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Milky Way

The Participatory Experience of Astrology
Is Not Predictable by Science

July 2010

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The Limitations of Science in Understanding Participatory Experiences

As astrologers, we take the participatory nature of reality as a given. Given that both astrologer and client are conscious beings, the experience they share together in exploring the birthchart of the client must necessarily be participatory, and will depend upon the consciousness that each brings to the interaction. But science currently has no way to measure this participatory dimension of the astrologer-client exchange.

The research scientist is not prepared to consider either the astrologer or the client as participants in a process. When we approach our work as scientists, we are only allowed to function as neutral observers, and to consider our clients only as objective reflections of their birthcharts. I would venture to guess that most of us would find this approach to our work hopelessly constrictive. Yet this is what astrology cast in a scientific mold would require of us.

Most astrologers would probably make a distinction between research and counseling practice, suggesting that the practicing astrologer is free to use the results of research as it seemed appropriate within the context of a specific counseling session. Fair enough. But then we must also ask ourselves what good is research, if it fails to take into account the fact that each client is a unique individual, thoroughly infused with subjective nuance, receiving the supposed benefits of research in a participatory relationship with the astrologer? This is a legitimate question, not just for astrologers, but also for psychologists and for that matter, anyone in a helping profession.

The Fundamental Misconception Behind Evidence-Based Therapies

The new trend in all helping professions is toward what is called evidence-based therapy. This new standard derives from a medical model that has been forced to admit the limitations of the scientific method in addressing the health needs of its patients. According to the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (1):

"Evidence-based medicine recognizes that many aspects of medical care depend on individual factors such as quality and value-of-life judgments, which are only partially subject to scientific methods. EBM, however, seeks to clarify those parts of medical practice that are in principle subject to scientific methods and to apply these methods to ensure the best prediction of outcomes in medical treatment, even as debate continues about which outcomes are desirable."

Driven largely by the needs and requirements of insurance companies, this evidence-based model has been increasingly exported to other healing modalities, such as that practiced by chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, psychotherapists, and others seeking insurance money for their practice. It is also driven by the shocking revelation, beginning to emerge in the health care debate, that fully 50% of all medical procedures are not evidence-based. According to a recent article in AARP magazine, “The prestigious Institute of Medicine recently published a report that estimates that only about half of what doctors do today is backed up by valid, scientific evidence. (Italics mine). The rest? Many procedures and tests are based on medical tradition or on unproven and potentially faulty assumptions about how the body works” (2). If medicine – ostensibly the most scientific of all the healing modalities – in fact is not scientific, then how can anyone expect astrologers – whose work is most certainly not backed by scientific research – to be scientific? This is ludicrous.

If we look more closely at what is happening, it is easy to see that this approach to medicine and healing is only necessary, from the scientific mindset, because the very nature of any therapeutic intervention – including medical intervention – is not scientific. It is a participatory interaction between two conscious human beings, using whatever modality – be it astrology, psychotherapy or medicine – as a point of departure for an exchange, the outcome of which is not predictable or controllable by science. Astrologers have a set of tools to enhance the participatory experience, and direct it toward a set of outcomes tailored with exquisite precision to the needs of a specific client – but only if it is used in a non-scientific way that permits a free, intuitive exploration of astrological symbolism within the context of a dialogue between two conscious, creative, and rather protean beings, working together toward understanding and perspective.


(1) “Evidence-Based Medicine.” Wikipedia. 4 November 2009.

(2) Brownlee, Shannon. “Why Does Health Care Cost So Much?” AARP Magazine, July/August, 2008, p. 57.

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