Saturday, March 04, 2017

Saturday & Sundry thoughts on Fascism & Astrology

The suggestion that the USA is drifting into fascism is frequently thrown around in online articles and in conversations in comment threads. It's not an idea that emerged with Donald Trump's ascendancy to the Presidency, it has been around for decades. This thought led me to an old, 2011, post of mine, one that has a different focus on fascism. I'm copying it here, dusted down, with some of the comments from that time included.

It's weird how Google sometimes manages to lure a person who is looking for a specific fact into something fascinatingly related, yet not exactly what one was seeking.

In trying to find the birth date of Bertram M. Gross, author of Friendly Fascism, the New Face of Power in America(1980), didn't find what I searched for but stumbled into Dennis Dutton's 1995 review of a book The Stars Down to Earth, and Other Essays on the Irrational in Culture, by Theodor W. Adorno.

Now...don't laugh...Adorno wrote that astrology is akin to fascism!
Some paragraphs extracted from the review are below. It does us no harm at all to read such views from time to time - if only to consider our motives and check that our integrity remains intact...or anyway, if only to laugh at an arrogant self important writer who verges on fascisistic tendencies himself....reviewer isn't too friendly either.

To be sure, there are many intriguing observations throughout this mostly readable essay. In a passage perhaps even more true today than when it was written, Adorno says that a “climate of semi-erudition is the fertile breeding ground for astrology.” He refers to people who have gone just beyond the naive acceptance of the authority of science, but who don’t know enough, or who have not sufficiently developed “the power of thinking,” that they can replace such acceptance with anything better: “The semi-erudite vaguely wants to understand and is also driven by the narcissistic wish to prove superior to the plain people but he is not in a position to carry through complicated and detached intellectual operations.” In other words, quantum mechanics is pretty tough, but astrology offers sophisticated understanding of all reality in a few easy steps. Besides, astronomy is about those remote stars and planets out there — rather cold and impersonal. In Adorno’s apt title phrase, astrology brings it all down to earth, because it’s about the single most important thing in the universe: me.

In an analogy that isn’t too far-fetched, he says that to the semi-erudite individual “astrology, just as other irrational creeds like racism, provides a short-cut by bringing the complex to a handy formula and offering at the same time the pleasant gratification that he who feels excluded from educational privileges nevertheless belongs to the minority of those who are ‘in the know’.” Someone once remarked that Scientology boosts self-esteem largely by giving semi-educated, degreeless persons impressive certificates to hang on their walls, and Adorno is right that there’s a similar syndrome at work with most New Age esoterica, including astrology. (In literary theory, there are no certificates, of course — you just have to learn the jargon.)

Hey - I object to being called semi-erudite Adorno, unless you accept that you can be described as semi-bigoted.

Here's the kicker: (And I do not repeat NOT have a dependent mind! That accessory is reserved for skeptics - dependent upon their own addictive skepticism - their only route to a feeling of superiority).

It is not only capitalism that is embodied in astrology as part of the culture industry, but fascism as well: the “astrological ideology resembles, in all its major characteristics, the mentality of the ‘high scorers’ of the Authoritarian Personality’.” In fact, Adorno says, it was this realization that induced him to begin the study of Righter in the first place. (Refers to an American astrologer: Caroll Righter) The sucker for astrology is a dependent mind. “Moreover, by strengthening the sense of fatality, dependence, and obedience, [astrology] paralyses the will to change objective conditions in any respect and relegates all worries to a private plane promising a cure-all by the very same compliance which prevents a change of conditions. It can easily be seen how well this suits the overall purpose of the prevailing ideology of today’s cultural industry; to reproduce the status quo within the mind of the people.”

So for Adorno it all ties together, rather too neatly, in my opinion: late capitalism, irrationalism, and weak, dependent, fascism-prone personalities in need of the authority of astrology — and all these factors lying at the very heart of so-called enlightened modernity.

Adorno is at pains to deny that the appeal of astrology is basically mystical. It’s not that it supplies a new sort of religion but that it makes the alienated individual more at home in the world of consumerism and the “drabness of a commodity society.” In this respect more than in any other, “astrology resembles . . . other mass media such as movies: its messages appear to be something metaphysically meaningful, something where the spontaneity of life is being restored while actually reflecting the very same reified conditions which seem to be dispensed with through an appeal to the ‘absolute’.” In the division of labor of the culture industry, astrology has, to use a cliché Adorno avoids, its special job in the general provision of opium for the masses.

Last sentence of the review, and as fair a summing up as one could expect from this reviewer:
If Adorno doesn’t like something, no matter how inane or innocuous, it isn’t long before he begins to detect in it the seeds of fascism. The Stars Down to Earth seems now and again almost as obsessive as the astrology it analyzes.
Fascists, opium providers ?..."It takes one to know one" - as my old Gran used to say.


Christina said: Wow - what a hoot.
Fascistic astrology is not…but don't you think he makes a few good points that we, as astrologers, should keep in mind.

I hate to say it, but I recognize the "climate of semi-erudition". Not on this blog, of course. And this is familiar too, the guy sitting next to you at a conference who has "the narcissistic wish to prove superior to the plain people but he is not in a position to carry through complicated and detached intellectual operations."
Aside from that we're all absolutely blooming marvellous.

Twilight responded...
Christina ~~ I appreciate your point about the narcissistic wish to appear superior. Yes. That's to be found in at least one member of a group in most fields I guess - and in most groups of any kind, social or professional. It must be a potential hard-wiring fault in some of us (all of us?) So why should astrologers be any different. ;-)
I see Adorno as a guy chasing a buck from a book using a spin on astrology nobody had yet thought of in exactly those terms.

Astrology Unboxed said... Kudos to Mr. Adorno for originality! I have yet to be called a fascist, especially since my own inclination is to the opposite side.
Since I started as an astrologer, I heard many epithets(crook, fraud, delusional, psychic, naive being the kindest one) but not this one.

I agree with Christina, that Adorno has a point in the need for us astrologer to be not only more scientifically inclined but also intellectually. Some of the research done by astrologers in recent years has not really helped our field except to boost the egos of those same researchers. We - astrologers- need more people like Rob Hand. Unfortunately, I do not have the chops for it.
I can't wait to pass Mr. Adorno's opinion of us to one of my Facebook astrology groups. It's bound to promote a lively discussion. Thanks, T.

Twilight responded... Astrology Unboxed (Fabienne) ~~
Yay for Robert Hand!!! And his ilk, if he has any, and for astrology bloggers like us who are, of course, impeccable on all fronts...LOL!!
Hope it generates some chat on FB.

Wisewebwoman said...I had to laugh at this one, T. I mean, seriously? I would never have put fascism and astrology in the same breath, not to mention a book!
Twilight said...WWW ~~~ I know...quite ridiculous. And insulting to boot.

Anon and Ever said... Oh yes, you are right, there is not only the right wing imbecility but also the left wing imbecility and even if the right wing imbecility is what we can easily find today we have never to forget the left wing imbecility, in which anything an author did not like or did not agree was compared to “fascism” not well defined and not properly described...

Twilight said...Anon & Ever ~~~ Agreed. Fascism, socialism, and other terms are thrown around willy-nilly, they have already lost their meaning - apart from their now seeming to be on a level with profanity, in the USA at least.


R J Adams said...

I always knew there was a thread of fascism running through this blog. Now I see it - cleverly disguised with an astrological cloak. A cunning plan, Twilight, but it won't work. You've been revealed!


Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ Curses! Foiled again! ;-)