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home    consultations    courses    ideas    irish astrology        Bill Sheeran


Astrology and Unpredictability

A talk given at the 2nd CIDA International Congress, Venice, Italy October 1997

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What we can see here is the presence of the Saturn principle dominating a cultural spirit over a prolonged period of time. Perhaps as astrologers we shouldn't be surprised at this. According to the models we use, the evolution of collective consciousness to the point where it could integrate the principles of evolution, freedom and alternatives was only triggered in the late 18th century with the discovery of Uranus. If the enlightenment passed astrology by, could it be the case that astrology is still overly dominated by Saturn? Are we still firmly attached to the perfection of Ptolemy's cosmos, and the clockwork regularity of Newton's universe, both of which are expressions of a western cultural stability dogma?

Whether or not this is the case, the process of integration of the Uranian principle has been quite slow in general, which one would expect. It has had to push against a few thousand years of Saturnian bias. Nevertheless, one can see evidence of this process of integration by looking at the last 200 years of history.

In science and mathematics, key Uranian developments include Darwinian evolutionary theory; the mathematical demonstration in the late 19th century of instability and unpredictability hidden within Newton's classical mechanics; the splitting of the atom; the uncertainty principle of quantum physics; Hubble's discovery in 1930 that the universe is expanding; the development of chaos and complexity theories since the 1960s; and interestingly enough the demonstration in the 1980's that the solar system itself is not stable or predictable in the long term.

Outside of science, the pattern is the same - a disintegration of the old Saturnian order with an increased capacity for experimentation. This is clearly expressed in the gradual disappearance of traditional concepts of form and structure in the visual arts, poetry, literature and music throughout this century, which are most definitely a reflection of the cultural psyche. Boundaries have changed to a degree which would have been inconceivable 100 years ago, whether in terms of the electronic globalization of communication and information exchange, the impact of the media, or even the choice of food there is to eat in the average European town. The footprints of the new Uranian paradigm are everywhere. It is a broad cultural phenomenon.

Perhaps because of the strong Uranian presence in my horoscope, I resonate forcefully with this new paradigm. I personally find it hard to fully and comfortably embrace the pre-Uranian astrological traditions such as Vedic astrology, horary, or re-discovered ancient techniques. This is not because I think they have no value. The astrology I practice owes the past a debt which cannot be repaid.

It is because I feel that these traditions are too limited in their ability to illuminate a horoscope whose potential is manifesting in a strongly Uranian social context. I believe that such contexts are inherently less predictable than those of the past. Prediction is easier in a society which has a rigid structure, strong social and moral boundaries, which moves slowly, and where options are at a minimum. That is to say, situations where structure determines processes. Increasingly today the opposite is true - processes determine structure, which have to be adaptable, flexible, and constantly open to change. It is in these situations that the Uranian archetype of unpredictability appears most noticeably. The key to understanding the Uranian principle is to shift from a focus on structure to a focus on process (in other words moving beyond Saturn to the Uranian principle of change).

The structuralist or Saturnian approach tends to analyse a system in terms of the parts which make up the structure. It is usually considered in isolation from the environment in which it functions - as a closed system, if you like. This type of thinking is evident in conservative molecular genetics, where the characteristics of a person are thought to be encoded in the DNA structure of that person. If the genes for alcoholism are present in your chromosomes, you will become an alcoholic, etc. The behaviour of the system is completely independent of context or history, and can be understood solely in terms of its constituent parts.

The most extreme form of this kind of approach in astrology surfaces as the assumption that the horoscope contains all the information required to describe the personality of an individual. The . character is determined by the astrological picture, which can be analysed by breaking it down into its constituents. lf Saturn is square the Moon in the natal chart, you will suffer from depression, etc. Great attention is paid to structural elements in the horoscope, and little to the external context within which the astrology will show itself. The dynamics of the context, which is down below, is completely subservient to the workings of the horoscope, which reflects the dynamics of above.

The process or Uranian approach never considers a system in isolation from it context. It focuses on the interaction between the system and its environment. Structure is still important, but is seen as being in co-evolution with the processes which it facilitates. Below is given equal status to above. For an astrologer this would imply that the meaning of a horoscope doesn't come into focus until the context is clearly understood and fully taken into account. Because the context is open to evolution, so is the meaning of the horoscope. If Saturn is square the Moon in the natal chart its meaning can fluctuate in a general field of possibilities that centre on a global theme of limits in the context of emotional fulfillment. To know where the individual is currently located on this map of alternatives is impossible without making reference to context.

Predictive power is limited to a spectrum that runs from global level predictions down to more specific levels. The further one moves along this spectrum towards specificity, the greater the unpredictability of the system's possible behaviour. To achieve greater predictive specificity, one needs to know and understand both the history and context of the system under exploration. It is the future behavior of the system which is under investigation. Which route on the map of possibilities will be taken, and what will be the most likely features or events experienced on the journey? The emphasis is on rhythm rather than structure, on phase relationships between planets rather than specific degree locations.

Copyright 1997 Bill Sheeran     | page 1 |  | page 2 |  | page 3 |  | next |