19 September 2004
Astrology on the Threshold of Science
Lecture delivered on 9th of March 1999 in the Institute of Philosophy and Social Science of the Polish Academy of Science (PAN) in Warsaw
Astrology is astonishing as there are so many people dealing with it all over the world, as it appears in versatile forms and shapes, as it raises many controversies, and there are even great sums of money engaged in it... although if we leave out faith and traditional bequests, astrology is based on surprisingly little evidence.
Existing views on astrology fit into the following scheme:
|Picture 1. Life Philosophies in Astrology|
A division relative to one axis is self-imposing here; here is the right wing side, as visible on the picture, here is the left wing side. On the right wing side rigour governs, as is usual on the right wing, and on the left wing side, as is usual on the left wing, the 'anything goes' principle governs. On the right side strict thinking, logic, scientific methodology and so forth prevail; on the left side mediumistic thinking prevails. These two systems of thinking cannot be reconciled one with the other; if a medium, someone with mediumistic abilities, which I do not negate and which I do appreciate, crosses over to the strict scientific ground, he or she starts to produce results that can neither be listened to nor read: in most cases these are some rigid listings of some supposedly revealed truths. Whereas if someone who is gifted with a strong mind crosses over to the left wing, and has astrological knowledge, he or she quickly gets lost and does not know what is going on...
All the possible views can be gathered in five or six categories. Most of the sceptics could be placed on the right; sceptics or also disbelievers. Here the attitude of negation of astrology prevails; it is widespread among many people, who simply reject all of what astrology alleges. I must admit that they are quite right in such an approach. Maybe even I, myself, could sign in and join those sceptics or disbelievers, if only there did not exist a number of facts, which apparently testify in favour of the existence of astrological phenomena, in other words they testify in favour of the existence of relations between a natal horoscope and the character of an individual. These relations are represented by studies conducted by a man whose name is worth remembering in relation to astrology; his name was (as he has already passed away) Michel Gauquelin, he was French and lived between 1928 and 1991. I remember well when he died... Michel Gauquelin, with a high degree of statistical reliability, proved that among certain professional groups a predominance (more precisely "over-representation") of one of the dominant planets occurs. The dominant planets are those, which rise, set, reach the zenith or nadir, in other words they are located in the neighbourhood of one of the horoscope's axes. [There was a sample horoscope drawn on the blackboard]. The most spectacular result that he achieved, was that among sporting winners, or among sportsmen who achieved significant results in their respective disciplines, occurs - I do not dare to say a "great", but a statistically great, which means improbable from the point of view of ordinary coincidence - predominance in the number of people who have their Mars located close to one of axes of the horoscope, especially Mars on the zenith or Mars rising. People with emphasised Mars appear disproportionally more often among sporting winners. These studies have been thoroughly analysed, also by many sceptics and disbelievers, and mistakes have not been found. Although some, representing the extreme right wing, concluded that astrology does not work and has no legitimate right to work, therefore Gauquelin in his studies must be wrong, it cannot be otherwise. Or putting it in other words, they have become resistant.
So, as I say, if it were not for the studies by Gauquelin, which showed that, somehow, in an objective way and through statistical research, it is possible to capture certain planetary influences, then all the remaining arguments in favour of astrology would be doubtful.
Slightly to the left, there are two groups of views, which are in a certain way favourable to astrology. Above all, they do not negate the fact that relations between configurations of planets and events on Earth are really happening. One of these groups, in its approach to astrology, follows the example of Physics. Such terms as "a field", "an influence", "forces" or "correlations" appear in the language used by people representing such approach. Followers of the concept assume that there exists some sort of field, which is obviously not recognised by modern Physics (as in reality it is not recognised), but still manages to transfer influences from planets to Earth-inhabiting organisms, especially the human organism, thereby causing certain effects to appear, for example, when Mars passes the highest point in the sky there is a tendency for children being born at this time to grow to be strong muscle-men and win medals. Therefore, it is assumed that there must exist a certain, yet unknown, physical influence between planets and Earth-inhabiting organisms.
The second school (among those I have in mind) is such that it accepts the existence of astrological phenomena, but based on the law of series. Yet: while the first way of thinking, which assumes that there are fields which carry influences from planets to humans, is based mainly on natal astrology, in other words on relations between a natal horoscope and the character of an individual, the second approach refers rather to explaining strange events in life, and may also explain strange similarities between the horoscopes of people who do something interesting together, for example get married or have children. The term "law of series" first appeared in writings of Paul Kammerer, an Austrian biologist, who lived between 1880 and 1926 and was murdered in mysterious circumstances, it was probably not suicide. (Gauquelin was the one who actually committed suicide... ), Kammerer was the first to notice that life is rich in coincidences, which negate principles of statistical probability. The most typical and spectacular of them would be that in a certain lottery kiosk the highest prize is won, and in the following week the highest prize is won with a ticket from the same kiosk. Another example is cited by Kammerer in his original writing is that his mother once sat on a park on a bench, and four people sat down next to her, who did not know each other; it was in Vienna and it proved that all four of them came just on that day from Munich to go sight-seeing in Vienna and met on that bench. Typical cases of "kammererism" are parallels between a person's surname and his or her fate; let the example be Wojciech Fortuna ('fortuna' means 'fortune' in Polish), who thanks to some inconceivable flash of fortune won a gold medal in a ski jumping competition during the Olympic Games in Sapporo, which he never in his life managed to repeat again, nor did any other Pole. Another example is Katarzyna Figura ('figura' means 'figure' in Polish), who thanks to her figure managed to join the elite of Hollywood.
Astrological kammererisms means that one part of such a series is an event on Earth, and the second part is a characteristic configuration of planets. Such a striking kammererism, or rather an occurrence which stands half-way between the ordinary kammererisms and astrological kammererisms, was the detonation of first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, where the following series occurred: the bomb was detonated, in other words the act of genocide occurred; the second part of the series is the name of the chemical element, which was the explosive material, namely Uranium, or more precisely one of its isotopes, which triggers a chain reaction; the next part is the name of the planet Uranus, and the fourth part is the fact that in the precise moment of explosion Uranus held a significant position in the sky; namely with accuracy of a few angular minutes it occupied the highest point of the ecliptic over Hiroshima. Astrologers belonging to the so-called hard predictive astrology school, which includes those astrologers who treat their profession seriously and believe its purpose is to predict the future, allege obviously that it was not a coincidence and moreover, they also allege that they know ways which allow all such cases to be predicted. I became acquainted with one world-famous member of this school of astrology through the Internet (who lives in Monterrey in Mexico), and he alleges that he has discovered a theory, which with great precision predicts men's death, and now, for many years, he has been working on a theory which will predict wins in numerological games. I eagerly await the moment when he succeeds! Obviously, the standpoint that astrological occurrences happen according to the law of series does not require the existence of any physical influences between planets and events on Earth, and astrological events are treated merely as deviations from statistics. It is simply that supporters of this view allege that the deviations from statistical expectations are greater than it is described by the theory of probability.
Carl Gustav Jung placed himself near to this camp, or in other words near to this set of views. (And this is already another camp, very broad, whereas Jung and Jungians are only one part of that camp. The same group includes humanistic astrology, already mentioned, and here belongs also its aforementioned prophet, namely Dane Rudhyar.) Jung actually knew the works of Kammerer very well, I am not sure, but it is likely they knew each other personally; and he incorporated Kammerer's views within the framework of his own theory (his own life philosophy), giving them a different name, that of synchronicity. The difference lies at first sight only in the terminology, but in reality the difference is great. I also think that the difference is not recognised by the majority of people studying Jung's works. Namely, for Kammerer the series he was researching were merely strange coincidences. Very often these were ordinary banal things such as the fact that going to the theatre he bought a ticket with a certain number on it, for instance 9, and he received the same number in the theatre's cloakroom. Another example discovered by Kammerer himself was that during sightseeing in a small town he found that there were signboards of two different companies placed one over the other and the owners of the companies had strikingly similar names. Yet another was that there were similarities in the names of commanders during the First World War. It is apparent that these are banal things. However, for Jung such occurrences of synchronicity had a nominal character; they represented the connection with archetypes, which is equal to somebody else using such a term as "god" or "divinity". Man's connection or contact with an archetype was contact with something, which is beyond any comprehension and with something, which exceeds human understanding. What is, however, characteristic, is that occurrences of synchronicity were illustrated by Jung with examples which were not at all banal (quite unlike Kammerer), but rather with (let's say) magical examples. For instance, while conducting a certain psychoanalytical sessions with a female patient, he was analysing her dream of an Egyptian scarab when a beetle which was the closest relative species of scarab in Europe fell through the window. Moreover, Jung alleged, and was clearly writing about, the fact that synchronicity is something that is constantly present in the current world, namely, that this is the factor which is responsible for the bond between soul and matter, or soul with body. For many reasons Jung rejected the existence of some simple physiological conditions, inter-correlations, between different states of the brain and the psyche - he knew cases, when the consciousness of man, in a state close to death, functions without any apparent relation to the body - whereas in the phenomenon of synchronicity he saw certain hope that the two aspects, the soul and the body, could be theoretically bound. Therefore, what according to Kammerer was merely some marginal case awaking curiosity, Jung found to be in the centre of his theory and his perception of the world.
And once we have mentioned the archetypes then we have to move further left on the chart. So the two terms, the archetype and synchronicity, were immediately adopted with great enthusiasm by this stream of Astrology, which originates from the old good times of magical thinking, and from the times long passed when bonds existed between Astrology and religion. And this constitutes yet another camp, for which I am unable to draw the left border, because it does not exist; further on may only be schizophrenia... To this camp belong different gurus and poets, different astrological churches and sects. Whereas, on the right wing, there prevails criticism, logic and methodology, here the 'falling on ones knees' attitude dominates. This is also visible in Poland. There are still few astrologers in Poland, but they represent the entire spectrum. We also have astrologers who would most preferably pronounce themselves as priests of some secret knowledge. Also within the left wing, in the area somewhere between humanistic astrology and the astrology (I don't know how to call it) described as pseudo-religious, astrologers can be located, who treat their knowledge as the oldest science, as the mother-science for other detailed sciences, and also for those which developed early on; they treat it [astrology] as a treasury of knowledge inherited from past epochs, and because of that they look with great superiority (for example) at psychologists, whom they regard as people who unskilfully, by small steps, without courage, copy that which astrologers have already known for a long time.
Myself, if I were to be assigned here, I would be, with my views, somewhere between "physicalists" and "kammererists"; sometimes I observe in astrology such typical and common occurrences, and then it seems to me that there must exist a physical field of influences, which would be the cause of correlations between planetary movements and our behaviour, and sometimes it seems to me that most events which are considered by astrologers could be explained by the law of series.
I have just said that there are opinions uttered within the field of astrology, that it is the mother science of all other sciences. It is not entirely wrong. I think this way because, coincidentally, when any new concepts are created within psychology, they can be fairly easily fitted to what astrologers already know, and what has been a part of the pool of knowledge for a long time. At the same time, what I am about to say is a good introduction to the art of horoscope interpretation. Namely, there is a branch of psychology - which probably does not even have an assigned name, and if this school has already defined its name and anybody from the audience knows what it is, then please tell me - I call it "measuring psychology" for the purpose of my own usage. The greatest discovery of this branch of psychology is finding out that, among all the features of character which can be observed in humans, one can distinguish certain related groups. Specific features of character are grouped into certain clusters reciprocally correlated with each other. And there are five of these independent dimensions of human character. And these five dimensions of human personality, or human character, can be immediately translated into the language of the planets.
|Picture 2. Planets and Dimensions of Personality|
Namely, the first of such features, among these five basic and independent ones, is the feature, which is called Neuroticism. I drew [see Picture 2., above] its dimension with an arrow pointing down because this is rather a negative feature: we value anti-neurotic people as opposed to neurotic ones. Neurotic people are those who do not know what they want, are constantly hesitating, require support, cause anxieties in a group, are the source of some panic and hysteria; while anti-neurotic people are those who are self-assured, have an established and strong internal "spinal column", know what to stick to, are resistant to influences and so on. Those, who are anti-neurotic, have a strong Sun in their horoscope. 'Strong' generally means that it occupies a place on one of the axes of their horoscope. Let Carl Gustav Jung be an example again, whose horoscope is known and who also knew his own horoscope, and who was, you could say, befriended by it. Jung was born at sunset, exactly in the moment of the Sun's passage through the horizon, and consequently, the Sun played an enormous role in his horoscope. Also the Sun was in its own sign (according to the zodiac astrological code) - the sign of Leo. Therefore, as I said, people with a strong Sun influence are anti-neurotic, and features, which Astrology assigns to the strong Sun in the horoscope, can be translated into Anti-Neuroticism within the concept of the five main features of character. At the other pole of this scale, people with a strong Moon influence would be found. Because the Moon, or the features which the Moon stimulates in the horoscope, resemble very much what psychologists call neurosis. At this moment many astrologers would say that this is how the so-called damaged Moon acts, which means that the Moon is in the negative position, but for the sake of simplicity let's not go into details.
The second such scale, the second dimension of personality, is Extraversion-Introversion; and similarly as you read the characteristics of extrovert or introvert types, then they immediately associate with another pair of planets in Astrology, because these are exactly the same definitions. Extraversion is a feature attributed to Jupiter; introversion is a feature attributed to Saturn. People, who have a strong Jupiter (and this is not merely a postulate of Ancient Astrology, but also empirical fact, proved on large-scale samples of people by Michel Gauquelin), people with strong Jupiter, for example with Jupiter rising or in the zenith are extroverts; they succeed in places and professions where they can be seen and heard, are keen to speak, attract attention to themselves, and manage well during public appearances. On the contrary, people with a dominating Saturn are internally hidden. And there are also mixed people, who display a little of the former, and a little of the latter characteristics. I, myself, am in such a situation, because for me Saturn sets in my horoscope, whereas Jupiter rises. And now, during this lecture, I cope somehow, but I know that in other situations, which also require extraversion, for example as somebody who entertains people at a party, I would not cope very well.
When we speak of the Sun, the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, two more planets considered by Astrologers occur to me, which have a complementary character and at the same time are opposite poles: these are Venus and Mars. And similarly as with the earlier planets, features brought into human personality by Venus can be easily put together with a feature, which in the language of the five basic features of character is called Agreeableness. Mars would represent some "enmity". Agreeable or amicable people are those, who are willing to cooperate, create a nice atmosphere around themselves, prefer harmonious solutions and easily find agreement with others; whereas those displaying enmity (in Astrology with dominating Mars) cause conflicts, are stubborn; think, that it is they who are right, and not anybody else... although there are situations in life when this is useful.
It is interesting that although I drew these planets at the opposite ends of the axis of psychological dimensions, somehow their influences do not entirely sum up with one another. If they summed up, then they would also cancel one another out. However these 'shares' of Jupiter and Saturn, Venus and Mars, or Sun and Moon, really do not add up to one another, and a man with equally strong Saturn and Jupiter will not meet his own extraversion half-way; he will not be indifferent in relation to this dimension! He will be an extrovert in certain situations, and an introvert in others. And often it will be his problem to reconcile the one with the other. Similarly, people with a strong Mars and simultaneously with a strong Venus may be for example dangerous leaders, and simultaneously in close contacts be masters of creating a nice atmosphere. It seems as though Astrology were slightly wider, slightly richer conceptually than "measuring" Psychology, the Psychology of the five features of character.
The fourth feature is called Openness to Experience. And actually it refers to openness towards new experiences, and this feature can be translated in Astrology into features of only one planet (there is no opposite pole here), which is Mercury. And moreover, there is the fifth feature, which is called Conscientiousness, which is independent of all others, and which is also correlated basically with one planet, and that is Saturn. Therefore Saturn performs two roles, as an indicator of introversion and as an indicator of conscientiousness. (This dual role of Saturn is a bit controversial...) By conscientiousness we understand ability to fulfil tasks, keeping order, diligence, ability to finish what was started; whereas disorder, laziness, absentmindedness would be the opposite of this feature.
And there remain yet three more planets in Astrology, which go beyond the framework of psychology of the five dimensions, because they speak about features, which we will not find in the concept of five main features of character; and these are the three farthest planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Uranus would be responsible for example for such features as love of freedom, or personal independence; Neptune would be responsible for mediumistic abilities. Such a rule works more or less that the stronger Neptune is, the weaker and thinner the border is between consciousness and subconsciousness. And Pluto would be openness to experiences, just as Mercury, but it would refer to openness to extreme experiences - such as close-to-death experiences, sex or risk.
These ten celestial bodies represent classical Astrology, although some supplement this set with yet more objects, for instance adding to it Lunar orbit nodes, or drawing other small cosmic objects in the horoscope, for example Chiron (a small celestial body, which travels through its orbit between Saturn and Uranus), or actual planetoids, which means those located between Mars and Jupiter. But ten planets - planets in this sense that they include the Sun and the Moon, represent the standard.