from the blue zenith

Astrology, why?

Posted 2/15/23

The moment the River Reporter accepted my proposal to contribute an astrology feature to its digital pages, I locked into procrastination mode. Born with the Sun in conjunction with both Saturn …

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from the blue zenith

Astrology, why?


The moment the River Reporter accepted my proposal to contribute an astrology feature to its digital pages, I locked into procrastination mode. Born with the Sun in conjunction with both Saturn (planet of caution and delay) and Pluto (planet of death and resurrection), these lines of Eliot have always spoken to me: “Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the Shadow.”

But joking (and misplaced modifiers) aside, I had to wonder: How would I present myself to a readership on this topic, both popular and widely derided, credulously consumed and condescendingly scorned, a newspaper perennial, yet never quite “fit to print.”

What exactly is astrology, what has it been, and what’s left of it? Wherein lies its staying power? It has led nations; it smoothes hook-ups. Its appearances on the intellectual horizon of the last century have been scarce. Henry Miller fancied it and wrote an interesting little book about an astrologer, “The Devil in Paradise.” Poets took to it: C. Day Lewis and Max Jacob wrote textbooks on it; Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were devotees. Yeats did charts. The great image collector Aby Warburg was driven mad by it. C. G. Jung was into it unabashedly, while Freud literally fainted at the thought. Walter Benjamin had tendencies which his friend Theodor Adorno crushed like a bug. Simone Weil was badly bitten, see Vol. 3 of her diaries. Science philosopher Paul Feyerabend gave it the time of day and is consequently called frivolous. Writers Iris Murdoch, Jeanette Winterson and Camille Paglia have gone on record. And everyone knows their sign.

I avidly follow the motley of post-modern philosophers; wherever they attempt to open cracks in rationality, I’m there. Currently the Speculative Materialist school incorporates Lovecraft and sci-fi and thinks that anything is possible, and I’m down with that. The woolly-mammoth mind of Italian omni-philosopher Giorgio Agamben has used astrology as metaphor instructively, as I learned in a book by his disciple Paul Colilli, “Agamben and the Signature of Astrology: Spheres of Potentiality (2015)” a remarkable work the author of which unfortunately died before I could communicate with him.

Mine own theory of astrology tries to explain both why astrology works and why it doesn’t. In a nutshell, it’s a diachronic ontology of evolutionary neurastrology. (The term Neurastrology was coined by Dr. Peter Brugger of Zurich University).

I posit that social reality co-evolved with the human nervous system, incorporating, literally, the crucial geometric and semiotic ideas discovered in the nightly display. The grounding abstractions of thought (the point, the line, the sign, the collection, repetition, difference, analogy, metaphor, time) were all first exampled in the stars. The evolution of adaptive intelligence is structured on knowledge bathed in the mystery of night. The Zodiac is the oldest relic of genus Homo, devised in awe. It is the first, preliterate epic, implied in the “Iliad,” which inscribes the sun, moon and “all the constellations that festoon the heavens” at the center, not the rim, of the Shield of Achilles.

In late March through June of this year, Pluto, the relentless transformer, lingers in the very first degree of Aquarius, turns around and tucks back into Capricorn where it remains until 2024. Pluto similarly flirted on the cusp of Capricorn (sign of the financial system) in 2008 and brought us to a brink. Mercifully, its stay in Aquarius will be shorter.

For Aquarians

Born February 9-12: Interesting developments arise unexpectedly in the second half of the year as ruler Uranus stations in earthy Taurus. Aquarius, the depth of winter, is the sign of the detriment of the Sun, and its natives make much of the pronouns I vs. We.

Born in Aquarius:

Evgeny Zamyatin, author of “WE,” the first dystopian novel, 1924

Charles A. Lindbergh, author of “WE,” 1927 autobiography

Susan Sontag, author of “I, etcetera,” 1977 short story collection

Charles Lamb, “The first person singular is my favorite figure of speech.”

Martin Buber, “‘I’ is the true shibboleth of humanity.”

Alfred N. Whitehead, “‘One’ simply lacks sufficient stability to be a number.”

August Comte, “Individualism is the disease of the Western World.”

Gertrude Stein, “I am me because my little dog knows me.”

Lord Byron, “What am I? Nothing.”

Norman Mailer, “Ego! It is the great word of the twentieth century.”

Lewis Carroll, “Who in the world am I?” asked Alice. “Ah! That’s the great Puzzle.”

William Burroughs, “Subjective, objective—what’s the difference?”

Ayn Rand, “It was when I read the first of the books I found in my house that I saw the word ‘I.’ And when I understood this word, the book fell from my hands, and I wept, I who had never known tears. I wept in deliverance and in pity for all mankind.”

Mark Shulgasser has been a resident of the Upper Delaware region since 1981.

astrology, aquarius


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