Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Is Astrology Scientific? Causal vs Mythological Thinking


I don't know where to begin with this one. Astrology News Service, which claims to be sponsored by august bodies such as the American Federation of Astrologers and the National Council for Geocosmic Research, is rejoicing that more Americans think astrology is scientific than did a few years ago. It reminds me of the time the Sun newspaper took a poll of its readers as to whether Princess Diana had been murdered, as if those readers were qualified to make a judgement.

It's not just that. Anyone whose studies astrology quickly comes to see, in my opinion at least, that astrology is NOT a science, not in the modern, narrow meaning of the word. Nor are poetry and music and psychotherapy and a lot of other things.

That's why I said I don't know where to begin unpicking this one. Astrology sometimes needs saving from its friends rather than its enemies! Though personally I think those enemies can be a good thing, they keep us on our toes.

It would be interesting to find out what people mean when they say they think astrology is ‘scientific’. What they really mean, I suspect, is that they think astrology works, but science has such epistemological authority for them that saying astrology is ‘scientific’ amounts to the same thing. 1000 years ago they might have said they thought there was room for astrology in the teachings of the Church, and I can’t see there’s much difference in the two statements.


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I think what overlap there is between astrology and science is incidental, because their ways of thinking are inconjunct. Science is based on cause and effect and repeatability, along with an explanatory mechanism (except for the privileged disciplines of Evolution and Psychiatry). Astrology is based on sychronicity, "the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related" (Wiki). In this case, earthly events and heavenly events.

Astrology is not based on cause and effect, you could call it 'mythological thinking', it is how early people thought. They would, for example, see some unusual behaviour in nature and reflect that it must therefore have a meaning for them. (Source: Chippewa Cree friend). I think that the reclaiming of this way of thinking is potentially astrology's most important contribution to the world. Astrology in itself is a rather specialised and improbable subject that I don't think will ever be mainstream. But I love it :)

Like Bremainers and Brexiteers in the UK, and Democrats and Republicans in the US, astrology and science need to learn to live with each other. I don’t think, however, that it is an equal relationship: astrologers can understand how science sees the world, but science finds it much harder to understand astrologers. We need to be patient, even indulgent. After all, we see reality through all 4 elements, whereas science concentrates on Air and Earth as means of knowledge, it is limited. Its basic method tends to disregard Fire and Water as means of knowing and valuing. The proper place for science is that of a speciality within a more all-encompassing culture that includes astrology. Causal thinking needs to take its place within the broader context of mythological thinking. 
(First published 2014)

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Bilbo and Frodo: Virgos on their Chiron Return

Bilbo and Frodo Baggins share a birthday: 22nd September. This much is clear from ‘A Long Expected Party’, the 1st Chapter of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. That is all the birth data we have.

The Lord of the Rings is not set within our historical time period. It is in a sense outside of time. Middle Earth itself, while described in great detail, is imaginary, even though we kind of feel we know it. (This is because Tolkien’s creation is rooted in a lifetime of study of European myth.)


Google Middle Earth

At the same time, Middle Earth is described through reference to our world. I therefore feel free to take the position of the Sun on 22nd Sept as an astrological pointer to the characters of both Bilbo and Frodo.

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Between 1931 and 1972, which more than covers the time of the writing of The Lord of the Rings, the Sun on 22nd Sept was always at 29 point something Virgo. Since then, due to precession, it has started to appear in Libra. And before 1931 you could find it at 28 point something Virgo. So Bilbo and Frodo have their Suns at 29 Virgo.

Now Virgo isn’t a general description of the character of hobbits, but rather these 2 particular hobbits. For the general nature of hobbits, I’d probably say Capricorn (respectable and cautious), Taurus (they like their food – remember second breakfast!) and Virgo (clever with their fingers and unobtrusive). Very earthy creatures!

Bilbo and Frodo, due to their Took ancestry, had something else going on. It was rumoured that there was fairy-blood in the Took line, and occasionally a Took would take off and have an adventure, though this was always hushed up by the family.

But adventures are not what you think of when you think ‘Virgo’. Being Virgo does help, however, if you are a burglar like Bilbo: unobtrusive and observant. And if you are on an adventure, Virgos are likely to do so in the service of something, rather than just self-gratification, which was certainly the case with Bilbo and Frodo, who both found themselves heading off into the unknown rather reluctantly. As for the invisibility which the ring bestowed, here we see the 2 hobbits encountering the opposite sign of Pisces.

Using the Sabian Symbols for Virgo 30 we read: Having an Urgent Task to Complete, a Man doesn’t Look to any Distractions. Well that just about sums up the quests that these 2 hobbits were on.

There is, however, another astrological pointer we can look to: Bilbo was about 50 when he set off, and Frodo was 51. In both cases we have the Chiron Return. Dennis Elwell has this to say about Chiron: “On the subject of Chiron, it is as significant as any planet, but I do not go along with the 'woundedness' interpretation… when you are dealing with Chiron in practical work it is better to remember that his mythological namesake conducted a school for heroes…. As old Chiron trains us up towards accomplishments we never thought we could achieve, we need to be able to take the dare, to have an irreverent disrespect for the wise ones who say this or that can't be done. Chiron's style borders on cocky impudence, but perhaps its basic function is to persuade us that nothing is impossible.”

So there it is. The Chiron Return is a time for achieving what we thought impossible, which is exactly what Bilbo and Frodo did at that age.

In the 2 of Wands of the Mythic Tarot deck, we see Jason stepping out on his quest, with his teacher Chiron behind him in a cave. Jason’s quest is to recover the Golden Fleece, which is being guarded by a Dragon. Bilbo’s quest is to recover gold from a Dragon, and he did this on his Chiron Return. I said that Tolkien knew his mythology!

Chiron takes us to the point where we are on our own, where, if you like, we need to discover our own inner teacher. We tend to associate heroic quests with youth; but the real quest is to find the deeper independence of spirit, the gold in our souls, that usually requires age and years of testing. It is in the nature of human consciousness to be collective, to gain its security (unconsciously) from thinking the same as others. Chiron takes us out of that, and this is why there is often an ‘outsider’ quality to those with a marked Chiron. This ‘outsider’ quality, which is also their ‘wound’, forces the issue, as psychological security cannot be found in acceptance from the collective.

Frodo and Bilbo were never the same again after their adventures. Bilbo returned to Hobbiton, but he never fully belonged. He was viewed with suspicion by the more conventional hobbits, even though they appreciated his money. Frodo was so stricken, so marked by his ordeal that he never returned, but went on to the next stage across the ocean with the elves.

(First published on this blog in 2009)


Friday, February 02, 2018

WHAT DOES 'TRADITIONAL' MEAN?

I think the idea of 'traditional shamanism' can be like the bogeyman in the corner. How can what we do ever be 'traditional'? It can certainly never be traditional in terms of the forms, and God help us if it is. Imagine doing a sweatlodge, for example, exactly like the Lakotas might do one. What would it mean to anyone attending? It would be like something out of Gormenghast. 

I think what we CAN do is to imbibe the spirit of the indigenous way of feeling and understanding the world. And that takes time, and we need to be adequate to it. We need self-knowledge, we need a flexibility of mind that our culture often doesn't teach us. We need to drop any fantasies that Hollywood or the New Age may have sent our way. We need to read their stories and teachings directly. Books like 'Black Elk Speaks'. Most of us won't encounter teachers very much. I was fortunate enough to, a Canadian guy used to come and stay with me on and off. That didn't happen by accident, and I know I need to run with what I learnt. And even that was limited. But no doubt exactly what I needed. I'm still pondering it; the real path is a slow one.

Nowadays I find the books so good, they are my teachers. They take time and study and sipping. Read them like poetry. Not the interpreters like Storm and Swiftdeer. Of course they had some good things to say. What I do trust are the writings of those who are recognised by the indigenous peoples themselves. My personal interest is North American. I don't know why, it is just is. 

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And to return to the start, I can feel the fact that I don't know the forms very well - and never will, I'm not like that - to be the Spectre at the Feast. But I think it may also be my strength. I know damn well from my early years with Buddhism that the forms are secondary, that they can be a disempowerment. Particularly, maybe, when they come from a different culture to our own. I had that burnt into me over 18 years. 

What matters is that I know how to change myself - to some degree how to do the Red Road, which is my bit; and how to be receptive to the Blue Road, which is Spirit. I've got some idea how to move towards a deeper balance within myself - which is the point of this whole thing. That is all that matters. That is the point of 'tradition', and if you can do that, then you are traditional. 


The forms I use, well who cares as long as they work. 'If it's real, it works; if it works, it's real' (Jim Tree: The Way of the Sacred Pipe.) But of course, they won't work without respect and understanding. And let's not forget The Circle of Life by James David Audlin. That is the book, more than any I have known, that I learn from, and that also reminds me that I do have some affinity for, and understanding of, this stuff.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump: Gemini Tricksters



Gemini more than any other sign is the trickster archetype. In public life they do and say things that upset the status quo. They keep us entertained. They appal us, we wouldn’t trust them as far as we could throw them. And sometimes it can seem like Fate is intervening, as though Geminis are a vehicle for bizarre, rule-breaking events.

With Sun conjunct Uranus (another trickster, as is Eris) and North Node in Gemini, it is Donald Trump’s destiny to upset the status quo. American politics will never be the same again. 

DONALD TRUMP
As a human being, I hold him in low regard. Politicians are usually in it for a reason, they are trying to do something that they see is useful, and I think it is important to try to discern this, rather than just seeing everything as acting in bad faith, which I think is a cop-out that a lot of otherwise intelligent people engage in. But Trump…. I do find it hard to see, because everything he does is so entwined with his delusory self-regard. It is as though the Fates said this system needs shaking up, and we’ll use this guy, this is what he’s good for.

In the UK we have Boris Johnson, another Gemini. His behaviour over the EU referendum was classic Gemini. He couldn’t make up his mind until the last minute whether to back the Leave or Remain campaign. In the end he led the Leave campaign, in opposition to the Prime Minister. He told a whopper about using the money we’d save to fund the NHS. Like a good Gemini, he is now well-known for this piece of exaggeration. How much of all this is just manoeuvring for power on Johnson’s part, and how much what he genuinely thinks, is hard to say. Maybe we shall never know, maybe he doesn’t know himself.

But manoeuvring for power is what he does. He has Moon in Scorpio. The Moon is often hidden, and Scorpio of course can love to manoeuvre for power.

BORIS JOHNSON
BUT Boris Johnson has Sun in Gemini conjunct North Node and MC in Cancer. So maybe he really does want to improve the NHS. The other day he spoke out of turn, asking for more money for the Health Service. He is starting to have a history with the NHS.
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At any rate, the EU referendum has shaken up the UK, there is no doubt about that, and Gemini Boris played a part in that. As did Sun-Mercury-Venus in Gemini Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, who was a lukewarm Remainer, which isn’t how leaders are supposed to act: they are supposed to take one side and back it.

Something else Boris does is put his foot in it by speaking the truth. Which, as the country’s head diplomat, is an interesting quality. About a year ago, he said that Saudi Arabia was involved in proxy wars in the region. Everyone knows this, but no-one will say it. Furthermore, the UK was in the process of concluding a major arms deal with Saudi Arabia. So it really was NOT the thing to say. Maybe because it was Boris and he is, in a way, not taken seriously, it was smoothed over and the deal proceeded. But credit to Boris, IMO.

And then there is the British woman who has been imprisoned in Iran on charges of political subversion. She is a mother with young children back in the UK, and claims she was just in holiday. Step in Boris to help: he says that she was merely in Iran to ‘train journalists’. Of course, this set her case back, for it was used by the authorities as a means of confirming their suspicions. And Boris was widely condemned. What no-one is saying is that she probably WAS in the country for that reason, and Boris said it. Stupidly, and I won’t give him credit for that.

Uranus is starting to oppose Boris’ Moon at 0.35 Scorpio. And his Moon rules both his MC and his North Node. So I think we can expect to see continuing twists and turns in the Boris story this year, and I think they will include that manoeuvring for power that seems so obvious in him. And which he can get away with because Theresa May’s position is so weak.


I was prompted to write this piece because of a news item this morning: “Boris Johnson 'is descendant' of mummified Basel woman” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42805485  

A mummified woman was found 10 years ago in Basel, and she turns out to be Boris’ great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother. It doesn’t get more bizarre than this. It could only happen to Boris. And it is something to do with being Gemini that attracts this sort of event to him.

His ancestor died of mercury poisoning, given as a treatment for syphilis. She got syphilis because she looked after people with syphilis. Yeah, right. If Boris is anything to go by, her husband was a philanderer, and that's why she got syphilis.