Alois Treindl is not your average astrologer. Originally a physicist, he has developed a computer programme that generates personal horoscopes and astrological charts.
swissinfo spoke to Treindl about astrology and why the Swiss are so keen to discover what the future holds for them.
German-born Treindl became interested in astrology while studying for a doctorate in physics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
As a student he developed his own astrological software and went on to found his own company, “Astrodienst”, in 1980.
In 1996, Astrodienst moved onto the web and is now one of the most successful online astrology services, with over two million visitors a month.
swissinfo: Why did you choose to base Astrodienst here in Switzerland?
Alois Treindl: Zurich is a good place for things like astrology or psychology. There is local interest and enthusiasm here and many astrology schools are active in Zurich.
I don’t know if I would have even gone into astrology if I hadn’t lived here.
swissinfo: You say that there’s a big astrology scene in Zurich – what about the rest of Switzerland?
A.T.: I think that astrology has been very successful in Switzerland. It’s a relatively wealthy country, so perhaps people have more time [and money] to think about things beyond their immediate daily needs.
German publishers of astrology books generally sell one-fifth of their books in Switzerland, even though the country only has a German-speaking population of four million, compared to 80 million in Germany.
swissinfo: How would you describe Western astrology?
A.T.: I would say that Western astrology is the idea that the planets and zodiac signs in the sky somehow reflect the psyche of a person when they are born.
It’s more an art than a science; a body of knowledge collected over thousands of years through experience. A good astrologer works with that body of knowledge, but he works with it like an artist works with paint and brush. The art of astrology is the process of reading these images and explaining them.
swissinfo: Is astrology different to the horoscopes which appear in newspapers and magazines?
A.T.: Well, what you read in newspapers is just so-called “Sun-sign” astrology, which means that your horoscope depends on which zodiac sign the Sun was in when you were born.
But the Sun is only one of ten celestial bodies in your horoscope. Real astrology is about drawing up the chart of an individual, which is a map of the Sun and the nine planets – and all of them have interlinking aspects.
As an introduction to astrology, Sun-sign astrology is okay - you have to start somewhere, and at least it will be entertaining! But to be honest I think that most newspaper horoscopes are not really done by astrologers.
swissinfo: Can you predict the future with astrology?
A.T.: By understanding the make-up of a person - their influences, inner conflicts and so on - you may get an idea of where he or she is heading.
Astrology is not a closed system, people have a free will, they create their own future, and it is not [written] in the stars.
swissinfo: What would you say to all those who are sceptical about astrology?
A.T.: Many sceptics have not really investigated astrology seriously, and I know a few people who started off as sceptics, and then got very caught up in it and discovered the depth and richness of astrology.
There are, however, many astrologers who I would consider to be unprofessional. Anybody can call him- or herself an astrologer, and not everything astrologers do or say is right or good. In a similar way you have authors who write trashy novels and others who write quality stuff.
So a certain amount of scepticism is necessary. But you should study it for yourself and see if it speaks to you.
swissinfo-interview: Barry McKay
Treindl has developed his computer-generated horoscope system with the well-known American astrologist, Liz Greene.
His horoscopes are produced in ten languages and sold by more than 40 licensees around the world.
The website offers a personal daily horoscope, reports and chart calculation as well as general information about astrology.