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A Rational Basis for Astrology by William D. Tallman
One of the more fundamental questions about astrology, in fact probably the most fundamental of all, concerns the nature of astrology itself. It is a question that does not admit of an easy answer, and so it is generally avoided or ignored. That the question is, and has always been, relevant in general is perhaps a truism. I would suggest that its relevance is also tied to the possibility of a meaningful answer, and I think that that possibility is stronger now than ever before; current knowledge supports that possibility in ways that have only now come to be understood. Accordingly, I would here address that most essential of all astrological questions: what is astrology?
In general, I think, it is perceived by the public as powerful and/or mysterious. I don't think any of us would disagree that it is powerful, and I think we all recognize that its essence at some level of depth is a mystery. So, let's stipulate that this perception is valid.
There has long been a debate concerning whether Astrology is an art or a science. Some say one, some say the other, and some say both. Others say neither. Rob Hand has called it a craft. I, and surely others, have called it a practice. It could be said that Astrology is all these things and more, and I think that is true. It indicates that there is an essence that defies description, and some say that this is true, that indeed it is founded on a mystery.
So let us take another approach. Let us look at what it does. So that we not get bogged down in technicalities prematurely, let the approach be as simple as possible. What it does is described by the word itself; it is simply the study of the heavens. Implicit in this approach is the need to ask the question: why. Why do we study the heavens? And of course the flood of reasons gushes forth from the history that we all know, at least in general, quite well.
Much of life's experience is cyclical, a perception held presumably since before the dawn of history. The perception of the mechanisms of the heavens as a reliable bench mark against which to measure these cycles appears to have been utilized as far back as we can trace the life of mankind. Astronomical observatories of startling accuracy appear to have been one of the oldest architectural considerations, and the calendars that presumably are their product are one of the most basic tools of civilized (living in a civic culture, even if only a village home of a tribe) man. We know that ancient concerns were with crops, floods, weather, etc.; so it appears that we have always understood the importance of knowing where the natural seasonal process is on any given day.
Each of these concerns involves some sort of natural process and/or mechanism. Each of these has become well understood as a function of the seasonal orientation of the earth to the sun, and we understand that each of these is a knowable mechanism or process. To the extent, then, that we use a calendar to prepare for these various phenomena, we are practising astrology. We are using our ability to predict the positions of the earth and its celestial environment to comprehend our future in some manner. How close is this to what we do as Astrologers?
Current custom asserts that we do not predict, and so, of course, this is not what we as Astrologers do. If this is true, then I ask what value there is in our practice. We say that we explain the present in the context of the past, as we use directions, progressions and transits to show the unfolding of the natal positions. We say that we, at least most of us, focus only on the experiential or psychological or spiritual aspects of our cyclic reality, and I ask why such knowledge/wisdom/understanding has any value at all if it is not its applicability to our future.
And so I submit that the essence of Astrology is its ability to show forth on some level what the future holds for us. Prediction/forcasting/etc are all words that mean essentially the same thing, and that is the act or process of identifying insights into future potential.
The real issue is that most of us cannot guarantee our ability to do this. We have all the Astrological techniques, and we all use them. What we cannot do is to identify with reliability what they show us to any commercially useful extent, so we don't engage in that sort of commerce. Our western culture maintains a stricture against prediction with which we must contend. It is religious in nature and is found in the Hebrew Pentateuch, and so also in the Old Testament of the Bible. The simple answer to that stricture is: that is what we cannot reliably do. The qualification of a prophet in that long ago circumstance is that the righteous prophet can be identified when what he says comes true. In the religious context, then, anyone who engages in prediction beyond an acceptable level of reliability is a false prophet.
If this is the essence of the problem of Astrology, then let us address it.
To clarify: it is not that Astrology cannot yield predictive results, it is that, as we now understand it, it cannot do so reliably. And we cannot address this until we understand clearly what is going on when Astrology is practised.
The first thing that we can do is to look at what we know about that does work. We can predict all sorts of phenomena with assessable levels of accuracy, because we understand at least something of the phenomena we are investigating. The fact is that we have no trouble with this practice until we start working on organic phenomena, and that, I assert we must assume, is because we don't understand the mechanism we are investigating.
We can ask whether organic, especially living, matter is in cyclic resonance with the heavens, and we believe the answer is yes. Indeed, as most of us are aware, solid science has provided support for this belief. Further, we know enough about organic physiology to begin to see how the resonance producing mechanisms might function, so we have reason to believe that this phenomenon will become at least adequately understood. Eventually, we can assume on this basis, we will be able to treat organic phenomena astrologically as we do any other.
And so now we come to the problem at hand: ourselves. Well, why must we proceed differently? If there is no reason, and I see none, then we will continue. We are yet another phenomenon, already demonstrated to be resonant cyclicly at least on the physical level. So we can assume that, at least to some extent, we will someday be able to comprehend our own mechanisms of resonance. In addition, we have had demonstrated to us that we are also functionally resonant, and that Astrology maps that resonance. Gauquelin did that for us.
But now we face a new problem. We have difficulty understanding the complex resonant response of the most primitive organic material. We have the celestial basis, but now we don't well enough understand the organisms themselves to be able to know their full functionality. We suppose that gene mapping will get us much further down that road, and that's probably true. When we fully understand the material we will be able to see how the astrological mapping functions as well. It is clear that, for the human individual, it will be of some number of magnitudes greater difficulty to achieve this level of understanding. However, following this approach, I think we can consider that such an understanding is possible.
But with the human individual we encounter a much greater problem. And it is much more complex and harder to define. And it is this problem that defines Astrology's basic difficulty. In fact, it even seems that this problem is not definable. The problem is how to define the cyclic resonance function in the human individual, and to some number of Astrologers it appears this problem does not admit of a solution. In fact, I suggest that most of us haven't gotten far enough in this process to recognize that there is a problem. Accordingly, the approach I am taking here is reductionist so that the problem might become visible.
Let's see where we've got to. We have determined that we can see what Astrology does, so let's enunciate that determination.
Astrology is a structure that allows us to develop a model of an object of interest and connect it to an archetypal model that is driven by the mechanisms of the celestial sphere. We can then map how these models are connected in cyclic resonance, and are thus able to determine how the object of interest evolves in some manner through time. We use it to see how the object can be expected to function in the future, based on our understanding of its nature and past record. This seems to cover the uses to which it has been put so far.
So we develop a model of ourselves and connect that model to the Astrological model..... and now we have an immediate problem. The Astrological model and the model of ourselves that we develop are identical. It is simple to understand why this is so: as we practice it now, Astrology and the model it uses is almost entirely anthropomorphic because we use it almost exclusively on ourselves. It is a simple matter of convenience, the Astrological model is selfmapping on the human individual. The only use of an astrological practice that is problematical is that upon ourselves, and so we have Astrology with a capital A. It is a construct that is intended to model the object of interest, and now we surely have the potential of confusing the two models. Does this indeed happen? I think it does.
One of Astrology's fundamental problems is that it has somehow come to be thought of as replacing that which it was intended to investigate. We now have come to believe that it is Astrology that somehow is responsible for our cyclic resonance with the heavens. We speak of experiential phenomena as if it were the result of Astrology, and argue all manner of details that must follow from that assumption. We have made our traditional assumption quite clear that the Astrological model is the operative one instead of the comparative one. Our thinking demonstrates that this is true when we try to validate the Astrological model as having some sort of physically verifiable reality, and when one is not forthcoming we retreat into some version of "there are some things mankind was never meant to know". And so the whole business is considered to be rooted in Mystery.
If the approach I have put forth here is valid, then it is hardly likely that Astrology has that function, or indeed is that connective mechanism. It is only the comparative model; the operative model is that generated from, in this case, the human individual. As the operative model evolves, then so should the Astrological model. And, indeed, this is taking place with the addition of all these other significant Astrological entities; we have come to recognize and generally accept the function of the transSaturnian planets, and now we have an apparently indeterminate array of astroids as well.
But then as we look at this, it becomes self evident and we can easily convince ourselves that we have always been aware of this separation, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, the confusion exists, and cannot be accounted for, I suggest, by laxity or chance. I believe there is a cause for this confusion, a phenomenon that drives us to see the Astrological model as causative.
This is, I believe, not difficult to identify, once we understand that there are two different models and that the cyclic resonance between the two is the result of some mechanism.
So now I venture to restate the fundamental tenet of Astrology thus: There exists a mechanism by which certain terrestrial phenomena is made responsive to observable celestial configurations. From this, I think we can look at the reality that Astrology treats and look at it squarely.
There are certain qualities about living organisms that are basic to the concept of life itself. Perhaps the foremost of these is that of awareness, a condition that drives intentional responsiveness. On the level of the single cell forms, we see this as the ability to recognize the difference between benefic and malefic aspects of the environment. This allows the differentiation between food and harmful invaders, and so forth. As the complexity of the organism increases, so does the complexity of the capacity for awareness. Although there are other life forms that are remarkable in many different ways, it is the human animal that is capable of the most complex awareness, or so we believe. In any case, human awareness is clearly among the most complex and has the most sophisticated response to self-awareness.
Now, it has been demonstrated that organic life has cyclic resonance with the heavens and we can postulate that this resonance drives certain behavior. If this is so, then it is also true for mankind. But mankind is also self-aware. If this resonance drives behavior of any kind, then it would follow that we are aware of that behavior and must on some terms be aware of the resonance itself.
This is the beginning of the rational basis of Astrology. The mechanism of cyclic resonance exists and mankind must at some level be aware of this mechanism. Now let us look at the nature of this resonance.
When we speak of resonance, we usually assume the existence of a driving resonator and a driven resonator. It is also possible to have two or more independent resonators that are functionally proximate, so that resonance or dissonance is a matter of effect rather than cause. These independent resonators can be either active or passive. Implicit in this consideration is the question of the nature of the connection between man and the stars, if you will.
I recognize that the heavens and humanity might be independent resonators driven to resonance by some senior force, but I think that we might safely assume that the heavens are the driving resonator and any resonator on earth is the driven. Our understanding of all astrological connections other than that of man indicates that this is so.
Now, if a human individual is aware of this resonance, what is the experience of this awareness? Is it within the realms of consciousness, or is it accessible to consciousness? In any case, now we have discerned two different, presumably independent, astrological functions available to mankind. The intellectual use of Astrology to strive to identify and enforce resonance is the one we know, but there is this second, intrinsic astrological function where on some level there is a direct consciousness of cyclic resonance. Are the two connected in any way? The answer must almost surely be that they are. One can certainly ask how they could not be, if indeed that awareness exists.
Of course, the existence of cyclic resonance has always been assumed to have been determined by observation, and so we can believe that it is. But we can also suspect that the intrinsic astrological sense must play a role somehow. And I think we can see how this can be.
It seems clear that we can expect that there is a range of sensitivity in this awareness. On one end of the spectrum we can postulate that somehow access to this awareness is blocked and unavailable to any form of consciousness, and on the other we can postulate that this awareness resides clearly at a conscious level in some manner. So there are people who, in spite of the fact of their cyclic resonance with the heavens, are not able to access an awareness of that resonance. These people would be indifferent to any sort of astrological consideration and would view Astrology as irrelevant and unworthy of consideration at all. Those that have the awareness in their conscious domain are quite likely to have already discerned this and developed some sort of interpretive significance by the time they are in adolescence, I think. All things being equal, such people would either accept or reject Astrology based on whether it is useful, whether or not it is compatible with their established interpretive model. In general, I suspect that most of these people acquire an Astrological sophistication as naturally as we acquire a language.
In this range, perhaps we might find a Gaussian distribution, or perhaps not, but let us assume so; I've no idea of all that is involved here. In any case, I think we can identify how certain attitudes develop; for instance, the individual who is rabidly against Astrology. We might suspect that this individual is aware of the fact of the resonance but cannot connect with the internal astrological awareness and so cannot understand it on individually subjective terms. This individual might come to feel controlled by incomprehensible forces that cannot be named and so must deny their existence in order to survive as a viable person in our western society. I think we can see how this might be a common condition.
I think we can identify the person who embraces Astrology as a student, and then becomes a practitioner. This might be the individual who is aware of the astrological function but on a level not easily accessible. Such a person would be disposed, I think, to try to develop the internal astrological sensibility as a way of self fulfillment. This person would probably develop an inner sense of the rightness or wrongness of any Astrological proposition, and would probably become disposed towards the process of development itself, whether for the self or for others.
There are other types that can be identified as well, but there is more to consider here. This sort of internal astrological awareness might be available to conscious consideration, but it almost certainly does not directly involve the rational (left prefrontal cortical) mind. It, when developed, must surely be a candidate for consideration as a psychic or spiritual sense or cognitive ability. I suspect that there are a significant number of Astrologers that are primarily oriented to their internal astrological sensibility, and who use the Astrological model and technology as a guide or even a mandala of some sort.
We know that there are Astrologers who are uncannily accurate beyond the ability of most of us to emulate through
Astrological practice. It seems clear that it is probably beyond their ability as well, or we would find it to be teachable and so repeatable. Since this is not the case, as far as I know, I think we can assume that these practitioners are utilizing an extraordinary internal astrological mechanism. The most successful are those who develop their awareness of or sensibility to this mechanism, such that they understand in some way how to judge its reliability and precision.
So now we have the essence of a rational basis for Astrology. It exists as an intellectual model or reflection of a real
phenomenon, but that phenomenon is an attribute of the human uniqueness in the world in which we live. We can easily show how the phenomenon may exist and we can point to evidence of its existence. These are usually sufficient to warrant scientific investigation when the issue of interest is deemed to have value. That this is thought not to be the case with Astrology is the result of agendas that must deny the existence of that value, but do not erase the other considerations.
We have empirical evidence of the validity of the Astrological model and so it cannot be falsified.
And now we have a model with supporting evidence of how that Astrological model is made to function in the manner that is claimed for it. Astrology is best and most usefully learned from the inside out, which may explain why some people can learn Astrology and others can't; it also addresses the reasons why the Astrological model does not explain some of the more noteworthy Astrological practices.
Because we can conceive of a plausible explanation for all the hitherto unexplainable aspects of Astrology and its practice, we have something feasible to which we can relate Astrology. Thus we form the ratio, and so create the rational base.
I would suggest the following observations: If this hypothesis is valid, then we can understand how there must be such a wide variety of Astrological techniques and theoretical bases. The nature of the internal astrological sensibility must be individually unique, but there also must be some finite range of commonalities. We might expect to draw some general correspondence between Astrological practices and common cultural, intellectual, physiological, spiritual, emotional, etc. types found in those who are astrologically "awake(?!)". The most obvious correlary to this observation is that no one of these can falsify any other.
It may be more difficult than we might expect to make this basis useful to the general public, but maybe not. The general awareness of the public concerning these matters may be greater than we think. In any case, we would be well served as professionals if we could make an effort to address this and related questions, so that the general public may see and come to trust our diligence in these regards. I have here made a contribution, and would welcome any and all considered responses.
Copyright © 1996 by William D. Tallman
All Rights Reserved
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: WILLIAM TALLMAN lives on the west coast of the United States, and has been a student of astrology for several decades. He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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