Astrology And Computers: A Blessing Or A Curse?
Computer technology has progressed at a phenomenal rate, growing in complexity and operability since its inception during the 1960s. No longer a means to solely store business data, computers have developed into personal tools that give us the ability to simplify difficult tasks and easily access and disseminate information in a matter of minutes. With the introduction of affordable and powerful computers over the last decade, significant changes have occurred in the field of astrology, primarily with the emergence of the Internet as well as automated mechanisms to cast charts and interpret celestial influences.
Today’s personal computers are interactive and powerful. They provide us with a number of conveniences that many of us now take for granted, such as the collection and organization of information, the processing and computation of mathematical equations, and the communication of information across platforms and international borders. We realize greater freedom because of the enhanced flexibility and functionality technology provides in our lives.
Personal computers come in many forms. They sit on desks, lie on laps, fit in the palm of a hand, and even rest on a wrist. These models contain different functionality for the professional and novice astrologer. One of the most recent additions is a pocket-sized device created specifically for astrological interpretation. Upon entry of a birth date, time and location, the planetary influences, zodiac signs, and aspect information display. This handy instrument provides an astrologer the opportunity to cast horoscopes for their own information on acquaintances they just met at a business gathering or while riding the bus. The size also makes it easy to pack for meetings with clients and long-distance travel.
Another popular choice for professional astrologers is the notebook computer, which size also makes it possible to carry to a client’s site when necessary. A notebook also has the added benefit of storing more complex, interpretive astrology software than the pocket variety, as well as the ability to connect to a printer in order to produce professional reports. However, overall, the desktop computer still maintains the largest market based primarily on its superior functionality and processing power.
Math has been a primary ingredient in astrology since its inception. In fact, it was expected that an astrologer be proficient in astronomy, geography, multiple time systems, and the calendar. Knowledge of these subjects was a necessity in order to cast horoscopes. With the advent of computer technology, however, the requirement no longer holds true. Arguably, there are sound reasons why it is essential to understand these pieces and how they interact to create a chart, but that is outside the scope of this paper. Astrologers could spend anywhere from half and hour to several hours or days, dependant on the task, mapping and analyzing celestial data. Minimally, astrologers had to translate the birth location into a longitude and latitude coordinate, determine the time zone based on those coordinates and the birth time, and then calculate the sidereal time of birth. This information made it possible to then identify the house cusps and planetary positions. Multiple references, such as an almanac, an ephemeris, and a table of logarithms were required to accomplish a basic interpretation. This process was true even two decades ago. Plainly put, astrology has not been for the mathematically challenged.
The development of technology over the last 15 years, however, has afforded immense relief for novice and professional astrologer alike. No longer forced to make mathematical calculations with pencil and paper, astrologers rely on the superior ability of the computer. All the information previously found in almanacs and other astrological reference books, are now contained within an astrology program. It is then possible to calculate the most complex astrological influences in a matter of seconds and report the results with a high degree of accuracy. These technological advances afford several benefits.
First, even if an astrologer were to be 100 percent accurate in their computations, manual calculations can restrict an interpretation to within a few degrees of probability. However, a computer’s ability to assess complex rules and calculations of data is far beyond average human capability, and thus provides astrologers with more accurate figures, often within two seconds or less of probability. Vedic astrology, harmonic patterns, midpoint structures and forecasting are among the most difficult interpretations to perform. What is exciting about using a computer to process calculations is its ability to handle these astrological equations with tremendous ease and speed.
The capabilities of software do not stop with accurate calculations. Computer technology lends an important hand in adding greater flexibility to the production of astrological interpretations. Different computer programs contain a variety of reports and allowable parameters. It may be possible to create daily transits and natal charts using one program while another can only analyze future prospects, such as, is June 5th a good day to travel. Regardless of the type of report produced, the advantage to using a computer program is the capability to change the criteria and parameters and view a new interpretation within a few seconds. The ability to produce charts and reports has not always been so easy.
A century ago, zodiac wheels and interpretations were written by hand specifically for the individual in question. However, a revolutionary concept, initiated by Alan Leo (1860-1917) eventually changed all that. The idea derived from a promotional idea to gain subscribers for his magazine, Modern Astrology. The promotion promised new subscribers a free interpretation of their natal chart. Due to his enormous success, a large demand was placed upon Leo to calculate birth information and write out the relevant interpretations for his growing number of clients. Desperately in need to save time, Alan Leo developed the idea of writing and mimeographing standard interpretations for common celestial influences. (1) Leo provided astrologers and their clients the first version of stock astrological reports.
Eighty-five years later, computer technology offers astrologers the ability to produce ‘standardized’ computer generated charts with extreme ease. Not unlike Leo’s idea 100 years prior, the textual component of computerized reports comprises primarily a cookbook theory. For example, when an aspect of Mars trine Sun and Jupiter in Leo appear in a chart, canned paragraphs for these ingredients string together to produce, in part, a report. This additive approach has changed considerably since its inception to become relational whereby associations are made between specific elements defined in the software program. However, the benefit to derive from the computer generated reports is the fact that professional astrologers are no longer forced to spend hours calculating equations and writing out interpretations for their clients, saving them considerable time and effort. The gain in time allows the practitioners to focus more intently on the interpretive aspects of celestial influences and patterns.
Another point worth considering with the introduction of technology and astrological software is the ability for individuals whose talents lie in the creative, right brain to gain entrance into the science of astrology with greater ease. Previously, any individual not competent and well versed in the complexities of logarithms and similar mathematical computations were unable to delve fully into astrology. Yet, with today’s technology, any individual able to use a computer may practice astrology. What is significant about this factor is astrology’s improved accessibility to a wider breadth of talent.
Further still, more recent advances in technology have pushed computer intelligence to a new level of sophistication. Besides the ability to be relational, whereby it is possible to identify multiple connections and inter-relationships between planets, elements, and zodiac signs, computers can analyze astrological patterns as complex as life themes and psychological trends. One of the first computer programs to take full advantage of this advancement was Psychological Horoscope Analysis from Astro*Intelligence. An interview held soon after the software’s release in 1987 describes the reasons and technology behind its development. Alois Treindl said:
When setting up a computer programme to make astrological statements on an individual, one has to ensure that the programme possesses as many abilities of a human counsellor as possible. Until recently, this was impossible for technical reasons. In the last few years however, methods of information technology have been developed which aim at imitating an expert’s ability with a computer. This area is generally circumscribed as ‘Artificial Intelligence’, although a better name would be ‘knowledge based systems’, ‘knowledge processing’ or ‘expert systems’. The problem is to teach a computer knowledge in a certain field so that it can fulfill an expert’s function. Once achieved, the computer can then offer solutions to specific problems. . . ‘Artificial Intelligence’ allows the computer to ‘see’ images, to recognize structures and to find analogies throughout the whole chart. The programme works with psychological models which it has saved. In that regard, the programme’s method can be compared to the method of a human expert. It is rather a synthetic than an analytical method. (2)
With “Artificial Intelligence” the themes and psychological tendencies in our natal charts come closer to being measurable by computers. For example, a computer program can identify whether one individual may be more inclined to be logical versus creative, or interested in poetry instead of philosophy based on the themes found in the natal chart. The analysis of these relationships is especially helpful for not only professional astrologers, but also for psychologists, counselors, and alternative healers who use astrology as a diagnostic tool.
The connection between astrology and physicians goes back thousands of years. It was natural that a physician be not only an expert in medicinal practice, but also in astrology. This partnership aided in the diagnosis, prognosis and selection of medicine. However, with the separation of astrology from the academic community in the 1700s combined with the accumulation of greater medical knowledge, the medical community separated from astrology, no longer requiring its assistance to treat patients. Today, medical astrology remains limited to only a few practitioners. The last century, however, has seen an increasing number of psychologists, counselors, and natural healers utilize astrology in their practices as a diagnostic tool and to gain further understanding about their clients. With the advent of specialized astrology software for these industries, practitioners can quickly identifying likely areas of concern, saving considerable effort from the old manual methods, thus allowing more time for the practitioner to focus on their area of expertise. This critical development proves that it is no longer necessary to be an expert in astrology to use it effectively.
This leads us naturally into one of the most highly advantageous impacts that computer technology contributes to the continued growth of astrology — the entry of the novice and general population into the realm of astrology. In the middle of the 20th century, newspapers emerged with fun columns containing sun sign horoscopes. These have been very popular with the public for decades, found in nearly every newspaper and magazine. It is not unusual to hear someone ask, “What is your sign,” while walking down the street or speaking to co-workers. With sun sign astrology in front of millions of people every day, it is not remarkable to assume that the majority of the public believes their zodiac sun sign is what astrology is all about. However, the birth of the Internet is likely to change these perceptions.
The Internet gives us greater freedom to exchange information. It has also changed the way in which we learn as well as purchase goods and services. The development of the Internet contains significant influences for astrology, both for the public as well as for the astrologer. Looking at the impact on the public first, studies show the belief in astrology has more than doubled since the 1970s. Rick Levine, a prominent astrologer, indicates that USA Today conducted a nation-wide poll in 1977 which asked the question, “Do you believe in astrology?” The poll revealed only 17% of Americans believed in astrology. However, USA Today took the same poll in 1993 and the results indicated the belief in astrology grew to 37%. (3) Without further scientific study, it is difficult to assess the truest reasons behind the numbers. However, it is not much of a leap to conclude that the impact of the Internet has likely contributed to the growing number of believers.
One of the interesting phenomenon’s about the Internet is its ability to make the individual anonymous. In a recent interview with Cosmic Patterns, the manufactures of the popular Kepler Astrology software, Dave Cochrane indicated that one can travel from web page to web page and not be identifiable in the same manner as walking into a bookstore. Anonymity provides a feeling of security whereby it is safe to learn about anything without risking a connection with the subject. (4) No one is present to judge or point a finger. Why is this significant? Anonymity can permit an individual to overcome any apprehension they harbor while exploring the realms of astrology, thus provide time to gain confidence in their newly found opinion of the discipline.
In their online exploration of the subject, a different form of astrology is exposed, one that is far beyond the sun sign horoscopes most are accustomed. Daily sun horoscopes exist online as well. In fact, they are as common as their paper counterparts. A random search on Yahoo for “sun sign horoscope” brings up 39,500 links of sites offering daily, weekly, or monthly predictions. (5) However, most astrology web sites feature additional details about one or more of the various types of astrology. To a curious individual these sites are quite popular and offer far greater insight into the complexity, symbolism, and historical sides of the science. With such a wealth of information on the Internet, it is no wonder that astrology is among the top 200 most commonly searched topics on search engines. (6)
Technology also makes it possible to experience astrology in a new way — interactive and personal. By combining the power of the Internet with the mechanism of email, the electronic delivery of personalized transits based on specific birth information is a reality.
The electronic delivery can be made, incredibly, in advance of the astrological influence and thus permitting the individual time to assimilate and prepare. Additionally, Internet technology permits any other computerized interpretations, such as a natal or solar return report, to be produced and viewed immediately. Two prime examples of this technology can be found at StarIQ.com and astrology.com. Members of StarIQ.com receive free “PlanetForecasts” a few days prior to major planetary transits to provide some forewarning of the coming influences. The forecasts, comprised of approximately two paragraphs for each influence, are based on individual birth information provided by each member when they sign up for the service. In contrast, Astrology.com emails its subscribers with personalized, daily planetary transits for a small fee. However, this web site also provides several options of online reports delivered on a computer screen in less than two minutes. After selecting the free or cost based report, an individual enters their birth time, date, and location and in less than five minutes, the report appears. These different types of online reports may whet the appetite for further exploration and can eventually lead to consultations with a professional astrologer.
While computer technology is a large contributor to the growing success of astrology among the public, it is unrealistic to assume computers will replace the need or desire to interact with an astrologer. Computers provide us with outstanding possibilities in the realm of analyzing complex rules and calculations, as well as the delivery of products and services via the Internet; however, they cannot tell us how someone got into a situation or what can be done about it. In fact, this reason alone has brought criticism from astrologers against the use of computerized reports. Despite the development of “Artificial Intelligence” it is not unusual to find contradictory statements in an astrology report when generated by a computer, and one must assume this to be quite perplexing for clients as well. Joyce Hoen puts it plainly, “A computer can never replace the whole view of an astrologer, a computer separates a chart into contradictory statements and cannot weigh the factors against each other, as it has neither training nor intuition.” (7)
Dave Cochrane points out that humans are complex beings and their integration into society comprises several components — environment, personal decisions, genes, and astrological influences to name a few. (8) There are generally matters in an individual’s life that are not completely discernable by a computer program. These instances are best synthesized into a meaningful whole through counseling or astrological consultation. In truth, computers and consultations ideally operate as a partnership. One performs the complexities of calculations, and the other provides meaning to the data in a way the client can understand and apply in their life.
Unlike their historical counterparts, astrologers today have the advantage of several technological tools to help their clients in the most efficient and complete means possible. Besides astrology software, which we spoke about at some length, the Internet has also assisted the astrologer in remarkable ways. Computers provide a medium through which astrologers can communicate, learn, and gather information in addition to educating the public.
Email enables astrologers to communicate with other professionals from all over the world without the difficulty of time zones and outrageous costs. Developing and maintaining friendships as well as obtaining assistance and information are tremendously beneficial and easily accomplished using Internet technology. All interaction occurs at a time convenient for each individual independent from the other. Technology’s result in breaking down barriers has also afforded a global marketplace. Besides connecting with other professionals, astrologers can reach a wider audience than ever before, unrestricted by geographic location. The Internet also proves to be a rather comprehensive resource to gather information on many topics. Should one wish to learn more on the subject of career or financial astrology, at least a minimum of information is available by conducting a keyword search on any number of search engines available. However, the discerning astrologer would do well to watch that the information they read is from a reputable source.
Computer technology has opened the door for tremendous growth in the field of astrology, especially in the areas of public exposure and easing the burden of calculating charts. Despite the evidence that progress is being made to deliver this complex and sometimes misunderstood art to the world, the full impact of technology is still to be revealed. It is up to us, the astrologers, to utilize the full potential this medium provides.
- Patrick Curry, A Confusion of Prophets, Victorian and Edwardian Astrology (London: Collins & Brown Limited, 1992), 135-136.
- “The Development of Astro*Intelligence. Computer Astrology with Artificial Intelligence, Interview with Dr. Alois Treindl”, Online posting, Astrodienst, 30 May, 2001, http://www.astro.com/katalog/intview_e.htm
- Rick Levine, StarIQ, Personal interview, 10 May 2001.
- Dave Cochrane, Cosmic Patterns, Telephone interview, 10 May 2001.
- Wordtracker Top 500 Most Frequently Used Searched Words on the Internet, “Wordtracker Weekly Top 500 Keyword Report for Monday, February 26, 2001”, Search Engine Guide, 7 May, 2001, http://www.searchengineguide.com/wt/2001/0226_wt1.html
- Joyce Hoen, “Computer programs for astrology”, Ouroboros Astrology, 13 Apr 2001, http://www.ouroboros.nl/astromega/int/softwareint.htm
- Dave Cochrane, Cosmic Patterns, Telephone interview, 10 May 2001.
- “The Development of Astro*Intelligence. Computer Astrology with Artificial Intelligence, Interview with Dr. Alois Treindl”, Online posting, Astrodienst, 30 May, 2001, www.astro.com/katalog/intview_e.htm
- Cochrane, David. Cosmic Patterns. Telephone interview. 10 May 2001.
- Curry, Patrick, A Confusion of Prophets, Victorian and Edwardian Astrology (London: Collins & Brown Limited, 1992).
- Hoen, Joyce, “Computer programs for astrology”, Ouroboros Astrology, 13 Apr 2001, www.ouroboros.nl/astromega/int/softwareint.htm
- Levine, Rick. StarIQ. Personal interview. 10 May 2001.
- Wordtracker Top 500 Most Frequently Used Searched Words on the Internet, “Wordtracker Weekly Top 500 Keyword Report for Monday, February 26, 2001”, Search Engine Guide, 7 May, 2001, www.searchengineguide.com/wt/2001/0226_wt1.html
(c) Tishelle Betterman 2002