Astrology is nonsense

It’s true: in the era of post-Enlightenment reasoning, astrology smacks of bullshit. What was once a highly regarded means of tracking seasonal shifts sort of falls apart under empirical scrutiny. Physics isn’t happy with the idea that planets are meddling in our love affairs, and confirmation bias keeps us from being dissuaded when horoscopes miss the mark.

We’re not out to prove anything to the skeptics or contradict the scientific community. Indeed, one of the first things people get wrong about astrology is that it’s purporting to be a “science” in the same way chemistry or biology is.

The second biggest misconception is that it’s based on a causal relationship between planets and humanity, as though Saturn can literally wreak havoc on one’s life via an invisible, cosmic hand.

Far be it from the tabloids to convey the complex truth about astrology, but your junk magazine horoscope probably isn’t scratching the surface. Think: more “study,” less “science”; less “predictive,” and more “descriptive.” Astrology is based on thousands of years of careful observation regarding planets, people, and the correlations between the two, and that forms the basis of future predictions.

Many people have also argued that it’s impossible to “prove” that astrology works. They’re right. Astrology is a qualitative discipline that uses a quantitative framework. This means that though the calculations used to determine astrological events are very mathematical and precise, the actual signifiers in those calculations — such as planets, signs, houses, and aspects — are symbolic and rich with shades of meaning. There’s nothing inherently “scientific” about that, so if you’re the type of person who likes to understand how everything works, this will probably drive you crazy. Suffice it to say that for a lot of people who do follow these things closely, “seeing is believing,” even if it warrants acknowledging that there are many shades of belief, and this is one best taken with a grain of salt. 

That said, did you know that science generally supports the theory that your season of birth affects your personality? And that lunar cycles affect our behavior?

But that’s neither here nor there. An over-reliance on logical reasoning also misses the other big point, which is that astrology is trying to tell us a story. What the story can (and often does) is describe which way the winds are blowing; which themes are being presented to us through the nested consciousness of the universe, much in the same way we sometimes gain valuable insight and understanding into our own lives after selecting a book that uncannily mirrors our current situation. This book deals primarily in archetypes. Those are literary devices, not scientific instruments.

The story is cyclical like the seasons, and life, and your Netflix shame spirals. It reflects the realities of ancient Babylon, where humans felt especially at the mercy of tempestuous gods and natural forces. But because the framework they charted was large enough to accommodate clay tablets and iPads alike, the story has also come to reflect the realities of the new millennium. It’s a mirror we hold up to our own day-to-day nonsense to tease out the patterns — patterns that are still, somehow, deeply rooted in seasonal progressions.