A brief Intro by Skip Stone
At one time I was a practicing Astrologer. My book "Hippies From A to Z" has a whole chapter devoted to the Astrology of the Hippy Movement!
You may not realize this, but astrology was the first science and predates astronomy by thousands of years. This is because at one time science and religion were the same (ask the builders of stonehenge, the pyramids, etc.). The ancients discovered the connection between human life and the stars millenia ago, by carefully observing and recording (just like modern science) the position of the stars and events and human behavior. It might not be 100% accurate for everyone, but it's theories are tried and true.
For me, Astrology excels not just in describing an individual's set of talents, challenges and potentials (the birth chart), but when you compare two charts (synastry), for whatever reason, it's obvious whether the two are compatible or incompatible and precisely in what fashion.
Eastern astrology (Vedic) emphasizes prediction and is very accurate. They are also versed at analyzing relationships, which is something Western Astrology also excels at. A reading in India for instance will usually tell you what will happen, when, during the course of your life.
A western reading will emphasize your potentialiaties, weaknesses and delves into an advanced interpretation of the angular relationships of the planets (aspects). Western Astrology is in a state of change right now as new elements are being incorporated (Asteroids) and new statistical analyses become popular.
Predictive Astrology (Horary, telling the future) is the least perfected of the various disciplines in Astrology, although Vedic Astrology excels in this respect. This is because so many factors are involved and it's so easy to overlook something. When you read a horoscope in the newspaper they are looking at only ONE factor, the position of the sun, and not very accurately. After all they're just looking at your sign, a 30 day range, rather than the exact year, day and minute you were born.
It's very much like physics where if you look at only one thing, you can describe it in detail, but as you view it over time and involve other objects and try to predict what will happen you lose accuracy. And of course as any Physics professor or Metaphysics professor can tell you the observer influences what is observed (this is a scientific fact).
Just as the moon affects the tide and people's moods (just as Astrology predicts), the other planets and the sun all have influence upon us. My latest theory (You probably won't read this anywhere but here) is that within our complex psyches (I'm sure you'll agree we're all pretty complex) are various parts or subpersonalities (call them what you will) that interact with each other every day, coloring our perceptions and interactions with the world. At birth these parts are imprinted with a certain relationship to each other based upon the position of the planets. In other words, each planet rules a part of our psyche, and depending upon the position at the moment of birth will either get along with certain other parts or not.
I hope I'm explaining this well, it's difficult, and there's so much that can't be put into words.
Many people can't see the connection between objects millions of miles away and our little lives on this speck in space! It does seem far fetched until you realize that if one large object, say the size of Mars was to come barrelling through our solar system, it would effect every object no matter how close it came to them. Just by its mass it would affect the orbits of the other planets to varying degrees. If it came close enough to the earth it could cause a catastrophe of enormous proportions, even wiping out most of the species. So the point is just because the planets are in stable orbits and don't seem to affect us, that doesn't mean that they don't! In fact you can infer from what I just said, that the fact that they have stable orbits, are what ensures a certain amount of stability on the earth! Likewise when their own orbits line up with each other, the influence they have increases (a conjunction). This is simple physics, as when the sun and moon line up there is a bigger high tide.
Humans are very sensitive creatures and we repond to very subtle cues in our environment. The fact that the planets are so far away is without standing since their mass is so large. They do indeed influence what happens to us, just as when we come into this world the mass of our mother and the doctors and nurses can determine whether we survive the next few hours. Distance is just one factor, mass, relationship to other objects, and their movement over time all contribute to determine the influence of an object upon ourselves.
Obviously the people we live with everyday for long periods of time (family, spouses, children) all have a much greater influence over our daily lives than a distant relative who lives far away. (mass vs distance). However one day that distant relative could leave you a fortune, thus changing your life! Likewise the planets (with much more mass) can affect your life in subtle or not so subtle ways.
When you meditate or trip out you can sometimes grasp the interconnectedness of everything. That is truth. Astrology attempts to interpret how this interconnectedness works. I believe if even a fraction of the resources that were spent on other sciences were set aside to study this subject further (now that we have supercomputers to help) we could refine Astrology much further and we'd reveal a lot more about ourselves in the process.