|Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #91
Exegesis Digest Mon, 29 Nov 1999
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 20:15:13 -0800
From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #89
Dennis, in the second part of his critique of Patrice's post, said:
> What first becomes evident here, signalled by the term `psychic-astral', is
> an apparent assumption Patrice has made. He seems to have assumed
> horoscopes are birth-charts. This is not so. Most horoscopes in use depict
> human births, but many do not. The term `psychic-astral' links states of
> the psyche with states of the stars, leaving mundane circumstances out of
> the equation. Patrice seems to have implicitly rejected the most ancient
> element of the astrological tradition. Horoscopes have always been used to
> divine events, which is why they are diagrams of the holistic relations of
> the event to the cosmos. The most popular class of events chosen by users
> of the system happens to be human birth-charts. Defining the system only in
> relation to this sub-class is a strategic error.
I must say I am astonished to read this. This is the first time I've seen *any* other opinion that astrology is not inherently about human beings, such that the horoscope is always a birth chart... other than my own, that is. I will not presume that my repeated expression of this idea has any causal force here, but it is certainly heartening to see that the idea of astrology as application independent isn't just a figment of my imagination.
I think it must be obvious, even painfully so, that the limitation of astrology strictly to its genethliacal form is a fundamental tenet for all but a few modern astrologers. Certainly all the well accepted current theories about astrology are founded thereon. Given the tradition of summary repudiation by scientists in general, any theoretical work in astrology has had to inhabit those places where science has yet to penetrate: until recently, astrology's habitat has been in the realm of human psychology, where philosophical interpretation of clinical data has largely been all that was possible, and astrology could claim philosophical license to practice. This is no longer the case, as neuroscience has now become the arena for verification of psychological theory, leaving astrology in a less and less tenable position there.
Nevertheless, for anyone doing scholarship in the subject of astrology, there is clearly no sound material on which to base the claim of application independence for astrology itself: it's all been about the application of astrology to human life, the human psyche, soul, etc. So we must assume that any scholarly work will come to the conclusion that astrology is only valid in its genethliacal form, and this is what is apparently the case with Patrice's work.
But Dennis is correct here: the ancient traditions of astrology are of its application as a predictive technology, which had little or nothing to do with psychological matters. Questions about the outcome of a war or battle, about whether the king will survive this or that situation, whether this or that event will have such or some other effect: to answer these questions was the original purpose of astrological investigation.
What can be said of this?
Several things, I think: The astronomical technology available to any period of time is fundamentally irrelevant, I think. Data for the moment can be taken from primary observation, and the documented standards of precision of that time were quite satisfied with what was observed. Even today, much can be gained from inspection of a horoscope with positions given to the nearest degree, and it's clear that this level of technology has been around for millennium.
This leaves the interpretive technology. Celestial figures (what we might now call Aspect patterns) are some of the oldest recorded astrological data on which judgments were made, and placement in the Zodiac provided an additional framework of refinement for the process. Position in the sky at the moment was a matter that was noted for a particular event and seems to have been a somewhat later refinement. All these things are the basics for modern practice, and are not fundamentally different in kind.
Given this, we must then ask if the ancients actually had the wherewithal to use these tools effectively enough to make them work. The answer, I think, must obviously be that they clearly were so capable. The ancients who practiced these arts were not Neanderthals with limited language and so forth: they were quite as bright and sophisticated as any modern individual. The lack of current technology does not define them as inherently retarded intellectually; in fact, it could be said that they made surprisingly good use of what they had available. In short, they must be assumed to have been as bright as we are today (at least we must say this of those who practiced astrology from observed data). They invented the techniques, and one must assume they were smart enough to use what they developed.
They used the same basic tools we use today, and they were as capable of their use as we are, or so I think we can conclude. If this is the case, then we should have the grace to ask ourselves what they knew that we do not, for the tradition of astrology clearly states that they did things we believe we cannot do. The reality of it is that, as yet, nearly all astrologer's have not this ability, this grace: we believe that we must surely know more than anyone that lived in times earlier than ours, and we assume that if we cannot find a way to do something, not only can it not be done but any claims in prior times that this was not so are obviously wrong. I suggest this is hubris on our part, and does not serve us at all well.
I suggest we are better served striving to find out what they did and how they did it instead of assuming they could not do what they claimed, and defining modern usage accordingly. We are used to critically discounting old documentation as irrelevant unless we can discover convincing corroboration in the physical evidence: this is standard archeological practice. But there are situations where the physical evidence simply does not address the matter at hand, and this is one of those. So we must accept the material at face value and investigate it to allow it to provide its own verification, and we must assume that we *don't* know anything about it or we will do as we have continued to do in this matter for centuries: we will bias our work with modern assumptions that are in fact baseless in themselves.
All this lies beyond the parameters of the sort of scholarly work Patrice has undertaken, and for more than one reason. There is, at present, no primary data on these matters for scholarship to treat. To create primary data, to evaluate and theorize ancient techniques requires that the material under investigation be taken advocatively; that is, the assumption must be that the material is valid until it is refuted by sound demonstration. Scholarship tainted with advocacy is considered corrupt by academia. In short, scholarship and science are two rather different endeavors.
Patrice is a scholar. What we need here is some real investigative science.
Incidentally, I strongly suspect that some is actually taking place: Project Hindsight has now produced a theoretical basis for Hellenistic astrology and has developed a systemic application thereof, soon to be published, we are given to understand. This is good science. The data available was mined exhaustively and studied extensively, a hypotheoretical structure was developed and tested against erstwhile anomalous material, and the finding was that the structure contained the substance of the anomalous material such that it was no longer intractable of understanding. The theory predicted the findings.
On that basis, further investigation is warranted, and, as I said in the last post, I have acquired as much of the primary material as is now available in order to participate in the work. I would invite any and all of those on this list and elsewhere to participate as well.
The idea is that when all the extant material on astrology is available (Medieval astrology, Hindu astrology, Hebrew astrology, etc., etc., are all awaiting complete translation and submission to the above processes), we will have done due diligence to create as complete an array of primary material as is historically possible, and we can submit it to rigorous testing as it is intended that Hellenistic astrology is to be. With the primary material available, and adequate rigorous testing thereof, astrological scholarship will finally have enough of a research basis to be really productive.
Having said all the above, I suggest that the best of scholarship in these matters will only produce a(n) (exhaustive) compilation of philosophical opinion on the subject, and the conclusions drawn therefrom must therefore be of the same nature. So I commend Patrice for his work and I think it should be added to the current analysis of astrological philosophy. It cannot, however, be taken as an acceptable contribution to astrological theory, because it contains no solid research into the primary material itself, without which there is no substance from which to construct such a theory.
Philosophy is intended to understand what is known. Science is intended to discover what is not known. Let us not confuse these functions, I suggest.
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 91
[Exegesis Top][Table of Contents][Prior Issue][Next Issue]
Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996-1999 their respective authors.