1 – Two Kinds of Amazement
Astrology amazes everyone who thinks about it. Some see
a universe in which the stars signal the quality and course
of their lives, and find this amazing. Others see a superstitious
minority, mired in beliefs from a medieval world, and find
it amazing how gullible people can be.
two kinds of amazement both suggest reasons why astrology
is worth thinking about in the first place. If it really
works as astrologers claim, there would (obviously enough)
be good reason to study it. But if all the astrological
work ever done has been pure fantasy, there would still
be compelling reasons to learn more about it.
astrology grew entirely from imagination, then it is a dream
which humanity has dreamed, a collective myth which has
been formed, sustained and developed by our race in an attempt
to make sense of the world; an intellectual fossil whose
form shows what we do when we try to understand the world
and our place in it. This, together with the fact that a
belief in the power of the stars has influenced humanity
and its institutions through much of recorded history, means
that the study of astrology – even if astrology itself
is not considered objectively valid – can disclose
new perspectives on this world and the way we relate to
it. If we can decide what we are looking at, it will be
worth looking – but, given the range of misconceptions
about the subject, this seems to be easier said than done.
tends to polarise opinion. Sceptics frequently argue that
astrologers are at best delusional, at worst frauds; many
astrologers insist that their craft works so clearly, so
reliably, that only prejudice keeps critics from embracing
it. Such simplistic views commonly lead to intellectual
deadlock between the two camps, with neither willing to
concede an inch. This is in the interests of no-one: those
who seriously investigate the subject and believe they have
substantial evidence – either that astrology works
or does not work - are denied a fair hearing, because of
a common assumption that the case is already closed. And
those who have no axe to grind, but might simply be interested
to know the facts, find it difficult to penetrate through
a fusillade of propaganda from both sides.
Book’s Method and Structure
an attempt to get away from misconception, to the core of
astrology, this book presents what astrologers do, and why
they do it, in their own words. The text has largely been
assembled from thirty-three interviews recorded between
1996-2000 with some of the most eminent, and/or interesting,
figures in the field. Amongst the contributors there are
people who believe completely in astrology’s validity
and accuracy, some of whom present compelling evidence of
their subject’s scope and power. There are also scientific
researchers who present evidence to show that nothing has
been proved, that all conclusions are either partial or
just plain wrong.
have tried to present the issues, and the range of opinion,
faithfully - so that readers may draw their own conclusions.
It would be artless to pretend that I do not have opinions
of my own; but I have tried to set these to one side, to
present the strengths of each of the views I encountered.
In fact I found that the more I probed astrology’s
status – true or false, science or myth - the more
complex and refractory the issues became. So if this book
appears fragmented and contradictory, I claim that as a
virtue – if it were otherwise, it would not be a faithful
present each interview in its entirety would have made the
book both huge and tedious to read, so the approach taken
is to assemble excerpts theme by theme. The chapters develop
in what is hopefully a natural progression, beginning with
a look at the ways in which people get interested in astrology
in the first place. This introduces the question of what,
exactly, astrology is. Several chapters are therefore devoted
to different applications of the subject, beginning with
the most high-profile variant – the star-sign column
in newspapers and magazines – and moving on through
astrology in business, therapy, football, and many other
areas of life.
defined the subject in this way, the focus shifts to broader
issues, taking in different ideas about what astrology actually
is; how it works; and if it works.
whole book has been written so that it can be understood
by someone with no prior knowledge of astrology. Inevitably,
some astrological terms appear, but these can be translated
by recourse to the glossary in Appendix 4 – where
a very brief introduction to the basics of the astrological
chart will also be found. Anyone interested in pursuing
one or another of the avenues of thought referred to in
the book will find references to people, organisations,
books, and so on in Appendices 1, 2 and 4.
Percival Lowell heard that there were canals on Mars, he
decided to devote his life to finding out more about them.
It eventually turned out that there were no canals on Mars,
but the process of looking for them led Lowell to discover
that there was a planet beyond Neptune. The existence of
this planet, Pluto, was finally confirmed eighteen years
after Lowell’s death. Perhaps, in looking at astrology,
we will find ourselves in a similar position to Lowell –
the questions we started out with no longer relevant, but
supplanted by new and better questions.
there are questions lurking behind the very idea of astrology;
perhaps they may turn out to be more significant than astrology
in itself. Is life driven by blind impulse, or drawn toward
vision by intelligent design? Is it possible to know? How
can thought approach such a question? Should we trust scientific
methodology to determine what is real, or is there latent
in humanity a way of understanding that surpasses reason?
the different ideas and perspectives contained in this book
lead to such questions being asked then it will have found,
and served, its purpose.