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|Astrology, Reality & Common Sense
by Sirman A. Celâyir
Ed. N.: Sirman Celâyir is the author of an astronomical-astrological software, 'AsterPro', and has written several articles in AMERICAN ASTROLOGY at the beginning of the 90s. An amount of interesting material, including his shareware, can be found at his website.
1st part: Astrology and Common Sense
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS PREPARED IN APRIL 1989 AND INSPIRED PRIMARILY BY THE CONTENTS OF THE WINTER 88/89 ISSUE OF THE NCGR JOURNAL. WE ASK THAT YOU READ THE ARTICLE WITH AN OPEN MIND AND IN FAIRNESS. ALTHOUGH THE PRESENTATION IS CRITICAL, THE VIEWS OFFERED HERE ARE INTENDED AS FOOD FOR THOUGHT FOR ALL ASTROLOGERS. A COPY OF THE ENTIRE ARTICLE WAS MAILED TO NCGR FOR PUBLICATION. THERE WAS NO RESPONSE FROM NCGR, EITHER BECAUSE THE CONTENTS ARE CONTROVERSIAL AND/OR THE ARTICLE WAS FOUND TO BE IN EXCESS OF WHAT IS GENERALLY ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION. HOWEVER, IF ASTROLOGY IS TO GROW IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, THE ISSUES RAISED HERE NEED TO BE DEBATED ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.
A progress report on astrology today, in the USA of the 1980s, must conclude with the following two bottom line statements:
TO THIS DATE, THERE IS NO ASTROLOGICAL STUDY THAT CAN SHOW TO AN OBJECTIVE AUDIENCE THE INGREDIENTS IN A PARTICULAR BIRTH CHART WHICH IDENTIFY THE PERSON. FOR EXAMPLE, ASTROLOGY HAS NOT IDENTIFIED ANYTHING DEFINITIVE IN PICASSO'S CHART WHICH COMPELLED HIM TO BECOME THE GREAT ARTIST HE WAS, NOR THAT SUCH AN INGREDIENT IS COMMON IN THE CHARTS OF OTHER ARTISTS OF WORLD ACCLAIM. THIS "COMMON IDENTIFIER" TEST IS MOST BASIC, YET ASTROLOGY CANNOT PINPOINT AN IDENTIFIER FOR PICASSO, EINSTEIN, MOHAMMED ALI, DONALD TRUMP...
The questions raised are, of course, not meant to question the viability of astrology. They are offered as impetus toward a periodic self-examination that should be a mandatory part of progressive astrology. Granted, astrology is too elusive and complex to be tested on the spot. However, even when all tools (eg, sample data and astrological software) are readily available and no time constraints are set, astrology is still not able to provide the type of evidence, pattern, and proof which specialists in other fields present at technical conferences; nor the type of meticulous derivation and empirical support which appear in technical journals. Aside from the substantive theoretical contributions by Dr. Ebertin, and the viable but inconclusive empirical studies by Gauquelins, no current theory or application in astrology deserves the qualifications "Defensible & Credible" by standards adhered to in other sciences. While astrology has its base in astronomy and physics (the majority of the formulas used by astrologers have been derived by astronomers), astrological applications do not reflect the level of science and empirical support found even in quasi-empirical field studies such as poll taking and advertisement. It is going to be some time before astrology can knock on the doors of the National Science Foundation for funding. Imagine the colossal sociological ramifications if astrologers were able to develop credible evidence of planetary influences on humans and submit and successfully defend these findings to independent scrutiny. Unfortunately, in spite of all the hoopla, the neo-astrology of the 1980s may be even further from that realization than the more traditional astrology of the 1960s.
A macro overview of the world of astrology, and a micro scrutiny of hypotheses postulated in the name of astrology may shed some light on the direction astrology has taken especially in the last decade. At the macro level, this society's desire for instant gratification and preference for individual success rather than a longer-term collective sense of mission (eg, USA versus Japan) may be part of the cause. The approach taken has been free-for-all anything goes marketing and self-promoting schemes. What is needed is a collective effort supervised by an authoritative body leading to a better understanding and advancement of astrology. Without such corporate dedication, long term research, and scrutiny of work, astrology's ability to distinguish Einstein from Picasso will continue to be from glancing at their photos.
The variables (eg, quest for excellence) which predicated the establishment of professional societies and associations in the various fields also exist in astrology. These societies and associations test, debate, decide, establish, prescribe, and set factual guidelines, principles, standards and norms in their respective fields. Their foundation is solid. Each new layer of norms and guidelines are arrived at after stringent testing. This makes for true progress. This is not the current trend in astrology. With the convenience brought about by computers, the criteria followed seems to be "if it can be programmed and sold, it is viable astrology." Work which does not incorporate these "magical" formulas is considered by followers as outdated. The fact that the majority of these new solutions are not yet proven; that they may be indeed clutter, does not appear to matter. Crystal balls are not toys. They influence a number of impressionable people. Some of these crystal balls claim to be financial investment models. Others prescribe one's habitat, address, direction from home toward the school one's children should attend, the traffic route one should select going to work. ("Please not in the direction of your Mars conjunct Saturn conjunct Pluto line!" If a traveling salesman with this configuration in his chart should take such advice seriously, he would need to spend hours every morning figuring out his safe routes and detours, or quit his job, or give up astrology. The quoted line pertains to an article by Steve Blake about the use of Local Space technique. Specific comments will be presented later in this article.)
Traditionally the American Federation of Astrologers (AFA), has attempted to set the guidelines and standards for astrologers. Since the symbiosis between computers and astrology, however, the AFA has assumed a more passive role, partially because there are other national organizations, (eg, NCGR and ISAR) with overlapping responsibilities, and perhaps also due to the overwhelming number of complex astrology modules on the market. As Richard Cohen stated in his article, "The Credentialing of America", (The Washington Post Magazine, Dec 4, 1988), "The foggier the enterprise, the more you need someone with credentials." In spite of the caution implied in Mr. Cohen's article, until recently, "credentialing" of astrologers was a way to insure that astrology and astrologers would adhere to norms of credibility, however loosely defined in practice. Astrology credentials at various levels are granted by the AFA. Qualifying examinations are based upon the traditional tools and concepts. AFA continues to administer these exams. However, credentials no longer insure credibility. The current trend is whatever sells is good astrology. In addition, an alarming number of novices are automatically becoming practicing astrologers by purchasing someone else's software. If part of the methodology and/or astrology in the software is questionable, it follows that the questionable advice derived from it is propagated. Perhaps it is very fortunate for astrology that society does not take it seriously. Imagine a malpractice suit against the astrologer of a young divorcee: "Your Honor, after my divorce I wanted a change of environment. I considered Texas and California and went to Mr. XYZ for his advice. He looked at my Radix chart, analyzed my Transit and Progressed charts, and finally prepared a Local-Space chart and told me that my Moon line runs to the west of south, that the gestalt of my planets looked perfect in San Diego. I left for San Diego and lived there for three months and nothing went right. My doctor tells me also that I am allergic to Sun and sea breeze..."
The overview presented above may be a basis for the public's skepticism. It is also reflective of the age-old frustration of astrologers who have not yet been able to prepare an image which pinpoints its native. It is necessary to understand that:
1) the trends and patterns observed in the chart of a particular individual are about as elusive and complex as the molecular DNA structure of that individual. Analysis of the patterns of birth potentials will be as arduous as it is for molecular biologists deciphering the DNA. Anyone who does not comprehend this difficulty, does not understand astrology. If people insist on having quick and magical answers to complicated questions and situations, there will be a demand driven progress in astrology in terms of neat formulas concocted overnight. It is as simple and as basic as the Law of Demand and Supply.
2) Astrological patterns and configurations do not lend themselves to convenient or universal formulas of the type E = m.c2. Even under most ideal circumstances, progress will be made in terms of tendencies, trends, likelihoods, and patterns. The only way of developing such pictures is by empirical studies where the premise of the study and raw data involved in the study and the model are scrutinized meticulously by independent and capable analysts who have a command of both astrology and analytical tools.
Parts of the traditional astrology have passed this scrutiny with loose but adequate patterns of the type Sun in Cancer. Aside from the works of Dr. Ebertin, nothing in neo-astrology yet has been put to such a credibility test. One wonders how long astrology can afford to allow all proposals to become accepted truths by default (efforts are not being made to test or disprove the proposals) without losing credibility.
3) there are non-astrological factors (eg, environment, upbringing, hereditary inputs) which confuse and contradict astrological patterns and that THE TOTALITY OF THESE INPUTS (AND NOT ONLY THE ASTROLOGICAL ONES) COMPRISE THE INDIVIDUAL. This is why twins and babies born at the same time and location display different characteristics as adults.
Let us now reevaluate some of the specific variables, methodology, and tools of astrology.
II. FUNDAMENTAL INPUTS
1. Time of Birth
The Time of Birth is the most important input to an Ascendant-based Natal Chart. It is the primary determinant of the house cusps and the positions of the faster moving planets. Yet it is sometimes a most "taken for granted" variable. A large number of people born as late as 1900s do not know their time of birth accurately. There are those who supposedly do know, as recorded on a birth certificate. However, we cannot assume that there is a universal recording procedure adhered to by all hospitals, nurses, and midwives. Nor can we assume that the clocks used are synchronized and exact, particularly earlier clocks. The point being made is that an 8:13 am birth time recorded on a certificate may not be exact. Wishful thinking or a pragmatic dismissal does not negate the likelihood of a potential error of at least a few minutes.
2. Clock time versus Ephemeris Time
Clock Time + Adj = Ephemeris Time (UT + DT = ET). Another source of error is in the connection between the Clock Time (UT) used by astrologers and the relatively constant Ephemeris Time (ET) which is used by astrophysicists and reflected in astrology software and ephemerides. The planetary positions shown in an ephemeris or computed in a software may indeed be accurate within a few seconds, but this is true at best for a given ephemeris time, not necessarily for clock time.
Most astrologers either use a software or refer to an ephemeris to prepare a chart. Either way, the clock time (UT) is first converted to ephemeris time (ET); then, the ascendant, house cusps, and planetary positions are determined. The term ET may not be as familiar as the sidereal time which is derived from ET. The distinction between UT and ET is significant to astrologers. The UT and ET differ by an adjustment factor DT due to irregularities in Earth's motion that are still not well understood. That is, there is no exact formula for DT. The computed approximate values of DT are adjusted by actual observations. Scientists admit that as one goes back in history the error in the computed values of DT compounds in growing increments; that indeed it may reach +/-2 hours for year 4000 BC.
3. Moon and Pluto
The accuracy of the planetary positions reflected in astrology software is directly dependent on the best and most recent data available from US Government sources. Except for Moon and Pluto, data for the Sun and the other planets is accurate on microcomputers to within about +/-10 seconds for the years of approximately 1800 to 2050; within minutes for a larger span of past and future years. (A higher degree of accuracy is feasible on main frame computers.) Moon and Pluto are special cases. It takes hundreds of equations containing 100,000 parameters for perturbation terms to determine Moon's position accurate to within seconds, but only for a short span of years (eg, 1800-2050 AD). A brand new set of parameters are needed for each span of years. In short, data and formulas that would place the Moon accurate to within seconds for all past and future years either do not exist or they would not be useful on microcomputers.
Pluto, the planet of history, era, and evolution, is even more complicated. Pluto moves very slowly between signs and it does so on a complex path. Its orbit is highly elliptic and is influenced by perturbations from other planets (eg, Neptune). This is the reason why until very recent times Pluto was not included in the Deutsche Ephemeride. Pluto's position can be computed to a reasonable accuracy for a short span of recent dates (eg, 1800-2050 AD). For more accurate work its computed position is periodically adjusted by actual observations. Since Pluto was discovered in the 1930s, such observations cannot be made for dates previous to that. The most recent data for Pluto feasible for microcomputer work is accurate to about 30 seconds for year 1800 AD; within 15 seconds in year 2050 AD. (These facts and observations may be confirmed through the Nautical Almanac Office of the US Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.)
4. Synthesis and Suggestions
a) Errors in Time of Birth, DT, and in the positions of the Moon and Pluto collectively can distort, in borderline cases, individual charts and also patterns in sample studies. For example, in searching for artistic patterns in a sample of 100 famous artists, these distortions can wreak havoc on the entire effort by either adding significance to a pattern that is otherwise insignificant, or by not showing support for a pattern that is significant. The inescapable conclusion that follows is that the older the birth dates used the more significant the distortions. For example, a number of astrological studies utilize samples of people and events from historical times. There are birth charts for the USA, charts for historical figures such as Nero, and charts for relatively more recently born individuals such as Dane Rudhyar (astrologer/philosopher, France, 1895 at 12:42 pm). Given the practical difficulty with the accurate recording of time in time-conscious USA in the 20th Century, how reliable can the recorded time be for historical personalities or events? It does not serve any astrological purpose to analyze dates much earlier than 11/18/1883 12 noon when the time zones were established in the USA; when the recorded times were reasonably accurate; astronomical distortions minimal. Otherwise, the planets may be "juggled" and results displayed in colorful tables; however, one would never be certain of their validity.
b) Some of the "I can do all" astrologers may feel that the precise time can be determined through "rectification" based upon an important first-time event later in person's life. There are studies which begin with a recorded time rectified to an exact number for seconds--presumably the moment the cord was cut, or the baby announced his\her arrival with the first healthy scream, or... These persons should also consider the fact that the rectified time so derived seldom, if ever, agrees with a second rectified time based upon another important first-time event. Unless a rectified time is confirmed by a second event or another method, it cannot be taken as accurate.
c) A number of developments in astrology, notably the dozen or so house systems, may have been predicated on the wrong premise. For example, if Mr. Koch did not obtain a satisfactory picture of his chart using the Placidus houses, and felt compelled to derive the supposedly better Koch system, the problem may have been not the Placidus system, rather the aforementioned distortions and large gaps in the understanding and interpretation of astrological patterns. Mr. Campanus, Mr. Regiomontanus, Mr. Morinos, and several others were all, in turn, dissatisfied with the other systems and derived their own. It is obvious that these house systems do not complement each other. If the Placidus houses are correct, then the Koch, Campanus, and others cannot be correct; if the Tropical zodiac is correct, then the half dozen Sidereal zodiacs are no more than mathematical derivations, and vice versa.
d) Some of the neo-astrology models include nonexisting planets, asteroids, and other hypothetical bodies in astrological analyses. Presumably the user can then attribute and assign to these bodies influences which the traditional interpretations do not include. This, in turn, assumes that the traditional interpretations are incomplete (that, for example, all ramifications of Sun conjunct Saturn are known), and thus the gaps must be filled with these hypothetical bodies. Rather, the effort should be directed to researching the gaps in understanding of the traditional interpretations. The American culture with its imaginary worlds of Star Trek, ET, Return of the Jedi, and planet Krypton (ie, Superman), may be influencing the American astrologers. As entertaining as this may be, one conclusion we have to reach eventually is that astrology cannot afford to have every frustrated astrologer design his/her own house system, his/her zodiac, invent his/her own non-existing planet, and add a few asteroids in order to make sense of things. Such inventions would soon take astrology into a realm of planetary acrobatics veiling defeat.
e) A case in point is the planetoid (ie, baby planet or asteroid) Chiron discovered by C. T. Kowal in 1977. Chiron is much smaller than Pluto and is located between Saturn and Uranus. It is presently "wandering" in early Cancer. The orbit of Chiron is highly elliptic but (unlike Pluto) influenced less by perturbations. (The following astronomical parameters of Chiron can be used to develop position formulae: 1) Semi-major axis, a=13.695105 AU, 2) Eccentricity, e=0.378623, Inclination, i=6.9229 degree, Longitude of the Ascending Node, OMEGA=208.07141 degree, Argument of Perihelion, omega=339.1051 degree, Time of Perihelion, t=Feb 19 0.5345 1996. These parameters have been obtained from Dr. Kowal.)
When a new planet is discovered, common sense would dictate that astrologers carefully scrutinize its passage through the signs for at least a few decades before attributing to it special and unique characteristics. It is apparently spurious to propose a period of cautious observation and patience in this era of quick answers. A few shoot-off-the-hip astrologers have already identified Chiron. According to one interpretation, its characteristics should be associated with the mythological warrior Chiron. This interpreter seems not to have considered the possibility that the baby could have been Christened as well under the name Socrates. A second approach proposes "to pay attention to events around the time of the planet's discovery". According to this suggestion, astrologers should blame Chiron for the second sizeable increase in oil prices by OPEC and hold it at least partially responsible for the start of famine in Ethiopia.
f) One of the most useful functions the AFA, NCGR, and ISAR could serve is in establishing norms for some of the more fundamental variables. Since most of the computations are based on formulas and concepts derived by astronomers, the AFA, et al should confer with the American Astronomical Society for the technical details and quantitative procedures. For example, there are several approximation formulas for the DT term mentioned earlier. One of the latest is that derived by Morrison and Stephenson in 1982. The DT terms so obtained (and thus the ET) are about 17 seconds greater (for 1942) than the results obtained by several popular astrology software packages and ephemerides. All formulas for the DT term are approximations. There should be a norm set. Above all, these type of formulas should not be treated as personal treasures.
g) In order to eliminate some of the unnecessary clutter that is accumulating in astrology, AFA and others should also address some of the most basic concepts such as the comparative advantages of the Sidereal zodiac versus the Tropical zodiac. The former takes into account the effect of the Luni-Solar precession, and some astrologers consider it a more accurate reflection of heavenly interdependence at a given time. The difference between the two is a minute and very gradual backward motion of a point (0-Aries) which was assumed to be fixed (ie, the Tropical zodiac). In other words, we now know the mean period of Luni-Solar precession to be about 25694.8 years. The fact that the Elliptic plane itself is not fixed adds an ambiguity of about +/-281.2 years to general precession. There is also a +/-3deg and 56min lag/lead between the Equinox and the poles to consider. The established formulas take all of these presently known factors into account. Why is it then astrologers are working with a half dozen (eg, Lahiri, Krishnamurti) Sidereal zodiacs? Indeed, is astrology searching for improved vision in complex and exact astronomical formulas, or attempting to borrow an aura of added credibility through their complexity?
Most of the noteworthy accomplishments in astrology have come about through the use of the Tropical zodiac, Geocentric coordinates, and Placidus or Equal houses. These accomplishments were "good" enough to attract many to astrology. Progress based upon demonstrable improvement is fine and experimentation is fine, but astrologers should not arbitrarily replace "their" zodiac with another simply because there is a mathematical justification to the latter. Judging from some of the works performed by those who use Progressions and Directions (the so-called Siderealists included), there is a tendency among some of them to separate themselves from the rest. This is done through subtle hints (or type of work) which regard the traditional astrology as representing perhaps the more tangible, their work the less tangible or spiritual dimensions. Astrology should be extremely cautious of astrologers who speak of the spiritual plane, for the spiritual path may be offered as or eventually become an automatic "escape" route. When there are enough difficulties resolving the tangible incongruities, astrology can hardly test and contradict spiritual conclusions. This would automatically grant the spiritualists "preordained" existence without them contributing anything concrete to astrology except confusion. (This is not meant to be an accusation. It is a possibility which astrology cannot overlook.)
Unless guidelines for some these fundamental inquiries are established, a lot of the activity, with or without computers, that could have perhaps led to useful patterns is wasted on clutter. To illustrate this point, if we were to utilize two zodiacs (Tropical and Sidereal), two coordinate systems (Geocentric and Topocentric), and ten house systems only, we can produce 40 slightly different charts for Picasso. If we are after a pattern and our sample includes a mere 100 famous artists, then this exercise alone would involve the examination of 4000 charts. This is a tremendous dilution of effort. How can anyone expect real progress in astrology facing such numbers when there are no guidelines, no delegation of tasks, and no cooperative effort? This is why an authoritative, effective, and dynamic AFA, et al, and American Astrology, and Dell, are absolutely essential.
III. COMPUTER & ASTROLOGY SOFTWARE
The novice User of computers should recognize that a computer is not a thinking machine. It can do things very fast once a programmer puts in its memory a series of instructions which are designed to accomplish a specific task. These instructions are packaged together, tested, and then offered to the public as a software. Without these instructions the computer is totally useless. Whatever the computer does is only as good as the person who puts in it the instructions. A good programmer can indeed "program" the computer so that it plays background music while doing the computations; so that all results are displayed in colorful tables and circles and graphics, and all sorts of other aesthetic features. These are mere features which make the use of a particular software attractive and entertaining. They do not guarantee that the results are correct. The purpose of an astrology software (as merely a tool) is to do the cumbersome computations so that the User can concentrate on the more important analysis and interpretations, though the software may provide guidance in these areas too. In should be kept in mind that the people who first became aware of the planets and later of their influences on humans did not have a software.
Software related errors come at three major levels: 1) Data errors, 2) Logic errors, and 3) Formulation errors.
1) Data Errors: The planetary data is perhaps the most unfriendly part of the software to type. It consist in part of more than several thousand numbers like 0.000034502. Typing several thousands of impersonal and horrendously long numbers without any error is almost impossible to guarantee. Some of the most common typing errors are a) Transcription Error where for example .00000349 is typed with one less 0 as .0000349 (where the latter is larger by a factor of 10), b) Transposition Error where .391 is typed as .931, and c) Other typo errors. For example, suppose the variable ZO that keeps track of the time zones in the USA is typed as Z0 (letter O versus zero) in one of the instructions in the software. This would mean that the statement with the typo would be either skipped by the logic flow or if variable Z0 is used elsewhere legitimately to keep track of some other factor it would be wrongly changed at this point. The consequences in either case may be quite severe. All software have these types of errors. They are corrected as they are detected (from the results).
2) Logic Errors: may come about as a result of typo errors as exemplified by the consequences of the ZO and Z0 typo error explained above. They can also be improperly programmed statements which do not address all parts of a problem. By the time the software is offered to the public, the obvious logical errors are all corrected. The ones which still remain are detected over time.
3) Formulation Errors: are errors which come about from the use of incorrect formulas or formulas which are used incorrectly. They are difficult to resolve, for according to the instructions written in the software things are computed correctly. One type of formulation error is a Rounding Error which may result in, for example, a discrepancy of a minute or two in planetary positions and house cusps. Another type of formulation error may involve the use of slightly different varieties of the same formula such as the ones which exist for the DT term. The discrepancies which arise from these types of formulation errors are generally not significant. However there are instances in which formulation errors can lead to appreciably different results.
IV. EMPIRICAL & METHODOLOGICAL CONCERNS
The theoretical errors in astrology are an even greater source of problem. If the full ramifications of Sun Conjunct Saturn are not fully understood, it is not major, but if someone's misguided inspiration is used to reach "profound" conclusions, it can only accomplish a) confusion, b) arbitrary juggling of planets, and c) misguidance of people. In view of the fact that any exercise in astrology, even if restricted to one zodiac, coordinate and house systems, still involves at least 11 bodies in 12 signs, 12 houses, with aspects, mid-points, and other factors, it is very possible that "false evidence" by chance would give the impression of significance and become a "new" theory and truth. The two dozen conflicting house systems discussed earlier are an example of this.
1. Empirical Works
An empirical study is one way of testing for general patterns in astrological studies. For example, if an astrologer has a hypothesis that all major athletes have their Mars in an Earth sign, that astrologer should test his/her hypothesis with a viable sample of athletes with known birth data. To minimize sampling errors, he/she should concentrate on a cluster sample of similar athletes. For example, world class ice skaters should not be included with world class boxers; American football players should not be mixed tennis players. There may be significant differences in the astrological patterns of athletes who play group sports and those who are in individual sports. Something similar to this was done by the Gauquelins in their empirical study. (Perhaps a more focussed study would use a more clustered sample of smaller size and more recent birth dates.) Empirical errors are very common both in sample formulation and in postulated hypotheses. The term GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) is relevant to any empirical work. It is a constant reminder that one should not seek to correlate unrelated variables like: "rain fall in Texas in inches and height of Pygmies in Africa in inches" and draw significant conclusions on the grounds that the correlation factor computed for such test, by chance, is high enough to imply significant correlation.
A recent empirical work entitled "The Mars-Redhead Link, A Scientific Test of Astrological Tradition" by Judith Hill and Jacalyn Thompson appeared on pages 24-34 of the Winter 88/89 Journal of the NCGR, followed by the comments of Dr. J. L. Lehman, the Research Director of NCGR. The authors conclude: "A highly significant 27.2% of the 500 redheaded people in this study were born when Mars was very strongly placed in their birth charts according to astrological tradition. The probability, of this occurring randomly is less than one in one million." Dr. Lehman's comments overlook the premise of the study and concentrates on the details. The premise of the redhead study is extremely questionable, for the variable under study, red hair, is almost entirely unique to the Caucasian race. It automatically discriminates against and disqualifies a very major portion of world's population while it claims to analyze a universal influence. At least the Gauquelin study commits no such horrendous discrimination, since all races have equal chance of producing athletes, or doctors, or musicians. The reason some people have red hair is the same reason that gorillas in Africa have black hair and Orangutans in Borneo have red hair: it is genetic. The transfer of genetic material is much better explained by Mendel's Law. That is, the offspring of parents with dark hair and dark eyes (dominant characteristics) can be a blond baby with blue eyes (recessive characteristics), if someone in the family line of one or both parents had blond hair and blue eyes. (In this context, astrologers should note that the difficulties facing Mendel while arriving at his law could not have been less severe than the ones in astrology facing astrologers. He and his work serve as perfect role models.)
A larger potential problem with this analysis is that it sets a precedence to other inviable studies of human physiology: astrology of blue eyes, astrology of large noses... There is a close relationship between human physiology and medicine. We may soon have other individuals conducting empirical studies on astrology and AIDS, astrology and heart disease. Astrological studies should target areas in which astrology can make a viable contribution.
2) Local-Space Astrology (LS Model). The author, Steve Blake, apparently heard about this model "in late 1970s in the articles published by Michael Erlewine" and has been "exploring its potential ever since." It is also indicated (on page 19) that to erect a LS chart one can use either the "Plotter Package" offered by Astrolabe, or follow the author's guidelines. On page 21 the author makes the following comment, to support his claim that this new model is superior to the traditional Location astrology (in which the Elliptic chart is adjusted for the longitude and latitude of the new habitat): "...I would examine both the present and proposed LS charts, looking especially to see how the two places impinged on one another as directions in each chart, as well as noting how the planetary gestalt would be changed by the move. Remember, when you relocate a Geocentric Elliptic chart all you are doing is altering the angles and house positions of the planets. The gestalt (ie, planetary signs and aspects and overall interdependence) remains the same."
According to this new model, by simply changing his/her address, a person would change the gestalt of his/her chart. But changing the gestalt of a chart means that the person is no longer the person we know from his/her natal chart. For all practical and astrological purposes, this is a different person with a different astrological identity. This is a contradiction to common sense and astrology. Furthermore, it is not true that the gestalt of an Elliptic Location chart remains the same. There are several significant changes. For example, a person having Saturn conjunct Sun in the 11th house may, by a change in habitat, move that conjunction to the 1st house. This is a significant change in the gestalt. In addition, the aspects to Ascendant and Midheaven are also affected. Surely, these are significant changes. A change in habitat should not give birth to a brand new person; it should subtly modify the existing person/chart. This is what we would expect in astrology and what happens in real life.
To illustrate the "power" of the Local-Space model the author gives the following example: "My Uranus line runs off to the south-east and directly over Rob Hand's house on Cape Cod. In his gracious home, I was introduced to a more technical approach to astrology and to the joys of microcomputers." A more reasonable explanation is: the author is interested in astrology. He is in the vicinity of Rob Hand and decides to get in touch... (In 1985 the author of this article also called Rob Hand from New York and enjoyed his gracious hospitality in Orleans. It was not his Uranus line that brought them together, it was his telephone line.)
As stated in the beginning, an individual is comprised of both astrological and non-astrological inputs. This observation is extremely important. It is human nature to seek easy immediate answers and solutions to problems. Astrology does not have all the answers. The following points may provide a guideline to proper use of astrology.
1) There are no success guaranteeing Lottery, Las Vegas, or Stock Market models in astrology. What astrology can do is to alert to opportune cycles, for example, in the 2nd (money), 5th (speculation), and 8th (joint resources) houses, for a particular individual at a particular time. In the case of the stock market, one should always get the advice of a good investment counselor.
2) Astrology can signal potentials and opportunities. It is up to the individual to take advantage of them. Astrology does not operate in a vacuum. For example, a person who is disillusioned with his her job and mails job applications is much more likely to be offered a new position than one who made no effort. Heightened positive activity in the 3rd, 6th, and/or 10th houses is more likely to coincide with a new employment offer for the person who took advantage of this activity.
3) There are a number of non-astrological factors (such as the environment, upbringing, education, financial means of the family, genetic inputs) which mold a person. For example, there were lots of babies born at the same time and location as Peggy Fleming. They all have possessed the same astrological ingredients and potentials. Obviously all of these babies did not become the Peggy Fleming we know.
4) In the end, the most purposeful uses of astrology may still be traditional. For example, astrology can alert parents to their baby's adverse and positive potentials. The parents can use astrology to help this growing person realize his/her positive potentials; they can help him/her to overcome adverse elements, or even channel adversity into constructive and positive outlets. Astrology can also enhance adults' self-awareness. Transit cycles can signal periods of opportunities as well as trials in adult life. Natal potentials of two individuals may be combined (along the lines proposed by Lois Haines Sargent in "How to Handle your Human Relations", AFA 1970) to say something about the potentials of a relationship between the two. A periodic Transit chart for one or both individuals in the relationship will highlight particular phases in the couple's life. There are enough useful research aims in these traditional areas of concern which demand life-long commitment by serious astrologers.
5) Many "skeptics" may be people who do recognize astrology as a valid phenomenon but instead choose a more pragmatic approach to life. There are parents, adults, and couples who achieve success without the use of astrology. Until astrology is ready to provide more definitive answers to life's mysteries, its appeal is likely to remain limited. Artificial attempts, in terms of magical formulas, false promises, superficial world predictions, weather reports, astrology bulletin boards, and on-the-spot counseling on the telephone, may further the business of astrology, but they will not further the science of astrology.
6) The AFA, NCGR, and ISAR should scrutinize all studies submitted to their library. Test procedures and results should be made public. All works submitted in this country should contain empirical support and all raw data. The process should proceed in a manner consistent with that followed in other disciplines, including: scrutiny, testing of alternative scenarios, and open debate. A study that passes such scrutiny should be catalogued as a contribution. Otherwise, it should be rejected or, at least, not endorsed. The rejection should be authoritative, frank, and constructive (ie, outlining the reasons for the rejection and suggesting possible improvements). This will induce all astrologers to be more meticulous with their work. It will also bring about a "we are all in the same boat" cooperation. This is the agenda that will lead to true progress in astrology and earn the gratitude of present and future students of astrology.
2nd Part: Astrology versus Reality
I have studied astrology since 1973, researched it since 1983. If I were asked to summarize my findings in a nut shell, it would be as follows. (This is also my way of saying goodbye to "astrology.")
0. PSYCHICS, ET AL. As of the late 1980s early 1990s, two parties have damaged astrology irreparably: 1) Popular astrologers and 2) The FOX TV and its "psychics." With regards to the first, the culprits were many, people who were more interested in making money from astrology than really contributing to it. Linda Goodman put astrology (and herself) to the forefront by reducing an entire relationship to a comparison of the Sun signs only; Noel Tyl became famous also by assigning signs to rocks and plants, knowing well the plants, et al. would not object too vehemently; entities like the NCGR saw a benefit - and increased book and software sales - from the promotion of any idea, however idiotic; software developers saw a chance to impress people with their programming acumen, regardless of common sense or CREDIBILITY of their astrology . . . And, alas, well- meaning but gullible people also contributed to this trend: people who thought the software that could draw better and more circles had to be closer to God, who readily accepted the fallacy that all one had to do was to look at a circle to "know and understand" a person and then consult him or her about their lives, now immeasurably happy that they too had a tool that made them the neighborhood God.
The onslaught and momentum were such that credible astrology was lost in mediocrity. I got into astrology to research it, to leave some credible marks for future generations. I did. The sale of AsterPro was an afterthought, to generate some income from 1986 to 1992/3 while I did my research. I never longed to become "famous" or rich taking part in a huge scam. So, after being glued to a desk and computer for almost a decade, in a somewhat tired and disillusioned but also optimistic and anticipating mood, I passed on AsterPro to a friend (who does not like to travel) and began with my book, AMERICAN KARMA, to get this LAST personal project out of the way and start a new incarnation, to focus on living my life than analyzing other people's lives, or the mysteries of life. Then, the urge for another LAST project emerged in Aug. 1997: a final interaction with "old" AsterPro users, whom I will always remember fondly.
As to "PSYCHICS," I am somewhat dumbfounded by the fact that only America can produce people with such powers. I lived in several other cultures. I know of no place, except perhaps Canada by its proximity to the American culture, where people can be DUPED like this, to this extent. Already by 1995, this "industry" was generating $100 million from its ads on TV alone. Add to this the Jim Bakkers, Jimmy Swaggerts, "Religion" TVs, and HYPED claims from almost all sectors, it would seem "DUPING" people has become an institutionalized pastime in this country. (WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT THE AMERICAN CULTURE IS MUCH HARSHER THAN ANYTHING CRITICAL I MAY HAVE SAID IN MY BOOK American Karma.) Be as it may, once the psychics emerged, astrology had no chance. Imagine, one calls a number and the person at the other end immediately knows everything about the caller, about the mysteries awaiting the caller, without any cumbersome data, charts, interpretations, nothing . . . Goodbye astrology.
Having said this, now a few words about Astrology versus Reality.
1. NATAL. The "personality" of an individual is so (infinitely) complex that it can NEVER be deciphered fully from a natal chart. The latter can at best, even if one is privy to all the secrets of astrology, hint at STATIC natal potentials. This is because the natal chart never changes. It says nothing about how the malefic and/or benefic stimuli, that everyone experiences continuously, will mold this person. So, yes there is something to astrology, but what?
a) The personality at a certain age is the total sum of how the given natal ingredients have evolved in context to the combination of upbringing, means of the immediate family, culture, education, environment, circumstances, experiences, perceptions, lessons, self-will, fate, and the will of the people around this person. THEREFORE, IT IS OBVIOUS RIGHT FROM THE OUTSET THAT ANY ATTEMPT TO "GUESS" A PERSON'S INNER AND OUTER IDENTITY FROM ASTROLOGY ALONE IS AN ADMISSION OF UTTER IGNORANCE OF ASTROLOGY AND PEOPLE. Such an attempt would be as futile as constructing a person's fingerprints from his or her photo: it CANNOT be done. This is why an adult person reading his or her report will see many generalities and contradictions but rarely more. Indeed, contradictions are inherent to every person. However, the unpredictable nuances of the exogenous factors, combined with inherent contradictions, erroneous interpretations, and gray areas and unknowns in astrology, will render useless any attempt to pinpoint a person from his or her natal chart alone. Suffice it to point out that the natal chart is in fact THE MOST DIFFICULT puzzle for astrology to solve. It is much more complex than predictive Transits and relationships.
b) Traditional astrology has always been aware of this dilemma. This is why almost all astrologers who yearn for fame have concentrated on analysing KNOWN people, like why Mohammed Ali was "destined" to become who he became, how this astrologer predicted a major earthquake - AFTER the fact - etc. Very few astrologers, if any, can look at two NAMELESS charts and identify correctly the chart of a soldier from that of a scientist, a hurricane.
c) Another common way of dealing with these gaps is by SIMPLISTIC ASTROLOGY, which I also call PARTY astrology, for entertaining and impressing novices. For example, my friend Erol in Istanbul has always reminded me, regardless of what I did, how "typically Cancer" I behaved. Indeed, I heard a much more insightful description of me from my (second) wife's father, a person who had no astrologic inclinations. He used to say "Sirman, they made you and then threw away the pattern." To be sure, I do behave like a Cancer, but also, and very convincingly, as a Sag (travel, perpetual student), a Leo (don't like being bossed; proud, loyal, like attention), a Capricorn (ambition, deep planner and implementer), a Gemini (multi-dimensional, flirtatious, experimenting), Scorpio (excellent loner, research) . . . And I have even observed myself as "more Aries" (physical, brave, dare devil) than an Aries at times.
Since Erol KNOWS I am a Cancer, he insists on reading the signals using his "Cancer lenses." Curiously, if being domesticated is a Cancer trait, he - NOT a Cancer - is more a Cancer than I, for he has lived a domesticated life for almost all of his adult years, whereas I left that lifestyle already in 1973, after only 6 years of experimentation, to be free to roam the world, do my thing, have experiences, etc. Somehow these obviously natal anomalies have escaped Erol. I am NOT pointing out these variables to deny that I am - and behave like - a Cancer. Rather, I have lived such an unusual life that the collective impact of my past has made me much more than a mere - ah-so-predictable - Cancer. These complexities (i.e., interaction of inputs) apply also to other people, in varying degrees, often also as a result of the "current" transiting cycles they are under.
2. RELATIONS. Personality is also a very important ingredient of relationships. I spent 2 years devising a point system that looks at a relationship quantitatively from 10 dimensions, like physical attraction, mental compatibility, etc. I obtained honest feedback from dozens of couples - also my own - as I developed these measures. At the end, all I can say for sure is that a relationship with high points only indicates this couple has a cushion during adversity. Otherwise, a relationship may bloom even with very low points, especially when one or both partners have stable natal charts, or when they are under positive Transiting cycles.
a) Because a relationship chart is derived from the interaction of 2 natal charts, which are STATIC by definition, the best such an analysis can point out is the potential between the partners. It can NEVER convey anything about the CURRENT status of a relationship, which is determined often by exogenous factors and also Transiting cycles. This is to say that a relationship study MUST be accompanied by a Transit study for both partners to determine their current situation. This is the easy part.
b) The factors that really decide the outcome in the long run are again the personalities of the partners, and karma too, like in the form of an accident. "Personality" can become even murkier in a relationship because, in time, both partners acquire some of the characteristics of the other.
3. TRANSITS. As far as I am concerned, predictive Transits, the ONLY predictive technique I use, are easier to interpret than a natal or relationship study, though, of course, they are also very nebulous. (I have discarded Progressions a long time ago, because of the stupid premise - Day=Year - on which this technique is based. Similarly, I do not see anything profound in Solar, etc. Returns, for they are, after all, snapshots of Transits at a given moment, like the time of birth, which non-thinking astrologers insist on extrapolating to the entire year.)
a) Transits are easier to deal with because, unlike the Natal chart, long-term exogenous factors do not clutter astrology. For example, Saturn transiting the 7th house of a married partner may cause a disturbance in marriage. If Saturn is also conjunct this person's Venus, Sun, or Moon, the problem will be more prominent. If, in addition, this person has a complex, perhaps unstable, natal chart, then problems like infidelity, etc. may surface. Meanwhile, if the other partner is undergoing a positive cycle, then there will be a "goodwill" reflection of this also on the other partner, mellowing this person's adversity. In turn, if the other partner is also going through an adverse cycle, a breakup may follow. If the relationship has low points - as per AsterPro - a breakup is likely . . .
b) CIRCUMSTANCES. The example above describes a situation in which predictive astrology will provide some answers. However, there are many complexities also in Transits. For example, suppose a person had a bad accident and lost a leg a month ago. So regardless of how rosy his or her transit chart looks for this month, this person's mood for the foreseeable future will be decided by the accident, by the loss of the leg. In other words, CIRCUMSTANCES play a very significant role in predictive astrology, like the absurdity of promising "romance on the bloom" to a man stranded alone on an island.
c) There are other interferences. For example, did the person in the above example have an accident because of a bad aspect in HIS or HER chart, or due to a bad aspect in the OTHER driver's chart? (This could be, for obviously everyone who dies in a plane crash does/did NOT have the SAME terrible aspect in their Natal or Transiting chart.) If the latter, this person's chart may NOT show any sign of a major accident, the loss of a leg. So someone confronted with such a situation may inquire "what good is astrology if it cannot even predict the loss of my leg?" The answer is NONE, in such cases. These examples illustrate something else that every good astrologer MUST have: COMMON SENSE. It is futile to expect astrology to be privy to all the mysteries of life. In addition to the exogenous factors, there are too many unknowns in astrology.
d) DESTINY. Transits are windows to opportunities, though they do not guarantee results, unless perhaps a person makes an effort to that end. For example, it is very unlikely for a jobless person to find a job only because Jupiter is at a nice spot in his or her chart. Unless this person uses the opportunity to send job applications, the outcome will be probably as bleak as with Jupiter doing nothing. So positive cycles should NOT be used idly, with the expectation that things will happen in a vacuum, BUT as an opportunity to initiate something. Similarly testing cycles may be also an ideal time to start a project. For example, instead of feeling depressed and turning to alcohol, perhaps because of an adverse Saturn cycle, this person can use the same energy (say) to write a book, which activity is ponderous enough also to fit Saturn's mood, but constructively.
e) I have been also playing with the destiny element inherent in Transits. But unlike many astrologers who predict earthquakes, et al. after the fact, I decided to bite the bullet and submit my predictions of an outcome BEFORE the event took place. For example, I posted the results of the presidential elections for 1992 (Bush-Clinton) and 1996 (Clinton-Dole) months before the elections, by analysing the two Transit charts at the time of the event. Based on this work, I uploaded my predictions in 3 tiny BC199x.ZIP files to the Astrology Section of CompuServe's NEWAGE Forum-A. Indeed, I fAXed my results also to Mrs. Clinton, as I will soon about another matter in 1998.
f) This is not to say that I CAN predict destiny; I CANNOT. However, I can use astrology to see if my interpretations of some outcomes match the reality. With regards to the elections, my predictions came true, perhaps by coincidence. YES, I also predicted some very interesting developments in my life. HOWEVER, it is also true that in many instances I had NOT the slightest idea as to how some important things would evolve in MY own life, let alone in another person's. Part of the problem is in that many things that affect me, such as the publication of my book, are in the hands of other people. Even if had their birth data, there is no way astrology alone can tell me how these people will decide about a book, if their publication schedule is already full, if the person evaluating my book is a Fundamentalist who will be turned off by my criticism of ALL organized religions, etc. There is only one obvious solution to such cases: WAIT and SEE, like other people.
4. SOFTWARE. All users of astrology software should remind themselves that astrology does NOT become an EXACT science because a particular software draws "ROUNDER" circles, pretty screens, and offers lots of "features." Unlike most other software, where "good features" may mean QUALITY, an astrology software, FIRST and FOREMOST, MUST be based on defensible techniques derived from a CREDIBLE premise, which (say) "DAY=YEAR" is NOT, for without these the rest automatically becomes garbage. Promoting superstition and wishful thinking as astrology serves only one purpose: money and (false) fame to the developer. This has happened already boyond redemption. The bundle is then offered as if it were God's formulae for life, their creators as prophets who are privy to HIS mysteries, who can explain and predict everything. People are induced to use these software, so that they too can become a disciple of God. That many people fall for these types of calls, as they do for "psychics," et al., especially in the American culture, we already know. Suffice it to state that in view of some of the COMMON SENSE limitations of astrology I outlined here, which will NOT go away because some astrologer thinks he/she can see MORE in a circle, NO astrology software can be a license or tool for the user to presume God-like powers.
5. In conclusion, a good astrologer is one who recognizes the limitations of astrology, acknowledges them, and understands that these limitations cannot be overcome (simply) by delving deeper into astrology, AS IF TO FORCE IT TO INVENT ANSWERS. (Again, exogenous elements will not go away because some people can hallucinate looking at a circle; often common sense will help more than astrology itself.) Then, the ones who utilize credible techniques to post the best insight about a person, event, and/or relationship, despite the obvious limitations, are the people who deserve the label "a good astrologer." I have always separated Credible Astrology from "Popular Astrology." Often a good and credible astrologer will NOT be popular, when the charlatans of Popular Astrology have the upper hand and define "popular."
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