What is astrology really – an existential deconstruction

AstrologyAmongst astrologers – as amongst lawyers – there is no truth, only opinion. Even in science, half of what is being taught today will become irrelevant or actually incorrect in a few years. This is particularly true of the social sciences like psychology and sociology. And astrology may want to fit itself into that category. If even in science, which is a matter of evidence, half of what we know today will be wrong tomorrow (just look at the history of science up until now) then what can we say about astrology, which continues to use systems thought scientific over two thousand yeas ago?

Yet still we pursue astrology as if it were a source of enlightenment based on truth. Of course, the fundamentals of the astrological art have remained the same and always will. The 12 signs, four elements, etc, are the cornerstones of the system since the time of Ptolemy or Jaimini. Nevertheless, modern research and advancement in astronomy clearly shows that astrology is not scientific as such. As to who divided the stellar sky into the particular signs of the zodiac, designated certain quadrants of the heavens into their particular categories – the 12 houses – and so on… we can only presume that ancient scientists who ascribed these labels did so based on their observation of the planets positions and the events on the ground. And as further generations of observers came along, they added to that based on further observation. Even if the astrological fundamentals are written in sacred texts, the Brihad Parashara Hora Shastra for example, perhaps handed down from some transcendent source with greater insight than us terrestrials, still we can only fathom its depths according to our limited mind and senses. And in astrology there is so much room for speculation, interpretation and concoction. And there are so many variables and angles of approach or analysis that accuracy is never guaranteed. Yet still astrologers prognosticate, people inquire and blindly accept what is presented, despite not knowing the validity of the source of the information being presented. Any arbitrary website can sprout predictions about your day ahead or speculate on the signs of the times, and we accept it for some unknown reason. Any quack can put on a white coat and prescribe medicine to you for your disease, but will you take it? Probably yes, if s/he has a good bedside manner or a skill with word jugglery. As the saying goes: ‘A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” Ultimately it boils down to the person from whom we are hearing or receiving the knowledge or information. The placebo effect has been known to work wonders. In the Middle Ages, and even subsequently, Catholicism would occasionally stumble across a cave or deity that was apparently able to perform miracles. A person would go there, pray and be healed of their malady. The news would go round and before you know it thousands are flocking to the place looking for solace. And sometimes it worked. And so it will, perhaps more because of the faith of the seeker in the place or the person who gave them the knowledge, the conviction and belief, more than the cave or deity of Mary herself. And of course as the rumours of miracles increase, so does the faith of the flock, and thus the reputation builds. I’m not saying miracles don’t happen. I am a firm believer in miracles. But is it the object of veneration or is it more the eye and mindset of the beholder that is responsible? Religion, like astrology is all about faith. Put your faith in the doctrine, or more easily in the propounder of the doctrine, and you lay the appropriate foundation in the mind for a successful outcome. So often we are projecting onto the external environment our own inner subjective psychic focus, our attention, and then are amazed when the object reciprocates with us, fulfils our wishes or rings true somehow. Even the so-called “conversion experience” is a known psychological state of mind that can happen to anyone in any walk of life, like Saul on the road to Damascus. The triggers may be varied, but the psychic shift in consciousness can be just as healthy for the seeker on any path.

Don’t get me wrong, I love astrology. It spontaneously appealed to me as a teenager over three decades ago and so I took to it like a seeker to the philosopher’s stone. Our brains are all wired to seek and see patterns, to seek meaning, and religions and systems like astrology provide us with just that. So naturally they appeal. We also all want to know about ourselves, to see our future, so naturally astrology still appeals to many, but at the end of the day the dynamics of why such systems seem to work may be different to what we think. It may not be the system we have incorporated into our lives that is the source of our answers, but rather our own minds and what they read into the system. Based on my experience, I’ve realized that one cannot become a fundamentalist about any such abstract concepts or systems of thought. Many zealots over the millennia have had their magic spells and words of power, names of God and talismans, like fragments of the cross, tooth of a saint, etc and due to their faith those have worked for them, even when the names or totems were as diverse as the religions of the world. For example where is Athena today, that great goddess that was worshipped in Rome or Greece in past ages? Her devotees are no more. So does she still exist? What about Isis? I mean the original one, not the fake terrorist group created by the CIA and Mossad to destabilise the Middle East and loot resources for Nato. Similarly in the art of astrology, once practised by scientists and priests of old, much detail that was once used is now lost or forgotten. So how do we know that we are even using it properly, or making accurate predictions or assumptions when our knowledge is so fragmentary. And yet still it works today as a panacea for many who need psychological insight, perspective or meaning in their lives. In other words, the system may be arbitrary, fragmented or even imaginary (as in Chaos Magic), but if the bedside manner of the astrologer (or priest on any path) is appropriate, people will find solace, meaning, courage or whatever they need to grow as individuals and become better people for it.

And that’s my two Rupees worth on the subject. As much as finding the right source of your information is important, even amongst academics and scholars there is a tendency to redundancy with time, especially in science. And as much as going to the original texts may be preferable, even there, how do we know we have all the data, the correct translation, or that some Dead Sea Scrolls may not suddenly be discovered one day telling us Jesus our Lord was actually a married black vegetarian. So much has been lost in translation or the mists of time, including those traditions with a disciplic succession. Ultimately it boils down to the person from whom you are hearing on the day, as well as how you and your mind interpret and apply the information presented. And both are required and need to be potent, authentic and sincere for the magic to happen. The rest is just detail.

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