Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Well, that was fun!

I had the privilege to hear Robert Hand speaking last weekend (September 8th and 9th) and I have to say that he exceeded my expectations for lucidity of thought and approachability of presentation. I always expected Mr Hand to be bright, but brilliance doesn’t always translate to either clear or engaging presentation of the material.

It was reading Robert Hand that gave me a sense that there might actually be something to this “astrology thing” back in the early 90’s when I was still very skeptical that astrology was anything more than light entertainment for the crackpot fringe of society, and a belief system for the feeble of mind. I have since read several of his books and highly recommend them to my students.

Saturday night’s discussion was “Fate and Freewill” and to be perfectly honest, I went along expecting to hear a heap of dry-as-dust arguments with which I am already well acquainted; rehashed and regurgitated to come a middle-of-the-road conclusion (can you tell I spent way too long on e-mail lists a few years ago?).

For those folks (if any) who went to the lecture anticipating simple answers to a seemingly simple question, I guess they may have been under-whelmed.

Personally, I’m very tired of simple answers to complex questions, and it was a pleasure to follow a lucid train of thought through a complex issue and come away with the tools for investigating this, and several other complex issues, further.

The summary of his presentation comes down to “You will be who you are [fate] , the question is, how well [freewill] ?”

This is (or should be) the mantra of the humanist astrologer, but it was deeply satisfying to hear an extensive rendition of where this notion came from, and how far back in history it has been held by lovers of wisdom.

On the question of the "desire to believe", a fundamental part of the fate/freewill debate, Hand first pointed out that belief is simply opinion which is held in the absence of [quantifiable] experience. I'm not sure I'd ever thought of it that way.

Sundays workshop discussed the transition from Hellenistic to Medieval astrology. Both forms of astrology have been part of my own research (and finding their way into my work) for the last few years, so I was looking forward to this discussion from a person at the forefront of the translation and interpretation of the ancient works.

The beauty of the current era is that we, today, have more information available to us with which to put ancient astrology together than has been the case for 1000 years in Western Europe.

Again, Hand’s own work in the translation of text and the deciphering of meaning presented plenty of food for thought and answered many of my own questions about which way to implement some of these techniques.

I realize that questions of domicile and rulership, of terms and dignities and triplicities, are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but again following a lucid train of thought through the process of discerning meaning and application from these was both interesting and exciting to me.

I have found that ancient astrology meshes beautifully with post-modern humanism, but it does take considerable work to differentiate the technique from the philosophy.

I am very fond of saying that astrology is always a combination of the physics and metaphysics of its time. Physics doesn’t change much, however our understanding of it is always expanding and therefore changing. Metaphysics, on the other hand, changes almost momentarily, yet is born of archetypal themes that transcend the moments in time in which they were expressed, and perhaps even time itself.

In allowing for both of these complexities, one can gain a great deal of insight from what astrologers once thought, (or more particularly, how they thought) and can discern the techniques that stood the test of time for 1000 years across many political and religious bounds.

I have been working with the above premises for several years now, and was beginning to feel a bit isolated in my viewpoint (because my best resources to date have been “astro-fundamentalists” of one form or another… yep astrology has fundies too, folks).

It was therefore with some relief that, among the concluding statements in an extremely enlightening workshop, Hand came out with this little gem, “I have no problem with being a[n] humanistic astrologer who is applying ancient techniques.” … neither do I Mr. Hand, and the reinforcement is encouraging.

I have always believed that the written word contains only the parts of a person’s thinking that the person is (or was) prepared to defend. We lose so much insight when we “hang on every [written] word” of an esteemed authority, and fail to see what it was that said authority was actually thinking.

I am reminded of a statement I heard during the workshop about fundamentalists believing in the absolute truth of selected portions of bad translations.

Do I agree with all of the conclusions Robert Hand drew? Of course not! However, it was a real treat to “fill in the gaps” on how he arrived at them.

Many thanks to the the Learning Center for Astrological Studies in Lansing, and particularly to Mr. Win Rowe, for making this event possible in our area.

Now… back to our regular program…

Take Care


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