I opened up Susan Miller’s popular astrology website and checked what she says about my sign. I’m an Aquarius. I’m one of the 90% of us know our sign. Even though I am a skeptic when it comes to astrology, I was surprised at how accurate her description of me felt: “Ruled by Uranus, the planet associated with striking and unexpected change, rebellion, surprise, individualism, and at times eccentricity, you are happiest when you can freely follow the path you’ve chosen without interference from others.” Apart from being “ruled by Uranus,” I think my wife characterized me the very same way last week when we were having a difference of opinion.
The word is, a growing number of people, particularly millennial women, are turning to astrology to help them judge relationship compatibility, understand friendship dynamics and make life decisions. What keeps astrology going? Maybe, we’re all just looking for answers in an uncertain world — at least that’s what Ali Roff Farrar and her husband James think; they are influencer types, personal trainers and wellbeing experts.
Are the stars aligning?
If you need to, you can blame the Babylonians for astrology. They were the first to organize a system. Until the 17th century, astrology was a common pursuit by scholars and the general population. The Bible writers refer to it as common sense. The Magi in Matthew 2 might have followed star signs from Babylon. In Luke 21 Jesus refers to signs in the sun, moon and stars. I call it a kind of “second tier” spirituality. The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 2, teaches us to raise our sights:
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces [basic principles] of this world rather than on Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.
“First tier” spirituality is centered on Jesus and results in personal transformation and a true self lived in harmony with God, creation and others. [Post applying the two tiers].
Nevertheless, people have looked to the stars for guidance for thousands of years. As the sciences developed, skepticism about the tradition of astrology deepened. Modern science has found almost every immaterial notion to be unreliable. For instance, many studies have found the personalities of Aquarians are not determined by the stars. This little study from the Age-of-Aquarius-1970’s is often quoted to that end.
A widely-cited National Science Foundation study in 2014 found that skepticism around astrology was decreasing. But that might be because people don’t know the difference between astrology and astronomy. Die-hard astrologers interpreted the findings to say a new generation was embracing astrology with open arms. The study said half of 18-24 years-olds believed astrology (or astronomy, perhaps) is a scientific tradition. Eight years later, those 26-32 year-olds are keeping the astrologers and Instagram wellness gurus in business.
Astrology has staying power. Many people are still turning to astrology and studying their horoscopes with diligent faithfulness. Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs (1968) is still a go-to guide for them. It is the only astrology book ever to enter the New York Times best seller list. It was republished in 2019, sells in many formats, and still converts people. 60 million copies of her books have been printed.
From the look of my social media searches, a lot of people are into astrology. The private FB group “Astrology Guidance,” based in India, has 158,000 members. The Urban List will tell you who to follow on Instagram. TikTok will help you find astrologers on their site. The Astro Poets, Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov, give amusing advice to their 707K followers on Twitter (@poetastrologers). Some people are making money, of course. But a lot of people are just sharing their passion.
The “wellness industry” is booming. The #selfcareohyeah audience is tuning into their physical, mental and spiritual health. Circle Counseling therapists have most of their time slots filled. If there is increased interest in astrology, it is probably rising with an increased interest in all things “wellness.”
Lost certitude leaves people scrambling?
If anything is certain now, it’s that we are living in an age of uncertainty. Untrustworthy leaders, an impossible-to-climb-onto property ladder, climate change, the remnants of the pandemic and poisonous politics all add to feelings of ambiguity and insecurity in our lives. We are all wired to avoid uncertainty, and it produces acute stress responses [a study about that]. When we can’t know how our futures will play out, we turn to things that promise us insight. Jesus told a story about a man who felt content in his certainty
And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:19-21)
His story was about how people choose other, vain means to address their desperation rather than trusting God. Astrology is one of the ways people try to get a sense of control, especially in uncertain times.
The information our horoscopes offer is not accurate. Anyone can see that. But astrology does give some sense of control over one’s life. When uncertainty causes us to feel out of control, we tend to lean toward one end of the spectrum of locus of control or the other.
- On one extreme are those who act according to an internal locus of control. They think that ultimately, we are each responsible for the events in our lives. There is no such thing as fate or destiny; people who work hard get what they deserve.
- People on the other end have an external locus of control. They think something or someone else is responsible for the outcome of their lives, like the movement of the stars and planets, the “universe,” and many surrender their agency to their society or the rules of their religion.
Statistically, women are more likely to lean toward the external end, believing their lives are guided by fate, luck or destiny (representative study). This correlates with research showing more women believe in astrology than men (Pew 2018). So, for those of us who believe that forces greater than ourselves guide our lives, astrology is one place that offers answers, direction and meaning.
Followers of Jesus are finding an organic sense of their agency as part of creation in relationship with the Creator. We are called to value our unique expression of the image of God with which we are born and value the restoring work of Jesus as we learn how we fit into and experience the wholeness we cannot supply for ourselves alone. Astrology may be a second tier expression of our yearning to know, to be safe, and to exercise our spiritual awareness. Trust in Jesus is the door into the first tier, where we discover the fullness of ourselves on the way into truth and eternal life.