Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is astrology?

Below are seven quotes from respected but very different astrologers that reveal an implicit consensus among them as to what astrology is and is not. The difficulty with astrology is that most of its authors fall under the definition of fringe. While it is true that some authors have developed quite a following, such as Charles E. O. Carter and Alan Leo in London, to my knowledge it has not had the result of creating a formal and definite statement of consensus about what astrology is.

The quotes by E. Parker and Margaret Hone below show also that astrologers have for a long time been fighting an uphill battle with regard to prejudices and attacks from the science community and political establishment, literally pushing them undergound, which makes consensus harder to develop.[1] Even today, some who study astrology feel a need to do so anonymously to protect their livelihood. However, through a perusal of many disparate books, a common view emerges of modern astrologers around the world, even if there are notable differences in emphasis, that astrology is indeed a language of symbols, to interpret the influences from the cosmos on human life. It is both a science and art, but as Margaret Hone explains, the nuances and complexity of astrology make it's propositions hard to prove in the most rigorous scientific fashion. The famous philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend made a convincing argument for the scientific study of astrology.[2]

Finally, some of the quotes bring out the meta aspect of astrology, that it deals with the inner reality of the human experience, based on the spirit and its relation with God. This
cardinal axiomatic difference between astrology and the nihilist materialism of science is perhaps the most glaring cause for the attacks by the scientists of the Age of Enlightenment on astrology. It is a fight between two radically different world views, or paradigms. Enjoy!

Quote 1:
E. Parker was a Dutch astrologer in the first half of the 20th century, who wrote.
"Whether astrology is a science or not is a question which can only be discussed when we know what is meant by science. For many of the dogmas that today go officially by that name will hardly seem such to a thinking person, seeing that - considering their continual modifications and changes - they seem to result from groping rather than knowledge.
No one who takes the pains to compare them can deny that there is a relation between Astrology and the science of today.
When for instance we examine the most primitive plant and animal forms, the so-called radiolareæ, diatomæ etc. (cf. Haeckel "Kunstformen der Natur" and also the Chladnaic figures, formed in fine sand along magnetic lines of power under definite vibrations, does it seem as if the latter had come to life in the former? Snow crystals too, sections of flowers themselves, trees, ferns - even the parts of our own body (lungs, hearts, organs of hearing, etc) show this wonderful correspondence.
Might not this indicate that these plant and animal forms have their origin under definite vibrations, built up of definite materials?
Would it really be impossible to prove that those vibrations come to us through the celestial bodies as nuclei in Cosmic vibrations - seeing that so much has been found (the 'Od'
of Reichenbach, and other similar substances) that proves in fact that something emanates from the celestial bodies." [3]
"Can it be maintained much longer that matter should exist apart from spirit which sends out its vibrations to set the matter moving, when on one hand we learn that our muscles work according to the command from the centre of the mind conveyed to them by nerves and on the other hand believe that all things are made by the Word that was with God and was God." [4]

Quote 2:
Margaret E. Hone, B.A., D.F. Astrol.S was a writer and teacher of astrology in the UK after WW II. She cited the difficult legal situation of astrology in Great Britain during the middle of the 20th century. Due to the "
Witchcraft Act of 1735 and the Vagrancy Act of 1829, those who practiced astrology were branded as 'charlatans, rouges and vagabonds', implying that fortunetelling is illegal. She concluded that
* research of individuals had been pushed underground, preventing the formation of a "solid body of oppinion."
* there was a need to avoid certain language that could be held up to an absolute standard
* there was a need to impose examinations on astrologers to seperate the proficient from the 'quacks',
* advised astrologers to answer the question "How can such far-off planets influence the actions of ourselves?" with some ambiguity and to say that he "believes in no such thing, but that he observes that certain traits of character and certain types of events appear to correlate with certain planetary relationships. He must drop the word 'influence', which implies direct action, but at the same time he must point out that an astrologer uses many words colloquially, knowing full well what they mean to him."
"Astrology is not a SCIENCE, in the modern meaning of the term, which implies that knowledge is built up through proving theories by the repetition of experiments which have the same results, from which certain laws may be formed. The 'results' of astrology are often not 'the same' in outwardly assessable meaning, but to one used to its symbolism, are 'the same' in their nature. Science proves by statistics. While broad principles of astrology may be proved in this way, the more the student learns, the more he will realise that statistics may be misleading in the assessment of an intircate interlacing of planetary cycles, which are continually changing in relation to each other, and at varying rates of speed."
She proposed the following definition of astrology: "ASTROLOGY IS A UNIQUE SYSTEM OF INTERPRETATION OF THE CORRELATION OF PLANETARY ACTION IN HUMAN EXPERIENCE." For the reasons mentioned above she suggested that astrologers speak of 'correlation', not 'causation', even if she was implicitly assuming the salient presence of the latter. She rejected astrology being considered based on intution: "Astrology is NOT an innate ABILITY, such as clairvoyance or psychometry or telepathy".

She cited a quote by the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung as being insightful:
"Whatever is born, or done, in this moment of time, has the qualities of this moment in time". [5]

Quote 3:
The modern British astrologers, Baigen, Campion and Harvey state

"Astrology is a language by which the inner and the outer, the noumenal and the phenomenal, the spiritual and the material, can converse together." [6]

Quote 4:
Isabel Hickey is a well known American astrologer who wrote that "The birthchart shows our potentials and tendencies. One of our astrological teachers once said: "Man is not what he is because he was born when he was. He was born when he was because he was potentially what he is." It is not because you were born at a certain place or time that you react to influences, but the influences of that moment and that place in space show your potentials that can be actualized in the future." [7]

Quote 5:
The well known Indian astrologer & author V. K. Choudhry defines astrology thus.
"Astrology is an art of interpreting the reputed esoteric influence of stars/planets on human affairs. It is called divine science and it enables one to peep into the mysterious future... The Hindu system of Astrology is based on the premise that the natal position of planets is dependant on the past
karma of the human beings and gives complete picture of the life of the person concerned." [8]

Quote 6:
The well known German astrologer and physician,
Reinhold Ebertin, wanted to transform astrology into a scientific endeavor which he termed "cosmobiology.
Cosmobiology is a scientific discipline concerned with the possible correlations between cosmos and organic life and the effects of cosmic rythms and stellar motions on man, with all his potentials and dispositions, his character, and the possible turn of fate; it also researches these correlations and effects as mirrored by the earth's plant and animal life as a whole. In this endeavor, cosmobiology utilizes modern-day methods of scientific research, such as statistics, analaysis, and computer programming. It is of prime importance, however, in view of the effort expanded, not to overlook the macrocosmic and microcosmic interrelations incapable of measurement." [9]

Quote 7:
The modern American scholar of vedic astrology, David Frawley, writes.

"Astrology is without a doubt the original science, the oldest of the systems of knowledge devised by human beings. It was the most important of the sciences of human culture until the advent of the modern science. Astrology was the basis for the first cosmologies, through which the ancients comprehended the structure and movement of the universe. It was the science of fate and destiny, used for understanding events on earth, which were seen as originating in the heavens. Astrology was not only the foremost of the outer sciences which deal with the nature of the physical universe, it was one of the most important of the inner or spiritual sciences which deal with the mind and soul." [10]

[1] Objections to astrology: a statement of 186 Leading Scientists, 1975
[2] Paul Feyerabend, "The Strange Case of Astrology", 1978
[3] There is an unconventional theory that comes to mind in relation to the above speculation, it is the yogic Theory of Microvitum - the "mysterious emanation of the cosmic factor".
[4] E. Parker, Amerspoort, July 1927 E. Parker, Astrology and its practical application, L.N. Fowler & Co. Ltd. Essex, UK, 1970, translated from Dutch.
[5] Margaret E. Hone, The Modern Textbook of Astrology, Fowler, UK, 1951.
[6] Michael Baigent, Nicholas Campion and Charles Harvey, Mundane Astrology, Thorsons, Great Britain, 1984 (second revised edition, 1992).
[7] Isabel M. Hickey, Astrology - A Cosmic Science, CRCS Publications, USA, 1992.
[8] V. K. Choudhry, System's Approach to Interpreting the Horoscope, Sagar Publications, Delhi, Revised and enlarged edition, 2006. Quote taken from author's website on 12-09-2007.
[9] Reinhold Ebertin, The Combination of Stellar Influences, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, AZ, USA, 1972, translated from German.
[10] David Frawley, Astrology of the Seers, Passage Press, USA, 1990.

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