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Hasan Al Hariri, CEO, Dubai Astronomy Group. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The year 2020 will go down in history as the Year of the Coronavirus -- as anyone can predict now. But no, we're neither talking about tomorrow's history nor today's pass-time punditry here. 

In focus are all those informed horoscopes which, in the run-up to 2020, had promised us a glorious year of new beginnings.

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Atrology vs astronomy: A raging debate.

Acclaimed stargazers at the time assured us good health, better wealth and the best of love and happiness.

Some even told us that we should prepare to be dressed to the nines as there would be occasions aplenty for preening glory. But what didn’t find mention was that it would largely be a virtual reality, with all the world a stay-at-home stage.

“It’s ironical, isn’t it?” asks Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, CEO of the Dubai Astronomy Group. “Coronavirus has exposed astrology. It is the biggest evidence that astrology never works.

“Imagine if someone had told us that millions of people around the world would get infected and die of a virus? It would have created havoc, put people in panic, cause anxiety and depression, cripple economies and so on. Not knowing anything about the future is one of the biggest blessings we have – and nothing, not least astrology, can change that,” says Al Hariri.

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Hasan Al Hariri Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

According to him, horoscopes only play on people’s weaknesses. “Our future is in the safe hands of the Almighty. Why place it in the hands of a few people? When we choose to do that, we are giving away our free will and the freedom to decide for ourselves.”

Misplaced expectations

Dubai-based astrologer and life coach Sandeep Bhargava, however, cautions people against misplaced expectations from astrology.

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Acharya Sandeep Bhargava Image Credit: Supplied

Asked why no astrologer specifically predicted the outbreak of coronavirus before the pandemic struck, he says: “You cannot link astrology and coronavirus. Astrology can predict the impact of coronavirus and based on the influence of planets, one can seek remedies and make things happen. Astrology is an ancient, proven science based on the movement of stars and planets. Accordingly, they can have a malefic, benefic or neutral effect on individuals and their environment.”

He said: “Lack of knowledge about astrology is what is creating a problem.”

Fate vs free will

On the subject of free will, a well-known motivational speaker from India talks about why even the best of predictions can go awry at times. She says as much as a person’s life may seem pre-ordained in keeping with the law of karma, the journey remains dynamic, with every little free-will action undertaken along the way reshaping the course.

The argument finds resonance with philosophers as it does with the climate-change brigade who contend that the coronavirus outbreak is a direct fallout of reckless human behaviour and a relentless exploitation of nature. Within these prisms, the pandemic is viewed as a golden chance to pause, introspect and redeem ourselves.

Propensity for predictions

But away from such theories, the pull of astrology remains. There are reports on how astro websites are posting a huge surge in revenues, even as there’s an unsatiated hunger for horoscopes and anything to do with the word ‘astrology’ in online searches. Reason: People want immediate answers on their health, careers, jobs, travel and other related issues amid the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19.

Dr Roghy McCarthy, a Dubai-based clinical psychologist, says it’s not unusual. “People turn to astrology when they fear losing control over their future. They want to hold on to a belief or prediction, which very often is a reflection of what they want. It makes them feel better, more reassured.”

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Dr Roghy McCarthy, a clinical psychologist with Counselling and Development Clinic in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

She said the horoscopes that are found online or in the media are for a diverse pool of people. While one size may not fit all, every prediction offers something for everyone, depending on what they want from it.

Dr McCarthy said the propensity for predictions has a strong psychological reasoning.

“But at the same time, we cannot deny that there are some genuine, intelligent and intuitive people out there who may want to share their wisdom for the good of others,” she added.