In an article recently posted to AtlasObscura, Alexander Boxer makes a compelling case for the efficacy of astrology. Boxer is the author of A Scheme of Heaven: The History of Astrology and the Search for our Destiny in Data who makes the intriguing case that astrologers were immersed in data and using data, were able to accurately predict many major life and world events.
He credits astrology with helping to inform the establishment of Baghdad as a nation's capital.
He writes, "Astrology’s insistence on linking earthly events with celestial causes in this way may seem, today, like an easily dismissed irrationality. Yet the astrologers of antiquity were no mushy-headed mystics. On the contrary, astrology was the ancient world’s most ambitious applied mathematics problem, a grand data-analysis enterprise sustained for centuries by some of history’s most brilliant minds, from Ptolemy to al-Kindi to Kepler. Astrology’s demand for high-precision planetary data led directly to Copernicus’s revolution and, from there, to modern science. Astrology’s challenge—teasing out inferences from numerical data, determining which patterns are real and which aren’t—remains fundamental in science today, too, especially as society relies increasingly on complex, data-driven algorithms. Astrologers were the quants and data scientists of their day; those who are enthusiastic about the promise of data for unlocking the secrets of our world should note that others have come this way before. Our irrepressibly human penchant for pattern-matching makes the history of astrology—a history that can bring together astronomy, statistics, cryptology, Shakespeare, COVID-19, presidential assassinations, and even the New York Yankees in a dance of coincidence and correlation—surprisingly timely and always fascinating."
Boxer writes a compelling argument about the importance of transits between Saturn and Jupiter, when they form a certain pattern called a triplicity. Triplicities hearken in a time of great change. For example, "the fiery triplicity of 1603 was a year that saw the death of England’s Queen Elizabeth I, and was examined at length by noted astronomer Johannes Kepler.
The medical faculty of Paris blamed the Black Plague, which arrived in Europe in 1347, on a corruption of the atmosphere caused by the conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars in Aquarius the year 1345. (Incidentally, this is the exact same configuration that has prevailed during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.) But most notoriously of all, French Catholic cardinal Pierre d’Ailly, writing around 1400, concluded his astrological history of the world with a warning that the Antichrist could be expected to arrive in the year 1789. Depending on how reactionary your views are regarding the French Revolution, this may strike you as humorously prescient.
Unlike with other astrological assertions, where an analysis might entail an elaborate hunt for the faintest hint of a correlation, the correlations in the conjunction theory of history seem to leap out from everywhere. It is roughly analogous to the engineering distinction between noise, in which nothing looks like a signal, and clutter, in which everything looks like a signal. Perhaps, though, an even better analogy can be made to cryptology: History, here, is like a secret code, with astrology as its key."
Boxer, looking back at just the last 200 years, observes a remarkably strong correlation between the nine most recent Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions and the terms of U.S. presidents who either died in office, were assassinated, or survived near-death mishaps.
So, how many patterns can you pick out? Whatever you predict, get ready to have it tested. The next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction is coming: December 21, 2020, the exact date of the winter solstice.