When we look up at a clear starlit night sky we are gazing at a magnificent four-dimensional panorama. The crescent moon and the planets are set against the backdrop of a multitude of illuminated specks. Each wandering star (as planets were termed by the ancient Greeks) can be tracked in two dimensions above and below the projected path of the Sun, which is known as the ecliptic.
To a limited extent, through a process known as stellar parallax, it is possible to gauge a third dimension – the distance visually from the earth. And we also view the starry spectacle in the fourth dimension of time. This is because, from our vantage point on earth, the more distant planets are within light-hours while visible stars can be more than a thousand light-years away. In one sense, some stellar patterns may no longer exist in the form we see them on Earth today.
While astronomers can pinpoint the orbital elements of these celestial objects with great precision, most astrologers work in only two dimensions. Astrologers locate the planets by their position along the path of the Sun or the ecliptic and most ignore height above or below the ecliptic since most planets are within 3.5 degrees. This one spatial dimension is complemented by the dimension of time, which is measured by the orbital period of the Sun relative to the Earth.
Do Astrologers Ignore Distance?
Critics point out that astrologers fail to take account of planetary distance. They argue that no adjustment is made for the great variation in the distances between, say, Mars and the Earth. Or they argue Pluto is so distant that it should have no more than a negligible effect.
This flaw so irked Paul Kurtz, a philosophy professor from Buffalo, New York, that he and his colleagues persuaded 186 leading astronomers and other scientists to sign a highly critical statement about astrology. The letter published in the Humanist journal in 1975 and included this comment:
“In ancient times people…had no concept of the vast distances from the earth to the planets and stars. Now that these distances can and have been calculated, we can see how infinitesimally small are the gravitational and other effects produced by the distant planets and the far more distant stars.”
Astronomer Carl Sagan, host of the award-winning TV series Cosmos, refused to sign the statement because he found the tone authoritarian, and the grounds insufficient. He wrote “No mechanism was known for continental drift when it was proposed.” All the great geophysicists at the time who were certain that continents were fixed were later proved wrong by the theory of plate tectonics.
At the time, astrologer Al Morrison wrote to all the signatories on behalf of the Congress of Astrological Organizations, publisher of the CAO Times, asking each of the 181 male and five female scientists: “As an authority in both science and astrology, where were their experiments and evaluations that led them to this conclusion were published. Not one scientist was prepared to justify their statement. Kurtz, however went on to found the sceptical organization CSICOP (now known as CSI) and unwittingly provided some of the best evidence to support astrology, but that’s another story.
Distances Not a Problem
There are four reasons why planetary distances are not a problem for astrology:
1. Cycles and Transits. The speed of a planet orbiting the Sun is determined by its distance from the Sun. So a distant planet like Neptune travels both slower and over a longer orbit than Mercury, which zooms closely around the Sun by comparison. In 2012, Correlation journal published a simple formula in which this author combined Kepler’s Third Law with Euclidean geometry. It sets out how the distance from the Sun, the orbital period and the speed of each planet are all in the same proportion.
Consequently, the most distant outer planets have long ranging slow cycles. Astrologers interpret their movements in a natal chart on a generational and collective level. For example Neptune may reveal how an individual fits in with the ideals of their generation. In addition, the length of a transit varies according to the speed of a planet. A transit of the Moon lasts around four hours and a Neptune transit lasts around two and a half years.
2. Retrograde Planets. Besides tracking planetary cycles and transits, astrologers take account of distance in yet another way. An Ephemeris (planetary tables) log the periods when each planet travels retrograde. Retrograde motion is when a planet temporarily appears from Earth to be travelling backwards. Venus and Mercury only travel retrograde when closest to the Earth. When Mercury is retrograde, astrologers consider it as a time to rethink, review, rewrite and even reroute journeys.
When any of the planets beyond the Earth’s orbit (such as Mars or Pluto) travel retrograde, they are on the near side of the Sun and therefore closer to the Earth than when their motion is direct. Some astrologers adapt their interpretation specifically for a retrograde planet. But all will notice on the birth chart that the planet is in the opposite hemisphere to the Sun, Mercury, Venus and often Mars in the birth chart. This alignment tends to result in planetary oppositions, which require a particular interpretation.
3. Relevant Distance. Is a quantity such as distance relevant to astrology at all? Even though astrologers take distance into account in so many techniques, is distance so critical in astrological practice? Scientists work with quantitative data, so distances for them are a vital statistic. Astrologers place emphasis on qualitative planetary properties such as archetypes, which do not vary according to distance.
4. The Scientific Objection. Of course, the first three reasons still leave the scientific objection – how can astrology work over such distances? When critics claim that distant planets are too weak to have any influence, they assume astrology can only work by a force that is governed by the Inverse Square Law.
Newton’s Law states that the strength of a radiating force or energy such as gravity, electromagnetism or sound is inversely proportional to the distance from the source. Yet our understanding of these forces is far from complete. In particular, gravity appears to have a number of unexplained anomalies. Within our solar system resonance has the effect of enhancing forces such as gravity even over considerable distances. In a paper published in Correlation Journal in 2013 entitled the Solar Matrix, this author detailed how gravitational resonance has led to a pattern of significant ratios and geometrical relationships between planetary orbits. A possible mechanism for this high level of interconnectivity within the solar system, termed astrotaxis, was proposed.
The wide-ranging application of astrology suggests that, like weather patterns, it may be subject to the mix of several complex mechanisms.
- One possibility comes from the field of quantum physics. Experiments in China in 2012 have shown how two separated atoms can be entangled in such a way that a signal is generated over distances of up to 97 kilometres. Austrian quantum physicist, Professor Aspelmeyer speculated that quantum entanglement could occur over much larger distances in space.
- In 1958 Carl Jung, in collaboration with theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli, published his theory of synchronicity. This model based on the quality of time rather than the quantity of space has become popular among astrologers. With synchronicity, distance is irrelevant.
- Even models based on conventional physics, such as those of astronomer Percy Seymour, involve all the planets in the solar system despite the huge distances. He writes that: “…the movement of the Sun about the common centre of mass of the Solar System is controlled by the orbiting of the outer planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus”.
Dr Seymour continues: “All the planets at various stages of the solar cycle will through their tidal tug on the magnetic canals of the Sun, contribute to the triggering of sunspot activity. At the start of the cycle, the conjunction of Mercury and Venus will play a major role.”
Fluctuations in the solar cycle lead to variations in the geomagnetic field via the solar wind, resulting in biological and other consequences on Earth.
It is understandable that critics are inclined to believe that a measuring system that was established some two thousand years ago should be inappropriate given today’s superior technology. Remarkably, it turns out that the two dimensional geocentric model of the solar system is sufficiently comprehensive for most astrological applications. What is less understandable are those who obstruct scientific research by ignoring the lessons of history.
So many discoveries, such as the compass, gravity, the battery and aspirin, have all been of value without knowing how they work. In some cases the evidence is hard to demonstrate. Researchers who discovered the transmission of germs, plate tectonics or the link between smoking and cancer were dismissed and ridiculed for years by so-called experts. So it is unwise and not good scientific practice to dismiss astrology on the basis that the mechanism is not yet known.
Aspelmeyer, et al. (2003) Long-Distance Free-Space Distribution of Quantum Entanglement, Science 301, 621-623.
Currey, Robert (2013) Our Solar Matrix, Correlation Vol.29 (1) pp.5-38
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Euclid, (ca. 300BC) Elements, Proposition 2 of Book XII. “Circles are to one another as the squares on their diameters.”
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Kepler, Johannes (1619) Harmonices Mundi (Harmony of the World).
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Scientific American (2007) Quantum Spookiness Spans the Canary Islands. Researcher envisions beaming entangled photons into space. Article by J.R. Minkel. Physicist Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna says. “I am dreaming of an experiment where you do it [entanglement experiment] between Earth and [the] moon.” March 9, 2007
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Juan Yin, et al. (2012) Teleporting independent qubits through a 97 km freespace channel. Nature 388 pp.185-188