The Controversy Between The Two Zodiacs

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As two different zodiacal systems are used, a controversy naturally arises between them. Some astrologers may consider one to be the true zodiac, the other to be in error. Some may consider both to be valid but to different degrees. Some may try to use both together. If we are unbiased, I believe that we can find examples of accurate astrological readings using either system, and examples of bad readings as well. This may depend more upon practitioner than system. Some say that the Tropical system is for westerners, as it has developed here, and that the Sidereal system is for easterners, as it has prevailed there. Yet Sidereal astrology can give good and accurate readings even for westerners who believe in the Tropical system and Tropical astrology can make sense of the charts of easterners. Moreover, we see this barrier between east and west breaking down everywhere. Easterners can be as materialistic or scientific as westerners and westerners can be as spiritual or religious as easterners. We are all human beings with the same basic nature in life and we cannot make the influence of the stars dependent upon geographical influences.

When a tropical astrologer says that the Sun is in Aquarius, he does not mean that the Sun is in the fixed stars of the constellation Aquarius. He usually knows that it is probably in the fixed stars of Capricorn. He means that it is in the eleventh of a twelvefold division of the zodiac based upon the position of the Sun at the vernal equinox. Similarly, when a sidereal astrologer says that the Sun is in Capricorn, he means the fixed stars, not the tropical division, which he knows is probably Aquarius. Though both astrologers use the same terms, they refer them to different portions of the sky based upon two different ways of dividing the heavens.

As Vedic astrology is sidereal this means that the signs will change in the Vedic chart from what we find in the more common tropical chart. A Taurus Sun sign person may find their Sun in Aries in the Vedic system. This shift of positions naturally causes some consternation, particularly for those of us who are familiar with or pleased with our chart in the Tropical system. An Aquarius Sun sign person may not be happy to become Capricorn in the Vedic system (even though there is some difference in the interpretation of the meanings of these signs). On the other hand, a Capricorn Sun in the western system may feel happier as a Sagittarius Sun in the eastern. (We should mention in passing that the Vedic system does not make such a big thing of Sun signs, it considers the Ascendant and the Moon to be more important). Hence it is crucial that we understand the two zodiacs and their differences so that we don't confuse one system with the other or try to judge one according to the standards of the other, in which terms neither is likely to look good.

The Sidereal zodiac is probably the original zodiac historically, as it is the observable zodiac. The Tropical, which is an abstract zodiac, musty have derived from it, as all abstractions are usually based on underlying observable things.

The zodiac was invented long before the time when the vernal equinox was in Aries. It must have originally been based upon direct observation of the stars.

When the Egyptian and the Babylonians spoke of the sign Taurus, it must have been the fixed stars. Yet in their time Taurus marked the vernal equinox, not Aries. It is hard to imagine that in 2000 B.C. when the Moon was in the stars of Taurus the ancients would have located it the tropical sign of Aries (which would have been the case if they used the Tropical zodiac). An abstract or symbolic zodiac, as the Tropical is, would not have made sense in cultures that marked their calendar on observable planetary positions. If astrology came originally from India, then the Sidereal zodiac would definitely come first, as its astrology has remained sidereal through out its long history. Ancient cultures like India, which maintained the continuity of their civilizations over thousands of years, would quite naturally have to reckon with the precession of the zodiac. As their calendar was based upon astronomical sightings, like that the Moon in a certain constellation on a certain date, within a thousand years the calendar would be off two weeks, in two thousand years, in a month. It was only when these ancient cultures declined and fell that the knowledge of precession with their calendar was lost. It is not surprising that we find many such calendar shifts in the ancient Vedic texts of India. Western civilizations, however, did not have these ancient roots. They changed too quickly for such shifts of stellar positions to be noted. Knowledge of the precession was lost altogether in the dark ages.

The advantage of the Sidereal zodiac, therefore, is that it is probably the original zodiac astronomically and historically. The complaint of many astronomers that astrology cannot be valid as its signs no longer correspond to the stars cannot be lodged against Sidereal astrology. Yet whether the Tropical zodiac is an improvement on this original zodiac of the fixed stars, an alternative system, or a deviation from it, is another question. Tropical astrology can be accurate. However, Vedic astrology considers the Sidereal zodiac to be more important. The advantage of the Tropical zodiac, of course, is that it is the commonly known one, the astrological language of our culture. Yet whether it will be the primary system for the global astrology that will emerge in the New Age remains to be seen. By the accounts of psychics like Edgar Cayce, who also used a sidereal system, the sidereal model will prevail in time. Vedic astrology has existed for over many thousands of years. A number of changes of equinoctial positions similar to our age of Aquarius and similar shifts in the calendar have been recorded in it. The Vedic system and its zodiac are based upon a continuity of culture that goes back to the age of the Gods when human beings still had communication with the intelligence of the cosmos. It may, therefore, provide us the key to that working of that cosmic intelligence.

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