«THE RESPONSIVE COSMOS: AN ENQUIRY INTO THE THEORETICAL FOUNDATION OF ASTROLOGY BY JAMES BROCKBANK Submitted for a PhD in Theology and Religious ...»
THE RESPONSIVE COSMOS: AN ENQUIRY INTO
THE THEORETICAL FOUNDATION OF ASTROLOGY
Submitted for a PhD in Theology and
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter One: Astrologers and the Empirical, p21.
Chapter Two: Different responses to the lack of empirical evidence, p57.
Chapter Three: The Responsive Cosmos, p75.
Chapter Four: Astrological Methodology, p105.
Chapter Five: Divinatory astrology and the scientific researchers, 138.
Chapter Six: Quality of the astrological information, p195.
Chapter Seven: What astrology aims at or the truth of astrology, p201.
Chapter Eight: Bricolage and language games, p224.
Chapter Nine: Astrology as a new science, p233.
Chapter Ten: Elwell‟s correspondences, p239.
Chapter Eleven: Archetypal astrology, p256.
Chapter Twelve: Neo-Platonic divinatory astrology, p277.
Chapter Thirteen: Neo-Platonic astrology, p301.
Chapter Fourteen: Problems solved Part One, p318.
Chapter Fifteen: Problems solved Part Two – Criteria, p333.
Chapter Sixteen: Problems solved Part Three – Astrological knowledge, p358.
Chapter Seventeen: Problems solved Part Four – The purchase on an astrological enquiry, p368.
Acknowledgements I would like to thank my supervisor Patrick Curry for his support during the many years this thesis has been in preparation. The thesis presents a minority view so his encouragement has been appreciated. I would also like to thank Peter Moore for reading the first draft of this thesis and providing valuable comments and Louise Ronane who spent many hours in a hot south of France making editorial suggestions.
Abstract This thesis is concerned with what astrology is.
It rejects the view that astrology should be considered as an empirical science solely concerned with making predictions about the future. Instead, it argues that astrology cannot be a science and should be seen as a form of divination; that the astrological process requires the involvement of a non-human agency; and that the aim of the astrological enquiry is not primarily to obtain information about the future but to obtain guidance from this alternative realm.
The thesis argues that all the existing theories of astrology must assume the involvement of a non-human agency explicitly or implicitly, if they are to account for current astrological practice. This, however, is all that needs to be assumed. Further, it argues that if astrology is viewed in this manner many of the theoretical problems it is thought to have are solved.
It is argued that one of the many advantages of moving astrology from the realm of science to that of divination is that it will allow scholars, and others interested, to study astrology for what it is and not for what some have erroneously claimed it to be.
The responsive cosmos: an inquiry into the theoretical foundations of astrology Introduction Over the last forty years a large number of empirical tests have been conducted on astrology in an attempt to find empirical support for astrological techniques and procedures. Generally, astrologers have supported this enterprise because the experience of their own practice has led many of them to believe that there is a correlation between the position of the planets and events on Earth which an empirical approach should be able to find. However, none of these empirical tests has succeeded in finding a correlation which underlies any part of existing astrological practice, nor a correlation which would be of practical use to astrologers in their work. This has resulted in many astrologers becoming confused about what does underpin their practice and allowed many non-astrologers to dismiss the whole subject.
However, at the same time, in that practice, astrologers continue to experience that astrology “works”. That astrologers experience astrology “working” is not in dispute; what is in dispute is what is meant by astrology “working” and how to account for the experience of it “working”. As Arthur Mather, who does not accept the efficacy of astrology, and forms part of the group we will come to call the scientific researchers, has put it, “The experiences are real enough; what is in dispute is how they are best explained” (2008: 56). The scientific researchers argue that astrology should be an empirically based subject and have been involved in many of the failed empirical tests which suggest that it has no empirical support. They account for astrological experiences through the hypothesis of human judgment errors. It is their argument that there are many errors which humans fall into when they are making judgments which explain why astrologers may think or believe that they are having an astrological experience when they are not. Mather says that until astrologers “face this point, fruitful debate seems unlikely” (ibid).
It is the argument of this thesis that this approach is wrong; that the empirical approach to astrology misunderstands it and that the hypothesis of human judgment errors is fundamentally flawed.
Instead, this thesis proposes an alternative model:
that the practice of astrology relies on the involvement of a responsive cosmos. What is meant by this is that a non-human agency brings together astrological chart and context in a way which allows the astrologer, using the rules and traditions of astrology, to provide pertinent guidance on the matter being considered. It will be argued that the hypothesis of the Responsive Cosmos provides a better account of astrological experiences than the hypothesis of human judgment errors. In addition, the assumption of the Responsive Cosmos has two further advantages, at least if one is interested in accounting for extant astrological practice. First, with the exception of its antithesis, the empirical model, it is an assumption which all the important models of astrological practice rely on, explicitly or implicitly. And second, it can account for the apparent inconsistencies and contradictions of extant astrological practice.
This thesis will first, in chapter one, provide an outline of the empirical approach and the attachment astrologers have to it. It will then explain why it is both fundamentally flawed and a methodological error.
In chapter two it will briefly introduce some of the models proposed by astrologers in response to the lack of empirical evidence found for astrology and place them in their historical context.
In chapter three it will detail what is meant by the Responsive Cosmos, what it entails and why it is a necessary assumption which all practising astrologers must hold implicitly or explicitly. It will also explain why it is a useful term for scholars and all those interested in divination in general.
In chapter four it will outline astrological methodology: a methodology which does not rely on empirical science.
In chapter five it will consider the view of the scientific researchers, that astrology should be treated as a science, and compare the hypothesis of the Responsive Cosmos with the hypothesis of human judgment errors. This will require a full discussion of what is meant by astrology “working” and what is meant by an astrological experience.
In chapter six and seven it will consider the quality of the astrological enquiry and what, given that it is not an empirical enquiry justified through a verification test, it is aiming to achieve.
In chapters eight through twelve it will consider in detail the other main theories of astrological practice: astrology as bricolage; astrology as a language game; astrology as a new science; astrology underpinned by hidden laws of correspondence;
astrology underpinned by archetypes; and astrology as a form of divination which accesses higher neoPlatonic laws. In all cases it will be argued that the models require the assumption of the involvement of a responsive cosmos and that they either fail to elucidate astrological practice, have internal inconsistencies, or assume more than this necessary for the practice of astrology.
The majority of theories of astrology are neoPlatonic in inspiration so chapter thirteen will discuss neo-Platonic astrology in particular and how an astrological theory which claims to be nondivinatory can be derived from the same source as an astrology which claims to be divinatory. It will also outline the problems with neo-Platonic astrology.
Chapter fourteen will show how a number of theoretical problems, which any attempt to account for astrological practice must face, are resolved if the hypothesis of the Responsive Cosmos is accepted.
These problems - 'wrong' charts; reflexive charts;
reflexive clients; lack of repeatability - are only problems if one considers astrology to be something which it is not. However, the way the Responsive Cosmos solves these problems creates further issues which some may consider problematic: that astrology has no criteria for criticism; that astrology cannot add to human knowledge; and that there appears to be no reason to engage in astrology at all. These issues will be dealt with in chapters fifteen through to seventeen.
This thesis is philosophical in that what it attempts to do is to examine existing astrological models to determine whether they are consistent within themselves and to clarify the assumptions on which they are based. It is an attempt to sift through existing approaches to astrology so that those interested have a clearer understanding of what sort of world astrological practice assumes. At least two matters will become clear: first, that astrology is not and cannot be a scientific endeavour; and second, what astrologers (if they are to be coherent) necessarily must assume about the world. The first is important because it allows astrology to be studied in an appropriate manner and opens up the possibility of serious scholarly study. The second is a contribution to this body of work because at least one of the more recent scholarly studies is more concerned about what participants believed about their practice than in its
Whatever our ancient sources may claim about the greater powers that enabled it to work – gods, demons, the cosmos itself – divination is an utterly human art, behind which one can glimpse not only the rules that participants have developed for its engagement, but also the rules by which participants assume (or
hope) that the world works (Johnston 2005: 10).
Thus, although the view taken in this thesis is that the many cases of astrology “working” are examples of the efficacy of astrology, one does not need to accept the efficacy of astrology to appreciate the importance of points one and two above for any serious discussion of astrology as a practice.
The methodology used in this thesis is broadly what Stephen Toulmin calls humanistic. For Toulmin, during the seventeenth century four "humanist insights were lost": there was a move from oral arguments to written arguments; there was a move from the particular to the universal; there was a move from the local to the general; and a move from the timely to the timeless (1990: 30-35). These were lost, according to Toulmin, when philosophers and other scholars followed Descartes in a search for certainty, and have only begun to resurface in academic discussion during the twentieth century in the work of Dewey, Wittgenstein and others.
The reason for using this methodology is clear.
The thesis argues that a scientific approach cannot elucidate extant astrological practice and that astrological practice is concerned with the individual lives of humans. It is, therefore, important to use a methodology which incorporates these insights. Why this is necessary becomes clear if we consider these insights in more detail. By a move from oral arguments to written arguments Toulmin is concerned by a move from rhetoric to formal logic. Before Descartes, how an argument was received by its intended audience was considered important whereas after Descartes arguments were expected to consist of "written chains of statements whose validity rested on their internal relations" (ibid: 31). According to Toulmin this has had the following result: "The research programme of modern philosophy thus set aside all questions about argumentation - among particular people in specific situations, dealing with concrete cases, where varied things were at stake - in favour of proofs that could be set down in writing, and judged as written" (ibid: 31).
A research programme along these lines is inappropriate for a study of astrology. In any astrological configuration there will be many factors which will contradict each other and for which, as we shall see, there can be no one rule for determining what judgment to make. Astrologers often use their clients to help them decide between different possible outcomes and, as we shall show, this dialogue is an integral part of astrological methodology. If one excludes this dialogue, in which the participants discuss the specific situation in which they are involved, as a legitimate part of the astrological process, which is implied by a research programme in which people in specific situations are ignored, then, not only is one failing to understand the methodology of astrology, one will inevitably argue that astrological practice should be reformed so that astrological judgments follow a methodology which will produce a judgment determined only by the position of the planets. This, however, as we shall see, cannot be done.