Astrology is a pseudoscience whose predictions are open for personal interpretation by the astrologer reading a chart. Our lives are not just influenced by the plants in our solar system, but by the collective unconscious in which we experience this reality. Astrology taken as a guide can be helpful, but is not perfect. An astrological system written long ago, may not take into account the way we live our lives in the 21st century. As with all oracles of divination, it is subjective based on the chart and the astrologer.
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world. In the West, astrology most often consists of a system of horoscopes that claim to explain aspects of a person's personality and predict future events in their life based on the positions of the sun, moon, and other planetary objects at the time of their birth. Many cultures have attached importance to astronomical events, and the Indians, Chinese, and Mayans developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations.
Among Indo-European peoples, astrology has been dated to the third millennium BCE, with roots in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. Through most of its history, astrology was considered a scholarly tradition. It was accepted in political and academic contexts, and was connected with other studies, such as astronomy, alchemy, meteorology, and medicine. At the end of the 17th century, new scientific concepts in astronomy (such as heliocentrism) called astrology into question, and subsequent controlled studies failed to confirm its predictive value. Astrology thus lost its academic and theoretical standing.
Astrology is a pseudoscience, and as such is rejected by the academic and scientific communities. Some scientific testing of astrology has been conducted, and no evidence has been found to support any of the premises or purported effects outlined in astrological traditions. Furthermore, there is no proposed mechanism of action by which the positions and motions of stars and planets could affect people and events on Earth that does not contradict well understood, basic aspects of biology and physics.
Advocates have defined astrology as a symbolic language, an art form, a science, and a method of divination. Although most cultural systems of astrology share common roots in ancient philosophies that influenced each other, many have unique methodologies which differ from those developed in the West. These include Hindu astrology (also known as "Indian astrology" and in modern times referred to as "Vedic astrology") and Chinese astrology, both of which have influenced the world's cultural history.
Western astrology is a form of divination based on the construction of a horoscope for an exact moment, such as a person's birth. It uses the tropical zodiac, which is aligned to the equinoctial points.
Western astrology is founded on the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies such as the Sun, Moon, planets, which are analyzed by their movement through signs of the zodiac (spatial divisions of the ecliptic) and by their aspects (angles) relative to one another. They are also considered by their placement in houses (spatial divisions of the sky). Astrology's modern representation in western popular media is usually reduced to sun sign astrology, which considers only the zodiac sign of the Sun at an individual's date of birth, and represents only 1/12 of the total chart. The names of the zodiac correspond to the names of the constellations originally within the respective segment and are in Latin.
Along with tarot divination, astrology is one of the core studies of Western esotericism, and as such has influenced systems of magical belief not only among Western esotericists and Hermeticists, but also belief systems such as Wicca that have borrowed from or been influenced by the Western esoteric tradition. Tanya Luhrmann has said that "all magicians know something about astrology," and refers to a table of correspondences in Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, organized by planet, as an example of the astrological lore studied by magicians.
Hindu astrology originated with western astrology. In the earliest Indian astronomy texts, the year was believed to be 360 days long, similar to that of Babylonian astrology, but the rest of the early astrological system bears little resemblance. Later, the Indian techniques were augmented with some of the Babylonian techniques.
Hindu astrology is oriented toward predicting one's fate or destiny. Hindu astrology relies on the sidereal zodiac in which the signs of the zodiac are aligned to the position of the corresponding constellations in the sky. In order to maintain this alignment, Hindu astrology uses an adjustment, called ayanamsa, to take into account the gradual precession of the vernal equinox (the gradual shift in the orientation of the Earth's axis of rotation). In Hindu astrology the equinox occurs when the Sun is 6 degrees in Pisces. Western astrology places the equinox at the beginning of Aries, about 23 degrees after the equinox in the Hindu system. Hindu astrology also includes several sub-systems of zodiac division, and employs the notion of bandhu: connections that, according to the Vedas link the outer and the inner worlds.
Sri Lankan astrology is largely based on Hindu astrology with some modifications to bring it in line with Buddhist teachings. Tibetan astrology also shares many of these components but has also been strongly influenced by Chinese culture and acknowledges a circle of animal signs similar to that of the Chinese zodiac.
Chinese astrology has a close relation with Chinese philosophy (theory of the three harmonies: heaven, earth and man) and uses concepts such as yin and yang, the Five phases, the 10 Celestial stems, the 12 Earthly Branches, and shichen a form of timekeeping used for religious purposes). The early use of Chinese astrology was mainly confined to political astrology, the observation of unusual phenomena, identification of portents and the selection of auspicious days for events and decisions.
The Korean zodiac is identical to the Chinese one. The Vietnamese zodiac is almost identical to Chinese zodiac except that the second animal is the Water Buffalo instead of the Ox, and the fourth animal is the Cat instead of the Rabbit. The Japanese zodiac includes the Wild Boar instead of the Pig. The Thai zodiac includes a Naga in place of the Dragon and begins, not at Chinese New Year, but at either on the first day of fifth month in Thai lunar calendar, or during the Songkran festival (now celebrated every 13–15 April), depending on the purpose of the use
Astrology, in its broadest sense, is the search for meaning in the sky. It has therefore been argued that astrology began as a study as soon as human beings made conscious attempts to measure, record, and predict seasonal changes by reference to astronomical cycles. Early evidence of such practices appears as markings on bones and cave walls, which show that lunar cycles were being noted as early as 25,000 years ago; the first step towards recording the Moon’s influence upon tides and rivers, and towards organizing a communal calendar. Agricultural needs were also met by increasing knowledge of constellations, whose appearances change with the seasons, allowing the rising of particular star-groups to herald annual floods or seasonal activities.
By the third millennium BCE, widespread civilizations had developed sophisticated awareness of celestial cycles, and are believed to have consciously oriented their temples to create alignment with the heliacal risings of the stars.
There is scattered evidence to suggest that the oldest known astrological references are copies of texts made during this period. Two, from the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa (compiled in Babylon around 1700 BCE) are reported to have been made during the reign of king Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE).
Another, showing an early use of electional astrology, is ascribed to the reign of the Sumerian ruler Gudea of Lagash (ca. 2144-2124 BCE). This describes how the gods revealed to him in a dream the constellations that would be most favorable for the planned construction of a temple. However, there is controversy about whether they were genuinely recorded at the time or merely ascribed to ancient rulers by posterity. The oldest undisputed evidence of the use of astrology as an integrated system of knowledge is therefore attributed to the records of the first dynasty of Mesopotamia (1950-1651 BCE).
The system of Chinese astrology was elaborated during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) and flourished during the Han Dynasty (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD), during which all the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture - the Yin-Yang philosophy, theory of the 5 elements, Heaven and Earth, Confucian morality - were brought together to formalise the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy.
Astrology was taken up by Islamic scholars following the collapse of Alexandria to the Arabs in the 7th century, and the founding of the Abbasid empire in the 8th. The second Abbasid caliph, Al Mansur (754-775) founded the city of Baghdad to act as a centre of learning, and included in its design a library-translation centre known as Bayt al-Hikma ‘Storehouse of Wisdom’, which continued to receive development from his heirs and was to provide a major impetus for Arabic-Persian translations of Hellenistic astrological texts. The early translators included Mashallah, who helped to elect the time for the foundation of Baghdad, and Sahl ibn Bishr, (a.k.a. Zael), whose texts were directly influential upon later European astrologers such as Guido Bonatti in the 13th century, and William Lilly in the 17th century. Knowledge of Arabic texts started to become imported into Europe during the Latin translations of the 12th century, the effect of which was to help initiate the European Renaissance.
Other important Arabic astrologers include Albumasur and Al Khwarizmi, the Persian mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, who is considered the father of algebra and the algorithm. The Arabs greatly increased the knowledge of astronomical cycles, and many of the star names that remain in common use today, such as Aldebaran, Altair, Betelgeuse, Rigel and Vega retain the legacy of their language.
Astrology saw a popular revival from the nineteenth century as part of a general revival of spiritualism and later New Age philosophy, and through the influence of mass media such as newspaper horoscopes and astrology software.
Early in the twentieth century psychologist Carl Jung developed some concepts concerning astrology, which led to the development of psychological astrology.
Other new developments included Uranian astrology, Astrocartography and Financial astrology.
The core beliefs of astrology were prevalent in parts of the ancient world and are epitomized in the Hermetic maxim, "as above, so below". Tycho Brahe used a similar phrase to summarize his studies in astrology: suspiciendo despicio, "by looking up I see downward".
Although the principle that events in the heavens are mirrored by those on Earth was once generally held in most traditions of astrology around the world, in the West there has historically been a debate among astrologers over the nature of the mechanism behind astrology.
Although the connection between celestial mechanics and terrestrial dynamics was explored first by Isaac Newton with his development of a universal theory of gravitation, claims that the gravitational effects of the celestial bodies are what accounts for astrological generalizations are not substantiated by scientific research.
Most astrological traditions are based on the relative positions and movements of various real or construed celestial bodies and on the construction of implied or calculated celestial patterns as seen at the time and place of the event being studied. These are chiefly the astrological planets, the stars, the lunar nodes, Arabic parts and hypothetical planets.
The frame of reference for such apparent positions is defined by the tropical or sidereal zodiac of twelve signs on one hand, and by the local horizon (ascendant-descendant axis) and midheaven-imum coeli axis on the other. This latter (local) frame is typically further divided into the twelve astrological houses. Furthermore, the astrological aspects are used to determine the geometric/angular relationship(s) between the various celestial bodies and angles in the horoscope.
Predictive astrology, in the Western tradition, employs two main methods: astrological transits and astrological progressions. In astrological transits the ongoing movements of the planets are interpreted for their significance as they transit through space and the horoscope. In astrological progressions the horoscope is progressed forward in time according to set methods.
In Vedic astrology, the focus is on planetary periods to infer the trend, while transits are used to time significant events. Most Western astrologers no longer try to forecast actual events, but focus instead on general trends and developments. By comparison, Vedic astrologers predict both trends and events. Skeptics respond that this practice of western astrologers allows them to avoid making verifiable predictions, and gives them the ability to attach significance to arbitrary and unrelated events, in a way that suits their purpose.
In the past, astrologers often relied on close observation of celestial objects and the charting of their movements. Modern astrologers use data provided by astronomers which are transformed to a set of astrological tables called ephemerides, showing the changing zodiacal positions of the heavenly bodies through time.
In the West there have been occasional reports of political leaders consulting astrologers. Louis de Wohl worked as an astrologer for the British intelligence agency MI5, after it was claimed that Hitler used astrology to time his actions. The War Office was "interested to know what Hitler's own astrologers would be telling him from week to week". In fact de Wohl's predictions were so inaccurate that he was soon labelled a "complete charlatan" and it was later shown that Hitler considered astrology to be "complete nonsense". After John Hinckley's attempted assassination of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, first lady Nancy Reagan commissioned astrologer Joan Quigley to act as the secret White House astrologer. However, Quigley's role ended in 1988 when it became public through the memoirs of former chief of staff, Donald Regan.
In India, there is a long-established and widespread belief in astrology. It is commonly used for daily life, particularly in matters concerning marriage and career, and makes extensive use of electional, horary and karmic astrology. Indian politics has also been influenced by astrology. It remains considered a branch of the Vedanga. In 2001, Indian scientists and politicians debated and critiqued a proposal to use state money to fund research into astrology, resulting in permission for Indian universities to offer courses in Vedic astrology. In February 2011, the Bombay High Court reaffirmed astrology's standing in India when it dismissed a case which had challenged its status as a science.
In Japan, a strong belief in astrology has led to dramatic changes in the fertility rate and the number of abortions in the years of "Fire Horse". Women born in these years are called hinoeuma, and believed to be unmarriageable and to bring bad luck to their father or husband. In 1966, the number of babies born in Japan dropped by over 25% as parents tried to avoid the stigma of having a daughter born in the hinoeuma year.
Astrology is a pseudoscience that has not demonstrated its effectiveness in controlled studies and has no scientific validity. The majority of professional astrologers rely on performing astrology-based personality tests and making relevant predictions about the remunerators future. Those who continue to have faith in astrology have been characterized as doing so "in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary." Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson commented on astrological belief, noting that "part of knowing how to think is knowing how the laws of nature shape the world around us. Without that knowledge, without that capacity to think, you can easily become a victim of people who seek to take advantage of you".
The former astrologer, and scientist, Geoffrey Deans and psychologist Ivan Kelly conducted a large scale scientific test, involving more than one hundred cognitive, behavioral, physical and other variables, but found no support for astrology. Furthermore, a meta-analysis was conducted pooling 40 studies consisting of 700 astrologers and over 1000 birth charts. Ten of the tests, which had a total of 300 participants, involved subjects picking the correct chart interpretation out of a number of others which were not the astrologically correct chart interpretation (usually 3 to 5 others). When the date and other obvious clues were removed no significant results were found to suggest there was any preferred chart.
A further test involved 45 experienced astrologers, with an average of 10 years experience and 160 participants (out of an original sample size of 1198 participants) who strongly favored certain characteristics in the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire to extremes. The astrologers performed much worse than merely basing decisions off the individuals age, and much worse than 45 control subjects who didn't use birth charts at all.
Science and non-science are often distinguished by the criterion of falsifiability. The criterion was first proposed by philosopher of science Karl Popper. To Popper, science does not rely on induction, instead scientific investigations are inherently attempts to falsify existing theories through novel tests. If a single test fails, then the theory is falsified. Therefore, any test of a scientific theory must prohibit certain results which will falsify the theory, and expect other specific results which will be consistent with the theory. Using this criterion of falsifiability, astrology is a pseudoscience. Popper regarded astrology as "pseudo-empirical" in that "it appeals to observation and experiment", but "nevertheless does not come up to scientific standards".
In 1953, sociologist Theodor W. Adorno conducted a study of the astrology column of a Los Angeles newspaper as part of a project examining mass culture in capitalist society. Adorno concluded that astrology was a large-scale manifestation of systematic irrationalism, where individuals were subtly being led to believe that the author of the column was addressing them directly through the use of flattery and vague generalizations.
Astrology and astronomy were archaically one and the same discipline (Latin: astrologia), and were only gradually recognized as separate in Western 17th century philosophy (the "Age of Reason").
Since the 18th century they have come to be regarded as completely separate disciplines. Astronomy, the study of objects and phenomena originating beyond the Earth's atmosphere, is a science and is a widely-studied academic discipline. Astrology, which uses the apparent positions of celestial objects as the basis for psychology, prediction of future events, and other esoteric knowledge, is not a science and is typically defined as a form of divination.
In pre-modern times, most cultures have not made a clear distinction between the two disciplines, putting them both together as one.
In ancient Babylonia, famed for its astrology, there were not separate roles for the astronomer as predictor of celestial phenomena, and the astrologer as their interpreter; both functions were performed by the same person. This overlap does not mean that astrology and astronomy were always regarded as one and the same.
In ancient Greece, pre-Socratic thinkers such as Anaximander, Xenophanes, Anaximenes, and Heraclides speculated about the nature and substance of the stars and planets. Astronomers such as Eudoxus (contemporary with Plato) observed planetary motions and cycles, and created a geocentric cosmological model that would be accepted by Aristotle - this model generally lasted until Ptolemy, who added epicycles to explain the retrograde motion of Mars.
However, around 250 BC, Aristarchus of Samos postulated a proto-heliocentric theory, which would not be reconsidered for nearly two millennia (Copernicus), as Aristotle's geocentric model was favored. The Platonic school promoted the study of astronomy as a part of philosophy because the motions of the heavens demonstrate an orderly and harmonious cosmos. In the third century BC, Babylonian astrology began to make its presence felt in Greece.
Astrology was criticized by Hellenistic philosophers such as the Academic Skeptic Carneades and Middle Stoic Panaetius. However, the notions of the Great Year (when all the planets complete a full cycle and return to their relative positions) and eternal recurrence were Stoic doctrines that made divination and fatalism possible.
In the Hellenistic world, the Greek words 'astrologia' and 'astronomia' were often used interchangeably, but they were conceptually not the same. Plato taught about 'astronomia' and stipulated that planetar phenomena should be described by a geometrical model. The first solution was proposed by Eudoxus. Aristotle favored a physical approach and adopted the word 'astrologia'. Eccentrics and epicycles came to be thought of as useful fictions. For a more general public, the distinguishing principle was not evident and either word was acceptable. For the Babylonian horoscopic practice, the words specifically used were 'apotelesma' and 'katarche'. but otherwise it was subsumed under the aristotelian term 'astrologia'.
In his compilatory work Etymologiae, Isidore of Seville noted explicitly the difference between the terms astronomy and astrology (Etymologiae, III, xxvii) and the same distinction appeared later in the texts of Arabian writers. Isidore identified the two strands entangled in the astrological discipline and called them astrologia naturalis and astrologia superstitiosa.
Astrology was widely accepted in medieval Europe as astrological texts from Hellenistic and Arabic astrologers were translated into Latin. In the late Middle Ages, its acceptance or rejection often depended on its reception in the royal courts of Europe. Not until the time of Francis Bacon was astrology rejected as a part of scholastic metaphysics rather than empirical observation.
A more definitive split between astrology and astronomy in the West took place gradually in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when astrology was increasingly thought of as an occult science or superstition by the intellectual elite. Because of their lengthy shared history, it sometimes happens that the two are confused with one another even today. Many contemporary astrologers, however, do not claim that astrology is a science, but think of it as a form of divination like the I-Ching, an art, or a part of a spiritual belief structure (influenced by trends such as Neoplatonism, Neopaganism, Theosophy, and Hinduism).
The primary goal of astronomy is to understand the physics of the universe. Astrologers use astronomical calculations for the positions of celestial bodies along the ecliptic and attempt to correlate celestial events (astrological aspects, sign positions) with earthly events and human affairs. Astronomers consistently use the scientific method, naturalistic presuppositions and abstract mathematical reasoning to investigate or explain phenomena in the universe. Astrologers use mystical or religious reasoning as well as traditional folklore, symbolism and superstition blended with mathematical predictions to explain phenomena in the universe. The scientific method is not consistently used by astrologers.
Astrologers practice their discipline geocentrically and they consider the universe to be harmonious, changeless and static, while astronomers have employed the scientific method to infer that the universe is without a center and is dynamic, expanding outward.
Astrologers believe that the position of the stars and planets determine an individual's personality and future. Astronomers study the actual stars and planets, but have found no evidence supporting astrological theories. Psychologists study personality, and while there are many theories of personality, no mainstream theories in that field are based on astrology.
Both astrologers and astronomers see Earth as being an integral part of the universe, that Earth and the universe are interconnected as one cosmos (not as being separate and distinct from each other). However, astrologers philosophically and mystically portray the cosmos as having a supernatural, metaphysical and divine essence that actively influences world events and the personal lives of people. Astronomers, as members of the scientific community, cannot use in their scientific articles explanations that are not derived from empirically reproducible conditions, irrespective of their personal convictions. Scientific discourses must provide explanations based on known measurable laws of nature, according to which Earth is just as integral a part of the universe as are celestial objects.
Astrology and astronomy were indistinguishable for a very long time - the funding from astrology supported some astronomical research, which was in turn used to make more accurate ephemerides for use in astrology. In Medieval Europe the word Astronomia was often used to encompass both disciplines as this included the study of astronomy and astrology jointly and without a real distinction; this was one of the original Seven Liberal Arts. Kings and other rulers generally employed court astrologers to aid them in the decision making in their kingdoms, thereby funding astronomical research. University medical students were taught astrology as it was generally used in medical practice.
Astronomy and astrology diverged over the course of the 17th through 19th centuries. Copernicus didn't practice astrology (nor empirical astronomy; his work was theoretical), but the most important astronomers before Isaac Newton were astrologers by profession - Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo Galilei. Newton most likely rejected astrology, however (as did his contemporary Christiaan Huygens), and interest in astrology declined after his era, helped by the increasing popularity of a Cartesian, "mechanistic" cosmology in the Enlightenment.
Also relevant here was the development of better timekeeping instruments, initially for aid in navigation; improved timekeeping made it possible to make more exact astrological predictions-predictions which could be tested, and which consistently proved to be false. By the end of the 18th century, astronomy was one of the major sciences of the Enlightenment model, using the recently codified scientific method, and was altogether distinct from astrology.
It has also been suggested that much of the continued faith in astrology could be psychologically explained as a matter of cognitive bias. In 1949 Bertram Forer conducted a personality test on students. While seemingly giving the students individualized results, he instead gave each student exactly the same sheet that discussed their personality. The personality descriptions were taken from a book on Astrology. When the students were asked to comment on the accuracy of the test with a rating more than 40% gave it the top mark of 5 out of 5, and the average rating was 4.The results of this study have been replicated in numerous other studies.Thus, study of this Barnum/Forer effect has been mostly focused on the level of acceptance of fake horoscopes and fake astrological personality profiles. Recipients of these personality assessments consistently fail to distinguish common and uncommon personality descriptors.
By a process known as self-attribution, it has been shown in numerous studies that individuals with knowledge of astrology tend to describe their personality in terms of traits compatible with their star sign. The effect is heightened when the individuals were aware the personality description was being used to discuss astrology. Individuals who were not familiar with astrology had no such tendency.
Testing the validity of astrology can be hard because there is no consensus amongst astrologers as to what astrology is or what it can predict. Most professional astrologers are paid to predict the future or describe a person's personality and life, but most horoscopes only make vague untestable statements that can almost apply to any individual. Astrologers avoid making verifiable predictions and instead rely on making vague statements which allows them to try to avoid falsification.
Astrology has been criticized for failing to provide a physical mechanism that links the movements of celestial bodies to their purported effects on human behavior. In a lecture in 2001, Stephen Hawking stated "The reason most scientists don't believe in astrology is because it is not consistent with our theories that have been tested by experiment."
In 1975, amid increasing popular interest in astrology, The Humanist magazine presented a rebuttal of astrology in a statement put together by Bart J. Bok, Lawrence E. Jerome, and Paul Kurtz. The statement, entitled 'Objections to Astrology', was signed by 186 astronomers, physicists and leading scientists of the day. They said that there is no scientific foundation for the tenets of astrology and warned the public against accepting astrological advice without question. Their criticism focused on the fact that there was no mechanism whereby astrological effects might occur.
Astronomer Carl Sagan declined to sign the statement. Sagan said he took this stance not because he thought astrology had any validity, but because he thought that the tone of the statement was authoritarian, and that dismissing astrology because there was no mechanism (while "certainly a relevant point") was not in itself convincing. In a letter published in a follow-up edition of The Humanist, Sagan confirmed that he would have been willing to sign such a statement had it described and refuted the principal tenets of astrological belief. This, he argued, would have been more persuasive and would have produced less controversy.
Many astrologers claim that astrology is scientific. Some of these astrologers have proposed conventional causal agents such as electromagnetism and gravity. Scientists dismiss these mechanisms as implausible since, for example, the magnetic field, when measured from earth, of a large but distant planet such as Jupiter is far smaller than that produced by ordinary household appliances.
Other astrologers prefer not to attempt to explain astrology, and instead give it supernatural explanations such as divination. Carl Jung sought to invoke synchronicity to explain results on astrology from a single study he conducted, where no statistically significant results were observed. Synchronicity itself is considered to be neither testable nor falsifiable. The study was subsequently heavily criticized for its non-random sample and its use of statistics and also its lack of consistency with astrology.
Throughout its long history, astrology has come to prominence in many regions and undergone developments and change. There are many astrological traditions that are historically important, but which have largely fallen out of use. Astrologers still retain an interest in them and regard them as an important resource. Historically significant traditions of astrology include:
Arab and Persian Astrology
Hindu Astrology (Jyotisa)
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