Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #61

From: Ed Falis
Subject: re: The nature of astrology

From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #60

From: "Francis G. Kostella"
Subject: comment

Exegesis Digest Mon, 02 Oct 2000

Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 23:24:44 -0400
From: Ed Falis
To: exegesis
Subject: re: The nature of astrology

Well, I've been quietly standing by watching the discussion for a while, getting the feel of the list a bit. The subject is one close to my heart. But I find myself getting confused, because we have several almost conflicting points of view as to what the subject of astrology is, and of what kinds of activities might help to clarify it. Each of us is going to come at this question, which I think we all seriously consider, from our own perspective and experience. But it still seems to me that it's possible to order it a bit, to provide a taxonomy of sorts, that may help.

I think we have a map/territory problem here. Here means astrology in general.

There's no question to any of us I think that there are "real" phenomena with cyclic qualities, many of them even with clear physical causation, that have been considered as related to astrology. There are even some physical effects whose most reasonable explanation is direct physical causation from the relationships of planetary orbits. But they've also been observed and studied to some extent within the sciences and other fields (eg economics). They can be modelled and predicted (ok, let's say "forecast") without the particular set of time-measuring apparati that astrologers use, or alternatively, with them.

So, here's where my particular set of filters comes into play. To me, these phenomena are not essentially astrological, though they have been considered and explained through astrological lenses. And astrologers have tried to abrogate this set of phenomena to justify astrology within a scientific context. The fact is that various understandings of such phenomena can be gained from various approaches to looking at them. But they're not the essence of astrology, in my opinion. And this is where the map / territory problem comes in, because we're looking at the content of our astrological stance toward experience as the astrological reality, when astrology is nothing more nor less than a way of understanding and modelling our experience of reality.

I say this from my personal experiences. Certainly it's a partial view, but possibly one that helps clarify. I know about modelling. My background is a math degree, an advanced computer science degree and 25 years of software development, which is largely about modelling and the nature of models and their relations to complex systems.

To me, the subject of astrology is complex systems and their interactions. That's not any particular surprise since Rudhyar laid out that paradigm out over 60 years ago. The astrological stance is a language of describing (modelling) such systems qualitatively, or analogically, using an assumption that moments of time have each have a distinct quality, and that the complex interactions of the "clocks" in the sky can be used as indicators of those qualities.

So, fundamentally, we're employing a mathematics of qualitative description, based on an assumption, an axiom, which may or may not be true, as in all mathematics - something we draw from some intuition within ourselves about the way things are, or perhaps that is grounded in the way our minds work. Given that this particular intuition has raged through history and cultures around the world, it's at least an axiom that has some collective blessing. So, let's say we use it as our starting point.

If the fundamental astrological act is modelling, and we can clearly see it as such, then I think we've made a step, because we can realize that the physical, causative phenomena we see just happen to have a high coherence to the astrological view, rather than being a basis or justification for it. We can realize that astrological models just might be more effective in exploring such phenomena than some other approaches, but we won't confuse them with astrology. This is like Juan's stance in many ways, but also differs. (But what do we expect from astrologers)?

What I take Juan to say is that we should look at what astrologers do, and that looking at what they do leads one to similar conclusions to my own. Where I differ is that Juan validates the current astrological paradigm (in Kuhn's sense - a set of practices) as what astrology is. I disagree that it is essentially a set of cultural constructs, because I look to mathematics as the closest cousin of astrology. And within mathematics, there are formal relations, rules and so on that seem to be embedded more deeply in the biology of our minds to an extent that cuts across cultural paradigms. I believe the same holds for astrology, and that we short-shrift ourselves by accepting "whatever works for me" as a definition of what astrology is. And Juan, I know you don't mean it in the extreme sense I just put it, because I know you're trying to make the same kind of distinction between physical happenings and what astrology is. My point is that there is internal coherence at a number of levels that transcends the current paradigm / state of the practice. And I believe that that's what sound astrological "theory" ought to be going after. What most astrologers "do" is applied astrological mathematics at the level of craft. In my heart, I believe we can do more.

Jane mentioned in her last that if we focus on that pragmatic interface that I call applied astrology, we have a better chance of changing current practice for the better. No question. But ... that kind of argument is often used as a reason to not develop astrology in more core kinds of ways. The history of the interactions of mathematics, science, engineering and craft have shown that they all interact with each other, that each of these kinds of activities develops knowledge and understanding at their best. I don't want to see any of them excluded. Right now, I think it's the mathematics-like aspects of astrology that are most in need of attention, because they provide consistency checks against various "techniques" and so- called theories. There are a lot of practices out there that simply lack a consistent basis. "Well, it works for me" is fine, I suppose, at the level of craft, but it doesn't move the astrological enterprise forward.

I want more.

- Ed


Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 17:44:36 -0700
From: "William D. Tallman"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #60

Bill Sheeran said:

 > Pragmatism is the recognition of what is (done) as having its own = [snip]
 > This is an intriguing take on pragmatism. It suggests that there is a
 > lot to be said for considering astrology in terms of how it is
 > practised - what astrologers actually do, as opposed to what they
 > claim to be doing based on current cultural filters. As Juan
 > unceasingly attempts to point out.=20

True enough. The problem, however, is that there are questions about astrology that are not answered adequately by current practice. This appears to remain true whether astrology is viewed from actual practice or from cultural expectation.

In these discussions, I appear to have blundered by making some tacit assumptions: 1) That the appearance that astrology cannot adequately explain itself to the general public is a significant part of the problem astrology has in gaining public acceptance. 2) That astrology would benefit from addressing the issue of public acceptance. 3) That astrology would also benefit from discovering what in fact it was itself addressing, whatever that might be.

It turns out that none of these three assumptions are generally regarded has having any validity. The result seems to be that we having varying reasons for our interests. For many astrologers, it would appear entirely adequate to define astrology as what astrologers do, and in the absence of any questions of the sort that concern me, that seems fully appropriate.

 > It is interesting that you mention the I Ching as being pragmatic and
 > therefore essentially based on a cause-effect dynamic ('The basis of
 > pragmatism is that of cause and effect'). This differs from the
 > Jungian perspective, which tends to use the I Ching of an example of a
 > tool used to generate acausal connections, based on a principle that
 > 'things happen together'. Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you are
 > saying here. =20

The assumption is that simultaneity and causality are mutually exclusive. The structure underlying this assumption is founded on considerations that are themselves assumptions, although they are not always recognized as such. The reasons for the underlying assumptions are rooted in human nature, not in any form of science, but that's another subject, however relevant it might be.

Causality can take more that one form. We are generally most cognizant of the direct form, where the cause and the effect are subject to contiguous viewing. It can also take an indirect form, where the linkage is not serial but complex, and the mechanisms involved are much harder to discern.

About the I Ching: The idea of the I Ching is that the world is real, and we are well advised to accept that it is so, such that the best strategy for survival is the attempt to understand that world in its own terms. It then follows that we take control of what is ours to control, and that is ourselves; correct conduct promotes an optimum connection with the environment, and the superior man in a high position can indeed affect the general environment. This is a quite pragmatic approach, I think. We are affected by our environment, and we thrive to the extent we can position ourselves to maintain some personal optimum by striving to stay in harmony with the environment itself.

The mechanics of usage of the I Ching as a divinatory form are the measuring of the state of the environment, the state of the connection between the environment and the self, and the state of the self, such that these states can be determined as being of one of four conditions. What we don't understand is how those mechanics produce the advertised result, and the concept of synchronicity invented by Jung (and introduced in the preface of a popular edition of the I Ching) is presumed to explain this somehow by postulating that simultaneity is itself a powerful connection. The question about how one can manipulate yarrow stalks or cast coins and achieve a valid reading is thus begged by applying a simple label that is itself not understood.

I suggest we can suspect that the mechanism invoked by the mechanics of the yarrow stalks or coins may not be acausal, but a form of complex causality. What that may mean is probably as important to the aforementioned underlying assumptions as anything else, I think.

 > The collaborative approach is obviously one of the most powerful that = [snip]
 > My own feeling is that groups such as this allow both passive and
 > active communication at a stage when astrology is under pressure to
 > evolve from its current unsatisfactory state - a pressure created by
 > intelligent astrologers.

As I said, it appears that the idea that astrology is in an unsatisfactory state is itself an assumption that is less well accepted than we might wish. So, such pressure as we might apply is summarily rejected as intrinsically inappropriate, having no purpose.

 > We do not have an easy task. However, I do
 > feel that slowly (and largely because of the communicative power
 > afforded by the Internet) a group of differing and general positions
 > is beginning to come into focus among those who think about these
 > things. In other words, I do believe that all the discussion groups
 > chats that go on are making a difference in an almost invisible
 > fashion.=20

The question here might be: In what direction and to what effect?

 > I am conscious of those who I have come across over the years, and
 > whose perspectives seem to overlap to a substantial degree with my
 > own. While leaving the question of the value of this perspective
 > aside, I can tell you that five years ago I felt that I was alone in
 > harbouring the thoughts on the topic which I do.

How much is expanded connectivity responsible for this feeling?

 > OK, there's no
 > shortage of rants and frustrations, but some of that mud sticks (both
 > ways) and is eventually assimilated. Creative dialogue is not without
 > its tensions. Yes, there are endless numbers of critics out there, but
 > that is to be expected when none of us are constrained (or supported)
 > by an inherited consensus.

This is a problem in itself. There are at least three quite distinct points of view out there in astrology-land:

1) Astrology is 'broke' and needs to be fixed. Two subsets of this are that a) astrology doesn't really exist and we are doing something under that name we find convenient to continue to call astrology, and b) if a successful reading can be done using an invalid chart, there is clearly something wrong with what we're doing. Here, incidentally, astrology is defined as what astrologers do.

2) Astrology isn't 'broke' but is in dire need of rehabilitation to bring it into relevance to the modern times. All the effort to try to understand what astrology is from an inspection of what we inherited is meaningless; why it works is irrelevant because it does work, and the attention and energy should be focused on what astrology can, or will, become in the immediate future.

3) Astrology is neither 'broke' nor in need of rehabilitation. Astrology works just fine, thank you very much, and we are not well advised to go mucking around with what obviously needs more use than tinkering. All the furor over the state of astrology makes it more difficult to actually use or practice it, and we should drop all this and get busy doing the work at hand.

In principle, we think we can sort these three positions rather easily because their differences are quite obvious. In practice, however, it is almost certainly more difficult than we might think. Positions that sound the same, concerns that are expressed using the same or similar language, cannot be assumed to have common roots, and I suspect that assumption is used in default of any evidence to the contrary. In short, perhaps it is important to determine if someone is actually from the same point of departure. To this extent, then, some form of agreement is probably quite useful, and the lack thereof a burden that might not be necessary.

 > Order emerges out of chaos, and at present
 > what we have is a Brownian motion of individual perspectives, which,
 > if left long enough and energised with enough discussion, will start
 > to coagulate into varieties of consolidated bias.=20

I don't think so, unless there is an overriding force of alignment. What will happen is that positions in the mud will change format, but they will all remain in the mud, and any desire for clarity will continue to be thwarted.

 > Good science demands that tests be appropriate and meaningful, which =
 > means
 > they must be carefully designed for the situation.
 > Exactly. So we have to define the situation. For example, are we
 > talking about physical planetary positions or co-ordinates and
 > symbols? I agree with Juan that we have to look at what astrologers do
 > to answer that question.

Fair enough. We do need to work out what those different views assume and imply, because the assumptions and implications are necessary connective baggage that would otherwise remain untested unless they were explicitely part of the equation. For instance, here, physical planetary positions might imply the existence of a physical mechanism of celestial/terrestrial connection, and co-ordinates and symbols might imply an interpretive artifice essentially unconnected to objective reality. The attendent assumptions might be the simple opposition of the acceptance or rejection of the existence of a physical phenomenon.

What can we discern from a consensus of astrological practice here?

 > much for the establishment of a basis from which to launch a reasonable
 > investigation.
 > I agree. I think many of the points Juan makes are very important, and
 > fundamentally significant to the process of attempting to understand
 > (and perhaps model) the nature of astrology. This is the kind of thing
 > I am referring to above - the slow coagulation of individual
 > perspectives. The potential beginnings of a small group consensus, and
 > probably one which will necessarily engender its opposite for the
 > purposes of creative dialogue.=20

It sounds to me like this process is more valuable to the view that astrology is only in need of rehabilitation, and that astrologers need to get their act together so a unified front can be presented to the world at large.

Maybe it would be worthwhile to discuss the three positions I enumerated here. The idea is that we might discover some hidden consensus, or hidden misapprehensions, etc.

Jane Axtell said:

 > Last week i downloaded Alan Edwall's Astro 123 and ran off interpretations
 > for two persons... as a balance for my own take. People need to know that i
 > am disagreed with on some points, and that i fail to consider some things
 > other astrologers take for granted. Further his interpretations seem sound.
 > Then i read his philosophy of astrology. It's not mine.

Is this a "cookbook" chart, taken as an assembly of units of written interpretation and made available with a computer? It was a custom in my time to decry such practice as 'pseudoastrology', but any valid information is better than none at all, presumably.

 > But i have to admit Alan Edwall is an astrologer and a serious one. How do i
 > know this? I know it because his propositions of what life should be like for
 > certain people is exactly what they complain of loudly and frequently.

I'm not sure how you mean this, Jane. Are you saying that he suggests our individual lots in life are what we deserve, or that they are as we often quite vocally describe them? In any case, he does identify the relevant issues, but perhaps its meaningful to ask what he does with them.

 > Regardless of philosophy, serious and well grounded astrologers gradually
 > come to some unanimity in terms of interpretation, client experience takes
 > them into the same water downriver, regardless of from what peak the mental
 > ice began to release its drippings. It is this practical agreement of serious
 > practitioners that marks us as being in the same fold.

Yep. At root, this would seem to be powerful evidence that there is indeed something to the practice of astrology, although what more than that can be found really useful remains a question in my mind. Presumably, some schools of astrological thinking are more supported than others, but that's probably a much more complex issue than we might find ourselves capable of addressing effectively, at least without a lot of work.

 > Alexander Ruperti described astrologers who believe there are organic effects
 > in the astrological territory as "pseudo-realists". That must be what i am?
 > If i thought you cared, i could go on at length about how those effects might
 > be mediated and why progressions make sense in biological terms.

Who is Ruperti? Is he an astrologer? What competency supports the idea that his opinions have real substance? What work has he done that qualifies his judgment here? Are those questions too burdensome to ask? Rest assured that I do not find them so, as quite possibly others here concur.

My dear Jane, I'd hoped that you already knew I cared!!!! LOLOL!!!!!! Good grief, of course we care, I would hope. Why else are we electronically assembled here, if not to deal with these very issues. And bandwidth is much less expensive (ahh... well, at least I hope it is for most of us.....) than it used to be and so hold forth to your hearts content!!!!

 > (I have done this elsewhere. I'm not sure i have the time to repeat in
 > orginal words and cross-posting is not the best use of band-width.)

Don't you save your own posts in a send file for future reference? If so, just let your mouse do the clicking for you and get it dredged up from the archives and up to the list! Don't worry about cross-posting in this regard, as cross-posting is only frowned on to the extent the posts are not of real relevance in any given list or group.

 > But that's not what you are about. This whole discussion seems very
 > carefullly separated from any real possibility of changing how astrologers
 > work... but if we understand how the visible astrological effects come about,
 > then there is almost no limit to how much the content and practice of
 > astrology might change.

Well, I guess that answers any question whether Jane can ask the hard questions, doesn't it!!!!

See my three distinct views, as given in context of exchange with Bill Sheeran. The fact is that the large majority of astrologers out there don't want to be bothered with the sort of questions we ask and the issues we discuss here. And I state this as fact because I've been rather definitely given to understand exactly that, and more than once... < grin >

One can lead a horse to water, but making said horse drink is another matter.... and astrohorsies don't get led anywhere they don't already want to go, much less drink on command. So we speak of these issues with the idea that they are valid in their own right, and anyone can come and listen/read as they please, free to go away and form their own conclusions.... or not, as the case may be.

 > Such an understanding jmight alter popular notions of what it means to be
 > human, and cause us to reconsider what it means to be individual as well.
 > Best stick to the dictionary and historical practice.

And that's just what they do, as they understand it. The last thing they want is for that understanding to change: I don't think there's any question about the major inconvenience that a change in fundamental understanding can bring to one's life. Most of the time, it takes a personal crisis for such a change to occur, much less be worthwhile, and we tend to avoid such crises as we are able, dontcha know < grin >

But, we're here on Exegesis, doing what we do, and the world is welcome to come and watch, and participate, even (right, Fran?). Welcome and claim a seat, Jane!



Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 02:00:24 -0400
From: "Francis G. Kostella"
To: exegesis
Subject: comment

Bill Tallman wrote:

 > Don't worry about cross-posting in this
 > regard, as cross-posting is only frowned
 > on to the extent the posts are not of real
 > relevance in any given list or group.

This is likely not what Bill is suggesting, but...A Small Technical Point- I bounce back messages with more than one "To:" address, at this sometimes causes email software (and your moderator) to be confused. Best to cut-copy-paste a message to this list address one at a time.

 > But, we're here on Exegesis, doing what
 > we do, and the world is welcome to come
 > and watch, and participate, even (right,
 > Fran?). Welcome and claim a seat, Jane!

Indeed! All are welcome, but no hitting, name calling, or doing anything to send me to jail! < g >

Lately I've been wondering if we need to evangelize the list a bit in hopes of getting a few more contributors? Would more contributors be a good thing? Where to get them? Any ideas?

I've been very busy this year and have been lax in finding a new home for the web archives. Does anyone care? Were they useful?



End of Exegesis Digest Volume 5 Issue 61

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