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The Nature of Astrology
History, Philosophy, and the Science of Self-Organizing Systems
Table of Contents
About The Book
• Shares modern biological studies offering evidence that our solar system neighbors profoundly affect and shape life on our planet
• Explores the early practice of astrometeorology, revealing the links between the solar system, weather, and climate over large spans of time
• Looks at the history, philosophy, and methodologies of astrology, as well as its potential future applications in medicine and the social sciences
Our ancient ancestors recorded the rhythms of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, correlating these rhythms with weather, plant growth, and animal and human behaviors. From these early geocosmic recordings were born calendars, astronomy, and astrology. While astrology is now mostly viewed as subjective fortune-telling, Bruce Scofield argues that astrology is not only a practice but also a science, specifically a form of systems science--a set of techniques for mapping and analyzing self-organizing systems.
Providing clear evidence that our solar system neighbors profoundly affect and shape life on our planet, Scofield shares modern biological and climatological studies on the effects of Earth’s rotation, the Sun, the Moon, and the rhythms of light, gravity, magnetism, and solar radiation on terrestrial processes. He explores the early practice of astrometeorology, a method of weather forecasting used from ancient times into the Renaissance, revealing the links between the solar system, weather, and climate over large spans of time. He shares his own studies on the correlations between Saturn’s position and terrestrial weather as well as presenting a wealth of evidence on astrological effects and the theories and mechanics behind them.
Examining the history of astrology, he looks at its earliest foundations in Mesopotamia and its development by the classical Greeks into a mathematically informed body of knowledge. He explores the decline and marginalization of astrology during the Scientific Revolution of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, when astrology was transformed from a credible science to a controversial practice after being attacked by the Church and then abandoned by experimental scientists.
Presenting a broad look at how the cosmic environment shapes nature, the author shows how the practice and natural science of astrology can expand its applications in modern society in such varied fields as medicine, history, and sociology.
In traditional farmer’s almanacs, long-range weather forecasts were based on the aspects between the planets, Sun, and Moon, geocentrically, and were associated with meteorological phenomena including heat, cold, rain, winds, storms, and the like. This is basic astrometeorology. The question Does any of this really work? is obvious, but what’s not so simple is how to go about testing a historic qualitative methodology like this one in some meaningful way. The larger part of this problem is that astrological weather forecasting is based on a synthesis of many factors, some increasing in power and others decreasing, all relating to each other by phase angles that continuously change, and all in a context that never repeats in exactly the same way. It is the ability to work with discovered patterns and, from them, make a series of accurate estimates that constitutes the interpretive methodology central to astrometeorology. Isolating a single factor to test, which is exactly how modern reductionist science works, presents serious problems in study design. This is because weather is a system in motion and, like other systems, it resists scientific methodologies that focus only on the parts, one at a time. But apparently, as Bradley and others have demonstrated in reputable and replicated scientific studies, this problem can be overcome to some extent with proper data selection and the right experimental methods. Because such studies have been done, we can today be reasonably confident that the Moon does have an influence on weather, some of which is in agreement with what Goad found in the mid-seventeenth century.
Johannes Kepler had some ideas about how to deal with the problems of testing astrology. In his book Tertius Interveniens he set himself up as “the third man in the middle” between an astrological healer, Doctor Helisaeus Roeslinus, and a critic of astrology, Doctor Phillippus Feselius, both well-known physicians of his time. Kepler had disagreements with both, but says he wrote the book because Feselius’s attacks might sway a ruler to prohibit astrology, which (and this is part of the subtitle of his book) would be like “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” Throughout Tertius Interveniens Kepler puts medicine, which he regards as frequently unreliable, on trial as much as astrology. One theme emerges from the many defenses of astrology Kepler puts up and that is the importance of the aspects:
. . . I could just as easily criticize his [Dr. Feselius] medicine and cast suspicion on it, as easily as he now with such arrogant and idiotic indiscretion can deny astrologers their experiments with aspects and completely reject them? (Kepler 28, T-133, 195).
This is immediately followed by a section of his weather diary which is basically a demonstration of how an astrologer can carefully record weather data at the time of a specific aspect, in this case the annual Sun-Saturn conjunction, to actually learn something about it. A comparison of his collected data with the aspects leads him to make a couple of points. One is that this is the proper way to do scientific astrometeorology. You don’t make a general statement about the meteorological effects of an aspect between two planets simply based on one example because there are other factors other than astrology that come into play, such as the seasons, though competent astrologers knew that already. The second point is that completely separating the Sun-Saturn conjunction from the other aspects operative at the same time is nearly impossible and consequently any effect it produces must be regarded as general. Then he goes on to bash astrologers who define the effects of planets by their zodiacal rulerships, which he regards as fictional, or make forecasts based on the entrance of the Sun into the equinoctial and solstice signs, a Ptolemaic and Arabic technique that can result in serious errors if planetary tables are unreliable—which they were.
Kepler’s challenge to the doctors got me thinking about actually testing Sun-Saturn aspects myself. In times where no instruments were available to quantify weather data, astrometeorologists had to resort to descriptive language to designate the effect of an aspect. For example, in the astrological literature the aspects between the Sun and Saturn were an established family of alignments for predicting mostly unpleasant, but more often cold, weather. The following are quotes from leading writers on astrometeorology since the Renaissance in regard to Sun–Saturn alignments:
Johannes Schöner (1477–1547) was a German mathematician, astrologer, astronomer, cartographer, geographer, and scientific instrument maker, among other things. Schöner played a role in the Copernican Revolution, as he was the one who in 1538 convinced Georg Joachim Rheticus to visit Copernicus. Rheticus later dedicated the first published work of Copernicus, a short summary of his ideas that informed the rest of Europe on the heliocentric hypothesis, to Schöner.
Sun to Saturn: Spring = rain and cold, Summer = great thunder, Autumn = cold and frosty, Winter = foggy or snowy (Schoener 1994, 11).
Gerolamo Cardano (1501–1576), a classic Renaissance man who was a doctor, mathematician, biologist, chemist, astronomer, astrologer, inventor, and more, is known as one of the founders of probability theory, introduced binomial coefficients, and was a developer of algebra. Kepler regarded him as a mediocre astrologer, however, because in his aphorisms on astrology he made claims based on single examples. Regarding the Sun and Saturn, Cardano wrote:
Whenever Saturn is joined to the Sun the heat is remitted and the cold increased, which alone may be a sufficient testimony of the truth of astrology (Cardan 1970, 88).
Leonarde Digges, discussed earlier, produced an annual almanac with instructions for doing your own weather forecasting with the aspects of the year.
The conjunction, quadrature, or opposition of Saturn with the Sunne, chiefly in colde signs; snow, dark weather, haile, rayne, thunder and cold days (Digges 1605, 9).
Johannes Kepler described this aspect as follows:
. . . [T]he effect of this [Sun-Saturn] conjunction is quite general and gives nature at least an opportunity to cause turbulence in the air . . . this purifies the air, brings freezes, snow and rain. [Astrologers] . . . observe when Saturn stands opposite the Sun in the summertime, when no other planet is aspecting the Sun, and observe that the weather is cool and rainy (Kepler 28, T-45, 106; Kepler 28, T-135, 199).
John Goad was more specific:
[Saturn and Sun] produce cold and frost and misty weather, clouds and dark air with snow (Goad 1686, 275).
Thomas Wilsford, an English writer on astrology, wrote in his 1655 book Nature’s Secrets:
Saturn and Sun, in conjunction, square, or opposition do cause generally rain, hail, and cold weather, both before and after, especially in the water signs, or in Sagittarius or Capricorn, and is called Apertio Potarum, or opening the Cataracts of Heaven. Particularly their effects in spring are cold showers; in summer producing much thunder and storms of hail, in autumn rain and cold, in winter snow or moist, dark, and cloudy weather, and oftentimes frost (Wilsford, 1665, 1).
Ebenezer Sibly (1752–1799), an English physician, astrologer, and occultist, was also a mason and is known for his publication of an astrological chart calculated for the Declaration of Independence not long after the event.
Saturn and the Sun in conjunction, quartile, or opposition, is Apertio Potarum, especially if it happens in a moist constellation; for then, in the spring time, it threatens dark and heavy clouds; in summer, hail, thunder, and remission of heat; in autumn, rain and cold; in winter, frost, and cloudy weather (Sibley 1798, 1026).
Alfred John Pearce (1840–1923) is another English astrologer who wrote a comprehensive textbook on the subject that is surprisingly uncontaminated with occultism or theosophy. In his section on astrometeorology he offered a bit more in the way of meteorological explanations and included dated observations of weather events:
Saturn’s action, when configured with the Sun, is to condense aqueous vapour, to lower the temperature of the air, and to excite tempests. When the atmosphere happens to be quiescent under Saturn’s ascendancy, it is often dark and foggy. When Saturn crosses the equator, the atmosphere is greatly disturbed and such effects last for several months (Pearce 1970, 360).
The above statements in regard to Sun and Saturn are not completely consistent, but a common theme of coolness is apparent in phrases such as “cold increased,” “remission of heat,” and “bitter frost.” Doing reductionist science on a complex system such as the weather presents many problems, the greatest of which is to isolate the variable to be tested. In my study, described in the next section, only temperature will be investigated, although there are other factors thought by these classical astrometeorologists to be brought about by the Sun and Saturn’s geocentric alignments.
- Publisher: Inner Traditions (January 3, 2023)
- Length: 544 pages
- ISBN13: 9781644116203
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Raves and Reviews
“This is an incredible work! Others have written histories of astrology, but none of them have been histories of astrology as well as comprehensive discussions of the sociology of astrology throughout its history. This is not only a superb piece of intellectual history but also an eloquent discussion of where astrology is today and how it has gotten here. In particular Scofield has not only explained and defended astrology on philosophical as well as on other grounds, but in the course of doing so, he has also written a brilliant critique of what he calls the reductionist-mechanistic- materialist (RMM) view, which monolithically dominates modern science to the degree that any corpus of ideas that requires one to see outside of its influence is almost impossible to see. I believe he has given a brilliant critique of the RMM that is useful for any student of modern civilization, not just astrologers. This book I would say is his magnum opus.”
– Robert Hand, American astrologer, historian, author, and scholar
“Bruce Scofield has crafted the authoritative text on natural astrology—the ancient branch of the subject in which terrestrial and celestial patterns intersect and manifest in the material world in such matters as weather and climate. Scofield artfully interweaves the history of the topic with both modern evidence and his own doctoral research on the relationship between Saturn cycles and temperature variation. The text is accessible, clear, and essential for anyone in search of a full and rounded understanding of astrology’s claims and nature.”
– Nicholas Campion, Ph.D., principal lecturer at the Institute of Education and Humanities and associa
“This is a book that astrologers have been awaiting for decades. Drawing on a baker’s dozen of cutting-edge sciences, Bruce Scofield levels a potent challenge at pseudoskeptical critics of astrology by setting out a solid basis in reason and evidence for the ancient science of the stars.”
– John Michael Greer, author of The Twilight of Pluto
“The Nature of Astrology is a valuable and timely contribution to the field and a necessary examination of the ongoing stigma against this complex and greatly misunderstood subject. Drawing upon historical and contemporary scientificresearch as well as his own investigations, Scofield methodically reveals how the Earth and the life upon it are influenced by the greater cosmic environment. He also presents an in-depth and rich history of astrology, including new and fascinating insights on astrology’s decline, and provides possible avenues for its renewal. Scientists, academics, astrologers, and skeptics will all benefit from reading this captivating and edifying work.”
– Marlene Seven Bremner, author of Hermetic Philosophy and Creative Alchemy
“This scholarly tour de force deserves a place on the bookshelf of everyone seriously interested in the widest and deepest terrain of astrology. A richly rewarding read, it fulfills its promise of the history, philosophy, and science of astrology. It is actually a complete university education on the subject. Scofield does an excellent job of answering the perennial question: ‘How does astrology work?’ Not only answering many of astrology’s critics, he plots out an elegant future for this largely misunderstood and underappreciated branch of knowledge.”
– Frederick Hamilton Baker, author of Alchemical Tantric Astrology
“Scofield’s well-researched arguments qualify him to assert that astrology is a science. He points out that it has an empirical body of knowledge and relies on the repeatable practices of brilliant ancient astronomers. These rules, procedures, and methodologies, perfected thousands of years ago but still understandable to this day, award that status. In this one book, a giant step in human understanding of nature’s solar system and its ultimate, supreme influence has been taken. Without doubt, it describes the genesis of all spiritual understanding and religious symbolism.”
– Alison Chester-Lambert, author of Astrology Reading Cards
“Bruce Scofield’s book lives up to its title, The Nature of Astrology. Building on his Ph.D. work in the geosciences (with a dissertation titled A History and Test of Planetary Weather Forecasting) at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), Scofield discusses the scope, history, science, sociology, and philosophy of astrology. An important aspect is the place of astrology within a broader cultural and scientific context, which raises fundamental issues regarding the nature of science and scientific evidence, including alternatives to the ‘reductionist-mechanistic-materialistic’ (to quote Scofield) trend in modern science. Scofield favors systems thinking that goes beyond reductionism; systems can exhibit emergent properties and self-organization. Astrology at its best can be considered a form of systems thinking that has been practiced for millennia. This is a fascinating book that anyone with a serious interest in the intellectual development of humanity should have in their library.”
– Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D., author of Forgotten Civilization: New Discoveries on the Solar-Induced Dark
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