Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #74

From: JG or DF
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #70

Exegesis Digest Thu, 02 Nov 2000

Date: Sun, 29 Oct 2000 22:18:13 +1300
From: JG or DF
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #70

Bill Sheeran wrote:
 > I baulk at the notion of archetypes
 > 'producing' natural forms - a knee jerk reaction against the
 > mechanistic flavour of the phrase.

Understandable. Our words of explanation are always going to be approximations; (similarly) it is commonplace to believe that the sun produces life on earth.

 > They are not merely catalysts in the formation of natural
 > systems. They seem to function as pattern-construction agents.
 > I personally have a problem with combining the concept of archetype
 > with the concept of agency. Again, my bias against 'strong'
 > mechanistic language. I think we recognise archetypes when we see them
 > mirrored in the material plane, but would question whether the
 > patterns in the material plane are a consequence of archetypes in
 > action. There is consciousness involved in the equation, in my
 > opinion.

I agree partly. Our perception of the archetypes is produced by the pattern-recognition function of the right-brain hemisphere. I see this perception/recognition as being secondary. I believe the action of the archetypes is primary, in their generation of patterns in the genesis of natural forms. I see a dual function: design according to pattern, and construction according to design. Sure you can claim DNA is the constructor, or atoms & molecules. This is the easy way out that scientists prefer, and can be justified by a principle of local causation. Doesn't explain why we have 1 head, 2 eyes, etc. Incidentally, Smuts did explicitly advocate the `law of the whole' as an active, whole-creating agency. I can provide a bunch of quotes to verify this if you like. My point is basically that at various scales of complexity you get such examples of natural systems exhibiting structure and function that `looks like' the result of formation by a number archetype. I guess my tacit rationale was therefore Occam's razor: if that's the simplest apparent explanation, why not use it? Science has nothing to offer.

 > Although my own feeling is that the light really switches on when
 > relational similarities are highlighted in a way that on the one hand
 > helps to paradoxically illuminate differences in the formal elements,
 > and on the other to promote a particular perspective by inducing a
 > sense of familiarity in the listener.

Quite right. Something I hadn't quite realised, thanks. A subtle paradox. Anomalies embedded in a context that the receiver recognises. Like a map, in which new features have appeared. However I suspect that this merely serves to engage the attention and intellect of the communicatee. Unless the communicator supplies the rationale for introducing anomalies, agreement will not be possible. The pattern partial match/mismatch probably sets up a challenge tension in the psyche, of a binary nature, which can only be resolved by agreement or disagreement that the rationale extends meaning.

 > commonality on this basis. All you get with the focus on practice is a
 > multitude of arcane rituals.
 > True, but by observing the arcane rituals one can identify the
 > underlying components of the belief system. In fact it's hard to see
 > what the implicit beliefs of astrologers are without looking at what
 > they do.

Point taken, but it requires an exegesis, right? This is not so necessary with frames of reference, which tend to be already articulated for mass adherence (by design).

 > Sounds like reinventing the wheel - exciting to see which shape it will
 > take! Cycles, phase relations, archetypes, are what we already have as
 > components of "process and change".
 > Well, it depends on whether you believe that the solar system's role
 > in the practice of astrology can be taken literally. I agree that
 > phase relationships and cycles are important, but they are essentially
 > linear models, quite appropriate for modelling effectively linear
 > systems such as the mechanical activities of the solar system. The
 > problem comes when one tries to extrapolate from a linear system (such
 > as the solar system) onto a non-linear context (as in life processes,
 > psychological, abstract or physical). That's why I feel that the
 > mathematics of non-linear system behaviour has much to offer, and
 > there's a lot more to them than the mathematics of simple cycles and
 > phases.

Okay, here we have the use of the term `linear' applied in a contemporary mathematical sense. Your usage assumes comprehension in the reader. Excuse me for being the devil's advocate, but my understanding of the term derives from common usage. I guess a line need not be straight, but if we are considering ellipses, well they are merely perceived patterns that model planetary orbits. As though systemic trajectory does not exist. Take it into account and the planets perform elliptical helices, right? And then, by what logic are organic processes different? Guess the answer to that is relative to whatever frame of reference you choose. But organisms have world-lines just like subatomic particles & planets, right? I'm just raising the obvious objections in principle, not seeking to deny any merit in the approach you advocate. If you and Ed can get results by application of that logic, great. But I would need some interim results to actually be produced before I could get enthused about the potential of that approach.

 > planetary orbits (punctuated equilibria). Astrology is founded upon the
 > orderly experience of cosmic cycles, based on constancy of systemic
 > relations.
 > As I mentioned above, I think it is more complicated than that. There
 > is order to the cosmic cycles, and these seem to be mirrored to some
 > extent in the rhythms of life processes. But it is quite clear that
 > this mirroring is not the same thing as a direct equation, otherwise
 > astrology would provide a predictive power way beyond that which it is
 > capable of, even according to its most optimistic adherents.

Right. So, there is entrainment. At some levels of systemic organisation. Let us postulate some secondary gearage between these and other levels. Then there is the program of organic development, physiological stages and transitions, presumably encoded in genes. So there is an individual schedule, and cosmic time is the context that cues it. Where does chaos come into this orderly scenario? In principle, I mean. Just by random variation and selection? If so, this adds little to our wisdom.

 > Is time the subject matter, or is it change?

Perhaps the same thing? Some may interpret change as differences between passing moments and/or real life events and processes. Without including similarities & constant features, I mean. Change implies too much of a focus on phenomena, and I suspect time `produces' phenomena according to some inherent plan or design. Mere template, that design. Pattern is inherent, not actual forms. Forms manifest in the actualisation of the pattern. Goddam, I'm starting to sound like Rudhyar! Sorry..

 > What is a natural time cycle? A product of commonly perceived rhythmic
 > patterns associated with the experience of change? Which comes first
 > (i.e. is primary)? If it is change, then astrology is more concerned
 > with the way systems behave in time, rather than the submission of
 > systems to the limits imposed by time (as mapped onto planetary
 > cycles). It may be that the planetary cycles, in their own behaviour,
 > give expression to rhythms which are to some extent common to the way
 > all systems behave. The correlation between planetary cycles and
 > rhythms in life may actually be pointing to something more fundamental
 > or archetypal (enter Ed's formal abstractions, and Number as the
 > primary archetype of Order as perceived in dynamic processes).

Yes, also what I have been anticipating. That's why I often stress in these discussions that astrology treats local time, whereas physics uses universal time. Time, as conceived by a competent astrologer and experienced by all humanity (partially excepting astronauts), manifests in moments on the surface of the earth. It is conditioned in that manifestation by the local environment. Context is all, when it comes to the human experience of time. A goodly portion of that context is internal! Natural time cycles are structural modulations of the temporal context. I suspect they have synchronous internal and external effects.

 > I mention this because over the last couple of years, I have begun to
 > question whether, or to what extent, astrology is primarily concerned
 > with time, or whether it describes patterns which are inclined to show
 > in processes of change. Perhaps the difference between the two is
 > subtle, but I feel it may be important.

By all means pursue this line of enquiry, but it depends for me whether you mean astrology as commonly practised, or as it ought to be. If the former, it is merely a primitive model of local time. If the latter, it is evolving to become a sophisticated model of local time. In either case it may describe "patterns which are inclined to show in processes of change". Poorly for the former, better for the latter. I believe the difference between time and patterns in processes is the difference between the originating pattern and consequential patterns that it produces in the manifesting forms.

 > Independent from astrological ways of seeing, systems can experience
 > bifurcations, self-organise, move further or closer to equilibrium,
 > turn chaotic, etc. In many respects astrology can reveal when such
 > turning points are likely. But what actually happens next depends on
 > the system's history and the current interplay of system variables.

The obvious point of disagreement with this view would be the lack of incorporation of the influence of environmental context.

 > concepts that are qualitative are essential elements of any paradigmatic
 > reframing of astrology, and maths is not known for being user-friendly
 > in this regard.
 > Except that the mathematics being developed in the form of complexity
 > theory and non-linear system modelling is quintessentially
 > qualitative. Here are a few quotes from "In the Wake of Chaos -
 > unpredictable order in dynamical systems" by Stephen H. Kellert,
 > University of Chicago Press 1993. < snip >

Thanks for these, and I agree it looks promising. Would rather see more explicit focus on elementary concepts than these quotes provide though. Foundational (qualitative) building blocks of the new paradigm, I mean.

 > "By way of summary, I propose that the kind of understanding provided
 > by chaos theory be called 'dynamic understanding'..... First, it calls
 > to mind the connection with dynamical systems theory, the
 > *qualitative* study of the behaviour of simple mathematical systems.
 > Second, it connotes change and process ... Chaos theory lets us
 > understand how *patterns* and unpredictability arise *by showing us
 > how certain geometric mechanisms bring them forth*."
 > [Patterns as emanations of geometric mechanisms - Bill]

OK, fine. Still I will restate my preference for the patterns that originate the geometry, in contrast to those consequent ones that people recognise. These may be congruent to some extent, even identical, of course. Trying to differentiate the circles made by a pebble dropped in a still pond with our perception of same is futile, in my opinion. Technical differences in principle may be meaningless in practice, huh? To extend agreement on descriptions we ought to be pragmatic in communicating.

 > It is also noteworthy that replicability completely ignores the
 > significance of timing, which does create a few hurdles for those
 > going for a scientific validation for astrology.

Indeed. Rudhyar had this issue sussed. In principle, it is a handicap rather than a block. Saturn, manifesting as the boundary issue yet again. In practice, the context must be carefully selected if it is to be valid. An astrological correlation or `finding' can be replicated if the conditions and parameters are made to match. Spurious verifications are exhibited frequently in the astromedia by avoiding this discipline. Astrologers endeavour to evade Saturn, despite Liz Greene's sage advice. They like to impress each other with smoke and mirrors (Neptune), and the pretence of finding correlations is a favourite strategy.

 > By contrast, any agreement between
 > astrologers is ever only implicit. Squares are hard aspects, Venus
 > attracts, etc. There is no process designed to produce explicit
 > agreements.
 > That's because astrology is not 'lawful', but requires engaging in a
 > hermeneutic process.

Yes, but. Laws are not requisite, and they tend to seem like a strait-jacket. If there were such a process, astrologers would distill their belief system considerably, and I believe the output would loom substantially. Not as a social science, but partly a philosophy of time and partly a model of human nature in respect of time, character and destiny. This transition from the current nebulous and arcane state to something more publicly accessible and comprehensible would I think be helpful to the evolutionary progress of humanity.

Dennis Frank


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