Astrology science and society

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  1. What's the difference between astronomy and astrology?
  2. Wrong document context!
  3. Stanford Libraries
  4. Are Zodiac Signs Real? Here's the History Behind Horoscopes | Time

Astrology shares this with many other beliefs which tend to be categorized as "New Age. On this view of life, everything which happens to us, even the smallest or seemingly most insignificant event, happens for some particular reason. In this way, astrology purports to help people understand their lives and the world around them — and who doesn't want that?

In a sense, astrology does work. As practiced today, it can work quite well.

After all, most of those who visit an astrologer end up feeling satisfied and feeling that they have benefited. What this really means is not that astrology has accurately predicted the person's future, but rather it means that visiting an astrologer or having a horoscope cast can be a fulfilling and personally satisfying experience.

Think about what happens during a visit with an astrologer: someone holds your hand even if only figuratively , looks you in the eye, and explains how you, as an individual, are actually connected to our entire cosmos. You are told how mysterious forces in the universe around us, far greater than ourselves, work to shape our intimate destinies. You are told relatively flattering things about your character and life, and in the end, you are naturally pleased that someone cares about you.

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What's the difference between astronomy and astrology?

In the hectic and generally disconnected modern society, you feel connected — both to another human being and to the world around you. Most likely, you even get some vaguely useful advice about your future. Daniel Cohen wrote in the Chicago Tribune in that:. In an uncertain time, when religion, morals, and ethics are shattered so regularly that one hardly notices that they are gone, the astrologer holds out a vision of a world ruled by forces that operate with clockwork regularity.

Wrong document context!

In addition, astrology is glorifying. Instead of feeling himself a mere slave in the hands of different hostile forces, the believer is uplifted by his connection with the cosmos.

The sort of misty character analysis that astrologers engage in cannot be considered proof at all. Who can object to a flattering description of themselves?


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One astrologer told me that under my hard exterior I was a sensitive person. Sure, it's funny, but some astrologers feel it doesn't accurately represent the discipline they've devoted their lives to practicing.

Stanford Libraries

Courtney Perkins, the woman behind the popular Instagram account notallgeminis , has heard all the complaints about astrology memes before. Perkins is a writer, and astrology is a subject. She's never claimed to be an astrologer, but she does have knowledge and insight, and her account may be one of the few inroads to astrology some people have. Still, she's making memes, not asking for hundreds of dollars to read strangers' birth charts. And Perkins doesn't see anything wrong with finding the humor in astrology. After all, one of the benefits of its proliferation is that people can understand and enjoy her jokes about the dangers of water signs and what strain of marijuana Libras are , so much so that Perkins now has more than , followers.

It's not just meme creators who benefit from more information about the movements of celestial bodies; countless astrologers who have large online followings today discovered their interest in astrology with the help of the internet. As Mecca Woods explains, "it used to be that to learn astrology you had to have someone who taught you, or you studied some books, but it was still a very small circle.

Even today, the majority of Woods' clients find her through her Twitter account. It's obvious that the internet has increased the accessibility of information about basically everything, opening up infinite possibilities for what can be learned for free. And for many, that's a net positive: Who can complain about everyone having a library's worth of knowledge at their fingertips? But there is a legitimate tension underlying the concerns expressed by Miller and other astrologers: How does one reconcile the value of this increased accessibility with fears about cheapening what it means to be an "expert" in a nonacademic subject—especially when you are relying on that expertise to sell a service?

There are organizations that provide certifications to practicing astrologers, like the International Society of Astrological Research ISAR and the National Council for Geocosmic Research NCGR , but going through the necessary processes to get certified by these organizations costs thousands of dollars and requires courses that are often not widely accessible. While organizations like ISAR and the NCGR can lend legitimacy to nontraditional belief systems or practices, they often fail to consider the origins of practices like astrology in marginalized communities, and the centuries-long history of this type of knowledge being passed down using informal methods.

Consider tarot and witchcraft , which have also been burgeoning online recently and have also historically been practiced by marginalized communities. How would one be deemed an "expert" in either of those practices, if expertise relies on a certification from larger organizations?

Are Zodiac Signs Real? Here's the History Behind Horoscopes | Time

Perkins has seen firsthand how accessibility can turn casual consumers of memes into actual astrology lovers. But those are also the people who slide into my DMs to ask, 'Where can I find an entry-level book? Mercury isn't in retrograde, so this is the point when everything comes together all nice and neat.

Even if it's true that the popularity of astrology online has led to a watering-down of its significance, it seems just as possible that its ubiquity will introduce the field to the next generation of astrologers—people willing and eager to do the kind of study and learning that Miller and others have done. In fact, the internet could help to bring astrology into the future—and passing judgment on that kind of progress is such a Virgo move.


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