Exegesis Volume 6 Issue #17

From: patrice guinard
Subject: astro-statistics

Exegesis Digest Sat, 25 Aug 2001

Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 00:38:18 +0200
From: patrice guinard
To: Exegesis
Subject: astro-statistics

Is anyone interested to discuss the following text, specially the part concerning the statistics? (The entire text, with the notes, can be found at http://cura.free.fr/10athem3.html.) It seems to me that astrologers are quoting statisics, & specially the Gauquelins' works, just for legitimate their practices, generally without any relation with the results of these statistics. Particularly in UK & English speaking area. Those who aren't aware of the French astrological literature don't imagine how the reaction has been violent in France against the first books published by Michel Gauquelin.

My paper is polemic, but I would like to engage a discussion about the argumentation, not the stating. My idea is that it may be an astrological "explanation" for the partial failure of statistical results for astrology.=20


8. Astrophobia in the Scientific Community

"As soon as one assumes the astrological point of view, astrology becomes impervious to attack. (...) It can be refuted by exterior criticism, one cannot destroy it by any immanent criticism. It is a unified metaphysics equally coherent as that of Aristotelianism." (Eric Weil)

Arguments of a physico-astronomical nature have only been brought to bear on the anti-astrological polemic in fairly recent times. Their proofs have never been conclusive, either, although some mistaken scientists still believe and express that misapprehension. To claim that the astronomer, by reason of his expertise, is "well placed" to pass judgment on the relevance of astrological development, is completely wrong-headed. Moreover, astronomers involved in true research have better things to do than refute astrology. As Feyerabend mentions, scientists "consider it self-evident that an astronomer and not an astrologer should be questioned about the validity of astrology's foundations."[20] Even if astrology is supported by the data of astronomy, it requires other knowings, another approach to reality and a cognitive process foreign to the methodologies of the physical sciences. In short, it rests upon a different logic.[21] One should point out, as well, that some scientists take up arms against astrology not in their capacity as scientists, but rather as ideologues and pontificating representatives of the scientific establishment.

Heliocentrism does not prevent the study of planetary incidences relative to topocentric or geocentric benchmarks. Contrary to what Bouch=E9-Leclercq, Cumont and Wedel affirm preemptorily,[22] the "Copernican Revolution" has contributed to the discrediting of astrology, from which most astronomers, physicists and physicians still abstained between 1550 and 1650.[23] Bernard Capp has shown that precisely this period marks the highpoint of English astrology.[24] The scientific milieu of this first Copernican century remained very much attached to the principle of cosmic harmony and to its astrological consequences: one must wait more than a century after the publication in 1543 of Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium for the idea of universe to become defined and the notion of cosmos to lose its denotative and connotative envelope.

It was precisely the first astrologer-astronomers of the post-Copernican era who supported the new astronomy: as Thorndike has pointed out, Copernican theory was stated within an astrological milieu and it is a falsification of the history of the sciences to attempt to eradicate the traces of that fact, in which the minds of that era were steeped.[25] Two German astrologer-astronomers, born a half-century before Kepler, were the heralds and the most forceful defenders of Copernican theory. Georg Joachim von Lauchen (1514-1576),[26] the Latin form of whose name was Rheticus, went in 1539 to Poland to work with Copernicus and published in 1540 in Danzig his Narratio prima, which simultaneously defends heliocentrism and astrology and motivated his elder colleague to publish his treatise. Erasmus Reinhold (1511-1553) published in 1542 a preface to a treatise on astronomy which spoke favorably of astrology, then in 1551 he brought out the first Copernican ephemerides, the famous Tables prut=E9niques. Despite the works of Thorndike, often cited but apparently little or badly read, one continues to find the statement that astrologers and/or astrology slowed the success of heliocentrism among the scientific community.[27]

In the main, the English astrological community supported Copernicus. One thinks, for example, of Thomas Digges (1545?-1595) or of the celebrated John Dee (1527-1608): "During the first quarter of the 17th century, English astrologers were the same men, with some exceptions, as those who were engaged in the success of the revolution in astronomy."[28] Mary Bowden adds that in the 16th century the opponents of astrology were not astronomers, but rather Puritan ecclesiastics.[29]

The argument centered around the precession of the equinoxes appeared as early as Origen. The astrologer Firmin de Belleval (14th century) recognized that fact. His statements were subsequently used against astrology by Nicolas Oresme in his Contra divinatores horoscopios (1370), by the theologian Jean Gerson, by Pico della Mirandola and by others, before becoming the icing on the cake of the sophist scientist. The majority of astrologers after the establishment of the Zodiac at the vernal point by Hipparchus of Nicea (190-120 B.C.), and especially after Ptolemy three centuries later, refer to a tropical Zodiac, based upon the division into three tropical signs in each of the four quadrants delimited by the intersections of the ecliptic and the celestial equator. Certain obscurantists, however, continue to invoke the influence of the constellations and the argument according to which the symbology of the sign is supposedly linked to the point in time at which the constellation was identified and named for the first time. This argument ignores that the essential elements of semantic content in the signs was only developed later, in the hermetic circles of the Greco-Egyptian world in the first centuries before the Christian era, which is to say, at a time when the signs and the constellations coincided.

Astrological signs today no longer have a direct relationship with sidereal constellations, which remain arbitrary groupings of stars the limits of which are uncertain. A huge cleft separates the constellation of Scorpio -- which has about 15 stars of size 1, 2 or 3 (bright luminosity, e.g. Antares, Shaula, Akrab and Deschubba) -- from the constellation of Cancer, which has not a single one. How can one bring into some meaningful relation the principal star of Taurus, Aldebaran, over 60 light-years distant from the Earth, and the Crab Nebula, part of the same constellation, which is over 6,000 light-years distant? The boundaries of the zodiacal and extra-zodiacal constellations are matters of convention; they vary according to the time and the culture, do not form an homogenous entity, in contradistinction to the solar system, and in point of fact exist only by effect of perspective.

Geminos of Rhodes (1st century B.C.), a disciple of the astro-philosopher Posidonios of Apamea and author of the oldest complete treatise on astronomy to have survived intact to the present day, pointed out at a time when signs and constellations were perhaps conflated, that the stars serve only as wayposts, as temporal markers, and not as agents of influence.[30] This usage by the ancients of the stars and constellations as visual guideposts does not imply that they developed hermeneutic astrology on that basis. It is this mistaken notion that leads astray those astrologers called siderealists.

The theory of the precession of eras applied to horary astrology postdates the Arabic theory of the "Grand Conjunctions." It was formulated explicitly at the time of the French Revolution by the historian of religions Charles-Fran=E7ois Dupuis (1742-1809).[31]

The ayanamsa, i.e. the angular difference between the beginning of the tropical Zodiac and that of the sidereal Zodiac, has been given a dozen different values by Hindu horary astrologers, and there is an infinity of ways to define the constellations, assuming that one can first agree on their number. In the West, the beginning of the Age of Aquarius[32] differs according to the astrologer or interpreter of cycles: all the way from 1752 (Cheiro) to 2813 (Robert Hand), with plenty of dates inbetween, e.g. 1844 (David Williams), 1897 (Helena Blavatsky), 1962 (John Sturgess), 1962 (Christian-Heinrich Meier-Parm), 1997 or 2143 (Carl Jung), 2059 (Dane Rudhyar), 2137 (Daniel Ruzo), 2160 (Paul Le Cour), 2160 (Charles Carter), 2369 (Cyril Fagan), 2481 or 2647 (Sepharial) ...[33]

The "siderealist" schools increase quite uselessly the confusion within astrology and also represent those astrologers most vulnerable to the insidious argumentation of scientists, for whom they are an opportunity not to be passed up. Also to be noted is the ineffectiveness of practitioners who simultaneously use the tropical Zodiac for the analysis of natal charts and the so-called "Age of Aquarius" for analysis of cultural or historical manifestations, as if it were not the same operands that act on both individual and collective phenomena.[34]

Let us stay a moment longer with the topic of siderealist pseudo-astrology, not because its representatives occupy a significant place among astrologers, but rather because they are privileged correspondants -- and the easy target -- of scientific anti-astrology. Their principal argument concerns the supposedly historic precedent of a so-called sidereal Zodiac. That argument usually calls to its support the beginning of the fifth tablet of the cosmogenic tale Enuma Elish[35] created in the 2nd millenium B.C. and recorded in a Babylonian version dating back to approximately 1200 B.C. : "He [Marduk] gave term to the year, defined its limits, [and], for each of the twelve months, put in place three stars."[36] This passage stipulates the association of only three stars with each of the twelve months of the year, nothing more. Siderealists deduce from that basis that there existed at that point in time a Zodiac divided into decans et based on sidereal constellations! Now, in point of fact all one has to hand here is a marking by the calendar of the rising of stars in the 36 decans of 10 days duration (assimilated only much later into Greco-Egyptian astrology) in the course of the secular year. Similar documents, the "diagonal calendars," have been found in Egyptian tombs of the Middle Kingdom. The oldest of them dates back to the beginning of the 21st century B.C.[37] Neugebauer has shown that these constellations lie along a southern band roughly parallel to the ecliptic.[38]

One finds similar lists of the 36 constellations assigned to the twelve months of the year in Assyrian tablets of the 12th and 11th centuries B.C., in the circular and tabular "astrolabes,"[39] and in the famous astronomical compilation entitled Mul Apin ("The Constellation of the Plow").[40] The constellations are situated on the horizon (at the point of observation for their rising and setting) and grouped into three zones (or "paths of the Sky") according to their declination: the zone of Anu (the belt going approximately 15=B0 on either side of the Equator), the zone of Enlil (northerly declinations beyond 15=B0) and the zone of Ea (southerly declinations beyond 15=B0).

These constellations, imperfectly distributed here according to position vis-=E0-vis the Equator, are stellar markers.[41] The question of a Zodiac, be it tropical or "sidereal", such as one finds in astrological symbolism in its different phases, is not germane here, because at that particular juncture no Zodiac existed, only an annual system for marking constellations in relation to the Equator. The constellations also had not yet acquired their symbolic connotations: their designations are simply formulaic: the King, the Horse, the Snake, the Mad Dog, the Scorpion ...

A later list (mentioned in the treatise Mul Apin) which contains 17 constellations crossed by the Moon (certain of which lie beyond the belt of the ecliptic, due to the inclination of the lunar orbit), testifies to a pre-zodiacal state. We know of another list made still later, neo-Assyrian in origin[42] , which mentions only 14 constellations. The zodiacal division into twelve equal signs, not yet even outfitted with its symbology, is attested only as late as the beginning of the 5th century B.C. and is the invention of Babylonian astronomers.[43] It derives from a selection of the repertoire of constellations from antiquity and begins -- is situated -- with a fixed star, located at 10=B0 Aries in what has been called System A, or at 8=B0 of the same sign in System B. This difference, due to the precession of the equinoxes of which the Babylonians were likely unaware, is the result of a readjustment of observations. Neugebauer has shown that the supposed discovery of the precession by the Chaldean Kidinnu in 315 B.C. or in 379 B.C.[44] was based on an error of reading.[45]

The theories of Cyril Fagan, an astrologer of Irish origin and the instigator and inspiration for Western sidereal astrology, are in part based on this error by Schnabel.[46] In his practice, Fagan refrains from using the zodiacal meanings of the signs. Prudently, he refers only to planetary aspects and angles. It is in essence an aberration to make a Virgo from a Libra or an Aries from a Pisces, because the current interpretation of the Zodiac (i.e., those meanings laden with astrological history), has been developed within the framework of "tropical astrology." The historical precedent of a sidereal Zodiac is a far-fetched hypothesis, as is the existence of a Hindu sidereal Zodiac which supposedly preceded by a full millenium the emergence of the Babylonian Zodiac! The first Sanskrit texts that attest to the existence of Hindu astrology date from the first centuries A.D. and are of Greek inspiration.[47]

Moreover, the existence of a sidereal Zodiac presupposes that the celestial bodies emit a certain influx, in the form of a ray or radiation, an idea seized upon by scientists who then bring forward the distance of the planets and the stars, which is incompatible with supposed "action at a distance,"[48] or even more so the impossibility that inert matter should influence living matter. These arguments, which proceed from prejudices concerning the existence of an astral "influx," fail to take into account the possibility of integration by the nervous system of cyclical phenomena, studied by experimental psychology, most notably by Russian reflexologists.[49] It is as a result of that ignorance that some obscurantists believe they argue against astrology by using the double sophism: if influence depends on distance and gravity, then any number of terrestrial objects would have more importance than planets of the solar system; and if, on the other hand, influence does not depend on either distance or gravity, then one would have to keep equally in mind all the billions of stars in the universe.[50]

There remains the materialist argument according to which the zodiacal Signs, the Houses and the planetary Aspects are supposedly "imaginary" elements because they do not appear as physically measurable tangibles. Pico della Mirandola points out that no justification exists for the technical divisions of astrology: the zodiacal Signs, for example, are in his opinion simple arithmetic divisions. From that understanding comes his rejection of the importance given by astrologers to position -- a simple geometrical concept without any correspondant physical reality -- which a planet occupies at a given moment (in a particular sign, house, etc.)[51] This approach once again overvalues energetics to the detriment of structural, spatial and temporal differentiations within the astral matrix.

If light were considered the only tangible quality capable of justifying the efficacy of astrological operators, as Pico della Mirandola affirms, and after him Kepler as well,[52] that would imply that the planets are the only influential operands: for what is a Sign, a House, or an Aspect, if not a variation of luminosity, a structural, spatial or temporal modality of planetary energies? This is the point which minimalist astrologers are not in a position to comprehend.

Astrological awareness translates itself through an acceptance of the reality of qualities that are psychic, perceived emotionally through feeling, differentiated and structured through the integration of the organism and its geo-solar environment and which are recognized as the instrument of understanding for psychological, cultural, individual and collective phenomena. It matters little that this acceptance be admitted a priori, or that it be formed through experience of reality, that it be reinforced by experience and by the practice of interpreting natal charts, that it be underpinned by a "causal explanation", or that it emerge from a theoretical justification, provided that it furnishes a specific means for the comprehension of reality, which possesses its own pluralist logic.

Astrology is a conception of reality circumscribed by a double necessity: one rational, one spiritual. It operates in this middle path, between taking into account astronomical data and the belief in a harmonization of the psyche with its immediate astral environment. This is why astrology has never been "disproved" by science. Astrology is attacked not because it is false knowledge or bad metaphysics -- modern societies swallow more than their fill of those two things -- but rather because astrology represents the only current metaphysics capable of dissolving the unilateral nature of modern consciousness and of bringing order to the chaotic diversity of its awarenesses.

9. The Mystification of Statistics

"The critique of astrology based on the theme of its impossibility rests on vain and frivolous premises." (Ptolemy)

Astrology need not be "proved" because it has no need for external justification to exist, has had no such need for millenia, due above all to the fact that efforts in that regard are in contradiction to its nature. The development of statistical research has come to bear significantly on this point since the beginning of this century[53] , first in France and subsequently in Germany, more recently in England and the United States. One might well question the interest in astrology of such research and the pertinence of its "results," ranging from the summary investigations of Paul Choisnard (1901), Henri Selva , the German Herbert von Kl=F6ckler (1927), the Swiss Karl Krafft (1939), or L=E9on Lasson[54] to the more sophisticated research of the American Donald Bradley (1950), Michel Gauquelin (1955), the Englishman John Addey (1976) and of their French, German and Anglo-Saxon emulators.

Statistics uses a bipartite approach: on the one hand, astrological material to be submitted to testing and constituted of factors isolated from their astrological context (i.e., divorced from their functional role in the context of the natal chart), and on the other hand, a conditioning grid of psychological characteristics, "character traits," or socio-professional occupations. The result is what the statistician of astrology calls a statistical "fact." The artificial partitioning introduced by the use of the statistical grid does not jive with the demarcations produced by the action of astrological operands. Moreover, the binary relationship, "bijective," supposedly intended to render the series of astrological factors correspondant to the empirical grid, proceeds from a dualist method in absolute contradiction to the pluralist logic of astrology.

From this misadaptation of statistical methods to astrological reality, and in particular from their incapacity to test an object holistically, results a flattening of astrological symbolism and a degeneration of its operative structures into obsolete dualisms. What is more, the treatment of samples which necessarily define the value horizon can only mire astral incidence in the entropic disorder typical of quantitative analysis and in effects of mass. To attempt to "prove" astrology through the use of statistics derives, quite simply, from mystification.[55]

It is an illusion to test a premise such as "Aries is impulsive and hot-tempered" because there is no such thing as Aries. The natal chart in an implex of disparate tendencies. Aries as a discrete entity is simply an image, a metaphor, a symbol, which astrology uses as such. The premise itself is a metaphor: it is only relative to other, similar premises, such as, "Taurus is persistent" or "Gemini is persuasive." There is no astrological statement that is not relative to other statements of like nature, for what is at issue here is not the interpretation that stipulates the impulsiveness of Aries, but rather the existence of an Aries quality which simultaneously differentiates itself from a Taurus quality and a Gemini quality .. and from a Pisces quality, i.e. one that is defined in terms of impulsiveness and aggression only in relation to the eleven other qualitative attributions among the Signs.

Astro-statistics misses the difference between a fact and a symbol; it arbitrarily isolates elements from their context and renders binary a conception of reality which in essence is matrix-based. In astrology, there are only differentiating structures, even if the discourse of astrology, due to the linear nature of language, cannot develop except under the form of indicative propositions and relations between symbols, which process illustrates the underlying operative structures. Its descriptions are in a certain sense only documentation which permits the recognition and comprehension of astral reality. Put another way, the astrologer cannot question whether or not his base assumptions are verifiable, but he can indeed ask himself questions about the trustworthiness of matrix-based structures and the models he uses.

The "results" of the initial work done by Michel Gauquelin[56] merely serve to corroborate -- partially and laboriously -- what the astrologer already knows, without invalidating anything at all. How could it be otherwise? If the "Gauquelin curve" only applies to four or five planets, then the problem is not that they exercise an influence which the others do not, but rather that the methodology is inadequate to the subject in the framework of its totality.[57]

The notion of "professional category" is confused: social legitimation cannot really be considered as the sole criterion of reference for a potential tendency. More than that: who is a musician? The composer, the interpreter or the music-lover? A socio-professional category can cover semantically disparate tendencies: a cardinal and a country vicar, despite the fact that both belong to the category "priest," are often in possession of very different psychic dispositions and motivations. Moreover, the "choice" of a profession depends on a host of factors other than astrological ones, be they hereditary, familial, or relative to life circumstances and the constraints of social life.[58]

Data revealing "psychological traits" are also uncertain: how can one determine that an individual is introverted or extroverted, shy or bold, selfish or altruistic, pleasant, polite, persistent ... if not through an artificial method a very long way behind the times in relation to experimental psychology?[59] Astro-statistics utilizes questionnaires, ostensibly designed to discern personality: a particular character value is defined by a percentage of positive responses to a certain number of empirical questions. Complicated methods of data manipulation and analysis give birth to simplistic interpretations and illusory results. This inadequate procedure masks an inadequacy of thought, if not indeed a vacuity of thought. Astro-statistics remains a prisoner of a "garden club" kind of psychology.

The recent proliferation of astrology and its possible introduction into university departments brings with it the risk that astrology may be aligned along the present technico-scientific paradigm, which would denature it without transfiguring it. Kepler, who defended an experimental conception of astrology -- and despite whatever one might think of his minimalist model -- had a matrix-based vision of reality, particularly in regard to astronomy (cosmic harmony, eurhythmy of the planetary spheres, a weighted organization of the aspects, structural coherence ...), a standpoint which seems completely foreign to the conceptual framework of current investigators. Astrology needs a language and its own space, not "confirmations"; it needs concepts, not "facts."

Statistics, whatever its own degree of "scientificity," cannot have as its function adjudication concerning the validity of any discipline -- or its lack thereof. Astro-statistics takes liberties which are not tolerated in any other domain. We have on our hands here the case of a dubious branch of the scientific endeavor which lays down the law about a particular discipline -- astrology -- in the name of another branch of knowledge, i.e. "science" in its totality, the base assumptions of which have never been proven, nor even formulated, and despite the fact that it has been shown that to prove or formulate them would be extremely difficult. In other words, we have here an instance of the use of science as ideology.

Astro-statistics, which dresses itself up from the rag bag of science, plasters its dualist whimsies and dubious extrapolations on a body of knowledge which produces the precise effect of awakening the mind to non-dualist distinctions. It is a caricature of any truly respectable psychological research. Astro-statisticians, who work hard to bring about the eclipse of astrology, appear to be just one more species in the roster of parasites on astrology. The observation made by the mathematician and philosopher Alfred Whitehead seems applicable to their case: "Obscurantists in any generation are in general represented by the majority of those who practice the dominant methodology. Today, it is scientific methods which predominate and the men of science who are the obscurantists."[60]


End of Exegesis Digest Volume 6 Issue 17

[Exegesis Top][Table of Contents][Prior Issue][Next Issue]

Unless otherwise indicated, articles and submissions above are copyright © 1996-1999 their respective authors.