Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Religion, Spirituality and Fate

Part VI: Astrology and Superstitions.

If there is one curse that has befallen the humanity, I would say it is astrology. The argument whether this astrology is science or art is beyond the scope of this blog. Because i want to discuss something more basic and i would like to question the whole premise as such. It is well known that none of the astrological theories has stood the test of scienctific world and most of the rules and guidelines of astrology do not even stand the reasoning and logic of an inquistive human mind. All that believers of astrology has to say is that, most of the sciences have been lost over the period of time and as per them, a day would come when all these theories would be proven beyond doubt!

Well, everyone seems to be taking refuge in the newton’s apple syndrome that just because today we dont know it fully, doesnt mean it doesnt exist, just as gravity existed even before Newton. Very true. But the basic point of contention is that, in all cases of scientific postulates and hypothesis that doesnt have an explanation at any point of time, there is an element of empirical observability and repetetiveness. That is to say, if one would drop a million apples on the ground, all will travel down and none of them will fly up. That is a phenomenon. Explanations can come at any point of time in human history. But, the phenomenon doesnt change with in a set of same experimental conditions. Is this true for astrology? None of the predictions can be repeated. Not even identical twins have same life structure and path, though born at the same time, time of birth being the most crucial factor in the predictions of life.

Certain examples where astrology fails to stand the heat of scientific reasoning :-

(a) If time of birth is most important, then why is it considering the time of birth of the child and not the time of conception of foetus? Isnt foetus a life? If abhimanyu could actually start learning the skills of war inside his mother as a foetus, if scientific experiments prove today that foetus does have a life then why this major dichotomy?

(b) Why doesnt astrology take into account the new planets uranus, neptune, pluto and sedna?

(c) What is that force which the distant celestial objects exert on us? If that is gravitational force, then even high school physics tells us that an object nearby us such as table and chair exert much more force on us than those celestial objects!!

(d) What is astrologies answer to mass calamaties like Tsunami? Is it probable that all those 1000000 who died had their death predicted?

Like this many more questions can be asked which astology cannot give conclusive and satisfactory answers. The only premise is that, it must be true because milions of people are following it over thousands of generations. The other refuge is that, many of hyposthesis of astrology do not have proof today but that does not invalidate it.

I am not here to give my opinion on whether astrology is true or not. But my point is, when we all know that the science of astrology is not complete today, then why follow it and believe it just because it has been followed by a thousand generations? Unlike any other science, astrology affects human minds. It affects the way we think and act. It affects our actions and influences decisions. If that be so, why must we depend on something that has no proof, base our actions on something that is not sure about itself. This science of astrology has single handedly destroyed human will to act in many thousand cases. For example, say a man goes for an interview and doesnt get the job because he had bad computer skills. Now, as a port mortem, if he improves his computer skills in future, he will surely NOT get rejected for the same reason on his next interview. In this case, he has assumed full responsiblity for his shortcomings and worked to improve them. This is a sure way for personal betterment.

But, if he walks to an astrologer to find out the reason why he hasnt got a job and the astrologer whose capability to predict is in itself a big questionmark, predicts that it is because of a particular planetary position that is responsible for this state and it will be ok by next year and that he must visit a particular diety and pray on a particular day and start using a particular saphire for better peace of mind, then the whole issued is skewed beyond the comprehension of a logically reasoning mind. In the second case, the ultimate issue of lack of computer skills has been completely sidelined and the reasons for failure has been attributed to external reasons, which is a sureshot recipe for further disaster. Stephen covey has explained in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” about the circle of action and influence. When a failure results, one must put oneself in the center of the problem and start searching outwards from inwards for a solution, first search being our own shortcomings. Thats the surest way to succeed.Unless a man learns to put himself in the centre of his problems or situations, I doubt he will get anywhere.

Has anyone seen anybody going to an astrologer and asking “ I am undergoing the best phase in my life and all things are going right for me. Please have a look at my horoscope and tell me why this is so? And also tell me till when it will continue?”. This itself singularly proves that we go to astrology to seek comfort and tell ourselves that there is nothing wrong with us and the stars are to be blamed for everything. It’s a manifestation of human nature to run away from reality. Nothing else.

Now about the science of astrology itself. Who has made these rules, formulated what should be done and what are the set of guidelines for predictions? This is a very important question. The science of astrology has been deciphered and formulated by humans, for humans. If indeed a higher level of fate, god or planetary influence does exists, how can man know of the complete set of events, permutations and combinations of the planetary positions, its causes and effects?

I shall narrate a simple analogy to bring to light the basic flaw in premise.I am the CEO of the company. You are just a branch manager, but a brilliant one at that, who not only knows everything about your branch, but also knows many things about other branches, which are beyond your vision, yet you are intelligent enough to learn many other things. But at the end of the day, how can you formulate policies for the entire company?? It may be close, but never accurate because many a data would be your mere interpretation and extrapolation.

Lets look at the matrix theory. It says we are subset in a superset of matrix. This concept of matrix is an imagination of human brain. If indeed a super set exists, then how is it possible for a subset to fully know the super set?? No imagination of superset can be complete from a subset! But I do agree with matrix concept that it’s all in the mind and you feel/ see what mind perceives to great extent within our own domain of reason.

About Superstitions, the lesser said the better. Superstitions exist at various levels. Some of them are in the lighter side of life like looking for a lucky number for registration of vehicle etc. Such superstitions enhance faith that all will go well, if random events of nature fit in the demands of such superstitions. Some people are even superstitious about the place where sit and watch the cricket match of their favourite team, so that their teams do not lose. Those are harmless superstitions. But when these superstitions are extended beyond a certain limit and you start attributing them as reasons for your failure, then that is where the problem arises. People go such ridiculous extents of assigning reasons for their failure like " kaalaila kilambum bothe poravan ellam enga saar poreenga nu ketan, appuram kariyam eppadi vilangum??!! ( “Even when I was leaving for the job in the morning, many people kept asking me where am I going? Then how do you think I would be successful??”). Many people are simply superstitious because they don’t want to take a chance!!

In the end, all I would say is that, according to me, all these astrological pariharams for improvement of our daily life and superstitions are a method to condition our mind. Its like telling the mind that the god has been taken care of by these rituals and now nobody can stop us in further progress. This is a method to increase the faith in us. Faith moves mountains. But most of us, most often take refuge in this horoscopes, pariharams and superstitions and fail to look for the real reason and picture. It is perfect to make a prayer, have faith in god thereby reinforcing faith in self and work hard towards the objective. If we make a promise to god (for me, my self) that we would offer something should we succeed, then work hard for it in the faith that all will go well, there is nothing wrong. But making a promise of some offering to god and simply sitting back and watching, is mere superstition and it tantamount to offering bribe to god. 99% one would fail in this case.


Shankar said...

dae, it sounds good on your stand.

Any way , if our C.M. got to know about you. she will declare you as ANTI SOCIAL ELEMENT.


Vetty Max said...

Thalaiva...very well written and pretty comprehensive.

And its seriously surprising that so many learned people swear by it and don't realise that their fate lies in what they do and not the movement of some planet far far away.

The Soul Doctor said...

@ shankar

LOL....Already I am an anti social at STP....:)

@ Kesavan

Thanks for visiting my blog. What you have said is very true. The kind of opposition we faced in even expressing our views in that OI forum about this issue speaks volumes of how deeply these things are entrenched in people's mind.

Like shankar said, we will be termed as anti social, with closed mind, intransigent, recalcitrent...etc etc if we question the establishment.

soumya said...

"99% one would fail in this case."

why not 100%? ;-)

The Soul Doctor said...

@ soumya

The random events sometimes leads to such 1% successes, which reinforces beliefs of people in such stupidities!! Thats why I said 99%.:)

jhgasuhvkjahklnsdlksnlknmlwvlckn said...

karthik, I agree by and large.

Astrology is a small part of a large cultural mosaic which has unfortunately remained insular regarding astrology. Superstitions are merely misinterpreted intuitive observations which were made in the past by imaginative people.

Perhaps those who recognized some pattern or parallel in life meant something, but it wasn't converted into a concise explanation by anyone following it. All information degenerates over time. So also practices.

You anticipate the epistemology argument when you argue that the subset of a system cannot fully know the superset. This is even more so, because we all collectively influence what is in the superset. I agree completely.

I have a question: when superstition is imbued in my mother, for example, and when she wishes me well, should I have the moral responsibility of respecting her take on what I should do? It should be part of my rational analysis of the world around me to understand that people are superstitious. While asserting myself, I should selectively behave so that I do not uspet someone's harmony on a trifling matter when I don't follow it. :-) Do you agree with me on that?

Faith can move mountains - but it is only by having faith and knowledge of our abilities that we can know what we should trust ourselves with. And parihaarams will never help us there, IMO.

Sometimes, I read some of your older posts on religion, spirituality and fate. They are interesting and opinionated. :-)


The Soul Doctor said...

@ Rajesh

Thanks for the detailed comments. I fully agree with you on what you have said about respecting parent's sentiments and not hurting them by differing with their well established opinions. I say again, opinions. Opinions are functions of time. They change. Now, in liberated families like yours and mine, we do enjoy certain liberties, wherein, ultimately we have the final word. But in how many cases do you think, people have such liberties. In the worst scenario, the man will end up obeying and respecting their supertitious, orthodox parents and in the bargain, he wont even have the satisfaction of making his own choices. He wont take responsibility for his failures for the mere reason that someone else decided for him.

I know you spend your valuable time in reading my series of blogs and I really cherish your comments. Thanks for that. I do realise that my writings are opinionated. While in the first impression, it does appear that I am suffering from a closed mind, I welcome opinions and when they give me a real good reason to me to change my older ones, I do accept them. :)