The 10 Best Astrology Books
As Above, So Below: A Brief History Of Astrology
So, really, what’s the deal with astrology? Understanding its modern relevance is complex, requiring the genuinely curious investigator to suspend judgment before arriving at a nuanced conclusion. How else could we explain how such a seemingly anti-scientific practice could remain so relevant today?
Astrology began as a way of tracking lunar cycles in ancient Babylonia between 3000 and 2000 B.C.E, although an organized system didn't emerge until the 4th century B.C.E. Eventually, astrology migrated into Greece, where it was studied as a legitimate science by some of the foremost scholars of the time. Even Aristotle, the grandfather of science, had a huge influence on contemporary conceptions of astrology.
The Romans brought the Greeks' Hellenistic strain of astrology to the rest of Western Europe. It flourished for a short time, but was soon suppressed by the Catholic Church because it threatened the standing social order. As its flame was squashed in Europe, astrology picked up in the Arabic world. International trade routes soon opened as a result of the Crusades, leading to cultural exchanges between disparate peoples. Thanks to this, astrology was slowly reintroduced to Europe, this time with an Arabic touch.
The 17th century was host to the birth of scientific empiricism. The ensuing spirit of skepticism fundamentally altered Europeans' beliefs about supernatural and mystical happenings. Again, astrology began to wane in Europe. However, in the early 20th century, a renewed interest in esotericism and the occult ignited the imagination of Europe and the adolescent United States. Astrology again became part of the consciousness of the era, this time heavily influenced by eastern mysticism. Coupled with the psychoanalytic ideas of thinkers like Carl Jung, astrology marched into the modern age with a new vitality. It continued strong into the 1960s, as many hailed the coming of the Age of Aquarius. Since then, astrology has integrated historical traditions with new psychoanalytic insights to offer the 21st century person a unique lens through which to view the world.
Science Usurping God
Friedrich Nietzsche’s infamous quote — ”God is dead.” — is often misconstrued in its modern appropriations. Lacking context, many interpret the maxim as that of a defiant atheist philosopher sounding the war-horn against theism. What Nietzsche was actually predicting was that as scientific materialism and the other instruments of rationalism slowly eroded old religious beliefs, the social order of the old world would slowly disintegrate. He believed that without cohesive narratives to unify people in a common set of beliefs, society would fracture, eventually sliding into chaos and nihilism. While he didn't necessarily lament the death of religious indoctrination, he certainly feared what would be left in its wake. Where would we find our new sources of meaning?
Perhaps the recent resurgence of astrology is one example of modern culture’s attempt to answer to that question. It's true that in places like the United States and Europe, religious belief is on the decline. But the statistics tell another story, too. In 2005, a Gallup poll showed that roughly 25 percent of participants from the US, Canada, and the UK believed in astrology. Seven years later, a study by the National Science Foundation showed that fewer Americans rejected astrology than in any time in the past three decades. Clearly, something about astrology is appealing to a growing number of Westerners.
Perhaps there's something — whether we call it spirituality, religious sentiment, or transcendent yearning — intrinsic to the human psyche that cannot be reduced to mere mathematics or rationality. Freud dismissively referred to this as humanity's oceanic feeling, a quite beautiful term for what he saw as a regressive, infantile instinct.
Whether or not we'll ever know whether science or religion is a better vehicle for our investigations into universal truth is uncertain. As the saying goes, the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. This isn't to say that we should do away with skepticism or critical thinking; rather, we should use our capacities for critical thinking to consider possibilities that we have overlooked thus far.
How to Use Astrology Books
So, here's what you'll need to do if you're just starting to explore astrology:
First, you'll want to obtain your natal chart. There are resources online that'll generate your chart, but some of these are less reliable than others. You may want to turn to a more reputed print source — like one of the books from our list — that's explicitly written to help you create and interpret your natal chart.
From here, you'll want to school yourself on the various zodiac signs. Also known as your sun sign, this fundamental piece of your astrological personality is derived from your date of birth. Your natal chart will have already told you which sign you belong to, but this won't mean much to you until you understand the archetypal characteristics associated with each sign.
Your sun sign won't give you the entire picture, though. The location of the moon and other planets at the exact time of your birth will add additional color to your natal chart. Understanding these requires more in-depth study, for which serious resources are highly recommended. Although the internet does have decent information on this matter, print sources tend to contain less pop-astrology than their online brethren.
As you learn more about the zodiac signs and their interplay, you'll want to determine whether you're more interested in using astrology to enrich your daily life, or if you want to approach it in a more academic manner. Either way, there are plenty of books to guide you.
A final note: sometimes astrology offers up seeming contradictions. Rather than immediately dismissing it for its inconsistencies, recognize that there may be layers of complexity in these contradictions that reveal a deeper, unintelligible nature. Or, maybe not. It's up to you to decide.
Walt Whitman may or may not have once said, "Does my natal chart contradict itself? Very well then, my natal chart contradicts itself. It is large. It contains multitudes."