“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition on the charge of a star.” (Shakespeare, King Lear)
Astrology is a daunting subject for many people and is shrouded in misunderstanding and confusion. We often perceive astrology to be locked in a world of mathematical complication or, conversely, to be shrouded in mystical fog. Consequently, many people either follow astrology dogmatically or simply turn away from it entirely. And a vast majority of people in our society look at astrology as a fools’ science. But astrology should be practical and simple.
Astrology cannot be strictly understood mathematically. We cannot understand the stars by imposing a system of aspects and rules upon them. Mars in the sixth house in Virgo squaring Saturn in the ninth house in Sagittarius does not mean the same thing every time. Only those who can commune with the planets are capable of understanding the influence they exert and the karma that they represent. Astrology is too fluid to be understood linearly.
Astrology is still, at its core, an intuitive exercise even if it is clothed in mathematical garments. Practicing astrology mathematically is like judging a stranger by the outfit he wears and the car he drives. Sometimes stereotyping people works but often it does not.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru, Sri Yukteswar, was an astrologer who was hard in his assessment of most astrologers, saying: “Charlatans have brought [astrology] to its present state of disrepute. Astrology is too vast, both mathematically and philosophically, to be rightly grasped except by men of profound understanding. If ignoramuses misread the heavens, and see there a scrawl instead of a script, that is to be expected in this imperfect world. One should not dismiss the wisdom with the ‘wise.’”
He also explained why we are born at a particular time: “A child is born on that day and at that hour when the celestial rays are in mathematical harmony with his individual karma. His horoscope is a challenging portrait, revealing his unalterable past and its probable future results. But the natal chart can be rightly interpreted only by men of intuitive wisdom: these are few.”
Finally, he encouraged us to look at astrology as a challenge to rise above our current state rather than as a guarantee of what will happen in the future: “the message boldly blazoned across the heavens at the moment of birth is not meant to emphasize fate—the result of past good and evil—but to arouse man’s will to escape from his universal thralldom. What he has done, he can undo. None other than himself was the instigator of the causes of whatever effects are now prevalent in his life. He can overcome any limitation, because he created it by his own actions in the first place, and because he has spiritual resources which are not subject to planetary pressure.”
Astrology is meant to arouse the desire to be better than we are and to rise above our negative circumstances. It is not meant for us to “make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars” as if we were compelled by “an enforced obedience of planetary influence.” Astrologers should emphasize how we can use our strengths that we have from past lives to overcome the negative momentums that are afflicting us in this life. We are not slaves to our stars.
Our fate and circumstances will change when we strive to improve ourselves; our stars only show us how the road to improvement will be. But reading the map is important because, just like going on a road trip, we need to know what the road will be like in order to prepare ourselves for the journey. These preparations and precautions will help us to stay on the good road to self-improvement—the road to greater happiness and freedom.
So how should you choose an astrologer? Rather than thinking about who has the right system think about who is giving you the best advice. Astrologers should make sense and should encourage you rather than confuse you. When you leave a conversation or a reading with an astrologer you should feel uplifted and inspired to make a greater effort in your life. Happiness should feel more attainable. The possibility for life should feel greater.
We often blame our faults on our stars and use astrology as an excuse for our negative tendencies. It might sometimes be easier to think that we are “fools by heavenly compulsion,” but the point of astrology is to overcome the stars—not to be their prisoner.
We can draw inspiration from Sri Yukteswar’s advice that one’s astrology chart “is not meant to emphasize fate—the result of past good and evil—but to arouse man’s will to escape from his universal thralldom. What he has done, he can undo…The wise man defeats his planets—which is to say, his past—by transferring his allegiance from the creation to the Creator. The more he realizes his unity with Spirit, the less he can be dominated by matter. The soul is ever-free; it is deathless because birthless. It cannot be regimented by stars.”