|Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #56
Exegesis Digest Sat, 16 Sep 2000
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 19:53:44 +1200
From: JG or DF
Subject: defining astrology
According to our Chambers 20th Century dictionary (vintage 1972), astrology is "originally practical astronomy: now almost confined to the once-supposed art or science of the influence of the stars on human and terrestrial affairs". Almost a Saturn cycle downstream, this looks antiquated but still instructive. It notifies the origin of the subject in observation of the heavens, then describes it as an (abandoned) art or science, before getting to the point: stellar influence on life on earth.
Belief in stellar influence ebbed amongst astrologers last century. It was replaced by correspondence theory, most notably as advocated in Jung's synchronicity principle. Perhaps more recent dictionary definitions have picked up on this, and I trust other contributors to Exegesis will report any such descriptions they discover. That would document an emerging consensus of meaning, reflecting an evolving public understanding of what astrology is.
For me, astrology is primarily a belief system and secondarily a practice. Belief in what and technique of what? I guess it would be belief in a way of interpreting times, whether those be moments or periods. Theory is applied in particular instances to discover the inherent nature of such times. An assumption, which Jung identified, is that what is done or occurs during a time carries, or is imbued with, the quality of that time. Astrology includes a range of optional methods of decoding that quality, from which practitioners choose, to employ in particular applications.
The above paragraph sketches a definition for me, though I feel it is too sparse as yet. Comparison to the prior traditional definition reveals that I have not found it necessary to refer to heavens or stars. This is significant! It seems economic, in that it defines a belief in terms of a characteristic practice, and it identifies time as the essential subject matter. The Jungian assumption is cited in preference to `as above, so below', presumably because I intuitively prefer a more general and contemporary description. This serves to embed the essential tradition, rather than contradict or explain it, thus removing the inherent inherited public relations problem from immediate view.
What I like about my definition, which I deliberately wrote just now without any forethought, is that it positions me in the comfortable role of interpreter (of time, and events, and processes). The question of art and/or science need not be addressed. The act of interpretation is inherently subjective, so the public will be obliged to categorise the astrologer as interpreter along with numerous other similar vocations and practices that depend on the personal opinion of the practitioner. Caveat emptor. Trust the word of an astrologer just as much as you would a lawyer! The public are just as likely to find science in astrology as to find it in law (but that is the opinion of someone trained as a scientist, who uses science in its modern meaning and not its traditional meaning).
But my definition is too sparse in leaving out tradition altogether. Something must be added that links this modern view to the ancient one. I suspect that references to the horoscope and zodiac are essential, and may serve as the desired bridge. We could proceed by pointing out that the practice of astrology normally involves the use of horoscopes. We could go further and say that the common application is the use of a horoscope of someone's birth to describe their character and destiny and forecast their future. I certainly would not handle the issue of prediction in such terms - I'm just identifying the usual phraseology that one encounters in media and literature!
Then there is the issue of popular astrology, exemplified by `star signs', that colors the common understanding of astrology. Any suitable definition must describe the zodiac as a collective frame of reference, but how its signs are described sure is a considerable challenge. Can people be expected to understand the concept of archetypes? Should astrologers patronise the public, and give them an overs-simplified definition of the subject, or lead public opinion by insisting on a more sophisticated and corrrect description. After half a century of continuous dumbing down of western culture, should we be pragmatic and accept that people can't deal with subtle concepts? Probably. But I grew up resenting it when others assumed I was just as thick as they were, and we ought to also accept that there will always be more astute members of younger generations emerging, so in an evolving society I think astrology will be better defined in as contemporary terms as possible to enable its own evolution. Smart youngsters will pick up on it if we pitch them a description that resonates with the rest of the cultural context.
Perhaps, then, any definition ought to be double-barrelled. The first paragraph should be succinct, so that the bare essentials of the belief system are conveyed in a sentence (or three). The second paragraph should incorporate mention, perhaps with brief desciptions, of the primary factors used in application of the theory. Having written that, it occurred to me to compare how my dictionary defined a couple of analogous disciplines.
Meteorology is defined as the study of the weather and climate, and psychology the study of mind and behaviour, so astrology could be defined as the study of time. Unconvincing, though, when most astrologers don't pursue any such study. Perhaps we could get away with something more pragmatic, yet quite succinct, such as that astrology is the study of the relation of the Sun, Moon & planets to the zodiac, and to life on earth, primarily via use of the horoscope.
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2000 01:26:53 +0200
From: Patrice Guinard
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #55 : GOOD MOOD / BAD MOOD
Thanks, Juan, for giving the address of the Centaurs. I had a look. I've seen that all is working there, especially the centaurs, Pholus, Nessus and their friends. I'm happy to know them, and I admit my guilt having forgetting them in my registration of the pseudo-astrological factors (see my recent paper upon the Solar System: http://cura.free.fr/06syssol.html.) And call Geoffrey (Dean), please, for me: he missed them in the design of his SUPER-CHART!
But it seems to me that you forgot to mention the probable influence of PJU7856, JUI5398, POUY78, NBHG666, 556TRT, BNBNHG8, PPLM666, NBN887, QSDE90, and of course, stellar Brigitte Bardot (with her astral dogs) and J.B. 007 !!
> I maintain that in astrology --or rather, in the historical/sociological
> entity called "horoscopic Astrology" (Lorenzo Smerillo, with whom I agree
> on his historical perspective, can or has furnished a definition of it)
But I wonder if He would agree with you. Ask him, please for me! I lead him to CURA, but it seems that he didn't come back!
> The reason
> is that most astrologers --and non astrologers-- unfortunately do not
> understand the mechanics of the tools they use. I am convinced that
> historians of science understand what astrology is or is not much, much
> better than most astrologers.
To understand the mechanics IS NOT to understand what astrology is, I'm afraid. Not the same thing!
And who understands the mechanics? The historians? You? Afraid again that nobody, here and elsewhere. If you know it, please REVEAL it to me!
> historians of science understand what astrology is or is not much, much
> better than most astrologers.
Yes! They said that it's nothing else that an old stupid superstition. We all agree!
It's a good idea, Juan, to make available on your site your answers to
questions which don't appear. So, you are probably right, even if we
don't know exactly to what you are answering! Maybe it's the best
solution. Anyway I had the same idea! But before publishing, I need a
proofreader. Could you help? I'm afraid that Dennis is no more free for me.
> I personally believe that astrology is an experience as definable as
> If this seems silly, you may be correct. On the other hand, i consider all of
> Platonic idealism silly.
With you, it's really the "MOMENT OF RELAXATION" if not of astrology! You're probably right, Jane, particularly among some of the centaurs. But, please, let Plato. Nietzsche has already tried, a century ago, to play with him... I wanted to leave the list for a while, but decidedly I can't!
A last question to Fran:
I wonder if you intend to send to the members of the list the names (if not the addresses) of the other members, as I consider that in such a community we could get the right to know who is reading, because those who are reading know those who are actively participating. As I have now much work for CURA, and could stay these next months in the community of the "relurking" members: so I would like to know my friends...
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 00:22:35 -0400
From: "Francis G. Kostella"
> A last question to Fran:
> I wonder if you intend to send to the
> members of the list the names (if not the
> addresses) of the other members, as I
> consider that in such a community we could
> get the right to know who is reading,
> because those who are reading know those
> who are actively participating.
Over the years I've been forced to make strong statements about privacy and have tried to actually implement them. A few years ago it was possible to publish personal information on the internet without fear, but now the occurrence of stalking, email address harvesting, spamming, packet attacks, mail threats, and so on, have convinced me that it is not wise to publish ANY information about participants in public. I consider it a sacred duty to keep the address list of the participants hidden from view and will never provide it to anyone unless compelled to do so by some legal authority while I am unable to destroy it first.
Perhaps I'm overstating the case, but I want readers to know that I will guarantee privacy as well as I am able and that I will terminate the list if I cannot do so. I also want readers to know that the list will never be used as a source of addresses for commerce, I have a deep and abiding hatred of "spam" email and I make efforts to scare away people who try to use the list to hawk their books and courses.
With that said... Patrice, you (and others) are always welcome to request that readers send you their addresses in order to keep in touch outside the list.
As usual, I'm open to discussing the above, but I do have strong attitudes about privacy and will need a lot of convincing.
End of Exegesis Digest Volume 5 Issue 56
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