Why Astrology Works
by Jackie Slevin, C.A.
and NCGR Co-Director of Education
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 in turn 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
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 proppose 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, whas 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
Magnetic disturbances are the key to providing the ancient axiom “as above, so
below” for disturbance creates perceptible action, which, in turn, can be
observed and analyzed. After all, Seymour’s theory of how astrology works is
based on magnetism. They 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.
10 - Ibid., p. 68.
11 - John H. Nelson, The Propagation Wizard’s Handbook, 73 Inc., Peterborough, NH 1978, p. viii,
12 - Ibid., p. 7.
13 - Ibid., pp. 20-21.
14 - Ibid., p. 84.
15 - Ibid., p. 85.
16 - Ibid., pp.86-87.
17 - Patricia King, Newsweek, Jan 15, 1990.