This article in some ways has been triggered by Hank Friedman's recent article, Teachings in Western and Vedic Astrology recently published on the B.C. based Fraser Valley Astrology Guild site. This site bravely addresses both sides of the astrological coin (assuming that there is indeed a coin with two sides, as opposed to there being only one side of the coin better studied and currently being divided into several territories - kind of like what happens in the REAL world we live in).
The COIN is not something that exclusively belongs to ASTROLOGY but to what I call the "DYNAMIC human experience" or as some would define: A collective personal view of perceived reality. The 'DYNAMIC' pertains to the changeable focus and perspective as we humans evolve - hence an ever moving target!
Perhaps it is a human quality or pressure of the modern times, but most astrologers of western or eastern kinds seem to be eager, too eager! Too eager to claim and even try to prove that astrology is something vital, must be preserved at all costs and that must not become the proverbial baby that humankind has for centuries been tossing out with the bathwater.
Miraculously, the proverbial "BABY" of reality has FOREVER survived! After all, back then those were really p-o-w-e-r-f-u-l times seemingly belonging to rulers and priests - the keepers of religion, morality and all that is good and godly, when hemlock was served in giant servings, killing historically documented great minds (BUT SURPRISINGLY NOT THEIR THOUGHTS OR TEACHINGS!). Invading cultures PLUNDERED IN trying to erase and efface the traces of the conquered cultures and their banked knowledge. And in more modern times, the likes of Adolf Hitler who have tried to wipe out the likes of Einstein and the ancient cultures that receive the likes of him as godly reminders of what it is really all about!
Sure enough, we rejoice and celebrate in the achievements of individuals -- their strength and survival but really what matters in the long run is the survival of the body of TRUTH. This brings our collective evolution as humankind a step further, an evolution that somehow seems to be protected in a divine manner. I do not want to wax devotional - but really - considering how frail the human organism and its products are, it is amazing that bodies of knowledge worldwide have survived barbaric foreign invasions, often brutal and other attempts at annihilation in other ways, and here we are hundreds if not thousands of years after the ancient craft of ASTROLOGY had been attempted to be suppressed by different forms of religions, churches and other HUMAN houses of God and more recently by Science or shall we say, the Modern Church of Rationality? Yet, miraculously we still have the Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra and the Tetrabiblios - mostly intact and still very relevant and meaningful!
Time to say: H-a-l-l-e-l-u-j-a-h?
But, then we must re-turn to business and the business has another name: pragmatic REALITY!
I have been on the cyber-astrological scene for some decades and despite being a jyotishi living in North America, I had been privileged to enjoy the welcome warmth of being allowed to create a niche for the facet of the ancient craft that I love and am dedicated to, in the very centre of a forum that had a very dominant western theme and particularly in astrology. I am talking about my CompuServe days in the early nineties on the New Age Forum and The Astrology Roundtable on Genie, in the company of the likes of Roger Elliot, Charles Bowlings, Theresa Kinney, David Barnett, Michael Munkasey, Michael Erlewine, Ena Stanley, Ed Perrone and many other individuals -- most very fine western and some equally fine eclectic astrologers firmly rooted in their chosen framework of exploration, yet unconditionally welcoming and not one bit dogmatic about what they chose to follow or against what other discipline they knew lay out there and were never felt threatened about! I see that replayed in my two teenager male progenies when despite their natural tensions and strains, their sibling rivalries - they unabashedly interact with each other, all fighting aside, laying their maturing egos and personal vendettas aside, to exchanging notes and to learn from each other's unique but parallel experiences, be it in basketball or volleyball or Physics and how to get into that prestigious University that seems so very crucial to their immigrant parents or who knows perhaps even girls (budding ideas about relationships!)
When one grows during the formative years of one's soul in a milieu filled with love and acceptance like I have been privileged to be, one begins to on the one hand gain a broader acceptance of Reality and of one's ignorance and on the other hand, having shed the baggage of there being AN one and only sacred, divine and exclusive package of truth, is freed of the need to prove the wrong hypothesis: That there being some one and only one way of looking at TRUTH.
Scientists are often blamed for being too narrowly focused or of working with a "blinders on" mentality, but if one seriously looks at how scientific (particularly physical) explorations are done, these always aim at trying to view the 'reality' through different view-ports and thus to formulate a three-dimensional view of reality or truth through a 2-dimensional construct. Kind of like every software programmer of computer games and modern animated films must do, creating the leela and maya layer by layer!
Astrologers, modern, eastern and western -- have been sucked into shoving their ill-understood astrological framework into this rigid construct of 100% predictability. It is amazing, how even the champions of free-will, many western astrologers - who have intuitively and experientially experienced (you can tell English is not my primary language!) the influence of free-will through their personal experiences during their practice of astrology - when pressed into a corner, begin quoting how successful they or other revered colleagues were at predicting events and pinpointing the future before it could be experienced as the present! Do you see the paradox?
Eastern astrologers, particularly jyotishis on the one hand extol predictive success and even openly tout the role of destiny and incontrovertible fate, yet in the very next breath they would chant out the remedies that could overcome destiny, through use of mantra, Tantra, gemstones and a myriad of other karmic cop-outs as some call these! So, is there free-will or does fate stand supreme?
Given the obvious dichotomies, tracheotomies, polytomies etc., do you wonder why the common man (and woman) is confused and wary of all these astrologers running their spiel and not really coming out with the one and only truthful story? Well, there is NO one and only story! There is no shame in accepting the fact that all of us are searching and looking! If there was a gospel truth, it would have been offered freely with a guarantee and a 'P' value provided! Would it not? But is that possible now, even for the illustrious few that we keep pointing at as our beacons and supreme examples of predictive prowess, in our respective camps?
For reasons of politics, ego or whatever else, no single astrologer exists that can come out with such a Kreskin claim! Do we really need to pretend, particularly amongst our astrologer brethren, western or eastern, that there is no rock-solid 100% guaranteed predictability in any form of astrology? Some of this uncertainty is because of a lack of full knowledge (many of the rules are probably hidden, lost or yet to be discovered!) but maybe a lot of it is because of this variable called 'free-will'. Is it free will of the soul or free-will of the incarnated fraction of the soul? We would not go there, but should we stop thinking about the wholistic us and seriously considering it during our astrological evaluations?
There certainly have been a few, VERY few individuals who had been very successful at predicting, consistently, in a documented manner available for public scrutiny, but have they always used ONLY astroLOGIC, knowingly or unknowingly, on which their track record of outstanding performance is based? When individuals who have been accepted as authorities or teachers and writers of fame confess in their rare 'human' moments that there is something higher than mere logic and knowledge guiding them, and others, invoked possibly through an arduous spiritual practice, years of yogic discipline and a ritualistic process in which they take the horoscope to bed and do japam (chanting/concentration/meditation) and then a picture begins to emerge, evolve ... etc. What is one to make of this, other than invite a mental framework in which the boundaries of TECHNICAL astrology have not yet been nailed down sharp and tight but the need for honest exploration emerges and hopefully continues, obviously.
K.N. Rao, a brilliant Indian teacher, jyotishi, writer and predictor of astounding success indicated a few times in his Jyotish-list messages that even great jyotishis are about 80-82% accurate, generally. A mini study on CompuServe done in mid-nineties through message threads showed that in general average astrologers get things right between 60-75% of times. If we begin to tease out the important from the non-essential predictions, the percentage in the accomplished ones will fall further from 82% down, I am certain.
Even if there are one thousand super-accurate predictors that exist in the marketplace of astrology at this time worldwide, who rarely fail or are wrong, is that a good enough performance record for our ancient disciplines of astrology, given that a few hundred thousand if not a few millions are ardently engaged in discussing and living astrology? One in five being the threshold of statistical significance, we should have infallible performance from 200,000 astrologers per million. How far are we from achieving such numbers, in the eastern or western camp, or any other camp for that matter? If not, should we be spending our energies in claiming and touting the infallibility of astrology as a discipline, let alone as a science, and should we really be brawling on this tiny island of astrology which probably holds only an infinitesimal fraction of the entire population, even if we are counting believers as opposed to practitioners, especially successful practitioners with a high performance record, consistently and documented so!
What is needed, perhaps, is not theories and justifications but DEMONSTRATIONS of what astrology can give, and produce. Failures are as important as successes and egoism or jingoism have no place at this stage of growth or perhaps rediscovery of the ancient craft.
I am neither trying to be provocative nor to challenge any individual's, astrologer or not, view of reality or where our energies should be focused insofar as astrology is concerned, eastern or western. but, let me remind you friends, there are way more than just TWO schools of astrology! And all of these have ardent followers and anecdotes of uncanny predictive success. And I am not even looking at all the different methods of divination, in total! It eerily reminds one of the 'dodo bird verdict' alluded to by Dan Baker in "What Happy People Know". Luborsky, Singer and Luborsky (1975) were trying to figure out which brand of psychotherapy was really the best, but did not find any single one that could be called that. They borrowed the Dodo bird verdict from Alice in Wonderland: "Everyone has won -- so all must have prizes!" Baker comments that if no single therapy is superior, then some other healing factor is obviously at work! We do not know if that applies to the diverse forms of astrology or not, but perhaps we should keep it in mind, given the diverse and dissimilar orientation points used in the various forms of astrology. Perhaps some of the better predictors intuitively know that and do not remain limited in their armamentaria when tackling the tough job of reading the signs and symbols of the human soul through heavenly indicators.
Quite honestly, it is not time yet to get into, "My dad is stronger than your dad!" games and arguments with our playmates, although modern astrology, eastern and western, as it is being rediscovered, is indeed at about that age where such behavior might be just appropriate!
It is all healthy and normal, as long as we do not get stuck, stop growing as individuals, as groups of explorers and as astrologers of any and all cloths as we explore this fascinating and largely unknown territory. But first of all, we must stop in our tracks and really test ourselves honestly to find out where we stand, in terms of progress and performance. Most of us will find that when searching a large and unknown territory, working in groups of individuals with a large variety of skills and expertise is perhaps more efficient!