Do the Stars Really Control Your Life?
“A LOT of people want to know the usual nonsense things—when am I going to make a million dollars or when will I meet Mr. Wonderful?” says a part-time astrologer. Indeed, most people approach astrology as a means of learning something about their future. And many astrologers are eager to oblige them by catering to their wish—for a fee, of course.
However, astrologers who consider themselves up-to-date disdain such a view. “That’s not what I’m about,” continues the part-time practitioner. “I’m about trying to help people understand their self.” In what way, then, is astrology supposed to help people understand themselves?
Everyone knows that human activities are influenced by sun, moon, and stars. The sun determines the seasons and the growing cycle. The moon is the main force behind the tides. The stars have long been used as guides in navigation. Is it conceivable that these heavenly bodies also play an influential role in other activities in our lives?
Astrology’s answer is yes. The basic tenet of astrology is that the position of the sun, the moon, and the planets among the mystical constellations at the time of our birth plays an influential role in our character and in our life. Thus, knowing a person’s time and place of birth, an astrologer can construct a chart, or horoscope, showing the positions of the stars and the planets and interpret the factors that may influence that person’s actions at a particular time. What is the basis for this claim? How sound is it?
As an experiment, the French psychologist Michel Gauquelin sent the birth date and birthplace of an executed murderer to an astrologer for analysis. Then he sent the result to 150 people who had responded to his ad offering free horoscope analysis. The result? He found that 90 percent of the people said that the analysis they received was an accurate description of their personality and 80 percent said that even their friends and families agreed.
So much for objective reasoning! The truth of the matter is that astrological readings are usually couched in such vague language—and human nature is such a complex thing—that if one is bent on looking for something that fits, one will always be able to find it, no matter what the reading is based on.
All of this brings us to the ultimate issue: Assuming that the stars do play a role in influencing our life, in what way is that influence exerted on us? Of all the forces known to science, which one or ones are involved? Because the stars and planets are so far away, one scientist observed that “with respect to the effect on [a] newborn child, the gravitational tug of the attending physician, the electromagnetic radiation of the lights in the room are greater than any of the planets.” If the stars do not influence us by gravitational, electromagnetic, or any other forces known to science, then what is the source of the influence?
This intriguing question is addressed by a professor of astronomy George Abell in the book Science and the Paranormal. After examining all the claims made by astrologers regarding the power of the stars and planets, Abell writes:
“If the planets were to exert an influence on us, it would have to be through an unknown force and one with very strange properties: it would have to emanate from some but not all celestial bodies, have to affect some but not all things on earth, and its strength could not depend on the distances, masses, or other characteristics of those planets giving rise to it. In other words, it would lack the universality, order, and harmony found for every other force and natural law ever discovered that applies in the real universe.”
Science knows of no such force. If astrology works at all, it would have to work with a force, or forces, outside of the “real universe.” But remembering that astrology has its roots in ancient Babylon, where the stars and planets were worshiped as gods, it should not be surprising that the source of its influence is not from the “real universe” but from the supernatural.
The Power Behind Astrology
The Bible shows that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, who is an invisible but powerful spirit creature capable of controlling and manipulating people and events on earth. (1 John 5:19) By maneuvering things to make certain predictions appear to come true, Satan and the demons have successfully captured the people’s fancy and turned astrology into a cult.
Significantly, though, what sort of predictions are those that have supposedly come true? Are they not mostly about death, murders, assassinations, disasters—things sinister and macabre, characteristically satanic and demonic? The simple truth is that astrology is one of “the machinations of the Devil” that he uses to control and influence people to serve his purpose.—Ephesians 6:11.
What is that purpose? “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,” answers the Bible. (2 Corinthians 4:4, Revised Standard Version) To that end, astrology has served its master well. Australian astrophysicist Vince Ford observed: “Astrology has become a sort of a religion but it is quite unprovable . . . All I can say is that I’m sorry those who believe in it don’t take responsibility for their actions rather than blaming them on the poor old stars.”
In the eighth century B.C.E., the prophet Isaiah was inspired to issue a taunting challenge to the astrologers: “Let them stand up, now, and save you, the worshipers of the heavens, the lookers at the stars, those giving out knowledge at the new moons concerning the things that will come upon you.”—Isaiah 47:13.
One who believes in astrology gives in to the fatalistic view that ‘whatever will be will be’ because ‘it is written in the stars.’ This is tantamount to denying the will of God or the responsibility of humans to act according to that will.
So rather than look to the stars for signs and omens to guide our lives, what can we learn from the stars? Yes, what can the stars tell us? The next article offers an answer.
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Is Astrology Scientific?
Scientific discoveries in more recent times have presented formidable challenges for astrology. Consider these facts:
◼ It is now known that the stars that appear to be in a constellation are not really in a group. Some of them are deep in space, others are relatively close. Thus, the zodiacal properties of the various constellations are purely imaginary.
◼ The planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were unknown to early astrologers, for they were not discovered until the invention of the telescope. How, then, were their “influences” accounted for by the astrological charts drawn up centuries earlier?
◼ The science of heredity tells us that our personality traits are formed, not at birth, but at conception, when one of the millions of sperm cells from the father unites with the egg cell from the mother. Yet, astrology fixes one’s horoscope by the moment of birth, nine months later.
◼ The part of the sky through which the sun, the moon, and the planets appear to move, called the zodiac, is divided by astrologers into 12 equal portions, each with one constellation as its sign. In reality, there are 14 constellations in that part of the sky. They are not equal in size and they overlap each other to some extent. So the charts drawn up by astrologers bear no actual physical resemblance to what is in the sky.
◼ The timing of the sun’s journey among the constellations, as seen by an earthbound observer, is today about one month behind what it was 2,000 years ago when the astrologers’ charts and tables were drawn up. Thus, astrology would cast a person born in late June or early July as a Cancer—highly sensitive, moody, reserved—because by the charts the Sun is in the constellation Cancer. Actually, however, the Sun is in the constellation Gemini, which would presumably make the person “communicative, witty, chatty.”
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Astrology East and West
Astrology as it is practiced in the West ascribes special characteristics to each of the 12 constellations through which the sun appears to travel during the course of the year. These star groups were named by the Greeks, who visualized them as creatures, such as Aries the Ram, Taurus the Bull, and Gemini the Twins.
Interestingly, astrology in ancient China and Japan also divides the zodiac into 12 regions corresponding to the 12 animals of the so-called terrestrial branches—dog, chicken, monkey, goat, horse, and so on. And each of these animals is said to exert its influence according to its character over a certain period of time. Thus, corresponding portions of the heavens are designated by Eastern and Western astrology in the following manner:
Western Zodiac Eastern Zodiac
Aries the Ram Dog
Taurus the Bull Chicken
Gemini the Twins Monkey
Cancer the Crab Goat
Leo the Lion Horse
Virgo the Virgin Snake
Libra the Balance Dragon
Scorpio the Scorpion Hare
Sagittarius the Archer Tiger
Capricorn the Goat Bull
Aquarius the Water Bearer Rat
Pisces the Fishes Pig
What do we find when we compare these two systems? Strangely, the constellations seem to work in totally different ways in the East from in the West. Thus, Western astrology predicts that a person born when the sun is in Aries, for example, is assertive, in Taurus, stubborn, and so on. But these are hardly qualities one would associate with the dog and the chicken. Yet, that is what Eastern astrology would predict. The same can be said about other pairs. Thus, depending on which system you choose, the same stars are said to possess completely different characteristics and presumably exert different influences. Is it the stars or the imagination of the astrologers that wields the control?
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World’s oldest horoscope, probably April 29, 410 B.C.E. It was cast in Babylon
Courtesy of the Visitors of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford