Astrology 1: Cold Reading
The universe in which we live is littered with thousands of belief systems, all of which attempt to give us a little comfort in the vast, unseeable ocean of discord that is the future. We have no idea what tomorrow holds, be it joy or sadness, hunger or famine, life or death; and as such we fear that which we cannot see.
There are many means by which people claim to be able to divine coming events, and some of them have proven to be valid, but the most popularised one of all time is probably astrology. Any spiritual person can tell you that astrology isn’t a mere means of fortune-telling, and as such in another three-part series of articles I will be explaining the field in as much depth as can really be expected.
Today’s article will, however, be focusing primarily on the most-used (and therefore most ‘understood’) field of astrology: Its apparent usage in uncovering the future.
Did you know that Ronald Regean, when he wasn’t busy being senile, was a firm believer in the accuracy of astrological prediction? Did you know that the field was invented by the Babylonians, who used it to predict political and sociological change? Did you know that astrology was popularised in the second century by the poem of Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos? Did you know that as a practise the church outlawed astrology until the Renaissance?
Did you know that a whopping 39% of Americans believe astrology to be a science?
Now, a good place to start would probably be the means by which practitioners are able to ‘read’ the activity of celestial bodies to find their meaning and as such attribute the effects said activity will have on the world. Most of you reading this will be aware of your “star-sign”, which is of course based upon your date of birth, and is for the most-part inconsequential in every day life.
There are some who give these signs absolute power over their perception of others (Ooh, a Scorpio, I bet you’re oh-so sexual etc) and other more reasonable people who understand it as a simple method of cataloguing the first of three astrological prerequisites required for an accurate ‘reading’, but I digress. The first step to gathering a bead on the future is quite simply to understand the twelve star-signs.
Once you understand these twelve signs the next step is an understanding of the movements of stars, planets and indeed the Earth itself; a daunting feat, particularly for someone working from a shop above a tattoo parlour, but something all astrologists must be able to do. Thanks to the advent of the Internet this field is now open to many more than it used to be, with websites replacing the popular almanacs which used to litter bookshops for just this purpose.
Now we move onto prediction: Understanding which signs are associated with each planet and what ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ has to do with influencing the lives of those on Earth, as well as what the moon has to do with everything. Once you’ve done that it is usually prudent to attempt a channelling, as time is non-linear on higher planes and compare your findings against those plucked from the wisdom of higher-beings. After that, extrapolate geometrically the paths of both the sun and the moon in reference to the procession of the equinox to observe the effects that the Earth’s current tilt has on your findings and off-put them accordingly.
Then throw all of this out of the window and make up whatever you want.
It may surprise some of you out there to know that I am not the first journalist to emerge from the heinous gene-pool of my family. I cannot name names, because that would be ultimately awful for everyone, but trust me when I say that there is no adherence to standard astrological practise when it comes to newspaper horoscopes.
All one has to do to realise this is look at the fact that every single fucking one of them is different. If astrology is the scientific tool of divination it claims to be, by which people actually live their lives then surely there should be some correlation or cohesion between these pages? Also notice the heavy emphasis on disclaimers, as well as the claims that they are for ‘entertainment only’ and surely at least one of your eyebrows should be raised.
Indeed it has been my horrific task on multiple occasions to fabricate some horoscope readings, and let me assure you that there is literally no legwork involved. You simply sit there, new blood (because all the real journalists have actual stories to report on), and type the first thing that comes into your head. If you’re having a bad day, then everyone should avoid tall, dark strangers- if you’re happy that day then fuck it, everyone should play the lottery!
There are a few choice phrases to throw in, and if you’re feeling particularly lazy then you simply re-write a horoscope from either an almanac site (which has predictions for all year) or a rival paper. It’s that easy. Oh, and as for those “choice phrases”? That’s a technique used by spiritual frauds the world over for years known as ‘cold-reading’.
That’s right! For hundreds of years people like me have been confusing, misleading and flat-out wronging people like you with this ultimately awful psychological system! People still profit from it hugely today, in the form of television mediums, palm-readers and even televangelists; so what is it?
Every human being alive has certain things happen to them over the course of their life, and these things are practically universal. This doesn’t just apply to ass-troll-o-gee or psychics, you could walk up to anyone on the street with these techniques and have them believe that you were gifted with extranormal abilities. Cold reading simply uses these events to generate an emotional (and therefore convincing) response.
How many of you have had a friend or relative die? How many of you know someone named “Steve”? How many of you have lost a love, or met someone without ever meaning to? Or even lost a job or experienced a loss in any way?
Oh yeah: All of you!
Because of this, it’s remarkably easy to write a prediction of the future and then have it appear validated because of how non-specific your prediction is. “You will suffer an untimely loss,” could be any number of common occurrences, yet the second you lose your keys, your dog or your grandma you remember the prediction and gasp because holy shit they got it right!
TV psychics are notorious for this. “Did someone here lose someone recently? Oh, you did madam?” Instantly you then examine the person who raised their hand: If they’re middle-aged then it’s a parent usually, if they’re older then it could be a partner, look for tan lines where wedding-rings used to be for widows. Once this probability has been calculated then you say “Oh, yes- it was your husband/father/corgi!” and they will be amazed by your psychic powers!
Next, calculate the probability of their name, but never act with certainty: “I’m getting… I’m getting an S?” S is a hugely common letter as far as names go, and the poor grief-stricken person will usually provide the rest for you: “Yes! His name was Steve!”. From there it’s a simple case of telling them that they’re resting in peace, or (and this is usually a good one) they don’t want you to worry about the money. Everyone, ever worries about finance, so you can use this common fear to emotionally manipulate, and gain credibility at the same time.
People will pay good money for comfort, whether it’s emotional closure following the death of a loved-one or providing apparent clarity as to spooky future events. Capitalising on this fear of the future is what keeps horoscope writers in business, and the ultimately thick believing them. If you want to read more on the statistics surrounding astrology then I’d recommend checking out the pamphlet Astrology: Fraud or Superstition, and if you really want to find out about cold-reading then why not read up on some techniques at http://blog.coldreadingtechniques.com/?
Anyway, that’s just about enough for today: Tabloids and magazines can’t tell you the future. The only future is the one we make for ourselves, and sure it can be scary or difficult to carve happiness from the granite of the universe, but it’s better than relying on the words of fools and frauds.
Next time: I explain this horribly complicated diagram!
Crash and burn!