Dietrich von Heymann
The original wordy monograph (six times the length of this digest) is a booklet dated February 1984 written by Dr Dietrich von Heymann, a professor of religious studies at the University of Freiburg. He was a member of a working group on Uranian Astrology (an event-oriented astrology that involves eight hypothetical plants), wrote articles for the German astrological magazine Meridian
, and arranged lectures on astrology (at German universities a professor can offer special lectures on any subject), only to suddenly disappear from the astrological scene. The monograph was written (in English) before the findings of research became known in Germany and is thus misleading. Nevertheless its conclusion (astrology, even if false, brings helpful new opinions on life's troubles) is an example of the thinking then emerging and now well established. Dr Dietrich argues that the astrological mode of thinking is logical, testable, and open to checking by anybody. The birth chart contains more than enough combinations to describe situations in life, all based on "as above so below". For example it shows a picture of the person, his mental and physical abilities, his profession, marriage, partnerships, children, enterprises, difficulties, preferences, and so on. The picture is special because it is personal and cannot be manipulated. On the other hand, astrologers disagree on the rules of interpretation, charts can fit many others as well, and man loses his responsibilities to the stars. But even if astrology were based on error or deception, it can still be helpful. What matters is not whether it is true or not, but whether it brings new viewpoints that are true for us. It forces us to recognise how life means receiving and accepting, and how this can lead to new activities and a satisfying life. In effect astrology is a school of life plans. Its research is important for society, economy, and for the single person, and should be pursued not only privately but also in brainy universities. Despite the monograph's dated views, its underlying positive attitude towards a no-need-to-be-true astrology still holds.
The astrological mode of thinking
Many people read their horoscope every day. Bookshops contain astrology books. Do readers think there is something in it? To hope it will reveal the future is against common sense, for man has to form his future himself. Instead, astrology is a scientific mode of thinking, which is just one mode among many.
For example, for economists there is a "marketing mode", for sociologists there are "social modes", and for psychologists there are "behaviour modes". But scientists cannot accept the "mode of thinking" of astrology because it does not fit their own "modes of thinking" that are characterized by technique and rationalization. Nevertheless it meets the conditions of scientific thinking, that is, it is logical, testable, and open to checking by anybody.
Astrological thinking involves recognised rules
Calculation of the birth chart involves a great deal of astronomy, and its interpretation involves recognised rules. For example Mars symbolizes activity and Saturn symbolizes slowness. Altogether the birth chart contains more than enough combinations to describe situations in life. For example it shows a picture of the person, his mental and physical abilities, and also his profession, marriage, partnerships, children, enterprises, difficulties, preferences, and so on.
It is now clear what a responsibility the astrologer has. If the wish for "wanting to get married" combines with "not being able to marry", how should it be handled? This involves ethical, even educational, points of views, which we cannot explore here because we have to consider the hypotheses that underly astrology.
The hypotheses of modern astrology
The hypotheses of astrology can be summarised as follows:
- As above so below. Also, stars don't force, they only favour.
- The birth chart reveals potential. What we can aim for.
- The chart is coded in symbols. They have to be decoded.
- Only the whole chart is meaningful. All viewpoints are connected.
Different schools may differ in their working methods but normally this does not upset the astrological mode of thinking. The birth moment symbolises the start of the lifeplan. What already existed on a small scale gets unwrapped.
Reasons for belief
People believe in astrology for various reasons:
- From experience. What the astrologer says is true and helpful.
- People long for order and meaning free of human judgement.
- Astrology operates on a higher level, like a religion.
- Astrology knows more about the person than the person does.
In short, astrology is personal. It balances strong and weak points and shows a way out. Nowadays few situations make me personally important, such as at church, at the tax office, and at airline counters. On the other hand, astrology cannot take any burden off me, or abolish my contradictions and serious past, or prevent future difficulties.
Here the liabilities exist on different levels:
- Astrology might include an unbearable fatalism
- Astrology might tempt a misuse of its power
- Astrology's language
is abstract and fits many others as well.
- Astrology seems closer to fantasy
than to logical thinking.
- Astrology doesn't reveal where its rules of work
- Astrologers disagree on the interpretation
of the used symbols.
- The jargon only raises feelings in the client,
not proper knowledge.
- People want to believe.
The result is a "self-fulfilling prophecy".
All protests against astrology can be reduced to this: Man loses his responsibility, and his duties of active living are neglected. Some astrological schools reply "Stars don't force, they only favour." So men have a little free will? It sounds like being a little pregnant.
Of course, the protests often rise from an emotional level. "There must be something which can be done against fate." But such protests could be applied to every science, religion, or art, by simply saying: "I don't believe it because I can't believe it -- and because I don't want to believe it".
How astrology can help daily living
So what can astrology do? This is the question now. What does it offer compared with other modes of thinking? I see the advantages as:
The birth chart is independent of individual opinions.
Almost every aspect of life can be exactly described.
But if we want to explain the extent to which astrology can help life, we have to leave the level of scientific discussion. We come to areas that are philosophical, even theological. Astrology can help life because it shows I can't experience anything that doesn't belong to me. It also resolves the apparent conflict between determination and responsibility, because birth is the beginning of following a certain path. To follow
is responsible living. To follow the path
is called determination.
Even if astrology were based on error or deception, it would make me conscious of the connection with other people, as if I were praying: "Give to us our daily neighbour, today." Nor does it matter whether it is true or not; more important is whether it is true for me.
Astrology brings new opinions on life
Very often the question remains: Why am I like this? Why do I have to experience this? And so on. The other human sciences bring all sorts of explanations, such as home conditions, relationships, school, special events, and they are often correct. But this is not helpful. A person cannot be satisfied by stating reasons. He wants to be superior to his life-plan, wants to change it and submit to it. He wants to decide for himself when there should be day and night.
It is here that astrology brings a new opinion on his life. He is forced to recognize his weakness, to give up apparently safe positions. He then learns how life means receiving and accepting, and how this can lead to new activities and a satisfying life. Thus, astrology is a school of life plans. It shows the kind of seed that is sewn into a man's life.
A youth enters a store and asked the wise old man behind the counter "What do you sell?". The wise man replies "All you want". The youth says "I would like world peace, no poverty, no unemployment, equal rights for all, and...". But the wise man interrupts him "You got me wrong. We don't sell fruit here, only seeds."
Similarly with astrology. A lady asks "I have shares in a company, shall I take charge and manage it myself?" Astrology shows she is given direction and aims by others, who use their power against her. So no, she is not suited to managing a company. But she becomes the managing director anyway, and three years later the company becomes insolvent. This is a case from an astrological practice in Freiburg.
Often professional qualifications, proved by examinations, are not enough for achieving a leading post. Human qualities are also needed. Astrology can help here to make objective decisions, objective because the person cannot manipulate the message of his birth chart, nor does it depend on the astrologer with his likes and dislikes; the chart can be proved mathematically, and also shows the prospects of success.
These examples show how astrology concerns important fundamentals of everyday life. Its research is important for society, economy, and for the single person, and should be pursued not only privately but also in brainy universities.