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המניפסטו של גוקלן-חלק 4:האסטרולוגיה בראי ההסטוריה
האסטרולוג והמדען מישל גוקלן בודק את מיקומה של האסטרולוגיה לאורך ההסטוריה. באנגלית.


The Manifesto 4/4 The Dominion Texts and Articles Review Links ACCUEIL (FR) HOME (EN)

Astrology: The Manifesto 4/4
by Patrice Guinard, Ph.D.

-- translation Matyas Becvarov --


I. What is Astrology?

 The Manifesto 1/4
 The Manifesto 2/4

II. Who"s afraid of astrology?

 The Manifesto 3/4

 11. The Animosity of the Historian
 12. Sociological Sophistry
 13. The Incompetence of "Astrologers"
 14. Technical Argumentation

11. The Animosity of the Historian

"Peut-être découvrirons-nous un jour que la même logique
est à l"oeuvre dans la pensée mythique et dans la pensée scientifique,
et que l"homme a toujours pensé aussi bien."
(Claude Lévi-Strauss : Anthropologie structurale)

      Astrology and its history [1]  experienced a resurgence at the end of the 19th century under the conjunction of Pluto and Neptune in Gemini. Historians present the subject as an absurd superstition, idolatry and a mental illness: the unworthy parent of astronomy is supposed to have infected the various domains of culture for more than two thousand years. There is no academic historian who treats it favorably: some writers merely temper their hostility. [2]  When dealing with astrologers, the historian feels justified in using reproaches and rebukes that even ethnologists have learned to suppress in their works about societies without the written word. There is no end to the doubtful allegations proffered by these ideologues of the memory of cultures, whose blindness is all the more offensive because they are by far the better informed detractors of astrology. One can also find among the ranks of the most bitterly opposed certain ex-astrologers, disillusioned by their incapacity to make an original contribution to the field: [3]  "those who have tried to be astrologers but failed," the seventh of ten categories of the enemies of astrology according to Albumasar. [4]

      The disdain of Bouché-Leclercq is accompanied by an offhanded arrogance vis-à-vis pre-Hellenic civilizations in general, at a time when one underestimated the considerable advances made by Babylonian culture in algebra, astronomy and medicine. [5]  Franz Cumont, editor of the famous anthology of Greek astrological texts, notes in his preface (in Latin): "The vanity of this false doctrine having been exposed to view, no one will dare to take interest [after the 17th c.] in the hoaxes of false prophets, and this art, just like the books by means of which it was taught, will fall completely away from memory." [6]  According to Pierre Duhem, a victim of the "analogic thought" that he purports to dismiss, astrology supposedly served no purpose other than that of paving the way for the discovery of universal gravity. [7]  For Jean-Charles Houzeau, an emulator of Auguste Comte and his evolutionist theory of the three successive stages of human reason, astrology is said to follow worship of the stars and to precede astronomy: "All the nations that have continued up to the age of systems have given up this false science. It was the second general stage, just as worship of the stars was the first." [8]  There have been many conflicting views and precipitous affirmations, such as the one made by Johannes Stoeffler (1452-1531) in his Almanach (Ulm, 1499) about a devastating flood supposed to accompany the conjunction of 1524 -- or the notion that says science has demonstrated the futility of astrology. [9]

      This positivist attitude, already rendered passé at the end of the 19th century by the philosophies of Dilthey, Nietzsche, Peirce and Bergson, showed itself to be completely ridiculous a few decades later. Upheld by the likes of a Robert Eisler, author of the classic anti-astrology text of the 1940"s, [10]  or by the historian of science George Sarton, who describes astrology as a "perverse synthesis" of the irrational and the rational, whose "unlikely design has seduced the natural stupidity of man." [11]  Otto Neugebauer, who in 1951 in the journal Isis [12]  judiciously reproached Sarton for his lack of knowledge of the historical importance of astrology for understanding the evolution of astronomical thought, nonetheless counts Greek astrology among "the most absurd doctrines to arise from pseudo-rational superstition that have contributed a heavy load to the "darkness" of subsequent ages." [13]  The historian Ernst Zinner, director of the Bamberg Observatory, notes: "Not the slightest idea, no discernment, no understanding at all of modern astronomy: such were the characteristics of the astrologer. It is fortunate that the royal art of astrology degenerated." [14]

      Their disciples took up the arguments of their masters, which became like a beacon emitted from the authorities of the scientific community, and the pupils seemed to give a wink of the eye to indicate that they accepted the consensus and took up the baton. At times their hostility reduced itself to mere insinuations against a chimerical body of knowledge, of which they nonetheless undertook historical study. [15]  Their supposition is this: that Neolithic peoples and their cultures, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Chinese, the Arabs and the people of the Middle Ages conceptualized reality under the constraint of various degrees of superstition and intellectual immaturity, which modern reason, emancipated from such foolish notions, prejudices and outmoded ideologies, has managed to eradicate.

      The emotional reaction of rejection evinced by the majority of historians of science, religion and philosophy (i.e., those not specializing specifically in the history of astrology, and who stumble dumbfoundedly upon the incongruous presence of astrology in their chosen field of study [16] ) becomes in the case of specialists a policy of active depreciation, for such is the danger of appearing ideologically suspect in the eyes of the scientific community. In point of fact, their studies could indeed render service to astrologers -- these latter day adepts in the old superstitions -- and do something to rehabilitate in the eyes of the general public this "pseudo-science" definitively discredited by the community of scientists.

      But how could these negative preconceptions be turned to the benefit of sound reasoning, with a goal of interpretation without bias? The ditch dug by two centuries of narrow-minded rationalism and positivism decidedly moves the stream away from the knowledge base of astrology, [17]  but also away from historical truth and the understanding of cultural history in its broader outlines, not only ancient and medieval, but also classical, modern and "post-modern." Thorndike warns historians against "the perils of writing a history of science without keeping constantly in mind the presence of astrology." [18]  He admonishes similarly in regard to epistemologists whose "history" consists only of those ideas that have been corroborated by current research. The person beached on the shore of the data and consensus opinion of the scientific community, an ideologue of the history of science, spies out what he calls "epistemological ruptures," by which concept he means to relegate to insignificance and illegitimacy as "pseudo-knowledge" entire strata of cultures from the past, simply because those strata that do not agree with the present state of research in the dominant paradigm. Charles Webster notes that there is not very much difference between the universe of Newton (in whose library numerous works on astrology with annotations were found) and that of Paracelsus: both men contributed equally to the process of cultural creation and transformation. [19]

      The most ingenious process for devaluing astrology is the one that consists of denying it all cognitive value by virtue of its genealogy: the master thinkers in the history of astrology (Franz Cumont, Franz Boll, Wilhelm Gundel, Otto Neugebauer, David Pingree ...) have successfully dispelled the idea of the autochthonous emergence of astrology within vastly different cultures by proving its sole origin (Akkadian) and by following its course of development through Alexandrine Egypt, the Persians and the Syrians, in Greece and Rome, in India, and finally the Arabs and medieval Europe. Even if this diffusionist schema forgets to include some parts of Chinese and Indian astrology (in particular the question of the 28 lunar "houses"), it has been judged adequate to justify a minimalist interpretation and to reduce astrology to "astrolatry," i.e. to the the supposed mentality claimed to have obtained at the time of its birth in the worship of the stars.

      Now, astronomy itself followed the same course of development: but it was obviously more adept at hiding its origins than was astrology! Moreover, it goes unexplained why astrology has had the privilege of being universally accepted within the framework of the most diverse cultures, which is inconceivable for a simple belief, superstition or divinatory practice, just as it is for a religion, philosophy, or ideology. A number of other deprecatory practices are used, together or separately, by historians hostile to astrology:

1. Setting up the arguments of astrologers against those of their opponents. [20]

2. Conflating, more or less consciously, "popular" and "serious" astrology. [21]

3. Ignoring the effective content of astrological models and treatises and, at best, contenting oneself with the drawing up of catalogues, or the editing of texts without translating them; or, on the other hand, doing a work of very detailed exegesis on texts often of minor interest astrologically, all the while holding one"s distance from a true comprehensive approach[22]

4. Condemning or passing over in silence any new evidence that does not agree with the models of antiquity; or, on the other hand, dismissing the subject on the basis of differences between several models. [23]

5. Studying astrology with an external bias (e.g., religion, astronomy, politics, semiotics, sociology, psychoanalysis, ethnology, etc...), which is predisposed to the notion of the disappearance of astrology as an autonomous field of knowledge. [24]

6. Attempting to expose an "internal" point of view, all the while considering astrology a priori to be an extinct superstition rather than a living field of study[25]

      It is the particular paradox of historians of astrology to ignore its recent advances. How can one evaluate the theories and models of the past without the light thrown on them by their modern formulation, and without knowledge of the state of current research? As long as historians continue to believe that a few popular handbooks suffice to give account of contemporary astrological reality despite its inquiries and investigations, it cannot possibly be a question of any enlightened study. Moreover, it is not a question of astrology needing just one history (be it the one approached from a sociological point of view, as with Cumont, or an astronomical one as with Neugebauer and Pingree, or a political one as with Cramer ...), what is needed is an epistemology, i.e. a critical reflection on the birth, transformation and future of astrology"s models, which presupposes a judicious understanding of its operative structures. The study of astrology requires its own space, one that does not falsify its perspective, does not alter its own point of view, and does not deny its very existence.

      Bouché-Leclercq [26]  makes the mistake of believing that his analyses dismiss texts without any inherent interest, to which he has devoted -- with distaste -- long years of difficult toil. But it is not through reading his work that one comes to understand Greek astrology, it is rather through studying the translations and commentaries that astrologers have begun to publish in this second period of the rebirth of astrology, which began under the Neptune-Uranus conjunction of 1993. [27]  And even if the history of astrology in the second half of this century has moved beyond the positivist stage of narrow-minded rejection of its object of study, it still shows itself invariably in an attitude of analytical salvage, which fails to recognize or dismisses outright the original contributions of astrology"s thinkers, contributions that are often formulated in a way foreign to the criteria of modern rationality, which means that the contributions are denigrated precisely because they are formulated in that manner.

      Despite the qualitative difference between astrological literature and the epi-astrological works of the academy, one learns more about astrology through reading the former, because it shows matrix-based reason in action, and, despite its bumblings and inadequacies, does manage to express something of that reality. Astrology is by no means a rag-bag of obsolete superstitions as it is styled by the professional historian. It is rather a body of knowledge that functions beyond the confines of discursive reason and dualistic thought, beyond the borders of simple interpretation of the visible on the basis of mental solicitations, and arises from an appeal to a larger reason, an opening of the mind to the entirety of psychic potential. The historian"s animosity, his pronounced disdain and his lack of understanding of living astrology should be no cause for surprise: the position such retributive thinkers occupy or claim for themselves leaves them no alternative but to enter as a foreigner and survey the ravaged country of astrologer.

12. Sociological Sophistry

"All our sociology knows
no other instinct than that of the herd,
that is to say, of zeroes added together."
(Nietzsche : Fragments Posthumes 1888-1889)

      The sociologist, contrary to the historian, is not familiar with astrology and wants to know nothing about it: it has interest for him only as a cultural syndrome and a resurgence within the environment of modern thought of an archaic, irrational, folk mentality. Hence he limits himself to interrogating the activity of the astrologer -- whom he considers to be a barbarian gone astray in the modern technopolis, not a truth-seeker or a man of learning, but simply a charlatan, an exploiter of the public"s gullibility or the instigator of a return to popular superstition. Edgar Morin: "At the moment in which man made his first steps on the moon, somewhere on Earth the cult of Madame Sun expired." [28]

      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.

      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.

      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.

      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.

      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!

      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.

      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]

      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.

13. 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]

      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.

      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.

      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.

      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?

      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?

14. 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.

      Paradoxically, if one were to illustrate the difficulties of astrology, the competent astrologer would have at his disposal a multitude of details that even the most enraged of his detractors might envy. First there is the natal chart, the importance of which is self-explanatory for the beginner who is ignorant of the complex operation of representation with a spatial orientation (usually that of the ecliptic) of the state of the sky at the hour and place of the native"s birth, i.e. of a particular moment in the geocentric celestial sphere, and of the complex spatial and temporal relations that link those elements. The difficulties and consequences of this projection of tridimensional space onto a simple diagram generally go unconsidered by the adversaries of astrology. [52]

      The projection of the planets onto the ecliptic is questionable: no planet (except the Sun) is ever really on the ecliptic, save at those points of intersection in the course of its revolution where the planet meets the ecliptic (at its nodes). Consequently, and especially for Pluto, serious discrepancies exist between its actual position and its projection onto the ecliptic during more than half of its orbital cycle, especially during the passage through Pisces, Aries and Taurus, then similarly through Virgo, Libra and Scorpio. This problem becomes a matter for concern with regard to domification and the position of the Aspects. Respect for astronomical reality inclines one to work out a Zodiac based on equatorial declinations, specific to each planet, or even to keep in mind the latitudes of the ecliptics.

      Anti-astrologers are especially fond of stressing the primacy of the chart of the point of conception over the birth chart, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the extreme difficulty of determining the exact moment of fertilization. Now the nervous system and the mechanisms of reception and integration of planetary rhythms are not formed at the moment of conception; it is only at birth that these new functions become active, especially at the point where respiration begins, which frees the infant from the maternal womb: "For the infant in the womb of its mother does not live on its own account; but it is simply a living part of its mother, and does not receive impressions that shape it in and of itself until the first moment when it breathes the air, and lives separately, as its own being." [53]  The psychoanalyist Otto Rank sees in the practice of birthing an astrological antecedent that supports his theses. [54]

      The assimilation of astrological structures into various interpretive models has given rise to a good many questionable ideas, e.g. the attribution of the element Air to Aquarius, or that of the feet to Pisces, of femininity to Taurus, or of time to Saturn on the basis of a phonetic conflation between the Greek terms Kronos and chronos ... These objections arise from a literal interpretation of symbols and from contradictions between differing interpretive models (an example of which is the extension of the theory of the Elements of the Zodiacal quadrants to the signs, Zodiacal melothesia, etc.). It is worthwhile to question these ideas. The coolness of Cancer, like the warmth of Sagittarius, underlines the incoherence of an interpretation, based strictly on meteorology or the seasons, of the elemental values attributed to the Zodiacal signs. Pico della Mirandola criticized the specious attributions of elemental qualities to the planets made by Ptolemy. [55]

      Kepler questions the foundations of the concept of a Zodiacal division into twelve equal signs and rejects the Houses and the idea of rulership because they only retain planetary aspects and cycles. Daniel Verney is the inheritor of this "planetarist reductionism." On the other side of the coin, the theory of harmonics put forth by John Addey gives free reign to an unlimited declination of the Zodiac. [56]  The theory of rulership does not just illustrate simple semantic correspondences between Zodiacal signs and the planets: it is the unifying theory of astrology in so far as Zodiacal, planetary and sectorial structures are differentiations of a single archetypal matrix.

      There exist different schools of thought in astrology, just as in philosophy or physics. A diversity of models does not constitute an incrimination of a particular discipline. In particular the plurality of methods of domification (i.e., the demarcation of the Houses in the celestial sphere) has yet to come to a consensus: the question of births at the poles and the divergence of opinion about the limits and direction of demarcation, about meaning, and even about the number of sectors, continue to cause ardent controversy.

      The existence of asteroids, [57]  primarily between Mars and Jupiter, along with a considerable number of planetoids recently discovered beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto-Chiron, should lead us to a consideration of the notion of "planet" and "the Planetaries" [i.e., the planets as a Gestalt]. According to Kant, it is the eccentricity of the orbit that differentiates planets and comets: "One might possibly still hope to find beyond the orbit of Saturn new planets more eccentric than these, and thus closer to the nature of comets (...) One could, if one wished, name as the last planet or the first comet the body the eccentricity of which would be so great that it intersects at its perihelion the orbit of the nearest planet, perhaps that of Saturn." [58]  This definition defines Pluto as the last planet of the solar system, since by reason of the eccentricity of its orbit it is closer at its perihelion to the Sun than to Neptune.

      By accepting into its practice fictive points (lunar nodes, parts, midpoints, hypothetical planets ...) and things such as fixed stars, comets and eclipses, the astrologer often forgets that the implied model must respect a triple exigency: an adequate consonance between factors and physical and astronomical reality; the necessity of their periodicity, which conditions their integration by the organism; and the coherence of the ensemble and the lack of redundancy in the posited operators. A chart is sufficiently complex so that certain factors must be added beyond the bodies themselves.

      The principal argument of Origen concerns the impossibility for the mind of forming synthetic judgments, which is to say, of interpreting the chart, unless it be by an accumulation of dualistic combinations that fail to satisfy but are the only things accessible to analytical thought. What astrologer, for example, is really able to synthesize the entire range of implications present in a conjunction of Sun and Saturn in Leo in the Second House, with a square to Jupiter in Scorpio? Origen uses the term syncrasis to designate this "mixture of astral influences that appear in such and such schematics, the complete meaning of which they themselves [the astrologers] by their own admission cannot grasp." [59]  A truely global comprehension of a partial configuration, and a fortiori of the totality of a natal chart, exceeds the capacity of astrology as much as of the faculties of mind themselves. Moreover, a natal configuration needs to be rooted in a personal problematic that keeps in mind the individual"s social, cultural, familial and mental contexts in which he develops (even if one astracts from genetic and earth-based influences). This is why the astrological reading of human reality must remain an impractical ideal. Astrological knowledge, beyond the reach of the human mind, would in its fullness be only accessible to the "angels."

      The discovery of Uranus in the year in which the first Kritik of Kant appeared, of the asteriods beginning in the year 1800, then of Neptune and Pluto, destabilized the planetary model -- already twenty centuries old -- as well as the logic of rulership. The Seven of the Ancients broke apart and were replaced, first among English astrologers, with Planetaries numbering 8, 9 and finally 10 elements. An abbott of Castelet mentions in 1681 as an "incontrovertible proof" against astrology, i.e. exactly 100 years before the discovery of Uranus, the probability of the existence of an infinite number of "invisible" planets after Saturn, and thus the possibility of being influenced by a whole host of factors that the astrologer is not even in a position to recognize: "Astrologers will claim that if in the space between Saturn and the center of the Earth there can exist an innumerable multitude of planets as large as Saturn, that rotate around the Sun as principal planets just like Saturn and Jupiter, they will also claim, I maintain, that if the possibility of this notion is accepted, it spells the end of astrology." 

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