A Philosophy of Astrology
A PHILOSOPHY OF ASTROLOGY
Astrology is a much-maligned branch of knowledge. On one hand, it has suffered at
the hands of astrologers, who accept no limitations on their capabilities to predict the
future and see human race as puppets in the hands of an anthromorphic omniscient
Supreme Being. On the other hand, pseudo-scientists – who rarely understand even
the rudiments of philosophy of science – keep performing poorly designed
experiments to discredit and disprove astrology.
Sledgehammer approach of so-called rationalists is based on two premises – (a) the
purpose of astrology is to predict the future and (b) astrology presumes determinism,
fatalism and absence of free will. Needless to say, that both the premises are far from
truth. However, even astrologers are rarely able to say so. That, and that alone, is the
raison d’être for this mini-book.
More than fifteen years ago, I met Mr. Kirti Ashar, an amateur astrologer, and now a
good friend, who tried to teach me fundamentals of astrology. All his efforts were in
vain. Planets, zodiac signs and houses confuse me. Yet, the subject fascinated me. It
is an ancient branch of knowledge, but still under-developed.
Generally speaking, no astrologer is willing to admit that astrology is an underdeveloped
discipline. Astrologers swear by individual knowledge and individual
astrologer’s ability to awe by predicting the most unpredictable. There is no attempt to
work out a common disciplinary matrix of law, theory, application, instrumentation,
symbolic generalizations, shared commitments to beliefs, values, tacit knowledge and
exemplars – in other words, to develop, what Thomas Kuhn describes as, a paradigm
In my humble attempt of penning A Philosophy of Astrology, I have attempted to lay
the first stone for building a paradigm of modern astrology. I shall consider my efforts
successful if it inspires some other thinkers, astrologers, philosophers and
psychologists to move further in this direction.
Simultaneously, I hope that this mini-book will help a layman (or woman), who visits
an astrologer to better utilize astrological advice. When one goes to a doctor, one
knows that one may still die. Similarly, when you visit an astrologer, please
understand that he is no God, nor does he have a direct hotline to the Almighty.
Before I end this short note and you move on to the chapters, please allow me to
thank Mr. Kirti Ashar, who may well claim to be the source of many of the ideas
expressed in this mini-book. Thanks are also due to Prof. D.S. Karaulia, who was kind
enough to lend me some very useful books and also to read the first few pages of the
Jyotish, a Sanskrit word, is often translated as astrology. Jyotish does include
astrology. However, literally speaking, the word means knowledge that provides light.
In its strictest sense, jyotish does not predict the future. It is akin to light that enables
one to see. In spite of abundance of light, one needs eyes to be able to see anything.
The set of eyes that enable one to see is called Darshan Shastra, which is translated to
mean philosophy. Western philosophy, with its history of speculation, never had to
serve the practical role that Darshan Shastra had to serve in Indian context. All
through history, with the exception of past two or three centuries, European
philosophers had a very limited role in their society. Religion and theological
authorities had all the answers. They did not need the services of philosophers. If at all
philosophers survived, it was due to the mercy of some kings. The role of philosophers
in the courts of kings was either to dazzle (and puzzle) courtiers with their superb
arguments or to help the king fight the Church. As far as Church is concerned, it had
no use for original thinkers or philosophers. Church was (and even today is) content
with interpretation of the Holy Book.
In India, religion was dynamic and open to new ideas and growth. There was no tying
down to a Holy Book. A philosopher or darshanik enjoyed a fair level of freedom.
Hence, darshan shastra evolved to serve the Weltanschauung or existentialist concerns
of man. The primary purpose of darshan shastra is to provide the ideological
framework that would enable one to see oneself and the world.
An attempt is made in the following pages to elucidate some essential concepts of
Darshan that are necessary for appropriate use of jyotish.
2. Cyclical Nature Of Life – Good Times, Bad Times
Life has a cyclical nature. Good times follow bad times and vice versa. Surely, good
and bad are labels that we, human beings, put based on our limited perceptions. There
is nothing that is all good and nothing that is all bad.
Consider the example of agriculture. To begin with, the fields are vacant. One ploughs
the fields, takes grain from home and disperses in the fields. This is the first stage
called sowing. At the beginning of this stage, there was some grain at home but now at
the end of this stage, there is no grain at home either; there is some grain hidden in the
soil, but one does not know whether it will grow up or wither away. The second stage
is growth. Plants have started growing. They need care. One can feel happy seeing
them grow, but at this stage if someone wants grain, there is nothing that one can get.
For that one has to move on the third stage of reaping, when one can reap the crop.
Sowing, growth and reaping – these three stages are essential for crops. Life follows a
similar pattern. There is one phase of life when one has to only sow. In the other phase
one can see some progress but one cannot still enjoy the fruits of one’s labours.
Followed by this is the phase when one can enjoy the fruits. In case of agricultural
crops, the time and duration of each phase is determined by variations in temperature
and humidity caused by seasonal variations. In case of human beings, planetary
movements determine the phases.
Planetary movements determine the duration and timing, but they do not determine the
quantum of results, which are determined by one’s own efforts, present and past. It is
like one knows that an Indian farmer will get crop of wheat in the month of March, but
the quantity of wheat that he can harvest depends on the efforts put in by him, the seed
chosen by him and the area of land owned by him.
Many astrologers often advise their clients to lie low when the times are “bad”. In
fact, when one looks at personal lives of most astrologers, one notices that they
rarely achieve much success in their personal lives. The reason lies in their wrong
notion of “bad” times. The times, when one cannot get results, is viewed by many
astrologers as bad. Since one cannot get results and one has to face failure, why
venture – this is the common refrain. They fail to see the so-called bad times as
sowing times. When one does not sow during the period that one is supposed to
sow, one gets nothing during the harvest time. Every failure is indeed an
investment. Inability to face failures head-on and desire to get quick successes is a
sure recipe for disaster prescribed by many astrologers who lack the perspective
provided by darshan.
Sowing is not the time to get depressed and at harvest time one must not forget all
about future. A wise farmer starts preparing for the next sowing as soon as he has
harvested a crop. Even before he lets his family eat the grain, he keeps a portion
away to sow for the next crop. Similarly, a wise man knows that at times when one
is being lauded for achievements, one must start planning for the next phase when
one will have to once again till the land and sow the seed.
3. Continuity of life after life
This is a presupposition or postulate of the theory of Karma. Every action leads to
some effects. If one does some action or work, one is bound to get the results for it,
sooner or later – in this life or the next. Everyone is born with a balance sheet of
one’s actions from the previous birth and carries forward a balance sheet into the
next birth. No one can read the balance sheet, but that does not mean that it does not
exist. One can always work to improve upon the opening balances.
If one accepts the above theory, one can understand why some people achieve so
much with hardly any effort while some others struggle to achieve even a small
A person’s horoscope may give an idea of the opening balances that he / she began
with. A horoscope cannot give any idea of the efforts that the person might have or
have not put into various ventures during his life. A good horoscope is like being
the owner of a big field, which is very fertile. But a huge fertile field will also yield
nothing if one does not till it and sow it properly. On the other hand no land is so
barren that a skilled farmer, with hard work and perseverance, cannot grow some
crop or the other on it. And what would you say about a field so barren that not even
a blade of grass would grow on it, yet beneath its surface it hides precious minerals.
4. Complexity Of Life – Twelve Houses
Human life cannot be judged or measured like a field of wheat can be – in terms of
tons of wheat produced. When anyone looks at one’s own life, there is bound to be a
mix of pleasures and sorrows, achievements and missed opportunities. A person who is
blessed with fame, riches and wealth may have bad health; another person who is
otherwise successful may have a troubled family life. Life is not a single parameter
game. Fulfilment and satisfaction of life comes from a large number of areas. Indian
thinkers divided life into twelve houses or bhavs.
Annexure 1A gives the matters that are covered by various houses as given by famous
astrologer, B.V. Raman. Prof. K.S. Krishnamurti’s description of the houses is given in
A comparison of the two descriptions (given by BV Raman and Prof. Krishnamurti)
shows many differences. For example, Krishnamurti mentions third house to be related
to heroism, but BV Raman does not say so. There are many such differences, which a
reader may notice. Without getting involved with these, let us look at two quotations
from the two books, which illustrate a very vital point.
Prof. K.S. Krishnamurti says (p.189), “The second house governs second marriage.
This is so because the 2nd house is the 8th to the 7th representing the first wife and it is
generally after the death of the first wife that one will go in for second marriage.”
Raman B.V. says (p.3), “In applying the rules contained in astrological books to
practical horoscopes one must definitely bear in mind that they are merely for his
guidance. In addition to knowledge of astrology, one must also exercise discretion and
common sense coupled, of course, with a certain amount of intuition.”
Prof. Krishnamurti has assumed a strictly monogamous life with no extra-marital
affairs, as must be usual in the orthodox South Indian Hindu upper caste middle class
families that he might have been interacting with. He fails to appreciate that in some
sections of society (for example Muslims) bigamy may not be as unusual. His logic for
second house governing second marriage has no basis in case of a bigamous person.
Some Hindu thinkers have looked at any unison of body, mind and soul between a man
and a woman as a marriage. An intimate extra-marital affair of a man may be a second
marriage. Some astrologers may look at such a second marriage as governed by
seventh house, while some others may consider it to be a matter of 2nd or even 12th
Such differences of opinion, among astrologers, are rarely sorted out by open debate,
deliberations and discussions. Most astrologers resort to, what BV Raman says,
“discretion and common sense coupled, of course, with a certain amount of intuition”.
This leads to a situation where no two astrologers can arrive at any agreement about
any matter. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation for growth of astrology as a faculty.
The problem with description of houses, for that matter with astrology as a whole, is
that it was worked out centuries ago on the basis of life as it was then. Life has
undergone a sea change in the past few centuries. But, there has been hardly any
systematic joint attempt by astrologers, as a group, to redefine the houses based on
today’s life, technological advancements and social structures. One of the reasons for
this is that the philosophical basis of astrology is almost lost. In the absence of a
philosophy, astrology as a discipline has become a series of empirical observations,
quick-result formulae without a soul or a vital life force.
Most astrologers do look at the twelve houses as an image of the sky, but in looking at
human mind, body and life as corresponding to the sky, they use ancient tools that
have not been adequately updated with time. In Annexure 1C, I propose a classification
of houses based on Dharm, Arth, Kam and Moksh.
Dharm relates to essential duties that one must perform to live life as an individual, as
a member of a family and as a social being in relation with the cosmos. The first and
foremost dharm of any person is towards his own body – he / she must take care of
physiological needs. This is allocated to the first house. In a way, this is the bottom of
The next level of dharm is when one moves beyond oneself to the ones whom one
considers as close relatives. Children symbolize the next level of one’s duties and are
represented in the fifth house.
Taking care of children is instinctive. Most animals do that. Taking care of one’s father
is not instinctive. This comes from a realization of one’s duty that only humans are
capable of. All such types of dharm are allocated to the ninth house.
While dharm stands for essential duties, arth means resources that are necessary for
living. The first level of resources is wealth and possessions; second level is one’s own
skills, competence, and ability to face challenges; and the third level is one’s career,
profession, social position, reputation and honour in the society. The first level is
intensely personal, second level involves close interactions that challenge, while the
last level involves interaction with a whole that is not confined to one’s close circle.
The three levels of arth are represented by 2nd, 6th and 10th houses respectively.
Having gathered the necessary resources for life, a person must move on to building
relations with other human beings. The first level of relations is with one’s siblings;
second level of relations comes when one gets a spouse or gets into a partnership; and
a higher level of relationships is when one has personal goals, friends, achievements
and ambitions. The three levels of relating to the world or in other words three levels
of kam can also be seen from a different perspective. The first level is communications
involving exchange of information and thoughts. At the second level intimacy grows to
a level that communication or exchange of information is just a small part of the
exercise – one links in a fashion that one unites with the other. Moving to a higher
level, one is no longer tied with one’s personal needs; one now looks at oneself
through the eyes of the world. One’s desires and passions take on a different colour. Of
course, at the third level of desires, each person may define one’s own path. The three
levels of kam are allocated respectively to 3rd, 7th and 11th houses.
The last set pertaining to moksh is the most difficult to define. It is the part of life that
liberates one. It is the window to divinity available to mankind. The first experience of
divinity that every human being has is in one’s mothers lap. Sucking on the mother’s
breast is a divine experience for a child. Such simple pleasures are the subject matter of
fourth house – the first stage of moksh.
The next level of divine experience is more complex. One may get close to
experiencing the divinity through death of a close one (or even oneself) or through a
sexual experience – not the type where one establishes a close intimate relationship (7th
house) but an intensely physical, passionate and mind-blowing act. One may even have
an occult experience.
Each person experiences 8th house in his / her own way. Surely, this can be said about
each house. But, it is more so in case of 8th house where one seeks liberation from a
mundane life and moves to an arena of experiences where one’s close ones are
involved but they serve only to help the individual achieve liberation from bondages.
The highest level of liberation from bondages naturally involves loss, sometimes,
total loss. On the other hand it also involves gaining access to a world that is not
comprehensible with ordinary senses. If one believes in life after death, it is surely a
matter of 12th house. In Maslow’s triangle, the highest level of self-transcendence is
the matter of 12th house. But for some, liberation from bonds is a state of
uncontrolled behaviour that violates all norms of society. Highest level of liberation
may also mean existentialist alienation leading to meaninglessness and boredom. In
such a case, one may murder or rape or indulge in uncontrolled sex with large
number of prostitutes. Twelfth house has been called the house of bed for this reason.
The twelve houses represent human life in its totality. One must, however, abstain
from passing value judgements about one house or the other. No aspect of life is good
and no aspect is bad. Each house represents a multitude of opportunities and threats, a
combination of strengths and weaknesses. Each house has different shades – some
negative and some positive. Each house is subject to the influence of zodiac signs and
planets. We are not going to discuss these influences here since the subject matter of
this mini-book is philosophy of astrology and not astrology. The important part that
needs to be underscored is that forces and elements influence each aspect of life but
the effect that these influences finally bear varies from individual to individual. The
same planetary influence on the same house can cause two opposite reactions in two
persons. To that extent, each house seems to often represent two opposite extremes.
For example, 12th house simultaneously represents an ascetic as well as a skirt-chaser.
Whether one becomes an ascetic or a skirt-chaser depends on the individual
concerned. It is not an exaggeration to say that the two extremes are two sides of the
My attempt in Annexure 1C to redefine a framework is intended to propose the
foundations of a new (actually, it is ancient, but I guess it sounds better if I call it
new. ☺) philosophical paradigm for understanding astrology as well as life in
general. Linear simplicity of Maslow’s triangle, though useful in some respects, is
grossly inadequate to understand the complexity of human life. The two-dimensional
matrix of dharm, arth, kam, and moksh combined with the concept of self, close ones
and the world is proposed to help us understand our lives.
As with any paradigm, the proposed paradigm will need significant research to better
define the contours of the proposed matrix. Human life and mind are complex and
ever changing. Astrology, psychology and philosophy need to work together to better
understand various facets of life in the light of the proposed structure.
5. Predicting The Future
King Vikramathithya had many astrologers in his court. Of them, Mihir was an
intellectual giant and the most renowned. The King had a son. Mihir cast the
horoscope of the prince. Other astrologers also prepared the boy’s horoscope using
different systems of calculation.
All of them gave their opinion that the prince would have an anxious time at the age
of 18. But Mihir alone predicted clearly and boldly that the price would be killed by
a varaha (boar) at a particular hour on a particular date. He also said that no human
remedies could avert the danger and save the prince from the jaws of death and that
this unpleasant incident could not be averted.
Years passed. The prince was maintaining robust health. His surroundings were well
guarded even some months prior to the eventful day. On the morning of the fateful
day, the king held a durbar. The king requested Mihir to verify his calculations and
confirm whether the fateful hour would be 5.00 p.m. on that day as predicted
previously. All had their own doubts, because every precaution had been taken by the
king. No wild boar or wild animal could have any chance of gaining access to the
prince’s palace, which was very well protected by a huge army of vigilant warriors.
The prince was asked to take his seat on the seventh floor, and all the staircases were
fully guarded. The king was confident that his son was safe. The king requested
Mihir to reconsider deeply about his original prediction.
Mihir said that there was no mistake and death from injuries inflicted by a boar was
predicted from the prince’s horoscope without any shadow of doubt.
At frequent intervals a warrior was asked to give information about the prince’s
health. Reports that the prince was all right continued to come even after the
stipulated time of 5pm. Mihir did not agree. He calmly told the king that the prince
had died at the stipulated time and it would be advisable if they would verify. He
further mentioned that the prince was lying a pool of blood. He persuaded the king to
go and see for himself. The king went to the seventh floor of prince’s palace, where
companions of the prince were playing games. On enquiry, he was told that the
prince was playing with them all along and that only a little while ago, the prince had
gone out to the adjacent open terrace.
All quickly stepped into the open terrace. To their great grief, the prince was lying
dead in a pool of blood. They found that his body was injured by iron claw of an
artificial boar. When the palace was constructed, the architect had erected a flagstaff
and fixed an artificial boar made of iron and mortar at the top of the palace. Just
before 5.00 p.m., the prince felt uneasy. He went to the open terrace to have fresh air.
Exactly at 5.00 p.m., a strong wind broke the post into two and the artificial boar fell
down. It fell straight on the chest of the prince. The injury was so deep that the
terrible loss of blood resulted in his immediate collapse.
The king awarded the title “Varaha” to Mihir and thereafter he was known as
(Abridged from Prof. K.S. Krishnamurti, Fundamental Principles of Astrology, Krishnamurti
Publications, Madras, 1987, p. 19-22)
Astrologers often cite the above story to illustrate the finality of fate and futility of
human actions. Krishnamurti, in his introducing remarks before the above story, says,
“Able astrologers who have specialised in any branch of the science can boldly declare
an event without any doubt and can go the extent of taking a challenge that a particular
result must happen, mentioning also the time of the event.”
A key point that is often missed by most astrologers about the above story is that, as
reward for his accurate prediction, Mihir was given the title of Varah (boar). How
would you like to be called a pig? Would you consider it an honour? In Hindu
mythology, Lord Vishnu is supposed to have taken an incarnation in the form of a
Varah. Yet, one finds no other instance of a learned man being ‘honoured’ by the title
of Varah. It appears, to me, that the intellectual community did not approve of Mihir’s
action of forecasting the death of the prince and as a lifelong disgrace, bestowed the
insult of being called a Varah.
Clairvoyance, sixth sense, intuition – these are qualities that some individuals, and
probably even some animals, possess. (In mid-December 1981, a Nandi bull in Nashik
told me that I would be the first person to travel abroad out of the small crowd
assembled on a roadside. I did not even have a passport at that time. On 15 February
1982 I was on a flight to Germany.) Probably, it is possible for ordinary mortals to
practise spiritual training or sadhana or yoga or tapasya and achieve mystical powers
or siddhis that enable one to do acts, which are impossible in normal course. Almost
every religion in the world acknowledges such mystical powers. Without denying the
existence of mystical powers, astrology, to develop as a science, must move away from
mysticism and occult.
Mysticism and occult do produce some astoundingly accurate predictions, but there are
as many instances of their being totally off-mark. Estimates of accuracy of mystical
predictions vary, but there is no mystic or seer, as far as I know, who can claim a hit
rate of hundred per cent. Indian thinkers, most notably Gautam Buddha, had prohibited
demonstration of mystical powers or siddhis.
The prevalent view in Indian tradition has been that any intellectual or spiritual skills
or abilities that one possesses or acquires must be used for the good of the society and
not for going on a personal ego trip. Mihir’s accurate prediction of prince’s death did
not do any social good; it would have only made the life of the royal family terribly
miserable for eighteen long years. Would it not have been much better for the royal
family to be ignorant and just face fate as it came?
A few years ago, my neighbour, a young married healthy woman went to an astrologer.
She was told that her death was certain within a year’s time. One can imagine her state.
She even planned for her husband’s second marriage, after her death. Today, years
later, she still dreads to think of the way she passed the year living through death. Even
if certain death awaited her (in this case, it did not) at the end of the year, she would
certainly have been better off enjoying life till finally death did strike.
Astrological predictions, that claim to forecast any event that cannot be averted or
altered by any human actions, serve no purpose except to pamper to the ego of the
astrologer. Such predictions, in fact, damage individuals and society.
In Indian tradition, the classic instance of shunning predictions is seen at the start of
Mahabharat. Arjun was gripped with moral doubts and lost the will to fight just when
he reached the battlefield. Krishn, accepted as an incarnation of God, delivered a long
sermon, Shrimad Bhagwad Gita, to him about why he must fight. At no point in the
sermon, Krishn predicts the result of war. Would it not have been much simpler for
Krishn to just tell Arjun that he was sure to win the war and so he should go right
ahead and fight!
One finds an instance in Ramayan – Laxman had been grievously hurt in the war and
Ram was in grief. Did Ram, an incarnation of God, not know that Laxman was not
going to die? Surely, he could have got the services of an expert soothsayer like Mihir.
If Ram and Krishn (and for that matter, even Jesus, Moses and Prophet Mohammed)
did not depend on clairvoyance and let life take its own course, there is no reason for
modern man to take recourse to advice of fortune-tellers.
Astrology, on its part, must avoid the pitfall of fortune telling. Astrologers need to
become more humble. They must accept their limitations. Astrology, as distinct from
astronomy, arouses widespread popular interest since it has the potential to be useful to
humanity. If fate was pre-decided and cast in stone, no human intervention would be
possible – this would render astrology (in fact, all knowledge, sciences and even
Astrologers must begin with the premise that human life is unpredictable and that is
exactly the way it must remain, given the present state of human development. On the
other hand, astrologers ought to help modern man (or woman) to understand various
influences that he (or she) is subjected to. They can and should help one understand
one’s own mind as it grows through various phases of life. They can help by predicting
phases, stages, factors, influences and forces that one’s life goes through.
To sum up, let us look at what BV Raman wrote on 30-9-1941 in the Preface to his
Can a science as astrology be ever untrue? The scientist takes too crudely a
materialistic view of the whole nature of the universe. He contends that he may
think of considering astrology as a fit subject for investigation provided the
destiny factor is ruled out of it. This is simply absurd. There is nothing like
destiny in astrology. The proper term to be used is Adrishta or that which is not
seen. Astrology simply indicates and gives the greatest scope for the development
of will-power, by means of which one can either counteract the evil indications or
augment the favourable influences.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to Sri Anil Chawla ji and hindu samskrit dot com for the collection)