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The role of superstition in contemporary astrology

Why astrology is in dire need of good research (1/2005)
(runner-up for the best article in ISAR International Astrologer Journal 2003-5)

In this article I want to explain why I believe superstition is still the dominant "theory" in the astrological world today and why the lack of serious research is a huge problem, affecting all current community debates like certification as well. The embarrassing results of the predictions for the presidential elections in 2004 serve as an example to demonstrate my arguments.

The following considerations are based on 9 years of experience in the field. I have been conducting astrological research since 1996 with my diploma thesis published in 1997 in "Kosmos" being the first large project, in 1998-99 I worked on a doctoral thesis. In the meantime I have learnt a lot from the mistakes of my colleagues and myself, and since I became a professional (financial) astrologer in 2000 I have spent about 20 hours per week doing research as this is the key to success and to get to the true core. For laypeople in the Western world it must indeed be very hard to take astrology seriously with so little substance, at least within the ruling paradigm.


The first (mostly unrecognized) issue is to properly define the astrological discipline and to distinguish it from psychology, religion, metaphysics, sociology, astronomy, clairvoyance etc. I'd like to start with an example: imagine you are seriously ill and see a doctor who performs several tests with you. Then s/he talks 1-2 hours with you about the results only to discover at the end of the long conversation that the test results were all wrong because you were confused with someone else. To your astonishment the doctor then says, "That doesn't matter, everything's fine, the tests are all ok, we will start a treatment based on the (wrong!) tests. That's how it was meant to be." How will you react? I would certainly rush out of the door thinking to myself that s/he must be completely crazy and a charlatan.

Nevertheless, a well-known astrologer who even chaired a large astrological association once discovered at the end of a counseling session that the birth date was wrong, still he insisted that the interpretations were all right... a night-mare for the client yet unfortunately not an exception in our profession! With an ironic undertone one could say that astrologers assert to be always right, even with wrong data. These claims ("That's how it was meant to be") may be right from a metaphysical point of view but definitely not from an astrological perspective. The reason is simple: if the astrological data doesn't matter it can't be astrology any longer but something completely different. So we first have to properly define astrology. As the assumptions of astrology are so unbelievable (for the current mechanistic world-view) we have to be extra-careful to fulfill at least the formal requirements (including definitions) satisfactorily.

Astrology & astronomy

Astrology is dealing with the connection/ correlation of celestial and earthly phenomena regardless of the nature of the underlying connection (e.g. causal, non-causal, synchronicity). What happens with or on the planets is the subject of astronomy but the "effects" on the planet earth are the subject of astrology.

A lot of astrologers are consciously or sub-consciously working hard to get astrology into the metaphysical corner as if the planets and all other celestial phenomena were just existing in mythology or one's mind and not in the real world. In my opinion the precision of the astronomical input has (!) to be reflected to some degree in the astrological output, and without doubt that's completely missing today.

Astronomy and astrology are closely connected even though many astronomers don't want to talk about the unloved and rejected sibling. Astrology is based on astronomical data (up to the second of arc), a fact that is often neglected. Unlike other approaches that may be used to forecast the future (e.g. Tarot , I Ging, dreams, clairvoyance etc) astrology has always had a strong connection to a "hard" (empirical, quantitative) approach. You can't calculate the next Tarot card you will draw or the next prophetic dream but you can calculate the motion of the heavenly bodies centuries into the past and future, and that's the big difference meaning both great possibilities and a duty, the latter because astrology requires precision as explained (we can't just pretend that everything's symbolic).


Unfortunately astrology hasn't progressed that much since Ptolemaeus thousands of years ago, both when from a content and methods perspective. Yes, much has been improved but a lot has also been lost. For instance, very little has been done to incorporate new astronomical concepts that were unknown to Ptolemaeus, like the barycenter of the solar system and other very exciting stuff. Ironically, while astrology is dealing a lot with the inner self of clients it is at the same time losing contacting with its own core (the "astrological inner self").

The new methods of psychological and spiritual astrology have both enriched and "damaged" astrology as a lot of the astrological "craftsmanship" has been forgotten. I am convinced that the core of astrology has always been and will always be to make future forecasts. Also, the recent trend to use astrology mainly to recognize yourself is - from a business point of view - not a clever strategic decision. In today's new age market you have a thousand ways to get to know your inner self, and most of them better than astrology because they are not using an airy-mental approach. The typical citizen of the industrialized world is so top-heavy that non-linguistic and direct ways are much better and adequate than the typical verbal astrological approach.

Besides, the planets, signs, aspects, signs etc are coming from outside the client, but anything that's coming from within is in my opinion better and has much more power because it's not based on external concepts and preconceived rules. At least that's my experience after 2,000 hours of inner work, with many methods tried out. Astrology certainly has some value in this area, too, still it's not the real competitive edge. Over the long run the Saturn forces will bring everything back to its core.

How has it come that so much has been lost, was it just "coincidence"? In my opinion (and most will disagree on this point) this development has been reinforced considerably by the secret societies who want to hide the occult knowledge. So they reversed strong theories or replaced them with weak theories in the 20th century, promoted nonsense like the daily newspaper horoscopes, and pushed astrology into a comparably harmless direction for the powers-that-be, namely into the metaphysical corner. Thus the far-reaching consequences of the occult astrology for mundane matters (political and economic) were more or less hidden.

Research & the astrological community

If you study the several hundreds of quantitative studies on astrology you can only arrive at the conclusion that we are in a weird situation: there are so many astrological theories that can't be verified empirically (and are thus probably wrong) and many strong (empirically detected) astrological effects that can't be explained theoretically. The ideal case (both agree) is the rare exception.

Astrologers like to present themselves as Uranian people, very modern and open-minded, yet when it comes to real innovations the astrological community as a whole isn't different from other disciplines, being rather old-fashioned and stubbornly refuses to accept change (even if "change" is praised in most astrological articles).

An astrologer needs, like most other professionals, two types of skills: first the hard skills (astrological knowledge and techniques) and second the soft skills t (ethics, communication, empathy, counseling capabilities etc). Without a minimum scientific backing I really don't see how a certification program makes sense, at least not for the hard skills. There is no way we can judge whether a participant of a certification program passes a test because we don't have examined which theories are right and which are wrong, so certification would be another word for arbitrariness or commonly shared superstition.

The by far largest study in astrology, the Gauquelin project, shows all typical problems with astrological research:

(1) the results of studies are rather unknown, practitioners and researchers are not working together
(2) The outcome is not in accordance with the astrological assumptions, astrologers would have expected the key planets (like Mars for sportsmen etc) to be situated in the angular and not in the cadent houses. Saying that the Gauquelin studies (almost) confirmed the astrological theories is like saying that Kerry (almost) won the US presidential elections in 2004, receiving almost 50% of the votes. This leads again back to the required yet lacking precision.

Statistics & counseling strategies

I want to conclude the general considerations with an extreme and somewhat exaggerated example: let's assume a certain combination of astrological factors has been tested, this particular set caused a serious illness (say cancer) in 950 out of 1,000 cases (95%) before the age of 40. Let's assume the astrologer detects this combination in the chart of the client in his/her 30ies, then at least 4 different counseling (psychological) strategies are possible:

(1) The astrologer says nothing at all for ethical reasons.
(2) The astrologer tells the client about this findings but focuses on the remaining 5% chance of escaping, e.g. by recommending prevention (healthy nutrition, yoga, other healing methods etc).
(3) The astrologer tells the client about this findings and prepares the client for the (almost) inevitable and the idea of something like a fate or karma that has to be mastered. This strategy comes close to the typical Muslim worldview.
(4) The astrologer chooses a combination of strategies 1, 2 or 3.

What would it change if the event is not an illness but rather a 95% chance that an investment of 1 million euro or dollar will be lost? Or suppose the stellar combination between two partners that want to marry has an empirically observed chance of 95% of leading to a divorce within 3 years? And what would it change if the observed odds are as high as 100% or as low as 50%?

Needless to say there are no hard and fast rules. Some will object that this example is unrealistic because we don't have the necessary knowledge which is true for the time being for all astrological sub-disciplines except financial astrologyFinancial astrology is the use of astrology to analze and forecast the financial markets. Here financial astrology is understood primarily as an empirical-statistical discipline. The probably first financial astrologer in history was Thales of Miletus who is viewed as the father of science and philosophy (together with Aristotle). With the aid of astrology Thales foresaw an excellent olive harvest, so he hired all olive presses that he lent out with a huge profit, which made him a rich man.. After doing some 5,000+ hours of research in financial astrologyFinancial astrology is the use of astrology to analze and forecast the financial markets. Here financial astrology is understood primarily as an empirical-statistical discipline. The probably first financial astrologer in history was Thales of Miletus who is viewed as the father of science and philosophy (together with Aristotle). With the aid of astrology Thales foresaw an excellent olive harvest, so he hired all olive presses that he lent out with a huge profit, which made him a rich man. it's possible for me in a few cases (all factors aligning) to predict the markets with a 90%+ probability where chance alone equals 10-20%, and I am confident 95% are in the cards after an additional 5,000+ work.

My point is: first, without solid findings we haven't even come close to the full potential (the core) of astrology and the "delicious" part is still waiting... And I really don't believe we are able to distinguish ethical from unethical behavior if we haven't examined what's possible and what isn't. Second, we shouldn't be satisfied with good psychological counseling but get back to the roots to provide as much true astro-advice as possible, and not just counseling using some astrological terms.

The US presidential elections 2004

The outcome of the US presidential elections certainly is by far the most important topic of predictions in the astrological community around the world, that's why it serves as a great demonstration object to examine today's astrology. Since the widely practiced astrology is still relying heavily on superstition and untested theories it's no surprise that this time again most astrologers were picking the wrong candidate (Kerry) as the winner, despite having applied a myriad of different approaches. Thus, the astrological community performed worse than a dart-throwing monkey or someone throwing dice, and you can bet that this was not just an exceptional case.

No matter which question is tackled, at the beginning you should always try to find out whether an assured (empirical) basis is available or not: do we have a sufficient body of knowledge? As astrology has a very weak foundation the answer will be "no" in almost all cases, and this is also true when it comes to predicting the winner of elections (to my knowledge).

So when you find there is not enough hard research available you have to start to conduct your own research project. The first question is which method is appropriate. Today's astrological main-stream, psychological person-centered astrology, is in my opinion hardly suitable to make concrete predictions, instead you should rather turn to classical, horary, and mundane techniques. Psychological astrology is fine to delineate certain qualities but it says little about events and the future.

I only found one usable study that was published in the "The International Astrologer" (Winter 2004) by Ann Parker where she describes the parallel and contra-parallel declination of the transiting Saturn to the natal sun of the candidates as a meaningful factor. By the way, in a classical interpretation a Sun-Saturn contact is considered to be bad (a bearish constellation in the financial markets) and the exact opposite what astrologers normally interpret as helpful to win. Unfortunately, the Saturn indicator was not clear without ambiguity in this case though Bush was slightly favored. This study was a good start but it takes more than just one constellation to be able to make good and multiply backed up prognoses.

The void-of-course moonThe moon has a major impact on the markets, the full moon is more important than the new moon.

There was only one constellation that I would have accepted as a reliable predictor for the elections without additional research, the void-of-course moonThe moon has a major impact on the markets, the full moon is more important than the new moon. (frequent meaning: "nothing will come of it") that was also the subject of my doctoral thesis. Using the traditional definition of the void-of-course moonThe moon has a major impact on the markets, the full moon is more important than the new moon. (no applying major aspect of the moonThe moon has a major impact on the markets, the full moon is more important than the new moon. within the sign), none of the two candidates was nominated under this constellation, so I didn't publish an official prediction. Kerry's nomination (see see horoscope) moonThe moon has a major impact on the markets, the full moon is more important than the new moon. on 7/29/04 around 12:16 p.m. in Boston/ MA (thanks to Susan Thompson for the time) was not void in the classical definition (no applying aspect within 8-10° in the same sign) but it was according to another definition that I already used in the preparation paper for my doctoral thesis. Moreover, it had the ruler of the ascendant (Venus) void-of-course which is said to have a similar meaning like the void-of-course moonThe moon has a major impact on the markets, the full moon is more important than the new moon..


Still the soup was too thin without a sufficient empirical support, and the non-astrological methods partly disagreed, so I had no official prognosis but only a private opinion that a shared on a few occasions. I estimated that it would take at least 50-70 hours and possibly much more to conduct the necessary research to justify an official statement, too much for me at this time (when I didn't employ an assistant yet and had to do all the work myself).

The forecasts of the astrological community

The problem is that most others apparently weren't concerned about that, so you had a large quantity of election forecasts mostly with a questionable quality. A wrong theory doesn't get better if you repeat it a hundred times, and the typical interpretations are almost always an uncritical repetition of untested theories that may or may not be true. It's typical and alarming that a single small research study (that slightly favored Bush) beat the bulk of predictions.

The capitalistic ideology nourishes the illusion that the individual is the key, therefore we had most forecasts based on the natal charts of Bush and Kerry. I am not surprised that my appreciated colleague Ray Merriman, one of the very few well-know astrologers who had it right, was focusing on the conservative constellations on the election day (and on the USA horoscope): Moon in Cancer in an applying trine to Saturn, Mercury in exact trine to Saturn, Mars in a tight applying square to Saturn. Saturn and the earth signs Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn do indicate conservatism. A good study using the data of a poll found out that voters with a lot of earth in their natal horoscope are politically more conservative.

With a universe of N>50 (total number of US elections) you certainly had a sufficient (though not overwhelming) number of instances to analyze. In this case we had a rather simple question (winner or loser?) with few and defined parameters which made an empirical analysis rather easy.

It is crucial to define the criteria what constitutes a winner and a loser in advance (especially if little or no good research is available) because almost no one inside or outside the United States was not emotionally involved, and that can easily impair the objectivity. Within the astrological community there was a broad sympathy for Kerry, so I am sure wishful thinking was interfering. Unfortunately, almost no one considered it important to fulfill that "in-advance"-criteria.

Now why should it be so different in astro-psychological counselings, aren't they at least as subjective as politics? I am convinced that having a bias is a widespread and normal problem, and I suggest 2 different strategies to go against that: first, the astrologer works on himself/ herself to be centered and as free of a preconceived opinions as possible, and second good and objective studies; both approaches are necessary and complementary.


What are the consequences for the practical astrological work of these considerations? Without doubt, astrology still has a very long way to go (decades!) before it is based on firm ground, and until that point is reached we are in many areas forced to use questionable theories. At least we astrologers should be aware of the problem and be very careful in our interpretations. Intuition and guidance from above will hopefully serve us to bridge that problem (but should not be confused with good astrology).