12.10.20

A Philosophy of Astrology #1 ~ The Intro


Let's try to think about astrology. Is it absurd? Is it meaningless? Is it the voice of the Gods? And what do we mean by astrology and by philosophy?

The basic astrological idea - that the movements of the heavens have something to say about life on earth in both a physical and a metaphysical way - was picked up by cultures all over the planet a long time ago. We have millennia-old artifacts pointing to systematic observation of lunar cycles and planetary cycles.

The global transition from a nomadic life of hunting and gathering to a more static, property-based life of farming and trade must have had something to do with the growing interest in natural cycles and concepts that we would now label as 'astrological'. The transition probably started some 10.000 years ago. Farmers would benefit from practical knowledge about the seasons. Kings might look for omens from Sky Gods or other kinds of important messages. In many ways astrology was one of the first sciences, together with mathematics, architecture and musical theories about tuning systems. Systematic observation of the sky started at least 5.000 years ago.

More recently, the industrial age and the information age have been less kind to astrology altho it never really went away. Nowadays a popular opinion would be that astrology is magical thinking or unenlightened nonsense. An alternative, unusually progressive view might be that since the Copernican revolution, a steady stream of practical and theoretical improvements in astronomy and cosmology have modernized and refined certain ancient astrological concepts.



Matter or mind?
The official academic history of philosophy as taught in Western schools started roughly 2600 years ago in Greece. The Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers asked basic questions about the essential stuff the universe is made of. Some, like Thales, said that everything is basically watery while others, like Heraclitus maintained that everything is basically fiery.

This simplistic picture of the birth of Western philosophy actually points to a more relevant philosophical discussion that you may have heard of. Nowadays, philosophers quarrel about whether, basically, everything is matter-like or mind-like. Is everything, including human consciousness, ethics, dreams and so on made of stuff? Or is matter essentially a by-product of some mental activity?

If we want to think about astrology, it seems almost inevitable to assume that the universe is basically mind-like. Matter-based explanations of astrological meaning, synchronicity and so on might be possible but so far they don't seem convincing. This fundamental 'bias' sends us in a general direction. For this series of blogs i will be relying quite heavily on a modern, rigorous flavor of idealist philosophy. The views of computer scientist and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup are a theoretical starting point. Kastrup knows his mathematics, quantum theory and philosophy of mind and he formulates his ideas clearly.



Conveniently, Kastrup also knows his C.G. Jung. The Swiss psychiater's intellectual legacy is at the core of Cosmos and Psyche, a critically acclaimed book by philosopher-astrologer Richard Tarnas. In Cosmos and Psyche he analyses some of the core principles of modern astrological theory, and offers fairly solid astrological perspectives on various kinds of worldwide historical events through the ages. Tarnas is also an inspiration for this series of blogs.

Since i've mentioned Richard Tarnas, i should say that i'm also very appreciative of the following authors, who have shaped my thoughts about astrology:
• Bernadette Brady, for her work on visual astrology and fixed stars;
• Benjamin Adamah, for his encyclopedic work on asteroids;
• Theodor Landscheidt, for his theories about golden ratio-aspects;
• Hans-Jörg Walter and David Hamblin for work on prime harmonics.

In the next episode, we'll look at the complex symbolic web of astrology.