(Bloomberg) -- At Dwarika’s Resort, a holistic wellness retreat in Nepal’s Eastern Kathmandu Valley, I sat in a wooden library across from famed astrologer Santosh Vashistha, a distinguished 42-year-old in a plaid sport coat with remnants of festive red tika adorning his forehead. His piercing eyes are almost as captivating as the view of the distant Himalayas through the wide picture window behind him.
Suddenly his phone rang, but after a glance, he hit mute. Nepal’s Finance Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki was calling for advice. With Nepal on the precipice of becoming a major hydroelectric energy powerhouse, this hasn’t been an unusual occurrence; Vashistha predicted that any conversation with Karki would be a long one (he would know) and decided to focus on my own financial destiny instead.
Though he hails from a little-known town in southeastern Nepal called Jhapa, Vashistha has gained international recognition for his ability to read the stars. In 2017, he was named the best astrologer in Asia by the Asian Astrologer Congress and the World Astrology Federation. His readings focus more on substantive geopolitical predictions and personal fortunes than hokey horoscope drivel, and his regular clients include Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala, and American celebrities whose names he wouldn’t reveal. All of them treat his readings as gospel, so seldom is he wrong.
Vashistha is among the latest in a long string of high-profile prognosticators to work in the financial world: Though the practice has ancient roots, it truly took off during the scientific revolution and has guided certain fiscal luminaries ever since. W.D. Gann, a financial astrologer born in Texas in 1875, became a legendary trader; even J.P. Morgan and Charles Schwab consulted astrologers, notably Evangeline Adams, throughout the early 20th century. "Millionaires don't need astrology—billionaires do," Morgan supposedly quipped.
At Dwarika’s Resort, sessions with Vashistha are sold to guests for $125 an hour, and are billed as another cultural experience to collect—like a chakra meditation or ayurvedic consultation. But even for those who are inclined to take his predictions with a grain of (pink Himalayan) salt, it’s a transformative adventure.
Where Finance and Fortune-Telling Collide
Vashistha’s technique is simple. Working through a translator named Anup, I gave him my place of birth (Princeton, N.J.) and the date and time (down to the minute: June 5, 1986, 8:13 a.m.) before he put the information into a Nepali app called SkyVision to see what was happening in the skies at that moment. Then he mapped the planetary configurations on paper, forming a grid-like schema that represented various areas of my destiny: health, wealth, love, and longevity.
Being a renowned astrologer is a bit like being a chess grandmaster: Lesser practitioners know how the pieces move, but virtuosos see the interconnectedness of each piece in solving the larger puzzle. That's to say that most astrologers can read natal charts and tick off a laundry list of future possibilities based on a set of rote rules related to planetary positioning, but Vashistha incorporates peerless astrology knowledge gained in formal academic training and experience with thousands of clients: He got his master’s in astrology at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India, and a Ph.D. in raja yoga, a part of Hindu astrology focused on planetary situations that indicate wealth and power. He sees the whole board, as it were.
It’s difficult to quantify Vashistha’s—or any astrologer’s—success rate since they don’t necessarily get client feedback on how predictions pan out. But that hasn’t prevented skilled financial advisors and money managers from seeing the practice as a way to apply big-picture logic to unpredictable markets. Especially in a secular bull market that some argue is overbought, investors are eager to integrate any data that may help them protect their money by foretelling a correction, even if the information has celestial origins.
“The stock market moves in a seasonal cycle that is derived from a calendar that is computed from the orbits of the Earth and the sun,” said Bill Sarubbi (aka Bill Meridian), who uses astrology in his market forecasts as president of predictive analytics-focused Cycles Research Investments, LLC. (His predictions go out to 8,000 subscribers at a cost of $215 per year.) “By adding other relevant cycles such as that of the planet Mars, one will increase their odds of success in market predictions.”
When to Try It (and When to Stay Away)
There are examples of it working. “Astrology is one of the finest market-timing tools available in pinpointing dates of tradable market highs or lows,” said Raymond Merriman, author of the series Ultimate Book on Stock Market Timing: Geocosmic Correlations to Investment Cycles, and president of Merriman Market Analyst Inc. It works best for traders looking to enter and exit positions within three days to six months, not long-term investors, he said—that’s because planetary relationships, known as aspects, are more accurate in the short term. (His predictions cost $3,600 per year and reach 900 subscribers.)
In May 2008, when crude oil had broken through $100 a barrel, Merriman astrologically predicted—on the record—that it would top out at $144 (give or take $8) before plummeting within two years. Then he said it would decline, somewhere between 77 percent and 93 percent.) Goldman Sachs Group Inc., by contrast, thought crude could hit $200 a barrel, and traditional energy economists at Deutsche Bank AG were stupefied by the confusing market dynamics. Sure enough, crude hit $147.27 on July 11, 2008 and slid to $32.48 five months later.
Grace K. Morris, a professional astrologer and president of Astro Economics Inc., similarly boasted that during the Great Recession, she accurately predicted that the market would bottom out on March 9, 2009. Traditional economists such as Nouriel “Dr. Doom” Roubini, meanwhile, struggled to pinpoint a specific date when the market would turn; Goldman’s Abby Joseph Cohen insisted it would soon rally, long after 2008 had become a flaming dumpster fire. (Currently, Morris believes the market will continue to roar until a major crash occurs between August 2026 and March 2028; best of luck with that one.)
Doubters and haters are only hurting themselves, Morris said: “My clients are pragmatic—if it works, they use it.” But financial astrology is hardly foolproof. In one prominent prediction flop, London-based financial astrologer Christeen Skinner surmised that Hillary Clinton would definitely win the 2016 U.S. election, but would be too bogged down by influenza to attend her own inauguration.
Sitting across the table from Vashistha, I had no real idea of what to expect. Being far from home, in Nepal, allowed me a certain openness to cosmic determination—something I’d normally greet with suspicion.
I exhaled, and Vashistha started to deliver my financial destiny. As he sat in a chair across from me, the experience felt a bit like visiting with my shrink: yet, instead of unpacking my past with care, he gently entered into dialogue about my future. He consulted with his tablet and the chart he drew, but mostly he looked directly at me to make his statements. In his first proclamation, he determined that my wife and I will have a lasting marriage and will have twins (a boy and a girl) in the next three years. Better start contributing to some 529 plans, I thought to myself.
Then the guru put my worries to rest: I’m destined for at least a modest amount of wealth in the near future, he said, referring to my impressive, “five star” measure of planetary energy and power. The number correlates to good fortune, said Vashistha; by contrast, Prime Minister Deuba has only four stars, but Donald Trump has six, a bounty Mohandas Gandhi also had.
Not every prediction was positive. He said I’ll die at 87—when I’m expected to drop dead suddenly while on a walk. In other words, I’d better notch up my IRA contributions to remain solvent in my longevity, and nix the long-term care insurance. I also have to be a little extra-careful to avoid some kind of danger, perhaps an accident or a health complication, when I am 51 years old.
In terms of big financial decisions—such as when to submit a book I’m trying to sell and when to make investments—he said I should take action only on two particular days of the week. Heavenly bodies in astrology are assigned an affinity for certain days, and according to my birth chart, I have a strong Moon arrangement (which rules Monday) and a powerful Jupiter connection (which controls Thursday, the day on which I was born).
Vashistha offered one caveat to his predictions. The courses of the heavens are ever-changing, he said, and I’m in control of my life’s outcomes through my own volition. I can’t sit back and wait for riches to come my way, even if the universe conspires to assure my success.
Was this a cop-out in case he was wrong? Maybe. But Vashistha had more important things to do than debate that point with me. He had already put off Finance Minister Karki long enough.
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