Astrology, humanities, and science.
Astrology has intimate connections to the development of many cultures, world history, history of countries, religions, psychology, philosophy, and mythology. It is an integral discipline that has incorporated the wisdom and knowledge of all humanities, and it has been feeding the development of humanities through many centuries in a reciprocal relationship. Whether one acknowledges the association between the position of stars in the sky and the events on Earth or not, the cultural significance of astrological tradition and knowledge is irrefutable.
The contemporary society is aware of disconnect between humanities and science. Constant attempts are made to bridge humanities with sciences. Astrological tradition is a great example of an organic symbiosis and logical connection between humanities and sciences. Astrology is an integral discipline that organically combines scientific facts with humanistic content traditionally, and it continues to find insights from science and bridge them with the humanities content now.
Despite the very active and fruitful research and scholarship in history of astrology, philosophical aspects of astrology, and psychological astrology in the last century and in the recent years, the knowledge remains practically unavailable to the broad audience. Unlike in other countries where astrology and cultural astrology are taught in universities (e.g., India, United Kingdom), in the United States the wisdom of astrological tradition, particularly its humanities-related aspects, is not accessible to the public and remains available only to a closed circle of scholars of astrology.
The main question that every human is attempting to answer in the course of his life is the place of a person in the Universe: his place among other humans, his place in the history of civilizations, his place in the natural world and his place in the physical Universe. This question has been addressed by the society through development of sciences and humanities. Empirical sciences approached the question by developing knowledge about the material world. History addressed the question by collecting and analyzing historical facts and drawing conclusions about the development of civilizations and the role of a person in a historical context. Religions offered systems of beliefs regarding relationship of humans with higher forces. Philosophy integrated the knowledge from empirical sciences and humanities into logical systems of understanding of the Universe. The main problem that any human faces in addressing the question is limitation of our ability to gain a comprehensive and ultimate knowledge and explanations through empirical materialistic scientific approaches.
With the origination dated to at least 2nd millennium BCE, astrology has been searching for the answers to the question about the relationship of humans and the Universe by studying the celestial events and their associations with natural events, historical development, and individual human lives. In addition to an empirical process requiring calculations of planetary positions, knowledge of astronomy, physics and mathematics, astrological tradition includes the interpretation, which requires integration with humanities and knowledge of history, psychology, philosophy, and mythology. As an integral discipline, astrology incorporated the knowledge obtained through empirical approach of precise material sciences and through theoretical approach of humanities. In addition to direct references to history (mundane astrology that is interpreting historical events and predicting the upcoming changes in the society), psychology (psychological astrology that analyses individual psychological constitution based on the natal astrological chart and interactions between two or more individual), and philosophy (evolutionary astrology that analyses the development of a soul), astrological interpretation is based on the knowledge of mythological archetypes and on philosophical understanding of archetypal associations between events. Planets and planetary arrangements are associated with specific mythological archetypes and philosophical concepts that allow interpretations and predictions. Astrology developed system of symbols and archetypes that connects humans to the Universe.
Whether one classifies astrology as a science or as a divinity, astrology offers inspiration, cultural connections with history, mythology and philosophy to millions of people. Symbols, myths and archetypes have been influencing philosophy, psychology and cultures of humans from ancient to modern times.
In a view of a tight integration with precise sciences and humanities, it is not surprising that astrology and other disciplines have been developing in close mutual interaction and enrichment. It is generally accepted that the development of astronomy, physics, and mathematics as sciences have largely benefited from development of astrology and the needs of astrology. Less recognized but not less important are the contribution of astrology into development of humanities.
Astrology offers an entertaining and deeply personal insight into humanities. Even the audience that does not have a specific interest in studying humanities becomes involved due to the personal significance of astrological interpretations. Study of astrology highlights the importance of mythology and symbolism for understanding of everyday life and personal development. It stresses interconnectedness between individuals and events and develops a deeply philosophical and spiritual understanding of the Universe and the place of an individual in the Universe.
There were times when mythology was an essential part of the early and the advanced education. Every educated person understood and used references to mythological stories. Artists, writers, and sculptors were finding inspiration in the ancient myths. People in Europe were surrounded by mythological stories everywhere – if not in their houses, then on the streets. Alas, these days are gone. Today, an educated person may or may not know the myths. Mythology quickly becomes an impractical obsolete subject in the contemporary society overwhelmed with a constant stream of information. There is a gross misunderstanding of the significance and benefits of mythology. The ancient myths have described the universal symbols, character types, and behavioral patterns that are recurring themes among the world population, independently of the place and time. The knowledge of these archetypes is priceless as it provides understanding of human nature and situations that is applicable to anything that humans deal with daily or occasionally. By loosing our knowledge of myths as a daily reference and guidance, we reject the experience of ages and of human civilizations that came before us. We are slipping into re-inventing the human behavior rules and patterns that have been described centuries ago and into ignorance regarding the general principles of operating of human psyche.
Astrology has been very tightly connected to mythology. Not only it operates with general principles of the Universe and human society - it is also based on interpreting the relationships between planets that are named after, look like and behave as the characters of the ancient myths. Knowledge of mythology is the absolutely required and indispensable part of learning astrology. It is necessary to make any interpretations or any judgment about the planetary arrangements. Every astrological book, talk or workshop contains frequent references to mythology, not excluding even the most technical and most specialized texts, lessons and seminars.
The development and use of astrology were hindered by the progress of natural sciences and materialistic philosophies starting in 17th century (1). The lack of materialistic explanation of the association of the celestial bodies with human lives on Earth created a suspicious attitude towards astrology. In addition, new knowledge about the Solar system with Sun as a center of the system created apparent conflict with the astrological tradition. Although this apparent conflict has been based on incorrect assumptions and lack of knowledge and understanding of astrological principles, the dismissal of astrology as a valid discipline continued through the 20th century. The revolutionary works of C.J. Jung started the renaissance of astrology and its new direction – the psychological astrology. Studying myths and folklore of different cultures and finding consistent similarities, Dr. Jung “discovered that all people, in spite of their culture, had homologous instinctual directives initiating conscious development” (2). As a result of his observations and conclusions regarding archetypes and the application of archetypes to explain and understand human behavior and psyche, the psychological astrology was born and became the most popular approach to read the horoscope by using archetypes to gain an insight into person’s psyche. The historical astrologers did use some elements of the psychological astrology (3,4), but the triumphant psychological astrology of the 20th and the 21st centuries was enabled by the works of C.J. Jung, who initiated its development and used it in his work. Stressing the intimate connections between psychology and astrology, Jung wrote: "Astrology represents the sum of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity."(5). Many well known astrologers developed the psychological astrology traditions and contributed to its success, including Dane Rudhyar (6), Stephen Arroyo (7-9), and Liz Green (10).
The psychological astrology delivers psychological knowledge in a very intimate, personal format. It offers an insight into the personality traits and the interactions between personalities. It provide a generalized, systematic, archetype-based approach and enables deep understanding of behaviors and situations.
The historic references to astrology are countless, from the biblical magi, the astrologers, who learned about the birth of Jesus by an astrological phenomenon to the kings’ habit to have a courtier astrologer: “There are some kings who have made familiars of a physician or astrologer in order to learn how to govern the people, what fate is destined for themselves, or what they should do; and their constitution and temperament have been carefully watched. Now the astrologer keeps observation of times and hours, and in any matter in which the king decides to engage, the astrologer gives advice and chooses the propitious hour.” (11). Even recently, in 1980th, President Reagan repeatedly consulted an astrologer before making his historical decisions (12, 13). We can only imagine how many historical decisions have been influenced by astrology through the centuries without a broad public knowledge.
Mundane astrology directly deals with historical events of the past and modeling of the future events based on the past trends. It considers historical circumstances, details of the events and outcomes and systematizes the conditions leading to outcomes. Mundane astrology offers a new fresh view at the historic events and stresses the similarities between historic periods and events. The mundane astrology agrees with the famous quote of Mark Twain “History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes”, and its goal is to examine the rules of the rhyming.
The ties between astrological tradition and philosophy are too many and too strong to discuss comprehensively in a couple of paragraphs. Astrology has become a part of many philosophical movements, from Neoplatonists (Porphyry) to Qabala to New Age Movement. Astrological tradition, in return, reflects different philosophies. Most disagreements between astrologers through the years have been of philosophical nature. A good example of such disagreement is the philosophy of a free will versus the philosophy of determinism that ignites hot discussions between astrologers and reflects the astrological approaches used by the individuals (predictive deterministic astrology versus psychological astrology of free will and transformation).
Another important philosophical view of astrological tradition is the idea of synchronicity developed by C.J. Jung (14): the non-causal explanation of the world and the idea of a meaningful connection between the events that occur synchronously and are not related causally. Many contemporary astrologers believe that the theory of synchronicity explains the connection between the celestial event and the events on Earth, while others have an opinion that material events (physical waves, gravity, etc.) account for this connection. The formal materialistic approach became a dominant point of view, and most people who become acquainted with this approach in early education system don’t know about alternative philosophies and are puzzled by the experiences that cannot be explained at the level of our knowledge about the material world. Astrological tradition is intimately associated with a variety of philosophical approaches and systems and offers insights into both the formal official philosophy of precise sciences as well as into the alternative philosophies that enrich the individual and offer a free choice of thought. Philosophical considerations are an integral part of any astrological interpretation.
The cultural influence of astrology has been reflected in literary works of many famous authors. Geoffrey Chaucer, a 14th century English poet, makes astrology-related references in his famous “The Canterbury Tales” and reveals a personal knowledge of astrological methods in his work “Treatise on the Astrolabe”. In this “manual” written in 1390s, Chaucer described the mechanics of astrolabe and its use to find the positions of celestial bodies and important astrological points of a chart.
William Shakespeare made numerous references to astrological knowledge in his plays, and he expected the audience to have a basic understanding of the subject (15).
While references to astrology were more common in the past (15 – 17), astrological references appear in contemporary literature as well.
Henry Miller turned to astrology in difficult times, and astrological references in his books reflect his interest for this discipline: his most famous works are entitled “Tropic Of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn”. “Miller viewed astrology metaphorically, as a system of correspondences between the inner world of the psyche and the soul and the outer world of the planets and the stars - between the microcosm and the macrocosm.” (16).
The recent best-seller “Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton that was awarded Man Booker prize in 2013 was designed to reflect the structure of a horoscope, and all the events in the plot reflect the actual astrological events of each moment described in the book. The constant reference to the astrological events and archetypes provide multiple layers of insight into the mechanisms of Universe and connections between the celestial events and the events on Earth and turn what would be a typical mystery novel into a much more significant, scientific and philosophical work.
The reference to celestial bodies in classical and contemporary music is not surprising: the fascination with the planets, luminaries, and stars has been expressed throughout the ages by humans of all lands and cultures. However, nothing reflects the astrological tradition of archetypes associated with the celestial bodies as clearly as the music does. Even when there are no direct references to astrology, each musical piece dedicated to a celestial body inadvertently describes the features of this celestial body documented in astrological tradition and penetrating our whole culture. Even someone who denies any credibility to astrological tradition expects a musical piece with the title “Mars” to be a military march, the piece with the title “Moon” to be reflective, emotional and in the minor key, and the piece entitled “Sun” to be in the major key, energetic and conveying life force and life enjoyment. They always are as we expect them to be: e.g., J.G. Muller’s “Mars van het 4e REGIMENT DRAGONDERS" - March of the (DUTCH) 4th DRAGOONS” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jyS0bhjul8), Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT7_IZPHHb0), Mozarts “The temple of the Sun” – the final scene of “The Magic Flute” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fUSOGI3xyM). These astrological archetypes, tightly interwoven with the mythological archetypes, are expressed in the classical and the contemporary music, and they are an integral part of our psyche and our culture.
There are several musical works directly expressing astrological traditions or dedicated to astrology. “The Planets” by Gustav Holst is a popular classical musical piece performed all around the world. Similar to the works mentioned above, in this piece, musical themes of the planets reflect the astrological symbolism. Several other contemporary works are dedicated to astrological tradition, i.e., “Pluto the Renewer” by Matthews, “Horoscope” by Lambert, and “The Twelve Signs” by Carr. Through the years, astrological tradition continues to inspire the creativity of writers and composers.
Historically, the need to calculate the positions of celestial bodies in order to explain and to predict the events was the main reason for development of astronomy. For a long time, astrology and astronomy were not divided into separate disciplines. The division happened in seventeenth century due to a perceived conflict between new astronomical data and traditional geocentric approach of astrological tradition. Today, astrologers are incorporating the new astronomy discoveries into their practice. For example, newly discovered planets, comets, and asteroids became important indicators for modern astrologers, such as Pluto, Chiron, Uranus, and Neptune. Astrologers were delighted to learn that the physical properties of planets correspond to their astrological archetypes, e.g., Jupiter is very large and consists mostly of gases, and it represents exaggeration and expansion in astrology; Venus is the brightest planet, but the brightness results from the noxious gazes clouding the surface, and it has a provocative archetype in astrology and mythology; the surface of Mars experiences brutal force storms, and Mars represents brutal force in astrological tradition. Modern astrology incorporates the discoveries of astronomy into archetypal pictures and interpretations: e.g., Uranus was found to have its axis of rotation tilted to such degree that the planet is literally making its revolutions around the Sun “lying” on its side, so that its poles are in the plane of other planets’ equators, and Uranus represents everything eccentric and unusual in astrological interpretations. Thus, astrology directly connects the scientific facts to mythological content and organically bridges the science of astronomy with mythology and psychology by creating archetypal images corresponding to celestial bodies.
Mathematics is the required discipline in all the astrological manipulations and has been routinely used by astrologers to create horoscopes. A magical transition of extensive calculations into a horoscope, which represents a person’s signature and psychological makeup, forms the basis of any astrological interpretations. Contemporary astrologers rely on computer programs, and there are number of excellent software allowing to speed up the calculations and to make them extremely precise and strictly based on astronomical data.
The passionate discussions about the place of astrology in the system of human knowledge are common among astrologers. Some believe that it should be recognized as a scientific discipline and should use the tools of a scientific discipline, the scientific approach and statistical analysis. Others see astrology as divination and natural part of humanities. Many just use it as a efficient tool to help people in need. Independently of the views on the place of astrology among other disciplines, everyone agrees that nobody wins by ostracizing astrology as a “pseudoscience”. Embracing this ancient tradition of knowledge and experience would bring a powerful tool into the arsenal of approaches the contemporary humanities and science use.
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2. Ena Stanley “Archetypes of Astrology” ACS Publications (May 22, 2012)
3. Adamson, Peter, "Al-Kindi", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
4. Perry, Glen, Dr. “What is Psychological Astrology?” Association for Psychological Astrology, http://www.aaperry.com/index.asp?pgid=64 (retrieved May 2014)
5. Jung, Carl G., “Richard Wilhelm: In Memoriam” in The Spirit of Man, Art and Literature, Collected Works, Vol.15 (translated R.F.C.Hull), Routledge, Kegan and Paul, London. (1971)
6. Rudhyar, Dane, "The Astrology of Personality: A Re-Formulation of Astrological Concepts and Ideals, in Terms of Contemporary Psychology and Philosophy", Aurora Press (1936, Reprinted 1987)
7. Stephen Arroyo “Relationships and Life Cycles: Modern Dimensions of Astrology” CRCS Publications,U.S. (1979)
8. Stephen Arroyo “Astrology, Karma & Transformation: The Inner Dimensions of the Birth Chart” CRCS Publications,U.S., 2nd Revised Edition (1992)
9. Stephen Arroyo “Person-to-person Astrology: Energy Factors in Love, Sex and Compatibility” Frog Books (2007)
10. Campion, Nicholas “History of Western Astrology” Continuum Books, London & New York (2009)
11. Nizámu'l Mulk “Treatise on the Art of Government”, Translated by Reuben Levy, M.A., (1929) http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/nizam-courtiers.asp
12. Steven V. Roberts “White House Confirms Reagans Follow Astrology, Up to a Point” New York Times (May 4, 1988)
13. Donald Regan “For the Record: From Wall Street to Washington” San Diego: Harcourt Trade Publishers (1988)
14. C.G. Jung, R.F.C. Hull (Translator) “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle” (From Vol. 8. of the Collected Works of C. G. Jung) (Bollingen Series XX: the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 8) Princeton University Press (2010)
15. Camden, Carroll, Jr. (April 1933). "Astrology in Shakespeare's Day". Isis 19 (1): 26–73. doi:10.1086/346721. JSTOR 225186
16. Wedel, Theodore Otto (2003. First published 1920). "9: Astrology in Gower and Chaucer". Medieval Attitude Toward Astrology, Particularly in England. Kessinger. pp. 131–156.
17. Campion, Nicholas.:A History of Western Astrology: Volume II: The Medieval and Modern Worlds. (Continuum Books, 2009) pp. 244–245 ISBN 978-1-84725-224-1
18. Arthur Hoyle “ The Astrological Henry Miller“, May 31, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-hoyle/the-astrological-henry-mi_b_5397661.html