Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #59

From: Juan Revilla
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #58

From: JG or DF
Subject: astrology defined by Encyclopeadia Brittannica

From: JG or DF
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #57

Exegesis Digest Wed, 27 Sep 2000

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 2000 22:45:24 -0600
From: Juan Revilla
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #58

William Tallman wrote:

 > ... The fundamental assumption is as I tried to state it rigorously, as is
 > abundantly testified by astrological writing down through the ages.

Ok. But this is a different argument from the one you are making. You are saying here: < this is the fundamental assumption that astrologers have traditionally made > , or < this is historically the alleged fundamental assumption of traditional astrology > . I believe that the correct thing to say historically is not "fundamental", but "common", since historically Astrology in Babylon was not born out of thinking in terms of causes. The doctrine of "signs" has always been present from the very start of Astrology's history and human thought, and has evolved or survived parallel to the doctrine of celestial causation. Neither Pythagorianism nor Platonism assume a physical cause and effect mechanism in the relationship between Earth an sky, nor you will find it in the doctrines of Plotinus and later in Paracelsus. You won't find it either in the Judeo/Christian interpretations previous to the Aristotelian developments that came later on. It can be argued that Astrology and a mechanism interpreted in terms of causation in an Aristotelian way are not the same thing necessarily. At least, this requires and deserves investigation and cannot be assumed.

Acausal interpretations are not new. They are as old as Astrology and humankind, and historically they are previous to the appearance of cause-and-effect thinking in the physical way that is being assumed and which seems to be what you refer to in the "fundamental assumption" or theorem.

 > I'm not an ancient and certainly not a Babylonian. I'm definitely
 > suggesting that there is a physical effect at work here, although I make
 > no definitive or descriptive statement of what it might be.

I have repeatedly said that there is nothing to argue here. But to suggest that this is what Astrology is about is not supported by the evidence provided by the work of astrologers throughout the centuries. This is my main argument. An examination of what astrologers do, in my opinion, reveals clearly that they are working with models which in most cases do not correspond to the physical reality in situ and in real time. Astrologers work with symbolically and culturally manipulated categories or mathematical and geometrical models, and it is not difficult to show this, regardless of what they say or have written through the ages. Therefore, my point is that any idea about astrology, any definition of it that is based on an alleged direct influence of celestial events on Earth or on people's lives, fails heavily from the start to provide a path through which Astrology can be understood.

I have given several examples here of this contradiction between what astrologers generally think and what they do. A much more detailed explanation with many more examples is found in the collected material I had written elsewhere and to which I gave the link. I am open to discuss those arguments, so that others can explain me why the demonstration of what I am saying is faulty or wrong. I wouldn't mind correcting myself.

 > The assumption that the use of the word 'mechanism' necessarily implies
 > classical mechanics demonstrates a failure of an ability to think outside
 > the narrow box of current intellectual fashion.
 > I use the word in that *primary* (1st def.: SOED) context, having
 > repeatedly defined it as "an ordered complex of definable processes, by
 > which a change is accomplished".
 > So, Juan, stretch your mind and find that I'm as reachable as the brass
 > ring here!!!

Yes. I can understand this use you were giving to the word. But then immediately in the theorem you are confirming that it is to be understood in terms of "influences", which is sheer mechanics.

 > Yep, pointing to cause and effect here. Do you see any non causal
 > physical reality? Or do you suggest that this whole business is a figment
 > of human imagination, an incredibly long lived mass hallucination?

One very fundamental distinction here. We are not speaking about physical reality in general. Astrology in principle deals with relationships between two "sets" of events ("celestial", or "astrological", and "terrestrial". To say that one is the cause of the other is a mere assumption and is possible only by way of metaphor. Any other non-causal non-mechanical metaphor will do equally well as a hypothesis. But even here, this is assuming that the relationships astrologers establish are with celestial events in situ and in real time, and that is almost never the case.

 > I've repeatedly said that this appearance may well be illusory, but I
 > suggest that the cause and effect connection is a place to start, though.

The connection itself is the place to start. That is the only fundamental thing. To call it cause and effect is assuming too much already.

 > Notice I say that we *could* call this astrology. And you have no basis
 > upon which to declare that my suggestions are summarily wrong.

What I said is that you are wrongly assuming that your "theorem" is the fundamental assumption of astrology. You already qualified this by saying that you were talking in terms of the historical tradition. I gave you the reasons why that cannot be assumed and needs to be investigated.

 > Finally, how do you conceive that this broad platform contributes to a
 > narrowing of theoretical consideration?

1-) Because by defining it in physical and mechanical terms, it is excluding all the merely cultural and conventional constructs that constitute the astrological tradition and which have very little to do with physics. You are putting away the linguistic and cultural construction of reality that in my opinion is what astrology and astrologers work with. The purely linguistic, non-physical nature of many astrological practices and tools is being ignored.

2-) Because it is a priori defining (sorry, that's what you are doing to me) Astrology as some sort of "study of the stars" taken from the dictionary, ignoring that the way Astrology has always been used is as a model of something else here on Earth which is not the stars (or planets) themselves. This can only be assumed by ignoring what astrologers always have done.

3-) Because it is assuming that Astrology works with direct Earth-to-Sky relationships in real time, and it can be demonstrated that astrologers almost never work that way. This direct relationship can be taken as the basis of Astrology --as we know it-- only by ignoring what astrologers do.

4-) Because "the study of the stars" or their relationships with us, understood in physical and mechanical terms, is a very narrow field of study compared to the much broader conceptions which see astrology as a way of modelling or dealing with the very complex and symbolical events on Earth or on people's lives. Seen this way, Astrology deals with the whole of the human experience, not only with the hypothetical relationships we may have with events in the sky.

That's why your proposed theorem is narrowing things a lot. But, what is more important, it is based on too many assumptions that in my opinion should not be made.

 > Do you deny that the astrological tradition has been that there is a
 > connection between the celestial and terrestrial spheres?

This is what it is about, a "connection". No "cause and effect mechanism" need be assumed.

 > Do you deny that it has popularly been considered likely to be causal?
 > These are not my inventions, but an acceptance of the possible value of
 > the tradition itself.

Let's not believe what tradition says. Let's try it out to see if it is true. As far as the popular idea of Astrology being about how events in the sky influence those on Earth, it is clearly and demonstrably contradicted by what astrologers do.



Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2000 23:10:33 +1200
From: JG or DF
To: Exegesis
Subject: astrology defined by Encyclopeadia Brittannica

Brittannica online provides this definition (my comments interspersed):

"astrology: type of divination that consists in interpreting the influence of planets and stars on earthly affairs in order to predict or affect the destinies of individuals, groups, or nations. At times regarded as a science, astrology has exerted an extensive or a peripheral influence in many civilizations, both ancient and modern. Astrology has also been defined as a pseudoscience and considered to be diametrically opposed to the theories and findings of modern science."

Use first sentence, the following two are irrelevant.

"Astrology originated in Mesopotamia, perhaps in the 3rd millennium BC, but attained its full development in the Western world much later, within the orbit of Greek civilization of the Hellenistic period. It spread to India in its older Mesopotamian form. Islamic culture absorbed it as part of the Greek heritage; and in the Middle Ages, when western Europe was strongly affected by Islamic science, European astrology also felt the influence of the Orient."

Delete: more irrelevant cultural history.

"The Egyptians also contributed, though less directly, to the rise of astrology. They constructed a calendar, containing 12 months of 30 days each with five days added at the end of the year, that was subsequently taken over by the Greeks as a standard of reference for astronomical observations. In order that the starry sky might serve them as a clock, the Egyptians selected a succession of 36 bright stars whose risings were separated from each other by intervals of 10 days. Each of these stars, called decans by Latin writers, was conceived of as a spirit with power over the period of time for which it served; they later entered the zodiac as subdivisions of its 12 signs."

The writer, hopelessly incompetent, fails to actually link the calendar with the zodiac. Perhaps the intent was to implant a subliminal suggestion that an association may exist by mentioning the calendar structure as an apparently irrelevant aside! Perhaps the author was paranoid that declaring the association in print would make him the laughing-stock of British acadaemia, and elicit criticism by `experts' that he was making unwarranted assertions with no proof. Delete all: decan substructure of zodiac only of marginal relevance to even an extended in-depth definition of astrology.

"In pre-Imperial China, the belief in an intelligible cosmic order, comprehended aspects of which would permit inferences on correlated uncomprehended aspects, found expression in correlation charts that juxtaposed natural phenomena with the activities and the fate of man. The transition from this belief to a truly astrological belief in the direct influence of the stars on human affairs was slow, and numerous systems of observation and strains of lore developed. When Western astronomy and astrology became known in China through Arabic influences in Mongol times, their data were also integrated into the Chinese astrological corpus. In the later centuries of Imperial China it was universal practice to have a horoscope cast for each newborn child and at all decisive junctures in life."

Delete: more irrelevant history of cultural impact.

"Once established in the Classical world, the astrological conception of causation invaded all the sciences, particularly medicine and its allied disciplines. The Stoics, espousing the doctrine of a universal "sympathy" linking the microcosm of man with the macrocosm of nature, found in astrology a virtual map of such a universe."

Okay, here we find substance, particularly the 2nd sentence. Retain for later distillation (rewrite).

"Greek astrology was slow to be absorbed by the Romans, who had their own native methods of divination, but by the time of Augustus, the art had resumed its original role as a royal prerogative. Attempts to stem its influence on the populace met repeatedly with failure."

Delete: more irrelevant history of cultural impact.

"Throughout pagan antiquity the words astronomy and astrology had been synonymous; in the first Christian centuries the modern distinction between astronomy, the science of stars, and astrology, the art of divination by the stars, began to appear. As against the omnipotence of the stars, Christianity taught the omnipotence of their Creator. To the determinism of astrology Christianity opposed the freedom of the will. But within these limits the astrological worldview was accepted. To reject it would have been to reject the whole heritage of classical culture, which had assumed an astrological complexion. Even at the centre of Christian history, Persian magi were reported to have followed a celestial omen to the scene of the Nativity."

Simplistic erroneous garbage: delete. Author failed to do his homework.

"Although various Christian councils condemned astrology, the belief in the worldview it implies was not seriously shaken. In the late European Middle Ages, a number of universities, among them Paris, Padua, Bologna, and Florence, had chairs of astrology. The revival of ancient studies by the humanists only encouraged this interest, which persisted into the Renaissance and even into the Reformation."

Delete: more irrelevant history of cultural impact.

"It was the Copernican revolution of the 16th century that dealt the geocentric worldview of astrology its shattering blow. As a popular pastime or superstition, however, astrology continued into modern times to engage the attention of millions of people, this interest being catered to in the 20th century by articles in the daily press, by special almanacs, and by astrology manuals."

Delete: more irrelevant history of cultural impact.

Summary appraisal: The first sentence identifies the historic causal view, but is probably a fair description - replace "influence" with "apparent influence" to make it more viable nowadays. The only other useful section identifies the hermetic principle (`as above, so below'), the precursor of synchronicity. The duality microcosm/macrocosm (earth/heaven, person/nature) needs to be related to the unity `universal sympathy' rather more precisely to drive the point home. No problem. If the Chinese can explain how the Tao divides into yin/yang, then users of English ought to be able to form a similar succinct description. One of the several versions of this that I have already sent to this list in the past might suffice.

Dennis Frank


Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2000 13:02:22 +1200
From: JG or DF
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #57

Jane Axtell wrote:
 > 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.

True. However it would be a mistake to assume that astrologers in previous centuries were reliable; their errors have been documented.

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

The new definition of astrology is unborn; not yet formalised. Who is "we"? If the bunch of people you refer to are mainstream astrologers, perhaps the best answer is yes. If it is humanity generally, or even all astrologers, then the answer must be no because some are serious, and some can even explain synchronicity.

 > A new style of practice has been developed in the "psychic services" < snip >
 > Will anything said at exegesis make this respectable or lower its amazing
 > appeal?
 > Inquiring minds want to know.

Curious. Of course not! People will always believe what they want to believe, and the astrologers who cater to this need are mercenary. In a society that was designed to maintain the mental health of its citizens there would be a clause in the service-provider's operating contract that ensured a refund for all incorrect predictions.

Juan Revillo wrote:
 > 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.

You appear to suggest here that astrology is limited to the meanings of the positions of the Sun, Moon & planets in the heavens, as depicted in the horoscope. Since your own practice does not conform to this description, I guess you do not describe it as astrological.

 > 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.

Yes, Juan, I was aware of that. As regards the former, I take the point. Your more detailed description is indeed more accurate.

 > 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 < snip > To understand a culture or
 > a belief system, it must be seen in its own terms and not judged in terms
 > of another. < snip >

As the late venerable Al H Morrison illustrated it on the cover of the CAO Times in '84; "A Clash of Paradigms". Commentators assume a common frame of reference, but none exists. Terms are liable to have different meanings in each paradigm. The term `knwledge' must even be deconstructed. Who knows? Knowing is usually personal, but knowledge is often used to imply collective meaning. As you seem to be aware, this is relative to whichever collective is meant.

 > 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:
 > < Traditional astrology follows neither a logic of concepts nor a logic of > causes, but a logic of signs. It is, as Levi-Strauss has written about
 > primitive thought, the logic of a universe where beings and things are
 > simultaneously endowed with physical and semantic properties and which thus
 > naturally supplies the key to its own interpretation... (...)
 > < 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]

Hmm.. I'd rather see what Kepler said, but perhaps that is from the part of his works not yet translated into English. I agree with the semiotic perspective, but I don't see the "circular relation".

 > 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.

Yes, but the ancient understanding of influence was divine, not mechanical. Gods & goddesses, identified sometimes with the Sun, Moon & planets, caused things to happen.

 > 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.
 > < The signs on earth just as those in the sky give us signals. >
 > < Sky and earth both produce portents >
 > < though appearing separately, they are not separate (because) sky and > earth are related.
 > < a sign that portends evil in the sky is (also) evil on earth >
 > < one that portends evil on earth is evil in the sky. > [p.204]

This is indeed an excellent source quote. What year is it dated to?

 > The way I see it, the fundamental assumption of astrology is a concordance
 > between what happens in the earth and what happens in the sky < snip >
 > For Dennis and all those interested in "synchronicity": there is an
 > excellent article written by Andrew D. Whitmont and published in American
 > Astrology, July 1985 p. 44-46. He complements the synchronicity concept
 > with "isomorphism" ("similarity of forms") as the two basic principles of
 > astrology:
 > < 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.

Thanks. Maybe I was too hasty in dismissing that magazine as pulp fiction. I have frequently made that point in Exegesis: the pattern originates in the whole (therefore prior to later subdivision which maintains it in the parts).

 > 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.

Indeed. I see from your web page that you have had to labour this point in another forum. I do hope education did actually result. Mainstream astrologers are normally incapable of learning the relation between the traditional astrological paradigm and nature.

Dennis Frank


End of Exegesis Digest Volume 5 Issue 59

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