Dr. William M. Davidson on ‘Critics of Astrology’ in 1936
– Sample Extracts from Dr. Davidson’s book:
‘Astrology, Science or Superstition?’
Published by Human Science Research Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill., 1936
– 30 November, 2010
This short and very scarce early book by one of the leading figures in 20th century medical astrology is now an interesting historical document within the tradition of scientific arguments and speculations concerning astrology. Its title was copied some 46 years later in 1982 by Professor H. Eysenck, whose completely different work of the same name is a lot better known today.
One thing that today’s astrologers will immediately notice is the total absence of talk of the astrological planets etc. being only symbols, and of synchronicity as an acausal principle relevant to astrology, and also his total rejection of a myth-centred approach to astrology. These concepts, popular among astrologers today, were not current ideas in the 1930s, and emerged into prominence only in the late 20th century, although talk of planetary symbolism in more general terms had been around for a lot longer. Dr. Davidson instead propounds a perspective that is entirely compatible with conventional scientific theory.
From Dr. Davidson’s introduction:
‘No attempt has been made to present a record of the intellectuals of all ages who have openly avowed their belief in the subject; rather has the attempt been made to demonstrate the truth of the subject by an appeal to scientific facts, to simple experiments within the range of testing by anyone who will take the trouble, and by producing a few well authenticated evidences of what Astrology has actually done to justify such a belief.
The incalculable value of Astrology in bringing a deeper understanding of the Great Mysteries of Life, its inestimable worth to the individual as a guide to character formation and vocational guidance, the immense light it throws on peculiar problems of health, to say nothing of its priceless value on resolving the general problems and difficulties of life, must be, I hope, sufficient cause for offering even this inadequate apologia for what will ultimately be shown to be the master-key to all laws – the mysterious principle which has so far evaded the perception of the acutest minds of our scientists – Astrology.’
From Chapter I: ‘The Critics of Astrology’:
‘Firstly, be it noted, in the whole history of Astrology there does not exist one single attack or criticism worthy of the name. There is not a single record of any individual having condemned Astrology who has shown the slightest degree of familiarity with the subject. Its opponents have invariably been hack-writers whose sole preparation has all too evidently been a rapid scrutiny of a few well known (and easily refuted) “objections”. It is a sad commentary upon the arrogance of some of these gentry who apparently think they can dispose, with a few airy persiflages, of the carefully gleaned facts which astrologers have sometimes patiently taken a lifetime to confirm.
The chief types of “objection” which the critics direct against a belief in Astrology are four in mumber. Let us examine them separately.
“An Exploded (?) Science”
The most common criticism of Astrology is that it is an “exploded” science. This argument seems to have been derived from the cheaper encyclopedias where it was deduced from the fact that, in some manner, the coming of the Copernican system of astronomy (regarding the Sun as the center) gave the Ptolemaic system (regarding the earth as the center) its death-blow, and since Astrologers still use the geocentric (earth as a center) system then, ipso facto, their beliefs must also have received a death-blow.
This is nothing but the sheerest nonsense. The modern astrologer is as familiar as is his astronomer brother with the heliocentric concept of the solar system. He consciously makes his calculations with the earth as the center for the same reason that the astronomers themselves make their calculatioons with the earth as the center, for the very good reason that that is the viewpoint from which we see the solar system as well as the whole cosmos. When anyone tells you Astrology is an exploded science ask them who set off the bomb and where it exploded. As a zealous searcher of truth myself I am most anxious to know. So far from there ever having been any well informed logical attack on Astrology, history is replete with many instances of individuals having studied Astrology with the avowed object of refuting it and who, instead, have ended up as enthusiastic exponents of it.
“Signs of the Zodiac vs Constellations”
The second stock argument which usually emanates from astronomers and which has been reiterated as a hardy annual constantly of late is that Astrologers do not know that the “signs of the zodiac have moved away from the Constellations and that Astrologers are therefore unaware of the true positions of the planets. This is of course quite untrue for astrological text-books are full of references to this fact. Indeed in the Higher Astrology a great deal of significance is accorded to the Precessional Cycle of about 25,000 years which involves this very shift of the signs through the constellations. The trotting forth of this argument therefore at once reveals that the critic is quite unfamiliar with Astrology.
Rather is the accusation of ignorance directable toward the astronomer because he seems quite unable to determine the exact point where the constellation begins. In a recent article in a journal of popular psychology the would-be critic of Astrology revealed his ignorance not only of astroloigy but also of astronomy by arbitrarily referring to the constellations and the signs in confusion as though they were one and the same.
So whenever the critic brings forth this “terminological inexactitude” you can safely infer that he does not know what he is talking about and is not sincerely seeking to know the truth but endeavoring merely to exhibit his “learning”.
The tragedy of this criticism is that not only is it entirely untrue but the practice of the astrologer in using the “signs” of the zodiac (which do differ in position from the constellations of the same name) is more justifiable than he himself knows for he is thereby making use of certain very subtle forces of nature which the scientist does not even suspect exist. This concerns too technical a matter to be gone into in this brief treatise, but suffice it to say that it is releated to the mysteries of sympathetic vibration.’
“Are the Planets Inert?”
The third argument usually adduced against astrology is that the planets are merely dead lumps of clay and can have no possible radiation capable of influencing human life and destiny. These critics concede that the fixed stars, having a light of their own, generated by the tremendous incandescence of their composition, might possibly radiate some kind of energy, but since the planets merely reflect the light of the Sun, having none of their own, the idea of their radiation-influence is an absurdity.
Such an attitude is absolutely unscientific – it is borne of the arrogant belief that there is no power in the universe with which the critic is not acquainted. Was there not a time when scientific men were unaware o the existence of cosmic rays? No truly scientific man will ever say “it cannot be;” it will be found that the more learned the individual the more prone he is to say “It may be so, I do not know”.
The astronomer can never discover planetary radiations of the order of those which astrologers believe influence human character and destiny for the simple reason that they are of frequencies far away above those capable of being recorded by the most sensitive instruments extant. Think you that if you turned the body of a dead man over to an anatomist he could, even with his most minute dissections and search, discover the soul of the departed tenant of that body? Does the surgeon, operating upon the living body – delving often into its minutest recesses – ever catch the faintest sight of the idiosyncracies and individual characteristics of that mysterious being who functions in that body? Assuredly not – and equally so that astronomer, who is merely the anatomist of the solar system is not concerned with its “psyche” or soul, can never by his particular methods discover the in-dwelling intelligence of the planet. As a matter of fact astrology is the legitimate study of the psychologist, and one day that science, which dares hardly aspire to be a science, great as its contribution has already been to the world, will find a key to many of its mysteries in that Cinderella of the sciences – Astrology.
A courageous soul is he who dares to say that there are no forces passing from one planet to another merely because modern science has not discovered them. Rather let the scientific man explain the more obvious evidences of interplanetary force. For example in the daily rise and fall of the tides and the synchronization of the meridianal passage of the Moon we have causal relationship empirically established but not explained. There is not a physicist living who can explain the nature of gravity acting even a few feet distant from the earth; there is not an astronomer breathing who can tell us HOW the Moon heaves the ocean on the bosom of Mother Earth. Why then regard the astrologer as deluded when, by observations just as accurate as those which link the Moon to the tides, he establishes a relationship between certain positions of the solar system and certain happenings and characteristics – even though he cannot usually explain the mechanism whereby these things are accomplished?
But science herself is rapidly realising that there are other forces than those of gravity passing from planet to planet. Some of these may well ultimately prove to have a subtle influence over human brain cells and thus be in part responsible for characteristics not accountable for by environment or heredity and for those strange quirks of human action which so frequently constitute destiny. Perhaps it will be found that when the poet said one cannot breathe without disturbing the balance of the Milky Way he was but seeking to imply that there is indeed a solidarity of the solar system and that the “psyche” of the planet is linked to the “psyche” of the individual no less than is his physical body related to the physical matter of the furthermost star.
No, the contention that there are forces passing from one planet to another is not so unscientific as some of the critics of Astrology would have us believe. Thus, Dr. Bauer, a great astro-physicist, has declared “that there are other bonds of union than those of gravitation, electrical in their nature, between the earth and the sister planets and our parent Sun, by means of which cosmic forces responsible for electric and magnetic effects are conveyed, is becoming increasingly evident”.
Consider also the remarks of the late Dr. Michael I. Pupin, professor emeritus of electro-mechanics, Columbia University. “Every star in heaven communicates with every other star and with man, by sending out electrical waves… This method of communication is a wireless method. As soon as the waves from the star have reached the eye, they are guided to the brain by a network of nerves… It is much simpler to determine how electrical waves pass through space than to undertand how their influence is transmitted over the nerves to the central brain, where the message is finally deciphered”.
Dr. W. J. Humphries, physicist of the U.S. Weather Bureau, speaking before the American Geophysical Union, said: “The cosmic rays, whose exact nature is not yet known, bombard the earth from outer space. Undoubtedly there are other radiations which we have not yet tracked down.”
In 1911 Professor Arther Schuster wrote on “The Influence of Planets on the Formation of Sun spots.” Some fifty or sixty years ago the late Professor Jevons, well-known English political economist, demonstrated a relationship between sun spots and the state of the cottom market. He pointed out that such periods were times of low tide Nile years, which coincided with the poor cotton crops and consequently dislocation of the Lancashire cotton industry. In all seriousness he proposed what he called a sun spot sliding-scale of wages for workers in the cotton industry based upon this phenomenon. The Journal of the Harvard School of Business recently presented a learned treatise on the correlation of sun spot periodicity and certain perturbations of trade – just one more evidence of the inevitable approach to astrological principles.
Professor Moore of Columbia University published a book a few years ago based upon an idea which was as completely astrological as anything could be. He most carefully correlated the cycles of the commodity markets with the cycles of the weather, and showed that this cycle, which was about eight years, paralleled the cycle of Venus.
Therefore the contention that planetary action at a distance is a reality is one which is finding increasing acceptance amongst the advanced thinkers of the race who have courage enough to throw off the hampering concepts of materialism.
Modern science is finding it increasingly necessary to accept ancient science and to retract its denials.
When science says that a belief in astrological influence over life (and destiny) is an absurd idea, it abrogates to itself the conceit of complete knowledge, which it does not possess. Who knows what mysteries are locked up in the various rays of the solar system which are projected on to the earth?’
The fourth usual argument offered against a belief in Astrology is that the qualities of the planets are merely the mythical powers of the Gods of the same name which names the ancient Greeks pinned so conveniently upon the planets. The critics who extend this argument are entirely ignorant of the antiquity of Astrology, for as a matter of fact, the very reverse was the case – the Gods were named after the planets which conferred upon them the already ascertained Planetary powers. Thus, Minerva was the similitude of Mercury, – knowledge, et cetera. But whether this be true or not, the fact remains that the powers usually ascribed to the planets are exactly those confirmed by the independent observations of hundreds of thousands of students of this ancient art. Mars always begets the war-like energies of his mythological compatriot, whether it be in the human body where it stirs up the energy of fever, or in the soul where it stirs up the energy of righteous anger, or in the stock market where it begets the fury of excited trading, or in the realm of meteorology where its energies bring about those molecular disturbances we call heat – there is never any mistaking its characteristic quality.
But the qualities of the planets were not discovered by the ancient Greeks. Indeed so remote is the inception of Astrology that its origin is lost in the mists of antiquity. There is no record of a time wherein some evidence of planetary belief did not persist. In the British Museum there is a tablet dating back to the time of King Sargon of Egypt 3,600 B.C., whereon is inscribed the old familiar signs of the zodiac and the planets which “rule” them. In the vastly more anterior civilizations of South America, the Mayan, we still find the familiar zodiac. And while such antiquity does not by any means demonstrate the verity of Astrology, it has a significance which is usually overlooked by the critic. For is it not strange that such knowledge should exist among relatively primitive peoples, untutored in the great science of astronomy – yet evidently possessed of some strange knowledge of planetary relationships.
Thus it will be seen that the objections raised by the critics are always of theoretic interest and never touch upon the actualities of Astrology. The critics of Astrology in short display a collossal ignorance of the subject. Whenever they will take our principles and rules, subject them to careful analytical scrutiny and offer us chapter and verse in refutation we shall be prepared to listen to them. Until then the critics of Astrology had better hold their peace lest they merit the rebuke which Newton (the great astronomer who believed in Astrology despite the obscuration of modern scientists) administered to Halley when he objected to Newton’s astrology, “I have studied these things – you have not.”‘