The science of Astrology is the key to Her vast kingdom and the Oracle is Her voice and our understanding.
~ Shri Gurudev Mahendranath
Astrology — or Jyotish as it is known in Sanskrit (literally, “study of light”) — is looked upon with some combination of whimsy and scorn by most in the modern West. It is true that more and more people are taking an interest in the topic, but for most it remains a parlor game or an icebreaker. It may not be as common as it was in the 1970s to ask a prospective date, “What’s your sign?”, but entire natal charts get bandied about on Twitter along with image macro memes of someone doing some horrible thing and the individual posting it saying, “That’s so typically [insert Sun sign here],” or, even worse, “That’s just how we [sign] are!” as if a person’s natal chart justifies rather than gives context to poor behavior and destructive thinking. Alongside all of that, you have astronomers and astrophysicists occasionally jumping in to explain to everybody that “astrology is fake”, “pseudoscience”, “superstition”, or whatever, painting astrologers and their clients with the same brush as Young Earth Creationists.
Unfortunately, most of “astro-Twitter” doesn’t do a fantastic job of shaping up astrology’s image. This isn’t entirely the fault of the people involved, as the medium of Twitter and similar social media simply aren’t conducive to deep discussion. Nevertheless, the arguments persist with both sides sounding like ideologues and petulant children.
In Hindu thought, Jyotish is treated as a science. This often strikes the Western ear a bit funny, so to put it in context, Yoga is also called a science. Both of them are properly scientific in the sense of being empirical: Jyotish and Yoga are based in observations of repeatable experiences. I’m sure any materialist who has stumbled upon this will sneer at that last statement, but who cares? “Scientific materialism” isn’t a real thing because science as a process doesn’t support materialism terribly well, so we can all just move right along.
I don’t study and practice astrology because I came in “believing in” it. Quite the opposite, in fact. In my youth, when I was trying out all sorts of occult and spiritual bits and bobs, astrology immediately proved itself useless to me: every book on it I found at the time seemed empty of value, and the interpretations I read never fit with my experience. (For example, I was always told that because I was born with my Sun in Taurus I was extremely materialistic and obsessed with luxury. If you have ever met me, you know how laughable that is.) This attitude persisted for well over a decade. The symbolism of the planets was useful to me in practical magic, and the planetary days and hours served their purpose in timing certain magical operations, but natal and predictive astrology still seemed like bunk.
That is, until I encountered the astrology of India.
Indian astrology, Jyotish, seemed to have more interpretive depth and mathematical precision. While results obtained with Sidereal placements still didn’t seem quite right, things were at least much more correct this way, enough to make me suspect I had missed something worth the investigation. And here’s where the Guru shows his light once again.
As I spoke, impressed, about the increased accuracy I’d found in Indian astrology complete with its Sidereal calculations — so much better than Western astrology with its Tropical placements — Guruji Sri Kapilnath piped in with a correction and a recommendation: Not all Indian astrology uses Sidereal calculations, and perhaps I should look into the writings of Ernst Wilhelm. Knowing that Kapilji was a very accomplished astrologer himself, I was immediately intrigued enough to follows his direction. That’s when I found drastically increased accuracy, at times almost paranormally so, and I have never looked back.
This aside into my own history as a jyotisha has been necessary to come to the place astrology holds in my life. Yes, it is a skill which makes me money; in fact, I hope for it to become my living. But Jyotish is so much more.
I have come fully to accept that Tantra is incomplete without it. More, Tantra is a shell of itself without Jyotish. While it is true that there is no bad time to worship God if the honest inclination is there, specific applications of Tantric methods are enhanced considerably by appropriate astrological timings. This one can confirm for themselves, just as I have. Tantra and astrology also go together in the methods of remediation: there are many complex and expensive Vedic approaches to the remediation of difficulties indicated in a person’s birth chart, many of which are well out of reach to the average person no matter where in the world they may be — much the same problem with most facets of Vedic religion. But Tantra is by its very nature accessible. That’s not to say it is easy or requires no work, but it is effort within the reach of those who are truly in need of aid.
Even more immediately, astrology is an incredible tool for the self-knowledge demanded by Yoga. The natal chart obviously provides a window onto the nature of one’s own body and mind, but more importantly the very study of astrology itself teaches the astrologer lessons about the nature of body, mind, spirit, and soul which might take decades or lifetimes otherwise. It is a more complete and direct approach to the mysteries of karma and prana than is available in any other practice or study I’ve found outside of the samyama of Yoga itself — and even that is considerably aided by having the subjects of concentration provided by astrology.
Jyotish is thus a remarkable boon to the magician, the Yogi, the curious individual who wants to know more about themselves and to develop proactive strategies for life. It is psychology, philosophy, metaphysics, theology, sorcery, and sadhana all in one, and according to the need of each. I am still pleasantly surprised with each chart reading I do how much useful information I’m able to dig out for my client; not only do I help them to learn about themselves, I learn more about myself, the world, and God.