View Full Version : Confessions of a skeptic
I'm a very infrequent visitor to this forum, so please forgive me if this topic has been discussed in the past.
I'm in kind of a strange situation. I find myself intrigued by and attracted to astrology, and I would like to learn more about it. I think it's fascinating the way a whole personality can be mapped and diagrammed, and as a symbol system it's very appealling to me.
I have one major question that keeps repeating itself in my mind whenever I start to get interested in astrology. Which is: is there an obective truth to it? In other words, is there a verifiable connection between the position of the planets at birth and factors of one's personality, and a connection between the position of the planets at various times throughout our lives and events that happen to us?
It seems to me that there are some problems if we say that it is objectively true. Such as:
If it's objectively true, why has there been such difficulty in confirming this through studies? I know that there have been a few studies that have shown some tantalizing suggestions, but nothing concrete. At the same time, however, there have been many more studies which show no correlations whatsoever. I don't mean to sound harsh here, but it seems to me that either something is objectively true or it isn't. If it is, then it ought to be easy enough to confirm it with a scientific study. If it can't be confirmed through scientific studies, then I think it becomes real problematic to make claims that it's objectively true. If we're to say something is objectively true but at the same time we say it can't be shown to be true, then I think it becomes kind of meaningless to make the statement that it's true.
Another problem for me is that I've heard from several different people that they've gone to different astrologers, and each astrologer differs vastly in what they have to say about the person's birth chart. I can certainly understand minor differences, but, assuming the astrologers in question are using more or less the basic, standard techniques, shouldn't the readings have broad similarities, instead of being totally different?
The phrase "standard techniques" brings up another problem, which is the seeming arbitrariness of which techniques astrologers choose to use. House systems is a good example. Houses are important because they tell us in what fields of our lives the energies are manifesting. So if different house systems place our planets' birth positions in different houses, thus resulting in completely different interpretations, then how can astrology be objectively true? If I use the equal house system and you use the Koch system, and therefore we come up with completely different interpretations of Sam's chart, then how can we possibly say that astrology describes an objective truth about Sam as a person?
Now, another theory that I've seen (although very infrequently) is that the features of a horoscope chart simply act as triggers which enable the astrologer to access his or her own subconscious knowledge. Thus, a chart would work the way a Tarot card spread works (at least, this is my theory of how a Tarot spread works), i.e. the cards are simply a tool which allows the reader to access his or her own subconscious knowledge and perceptions about the querent. This is an attractive theory because it would account for the arbitrariness of techniques used, and also for different astrologers' differing interpretations of the same chart.
The only problem with this theory is that most astrology authors which I've read (over the years I've read or skimmed through many of the well-regarded astrology books) write about astrology as if it were indeed objectively true, although most of them don't offer any explanation of how it might work, other than simply saying some variation on "as above, so below," which doesn't really satisfy me.
Am I just looking at this all the wrong way? I would love to hear others' opinions about this, because I would truly like to find a reasonable-sounding philosophical framework for astrology, so that I could then proceed to study it, which I really would like to do.
Please believe, it's not my intention to attack anyone's beliefs or to ask anyone justify their beliefs. This is simply how I see things, and I would actually be grateful if, as I say, someone can help me to find some way to think of astrology which makes sense to me.
-- Lee :)
Lee -- here is a link to an excellent resource in which many of your very thoughtful questions are addressed: http://www.astro-noetics.com/faq.html
Nothing I say will answer your questions about the truth or objective validity.
My sister has a rather firm belief in it and it is not objective.
My slant honors the social history, art and culture that touches upon it and the constellation maps that people formed for centuries. The navigational charts and schools had both astronomy and astrology as similar sciences until the 19th or 20th century mixed both fact and fictional beliefs.
I can tell you that gravitational moon cycles do affect the flow of tides and that has a factual affect on how we do kayaking. Whatever cultural or perceived affect the moon waxing and waning has on myself or the many women around me, it is felt, not truly objective. I'm not certain that you can verify a behavioral accuracy of Western astrology in the modern days. But within the historical cultures that did develop art, literature and astrological symbolism and metaphor came archetypes that led to tarocchi symbolism and over time, the symbolism of astrological archetypes or personalities.
Perhaps collectively in an ancient agricultural society where baby animals were born in the Spring and food was plentiful, one could say the human children were born in a season of hope and plenty and tended to have airy, light-hearted personalities. Since the development of calendars, time, seasons, hours and minutes came slowly, people guessed in terms of folklore and myth that came to codified in astrological archetypes. It is fascinating as a historical study, but I don't know that you could say it was objectively correct.
Although, I tend to be considered very much my astrological archetype, a Gemini with Libra Moon. I don't know if it is a conscious choice through my reading, or what...I just can tell you it seems more right for me than not.
Sorry that it doesn't answer...maybe it adds a little information to you.
You raise some extremely interesting issues and to be honest I don't know the answer (if there is 'an' answer, that is).
There are two hotly debated views by Astrologers - Astrology is symbolically true and Astrology is objectively (Sceintifically true). There are clear lines of research in the latter area looking for links to Sunspots, Moon cycles, Solar wind, etc. These may eventually prove to be true but at the moment there is no conclusive evidence - the work of Percy Seymour and Bruce Scofield is perhaps the most intersting here. In psychological terms the work of the Gauquelins is also of prime importance. However any scientific approach runs into the 'statistical' question - the marshalling of evidence that supports (or at least does not disprove) hypotheses about the observable world.
No Astrologer is really sure of how Astrology works so a set of hypotheses that are advanced may be disproved but this does not of itself disprove Astrology because alternative hypotheses exist.
On the issue of interpretation - you look at the number of scientists who argue about the relative importance of aspects of Astronomy, Particle Physics, Biochemisty, etc or at the level of Social Science, the disagreements of economists or sociologists. For all science the same set of data can often be interpreted in more than one way and even if there is agreement on meaning there is often disagreement on importance.
If Astrology works because of occult forces that are either difficult to identify or may be beyond human measurement then science will never provide a satisfactory solution. We have exactly the same issue as Tarot - there is absolutely no scientific evidence for Tarot, in terms of a set of relationships that begin with a cause and lead to an indentifiable effect - yet Tarot works. Again you will find Tarot readers who differ in their interpretations - perhaps radically. However I recognise Tarot as a divinatory method that helps in decision making - I can't explain why in any demonstrable sense, but it does work.
Yes, Astrology has different House systems and these may affect the reading - though I have tried readings for the same person using different House systems and came up with essentially the same interpretation, though admittedly the emphasis varied. Tarot has readers who attach different meanings to reversed cards and others that treat reversed cards as a sign that someone failed to put the card back properly! Some readers treat Wands as Fire and others treat Swords as Fire and still others may not even relate suits to elements. But Tarot still works.
In both cases the role of the reader is important - they are not passive observers but participate in the process and in some way cards and chart seem to gain meaning through the interpretation of the reader, rather than being self obvious.
Hope this helps
I see astrology as an art and not a belief system.
To me, the reason why people say Astrology doesn't work is that they don't have the time or inclination to spend on it's complex nature. To me, Astrology is basically 12 signs which deal with different levels of the same events, situations and personalities. Since it's obvious that all of life cannot be explained away in only 12 simplistic and diverse descriptions and since all of life is synchronistic, it's apparent that those 12 descripitions blend into each other, along with being singular descriptions on their own in their own perspective ways. It's a matter of recognizing the intensity levels each sign is expressing in a person's chart. That is why Astrology is hard to learn and interpret, and no matter how much the naysayers talk about it being false, my experience shows that it works if you're willing to study it. I also think that not everyone can study it, because you need to have a keen sense of reading abstract symbolism, an understanding of psychology and experience in real life to make it all blend together. It's the same with Tarot, although I think reading Tarot is, in some respects, easier than interpreting a chart.
I am going to have to say that it probably will never be proven. The reason being is you are dealing with personality. Personality is never objective, always subjective. How a person views themselves vs. how other people view them, and how each other person views them, will be different.
I have disocovered that as a whole a natal chart will give a pretty accurate picture of a person's personality. 100%? No, but when dealing with something as influenced as personality, I don't think 100% is a possibility. I think the evidence I have for this is enough for me. Transits and daily happenings, my jury is still out on :-)
Is there an objective truth to tarot reading? Is there scientific proof that it works? The only "proof" that I have ever encountered came through my own comparison of the details of a tarot reading with real-life events, and this is how I have approached astrology (and I have been "testing" the validity of astrology with skepticism since 1992!). Here's what I have determined so far: Some of the events of my life have been predicted WITHIN THE BROAD CATEGORIES of astrological description, that is, of the many POSSIBLE events that were described under a certain transit, one of them did occur. However, some major events that should have been obvious could not be easily seen in my chart (at least not by me, perhaps greater astrologers than I could see them, a challenge anyone???). Yet how helpful is it really to know that at a certain time in my life I might a)experience a romantic opportunity b)become artistically inspired c)increase my finances d)indulge in material excesses. All good things, but which one? As for house systems, I too was disillusioned by the contradictory meanings possible for the same chart, and almost gave up astrology altogether because of the philopsophical problem this presented. So I abandoned house systems and simply used planetary energies and transits to understand people's charts and predict events. These elements are stable and remain virtually identical for every astrologer I have ever encountered. Perhaps this an over-simplification of the chart, but is the only way I can use astrology with confidence.
It is in my nature to be skeptical, so I understand where you are coming from. When I started getting deeper into astrology, I looked at it from an open point of view, yet tried to always find fault in it. Not because I wanted to discredit the study, but to find 'truths'.
There is a book called "Write your own Horoscope" by Joseph Goodavage. The introduction specifically addresses the same thing you have.....from the book... "In 1975, 186 scientists....declared all out war against astrology......Those scientist 'knew' without study that astrology is a false doctorine...."
He goes on to tell the rest of the story...the first two chapters also have some amazing information and more on the fight for astrology.
I have found too many connetions to drop my study of the stars....besides, something that has been around for ages, there must be something to it.
An interesting discussion. My two cents. Whether or not a horoscope is or isnít scientifically (as we understand science at the moment) provable, itís still important to study because it is, as far as I know, the only thing that gives you a complete symbolic picture of you as part of the universe. Itís a map of the psychic wholeness of a human being and all his or her parts in a social environment and as part of the greater world and the universe beyond.
Most people (me included) emphasize one part of experience or another as exclusively real and important, negating or being unaware of other perspectives. Like the person whose entire world is my home and family, or the person who is all scientist, or all religion.
The horoscope, difficult as it is to decipher, at least gives us a picture of all the parts and a hope that we can understand more about ourselves and our relationships to each other and to the universe.
Yes I agree, I feel that the pursuit of a scientific explanation by some Astrologers is misplaced (though eventually who knows what science will through up). However I agree that the strength of Astrology lies in its ability to symbolically express what we know to be true (but can't prove in any scientific sense).
I'm always reminded of the quote from Hamlet - 'there are more things in heaven and earth.......' Just because we can't prove something doesn't mean it does not have meaning for our everyday lives.
A French astrologer in 2001 (I think) received a doctorate at the Sorbonne University in Paris for an Astrology thesis. Most of the scientific world was most alarmed and distressed - lol - . But of course, many French politicians have their astrologers and Tarot readers and what-not, so perhaps it's not too surprising in a country like that.
But it was a start to getting Astrology re-recognised as something more scientific (it used to be recognised as such a few hundred years ago).
That astrologer is Dr. Patrice Guinard, and his excellent on-line journal can be found here: http://cura.free.fr/
Oh that's another one then. The one I was thinking of was Elizabeth Tessier. It created a big rumpus when it happened. (She was FranÁois Mitterand's astrologer before his death).
Thanks, Diana! Dr. Guinard must have followed in Dr. Tessier's footsteps at the Sorbonne. His doctoral thesis is published on his site, along with a host of erudite and thoughtful articles, in several languages.
I just wanted to thank everyone who posted (and those who might post in the future, of course). You've certainly given me a lot to think about. The astro-noetics link that Astraea provided has a lot of interesting stuff in it. I also found some interesting stuff in Kevin Burk's website, www.astro-horoscopes.com, in his "Ask Kevin" archives. He views the natal chart, or any kind of chart, more as a spiritual blueprint rather than a hard-and-fast "this will happen to you" sort of thing. It seems to me, now that I think about it, that even if there is no physical cause-and-effect going on, if one decides to accept astrology, one is in effect making a decision to live one's life in such a way that one is connected to the rhythms of the universe, so that it's almost a spiritual belief. I'm not really being very articulate here...
I still feel moved to study astrology, so I'm going to just do it and see where it takes me. I've ordered two beginning books from Amazon (used, so they were cheap! :)): "The Only Way to Learn Astrology" Vols. 1, 2 and 3 by March/McEvers, and "New Way to Learn Astrology" by Fearrington. After I've taken a look at them, maybe I'll post a new thread asking if anyone is familiar/has opinions about them.
-- Lee :)
Good choices Lee, I've got one of their books and its well written. Kevin Burk's own book is very good too - I've corresponded with Kevin and find him extremely hepful. We also share the same birth day (October 24) though not the same year.
Lunalafey -- a quick note. I too read Joseph Goodsavage's book as my first text on astrology. A co-worker noted my reading of the book during lunch break and asked me to do his horoscope. From that little paperback, and by scaling the simple planet position lists given to find approximate/exact placements, I wrote out my observations. I was correct, having described three periods of illness that impacted his diet and outlook. I even described what he couldn't eat. I only held back one thing. Several months later he died from MS -- within a day of the time I had plotted out.
NOW, I had only read the book to prove to my wife that astrology was useless. After that, I did not do charts for anyone for a year but did I study every book I could buy.
IS ASTROLOGY VALID? To answer the question that started this tread -- it something you have to prove to yourself. Do I know it works -- emphatically. Do you know? That is YOUR question and its only for you to answer. I do know these things:
1) You can do astrology using standard meanings for each planet, sign, house and aspect but it only generally fits.
2) You can be an expression of astrology and it will speak through you and be as accurate and specific as your confidence, skills and understanding of it will support. It can intuitively just flow through you.
3) Your articulation of an astrological chart reflects only your level of knowledge, your ability to love and relate, your experience in living life. Your words will be both similar and different from those of every other astrologer. When any of reads what another astrologer writes we recognize both the common and the differing views -- and accept them, generally. They are just another view that we can understand but may not be able to express in that manner.
4) The people and situations that come to you will mirror your level of capability and views of life. When someone comes to you who makes you uncomfortable or who asks to much, throw your arms open and rise to the challenge. Everyone you meet has some hidden message that you need. Embrace change and challenges in order to be a better astrologer.
5) When you are asked if "you believe in astrology" say no but I believe in the astrologer. The magic is in the person, not in the chart.
the New Way to Learn Astrology, GOOD BOOK!.....I liked the quizes at the back of the chapters. It gave me a good idea of what I had learned and the areas I need to work on. His analogy on houses helped me greatly in comprehending the houses dynamics.
dads....interesting that you can determine death in a chart. This is not unbelievable to me (I know the story of Evangaline Adams) I have a friend whos brother could find these points in a chart.
I must admit that I have difficulties with the 'determination of death'. I don't believe that Astrology is deterministic, charts give possible trends which may or may not come to pass depending on the actions of the individual(s) concerned
I am quite willing to accept that the possibility of death may be shown in a chart and that an Astrologer may believe that this is a strong possibility. If it actually then happens it is possible (though I think mistaken) to say that the death was shown in the chart as a fact.
Also, taking up a point that dads made elsewhere, it is the Astrologer who interprets, rather than the chart itself which determines a good reading. I fully accept this and would perhaps add one further dimension. It is possible that the chart can stimulate a psychic connection - an insight or vision of the future. A prediction of death might be, on this basis, 'correct' even though the chart shows no compelling 'hard evidence' for it. Many psychics use Tarot as a means of focus and I see no reason why an Astrological chart should not play the same role.