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 symbolic processes, that somehow transcend the physis~psyche duality. Call it a web of meaning, 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 side 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 nice things and accumulation of socio-cultural capital. And so on and so forth. If we include stars and asteroids, there are thousands of celestial bodies that have their own, fairly unique symbolic fingerprint.

Dynamic symbolism
The symbolism of Mars and Venus interact with each other. As the celestial bodies move along their orbits, the quality of the symbolic interaction changes. This continuous process of symbolic modulation is usually thought to be mostly based on harmonic principles. These play out most clearly in the form of a few easily observable and measurable geometric relations ~ most importantly longitudinal angles. Relatively strong and notable modulation of 'symbolic potential' occurs when from a geocentric perspective, two celestial bodies are conjunct (fusion-quality, 0° longitude) or in opposition (tension or conflict-quality, 180° longitude). When Venus and Mars are conjunct, their symbolic contents fuse and even make love so to speak. When the planets are in opposition, their symbolic contents are in some sense fighting each other. Higher harmonic angles all have their own specific 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 the point that an abstraction is not the thing itself."

Now, it seems obvious that we can't have a complete, detailed, meaningful map of the entire Universe. In fact, 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 qualities? In the same map or chart, they will also add more abstract stuff like an ascendant, a house division system and so on. So, to avoid map-territory mistakes, keep in mind that an astrological chart may contain a very diverse mix of references to physical objects (stars, planets etc.), basic geometrical projections (ascendant, lunar nodes, midpoints) and cultural/traditional constructs (zodiacs, house systems, even 'imaginary objects'). In my opinion, some items in the last category have limited use as 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, in my experience asteroid astrology is mostly house-agnostic. Symbolically this makes sense as we should take into account that house-systems were developed 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 chart which can be likened to 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 small pieces of a giant 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 could be woven together. It seems simply impossible if one assumes that the so-called 'laws' of physics rule the whole of Nature. And at first glance, 2500 years worth of philosophical thought about causality, time and free will don't seem to help much 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, astrological order is both quantitative and qualitative. It's symbolic, it produces meaning and in some sense it communicates.

In the next episode we'll explore astrological findings pointing to a deep causal anomaly.