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Astrology Misunderstood.

It can easily be argued that astrology is one of the most misunderstood and therefore contentious subjects there is. In this piece I shall explore the reasons for this and then point to some evidence that suggests how astrology can find a respectable place to stand proud and useful in a world dominated by science.

One of the major reasons for astrology being lampooned by public figures including Stephen Fry, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Dawkins is the media profile of astrology, a poor profile that does so much to shape public opinion. What do most people know about astrology? General public perception must surely be formed by the reading of Sun Sign columns to be found in many daily papers and magazines. Any rational person would know that these cannot be right and that no reasonable argument can be made for their validity. The population can’t simply be divided into twelve tribes who share the same daily experiences; a twelfth of the population do not successfully ask for a pay rise on the same day. The same approximately 4.8 million residents of this country would be ill advised to expect romance to leap into their lives the same month.

Sun Sign astrology is easy to do. The press pay for it, the public are titillated and it keeps many an astrologer earning. But it is shabby cladding on the front of an old and well-constructed house. Go for a decent personal chart reading and you will be impressed by the startling accuracy of the subject and see the real face of astrology. But the fact will remain that what you generally see of astrology as you move around this world of ours is the mush of pulp astrology columns, mugs, tee-shirts and other Sun Sign-centric souvenirs. Sadly this will reinforce any opinion you and your pals might hold that astrology must be tripe.

Another reason for astrology’s poor profile is the prevailing hippie/New Age ethos attached to it. This is so strong that clients often expect their astrologer to pepper readings with a lexicon including karma, spiritual, archetype and inner-self …and/or dress in a certain way. This is at the very least partially because the roots of twenty-first century astrology go back to 1960s when exploration of all kinds of ideas and philosophies became fashionable. All manner of wild and groovy things, including astrology, were haphazardly picked up and put down again by the middle class mainstream as they passed through their youths. Understandably there was a lack of rigour to much of what was done in the field. Thus, while producing some fantastic astrologers, generally, the Blair generation (and younger) have a smattering of knowledge of the subject. Oh dear, as we all know a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

So we have this situation. The general public is semi-exposed to an astro-gunk funfare it can foolishy or half-heartedly subscribe to, treat with the contempt it surely deserves or – rarely - use as inspiration toward an exploration of the subject. In most minds this leaves astrology tethered, like a naughty, dumb, defenceless goat to so-called New Age ideas and ideals, some of which are excellent, many of which are ridiculous, untenable and sometimes dangerous. We need to set this goat free and remove its metaphorical kaftan, for it is a beautiful beast in its own right.

But even the dehippified, the astro-animal would still have big problems. Problems stemming from far more dearly held and pervasive assumptions. Assumptions that many find very hard to question. Yes, the other major reason astrology is still a leftfield sideshow in our culture, not worthy of so many good people’s attention, is our prevailing mindset. This mindset, our view of the world is  - rightly and usefully to a large extent - based on a commonly held implicit understanding of science, usually based on the rationale of physics as essentially described by Isaac Newton. This is a worldview which has created and solved many problems over time and remains the engine of human progress. But its assumptions often leave people’s daily perceptions about anything outside the obvious and physical in a presumptuous and dismissive state, causing them to ignore rather than merely question anything that does not have a rational basis, built on Newton’s certainties.

However, much of the cutting edge of science, which long ago went beyond Newton, is finding that at a subatomic level, the universe is not wholly rational and remains far from being fully explained. Therefore in the world of science, and in the world we live in, the Newtonian world-view is only useful within a limited sphere. Disciplines such as quantum mechanics and ideas like string theory which concern themselves with how the universe of matter works at this level have come to strange, tentative, exciting and evolving explanations. Such ideas leave space for phenomena like dowsing, meditation and astrology to have a scientific grounding and basis. They give a foundation for such things to be taken seriously by science, and thus a legitimate footing in our culture.

There are example explanations of such grounding in a variety of sources. I’ve taken mine from an astrology book (at this point you should think about the implications of what follows and then apply it to what how astrology might work in physical terms). In Navigating by the Stars, Edith Hathaway points out that the hugely influential physicist Richard Feynman suggested that an electron could be scattered backwards in time. She also quotes Bell’s Theorem which ‘shows definitively in the behaviour of subatomic wave/particles that separate parts of the universe are interconnected in ways which are both intimate and immediate, and move faster than the speed of light, or at superluminal levels’, she then points out that ‘the laws governing these subatomic events are beyond a totally rational understanding’.

Here we have a beautiful pointer to how astrology might work. The other proof I see every time I read a chart.

Note: Details of the great Edith Hathaway book are in the Top Ten Books piece on this website.

  Writing › Astrology Misunderstood

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