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Thoughts About the Nature of Astrology

A short essay concerning rhythm, the logic of symbols, and the unraveling of meaning.

space-astrology-artAstrology can be described as a study of the process of unfolding of potential in our worldly experience, using the rhythms of the solar system we inhabit as a reference device. It is clear that we experience life as rhythmic. We breath in and out, enjoy the cycles of the seasons, live through the rhythm of the aging process, etc.

Scientists will tell you that the atoms and molecules from which matter is composed are in a constant state of rhythmic vibration. Rhythm is fundamental. As life evolved on the planet Earth within a solar system which itself is rhythmic, it should not really surprise anyone that the rhythms of life mirror or reflect the rhythms of the solar system which generated such life processes.

Astrology parts ways with orthodoxy because it is just as concerned with quality as it is with quantity, if not more so. In the world view of materialist science, time is purely quantitative – it is uniformly divided into units such as minutes and seconds, and these can be used to objectively measure duration. However, astrologers accept that we have a subjective or qualitative experience of time. Time can seem to pass faster or more slowly, for example, depending on the context. To astrologers, this is just as “real” as the convenience of uniform clockwork time.

Quantity has very little connection with meaning. To say “I have lived through the last 72 hours” is devoid of meaning. On the other hand, to say “I have lived through the last 72 hours, and it was hell. My girlfriend left me and the Sheriff arrived to confiscate some of my belongings because of unpaid tax bills.”, indicates the quality of experience of those 72 hours. One might well ask what is going on, why is it happening now, and what is the underlying meaning of all this. In other words, a qualitative approach can address the question of meaning. Another simple definition of astrology is the science of meaning.

However, in this context, we are not talking about a classical objectivist science built on the bedrock of rationalism and abstract mathematical logic.

astroAstrology, like medicine, requires interpretation and the making of judgements. The intuitive and non-rational faculties are very important for both these disciplines. The most logical and rational doctor does not make the best doctor. There is a craft to medicine learned from hard experience rather than books, and the same is true of astrology. On the other hand, an illogical doctor will be of no value at all. He or she will be applying the linear logic of biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, etc. to the process of diagnosis and prescription, given the context of ill health and its associated symptoms. An illogical astrologer will also be of little value, but the nature of the logic of astrology is different to that of medicine and science. It is a non-rational logic, a logic of symbols.

Non-rational is not the same as irrational. An astrologer can apply the non-rational logic of astrology either rationally or irrationally, sensibly or nonsensically, depending on their competence. While symbols do have an archetypal or root meaning, their specific meanings depend on the subjective perceptions and context of the individual interacting with the symbol.

For example, the U.S. flag is a symbol that has a root meaning as a focal image for national identity. But what does it mean? To many Americans, it means freedom. To many Libyans, it means oppression. These are both non-rational statements – they are not irrational. The specific meaning is context dependent.

Astrologers apply symbolic reasoning, scientists apply rational mathematical reasoning. They are very different.

One of the primary reasons why astrology continues to be ridiculed or ignored by scientists or rationalists is because they fail to see that there may be more than one way of looking at things, and that these different ways, rather than being mutually exclusive, can combine to give more information about a system than either on its own.

Skeptics are constantly asking astrologers to explain the mechanism by which astrology works in terms of their rationalist logic, a logic that was specifically designed to exclude the non-rational from the 17th century onwards! This is an impossible task.

The symbolic language of astrology has evolved over at least 4,000 years of mental endeavor. Those who have contributed, and who continue to contribute, to its evolution are not stupid. They include both Galileo and Kepler, both of whom wrote books on astrology, and left horoscopes in their own hands. If astrology had no foundation in their reality experience, and there was no correlation whatsoever between planetary cycles and life rhythms, they would have noticed, and so would Jung, W.B.Yeats, etc., etc., etc.. In its own way, astrology works. The mechanism is a mystery, but then there are many aspects of life which are mysterious and whose mechanisms are obscure (take gravity, for example – no one has a clue how that works, but that doesn’t stop anyone from accepting its reality).

One consequence of the re-integration of astrology into mainstream thinking, which will happen, will be a strengthened sense of connection to the Cosmos, at least on the level of the solar system which we inhabit and are not separate from. We will be able to move beyond the lifeless machine metaphor to a more inspired and inspiring perception of a living universe whose mysterious processes we intimately and actively participate in, one whose capacity for enchantment is constrained simply by the limits we place on the use of our creative imagination and other non-rational faculties. Strict adherence to exclusive rationalism will metaphorically have the same impact as only ever breathing in, but never breathing out.

The poet and visionary William Blake wrote “Art is the Tree of Life, Science is the Tree of Death”. It doesn’t have to be that way, but he does have a point.

About the author:

Bill Sheeran’s education led him into science, where he spent several years (until his Saturn return!) as a researcher in the fields of biochemistry and microbiology. A full time astrologer since 1986, he has produced and edited the journal of the Irish Astrological Association and his written work tend to be in the spheres of mundane astrology – especially in relation to the situation in N.Ireland – or speculations on astrological theory and philosophy.

Last updated on May 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm. Word Count: 1079