I haven’t been posting lately because I’m occupied instead with writing a talk on Uranus-Pluto for the local astrology group I go to in Exeter. (All are welcome.)
The talk’s not for another 2 weeks, but I’m not used to doing this sort of thing and I’ve written 20 pages so far and I know I won’t get through all the material. But it’s great having the chance to write something longer.
What I like about the group is that it is weird in the right sort of way. What for me is the right sort of weird? It means for example that when scientists announce that certain neutrinos seem to have broken the speed of light, I can discuss the thought that maybe it used to be the case that nothing could go faster than the speed of light, but the laws of physics may be changing – those laws are, after all, a product of our imaginations, and imagination co-creates reality.
Maybe it’s to do with being an Aquarian, but there don’t seem to be many situations in which I feel fully comfortable and able to say what I think. I suppose any astrologer gets used to editing themselves. But even amongst astrologers it can be difficult, particularly I find at large gatherings such as conferences. I tried hard for a while, but I never felt at home. And I don’t see it as my ‘issue’.
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Astrology, while not being illegal, is becoming in effect a proscribed art. It wouldn’t surprise me if it gets to the point where it is seen to be so much of an obvious fact that astrology is nonsense, that it becomes illegal to charge for a reading. As it is, if you’ve got a respectable sort of career, you probably have to hide your interest in astrology, because it could harm your professional reputation, make you seem unreliable and flakey. And in the UK, you are now supposed to add ‘For entertainment purposes only’ if you are advertising astrology readings.
I suppose what I object to in the matter is not church policy, for that is their business. What I object to is that by running the local magazine that has all the ads, the church is able to have control over what goes on locally in a way that is not their business. And they are prepared to use that control. In any case, I don’t see why certain fantastic notions such as the virgin birth and the resurrection are seen as acceptable, but not the notion that life on earth has a symbolic relationship with the movements of the planets.
I think it works both ways: astrologers shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss others’ fantastic notions, because ours are fairly way-out too. I think it’s the way that people hold their ideas that matters. It’s rigidity and literalism that is the problem rather than the idea, or belief, itself. The right sort of weirdness.
Astrology has intellectual foundations if you are that way inclined. But not the sort that cut any ice with the sort of one-to-one causality that science uses. Astrology is to a great extent a fiction, because the signs of the zodiac do not correspond to real 30 degree constellations behind the planets. They never did. The signs are segments of sky behind the planets that have symbolic meaning, but there is no physical reason why they should have that meaning.
I don’t think we should be in too much of a hurry to try and reconcile all this. I don’t believe it can be reconciled, and the one-to-one causalists would rightly laugh even harder were we to attempt to do so.
I think it is important for astrologers that there should be such fictions in our cosmology, because otherwise we might make the mistake of literalising our relationship to the sky. i.e starting to think the relationship is in some way physical and causal.
It is neither of those, and these ‘unfortunate’ fictions are in fact the way into understanding the real nature of astrology, an understanding that someone who thinks exclusively in a causal manner will never get.
I’m not sure I can do the job justice. But it is to do with astrology being a projection of the mind onto the universe, not in an imaginary ‘as if’ sense, but in a way that has real power because that outer universe was never a separate thing to the mind. And when a divinatory art has that felt power, then it is real, and when a lot of people are doing it in a real way over time, then it accumulates the power to reveal truth. In essence it has nothing to do with the physical movements of the planets, but it also does, for you feel that extra power, that extra awe when there is a corresponding real sky event, and even more if you can see it with your eyes.
So astrology is to do with wonder and awe and the power of intuition and it is contradictory. It is also acausal, in that the most you can say when e.g Mars is conjunct Jupiter in Aries, is that such and such a type of event tends to happen. It doesn’t always happen, and it doesn’t cause the event to happen. The Mars-Jupiter event and the earth event just tend to coincide and to have a symbolic relationship through which you can explore the meaning of the event. So there is depth to be found, but no explanation as to why planetary and earth events should coincide. You are not even thinking that way.
So how on earth is someone who has been brought up on the scientific world view supposed to understand this? And how are we supposed to explain it to them? Astrology makes no sense unless you have the capacity to feel the power of symbolism, and the intellectual inclination to take that feeling seriously, rather than seeing it as a primitive leftover from the childhood of humanity.
I’m inclined not to discuss astrology with those who have, as Jung was told he had done by a dream figure, swallowed the poison pill of science in childhood. Astrology is precious, it is an inner thing, and you take the power away if you reveal it to those who would mock. So it’s not that astrology needs defending to those who could not possibly understand; it is more that it should not be discussed around profane ears. For that is what these Dawkins-like people are. They may not seem like that because of the authority they carry and the books they have written. But it is a case of casting pearls before swine, and I think astrologers have a kind of duty to their art not to do that.