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1/2/2015 Blog - Book Review of The Astrology Code: Statistical Evidence of Universal Design by Michael Bergen

 

Pages: 370

Publisher: Seven Lights Press

Website: www.astrologycode.org

Any astrologer with a little bit of research under their belt can attest to the importance of accurate information regarding the incunabula of people, places, or events. We have researchers like the late Lois Rodden to thank for huge amounts of reliable data like this, and the collective body of information available for astrologers to use in their work is only getting bigger as more and more data is recorded. Sophisticated methods of data mining are becoming increasingly available. This means that we are more capable than ever of statistically verifying whether the commonly accepted interpretations of astrological significations hold weight on a collective scale.

Michael Bergen, author of The Astrology Code, has a well established background in mathematics, and acknowledges that his aim in writing the book was to offer the world a statistically verifiable study of astrology, drawing from as big of a data set as possible. At the start of the book, Bergen explains his methodology, which is pretty straightforward. The study group is composed of 12, 566 birth charts, the vast majority of which have a Rodden Rating of AA (birth certificate) or A (from memory). That number is then broken down into 80 smaller groups, such as “Actors,” “Children – None,” “Psychics,” or “Murder Victims.” Using a Normal Curve (known in layman's terms as the “Bell Curve”) Bergen looks at planetary sign placements (Tropical zodiac, both the 1st and 9th Harmonic), planetary aspects (every major and minor aspect between planets with a multiple of 10 degrees), planetary placements on the angles (Ascendant/Descendant and IC/MC axes), and Navamsha placements (Vedic/Jyotish technique of dividing up each zodiac sign into nine equal parts and assigning a subset of zodiac signs to each part). Results for any of these which occur in over 95% of each individual group, or in less than 5% of a group, are flagged as significant findings.

In “Part I: The Universal Design,” Bergen outlines the theoretical structure of astrology that he has developed based on his own study of the subject and the large scale analysis presented in this book. Much of it is consistent with theory currently accepted by the majority, with some intriguing developments and twists that are certainly worth pondering. For instance, contrary to the traditional masculine-feminine division of Fire/Air being masculine and Earth/Water being feminine, he suggests that Fire and Earth and the masculine elements, while Air and Water are feminine.

What follows in Part II is a detailed breakdown of the findings for each study group, in alphabetical order. The detail to which the results are broken down is nothing short of impeccable. For each group, there is a list of the significant findings (frequent and infrequent sign placements, aspects, etc) along with the author's interpretation of the significance. Next is a table containing the size of the group, a list of the frequent and infrequent sign placements for the lights and visible planets, and lists of the most and least frequent aspects, angular placements, Navamshas, and midpoints (and other extras where they apply, such as moon phases). Following this, there are additional detailed charts showing a complete numeric breakdown for the 1st and 9th Harmonic sign placements for the Sun through Saturn, angular placements, and aspects. Any/all frequent or infrequent findings are highlighted for you. All of this makes for an excellently designed and easy to use research tool!

Bergen also gives us a Summary of Findings – the twelve most significant conclusions of the study. Overall, the findings of the study are compelling! I won't list all of those findings as it would be a bit of a spoiler, however I will speak to some that call commonly accepted norms into question.

The big one is that Bergen suggests Libra and Aquarius are symbolically reversed in the results. For instance, the “Activists” group was strongly associated with Libra (commonly we associate activism and rebellion with Aquarius), while some typically Libran significations such as “Marriage 15+ Years” and “Salespeople” fall under the Aquarius results. The “Actors” group is probably the most compelling example of the author's argument for reversing the Libra and Aquarius sign significations. The sign of Aquarius is very strong with the “Actors” group, while Libra comes in about average. On the other hand, Venus (commonly accepted ruler of Libra) aspects are numerous for this group, while Uranus (commonly accepted ruler of Aquarius) aspects are very few in number. The author suggests that actors are good at relating to people and are usually attractive by popular opinion – traditionally Libran and Venusian traits, yet we see the sign of Aquarius emphasized, and not Libra. This could be taken a number of ways, and I would argue the possibility that, similar to the author's findings with the “Child Performers” group (for whom Uranus aspects were frequent), actors can be successful not only for their skill in relating to others, but also because they are able to stand out in a crowd (traditionally Aquarian). Results with other groups leave the question of the sign meanings possibly being confused with each other open for me. Results for the “Brilliant Mind” group, for instance, show strong results with Aquarius, which matches the commonly accepted paradigm of Aquarius being associated with exceptionally bright and inventive people; the author suggests instead that Aquarius fits because it represents “the love of ideas and communication” and for “sharing ideas” (love and sharing being traditionally Libran, but Aquarian according to the model he has suggested). Aquarius also stands out for both the “Marriage +15 Years” and the “Married Late/Never” groups, which is not particularly consistent either way, as Libra is the traditional sign of marriage and Aquarius is often associated with separation or divorce. It is also worth noting that in the Summary of Group Findings by Sign, the “Activists” group is the only group that was statistically strong with Libra (all of the other signs had at least two of the groups prominent overall). To me, this reflects the popular idea that the sign of Libra is strong with people who tend to be indecisive and are likely to find direction in life through their relationships to, and associations with, other people. So, the jury is out on this one for me. The author presents his own well articulated argument for reversing the sign significations for Libra and Aquarius, and it is definitely worth additional contemplation and research. Certainly there were many versions of the zodiac floating around in the Middle East, Egypt, and Greece before they solidified into the system we currently default to. Who can say if the one we currently use is the “right” one? I'll be the traditional Aquarian for a moment and say that we should always question conventions, and I applaud the author for being willing to do so.

Another finding involves the sign of Virgo being strongly associated with sexuality. The traditional view of Virgo is, well, virginal, but the results show sex abuse victims, sex offenders, sex symbols, and sex workers all being strong with this sign. Again, we may be in the realm of reconsidering and questioning the symbolism and even the structure of the zodiac and how it has evolved over time. It is known that Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio have all overlapped and intermingled both literally and figuratively over the ages. Virgo is certainly a sexual sign (as are all of the signs, of course, as sex is essentially a symbol for divine union), but the basic symbolic difference from Scorpio in that the Virgo sex energy is not directed towards procreation, and from this study we can see other ways it may be expressed. The author's other finding for Virgo was that difficult life circumstances seem to occur where this sign is prominent, and that is consistent with the Virgo-6th house association (the 6th House being traditionally unfavorable, signifying working for others and illness, among many other things).

Yet another finding is that Neptune doesn't appear to operate in the sample in ways that many astrologers tend to agree upon. Neptune is commonly associated with the immaterial, the sublime, and the collective subconscious, so you'd expect to see this planet to come up as prominent with artists, psychics, and spiritual teachers. It does come up as prominent for a number of artistic vocations (actors, musicians, singers, and songwriters), but also for professions that in and of themselves do not bring the traditional significations of Neptune to mind – business owners, corporate tycoons, criminal careers, lawyers, and police. Actually, out of all of the planets, Neptune was significant in the largest number of study groups. To me, these results emphasize Neptune's status as a “wild card” planet. It is by nature highly mutable and hard to pin down to any one thing. Emotion flows so strongly with this planet that it can find expression in a number of ways, even those that contradict its usual significations.

There is one additional finding that I would like to address which was not listed in the Summary of Findings. In the Appendices, Bergen discusses the Sidereal Zodiac, which more accurately matches the location of the constellations along the ecliptic than the Tropical Zodiac does. Vedic Astrologers and some Western astrologers use various versions of the Sidereal Zodiac. He repeated his analysis of the 80 study groups with the Sidereal Zodiac (Fagan-Bradley and Lahiri Ayanamsas), and concluded that there is less evidence for the accuracy of this zodiac than there is for the Tropical. However, if we look at the population data for the study presented in this book, 51.3% of the sample was born in the United States, and the only Asian country represented was India, by 0.6% – unavoidable, unfortunately, because this is the nature of Rodden's body of data. Nevertheless, the fact that the sample was almost exclusively American and European may or may not skew the study as far as the validity of the Sidereal Zodiac is concerned (acknowledging, of course, that the focus of the study was predominately Western astrology). The Sidereal Zodiac may in fact be more accurate for people born in cultures that have used it for hundreds of years. It is possible that astrological systems which were born of a particular cultural morass may only be relevant to that particular culture and its offshoots. Thus modern Western Astrology and the Tropical Zodiac, which solidified in its earliest form in ancient Greece, may or may not only “work” for people born in cultures that are still strongly linked to that intellectual tradition, such as Europe and the Americas. This is just an idea of mine as an astrologer who studies both Western Astrology and Jyotish. I'd be curious to see if the symbolic meanings of the Sidereal Zodiac signs would be revealed as more accurate when using, for example, a predominately South Asian population sample. If a large enough body of data is made available, hopefully more studies of this type can be done on the many astrological systems and zodiacs used across the world, to test the extent to which the efficacy of astrological systems are affected by the cultures that produced them.

All told, The Astrology Code is a tremendously valuable resource to the study of astrology. Far from being a “be all end all,” this book makes it clear that there is much more of this type of work to be done. Hopefully it is only the tip of the iceberg, and many more such studies with increasingly larger data pools will be completed. No matter how far studies such as this one go, however, I believe any astrological system used to analyze the lives and the experiences of individuals will always involve a degree of subjectivity. Individual sign placements, aspects and the like come together in a chart to paint a total picture of a human being, which is far greater and more sublime than the sum of the collective brush strokes. With studies such as the one that this book presents, we have to remember that although it is useful and educational to look at collective patterns as a reference, the interpretive art does not work by isolating factors or even sets of factors, but by relating them to the whole, which includes the individual and how they have uniquely manifested the infinite potential that the chart represents. When the astrologer begins to work his/her magic, it is not uncommon for just one strong factor in a chart to totally change the orientation of the whole personality, thereby making the chart “work” in ways that may be contrary to the interpretation of other factors. Be that as it may, statistical studies such us this one can educate us about astrology, show us patterns that are likely to be relevant in individual charts, and go a long way towards validating astrology's accuracy.