Are There (Hidden) Archetypal Patterns in Our Lives?
This somewhat lengthy article can hopefully be read as a separate item in its own right. (For those who have been following me, it has already been published on Medium in separate articles, so there is no need to reread.) The purpose of that would be to try to persuade you, to quote the physicist J. B. S. Haldane, that: “the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose”. That’s not the physical universe as conceived by materialist scientists, rather all the hidden stuff that lies behind it. It is an exploration of the strange world of astrology, numerology, extraordinary coincidences (synchronicities), i.e. hidden organising factors beyond the material level of reality — ideas which, if true, might literally drive a modern scientist addicted to rationalism mad.
It is also, however, the latest chapter of a book that I once wrote, investigating whether there might be any truth in astrology. (All the previous chapters are available on Medium.)
Here is a brief summary of where it stands in the overall scheme. I outlined in part 1 a world-view which would allow the possibility of astrology. This was a synthesis of ideas from Carl Jung’s Analytical Psychology, specifically his theory of archetypes, and modern developments in quantum physics. (This world-view is summarised here.) At some point during the writing of that I came across a book by Michael Harding, Hymns to the Ancient Gods. He is an astrologer who rejects the Jungian concept of archetypes as an explanation, and attempts an existentialist, physical explanation, based on celestial mechanics, thus advocating astrology without any spiritual dimension. So far in part 2 I have been critiquing this approach, and this chapter/article is the latest, and penultimate, episode in that debate. (For a guide to everything published on Medium so far, see the bottom of this page of my website.)
CHAPTER 14. CAN WE RESOLVE THIS TORTUOUS DEBATE?
I believe that this takes the theoretical discussion as far as it can go. Nothing of what I have said will impress Michael Harding; he will think that I have fallen for all the errors that have plagued the history of Astrology. He believes that celestial mechanics are the primary reality, a position that I find unsustainable. He would possibly argue that, by discussing the issues raised by Paul Davies’ book The Cosmic Blueprint¹, (in this earlier article), I have introduced material of doubtful relevance to the debate, since he understands Astrology merely as cyclical repetition of patterns stored in a collective zodiac, and does not address the more metaphysical issues that I find important. So let us spend some time conducting the debate on his terms, and restrict ourselves to a discussion of the nature of patterns.
Both Jungians and Harding agree that our lives are shaped by underlying patterns, and that events in the world are also generated by them. Perhaps some readers will not have noticed any evidence of this, and will therefore not agree immediately, but one well-known person who would is Paul Simon. He actually named one of his early songs ‘Patterns’, one verse of which runs as follows: “From the moment of my birth to the instant of my death, there are patterns I must follow just as I must breathe each breath. Like a rat in a maze the path before me lies, and the pattern never alters until the rat dies”; and the song ends thus: “Like the colour of my skin or the day that I grow old, my life is filled with patterns that can scarcely be controlled”.
This is the type of material with which we are dealing — although it is hopefully not necessary to take such a pessimistic view of the phenomenon. If readers are sceptical, believing instead that what appear to be patterns are in fact random coincidences, nothing I say will convince them. However, in what follows I am going to make the assumption that the patterns are being generated in some way, are therefore not the product of random accidental processes, then consider how to account for them if this assumption is correct. That is also the viewpoint of the authors discussed.
It seems to me that these are the possible explanations:
- If one adopts a materialist/atheistic position, but nevertheless believes in these patterns, one would have to assume a physical explanation. The important question then becomes, where would the information to generate these patterns be stored? The most likely answer would be in the genes, possibly in the brain. Alternatively one would have to say it is not stored anywhere, that it is just in the nature of the universe to produce patterns, which is basically Michael Harding’s position.
2. Other explanations from scientific sources are:
- Rupert Sheldrake’s theory of morphogenetic fields, as expounded in his book The Presence of the Past². In simple terms, the theory suggests that there is a collective memory-bank, which is therefore somewhere that the information for patterns could be stored. Every event or idea generates a field, which can subsequently be tapped into. The essential point here is that these fields are not physical in nature³. Sheldrake’s idea is roughly the equivalent of what Jung called the collective unconscious, and in Harding the collective zodiac. (His theory is discussed both by Harding⁴, and Ken Anderson⁵.)
- a quantum physics explanation. If particles can act intelligently, as they appear to, then perhaps they are capable of generating patterns. It would be more likely, however, that the patterns were being organised by some kind of planetary or universal mind. This would make sense alongside James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, that the planet, and perhaps the universe, are living beings.
3. The Jungian view is that the patterns are the result of the activity of the archetypes, blueprints in the form of energy, a level of creative ideas beyond the psyche but mediated by it.
4. Astrological explanations would run as follows:
- patterns attributable to astrological factors are the result of correspondences between inner and outer realities, the movements of the planets being one of these. This is the spiritual/mystical perspective on astrology and, in that the archetypes are an ‘inner reality’, is an astrological paraphrase of the Jungian viewpoint.
- the patterns are caused by the return of the planets to previous configurations (thus celestial mechanics), which then influence human life in some way we do not as yet understand. This is the core of Harding’s position and, in that it is causal, can be described as being in some sense scientific.
This seems to me to exhaust the alternatives. They are not of course mutually exclusive; there may well be some overlap between them, so that the explanation for a particular pattern may be a combination of some of these factors. The best thing to do now is to examine some examples of patterns, and seek to understand which of these explanations best fits them. Since this will be impossible to prove conclusively, I shall try merely to point to the ‘common-sense’ answer, as it would appear to an observer without any preconceived opinions.
In the Channel 4 Witness programme about astrology on June 18th 2000, Dennis Elwell claimed that in 1987 he saw in the charts a planetary configuration, “an eclipse contacting Jupiter and Neptune”, strongly reminiscent of the one which preceded the Titanic disaster. He went on to say: “Under the coming together of those type of planets there will be trouble on the ocean-waves”. He wrote to the company P&O asking them to try to prevent a similar disaster. Their response was predictable, saying that it was difficult to respond to such “nebulous advice”. Ten days later their ship the Herald of Free Enterprise rolled over.
This is a clear example of an astrological pattern which could be explained perfectly by Harding’s ideas, with no need to relate it to theories of archetypes; the pattern is in the heavens, and the expected earthly event duly occurs. (The archetypal explanation would include the influence of Neptune, symbolizing the god of the sea, and so on. Interestingly, Elwell states in the programme that he himself, despite examples like the one just explained, has never believed in the direct influence of the planets, and subscribes to the interconnectedness/quantum mechanics theory of Astrology.)
There are, however, many bizarre examples of patterns which do not so easily allow a simple astrological explanation. In order to explore this issue more deeply I will again refer to the books of Tony Crisp, Ken Anderson, Alan Vaughan (as I did in an earlier article), and the compilation Best of the Fortean Times⁶. Here are some coincidences involving accidents:
a) “Mrs Sue Alton was riding with some friends along Pilgrim’s Way, a footpath near Dorking when her horse bolted. She was thrown headfirst against a five-foot-tall stone monument, and was killed almost instantly. The monument had been erected in 1873 to mark the spot where the Bishop of Winchester, Samuel Wilberforce, had fallen on his head and died when his horse put a hoof in a hole”⁷.
b)“On 27 May 1817, Mary Ashford, twenty, was found dead at Erdington, (near Birmingham.) On 27 May 1974 the strangled body of Barbara Forrest, twenty, was found at Erdington… Forrest’s body was found in long grass near the Erdington children’s home where she worked as a nurse, about 350 metres from the spot where Ashford’s body had been dumped. And 26 May in both 1817 and 1974 was not only a Monday but a Whit Monday. The pattern of the girl’s movements just before their deaths was similar. Both had visited a friend earlier in the evening where they had (both) changed their dress to go on to a dance. Both women had been raped before being murdered. They had died at about the same time. The man arrested for each murder was named Thornton! Both were acquitted”⁸.
c) “Erskine Lawrence Ebbin was knocked off his moped by a taxi and killed in Hamilton, Bermuda. It was the same taxi with the same driver, carrying the same passenger, that killed his brother Neville in July the previous year. Both brothers were 17 when they died, and had been riding the same moped in the same street. Ah! but history never quite repeats itself — the time of both accidents differed by (only) 50 minutes”⁹.
What are we to make of such stories? Examples a) and b) have a lot in common in that a pattern of events is repeated after a long gap, although b) is much more detailed. In a) astrology could be the explanation in that there may have been a repeated pattern in the heavens after 114 years, a number with no obvious archetypal significance. Astrology, however, normally deals with people, and here it is the place that provides the coincidence. A possible explanation would therefore be that the place itself somehow retained a tendency to repeat the event, the occurrence of the accident somehow conspiring in its reproduction. This seems to fit well with Sheldrake’s theory, although Harding’s astrology is also a possible explanation. Charts are usually thought to refer to people, but they can also be drawn up for events, for example a marriage or the foundation of a company. If we had exact times in this case, we could construct a chart for the original accident, or possibly for the time that the statue had been dedicated, say. The subsequent accident may therefore have corresponded to a progression derived from this chart.
The same Sheldrake/Harding option could also be said for b), yet here astrology seems less likely, in that we have the additional impressive factors of the repetition of date, and name of the accused. In general the positions of the planets do not repeat according to anniversaries, so the calendar (date, Whit Monday) seems to be more important. I would also suggest that it is unlikely that the planets can somehow be responsible for the name of a person being arrested.
In example c), however, even though the pattern of a repeated accident is the same, which fits in well with Harding’s description of Astrology as being based on cyclical repetition, it seems to me very hard to attribute it to astrological factors. The time of the accidents differed by only 50 minutes in successive years. The positions of the planets do not repeat in line with the calendar, so the total charts for the moment of the accident and the birth-charts of the brothers would be unlikely to be similar, although some partial configuration is possible. There is the further complication of the involvement of the same driver, the same passenger, (that is to say, two other charts) and the same street. (Given that the two dead people are brothers, some bizarre genetic phenomenon cannot be ruled out. It seems unlikely, however, that all these exact details could be encoded in this way. On the face of it, because of the great complexity, it seems unlikely to an outsider that any organising element at work here is astrological, although it cannot be ruled out, since there may have been an extraordinary coincidence in which material in the charts of the four persons overlapped.)
Dennis Elwell might just be the one who could uncover the mystery. He says:
- “There are layers upon layers of meaning. Every fact is connected with other facts, each of which in turn connects with yet other facts, and so on, in an ever-branching tree”.
- “In this way chart is stacked on chart, to give a sort of graded sieve through which manifestation descends in progressively greater detail…”¹⁰.
The event cannot be described as synchronistic, since the acausal meaning is not restricted to one moment in time, but occurs precisely because of its repetition, rather than being a one-off random event.
There are further patterns involving names. Sometimes this may simply mean people of the same name being drawn together to participate in the same event, for example: “John Stott, whose car crash was witnessed by Bernard Stott (no relation), and investigated by a WPC Tina Stott, was taken back to a police station where the trio was met by desk sergeant Walter Stott”¹¹. In other examples this type of interconnection seems to be deeper: “Patricia Ann Tranter, 30, of Ketley in Shropshire, went into hospital to have a baby. In the next bed was a stranger, called Patricia Ann Tranter, 24, of Ketley in Shropshire (they lived a mile apart). They gave birth on the same day, and met in the same church when the babies were being christened”¹².
On other occasions the name seems to act as a catalyst which attracts others of the same type. This quotation provides two examples: “A duck farmer in Lincolnshire employs two people called Crow, four Robbins, a Sparrow, a Gosling and a Dickie Bird. The latest recruit at Newport police station, Gwent, joining two policemen called Pidgeon, a Partridge, a Nightingale and a Bush, is PC Talbot Thrush”¹³.
Carl Jung notes the strangeness of the fact that he, Freud, and Adler should develop psychologies based on the ideas of rebirth, the pleasure principle, and the will to power respectively amongst other connections between names and external factors¹⁴. (The words can be translated ‘young’, ‘joy’, and ‘eagle’ respectively.)
The Best of the Fortean Times also has a section on such coincidences, for example:
- a schoolboy James Bond was given the examination number 007 by a computer quirk.
- the Examining Attorney in the extradition hearing in New York of Joseph Coherty, who escaped from prison in Belfast, is Ms. Ira H. Bloch. H-block was the name of the prison.
- a lecture on “Depression and anxiety disorders” was given by Professor Jules Angst¹⁵. (Angst means anxiety.)
In all these examples there does not seem to be any obvious meaning in the coincidences; they are more in the nature of jokes, as if God were ‘having a laugh’. Arthur Koestler refers to this phenomenon thus:
- “Some of these coincidental events give the impression of being purposefully arranged or have some emotional relevance, while others are just impish or whimsical”.
- “As often as not one comes across bizarre coincidental events which seem to have been contrived wantonly, without rhyme or reason, by some practical joker behind the scenes”¹⁶.
He goes on to tell the following story, which happened to J.B. Priestley: “My wife brought three large coloured lithographs by Graham Sutherland. When they arrived here from London she took them up to her bedroom, to hang them up in the morning. They were leaning against a chair and the one on the outside, facing the room, was a lithograph of a grasshopper. When Jacquetta got into bed that night, she felt some sort of twittering movement going on, so she got out and pulled back the clothes. There was a grasshopper in the bed. No grasshopper had been seen in that room before, nor has been seen since. No grasshopper has ever been seen at any other time in this house”.
This example is particularly interesting because it can be compared directly to Jung’s story of the scarab-beetle. The appearance of the insects in both places is extraordinary. In the latter there is a clear life-changing effect, so that one could argue that this was the intention of the organising factor. The same cannot be said about the grasshopper; it did not act as a catalyst for change in the lives of the participants, although it is a clear example of synchronicity. As expressed above, it seems that some being is trying to entertain either itself or us. The most likely explanation from the possibilities I have offered is therefore that of the archetypes, something akin to the Trickster.
Dennis Elwell, discussing a synchronicity in Richard Dawkins’ life, sees evidence of a “certain mischievous logic”, and then comments: “In the world of living experience, coincidences do often seem to betray the presence of a designer, indeed of a scheming and often impish intelligence…”¹⁷. Also Jung has written an essay called On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure which appears in Four Archetypes¹⁸. There he focuses on the malicious, destructive side of his nature. There is no evidence of this in the examples here, which all seem harmless. Perhaps a name like the Joker would be more appropriate.
Some writers have identified Hermes/Mercury as this figure in the Western tradition, for example:
- Thomas Moore: “He finds the images congealed in the density of matter, and then he tricks them out into the open; for Hermes in the crafty trickster god…”¹⁹.
- Luis Alvarado: “the Trickster aspect is especially important to remember when dealing with the Hermes (Mercury) archetype”²⁰.
This would suggest a strong connection between Mercury and synchronistic events, an idea concurred with here: “One’s own daimon may be sensed, like that of Socrates, as an inner voice, or it may be less definite: an urge, a longing, a deep wish, a persistent fear, a recurring dream theme or image, perhaps a daimon of accident or trickery like Kerenyi’s Hermes who caused him to find abandoned books, take the incorrect but fortunate road, train, and so on”²¹.
Numbers are another important source of patterns and coincidences. How should we understand their nature? Probably the most common view is the one expressed by Martin Cochrane: “Mathematics is…only another language, constructed to explain the reality of the physical world. In other words, another social construction by man”²². To many people this will seem self-evident; of course humanity invented numbers, how else could it be? This way of thinking, however, depends upon the truth of a premise, the worldview of scientific materialism, including the current evolutionary understanding, that life including humans emerged from dead matter where no mathematics could have existed. It is therefore only one hypothesis, since there is an alternative, more spiritual viewpoint:
- Carl Jung: “It is generally believed that numbers were invented or thought out by man, and are therefore nothing but concepts of quantities, containing nothing that was not previously put into them by human intellect. But it is equally possible that numbers were found or discovered (his italics). In that case they are not only concepts but something more — autonomous entities which somehow contain more than just quantities… I incline to the view that numbers were as much found as invented, and that in consequence they possess a relative autonomy analogous to that of the archetypes’²³.
- Physicist Freeman Dyson wonders “why the electron pays attention to our mathematics. (This) is a mystery that even Einstein could not fathom”²⁴ . Perhaps the problem is that he sees mathematics as “ours”.
- Marie-Louise von Franz, leading follower of Jung: “Nowadays, in this time of so-called enlightenment where everything irrational and the word God anyhow is thrown out of human science, a real attempt has been made in formalistic mathematics to define number in a form which would exclude all irrational elements, with the definition of numbers as a series of marks and a creation of the human mind. Now the spirit is seemingly owned by the ego complex, the mathematician’s ego owns and created numbers! That is what Weyl believed, and that is why he said: ‘I cannot understand that something completely simple which the human mind has created suddenly contains something abysmal’. He should only have asked whether the human mind had really created them. He feels as if he were now manipulating the phenomenon completely, but that is not true”²⁵.
- J. A. West and J. G. Toonder: “The division of the zodiac into.. sectors is based fundamentally upon the belief that the universe is coherent and that numbers are not mere inventions of man allowing him to make purely quantitative distinctions but rather the symbolic keys to qualitative laws that govern the coherent universe. All esoteric traditions have always sought to express the multiplicity within unity, and this has always involved the use of numbers, and the use of symbols…”²⁶.
- John Addey (in relation to the concept of the reality of numbers): “There are those who believe that distinctions of this sort are merely arbitrary conceptions of the human mind which have no reality other than that given to them by our own thoughts. This is a heresy(!) which has arisen as a by-product of an era of scientific materialism which cannot conceive of inner realities except in these terms”²⁷.
Addey establishes a connection between number and synchronicity by pointing out that: “Since the remotest times men have used numbers to express meaningful coincidences, that is, those that can be interpreted… They have never been entirely robbed of their numinous aura”²⁸.
That is to say, in the past humans have always experienced numbers as transcendent, ‘divine’, which, translated into modern language, means that they exist, as Jung suggests, at the level of the archetypes²⁹.
In case you think that is another example of their naive and superstitious nature, which in modern times we should have outgrown, Jung also mentions: “That numbers have an archetypal foundation is not… conjecture of mine but of certain mathematicians. Hence it is not such an audacious conclusion after all if we define number psychologically as an archetype of order which has become conscious”³⁰.
This viewpoint is, of course, the basis of numerology, a study which has strong parallels with astrology, in that an apparently unlikely external principle is claimed to be responsible for structuring human affairs. I have heard it dismissed with the same contempt normally reserved for astrology, so let us take a look at the issue more closely.
Even though number is at the heart of all astrology, it is John Addey who makes most reference to it in theoretical writings, not surprisingly since he is descended metaphysically from Pythagoras. He did some innovative work, developing the concept of harmonics, which in his words are “not only the circles or cycles of activity measured off by the whole length (duration) of each cosmic period, but also the sub-rhythms of activity which recur and are exactly completed within each period and which therefore must have a duration based on the division of that period by a whole number”³¹ (his italics). The implication is therefore that “the symbolism of number is an integral part of astrology… (and) is expressed primarily through the harmonic relationships of planets in the circle”³².
Having noted that D’Arcy Thompson has shown how mathematical laws are at work in all the forms of nature³³, he makes this fascinating claim: “Now science must learn that the lineaments of human character and convolutions of destiny, too, fall no less within the scope of number; for if it is true that God made ‘every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew’, it is no less true that He measured the ways of man before He was in the womb, and made Him an embodiment of ideal and divine numbers”³⁴.
If Addey is right that the archetype of number structures human affairs, perhaps some of the following examples will seem a little less surprising.
Ken Anderson says: “Most of us have a specific number that dogs our lives to a greater or lesser degree. Depending on your temperament, it can mean a little — one of life’s little eccentricities — or it can mean a lot — a marker of significant events in your life”³⁵, and repeats the idea in his later book: “Most people feel they are in some way attached to a particular number or numbers, whether it be their birthday or some other digit or set of digits. The same number crops up throughout their life resulting both in good news and bad news, happy and sad experiences, good and bad luck”³⁶. He gives examples of famous people — John Lennon and 9, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, both 737. From his correspondents he gives the examples of :
1) Suzanne Venecek, who, having read his previous book, realized that the number 10 was a significant number invading (!) her life³⁸.
2) Audrey Austin of Kariong, New South Wales, who “believes her ‘number’ is 3”, it having cropped up throughout her life in all kinds of circumstances. And in fact, according to numerology, derived from her birth-date, her number is 3!³⁹
3) Ute Kaboolian who, having had the same type of experiences, says: “If we do have a hand in making our reality according to what we think is important to us, then maybe anniversaries and other dates stress this importance in ways that cannot be overlooked. They also show us how we, as individuals, are connected to the greater experience of our universe. When my husband and I were married in 1958 I was 27 years old. On 15 July 1989, we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary. I was born in 1931. My husband has a 31 in his social security nunber, I have a 58. In 1958 he was twice my age. As he tells it, first he had to wait 27 years for me to be born, then another 27 years before he was able to meet and marry me. In 1958 our ages added up to 9 (2+7=9 and 5+4=9). In 1989 our ages were reversed, my husband was 85, I 58, which is the year I got married and started a new life. In 1989, both our ages totalled 13, the reverse of 31, the year I was born”⁴⁰. (Is attaching meaning to this just fanciful speculation? Many people will say so, but the very least that can be said is that the couple themselves are convinced of what the wife is saying, which places it on a par with synchronistic events which can really truly impress only the person concerned.)
In the above cases the repeating number is fairly simple. It is possible for a longer number to repeat itself, however:
1) In an ongoing childhood game a girl gave herself the (telephone) number 7605. In 1940, over ten years later, she had her first telephone connected and was “amazed when the gentleman from the post office said, ‘Your number, madam, is 7605’ ”. A possible explanation for this event would run as follows. The girl’s choice of phone number is stored in the collective unconscious. Later on she is assigned a real number, either by a human being, in which case some form of ESP could be involved, or by some random factor — for example a computer, or by merely being the next person on a list — in which case we would have to believe that ESP extends beyond human consciousness. Alternatively, she chose the original number unconsciously because it had some unknown numerological significance for her, confirmed by its reappearance later. Or, the event was organised by a hidden intelligence in order to impress the woman. (I believe that I have had a synchronistic experience of precisely that type.)
2) “Colin Archer drove a taxi cab for fifteen years with the numberplate T390. His private car numberplate was CRA 390, and when he wrote away for a ticket for a senior citizens’ week concert, he was sent a ticket numbered 390. The following year when he received his ticket to the concert it was again 390”.
3) “In the early 1950s Tony Taylor bought a house in Liverpool, England, Lot №201, which eventually became №47. His local Member of Parliament was Harold Wilson… (who subsequently became Prime Minister). Mr Taylor moved to Australia… and bought a house in Liverpool, a city near Sydney… Its address was Lot 201. It also became house No 47. His local MP was Gough Whitlam, Labor, and Mr. Taylor could not resist writing to him to tell him on the basis of his coincidental experience he would become Prime Minister — he did in 1972”⁴¹. (It is not obvious, to me at least, why Mr Taylor should connect the number-coincidence with the career of his local MP. He was proved right, however.)
4) “The address of Howard Trent, of Fresno, California, ends with the digits 742, as do his telephone number and bank account number. The number of a compensation check he received after being hospitalized was 99742, which matched the last five digits of his telephone number. The serial numbers of a set of new tires he bought ended in 742 and the number on his car license plate is FDC742⁴².
In these last three examples, unless there is some numerological significance for the individuals with respect to these numbers, all would appear to be random, meaningless coincidences. The odds against these repetitions happening by chance are significantly high, so that if it is not the archetype of number itself, then again I would suspect the involvement of the Trickster/ Joker archetype. An alternative explanation would be that the numbers in some mysterious way ‘like’ to repeat themselves. This would fit with Harding’s theory of astrology; the repetitions would be in response to planetary patterns, but we don’t have access to the relevant charts.
Numbers in the form of repeating dates are also involved in significant coincidences and patterns. Tony Crisp gives two examples, the simpler being that of Anna Murray, a BBC researcher, who says that in her family, therefore beyond the scope of the individual’s life, and hard perhaps for astrology to explain, things always happen on the 17th of the month. He comments: “When you collect enough cases of coincidental events, you begin to see that dates and even places frequently have powerful connections in the life of that individual’ ”⁴³.
He follows this up with a more complicated example: “On 5 December 1664, a ship in the Menai Strait off the coast of North Wales sank with 81 passengers on board. Only one man survived. His name was Hugh Williams. In the year 1785, on the same date of 5 December, a ship with 60 passengers sank leaving only one survivor. His name was Hugh Williams. On 5 December 1860, a ship sank with 25 passengers. There was only one survivor. His name was Hugh Williams”⁴⁴.
This example has Harding-like features, but what the incidents have in common is the date, the fact of the single survivor, and his name. It is unlikely that the pattern of the heavens recurs on anniversaries, so that the most likely explanation would seem to be the numerological one, that the date somehow attracts the event.
Ken Anderson provides this interesting example: Cheryl Bushby’s baby was “nine days past its expected birth date. Then, on 18 January 1985, the baby came with a rush, thus linking three generations of the family — all girls — to the same birth date. Baby Amanda had arrived on Cheryl’s twenty-third birthday. Her grandmother.. had been born on the same day in 1939 and had given birth to Cheryl on her twenty-third birthday”⁴⁵.
In this example, the baby seems to want to be born at a certain time. Such an idea is fascinating from an astrological point of view; could she be trying to fit in with her horoscope? The story suggests, however, that it is the date which is important, as if repeating the family tradition was in some way significant.
Anderson cites surveys about birth trends which show that there are fewer births on public holidays in general, notably over Easter and Christmas Days which “can be as much as 36 per cent below the respective daily averages for the days concerned”. Yet “research shows that children born on that day have above average chances of becoming successful. A disproportionate forty-two of the 620 US congressmen have 25 December birthdays, while a check of the birth dates of 9,000 people listed in Who’s Who shows 600 such birthdays. This is fifteen times above the expected rate”. Also leading clergymen are “four times more likely to have been born on Christmas Day than on any other”⁴⁶.
Most of the observations here are difficult to fit in with the categories of explanation that I have suggested. The success of Christmas Day children, however, might be attributed to the ‘energy follows thought’ idea; December 25th is celebrated in our culture as the birthday of a very special person, therefore children born on that day are also treated as special, therefore they believe that they are special, and so on.
Other interesting statistics regarding birth-trends are as follows:
a) there are fewer births on Sundays, increasing gradually to a peak on Thursdays, then declining again.
b) there is a tendency to avoid February 29 when it occurs.
The following example is more difficult. There has been a pattern, every twenty years starting in 1840, of US presidents elected in those years dying in office. This obviously includes the two famous assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, which involve an extraordinary set of coincidences connecting them after an interval of 100 years. For considerations of space and because the details are already well-known to many people I will not repeat them⁴⁷.
What is interesting here is not that there is a pattern relating to the date or year of death, which one would assume to be more significant, but the year of the election, which then results in another event. The fact that there was a failed assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1980, which may have signified the end of the sequence, seems only to draw attention to the pattern, to the fact that some organising influence is going on beneath the surface. If we follow through the idea of the pattern gradually dying away, an interesting incident occurred soon after the inauguration of President Bush in 2001. An armed man causing a nuisance outside the White House, was shot in the leg by security staff. Although the president was in the building, the incident posed no threat to his safety.
It seems especially hard to find a credible explanation for this. It may be a morphogenetic field, but in this case that does not seem especially convincing. In the absence of any other explanation, Alan Vaughan believes that the pattern may be the product of a curse on the presidency, originally placed on William Henry Harrison by a Shawnee Indian prophet after he had defeated the Shawnees at the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Should we believe in curses? That is an open question. If you have doubts about the author’s credibility, in his favour it can be said that he prophesied in 1973, on the basis of a dream, that the 1980 president would survive. “The curse has run its course… If allowed once more the dignity of his (the Shawnee’s) ancient race, then he will perhaps have vanquished the spectre of the Shawnee’s curse”⁴⁸. This is interesting given that there was a failed attempt on Reagan. (On the down side, Vaughan incorrectly felt that the rules governing length of the term of office would change so that there wouldn’t be a 1980 election.)
Especially since the dates are not the same, an astrological pattern may be responsible. Normally, however, in astrological thinking the charts of the individuals are important. Here the office of president seems to be attracting the coincidence, which is bizarre, at least to an outsider like me. Liz Greene, however, offers a possible explanation for the pattern which she describes as “an American president dying in office who has been elected under a Jupiter-Saturn conjunction”. She continues: “This has been happening regularly since Abraham Lincoln, and I think all the conjunctions have been in earthy signs. This time the conjunction has fallen in an air sign, and President Reagan got shot but didn’t die. There is also the curious example of the Pope, who is a different kind of old king. Once again, there was an assassination attempt, but he didn’t die. I don’t know whether this more optimistic note is because air is less concrete than earth and therefore demands less definite concrete expression”. Her hypothesis as to why the office of president attracts the pattern is as follows: “Perhaps America loses her presidents because there is a natal Jupiter-Saturn square in her birth chart, which means the nation is very sensitive to those conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn. But this time the fate has not been enacted concretely all the way through”⁴⁹.
The following two stories involving number appear to be classic cases of Jungian synchronicity, external correspondences to a personal experience:
1) This one is related by F. David Peat about the physicist Wolfgang Pauli: “One of the great unsolved mysteries of modern physics is the value of the fine structure constant, for while the other fundamental constants of nature are all immensely small or enormously large, this fine structure constant 1/137 turns out to be a human-sized number. This number 137 and its place in the scale of the universe particularly puzzled Pauli and continues to challenge physicists today. It was a mystery that Pauli was to take to his death, for on being admitted into the hospital, the physicist was told that he was being put into room 137. According to one version of this story, on learning of his room number, Pauli said, ‘I will never get out of here’. The physicist died shortly after”⁵⁰.
2) A woman gave birth to a boy in the back seat of her car on the way to hospital at 6.40 a.m. The numberplate of the car was BOY 640⁵¹.
Here is a story, related to Arthur Koestler by Professor Hans Zeisl, which combines the idea of a number invading a life with a powerful synchronistic event: “My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in Gablonz, Mozartgasse 23; we lived in Vienna at Rossauerlaende 23; our law office at Gonzagagasse 23; my mother at Alserstrasse 23, Tuer [flat] 23, and so it went. One spring, my mother was about to leave for a trip to Southern France with a friend of hers and asked me to bring her ‘something to read’. A friend, who owned a bookstore, recommended Ilya Ehrenburg’s Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney: ‘It is just out’. I bought it without looking at it. My mother wrote at intervals. When she approached Monte Carlo she wrote, ‘You know I am not the gambling type, but I am tempted to put a little money on our number 23’. Of course, I encouraged her. The next letter came from Monte Carlo: ‘We arrived last night and before falling asleep I read some more in the The Love of Jeanne Ney. There I came upon a passage where (whoever it was) played roulette and won — on number 23. That settles it: tomorrow I am going to put some chips on 23’. One day later, another letter arrived: ‘23 came out on my second try’. The win was confirmed by my mother’s travelling companion”⁵².
Finally, here is a random story involving number. As is well known, in the Book of Revelation the number ascribed to the devil is 6–6–6 (the ‘mark of the beast’). On the Channel 4 programme Fortean TV (August 22nd 2000), there was a report on a Ford Capri including 666 in its registration, which behaved as though it were cursed or possessed. The previous owner had said that the number-plate was “generating an evil feeling” and had been “very keen to get rid of it”. The new owner moved it from one garage to another block of garages, and a shed in the next garden caught fire the same night, setting fire to the garages. While driving along the front wheel caught fire. A mechanic couldn’t find anything wrong with it, so the brake caliper was changed, the old one being placed in the boot. The next day the owner checked it and it was so hot that it was impossible to handle. A woman friend, having heard about the problems, agreed to check out the car. She sat in the front seat, but when she turned round she saw the face of a woman in the back seat.
This owner was not alone in experiencing such problems. According to the presenter, “plagued by reports of beastly behaviour ” the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency has stopped producing any number-plates containing 666. The civil servant interviewed was somewhat more restrained, confirming that the number had been withdrawn in 1989 after “a small but significant number of people had complained”. The problems did not seem as serious as in the main example, being described as “an inexplicable fault, a spate of break-ins”. It is likely, however, that the reasons given cover up more bizarre happenings, in that the people concerned may not have wanted to appear ‘crazy’; it seems unlikely that a spate of break-ins would lead someone to suggest that a registration number should be withdrawn.
The likely explanation seems to me to be as follows. If we resist the idea that the cars involved are actually possessed by evil spirits, then we would have to point to the association in peoples’ minds between the number 666 and the Devil. It is often said in psychological circles that “energy follows thought”. Other examples would include the condition of cancer patients which improves after they are asked to visualize an army of white blood-cells attacking the malignant ones. In Sports Psychology athletes etc. are told to visualize in advance the winning of the race, the receiving of the gold-medal, and so on. This is believed to increase their chances of winning. In these cases we see human thought/imagination trying to create events in the material world. What can be achieved consciously could also be brought about unconsciously. Thus the car behaves as if possessed precisely because people are thinking it to be so.
There is therefore an impressive array of evidence pointing to number as an organising factor in our lives. Michael Harding has no problem with this, for he says: “The concept of number would appear to be more uniquely related to astrology than to any other coherent cosmological system. Astrologers use numbers to describe the shape and nature of the zodiac and the manifesting qualities of the aspects — and much else besides”. He points out that in some astrologers’ work, “the use of number and archetype are almost synonymous; a number is seen as containing or expressing a specific idea which is then manifested in the world again and again. In other words, the event is in some way a reflection of an underlying ‘truth’ ”⁵³. That was also the conclusion drawn by Addey, Jung, and Von Franz, but Harding does not see things as they do. His own approach is expressed thus: rather than resonating to an archetype, number is “inherent within the process of the thing itself… Number is a way of being, a shifting process of possibilities contained within the working of the cosmos… Number would seem to be the way things ‘work’ ” (p63, his italics). He arrives at this statement after a discussion of the work of modern mathematicians Boole, De Morgan, and philosopher Frege, whom he favours because they satisfy “growing logistical demands” (p62). This is the same attitude that he reveals in relation to the modern philosophers of language, that is to say, only rational explanations will do, and again he seems to think that quoting these writers in some way constitutes proof; ‘modern’ is by definition ‘better’.
Just as in my earlier discussion of the archetypes, Harding makes no attempt to explain what model of the nature of the universe might explain how number is an aspect of matter, and how numerical coincidences could thereby be generated. Given his apparent materialism, we can reasonably ask how he accounts for statements like this by eminent mathematician and physicist Paul Dirac: “There is just one rock which weathers every storm, to which one can always hold fast — the assumption that the fundamental laws of nature correspond to a beautiful mathematical theory. This means a theory based on simple mathematical concepts that fit together in an elegant way, so that one has pleasure working with it”⁵⁴.
As always, there is no theoretical background which might justify Harding’s statements. In particular I would ask how the movements of the planets, even if they are capable of organising the numbers of the streets on which we live — which I doubt — can conspire to put the thought into the mind of a bookseller to recommend a certain book, which just happens to contain a passage related in specific details to a thought the reader had a few hours before, and so on. The archetypal, numerological explanations therefore seem more credible.
On the subject of patterns, I have published a separate article on the work and underlying ideas of the fascinating astrologer Dennis Elwell. Here I’ll just mention material relevant to this chapter.
Unlike the examples given so far in which the coincidences or patterns are obvious to the participants, the connections between people and events that Elwell describes are noticeable only through Astrology. He believes that making connections in this way enables us to understand the hidden meaning of the cosmos. Thus he says: “Astrological investigation can start with the many undisputed physical circumstances, even trifling details, which the cosmos freely scatters around as clues. Even names can spark a line of enquiry in which a larger understanding is built up piece by piece”⁵⁵. Thus you can see that the type of material I have been discussing is directly relevant to his ideas. There is therefore a strong possibility that some of the examples to which, in the absence of the relevant charts, I have so far attributed other explanations, may indeed have a missing astrological component in their make-up.
I will begin by giving some of Elwell’s name-coincidences which add an extra dimension to the ones I used earlier, in that they seem to occur only in relation to astrological symbolism:
- When discussing recreational activities he points out that music, depending on its character, could be associated with various planets. If the person were also interested in sailing, however, this would suggest Neptune. “In fact in the chart of a former British prime minister, Edward Heath, Neptune in the fifth house points precisely to these twin recreations” (p114). He then points out that Heath’s yacht was called Morning Cloud, and that “the name Neptune has its root in a word that means ‘cloud’, (which also gives us nebula and nebulous)”. Heath was presumably involved in the choosing of the name; the suggestion would be that he was unconsciously attracted to a name associated with the symbolism of his horoscope.
2. The Challenger was the name of an American Space shuttle which blew up soon after launching in 1986. Elwell describes this as a “Mars name”, and says therefore that “that planet becomes a useful marker”. He provides much astrological background too long to quote here. Suffice it to say that the launch “took place under a calamitous sky”. There were important Mars connections in the charts of President Reagan, the USA, NASA, and the time of the launch itself. Also, “The launch ascendant was itself the place of that lunar eclipse — not a moment an astrologer would have chosen” (see p121).
3. He mentions several coincidences in relation to Sagittarius the Archer. All of them occurred when Sagittarius was important in the charts:
a) “It is astrologically significant that the last major air crash of 1985 involved a plane operated by Arrow Air, and that it happened in New-found-land, a name evoking the exploratory side of that sign”.
b) the murder of the policewoman Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan People’s Bureau. Elwell points out that “the name Yvonne itself means ‘yew bow’ ” (both p78).
c) “The political career of Jeffrey Archer, noted author and darling of the Tory Party… went into eclipse following scandalous newspaper accusations” (p80).
4. “On 16 December 1998 Operation Desert Fox was launched against Iraq. Why was it called that? It was explained that the Pentagon had an alphabetical system for allocating names to operations. But it happened that the RAF squadron dispatched to the Gulf had long sported a fox’s head as its emblem. That was just coincidence, said the RAF. Moreover for the military there was no significance in the fact that Rommel… was nicknamed the Desert Fox. But astrologers become curious about such things, and might be moved to compare planetary positions at the launch of Desert Fox with Rommel’s birth. At both moments swift-moving Mercury was at the same place in the zodiac, 3½° Sagittarius” (see p79). (Foxes have been linked astrologically with Mercury.)
Elwell also discusses in detail various major news-items. Name coincidences play an important part in the astrological web that he spins around the Dunblane massacre⁵⁶. The murderer in this incident was called Thomas Hamilton. Elwell points out that “criminologists date the modern spree shooting phenomenon from 6 September 1949, when Howard Unruh took a stroll in his home town of Camden, New Jersey, and randomly shot thirteen people. His last victim was a young boy who happened to be looking out of the front window. The boy’s name was Thomas Hamilton. He was indiscriminately murdered at the age of two, and two years later the Dunblane killer was born, a symmetry which may not be coincidental. Evidence given to the Dunblane inquiry indicated that Hamilton had been gestating his fearful plan for two years”. Elwell suggests that one is the reincarnation of the other.
The underlying cosmic theme to which Elwell believes the Dunblane massacre is related is the nation’s attitude towards armaments. Two days later the Queen opened a new Royal Armouries Museum at Leeds; ironically, it was her first public opportunity to express her sorrow about the incident. Elwell believes that the project crossed over a line, on the near side of which “war may be necessary, killing may be unavoidable”, but on the other side of which “the realities of mortal combat” were being commercially exploited for entertainment. Also in the run up to Dunblane “a 55-acre site had been earmarked for a national target shooting centre — again ‘family orientated’, meaning bring the kids — at a cost of £11 million, with £7 million of National Lottery money”. (And a similar project was being set up in the USA at the same time.)
With that information as background we can now return to another name coincidence. “The chosen site was at Stockton, Cleveland, a place that perversely recalled America’s own Dunblane, when a gunman killed five children and injured thirty more at Cleveland elementary school, in Stockton, California”.
Then some geographical coincidences intervene. Hungerford, the site of a previous massacre, and Dunblane are close in latitude, but “their mid-latitude works out to 53N47.5 — which is exact for the Royal Armouries” (his italics). A certain Robert Sartin “became obsessed with Hungerford” and “made a pilgrimage to the place. Then on 30 April 1989 he committed copycat shootings in his home town of Monkseaton, in Whitley Bay… Hungerford’s longitude is 1W30, and Monkseaton’s 1W28, which means they are on the same meridian, to within a couple of miles. High noon indeed! Leeds is a sprawling city, but the ordnance survey map shows the precise longitude of the Royal Armouries to be 1W32”. Thus the Leeds museum is connected by almost straight lines in both directions with scenes of mass killing.
Then geographical and name coincidences overlap, for if you draw a line north from the Armouries, “it runs — with gunsight precision — along the entire length of a long straight road called Hamilton Place. It is the spine of a grid of roads which include Hamilton Terrace, Hamilton Avenue and Hamilton Gardens, all within two miles of the museum”. (The story continues, but this should give you a flavour of the type of coincidences involved.)
Other items which Elwell discusses in relation to astrological patterns are:
1. the history of the Titanic. I mentioned his interest in this above. Further observations follow. (Some of his material can only be understood in terms of astrological symbolism. Here I restrict myself to those patterns which can be understood as such by non-astrologers.)
A conjunction of Mercury and Saturn in the ninth house occurred at the time of the launch. There was a further conjunction of Mercury and Saturn at the time of the Oscar awards ceremony, 05:40 GMT on 24/3/98, Los Angeles, when the film The Titanic received its many awards⁵⁷.
At the time of the Titanic disaster, the chart revealed a pentagram (a five-pointed star) including Jupiter and Neptune as significant players. The same pentagram was the logo adopted by the White Star Line, owners of the doomed vessel. Elwell describes this as “one of those curiosities so often encountered in astrology”, and comments: “You may say, the majority of stars, on flags and logos, have five points. True, but there did not have to be star at all, and the company might have had some other name” (p249). The relationship between Jupiter and Neptune figures further in that a septile occurs between them at the birth of William McQuitty, who subsequently produced a major film about the Titanic, and who as a boy had been present at the launch.
Elwell is saying that the whole Titanic episode was imbued with meaning from the cosmic standpoint. Further evidence supporting this line of thinking is the fact that several works of literature ‘predicted’ the accident, thus suggesting that the forthcoming event was bubbling up in the collective psyche. The most detailed coincidences are to be found in Morgan Robertson’s The Wreck of the Titan or Futility, which he began to write in 1898 in response to a kind of vision. Several years before this, W. T. Stead wrote two articles in the Pall Mall Gazette, the first “about a ship as large as the Titanic which also sank in mid-Atlantic”, and the second “about a steamship colliding with an iceberg in the Atlantic”. Just a week before the disaster, Popular Mechanics carried another fictitious story about the maiden voyage of the largest ocean liner in the world, which sinks after a collision with an iceberg⁵⁸. And scientific sceptics will say that there is no such thing as precognition!
2. the life and death of Princess Diana. She is seen by Elwell as being symbolically connected through the astrological cosmic loom with:
a) Marilyn Monroe. “Both (were) renowned for their beauty and glamour. Both died at the age of thirty-six, in circumstances which were a gift to conspiracy theorists. Both suffered through their association with the most powerful family in the land, in Marilyn’s case the Kennedys” (p254). Their lives finally intersected when Candle in the Wind, originally written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, was performed at Diana’s funeral with new lyrics in her honour.
b) other deaths in cars, namely those of President Kennedy, and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination in Sarajevo precipitated the First World War. The connecting factor is the prominence of 9° Virgo in the relevant charts⁵⁹. Non-astrologers, especially those of a sceptical disposition, might respond ‘so what?’, thinking that these must be meaningless, irrelevant coincidences. Elwell, however, makes meaningful connections between all these events: “In the very month of her death Diana had been in Sarajevo in pursuit of her campaign against landmines… For Diana to have made a physical link with Sarajevo in this way, out of her own relationship with the god of war, may not have been unimportant for the invisible mechanisms which underpin events. In her birth chart Mars himself is in exactly the same degree it occupied at the assassination!” (p255).
c) the Duchess of Windsor who, through her first marriage, for ten years was also a Spencer. “The eclipse at 9½° Virgo looped back to two events of specific royal significance. At the death of the Duke… Saturn stood at 9½° Gemini. When the Duchess of Windsor followed him into the beyond, fourteen years later, Saturn was completing half its orbit, had reached 8¾° Sagittarius. Both had died in Paris, and their bodies were flown back to Britain for burial, a fate that was awaiting the unsuspecting Diana.
Diana established a physical contact with the Windsors when she visited their home on the last afternoon of her life… Diana and the Duchess would have had an interesting conversation comparing notes. Both fell in love with a Prince of Wales who had suffered a lonely upbringing by undemonstrative parents. Both were eventually frozen out by their in-laws. Both were glittering celebrities, leaders of fashion. And both became central figures in major British constitutional crises” (p256). He goes on to relate how both women were deprived of their title of HRH.
d) Mother Teresa, who died on the eve of Diana’s funeral. Elwell’s believes their deaths were “signalled in the heavens” and therefore connected. He explains himself thus: “Consider that both deaths occurred at around the time of the aforementioned solar eclipse at 9½° Virgo. During the course of a day the earth’s rotation carries the sun, moon, and planets around the circle of the heavens, so that they all in turn cross the axis of the meridian and the horizon. Now it happens that at Paris the eclipse was exactly on the lower meridian (the ‘midnight’ point), while at Calcutta the eclipse was exactly rising. The precision referred to here is so close that only five minutes on the clock, either way, would make these positions inexact” (pp257–8, his italics).
e) the Statue of Liberty, and the USA: “As well as her torch Lady Liberty holds a tablet bearing the date July 4 1776, for the Declaration of Independence, and the horoscope for that event has been adopted as the birth chart of the United States. In that chart the Sun is in Cancer, the Moon in Aquarius, and the most plausible ascendant is Sagittarius, all of which happen to be the same placings as at Diana’s birth” (p260).
Elwell points out that there is a replica of the torch of the Statue of Liberty over the Alma tunnel, which Diana passed under on the way to her death, and that this torch immediately became “the focus for a Diana cult in Paris, a place to leave messages and flowers, which as a tourist attraction would soon rival the Eiffel Tower”. He comments: “From early in astrology’s history the ideal of liberty has been connected with Jupiter, and the female ideal with the moon, therefore the Statue of Liberty — and by association her torch in Paris — represents a fusion of these two principles”. He then points out that:
- “at the moment of the crash the moon and Jupiter stood in exact opposition in the heavens”
- “their opposition lay exactly across the Paris meridian”
- “at the same moment in New York, home of the statue, the opposition was exactly across the horizon” (pp259–260).
f) Queen Astrid of Belgium, who gave her name to the road along which Diana’s car travelled on the way to the tunnel. They both “died young, …were killed in a car crash at the end of August. Not only the manner of her death, but her character bears a striking parallel with Diana. Born with the moon in Cancer (Diana had the sun there) Astrid was called the ‘Queen of Mothers’, and took a deep interest in hospitals and creches for children…” (p260).
All Sorts of Gemini
The idea that seemingly unrelated people (Diana and Marilyn Monroe, Diana and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand etc.) can in fact be connected (‘twinned’) with each other through astrological signposts leads me on to my next section. I shall return to that theme later, having explored more conventional types of twins.
Stories about twins should be the most important source of material when exploring the validity of Astrology, in that the two people concerned must have a relatively similar birth-chart, and should therefore provide significant evidence either for or against. There are three separate categories worthy of investigation: twins as normally understood; identical twins; astrological twins, that is to say, children born at the same, or very close, time and place to different mothers. From this category one can isolate the phenomenon of ‘time-twins’ — not necessarily born in the same place — which has been the subject of significant research, for example The Astrology of Time Twins by Peter Roberts and Helen Greengrass⁶⁰.
Before we raise our hopes of enlightenment about astrology too high, however, it should be pointed out that true astrological twins are rare, so that there is not much evidence from this source, and that there is often a significant delay between the birth of natural twins. The birth-chart changes every four minutes and, according to West and Toonder: “Ten minutes’ difference in birth can mean that the ascendant of one twin is placed in a different sign from the other, and with it all the ‘houses’ change as well. On the other hand, the ten or even twenty minutes’ difference in birth hour can make almost no discernible difference in the horoscope if the ascendant falls in the middle of a sign”⁶¹. Although the majority of twins are born within an hour of each other, twenty-five per cent take longer⁶², which means that the horoscopes will often not be as similar as one would like.
One would assume that it is better to have identical birth details, but even if we go no further than the first example in the Roberts/Greengrass book — in which two women were born four and a half hours apart, one in England, the other in Holland — there are extraordinary coincidences in the details of their lives. They originally got to know each other by becoming pen-friends. It was not until several years later that X, the English woman, visited the other’s house. When she did these coincidences were noted: they both:
- were wearing the same colour blouse and trousers
- had a copy of Kipling’s poem If on their walls (one office, the other lounge)
- wore glasses, so similar that they got them muddled
- took the same (surprisingly large) shoe size of 7
- made their own personal Christmas cards
- owned a blue and white figurine of a woman holding a goose
- had had to have treatment for trouble with their hands
- had a nephew in the army. (The list is described as seeming “to go on and on”, so there is presumably more.)
This pair are by no means precise astrological twins, so one question we have to ask is whether the closeness of birth time is the reason for the similarities in life-patterns, or merely one manifestation of the fact that two lives are ‘twinned’ in some way that we do not really comprehend, but about which I will offer a hypothesis later.
Michel Gauquelin (a scientist and statistician who investigated whether there was any truth in astrology, discussed in an earlier chapter) also recognized the relevance of the issue of twins to the question of astrology’s validity. He cites a study by a Dr. Kallmann of the Psychiatric Institute of New York who examined 27, 000 pairs of identical twins over a period of thirty years, concluding that “every being has inside him a clock set at the moment of his birth which predetermines particularly illnesses and accidents”, in other words, there is a strong tendency for identical twins to share certain similar life-patterns. He mentions one of Kallman’s cases of twins separated at birth and raised in two different countries, who nevertheless both chose a military career and at their retirement had both reached the same rank of colonel. However, Gauquelin will not hear of any astrological explanation in such cases (at least at that point in his career; there was a later conversion), saying that the “same heredity luggage” is responsible. He nevertheless declines to explain how the rank of colonel or the timing of accidents can be written in the genes. As evidence he says that “non-identical twins who are born from different eggs…show considerable differences of character and of subsequent destiny, unlike the usual case of identical twins”⁶³.
If we explore some of the evidence related to the ideas that Gauquelin expresses here, we might be a little more cautious. With actual twins he makes a distinction between the ordinary and the identical, in order to emphasize the genetic factor and to deny the possibility that ordinary twins can share any patterns. Yet both types can provide excellent material. The cases are especially interesting when the pair are separated at birth and meet several years later, having been unaware of each other’s existence. Here are three examples from The Best of the Fortean Times:
- “Jacqueline and Sheila Lewis were adopted at birth by different families, and neither knew the other existed. Twenty-seven years later, they were admitted to Southmead Hospital, Bristol, on the same day with the same hereditary skin disorder, and put in the same room. They soon discovered they were identical twins and that Sheila’s husband had died on the same day, two years earlier, that Jackie had divorced her husband”
- Twin girls born in 1939, named Barbara and Daphne, were adopted and lived separately, then met for the first time in 1979. “Both their adoptive mothers died when they were children; both had worked in local government offices; both miscarried their first babies, then each had two boys followed by a girl — though Daphne had two more children later; and both had met their husbands at town hall dances when they were 16. They both liked carving, though Barbara uses wood and Daphne soap; and they were wearing identical white petticoats at their reunion”
- In July 1979 twins Ruth Johnson of Lowell, Massachusetts and Allison Mitchell Erb of Mount Vernon, Maine, “met for the first time since they were adopted 26 years ago. Each is a hairdresser with a daughter called Kristen, and each has one other child. The previous June they had both watched a television discussion on the right of adopted persons to discover their origins, and both started to search for the other”⁶⁴.
What are the possible explanations in such cases? The first is a good example of Kallman’s conclusion; the twins are identical, and indeed a clock would appear to have been set at their births. I assume, however, that he did not locate the site of this clock in the body, and was referring merely to the extraordinary timing accuracy involved in his case-studies. The skin disorder is presumably genetic. Some geneticists speculate about the possibility of genes being responsible for an enjoyment of activities such as carving and hairdressing, but if this is the case, the genes responsible have not yet been identified. But what could be responsible for drawing people to the same room, for the choice of petticoat, for the choice of daughter’s name? Genetics seem out of the question. I would also suggest that celestial mechanics are an equally unlikely explanation, although that is presumably what Harding would offer. In such cases, based upon my own experiences, I always suspect the involvement of a hidden intelligence organising behind the scenes. The only suggestion that I can come up with apart from this is some form of unconscious telepathy. It is quite possible that twins have a stronger psychic connection than other people. This might be responsible for the choice of names of children, and, given that the two women knew they were going to remeet, such a factor might also be responsible for the choice of petticoat.
The next category to investigate is precise astrological twins. In The Case for Astrology²⁶ there is significant discussion of this issue, the authors concluding that there is evidence that some astrological twins, born from different eggs to different parents, share the same destiny:
“Babies born at the same time often share features in common. With amazing frequency, time twins will have the same name, will marry wives or husbands with the same name, will work at similar occupations, succeed or fail in similar ways and die of the same or similar causes” (p140). The authors provide some photographic evidence, including one outstanding example of two girls Jean Henderson and Joyce Ritter, who were born within five minutes of each other in the same nursing home on February 20th 1947. They look like identical twins, (although it has to be said that the families — who are also not dissimilar — have obviously prepared for the photo, in that the girls have a similar hairstyle and are wearing identical dresses).
West and Toonder provide an appendix to their book containing eleven examples of astrological or time twins, which provide interesting material, although they do not all correspond in so many details as the above. I will mention three cases:
1. The girls just mentioned, in that they are an example of that rare phenomenon, true astrological twins: “(They) came to live next to each other in White Plains, New York, at the age of six. From this time on not only teachers but the parents of the girls themselves had trouble distinguishing between them… Not only were they remarkably alike physically, but they shared the same likes and dislikes. Both came from families of five children. Both had fathers who held similar jobs at the same airport”.
2. I include this one because the subject is described as “the most famous time-twin”. He is “Samuel Hemming who was born at the same time on the same day as George III of England (June 4th 1738). Hemming and George III looked very similar and their lives ran in close parallel, though on their respective levels. Hemming set up his ironmonger’s business on the day George succeeded to the throne. Both were married on 8 September 1761, both begot the same number of children of the same sex, both became ill and had accidents at the same time, and both died on 29 January 1820 of similar causes”.
3. …and this one because there are so many corresponding details: “Two unrelated women, both named Edna, met for the first time in a hospital in Hackensack, New Jersey. Both had been born on the same day, and were now in the hospital for their first confinements. Their babies were born within an hour of each other, and both had been named Patricia Edna in advance. Both women were married to men named Harold, who had both been born on the same day. Both men were in the same business, owned the same make, model, and colour automobile. Both couples had been married on the same day. Both women had the same number of brothers and sisters and practised the same religion. Both families had a mongrel named Spot”.
The authors conclude: “It would probably be possible to document several hundred such cases from existing records. But to continue listing them would be tiresome, nor would it prove anything from a scientific standpoint. Astrologers, however, insist that the documentation is now sufficiently strong to provoke the interest of the scientifically-minded. Astrologers are confident that large-scale research would prove beyond a doubt that cases of time twins are not ascribable to coincidence, and that physical and psychological similarities could be expected to recur” (pp257–9).
What can we learn from all this? Firstly, Gauquelin is not as efficient a researcher as he would have us believe. In this book he is very hostile to astrology. He asks how astrologers explain the different destinies of twins born virtually at the same time; this means that he would be even more sceptical about astrological twins. Yet, as is apparent from the examples I have just given, there is significant evidence that at least some real and astrological twins do share the same life patterns, and this in more details than could reasonably be ascribed to chance. Gauquelin was published in 1966, and West and Toonder followed soon afterwards in 1970. He is probably the most dedicated researcher into astrology in the history of the planet. Even allowing for the possibility that some of the examples emerged during the intervening four years, how is it possible that he was not familiar with “several hundred cases”? If he was not aware of them, this is incompetence on a grand scale. If he was aware of them, he should at the very least have mentioned their existence, even if he did not believe the explanation was astrological. His failure to do so could only be construed as withholding of evidence.
Secondly, Gauquelin distinguishes between identical and non-identical twins, saying that the former may share life-patterns, but the latter not. He does this because he wants to insist on a genetic explanation. Skin disorders may be hereditary, but is it really plausible that the day of admission, the name of the hospital and the ward, the names of one’s children, the day one loses one’s husband, the choice of clothing on a particular day, parents’ jobs, the timing of accidents, the names of dogs are encoded in the genes? Not even the staunchest defender of genetic theory, Richard Dawkins perhaps, would make such a claim. On the contrary, far from similar lives being restricted to identical twins, in the case of Joyce Ritter and Jean Henderson astrological twinning actually created identical twins where there was no genetic connection.
If you are thinking, as I hope you are, that all this is beginning to sound like good news for Astrology, a note of caution has to be sounded. If there are genuine correspondences as a result of an identical, or very similar, birth-chart, these should occur in all cases of twins, but unfortunately this is not the case. Unless we accept the unlikely conclusion that Astrology applies only to some individuals, we have to concede that this is still an open question.
This is the time to introduce a further complication, a fourth category of twin, those people who seem to be living ‘twinned’ lives, even though they are not twins, either actual or astrological, for example:
1) Suzanne Venecek, having been adopted as a child, later searched for her mother Shirley Davis, and found her when she was thirty. As they told their stories, the following parallels were noted: “Shirley’s birthday and that of Sue’s eldest son, Bill, are 9 May and 5 May respectively. Sue’s youngest daughter, Jenny, and her eldest son, John, have birthdays on 9 May and 5 May respectively. Both Shirley and Sue had four children and one miscarriage, and both had two boys and two girls. Shirley had her children in the order girl, boy, girl, boy. Sue had her four in reverse order. Shirley had been divorced twice, as had both Sue and her sister, Terry. Shirley and Terry are both married for a third time, leading Sue to wonder whether a third marriage is in her cosmic script”. The story goes on to reveal significant overlapping of names in the two families⁶⁵.
2) “Mervyn Conway, forty-four, and Glenn Plath, forty-three, lived in the same Queensland town, Bundaberg, for most of their lives without knowing they were brothers. Their mother had been forced to have them both adopted at birth. Mervyn and Glenn met as a result of the easing of disclosure restrictions in Queensland’s adoption laws in 1991. Among the strange coincidences they found when they compared notes: each brother had a daughter named Amanda Lee, and each had lost a brother from their adoptive family in road accidents in the same year 1967”. They had actually been involved in each others’ lives without realizing that they were related⁶⁶.
In the first example we have a mother and daughter living similar lives, in the second brothers. Could the explanation be genetic therefore? If so, this would support Harding’s and (early) Gauquelin’s line of argument. Again it seems incredibly unlikely that the type of details involved could really be encoded in the genes. Geneticists certainly do not suggest this.
Here is a minor example, which may perhaps be more properly called a coincidence, rather than a pattern:
3) “At noon on Saturday, 11 August 1985, Karen Dawn Southwick, twenty-two, married in a church at Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, England. She was given away by her father, Alfred. Three hours later, Karen Dawn Southwick, twenty-two, married in the same church and was given away by her father, Alfred. It was not bigamy, just two brides with the same full names whose fathers had the same names, who happened to marry on the same day in the same church. The brides’ families are not related and neither bride had met until the local vicar introduced them at a pre-wedding get-together for marrying couples”⁶⁷.
Then there are some other borderline time-twin examples, where the timing is so approximate that it may be irrelevant:
4) “Patricia Kern of Colorado was sent a tax demand for $3,000 from a job she had held in Oregon, a state in which she had never set foot. Inquiries showed that Patricia DiBiasi of Oregon owed the taxes. Both were born Patricia Ann Campbell, on 13 March 1941, and shared a social security number. Both had fathers called Robert, both married military men within 11 days of each other, both worked as bookkeepers and had children of 21 and 19”⁶⁸.
5) The story of two Wanda Marie Johnsons. Both “were born on the same day — 15 June 1953. Both are former District of Columbia residents who moved to Prince Georges. Both are mothers of two children. Both are owners of 1977 two-door Ford Granadas. The eleven-digit serial number on their cars are the same except for the last three digits. Their Maryland driver’s licences were identical because a computer determines each licence number by name and birth date… They both had babies at Howard University Hospital…”, which was where this extraordinary coincidence finally came to light⁶⁹. (Alan Vaughan roughly calculates the odds against all the coincidences occurring in this case as 1,000,000,000,000 to 1.)
6) Two women, both called Belinda Lee Perry, were born on the same date, January 7th 1969. “One is a distinctive, blue-eyed blonde, the other an Aboriginal with curly brown hair and dark eyes. It should therefore have been easy to tell them apart, yet various agencies persisted in confusing them — the Commonwealth Employment Service/Department of Social Security, Medicare, the City of Sydney Library, Austudy, Electoral Registration Department. The former describes their lives as amazingly similar. They had both worked for the New South Wales public service as clerks for about 18 months, both worked at Sydney University for about the same length of time, and both enrolled as mature students at the University”⁷⁰.
Alan Vaughan tells this interesting story about his wife, Diane Dudley:
7) she learnt through a newspaper clipping and a photograph about the existence of another female with the same name as her, and looks, if not actually identical, at least similar enough to be mistaken for her in the photograph. Through a mutual acquaintance she discovered that their personalities were “very much the same”⁷¹. Despite trying to make contact with the woman, she was unable to trace her, and unfortunately therefore birth-time details are not known.
The following is an extraordinary example in that the pattern extends to couples rather than individuals:
8) “Albert Rivers and Betty Cheetham of Swindon shared a table with another couple for dinner at the Tourkhalf Hotel in Tunisia in early 1998. The other couple introduced themselves, Albert Cheetham and Betty Rivers of Derby. All were in their 70s. Having overcome the surprise at their similar names, they kept talking and soon more similarities emerged. The two couples were both married on the same day and at the same time. Both couples have two sons, born in 1943 and 1945. Both couples have five grandchildren and four great grandchildren. The Bettys had worked in post offices in their home towns while their husbands had been carriage bodybuilders in railway workshops. Neither women could show her engagement ring as both had lost them, but they did have identical watch bracelets which had had the same links repaired”⁷².
What could have led to the various coincidental factors in these stories? In 3 there may have been some kind of attraction, clustering effect. 7 sounds like an astrological twin along the lines of Ritter/Henderson. As the other woman could not be traced and her birth-data established, it is impossible to test this hypothesis. In 4, 5, and 6 the first thing we should note is that any astrological significance is confined to the same birthday; there is no suggestion that the people concerned were born at the same time or in the same place. That is therefore one more significant coincidence in these already impressive examples, but it is clearly debatable to what extent any organizing factor could be considered astrological.
Some interesting peripheral observations emerge from these cases. Firstly, it would be interesting to know how widespread the phenomenon is. If in general we do not know about our ‘twins’, there could be thousands upon thousands of such cases. There could be ten men with the same name as me, born on the same day, doing the same job, married to a wife with the same name etc., living within a mile of my house. Unless any of us had the unusual hobby of trawling through the Electoral Register for fun, it is unlikely that we would ever discover this fact, even less likely if we lived in different towns or countries.
Secondly, in the examples studied, circumstances sometimes seem to conspire to bring the ‘twins’ together after a long separation, after which they compare notes. There is nothing especially out of the ordinary in being dealt with by the same hospital or tax-office. I am especially fascinated by two of the examples, however:
a) the case of the Dutch and English women, who managed to attract each other as pen-friends long before the details of their ‘twinning’ emerged.
b) the Rivers/Cheetham case where the couples whose lives had been extraordinarily similar managed to sit at the same table on a foreign holiday. They could so easily have been sitting only two tables away and none of the story would have come to light. How often do we sit unknowingly in the same restaurant with someone living the same life as us?
If there are truly large numbers of such examples, we would expect such meetings to happen occasionally through the normal laws of probability. If there are relatively few, however, even the meetings become totally unexpected, and we have to suspect the involvement of some hidden intelligence, which, on the face of it, wants them to become aware of the twinning.
When I use the expression ‘hidden intelligence’, normally I mean a deeply mysterious energy, with powerful paranormal capabilities. However, in the story of Karen Setlowe, there is possibly a more recognizable intelligence operating, although even that explanation still stretches credibility.
Karen was an actress who wrote and performed a one-woman show about Annie Sullivan, (Helen Keller’s teacher). Ken Anderson’s narrative ends thus: “In the following years Karen has been asked to perform the play many times throughout America, but, due to various complications, she has only managed a few performances — and each time, by coincidence, on a key anniversary date in Annie’s life. Later she discovered that the initial contact at the party in 1976 she had felt so compelled to attend — and which resulted in her writing her first play, performing her first one-person show, travelling overseas for the first time and obtaining her fellowship for the project — all occurred on key anniversaries in Annie Sullivan’s life”⁷³.
So here Karen’s life, without her conscious knowledge, was somehow being organised to coincide with dates in the dead woman’s life. In that there are some repetitions of events in this story, Harding might suggest that there are astrological factors at work, but that does not seem to be all that likely, since the repetitions are organised around specific anniversaries. What other explanation could there be? It could be a morphogenetic field, if it can be considered that one person’s life can generate a field, which can then be tapped into later. Again this does not sound convincing, and seems to be outside the scope of what Sheldrake suggests the nature of such fields to be. In the absence of other explanations I wondered whether it had anything to do with the ghost of Annie Sullivan, which does actually figure in the story. A young couple had contacted Karen “because they felt their house was haunted with loving spirits and knew that (Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller) had spent some time in it” (p23).
It is difficult to know exactly what is happening in some of these cases. Where the facts are available, there is a trend towards the people involved being born on the same day, which sounds like astrology. The same is true for lots of people, however, and there has never been a suggestion that all of them share similar life patterns. In any case there should be sufficient variation in the charts for each day to make any connections tenuous. I said earlier that some people may be twinned in a way that we cannot comprehend, so that it is possible that we may just have to leave the debate unresolved with the unsatisfactory conclusion that sometimes the universe is just baffling. I hope, however, failing all else, that I have shown that underneath the surface of our routine lives there are definitely some bizarre things going on, and that to attribute many of them to the movements of the planets stretches credibility beyond reasonable limits. In other words Harding’s astrology is not a likely explanation for them.
1. Unwin, 1989, as discussed in chapter 11.
2. HarperCollins, 1994
3. For example, Sheldrake says: “Chemical or physical disturbances of the nerves can affect behaviour, just as disturbances of genes and proteins can affect morphogenesis. But behaviour is no more programmed in the nervous system than morphogenesis is programmed in the genes” (p159).
4. Hymns to the Ancient Gods, Penguin, 1992, pp 67–69
5. The Coincidence File, Blandford, 1999, pp 43–53.
6. This is a magazine which dedicates itself to stories of bizarre and unusual occurrences. The book is published by Futura, 1991
7. as 6, p 18
8. Ken Anderson, Coincidences: Chance or Fate?, Blandford, 1995, p 127
9. as 6, p 18
10. The Cosmic Loom, Urania Trust, 1999, p 258, p 281
11. as 6, p 19
12. ibid., p 19
13. ibid., p 22
14. Synchronicity, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972, p 15 footnote
15. As 6, pp 22–23. For further examples of apt names, see The Coincidence File, Ken Anderson, Blandford, 1999, p 97. There are several dotted about in his other book, as 8.
16. The Challenge of Chance, Hutchinson, 1973, p 214, p 185
17. as 10, pp 27–8
18. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972
19. The Planets Within, Lindisfarne Press, 1990, p 150
20. Psychology, Astrology and Western Magic, Llewellyn, 1991, p 227
21. as 19, p 56. See also Liz Greene, The Astrology of Fate, Mandala, 1985, pp 194–6.
22. as quoted by Ken Anderson, The Coincidence File, as 15, p 56
23. as 14, pp 58–59
24. Disturbing the Universe, Harper & Row, 1979, p 50
25. On Divination and Synchronicity, Inner City, 1980, p 22
26. The Case for Astrology, Macdonald & Co., 1970, p 30
27. The Future of Astrology, A. T. Mann (editor), Unwin Hyman, 1987, p 50
28. ibid. p 57
29. For an interesting discussion of number, including some of the old civilizations’ beliefs, see Marie-Louise von Franz, as 25, pp 7–27.
30. as 14, p 58.
31. A New Study of Astrology, Urania Trust, 1996, p 75
32. as 27, p 50
33. He is referring to On Growth and Form, originally published over a hundred years ago. I have the Canto edition, 1992.
34. as 27, p 51
35. as 8, p 67
36. The Coincidence File, as 15, p 57
37. as 8, pp 66–69
38. as 36, p 38
39. ibid., p 57. This is arrived at by adding together the numbers until they become a single figure. In this case 6/9/33: 6+9+3+3=21. 2+1=3. It is interesting to note that, according to this formula, John Lennon, although he was dogged by the number 9, actually had the birth-number 5, having been born on October 9th 1940.
40. ibid., p 27
41. as 8, p 15, p 78, p 187
42. Incredible Coincidence, Alan Vaughan, Corgi, 1981, p 29
43. Coincidences, London House, 2000, p 81
44. ibid., p 18
45. as 8, p 217
46. ibid., p 55
47. If you are unfamiliar with this story, and cannot find details on the internet, see footnote 8, p 163, or Patterns of Prophecy, Alan Vaughan, Turnstone, 1974, p 38.
48. Patterns of Prophecy, Alan Vaughan, Turnstone, 1974, p 38, p 54, p 125
49. New Insights in Modern Astrology, CRCS, 1991, p 200–201
50. Synchronicity, Bantam, 1987, p 22
51. as 8, p 179
52. as 16, p 197
53. Hymns to the Ancient Gods, Penguin, 1992, p 61
54. Quantum Mechanics and the Aether, Scientific Monthly LVIII,1954, p142, quoted in 26, p 142
55. as 10, p 247
56. ibid., pp 261–281
57. as 10, p 245
58. as 8, pp 58–59
59. An eclipse which coincided with Diana’s death was at 9½° Virgo. At the death of President Kennedy Uranus had been at 9¾°. At the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand the moon’s nodes lay across 9° Virgo-Pisces.
60. Pentland, 1994
61. as 26, p 139
62. The Message of Astrology, Peter Roberts, Aquarian Press, 1990, p116.
63. Astrology and Science, Stein and Day, 1970, p44
64. as 6, pp 20–21
65. as 15, p 37
66. as 8, p 219
67. as 8, p 119
68. as 6, p 19
69. as 42, p 224. Also, as 8, p 171 and p 210
70. as 15, p 93
71. as 42, p 66
72. as 15, p 99
73. as 15, p 23–4