Saturday, June 14, 2014

The "crackpot mystery in the half-light...."

An old article in "TIME" written in 1988, 26 years ago, by journalist and author Lance Morrow: "The Five-and-Dime Charms of Astrology" , is now available in full only via log-in. I mentioned the piece in a 2008 posting, recently checked the link and....hmmm....did more searching and found some extra quotes from the piece. Mr Morrow's words are worth another look, and a wry chortle or two. I admire his writing style if not entirely his feelings about astrology, though must admit I do have sympathy with some of his points. He began:
"Astrology has something frowsy about it. It comes to the door in hair curlers. It looks through the screen with squint-shrewd eyes. The caller who rang the doorbell stares in at crackpot mystery in the half-light, and senses there a kind of disreputable plausibility. The dogs on the porch get restless and slink away. A universe of surreal connections unfolds......."

I expected to feel incensed by the article, but was drawn in to read it from start to finish by the expert and entertaining writing style of Mr. Morrow.
"The American character alternates between Ahab and Starbuck -- the grandiose obsessive and the commonsense skeptic. Astrology plays to the Ahab. It offers a seeing of the unseen, and hears pitches of significance that the ear cannot detect. An elaborate counterworld whispers its order into the human mess."
You were getting a wee bit warm there Mr. Morrow!

Extra quotes from HERE; I'm not sure whether these ran consecutively in the piece itself, but I've run them together here anyway:

What next? A little magic. Astrology, a radiance in pink housecoat and mules, looking eerily like Shirley MacLaine, dances from the shadows, out the door, and floats into a previous life. That's entertainment.
Astrology was once a statelier business. ... Astrology had a sheer mythy size, a consequence that could make Caesar or Lear look up to the heavens. The skies were full of promises and dangers. In February of 1524, Europeans lived in terror that a conjunction of all the planets in the watery sign of Pisces would bring a deluge.

Astrology was the machinery of the universe. All the details of the world were wired to the vibrations of the heavens. The membranes of history thrummed to astral music. How cozy that stars and planets should intervene so intimately on earth. But in its modern incarnation, astrology has become both charming and ridiculous. Somehow the old portentous shrinks down toward the bathos of the fortune cookie and the UFO. The earth is not the center of the universe. Democracy has a hard time sustaining the cosmic drama -- the stars must busy themselves with the fates of hairdressers as well as rulers. Astrology degenerates to advice that runs on the feature page slightly to the left of Garfield and the Wizard of Id.

The Reagans' enthusiasm for astrology comes as a small, slightly goofy revelation, an old Hollywood side of them that has turned up in Washington, a detail endearing and unbidden and embarrassing. Ronald Reagan has always been a lucky man. Perhaps he and his wife find that the zodiac is a means to codify, organize and predict his luck. Movie stars are suckers for astrology, partly because their business is even less rational than the rest of American life. Great egos need great horoscopes.

The pedigree of astrology in ancient times had a certain splendor. But astrology has been intellectually weightless since Isaac Newton. Yet it accomplished a miraculous revival around the turn of the century. King Edward VII (Scorpio) and Enrico Caruso (Pisces) consulted astrologers. The '60s, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, brought in the great age of astral tourism.
I cannot find it in my heart to dislike Morrow in the way I dislike Richard Dawkins or Randi and his clan of skeptics. Mr. Morrow would benefit greatly from having dinner with a select few astrologers and astrology bloggers (I'll be serving the wine and listening in to the conversation!) I guarantee that Mr. Morrow would be able, next day, to write an altogether different piece on the subject of astrology. He might even feel inclined to characterize it as something crisper, cleverer, searching for answers, rather than as a squint-eyed frowsy!

Lance Morrow probably wouldn't thank me for looking at his own natal chart again; suffice to say that he was born on 21 September 1939 , a War Baby like me, but born on the safe side of the Atlantic Ocean. This means he could have that somewhat grounding Earth Grand Trine in his chart - the one which tends to anchor our War Baby feet firmly on Mother Earth, preventing too many flights of fancy. We have been known to hover at low altitude on occasion though! His Grand Trine in Earth is more powerful than mine. His draws in Sun, Mercury and Neptune in Virgo trining Uranus and Mars in Taurus and Capricorn respectively. (My own comprises Neptune, Mercury and Uranus). Adding to the Earthy tone of Morrow's chart is Moon in Capricorn. It's really no surprise that Lance Morrow looks askance at astrology and New Agey stuff in general. The Earthy circuit of his Grand Trine is not conducive to the appreciation of things intangible.

PS: Lance Morrow has written 14 books, the best known is probably
"Evil: An Investigation".


mike said...

Ronald and Nancy Reagan were exposed in 1988 as having consulted astrologers (gasp!). This became fodder for writers like Morrow...they made money for poking sticks at astrology, but nothing could have been better for astrologers! Imagine...the president of the USA consulting astrologers...the best advertisement possible.

Lance may be jocular with the prose, but I don't think he believes in cycles:

"It is a form of vanity to imagine you are living in the worst of times--there have always been worse. In bad times and heavy seas, the natural fear is that things will get worse, and never better. It's a jolt to a Western, instinctively progressive mind, trained to think of history as ascendant--like the stock market, like housing prices--to find trends running in the other direction." Lance Morrow, from Smithsonian Magazine

I think he captures the anti-astrology prowess with: "Western, instinctively progressive mind, trained to think...".

I don't particularly care whether he does or doesn't acknowledge astrology favorably...ain't gonna make a dent in my world...LOL. I do enjoy his metaphors of astrology gone bad!

mike (again) said...

P.S. - I have agnostic-Pagan-pantheistic beliefs, which have an astronomical-astrological foundation...not Christian. I feel the same about Christianity as Morrow does astrology, ie, Christianity is mythological and nebulous, at best.

I try my best to be courteous to the bible thumpers that knock on my door, the well-meaning Christian neighbors offering God's advice, or religious billboards, etc. Astrologers are basically passive and not in-your-face...there if one needs one.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I'd bet Lance Morrow has never had a conversation with someone who even half understands astrology. This happens a lot with detractors, it's an easy target, and, as you've said, astrologers are fairly well-behaved, not given to the rough and tumble of a good gloves-off fight, or deep, bruising debate.

At least Morrow approaches the topic with a measure of good humour rather than straight-up nastiness like Dawkins-the-Douche.

I suppose he was in need of something to write about that day, and astrology comes before
numerology, tarot, and i-ching in the alphabetical glossary of what some call "woo". ;-)