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Book Review

Biological Time by Bernie Taylor, Ea Press, 2004 -- more at  -- available by phone at 1-800-431-1579 or you can click to e-order through Barnes & Noble... 

Reviewed by John Townley

For decades, mainstream scientists have been dancing around the edge of astrology, mainly because to be tarred with the brush of “pseudoscience” has meant risking financial and professional destruction, thanks to the enormous prejudice against the subject among their peers. Still, in a variety of areas – from biology, to archaeology, to anthropology – researchers have been stumbling wholesale into correlations between solar and lunar positions in all sorts of documented events and behaviors. Whether it’s been lunar phases carved on pieces of prehistoric bone or fish populations ebbing and swelling with the moon, each alone has been suggestive of geocosmic connections, but no unifying physical link has been proposed.

Well, wait no longer. In an intensely concentrated work, Northwest Coast naturalist Bernie Taylor has gathered up an astonishingly diverse array of disparate research and out of it forged a unifying theory of the effect of solar and lunar light rhythms on every level of animal and plant behavior, from microbes to agrarian and hunting cultures. Nearly half the book’s 200 pages is comprised of notes, documentation, and appendices, which makes its carefully-formulated conclusions especially formidable.

Mr. Taylor’s background is in marine biology studies (the world of the Northwest fisheries is a world unto itself), and his original observations of fish migrations and the historically precise (and unexplained) knowledge of local Amerindians as to the exact, varying day the fish appear each year led him to explore connections between solar and lunar light cycles across human history and in multiple scientific disciplines. The result is his proposal of a universal, physical connection between the sun, moon, and all biological timing.

It’s simple enough to be both obvious and elegant. The only way any form of life knows what time it is – and thus whether to mate, migrate, feed or avoid being fed on – is by the varying light of the sun and moon. Through their daily, monthly, and yearly cycles these lights set and maintain the inner biological clocks that regulate the entire ecosystem, from microscopic growth right up to the human economy. Everything devolves from there, everything. That’s a philosophical premise which has often been made down through history, but the gathering mass of life and life system studies over the last thirty years is finally sufficient to actually document it, and Mr. Taylor has done a laconic, yet thorough job of putting the proof to the pudding. His construction of the argument is a wonderful, convincing, and approachable read. In a nutshell, the cycles of day and night, summer and winter, and monthly light and dark nights entrain every organism, and each set of interacting organisms refine each other’s behavior as they interact, with the sun and moon always at the top, the calibrating mechanisms of the countless biological clocks working in tandem below.

The sun and moon’s light rhythms have been determining the timing of all life since the beginning, but when humans finally developed language and record-keeping, they not only noticed the obvious but set about putting it down so they could predict it all ahead of time and put food on the table. Once you knew when and where the food animals would turn up, when the seeds would germinate (or wouldn’t), and many of the other timing secrets of the fundamental food chain, you had it all. Those inspired few who became really good at it tracking it became the first shaman/priests, and then later the astronomer/astrologers -- and political leaders found good reason both to employ them and to keep their activities under wraps, and thus under control. This all began with the early cave men (literally, those who painted on the cave walls at Lascaux) and culminated with the great empires of Egypt, Rome, India, China, and MesoAmerica. All partook equally of varied levels of understanding of the predictable (though often extremely complex) light-driven biological universe of which humankind was a part.

How did we so lose touch with all this that we are only now just coming around to it again? Mr. Taylor only speculates, suggesting that the rise of new religions had a hand in it, and the likes of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo separated out astronomical happenings from their biological repercussions. He even suggests Aristotelian and Ptolemaic man-centered philosophies pointed us away from our understanding of true biological systems integration.

Here we would beg to differ. The tipping point (a popular phrase these days) may well have been the work of 17th-century Dutch scientist Christian Huygens, discoverer of physical entrainment and the inventor of the pendulum clock, which took the measurement of time away from dependence on the celestial and straight into the hands of the experimental scientist. The advantages of this localized, godlike power were immediate, and the spiraling effects of working within artificially constructed and contained systems (the laboratory) became the birth of “modern” science and caused the temporary eclipse of the older, larger view. Only now are we coming to realize that both go hand in hand.

For those who study and practice astrology, this book is a big step toward integration with the scientific community, for which we all should offer praise and thanks to Mr. Taylor. It’s been a long time in the making.

Is there more to come? A lot, certainly enough for a follow-up volume for a start. This book clearly suggests another step in the integration of the moon and sun with biological timing and that is gravitational: the tides. Although light is a primary driver, in times when it is suppressed – as in major periods of volcanism or the occasional asteroid impact – internal clocks still reset and life goes on, albeit with difficulty and change. Tidal boundaries are increasingly recognized as major drivers of evolution, and there is all kinds of ready evidence in studies waiting to be analyzed together to further and broaden the theories suggested here. We hope Mr. Taylor is primed for the task.

And along the lines of systems entrainment and mode-locking, there is a final consideration to include the rest of ancient astrology: the cycles of the planets. If the sun and moon are the major movers of the most elemental activities, surely there are fine-tuners that subtly affect the world’s goings on down to the level of information itself. If the other planets are strong enough to perturb the earth’s orbit -- and each other’s --  their effects surely step down along the entrainment chain as well. The Babylonians noticed it enough to buy grain futures based on Mars conjunctions, so why not us? It was Diogenes who commented that everything reduces to air (the element), which in astrological terms means information. In modern times, another naturalist/biologist, Paul Kammerer, was the first to re-notice that part of the equation. For the rest of us, it’s the next in line…


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