Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #64

From: Janice & Dennis
Subject: reappraisal

From: Bill Sheeran
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #62

From: Bill Sheeran
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #61

Exegesis Digest Fri, 30 Jul 1999

Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1999 19:46:25 +1200
From: Janice & Dennis
To: Exegesis
Subject: reappraisal

Bill Tallman wrote (in Ex4/62): "You have several times indicated that your practice of astrology is comprised of tools that you've chosen on the basis of whether they "felt right", or some such. I must tell you that this sort of methodology for a scientist would be appalling, and I wonder why you have chosen to do this."

Because I'm an astrologer, I guess. Remember that I graduated in physics despite terminal alienation from the subject that happened halfway thro my 1st year (1968), and never became a scientist.

Bill: "You've expressed a rather strong and seemingly categorical rejection of science itself, so I suppose this might be a reason. I wonder if you could explain how you are able to evaluate and judge the worth of a technique on the basis of how it "feels"."

Synchronicity made me answer this question in the same digest you asked it!

Bill: "One of the things we are doing here is to try to discover something of the nature of astrology, at least beyond what is now generally accepted as appropriate. So I would suggest that any particular methodology of practice is relevant here, especially when it is used by a strong contributor to this list. We have an audience (vidience?) in cyberspace of a couple hundred people and I expect at least some significant number of them read the digests for content; and these discussions are being archived as well. Hopefully they will contribute to the knowledge base of astrology itself, eventually. So what we say here has potential value, and I wonder if you would contribute in this regard."

What regard?? I'm certainly aware of the cultural value of this list. I do recall Francis mentioning the latest subscription number some months ago, think it was around 230, and I remain puzzled by the participation ratio. How real is the audience? Guess it doesn't matter in cyberspace. Vidience, I mean.

Now Bill, if you are indirectly asking me why I use particular methods of interpreting a horoscope, I don't mind going into that, but I had thought it too subjective to be covered by the aims of this list. I guess it could be included in culture, but practice is specifically not mentioned.

"Regarding well accepted understanding of some of the material you've cited, I would suggest that it may be understood but not well accepted by any means. So mere citations of the material or simple arguments tacitly based on said material misses the mark, I think. To some significant extent, part of the process going on here is a review and critique of a lot of this material, because it is just this material that serves as the axiomatic basis for a lot of views of the astrological construct. I submit that we need to closely examine a lot of this stuff, and you will notice that I've rejected some amount that lacks demonstrable internal integrity (in my view)."

Dwelling on subjective differences between individuals seems unproductive, don't you think? That's precisely why I led a group process to identify the fundamental principles and hypotheses of astrology, 1987-1991. The formal requirement of documented and reviewed consensus decision-making was necessary in order to transcend subjective disputes and accurately identify the main points of commonality.

"One of the more useful methodologies in this process is the exercise of teaching this stuff in a format where any lack of understanding is immediately noted by some (hopefully appropriate) question. The reason for this is that it can all too soon become a matter of internalization, *including assumptions*, on the part of the person of competency. It is those internalized assumptions that we need to air out here, because they are the ones that keep getting reused even when they are no longer valid (or were never valid in the first place). Also, teaching stuff is the best way of determining one's level of understanding thereof."

I know. I agree with all this in principle, but don't see it being observed much by contributors here in practice. The in-group culture here seems more a ventilation process, in which contributors get to air important thoughts that find no vidience elsewhere. There is actually enough addressing of points raised by others to constitute genuine group debate, however. Evidence of assimilation may even become apparent eventually, which after all is the normal outcome of group consciousness-raising that proceeds on the basis of tacit/real commonality. An emerging tendency to ask supplementary questions would be such evidence if accompanied by acknowledgement of (partial) agreement.

"Now, regarding assumptions: lest it be thought that I use the term pejoratively, let me hasten to point out that we cannot and will not make any progress without their use. They form the basis of the development of theoretical material, and in the process of testing, those assumptions are validated or put into question. Most of us know about this from science literacy of some sort. In other areas of knowledge, science is not an acceptable methodology, and so assumptions can go untested indefinitely. I strongly claim that it is not appropriate here to leave them untested, because I think that's been one of the basic problems astrology has had to suffer all along."

Generally speaking, I agree.

So, Dennis, if you have substantial contributions to make, present it like you were teaching it, and prepare to be questioned."

I've been doing so for 3 months already! Why is this not obvious to you?

Not sure here if I'm dealing with a generation gap, paradigmatic misapprehensions, or both. I get to score a half-century next month, but I get the distinct impression that Saturn has endowed Bill with even more duration. Now, as we're being influenced by Mercury retrograde to reassess things, I am going to review that useful piece by Andre in 4/42...

"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.. 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.. 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.. 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."

Positivism? What a stupid label. I assume it happened because some psychologists deemed everything inexplicable in terms of Newtonian mechanism to be `negative'. The clockwork universe sure slipped a gear here. However, the old paradigm does retain some merit, apart from enabling engineers and rocket scientists to create technology that works as planned (most of the time). The nature of reality is indeed independent of consciousness. Unfortunately, because of this, it cannot be ascertained. The best we can do is build consensual models, to achieve relative objectivity. The truth is "out there", so (Andre implies the positivist believes) "it can be studied independently of the inquirer". By who? Is "different observers should arrive at the same conclusions" a statement of faith or a moral requirement? Regardless, those who study the psyche have never conformed. The laws of nature indeed provide a platform for achieving agreement and relative objectivity, but, hey, outside of psychology, right?

"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)."

Good philosophical point, with implications that have percolated on through several subsequent digests (fate/freewill). There is indeed "a single, unified reality" but we can't "attain peace by knowing it properly" because we cannot know it.

"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 postulated 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."

Andre has here described a key facet of the emerging paradigm of science. The constructivist label seems appropriate, though it may be only in use by psychologists, possibly some contemporary philosophers. Don't recall any of the contributors to the new paradigm whose considerations I used in my multi-disciplinary synthesis identifying themselves with this label, and most were practitioners of science producing scientific philosophy to popularise their discoveries and new insights.

It is possible that these constructivists have missed the point. If we all see the world through our own eyes and invent our own personal reality from the subjective interpretation of learnt information, then perhaps they jump to the conclusion that reality is entirely subjective? It isn't.

"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!"

You bet! Fine to experiment via artificial devices, but the errors of interpretation of findings were legion, particularly as regards nature, and reality.

"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 positivist 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."

Yes, only an holistic science is potentially applicable to astrology. It was the fact that the emerging paradigm of science was explicitly holistic that made it necessary for me to produce a book explaining how astrology could be reformulated in this contemporary paradigm, to complete Rudhyar's modernisation endeavour.

"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 amalgam 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!"

Who needs proof? Most interested parties seem happy enough to note that the cosmos surrounds us. You'd have to be some kind of academic nerd to believe it is necessary to prove that. I have never heard of anyone sufficiently unrealistic to even try such a proof. If, as Andre says, the two views do not reflect "a polarity between an external and an internal reality", then they must lack relevance to our endeavour. I suspect he is wrong here. The two bodies of opinion do indeed seem to have their focus on objective and subjective reality respectively. So, Andre, when you are in a position to respond, can you tell us if those proficient in theoretical psychology have transcended these two perspectives by formulating the requisite synthesis?

"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. 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."

The latter point certainly indicates that trans-paradigmatic progress has become accepted, perhaps even normal, in your field Andre. The initial point means that schools of thought in science function similarly to churches in certain key respects. I am not particularly referring to scientism here. The empirical practice as then outlined is a vital difference, of course, but is part mythological, being exhibited as much in the breach as in the observance.

Kuhn used `paradigm' in at least 3 different ways. The dictionary meaning (example), the group belief-system meaning, and the society-as-a-whole belief system meaning. To be fair, his usage consisted almost entirely of the first two. However, it is of major significance that it was the third that captured the popular fancy, first of pioneers in the spread of a multi-disciplinary world-view, and then of alternative thinkers generally, then of new-agers and media and public in that order. I prefer a 4th meaning, that further generalises the concept and correlates it, or even equates it, with the group mind. I see this as a generic function or component of any group of (relatively) like-minded members.

"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 agree in principle, however human nature is that people adhere firmly to prior conditioning.

"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 always been)."

Firstly, I don't accept the motion of the planets as `cause' of real-life effects, though I admit the astrological lens makes them appear to be. I believe the real (or, to be more scientifically correct, a better) explanation is that the planetary archetypes manifest synchronously in both arenas. Secondly, it is essentially a tendency, though it may appear to be a compulsion at times, and I believe your polarity invoked by these two words is really a spectrum of `influence'. Thirdly, it does indeed operate at a very deep level of both the entity and nature in the local cosmos, but not as deep as the number archetypes 1 & 2. Fourthly, it does appear to be channelled by social vehicles such as societies, ie the manifestation does indeed depend a lot on context. Fifthly, this does not imply that "astrologers of the (distant) past [were necessarily] able to predict things more successfully than is even remotely possible in those societies of today which are privileged with endless choice". However your point is valid: people were indeed generally much more predictable, it would appear. The error of your assumption lies in the tendency of astrologers to impress by performing conjuring tricks; smoke and mirrors are pretty old technology! The historical blending of astrology and magic is a rich, ancient, multi-cultural vein that many of us find it continually convenient to avoid mining.

"But if we take a strongly constructivist view of astrology, then the reality or otherwise of the "influence" is irrelevant. In fact, astrology's significance is merely that it is part of the total context of our reality, like it or not.. I tend to think of this as the "great painting in the sky". 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."

Yes, this is the validity of subjective reality, the personal experience thread of this list as Bill calls it. Focus firmly on your experience and the astrological mechanism and Bill's other main list thread becomes totally irrelevant. Hold to this view and you will never, ever, achieve any objectivity.

"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?"

Hey Andre, are you serious? Is theories in quotes for a good reason? Hope so; when one takes one's personal fantasies out to play, one has no use for theories other than to use them like modelling clay. When I was a kid it was called plasticine.

"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."

Indeed, though much less so for prognosis.

"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..."

Fair enough, as far as history and cultural impact goes, but I must take exception to "can only be". I see astrology as a language of time, to some degree, of nature, to some degree, as well as the collective product you mentioned. This reflects the substance of Bill's thread #1, the mechanism. Because the archetypes of nature manifest in time, some of them actually structuring natural time cycles, they underlie astrology. The planetary archetypes are the most amenable to qualitative description, and the most accessible to astrologers. The interpretive language of astrology becomes more accurate the more closely it hews to the astrological archetypes (instead of mythology or tradition). Keywords, in principle, come close to conveying the essence of the archetype. The merit of this approach to the language of astrology is that it provides an avenue for the attainment of relative objectivity and escape from any delusional tradition of collective hallucinations.

"Dennis - you commented about a point I made concerning planets and time as sounding obvious, and you charitably suggested perhaps you were missing something. It's actually fairly hard (especially for me!) to judge what is obvious and what isn't in the world of astrology, but it *seems* to me that generally astrologers talk about astrological "influence" as if it is something force-like that operates when such and such a planet transits some other planet, and that then there are certain things (events, perhaps moods and feelings) that *follow* from transits. I have been aware for some time (e.g., Rhudyar, Ruperti, perhaps even Addey) that the cyclic nature of planetary movement has been recognised more explicitly, and has led to an understanding of human experience itself as cyclic in nature. This is certainly more holistic, in that it connects different facets of experience (events, moods etc.) into a connected and meaningful whole (though I could argue that it is the connections made by the *person* rather than by astrological thought that - initially at least - should be pre-eminent). Now, it may be that in this account there are insights into the nature of time that I have overlooked, but it has seemed to me that to say that time and experience are cyclic, in analogy to the movement of the planets, is more or less only descriptive. The 'influence' (it seems to me from the way astrologers usually write and talk) is still supposed to be essentially something that either *follows* or *coincides with* the transit or whatever. Not explained or even addressed, in general, have been questions of *why* such and such a cycle corresponds to such and such a planetary meaning."

Unfortunately I'm obliged to conclude that my previous explanations haven't worked. I think, and it seems you may be aware of it, that Alexander Ruperti addressed your latter point here in "Cycles of Becoming", following Rudhyar. Rather than influence, with the historical baggage of cause/effect, try activation (of the archetypes). The influence seems to come from the planetary archetypes (not the planets), modified by sign, house and aspect archetypes. The house component seems less evident at the archetypal level, and more evident as location of effects.

"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.. 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!)."

Nothing wrong with this really. It just seems so minimalist that my reaction was "Why bother?" Are you in denial of archetypes?

"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."

Perhaps. I am not aware that he has posited any, unless it is that biological clocks just happened to evolve so as to model natural time cycles (my words, not his). There is some merit in this view, despite it being likewise minimalist. Perhaps you have both been indoctrinated with the need to shave with Occam's razor? Better than the opposite extreme, I guess. So how simplistic must we become to explain the complexity of nature?

"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'."

I see a fair amount of merit in this logic, and it does seem to provide a model with some elegance.

"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."

True, but it is just a more elaborate version of synchronicity, which disposed of fate/causation long ago. Why be bothered with the inadequacies of slow learners? Civilisation continues to evolve and leave them behind, so better to go with the flow. Again, archetypes are the suitable key descriptive concept likely to satisfy those interested who need to see active agents producing synchronous effects.

"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."

True, but it invokes archetypes without admitting to doing so. Why not incorporate them explicitly?

"There is also the interesting corollary 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."

Well, it is present in the applying orb, as a build-up or up-welling of influence of the transiting planet's associated archetype. We should remind readers, most of whom will probably already know, that various other archetypes are activated secondarily depending on context.

What my personal astrophilosophy has in common with this minimalist theory of Andre & Dale is the solar system as holistic driver synchronising planetary orbits with effects on Earth. In my book I called the agency that produces this synchronicity the `law of the whole'. The many-handed clock maps out natural time cycles of differing qualities, each hand being uniquely different at the archetypal level. The law of the whole co-ordinates all parts of the system in a synchronous time pattern. Frozen, hypothetically, in any moment, it will reveal the pattern which connects, just as a hologram reveals its picture.

Dennis Frank


Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 01:41:06 GMT
From: Bill Sheeran
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #62

Hello everyone

Dennis said (initially quoting Bill Tallman)
 > >And "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??" Happy to own up here to a rare
 > >instance of me falling into the `typical astrologer' category. Whilst I
 > >have some sympathy with Bill's critique of this common habit, perhaps I will
 > >use as my counsel for the defence the Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard
 > >Feynman. I will cite his oft-recycled assertion that, to do (well in)
 > >physics, "ya gotta have taste". snip .....
 > >Aesthetic judgement drives decision-making as a general
 > >rule, it seems. Often people cannot rationalise why they feel they need to
 > >do something, and when they articulate it, it sounds like they are acting
 > >from an inner urging.
 > >
 > >So I think Feynman was saying that the smart physicist will actually use
 > >his/her aesthetic judgement in decision-making, completely contrary to the
 > >scientific myth of logical reasoning. It's a rare physicist (or any other kind of scientist) who makes a creative break through using merely logical reasoning. I know from my own experience that imagination, intuition and aesthetics (all highly subjective) play a very important role in the early phases of scientific conceptual modelling. The application of logic and methodology then serve to validate (or not) the initial hypotheses within the constraints of the prevailing paradigm model. The selection pressure for conserving the paradigm often extends a theory beyond its sell-by date, through the instinct to generate supportive auxiliary hypotheses in situations where experimental results run counter to what was expected.

While this tendency would no doubt prevail in relation to astrological modelling, we do have the fundamental problem of not having in focus a contemporary set of paradigmatic guidelines. This makes effective reasoning difficult. On the other hand, astrology draws strongly (in my opinion) on our non-rational faculties in a way that is more overt than their use in science. I think this should be fully acknowledged. The act of interpreting a set of symbolic patterns in astrology is different from interpreting the digital readouts of instruments. One striking feature of astrology is the extent to which, unlike science, it is not a universal language. Not only are there different cultural expressions of astrology (across both temporal and geographical borders), but within a given culture (especially in the west) there is a huge and growing diversity of techniques. And all astrologers think their techniques work. While this observation is often used to make criticisms, whether from sceptics, or from astrologer to astrologer, it may be suggesting that the usual processes of rational exclusion (e.g. arguing that the tropical and sidereal zodiacs can't both be valid) might lead to one missing the point. It may simply be a culturally determined error to try to apply Aristotelian logic to astrology.

If this is the case, is is very problematical, as it leaves us with the spectre of relativism to deal with. But that is increasingly becoming a general problem within the arena of post-modern philosophical discourse, and will be teased out over the years (a process from which astrology can only benefit).

Anyhow, the point I meant to make was that however uncomfortable it may seem to our rational urge, there may be quite a lot to be said for following one's aesthetic choices as an astrologer. Whether or not this will turn out to be the case will depend on how important the consciousness of the astrologer is in the whole astrological process. Can astrologers be removed from the equations so that we are still left with an objectively valid and coherent astrological model? My intuition (and my experience) says no. Could it be that my own horoscope indicates which aesthetic preferences I'm inclined to indulge? And if so, how can I criticise another astrologer (with associated horoscope) who eschews midpoints for asteroids, for example?

And this is why I feel that Geoffrey Cornelius is doing a service by bringing the astrologer back centre stage as part of the definition of astrology.

 > >However, I have a better reason for
 > >circling with the flock on this matter. The right brain produces holistic
 > >insights by assessing each new element of information in relation to the
 > >context of the whole, the entirety of your knowledge. If it doesn't fit,
 > >you know immediately. Well, I sure do, and I gather this is normal. So
 > >there is some kind of internal evaluation that throws a binary switch:
 > >right/wrong. The mind does this automatically. And it's highly subjective (a point I have no problem with in principle).
 > >
 > >So, in regard to the Ptolemaic bones mouldering in the corpse of classical
 > >astrology, that's why I was able to spot those few that fitted my
 > >understanding of the world at the time. My judgement must have been pretty
 > >good because a considerable expansion of my multi-disciplinary perspective
 > >in the last couple of decades has required no amendment to it. The efforts
 > >of Project Hindsight will be best judged in relation to the
 > >multi-disciplinary frame of reference provided by the emerging scientific
 > >paradigm. If they flog their deceased nag hard enough, will it rise, to
 > >canter? Perhaps if they all hold hands and do a positive visualisation... Having recently listened to 6 hours of recorded lectures by Robert Schmidt (Project Hindsight director), I can tell you that he is very well placed to engage in a multi-disciplinary strategy. His early academic training was in mathematical physics. He is an ancient Greek text translator. And he studied philosophy under a pupil of Martin Heidegger. For example, his lecture "Astrology and Fields of Consciousness" contains within it (according to the written PR material - I haven't actually heard that tape) topics such as "Fractal dimension interpreted as measure of intensive magnitude using the notion of coalescence; application to Koch curves and Cantor dusts; The two "mathematical" problems for a "scientific" account of astrological causation in terms of fields; The interaction of temporal intensification with intentionality in astrological causation", etc., etc.". (Whatever all that means!)

You wouldn't want to labour under the illusion (like I did until recently) that Project Hindsight is a dry-boned translation project with its head firmly twisted towards the past.
 > >
 > >A couple of Exegesis contributors couldn't get their heads around Bill's
 > >notion of a non-mechanistic mechanism. My instinctive reaction to it was
 > >that I had already long ago come to the same expectation, so I naturally
 > >agree with Bill that that is indeed what we ought to expect is happening.
 > >This is the arena of metaphysics, where Bohm, Smuts, Sheldrake and Koestler
 > >have already made major relevant contributions. There has to be a better word than mechanism to describe morphogenetic fields and the holomovement.

Dennis, quoting Bill:
 > >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). It's not quite that simple in my opinion. The map belongs to a moment in time, not the individual. And the individual is not separate from the broader context, which has its own dynamics. To take a favourite analogy from genetics, there is no genetic predisposition towards starvation in the chromosomes of a malnourished child in a Sudanese war zone. And the chances are quite high that Saturn will not be in hard aspect to the moon, either natally or by transit, etc.

Dennis quoting Bill:
 > >"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. Rectification is a modern invention, as are accurate clocks. Astrology was already in decline in the west before such developments. What are we to make of that (apart from the obvious observation that modern western society is obsessed with and controlled by Saturnian time, or Chronos)?

 > >The social value of rectification was dramatically demonstrated by the
 > >couple of dozen or so published rectifications of Ronald Reagan's birth,
 > >all different; zilch!! The moral of this story is that rectification, as
 > >an astrological technique, is a mirage. It is a delusional focus for the
 > >astrocommunity. The total lack of commonality means there is no
 > >standard technique which any novice may properly learn and apply to
 > >get the right answer.
 > >
 > >The other side of the rectification coin is that some astrologers appear to
 > >be able to get reliable answers for themselves, using inexplicable
 > >unexportable idiosyncratic methods. Indicating the importance of the astrologer plus non-rational psychic faculties, as opposed to objective rational methodology. The use of idiosynchratic techniques may give the comforting illusion of rational application, but is as likely to be a mask, acting instead as focusing devices for non-rational perception. I personally believe that an experienced astrologer, having put in the time relating and empowering their favourite symbols, will usually find that they speak to him or her. It's called divination, and it is hidden beneath the more rational aspects of the craft. Both are useful (or even necessary) and they inter-penetrate, or so I believe. I even believe this is true for scientists who allow their creative faculties a bit of slack.

Dennis quoting Bill:
 > >"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." I quite agree. It is clearly the case that a theoretical model for astrology which doesn't take into account the subjective experience of it will be no model at all. And attempting to understand the subjective experience without bringing into view some form of conceptual modelling will lead one to languish in a chronic state of incomprehension. They inter-penetrate.

All the best,



Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 01:41:27 GMT
From: Bill Sheeran
To: exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #61

Hello Dennis and all,

 > >In 4/58 Bill Sheeran made a number of points which I had also made in this
 > >list previously, but I will address another that I may disagree with. A
 > >research scientist in which field, Bill? Glad you decided to participate
 > >here Sorry about the repetition, and thanks for the welcome. My scientific research field was biochemistry and microbiology (in the context of preventing diseases in intensive aquaculture operations).

 > >When I learnt astrology it became obvious to me that horary
 > >was a divination technique, with rules seemingly unrelated to astrological
 > >theory. However it seems that some astrologers have such a tenuous grasp of
 > >astrological theory that they also apply it as though it were likewise a
 > >divination method. Cornelius seems an able advocate for these people. Geoffrey Cornelius's argument (from my reading of his work) emerges from his perception of a primary differentiation within astrology between an approach based on causation (consolidated by Greek rational philosophy, and promoted in Ptolemy's work), and one based on "signs" (a divinatory or katarchic method). In this he is essentially describing the difference you mentioned yourself. Although he doesn't dwell to much on the point, he does indicate that both approaches have validity; that neither can be reduced to the other; and that methods appropriate for researching one are inadequate for exploring the other.

He would associate "natural" astrology with the former, and "judicial" astrology with the latter. He also suggests that the somewhat Aristotelian astrology of causes implies a phenomenon whereby the planetary patterns encode objective information which has validity and relevance whether or not an astrologer is at hand to engage in interpretation. On the other hand, divinatory astrology (i.e. horary, inceptional, electional practices) only assumes significance or potency with the participation of an astrologer. For Cornelius, it is the astrologer who is fundamentally involved in choosing the "moment of astrology". This may be through choosing to accept a horary question (thereby determining the time for the chart), for example, or by assigning significance to the moment of birth. This latter approach he discusses in the context of Ptolemy's "doctrine of the origin", and the associated "seed hypothesis" (which Ptolemy uses to rationalise the relocation of temporal significance from moment of conception to moment of birth).

There is a tension between these parallel tracks, and to the extent that Aristotelian logic has influenced thinking in the West, the effect has been detrimental to the creative evolution of katarchic of divinatory astrology. Cornelius would argue that the roots of astrology lie in the pre-Hellenistic attitude, and that this was katarchic in nature. The massive influence of Hellenistic philosophy (and among astrologers, Ptolemy) combined with the objectivist flavour of modern science (i.e. post 17th century) has created a selection pressure for the consolidation of an astrology of causes.

It is very unfortunate that The Moment of Astrology is out of print. Cornelius was here (in Ireland) a couple of weeks ago, and he said there were major problems re: a reprint. It may be because Penguin is apparently pulling the plug on its Arkana imprint (which specialised in astrology). It's very thought provoking and substantial piece of work which it is difficult to do justice to by picking out bits and pieces. If you come across a copy for sale anywhere, buy it.

 > >Just to inform you of the extent to which I am/not aware of his views, I'll
 > >recycle the relevant section of my debut message to this list (3 months
 > >ago)... snip...
 > >Let's analyse its implications: first, a heaven/earth polarity; second, a
 > >pattern common to both; third, a synchronicity of signs above and effects
 > >below. To the generic observer these implications derive from both
 > >consciousness of unity (the world, cosmos, one's entire surroundings,
 > >pattern of the whole) and also from consciousness of duality (sky/earth,
 > >world/me, event/experience, coincidence). So when we experience an event,
 > >the inner/outer simultaneity produces a psychological state structured in
 > >the most primal way by both the unitary and the dualistic capacities of our
 > >psyche. Interesting point.

re: Cornelius
 > >He later advocates some extensive reframing... "A much more radical move is
 > >needed: to recognize that the very structure of what we do in interpreting
 > >horoscopes depends not upon the influence of the heavens upon the seed, nor
 > >upon some objective "time-quality" stamped out by the heavens, not even by
 > >synchronistic co-occurrence in objective time. It depends on the significant
 > >presentation of the symbol to consciousness. The moment doesn't determine
 > >significance for us - we assign significance to the moment." This central element of his argument is backed up with some persuasive illustrations.

 > >I believe there exist archetypes of nature that generate and shape natural
 > >forms and processes. Do archetypes generate manifest forms, or are they revealed in the manifest forms? snip.....
 > >Jung's
 > >writings are themselves to blame to some extent: he asserted that the
 > >number archetypes exist in nature rather late in life, and most of his
 > >earlier writings on archetypes do indeed define them as generic structural
 > >components of the collective unconscious. My understanding includes the notion that Jung saw Number as the primary archetype of order, and that the development of arithmetic and mathematics mirror the emergence of this archetype into consciousness.
 > >Progress requires those
 > >interested to differentiate natural and social archetypes; given that most
 > >of the latter are tribe or culture-specific, this seems reasonable. It is
 > >true, however, that some social archetypes may approach universality in
 > >human society. The warrior, killer, assassin, the trickster, joker, fool,
 > >the sage, guru, shaman, the chief, ruler, tyrant. A promising digression
 > >which I must hasten to nip in the bud (omitting female examples). I'm not sure about this differentiation between natural and social archetypes. Is it not the case that Jung's concept of archetypes is based on their 'location' in the realm of the non-manifest? If so, then the archetypes can (or will) find their manifest forms in any defined context (on whatever level or scale), whether it be human nature, symmetry in the plant world, decorative arts in Papua New Guinea, etc. Should we not differentiate between archetypes and the forms which those archetypes assume on manifestation?

 > >So hopefully this lengthy explanation demonstrates that I am only partially
 > >informed about Cornelius' astrophilosophy, and have good reason to believe
 > >things happen when they do due to archetypal qualities of passing time,
 > >which the Cornelius view seems to either deny or remain ignorant of. If I
 > >am not being fair to him, or if there is a substantial rationale in his book
 > >that his piece excerpted above does not convey, I'd be most interested and
 > >appreciative were you to reproduce it in this forum. There is a lot more in his book than was conveyed in that TMA article. Cornelius (or rather his philosophy) does not, in my opinion, deny the validity of your belief in the archetypal qualities of passing time. He is also not suggesting that the conventional techniques of modern horoscopy should be abandoned. I think that he is driven to create a space within the conceptual map of astrology for his experience of astrology in its katarchic form. This entails deconstructing certain fundamentals we have inherited from Ptolemy, and re-viewing our rationalization of the practice of our craft (rather than necessarily the practices themselves). And the primary factor which he focuses attention on is Ptolemy's influence in promoting a doctrine of origins whereby the significant moment of astrology is *necessarily* the perceived moment of birth. And I have to say that I think he has a good point. I too have been perplexed by some of my experiences of the workings of astrology in this regard.

The bottom line is that he would seem to believe that these two different experiences of astrology (as causes or as signs) co-exist, but that one has been allowed to atrophy. Is it a particle, or is it a wave?, Is the observer (i.e. astrologer, or quantum physicist) a major influence in determining outcome? Are we talking Neptune (merged) or are we talking Uranus (detached)? And so on (my analogy).

All the best,



End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 64

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

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