Sunday, September 14, 2014

THE ASTROLOGY OF SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE



It is said that if you want to predict major events in someone’s life, then look at the charts of their close relatives. In the absence of a chart for Scotland, we need to look through the lens of the UK chart and see what is happening there.

First of all though, I don’t think that astrology on its own predicts much. It says a certain amount: for instance, we are currently in the latter stages of a square from Uranus to Pluto, that has impacted in a big way on the charts of all the major powers. So the astrology on its own has been saying with some certainty that the West would go through a major crisis and renewal over this period, and with less certainty but with high probability (based on history) that this crisis would centre around the economy.

The collective divinatory sea that has built up around the symbols involved tells us that much. It shows shapes in the mist. To see more clearly, you need the individual divinatory skills of the astrologer, his or her ability to use the symbols to see something beyond them.

And it’s the same with the Scottish referendum. The astrology on its own does not tell us which way it’s going to go. What it does say – through comparing a number of charts – is that something major is going on, and that even if there is a no vote, the impact will be lasting.


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The usual chart for the UK that astrologers use is the 1801 chart, the union of England and Ireland. Astrology is a symbolic rather than a literal, exact art (too much insistence on accurate data suggests that somewhere you are missing the point), and it’s as though a chart and a person/country grow into each other through repeated use. Like the US Sibly chart, which works well for the USA, but which is based on a symbolic rather than a literal time. And maybe it has worked better as time has gone on? That might be worth researching.


UK 1801 Click to Enlarge

The UK 1801 chart is emerging from Uranus and Pluto hard-aspecting its Sun and Angles. And the UK has been going through an identity crisis for some years now. Do we remain part of the EU? Will Scotland leave the UK? Even the traditional party-political set-up has shifted: we have the 1st coalition government since WWII, and UKIP has arisen as a serious challenge to the Tories.

The transits are set to continue as Uranus and Pluto move on to hard-aspect the UK Moon at 19 Cancer between now and approx. 2018, which covers the EU referendum in 2017.

The Sun is the leadership, the MC is the State and the Moon is the people. So changes to the leadership and state, leading to a change in the people a few years later. Big changes that take time to absorb and settle.

The referendum takes place on 18 September. My view is that the crucial astrological event of that day is a Lunar Return – the Moon will at one point be in exactly the same place, 19.26 Cancer, as in the natal chart of the UK. And it is the planet of the people, in the sign of homeland, a conservative sign.

UK Lunar Return 18 Sept
And at the exact moment of the Lunar Return, whether set for London or Edinburgh, the Sun and Angles will be in the late degrees of the mutable signs. This is not a good time for beginning a new venture – you want cardinal signs for that. The Iraq War was begun under Sun and Angles in the mutable signs (Sun at 29 Pisces) and that was a mess. It was able to begin because a collective hysteria had been whipped up, and I don't think this applies very much to the Scottish Referendum.

So this analysis suggests that the vote will be No to independence. If Scotland were desperate to get away, then I would read the mutable emphasis as a natural unravelling of the Union. But that is not the case, so it would take Cardinal energy to make it leave.

Scottish Parliament
At the same time, all this is happening under such intense transits to the UK Chart – the biggest in our lifetimes – that it will still be a seismic event. Something is being awoken in the people (Uranus square natal Moon over the next 2 years) on both sides of the border. Either way, Scotland will have increased powers of self-governance a year or two from now. Another referendum is perfectly possible when Pluto opposes the UK Moon in 3 to 5 years’ time (and that transit will also describe the EU referendum of 2017.) It may not, however, be orchestrated by Alex Salmond. His Sun is at 9 Capricorn, so his moment is now.

OTHER CHARTS

The chart for the Union of England and Scotland in 1707.

UK 1707
Pluto (shift in power) will be conjoining the ascendant of this chart in 2 years time, Uranus (breaking away) is squaring it right now. On the day of the referendum, the Moon will pass over the Moon-Desc conjunction in Cancer, which is very significant. This chart suggests something powerful is happening to the Union, and as it’s not getting closer, it suggests it is pulling away. The angular Mars at 20 Cancer is very significant, and like the 1801 Moon will be activated by Uranus and Pluto in the coming years. So again, if not independence now, then it looks likely in a few years.

The chart for the gradual disintegration of the UK, as I call the chart for 1922, when Eire left the Union.

UK 1922
What we see here is Neptune (dissolution) squaring the Asc next year, and then squaring the Sun in 3 to 4 years’ time, as Uranus and Pluto do their work on the Moon at 23 Cancer (whose sign and degree connect it to the UK 1801 chart). So again, we have a similar message to the 1801 and 1707 charts.

My overall conclusion is that Scotland will indeed become independent, but probably in about 5 years’ time rather than now.

UK 1801 Prog and UK 1922
Here’s a slightly uncanny one: the 1922 UK disintegration chart has MC at 5 Aquarius. If we progress the 1801 chart (the UK at its maximum size) to 2010, when the Scottish government published its 1st draft bill for a referendum on independence, the MC of this chart was also at 5 Aquarius. So the UK as a state (MC) moving into a period (progression) of disintegration (MC of 1922 chart).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Astrology and Chaos Theory (Part 3 of 3)

You can find the 1st 2 parts of this review of Bernadette Brady’s recent book ‘Cosmos, Chaosmos and Astrology’  here and here.



Another point I found hard to understand was a quote from Nick Campion and Liz Greene on p117 that “no two astrologers appear to be able to agree on what it is they believe in, how they define their work.”

Yet on p18 we read: “Patrick Curry offered a definition of astrology as ‘… the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and events on earth, and the tradition that has thus been generated’.

And I’m thinking well I can go along with that. I could say more about astrology than that, and I’m sure Patrick Curry could, and like any subject, we would find points we don’t agree on. But I can go along with that.

Dion Fortune
And I can also go along with Brady’s quote from Dion Fortune that: ‘Ceremonial, and especially talismanic, magic is the essential component of Astrology; for Astrology is the diagnosis of the trouble, but magic is the treatment of it by means of which the warring forces in our natures are equilibrated.’

I wouldn’t put it quite like Dion Fortune does, but something like that happens in a good reading: the astrologer as shaman, as witch doctor, as guide to the spirit world. It is the energetic communion, if you like, that seems to come from another world, as much as what is said, that does the work.

So on my own I appear to be disproving Campion and Greene’s ‘observation’. One exception is enough! And from a common sense point of view, I am able to communicate with other astrologers precisely because there often is a broad sympathy in the way we see the world. Take those of us who view astrology as essentially divinatory, does that not constitute a broad agreement as to the way astrology works?

So this ‘observation’ doesn’t seem to me to make sense, unless you artificially lead people to a point at which, sooner or later, there is bound to be divergence.  It is a point that Brady uses to support her statement that there is a confusion caused in modern astrology by the idea that astrology should conform to cosmic order. A statement that in itself I agree with; it is an important insight.
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In the absence of further clarification*, I am left wondering why this 'observation' was generated? Statements like this aren’t bare and objective, even though presented as such, probably with statistical back-up. They are generated for a reason. An effect of it, one could argue, is to privilege the academic perspective on the nature of astrology over the ‘confusion’ of lay astrology. It also opens the way to a relativistic, pluralistic view on astrology.

Pluto
Which Brady is in fact arguing against. Astrology, she says, has up until now been able to adapt to the changing nature of the societies in which it has been practised. To that extent it is relativistic, a cultural phenomenon. But it has not been able to adapt to modern society, because of society’s extreme affiliation with cosmos, with order. And this reveals the absolute element in astrology, with is its origins in chaosmos – in the irrational, in soul, if you like.

As she says, her book ‘concludes by viewing astrology as a product of human intuition put to the service of humanity’s need to bring a level of domestication to chaos in order to give meaning to life. In this regard it can be considered as one of humanity’s enduring subjects.”

Neptune
So there you have it. Astrology is a product of human intuition, defined at oxforddictionaries.com as: The ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning. In other words it is rooted in Chaosmos. And I think that is a very important epistemological statement. What astrology has to say comes ultimately from a non-rational source. It is, in other words, divinatory.

But astrology is also more than the above statement. The point about Chaos is that you cannot ‘domesticate’ it, not in the usual meaning of the word. Try doing that with an outer planet! I’d see it the other way round: astrology is there to chaoticise the domestic, the habitual and safe, by revealing the intentions of the gods. As Rilke says: “Every Angel is Terrifying.” Astrology awes us.

Nor does astrology just ‘give meaning to life’: an astrology reading is not meaningful unless we also consider what is being said to be true. It isn’t just a story that we find meaningful and useful. Astrology, or rather the astrologer, says things that are true, and if you don’t, your clients won’t come back. There needs to be insight and knowledge as well as meaning. I’m sure Bernadette Brady knows this as well as anyone. Without that truth, astrology is not anchored in earthly reality.

I view this book essentially as a plea for soul, couched in academic language, and I don’t think they are always happy bedfellows.

About 8 years ago I encountered Bernadette Brady’s books, computer programme and online newsletter on Visual Astrology. And I was struck by the raw power of astrology done in this way, that has been to a large extent lost to intellectualised horoscopic astrology. That work has been a considerable gift to the astrology world, partly in terms of technique, but principally to the strength of its soul.

And that underlying passion can be glimpsed in this book, which has original and important things to say. And I know I won’t be popular for saying this, but I think the academic medium cramps Brady’s style, and means that certain things can’t be said that need to be said. And what does get said could sometimes be said better through stories and images. Cosmos is an idea, but Chaosmos belongs more to feeling, it is life itself, ideas alone cannot do it justice.

For me, the central insight of this book is that astrology’s origins are in Chaosmos. And that is a starting place for a whole approach to astrology. It is akin to that of Geoffrey Cornelius in his book 'The Moment of Astrology', in which he maintains that astrology is essentially divinatory - ie that it comes from a non-rational source, which is what Brady is saying.

Geoffrey Cornelius is another astrologer involved in academia - in his case, in running the MBA course in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred at Canterbury. Their prospectus indicates that they aim to explore 'seemingly non-rational means of knowing'. That, of course, is a problem in academia, and as a result Cornelius' approach has been called 'one mumbo short of a jumbo' by a fellow academic. It's a tricky area, to which Brady and Cornelius take different approaches. 

My own view is that something that is crucial gets lost if one steps back too far from affirming the epistemological value of 'non-rational means of knowing.' You're left with the bathwater - of which there is plenty to go round - but no baby.

* There is a reference to this quote from Sky and Symbol by Greene and Campion, but in the absence of purchasing the book, the reader has to try and make what sense of it they can.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Astrology and Chaos Theory (Part 2 of 3)



You can find the 1st part of this review of Bernadette Brady’s ‘Cosmos, Chaosmos and Astrology’ here.



I don’t see division of the universe into Cosmos and Chaosmos as an absolute one. It is a useful distinction, pointing to different ways in which the mind works, and it has analogies. Apollo and Dionysus. Rational and Non-Rational. Saturn and Neptune. Pisces and Virgo. The inner planets and the outer planets. Indeed, the emergence of the outer planets over the last 250 years, which are not subject to rational control, amounts to a resurgence of Chaosmos in the face of an increasingly ordered Cosmos.

Central to Brady’s book is that the new scientific paradigm of Chaos and Complexity theory models the way astrology works.

Chaos Theory has been developed to model non-linear systems, systems that do not function in a predictable, cause-and-effect way. Like crowds, for example. Or weather systems. Small differences in the starting point can lead to huge differences in outcome. There are mathematical models for these systems. And there are various characteristics: Strange Attractors, Hopf Bifurcation, Saddle Points….. It is an arcane world that Brady does a good job of elucidating.

And then she lists these characteristics alongside those of astrology to make her case.

Strange Attractor
For example, Strange Attractors are “the moving foci [of a non-linear system] which seem to invisibly influence the external events or pattern.”

And the astrological analogy is: “Planetary combinations which define the nature or quality of what the person will attract towards themselves and the story of their life.”

Lung Bronchi
And: “Self-similarity and scale invariance. Repeating themes in patterns occurring in unrelated patterns – eg river systems and the bronchi of lungs.”

Alongside this: “Astrologers use of cycles which link planetary cycles with smaller cycles within an individual (or country or organisation) life.”

Brady makes her case, but I think it suffers from lack of illustration, particularly concrete cases of astrology working in the way it is said to. There’s nothing like a chart to bring the subject alive! 

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Like quantum theory before it, Chaos theory is a branch of science that has to model reality outside of the usual linear, causal framework. (It would be interesting to draw analogies between the ways quantum theory and astrology work. Eg the idea of the observer influencing the outcome of the experiment, and the astrologer doing the reading being as important as the chart itself? And that one is dealing with probabilities rather than certainties?)

And I think the analogy between Chaos and astrology may not ultimately prove relevant to how astrology is generally seen. I say this because the findings of quantum theory, which are 100 years old and which have profound philosophical implications, do not seem to have made their way into the public perception of science. 

Take Richard Dawkins, Emeritus Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. For him, scientific findings are the simple truth of things, religion needs to be rooted out, and fairy stories shouldn’t be read to children because they encourage them to believe in beings that don’t exist. Existence is a struggle for survival between ‘selfish’ genes. Because of his public position, he cannot be dismissed as an anomaly. He embodies an important cultural current, the 'academic establishment view', perhaps, that is at war with Chaosmos, holding a literal view of reality that a serious study of the philosophical implications of quantum physics would undermine.

So by the same argument, however well Chaos theory allows in the Chaosmos – the non-rational, the daimonic, feeling, life itself – I am not optimistic that understanding would find its way through to general perception.

There are a couple of points Brady makes that I want to question. On page 110 she says, “I make no claim to astrology’s efficacy”  (in using astrology “to observe the emerging patterns and timing of these patterns in a person’s life”.)

I thought it was an interesting thing for an astrologer to say. “I make no claim to astrology’s efficacy.” Why would she say that?

I guess I can understand it from a viewpoint of ‘scholarly objectivity’: you are claiming to stand outside your subject in some way, not influenced by personal feelings, and are therefore able to make an objective argument.

But hasn’t Bernadette Brady written this book precisely because she is an astrologer, precisely because she knows it is efficacious and would presumably have no hesitation in saying so, and is trying to make the subject more intellectually acceptable? How can that not influence her arguments?

It is a bit like a priest saying he makes no claim to the efficacy of Christian teachings. Then why would he be a priest? 

It seems to me to be a bit of a false position to take. I think the more straightforward way is to ‘declare an interest’ in the subject. If you read the small print on the back of the book, you will discover that Brady is a professional astrologer. It is almost hidden away.

Brady is undoubtedly influenced by her feelings for the subject, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t view that as biased or as lacking in objectivity. Knowledge that is the most interesting, the most alive, is that which is rooted in personal experience. It comes across. Something you may have observed about Pisceans, for example. It undoubtedly wouldn’t stand up to statistical testing, but it may nonetheless be true. The truths of ordinary human observation, which are so easily undervalued nowadays, but which served humanity well for thousands of years. And in which personal experience, feeling and intuition play a core part.

I've picked out this one sentence, "I make no claim to astrology’s efficacy", because it makes clear a stance that runs through the book without being explicitly stated. It is the elephant in the room. The efficacy of chaos theory as a useful way of describing reality is not questioned, and it is discussed in those terms. But astrology.... let's not go there. And that is understandable. But it is also defensive, and sets astrology up as the poor relation, hoping that by knocking at the door of Chaos Theory, she may be eventually allowed in to the party. And it sets up an imbalance, privileging Chaos Theory over Astrology as a means of knowledge.


I think this book needs a preface that addresses the issue, in which Bernadette Brady makes clear her own personal stance on the efficacy and value of astrology, and makes no apologies for it. And that addresses the intellectual climate and methodology that has resulted in an astrologer making the statement that: "I make no claim to astrology’s efficacy." (to be continued)