How does astrology work?
Astrology is more widely known and practiced now than ever before, and it is also just as controversial. As American astrologer Grant Lewi wrote in 1940 in his book Astrology for the Millions, “It (astrology) is ‘believed’ by a lot of people who know practically nothing about it; and it is ‘disbelieved’ by even more who know absolutely nothing about it.”’
Lewi quotes Richard Garnett, a one-time curator of the British Museum who decided to study astrology to see if there was anything in it. “For his findings,” said I.ewi, “I turned to Dr. Morris Jastrows article on astrology in the eleventh edition of The Encyclopedia Britannica Jastrow said, “Dr. Garnett insisted that it was a mistake to confuse issued a public statement condemning astrology out of hand. None of them admitted having studied it; it just sounded ridiculous ro them to have “the stars decide your fare.”
This statement, often made, sounds ridiculous to astrologers, too. Isaac Newton studied astrology in-depth and accepted it. When he arrived at Cambridge University, he was asked by an acquaintance what he intended to study and replied, “Mathematics—because I wish to test judicial astrology.” When Newton was much older, he was challenged by Halley, of Halleys comer fame, because of his study of astrology. His reply was classic: “Evidently you have not looked into astrology; I have.”
Let’s shoot down the first myth about astrology. Star sign columns in the newspapers were first introduced by an American journalist in the 1930s. Although ir is rationally impossible for every Sun-in-Aries person to lose their grandmother on the same day or for all Cancer Sun people to have a collective nervous breakdown, astrology columns have successfully helped sell newspapers and magazines ever since.
An astrological birth chart set for the correct moment of birth is unique. People with Venus in Cancer will have a similar approach when expressing their feelings of love and affection; bur whether they succeed in the same way will depend upon the geometric angles, which astrologers call aspects, made to other planets. These angles are unique to the individual’s birth time.
In order to prove astrology is valid, it would have to be subject to stringent scientific examination and accepted statistical methods that involve testing its validity over and over again under the same conditions. What was left standing after rigorous investigation could then be accepted as proven and valid. Astrology’s supreme disadvantage is that conditions never can be repeated. Every combination of angles and the Moons position in a chart is unique.
My particular view is that the answer may be found one day when we have the technology to study magnetic fields and solar activity in much greater depth. The specifics of magnetism arc far more complex than those of gravity. The Earth’s magnetic field is very weak when compared with gravity, but it could be supremely important. In astrology, each individual person represents his place of birth on Earth in geometric relation to our solar system at the particular time of birth. It may be dependent upon conception, but we have no known method of measuring that—yet!
My belief is that there is also a collective intellectual, egoistical pride at work here. I think Dr. Richard Garnett was right that scientifically or medically trained people would have their pride hurt if it was publicly known that they had studied, and found valid, something linked with magic or fortunetelling, and that it could be practiced by people who didn’t necessarily have to have a scientific degree.
Astrology does suffer through being practiced by people who have not thoroughly studied it, who hang our their shingle when they have a half-baked knowledge of it, or who want to make a quick buck or known as being “psychic” or “spiritual,” those two bu7.7.words of the New Age! Astrology is a subject one studies, and these days there are plenty of diplomas in many countries that offer worthwhile courses. It is also true that many modern astrologers began life as skeptics—I did!
Historically, we arc in the company of Plato, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo (a practicing astrologer), Newton, and Jung, all of whom studied astrology. In his books Astrology and Science and The Cosmic Clocks, French statistician Michel Gauquclin (born in 1928) set out to disprove astrology.’ Instead, Gauquclin discovered an overwhelming statistical correlation in his data, which indicated planets rising just prior to the Ascendant or culminating just prior to the Midheaven were strong indicators of profession.
“At the end of our second study,” writes Gauquclin on page 156 of The Cosmic Clocks, “the evidence reproduced itself with stubborn insistence: as in the first group, the birth dates of the famous physicians clustered after the rise or the culmination of Mars and Saturn. An undeniable statistical correlation appeared between the rise and culmination of these planets at the child’s birth and his future success as a doctor.”
Where did astrology begin?
We don’t know. The first surviving records date astrology from around eight thousand years ago in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which is now Iraq. We know this from cuneiform writing that was invented at the time, along with the lunar calendar, the first monetary system, the arch, and the brick. There was no stone or wood. Along with these inventions, the ingenious Sumerians devised the division of the circle into 360° and the sixty-minute hour. Astrology may go back even further. We know the Chinese, Mayan, and Indian civilizations independently used it for thousands of years.
About 8,000 years ago, the land between the two ancient Middle-Eastern rivers was populated by the Sumerians, who called their land the Sumer. They later became known as the Chaldeans, a name taken from one of their tribes, the Kaldu. Later still, the Chaldeans became known as the Babylonians.
We know from rhe clay cuneiform tablets that they built great towers, or ziggurats, that were supposed to reach the sky, as part of their religion. The Tower of Babel (Babylon) of biblical fame was one such tower, reputedly around ninety meters high. Helped by the clear skies of the Middle East, their priests studied the heavens and noted the positions of the stars and the planets (up to Saturn) in relation to the Earth and wrote it all down. This heritage later passed to Egypt, India, Greece, the Arabs in Spain, and from them via the Romans to Europe.
Chaldean astrology was concerned with national rather than personal events—the annual flood of the rwo rivers, wars, the fate ot their rulers, and so on. This tradition was carried on by the pharaohs of Egypt. Here again, it was the prediction of the annual flood of the Nile and the fate of their gods/rulcrs that was of supreme importance.
The Greeks were the first to link astrology with the psychological behavior of humans. They noticed that if a man was born when the Sun was conjunct Saturn, he was serious, saturnine, and critical.
A great change in the way astrology was used occurred in the twentieth century. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was realized that astrology need not be confined to births, marriages, and deaths, but has far greater psychological implications in terms of how individuals view the world, the games they are inclined to play to gain what they want from life, and the creative potential available to them. Astrology can help align the conscious with the unconscious and encourage acceptance of all that we arc and can be in life. This very acceptance removes a great deal of stress.
This has made astrology, when practiced ethically and well, potentially very useful to individuals during confusing and stressful times in their lives, and it can be of great benefit to parents with their children. The burden of responsibility for astrologers has also increased. We astrologers have in our hands an amazing tool to help people understand life; bur to use it properly, we need to have not only a thorough understanding of astrology, but also training in counseling skills.