Why Astrology is Cool

by Kerry Shamblin

My fascination with and reverence for the night sky, with its endless black expanse studded with countless sparkling gems, began when I was a child. Running through the dewy summer grass hunting lightning bugs, I speculated that maybe each star had a life of its own, just like the tiny flying insects I pursued. I shared profound late night discussions with a favorite cousin about the possible vastness of space and the universe and the resulting tininess of our own lives, even our own planet, even our own solar system... As I went through the usual public school education cycle, I learned that the stars were "lifeless" balls of gas, fire, and matter, like our own Sun and that indeed our galaxy is but a speck in what modern science is able to reckon as the limitless expanse of space. Despite science class' attempts at pulling the spirit out of the stars, I still maintained my belief that there was something much more to it than I was being told.

My introduction to astrology was of the usual modern American variety: newspaper horoscopes and birthstone jewelry from gift shops. It was pretty flat, like science class, but the allure of being able to tell something about a person according to their birthday was real to me. Eventually, I became acquainted with a hobbyist astrologer who would make statements like, "Oh my, you're the most Sagittarius person ever!" I would ask what that meant, and get no definitive answers, but it whetted my appetite to find out. I got my first birth chart in 1994 and soon after, a book to learn to interpret it. The chart was a western one, and as my sun sign is on a cusp, this chart finally told me which side of the line I was on, I set about to reform my personality to match the chart. At this stage, my "scientific" understanding of astrology was limited, but I was beginning to acquaint myself with the rich language of symbol and metaphor that astrology speaks; the signs of the zodiac and their meanings were becoming familiar.

Within a year, I began to listen to the rumors that astrology isn't even based on the real signs. Of course, I was loathe to even go there, considering I had found a new friend, but the scientific side of me bravely came forth to investigate. I then learned that western astrology used what is called the "tropical" zodiac, which is actually askew from the zodiac constellations as they appear in the sky. Given my early infatuation with said night sky, I was torn as to what to believe: Is astrology based on nothing? If so, why does it seem to make so much sense? When I found out that there were other systems of astrology that are based on the "sidereal" zodiac, and account for the astronomical positions of the planets in the signs, I was once again on track. The crowning gem to my discovery was that the Vedic system of astrology not only exists, but is based on the sidereal zodiac, and is one of the oldest known systems of astrology, which was all extremely synchronous with the other parts of my life in which I was pursuing the studies of various forms of yoga and Vedic philosophy inspired by various extended visits to Nepal and India.

The scientist in me was satisfied that the Vedic astrology system was astronomical as well as scientific in its approach, however, to this day that scientist has not found the answer as to why it works and why it makes sense. The arguments are varied as to why astrology is valid and how the planets influence our earthly events. Some modern scientists work hard to debunk astrology as a valid science, and some astrologers work even harder to prove that astrology is a valid science. As I don't carry the activist archetype in my deck of cards, I view those arguments as the result of the quest to validate one's chosen activity in order for one to feel that their pursuits and work are worthy of respect. I believe that astrology is an ancient scientific art that can be a powerful tool with varied uses. Because it combines a scientific system with intuitive perceptions, modern science may never take astrology seriously. Personally, I have a hard time taking some modern science seriously for its total disregard of consciousness as a real force in the universe, and with headlines like: Science discovers that over-consumption of fast food causes obesity, I begin to really wonder. Please note that I am not debunking modern science, as scientists across the globe have made amazing and useful discoveries and have then applied them to practical real-world applications. My point is that there is a time and place for everything, and trying to fill a square hole with a round peg doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather study astrology and for the nonce, not worry so much about how it works.

But why is astrology so cool? Why do I like it so much?

I like the practice of giving personality to the planets and flavors to the regions of the zodiac. As the archetypal players of the solar system revolve in their circuits, ever flowing into new patterns of relationship with one another, I cannot help but liken that behavior to that of our evolving souls. I like the idea that the astrological birth chart is a snapshot of that cosmic dance, that point in time/space in which an individual is born, a unique map that can reflect the paths we are to walk in our lives on the planet. I like the story that the archetypes of the zodiac can tell me as I look at an astrological chart. I like that I'm not sure why it works, and marvel at how it does make sense somehow. The mechanics of astrology reflect the mystery of life and remind me that not always knowing why things occur as they do is a part of being human, while at the same time small hints are dropped, and riddles, designed to lure me further down the path of truth, are woven.

I like that astrology is scientific, but not an exact science. I like that it has answers both practical and spiritual, and thereby succeeds in bridging that gap by blurring the line between hard facts and nebulous truths. I like that I can use it as a tool, a lens, for perceiving the phenomenal world in an expanded way which allows me to see the archetypes represented by the planets and their signs as they run through our lives. Perception of archetypal forces allows for a certain objectivity that is useful in solving problems or in enhancing life experience.

Astrology continues to challenge me to use it as well as I can, and to find new ways to interpret the patterns that it portrays. I am confident that I can study planetary relationships for a lifetime and never reach the bottom of them. It may be that I will never come up with hard proof for the validity of astrology, and it may be that I don't try all that hard to find it. I may as well try to prove why a flower is beautiful or why it is that people enjoy beaches – there are some aspects of life that are priceless in that their value is immeasurable. With my inexplicable attraction to the stars and planets,entities at once chaotic and ordered, impossibly far away and yet visible to our eyes, I look into the face of the night sky as if I am reading the ever changing expression on my best friend's face. The connection I feel between our earthly life and the life of the cosmos brings me back to exploring through astrology whenever I can.

That is why astrology is cool.