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The Basics of Astrology
The Testimonial of a Scientist Turned Astrologer
Does astrology work? It is quite a perilous exercise to write an article stating a few truths drawn from actual experience, a risky but interesting challenge for the founder of this website. But without danger, where would the adrenaline be? It is so good to try to talk about astrology upstream, and not only to discuss how it functions, for a person who has spent a lot of time using its techniques.
This is what we have done for Astrotheme's visitors, trying to use everyday words devoid of technical jargon, with no historical or specialised argumentation, and with the only aim to reach to as many persons as possible, yet without proselytizing. Just a few judgments coming from experience, a pragmatic vision of this tool for knowledge, which is what astrology is all about.
Incidentally, this article was written in slightly more than two hours, with no preparation and no plan. For this subject, and for some reason which probably lies in my subconscious and comes from the desire for purity and complete spontaneity, I was most eager to express a sort of rough opinion, a testimony coming from… the guts and sheer experience; it is easy to realise it when a text is written as it comes, and for the author, it is a rewarding exercise because genuineness always has a unique sparkle. For the reader, it is also a token of sincerity.
Of course, the purpose is not to convince. Indeed, in politics as well as in spirituality, to change direction is a complex issue. As far as the quite bizarre field of astrology is concerned, irrational behaviours occur quickly, usually with a little disdainful smile from those who, obviously, have been beyond the naive propensity to believe anything, to dream blissfully, and to delude themselves about a necessarily silly system because it offers off the beaten path possibilities, which other human disciplines do not.
The list of the authors of scornful smiles towards astrology is quite long, just as long as the list of more open-minded people who, either have tried themselves to learn this tool which astrology is – which, like psychology or history, is not a science – and became convinced that it works or at least has some degree of efficiency, or because they no time or no interest, leave the door open, thinking "finally, why not?", after all, one does not know much, would it be solely in the area of the spouting of the thought – WHO handles thought at the moment it emerges - or about physical laws for which the 21th century is mere prehistory, as all scientists know. Indeed, life is evolution, knowledge is not static, and the only mistake which must not be made is to gorge oneself with certainties, including that which consists in associating "too good" results with absolute scientific impossibility.
I believe that my experience is quite similar to that of everybody, i.e. that of a person who, a priori, before discovering it, was "against" astrology and considered it crap meant for gullible people, or in the best case, an idle fancy with a tinge of poetry in which all the intellectual energy spent was finally used to create a nice virtual world and arouse pleasure.
As luck would have it, I was in the bookstore where I used to go several times a week to get all sorts of books according to my quite strong curiosity and my need to understand hidden things, and I stumbled on an astrology treatise, the famous one authored by André Barbault (André Barbault is a respected French astrologer and author who devised a computer-generated astrological portrait in the early '70s.).
As I flicked through the pages, I was a bit amused to see the natal charts of historical personages, quite rigorous rules, an apparently sound functioning, and I thought that for once, I ought to read an astrology book, and at least, this one does not seem too naive.
In addition, there were a few recipes for the compatibility of couples, and since I was in love of one of my school comrades, in that Terminale C class (In the French education system, the last year of secondary school with a maths option), I thought, well, I am going to have fun and see whether, according to astrology, my compatibility with this beautiful brunette, the sight of whom would pierce my heart, is good or not!
With a good dose of scepticism and quite negative preconceptions, I started to learn to erect a natal chart, interpret it, and become initiated into all the predictive techniques, synastry, and other relishes having the charm of that which is unknown.
Since this article is not a book, it is necessary to get to the heart of the matter. Actually, I realised quickly that among the concepts of signs, houses, planets, houses in signs, planets in signs, rulership, aspects, nature of the planets, etc. it would take some time before being rewarded, venturing into uncertain territory alone, and interpreting charts without opening astrology books every thirty seconds.
Indeed, to my view, the first obstacle for anyone willing to get an idea about astrology is the huge contrast between serious astrology on the one hand, and on the other hand, the ordinary media and its horoscopes by signs or by decans – which are of no value, it is necessary to say so, absolute void, and the biggest hoax because a natal chart cannot be reduced to the position of the Sun in one of the zodiacal signs. Absurd columns with equally stupid predictions – here again, and it is difficult to refrain from giving names, be it to quote people who saw Kerry as the winner of the American elections in Telestar (A popular French television weekly) or in other magazines, or in general a little bit everywhere because it cannot be repeated often enough that there are two types of astrology, that of horoscopes in magazines which are nonsense, a mere commercial lottery. There is a big discrepancy between junk astrology and genuine astrology. The latter consists in extracting information from an exact natal chart based on a date of birth and location, and whenever possible a time of birth, and to deduct relevant results from this chart.
Indeed, commercial astrology and horoscopes published in the media are nonsense and above all, unfounded, but genuine astrology, which includes several schools and requires many years of learning, is difficult to grasp.
Therefore, a lot of time is required because without learning by rote numerous dozens of basic notions, it is very difficult not to get lost. Of course, one can have fun, but if one expects some degree of proficiency or just wants to be able to follow the rules of this tool, one will have to spend several months studying.
I shall briefly address a few other obstacles which claim so-called scientific bases and may prompt doubts, discouraging people who are curious about astrology even before they get a chance to start studying it. I think for instance of such a statement as "astrology is bullshit since everyone knows that owing to the precession of the equinoxes, and when one says that the Sun is in Aries although in fact, it's been a long time since it has left this constellation." This is obviously stupid because by definition, in astrology, signs do not represent the constellations bearing the same name, but they refer to the immutable cycle of the seasons. Thus, the sign of Aries corresponds to the spring equinox in the Northern hemisphere, and not to the stretch of space occupied by the constellation of Aries.
But I will not elaborate any further on these technical details because they are not the focus of this article, the purpose of which is only to give a testimony and to state that astrology works, in the light of an experience and a practice which cover a span of thirty years plus.
So, after a few weeks, astrology became clearer for me. Actually, I understood that finally, there were three essential functions and a fourth one as the wild card, if I may say so. First, there is the astrology which analyses the personality, the character, the motivations, the typology, and the behaviour. Then, there is a second astrology, well-known, which checks the past and analyses the present by superimposing the positions of the planets at a given period on the planets of the natal chart, using various techniques such as transits, solar revolutions, progressions, etc. Lastly, there is the astrology which compares two charts in order to understand the relations between two individuals who may be more or less compatible.
These three types of astrology, or rather, these three functions of astrology, are the three major sections of this discipline. The fourth one, which I referred to as the "wild card" earlier, is mundane astrology which forecasts or explains certain global events such as wars and peace between countries, periods of growth or periods favourable for the evolution of a given area – science, humanism, religion, spirituality, etc. - assassination attempts, natural disasters, inventions, etc.
For all four sections, it is clear that people don't have the same propensity to "believe" or not. Many people have no problem acknowledging that astrological portraits are mind-boggling because they are so accurate. I leave out the cases which present no problems, i.e. most of them, or the cases of people of good faith, again the majority, and I address only the case of sceptical people.
Regarding forecasts, it is slightly more delicate. Recalcitrant people are usually more numerous, and there are even some astrologers who want to limit astrology to the functions of personality analysis and are adamant about this. The other sections of astrology seem too risky or difficult to them, unless they deem them impossible for x reasons known to themselves only.
Regarding couple's compatibility, also referred to as synastry, the subject is less known and better accepted because if one considers that astrology can analyse the personality, why couldn't it analyse two personalities and see if those two get along well or not.
Lastly, there is mundane astrology, which is the most difficult one. It must be acknowledged that using astrology to forecast global events equates to taking up an almost impossible challenge. Certain facts are mind-boggling, but I would only say that, to my view, this field pertains to research, and it is important that one does not believe what one reads here and there. Those who talk rubbish are definitely more numerous than those who really make predictions. Does this mean that mundane astrology does not work? Not necessarily, but there still is a long way to go. It is probably too early for our time, at least this is my opinion, formed after 35 years of experience and hindsight.
Let's get back to astrology learning. Once the two obstacles mentioned above are overcome, i.e. the venom of the ignorant mass and its bitter judgment, castigating with a conceited smile any effort made towards the shameful direction in which astrology is, and the fact that many long months will have to be spent to understand and master the concepts and the rules – actually, in my view, this is not enough, and I believe that after a whole year of reading and practice, one gets a good idea. After 5 years, one is able to make a few interpretations, after 15 years, one has good bases, and after 30 years, although one still keeps on learning, one has some good reflexes which enable to avoid making mistakes. It is after this period that amazement starts.
Bewilderment starts with the portraits. The hurdle lies in establishing the hierarchy of values and discarding whatever is superfluous. Indeed, the beginner tends to look at tons of details and get lost in a whole set of numerous meanings. Once this difficulty is solved, it is true that, if the sceptical person has paid the price and dedicated his time to learning, he usually loses his incredulity and the self-satisfied smile of the person who cannot be taken for a ride.
I wish to reassure those who are starting to learn. Actually, within a few days, as one reads the charts of acquaintances, one finds it mind-boggling. But once all the notions are well understood, one rapidly enjoys astrology and its batch of wonderments.
This is precisely what happened to me after a few months. Then, if one does not want to stop while on such a good path, one buys books and learn during years. To me, astrology is a tool, and not a religion or something important. It is one discipline among others, such as history or psychology. Of course, it is more helpful and somehow prompts to ask questions upstream. This is what constitutes its charm, even though in no circumstances, does it answer these questions.
Astrology is anything except a spiritual path, a religion, or a moral code. It is just a tool which enables to understand our personality, our compatibility with people, and, with caution, to forecast climates, the meteorology of our evolution.
In my experience, right from the beginning, I observed that it worked. As everyone, one starts to read the charts of one's close friends and relatives, then one looks at the compatibilities, and above all, one plays at being God and analyses the future after having analysed the past. To understand the past, using the transits or any other techniques with a view to validating the rules, constitutes the best method.
Regarding this last point, my opinion is simple: forecasts work fine, provided that two major conditions, absolutely impossible to ignore, are met:
The first one is that when you analyse a period of time, many interactions or influences are noticeable. But all of them are far from being equally important. One thing that we must never hesitate to say is that "strong" events are obvious, even though the way in which they will manifest does not always exactly match what we think. Nevertheless, the general tendency can be described accurately, assuming the practitioner is seasoned enough.
Regarding minor, or "average" events, caution is required. There is a "scattering" of results, as if some people were more or less sensitive to certain transits etc. There are evidences that astrology should not be thrown out the window. The effects of very important forces at play are practically always noticeable. This is something I have observed on thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands cases, and each time, it is mind blowing because it completely rules out a vision at random of the period concerned. One must experience it to believe it: it is the number of disconcerting facts, totally incompatible with coincidence, which prompts to understand that one is not wasting time with this discipline. If one remains humble enough to accept that for less important events, or forces at play, there is some degree of uncertainty, and that one deals with probabilities of more or less favourable tendencies regarding such or such point, then, one remains on the safe side.
Does it mean that astrology is deterministic and fatalistic? No, definitely. Everything unfolds as if there was a "tendency", some sort of more or less imposed, yet partial, structure. It seems that free will enables to react differently to the planetary climates undergone, and as the old saying goes, "The stars impel but do not compel". Many questions obviously arise on this subject, but the purpose of these lines is to share my practical experience, in all simplicity, without starting to give a structured explanation for each concept addressed, which would require several books.
The other necessary and unavoidable condition, too often overlooked by many practitioners, is that our destiny develops only according to what we are and therefore, according to what the natal chart describes, a natal chart which evolves, I need to underline this. Astrology obviously integrates this notion of evolution. There is no static state, no irreversible or fatalistic conditioning. A natal chart is mobile, and the human being is meant to blossom according to his basic characteristics, definitely with some degree of free will.
In plain words, it means that the astrological natal chart is fundamental. Predictive techniques use two charts, the natal chart, which represents our personality, our earthly self with its usual features: affectivity, intellect, capacity of action, inter-personal capacity, vitality, sexuality, behaviour, psychological facets, blockages, etc.
By superimposing the chart – or planets' positions – of the period analysed on the natal chart, one identifies the forces at play, in hierarchy and categories, which have an intrinsic meaning but which, at the same time, depend mainly on the natal chart; this is what is often referred to as "resonance" with the natal chart.
Let's take a concrete predictive case using transits for instance. One of the rules of thumb for predictions is to understand that transiting influences will fully manifest only if they are also found in the natal chart. Let's consider the difficult case of a transit of Uranus squaring natal Mars, with Mars in the 2nd House in Aries, and Uranus in the 11th House in Capricorn. These two planets are the most energetic ones, and at some time, their square triggers a blow-up in terms of behaviours or events, because the balance is too hard to maintain by the chart owner and meant to explode since the vibration does not correspond to his nature. Therefore, this explosive transit indicates that there is a probability that the financial area, or the way one earns a living, undergoes a very strong and unexpected jolt when the transit becomes exact or during Uranus' various passages as it retrogrades and squares natal Mars. This jolt may involve friends – it would be necessary to look at the rulerships. Now, there are two alternatives: if Uranus and Mars are connected in the natal chart, transiting Uranus will resonate with the natal chart, and it is most likely that important events, or the way they are felt by the chart owner, will be strongly experienced. The other alternative is that Uranus and Mars are not linked to each other in the natal chart, in which case it is clear that the effects of transiting Uranus, though violent, will have a less significant impact than in the first case.
Similarly, a stern, wise and sometimes slightly solitary Saturnian, meaning a person with Saturn in his planetary dominant, who has an upcoming transit of Jupiter passing over his Venus will not turn into Julio Iglesias or Rocco Siffredi during the few weeks of this very nice transit!
Provided these two conditions are met, i.e. some level of analogy with the natal chart, and caution whenever the influences at play are not very strong, astrology never disappoints, or almost never, as far as predictions are concerned.
Regarding couple's compatibility, there are very important rules. It is not because a synastry is exceptionally good that it means, on the one hand, that one will fall in fall, and on the other hand, that the relationship will be successful. Let me explain:
When one analyses the chart of a couple, one actually analyses three charts: the natal chart of each partner and the chart of the relationship. The latter is compared to the two natal charts and assessed using various possible techniques (composite chart, mid-space / mid-time chart, mutual planets-houses interactions, etc.). In addition of course, one must take into account the planetary climate of each partner, which is not simple.
In couple's compatibility, here are the principles that must be borne in mind:
Firstly, a fantastic compatibility between two persons never implies that they will fall in love with each other. Indeed, synastry only reflects how easy a relationship is in various areas. Conversely, a disastrous synastry does not mean that two persons will not fall in love with each other!
It is important to highlight the above because a host of visitors wonder and sometimes e-mail us asking "I met with so and so, our rate was 80% but nothing happened, the relationship has not materialised, etc.", which is normal! Astrology, at least synastry, is unable to determine whether two persons will love each other. Love eludes the comparison of charts!
Once again, if and only if, a relationship has already started, synastry will tell whether it will flow smoothly or not. In my view, that's already quite considerable!
Now, like with predictions, it is necessary to take natal charts into account. It is simple to understand: if in his natal chart, anyone has a difficult affective structure, as in the case of a man having an exact Saturn-Moon square, with the Moon in the 7th House and Saturn in the Midheaven, and for instance, Venus square Pluto. His marriage should a priori take place late – if he ever marries, which is not quite sure – and the context of the marriage should not be very easy. Besides, it is most likely that in the affective area, he imagines nice things and that in real life, he undergoes a few disappointments. Although it is true that there are no such things as good charts or bad charts, there are still a few tendencies which are noticeable on the manifested plane.
Let's imagine that this gentleman meets a lady with whom the compatibility is extraordinarily good. What would happen?
If he falls in love, and his feelings are reciprocated, the odds are that things will not develop smoothly. Actually, because the synastry is good, which is the hypothesis we have chosen, in order that his destiny unfolds according to his natal chart, certain obstacles will crop up. Such hurdles probably obey some necessity in terms of evolution etc., but this is another topic. Nevertheless, the relationship is most likely to be pleasant and easy. The rest of the context will have to be assessed: what are the active transits of the moment for both partners, what is the natal chart of the lady in question, etc.
As we can see, a relationship is a whole entity, a juxtaposition of five factors which already form a whole when taken separately: two natal charts, two forecasts or current planetary climates, and one synastry or couple report.
The analysis of these five factors is the only process which enables to understand and offer predictions about what is to follow, and even then solely if the magical spark is born between them. Regarding the spark, let's say that transits enable to forecast whether the chart owner is likely to fall in love during the considered period.
The lines above emphasise, I hope, how difficult it is to make a diagnosis and the large scope of the work it requires.
My experience, once again with regard to this third section – since we have already addressed personality analysis and predictions – is that astrology works, provided that the natal chart is taken into account along with transits, progressions and solar revolution influences.
Which experience? It is simple. When one is interested in this tool, one quite quickly makes interpretations, thousands of charts in several years. Therefore, each time one gets the confirmation that "heavy" or major events occur according to the rules used, and that in most cases, portraits are quite accurate although of course, certain scattered charts are much more difficult to interpret than others. One also knows that humility is a must and that for lighter things, i.e. minor aspects, less important or fast transits, one really deals only with probabilities, but that's already quite appreciable.
The last section, that of mundane forecast, is unrewarding. I will not enter into the details of the methods used, and I will only say that once again, my experience is quite a pessimistic one. Individual astrology offers results ranging from satisfactory to very satisfactory, but mundane astrology seems risky to me and, to state it clearly, not yet perfected enough.
There may be a fifth section, that of prediction of success for business companies, projects, etc. The principle is to take the exact date of creation of a project as its moment of birth and cast a chart exactly as it is done for a human being. This method can also be applied to an animal, why not.
The fans of this technique are often optimistic. Now, in my opinion, the real difficulty lies in identifying the exact date and time of the beginning of the project or a company. Let's take for instance the creation of a company, and why not, in France, the most difficult country regarding this topic, owing to all kinds of administrative hurdles: firstly, the date, time, and place of the "idea". Then, the determination of the name of the company. There may be also the date at which all the partners reached an agreement. Or the date at which the company's capital was deposited into the bank, or the date of the application or the official registration of its statutes! Or else, the date at which the premises for its head office are found.
Actually, if one ponders a little bit more, for every case, the same questions apply because the exact date and time are not really significant. The same holds true also for the birth of a country, etc.
As a result, examples are not easy to study, even though they are interesting for the astrologer as a matter of curiosity. I believe that great caution is needed in this area.
Getting back to the example given at the beginning of this article, you may want to ask about the young lady, "So, was she compatible with you?" According to the analysis of the time, no! And actually, nothing happened, except in my head. Thus, astrology started to work well in those remote days despite the sadness of the conclusion.
More seriously, the purpose of these lines is to say that the irrational refusal of some people, be they scientists or not, to consider that there might be something accurate in this discipline constitutes a real sign of laughable blockages on their part.
Obviously, it is easy to understand its cause, which is certainly somehow the issue of how astrology works.
Here, I have talked about concrete topics and experience, and not at all about the "why". Actually, being a scientist myself, in the beginning, what I wanted to know above all was whether astrology worked.
Over 35 years of experience have answered my question although after six months or one year, I already got the answer, thus positive, just in case some visitors would directly start to read from this point on.
The topic of why it works is completely different. Here are my impressions, given in a personal capacity: at first, I would consider astrology to be a small square of life, a bit like a helpful discipline, but without –let's say, directly – spiritual connotation.
It is efficient, useful, but it offers no answer to the real questions of life, under no circumstances. What are we, what are we made of, what is Reality? Beneath thought, feelings, sensations, there is the consciousness of being, which is the only real thing, upstream. The intellect is unable to understand itself. A blind man cannot describe the colour red. Similarly, the intellect can but go round in circles when it comes to asking "who am I?", since we are not our thought and we are upstream of it or of them, because one can rather talk about thoughts in the plural, which are like bees continuously buzzing, with an actor behind who undergoes and at the same time has the illusion of control. Of course, there is a link between these thoughts and our consciousness to exist, but I should stop here. This is just to show that astrology answers none of these questions, that its field applies to the earthly sphere, to human psychology, to the explanation of behaviour, to the cautious forecast of the meteorology of events, and to the assessment of the smoothness, if any, of a relationship in a couple.
I would say, and I believe so, that this is already quite considerable. The fact that it works is sufficient in itself, even though one would like to understand the whys in terms or physics or energy etc.
Second reflection: we know only four forces in the universe: strong interactions (the cohesion forces of atomic nuclei), weak interactions (the cohesion forces of nuclei and particles), gravitational forces, and electro-magnetic forces. We are able neither to define the consciousness of being, nor to give a definition of thought and of ourselves. To imagine giving an answer to the whys of the functioning of astrology would require a better understanding of these two planes: the first one is that of physics, which is not as advanced as it is believed to be. The second plane is that of knowledge of human nature, which does not seem too advanced either.
The first answer is that indeed, there is no known physical explanation as of today.
There are statistics, sometimes disputed, and astrologers' experience dating back to the dawn of time – and the different schools, etc. which I have not addressed here of course – which are dismissed by detractors of astrology who are so stupidly and mechanically indoctrinated with their own certainties that they self-intoxicate themselves with their own rubbishes when they do not act in bad faith.
Of course, if anyone says to you "You practice astrology because you are in a fog, your mind is weak, you are indoctrinated, or you are Machiavellian, you do it for money, you are a poor insane person", there is nothing to answer since this blindness probably stems from a very irrational behaviour and above all from a pre-determined choice.
Some detractors of astrology, perhaps less obtuse than others, may imagine, during a too short-lived stroke of intuition, that not all astrologers are in a complete fog, not all malevolent, not all interested in power or money, and even that the majority do not waste their time, simply because hands-on experience has shown them the evidence, that is does work, provided due caution is observed as mentioned earlier.
Therefore, for these people, the following problem remains: "Well, let's suppose that it works and that there is some truth in it, but since there are no explanations to it, it cannot work, can it?"
A logical mind would answer back "It works of course. It is not because we don't know yet why, that it can't work, since on the contrary experience proves that it does work."
The tradition does not hesitate to put forward such answers as "As above, so below.". This explanation is based on symbolism, the human being partly incarnated and partly spirit, and there is a connection between these two worlds, etc. But obviously, this is not an explanation.
Astrology works although we still don't have its explanation in terms of forces. My opinion is that it will come. It constitutes an interesting subject, but not a fundamental one. The main point is to avoid talking nonsense and to be pragmatic. It seems to me that being open-minded is the only correct attitude.
Although one can live without astrology, its offers much help to those who practice it or to those who seek advice from it. It is already very appreciable. Indeed, although astrology claims neither to give an answer about the purpose of life, nor to be absolutely reliable, and in spite of the fact that the explanation of its functioning is unknown it nevertheless delivers obvious results.
This is what justifies its practice. To my view, the only good attitudes are, either to use it with caution if it is helpful on a punctual basis or more, or to ignore it and ask "Why not, but in any case, I am not interested."