A Philosophy of Astrology #2 ~ The Web

If we take the astrological claim serious, we assume that reality as it appears to us and life as we know it are in some sense synchronized by metaphysical processes, that have deep roots in physical reality. Call it a web of meaning, or Indra's net, or even astrological order.

In astrology, each celestial body is thought to represent its own unique symbolic content (or flavor). For example, the planet we call Mars is named after the Roman God of War, and it's core astrological symbolism is roughly related to the more assertive aspects of the struggle for life (survival of the fittest). On the other hand, the planet we call Venus is named after the Roman Goddess of Love, and it's symbolically related to the accumulation and preservation of socio-cultural capital. And so on and so forth. If we include stars and asteroids, there are thousands of celestial bodies that are relevant to astrology. Each body has its own, fairly unique symbolic fingerprint.

Dynamic symbolism
According to astrologers, the symbolism of Mars and the symbolism of Venus dynamically interact with each other. As the physical celestial bodies keep moving along their orbits, the quality of their symbolic interaction changes. This process of 'symbolic modulation' is usually thought to be based mostly on harmonic principles. These principles play out in the form of easily observable and measurable astro-geometric relations ~ most importantly longitudinal angles. The strongest, most notable modulation of symbolic potential occurs when from a geocentric perspective, two celestial bodies are conjunct (fusion-quality, 0° longitude) or in opposition (conflict-quality, 180° longitude). When Venus and Mars are conjunct, they fuse and make love. When they are in opposition, they fight. Higher harmonic angles all have their own specific modulatory qualities like absence of friction (1/3), friction (1/4) and formation/creation (1/5).

In other words: in astrology celestial symbolism gets 'mixed' just like sounds, colors or herbs and spices can be mixed. Movements in the sky modulate the symbolic potential and when we add it all up we get the symbolic flavor of the moment or the astrological weather.

Territory or map?
Here's some Wikipedia-wisdom for you: "Alfred Korzybski remarked that 'the map is not the territory' and that 'the word is not the thing', encapsulating his view that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself."

Now, it seems obvious that we can't have a complete, detailed, meaningful map of the entire Universe. Unfortunately, we can't get a good impression of the actual celestial territory either. When we look at the heavens, with the naked eye or aided by a telescope, we essentially look into the past, because of the speed of light.  

When astrologers draw a celestial map (snapshot), they add stars, planets and asteroids. What exactly are they referring to? The locations of physical bodies? Or perhaps metaphysical bodies? Next, in the same map, they will also add more abstract stuff like an ascendant, a house division system, abstract astrological signs (derived from constellations), perhaps the lunar nodes and so on.

To avoid map-territory mistakes, keep in mind that an astrological chart contains a mix of references to physical objects (stars, planets etc.), mathematical projections (ascendant, medium coeli, lunar nodes, midpoints) and cultural/traditional constructs (house systems, sign systems, imaginary objects). The last category has limited use, as most of the related techniques only 'work' properly in their own cultural context. This is why Johannes Kepler didn't think of them as "more certain fundamentals of astrology". For example, asteroids are mostly house-agnostic. This makes sense if we take into account that houses were used long before the first asteroids were discovered.

Astrologers claim that any combination of earthly place-and-time coordinates ~ like Amsterdam Central Station, today at noon ~ is related to a specific spectrum of symbolic potential: the symbolic flavor of the moment or the astrological weather, as signified by a snapshot of the Solar System taken at precisely that place and time. If the potential flavors that are indicated by the snapshot are actualized in some physical or mental form, they can be observed and sometimes even quantified. This requires some knowledge of the state of the map, a good grasp of the symbolic concepts and some talent for pattern recognition. Psychological insight is also a big plus.

In the Amsterdam Central Station example, potential symbolic flavors could become actual in a wide range of physical and/or psychological expressions. Anything from a messy train schedule to a perceived threat of a terrorist attack or remarkable details in the performance of a street artist, all depending on the particulars of the moment.

The moment of creation: birth charts
Astrologers will also go a big step further, claiming that the flavor of the moment of 'creative' events, like the birth of a child or the official registration of a new company by the proper authorities, is permanently coupled to the child, the new company and so on. This concept is again formalized using a celestial snapshot: the birth chart. To make matters worse ~ as in more entangled ~ astrologers even claim that a birth chart contains certain details about one's future relations with other people, organizations and so on. In other words: even if astrologers are only half right, life on Earth is highly synchronized, all is connected, and all astrological charts (snapshots) fit together quite seamlessly like pieces of a puzzle. And since the rules of this cosmic meaning-game are written in the sky, embodied by stars, planets, asteroids and so on, the astrological perspective, or perhaps better: astrological order is deeply holistic and also cyclical, in the same sense that our Solar System is cyclical.

This is a baffling concept. It's extremely difficult for the modern Western mind to imagine ~ let alone comprehend ~ how such an intricate web of physical and metaphysical patterns could be woven together. It seems simply impossible if you assume that physics rules the whole of nature. And 2500 years worth of philosophical thought about causality, time and free will doesn't help either.

Personally, i assume that in some sense astrological order precedes time and billiard balls causality. I think the same is true for numerical order. While numerical order is easily observable in the physical realm in terms of quantity (with a little knowledge of geometry and algebra), astrological order is both quantitative and qualitative. It's symbolic, it produces meaning and in some sense it communicates. But sometimes the message seems to be purposefully ambiguous.

To bolster my claim about astrological order, in the next episode we'll explore astrological findings pointing to a deep causal anomaly.