The Limits and Potentials of Astrology
How accurate can it really be?
by Vic DiCara
Is it even possible to tell the future?
Yes, you can even say it’s easy.
I can perfectly predict what time the Sun will set or rise on any given day; or when the next eclipse will happen. I can tell you when the seasons are going to change. In fact, it seems that even birds can look at shadows cast by the Sun to foretell the approach of winter and summer. So, the future obviously is predictable to some extent.
But that’s the real catch, “To what extent?” Sure, I can predict the date of the next full Moon, but can I tell you with equal accuracy the date of your marriage?
- The movements of the heavenly bodies mark the passage of time in a regular, mathematically predictable way.
- Those movements – especially those of the Sun and Moon – seem to cause or indicate changes on Earth and therefore life on it.
Theoretically I should be able to predict when you are going to get married. The idea is: if we can foretell some things by the motion of the planets, why can’t we foretell everything by a suitably sophisticated application of the same basic principles?
The problem is the degree of sophistication required. The effect of the Sun upon the seasons is so much simpler than its effect on your love-life. The complexity of such correlations is so mind-boggling that most people say its impossible to figure them out. In my opinion, it’s possible, but incredibly difficult. Not “impossible,” but pretty close.
To illustrate this point, the great classical astrologer Ptolemy wrote (in Tetrabiblos 1.2):
If our heavenly observations and measurements were infinitely precise; if the symbolism we assigned to the heavens was infinitely perfect; if our interpretive intellect was infinitely subtle; and if our practical experience was infinitely vast… perhaps then we could predict the affairs of a human individual with 100% accuracy. Anyone who claims it is easier than this overestimates himself and underestimates the complexity of this science.
Wild Claims of Accuracy
Unfortunately, that there are a whole lot of people who “overestimate themselves and underestimate the complexity of the science.” They proclaim that their predictions are 80%, 90%, even 100% accurate.
How pompous and preposterous are these claims?
Think about how many possible answers there are to a relatively common question like, “when will I get married?” There are 12 months in a year, and people are of marriageable age for 20 or more years. So, just to answer this question to the month involves more than 240 possible answers. So, a random guess has about 0.4% chance of being right. If someone could give the correct answer even 1 or 2% of the time, it would represent a 200-400% improvement over guessing! If an astrologer can sustain something like 10% accuracy over a large sample of individuals, that would demonstrate roughly a 2000% better foreknowledge than a common person. Is this not monumentally significant?!
But if you put a sign above your fortune telling booth saying “15% accuracy!” not a whole lot of people are going to sit in front of your crystal ball. They are all headed instead to those with neon signs flashing “100% accuracy.” Before you join the flow of lemmings, consider this: If someone really had 100%, 90%, or even 70% perfect knowledge of the future, all the governments, stock traders, and major corporations of the world would be lined up to pile money at their feet for a mere minute of their advice.
Then what’s the use?
If even the best astrologers are really only 25-50% accurate, what’s the use of astrology?
I have this gadget on my iPhone; it tells me the weather for the next seven days. How often is it accurate? Well, for today’s summary it’s correct maybe 75% of the time. For tomorrow I’d say its about 60% accurate. The accuracy keeps decreasing as you go further into the future, down to maybe 10-20% reliability.
But still, we all look at weather reports quite often. Why? Because even though they aren’t perfect, they’re still useful.
Astrology is just like that. Ptolemy brings this up (in Tetrabiblios 1.2):
The human astrologer cannot be perfect, but that does not change the great worth of this complex science! When the objective is very lofty – as is the objective of astrology – we shouldn’t point out the mistakes but focus on the merits of any progress or success.
The potential gain from even a little foreknowledge or self-knowledge is so great that there is, in fact, great use to seeing a good, honest astrologer.
How to Get an Astrological Reading
A lot of focus has been given to the subject of how to give a good astrological reading, but perhaps it is even more relevant to talk about how to get one. How can you get the most benefit from going to an astrologer?
- 1. Find an honest and trustworthy person to be your astrologer.
- 2. Realize that a reading involves communication and communication involves two people.
Don’t expect the astrologer to be Merlin the Magician and spell everything out in black and white for you every time. That’s just not possible. Much of what goes on in the process of giving a reading is to apply astrological symbolism to relevant factors in the person’s situation, upbringing, culture, development, etc. There is little point in expecting an astrologer to know the details of such things better than you do. An astrologer surely has to have more access to divination and foreknowledge than you do, but that does not mean he or she has to be a godlike storybook genie. Listen for the astrologer to communicate the essential astrological symbols; listen to their suggested interpretations of those symbols, and then communicate! Make dialog (even if only internally, to yourself). This will allow you to discover clearer, fine and detailed import in what the astrologer sees.
- 3. Don’t expect an astrologer to tell you the date and time you last picked your nose.
It’s just not realistic. Try to ask answerable questions. And let the astrologer guide you to answerable versions of your questions.
- 4. Figure out what the weird stuff really means.
Inevitably some things in a reading won’t make sense or will sound “wrong.” Personally, I have very substantial faith and experience that the astrological symbols themselves are nearly flawless and perfect. It is the application and interpretation of those symbols that is difficult and prone to error. When you encounter something that just sounds wrong, try to “deconstruct” or “abstract” it back to its original astrological symbolism, and then give another shot at interpreting the symbol in a different way.
Admittedly, you need to have a pretty thorough education in astrological symbols to do that. So either get that education or be sure to find an astrologer who is willing to sit and walk you through it. Avoid astrologers that are “hit and run,” anonymously giving readings or disappearing from the radar entirely until you pay another big fee.
- 5. It’s not just the about the present.
Sometimes things an astrologer says won’t make sense in the present tense, so don’t forget about the past and the future.
Remember, it is in your best interest to get a “good reading.” Sure, every astrologer loves to give “great readings” but the person who really benefits is you, not the astrologer. If you follow these guidelines you will be much more likely to get readings that are 70%-100% helpful, useful, and yes, “accurate.”