How Does Astrology Work?
If I knew the answer to that question, I would be a rich woman! As yet, we do not know specifically ‘how’ astrology works. There are at least two differing schools of thought, one quite esoteric in nature and the other more practical, but both, as yet, equally unproven.
The first explanation is a principle similar to ‘synchronicity’, an acasual connecting principal proposed by Carl Jung. Simply put, the general idea here is that events on earth of a specific nature co-incide with astronomical events of a similar nature (according to the symbolic significance of the celestial bodies).
This is where the astrological saying ‘As above…so Below’ comes from. Astrologers believe that celestial and earthly events are mutually reflective and inter-penetrating. It is not a case of cause and effect – celestial events don’t cause anything, but merely reflect what is ALSO happening on earth. This is of course still hypothetical and a complicated and not widely understood theory.
The second school of thought is that there are (as yet) unknown forces or energies emanating from the planets which affect life on earth.
Many scientists that have dismissed astrology out of hand are swift to note that of the four forces known to classical science-strong and weak nuclear, electromagnetic, and gravitational-the only possible measurable, observable force that could be responsible for the planets to effect human affairs would be gravitational. However, the gravitational force between planets and earth is so negligible as to have no effect.
The actual force of astrology may never be entirely quantifiable, however, as belief systems rapidly change and more sophisticated instruments and experimental designs evolve, science as method may become more sensitive to a force or series of forces that astrology studies.
The once proposed theory of gravitational pull has been pretty much discounted due to the huge distances involved between ourselves and the more distant planets, but the fact remains that there is biological evidence showing a harmony between celestial rhythms and biological rhythms – one only has to consider the effect of the moon on the tides, on the female menstrual cycle, and, some say, on mental illness.
The obstacle in believing that planets and human behavior are interrelated via force is mostly likely due to the current, but vanishing, worldview that suggests that objects have no innate relationship to each other, that action-at-a-distance or material and efficient causation is the deepest level of causation in the universe, and that our own subjectivity is completely unrelated to the external world.
The ancients Greeks believed in a causation that lay deeper than observable cause-and-effect, what Aristotle called formal causation. In formal causation, a deeper or transcendent principle informs action that on a superficial level is merely observable in terms of cause-and-effect. Hence the material world is the “window dressing” or “wallpapering” of a higher-ordering principle that the ancients knew as the effect of archetypes. We cannot know or see the archetypes or formal causes in-and-of-themselves, however, we can see the effects of these archetypal forces as they inform human behavior and planetary movement.
Changes in patterns of solar radiation are also known to have biological effects on earth. Clearly much more research and funding is needed if we are ever to discover more concrete evidence about ‘how’ astrology works.
Thus, although we cannot measure any extant force, we can see that the planets and human affairs are both reflections of a deeper or higher (depending on your point of view) energy pattern.
As Richard Tarnas states elegantly, From this perspective, the planets themselves are not “causing” anything to be happening in our lives, any more than the hands on a clock are now causing it to be 7:30 PM. Rather, the planetary positions are indicative of the cosmic state of the archetypal forces at that time.(1)
(1) Tarnas, Richard, Ph.D. “Introduction to your Astrological Analysis.” unpublished.