For my mouth will speak the truth, and wickedness is detestable to my lipsProverbs, 8:7
Some time ago, I happened to reply to an articulated exposition against (Latin contra) astrology, motivated by the need to put the world’s scientific vision before any thought anchored – according to detractors – to the faiths and superstitions of the dark ages. A response given on the wave of an emotional reaction becomes the expression of an irrational attachment. It is an opinion that has no probative value or takes on the weight of an unmotivated sentence; in short, it does not help in understanding the phenomenon. I, therefore, decided for an equally articulated intervention, concise for exhibition needs but which covers many of the points that are a strong point of the detractors, the so-called astrological debunkers.
The reference to Aquinas’s work wants to be a playful counterpoint. Thomas Aquinas wrote his ponderous piece in Italy under the pontificate of Urban IV, around 1261, at the request of Saint Raymond of Pennafort, a Dominican friar who intended to convert Jews and Muslims to Catholicism. Today’s astrologers appear like the Gentiles of yore, somewhat infidels, unable to adapt to the dominant thought’s changed orientation. With this speech, I would like to attempt to overturn the terms of the question, placing men of science in Gentiles‘ guise but again, I would like to reiterate it, without any polemical intent, because this is not an approach against scientific thought. Like other esoteric knowledge branches, Astrology aims to reconcile the observer’s consciousness with the phenomenal experience. This scenario includes enough degrees of freedom to allow you to choose based on your attitudes, without this having to generate division: two systems, one reality.
Debunkers say that constellation are conventions. True. Astrologers originally fixed them for mnemonic purposes in animal representations (as far as Western astrology is concerned and apart from the only inanimate sign of Libra). The pareidolia they cite – the imaginary elaboration of real perceptions – has nothing to do with it; they assigned the animal symbolism affixing lines that joined the individual stars to form the ‘skeleton’ on which to imagine the figure.
The geocentric coordinate system
The assumption that the solar system is heliocentric and that its position is by no means central to the known universe does not debunk Astrology. Such speculation does not consider astrology as geocentric by definition (there is also heliocentric astrology, but that’s another tale). The ancient vision of the world was such that human beings and the outer world were participants in a unitary reality; this unity was represented on the human level in the consciousness of an individual ego. So it was pretty natural for man to be the bearer of a centralizing – anthropocentric – vision in which the cosmos expressed the ‘dance’ of the creative principle he embodied. Today it is no longer like this; the core has shifted towards practical and objective experience, but the astrological axiom remains as it is.
The precession of the equinoxes
It is an absolutely debunking classic. The actual constellations have shifted concerning the initial reference due to the precession and nutation movements of the earth’s axis, at the rate of one degree about every 72 years. So if you are from Taurus, you are actually from Aries. Trouble. Or not, if we consider that the Western horoscope is based on the tropical zodiac and not on the sidereal one. The tropic year measures two successive passes of the Sun on the vernal point or zero degrees of Aries. The vernal point originates from the intersection between the equator’s projection on the celestial sphere and the ecliptic, which is the apparent annual path of the Sun. In simple terms, it means that the zodiac is on a seasonal basis, and the zodiac signs represent the alternation of the natural cycle symbolically expressed in the circle of animals. Due to the precessional movement, the sidereal year is slightly longer, and with time, it leads to a phase shift between the two reference systems.
Final thoughts on the scientific aspects
The fact that the universe is three-dimensional, that the stars are spaced apart, that on Alpha Centauri, the perspective would be radically changed, etc., has no probative value. We do not understand Astrology in the way we understand science today, that is, as an investigation aimed at studying the processes that govern the sphere of manifest things through rigorous and theoretical knowledge. If we speak of astrological science, it is an investigation that considers the interaction between the phenomenon and the observer’s conscience, who plays the role of author of an otherwise meaningless cosmic vision. As if to say that the universe and human awareness of it are part of a single process, which makes it possible to decipher astrological dynamics not in a purely material and distinctive sense but as signs or symbols that are integral elements of our unitary consciousness. From this perspective, to speak of the stars or constellations’ influence is improper; astrology reflects a symbolic reality, divided from the knower only in appearance.
We must address this aspect on two levels. The debunker rightly says that in the face of the myriad of daily events and the presence of a more or less specific prediction, the subject in question will develop a bias to choose the one that best suits the forecast; the mental functions in these cases follow the dynamics of a mathematical attractor, that is, they tend towards a point that can satisfy the condition of maximum state of inactivity or satisfaction. The fact is that this analysis is based on an erroneous approach, the result of a distorted and, if we like, superstitious use of matter by the same astrologers or self-styled ones; we also consider that the so-called newspaper astrology is unsubstantiated in its forward-looking statements. The question – and here we come to the second point – nevertheless has a more philosophical than astrological value. If we affirm that Astrology can predict the future, we assume that human beings live in a state of absolute necessity and dependence on their destiny, without any possibility of acting except by what has already been established since birth.
On the other hand, by assigning degrees of freedom to individual intervention on destined events, we assume that we can act spontaneously in the face of choices, without prejudice to the limits imposed on us by genetics or cultural or family orientations. However, there is a fundamental lack in these arguments, i.e. not considering the consciousness as the main actor in the theatre of events. Without a consciousness that translates the data of our perceptions, events would have no meaning in themselves. Therefore, Astrology’s purpose is not to predict the future but to make sure that we happen to the events themselves, that is, that we assign them a function that makes us participate in what is happening. What we see in the horoscope is essentially the union between our interiority, which interprets reality from a unique point of view that refers to a specific individuality, and the external events that become significant thanks to conscious intervention. Therefore, the prediction of the future in astrology is the revelation of potentials that we can express on the world stage, and its primary purpose is to make us aware of these potentials to give our life a whole meaning without following false paths. To the question “can we accurately predict the future?” we can answer that with Western astrology tools in certain circumstances, it is possible to give an accurate prediction on the potential development of an event for the consultant, not on the event itself. But suppose we present it as an unavoidable objective circumstance without providing the consultant with the tools to recognize the event, whether auspicious or inauspicious, as an integral part of himself and as an evolutionary process. In that case, the thing is useless when not harmful.
Talking about the character, it is inevitable that the so-called ‘confirmation bias’ or the Forer effect act as attractors, as explained in the previous paragraph; but the result is obtained with a kind of deception, presenting to the ‘test subject’ a series of linguistic elements sufficiently broad and contradictory to force them to slim down the list until only what corresponds to the image of himself remains in evidence. For example, when the debunker assigns an ‘ambitious’ qualification, he does this without observing that the causes of ambition are manifold. Traditionally we give the trait of ambition to Capricorn. But even a Leo can be ambitious; even a Cancer, however moody, can be ambitious. Here it is not a question of applying the formula “where there is Capricorn, there is ambition”, but of going to the origin of the symbol verifying that, under certain conditions, a type of ambition can develop that responds to the characteristics of the sign. Let’s take an example with Capricorn. In analogy with seasonal symbolism, in which nature is at the minimum of manifestation, the sign’s individual expresses himself with a trait in which the search for the essence of things rather than their formal expression dominates. If we talk about ambition, it will be an ambition towards elevation, different from Leo, which shows an ambition centred on itself. That means that we have to subordinate qualitative analysis of a theme to the symbolic meanings that underlie it.
In all these debunking examples, it is assumed that the astrologer is willing to say everything to justify his fee and that astrology is based only on the zodiac signs. Both things are possible: the self-styled astrologer relies on the superstitious aspect, and the newspaper colleague adapts to a mass cultural model. It has nothing to do with astrology. Not to mention that the structure of an astrological scheme is highly diversified (houses, planets, aspects, etc.), certainly not limited to the birth sign, because it integrates the multiplicity of psychophysical elements that are the individual’s manifestation field.