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How to understand astrology?

This is an opening article introducing a basic question that astrologers never think of, or it looks silly to them in the first glance. I do not ask for how to 'learn' astrology but how to 'understand' astrology (deeply). I provide you some choices:

  • Go consult many many astrologers, especially the competent ones.
  • Go study principles of astrology, master the reading and predictive arts, and do the counseling to many many clients.
  • Look astrology from different angles engendering multidimensional point of view.
  • Investigate the astrological claims with reliable methods.

Let's look closer to each way.

1. Consulting many astrologers
This may get you nowhere. Think of this, when someone says "I know astrology because I've gone to a hundred of astrologers and the most readings were impressive, most predictions came true. Astrology is real." Does she understand astrology? Unlikely. Because when you understand something, you must be able to explain how it works. I bet anyone who had gone to see many many astrologers and satisfied with consultations. When you are asked "How does it come?", you will answer "I don't know" or "Only God knows" or "No need to know, it just works." Therefore to be a devoted client is not the right way to understand astrology. The better way is to be an astrologer yourself.

2. Mastering the astrological arts
It seems natural when someone having gone to many astrological counseling sessions turns to be an astrologer herself. Today it's quite easy to do so, because we have many available resources of this kind of knowledge, especially in English language. (In Thai, my native tongue, are still limited, particularly the good one.) Moreover, there are so many senior astrologers offering courses in various traditions from beginner level to advanced that you easily find in new age market today (and tons of online resources, check your Google).

So, to be an competent astrologer in a few years in this era is possible. You can be a self-taught with a good number of practicing sessions. Then you will be the one who inspire your clients and the astrologer-to-be. The emergence of an astrologer in modern days comes from this cycle.

To the point, are astrologers, even competent ones, understand astrology? Someone may say, "Why not?, my teacher is a know-it-all-about-astrology." I think this is not the case. What does someone mean when saying she understands something? You may remember a vast number of symbolic meanings. You may master all technics of this art. You may have done many effective sessions, delivered a very good readings, and made a very close predictions. You consequently hold that astrology is inevitably real, and you think astrology is in your grasp. Yet, to the last question, "How does it come?", you cry out, "How what? Is it obvious that astrology works? I prove with my experiences." I bet, again. By studying astrology, you can master the how-to of the art, but you cannot glimpse into the how-come of her.

Mastering astrological knowledge is not enough to understand astrology comprehensively. Looking from outside may be helpful.

3. Understanding from various perspectives
When scholars in academia study something to get a comprehensive understanding, they inevitably use multidisciplinary approach. To study the nature of human being, for example, we can obtain understanding from various point of views. We use biology/chemistry/physics to explain human being physically. We use psychology to explain mentally, sociology to explain social/cultural aspect, philosophy to analyze conceptual ideas. We call this group of subject 'anthropology.'

The closer example to astrology is religion which her field of study called 'religious studies' is also a multidisciplinary subject. In religious studies, we cannot grasp the nature of religion by mastering only religion's languages and scriptures. Max Muller, a great scholar of oriental study, once said who knew one (religion) knew none (of religion in general). Professor Muller used comparative textual study approaching to religions scientifically. (He tried to propose 'Science of Religion', see Muller 1872) We can apply Professor Muller's motto, precisely originated by Goethe's view on languages, in wider circumstance. Due to maturity of various areas of knowledge nowadays, we can look religion from different dimensions, such as anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, linguistics, science, and the most recent and hottest, evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience.

Have astrology been studied like religion up to now? Yes, but limited. We have great figures who studied astrology using historical/archaeological/scientific approach, such as David Pingree, Otto Neugebauer, Lynn Thorndike, A. J. Sachs, Franz Cumont, Wilhelm and Hans Georg Gundel, Richard Parker, Erica Reiner, and Francesca Rochberg, etc. Astrologers interested in history learned much from these academic scholars, despite in suspicion. Because astrologers and academics hold different beliefs (see Holden 2006). I plan to explain some modern approaches to astrology, which are available to me, in subsequent articles.

Looking around from many dimensions likely get us more understanding. But, this requires much effort and time, may be a lifetime, to achieve. If we narrow down the question, there may be a shortcut. If we want to know only whether astrology is real or not, the next way is interesting.

4. Investigating astrologer's claims
If comprehensive understanding seems farfetched to us, lowering our goal to finding the causes of effective readings and predictions may be easier. The question now change to, "Why do some readings/predictions come true?" (This implies why others turn false as well.) Or, "What are factors contributing to the effective readings/predictions?" The possible answers are divided into two camps of thought:

  1. The principles of astrology are reliable. (Most astrologers believe this.)
  2. It's just hallucination all the way down, the effectiveness of astrology comes from our human cognitive errors.

In the forthcoming articles I will investigate these two hypotheses impartially.

To summarize, seeing many astrologers gets you nowhere, being a competent astrologer is not enough, getting a comprehensive view is tough, investigating astrology's claims with our reliable knowledge is more hopeful. We will delve deeper in the next article.


  • Holden, James Herschel. A History of Horoscopic Astrology: From the Babylonian Period to the Modern Age. 2nd ed. Tempe, AZ: AFA, 2006.
  • Muller, F. Max. Lecture on Science of Religion. New York: Charles Scribner and Company, 1872.

written by:
1st release:
last update:
Kaljak (กาลจักร)
16 Aug 2014
20 Aug 2014