Astrology's place in the world is not entirely clear: is it a form of scientific study, or a belief system more akin to a religion or philosophy? It is certainly not regarded as a science in the sense that most scientists would use the term today, but if we look back to the original meaning of science - scientia (knowledge) - we do perhaps find a definition more sympathetic to the realm of astrology. Any thinking man or woman with a thirst for knowledge must surely make some attempt to connect their experience of life with the wider universe - to relate their actions, reactions, emotions, and thought processes to the universe outside them. And this is essentially what astrology does - it provides a way of relating the pattern made by the Sun, Moon, planets and other heavenly bodies to life on Earth, and specifically to our own lives.
Perhaps this does make astrology sound rather like a religion -which is not surprising, considering religion is often seen as a rival to science in attempting to make sense of the nature of life. However, unlike religion, astrology has as its base observable and quantifiable facts. Further, if we accept as a definition of science that it is "a branch of knowledge involving systematized
On this 18th-century orrery, which shows the planetary orbits, the disc is marked with dates, months, and the zodiacal symbols
On this 18th-century orrery, which shows the planetary orbits, the disc is marked with dates, months, and the zodiacal symbols observation and experiment", the term is accurately descriptive of astrology. No statement a modern astrologer makes will have been invented by him or her: it is the result of considered observation and experiment, whether it was first formulated 1,400 years ago by the Babylonian scholar Akkullanu or by English astrologer John Addey in the 1970s. And if a modern astrologer attempts to enlarge knowledge of the subject by making a statement which seems new, that statement will certainly be the result of observation and analysis.
This has been seen during the last 30 years in the work which has examined the astrological effect of Chiron (see p239), which has come to be known as "the wounded healer". Chiron has been observed to have a special effect on those who have suffered and whose experience may be used to help other wounded people. But how convincing are these observations?
evidence, facts, opinions
Any astrologer who has practised for half a century or so can produce case-book records that show, again and again, that when one planet in a birth chart is in a certain relationship to another, a particular personality
trait appears in the individual whose horoscope is in question. Clearly, this is to some extent unverifiable, just as in psychology it is impossible to prove that, say, a certain incident in childhood has had a certain effect on an adult. But examined in sufficient detail, the evidence is persuasive. It is such verification of astrological theory that, over the years, convinces many people that the subject is worth taking seriously - that a horoscope or birth chart can indeed reveal a great deal about the nature of a person born on a particular day, at a particular moment, in a particular place.
However, it must be said that those who demand positive, measurable proof - as one might demand proof that the area of Nicaragua is 130,700 square kilometres, for example - are unlikely to find it. That is not as great a drawback as one might suppose, and it is interesting to note that three major reference books give different figures for the area of Nicaragua, with differences of up to 1,000 square kilometres. We must conclude that a dusty answer awaits anyone who cries for certainties in this our world.
It is unfortunately still necessary, when writing seriously about astrology, to point out that anyone who still believes that it has anything to do with the popular columns found in newspapers and magazines should disabuse themselves of that idea immediately. There is some fun to be obtained from reading these columns, and a shrewd astrologer who is also (and maybe more importantly) a first-class journalist can hit a sufficient number of buttons in the average column to suggest that something curious is going on. Tell a reader with an Aries Sun sign that they are likely to bruise their head, and you have a reasonable chance of being right.
Although there are generalizations which can be made, and successfully made, in the area of Sun-sign astrology, this is not the astrology we want to introduce to the readers of this book. Nor do we deal here with the aspect which, understandably, the general reader finds most interesting: the possibility of predicting the future.
hopes of prediction
Most astrologers will agree that it is impossible to predict a future event reliably. Astrology is a remarkable tool with which to consider the subject, however. The famous psychiatrist C. G. Jung developed from it his theory of synchronicity. That is, of meaningful events occurring at the same time: if life has a pattern, then time is an essential aspect of that pattern, and anything that happens is related to everything else that happens through the time at which an event occurs.
History is studded with failed predictions, however, and the few that have turned out to be accurate - fascinating though they are - have usually demonstrated that they cannot be particular enough to be useful. For example, one British astrologer predicted serious danger to shipping on 6 March 1987 - the day on which the car ferry Herald of Free Enterprise sank off Zeebrugge with the loss of 187 lives. But such a prediction could not have been of use to save those lives unless it were possible to particularize - the longitude and latitude of the disaster, for example, or the time of sailing, or... But there are too many intangibles.
The form of prediction that seems reliable can best be compared to a weather forecast or an economic report: "there is a chance of rain tomorrow morning", or "in spring the recession may ease". As to, "on Monday 11 August 2007, you will meet your soul mate," forget it. No, the fascination of astrology, and its strength, is in "the nature of the beast" - how and why one man or
woman differs from another; whether traits that seem deeply imbedded in an individual's personality are the result of nature or nurture. Such speculation takes us a long way from, "what's your sign?" and "Your Stars for Today". But, having said that, the remarkable thing about astrology is that it works, and is comprehensible, on both esoteric and emotionally involving levels. It embraces not only such relatively arcane matters as retrogradation, hypothetical planets, heliocentric planetary nodes, and midpoints, but also the interpretation of human characteristics, which is so much part of the popular appeal of Sun sign astrology.
the aims of this book
With the aid of this book and by using the ephemerides (or tables of planets' positions) provided, it will be possible for a reader to draw up his or her horoscope - an exciting and fascinating process. By "reading" the chart and correlating the information it contains with the interpretations of the planets' positions, it will be possible to decide whether astrology holds an allure and is sufficiently intriguing for further study. If so, the next step will be to produce a fully calculated birth chart, which contains far more detail. This gets closer to the work of professional astrologers, who
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