Hand Waving

Some more on fine phrases and their relationship (if any) to parsnip-buttering.

Yet, as
we shall see, in the moment of ritual divination the exclusive dualisms
of subject and object, mind and matter, what is outside and up there
(including stars) and what is down here and inside (including genes), partially dissolve in awareness of
cosmic connection. Multiplicity remains, separation remains, but there
is also relatedness, there is participation. Bringing an anthropological
perspective to bear on the topic of astrological divination, we see the
true business of astrology as participation in the greatest dialogue of
all, the grand conversation of earth and heaven.

That sounds buttery, right? But what does it mean? Relatedness to what? Participation in what? Jupiter? One of its moons? One of the pieces of ice in the inner ring around Saturn? Or just everything? Every star, every planet orbiting every star, every moon orbiting every planet, every object on every planet and moon, every bit of cosmic dust…? That’s a lot of relatives. A lot of birthday presents and places at the table to worry about.

Conversation, whether mundane or cosmic, is a learned technique. As
individuals, we may well, and profitably, spend a lifetime developing
and perfecting our ability to communicate with our fellows in everyday
life. As for the cosmic dimension, for countless millennia humankind has
employed the species-level language of myth to construct a
trans-personal and trans-cultural world of the collective imagination.
In that perduring enterprise, it appears that women may well have played
a pioneering role.

Ooooh! Did we! Mega-cool. I knew women were good at something – I could just never quite figure out what, but now I know.

No but seriously. You do notice the hand-waving, right? The ‘exclusive dualisms’ of up there and down here (as in, stars and our little selves, and the funny idea that a star a few billion light years away from us is in a pretty thorough way ‘separate’ from us), relatedness, participation, dialogue, chats between earth and the rest of the universe. You do perceive the basic lack of meaning in that pseudo-profound jabberwocky, yes?

Here is Ivan Kelly in his excellent article ‘The Concepts of Modern Astrology: a Critique’:

Astrology as a discipline is a prime example of what happens when advocates consider only confirming evidence for their multitude of conflicting claims with little regard for contrary evidence, which is…’explained away’ …with slogans like ‘the complexity of astrology,’ and ‘astrology is another way of viewing the world.’..Criticisms and serious long-lasting anomalies can also be dealt with by hand-waving in another direction and the elevation of speculation to a futuristic higher plane…The obfuscations ‘orders of influence’ and ‘reflections…showing in their own ways’ are nowhere clarified, hence we are no further in our understanding after being told this than we were before.

Just so. Hand-waving, fine phrases – much the same thing. Astrologers (and other believers in, erm, alternative ways of knowing, as I’ve been discovering recently) have expansive vocabularies of obfuscatory, incantatory, cloud-assembling words and phrases to serve the hand-waving function.

A fourth popular response is to say that the phenomena astrology deals with are very subtle and elusive, and what is needed are more creative ways of investigating them…If scientsts had adopted similar attitudes in the face of negative studies and argument, physics would still be Aristotelian.

Yes and don’t forget the business about the narrowness of reductive materialism and its easy dismissal of, erm, very subtle and elusive somethings.

Finally, one can say that if researchers are obtaining negative results, they must be doing it wrong. They are using the wrong methodology, the wrong paradigm, or both…West (1991, 1996), for example, contends that scientific criticisms of astrology are irrelevant because astrology is ‘a system of magic,’ where magic is ‘the attempt to master the fundamental laws of resonance that have produced the cosmos.’ He is insufficiently explicit about this ‘system of magic’…

I love the academic way of putting things. “He is insufficiently explicit about this ‘system of magic’…” – which being interpreted means ‘have you ever heard anything so damn silly in your life?!’ The fundamental laws of resonance – how’s that attempt going, by the way? Making much progress?

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