Astrology At The Threshold

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The Art Of Astrology

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The vast dijjerence between astrology and other sciences, if I may put it thus, is that astrology deals not with facts but with profundities. The solid ground on which the scientist pretends to rest gives way, in astrology, to imponderables.

—Henry Miller

Especially for the benefit of new students of astrology, it seems advisable to discuss briefly some crucial issues that relate directly to the study and use of astrology in this era. In fact, it would be inappropriate for this book or any teacher of astrology to introduce people to the power and depth of astrological science without frankly discussing certain philosophical, scientific, and practical matters that have a direct bearing on anyone's attempt to use astrology in Western society today. I cannot begin to explore all the relevant issues in this handbook, and in fact I have devoted an entire book to these subjects (The Practice & Profession of Astrology), as well as a sizable section of another book (The Jupiter/Saturn Conference Lectures: New Insights in Modern Astrology, co-authored with Liz Greene). Therefore, the following thoughts must be regarded only as an introduction to a number of complex and controversial subjects.

Astrology is a unique subject in many ways, and its broad range of insight and application makes it sharply out of step with dominant trends of this materialistic age. It includes both science and art, both knowledge and wisdom, both inner life and outer life, and it is in fact based on the correlation of the cosmos with the individual (the ancient doctrine of the unity of macrocosm and microcosm—often expressed in the axiom "As above, so below"). This wholistic way of thinking sounds to most people today somewhat poetic and quaint at best, and ridiculous, naive, and superstitious at worst. The widespread prejudice against astrology in the Western world is, however, just one more example of the unthinking and actually unscientific skepticism expressed so automatically nowadays toward anything that acknowledges the reality of mind or spirit—the two most powerful fundamentals of human experience throughout history.

This skepticism and antagonism toward astrology is just a somewhat more forceful expression of the hostility that materialistic science and its short-sighted proponents and worshipers heap upon many branches of spiritual tradition, healing arts, philosophy, and the more ancient forms of psychology and personal guidance. Unfortunately, this unimaginative, narrow approach to human potential and to the central traditions of human thought has for some time dominated the major power centers of Western society, including the academic world which has the ethical obligation to preserve and study intellectual and cultural traditions and to emphasize the open-minded search for truth. A few people occasionally speak out against this trend of ignorance, such as the President of Yeshiva University, Norman Lamm, who wrote in 1987:

... we must reassert the existence and value of the spirit. . . our society [must] learn that there is a larger wisdom that awaits our patient inquiry; that man is a spiritual as well as biochemical, psychological, political, social, legal and economic animal.

An openness to spiritual dignity . . . means that the prevalent dogmas of scientific materialism and philosophical despair are not the only points of view worthy of scholarly attention; that belief in the reality of the mind and the existence of the soul does not condemn one as intellectually inferior and scientifically backward; . . . that knowledge ought to ripen into wisdom.

(Excerpted from his address at the 100th anniversary of his University.)

The narrow attitude fostered by materialistic science—with its focus on the manipulation of nature—has tremendously inhibited many positive developments in society and has created the worldwide ecological disaster that we are only beginning to address. And yet, orthodox scientific work makes use of only one small part of the mind. By assuming that materialistic science is the only reliable road to knowledge and that only what can be scientifically shown to be valid is real, the Western world has effectively excluded the enormous dimensions of human life and experience which are inaccessible to the part of the mind employed in scientific analysis. Therefore, those who have experienced the value of astrology, rather than looking to orthodox science for "proof" and acceptance—which will never be forthcoming—would be using their energies more effectively by ensuring that their understanding of astrology (how it works best and what its appropriate scope and limitations are) is clear and reliable.

A study of the history of science, medicine, military strategy, politics, and many other fields of endeavor shows clearly that hardly an advance has escaped violent and fanatical opposition. For example, physicist Max Planck was so troubled by opposition to his ideas that he remarked that a "new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." (from "Planck's Principle," Science, 1978, by D. Hull, P. Tessner, & A. Diamond) I cannot help but recall what the maverick philosopher, poet, and artist William Blake wrote in this regard:

He's a fool who wants a proof of what he can't perceive;

And he's a blockhead who tries to make such a one believe.

—The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The reader may be thinking: "What has all this to do with astrology, which is certainly not a new idea?" Certainly, astrology is not a new idea in itself; but its use as a modern form of personal guidance and as a profoundly helpful tool in the helping professions does constitute a significant and radical advance. The reformulated, psychologically sophisticated type of modern astrology that has developed in the last fifty years is a new idea, a specific outgrowth in response to the desperate needs of Western society, and it has a great contribution to make in science, psychology, the healing arts, and in many other areas of endeavor. Dr. Carl Jung is often quoted as saying that astrology incorporates the sum total of the ancient world's psychological knowledge. This great reservoir of ancient wisdom and potential understanding of the mysteries of human life has now been studied anew in the light of modern psychology and other fields of knowledge, and it has been significantly reformulated by a few pioneers with a new language and with a myriad of new applications.

Astrology is now at the threshold of a potential major leap into a more significant place in modern life—IF it continues to develop in an intelligent way with modern language. Or it could revert to its previous fortune-telling and parlor-trick status, an image which unfortunately many practicing astrologers still seem to encourage by focusing on prediction of events—whether or not they call themselves "scientific astrologers" or similar more respectable names. Whether astrology crosses this threshold in the next two decades will depend more on the actions, competence, and professionalism of astrological practitioners and counselors than on the actions of astrology's powerful foes.

It has been publicized that very few of astrology's most vocal critics have the ethical and scientific integrity to have deeply researched the subject; generally, they have very little knowledge of its principles and virtually no knowledge of its practice. Their opinions, therefore, in the court of the science that they claim to represent must be regarded as worthless, no matter how loudly or dogmatically they are expressed. The followers of the chief traditions of Western astrology make certain definite statements concerning the expected significance of specific astrological placements, cycles, and configurations. Many, if not most, of these traditions are based on observations that have been repeated many times throughout the years. From the orthodox scientific viewpoint, only experiments that are equally numerous and which lead to quite different conclusions can be considered scientifically acceptable proof that certain specific astrological traditions are erroneous.

The real question here is quite simple and practical: are the statements of astrology justified? How can they be tested except by experiment? And what constitutes a valid, effective, and appropriate experiment for astrological principles? My conclusion, as I will explore below in more detail, is that only an experiential proof fits the need; and only experiments with living people in a clinical situation can fully show astrology's value and validity in its guidance, counseling, and psychotherapeutic applications.

One objection to astrology that is often heard from ' 'scientists" who actually do not want to consider it remotely possible that astrology could be valid in any way is the idea that those who practice astrology cannot show any "cause and effect mechanism" whereby the planets could exert any "influence." Apart from the question of whether astrology should be considered only within a limited causal framework, the best refutation to this attempt to dismiss astrology is to explain that, as Dr. Jacob Zighelboim, M.D., Associate Professor at the UCLA School of Medicine stated in a lecture* I recently attended, throughout the history of science "the hardest thing to define is mechanism." All sorts of workable scientific principles and techniques and many kinds of medicines are employed routinely throughout the world without there being any understanding of how they work.

In the field of parapsychology, decades of research under stringent conditions and within the parameters of orthodox scientific experimentation has failed to explain the "mechanism" that may be associated with the various types of psychic phenomena. This experience in parapsychology research may well be regarded as an indication that the orthodox experimental approach may

*Lecture given at the conference "Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century," San Mateo, California, April 29-May 1, 1988.

be completely inadequate for investigating astrology and other phenomena and techniques which work with the deeper reaches of the mind. Just because something is not readily measurable does not mean it does not exist and is not important!

The bulwark of materialistic science rests on statistics, measurement, and endless analysis of petty details, made all the more easy and voluminous today by widespread computerization. As one of the world's foremost experts on allergic diseases, Dr. Theron Randolph, M.D., writes: "Statistical methodology, computerization, and data retrieval systems favor analysis and fragmentation at the expense of synthesis and holism." (from "Bulletin of the Human Ecology Research Foundation") Dr. Randolph points out that these trends have made medicine and medical diagnosis more and more analytical, thus missing the larger picture of the patient's life situation. I feel this is a warning that should be heeded because similar trends currently happening in astrology also have the same limited results.

Statistical studies in astrology have been almost universally pointless. A few, like those done by Jeff Mayo correlating the Sun signs with extroversion or introversion and the well known Gau-quelin studies over two decades that show definite patterns correlating planetary positions with various professions, have come up with positive results. But in general, as was pointed out in a recent book* showing the common failure of statistical studies to discover definite patterns that actually were present in the data, "If you do not know where to look for something, you will probably not find it." Hence, is it any wonder that those who know nothing of the intricacies and subtlety of astrology usually fail to discover significant results when they apply statistical approaches?

However, despite the limitations of the statistical approach in the investigation of subtle phenomena, statistically large numbers of clinical and experiential observations not only in astrology but also in the field of the natural healing arts are

*The January Effect, published by Dow-Jones Irwin, 1987.

often dismissed as "merely anecdotal," and thus not "reliable" information.

According to critics of anecdotal information, what happens to a rat is scientific; what happens to a human is only anecdotal. How come? A rat cannot tell a scientist or a doctor what it feels. Its dead body tissue can only give evidence of what has happened to it. . . . With humans, what happens to their mind, feelings, and other perceptive organs is REAL and if one's telling of the experience is considered anecdotal, then that type of documentation should be acceptable. . . . Discrediting valid information as "anecdotal" is "unscientific." (from Healthcare Rights Advocate, Vol. H, Issue 2)

The great astrological writer and philosopher Dane Rudhyar clearly explained the dangers of astrology practitioners falling into the trap of imitating currently-fashionable "scientific" methods and standards:

The present-day astrologer's concern about "raising" astrology to the acceptable level of a "science" by means of statistics and other analytical tools worshiped in our official "factories of knowledge' ' (universities) will not produce a more constructive approach to the problems faced by the astrological consultant in relation to clients. It is more likely to make such a relationship less effectual because, in order to be really effectual, it must be a relationship of person to person—and science does not deal with individual cases, but with statistical averages. Science does not deal with human values, but a person comes to an astrological consultant asking for help. He always unconsciously asks for help even if he is consciously motivated by curiosity. He comes for help with his sense of unique individual selfhood, even if his stated problem seems a common one; and it is with this sense of self that the consultant must deal. For we are all our own most basic problem; and astrology should help us meet it objectively and serenely. . . .

(from Astrology & the Modern Psyche, 1977, page 182)

Actually, the philosophy and wholistic truths of astrology incorporate a worldview that is quite incompatible with the worldview of materialistic science, and anyone involved in astrological education, research, or promotion should be careful of trying to achieve a forced "integration" just for the sake of an illusory acceptance or coveted respectability. It would be far more fruitful to work hard to clarify astrology's unique strengths and to further define its principles and applications. An entirely pragmatic approach, evaluating results in people's lives and personal experience, is ultimately the only test that really matters in any healing art, helping profession, or psychological theory or method.

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The Art Of Astrology

The Art Of Astrology

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