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Into the Twentieth Century

Whilst Alan Leo took the lead in maintaining the popular interest in astrology in England, it was the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) who probably more than any other single person encouraged at least a few scientists to begin to think about the subject.

Jung's interest in astrology seems to have been a natural offshoot of his preoccupation with the 'collective unconscious', his belief that 'although our inheritance consists in physiological paths, still it was mental processes in our ancestors that created the paths'; that, in fact, 20th-century man's attitude to life is shaped by his remote history. Jung saw the signs of the zodiac as archetypal - that is, as having for us a significance deeper than we know; and we are conscious of archetypes when stirred by highly emotional circumstances, such as those that provoke people to consult astrologers.

Jung himself seems to have used the horoscope as a starting point from which to build a bridge of understanding between himself and a patient by finding within it and his own chart some common ground. During the preparation of his essay on synchronicity (the term he coined to explain the wild coincidences that occur in almost everyone's life, and can be not only puzzling but frightening) he and his assistants examined the birth charts of 180 apparently happily married couples, and sought in them the traditional astrological indications of satisfactory partnership. Later, he added more data, and eventually investigated the 966 charts of 483 couples, not only in their original pairings but in chance couplings - so altogether 32,220 pairings were postulated and examined.

The results of the test were considered by Jung to be, in the end, somewhat unsatisfactory; but he did point out that in the twinned charts of the happily married couples there was a statistically significant presence of the aspects traditionally considered indicative of a satisfactory relationship. He expressed this very dramatically:

You take three matchboxes, put 1000 black ants in the first, 10,000 in the second and 50 in the third, together with one white ant in each of them, shut the boxes, and bore a hole in each of them, small enough to allow only one ant to crawl through at a time. The first ant to come out of each of the three boxes is always the white one.

The chances of this actually happening are extremely improbable. Even in the first two cases, the probability works out at 1:100 x 10,000, which means that such a coincidence is to be expected only in one case out of ten million. It is improbable that it would ever happen in anyone's experience. Yet in my statistical experiment it happened that precisely the three conjunctions stressed by astrological tradition came together in the most improbable way.

Jung was conscious of the statistical blemishes of his experiment, and never claimed that it proved anything other than that, in the words of J. S. Haldane, 'the universe may be not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.' But his astrological essay (Synchronicity, an acausal connecting principle, 1955) had the effect of directing some serious minds towards the disreputable science, and it is during the past thirty years that interest, in particular, has steadily grown.

Before Jung's rather specialized interest took shape, isolated examples are to be found of a revival of serious attention to the subject. In 1891, in France, while popular interest was scant (and it was possible for a scientist to assert that astrology was an ancient science whose rules had been completely lost), a kind of cabalist astrology was revived, which led to the publication of a translation of part of Morin de Villefranche's Astrologia Gallica of 1661, which in turn interested an artillery officer called Paul Choisnard (1867-1930), who became the first modern astrologer to attempt to get together a reliable body of statistical evidence about the planet's influences on the human personality.

It was Madame Blavatsky who triggered off the renewal of interest in Germany, which spread largely as a result of the work of Karl BrandlerPracht (born 1864), who seems to have learned astrology in the United States, where he worked as an actor. He founded the German Astrological Society, and started the Astrologische Rundscbau, the most prominent astrological journal in Germany until the Nazis shut it down in 1938.

It was after the First World War, among the uncertainties of the peace, that astrology really began to gain ground in Germany, and the publication of ephemerides (tables of the positions of celestial bodies) and almanacs boomed. The best-known astrologer of the years between the wars was without doubt Elspeth Ebertin (born 1880), a serious astrologer with a genius for popular journalism, which she combined with consultancy. It was Frau Ebertin who, sent the birth data of Adolf Hitler in 1923, wrote in her yearbook that he 'could expose himself to danger by lack of caution' - which he duly did during the Munich putsch, when he fell and broke his shoulder before being arrested and imprisoned. Frau Ebertin received concommitant publicity.

Although the German police from time to time prosecuted individual astrologers for fortune-telling, interest grew, and annual conferences of astrologers were held between 1923 and 1936, only internecine rows hindering ambitious plans for scientific study. The Germans have the distinction of recognizing the putative importance of astrology in the developing art of psychoanalysis, and one of Jung's admirers, 0. A. H. Schmitz (1873-1931) led the way in proposing how this could best be done, though Herbert Freiherr von Kloeckler (1896-1950) was the pioneer in dragging astroanalysis into the psychology-conscious 20th century, with his Grundlagen fur die astrologische Deutung (Foundations of astrological interpretation), 1926.

Interest in astrology being as intense, in Germany, as it was - Ellic Howe, in Urania's children, 1967, estimates that during the twenty years after 1921 at least four hundred specialist books and pamphlets were published in that country - it was inevitable that it should be suspected that Hitler and the Nazi party made use of astrology for their own purposes. As with other homogenous groups, some astrologers supported the Nazis, some did not; on both sides, there were unhappy consequences. Dr Karl-Gunther Heimoth, for instance, a doctor and psychologist who published an astrological study of homosexuality and through it became a friend of Ernst Rohm, the chief of the Sturm-Abteilung (Hitler's private army), was murdered by the Fuhrer with Rohm and others in June 1934. The Astrological Society in Germany, on the other hand, managed to stay out of trouble, integrating with the establishment and providing a certain amount of protection for astrologers even after 1934, when the Nazis banned all 'fortune-telling', making the publication of almanacs and astrological journals illegal.

There is no evidence that Hitler himself was interested in astrology, and some evidence that he positively mistrusted it. He is often accused of having a personal astrologer, and the name most often connected with the accusation is that of Karl Ernst Krafft (1900-45). Krafft was born in Switzerland, of German descent, and became a very competent astrologer. He also became a fervent admirer of Hitler, and on 2 November 1939, wrote to a Dr Fosel (then working for the RSHA, Himmler's secret intelligence service) warning that between 7 and 10 November Hitler's life would be in danger because of 'the possibility of an attempt at assassination by the use of explosive material'.

The Nazis were as disapproving of astrological predictions about the life of the head of state as the Caesars had been, and disregarded the warning. When on 9 November a bomb exploded at the Burgerbrau beer hall in Munich minutes after Hitler had left it, Krafft could not resist sending a telegram to Rudolf Hess pointing out that he had told them so. His original letter to Fosel was dug out of the files and shown to Hitler, who passed it to Dr Goebbels. The same day, Krafft was arrested by the Gestapo and taken in for questioning. He managed to convince them that under certain circumstances such accurate predictions were possible, and was released.

In 1940, Krafft was summoned to Berlin by Goebbels to look through the prophesies of Nostradamus and translate any of them that could be used as propaganda against the Allies. It was felt that these, if dropped into unoccupied areas, might well do something to persuade the people that government by the Nazis was in the natural order of things. And indeed, after some weeks' work, Krafft claimed to have discovered verses predicting the invasion of Holland and Belgium, and foreseeing the Third Reich and the Second World War. He produced a pamphlet based on forty quatrains of Nostradamus, designed for circulation in Belgium and France, and predicting the imminent downfall of Britain. But in May of 1941, about three months later, Hess, second in command to Hitler (after Goering) flew to Scotland in an independent attempt to arrange a peace - an attempt rewarded by the Allies with over forty years' imprisonment. Martin Bormann decided that the best way of presenting the story to the German people would be to announce that Hess was actually insane, and shortly afterwards it was announced that he had been crazed by 'hypnotists, astrologers and so on'. In Britain, The Times actually reported that Hess had been Hitler's private astrologer!

This gave the Gestapo the excuse to clamp down on astrology in general, and those who had formerly enjoyed the protection of a sympathetic Himmler (who had arranged the release of one of their number, Wilhelm Wulif, from a concentration camp to work for him and his wife) now found themselves arrested and at worst sent to concentration camps. This delighted a number of members of the Nazi High Command, few of whom admired Himmler, and many of whom regarded him as deranged: Reinhard Heydrich, for instance, used to compare Himmler to another officer, saying 'One is worried about the stars on his epaulette, and the other about the stars in his horoscope!' Along with faith healers, clairvoyants, graphologists, Christian Scientists and spiritualists, astrologers were definitely out of favour. Krafft was among those arrested. In prison, he continued to work for a while on astrological propaganda, but at the end of 1944 caught typhus, and in January of the following year died en route for Buchenwald.

It is doubtful whether astrology had any effect on the German conduct of the war, despite Himmler's sympathy to it. Even Goebbels was infected, to some extent, for he sent from the besieged Berlin bunker in the last days of the war for copies of Hitler's birth chart and that of the Reich, pointing out to the Fuhrer that both charts agreed in showing the outbreak of war and the present disastrous reverses, but also promised an overwhelming victory for Germany in April, and peace by August. Hitler preferred not to wait for the planetary change, and killed himself.

In Britain, newspaper horoscopes played a part in keeping up national morale; but the most curious British astrological story of the war is that of Louis de Wohl, a German, part-Jewish, who spent much of its duration in London, having persuaded the government, or at least some members of it, that he could tell them what advice Hitler's astrologers were giving him, and thus predict some of his plans. The venture seems to have been successful only for de Wohl, who made a lot of money from syndicated journalism, worked for the Psychological Warfare Executive's 'black propaganda' unit, and flourished a British army captain's uniform to which he was not entitled.

In America, there was the same uneasy blend of serious and popular interest in astrology as in most parts of Europe. In 1898 Luke Broughton (1828-99), an astrologer and doctor of medicine, had published his Elements of astrology, the first original American textbook (though it is fair to remember that Broughton had been born in Leeds, in England). And in the 1920s came the first independent American popular astrologer, Evangeline Adams (1865-1932), who leapt to popular attention after a spectacularly successful prediction of a hotel fire in New York, and for the next thirty years collected an enormous public for her syndicated columns and radio programmes (at one stage she broadcast three times a week). Her success was consolidated after a prosecution, in 1914, for fortune-telling. During the trial she was given an anonymous horoscope to interpret; on reading the result, the judge announced that the chart had been that of his son, that she was totally accurate on all points, and in his view had 'raised astrology to the dignity of an exact science'. He dismissed the case.

A more serious practitioner was Dane Rudhyar (1895- ), a distinguished composer who came to astrology through an interest in oriental music and philosophy, and believed that through astrology 'man can discover the pattern or order which reveals both his individuality and his destiny underneath or within the often seemingly chaotic and bewildering events of his personal daily existence'. His The Planetarization of consciousness, 1970, remains probably the most impressive astrological work to have come out of America.

Between Miss Adams and Dr Rudhyar came a multitude of other astrologers, professional and amateur. In 1960, Marcia Moore had no difficulty in finding nine hundred professional astrologers to question for a thesis she was writing; in 1969 one journalist estimated that over ten thousand Arnericans were making a living from astrology (probably the majority of them by making predictions that would be mistrusted by more serious astrologers).

The incursion of astrology into the popular press was pioneered in London as recently as 1930 by R. H. Naylor (1889-1952). He was invited by the editor of The Sunday Express to cast the horoscope of the newly born Princess Margaret Rose, daughter of the future King George VI. He did so, not only outlining in his article a character now recognizably that of the Princess, but predicting that 'events of tremendous importance to the Royal Family and the nation will come about near her seventh year'. Unforeseen events indeed resulted in her father's accession to the throne a few months before her seventh birthday.

But.more important for astrology, the newspaper's editor invited Mr Naylor to contribute another article to the following week's issue; and in it he suggested that British aircraft might be in danger. On the very day of publication, the airship R-101 crashed in northern France. The newspaper gave Mr Naylor massive publicity, and he became famous overnight. Since then no popular newspaper or magazine has been able to escape the necessity to publish regular astrological forecasts for its readers.

Recently, astrologers have managed to persuade editors to allow them to make use of and mention various planets and their possible effects on readers' lives; but it was Naylor who invented the Sun sign column. He had to find a way of writing so that each reader could feel involved, and chose to divide his essays into twelve paragraphs, one for each person born when the Sun was passing through a particular zodiac sign. This is by no means a predominantly important part of astrological forecasting, but it is one recognizable by every reader, because it depends on the day, rather than the precise time, of birth. Unrelenting concentration on the Sun sign has done untold damage to astrology, for even those who claim to be intelligent critics are often under the impression that astrologers base serious character analyses on this single aspect of a birth chart.

Journalists often write of a booming interest in astrology - by which they mean, on the whole, the growth of an almost entirely superstitious interest in the subject. There was a time, in the 1960s and 1970s, when you only had to sit next to a stranger on a plane, or stand next to someone at a party, to be asked 'What's your sign?' In those days, the Sun sign was almost the only element of a birth chart to be known. This left the field open for 'astrologers' who were really clairvoyants. Maurice Woodruff, the Englishman who numbered so many international film stars among his clients (Peter Sellers, for one, hardly made a move without consulting him) was much more clairvoyant than astrologer. In America, Carroll Righter was more conventional, but probably no less uncritically consulted - by among others a film star called Ronald Reagan, whose publicly expressed interest in astrology has recently diminished.

Those who consulted Woodruff or Righter would have been unlikely to have heard of Dane Rudhyar or of John Addey (1920-82), the Englishman whose advanced work on what he termed 'the harmonics of cosmic periods' is believed by many astrologers to be crucial. In some areas of the world there was a more informed wide interest: in the east, especially, where Mrs Indira Gandhi has never disguised her trust. Nor have many prominent Indian politicians and public servants, despite a far more fatalistic astrology than is acceptable in the west. In Sri Lanka, astrology plays a prominent part in public affairs.

In general, prejudice seems to be the only factor to stand in the way of a serious scientific consideration of the astrological theory. In private, even the most sceptical of critics may admit to a suspicion that not enough examination has been made of the available facts, despite the availability of statistical evidence on a large scale. Until fairly recently, such evidence has been prepared by astrologers themselves, and has thus been open to criticism. But equally, critics have been unprepared even to look at that evidence, or indeed to make any real attempt to understand what it is that they criticize. Some years ago, two hundred scientists at a European convention issued a statement warning the public that belief in astrology was futile and could be dangerous. When questioned, it was found that the great majority of them believed that astrologers worked only on the basis of the position of the Sun at the time of birth. (It is ironical that their warning, better expressed, would have been supported by most astrologers, as concerned at uncritical belief in Sun-sign astrology as anyone!) Neither has it been publicised that a greater number declined to sign the statement than put their names to it.

Some scientists are able even to ignore 'astrological' facts that turn up, unprompted, in their own fields. Surgeons provide statistics which relate a difficulty in stopping bleeding during surgical operations at certain phases of the Moon, and doctors at blood transfusion centres note with surprise that donors bleed more freely when the Moon is full. Tell them that ancient astrologers pointed this out, and they are dumbfounded. Meteorologists announce that there seems to be a correlation between the position of certain planets and events on the surface of the Sun which affects the weather, but assert that this has nothing to do with astrology.

Occasionally, however, those with absolutely no interest in the subject are sufficiently intrigued to involve themselves. The most notable of these is perhaps the French statistician Michel Gauquelin, assisted by his wife Francoise. Gauquelin's interest was prompted by his decision to check the statistics on which Krafft based his Treatise on astrobiology, published in the 1930s. With the help of a computer, Gauquelin showed that these were improperly correlated. But certain interesting facts emerged from them, nevertheless, and Gauquelin decided to test two of them - the propositions that people born during 'odd' months of the year were introverts, while those born during 'even' months were extraverts. This seemed obviously one of those lunatic traditional astrological propositions that could not, in a sensible world, be believed. To his amazement and irritation, Gauquelin found that his computers confirmed it (as far as introversion and extraversion are measureable).

To summarize, Gauquelin went on to examine the birth charts of thousands of sportsmen, actors and scientists chosen on the basis of their success in their professions. Statistically, sportsmen tended to be born when the planet Mars was, astrologically, dominant; actors under Jupiter; scientists and doctors under Saturn. Gauquelin's propositions have been re-examined by Hans Eysenck, who agrees with them.

There have been other incidental illustrations of the astrological proposition. Maki Takata has examined the effect of sunspot activity on the flocculation index (the rate at which blood albumin curdles) and found a close relationship; Giorgio Piccardi has shown that both sunspots and the Moon's cycle affect various chemical reactions; Y. Rocard has recently shown that men and women have a very delicate sensitivity to the earth's magnetic field - the sense homing pigeons use to find their way back to their lofts over many miles of countryside. All this has a very obvious relationship to astrology, as have more obvious correlations of planetary movements and events on earth (such as the example of John H. Nelson's work in meteorology).

In recent years some astrologers have made great efforts to look critically and coolly at their work; a lengthy book, Recent Advances in Natal Astrology (first published 1977) related both successes and failures, sought out false propositions, astrological legends, badly devised and conducted 'experiments' and unsupported claims with such rigour and objectivity that many astrologers condemned it as an attack on their craft. Far from that, it is an almost unique attempt to look seriously at the subject and to examine it critically but not dismissively. There are relatively few areas of astrology which it suggests are worth thoughtful and constructive examination (though these are widely spread, and include the Sun-sign elements as well as more arcane theories). As the authors, Geoffrey Dean and Arthur Mather, put it:

In recent years properly controlled experiments have failed to sustain many of astrology's claims, and have shown beyond doubt that much of its apparent validity can be explained by the demonstrable gullibility of practitioners and clients alike ... On the other hand the same experiments have revealed that not all is fallacious. Enough remains that cannot be explained by gullibility or coincidence to justify further study.

No one who has seriously looked at the evidence (and a great deal of evidence now exists) could argue with that.

Progress is being made. The Astrological Association in Britain and the American Federation of Astrologers hold annual conferences as well as weekly meetings; certainly theories are aired that seem decidedly 'chintzy', but a great deal of serious work is also done. Correlation, a regular journal published by the Astrological Association, is probably the most serious periodical in the history of the subject. In London recently as many as four hundred astrologers and students met for an evening's study, on a serious level; and there are regular meetings and conferences in most western countries, many of them international. The British Faculty of Astrological Studies holds classes in London and has a correspondence course which has been taken by students in most countries of the world. Its final examination involves several papers, and there is a high and rigorous standard of marking, with relatively few passes each year.

Yes, Sun-sign books continue to be published, and account for the majority of sales of astrological books. But many of them now have tables of planetary positions which enable the reader to work out a virtually complete horoscope. Historians too are beginning to explore the documents left by the astrologers of the past. Even science begins to show a reluctant interest through the study of various natural rhythms, of cosmobiology, and of correlations of terrestrial events and planetary movements. It seems likely that the next fifty years or so will make it clear to what extent the longest-living scientific tradition is based on superstition, and to what extent it can help to illuminate the nature of our existence.