The Belief Behind Astrology and Astrological Predictions


My friends constantly question my interest in Astrology. I always refrained from getting in to a debate about Astrology, because most of us are conditioned in such way that we refuse to acknowledge that ‘we don’t know‘ about something. Some will say that they believe in God and others will say that they don’t believe in God. In reality they don’t know, and in an urge not to admit their ignorance both the sides come up with half baked justifications. In our culture the important thing is not belief but seeking; only a seeker will know the truth. The first step in seeking, is admitting that we don’t know. Ignorance can be wiped out only if we acknowledge that we are ignorant in the first place. Astrology also belongs to a similar domain and this article is not for those who have a rigid belief system (be it, for or against astrology).

We have to understand the evolution of our civilization to understand the evolution of astrology in India. People from central Asia migrated to this land a few millenniums before. They were always travelling and there were no roads back then. During the day they knew the directions, but during nights there was really nothing except fire and stars. Their entire culture hence revolved around fire and the stars. Even today during our marriages we go around fire and see a particular star. This is a practice which became an integral part of our culture [Note 1]. Over a period of time they developed certain mastery and knowledge about the stars and cosmos. The indigenous people on the other hand did not look up to the stars much, because they had everything, from fertile land to other resources. They developed agriculture, so they had food growing in one place. They started building homes, cities and huge monuments, this required arithmetic and they developed trigonometry, calculus and algebra along with the best number system. Intuitive people and yogis of indigenous population developed different kind of prediction system called as Nadi Astrology (more about it in another post).

However when these cultures merged seamlessly and when knowledge of stars and advanced mathematics came together, the science of cosmology flourished. Subsequently astrology as a subset of Cosmology evolved in India.

Evolution of Cosmology and Astrology:

Great mathematicians like Brahmagupta, Bhaskara II and Kankah were astrologers too. Brahmagupta’s work – Brahmasphutasiddhanta is considered as the mother of Astronomy. Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur (712–775) who founded Baghdad invited mathematicians and astronomers from India to enrich his center of learning. Mathematician Kankah visited Baghdad in 770 CE. Kankah used the work of Brahmasphutasiddhanta to explain the arithmetic behind astronomy. His works were translated in Arabic, however when he presented the theory that Earth is spherical and goes around the Sun and the ways to calculate the distance between earth and sun (and moon and sun), he was laughed at. All the learned, and the so called rational men laughed at his work, because they believed that earth was flat and the center of the universe with stars and moon going around. While they took our number system to various places of the world, they rejected the astronomical theories as they had different beliefs. Kanakah unsuccessfully tried to explain the formation of crescent and the waxing and waning. He even explained how to calculate the positions of the celestial bodies precisely.

Bhaskara II, took cosmology to the next level and using trigonometry he successfully calculated the distance between planets and the sun. He accurately calculated several astronomical quantities. Bhaskara was also considered as the greatest astrologer of his times (There are several legends and stories about his predictions). All legends have exaggerations and in my opinion some of the stories of Bhaskara’s astrological skills are also exaggerated. However there is no denying the fact that the astrology they practiced had a scientific basis to it.


Let us Understand the Basis of Indian Astrology:

Navagraha – the nine celestial objects that influence earth is the basis of Indian Astrology. The 9 celestial objects are the Sun and the Moon; followed by mercury, venus, mars, jupiter and saturn and finally the two shadow planets Raghu and Kethu. It doesn’t consider Neputune or Uranus as they are very far away and has insignificant influence on Earth.

The navagraha in any temple will have the sun at the center with others around it. Sun is considered as the most powerful of all celestial objects that influence us. The moon is also considered equally important (a little less than Sun).

[box type=”info” ]Gravitational force between two objects F = GM1M2/r2;

[G = 6.67 x 10-11 N m2/kg, M1Mass of Object I, M2Mass of Object 2, r – the distance between the objects][/box]

Though the moon’s mass is just 0.000001% of the sun, the gravitational pull and the magnetic influence the earth experiences from sun and moon are comparable, as Moon is quite close to the earth. Mercury is extremely small when compared to Jupiter, however  Mercury despite being very small has a gravitational pull and magnetic influence on earth that is comparable to that of Jupiter’s, because mercury is very close to earth (48 million miles), while Jupiter is far away from earth (588 million miles).

Now coming to Rahu and Kethu, they are not celestial bodies but are shadows. Astronomically, Rahu and Ketu denote the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon, as moon go around the earth and sun. In astrology Rahu and Ketu are called the north and the south lunar nodes respectively. The myth that Rahu and Kethu are snakes and they swallow the moon and the sun respectively is actually an allegory of the fact that eclipses occur when the Sun and the Moon are at one of these points. These points are extremely important in Astrology because at this point the sun and the moon have collective influence on earth. During these eclipses the gravitational pull and the magnetic field experienced by earth is abnormal, especially solar eclipse we even experience the gravitational anomaly (Allais Effect).

Celestial Bodies Influencing our Lives:

Let us take the analysis to the next level, we now know that the 9 celestial things mentioned has gravitational and magnetic influence on Earth, but how can it influence our lives? Let us take one particular case – the Moon. Lot of research is going in studying the lunar effect. While some of the claims made by the believers of lunar effect are proved wrong, several other lunar effects are scientifically proven. For instance people with mental disorders (especially schizophernia) generally exhibit periods of increased violent or aggressive episodes during the full moon. In another study conducted last year in Switzerland it was proved beyond doubt that there is a strong correlation between the moon and human sleep quality. The lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues. They found that both the subjective and objective measures of sleep varied according to lunar phase and thus reflects human circalunar rhythmicity. So relative position of Moon and earth can change several things, on a full moon day even plants absorb more water, people behave differently (very subtle difference). If the moon can influence our sleep and in turn our thinking process, then it essentially means that it can affect our life. All these things are based only on the studies conducted on lunar cycle’s influence. A recent study conducted by Department of Medicine, University of Toronto proved that Surya Namaskar performed during early morning had significant positive physiological and psychological benefits. However we cannot conduct conclusive studies on Saturn cycle because Saturn takes 30 years to complete one cycle and its influence will be far subtler. So getting a comprehensive scientific evidence of all planets influencing us is a bit far fetched at the moment. However it can be safely concluded that they can affect us. The amount of influence that these planets have over our lives differs and it is based on our, birth time, karma, lifestyle and the food we consume (More about this later).

In astrology, the earth is considered as the reference point and only the relative positions of the planets (with respect to the position of earth) are tracked. The entire zodiac is divided in to 27 nakshatras with each comprising of 13 degrees and 20 minutes (out of the whole 360 degree). A Birth chart is the presentation of planets in the sky, relative to your place of birth (the longitude of the place in which you are born) at the time of birth. For casting birth chart/horoscope, we must Astrologers should know the position of planets in the zodiac and the position of the zodiac with reference to the native. Lagna is required for getting the position of Zodiac.
What is Lagna

Due to earth’s rotation the entire zodiac appears rotating around the earth from east to west. The Rasi rising in east at the time of birth is defined as lagna. In addition to the planetary positions the Lagna too plays an important role. The effect of a planet is dependent on the lagna. The Lagna is considered as the first house of the birth chart. The next rasi is called second house, the next to it is called 3rd house and so on. The influence on the planet on a particular horoscope depends on (1) the rasi occupied it (2) the lagna  (3) the position in which the rasi occupied by the planet falls.

To put it in layman terms people are magnetic creatures with a gravity of their own therefore we affect and are affected by magnetic and gravitational fields. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) today prove that magnetic fields can use to manipulate brain signals, so we will be affected by the magnetic and gravitational fields of these celestial bodies in unique ways and the purpose of astrology is to figure out how and to what extent we would be affected. So this is absolutely not predicting the future. It is just a method to figure out some of the external influences we might have in our life.

Predictions based on Astrology:

This is 100% false. No one can predict what would happen in the future. All the studies conducted on western astrology clearly proves that astrology has almost the same success rate at predicting the future as compared to pure guessing.  Astrology can help us a bit in understanding the terrain of our life. It is more like a sign board with a ‘slippery road ahead‘ sign, it doesn’t/can’t say that you will crash. Crashing or not, depends on how we drive and several other factors. Astrology cannot predict those factors. For instance with in a matter of hours 200,000 people were killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and all these people faced the same fate. There is no way their horoscopes are similar, and no one could have predicted that all these people would die at the same instant based on birth charts. So prediction of life events is essentially is a work of fiction and these astrologers who predict life events have created a huge industry based on superstitions. Predictions based on planetary positions effectively discount the human ability and resolve, it will stop any human advancements. Neil Armstrong would not have landed on moon had he believed in predictions, as no astrologer could have predicted that.

Our culture has the habit of maximizing human possibilities, we made every possible thing around us in to a tool for human well-being. Women at home did their day to day chores in a particular way (Yogic poses), we sat in a particular way, we ate in a particular way, all these things improved the quality of our life in a subtle way. People did not became yogis because they sat in Sukhasana while eating, but that act definitely improved their quality of life in a subtle way, it was a small tool they used to improve their life marginally. We made use of all the resources available to the fullest extent, we had cows which gave us food, manure, fuel and work force. If we had a tree, we found a way to use even the barks effectively to improve our well-being. Astrology too, when studied deeply can be a small tool for our well-being. It cannot determine our destiny.

Situations would be created based on our karma and to some extent by the planetary positions. However, how we handle our lives will decide the end result.

Note 1: I am not talking about Aryan Invasion theory, it was just migration. India for millenniums had been a land of immigrants, people came here and mixed with the culture seamlessly. Today the gene pool is completely mixed and you cannot separate the races based on a DNA analysis, however you can still see some cultural pockets.