Astrology studies associations between the celestial events and the events on Earth. Traditionally, only two luminaries (Sun and Moon), five visible planets, or “wondering stars” (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), and “fixed stars” (the stars that don’t change their locations relative to the backdrop of the sky and other stars, i.e., all objects that do not revolve around the Sun and are so far from us that they seem to have a constant position in the sky) were taken into the account. Later, with the discovery of three “outer” planets, invisible by the naked eye Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, resulted in inclusion of these three planets into consideration. Many smaller bodies, for example asteroids, have been also discovered, and many contemporary astrologers use the largest of them routinely. Some astrologers specialize in asteroids and use a large number of them when casting an astrological chart.
When and how exactly did astrology develop is unclear. It has been practiced in different forms in most areas of the world for millennia. The modern Western astrology developed from the ancient (3rd millennium BC) astrological tradition of Babylon, Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Arabic traditions. However, the evidence that humans were aware of Lunar cycle and used it in their everyday life dates 25,000 years ago. Around the same time as astrology was developing in Babylon, the Native Americans, Mayans and Aztecs also created their own branch of astrology. Later, Chinese astrology developed as a part of the philosophy and a tradition that is very different from the astrology that was practiced in Babylon and Egypt. Indian astrology is currently a thorough mixture of the ancient Indian tradition and the Western astrology that was brought to India from Mediterranean region.
Although we have no idea how and why the astrology started developing, the common agreement is that it probably developed because people noticed associations between cyclic celestial events and the events on Earth. This branch of astrology called “Mundane astrology” developed first: it described and predicted the global events affecting whole nations and states, like change of dynasties, natural disasters, wars, etc. This branch of astrology is popular these days as well and discusses disasters, politics, market fluctuations, weather, and any other changes affecting large groups of people.
Later, three more branches developed: Interrogational, Inceptional, and Natal Astrology. Interrogational, or horary, astrology is a divination that interrogates the Universe about very specific personal queries, similar to any divination, e.g., Tarot or I-Ching. After the question is asked, the astrologer casts a chart of the moment and interprets the chart to provide the answer to the question. Although criticized by outsiders and science-oriented astrologers themselves, the horary astrology is amazingly precise, and it is used by many people to answer life-defining and everyday questions alike.
When the astrologers gathered enough astronomical data to predict the visible movement of the celestial bodies around the Earth, they became able to cast charts for the future. At this point in time, Inceptional Astrology became an option, and the Electional Astrology was developed. Electional Astrology helps to choose a moment in a future for a specific event that a person is planning, for example, a wedding, start of a new job, an interview, conception of a child, start of a business, etc. This branch of astrology has been especially criticized from the point of view of religions and blamed for “playing a God” by trying to influence the pre-determined development of life. In fact, any existing religion allows for the free will and improvement of ourselves and our lives through a conscious effort. Therefore, choosing a time to improve our chances or to avoid disasters falls very well into this category of free will. Electional astrology does not eliminate the pre-determined path; it only helps to facilitate the events but cannot change them. The birth chart determines whether the desired outcome is possible or not, and electing a good time for an event will not work if the event is denied by the birth chart.
Natal Astrology, or interpretation of the birth chart was once available only to nobility whose birthdays and birth times were carefully documented. Most people did not have a luxury of remembering their birth dates and times and could not enjoy the benefits of having their horoscope cast by an astrologer. We all know the stories about kings’ and queens’ astrologers who carefully calculated and predicted every step for their noble clients. As people started keeping track of their children’s birthdays, everyone, who had information about their birth and enough money to pay for a consultation, became able to get an astrologer’s advice. Natal astrology is based on examination and interpretation of a map of the sky at the time of birth in the place of birth. In addition to examining natural abilities and potential of the native, it also examines the effects of celestial events on the planets in the birth horoscope and predicts major changes in one’s life. Relationship astrology is also based on natal horoscopes and compares the compatibility of two persons. Using the natal horoscope, it is also possible to recommend a location where the person can be most successful and happy. Natal chart interpretation became the most popular type of astrology used by those who consult an astrologer: clients are looking to find their vocation, to make important life decisions based on the planetary arrangements relative to their natal planets, or inquiring about their relationships and compatibility with their partners, bosses, and even pets.
How does astrology work? This is a question that has not been resolved even among the astrologers. Some believe that the celestial objects have a direct effect on the Earthly affairs through the known and maybe unknown forces of nature. Others are convinced that the associations between the celestial events and our lives are explained by synchronicity, i.e., there is no direct effect of the space objects, but everything in the Universe works as a mechanical clock to provide the coincidental correlations between the events in the sky and the events on Earth and in everyone’s life, and these correlations are not causal. The theory of synchronicity has been developed by psychiatrist and philosopher Carl Gustav Jung, who described it in several works, including “Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle”.
Both points of view are interesting and, to me, do not seem to be mutually exclusive. As we learn more and more about the space and the energy transfer through the space, the direct causal effect does not sound like a stretch anymore. Think of solar activity periods and solar flares that can interrupt communications on Earth – can we really say that these somewhat cyclic magnetic storms do not affect us? The tiny particle have been detected traveling through the space over the distances much greater than our Solar system – can we be sure that they do not affect our health, moods, and choices? Every planet sends the electromagnetic waves into the space and has a gravity pull that defines our Solar System – can we be sure that these do not have any effects on Earth and on people? Our limited knowledge of space and its physics really does not allow us to be sure about anything… The Moon gravity controls the tides of the ocean – can we state that it does not have any effect on people, who consist of 90% water?
However, the idea of synchronicity is also a very attractive concept to anyone who is tuned to the Universe and can feel the divine pulse and mind. Any truly spiritual person understands the idea of inter-connectedness and mutual dependence of everything on everything and everyone on everyone. If we accept the idea of a creator (and there is really no alternative to this idea so far – no matter how the Universe developed, we do not have any explanation of how it all started, because it had to develop out of something), the thought that the Universe is living by certain rules that correlate to each other is not a stretch at all.
Currently, according to different surveys, 25 – 65% of U.S. population believe in astrology, believe that astrology is a science, use an astrologer, or read sun sign horoscopes. This is a great trend indicating that people finally turned to millennia of wisdom and tradition in spite of the sometimes aggressive and unsubstantiated attacks that scientists are conducting against the astrology.
Astrology has fallen off the wagon of popular disciplines with the age of enlightenment, when the natural materialistic theories developed and called to ban anything that had no “scientific” explanation. It is very unfortunate that the enemies of astrology do not take time to study the subject and to understand the astrological approaches. For example, astrology is criticized for disregarding the actual structure of the Solar System (with Sun in the center), continuing to examine the celestial events as they are seen from the Earth. In fact, the point of view does not change the events; it only changes the perspective. Imagine that you are standing at your window and observing a distant car moving from point A to point B. The car looks very small, like a ladybug, and it seems to travel over just one inch as you see it from your window. Imagine someone is following the same car in a helicopter right above the car and also waiting for the car to travel from point A to point B. For the pilot, the car is 10 feet long and has to travel a mile. Independently of whether you time the tiny car from your window going over one inch or whether you time the 10-feet long car traveling over a mile, the timing of arriving to point B will be the same.
Most arguments of opposition fall apart when you study the principles and the art of astrology. The discipline is complex and limitless, and it takes years to develop true understanding and adequate skills to be able to see the beauty and the truth of it. May be this is why the haters can never get it. Those, who did dedicate time and effort to the study of astrology in order to disprove it, became professional astrologers instead.
Another major argument against astrology is that predictions are not 100% accurate and depend on the astrologer, i.e., not everyone can make a prediction just based on well-defined rules, and that it is unknown exactly how astrology works. Unfortunately, the opponents were able to convince the public that astrology is different from other disciplines in this way. The public accepts that a scientific discipline is legitimate, even though errors are made in any scientific discipline every day. For example, nobody would argue that biology is a legitimate science that developed a large body of knowledge, which significantly improved our understanding of the living beings and our lives. We all enjoy the achievements of different branches of biology – from instructing the planes how to avoid migrating birds to curing cancer and preventing infectious diseases. However, is biology really 100% accurate, independent of interpretations, and free of errors? If this were the case, would we have medications that turned out to have horrible side effects (e.g., thalidomide) or would the side effects be easily predictable? Would eggs be good for your health for years, then bad for your health, then suddenly good again? Would aspartame be a harmless sugar replacement one day and a dangerous compound changing the body’s metabolism several years later? As any science, biology is developing, accumulating more knowledge, and the data are subject to interpretations. Nobody would ever say that all biologists are charlatans and that the biology is not a legitimate discipline.
So, how did it happen that astrology is a subject to different expectations in performance and to stricter set of rules than any other discipline? Beats me!