Forecasting: Yes or No?

The question of fate vs. free will, or determinism vs. indeterminacy can in one area of astrological debate be considered as essentially focusing around the following three questions:

  • Is it possible to use astrology to forecast the future?
  • Is this ethical?
  • Where are the limits?

A determinist has one argument that cannot be refuted – we must all die. From an astrological point of view this is a major event and must therefore have an astrological signature. And this is agreed by most, if not all, astrologers to be so. Therefore it is possible to predict death and by implication other major events in the life. We speak of major events, but what of the tiny events? Are they all determined? Or must we see a life as painted with a broad brush with the details being left entirely open?

There seems also to be an argument for what we may call “potentials” that do not surface in a life in spite of major planetary configurations. Of course here one may say that this is either through lack of skill on the part of the astrologer or because those configurations are accorded more importance than they indeed have!

Those who say ‘no’ to the first question must forgo centuries of astrological inquiry, as most astrological techniques were developed for forecasting! The use of any form of direction, progression, profection, ingress, even transits brings with it an implicit intent towards making a forecast, whichever way one wants to argue the matter. Even a ‘psychological’ tendency induced by a transiting planet has the character of a forecast. Looking at historical planetary configurations, that is those that lie in the past, also has the intention to understand how similar configurations may be understood in other charts, where that particular potential has not been released. Trying to understand how the native is embedded in planetary cycles, is just another way of saying the same thing! The only option left is an exclusive attention to the birth chart. The chart then becomes a tool to understand the character or psyche of the person, but the life of the person can no longer be placed in a continually developing celestial context. The only possible celestial context is that established at birth, to the exclusion of all else. An answer of ‘no’ also automatically resolves the last two questions. A limit has been set and the only ethical question that need be asked is whether a reading of a birth chart is already an intervention into the free will of the person for whom the chart is being read. Of course if the reading is viewed as a party game, “for entertainment only”, then even this question can be ignored as the whole process becomes a joke without the need for moral qualms.

But one can also begin with the last of the above questions, “Where are the limits to astrology?” Master astrologers such as Jean-Baptiste Morin or Johannes Kepler, to name just two, seem to have the dictum, “If it isn’t in the chart, no celestial configuration, however sensational, will have an effect.” Neither Morin or Kepler questions the art of forecasting. Joh. Kepler however makes a differentiation between the true art of forecasting and misusing it as an ‘oracle’. The one places the human being in a cosmological context with respect for both human being and the science itself, the other degrades astrology, turning it into a superstitious side-show, usually with a central monetary interest and an interest in finding a gullible market.

Joh. Kepler, in the introduction to Wallenstein’s chart makes a very interesting observation:

“Sintemal alles, was der Mensch vom Himmel zu hoffen hat, da ist der Himmel nur Vater, seine eigene Seele aber ist die Mutter dazu, und wie kein Kind außerhalb seiner Mutter Leib gezeuget wird, wenn schon der Vater zehn wären, also hoffet man vergeblich Glück von oben herab, dessen man keine Anleitung in des Menschen Seel und Gemüt findet; und hingegen, so große Correspondenz ist zwischen der Gebärmutter und dem männlichen Samen, noch viel eine größere Neigung haben unsere verborgenen Kräfte der Seele zu den himmlischen erscheinenden Configurationibus, und werden von denselbigen aufgemuntert uns in des Menschen Geburt gar formiert und geartet.” ( Die Astrologie des Johannes Kepler, Stauss/Strauss-Kloebe, pp. 226-227)

“Especially for everything that man hopes from heaven; heaven is only the father, and his own soul is the matching mother. But just as a child cannot be conceived outside of his mother, and had he ten fathers, so too is it impossible to hope for fortune when it is not found in the soul. Just as semen and ovary correspond with one another, so too is there an even greater disposition of the hidden forces of the soul towards celestial configuration, they are awakened, even formed and conditioned by them.” (Kepler’s German is not that easy to translate, not unlike Wm. Lilly’s English to the modern English reader! I hope I have been able to catch the sense of his argument. Th.)

Important is the inseparable connection between man and cosmos. To take one out of context with the other leads to distortion, and funnily enough the two extremes of denying the possibility of astrological forecasting and the other of not being able to make a decision without running up a chart or reading the daily horoscope, end up becoming a caricature. It is a question of balance.

The question of ethics has three dimensions. There is the formal legal codex of the country in which we live, there is the social codex of the culture we are imbedded in and then there is the personal codex that we establish for ourselves. Just as we must use our judgement in considering a chart we are also called upon to use judgement and common sense in our approach to astrology, and if we consult an astrologer, the one we choose.

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4 thoughts on “Forecasting: Yes or No?

  1. Very nicely put Thomas! 🙂

    It was Gjiada who recently prompted me to open Ptolemy’s Centiloquy where I found aphorisms 5 and 8 regarding causal determinism:

    “A skilful person, acquainted with the nature of the stars, is enabled to avert many of their effects, and to prepare himself for those events before they arrive.”

    And

    “A sagacious mind improves the operation of the heavens, as a skilful farmer, by cultivation, improves nature.”

    Most of our lives are spent deciding between opposing possibilities, and we generally take the course of action most compatible with our temperamental make-up. Free will therefore is only the dominant ‘emotional pull’, and as such can be shaped by foresight of its consequences.

    Regarding ethics: just because an astrologer can predict death, doesn’t to my mind mean he always should.

    Lots of thoughts to ponder upon here . . . .

    Love
    Caroline

  2. 1. Prediction – How accurate can we be?

    Every astrology text and article does the same thing: the author postulates his theoretical point and then gives an example of his opinion to validate it. The example is always clear as day, and with a basic background of astrology, the reader thinks astrology is easy or if not easy, at least makes it possible to make pinpoint accurate predictions thereby improving the quality of every native’s life. Then the reader tries it.

    The problem encountered by actually trying to predict future events is that there are multiple possibilities shown by the configurations of the planets and multiple charts. There are only 7 planets (for some of us) 12 houses and 12 signs plus a handful of techniques that put those to use. With all the potential of a human life, how do we choose? Will Mars on the 7th manifest as a lawsuit from a business partner or a divorce? Will Jupiter ruling the first in the 8th bring the native wealth from a spouse or death from a liver condition?

    Sure after the native has been sued by his partner and dies from cirrhosis of the liver the chart is obvious. Hindsight astrology is relatively easy. The future is not. Instructors need to use past examples to make their point. They can’t look at a chart and predict an early violent death for a person in his teens and tell the student/reader, “He should die before his 32nd birthday. I wonder if he will?” That’s not too persuasive.

    The point is that prediction is always “iffy” and I suggest it is “iffy” because of free will. If I don’t marry, I won’t get divorced, so Mars on the 7th will manifest another way. How would the astrologer know which way to go if the chart is read at an early age?

    Morin’s astrology is an attempt to pinpoint prediction. He tries to be as precise as possible rejecting the use of universal significators and instead depending on the relevant planet’s “analogy” with the appropriate house. If Jupiter rules 1 and is in 8, and no planets are in 1, then Jupiter is more likely to represent death than partner’s wealth since Jupiter is not associated with the 2nd and (assuming) the ruler of the second does not show an increase in material well being, or perhaps Saturn is in the 2nd, the native will not be wealthy no matter what. But even the great French astrologer waffles now and then.

    We all have limits. We are limited by talents (I never could have been a professional baseball player – sigh), social circumstances (I cannot be King of England or even of my home town), biology (I will never give birth) etc. To admit those limits is not to submit to predestination. It is to recognize that prediction can be narrowed down with sufficient background information, but there is still wiggle room for free will to fit in.

    2. Ethics, death, etc

    Predicting death is nasty business because among other things we could be wrong. My brother, the family comedian (double Gemini with Mercury in Gemini on the ASC), once asked me if astrology can predict death. I told him probably. He asked if I would do it for him. I was stunned; he was and is in good health. “Why?”

    “Because I want to know when to run up my credit card bills.”

    Needless to say, I didn’t try it.

    There may well be good reason to predict a client’s death if the client asks. If requested, and the reason was good, I’d be damn sure I knew what I was doing before I took on that challenge. I don’t know that it is proper to do it on a whim or for a public figure.

    Should someone have predicted Princess Diana’s early and violent death? No one did as far as I know. No one was looking for it, even though it appeared somewhat obvious after the fact. This, of course brings us back to point No. 1. But even if someone was looking for it, it hardly seems ethical to trumpet such a prediction.

    3. Well then, should all astrology be electional astrology? In my brother’s case, is there a good time to elect for debt accumulation? Well maybe not all, since elections are best accomplished with full knowledge of the natal chart, but follow this reasoning:

    If we can determine the potential of the chart, and by so doing offering the native some positive choices for his life, instead of trying to predict it, wouldn’t it be best to get the native’s input and work with him or her to elect the best time to begin the endeavor the native finds most appealing?

    “I want to be married have 5 kids (an obviously insane client), a cute little cottage with a white picket fence at the end of a picturesque little street.”

    “Very well, your chart shows the potential for a successful marriage, several children, and a lovely home. It also shows a potential successful career as a divorce attorney. You won’t have time for the kids and the cottage, but you will be very wealthy.”

    “I’ll take the job.”

    All right the astrologer could then elect the best time to begin law studies set up a practice etc and to hell with the kids and cottage. Or vice versa. In this case there is far less fatalism and far more free will. More than likely the client will say, “I want both. Gloria Steinham said I could have both.” Leading us to Schopenhauer’s dictum:

    “Man has a free will, just not the will to use it.”

    Tom

  3. Well, voila Gjiada!

    About death, we see it as a taboo we should not talk about, but you know it was the first thing an astrologer would check reading a natal chart.
    For example in the case of Wallenstein horoscope, Kepler talks a lot about negative directions and aspects in Solar Returns.
    In the report i have (which I think it’s a translation) he gives astrology notes and events listed by year.
    Even if not plain stated, Wallenstein could easily understand when Kepler believed the end.

  4. Hello Caroline, Gjiada and Tom!

    I’ll answer your comments in one comment!

    I recently read a series of articles which were focused on whether it is possible to use astrology prognostically and whether if was ethical to do so. The general tenor of most of the articles was to say something like “Well, of course if you put the native in front of a background of planetary configurations, it is possible that transits seem to have an effect, sometimes in the mood of the native may be affected though it may happen that there is also an outer event…” in other words, neither a yes or a no. This motivated me to write the above article.

    It seems to me that without a philosophical/cosmological background it is almost impossible to address the issue. This is a major factor in how you will approach it. There are already cultural factors. I think however that one can generally say that the human being is like a fulcrum of a balance in which his actions are determined (he has no influence) and where he has choice i.e. free will. Both tendencies to support one extreme seem not to form a polarity but rather to meet! The polarity is formed between the centre and the extremes.

    My personal answer to the question is yes it is possible to use astrology prognostically, and yes accuracy depends on the skill of the astrologer.

    Death can be predicted, but there are indeed moral constrictions as to whether it should be communicated, particularly since death is the one event that is certain to happen, sooner or later. It is more sensible to discover what can bring quality into the life and concentrate on that!

    Much can be learned from how the old masters also deal with the ‘negative’ directions, etc. Kepler has a very dry style for example.

    best wishes,
    Thomas

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