I came to astrology as a skeptic some 22 years ago in 1990. I stayed a skeptic for another ten years—while studying and doing charts. I was looking for some kind of human trick that I never found. There are still a few forms of astrology that I’m skeptical about, but not because I doubt astrology itself as much as the practitioners and their practices. No astrological field seems riper for my concerns than those astrologers who practice mundane astrology. Mundane is taken from the Latin word “mundus” for the world; so this astrology is concerned more with the worldly affairs of a particular place at or for a specific amount of time. The practitioners of this art would be more concerned with political elections, for example.
Like other forms astrology, there are a lot of ways to do mundane astrology. Many of these techniques would be foreign to the average person who might only know their sun sign, moon sign or rising sign. But the key thing to know is that astrologers focus their attention on procedures for checking and cross-checking possible outcomes, mostly relying on several kinds of astrological charts & techniques. This is something that many astrologers do most times when they analyze a chart or make a prediction, whether it’s for an individual, an event or a group.
I’m ultimately arguing that this is perhaps the best way to practice astrology, an astrology that “checks” the astrologer using a cross-tabulation of “data” that might confirm or challenge his or her expectations. However, you can’t completely get around the astrologer’s own bias or expectations. And that’s okay. These biases are much smaller for most other things like doing natal charts, because perhaps we may have less ideologically at stake. (Although it can sometimes be hard to look “objectively” at your own chart or the chart of someone close to you.) I also recognize that there may be many other astrologers who can read mundane charts without their analyses reflecting their biases as much as mine might for this election. But many don’t. And that’s the thing about using astrology to predict Presidential elections.
Take for instance this analysis by a Dr. Standley, who I suppose is an astrologer as well as a doctor of chiropractic medicine. I don’t know Dr. Standley personally, and I couldn’t find anything on her site about her credentials as an astrologer. However, she’s a sterling example of why I’m skeptical of mundane astrology.
I only heard of her when a few of my twitter followers asked my opinion on her mundane prediction for the coming election. To her ultimate credit, her prediction was correct. She says, “I suspect the voters will want some more kisses and another round of Obama is what we will have.”However, what’s interesting is how she came to her prediction and why. Her bias is clear and she says as much: she thinks the Pisces (Romney) would be better for us. I think that’s perfectly fine, but I notice how she makes her astrology fit her thinking. And that’s what I find the most annoying about many astrologers practicing mundane astrology.
There are several red flags flying throughout her whole post, so let’s parcel out only a few tattered ones. The first major flag for me was that she didn’t seem to know the birth times for 3 out of the 4 candidates. Not only are ALL the birth times known for ALL of the candidates at the time she wrote her post, a Google search would have rendered the answer, if she wanted to know. I’m sorry but that looks like plain old laziness.
Dr. Standley does a comparative analysis between both the Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees for each party. She also analyzes how their charts interact with what’s happening in the night sky during the last month before the election. What’s interesting is that she goes on at great length about how the dynamic between Obama, Biden, the 2008 transits and the current night sky all come together to signify what she believes is a “love illusion of hope and change” that will never come to fruition. She never returns the favor for the Romney/Ryan ticket, even with something positively biased.
Astrologers will recognize that she whizzes by some pretty hard hitting compatibility between Romney and Ryan, like their Saturn-Moon square or their Neptune-Mars square. However, NO commentary on what that means for America like the Venus-Neptune square for Obama/Biden. Zilch! That’s too bad, because if she had found the birth times for Romney and Ryan, she might have seen that the pair also has contrasting rising signs too! (Romney is 0 Gemini and Ryan is 0 Sagittarius.) SPOILER ALERT: They couldn’t be more different in how they approach life.
Instead she only focuses on Romney’s transits and placements. Interestingly enough, she keys in on the transiting Jupiter in Gemini and “North Node goodness” on Romney’s North Node, Jupiter and moon. Here’s where ancient principles of astrology provide a wisdom that actually bore out…and she seems to have missed this.
A transiting Jupiter in Gemini promises a lot, but delivers little. A transiting North node in Scorpio could be a short-lived boon for Romney’s Jupiter in Scorpio, but a fallen moon in Scorpio sours it all. This suggests at least two possible outcomes: Romney’s own insecurities and fretfulness (signified by his moon in Scorpio) overtakes his fortune, causing misfortune. Or his moon in fallen dignity suggests that people just don’t favor him for reasons out of his control. I think both are true. If Romney hadn’t veered more to the political Right during the GOP primary season to win the nod, he wouldn’t have had to etch-a-sketch himself as a moderate a month before the election. I also think it’s true that he wasn’t liked as much as Obama, as was evident during most of the election cycle with his low favorables. (Apparently, NJ Gov. Chris Christie thought similarly. When asked why Romney didn’t win, he said, deadpan, “He didn’t get enough votes.”)
Regardless, it was wholly predictable from Romney’s chart, whether you used the actual birth time or not, that there would be some challenges to Romney’s good fortune. Nonetheless, it’s another red flag that Dr. Standley never entertains those possibilities and only focuses on Obama/Biden’s aspects, rather than Romney’s own obvious issues.
PoliticalAstrologyBlog.com published a handy round-up list of astrologers who predicted this election. They list other mundane astrologers whose other astrology work I genuinely respect and trust. 31 out of 45 of these astrologers got things right. That’s nearly 70%! Anyone in the astrological world knows that this is sort of a minor miracle. It’s very rare to get 7 out of 10 astrologers to agree on that much, including the 5 out of 5! astrologers who predicted an Obama win at the UAC 2012 Presidential Election panel.
I’d like to focus on what method seems to work best with their mundane efforts, though many of them use different techniques. Notice I’ve made a distinction between method and technique. For instance, most scientists use “the scientific method,” but use different techniques, strategies, instruments, etc. to arrive at their results. I think the method I discuss holds up, even for most of the astrologers who made the wrong call as well. Any astrologer worth his or her salt is going to get a prediction wrong. But what’s important is why and how that happens.
I would say that all of the astrologers who predicted an Obama win used conventional techniques from whatever tradition they practiced, whether Hellenistic, Vedic, Uranian, modern Western, or medieval. A few may have used different times or charts for particular events, like Alan Oken’s Election Day chart for when voting ends in Hawaii or the Gemini-rising USA chart used by Gar Osten, but the techniques were standard. What’s more important is that most of the astrologers “cross tabulated” their data against multiple sources or charts to extract a meaning. I elaborate a little upon this method in “A Day to Testify,” where I explain that multiple means of corroboration allows an astrologer to test if something is true by multiple approaches. It’s comparable to how a lawyer might grill or interrogate a witness on a stand. Ultimately, this method holds up the best.
Many of those who foresaw a Romney win also used a “cross tabular” method, with various techniques. Only 3 astrologers out of 14 used a method that could be described as unconventional, because there was nothing cross tabular, they used eccentric techniques or both. For the most part, these astrologers didn’t betray a bias in method or political stance, like Dr. Standley above, so we can count their inaccuracy as just getting it wrong, not doing it wrong. Perhaps they saw advantages where there were none, using much of the same data as the other astrologers. It happens. However, it’s William Stickevers’ technique and method, #10 on the round-up list for “Astrologers Who Predicted That Romney Will Win,” that stands out as the most wayward to me.
I know William personally and we got into a series of heated discussions about his method and forecasts on his Facebook page until he blocked me from it. My key points I made to him then are similar to the ones I’m making now.
His technique is to cast political contest horary charts, as he calls them. Horary astrology is one of the oldest forms of astrology. It’s used to cast a chart for when and where a particular question of concern is understood by an astrologer. William also uses event charts, like other astrologers listed in the round-up. William has cast a chart for when Election Day begins in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire (opposite to what Alan Oken does for Hawaii, but not unconventional) and then overlaps that with the foundation chart for the state of Virginia. No problem with any of that, although it’s largely based on his own technique and ideas that he put Virginia as “ground zero.” (Below) The problem is with political contest horary charts.
First, let’s take William off the hook a bit about that. There are a number of astrologers who use horary charts to attempt to call all kinds of contests, from football games to elections. I just think it’s a bad practice.
Horary is one of the more intimate branches of astrology because a question asked by someone is juiced by the personal energy and emotion of the person asking the question. That’s why astrologers discourage people from asking questions that really are none of their business or are “too large” to answer, like “Did Muhammad speak with the angel Gabriel?” or “Will the Knicks when the championship this year?” The last question, however, could be a suitable question if asked by a Knicks player rather than just a fan. Again, the idea is to keep horary confined to answerable question that are fueled by emotional or personal relevance to the person asking the question (called the querent). So if someone were going to ask a question of about the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) message, then I would have to recognize that its importance isn’t exclusively relevant for me, despite the fact I’m a Muslim. Considering it’s not, my question is not a suitable horary question.
If individuals can ask a question about a general event that affects millions of people and yet have no direct significant contribution to the event, we could expect millions of horary questions about the same event with no one having any foreseeable and exclusive claim to being right. I think a horary about a political race BY a candidate in the race is very different from an astrologer soliciting the oracle of horary because he’s curious or even concerned about the fate of the WHOLE country. There’s just not enough to juice, to borrow a concept from astrologer/author Geoffrey Cornelius, based on a presentation he gave at UAC 2012.
However, conventionally traditional astrologers who use techniques similar to William’s wouldn’t have a problem with using a chart for when and where a contest begins (or perhaps ends.) But those are event charts, not horaries. Oddly, William has used both event charts and actual questions to inform his predictions, giving them both the unusual title of a horary forecasts.
Likewise, take William’s final general election horary forecast. Apparently he’s cast “horaries” based on the final publishing polling reports from Rasmussen Reports, based in Asbury Park, NJ. Again, remember, horaries relate to questions and customarily are done for the place where the astrologer has understood the question. I’m pretty sure William wasn’t in Asbury Park for each report, so the charts based on these reports are actually event charts, not horaries. Unfortunately, for all of astrology, a chart can only be as correct as the data, and it should be as related to the event it attempts to “measure.” So William is really “measuring” the reports, as an event, and NOT the event he wants to measure, which, I think, is the election. It would be comparable to giving more primacy to the chart for when my birth announcement appeared in a particular newspaper over than my actual birth chart! This is where William’s problems become most glaring and compounded.
It’s commonly understood during the campaign and most definitely now post-election that Rasmussen’s polling reports were consistently biased for the Republicans. It would be one thing if William cross-tabulated data from multiple polling companies, like Nate Silver measured statistically along with multiple indicators suitable to his profession, but apparently William didn’t. (It would also be an awful lot of work to look at the “horaries”/event charts of all those reports, but it would definitely sway his work away from an obvious bias. It would be a far, far better method, despite its unconventionality.)
In the end, it looks like William’s work became the victim of a series of biases that were neither rooted in fact or conventional astrology practice. Virginia did not become “ground zero” and Romney won only one of the battleground states that William said he would win…and at a far narrower margin than William predicted. Unfortunately, William was convinced of the accuracy of his unusual technique and he thought that my problem with his techniques was because his predictions didn’t support my pro-Obama findings or support the forecasts of the “powers that be.”
The truth was that I thought he was looking for an anti-Obama route to justify a Romney win and found one by tricking out his astrology as objective, accurate and unbiased. The truth was literally in his strange pudding. After all, why Rasmussen reports versus Pew, Ipsos, Purple strategies, or PPP? The fact that he leaned on them as hard as he did was a clear indication that he wasn’t being a maverick at all. Unfortunately, William has realized much of his error too late, but still seems adamant about the correctness of his method. I think that’s the biggest loss.
During our FB post wars, William asked a very good question, “Why didn’t I make any election predictions of my own?” My answer at the time was because I barely believed in mundane astrology, so I had no reason to seek an answer about the election using that form of astrology. I also said that I so rarely had seen it done well by modern astrologers that I didn’t have much faith in the art.
My thinking has changed a lot during this election. I still don’t feel compelled to seek astrology as a guide when statistical data, demographics, hearing the candidates from all sides and my own amateur, yet studied approach of American culture and politics give me so much more clear cut information. Like I said, I predicted an Obama re-election about a year ago using my own critical reasoning ability and common sense. (I think the GOP field was too weak to have a candidate who could challenge a mostly popular President, in short.) Look, Ma, no astrology! I prefer to use astrology for regular people and situations where there’s not enough “real world” data to make decisions or be informed.
However I also have found a better class of mundane astrologers who show that mundane forecasting can be done well. I’ve also gotten clearer that what makes for a mundane astrology (or most other forms of astrology) done well isn’t simply a matter of nailing the right outcome. I think what matters most is using a method that minimizes your bias, giving the astrologer his or her best shot at accuracy. A successful astrologer uses techniques, conventional or unconventional, to hear the testimony of multiple charts, planets, or various points with as little noise as possible. An astrologer’s main job is to make sure that he or she is hearing each “key witness” with as little internal or external disruption as possible.
An accurate outcome is sweet if you nail it with a technique that gives you the clearest sounding testimonies. But even if you get it all wrong, as some astrologers did and do, the key questions are “Were you listening?” or “Were you straining to hear what you wanted to hear?” I think most astrologers were listening well. Some others were listening well enough, but heard too much static that distracted them. Fortunately, there were only a few who could stand to get their hearing checked.