Kenneth Irving's Preface



If the Mars effect has laid down a difficult challenge for the world of science, it has done so no less for the world of astrology; and if the controversies it has created among astrologers are more subdued, they still embody the same kinds of contradictions faced by scientists. The simple fact is that while the Mars effect for sports champions and the other professional planetary effects are obviously related to astrology, astrologers have generally accepted the positive elements of those findings while ignoring or rationalizing the negative.

Whatever the faults of modern astrology may be, one can see from the Gauquelin planetary effects that it is based, at least in part, on observation rather than magic or myth. For example, perusal of Geoffrey Dean and Arthur Mather's Recent Advances in Natal Astrology ( a comprehensive critical review of astrological literature published in 1977) alongside a well-known textbook of standard astrology yields three basic (and in fact very ancient astrological tenets which address the Gauquelin professional results:

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." As the authors of Recent Advances note: "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. 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." And, once more, from Recent Advances: "Angularity is one of the oldest, most fundamental and least disputed of astrological concepts...." p. 371

The Mars effect for sports champions has been able to survive the twists and turns of the controversy surrounding it principally because it is easily observable under the conditions specified by Michel Gauquelin. But perhaps it also has endured because it reflects, at least in part, basic qualities of Mars that were observable by ancient astrologers using far less precise tools than modern statistics. If Mars at its rising or upper culmination at birth is indeed related to later success in sports, and if the effects for physicians, writers and others are sound as well (as Professors Ertel and Müller seem to be demonstrating with their replication studies), then taking a careful look at how astrologers have treated the planets historically could be one useful starting point for getting beneath the surface of what are now simply statistical effects.

Though both scientists and astrologers have, in one way or another, shied away from recognizing the true implications of the Mars effect, while some scientists actually tried to suppress it, at least the astrological community nurtured it during the lean years by providing the Gauquelins with the resources to expand their research and by listening to what they had to say. Many of those influential in astrological research today learned a great deal from the controversy and the way the Gauquelins conducted their side of it. Now, just as science begins to catch up, the growing maturity evident in astrological research (as shown in the recent publication of Astrological Research Methods, edited by Mark Pottenger) suggests there is a basis for a creative multidisciplinary partnership that can explore the marvel of such findings as these, and make further discoveries.

But before this can happen, we have to understand how the Mars effect was almost lost to us through the unseemly actions of a few self-appointed guardians of science, and why its survival tells a scientific tale that goes well beyond the human frailties underlying the controversy. My own contribution, The Mars Effect Controversy, outlines and explains the fundamentals of this very complicated story in a way that readers should be able to grasp. Jim Lippard's chronology, as Appendix 2, focuses on the sociological details of the controversy, showing us some of the major players and events, particularly in the well-documented US phase.

The central theme of this book is found in Suitbert Ertel's title piece, in which he explains the results of his investigation of the actual data and procedures used in each of the three skeptic studies that played the key role in sparking the controversy and in keeping it alive, and he follows this with a thorough analysis (and indictment) of the most recent effort, but a French skeptic group. As background to both of these efforts, Ertel then presents a chronology, as Appendix 3, of his own decade-long involvement, through offers of help and requests for data, in the French study. As this book was being completed, the French skeptics published the results of their study, with its allegedly negative results. In an additional chapter (in the form of Appendix 1) Ertel reanalyzes their data, shows evidence for a strong Mars effect and scrutinizes the grounds for the French researchers' contradictory conclusion.

A journey of discovery awaits those on both sides of the astrological divide who can put aside their hopes, fears and notions of what ought to be and who can instead look at what is.

Let that journey begin here.

Kenneth Irving, Staten Island, NY, June 25, 1995

© Kenneth Irving, 1996

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