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Astrology, as presently practiced (in either its traditional or psychological form), has no relevance to understanding ourselves or our place in the cosmos. Modern advocates of astrology cannot account for the underlying basis of astrological associations with terrestrial affairs, have no plausible explanation for its claims, and have not contributed anything of cognitive value to any field of the social sciences. Further, astrology does not have the theoretical or conceptual resources to resolve its own internal problems adequately or external anomalies or to adjudicate among conflicting astrological claims or systems.
The Concepts of
Modern Astrology:
a Critique
Ivan W. Kelly
University of Saskatchewan, Canada [Note 1]
This article is a methodological and philosophical critique of astrology. It argues that astro-
logy, as it is presently practised by the majority of astrologers (in either its traditional, or
psychological form), offers no valid contribution to understanding ourselves, nor our place in
the cosmos. Astrology itself is deeply problematic from beginning to end. Central notions
like "as above, so below' and 'interconnectedness' are too poorly developed by astrologers to
amount to anything useful. There is little consensus on basic issues in astrology, and little
agreement on how to settle differences among astrological techniques and theories. Astrologi-
cal symbolism is unsystematic and based on metaphors, analogies, verbal associations, and
mythology, all of which are developed in different ways by astrologers with no clear way of
evaluating them. The philosophies or world-views associated with astrology are underdevel-
oped or poorly articulated. Modern advocates cannot provide research studies that have
results commensurate with the claims made in astrology books. Astrologers overwhelmingly
rely on anecdotes or testimonials as central evidence, seemingly either unaware or uninter-
ested in the potential flaws and biasses inherent in such stories as evidence. Astrology as a
discipline is a prime example of what happens when advocates consider only confirming evi-
dence for their multitude of conflicting claims with little regard for contrary evidence, which
is either 'explained away' by appeals to other parts of the horoscope, or with slogans like "the
complexity of astrology", and "astrology is another way of viewing the world."
1 Introduction
However, since Newton, the views of astrologers and scientists have become increasingly op-
posed. Astrologers today still hold that the connection between celestial and earthly pheno-
mena is so strong that knowing the heavens allows us to explain and/or predict the earthly
happenings. But scientists and philosophers disagree. The terrestrial and cosmological sci-
ences, including the life sciences and social sciences, even though no less interested in
extraterrestrial relations with earthly events, do not provide any support to these realms of our
existence as advocated by astrologers (see Kelly & Dean, 2000). The symbolic basis of my-
thology, analogies, metaphors, and verbal associations that underpin astrological claims are
fraught with very problematic methodological issues. For one thing, much of astrological lore
conflicts with what we have discovered about the solar system. The planet Venus is associ-
ated with aesthetics, love, and an individual’s sense of internal harmony. However, we have
discovered, over the last century, that Venus is more like Hades with its blistering high tem-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 1
peratures, lava-covered landscape, and sulphuric acid clouds. It is even hotter than Mercury,
although twice as far from the sun. The point is that most of the symbolism modern astrolo-
gers use was created in times when the then astronomer/astrologers had no idea whatever
about the physical characteristics of the planets. There is little worldwide agreement on cen-
tral tenets of astrology, let alone agreement on how astrological issues can be resolved.
Surveys of research into astrology have provided no evidence that astrology does work, at
least not in the way and to the extent claimed by astrologers. Of course, every time we wake
up with the sun, or plan barbecues on moonlit nights, or go fishing at high tide, we are show-
ing how celestial bodies have real impact on our lives. But this is very different from the
symbolic connection claimed by astrologers. Other channels of relationship might exist and
science is certainly open for unexpected discoveries (including celestial effects on human be-
haviour). But in the sciences, tradition and authorities are not deified as they are in astrology.
Astrologers (unlike scientists), in general, can be characterized as less interested in discover-
ing the truth of their assertions, and more interested in making a case for propositions already
accepted in advance (check out magazines like The Mountain Astrologer or astrological web
sites like Stariq, 2000).
Before 1950 very few scientific studies of astrology existed. Most critiques of astrology
over the centuries focussed on the problematic nature of astrological theory or the gap be-
tween the claims of astrologers and their actual performance (Long, 1982). Something like a
dozen major statistical compilations by astrologers had appeared since 1900, notably in
France, Germany, England and the USA, but none were widely known, and in any case their
methodology was too poor (e.g. no controls) for meaningful results. Not surprisingly, the few
published critiques were confined mostly to historical surveys (e.g. Thomen, 1938, Bok &
Mayall, 1941; Eisler, 1946). The only extensive scientific critique available was by the
French astronomer Paul Couderc (1951/1974). Then in 1955 Michel Gauquelin published his
landmark L’Influence des Astres, the first rigorous study of astrological claims, with gener-
ally negative results but with what seemed to be provocative exceptions (Gauquelin, 1955).
The research interest that Dean and Mather (1977) stimulated led to the foundation in
1981 of Correlation, an international peer-reviewed journal devoted entirely to scientific re-
search into astrology, followed in 1982 by Astro-Psychological Problems, oriented more to
Gauquelin interests. By then the advent of home computers in the late 1970s had revolution-
ized astrological practice and research. Calculating a birth chart (as well as the often required
complementary charts, such as progressions, transits, etc.), once took anywhere from an hour
to a day; now it could be done in seconds, allowing researchers to do studies that were previ-
ously unthinkable. Today there is a scholarly research base that covers most of the basic
claims of astrology. Even sun sign columns have been tested (Dean & Mather, 2000). The
outcome from all this, in what probably amounts to well over two hundred person-years of re-
search, is almost uniformly negative (Dean, Mather, & Kelly, 1996). Unfortunately, much of
this work is neither widely known nor easily accessible, a point I will return to shortly.
Critical reviews of astrology in the light of research findings, post 1980, include those by
psychologists Eysenck and Nias (1982), astronomers Culver and Ianna (1988), Crowe (1990),
skeptics Martens and Trachet (1998), and Bible scholars Ankerberg and Weldon (1989) and
Bourque (1997). The most recent reviews and the first to include meta-analyses are by Kelly,
Dean and Saklofske (1990) and Dean, Mather, and Kelly (1996). Critiques of philosophical,
religious or social aspects of astrology include Kelly and Krutzen (1983), Leahey and Leahey
(1983), Thagard (1980), Kanitscheider (1991), Dean (1992), Dean and Loptson (1996), Kelly
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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(1998), and Spencer (2000). Reviews of the arguments of astrologers include Kelly, Culver,
and Loptson (1989), Dean, Mather, and Kelly (1996), Dean (1997), and Kelly (1999, 2000).
Theories of astrology (including Jung’s synchronicity theory) are critically examined in
Dean, Loptson and Kelly (1996) and Dean, Ertel, Kelly, Mather, and Smit (2000). Descrip-
tions of the Gauquelin work include Gauquelin (1983, 1988) and Ertel (1992) and Dean
(2000). The ‘Mars effect’ is specifically addressed by Benski et al. (1996), whose conclusions
are disputed by Ertel and Irving (1996). The cognitive and perceptual biases that can underlie
belief in astrology are briefly reviewed by Dean (1992) and in detail by Dean, Kelly, Sak-
lofske and Furnham (1992), and Dean, Kelly and Mather (1999). The social-psychological
reasons for belief in astrology are described by Durant and Bauer (1997), Lindeman (1998),
and astrology along with other paranormal phenomena in Goode (2000 b). Recent critiques of
the occult that cover astrology include Couttie (1988), Hines (1988), and Neher (1990). There
is of course an extensive and ongoing literature on the history of astrology, for example an-
cient astrology (Baigent, 1994; Barton, 1994; Stewart, 1996), medieval psychology (Kemp,
1990), pre-19th century astrology (Tester, 1987, Spencer, 1997), and 19th century astrology
(Curry, 1992). The recent, scholarly journal Culture and Cosmos under the editorship of Nick
Campion is an important contribution to the history of astrology across the world.
2 Recent shifts in astrological ideas
Classical (traditional) astrology was associated with prognostication and relatively specific,
testable hypotheses about planetary configurations and human activities (Barton, 1994:
French, 1996: Genuth, 1997; Grafton, 1998). Until the twentieth century, astrologers have
held that the stellar connection mainly reflected actual outward human behaviour, but today
among the influential group of psychological astrologers there is the tendency to put main
weight on Jungian archetypes and (usually psychoanalyic) structures underlying personality.
To appreciate the shift in claim, consider first the view of Charles Carter, who was the lead-
ing British astrologer in the mid-twentieth century:
Practical experiment will soon convince the most sceptical that the bodies of the solar
system indicate, if they do not actually produce, changes in: (1) our minds. (2) Our feelings
and emotions. (3) Our physical bodies. (4) Our external affairs and relationships with the
world at large (1925, p.14).
Although every birth chart was different, and many astrological factors had to be assessed
(often with mutually conflicting indications) it was conceded that there was an observable,
relatively specific something in common that should be exhibited by people with a particular
planetary configuration in their birth chart (horoscope). As the Dutch psychologist Jan van
Rooij points out,
If one takes one hundred people with the sun in Aries, they should have something in com-
mon, irrespective of other astrological factors. And this commonality should be different from
the common factor in one hundred people with the sun in Taurus, irrespective of additional
factors (1994, p.55).
On this basis we should not expect to see the influence of a particular factor on a particular
person. But examining large groups of people should allow commonalities to be detectable, if
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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they exist. Contrast this with the views of psychotherapist and astrologer Dr. Glenn Perry,
one of the leading proponents of modern psychological astrology (also known as astro-
psychology and archetype astrology) in the United States today:
Astrology does not deal with quantities that can be objectively measured...the [birth] chart
depicts the structure and dynamics of consciousness...[it] shifts the emphasis from predicting
outcomes to interpreting the meaning of outcomes as they relate to the inner life of the person
(1993, pp. 7,8,9).
Further, “astrology only plays a role in the mental plane and does not express itself con-
sistently or systematically in events or behavior” (Terpstra, 1994, p.42). Here Carter’s direct
connection with outward behaviour and external events is played down. Instead the emphasis
is with theoretical psychic structures that are symbolically connected to the planets. [Note 2]
In the latter half of the twentieth century, many astrologers thought scientific investiga-
tions could confirm many of the claims of astrology. Since the 1950’s many studies were
conducted by both astrologers and researchers sympathetic to astrology. The picture that
emerged out of this research, as pointed out, was mostly bad news for astrology. But negative
studies, even when they are cumulative, have been ‘explained away’ and dismissed in many
different ways by astrologers, such as the stars incline but not compel, or the astrologer or the
technique is not infallible, allowing them to maintain their belief in astrology whatever the
evidence or criticisms (see Kelly, 1998).
3 Dealing with criticisms the astrological way
Some ways of reaction often encountered in the astrological camp are as follows:
Ignore Bad News:First of all, such findings can be ignored or played down. As the astrolo-
ger Robert Hand tells us, “Positive results in the scientific study of astrology have to be taken
seriously undeniably, but negative results not so seriously” (cited in Perry, 1995a, p.37).
Overall, this has been the dominant response by the astrological community. This tack is
taken by John Anthony West in his “The Case for Astrology” (1991) where he says “Since
the aim of this book is to present the positive evidence, intimate details of the bulk of the neg-
ative evidence do not really concern us” (p.234). But nearly all the evidence is negative or not
commensurate with astrological claims, so West’s deliberate suppression of it is irresponsible
(Dean, 1993). A visit to any astrology bookstore will quickly confirm that research into as-
trology is rarely cited and when it is, it usually only involves a distorted presentation of the
Gauquelin findings (Kelly & Saklofske, 1994) [Note 3] and an outdated reliance and misin-
terpretation of studies examining alleged lunar effects on human behaviour (see Kelly, 2000,
for an analysis of astrologers’ misconceptions regarding lunar studies, and Kelly, Rotton &
Culver, 1996 for a recent review of lunar effect studies). [Note 4]
Move Goalposts:Criticisms and serious long lasting anomalies can also be dealt with by
hand-waving in another direction and the elevation of speculation to a futuristic higher plane.
For example, a serious problem for astrology is the great divide between the Eastern Sidereal
zodiac and the Western Tropical zodiac. These zodiacs currently differ by almost one sign.
One may be an Aries in North America but a Pisces in India (Cornelius, Hyde & Webster,
1995, p. 31). Is this conflict between zodiacs a problem for astrology? Cornelius et al. tell us
this could occur because there are “two different orders of influence, one from the constella-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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tions and the other from the earth-sun cycle” or, alternatively, we can view “both zodiacs as
two reflections of the same symbolic forms...[that] both show in their own different ways” (p.
32). The obfuscations ‘orders of influence’ and ‘reflections...showing in their own ways’ are
nowhere clarified, hence we are no further in our understanding after being told this than we
were before. [Note 5]
What about people who are born at the same time and have different destinies? This has
long been a standard argument against astrology. The same astrologers tell us: “The singular
horoscope [can be] read as a signature for these particular twins with different groups of plan-
ets describing the two individuals...where frequently one twin answers to the sun and the
other to the moon in the same horoscope” ( Cornelius, et al. 1995, p. 131). Here the term ‘fre-
quently’ refers to inclining not compelling, to avoid disconfirmation. [Note 6] We are also
entitled to ask how one would tell which one is sun and which one is moon, but no answer is
provided. [Note 7] If that doesn’t work, Cornelius et al. remind us that we can always inter-
pret astrological symbolism in a metaphorical way, for example, “Sigmund Freud was born
on a different continent but within minutes of Robert Perry (sic). Freud discovered the uncon-
scious and Perry (sic) discovered the North Pole” (p. 131; see also p. 96). Hence, these
time-twins were both discoverers! [Note 8] If interpretations encompassing both literal and
symbolic (including metaphorical) are equally admissible with astrological claims, then we
cannot fail to find a fit between the horoscope and the person. The positive side to this is
never having to admit you are wrong, the negative side saying very little of import.
Invoke Negatives:A fourth popular response is to say that the phenomena astrology deals
with are very subtle and elusive, and what is needed are more creative ways of investigating
them. For example, even though a large, consistent body of research converges on the view
that sun signs are not valid (Dean & Mather, 2000), the astrologer Harvey could still say “It is
absolutely correct to say that there is no evidence for signs and houses as yet... (1982, p. 47,
italics Harvey’s) and twelve years later, after acknowledging an even larger body of negative
studies, tell us ”I am personally still convinced that, given more sensitive and imaginative
tests, confirmation of the reality of sun-sign typologies, and the signs generally, will be ob-
tained" (1994, p.v) [Note 9]. Similarly, after finding no relationship between gender dys-
phoria and astrological factors, Anderson (1997) tells us “Somewhere the astrological signa-
ture must exist predicting that at some time during the native’s life this devastating upheaval
will take place ” (p.106, italics mine). Since it is difficult to prove a negative in such cases,
this position can be maintained indefinitely. A further point is that astrologers with incompat-
ible positions on fundamental tenets can adopt the same intransigent attitude in regard to their
own beliefs. Such a posture in the face of negative evidence can guarantee a static system and
a lack of progress. If scientists had adopted similar attitudes in the face of negative studies
and argument, physics would still be Aristotelian. It also contradicts the supposed ease with
which astrological connections were first recognized. As Perry (1993) tells us of the ancients,
“the partial if not complete validity of astrology was self-evident to anyone willing to attempt
a serious study of the subject” (p.3). This discrepancy is in need of explanation. Furthermore,
appeals to the self-evident have not been very fruitful guides to truth in the history of ideas.
Blame Faulty Methods: Finally, one can say, that if researchers are obtaining negative re-
sults, they must be doing it wrong. They are using the wrong methodology, the wrong
paradigm or both. This approach has been adopted by increasing numbers of astrologers since
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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the 1950’s, when research (and negative results) got underway. West (1991,1996), for exam-
ple, contends that scientific criticisms of astrology are irrelevant because astrology is “a
system of magic” (p.223), where magic is “the attempt to master the fundamental laws of res-
onance that have produced the cosmos” (p.220). He is insufficiently explicit about this
‘system of magic’ and we are left with a conjunction of unformulated statements about ‘the
creative powers of nature’, or the ‘laws of harmony’ and appeals to authority (‘ancient wis-
dom’). West (1991, pp.222-223) attributes the symbolic planetary manifestations on earth
studied by astrologers to the interactions of poorly understood fluctuations in physical fields
around the planets, with even less understood, metaphysical ‘rarefied realms’ higher than our
own. He says,
it is Heka, Magic, the Principle of Correspondences that sees to it that Divine Inspiration (Will
or Intention), made manifest in the planets, transmits subtle frequencies and ampli-
tudes. These in turn produce fluctuations in electromagnetic or geomagnetic yet
not clearly understood or specifically identified but whose existence is acknowledged. These
fluctuations are physical in a sense directly analogous to the fluctuations in the air, the sound
waves, that the ear interprets as music, or the eye interprets as color. In this case, those fluc-
tuations represent celestial harmonies, and they manifest on earth as ‘meaning’. The study of
this meaning is astrology.
West’s “direct analogy” between hearing and vision and astrological meaning is deeply
flawed. The dissimilarities between the two things being compared are far more significant
than any similarities. We have a great deal of knowledge of sound and colour waves. For ex-
ample, we know about the receptors involved, and the areas of the brain associated with these
senses. On the other hand, we have little idea what the phrase ‘fluctuations representing ce-
lestial harmonies’ means, nor can we identify methods which would allow us to reliably dist-
inguish different fluctuations from the planets and asteroids, let alone understand how the fre-
quencies and fluctuations would relate to hypothetical planets, nor identify what receptors are
involved. Further, while we have some understanding of how sound waves are related to
pitch, etc and are interpreted as music, we are provided with no parallel how we can reliably
interpret or identify these fluctuations as descriptive of our love lives, or financial lives, let
alone future possibilities, or how such ‘celestial harmonies’ could lead to the claim that the
herb Cayenne is ruled by Mars. Furthermore, while our sensory capabilities vary among peo-
ple, and our sensory abilities decline with age, there is nothing analogous with people have
differing sensitivities to astrological effects, or our responsiveness to astrological influences
declining with age. As Evans (1994) points out, West’s
magical system is a closed system. We are invited to believe that it is true, not because it
connects up with other things which experience has shown to be true, but by some inherent
truth of its own which will have it that the planet Saturn symbolizes contraction whereas
Jupiter symbolizes expansiveness....(p. 413).
While, in general, astrologers give the impression that claims about zodiacal signs, houses,
planetary aspects, and so on are empirical statements (that is, claims capable of being rejected
or modified by research or theory), to most astrologers such claims actually function as nec-
essarily true claims (Kelly, 1998). The truth of central astrological tenets are themselves
never in doubt.[Note 10]
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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4 Assumptions of astrology
Astrology involves one fundamental idea, the vague “As above so below” and the planets.
One can, however, discern several other ideas that are loosely held by many astrological tra-
ditions. The second and the fourth are common to many kinds of astrology, namely that
everything in the birth chart affects everything else in the birth chart, and that astrology is re-
lated to a transcendent, occult reality. The third claim is the unusual one, namely that the
birth chart indicates not behaviour or events but changes in consciousness. A look at these
four claims can now be taken one by one.
4.1 — The relationships postulated by astrologers between celestial phenomena
and terrestrial phenomena are only correlational.
The former astrologer Joanna Ashmun (1998, p.6) points out,
The basic notion of astrology is ‘as above, so below’. It’s been elaborated to mean a lot of
things, many of them goofy, but its basic meaning is that the heavenly pattern is reflected in
the individual, as if the horoscope is somehow embedded in the person. It’s just assumed that
there is an identity between the natal pattern and the person.
Traditional astrology usually adopted the notion that the relationships between celestial and
terrestrial affairs was some kind of causal one. As Placidus said in 1657, “It is impossible for
the efficient heavenly causes (as being so very far distant from things below) to influence
sublunary bodies, unless by some medium or instrumental virtue ...the instrumental cause of
the stars is light”, and “the stars, where they do not rise, are inactive”, so astrologers should
“reject a secret influence as superfluous, nay, even impossible” ( p. 1, 3 ). Most modern as-
trologers reject this causal approach [Note 11]. Perry (1994) tells us that the relationship
between people and their birth charts are not causal but correlational. The astronomical bod-
ies reflect human life experiences rather like a mirror reflecting a landscape which has to be
interpreted. But there is much disagreement over the kinds of celestial configurations that are
relevant, and how they are to be interpreted. In fact, no matter what an astrologer may claim,
a search of the literature will invariably find a conflicting claim by another group of astrolo-
gers. Unlike disputes in science, it is unclear how such disputes can be resolved, even in prin-
ciple. This disagreement exists even at the most fundamental level for entire populations of
astrologers, for example Western astrologers disagree with Eastern astrologers on which zo-
diac to use and how many planets to use. While the Indian astrologers apply the real, star-
related constellations in their charts, the Western zodiac is independent of the stars. Such sys-
tems are mutually incompatible, yet are seen as completely valid by their users.
Astrological signs and houses are problematic and there are no agreed upon rules for weigh-
ing their effects. For example, as the astrologer Prudence Jones (1996, p.282) says,
[The zodiac signs] rest on shaky foundations from the modern point of view. How in heaven
do twelve 30 degree sectors of the ecliptic, measured from the vernal equinox but named af-
ter now-far-distant constellations, impart any qualities at all to the planets, houses, parts and
nodes which we view against their backgrounds? Do they do so in fact, or is this wishful think-
ing? Some astrologers justify the signs (taking, usually without explanation, the sun in the
signs as their exemplar) as shorthand for seasonal characteristics. But this implies that their
order should be reversed in the southern hemisphere, which seldom happens. And what, in
any case of horoscopes for equatorial latitudes, where seasonal change is minimal, but
where, of course, astrology was invented?
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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Even though the Western Zodiac has lost its connection to the original sky (and cannot
simply be reduced to a seasonal effect), the people born within Western zodiac are signs still
said to display the personal characteristics associated with the original constellations. The si-
dereal signs have the same meanings as for tropical signs, e.g. Aries is aggressive in both
systems, but the piece of sky to which this meaning is applied is not the same. So one side
can believe a certain piece of the sky means ‘intense’, while the other side can believe the
same piece of sky means ‘relaxed’ (this is Scorpio vs. Libra).
Much the same applies to the astrological notion of houses. The meanings across systems
are usually the same, but because the boundaries can vary, the meaning of any particular
piece of sky can depend on the system. House systems differ with regard to number, sequ-
ence, method of division, and interpretation (Dean & Mather, 1977; Martens & Trachet,
1998). Further, some house systems (including popular Placidus) break down at high latitu-
des. At high latitudes some parts of the zodiac never rise or set, and in affected house systems
any house cusps or planets that fall in such areas cannot be shown on the birth chart, so in ef-
fect they cease to exist.
Western astrologers also differ in how many planets should be used, some use undiscov-
ered hypothetical planets, others use asteroids (Dean & Mather, 1977). The good/bad inter-
pretation of transits co-exists with the view that transits are to be viewed as opportunities for
learning and growth. This diversity in fundamentals gives us grounds to be sceptical of
claims that astrologers are speaking about something they have actually apprehended. This
diversity in fundamentals becomes even more problematic when it is placed in a historical
context. Astrology, in different senses, has been around for at least twenty-five hundred
years. At the beginning of the new millennium astrology is in a chaotic state with an increas-
ing plethora of conflicting claims with little agreement on how to adjudicate among them
[Note 12] The claims become more varied and conflicting as some astrologers (eventually)
take notice of research findings and retreat to safer pastures.
4.2 — The horoscope is a whole system in which
every part is influenced by every other part.
4.2.a. The idea of interconnectedness: Along with the vague, variously interpreted notion of
‘as above, so below’, is the ambiguous idea of ‘interconnectedness’. Harding says, “We are
interconnected; I think this is the central message of astrology” (in Phillipson, 2000, p.187),
and Brady tells us “The very centre standing stone of astrology is the interconnectedness of
things, so [astrology] can’t say that you are totally isolated and that’s it. It can’t ” (in Phillip-
son, 2000, p.189). Astrologers do not have a monopoly on saying we are interconnected. It is
our familiarity with other notions of interconnectedness that give any initial plausibility to the
more problematic astrological notion. In the 1600’s, Newton hypothesized interconnected-
ness in his statement that every body in the universe attracts every other body. Evolutionary
theory emphasizes living organisms and their environments are constituted of interconnecting
webs, and that life shares the same chemical basis. Astronomy acknowledges that all matter
in the universe is interconnected in the sense that all matter is made of ‘star stuff’ that was
produced in the Big Bang. Human beings are interconnected biologically in that they share
the same DNA structure, and history and the social sciences show that we cannot be isolated
beings in that we share culture and a heritage, and increasing specialization in our economic
system ensures we are interdependent on others.
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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None of the above notions imply or even support the astrological idea of interconnected-
ness. When astrologers are talking about interconnectedness it is from a perspective that
refers to symbolic connections between heavenly bodies and terrestrial events mediated
through interpretation based on notions such as mythology ( Mercury was the messenger of
the Gods, so Mercury rules body systems that function as messengers), literally taken meta-
phors ( the rings of Saturn represent constraint), analogies (red Mars represents blood and
aggression), and idiosyncratically chosen associations (“If you want to activate Mars energy,
wear red” (Phillipson, 2000, p.67). None of the previously mentioned notions from the social
or natural sciences suggest in any way that symbolic planetary configurations (that are often
unconnected with the actual planetary positions) have a strong relationship to earthy events,
nor that the planetary configurations at one’s birth have any lasting effect on our lives, nor
that the symbolism of astrology is universal for people over time and space.
4.2.b.The whole chart :Since everything is interconnected, astrological factors cannot be ex-
amined in isolation, the whole birth chart is needed. So the golden rule is that “only the whole
chart should be considered, for any astrological purpose whatever” (Dwyer, 1985, p.1). As
Perry points out “... no one part of a horoscope can be isolated...since everything influences
everything else” and “ cannot empirically observe a pure [astrological factor] isolated
from other factors in the chart ” (Perry,1993, p.6; Vaughan, 1998). But astrologers disagree
over which individual factors are important, so they disagree over what comprises the whole
chart; they just agree that whatever it is, it’s important to keep it in mind when doing astrol-
ogy. As Van Rooij (1994) asked:
Where does the whole chart end? With ten planets, twelve signs, twelve houses, midpoints,
Arabic points, nodes, aspects and whatever other astrological concepts may be used, it is
simply impossible to interpret a “whole chart”. When astrologers claim that they use the whole
chart, they only refer to the fact that they use more factors than just one. Nevertheless, no
matter how many factors they may use, they always use a restricted number of factors, and
therefore only a part of the horoscope. They never use the whole chart. But then the question
becomes how many factors would be considered, and which factors?...Suppose that I con-
sider as many as 20 factors, then undoubtedly an astrologer will come up who claims that I
should use 21 factors (p.56 italics mine).
The decisions of astrologers regarding what to include in their charts seems entirely arbitrary.
Some astrologers use asteroids in birth charts. As Hand (1981) points out, size of an astro-
nomical body is unrelated to astrological effectiveness, therefore “[t]he disaster is that there
are thousands of asteroids and other minor bodies orbiting the sun, and using present-day as-
trological techniques there is no way of accounting for all of them in a chart” (p. 93). Other
astrologers use hypothetical planets such as Vulcan and Lilith that have not been detected by
astronomers (Hand, 1981, p. 95). There is no evidence that astrologers using asteroids or hy-
pothetical planets are more insightful or more successful counsellors than those using “in-
complete charts”, or than non-astrologically oriented psychotherapists or even lay therapists
(Dean, 1985; McGrew & McFall, 1992).
How can different sets of parts give the same meaningful whole? This problem would
seem to be exacerbated when we remember that conflicting Western astrologies utilize differ-
ent factors, and even when the same factors are used, they are often weighed differently. If
different schools of astrology use different astrological factors and hence operate with differ-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 9
ent notions of the “whole chart”, then any reference to the supposed commonality of the
“whole chart” is less than meaningful. Perry (1995a) stated “every planet and every sign of
the zodiac is influenced by the whole in which it is embedded” ( p. 34). But if one astrolo-
ger’s whole chart and another astrologer’s whole chart involve factors that are different in
type or number, the end result must (according to Perry) be open to question. It is as if we
thought we were talking about the same thing, but upon investigation found that I meant
Volkswagen, while you were referring to Cadillacs.
Furthermore, the writings of astrologers continually (very often in the same work that
condemns the use of isolated factors) violate this maxim (Kelly, 1999). They constantly refer
to unqualified isolated factors. So in Phillipson (2000) we read, “Saturn does correlate with
failure to conceive” (page 80), “When I had Mars at an angle, I knew I was going to have a
hectic day”(page 81), and Moon square Mars is associated with people who work frenetically
(page 93). Astrologers continually select one isolated factor out of a large set of possible fac-
tors in a chart (often ignoring conflicting factors) to explain both on-going terrestrial events,
and events that have already happened. For example, Wolfstar (2000) explains the problems
that Harrison Ford and his wife are having as due to “the troublemaker Uranus”, also known
as “the divorce planet.”
Over the past year, transiting Uranus has been opposite Harrison Ford’s Mars...this is the
major tension leading to separation from his wife.
If the Harrison Ford marriage relationship problems were not happening, Wolfstar and other
astrologers would have no difficulty finding astrological factors that indicate contentment.
For example, when Suzanne Lilley-Harvey (1981), a top British astrologer, compared the
birth charts of Prince Charles and Lady Diana before their wedding, she found “very funda-
mental rapport...harmonious communication... physical attraction...general emotional and
social compatibility...strong social/cultural/spiritual bond...excitingly attractive and roman-
tic...ability to work together in a very practical way.” Which did not stop Campion (1993,
p.154), another top British astrologer, after their separation, seeing in the same birth charts,
only trauma, anger, rebellion, and disaster. The previous wonderful compatibility was no-
where to be found. In other words, due to the enormous number of factors, a perfect corres-
pondence can always be found between any chart, any person, and any event. Nothing could
be easier than picking the symbols to fit the circumstances, or the personal beliefs and expec-
tations of the astrologer. As an example of the latter, ten prominent astrologers were asked to
provide their predictions as to who would be in the White House after the year 2000 Ameri-
can presidential election; examining the birth charts of Gore and Bush, each astrologer found
multiple indicators for their preferred candidate. Four predicted Gore would win, four pre-
dicted Bush would win, and two avoided predicting a winner (Stariq, 2000). An astrological
horoscope generally provides planetary configurations for any number of conflicting predic-
tions or after-the-fact explanations of events, so no wonder astrologers claim to see it
‘working’ everywhere.
So when we are told by astrologers that “astrology works”, we are not sure what to make
of it. [Note 13] It is also important to note that the slogan “it works” put forward by astrolo-
gers masks a number of issues. First of all, astrology is not one kind of animal, but a diverse
set of conflicting techniques, conflicting theories, conflicting world-views, and conflicting
claims of what astrology can and cannot do. Second, that astrologers of all (often very con-
flicting) persuasions will cite testimonials and stories as evidence for their very often incom-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 10
patible versions of astrology suggest that non-astrological factors may play a large role in the
perceived success (see Kelly, 1999, p. 43, footnote 6; also, Dean, Kelly & Mather, 1999).
Third, “it works” can have a range of different meanings from “astrology is true” to “clients
are satisfied”, so the statement is also ambiguous. [Note 14]
4.3 — Issues over the origin of astrological ideas
A legitimate query here concerns how astrological connections are established. For example,
why do astrologers say that “The Full Moon in Taurus is a good time to attend to the thyroid
gland” or “Avoid travelling when the planet ruling your ninth house is making an unfavorable
aspect to another planet” (Stariq, 2000), or “Women travel on their Mars lines to meet men”
(Phillipson, 2000, p.99), or “Neptune is associated with universal love, spirituality, dreams,
and drugs” (Equinox astrology site, 1999)? Most astrologers write as if astrological tenets are
based on a form of ‘inductive empiricism’, a basis where correlations between heavenly
events and terrestrial events have been observed in everyday practice. Elwell (1999, p.24)
says “This process of observation, refinement and confirmation, is how astrology built up
over centuries.” To make it easier in examining this contention, let us initially consider a rela-
tively straightforward astrological claim, and examine the theories advanced by astrologers to
explain these connections.
According to traditional astrology, the planets are associated with certain character traits,
for example, Uranus is associated with originality and independence. How did astrologers
find this out or determine this?
Gauquelin (1980) and Startup (1981) have described five theories that are taken seriously
by members of the astrological community. In what follows, I will describe each of these the-
ories, relying heavily on many of the insights of Startup to examine them critically:
1) The planetary connections were revealed to the ancients by a higher intelligence, for
example by gods, angels, demons, or extraterrestrials.For example, Harris (in Phillipson,
2000, p.17) suggests that astrology may have originated from spiritual beings that settled on
earth and predate Atlantis. Apart from begging the question about the existence of these be-
ings in the first place, explaining mysteries in terms of other mysteries does not take us any
further than we were before. “We have not explained how these aliens got their knowledge”
and so it merely pushes the problem elsewhere (Startup, p. 26). It is also not clear how this
proposal could be independently tested.
2) The early astrologers acquired this information about planets and personality by para-
normal means. This assumes that ESP is capable of establishing relationships far beyond the
claims of researchers of the paranormal. Also,
which particular psi ability is to be invoked? Surely telepathy is no good here since, prior to
the establishment of the typology, there was no one’s mind to read. Clairvoyance is equally
dubious since it is difficult to imagine what state of affairs could have been paranormally per-
ceived which was not available to ordinary perception. That leaves precognition...but this
would presumably require that the ancient astrologers somehow saw the results of modern in-
vestigations which were themselves, in turn, inspired, albeit indirectly, by the ‘insights’ of the
ancients (Startup, 1981, p. 26).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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There are other problems. What is the ‘it’ we are detecting by paranormal means? Some
‘force’ emanating from the celestial object? How do the items detected para-normally relate
to items detected by normal perception? (For example, if we detect all sorts of paranormal
‘rays’ around us, how can we tell that they are coming from what we visually perceive as
Mars?). How do we know that there is a correlation between the normal and the paranormal
item? By paranormal means? — That’s doubly question begging! By normal means? If so,
then why could not we have noticed the paranormal item through normal channels?
3) The planetary connections arose by analogy with the planets’ appearance and speed.
Startup elaborates on this conjecture:
The idea here seems to be that the originator(s) of the planetary typology started out with
the simple theory that the planets influence human personality and then to discover what
these influences are, they took note of the gross appearances of the planets and interpreted
these appearances analogically in terms of personality characteristics. Francoise Gauquelin
gives a typical explanation of how the ancients were supposed to have thought: ‘...the large
and brilliant Jupiter suggests power, the red Mars suggests fire and war, the light blue Venus
suggests tenderness, the ashy yellowish Saturn suggests remoteness and old age, etc.’
(pp. 26-27).
Startup contends that these analogies were unlikely to have been the source of the person-
ality characteristics associated astrologically with the planets:
Each of the planets has many characteristics visible to the naked eye, so how were the Baby-
lonians to know which were the relevant ones?...Venus (and other planets to some extent)
varies a great deal in visible brightness and yet is not thought to be changeable in character.
The sun, and also the moon, are glaringly different from the planets in appearance and yet
the temperaments attributed to all these bodies are of much the same order. Jupiter is com-
paratively large and bright and brightness may perhaps suggest power but [to the naked eye]
Venus appears even larger and brighter (Startup, 1981, p. 27).
Also, the portrait of the very ancients that astrologers profess to admire as scholars is
It requires us to believe that the learned men of Babylonia proceeded in a completely unsys-
tematic, inconsistent manner. It suggests that the planets were judged by a hotch-potch of
different types of characteristic, the Moon was judged by its phases, Mars by its colour, Jupi-
ter by its brightness or size, Saturn by its apparent speed and so on (Startup, 1981, p. 27).
While knowledge can evolve by a hotch-potch of experiences, for example, Chinese popular
herbal medicine likely evolved by a variety of less than systematic experiences, such claims
can be investigated and demonstrated by the very kinds of studies eschewed by most astrolo-
gers (Allen, 2001).Further, what are the mechanisms analogous to natural selection that
separate poor astrological techniques and hypotheses from better ones? As the astrologer
McDonough (2000) complains:
Is there anyone ...that isn’t confused and overwhelmed by the plethora of techniques in the
astrologer’s bag of tricks?...Why do we have such a massive, confusing mess of factors to
deal with? Because there has been no way to toss anything out.
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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4) The planetary connections are based on observation.As Perry (1993) claimed,
The stargazers of antiquity systematically recorded their observations of heavenly move-
ments and correlated these with observable events on earth. Through ongoing inductive
analysis, these early explorers gradually reached certain conclusions as to the meaning of the
variables in question and passed these down to succeeding generations (p.2).
Similarly, Harding (2000, p.29) says,
I need no theory of the birth chart in order to interpret it, merely an awareness that people
with Mars in X and Venus in Y tend to present in various ways....Ultimately, I have to explain
my ideas about the world in terms of how the world is. I might have some amazing idea about
the relationship of mars and Venus, but my ‘proof’ will lie...only in the positions of the planets
themselves and what is said and done by people who were born at certain moments.
On one popular form of this scenario, the ancients, in the process of gathering data on both
celestial and terrestrial affairs, began to notice a relationship between manifestations of per-
sonality and the activity of the planets. These personality characteristics associated with
certain planets were also noticed to be similar to those attributed to certain gods. On the basis
of these similarities, the ancients began to match the gods’ names with the planets.
As Startup (1981, p.28) points out, this assumes a primitive, inductivist (theory-neutral
observational) model of science. However, observations, even low level ones, are not com-
pletely theory-neutral because what we believe influences (at least to some extent) what we
see. While statements about the presence or absence of a dog under the bed involve a mini-
mal amount of theoretical content, statements about the presence or absence of neutrinos
presuppose much more theory. In the case of personality, why would one look for associa-
tions with the planets in the first place and not elsewhere? If all ancient peoples had theory
neutral access to the world around them, we would expect a great deal less diversity of belief
about the world. Indeed, from this hypothesis, it would be peculiar if only the Babylonians
(and nobody else) had noticed their particular personality-planetary relationships that are sup-
posed to play such a large role in human life! Another problem is that the second fundamental
claim of astrology says that astrological factors cannot be examined in isolation, because ev-
erything affects everything else. So by definition isolated planetary connections with human
activity could not have been observed in the first place.
5) The theory that the planets were symbols of the gods, and had the same terrestrial effects
as their namesakes led to testable pairings of planets and gods. This is the contrary view to
the previous one. There the observations led to theories. Here it is the other way around:
The Babylonian gods ‘existed’ long before their names were also given to the planets. The
Babylonians theorized that the planets were the gods, or symbolized the gods, and therefore
had the same influence over the terrestrial affairs that the gods in their pantheon were sup-
posed to have. Thus, to discover what influences each of the planets had, all they had to do
was to find the correct pairing of god and planet...In this account, observation was used to
check the appropriateness of the god-planet pairings that were proposed and, where the ini-
tial pairings proved unsatisfactory, it may have promoted a new round of conjectures and
observations (Startup, 1981,pp. 30-31).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 13
As Startup stated, a serious problem here is that “each horoscopic factor gives off only a
weak signal which is embedded in noise...[so] it is not clear how such checks could have
been made” (p. 31). One suggested way around the problem is to appeal to what Startup calls
a “societal noise filter”. Perhaps there were groups of astrologers who studied, in detail, just
one of the planets and “also fed back the results of their thoughts and observations to the
group which discussed their ideas at length” (p. 32). Over time, these restricted groups, so the
argument goes, gradually filtered out the wheat from the chaff. Startup pointed out that this
seems to have some initial plausibility since many early cultures may have used such a pro-
cess to learn about things like antibiotic remedies before people knew why and how they
worked. There is, however, a large jump between making observational connections about
using molds to treat infections and pairing complex personality attributes with planets and
gods. In addition, even false theories can have a long life of their own when they serve politi-
cal interests and are backed by powerful factions. Astrologers have, throughout history, used
their art as a propaganda tool for various political factions. For example, the 17th century as-
trologer William Lilly wrote pamphlets attacking Charles 1st by selecting whatever celestial
factors suited his purposes (Geneva, 1995). This flexibility of interpretation of astrological
symbolism, and capacity of multiple denotation has allowed astrologers to play any side in
the political arena, and so guarantee patrons and the survival of astrology.
As Startup pointed out, there is not “enough documentation of the relevant facts [about
how early astrologers’ operated] to make speculation unnecessary” (p. 33) and speculation is
not an adequate explanation of anything.
Startup concludes that all of these proposed explanations are ad hoc and unsatisfactory. In
other words, traditional astrologers cannot plausibly account for the origins of a compara-
tively straightforward claim about the relationship between the planets and personality.
But astrologers claim to have uncovered far more varied and complex relationships be-
tween human affairs and the cosmos than just the association between planets and
personality. There are an incredibly large, but finite, number of possible celestial patterns
from which astrologers have arbitrarily excluded certain components. For example, they may
have chosen to ignore the moons of Jupiter, or individual contributions from the 10^22 stars
in the part of the universe that we can see (there may be even more that are too weak to see),
and so on. This still leaves a huge variety of celestial patterns to consider in separating out as-
trologically effective from astrologically ineffective combinations. And by huge I do mean
HUGE — because even at the most basic level there are ten planets (for convenience, astrol-
ogers count the sun and moon as planets), each of which can appear in twelve signs and
twelve houses, and make nine kinds of aspect (conjunction, semi-sextile, sextile, semi-square,
square, sesqui-quadrate, trine, quincunx, opposition) to each of the other nine planets. How-
ever, because any given combination of planets- in- signs immediately limits the possibilities
for houses and aspects (for example, two planets in the same sign cannot occupy opposite
houses or be in opposition), and because some planet-in-sign combinations must be dis-
counted (for example, Mercury is never far from the Sun, and the outer planets move too
slowly to allow every combination except over thousands of years), the total combinations
per planet is not simply 12 x 12x9x9,nor is the total combinations per ten planets simply
10^(12x12x9x9)orabout 10^40. Instead, the total is more like 10^28 combinations, the
exact figure depending on geographic location, house system, and the time period. This, of
course, is just for the most basic astrological factors: many astrologers would use more fac-
tors, often many more, for example, axes, midpoints, retrogradation, and asteroids. Indeed,
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 14
one American astrologer (without giving details of her calculation) claims that the number of
combinations is 5.39 x 10^68 (Doane, 1956, p. 1). This makes 10^28 seem puny. But even
10^28 combinations reduced to one quarter page each, would still require a stack of paper
roughly ten times heavier than the earth. Furthermore, our problems have only just started.
Because we are forbidden to consider factors in isolation, we must now relate this huge vari-
ety of patterns directly to the large variety of patterns of human action. Obviously it cannot
be done. In other words, astrological theory could not possibly be based on either observation
or the testing of astrological ideas based on gods. Another complication refers to the impor-
tance of location of birth in constructing a horoscope. There is no evidence that early
astrologers did or could have done longitudinal studies that even today would be difficult.
Since these claims turn out to be deeply problematic, we have good reasons to reject more
complicated claims based on these same theories.
We cannot escape from this dilemma by focussing on just one or two isolated factors, be-
cause our second fundamental principle (use only the whole chart) forbids it..But even if we
do break the rules and look at isolated factors, we still have problems. Suppose we find that,
out of all these 10^28 celestial combinations, people born with the sun in Aquarius aspecting
Saturn in the 12th House are reserved, but those with the Sun in Aquarius aspecting Saturn in
the 11th House are outgoing. In the general population, people who are reserved or outgoing
are common, but those with any particular planetary configuration will be relatively rare. The
mismatch in occurrence makes our finding lack any clear meaning. Even then, our problems
are not over. The same astrological factors are supposedly associated with many different
things, including both positive and negative sides, which can be expressed in all sorts of dif-
fering ways. For example, together Mars and Neptune can indicate altruistic urges to perform
good deeds, or, frustration and rage (Vaughan, 2000b). Our interpretation of the meaning of
factors in the horoscope is also qualified by other more earthly factors like the person’s sex,
level of maturity, age, culture and so on. Furthermore, the same planetary configurations can
mean different things depending on whether we are talking about a human being, a dog, a
company, a country, or an idea. So we have complexity laid upon complexity, laid upon com-
plexity. The extreme implausibility (others would say impossibility) of the ancients being
able to correlate such diverse, complex, amorphous, aspects of reality together into one com-
prehensive package should reinforce our skepticism about astrology having any kind of basis
in observation, and, on the same grounds, astrological claims could not have been refined
over time by any empirical procedures. [Note 15]
4.4 — Astrology predicts changes in consciousness not behaviour or events
It is here that the new psychological astrology departs from tradition. Here the central rela-
tionship between celestial patterns and human beings is not with outward, observable patterns
of behaviour and tendencies but rather with the unobservable, inner life of a person, or what
Perry called the “psychic structure which underlies personality” (Perry, 1995 b, p. 123 ; see
also, Perry, 1988). Much of the following will be based on the writings of astrologer-psycho-
therapist Glenn Perry since he is one of the most prominent and representative spokespersons
of the psychological astrology school. Perry (1999, p.2) contrasts traditional event-oriented
astrology and psychological astrology as follows:
A strictly predictive astrology ...implies that one’s fate is more or less fixed and that one’s ulti-
mate good lies in avoiding pain and maximizing pleasure. Whereas psychological astrology
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 15
assists individuals in discovering how they are creating their own fate, predictive astrology
merely describes fate without relating it to the inner, psychological life of the person. From
this perspective, events have no meaning beyond being ‘good’ or ‘bad’. To say that they are
‘karma’ from past lives, to be suffered and endured (or perhaps avoided through the cosmi-
cally informed counsel of one’s astrologer), does little to help people live more constructively
in the here and now. I believe that fate can be positively altered through a process of internal
healing and integration. The real meaning of events is that they constitute ‘feed back’ that re-
flects back to the individual where s/he is at in terms of health and wholeness. And their real
value is that they stimulate growth in precisely those areas where the individual most needs
to change....
Further, it is not the job of the astrologer to tell clients what to do since planetary configura-
tions provide:
an opportunity for learning rather than an occasion for evasive action...[and] one of the core
meanings of the opportunity it affords-no, requires, [is] increasing one’s trust in an inner
source of knowing, I take that away by recommending a specific course of action. I do him a
great disservice. I steal his choice, for it would be interfering in his fate to predict an out-
come... The important thing is not what is going to happen, but how he accommodates [ to it]
....I believe our value as astrologers lies less in telling people what to do than in encouraging
them to trust themselves and the Universe (Perry, 1999, p.2, 3).
Perry (1999) further tells us astrologers should help client achieve a “greater realization of
their potentials [as revealed in the birth chart] ” (p.4) and thereby “best harmonize with the
universe”(p.1). How do we know when the individual has achieved this? When they are in a
state of “health and wholeness”(p.2). The advice given by Perry is hardly unique to astrology.
Much of the transcendental talk and advice given by psychological astrologers can be found
in pastoral counselling and popular psychology (as found in every book store), without talk of
birth charts and astrological symbolism. The crucial point is that Perry’s comments about in-
ner selves, etc. does not require stars and horoscopes. He capitalizes on astrology by using
otherwise acceptable or disputable insights provided by others. It is very likely that there are
more effective ways of dealing with the existential and everyday issues of clients than what
astrologers can offer. Farha (2001) points out that most astrologers do not have training in
crisis management or related fields, and neither are there astrological national standards that
provide a baseline of ethical practice as exists in fields like counselling, psychology, social
work, or other human services. Further, the providing of constructive council for living in the
here and now, and the providing of meaning, along with ways of stimulating self-examination
are very arguably more effectively done by practitioners in the emerging field of philosophi-
cal counselling (see Marinoff, 1999; Raabe, 2001; Le Bon, 2001). Given that many of the
issues clients deal with are existential or spiritual,
Philosophers are typically far better trained philosophically than their counterparts. They are
therefore better able to help a client when it comes to clarifying her thinking, avoiding both
logical and procedural mistakes in reasoning, ethical decision making, values clarification,
questions about the meaning of life, and the development of a sound and reasonable per-
sonal philosophy (Raabe, 2001, p.277).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 16
The astrological notion of potential may be more narrow than that advocated by humanistic
philosophers and psychologists. While our potentials may, from these other perspectives, be
limited to some extent by our genetics and cultural opportunities, the astrologer adds a further
limitation, namely, the potentialities ‘promised’ in the natal chart. The astrologer Cornelius
(1998, p.10) criticises this notion as follows:
If you’re born says this school of thought, with a very powerful Saturn, then you have the po-
tential for certain experiences [opportunities] of a Saturnine nature. Remember, however, that
this is a velvet glove fatalism because you’re still fated to have been born with a Saturn po-
tential! This approach hasn’t really solved the problem.
4.4.a.The inner psyche.Let us now turn to the inner psyche purportedly symbolized by the
planets. Perry says,
A horoscope symbolizes the complex, evolving nature of consciousness...the depths of per-
sonality...the dynamic relations between psychological drives. For example, Sun square
Saturn symbolizes a conflict between the need for self-expression and the need for self-con-
trol... (Perry, 1995b, p.124).
Zodiac signs symbolize general, “...fundamental human needs, or motivational drives, inher-
ent in the human condition” (Perry, 1988, p.1), whereas the house positions and planetary
aspects symbolize a particular individual’s “map of consciousness” or “inborn personality
structure” (Perry, 1988, p.2,3). [Note 16] The extreme problems of accounting for the rela-
tions between celestial factors and observable, relatively specific outcomes postulated by the
traditional astrologer are further exacerbated by the psychological astrologer’s additional con-
jectures. How do we know such invisible psychological processes underlie the astrological
symbolism? Perry tells us such cognitive processes and structures are distilled from the com-
posite descriptions associated with traditional astrological symbolism. For example,
..the need of a [zodiac] sign can be inferred from the behavior which is characteristic of that
sign, eg., Leonian pride, creativity, and amiability evidence the universal human need for vali-
dation of perceived identity (Perry, 1988, p.2).
It is difficult to see how it follows in the first place from the characteristic behaviours of a
sign that one intrinsic motivational factor ties them all together, and even if the case could be
made, a further case would need to be independently made for the particular human drives
postulated by Perry. He never clearly sets out how he arrived at these conclusions. No sets of
studies of a quantitative or qualitative nature are discussed, nor is there any kind of an appeal
to any careful examination of the astrologically symbolized behaviours by independent astro-
logers or psychologists to determine what one might infer from them. Furthermore, if only
the whole chart will do, inferences based on parts are by definition meaningless. An additio-
nal problem is lack of agreement on the characteristics or behaviours associated with each par
-ticular sign. The sets of keywords and expressions assigned to particular planets, signs, and
houses are far from consistent (Dean, Mather, & Kelly, 1996, p.82). While there is agreement
on many characteristics associated with the signs and planets, the disagreements could con-
tribute to quite different inferences about the underlying psychological structures symbolized.
Perry elevates psychological astrology to Biblical miracle status by further informing us
that the dynamic relations between various psychological drives symbolized by the horoscope
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 17
are “fluid and changing, varying in accord with situational specificity, developmental age,
emotional maturity, and level of psychological integration” (1995b, p. 123; 1994, p.34). Fur-
ther, “...unlike the boundaries of physical objects, the contents and processes of consci-
ousness involve meanings whose boundary regions are fuzzy...[m]eanings are indefinite, arbi-
trary, relational and culturally embedded” ( Perry, 1995 a, p.34). The fuzziness claimed by
perry would be one more reason why the astro-connections would be, at best, exceedingly
difficult to establish, and one more reason why astrology becomes even more unfalsifiable.
4.4.b. Consciousness. It is clear that no theory of consciousness based on physical processes
can perform the role demanded, so Perry opts for dualism, the existence of a nonphysical, im-
material mind or soul. While psychological astrology is described as a theory of “extra-
ordinary complexity and a model of consciousness” (Perry, 1995a, p.32; 1994, p.33), episte-
mological questions regarding this dualistic view of consciousness are never addressed, we
are merely offered tidbits such as, consciousness is a “non-physical system” (1995a, p.32)
and “a subjective experience of awareness that has no material correlates...” (1995a, p.34).
Nowhere does Perry attempt to articulate the intrinsic nature of his version of the non-physi-
cal mind. While the notion of ‘soul’ is a central part of many astrological positions, we are
left with vague mental images of a non-physical, internal poltergeist that acts in equally mys-
terious ways, on the neurological structure and behaviour of human beings. It is far from
clear how the postulation of a soul/non-physical mind can contribute toward clarifying and
informing our understanding of central notions such as purposive behaviour, values, internal
self-causation, meanings and creativity, over that offered by contemporary models consistent
with materialism (such as those offered by Crick, 1994; Flanagan, 1992; Penrose, 1994;
Searle, 1992; Dennett, 1996) [Note 17]. Neither does he offer us any inkling as to the mediat-
ing role the non-physical mind plays between cosmos and psychic structure. The most we get
are vague appeals to notions such as synchronicity which substitute one mystery for another,
and sidestep issues of conflicting astrologies but fail to clarify issues of how this imprinting
of the cosmos on the psyche takes place. All the astrological talk of souls and non-physical
entities worsens the picture for astrology without bringing an increase in understanding.
Since psychological astrology does not have a theory of its own regarding the nature and
structure of the inner psychological processes supposedly mirrored by planetary configura-
tions, it rests mainly on those postulated by various psycho-dynamic theories. More speci-
fically, Perry relates the birth chart (horoscope) to “conscious and unconscious processes, ar-
eas of repression and conflict, pathways of sublimation, transference dynamics, projections
and the like ” (Perry, 1995b, p. 123; See also, Perry, 1988; Arroyo, 1993; Greene, 1996).
Even if we contend that psychological astrologers have refined the crude approximations of
the traditional astrologers (who themselves do not offer plausible scenarios of how their cor-
relations were established), this case is very difficult to make. The reason is simple. Twen-
tieth century theorizing was influenced by a great variety of areas of research, including in-
vestigations into brain function, humanistic and existential schools of psychology, neuro-
psychology, artificial intelligence, physicalism and functionalism in philosophy, and so on.
Ancient, medieval, and renaissance theories of mind that would have been utilized by the as-
trologers of the past were quite different than contemporary models (See Pasnau, 1997;
Wright & Potter, 2000). Further, this astrologically symbolized psychic structure is based on
psychoanalytic and humanistic psychological theories that since the 1950’s have come under
very heavy criticism. [Note 18] Psychoanalytic processes and concepts, alluded to by many
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 18
psychological astrologers, have been described as unfalsifiable because they are consistent
with any physically possible human behaviour. In addition, the coherence of the theory is
questionable, along with the controversy over its therapeutic effectiveness (e.g. see Crews,
1998; Grunbaum, 1993; Spence, 1994; Esterson, 1993; Kerr, 1993; Macmillan, 1991; Webster,
1995; McGinn, 1999; Coiffi, F, 1998). If the psychological structure symbolized by the planets
and their interrelationships are problematic, the rest of the theory is on shaky ground. [Note 19]
Is human nature the same the world over? Do all people share the same underlying arche-
types as some psychological astrologers contend? Granted that there are physical and
psychological commonalities across cultures, but are cognitive styles and thinking processes
the same? Some recent research suggest that people in the Orient follow different basic think-
ing processes than those in the West. People in the Orient pay greater attention to context and
relationships and rely more on experience-based knowledge than those in the West. In the
West, people tend to detach objects from their context, and are more concerned with consis-
tency in reasoning. If these cultural variations in thinking and perception exist, as some
philosophers and psychologists contend (e.g Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001; Stich,
2001 ), a problem arises how the same planetary configurations can reflect diverse reasoning
patterns, psychological process, or human natures. The views of many psychological astrolo-
gers seem to assume that any divergent thinking or psychological differences among cultures
can be reduced to the psycho-dynamic mechanisms popular in their circles. [Note 20]
Consider also the psychological astrologers’ contention that inner mental dynamics can
be expressed in a great variety of ways. Here they reject as simplistic the traditional astrolo-
ger’s claim that celestial patterns are typically associated with relatively specific outcomes.
As an example of this complexity, the British astrologer Charles Harvey (1995) claims:
The same [planetary] combination can express itself in a whole range of ways. For example,
Uranus in hard aspect with the midpoint of Sun and Moon may produce a Napoleon or a Hit-
ler, but equally it may produce a Margaret Thatcher, a Spike Mulligan, a Martin Luther or a
particular [spiritual, caring] astrologer [such] as Dr. Zip Dobyns (p. 52).
Similarly, Perry claims that Psychological Astrology does not predict specific behaviours or
life outcomes but rather “predicts qualitative experiences of consciousness that can be re-
flected in a variety of manifestations” (Perry, 1995a, p. 34; 1994,p.34). He affirms that “The
meanings of the parts may be stable, [but] the emergent qualities they produce when com-
bined are not [because] real people are changing, evolving entities that are far too complex to
type or tag with a few simple key words” (Perry, 1993, p.7). In other words, according to
Perry and Harvey, the birth chart accurately shows our underlying subjective processes, but
as to their outward manifestation, astrologers can only guess at a range of possible happen-
ings. The inner psychic state is shown in the birth chart, but after that just about anything
goes. As Perry said, “we all have the potential to behave in any way that is humanly possible,
and we frequently do” (1995 a, p.36).
We can see that the psychological astrologer is working with a challenging system. It in-
volves celestial configurations that can never be examined in isolation, and whose variety
when combined is immensely larger than anyone could possibly cope with. Yet these plane-
tary configurations supposedly correlate with an invisible, largely unconscious, philoso-
phically and scientifically controversial, psychic structure that is supposed to underly person-
ality, and is associated with outcomes so varied and so uncertain that the astrologer can only
make guesses.
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 19
This miracle of faith is further complicated by the lack of consensus on basics within the
psychological astrology school itself: “there is probably no uniform psychological approach
to astrology” (Perry, 2000). [Note 21] Clients seeing different psychological astrologers
would be provided with different considerations of potentials and likely varying descriptions
of opportunities for growth and change. [Note 22] Further, the reader should not come away
with the impression that psychological astrology has not gone uncriticised by other astrolo-
gers. Thoughtful critiques from within astrology of many of the problematic notions of psy-
chological astrologers can be found in Harding (1992) and Elwell (1999).
4.5 — Astrology can only be appropriately
evaluated in a transcendent, animistic world-view
Traditional astrology emphasizes the prediction of events, the association of relatively spe-
cific, observable outcomes with astrological factors, sometimes with the view that planets are
transmitters of physical influence. Thus the clients of the famous 17th century astrologer Wil-
liam Lilly expected predictions and decision making, not psychology and religion. Such a
traditional orientation is not adverse to experimental investigation. A main problem of this
approach, as Perry acknowledged, is that the vast majority of studies have not supported such
claims (Perry, 1995a). Further, there is little prospect that plausible physical linkages will be
discovered that explain astrological associations with human activity (Perry, 1995a, pp.
26-33; Culver & Ianna, 1988; Crowe, 1990; Nègre, 1998). For example, no proposed physical
explanation can explain, in advance, how Sun-Jupiter contacts symbolize expansive, optimis-
tic beliefs rather than something else, how Scorpio can symbolize secrecy rather than some-
thing else, or how the 2nd House can symbolize possessions rather than something else, or
how hypothetical planets and impossible planetary configurations can be encompassed in
charts, and so on.
Perry states, that even though studies relating astrological configurations with specific observ-
able outcomes have failed, this poses no difficulty for psychological astrology since it is
concerned with the ‘inner life’ of an individual, which cannot be adequately tested by modern,
materialistic, scientific methodology. Besides, he claims, astrologers already have independent
experiential (clinical) evidence that astrology works [Note 23] (Perry, 1995a, pp.14, 26).
4.5.a What is the astrological world-view? While astrology seems implausible from the per-
spective of modern physical theories, we are told if we adopt a different set of metaphysical
assumptions (for example, a more transcendental framework), astrology becomes plausible.
[Note 24] This world-view, according to many astrologers, is very different from scientific
world-views. Hence, Vaughan ( 2000) says, “the scientific viewpoint is one way of observing
the world, and astrology is another” (which does not stop her claiming scientific evidence for
astrology). Similarly, Harding ( 2000, p.17 ) tells us, without providing any specifics, that
“The claim can be made that the scientific world-view is so completely different from that of
the astrologer, that science simply cannot engage with the astrological model at all...” (This
claim simultaneously exists alongside the rush in the astrological community to associate as-
trology with the latest scientific theories – see note #18 ). But what is this astrological world-
view? Is it the Aristotelian world view held by many ancient astrologers? The neo-Platonic
view held by astrologers like Plotinus? Or is the astrological world-view associated with a hi-
erarchy of ‘planes of being and existence’, as portrayed by Nègre (1998)? Or, following
Cornelius (1994, 1998), should astrologers return to ancient Mesopotamiam ideas regarding
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 20
omens and spirits? Or are the psychological astrologers who content that astrology is just a
projection of unconscious archetypes on the right track? Further, what do expressions like
“different ways of viewing the world” and “completely different” entail? Does astrology pro-
vide an alternative account of human origins, and is it associated with its own models of the
origin and workings of the universe than contemporary scientific models? Surveys of West-
ern astrologers themselves do not indicate that they subscribe to any particular world-view.
They seem no different than any other group in society (see e.g. Elliot, 1993).
Unfortunately, finding a world-view, paradigm, or philosophy that is more compatible
with astrology than modern scientific ones, by itself, provides little support for the basic
loose astrological premiss of “as above, so below”, let alone particular systems of astrology.
Finding a paradigm that is compatible with astrology achieves little since astrology still has
to be tested within the paradigm. Why should astrology be taken seriously just because a new
paradigm might happen to be compatible with it? As a comparison, let us consider the materi-
alistic or naturalistic world-view, which can support a very large diversity of competing
theories with greatly differing assumptions like Lamarckism and Evolution in biology, and
theories like Phrenology, Behaviourism, Functionalism, Connectionism, Sociobiology,
Freudian Psychoanalysis, and Piaget in psychology. Each of these approaches is encom-
passed within a naturalistic world-view but this does not preclude their extensive critical
evaluation and comparison within that framework and, in many cases, rejection.
Perry (1991a) tells us the world-view needed to make sense of astrology must involve “a
sacred realm that unites, orders, and animates the cosmos” (p. 19), or what West calls “a sys-
tem of magic” (1991,p. 223) and Cornelius (1994, p.19) calls “some other element” (that is,
other than delusion and ESP). The perspective proposed by Perry re-introduces ancient no-
tions of teleological causation, occult powers of attraction, and most importantly, the notion
that psyche and cosmos are alike, and correspond through symbolic action-at-a-distance
(1995a, p.15-16), without the discussion and debate needed to evaluate these expressions.
Further, Perry explains, this will involve a return, at least in part, to beliefs that were
common in pre-scientific cultures in which a ‘world soul/consciousness’ was immanent in all
parts of the universe. The universe, so conceived, involved a hierarchy with parts intercon-
nected by “sympathetic resonances”. Astrology played a large part in such world-views
because it gave people a symbolic language “for understanding the various meanings and cor-
respondences of natural phenomena” (Perry, 1995a, p. 15; also, 1993, p. 2).
On Perry’s transcendent perspective, the “Universe has intentions for us” and “there is an
underlying intelligence that organizes the infinity of things happening in the universe”. This
“organizing intelligence” or “greater consciousness is always assisting us in the unfoldment
of our innate capacities-growing us, as it were, so that we can become more fully conscious
of our true identities” (Perry, 1999, p.1, 3) [Note 25] It is not clear how Perry knows this, it
seems unlikely that he has direct, unmediated access to the divine mind. Many might even
agree with Perry’s general notion about an ‘underlying intelligence’ and yet deny that astrol-
ogy gives us insight into its intentions for human beings ( see Bourque, 1997; Ankerberg &
Weldon, 1989). [Note 26] The notion of ‘our true identity’ for example, is one with which
many empiricists, post-modernist philosophers, and Buddhists would consider problematic.
The Buddhists consider talk of an essential core of one’s being illusory, while post-modern-
ists would consider such talk of ‘our true identities’ a modernist illusion. So an explication of
astrological theories should explain these central elements. Instead, we are offered evasions
such as “Astrology seems to belong to some other order of knowing things, barely conceiv-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 21
able in the modern world” (Cornelius, Hyde & Webster, 1995, p. 167). While nothing
remotely resembling a fuller discussion of the nature of these forces or resonances is pro-
vided, we are still told that, whatever they are, they “make possible creation, indeed, all
conscious, organic life” (West, 1991, p. 221).
4.5.b.The Problem of the Diversity of Astrological World Views.The notion of world-views
is related to philosophical traditions. Campion (1996, p.134) points out “the philosophical
schools that many astrologers find so attractive, especially Platonism, Buddhism and Taoism
can equally encourage scepticism and therefore hostility to astrology”. For example, Wilber
(1999), working from a trans-personal, spiritual perspective, strongly criticises astrology.
Furthermore, Perry and others ignore or play down the great diversity found among early cul-
tures regarding pre-scientific world-views and the conflicting astrologies that were developed
within them. The different astrologies we find around the world are intertwined with various
conflicting religious systems and cosmologies.
Societies that did possess what we would recognize as a form of astrology were associ-
ated with both world-views and astrologies that differed radically and were contradictory in
many fundamentals, including, their conceptions regarding the nature of ultimate reality and
the transcendent, whether the transcendent can be known or is ineffable and unknowable, the
basic hierarchical structures within the postulated transcendent realities, the modes of divine
activity (and whether the divine nature was personal or nonpersonal), the nature of the self,
the destiny of human beings, etc.Also, astrologies in the East have closer ties to theological
systems than modern Western ones. There is also a larger concern in the East with removing
negative astrological effects in ways that would not be considered possible by many Western
astrologers. For example, in India, many people visit astrologers to soften the blows of horo-
scopic fate; “On Sundays many worshippers come to the temple to request that [the goddess]
Kali remove the evil astrological influences of the two shadow planets, Rahu and Ketu”
(Malville & Swaminathan, 1998, p 9). Hence, general statements that astrologers believe in a
“spiritual or transcendent reality” rather than subscribe to a naturalistic view of the universe,
masks a myriad set of conflicting philosophies. [Note 27] To which pre-scientific or ancient
astrological world-view do astrologers like Perry advocate we return ? [Note 28]
Likewise, the associated astrologies often differed from each other along essential dimen-
sions. For example, the circumpolar stars, the pole star, and the quadrant divisions of the sky
utilized in Chinese astrology are used differently in Western astrology. The circle of 12 ani-
mals in Chinese astrology bear little resemblance to the Western zodiac. In ancient China,
Mars was related to joy and Jupiter to anger, the opposite of that found in Western astrology
(Douglas, 1999). The ascendant is important in Western astrology but not in Chinese astrol-
ogy, and so on (Culver & Ianna, 1988, p.25; Dean, Mather & Kelly, 1996, pp. 56-57). Within
Viking mythology the Taurus constellation was interpreted as the open, biting mouth of the
furious fenris wolf — a different psychological interpretation when compared with the usu-
ally calm and slow Taurus person of modern astrology.
In India there are also a number of astrological systems which conflict both with each
other and with Western approaches. [See Premanand, Bhatty & Risbud (1993) for an over-
view and critique of Indian astrology]. “In Western astrology the general tendency is to
regard the North Node as benefic and the South Node as malefic. In Hindu astrology the gen-
eral tendency is to regard both Nodes as malefic” (Dean & Mather, 1977, p.259). In the
Dasha-paddhati system the names of the planets are written in a sequence that is not only ar-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 22
bitrary from a Western astrological perspective but is also not related to any physical cha-
racteristics of the planets or their distance from the earth. Each planet is alleged to have a cer-
tain period of influence over the destiny of people. These periods vary from 6 years to 20
years. Each planet takes control over a person’s destiny in the order specified by the system
and the duration assigned to them. The sequence of the planets is the same for all people pro-
vided you are following the Vinshotiari 120 year system. On the other hand, if an astrologer
uses the Ashtottari dasha system, the last four planets appear in a reversed order and together
have a different duration of 108 years. During one’s life-time , the same planet cannot take
charge of your destiny again, unless you live for more than 120 years (or 108 years) (see
Risbud, 1998 for a critique of these systems). These two systems cannot both be correct, but
this seems to have had no effect on their acceptance by astrologers and clients.
When we turn to the Americas, other fundamental differences in world-view, along with
astrological differences, emerge. The Aztecs were just interested in the Sun, Moon, and Ve-
nus (Botherstone, 1988). In terms of hierarchical structures and allied astrology, the Mayan
cosmology was quite different from the orbital-themed earth or sun-centered ideas of other
cultures. For a start, Mayan astrology assigned a very central role for Venus. In addition, the
position of Venus relative to the horizon was, contrary to Western astrology, more important
for the Mayans than its movement. They also associated the morning and evening appear-
ances of Venus with lunar phasing and eclipses which have no counterparts in other
astrological systems. Finally, astrology in Mayan life was closer to the astrology of India and
traditional Western astrology than Perry’s version in that the central focus was divination and
prophecy (Aveni, 1992; Danien & Sharer, 1992).
There are even different colour associations with the planets among cultures. Cultures
have perceived Venus as white or yellow; Saturn as white, yellow, red, brown, and black; Ju-
piter as white or greenish-blue; Mercury as green or blue, and the moon has been variously
described as green, blue, and silver ( Douglas, 1999). Within Western astrology, Venus is as-
sociated with “everything beautiful, which catches the attraction of your eyes — museums,
theaters, cabarets-and brothels” (de Wohl, 1951, p.146).
The serious problems that arise due to these differing notions are precisely analogous to
those issues that arise with religious diversity around the globe (see Hick, 1997 for an overview
of these critical questions).One cannot presume that the differing notions can be referring to the
same ultimate reality (like different fingers pointing to the same moon). The different
astrologies throughout the world ( over both the past and present), are connected with very dif-
ferent ideas about fundamental reality and its complexity that cannot be side- stepped with
general talk like “Astrology unites us with a living cosmos. In a conscious universe, people and
planets are woven into the same seamless web of being” or “there is an immanent divine guid-
ing intelligence” to the universe (Perry, 1991, p.8;1999 ). Clearly not all the conflicting views
of the divine and transcendent can be true, and neither can the different views of human nature
and destiny or the conflicting astrologies associated with them. [Note 29]
It is important to keep in mind that diversity can bear productivity and we should not
stick to one dominant approach, but search out alternative conceptions and promote inquiry
into such alternatives. However, this attitude is not prevalent in astrology. Genuine inquiry
involves a desire to learn and a determination to follow the truth wherever it leads. In con-
trast, an examination of astrological books, internet sites, magazines and journals reveal what
can be termed sham inquiry, astrologers go through the motions of inquiry in order to demon-
strate foregone conclusions (Kelly, 1998; see Haack, 1998 on the notion of sham inquiry).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 23
4.5.c. Problems with Astrological Symbolism.It was argued earlier that the correspondences
claimed by astrologers were not based on any kind of inductive empiricism, as a number of
astrologers have claimed. Rather, the connections are established on the basis of word associ-
ations, mythological associations, a variety of cultural symbolic notions based in turn on a
plethora of conflicting theological and occult beliefs, and idiosyncratic word play by individ-
ual astrologers. Other factors are the influence of authority and tradition. Authority because
an astrological master said so, and tradition because it has been done that way for hundreds or
thousands of years. The end result being the chaotic state that characterizes astrology with no
agreed upon methodology to separate valid notions from less valid or invalid notions. In this
section we will explore these symbolic notions.
While the astronomical and mathematical bases of the cosmologies and astrologies devel-
oped by the Mesopotamian, Chinese, Mayan, and Indian cultures were sophisticated, the
meaning or quality ascribed to planetary conjunctions and movements were dependent on the
religious and mythological beliefs of the particular societies in question. This explains why
many of the physical characteristics of the celestial bodies (size, distance, etc.) are considered
irrelevant with regard to their effects or meaning, or even whether a planetary body actually
exists (e.g. Vulcan) because what matters is the symbolism or mythology attached to the
body’s name. The influences, effects, or correlations attributed to the planetary configurations
are based on a priori endemic “magical correspondences”, relying on superficial similarities
and analogies. For example, the medieval astrologer-physician William of England, appealed
to the magical doctrine of “like affects like”, as have astrologers of all periods. Hence, he ar-
gued, “...the sun and Mars affect red bile (because all three are hot) and the moon and Venus
affect phlegm (because they are cold)” and “Should the hot and dry Mars be causing a distur-
bance of the blood, then when Mars moves into a house that has a disturbance of the chest,
the patient will spit blood” (French, 1996, p.478). [Note 30] The astrologer Davidson (1963)
tells us, “Without the sun there would be no life. It is the driving force behind the whole solar
system. It represents Will Power, Vitality, Leadership, Creativity....”(p.29) and “The rings of
Saturn symbolize the limitations imposed by Saturnian action that operate as a harsh external
discipline until we have learnt to discipline ourselves” (p.32). In mythology, Mercury is re-
ferred to as the ‘messenger of the gods’, therefore, by simple analogy, “Mercury rules the
body systems that function as messengers or conduits for communication, [such as] the cen-
tral nervous system, the endocrine system, and the respiratory system” (Gailing, 2000). What
is interesting about the latter example is that while Mercury was the messenger of the gods in
mythology, talk of bodily systems as messengers is metaphorical. The three bodily systems
mentioned ‘communicate’ in quite different ways with parts of the body, why not also in-
clude the circulatory and lymphatic system? What governs the extent to which astrologers
extend such metaphors? There seems no underlying systematic method.
Whenever a newly discovered astronomical body is found, the attribution of its earthly
connections is not based on the results of published investigations with extensive public dis-
cussion to establish its relationships with worldly affairs. Rather, if the name can be identi-
fied (e.g. by looking it up in dictionaries of mythology) and could be plausibly related to ex-
isting planetary mythology (not difficult), then the result will be long articles in astrology
journals by authors surfing the mythology wave, where readers will be moved to tears or to
outrage by the beauty and insight of the connections. When Pluto was discovered in 1930 and
Chiron in 1977 (a minor planet or moon between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus), astrologers
did not publish research to establish their relationships with human and worldly affairs. Pluto
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 24
is given, as one might expect from mythology, a malefic influence on human life. As Davison
(1963) tells us, “The planet named after the God of Hades represents the Underworld of
man’s consciousness, those elements in his nature that have not been redeemed...” (P.33)
Could it be otherwise? It is difficult to imagine that astrologers would ever inform us that a
planet named “Pluto” would be associated with love of life and fellow human beings, sensi-
tivity and pleasure (like Venus)! Similarly, Hand (1981) remarked “(Chiron) is believed by
many to have a connection with conscious-expanding teachings and with initiation into
higher consciousness” (p.94). In the case of Chiron, as with Pluto, these relationships are
those we would expect astrologers to attribute to them if they were based to a large extent on
mythology (Culver & Ianna, 1988).
Similarly, as the astrologer Press (1993) says about asteroids, “...the particular mythol-
ogy, whether Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc., is relevant to the expression of the asteroid in the
[birth] chart ” (p.178). Having determined the asteroid’s mythology, the astrologer looks at
the asteroid’s position (eg., by sign, by house, by aspect) in various peoples’ charts to see if
there is anything in the personality or case history that could match the interpretation of that
position. For example, “The asteroid Icarus represents flying too close to the sun. The posi-
tion (house, sign, numerical) and exact aspects of Icarus will show where a person will take
risks” (p.197). Whenever possible, some astrologers will add physical symbolism to the
mythological symbolism. For example,
The orbit of Icarus is between the sun and Jupiter. This containment surrounds Icarus
with the irradiation of the Sun and the expansiveness of Jupiter. Icarus’ orbit is in and crosses
the orbits of Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Mars. Being in those orbits gives Icarus a smat-
tering of the restlessness of Mercury, the sensuousness of Venus, the earthiness of the Earth
and the self-assertiveness of Mars" (Press, 1993, p.196). [Note 31]
What happens if the new astronomical bodies are named after modern individuals?
Startup (1981) said,
A popular modern astrological doctrine maintains that newly discovered planets are inevitably
given appropriate names [from which the correct terrestrial relationships can be inferred],
even though the names are bestowed by astronomers nowadays. This is usually taken as
one more example of synchronicity (p.33).
Asteroids without classical names have a special kind of importance, again based purely on
symbolic considerations. Here we enter the realm of “personal name asteroids”. Press (1993,
p.212) concludes (after much uncontrolled research), that if an asteroid has your name, or
something close to it, then its position in your horoscope describes your relationship to your-
self (whatever that means). If an asteroid has the name of another person (eg asteroid #3085
is called Donna), then its position in your horoscope (birth chart) describes your relationship
to that person. This would seem to imply that your relationship to all the Donna’s in the
world would have much in common.
Cultural concerns lead astrologers of a particular region to attribute symbolic associations
to astronomical phenomena that would be viewed entirely differently by astrologers in other
parts of the world, assuming they considered such observations of relevance in the first place.
For example, at some Hindu temples in India, it is believed that the sun suffers from leprosy.
Sunspots may have played a role in this symbolic association (Malville & Swaminathan, 1998).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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Most modern astrologers view astrology as an all-encompassing, life-pervading system. For
them, everything that happens on earth, including fuels and their prices, road-rage, stealing
bases in baseball, finding your best mate, athletic advantages at the Olympics, the political
behaviour of opposing candidates, a person slipping on the ice in winter, whether or not a
person gets in an automobile accident, etc. are all connected to the planets (see articles by as-
trologers on the astrology site, Stariq, 2000). The symbolic connections described by astro-
logers, such as “Neptune is linked to fossil fuels”, and “Uranus and Neptune brought us the
internet”, are based entirely on verbal associations, stretched analogies, and idiosyncratic ex-
tensions of mythological symbolism. Further, the validity of these symbolic connections are
not determined by empirical investigation, or coherence with established scientific theory, but
rather by the prestige of the astrologer, the creativity of the astrologer in stretching the sym-
bolism to encompass the interests of the readership, and the ability of the astrologer to tell a
‘good story.’ Hence, different astrologers will arrive at quite different symbolic interpreta-
tions of planetary positions and terrestrial events, and each will be convinced of the validity
of their own perceived connections. If per chance, the astrologer can find an empirical study
that will support the claims, it is touted as ‘scientifically supported’, but the lack of any sup-
porting empirical research will have no effect on the perceived validity of the asserted
symbolic connections [see any issue of the Mountain Astrologer, the Astrological Journal,or
the astrological site Stariq, 2000).
4.5.d. Symbolism and the testing of astrological claims. The forgoing section on symbolism
indicates how astrologers can claim that the testing of astrology is almost impossible, while
simultaneously claiming that their daily experience (i.e. testing) confirms everything. Al-
though there are specific astrological traditions, the flexibility of symbolism allows almost
any outcome to be viewed as confirmatory. Consequently, a main problem with the testing of
astrological claims is that there are no clear-cut results that would be considered problematic
for astrological theory. In fact, the behaviour of astrologers, indicates that there seems only
one overall ‘theory’ in astrology, “As above, so below”, or the claim that there are (unspeci-
fied in advance) correlations between the positions of the heavenly bodies and earthly events.
Astrologers call Uranus the divorce planet (see Wolfstar, 2000), but neither Uranus nor
any particular conjunction or transit with Uranus need play a role in any particular divorce or
even most divorces. In fact, almost any other planetary conjunction or transit could, with a lit-
tle stretching, be interpreted to play a role in a divorced couples chart, making everything
‘explainable’ in astrological terms. If we found “Venus Square Saturn” in the majority of di-
vorced people’s charts, this would make astrological sense. But with a little stretch so would
“Sun Square Mars”. Sun Square Mars stands for will power, aggression, etc. An expression in
daily life would be lots of arguments, strife, the will of one partner to dominate over the
other, and so on, hence, “No wonder these people got divorced.” [Note 32]
Consider now an astrologer who explains a sudden death of a client with a transit Uranus
within one degree conjunct with the Fifth House cusp. This looks odd because the Fifth
House is associated with children and fun. But the astrologer could point out, on the ‘mun-
dane’ level, the Fifth House cusp makes a Square with the Eighth House cusp, which is the
House of Death. A reader will not find anything about such a ‘cause’ in any astrological text-
book. Nevertheless, there would be quite a few astrologers who could easily be persuaded
that such an explanation makes sense (such ad hoc astrological juggling takes place all the
time on astrological internet sites such as Stariq).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 26
According, in research by astrologers and those sympathetic, “anything goes” as long as some
relationship between astrological symbolism and earthly events is obtained. And, of course,
the likelihood of some relationship being uncovered is far, far higher, than that any specific
relationship be uncovered. [Note 33] Let us consider the study recently published by Denness
(2000). This study found a tendency for car thieves and their victims to share the same sun
sign in two areas in England. No specific astrological theory is tested here, only the question
whether there is a connection between one set of data (in this case, birth sign of car owners)
and another set of data (birth sign of car thieves). If the uncovered relationship was very dif-
ferent, for example, victims and car thieves avoided sharing the same signs, or had opposite
signs, or one group had odd signs and the other even signs, or one group had male signs and
the other group female signs, the study would still be described as “an argument that zodiacal
signs influence career choices” (p. 47). On the other hand, if the study had found no relation-
ship of any kind between the signs of the participants, this would still not be a problem for
astrologers. The negative findings would be criticised by astrologers for testing isolated fac-
tors and ignoring the qualifying effects of other factors in the horoscopes, or it would be
argued that sun signs are too crude to pick up such subtle effects and planetary conjunctions
and transits would have been more informative. Ironically, it could be criticised as not testing
any recognized textbook claim. [Note 34]
Testing specif claims does not help either, since astrologers have a vast array of ad hoc
excuses for rejecting any study that does not confirm any specific claim. Some of these are: a
factor was overlooked in the chart, it was done in the wrong country, the stars incline not
compel, the meaning of the factors may have changed for the people involved, etc. (see
Kelly, 1998). All of this supports the conclusion that astrology is not a discipline worthy of
the name. Positive findings could never add up to anything coherent since there is no way of
following up studies and testing refined hypotheses that could advance the field. There is no
astrological theory in research except the vague “as above, so below”, and an ad hoc hypothe-
sis for every negative finding.
5 Appeals to mysterious and unknown forces
Magical or unknown influences are appealed to whenever astrology is in difficulty. Earlier in
this article (p.10 ) the problem of including all the asteroids in the birth chart/horoscope was
described. Hand (1981) points out that astrologer Eleanor Bach ‘solved’ the problem by using
just the first four asteroids to be discovered. Hand (1981) justifies this arbitrary choice by in-
forming us that:
One way of defending the use of the first four to be discovered (rather than the four larg-
est) is to say that the effect of celestial bodies is in some way related to human consciousness
of them rather than to their physical properties. As the first to be discovered they no doubt
made a greater impact than the thousands later to be discovered (p. 93).
We are left in the dark as to what the “some way related” and “greater impact” are in-
tended to mean here. What about people who have never heard of the first four asteroids?
(The same problem applies to the use of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto! Up to the discovery of
Uranus in the late 1700’s, astrology had Saturn as the outer planet). Does this mean the aster-
oids cannot be used in constructing their charts, or does the awareness of academics of their
existence cover for the rest of us? No doubt another set of “special rules” can be devised by
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 27
astrologers to ‘solve’ this problem. [Goodman (1971) mentions that new asteroids merely
work from the very first moments they are discovered by astronomers]. Such speculations
have the great advantage of requiring no argument and the disadvantage of saying nothing.
Some of the grave difficulties of magical correspondences as explanations are described
by Dean, Loptson and Kelly (1996):
First, magical correspondences are arguments from analogy, which can be expressed in the
form object X has properties A and B, object Y has property A, therefore Y also has B. John
Smith is tall, therefore John Brown is tall...The inference is vivid and quick, and therefore (as
in astrology) agreeably seductive, but our chances of it being correct are not good...No longer
do midwives open the door to ease a painful labour. No longer do alchemical ideas appear in
chemistry courses. In fact, magical correspondences have been so spectacularly unsuccess-
ful that in Western education today the doctrine survives only as an example of fallacious
thinking. Second, it is impossible to specify any two things, no matter how dissimilar, that do
not show some kind of correspondence. A raven is like a writing desk because both begin
with the ‘r’ sound, both caste shadows, both contain quills. A speck of sand is like the Empire
State Building because they have the same colour, both contain silica, and have a large num-
ber of atoms .... The point is, how can we distinguish a magical correspondence from other
correspondences? The books do not tell us. Third, we have no immediate way of choosing
between opposing magical correspondences. Black cats were lucky to ancient Egyptians but un-
lucky to medieval Europeans. The moon was male to the Babylonians but female to the
Greeks....Is Mars unfortunate because red = blood (war), or fortunate because red = blood (life)?
Who can believe any magical correspondence when it is so easily denied by another? (pp.28-29).
Other criticisms of magical thinking can be found from a philosophical viewpoint by Thagard
(1980) and Vickers (1988), and from a psychological perspective by Zusne and Jones (1989).
6 Conclusion
The arguments given in this article show that accounts put forward by astrologers for the ori-
gin and justification of postulated celestial relationships with outward behaviour/activities of
human beings (traditional astrology), or inner structures of consciousness (modern psycho-
logical astrology) are problematic and implausible in the extreme.
We can conclude that astrology, as presently practised by most astrologers, in its multi-
faceted, often contradictory variations (all of which claim truths that allegedly transcend both
time and space) is not a reliable source of information or knowledge about ourselves. Anom-
alies and problems do not result in constructive attempts to revise the conceptual basis of
astrology or extend it in ways that would allow astrologers to learn from failures as they do in
orthodox disciplines (Mayo,1996). Rather, they are dealt with by the use of metaphors that
lead nowhere and constantly shifting ad hoc hypotheses that are not independently testable.
Confirmations are readily attributed as support, but failures can be hidden in the complexity
of astrology and never need confront any specific astrological hypotheses. Hence, the general
indifference of most astrologers to negative evidence (Mayo, 1996, pp 280-282; Kelly, 1998).
The failure of physical models to provide a plausible underpinning for astrological tenets
has resulted in a shift to, or return to, more animistic, transcendental world-views. While as-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 28
trology is more “plausible” within such world-views, it is so only in the banal sense that such
frameworks provide fewer constraints on what may be postulated than modern scientific for-
mulations of the world. The appeal to transcendent world-views allows astrologers’ postula
tions to override or sidestep any physical laws that may conflict with astrological philoso-
phizing ( Evans, 1994). Astrologers who advocate such world-views do not provide articula-
ted positions capable of constructive evaluation and improvement, but rather, couch their
‘framework’ in terms of spiritual/occult expressions, along with passing references to modern
physics and allied disciplines to appear contemporary and fashionable. These convolutions (e.g.
‘animating spirits’, ‘sympathies’, ‘pure consciousness’, ‘resonant bonds of vibratory frequen-
cies’, ‘psychic anatomy’, etc.) are not ascribed properties to be of any useful explanatory value.
We are left with a disparate set of ideas taken out of context from various, often incompatible,
ancient world-views, juxtaposed together without any coherent, interlocking metaphysics.
There is little agreement within astrology on what astrological factors should be consid-
ered in a chart (that is, what factors can be ignored), nor how selected factors should be
combined, nor which factors make the strongest contribution in the birth chart, nor how to
collect relevant data to resolve even the most basic astrological disputes. Astrology conse-
quently does not have the conceptual resources to deal with its own anomalies, let alone to
contribute to findings in other fields (such as psychology or biology) other than by arbitrary
means and sophistry. Astrological interpretations from birth charts are based on an unsystem-
atic hodge-podge of physical symbolisms, word associations, analogies, mythological con-
nections and idiosyncratic contributions of individual astrologers, as well as authority and tra-
dition. Astrology is part of our past, but astrologers have given no plausible reason why it
should have a role in our future except for its undeniable historical value.
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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NOTE 1. This article is an expanded and revised version of an article published in Psycho-
logical Reports, 1997, 81, 1035-1066. I want to recognize the significant contributions of
Geoffrey Dean and Suitbert Ertel to this manuscript. In a myriad of ways they contributed to
a more readable and accurate article. I also thank for their comments: Rudolf Smit, J.W.Nien-
huys, Mogens Winther, Anthony Aveni (on Mayan astrology), Dale Beyerstein, Peter Lopt-
son, and M.S. Risbud.
NOTE 2. How successful are astrologers at making predictions? Different astrologers pro-
vide conflicting answers. Vaughan (1995 ) tells us that astrologers have, throughout medieval
times, made many successful predictions, including predictions of death. On the other hand,
Guinard ( 1997 ) says, “it remains true that for two thousand years, astrology by itself has
strictly not predicted any major political or cultural event.” Campion ( 1997 ) contends that
there are no reliable techniques in astrology for making successful specific predictions. For
example, consider predictions of death: “The prediction of death, astrologically, is a highly
subjective business, and there can be no rules for predicting death, because if they applied in
medieval times they would apply now — but now we have a much longer life expectancy and
the planetary cycles have not stretched.”. It is also interesting to note that when successful
predictions are made, there is no consensus in the astrological community regarding the pre-
dictions. The successful predictions seem to be made by isolated astrologers with the vast
majority missing the event entirely. While a number of astrologers contend that astrologers
cannot predict specific events, they claim they can tell that “something” is going to happen.
But astrologers did not predict World War II, and why did the vast majority of astrologers
miss ‘the something’ of the fall of the Berlin wall and breakup of Russia in 1990? And why
did so many astrologers wrongly predict catastrophe at the turn of the twentieth century with
the Y2K fiasco? [See Townshend’s (1999) astrological site for a large number of astrologer’s
predictions of Y2K disaster]. The vast majority of astrologers completely miss important
events, and the vast majority are wrong when they make specific predictions of major events.
Interesting recent examples involve the predictions by astrologers of the outcome of the year
2000 USA presidential election, and the predictions of the Jan 26 earthquake in India (the
worst in 50 years). As usual, only a few isolated astrologers made the correct calls. Let us
view these in context. In a survey of ten prominent astrologers on the astrological site, Stariq
(2000), four found multiple celestial indicators that Bush would win, four predicted Gore
would win, and two hedged their bets and made no clear prediction regarding who the new
president would be. These predictions follow the polls made of US voters who were equally
divided. After the election, astrologers made much that “Mercury stationed direct on the eve-
ning of November 7, 2000" (See Tarriktar, 2001). If it was so obvious about Mercury, why
did millions of astrologers around the world miss it? Also, does talk of stationary Mercury
make astrological sense, given that Mercury retrograde is an isolated factor? Similarly, we
are told (Stariq, 2001) that at least two astrologers in India, out of perhaps a hundred thou-
sand, predicted the earthquake of Jan 26, 2001 and ”We can see the earthquake reflected in
the transits to India’s chart" (Wolfstar, 2001). But again we are dealing with an isolated factor
which is allegedly taboo in astrology. Furthermore, if it is so easily seen why didn’t the astro-
logical communities around the world (and especially in India) issue public warnings? And
why did only a few out of the millions around the world see it coming? And what is the over-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 30
all batting average (correct specific predictions versus incorrect specific predictions) of the
astrologers making successful predictions? The reader is unlikely to learn from the astrologi-
cal community that some Hindu astrologers predicted that an even bigger earthquake than the
Jan 26 one would occur in India by Feb 5, 2001 (Yahoo, Feb 2, 2001). Happily, they were
wrong that time. Given that astrologers not only possess all the same information that every-
body else has, they are also supposed to have an additional source of information provided by
the heavens. One might expect astrologers to not only have far more consensus in their pre-
dictions, but also, as a group, consistently outperform everyone else. If there is so much
diversity among astrologers regarding two-outcome predictions like elections, they surely
cannot be trusted on more complex issues. For an interesting, historical discussion of predic-
tion relevant to astrological prediction see Pickover (2001).
NOTE 3. The research of the late Michael Gauquelin and his wife Françoise have been con-
sistently misunderstood and distorted by astrologers and those sympathetic to astrology (eg
West, 1991, 1996). The Gauquelins found no evidence for signs, aspects, or transits, but they
did find a weak relationship between some planetary positions in the sky and the birth of emi-
nent professionals in various occupations. For example, at the birth of outstanding sports
champions Mars tended to occur more often than expected by chance in the areas just past
rise and culmination.
The Gauquelins attempted to explain these findings by suggesting that the underlying pro-
cesses involved an inherited temperament (character traits) that was imprinted by planetary
geomagnetic effects. An implication here was that if the suggested mediating factors were
correct, one would expect such planetary relationships to be linked to hereditary factors and
to character traits.
In 1966 an initial study by Gauquelin of a total of N=16034 parents and children did indeed
find a weak tendency for children to be born with the same planetary emphasis as their par-
ents. In 1976 a second study of N=18298 confirmed the effect, although it was slightly
weaker, but in 1984 a third larger study of N=33120 found no effect (Gauquelin, 1988).
Gauquelin attributed the decreasing effect to the increasing use of birth induction, but Ertel
(1989) found no evidence of induction effects, and concluded that Gauquelin’s proposed
mechanism was problematic, so it has to be “replaced by something else.”
Subsequently Ertel (1990, 1993) found no support for character-trait effects or for geomag-
netic effects, which left only the initial occupation effects with eminent professionals. The
trustworthiness of the Gauquelin data base has been challenged by the Dutch mathematician
J.W. Nienhuys (1997), who claims the findings can be explained by data selection and ma-
Dean (2000, 2002) has recently re-analysed the Gauquelin professional and heredity data, and
has found evidence for hitherto unsuspected social artifacts. The effects predicted by social
artifacts show a provocative match with the effects observed by Gauquelin, but as empha-
sised by Dean, this does not necessarily mean that the observed effects are thereby explained,
it means only that social artifacts have to be controlled before we can proceed further.
However, the presence of social artifacts would argue against the data being untrustworthy or
fraudulent, simply because Gauquelin could hardly be fraudulent about social artifacts he was
unaware of. Ertel (2000, 2003) has contested Dean’s findings, arguing that the social condi-
tions needed to produce social artifacts did not exist, which arguments have been rebutted by
Dean (2003).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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It is of interest to note that the overall findings of Gauquelin are hardly supportive of astro-
logy. As noted by Dean (2002), “astrologers do not claim that astrology fails to work for half
the planets, for signs, for aspects, for character, or (on Gauquelin’s figures) for the 99.994
percent of the population who are not eminent.” Furthermore, when Gauquelin tested the
ability of astrologers to predict people’s character and behaviour using the whole chart, they
invariably failed, which led him to conclude that horoscopes were of no useful value in un-
derstanding people (Gauquelin, 1983).
Seymour (1990, 1996) has argued for the validity of a limited astrology based on the
Gauquelin findings. He speculates that our neural networks respond to fluctuations in the
earth’s geomagnetic field which, in turn, interacts with the gravitational fields of the planets.
McGillion (2002) has argued in favour of a pineal intermediary.
Unfortunately, while Seymour’s and McGillion’s theorizing do not contradict modern physi-
cal theories, to make a plausible case one needs more than an after-the-event fit to the Gauqu-
elin results. Despite their appeals to the scientific status of their explanation, they fail to spe-
cify how their theories could be tested. For example they fail to address the mismatch
between planetary and biological frequencies, and how an unborn child can pick up the dif-
ference between Jupiter and Saturn when the frequencies of their diurnal signals actually
overlap, and how it can actually work when the causal chain from genetic heredity to person-
ality is extremely complex and non-linear (see Turkheimer, 1998). See also Dean (2000) for
further criticisms.
Even worse, both Seymour and McGillion fail to discuss the unworkability of an astrology
based on vanishingly weak effects (calling it a “limited astrology” is a huge understatement).
For example suppose we have a male client whose Mars was just past rising or culminating.
If on the basis of Gauquelin’s Mars effect, we predicted that he could be a sports champion,
our chance of being right would be 52% if he was actually an eminent sports champion,
50.2% if he was eminent, and 50.00001% if he was not eminent, all vs 50% for tossing a
coin. Even if he was eminent, a prediction that happened to disagree with what he was al-
ready eminent in would most likely be ignored. Our astrology would be unworkable.
Of course, if social artifacts do turn out to explain Gauquelin effects, then both Seymour and
McGillion are left with nothing to explain.
NOTE 4. The quality of much astrological thinking is summarized by ex-astrologer Joanna
Ashmun’s descriptions of internet exchanges between astrologers: “Skepticism is not in evi-
dence, and is in fact discouraged....The way astrologers treat researchers and skeptics is just
the way they treat other astrologers who disagree with them — continuing on as if they and
their disagreements never existed...The thing that I find least comfortable about astrology dis-
cussions (and not just on the internet) is their immateriality, their lack of grounding.
Astrologers are less literate than average; they write badly and they read badly; there is al-
most no critical response; errors are ignored, corrections are not acknowledged. They answer
off the top of their heads, quote from memory, claim that anything published anywhere at any
time is general knowledge, and then get sidetracked into arguing about who’s a liar instead of
sorting out the facts of the original question. There is nothing resembling peer review, except
in regard to political correctness. The fact is they don’t look stuff up, not even when they dis-
agree with you! Most astrologers would rather have an iffy quotation from Dane Rudhyar or
C.G. Jung to support their opinions than some good research” (Ashmun, 1996, p.41-43).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
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NOTE 5. This way of dealing with conflicting ideas is quite common in the astrological
world. It is often claimed that “Everything works”-it just depends on one’s point of view, line
of approach, etc. Here speculation, devoid of accompanying argument, is often the rule. So in
regard to conflicting house systems one can hear responses like, “Perhaps Regiomontanus
works best for character and circumstances in life, whereas Placidus may give a better insight
into events, and Koch works best for horse racing...”. But there is no agreement among astrol-
ogers on these claims or even minimal agreement on how such speculation could be tested.
NOTE 6. The oft-heard claim in textbooks that “The stars incline, not compel” is contra-
dicted by statements in any astrology book or magazine. So the British astrologer Campion
(1987 ) tells us, “signs rule skills and talents” (p.45), “Artists are specifically linked to a
strong Venus ” (p.17), 5th house (p.47), and sun in fifth house" (p.49). No ifs or buts here.
NOTE 7. A variety of ad hoc rules could be used, for example, oldest = Sun, or (for oppo-
site-sex twins) Male = Sun, or it could be whichever one on inspection fits best. At the end of
the day all that matters to astrologers is having a practical strategy no matter how arbitrary.
NOTE 8. Actually, Freud did not discover the unconscious. There is a large pre-Freudian lit-
erature on the topic. What Freud did was use the term as a working tool that could be
investigated psychologically (Fine, 1973, p.36-37). Further, the North Pole wasn’t ‘discov-
ered’ at all. Everybody knew where and what it was.
NOTE 9. Owen (2000), writing in The Mountain Astrologer, praises sun-sign delineations
because people can “recognize themselves” in them, which implies they are accurate, but is
mystified by the public’s appetite for sun-sign forecasts when they are so “consistently
wrong”. Unfortunately, she does not make clear the distinction between forecasts and delin-
eations or why one and not the other could be seen as accurate.
NOTE 10. A more general underlying issue here is why astrologers themselves believe in as-
trology. As Dean, Mather and Kelly (1996) point out, the steps in belief are roughly:
1. Read astrology books, become aware of the system.
2. Learn more, calculate charts, see that they appear to work
3. Become dazzled by the history, majesty, and sheer appeal of it all.
4. Adopt the system as true, and reject attacks to avoid cognitive dissonance.
The sequence from 1 to 4 is not unreasonable. Students of astrology are not told to accept as-
trology without question, they are told to try things out for themselves, so at first sight, what
could be fairer? The problem, of course, is that they are not made aware of all the pitfalls of
personal validation (and the confirmation bias), nor are they told how to make controlled tests
or to design research that actually tests astrological hypotheses and not auxiliary hypotheses.
Nor are they presented with the vast body of criticism of astrological tenets, as is, for exam-
ple, found in this article and references. Once they reach (4) then any internal inconsistencies
and disagreements can logically be accommodated as minor hiccups due to the complexities
of astrology or inevitable human fallibility (see Dean, Mather,& Kelly, 1996).
NOTE 11. Astrologers will often, in the same article or book, shift back and forth between
causal and non-causal terminology . Cornelius (1998, p.10) mentions that this was noted by
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 33
St. Augustine almost two millennia ago: “[Augustine] observed that astrologers (when it
suited them) will say ‘Mars caused the action of violence in that man’ and, if then pressed on
that point, will say ‘Mars is a symbol’, but catch them another moment and they’re back to
talking as if Mars caused the thing.” For example, the British astrologer Campion (1987 )
says, “Saturn causes delays, obstacles and material difficulties” (p.19) and “Uranus rules all
new technology” (p.19).
NOTE 12. Johnsen (2000) points out that the debate between those astrologers who believed
in divinatory astrology and those looking for physical explanations of astral influences was
present in the second century C.E. Almost 20 centuries later, the debate is still alive in astro-
logical circles with about as much hope of being resolved as it was two millennia ago.
NOTE 13. Consider as an analogy, the phrase “medicine works”. This would likely be inter-
preted to mean that medicine as a discipline has demonstrated techniques that work.
However, some medical claims about the functioning of the human body are strongly sup-
ported by evidence, some are moderately supported , and others weakly supported or dubious.
Similarly, some techniques in medical practice have been shown by studies to work very
well, others moderately well [but may still be used because of a lack of better alternatives,
others not very well (e.g The PSA test for prostate cancer but may still be used because of a
lack of alternatives despite high false positives and false negatives)]. Further, there is aware-
ness in the medical community that some techniques may work for different reasons than
those considered by advocates (see Beyerstein, 1999). Medicine is buttressed by a large con-
sensus in the medical community (on areas such as anatomy, mechanisms of many diseases)
and is associated with a successful technology (X-rays, surgery, MRI,PET scans, etc). There
is no comparable consensus within astrology about the comparative reliability of techniques
or even how we might go about determining the reliability of the techniques.
NOTE 14. It might be argued by astrologers that many of the techniques are complementary
rather than contradictory (various diseases may be cured by herbs, drugs, climate change,
psychotherapy, etc.). But this depends on the astrologer and/or astrological school. Most as-
trologers do not seem to care about consistency in the systems they use, if only because most
of them have either no idea of the technical details or of the philosophy behind them. Only a
few schools in astrology (Ebertin, Hamburg, Ram, etc) know exactly what they are doing and
hence reject systems that do not confirm with their ideas. As many astrologers see it, astrol-
ogy is a pragmatic business. As long as it seems to work then they do not worry about (the
absence of) consistency in techniques, philosophy, etc.
NOTE 15. West (1991) attempts to bypass the problem of how the astrological relationships
could have been determined by pointing in another direction. He agrees that a complex sys-
tem such as astrology could not have been built on observations but argues that this similarly
holds for other bodies of ideas: “...this system (astrology) a whole. No amount of aimless
observation, no matter how accurate or painstaking, could develop willy-nilly into such an el-
egant and internally consistent system. In the realm of man, nothing evolves mindlessly. No
coherent body of knowledge – such as astrology – simply accumulates, taking form as it
goes” (p.38). However, astrology is not a coherent body of knowledge but a body of ideas,
and ideas do not have to be true to be coherent (eg Tolkien’s world, Star Trek, etc.). Also, the
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 34
historical inconsistencies and differences among astrological systems throughout the world
show that astrology is not the generic internally coherent system that West makes it out to be.
Furthermore, bodies of knowledge in the social and natural sciences have theoretical concep-
tual structures that have become more refined over time in response to research findings
which, in turn, direct and facilitate research (Whitt, 1992). In contrast, astrology has shown
no progress in solving its empirical and conceptual problems. Unlike many other theories, as-
trology doesn’t have diverse evidence that converges on its central claims, has no plausible
explanation for its putative correlations, there is little worldwide agreement on central tenets,
and anomalies that were pointed out by critics centuries ago still remains as persistent difficul-
ties (See Dean , Mather & Kelly, 1996, pp.62-64; Dean, Ertel, Kelly, Mather, & Smit, 2000).
NOTE 16. Dane Rudhyar began the move in the United States away from traditional ideas.
In their psychological orientation Rudhyar and Perry overlap, the main difference being that
Rudhyar is more inclined to Eastern mysticism and religious concepts. A critical examination
of Rudhyar’s astrology can be found in Kelly and Krutzen (1983). A thorough consideration
of the development of psychological astrology in the early twentieth century would also ac-
knowledge the theosophist ideas injected by the British astrologer Alan Leo and the
American astrologer Marc Edmund Jones (Zoller, 1998).
NOTE 17. A useful critique of non-physical/dualist views of mind can be found in Parsons (2000).
NOTE 18. Astrologers are forever trying to increase the surface plausibility of astrology by
associating it with the latest theories that have caught the public imagination. So Blumenthal
(1994, p. 19) appealed to the relevance of “fuzzy logic” to astrology, while Perry alluded to
‘chaos theory’ (1994, p. 34) and the ‘new physics’ exemplified by Fritjof Capra and David
Bohm. Townley (1994) informs us that “the more advanced areas of systems mathematics
[complexity theory, information theory] and neuroscience [could] be very friendly to the type
of structural thinking that the best of astrology has to offer and to which astrology could
make important contributions” (p. 43). Jewsbury (1988) notes how Rupert Sheldrakes princi-
ple of formative causation “should remove the objection that astrology is impossible”, adding
in an interesting circularity that “astrology itself is a further pointer to its truth”. Astrologers
just assert, without providing details, that Bell’s theorem, Bohm’s holonomic theory of quan-
tum mechanics, the Anthropic Principle, and purposive evolution are, both all compatible
with each other, and support the principles upon which astrology is based. A negative feature
of these astrologers’ writings is their penchant to be crucially vague at critical points. We are
not provided with specifics of how these juxtapositions will take place. We are only given
promissory notes. It is never made clear how the new physics and other modern disciplines
can provide support for the supposition that specific planetary configurations can SYMBOL-
IZE fundamental human needs, or motivational drives (eg. How Sun square Mars symbolizes
overall strength and vigor in the personality) [See Stengler (1995, 1996) for critical com-
ments on misinterpretations of Quantum Mechanics by advocates of New Age claims].
Further, such modern approaches in physics do not explain why the planetary positions of a
moment in the past (birth) describe the supposedly continuing nature of a person in the pres-
ent. And what about the ‘birth’ of a country, a company, a resolution, a domicile, and so on,
all of which astrologers confidently take as having their own natal charts? (Jones, 1996). The
astrologer Cornelius (1998) has pointed out that this is an old game that astrologers have al-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 35
ways played, namely that astrology has survived by disguising itself as part of the science and
philosophy of each particular time period. The modern disguise being, according to Corne-
lius, depth psychology (Jungian archetype psychoanalysis) and modern physics.
Apart from giving the impression that modern theories in physics hold the key to astrological
explanation, many astrologers mix in modern theorizing in the social and biological sciences
with their symbolic interpretations, creating a very uneasy alliance. Since the theories in the
social sciences change in response to new discoveries and evidence, it is interesting how eas-
ily astrologers relate planetary conjunctions with completely different findings and theories
over time. For example, Banfield (2000) in “The Astrology of Depression” refers to findings
in the psychological literature that there may be a link between “adult depression and being
hypersensitive, shy, introverted, and timid when young.” These childhood signatures,
Banfield claims, can be identified in the natal/birth chart and may be suggestive of future de-
pression. For example, “Astrological indicators for sensitivity and vulnerability are linked to
a strong natal emphasis on the receptive planets...emphasis on the water signs...and water
houses...and suppression of the fire element in the chart” (Banfield, 2000, p.77). On the other
hand, Angelfire (1999) considers depression in terms of excessive Saturn and has no need of
such theorizing. So we find some astrologers relating planetary configurations to psychologi-
cal theorizing and others ignoring such findings. This adds further chaos to the already
bloated set of astrological techniques and consequent disorder in the entire field.
We have also heard it all before. In the past, the same confidence was expressed by astrolo-
gers with every prominent theory of the period. The two millennia of failures provides some
good inductive grounds for believing that the confidence of present-day astrologers is as mis-
placed as that of their predecessors. Such represents the triumph of hope over experience.
NOTE 19. We are told that “astrology was never disproven by the methods of science.
Rather, its invalidity was a presupposition. The issue was not one of proof, but of paradigm”
(Perry, 1991/2000, p.4). [Note 35] However, in the history of science and ideas, theories and
paradigms do not have to be dis-proven to be replaced or superceded. Both Popper and Kuhn
(two prominent philosophers of science in the 20th century) were aware that astrology was not
dis-proven. Popper ( 1959 ), argued that, on the contrary, astrologers go out of their way to
develop immunizing strategies to make sure that no evidence will ever seriously threaten
their theory. Their one-size-fits-all theories are so elastic that any disconfirming evidence can
be ‘explained away’. Kuhn ( 1970a, b ), along related lines, contended that astrology fails be-
cause practitioners did not and do not learn from failures. They have not set up reliable
procedures to determine the causes of mistakes, learn from them, and improve their theories.
While astrologers have acquired multiple ‘outs’ for failures they do not have agreed upon
means of reducing these alternative explanations of failure and identifying specific astrologi-
cal claims that need rejection or revision. We might also point out that the views of astro-
logers in the medieval and middle ages (which are often at variance with much present day
practice) have also not been disproved by present day astrologers (e.g. see Crane (1999) for a
review of such approaches in medieval times). One interesting example is the doctrine of
sect, where charts of daytime and nighttime births are read differently (Hand, 1995). In this
approach, the planets change their meanings in day and night charts!
NOTE 20. Astrologers could get around this problem by having astrological symbolism re-
strict itself to the basics of human nature as claimed by bio-psychological researchers and
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 36
psychometricians. This would turn astrology into a science that could be investigated by the
quantitative methods used in the social and life sciences. This does not seem, however, a path
most astrologers seem willing to pursue.
NOTE 21. A similar situation arises in counselling and psychotherapy. However, an exami-
nation of astrology books compared with clinical and counselling texts show important
differences. The psychological texts, unlike texts for astrologers, present overviews of the re-
search literature, and compare and contrast differing perspectives in terms of strengths and
weaknesses ( see Capuzzi & Gross, 1999 for a typical example). Further, in-depth research
based discussions of what is currently known about which treatments are most effective for
various psychological disorders can be found in the psychological literature (e.g. Nathan &
Gorman, 1998), but similar research-based comparisons of techniques are absent in the astro-
logical literature.
The theories in psychology also do not require the extravagant and problematic transcenden-
tal and supernatural assumptions that underlay astrology. Astrology complicates our view of
the universe without providing an increase in understanding.
NOTE 22. Astrologers often claim, in a loose, unsystematic way, that astrology can arrive at
a quicker, in-depth understanding of a person than can psychologists. So Tyl (in Phillipson,
2000, p.62) says, “There are hundreds and hundreds of people who have said ‘My God, it
took my therapist six months (or a year) to get to that!’ ”. First of all, the same stories occur
in psychology, when clients change to a therapist with a different orientation, so the situation
is hardly unique to astrology. It often happens within astrology itself when clients consult a
different astrologer. Second, what can we infer from this? Not much without complete tran-
scripts of the interviews. Third, such stories create other problems for astrology, since the
same situation can arise when wrong birth information is used. The psychologist/astrologer
Niehenke (1983) reports, “One of my clients had consulted four other astrologers before she
came to me. She judged my interpretation as the most adequate of all, and showed me for
comparison the work of my colleagues. I thus realized that I had made an error of 20 years on
her birth date” (p. 37).
NOTE 23. The seductive phrase ‘experiential evidence’ (or ‘clinical evidence’) is problem-
atic. Practitioners of psychological approaches Perry disavows (eg Skinnerian behaviourism,
orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis) and the many competing schools of astrology in both the
East and West, many of whom would contest Perry’s approach, all cite testimonial evidence
and case studies in support. But if we can all cite experiential evidence for our positions, it
can hardly, by itself distinguish the good from the bad, the better theory from the worse. As
Meehl points out, “the scholarly authors of Malleus Maleficarum enterprise de-
tailing symptoms that diagnose witchcraft. Despite their scholarly efforts, we know today
there are no persons who have made a solemn pact with Satan and thereby gained preternatu-
ral powers. If asked to support their theoretical system and the technical procedures
warranted by it, [they] would doubtless have invoked the medieval equivalent of ‘clinical ex-
perience’ ” (1995, p. 1021).
A salutary lesson here is provided by other non-mainstream approaches such as phrenology,
graphology (handwriting analysis), and palmistry which cover the same ground as psycholog-
ical astrology. Phrenology was immensely popular in the nineteenth century and both phreno-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 37
logists and their clients were very satisfied with phrenological readings. Graphology has been
around for centuries and is still very popular. It is instructive to compare the following en-
dorsements of psychological astrology, phrenology, graphology, and palm-reading:
(1) “[T]he client’s character and life story inevitably conform to the range of potentials sym-
bolized by the [horoscope], often in extraordinary specific ways” (Perry, 1994, p.35).
(2) “The phrenologist has shown that he is able to read character like an open book, and to
lay bare the hidden springs of conduct with an accuracy that the most intimate friends cannot
approach” (Alfred Russel Wallace, cited in Severn, 1916, p.6). (3) “Your handwriting is
all-revealing. To the trained eye it lays open your secret mind. Every whirl or line you pen
exposes your true character and personality...” (Marne, 1988, p.2). (4) “A study of the hand
tells much about ...the physical, vitality...the emotional nature — love poten-
tial...the will and individuality...success in business...talent...creativity...fame... Self-fulfil-
ment — travel, life experience, spiritual development” (Wilson, 1971, pp.7-8).
Astrology is only one of a very large number of contenders, past and present , which rely on
magical thinking and purport to yield knowledge unattainable by materialistic science. No
plausible reasons have been provided that all of these extra-science contenders are intercon-
nected, or mutually supporting. (Loptson, 1996). Planets or head-bumps or palms or hand-
writing, at least one of them is redundant. Astrology is in the unenviable position of having to
show either that it provides genuine insight into areas not covered by the social sciences and
related disciplines, or to show that it can meliorate our understanding in the same domains
covered by contemporary psychological and sociological theories. Astrologers have to show
they can provide insight or benefits beyond those provided by non-astrological theories.
Third, many sources of bias operate in such personal experiences that can lead clinicians to
claims of personal knowledge that are invalid, despite their association with high levels of con-
viction (Dean, Kelly, Saklofske & Furnham, 1992; Dawes, 1994, 2001; Grove & Meehl, 1996).
NOTE 24. The astrologer Pottenger (1994) said “Opponents of astrology like to quote ‘extra-
ordinary claims require extraordinary proof’ without giving any proof that ‘as above so be-
low’ is an extraordinary claim. It is only extraordinary in some philosophies, especially
materialistic frameworks which deny meaning” (p. 37). As it stands, what Pottenger stated is
trivially true. WHATEVER is postulated (barring logical impossibilities) is more ‘plausible’
within some world-view(s) than others. For example, fairy bubbles, goblins, and Guardian
angels are extraordinary claims in materialistic conceptions of the world (and perhaps many
others as well), but this alone does not provide any reason to believe in their existence.
The claim that the universe has MEANING and provides us with signs/portents does not im-
ply that the signs are to be found ‘up there’, they might only be found in entrails, the tracks
and movements of nature, or only in messages from angels or similar beings, or in a number
of other forms. It does not follow that an animistic/magical universe MUST have, or even
might have, meaning reflected everywhere. We need cogent reasons to prefer the animistic
universe of astrologers to other possible animistic universes, and furthermore evidence for a
particular astrological system than other alternatives.
There are also an incredibly large number of possible pairings between ‘as above, so below’.
The possibilities are even larger for a system based on the symbolic meaning of signs. For ex-
ample, there are probably more possible pairings of two things in, say, Jungian symbolism
than if we confine ourselves to putative causal (material) relationships; so it is even more in-
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 38
cumbent on astrologers to provide a reason why they connect two things together than it
would be for a materialist.
NOTE 25. Perry (1999, p.1) informs us, without supporting argument, that “I believe the pur-
pose of life is to progressively evolve a deeper and wider connection to this parent consci-
ousness until we ultimately realize our at-one-ment with it.” The issue of purpose in life is a
very complex one with diverse answers both within and among cultures. The expression ‘a
deeper and wider connection to this parent consciousness’ is less than helpful, since it would
have vastly different interpretations in Eastern and Western traditions. It would also need a
great deal of explication as to how astrology can help us to realize this purpose. Many would
deny Perry’s claim that any transcendental purpose(s) are even knowable by human beings.
Further, it is unclear whether any transcendental claims to meaning and purpose really help
since we can step back from any proposed spiritual perspective and doubt its point as well
(Nagel, 1980). Finally, the notion of purpose is an ambiguous one in that if there is no cosmic
purpose to the universe, it does not follow that individual human beings cannot live meaning-
ful/purposeful lives (Ames, 1999; Sharpe, 1999; Taylor, 1999).
NOTE 26. The ‘underlying intelligence’ also seems from Perry’s perspective to be benevo-
lent rather than indifferent or vindictive (since it is ‘always assisting us’). Presumably, this is
why we should ‘trust the universe’. This notion comes face-to-face with the argument from
evil ( see Weisberger, 1999 ). Given that this ‘Intelligence’ plays a large role in the transcen-
dental aspect of many astrologies, one might expect an elaboration, along with some
awareness of the extensive debate in the philosophical and religious literature on this topic.
NOTE 27. Contrast this to the debates in modern physics over the nature of reality. Physi-
cists, unlike astrologers, are very forthcoming in the weaknesses and shortcomings of their
theories and their willingness to embrace new paradigms (see, 2000; Johnson,
2000). Astrologers, unlike physicists, like new paradigms as long as they don’t challenge ba-
sic astrological practice or fundamental beliefs.
NOTE 28. Astrology is viewed in different ways by astrologers. Most astrologers, if implic-
itly, hold a realist view, that is, that astrology conveys truths about the universe and the
human situation. While such a perspective indicates a need to arbitrate conflicting astrologi-
cal views, there is a general reluctance in the astrological community to do so. However,
‘Basinger’s Rule’ surely applies to astrology as it does with religion: If we want to maximize
truth and avoid error, we are under an obligation to attempt to resolve significant conflict be-
tween astrological claims. Astrologers have an obligation to identify and assess the reasons
why astrologers with whom they disagree hold their positions (Basinger, 2000; see also,
Trigg, 1998). Other astrologers are non-realists since they would contend that astrological
claims do not rest on evidence, but rather express commitments to a way of life or particular
values. While non-realist theologians may talk of ‘God’ and ‘life after death’, they would re-
ject realist talk of an objectively real God or actual physical survival of our deaths. Similarly,
non-realist astrologers like Kochunas (1999) contend that astrology is more in line with
drama and poetry. It does not provide factual meanings but can still add value, interest, and
meaning to our lives.
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 39
NOTE 29. Many astrologers seem to be simultaneously universalist and relativist. They
claim that their astrology is shown to work by their own experience and holds for all people
on the planet, but they also acknowledge the existence of conflicting traditions of astrology
that work as well. A similar problematic situation occurs when astrologers purport to be both
post-modernist and embrace astrology as a universal, Grand Narrative. Astrology is, ironi-
cally, a paradigm example of the kind of universalist, all-encompassing self-described
repository of received wisdom that post modernism opposes (see Sim, 1998, pp. vii- ix).
NOTE 30. Venus was widely believed at the time to be a cold planet, whereas Mars was
characterized as hot and dry. Hot(h), cold(c), wet(w), and dry(d) were the four qualities un-
derlying the four elements considered by Greek philosophers to be the basic constituents of
the physical world, namely, earth=cd, air=hw, fire=hd, water=cw. Elements with common
qualities were able to change into each other, eg., water =cw could change into earth=cd be-
cause both included the quality of coldness. Most Greek scholars, of course, considered
science ( as we know it today) to be an insignificant part of philosophy, which meant that
their world view was based mainly on philosophical ideals rather than empirical observations.
So hot and cold, etc do not necessarily correspond to what we today call hot and cold, etc.
NOTE 31. The diversity in symbolisms used by astrologers with apparently no rules about
being consistent are noteworthy. Davison (1963) bases his astrological symbolism variously
on physical attributes of the planets and on attributes of the Greek gods. The astrologer Press
(1993), on the other hand, utilizes other mythologies and adds another dimension of physical
characteristics to her symbolism, such as a celestial body’s proximity to other celestial bod-
ies. Which particular magical correspondences are perceived as relevant are in the eye of the
beholder, and there are many different astrologer beholders.
NOTE 32. On the whole, astrologers will recognize some combinations easier than others.
They will recognize Venus 0/90/180 to Saturn, or Venus 0/90/180 to Uranus, or Venus
0/90/180 to Neptune, or Venus 0/90/180 to Pluto as a ‘cause’ or contributor to divorce.
After all, Venus is the love planet, and the other planets mentioned are all considered disrup-
tive ‘forces’ when connected in negative aspect with Venus (Saturn = coldness, Uranus =
unable to tie the knot, Neptune = deceit, and Pluto = oppression).
NOTE 33. Some astrologers view “As above, so below” in the widest sense possible to en-
compass any correlations (including physical correlations) between heavenly and terrestrial
events. On this view, sunspot effects on radio transmissions on earth, gravitational or electro-
magnetic effects (however variable) on animals and plants, or daily cycles in animal
metabolism are subsumed under the astrology label even though astrologers did not postulate
the nature or form of the obtained relations, or contribute to research uncovering such rela-
tionships. Somehow such research is supposed to confirm the notion that the rest of astrology
is supported. A difficulty with this vague position is making clear how one goes from such
physical correlations to astrological symbolic claims like the herb garlic is ruled by Mars, or
the area of the sky called the Seventh House is associated with marriage, or how a snapshot
of the sky captured at a particular moment (expressed in an astrological chart) should have an
enduring strong relationship with almost all aspects of a person’s life (see also Kelly & Dean,
2000 for a critical examination of this position).
Concepts of Modern Astrology — a Critique
From 40
NOTE 34. Astrologer Valerie Vaughan (2000) criticises studies conducted by skeptics that
failed to uncover significant results with “which astrological theory is he referring to?”
NOTE 35. We might also point out that the many divergent views of astrologers in the medi-
eval and middle ages (which are often at variance with much of present day practice) have
also not been disproved by present day astrologers (see e.g. Crane, 1999 ). Rather, such views
are just out of fashion in the astrological community. An interesting example is the doctrine
of sect, where the charts of daytime and nighttime births are read differently (Hand, 1995). In
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... Many twentieth and twenty-first century scientists have shown an interest in astrology (see Chico & Lorenzo-Seva, 2006;Dean & Kelly, 2003;Dean, Nias & French, 1997;Ertel & Dean, 1996;Eysenck & Nias, 1982;Hamilton, 2001;Hartmann, Reuter & Nyborg, 2006;Kelly, 1997Kelly, , 1998Mayo, White & Eysenck, 1978;Perry, 1995;Tyson, 1984;Van Rooij, 1994, 1999. This specific study takes into account those researchers who were interested in and focused on personality differences between individuals born under different star signs (see Hartmann, Reuter & Nyborg, 2006;Eysenck & Nias, 1982;Mayo, White & Eysenck, 1978;Van Rooij, 1994, 1999. ...
... (1982), they debate the matter in further detail, with some results confirming Gauquelin's findings, whilst others seem to negate these findings. This ambivalence, as well as the research stated earlier (see Chico & Lorenzo-Seva, 2006;Dean & Kelly, 2003;Dean, Nias & French, 1997;Ertel & Dean, 1996;Eysenck & Nias, 1982;Hamilton, 2001;Hartmann, Reuter & Nyborg, 2006;Kelly, 1997Kelly, , 1998Mayo, White & Eysenck, 1978;Perry, 1995;Tyson, 1984;Van Rooij, 1994, 1999, surprisingly suggests that psychology-as a discipline that forms part of the scientific community-has not yet reached consensus in its stance towards astrology. ...
Full-text available
Psychology has always been vulnerable to fads, producing its share of psychological movements and therapeutic cults that blur the borderline between science and non-science. It is important for sociologists and other scholars who study the social life of scientists and intellectuals to engage with the content of ideas and to take conflicts about scientific legitimacy seriously. This research examines a debate regarding scientific legitimacy in a qualitative case study informed by Frickel and Gross's general theory of scientific/intellectual movements. The focus will be positive psychology's emergence at the end of the last decade and its failure to persuade the wider psychology community of its necessity due to its use of aggressive framing strategies. Understanding how positive psychology works to establish itself as value-free, objective science, while desiring to be perceived as relevant to the public contributes to discussions about framing and boundaries in science.
... Many twentieth and twenty-first century scientists have shown an interest in astrology (see Chico & Lorenzo-Seva, 2006;Dean & Kelly, 2003;Dean, Nias & French, 1997;Ertel & Dean, 1996;Eysenck & Nias, 1982;Hamilton, 2001;Hartmann, Reuter & Nyborg, 2006;Kelly, 1997Kelly, , 1998Mayo, White & Eysenck, 1978;Perry, 1995;Tyson, 1984;Van Rooij, 1994, 1999. This specific study takes into account those researchers who were interested in and focused on personality differences between individuals born under different star signs (see Hartmann, Reuter & Nyborg, 2006;Eysenck & Nias, 1982;Mayo, White & Eysenck, 1978;Van Rooij, 1994, 1999. ...
... (1982), they debate the matter in further detail, with some results confirming Gauquelin's findings, whilst others seem to negate these findings. This ambivalence, as well as the research stated earlier (see Chico & Lorenzo-Seva, 2006;Dean & Kelly, 2003;Dean, Nias & French, 1997;Ertel & Dean, 1996;Eysenck & Nias, 1982;Hamilton, 2001;Hartmann, Reuter & Nyborg, 2006;Kelly, 1997Kelly, , 1998Mayo, White & Eysenck, 1978;Perry, 1995;Tyson, 1984;Van Rooij, 1994, 1999, surprisingly suggests that psychology-as a discipline that forms part of the scientific community-has not yet reached consensus in its stance towards astrology. ...
Astrological information often appears in newspapers and magazines. This suggests that there are readers who may believe that their birthdates relate to astrology and that this phenomenon influences their everyday lives. Many scientists, particularly psychologists, have attempted to link astrological signs with personality traits on an empirical level. The results have often been ambivalent and sometimes even controversial. Scientific evidence generally indicates that zodiac star positions do not influence different personalities. The study of planetary alignment, however, seems more complex. Results in this field often involve smaller research groups, are more difficult to interpret, and can therefore be considered as ambivalent. In this specific study a large group of 65 268 job seekers was assessed by means of a personality questionnaire, the so-called Basic Traits Inventory. The personality traits of four groups of individuals (N = 49, N = 48, N = 39, N = 36) were compared. The groups differed from each other in that all the members of a specific group shared the same planetary alignment and zodiac sign. Chronological age, as a mediator, was not taken into account as the individuals were all born in the same year (1983). No significant differences in personality traits between the groups were found. The results of this study confirm that neither zodiac star signs, nor planetary alignments, influence personality. This affirms, through scientific investigation, that astrology should be seen for what it is; namely an outmoded, archaic belief system based on mythological assumptions.
... Some researchers believe that astrology is not scientific [2] [3] while other feel that in depth study in this field is required to reach that conclusion [4]. There are beliefs that predictive and non-predictive are two parts of astrology and that predictive astrology is the proper subject for testing whether astrology can be used to make prediction [5]. ...
Full-text available
Astrology has started around 4000 years back and has significantly developed over a period of time. Till date no unified rules or standards for astrological prediction exist in the world. Astrologers concentrate on providing quality services to persons rather than defining universal rules and standards for astrological prediction. Advances in artificial intelligence resulted in large number of applications for analysis and prediction. In these applications computer learn from unknown, large, noisy or complex data sets and perform prediction and classification of data. In this paper we are trying to find universal rules and validity of astrology using various scientific methods. In this paper we are going to predict profession of person using ZeroR, Simple Cart and Decision Table classification algorithm. The data set for learning classification consisted of 24 records of Singer, 24 records of Player and 10 records of Scientist. Weka tool[1] available under General public license is use to perform analysis and prediction task.
The article offers a critical analysis of the cognitive science of religion (CSR) as applied to new and quasi-religious movements, and uncovers implicit conceptual and theoretical commitments of the approach. A discussion of CSR’s application to new religious movement (NRM) case studies (charismatic leadership, paradise representations, Aḥmadiyya, and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) identifies concerns about the theorized relationship between CSR and wider socio-cultural factors, and proposals for CSR’s implication in wider processes are discussed. The main discussion analyses three themes in recent work relating CSR to religious and religion-like activities that extend and reframe the model. These include (1) identification of distinctive and accessible cognitive pathways associated with new forms of religious belief and practice (in particular in ‘New Age’ movements), (2) application of CSR to movements and practices outside traditional definitions of religion (near death experiences, conspiracy theories, virtual reality), and (3) engaging CSR in wider cultural processes and negotiations (religion in healthcare settings, and the definition of the study of esoteric religious traditions within academic domains). The conclusion identifies two particular findings: (1) that application of CSR in these areas renders underlying cognitive processes more available to scrutiny and (2) that CSR is employed to identify and enlarge the category of religion. The conclusion suggests that the study of CSR in its application to NRMs and quasi-religion identifies a wide field of common and overlapping themes and interests in which CSR is a more active operand than is commonly assumed.
Conference Paper
Astrological Predictions have always been able to generate a lot of curiosity in human beings to know about their future. This belief of a large percentage of population in astrology needs to be verified by checking the scientific validity of astrology. This paper discuss about the experiments related to astrological predictions and try to find the scientific validity and rules for astrological prediction using Case Base Reasoning method. Various methods and classification techniques of Artificial Intelligence used for this purpose are Simple Cart, Logistic, Naïve Bayes, Decision Stump, Decision Table and DTNB. Experiments are performed on astrological charts to identify whether the person will become internationally famous or not. Data of 240 persons were collected to perform these experiments. The data collected were time of birth, place of birth, and date of birth along with the status of the person that he is well known in the world or not. Out of 240 persons, 120 persons were internationally famous persons and remaining persons were not internationally famous. Results generated by the research were impressive and motivating.
Astrology is a traditional science which is widely used in India especially in Kerala. In the old era the astrology was only considered along with the Hindu mythology. But now people from different religious beliefs also follow the astrology. The reason is the people?s curiosity to know about the life before the birth and the things that may happen in the future. For the prediction, the astrologers use the horoscope of a person. Horoscope is a chart which shows the positions of the planets at the time of birth. The birth chart is divided into twelve houses. Each house may or may not carry a single or combination of planets. Each house is dedicated for different significations. For example the eighth house indicates the health, death, disease, mental pain etc. In Kerala when a baby is born, the very next time the believers will write the horoscope of that baby with the help of a professional astrologer. At present, the creation of horoscope and all predictions are done manually by the conventional astrological tools. But it leads to decrease the authenticity of the traditional science. This paper deals with the prediction of a human's health by studying the eight house of the horoscope with the help of data mining techniques like classification, clustering, rule based analysis etc. The data mining techniques are scientifically proved and if it is possible to implement these techniques for astrological prediction then it will increase the credibility of astrology. Language: en
This book explores an area of contemporary religion, spirituality and popular culture which has not so far been investigated in depth, the phenomenon of astrology in the modern West. Locating modern astrology historically and sociologically in its religious, New Age and millenarian contexts, Nicholas Campion considers astrology's relation to modernity and draws on extensive fieldwork and interviews with leading modern astrologers to present an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the origins and nature of New Age ideology.
Shawn Carlson's 1985 study, published in Nature, which ended with a devastating verdict of astrology, is scrutinized. The design of Carlson's study violated the demands of fairness and its mode of analysis ignored common norms of statistics. The study's piecemeal analysis of sub-samples avoided testing the totals for astrological effects, as did the neglect of test power, effect size, and sample size. Nevertheless, a correct reanalysis of Carlson's two astrological tests reveals that astrologers matched profiles of the California Personality Inventory to natal charts better than expected by chance with marginal significance (threeway forced choice, p =.054), and that a positive result was replicable by a different assessment method (10-point rating, p =.04). The results are regarded as insufficient to deem astrology as empirically verified, but they are sufficient to regard Carlson's negative verdict on astrology as untenable.
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A critical conceptual examination of Humanistic Astrology. Humanistic astrology is concerned exclusively with helping people understand themselves and their potentials and is generally more spiritual than traditional astrology. While the aims of Humanistic astrology as practised by Dane Rudhyar arelaudable, its tenets are deeply problematic.
Much about this third edition of A Guide to Treatments That Work remains as it was in the first and second editions. Like its predecessors, this edition offers detailed evaluative reviews of current research on empirically supported treatments, written in most instances by clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who are major contributors to that literature. Similarly, the standards by which the authors were asked to evaluate the methodological rigor of the research on treatments have also remained the same. As before, they provide information on the quality of the research on treatment efficacy and effectiveness that is reviewed.
Professional astronomers and other scientists have often criticised astrology, although it is not their primary responsibility to tackle borderline subjects. It is rather the task of a philosopher of science to delve into the problems of the demarcation of science, metaphysics and superstition. The aim of this review is to give an undogmatic analysis of the epistemological status of astrology within the general rules of rationality, the basis of the scientific and common sense approaches to reality. Historical and astronomical details are fully discussed in this context.
It is necessary first to establish some terminology. In the ‘Western’ monotheisms (though all in fact originated in the middle east) we think of the ultimate reality as an infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all-good personal being. A personal being is a person: the distinction which some theologians have tried to draw between God as personal and God as a person is meaningless — what could a personal non-person be? God, then, is thought of as the infinite person or, in the case of Christianity, as a trinity of persons who are three in one and one in three. It would be possible to stretch the familiar term ‘God’ to refer to the Ultimate without specifying whether that reality is personal, impersonal or beyond the personal/impersonal distinction. But the word carries for us in the West so strongly personal a connotation that it is wiser at present to avoid it when intending the more open or generic meaning, as I mentioned earlier (p. 36). Terms commonly used are Ultimate Reality, the Ultimate, the Transcendent and, less commonly, the word that I have myself introduced, the Real. Since none of these has a privileged status I shall use them all, taking advantage of the stylistic flexibility this allows, though most often speaking of the Transcendent, with or without a capital T.