Why I Now Believe Astrology IS a Science; Following an Anonymous [Pounds]500,000 Pledge to Fund an Astrology Degree Course

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A MYSTERY woman donor has upset Britain's academic establishment by giving [pound]500,000 to fund a university degree course in astrology, a subject that most scientists regard, at best, as a pseudo-science.

She has decided to keep her identity a secret - a wise precaution, since if her name were made public she would almost certainly come under vituperative attacks from those who think she needs her head examining.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of a think tank at Liverpool University, has gone on record suggesting that astrology is an intellectual form of pornography.

There was a time when I would have agreed with Professor Smithers. Thirty years ago, I was writing a book called The Occult, and trying to make up my mind whether to include a section on astrology. Could it, I wondered, be taken seriously, or was it a confidence trick to take in gullible newspaper readers?

Then I recalled that I had a pocket diary with a couple of pages on astrology - a straightforward account of the 'sun signs' - (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, for example) and the characteristics of the people born under them.

It took me only 15 minutes to become convinced that astrology can be amazingly accurate. I, for example, am a Cancer, and the section on Cancers described me with remarkable accuracy - a home-lover and protective parent, but inclined to touchiness, over- sensitivity and untidiness. And it was equally accurate for various friends and relatives I looked up.

I decided then that I ought to study astrology more closely, but never seemed to find the time. Then a Sunday newspaper asked me if I would write an astrology column and I decided this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.

ON MY bookshelf I had only one book on astrology - but it happened to be one of the best ever written: the 1971 bestseller, The Compleat Astrologer by Derek and Julia Parker. This provided a clear introduction to the planets, the signs and how to use an ephemeris (astrological almanac) and cast a horoscope.

After that, I bought a shelf-full of books on astrology and rather dubiously launched myself on a career as an astrological journalist.

It proved harder work than I had expected. There can be no guesswork involved. The position of all the planets had to be worked out, together with their aspects (oppositions, conjunctions, etc) and this took days.

But gradually, I began to get a 'feeling' for horoscopes. And this was confirmed when I received a letter from a woman whose son had committed suicide, enclosing the exact time and place of his birth. I spent a day casting his horoscope, and as I did so, the hairs on the back of my neck began to rise.

What was emerging was a personality - his enthusiasms, his hopes and his doubts about his future. It was these doubts that had led him to suicide.

I sent the horoscope to his mother, and she replied that the description of her son had shocked her with its accuracy.

The odd thing was that, while casting the horoscope, I had come to feel that I knew him intimately.

I had to ask myself some difficult questions, the first being: how can the stars possibly influence the fate of human beings? That had a simple answer: they don't - they are much too far away.

What influences human beings is not the stars but the planets.

Is there any scientific evidence for this? In fact, there is an enormous, if not entirely acceptable, amount.

In the 1930s, a German astrologer named Karl Ernst Krafft decided that the best way to prove astrology was through statistics.

He examined the birth charts of 2,800 musicians, and wrote a massive book on what he called 'astro-biology', concluding that there were enough astrological similarities between the musicians to prove that the planets did indeed have some impact.

Krafft died in a Nazi concentration camp. …