|Exegesis Volume 4 Issue #95
Exegesis Digest Sat, 04 Dec 1999
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 1999 19:58:30 -0800
From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Comments: V4#91,92
Bill Sheeran makes several interesting points:
> 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. [etc.]
I suspect that there is more to astrology than the dimension of time. In modern usage, we follow the notion that it is the cycles of the celestial sphere that are mirrored here on Earth, and we then assume that this is the only linkage between the two. There are technical considerations in the astrological tradition that are not satisfied by this assumption, and at the moment, astrology is guilty of the same sort of propensity to ignore what doesn't fit current theory as does science.
The tradition has always made the statements that there are specific locations in the celestial sphere that have specific types of effects: there are certain degrees of the Zodiac that have specific properties, which is the basis of the Sabian symbols in our current practice; there are some number of fixed stars (Greek astrology gave the number as 30) that also have properties assigned to them. These two technical tools are in common use with apparent success today as it appears they have been for millennium.
It is interesting to note that Rudhyar, who was a strong proponent of the notion of cycles as being fundamental (hence, time as the primary property), also championed Marc Jones work on the Zodiac degrees. Rudhyar was unable to provide a useful rationale for this apparent dichotomy, electing instead to label it a matter of spiritual and allegorical significance. The degree as a representative of the ratio of revolution to rotation sounds reasonable, but does not put forth any hint of an explanation for the significance of certain degrees themselves. Jones himself does not primarily depend on the notion of cyclical correspondence, and so doesn't have this problem to the same extent, although he uses the same rationale. These two authorities typify current astrological theoretical thinking, I suspect.
Clearly, the rationale leaves gaping holes such that it falls apart at a touch: it leaves us to believe that some indeterminate source provides the archetypes assigned to each degree. Furthermore, the visions of Elsie Wheeler (the source of the Sabian Symbols) do not correspond to the older assignments. Finally, any rationale devised to support the degree symbols do not address the fixed stars.
So astrology is in the position of having to choose to ignore these anomalistic material in order to support the fundamentality of cycles, or must admit that the theory of cycles (cyclic time...) does not satisfy all the data. So far, this seems to be a matter about which astrology is disposed to remain silent (and presumably hope that no one notices.... < grin > )
> Given this, we must then ask if the ancients actually had the wherewithal to
> use these tools effectively enough to make them work. [snip]
> Agreed. But what does "make them work" actually mean? It was the [snip]
> 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. [snip]
The specific subject of discussion here is the practice of "divination", which is very different from psychological profiling that is the approximate limit of most modern astrology. Divination is about prediction: it seeks answers about the future from the realm of the divine. It does not seek, nor does it yield, nebulous psycho-spiritual aphoristic advice or arcane truths sufficiently removed from our earthly lives to be of safely debatable nature. That it seems so is the result of the difficulty in getting a divinatory form to speak "plain English (substitute appropriate language here...)" In short, the purpose of divination is to gain insight into that which has useful application to the future. The deep understandings of the present and past that we are accustomed to labeling as the proper realm of divination are recent adaptations, but the same definition applies. It will be in the future that we will use that understanding and it will be its applicability there that is of primary concern... or should be, I suggest.
In general, divination is done through the usage of "divinatory forms", of which certain astrological techniques are a venerable example. Other forms are, for example, the I Ching, the Tarot, various runes, and a range of mantic practices. The question of making them work is probably one of the most basic concerns in human history: how does one find out about what is about to happen? In the extreme case, where extrapolation from the past does not fill the bill, then it was time to ask the gods: enter the "diviner" or "oracle" (seer/prophet/etc.). The modern version is: if nothing else, then pray a lot and maybe you'll get an insight.
There were in fact not very many people who could do this sort of thing, and it is well understood by those who use those tools that they require a special ability, which cannot entirely be learned: some part of it must be innate. Of those who could use the tools and get results, even fewer yet got dependable results, and it's almost certain that no one using these tools could address the entire spectrum of future concerns. The record tells us that not a few astrologers lost their heads for failure to produce on demand; this is understandable when the issues concerned the potential loss of the kingdom, for example!
So, no: it didn't always work. As far as the populace was concerned, the whole business scared them stiff, and I suggest that no answers would ever be forthcoming therefrom, then or now.
> In the long run, there's no avoiding the essential fuzziness of
> astrological interpretation. Techniques may be seen to work well in [snip]
It is a common observation that current practice has the quality of "fuzziness", and I agree. The problem here is that modern astrological tradition has been so completely diluted that it no longer offers any degree of precision. Here, precision defines accuracy: for instance, if we depended on the sundial to give us the scheduled time of the arrival of a bus at the bus stop we would find it hopelessly inaccurate; the source of the inaccuracy is the inability of the sundial to give information of the appropriate degree of precision. So with astrological tradition: we now have vague and overarching conceptual interpretive material that is nowhere capable of the sort of precision to produce the level of accuracy of delineation that the client would really like to receive, or so has been my experience.
The exceptions to this state of affairs are the horary and electional traditions, but they have not been subject to the same influences as had genethliacal. The fact is, I think, that it is because these forms profess that degree of precision that they are rejected by much of the astrological community. The reason for this is clear: we deny that it is possible to interpret with that degree of precision because we cannot see how it could be done; and we are guilty of the same hubris that we condemn science for possessing. We are saying that if we cannot understand it, it cannot exist.
I suggest that we need not necessarily expect this degree of dilution and imprecision of older astrological traditions. The Greeks tended to be very much to the point, very concrete and specific, in their concepts; I suspect we might expect their astrological tradition to reflect this. So I suggest we withhold prejudgment in these regards.
Regarding science, the assertion that science is now incapable of anything other than fuzziness suggests the need to acquire an adequate degree of scientific literacy. Rather than accuse anyone of scientific illiteracy, I will suggest that we are not well served by perpetuating popular lay conceptions on the subject. Other posts on this list demonstrate that the contributors here are indeed scientifically literate, and I would assume that such an assertion of scientific incapability is merely rhetorical in nature.
> 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.
The basis for my statement is the following observation:
"The acquisition and ordering of data is knowledge. The effective application of knowledge is wisdom. But wisdom without love yields brutality, as love without wisdom yields chaos. Together, wisdom and love yield understanding."
Here, wisdom deals with what is known, but not understood; however, it seeks understanding. As philosophy is the metier of those who love wisdom, I am extending this view into a definition thereof. Incidentally, it might be interesting to discuss this quoted observation, but I suspect that it would not yield a radical revision of my definitions of philosophy and science; don't know, though < shrug >
Regarding what we cannot know, it seems difficult to understand how we could address this: how do we know what it is we cannot know? Rather than having to deal with this, I elect to couch it in terms of what we *do not* know, leaving behind any presumptions. Science is the process whereby we investigate and discover what we don't know, and this seems acceptable, I think.
I suspect that we have indulged in a process of incestual thinking in these regards, where there is a close interbreeding of ideas such that the original contexts are lost and the parameters of definition of these ideas are themselves reflexively defined. This is common where a succession of opinions are established on a common basis, and then rather quickly come to define themselves in terms of each other, losing the basis itself eventually. In this particular case, I suspect that philosophy itself is now being defined in terms of a particular philosophy, such that the general is now only a comprehensive statement of a specific. Circular reasoning and an imprudent usage of induction are evident here, I think.
Hanging my own oar into a conversation between Andre and Dennis:
> "Adopting a northern hemisphere perspective, it seems to me we can
> understand the cardinal points quite easily in terms of the challenges
> and opportunities attending each season."
> Yeah, Ptolemy used that logic and Rudhyar, in "The Pulse of Life", produced
> quite a persuasive elaboration of it half a century back. The merit of the
> zodiacal archetype as a metaphysical concept is that it is
> pan-hemispherical. Surprising that Rudhyar, rather a smart cookie, didn't
> figure this out.
"The Zodiac is the symbolization of the cycle of the year. It is so, essentially, in the temperate regions of the Northern hemisphere where astrology was born. Zodiacal symbolism is the product of the experience of human races living in such regions: experience of the seasons, of the activities of nature and of man through the changing panorama of vegetation-- vegetation being the very foundation of animal and human life on earth. As such races have been, during the last millennia, the *active* factor in the evolution of human consciousness, their experience has come to acquire a universal validity in the determination of cosmic meaning and human purpose. Civilization, as we know it today, is therefore centered in a Northern-hemisphere and temperate-climate kind of consciousness. It may conceivably not remain so in the future, but for the time being it is; and our present astrology interprets thus accurately its cyclic evolution"
Rudhyar: "The Pulse of Life", Shambala Publications, Inc., Berkeley, CA, 1970, p21.
Well, at least I know that I can still hammer out a quote in short order... touchtypist extraordinaire!!! < loud self-satisfied cackle... >
Rudhyar rather clearly states that this is an evolving matter. As such it may or may not be a spiritual, metaphysical, or any specific sort of consideration; he sees evolution as the basic concern here.
Rudhyar's entire vision rested on the concept of spiritual evolution, or so I gathered from conversations with him. He assumes that the nature of everything must continually undergo change, and as this entails processes that we can address and engage to some extent, change is humanity's "brass ring" that is the ticket for a continuation of the ride. For those who do not know the reference, the "brass ring" hung at an available reach from the rider on the carnival carousel, and those who dared to reach out and grab one were given a free ride. We need only make the effort, and the fact of having done so regardless of perceived success or failure will warrant another ride, here defined as potentially taking place on a different carousel (level of evolution?).
In this case, he agrees that the different hemispheres have different experiences of the Zodiac and the seasons, and he assumes this difference represents an opportunity for human evolution in a meaningful regard, or so I suspect.
Dennis responds to my post:
> (individual, question, whatever) of astrological interest. A corollary to
> this fundamental astrological theorem is that the imprinting process
> continues, although the mechanisms involved may not be the same as that in
> the *initial* imprinting."
> It has never occurred to me to deem that corollary necessary. Once a
> biological clock starts running, does it need to be reset. Phase-locking by
> entrainment would suffice to cue development; I presume gene programs
> specify this.
Well, phase-locking presumes a common reference point, as far as I understand the idea. What happens when the common reference point is lost (is not able to provide the reference for whatever reason)? I would expect that this would necessitate a reset, as it does in other examples of phase-lock phenomena.
On another subject of discussion with Dennis: synchronicity (again!!.. LOL!!) He suggests I require a physical grounding for useful explanations, and it's true that I do. The reason I do is because, as near as I can tell, the only place that issues can be nailed down firmly enough to build upon is when they can be identified objectively such that there is sufficient reason for a general acceptance thereof. This is part of the unstated assumption of science, I suggest, and probably the reason why (especially physicists) say that if it doesn't exist physically it simply doesn't exist. The physicists here demonstrate a woeful inadequacy of education here, of course.... < grin >
But the principal has its virtues, I think. We exist and have an effect on the physical level and that, in general, is where we experience and do our growth. Anything that can be imagined is ours to explore, but a measure of usefulness in any regard is how it affects our lives, individually and collectively. We do not, in spite of any and all contentions to the contrary, live entirely in our heads. There is excellent reason to suggest that the interior reality produced by the brain is and has always been intended to reflect the external reality within which we live, and the primary purpose of the ability is to address the temporal dimension of the future: for what should we prepare in order to maximize our chances of survival?
We would like to think that we are far enough away from that level of concern that we can declare ourselves free therefrom, but the lessons of life continue to demonstrate just how close we are to the jungle and the forces of nature which put the focus right back on animal survival. We are, in fact, physical animals, however else we might define ourselves and we are not well advised to lose sight of this fact. What understanding we might gain is ultimately most relevant there, I think.
In another matter, I responded with hyperbole to Dennis' acknowledgment that astrology isn't just about people, and I did so to make a point. The dominion of psychological astrology is so complete that we are as yet unable to free ourselves from the assumptions thereof, and until we do, we are not likely to get a real handle on the essence of astrology itself. But I've said this until I've difficulty seeing how to refrain from being repetitive.
I suppose I'm suggesting that we start thinking of astrology as application independent in our discussions, so that we are forced to rid ourselves of the tacit assumptions of psychological astrology. I submit we will discover that this whole exchange will take on a very different character, and that we may discover somewhat about astrology that we already know but are currently not able to recognize. I very strongly think it's worth the effort to do this.
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 4 Issue 95
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