Friday, June 8, 2007

Celestial Rot

What is it about astrology that people find so fascinating? The answer is so obvious that I could have just stated it without asking the question. People like to hear good things about themselves, their future, their close ones, their jobs. In addition, people also like the possibility of actually knowing the future and thus being smug about being prepared for what's supposedly going to happen. It's a comfortable feeling to know that not everything is beyond control in the chaos that engulf one's life. This comfort factor is the most abused and misused of human feelings, unscrupulously manipulated by charlatans like astrologers and godmen in the most obscene manner possible. In the end it all boils down to ill-earned money, fame and power for these frauds.

Astrologers usually push in a little of bad, and then a hint of good in their 'predictions'. After all, nothing should be perfect, right? This sweet and sour mixture is what makes these predictions more believable to the gullible.


In India, it's very common for astrologers to have a side business of selling precious stones like sapphires and topaz. These are supposed to hold miraculous powers of warding off evil. Needless to say, such astrologers push more sour content into their predictions and thus open up an avenue of selling those pieces of rock at exhorbitant prices to their clients.


It's a fact that the best known astrologers of the world are very good scholars of the human psyche. Take Linda Goodman, for instance. Her fantasy books (Star Signs, Love Signs) are amazing bestsellers. Read a section, and you'll know what I'm talking about.


The sad fact is people don't realize that this pseudoscience (should I
even call it a science?) has so permeated our lives that it's almost impossible to imagine the common media without it. Take the daily horoscope. It's ubiquitous like the comic strips, the crossword, the editorial in the morning newspaper. So much that I wonder if people even think notice it anymore other than to read it for 'fun'.

I'll end this with a small example. Go to
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ - the main page of one of India's most respected newspapers. Click on the Science/Health section. Yes, the Science section. Scroll down. On the right there's a small dropdown box for horoscopes. Yes, my good man, scientific horoscopes, no less!

5 comments:

Srinivas said...

Umm just found you had this other blog too!
I am surprised in many ways about your views here.

Are you talking about the same astrology which was developed atleast more than 2000 years ago and to this day predicts sunrise/sunset/eclipse/moon cycles accurately?
Why is there no "scientist" who has taken pains to verify this system of Astrology? Because once a person studies it he is no longer a scientist in your view?

Agree there are a lot of conmen who misuse it. Are military generals a test of nuclear science?

Concepts can rot over time. But we need to get back to the first principles for course correction from time to time. For ex Indian astrology says dont go out during an eclipse. The reason they said it was because they thought its the most auspicious time to meditate. And now look at what our grandmom's say about eclipses!

Ignorance seems to be the biggest source of knowledge these days not just for the media/junta you have mentioned but for the so called "scientists" too.
I dont know about western systems of philosophy but Indian philosophical systems are very well advanced. Have you come across any scientist/book who has disproved any vedic system? Has any of Quantum or Relativity findings come in contradiction with Indian astrology? I would be very interested to know. And lets not get into intangible things like God or Spirit and look at just measurable things for starters like the age/size/life-cycle of Universe/Sun/Moon/Earth.

The comment regarding westernisation of our thoughts is very true in this context. The western scientists have raised a few questions on their earlier philosophical systems. Did we for a moment think before passing equivalent judgements on vedic systems? Or was the conclusion foregone?

I support your concern for criticizing our current ignorant practises. But not at the cost of a masterly system of knowledge.

skroderider said...

Let us define the terms first -
From wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrology
Astrology (from Greek: αστήρ, αστρός (astér, astrós), "star", and λόγος, λόγου (lógos, lógou), "word" or "speech") is a group of systems, traditions, and beliefs in which knowledge of the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters.

And again,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomy
Astronomy is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation). It is concerned with the evolution, physics, chemistry, meteorology, and motion of celestial objects, as well as the formation and development of the universe.

These are the currently accepted definitions of the terms, and that is how I use them.

The ancients did not distinguish between astronomy and astrology, rather, both were facets the same discipline. It was only later that the distinction as in the definitions above became stark, and so you could no longer attribute aspects of one to the other.

Astronomy as defined today is a scientific discipline following the rigorous process of scientific methodology. Astrology is a pseudo scientific process used by charlatans to hoodwink people. I hope I could clarify the differences between these two terms, because my reply to your queries depend on it.

>Are you talking about the same astrology which was developed atleast more than 2000 years ago and to this day predicts sunrise/sunset/eclipse/moon cycles accurately?

As I mentioned above, this is the domain of astronomy now, and has nothing to do with astrology as we define it now.

>Why is there no "scientist" who has taken pains to verify this system of Astrology? Because once a person studies it he is no longer a scientist in your view?

Scientists are judged based on their ability to examine systems in a neutral and rigorous manner. Astrologers have failed time and again to conform to this.

>Agree there are a lot of conmen who misuse it. Are military generals a test of nuclear science?
I think this statement arises because of a confusion between the definition of the terms.

>Have you come across any scientist/book who has disproved any vedic system?
This is not relevant to the discussion.

Also, this post was not an attack on "Indian" systems of philosophy, rather it was on the system of astrology as a whole, and astrology is not confined to India. It's a worldwide disease.

I do detect a knee jerk reaction in your reply as if Indian systems were at attack here from a 'Westernized' mind, but I fail to understand why.

I'm not an expert on 'Vedic' systems, but I do know that astrology was the forerunner of the science of astronomy as we know it. Down the ages astronomy has flourished as a science while astrology has turned into a bunch of mumbo jumbo without any credibility.

I hope I've answered your queries.

Srinivas said...

Well we have a discussion going now!

From Wikipedia itself on Indian Astrology - Jyotiṣa is not merely horoscope astrology, the latter is a tertiary branch of Jyotiṣa.

So how can you separate Astrology as you define it, from Astronomy while discussing Indian Jyotishs? Isnt it unfair to them? The whole Indian astrology depends on the fundamental rule of connection between microcosm and macrocosm with the interconnection of various systems.

For argument sake lets agree they are different and for now lets only talk about Astrology. Has any one of us read Indian astrology? Has there been a systematic study and disapproval of this system by anybody? Agreed that there are a lot of conmen doing terrible things out there. But what basis do you have in demeaning this knowledge as a system built to cheat?
Ignorance about it? Thats my problem. You are also questioning the commitment to truth of all those men who studied and practiced it for ages. Astrology in its fundamentals has worked. It wouldnt have survived this long if it didnt. I agree true astrologers are rare but this knowledge/theory isnt corrupt as its made out to be these days. I can also vouch for it with a few personal/family incidents.

The issue i had was with clubbing the Indian Astrology with the rest in condemning it as unscientific. Your article for instance mainly talks about Indian astrology. You also mention that these astrologers are very good scholars of human psyche. Isnt it the other way round? The knowledge of astrology makes them good at human psyche.

I guess the only way to clear this confusion is to read about it. And not just read a max-muller/Vedas kind of translation but read a book thats written by a scholar taught in the spirit of Indian knowledge systems. Otherwise you end up with stories of nomadic people writing poems in praise of Agni because they were afraid of forest fires.

Looking back i guess it was a knee jerk reaction from my part but you know how i am, i am sure anything out of the way will be forgiven :)

skroderider said...

Apologies for the delayed reply - was caught up in a lot of things.

From the same Wikipedia article - "The neutrality of this article is disputed."
The article was obviously written by someone well versed in Indian astrology - maybe even a practising astrologer. It has depth of knowledge, but I would not take it as the last word. The reason for that being it smacks too much of a conservative mindset.

That point aside,
>>So how can you separate Astrology as you define it, from Astronomy while discussing Indian Jyotishs? Isnt it unfair to them?

Unfair to whom? It's not unfair to those who practise charlatanry today. The original authors or progenitors of astrology (let's take Indian astrology for the sake of this discussion) were good astronomers, no doubt. But this fact should be recognised separately, and the current state of astrology should not get any credence because of this fact.

I agree to your point that we need to study it ourselves and investigate what lies in the fundamentals. My knowledge in this matter (actually studying astrology) is limited. However, my post was more directed towards the way it's used currently. Even if we discover something rational in the roots of Indian astrology that would not justify the way it's practised now.

>>Isnt it the other way round? The knowledge of astrology makes them good at human psyche.

I beg to disagree. The current crop of astrologers are good psychologists, which is what gives them the "charm". :)

That said, I'd like to read about the fundamentals - which you say have worked. Any pointers on where to begin?

Srinivas said...

I agree with your views on the way astrology is currently practised.

Regarding source for astrology books i'll keep an eye on it now. Wasnt interested in it myself, atleast till date. Whatever little i know comes from reading on Gita/Upanishads. These books too are not something available in stores everywhere.