Basics of Astrology

Foundational Questions

What is astrology?
How does astrology work?
Does astrology dictate that our lives are predetermined by fate?


What is astrology?

Astrology is the study of the relationship between planetary motion and life here on earth.

Astrology is an interpretive tool for gaining qualitative insight on the nature of a specific moment in time, and on the character of people and events born at that time. Astrology draws upon a rich symbolic tradition developed over thousands of years by cultures around the world, beginning when early humans first gazed up at the sky for clues about life, and still in widespread practice today.

The planets move around the Sun like a giant clock with many hands. The science of astronomy tracks these motions, observing and analyzing the features of each planet's cycles. Astronomy, in short, tells us objectively what time it is. Astrology, on the other hand, assigns meaning to each unique time, so we can understand its special significance for our lives and act accordingly.

For instance, astronomy may report it is 8:00 in the morning. Astrology, meanwhile, lets us know it is 'breakfast time' or 'time to go to work'. Astrology uses socially understood concepts (such as 'work' or 'breakfast') to describe the spirit of a given instant.

Essentially, astrology posits that timing matters. It presumes a meaningful link exists between when someone is born and the qualities inherent to his personality, between when something happens and how it will turn out.

By using astrology, we can learn more about ourselves, and what we may expect during particular periods of time, so we're able to behave more consciously and thus increase our likelihood of achieving personal satisfaction.


How does astrology work?

Frankly, I don't know. Many theories exist to explain how astrology works, but none has been proven.

While gravity or electromagnetism are forces by which astrology might possibly function, current scientific wisdom deems these unlikely explanations, though no detailed studies conclusively disprove their involvement.

Quantum physics, a vast scientific frontier, suggests that objects can and do influence other objects that are far away, through forces not currently fully understood by experts, which could hold the missing key to astrological mechanics. While such relatively new ideas challenge long-standing scientific law, they haven't yet been fully explored as a system that verifies the truth of astrology.

Astrology is also seen as an illustration of what psychiatrist Carl Jung called synchronicity, the idea that meaningful coincidences occur between psychological states (i.e., our lives) and outer events, outside any causal relationship. In other words, both planets and people have cycles, which mirror each other through the collectively symbolic language of archetypes (a la 'as above, so below'), but do not necessarily cause each other. Of course, synchronicity requires belief in interconnectedness, the intrinsic unity of everything-a rather mystical concept, one perhaps unprovable but not necessarily at odds with modern physics.

Maybe astrology works simply because we want it to work. Perhaps it is a persistent example of the placebo effect, with its only real value an imaginatively suggestive one. If so, does it matter?

After all, astrology does work. Thousands of years of reliable (and often uncanny) results are proof enough for many. But a leap of faith is undeniably required, and we all must decide for ourselves what we believe.


Does astrology dictate that our lives are predetermined by fate?

Astrology does not destine anyone to an unchangeable fate. Nor can it definitively predict the future. These are the most commonly held misconceptions about astrology.

Astrology rests on the idea we are predisposed to certain personality potentials, which manifest early and remain through our lives. Astrologers study our birthcharts to gain insight into our potential ways of being, gifts, challenges, opportunities, internal conflicts and difficult lessons.

But the degree to which any quality is developed depends on the choices the individual makes while leading life. Each of us has free will to behave as we choose, even when it goes against what feel like natural tendencies.

Every situation holds multiple options, and astrology can help us navigate which options are best suited to our talents and struggles, the areas where we enjoy working hard or default to laziness, how we act and react and communicate, our orientation in relationships, and our personal belief system.

Astrology also provides a framework for qualitatively evaluating particular moments in time, not only showing us whether an option is most appropriate for us, but whether now's the best time to act or if better results are likelier down the road.

Astrologers gauge timing based on knowledge of how planets act when traveling through the different zodiac signs. That's where the idea that astrologers can predict the future comes from. But it's as imperfect as forecasting the weather… and while an astrologer can tell you when it's likely to 'rain', it's up to you to bring the umbrella or get wet.

Astrology prepares us for the future, but it cannot tell us what will happen. However, with greater consciousness of ourselves and of timing, we hopefully can create the very future we desire.