What Astrology Is – And Isn’t
Astrology’s Reputation is Less Than Stellar and There’s Good Reason for That.
Many people actually think that astrology is the Sun-sign columns found in almost every newspaper and online news media sites. Nothing could be further from the truth. That’s not astrology, that’s entertainment, which is what is often stated in the fine print beneath astrology columns. Unfortunately, sun-sign columns are one of the most persistently misleading representations of astrology. An amazing fact, however, is that nearly all people know what their Sun-sign is, and more than 31% of the public give some credence to astrology according to a 2008 Harris poll. In 2001, the National Science Foundation concluded that 41 percent of those surveyed believed that astrology is at least somewhat scientific. So, if astrology isn’t Sun-sign columns, then what is it?
“Astrology can tell you what, when, where, and how. However, something else will have to tell you why.” – Dr. Joseph (Deepak) Vidmar.
Astrology’s Ancient Roots
Astrology is inextricably interwoven throughout our social and cultural history. In fact, it’s part of the soul of culture – every museum, every city, in either its buildings or monuments has some Zodiacal representation. Museums the world over hold evidence in artifacts of the value society has placed on astrological symbolism since the earliest times of human history. Some remarkable physical remnants also remain, the most notable being Stonehenge in England, said to have been constructed in phases between 3,000 to 2,000 BCE. It may have had several functions, as a healing and sacred burial site, and also as a huge clock or celestial observatory to measure the Sun’s movement and interaction with the Earth, enabling its designers to precisely predict eclipses, solstices, equinoxes and other major celestial events.
Astrology initially developed as a symbolic language for understanding and managing various natural phenomena for agricultural purposes, and to elicit meaning from the contradictions of life. Observing celestial cycles, (most obviously the Moon traveling through its phases monthly) established early on the recognition that there is an inexorable link between the environment around us (including the space above us) and the patterns of our daily lives.
Real astrology is a much more complex process than the simplicity of sun-sign columns. Natal astrology, for example, involves a map of the sky at the time, place, and date of one’s birth. It includes analysis of a minimum of 10 celestial bodies and several other mathematical points derived from the calculations of one’s birth data. The logic behind this is that we are all influenced by the environments into which we are born, both physical and social.
Astrological Symbols Explained
Dane Rudhyar, one of the most respected astrologers of the twentieth century, now deceased, brilliantly explained astrological principles in this article from Horoscope magazine 1971:
“More simply stated: the astrologer observes the interrelated motions of the closest factors in the cosmic environment of a particular locality on the earth’s surface – i.e., the ten astrological planets – and having identified these planets with the most basic functions and drives in the total organism of a particular human being, he deduces from the interrelationships of the planets at a particular time what the interrelationships between the constituent parts of this human being will be…
“In other words, ten variables are considered sufficient to interpret and to attribute meaning to all past and present events and personal crises and to enable the astrologer to predict future developments. Moreover, the relatively simple formula which a birth-chart constitutes is said by the astrologer to define the very character of the “native” – even though human character is quite a complex affair! Obviously, it can only do so if the ten variables represent the basic qualities of existence which may manifest at any and all levels of human personality.
“We, therefore, are leaving altogether the scientific realm of quantitative measurements and in astrology we are operating in terms of the organic interplay between universal qualities or life rhythms. Each of these ten qualities – modified by their positions within frames of reference like zodiacal signs and natal houses – must, therefore, cover a multitude of cases.
“Astrology deals with individual persons; it is meant to help these persons to live a more harmonious and significant, a richer and fuller life. In pursuit of such a goal, quantitative factors are of little value, for what is at stake is the quality of each of the persons’ ten basic bio-psychic organic functions – the Sun function, the Moon function, the Mercury function, the Venus function, the Mars function, etc.
“The specific genius of astrology resides in the astrologer’s ability to relate every trait of character, every mode of behavior, every form of intelligence, every vital feeling-response to merely ten variables. The more complex human existence becomes, the more each of those variables has to be loaded with possible meaning – a process which seems to be in direct opposition to the ever more refined type of analysis developed by modern scientists so specialized that indeed they come to know more and more about less and less.”
Rudhyar clearly expresses what all astrologers know so well, that there are as many ways of measuring as there are of understanding phenomenon. The scientific, mechanistic way is not the only one, even though it professes to be and appears to have a firm grasp on modern society – I sense this loosening, as the times we are in demand that we take a deeper look at our place in the universe and what we have been led to believe.
It is the distinction and definition of measuring which caused astrology to lose its place of previous honor during the so called Age of Enlightenment, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the concept of a relationship to the divine or a holistic world view was seen by scientists as associated with religion and therefore rejected by the rise of scientific measurements. The words, astrologer and astronomer were one and the same until the advent of mechanistic science in the seventeenth century. After all, it was Galileo, an astrologer, who rocked the world with his theory, proven true, that the Sun was the center of the solar system and not the Earth. He was imprisoned for that discovery and made by the Catholic Church to recant it.
Astrology is a symbolic language and a testament to our humanity as it seeks not to divide but to harmonize and holistically understand the entire system we live within (earth and cosmos) and not only select parts.
World View Challenged
Bernadette Brady explains it well:
“You know how they [science] once thought that the planets’ orbits were circular – they had to be, because of the eight spheres. It was a whole world-view, which was a world-view of God as well; theological astronomy, really. If they weren’t perfect circles then they couldn’t have the eight spheres and the whole theology broke down; so there was tremendous resistance to changing the concept of the perfectly circular orbit…So the whole thing disintegrated with Kepler – and the whole theology had to go, the whole world-view had to change to incorporate the ellipse.
“That’s where we are at with orthodox science now – there are many band-aids stuck on in order to make things fit. I think what is going to happen – fifty or a hundred years from now, I don’t know the timing – is that the whole lot is going to collapse, and the major philosophy is going to be based on fractals and Mandelbrot theory – and the interconnectedness of everything, and the cyclic nature of everything – and how things are reproducing at many levels without scale, time or size.
“I think that then science as we know it will change and we’ll get a world-view based more on fractals; and when that happens, I believe astrology is going to be totally at ease. The big problem astrology has had is that it’s the only ‘science’ (in inverted commas) that couldn’t go over to reductionism. You couldn’t do it, because if you went over to orthodox science – well, astrology is destroyed if we break it into little parts. The very central standing stone of astrology is the interconnectedness of things, so it cannot be reduced to parts, you may be able to play around with positive coding for football matches but not a person.
“Astrology therefore could not go over and jump on the new bandwagon or reductionism, so when a philosophy can’t comply with the orthodox view it tends to be labeled as evil – but I think that’s going to shift, but maybe not in our life time.
“I therefore don’t think that astrologers have to go to science and prove themselves. I think astrologers just have to stand where they are, because I think science is coming to us.”
Paraphrasing Sir Isaac Newton – it’s important to research a topic, or at least delve beneath the surface veneer, before discounting its value or voicing an opinion. As it turns out, astrology is a rich symbolic language with a history that spans all of human existence from the very first time that mankind looked upward at the sky and observed changing celestial phenomena. It has much to offer to the discerning (and open) mind. Astrology is not a science but all its data is based on the sciences of astronomy and mathematics, the calculations of which are used for the interpretation of charts. The best way to determine the personal value of astrology is to experience a professional astrological consultation and then make your own informed evaluation.
p. 1 – Dr. Joseph “Deepak” Vidmar from his article “Astrologer asks: What if astrology is real” posted on www.astrologynewsservice.com
p. 2 – Statistical Astrology and Individuality by Dane Rudhyar. First Published in Horoscope Magazine, 5/1971.
p. 3 – Bernadette Brady has a MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology from Bath Spa University, UK. Quoted from an interview by Garry Phillipson, 1998. Her newest book is Astrology a Place in Chaos.
p. 3 – From Wikipedia: Mandelbrot believed that fractals, far from being unnatural, were in many ways more intuitive and natural than the artificially smooth objects of traditional Euclidean geometry:
p. 3 – “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.” —Mandelbrot, in his introduction to The Fractal Geometry of Nature
p. 3 – Mandelbrot has been called a visionary and a maverick. His informal and passionate style of writing and his emphasis on visual and geometric intuition (supported by the inclusion of numerous illustrations) made The Fractal Geometry of Nature accessible to non-specialists. The book sparked widespread popular interest in fractals and contributed to chaos theory and other fields of science and mathematics.
p. 4 – Sir Isaaac Newton reportedly said to Edmond Halley, “Sir, I have studied it, you have not.”