Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Demystifying Myths & Misconceptions About Astrology

For many years, I was not interested in astrology at all. Sure, I would read the horoscope in the magazine I read here and there, but would not pay it any further attention. A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to another friend who had a passion for astrology. He made a couple of precise claims, past and future, about people he never met, and these turned out to be absolutely correct.

I was intrigued, because I knew there was nothing scientifical behind all this. However, facts are facts, and I could not deny that he had been correct on all his claims. Anyone claiming science cannot ignore observed facts, no matter how hard they contradict existing theories and beliefs. He would not talk about all subjects. He would never predict a love relationship would be successful or not. He would not discuss death events too.

Since then, I have spent some time trying to understand the underlying principles behind astrology. How did he manage to make correct claims out of birth dates, birth locations and birth times? How does it work? And why?

By that time, I had already performed a lot of personal development and introspection. I have always been sensitive to others and to my environment. Later, I found out my Neptune has three trines (Ascendant, Midheaven, Moon), one conjunction (Jupiter), one sextile (Venus) and no hard aspects. Those familiar with astrology won't surprised if I developed an interest in astrology.

This post is about sharing what I learned about astrology. It is about making a case for astrology and about demystifying myths and misconceptions.

Detractors

Let's start by summarizing and analyzing the most common criticism made by detractors of astrology:
  • People are victim of the Barnum (or Ferrer) effect! - For example, someone makes a general statement such as "You have a lot of love for others, but not for yourself". This could apply to many people, but if one has such a belief about themselves, then this statement validates their belief. If such people then validate astrology as a source of truth, then they have a confirmation bias because they don't take into account possible contradictory information. Some say it means they are also gullible and manipulable, probably because they are in need too.
  • People are victim of cold reading! - Cold reading is nothing more than a set of techniques used by manipulators to pretend they understand and know things about those who listen to them, which in fact they don't. It is about fishing information with suggestions and playing on people's psychology. In other words, astrologers are cold readers.
  • Astrology is not scientific! - Science is about proposing theories and validating them with repeatable experiences producing the same result. Underlying astrology principles cannot be scientifically tested, since it contains a subjective interpretation step. Hence, one cannot rely on astrology as a mean of reliable prediction for the future.
  • The sky is off by 10% since astrology was invented - In other words, astrology relies on something that has changed and that is still changing, something wobbly! Therefore, it is not reliable.
  • Astrology says I should not date Leos, I dated two Leos and it went fine! - Some people apply astrology in shallow ways, making broad statements about sign compatibilities. That is very incomplete, since your zodiac sign only reveals the position of the Sun. Many other planets come into play and have a lot of impact in relationships from an astrological point of view. Such people cannot be considered as astrologers.
  • How can you divide people into 12 categories of personalities? - I am Taurus and I know another Taurus who is nothing like me! - Again, there is much more to one's astrology profile than its zodiac sign.
  • The horoscopes I read in newspapers are never right! - Many newspapers publish an horoscope to increase sales (or more precisely to avoid loosing readers). Quite often, these horoscopes are not written by professionals or the corresponding paragraphs are just too small and generic to provide valid insight to readers. Astrology can be precise, but it would not be possible to publish a precise horoscope for each reader.
  • How can stars located billions of miles away can impact me? - In other words, since astrology does not rely on physical reality, it cannot be taken seriously.

Original Motivation Behind Astrology?

Carl Jung suggested that astrology was equivalent to the sum of psychological knowledge available in ancient times. Collective uncounscious projections of human archetypes (i.e., patterns of behavior, personalities) were made on star constellations. Since specific archetypes produce heterogeneous (i.e., non uniform) emotional and experiences outcomes, they could be distinguished from each other. These were used as symbolic representations.

The Freudian psychological projection is a mechanism by which people ascribe their own negative behavior to something located outside of themselves. If one can tell, "I have this type of behavior because I was born under this star", then it becomes easier to consider and acknowledge that negative behavior. One can blame their birth date and no do anything about it. One can start working on it. Whatever the reaction, the inner tension is lowered.

Astrology would used as a mean to model human behaviors and to learn about yourself while bypassing automatic human defense mechanisms preventing such introspection.

Answering Detractors

  1. Many people are victim of the Barnum or Ferrer effect, but that is not specific to astrology, or even its intention (astrology is not a free distribution of pats on the back). Those victims can be found in advertising, when dating Casanova's or in superficial socialite circles too. Some sales people do not hesitate to use these effects too. Those using astrology to validate their theories will always be disappointed sooner or later. It does not work. Those instrumentalizing astrology to produce Barnum or Ferrer effects are not astrologers in the first place.
  2. Anyone who dresses like a medieval astrologer or pretending to be one while practicing cold reading and other manipulative techniques is not an astrologer and has nothing to do with astrology. They are just plain manipulators.
  3. Some astrologers use astrology as a tool for prediction, but not all astrologers. Therefore, they are in competition with science itself. Astrological methods do not meet the rigorous criterias used in modern science to create knowledge and probably never will. Since astrology is obviously about symbolism and working on symbolism, it will never be able to compete against knowledge based on hard mesurable facts. However, astrology does provide insights about people's character, behaviors and motivations. It is a type of knowledge, which many find valuable and correct after experiencing it for themselves. It makes sense at a symbolic level for them.
  4. Just like human beings and humanity evolves, astroglogy evolves too. It does not matter if the sky is off by 10%, or if stars are located billions of miles away. Astrology is relying symbolism, before all.

Why Are People Interested In Astrology?

I tried to collect all the reasons I could find explaining why people get into astrology:
  • Group I - To get hope, to find reassurance, to reduce uncertainty about the future in order to establish trust, for predictions, to learn about their fate, to find reasons behind everything.
  • Group II - To get insights about situations in their life, to connect or reconnect with themselves, to learn about themselves and others, to influence their destiny, to create a future beyond what is predictible, to fulfil their potential.
Group I has a passive approach towards astrology in that they submit themselves to it. Astrology is a guidance. Group II is using astrology as a tool. It provides a set of suggestions and insights.

Conclusion

For me, if one says the position of the planets influence one's character, I can't agree. However, if one says the symbolic behind the positions of planets often influences one's character or possible outcomes, I can't deny it anymore. The more I learn about applying astrology properly, within reasonable limits and expectations, the more I get correct insights about situations and people. Just like my friend's friend.

Someone said: "People reject astrology because they don't understand it!". For sure, there is a lot of ignorance and judgments made out of the blue. Those who have not studied it properly are easy to identify. Let's hope this post helps demystify and remove misconceptions about what astrology is and is not!

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