The comeback of astrology fits the mass individualism'

The emergence of astrology and other forms of instant-spirituality. Should we take that off as nonsense? “The stars are a way to tell a story about yourself. “How can philosophy help to get a grip on big questions of our time? We speak monthly with Denker des Vaderlands Daan Roovers. This time: #astrologie #filosofie

How to explain the emergence of astrology? And are these and other forms of “irrationality” philosophically indefensible, or also of value?

When I put that question to Daan Roovers, she tells an anecdote about her mother's funeral two years ago. In the church in Veghel, Brabant, a saxophonist friend played the catholic song 'Ave Maria'.

A few days later Roovers saw a video on Facebook that one of the villagers had made this part of the service. “And during the song, I swear to you, you see a kind of golden butterfly floating up,” she says. Roovers shows the video. And indeed: approximately from the coffin, a golden yellow flake moves towards the ridge of the church, jerky like a butterfly.

“Your first interpretation is: there goes her soul! I am convinced that it is not, and I think most people are with me, but still you can hardly see it any other way. There is not directly another explanation: it is clearly not a speck of dust on the lens. '

Filosoof David Hume stelde dat het leiden van een zuiver rationeel leven ‘een vorm van gekte in zichzelf' is.

The sober Roovers is not one of the Dutch who believe in miracles (she is also not a Co-Star user). She has no doubt that there is a reasonable explanation for the flake of light in the church.. Yet she understands people who in her shoes would choose a more mystical explanation.

“When my mother died, I first tried to comfort my youngest son, then eight, in a sober way by saying: for Grandma it's okay that she's dead because she doesn't notice it herself.. And he said, “That's bad for her, because now she can never see me again.”. Oh, yeah, I thought. Later I said, “Maybe she's still somewhere, in a way. I don't really believe that, I said to him, but we can really talk about it like that and think. He thought that was a nice idea. '

Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) saw irrationality as something inherently human. While most of his fellow enlightenment philosophers insisted on the supremacy of reason over faith, Hume was milder. He even argued that leading a purely rational life is 'a form of madness within himself'.

Roovers: 'Hume was very strict on the one hand: with that which is imperceptible, you as a scientist can not do anything. Yet he also understood the contradictions of the human mind. That sometimes people believe something they can't explain. '

The friendly Hume was unbelievable, but not anti-religion. If he were to live now, he would probably understand people who believe that a soul can live on post mortem or think that the stars determine our fate.

Roovers is also in it. “I think astrology is nonsense, but I don't have to fight it. The stars are a way to tell a story about yourself. Just as people say, I'm a blue personality type, or I'm from the year of the dog. Or the fact that you are often late explained by the fact that you were born too late. '

“From the nineties, spirituality became more instant-religion. '

Telling stories about yourself creates order in the chaos of existence, says Roovers. They are often selffulfilling prophecies. If you build a story about yourself based on biographical data or astrological information, things that you do and experience get meaning within that framework..

This fits perfectly into our individualized society, says Roovers. 'When it comes to meaning, we are increasingly thrown back on ourselves. When spirituality emerged in the West in the sixties and seventies, it was still somewhat collectively experienced. Think of the hippies who visited each other at Woodstock. But from the nineties it became more instant-religion. Tailored to the individual size. The more business society becomes, the more we resort to systems that provide security. '

Co-Star noemt zichzelf ‘hyper-personalized'. The app even looks at the exact minute you were born. Roovers: 'Astrology offers individual meaning within the greater whole of the cosmos, without the need for other individuals. That is entirely in line with our time of mass individualism: we are more individualistic, but not more independent. '

Mass individualism, or as the CEO of Co-Star said in an interview with The Verge: 'Astrology is a form of collective self-care. '

Witchcraft is also experienced in this way. “Millennials consider witchcraft more and more as part of self-care. Tarot lectures, astrology and other spiritual rituals are seen as therapeutic. These are small moments of silence, reflection and connection, 'wrote journalist Sjors Roeters in Vrij Nederland earlier on this topic.

Astrology not only allows you to tell a story about yourself, but also to incorporate that story into a broader whole. According to the creators of Co-Star, astrology transforms daily events into 'something in the context of an immense universe', with which we are 'talking to'.

Daan Roovers refers to The Myth of Sisyphus by the French philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960). “That book is about the indifference of the universe. Man constantly asks questions to the world around him, but the world does not answer. Man cares about nature, but nature does not care about man. Man looks at the stars with awe, but the stars do not look back. According to Camus, that tension is the core of the human condition. '

To marvel, marvel, is very much part of philosophy, thinks the Thinker of the Father.

Astrology offers a way out of that perilous situation — 'Astrology is an exit, 'Co-Star justs — by saying: the stars are not indifferent. They show you your destiny in the universe. Events that seem pointless and random suddenly acquire meaning.

Faith in miracles seems to underlie the same desire for meaning. On the occasion of the Motivaction study, NRC asked readers about their wonderful experiences. Most of the experiences were described as if there was a purpose behind it. For example, a person is prompted to visit a loved one, who dies shortly after. 'For a moment, the universe seems loving instead of simply indifferent, 'the newspaper summed up.

'Seeing more in things than you see at first sight: that fits a philosophical attitude. '

David Hume liet in zijn filosofie ruimte voor ‘wonderlijkheid' door onderscheid te maken tussen miracles en marvels, vertelt Roovers. “Marvels are things that are remarkable, but do not go against the laws of nature. For example, if I told you I just saw a tiger walking down the street. That's unlikely, but it doesn't go against the laws of nature. A miracle is true, for example, when I tell you I saw that tiger float. Hume concluded: marvels are possible, miracles are not. '

To marvel, marvel, is very much part of philosophy, thinks the Thinker of the Father. 'Seeing more in things than you see at first sight: that fits a philosophical attitude. For example, having a child: that is scientifically very well explained and yet you experience it as a miracle. It can enrich the way you look at the world. '

Albert Camus zou strenger oordelen dan Hume en niets moeten hebben van het moderne idee van ‘zinvol toeval'.

Astrologers do not see in the virus, which rages so capriciously and mercilessly across the world, evidence of the randomness of life.

Roovers: 'Camus argues that you can solve the lack of meaning of life in two ways. The first is to conclude that life has no meaning and put an end to your life. The second option is to find certainty that there is a sense or meaning, for example in dogmatic faith in religion or science. Both are, according to Camus, improper forms of being human, because they cut away the tension that characterizes the human condition. '

According to Camus, there's nothing to do but live with that tension. With modern spirituality there is no question of. In the different cosmos there is no coincidence: behind everything there is a purpose.

Funnily enough, it echoes an echo from traditional monotheistic religions. That's how Christians believe that God has a plan with every human being. And they often argue as an argument for the existence of God that man and nature in all their wonderfulness cannot have arisen 'by chance'. That there is a purpose behind it. Just as the coronapandemic, according to some religions, is a punishment from God.

And astrologers? They see in the virus, which so capriciously and mercilessly rushes around the world, neither proof of the randomness of life. After all, Saturn was in conjunction with Pluto at the beginning of this year — and of course that did not predict any good.

Philosopher Daan Roovers (1970) is Denker des Vaderlands until March 2021. She works for the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Debate Centre De Rode Hoed and was editor-in-chief of Philosophy Magazine between 2001 and 2015. Roovers is a great advocate of public philosophy, where philosophy is an activity that is carried out aloud and in the midst of society and in which every citizen can participate.