Can the Full Moon Affect Human Behavior'
For thousands of years it has been believed that the fortunes of men and women move in cycles. The ancients depicted the concept as the great Wheel of Fortune, eternally turning and spilling off the winners on top while bearing up the wretches beneath and giving them their time in the limelight before they, too, get dumped. The trouble was that no one knew for sure what powered that wheel or exactly what speed it was turning for any given individual.
Until recently the situation hasn't improved much. For hundreds of years we have known that it is the regular and predictable cycles of the moon and sun that regulate the ocean's tides, but the tides in the affairs of humans have not been so easily forecast. It was almost as if they moved erratically of their own accord, unmotivated by outside forces.
The extensive cycle research of the past thirty years has proved otherwise. It has established numerous links between regularly occurring human behavior and external natural cycles ranging from weather and solar radiation to phases of the moon and planetary cycles. Here are some dramatic examples.
At the University of Miami, psychologist Arnold Lieber and his colleagues decided to test the old belief of full-moon 'lunacy' which most scientists had written off as an old wives' tale. The researchers collected data on homicide in Dade County (Miami) over a period of 15 years -- 1,887 murders, to be exact. When they matched the incidence of homicide with the phases of the moon, they found, much to their surprise, that the two rose and fell together, almost infallibly, for the entire 15 years! As the full or the new moon approached, the murder rate rose sharply; it distinctly declined during the first and last quarters of the moon.
To find out whether this was just a statistical fluke, the researchers repeated the experiment using murder data from Cuyahoga County in Ohio (Cleveland). Again, the statistics showed that more murders do indeed occur at the full and new moons.
Dr. Lieber and his colleagues shouldn't have been so surprised. An earlier report by the American Institute of Medical Climatology to the Philadelphia Police Department entitled 'The Effect of the Full Moon on Human Behavior' found similar results. That report showed that the full moon marks a monthly peak in various kinds of psychotically oriented crimes such as murder, arson, dangerous driving, and kleptomania. People do seem to get a little bit crazier about that time of the month.
That's something most police and hospital workers have known for a long time. Indeed, back in eighteenth-century England, a murderer could plead 'lunacy' if the crime was committed during the full moon and get a lighter sentence as a result. Scientists, however, like to have a hard physical model to explain their discoveries, and so far there isn't a fully accepted one. Dr. Lieber speculates that perhaps the human body, which, like the surface of the earth, is composed of almost 80 percent water, experiences some kind of 'biological tides' that affect the emotions. When a person is already on psychologically shaky ground, such a biological tide can push him or her over the edge.
Crimes and violence aren't the only things affected by the 29+ day full moon cycle. In the Journal of the Florida Medical Association, Dr. Edson J. Andrews writes that in a study of 1,000 tonsillectomies, 82 percent of postoperative bleeding crises occurred nearer the full than the new moon -- despite the fact that fewer operations were performed at that time! Clearly, the full moon is a dangerous time for surgery, and the dissemination of this knowledge should result in planning operations for the new moon.
Practical economic use of the lunar cycle has been going on for a long time. In tropical rain forest countries in South America and Southeast Asia, where most of the world's hardwood comes from, tree-harvesting contracts are linked to the phase of the moon. The trees are only cut down on a waning moon, as near to the new moon as feasible. This is because on a waxing or full moon, the sap rises in the trees and extensive sap bleeding attracts hordes of deathwatch beetles, which will devastate a crop. Awareness of this cycle means the difference between making or losing millions of dollars every year.
One future use for the monthly lunar cycle may be in choosing the timing and gender of babies. Curtis Jackson, controller of Southern California Methodist Hospital, reports that more babies are conceived on the waxing moon than on the waning. He quantified 11,025 births over a period of six years and found that nearly 1,000 more children were conceived during the waxing moon. Apparently, successful conception is easier at that time.
More interesting are the results of German researcher W. Buehler. In an analysis of 33,000 births Dr. Buehler found that there was a significant preponderance of male births during the waxing moon. This knowledge, combined with medical techniques known to affect fertility and sex, may well help people in planning for their children.
HARNESSING THE SOLAR WIND
The moon isn't the only body out in space that produces human cycles. The sun, the basic source of all life on earth, has its own rhythm, which produces cycles in humans and non-humans alike. Since the 1800s astronomers have noted that there is an eleven and a twenty-two-year sunspot cycle; that is, for some years there would be hardly any sunspots, and then for some years the sun's face would be as blotchy as a teenager with acne. It wasn't until the 1930s, however, that it occurred to anyone that something going on that far away from earth could affect us. During the sunspot peak of the 1930s, Dr. Miki Takata found that human blood serum was affected by the solar radiation put out by sunspots. During the same period it was discovered that sunspot emissions affected a wide variety of other things, such as the size of tree rings and the amount of radio interference on certain bandwidths.
During World War II, the potential communications blackout that sunspots and solar storms might cause was of great concern to the armed forces, so a radio engineer at RCA named John Nelson was asked to come up with a method of predicting when the storms would occur. Nelson figured that the only major variables that might conceivably affect the sun's turbulent surface were the planets surrounding it. He devised a system of charting their relationships to the sun and to one another and found that when certain angular relationships between planets occurred, sunspots and solar magnetic storms broke out. To date, his system of prediction has been 95 percent accurate, and the hypothesis that the planets cause solar 'tides' was proved by Professor K. D. Wood at the University of Colorado.
More recently, many scientists have been suggesting that the sunspot cycle is critical in the formation of our weather patterns. Indeed, during a seventy-year period in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the cycle was interrupted and sunspots stopped for no apparent reason, Europe was plunged into its coldest period on record, nicknamed the 'Little Ice Age'. Astronomer John R. Gribbin and astrophysicist Stephen H. Plagemann even speculated that sunspot and planetary cycles are linked to earthquakes, and a future unusual planetary alignment may trigger a devastating California quake. The more the subject is investigated, the more important these cycles appear.
The amount of solar radiation we receive, which is determined by the sunspot cycle, may have profound historical significance. Soviet professor A. C. Tchyivsky has correlated the eleven-year cycle with what he calls a worldwide 'mass excitement cycle'. He found that throughout history events such as wars, migrations, crusades, uprisings, and revolutions have clustered around peak sunspot periods. In the three years surrounding these peaks 60 percent of such events occurred, while only 5 percent occurred in the troughs. It would appear that tides govern the affairs of nations as well as individuals.
But can planetary cycles directly affect individual human events? If the answer is yes, then cycle research begins to look pretty much like astrology, a subject most scientists aren't too fond of.
An Atomic Energy Commission-funded project at Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, came up with a report entitled 'Intriguing Accident Patterns Plotted against a Background of Natural Environmental Features', which correlated on-the-job accidents of government employees over a period of 20 years with various natural cycles. This preliminary report (the researchers suggested further study was in order) found that accidents peak with the sunspot cycle and -- even more intriguing and 'astrological' -- that people were more likely to have accidents during the phase of the moon the same as or opposite to that under which they were born.
Some really hard and startling evidence might have come out of this research had it been allowed to continue. But alas, that was not to be. Shortly after its completion, the report fell into the hands of Time magazine, which did a spoof on it in its January 10, 1972, issue, under the heading 'Moonstruck Scientists', complete with an old woodcut of maidens dancing in a frenzy under the rays of the full moon.
That was all the Congress needed to kill the project and suppress the report. When I wrote to the Atomic Energy Commission and Sandia in 1972, I was told that the report was not for distribution and that I, or any other taxpayer, could not see it. The report remained classified until 1977, when I again requested a copy, this time under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. At first, I was told that all extant copies had been lost, hut through the efforts of a persistent Energy Research Administration officer, Sandia was finally pressured into coughing up a copy -- accompanied by a somewhat terrified disclaimer telling me I really shouldn't believe what was in it.
J. E. Davidson, who wrote the report with a team of fellow scientists, told me over the phone that he was sad the research had been canceled. The team felt they were on to something and, except for a nosy journalist and premature publicity, might have made a significant contribution to cycle research. Instead, their work was thrown down the drain. But that's the breaks when Congress is your boss.
STATISTICS DON'T LIE;
ONLY STATISTICIANS DO
Probably the most distinguished work connecting planetary cycles with events and trends in the lives of individuals has been that of French psychologist and statistician Michel Gauquelin. In the mid-1960s he set out to disprove astrology statistically by analyzing planetary positions at the births of professionals, using samples as large as 10,000, 15,000, and 20,000. Astrologers have always believed that certain planets coming up over the horizon, or directly overhead at a person's birth, guide that individual toward a certain profession.
To Gauquelin, the task he had set for himself seemed like a piece of cake. All he had to do was prove that the planet associated with athletic achievement, Mars, fell at random points in the nativities of 10,000 or 15,000 athletes, and that would be that -- astrology would be debunked. To emphasize his point he also investigated groups of doctors, lawyers, writers, and others in jobs associated by astrologers with specific planets.
To Gauquelin's surprise, the results turned out to be exactly the opposite of what he had expected. Mars did appear to be rising or culminating in a vast number of athletes' birth charts. Similarly, Jupiter appeared for bankers, Saturn for doctors, Mercury for writers, and so on. Gauquelin was astounded. Had he accidentally proved the case for astrology when he had meant to debunk it?
Actually, he had done a lot more than that because his data not only confirmed traditional astrological assignments, they uncovered new ones. For writers, for instance, the traditionally associated planet is Mercury. Gauquelin found that Mercury was indeed significant in writers' natal charts, but he also found that the moon was equally important, something astrologers had never posited.
Gauquelin's work established the fact that planetary positions do affect human disposition, talent, and direction and that these effects can be specifically determined by scientific methods such as statistical analysis and probability.
This article was excerpted from:
Dynamic Astrology: Using Planetary Cycles to Make Personal and Career Choices, ©1997, by John Townley.
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