Some thoughts on the place of astrology in our contemporary world

We live in a vast energy field of constant motion, most of which is invisible to us. The rippling patterns of order and chaos, which is the fundamental dance of creation, govern everything. I have come to see the art of astrology (helped by what I have grasped of what the quantum world has revealed to us) as one that enables us to map those patterns via the constant shifting energies of the planets in their orbits.

Astrologers take a step that, in our reductionist, materialist culture, pulls down all sorts of opprobrium and scorn upon our heads: We attribute meaning to those patterns. Beginning in ancient times until the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century (which caused a split between form, described by astronomy, and content, described by astrology), the maxim “as above, so below” governed people’s worldview. Prior to the Scientific Revolution, we lived in a cosmos charged with meaning, an “ensouled” cosmos, where form and content reflected and informed each other.
 
Astrology and prejudice
Some of us still live in that cosmos. Others do not. Where you have such a powerful clash of worldviews, polarisation and prejudice can arise. I think that Victor Olliver, editor of the UK’s respected Astrological Journal, was right regarding his eloquent and well argued response to my doubts and questions about popular astrology in the spring of 2015. At that time, he pointed out that the real enemy of astrology is prejudice. There is the prejudice from outside the astrological community (especially from much of the scientific community) from those who believe that our lives are the product of cosmic chance, and thereby devoid of meaning. And then there is the prejudice from those within the community — those who consider themselves to be “serious” practitioners — toward the populist, mass-market astrology that millions avidly consume across a vast range of media on a daily basis, looking for some glimmer of meaning in life.

What do we do about this? In reflecting on how I might “wrap up” Victor’s and my three-part debate, which generated a great deal of interest across the Web, the word “occult” came strongly to mind.

I pondered it for a few days. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the original meaning of the word is from the Latin “occulere,” i.e. “to hide, conceal.” It also (in a more physical sense) means “to cut off from view by interposing some other body,” as in, for example, the occultation of one planet or heavenly body by another.
 
Is astrology an “occult” practice?
The word “occult” in recent times has taken on a more sinister connotation, referring often to magical or supernatural practices of a dubious nature. As I reflected on it, I became more interested in the original meaning of the word, which has led me to a conclusion about the status of astrology, especially in our modern world: The true depth of what astrology can reveal about human affairs, both in the collective and the personal sense, will always be inaccessible to the large majority of people. Astrology is an occult subject. As such, its influence and its great value are likely to remain masked, hidden from view, operating powerfully but behind the scenes of everyday life.

For example, in ancient times its practice was held in high esteem by Babylonian and Egyptian rulers, whose astrologer-priests scanned the stars and advised the kings (and sometimes, even, the queens!)  on the fate of their nations. There were no personal horoscopes. The general public was in no way consulted or informed regarding decisions made that affected all their lives. Astrological knowledge, deemed sacred, was deliberately kept hidden from ordinary view.

Paradoxically, in our time, mass-market popular astrology could be seen as fulfilling the function of concealing the real power of astrology quite effectively. Most of the public remain unaware of the depth that exists behind the mask of the Sun Sign columns, although I do agree with Victor that there is a very big difference between the nuggets of truth that a quality Sun Sign column can reveal and the kind of trashy stuff that some popular newspapers, magazines, and internet sites churn out.
 
A warning ignored
Sun Sign columns are also rather effective in raising the ire and spleen of reductionists who thereby are permanently deflected from benefiting from astrology’s true depth, which at times could have been life-saving as evinced in the powerful example of astrologer Dennis Elwell’s prescient warning in the 1980s.

In 1987, Dennis Elwell, the late well-known U.K. astrologer, wrote to the main shipping companies to warn them that a pattern very similar to that under which the Titanic had sunk was coming in the heavens very soon. He strongly suggested that they review the seaworthiness and safety procedures of all their passenger ships. His warning was duly dismissed. Not long afterwards, the U.K.’s Herald of Free Enterprise ferryboat went down, resulting in the loss of 188 lives.

Popular astrology—a stepping-stone?
It is true, as Victor pointed out in his robust reply to my challenge, that mass-market astrology is the stepping-stone that enables people who are seekers after deeper meaning to step from relative triviality to much greater depth.

However, to understand the profound link that exists between your unique chip of energy and the larger, meaningful cosmos, you will need to seek out a good astrologer to offer you a sensitive and revealing portrait of your moment of birth via your horoscope. Those of us who are in-depth practitioners know that a quality astrology reading with the right astrologer at the right time can be truly life changing.

Only a small percentage of people who read Sun Sign columns take that step into deeper territory. Most do not. Either they are quite happy with the superficiality they find there, or they spin off into active enraged prejudice, and sometimes very public condemnation, of our great art…

As I said to Victor Olliver by way of conclusion to our most instructive debate, pondering on the word “occult” has led me to quite a peaceful place. I can now abandon any prejudice I may have toward my colleagues who are Sun Sign astrologers: they are offering a valuable service in providing a smoke screen. This helps greatly to maintain astrology in its true place as an occult activity, perhaps leavening the ignorance and crassness of our materialist, consumer age  — but from behind the scenes.
 
Concluding thoughts from academia

I have recently been reading an excellent book by astrologer, teacher, and writer Dr. Bernadette Brady, Chaos, Chaosmos and Astrology. In her book, Brady quotes fellow astrologer and academic Dr. Patrick Curry’s view that the practice of astrology is  “…an instrument of enchantment, a way in which humanity encounters mystery, awe, and wonder….,” and that in order to maintain such a position it is “…necessary for astrology to be marginalised by science…” (1)

I was very happy to encounter this viewpoint put forward by fellow astrologers whose scholarship and viewpoints I respect. Their views have eloquently endorsed my own.

TMA readers, what do you think of this viewpoint? I’d be most interested to hear.
 
Footnote:
(1) Bernadette Brady, Cosmos, Chaosmos and Astrology, Sophia Centre Press, 2014, p 71.
 
Bio: Anne Whitaker is a writer, astrologer, and astrology teacher based in Glasgow, Scotland. She holds the Diploma from the Centre for Psychological Astrology in London, U.K. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter @annewhitaker, at Astrology Questions and Answers and email: info@anne-whitaker.com

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10 Responses to "Some thoughts on the place of astrology in our contemporary world"

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  • Kate plumb says:

    Thank you Anne. Your blog brings up most interesting questions. My feeling is that keeping astrology marginalized helps people not take responsibility for their own lives. I do not think it is only science that’ does it (possibly for fear of losing their jobs) but non scientists as well. We are in a transition between A world that was completely ordered and defined that science lives in and one in which the human is co creating by their thoughts intentions and actions. It has to do with a shift in consciousness. And when enough people get it. We will be swimming in it with no need for rational explanations. Even the attitude that astrology is being marginalized is circumspect.
    Thanks for opening up a train of thought. TBC. Warmly Kate

  • Kate, you are most welcome!

    Yes, I do hope that the challenge to reductionist approaches to life gains increasing momentum as the latest phase of that great archetypal battle between order and chaos intensifies …as Tennyson so eloquently pointed out in his epic poem 1912 Morte d’Arthur…”the old order changeth, yielding place to new…”

    I think that astrology’s power lies not in the mainstream 4% that science says is all there is, but in the 23% dark matter and the 76% dark energy that the materialist world view acknowledges exists, but as yet cannot fathom…

  • An excellent precis of our epic debate, Anne. On the topic of the late Dennis Elwell, who became hostile to media astrologers, it should not be forgotten that in the early 70s he wrote a long essay in The Astrological Journal on the solarscope (the horoscope of the Sun signs, charting the transits of the moment). He concluded that the solarscope had validity and that in some instances surpassed the natal chart in personal accuracy. Though he objected to media trivialisation of astrology, he recognised that its astro-basis was sound. He just wanted media stargazers to be more spiritual – which is fine. But tell that to the editors!

    • Thanks, Victor. I really did enjoy our exchange, and hope this post will get people going, as did the Spring 2015 debate! And thanks for reminding us of Dennis Elwell’s stance.

  • Maureen LoCascio says:

    Always love your insights Anne!

  • Anthony Burns says:

    As a retired physics teacher I can tell you that, according to quantum theory, space has a very fine ‘grainy’ texture. Also, according to Einstein, large bodies such as planets bend and distort the surrounding space, causing light to bend. (A phenomenon known as the ‘Einstein cross’, in which four distinct images of a more distant object in space are seen surrounding a nearer object, provides evidence for this.) This provides a credible physical basis for the workings of astrology – a subject (and science) in which I’ve been keenly interested for over 60 years!

  • Well, that sounds like good information, Anthony, with which I would not presume to argue given your superior knowledge!

    If the scientific community can find a comfortable way to align what they know ( according to what you say here ) about the physical basis of astrology with the symbolic perspectives arising therefrom which enable astrologers to assign meaning, then we could happily move forward using both lenses in a complementary manner to explore the common Ground of our being. However, with notable exceptions, the scientific community appears not to have got very far with that particular orientation…

    Many thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  • For one who has studied astrology since the early 1970’s, it is quite astounding how our craft has gained momentum and credibility – and diversity. We remember how ‘science’ was sitting it its high seat, and see now how its reputation has diminished considerably. (It is also all too evident that Money is at the steering wheel). I came across your article here, and I just wanted to say that you are an eloquent writer. Much is conveyed in this short space! Although my perspective at some points may differ, it is quite immaterial, because I came out of your article with more thoughts than I had before…

    • Many thanks for your kind words re my writing, Jan! And I appreciate your perspective on a piece which may have made uncomfortable reading for some…the whole point of writing, in my view, is to inspire, stimulate, make people THINK, and not necessarily to offer views which keep theirs in the comfort zone…