite. (I also indicate, in the last part of this post, how other constructs of TA such as the synastry chart produce a form of context).

It's worth noting too that - although the basis is not "non-linear" (chaotic) - the resulting structure has certain chaos-like properties in terms of the trajectories actually produced. Well, actually this is because of the way the planets move - but essentially very similar charts will be separated by very large periods of time, i.e. they will never co-exist.

Incidentally either form of TA raises searching questions about our capacity to ~practice~ astrology, if by "practice" we mean that we should (or can) "understand" our client. Even the simpler form demands of us that we have or develop highly subtle and sophisticated pictures of human variability and possibility. Instead, social-cognitive and cognitive psychology suggest we view the world in terms of (mostly) self- and other- 'schemata' which do not even begin to approach the sort of variability or complexity required in order to "understand" another person. In the simplest case, we may classify life and people in terms of just one or two dualities such as "good/bad".

I should perhaps also state that my assertion of 10^18 variations is partly to make explicit (some) implications of our frameworks. Although I only picked on one (TA), similar arguments might apply to others. As part of clarifying our "theories" of astrology, we needs be aware of the implications of our frameworks, principles and assumptions.

Thus, I believe it is important to answer questions such as the status of the synthesis principle, and of other principles. If the 10^18 variations seems absurd, one might instantly thrust strong synthesis aside. Not so fast! If we do so to keep astrology aligned with current paradigmatic assumptions (such as the assumption of commonality implicit in many forms of psychology, in many types of social control, and so on), this is something we have to think very, very hard about!

We need to ask because astrology ~may~ have a valid perspective to offer that differs from other fields. So ~do~ we believe people are primarily similar, or fundamentally different? And whatever our answers, why?

The notion of commonality, for example, has a definite history and fulfills definite agendas: in past (for a few of us) terms anchored in the necessity to survive, in modern terms anchored in the efficient dispersal of insufficient resources (e.g., educating, healing). The very ~mechanism~ of language itself requires that, in a sense, commonality be assumed and enforced. However none of this, neither the possibility nor the historical actuality of it, necessarily entails that there is commonality "within" the person (or, if that seems too extreme a claim, within ~parts~ of the person, or the person seen in certain ways).

OTOH, if one's predilection is for 'radical individualism', one must be wary of swallowing something like TA and strong-synthesis merely because they appear compatible. The very notion of individualism imposes strong requirements that are only ~beginning~ to be addressed (qualitative research paradigms, post-modernist thinking and so on); and one might well be suspicious of a framework as conceptually tidy as TA!

*** Foreground/Background ***

Bill, I hadn't really thought of the distinction I was making here [4, 54] in holographic terms. I simply meant that in human observation those things that stand out (foreground) and so preoccupy our attention as astrologers (indeed, as persons) do not necessarily represent the whole adequately. Effectively, and (according to schemata ideas), we ~all~ tend to be reductionists, as we tend to extract those features of reality singled out by our particular mental scheme, composited of beliefs, attitudes, experiences [gadzooks, perhaps even planetary configurations!]. As such, we confirm our own expectations.

Rather than asserting something profound about the nature of astrological influence, I merely meant that any such influence is more likely to operate in terms of the "whole" (which I characterised as "background") rather than just the dramatic "events" that we tend to "see". To attempt to express this in Dale's terms (and risk doing so badly), Saturn Transit Mars may ~reliably~ produce a state of unrest in which probably rather ~fundamental~ issues of self-efficacy come to the fore in consciousness. But if we eshew this (admittedly deeper and therefore harder to describe) level of description in favour of ~particular~ events, we place ourselves firmly in probability territory (and although I advocate statistical mechanics in some areas, this is not one!) and begin to admit purely spurious findings into our astrological 'knowledge'. I've no doubt people do occasionally fall off ladders during Mars transits, but I fancy we do so on other (non-Mars) occasions too.

*** Fate ***

Candy, you whetted my appetite when you mentioned fate/free will. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I have forgotten most of the thoughts I had in relation to this. The following comment is intended quite peripherally (I think) rather than to address your central thesis. It stems from my preoccupation with discourse, and in particular the context of astrologer/client discourse.

As I shall make clearer in text sparked off by Bill Sheeran shortly, it is striking that with the available (TA) tools of synastry, we are not more concerned with relationships, and attempt to read the chart in some sort of splendid isolation (Bill S made this point well). Astrology either reveals a great truth, or fosters a great illusion, in treating the person in such individual terms: I'm not sure which.

At any rate, from the context of discursive psychology, the astrologer/client session is highly occasioned or contextual (i.e., of the moment, a concept we should have no difficulty with!), yet heavily impregnated with the discourse of others. Most evidently (in the ~foreground~ < g > ) there is the talk of the astrologer and the client. In the background, there is the talk of the astrologer's professional group (the talk of other astrologers, past and present, and their societies and cultures: a socialised knowledge); the astrologer's other relationships; and most importantly the client's other relationships. It is from these latter relationships that (I believe) the client is likely to speak: i.e., discourses are presented which are to a large degree the voices of those relationships. The astrologer responds similarly. Of course, the interaction of these many voices - as well as that of the astrologer and client - shapes a new and almost certainly unique discourse. Crucially, this discourse does not stand alone. It will be fed back into the other relationships of client and astrologer (hopefully in a highly ethical manner in the latter case!), and these ~future~ yet highly certain-to-happen interactions are doubtless an active shaping force.

Nevertheless, one of the primary insights of discursive psychology is that in talk we continually, creatively, and flexibly reconstruct ourselves (in pursuit of god knows what agendas, these being complexes of context). As such, and this is my peripheral contribution, one of the constructions is "what the astrologer said". (This reminds me of a friend of mine many years ago. When we both lacked a date, we would often attend a party together, and there she would introduce me as "my astrologer"). It is likely that the client will make a number of different presentations of "what the astrologer said", as many as the client has relationships within which the topic is raised. Now the chief point I wish to highlight here is that - all things being equal - the construction presented will serve a purpose or purposes related to that moment and that (those) relationship(s). Each presentation may bear little resemblance to the other; little resemblance to what originally (I carefully avoid saying "actually") occurred between astrologer and client; and also little resemblance to whatever subsequent presentations the astrologer makes. Discourse analysis is loathe to grant "factuality" to language (or indeed to the notion of "personality" or other labelled attributes of person).

The (or 'A') significance of "what the astrologer said" may well lie in the sort of rhetorical work it can do in these later social exchanges (indeed, in the earlier exchanges too: "When did you say you're going to see your astrologer?" "Tomorrow!" "Oh, what do you think you'll talk about?" and so on). That I think is where much of the power lies, and where we need to study (if we can) the variety of constructions that result. But it is highly qualified power too: these later exchanges are occasions where the astrologer's "power" is increased, diminished, or probably both.

More central to Candy's issue, if there is any ~generalised~ significance to the discourse that occurred between client and astrologer, then I believe it lies in the extent to which the astrologer has (probably unwittingly) spoken out of generalised social constructions, i.e. with the voice of society or of the group.

*** Responses to 4, 58 ***

Bill S >One of the interesting and confusing things about astrology is that it Bill S >uses the predictable and effectively linear cycles of the planets to Bill S >reveal information about a very non-linear context (life).

Thanks Bill! This has said rather succinctly what I said less well in my last two posts. Incidentally, it is no less confusing that much (especially experimentally based) psychology treats "life" (if you mean the person) as linear too; or more accurately, most such psychology carefully 'controls' or 'circumscribes' life into sufficiently small regions as to build and test essentially linear (and small) theories.

Bill S >Astrology has no tradition of Bill S >integrating the reality of the unpredictable

Indeed, and it is odd that this should be so. Within the brave (because not well regarded) branch of "personality psychology" the notion that people have a personality (being fixed, stable patterns of behaviour across all situations) took rather a bashing, so much so that it gave way to situationism - the idea that people respond entirely to situation. Different situation, different person. This turned out to not quite be true either, and so a blend of the two developed: interactionism.

Yet the framework of TA accomodates interactionism rather well (Houses for situations; the rest for personality). And with the doctrine of houses, astrology had the opportunity to recognise the unpredictably of situation, and admit it into analysis.

If we assert, for example, that Saturn includes (say) negative experiences and (say) low self-esteem or vulnerablity, does this not imply these experiences will be sparked by situations related (in it's simplest form) to the house in which Saturn lies? Assume for example Saturn lies in the 3rd house. This would imply (according to TA) the person is sensitive in areas to do with neighbours, siblings, fellow-passengers in a bus, fellow drivers etc. Now what is the point of making such an interpretation (that one is "sensitive in [the specified] areas") if in fact one means the person is ~only~ sensitive when Saturn is subject to "hard aspect" transits [or whatever]? Indeed, what is the point of saying someone was born with "Saturn afflicted" if this has no meaning other than when some transit is operative? (To weaken my point somewhat, I understand 'personality astrology' is a fairly recent invention. The older astrologies seemed to be concerned with 'fate', and so the significance of being being born with an afflicted or fortunate Saturn was not to do with personality, but whether there was any "inborn protection" when adverse transits should strike. But I am trying to address contemporary forms here).

To come to the point, the characterisation of the birth-chart as having implications for 'personality', and the presence of houses (in TA), implies that the person can have "bad experiences related to low self-esteem" due to essentially unpredictable events, as well as transits. In that case, the ~situations~ we experience have a roughly equal status to transits. In terms of (immediate, at least) impact, or effects, we cannot tell them apart.

Note that I distinguish events as independent of transits, contrary to the assertion of many of "us" (to wit, one can ~only~ have a bad Saturn experience when there is an afflicting transit, as astrology ~essentially~ predicts events anyway, according to many astrologers).

In terms of the ideas Dale and I have discussed, I would say "largely independent", and indeed that the ~nature~ of transit-activations of Saturn and event-activations of Saturn differs too. They are not ~fully~ independent of each other because - for example - transits may bring about deep-level 'schemata' or perceptual changes which cause some perfectly regular everyday events to be highlighted and others cast in shadow. Then, it is not that events have changed, but that "perceived events" have changed. However, both cases tend to be reported the same way: "I have had a bad day".

Now the point is that, based on a different interpretation of TA, here is a different and testable hypothesis to the effect that Saturn type experiences occur irrespective of corroborating transits, but in response to particular situations or events instead. Unfortunately, by asserting they can happen at any time, I have also apparently weakened the value of astrology vis-a-vis non-astrological explanations of how people come to have "Saturn-type" experiences. (This is not entirely the case. I think transit-induced experiences are more likely to be ~change-experiences~ in the way Dale has explained, except on those relatively rare occasions when the events concerned are extreme. Thus, the immediate effects may appear similar, but the persisting effects would be usually different, and likely to be evident by approaches such as the biographical methods advocated by Dale).

Bill S >But the context has its own dynamics, and they Bill S >are usually complicated and non-linear in nature.

Indeed, we don't even need non-linearity to argue this - see below.

Bill S >Whatever it is that Bill S >the horoscope represents is not imposed on the client, but finds its Bill S >form in emerging though the client-context 'complex'. And this happens Bill S >to include the astrologer.

Yes indeed, yet another oddity, since synastry as well as houses directly imply context ~should~ be taken into account! BTW, I couldn't agree more with Bill's last sentence, in ways partly implied under 'fate' and partly implied in what follows.

At any rate, I want to use this to give ~some~ notion of the kind of work a theoretical approach can be put to (i.e., we can try treating our doctrines as though they ~are~ theory, and make and test deductions accordingly). This is a brief sketch of material I have been slowly developing over the last few years. It is a development ~direct~ from TA, and I stress once again that TA in its usual form is not necessarily the kind of astrology I advocate.

But very simply, given the doctrine that (A) ~transiting~ planets influence people, and the further doctrine that (B) ~other peoples'~ planets influence people (synastry), then I am led to the question: can the two types of influence be told apart?

IF the answer is no, then I am led to this: encountering another person - e.g. on the street, in a bus, etc. - is directly equivalent to being transited by their planets. Since, especially in modern, densely populated settings, many encounters are unpredictable, it follows that the astrologer's preparation of 'forecasts' based on transits alone is incomplete.

[There is a further, very salient question buried in this equivalence, which involves the very possibility of transits. I won't identify it here, but I think it has important implications too].

Some encounters ~are~ predictable: these are the more or less "permanent transits" produced by one's synastry with parents, partner, friends, colleagues, associates etc. Since astrologers do not generally take these relationships into account, it follows that the astrologer's interpretation of 'personality' based on the individual birthchart alone is also incomplete. Highly incomplete.

Generally, we appear to assume that the individual remains essentially individual, yet offer synastry when asked, as though it only becomes relevant when asked about, or as though our relationships only effect us when we want them to!

In fact, without being an advocate of behavioural psychology, I ~do~ find it presents an admirable concern with the importance of context and of relationships. Indeed, these are maintained as 'contingencies', which operate remotely as well as immediately. The behavioural view is that we never stand apart from our relationships.

This has further interesting implications for the power of transits, for if our relationships are more or less permanently present, then just what status do transits actually have? They are (it seems to me) 'reduced' on two fronts: our fleeting encounters with other people, and our relationships. It can be argued transits have ~more~ influence because they bring ~change~ to at least the permanent relationships. If so, it is still necessary for the [many] synastries to be taken into account. It also has implications for mundane astrology (e.g., the notion of predicting a nation's 'fate' from the chart of it's leader seems unlikely in view of the presence of numerous synastries).

In fact, it seems to me the "challenge" (as we are apt to characterise it these days) of transits is often either "ho-hum" - because the transit concerned already features in one or more of our relationships and thus is nothing new - or is quite simply "neutralised" by our deliberately seeking respite in relationships we already have. This suggests somewhat different (much more social) responses to transits than we usually expect.

Cynthia >...until we start regarding astrology as a rebus with the Cynthia >concomitant freedom to turn it in all directions, we will Cynthia >continually return to a linear, time-determined exegesis Cynthia >of its mechanisms that only stymies growth, leaving us Cynthia >jumping in place on a pogo-stick: lots of movement but Cynthia >no progress. The compulsive return of the repressed?

Hi Cynthia!

I could hardly go past this statement, especially as most of my post was written from the uncomfortable perch of that same (and very linear) pogo-stick! Ouch!! But the idea of the rebus is entirely fascinating. I would like to think that my formalistic offering of the infinite expressive possibilities of astrology - and its essentially indefinable character - might be saying something similar?

And, the trouble is, the ~instant~ we enter language, we risk - by its very commonalising nature - the language of oppression and repression. This is something I have yet to resolve... *** I meant to make one or two remarks about other matters (horary; interesting material about biological clocks from Dennis), but as usual I have got carried away. This was meant to be a ~short~ post! BTW Dennis, my physics is pretty rusty too, but I couldn't see any problem in your final assertion. Indeed, interesting.

Regards, Andre


End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 60

[Exegesis Top][Table of Contents][Prior Issue][Next Issue]

Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996-1999 their respective authors.