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Dynamic Astrology I

so it goes - an introduction to dynamic astrology

"they were two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber's friends. Their suction cups were on the ground, and their shafts, which were extremely flexible, usually pointed to the sky. At the top of each shaft was a little hand with a green eye in its palm. The creatures were friendly, and they could see in four dimensions. They pitied Earthlings for being able to see only three. They had many wonderful things to teach Earthlings about time"
Description of Tralfamadorians from Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

We believe our senses. The level of belief we have in our sensory perceptions is the foundation of logic, science and ultimately our understanding of reality. If we stop believing what we experience, then that's the first step towards dissonance and ultimately madness. Notwithstanding this, we are also very good at fooling ourselves into believing things that on further investigation turn out not to be true. This happens when we ignore all the alternative possibilities and instead choose the option that suits us. The beliefs we cherish most are those that safeguard our wellbeing, both physical and mental.

Our experience of reality can therefore occasionally be influenced by our ignorance, for instance if you know three people with red hair and they all have fiery tempers, it might be tempting to conclude that all redheads are also hotheads. If you go on to meet one very meek individual who has red hair, you could either modify your belief about redheads, or conclude that some other aspect of their personality (perhaps the shade of their hair colour) is responsible for their meekness, but that on the whole 75% of redheads are aggressive and loud. So a lack of wide experience of red haired people is responsible in this case for categorization and leads to the idea that a person's temperament can be governed by the colour of their hair. A conclusion based on a sample of four.

This method of evaluation works very well for things like fire (which tends to burn) and tigers (which might eat you), but it might not work so well for redheads. While it could be said that some people who believe in unconventional things adopt this method of appraisal, it is not necessarily the de facto approach of astrologers. It is also the case that some people find the idea of astrology so preposterous, they dismiss it out of hand without investigating it, with the end result that the data upon which they base their assumption about astrology lacks detail.

'Most of us happily disavow astrology without first immersing ourselves in books about the subject'
Prof. Richard Dawkins 2007

Richard Dawkins, the intellectual Dumbledore to a veritable army of skeptical, yet impressionable, Harry Potter's, is at the forefront of astrological skepticism. His statement pigeonholes astrology as an irrational belief system, this in turn influences the viewpoint of his attentive audience without actually arguing in a cogent way about the subject. (He did a poor job in his chapter on the subject in his book Unweaving the Rainbow , but it's unlikely many readers are aware of the poor standard of his argument. His lack of scholarship is somehow justified by his belief that astrology is untrue because it somehow contradicts his worldview and is therefore unworthy of any consideration).

He has commented upon astrology before and on that occasion he said the following:

'If the methods of Astrologers were really shown to be valid it would be a fact of signal importance for science. Under such circumstances astrology should be taken seriously indeed. For us to take a hypothesis seriously, it should ideally be supported by at least a little bit of evidence. If this is too much to ask, there should be some suggestion of a reason why it might be worth bothering to look for evidence.'
Prof. Richard Dawkins 1996

Professor Dawkins does not draw any attention to the fact that the paradigm for which he is a spokesperson, the paradigm of scientific rationalism - a very successful paradigm, the one that took men to the moon, put lead into petrol and discovered the heliacal structure of DNA - has spent three hundred years actively campaigning to persuade the most prodigious thinkers in science, media and philosophy to completely ignore astrology. If there are no researchers, there is no progress and in the case of a complex subject like astrology, a lack of research means a lack of evidence. How would evolutionary biology have coped without people thinking and talking about it and then being funded to experiment with it? It may have died a pauper's death out in the cold without the deep thinkers of the academic world marveling at it. As there is some truth in evolution, interested people might have kept the idea alive. But we would be looking at a very different and intellectually impoverished subject if that had happened.

There is a seam of gold that runs through the subject of astrology that, thus far, few people have witnessed without first educating themselves in the vagaries of the art. Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler did; so did Galileo, and they did not reject it out of hand. They were still in touch with a different paradigm which, as far as the later protagonists of the 18th Century were concerned, directly contradicted the successful paradigm of enlightened progress.

The 18th Century enlightenment, the beginning of the age of reason, laid the foundation of modern science by defining methods of enquiry and therefore methods of conclusion and through this, truth itself. It was not necessarily a period of universal illumination. It actually lightened existence by attempting to explain it - Newton's unweaving of the rainbow really was an enlightening thing - it took away some of the profundity and therefore some of the weight of being born by sytematically de-spiritualising life, but this method of deconstruction produced spectacularly successful results in science and thereby enabled the creation of the modern technological world some of us know today. The world we live in is a very different world to that of the pre-enlightenment, which for some was a demon-haunted world and others a world where two paradigms of understanding fought for supremacy. The patient world opposed the impatient; the patient, who saw life as externally meaningful were content to worship nature, or to wait for God, or for reincarnation, or some other supernatural event, and saw human beings as the centre of the universe, sharing a relationship of varying degrees with a creator god or spirit. The impatient wanted answers, and Copernicus, Newton, Darwin and Freud, gave them answers backed up with evidence. One of the reasons why progress in science, technology and lifestyle has been so swift over the past three hundred years (compared with the slow progress made since the Bronze Age) is that impatient people took control of the intellectual world and in applying their very successful method of evaluation and analysis they did very well indeed.

Impatient people don't get to do astrology, though - it would be like asking a tiger to turn vegetarian.

One of the reasons why Richard Dawkins promulgates the view stated above is because of a systematic campaign which has been waged for three centuries by modern rationalist science against astrology and one which has influenced every science student since, including Professor Dawkins himself. The paradigm to which modern scientific method belongs is founded upon rationalism. It includes some very good ideas and some dogma (or "pragma"), which prevents tangential progress. The de-spiritualised world that has been enabled by the advocates of scientific rationalism is not without its own subjectivity. Richard Tarnas writes:

"Objectifying the world has given immense pragmatic power and dynamism to the modern self but at the expense of its capacity to register and respond to the world's potential depths of meaning and purpose. Contrary to the coolly detached self-image of modern reason, subjective needs and wishes have unconciously pervaded the disenchanted vision and reinforced its assumptions. A world of purposeless objects and random processes has served as a highly effective basis and justification for human self-aggrandizement and exploitation of a world seen as undeserving of moral concern. The disenchanted cosmos is the shadow of the modern mind in all its brilliance, power and inflation"
Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, Plume 2006, p41

The outcome therefore, may be that the enlightenment paradigm of modern science has relegated some areas of study, including astrology, prematurely, based on its own subjective shortcomings.

It is often, erroneously, stated that astronomy is a true science and astrology a pseudoscience. Astrology is actually not as closely related to astronomy as it is to psychology. Astronomy is useful, vital in fact, in that it provides the data that astrologers use to ascertain planet positions, but it should be obvious that the interpretations made by astrologers are their main function and finding the position of - say - Mercury is the astronomer's function. There is a school of thought, which proposes that in order for science to progress it had to 'slay the dragon' of astrology. I understand this view, and I think it is true. In order for the changes of the past three hundred years to happen the way they did, for today's industry, flight, machinery, biophysics, medicine and for DNA to be discovered, astrology had to be sidelined. The consequence has been three hundred years when few prodigious scholars have entertained the subject. Many astrologers are, however, rational people who fall into it like it's a hole in the sidewalk, and, as if captured by Circe and given a potion that takes away their ability to reasonably reject the astrological premise, they begin to regard it as truth.

It may be that future leaps of understanding akin to those made by Copernicus and Kepler cannot be made by modern science because of its jaundiced viewpoint, reinforced by many generations of reliance upon the subjectivity and utility of the modern paradigm. If astrology turns out to be true - demonstrable -and modern scientists consider it to be impossible (see Dawkins' comment), then we have to suggest that counter-advocacy, or unreasonable affiliation to an opposing paradigm is the reason rather than true open-minded scepticism. This direction takes humankind away from potential developments in areas for which there is evidence (i.e. astrology and psi) areas of investigation which are tangential to modern science, but perhaps no less true.

Imagining the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with a really contributive astrology is hard to do. It would have been difficult to give credence to a subject that appeared to have been contradicted by the Copernican revolution; the Ptolemaic assumptions of astrology such as geocentricity and the epicyles of the planets were shown to be wrong and that was probably enough to hang the subject in the days of summary trial and execution.

"In any case, the very identity of modern science is founded, in part, on not being astrology; or rather, on being not-astrology. Why? Because in order for modern science and its programme of naturalism, mechanism and rationalism to succeed, the stars and planets - the source and object, ever since the Greek philosophers, of the most perfect truth available to human perception - had to be turned from spiritual and qualitatively distinct and unique agents, subjectivities, into fully 'natural', lifeless and quantitatively identical objects. (Note the change from an irreducibly plural pantheon to a single stuff.) So astrology had to be defeated, and for science it remains a heresy: embarrassing if not threatening, and those who still experience the heavens in the old way superstitious if not downright perverse."
Dr. Patrick Curry 2004 Carter Memorial Lecture

Organized religion in the West only just survived the age of reason and did so through the incongruent approach of embracing some enlightenment ideas and preaching pre-mediaeval concepts. The fact that astrology has survived at all, let alone to the extent that it could actually regain respectability sounds a far-fetched idea if you are a disciple of Dawkins, Dennett or Hitchens (all three of these authors share the astrological Sun in Aries, traditionally an impatient astrological sign). But there are only a few tweaks required to make astrology viable once again. We already have the data, we just need to have a patient audience to listen and understand.

After two hundred years of systematic suppression, a resurgent astrology rose from the dead in the late 19th Century. The astrology of Alan Leo, Llewellyn George and Evangeline Adams was largely formulaic and certainly in Alan Leo's case something of a simplification of earlier ideas, the surge of interest in Eastern thought was promoted by Blavatsky and Besant and many astrologers fell into the subject via the route of Theosophy. A type of cyclic astrology was used quite surreptitiously by stock traders including J.P. Morgan, George Bayer and W.D. Gann and politicians including Theodore Roosevelt. Later on, the original sources of astrological ideas became more widely available and much work was done to reconnect with the viewpoints of the practitioners of the pre-enlightenment, while at the same time developments were made by Jung and Rudhyar to connect astrology with its modern successor, psychology. We are now in a much better position to take a step back and assess what it was the Babylonians, Greeks, Arabians, Indians and Renaissance Europeans were actually about when they consulted the planets.

It appears that the changing paradigms that have more recently adversely affected the status of astrology, have confused the whole process over the years. The assumption that astrology is a primitive pseudoscientific concept is almost certainly a wrong assumption, but it is probably true to assume that few practitioners (if any) have so far understood clearly what it was they were actually dealing with. Because astrology, in simple terms, deals with the idea of meaning in time, it is guaranteed that no one working in astrology is able to adequately explain its cause at any given point. Time is a notoriously tough subject to understand, this is because it is the foundation of a system within we which we are all trapped and being trapped inside anything presents us with problems of evaluation (see Plato's Allegory of the Cave).

The fact that astrologers through the ages didn't really know what it was they were dealing with has led many modern counter-advocates to attribute the "primitive" tag to astrological ideas. It is much more likely that astrology as a subject is far more accurate and useful than was previously thought, but because of its complexity and the very slow progress made in the development of the subject, we had to wait for developments such as computer databases and the internet before detailed data could be crunched on a large enough scale to allow this understanding to emerge.

It now appears far more likely that astrologers have for centuries been casting partial charts which were the equivalent of still photographs. They have been trying, with some success, to use these still photographs to describe what are actually full-length epic movies.

This is where Vonnegut's Tralfamadorians come in:

"Billy Pilgrim says that the universe does not look like a lot of bright little dots to the creatures from Tralfamadore. The creatures can see where each star has been and where it is going, so that the heavens are filled with rarefied luminous spaghetti. And Tralfamadorians don't see human beings as two-legged creatures, either. They see them as great millipedes-'with babies legs at one end and old people's legs at the other,' says Billy Pilgrim.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Slaughterhouse Five

The way that Billy Pilgrim says the Tralfamadorians view humans is exactly the way we should view and test horoscopes. Not as one slice through time depicting the moment of birth, but as a cylindrical four-dimensional entity or series of entities, beginning with the natal horoscope or birth chart. This cylindrical view of astrology is quite congruent with the motion of the solar system through the galaxy, somewhat like the rarefied luminous spaghetti described by the Tralfamadorians. Tad Mann's depiction of the spiral solar system http://www.atmann.net/artdesign.htm#sss suggests that, in the case of the solar system, this spaghetti is actually heliacal.

I imagine that, to properly view a dynamic horoscope, you would have to be able to walk through it rather than try to depict it two dimensionally on a page. The true dynamic horoscope could actually be best imagined as a three-dimensional tunnel.

Naturally the question of cause raises its head in any discussion of astrology. What causes astrological effects? The answer is time causes astrological effects. Planets just help us trace them. Somewhat like the hands of a clock, planets tell us the meaning of time, rather than create the meaning of time. Zodiac signs are merely the field upon which we measure the motion of the planets and therefore the meaning of time. If you ever had a "groundhog day", where everything happens in exactly the same way as the previous day, you would be on the way to disproving astrology. Our experience of time is that it is meaningful in the sense that it is impossible for conscious entities to experience a moment in time more than once and therefore each moment has a quality of its own. The only thing to prove is the relationship of this meaningfulness with the system within which we live.

The way to partially view a horoscope as a four dimensional entity is to unfold it using a system called progressions. There are several systems of progressions, one of which, called the day for a year method, is by far the most popular and successful system. This precise system of astrological enquiry is also referred to as secondary progressions, so named to differentiate it from an archaic system of dynamic astrology called Primary Directions. The most exciting aspect of secondary progressions is that they apply to relationships - who we attract and who is attracted to us at different points in our lives. The fact that planets can influence relationships has been a claim of astrology for millennia and to find that a system of dynamic astrology applies with great precision to relationships is quite a discovery. It means we can demonstrate an astrological effect.

Part II Luminous Spaghetti >>