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From March-April issue of Journal of Astrology 2010

In one category, we have the deeply entrenched opinions of rationalists and scientists. Their views are the easiest to predict as there has been no change in them during past 300 years.

These scientists and rationalists can be called the hard-liners obstructing the progress of astrology. Barring a few, they answer everything to do with astrology in stereotyped statements “Astrology has no scientific foundation for its tenets.”  “ It is an ancient superstition that survives only in the minds of gullible people who lack any knowledge of scientific methods”. They denounce everything to do with astrology as fraud. Their assessment is an inherited one. It is a prejudiced one. It was perhaps shaped by revolutionary changes that the industrial revolution brought in mindsets. Religious considerations, snobbery, imperialism, were the other offshoots of  these changes that influenced their attitude towards astrology and of course the bias against astrology, inherent in English thought also had a role to play.

Apart from this category of hard-liners, we have the second category of moderates who are agnostic-they judge astrology to be valid if predictions they are given come true. Equally, they turn critical when they come across a fraudulent astrologer or a wrong prediction.

A third category is of those with a  blind faith in astrology, they are convinced that astrology always work. When the predictions go wrong it is either due to a wrong birth details provided or  a casual analysis by the astrologer.

Historical perspective
To get to the root cause of differing views on astrology, we need to understand the developments through history. Science or Superstition? by H.J. Eysenck and D.K.B. Nias, is a rare  book in the English language that has made an attempt to present a balanced view. It needs to be clearly understood that considering the limitations of Western astrology and absence of any collective effort to test through research the principles of Hindu astrology statistically and scientifically earlier, a realistic picture could not have been got. However, the effort is commendable.

Historical Facts
Quote from the book “ The kind of astrology we are familiar with was developed at the royal court in ancient Babylon and for a long time was closely associated with the fortunes of the Mesopotamian ruler. It was practiced by priests of the highest order, with any kind of criticism being unthinkable because it could imply criticism of the king or even of the gods themselves. The process of astrology loosening its close bonds to absolute power and becoming more accessible to the broader populace was therefore also accompanied by increasing criticism and opposition. This opposition can be roughly split into three groups: the theologians, the natural scientists and the philosophers.

The theological criticism had its origins within Judaism, the oldest of the three monotheistic religions. Judaism was the most outspoken critic of astrology. During the Greek and Babylonian exile the Jews came into contact with the sources of astrological teachings. Many of their religious prophets, including Moses and Jeremiah, considered astrology to be star worship. This was seen as being in defiance of the dominant theological conviction that only permitted worship of what was considered to be the one true God - Jaweh. The Old Testament therefore contains many passages which condemn astrology.

In ancient Rome there were many prominent opponents of Astrology. Astrology was influenced by the Stoics who were strong advocates of determinism. They believed that everything follows a natural course which human beings, according to their inherent nature, must follow. According to this worldview astrology is limited to recognizing the inevitable, and this led many intellectuals – including stoics – to reject it. Leading figures such as Cicero, Horace, Pliny the Elder, Seneca and Tacitus rejected standard astrological practice and questioned the connection between the heavenly bodies and events on Earth.

The opposition to astrology grew further with the spread of Christianity. The dominant theological conviction was that God was the ultimate power to which humans should willingly submit. This led to a rejection of the belief that the stars could influence fate.

Those church leaders and Popes tolerant towards astrology remained in the minority. Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas became influential mediators between theology and astrology. They both rejected prognostic astrology because it was incompatible with free will while at the same time accepting astrological influences in other areas such as the physical body and even a person's character. But their argument did not lead the Church to reconsider its position towards astrology. On this subject the current Catholic catechism states: “The hidden motive of many who turn to astrology is to gain access to hidden powers. This stands in conflict with the loving reverential esteem which we owe only to God.”

The reformer Martin Luther was one of astrology's most outspoken critics despite having initially had an open mind on the subject. There are several different versions of Luther's natal chart in circulation which supporters and opponents of Luther refer to when arguing their case. Luther rejected astrology and attacked it polemically after both the failure of one of his own prognoses concerning the downfall of the Papacy and of several prophesies made by his friend Melanchton.

During the Enlightenment, astrology came increasingly under fire. Not only theologists but also scientists turned their back on it. Up until that time prominent scientists, among them Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, were actively involved in astrology; and not only for financial reasons as is often claimed by present day scientists. These new opponents not only saw a conflict with the issue of free will, and they claimed that science alone was capable of giving an adequate explanation of the world and ultimately the universe itself. From this time astrology was seen as unscientific and unprovable. (Science and Astrology).

It was claimed that the signs of the Zodiac and the houses were static and therefore irreconcilable with cosmic laws, according to which the universe is constantly evolving. During the Renaissance (a cultural movement in Europe between 14th and 17th century), almost, all the great scholars are said to have studied astrology, it was not until Renaissance that the scientifically-minded one became more and more hostile. 

The English language took birth from Greek and Latin, with Canterbury tales of Geoffrey Chaucer towards the end of the 14th century AD. So the language had the selection from Greek and Roman culture of that time and very little of its own.

Every century had believers and nonbelievers, People’s mind too has a destiny but perhaps with more freedom.

There always will be believers and nonbelievers. Pythogoras - 580 BC was one of the leading advocates of astrology; whereas Hippocrates, born 460 BC and called the father of modern medicine, is said to have specifically dissociated himself from it.

Plato and Aristotle, who lived during the fifth and fourth centuries BC, accepted the astrologers’ belief in the influence of the stars Galen born in AD 130, who was to become the father of experimental physiology wrote a book on prognostication of disease by astrology. He believed that the position of stars played an important role in the dosage off medicine to be prescribed.

The brilliant mathematician and inventor, Giroliamo Cardon – 1501 was also an astrologer.

Carl Jung, the well-known psychoanalyst, wrote a book  entitled The Structure  and Dynamics of the Psyche, in which he said: had the astrologers (with but few exceptions) concerned themselves more with statistics and questioned the justice of their interpretation in a scientific spirit, they would have discovered long ago that their statements rested on precarious foundation. Jung himself carried out a statistical survey, one of his few scientific endeavors, on astrology and married couples.

Clearly the Western astrology was lacking and could not have stood the statistical and scientific tests when Jung organized the survey.

In 1970 a questionnaire about an astrological study was sent to 1000 members of the American Psychological Association, chosen at random. The psychologists were asked to rate the quality and the scientific merit of the study, which was concerned with the question of whether planets at birth are related to subsequent vocation. It is alleged that incorrect and manipulated results were presented by vested interests. 

Determined more by prejudice than a genuine desire for knowledge, 186 scientists and 18 Nobel prize winners signed on a document without even caring to scientifically examine based on the principle of certainty and quite forgetting the statement of Herbert Spencer “ There is no bar to knowledge greater than contempt prior to examination”.

In 1975, an advertisement in the renowned American Journal "The Humanist" condemned astrology. The publication sparked interest among journalists, and BBC reporters wanted to interview some of the Nobel Prize winners concerning their own personal views regarding astrology. However, they refused to be interviewed, the reason being that they had not looked into the matter in any detail.

In 1977 a Gallup poll reported that over 30 million Americans believed in astrology. The inappropriateness of such learned scientists attempting to combat astrology by using the weight of their academic reputations has been criticized by the eminent philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend. Feyerabend suggests that the fifteenth century Roman Catholic Church made a more cogent argument against witchcraft (in the classic Malleus Malificarium) than the skeptics were able to make against the underlying principles of astrology. He poses an interesting rhetorical question : “Why 186 signatures if one has arguments?” Where does one draw the line? Can both the proponents and skeptics of astrology be wrong"? 

Arthur M. Young, when asked one evening, why he found astrology of relevance today, Young stated it very simply, “Astrology connects us to the realm of mythos.”

In 1996 astronomers at the “Council of German Planetaria” called for astrology to be banned in adult education centres. In their declaration they stated that: “public educational establishments which are financed with tax payers money have an obligation to portray astrology as it really is, namely as superstition and a pseudo-religion”.

Such a degree of intolerance, which runs completely contrary to the spirit of the Enlightenment, is often typical of the opponents of astrology. Among the most common criticisms of astrology, based on ignorance concerning modern astrological practice, are the following :
-Western Astrologers work with incorrect “constellations” (in this respect see precession, tropical zodiac).
Hindus follow the fixed zodiac and consider the precession of eqinoxes.
-Apparently, astrologers remain completely unaware of the discovery that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way around as was previously widely believed (on this point see geocentric world view). “The secret and trick of astrology is simply the way in which it combines the unrelated and isolated rational spheres of social psychology with astronomy but it is just that unconnectedness.”

It needs to appreciated that astrology is more than a science. It is divine science. It can only be understood by people with faith and years of study.  Astrologers recognize the role of free will and realize that it is not hundred percent destiny that we are governed by. The stars incline, but they do not compel. They know for these reasons a prediction does not always hit the bull’s eye. They are able to understand the nuance of a fuzzy prediction, without a specific yes or no. This quality and texture of a fuzzy prediction is difficult for the unidimensionally scientific and statistical mind to appreciate.

Astrology constitutes not the beginning but revival of a science. It can be said with a fair amount of confidence that with the present day emphasis on replicable research, astrology  can stand the statistical and scientific test with a greater degree of success now than in the past few hundred years.

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