“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil DeGrasse Tyson
To preface, I love NDGT, Carl Sagan is my homeboy, and I fucking love science. So I certainly don’t say this as an expert in science, but as a lowly admirer: Astrology, when defined as a general phenomenon of meaningful correspondences between celestial and earthly events, is also true, whether or not you believe in it. I’m just sayin’…
Cue the colossal skeptical eyeroll.
I believe one of the biggest problems that people have in talking about astrology and science is that we’re often talking past each other, using the same terms but with different definitions.
For example, the word “scientific” has come to mean “truthful” instead of a more precise definition like “of or relating to material and efficient causes”. Conflating “science” with “truth” is to consider truth to be only that which is material, measurable, and testable. Even within science, there is a spectrum of hard sciences like physics and medicine which are highly testable and more objective, and soft sciences like economics and psychology which are harder to quantify and less objective. It is not the fault of economists, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists et al that their area of study is less conducive to the strictest standards of science. It simply means that the scientific method of inquiry, as amazing and productive as it is, operates best when investigating that which is measurable and when variables are easy to control. If only everything in the world would fit in that box!
So when a survey asks people if they think astrology is scientific, I as an astrologer must respond ‘no’. Science is about the material and efficient causes in the world, the ‘what’ and ‘how’. Astrology is a stab at ‘why’, taking material and efficient causes as signs for formal and final causes. In other words, it’s an art, not a science, despite some of its empirical/scientific derivations and applications which beckon it to be more than just an art. This is why I find it deeply ironic that Bill Nye compares Trump supporters and climate change deniers to people who believe in astrology. Make no mistake: I am an astrologer and I acknowledge climate change is real and the anti-intellectualism and scientific illiteracy of the Trump administration and its supporters is a dangerous threat to the world. This is not in contradiction with my belief that we are more than soulless sacks of meat in a meaningless universe, quite the opposite.
Astrology is more like musicology. The phenomenon of music is scientific in that it has physical dimensions which can be measured and studied, such as its amplitude, frequency, wavelengths, etc. However, performing, creating and interpreting music is obviously an art, not a science. If you were to describe a performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in terms of amplitude and frequencies, it wouldn’t be wrong, but it would also miss the point. Music theory is not scientific, but it is clearly a useful system to organize and understand the otherwise ineffable qualities of music. Music theory is fundamental to how a musicologist is able to analyze a piece of music, discovering the patterns which reveal the intents of its composer and its meaning to them and to the audience. It’s not science, but would we really tell a musicologist that their analysis, insight and conclusions aren’t “real”?
Similarly, astrology’s physical dimensions are the positions and movements of the planets, which can be measured and studied. Like music theory, astrological principles are not scientific, but still a useful system to organize and understand the otherwise ineffable qualities of time. Like musicologists, astrologers analyze moments and cycles in time, discovering the cosmic patterns which reveal one’s destinies and meanings for themselves and in the world. Musicology isn’t scientific, but everyone can agree a song is playing. Astrology isn’t scientific, but weirdly enough, there are strange correspondences between celestial and earthly events that happen whether you accept astrology as valid or not.
I’m not talking about geophysical effects of celestial objects on human behavior, like circadian rhythms and the Moon’s effect on sleep patterns. What I am talking about are correspondences between planetary cycles and human behavior that can not be accounted for by any known force, connected only by their temporal coincidence and otherwise improbable alignment with the purported astrological natures of the planets. Correlation doesn’t prove causation, but whoever said astrology had to be causal? Think signs, not causes.
10) Mercury Retrograde and Poor Spelling
Mercury retrogrades are probably the best known astrological phenomenon beyond sun signs. Mercury in astrology is considered to be the planet of communication, messages and language. When Mercury appears to go retrograde, it’s said that the significations of Mercury go…awry…
The expectation is that this results in heightened periods of miscommunication about three times a year – schedule mix-ups, do-overs, miscalculations, sending an email to the wrong person, etc. It’s hard to separate the signal from the noise because obviously Mercury is not always retrograde when things like this go wrong, but it also seems that Mercury retrogrades are conspicuously chaotic. The researcher Renay Oshop found a way to test whether Mercury retrograde periods coincided with greater incidences of misspelling on Amazon reviews. Crazily enough, they actually do.
9) Saturn Returns and the Fear of Turning Thirty
Next to Mercury retrograde, the other better known astrological phenomenon is the Saturn return. Anxiety about turning 30 may seem arbitrary – we just happen to have a base 10 number system which makes it natural to think of time in decades. Still, 29 is the age we all experience our Saturn return, and Saturn is a melancholic planet, the planet of maturity, responsibility, hard fought rewards, obstacles, failures and punishment. This is a critical juncture for most people in their lives and careers, some even call it a quarter life crisis. The experiences at age 29 are wildly diverse but are often connected through these general themes of endings and reaching maturity. To get the idea, check out the Saturn Return Stories blog which catalogs different Saturn return experiences.
8) Uranus Cycles and Inventions
Uranus in astrology is considered the planet of disruptive technologies, unbounded individualism and revolutions. The economist Norman Poire made a remarkable observation of an approximate 168-year pattern between revolutionary inventions and their accompanying paradigm shifts it brings about. 168 years of course is two 84-year cycles and 84 years is an orbit of Uranus.
There are many other fascinating coincidences involving the 84 year span of Uranus. For example, DNA was first extracted in 1869 by Friedrich Miescher. 84 years later in 1953 was when James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. Flight technology was developed by the Wright Brothers in the Uranus in Sagittarius period from 1897-1904. 84 years later beginning in 1981, NASA rolled out the Space Shuttle program, making the jump from the skies to space.
7) Uranus Cycles and Generations
This same period of 84 years was noticed by others as well. The Strauss-Howe Generational theory describes a recurring generation cycle in American history, with recurring generational types and mood eras. The cycle is 84 years, and the generational types are divided into quadrants, each one about 21 years long. For astrological students of American history this is absolutely no surprise, since the cycle of Uranus has played (and continues to play) such a huge part of the country’s evolving identity. (The Civil War began just over 84 years after July 4th 1776, and D-Day was 84 years on from the start of the Civil War.) Download a copy of Nick Dagan Best’s URANU.S.A to read more about this. In the work of Strauss and Howe, nothing suggests they are aware of or inspired by the quadratures of the Uranus cycle. If they actually independently observed 21 year sections of an 84 year cycle, it is a tremendous validation of astrological correspondences.
6) Uranus-Pluto Cycles and Revolutions
Richard Tarnas is an academic, a cultural historian, a professor of philosophy and psychology. He wrote the “Passion of the Western Mind” which charts the evolution of western philosophical thought through history. Building on this, he wrote “Cosmos and Psyche”, a monumental book which explains the western world’s evolving philosophical perspective as a function of its evolving cosmological perspective.
Most impressively, he provides evidence for his argument by meticulously uncovering parallels across time, culture, art and politics that are connected by astrologically relevant planetary cycles. In particular he pays attention to the major axes of the Uranus-Pluto cycle which corresponds with human revolutions in science and politics. For example, the current political unrest and sharp focus on issues of race and gender are often independently compared to the turbulent and liberating 1960’s, which was the time of the last Uranus-Pluto conjunction, while we are currently still in the midst of the first square between these two planets since that time.
Unfortunately, the necessary length and density of the book are likely intimidating to the average reader. That is why it is so exciting “Changing of the Gods” is being made, a new documentary to present Tarnas’s arguments in a compelling and highly accessible format. It is being made by Kenny Ausubel and Louie Schwartzberg, and narrated by John Cleese, yes, that John Cleese! Keep your eyes peeled, when this movie drops in 2018, it could make a tremendous splash (and splashback).
Mars retrograde periods last about 6 months, counting the pre- and post-shadow periods. The planet Mars appears to go retrograde 7 times every 15 years, so Mars always appears fairly close to the position it was 15 years before. Mars’ conjunctions with the Sun occur in the same part of the zodiac as the retrogrades at the half-way point of the 15 year period, around 7.5 years. Mars is supposed to concern forceful or destructive action, pertinent for matters of personal initiative, aggression, courage, as well as divisions in society that can escalate into armed conflicts. This is kind of interesting because…
Typically, [civil wars] last 7 to 15 years on average, while the average for international wars is about six months.
-Paul Collier, Oxford University professor, author of “Wars, Guns and Votes”
4) Gauquelin’s Mars Effect
Statistician Michel Gauquelin collected thousands of birth data in France, making the discovery that Mars had either just risen or culminated in the charts of eminent athletes. The computer or phone screen you are currently looking at has a greater gravitational pull than Mars does right now, so clearly something else is going on here. Mars is definitely a planet one might associate with the strength and daring of an athlete, and Gauquelin’s plus zones roughly coincide with the angular houses (especially in whole sign houses) which are said to be more energetic and relate to one’s image, presentation, career and reputation. Naturally this caused astrology skeptics to get to work dismantling this finding except…they found they couldn’t get a different result, and so they started fudging around with the numbers, which prompted Dennis Rawlins to sound the alarm.
3) Jupiter Cycles and Education
Jupiter’s cycle is a little under 12 years long, and historically associated with wisdom, knowledge, philosophy, expanding horizons, honors, beneficence, etc. Appropriately, across many different countries, the most common length of one’s primary and secondary education is 12 years. Since most countries begin first grade at age 6 (one’s first Jupiter Opposition), high school graduation occurs at 18 (one’s second Jupiter Opposition). The average length of time needed to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the United States is 6 years (half a Jupiter cycle), putting the average age of graduation from college around 23-24, (one’s second Jupiter Return). Remarkably, neuroscientists have even discovered that the brain learns fundamentally differently after ages 11-12. Simply put, our capacity for knowledge begins to mature at our first Jupiter return, and we appear to reach new milestones in our education and wisdom at successive Jupiter oppositions and returns, and these are clearly relevant for the astrological qualities of Jupiter.
2) The Moon, Venus and Fertility
Everyone knows that the menstrual cycle is about 28 days, which closely matches the orbit of the Moon around the Earth, although that may be explainable as some kind of geophysical effect on our circadian rhythm. But then there’s this pregnancy thing…
A human pregnancy lasts about 260 days on average, which just happens to be the same number of days it takes for for Venus to travel from its heliacal rising after a superior conjunction to its heliacal rising after an inferior conjunction with the Sun. In other words, Venus is in the opposite position relative to the Sun from conception to birth. I think this is harder to explain, because while the Moon could have some theoretically plausible impact on biological cycles due to its closeness, the speed and rhythm of its phases, its prominence in the sky and its gravitational pull on the Earth, the same can not be said for Venus. It is not as prominent in the sky as the Moon, and its gravitational pull is negligible due to its distance and size. This seems much more in the realm of astrology, where a celestial period is significant, that it’s a sign for something rather than a cause of something.
Is it any wonder then that the Moon and Venus are considered to have more stereotypically feminine qualities in astrology? It’s not like astrologers say the Moon has the qualities of Mars as a war-like planet or that Venus has the qualities of a Saturn as a melancholic planet. The Moon in astrology is associated with the mother, women, one’s body, one’s instincts and habits. Venus in astrology is associated with relationships, romance, sex. And how else do you think you get babies without these elements being somewhere in the process? Speaking of which…
1) Venus in Love and Marriage
The planet Venus appears to go retrograde 5 times every 8 years. Venus always appears very close to the position it was 8 years before. Venus is supposed to concern social relations, pertinent for personal and romantic relationships. This is kind of interesting because…
How long do marriages last and how quickly do people remarry? Table 6, profiling the marital experience of the population as of 2001, shows that first marriages that ended in divorce lasted a median of 8 years for men and women overall.
So the average amount of a time a first marriage in the US lasts is one synodic cycle of Venus? I mean, perhaps the US Census has an astrological bias, but I can fairly presume it does not. Obviously, the average is probably not exactly 8 years on the dot, but if it is true that Venus holds some significance for relationships then we should expect to see some general pattern like this emerge. Closer examination of people’s relationship timelines and their individual natal charts might explain case-by-case variances. I have seen the 8 year period show up from different points of significance within a relationship, from meeting to marriage, from courtship to engagement, from courtship to divorce. Some people even recognize the 8 year period (and its multiples) themselves without any knowledge of its connection to Venus. W
While this is a really random example, it’s one of the best candid quotes about it I’ve ever seen.
Around the age of 8, I was blessed – didn’t realize it, but I was blessed to meet my future wife, Anita Thigpen, at a piano recital. We had our first date eight years later. And she finally agreed to marry me 16 years after that. Nobody says I am not persistent.
Rick Perry, during his presidential run announcement speech, August 13th 2011
Indeed Rick Perry, indeed.
Astrologers are not just making stuff up. I mean, I’m just saying…
And if you were going to ask about what happens to astrology once people are born in space, I got you covered.