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The causality problem in astrology
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waybread



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Posted: Thu May 25, 2017 5:46 am    Post subject: The causality problem in astrology Reply with quote

Why astrology works-- if it does; or why it should work, if we admit to imperfections in practice-- are questions that have dogged astrology since ancient times.

To me, the real problem of astrology is one of space and time: we can predict future events, describe personalities of people we've never met who live halfway around the world, and even locate the missing cat-- based upon horoscopes and ephemerides without having adequate explanations of why a fine-grained level of detail can be explained by planetary or star positions, let alone by imaginary house cusps and signs.

Lately I've been thinking about this problem, in a very intellectually limited sort of way. I have no conclusions, but a kind of hypothesis sketch with several propositions. I'd love to get your thoughts on them: extensions, questions, criticisms, and especially recommendations for reading, or viewing.

I will say at the outset that I am highly unsympathetic to the frequently expressed astrology vs. science binary. I've tried to express my thoughts on astrology, science, and the humanities in my thread on this board, "Why Astrology is Not a Pseudo-science." [It's not a pseudo-science because science is the wrong comparable.]

1. The graphic horoscope functions as a symbolic language, code; and/or graphic means of communication.

This goes beyond the use of glyphs. The horoscope has a kind of syntax, in its arrangement of signs, houses, seasons, the four humours, antisticia, &c; and a kind of grammar with nouns or subjects (planets) and modifiers (signs, houses.)

2. Different languages and graphics have particular ways of expressing space and time. To some extent, our ability to conceptualize space and time is a function of our language.

Here, I would recommend Paul Bauschatz, The Well and the Tree, on how Germanic mythology and verb constructions combined in a particular view of destiny or fate as unfolding from the past. Or a study of indigenous Australian song lines used to conceptualize and navigate terrain.

In terms of graphic images, a topographic map is a static and highly stylized depiction of phenomena across space. An action photograph, let alone a film, convey a sense of movement over time as well as space.

3. Time is, to some extent, a cultural construct, and much less objective then we normally consider. To Hindus, time is simultaneous, although we may experience only portions of it, and in linear fashion. Time is cyclical in a seasonal calendar. Linear time may be scrambled in dreams. Not to mention time and space in physics.

Knowing the future seems impossible in most descriptions of time, but secular forecasting and religious prophecy have always sought to predict time with some level of probability, if not certainty. Oftentimes this forecasting is based upon other symbolic communication systems, like weather radar or stock market data; or reading of omens.

4. Some societies believe that specially gifted people can foresee the future: variously known as second or "twin" sight, 6th sense, psychic or psi abilities, prescience, &c. In some cultures, like northern Scotland, psychic abilities are believed to pass down through families. From a scientific perspective, this would suggest heredity (genetics.) These abilities seemingly transcend space, when a "gifted" person has a visual image of a newly deceased person who died some distance away.

5. Recent research in neuroscience also indicate that children's ability to predict future outcomes of present actions resides in the frontal lobes of the brain, which are not fully developed until the early 20s. (Or, why teenagers do such damn fool stuff.) Some people are better at forecasting ordinary events than others: we call this good judgement, or some other ordinary skill like perception, discernment, or shrewdness. In medicine, we call experience-based forecasting a prognosis.

Thus forecasting seems a bit like the Germanic concept of the future: it is past-based, as a projection from already known events.

Assuming that at least some reports of psychic abilities are true, then it may have a plausible genetic or neurological explanation, although research on this topic remains controversial.

6. Change the language, and you can expand the individual's ability to apprehend and communicate space and time.

See, for example, the thesis behind the science fiction film, Arrival, where a character's seeming flash-backs are actually flash-forwards as she learns the language of aliens who know their future. A historical example would be the famous deaf-blind author Helen Keller, who reported that she inhabited a kind of inchoate present, before she learned language, which enabled her to structure her world, and her sense of space and time.

Astrology as a symbolic language can be learned. As we learn to read horoscopes, we expand our understanding of space and time, as more knowable.

(To be continued.)


Last edited by waybread on Thu May 25, 2017 6:58 am; edited 1 time in total
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waybread



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Posted: Thu May 25, 2017 6:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(continued from my previous post)

The other part of my hypothesis sketch has to do with the relationship between human behaviour and planetary locations. The pseudo-scientific explanations like gravity or electro-magnetism seem utterly unsustainable. Just because tides are related to the moon doesn't explain why a woman with Venus in Scorpio square Mars has a reputation for jealousy. I'd like to set aside magical explanations for the moment.

As a shorthand, I'll talk primarily about planets, but feel free to include sensitive points, fixed stars, cusps, angles, and so on.

Also, I don't claim to be profound-- just trying to work things out for myself. Hopefully with your help.

7. Causality models with independent and dependent variables (planets acting upon people) are only one possible way to look at the cosmos. Another way is that humans and celestial bodies are equally part of a holistic system.

I'm not sufficiently versed in holism to give allegiance to any particular version of it, other than to suggest that in its broad outline, that it allows for rethinking heirarchies of causality. For example, rather than planets "causing" human behavior, we could look at both of them as components of a larger system-- perhaps in a creative or mutual feedback loop relationship.

We find something like this in Manilius, when he said that humans can understand the divine cosmos, because our minds themselves partake of this divinity.

8. As other astrologers have suggested, in a more holistic system, we can think of planetary movements as time-keepers, rather than as causal agents.

By analogy, if I say that I tend to get sleepy at midnight, the clock striking midnight doesn't cause me to feel sleepy. The clock merely coincides or correlates with my physical state. Similarly, Venus moving into my 7th house doesn't cause me to focus on my marriage, it corresponds to a time when this happens.

9. The dicey part about a holistic system, is that just as planets supposedly influence or coincide with human behaviour, we humanize the planets in distinctively cultural ways. We call planets by names of ancient gods and attribute to them qualities of those gods. We map them as glyphs onto circular pie charts or squares, seldom looking at the sky in the process.

Culturally, astrologers do not agree on how to map the cosmos. Sidereal and tropical zodiacs; different house systems placing planets in different houses; Vedic, psychological modern, Uranian, Magi, and traditional western astrology present a confusing mix; notably when we consider that practitioners of each of these "schools" can produce accurate results. So it's hard to claim the overall superiority of one school over another, except for specific purposes and questions.

As per my points above, however, as an astrologer in each school learns a new language called horoscope interpretation, s/he expands her awareness of space and time. In a predictive school, an astrologer expands his/her judgement of time. In a more psychological school, an astrologer expands his/her judgement across space of people s/he's never met.

Graphic means of communication such as the horoscope in particular train the mind to make simultaneous connections between data bytes, unlike linear spoken and written languages. We read time and space in a symbol for a retrograde planet.

If an astrologer has the "gift" of second sight, so much the better; but through the language of the horoscope, less talented people can expand their spatial and temporal abilities.

9. Holism in astrology is similar, but not identical, to the astrologer's axiom, "As above, so below, which implies a uni-directional flow of influence. In a holistic system, there can be reverse flows, or non-heirarchical interactions between components. Culturalizing planets enable us to read a mathematical ephemeris. In developing awareness of astrology and how to plan for change over time, we can moderate the supposed influence of planets, thus "causing" Saturn to mean something less dire. Taken further, "As below, so above" applies, as well.

10. Within a more holistic system, so far I can think of several sorts of explanations for "why astrology works." One is a transcendent context that regulates the synchronicity of planetary positions and human behaviour. A religious person might call this context God, by whatever name. Another is the philosophical view that consciousness, not physical matter and energy, underlies the cosmos and summons it forth. (In religious terms cf. Genesis 1:1-2 on the power of language to create reality.) Another is that the context is not transcendent but immanent: synchronicity results from the interactions of the whole.

Except at the universal level, I don't think that magic or divination as a type of magic are necessary explanations, although they can equally be another symbolic language with which an astrologer expands his awareness of space and time.

Let me know if any of this makes sense to you.
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SteveGus



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Posted: Fri May 26, 2017 3:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
9. The dicey part about a holistic system, is that just as planets supposedly influence or coincide with human behaviour, we humanize the planets in distinctively cultural ways. We call planets by names of ancient gods and attribute to them qualities of those gods. We map them as glyphs onto circular pie charts or squares, seldom looking at the sky in the process.


Apropos of nothing in particular, I do think that one of the more attractive features of astrology is that it does put you somewhat in tune with the cosmos. You can, and do, look at a horoscope as a purely abstract pattern of symbols, representing things and people not in the heavens.

On the other hand, by the mere fact of regularly looking at a current horoscope, you know the true time of day. You know the moon's current phase, and whether she waxes or wanes. You have a good feel for when the planets are rising in the night sky, and whether there's any point looking for Jupiter or Venus in the morning and evening sky.

I do recommend periodically going out past the city lights and reconnecting with the subject matter from time to time. You may be awestruck by the void. You may be reassured by the order you know runs it. Either way, there is a richness here that most people do not share.
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bushwren



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Posted: Wed May 31, 2017 2:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So you are saying the notion of causality is the wrong question because it is all part of an integrated system? I agree, it is clear that it is not something so simple as, say, a reflection. And as mere parts of the whole, we cannot comprehend the working of the whole, only get clues from the other moving parts. I think sometimes dealing in archetypes leads to a misleading elevation of them over the human, thus the identification with different gods/ avatars/ principles... but a holistic system reminds us that everything has its place, every 'purity / impurity' of expression, and doesn't oppose or distinguish planets from mundane actors

I think that your notion that the graphical systems affect perception of the vectors involved is interesting -- the zodiac wheel, as you pointed out, evokes a recognition of time cycles. Angular relationships as a measurement of distance. It's very interesting about how modes of expression demonstrate something about concepts that far outstrip them, which goes back to the point about learning about the whole naturally through observing its parts and their interrelationships.

Thanks for sharing this.


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Paul
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Posted: Wed May 31, 2017 7:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gospel of Thomas: "Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me."

For me it's not so much that we ought to consider a causal analogy at all with astrology - I think that if we look for answers to how astrology works with causal approaches we will merely follow a rabit trail to disappointment. Instead I think we should try to restore the divine to divination when we do astrology at its most ideal. Of course we're just mere mortals and in practice this seldom happens, but if we are to look for a model to understand how astrology works I think we're really approaching the problem from the wrong angle. It's not so much how astrology works as we might ask ourselves how the TV works or how the aeroplane works - astrology isn't a technology in that sense. It is instead the word we used to describe the study and understanding of time as it appears to unfold, and the language of astrology and the cosmos itself is merely the clockpiece we use to record that time.

It's not that astrology is a language then, it's more that we are limited creatures and must use a language of symbols to understand the situation and the patterns of the timbre of a given moment which impregnates all things which have relevance to the human psyche (at least) for that moment. In so much that we seek answers from nature and from the natural world we are practicing a divination one in which should we split any wood or lilft any rock we have the potential to recover the the spirit of the divine - our limitations may prevent us from recognising the pattern and order and message inherent in that moment and in that place and time.

Astrology for me then is not a language or a set of causal conditions we can measure, it is a limited divination or study of the quality of any moment as it unfolds. It is not that we should ask how does astrology work per se, as opposed to ask what is the quality of this very moment because the simplest core tenet of astrology is that this moment has meaning. Why and how is a bit of a misleading approach to the problem - it has meaning because all moments are the unfolding of some divine order or pattern. It is not about working like technology works. It would be more like asking how does this river work - the river isn't working per se, it simply is, our limitations may be in using a technology and language and so on to describe the quality of the water and all it carries as it passes through our fingers at each moment.
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waybread



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Posted: Wed May 31, 2017 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

StevGus, Bushwren, and Paul, thank you for responding!

I personally have a spiritual view of the cosmos. I believe in God, although not in a sectarian way. To me, God is the foundational creative principle, and a presence that surrounds us, although it's too easy to turn off perception of this presence and operate in a secular manner. Probably I should look into the ancient Greek concept of pneuma (soul/breath/wind/air,) or the Polynesian concept of mana, as I think they are similar.

However, I am married to an atheist. We've had long talks about his beliefs that there's nothing "out there" or even "in here." An atheist is going to reject a spiritual interpretation just as much as a fundamentalist Christian evangelical is going to reject the view from Islam. So I didn't want to go down a completely spiritual road here. Regardless of whether astrologers believe that "there's something there" or "something in here," I hoped to craft a model that could work for either the atheist or the believer.

I really, really would like to avoid any science vs. astrology or science vs. spirituality binary. I prefer a liberal arts model, where an educated person should have at least some grounding in science as well as the humanities.

I do see the horoscope as a language, albeit one that operates principally in a graphic form-- as does a topographic map or allegorical painting. For example, semantics is the study of meaning; syntax is the order and arrangement of words or symbols; a lexicon is a vocabulary, and audible sounds pull in pronunciation and orthography. Semiotics includes both graphic images, symbols, and meaning.

Astrology is bigger than the horoscope, of course; but if we ask what happens when a skilled astrologer reads a horoscope, we can even see how a horoscope, like a topographic map, can function as a tool. Maybe neuroscientists or cognitive scientists can help us understand what happens in the brains of people able to forecast future events with unusual accuracy.

My next post is taken from my post on a similar thread I started at Astrodienst, where my OP generated a bit more discussion.
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waybread



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Posted: Wed May 31, 2017 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(continued from my previous post, my post from May 31 at Astrodienst)

As I read more on the explanations for why astrology works (and still lots to read!) it seems to me that a lot of the explanations focus on what is the nature of the cosmos, with the assumption that if we grasped how the cosmos works, astrology would be a logical corollary.

Possibly so, although I am unfamiliar with cosmological theories that get to the fine-grained level of ordinary human lives; notably in the kinds of questions that we see on this forum. Today, for example [on the Astrodienst forum,] there are horary questions on missing objects, hoped-for romantic relationships, and money disputes between family members. I really like the Mind of God* thesis of the cosmos, but one wonders why or how an immanent creator deity would be so concerned with whether she finds the missing sunglasses, or would self-express through financial squabbles between family members. And this typical Internet fare doesn't even include humans' nastier physical sensations, bickering between spouses, or private glee at an enemy's misery.

Perhaps this disconnect between cosmology and the daily grind is why the microcosm-macrocosm viewpoint ("as above, so below") has to turn astrology into a belief in human perfectibility, with esoteric and evolutionary astrology in its train. If we're part of the vast expanse of the heavens, and part of what God (by any name) is, then how can we simultaneously be irritable about petty annoyances? If we offer alternative explanations for ordinary human gritchiness, it takes us out of the realm of holism, does it not?

Part of the reason for my focus on the horoscope as a type of language, is that maybe the question of "how does astrology work?" has an alternative, "back channel" approach, that doesn't require us to answer the Really Big Questions.

If astrology is what astrologers do, then I note that astrologers haven't done nativities by star-gazing since ancient times. As soon as ephemerides became available, in Antiquity, astrologers looked at planetary time-tables, not to the heavens to cast horoscopes. Astrologers of the past were instructed to pray or conduct rituals, even to the extent of theurgy, prior to chart-reading: I don't know how many astrologers today take spiritual views of astrology to that level.

So maybe a more fruitful approach isn't so much understanding the nature of the cosmos, but how the act of horoscope reading puts us in tune with other human lives, notably over distances and times that go well beyond ordinary means of prediction. Despite the inclusion of computer-generated horoscopes in astrology's repertory, at some level astrology takes place in the human mind, with the horoscope as the apparatus through which enhanced predictions are accomplished.

I don't think neuroscience or linguistics will give all of the answers, but I think they should give some hints. [Here I am not claiming that astrology is either a science or the antithesis of science. If we take a liberal arts view of science, then a reasonably educated person should have some grounding and interest in science alongside other fields of knowledge.]

-----------
*This is taken from Thornton Wilder's play, Our Town, in which one of the characters mentions a letter addressed to a neighbour as:

"Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.”

We could take this address as a holistic system, with components at different scales.
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bushwren



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Posted: Wed May 31, 2017 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread, I appreciate your hope to avoid dichotomy and expound a model that works for both the believer and the atheist. However, I hope you don't mind me saying that, in so doing, you do actually seem to be pursuing a separate dichotomy and making some big assumptions about how the perfection of the divine plays out in the material world. You mention your husband, so I know that your eagerness to include his beliefs comes from love, or identification with them. However, they are limiting because they still worship something -- a notion of randomness, for some, the self for others, most commonly merely the material world (the privileging of this is apparent in people who reject a notion that there is 'anything out there / in here'). In a networked holistic model like you describe, there can be no preferencing of one aspect/ plane over another; this would be a contradiction in terms. So I have to doubt that there is a holistic model that works for both the believer and the atheist simultaneously -- an appeal to the divine & inexplicable (what some may call spiritual, but which goes by many names) is foundational to any holistic approach incorporating physically disparate elements.
In my view, though, any type of belief, even the atheist's mere faith in the self/ the material, is capable of being transformed through reflection into anything else. The attachments are incidental, belief is always the same. In this way, a holistic model can be said to comprise everyone, but only if they are willing to let go of the external form of their belief & utilize just its essence. Big if.

I don't know that studying the brain would reveal much that's specific to astrology but that's just an initial and amateur impression. I would guard against any tendency toward reductionism rabidly, especially if we're taking as our topic something so huge as universal consciousness. As far as I'm aware, neuroscience can only be descriptive in a matter such as this; not explanatory.

I would similarly caution against casting humans as the vector through which astrology works, because this too is slightly off, and attempts to relocate the causal mechanism to the mind of the astrologer while not resolving the question of HOW this could be. This is begging the question.

Your holistic theory holds appeal to me because I view astrology as a means of connecting to the divine / Source / Whole / whatever-you-prefer, and of thus expanding our understanding of consciousness itself. It is a potent tool for many other purposes as a symptom of the system's ability to efficiently organize information relating to these various aspects of consciousness. This information is expressed in material & humanistic ways because that is what is immediately comprehensible and applicable to us -- not because the stars are preferentially connected to humanity. We are but one part in the conscious world -- or, if you will, the mind of god.
(and, nb, any appeal to language as a medium of understanding always presupposes the Really Big Questions, ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel Wink )

Don't be so fast to discount the spiritual or oppose it to the practical. Astrologers today absolutely pray, conduct rituals, use (and even prescribe) mantras. Some will choose to do certain studies on certain days if it's a matter ruled by a certain planet.

I hope this reply doesn't seem like I'm picking on you or your hypotheses. I really do find your thoughts very intriguing on how astrology as a symbolic language may connect people in a unique way and affect their perceptions of time / place / etc similarly in a way particular to the language. It is certainly true that the way we think is informed by the language we speak. I'd be interested in hearing more about how specifically you see these connections and perceptions playing out and why that is unique to astrology vs. other language systems. And what about variations on the graphical language, for example a Western wheel chart is very different from, say, a North Indian Vedic chart?
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waybread



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Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bushwren, thanks for your response!

I hope you can discuss these issues with a few more atheists. Spousal love aside, (because we often seriously debate issues,) it's important to accurately represent atheists' views if we want an explanatory model for astrology that doesn't alienate either atheists or persons of faith. And then we could imagine how the True Believers would debate among themselves whose edition of spirituality is correct. New Age? Catholic? Kabbalah?

I read parts of your post to my husband, and his response about his beliefs could be described as secular humanism. He has a strong ethical and egalitarian stance, but he doesn't think that we need religion to justify it. It's not materialism: in his retirement, his hobby is reading works of philosophy and history; most recently Epicurus. I think my husband's secular views are very common among "free thinkers" (like my parents) who believe/d in morality but just don't see the need to postulate a supernatural supreme authority who demands adherence to a detailed clergy-dominated creed in order to do that.

Since I've been involved in Internet forum astrology sites (almost 10 years,) I just don't see a lot of amateur or professional astrologers coming from a spiritual perspective so profound that it influences their typical horoscope reading. This is part of what makes me question whether a decent expression of "why astrology works" should start with the Grand Cosmological Big Picture. I mean, some astrologers love to invoke quantum physics, the Perfectibility of Man, or chaos theory to explain "why astrology works", but how does that help us determine the location of the missing sun glasses, or why she's 40 and still single?

In terms of dualism, if God (by any definition) really is this universal Divine Consciousness, I think this All-That-Is (as per Jane Roberts/Seth) can handle a few non-believers, and possibly created space for them. If "God" really is the immanent underlying creative principle of the cosmos, then part of an expanding dynamic of human thought-creativity would be secular humanism.

It's as though astrologers have these beliefs "over here" but they come from a much more ordinary place when they read a chart for somebody.

Part of the problem, I think, is that so many people of an older generation were raised in a particular faith that demanded obedience to specific beliefs that were supposed to be absolutely correct. I like the expressions, "The God I don't believe in is Anglican." Or, "The God I don't believe in is Catholic," and so on.

Reductionism is a fascinating question in both neuroscience and spirituality. Basically what reductionism does, is provide an explanation (the "why" instead of the "how") either by reference to a more basic type of science, or by understanding (humanities-style) what people thought and how they were influenced by antecedant conditions (historical events, cultural mores.)

You wrote:

Quote:
I would similarly caution against casting humans as the vector through which astrology works, because this too is slightly off, and attempts to relocate the causal mechanism to the mind of the astrologer while not resolving the question of HOW this could be. This is begging the question.


Can you say more about this? There are a few little-practiced forms of astrology that do not involve humans (astro-meteorology, timing of natural disasters,) but not lots. Again, are we dealing with a uni-directional causal mechanism, or a complex system with multiple integral interacting parts?

Could you also say more about what you mean by these statements?

Quote:
... any appeal to language as a medium of understanding always presupposes the Really Big Questions, ever since the collapse of the Tower of Babel


My departure point here is the thesis, debated by linguists and by no means universally adopted, that:

1. if you learn a new language, you open your mind to its concepts of space and time, which may be different than your natal language's views of space and time.

2. The horoscope is a graphic language. Examples of other graphic languages would be topographic maps, allegorical paintings (cf. Heironymous Bosch,) the "language of flowers," or the "mappa mundi" of medieval Europe. These medieval maps were long criticize for being ridiculous depictions of the earth's surface, until more tolerant scholars pointed out that they were used as alter-pieces in Catholic churches, and were designed specifically to represent in graphic form biblical statements about the earth.

3. Learning to read a horoscope has the potential to open the astrologer's mind to expanded means of describing events across space and time without direct empirical observation, or a very historically-tethered reasoning from past and current events to predict future outcomes.

(I define astrology "working" as its ability to predict accurately into the future, or to say something about complete strangers who live halfway around the world.)
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bushwren



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Posted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread, I'm glad to hear more about your husband's point of view, and appreciate your distinction. I suppose that is what I was getting at -- most atheists do in fact believe in a version of (what I'd call) 'God', ie something bigger than themselves that must be surrendered to, powerful (in whatever direction), creative -- etc. imo, belief in any kind of connection other than the literally & merely physical requires this faith in a higher greater commonality. To take a more physical analogy, though, look at the most basic building blocks of our physical world -- (materialized) energy. This all comes from a single source (Sun), is responsible for all life, and in this way unites us all. The identification of the Sun with God in many cultures is resonant here. And indeed, I see no reason to limit this concept to the physical, as it echoes most spiritual / metaphysical / philosophical thought. It always moves up toward unity or down toward foundation, which is ultimately the same thing, right?
Similarly, I think appeals to quantum physics / chaos theory and the like are equally appeals to what many others would call God. I don't think it helps us to distinguish them. It, again, is essentially all belief in something bigger than us, mysterious, powerful, creative ...

I think the major qualm with codified religions and what prevents any one from adequately explaining things is precisely the inflexibility that comes with staying power. This has served a purpose, of course, preserving traditions and religious knowledge in the commons. But I agree, the concept of a traditionalist, legalistic God doesn't really apply anymore. I agree with your husband here that we don't need religion to justify systems of morals, and we ought to cast a critical eye on those systems that do. This is only just beginning to be a popular conception, though, and most of religion is still those arguing about relative truth and missing the forest for the trees. This is why rejecting the way religion appears vs. what religion is doesn't, for me, qualify as atheistic, merely commonsense. I agree that it is mostly obedience to things whose reasons are not understood, not often seeking to understand these reasons (I suppose because of identifying this reason with God and being told not to question it? But aren't we supposed to learn about and know God? Yes, religion is in a sorry state when people blindly and fearfully abide by what is told to them instead of being encouraged and supported to know on their own. I digress, though.)


I get what you're saying about not needing to address the cosmological big picture to find missing glasses. It seems silly, trivial. But I guess I think that's the beauty of the holistic model -- seeing how things are the same instead of the differences between them.
But what makes things the same -- how can two distinct things have a common essence? Well, that's a problem philosophers have struggled with forever. I don't think you can just get around it -- and it requires taking a stab at the big cosmological question.


You or your husband might be interested in 'The Master and His Emissary' by Iain McGilchrist. A very interesting (and dense) study of the bicameral brain and the development of consciousness. Seeking to resolve neuroscience with broader (some religious, some not) principles. It's written in a very academic style, and has a lot to chew on.

Re: what I said about humans. I mean this twofold, first just a feeling that I have that humans are not special in their ability to use astrology / see commonalities and draw specific separate conclusions from them. I believe this is a particularity of consciousness, not of humanity specifically. But mostly I meant my caution against using the mind / individual consciousness as the causal mechanism for unification of the two separate physical phenomena (human life and the stars in the sky). Even if you take the brain / mind as a locus or conduit of consciousness, you are still using this lesser part of the whole (human mind/ consc) to explain the whole (the Conscious universe). But if this is just a different manifestation of the same principle, and we do not explain the underlying principle, we're in the same place we began.
If, however, you are looking for a merely practical explanation, that's as good as any. But I don't get the sense you're looking for an explanation that's just as good as any. Maybe I'm wrong.

I don't think it's a unidirectional causal mechanism, no. That would not fit with a holistic system. Nor is it merely bi-directional as 'as above so below' suggests. I think it is networked-- like a web.

Perhaps my enthusiasm at my interpretation of what you meant by holistic system has led me to drag your thread off topic. Going back to your thesis about language, then, it is all very fine to me. I'm curious how you see this expanded means of describing space and time manifesting. In what concrete ways does the language of astrology yield a different understanding of space and time? Is this similar to other traditions, or very unique to astrology? You distinguish it from historically-tethered reasoning -- where, then, does the astrologer get information, if not the past? How is the language learned? Does the mode in which it is learned affect / expand the student's perception of space / time / otherness? You have a solid thesis, but some examples of how specifically astrological language changes perceptions would flesh it out.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 5:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, I'd just like to go back to some of your comments. I hope we're in agreement that simple uni-directional causal models are inadequate. But I wonder if you've actually got a cause-and-effect model in seeing a divine foundation for moments in time. Divinity>>>moment.

On the one hand, we could see time as an abstraction. (Don't ask me to explain Immanuel Kant, but I think this was his position.) If there is some kind of content to "a moment in time," it's because our minds put it there. To a social scientist, what our minds put into a given moment in time is partly a function of our culture and lived experience. Consequently, if you and I exactly clocked and noted the same given moment in time in order to be especially aware of it, we wouldn't experience it in the same way. So a moment in time becomes highly culture-bound, personalized, and subjective.

Even if we focus on something like Tolle's moment of Now.

I prefer to see planets more as time-keepers, as well. When the clock strikes midnight the clock doesn't cause me to be sleepy. The hour simply coincides with my feelings of fatigue.

Quote:
It's not that astrology is a language then, it's more that we are limited creatures and must use a language of symbols to understand the situation and the patterns of the timbre of a given moment which impregnates all things which have relevance to the human psyche (at least) for that moment.


Here we run into a problem. We've all had non-verbal experiences of different sorts. A Buddhist or Hindu master might have them a lot. But generally we process experiences through thought, and most people think in language most of the time. If we can only or even primarily understand a moment through the language of our thoughts, then we might question how we would even know about a moment in time without verbal thoughts.

Astrology is surely much more than a language. My point was more about the horoscope. I'd been calling it a graphic language, a term I just learned has been taken over by IT; so I might more properly call the horoscope a visual language. But a horoscope meets the definition of a language, to me, in having semantics, a syntax, grammar (morphology,) lexicon (vocabulary,) pragmatics, and probably a few other categories I neglected to mention.

Quote:
In so much that we seek answers from nature and from the natural world we are practicing a divination one in which should we split any wood or lilft any rock we have the potential to recover the the spirit of the divine - our limitations may prevent us from recognising the pattern and order and message inherent in that moment and in that place and time.


OK, "something" is there (or here) but we're too limited to understand it. But if we're too limited to understand it, on what basis (other than an appeal to authority) do we claim its existence?

Funny you should mention splitting wood as offering an opportunity to experience the divine. I take it you've not used a chain saw recently? (The main industry of my unincorporated community is a saw mill.) There is the poetics of chopping wood, and then there is the lived experience.

Quote:
Astrology for me then is not a language or a set of causal conditions we can measure, it is a limited divination or study of the quality of any moment as it unfolds. It is not that we should ask how does astrology work per se, as opposed to ask what is the quality of this very moment because the simplest core tenet of astrology is that this moment has meaning. Why and how is a bit of a misleading approach to the problem - it has meaning because all moments are the unfolding of some divine order or pattern. It is not about working like technology works. It would be more like asking how does this river work - the river isn't working per se, it simply is, our limitations may be in using a technology and language and so on to describe the quality of the water and all it carries as it passes through our fingers at each moment.


Can you explain this differently? I'm not in a position to doubt your experience of the divine, or what the divine is. But if your moment and my moment are qualitatively different, even if they occur at the same clock time, due to our different circumstances (that a horoscope might not even measure) then what is the basis for asserting a "divine order or pattern?"

Organized religions are in the business of describing divinity and how it operates, but then doesn't this get us back to a causal model? In a complex system, interactive model, you have a lot of input into how your moment unfolds. Arguably, you personally create or at least influence your particular moment. You are not separate from it. You orchestrate it.

I think what you've got with your river analogy is the poetics of the river. To a hydrologist, white-water rafter, or angler, there is a whole lot of factual knowledge on how a river "works."

Mind you, I'm not opposed to spiritual explanations for astrology. But if my "moment of time" is that I lost my sunglasses, became irritable at Donald Trump, or burned the lasagna, it's hard to reconcile this sort of stuff of ordinary life with most concepts of spirituality. Except for the ones with a pretty steep uni-directional hierarchy of the path to enlightenment that situates ordinary lives at the bottom.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushwren, thanks for your latest post.

I think we have to be careful not to attribute to atheists more spiritual views than they actually possess. Richard Dawkins would be an extreme example of an atheist, but no, I don't think that atheists are all closet believers. Something "bigger than themselves" need not have any divine connotations. It might be what they understand of science, or a philosophy like existentialism. Or, they might just believe there's nothing "out there" beyond the world they experience on a daily basis.

So much of what we believe and think we know is cultural, anyway. We're all products of our societies, in many ways. Humans are social creatures.

I am hoping to come up with a working hypothesis of why astrology works that could sidestep the arguments from both divinity and scientism, because these too often tie up astrologers in knots. I've read posts on other astrology forums where people insist that alchemy, black magic, kabbalah, "ancient astronauts," yin-yang, or the pronouncements of their personal spirit guides are completely, objectively unquestionably real, and I hope not to get all sectarian about this.

By the same token, I am not (yet) convinced that appeals to quantum physics, the Big Bang, chaos theory, or fractals are going to explain why astrology works-- primarily because the cosmological sciences don't explain one thing that astrology is really good at: the analysis of individual human lives. Astrology lives at the interface between people and planets-- not Out There in the universe. However, there are scientific fields like neuroscience and psycholinguistics that I think might help us with a question that doesn't seem to be asked very often.

Namely, what transpires in the mind of the astrologer when s/he reads a horoscope correctly?

You wrote:

Quote:
my caution against using the mind / individual consciousness as the causal mechanism for unification of the two separate physical phenomena (human life and the stars in the sky). Even if you take the brain / mind as a locus or conduit of consciousness, you are still using this lesser part of the whole (human mind/ consc) to explain the whole (the Conscious universe). But if this is just a different manifestation of the same principle, and we do not explain the underlying principle, we're in the same place we began.


This is an interesting point. I don't think I see the astrologer's brain as the causal mechanism for unifying people and planets, but for someone who seems to do this, see Robert Hand's article at:

http://www.astro.com/astrology/in_astrobyhand26_e.htm (You may want to read back 5 or 6 articles or so to see how Hand leads up to his point about the will of the astrologer and astrology as a type of magic.)

Rather, I see the astrologer more like a translator of the horoscope's language. If you're interested in the horoscope as a language let me know: I'll try to say more about it. But basically, linguists debate whether learning a new language, which has very different ways of expressing space and time from our own language, expands our ability to think spatially and temporally.

In the horoscope, all that we see in a nativity is a very stylized chart of planetary positions at the person's moment of birth. Right off the bat, we translate that moment of birth into the adult's life, often many decades forward. That is a different way of thinking about time than we find in ordinary English. (Well, other than in children's stories about fairy godmothers at the christening.)

Thanks for the book recommendation. I did read Julian Jaynes's book on the bicameral mind when it came out.

I'll have some more thoughts on your final paragraph tomorrow.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

bushwren wrote:


Perhaps my enthusiasm at my interpretation of what you meant by holistic system has led me to drag your thread off topic. Going back to your thesis about language, then, it is all very fine to me. I'm curious how you see this expanded means of describing space and time manifesting. In what concrete ways does the language of astrology yield a different understanding of space and time? Is this similar to other traditions, or very unique to astrology? You distinguish it from historically-tethered reasoning -- where, then, does the astrologer get information, if not the past? How is the language learned? Does the mode in which it is learned affect / expand the student's perception of space / time / otherness? You have a solid thesis, but some examples of how specifically astrological language changes perceptions would flesh it out.


Hi again.

Maybe we can start with the concept of complex systems. There are a lot of them around us-- some natural, like an ecosystem, and some cultural, like the process of putting together a major film.The galaxy is an example of a complex system.

Whether or not we see a system as complex depends in large part on the scale.

At some scales and some systems, the individual person is not terribly important, except insofar as s/he anecdotally illustrates a larger concept. For example, we could talk about Catholics in Latin America without having to itemize them individually: our scale is at the multi-national level of a large group. But if we drop down the scale to the level of the parish and its members' social interactions, then individuals and small groups become a lot more salient.

In horoscope reading, we constantly interact between scales. Yes, there's the astronomical universe out there, but another one of the variables is what the astrologer brings to the chart: his/her level of experience of human nature, knowledge of astrological methods, and "school" of astrology; but also his/her personal focus, intentions, personality, and ability to synthesize thousands of disparate information-bytes. Most of astrology's data bytes are displayed within the horoscope, although on occasion we might also read an ephemeris, aspectarian,or table of essential dignities. But when we look at astrological data tables (which arguably are graphics, also,) we then have to integrate their data back into what we see in the horoscope. Chart interpretation is not for the tunnel-visioned! A good astrologer is a panoramic thinker.

In some ways, astrology is one of the most complex systems going, because it operates scales ranging from the individual (or her missing sunglasses) on up through heavenly bodies; as well as the Mind of God, for some practitioners. So just learning astrology requires us to think at a range of nested scales. Most of us don't do this in ordinary life, unless we happen to do cosmology for a living. Even religious people who might experience a personal relationship with God, would not typically involve abstract pie-sectors of the sky in between these macro- and micro-scales.

So in the above manner, the process of chart interpretation-- plus communicating the chart to the querent or native in layperson's language-- can seen as one very complex system, as well. The astrologer at his laptop just operates at a smaller scale than the solar system, but he's interpreting it.

Whether large- or small-scale, there are several features of complex systems. (I'll use a more ecological or social science perspective here, vs. one from engineering.) Agency is an attribute of most of the members (or components,) and they can interact in ways beyond simple linear cause-and-effect. Interactions might be physical or informational. Members/components of the system can offer feedback: in human terms, they might push back. A small input Here can mean a much bigger result Over There. Members tend to be adaptive to change, which requires flexibility. Complex systems tend to be synergistic, meaning that analyzing individual components cannot explain how the system works as a whole.

If we "map" the above paragraph onto the complex system of the astrologer + horoscope + querent/native, we can see the practice of horoscope reading as far more dynamic and complex than what I think is the usual model: i.e., the astrologer as conduit of information from planets (or God >>> planets) >>>human events.

In terms of human feedback, I can't change Saturn's orbit, for example, but I can shape what I think of Saturn and how it influences my life-- or the querent's life. (See, for example, Liz Greene, Saturn: A New Look at an Old Devil.) This is no more than what some modern astrologers call choice-centered astrology. Or what Robert Hand called helping clients to make the best uses of their lives-- which calls for the client taking an active role in how his life turns out. In a completely fatalistic (stellar determinism, uni-directional) cosmos, tweaking the meaning of your life and horoscope wouldn't be possible.

Wow. This is taking a lot longer and many more words than I had planned. I need to stop now, but will return with some further thoughts on the relevance of the horoscope as a language. Because language (graphic or linear-verbal) is the medium through which we do most of our thinking and communicating.
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waybread



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Posted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bushwren, I hope this post can wrap up my responses to your final paragraph in your last post to me.

In my previous post, I elaborated a bit on complex systems; or more accurately, complex adaptive systems. The galaxy is a complex system. Even the belief in an immanent God, as most cultures understand the divine creative principle (by any name) can be described as a complex system. (Sorry, not trying to be blasphemous here.) The horoscope is a complex system, notably as it involves a very stylized picture of the heavens at a moment in time, and how it affects human behaviour. The horoscope becomes more of a complex system if we add to it what the astrologer brings to the horoscope reading, and how s/he communicates to the querent or horoscope native.

Descriptions of complex systems vary, but a typical description would include: distributed control (no single authority or first cause,) inter-connectivity between members or components, co-evolution (connected members change collectively over time,) "the butterly's wing" element of chaos theory, and the primacy of interactions between members to explain outcomes that the system produces. http://web.mit.edu/esd.83/www/notebook/Complex%20Adaptive%20Systems.pdf

OK, so what happens when we apply complex adaptive systems theory to the cosmos-astrologer-horoscope-querent system?

I've argued several times that the horoscope functions as a graphic, or visual language. Languages tend to privilege or downplay various concerns. They all have means of discussing time, normally in terms of the past>present>future; but not exclusively so. Languages include spatial concepts, and how they speak about time and space are often closely related.

The language of astrology particularly privileges forecasting into the future, and saying something truthful about a person at a distance, whom the astrologer has never met, based largely on the horoscope.

Please consider:
planet: noun or subject of a sentence
aspect: verb ("Venus squares Mars.")
sign: adjective or adverb (how a planet operates)
house: prepositional phrase (where/in what domain of life it operates)

When we talk about applying or separating aspects, transits, progressions, directions, &c we introduce the element of time into the horoscope system.

Psycholinguistics is a big field that focuses on how people acquire languages.

However, if you've ever studied a foreign language, you probably reached a point of understanding how that new language made you think differently, because two different languages never translate into one another 100%.

Where time concepts are concerned, English has all kinds of nuanced verb forms expressing time that a lot of other languages don't have. (Biblical Hebrew has pretty much a straight-up present tense, where the sense of time depends upon context and action, for example.)

So the astrologer faces adaptive pressures or opportunities on two fronts:

1. as a co-evolving, adapting member of a complex system, because if the other members of the system aren't staying still, the astrologer's mind cannot stay still.

2. the evidence from neuroscience, that learning basic literacy or learning a new language actually "rewires" the brain.
http://www.scilearn.com/blog/how-learning-a-new-language-actually-rewires-the-brain

http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/how-learning-new-language-changes-your-brain-and-your-perception-362872

In this adaptive sense, the brain also functions as a complex system.

My theory (which, if configured as the so-called Sapir-Whorf or linguistic relativity hypothesis is still debated by linguists,) is that astrologers' enhanced predictive abilities have to do with the horoscope as a language that specifically directs us to think differently about time.

There's a lot that we don't know about time, but if it is simultaneous (as Hindus accept) although normally we experience it in linear fashion, the horoscope may be an adaptive tool for a more developed time sense.

Generally we don't have a problem with the concept of memory, the ability to recall events that no longer exist because they happened in the past.

If we can accept or at least stay open to the possibility of future knowing, as exemplified by people who have pre-cognitive dreams or visual images (often called second sight or 6th sense) of future events, and that these "gifts" may be detectable in little-developed parts of the brain, then perhaps we're on our way to understanding why astrology works.

As of now, these are just theories.
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Michael Sternbach



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Posted: Sat Jun 17, 2017 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a summary of my take on this topic:

Since astrology is an ancient art/science that I respect for its practical usefulness, for questions regarding its theoretical foundations, I likewise first of all turn to the old sources.

Thus, we find that astrology traditionally rests on a well thought through and coherent world model: The cosmology of Plato and Aristotle that was, in outline, generally accepted throughout the whole occident until the Copernican revolution. In a revised form, it can still provide the foundation of a modern interpretation of how astrology works.

The most challenging aspect of it for us moderns could be that, in it, the Earth is at the center of the universe. Swapping the "naïve" geocentric view for the heliocentric perspective has been drummed into us early on, but we need to realize that, relativistically speaking, the latter view is no less arbitrary than the former, but what really matters here is the observer's referential frame. Which is still the good old static sublunar sphere.

If the world has a soul (which of course it has in the ancients' views), then this is its body. This is the place where the four elements mix in various proportions to bring forth the multitude of impermanent phenomena, much like the four humors provide the functioning of the human body. This world of ours is a microcosmos that, in its own limited ways, faithfully reflects the divine macrocosmos, which (depending on your spiritual background) belongs to the gods, or angels, or archetypes.

The latter can further be differentiated into the soul of the world (anima mundi), ruled by the ever busy planets, and the spirit of the world (spiritus mundi), which belongs to the fixed stars or, in later astrology, to the immutable signs.

In some models, there resides beyond all this the One Divinity, the origin of the Light that continuously flows down upon Earth and Man through the aforementioned intermediaries.

Others preferred to think in terms of sound: Heavenly Harmonies audible to the human soult, which it spontaneously resonates with (Kepler).

All this is ordered by universal arithmetics and geometry that underlie Creation.

Regardless of how exactly it was modeled, the actual in-fluences of the celestial bodies were out of question in the ancients' view, therefore we should not dismiss this concept lightly, but look for a modern equivalent.

There have in fact been various candidates suggested for the actual medium of these influences. Some speculate that neutrinos play a role. My personal favorite is the omnipresent and all pervasive force of gravity, associated with the world soul in contemporary natural philosophy.

And yes, I am aware that e.g. the gravitational force Pluto exerts on Earth is minute; however, what we need to take into consideration is not the quantity but the quality of his gravitational influence. Or rather, how he subtly modifies the gravitational field of the solar system that encompasses Earth. For it has been theorized and demonstrated by some rather unorthodox researchers that gravity, independently from its magnitude, can be the medium for some very specific information.

Now I do think that this concept of etheric influence (let's call it the spatial view) should be supplemented with a temporal view. Both space and time are at the core of astrology. Early astrology/astronomy were closely linked to time measurement, and the zodiac can be looked at as a giant clock, in which planets are the hands. Only that these hands don't just show the quantity of passing time, but also its quality at any moment: The movements of the gods and their ever changing relations to each other are setting the themes that are unfolding into corresponding events down on Earth.

If anybody here would like me to elaborate on any aspect of this model or provide references, just say so. Smile
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