Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #77

From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #75, #76

Exegesis Digest Wed, 13 Oct 1999

Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 22:02:16 -0700
From: "William D. Tallman"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #75, #76

I guess I'm not much of a lurker... < grin >

 > >In Ex4/70, Bill Tallman makes a complaint about widespread contemporary
 > >aversion to determinism.. "The OED defines it as the recognition of
 > >the existence of external force. A good antithesis might be Solipsism, [snip]
 > >advertises, because to do so would be an example of "Determinism", which
 > >Science has now "proven" not to exist."
 > >
 > >"Does anyone else see anything wrong with all this?"
 > >
 > >Yes, I accept that Bill's argument here is reasonable. However I feel I am
 > >on the other side of this paradigmatic divide, perhaps for reasons that are
 > >more cultural than philosophical. Language evolves with the times, and
 > >younger generations (OK, their philosophically literate components!) have
 > >come to equate determinism with mechanist-materialism. The result in the
 > >last couple of decades has been an escalating tendency to dismiss such
 > >beliefs as myopic and old-fashioned.

Determinism. Mechanist-materialism. I continue to get the impression that these "isms" are emotionally loaded concepts largely devoid of logical significance. I will readily admit that I'm probably not as literate in these matters as I should be to warrant my contributions to these discussions, but perhaps that's all to the good. I have not had these views pounded into me as have extensively trained academics.

I would venture to guess that all this came about on an incremental basis, where each generation added its own part of the continuing development of these ideas. Maybe I need to be given reference to the material in which all of this is criticized, in which this ongoing evolvement of meaning and subsequent understanding is held to the light of examination; I would expect that *someone* would have discerned the gaps in logic that are apparent to me, had any such criticism been carried out.

 > >When I was a young fellow capitalising abstract nouns caused people to fail
 > >English tests. Is this American fashion a residual revolutionary compulsion
 > >Bill? Consulting Chambers for solipsism gives "the theory that
 > >self-existence is the only certainty, absolute egoism - the extreme form of
 > >subjective idealism". "I think, therefore only I am", as Descartes would
 > >have said. Presumably other people then appear as rather disturbing
 > >features of one's psychic wallpaper. Anyway, this does not seem an
 > >appropriate antithesis of determinism to me.

Well, to the extent that there is a tendency to make a specific application of any of these "ism" nouns, they become proper nouns and acquire capitalization. It results from an obsession with names and labels, such as are substituted for definitions, etc. This may well be, at least to some extent, a manifestation of the American drive for instantaneous and effortless accomplishment/achievement. We're pretty well known for this sort of attitude, I suppose < grin > .

I seriously doubt that Descartes would have ever gotten to such a place: who would have paid his cafe expenses, were such a state of affairs to actually exist? < grin > On the other hand, he was said to have been extraordinarily odiferous, which argues the other way.....

 > >However Bill's substantive point hinges on "the existence of external
 > >force", and internal/external forces. I can agree with the latter thesis
 > >provided these equate broadly with metapatterns, and/or archetypes. The
 > >concept of force has become questionable in science since Einstein. Some
 > >authors have been explicit in condemning it as misleading. Conversely
 > >common usage ought not to be discounted. Chambers gives "strength, power,
 > >energy: efficacy: validity: influence: vehemence: violence: coercion" as
 > >qualitative meanings of the noun; and push, thrust, compel, constrain, for
 > >the verb. Certainly there seems to be a force that constrains and coerces
 > >people and circumstances by subtle influence to produce the synchronous
 > >effect that astrologers have always described with `as above, so below'.

That science may question its own rigorous usage of the word may have little to do with the common perception that force does indeed exist.

 > >Unfortunately, language being the communicative vehicle for culture, force
 > >tends to be interpreted as a scientific term to contradict such common
 > >usage. Consequently the traditional mechanist/materialist objection to
 > >astrology: `there is no detectable force that causes planets to affect
 > >people'.

Interesting observation! The concept of force is much older than Isaac Newton, and has a very rich range of meaning and application. The fact is, however, that the classical physics usage is a rigorous application of this general concept in a well defined context, and so is a subset of the general concept itself. I suspect that the use of the more rigorous sense is a way of dodging the implications of the much fuller context of the general meaning; it's safer to limit such things to what has already been accepted.

 > >Most scientists who comment on astrology assume the prior Newtonian meaning
 > >of force. In media debate, they consequently presume journalists and
 > >astrologers likewise interpret the term `force' to imply a material
 > >mechanism caused by the planets, which has a mechanical effect on life on
 > >Earth. Since no such force is detectable, they naturally claim it does not
 > >exist. Unless they think something is tangible, most scientists are
 > >inclined to dismiss it as imaginary - at best hypothetical, at worst occult.

It is certainly acceptable for scientists to presume some understanding and acceptance of the language of science, but the hubris they display in claiming that nothing exists that isn't known to science does them great discredit, at least in my eyes.

Astrology has traditionally held that something like a material mechanism must exist, although the assumption was until recently that such a thing must also be divine in nature. The proper conclusion is that no such force has been detected, period. This does not demonstrate that no such force exists, but that science has not discovered such a thing. But then scientists are scientists for personal reasons, and one of the stronger and more common of those is that anything unknown is unacceptable, for whatever reason.

 > >Since determinism implies forces and material cause and effect relations, it
 > >evokes feelings of distaste in those of us brought up in the conceptual
 > >prison of the Newtonian paradigm. We have evolved into a more comprehensive
 > >understanding of how nature operates. If we use the concept of force we
 > >inevitably end up in a semantic tangle. Better to evolve more contemporary
 > >sophisticated descriptions of our belief system, incorporating terms that
 > >point to an emerging trans-disciplinary avante-garde consensus.

This is where we have got to. Astrology is a belief system. As such, it is not subject to rigorous examination because it has the sacrosanct immunity granted to religion, philosophy and other manifestations of the private reality. No one individual's private reality can be judged more or less valid than that of any other individual, which reduces this whole matter to the futility of persuasion without visible foundation.

If this is true, then all that is happening in this list is the exercise of individual points of view, where any true debate on the merits thereof has only conditional value, to be scrapped at the end in order to make way for the next episode if such is required. At that point, we can wonder if this isn't just about intellectual ego and the exercise thereof (myself prominently included... < grin > ).

Excuse me if I sound pessimistic and negative, but absent any sort of search for some solid objective foundation, any theoretical or philosophical discussion of astrology is just stirring the same old pot. It has yet to make soup, and I see no reason to expect that it ever will.

 > >As to Bill's later objection to any attempt to deconstruct astrology, surely
 > >it would be better to judge it on its merits? Rather than assume
 > >destruction of something valuable, the process is just as likely to reveal a
 > >kernel of cosmic wisdom currently masked by obscure terminology, delusive
 > >malpractice, superstition, etc, etc. That said, such deconstruction will
 > >remain a straw man until someone actually claims to have performed it.

As we were given to understand on this list, deconstruction was a process in which the object of interest was taken apart, to remain so for some indeterminate length of time. It has been my experience that taking something apart and leaving the pieces laying around almost inevitably guarantees that thing's demise. Deconstruction must also imply reconstruction, and this implication has been notable in its absence, at least as discussed here.

Otherwise, I agree that a reasonable process deserves to be allowed to prove itself on its own merits, and that otherwise it easily becomes a straw man. Unfortunately, as defined here, the process does not appear reasonable.

 > >"Then there is the issue of "free will", which is said to be threatened by
 > >the validity of astrology. I note that there is no discernible definition
 > >of what "free will" might be, and so out of deference to the potential
 > >discussion of the subject, I will not offer unilateral commentary. Suffice
 > >it to say that in my view, the lack of any definition suggests that the
 > >issue is so poorly understood that any discussion of it lacks useful worth."
 > >
 > >Baffles me that this keeps coming back, but that may just be because it is
 > >more than half a Saturn cycle since I resolved the issue to my own
 > >satisfaction. Perhaps I could therefore at least suggest a basis for a
 > >definition. Free will is the capacity of a person to make choices, and via
 > >the focus on goals, to strive for achievement of the results that they need
 > >and want in life.

Okay, that sounds like a reasonable specific example of free will, and I have heard other such examples. The problem is that this is as far as it goes. An example is not a definition, however much it might contribute thereto. If we can actually get to a sufficiently comprehensive definition, then we might be able to get somewhere with this, but not otherwise, I suggest.

In a discussion with Patrice, Dennis asserts:

 > >There is an entire world outside the human psyche, and for two
 > >millennia astrology was applied to this exterior and not to our interior,
 > >which along with individual human beings was considered insignificant to the
 > >point of total irrelevance in the grand scheme of things. To be more
 > >explicit, astrology was applied to determine fate and fortune, of kings
 > >originally, sometimes cities, and later other influential people with money.

I think this statement can stand on its own outside the context of the discussion. Dennis confirms what I've long said: astrology itself was originally about our world and the circumstances and events therein. It had nothing to do with individual considerations until the development of the horoscope, which then allowed the inspection of a specific point in time and space in our world. The assumption was that an individual (human being, idea, process, question, venture, etc.), if born then and there, would be an expression of the astrological character of that point. It would seem that this assumption has been well demonstrated: horoscopic astrology has continued to thrive ever since.

The point is this: Horoscopic astrology is *not* the only practice thereof, and depends for its validity on the entire >>>application independent < construct of astrology itself. Until this is grasped and understood, we will get no further in a pursuit in understanding of the essence of astrology itself.

In a later part of his post, Dennis addresses Fran's suggestion (V1 #1) that it is the shadow of astrology that should be addressed. I would submit that the shadow is about all we have left, given the extensive and ongoing revisionism that astrology has undergone.

It is undoubtedly to be expected that most people will accept "whole cloth and a yard wide" the current version of any given subject, and astrology is quite evidently no exception. We see how a generation of practitioners have developed on the unshakable assumption that astrology is an adjunct to human psychology, and that it has no perceivable relevance outside of that context. In consequence, all discussions of astrology so founded are necessarily circumscribed by those considerations.

All that can be expected from those holding this view is a continuing stirring of that particular pot, which has yet to make soup, I think.

There are other shadows of astrology to be explored, shadows that lie outside this rather narrow interpretation of astrology. I wonder if they can be investigated without a priori judgments of irrelevance and invalidity. Maybe it would be worthwhile to deliberately make an accounting of all those shadows that have been cast off for whatever reason, and to withdraw the assumptions that have been attached to them. It is there that we are likely to find the pearl of essence: so far, it hasn't turned up in the current stew (soup?).

In #76, Dale says:

 > >I think devination has dominated over the two plus millenia that
 > >horoscopic astrology has existed, and that devination in general is a
 > >way of being "right" when you don't know very much, but that it also
 > >allows for a gradual accumulation of empirical content if there's any
 > >to accumulate....

It's probably useful to regard the original meaning of divination. In general it was any process that promoted a discernment of what was divine, specifically that which was within the realm of the gods (who were divine by definition). We don't believe in the gods now, and we generally repudiate any sort of idea that such a realm actually exists outside the internal reality of any given individual. This has not always been so, and is in fact not the case universally even today. The terms are different. The modern usage is "spiritual" or "psychic", or without any reference to the past, "intuitive", etc.

It seems apparent that divination is often unusefully vague, and so it's easy to conclude that it is basically a cover for ineptness or ignorance. There are other reasons that divination does not produce the sort of conciseness we would like to require: it has traditionally had a special language, although it was based in the current common tongue. It can be considered as a semi-technical language, I think. In consequence, translation is necessary at the very least, and a more desirable solution is to gain some comprehension of it's linguistic requirements from an understanding of why they exist.

A well known example of a divinatory form is the I Ching, and the language is that of ancient Taoism as interpreted by Confucianists. It's pretty specialized and if one doesn't understand the terms, syntax, etc., it also is easily considered unacceptably vague. Given some reasonable understanding, however, (in my experience, and I'm far from alone in this) the I Ching can be frighteningly specific in its insights, etc.

The assumption here is that a system of divination has its own structure, and this is largely true, although there are some well understood exceptions. In general, a divinatory system is not a compilation of empirical knowledge, but a construct the architecture of which spans the visible (known) world and the hidden (unknown) realms, whatever they might actually be. In this regard, it is not useful to repudiate the possibility of "other" realms, because they are by definition not known (not unknowable, however...); it's better to accept that they must exist (because they are not specifically proscribed) and will probably wind up being quite different from any extant expectation, old or new.

Indeed, I recommend that astrology be reviewed from this perspective: it might be that shadows routinely missed might suddenly acquire sharper definition and so be discovered as heretofore hidden doorways into the essence of astrology itself. That would be very worthwhile, I think.

 > >"Understanding" is empirical, "interpretation" symbolistic. That's
 > >the difference, it seems to me, between traditional astrology and a
 > >modern astrology that has not yet fully emerged. I think this emerging
 > >astrology will be based on what actually, observably exists in nature
 > >that has astrological import, most obviously natural cycles whose
 > >intervals and timing correspond to planetary periods. I think it is
 > >equally necessary that we understand what astrology cannot do, but
 > >which it has seemed it can do due to reasoning processes that subvert
 > >empirical control. I don't think it can predict nonhuman events
 > >(earthquakes, explosions, sky-rocks falling through one's roof), nor
 > >do I think it can predict what happens _to_ people, as opposed to
 > >predicting, on the basis of psychological rhythms, where a person
 > >will be "coming from" during a given period. Neither do I think it
 > >can predict, on the basis of _my_ chart, the fortunes of those I care
 > >about. I think it can only predict, in principle at least, how I'm
 > >going to be motivated during a given period

Dale makes a very fundamental point here: whatever else astrology may be, it is rooted in the celestial sphere. He says this conditionally, but I say it succinctly.

Dale also makes the point that we need to determine the defining boundaries of the "astrological effect". I think we really do need to determine whether astrology can address non-human events. My original question in this current thread was: does the astrological effect require life to exist? We haven't even considered whether this is a valid question. I infer that Dale thinks so, because he gives an opinion in that regard.

In addition, Dale addresses astrological interconnectivity: is resonance possible between two (or more) astrological horoscopic entities, and if so, can that resonance deliver interpretive significance such that can be discerned and appropriately applied. I think the practice of astrology makes it very clear that such a resonance can (and quite often, does) exist. The question is whether that resonance can be influential. The more arcane astrological techniques specify that they not only can be but by their very nature *are* influential.

As one can imagine, however, this is a rather more complicated matter and is not a part of the basic astrological practice. There are several formats wherein two or more charts are brought together, and each produces a different result. Of the more common are composites and synastries, but the basic idea of applying one chart to another where there is already a strong inherent resonance has long been used. This is not a straightforward and simplistic process, and requires experience and judgment to yield useful information.

In general, however, Dale's views have a solid foundation for most people, even astrologers themselves.

 > >I have nothing to say about archetypes or maintaining order in
 > >patriarchal society, but astrology/astronomy and mathematics do appear
 > >to be part of the same natural cluster. T.S. Kuhn talks about this in
 > >"Mathematical versus Experimental Traditions in the Development of
 > >Physical Science", from his _The Essential Tension_. [snip]

Undoubtedly Kuhn addresses the processes by which new tools give rise to the possibility of new investigation, which produces the insights and understandings that make possible new tools. Although it is clear that any given individual is likely to have strengths and weaknesses that dictate his manner of working, I think this is a bit overvalued as a factor. For example: Rutherford was, of course, one of the stellar examples of a strong bias, but he had to have a strong competency in mathematics in order to do what he did in the lab.

Modern physics makes a reasonable and useful connection between the experimental and theoretical aspects of science, as he noted. These are both necessary parts of any general line of investigation and this has always been so. In lay terms, one goes out and takes a look to see what is going on, and then takes the time to try to figure out what one has actually discovered. The first is experimental and the second is theoretical, approximately.

The history of science demonstrates the rather linear development of precision in the several types of tools used. While this is perhaps more obvious in laboratory equipment, it is also true of the theoretical tools, specifically mathematics. Greater precision in observation tools makes for more detailed measurements ,etc. Greater precision in mathematics makes for more descriptive theory. To some extent, there is a sort of leap-frog phenomena here, but that's probably incidental.

For astrology, the more sophisticated observation equipment was the telescope, and the more sophisticated descriptive equipment was, of course, the calculus.

I guess I would recommend some thought along these lines as applied to the business of astrology: What observation tools do we have, and what are needed? What descriptive tools do we have and what are needed?

It's perfectly all right for people to specialize, but all need to understand that there are other aspects of the process that are just as necessary and integral thereto. The challenge in astrological investigation is more basic than choice of specialization, though.

Incidentally, experiment and mathematics are not the only two major parts of the scientific process, and can indeed be said to comprise together only half thereof. They both involve tools and are more straightforward than the other parts, but that's another story......



End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 77

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