by Robert Wilkinson
This is the next in a series of articles where I try to answer some questions posed by readers of this column. In this article we will examine the question "Doesn't astrology imply a lack of 'faith?'"
I would say that astrology is where faith and reality converge. I don't really need faith to assume that a planet will be at a certain point in its orbit relative to the Sun and the Earth, since it's an observable and measurable phenomenon. However, in a curious way it is faith for me to assume that all things will remain in their observable orbits, and not just willy-nilly go hurtling off into space at random. So is it faith, or reason, to assume that the planets will remain in their orbits?
I believe that we can have reasonable faith that things remain as they are until acted upon by external or internal forces that induce movement. This is a "law" of physics, and seems to work pretty consistently. Still, that implies a faith in the value of consistency and replicability.
Faith is both belief in what we believe has been, and what we are promised will be, from whatever source the promise originates. It could be stated that regardless of the origination of every phenomenon, ultimately we confirm or deny our belief in its reality through the five senses and the mind, our only means to measure anything at all in our reality.
Thus it seems that whether we should have faith or not depends to some degree upon the source of the promise, as well as the biases of our perceptual system. If geophysics determines that our planet has a rate of spin and orbit, then we assume we may believe in it. Still, this is a form of faith, if only faith in observable and replicable reasoning.
Despite its seemingly perpetual replicability, we still must take it on faith that two dogs mating will not create a tree or a cat or a butterfly. We may call this "natural law," with all the drapery we put on our observable deductions, but in fact we believe in the replicability. So we have faith in reason, science, and replicability.
Astrology is inherently mathmetical. Math is said to be a pure science, in that its principles are the underpinnings of all other sciences, as well as the all the arts and philosophies. Should we have faith in mathematics and its principles?
I believe that astrology enhances our reasoning, as well as our faith. I sure hope that the planets remain in their orbits, since if it were otherwise there would be solar systemic upheaval beyond description. That requires a certain faith in my part that the cosmos will in fact remain more or less in homeostasis.
And yet, astrology can also guide me into knowing when configurations imply a need to choose my behavior wisely, since much seems to be random in this world, and there is always the factor of human free will, the source of much saintliness and sinning alike. Then I must have faith that what I have learned from my teachers regarding knowledge of cause and effect processes and timing will allow me to avoid the more unpleasant aspects of life and decrease my suffering while assisting my understanding of timing and cycles that I may see the larger connections in the web of life.
Since astrology is somewhat of a road map and a weather report, I suppose if we can believe in these, we can believe in astrology, since regarding directions, timing, and the weather, both literal and psychic, this is as good a belief system as any other belief system, and very much better than some in accuracy. (If my chart assessments were as subject to hit and miss as some local weatherpeople and their forecasts, I wouldn't have many people calling me for readings!)
It is a very good thing to believe in an accurate road map if we're going from point A to point B, since it can assist in clarifying why we are going in a direction or not, and how long it will take to complete the journey. It is also good to believe in a weather report as far as it goes, since if there are clouds moving in a certain direction at a certain rate of speed, we will probably run into rain or even tornados at a certain point in space-time. It isn't guaranteed, any more than a square is guaranteed to bring conflict. It may, or may not, depending on other factors. At least astrology gives us a sense of the various factors involved, and tries to account for more than it excludes.
Whether physics, chemistry, biology, or any other hard or soft science, faith is required if we are to embrace the postulates and theories of that which we have observed through the centuries and believe to be "true." We can say we are certain and there are "laws" and "facts," but there will also always be exceptions to the rule, such as the anecdotes of those who lift automobiles off their children, though such things are apparently impossible. Or the levitating sages in India and elsewhere, dismissed by rationalists, but observed by thousands through the centuries. They do not require our belief in their ability, but we must believe that our five senses and our minds are transmitting accurate information or we are lost in this world with no points of reference whatsoever. Again, consider the source.
All things in this world require a certain degree of "belief," including belief in our own ability to discern anything at all in this strange multidimensional reality. How do you know what you know? How do you know you're perceiving accurately, whatever that might mean? How do you know you're believing, or knowing, or perceiving, or just experiencing? How do you know you are or are not the thin man in the ballad, "And you know something's happening here and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" From one point of view, it's ALL belief, and therefore faith.
(Originally posted 31 March, 2005)
© Copyright 2008 Robert Wilkinson