Astrology comes in many varieties. Although people often say that they “believe in” (or don’t believe in) astrology, there really isn’t a single, unified astrology any more than there is a monolithic psychology, economics, or even physics. Each kind of astrology is rooted in a particular culture, time, and way of thinking, although each astrology also evolves and changes with its culture – and as it spreads beyond its initial cultural limits. The result is a fascinating mosaic of culture, philosophy and technique.
In In Search of Destiny: Biography, History & Culture As Told Through Vedic Astrology, Edith Hathaway has written an intriguing account of recent world history – focusing mostly on Western culture – from the perspective of Indian astrology. The astrology of India, variously called Vedic, Hindu, or Jyotish, is one of the oldest continuously existent kinds of astrology, reaching far back into the history of the Indian subcontinent, and it is rich with methods of interpretation and ways of understanding. Indian astrology uses yogas or links between planets that are virtually unknown in the West. And it has a different method – the dasha system -for predicting opportunities for future changes in a person, group, or nation. It also uses a zodiac based on the constellations, rather than the tropical zodiac used in the West, which is based on the seasons of the year.
The book does what it promises, covering history, culture, and biography through the lens of Vedic astrology. The sections that present biographical sketches of people from Bill Gates to Maya Angelou are especially interesting and will be accessible to most readers. The analyses of cultural and historic transformations are equally interesting, and readers will find themselves nodding along with Hathaway’s insights. It’s rare to find a book of any sort that is able to incorporate such a wide range of topics, and rarer still to find one that actually manages to integrate them into a cohesive whole, yet Edith Hathaway has managed to accomplish both goals. In Search of Destiny does with Vedic astrology what Richard Tarnas’ Cosmos and Psyche did with Western astrology, allowing us to view our history and prominent figures in our culture from a perspective that gives cohesion and meaning to our shared experience.
Although Vedic astrologers will learn a great deal about their art with this book, In Search of Destiny will present a few challenges to the reader who is not also an astrologer – in fact, even Western astrologers will be challenged to learn new terminology and at least learn about some Vedic techniques. Yet no one should be put off by this, as it is possible (and perhaps necessary for some of us) to take the essential meanings from the book while leaving the astrological details in soft focus. It is easy enough, for example, to think about a ten-year period in someone’s life as being characterized by a particular kind of energy that is consistent with a set of opportunities and a general mood. Hathaway facilitates our understanding by describing Vedic astrology in plain-English terms, allowing the reader to access ideas that might otherwise seem too complicated or obscure.
Anyone who has an interest in astrology or Indian culture, or who simply wants a unique take on how astrology can help us to understand our individual and collective lives, can benefit from reading In Search of Destiny.