The Pineal Gland And The Ancient Art Of Iatromathematica
by Frank McGillion
The medical astrologers of Ancient Greece: the iatromathematici, and the later European physician-astrologers, assumed a correlation between events in the heavens and those on earth that was relevant to both health and disease. Some of the early practitioners of modern scientific medicine did the same under the aegis of what we might term, proto-cosmobiology, though none of them could provide an adequate mechanism to explain the nature of the link they believed existed between the skies and ourselves. With the discovery and elucidation of the pineal gland’s functions in the mid twentieth century, which are discussed in detail, we were in a position to provide such a link and we can now, to a great extent, explain in conventional scientific terms, how those influences of the sun, moon, planets and other celestial phenomena studied by the early iatromathematici and early cosmobiologists could, can, and do, affect us.
Key Words Pineal gland – melatonin – astrology – geomagnetism – planetary influences
In Ancient Greece there was a distinction made between those who studied the stars in fairly general terms – the mathematici or magi, and those who did so for medical purposes – the iatromathematici. However the two areas of study overlapped considerably with little distinction being made between physical and metaphysical speculations. Accordingly, what we now know of as astronomy and astrology remained virtually indistinguishable for centuries (Tester, 1987a, b).
In addition to cosmological influences, Greek physicians stressed the importance of environmental factors in the welfare of their patients, and considerations of local geography and climate were deemed important in the diagnosis and prognosis of disease (Luce, 1977).
In the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas, while sympathetic to astrology, stressed the importance of “the oblique path” of the sun, i.e., what we know as the earth’s eccentric orbit, with respect to the links that existed between the earth and ourselves, and the fourteenth century Bishop of Liseux, Nicolas Orseme, stressed the importance of the sun and the moon in contemporary medicine, again making no clear distinction between astronomy and astrology (Tester, 1987c).
In the sixteenth century, Sir Francis Bacon, suggested that, while it was unlikely that the stars influenced us individually, collectively, populations might be affected by them (Tester, 1987d).
So it’s clear that the early mixture of astronomy and astrology, known as astrologia, gave rise to the due consideration of physical forces and their effects by informed physician-astrologers, in addition to those “forces” or “influences” we would now think on as purely “astrological.”
Traditional astrology had long been a part of medical curricula in Western Europe and, as far back as the eleventh century, it was taught at Bologna University where under the aegis of medical astrologers such as the eminent Professor Giovani Garonzi, physicians sought answers to clinical questions in horoscopes including specialist problems such as those presented by kidney disease (Bonomini et al, 1994; Kibre, 1967).
It seems that an interest in an association between astrology and urology persists, and a contemporary clinical study has repeated this search for such a correlation, concluding that: “… no significant link was found…disproving the traditional astrologer’s claims.” (Hughes, 1990).
With the onset of the Enlightenment, a combination of factors led to astrology being removed from formal medical curricula in the West and the subject itself becoming identified with superstition. However, the belief that celestial factors were significant in both medical conditions and physiological processes, continued to be held within the scientific and medical communities in modified form.
Thus, in 1898, the Nobel Laureate, Svante Arrhenius, published Cosmic Influences on Physiological Phenomena, while simultaneously, Sigmund Freud and his physician colleague, Wilhelm Fliess, were developing their own ideas on the nature of the extraterrestrial forces they believed influenced everything on earth, including health, and Freud was assuming he’d become what he termed: “an honorary astrologer.” (Fliess, 1906; McGillion, 1998; 2001).
In the mid twentieth century, Carl Jung was studying astrology and relating it from a variety of perspectives to his psychiatric practice (McGillion, 1997). However more practical researchers, such as Dr Franz Halberg, were studying putative interactions between living organisms and the skies and developing the sorts of concepts that helped define modern cosmobiology (Halberg, 1967; 1969).
What was lacking in all of these investigations, however, and what, in part, tarnished them with the by now unpopular taint of astrology, was the lack of a credible mechanism to explain how celestial events could interact with us biologically.
From Fliess’ work in particular which, like Aquinas’, stressed the importance of the eccentricity of the orbit of the earth, it was evident that, in order to substantiate his ideas in this respect, any “celestial” or “planetary” force would – like the horoscope used by the iatromathematicus – have to be capable of description in terms of the position of the sun, the moon and the planets at the time and place of birth. Further, such a force would also have to be evident at frequent intervals throughout life through ongoing celestial influences of a sort the iatromathematici believed influenced us on a day-to-day basis.
In the mid twentieth century, after centuries of searching by greater and lesser lights of science, such a mechanism duly arrived when the true physiological role of an anatomical structure, itself long associated with arcane matters, became known.
The Pineal Gland
At various times in the history of medicine the precise function of the small discrete pea-like structure we have in the centre of our brains, called the pineal gland, was considered to be: a memory valve, a valve controlling circulating vital fluids, the seat of the soul, and the site of a presumed pathology causing certain types of mental illness – “a stony hardness of the pineal gland” (McGillion, 1980).
In the mid nineteen fifties this confusion began to clear when the pineal gland’s true function was discovered and the nature of the link between ourselves and certain events in the skies above us was finally revealed.
The modern systematic study of the pineal gland began in 1954 when, after a review of the existing literature, Mark Altschule and Julian Kitay suggested it could be a productive area for research (Kitay & Altschule, 1954). Their comprehensive review suggested that the gland – until then generally held to be unimportant by modern scientific medicine – appeared to have a number of possible, if minor, physiological roles, many of which had been reported in the literature on the light sensitivity of certain mammals (Fiske, 1941).
It was soon established that the pineal gland produced a number of neuropeptides including one: 5-methoxy, N-acetyltryptamine, considered to be the most important of the pineal hormones and commonly called melatonin, (Figure 1).
The biosynthesis of melatonin was discovered to be dependent on a number of substrates and co-factors, and on the activity of a number of enzymes including the light-sensitive: hydroxy-indole-O-methyl transferase (HIOMT). (Lerner et al, 1958; 1959).
As Brownstein and Heller (1968) demonstrated, this enzyme – which catalyses the conversion of serotonin to melatonin – is modulated by nerves that impinge directly onto the pineal gland, the activity of which, in turn, depend upon input from the optic nerves. Thus a small proportion of the impulses set up in the optic nerves bypasses the main visual pathway and, instead, takes a circuitous route to the pineal. Stimulation of these nerves increases the activity of HIOMT and, hence, stimulates the synthesis of melatonin.
Bright light inhibits melatonin production by inhibiting nerve tone to the pineal, whereas darkness has the opposite effect and, by increasing neural activity to the gland, stimulates the production of melatonin. This effect of light is dependent both upon its wavelength and its intensity.
In 1973, Cardinali et al showed that red light produced minimal inhibition of melatonin synthesis, whereas green light caused maximal stimulation. In addition, illumination with a light intensity of 0.5 microwatt/cm2 for forty-eight hours produced a fifty per cent decrease in melatonin synthesis in the rat pineal gland.
By way of comparison, sunlight, which strongly inhibits melatonin production, has an intensity of around 50,000 microwatt/cm2, whereas full moonlight has an intensity of around 0.3 microwatt/cm2. (Altschule, 1975).
Because of its low light intensity, the moon was originally thought to have no effect on the production of melatonin by the pineal gland. However, as we discuss below, more recent studies have produced results that suggest there may be some link between lunar phase and the secretion of melatonin (Law, 1986).
In addition to light, other electromagnetic (EM) radiations influence melatonin production, and EM fields of varying strengths and types – including earth strength magnetic fields – have been shown to influence melatonin production to the same degree as the exposure to light does: both in vivo, and in vitro and in a number of species including humans (Reiter & Richardson, 1992; Reiter, 1993a,b; Schneider et al, 1994; Yaga et al, 1993). Further, magnetic fields of this general type have been found to be effective in directly stimulating pineal tissue (Richardson et al, 1992).
The change of the intensity of ambient lighting with season has long been considered to be a possible source of antigonadal activity in humans as well as animals and, in the late nineteenth century, a description was given in the medical literature of how Eskimo women ceased menstruation in the long winter nights of the Arctic (Cook, 1884).
Additional evidence was produced for a seasonal factor linked to reproduction and photoperiod when a positive bias towards summer conceptions in Finland was demonstrated, which showed an increase at more northerly latitudes. The fact that the incidence of multiple pregnancies was also increased at these latitudes strongly suggested that this was not an effect due to seasonal social influences, but that it was a true physiological effect due to an increased fertility associated with the longer periods of daylight that occur in the summer (Timonen & Carpen, 1968).
Other studies in humans suggested a possibly related phenomenon at work that also linked light to human reproductive processes. Thus Dewan (1967), and Dewan et al (1978), normalised irregular menstrual flow by using light midway through the menstrual cycle. Similarly, Elden (1971) demonstrated that, of one hundred and twenty predicted births in a sample of congenitally blind women, there was only one actual birth and, in an even larger sample, only six births occurred out of a predicted one thousand.
More recent studies have also shown that certain phenomena associated with hyperovulation – such as the incidence of twin births – are linked to both season and photoperiod. (Dionne et al, 1993; Fellman & Eriksson, 1999).
Thus with the discovery of the antigonadal activity of melatonin, and with the emergence of the fact that it was inhibited by light, we were starting to elucidate a more sophisticated mechanism to explain the effects of light-radiation on reproductive phenomena, one, moreover, that seemed to be closely related to the actual and putative effect(s) of melatonin on sexual development and hence to the effect of external EM radiation on the pineal gland.
However, one action of extraneously administered melatonin on sexual development that was identified early on by researchers in this area, appeared not only to be related to its antigonadal action, but to be dependent upon the age of the recipient when it was administered, also.
“Pre-Programming” from Birth
In a number of sophisticated studies of melatonin in animals, it appeared that, as with certain other hormones, the response of a neonatal animal to melatonin administration depended on precisely when the melatonin was administered in terms of chronological age. Thus it seemed that when melatonin was administered around the time of birth, it somehow produced changes in development that were delayed in onset until later in life and were therefore, in a biological sense, “pre-programmed” (Figure 2).
Figure 2: the “pre-programming” action of melatonin. Administration of melatonin to a neonate around the time of birth can cause developmental changes such as an inhibition or delay in the onset of secondary sexual characteristics. After a certain critical period post partum, however, – in rats six days – melatonin administraton has no such effect.
Further, these effects, which have been replicated in contemporary studies, appeared to influence both normal and pathological development (Arai, 1968; Esquifino, 1987; Vaughan & Vaughan, 1974).
It was also discovered that such changes in development did not take place if melatonin administration was delayed until a certain time after birth. Thus these delayed developmental effects of the hormone only occurred when it was administered at a set, critical time during the perinatal period.
As one researcher unambiguously stated in this context: “…alterations of the hormonal status of a neonate during a defined critical period [after birth] lead to profound sequelae in…subsequent biological function,” (Reiter et al, 1975a).
From consideration of this phenomenon it was clear that there were mechanisms involved that could potentially be of major significance to our long-term development. Thus: “neonatal administration of melatonin may cause…an abnormal secretion of biogenic amines in adulthood…” (Reiter et al, 1975b).
Such delayed-onset, or “pre-programming” effects of perinatally administered melatonin, while short lasting without reinforcement, were evident in a number of behavioural and physiological indices studied in animals, and they included, not only those associated with sexual development, but other developmental features also, including exploratory and maternal behaviour. Further, they could be produced either by the direct administration of melatonin, or by pinealectomy at birth, strongly suggesting a primary causal role for melatonin in these processes (Sampson, 1954; Sampson & Bigelow, 1971).
In addition, observations in humans where congenital blindness, or exposure to extremes of light-dark periods had been evident at the time of, and immediately after, birth, paralleled these findings; and studies in both congenitally blind women and in other groups continue to provide pertinent observations and findings in this respect (Boldsen, 1992; Commentz et al, 1997; Jaldo Alba et al, 1993a,b; Kennaway et al, 1992; Sans, 1977; Schmidt F, 1995).
Effects of Ambient Electromagnetic Radiation
Given that the production of melatonin is, amongst other things, controlled by the intensity and nature of ambient electromagnetic fields (EMFs) of geo-magnetic strength, then the intensity and orientation of the EM fields a neonate is exposed to perinatally could obviously alter the level of pineal melatonin in that neonate and, hence, influence its later development.
We know the exposure of neonatal animals to light significantly changes later melatonin secretion patterns, and we know that similar effects occur in human newborns (Fielke et al, 1994; Pelisek et al, 1994). We also know that, again, as in animals, EM radiations significantly alter circulation melatonin in humans (Graham et al, 1997; Juutilainen et al, 2000; Reiter, 1995).
There also appears to be a link between the geomagnetic field and developmental factors in humans. For example, the only significant factor that correlates with the development of epilepsy in young adults is the level of geomagnetic activity for two days after birth, and geomagnetic variables have also been considered to be a trigger for birth. There is also a significant correlation between the level of geomagnetism on, and for up to three days before, the birth of male children (Persinger & Hodge, 1999).
Hence an association between the precise time of birth and later general developmental traits might be expected and, in one of the most recent social studies of this general type, Wallace and Fisher (2001) have reported that our preference for day or night activity – i.e. whether we are a “day person” or a “night person” – appears to be determined quite simply by whether we were born during the day or born at night.
The mechanism they suggest for this predisposition is one relating to a setting of our body clock and, if true, the neonatal effects of melatonin and the light-dark sensitivity of the pineal gland discussed above could be important in this respect. Such an effect may also be related to season of birth, something we discuss in more detail below.
So, despite the many potential variables inherent in all these studies, what clearly emerges is the fact that the precise time of exposure to altered levels of melatonin, relative to the time of birth – is probably a critical factor in determining whether or not some change in development or behaviour is observed in adulthood.
In other words, exposure of a neonate to melatonin, or to factors that significantly alter circulating melatonin levels at the time of birth – such as local geomagnetic and other EM fields – can potentially lead to highly significant changes in later development.
Put simply: the place, time, and date of a child’s birth can – at least in part –determine its future development: an observation that would have been assumed by the iatromathematicus.
Despite our increased understanding of the functions and mechanisms of action of the pineal gland in the past few decades, the precise mechanism at a cellular level whereby electromagnetic radiation can produce biological effects was, until recently, unknown. However in the past decade or so, studies of the ferrous mineral known as magnetite, have shown that it can act as a transducer linking ambient electromagnetic activity to cellular function. In addition – in both animals and humans – magnetite has been identified in most tissues examined, including the pineal gland (Lohmann & Johnsen, 2000; Schultheiss-Grassi & Dobson, 1999).
In part as a consequence of the potential development-modifying actions of pineal activity and melatonin on neonates, Reiter (1995) has indicated that any perturbations in electric and magnetic fields that cause a reduction in normal melatonin levels in humans could have significant physiological and pathophysiological consequences.
Such considerations have led some health professionals to re-assess the practice of exposing neonates in intensive care units and neonatal nurseries, to strong light and other EM fields, given the known, or postulated association of such exposure with breast cancer, reproductive irregularities, and depression (Glottzbach et al, 1993).
Given all of this, we should expect something else that our iatromathematicus would presumably have assumed: the existence of a quantifiable link between certain, long term developmental factor(s) in humans, and the purely physical factors that dictate the degree and type of radiation a neonate is exposed to post partum. Such physical factors include: photoperiod, local geomagnetic and other ambient EMFs, and what in great part determines these and what we shall consider here in some detail for the purposes of illustration: seasonality and the season of birth.
The second century Greek physician, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, in his On Airs, Waters and Places stated quite clearly that “…human diseases change along with the seasons.” This was a view shared by later scientists and physicians such as the eighteenth century English physician, Richard Meade, who stressed the importance of such seasonal factors in his seminal work, The Action of Sun and Moon In Animal Bodies. (Roos, 2000).
A number of our forebears believed that the season of conception was of some importance to our later lives and also, in contemporary epidemiological studies, there are some.htmects of development that have been looked at in this respect (Liederman & Flannery, 1994).
However, most studies of the relationship of seasonality to the subsequent development of normal or pathological traits refer to the season of birth.
There are a great many month-of-birth and season-of-birth studies in the medical literature and they include attempts to associate this with conditions such as: diabetes (Laron et al, 1999); morning-evening preference (Natale & Adan, 1999); left or right handedness (Martin & Jones, 1999); cleft lip (Fraser & Gwyn, 1998); panic attack (Castrogiovanni et al, 1999); bulimia (Morgan & Lacey, 1999); alcoholism (Levine &Wojcik, 1999); ectopic pregnancy (Cagnacci, 1999); weight and length at birth (Wohlfahrt et al, 1998); psychiatric problems (Torrey et al, 1975) and many others.
Such studies are not always easy to analyse or interpret and they often show a diversity of results within the conditions or parameters being studied.
However, one parameter that has been both strongly and consistently associated with the season of birth for many years now – and the one we shall look at in detail to examine more fully the various seasonal factors that influence the pineal gland – is the population incidence of schizophrenia.
The Seasonality of Schizophrenia
Although the disorder termed, deficit schizophrenia, appears to shows an excess in summer births at northern latitudes (Kirkpatrick et al, 2000), there’s little doubt that there’s a tendency for people who go on to develop the psychotic disorder we generally call, schizophrenia, to be born at an increased incidence around the time of the spring (vernal) equinox in both the northern and southern hemispheres (Torrey, 1975; McGrath & Welham, 1999).
It is perhaps significant to note that this pattern of birth demonstrates a parallel with the idealised annual pattern of mammalian pineal gland activity, which, given its sensitivity to light and other EM radiations, is associated with photoperiod in a similar, seasonally related, manner (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Idealised correlation between seasonal pineal activity and schizophrenic births in the northern hemisphere.
To our physician-astrologer predecessors, this sort of pattern – on a month-to-month basis – would have borne a direct relationship to the Signs of the Zodiac (of the western, or tropical, zodiac as opposed to the sidereal zodiac that’s based on the background of fixed stars), which are effectively monthly divisions of the solar orbit. Further, the Sign of the Zodiac that astrological tradition associates with psychotic illness is the Sign of Pisces, which the sun “occupies” until precisely the day of the vernal equinox.
Both length of day and geomagnetic field fluctuate by season and both are associated with varying melatonin excretion, which peaks in June and November when low values of the geomagnetic field are recorded (Bergiannaki Joff et al, 1996).
In addition, naturally occurring EMFs that vary seasonally have also been associated with affective disorder (Sandyk et al, 1991), and at the equator, where there is no seasonal photoperiod change, the seasonal effect on schizophrenic births reportedly disappears (Parker et al, 2000).
All of this appears to be compelling evidence for a possible role of the pineal gland and melatonin in the apparent seasonal related aetiology of this disorder: a disorder, moreover, in which pineal extracts and melatonin had previously been thought to be beneficial (Altschule, 1957; Eldred et al, 1961). Obviously however, the possibility also exists that some rogue factor unconnected to pineal function but, nonetheless, related to season in some way, is associated with this effect.
It is interesting to observe that the presence of this particular seasonal pattern has led to the resurrection of iatromathematical thinking, and prompted contemporary psychiatrists to look for a correlation between schizophrenia and astrology. Indeed, a positive correlation between .htmects of schizoaffective disorder and astrological factors has recently been reported in the medical literature (Ohaeri et al, 1997).
However, a number of culprits other than astrological influences can be, and have been, suggested that could account for this putative relationship between season-of-birth and schizophrenia. They include: infectious diseases – including poliomyelitis and influenza (Battle, 1999; Suzisarari, 1999), various prenatal and perinatal factors (Geddes, 1999; Hultman et al, 1999); extremes in temperature (Mednick, 1984); exposure to EMFs, and light, (Sandyk et al, 1991); and other factors, including possible novel biochemical abnormalities (McGillion et al, 1974).
In other areas of psychopathology, however, there is little doubt that, at least in some cases, an overt pathological mood state is directly associated with a specific season of the year and with pineal gland function, though not specifically with the season of birth. In such cases, season and mood or other disorders are linked in a way that strongly suggests at least one prime cause could well be an influence – direct or indirect – of ambient EM radiation, including solar radiation, on the pineal gland and melatonin production (Summers & Shur, 1992; Clarke at al, 1999).
Thus, although changes in artificial lighting can have acute beneficial effects on such conditions (Hawkins, 1992), the occurrence of the depressive condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and of certain eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, appears to bear a direct relation to the seasonally induced change in daily, ambient, lighting (Rezaul, 1996).
Illumination of a type and magnitude that improves such disorders clinically is capable of changing the rhythm of melatonin excretion, and symptomatic improvement of affective disorder can be produced by light of the wavelength(s) the pineal gland is particularly sensitive to (Laakso et al, 1993; Oren et al, 1991).
Further, a reversal of seasonally induced changes in light intensity and duration, through, for example, the use of a light-box or simulation of dawn, can alter melatonin metabolism and reverse both the progression and outcome of the seasonal condition in question (Danilenko et al, 2000; Terman et al, 1998a,b).
Once again, there is probably no simple causal connection between melatonin secretion and clinical effect, as cognitive studies involving the use of what research workers have termed, “symbolic” light, can also improve these disorders, suggesting that both cognitive and physical factors are at work (Bouhuys et al, 1994).
However, the evidence for some sort of involvement of melatonin in seasonal mood and other disorders is compelling, and – given the role of ambient radiation in pineal melatonin metabolism – it seems reasonable to suggest the existence of a psycho-physical link between pineal activity and mood state; one that could, just conceivably, bear some connection to the seasonal birth effect in schizophrenia and other conditions.
Seasonal changes in melatonin levels that are directly associated with EMF intensity have been reported in the literature as indicated (Bergiannaki Joff et al, 1996), and this is suggestive of a possible linkage between: season, geomagnetic field fluctuation, melatonin production and immediate, or delayed, acute, or chronic, normal and pathophysiological states.
It is likely therefore, that, to a greater or lesser degree, the effect of such EM radiations on the human pineal gland during the perinatal period may, in some way, predispose certain children, born in a specific month and/or season, to developmental changes that, later in life, could lead to the development of physical, and/or psychological, traits related to specific pathologies, including schizophrenia.
There is also evidence to support the possibility of a, greater or lesser, biological basis of certain personality traits (Balada et al, 1993; Uvnas-Moberg et al, 1993) including those partly determined by season and by pre-natal hormonal effects (Frogon & Prokop, 1992).
If such reports are demonstrative of a causal link between early biological development and personality of the sort we referred to above in the studies on neonates, we could reasonably suggest that the season of birth, and/or the prevailing EM conditions at the time of birth, might equate with subsequent personality type through some such mechanism. Another relationship that would have been assumed by our iatromathematicus.
The iatromathematici gave due consideration to the moon as well as the sun in terms of human physiology: the former often being associated with physical characteristics and the latter, psychical ones – a reversal of roles in terms of what later astrologers were to attribute to these “planets” (Tester,1987e). Similarly, many astrologer-physicians thought chronic diseases were associated with the sun, and acute ones with the moon (Cambden, 1930).
In more contemporary literature, there is evidence that suggests the existence of some sort of lunar effect on animals (Brown, 1968), and claims of a putative lunar effect on humans, though still controversial, continue to be reported (Cutler, 1980; Drysdale, 1999; Law, 1990; Mikulecky, 1996; Parry, 1999; Raison et al, 1999; Rotton & Kelly, 1985).
Despite this ongoing controversy, it would appear that some sort of biological effect of the moon, whether direct or indirect and of a greater or lesser significance to us, could possibly occur in humans in a number of conceivable ways of which some at least would appear to be credible scientifically.
Thus a putative effect of the moon on pineal activity such as that indicated above (Law, 1986) seems credible, as does another – that could be related – suggested through the theoretical mechanism of magnetospheric resonance, which is described below.
Other Astronomical Phenomena
In the medical and scientific literature, in addition to those reports concerning photoperiod, season, the sun and the moon, there are others of a number of more general astronomical phenomena that appear to be able to influence biological systems. Thus, sunspots (Takata, 1950), the solar wind (Randal, 1990), the regular movement of the earth through space (Piccardi, 1962), and even supernovae (Terry, 1966), have been implicated in this respect.
Perhaps importantly, a possible causal relationship between the solar wind, human birth rates, magnetism, and melatonin has also been proposed, which demonstrates troughs at the solstices and peaks at the equinoxes: the latter times being those when schizophrenic births have a greater incidence (Randal, 1990).
Additionally, one of the more general astronomical phenomena that reportedly influence biological systems has a peak in March and a lesser peak in September: again, a parallel with the findings on the incidence of schizophrenic births (Piccardi, 1962).
For many years there have also been a variety of suggestions as to how the planets might influence us here on earth, though some of these findings and their suggested mechanisms of action have now been disputed and others put in a more appropriate context than they were perhaps assigned to formerly (Dean, 1976).
However, some astronomers have suggested that certain planets may influence the solar wind and solar and geophysical EM fields – collectively termed the magnetosphere – in a predictable manner through a resonance type effect (Seymour, 1988).
Such an effect is observed with the moon and the tides, an example of this being the tidal range in the Bay of Fundy, which varies between a few feet and sixty feet as a consequence of resonance phenomena that are linked to lunar movements at that location (Seymour 2000, personal communication). So, if there is a significant effect of certain planets on EM fields, of a type known to influence the pineal gland, it’s just possible the positions of certain planets at the time of our birth could also, to a greater or lesser degree through the perinatal actions of melatonin, influence our development and behaviour from the time of our birth as physician-astrologers have claimed for centuries
Size of Effects
Any influence of the planets on the magnetosphere that was based in a simple manner on the laws of gravitation would be infinitesimally small. However, the possibility of resonance effects suggests that through “tidal effects” of the gravitational forces of the planets interacting with the sun, moon and the solar wind affecting the magnetosphere; changes in local geomagnetism could cause changes in biological systems, including those in the newborn. Indeed there are reported correlations between the sun and moon, other celestial bodies, and geomagnetism (Mikulecky et al, 1996).
In this general context it is relevant to mention that in addition to purely solar or lunar phenomena, certain types of extraterrestrial influence involving both sun and moon appear to affect us to a degree where some people appear to be more susceptible to death due to heart attack (Sitar, 1989).
Despite these more specific considerations concerning the origins of the various astronomical influences on us, one researcher suggests that it isn’t necessarily productive to isolate and separate those that originate from the various terrestrial and extraterrestrial sources. Instead, it’s suggested we should attempt to integrate these through a series of experimental models; though caution in so doing is urged because: ”this may lead to popularisation of astrology which has nothing in common with serious research.” (Sitar, 1994).
Day-to-Day Effects of EMFs
There is now also a large body of work that suggests that changes in geomagnetic, and other, radiations in an individual’s immediate environment could – mainly it seems through actions on the temporal lobe of the brain – produce subjective experiences in humans that, certainly in some cases, could approach hallucinatory status (Persinger, 1995).
It has even been credibly suggested that there could be an association between wars, increased solar-geomagnetic activity and aggression (Persinger, 1999): in general terms, the sort of qualitative relationship between celestial force and political or military action, that the mathematici or magi, were traditionally consulted about.
Research in this general area of applied EMFs to human volunteers has also suggested the possible involvement of melatonin in both the objective and subjective phenomena produced by such fields (O’Connor & Persinger, 1996; 1999; Persinger, 1993), an association that is consistent with melatonin’s known sensitivity to these.
Hence, if astronomical factors do regularly alter such fields in a physiologically significant manner, we might well expect them, not only to be capable of influencing development in the long-term in neonates in a manner determined by the date, time and place of birth, but also to be capable of producing day-to-day changes in objective and subjective parameters in people of any age: precisely the sorts of conditions for “celestial” or “planetary” influences required by such as Fliess and the iatromathematici.
The existence of such acute changes is reminiscent of the possible role of sunlight and other EM radiations in SAD and other seasonal disorders. However, in the case of those that influence the temporal lobe and melatonin, their effect on us could well be a great deal more subtle in terms of effect than the gross mood changes seen, for example, in SAD.
Accordingly, when it comes to considering the possible effect on us of “celestial” and “planetary” influences other than the sun, to quote Sir Francis Bacon: the stars may “…rather incline than compel.” (Tester, 1987f).
It is evident that the consideration of the diverse factors that influence the activity of the pineal gland, including those that occur in the skies above us at and around the time of birth, might help us discover hitherto unknown relationships between these and our later development.
The sun, and possibly the moon – considered to be earth’s planets by our forebears – influence the pineal gland and its major hormone, melatonin which can in turn influence development. It is possible that some of the planets could do the same by way of a planetary resonance effect on the magnetosphere.
Further, the place, time and date of our birth – the essential foundations of the horoscope – determine our environment in terms of the intensity and type of light and other electromagnetic radiations we’re exposed to: thus also partly determining neonatal melatonin levels at birth.
Many of the above factors are also potentially related to certain types of subjective experience we may have due to ambient electromagnetic effects on our temporal lobes – again perhaps facilitated by alterations in melatonin metabolism. These could also predispose to, and/or cause influences on our mood, and other, states on a day-to-day basis.
Such considerations may provide a rational basis for many, though possibly not all, of the traditional belief system of the practitioners of medical astrology, the iatromathematici. They probably also give us a firm biophysical basis for the proto-cosmobiological theories of scientists and physicians like Svante Arrhenius and Wilhelm Fliess, as they undoubtedly do for many of the findings of the more modern, established science of cosmobiology.
In other words, many of the medical and physiological associations that have, for millennia, been thought to exist between celestial phenomena and ourselves, are probably not those of arcane astrological influence, or of some other esoteric quality of celestial phenomena. They are almost certainly the result of the effect of known physical forces on the pineal gland and melatonin, both at, and around, the time of our birth and, quite possibly, throughout the course of our life.
Thus, although the rationale may be different, and the context in cosmological terms considerably altered, it’s all very much like the practitioners of the ancient art of iatromathematica said it was.
I’d like to thank Eve McGillion B.A. for her assistance in the preparation of the manuscript and for translating original material; Dr Geoffrey Dean, for critical comment, and Professor Chris Bagley, for initially suggesting I prepare this paper.
The author is a member of the Research Colloquium on Astrology based at the University of Southampton, U.K. Enquiries on this paper should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
“This article was first published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (2002), Vol. 16, No. 1 pp 19-38 and then, with the kind permission of the author and JSE editor-in-chief, Henry Bauer, reproduced in Correlation (2002/2003), Vol. 21 No. 1 pp 45-61.”
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