Lilly Kolisko was a youthful follower of German theosophist Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Anthroposophical Society. In the 1920s she began a series of experiments to test empirically some of the claims made for the society's astrological teachings. Among these teachings was the observation that certain planets rule certain metals. For example, according to traditional astrological wisdom, the Sun rules gold and the Moon, silver. Other metals said to have rulers include mercury (Mercury), copper (Venus), iron (Mars), tin (Jupiter), lead (Saturn). Steiner taught that the rulership is especially in effect when these elements are in liquid solution. To Kolisko, this teaching suggested that during certain aspects of the ruling planet, especially when it was involved in a conjunction with an additional planet, the behavior of the metal might be altered.
To test this hypothesis Kolisko carried out a series of experiments in which metallic salts were dissolved and the solutions then allowed to crystallize on filter paper. Kolisko hypothesized that if the position of the planets had any effect then the patterns of the resulting crystals would be changed as the planets, aspects shifted. She ran hundreds of tests and reported significant results. Among the more dramatic were effects that occurred during a conjunction of the planet Saturn by the Sun and then the Moon. During the conjunction, called in astrology an occultation, in which Saturn was behind the Sun or Moon, the rate of crystallization was either significantly delayed or blocked altogether. These experiments were recorded and published in a series of publications released in the 1930s by the Anthroposophical Society.
In the 1930s, Kolisko also conducted a series of experiments to test the belief held by many farmers that planting should occur while the Moon is waxing. She tested the growth of plants sown both prior to the Full Moon (when the Moon is waxing) and prior to the New Moon (when the Moon is waning). She found that, in fact, those plants sown prior to the Full Moon did grow more rapidly and in a more satisfactory manner when sown just prior to the Full Moon as opposed to those sown prior to the New Moon. These results were reported in her booklet. The Moon and Plant Growth.
Kolisko's results were reported as World War II (1939-45) was beginning, and little work at replication occurred immediately. However, two British scientists, J. Maby and T. Bedford Franklin, did carry out some initial testing of the experiments with plants. They reached negative conclusions published in their book, The Physics of the Divining Rod, in 1939. Others found negative results testing the results of the more important findings concerning chemical solutions. However, during the war years, Kolisko's work was largely forgotten.
In the years since World War II, some attempts at verifying Kolisko's results have appeared. Anthroposophist Theodore Schwenck, a scientist working at the Swiss Weleda Company, found marked results with a solution allowed to crystallize during the Mars-Saturn conjunction of 1949. This experiment would be replicated in 1964. Over the decades, other members of the society tested Kolisko's thesis, with successful results being reported primarily in various anthroposophical publications.
Although experiments with the fast moving Moon (that moves through the entire zodiac every month) could be regularly repeated, some of the more infrequent but longer lasting conjunctions, such as that of Mars and Saturn, have been reported to produce the more dramatic results, sometimes lasting for several days. Thus in 1972, Nicolas Kollerstrom began a set of experiments involving Mars, Saturn, and the Moon. A decade later he was able to report marked results with solutions of iron, lead, and silver. The Mars-Saturn effect always peaked in the days immediately after the conjunction.
It can be argued that the Kolisko effect is as yet unverified, having as yet received little attention outside of the Anthroposophical Society, but at the same time, the amount of evidence gathered in support of it remains impressive. It has also been hypothesized that the initial inability of British scientists to replicate her work with plants may be due to what is termed the "green house" effect, the peculiar ability that some people seem to have with plants; that is, it may be due to a psi effect rather than an astrological one. Until more fully tested, however, the Kolisko effect remains one of the building blocks for those attempting to make the scientific case for astrology.
Davidson, Allison. Metal Power: The Soul Life of the Plants. Garberville, Calif.: Borderland Sciences Research Foundation, 1991.
——. Saturn und Blei. Stroud, Germany: Privately published, 1952.
Kollerstrom, Nicolas. "Planetary Influences on Metal Ion Activity." Correlation 3, no.1 (1983): 38-50.
West, John Anthony, and Jan Gerhard Toonder. The Case for Astrology. New York: Coward-McCann, 1970.