Astrology is a Conundrum
Practitioners of astrology believe that they can see a person's motivations, interests, potential problems, and direction in life, but to date there is no research that indisputably supports the claims of astrologers. Astrologers as well as skeptics of astrology have written volumes on this paradox, and both astrologers and skeptics have developed a large number of theories, explanations, and models to explain why astrologers believe that their methods work and yet thus far these methods have not been scientifically validated.
Another Puzzle: Edgar Cayce, Sri Yukteswar and Others Endorse Astrology
Edgar Cayce's method of providing psychic or channeled information is unusual: he was asleep, did not know what he was saying, and was often very surprised by what he had said when he woke and was told what he had said in his sleep. Cayce, a Christian who read the Bible regularly, was very surprised by his readings on astrology. An argument that Cayce faked his readings is very difficult to justify, given the evidence regarding his integrity and life. If we assume that his readings are genuine, then from where did he get this information? The only choices seem to be access to some though, intelligence, being, or memory that most people cannot access in the way that Cayce did. This intelligence appears to be very well-developed, and some people might assume even of a higher order than most humans, and this appears to further give credence to the validity of astrology.
Let us assume for the moment that Edgar Cayce did channel information from a very intelligent being, one who in fact is able to see and understand many things that the vast majority of humans cannot see or understand. Let's further assume that those saints, sages, and gurus who profess a belief in astrology also are gifted with some kind of higher consciousness.
The case of Sri Yukteswar is a good case in point; his disciple Paramahansa Yogananda documented many of his life experiences, including various transcendantal experiences and the course of his spiritual progress in his popular book Autobiorgraphy of a Yogi. Sri Yukteswar strongly believed in the validity of astrology. Even if one takes the skeptical position that Sri Yukteswar may very well have been a kindly and benevolent man but was by no means enlightened, one must still account for the information from Edgar Cayce. Also, a problem with discounting persons like Sri Yukteswar is that one is forced to regard many of his stories as pure fabrication and persons such s Sri Yukteswar do not leave the impession that they are insincere and capable of such gross lies.
Information Obtained During Heightened States of Awareness
In informal talks with many people and sometimes in astrological consultations, many people have reported experiences such as seeing deceased relatives, and feelings during meditation such as great joy or bliss, deep contentment, burning hands, a feeling of having great healing power. Ordinary people can at times experience unusual or heightened feelings and states of consciousness. It is normal to have varying moods from anger or jealousy to compassion, joy, and love. When positive feelings reach great intensity, one can become religiously motivated, as one ponders the possibility that great saints may have experienced similar feelings constantly and perhaps of even greater intensity.
Clairvoyant experiences of seeing auras or having other extrasensory experiences often, but not necessarily, occur during heightened emotional states. Perception and awareness do seem to be altered during heightened emotional states. Interestingly, many people have reported to me feeling greater clarity and objectivity at such times, rather than finding the heightened emotional state detaching or removing them from awareness of concrete details.
Does Enlightenment Also Grant One Knowledge?
People who feel motivated to raise their emotional state and identifying themselves more closely with those people whom they have identified as having entered a higher state of consciousness, are likely to attend religious services of some kind, or engage in some kind of spiritual practice or study of religious or spiritual literature. Arguably such people comprise the great majority of people in the world! No amount of science, rationalism, and logic seems to be able to dissuade people from attending temples, mosques, synagogues, churches, spiritual and religious retrests, or believing in Jesus, Mary, a guru, saint, or other enlightened being or religous literature. One big reason for this is, I believe, quite simple: most people strive for these inspired feelings and the awareness of a great spiritual dimension in their lives just as plants grow towards the light, and just as we seek food, shelter, knowledge, and beauty.
Does the pursuit of spiritual and religious vision, awareness, and feelings also bestow information on specific concrete facts? Could one pass the algebra exam or chemistry exam by developing greater spiritual awareness? At least in most cases, the answer appears to be "no", although heightened spiritual or religious perspective can help give greater meaning, clarity, and sincerity, and enable one to concentrate, focus, and direct one's energies more effectively.
Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, on the other hand, had few books and resources in mathematics, but made profound contributions in mathematics, and he attributed much of his progress to his devotion to a particular deity. One cannot discount the possibility that attunement to a particular religious or spiritual path could facilitate one's growth in a particular area. In general, though, we find that those persons who appear to have achieved more permanant states of love, compassion, and peace are not suddently also bestowed with knowledge of mathematics, mechanics, sciences, or talent in the arts. As stated above, depth and presence of mind facilitate enhance one's ability to succeed and one cannot discount the possibility of assistance, such as, for example, Ramanugan may have received.
In fact, some persons claiming to have achieved states of enlightenment express very clearly their deep appreciation of the arts and their respect for science. Once in the 1970's I was asked by a guru whether a temple should be built in a particular place. This guru placed greater faith in my ability as an astrologer to ascertain these facts than I did. An even more instructive example of the relationship of enlightenment to specific knowledge is Paramahansa Yogananda's reference to Luther Burbank as a saint in the book Autobiography of a Yogi. Burbank was, by all accounts, a kind man dedicated to his work. Burbank was largely self-taught and his research was practical: he developed hundreds of new varieties of plants, some of which have made the production of adequate food easier. Burbank reported a great feeling of satisfaction in being able to work with nature. In his later life, Burbank expressed concern about religious objections to the theory of evolution. Burbank believed in the importance of science.
Yogananda's description of Burbank is loftier than any other that I can find; Yogananda is impressed with the simple home of Burbank, a man devoted to knowledge rather than acquisition of wealth and possessions. Yogananda is thrilled with Burbank's work and life, and refers to Burbank as an American saint. Other biographies that I read of Burbank do not refer to him as saintly, but simply as kind.
In heightened states of awareness where we feel great love and enthusiasm, life is precious. Like the birth of a child, we feel that life is miraculous and very dear. We appreciate the goodness and sincerity in others immensely. We are not defensive or self-absorbed and we can delight in the gifts of others. Yogananda exhibited these characteristics in his appraissal of Burbank's life and work.
Yogananda perhaps would have been dismayed by the following events in the years just before Burbank's death:
Until 1926, Burbank had preferred not to publicize his freethought views broadly, devoting his energies to the Burbank's Experiment Farms in Santa Rosa, California. But two events caused him finally to go public with his opinions of religion.
The first was the famous Scopes trial of 1925, the "monkey trial" that thrust evolution into the national spotlight. The fact that a high school teacher had been put on trial for teaching the "heresy" of Darwinism (which Burbank had been teaching, and practicing, for many years) "aroused him to a conviction that he ought to speak out, without mincing words, and declare for truth," according to biographer Wilbur Hall (The Harvest Of The Years, by Luther Burbank, with Wilbur Hall, 1927, Houghton Mifflin).
The second event was his friend Henry Ford's newly publicized views in favor of reincarnation. Edgar Waite, a reporter for the San Francisco Bulletin, interviewed Burbank about his reaction to Ford's ideas and wrote a front-page story appearing on January 22, 1926, with the headline: "I'm an Infidel, Declares Burbank, Casting Doubt on Soul Immortality Theory."
In the article, which was reprinted around the world, Burbank expressed his doubts about an afterlife: "A theory of personal resurrection or reincarnation of the individual is untenable when we but pause to consider the magnitude of the idea.
"On the contrary, I must believe that rather than the survival of all, we must look for survival only in the spirit of the good we have done in passing through. This is as feasible and credible as Henry Ford's own practice of discarding the old models of his automobile.
"Once obsolete, an automobile is thrown to the scrap heap. Once here and gone, the human life has likewise served its purpose. If it has been a good life, it has been sufficient. There is no need for another."
"But as a scientist," Burbank continued, "I can not help feeling that all religions are on a tottering foundation. None is perfect or inspired."
"The idea that a good God would send people to a burning hell is utterly damnable to me. I don't want to have anything to do with such a God."
But the phrase that caused the most consternation among believers was, "I am an infidel today.
"I do not believe what has been served to me to believe. I am a doubter, a questioner, a skeptic. When it can be proved to me that there is immortality, that there is resurrection beyond the gates of death, then will I believe. Until then, no."
by Dan Barker
Yogananda devoted his life to finding God, and was a firm believer in the immortality of the soul. Without meditation as a means to attain greater awareness and attunement to the Divine, "hither thither wanderest thou", as one of the chants in Yogananda's book of chants states. Would Yogananda be disappointed that this saint had fallen to such doubt and skepticism? We do not know, but perhaps not. Yogananda appears to appreciate doubt and skepticism when they simply reflect honesty and sincerity.
In Autobiography of a Yogi Yogananda reports that upon finding Sri Yukteswar sitting perfectly still in deep meditation, he pokes Sri Yukteswar and places a glass under his nose to see if evidence of breathing will be shown on the glass. The glass does not cloud, indicating that Yukteswar is, in fact, in a breathless state of deep meditation. Imagine the extraordinary temerity to poke and test someone meditating so deeply, and especially a person regarded as a holy person! Yogananda seems to be not only audacioius but disrespectful. Honest and sincere pursuit of truth cannot always be polite. Through honesty and sincere effort one can reach the next rung of the ladder, and Burbank' being a self-proclaimed infidel is his honest assessment based on his experiences and knowledge.
When Sri Yukteswar first mentioned astrology to Yogananda, Yogananda replied that he did not believe in astrology. The path to self-realization according to Yogananda appears to not be so much a matter of agreeing or disagreeing with a certain set of beliefs as much as it is in honestly and sincerely pursuing what is good and enlightening.
I conclude from the above discussion that enlightenment does not provide infallible concrete knowledge of technical details. Therefore, if enlightened masters believe that astrology is valid, this is not convincing evidence that astrology is, in fact, valid. Some astrologes cite enlightened beings as the source for astrological information. Even if these beings are enlightened, they may not have a clear understanding of astrology or any other subject. The belief in enlightened sources of astrological information is not only common in Vedic astrology, but Robert Zoller, for example, in his books The Arabic Parts: Lost Key To Prediction emphasizes the importance of returning astrology to its original spiritual roots and the importance of spiritual awareness for a clear and comprehensive understanding astrology.
If enlightenment does not bestow knowledge, then why pursue enlghtenment? People pursue enlightenment, in my opinion, because it is a natural impulse of the soul to seek spiritual fulfillment. In fact, some people feel empty, as if something fundamental is missing, when they are not actively involved in spiritually uplifiting activities. One can even feel as if one is finally at peace, finally at home, as if one has returned to a place that one had previously left, when one enters an elevated emotional state after being immersed in less inspiring activities.
The pursuit of inspiration is fundamental to being a human being. For someone to wonder why a human needs to follow inspiration and vision is an indication of how far we have immersed ourselves in a shallow existence.
The story of Yogananda and Luther Burbank is also instructive because it demonstrates the importance of following our dreams and the importance of pursuing knowledge. If one believes that enlightenment bestows everything that one needs, then the pursuit of science or nearly anything can seem trivial and unimportant. However, immersion in the pursuit of knowledge, the creation of beauty, service, or any other worthwhile endeavor is a cornerstone of a fulfilling and meaningful life, and is vitally important, so much so that Yogananda, a person dedicated to finding enlightenment and spreading information on its importance, views Burbank's life as a saintly one.
The pursuit of enlightenment is important not because it bestows knowledge of technical details, but because it imbues our lives with greater meaning, contentment, and joy.
For scientists like Kepler, Newton, and Einstein, the pursuit of science was a way to unlock the secrets of nature, and in unlocking these secrets, one comes into awareness of a great and awesome mystery. There is a mystical or other-worldly quality to the interests of these 3 very different scientific giants. Newton, often viewed as the founder of a mechanistic view of the universe, was, in fact, devoted to the study of the Bible. Very often the greatest scientists exemplify the importance of seeking meaningfulness through their pursuits. The pursuit of science is not based primarily on a desire for better employment or social stature, but rather by the subject itself which is its own reward. When our lives are dedicated to knowledge, service, or beauty, our souls are nourished as we grow in our pursuits, and we are following a path of enlightenment as well as advancing in our skills. From this perspective we can see why Yogananda referred to Burbank as a saint.
Is Astrology Valid?
We still do not know. Each of us has our own opinions. My opinion is that astrology is valid, but right now any opinion is justifiable.
What we do know is that we can pursue our spiritual and religious paths whether astrology is valid or not. Jesus evidently did not talk about astrology. The Bible, however, does have a few conspicuous astrological allusions, such as, for example, the reference to the calf, lion, eagle, and man in Revelation, the 4 fixed zodiac signs that guard the Lord. I propose that these astrological allusions do not validate or invalidate astrology nor do they validate or invalidate the Bible. Similarly, Sri Yukteswar's beliefs regarding astrology do not indicate whether he was enlightened or what state of consciounsness he had attained. Also, Edgar Cayce may well have channeled informatin from enlightened masters and enlightened masters may ver well exist, but astrology may still not be valid. These statements may seem like contradictions but, as pointed out above, my assumption at this point is that enlightenment, if we assume it exists at all, does not confer knowledge of specific technical details and this includes astrology as well.
If not Enlightenment, then From Whence Cometh Astrology?
Another perplexing fact about astrology is that the subject is extraordinarily complex. For example, the rules used in Vedic astrology just to calculate planetary strength are extraordinarily long and complex. The number of yogas and other rules in Vedic astrology are also extraordinarily large. Vedic astrology is but one school of astrology and we find complex rules throughout western literature as well. Who dreamed up all of these rules and why? The idea that an enlightened person simply wrote down the rules provides a seemingly reasonable answer. Another answer is that the rules developed through a long lineage of astrologers who studied and analyzed charts, combined with a knowledge of mathematics and other subjects. Note, for example, al Biruni, ca 1000 AD, was one of the greatest thinkers of the time, with mastery of many sciences and languages. Prior to the 1800's little experimentation was done in the pursuit of knowledge.
Mathematics was very well developed, with an understanding of the solutions of right triangles, bionomial equations, and other problems dating as far back as Babylonian times. Contests in the Middle Ages among mathematicians demonstrated their extraordinary knowledge and competency, such as, for example, the capabilities of Fibonacci and his contemporaries. In a world of highly developed mathematics and little interest in empirical research, intellectuals developed sophisticated and intricate systems that related the cosmos to our lives. The rules of astrology developed and grew as astrologers applied their theories to the astrology charts and as mathematical measurements and analysis developed.
The development of coordinate systems, the ability to measure time by the right ascension of the Midheaven, the ability to calculate house cusps, the times of eclipses, and other astronomical phenomena is a testament to the successes of these great thinkers. Whether astrology is valid or in what ways astrology is valid is still a mystery and at the current time both astrologers and skeptics have developed many theories.
Do Not Dismiss Data and Information
Observations that cannot be easily duplicated an studied in a controlled environment are not meaningless observations. Research into reports of after-life experiences and communication with deceased people are so commonplace and prevalent that they cannot be easily dismissed. Some hardened skeptics maintain their views partially by steadfastly refusing to acknowledge data and information that contradicts their paradigm. Ironically, this viewpoint is often justified in the name of science, and yet it is very unscientific to simply discard data and information that does not fit into one's theories. Science requires honesty and integrity (the great American physicist Richar Feinman emphasized this) and it requires us to try to find theories and paradigms which can explain and integrate all of the data and information that we have.
Channeled information from people like Alice Bailey may, in fact, be quite similar to the inspirations of fiction writers, poets, composers, and artists. Creative people often create little "worlds" that we enter, whether that world is a sci fi adventure filled with various life forms and extra terrestrials or a new perspective and vision in art.
One can develop a theory that enlightenment experiences are the result of certain biochemical reactions. However, the information from people like Edgar Cayce is more difficult to dismiss or to explain without accepting the reality of communication from intelligent beings that are not physically embodied, and that, in fact, these beings can ensure helpful and illuminating information with us.
In this article I have attempted to present a conceptual framework that incorporates this information, and also treats the wisdom from ancient cultures with respect and appreciation, while at the same time can integrate this information with the state of current knowledge, in particular with astrological knowledge. The "bottom line" conclusion is that enlightened consciousness and also the capability of individuals like Edgar Cayce to receive information from beings with a more enlightened consciousness, is important and relevant and cannot be dismissed as unimportant, but, at the same time, does not indicate that information regarding astrology from these sources is necessarily accurate or valid.
The Transformation of Astrology or the Final Nail in its Coffin
In my own work in astrology, I have been focusing on software development, and in recent years the perfection of analystical and research tools that will further test the validity of astrology. Continued research is vitally important so we can determine what objective validity, if any, astrology has. If astrology is found to have objective validity, then a scientific breakthrough will be made. If astrology is found to lack objective validity, then astrology will join tarot and the I Ching as a form of divination at best. In either case, progress will be made. The answer does not lie in the knowledge and wisdom of enlightened masters. Instead, I rather think they may regard as saints if we can sort out what objective validity, if any, astrology has! We are approaching the time when astrology will be transformed or astrology will go the wa of alchemy and phrenology and finally be put to rest as a discipline with the ability to provide objective information.
Regardless of what fate astrology faces, the results will have little effect on the concept of enlightened awareness except perhaps to indicate to what extent enlightened awareness provides knowledge of specific facts. My own view at this time is that the pursuit of enlightenment is essential, but not directly for obtaining a clearer understanding of facts or technical details.