As implausible as this may seem, the idea that mainstream science might one day stumble upon a rational explanation for why and how astrology works is not completely over-the-top.
At least some investigators are beginning to look in the right places.
Speaking at a Cycles and Symbols Conference in San Francisco almost 20 years ago, the late Victor Mansfield, an astrophysicist and author who taught in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Colgate University in New York and authored books that boldly attempted to bridge the divide between science and spirituality, offered his thoughts on where answers to this burning question might lie: in the magical realm of quantum mechanics.
Prof. Mansfield was that rare, brilliant, transitional academic who, in addition to cosmology and astronomy, wrote thoughtful books and lectured on such topics as synchronicity, Jungian psychology, Tibetan Buddhism – and astrology. At the Richard Tarnas-organized Cycles and Symbols Conference, Prof. Mansfield pointed out that the typical argument against astrology from the science side begins with the idea that there are four forces in nature: the gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces. Only two of them, gravity and electromagnetic, are long-range forces that act over macroscopic distances. The movements of free charges easily shield electric forces, and magnetic forces decrease with distance even more rapidly than gravity. Ergo, the only force of significance that might account for astrological influences is the gravitational force.
The late Carl Sagan, like Mansfield schooled in astronomy and physics, summarily dispatched this notion by arguing that the gravitational forces of the doctor and nurse are much greater than anything from the planets. “It makes more sense to worry about whether you had a nurse in the fifth house or a doctor in Capricorn,” he quipped.
Only Kills Straw Men
But destroying simple mechanisms for a physical explanation for astrological influence “only kills straw men and does nothing to illuminate the possibility of more sophisticated ideas,” Prof. Mansfield countered. “Because astrology purposes a unified view of the world, it is best understood through a quantum world view that has acausal interconnectedness, observer dependence and unity at its core,” he suggested.
In classical Newtonian physics causality or causal influence refers to one well-defined thing affecting another by an exchange of energy or information, such as the sun and moon’s gravitational field causing tides on earth. In the natural world we instinctively identify with cause and effect and accept its defining influence in our lives, i.e., the harder one steps on the gas pedal the faster the car goes.
Early in the 20th century Albert Einstein’s expanded the Newtonian universe with his general theory of relativity, which provided a theoretical framework for understanding macroscopic events occurring in an expanding universe. His relativity theory revolutionized the way cosmologists visualized time and space but remained inseparably linked to Newtonian rules dealing with actions and reactions. Relativity theory also set a cosmic speed limit for energy coursing through the cosmos: 186,000 miles-per-second, the speed of light.
Weird is the word most often used to describe quantum reality, but spooky works as well. Quantum mechanics deals with the disparity between the way things appear to work in the world of appearance and how they actually unfold in the unseen world of the infinitesimally small. Unlike the seemingly solid objects we observe all around us tiny subatomic particles do not have well-defined properties independent of observation. Experiments have shown that without someone or something to observe them, illusive subatomic particles may not exist at all.
It’s not simply that our observation of these very small systems disturbs them but that they are intrinsically indeterminate prior to observation, Prof Mansfield explained. Effectively, the tiny quantum particle is in all possible states simultaneously as long as we don’t look to check. Any effort to measure both the velocity and position of a subatomic particle at the same time fundamentally changes what it is.
It’s the measurement itself that causes the particle to be limited to a single possibility. This phenomenon is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and has been described by Stephen Hawking as “a fundamental and inescapable property of the world.” As a practical matter, when fragments are as small as a subatomic particle, the only way to predict the likelihood that a particular particle might behave in a certain way is to do the math; that is, check out the statistical possibilities.
Spooky Action at a Distance
This is where it gets spooky. All of the matter we interact with in the material world is comprised of atoms which are, in turn, comprised of subatomic particles. Incredibly, physicists have been able to demonstrate that, in the unseen world of particle physics, every subatomic particle knows what every other subatomic particle it has ever interacted with is doing – no matter how great the distance between them becomes.
Once subatomic particles become entangled (bump into each other) the simple act of measuring a particle at one location will instantaneously produce a response in what it is called its “correlated” pair – no matter how great the distance between them becomes. The particle twin might be sitting in the lab next door or embedded in surface dust on the dark side of the moon. Or perhaps it’s floating somewhere in a parallel universe; It doesn’t matter. If something causes an entangled particle in one location to spin in a certain direction its entangled particle twin will instantaneously spin in the opposite direction. This phenomenon, which Einstein called “spooky action-at-a-distance” provides spectacular physical evidence that the cosmos is interconnected in ways not previously imagined.
“Astonishingly, this quantum view is not merely an artifact of its current mathematical formulation. Analysis and experiments, independent of the present formulation of quantum mechanics, show that nature is so deeply acausal and nonlocal that any future replacement for quantum mechanics must have nonlocal connections that work without any exchange of energy or information between the parts of the correlated system – without any causal connection. This is an extraordinary fact that should play a central role in any approach to understanding nature in general and astrology in particular,” Prof. Mansfield opined.
In his talk the astrophysicist identified the need for what he called a new Theoretical Astrology to explore the underlying structural ideas and presuppositions inherent in astrology, its philosophic and scientific underpinning.
“It is not enough to say that astrology presupposes a united worldview, one replete with acausal connections. For astrology to take its place in broader circles it needs a much more secure theoretical foundation.
“Today is a golden age for astronomy. Thanks to the combination of a powerful theoretical understanding of nature combined with a vast array of sophisticated modern electronics and computing, the growth of astronomy is dazzling. I suggest that, with a coherent theory and the modern tools of psychological testing, sophisticated statistical methods and modern computing astrology can make a similar leap into a golden age of its own,” he said.
More information on Prof. Mansfield can be found at www.lightlink.com/vic