Why (and how) Astrology Works?

Astrology wheel

   Many times I have been asked something like; "Ok, you are a smart man with a degree in natural sciences.... how come you belive in astrology and stuff like that?". There is no direct answer to that question, maybe the best try today after all these years would be "Well, because of the last 20 years doing astrology while observing things happening around me.". Anyway, this text maybe isn't the most ambitious piece of text about that subject but I will try to make few points for reader to ponder about.

Do Planets have an imprint on our behaviour?

  Often you can hear from sceptics saying rather unadvisedly that there is no evidence that motion of the planets have any influence on us. Aside from the fact that they are wrong and should go to a high school again the catch is that astrology has never claimed any similar idea. To see how original astrology came to existence we should examine the oldest traditions and when we come to the source see what they had to say about this rather foggy issue.

  The Bṛhat Parāśara Horāśāstra (BPHS) or "Short talk about the passages of time from Parasara" on English is presumably the oldest comprehensive extant work on natal astrology. We can say that this is almost the seed of all the astrology we have today in the West, thus it is somewhat of unquestioned authority in the form of a script. It was written as a dialogue between sage Parashara and his pupil Maitreya. It is estimated that Parashara lived about 5000 years ago but Sanskrit in which BPHS is composed dates to the 7th or 8th centuries A.D.. Parashara beside this opus also holds honour of compiling the first Purana: Vishnu Purana. To spare a reader of further details of lives and deeds of sages in the ancient India let's see what Parasara had to say about planets and their connection with humans. First of all we need to understand that ancient Indian sages belived that every human has the immortal essence or soul, this soul in the living being they called Jiva Atma. The word Jiva has the same Indo-European root as the Latin word Vivus: "alive", it represents the living being. Jiva Atma is different from pure Atma (pure soul) or Paramatma only by the degree of liberation from Karma. Paramatma is the highest level of purification of Jivatma, one that clense his soul to the this purest essence becomes godlike. Vishnu is an example of Paramatman (the Supreme Self or the Universal Self). According to Parashara this Paramatman or "unborn Lord" as he calls him has incarnated as nine planets. Here is the quote from BPHS, chapter 2, verses 3-7.

He has incarnated, as the 9 (Nava) Grahas to bestow on the living beings the results due to their Karmas. He is Janardan. He assumed the auspicious form of Grahas to destroy the demons (evil forces) and sustain the divine beings. From Surya the incarnation of Ram, from Candr that of Krishn, from Mangal that of Narasimh, from Budh that of Buddha, from Guru that of Vaman, from Sukr that of Parashuram, from Sani that of Kurma (Tortoise), from Rahu that of Varah (Pig) and from Ketu that of Meen (Fish) occurred.

  Let's analyse this archaic quote. At first we can see this claim: Paramatman is incarnated as 9 Grahas. This is one of the key parts, pay attention that Parashara doesn't mention anything about planets, he speaks about Grahas. Graha is much more than a planet, name Graha means "laying hold of" and it encompasses the underlying principle behind the planet, Grahas are parts of the Universal law. Grahas as principles are in our body, mind and soul as much as they are in the planets or any other part of the Universe. There is a constant flux and change in the Universe, in one moment one principle is strong while other is weak and so on. The ancient sages deemed that no matter how small can be some particle that one can find inside it the essence of the whole universe or as we in the West like to say "As above, so below", so they concluded that any fluctuation of Grahas or basic principles in ourselves can be observed also outside ourselves in the greater image, in this case periodic movement of the planets of our Solar system. So to make it simple, man as a human is a Jivatma that is "built" from nine basic "forms" of Paramatma. Since our complexion, body vigour, attitude, inclinations, emotional and intelectual affinities are all under their hold (that is the reason Parashara uses name Graha - the one that holds, planet is just local and limited manifestation of an individual Graha on the material plane) it is reasonable that they largy influence our lives and destinies. If we are in a time of our birth mostly influenced by some Graha and if that particular Graha or principle is weak in this moment Astrology will point out that some of the expected results from some actions can be lesser than we may expect. Even to these old sages it was more apt to observe Macrocosmos outside us to conclude something about Microcosmos or individual man. Than we can see that Parashara listed all nine forms of Paramatma. We can see them below in the table. Jotish (light on English) is the name for Indian astrology.

Jotish name (Graha)English name (Planet)Deity nameHuman physiology
Chandra (Candr)MoonKrishnHypothalamus
Shukra (Sukr)VenusParashuramSubstancia Nigra
GuruJupiterVamanGlobus Pallidus
Shani (Sani)SaturnKurmaPutamen
RahuNorth (Ascending) Lunar NodeVarahNucleus Caudatus, head
KetuSouth (Desceding) Lunar NodeMeenNucleus Caudatus, tail

   In the table we can see connections between principles of the Natural law (Grahas) and our local Solar system - planets and at last to our individual consciousness through human anatomy. One could ask, what about these Deities. In Hinduism there is a wide spread tendency for individualization and personalization of impersonal principles. Although some hinduists will call their Supreme God Bhagavan and claim that he is the only source and the only God (the word Bhagavan has the same Indo-European root as the word Bog, meaning God in most of the Slavic languages) they will also say that every aspect of that Supreme Being is a separate Deity. In this case this nine forms of Paramatman are also separate entities that we can call the spirits of Grahas. Every Graha on practical level governs some aspect of our lives; Sukra (Venus) governs beuty and love, Mangal (Mars) physical energy and stamina, Budh (Mercury) intellect and so on. Like constant and periodical changing of energy level of individual Graha so some parts of our life experience has ups and downs. The real astrologer is very aware of the fact that although his tools for understanding are positions of the planets they are not the root of this celestial mechanics but merely players on this vast scene that gives us the clue about happenings on the stratum that is invisible to our senses but has the direct influence on our affinities, emotions, thoughts and consequently on our destiny.

Having said that I could make a comment about outer planets in the Western astrology, Uranus, Neptun and Pluto. Lately they say Pluto is no more a planet. For true astrology that question is totally irelevant. Classification of some celestial body in this or that category is merely a matter of fluctuating human minds and his momentary opinion while the very principle of the celestial mechanics is way more permanent parametar in this story. Also, we can see here that Paramatman have nine possible forms that constitutes Jivatman - human soul, it implies that more parameters than that are just.combination of already existing parameters and consequently excess. Maybe it can help some astrologer to see some part of the picture more clearly but it doesn't add anything new to that picture. Nice analogy would be that you need only two points in a plane to define a line, similary you need only 9 parameters (planets that represents Grahas) to define Jivatman, or like Parashara said:

The development and progress of the people and the creation are all under the administration and authority of the Grahas.

We will stop here with history and philosophy and skip for this version of text Chinese astrology to jump into modern times.

Why are Grahas holding us?

   This question practically boils down to how it is all possible? Do we have at least some kind of "technical" hint about what this guy Parashara really talks about? He was considered one of the greatest sages of all time amongst the men but that was some 5000 years ago. Who knows, maybe he wasn't even sober than and we even wouldn't know it today.

 Well, let's first discuss just few points about a level of astronomical knowledge of this ancient civlization Parshara belonged to. They had a separate discipline called Vedanga that was an early form of astronomy. Some astronomical equations developed by that ancient Indus Valley civilization are even today in use at NASA. They knew about precession of equinox and calculated it so precise that margin of error is so small that is even considered negigible by NASA. Considering that this cycle takes more than 25 000 years one could ask where did they get that fact if we assume that you must observe the sky for thousands of years to notice that cycle and to get at least some data without instruments let alone to get so correct and precise data and at the end the knowledge to perform calculations. So, they weren't just some random guys trying to calculate something but knowledgeable astronomers and measurers of time.

  Today, we must try to find out is there any scientific discipline that could at least try to explain some ancient text like BPHS. We won't try to explain their convictions about God and all appurtenant deities but give at least some basic thesis about mechanics of Grahas and their influence. I will give it a try with quantum physics. Lets take a look at the following table.


Astrological phenomenaQuantum phenomena
Non-local influence of the planetsQuantum nonlocality (Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen)
Specific influence of an individual planetQuantum entanglement

To explain what this non-locality is we can cite from Wikipedia:

In physics, nonlocality or action at a distance is the direct interaction of two objects that are separated in space with no perceivable intermediate agency or mechanism.

    It is important to note that we are speaking about quantum non-locality. This is precisely what we could expect to be a non-mechanical level of consciousness. We will get back to that later. Lets first explain what this quantum nonlocality really is. We are specially interested in nonlocality effects that are produced as a result of entangled quantum states.

Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently – instead, a quantum state may be given for the system as a whole.

If we read this carefully we will see that this is very similar to Grahas concept. I said we would not dwell to much in all aspects of religion and science in this short article but I will just point out that basic principles of Hindu philosophy are non-local in their core. We have some abstract principles and they are present in every part of the Universe, these principles are not intrinsic to some particular place or time, they are almost some sort of the second nature of the Universe. One particular aspect is the same no matter where we look. In the same time this aspect is acting homogeneously and synchronously in the whole Universe or in the other words, it is entangled and non-local. This is a non-mechanical principle so we shouldn't try to explain this whole astrology thing mechanistically. Bell's theorem speaks about quantum mechanics and the world as described by classical mechanics and it is very clear about the huge gap in percpetion.

No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics.

So, some temporary conclusion can be that the very basic principles explained in BPHS are very similar to some behaviours well-known in quantum physics. But why quantum physics? Workings of the human consciousness still buffles scientists. Some basic characteristics of the brain, memory for example also seems to be non-local in its nature and that is very indicative. For almost thirthy years a group of scientists in Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab (PEAR) are trying do decipher the enigma of human consciousness. One PEAR group has installed REG (random event generators) around the world and has been monitoring the data since. Lets see what they have to say about their findings on their web page.

   The Global Consciousness Project (GCP) is an international effort involving researchers from several institutions and countries, designed to explore whether the construct of interconnected consciousness can be scientifically validated through objective measurement. The project builds on excellent experiments conducted over the past 35 years at a number of laboratories, demonstrating that human consciousness interacts with random event generators (REGs), apparently "causing" them to produce non-random patterns. A description of the technical implementation is given under procedures. The experimental results clearly show that a broader examination of this phenomenon is warranted. In recent work, prior to the Global Consciousness Project, an array of REG devices in Europe and the US showed non-random activity during widely shared experiences of deeply engaging events. For example, the funeral ceremonies for Princess Diana, and the international Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, created shared emotions and a coherence of consciousness that appeared to be correlated with structure in the otherwise random data. In the fully developed project, a world-spanning array of labile REG detectors is connected to computers running software to collect data and send it to a central server via the Internet. This network is designed to document and display any subtle, but direct effects of our collective consciousness reacting to global events. The research hypothesis predicts the appearance of coherence and structure in the globally distributed data collected during major events that engage the world population.

   So where are we now? We have travelled a long way from BPHS, Parashara and Grahas to the possibility of the global consciousness and intricates of quantum physics.

   After all, we can hypothesize some connection between ancient text that in rather outdated but coherent way talks about some very modern concepts in science. We will try to further simplify basic possible consclusions of this text.

  1. Astrology in its core is not a discipline that talks about the influence of the planets on a man. It uses the planets as a tool of detecting subtle changes in the collective consciousness and in a indivdual.
  2. Planets can be used just as any other kind of synchronicity tool to detect changes. They are not an exclusive mean od detection of those changes but only one of the many. That is natural because all that changes on the highest level are manifested in the whole of the manifestation. One famous physicist said that you could scratch the universe on one side and it would laugh on the other.
  3. The basic principles/explanation in the ancient astrology treaty is in its core explanation of some quantum physics effects.
  4. There is a growing field in science that tries to explain human consciousness and some paranormal effects where we see many unusual behaviours that could easily be connected with quantum effects.

  One important aspect of this could also be a phenomenon of synchronicity. Synchronicity is intrinsically connected with astrology, tarot and similar disciplines. But this is a material for another article.