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Astrology and its Relevance in the 21st Century
What is Astrology?
The Oxford dictionary defines astrology as “the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies interpreted as having an influence on human affairs and the natural world.” It goes on to say that the subject had lost intellectual credibility in the West by 1700s but it retained its popular appeal. So much so that even in the 21st Century, almost every newspaper across the planet publishes a column on horoscopes.
If astrology is indeed not ratified by intellectual inquiry, then how has it survived to date and how does it continue to have such a strong hold in people's imagination?
Astrology and Formal Academia
It may come as a surprise to many that the Oxford University also runs a Faculty of Astrological Studies and has been instrumental in churning out many of the modern age astrologers of the West since 1948.
One of the patrons of the school, Liz Greene has redefined traditional astrology for modern day believers by cross-fertilizing it with Psychology. Categorized under applied psychology, the discipline of astrological psychology entails, among other things, the study of horoscopes through the lens of Jungian archetypes.
Also a noteworthy faculty member, Julia Parker, authored the renowned book, Compleat Astrologer, which was the first key reference source for many professional astrologers and their academic publications. So, while the dictionary may be accurate in stating that astrology began to lose intellectual credibility in 1700s, its information is incomplete as it fails to incorporate its resurrection in academia from the mid-20th century.
Linda Goodman and the Popularization of Astrology
However, while only a select few remained privy to the intellectual Renaissance of astrology in the West, its popular appeal remained intact, spearheaded by its modern day bastion, Linda Goodman. Her popularity can be gauged by the fact that hers was the first book on astrology to have become the New York Times Best Seller!
It was through her that worldwide dissemination of the science of Sun Signs happened and it is her that young lovers quote till date when they try to find a compatible match. As one of her fans rights passionately on an astrological discussion board, “Linda gave us a far deeper understanding of the importance of astrology, numerology, and lexigrams, and of the metaphysical intersection of the three than any author that I am aware of.”
Other Ancient Traditions and Their Allure
Other surviving traditions of astrology that have gained reasonable popularity in the West is the Vedic and Chinese. These two traditions, though distinct from each other, have points of overlap with the astrological traditions of the West. While the Ancient Greek tradition shares affinity with the Vedic, the Chinese traditional of animal zodiacs finds parallels in the Celtic. It is an approximation of these varied traditions and their common denominators that are now popularly prevalent.
Modern Day Adaptations of Astrology
One of the concepts of astrology that has gained popularity is that of the birthstone. It is believed that gemstones embody the energy of particular planets and when brought into contact with the energy fields of humans, they are able to manipulate them in various ways. Proliferation of this concept has made it a popular gifting idea, just as feng shui elements can be seen doting most modern homes.
Astrology, therefore, now exists in a subliminal space, toeing the line between new age spirituality and a recreational activity.
Modern astrology does not predict it explains. It is more nuanced in understanding of the mind and how we attract our fate through our thought patterns. It has also evolved to see the gray in things instead of distinct black or white. The malefic planets of traditional astrology have now come to mean energy, to be utilized as the person under its influence wishes, instead of blatantly portending misfortune.
Freud, Jung, Chaos theory, Fractal theory, Quantum Mechanics, they all have been raised to justify how astrology works. Many of its proponents believe that while of these material theories help explain astrology, there is a subtler aspect to it that remains intuitive.
Could Astrology be Replaced by Big Data?
A recent publication likened Big Data to Vedic Astrology, particularly the Bhrigu astrological system. This system propounded a systematic collection of data of as vast a class of subjects as possible, followed by careful crunching, whether by utilizing Ganesha's processing power equal to the power of the thousand finest brains put together or in modern age, a cluster of a thousand powerful server nodes, resulting in derivation of rules and formulae.
This is precisely what Big Data Analysis could do with the help of our search data, online activity log, and mobile app data and past digital records. It is not implausible to imagine that one day it would be possible to predict human behavior with the help of the digital data that is incessantly generated.