|Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #50
Exegesis Digest Tue, 29 Aug 2000
Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2000 11:12:59 +1200
From: JG or DF
Subject: rehabilitating astrology
"The system of duodecimal measure is so widespread one would think various civilisations had collaborated on it. But independently of each other, China, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, and India all divided the day/night cycle into twelve two-hour periods..." ("A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe" MS Schneider, 1994, p209).
This is but the latest of a number of books I've come across that reports an ancient twelve-fold diurnal division. Obviously this twelve-fold division of the diurnal cycle was the origin of astrology's most influential house systems. The author goes too far in discounting the influence of cross-fertilisation of cultures due to travellers (such as Pythagoras), nonetheless it is significant that such a vast consensus on the merit of this diurnal division did emerge. It survives on the faces of mechanical clocks and watches to this day.
The division of a cycle into 12 equal phases can be seen as a mathematical archetype. The mapping of this archetype from one temporal domain to another explains the correspondence between the 12 houses and the signs of the zodiac. When archetypal qualities are conceived to be associated with each phase of the cycle, it ceases to be merely mathematical and becomes metaphysical. This occurred when the elements and modalities were correlated with the signs, creating a 4x3 matrix that distinguished each sign from any other uniquely.
I don't recall if this is found in the Tetrabiblos, and hope someone will clarify its earliest surviving documentary description. The invention of this construct, which I call the zodiacal archetype, was crucial in providing the first pan-cultural description of the signs of the zodiac. Until then their descriptions varied between cultures, and were partly derived from religions (deity correlations) and partly related to seasonal economic factors such as warfare or hunting (Sagittarius), agriculture (Taurus) or climate (Aquarius). Evidence found by historical researchers paints no simple picture, it seems amalgamation & conflation occurred at various periods. Capricorn began in Sumeria as a sea monster. Later, in the classical period, it was a fish-tailed goat. Sometime in the middle ages the fish tail was replaced by goat's hind legs. Modern astrologers often try to describe the archetype by referring to attributes of the symbol. Thus Capricorn makes people status-motivated and ambitious and produces people suited to occupy positions at the top of organisational hierarchies because goats are inclined to climb mountains, ascend nimbly, and are sufficiently adept and sure-footed to maintain precarious positions. The same writers claim universality for these archetypes, suggesting that the qualities transcend time and space, but one wonders that they seem to turn a blind eye to the documented historical evolution of the symbol. The mind boggles at imagining the fish-tailed goat's floundering attempts to climb anything at all with merely two front feet! Confusing the archetype with the symbol seems to be a common error. A real archetype of nature will have qualities that are not culture-specific. The attributes of zodiacal sign archetypes are therefore best derived from the zodiacal archetype, the only paradigm that astrologers throughout history have used to derive pan-cultural, metaphysical meanings for the signs of the zodiac.
Capricorn is cardinal earth in nature, not goat-like. It initiates form. The builder is probably the closest current social archetype that it produces. Thankfully fundamentalist astrologers remain thin on the ground, so we do not have to deal with claims that all astrologers since the Sumerians are wrong, and Capricorns are really monsters! Modern astrologers make the same illogical mistake, though the misleading consequences are less obvious. Astrology requires frames of reference that approach universality, so that practitioners in various places and times can together develop a discourse that is based on common meanings. They have proven able to develop such a consensus on the meanings of the planets, and the zodiacal archetype has long provided the basis for potential agreement on sign meanings, which will actualise once astrologers learn to distinguish between the sign archetypes and their corresponding symbols.
It appears that the zodiacal archetype has been tacitly applied to the diurnal circle in interpretation for around two millennia. That is to say, the 12 houses have been interpreted analogously to the 12 signs. In modern times a similar rationale has been applied to the interpretation of aspect meanings. In all 3 mappings of the archetypal cycle, 12 unique phases provide the same archetypal meanings in sequence. I think it needs to be stressed that this collective tendency of astrologers is tacit. To my knowledge, the closest thing to a rationale (other than explicit recognition of the zodiacal archetype) is the usual vague suggestion of correspondence or analogy between signs, houses, and aspects. Astrological authors point out, for instance, that Virgo, the 6th house, and the quincunx, have the `same archetypal meaning', or `similar basic meaning', or `analogous meaning', because all 3 are manifestations of the 6th phase of the archetypal cycle. Often authors are so inadequate that they mention the correspondence but omit the latter phrase which explains its basis. This is evidence of a cultural disposition of most astrologers: to ignore any need for accountability or public education, and to merely deploy the paradigm for utilitarian reasons. They demonstrate how to do things, in preference to explaining why they are done.
So if astrology remains superstition in the public mind, and if the label covers a bewildering diversity of methods of practice and beliefs, we should not be surprised. Individual artistry will always fulfil many more practitioners than cosmic wisdom, which is much more easily intuitively sensed than spelt out, so shared meanings are likely to remain tacit in the minds of many. For any astrologer unsatisfied with this primitive approach to the subject, the challenge is to collaborate with like-minded others to consolidate a genuinely consensual framework of shared meanings that will serve as a user-friendly reservoir of cosmic wisdom in the universal mind. When someone interested comes looking, and finds it, either in print or cyberspace, astrology will have been regenerated in modern language, restoring its ancient promise of providing enlightening answers to questions of future trends and individual destiny. For many of us, astrology even now often serves this function and can be individually helpful and rewarding. A transformation of astrology's place in contemporary culture is required before the equivalent collective function can be performed, and that will only happen via a concerted effort by astrologers who are motivated more by the public good than private gain.
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 00:32:20 +0200
From: Patrice Guinard
Subject: ALL IS WORKING ... AND BUSINESS TOO! (Re: Exegesis V5 #49)
Astrology is not what astrologers do, but something that lies beyond them. And it's fortunate for it, astrology! I'm sure that astrology will recover its prestige when a majority of astrologers will let it. (And I don't know what it's believed here or there, but I'm at first an astrologer). It has been said that Ptolemy wasn't a real "practitioner", but JUST a theorician. It could be partly true, but astrologers have taken the chief part of their practices from him during centuries. And if there are different schools, it's because there is definitely not such supposed "well-established astrological practice". Or may be they are only business practices and trade schools! The prejudices are often in the eye of that one who doesn't see his own ones!
A friend of mine, a French critic of astrology, has imagined this story:
"An old woman is going to visit an astrologer: "I'm not here for a consultation, Sir, but only to know which astrologer can I consult." - The question is perplexing, Madam, because: Which technique shall I use to answer to you?"
Thanks, Juan, for your "oblique longitudes"!
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 21:56:46 -0700
From: "William D. Tallman"
I'm back from a sort of vacation, a bus-man's holiday, as it were. I can say that my sojourn proved to me that things are pretty much as I thought they were, but I thought it was worth going to find out. I was not disabused of any understanding, unfortunately; there are places that are interesting (instructive?) to visit, but not amenable to habitation, I think.
Whilst reading through the current discussions, I had some thoughts I would share.
One of the more intractable aspects of these, indeed, any, discussions is that of generating a consensus of definitions. In a general sense, it could be observed that the process of generating that consensus is the intended aim of the discussion itself; in a practical sense, what works most effectively is to establish what agreements can be made at the beginning and use them as a basis to proceed to further mutual understanding. Unfortunately, the individual purposes of discussions are generally disguised agendas to air one's own views using the discussion format as a sounding board, and the considerations of the views of others are seen as an interference in that process.
What happens is that the parties involved rather immediately engage in defense of their views at the expense of understanding those of others. So, agreements are not sought such as can be used as a basis upon which to build. It can be observed that people tend to talk past each other, even when they think they are doing due diligence to the purpose of the discussion. This is what happens when the requirements of establishing points of agreement of meaning and purpose are not observed.
One of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in any discussion of astrology is the nature of astrology itself. It's not hard to see why this is so, given astrology's history, but that does not obviate the need to have a common starting point if there is to be any progress in understanding these matters. In the last half dozen or so digests, I've observed a lack of agreement about the positions of argument. The result is that there seems to be a continual repudiation of any position at all, on anyone's part.
What is astrology? Well, obviously, one can conceive it in a number of ways and from a number of points of view, most of which can easily wind up being mutually exclusive at some point. And it seems that these discussions rather unerringly identify those points straight away, and hold to them tenaciously. It appears to me that there is an underlying reason for the consistency of this phenomenon, and that should be identified if these discussions are to become anything more than proforma platforms of opinion. This is made even more unfortunate by the obvious presence of intelligence and diligence on the part of those who contribute here. Well, that does not, as it happens, include me: I must confess that I'm astounded to learn that I have a "thought disorder", which disqualifies me in these regards....... < lol!!! >
I suggest that the inability to come to any level of agreement about a working definition of astrology rests solidly on the use of a particular definition as part of one's professional identity. Further, it could probably be said that only those who are not satisfied in these regards, or are uncertain about some one or another, or all, aspects of that identity, are the one's most likely to argue these points. But that's not a condemnation at all: only those who are sufficiently intelligent to do so will actively undertake to address the matter. Those who are also not completely satisfied, but who are not able to address the matter, can be expected to respond poorly when confront in these regards. Those who are satisfied will not be involved.
I suggest that there be discussions about the manifold possibilities of definition of astrology. Such discussion would need to have some points of agreement to even get off the ground, of course, and I suspect one of those might be the common recognition that astrology can comfortably encompass some number of domains and ranges of definition, and do so without risking an internal explosion that would consign it to oblivion.
The form of discussion can take that of a competition to see who can identify the most useful links between the various views and definitions of astrology, and who can generate the most satisfactory field theory for these views. That would be an outlet for the various competitive urges out there, and would get the subject pushed down the line a ways as well. Of course, no one here may be willing, or even have cause, to admit to any aggressive tendencies..... < grin >
In any case, that's one of a number of thoughts percolating here....
Also, good on ya, Dennis! I've bookmarked that resource site. Thanks for that! Re V4#45, I think we basically agree, except for the direct experience part. Speaking of which:
Hello Rab, and thanks for those observations. Maybe Jane thanks you too..?
You know, Patrice and Dennis, there is real value in the recognition that any systemic representation of any reality holds potential insights, especially when that reality is not understood in its own terms. You can use Numbers here in the manner Dennis proposed when he hit this list last century (oops, it doesn't start until the end of this year... oh well, residual Y2K stuff hanging in the air..lol!!) I've held forth on this subject at some length here recently. The point is that each of these has its own particular facet through which the "diamond jewel" may be viewed. Perhaps reality consists of all these views together?
Juan, you are constrained by the narrowness of your view of astrology. Those constraints bar you from insights and understanding about astrology that would otherwise offer you potential benefit. Every time you say what a thing is not, you have cut a part of it away that cannot subsequently be of use to you. You can say what a thing is without limiting it. This doesn't mean that discrimination is a poor practice, it means that you risk failing to see the baby in the bathwater. Pace.
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 5 Issue 50
[Exegesis Top][Table of Contents][Prior Issue][Next Issue]
Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996-1999 their respective authors.