I Grew Up in A Family of Renowned Astrologers — Here’s What I Learned
Astrology isn’t a predictive art, but a probabilistic pseudo-science
Not many people around me know this, but I’ve had the privilege to grow up in a household where my maternal grandfather and one of my uncles (my mother’s eldest brother) have been the recipients of the President’s awards for academic contribution to the fields of Astrology and Sanskrit.
My late grandfather, Acharya Diwakar Dutt Sharma, was a renowned astrologer and a principal of a Sanskrit college, and also had the privilege of naming his home state — Himachal Pradesh, one of the 28 states in India.
After retiring from his job in education, he practiced astrology as a hobby, where people from across India would come to his home, and seek his advice. He didn’t have a “fee” but allowed people to pay honorariums if they so desired, or take his services for free.
Thanks to the intriguing nature of astrology and its rich influence on my family on my mom’s side, even my dad got intrigued and took a year-long course to learn astrology and would learn from his father-in-law on our summer trips to my grandparents.
So naturally, my life, with my dad and my maternal grandfather, and a few other uncles all being serious astrologers, has had a strong significant influence of astrology. In India, even in general, religious and astrological beliefs are quite strong.
However, I am lucky to have been part of a family, that despite immense knowledge of the field of astrology, maintains a lot of practicality about it.
Here’s what I have learned about astrology, from my experience of 32 years of my life.
#1 — Astrology has set mathematical procedures, calculations, and basis and isn’t just an art or psychic ability
Most people think of astrology and they think of some mystical Indian gurus, or in a western context some psychics, tarot card readers with some extrasensory perception.
That really is far from the truth when it comes to the core of astrology. Astrology is as much a pseudo-science as any other, with set rules and procedures. The traditional astrology or the horoscopes part of it essentially charts the position of planets and the sun and the moon based on your birth date, time and location, and certain other factors.
I am careful here and I say “pseudo-science” because there is no clear evidence of controlled, observable results like there are in actual science, and so Astrology can’t be categorized as a science in the strict sense.
Here’s a generic definition,
Astrology is generally defined as the belief that astronomical phenomena, like the stars overhead when you were born or the fact that Mercury is in retrograde, have the power to influence the daily events in our lives and our personality traits.
It is however procedural and fixed in its procedures, so much so that there are computer programs that would create your “horoscope” based on these above input parameters.
And so, like any other traditional science, it involves an intricate method of calculations, involving mathematical deductions and other factors. You’re essentially determining the position of the various elements of the planetary system and trying to study its impact on every individual’s life.
#2 — Astrology can’t “predict” things, it can make probabilistic determinations
There would often be instances when people from far-off places in India came to my grandpa in the search of magical answers. As accomplished as he was in the field, he wasn’t one to create false hopes or demoralize people with his answers either.
He was a rather practical man.
So while he advised based on his knowledge of astrology, he was always one to add a human touch to his advice. If he had a family come to him with the worries of their daughter who wasn’t getting married and was of a certain age, he wouldn’t worry them by saying things like “Oh, I don’t see her marrying in the next five years and I only see doom.” Nor would he build false hopes saying “Go, do these magical things, and chant these mantras or wear these magical gemstones, and she’ll be married in no time.”
All he would do is, study the horoscope of the girl, and give his views on what he feels is the reason for the delay based on the astrological positioning, and what potential good / bad periods lie ahead. In astrology, you often deal with probabilities. Certain planets and their positions are favorable for certain outcomes, while others are negative.
And certain acts of “karma” are believed to lessen the negative impact or increase the chances of a positive outcome. So, my grandfather would often provide some of these “potential” solutions and leave people with more hope, helping them “enhance” the probabilities of certain positive outcomes.
Most of all, he’d give them hope and instill positivity. A lot of the negative things in our lives are a result of our own attitude and negative thinking, rather than being an actual problem
So here is what astrology can do, and what it can’t:
- Astrology can to a certain extent give probabilistic outcomes — it can tell you that you have a good chance of a promotion/success at work within the next three months, while the end of the year looks a little challenging, but it typically can’t tell you that you will get promoted on 20th Feb and be fired on November 15. So anyone making such a claim is probably exaggerating.
- Astrology works on the principle that planetary positions and their influence on a person’s life depend on a certain set of factors and is unique for almost everyone. There are also inter-linkages between family members i.e. the horoscope of a mother could have an impact on a child and so on.
- The recommendations that astrologers make — around wearing gemstones, chanting certain mantras, etc. are believed to influence the energies around these planetary positions in certain positive ways, and hence are just ways to alter the probabilistic combinations, and not be-all and end-all solutions to any problems
- Zodiac signs/star signs can provide a general indication on a very broad level about a person’s nature, but it can’t possibly apply to everyone. Imagine dividing the whole world of 7.5 bn people into 12 groups and assuming that each set of roughly half a billion people have the same fate. That’s obviously an over-simplification of the complexities of life.
- The obvious applications of astrology are in areas such as determining an auspicious time to do certain key things in life — eg. marriage, house-warming, etc. It is also widely used in “horoscope-matching” to determine compatibility between people for an “arranged marriage” and such similar usage.
#3 — Astrology is not to be confused with mystical psychic powers
There are probably people out there who claim to have psychic powers and can see into the future, or have senses beyond the usual, who claim to be also engaged in the field of astrology.
While I don’t support or refute their psychic claims, it is important to differentiate that from astrology — astrology isn’t any kind of witchcraft or magical thing. Some people can interpret more qualitative information from the same horoscope charts, or palm-readings or face-readings, and others can interpret less.
However, there is a big scientific element involved here.
#4 — The core of astrology is to aid people in leading better lives
Astrology in some way shape or form is a bit of a spiritual field. It is for believers. I wouldn’t call it “religious” but definitely “spiritual” and its roots lie in the ancient Greek, Indian and other cultures.
The eventual goal of astrology is to help provide some insight into the unknown of life’s uncertainties, so people can be better prepared or channel their energies in more positive pursuits.
It isn’t intended to fool people into chasing or believing in mysterious things that don’t really have any basis. And the most accomplished astrologers will often be very practical people who don’t overestimate the power of their knowledge and skill.
In conclusion, I’ll add that in a modern world like today, the jury on something like astrology is probably split, and there are people who strongly believe in it while others just dismiss it because it isn’t and cannot be proved by controlled experiments and results, as science can.
However, from my own personal experience, I believe that if used in a practical and realistic way, there is probably some useful application of astrology even in the modern world. And that is what astrology exactly is — a pseudo-science that needs a bit of a belief for people to actually truly believe in it. So while it’s not for everyone, it also isn’t completely dismissable as a myth.
Disclaimer: the claims and conclusions above are based on personal experience, and I do not claim to be an expert in the actual field of astrology. Most of these observations and comments are based on my personal opinion and are experience-based commentary than something based on empirical studies.