Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #92

From: Bill Sheeran
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #91

Exegesis Digest Wed, 01 Dec 1999

Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 00:44:26 GMT
From: Bill Sheeran
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V4 #91

Bill Tallman wrote:
 > 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. ..... [my snip, BS] Defining the system only
 > in relation to this sub-class is a strategic error. to which Bill replied:
 > 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 This I find hard to believe. I have horoscopes for horses (one of which is a client), companies, mundane events galore, the birth of ideas, buildings and god knows what else.
 > 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. One of the main drifts of my own work is that astrology has no meaning until it is considered in terms of a specified context. Such contexts are almost limitless, in that they include anything which can be said to begin. As far as I am concerned there is an astrology of mayflies. Astrology is about the quality of time, so anything which exists in time can be a subject for astrological exploration.

 > 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. Perhaps everything I have mentioned above can be included in the term genethliacal. But then there is also the astrology of great conjunctions (and their cycles), astro-meteorology, astro-geophysics, and so on, much of which can be described as non-horoscopic astrology.
 > 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. Astrology is about the quality of time. Science has nothing at all to say about the quality of time. In fact, time has hardly any relevance at all for science. This is why they are able to cling onto their doctrine of reproducible results. It doesn't matter when an experiment is done, or repeated. It could be six months later. Time is not relevant.

Astrology is at the forefront of qualitative time studies, blindly working with some semblance of a system that brings the subjective reality of such temporal characteristics into view. Psychology and neuroscience are in the ha'penny place (as they say over here) compared to astrology when it comes to exploring this aspect of time. Time isn't just a graduated sense of duration which can be distorted under the influence of drugs, sleep or whether or not you're having fun. When science starts to seriously research the relationship between consciousness and time perception, astrology will be seen in a new light (and probably be given a new name).
 > 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. That's just an imbalance rooted in the self-obsession of the Pluto in Leo generation. Loads of people have tried in vain to seek correlation patterns between astrological factors and earthquakes, fluctuations in the stockmarkets, weather, and so on. Astrology is not an exact science, and will not be validated using the techniques of exact science. Statistical analysis is a very weak tool when it comes to studying astrology, as it requires an homogenous group of individual bits of data in order to come up with any information. Astrology, being concerned with the qualitative uniqueness of time, and the interface between this and an infinite diversity of contextual factors, does not lend itself easily to this kind of analysis. You'd need several hundred identical horoscopes and their associated stories in order to do the work properly. This is hard to engineer.
 > 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. I think it's most likely to come from studies which leave out humans (apart from the astrologer required for purposes of interpretation).
 > 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. As encapsulated by the techniques of horary and electional astrology, both of which are still very much alive.
 > What can be said of this?
 > Several things, I think: The astronomical technology available to any
 > period of time is fundamentally irrelevant, I think. I agree.
 > 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. Agreed. But what does "make them work" actually mean? It was the Greeks who introduced reason into the frame, effectively making the gods redundant. I'm sure that in terms of the societal function of astrology in the pre-Greek civilisations, the astrology worked fine. It worked as a medium through which the gods communicated to humanity. It's only we who feel we have to explain that functioning - a legacy from the Greek philosophers. As far as I'm concerned, astrology works. I happen to also be interested in that recognition from a theoretical and philosophical point of view. But any models which may arise from speculation, imagining or research will be just that - models. The phenomena which we study under the umbrella term astrology cannot be literally and objectively defined. In my opinion. The question is, given the predeliction for rationalisation in our culture, whether such models have any value - not whether they are absolutely right and objectively true. Truth is transient. Explaining astrology is scientific terms will not solve the conundrum, as the truths of science move on. Science models reality, it does not objectively define it.
 > 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. It's hard to argue with this. But on the other hand they were also subject to the same human failings as us, and would see patterns where none existed, would notice the times they got their predictions right and ignore failures, would make up techniques in order to win debating contests by impressing with dazzling and novel rhetoric, and so on. They had egos too.

Should we interpret the legacy of their writings as if they are firstly representative of general astrological practice in those days, and secondly as if they were written in the spirit of the Enlightenment when all gods and non-reason had been banished? To what extent, for example, did aesthetics play a part in the construction of their methods and theories? In other words, truth being revealed through beauty and symmetry.
 > 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. You seem to be assuming that astrology is an exact science. Astrology is the opposite. It co-evolves with culture, and it always "works", especially in a divinatory sense. Ask the Chinese or the Mayans if their astrology worked for them, and how they rationalise it.
 > 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. It beats me how you envisage eradicating the bias of modern assumptions. How can we possibly know what astrology meant to the Greeks when we have mere gossmer thread remnants of their culture? Never mind the earlier civilisations. The theories which emerge from such work will undoubtedly be imbued with prior assumptions about the cultural context at least. History is modernity's substitute for mythology and myth making. Instead of the golden age of the mythic gods, we have the golden age of Greek civilisation.
 > 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. However, all observations are pre-loaded with theoretical assumptions. Which usually means you get the answers you are looking for, once auxiliary hypotheses are brought on stream to explain away anomalous results (i.e. failed experiments). Alternatively, for example, the theoretical assumption that astrology is not real naturally prevents scientists from ever being satisfied with confirming research. They will produce extra hurdles to hop over (auxiliary hypothetical reasons why the research is flawed, why it still doesn't carry persuasive power and so on).

 > 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. Was this the Einstein project - using Einstein's birth chart to test Greek techniques? If so, it's only one chart, and I'm sure that the approach was heavily laden with filters of theory and expectation.

Robert Schmidt's theories are rooted in Plato's "Cosmic Soul" model, as described in the Timaeus. His work is very interesting on a number of levels. It is also what I would call a "closed system", one which will possibly exhibit a lot of internal coherence, especially on a theoretical level. And there's nothing wrong with that. I very much appreciate a good model. I'm sure that in the long run, it will work just as well as all the other approaches. But I wonder if it will knock anyone off their favourite perch to the point where they change over. It will have to be superbly successful to do that. I do like the way his translations have brought to light the impact of Arab interpretative error (in relation to Greek texts) on the evolution of house systems. I've never felt comfortable with the confusion in that area.
 > 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. I'm sure Robert will be delighted to have you on board. At the very least, you've got some interesting reading ahead of you.
 > 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. In the long run, there's no avoiding the essential fuzziness of astrological interpretation. Techniques may be seen to work well in retrospect, but I will be surprised if any greater clarity is afforded regarding interpretation of horoscopes for the present or the future. The astrologer cannot be left out of the equation, and astrologers are engaging in a highly subjective process when they interpret charts.
 > 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. In my opinion, the theories which emerge will be rooted in the philosophical sensibility of the theorist. My feeling is that pragmatic value (reflecting cultural bias) will select between different theories and philosophies, but then that's a reflection of my own philosophy! Experimental approaches have a lot of value, but I'm far from convinced that there is no substantial value to pure theory (mathematics being a prime example of the positive aspect of mere theorising). Of course, combining the two is ideal, but much was achieved during the millennia prior to Francis Bacon's plea for experimentation in the 17th century.

Ultimately, it will boil down to how we theorise about the qualitative aspect of time, which is the primary ground from which astrology as a human activity precipitates out. This will come from cognitive scientists and others working away in the borderland regions of what is up to now uncharted territory.
 > 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. A few digests ago, I used the following: "It gets very interesting when philosophy (the study of what we can't know) interfaces with science (the study of what we don't know)."

And I stick by it. Philosophy is making a comeback precisely because science is beginning to reach the point where all it can produce is fuzz. When there is a general acceptance by science of the inevitable existence of the unknowable, philosophy will regain the status it had for the Hellenistic Greeks - when theory was quite satisfactory, thank you very much.

All the best,



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