IN FAIRNESS TO ASTROLOGY
by Ajibola Aries
Astrology is one of the least studied fields of knowledge and this is one of the important reasons why it is largely misunderstood. A lot of people have heard about it and many have had some encounters with it, which is really not the same thing as having studied or researched it. In strict intellectual terms, reading daily horoscopes at your own pleasure, reading about your own or others’ zodiac signs randomly, or reading some titbits on predictions here and there, is not enough to constitute a true, objective research on Astrology. Rather, doing such things as studying the conceptual frameworks sorrounding astrology, an examination of the history of astrology, an appraisal of the development of astrology, types of astrology, perspectives on astrology, case studies of astrologers etc, would be at least worth the while as a true study of astrology. It may not matter much whether this is done as a formal or informal research procedure – the most important thing is the degree of thoroughness and objectivity.
Many of those who doubt astrology have not done research into it, and are usually unwilling to research into it. They will usually dismiss it as mere superstition which is not worth their attention. Those who simply say they are not interested in astrology also take such position, either because of doubt or disbelief. And it is unlikely that you will find someone taking his time and resources to exert efforts on research(es) into something that he is not interested in.
In practical terms this attitude effectively prevents such people from becoming exposed to facts that can convince them about the credibility of astrology. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines superstition as, ‘the belief that particular events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science...’ Whereas astrology does not qualify to be even called a superstition in the first place, as the focal points of its claims are planetary/celestial bodies which are physical phenomena that are not only observable and quantifiable by scientific means of reckoning, but are also studied and analysed by astrologers with scientific instruments as far back as medieval times, no matter how crude such instruments might have been. Such instruments include Astrolabe, Astrolabe Quadrant, the telescope, the Antkythera Mechanism, the spectroscope, etc.
Moreover, science, as we know it, is a creation of man. As a result of this, it is subject to certain limitations. Science, with all its dynamism, is still unable to unravel the mysteries of human consciousness, life, death, the existence of supernatural forces and energies, the phenomenon of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and subterranean beings, e.t.c. This is basically because scientific laws and theories are based only on the physical, and anything which is non-physical, or which has characteristics or dimensions that violates the laws of physics (as in the case of UFOs and subterrenean beings) simply goes beyond what could be grasped by the tools of contemporary science. However, there are indications of the existence of certain non-physical phenomena, and their roles in our lives. How can physical scientific instrument be used to measure human consciousness which is non-physical? Thus when we observe certain phenomena, such as some of the ways by which these heavenly bodies influence human behaviour, or the way the time and date of birth of a person influences his behaviour - which cannot be easily explained away by physical laws, we have to accept that there are certain things that exist and occur which are either beyond the physical laws of science or, because we accept that science is dynamic, science has not yet advanced to the level of fully reckoning with such realities.
Be that as it may, there have been developments in modern science, such as the discovery of electromagnetic waves, which lends more credence to some of the very logic by which astrology explains its claims. The discovery of electromagnetic waves, for instance, substantiates one of the crucial arguments of astrologers that there are certain unseen forces and energies in space which impact, in varying degrees, on human life. The discovery of electromagnetic waves is important, as it shakes to the very foundation, the belief of pessimists that something has to be seen to be believed. There are now more and more things that we find ourselves reckoning with, despite the fact that we don’t see them. Many of those who believe in religion but who subscribe to this same line of argument against astrology unwittingly contradict themselves when they simultaneously talk about belief in a universal God, angels, spirits, heaven and hell, the efficacy of prayers, exorcism etc as these are phenomena and energies that we don’t see with our eyes but which even many religious zealots are even ready to kill and be killed for. Electromagnetic waves are as invisible, non-physical – perhaps as mysterious, as most of these non-physical forces and energies to which many of these religious zealots attach so much emotion, and it is arguable that before electromagnetic waves were finally confirmed to exist by othordox science, those who toyed with any idea, theories or suspicion of their existence would have been mocked at as talking about superstitions. There have even been scientists in earlier times, who due to supposedly strange discoveries they claimed, have even experienced persecutions, like Galileo (1564 – 1642) one of the prime movers of the Scientific Revolution, who was said to have been placed under permanent house arrest and his books burnt; and Copernicius (1473 – 1543), whose works were banned because he was a proponent of the view that the Earth was in daily motion about its axis and in yearly motion around a stationary sun.
It will not be fair to assume that the arguments of some religious practisioners against astrology is limited to this. Just as I mentioned in my opening article on astrology, there is the tendency to confuse astrology with religion. If astrology is truly a religion, the aversion of many adherents of orthodox religion to it may be quite understandable. The tendency for religions to view one another with some suspicion is equally understandable, and so, if astrology should ever assume the status of a religion or is suspected of being a religion or treated as such, it is expected to also become subjected to the same treatments that other religions are subject to.
Astrology, of course, is not a religion and can never be. It is more of a scientific field of study, or at least, a 'para-scientific' one. I mentioned the fact that astrology cannot be categorised as religion for the simple reason that it is without many important elements of an organised religion. Astrology is not a discipline that inclines those who believe in it to any central object of worship or any god; astrology does not proselytise or try to win souls; astrology does not put forward such thing as a central holy book around which the loyalty and obedience of followers revolve; and, while astrology does attempt to guide, it does not promise a tomorow, afterlife of higher life of salvation or damnation for those who believe or disbelieve in it – under this circumstance it is impossible to define astrology as a religion. In fact, in all my readings on religion and religious matters I am yet to see any place in which Astrology is mentioned in the long list of religions.
Then, if astrology is not a religion, what then is the grouse of some religious zealots against it? I mentioned in my opening article that astrology does offer certain things which religion also offers, such as various types of counselling on social relationships, conduct of businesses, political careers, etc. My observation is that this is one of the things that make astrology appear to clash with religion, as astrology often offers, what in some cases could be contradictory prescriptions and make the average fan of astrology believe that he could have an alternative source of guidance and inspiration in important matters of life. However, can we deny the fact that there are other fields which also do the same things (e.g. in guidance and counselling) but which do not attract the suspicion or jealousy of some religious zealots?
I have come to observe that the idea of predictions or prophesies in Astrology is also one of the things that rattle some believers in religion. I want to start by stating that in fairness to astrology, there have been cases of accurate predictions or prophesies made by astrologers in the past. I mentioned some of them in my opening article. The fact that there are astrological predictions that have come to pass with such accuracy and precision is one of the points that stand in favour of astrology. A lot of religious people have shown reservations about this practice in astrology, basically on the moral ground that it is wrong to look into the future. However, there are a couple or so ways in which this ‘moral’ argument can be somewhat misleading. First, most people who argue against astrological predictions ignore the functional dimension of it. In other words, astrology can be vindicated if we ask ourselves questions as to whether its predictions actually work or come to pass. If we look at it from this angle, whether it is right to predict or not is not what matters; what matters is that it is proven that many astrologers’ predictions have come to pass. And if it is true that astrological predictions have come to pass, it is understandable that this constitutes a justification for some people to believe in astrology. It’s like it is proven that a man can actually make a car to rise from the ground into the air by merely raising his hand towards the car: regardless of whether it is right for him to do so or not, those who chose to believe in his unusual ability have a ground to do so – their reason for believing in him is just because they can see that he can actually perform the feat. In the same vein, an old, illiterate farmer in the countryside, who has never seen the four walls of a classroom let alone understand the rudiments of information technology but who is somehow able to own a mobile phone with which he can make and receive calls, has a good reason to believe in the mobile phone simply because it works; the fact is that it functions; it is not a moral issue, and the fact that he doesn't know how it works doesn't matter from the point of functionalism.
Secondly, we ask ourselves whether prediction is by itself evil. Prediction is basically an assertion of what will or will not happen in future. Meteorologists predict future weather conditions and they are not condemned; climatologists predict future climate trends and no one criticizes them; medical practisioners predict such things as the type of genes (and even physical appearance) that a person’s future offspring will have, and no one persecutes them; political analysts predict the outcome of elections and no one crucifies them; military strategists predict the outcome of campaigns and no one sees them as doing what is bad. The rise and fall of Adolf Hitler, the Second World War, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, were examples of predictions earlier made by astrologers who in some cases gave specific details; if these same predictions were made by people who are not astrologers, no one would have seen such as being strange or immoral. Other disciplines don’t get condemned by reason only that, using their own methodologies, they make assertions of what will or will not happen in future, but astrology is the one set aside for condemnation.
To those who have been making noise about the morality or otherwise of predictions, let it be pointed out that part of the moral value of astrological predictions is that those who believe in such predictions have the chance to take anticipatory measures to postpone the evil day or to mitigate its effect when it comes - in the case of the so-called doomsday predictions, and to give hope and morale boosters to believers - in the case of positive predictions. If someone predicts that something negative will happen to you and then in the process of making efforts to avert it, you succeeded in postponing it or cushioning the effects of such event or you even succeeded in averting it totally, has it not been helpful? Indeed, many astrologers, where they make unpalatable predictions, also add that these things may be prevented if certain measures are taken. Predictions are not always pronounced as fait accompli, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why some appear not to have come to pass.
As I round up my closing statements in fairness to astrology, I want to once again draw attention to one of the most important wrong assumptions of antagonists of astrology, and this is the very wrong notion that astrology is all about looking into the future. When most of these antagonists talk against astrology, they talk about predictions or prophesies; whereas predictions, prophesies or forecasts is just one of the different aspects of astrology. There are other aspects of astrology such as Character Analysis, Numerology, different forms of counselling, etc. Astrology is such a complex subject that if you choose to research into it and for any reason you are unable to be in agreement with one aspect of it, at the end you will still find yourself unable to totally condemn astrology because one or other aspects give arguments that are convincing. Thus, while there are many people out there who become believers in astrology because they have seen cases of fulfilled predictions, there are others who are not even bothered about predictions at all, but who are impressed by the logic and mathematical beauty of Numerology, while some others are convinced by the reality of astrological Character Analysis.
The less uncomplicated a subject, ideology or belief system is, the less easy it becomes for antagonists to put it in a single bracket and carpet it.
As far as I am concerned, the ability to see credibility in just one aspect of astrology constitutes enough reason not to write it off.
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