Here is a little post with some reflections on why I do not think astrology is a science (as science is generally understood in our society).
I’ve been reading a lot of material in preparation for my dissertation’s proposal and I wanted to share some ideas from one in particular, a PHD thesis entitled ‘The Responsive Cosmos’ by James Brockbank. The author articulates very well something that I have struggled to understand in the past about the practice of astrology – why on earth we’ve never managed to prove empirically astrology working.
One of the main ideas he argues for is that astrology is a type of divination and it can never be proved to be a science as the empirical methodology fails to demonstrate how the discipline works. Brockbank uses a lot of Geoffrey Cornelius’ work and ideas from ‘The Moment of Astrology’, a book that blew my mind when I first read it.
Why empirical research, the scientific method which differs from what most astrologers call their “empirical research” (mostly their personal observations along the years), does not work is because astrology, as well as having a tradition with rules and meanings, depends heavily in context and interpretation. There is no way that we can come up with one general meaning and rule that works for every single context in astrology.
Simply put: empirical research looks for repetition and universal meaning while astrology is grounded in the individual case.
A Saturn transit to someone’s natal Moon can play out in so many different ways depending on age, background, life story, etc that we can never say for sure unless we have a conversation with the person having that transit.
This is such an important detail that always pops into my mind when in the social media astrological groups I see people asking questions requiring an absolute answer, like for example, ‘What configuration in the natal chart can be attributed to someone that is negative and always complains?’ or when someone says that Saturn in aspect to Venus will always translate as poverty.
It won’t. Astrological symbolism, as with most symbols, are multivalent, they do not simply translate to one thing.
This complexity, in my view, is also the beauty of astrology.
In Brockbank’s words:
‘There are twelve houses, twelve signs, a minimum of seven planets and no limit to the number of other points, real, constructed and hypothetical, that astrologers might use in their practice. Each of these hundreds of different meanings, making millions of combinations. It is inconceivable that all of these techniques, rules and procedures could be grounded in the empirical.’ (p. 30)
And he later concludes:
‘For the following reasons any analysis of astrology which follows the empirical approach will exclude them: first, dialogue will be excluded because one will be following empirical rules which have been created without reference to the dialogue between astrologer and client; second, the particular will be excluded because one will be creating general rules which have universal application and may ignore the particular; third, ethnographic considerations will be excluded because what matters is not the individual case history but the general rule; and last, time is excluded because the rules used should apply to all cases at all times.’ (p. 37)
And these astrological rules and interpretations, most definitely, do not apply to ‘all cases at all times’.
Subjectivity is intrinsically involved in any astrological practice as it requires an astrologer to make an interpretation, and that astrologer in particular will not only have their favorite astrological techniques, but also have a certain perspective based on their unique life story, etc. (not to mention the particularities that that moment will also bring – the moment of interpreting something).
This awareness brings another question, is there such a thing as the ‘absolute truth’?
Brockbank argued that ‘the problem of assuming there is one superior truth is that there will be many different interpretations of that truth and it is possible that those who consider they are better astrologers or have more evolved souls may believe that they have privileged access to that truth.’ (pp. 300-301)
An interesting issue which I think to be very relevant for our current discussions while the transiting lunar nodes are in the Gemini/Sagittarius axis (with Gemini in the north node pointing at potential multiple truths as a way forward) and the general shift from Capricorn to Aquarius (reflected by Saturn and Jupiter currently in Aquarius, and Pluto joining it later on).
With all of that in mind, we would do well in asking ourselves: how gracefully can we accept and express uniqueness within diversity?!
Artwork by Karen Lynch