Astrology and science: two visions, one reality
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. An answer given in the wake 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 unjustified sentence; in short, it does not help understand the phenomenon. I, therefore, decided on 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 is intended 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. The latter intended to convert Jews and Muslims to Catholicism. Today’s astrologers appear like the Gentiles of yore, somewhat infidels, unable to adapt to the changed orientation of the dominant thought. With this discourse, I would like to try to overturn the terms of the question, placing men and women of science in Gentiles’ guise. Once again, I would like to reiterate this, without any polemical intent, because this is not an approach against scientific thinking. Like other branches of esoteric knowledge, astrology aims to reconcile the observer’s consciousness with a phenomenal experience. This scenario includes enough degrees of freedom to allow you to choose based on your attitudes without generating divisions: two systems, one reality.
Debunkers claim that constellations are conventions. True. Astrologers initially fixed them for mnemonic purposes in animal representations (as far as Western astrology is concerned and aside from the one inanimate sign of Libra). The pareidolia they cite – the imaginary processing of real perceptions – has nothing to do with it; they assigned to the animal symbolism affixing lines that joined the single 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 in the known universe does not disprove astrology. Such speculation does not consider astrology geocentric by definition (there is also heliocentric astrology, but that’s another story). The ancient worldview was such that human beings and the external world were participants in a unitary reality; this unity was represented on a human level in the consciousness of an individual ego. Therefore, it was natural for the human being to be the bearer of a centralising – anthropocentric – vision. The cosmos expressed the “dance” of the creative principle it embodied. Today this is no longer the case; the core has shifted towards practical and objective experience, but the astrological axiom remains as it is.
The precession of the equinoxes
Debunking the precession of the equinoxes is an absolute classic. The current constellations have shifted from the initial reference due to the precession and nutation movements of the Earth’s axis, at the rate of one degree every 72 years or so. So, if you are from Taurus, you are actually from Aries. It is a problem. 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 of the equator’s projection on the celestial sphere and the ecliptic, which is the apparent annual path of the Sun. Put simply, it means that the zodiac is on a seasonal basis. The zodiac signs represent the alternation of the natural cycle symbolically expressed in the circle of animals. Due to the precession movement, the sidereal year is slightly longer and, over time, 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 radically change, etc., has no probative value. We do not understand Astrology in the way we understand science today, as an investigation aimed at studying the processes that govern the sphere of manifest things through rigorous and theoretical knowledge. If we talk about astrological science, it is an investigation that considers the interaction between the phenomenon and the observer’s consciousness, who plays the role of author of an otherwise meaningless cosmic vision. As if to say that the universe and human consciousness are part of a single process, which allows us to decipher the 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, speaking of the influence of stars or constellations is improper; astrology reflects a symbolic reality, divided from the knower only in appearance.
We need to tackle this 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 precise forecast, the subject in question will develop the propensity to choose the one most suitable for the prediction. The mental functions in these cases follow the dynamics of a mathematical attractor; 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 you like, superstitious use of matter by the astrologers themselves or self-styled ones; we also believe that the so-called newspaper astrology is groundless in its forward-looking statements.
The question – and here we come to the second point – nevertheless has a more philosophical than astrological value. Suppose we say that astrology can predict the future. In this case, we assume that human beings live in a state of absolute necessity and dependence on their destiny, without any possibility of acting except for what has already been established from birth. On the other hand, by assigning degrees of freedom to individual intervention on 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: not to consider conscience as the protagonist in the theatre of events. Without a consciousness that translates the data of our perceptions, events would have no meaning in themselves. Therefore, the purpose of astrology is not to predict the future but to make sure that we “happen” to events, that is, to 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 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 in the environment. Its primary purpose is to make us aware of these potentials to give our lives complete meaning without following false paths. To the question “can we accurately predict the future?” we can answer that with the tools of Western astrology, in certain circumstances, it is possible to accurately predict the potential development of an event for the client, not on the event itself. But suppose we present it as an unavoidable objective circumstance without providing the client with the tools to recognise the event, whether auspicious or unfortunate, as an integral part of oneself 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 oneself remains in evidence.
Speaking of personality, 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 sort of deception, presenting the “test subject” with a series of linguistic elements sufficiently broad and contradictory to force to streamline the list until only what corresponds to one’s image remains in evidence.
For example, when the debunker assigns the title of “ambitious” to the subject, they do so without observing that the causes of the ambition are manifold. We traditionally 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 symbol’s origin by 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, where nature is at the minimum of manifestation, individuals of the sign express themselves 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 a self-centred ambition. That means that we must subordinate the qualitative analysis of a theme to the symbolic meanings that underlie it.
In all of these examples, we assume that astrologers are willing to say everything to justify their compensation and that astrology is based only on the zodiac signs. Both things are possible: the self-styled astrologer focuses on the superstitious aspect, and the newspaper colleague adapts to a mass cultural model. That has nothing to do with astrology. Not to mention that the structure of an astrological scheme is very diverse (houses, planets, aspects, etc.), certainly not limited to the birth sign. It integrates the diversity of the psychophysical elements that constitute the individual’s field of manifestation.