It seems that astrology has always been harassed by the yipping and yapping wild dogs of doubt. There are ancient records of Babylonian astrologers being punished for inaccuracies. And in our time, scientists and other “rational” people denigrate astrology, while some astrologers defend themselves by proclaiming, “Astrology is an Art, not a Science.”
This is further complicated by how different Western astrology is from Hindu astrology and how different both of those systems are from the astrology developed in China and by the ancient Maya. How can so many different paradigms of our celestial environment be reconciled? Why is the Chinese map of the celestial environment so different from the Western, Hindu and Maya? All those ancient stargazers saw the same sky—why did they map it so differently?
Despite these different paradigms, astrology IS scientific according to the universal definition of science: “Knowledge attained through study or practice,” or “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws.” The strange and fascinating events in the celestial surround we find ourselves in have been and are perceived in a variety of ways, and with a variety of expectations as to what will be found.
The problem with including astrology under the heading of “Science” is that it can be neither proven nor disproven using the modern scientific method.
We are, in effect, facing a mystery beyond our ken as we try to reconcile “seeing is believing” with “we find what we believe is there to be found.” In other words, we find what we look for. We do not look for what we cannot imagine is there to be found.
And our expectations influence what we find. That’s true of both science and astrology.
Scientifically, this is verified by the “experimenter effect” in Quantum Physics, whereby it is scientifically proven that the experimenter’s expectations tend to move and shape subatomic particles.
This supports the astrological belief that we live in an interconnected universe. But because conventional science cannot prove the universal principles of astrology—nor disprove them—conventional scientists regard astrology as superstition or delusion.
The scientific method requires experimental results be verified by duplication. If you throw a stone up, it will always come down, proving gravity. But astrology deals with a reality far beyond earthly gravity.
Astrological cycles repeat but in an ever-changing celestial context. We can ascertain that people born with a certain aspect—Venus conjunct Jupiter in the 2nd house, say—are likely to be born rich, become rich, or make and spend an extraordinary amount of money during their lives, depending on other aspects to the Venus-Jupiter conjunct and also the economic social class each is born into. An heiress will have a different relationship with wealth than an orphan.
Here is another “unscientific” anomaly:
Each Full Moon occurs in a unique environment, with the other planets arranged differently by longitude and latitude, in relationship to each other and in relationship to the Precession of the Equinoxes, the movement of our solar system within the vast celestial environment beyond. If, say, a New Moon occurs in a water sign conjunct Mars, floods are likely. This doesn’t mean that floods are likely under the next Full Moon, which will occur in another sign, not conjunct Mars, and with the other bodies of the Solar System also making different aspects to the lunation.
Full Moons are legendary for stimulating high tides and peaks of emotional activities. Police stations become extraordinarily busy under Full Moons negatively aspected. People who experience a Full Moon which negatively aspects certain natal positions are likely to undergo emotional epiphanies. But this “full-moon effect” cannot be duplicated by scientific experiment because it never repeats within the same celestial context. It is aspected differently every time it occurs, which means it cannot duplicate the same earthly effects as any previous lunation. The same TYPES of events, yes. But exactly the same events? Never. History repeats but does not duplicate.
Since the modern scientific method demands verifiable duplication, astrology can be neither proven nor disproven scientifically.
Yet there are abundant records showing humans around the world have been studying the stars for many millennia, and finding consistent meaning in certain celestial patterns. If there was nothing to astrology, why would so many humans persist in studying it, searching for meanings? Is it possible that as modern astro-scientists continues to probe the vast sky, science, too, will become less certain of its previous certainties? Is it possible that one day modern astronomy and ancient astrology will coincide?
Before the rise of the monotheistic religions—Judaism, Islam and Christianity—people described the angular effects of the heavenly bodies in myths about the gods and goddesses. In virtually every pantheistic religion, the gods were named for the visible planets (or the visible planets named for the gods) and the noticeable effects of planetary angles described the relationship of the gods and goddesses. The Roman Mercury is the Hindu Vishnu, the Native American Coyote, the Polynesian Maui, the West African Legba, and so forth around the world. In one culture, one quality of the Mercury god might be emphasized while in another culture, another quality of this same god/planet might be seen as more fascinating.
This is further complicated by the observed fact that Mercury’s effects partake of whatever other celestial body is aspecting it at any given moment. Mercury’s effects becomes “masculine” when conjunct Mars, and “feminine” when conjunct Venus. Still, the lore about Mercury is so alike around the world that it’s impossible to mistake it for any other planet/deity.
Which brings us to another reason astrology cannot be “scientificated”—the mythologies about the deities are told in legends, in many different languages, with different emphases on the various qualities of each. Modern science, on the other hand, has developed a common terminology which transcends languages. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German was considered “the language of science,” and German scientists relied on Greek and Latin prefixes and suffixes to create a more universally recognized terminology.
A third hurdle astrology has when trying to become accepted by modern science is the uncertainty involved in deciphering astrological charts. Modern scientists prize certainty. A scientific law is reliable, or else it’s not a scientific law. In contrast, reading an astrological chart is complex and fraught with a lot of uncertainty.
If we see that Mars will transit an entity’s natal Sun, square transiting Uranus, the strong likelihood is that this person will suffer an accident or some kind of unexpected violence. Under such a combination of transits, I was being extremely cautious and even congratulating myself on getting through this dangerous period without mishap when my car was hit from behind by a truck. Sometimes we don’t “have” accidents—accidents have us.
There is a very insightful article about this: “Astrology and the Anatomy of Doubt” by Garry Phillipson. Here’s a sample quote:
“Astrology is, first and foremost, a study of meaning. We study patterns in the world, not for their own sake but because we read meaning in these patterns. We do not observe patterns in the sky or in our friends just for the sake of striking off random entries in an infinite catalogue…Astrologers note patterns because we believe that what we observe has meaning and this works in both directions: above to below, below to above…If Saturn squares Mars in the world above, I expect this to mean something in the world below; if Jim can’t hold down a job for more than two weeks, I expect to see this facet of the world below mirrored meaningfully in the world above—through Jim’s chart. Given that this general principle patterns hold meaning—Is so integral to astrology, it seems strange that astrologers take so little interest in what is (I suggest) the most obvious pattern in astrology itself: that astrology is always shadowed by doubt.”
Science, too, is shadowed by doubt, as one hypothesis replaces another in the ongoing quest for knowledge. But basically, science presents knowledge that is believed to be “natural law” and cannot be disproven. By contrast, astrology presents meanings based on astrological theories (planetary patterns and angles) which are often part of such a complex overall celestial pattern, they appear to work most of the time, but not always.
For instance, we may find in a chart such a combination of hard angles qualified by trines and sextiles that it is virtually impossible to say which will dominate in the subject’s life. This brings us to free will and an ancient truth: we are not caught in an iron cage of predetermined fate. We have free will. Some people use their knowledge of history and their intelligence to be better prepared for winters or monsoons, times of economic stress and times of economic opportunity.
It is often the person with the most squares and oppositions who becomes the most successful. My mentor described this as “the mashed potato syndrome,” meaning that a person whose nativity is dominated by nice easy trines and sextiles tends to be “mashed potatoes.” Unchallenged, the person does not develop the character and self-discipline needed to succeed.
This brings us to the fact that our solar system is surrounded by a universe of celestial bodies which we cannot factor into our ordinary readings because there are so many, and they are so various and in ever-dynamic motion. It’s enough for us to read the relationships of the planets in our own little solar system, even while we acknowledge that our solar system is, in turn, subject to unknown influences from beyond our Zodiac.
For doubters and distracters of astrology, there are also the various astrological techniques of reading charts. In predicting the stock market, for instance, Louise McWhirter developed a technique back in the 1920s based on the Moon’s North Node, which worked reliably to tell her when stocks would rise or fall—except when the North Node’s reliability was disrupted by angles from planets, especially Saturn and Uranus. Conversely, one can reliably predict long-range stock market moves by the angles of Saturn and Uranus, except when they are disrupted by the Nodes, or by Neptune or Pluto.
How can it be, the science-minded may ask, that different interpretive techniques result in the same predictions? The answer is that there are so many different ways to read “God’s newsletter,” celestial patterns.
Scientific rationalism seeks clear yes-or-no cause-effect relationships. Such simplicity is not possible in astrology—yet astrologers arrive at basically the same prediction by a variety of astrological techniques.
Even among astrologers there is often hot debate over which system of chart interpretation works best, and which does not work at all. There are astrologers who believe there is a correct way of chart reading, and all other ways should be discarded. Students of astrology, these “purists” believe, should be taught the correct way, and tests should be given—you either pass or fail, according to your grasp of this single correct way to the exclusion of all others.
This attempt to “scientificate” astrology, it seems to me, is doomed because of the vastness and complexity of our subject. Garry Phillipson cites an ancient Indian legend to make this point:
“A group of pundits are arguing about the world: Is it finite or infinite? Is the soul something separate from the body? A wise man, hearing of this, compares the pundits to a group of blind men. These men, blind from birth, were ordered by a rajah to discover what an elephant is like. So they were assembled around an elephant. One man grasped a foot, one the trunk, one a tusk, one an ear, and so on. The rajah asked them: “Well, what is an elephant like?” Each began describing the part of the elephant he was holding: “It’s like the trunk of a tree” “No, it’s like a plough-share,” etc. The blind men began contradicting one another more and more forcefully — “No, an elephant’s not like that at all!” — and eventually came to blows. All because each believed that what he had hold of was all that there was to know.”
The surrounding universe is to us as the elephant is to the blind men of the Hindu myth. We humans prefer to live in our familiar bubbles of limited knowledge rather than face the vast mysteries that surround us.
That astrology has always been harassed by the wild dogs is doubt does not deter us in our quest for more and more accurate knowledge of the seemingly infinite and ever-changing celestial environment we live in.
Robert Gover, USA