Gauquelin, the Skeptics, and the Astrologers

by Patrick Jerome

In 1957, Michel Gauquelin published his first statistical study of astrology.  Using the horoscopes of thousands of French professionals (including athletes, actors, doctors, and scientists), he discovered clear correlations between planetary placement and profession.  He then repeated his study and got identical results using the horoscopes of German, Italian, Belgian, and Dutch professionals.  Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s he continued to do studies and get statistically significant results.

Gauquelin was on the verge of proving astrology, which is a very big thing, because proving astrology is tantamount to proving the existence of God.

Members of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) understood this and were obsessed with proving Gauquelin wrong.  Founded in April 1976 by 25 “humanist” university professors  and one magician—the Amazing Randi—the CSICOP’s stated goal was “to not reject on a priori grounds . . . any or all such claims, but rather to examine them openly, completely, objectively, and carefully.”[1]

Sounds good, right?  It sounds downright noble.  And the weird thing is, it’s exactly what Gauquelin had been doing for twenty years—testing astrology using the tools of science—but the real goal of CSICOP was not to investigate the paranormal but to debunk it, and Gauquelin was Public Enemy Number 1.

What is interesting is that Gauquelin himself had begun his work as a skeptic.  Although he had loved astrology as a boy, making so many predictions that his classmates called him “Nostradamus,” when he entered the Sorbonne he became ashamed of those interests and staged elaborate tricks to make believers look like fools.  He once, for example, put an ad in a newspaper, “Get a free horoscope” and then asked those who responded to rate how accurate the reading was.  The overwhelming majority responded “very accurate” or “extremely accurate” when, in fact, every single person had received the same print-out, which was based on the birth information of a serial killer.

It’s a prank totally in the spirit of CSICOP, and when Gauquelin began gathering birth data, his goal was not to prove astrology, but to “bury the idiots once and for all.”

But unlike the leaders of the CSICOP, Gauquelin really did want to examine the facts “openly, completely, objectively, and carefully,” and even after he got results that contradicted his hypothesis, he had the courage to publish them.  It must be made clear, however, that Gauquelin did not prove the brand of astrology that you see in the newspapers or astrology texts.  He did not prove the validity of signs, houses, aspects, or other traditional techniques.  Indeed, his tests of those factors were negative.  What he proved was that in the charts of prominent professionals, certain planets had either just risen or just culminated with the planets depending upon which profession was being studied, and this is where his findings did validate tradition, because militant Mars was prominent in the charts of athletes and military leaders, jovial Jupiter was prominent in the charts of actors and politicians, and sober Saturn was prominent in the charts of doctors and scientists, and the profound congruence of all this was one reason why the CSICOP was so intent upon crushing him.  In the mid-1970’s, they issued Gauquelin a “challenge.” [2]

The Challenge was a classic control experiment: isolate the sports ability variable by comparing the Mars horoscopic positions of the champions Gauquelin had already collected vs. the Mars horoscopic positions of all other persons (non-sports champions)—the “control” group—born about the same time and place as the champions. If the control group exhibits the same hit-rate (a “hit”: being born when Mars resides in celestial Sector 1 or 4) as the champions, 22 percent, then clearly sports ability has nothing to do with the Mars Effect, which is thus revealed as merely a by-product of purely natural influences. This is what the top CSICOPs expected to happen. [3]

But it didn’t happen.  The results for the CSICOP-collected control group were exactly as Gauquelin had predicted: 17%.  CSICOP had “examined the facts . . . openly, completely, objectively, and carefully,” and Gauquelin had won, but instead of admitting this, CSICOP suppressed the data.  Before the experiment, confident that they would win, CSICOP had stated that all results would be published in The Skeptical Inquirer, but once it was clear that they had lost, they pretended that the challenge had never happened. As the Amazing Randi bluntly put it, “We can’t let the mystics rejoice.”  Committee member Dennis Rawlins was so disgusted that he published a scathing exposé in Fate Magazine.[4]

But it wasn’t just the skeptics who hated Gauquelin.  Many prominent astrologers—most notably Dane Rudyar—also hated him, because although Gauquelin proved a new kind of astrology—a “neo-astrology”—all tests of traditional astrology were negative, and Rudyar, who had spent most of his adult life expounding on the “deeper meaning” of signs, houses, elements, and his own statistically meaningless creation, the lunation cycle, was too set-in-his-ways to change.

Rudyar, in short, was just as stubbornly wrong-headed as the skeptics, but it was worse in a way, because at least the skeptics grasped the implications of Gauquelin’s findings:

Proving astrology is tantamount to proving the existence of God

The skeptics didn’t want God to exist, which is why they attacked Gauquelin so ferociously, but what Rudyar failed to grasp was that astrology had won.  It wasn’t his brand of astrology, but it had won, which meant that astrologers were under a moral obligation to restructure their tenets taking the new information into account.  That’s how science works.  You have a hypothesis, you do an experiment, and you adjust your description of reality based on the results of the experiment, but astrology didn’t do this.  There was no adjustment.  Gauquelin had proven a certain kind of astrology, but the vast majority of astrologers continued to practice the old, discredited kind.

And it wasn’t just old school apologists like Rudyar.  It was everyone.  Even the great scholar Robert Hand, the “Francis Bacon of astrology,” who had written that Gauquelin’s findings are “one of the strongest threats to mechanist-materialism in existence” continued to use interpretations that fly in the face of reality.  Here is Hand’s description of the 12th house:

The Twelfth House [signifies]. . . things like “self-undoing,” imprisonment, secrets in general, secret enemies, seclusion and generally being withdrawn from the world, and it is usually regarded as being one of the worst houses in the chart.[i]

But anyone familiar with Gauquelin knows that the 12th house (along with the 9th), is the strongest placement in a horoscope, not the weakest.  Yet Robert Hand, who has read Gauquelin and understands its mammoth implications, still can’t shake the lure of tradition.

And he isn’t alone.  Here’s what four modern astrologers, from four different websites, have written about Mars in the 12th house:

DANA GERHART:  People with a 12th house Mars often have difficulty going after what they want. [ii]

THE ASTROLOGY PLACE: [Mars in 12th house people] find asserting themselves very difficult . . . The desire to put themselves first is lacking. . . . hide from confrontation . . . no reaction to conflict  . . .

ASTRO CHERRY: take all precaution to avoid confrontation . . . unresponsive during conflict . . . experience trouble with force and assertion . . . lack the “me-first” desire[iii]

CAFÉ ASTROLOGY: Energy stifled . . . afraid to assert themselves . . . defeated before they start [iv]

If it sounds like these writers are imitating each other, it’s probably because they are, but they aren’t just imitating each other, they are imitating the ideas of pretty much every astrologer in history, from Ptolemy to Dane Rudyar.

And they couldn’t be more wrong.

In addition to his professional studies, Gauquelin did a series of keyword studies, with the goal of establishing a link between professional success and temperament.  Here are the results for 9th and 12th house Mars:

Professions showing High: Athletes, Military officers, Doctors, Businessmen

Professions showing Low:  Artists, writers, musicians.

Related keywords:  Active, ardent, belligerent, brave, combative, daring, dynamic, energetic, fearless, fighting, lively, offensive, reckless, spontaneous, strong-willed, stormy, tireless, tough, valiant, and full of vitality . . .

Think about it: the most aggressive professions show rates above chance and the gentlest professions show rates below chance—exactly the opposite of what tradition says—and the keywords bring the point home.  Here are the results in a schematic:

Keywords for 12th House Mars

Gauquelin findings Astrological tradition
Active, ardent, dynamic, energetic Energy stifled
Daring, Combative Hide from confrontation
Strong-willed Lack the me-first desire

The two lists could not be more opposite.  It’s like a car company whose Research and Development team has invented a solar car made entirely from hemp, but the sales department keeps pushing metal gas-guzzlers.  Astrologers should be using the Gauquelin data and forsaking outmoded techniques—it’s the only way astrology can move forward—and it’s frustrating to see even great astrologers give such abominable interpretations, but in all fairness there are good reasons for this.

1. Astrologers see mainly people with problems. It is often asked, “How can astrologers be so stupid?  Don’t they have any powers of perception?  How can they take the most aggressive aspect and say it’s a symbol of passivity?”  First of all, it must be understood that most astrologers are counselors, most of their clients are unhappy, and unhappy people are generally unhappy because they can’t express their true selves.  So, it’s quite possible that many Gauquelin Mars people do have “stifled energy” and are lacking in a “me-first attitude,” but it’s not because they have a 12th house Mars — it’s because they’re not expressing their 12th house Mars, and it’s the astrologer’s job to help them find their inner warrior.

2. Astrology offers a psychologically satisfying view of human nature. Traditional astrology is fun, it’s elegant, it’s visionary, it’s rich with symbolism, it offers a complete view of human nature; it draws on traditions that go back thousands of years, and once you’ve learned the symbols, you can apply them in an infinite number of ways.  What’s more, you can read astrology books, attend astrology conferences, talk shop with other astrologers, and become part of an interesting new world.  Astrologers are nice people.  They’re fun to be around.  And once you’ve experienced the brotherhood, it’s difficult to let it go.

3. The Gauquelin data is not presented in an accessible way. Astrologers want to read charts, and when they encounter something new, they immediately seek ways to apply it but that wasn’t Gauquelin’s orientation.  He presented his findings in the language of science.  He could never have defeated the skeptics if he talked like Dane Rudyar, but although it’s nice to know that there are a lot of athletes with Gauquelin Mars, what possible use is that information to a client who is overweight, hates sports, and has just had a knee operation?  Yes, Gauquelin’s findings are inspiring, but they are not useful.  There are many intelligent astrologers who would welcome interpretations based on Gauquelin if they existed.

Astrology is not a science.  It could be.  It should be.  It can be studied in the same way sociology and psychology are studied, but it’s much more significant than sociology or psychology, because the implications are so much greater.  Sociology and psychology involve the study of groups within the world, but if astrology is true, it means that human life is not limited to the physical world.  We aren’t just a conglomeration of atoms and molecules, we are spiritual beings influenced by the stars, and looking at charts, if we look correctly, is like looking at God’s plan for the creation.  But we must look correctly.  When tradition is wrong, we must discard tradition without regret, and when we get a glimpse of the truth, as Gauquelin did, we must dig like badgers to get to the bottom of it.  The Gauquelin data is not the final answer.  But we must stop dispensing interpretations that fly in the face of the facts.  It’s not just thick-headed; it’s counter-evolutionary.  It’s a failure to acknowledge our role in the creation.



[2] One science professor, upon evaluating Gauquelin’s “Mars factor,” was heard to remark, “He has certainly proved his point, but I wish it were Venus.”  He meant this: The statistical validity of the Gauquelin data although certainly compelling, represents only half its power.  The other half comes from its eerie resonance with ancient symbolism—not the symbolism of the houses (which has been categorically refuted) but of the planets. Indeed, the data are making two statements: one, that astrology is statistically valid; and two, that those statistics are in accord with symbols that have been in use since before the birth of Christ.  Gauquelin’s astrology is certainly modern, but it has echoes of the ancient, which makes it that much scarier to the skeptics.


[4] It’s weird how history becomes distorted—and it makes you wonder who is doing the distorting—because when I looked up Dennis Rawlins on Wikipedia, his brief write-up contained this sentence: “In 1976, as the only astronomer on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, he looked into and debunked the so-called Mars effect.”  This is, in fact, the exact opposite of what happened.  Rawlins did not debunk the Mars effect, he upheld it and exposed the hypocrisy of the CSICOP members who pressured him to lie.  Rawlins tells the story in great detail in “starBaby,” which is listed in the bibliography of the Wikipedia article, although the Wikipedia author clearly never read it, or, if he did, he chose to ignore it.  Such blatant distortions can easily lead one to a paranoid world view.  As Rawlins wrote in “starBaby:” “I USED to believe it was simply a figment of the National Enquirer’s  weekly imagination that the Science Establishment would cover up evidence for the occult. But that was in the era B.C. — Before the Committee.  I refer to the “Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal” (CSICOP), of which I am a co-founder and on whose ruling Executive Council (generally called the Council) I served for some years.”







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