Where Does Astrology Belong?

by Nancy Humphreys on June 1, 2011

astrology and classification

I know that many of you who are interested in astrology have accepted it into your lives on an intuitive basis. Unfortunately, I’ve been born into what the Myers-Briggs test calls the T’s, i.e., Thinkers. As a result, I’ve felt my lack of faith, compared to Myers Briggs “F” types, keenly, when trying to come to terms with astrology.

I did study astrology in my teens. I got a book from the library and figured out my parents’ charts. There were parts of my father’s chart that weren’t pleasant, but they were absolutely “dead on” descriptions of his character.

How could that be? It made no logical sense!

With a feeling of abject terror, I took the book back to the library. And I never thought about astrology again until I met Maya Del Mar decades later.

Being around Maya for any length of time at all, you couldn’t not think about astrology. It was the very air she breathed; it was the filter throughout which she saw everyone and everything. I wanted to be around Maya, so I learned her language, well, a little of it at least.

astrology books

Astrology: science, social science, or humanities?

And I’m a librarian; my field is the study of human knowledge. I’ve learned about all kinds of other fields of study in my work. And I couldn’t help but notice that astrology doesn’t quite “fit in” at the library! Maybe you’ve noticed this too.

Although we have two ways of organizing information in this country, one for our public libraries and one for our college libraries, both library classification schemes are rooted in three divisions of human knowledge called: Science; Social Sciences; and the Humanities. Within these three broad divisions, the only thing librarians agree on is that astrology is not a science.

Astrology—why isn’t it a science? Two reasons

Science relies on the scientific method. This method relies on (1)measurement, and (2) its results need to be able to be reproduced by anyone else, anywhere else.

(1) For sure, astrology relies on precise measurements regarding time and place. However, astrology is also an “Occult science.” Occult sciences are defined in Wikipedia as being from “Occultus (clandestine, hidden, secret) referring to knowledge of the hidden.” Esoteric and arcane are two other words that have a similar meaning to occult.

This makes astrology not a true science because occult refers to knowledge that is not measurable. In other words, Astrology is not a “science”—despite the linking of that word with the word “occult”. (We’ll delve further into the significance of astrology as an occult science in Part two of this series.)

(2) Secondly, the results of astrological findings are not generalizable; they are highly personal and individual. Astrological interpretation of events depends on a particular observer located at a particular place. (By place I mean time as well, since the astrological influences, e.g., the other planets as well as Earth, are moving in space, and things change over time.)

Astrology is not considered a science because it is relative, and not absolute in its findings. It is highly personal, and not the detached kind of observation science employs. And its results can’t be measured or “replicated” (i.e., by the scientific method).

In addition, astrology relies on human perception of the heavens, a perception that is known to be based on illusion. (We’ll get to that illusion too in the second half of this series.)

Astrology—is it social science or humanities?

As mentioned above in the discussion of why astrology is not considered a science, astrology is called one of the “occult” sciences. In this, astrology is very similar to philosophy.

Philosophers too love digging into the unknown and unknowable. Astrology, at its core, is human-centered, and highly personal, rather than group-centered and abstract, which means that it could be part of the humanities.

Also, the meanings of the planets are closely connected with the ancient myths of the first astronomers in Greece and elsewhere around in the Mediterranean. Those myths are part of the ancient religions of that area of the world. Myths are a part of the fields of history, literature, and religion. That would put astrology squarely into the humanities.

But! In the occult explanation of how astrology works through “influences” of other planets on individual persons or places or things on our own planet, there is a hint of the social sciences too.

As I’ve mentioned, the amateur birth charts I did of my parents, particularly of my father, seemed to echo personality traits that were dominant in shaping his life.This points to the is possibility of synchronicity underlying astrology; a possibility that the “stars” are in alignment with earth and everything on it.

Synchronicity comes from Carl Jung, a psychologist. Jung looked at things we call “coincidences” in our lives and postulated a theory of a “collective unconscious” that at least explains, if not actually manifests, the coincidences we perceive.

So we could say that astrology, like psychology, is closely connected with the study of the human personality. And in the study of human personality, astrology also mimics sociology, political science, and economics in the way it creates classes of people, e.g., Libras or water signs, that can be studied and talked about as groups rather than individuals.

These things would put astrology squarely in the middle of the social sciences.

So, where does astrology fit? In the social sciences or humanities?

Here the oracles of modern information seem to be in complete disagreement with each other!

We in the US have two very different library classifications of where astrology “fits” in the broad scheme of human knowledge. Our college and university libraries use one system and our public libraries another.

One kind of library slots astrology under a particular field in the social sciences; another kind places astrology firmly into a field within the humanities.

Astrology as a social science

The Library of Congress created the classification system used in most libraries at colleges and universities. The Library of Congress classification puts astrology in Class B – Philosophy, Psychology, Religion.

Astrology and Library of Congress

The Library of Congress classifies astrology as a social science.

Astrology was slotted into the BF section by the Library of Congress catalogers. BF refers to the field of Psychology.

The Library of Congress (LC) allots one section for astrology within Class BF. Astrology is BF 1651-1729 Psychology / Occult sciences/ Astrology.

Right after the class for astrology there are two related classes: BF 1745-1779 Oracles. Sibyls. Divinations; and BF 1783-1815 Seers. Prophets. Prophecies.

As you can see, back when the committee of catalogers at the Library of Congress developed their system, psychology was viewed as a humanities field like philosophy or religion, rather than as a social science.

Today, colleges and universities generally call psychology a social science right along with sociology, political science, and economics. So this is how the field of astrology landed in the social sciences.

Astrology as humanities

Astrology and Dewey Decimal system

Melville Dewey, father of the Dewey Decimal system

Public libraries, on the other hand, use a classification system created by Melville Dewey, the “father” of American library science.

Dewey reputedly created his Dewey Decimal system while sitting in church one Sunday. He was a devout Christian, and this can be seen in the huge overweighting of Christianity within the religion section of his scheme (the 200s).

Unlike the Library of Congress system which is “scalable,” meaning it can be expanded indefinitely to accommodate new fields of study, Dewey’s system is bound by decimals. The Dewey Decimal system is a “closed” classification system. Dewey allows for only 999 major topics (on the left side of the decimal point) for each of its ten sections. And in the 200s section (Religion) about 90 percent of the available space is devoted to Christianity.

So, perhaps owing to the lack of space in the Religion section and Dewey’s disinterest in pre-Christian religions, the Dewey system puts astrology in the 100s section—Philosophy and Psychology.

Specifically, the Dewey Decimal classification system puts astrology in the 133.5 section – Philosophy/ Parapsychology & occultism/ Astrology.

So where does astrology belong? Should it be under psychology or philosophy? Is it part of the social sciences or the humanities? Or is it something else entirely?

We’ll explore these questions in Part two of this series!



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