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Seriously is Astrology rubbish!?

Some time back I read an article by Martin Robbins, in The Guardian, called Astrologers angered by stars. The stars in this case were the astronomer Brian Cox and the comedian/tv presenter, Dara O'Briain. Both had made comments rubbishing astrology in a BBC2 programme, Stargazing Live, and had upset the astrologers. Cox had also made similar comments in a previous show.

Well let me say the astrologers were right to be upset over the matter. Just because these guys are bright celebrities doesn't mean they knew then, or know now, anything about astrology, and certainly it was a bit arrogant of them to pass such a judgement on it. I'd lay fair bet, if either were quizzed, they wouldn't know their aspect from their elbow on the matter. I can say that with some confidence too as anyone who actually takes the time to study astrology will know it is worthy of serious interest rather than glib and rude comments about it. Speaking of which:

'Astrology is utter nonsense, but people strongly want the security of knowing the future, so that even today astrology is accepted by many people who are uneducated, unsophisticated or simply silly'.  Isaac Asimov, writer of science and science fiction (deceased)

I’m just wondering which option to go for – ‘uneducated, unsophisticated or simply silly’? Too many choices Isaac – my brain hurts!

I don't know about O'Briain, but Cox comes from a scientific background and should, in theory at least, know better than to prejudge something he hasn't explored or researched - it simply ain't scientific. And especially so when research into the matter has provided evidence that it is much more than simple superstition – check out, for example, Gauquelin’s research in Cosmic Influences (1) or West and Toonder’s, The Case for Astrology (2) for starters. People just wouldn’t research into it, if it was so cut and dried rubbish.

'As a scientist, I think Brian Cox is completely within his rights to trash views which have no basis in scientific fact… Astrology is rubbish, the fact that a large number of people believe in it does not make it any less rubbish'.  Comment left by subscriber in the Guardian article mentioned above.

Yes, well I have a different take on the matter and why science finds it so hard to accept astrology – and it is not nearly as simple as the research denying it as 'scientific fact' either. I’ll come onto that below.

The attacks on astrology (and other such disciplines pushed out to the fringes) are not new. You’ll find plenty of it around the Web. Astrology came in for a pretty hefty attack back in 1975 when The Humanist (American humanities journal) published a statement entitled, Scientists Against Astrology. This condemnation included the signatures of 186 leading scientists, including 18 Nobel Prize winners. The condemnation itself was bizarrely written in a high church edict tone, as if from a priesthood than members of the scientific community.

Fortunately not every scientist agreed with this onslaught. Hans Eysenck wrote at the time: 'Actually the behaviour of the scientists who signed this declaration was as unscientific as they believed that of the astrologers to be. Few, if any of them, were familiar with the empirical literature and consequently their condemnation was based on a priori reasoning, and possibly prejudice, neither of them a good counsellor in matters of fact' (3)

Go your own way

It is a no-brainer that what many of us come to believe in life is arrived at by our induction into the world, by our family, our peers, our educators, our culture, our religion and so forth. And, in that, much of what we are served up is based upon opinion and assumption as to what is and isn't true or valid. Admittedly we can’t check everything out for ourselves and have to trust in much of what we read or are told, but we can also be lazy about looking into beliefs, topics and issues for ourselves, to form our own opinion.

Unfortunately too, the people we are often most likely to be influenced by are those who shout the loudest or who head up the limelight, such as celebrities, business, religious and political leaders, who we trust are somehow ‘in the know’ when they can be as poorly informed as the next person, especially about matters outside their own remit. Without fully realising it we can become indoctrinated to reiterate beliefs and opinions that are not necessarily ours but which we have taken on-board, and have come to own, as if we had discovered them for ourselves. And once in place this perception on the world can become habitual and hard to shift or move on from.

'Astrology is the alleged interpretation of a presumed influence of celestial bodies upon human destiny, both collective and individual. The Bible makes it clear that this is a false teaching, and that those who practice it are subject to God's condemnation'.  Dr Paul M Elliott, Christian writer and preacher

If you are involved in orthodox religion in any way you may well take astrology more seriously than members of the scientific community, but at the same time probably you have been warned to stay clear of tampering with such dark arts by those 'in the know'.

How I well recall one evangelical Christian finding out about my astrology practice. She tried to put the fear of Job up me in her incessant letters, as if written to a person possessed by the Devil. She offered to take me under her wing to be saved - and meanwhile she prayed for me. Short of telling her where to go, I ended up having a meeting with her and explained what astrology was all about – and to her credit she understood it was not quite what she had been taught it was.

I anticipate that probably most of us will have an opinion on astrology but likewise I anticipate that few of us have ever studied the matter in any depth to have an informed opinion. I would suggest this is why astrology - and for that matter other 'fringe' disciplines that get lumped with it - is so often frowned upon and given negative press. Not because people are in the know about it but because they have been taught to view it a certain way.

It is alright as a bit of innocent entertainment, reading our stars on the coffee break page of a red top newspaper or magazine, but to be taken seriously!? Yes well..!
You’ll find surveys on the matter that suggest that a lot of people do believe in astrology. It is great to have positive opinion but I would suggest for many people it will be found to be the entertainment level that they are familiar with, that influences their response to such surveys. These surveys do however produce results that can rattle cages - as is implied by one or two of the comments above.

I’ll come clean. I have, in my past, been as guilty as the next person for passing judgement on astrology. Certainly I had little time for any belief in it. Back in my twenties I saw it as little more than a mediaeval superstition. I was an out and out sceptic of most things that even hinted at another take on the world, than the atheist and existential beliefs I then subscribed to. Eventually through experience, and one or two eye openers, I found my own way to taking a more open-minded approach to such matters – and I’m glad I did.

Get real about astrology

Let's get real about astrology. The main point of this article is to get across the message that just because something doesn't fit into our learnt construct of how the world works, or how it is supposed to work, doesn’t mean it is untenable or rubbish. Let us not be so hasty to judge and instead take a look at it, and what it offers - especially if it has developed in many different cultures and has been kicking around for a few thousand years, as astrology has.

Regarding giving it consideration and possible acceptance I’ll let you into a secret about astrology - and this is a big one! While probably quite a number of us can accept there is something in astrology - but can't quite put our finger on what it is - the only way we can begin to really understand astrology is by first grasping that we live in an a priori meaningful world. Only when we can accept this as fact can we begin to see how it might work and all fit together. This is the nub of the matter - a very simple test to ascertain whether we are north or south of grasping astrology. It doesn't really matter what type of astrology is being considered either, whether mundane, horary, financial or natal, it works on the same principle.

What do I mean by ‘meaningful’? We live in a dynamic, interconnected, situation where there is attraction operating, conscious or unconscious, behind our lives (indeed all life) and events - and all bounded by time. And you know what, at it highest, there is a spiritual purpose operating… Astrology presents us with an holistic, and in my view, ultimately a spiritual paradigm – and in its higher use it is about as far removed from the coffee break page as one can get.

Look deep enough into your life and you'll find you live in circumstances that have symbolical meaning. There is a deep narrative running that you will have created that is hidden behind your existence, your relationships, your job/vocation, your family background, the culture you live in, behind your name. You just need to know how to read it to understand it. One way of getting a handle on it is through a study of your astrological birthchart - the moment of your birth, the starting point, providing a snapshot in time, being placed upon this useful time template - which can then be interpreted.

You can of course accept your existence is entirely on the basis of nature and, or nurture – and it is your right to do so. Most of us, it would appear, fail to make this 'meaningful' connection and rather view our lives as simply the outcome of, well, genetics, our upbringing, the government, 9 to 5, and something along the lines of 'needs must', coincidence, serendipity, luck, misfortune and envy - with a bit of sods law thrown in. Against this conjured reality of normality, there is little room for 'meaning'. The bigger stuff, I'd suggest, gets pushed out to the fringes, beyond our busy life bubble.

Conflict of interest

'There is no Heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers. That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark'. Stephen Hawking, physicist, cosmologist

In context with comments above, I might add that those of us who are sceptics, and signed up to the religion of orthodox science, simply don't believe in, accept, or fully get this 'meaningful world' and the spiritual drivers behind it.

You have to bear in mind that the paradigm that much of the west operates on is now more secular than it has ever been, and stems from the same mechanistic, reductionist world view I also held onto, where things happen but not in any meaningful way. We live we die and get what we can from life in between those two points.

One of my arguments regarding astrology (and fringe disciplines in general) is that we must research it all we can, with rigour, for its own good and development. In saying this however I consider it pointless looking for endorsement from orthodox science - or for that matter from orthodox religion - certainly not at this time. This is for the simple fact that astrology comes from a different world view – nay for the most part a perceived opposing world view - and hence there is a conflict of interest in endorsing it. 'Never the twain shall meet' comes to my mind.

The projected outcome on this saga is that astrology will never be endorsed by science – regardless of research - and I'm not relying on any 'stars' to predict that outcome. My god, whatever next - ufos, the paranormal, life after death - they're all out there queuing to get endorsed or blessed - whatever!

Anyway there you have it - or Part 1 of it at least!
Part 2: In part two of Get Real About Astrology we'll look at some of the myths and misunderstandings of what astrology is and how it works...

For research of astrology:
Research Grants for the Critical Study of Astrology - http://www.astrology-research.net/index.html
International Society for Astrological Research - http://www.isarastrology.com/
Urania Trust - http://www.uranian-institute.org/xresearch.htm

1 Gauquelin, M (1976) Cosmic Influences. Future Publications Ltd
2 West, J A and Toonder, J G (1970) The Case for Astrology. Guest Books.Francis O'Neill
3 Eysenck, H J (1979) Astrology: Science or Superstition. Encounter 53.

Francis O'Neill has been involved with the study and application of astrology for over 35 years. He has diplomas with the Faculty of Astrological
Studies and the Mayo School of Astrology. He is particularly interested in the ‘roadmap’ use of astrology for better understanding and applying our spiritual journey, and which he includes in his forthcoming book: Life and Death: Making Sense of It.

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