Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #57

From: JG or DF
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #55

From: StarTiming
Subject: Re: defining astrology

From: Juan Revilla
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #55

From: Juan Revilla
Subject: historians of science and astrology

Exegesis Digest Wed, 20 Sep 2000

Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 19:01:46 +1200
From: JG or DF
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #55

Jane Axtell wrote:
 > Rather than agreeing on the definition BEFORE thinking much about it, then
 > issueing from that papal recommendations of "how to discuss" the newly
 > redefined topic, could we not discuss first -- then find to our mutual and
 > delighted surprise that we have come to agree? [If that is the case!]

Don't worry, astrologers never agree to anything that fast; in fact they almost never agree at all.

 > I personally believe that astrology is an experience as definable as
 > sexuality. That is to say, it is here and has vivid unexpected effects, but
 > we can neither account for it or explain it away.

Well, I share the experiential perspective because the impression of correspondence between theory and real life often happens to me, sometimes profoundly so. On the other hand, I can "account for it" and "explain it", to my satisfaction. That's partly because I use contemporary astrological theory (rather than the antique tradition).

 > If this seems silly, you may be correct. On the other hand, i consider all
 > of Platonic idealism silly.

No, your suggestion is not silly, because that's how we all validate astrology for ourselves. It is empirical discovery, which is even required by science.

I do recall finding Platonic idealism silly, and I think I had that view for many years, from youth perhaps. My distaste was for the irrelevance to real life of such abstractions. When I eventually realised how they were related to real life, and could be seen to produce physical forms, I reframed on the entire issue. Nowadays I find the views of Plato and Pythagoras rather primitive and inadequate for current times, but also relevant and useful pointers to some fundamental features of the emerging paradigm.

Juan Revillo wrote:
 > The problem is one of defining the object of inquiry because what
 > astrologers do clearly contradicts the notion of Astrology being about a
 > direct relationships between celestial events and people. This can be
 > easily shown and I have given some reasons here. I have written a lot on
 > this matter in the past months on the ACT list and the material is found in
 > my website here: http://www.expreso.co.cr/centaurs/posts/theory.html

Oh good, thanks.

 > By "what astrologers do" I mean the nature of their tools and how the have
 > been using them for centuries. So you are right that my view is pragmatic,
 > but is certainly not based on what astrologers believe. On the other hand I
 > do not accept any type of logic or argument that dismisses the empirical
 > validation of astrological tools clearly contradicting the notion of a
 > direct relationship of people with the sky, simply because they do not
 > conform with my a priori notions of what is valid or "true".

Sorry but I couldn't grasp your intended meaning in that last sentence.

 > I feel some contradiction in your phrase
 > < truth is [NOT] reliably > identified with what most people believe, or do . I can understand how a
 > belief or an idea can be "not true", but I don't understand how what
 > someone does could be either "true" or "false", especially when the nature
 > of what he or she does is not properly understood or has not been investigated.

If you are suggesting that truth is relative, and subjectively identified, then I quite agree. We addressed this issue in Exegesis last year. Truth is also often identified in a collective, rather than individual sense, corresponding to a facet of the collective belief system, or a feature of consensus reality. Since this usage remains conventional, I am pragmatic enough to use it from time to time to interface with what passes for the collective reality at the time. However, when a bunch of people think their actions are based on (tacitly-accepted) truth, and my research reveals that the supposed truth is part fiction, part delusion, as well as partially derived from the collective reality, I tend to decide that the belief system of that group is suspect. I was suggesting that the collective actions of astrologers are unreliable. Someone's aim will not be true if their actions toward that aim actually lead them astray from it.

 > 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)--


 > what people do does not conform with what they think or believe. 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.

I partly agree. Historians of science that I have read fail to demonstrate understanding of the subject. But I agree that most astrologers are just as ignorant of it. However I am aware that I am tacitly referring to the essence of the subject, not the fossilised form that most astrologers parrot, which is perhaps the astrology you mean.

Bill Tallman wrote:
 > I think that the direct experience of the astrological effect is an integral
 > part of the development of the study and practice of astrology. I think
 > that has always been true.

I quite agree. So I'm puzzled that your comment had seemed the sole point of disagreement. No matter.

 > Consider: is it reasonable to expect that the lore of astrology was
 > developed by the sort of rigorous methodology we observe today in science?
 > The answer is clear that it was not. In fact, the rigorous methodology
 > itself was developed to exclude as far as possible the effects of
 > unintentional bias in any regard, the very sort of bias that arises from
 > unrecognized or poorly understood factors, such as we can easily describe
 > any direct experience of the astrological effect, whatever that might be.
 > Therefore we must conclude that such experience had to have played a role
 > in the development of astrology, at least to the extent that it actually
 > exists.

Well, yes. I would say it played a subsidiary role. However I also believe this role was crucial to the continuance and development of the practice of astrology, and to faith in its utility.

 > And that is, I think, the real question: does the effect actually exist?
 > If it does, then we must expect we are influenced thereby, whether we will
 > or no; indeed, I think its reasonable to expect that those who are
 > knowledgeable of astrology might well be more sensitive as a result of the
 > awareness that knowledge makes possible. It is highly unlikely that the
 > astrologer could be expected to be immune to such an effect if it does
 > exist.

Indeed. The astrologer is likely to be influenced by the astrological archetypes despite the delusional garbage in his/her head from the attending of conferences and reading of books & magazines on astrology.

 > The direct
 > experience of the astrological effect is at best not very different in kind
 > from the issues of ESP, psychism, fortune-telling, etc., etc., etc..

Occult forces, as it were. Don't hit me, I didn't mean it!!

 > It is the avoidance of those issues, I think, that drives the rejection of
 > the direct experience of the astrological effect by modern astrologers as a
 > legitimate part of the definition of astrology itself.

But when Jung provided a better explanation, only a more sophisticated minority of the astrological community were able to see its merit, it seems. Hard to blame the majority, it took me some years to reconcile myself to synchronicity as an explanation. It appeared to lack a rationale. In retrospect, I would critique Jung's effort, or lack of effort, in spelling that out, since it is clear that he intuitively understood it. I guess he felt that serious students would follow his lead and read the Book of Changes to figure it out, but very few were ever able to be that serious.

 > Well, we all understand the processes involved; to name it baldly implies
 > the legitimacy of guilt and blame, unfortunately. I think we can simply say
 > it's another manifestation of the state of the human condition, such that
 > competition arises from an uncertainty of mutually attainable value; better
 > to err on the side of self defense and live to argue another day than to
 > risk giving it all away and establish a position that might prove less than
 > amenable somewhere down the line. Hence, competition rather than
 > cooperation, and differences rather than similarities.

I have noticed that contributors to Exegesis who merely issue opinions, without either directly or tacitly inviting feedback, tend to get less traction here, and tend to subsequently vanish into the ether. I'm not saying your description above is wrong, since it describes a human relations problem characteristic of modern civilisation, which contributors do often demonstrate in this list. Just that I suspect a tacit recognition of potential mutually attainable value is prevailing over that in the longer term.

 > Modern astrologers reserve the right to define astrology as they wish for
 > several reasons: 1) They cannot defend an established position because one
 > does not exist. 2) That one does not exist keeps open the opportunity to
 > advertise that one has discovered some aspect thereof and then proceed to
 > publish/lecture/teach after such an assertion, assuming that the assertion
 > was well received. It's a career potential most astrologers might prefer
 > to retain, I think. 3) The opportunity for fortuitous self redefinition is
 > always an asset to be kept in reserve if it exists, and the lack of a
 > definition for astrology makes it possible for one to reinvent one's
 > astrological persona as necessary.

Fair enough. However it is theoretically possible to devise a definition of astrology that allows practitioners to retain the freedoms and options mentioned and implied in 2 & 3 above. Entrepreneurial endeavour in astrology need not be the carnival of self-delusion and collective hallucinations that it has long been. Personal evolutionary development of each astrologer requires freedom of choice and a range of options, and is harmful to the mental health of the practitioner only when these do not connect with the natural environment via collective reality.

 > There are three truths: what we agree happened, what we privately think
 > happened, and what actually did happen. Well...... something like that, I
 > suppose. The value of truth is that we are satisfied with it and at peace
 > with our environment in its regard. The environment, for us, is almost
 > entirely other people, and that means at least the attempt to forge useful
 > agreements.

Ah! A doctrine of pragmatism. Wonderful!

 > Whether the truth is ever perceived is not as important as the process of
 > everybody (or most bodies) getting on the same page in the matter. That
 > can mean that the matter needs to be argued, requiring an inspection of
 > differences, etc.. It can also mean that the matter needs action, requiring
 > some cohesion lest all energy and effort dissipate in dissonance and
 > disappear in low grade heat!!

Group process. A tough call in instances where "the same page" is blank. But only a reductionist would insist that astrology is a blank page. Our problem is that our page is an inherited tradition that lacks a contemporary rationale. Having said that, I did go so far as to provide that for other astrologers in my 1992 book "The Astrologer and the Paradigm Shift", but I am interested in pursuing a collaborative approach, because it might identify other key elements.

 > We've had lot's of heat and perhaps its time to at least begin to forge a
 > common platform upon which we can all stand, such that we can move forward
 > with opportunities for investigation that have only recently become
 > available. What are they? Let's get together and go look!!!

Well the current focus on a definition is the best place to start. I will also extract essential points from the article on astrology in Encyclopaedia Brittannica. In principle, there will be at least several fundamental principles and hypotheses extractable from the traditional belief system. Identifying these and rephrasing them in modern terms is an exercise in metaphysics. [I lead a group process to this end from '87 to '91, and the resulting compilation forms a chapter in my book. So far as I know, it remains the only group document produced by a bunch of astrologers in which every word was tested and approved by formal consensus of not only those present at each meeting, but also subsequently with those not able to be present.] Either as an extension of that exercise, or separately, the key frames of reference and other main (operational) components of the belief system (ie horoscope, planets, etc) would then have to be identified (on a consensual basis, which will diminish for various abstract points such as Fortuna).

 > How does one forge a synthesis? How does one test the result? Are these
 > antigonal activities?

The philosopher may create a synthesis by reconciling thesis and antithesis, but you knew that. In group process, the forging of a consensual view or program seems best performed by identifying those features of the subject that people readily agree with. This process identifies the collective framework of belief that already exists in the `group mind'. The discipline of filtering the decision-making process through the filter of consensus effectively eliminates idiosyncratic beliefs. Deviance is thus designed out of the system.

I hope your second question does not suggest scientific testing. Any statement purporting to identify agreed key features of astrology can be tested by the measurement of consensus. In practice, any astrologer may dissent, so any consensus is measured by those who agree. The consensus process I am describing requires that agreement to be rendered explicitly by each contributor to the consensus. That's the test. Astrologers would rather sit on their south node in the familiar time-honoured tacit position. Progress requires them to actually use the other end of the time axis for a change. Since formal agreements on the nature of the subject have almost never happened in the astrological tradition, any that are achieved that document any degree of consensus will be significant progress, and the more the better.

The consensus process is of course in practice subject to being held hostage by a single dissenter. Such a hiatus, when encountered, brings to bear psychological disciplines for all involved. Effectively, the situation becomes a test of viability of continued membership for the dissident, plus a test of the merit of the grounds for dissent for the others. I found from experience that collective progress required maintenance of focus on the goal. There was a discipline involved in examining someone else's reasons for disagreement in the context of the shared goal. It is all too easy for any majority to take refuge in their ready agreement, and not bring to bear the discipline of considering any alternative. There must be always a genuine desire by all to negotiate a common view, without taking the easy way out by ignoring or ejecting the dissident. Remember that Einstein was originally a minority of one, who figured out that the prevailing world view was wrong. In practice the group will sometimes agree to recognise that a single member's personal conviction requires them to disagree to a particular point while remaining committed to the goal and the process. There is eventually the technical consideration of whether they will agree to add their name in agreement to the entire document at the end of the process.

Dennis Frank


Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 17:21:29 EDT
From: StarTiming
To: exegesis
Subject: Re: defining astrology

In a message dated 9/16/00 Dennis Frank writes:

< Belief in stellar influence ebbed amongst astrologers last century. It was replaced by correspondence theory, most notably as advocated in Jung's synchronicity principle. >

This ebbing may have matched the simplification of astrology which must have made it less reliable. Look at the difference between Alan Leo, the first of the moderns... and Simmonite, the last of the prior type. In its current version, astrology can be a lovely parlor game or a serious philosophy or it can give authority to good advice, but very few know how to use it reliably -- or what it limits are, or why.

Is the new definition more true, or just easier? Does synchronicity mean we admit we are not serious?

A new style of practice has been developed in the "psychic services" and is displayed within the reading rooms at Astronet. A yes or no question is asked and the birthdate given. (I presume horary methods are invisibly at work.) "Will John and I marry within a year?" The astrologer replies within seconds, "A proposal may be offered in March."

Neither synchronicity or influence are part of the definition for this kind of practice. Such a person might define astrology as a system for answering questions which uses planetary cycles instead of Tarot or yarrow sticks.

Will anything said at exegesis make this respectable or lower its amazing appeal?

Inquiring minds want to know.



Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 17:36:06 -0600
From: Juan Revilla
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #55

 > From: "William D. Tallman"
 > Juan seems to regard astrology as only a practice. What other 'ology can
 > be said to be only a practice? I'd like some frame of reference within
 > which I can understand this.

No practice happens in a theoretical vacuum. I do not think astrology is "only a practice". I want to understand the theory that is behind that practice without assuming a priori that it is "superstition" or dismissing whatever doesn't conform to what I presume Astrology is or should be.

 > ... I'll amend that and assert that it is the *fundamental assumption* of
 > astrology. In no way
 > does that constitute a definition. In that regard, I have confined myself
 > to the literal definition of the word.... the study of the stars. We can
 > fudge that and say that astrology is the study of the celestial sphere,
 > and I suppose we should, else we exclude the planets (planetos in Greek),
 > as that would be planetology... whatever else we conclude, it is a study
 > of (some aspect of) the heavenly bodies.

I said you were defining astrology "in terms of", not that was your definition. You say you don't know what astrology is, and then postulate a "theorem" or what you consider the "fundamental assumption" of astrology. I already expressed the reason to criticize the logic behind your "theorem". Let me express the reasons again (I am quoting from Patrice's quote):

< "There exists a mechanism by which certain terrestrial phenomena are made subject to influence by certain celestial configurations." >

so far so good, but then you connect this with astrology:

< it follows that there do really exist smth we could call astrology, and which merits to be investigated. >

You are assuming too many things here:

< "there is a mechanism by which..." >

== you are assuming a "mechanism", a mechanical relationship, something which belongs to the world of physics and causation, a relationship interpreted in terms of a mechanical metaphor. This way of thinking is completely alien to the original Babylonian and ancient mentality that gave birth to Astrology.

< "terrestrial phenomena are made subject to influence by certain celestial configurations..." >

== Here you clearly state that astrology belongs to the field of mechanical relationships where one thing is "subject" to being influenced by the other, pointing to a cause-and-effect explanation. By stating that "this is what we could call astrology", and quite wrongly assuming that this is the "fundamental assumption" of astrology, you are narrowing down --I repeat-- extensively any theoretical consideration of what astrology may be.

< "it follows that there do really exist smth we could call astrology, and which merits to be investigated." >

== First you DEFINE a type of phenomena (mechanical relationships between celestial events and terrestrial phenomena), then you DEFINE that this could be called astrology and that this is what merits to be investigated. I have seldom seen such narrow a priori definitions of the scope and nature of astrology based on so many assumptions about what astrology is, being defended by someone who proclaims he doesn't know what astrology is.

This is not the "fundamental assumption" of astrology, but a statement of position and belief.

 > You condemn astrology to remain limited to current practice, whatever that
 > is defined to be.

No. I have written repeatedly here, since my first post, that I see Astrology in terms of what its practice has been since the time of its origins. I have also stated that I am referring to "horoscopic" astrology that can be clearly defined historically.

 > Patrice Guinard wrote:
 > ... the pseudo-astrological factors...
 > 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 !!

If you or your peers want to decree what is astrological and what is not (or "pseudo"), and exclude things a priori based on your prejudices and obvious ignorance (about the centaurs in this case), doing this using pejorative and sarcastic language, and think that this is how an understanding of Astrology is going to be reached, so be it.

 > 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!

Please read more carefully; I wrote: < the mechanics of the TOOLS they use > . We can discuss how ignorance of this mechanics produces errors such as assuming that astrology deals with direct sky-to-people relationships. I have given examples of this fact here already. Care to discuss them?

 > Yes! They said that it's nothing else that an old stupid superstition. We
 > all agree!

I never said "all". Not all are that narrow and prejudiced. Some have real understanding.

 > It's a good idea, Juan, to make available on your site your answers to
 > questions which don't appear.

I have my own share of sarcasm, negativity and blatant prejudices, but I am interested in discussing ideas rather than replying to your hostility.



Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 08:51:55 -0600
From: Juan Revilla
To: Exegesis
Subject: historians of science and astrology

I agree with Dennis that Astrology is fundamentally about interpretation and is necessarily subjective. I agree that it is a belief system, but I would rather call it an interpretation and classification system, a "system of transformations", since astrology can and has always been practiced by people with very different belief systems. I would also like to point out that the particular understanding of astrology in terms of a-causal concordances is very ancient and goes back to the way of thinking that gave birth to astrology.

There is no doubt that many historians of science regard traditional horoscopic astrology as folly and superstition, but this view comes from a failure to understand the relativity of knowledge and the simple truth that astrology cannot be interpreted outside its own cultural context and the type of consciousness from which it comes from. To understand a culture or a belief system, it must be seen in its own terms and not judged in terms of another. It is folly to dismiss something as "madness", "superstition", etc. (as does for example, Neugebauer) simply because it does not conform to the criteria of validity of modern PHYSICAL or empirical science, which is alien to Astrology.

Fortunately not all historians or philosophers of science are so biased and blind. I would like to make a few quotes here to substantiate (or illustrate) my statement that historians of science understand astrology better than most astrologers.

This quote if from Gerard Simon, of the Universite de Lille, France. It is found in the article "Kepler's Astrology: The Direction of a Reform", published in "Vistas In Astronomy" 19, IV, p.439-448:

< Astrological knowledge [in the 16th century] thus rests on a circular relation of cause and sign, assured by the intangible nature of a system of interpretation. It is this circularity that Kepler breaks by making his sharp distinction between sign and cause; and he succeeds in doing so by showing that the origin of the system of interpretation is cultural and not natural. > [p.446]

The second quote is from Ernst Cassirer, from the article "Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: a study in the history of Renaissance ideas" part II, in the 'Journal for the History of Ideas' 3 (2):319-346.

< In his work against astrology Pico makes a sharp distinction between merely symbolic knowledge and empirical knowledge. He demands that we see in nature no mere system of marks and signs, and he explains that it is futile to base the prediction of future events on such a system. We must penetrate into the forces of things and grasp them not merely in abstract schematization but in their individual nature and their concrete operations. > [p.340]

These 2 quotes, coming from studying 2 thinkers who lived at a time when modern science was beginning to appear that ultimately led to the official demise of Astrology, illustrate an understanding of the basic nature of astrology and its main difference with modern science. Astrology is placed here in its proper context as belonging to a different conception of the world.

And going back in time, it is a great distortion of the truth when the great "scientific" achievements of the ancient Mesopotamians, Babylonians, or Greeks are seen linearly and simplistically as representatives of the modern scientific approach. This is sheer mythology. A person like Neugebauer, for example, who admires Ptolemy but who calls his thoughts on planetary harmonics and the Tetrabiblos "dreary nonsense", shows the enormous prejudice and contempt with which the intrinsic value of the very fundamental cultural and cognitive contexts in which those achievements took place is being ignored.

The following quote from assyriologist J.J. Finkelstein, taken from "Mesopotamian Historiography" (Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 107, No.6: 461-472) illustrates this point:

< With apparently complete obliviousness of the massive evidence produced by some two-thousand years of pre-Marxist Chinese historiography that followed a fully thought out rationale, and with a knowing nod at most in the direction of the Classical Greeks, professional Western historians for the most part serenely continue to endow their conceptual canons with universal validity. > [p.461-462]

I mentioned that the concept of celestial events being causes of things on earth, which are subject to "their influence" in a mechanical-physical way is completely alien to the Babylonian mentality which gave birth to *our* astrology. And as far as the Greeks are concerned, Van der Waerden (in "Science Awakening") concluded that Pythagorean teachings on "the music of the soul" was preliminary to Hellenistic horoscopy. This is far from the mechanical universe that is assumed by some people as being the nature of astrology.

Babylonian astrology was originally inseparable from other types of divination and was the expression of a consistent way of relating phenomena and "things" in consciousness. The following quote is from "A Babylonian Diviner's Manual", translated and transliterated by A.Leo Oppenheim in Journal of Near-Eastern Studies, 33(2):197-220.

< We say, "As above, so below", to reflect this isomorphism in which the pattern or form of planetary configurations with respect to the stars and the earth is isomorphic to, and has the same form as the pattern of configurations in human life. >

What I'm saying, though, is that traditional astrology departs from this sky/earth "natural" a-causal and isomorphic correspondence and works exclusively with coordinates and abstract models and "radices" which have been artificially "frozen", stopping the flow of time and things in a way that is impossible in nature. It still works, though, through isomorphism and a-causality, but not with the "sky out there" in real time: it works with the subjective and symbolic sky of cultural categories in human consciousness.




End of Exegesis Digest Volume 5 Issue 57

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