A theory advanced by one of the 20th Century’s most frequently quoted psychological experts on personality and intelligence has been validated by a 21st Century research astrologer.
British astrologer Robert Currey has statistically demonstrated a direct correlation between the primary dimensions of personality described by the late psychologist Hans Eysenck and the so-called astrological elements practitioners of the ancient art have used for centuries to describe temperament and individual personality traits.
Or it might be said that Professor Eysenck’s work tends to confirm what astrologers have been saying for a very long time (about 2,000 years). It just took awhile to sort this out empirically, Currey suggests
Eysenck was born in Berlin but fled to England in 1934 to escape the rise of Nazi power in Germany. A prolific writer, he wrote thousands of articles and nearly 100 books, and had the distinction of being the most-cited psychologist in scientific journals. The Eysenck Personality Inventory (EPI), a psychology test, has been used by psychologists and therapists around the globe to evaluate personality and temperament.
The native Berliner said the four-fold personality division he described in the scientific literature was inspired not by astrology but by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, who is better known for demonstrating that dogs salivate on cue when they hear a familiar bell ring. But the astrological system predates both scientists by several centuries.
In an article for Correlation, a journal published by the Astrological Association of Great Britain, Currey explains that the signs of the Astrological Zodiac are grouped in four basic elements: fire, earth, air and water. The fire signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. The earth signs are Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn, and the air signs are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are the water signs.
Common Personality Traits
Astrologers have long maintained that the three astrological signs grouped in the four elements share common personality traits or temperaments. For example, the fire signs are said to project aggressive, excitable, active, optimistic and outgoing behavior traits. Earth signs are more sober, reserved, unsociable, careful and reliable. Air signs are thoughtful, even-tempered, sociable, and talkative. And the water signs are sensitive, responsive, touchy, moody, passive, and reserved.
Currey says the idea of dividing the astrological elements into four temperament types dates at least as far back as Hippocrates in ancient Greece. His ancient model forms the basis for a number of personality typologies used by psychologists today.
In the current era, Pavlov got the ball rolling while studying the involuntary reactions of animals to stress and pain. The types he came up with were the strong impetuous type, the strong equilibrated and quiet type, the strong equilibrated and lively type, and the weak type. His research showed that all of the temperament types responded to stimuli in the same way, but different types moved through the responses at different times.
Carl Jung founded analytical psychology, advancing the idea of introvert and extrovert personalities. The four-fold personality traits described by Eysenck also included Introversion and Extraversion plus Emotional Stability and Neuroticism. Simply, Currey’s research confirmed significant correlations between Extraversion and the astrological fire signs, and between Introversion and the earth signs. He also found a similar correlation between astrological air signs and Emotional Stability. But the water and Neuroticism match-up was a washout, presumably because “Eysenck did not see water traits the way astrologers do.”
On the Same Page
Currey used data from an earlier failed study to effectively demonstrate that Eysenck and traditional astrologers were, for the most part, on the same page. The data collectors were well known astrological critic Geoffrey Dean of Perth, Australia, and college professors from universities in New Zealand and Queensland. Dean and his colleagues administered the EPI psychology test to 1,191 test subjects, most living in the Southern hemisphere. Dean later reported that he failed to find evidence supporting any connection between astrological elements and EPI test results but agreed to share the data his team collected with Currey, “a gracious gesture that gave us an opportunity to try a different approach,” the astrologer said.
The opportunity wasn’t wasted.
Experienced helping professionals recognize that people do not always slide comfortably into recognizable personas. The life process is all about contrast, complexity, multiplicity and change. However, people tend to exhibit the behavioral traits that show up during psychological testing. Or when astrologers cast a chart for the exact time and place of someone’s birth.
Like Eysenck’s EPI test, the birth chart reveals the elemental conflicts that define us; who we are and what we are likely to become are issues that loom large. Ideally, the individual birth chart will display a harmonious balance between planets residing in the different astrological elements, only this isn’t the way things work for most of us much of the time.
How the sun, moon and planets are positioned in the birth chart tells stories that are shaped by a confluence of factors related to age, gender, culture and opportunity. But individual temperament traits described by both astrological and psychological systems shine through it all. Extraverts and Introverts may modify behavioral patterns but can’t fundamentally change who they are. However, with awareness, it’s possible for the individual to positively work with and improve upon perceived elemental excesses or deficiencies.
Currey used extreme examples to statistically demonstrate the connection between astrological elements and the EPI personality test. From the sample of 1,198 subjects collected by Dean and his associates, Currey only had access to the 288 subjects whose test results showed the most extreme expressions of at least one of the four personality types. Uniquely, he compared the key descriptive words Eysenck used to describe Introversion, Extraversion, Emotional Stability and Neuroticism with key words astrologers identify with the Fire, Earth, Air and Water traits.
“This process required research into two astrological titles written before Dean’s analysis was published, which are now considered classic textbooks. These are Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols (1981) and Stephen Arroyo’s Astrology, Psychology and the Four Elements (1975),” he said.
Currey described his research earlier this year at the Kepler Conference in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and explained the technical methods he used to compare the key word descriptions in Correlation.
“The research establishes a fundamental and ancient tenet of astrology beyond reasonable doubt. This is the relationship between the four astrological elements and personality as measured by a psychological test. There is a 99.6 percent chance that the Fire/Earth connection with Extraversion/Introversion could not be replicated by random factors. And the odds with the Earth/Air connection with Neuroticism/Emotional Stability is 99.3 percent.” he said.
As noted earlier, water is the odd astrological element out in Currey’s research. One explanation suggested by astrologer Ken McRitchie is that the EPI does not discriminate between personality dimensions that are identifiable in a birth chart and psychological states that can be temporary and elusive. For this reason it wasn’t possible to match water signs with any one of Eysenck’s four personality types, which is an argument most astrologers can identify with.
Currey says the source of the data used in the research is reliable and independent.
“Although only extreme examples of the various temperament types were included, the research involves ordinary people. This means astrologers can use the information in consultancy with clients when one element is strong or lacking,” he said.