Predicting the Future

William Gibson, the sci-fi author who invented the word “cyberspace,” recently came out with a new novel, his second set in the present day rather than the future.

When asked about this in an interview with, Gibson replied that it’s getting harder and harder to write about the future, because life as we know it is changing too rapidly to make any kind of credible guesses as to what the future might be like.

You’d think that astrology, given its power to predict the future, would be the perfect answer to Gibson’s dilemma. Not so. The reason is that we, as humans, can’t predict what we can’t imagine. And the world is changing so fast that many events are simply unimaginable and, therefore, unpredictable.

“In the ’80s and ’90s – as strange as it may seem to say this – we had such luxury of stability,” Gibson said in the Amazon interview. “Things weren’t changing quite so quickly in the ’80s and ’90s. And when things are changing too quickly … you don’t have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future.”

In Gibson’s previous novel, Pattern Recognition, one of the characters, during a dinner party, makes the following remark:

“…[W]e have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile. We have only risk management. The spinning of the given moment’s scenario. Pattern recognition.”

For astrologers, forecasting is a combination of pattern recognition and human experience. And, incidentally, what we really do is forecasting, not predicting (think of weather reports). The charts show us trends in planetary energies, and we use our experience and awareness of what’s happening in the world to forecast how those energies could manifest in the 3-D material world. In ancient times, right up to our parents’ day, there was a finite set of outcomes. Kings were crowned, wars were fought, crops failed. Noblemen had bastard sons who made claims on their inheritance. Merchant ships either returned or were lost at sea. The future was, to some extent, predictable. The astrologer’s job was to refine the details.

A common criticism of astrology is that it failed to predict the events of September 11. Rob Hand, one of the most respected astrologers on the planet, came close to predicting the September 11 terrorist attack, but he couldn’t foresee the disaster itself. “I could have and did find the approximate date of this entire matter,” he wrote. “But I did not see anything like the severity of what happened because I could not have conceived of it.”

In both of Gibson’s recent novels, September 11 plays an important role in the storyline. Is it any coincidence that one of the greatest sci-fi writers of our time couldn’t imagine the future after those events? Could that date, early in the new millennium, have been an important time marker in a greater sense? In his interview with Amazon, Gibson hints at this:

“[O]ver the last five to six years it’s started to seem to me that there’s something else going on as well, that maybe we’re in what the characters in my novel Idoru call a ‘nodal point,’ or a series of them. We’re in a place where things could just go anywhere.”

Astrologers such as Barbara Hand Clow and others who study the Mayan calendar no doubt would attribute this phenomenon to time acceleration. If their theory is true – and it does feel that way – astrologers have no way of seeing this in the charts, no matter how many we study.

An astrologer friend of mine (on whose recommendation I read Pattern Recognition) told me recently that astrology is a “crutch.” I thought perhaps he unintentionally had used the wrong word. But, as he explained, he meant that our ancestors probably could see and feel the energies of the cosmos, whereas we’ve lost that ability, so we need the crutch of astrology to fill in our blind spot. You could think of it as needing infrared sensing devices because we can’t actually see that part of the spectrum.

I’ve believed for some time that we’re on the verge of being able to see and feel those energies again. At least, some of us are. When that happens, astrology may become as obsolete as the floppy disk.

Gibson, by the way, is a Pisces, born March 17, 1948, in Conway, SC.

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