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The foreword to
Turning The Solomon Key
by Katherine Neville
Listen to Robert read from
Turning The Solomon Key
Why Research Astrology?
A Theory of Dowsing
How Radio Works
Newton's Rules of Logic
Calculation of Ionicspheric Turbulence
The Solomon Key Symbol
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Charlatans, Fortune Tellers and Soothsayers

Why I decided to Investigate Masonic Astrology

Robert Lomas

Comfort Blanket or Key to Destiny's Secret?

Ever since humans became aware of time, and started to understand past, present and future, we've worried about the future.

What does it hold for us? Success? Failure? Money? Sexual fulfillment? Loneliness?

We want to know before it hits us. We worry about what might be. And, we seek people to tell us our fortune. But, surprisingly in the modern scientific age, it's not politicians, scientists or even priests that most people trust to reassure them about the future, its astrologers.

A woman friend, who was at university with me, now works in a responsible scientific job. Yet this professional graduate trusts astrology to guide her. She reads her horoscope regularly and says she uses her knowledge of birth signs to predict and explain human behaviour. And she's good at second guessing people.

Once when we were gossiping about mutual friends, I was surprised to hear her say.

'But she would do that, she's a Gemini.'

When I first heard her make this sort of astrological judgment, I struggled to stop my tone of voice becoming too sneering when I asked

'But what difference do the stars make to a personality?'

Her reply was confident. 'All the difference in the world.'

Much as I like and respect her, I couldn't quite manage to keep my voice polite. I must have sounded as almost as incredulous as I felt, when I demanded.

'And you really believe this stuff?'

Her response was condescending, its tone expressing a profound disappointment in my lack of understanding of how she thinks the world really is.

'It works most of the time.' She told me.

I was going to ask what evidence she had to support this outrageous claim when I realised I was in a hole, so I stopped digging.

Humans need reassurance, and sociologists suggest that astrology fills that need. Perhaps people have trouble meeting their hunger for religious values in today's secular culture, so they turn to astrology, hiding their need for reassurance under the guise of 'a bit of fun'.

They'll listen to radio shows where 'perhaps the world's greatest astrologer' asks callers their birth sign before telling them how to achieve their dreams. Even if the advice seems to boil down to 'just follow your instincts and everything will turn out well', they listen, nod their heads, and feel better.

They buy newspapers to read forecasts about what will happen to them next week, based only on the month of the year they were born. Yet never has a twelfth of the population all been run down by fork-lift-trucks in the midst of their birthday parties.

My woman chum is not alone in believing there is something in astrology. In the year 2000 a survey of British women found that 70% read their horoscopes regularly. Almost all knew their birth signs and 85% agreed that the astrological description of their sign fitted their personality.

In The Times, 19 June, 2003, well-known writer Jeanette Winterton, published an endorsement of astrology and of her personal astrologer, Henrietta Davies saying.

'It is strange and I can't explain it, but like Henri, I know it works, and that she is often - but not always - right.'

Interest in astrology is not limited to Britain. A market research study, carried out in the USA, found that 98% of the population know their zodiac sign and 66% read astrological columns regularly (i.e. once a week).

Although I didn't want to take astrology seriously, it seems a lot of people did.

Then, I found a remarkable correlation between planetary positions and peaks of human achievement. The statistical tests I applied showed this correlation was too strong to dismiss out of hand, yet I couldn't put forward any scientific explanation of why it should be.

When I mentioned what I'd found to my astrology-quoting lady friend, she just smiled a knowing smile and said.

'I told you so. Astrology says there's a correlation between astral events and behaviour patterns. That's a statistical statement. Perhaps it just needs a more detailed investigation to tease out what's going on. If you're so sure astrology's a load of rubbish why don't you see if you can explain that pattern you've found? It won't go away no matter what science says, so there must be something in it.'

Who could turn down such a challenge? Certainly I couldn't.  

Is it pseudo-scientific twaddle or is there a real effect hiding beneath an encrusted veneer of ancient nonsense?

A Cosy Superstition

Astrology just won’t go away. It was supposed to wither and die under the harsh glare of scientific understanding. Instead it lingers on to embarrass scientists. Magazines and newspapers encourage its adepts to parade their lack of logic and air their superstitious ‘truths’. Scientists denounce it, yet top astrologers are more widely trusted by the public than top scientists. They also earn more.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

In 1885 the philosopher Friedrich Nietzche made his famous statement that God was dead. He was dramatizing a popular claim among intellectuals that the idea of God was a vestige of an unscientific past that mankind would soon outgrow. At God’s funeral pyre a whole range of superstitious beliefs including astrology were supposed to throw themselves into the flames, never to rise again. But astrology not only survives it prospers. Rationalist thinkers hoped that as educational levels rose and science provided more realistic explanations for the mysteries of existence the appeal of astrology would fade away. But they were wrong. To survive astrology must meet a human need, or we would let it go along with the idea that the Earth is a flat disc supported on the backs of four turtles swimming in a sea of milk. So what does astrology offer which a flat Earth cannot?

Remember how as a child you looked up into your mum's face as she tucked you into bed, your Teddy bear was snug against your side and your eyes closed to the warm touch of a goodnight kiss. It's a reassuring feeling to know that someone is looking out for you. Is this why people want to believe in astrology. It offers an order and structure for complex adult lives that reminds us of the cosy certainties of early childhood.

Most scientists will tell you that astrology is nonsense. It can tell us nothing about ourselves or our futures. Many people have done surveys into what people think about astrology. And they’ve found some common threads. Kendrick Frazier found that women are more likely to believe than men. Believers often show an interest in affairs of the spirit, but no interest in old time religion. The young are more likely to believe than their elders. But approval for astrology does not always mean a lack of understanding of, or hostility to, science.

A study by John Durant and Martin Bauer found that people who scored well in tests of scientific knowledge have lower levels of belief. Believers in astrology tend to put their trust in authority but often aren’t married. But a study carried out ten years ago Dr Thomas Gray found that a university education didn’t do much to reduce belief in astrology. I was able to confirm his finding by running a straw poll with my colleagues. I asked if they thought there was anything in astrology and over half thought there might be.

Why do so many people want to believe that an astral dictatorship rules the most private details of their lives? If any government tried to impose such a regime on them there would be instant rebellion.

Professor Hans Eysenck is a psychologist at London University. In 1982 he carried out a survey which found that a third of the people in Western countries believe in astrology. Another third read their horoscopes in the papers, even though they claim it is 'just for fun'. Only one third is sceptical. What seems clear, from recent surveys, is that the number of folk who accept astrology is increasing. And this is at a time when our society is getting more scientific.

Pop songs are written asking 'What's your sign?' During a recent spectacular alignment of Venus, Mars Mercury and Jupiter in the evening sky, the BBC Radio Four's Today programme interviewed a 'qualified' astrologer. She was asked if the positions of the stars would have any effect on the density of traffic on the roads of Britain. It wasn't even April Fool's Day.

But science does not let this cosy superstition pass unchallenged.

Like the dry old bones stored on the shelves of museums, astrology is fossilised. Nothing has changed since the ancient Greeks laid down its basic principles. It is just more commercial, and wears a pseudo-mathematical fig leaf to cover the lack of logic behind its claims. Nothing astrologers say explains why the positions of distant stars should make things happen to humans. Astrologers don’t try to explain themselves in the terms of physics. Is this because the people who know physics aren't encouraged to think about astrology?

The human need to believe in the ability of leaders or priests to predict and control the future is deep rooted. The oldest surviving buildings in the world were built at the behest of strong leaders. The structures they left behind show they could predict where future sunlight would shine. Was this astronomical trickery the basis of their ability to control the masses? They had to command enormous economic resources to build vast structures such as the Ring of Brodgar, Newgrange and Stonehenge. The remains of their civil engineering projects show they were able to maintain a sense of purpose over many generations. Did a knowledge of the movements of the heavens help them prosper? And if it did, how did their belief work? Did it involve reducing mankind's fear of the future?

Surely for a belief in astrology to thrive today it must offer some basic value to its followers? It should have some proof of its claims, something better than Jeanette Winterton's claim that her personal astrologer 'is often - but not always – right'. What might this be?

In our modern cities there is so much light pollution we have largely forgotten just how awesome the naked sky can be. Few city dwelling people see the vast number of stars which pepper the heavens when the comforting orange glow of street lamps is absent. A few of these stars stand out, much brighter than others, and are known as first magnitude stars. These bright stars do not appear to move about the sky but remain, sitting in well defined positions, forming patterns that we call constellations.

The two most obvious bright objects in the sky are the Sun and the Moon. They are so bright they cast a shadow, and can been seen by day and night. But there are other bright objects, the visible planets, of which the most brilliant are Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. They vary in brightness and move about the sky. The ancient Greek fathers of astrology called them 'wanderers', a name we preserve today in the Anglicised name of planet.

How potent these heavenly objects must have seemed to ancient people.

The Sun when it was beating down could easily affect their lives. They got hot, they sweated, their skin burned, they couldn't doubt its power. Then, when the Sun withdrew behind the clouds they become cold and their world was beset by storms.

They might have noticed the Moon affected the fertility of their womenfolk. When it shone full in the night sky, many of the women of the tribe would trickle menstrual blood at the same time. When the Moon was new the sea came further up the seashore and drew out further to give them access to beds of shellfish they could not usually reach. Surely the Moon-god was showing an interest in their affairs and favouring their welfare.

At certain times Venus is so bright it also casts a shadow. If our imaginary ancient people went out under dark clear moonless night skies when Venus was a bright evening star, they could not have avoided seeing their Venus shadow. Any one of the three brightest sky lights can cast a shadow, and how magic is that?

When you move your shadow moves with you. If you dance it will follow every movement no matter how quick. If you try to run away it will run as fast as you can. Such displays of power, and interaction with people, could have planted the idea that these animated bright lights in the sky were either gods, or signs given by gods.

But it was a study of statistics which first made me wonder if there might be some truth in the claims for astrological effects on humans.

Professor David McClelland of Harvard University studied the life cycles of high achieving societies in history. Many of the periods of history where he found achieving societies coincided with pre-dawn conjunctions of the planets Venus and Mercury.6 Mercury and Venus can both be very bright objects and when they appear in the same part of the sky they look like a single very bright star. Every few hundred years they come together in a series of pre-dawn conjunctions. When this happens they form a bright morning star which rises just before the Sun.

Five out of six societies McClelland looked at, grew up when Venus and Mercury were rising close together just before dawn. I ran a statistical check to see what the odds were of these conjunctions occurring at exactly the same time as high achieving societies arose. There is less than one chance in a thousand of the two events happening at the same time by chance. This suggests that something real was happening. Perhaps the people living in these societies saw the bright morning star and thought God was about to help them and so helped themselves. It could be the McClelland recorded a motivational effect for the societies which were growing at the time these brilliant astronomical events were happening in the dawn sky. Or might there be something more?

Two other statistical studies, which I discuss in Turning the Solomon Key, suggest a sort of reality behind astrology. These surveys both found different patterns of human conduct, when the Sun and planets are in specific parts of the sky. These statistical hints are disturbing but they only show that movements of the stars happen when humans do interesting things. They offer no reason to believe that the stars cause the human effects.

This book describes my quest to look more closely at the hints to be found in these statistical ripples. The writings and actions of George Washington inspired my search for a principle of astrology acceptable to science, as he seemed to have been inspired by it in some of his greatest works. In trying to understand Brother George Washington  I was forced to consider if there was  a reality which supported peoples' continuing faith in arcane astral lore.

If I could find a reason for the statistical oddities that had built up around astrology then perhaps I might have to believe in it. If I  couldn't, then I would have had to dismiss the unease that these statistics caused in my mind. 

When all is said and done I, I reasoned with myself, I might only  have been experiencing a romantic urge to hunt for a non-existent purpose in a chaotic universe. 

But as it turned out there was a real scientific secret hidden in the ritual lore of Masonic Astrology. Turning the Solomon Key describes what I found.