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Progress vs The Golden Age
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epurdue



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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:

If we take the example of someone's date of marriage, how many traditional astrologers living in the West would predict that a young woman would marry at the age of 16--if not already have had her first child by then? Yet this would have been common in many past times and places. Wouldn't applying the technique of predicting marital age yield age ranges that were reasonable in the past but not today?


Understanding history is important, but it doesn't change how the techniques work - though sometimes you have to use context, but then again astrology always took context into account.

Using marriage as an example, I haven't run into a situation where I predicted marriage at 16 using medieval techniques. Actually you use several techniques, but if I see a young marriage, I use some common sense. Medieval techniques don't say things like "if planet x is in house y, they will marry at 16". Young is young, just like tall is tall, though those things vary in culture and time. You run into this in physiognomy. You might say someone is pale. You take race in to account. A pale African American is darker than a pale caucasian, but pale is pale no matter what.

Re: Ptolemy, again you have to take planetary character into account. I don't know anything about your chart, but Ptolemy is saying if you have two malefics opposed, you have trouble, and here are some examples. Thats it. For the same reason if you use Ptolemy's section on births, you don't tell a mother that they will give birth to a "monster", and this might not even happen. However, you can be sure birth will be problematic.
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Progress vs The Golden Age Reply with quote

Mark wrote:
....Modernist astrologers tend to put implicit faith in the 'newness' and innovation of contemporary astrology. There is often the assumption that ancient and medieval astrology is 'outdated' and no longer relevant to us today. Another common assumption is that traditional astrology is pre-psychological and therefore trapped in a more fatalistic , event focused perspective. At the other extreme traditional astrologers can typify modern astrology as a diluted or corrupted version of an earlier 'golden age' where astrology had attained a higher level of technique and philosophical self consistency....
Does anyone else recognise these kinds of attitudes? Do we accept these kinds of assumptions are built on myths? If they are what are the implications for how we view other approaches to astrology? Ultimately is this an issue of subjective taste and temperament rather than any objective criteria?


These are the OP questions to which I attempted to respond. Taking Mark's points in order:

1. I don't think ancient and medieval astrology are irrelevant today. I argue that it is important to avoid a presentist approach to past astrologies. Presentism is a kind of historical fallacy of interpreting the past through our own cultural lenses without considering past authors' own cultural context; or even of tailoring what we write about the past to suit what we want to promote today.

Mithra, at the risk or incurring your ire, is it fair of me to suggest that you don't really practice a whole-cloth traditional astrology, but rather that you apply a set of techniques developed in the past to current astrological questions? And to the extent that we argue that Ptolemy didn't really mean that someone like me with Saturn opposite Mars (and moon opposite Mercury) would literally be a murderer or temple-robber, that is the extent to which we modify and modernize his material to suit our present sensibilities. I don't fit any of Ptolemy's descriptors for this aspect.

Kirk, of course slavery in the American South affected marriage! I chose the older example because I wasn't aware of antebellum southerners who wrote about astrology.

As per the thread on Rafael Nasser, ed., Under One Sky, neither modern nor traditional techniques seem to fare well in "blind" chart readings. So if we want to say, "Well of course Maud (age 10) isn't going to marry at age 15 even though that is what her chart strongly suggests;" then we begin to uncouple astrological counseling from the correctness of a technique that would predict it.

2. My readings in traditional astrology are admittedly sketchy. [Just as I suspect some traditional astrologers today have not studied in depth the modern astrology they criticize.] The fatalism seems clear in many astrological authors, even well into the 20th century. Cultural context for this? With Hellenistic astrologers we might look at astrology's links to stoicism. We kind of have to wait for the 18th century to get an idea of the liberation of the common man; or the common individual as a viable social unit.

3. I think some modern astrology is a dilution of the techniques of the past, and a pretty thin one, at that. On the other hand, modern astrology includes a lot of new material; and some of it produces decent results. I can't think of too many other bodies of knowledge or technologies that have not moved well beyond their ancient or medieval origins; so it is hard for me to understand why astrology should not take advantage of recent work, as well.

If people love the astrology of the past, that's super, but I don't understand why it should be a basis for criticizing astrology developed today. In comparison, some people love playing the harpsichord, so it wouldn't make sense to scoff at them simply because we now have pianos and electric keyboards.
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HOWARD B SAYER



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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark wrote:

Its not that uncommon for a member to decide to delete a post here. The moderator can then come along and remove it completely. Still, I agree it would be extremely interesting to hear Robert Schmidt's views both as a philosopher and astrologer. Thumbs up

Mark


If they were deleted by a moderator then you may not again! I can't imagine why he would have deleted them.
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Mark
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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If they were deleted by a moderator then you may not again! I can't imagine why he would have deleted them.


Hello Howard,

As a moderator myself here I can assure you that posts are not deleted on Skyscript in an arbitrary way. This is done either when a member removes their own post leaving it blank or a post is in breach of the forum guidelines that all members are expected to abide by. As I never saw the transient post you refer to I cannot comment beyond that.

Rather than speculate further on this matter I would suggest it is more productive for us all to move on and concentrate on the very interesting contributions we can all read in this thread.

regards

Mark
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###



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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
And to the extent that we argue that Ptolemy didn't really mean that someone like me with Saturn opposite Mars (and moon opposite Mercury) would literally be a murderer or temple-robber, that is the extent to which we modify and modernize his material to suit our present sensibilities.


It is quite often clarified now, Rob Hand, I believe, being one who discusses it, that the older authors considered extremes of manifestation, whereas the modern approach is to look for averages and common manifestations. We now want to know what a Mars-Saturn opposition usually indicates in a natal chart. The old astrologers would illustrate what a high-gear Mars-Saturn opposition could indicate when intensified by various chart factors. Ancient and medieval astrologers looked more to the 'worse case', modern astrologers look more to the 'common case'.

My guess is that the modern emphasis on signs due to the influence of sun sign astrology has led to a simple use of each chart factor as significant on its own. Modern astrology allows easy use of single chart factors ('He's a Cancer so he's sensitive and cherishes home life'). Ancient and medieval astrology requires bringing the various factors together and building a case before making such statements. Their statements can be confusing if we approach the ancient writings in the usual modern manner of modern astrology.




Quote:
Presentism is a kind of historical fallacy of interpreting the past through our own cultural lenses without considering past authors' own cultural context; or even of tailoring what we write about the past to suit what we want to promote today.

. . .

Kirk, of course slavery in the American South affected marriage!


Might this be an example of 'presentism'? I don't know whether American slavery had such an effect on marriage at the time or not, but the short statement begun with “of course” isn't very convincing that you have understood the issue correctly – or whether there even was such an issue. My point being that it weakens your broader argument here. That rather dismissive “of course” and its implication that no further discussion is necessary does tend to make me want to be a more determined opponent against any criticism you may have against traditional astrology.Laughing





Quote:
If people love the astrology of the past, that's super, but I don't understand why it should be a basis for criticizing astrology developed today.


The basis of criticism against more recently developed astrology is recent astrology itself. Many people have found it vague, confused, patched together and not very useful – too content with “He's a Cancer so he's sensitive and cherishes home life”. The basis of criticism is their experience with both recent and traditional astrology and the shortcomings they find in the recent. Personal experience in working with astrology is the basis of the criticism, not mere comparison of techniques or any belief in which one should for some reason be more accurate.




Quote:
I can't think of too many other bodies of knowledge or technologies that have not moved well beyond their ancient or medieval origins; so it is hard for me to understand why astrology should not take advantage of recent work, as well.


Ancient and medieval treatment of childhood illnesses or the knowledge back then of the life found at the ocean's floor might not compare well to current abilities and knowledge, but can we truly say that such works as Aristotle's Poetics have been surpassed and are no longer relevant? The ideas and principles contained in such works may be more applicable to astrology than any technique or scrap of knowledge.
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Mark
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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting discussion. I can see good points on both sides of this debate.

One thing that undeniably has changed since the classical and medieval period is human life expectancy. At least for those of us fortunate enough to live in an economically developed nation. Remarkably average life expectancy in the classical period was only about 28 and in the medieval period only 30. In colonial Virginia life expectancy was under 25. Obviously this varied from place to place. Existentially, this represents a very different perspective on life to modern Europeans and North Americans who have life expectancy into their late 70's.

Death through warfare , disease, famine, and extreme climatic conditions could be devastating. Extreme examples came in events like the Justinian Plague in the 6th century, the Black death in the 14th century or the Thirty Years War in the 17th century. Such social realities must have influenced the outlook of astrologers.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_expectancy#Life_expectancy_variation_over_time

Its true traditional texts do sometimes seem rather black and white and fatalistic at times. A good example is Firmicus Maternus. Traditionalists usually explain such texts by suggesting such statements are simply extreme examples to demonstrate a theme. Still, I think it also has to be acknowledged this astrology was prevalent in a period were human life was often 'nasty , brutish, and short' before the modern advance in medicine and agricultural production methods. Social mobility was also much less pronounced before the breakdown of feudalism in the early modern era. Addred to this were philosophical strands that might support a fatalistic viewpoint such as Stoicism. Although, it has to be acknowledged that there were competing views on such issues even in the classical era. For example Neo-Platonist, Pythagorean, Gnostic, Mithraic, Epicurean, Christian etc.

I dont think this invalidates traditional astrology. For example horary astrology has remained very robust despite its ancient origins. The house meanings and planetary associations are flexible enough to accommodate radical social change. Indeed they have already successfully went through such an adaption in the movement from a pagan, slave owning classical world to an Islamic and later Christian feudal society. Then we see its symbolism adopting to a more capitalist, mobile society in the early modern era.

I do think Waybred has a point though that we should attempt to see traditional texts in the context of their social, religious, and philosophical context. Otherwise there is a risk of excessive literalism and over rigidity in interpreting texts application today.

Mark
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Last edited by Mark on Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:17 pm; edited 3 times in total
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HOWARD B SAYER



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Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kirk wrote:

My guess is that the modern emphasis on signs due to the influence of sun sign astrology has led to a simple use of each chart factor as significant on its own. Modern astrology allows easy use of single chart factors ('He's a Cancer so he's sensitive and cherishes home life'). Ancient and medieval astrology requires bringing the various factors together and building a case before making such statements. Their statements can be confusing if we approach the ancient writings in the usual modern manner of modern astrology.




Could you provide some examples from the more recent serious literature? As someone who has been exposed to a fair deal of this material I have found this not to be the case, i.e a Cancer Sun may not be 'sensitve and cherish home life' it all depends, although this would be a wishy washy statement to make in any event and not one I would expect from a more sophisticated thinker.
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epurdue



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:43 am    Post subject: Re: Progress vs The Golden Age Reply with quote

waybread wrote:

Mithra, at the risk or incurring your ire, is it fair of me to suggest that you don't really practice a whole-cloth traditional astrology, but rather that you apply a set of techniques developed in the past to current astrological questions? And to the extent that we argue that Ptolemy didn't really mean that someone like me with Saturn opposite Mars (and moon opposite Mercury) would literally be a murderer or temple-robber, that is the extent to which we modify and modernize his material to suit our present sensibilities. I don't fit any of Ptolemy's descriptors for this aspect.


You aren't incurring my ire. I'm not upset at all. I can tell you aren't trying to be a jerk, which is pretty much the only thing that will turn me off.

I don't see that many cases where I have to modernize the interpretations, but there are a few exceptions: one is considerations about slavery which I treat as indications of extreme difficulty rather than a state-sponsered condition (taking some cues from Zoller there). Then again I'm using Bonatti the most rather than Ptolemy directly.

However since we're talking about marriage, Bonatti's headings are:

-On the natives marriages, partners, and enemies openly opposing him (all 7th house matters).
-On the native's manner of the venereal act
-Of what sort the native's wife is going to be
-On the time of the wife, when she will be taken, and on the number of wives, and on its durability in general.
-Then a chapter of the above material except for women
-How the marriage may be known by what is signified by Venus, Mars, and Saturn
-What would happen to the native because of his partners and from hos partners participating with him

Basically this deals with , will I be married, how many times, what will my spouse be like, will they be good in bed, and how will people see my marriage. Nothing terribly culture specific. Perhaps the most archaic looking section is about sex. However, all you need to do is ignore how Bonatti feels about certain sexual acts and pay attention to the indications themselves. No biggie.

The kinds of things you take older cultures into account are things like lifespan and some medical considerations, plus slavery like I mentioned above. I don't do lifespan estimates for clients, so I don't have much to say there.

However things like marriage, finances, career (for the most part) and figuring out the likelihood of childbirth are pretty solid.
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HOWARD B SAYER



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I imagine Bonatti didn't discuss same sex marriage?
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waybread



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that (a) the traditional vs. modern argument is probably too general to be useful; that we should be talking about particular techniques or astrologers instead. (b) There are plenty of goofball and good astrologers on both sides of the divide. But this is such an interesting discussion that I hope no one minds me taking a provocative view in order to push it a little further.

Kirk, thanks for helpfully delineating some of the differences in how to interpret lists of character traits given by the older astrologers vs. the ones today.

I still have trouble with the quote by Ptolemy I gave above, however, because I don't think any of it is helpful or correct. If he gives the worst that could happen, I don't see anything likely to happen. Well, maybe if I count saturated fat as a "forbidden food"....! I am not trying to personalize the discussion, but just to use my birth chart as an example. And there's a lot more dire material in Tetrabiblos where that one quote came from.

So this is an example of what I mean by "goofball astrologers of the past," without taking away from the good work that Ptolemy did, like his work on latitude and longitude and his world map.

If I turn to Manilius, Astronomica, sec. 290, I learn that someone with Spica rising might be a profit-making farmer, a miller, a baker, or that he might also be "a man who carves panelled ceilings in the sacred temples, creating a second heaven in the Thunderer's abode." [i.e., the god Jupiter.] Then a bunch of Manilius's delineations are tied into agriculture as it was practiced in his day (1st century BC) which involved plowing with oxen and donkeys. So I find this all really fascinating, but not a sound basis for giving a modern urbanite a decent chart-reading.

If I turn to the 12th century The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus,
"A Short Discourse on the Nature, and Qualities of the Seven Planets" sec. 9, I learn that if Mars is the lord of someone's nativity, he is liable to die from "violent death, or else to fall down from an high place." Well, if this were even close to the mark, actuarial scientists and the life insurance industry would be all over it. Then Albert's book is packed with just bizarre superstitions and magical charms, most of which are too icky to mention here.

And here's the rub. The more one waters down or explains away what these authors actually wrote, as not amenable to a plain or transparent reading, the less their work really stands on its own merits. We might better call traditional astrology today "Nouveau Hellenistic" or "Medieval Revival." And we might better focus upon the particular authors or techniques. whose work really does seem to be applicable today.

Then if we take as a critique of modern astrology a blanket statement like, "'He's a Cancer so he's sensitive and cherishes home life", we also have to unpack it a little. I think we have to distinguish between serious modern astrology and pop astrology. A serious modern astrologer [well except maybe Linda Goodman] doesn't just focus on sun sign astrology. She would look at the entire chart in multiple different ways to determine what is going on with an individual, just as a traditional astrologer would, although using different methods.

We need to avoid the fallacy of over-generalization, as well as a straw man debate technique, in which a spurious image of an enemy is created because it is easier to demolish than the real person's position.

And of course, everyone starts somewhere. Fledgling astrologers try their wings before they are ready to fly.

It is no more fair for a traditional astrologer to critique modern astrology on the basis of its lowest and most ridicuous common denominator than it would be for me to dismiss the whole of medieval astrology on the basis of Albertus Magnus. [As readers here know, traditional astrologies had plenty of their own contemporary critics, apart from anyone today.]

If I really wanted to spend a lot of time with a chart, I wouldn't know enough traditional astrology to look at terms, face, joy, and so on; but I might very well look at dwads, some harmonics, and possibly a few judiciously selected asteroids. This all takes time and, dare I hope, a more advanced level of knowledge than mere sun-sign astrology.

Kirk--sorry, but I didn't grasp why you took exception to my use of the words "of course" when I indicated that slavery in the Antebellum American South would affect marriage.

Mark--I think the low life expectancy of past historical periods should have had a huge impact on people's outlook on life, and the astrology that emerged in that context.

Mithra6, thanks for your explanation of Bonatti. I'll see if I can find his work, and report back. And thanks for thinking I'm not a jerk.
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GR



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi waybread,

Agree with point A).

waybread wrote:

I still have trouble with the quote by Ptolemy I gave above, however, because I don't think any of it is helpful or correct.


Actually since I'm still not sure you're "doing it right" so to speak, I am also not sure your opinion is applicable. Unless you mean to say that nothing bad can or should be said about a native, a position which I don't agree with. I don't advocate giving a cruel judgment either, but let's be honest; people as a general rule are messed up. It's part of why they would come to an astrologer (or any 'spiritual' adviser) in the first place. People want some help, and the pabulum that quite a few (note, not all) people pass off in modern astrological circles doesn't help. I'd rather they try a different current than forsake the whole enterprise.

As for Manilius et al., nobody needed PowerPoint presentations back then. Clearly there is required adaptation when making these sort of judgments, it doesn't make them 'goofball', we are the goofballs if we don't use our brains and think about what we are doing. And you basically constructed your examples into a straw-man argument, btw.
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waybread



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GR wrote:
Hi waybread,

Agree with point A).

waybread wrote:

I still have trouble with the quote by Ptolemy I gave above, however, because I don't think any of it is helpful or correct.


Actually since I'm still not sure you're "doing it right" so to speak, I am also not sure your opinion is applicable. Unless you mean to say that nothing bad can or should be said about a native, a position which I don't agree with. I don't advocate giving a cruel judgment either, but let's be honest; people as a general rule are messed up. It's part of why they would come to an astrologer (or any 'spiritual' adviser) in the first place. People want some help, and the pabulum that quite a few (note, not all) people pass off in modern astrological circles doesn't help. I'd rather they try a different current than forsake the whole enterprise.

As for Manilius et al., nobody needed PowerPoint presentations back then. Clearly there is required adaptation when making these sort of judgments, it doesn't make them 'goofball', we are the goofballs if we don't use our brains and think about what we are doing. And you basically constructed your examples into a straw-man argument, btw.


Gabe, for the sake of debate, let's suppose that I did not use the Ptolemy quote correctly. I think I did, having considered the positions of my moon and Mercury, but I could be mistaken. I think my point nevertheless stands, because one would have to be a thoroughly despicable human being for this delineation--as well as others in Tetrabiblos-- to be correct; and then most despicable human beings today are not temple robbers and the rest of it.

I never argued that "nothing bad can... be said about a native." I personally wouldn't use the word 'bad" but would substitute the idea of being truthful, as I see it. And sometimes people don't want that kind of "truth" if it doesn't flatter them. But if the essence of astrological counseling is to interpret a chart in a way that is honest but empowers people, then diplomacy will probably give them the message more effectively than if you just shut them off because they think you are merely being rude to them.

Sorry, your point about Manilius and Powerpoint escaped me. My point was, however, that the more one has to update or modify one's interpretation of traditional authors in order to make them applicable today [i.e., "use one's brain" to interpolate their words,] the less one can really claim to do "traditional astrology." For comparison, the neoclassical architecture is not the architecture of ancient Greece, but it is influenced by it.

I didn't find Bonatti's material on marriage on-line, but I did find snippets of some of his other work. His language in them is parsimonious and workmanlike: they seem more useful today than the writings of more excessive authors.

I don't think I used a straw man technique, Gabe. I focused on specific examples and did not use them to represent the whole of traditional astrology. But there are more where they come from. I don't use them to take pot-shots at traditional astrology, but rather to argue that problems with modern astrology do not ipso facto demonstrate traditional astrology as the rational alternative.
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epurdue



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HOWARD B SAYER wrote:
I imagine Bonatti didn't discuss same sex marriage?


Not marriage, but he did mention homosexuality. It's not a huge leap in logic.
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epurdue



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One word about some of the older books: many were written as handbooks and not comprehensive guides. Ptolemy is like this and so is Abu Ali Khayyat. I haven't read Vettius Valens which is about 21 (the smaller ancient size) books, so I'd imagine he's more comprehensive. That's why Bonatti is useful because it's so large. Masha'Allah is useful though a little brief. We don't have an English translation of Abu Mashar's "Greater Introduction" yet which will be a big deal. That book is enormous.

So that's why you have you take some of the seemingly authoritative lists by Ptolemy as guides and not definitive. It's like looking at a Cliff's Notes.
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GR



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Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi waybread,

As for Ptolemy, he would look at the planets that had authority over the degrees of the Moon and Mercury, by triplicity, sign, exaltation, term, and phase(think this its solar phase).

Agree that some people want nothing but flattery.

waybread wrote:

Sorry, your point about Manilius and Powerpoint escaped me. My point was, however, that the more one has to update or modify one's interpretation of traditional authors in order to make them applicable today [i.e., "use one's brain" to interpolate their words,] the less one can really claim to do "traditional astrology." For comparison, the neoclassical architecture is not the architecture of ancient Greece, but it is influenced by it.


It's not updating or modifying an interpretation, it's about understanding what it is they are really saying about planetary interactions as the particular author understands them. I'd like to leave my ideas or myself out of that process as much as possible, though it is not 100% doable.

You'll have to buy Bonatti, as it has only recently been translated into English by Dr. Ben Dykes. He has broken it up into parts so it might be easier for you to get.

waybread wrote:

I don't think I used a straw man technique, Gabe. I focused on specific examples and did not use them to represent the whole of traditional astrology. But there are more where they come from.


Which implies that they do represent traditional astrology.

waybread wrote:

I don't use them to take pot-shots at traditional astrology, but rather to argue that problems with modern astrology do not ipso facto demonstrate traditional astrology as the rational alternative.


The "rational alternative" in this time is to not bother with astrology at all, and I believe it is clear none of us are listening. Smile

People go to traditional astrology because it is, in the modern vernacular, 'event-based'; they want to know how things in their lives turn out. Going on about 'wounded healers' and the like doesn't do it for them(regardless of its relevance to the native), and these sorts of "fuffy woo-woo" astrologers and the misguided, IMO, desire for psychological or academic respectability have been the main drivers into other more 'traditional' forms of astrology.
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