Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Astrological Multiverse

Astrology portrays a Universe of multiple realities. Particularly if you view the planets as individual presences, as gods. How things look from Pluto’s point of view, for example, is quite different to the Sun’s point of view. Pluto lives in the Underworld, the Sun lives in the sky. Pluto wants us to be true to our instinctual selves and to purge anything inauthentic. The Sun wants us to individuate, to break free from the stifling effect of natural, collective humanity and to reach upwards.

Fundamentalism is the idea that there is only one reality, whether that is Christian, Islamic or Scientific. In the West, fundamentalism came in with Christianity, and we are still in that medieval mind-set, albeit with a different label: the idea that reality is material and there is only one way that it is, you cannot ultimately have competing stories. On the surface, we think we are freeing ourselves from medieval superstition. But when you chuck something out, it has a way of remaining under a different guise. And is not the idea that reality is rational just another superstition?

I once asked a Canadian Indian friend, a story teller, don’t your people get fundamentalist about their Creation Stories? And he said no, because we have a number of contradictory stories! There you have it, and there astrology has it.

All that said, I think we have remarkable freedoms nowadays to live as we want and to think and speak as we want. No-one is forcing us to accept any fundamentalisms, which wasn’t the case a few hundred years ago. I think we need to cherish and value those freedoms, because historically they are rare, and who knows how long they will last? There is no law that says that they will last. So many people in the West, often from the ‘educated, liberal consensus’, seem excessively anti-government these days, they imagine they are being oppressed. Actually, we’ve got it really good when you look, for example, at much of the Middle East.
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And another thing. Not only have we been conditioned for 1000 years and more to believe there is only one reality. We have also been taught to think that unless there is a particular type of explanation for a phenomenon, then that phenomenon is not real. It is the famous ironical example of bees not being able to fly because aerodynamic theory said they couldn’t.

There is no scientific explanation for astrology, for homeopathy, for acupuncture etc etc. , so therefore they do not work. That is the way many people think. But that is not thinking, that is a form of madness. (As the Buddha said, ‘All worldlings are mad’: what seems ‘normal’ is often quite crazy when you stand outside of it. Plato’s Cave is another way of saying the same thing.)

There is no reason I can think of as to why astrology should work. I’m suspicious of any attempts to explain it. I’m forced to live in a world where the main thing I do works for no reason I can fathom, and that has a philosophical consequence. I think it forces me to accept things as they are, to believe my experience, and not take explanations for any phenomenon too seriously. I mean, I love some of those explanations, don’t get me wrong, I love science and I follow it. I think the explanation of how the Sun produces heat through nuclear fusion is great.  But at the end of the day all I see is this hot bright disc that goes round the earth and is about the same size as the Moon. That is what is primary.

If I am going to get into explanations, then my criterion is probably imaginative. Does it appeal to my imagination? If not, then I will discard it, like that dreadful ‘Heat Death’ theory of the ultimate fate of the universe about which Brian Cox waxes so enthusiastically. I like the Big Bang, that’s quite cool, I can accept that. Not that anyone was around to see it, but I’ll be lenient on that one. For the ancient Greeks, there was also nothingness to start with, out of which came Gaia, the Earth, who gave birth to Uranus, the Sky. Uranus fertilised Gaia, out of which the Titans were born. And so on.

I like the tremendous power of the Big Bang theory. And I like the recognisable, concrete imagery of the Greek creation myth. But they are both about something coming out of nothing, and I see no reason to call one fact and the other myth. Give me myth any day. A myth can contain far more truth than a mere fact.

And there is the multi-verse theory which for some scientists seriously contains the notion that different universes may have different physical laws. I like that. We are back to multiple realities.

And back to where I started. I really want to back astrology as an antidote to fundamentalism. I think it has a lot to offer our modern way of thinking, because it works but it has no explanation, and because it sees the universe mythologically, all these gods with their own powers, their own differing realities.

Of course, astrology can easily be turned into another fundamentalism, once you have a canon of knowledge, of accepted meanings, that becomes rigid, and in the hands of the high priests who feel that only they have the right to say what is and is not canonical. And then you start to lose the power behind the planets. And this sort of development is inevitable, because people are people.

I suppose at the end of the day I am talking about something that is living. If something is alive, then you don’t need the sort of discussion I have been having. OF COURSE reality is fluid, with as many viewpoints and stories as there are people, OF COURSE we accept things that work without also needing them ‘proved’ to make them real.

But often a big part of what an astrology reading is about is clarifying the ways we are resisting life and its continuous requirement that we move on, that we change, that we let go of the old. It’s human nature to find change difficult, to stay with the known. And fundamentalism, in a way, is just that tendency writ large. Fundamentalism is always going to be there as a collective tendency, and any wisdom tradition will always have to fight to keep the life flowing through it.

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reikimargaret said...

I love this. Fantastic. Thank you. I just resigned from an organization that I helped start, because it has been taken over by Christian fundamentalists. They said, "We have to have a Christian based program otherwise the kids won't even know where values came from." They are in charge of our model replication and will not support us anymore if we do not follow their pure model." Time for me to leave. Your words sing truth to me, thank you.

Isy Aweigh said...

Homeopathy, astrology and multiple universes make sense in terms of quantum physics. String theory, in even the quanta-for-poets books I have to satisfy my curiosity with due to math dysfunction in my brain, has room to accommodate all of this.

So tell those scientific nay-sayers to get their ideas forward of the 1600s, maybe into at least the 20th century if they can't quite manage this one ;-)

Magic Dragon said...

One of the healthiest ways to go is to look over and over again at the way we understand reality. This is the best medicine against crystalisation and fundamentalism. You seem to be questioning why astrology works and then coming to the conclusion that you don't understand it, but it does not matter because it works. It is a possibile explanation among others, but it suit you, so you choose it. The again, you question it again. To me that sounds as a very healty, honest attitude. It is also in harmony with the idea that reality is fluid and ever changing.
Interesting post. Interesting critical position. You are in good health (if I may say so).

Robert Wilkinson said...

Grant Lewi gave a great explanation about why Astrology works in "Astrology for the Millions." If you haven't read it, it's a great romp that I'm sure you'd enjoy.

As for why I know it works, well, cars have a vintage, wine has a vintage, and we have a vintage. Each thing created at a certain time and space has its qualities, some of which resemble other things created at or near that time, yet different in some very important ways.

It's not a mystery that if all is vibration, then pulses get set into motion at certain times, and fulfill their patterns. We are a solidified form of Light energy, and our breath begins our pulses, both obvious and subtle. That's also the basis of acupuncture. There are many pulses in the body, and each show us a healthy or dysfunction system within a larger system. Why would astrology be any different?