Astrology Conference May 5-6, 1979
Institute of Psychiatry
May 5-6, 1979
Dr. Hans Eysenck, Professor of Psychology at the University of London, was the guiding spirit in this historic “first.” He was aided by several leaders in astrological research, with much of the organizational detail handled by Beverley Steffert, a graduate student in psychology who is working on her Ph.D. dissertation on a comparison of astrological and psychological techniques in judging marriage compatibility. Speakers included an impressive collection of academics who are engaged in serious astrological research.
Dr. Eysenck opened the conference with a discussion of his and others’ results in matching sun signs with results on his Introversion-Extroversion questionnaire. The hypothesis being tested was that water and earth sun signs would be more introverted; fire and air sun signs more extroverted. The hypothesis also suggested that water signs would score higher on the neurotic end of the scale neurotic to stable. In Eysenck’s questionnaire, neurotic is roughly equated with emotional.
In his initial study, involving close to 2,000 individuals, Eysenck found a clear and significant pattern supporting both of his hypotheses. A “saw-tooth” pattern appeared, with the odd-numbered signs (air and fire) peaking up toward extroversion, and the even-numbered signs peaking down toward introversion. The water signs did come out higher on neuroticism, especially Pisces, but Aries was almost as high as Pisces. Cancer and Scorpio were next most high; Taurus, Leo, and Aquarius were next most high, more or less on a line, with the rest of the sun signs below the mean for the group.
Eysenck said that he was frankly astonished at his results, and of course set out to replicate them, that is, to repeat the experiment to see if similar results occurred. He also was able to locate two other studies, previously unpublished, which had achieved the same results; one a study done in New Zealand, and the other by Cooper and Smithies who were present at the conference.
Unfortunately for the astrological buffs, Eysenck’s next study got results which were slightly in the right direction, but not statistically significant. And when he ran a study on kids, he found no trend at all. He followed up the possibility that some knowledge of astrology might be a key to the results by checking to see how much was known by the subjects of the study. He found that it was the people who knew just a little about astrology, just enough to have some idea about their sun sign, who accounted for the significant results. The people (including the kids) who knew nothing, got chance results. The people who knew a lot, enough to know how small a part of astrology is represented by the sun sign, also got chance results. Since it only takes a shift in answering one or two questions to change the results on the questionnaire, it looks very much as if a “little” knowledge of astrology may be enough to influence that one or two required answers. The challenges of research!
The well-known English astrologer, Jeff Mayo, used the same sample of subjects that provided Eysenck’s initial results, but considered other factors in addition to the sun sign. I had frankly been surprised that Eysenck was able to get such a clear result using a single factor, and Mayo’s work shows far more promise. He used the subjects who had recorded birth times so that he had an accurate chart, and sorted out those who had conjunction, square, or opposition aspects between planets and also had one of the angles involved in the aspect combination; either the Ascendant or the MC, using an 8 degree orb. He found that the individuals who had such aspects averaged well above the neurotic (emotional problems) level of the sun sign which scored highest on neuroticism—Pisces. The rest of the individuals, those lacking such heavy aspects between planets and angles, averaged lower on the neurotic scale. Mayo had not had time to calculate the statistical significance at the time of the conference, but his results certainly looked significant. The very visible differences between the people with stress aspects to angles and those without, on the Eysenck questionnaire, should encourage astrologers to undertake additional work with psychological measures.
That much work still lies ahead of us was apparent in the contrasting results presented by other speakers at the conference. Both Michel and Francoise Gauquelin have persisted in their efforts to find correlations to sun signs, and have been unable to find anything significant! Since they continue to find successful results in working with the planets, their work should be sounding a loud warning bell to the astrologers who put most of their emphasis on signs and downplay the basic nature of the planet involved. For example, the Gauquelins took the descriptions of the thousands of well-known people who were used in their studies, and found that those described by “Mars” type words (e.g. brave, dynamic, energetic, aggressive, etc.) tended to have Mars near the angles, especially in the 9th and 12th houses, with huge odds against chance. This finding fits my characterization of the 9th and 12th houses as keys to what is ultimately important and valuable in our natures and lives—keys to our ultimate direction in life where we seek meaning and value.
But when the Gauquelins tried to match such words with Sun, Moon, and Ascendant in appropriate signs (Aries for the Mars words, etc.), they did not find any correlation. For example, of 2,548 individuals described by Mars words, there were very few with Sun, Moon, or Ascendant in Aries. The most common placement for the Sun was Cancer and Capricorn; most common for the Moon was Libra and Capricorn; most common for the Ascendant was Gemini and Pisces, with the smallest number having Ascendant in Sagittarius. Other associations of key words with signs for Sun, Moon, Ascendant got equally dismal results. One of the few positive correlations was between the Leo key words and individuals having Leo rising, though even more had Scorpio rising. The Scorpio key words matched a fairly large number who had Moon in Scorpio, though even more had Moon in Libra. But when one is dealing with 12 times 12 times 3 possible matches, a couple are not at all significant and would be expected by chance. Furthermore, some correlations were in the reverse direction. In the group described by Virgo key words, there were less Moons in Virgo than in any other sign, and less Virgo Ascendants! In that group, even the Virgo Suns were on the minus side, the highest number being Sun in Scorpio, and the most Moons appearing in Leo, Aquarius, and Pisces.
The net results suggest that either our knowledge of the signs leaves something to be desired, or the signs are outweighed by the nature of the planet and the house—something I have been teaching for some time. Most of the Gauquelin work was using Jeff Mayo’s key words, though they also had lists of character traits suggested by a number of other astrologers.
Tom Shanks ran this latest Gauquelin study on Neil Michelsen’s computer in San Diego, and followed up with more work with the key words. He tested the sign key words against planets in houses, without finding any significant results. He did find significant correlations between planets in the 1st and 4th Gauquelin sectors (almost the same as 12th and 9th Placidus houses) and key words associated with the signs. (These two sectors are the areas of prominence in the Gauquelins’ findings.) His results gave positive correlations between Saturn and the three earth signs’ key words (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) with negative correlations between Saturn and Aries, Gemini, Leo, Scorpio, Sagittarius, and Pisces key words: a rather good fit on the whole. Mars was double strength with Aries and Scorpio key words and doubly missing with Cancer and Pisces key words. Venus had no positive correlations, but was negative with the two signs opposite its own two signs, that is, with Aries and Scorpio key words. The Moon was minus with Aries, Taurus, Scorpio, and Capricorn key words; double minus with Leo key words; plus with Cancer and Pisces key words; all reasonable fits. The Sun was only plus with Sagittarius and minus with Capricorn key words, which supports the fire association and the conflict with earth, but suggests that the meaning of the Sun may need more clarification in the key words being used. Jupiter was the worst, with only three minus results, with Cancer, Sagittarius, and Pisces key words, suggesting that the concept of Jupiter is the reverse of the way it is being expressed! Obviously, it will be harder to be specific about the mental planets than about those which are associated with overt action, and we may find that this particular research design only works on cardinal factors. Mercury, in Tom’s test, only had a minus with Libra key words. But before we give up, I’m going to have a go at it with my own key words, and with Tom’s assistance in operating the computer. We will never know till we try.
John Addey discussed his latest work, which has also been carried out on Neil Michelsen’s computer, with the help of Tom Shanks. Addey feels that the planets change their nature as they move through the houses, having their purest natures just beyond the angles in the cadent houses; then shifting to something almost opposite; then reaching a kind of synthesis just before the next angle. My feeling was that some of what was being picked up could be the difference between the cadent, succedent, and angular houses, and that this needed more exploration. I noticed, for example that in Gauquelin’s work with the distribution of the planets, Saturn (which I take as a key to our ability to handle the rules of society and the world, thus eventually to our social or status role) was mainly in cadent houses for the scientists who work with the mind, and in succedent houses for artists who work with sensuality and appeal to the human search for pleasure. I’m sure astrology is standing on the threshold of new insights, and only more research can follow up the pioneering talks at this conference.
Among the other studies covered in the conference lectures were a variety of positive studies correlating the phases of the Moon with many different problems. A study connecting Sun signs and vocation was done by Cooper and Smithies, and did achieve significance for a variety of careers, in contrast to the Gauquelins’ failure to find anything with the Sun. A discussion of research ideas from Geoffrey Dean of Australia was read by Charles Harvey, and I took vigorous issue with his naiveté on the subjects of both astrology and psychology. He assumed that the psychological constructs used in Dr. Eysenck’s questionnaires were somehow the “absolute” truth about humans, and that astrology had to conform to them or be discarded. I commented that astrology has its own construct system and cannot be forced into any other framework; that we need to test it in its own terms though of course we can use general psychological language.
One of the more amusing parts of the conference was the determined effort of the academics to find a physical explanation for astrology, to be able to deal with it in “scientific” terms. Dr. McGillian devoted his whole lecture to trying to make a case for the Pineal gland being the ultimate mechanism through its sensitivity to light and its influence on the rest of the glandular system. I figured the august gathering had enough statistics from others, and I offered to demonstrate the actual analysis of a horoscope of a real person. I offered to do a blind analysis of someone on whom they had psychological tests, to compare the two approaches, but they didn’t come up with a subject, so I analyzed Jim Jones. The whole weekend was quite stimulating, and another conference is planned for late November, but at this point, I’m not sure that I can make it.