Week of February 25th, 2021

Never Be Limited by Other People's Imaginations

A person must break with the illusion that her life has already been written and her path already determined.
—Marc-Alain Ouaknin

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Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.
—Dr. Mae C. Jemison


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LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT ASTROLOGY REALLY IS

The inexplicable thing about "scientists" who deride astrology as being a "pseudo-science" is that they haven't engaged in the most fundamental principle of science, which is to actually investigate the subject they aspire to understand.

If these faux scientists took the trouble to research the subject, they would know that Western astrology's best practitioners don't claim that astrology is a science—which means that it can't be a pseudo-science!

The lyrical and practical truth is that astrology is a blend of psychology, story-telling, and mythology. In the words of Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, astrology "is the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity."

In my words, astrology is a symbol system that when used with integrity, engenders soulful approaches for deepening our connection to life's great mysteries—not predictions of literal events.

Psychologist James Hillman spoke of the joyous work of learning our soul's code—the blueprint of our destiny. That's what astrology does best. To imagine that this can be done in a scientific way is irrelevant and delusional.

Astrology is meant to open our minds to the mythic patterns that underlie the surface-level interpretations of what we're all about. It's not meant to compete with scientists' rational, logical analyses of how the world works.

And of course we need both: the mytho-poetic and the logically analytical. I can't imagine any truly intelligent person who would think that one or the other is better or more important.

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To be consistent, the "scientists" who say that astrology is a pseudo-science should also say that psychologist Carl Jung, mythologist Joseph Campbell, and storyteller Ursula K Le Guin were practicing pseudo-science.

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It's usually not productive to engage in a conversation with people who long ago decided that astrology is superstitious nonsense. Their minds are as irrevocably and self-satisfyingly closed as an evangelical Christian who already knows forever that there's no such thing as human-caused climate change.

So I usually expect that any rational ideas I serve up to self-styled skeptics about astrology will have the same impact as if I were explaining the nuances of abortion rights at a convention of political conservatives.

But here's a start: Many people who dismiss astrology with kneejerk derision have done no actual research on the subject! They don't know that four of history's greatest astronomers were practicing astrologers: Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, and Pierre Gassendi.

Most of the deriders haven't read smart astrological philosophers like Dane Rudhyar and Alice O. Howell and Steven Arroyo and Liz Greene and Richard Tarnas. They aren't aware that pioneering psychologist Carl Jung cast horoscopes and used astrology extensively.

The deriders don't know that astronomer Martha Maiden, who was a program executive at NASA for years and achieved such prominence that she now has an award named after her, is an excellent astrologer. (I know because I went to Duke University with her and we studied astrology together.)

The closest approach that fraudulent "skeptics" usually make to exploring the ancient art of astrology is to glance at a newspaper or internet horoscope column. To match their carelessness, I might make a drive-by of a strip mall and declare that the profession of architecture is shallow and debased.

THAT'S NOT HOW TO DO SCIENCE! To do science you don't casually gather anecdotal evidence from your random personal experiences. You make a point to investigate a subject with rigor and vigor, going to primary sources.


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Yes, there are many mediocre and incompetent and irresponsible astrologers out there—just as there are mediocre and incompetent and irresponsible practitioners in every field of human endeavor.

Here's Brezsny's Pseudo-Scientific Maxim: In any occupation, 70% of the practitioners are average to mediocre, 15% are bad, and 15% are excellent.

The lazy scientists who ignorantly criticize astrology focus on the worst of the astrologers.

If I chose to focus on the work of bad scientists, my opinion of science would be very low.


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Many of the lazy "scientists" don't even know that constellations have no bearing or place in Western astrology.

Many don't know, therefore, that their argument about the "signs being wrong" and there being a 13th sign, Ophiuchus, are not based on even a shred of truth about what astrology is.

Read more about this subject.


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Science can play a valuable role in checking the excesses of astrologers and other magical thinkers. For example, I've been grateful for those times when patient astronomers have refuted the irresponsible prophets who claim that some upcoming planetary configuration will somehow detonate natural disasters on Earth.

On the other hand, many scientists critique astrology in equally careless ways, making groundless assertions.

I prefer to take a middle path between the two extremes, borrowing from the best of both the rational and mystical approach and avoiding the worst.


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The ill-informed "skeptics" often say that astrologers think the stars and planets emit invisible beams that affect people's lives.

But in his book Cosmos and Psyche, brilliant astrologer Richard Tarnas (who is also a renowned cultural historian) says the planets don't emit invisible forces that shape our destinies as if we were puppets. Rather, they are symbols of the unfolding evolutionary pattern. Just as clocks tell time but don't create it, the heavenly bodies show us the big picture but don't cause it.

Quoting Greek philosopher Plotinus, Tarnas writes, "The stars are like letters that inscribe themselves at every moment in the sky. Everything in the world is full of signs. All events are coordinated. All things depend on each other. Everything breathes together."

Which prompts me to say: So it's not just the distant globes whose movements and relationships serve as divinatory clues.

If you're sufficiently attuned to the gestalt of creation and pay close enough attention to its unfolding details, you can read the current mood of the universe in the arrangement of red onions in the grocery store bin or the fluttering of sunlight and shadow on the mimosa tree or the scatter of soap suds in your sink after you've finished washing the dishes.

Can you do it? Discern the signature of creation at this or any other perfect moment? Peer into the secret heart of the collective unconscious? Guess what the Goddess is thinking?

Hint: You will have to switch on a dormant capacity, transforming your imagination from a mere fantasy-generator into an organ of perception.


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According to the Western Hermetic tradition, which is my spiritual path, there are aspects of each planet within us. So for example, Mars, the heavenly body in the sky way out there, is the visible manifestation of an archetype that permeates the Great Everywhereness, including human beings.

The rocky planet Mars doesn't beam out vibes that manipulate our behavior. But we can analyze the movements of the planet Mars to speculate on how the Mars archetype is at work at any particular time and in any particular person.


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A fellow astrologer asked me why I even care about what science thinks about astrology. Here's what I said:

Because I love science and its methodology and because a lot of people who pay attention to what I write also love science and its methodology. I want to talk to them about the excesses and distortions of science, in the hope that this will help in some small way to shore up the integrity of science and its capacity to accept other modes of intelligence and knowing as valid.

In the US, science is under threat from fascist and paranoid and delusional views of the world. We need science to be as strong and vital as possible in the face of that danger.

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The scientific method is a fantastic way of learning about the world, and I eagerly use it daily. But it's not the only valid way to learn about the world. To dismiss other ways of learning about the world as "pseudo-scientific" is reductionist and fundamentalist.

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Astrology doesn't use—can't use—the scientific method. The scientific method is an empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century.


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Some people believe unquestioningly in the truth and power of astrology. They imagine it's an exact science that can unfailingly discern character and predict the future. Other people believe all astrology is nonsense. They think that everyone who uses it is deluded or stupid.

I say that both of these groups are wrong. Both have a simplistic, uninformed perspective. The more correct view is that some astrology is nonsense and some is a potent psychological tool. Some of it's based on superstition and some is rooted in a robust mythopoetic understanding of archetypes.


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If you'd like to read more of my thoughts about astrology, check out this interview with me.


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Four books about Carl Jung's writings on astrology:

Jung and Astrology 1
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Jung and Astrology 2
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Jung and Astrology 3
and
Jung and Astrology 4


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MASTER OF THE OBVIOUS

Today I am Master of the Obvious. I am a Simpleton Stating the Prosaic Truth. I am telling anyone who cares to listen that of course Western medicine and Big Pharma do bad and self-serving things.

You know who else does bad and self-serving things? Every system and organization on earth: corporations, religions, governments, the media, academia, publishing, the film and art and music industries, the big tech companies, the college football industry and all the other professional sports industries . . . and many, many more.

Toward all these bad and self-serving institutions, we develop a discerning skepticism, based on accurate evidence. We criticize them. We do what we can to reform them. And we acknowledge that they also do some good and helpful things that we're grateful for.

So we go forward, holding in our minds a poised understanding of their contradictions, as intelligent people do. We cultivate an awareness that everything is flawed and imperfect, and that many imperfect and flawed things (not all) also have value and beneficence.

We meditate on the psychological concept of co-emergence, which postulates that every beautiful, useful thing is intertwined with some challenging problem; that every challenging problem has some inspiration and education to offer us.

We meditate on what my daughter said when she was five years old, "There's nothing in the world that is either all good or all bad."

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PS: Of course scientists who develop vaccines are motivated in part by money and ego and personal bias, like everyone else on the planet.

Of course there are problems with things that are created by people under the influence of money and ego and personal bias.

But that's universally true. NOTHING ever created or offered is perfect. Everything and everyone is cracked or broken in some way. And we wander on, doing our best to cultivate equanimity, summoning as much grace and courage as we can under the influence of the Universal Blemish.

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To specifically apply this line of thought to the covid vaccines: No, they are not PERFECTLY safe and effective. Nothing is! Nothing on earth is perfectly safe and effective!

But the vast preponderance of evidence from knowledgeable scientists all over the world is that the covid vaccines are very safe and very effective.

Furthermore, they are our best hope for emerging from the pandemic. Again, the vast preponderance of scientific evidence supports that conclusion.

Here's some of that evidence: Pfizer vaccine sharply reduces symptomatic Covid-19 in the real world, Israeli researchers say.

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PS: There's a lot about Big Pharma I dislike. And in general, the US health system, despite being marginally better in recent years thanks to Obamacare, is still an abomination compared to the health systems of virtually all other Western nations.

Bottom line: I passionately want universal single-payer health coverage for all in the US. Anything less than that is a travesty.

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On the other hand, I am also extremely grateful for Big Pharma and the US medical system as it is and has been. I would not be here if it weren't for them. I'd literally be gone from the earth. They saved me. Thank you!


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TRY TO PRAISE THE MUTILATED WORLD
by Adam Zagajewski
translated by Clare Cavanagh

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.

You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.

Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.

Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.


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PERFECTIONISM IS STUPID

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane.

—Anne Lamott

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Perfection is a stick with which to beat the possible.

—Rebecca Solnit

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The perfect is the enemy of the good.

—Voltaire

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Excellence does not require perfection.

—Henry James


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THE FUNDAMENTALIST VIRUS

The fundamentalist person delusionally imagines that perfection is a desirable and possible goal.

The fundamentalist takes everything way too seriously and way too personally and way too literally.

The fundamentalist divides the world into two camps, those who agree with him and those who don't. There is only one right way to interpret the world, and a million wrong ways. Correct belief is the only virtue.

To the fundamentalist, the liberated imagination is a sinful taboo. He not only enslaves his own imagination to his ideology, but wants to enslave our imaginations, too.

And who are the fundamentalists? Let's not remain under the delusion that they are only the usual suspects—the religious fanatics of Islam and Christianity and Judaism and Hinduism.

There are many other kinds of fundamentalists, and some of them have gotten away with practicing their tragic magic in a stealth mode.

Among the most successful are those who believe in what Robert Anton Wilson calls fundamentalist materialism. This is the faith-based dogma that swears physical matter is the only reality and that nothing exists unless it can be detected by our five senses or by technologies that humans have made.

Life has no transcendent meaning or purpose, the fundamentalist materialists proclaim. There is no such thing as a divine intelligence. The universe is a dumb accidental machine that grinds on endlessly out of blind necessity.

I see spread out before me in every direction a staggeringly sublime miracle lovingly crafted by a supernal consciousness that oversees the evolution of 500 billion galaxies, yet is also available as an intimate companion and daily advisor to every one of us. But to the fundamentalist materialists, my perceptions are indisputably wrong and idiotic.

Many other varieties of fundamentalism thrive and propagate. Every ideology, even some of the ones I like, has its share of true believers—fanatics who judge all other ideologies as inferior, flawed, and foolish.

I know astrologers who insist there's only one way to do astrology right. I know Buddhists who adamantly decree that the inherent nature of life on Earth is suffering.

I know college administrators who would excommunicate any psychology professor who dared to discuss the teachings of Carl Jung, who was in my opinion one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.

I know pagans who refuse to consider any other version of Jesus Christ beyond the sick parody the Christian right has fabricated.

None of the true believers like to hear that there are at least three sides to every story.


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THE ONLY WAR

Poet Diane Di Prima said, "The only war is the war against the imagination. All other wars are subsumed in it."

The delusional drive for perfection, which fundamentalism is driven by, is in one sense a war against the imagination—which just wants to be free to explore eternal variety and paradox.


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The lesson that life constantly enforces is "Look underfoot." You are always nearer to the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Don't despise your own place and hour. Every place is the center of the world.

—Naturalist John Burroughs


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BITS OF WISDOM
FROM WENDELL BERRY AND EDITH HAMILTON

Unexpected wonders happen, not on schedule, or when you expect or want them to happen, but if you keep hanging around, they do happen.

—Wendell Berry

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"You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.

—Wendell Berry

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When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.

—Classicist scholar and author Edith Hamilton

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Our word "idiot" comes from the Greek name for the man who took no share in public matters.

—Edith Hamilton

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Responsibility is the price every person must pay for freedom.

—Edith Hamilton

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Convention, so often a mask for injustice.

—Edith Hamilton


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THE UNIVERSE IS A SENTIENT, ENSOULED INTELLIGENCE

In his talk on February 5, mind-expanding astrologer and philosopher Richard Tarnas delivered the most inspiring and emotionally rich visionary revelations I've heard in many years: uplifting, inspiring, and soul-shaking in the best ways.

It was an emotionally rich explanation of how the universe is an ensouled, sentient intelligence that we now have an initiatory opportunity to get back into communion with, as indigenous people have enjoyed for millennia.

You can watch it here.


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TRUE VIRUS NEWS

If you'd like to read about the current state of scientific thinking about the covid vaccines, this is one of the best articles I've seen lately:

"What If We Never Reach Herd Immunity? Hitting the threshold might actually be impossible. But vaccines can still help end the pandemic."


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What does it mean that the cvoid vaccines have 95% efficacy?

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The mistakes and the struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy.


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THE MISINFORMATION VIRUS

"All of science overturned by a single tweet.Random non-expert on the Internet proves new claim by tweeting it; all scientists in all fields abandon centuries of work." [Warning: Satire]


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"Honey, come look! I've found some information all the world's top scientists and doctors missed." [Warning: Satire]


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ACTUAL PROGRESS

The coronavirus vaccines are a triumph. They are saving lives today; they will help end this pandemic eventually; and they will pay scientific dividends for generations.

“Once the history of this is written, they are going to be referred to as some of the greatest achievements of science,” Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina sociologist with a track record of prescience on the coronavirus. "It’s the kind of thing you would have national celebration and fireworks and church bells ringing."

Read more.


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"I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out."

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


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