That there is a strong divinatory element involved in an astrological consultation is, I believe, evident to most practicing astrologers. To better understand what I mean by "divinatory element" let me first give an example of the practice of divination in my own life.
The Divinatory Experience:
In my high school and college days I used the I Ching periodically. As one sits quietly, entering a quiet, centered state of mind, and separates out the sticks, there can arise a senese that one is enacting an ancient ritual, participating in the flow of life and that each one of us is simply a part of this great pulse of life. The practitioner of a divinatory art often feels an ancient wisdom revealing itself, as if one's hands were ancient Chinese hands and the words one reads are spoken from deep within your own being and some great sage like Lao Tze is speaking to you directly.
Hypothetical Scenario of the "Divinatory Element" in Astrological Consultation:
A similar experience often occurs in the astrological consultation. Let me give a hypothetical scenario of the "divinitory element" in an astrological consultation:
The astrologer studies the chart wheel and decides to start describing the Venus on the 7th house cusp square Neptune in the 4th house. The astrologer describes the strong needs for romantic partnerships and the idealism and fantasies that accompany this. To make the point very clear, the astrologer says "For nearly everyone finding the perfect romantic partner is a dream-come-true, a fantasy, so it might sound like I am describing something that is just universally true for everyone, but this tendency stands out so conspicuously in your chart that it could become the dominant theme in your life and overpower any other interests in your life". As the client remembers and ponders the way in which his life has been consumed by his romantic hopes and dreams and disappointments, the naked truth presented to him by the astrologer results in a tear rolling down the eye. The astrologer then digs deeper into other astrological details, such as the rulerships of houses, fixed stars, solstice points, asteroids, midpoint structures, decanates, minor aspects, and any number of other factors, more explicit details emerge.
At a certain point the astrologer may feel that the consultation, to some extent, has a life of its own, as the dialogue begins with the client and the communication becomes deeper and clearer, and the client begins to feel a fresh, new perspective and a sense of how he can better direct his energies and plan his life. At this point a profound depth of wisdom and appreciation can emerge in the awareness of both the astrologer and client. The astrologer has touched the soul of the client, and the client feels rejuvenated and can see patterns in his life more clearly. The sequence of events and the ensuing discussion at this point seem so perfect that it borders on the magical. The client knows in his heart that he can trust the astrologer and that the astrologer is sincere and has the hightest intentions and hopes for the client.
The Stuff of Astrological Divination:
After the consultation the astrologer may feel a deep peace, wisdom, and inner joy. One may even experience a heightened awareness, at which point one sees truth, value, and beauty in many different cultures, religions, myths, life styles, vocations, and human interests. In this heightened awareness waves of bliss or other transcendant sensations are not uncommon.
Interestingly, one can draw upon many resources and streams of knowledge to facilitate the magical experience. The astrologer, especially if trained in counseling techniques and psychology may: (A) sense that the client harbors unconscious material in the psyche which the client avoids expressing, (B) See that archetypal myths are being played out in the person's life, (C) Note that there are creative talents that are untapped because the person is occupied with meeting primary physical needs, (D) utilize wisdom from various religious traditions, or (E) establish rapport and trust with the client by employing good consulting skills. In other words, the astrologer may draw upon a wide range of knowledge and information and use the insights of Freud, Jung, Maslow, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or other religious, philosophical, or psychological systems. The astrologer may find that in one consultation insights from a Freudian perspective are helpful while in another consultation a Taoist or Christian perspective helps. Sometimes these different perspectives enter into the consultation very naturally, almost as if channeled rather than consciously selected by the astrologer.
In the heightened awareness, and even sacred awareness, that can develop during the divinatory experience the astrologer may also discover greater depth in his/her own philosophical and religious perspective and feel inspired to maintain the practices and life styles of the path that feels most personally natural, relevant, and inspiring, while also valuing and appreciating other philosophical and religious heritages.
Without the astrology chart, however, the astrologer is unable to perform this divination. Even minor details like the colors used in the chart wheel, the aesthetics of the chart layout, the specific aspects and orbs used all become improtant to the astrologer, just as a musician has a favorite instrument and an athlete has certain preferences for a particular tennis racket, baseball bat, or golf club. The various instruments and paraphenalia that accompany the performance of the musician, artist, athlete, and astrologer are crucial to the effectiveness and success of the performance.
The Less Glamorous and Less Enlightened Consultation Experience:
What I have described above may reflect the kind of experience that some astrologers experience most of the time and that other astrologers may not experience at all. The degree of magical awe, inspiration, and sacred communion between the astrologer and client is not the only measure of success nor is it necessarily the goal. Astrologers may sometimes simply try to chip away at resistances from the client to the client's own blocks or the astrologer may provide information in a flat, unemotional way, without any great aura of the sacred and profound surrounding the consultation experience, and yet this information and insight may be of equal value to that received in the magical, divinatory experience that may occur with other astrologers at certain times.
The Life-Deadening World of Objective Verification:
For the practicing astrologer who connects deeply with the client, and facilitates the growth and development of the client's life and awareness, objective validation of astrology with statistics may seem like a very silly exercise indeed. The cold, simple numbers with their harsh mechanical nature appears to be antithetical to the actual live experience of the astrological consulation. Stripped of the actual astrologer and client, the complete set of tools available to the practicing astrologer, and the magic of the moment. The statistician's approach appears to be an intrusion of the incompatible language of modern science on the sacred art of astrology.
What the Astrology Skeptics Fail to See and Why Astrology Will Never Die:
Astrology skeptics may scream and rant and rave about how the astrological consulation is replete with so many flaws in its assumptions that even the most well-intentioned astrologer, although not intentionally malicious, is only perpetuating a superstition.
What the skeptic fails to experience is the magic, the personal relevance, and the real help which clients experience from the consultation, and contrary to the belief of the skeptic, simply cannot be delivered by other means. One must proceed through the ritual of chart interpretation, or the I Ching or Tarot Card divination, or whatever divinatory art one chooses in order to obtain the results. Similarly, from a purely scientific viewpoint, given the limits of modern science, there is little reason for people to invest such vast amounts of energy into music, literature, and art, but we do because we have a soul and the soul years for soul-fulfilling experiences.
Astrology, like literature and art, enhances one's perspective and is edifying to the soul. Astrology inspires and directs people. This is the living experience of astrologers and their clients, and no amount of research that discredits astrology will destroy astrology. This is why astrology has persisted through the ages. People do not cling to astrology because they are superstitious, gullible, and stupid. They cling to astrology for the same reason they cling to literature, art, and music; they lift the soul.
In its own way, astrology works, even if "works" does not fit the modern scientific definition of "works". In the context of real people making real choices with the help of real astrologers, astrology does work in the same way that real music played by real musicians works effectively on the audience. The magic is in the experience itself, not in the quantification of the experience by scientists.
The Objective Side of Astrology: Does it Exist?
Although I have not taken a poll of astrologers, I believe that the vast majority of western astrologers would agree with the ideas presented above. There is a growing consensus among astrologers that the subjective and divinatory part of astrology is critically important.
What is more controversial and less clear is to what extent, if any, astrology also functions in an objective manner. At the ISAR 2005 Conference in Chicago, Illinois, 12 leading experts in astrological theory and philosophy shared their opinions on what the fundamental essence of astrology is in a panel entitled "What Is Astrology?". The overwhelming emphasis was on the subjective value of astrology. There is considerable variation in opinion as to what value astrology has as a tool that can be used objectively, but there is wide agreement on the value of the subjective value of astrology. Examples of objective validity are the ability of astrology to predict the weather, to predict earthquakes, to discriminate different talents or vocational aptitudes based on the birth chart, or to predict the stock market. The utlimate objective validity is the ability to correlate astrological variables with measurable phenomena based on an astrological formula that is unambiguous and therefore, for example, could be computerized or duplicated in some other way with minimal variation.
Thus far, the greatest success in objective validation of astrology is the Gauquelin studies, which indicate an astrological significance to the diurnal placement of some planets that is so subtle that it requiers large sample sizes to replicate and an experimental group of exceptional people that is difficult to obtain data for. Consequently, the Gauquelin research is difficult to replicate, and the ability to replicate studies is the gold standard of astrology.
All the cards seem to held by the believers in astrology as a subjective art. The failure thus far to validate astrology and the growing belief among astrologers that astrology is primarily a divinatory or subjective art appears to be the wave of the future. An article by Bernadette Brady, "The Newtonian Merry-go-round" at www.geocosmic.org beautifully documents this transition in astrological thinking and the current momentum to focus astrological research along more qualitative lines rather than quantitative lines.
The Objective Side of Astrology: The Way of the Future?
Given what I have said above, the reader may be surprised by my own view that objective astrology will be revived in the latter half of the 21st century, and will supercede the current empahsis on astrology as a subjective art! The fact that astrology functions as a divinatory art does not exclude the possibility that astrology can also function within a simple, Newtonian frarework as well! The response of many astrologers to such a statement is likely to be that the huge amount of research done so far in astrology has shown that simple objective validation of astrology is extremely unlikely. However, the extremely simplistic analytical methods of modern day astrologers and the use of ineffective models for validating astrology are the culprits and the problem lies not in astrology but in the methods of astrologers.
When assumptionless research is conducted to reveal what astrological patterns exist in a group of charts and this information is used as a basis for research, the results can be positive. Also, basing research on the traditional Ptolemaic aspects, zodiac signs, and houses, in my opinion, misses the most fundamental and important astrological influences. In other articles in this section of this website are articles on two pilot research studies that I have conducted in the past few years, both of which produced positive results. I propose that the designs and concepts used in these studies can be used as a basis for validating astrology. However, the research has not yet been conducted so my proposal will have to await the test of time to see if these methods can validate astrology objectively.
Formal research invariably has its humble beginnings in anecdotal observations. In demonstrations of the methods used in these two pilot studies in one-day seminars, attendees invariably are very impressed with the anecdotal evidence of the astrological techniques used in these pilot studies. Contrary to popular opinion, I beileve the future is bright for the objective validation of astrology in the future. For more information, see the articles on this website regarding these pilot studies and also read the books "Astrology for the 21st Century" and "AstroLocality Magic" in which I describe the astrological techniques that are used in these research studies and that can be used in other research studies to advance the science of astrology.
THREADS IN COSMIC TAPESTRY:
The resistance of some astrologers to acknowledging that astrological variables far exceed our current knowledge, and that we must grow beyond the limits of our current astrological models, is the primary reason why astrology has failed to advance beyond the anecdotal stage to a science of objectively validated theories.
When the astrologer, as in the hypothetical scenario described above, describes the Venus square Neptune aspect pinpoints critically important issues for the person, the astrologer has achieved this because, I believe, astrology does have objective validity, and one can describe factors in the astrological factor with some success. The complex network of astrological patterns in the birthchart however, can change the precise meaning of the Venus square Neptune aspect according to the context in which this aspect is embedded. What I am proposing here is NOT idle philosophical speculation. I propose this based on 7 years of intensive counseling experience with clients, followed by empirical research.
The future development of astrology requires us to follow these threads in the cosmic tapestry back to the entire tapestry, and to advance our knowledge and understanding to the point where we better understand how to use the seemingly endless number of astrological variables that astrologers employ, some of which I mentioned above, such as minor aspects, asteroids, fixed stars, midpoints, etc.
After thousands of years of astrological practice, important threads in a cosmic tapestry have been identified. The software tools developed in the late 20th century and continuing to be developed in the 21st century enable astrologers to transform astrological theory from a a tangled web of threads into a coherent understanding of the cosmic tapestry which astrological influences create. The tapestry is extra-ordinarily complex and wondrous.
Astrology is a cutting edge technology that seeks to unravel a truth buried in a confused tangle of astrological theories. The unraveling process is proceeding quietly by dedicated astrologers who still believe in a science of astrology, although some astrologers, as well astrological skeptics, may doubt that the unraveling process is little more than a reassembling of the confused knot of threads that have been strewn about by astrologers for thousands of years into yet another confused tangle!
My view is that our tangle of astrological theories are threads in a cosmic tapestry; our theories are valuable links to a mysterious interconnected tapestry of astrological influences that modern technological sophistication and research is revealing and objectively validating. This process is carrying astrology across the bridge from the ocean of anecdotal evidence to a useful body of knowledge with validation from reseach studies that will enable astrology to flourish and become a useful and helpful tool for humanity.