“Selection based on difference” type astrological research – theoretical basis, methodology

Robert Marzewski

        Scientific research, in order to be legitimately called scientific, should be based on some kind of theoretical ground. Characteristics of such a theoretical model constitute a separate issue, though. In our case choice of a theoretical model is quite simple in the sense that it can be assumed that a theory should be reflecting the way astrology is perceived by astrologers and a manner in which it proves useful in their everyday practice. It doesn’t mean we consider astrology as we know it to be the one corresponding to the state of affairs it describes. It is more about adopting an initial hypothesis to be tested. And the easiest solution is to test hypothesis that we know.

As a result I will basically say almost nothing new. Nothing that people dealing with astrology wouldn’t know already. The novelty here can be the way astrology will be perceived. And it must be perceived in a way making it possible for the results achieved by astrologers to be presented in the language of mathematics, or at least described in numerical values.

Language of astrology vs. natural language.
Every astrologer will certainly agree with a statement that astrology is a kind of a language. It is astrologers’ task to translate this language into a language that can be easily understood by charts’ owners. The first language we will then call “
language of astrology”, while the other one natural language. We can also refer to the language of astrologers, being something in between the language of astrology and the natural language. It can be therefore described as a Jargon, in which terms/words known from the natural language have special meaning, other than the one commonly used. However, we are not particularly interested in the language of astrologers. I mentioned it only to draw attention to the fact that some terms will mean something else when used by astrologers than when used in the frames of the natural language. It is actually a technical comment aiming at preventing careless use of the term “language of astrologers” instead on “the natural language”. E.g. such words as „fixed”, „mutable”, „fire” used in the language of astrologers and in the natural language would and actually do mean different things.

In the language of astrology we can single out:

  • Atomic terms – terms referring to individual elements of a chart, such as signs, houses, planets, etc.

Examples: Aries, Venus, IX house, moon node.

  • Basic terms – terms consisting of two atomic terms, e.g. planets in signs or houses, aspects between planets. In practice we can actually refer to and experience the meaning only of this kind of terms. We can single out essential basic terms, i.e. terms that must appear, e.g. planets in signs or houses (as each planet must be in a sign and house); and not essential basic terms, i.e. terms that can but do not have to be present, such as e.g. aspects between planets.

Examples: Venus in Taurus, Mercury in the III house, Moon trine Sun.

  • Compound terms – all terms more complex than basic terms. A special case of compound term is a complete term, referring to the whole chart.

Examples: Venus in Taurus, in the VII house, Mercury in Gemini, trine Moon in Libra.

Individual terms of the language of astrology (atomic, single and compound) have meanings from the natural language assigned. We are talking here of meanings of sets of terms from the natural language. Such sets can create sums of sets, as well as their product (intersection). Let me use a drawing illustrating the above:

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I have found a similar approach to this issue in Włodzimierz Zylbertal’s work entitled „Preface to Introduction”:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is zakres-trafności-odczytu-eng.jpg

When a number of people begin to perceive a given topic in a similar way, it can be expected that such an approach is the correct one. However, here it doesn’t need to be the case.

First of all it must be pointed out that by adopting the above interpretation we receive a paradox. Let’s assign meaning from the natural language to some terms from the language of astrology. By doing it we will obtain some sets of terms from the natural language, e.g.:
Mercury = {mind, postman, conversation, ….}
Aquarius = {independence, astrologer, electricity, ……}
IV house = {past, home, family, …..}

Moreover, Mercury can be in aspects with other planets that are in specific signs and houses. We can also take into account rulers of the signs and houses, and so on. It all creates a sum of sets that defines range of our knowledge.

There is also an intersection of sets, which – following Włodzimierz Zylbertal’s reasoning – describes scope of accuracy of a reading. And this is where we get to the point. Namely, the bigger sum of sets, the smaller their intersection. In other words, it is a paradox, according to which the more we know, the smaller accuracy of reading, so the more we know, the less meaningful things we have to say. Of course, in some sense it can be considered deeply philosophical, as in the extreme case it can embody the famous maxim of the great Socrates: “I know that I know nothing”. However, this is not what we are after in astrology.

It must also be mentioned that it is somewhat awkward talking about the language of astrology using natural language, but this is the only way we can do it. The language of astrology sensu stricte can be expressed at most by graphic symbols that have a specific archetypic meaning. However, we are not able either to fully understand this meaning or – all the more – describe it in an exhaustive manner. We can, at most, get closer to such a complete understanding, but it will always be based on the natural language, at least when we want to express it when communicating with another person. I’m talking here in particular about the atomic terms, which – by their nature – never occur autonomously. As a result, we are not able to refer meanings assigned to them to any kind of reality that we know. We can at most experience the fact that basic and compound terms correspond to commonly known situations. However, as each specific situation is linked to different elements, we are also not able to understand them independently from additional meanings that are alien to them. If, on the other hand, we assume that we can experience the way a complete term, i.e. chart, corresponds with a reality that we know, it will be a single experience, meaning that we will not be able to experience it in a recurring way. We must be aware, however, that we are also not able to experience a chart independently from secondary meanings, as there is no chart, i.e. a person or an event a given chart refers to, which would not be in some kind of interaction with charts of other people or events.

We can see, than, that the language of astrology can only be understood via natural language, by referring astrological terms to specific situations that they describe. We can’t forget about the role of intuition here, but – except to some innate abilities – intuition is a result of the process of learning astrology by use of natural language.
Of course, we could investigate actual nature of astrology and a concept that I called the language of astrology. However, this issue goes far beyond the topic I am discussing here and so I do not mean to develop it further.

I do not say that when interpreting a chart, translating from the language of astrology into the natural language is totally useless. It actually is not only useful but also indispensable. When looking at a chart, astrologer may know what kind of person it describes, but at the same time may not necessarily be able to choose proper words and move to the level of natural language. We must be aware of two limitations described here that are related to this process. As a result of the limitations, applying this method when simply interpreting charts can be totally useful, or even necessary up to some extent. It may be rather doubtful, though, when investigating astrology as such. We will not be able to run from it of course, but we should not be satisfied with it or base our investigation only on this method.

From the language of astrology to the natural language – the matter of infinity.
From the standpoint of both, astrological practice (i.e. interpreting meaning of charts) and research, we are interested in relationship between different terms of the language of astrology and the natural language.

We can assign many terms of the natural language to the terms of the language of astrology – astrological terms. Lots of them to be honest. Basically, there is no single translation of the astrological terms into terms of the natural language. It’s rather that a term taken from the language of astrology can have sets of terms taken from the natural language assigned. It may be easier to understand, if first we refer certain astrological terms to a set of states of affairs that may be divided into consciousness related states of affairs and factual states of affairs. The first ones refer to what the chart owner experiences, e.g. sadness, while the latter refer to facts to which consciousness of other people has access to, e.g. change of job. All the states of affairs may refer to both past and future situations, but also to real and hypothetical situations. In other words, an astrological term like, e.g. „Neptune square Mercury” can refer to a situation in which Mr. Hieronim Wierciszewski falls into a puddle in Kłobuck, although a man of that name has never lived and will never live in the quoted town. We can also say that at that time a consciousness related state of affairs was present cause at that time Mr. Hieronim was deep in thoughts and absent-minded. We could think of much more or even of an indefinite number of such states of affairs referring to astrological terms. So it is an indefinite set. At the same time we would not be able to assign to a given astrological term all states of affairs, and in particular the ones meaning of which differ significantly from the term, e.g. when referring to the above cited example of emotional state of focus and excitement that would make Mr. Hieronim jump over the puddle vigorously. It is then a limited set. It is also obvious that each state of affairs is referred to by a term from the natural language that defines it. To sum up, it can be stated that any astrological term can have an indefinite but at the same time limited set of terms from the natural language assigned.

From natural language to the language of astrology – countable finitude.

When considered the other way round, i.e. when translating terms from the natural language into astrological terms, the situation looks different. We can assign astrological terms to the natural language terms but always only a definite number of them. In order to explain it in a more comprehensive manner, it’s best to use an example. Let’s assume we want to specify what astrological terms can refer to a natural language term such as „sensitivity”. They can be such terms as “Moon in Cancer trine Neptune”, “Neptune on ASC in Scorpio”, or “Venus in Pisces trine Neptune”. No matter how big the number of astrological terms we could think of, it would always be a definite number. Thus, we can say that any term from the natural language can have a definite, and therefore a limited set of astrological terms assigned. It is very interesting and useful in terms of astrological research because it gives an opportunity of at least quite precise estimation of a number of astrological terms that we can assign to a given term from the natural language. Of course we must remember of translating specific terms both ways. This is why we can’t say that such term as „Moon in Cancer trine Neptune” is exhaustively described by the word „sensitivity”. The first term can have much more natural language terms assigned, which has already been explained before. It must be stressed that although the above cited astrological terms each time refer to different kinds of sensitivity, we can still assign them to the general term „sensitivity”. We can even assign a given value to the term, which would reflect a definite set of astrological terms. What’s important is the fact that each of the proposed astrological terms is a set of individual or at least narrower aspects of sensitivity. Therefore, elements of these sets, i.e. different aspects of sensitivity, constitute elements of a set that can be assigned to a more general term „sensitivity”.

Let’s say that there are the following astrological terms referring to sensitivity:

A = „Moon in Cancer trine Neptune”
B = „Neptune on Asc in Scorpio”
C = „Venus in Pisces trine Neptune”
W = A ∪ B ∪ C, i.e. W (sensitivity) is a sum of different kinds of sensitivity included in sets A, B, C

We can also write it differently:
A = {a1, a2, a3}
B = {b1, b2}
C = {c1, c2, c3, c4}, where:

a1 – Moon in Cancer, a2 – Moon in its rulership, a3 – Moon trine Neptune
b1 – Neptune on Asc, b2 – Asc in Scorpio
c1 – Venus in Pisces, c2 – Venus in exaltation, c3 – Venus trine Neptune, c4 – Venus trine Moon

We can also refer to a compound term, such as grand trine of Asc, Neptune, Moon and Venus in proper signs, which actually is the variant being considered here.

So – W = {a1, a2, a3, b1, b2, c1, c2, c3, c4}

The number of interest to us is the number of elements of W, i.e. cardinality of the set. In this case it will be:

│W│= 9

Of course we cannot say that this way we would be able to precisely measure level of sensitivity described by a chart. However, if we have two charts,│W│values of which are significantly different, we can differentiate between states of affairs referring to persons described by the charts. As a result, if we don’t know which chart has been calculated for which person, but we know personality of the charts’ owners, we can properly assign each chart to a person or a person to a chart. In particular, the persons could do it themselves, not only in relation to selected states of affairs, but to their complete personalities (and lives) corresponding to a complete term described by the chart.

Of course, if the differences are small, e.g. when │W1│= 3 and │W2│= 4, it would be difficult to properly assign charts to persons 1 and 2. We could, however, try to do it taking into account other, more contrasting states of affairs.

It must be remembered that the number of atomic terms is strictly defined and the same for each chart. Thus, if in a given chart a given state of affairs (e.g. sensitivity) can be established as e.g.│W│= 8, than the other state of affairs (e.g. ruthlessness) can have a smaller value assigned, e.g. │B│= 2.

Conclusions regarding theoretical basis of astrological research.
If we assume that astrologers’ task is to relate astrological terms to terms from natural language, as well as to states of affairs corresponding with the latter, we can consider the following three situations:

  1. Starting with a given astrological term/terms we assign a specific set of natural language terms to it, and thus set of states of affairs corresponding with the latter.
    It is useful in a regular astrological practice, i.e. when interpreting charts, but in the case of astrological research it can be helpful only up to some extent. It would definitely not be sufficient to limit oneself to such a construction as there are some serious methodological faults:
    Paradox – the bigger sum of sets, the smaller their product (intersection), i.e. the more we know, the less we have to say. If, in the case of regular chart interpretation, it doesn’t need to be a problem cause a tool that is not perfect still can be useful, in the case of research method it raises serious reservations.
    A problem connected with discussing the language of astrology consists in the fact that it is not possible to do it not using the natural language. Even if we manage somehow as far as the language of astrology grammar is concerned, we are totally helpless as far as understanding the essence of astrological terms without using natural language terms is concerned.
    A given astrological term can have indefinite number of natural language terms assigned, which may cause difficulties in defining the number of elements of specific sets, and – as a result – problems with countability, which questions the method’s legibility as far as research purposes are concerned.
  2. Starting with natural language terms we assign astrological terms to them.
    This method seems to be useful for research purposes because we can assign a definite number of astrological terms to a given natural language term, and thus calculate cardinality (number of elements) of an estimated set.

  3. We can also use a one-to-one translation, i.e. one astrological term can have one, unambiguous natural language term, e.g. Sun in Lion (basic term of the language of astrology) – actor (natural language term).
    In the light of the above discussed explanations such idea does not seem proper. I don’t say we are not able to achieve any statistically significant results when using this method. However, from the point of view of methodology, legibility of such a theoretical model should be called into question. There may be astrological terms to which natural language terms and states of affairs corresponding to them can be unambiguously assigned. It cannot be ultimately excluded. But they would definitely not be such terms as Sun in Lion – actor.

I wouldn’t like to univocally decide about the way astrological research should be performed as in principle no path should be rejected. History of science shows that concepts previously rejected were brought back to life later on, e.g. heliocentric model. There may also be a number of methods that still need to be discovered. It is always better to consider a bigger number of possibilities.

However, due to practical reasons, it is reasonable to choose a theoretical model already known to us and being the most convincing. In the light of the presented arguments, model presented in point 2 should be considered the one. In accordance with the model, terms that are the most characteristic for a given chart and thus making it stand out from other charts, would be the most interesting for the chart.

Properly collocated 2 complete terms (charts) can differ significantly. Then, we can choose one out of 2 complete terms, which describes owner of a given chart (i.e. a given comprehensive state of affairs) most accurately. In the case of such a collocation, value that we can assign to it will no longer be estimated. It will be defined in an unambiguous manner. Unambiguous doesn’t necessarily mean excluding all doubts as far as the assignment is concerned. The result may even be incorrect, but at the same time it will always be unambiguous, and thus countable. In the frames of the model presented in point 2, countability appears on two levels, i.e. when defining cardinality of a set referring to a given natural language term, and when indicating a chart corresponding to a given comprehensive state of affairs, i.e. the chart’s owner. This is a principle constituting the essence of astrological research of the „selection based on difference” type.

Methodological and practical bases of astrological research.
When carrying out astrological research a researcher must be aware of what he/she is really investigating and why it is being done in a certain way. In order to be able to do it, one must have some kind of astrological knowledge. It is surprising, then, when such a research is carried out by psychologists, astronomers, physicists or representatives of other scientific domains. It doesn’t mean such professionals can’t participate in astrological research at all. Their involvement may turn out highly useful, in particular if we talk about interdisciplinary research. Advice given by experts in such fields as e.g. statistics or philosophy of science can also be helpful. However, if we talk about astrology as such, representatives of other fields, being complete laymen in the field of astrology have very limited possibilities of carrying out meaningful research.

Another important thing that should be considered when discussing any kind of research, including astrological research, is their continuity. They should not be one-time actions. It would be a worldwide phenomenon, if any kind of research carried out once turned out effective. Science is developed mainly based on analysis of previous achievements, including analysis of mistakes, and on further trials, which become more and more effective with time. It cannot be any different in the case of astrological research.

In order to maintain research continuity, investigators involved in the research should be people ready to dedicate their time to the research for a long period, willing to establish a research team that may ensure such continuity. Another benefit of such an approach is the fact that teamwork brings about much better results than situations in which there is just one person that designs research, and the other people involved in the process are only silent executors. Each member of a research team should have an opportunity to bring his/her active input, and be able to decide about the research protocol. Each, even the best research project can be always improved and rationalised. The more people with active attitude, the bigger improvement possibilities.

In order for the research to be carried out efficiently, there should be a possibility to find financial resources for them. It is true that astrological research can be carried out with help of volunteers. But it will result in smaller effectiveness of the research. If one has to choose between performing tasks that will allow him/her make a living, or carrying out research that may be fascinating, but will not bring any income, in most cases the first option will be favoured. And it is not necessarily because one wants that – it’s simply a must. Bills will not pay themselves. Plus, carrying out research can also be connected with additional costs.

This is why there should be some legal solutions implemented, such as foundations, associations, research institutes that would allow carrying out research in a well organised and continuous manner, which would also help financing the research. Institute of Astrological Research, AstroLab, is one of such entities. Its unique character consists in the fact that not just the main but the whole statutory activities of the AstroLab Institute are related to astrological research. Additionally – which is not so frequent – the research is and will be carried out.

The above article is the first of a series of articles referring to research carried out by the AstroLab Institute. It was for the first time presented on October 17th, 2015 during the Vth Conference of the Polish Astrological Society (www.astrolog.org.pl).

  1. Research on astrology of the „selection based on difference“ type – theoretical basis, methodology
  2. Research on astrology – astrological analysis
  3. Research on astrology 01.01-03.15.PL-R.Marzewski – results and description

Robert Marzewski

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