Friday, May 6, 2011

Astrology's Attraction

Is time a) the sun coming up in the east or setting in the west, or b) the little hand on the seven, big one straight up, or c) a seven and two zeroes.  Is time the moon appearing at sunset as a wry crescent just above the western horizon, like a looked-for signal light flashing from a mirror on a local mountain?  “So-and-so from the village will be back in time for dinner,” these promising reflections of the sun’s light say.  Or is it just numbered blocks in a document to be referred to in coordinating physical logistics?

I have lived with clock time since birth, and have managed with some difficulty to survive under its rule; but the discovery of real time was a welcome revelation.  I learned that I am not an organic robot, made to function for someone else’s purpose; my dad is the sun and I have a mom, the moon.  I am a creature of the universe, spun out of its dust, fire breathed into me, which I carry as long as I live.  When I die, that fire, poof, goes out.

What we get from the astrology born in Hellenistic times is an ornate geometric system, based on the movements of the planets and the cycles of nature, which sets out to mirror the processes of life.  It is a language whose purpose is to help observers categorize experience and look for examples in nature to gain different perspectives on moments that grab our attention.  It evolved as a wildly detailed meditation on how life’s events, as we experience them, are mirrored in the workings of the whole universe; how our joys, sorrows, birth, sickness and death are seen in the cycles of nature above and here below.  I see it as a gift from the generations uprooted in the wake of Alexander’s fury; they gave us this intellectual model of using natural geometric systems observed in nature to help us organize the chaos of  information in our minds. 

Most people think it is useless, this philosophical appendage of astronomy without demonstrable engineering applications.  I think that is exactly what draws many of us to astrology; it promises not to change the world, or save the world, but to help us interpret our experience from a more universal perspective.  Western astrology is the largely forgotten gift of the stoics, scantly valued in a time of rapid industrialization, when it is more important to motivate workers than it is to encourage enlightenment among a population.