Is Astrology True?
Updated: Feb 4
Fig 1. The Constellation of Hercules
"The most profound truths are at once the most veiled and the most all encompassing.."
Is astrology true?
Is astrology real?
Is astrology accurate?
Is astrology a science?
Is astrology a religion?
Is astrology a sin?
To answer these questions we need to explore the ideas surrounding and informing astrology.
AS ABOVE, SO BELOW
The maxim as above, so below, is fundamental to astrology. It speaks to the principle or belief that what happens in the skies above (around) us - the stellar/planetary alignments and cycles - symbolically mirrors what happens on earth in our psyches (character, behaviour, circumstance), relationships, communities and cultures etc.. This principle has at it's core the simple belief that we're all made of the same stuff of the universe and because of this, we're all subject to the same laws of the universe.
The wise men and women of the past were polymaths with knowledge of a wide range of now separate fields of study like astronomy, philosophy, psychology, sociology and theology etc.. After thousands of years of observations of the skies and everyday psychosocial reality, the knowledge ecology of astrology emerged. This happened independently in many different parts of the world, shaped by the originating customs, cultures and environments e.g. Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Mayan, Inca, Burmese, Sri Lankan, Tibetan and a wide range of Western traditions. This explains the wide range of different types and traditions of astrology present today.
SYMBOL & SIGNS
What is fundamental for a deeper understanding of astrology, is that it is symbolic and correlational. Symbols are different to signs. A no-entry sign means one thing, do not enter. The plus sign in the mathematics equation 2+2 means one thing - add the two numbers to get to an answer of 4.
Unlike a sign however, a symbol can mean many things. The symbol of a butterfly can mean renewal, metamorphosis, awakening, flight, liberation etc.. In astrology, planets and luminaries (moons and stars) are symbolic (symbols), which means they represent many things (not just one thing like signs do). For example, the Sun in astrology symbolically represents our purpose, our legacy, our father and our children i.e. it represents all of these different aspects of our reality.
This is called the multivalent nature of symbolism and is key to understanding the complexity of astrology when it comes to interpretation, scientific research and astrological prediction.
CORRELATION Vs CAUSALITY
A common misunderstanding about astrology is the thinking that planets and luminaries cause (Newtonian law of cause and effect) character, behaviour, events or circumstances on earth. Stanislav Grof tells the story of a meeting with Carl Sagan in which Sagan, having heard of Grof's work with planetary cycles and their correlation to human behavior, says to Grof "there is a greater chance that I, standing here in front of you now, have more of an influence on you than Pluto". Sagan's error from an astrological perspective, is his misunderstanding or rather assumption that the underlying physics of astrology is a Newtonian cause and effect phenomenon, when this is not the case.
However to complicate matters, the Sun and Moon do have a Newtonian cause and effect influence on earth as evidenced by photosynthesis, suntans, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), ocean tides, menstual cycles and the northern light auroras. This is often where the mistake and assumption around astrology and causality originates. Just because the Sun and Moon do have a Newtonian cause and effect influence on earth and are also used in astrology, does not mean that astrology is causal. The underlying physics of astrological correlation is not Newtonian in nature i.e. Sagan was of course absolutely correct about that.
IS ASTROLOGY A SCIENCE?
We need to make a distinction between the questions "Can scientifically valid research be done on astrology?" and "Is astrology a science?" The answer to the former is yes, of course. Big data and artificial intelligence (machine learning) are making scientific astrological research more accessible today. Renay Oshop, an astrologer and scholar of data science has produced statistically significant peer reviewed scientific research on the correlation between Mercury retrograde and errors made by Amazon customer support.
In order for a knowledge ecology like astrology to be regarded as a science however, hypothesised dynamics need to be observable and test-able and the test needs to yield an answer of true or false. This is where things get tricky for astrology. The root of the challenge is the maxim as above, so below. In order for astrology to be regarded as a science, this maxim needs to be converted into a scientific theory or law. Maxim means principle or belief. A theory or law has to be observable and testable, meaning that the underlying physics needs to be known or at least speculated upon (hypothesized) in order for scientific research to be able to control the variables in the environment to properly test the hypotheses.
IS ASTROLOGY REAL (TRUE)?
Written by Harvard graduate Richard Tarnas, the book Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View published in 2006 contains 30 years of qualitative research and proposes the existence of a relationship between planetary transits and events in the lives of major historical figures, as well as a relationship between planetary transits and cultural events i.e. that there is a correlation between cosmic cycles and archetypal patterns of human existence. This is highly credible, academic grade work that is studied by students in many universities not only The California Institute of Integral Studies where Tarnas is professor of philosophy and psychology. My point is that regardless of whether astrology is a science or not, it still is real and has value.
In his book Sinister Forces—The Manson Secret: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft: 3, Peter Levenda tries to wrap his head around the Nobel prize winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli's exclusion principle, in an effort to understand the proposed physics (science) underpinning Jung's concept of synchonicity (events that are not part of the cause-and-effect nexus and come to our attention when a large number of coincidences take place). Pauli had recurring nightmares and it was this that motivated him to see psychiatrist CG Jung on a clinical basis. To be clear, Peter Levenda makes no reference to astrology in his Sinister Forces series but it is well known that Jung speculated on the workings of astrology using the underlying concept of synchonicity.
Levenda in Sinister Forces 3, explains the phenomenon of synchronicity by sharing one of Pauli's dreams of him (Pauli) being shot (a gun being fired), at the exact moment the door slams shut in reality and wakes him up. When this type of synchronicity recurs, coincidence becomes meaningful. It's by understanding what is truly involved in doing experimental research with these type of synchronous phenomenon that the challenge of making astrology a science can be more deeply appreciated.
IS ASTROLOGY ACCURATE?
Like any other profession, astrology is only as good as the astrologers practicing it. There are many different philosophies or traditions of astrology (mentioned above), some of which are more invested in prediction than others. Evolutionary Astrology for example, sees character and circumstance as a complex interplay of fate and free-will and as a result is more focussed on the extrapolation of past cycles (experience) into the future rather than on prediction. The multivalent nature of astrology (mentioned above) additionally makes the exact form that this extrapolation takes difficult to predict. For example, all astrologers knew 2020 would bring fundamental change but very few predicted the exact nature of the events (Covid19 and lockdown) that would precipitate and therefore define the form of the change. Read my article December 2019 A Felt Sense of End of Times to get a better feel of this.
The range of different outcomes predicted by astrologers for the 2020 US Election is another good indication of the complex nature of astrological symbolism and prediction. Based on my observations, predictions were split 50-50 between Trump and Biden (formal research may show otherwise). Most astrologers predicted that the election outcome would be contentious, although with 2020 unfolding as it was, it became pretty evident that this would be the case with or without astrology. Astrologer Chris Brennan however, shared on Twitter a very accurate prediction made two years ago by the late Pam Ciampi (Fig. 2. below) about the nature and form of the 2020 elections.
Fig 2. Excerpt Llewellyn's 2020 Daily Planetary Guide in 2019
IS ASTROLOGY A RELIGION?
The answer to this question relies heavily on the definition of religion. Generally, definitions place heavy emphasis on the institutionalised nature of a system of beliefs and centers the rules, principles and practices around the service and worship of God or the supernatural.
Certain traditions of astrology have a strong spiritual focus, even though this may not be communicated or made explicit in an astrology consultation or reading. Evolutionary Astrology has a specific focus on the spiritual meaning of existence - why are we here, what meaning has life that the inevitability of death does not destroy? There is an underlying belief in the continuity and evolution of consciousness (soul) across lifetimes. We evolve our consciousness to realise and experience a greater "Truth" - which in many ways can be compared to the notion of the pursuit of enlightenment in Ayurveda or the striving for attainment of the Buddha nature in Buddhism.
Not every astrological tradition however has a spiritual focus. Certain traditions of astrology like Financial Astrology are purely secular in nature. The use of gods and goddesses to describe the cosmic archetypes in astrology are mythological in origin and different for example to the Hindu worship of gods and goddesses.
Astrology is also more of a sub-culture than an institution, with its specific language and knowledge ecology used for making sense and meaning of our time here on earth.
Fig 3. The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
IS ASTROLOGY A SIN?
Some Christians believe that the practice of astrology is like "playing God", dabbling in the domain of the divine and is therefore regarded as a sin. In the absence of known scientific theory underlying astrology, synchronicity and meaningful coincidences (mentioned above) may be regarded as supernatural or occult forces and if these are regarded as sinful and bad, astrology becomes sinful and bad.
Astrology has been used as a tool for various purposes by many different people and groups. Besides being a tool for self-insight, awareness and personal transformation, astrology is also a tool for finding the best time to start things, seed intentions and make changes. Aleister Crowley the English occultist and ceremonial magician for example, used astrology in the timing of his ceremonies and spells. Astrology is often identified with the people and groups who use(d) it and may be stigmatised or labelled "wrong" as a result.
CONCLUSION - Updated 12th December 2020
Many people including astrologers believe that the stars, luminaries, planets and other cosmic bodies cause in a classical Newtonian cause and effect way behaviour on earth and that this relationship is scientifically proven which is patently incorrect and why astrology is called a pseudoscience.
When we as astrologers more correctly say there is a correlation (or ‘mirroring’) between planetary alignments and life on earth, we are pointing to a relationship between the two without being specific (or making assumptions) about the causal nature (science) of the relationship.
The way that truth is pursued in our current milieu is through science. We can remove the possibility of chance or coincidence as an explanation of astrology through the careful, systematic and replicated use of the scientific method. Statistically significant research together with the peer review process means that systematic and random errors like coincidence and other variants are controlled for by large sample sizes and good research design.
If the truths of astrology are not open to scrutiny they remain in the realm of belief. Only when scientific theory explains astrological phenomenon as a process in physics and mathematics, will astrology acquire true scientific status and the power, value and social impact this affords. Wolfgang Pauli speculated on the scientific underpinnings of Jung’s idea of synchronicity. Filip Filipov and Dr William Keepin have recently postulated a fractal-holographic theory of astrological phenomenon.
There is clearly some ‘mechanism’ underpinning astrological phenomenon. Many astrologers assert that astrology is not a science and can never be scientifically proven. Stephen Hawking, Juan Maldacena and Leonard Susskind created scientific theory about black holes which are arguably much more elusive and mysterious than astrology. I agree with astrologers like Filip Filipov who state that if astrology does not shake off its status as a pseudoscience it will continue to be marginalised, ignored and even maligned in the future - instead of playing the potentially pivotal role in opening up a higher level of understanding of consciousness and the universe.
Note: Further updated 14/2/2020 to remove the ice-cream and sun-glasses correlation analogy.
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Filipov, Filip and Keepin, William. "First European Conference on Astrology: Sources, Methods, Psychics and Philosophy of Astrology". Bulgaria: Unknown: 2019.
Jung, Carl Gustav. "Jung on Astrology". New York: Routledge: 2018.
Levenda, Peter. "Sinister Forces—The Manson Secret: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft: 3". Chicago: Independent Publishers Group: 2006.
Oshop, Renay. NewThinkingAllowed.org. https://www.newthinkingallowed.org/renay-oshop-peer-reviewed-science-comes-to-astrology-345/.
Tarnas, Richard. "Cosmos and Psyche Intimations of a New World View". London: Viking Penguin: 2006.
Richelle Steyn certified as an Evolutionary Astrologer through The Comprehensive Diploma Course (Maurice Fernandez). She lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
(C) Copyright 2020 Richelle Steyn. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the author unless credit and reference are provided.