Misunderstandings, Misrepresentations
Frequently Asked Questions
& Frequently Voiced Objections

About the Gauquelin Planetary Effects

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Objection: Gauquelin set out to “disprove” astrology, and then discovered his planetary effects.

Answer: Exactly the opposite. Gauquelin had an avid interest in astrology as a young man, which he details in various books (most particularly in Neo-Astrology, a Copernican Revolution). Because of the derision he met with from some, and inspired by the work of astrological statisticians such as Karl Ernst Krafft and Paul Choisnard, he set out to prove astrology had a real basis in fact, beginning a systematic study of it in 1949 through the use of professional directories and other biographical sources, and aided by the public status of birth information in France. However, by the time he wrote his first book, L'Influence des Astres (1955), he was increasingly critical of astrology, since he had discovered flaws in the work of his predecessors and had failed to demonstrate many of astrology's basic tenets (e.g. aspects and signs). Because of this, he tried for many years, beginning with that book, to separate his “new” findings from their astrological origins. By the 1970s, he had begun to change his mind, and by the end of his life (for which, again, see Neo-Astrology) he had accepted the fact that his findings were astrological, though he remained critical of modern astrology, due to the reluctance of astrologers to change and grow when faced with new information.

Objection: These “effects” only seem to show up when the Gauquelins are involved in the experiments. No one has replicated them independently.

Answer: Not true. First of all, Suitbert Ertel and Arno Müller, working separately or together, have replicated findings including a study of members of the Académie de Médecine (done entirely after Michel Gauquelin's death), Italian writers and German physicians. Secondly, data gathered by three skeptic groups on athletes shows the Mars effect as specified by Gauquelin (part of a complex story, so see the "Mars effect" chronology for further elaboration). Though some members of organized skeptic groups still contend at least two of these studies failed to support Gauquelin, a growing number accept the Mars effect, as a genuine anomaly (i.e., not due to simple explanations such as bad statistics or data manipulation), while rejecting any “astrological” explanation.

Objection: It is easy to find significant correlations. If you do a lot of random studies, a few will be “significant,” but this doesn't mean anything.

Answer: True in general, but this doesn't apply to the Gauquelins' work on planetary effects for successful professionals. Significant results involving 5 planets and 11 professions first found in French data were then replicated by the Gauquelins with data from other European countries and the U.S. Several of their findings have also been replicated independently by others. The hypotheses derived from these findings are very specific in stating the conditions under which these effects can be demonstrated, and the overall findings themselves show unique structured relationships between the five planets for which results have been found to date. There is nothing random or scattered about the Gauquelin planetary effects.

Objection: Gauquelin's findings are due to biased sampling.

Answer: Neither Gauquelin (or the Gauquelins, to be more precise, since much of the Gauquelin work was done jointly by Michel and Francoise) nor his prejudices in handling his data can be considered as the "explanation" for the Gauquelin findings with regard to planets and profession, since, as pointed out above, these planetary effects have been replicated independently by others. Michel Gauquelin's sampling biases and how they affected his treatment of data and his results have been well-documented. In fact, the most exhaustive study of his sampling practices to date, by Suitbert Ertel in 1988, showed that while Gauquelin's biases may have tended to enhance the Mars effect for sports champions, this was only true for experiments in which athletes he considered eminent were looked at as a group. The clearest demonstration of the Mars effect is seen in Ertel's ranking of Gauquelin's athletes according to the number of volumes from a fixed set of sports references in which each is mentioned, and Gauquelin's bias actually tends to mask the effect when the data is looked at in this way. When this bias is corrected for by ranking all of Gauquelin's athletes together (including those Gauquelin considered champions and those he considered less accomplished), the upward trend from those with fewer citations to those with more is even more significant than for Gauquelin's "best" group alone. What this means is that while Gauquelin's biases may have affected the outcome in certain situations, they did not (in fact, could not) affect the outcome in all situations. The same is true for skeptic groups. While two of the three skeptic studies on the Mars effect are demonstrably biased in emphasizing lower-rank athletes and show average to low amounts of Mars in the places where Gauquelin said these figures should be high, as in the case of Gauquelin, the skeptic data shows a significant upward trend when ranked by citation counts. In other words, the Mars-effect bias of Gauquelin and the anti-Mars-effect bias of the skeptics affects the outcome most for any specific sample of athletes as a group. Ertel's citation-count method is independent of sampling decisions made by either Gauquelin or his critics (it works best when all available data is used) and shows the same results for all cases. Sampling decisions made by Gauquelin's critics in most cases seem to have been affected by a preference for lower-eminence athletes, but also may have been influenced by prior knowledge of Mars positions during the sampling process (this latter was the main source of Gauquelin's problems with his data - for a consideration of how this problem affected both sides of the Mars-effect question, see Ertel and Irving's "Biased Data Selection in Mars Effect Research"). The real truth of the matter is that there is data-handling bias on both sides of the line, and overall it does not affect the fundamental findings relating to planetary effects.

Objection: Gauquelin's positive findings are "not astrological," and in fact run counter to what astrological tradition might lead us to expect.

Answer: Gauquelin's findings clearly demonstrate several fundamental astrological principles:

1. The centrality of the planets. From Margaret Hone's Modern Textbook of Astrology: "The planets are to be studied first of all, because they are the centre and core of astrological tradition." The ancients were perhaps more specific about just how planets were the "core," but modern astrologers say essentially the same, if only sotto voce under the rattle and din made by the clash of abstruse parts, nouveau planets and esoteric points. As Geoffrey Dean and Arthur Mather note in Recent Advances in Natal Astrology: "Without planets there is no astrology...."

2. The principle of specific action. Even in the most arcane astrologies, the planets are differentiated in a distinct way from each other: Mars is active and aggressive, Venus is charming and agreeable, and so on. Consider this, continuing the quotation above from Recent Advances: "...In contrast to virtually all other astrological concepts there is generally no fundamental disagreement about what each planet represents...." p. 215.

3. The doctrine of angularity. Again from Margaret Hone: "The strength of Angularity is better expressed by saying that the planets are undoubtedly strong when they are close to one of the angles, especially to the Ascendant or Midheaven, irrespective of which side of these they may be on." The same doctrine of angularity is central to the Western sidereal astrology of Cyril Fagan, who began an effort to restore a kind of proto-classical, pre-Greek astrology several years prior to Michel Gauquelin's first publication of his findings. Consider this, again from Recent Advances: "Angularity is one of the oldest, most fundamental and least disputed of astrological concepts...." p. 371

Note that Hone defines angularity in a way that makes it independent from houses and that she also considers it to encompass a zone on both sides of the Ascendant and the Midheaven, a point which can be found in astrological writings as early as Vettius Valens.

While there are certainly differences between elements of Gauquelin's findings and what one sees in astrological textbooks, criticism that considers only the differences and ignores the similarities often proceeds from a viewpoint which requires that any study of astrological variables must have an "all or nothing," "up or down" result, such that a negative result "disproves" astrology, while a positive result can only be wrong - due to bad methodology at best, and fraud at worst. On the contrary, if there are any correct observations contained in astrological tradition, when a well-constructed research program such as the Gauquelins' is used to investigate that tradition it is more likely to show that some things are true, some are not and some are true but require modification.

This latter is the case with angularity, as aside from the zone within 10 degrees or so on either side of the angles that astrologers seem to agree on, there has been less agreement on the shape and scope of the "power zones" outside of that, with Valens for example extending them counterclockwise (i.e., into the 1st, 10th, etc.). However, Valens had only 100 or so birth charts at his disposal and used informal observational methods, while Gauquelin had tens of thousands of pieces of data from eleven different professions, and used modern statistical methods as part of a well-designed and comprehensive research program. The Gauquelin findings (and more recent ones by Ertel and Müller) are thus in fact coincident with a particular astrological tradition, that of angularity. Where these findings diverge from that tradition is not in regard to houses (which in fact have only an indirect connection to angularity in Hone, Valens or many other authors) but in regard to the actual placement and extent of the angular zones. The work of the Gauquelins made it possible to measure these zones exactly, confirming the idea of angularity on the one hand while showing where it required modification on the other.

It is worth mentioning at this juncture the recent distinction by Robert Schmidt of Project Hindsight in the preface to his translation of Book III of Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, between "dynamical" and "topical" division of the celestial sphere by astrologers, with the former being for the purpose of establishing planetary strength and the latter for the purpose of considering various areas of life (e.g., the 2nd as the house of "money" in modern astrology). For the most part in modern astrology, both planetary strength and the houses which indicate areas of life are measured from one or another of the angles of the chart, but after careful consideration of the available original works of Ptolemy and other authors, Schmidt says he finds no evidence in Greek astrology for anything but "whole sign" topical houses, meaning that the 1st house is the entire sign in which the Ascendant falls, rather than the Ascendant marking the boundary of that house. Thus, modern house systems seem to have been derived from a mistaken understanding of certain passages in Ptolemy. This creates vast problems for modern astrology (except for that practiced by the Hindus, which is virtually alone among modern forms of astrology in its use of whole-sign houses), but indicates more clearly than ever that the presumed contradiction between Gauquelin's findings and houses is based on erroneous assumptions.

More interesting than angularity is the fact that where Gauquelin's findings on the planets were concerned, he very clearly delineated structural relationships between the planets in his first book and very clearly outlined a research program meant to explore and understand that structure more fully in relation to professions and to demonstrate its existence in other areas (e.g. planetary heredity and character traits). Until quite recently, no one paid much attention to this aspect of his work. However, in the last couple of years Graham Douglas (in the UK) and Kenneth Irving (in the US) have been pointing out that the structure of Gauquelin's results very specifically displays a form which is found quite often in ancient philosophy and astrology but which has disappeared for the most part from modern astrology, a form based on two unrelated sets of opposite qualities (a more modern terminology would be two "orthogonal" dimensions - a set of cosmic Cartesian Coordinates by which we define certain fundamental differences between planets, such as benefic/malefic).

Consider the following table, in which + indicates a significant excess in the Gauquelin "key sectors" and - indicates a significant deficiency in the same region. Note that when Jupiter and Saturn are both significant for a given profession they are significant in opposite directions, and that Mars often shows significance in the same direction as either Jupiter or Saturn, but not with both at the same time. Results in parentheses are tentative findings by either the Gauquelins or Ertel.

The Gauquelin Professional Results
Group Mo Ve Ma Ju Sa
Actors       + -
Doctors     + - +
Sports -   +    
Military     + +  
Executives     + +  
Politicians +     +  
Journalists       + -
Playwrights       +  
Scientists     + - +
Writers +   -   -
Painters   (+) -   -
Musicians   (+) -    

Now consider this along with the diagram below, which shows a fundamental relationship between the seven ancient planets on the basis of two "qualities" that are said to flux and flow with planetary movements. The principle of the dynamic relationship between the two pairs of opposites (hot-cold and moist-dry) goes back to Aristotle, can be found in the writings of Galen, and also appears in the work of medieval astrologer Ramon Lull, with the planets and temperaments added by Lull and Johannes Schöner, among others. The diagram is also (sans planets, but with temperaments) historically related to modern trait psychology. H. J. Eysenck in particular posits that the hot/cold dimension equates to some extent with extraversion/introversion and the wet/dry dimension with neuroticism/stability. Results for several professional groups shown in this table have been replicated independently of the Gauquelins (e.g. Mars for sports champions, Mars/Saturn+ for members of the French Académie de Médecine, Mars+ for eminent German physicians and Moon/Jupiter+ and Saturn- for Italian writers), so it would be very difficult to make a case that Gauquelin "structured" his data to agree with this.

Note that Mars and Saturn appear on the same side of the wet-dry axis, and that Jupiter is on the opposite side of that same axis. However, Mars and Jupiter appear on the same side of the hot-cold axis while Saturn is on the opposite side of that axis from both Mars and Jupiter. Now consider this in light of what was said about the table and it should be clear that this structure very obviously connects with the Gauquelin findings. What this says is that a very fundamental astrological observation about the differences and similarities between the ancient planets has been demonstrated by modern scientific methods. While we should certainly be aware of Gauquelin's negative findings on various facets of astrology, we shouldn't consider them in isolation from the positive findings on planetary effects, nor from the connection of those positive findings with astrology.

Objection: The Gauquelin effects are too small to be of much consequence, amounting to a deviation of about 5% from the expected number in the case of famous athletes.

Answer: First of all, the total range of the Gauquelin effects is much larger than often supposed. Since this criticism is usually based on the positive Mars effect for sports champions, it doesn't take into account the fact that there are both positive and negative Mars effects for 8 of the 11 professional groups studied by the Gauquelins. Even more interesting, however, is the fact that when just the sports champions are used and they are ranked according to the number of volumes in which they are cited (done by Ertel, using a specific set of references, as mentioned above), the range from the lowest-citation athletes to the highest is about 8%. However, if we consider the range from the highest ranks in "Mars effect" professions such as sports to the highest ranks in "anti-Mars" professions such as writing and art, using Ertel's citation counts we find it to extend from 32% down to 17%, or about +/- 7.5% In other words, the numbers are often assumed (incorrectly) to be small because a particular effect is being viewed in isolation from the others. But when we look at relationships between groups, and between coherent classes within those groups, we see a quite different picture.

Ken Irving