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Astrology, Patriarchy and Postmodernism

Copyright 1999 by Bill Sheeran. All Rights Reserved.

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The post-modern sensibility reflects a radical shift in the collective psyche, or cognitive landscape. To my mind it highlights a symmetry breaking process in relation to the urges underlying patriarchally based thinking. Post-modern commentators are fond of writing articles with titles like "The Death of the Author", "The End of History", etc., which reflect this cathartic transformation. Given contemporary astrology's patriarchal roots, perhaps we are witnessing the Death of Astrology. But of course, this is a precursor phase in the process of rebirth. The onus is on astrologers to take on the difficult task of re-visioning its conceptual basis and to construct models which can flourish rather than wither in the emerging cognitive ground. This does not mean throwing out techniques, abandoning the experience of millennia, etc.. It's not the application that is the primary problem. It is the conceptual framework or theoretical/philosophical foundation on which the applied craft is based which needs to be addressed. The psychologically comforting and orderly "closure" promised in the past by Saturn in the form of Law and structured inevitability now has to bend to the opposing current of freedom, change and insecurity, as symbolised by the outer planets. Structure (being) is subordinated to process (becoming), a reversal of the previous norm, allowing an evolutionary potential into the system.

In a mythological sense, we are witnessing the resurrection of Tiamat. The cultural re-embracing of chaos and the unknowable currently underway presents an imperative to consciously re-negotiate the form our astrology takes within the new post-patriarchal framework. Unless this happens, astrology will make even less sense in the future than it does in the present.


[1] An accessible overview of various philosophical perspectives on science's claims to objectivity can be found in What is this thing called Science?, A.F.Chalmers, The Open University Press, Milton Keynes, England, 1978. For a classic critique of the supposed rational objectivity of science, see The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S.Kuhn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970.

[2] In Metaphors We Live By, G.Lakoff, M.Johnson, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1980 forceful arguments are made promoting the idea that truth is always relative to a conceptual system defined by metaphors, which themselves are culturally determined. The concept of absolute and objective truth is considered as a western cultural myth.

[3] For a good and readable introduction to postmodernism, see The Icon Critical Dictionary of Postmodern Thought, edited by Stuart Sim, Icon Books, Cambridge, England, 1998.

[4] Chaos Gaia Eros, Ralph Abraham, Harper Collins, New York, 1994 chapter 13, pp 157-167 gives a chronology of the wheel.

[5] See The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler, Harper & Row, New York, 1987

[6] Astrology in the Renaissance: The Zodiac of Life, Eugenio Garin, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 1983 presents arguments from the Renaissance period.

[7] For an informative and entertaining discussion of astrology and astrologers in Britain during the Victorian and Edwardian period, see A Confusion of Prophets, Patrick Curry, Collins & Brown, London, 1992

[8] A Confusion of Prophets, pp 109-121

[9] Time in History, G.J.Whitrow Oxford University Press, England, 1989, pp 41-42

[10] The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler, Harper & Row, New York, 1987

[11] The use of the telescope rapidly made clear that the solar system did not conform to the Platonic ideal of perfection.

[12] In the wake of the discovery of Newton's laws of motion, much effort was expended trying to mathematically prove that the solar system was stable, and therefore predictable. This proved to be impossible. See Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System, Ivars Peterson, W.H.Freeman & Co. New York 1993, pp 143 -169

[13] Einstein's theories raise questions about privileged positions such as fixed centres.

[14] Hubble demonstrated that the universe was expanding

[15] The solar system exhibits chaotic dynamics over long time frames. See Newton's Clock: Chaos in the Solar System, chapter 11 pp247-270

[16] See In the Wake of Chaos: Unpredictable Order in Dynamical Systems, Stephen H.Kellern, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1994

[17] See The Icon Critical Dictionary of Postmodern Thought, ed. Stuart Sims

Copyright 1999 by Bill Sheeran All Rights Reserved

This article was first published in The Mountain Astrologer, Issue no.84, April/May 1999

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