The Value of Case Studies in Astrology
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by David Cochrane
The word "research" may bring up thoughts of experimental designs, statistical analysis, or people peering through microscopes. However, in a field like astrology where nothing has yet to be consistently and definitively verified, it is often a good idea to work gradually from gathering anecdotal evidence step-by-step rather than jumping full-blown into a more rigorous research study. Rigorous research studies are important too and I have conducted them myself, but most research is closer to gathering anecdotal evidence and this is appropriate. However, there are better and worse ways to gather anecdotal evidence.
IMPORTANCE OF MAKING NOTES:
I often study a chart and make notes of what I expect a person to be like and then upon meeting the person or getting to know the person better, I compare my notes with the reality. It is easy for astrologers to be defensive and "always right". Even when we are wrong, we can have quick and ready reasons, such as this Aquarian is not progressive because Aquarius is also a fixed sign and ruled by Saturn and Saturn in this chart is peregrine or conjunct Algol, etc. This is all well and good as long as we are then willing to commit ourselves to these rules, clearly identify the rules, and try to refine the rules to be more precise over time.
In the 1970's it quickly become evident to me that a simple interpretation of astrological infuences does not work. People with Leo stelliums and Leo rising are not necessarily dramatic, self-centered, etc., etc. If there is truth to many of these ideas, the dynamics are more subtle and perhaps more psychological. In short, we need to look clearly, honestly, humbly, and non-defensively at the charts and strive to sort out what is really happening. All of us in the field sometimes fall into the trap of being defensive and finding "excuses" so to speak. We need to be aware of this tendency, and to slowly work through the extraordinary complexity of ideas that different astrologers believe in to ascertain what is valid and what is not, or in what way an idea may be valid.
Recently I have spent time looking at the charts of extreme people. What astrological factors made Van Gogh a mad genius. Why did John Coltrane not play the saxophone like everyone else? How did Joe DiMaggio play baseball with such grace and hit with so much consistency?
An extreme person is a kind of pure type, the person who is beyond the 99th percentile. These people fascinate and interest us. Extreme or pure types are excellent candidates for research. I think it is a bit bland to describe Van Gogh as having this in Aries or that in Pisces; there must be something in the astrology chart that identifies his unique qualities. When I first studied astrology I thought these extreme people would have more squares in their charts, but I do not need to do a statistical analysis to see that this is generally not true, and at best an enormous sample size would be needed to confirm this. We can avoid many wasted research ventures if we gather information honestly and clearly every time we analyze a chart, and particularly when we know a person very well or the person has extreme traits.
A case study is a detailed study of a few people rather than a quantitative analysis of a group of people. There are books that have been written on conducting case studies. I am using the term to simply emphasize that careful study of a few cases can be very valuable, and this is exactly the kind of research that many astrologers are already engaged in. I have made most of my discoveries in astrology through identifying things that do NOT work in the astrology chart. There is no doubt that sometimes I am defensive and resistant to seeing the truth as well, but by consciously striving to be objective as well as intuitive and sensitive to fine nuances, the inability of astrological theories to work has been the key to finding ideas that appear to work consistently and can even possibly be verified in rigorous research in the future.
At some point I hope to find time to write up my analysis of key astrological infuences in the charts of Van Gogh, Coltrane, diMaggio, and many others, but this will have to wait until I have time to do this.
AUTHOR: David Cochrane