Concerning Ubiquity, Evidence, and Hard Hats  

Dennis Elwell's open letter to the critics  

In a conversation like this eavesdroppers may think that astrologers generally, and this one in particular, see it as their life mission to covert the sceptics.  

In fact most astrologers have become indifferent to scientific criticism. As you will know only too well, the last 30 years saw what purported to be a scientific investigation of astrology's claims, from which astrology hardly emerged with its reputation enhanced. As a result I detect a change in the attitude of astrologers, who feel they have been released to do their own thing. Science let astrology down, so who cares any more about science! Challenge some of their techniques, and you are told 'it works for me.'  

Objectivity is not pursued as it once was. Astrologers are guided more by feeling and dubious intuitions. They blur the boundary between lasting knowledge and the divinations of the moment, throw in a bit of card or hand reading for good measure. Since society pays more to be entertained than instructed, what was once the Divine Science could easily degenerate into a mere diversion. The price of trivialisation is that the important questions now seem irrelevant. For example, if mind is truly microcosm, how illuminating for psychology is the astrological model? If the zodiac, a book with its pages hardly turned, describes twelve distinct philosophies, twelve mental faculties, what implications might it have for cognitive science?  

I personally regret this trend, and how it came about. It was not science that discredited astrology, but blinkered science. As a witness to the debacle, it left me very angry indeed, which is why I (and perhaps a few others) choose to stay in contention with you. That said, I begin to think we are engaged in a futile exercise of tail-chasing, since you are impervious to contrary arguments, however small a threat they may represent to your basic position.  

Meanwhile astrologers are getting on with what they do, and other people seem pleased enough with what they do to pay them for doing it. To justify your arguments you have to maintain that astrologers and their clientele are deluded, if in the most harmless way. I dare say astrology has as many gullible people within its ranks as any other section of the community, and indeed one could argue that nothing exceeds the gullibility of those who believe science has the answers.  

But many astrologers, and those who claim to benefit from their advice, could not be classed as stupid. Some practitioners are transparently intelligent, with sound qualifications. Nor is all the advice given and received the kind of ego-massaging introspection which led Dean to concede that astrology could be of value without it actually being true. Most of my own clients were looking for a more hard-edged input, factual rather than psychological.  

Because of the magisterial tone you sometimes adopt our audience may have formed a picture of you seated in some Star Chamber, lips pursed, fingers steepled and patiently tapping, as you wait to be convinced. This is not how it is, and there are two important reasons for saying so.  

Firstly, while you demand proof of astrology it does not follow that astrologers will rush to turn aside from their work to cooperate in tests, whether of their own invention or yours, or pile up evidence for your inspection. Since they themselves do not need any more convincing, why should they? After all, by donating their time as professionals they will come out with a financial deficit. The thought may also occur that if enough outsiders become persuaded of astrology's effectiveness, they might one day wake up to find theirs an overcrowded profession.  

Such reservations are sufficient to explain any lack of enthusiasm you may encounter in your bid to achieve the high standard of proof you demand - unrealistically high, I have always said. If the resources were available for full-time research it might be different.  

Secondly, I often wonder whether astrology ought not to remain unproven. My colleagues, fresh from cosy intimacies with their clients, seem bewildered when I say astrology is dangerous, but knowledge always confers an advantage on its possessor. You have said that if their beliefs were true, astrologers would rule the world. Well, I don't know how far a covert astrology already infiltrates events. I do not know how many bank heists are timed by the stars, how many drug couriers are rested when their aspects are inauspicious, how many political coups are planned with advice from a backroom stargazer.  

In my files are a number of interesting cases where the timing of events was too good to be true, and I ask myself whether the closeness of the fit might have been deliberately contrived. One time this happened was the assassination of President Kennedy, after which people kept calling attention to the coincidences with Lincoln's death. I could add a few more to that list, but one of them especially caught my attention, and that was the fact that both were on a Friday. Now the old astrologers believed in climacteric periods based on cycles of seven and nine, and obviously repeating Fridays are in the seven-day cycle we all experience as the week.  

What seemed suspicious was that the period separating these two Fridays was not just a multiple of seven, but of 7x7x7x7. Seven raised to the fourth power gives a period of some six and a half years. Moreover, measured in years, the interval was twice the square of seven (plus seven months!). Rationalists will pooh-pooh any suggestion that hidden cycles might be operating here, but suppose somebody somewhere believed that such cycles were real, and could be exploited to advantage?  

That such things happen I have no doubt, since feelers have been extended in my own direction in connection with various dubious enterprises. Needless to say, it involves a more solid astrology than the usual pap. In which context, perhaps the ubiquitous Sun sign columns are regarded as a blessing in some circles, because they portray astrology as a subject for amusement only, letting others get on with its serious business.  

Obviously organisations convinced of the usefulness of astrology would seek a monopoly. In Hitler's Germany, Himmler thought astrology should be the prerogative of the state. Come to think, if I were in charge of an organisation which made regular and beneficial use of astrology, I would mount an exercise in black propaganda to rubbish it, recruiting the best equipped people for the task.

Comments on your last two productions.  

I wonder why you keep reminding readers of my credentials, or perhaps lack of them. How is it relevant to this exercise that I was a journalist. I could see that it might be, since in a survey of how the public rate the various professions for scepticism, newspapermen might score better than academics. Similarly, on the scale of who is the most likely to ask awkward questions.  

Another thing that puzzles me is your penchant for word counts, and telling us how many man-hours were expended on your contributions. May I observe that quantity and quality are not synonymous.  

Nor do you approve of my style of writing. I did not realise we were in a competition to see who could produce the most inert prose. What I regret in your own style seems to be shared by one of your number, Prof Ertel, who calls it inflated. (In 'Response to Dennis Elwell's Comment on Gauquelin') However, I find it entirely in keeping that you should wish to dictate not only what I say but how I say it.  

In your latest strictures you opine that my astrology  is too lacking in rigour to be taken seriously. Mention of a lack of rigour reminds me of something I have been intending to ask regarding your contribution to Year Zero. I refer to the treatment on pp 142-3 of R H Naylor's newspaper claim to have foreseen the R101 disaster. Several comments might be made here, but just take the single sentence: 'The crash occurred when the Moon was 33 degrees from conjunction, a long way from modern orbs of a degree or so.'  

To the uninitiated it will seem as if Naylor, and other astrologers by association, are being sloppy, while you display your superior knowledge and scientific precision. But there never was a 33 degree orb. At this lunation, actually a lunar eclipse, the Moon was exactly conjunction Uranus. You are suggesting that, to take Naylor seriously, the crash should have happened within a couple of hours or so of the lunation itself.  

But I know of no authority who says this is to be expected. On the contrary, an ordinary lunation is given a range of days or weeks, and an eclipse much longer. Nor do astrologers think it remarkable if some appropriate event occurs just before the relevant eclipse. It is one thing to criticise astrology, quite another to make up your own astrology as you go along.  

What is the explanation for this curious lapse? Is it ignorance about how astrology is supposed to work? Is it a simple mistake? Or is it perhaps another instance of a tongue-in-cheek attitude I believe I can detect elsewhere? The first two alternatives hardly sit well with your oft-repeated claim to be distinguished from astrologers by your 'carefulness'. Nor can I see how a mistake might have arisen on account of your having so much else to think about, because this choice item - for which you had to trawl back 70 years - was something of a gem in your showcase.  

After all, there were five of you recycling your contribution, apparently over a full year. Did not one of you query it? Can we draw any conclusion from that?  

If we turn to scholastic rigour in general, I note how often Dean has offered the example of phrenology as a belief comparable to astrology which has now disappeared. He comforts himself that astrology will inevitably go the same way, as science again proves victorious. But that was not the fate of phrenology. The best website on the subject, the work of a Cambridge graduate who made it a special study, clarifies the situation ( ).  

While noting that phrenologists committed the same errors that you would attribute to astrologers, in that they sought only confirming evidence, this researcher says that rather than portraying phrenology as succumbing to the inexorable progress of 'science', what really happened was that it was diffused and absorbed into a host of other practices and traditions. It became 'deeply unfashionable'.  

Other forces are at work in the growth and decline of ideas, besides their truth or untruth. Indeed it was not debunking that accounts for the disappearance of astrology in the 17th century. This early flowering, which was tied tightly to herbalism, and mostly rural, was defeated by the arrival of a determined and town-based medical establishment, with its own self-serving agenda. (See The Day the Universe Changed, James Burke, 1985.)  

So the truth may not be so black and white as you would like to suppose. You are far too eager to set up false dichotomies, and to repeat them often, as if they were some self-evident truth. To keep chanting that science is evidence-based, while astrology is experience-based, is to create the impression that evidence and experience are somehow poles apart. This as the hoary reasoning fallacy of false alternatives, because there is no intrinsic conflict between experience and evidence. In epistemological texts we find discussions on the evidence of experience which recognise that experience can indeed sometimes be good evidence. In other words, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...  

Incidentally, you misrepresent my position when you say that 'Elwell merely refers again and again to his experience, as if the problems associated with experience-based astrology did not exist.' When I refer to the legitimacy of experience, I do not mean my own exclusively, but the accumulated experience of astrologers over centuries, a lot of man-years.  

Nobody regards experience is an infallible guide, but the claim that it must always take second place to evidence produced by controlled tests is questionable. In science it is possible to do controlled tests and come up with answers that disagree. The real problem is a lack of receptivity to the messages of experience, which become censored so that we believe we are hearing what we expect to hear, seeing what we expect to see. That is not the fault of experience per se, but a failure of wide-awake observation and the ability to be surprised.  

The consequence of backing oneself down a narrow rationalist alley is that one will never encounter anything new. Like Procrustes, nothing counts unless it conforms to the same old yardstick. This quote is pertinent: 'Success in scientific theory is won, not by rigid adherence to the rules of logic, but by bold speculation which dares even to break those rules if by that means new regions of interest may be opened up.' (H. Dingle, Through Science to Philosophy, p 346.)  

Compared with the breadth of imagination one finds among the best scientists, the rationalist horizon seems distressingly limited. You keep implying that your opinion is the only opinion, your way the only way. You insist that what we need is more critical thinking, whereas more creative thinking might actually be the answer. You seem to imagine that divergent thinking has little value compared with your relentless convergent thinking.  

If I consult articles on the philosophy of science even in general reference sources like Encyclopaedia Britannica and Encarta, I find it emphasised that there is no one correct method of investigation. Referring to the various criteria of truth, Britannica says: 'Far from there being any single or simple test of validity, the question whether predictive success or coherence, simplicity, historical authenticity, or mechanical intelligibility is the key consideration - and in what sense of each ambiguous phrase - must be considered afresh from case to case, with an eye to the specific demands of each new scientific problem situation.'  

You say I attempt to refute isolated studies which have proved negative, those 'thousands of scholarly studies' that suggest I might be fooling myself. I suppose it is futile to tell you that if I am fooling myself, I would be the first to want to know. The plain fact is that such studies as I have seen are open to criticism, both in their concept and design. There is no way to demonstrate your sweeping claim, or my sweeping condemnation, except by taking them one at a time, and this might be tedious, but if there are any you especially prize I will run a scribbler's eye over them. Let's get down to cases. Since I have no 'scientific expertise' you have nothing to fear.  

What tends to happen is that you state that such-and-such was found to be true, as if there were no possible room for contradiction. Often the reports are buried in obscure journals, and hence not conveniently checkable. The devil is usually in the detail, therefore I take the same forensic approach to these irrefutable studies as James Randi might to paranormal phenomena. The worst scenario for yourselves would be if the evidence of your choice disclosed the most unforgivable sin of all, in your eyes, namely the absence of proper safeguards.  

How can it be everywhere?

As I must have said, the astrological dimension is everywhere or it is nowhere. It is everywhere because it represents a system in which we are enclosed, and which conditions everything within it. From a perusal of the texts one sees that the scheme of planets, zodiac and houses, covers a wide range of disparate phenomena, from which hardly anything is excluded.  

You ask why something that is everywhere is so difficult to prove. There is a paradox here, which is almost universal.  

Everywhereness does not guarantee ease of access. Various examples suggest themselves. Oxygen permeates our atmosphere, but it was not until the 18th century that this fact and its implications was demonstrated. Can we suppose that fish are aware of the element in which they live? Magnetic fields have always been present, normally undetected, except perhaps by migrating birds.  

Again, if Darwin is correct natural selection is taking place everywhere within the biosphere, but concrete evidence is nevertheless hard to come by, which is why it remains a theory. Or take Newton, and the theory of the aether. He tried to account for gravitation by differences of pressure in an aether, but did not publish his theory because he was unable to give a satisfactory account of this medium in terms of experiment and observation. Yet, if it existed, the aether was certainly everywhere.  

Currently scientists around the world are on the track of the Higgs particle, which has been called the Holy Grail of physics. The particle, which is the key to why there are things in the universe rather than nothing, has to be everywhere, but it cannot ordinarily be detected. The Higgs boson is so fundamental that it has been called the 'God particle.' On the same line of thought, one can imagine a theologian in an argument about the existence of God, in which the sceptic seizes the idea of God's omnipresence, and asks: 'If God is everywhere he must be in this matchbox then?' The theologian becomes confused, and the sceptic triumphantly opens the matchbox. Reductionist sceptics have an inexhaustible supply of matchboxes.  

If anything is everywhere it must be the space-time continuum, so that some straightforward experiments (controlled of course) should speedily provide the answers. Recently Sir Martin Rees, Britain's astronomer royal, wrote that while we will certainly deepen our knowledge of the universe in the new millennium, 'there may be a deeper level of understanding which is simply beyond what our human brains can encompass.' He goes on: 'The idea that space has three dimensions and time just ticks away will have to be abandoned, and we may have to work with 10 dimensions rather than just the ones we're aware of.' (The Sunday Times magazine, 22 July 2001.)  

Ten dimensions!

On planet earth economic forces are everywhere, but that does not prevent major disagreements as to their nature and relationships among those working in this discipline.  

In Italy, or Japan, the national character is everywhere, likewise in every other country, but pinning it down scientifically is another matter.  

One could go on. The point is that while the astrological dimension might be pervasive, with astrologers believing they encounter confirming evidence of its presence at every turn, it is not easy to demonstrate it with the force that would satisfy the determined doubter. To achieve this it is necessary to set up the right conditions, without being exactly sure what they might be. Economists have no laboratory in which to test their hypotheses, nor do astrologers. Conclusions have to be reached by more indirect routes.  

The right conditions need not include experimental controls. If I want to show how air fuels combustion, I can put a candle in a bell jar and watch it go out. After a hundred times you might be convinced. What would be a suitable control, and why would it be necessary?  

Indeed controls are not always possible, but certainly replication can hardly be dispensed with. Yet even here there are sciences, such as astronomy and meteorology, where exact replication may not be feasible.  What controls or replication might be applied to natural selection?  

Is it not regrettable that there has never been, so far as I know, a discussion on the methods appropriate to astrology's validation, which might be fundamentally different from those you favour. Elsewhere, the academic world is alert to the possibility that there may be a range of methodologies, depending on the nature of the subject matter, which of course does not mean that an alternative methodology must be any less rigorous, within its own terms.  

And this is where the biggest problem makes its appearance, because you, like many of the sceptics, want to dictate the conditions to the astrologers. They want to impose the same conditions that have worked so well in the physical sciences, insisting that if astrology is true it must yield itself to this proven methodology. You do not pause to ask: Suppose it is a different sort of science, and needs a different methodology?  

With hindsight it might be said that astrology owes a debt of gratitude to Dean and his colleagues for showing what astrology is not, namely a science which responds readily to quantitative and reductionist methods. (By the way, I use 'science' according to the dictionary definition, as any organised body of knowledge.) Far-seeing astrologers have believed their knowledge might even possess the power to switch science onto a different track, but to exert that leverage astrology must to some extent remain outside the current orthodoxy and its methods.  

The Collins dictionary defines scientism as 'the uncritical application of scientific or quasi-scientific methods to inappropriate fields of study or investigation.' While astrology has been subjected to allegedly scientific scrutiny for some few decades, looking back it is obvious that the first rule of scientific inquiry has been repeatedly broken, with impunity and without protest. Rule one says that the methods of investigation must be adapted to the phenomena, or alleged phenomena. In particular, impartial research into elusive phenomena is about creating the conditions favourable to their appearance, and the possibility of distortion through uncongenial methods is ever in mind.  

In research of any kind, your basic orientation determines the outcome. If your observation platform opens only to the west you will never see a sunrise. The sceptics made the fundamental error of failing to stand back and ask themselves what kind of creature this intellectual yeti must be, if it exists at all. They might then have realised that their hunt was on the wrong compass bearing, and needed a turnabout of 180 degrees. By the same token, the potential impact of astrology on a receptive science would not be a slight deflection, not a marginal modification, but a bold march down the same road in the opposite direction.  

One direction leads to what might be termed microscience, in which entities and phenomena are isolated for closer and closer study. This has been the prevailing tendency of the last few centuries. The other leads to macroscience, in which everything is viewed in relation to a larger scheme. The symbol of the one direction is the microscope, of the other the telescope. It is the difference between zooming in and zooming out. Both are equally valid: there is a science of the centre, and a science of the circumference; a science of the earth and of the enclosing heavens.  

In his opus Recent Advances in Natal Astrology Dean came away empty handed because he unwittingly reversed what astrologers believed, and what they were actually doing, and having established this false position proceeded to demolish it. Reviewing his journey, it is possible to see that at every conceptual crossroads he takes the path which leads to the book's conclusion, whereas others would have led to a different conclusion. The directions he chooses are not self-evidently superior to the others, and at every turn the real issue should have been which route was the most compatible with the claims made for astrology, if it was to be given an honest chance to prove itself. But step by step Dean opts for a route that imposes criteria which are arguably at variance with the subject matter.  

This is particularly clear in his approach to the astrology of personality, by trying to make it conform to non-astrological and more or less incompatible theories, involving a simplistic use of traits and psychological dimensions, as if these were endowed with some Mosaical authority. Had he followed the definition of personality given by Allport, given that psychologist's unrivalled reputation in the field, and Allport's recommendations as to the best methods of studying it, he would have arrived at an entirely different destination.  

As a knock-on, research astrologers, in their anxiety to conform to what seemed to be the regnant methods of science, were unwisely persuaded that unless their data could be chi-squared it was of inferior status, or of no value whatever.  

The trait approach to personality was chosen because it seemed to offer a quantifiable handle, but from the standpoint of astrology traits are merely the incidental, and perhaps even accidental, fallout from processes within the psyche which are capable of a more comprehensive definition. To make a comparison, one can count the frequency of the different letters on this page without paying any attention to the fact that together they make words, and the words make intelligible sentences.  

Both Cattell, with his source traits, and Eysenck, with his personality dimensions, attempted to make words of the letters, but the question remains, are these words truly in the lexicon of nature? Will their value still be recognised fifty years from now? I note from Cattell's obituary that towards the end of his life he rejected dimensions and returned to a psychology of traits.  

Ideas are in flux, both in individual thinkers and society at large, and if you as critics seek to impose concepts on astrology which have not emerged from astrology itself, you must first be certain that those concepts possess some eternal and unassailable validity in their own right. If on the other hand they are ever so slightly provisional, the test might well turn out to be a test of the concepts, not astrology.  

The moral is that astrology, which has words and sentences uniquely its own, needs to be examined in its own terms, which means you must stop thinking up tricks for it to do. It is the difference between studying animals in their natural habitat, or in the circus ring.  

The best trick of all.  

In whatever field of activity, by persistently applying inappropriate concepts and methods it is possible to make the phenomena you are studying disappear altogether.  

Take your favourite theme that there can be no valid knowledge without experimental controls. When in my late teens, and fresh into astrology, I became excited to find that more celebrities were born with Mars in their Sun sign than in the opposite sign. I thought I had discovered something tremendous. As a check I assembled the same number of birth dates at random, and found that here Mars too was more frequently in the Sun sign. So my effect disappeared!  

This was my first lesson in the desirability of controls in experiments which allow for them. But on reflection, controls were not essential in this case because the mistake arose through an inadequate grasp of the relative astronomy of the earth, Sun and Mars. This knowledge had been in place for thousands of years, and controls had not been necessary for its formulation. It was reached by careful observation, confirmed by replication.  

Observation plus replication unite in the term 'experience', this commodity you seem to disparage. Yet cumulative observations are the mainstay of sciences ranging from 'A' for astronomy to 'Z' for zoology. It is central to astrology as well. If Mars has been observed to be associated with characteristic effects, to the extent that it can be expected to produce those same effects in the future, and repeatedly does, it may be enough to recognise this simple fact, without setting up some artificial experiment.  

Given the whole sweep of phenomena it is only on the margins that experiments are possible at all, with or without controls. If you limit knowledge to phenomena that can be the subject of controlled experiments you will finish with a very threadbare version of reality. That methodology contains its own problems, because with complex phenomena it is not always transparent what controls are appropriate.  

So this unrealistic demand, this control freakery, might actually change the nature of whatever science you are studying, whereas in true science everything is done to preserve the integrity of the phenomena. It certainly cramps the ability of astrology to tell its own story.  

The same objection applies if you insist that statistical analysis is the royal road to astrological certainties. Just as I appreciate the value of controls where controls are feasible, and of statistics where statistics can be legitimately applied, to assert that knowledge must be invalidated if it has no statistical base is a statement which many scientists would hesitate to support. According to my understanding, statistics cannot prove any hypothesis, they can only fail to disprove it. That is to say, a theory that might survive a statistical test is only provisionally true because it has so far resisted all attempts to falsify it.  

But in the statistical approach you are again in danger of changing the nature of astrology, which essentially consists of qualitative distinctions, by claiming that those distinctions must be quantifiable. How to quantify the qualitative is a problem that arises elsewhere, so perhaps your argument does not lie specifically with astrology.  

Excessive faith in the magic of big numbers can lead one astray, for the reason that one may not be dealing with a genuinely homogeneous population. A category that is too large may contain valid subcategories which, by lumping them together, are diluting each other's significance. Thus a New York scientist studied the birthdays of biologists and found that while biologists per se showed no significant sign variations, when they were broken down into their specialities molecular biologists showed a peak in Aries, and taxonomists in Cancer. He conceded that although the peaks were remarkable, they could have arisen by chance. (Nature, April 26 1974). On the other hand, to the astrologer a taxonomist collecting data about families, superfamilies and subfamilies, does have an uncannily Cancerian ring. Again, the rapid development that has characterised the field of microbiology, its urgently forward-pointed research, and its engagement with the very origins of life, might seem congenial to Aries.  

We have all seen those bar charts showing the fairly even distribution of Sun signs in various professions. If you had started out believing in astrology you would have drawn the correct conclusion, namely that the categories were not astrologically homogeneous. You could produce a graph for the number of mice populating the different countries of the world, and find there was no significant variation between one country and the next, yet you would hardly conclude that because they can earn their living everywhere, mice as a valid category cannot exist anywhere.  

The same goes for Aquarians, and any other sign you could mention. The credo that anybody can do anything may not be absolutely true, but it comes close. Some professions, like medicine or the Church, are so broad that people of widely different temperaments can find a niche.  

While these statistics were presented as a test of astrology, the hypothesis that Sun signs would produce significant results when measured against broad professional categories is contrary to astrological expectations. The textbooks contradict that premise, and direct attention to other factors in the chart as a whole. Why then, if astrology is to be judged in its own terms, should those who seek to test it adopt some criterion of their own? Presumably for no other reason than that the data were in convenient supply. But if all that is shown by such figures is that the Sun sign is not a determining factor in the profession, you have merely confirmed what astrologers themselves have been saying. This does not strike me as outstandingly clever.  

These observations may be unpalatable, and with some reason. Such tests attempt to foist a specious simplification on astrology, by making it toe some crudely drawn line. If I dip into a book on astrophysics or microbiology I see nothing but complexity, and I fail to see why you should imagine that astrology, with the breathtaking scope claimed for it, should yield itself to naive questioning.  

Hard hats, hard heads.

These discussions are apt to become theoretical, and far removed from hands-on astrology, which I why I suggested a little experiment in chart interpretation. With something concrete on the table we could take another look at the issues.  

As an astrologer I expect planetary signatures for the themes of life to feature in the natal chart. So when I discovered through the Internet that one of Kelly's hobbies was collecting combat helmets, it seemed probable there would be an unmistakable signature in his birth chart. The things spread out around us - the furniture of our life -  are rather like an exploded diagram of our inner self, and it may be that hobbies, being perhaps closer to one's heart, are more eloquent indicators of ourself than professional matters. Prince Charles collects toilet seats, and I do not, which presumably says something about both of us.  

To test the conjecture I asked Kelly if he gave out his birth data, but he does not. Nothing wrong in that, we were subsequently told, because these days the birth date is used for security purposes. It looks as if all those who freely provide their data for references like Who's Who have yet to realise the alarming consequences. Obviously a comment on their intelligence.  

Maybe some celebrities are vain about their age, in which case they will knock off a few years, a recurrent hazard for astrologers! But I have never heard this explanation from anybody save your good selves, and I quote: 'Elwell seems unable to understand that people could have perfectly legitimate reasons for keeping their birth data private. For example, to prevent hostile astrologers from saying untrue and defamatory things based on the charts of their opponents.'  

But what about friendly astrologers, like myself, who would like to say true and praiseworthy things?  

In the same place you go on to assert the following:  

'We predict that astrologers would not claim to see iron helmets in charts. Or if they did, they would disagree on the significator. Perhaps Elwell could tell us what features he is so confident of finding. Should he decline, or be wrong, or not show the confidence he demands of others, this will speak for itself. Watch this space.'  

Watch this space indeed. A few lines on, perhaps with caution nibbling away, you rather undo this spirited stance by declaring: 'To the extent that anything can be seen in a chart after the event, finding a signature for helmets would be unremarkable, as would any agreement between astrologers.'  

So first you are telling me I can't do it, and then say that even if I can, it would not be significant. This is called hedging the bets.  

I agree that if your astrology is sufficiently soft-focus you can, with a little goodwill, coax a chart to mouth what you think it ought to be saying. Much depends on how the astrologer has been trained. When I was teaching, I coined the verb 'to mif', meaning to make it fit. I counted it progress when the student could admit that a chart was silent on some point. It is an ever present danger, interpreting data in accordance with one's preconceptions, but may I point out that miffing is not unique to astrology, it is everywhere. In my teaching I have always discouraged soft-focus, and urged attention to specifics, which is why concrete signatures are such useful landmarks.  

But you deny that Kelly's helmets would be an 'unambiguous highly focused test', and say the real test in terms of helmets would be distinguishing Kelly's chart from a control chart. Let us look at this squarely, since it is a stubborn strand in your thinking. Where would the control chart come from? Would it be chosen by somebody? Would it be random? How should we recognise it as a control? Might it accidentally be the chart of someone for whom hard hats could be otherwise significant, perhaps as a construction worker or motorcyclist? How would we know that our control, a few years on, would not develop an interest in combat helmets? I know a man who has a metal plate in his skull, could he be a control?  

More importantly, a signature suggestive of combat helmets could be present in a random chart, but by chance. You will say that in that case it could be present in Kelly's chart by chance. And so it could, but here I want to draw attention to the way astrology seeks its guarantees. There always need to be safeguards, but whereas for you the safeguards are controls - more or less artificial - the safeguards appropriate to astrology consist of multiple confirmations. You may be able to provide metaphors from within your own areas of expertise, instances where units are validated not singly but through combination. You can take a piece of a jigsaw, measure it, weigh it, analyse its surface, but another question is how well it fits into the extended pattern.  

Signatures are never isolates. They will express themselves in multiple ways, at different times within the same life, without losing their essential 'gesture.' Two facts I know about Dean is that he developed a theory in which birth records might have been falsified, and that by an extraordinary coincidence he himself chose to misrepresent his own birth data. These different circumstances spring together as irresistibly as the ends of a chest expander, yet they are not causally related, save through their common astrological denominator, the natal Moon-Neptune opposition across the meridian.  

Would Kelly's chart serve as a control for Dean's chart, and vice versa? Why not? Would the dominant themes of each life and personality be found in both, making them interchangeable? I think not.  

In the helmets exercise the vital term in the equation, namely Kelly's birth data, was missing. I asked Kelly if he would at least tell me his rising sign, which is hardly a security risk since it indicates only the hour of birth, but this 'meaningless' information was not forthcoming either. Without any chart to consult, we played a game of let's pretend. I said, let's suppose that in Kelly's birth chart an astrologer, in his misguided way, might think he has found the likely planetary signature, what would it be? Since the chart has no real significance in Kelly's eyes, there was surely no harm in revealing this purely hypothetical configuration. The exercise had fortuitously become a test of how far astrology's critics understand its nuts and bolts.  

Dangerous ground, of course, because Kelly is astrology's very own Witchfinder General, chairman of the astrology committee of CSICOP (aka the thought police), of which Dean is another diligent member. Putting one's head in the lion's mouth, you might say.  

Curiosity aroused, a friendly genealogist searched the public record for me. Perhaps going to such lengths demonstrates my confidence that what is supposed to happen astrologically generally does happen. My copy of Kelly's birth certificate was certified on 18 June 2001, and although it seems I am not allowed to disclose his date of birth here it does not matter for our present purpose.  

I feel free to comment on this data because it illustrates several points we have been debating. For example, the issue of what comprises the 'whole chart', which seems to excite some critics immoderately. Here the whole chart is not available, only part of it, so like any other astrologer in this situation I have to do the best with what I have. I should like to put in other factors, at my discretion, connected with the hour of birth.  

You say that astrologers would disagree on what they were looking for in Kelly's chart, but that is not true. They would examine the factors most likely to be involved, in view of their known associations. They would certainly look at Mars, planet of things warlike. Mars is also connected with the head, and with iron. As in war, the planet has two forms of expression, an attacking mode and a defensive mode, the latter associated more with Scorpio. The astrologer might reason that helmets also have a defensive connotation, so would not be surprised to find Scorpio well represented in this chart. It turns out that as well as the Sun and two other planets, Mars itself is in this sign.  

Nothing in the chart (or in the universe) exists in isolation, all is interconnected, which is why tests based on isolates are likely to fail. Mars makes a very important connection with Saturn, a parallel of declination. Working together these planets come closest to the military ethos, because Saturn is about discipline, duty, order. Through its association with Capricorn it connects with the idea of hierarchy, a chain of command, and through Aquarius, with comradeship, of esprit de corps.  

Saturn has another association relevant to steel helmets, an encasing function, the creation of an impassible boundary, a monumentally thick skin. Mars and Saturn together are the eminently appropriate signature of armour. Yet another Saturn association is with history, and added to Mars it is appropriate that military history should be an interest.  

The connection between the sign Aries and the head is an astrological commonplace, and could be part of the jigsaw, but without a time of birth we do not know where Aries falls in Kelly's chart. However there is one point in the entire zodiac which singularly represents Aries, namely zero degrees of that sign, the vernal point itself. In this planetary pattern Mars and Saturn stand in exact symmetrical opposition to zero Aries.  

Via the Internet I solicited the birth dates of other collectors of combat helmets, but without success. I should not have expected to find the exact same signature (unless they were born on the same day) but a combination of the same elements.   (see Endnote for late news on this)

However I was pleased to get the date for the introduction of the German  helmet, of which I understand Kelly has a fine collection. The Stahlhelm35 began its career on 25 June 1935. Of course a lot of things happen in one day, but it is interesting to find the Moon in Aries, and to note that Mars and Saturn (armour) are in hard aspect (the 32nd harmonic) and together symmetrically oppose Mercury, a planet connected with the brain.  

I would expect the charts of avid collectors to connect with the Stahlhelm chart, and Kelly's does (appropriately enough) through Mars, as well as in other ways. If you bisect the positions of the Stahlhelm Mars and Kelly's Mars it is the position of his Sun.  

It is something of a mystery why Kelly, well established in his own academic field, contentedly surrounded by his mementos of war, should even bother with astrology, let alone implacably pursue it to its evil lair. After all, most scholars shrug off astrology as rubbish, and leave it at that. So it is natural to speculate why.

The zodiacal degrees 27 Leo-Aquarius are one axis connected with astrology, and so it may be significant that the antiscion of Kelly's Sun falls there. Antiscions, according to you, are supposed to be a point of contention between astrologers, but the truth is simply that some astrologers will go to the trouble of noticing them (they are part of the declination coordinates) and others may not. There is no disagreement, only disinclination. Incidentally, the late Charles Harvey pointed out to me that in Dean's chart this same axis is bracketed by Mars/Saturn, that hard-nosed combination.  

As in the psyche, and indeed in the brain, it is the connections in a chart that count, and in Kelly's planetary setup I detect a siren voice calling in the direction of absolute autonomy, the mood of Henley's poem 'Invictus', with its stirring 'I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.' This arises through a combination of Uranus and Pluto. The poem had unprecedented publicity recently in connection with the execution of Timothy McVeigh, and it is instructive that McVeigh and Henley were both born under a conjunction of Uranus and Pluto, along with other similarities. One more example of how a feature peculiar to the individual always connects with the wider picture.  

I mention this detail of Kelly's chart because the ideal of autonomy might wish to play down outside influences, such as the astrological. The same might apply equally to spiritual influences, and it is pertinent that Kelly has aligned himself with secular humanism. None of this is intended as criticism, merely characterisation.  

A psychological astrologer might view the steel helmets as symbol jargon for a barrier against all those forces associated with the periphery, a sort of armour-plated umbrella. On the other hand, an astrologer who believed in reincarnation, with its implications of unfinished business, might hypothesise a situation where a military commander had suffered grievous defeat through the false advice of soothsayers, and was intent on teaching them a sharp lesson! What we can know for sure is that because of its astrological connections nothing can ever be quite what it seems.  

Testing, testing.

Astrology is everywhere, yet it flourishes without academic endorsement. You say there can never be any scientific credentials because astrology is superstition, and those who believe otherwise are ignorant of the empirical tests that have been applied to it, and which have proved negative. I reply that science has yet to catch up with the kind of knowledge astrology represents, because the approach you advocate seeks to isolate, whereas astrology demonstrates itself through its multiple interconnections.  

You demand details of 'tests' that might be applied to astrology, and already seem to be envisaging an isolating process, preferably matchbox size, with the results as unequivocal as litmus paper. It is perhaps useless to protest that holistic knowledge requires holistic methods of investigation. Defining what belongs to the parts and what belongs to the whole is a problem perennially encountered elsewhere. It is the difference between anatomy, the science of the mortuary slab, and a living physiology.  

Moreover there are sciences where 'tests' can only be applied on the margins, and do not encompass their essential nature. These are spontaneously arising phenomena, or phenomena where the causes are in the past (in the case of astronomy, long past indeed). Where the subject of investigation is after-the-event, meaningful tests may be impossible. Therefore the shopping list in yours of 2 July (6) rather begs the question, in that you assume that the subject matter of astrology is amenable to the tidy tests you have in mind.  

Hitherto such tests have tended to be not tests of astrology at all, but of astrologers, or (even more removed) of those who believe in astrology. The distinction is as clear as that between the science of medicine and the activity of doctors. You should not try to discredit astrology by demanding an impossible perfection from its practitioners. Doctors sometimes differ in their diagnosis and treatment. And yes, to respond to one of your persistent but overplayed objections, you can be sure some have been handed the wrong lab results or X-rays, and chosen a treatment on that mistaken basis - which might, incidentally, have been successful.  

What must be deplorable in your eyes is that celebrity doctors have built their reputation on the testimonials of patients. This must undermine the entire basis of medicine, if we are to believe the stricture you apply to astrology. (See your Additional Comments to 'Are Scientists Undercover Astrologers?')  

In devising tests for astrologers, as distinct from astrology itself, there is one element that might produce more positive results. That is the option to reserve an opinion. For example, I fancy that if I were given a dozen birth charts I could say something both true and particular (i.e. not statements of universal validity) about the 'owners' of a number of them. Maybe only a few. Given the option of accepting or discarding, I should be looking for patterns that I personally recognised. Other astrologers might make a different selection. After all, teasing information from charts is what astrologers do every day. Between us we might even produce observations on all twelve.  

(Astrologers interested in taking up a challenge of this sort should first conduct private pilot tests of their ability to perform creditably. One can only marvel at the breathtaking audacity with which astrologers have agreed to play their violin in public, without rehearsals.)  

It may be that this experiment would be judged as too open-ended, because of the uncertainty of deciding whether or not the statements were true, and whether the quality of those statements made them significant. Doubtless you would want to set up controls, and it would indeed be fascinating to see how well non-astrologers performed against astrologers, handed the same charts, which to them of course would be gibberish. At least the astrologers would be able to take hold of some handle, however insecure you would deem it to be. Minus a handle, using only guesswork, non-astrologers would also be able to say whatever they liked, without restriction - except they should be cautioned against the trap of universal validity.  

As I understand your position, because charts are meaningless they must be interchangeable. If you claim that anything can be read into a chart after the event, the corollary is that anything can be read into a chart before the event. Not only does this not happen, it is physically impossible. Aries is different from (say) Cancer, and one planet can hardly be said to double for any other. It follows that each chart is inevitably producing its own information, regardless of how pertinent that information may be judged. The only question is whether that individual information meets the corresponding case.  

It is issues of this sort which make the last point on your list so important, the necessity for impartial referees. Perhaps there are specialists in the philosophy of science out there who might be induced to give an opinion, among other things, on when controlled experiments are the sole criterion of truth, and on what protocols would be appropriate in an experiment like the above.  

From the sidelines, they would certainly find one of your arguments extraordinary. It is transparent that if any one claim stands out in astrology it is that each Sun sign represents a distinct character-type, in which there is not one feature but a cluster of related features. Therefore the most direct path of research is to try to ascertain whether the cluster of characteristics attributed to (say) Aries tend to be present in the people of that sign, or at least to a significant degree.  

Techniques developed to identify the shared attributes of any group of people must be applicable here, and so it is baffling that in the on-line version of your contribution to Year Zero you seem to be saying it would be impossible to discover what Cancerians as a group have in common. Yet any market researcher, any organiser of focus groups, would be able to suggest tests.  

There is one line of inquiry that might prove particularly useful. Researching the Aries tribe, or the Cancer tribe, is not unlike finding methods for studying national character. Some years ago a study was made into the German national character, or world-view, by inviting Germans to indicate whether they agreed with various proverbs. In the case of astrology, it would  be possible to try out a list of proverbs, axioms and other philosophical statements, on a general population, to see how far they met with the assent of the different Sun signs.  

The sayings need not be random, they could be deliberately chosen to reflect the attributes scattered around the zodiac. It would be puzzling to me personally if the proverb 'Blood is thicker than water' found greater acceptance among Aquarians than Cancerians, or the converse in the case of 'God gave us our relatives, thank God we can choose our friends.'  

Of course, the assumption in this experiment is that the axioms we endorse truly reflect our innate self, although there may be other possibilities. Our conduct may be at variance from what we profess to believe. Axioms may be a sort of memo to ourselves, pointing to what we need to rectify. Or an Aquarian, aware of the ideal of brotherhood, may be noting with regret that in the real world blood still counts.  

Although nothing is straightforward in psychological testing, nevertheless the experiment would be worthwhile. It would need professional expertise, and would need financing. One advantage doctors have over astrologers is that they are backed by well-funded ongoing research. If one thing stands out in your demand for tests, it is that the only tests likely to satisfy your exacting criteria (which I suspect would spiral ever upwards) would call for adequate funding.  

Since astrology is unlikely to attract money for academic research (the more so in these days of peer reviewed funding) it follows that should astrologers feel under any obligation to demonstrate the truth of their contentions to disbelieving academics they must adopt less formal methods, knowing that this recourse will only attract fresh criticism. So on the one hand they are unable to see done what needs to be done, and on the other the little they can do will be regarded as not worth doing.  

All that said, a financial vacuum does not prevent discussion of the problems of validation. Let me modify your requirements slightly so that you now ask for details not of 'tests', with their narrowly specialised implications, but of the methodology for confirming or disconfirming astrology. To the casual reader this may seem a distinction without a difference, except that by enlarging the perspective I can now reply that the methods and principles for demonstrating astrology are identical to the methods and principles which apply in science generally.  

Basically, these involve observation, analysis, replication and prediction.  

Before considering how these fit together, take the simplest test of all. Astrologers deal with charts, and the obvious question is whether a chart yields correct information, or whether comparable information could be obtained from another chart - and indeed, in your terms, every other chart.  

This is a test of astrology per se. Is astrology doing what is claimed for it? It becomes a test of astrologers only to the degree that different doctors may reach different conclusions with the same patient. Just as doctors can gather round the bed to confer, a chart can be analysed and discussed, and tested against the canons of interpretation. Every new generation of astrologers can revisit the chart, to examine again whether it answers to the case, in the same way that data about historical or natural events can be reappraised.  

Our impartial philosophers of science would probably recognise this procedure as one that obtains in other areas of investigation, and they would expect the same standards of coherence and consistency to apply. But you will raise an instant and idiosyncratic objection. You will say that it is being wise after the event, and must thereby be automatically disqualified.  

Well, a trawl of the Web for 'retrospective analysis' produced some 23,000 hits, so not everyone is agreed that consulting the past is a sterile operation. You have done it yourselves, surely. One of your number, Smit, with Dean's approval, investigated cases of violent death. Would positive conclusions be automatically invalidated because the individuals were already dead?  

Everywhere we look, understanding is always retrospective, meaning is always retrospective. Where is it otherwise? Astrology can claim to be an incomparable repository of meaning, which makes its retrospects invaluable. If you insist we remain in a state of collective amnesia you are denying astrology one if its most characteristic functions.  

However, in challenging your assertion that 'anything can be seen in a chart after the event', I want to suggest that in testing the fit between charts and cases we may actually be dealing with the exact opposite of a retrospect, namely a predictive situation.  

In the scientific method phenomena are studied to the point where a prediction can be made that when the same phenomena recur, the same particulars will be found to be present. To see how this applies to birth charts consider the example of President Kennedy. My own primer, Robsons's A Beginners' Guide to Practical Astrology, says of the Sun in the 8th house: 'Extravagant marriage partner. Honour after marriage. Fame at or after death. Danger of death in middle life. If afflicted, violent death.'  

We note in passing that none of these circumstances are causally connected, except through the logic of astrology. This puzzling situation arises again and again in this subject, implying that astrology is coming at reality from an unfamiliar direction and creating different connections, which alone must make it worth a second look.  

The obvious test is to what extent such recorded notes, which are nothing less than predictions of what can be expected from this solar position, applied in Kennedy's case. It is true that his wife's extravagance was a problem for him; that marriage into high Boston society brought a status money alone could not give; that the manner of his dying, rather than his living, placed him among the immortals; and that he did die in middle life.  

There are other connotations with this solar position, mentioned by other writers, again long before Kennedy came on the scene, connected with the traumatic reputation of the 8th house. These would include the father, the patriarch whose ambition drove his sons towards the White House, yet who was paralysed by a stroke in Kennedy's first year as president (he was being cared for by a nurse named Dallas); and the fact that the father's expectations had fallen on Kennedy when the eldest brother was killed (the Sun is in Gemini, the sign connected with siblings). Sun in the 8th in the literary Gemini must relate to the curious prescience of Kennedy's favourite poem, which he read to his bride on their wedding night, Alan Seeger's 'I Have a Rendezvous with Death.'  

Presumably the opinions they put into print reflected how Robson and these other authors would regard Kennedy's chart, had they been commissioned to interpret it at birth. Hence they could not be accused of being wise after the event, and by the same token neither can that charge fairly be levelled at a contemporary astrologer who simply repeats what they would have said.  

In a variety of fields, authorities have recorded observations and defined principles which are open to verification as new cases arise. I fail to see how it should be different for astrology. The instant a confirming case arises you cannot disqualify it because it is now after-the-event.  

Let us not argue about the relative quality of such published observations, some are certainly more insightful than others. Considering the principle alone, it seems to me you must agree that no chart is a blank page into which you can read whatever you like, because it occurs within the context of years of recorded astrological experience.  

As a footnote to the assassination, if Robson and others had applied their published predictive methods to Kennedy's chart they would have noted the return of the Sun (in declination) to the exact same place it held at birth. This is by secondary progression. By converse progression Saturn had arrived at precisely the same declination, a baleful coincidence.  

(It should be added that not everybody with a mid-afternoon birth, placing the Sun in the 8th house, will exhibit the same degree of 'fit' as Kennedy. There are technical reasons for this. For every major earthquake there are many minor quakes, and innumerable tremors.)  

Needless to say, this Sun position is only one of a number of signatures in this chart, each producing its own correlations. The exhaustive study of a single chart in relation to the biographical data seems to me a valid procedure, provided the interpretations are applied consistently. It is open to critics to draw attention to any infringements of astrological best practice. In other words, astrology is either shown to be working, within its limits, or it is not.  

There is another experiment where a case study can be made of a group of people who share some unmistakable attribute, which means that like is being compared with like. Such a group might be the leading fashion designers of the day. Their charts can be expected to have common features related to their profession, but perhaps more significant would be whether the charts reflect the differences between their personalities and approach. By comparing similarities and contrasts, each would be acting as a check on the other, one might almost say a control.  

Personalities apart, the study of world events proceeds from observation to prediction. It boils down to examining the astrological credentials of events, and deducing that when similar events occur in the future, it will be in the context of similar astrological credentials.  

I have already mentioned a study I made of the arrival and progress of BSE, 'mad cow disease'. The relevant charts threw up the same useful marker, namely a stressful accentuation of the bovine sign of Taurus, representative of ruminants generally. The inference was that when events again turned bad for bovines, similar astrological indices would be present. This indeed happened this year (2001) with the dreadful mass slaughter of cattle in the UK, in response to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which apparently I am not allowed to cite as evidence because they are again deemed to be observations after-the-event.  

Well, it is not after-the-event to predict that when bovines are again making sombre news it will be in connection with similar astrological indices. But there is a subtlety here which both astrologers and their critics may easily overlook. The terms stated above are the only terms strictly required for scientific prediction. Take a comparable case. From past data seismologists know that when the next earthquake occurs, its elements will essentially correspond with what they have learnt about earthquakes. They have arrived at a consistency of data for the phenomena which allows this limited prediction to be made with confidence.  

But, note carefully, it is not regarded as a failure of seismology that predictions are not regularly being made about the when and where of future earthquakes. Cynics do not shrug off those carefully accumulated observations with, 'Well, if they're so clever why don't they tell us when San Francisco is next going to be hit?'  

Astrologers themselves tend to think predictions must be made out of a clear blue sky, startling everybody with their accuracy, but the confirming or disconfirming predictions required by science are more prosaic.  

You may argue that if the astrological indices found to be associated with certain phenomena are scheduled to recur next month, or next year, then of course it must be possible to take that extra speculative step and predict a recurrence of the same phenomena. Well, the possibility will be there, and astrologers might even venture an opinion on probabilities. But there is a technical question to consider when weighing such probabilities. To take the example given above, a Taurus accentuation can signify a range of things besides ruminants. The sign is linked to money, resources, profit, capital (the term originally applied to the head of cattle one possessed). It is linked to the land, farming, husbandry, food, the countryside. One might summarise it as the material basis of life. All these issues are packaged together in the astrological reality.  

There were two key astrological charts implicated in the slaughter, the winter solstice and an eclipse. Both had Taurus on an angle, in symmetrical opposition with Mars and Pluto, perhaps the most brutal of all planetary combinations. It happens that all the above mentioned associations of Taurus made their appearance in the melancholy events of the spring of 2001. The cull was nothing to do with animal welfare (in India sick cows are nursed back to health), nor with any danger of transmission to humans, but was everything to do with the profits from meat marketing. Critical commentators allied it to the worship of the golden calf. The wider issues in the public mind concerned modern agricultural practices, responsible animal husbandry, care for the countryside, and ultimately how rapacious man relates to planet earth. Under the harsh spotlight, government reforms in these areas were promised.  

So from the standpoint of prediction the ruthless pursuit of profit could have appeared in some other context, which did not involve cattle at all. The cosmic criteria would still have been met, but the astrologer whose forecast specifically mentioned cows would be judged to have failed.  

The fact that each astrological factor simultaneously stands for a range of possibilities, albeit interconnected, is a hurdle for any astrologer hoping to make a name as a prophet. However there is a context in which this seeming disadvantage can be turned to positive advantage. This is the situation where humans decide to work proactively within the cosmic parameters, in pursuit of their own ends, or the good of the community. The multiple possibilities now offer the flexibility to choose the ingredients best adapted to their purpose. Here the prediction, or bet if you like, is that the right effort at the right time is likely to prove effective.    

When the latest foot-and-mouth crisis hit Britain it was reported that, shortly before, a phial of the virus had been stolen from a government research laboratory. It was also revealed that during Hitler's war the Nazis had studied the possibility of spreading the disease among Britain's livestock. Let us imagine that ill-intentioned individuals have access to astrology. Setting oracular pronouncements firmly aside, the question might then be what are the probabilities of creating havoc at this place, at this time? Given the expertise, and working with the grain of events, so to speak, it is possible to maximise the chances of achieving the desired ends. For all I know, this is already happening in some circles.  

When it comes to validating astrology the ultimate proof may turn out to be strictly pragmatic. Knowing the cosmic situation 'up there' you consciously create the right conditions 'down here', and find that the tiniest efforts meet with a disproportionately augmented result. Here we enter the realm of experimentation. My modest efforts in this direction, on my own behalf and that of others, have supported this hypothesis, and of course it is open to everyone to satisfy themselves at first hand. They may be gratified to discover that, in a competitive world, this despised science gives them the competitive edge.  


On the day this was being posted, I was glad to receive a positive reply from another helmet collector, whose chart also provides a meaningful mosaic. Michele Tagliavini wrote that he was born 12 March 1969, in Bologna, Italy, 'apparently around noon.' In his chart we find Saturn in Aries, hard hats, conjunction Venus, the bonding planet. For specifically combat helmets one expects some Mars involvement, but there is no angular contact between Saturn and Mars. There is already an inbuilt connection, of course, because Saturn occupies a Mars-ruled sign. The Mars/Saturn midpoint falls exactly semisquare zero Aries, recalling that in Kelly's chart it is in opposition. This is even more relevant because zero Aries is the place of the Moon's node. The Mars/Saturn midpoint also coincides with the Sun/Moon axis, of which Charles Harvey (devoting a whole chapter to it in Working with Astrology) remarks: 'The importance of this midpoint cannot be overstressed.'

Dennis Elwell, 2001