I’ve been interested in astrology for as long as I can remember, and I loved reading my horoscope in the newspaper as a child.
When I was a psychology student, learning about personality theories, I often wondered if there could really be something to astrology.
Although my psychology professors generally thought that astrology was purely nonsense, and despite having to roll my eyes whenever someone tries to explain all their problems because of “Mercury being in retrograde,” it seems conceivable to me that there might be something to astrology.
Like many religious and mystical traditions, I suspect that any cultural system that survives over thousands of years, suggests that there may be something about it that our intuition recognizes as real.
I reasoned that human beings, like social insects, may have genetically-wired brain types, and that we may be born into social castes with certain personality traits, that when operating together, form an efficient, self-organizing social system.
It seems reasonable to suggest that seasonal variations in solar radiation might influence our DNA, and hence the annual cycles of our genetic wiring, so that all social castes are equally represented in domesticated primate societies.
Just as ant, termite, and bee colonies are composed of workers, queens, drones, etc., it could be that astrology is a primitive attempt to recognize and categorize these genetically-wired castes in human societies, and perhaps some day a sophisticated psychological science may evolve from this.
Like alchemy and chemistry, astrology and astronomy were once a unified discipline, and they began to split apart in the 18th century.
Astronomers, who are critical of astrology, often point out that the effects from the Heavenly bodies in the sky actually exert much less gravitational influence on us than the objects surrounding us here on Earth.
Astronomers commonly point out that astrologers claim that people are “ruled” by influences from the sky, and that this just can't be true; however, I think that these well-meaning astronomers may be missing the point.
I agree, it’s doubtful that the stars and planets in the sky are influencing our lives here on Earth; however, I suspect that the same unseen forces that move the stars and planets in the Heavens, may also be influencing natural dynamics that affect our daily lives.
So perhaps, by studying the position of the stars and planets in the Heavens, we can gain some insight into ourselves.
Astrologer Rob Brezsny supports this idea, when he told me that, “There are many astrologers who don’t believe that the planets literally shower down some sort of invisible influence on people.”
“I know that some astrologers believe that, but I would say that, at this point, a majority don’t,” said Brezsny, who also explains that it has been a tradition in many different cultures to look for signs in the natural world as clues for understanding our inner natures.
“The important thing,” Brezsny emphasized, “is that the planets are signatures in the sky that can be read, have been read by experts over a number of centuries, and are correlated with specific tendencies in the human personality and in evolution.”
But is there any scientific evidence to demonstrate that astrology is real?
There have been a number of scientific studies done in an attempt to determine if there is any reality to astrology, although, unsurprisingly, the results appear inconclusive.
According to the leading scientific consensus, no predictive validity for astrology has yet been conclusively established.
Some critics argue that the results generated by astrology are so general that almost any outcome could be interpreted as fitting the predictions, and that astrology doesn’t produce testable results.
Others argue that scientific studies have already demonstrated astrology to lack validity, while others claim that additional studies, or even the very same studies, actually do demonstrate the validity of astrology.
For example, one of the most commonly-cited studies about astrology was conducted by physicist Shawn Carlson, while he was an undergraduate at UC Berkeley in 1985. This double-blind study, was published in the respected science journal Nature.
Carlson had professional astrologers attempt to match birth charts with California Psychological Inventory profiles, and looked at whether or not volunteers could match astrological interpretations, written by professional astrologers, to themselves.
According to Carlson no supportive data for astrology emerged from the study, and he concluded that there was no evidence for the validity of astrology.
However, according to technical writer Ken McRitchie, “this study...contains serious flaws, which when they are known, cast a very different light on the study.”
“These flaws include: no disclosure of similar scientific studies, unfairly skewed design, disregard for its own stated criteria of evaluation, irrelevant groupings of data, rejection of unexpected results, and an illogical conclusion based on the null hypothesis,” writes McRitchie.
Most surprising, McRitchie states,“Yet, when the stated measurement criteria are applied and the data is evaluated according to normal social science, the two tests performed by the participating astrologers provide evidence that is consistent with astrology.”
McRitchie’s full analysis of Carlson’s study, and a summary of the research that has been found to support the validity of astrology, can be found here: http://www.theoryofastrology.com/carlson/carlson.htm
Physicist John McGervey also did a study that supposedly found no support for astrology, which is summarized in his book Probabilities in Everyday Life.
However, a 1961 study by psychologist Vernon Clark (published in the journal In Search), and a 1986 study by astrologer Neil Marbell (published in The National Council for Geocosmic Research (NCGR) Journal), both claimed to have found positive results that support the validity of astrology.
Putting these inconclusive, conflicting studies aside for a moment, if one experimentally entertains the subjective notion that astrology is real, one can experience some interesting results.
If one starts to study the personality characteristics of the different signs, and begins asking friends when their birthday are, many people agree, astrology can certainly start to seem uncannily real.
Having one’s “natal chart” done by a gifted astrologer, can also be a profound experience for many people, leading to numerous personal insights.
A natal chart is an intuitive interpretation of the position of the Heavens at the time and place of one’s birth, that supposedly helps one to gain insight into one’s personality, psychological dynamics, and potential in life.
According to astrologer Antero Alli, you don’t actually have to believe in astrology in order to practice it successfully. Alli told me, “After 30 years in the practice, I still don’t believe in astrology; I use it because it works.”
Alli added, “And it seems to work best when used as a language, not as a philosophy or a belief system, or a religion, or a science. The purpose of language is not to solve life’s big questions. Like any other linguistic construct, the purpose of astrology is communication.”
Brezsny echoed this by saying, “I think astrology, at its best, is about opening up the imagination, opening up the possibilities, by getting you to play with visions of what’s possible.”
“Astrology is not a belief system; it’s not a religion; it’s not a science. It’s a language of the archetypes that you can play with, and thereby get a read on the biggest possibilities that are available to you,” Brezsny said.
In any case, true or not, my love for reading newspaper astrology columns was gleefully resurrected when I discovered Brezsny's brilliant, irreverent, hopeful, and hilarious astrology column, “Free Will Astrology.”
To learn more about Rob Brezsny’s astrology work, and to read his weekly column, see: www.freewillastrology.com
To learn more about Antero Alli’s astrology work, or to have him do a natal chart reading for you, see: www.verticalpool.com/astrology.html
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