Why I Am Rethinking Astrology

Why I Am Rethinking Astrology


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Fun astrology fact: This semi-naked man is pouring whatever that is all over my life right now

You ever have one of those 72 hour periods that could be an indie Miramax movie? The kind of movie where everything goes wrong and Michael Cera plays himself like he always does?

Let’s recap:

  • Woke up at 6:30am on Friday to find that we had been robbed because my useless alcoholic flatmate came home wasted at 3am and left the door swinging in the snowy breeze. For the third time this year.
  • What was taken included two laptops, a Banana Republic clutch from under the tree that was due to be gifted that evening, a work bag containing keys to a rental car that was parked out the front, a SatNav and a few other things.
  • Two hours later, after telling the flatmate he just cost me a holiday and needs to find a new place to live, I’m on a conference call from my bed (avoiding the flatmate) to Germany whilst simultaneously listening for the pointless fingerprints cop to show up at the front door/scene of the easiest crime ever.
  • My Polish cleaner has gone AWOL so -in between entertaining officers of the London Metropolitan Constabulary- I’m cleaning and cooking in preparation for the Christmas dinner party on Friday night.
  • Had to send my partner across town (skipping work) to replace the Banana Republic clutch before the party in the evening, as tube services are closing all around him. It took five hours.
  • Which meant he almost missed replacing his laptops (both belonged to him) with an iPad (hooray!) -a necessary purchase given that it’s cheaper than a laptop and he has a play he needs to submit. We cloud compute so thankfully he only lost a day’s work rather than the entire play he has been working on for more than a year. Still, this isn’t exactly a financially secure time of year for anyone. It’s a sub-optimal arrangement, to say the least.
  • My landlord got a call from the police, came round, agreed that I should kick out the flatmate and then spent almost an hour being racist in front of me about the conjectured ethnicity of our home invaders. Ordinarily this is the type of discussion I like to loudly and brutally shut down but I needed him on-side to kick out the asshole flatmate. So I say through it like Roger Rabbit hidden in the back room of the diner, steam coming out my ears, just waiting to explode.
  • Saturday, the worst blizzard in fifteen years hits London, closing all the airports. I, however, have agreed to show a cousin I haven’t seen in twenty years around the middle of town on the busiest shopping weekend of the year -including the busiest shopping district on the planet. (Oxford Street.) She even wanted to see Harrod’s -which has a queue to even get into the building this close to Christmas.
  • Sunday saw me escorting my cousin to the British Museum by way of Covent Garden because she needed a medication refill -at a store that refused to open when it was supposed to. So we waited out the front for half an hour and then left in a rage. (Good to see that’s a genetic thing. Makes it easier to work on.)

So yeah, not the most lifehacked last-weekend-before-Christmas. And let’s just extract a few choice phrases from my monthly forecast to run alongside what happened:

  • Note: Friday was the 17th. Italics mine:

On December 3 and 17 you could become distracted and allow errors to slip through, for Uranus, planet of unexpected happenings, will be in a bad mood on both days, first arguing with Mars, and then with the Sun. If you need to travel on these same days, December 3 or 17, you could have unexpected problems getting there, or once you arrive (if the trip is for work), find that you don’t agree with an authority figure, co-worker, or other person you will meet or interact with at the time. The problem need not be centered only on someone you work with on the job. If you hire staff at home, say, a nanny, for example (and that person routinely travels with you and your family), you might have problems with that person on these dates. Try to keep cool.

  • The estranged cousin arrived and I hosted a dinner party for people I have known for two decades but don’t see that often:

Mercury retrograde does have its upside in that you will likely meet up with a number of old friends during the month. Mercury in retrograde encourages us to look back and reconnect.

  • More regarding Mercury -a whole host of our electronics was stolen (and no one else’s was in a house of four people.):

Buying expensive things is not a good idea during Mercury retrograde, and the one category of gifts that is most troublesome to buy is electronics.

This post needed a less homosexual stellar image so I went with this one.

There are more, of course. You can read the whole thing here. But unless you are a late June Cancerian, as previously mentioned, reading other people’s horoscope is the second-most boring thing in the world behind hearing about their dreams.

(Check out your own horoscope, however. It’s a great site… Except for the pop-unders.)

So where does that leave astrology?

I know that I can sometimes sail a little close to the wind when I deploy sociocultural/contextual/demographic analysis when discussing magical traditions… This is an unfortunate side-effect of being a media whore… It’s kinda my job.

But watch as I do it for my own tradition:

Chaos magic’s dismissal of astrology was born out of the fact that it was initially a late-70s movement built from a (necessary) rejection of pompous western magical traditions… And if you are old enough to remember, you will know that astrology was a big, disgusting, inaccurate, faddish monstrosity in the seventies -devolved from sixties mysticism (anyone seen the musical “Hair”?)- and it very much had to go.

A reactionary movement needs to throw babies out with the bathwater… And the astrological babies of the seventies should frankly never have been brought to term.

However (western) astrology isn’t just a seventies thing, obviously. Seventies astrology had to be abandoned. But we do have an extra two and a half thousand years of astrology to look at. And here is where my rethink over the past year is located.

It’s been difficult. You know I like to wear my science camp badge with some pride. (Yes, I went to science camp once. I strapped a rubber chicken to a bottle rocket and wasn’t invited back.)

I still don’t like astrology. I’m still suspicious of it, just as I am suspicious of romanticising any part of the classical world. Let’s not forget that the Ancient Greeks kept slaves and institutionalised pedophilia. They weren’t ‘mystical’. They were geographically the best located to scoop up all the good stuff from Persia (and thus Asia) as well as Egypt and the Fertile Crescent. And the layout of their territories (lots of little bits surrounded by water) made it very difficult to thoroughly invade so they had enough time to let these ideas cook. Geography is always at the heart of any national or cultural success. Just look at Britain in the mercantile age or post-unification America. (Or China right now.)

Still… A year of observation has thrown up too many correlations to be dismissed. Which means I have two current theories:

  1. Astrology provides some structure to your life which is self-fulfilling. If you are single and “Friday is a good night to meet someone new” then you will go out when you otherwise may not have. Or you will avoid buying electronics some months but not others. (Note I got my partner to buy our iPad. Technicality? I’m not interested in finding out.) Don’t underestimate the efficacy of deploying any kind of structure into a previously unstructured life. This is why life hacking works so well. If you can get on top of the house cleaning and the groceries then that same organisational method will start to improve other parts of your life as well. I would say this is about 90% of predictive astrology.
  2. Correlation exists without causation. The idea that the apparent observed backsliding of one lifeless planet from the perspective of a slightly-less lifeless planet has any direct, measurable impact on whether or not I should buy an iPad is absurd. It’s rubbish. Throw that baby out the first floor window and into the street. HOWEVER… However… a spectacularly out-of-date and astronomically useless observation of said planet’s movement may coincide with my electronic difficulties without actually causing them in any way.

And point two is where it gets weird.

My operating theory is that astrology is 90% point one and 10% point two. Note that this is about the same ratio I consider practical magic to be explicable: 90% of magical effects can be explained psychologically… The other 10% -where plates fly around the room for instance- can’t.

Unfortunately, the stumbling block for me is that last 10% is worse for astrology than it is for practical magic. Because you find yourself saying:

“There appears to be a late-single-digit number of ‘powers’ impacting human life and nothing else as far as we can observe… In a way that is somehow predictable… For reasons we can’t discern. Why would these powers be predictable? Unless they want us to know about their impact beforehand. But then, why would they want that? The whole thing is very inefficient especially if their messages appear to amount to little more than ‘don’t buy an iPad for Christmas’. Why would a cosmic power behave predictably? Knowing where you are going to be in 52 000 years. That’s a worse dead end job than mine.”

I don’t have an answer for this. I probably won’t ever have an answer for this. But this is the thought that has been rattling around my brain over the course of my wacky Miramax weekend: What the fuck is up with these stars then?

Just to end on a small piece of irony:

The cousin I haven’t seen for twenty years that I showed around a blizzardy London this weekend… She spends her professional hours looking for evidence of life in other galaxies as well as investigating the origins of the universe.

She’s a professional astronomer.

Nice twist. And now the credits will roll over some outtakes while an indie/folk track starts playing.

14 Comments

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  1. 1
    Pallas Renatus

    One point I’d like to make regarding the predictability of the powers: they effect each one of us differently, according to our natal charts. For truly individually predictive results, each of the planets (and any other misc. “powers” you include on your chart), have to be examined in relation to each other, and then in relation to each planet in your natal chart. The number of variables get astronomical (hehe) very quickly.

    Which is why creating a prediction “for Leos” is a as accurate using a hammer for surgery; you’re going for vague statistical trends, using 3 or 4 interactions instead of dozens, rather than predicting accurate advice for one person.

    Also, do not let your partner buy (or steal) Plants vs. Zombies for his iPad. Nothing will get done for weeks. You’ve been warned =)
    Pallas Renatus´s last blog post ..On Where Not To Find Spirits

  2. 2
    Chrysilla

    I have such a love/hate relationship with astrology. If it is “true”, then my personality/fate are frozen in a planetary configuration from the day I was born. Making it a false boundary on myself and a crutch at the same time. And don’t get me started on Mercury in Retrograde :-P

    I started studying it when I was 10, so its hard to break the habit. In a way its my crack. Or crisps. No need to roll or focus or ask a well thought out question, its just THERE. Tons and tons of it on the internet.

    Also, so sorry about your home! At least you’re not in a Guy Ritchie film?
    Chrysilla´s last blog post ..Autumn Rose

  3. 3
    Rufus Opus

    The thing is, the planets, the physical chunks of space time, aren’t the sources of the powers they’re reflecting. They’re the hands on the clock, not the gear work, nor the passage of time itself. Indicators, sign posts reflecting what’s going on in the heavens in a predictable way. The forces are at work all the time in different proportions, astrology just lets you see how the forces are interacting at the moment in general.

  4. 5
    Zanthera

    Sometimes it is drastic measures that help with change or redirection you didn’t see you needed before. That and it is a great fodder for blogging giving that it is human nature to take interest in another’s misery.

    One of my apartments was seized by a paranoid landlord who thought giving my TV to my uncle who watches way more than I do (his was almost dead) and bringing my laundry over to do was me making a midnight run. For some reason I didn’t want to fight it. I sat back and looked at my life and decided I needed to hit reset button and leave that life behind. Leaving 3000$ in comic books was the worst part of it. I can’t even look at a comic book now thinking I would still be single if I didn’t leave it behind. Not only my love life take off but other things as well.

    So don’t be so harsh and yes sometimes astrology likes to do an “I told you so.” To avoid quoting Newton here I will leave this note as is.
    Zanthera´s last blog post ..When Lost

  5. 6
    Hierax

    Gordon, astrology is one of those things that don´t make sense in the modern scientific worldview (and no, no quantum physics talk, please). You need to get medieval, or rather, Neoplatonical. Take a look at Chris Warnock´s site:
    http://www.renaissanceastrology.com/

    Mr. Warnock is an expert in Renaissance Astrological Magic based in Marsilio Ficino, Agrippa, etc. His approach is very practical and hands-on, without the fuzzy psychobabble characteristic of many modern astrologers. If you find it interesting, I sugest John Frawley´s books, The Real Astrology, The Real Astrology Applied, The Horary Textbook, etc. Frawley is an absolutely brilliant defender of the classical tradition of astrology which actually predict events, instead of saying “you will feel so-and-so”. He lambasts mercilessly what he calls the useless practice of moden astrology. But perhaps the best introduction to magical approach to astrology is Estelle Daniels´ Astrologickal Magick. She´s not as deep as the authors above, but she explains in a light-hearted way how to use astrology for magic working.

  6. 8
    Lyn

    Wow – what a weekend Gordon. Just wow.

    I hardly ever follow astrology these days – not enough time. I go around in circles (like a typical Pisces lol) alternating between thinking there must be something to it to thinking there must not.
    Lyn´s last blog post ..Snow and Guardian of Stonehenge

  7. 9
    Psyche

    This early-July Cancerian isn’t terribly fond of astrology either. I don’t like the idea that my personality is fixed at birth and essentially unchangeable (though genetics suggests this, too). Everyone’s chart seems to highlight how unique and special they are, and much of what comes out in mine is just plain wrong. For instance, I must be the least nurturing person to ever be born under this sign.

    I much prefer mapping with tarot, as it’s something that’s symbol-laden and dynamic enough to work with in any given situation.

    Hope next weekend proves easier.
    Psyche´s last blog post ..First Rouge editions now available

  8. 10
    Wendy S.

    After reading all your exploits between the jerk-off flat mate and the whole Mercury is sending you some of his thieves your way,(sorry to hear about that btw) I’m ready for a long Winters nap. I’m impressed that you were able to blog such an eloquent and well thought out post. My mind is going in dizzy cycles. Libra sun, virgo moon and asc. which is pounding the heck out of my airness. I’ve learned that the best way to utilize astrology for myself is to go the archetypal route. I had to laugh at your comment about the Greeks not being any more mystical and spiritual than the rest of the civilization. But, they sure as hell knew how to make up some good stories that applies to the whole collective conscious that hasn’t died off any in this era. And I checked out the astro. website you mentioned, it is pretty good, but just confirms that I need to hibernate starting like, yesterday if I’m ever going to survive, sigh…

  9. 11
    Deb

    Two Xmases ago, mine was similiarly shitty and it’s just . . .awful.

    I have you and your partner in my thoughts and I hope that the weeks following are merrier with awesome sales, a kick ass new flatmate and much mulled wine.

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