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Astrology as Qualitative Science

As I’ve blogged myself into the TMA abyss for the last few years, I can’t remember a day full of more significant astrological transits than March 16, 2023. It’s not to say there hasn’t been one, I just haven’t seen it. 


Within the window of about 36 hours, from midday on March 15 to midnight on March 16, we will have passed through:


Sun conjunct Neptune (Cazimi)

Mercury square Mars

Mercury conjunct Neptune

Sun square Mars

Venus square Pluto

Venus enters Taurus

Sun conjunct Mercury (Cazimi)


Notice, these aren’t trifle trines, sextiles, or semisextiles. These are heavy hitters — except for Venus moving into Taurus, all squares and conjunctions. 


The energy of this day feels like a tangled bramble too enmeshed for the likes of me to unpack, especially within the confines of roughly a thousand words in this here blog. I’m sure there are some great interpretations out there of what this might feel like, both on a microcosmic (individual) and macrocosmic (collective) level. 


This is a truly remarkable month with changing signs of Mars, Saturn, and Pluto. And while more formidable astrologers than myself are likely drooling at the opportunity to share their insights on this momentous occasion, I feel inclined to look at what I’m identifying as one of the subtexts of such a complex interplay of celestial dynamics.


Whether we consider ourselves an astrologer or not, we can always turn to our own experience and interpretation of astrological transits as a reliable source of knowledge. How do we feel the movement of these cosmic energies in our bodies, in our minds, and throughout our lives? What would Venus square Pluto mean to us if there were no prior interpretations of it before today?


One of my favorite things about astrology is that is a largely qualitative science. It centers and embraces the subjective experience and relies on phenomenological interpretation. Whether we realize it or not, the annals of astrological evidence are built on a kind of Thematic Analysis – through readings, conversations, and texts, patterns of experience begin to form and shape the way we understand the comprising elements of astrological art. 


The inability to dilute astrology down to a concludable chain or web of cause and effect is one of the primary reasons that many ‘hard sciences’ attempts to deflate astrology as a kind of magical thinking. This is why you can do a Ph.D. in astronomy but not astrology. Qualitative research serves as a rebuttal to quantitative methods, by reminding us that all data has to be reinterpreted at some point in the process.


While the relationships between planets are physical, they can be mathematically measured, the ‘energy’ we experience at the hands of these angular relationships is purely subjective. Some astrologers might argue with me here and defend a type of purist relationship between planets, signs, and houses.


Rather than try to bring astrology to the level of quantitative empiricism in an effort to legitimize it, what if we championed its subjectivity as one of its greatest strengths? 


I don’t endorse a Planet A + Planet B + sign + house, always = X experience. Certainly, some patterns roll up into themes, which is why we can have systems of astrological interpretation, but there is no one truth or correct answer to the equation. It depends largely on our positionality — one of those positions being the relationship to all of these energies within the context of our own natal chart, and the astrological system we’ve used to make meaning of it. 


Within a given astrological system, we may have hundreds (if not thousands) of years of qualitative research — anecdotal and experiential evidence that has been combed through and collated into recurring themes and patterns that all inform the way we understand the elements today. However, none of this invalidates the way that we experience something within ourselves. 


We all contain exquisitely unique astrological compositions. Never before has someone with all of our individual natal aspects experienced these exact astrological transits – especially within this order and rate of succession. 


To take a somewhat ontological approach to all this (which has a tight philosophical relationship with qualitative research and Thematic Analysis), we are each an ‘object’, merging with the ‘objects’ of these transits and forming entirely new objects each time we pass through them. Every experience is completely novel, though it may have a thematic relationship to phenomena that have occurred in the past. 


(If the idea of yourself, or an astrological transit,  as an object is compelling– or maybe concerning–  I highly recommend reading Graham Harman’s book on Object-Oriented Ontology.)


So,  while you can read about the upcoming transits online or follow your daily, weekly, or monthly horoscope — all of these are limited interpretations in that they are coming from outside of us – they are consensus generalizations, but they’re far from fact or truth. The only reason that anyone can speak to these energies from the outside in, is because others have shared their experience from the inside out. 


For the concern of going too far into the philosophical weeds here, I want to bring it back around this present moment and the invitation I’m hoping to invoke in this piece of writing.


With seven relatively powerful transits in the mix, it may be quite difficult to tease out what is influencing us to feel and experience what. How can we explicitly assert, without any uncertainty that one transit is informing a specific aspect of our lives over another? I don’t think we can with any kind of objective reliability.


Rather than see that as a kind of obstacle to clear astrological interpretation, what if we leaned into the only real thing we have in relation to what’s happening in our lives? Our subjective experience of it.


What does all of this look, sound, taste, smell, and feel like? We are the data points that influence the way astrology will be interpreted from this moment forward. We can contribute to collective understanding by being in and sharing our experiences. If no one has ever been in our skin,  going through what we’re going through at this very moment, why would we trust anyone else to tell us what’s going on here?


In the more confusing times – where complexity creates a shroud over reliable understanding, it seems fair to seek counsel among the experts on the matter. May we remember that our own experience is always valid, even if it is at odds with existing norms. It’s not that anyone else has anything to offer us, but the second we put someone else’s interpretation above our own, we actually do a disservice to the tradition of astrology – your relationship to the truth adds new information into the collective pool of understanding and shapes the way in which we all view reality.


Artist credit: @sophiebass_illustration

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