In ancient times, those who had the luxury of observing the world around them studied everything in terms of its meaning and its relationship to other things it interacted with. People used the cycles of the Sun, Moon and Stars (including the planets, or wandering stars) to demarcate cycles of time, large and small. All these cycles of time had special meanings, and were usually named for the gods or spirit beings that were associated with the celestial phenomena that defined them.

Ancient astrology was very different from the astrology we practice today, however. More emphasis was placed on phenomena such as the changes of “phase” of the various planets, such as the retrogrades of Mercury and Venus, the ascendancy of Jupiter (from the time it appears in the evening on the eastern horizon until its first appearance in the evening at the southernmost point in the heavens), the visibility and invisibility of planets, the phases of the Moon, Eclipses and other phenomena. There were sets of constellations that are no longer familiar to average astrologers and astronomers, and unexpected events in the heavens, such as comets, were catalogued as important omens.

We seldom give our forbearers the credit they are due; they could accurately predict eclipses, grand conjunctions and the like through the use of low-tech devices like the Minoan Calendar Stone, the Pyramid City or Stonehenge. Again, these events were not just something they measured for convenience – to them, time stood beyond light and darkness, and linked cause to effect – these cosmic events all had special meanings.
When Alexandria was established, it became the center of learning in the world, and that was where Astrology as we know it was born. Greek and Egyptian thought regarding geometry and the order inherent in the Universe was paired with the more ancient observations, and was codified into the system of the 12 planetary houses that we now call the signs of the Zodiac.

Astrology was refined throughout the Hellenistic Era, and was enhanced by many techniques inspired by the legendary Nechepso and Petosiris. Things that could not have been derived from observation, such as the Hermetic Lots, became part of the canon of the art. The philosophies of the Platonic Academy, the Stoics, and Aristotle’s Natural Science became inseparable from astrology in the west, as did the spiritual sciences of the Vedas in India. In fact, there are some scholars who are not sure whether many of the philosophical movements of the time were the source of inspiration for the developments in astrology, or whether astrology inspired them.

During the latter part of the Hellenistic era, much of the earlier work of the important writers in the field was lost, and is only being reconstructed by scholars since the end of last century. Most of Ptolemy’s work has survived, thanks to Persian and other middle-eastern practitioners, and is the foundation of the majority of astrological techniques that we have today.

The scholars of antiquity, and for over a thousand years, pictured the Universe very differently than we do today. They envisioned the material world as being the coarsest layer of existence, while several other interpenetrating planes made up the substance of our minds, souls and spirits. These spheres included the invisible realms of the forces that stood behind the various forms of matter in our world, and each of these spheres was named after the visible planets, the Sun and the Moon, and the stars that lay beyond them. In essence, all things had the four elements, the quintessence, and the qualities of the 7 visible planets, as well as the stars, within them, in various combinations. Terrain, plants, animals and all other visible things were categorized not by the substances that could be found within them, but by the planets or the signs of the Zodiac.

Today, this concept has been overly simplified and widely misunderstood. This “dumbing down” of astrology was primarily influenced by religious and political powers who did not support philosophies that empowered people in general; they preferred ideas that rationalized the way they operated. Materialistic science, which only studied physical causes and effects, did not help either.

Classical astrological systems fell by the wayside hundreds of years ago, but in the modern era we have seen a resurgence of the art. Astrologers have developed many new methods, thanks to our greater access to information, and newer ways of looking at the cosmos. With the advent of the computer age, calculations that took hours only a century ago are done instantaneously; research studies can span thousands of years in a matter of seconds; hundreds of accurately calculated birth charts can be searched for common phenomena with a few mouse-clicks.

This is important because today we have astrological resources available to us that the ancients couldn’t imagine. Sadly, too many people are not aware of how useful this knowledge can be, or how it can be used to improve their lives.

On a very basic level, a competent astrologer can be an excellent helper when it comes to making sense of your life. A famous teacher once said that astrology was invented by the Rishis (divine sages) in order to compensate for humanity’s lack of divine vision during the Kali Yuga, the age of iron, in which our natural gifts can be realized by only the greatest effort. Anyone who has worked with a good astrologer cannot deny the value of this gift.

Astrology can offer advice on every facet of the life, and help you learn to work with whatever cosmic cycles you are enmeshed in. The challenges we face are not always the results our mistakes, but we believe they are, and blame ourselves for things that we did not consciously initiate. It’s not always our fault when we do not hear the voice of intuition, or cannot recognize clear and present omens.

In astrology, we understand that every human being starts with a pattern that is part of many cycles that began long before they were born; that people are caught up in tides of cause and effect that keep them enmeshed in activities that run counter to their own highest nature. Astrologers also know that, given the right information, anything that causes trouble can be turned to the advantage of the person afflicted by it, and that the ability to do so is a sign of inner or spiritual growth – a sign of individuation and wholeness.

Modern psychologists work with concepts such as Archetypes, Synchronicity and Psychic Energy, all of which are ideas that have been familiar to astrologers, in some way or another, for millennia. These ideas come from old philosophies; that there are forces in the universe that make up forms which exist in the individual unconscious, the collective unconscious and the environment, and that the energy which flows through them can bridge the “gap” between mind and matter.

This is basically the same concept upon which astrology is based; the primal forces represented by the planets act both within us and upon us, and by studying their patterns and how they interact with one another, we can not only tell what’s most likely to happen, but what we can do about it in order to engineer the outcome most suitable our individual growth and well being.

In other words, astrology isn’t all about personality sketches and predictions; it can be used to improve the quality of your life. Because it can map the possibilities of the future, it can offer choices as to which possible future you want, or ways to utilize the currents of cause and effect for your support and guidance. If you are beginning a journey, and someone tells you of a good road with little traffic, it’s highly likely that you would take that route, even if it would take more time than another filled with stones, potholes and other hazards.

Almost everyone is curious about their life’s purpose, or the meaning of their hidden longings, or why the things they want most from life consistently evade them. Few people don’t want to know why success has not brought happiness, why “nothing has worked” for the past 3 years, or why they never can find time to pursue their own interests. Astrology not only has answers to these questions, but it offers guidance on the how, why and when of fulfillment and satisfaction.

A personal astrological chart, cast for your time, place and date of birth, includes all the information needed to make a thorough study of your temperament, character, and the various qualities of your bio-energetic constitution that define the way in which you interact with the world. It also can discover personal limitations that can be overcome so that when you face challenges, your actions turn the tides of circumstance in your favor. Even more importantly, it can let you know when powerful challenges are likely to present themselves, and the easiest way to deal with them.
In working with relationships, personal astrology can take on a different dimension. By understanding the particular changes each person is experiencing at a given time, and comparing the horoscopes of one to the other, strategies based on mutual satisfaction and well being can be developed. You can learn what issues can be dealt with as a team, and which need to be handled individually. Many relationships fail because we tend to get so involved in “making things work” that we take on the issues and conflicts of another, and try to solve them as if they are our own, depriving our partners of the opportunity to learn and grow. Synastry, or relationship astrology, can help two people understand more about themselves and each other, and how, during times of stress, it can be easy to sort things out.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using astrology to improve your life. Medical astrologers are often experts in traditional or “alternative” medicine, or know competent healers in various branches of the healing art. By understanding possible challenges to your wellness, working with an expert in this field can help you conquer almost any difficulties that you may face by helping you find a way to act preventively, making it impossible for an upcoming problem to manifest. Sometimes something as simple as a change of diet or physical habits in the present can divert a health challenge that has only manifested peripheral, but related symptoms. Homeopaths, Herbalists, Ayurvedic doctors, and professional practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine all study your temperament and constitution to understand your proneness to potential problems. In fact, astrology was, at one time, a required study in medical school. Many highly skilled practitioners of the healing arts use astrology as a diagnostic tool today, especially in the east.

The fascinating art of locational astrology has many benefits for everyone. Its practitioners specialize in travel and changes of residence. They can make recommendations based on how the current cycles of the planets affect you, and where you can go to bring out the planets that offer benefits, or reduce the influence of planets that may hinder your progress or interfere with your plans. Many clients of astrologers who practice this branch of the art take annual trips in the quest for the “best year ever”, while others specifically target their travel to meet their astrological requirements for love, success, health or prosperity. Some people move to locations for specific effects, such as an improved social life, better health, improved business or advancement in an already established career. There are even branches of this art that allow one to change the location of things in the home, or design a home, in order to open up the best possibilities for them – as do practitioners of the compass school of Feng Shui. You can even bring in objects, décor or foods from places that are favorable to you, and see how things begin to improve almost immediately.
Practitioners of Universal Astrology study the affairs of states and nations, politics, history, culture, the environment, weather and other phenomena that affect us on a community and global scale. A special branch of this art is Financial Astrology, whose practitioners work with investors or think-tanks that make predictions about financial markets. They can help you make decisions that have pronounced and lasting effects on your financial life. You would be surprised how many successful investment analysts and managers utilize astrological indications, and how easy it is to follow certain astrological cycles that outperform the S&P and other “benchmark” indicators, year after year.

Horary Astrology is the art of answering questions by creating and analysing charts for the moment the question is asked. This branch follows rules that were codified in medieval times; they haven’t been changed because they still work with uncanny precision today. Some of the most common questions asked of a Horary practitioner have to do with the location and recovery of lost or stolen items, the outcome of relationship matters, wellness issues, the outcome of sporting events or political actions, the wisdom of making financial maneuvers, whether or not interviews or auditions will be successful and the like. Those rare individuals who have mastered this branch of the art often amaze clients by telling them what their question is about before they have a chance to ask it. Although it may be the most useful branch of astrology (because it does not require the astrologer to know the time and place of birth) too few people know that it exists, or how accurate the answers can be. Some astrologers specialize in this branch as their main practice, and a few have had legendary success by practicing this branch of the art alone.

Electional Astrology is sort of like Horary Astrology in reverse; it is the art of selecting the best time to insure success in any given activity. It’s often used to select times for business openings, marriages, interviews, publishing and other ventures in which one would want to have the stars in their favor.

Astrology is not about blaming Saturn for your failures or crediting Jupiter with your successes. It’s not about making excuses for a failed relationship because of being born under a sign that is incompatible with the sign of the other party. It gives us the opportunity to take responsibility for our futures, and the knowledge of how to act, consistently, in our own best interests.

Again, the planets and stars represent cosmic forces that are within us, always demanding recognition and expression. If, instead, they are suppressed, your own psychic energy connects with their manifestations “outside” of you. We all know what happens to people who live, year after year, with suppressed anger, fear or guilt – eventually these emotions manifest as major problems in their lives. When we can identify the planets’ different roles in our lives, we can learn how to allow the challenging planets to express themselves, so that the favorable planets aren’t forced to help us survive the hurts and heartbreaks that usually result from confronting these challenges.

In other words, astrology can teach you how to express the cosmic forces represented by the various planets in ways that are attuned to their natures as described in your personal chart. If you do, things begin to run more smoothly than ever before. If you don’t, you might as well be driving with the brakes on – all the time.

Seeking guidance from Astrology is one of the easiest ways to create your own destiny. If you’re not actively working toward a better future, you have to accept whatever fate throws at you. Some say that everything has a price, but if the price you pay involves a little work that results in greater self-knowledge, your successes will be more fulfilling, satisfying and permanent.

A competent practitioner of astrology is like any other consultant, such as a lawyer, an agent or an image expert. The astrologer’s job is to translate the message that the stars have for you at any given time. With the information you receive, you can pursue your goals and dreams, or face your challenges, with confidence and the knowledge that you are working with the universe, not struggling against it.

When it comes to improving your life and reaching your goals, astrology can help, but it’s all up to you and what you are willing to do. It’s not the planets or stars that cause you to succeed or fail, it’s your willingness, your determination, and the courage to experience and express all aspects of your being. Success always follows effort, and astrology can help you target and time your efforts for the best possible results.
Astrology can be little more than a parlor game, or it can act as the control panel of your personal starship. Life can be a great adventure; ultimately, life is either what you make of it, or what you let it make of you. The choice is yours.