Abstract -- Patrice Guinard's Manifesto is a statement of 42,000 words based on his 1993 PhD thesis at the Sorbonne, about how astrology provides meaning despite being shunted aside in modern thought, and why it deserves not to be. His central idea is that the planets resonate with our psyche leaving the results in our minds as unspecific impressions. So astrology has nothing to do with science or religion or philosophy. It is a psychic phenomenon that has evolved with humanity and should be accepted as part of our nature. Unfortunately the Manifesto is impenetrably wordy and hard to make sense of. Guinard assumes that astrology as perceived by astrologers has no ordinary explanation, but he is most likely wrong. His arguments boil down to speculations about astrology which he says are untestable. They are bolstered by frequent asides, some insightful, some misguided, some fatally uninformed, and some even self-contradictory. Empirical studies reported by Dean & Kelly (2003) do not support his speculations. In effect the Manifesto boils down to a massive exercise in pseudoscience.
Before my critique appeared, Guinard had noted how the present astrology-and-science website has not "affronter mon Manifeste" (addressed my Manifesto). When it appeared, Guinard was invited to reply to my critique, but initially he gave only a brief brush-off response. Five years later he circulated a more detailed response that has required only minor changes to my critique. My response to his later comments appears at the end under "Guinard's response".
Patrice Guinard's Manifesto is a statement of 42,000 words based on his 1993 PhD thesis at the Sorbonne, about how astrology provides meaning despite being "shunted aside in modern thought", and why it deserves not to be. His central idea is that the planets resonate with our psyche leaving the results in our minds as unspecific impressions. It is a psychic phenomenon that has evolved with humanity and should be accepted as part of our nature.
Required reading or a waste of time?
In a review in Correlation 20(2), Shelley Jordan feels the Manifesto represents "some of the most revelatory astrological writing of this current era." It is "an eloquent and sound explanation of the nature of [astrology] and a vigorous polemic against [those who] persecute it." The Manifesto "asserts that astrology is [to do] not with events but with states of consciousness", which makes it "an entirely new astrological genre." In the end it is an "epic analysis [that] should be required reading for all serious students or opponents of astrology."
But in Correlation 21(2), Kevin Hawley disagrees. He notes that the Manifesto claims that astrology is incapable of being examined or tested by material methods, which to Hawley means that "to get to The Truth we must stop investigating astrology and simply contemplate our navels for the rest of our lives." He concludes "the sheer pomposity and narrow-minded arrogance of the article is truly breathtaking." Indeed, it is "deeply offensive and insulting to astrological researchers ... a non-testable, self-indulgent monologue [that is] a complete and utter waste of time."
What is it about the Manifesto that raises such conflicting views?
Unfortunately the Manifesto combines long words, long sentences, long rambling arguments, no abstracts, and negligible concern for readers or their comprehension. It is also thick with unexplained concepts such as astral agency, direct apprehension, imprinting, neural organization, psychic reality, resonance, and respectable research. The end result is a rambling incoherent work so devoid of clear threads that Shelley Jordan's "required reading" can seem like mental torture, if not actually Kevin Hawley's "complete and utter waste of time." To avoid inflicting this mental torture on my readers, I have given hard-won plain-English summaries of the author's key arguments, with relevant quotes, interspersed with my comments indicated by AM. My summaries begin immediately after the following heading.
Part I. Why astrology has been ignored in modern thought
AM: This is just the start of endless assertions, as if asserting was the same as justifying. By asserting that astrology is a purely mental phenomenon unconnected with anything concrete, and (as we shall see) beyond falsification, Guinard has attempted to protect it from anyone who might disagree, such as most astrologers and most scientists. Here we get our first indication that Guinard's approach amounts to pseudoscience, an approach typically marked by lack of rigour (eg describing rather than measuring), ill-defined concepts difficult to test, appeals to authority rather than observation, and an intolerance of criticism. Science depends on challenges, but pseudoscience rejects them, seeing them as attacks to be defended at all costs.
Today we no longer interact with natural psychic reality but increasingly with material substitutes as technology advances.
AM: Guinard devotes many paragraphs to what he sees as the alienating influence of science. He wants a wider world view that recaptures what we have lost. Unfortunately his wider view seems to be unrelated to our present one. It implies that the success and practical achievements of science should be rejected in favour of faith in doctrine, and that tyranny by closed beliefs is preferable to liberation by being informed.
Astrology has no need for science because it relates to psychic states, a different level of reality. It has its own logic, language, and reasoning, which cannot be assessed by experimental science or by the reasoning of philosophers. So there is no causal explanation for astrology. Astrology is not a science, nor a religion, nor a philosophy; that is, it propounds no specific beliefs and is not open to falsification.
AM: Guinard is saying that astrology does not conform to the scientific world view and therefore cannot be tested. He is inviting us to abandon reason and embrace doctrine; to believe what he says because he says so, which is not a gamble that thinking people can afford to take. In fact his claims are not untestable, see later.
Instead astrology arises from the psychic state of the person, ie from the interplay between mind and the four astrological structures mentioned above. The structures are cyclical (moon monthly, sun yearly, planets various) and are "imprinted on the neural organization, which reproduces the periodic variations of the planets." The planets resonate with our psyche and leave the results in our consciousness as unspecific symbols and archetypes. This process exists in nature and would continue to operate even if there were no astrologers. Astrology gives meaning, a way of better understanding ourselves.
AM: If it gives meaning, then that meaning can be tested. Guinard's earlier claims of unassailability are overstated, a point we might easily miss under his paralysing overburden of impenetrability such as "Astrology cannot be defined in any domain but its own: the egalitarian domain of the qualitative potentialization of psychic reality." Also overstated are his earlier views about causality such as the following:
In astrology "we shall not speak of influences -- a term which carries a physical connotation" because notions of "the influence of physical forces do not suit it."
AM: Not so, because Guinard repeatedly refers to planetary forces or energies impinging on the psyche. For example "planetary forces translate a person's modes of perception" and "what is a Sign, a House, or an Aspect, if not a variation ... of planetary energies?" Either astrology has some substance and is testable, or it has no substance and is imaginary (which does not of course mean it is without value). If there are forces and energies then by definition astrology is causal and testable. See also next.
Astrology, however, differs in nature from visionary or divinatory practices that rely on psychic ability. It does not work in this way but by the mind directly apprehending the continual stimulation by astral impressions, a "psychic impregnation made by astral agencies." It reveals a reality continually present but does not predict a reality beyond the present, so it is not astromantic. For example in two millennia it "has not predicted ... any major political or cultural event." Its reality is qualitative, not quantitative.
AM: Guinard is saying that astrology does not involve ESP as usually conceived, nor can it predict the future. Indeed he says that even reading the present is an "impractical ideal", see later, which hints at the limitations of a qualitative reality. These limitations will be important to clients in search of health, wealth and happiness, and therefore deserve explanation, but here Guinard provides only his usual obscurity.
Astrology "requires a reorganization of language and knowledge, a redistribution of mental, social and cultural representations, and, as a consequence, a reevaluation of concepts customarily used in a unilateral sense or in dualistic terms." Thus astrological "reasoning consists of asking oneself a priori about the legitimacy of comparison between entities perceived within a single field of application."
AM: Guinard wants us to believe that astrology is a fact of nature and therefore above criticism. But in a rare moment of clarity, albeit only relative, he reveals its true source:
Astrology "assumes ... the existence of resonance and response between the rhythms of the geosolar environment and the psyche. Astrology is a specific form of rationality which admits as a condition a priori the structural differentiation of an archetypal matrix. It has recourse neither to experimental reason, nor to faith, nor to discursive reason, but rather to matrix-based [in this case astrological] reason."
AM: This is a circular argument -- astrology requires us to assume it works in a way that is explained by astrology (a priori means not based on fact, observation or study but presumed to be true). In other words Guinard is assuming what he seeks to prove. But are his assumptions (which, as I have indicated, are not untestable) supported by the evidence? See Part 2.
Part 2. How denial of astrology manifests in academia
AM: Guinard devotes more than 2000 words to the first, tracing historical arguments from 200 BC, but not in a way that leaves us any the wiser. For example he does not identify the merits of the arguments or whether they decide anything. Nor does he explain what an anti-fatalistic argument is. On the second category he argues as follows:
Acceptance of astrology requires us to accept that psychic qualities are real, are felt emotionally, and arrive from the heavens. It matters little whether our acceptance is based on faith, on theory, or on experience. What matters is that astrology is meaningful.
AM: Here is the Manifesto in a nutshell. Guinard sees meaning in astrology and feels that 42,000 words are needed to explain (or impose) it. Once again he is assuming what he seeks to prove -- that astrology as perceived by astrologers does not have an ordinary explanation. Guinard is most likely wrong, see next.
Astrology is attacked not because it is false knowledge or bad metaphysics but because it helps to organise our consciousness and make sense of the chaotic diversity of our awarenesses.
AM: This is hardly a logical reason for attack. The real reason is that the claims of astrology are incompatible with the way the world is known to work. The claims are not the result of convincing experiments by astrologers, and are readily explained by non-astrological factors such as cognitive illusions, wishful thinking, and vested interests. So what does Guinard expect? His third and fourth categories are next.
Attempts to prove astrology are not needed because astrology needs recognition not "confirmations"; concepts not "facts." Statistical tests isolate chart factors from their context. The Gauquelin results confirm what astrologers already know -- that negative results are due to inadequate methodology. Statistics cannot adjudicate the validity of any discipline. So here science is being used as an ideology.
AM: Statistics are not an ideology but a tool, a way of drawing sound conclusions. And how can astrology be so difficult to demonstrate when astrologers are so readily convinced that it works? Scientists and astrologers use essentially the same approach (they look at charts) except that scientists take care to control the non-astrological factors mentioned in my previous comment, whereupon astrology suddenly fails to work. Predictably, Guinard hides this awkward fact by retreating behind a smokescreen of misinterpretation and abuse, see next.
Complicated data manipulations and analyses lead to illusory results that are a caricature of respectable research. If astrology is found lacking, then it is a matter for astrologers to decide, not the presumptuous incompetence of know-alls in lab coats.
AM: Not everyone might agree. Given the failure of astrologers to rectify conceptual problems during two thousand years of practice, see Kelly (1997), there is no reason to suppose they will suddenly improve. People deserve clear arguments instead of the usual obfuscation. It seems that Guinard wants to deny any assessment that is objective and free of vested interests. Such denial is again typical of pseudoscience.
The astro-statistician Geoffrey Dean organizes grotesque competitions for testing astrology on the basis of outdated positivistic assumptions, and concludes ingenuously that the negative results mean that astrology is invalid. Dean and his team have also gone through a hundred statistical tests of astrology, all ending in the pathetic refrain "no significant results." But in a test which required no statistics, four astrologers were able to pick the correct sun sign 8 times in a group of 12 people, which Dean dismisses as either coincidence or telepathy. The impossibility of producing statistical significance in the former has not prevented a significant prediction once the proper instrument is used.
AM: I was co-organiser of these "grotesque competitions" and can confirm that Guinard's descriptions are misleading. For example the Superprize competition offered $US5000 to anyone who could show that astrological claims were not due to non-astrological factors. Other competitions offered prizes for validating statements taken from leading astrology books. All involved straightforward ideas with no "outdated positivistic assumptions." The success in picking sun signs was later found to be most likely due to cue leakage, again a straightforward process. As with denial, such misrepresentation is also typical of pseudoscience. Next, Guinard leaves statistics to attack historians, sociologists, and eventually even astrologers and their disagreements:
Historians see astrology as an obsolete superstition, whereas it is a body of knowledge arising from a larger world view, an opening of the mind to psychic potential. Sociologists want to know nothing about astrology; they consider only astrology columns and reproduce only the prejudices of the scientific community.
AM: An untestable astrology cannot be a body of knowledge, only a body of belief. The dismissal of justified criticism as "prejudice" is again typical of a pseudoscience. Why should sociologists not consider only astrology columns? After all, such columns are the most pervasive form of astrology, and astrologers do nothing to discourage their use. In such a situation there is little incentive for sociologists to consider other forms of astrology that involve far fewer people.
Astrologers are little better. If astrology really wants intellectual respectability, it must embrace sound research and sound arguments.
AM: Earlier Guinard implied that research and argument were irrelevant. And what if the research is negative, would it be immediately dismissed as "prejudiced"?
As long as astrologers remain incapable of showing academics how their knowledge enables access to human reality, and how they can resolve the endless internal controversies, they will no more be believed than will their discipline be respected.
AM: The same fault seems true of Guinard. As it happens, studies reported by Dean & Kelly (2003) found no evidence of psychic influences in astrology, which is bad news for Guinard's claims.
Astrologers are divided by endless controversies such as the use of ecliptic positions (no planet except the Sun is generally on the ecliptic), or the attribution of Air to Aquarius and the feet to Pisces. Furthermore, by accepting fictitious points such as nodes and midpoints, the astrologer is forgetting that his model must reflect the real world. His model defies synthesis because a global reading exceeds the capacity of both astrology and the mental faculties. Nor is it possible to include the person's social, cultural, familial and mental background. "This is why the astrological reading of human reality must remain an impractical ideal."
AM: This is conspicuously at odds with what most astrology books tell us. For example Charles Carter, the leading British astrologer of his time, held that the heavens correlate with our minds, feelings, physical bodies, and external affairs. Nothing impractical or unreal here. So Guinard is raising even more disagreements to add to the list. But what should be done about them? Guinard does not tell us.
The history of astrology shows that the discovery of new planets etc leads to changes in astrological ideas. So astrology is not a fixed body of knowledge. It is flexible. Indeed, it "survives, despite its detractors, the transformation of its successive models." (End of my summary.)
AM: Usually in the classic way of pseudoscience -- by ignoring its own failures and problems. On which note the Manifesto comes to an end.
Five years later, in April 2009, Guinard circulated to 495 email addresses (not including mine!) a 8000-word diatribe called ColdBaby. The first half dismissed the AA Journal Correlation as "a pretentious pseudo-academic magazine with no academic criteria". The second half dismissed my critique as an obscurantist discourse based on 18th century ideology, and advanced a defence full of name-calling and elaborate arguments based on Guinard's supposedly untestable brand of astrology.
But it is not untestable -- his claim that the workings inside the brain cannot be observed is no longer true. Thus influences on the brain showing themselves in subsequent actions are potentially observable and thus testable. So Guinard has to accept that either astrology has a factual basis and is therefore testable, or it has no factual basis and is therefore fantasy. Either way, as Kevin Hawley observed in Correlation 21(2), Guinard's Manifesto is "a complete and utter waste of time." In any event, Guinard's comments required only minor changes to my critique, which remains essentially unchanged.
In summary, Guinard has advanced nothing to contradict my critique except more confusion and impenetrability. Until his writing shows evidence of getting the facts right, and of concern for the reader, why should anyone bother with it?References
Dean G and Kelly IW (2003). Is astrology relevant to consciousness and psi? Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 (6-7), 175-198. The first half quotes what astrologers say, the second half looks at the empirical evidence. With 85 references. For an abstract, three critiques, and Dean and Kelly's rejoinder, see Star Wars on this website under Problem Areas.
Kelly IW (1997). Modern Astrology: A Critique, Psychological Reports, 81, 1035-1066. With 131 references. For an abstract and the full article, see Concepts on this website under Problem Areas.
Mather A (2005). Optimum place for astrology. See this website under Applied Astrology.