Though the practices of astrology and astronomy have common roots, there is an important distinction in astrology vs. astronomy today. Astronomy is the study of the universe and its contents outside of Earth’s atmosphere. Astronomers examine the positions, motions, and properties of celestial objects. Astrology, on the other hand, attempts to study how those positions, motions, and properties affect people and events on Earth. For several millennia, the desire to improve astrological predictions was one of the main motivations for astronomical observations and theories.
Astrology continued to be part of mainstream science until the late 1600s when Isaac Newton demonstrated some of the physical processes by which celestial bodies affect each other. In doing so, he showed that the same laws that make an apple fall from a tree also apply to the motions of the celestial sphere. Since then, astronomy has evolved into a completely separate field where predictions about celestial phenomena are made and tested using the scientific method.
The Historical Connection: Astrology and Astronomy in Ancient Times
Most cultures did not draw a clear distinction between the two disciplines before the modern era, lumping them together as one. There were no separate duties for the astronomer as a predictor of celestial occurrences and the astrologer as an interpreter of celestial phenomena in ancient Babylonia, which was famous for its astrology. This does not imply that astrology and astronomy were always considered synonymous. Pre-Socratic intellectuals in ancient Greece, including Anaximander, Xenophanes, Anaximenes, and Heraclides, pondered the nature and substance of the stars and planets. Eudoxus, for example, observed planetary motions and cycles and developed a geocentric cosmology model that Aristotle accepted. This hypothesis was universally accepted until Ptolemy added epicycles to account for Mars’ retrograde velocity. Aristarchus of Samos proposed a proto-heliocentric theory in 250 BC, which was not revisited for nearly two millennia. Because the motions of the heavens indicate an organized and harmonious cosmos, the Platonic school advocated astronomy as an element of philosophy. Babylonian astrology began to make an impact in Greece in the third century BC. Hellenistic philosophers such as Carneades, the Academic Skeptic, and Panaetius, the Middle Stoic, both condemned astrology.
The Stoic beliefs of the Great Year and everlasting recurrence, on the other hand, enabled divination and fatalism.
Astrological literature from Hellenistic and Arabic astrologers were translated into Latin, astrology became extensively respected in medieval Europe. Its acceptability or rejection in the late Middle Ages was frequently determined by its reception in European royal courts. Astrology was not rejected as a part of scholastic philosophy rather than empirical observation until the time of Francis Bacon. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when astrology was increasingly regarded as an arcane science or superstition by the intellectual elite, a more definitive divide between astrology and astronomy emerged in the West.
A Personal Lens into Human Nature and Interactions
“I believe in astrology 100%,” said Michelle Lozada, a junior majoring in Forensic Psychology. “Every time I meet someone, their astrological sign always matches their personality. Sometimes, I can even guess a person’s [zodiac] sign right away.”
An explanation of astrology by Kepler College defines the subject as “the study of the meaningful correlation between celestial objects and earthly events.”
The key word here is “meaningful.” Astrology deals with meaning, while astronomy focuses on measurement.
“Astrology to me is someone’s basic blueprint,” said photography major Iliana Pulgar. “It’s not an exact navigational map, but an outline of someone’s personality or even life path.”
Some people use astrology to better understand not only their own habits but also the characteristics of people around them.
“[Astrology] has to do with the date and timing of your birth, and how that affects the way you live, such as your emotions and personality,” said Lozada. “I use it to understand the way people act and react to things.”
Linda Goodman, author of “Sun Signs,” a book that boosted the New Age movement and advanced modern astrology, explains that “everyone can profit from a study of Sun signs, and the knowledge can make us more tolerant of one another.”
Sun signs – more commonly known as zodiacs – are based on 12 different constellations, one of which can be assigned to a person based on the alignment of celestial bodies on their birthdate.
The zodiac is also used in astronomy to help understand and explain how the sun, earth, and stars move in relation to one another. Although both sciences use zodiacs to categorize constellations, the difference lies in the point of view; astronomers study things from the stars’ point of view, while astrologers maintain a rather earthly perspective according to “Astrology: An Introduction” published by Kepler College.
For example, one astronomical notion, the cosmological principle, states that the universe does not actually have a center, and it looks the same from any viewpoint, as explained by Giannotti.
This principle is also referred to as the idea of a uniform universe and includes two parts. The first part states that the universe is homogeneous, meaning it can be observed/evaluated from any point of view (sun, moon, stars, etc). The second part states that the universe is isotropic, meaning that when this angle of observation changes, the appearance of the universe will not change.
“In modern Astronomy, the study of the evolution of stars and galaxies requires notions of nuclear physics, classical and quantum mechanics, and general relativity,” Giannotti said. “Observing and studying the universe is a way to test our understanding of all these aspects of physics.”
In other words, human fascination with the stars as well as the development of other sciences in conjunction with the study of celestial objects has only served to further astronomical understanding.
Meanwhile, astrologers use the constellations to associate birthdates with human behaviors by creating charts, houses, and maps to explain the connection between the stars and earthly phenomena.
Astrological houses are an extended grouping based on the position of the planets at a given time and are used to constitute different areas of one’s life, such as relationship or financial status. In addition, houses show the development of an individual both in terms of the self and within society.
“Once you understand how deeply ingrained certain attitudes are in people’s natures, you’ll become more sympathetic toward their behavior,” Goodman said in ‘Sun Signs.’
Similarly, Pulgar expresses how she goes to astrological charts and horoscopes for an explanation.
“If I want to know why I started to think a certain way, why someone else started to move a different way in a new circumstance, or why events or plans went the way they did, then I’ll search to see what was in the stars,” Pulgar said.
Even as an adamant believer in the astrological world, Pulgar expresses that not all readings are accurate, and it is important to make sure you have a reliable source before taking any prediction too seriously.
“If it’s a trusted source I’ve personally experienced to be accurate before – then I can believe [the reading],” Pulgar said. “But if it’s a new source, I am more skeptical and take it lightly.”
In addition, Pulgar says when something significant happens in her life, she can “connect the dots” between her horoscope predictions and reality.
In the end, neither astronomers nor astrologers can deny the connection that exists between the earth and the stars. It is undeniable that there is a certain fascination and awe that humans experience when gazing at the night sky. The vastness of the universe and the beauty of the celestial bodies have captivated us for centuries.
Astrology offers a unique perspective on our place in the cosmos. By examining the positions and movements of celestial objects at the time of our birth, astrologers believe they can gain insight into our personalities, behaviors, and life paths. While it may be tempting to dismiss astrology as mere superstition or pseudoscience, it is important to recognize the profound impact it has had on human culture throughout history.
Astrology as a Tool for Self-Understanding and Personal Growth
One of the key arguments in favor of astrology is its ability to provide meaning and a sense of purpose to individuals. In a world that often feels chaotic and uncertain, astrology offers a framework through which we can understand ourselves and the world around us. It provides a language to describe our experiences and offers guidance in navigating life’s challenges. By recognizing certain patterns or tendencies in ourselves and others, astrology allows us to develop a deeper understanding and empathy for one another.
Moreover, astrology has the potential to foster self-reflection and personal growth. By exploring our astrological charts and understanding the energies and influences at play, we can become more aware of our strengths, weaknesses, and potential areas for development. Astrology encourages us to explore different facets of our personality and can serve as a tool for self-discovery and self-improvement.
Critics of astrology argue that there is no scientific evidence to support its claims and that any perceived correlations between celestial positions and human behavior are mere coincidences. While it is true that astrology does not adhere to the rigorous scientific method employed by astronomy, it is essential to recognize that science is not the sole arbiter of truth. There are many aspects of human existence that lie beyond the scope of empirical observation and measurement.
Astrology operates on a different level of reality—one that is subjective and deeply intertwined with our lived experiences. It taps into the realm of symbolism, archetypes, and the collective unconscious, offering a language through which we can make sense of our lives and the world around us. It is a practice that has evolved over thousands of years, shaped by the wisdom and insights of countless generations.
In the end, the relationship between astronomy and astrology is complex and multifaceted. While astronomy seeks to understand the physical properties and movements of celestial bodies, astrology delves into their symbolic meanings and how they intersect with human existence. Both disciplines have their merits and contribute to our understanding of the universe in different ways.
So, while astrology may not provide definitive answers or concrete predictions, it offers something equally valuable—the opportunity for introspection, self-awareness, and a deeper connection to the cosmos. Whether we choose to embrace astrology as a viable option for improving our lives or view it as a fascinating cultural phenomenon, it remains an integral part of our collective human experience, inviting us to ponder the mysteries of the universe and our place within it.