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(XII) HISTORY - 21ST CENTURY ASTROLOGY

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Bianca
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« Reply #105 on: September 26, 2007, 08:50:44 pm »








The German philosopher Theodor Adorno made public in 1951 his "Theses Against Occultism," which he developed further in 1957 by adding an analysis of the astrology column [29]  of the American popularizer Carroll Righter, a disciple of Evangeline Adams. [30] 

The "horoscopes" of mass market newspapers have become a favorite object of sociological investigation. [31]  They rest on commonly held beliefs, reinforce accepted values and are "in harmony with the culture industry in its totality." [32]  To put it another way, they purvey no individualized awarenesses, but rather reflect opinions and prejudices shared by the reading public, astrologers and those in charge of the production of mass culture.

      The jack-of-all-trades Roland Barthes formulated the same critique in regard to the astrology column of a women's magazine: astrology "is not a path of evasion, but rather realistic evidence of the life conditions of the employee, of the shop clerk." [33]  The observation is justified in so far as it does not extend to a general critique of astrology, of which the paper-pushers of astrology columns are held to be representatives.

The legitimacy of psychoanalysis is not judged on the basis of the radio gossip sessions of such and such a talk show host popular at the moment. The aptness of an economic theory is not determined by taking the opinion of someone selling socks on a street corner. It is only logical that mediated subjects should express mediated opinions: in this regard, astrology suffers the same fate as any other discipline.
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« Reply #106 on: September 26, 2007, 08:52:40 pm »








But the sociologist, by taking aim at astrology as his laughing stock, merely corroborates the lamentable scenarios one finds in mediated wheeling and dealing. He does not study astrology, his attention rests only on its parody, i.e. "mass astrology." Nor does he study the astrologer, but only the histrionic public figure that the media encourage and that sociological discourse takes as its object. He appears to remain oblivious to the fact that in order to get an astrological column published one need not necessarily be an astrologer: one may also be a comedian, a singer, a businessman, a loan shark ...

      The anti-astrological argumentation of sociologists is neither serious nor carefully worked out. It is clear with what precipitation Edgar Morin launched his team of sharp-shooters into pursuit of their prey. The sociologist, who works within the confines of the scientific industry, has as it is hard work defending the "orthodox" nature of his activity.

What is required of him is a literary and moralistic exercise on the condition of all the marginalized categories of knowledge, with a view to their acculturation and subordination to the necessities and ideals of modernity. His function is to give an account of the paradoxical activity of these marginalized bodies of knowledge and to illustrate through his analyses the various manifestations of the crisis of modern consciousness.
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« Reply #107 on: September 26, 2007, 08:53:37 pm »








Recent sociological studies [34]  show that "belief" in astrology -- the matter of belief always being a presupposition in this area, whereas for science it is a matter of knowledge -- is inversely proportional to the level of scientific comprehension on the part of the people interviewed. The results, then, are nothing more than the following rather trivial observation: the more the mind is educated and conditioned by scientific mentality, the less receptive it is to what it finds unfamiliar. What can one hope to find by taking the pulse of popular opinion if not the results of the action of the dominant mentality on people's minds? Unless, of course, the true work of the sociologist consists precisely of verifying whether the means of ideological indoctrination are in good working order ...

      Sociological discourse can gild the most biased and underhanded kinds of anti-astrology. Its function is to reproduce the opinion and prejudices of the scientific community, despite the fact that it is itself the poor relation of the group that community claims as its own. [35]  The sociologist, a by-product of the scientific juggernaut, justifies himself by reflecting in his discourse the transparency of scientistic ideology, without being obliged to interrogate the presuppositions of his own investigative process.

To my knowledge, there is no sociological study on the caste of sociologists. The anti-astrology of sociologists consists first in postulating that astrology should be an object of study for sociology, but never that science,[36]  astronomy, or sociology itself be such an object.
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« Reply #108 on: September 26, 2007, 08:54:51 pm »








The investigative process of Adorno has the bright idea of interpreting the resurgence of astrology on the basis of the complications that proceed from the division of labor in general and that of science in particular. Astrology is held to be a stopgap without intrinsic value, the more or less deluded function of which is ostensibly to fill in the chasms between cognitive fields (notably astronomy and psychology) that have no manifest relationship to each other: "The opacity of astrology is nothing other than the opacity that predominates between various scientific domains that cannot be joined by any significant thread." [37]  Similarly, the astrologer is ostensibly the one who makes his living from this rupture and from the general dissatisfaction that the social division of labor creates in its wake: "Astrological folly can be interpreted principally as a commercial exploitation [of this rupture and ] of this mindset, the one like the other presupposing and corroborating retrograde tendencies." [38]

      Astrology is held to have as it function the dissimulation of the causes of social imbalance and to carry off the astrologer and his subject in a rapture arising from beatific acceptation of the information. Now, although that observation does apply to mediated pseudo-astrology, the majority of discourses apply that caricatured imaged to astrology and astrologers in general. Likewise, they tend paradoxically to legitimate the by-products that "critical analysis," with its Freudian base of assumptions, tries to dismiss.
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« Reply #109 on: September 26, 2007, 08:58:01 pm »








The sociologist Daniel Gros, a disciple of Pierre Bourdieu, reports some confidences uttered by real astrologers, led into a trap on that particular occasion, and upholds the theory that astrologers belong to the category of the "socially maladapted." [39]  He "perceives the profession of astrologer through a hypothesis of behavior involving failure." [40]  Hazardous consequences are drawn from a few cases of this type of person, whose purposes have been carefully filtered so that only material appears that supports the presuppositions of the author's interpretation, which is paternalistic: "The astrologer is motivated by the desire for knowledge that he has most often not been able to acquire due to his social origins." [41] 

From this thought derives the conclusion, which is in fact the initial hypothesis: "Astrology is not considered here as an end in itself, but rather as a symbolic means of going beyond an incapacity to compose rationally a global vision of the world." [42]

      The socially maladapted person is he who has not had the opportunity to comply with the functions rewarded by the established order! His dissatisfaction comes from the fact that he fails to appreciate the value of institutional knowledge and that he is constrained to beat his head against this wall called astrology! The rational and global vision of the world is no doubt the one put forward by scientistic ideology and its mechanized universe!
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« Reply #110 on: September 26, 2007, 08:59:38 pm »








 The anti-astrological agenda becomes clear: first one marginalizes the astrologer by throwing overboard any educational structures or research, then one denounces his marginality and gives to it fantastic explanations -- because he would necessarily have to leave astrology behind to enter the academy -- and as a third step one devotes one's attention to the proliferation of parasites who take on the appearance of astrologers for the public and the mass media, which justifies in the eyes of the intelligentsia the maintenance of the entire process. Hence: ideology gags the astrologer; business puts words in the mouth of its patsy.

      The caricatured and arrogant approach of the sociologist finds its echo in the wheeling and dealing of editors: the readers of astrological books are held to be of middling intellect and to lack almost entirely any critical sense. Astrological texts are categorized together with sports, games and leisure activities. Their readers are identified by editors for the mass market and their underlings as consumers looking for a combination of something pleasant to read and a few recipes. And often, alas!, the reader effectively becomes what the structures of media production encourage him to be.

On the other hand, there is no fear with regard to the average readership of popular scientific literature that it will abandon the party line, because it exists under the auspices of the scientific institution. Consequently, the readers do not really need to comprehend the theories presented, but only to accept them as discourse that enjoys the label of legitimation.
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« Reply #111 on: September 26, 2007, 09:49:15 pm »








The development of serious astrology and its institutionalization have often been accompanied by repressive measures meant to stem the proliferation of charlatans. Thrasyllus, the counselor of the Emperor Tiberius, was possibly the most important astrologer of history from a political point of view. He ostensibly influenced legislation intended to restrict divinatory practices and to impose standards of quality on the profession of astrologer. [43] 

A century later Emperor Hadrian seems to have had the same concerns: "Certain professors of astronomy, without doubt among them many who also taught astrological theories, may have received chairs at the Roman state university, the Athenaeum, from its foundation (134 A.D.).

That seems probable by virtue of the fact that the founder of the first Latin university, the emperor Hadrian, was not only himself an adept at astrology, but also a reknowned practicioner." [44]  It is attested that a century after the founding of the university in Rome, the Emperor Alexander Severus encouraged the development of astrology in it, no doubt to restrain the activity of charlatans. [45]

      A millenium later, Alfonso X El Sabio (1221-1284), king of Castile and Leon, a protector of knowledge and astrology, was the instigator of translations of Arabic treatises first into Spanish and then into Latin, together with the composition of an astrological summary, the Libros del saber de astronomia. He was also the motive force behind an astrological treatise, Libro de las cruzes (1259), and the famous Alphonsine Tables (ca. 1252).

He founded a chair of astrology at the University of Salamanca and in his own turn promulgated judicial measures against charlatans: "Divination of the future through the stars is authorized for persons properly trained in astronomy, beyond the other types of divination which are forbidden." [46]
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« Reply #112 on: September 26, 2007, 09:50:53 pm »








Astrology becomes a sub-literature when there are removed from it the means to develop as an autonomous domain of knowledge and when the multiplication of charlatans is encouraged. Locked into the ghetto of schools and ephemeral associations, astrology does not have access to the resources available in centers of research and and teaching. Its lack of recognition by the academy and the precarious socio-professional status of its practicioners create a field of freedom larger than that of other disciplines, a kind of "no man's land" of free expression (and a trusting audience) that occasion its exposure to all sorts of eccentrics, parasites, visionaries, and incompetents. [47]

      The resolutely pluralist conception of astrology sets itself apart from the interchangeability of the dominant discourses and their collapse into themselves. Because astrology is unreconcilable with them, it is capable of containing those discourses and of justifying them formally, from its matrix base. It goes without saying that precisely the opposite of this idea is encouraged by the media and by sociology.

That is why the insanity of pseudo-astrology becomes the plaything of cynics who take it in hand: astrology is tolerated only as a placebo, with a corresponding disfiguration of its fundamental nature. Sociological analyses, with their apparatus of surveys and questionnaires, by giving the emphasis to the confusion between true astrologers and their falsifiers (themselves overwhelmed by the flourishing commerce of telecommunications services), are no more than a redoubling echo of the travesty perpetrated on astrology by the media.
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« Reply #113 on: September 26, 2007, 09:53:29 pm »








                                        The Incompetence of "Astrologers"






"Finally, while both astrology and those who practise it continue to puzzle me, I believe that the symbolism they use, but so rarely appear to understand, has a certain objective beauty, even logic. (...) The magic spell is broken the moment one tries to translate everything into ordinary, everyday words. Hence my theory that astrology would be fine without the astrologers." (Ellic Howe, Urania's children)

      The practicioner styles himself an astrologer, and the din of mediation corroborates his pretension. The men of the Renaissance were more modest, no doubt because they were in closer relation to things of real import, to people, to passions. The amateur was called an astrophile, the practitioner: astrologian. The cultural and anthropological dimension of astrology was not reduced to the matter of the interpretation of natal charts. How could such men as these, brought up reading Plutarch, have limited themselves to that one aspect?

      On the other hand, the Ancients did not entertain the unhealthy modern infatuation with the sensational, which is contrary to the nature of astrology. The world of Castaneda is "extraordinary," as is that of Etienne Guillé. Astrology itself is perfectly ordinary. The astrologers of greatest insight are chagrined, not overjoyed, by their knowledge: Omar Khayyam is troubled by the dominion of the stars over the affairs of men. [48]
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« Reply #114 on: September 26, 2007, 09:55:24 pm »








  Today, if one leaves aside the mercantile activism of charlatans and the pseudo-astrology of newspaper horoscopes and psychic hotlines, activity in astrology can be identified in three areas: the research of astrologers, [49]  the progress of which is reflexive, i.e. theoretical and praxis-based and capable of postulating a true conception of reality (and not simply lyric flights of fancy with pretensions to the poetical and the metaphysical); contractual and applied astrology performed by a practitioner or astrologian (exchange of astrological services, courses, consultations and therapy sessions, done for a charge); and the confidential astrology of the astrophile, either as an amateur or a follower of astrology.

      Consultation is only one application of astrological knowledge among many others. The astrologer-consultant maintains the same relationship to astrological research as does the physician or engineer to scientific research: a relationship of execution and, most often, of commercial exploitation. Certainly a familiarity with natal charts is necessary, [50]  but it is only a minimal requirement and involves only one of the possible forms of astrological knowledge, i.e. that of horoscopic astrology.

The essential thing is not to calculate charts, but rather to live astrology, that is to say, to acquire a true astrological vision of reality. It is not simply a matter of speculating on the tendencies of Saturn or Venus in an individual's chart, but rather of transfiguring the ensemble of his mental representations, of using in a global way the astrological operators, not in an isolated or arbitrary way, all the while continuing to think in a dualistic manner.

It is a question of acquiring a matrix-based comprehension of the real, be the subject politics or the theatre, gastronomy or philately, following the example of the semiotician Peirce, who interpreted every product of the mind as a sign.
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« Reply #115 on: September 26, 2007, 09:57:57 pm »








 The practitioner, who is often a pragmatist and takes the easy way out and is prompted by curiosity and a thirst for newfangled methods, tries "techniques" of the most disparate nature imaginable, thereby sacrificing the coherence of the totality. He seeks to satisfy the demand of a clientele anxious for comfort, or of a readership seeking sensationalism. The "But it works!" of the empirical process legitimizes every aberration. But it does still work, despite the scanty requirements made in defining adequacy in the interpretation of perceived reality. Moreover, astrological factors are chosen arbitrarily. There results no hypothesis about the possible functioning of astral incidence, nor even an internal logic that could justify the use of these factors from an astrological point of view.

The astrologer examines a few charts, then talks about his "research." He reads a few books and gives a few readings, then talks about his "experience." He does nothing more than use some tools with a view to a specific application of astrology, i.e. the psychological interpretation of natal charts. Some such people come up with new techniques (very often simple modifications of previous ones) in pursuit of the same ends. An imaginary empiricism is the sole guarantor of their ostensible efficacy. All of this has little to do with astrology. It is a form of personal satisfaction, the subjective application of knowledge that lies outside the bounds: a small personal affair. How could such a thing interest universities? In point of fact, astrology concerns itself essentially with the general and only indirectly with the particular: it is a mode of thought, and a mode of the functioning of thought, a logic of perception.

      The practitioner is not interested in learning: he believes that he already knows. He believes that his conviction about the existence of a reality to which skeptical minds remain closed excuses him from the effort of research. He does not think it necessary to know anything about his predecessors. He has no real model of astrology, only vague spiritual assumptions that seem to him to harmonize with this slapdash praxis.

He forgets that the body of knowledge he uses arose from a conglomeration of heterogeneous and disparate techniques, dating from specific historical periods, that float today like driftwood in the harbor of one or another sphere of praxis, by reason of the mediated success of a particular author or the skewed translation of an ancient text, and not because comparative studies have been undertaken or because reflection on the logic of the totality has been engaged.
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« Reply #116 on: September 26, 2007, 10:01:00 pm »








There is no such thing as traditional astrology; there are only models from the past, with great differences between them, products of particular cultures, schools of thought, or individual astrologers working in isolation. A conglomeration of these models is assimilated in the minds of some astrologers to represent a supposed tradition, astrologers who are often ignorant of historical reality.

If the system of Ptolemy has left a preponderant mark in the astrological culture of Europe, medieval and then modern, it would deserve more than any other system the label "traditional" by virtue of the very special place it occupies within the framework of Hellenistic astrology. If astrology thrashes about impotently in the ghetto to which it was relegated in the Enlightenment, its circumstances are in part due to those who have taken up its banner.

Astrologers should engage the terrains of history and epistemology: it is there that they will find their most formidable adversaries, as well as those most worthy of esteem. The first great modern adversary of astrology was not Pico della Mirandola, as one commonly believes, but rather Salmasius (1648).

      The "true astrologer" can differentiate impressionals because he has gained experiential knowledge of astral incidence through the two originating experiences, which are the variability, both quantitative and qualitative, of psychic-astral energy (i.e, the experience of transits) and the differentiation that occurs between individuals.

All that does not mean that he is an empiricist: his knowledge evolves within the framework of theoretical reflection about the interpretive models that illuminate his experience. He remains attentive to the fact that any technique used presupposes a model of the functioning of astral incidence. What is more, astrological experience is not comparable to that of other domains of knowledge, because it never deals with facts, but rather with "quasi-facts," and not with events, but rather with emergences into consciousness. In this regard, it is very difficult to communicate to others.
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« Reply #117 on: September 26, 2007, 10:02:51 pm »








The astro-psychologist, even a talented one (which is rare), is nothing more than a practicioner, for an astrologer should bring together at least three of the four components of his discipline: metaphysics, astronomy, history and psychology. Whoever does not have a hold on the thread of philosophy presents somewhat shortsighted views of his subject, and his discourse does not differentiate itself from that of the ideologues of the moment; the poor technician has a tendency to remain a prisoner of his outmoded models; whoever is ignorant of his predecessors believes in the unalloyed novelty of his discourse and lacks the background to appreciate its real value; a deficiency with regard to psychology can lead to mistaken ideas about the sense and meaning of astrological symbols.

      Popular astrology, being of a psycho-symbolist nature, has become a simple exercise in pattern recognition within the reach of anyone. A naive conception of the symbol authorizes any interpretation whatsoever and serves to "psychologize" whatever reality happens to be presented. In the analyses given there most often appear only prefabricated correspondences between configurations in the natal chart and their suggested interpretations. Known facts and trivial psychological situations involving the natives are believed to relate directly to these configurations.

When the person under consideration is a public figure or an historical personage, the interpretation does not bring new light to bear on the subject, but rather simply reproduces most often superficial and commonplace notions about the person in question. All this astrological psycho-babble never goes beyond the level of ordinary common sense and the most mediocre triviality, doubtless because the social status of the practitioner constrains him to be convincing and to justify the legitimacy of his system of interpretation by adapting it to current mentality and representation.

The result: his discourse lags far behind the advances of specialized research. Keeping that circumstance in mind, what credit should be given to a praxis that remains incapable of illuminating its object of inquiry, that uses inadequate exegesis, that can produce no truly original understanding?
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« Reply #118 on: September 26, 2007, 10:04:40 pm »








 The practitioner corroborates the fait accompli, the socio-cultural consensus, and the ideological status quo, as if astrological praxis were in the position of justifying -- by means of who knows what quintile or midpoint -- the entire foolishness of mediated production, and as if the practitioner were capable of understanding it astrologically. Moreover, such practitioners prefer to use popular works and secondary sources, which do disservice to the serious potential of his discourse.

If astrology really wishes to attain to intellectual respectability, it must raise itself to the level of the exegeses and works of advanced research, and be in the position on occasion to refute certain discourses by proposing interpretations based on solid argumentation.

As long as astrologers remain incapable of showing to intellectuals and philosophers -- leaving aside for the moment the quixotic nature of that process itself -- by what means their knowledge enables access to a singular comprehension of human reality, they will no more be believed than will their discipline be respected.

      Consequently, it is useless to ape the modes of organization of institutionalized bodies of knowledge and to demand recognition by socio-cultural authorities for practices at best doubtful through the staging of meetings, colloquia, associations, federations, and "codes of deontology," that serve little purpose but to exacerbate the proliferation of power politics. It is also quite useless to accommodate oneself to the forms legitimized by modern scientism (present in both the physical sciences and those called "humane"), without participating in some positive way toward their transformation. The nature and the issues of astrology seem to the practitioner perfectly compatible with the current cultural paradigm. [51] 

And in this he stands at a distance from astrology from the outset. He adapts himself partially to the utilitarian mentality of the moment and then exercises a marginalized kind of therapeutic function, one recognized by sociological analyses. Hence the irony of the literature epi and contra astrology that observes, and rightly so, that not only does astrological discourse not escape the bounds of common thought, but attaches itself to it at the lowest level. With such adepts as its representatives, does astrology really need adversaries?
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« Reply #119 on: September 26, 2007, 10:06:08 pm »








                                                Technical Argumentation





"Vera Astrologia docet nos legere in libro Dei."
["True astrology teaches us to read in God's book."]
(Pico della Mirandola: Conclusiones, 1486)




      A healthy critique of the problems relative to astrology no more belongs to those ideologues hostile to it than it does to the puppets, charlatans and buffoons who claim it for themselves. As a result, numberless objections relating to its techniques and methods of interpretation -- inevitable given its longevity, its intercultural diversity and the multiplication of its doctrines even within the framework of a single culture -- fan the flames of the continual controversies that divide astrologers.

Certain of those controversies participate positively in the transformation and renewal of the operators, structures and hence the models of astrology. Argumentation no longer stems from the ideological, i.e. the refusal to consider astral reality as astrological knowledge by appeal to external norms and criteria. These critiques concentrate on the elaboration of the natal chart, the variability of astrological structures and the semantic plasticity of symbolic operators.
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