I am asked all the time…What is the difference between Vedic Astrology and Western so I thought I’d post a chapter that explains it ….
Excerpted from “God/Goddess the Astrologer, Soul Karma & Reincarnation: How We continually Create Our Own Destiny” —Chapter Four
Jeffrey Armstrong ~ Jyotish Visharada, CVA and Jyotish Kovid, CVA, Founder of VASA – Vedic Academy of Science & Arts, has been a Vedic astrologer for over 40 years and is one of the pioneers of AyurVedic astrology in the West.
In 2002 his ground-breaking research on the links between the Ayurvedic body types and the Vedic astrological chart led to his award winning book God/Goddess the Astrologer-Soul Karma & Reincarnation, How We Continually Create Our Own Destiny. Additional books include Karma: The Ancient Science of Cause & Effect, The Vedic Astrology Learning Deck and the recent best selling book, Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar. www.JeffreyArmstrong.com
You’re Probably Not the Sign You Think
It is worth repeating that although I am pointing out a mistake, which has entered into Western or Tropical astrology, I do so with respect for anyone who is pursuing the study of our relationship with the Cosmos. If you study history, you will see how easy it is for knowledge to become buried or repressed. Just as we struggle to remember our purpose and vision amidst so many competing forces in our daily life, great wisdom can get lost in the transformative pressures of time. In this discussion of astrology, what is at stake is our link with the stars. Astrology literally means astro or star and logos or logic. In Sanskrit, it is called Jyotisha or the science of how light regulates life in the realm of matter. It is also known as Kala Shastra or the science of how time unfolds cause and effect.
Just as we have a sacred and purposeful relationship with the Earth, we also have a relationship with the stars that is important, sacred and essential to our well being. In recent times, with the rush to acquire modern scientific knowledge, the importance of these sacred relationships has been neglected for the sake of gaining strictly material knowledge. Now and forever new scientific knowledge needs to be integrated into an personal and meaningful relationship with God, the Cosmos and the Earth.
Although Vedic astrology and Tropical astrology disagree, it is a scientific discussion with importance to everyone. Disagreeing with respect is the basis of our search for truth. Nevertheless, it is important that in our search for truth, complete honesty is partnered with constant love.
Speaking of love, imagine that you were madly in love with someone and had just made love. If you then said to your beloved, “what did you just experience during our lovemaking?” and if they replied with a scientific analysis, “my temperature rose to 99º, my skin became flushed, my blood pressure was 140 over 80 and my pulse became quite rapid”, would that report really explain what you had experienced? Are the facts more important than the emotional and mystical experience of immense love and devotion? On the other hand, if your lover was so ignorant of the physical that they were incompetent to touch you pleasurably, that would also be a problem. Similarly, we have developed an imbalance in our relationship with Nature. There are far too many people who are trampling across the world measuring, tagging and marking everything in sight at the expense of love, aesthetics, spiritual values and quality of life. True science is more than just facts.
If you will, think of astrology as concerned with the balance between two extremes. Any mystical or religious experience can be valid because it is true for you in the depths of your heart. There is no use in arguing or using facts to prove or disprove its reality. It is a special kind of perception, relationship and knowing that does not rest upon external facts relating to matter. On the other hand, at its best modern science is only concerned with the provable facts pertaining to the laws of matter. These two experiences do not need to be in competition, although too often, they have been.
The Bridge from Within to Without
Vedic astrology is the bridge between the two realms of experience, internal and external. It uses astronomy to have an accurate picture of the heavens at the moment of birth and then uses that map to discuss the relationship of the individual to the Cosmos, the Earth and the unfoldment of Divine justice. You could say that the astrologer is first a scientist erecting a correct image of a physical event, the stars and planets positions at the time of birth. Then using that image as a tool, the astrologer is an artist, endeavoring to see pre-existing patterns of destiny which are connected to the unfoldment of a individual’s destiny. This is where the strictly scientific-minded person becomes frustrated. They are not comfortable making the shift from mere observation of fact to correlations of karmic significance. However, to the Vedic astrologer, the universe is alive, conscious and fully capable of communicating both emotion and meaning.
Unfortunately, Tropical astrologers have drifted away from using the actual positions of the stars by over 23½º. That is the next subject for discussion. This inaccuracy does not invalidate their intuitive and emotional relationship to the Cosmos. Nor does it invalidate the gifts of compassion and insight they share with their clients. None the less, both methods of calculation cannot be correct when determining what sign you are.
Sign originally meant and still means a group of stars. To deviate from that usage requires a profound justification and explanation. It is after all the science of astrology, so it is best to use the actual positions of the stars as all ancient astrologers intended. If someone discovers a new method of analysis, which is quite possible, then they should be careful to label it differently so no confusion arises between the two methods. I suggest that Western astrology create twelve new names for the seasonal approach and use the current twelve signs of the zodiac as they were originally intended, as names of groups of stars. There are not two zodiacs as they often say.
As for astronomers, they are like the lover who has loads of information about the physical symptoms of love but are missing the emotions and the actual point of the lovemaking. If they gave up their fear of the emotional and spiritual implications of their work, they could discover new ways of knowing, of exploring the correlation between astronomical observation and changes in the individual and world experience. Knowledge and experience are mysteriously connected, as any accomplished lover knows. The real challenge would be to explore the connections between their extensive database of astronomical knowledge to find correlations with the subtleties of human behavior, patterns of weather, epidemics, cultural changes and so on.
A Mistranslation from the Greek
This brings us to how astrology came into Western culture through the Arabic and Latin mistranslation of Greek culture and knowledge. The question is how did the error of deviating from the stars originate. Recognition of this error has only taken place during the last 40 years and especially within the last 25 years due to the wave of knowledge coming to the West from India.
Piecing this part of the story together was part of my thirty-year journey. During this time, many Westerners initiated into Vedic understanding have also been pursuing these connections. This is resulting in a renaissance of Vedic arts that include many forms of Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, Martial arts, Vastu Shastra, which is similar to Feng Shui and of course Vedic astrology. These arts and the corpus of Vedic literature arose before the Greek period of history. Most of us were taught in school that culture, as we know it, started from the Greek period in history. There is some truth to that view but in recent years we have gained a great deal of previously lost knowledge concerning which of the older civilizations contributed to the development of culture and philosophy.
From 500 BCE to 300 BCE the Greek culture was in a tremendous state of growth. It was a melting pot for influences from Egypt, India, Babylon, Africa, China, and many others. Socrates lived and taught his famous student Plato, who in turn was teacher to the great Aristotle, who in turn was to teach Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered Babylon in 331 BCE and brought many books on ancient astronomy and astrology from there to Greece. He built the city of Alexandria, which became a major center of learning. He even went as far as Northern India and made significant connections with the Indian culture.
There were many talented Greek astronomers during this period. One named Erasthones, was the head librarian at Alexandria. He measured the size of the Earth and was accurate within 400 miles. Another named Aristarchus, worked out a correct map of the solar system and proved that the Sun, and not the Earth, was at its center. This shows just how easily such knowledge can be lost. Many great thinkers who followed him still thought the Earth was the center of the solar system until the time of Copernicus.
Another Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, using the Babylonian and Indian astronomical information, was able to calculate the Earth’s wobble and thus figure the precession of the equinoxes with some degree of accuracy. He lived from 130 to 60 BCE. This critical knowledge of the Earth’s wobble would also be forgotten in the chaos of history, resulting ultimately in the error that was passed on to Tropical astrology. Another example of that tendency for great knowledge to get lost in history took place in 47 BCE, when the Roman emperor Julius Caesar was storming the city of Alexandria. He conquered the city but in the process burned the great library to the ground, causing the loss of tremendous knowledge.
The point of all this is how an important astronomical and astrological truth could get lost or mixed up in the course of history. The last important Greek astronomer and astrologer who played a part in creating the circumstances of this mistake was Claudius Ptolemy who lived in Alexandria in 150 AD. He was the last and most influential of the Greek astronomers. He was a great astronomer and wrote a book called The Almagast. In fact, his astronomical opinions prevailed in European thought until the 15th century when Copernicus finally proved that the Sun is the center of the solar system. Ptolemy was also an astrologer. He wrote a four-volume book on astrology called Tetrabiblos.
The First Day of Spring is Not Aries
Now it happened that during the time of Ptolemy, the vernal equinox or first day of spring was still taking place in Aries. His book, written in Greek, says that the first day of spring occurs in the sign of Aries, which at that time was true. Ptolemy had no idea that his book would come forward in history as the Western astrological textbook. After his death and the fall of the Roman Empire, European culture remained very stagnant in a time usually called the Dark Ages. Starting in the 7th century, another religion arose and developed a great empire. Founded by Mohammed, Islam spread and developed a very sophisticated and intellectual culture.
By the 9th century, Baghdad was the new cultural center of the time. Arabic scholars translated many Latin and Greek classics into Arabic. Among these were the Almagast and Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy. After they were translated into Arabic, they eventually were translated into Latin and then English by clerics of the Catholic Church. The church fathers were not astrologers, so when they translated Ptolemy’s astrological classic into English, they translated “On the Vernal Equinox the Sun is in Aries”. Neither they or the astrologers of that time had enough astronomical knowledge to understand that the vernal equinox had moved to Pisces.
By the time Tetrabiblos was translated the first day of spring had been occurring in the star group Pisces for hundreds of years. At that time, no one in Europe understood the astronomy or astrology well enough to catch the error. This became the biggest blunder in the history of astrology. Before that time, all astrologers in all cultures including the Greek, had used the stars actual positions when creating a horoscope. To further compound this confusion, since the first month or March had coincided with the star group Aries during the Greek time, they named the months of the year Aries, Taurus, Gemini and so on. This is the core of the great confusion. Aries is not a month or time of year, it is a group of stars, a constellation.
To understand this better, imagine two great apparent wheels in space around the Earth. The outermost wheel is the circle of the 12 signs of the zodiac from Aries to Pisces. This is the 360º circle of the fixed stars, as they appear 8º either side of the ecliptic. That wheel appears to move very slowly due to the Earth’s wobble, at the rate of one revolution in 25,920 years. The other wheel is the cycle of the year as the Earth travels once around the Sun. This seasonal wheel is the ecliptic, the Earth’s path around the Sun.
Think of the big wheel of the constellations as a star cycle and the Earth year as the seasonal cycle. Those two wheels are not the same. It was only a coincidence of history that the Greeks called the first month of the year Aries since the two coincided at that time. Aries is actually a group of stars in the star wheel. That Aries group coincides with spring in the season wheel for only 2,160 years out of every 25,920. Once that time is past, it is no longer correct to say that on March 21st the Sun is in Aries. This year on March 21st the Sun is in Pisces, no matter where on Earth you are and it has nothing to do with any seasonal or geographical considerations.
You Are Not the Sign You Think
In the future, Sun in Aries will occur at Christmas, during winter in the northern latitudes, this will be summer in Australia down south. It is not the seasons that determine your chart; it is the planets exact position in the circle of the stars. You are not the sign you think you are and a Vedic astrologer can give you the correct star chart. That sidereal chart is a more accurate tool for explaining your path of destiny and the nature of your body/mind complex of energies. Why this is true is the next step in the unfoldment of the mystery of life that I discovered on my journey of enlightenment.
One of the first Western thinkers to understand the necessity and authenticity of sidereal calculations was Cyril Fagan. He discovered the same truth through studying ancient Egyptian astrological remains. Remember that the important point here is not just a validation of the Vedic teachings. If all the cultures of old, including the Greek had continued until today, they would each have a version of sidereal astrology using essentially the same star-based calculations. Vedic astrology just happens to be the major remaining representative of those older cultures. What Fagan discovered can be found in his excellent book Astrological Origins. It is an intriguing and conclusive analysis that shows that the Egyptians were astronomer/astrologers at a high level of understanding and that they used that knowledge in the construction of the pyramids and in their daily lives.
From where I stood twenty-seven years ago, I made the leap across a cultural chasm to embrace an older and even more accurate version of astrology. What shocked even me at that time was how much ancient knowledge had been lost and how highly developed it was before it was lost. It seems inconceivable that hard won and precious knowledge would simply be buried and disregarded by following generations. Perhaps some perverse and fickle quality in us demands that we destroy the old and start fresh without regard for the great loss of what has been gained.
I call it fickle-cell anemia. (joke)
Like an unknowing pilgrim on what I thought was a simple journey, I had begun a trek into the Himalayan mountains of human understanding. Just as modern science has traveled light years beyond the technology of the past, it happens that the Vedas contain a sophistication of spiritual understanding that is far beyond any other recorded spiritual understanding. In addition that spiritual knowing is wedded to a material science which is of immense importance to our survival and must be revived in order to balance the dangers of modern science.
What if Vedic astrology is part of a now forgotten revelation that explains the very cause and effect mechanism that underlies human existence? What if it is the remnant of a once great scientific community who understood the causal relationships between the Cosmos, the Earth and the energies and processes that make it function? What if the ancients discovered the unified field theory and we lost it? Would it make a difference in your life if you could understand how your day to day life is related to and dependent upon the cause and effect principles that animate all of life? In my search, I was lead next to the ancient material science and cosmology of the Vedas.
UPDATE: Jan 2016
The Correlation Between the Body-Types of Ayurvedic Medicine, the Genome Project and your Vedic birth chart.
Recent scientific studies in India have now proven the correlation between a person’s genetic code and their ayurvedic body type. The only thing that remains is to scientifically prove that these are interconnected in a divine science of cause and effect that reaches from birth-to-birth…your Vedic astrological horoscope – and this is the unprecedented ground-breaking research that is now being proposed in India.
Over Jeffrey’s 45+ years as a Vedic Astrologer (5 yrs. as a Western Astrologer), his personal research led him to the conclusion that the Vedic birth chart is a provable link to the visible Ayurvedic body type. In 2000, his book God/Goddess the Astrologer, (New Age Book of the Year) established these correlations, and in it he discussed the pivotal concepts which lies at the heart of the convergence of three sciences – Yoga, Ayurveda and Jyotish. The western scientific community didn’t believe him – in fact they didn’t even want to listen.
Then in 2001, Jeffrey Armstrong’s astrological accuracy was tested by the well-known publisher of The Sceptics Magazine, Michael Shermer. On his FOX TV Show Exploring the Unknown – he scored 77% accuracy rate on 10 “faceless” charts, where he was given only 2 minutes to say 20 “true or false” things about each person. Even though he used astrological information – they we more willing to believe he was a psychic or that he was “remote viewing.” http://www.jeffreyarmstrong.com/fre…
Thus the long-standing misinformed prejudice against Astrology…