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Why Astrology Works

2009 November 28
by Jackie Slevin

Since prehistoric times, humankind has attempted to fathom its earthly experience.  Their first gesture toward this understanding may well have been a cave dweller lifting his or her eyes toward the heavens in wonder and speculation of forthcoming events.  The sky could tell stories, it held omens.  It foretold weather conditions  which affected travel, hunting and agriculture.  Daylight and darkness were measured by the rise and fall of those two majestic objects, the Sun and the Moon.  The ancients used the sky as their blueprint for action.  The so-called “Wise People” were those who made a thorough study of the patterns of planets and stars and observed how to use them as signposts.  Observations were made regarding how Mother Nature mirrored events in the heavens.  Shellfish activity and the rhythms of the tides coincided with phases of the Moon.  Seafaring peoples, lacking compasses, used the North Star and other constellations for navigation.  The Egyptians repeatedly observed that the Nile flooded every time the star Sirius rose with the Sun.  The clockwork that the ancients observed in the sky shaped and defined their annual calendars.  Moreover, this time-honored system of celestial phenomenon worked.

But how did it work?   What was the direct correlation between earth and sky?  If astronomy was the study of planets and stars, then astrology fell under the definition given to it by transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.  It was, simply, “astronomy applied to the affairs of men.”

British astronomer Percy Seymour wrote a startling book entitled Astrology, the Evidence of Science, which states that certain predictions made from horoscopes can be explained logically and tested scientifically.  He has wagered his professional standing by espousing such a theory and, as a result, endured much criticism.  The science of astrology is no stranger to intolerant criticism and has been often considered a laughing matter.  Rob Hand, astrologer, author and co-founder of Astrolabe, Inc. claims that “The way the media deal with astrology is to put on the laugh track.”1

Seymour has earned master’s and doctoral degrees in astrophysics and has served as senior lecturer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.  He is currently principal lecturer in astronomy at the Plymouth Polytechnic Institute in southwest England and director of the planetarium there.  “Of course I expected people to take objection to my theory,” Seymour concedes, “but I didn’t expect the reaction to be so vehement and irrational.  Some of my colleagues here at the Polytechnic and at the Royal Astronomical  Society simply dismiss the idea without reading the book or even looking at the evidence.  Meanwhile, many other scientists, even respected scientists, have evoked the cosmos-the theories that are a little short of bizarre-to explain the extinction of the dinosaurs, or what have you.  That’s all right.  But propose a theory about astrology and people assume you’re mad.”2

Seymour himself looked askance at astrology until 1984 when a BBC crew interviewed him briefly on his opinion of astrology.  His reply, which was standard on the question, was that he “knew of evidence to support certain aspects of it, but that I personally could not think of any mechanism to explain how the planets, the sun, and the moon might affect human life.”3 He then began to seriously rethink his pat answer to this perpetual question and discovered the mechanism that could serve as the missing link between the cosmos and humans.  His theory of astrology now is plain and simple: “…astrology is not mystical or magical but magnetic.  It can be explained by the tumultuous activity of the sun, churned to a lather by the motions of the planets, borne earthward on the solar wind, and perceived by us via the earth’s magnetic field while we grow inside our mother’s wombs.”4

The initial evidence of validity of astrology that Seymour embraced was the work of Michel Gauquelin, a French psychologist/statistician, whose rigorous method of testing astrology was the show that the placement of the planets in the horoscope is more conclusive overall than the actual Sun sign.  In other words, the components are more important than the sum of their parts.  In 1951, armed with the birth data of 576 French doctors  where selected to the Academie de Medecine, Gauquelin made significant progress in his research.  “Having (painfully) worked out by hand the position of the planets at the hour of birth of each doctor,  I made a statistical compilation of my findings.  Suddenly, I was presented with an extraordinary fact.  My doctors were not born under the same skies as the common run of humanity.  They had chosen to come into the world much more often during roughly the two hours following the rise and culmination of two planets, Mars and Saturn.  Moreover, they tended to ‘avoid’ being born following the rise and culmination fo the planet Jupiter.  After such a long and fruitless search, here I was, confronted with not one but three astonishing results – all from observing the daily movement of the planets.”5

Gauquelin tested this new method further by subjecting to the same scrutiny the charts of 508 doctors who had not yet been elected to the Academie de Medecine.  “I calculated the positions of Mars and Saturn.  Once again, my doctors ‘chose’ the rise and culmination of these planets for coming into the world.  Once again, they ‘avoided’ being born when Jupiter was moving through this sector of the sky.”6 The Gauquelin sector is specifically referring to is the quadrant of the horoscope which extends from the 10th house though the 12th.

Gauquelin’s discovery led to more research on yet another theory of “planetary heredity,” a point which bears resemblance to Seymour’s theory that astrology is “…perceived by us via the earth’s magnetic field while we grow inside our mother’s wombs.”  Sixteen years and over 30,000 charts later, Gauquelin published his results in the book L’Heredite Planetaire: “Children have tendency to be born when a planet has just risen or culminated, if that same planet was in the same regions of the sky at the birth of their parents.  Certainly, it is not a very pronounced tendency; yet bearing in mind the great number of births examined, the probability that chance should have produced so many planetary similarities from one generation to the next falls less than a million to one.”7

Thus, Gauquelin refuted Kepler who, in 1598, tried to convince others of his own theory of astral heredity: “Behold the kinships of births.  You have a conjunction Sun-Mercury; so has your son; you both have Mercury behind the Sun.  You have a trine from Saturn to the Moon, he has almost a Moon-Saturn sextile.  Your Venus and his are in opposition…”8 Kepler could only put forth simplistic propositions because he lacked access to the thousands of birth times that Gauquelin was able to procure.

In discovering his mechanism to explain how the planets, the Sun, and the Moon might affect human life, Seymour claims that Gauquelin’s results on planetary heredity “are the most important of all of his findings, as far as my theory is concerned.  This is because they are based on objectively measurable quantities, like planetary positions and birth times, as opposed to personality traits.  They also indicate quite clearly that a physical agency is involved. . .I knew that Gauquelin found the effects he saw to be exaggerated on days with lots of magnetic disturbance, and that seemed very important to me, so I got cracking on it.”9

Magnetic disturbances are the key to providing the ancient axiom “as above, so below” for disturbance creates perceptible action that can be observed and analyzed.  After all, Seymour’s theory of how astrology works is based on magnetism.  The way a womb might perceive magnetic stimulus is through the nervous system.  In the same way that a baby resembles his parents in terms of physical characteristics, so its magnetic antennae is similarly wired, and resonates to the mother and/or father’s same magnetic frequencies.  Seymour reminds us that the very earth itself is a magnet, surrounded by a magnetic field that is 20 to 30 times larger than the actual planet.  Therefore, magnetic attractions, or “disturbances,” are keenly absorbed. When a baby is ready to be born, it is a magnetic signal from a planet, received by the nervous antennae in the mother’s womb, that triggers the actual moment of birth.  “Astrology. . .has put the cart before the horse by crediting the planets with the power to predict personality.  For Seymour feels certain it is the genes that set the personality on course and the genes that determine which planetary signal will herald the individual’s birth.  Astrology merely labels what nature has already ordained, but the effects that astrology describes are not trivial by any means, nor are they limited to the first moments of life.”10

What is curious about Seymour’s theory of magnetism is that, although he fully acknowledges sunspots, solar prominences, solar flares and solar winds, he never mentions the work of the patriarch of sunspot research, John H. Nelson.  An amateur astronomer since boyhood and radio operator for RCA Communications, Nelson pioneered solar research and forecasting through over 25 years of rigorous experimentation.  In 1946 he was given the title “Short- wave Radio Propagation Analyst,” and began a course of scientific observation, the results of which ended in unexpected controversy.  “We have come to realize that the Sun is doing something to the planets, or the planets are doing something to the Sun that the presently recognized laws of science cannot explain.  Though sunspots have never been completely understood, I found, through careful observation, that they are predictable.  Why the predictions come true is not readily apparent.  When future amateurs or scientists find a scientific explanation for what is taking place in the solar system, on the Sun and in the ionosphere of the Earth, we can take the subject out of the occult and assign it a scientific basis.  I am confident this will be done someday.”11

The Chinese have been recording sunspots since ancient times, but it was the Renaissance scientist Galileo Galilei who, after viewing them with this homemade telescope, reported them to scholars in sixteenth century Italy.  Scholars at this time were connected to the Catholic Church, whose strict dogmas did not allow for much free thinking.  The Church doctrine on the Sun and planets was based on Aristotle, who stated that the Sun was perfect and free of any blemishes whatsoever.  After repeatedly insisting that the Sun did show black spots on its surface periodically, Galileo incurred such fundamentalist wrath he was informed that, unless he rescinded his statement, he would be punished by torture.  Following exasperation and anguish, Galileo finally retracted his statement, but is said to have muttered under his breath immediately afterwards, “but I did see them.”12

Nelson then doggedly pursued his method of experimentation.  RCA constructed a solar map on which Nelson could record sunspots, after observing then with a telescope, just as Galileo did.  With this map he was able to make drawings of the sunspots and place then in their proper position on the Sun.  At first, research with these maps confirmed that radio frequency requirements would vary according to the number of spots from week to week, and even in some cases day to day.  It was also discovered that some types of spots had more influence than others.  This information enabled Nelson to develop a system of forecasting frequency changing times on a daily basis.  “This added to our efficiency in the handling of messages, because less time would be lost during what are known as ‘frequency transition periods.’ During normal conditions, it would be about two hours earlier and, during above normal conditions it could be about two hours later.  Knowing ahead of time when to change was of value in both the saving of time and the saving of power.

“Getting to understand sunspots in relation to good and bad signals was much more difficult.  I mapped and analyzed sunspots for about a year before I dared to try my hand at forecasting what they were going to do to the signals.  Progress was made, however, during the winter of 1947-48 when I fastened a solar map on a drawing board and recorded the position of all sunspots each day that the signals were in trouble.  After a few months, this map became covered with sunspots but distinctly showed a concentration of spots in one particular area of the sun’s surface.  This indicated to me that spots in this area were the ones causing our troubles.13

What yet proved to be intriguing was that each spot had its own “personality.”  Some spots made trouble with radio signal qualities whereas other spots “behaved well.”  Nelson could find no logical reason for this.  what Nelson could pinpoint after years of research was that sunspots operate in a cycle of 11 years and correlated with such events as the Sun conjunct or opposite Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and the earth.

Years after this monumental research had been well established, Nelson decided to find out more about the mysterious subject of astrology.  He attended astrological meetings in New York and, afterward, decided to keep away from it, stating that “ What I have seen in their books is that astrology is a very difficult subject and frankly, I have enough to do in my own specialty.”14 After one meeting, two astrologers approached him and asked for his birth data, saying they wanted to make predictions for him.  “In my business,  predicting magnetic storms, I know I can make predictions either forward or backward in time.  If for instance, someone asked me to tell them what magnetic conditions were on September 4, 1918, I could analyze the planetary positions on that day and tell them what it was like with considerable confidence.  I reasoned that astrologers should be able to do the same thing with their data.”15 Nelson decided on a retroactive reading, asking each astrologer to tell him what he was doing on a particular date two years prior at 12:30 PM EST.  Three months later, he received  a report from each astrologer with a detailed analysis of the date.  “They were both right, in fact, embarrassingly accurate.  It is beyond my comprehension how they could have done this by simply comparing the position of the planets on the day that I was born with the position of the planets on the day that they analyzed.  They astrologers themselves have no logical explanation either.  This puts them in the same boat with the astronomers who cannot tell why sunspots change polarity each cycle and change latitude as the cycle changes.  And, I find myself in a similar situation because I have no reason for the correlation that I have seen for many years between the position of the planets and the behavior of short-wave radio signals.”16

It is now time for the media to take off the laugh track on the subject of astrology.   “A 1988 survey from the National Science Foundation found that 38 percent believed astrology to be ‘very scientific’ or ‘sort of scientific.’  Six percent confessed to changing their plans to fit their horoscope…”17 The pioneering work of John H. Nelson  and the recent  theory of Percy Seymour have modern scientists poised to alter their entire perspective on the celestial mechanics of the universe.  If the so-called arcane axiom “as above, so below” can be formulated into a rational, proven scientific theory, then the age-old profession of astrology will have its principles vindicated, and the global population will join in comprehending the words of  thirteenth century philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas, “The celestial bodies are the cause of all that takes place in the sublunar world.”

1 Patricia King, Newsweek, January 15, 1990.

2 Sobel, Dava, “Dr. Zodiac,” Omni, December, 1989, pp.63-64.

3 Ibid., p. 64.

4 Ibid.

5 Michel Gauquelin, Birthtimes, Hill and Wang, New York, 1983, p. 21.

6 Ibid., p. 26.

7 Ibid., p. 43.

8 Ibid., p. 39.

9 Sobel, Dava, “Dr. Zodiac,” Omni,December 1989, p. 66.

10Ibid., p. 68.

11John H. Nelson, The Propagation Wizard’s Handbook, 73 Inc., Peterborough, NH 1978, p. viii,

12Ibid., p. 7.

13Ibid., pp. 20-21.

14Ibid., p. 84.

15Ibid., p. 85.

16Ibid., pp.86-87.

17Patricia King, Newsweek, Jan 15, 1990.

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