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Astrologers and skeptics alike are stuck asking the wrong questions, starting at the wrong end of research.

By John Townley, September 2015

An accomplished and insightful astrologer friend has been lately been asking the perennial question: how do we test astrology, to prove that it’s real, scientific, and reliable in our own eyes, and the rest of the world’s? More and better statistical correlations with events or qualities and the birth chart – like the approach the Gauquelins began so long ago? Comparisons with standard psychological testing and the analysis of professional astrologers as others have done? Overviews of historical trends with planetary cycles, another recent favorite?

Sadly, all those approaches and many more, involving the major tenets of astrology and their possible reflections in human character and events have been repeatedly tried, and repeatedly found wanting – certainly by most accepted scientific standards and even by those of more astute astrologers themselves. There are too many conflicting definitions of the often-vague boundaries of what is being measured (like, character qualities) and the frequently-contradictory and disputed elements of what actual probability is, not to mention what might comprise going beyond it. The result: astrologers and skeptics alike think they’re right and the other side is wrong or simply unreasonable, and nothing is actually gained. It’s time astrologers began to think outside the box of vague traditional rules and spongy psychology-dependent thinking.

So, just as on these pages we have been attempting to explore an entirely different, physical and environmental basis for astrology, perhaps an equally-singular approach to testing these (or any) theories should be suggested. The current approaches both to testing and to astrology itself may be entirely too complex, confusing, and subjective to produce anything clear, so radical simplification may be the way to go. Even psychology, right now, has the same problem, where half of their experiments don’t replicate. But just as much of the fogginess of psychoanalysis in explaining human behavior is giving way to direct neuro-chemical experimentation at both human and animal levels, the investigation of astrological effects might benefit from the same reduction of scale and complexity.

Simple testing with hamsters and chemical reactions (colloidal silver) have been done, with results.

Basically, why not get down to basic research, at the simplest level? That’s what everybody else does. In biology, chemistry, and physics, we don’t start with the most complex behavior and interactions, full of unpredictable or unknown variables – we begin by performing and observing rudimentary experiments, and build up from there, redundantly reconfirming and trying not to miss a stitch as our edifice of knowledge grows.

When the astrology revival began in the 1960s-70s, we noticed that some of this had been attempted, but since then we seem to have forgotten. Prof. F.A. Brown’s observation of oyster diurnal cycles and the daily tide cycle, which stayed linked to the local lunar cycle even when they were moved inland from their native coast by 1500 miles and kept in the dark. He also did later experiments with hamsters, which went unnoticed. Others have done similar experiments with crabs. Simple creatures, kept in strict laboratory conditions, are much more likely to yield results than subjective observations of human behavior in widely-varying situations. And while you’re at it, why not get even smaller and see if bacteria or viruses change their limited behavior in sync with planetary cycles? All kinds of diseases are turning out to be seasonally linked. It’s simple, and relatively inexpensive for starters, you just need someone with a specific baseline knowledge of those creatures so you know what to look for.

And there’s the plant world, where folklore about raising crops by the Moon or cycles of crop predators have long existed. Biodynamics makes all sorts of claims, and many vinyards swear by the results. But some experiments (as with weathercasting potatoes) are actually getting down to the nitty-gritty, like “leaf tides”, but there’s room for lots more.

Oysters react to lunar rhythms, when relocated and in the dark...how about a look at microbes?

Then there’s chemistry. Another forgotten experiment was the change in the rate of precipitation of colloidal silver at certain times of the day or month. And since colloidal silver has antibacterial properties, might the two be linked in some way, perhaps jointly to a third phenomenon (as cycles so often are)? There are all kinds of chemical reactions that are highly sensitive to both initial conditions (the horoscope itself) and very small environmental changes. Could planetary rhythms be linked there? Highly likely, but you have to look.

On the much larger scale, we have noted that although celestial bodies’ gravity may not kick your individual body around much gravitationally, it moves the boat you’re sailing on, in more ways than one, and not just the ocean tides – Jupiter drags us considerably out of our orbit every time we pass it…but how much? Hard to find the answers, even when you Google it extensively, but NASA knows. Why not ask them? They just noticed that Jupiter radically perturbs Mercury, even so close to the Sun…they already know a lot of the answers to many of the basic planetary-interaction questions we should be asking, but haven’t got around to yet.

There are lots of basic places to look for limited but clear effects, upon which to build an overall compendium of how planetary, diurnal, and other cycles interact, eventually reaching the realms of human behavior. But part of the challenge will be in asking the right questions, and looking for resonating environmental rhythms that may entrain or even override one-to-one effects. You may not be looking for the whole cycle of a planet (or the day) directly correlated with the whole cycle of a piece of animal, plant, or chemical behavior. In fact, since the planetary cycles tend to be very large and slow, the chances are you will need to look for their resonances and overtone series at a much larger and faster rate, which will mean their effects will be tucked entirely out of sight unless you look for those mathematical reductions to much shorter cycles and time frames.

Once we let down the walls of our self-imposed prison of expectation, possibilities upon up.

Even further, perhaps we should be looking for what’s not there as much as what is, and taking into account our definitions of what being there is. Do signs and houses color the planetary presences in them, for instance, as usually thought, or do planets' behaviours as they approach the tidally-crucial angles or magnetically-crucial season points define our view of these segments? Which is foreground, which background, and what's missing? That’s seems philosophical, and it is, but it’s quite physical as well. When we see a blue object, we’re also not seeing the rest of the color spectrum which that object selectively absorbs, or at least doesn’t actively reflect. And, we’re only able to see one octave of light frequency (all our eyes are built for), when that object could be ablaze in the infra-red or ultra-violet, not to mention other spectra. Worse than that, we have so under-noticed blue itself (perhaps for evolutionary reasons) that Homer and all the ancient mythic sagas around the world didn’t even have a name for that color. So who knows what we’re missing, because we’ve evolved to overlook things that aren’t critical to our survival. Yet, planetary effects have always been on our radar, so there’s probably a lot more there that’s important to latch on to. But only if we do it in a systematic way, from the bottom up.

Of course, like most of real science, this is going to take a long time and a lot of effort, and on the way we’re going to find out all kinds of new ways astrological effects manifest. But even systematically starting on that journey will both educate us and begin to give greater credence to our discipline. Just as so many experiments in other sciences are designed to prove what we already think we know as obvious (and Congress always protests them as a waste of money), this is how the acquisition of tangible (as opposed to assumed) knowledge actually works. But that’s the process of sorting out what we know we know from what we know we don’t know, and discovering where we don’t know what we don’t know so we can ask the right questions to uncover it. And as what we think we know as practitioners gets proven (and some of it gets disproven), starting small and working up to higher levels, the better off we will be and the more respectable, legitimate, and reliably useful astrology will become.

After we open up our own box, we will find a lot of our research already sitting in others' boxes.

Finally, all this sounds very expensive, just like real science, and who is going to spend that kind of money on what's currently labelled charlatanism and pseudoscience? Probably no one, until we tag on to what's already been and being done, of which there is a lot, when you search for it. If you are viewing astrology as an environmental science, environmental research has lots of funding...just look for the bits that overlap. Anything tied to diurnal rhythms, atmospheric and ocean periodicities, social and financial market trends, plant and forest growth periodicities, industrial chemical and drug production timing, magnetic envelope variations, any or all of that and much more can be already tied to familiar astrological cycles, periods, and harmonics without their well-funded investigators having bothered to make the connection. Investigators of environmental timing and interactions are all the rage (and should be), so that is probably to first place we can look outside of our box, and in the process reveal it's outside of theirs, too...


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