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Robert Hand and Post Modern Astrology
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Ed F



Joined: 22 Jan 2008
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Location: Ipswich, MA USA

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I bow to your honesty!
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waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
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Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just in case anyone is following this thread without the "benefit" Confused of a recent education in the humanities, fine arts, or certain social sciences, the following explanations of post-modernism might be helpful:

www.pbs.org/faithandreason/gengloss/postm-body.html
www.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/pomo.html

Actually, if you just google "post-modernism" and check out the .edu sites, you will find professors trying to make it intelligible to their undergraduate students.

In the following paragraphs, I am not sticking up for post-modernism, simply trying to explain it.

As with any kind of intellectual endeavour, there are "lumpers" and "splitters." The lumpers would group theories/schools of thought like post-modernism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, critical studies, post-colonialism, and parts of semiotics into the post-modern camp. The splitters would see them as distinctly separate.

Essentially, and in my limited understanding, the modern condition and what preceded it insisted upon one "right" way of understanding reality. 1000 years ago, clerics believed there was one correct religion, and the others were heresy. Or 50 years ago many secular people believed that science and technology were entirely on the right track, and religion was bunk. Or that English norms were the pinnacle of cultural evolution, and other cultures were inferior. And so on.

In astrological terms, we might think of a modern and pre-modern condition as highly given to orthodoxy. Even if the orthodoxy is permissive and eclectic. (Remember the 70's mantra: "You do your thing, and I do my thing. If we find each other, it's beautiful." Heaven forbid one should profess a different view of personal relationships!)

So traditional astrology was pretty orthodox. I sometimes think this had less to do with its techniques then with its delineation of human character. People simply were a particular way, for good or ill. Personalities were not fluid, indeterminate, and evolving. One's personality didn't depend upon whether one lived in one's birthplace in familiar surroundings, or might live in a foreign country where his traits might be considered unusual. Characters were fixed at birth. Even a good or bad old age followed by the reverse earlier in life was set and pre-determined.

We actually find something comparable in "modern psychological astrology" in which the modernist Freud had clear views about proper gender roles, as translated into statements about the moon (the "bad" mother) in the horoscope.

Orthodoxy before post-modernism manifested itself through observable discourses, which were the combination of cultural beliefs expressed in narrative form, artefacts, and practices.

In astrological terms, astrologers have all kinds of beliefs about the horoscope and its contents, and they manifest these through chart interpretations to clients, including the way in which the interpretation is delivered (say, via phone, in-person, or e-mail.) We could call these collectively an astrological discourse.

So first, off, post-modernism indicates that all of our beliefs and practices are culturally conditioned, and highly influenced by variables like our historical period, location, ethnicity, socio-economic class, nationality, and gender. There simply is no template or yardstick out there against which the "truth" or "reality" could be measured with the non-orthodox interpretations found less good (cultural relativism or multi-culturalism.)

Common narratives from modernity are ideas like the unmitigated benefits of "progress" or that science will ultimately have all the answers and bestow upon us the blessings therefrom. Common narratives that span pre-modernity and modernity are ideas about the necessity and benefits of existing political and institutional heirarchies.

Second, the relationship between an astrological or other discourse and reality is fundamentally unknowable, because we can only see things through our own cultural lenses-- or blinkers. Even science is a product of people coming from their own cultural biases. Sciences Studies, another type of post-modernism in the generic sense, has shown how purportedly objective scientific research actually displays significant cultural biases.

Apparently astrologers deal with 30-degree signs and a 360-degree zodiac, in part because Babylonians worked with a base-60 arithmetic system, for example. There isn't anything objective out there in the sky about 360 degrees. There isn't anything objective about a tropical zodiac, which is merely a cultural construct about linking pie-sectors of the heavens to the solar equinoxes and solstices. And it is highly cultural to decide that these dates matter somehow to personal development.

Post-modernism has a following in the arts and architecture. The buildings of Frank Gehry would be an example. Or just imagine a book in which the pages are collated in no discernable order, because the idea that they should be organized sequentially is our unthinking residue from a poorly contemplated cultural practice.

The above is just a hint of a glimpse into an introduction to post-modernism as most people would understand it. At its extreme, everything we thought we know is up for grabs. This view is either scary or liberating, depending upon how entrenched one is in customs and norms.

This is why I think it is unfortunate that Robert Hand used the term post-modernism, because it has had an extensive vigorous intellectual life on its own.

Once we get beyond that, I think he has some good things to say about the revival of traditional astrology.
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lihin



Joined: 14 Dec 2009
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Location: Mount Kailash

Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:03 am    Post subject: Are objects without subjects possible? Reply with quote

Good morning,

Quote:
There isn't anything objective out there in the sky about 360 degrees. There isn't anything objective about a tropical zodiac, which is merely a cultural construct about linking pie-sectors of the heavens to the solar equinoxes and solstices.


What is then really 'objective'? What is 'subjective'? Where and how does one find objects without subjects or vice versa, generally or specifically in astrology?

May one suggest that perhaps, like e. g. 'good-evil', 'benefic-malefic', 'order-chaos', object-subject is a pair of interdependent opposites, one impossible without the other?

Best regards,

lihin
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Non esse nihil non est.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Post-modernism tends to criticize binaries. To quote the Wikipedia entry, "Postmodern philosophy is often particularly skeptical about simple binary oppositions characteristic of structuralism, emphasizing the problem of the philosopher cleanly distinguishing knowledge from ignorance, social progress from reversion, dominance from submission, and presence from absence."

Structuraliism is basically the theory that human interactions are underlain by deep, usually cross-cultural structures, such as kinship or ways in which meaning is understood. So the idea of binaries could be interpreted as such a structure. Post-structuralists take aim at structuralism, because these "structures" often turn out to be based upon the researcher's own culture-dependent biases and preconceptions.

Post-structuralism is often indistinguishable from post-modernism in application.

Are things objectively good or bad? Not if you subscribe to cultural relativism. To the ancient Egyptians, with their strict religious and political heirarchies, adherence to heirarchy was one of the highest goods of human conduct. Creating any kind of challenge to it was seen as terribly wrong, and was symbolized by their wicked god Set, perpetually at war with the rightful established order.

Since the Enlightenment, however, the western world has become suspicious of heirarchies. This is why the US has a presidential election every 4 years, when a "throw the bums out" mentality often prevails; most recently with the Tea Party's [self-] righteous mistrust of heirarchical big government.

I don't think the post-modern/post-structuralist problem is with object-sujbect relations per se, but with the cultural content of the words and symbols, and raw power relations that go along with them, when you look at any kind of examples.

Maybe I should back up and agree with Ed slightly, in that modern psychological astrology has tinges of post-structuralism, in the idea that planetary forces are neither inherently malefic or benefic. However, the early work of Liz Greene is entirely a modern project in the belief that the study of psychology-- aka behavioural science-- can lead us to wise and beneficial use of the powers of Saturn or Mars. Although we get the idea that people can be authors of their own destiny, reliance upon psychology-- with all of its foibles notwithstanding-- would be something for the post-modernist to unpack.

There are some problems with post-modern insistence upon cultural relativism. Surely you and I could agree, for example, that crimes such as child molestation are objectively bad. However, if you found a culture that didn't think so in many circumstances (such as the ancient Greeks' same-sex pedophilia), the post-modernist view would be that this other society's views were cultural constructs, all right, yet equally valid as western societies' norms and laws on child welfare; because what constitutes the morally right norms and laws are culturally dependent.

The problem being that we are incapable of viewing life through anything other than our own cultural lenses.

We find all kinds of other examples of cultral norms in Hellenistic astrology, with its taken-for-granted acceptance of slavery and death prediction for average clients; vs. modern astrologer's abhorance of death prediction. Post-modernism specifically looks at power relations, and it is interesting to read the political rationales for prohibiting death predictions for the Roman emperor. In this case, the astrological was the political!

Again, I am not sticking up for post-modernism, just trying to explain it at the elementary level at which I understand it.
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varuna2



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Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

delete

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waybread



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Posted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

varuna2, I agree about the problems with post-modernism. At some level, I believe that if I try to walk through a wall, I am objectively going to bump my head.

To quote from the definition I linked above, "Postmodernism is "post" because it denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characterisitic of the so-called "modern" mind. The paradox of the postmodern position is that, in placing all principles under the scrutiny of its skepticism, it must realize that even its own principles are not beyond questioning. .... postmodernism 'cannot on its own principles ultimately justify itself any more than can the various metaphysical overviews against which the postmodern mind has defined itself.'"

I also think the boundaries between modernity and post-modernity are blurry. The critique of church authority, for example, can come from a scientific or Marxist background as much as from a post-modern perspective.

It has been said that we live in a post-modern world; in that choices that were formerly seen as unquestionably "true or false" or "good or bad" are now seen as equally valid and oftentimes as a matter of personal preference.

I am not sure astrologers truly think so, though! We tend to rely more on a big Deposit of Faith, without much considering how our practices and application to human nature do not simply reflect or explain reality but actually construct or invent a kind of reality in our own minds.
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SGFoxe



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Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The defining moment was 1543 with Copernicus's publication ... and Appollian revolution that deposed Jupiter as the Principal of the Olympian to its Central Fire and thus discovered the SOLAR system.

Prior to the Copernican vision ... the spacial centrality of the Sun redefined the Weltanschuaang of Heavenly as drastically as Columbus redefined the worldly
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SGFoxe



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Posted: Sun Oct 07, 2012 2:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The defining moment was 1543 with Copernicus's publication ... and Appollian revolution that deposed Jupiter as the Principal of the Olympian to its Central Fire and thus discovered the SOLAR system.

Prior to the Copernican vision ... the spacial centrality of the Sun redefined the Weltanschuaang of Heavenly Spheres as drastically as Columbus redefined the earthly plane.
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waybread



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Posted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Which would be early modern, vs. post-modern.
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varuna2



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Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

delete

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waybread



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Posted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't put things quite as strongly, Varuna2-- we can critique written histories and hegemonies of the past without resorting to strong, emotionally-freighted language. You know the saying, "History is written by the conquerers."

The main thing with studies of the past is to back up assertions with solid evidence.

You are no doubt familiar with many revisionist histories. A good way for a young up-and-coming historian to establish a reputation is to overturn the "accepted wisdom" about the past. Revisionist histories have been written pretty much forever, so there is nothing new about new generations reinterpreting events of the past, for good or for ill.

The ancient Greeks knew that the world was round. They greatly under-estimated its size, but they drew upon several lines of evidence. Ptolemy's map is a truly amazing representation of the earth's surface as it was known in later Antiquity. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic church rescripted views of the earth and cosmos better to symbolize biblical passages.

What post-modern historians seek to do is precisely to revise our views of a taken-for-granted worldview and understanding of history.
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waybread



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Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just came across the following take on post-modernism by Irish astrologer Bill Sheeran:

www.radical-astrology.com/articles/articles/philosophy/astpatpost5.html

Traditional astrologers criticize modern astrologers for their playing fast-and-loose with astrology's time-honoured techniques. However, after about 1970, we might consider that their "anything goes" attitude is in keeping with post-modern sensibilities.

This is why I think Hand's use of the term "post-modern" is unfortunate.
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varuna2



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Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Ed F



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Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Just came across the following take on post-modernism by Irish astrologer Bill Sheeran:

www.radical-astrology.com/articles/articles/philosophy/astpatpost5.html

Traditional astrologers criticize modern astrologers for their playing fast-and-loose with astrology's time-honoured techniques. However, after about 1970, we might consider that their "anything goes" attitude is in keeping with post-modern sensibilities.

This is why I think Hand's use of the term "post-modern" is unfortunate.


Hi Waybread,

Not sure I understand your "why": is it because Hand misappropriated the term, which is more applicable to thinking like Sheeran's, or is it because there is something seriously wrong with the latter that compromises Hand's (somewhat simplistic) proposal?

-Ed
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waybread



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Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good morning, Ed! I was thinking more that the term post-modern is pretty well known in the academic humanities, arts, and social science circles. It has generated more than a cottage industry of research in these fields. In some departments, post-modernism (including its pals post-structuralism, post-colonialism, critical theory, &c, &c) is really the primary paradigm today.

So I think Hand's article makes astrologers look isolated (yet again) to define post-modernism as neo-traditional astrology; which is anything but post-modern in the conventional sense.

Like Humpty Dumpty saying to Alice, "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.'"

This sort of works in children's fiction.

So this is a different concern than analysing Hand's article.
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