Astrology & Astronomy

What is the difference between Astronomy and Astrology?

People who have not studied either subject may be forgiven for believing that Astronomy involves going into the garden on a freezing cold night and pointing a telescope at the stars and planets. Similarly, they may think that Astrology involves looking up their horoscope in a tabloid newspaper to see if fate is going to be kind to them that day.

Thousands of years ago, the ancients used to look at the night sky, presumably because they had few distractions. In addition to learning, over the generations, how the Sun, Moon and planets appeared to move against the background of the stars, they also noted apparent correspondences between events in the sky and events in their lives. Astronomy and Astrology were thus very much linked together, and people learned, for example, that when Mars and Jupiter were due to be visible close together, in the same part of the sky, they might expect an increased amount of activity based on emotional factors. By extension, they perhaps reasoned that there might be a greater likelihood of conflict at that time.

Over the course of history, and particularly over the last few centuries, Astronomy and Astrology have become separated. It is now fashionable to regard Astronomy as an objective Science, dealing with observations and theories about the Solar System and the rest of the Universe. Such information is regarded as lying, in principle, within the public domain. Astrology has a reputation for being a mysterious and esoteric field of study, possibly because much of the subject material lies outside the realm of the objective. In Astrology, personal viewpoints and understanding based upon personal experience take precedence over scientific measurements and theory.

This apparent difference between Astronomy and Astrology is largely due to the peculiar way we often choose to categorise our experiences into those which relate to events and to relationships in the outer world, and those which relate to our inner goals and to our emotions. Both subjects deal with humans and with heavenly bodies. In Astronomy the main focus is on the heavenly bodies, (of the politically correct kind!), while in Astrology the main focus is on human concerns. However, there is no law that compels us to separate inner from outer experiences, or to set one aspect of our lives against another.

I believe that there is much to be said for regarding Astronomy and Astrology as complementary fields of study in our search to understand ourselves and the Universe in which we live.

Last Updated December 13th 1997

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