March 30th, 2010

Confused, dragon

Why Astrology is not (entirely) BS

 I've been thinking about this since The Bad Astronomer's three-word tweet yesterday, "Astrology is crap,"  and I thank him for that.  I like statements that make me ponder something for more than five minutes.

I don't intend to argue here that astrology, or divination in general, is valid science.  But what I wish to do is to describe it in such a way that skeptics (that is, the scientifically-minded movement, with whom I stand) might understand that it has useful applications.  I think a lot of the anger directed at divination by skeptics comes from claims that it is somehow an empirical process.  It is not, and I also reject this view of astrology.  It is, instead, a psychological process.

Divination consists of the manipulation of a symbolic system in order to reveal or create meaning.  This does not happen out in the world.  This happens inside the head of the people participating in the divination ritual.  The useful function of these methods, whether it's casting an astrological chart, doing a tarot reading, praying for guidance, or seeing a psychotherapist, is that they cause the seeker to consider ideas or situations from a perspective that they may not have normally taken.  Most divination methods use intentionally vague language to let the seeker create the important connections for themselves.

This is a useful problem-solving tool, and when the fresh viewpoint presents an obvious solution, it is like an epihpany.  It is not surprising that many people attribute its successes to outside forces rather than themselves.  The down side is, of course, the belief that these miraculous revelations come from without rather than within, but that does not invalidate the usefulness of the methods.  I am an artist, and I happen to like games that involve little rituals, so in many ways a tarot deck is more useful psychotherapy for me than an actual therapist.  I am also fond of bibliomancy, where you open a book to a random page and attempt to create meaning from the first passage you read.  The only higher power I'm tapping into is my own mind, and I'm generally in favor of any exercise that gets your thoughts out of a rut.

All good?  I can do midochlorians for you, too.
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