When it comes to dismissing astrology, modern critics can be relied upon to rally around familiar talking points. These dwell on reasons why the public should not be tricked into believing astrology is a credible source for information of any kind.
It is the skeptics’ position that the population is being duped by false narratives that can easily be explained away. To them, astrology is always a shell game. What you think you see is not what you’re likely to get, they say.
For example there’s the Barnum Effect, which is defined as the tendency to accept information as true, such as character assessments or horoscopes, even when the information is so vague as to be worthless. Also, those receiving advice from astrologers are said to be especially vulnerable to such things as magical thinking, illusive correlations, selective memory, false plausibility and the like.
In this conversation astrological truth seekers can be in for a bumpy ride. In his latest book, A 22nd Century Science: How to Demonstrate Astrology is Truel, Australian research astrologer Paul Westran tells the sad story of astrology true-believer Rudolf Smit, who lost his way and paid the price for his dalliance with the ancient art. Smit’s personal story is particularly poignant because of the duplicitous way he converted from critic to astrological proponent and back again.
Among the Naysayers
Smit counted himself among the naysayers when a friend familiar with the subject persuaded him that he should test astrology first before rejecting it. Smit took this advice to heart, did his due diligence, and ultimately became a self-taught professional astrologer who went on to write many articles on the subject. He was chairman of the Dutch society of professional astrologers in 1977 when the then Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) – now the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – an organization of professional skeptics, launched a public-relations frontal attack on astrological claims.
Smit may have been knocked off stride by the vociferous arguments critics in this era aggressively used to poison the well of public opinion against astrology. Westran reports that the Dutch astrologer suffered clinical depression for three years and his life lost meaning after the edifice of astrology crumbled in his mind.
“It was devastatingly clear,” Smit wrote in a published article he titled: Astrology My Passion, My Life and My Personal Disaster: a True Story. “Astrology did not need to be true. Just being warm and caring would do the trick,” he cynically opined.
Westran writes that Smit eventually regained his intellectual equilibrium. He became interested in science once more and has spent the past 30 years helping people understand “the errors inherent in astrology.”
According to Westran, the type of astrology Smit learned and rejected “is this static, fated, pale shade type that works something like an oracle of fate… The natal chart is pre-eminent in this model and there is no dynamism other than the fatalistic bombardment of the natal planets by transiting planets. In this model, planetary aspects in your natal chart reflect permanent conditions in your life.”
In his latest book, Westran describes ongoing research with progressed synastry charts, and reports impressive statistical results that can’t easily be dismissed by any of the usual arguments we hear from skeptical critics. He stresses the need to “deconstruct astrology into something falsifiable and testable.” And he provides convincing evidence that astrology has efficacy.
In an ongoing study, Westran demonstrates that Venus, the planet astrologers have long identified with love and attraction turns up in the compared horoscopes of couples in predictable ways – at a frequency much greater than expected.
For centuries astrologers have evaluated compatibility potential in couples by observing how the Sun, Moon and planets in compared birth charts align with each other. This process, called synastry, seeks to determine if the astrological aspects formed between planets in the couple’s natal birth charts are favorably – or not so favorably – aligned.
Progressions are another concept that has been around for a long time. A progressed chart is used by astrologers to delineate the new aspects (alignments) that are formed between natal and progressed planets in the individual’s birth chart, which change over time. Astrologers use progressed charts to help individuals time events and evaluate progress in their lives. What is or isn’t working.
Casting a progressed chart is relatively easy. The astrologer simply counts forward the number of days equal to the number of years that have passed since the individual’s birth and casts a progressed natal horoscope for this date.
It’s a bit more difficult with a partner involved. In his research Westran combined synastry with progressions to create what he calls progressed synastry charts. Keeping track of progressed synastry aspects is not the sort of thing you’ll want to try without a sophisticated computer software program to automate the process, he says.
To progress planets, Westran uses the method astrologers call secondary progressions. Each planet on the 360-degree horoscope wheel is advanced the distance it has actually traveled in the heavens in a single day for each year. The Sun is advanced about one degree and the other planets are advanced at varying speeds depending on their relative speed on the Ecliptic.
At the beginning of relationships, Westran found that progressed Venus formed favorable aspects to either the Sun or Venus in a partner’s progressed synastry chart more frequently than expected by chance. He defines favorable aspects as the conjunction, the 120-degree trine, and the 180-degree opposition. Synastry aspects considered were favorable alignments between his natal Sun with her natal Venus, his natal Sun with her progressed Venus, her progressed Sun with his natal Venus, and her progressed Venus with his natal Sun.
In the synastry charts for a couple, natal Venus may not be forming a major aspect with the Sun or Venus in the partner’s chart. But this may no longer be the case 30 years later when the couple meets for the first time. Progressed synastry aspects can be observed dramatically forming, conjoining and subsequently moving out of orb (their range of influence). The aspects formed dramatically reflect or correspond with romantic developments in the lives of real people, he says.
In his initial study with 1,300 celebrity couples Westran says he found that progressed aspects between Sun and Venus turned up at the start of relationships in numbers far exceeding expectations. He placed the odds for this result at 900,000 to one against chance, and has reported similar results as the number of couples in the on-going study has grown to more than 3,000.
Critics will have little success in passing these robust results off as magical thinking, illusive correlations, false plausibility, selective memory, or as the Barnum Effect, Westran believes.
In the last century astrologer Charles E.O. Carter wrote that “it is a cardinal rule that no direction can bring to pass what is not shown in the nativity (natal chart). Exceptions to this are virtually non-existent. The radical (natal) horoscope limits the operation of directions inexorably.”
Westran says his experiments with secondary progressed synastry aspects disconfirm this. Relationships are observed beginning and ending when positive progressed aspects are forming or separating; for example his progressed Sun with her progressed Venus.
Westran calls the natal chart “the on-ramp to the highway of your life.” But he believes it is “just a small part of a dynamic progressed synastry horoscope, which is in constant motion.”
He likens the natal birth chart to a stationary football field: “Zodiacs are like football fields and planets are like players. If you go watch a football game you watch the players, not the football field,” he says.
Westran has created a unique format he calls “collision charts” to dramatically track progressed synastry aspects unfolding in the lives of real people.
Many more samples can be found on his website, www.positiveastrology.com, and in his book, A 22nd Century Science: How to Demonstrate Astrology is Truel. The paperback is available from all Amazon stores. The Kindle book is available in English in different currencies from the 13 international Kindle stores.