Wednesday, March 16, 2011


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....the 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.

AstrologyUnboxed 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 said...

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.

Twilight said...

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.

Gian Paul said...

Got cut off by this silly blogger system and don't have the time to repeat. So in a nutshell:

Max Planck (famous German research institute, not fascist but also not "astrological") just came out with astonishing results:

Men or women born between April-June, Aries, Taurus, Gemini live almost a year less then those born between Oct-Dec (Balance-Scorpio-Sag,).

Study appears serious, 6 million people, from 1992-2007.

They also found that things are reverse in the southern hemisphere where I live (but was not born there, so what for me?)

My "astrological cum hipshooting interpretation":

Aries to Gemini/Cancer are the "primitives, rudimentaries" of their respective elements. Libra/Scorpio/Sag. and Cap. are the more or most evolved. Thus they take better care of their bodies etc. (to live longer but may have less fun too).

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!

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...

gian paul ~~~ Sorry about silly ol' Blogger cting up again.

That's interesting information.
I suppose there could be a mundane reason behind it (and behind some astrological facotrs too). Children whose first few months are in the clement warming weather of springtime are likely to build a stronger constitution than those whose first months are in the depths of winter. Just a thought.

Or there could be something else going on too.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I know...quite ridiculous.
And insulting to boot.

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.

Gian Paul said...

Re. "astro-hip-shooting": You may be right T. that biological factors may be at work (as well):

It occurred to me at second thought that those born in or around November were conceived and started becoming humans in their mothers womb in spring/summer and the mothers therefore were less subject to the common winter ills, like colds, caughing etc.

But then it's still "destiny" to be born at a given time of the year. The proverbial longevity of Capricorns etc...

Twilight said...

Gian Paul ~~ There could be many strands to the complete "reason" why a child is born at a certain time, and therefore becomes subject to prevailing conditions - weather etc. Don't more metaphysical astrologers theorise that a child/soul "chooses" when to be born, and into which circumstances, parent-wise, circumstance-wise? In order to learn certain lessons.

I don't much care for that theory myself, but what do I know?

Climate and genetically inherited traits of health must be two very heavy strands of the reason for length of life, I'd say. Astrological reasons are likely to play into those - harmoniously or otherwise.