Believing in astrology. Holism, science and synchronicity.


The cardinal rule for all studies of cosmic as well as human phenomena is to keep a humble attitude. It appears we have learned so much about our world and ourselves over the course of a couple of hundred years, when in reality we have barely taken baby steps towards a genuine understanding of the universe and our existence within it. In this article I will discuss what it can mean to embrace astrology as something real today.

I believe that every person at some point must ask themselves the question: what belongs, or is contained in my world? It is curious how differently people react to that kind of query. Some take as an opportunity to go on and list whatever they have been taught about the world by science, books, school, their parents or friends. Other people see it as an investigation of what makes their particular world-view unique or different from other people's, and yet other ones may see it as nothing but a probing of their religious views: is there a god contained in your universe? Perhaps some of the individuals nourish an idea that their own consciousness is a pre-determinator for that very query. The human mind itself not only filters by perception, gaining what may be termed "sense-data" (such as color, form etc) but by consequence also creates parts of the world. The person's consciousness becomes the gatekeeper of what belongs in or is contained in its world.

I think this kind of philosophical foundation, or something akin, is a good starting-point (or a provisional explanatory principle for those who feel safer with one) for a belief in the accuracy of astrology and similar disciplines. I will not here go into much detail as to why. Skeptics, positivists, naturalists and other members of the sober scientific community have for centuries blatantly rejected astrology as nonsense. Their typical argument, if there is one, falls into one or more of the following categories.

  1. There is no way to prove astrology objectively or empirically. Alternatively: there simply exists no proof for it and has never done so.
  2. There is no imaginable reasonable mechanism in the universe that could amount to explain how astrology works.
  3. It is a foul practice, invented by crooks and hustlers as a means to power or money. To fool, manipulate or rob innocent people.

The answers to these claims are:

  1. It might be true that there is no way to prove it objectively, and there maybe never will. This is not enough grounds for rejection, as some very real and significant phenomena in our world simply wont lend itself to the strict scrutiny of science labs. I personally believe there would be enough empirical backup to support the accuracy of astrology, if there was a clear and reliable method of gathering and testing the data.
  2. We are indeed yet to find any observable or measurable mechanism to be agreed on for astrology. Hence we are left with speculation and more or less reasonable, tentative hypotheses. While this is not without significance, it is something that has been the case for many systems and theories over the course of the centuries.
  3. Is generally wrong and altogether irrelevant. Whether or not there have been many "bad seeds" practicing the art of astrology is not something that should burden the practice itself.

Holism, science and astrology

The foundation for a modern belief in astrology, and for all occult practices in their most basic sense, is a holistic world-view. The term "holistic" has unfortunately become an abused concept than can mean little to nothing in reality, or on the other hand be inflated to account for any irregular or fantastic phenomena that seems to defy traditional science. Holism, in its general context is defined as "the idea that all the properties of a given system [...] cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone". Or in Aristotle's words: "The whole is different from the sum of its parts". I will refer to it in a somewhat different sense. Namely as the view that there exist relations and phenomena in the universe that are either unreachable by scientific methods and instruments, unfathomable by the human mind, and/or at odds with the structure of our four-dimensional perspective of reality. It is the intertwining of micro- and macro cosmical levels of being, and the acknowledging of the idea some form of parallelism or even synchronicity.

My personal conviction of astrology's accuracy in depicting personality comes from years of observation and study. I sincerely doubt that astrology is, or will ever be fit to match the criteria and testing that science requires. Nor has it the need, for at its core, astrology is a practice and a hypothesis that uses symbolical language aiming not at truth, but at enlightenment and discovery. Even if astrology were empirically proven to work, its cause and mechanism could with all likelihood not be explained. In this respect I think it mirrors other, much more uncontroversial elements of scientific reality such as gravity. The "how", or behavior, of gravity has been thoroughly measured, calculated and investigated, but its "why" remains yet inexplicable.

For science, in what I consider to be its immense arrogance, inexplicability is a nonexistent state in the world. Things are simply either not yet unveiled, or the product of misunderstanding and confusion that hides a perfectly reasonable and explainable nature. Science confirms the utter smallness of the human mind, yet has trouble acknowledging that anything potentially destructive to this mind's rational boundaries may exist. However, while this reveals the deep lack of insight and wisdom that unfortunately comes with the positivist territory of thought, I will not accuse science much further. Our world has also benefited incredibly from its development.

An advocate of astrology could choose a line of argumentation that would try to diminish the reliability and relevance of science as a tool for understanding our cosmos. Dragging it down to the level of the human sciences or even extravagant practices such as astrology. One of the most fundamental issues for a strictly naturalistic worldview is, I believe, that the question you ask determines the answer you get. The same limitation is present in astrology and similar arts, but whereas modern astrology accepts and adjusts to this relativization of knowledge and truth, it remains a profound pitfall for the natural sciences in its unyielding sense of reality. An example of science as the serpent eating its own tail is the so called "observer effect". It has been shown that the act observation itself can alter the phenomena that is being observed, an occurrence present in many branches and fields where experimental observation aims to support some theory or hypothesis. What this amounts to is by no means that science is useless. It only challenges the dogma of science as the truest path to enlightenment, rocking the king at his throne. But all these words aside, who could better challenge the pomposity of realism and objectivity than Nietzsche? This is a passage from The gay science.

You sober people who feel well armed against passion and fantasy and would like to turn your emptiness into a matter of pride and an ornament: you call yourselves realists and hint that the world really is the way it appears to you. As if reality stood unveiled before you alone. [...] But in your unveiled state are not even you still very passionate and dark creatures compared to fish, and still far too similar to an artist in love? [...] You are still burdened with those estimates of things that have their origin in the passions and loves of former centuries. Your sobriety still contains a secret and inextinguishable drunkenness. Your love of "reality," for example? oh that is a primeval "love"! In every sensation and every sense impression there is a piece of this old love; and some fantasy, some prejudice, some unreason, some ignorance, some fear, and ever so much else has woven it and worked on it. That mountain there! That cloud there! What is "real" in that? Subtract the phantasm and every human ingredient from it, you sober ones! If you can! If you can forget your descent, your past, your training? all of your humanity and animality. There is no "reality" for us? not for you either, you sober ones.

Synchronicity

Famous psychologist C.G Jung was an important ally of astrology, and believed that "astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity", which I consider to be an excellent viewpoint for anyone about to begin the study of astrology. Wikipedia informs us that "Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism".

"The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by their meaning. Since meaning is a complex mental construction, subject to conscious and unconscious influence, not every correlation in the grouping of events by meaning needs to have an explanation in terms of cause and effect."

How can synchronicity be used a model of explanation for astrology? It is a wide-ranging and difficult question, but one that holds a powerful appeal. As a side note, many have pointed out the resemblance of the Jungian "archetypes" to the zodiac signs in their form.

Synchronicity may be a catalyst for the revelation of deeply meaningful experiences in a person's life. One or several incidents occur in the life of the individual, that together form an inner conviction of something very purposeful. This is from the internal view; objectively speaking, or perceived by another person the incidents would appear the result of pure randomness, but they remain completely real and significant for the person with the experiences. Astrology may or may not carry meaning that stretches beyond this private sense of significance, but the bottom line is that it doesn't need to. I am open to the possibility that the "reality" of astrology is nothing more than a special incarnation of the general idea of synchronicity, and hence works in a similar way. According to this view, astrology will not present any answers to the client that aren't also recognizable by the client herself (or at least becomes so in the moment it is presented.) Astrology would then work in unison with (or parallel to) the mind of the astrologer and the object of the interpretation. The birth horoscope becomes a picture of potentiality, that appears to harbour an accurate and enlightening portrait of an individual when brought into the dynamic setting of the human mind.

So what is then the compressed, theoretical answer to the question "how can synchronicity be used a model of explanation for astrology?" It is that the events that are grouped by synchronistic relationship instead of strict cause-effect becomes in astrology the events of planets in relation to the events of individual psychology.

To end on what might be considered a lighter note, I want to cite two random little stories from more or less recent history that have been termed "amazing coincidences". Nobody is able to calculate the real probability of "chance" matters such as the ones below, but I urge the reader to consider their beauty and potential for hinting at a relationship of events that go beyond rational explanation, and consequently as examples of synchronicity (given their actual truth).

The plum pudding

"In 1805, French writer Emile Deschamps was treated to some plum pudding by the stranger Monsieur de Fortgibu. Ten years later, he encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant, and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fortgibu. Many years later in 1832 Emile Deschamps was at a diner, and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fortgibu was missing to make the setting complete, and in the same instant the now senile de Fortgibu entered the room."

The girl from Petrovka

"The British actor Anthony Hopkins was delighted to hear that he had landed a leading role in a film based on the book The Girl From Petrovka by George Feifer. A few days after signing the contract, Hopkins travelled to London to buy a copy of the book. He tried several bookshops, but there wasn't one to be had. Waiting at Leicester Square underground for his train home, he noticed a book apparently discarded on a bench. Incredibly, it was The Girl From Petrovka. That in itself would have been coincidence enough but in fact it was merely the beginning of an extraordinary chain of events. Two years later, in the middle of filming in Vienna, Hopkins was visited by George Feifer, the author. Feifer mentioned that he did not have a copy of his own book. He had lent the last one - containing his own annotations - to a friend who had lost it somewhere in London. With mounting astonishment, Hopkins handed Feifer the book he had found. 'Is this the one?' he asked, 'with the notes scribbled in the margins?' It was the same book."

As a final comment, I would never encourage anyone to believe in astrology without experiencing it first-hand and finding strong personal support for its usefulness. Scepticism is good, as long as it doesn't make people blind and inflexible before the vast, unlit spheres of reality.


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