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on the nature
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This article originated as part of a post to the online ACT (Astrological Conference on Techniques) Mailing List on Sept 3, 1999. It was subsequently published in The Wholistic Astrologer, Issue #2, Nov 1999-Feb 2000.

On the nature of astrology

In my opinion, astrology is not a "thing" which exists separately and which can be dissected and understood in objective isolation. Astrology is an activity which entails the interpretation of symbols. Symbols are not solid. They are innately ambiguous. They mean nothing until mapped onto a worldly context (for example a client's life).

They also mean nothing until they have significance attributed to them by an astrologer. There's a whole range of symbols I give no significance to - for me they have no meaning. That doesn't exclude the possibility that they speak clearly to others.

The worldly context modulates the interpretative meaning of the symbols. What does Uranus square Venus mean for a 23 year old woman living in a culture with very strict social rules regarding relationships, as opposed to the equivalent living in contemporary down town New York?

The cultural conditioning and cognitive make up of the astrologer modulates his or her perception of the symbols' meanings, as does their level of understanding of the context at hand. Not only that, the form which astrology takes is an expression of a given era and culture. It evolves.

Astrology is what happens when an astrologer, a set of astrological symbols, and a context come together. Take out any one of these, and no astrology happens. Life happens, events happen, yes, but not astrology. The removal of the astrologer from efforts to understand the nature of astrology is particularly problematical, especially in relation to most (but not all) statistical experiments. This tendency is an unfortuate inheritance from objectivist science, which informed the education of most of those interested in carrying out such work. Good luck to them all, but the nature of astrology will elude their grasp.

The quest for certainty is a symptom of western neurosis. It afflicts both astrologers and scientists, among many others.

Here's a quote from mathematician and philosopher A.N.Whitehead (1861-1947):

"In the study of ideas, it is necessary to remember that insistence on hard-headed clarity issues from sentimental feeling, as it were a mist, cloaking the perplexities of fact. Insistence on clarity at all costs is based on sheer superstition as to the mode in which human intelligence functions. Our reasonings grasp at straws for premises and float on gossamers for deductions."

I'll drink to that celebration of ambiguity. For me, clarity peaks with the arrival of paradox. That's when I feel the nebulous presence of truth.

Copyright 1999 by Bill Sheeran All Rights Reserved