Is astrology scientific?
In 2006, historian Richard Tarnas published a paradigm-shifting book called Cosmos and Psyche. In this meticulously researched work, he convincingly argues there is a significant correlation between the movement of planets and the qualitative themes of various time periods throughout history. His work is an important step in demonstrating the science of astrology.
And of course, the discipline of astrology is founded on the assumption that there is a meaningful connection between the archetypal expressions of the planets in our solar system—and their movement in time—and our human experience.
So when we say meaningful, does that also mean factual? Factual, as in empirical, scientifically “proven” and accepted as unquestioned truth?
Arguably not. And as many skeptics of astrology are quick to point out, there is little empirical data showing that astrology measurably, repeatably, and reliably predicts the specific events of the future.
There’s a problem with dismissing all astrology based on our inability to prove it definitively predicts the future. That train of thinking barks up the wrong tree.
Now, there could be people out there who might pretend they can see the specific events of the future through astrology. But in my experience that is not what the profession of astrology purports. I would never advocate it. Amongst my peers and colleagues practicing astrology professionally it is neither a belief nor a goal.
But astrology is doing something worthy of our attention. Something that may not predict the future, but something that should not be ignored.
Is it scientific? Let’s take a look at the scientific method.
What is the scientific method?
The steps in the scientific method are as follows (steps below are quoted from Khan Academy):
1. Make an observation.
2. Ask a question.
3. Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
5. Test the prediction.
6. Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.
A responsible scientist who has made an observation that is inconsistent with expected results will not stop at step 5 if the test fails to confirm the hypothesis. He or she will continue thinking and working with an observation that does not fit expectations until a new hypothesis can be found that bears out in testing.
The scientific method is designed to result in a continual expansion of knowledge and understanding. It naturally sometimes reveals results that do not fit our expectations. Scientists sometimes spend lifetimes working on a problem and designing experiments to test hypotheses with the goal of uncovering a more complete answer.
What is the observation that shouldn’t be ignored?
The observation we should be paying attention to is that astrology subjectively enhances people’s lives. Its correlations are meaningful. Its predictions, as Tarnas says, are not “concretely” accurate but are surprisingly meaningful within a field of probabilities that align with expected symbolic patterns. They bring the spine-tingling feeling of a deeper truth that awakens wonder and hints at a deeper order.
This brings us back to step one in the scientific method: make an observation.
Astrology brings the meaning that helps a person to feel whole and connected to a bigger picture. To ignore the observation that astrology helps people is irresponsible and dismissive of something that offers a potential for personal empowerment and enhanced well-being.
Rethink the paradigm.
It’s important to keep in mind that by necessity, scientists must work with fundamental assumptions about the nature of reality that are available to them at the time they are alive.
Sometimes, the fundamental assumptions themselves must be questioned. When this happens, as it did for example with Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein, the interpretation of evidence that suggests a new paradigm of thought is considered heresy. The scientist is ridiculed and marginalized for proposing something that disrupts the status quo, only to be later considered a hero, pioneering a new discovery.
Imagine if Galileo had said “Oh, well. I probably just made a mistake. You guys must be right after all.” It’s laughable at this point, because we can see in retrospect that inevitably people would figure out that the earth orbits the Sun. But in his time period, he was challenging a major and fundamental assumption about the nature and understanding of reality.
But what if astrology reveals the worldview we have been unable to previously see? Not a disconnected, objective world devoid of spiritual feelings and meaning, but an integrated system that combines objective prediction (astronomy) with subjectively felt meaning (astrology).
Is there precedent?
I am a retired holistic nurse, a nursing specialty that is evidence-based. The practice of holistic nursing includes models of integrated wholeness that help a person to connect with what gives meaning to their lives.
In holistic nursing, meaning and wholeness are seen as an integral part of not only restoring a neutral state of “health” (defined as the absence of disease), but also achieving an enhanced feeling of wellness, of reaching one’s full potential. Wellness includes a healthy lifestyle with needs met not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. It encompasses the feeling of meaning, purpose, joy, and belonging that all human beings strive for.
Could astrology be a cosmology of interdependency and interconnectedness that provides a built-in ideological scaffold for personal growth, higher functioning, and the opportunity to live into one’s full potential?
The hypothesis we need to test is not whether astrology accurately predicts the future, but whether astrology makes a difference to people.
What can astrology thought leaders and professionals tell us?
In my decades of studying and practicing professional astrology, I have consistently experienced that the validation, meaning, and sense of belonging to a bigger picture that are provided by astrology help my clients access the joy and purpose that makes them feel better and live more productive lives. It helps them see themselves as role models for healing and transformation in the world around them. And perhaps most importantly, it helps them love and accept themselves and others in ways that create a more compassionate world.
And it’s not just me. There are volumes of astrological publications that speak to and demonstrate the capacity for human beings to awaken their personal potential through astrology. Not through overly simplified newspaper horoscopes or an expectation that someone will predict their future, but through responsible, professional astrologers supporting increased consciousness and the empowerment of human potential.
So as thoughtful scientists, we are irresponsible if we dismiss the observation that astrology brings meaning and helps human beings to access wholeness, wellness, and a sense of purpose.
The problem with a materialistic worldview.
Despite the introduction of paradoxical scientific evidence in the past century through quantum physics and challenges to our current scientific paradigm, we are still operating under a materialistic worldview. In a materialistic paradigm, objective reality corners the market on truth.
In a materialistic, objective reality, astrology may never be scientifically validated. But that doesn’t mean that our observations of its qualitative correlations and connection to the human experience of truth and meaning should be ignored.
The nature of science, and of our understanding of reality, is to change. To me, astrology actually hints that there is more to reality than a strictly linear, objective, cause-and-effect reality. Attempts by skeptics to debunk and disarm the power of astrology may simply be fearful reactions to the threat of change.
Astrology itself may have the answers.
Ironically, astrology itself is a model that actually can describe the complexity of the changing paradigms of thought and the qualities of human experience as they evolve throughout time. Astrology is both subjective and objective, both rational and irrational. It is a way of thinking that changes with us. It acknowledges a much more complete picture of human experience than a simplistic logical, objective, externally-determined version of truth.
In short, archetypally framed astrology more accurately describes the fullness and truth of human experience than science alone or anything else I have encountered. It empowers positive transformation and changes lives. Perhaps rather than throwing out the inconvenient anomaly of astrology, we should continue the search for a scientific paradigm that can handle its ability to capture the truth.
About the author.
Marina Ormes is a retired holistic nurse and an evolutionary astrologer with a background of over 20 years in astrology and holistic healing. The daughter of an astrophysicist, Marina grew up in a household where science and logic were the only valid ways of knowing truth.
Throughout her adult life and in decades of professional practice, she has willingly suspended her own disbelief in astrology and thoughtfully questioned the worldview she grew up with. She finds astrology to be a profoundly useful tool of awareness and transformation in any holistic healing process, both for herself and for her clients.
Learn more about how Marina uses astrology by reading her book Cycles of Healing: Personal Transformation in Relationship to a Living Cosmos.
 Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (New York: Penguin Books, 2006).
 Khan Academy, “The scientific method: How the scientific method is used to test a hypothesis” https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/intro-to-biology/science-of-biology/a/the-science-of-biology, (accessed May 29, 2017).
 Richard Tarnas, “An Introduction to Archetypal Astrological Analysis” http://www.gaiamind.org/AstroIntro.html, (accessed May 29, 2017).
 Barbara Montgomery Dossey and Lynn Keegan, Holistic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, 5th Ed. (Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, LLC, 2009), 50, 79-80.