Form

There is an interesting word from Japanese: kata, or ‘form’. I first came across this in my youth, playing Judo. In Judo, one of its demonstrations is the kata, the prearranged forms of its moves and throws, undertaken by two judoka, one throwing and one being thrown. It is balletic, and I remember not especially appreciated by most of the westerners in my Judo club. They understood the necessity of the forms mainly as demonstration for the purposes of grading, and of course the forms are what is taught and illustrated in the textbooks. The forms are then seen as means to beat an opponent, and all the fun of Judo is in free play, randori, or contest. Most westerners attracted to judo love fighting and playing. This is natural enough.

I only vaguely grasped the quality of ‘form’ in Judo, but realised how it came together in just one instance of my own play. Ignorant beginner though I was, I had one beautiful rare but occasionally repeated move, which was a counter to the osotogari – therefore I could on occasion perfectly counter this major reaping throw with a fast and subtle flick to the heel and effortlessly throw my attacker, in this case, several times, a recently graded dan. I ‘knew’ this form, achieved without thought – text-book in its perfection – in my body-mind. After many stiff years away from Judo, I still have a memory of this impress.

One reason for a brief digression on kata is to bring back something essential in our taken for granted word ‘form’. This belongs to our Greek philosophical heritage, but I am sure its body-mind impress is too easily forgotten, when all the bits become conceptually separated out.

So how does this relate to the hermeneutic of astrology? It appears in the forms or ‘rules’ of practice. These rules govern how astrology is played. They appear particularly in the ‘methodological aphorism’ and they constitute the ‘methods of interpretation’ of the various schools. They are essential for there to even BE astrology, although they are not ‘the truth’ of astrology. This non-identity of form and the supposed truth can be recognised in Judo, where few moments of play or contest perfectly match the kata. Life is an approximation to form. Likewise, form is an approximation to life. In astrology we come back to Lilly’s observation on ‘varying your rules’.

* methodological aphorism: see ‘Interpreting Interpretations: the use of the aphorism by the renaissance astrologers’ – see also discussion of ‘closed’ and ‘open’ forms of horary practice in the Foreword to the reissue of Derek Appleby’s Horary Astrology.

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