When Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo advanced astronomy it struck a blow to the ancient practice of astrology. The seemingly destructive blow was proof that a geocentric theory was incorrect. Astrology had been constructed with this now false hypothesis as its basis. In the nineteenth century, however, the case for astrology was reopened. Academics could not seem to break themselves free from the idea of a curious link between mathematics and superstition.
Its origins are based in faith. Faith in divine stellar beings who exhibit an influence over the world. This influence was subject to invariable laws created from the regular movements of the heavens. The reasoning then followed that if the heavens could be predicted then so could the influences on the world.
The Chaldean peoples seem to have taken very seriously the power of prediction and believed they understood the mechanisms of the universe and life. The dogmas that grew up were often contradicted by life but any differences were put down to poor understanding. Unable to free themselves from the rigidity and power of their doctrine they sought to modify their theories to explain the events. A dangerous precedent had been set and man was caught up in this phony belief.
At some point in Babylonian history a link was associated between their 'gods' and the heavens. Celestial objects were identified with the Gods and some of the constellations defined. By around 6 BC this religion had become established and much of its dogma had been composed.
Because of the consistency of the heavens the notion of a supreme Necessity had been promoted. This Necessity was more powerful than the Gods for it actually controlled the heavenly motions. By definition this entity also had power over man's life. Then the fatal connection was made between this 'god' and the heavenly movements.
Priests predicted events by the stars and drove out evil by purification sacrifice and incantation. Because the stellar motions were deemed invariant their positions and hence the future could be determined well in advance. In Babylonia an extraordinary mix of practical polytheism combined with applications of science and heavenly gods (ruled by maths) took place to support and expand this belief system. The understanding of all this is that astrology is a branch of maths which has been revealed through the periodic motions of the heavens.
The intricacies of this concept meant that the universe was made up of eternal cycles - no beginning and no end. This strange new religion seemed to defy time and return the cosmos to its starting point every so often. The principal players in this religion were the sun and the moon probably due to their dominance of the sky. next came the five planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The three outermost planets do not appear because their discovery occurred much later after the invention of telescopes. These seven bodies were given special status because they moved independently of the fixed stellar positions. Further to this worship of the constellations took place especially those in the Zodiac. The Zodiac is defined as all the constellations that the ecliptic passes through. The ecliptic is the path of the sun across the sky in a year. 36 Counsellor gods were also created and then 24 stars, not in the Zodiac, to act as judges of the living and the dead.
Let me now describe to you in my own words astrology as I see it. People are, as far as I can make out, putting their belief in the positions of balls of rock and gas relative to a random association of other balls of gas. These physical entities somehow then exert a 'force' on our lives that controls our future and enables people with certain knowledge to see for us this future. The only 'force' from these bodies that could possibly influence us is gravity. (But then the surgical team around you at birth would have more impact in that sense !)
I would now like to say why I disagree with astrology. As mentioned earlier its roots are in the geocentric theory. Because this theory is false it, in my opinion, undermines the entire basis of the belief system. The shifting constellations is another reason for my personal doubts on astrology. The sun, basically, is not where the astrologers say it is. Due to precession that constellations rotate around the sky once every 26 000 years. In the 2 000 or so years since astrology started the relative position of the sun has shifted by one constellation. So what star sign does this make you ? Is that one of today or of 2 000 years ago ?
As a Christian I believe that the power of astrology is not as innocent as people would like to believe. The Bible makes several references to astrology :
" Do not practice divination or sorcery."
" Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.".
" And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars - all the heavenly array - do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshipping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven."
" All the counsel you have received has only worn you out ! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame. Here are no coals to warm anyone; here is no fire to sit by. That is all they can do for you - these you have laboured with and trafficked with since childhood. Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you."
There are several references to astrologers in this passage. The king of the day, Nebuchadnezzar, has a dream which requires interpretation. He tests the astrologers who fail to help him in his situation. As a result the king orders the death of all the wise men. Daniel, however, via a vision from God is able to interpret the dream and save many men from death.
The Bible teaches us that we should trust in God for our future and not seek to find it out by other means. The reason for this command is that he knows how the devil can manipulate our lives. Turning to an astrologer for the future is, in my opinion, akin to putting your trust in a complete stranger who tells you to do something. Astrologers have no way of knowing the exact future. Look at it rationally there are just too many variables. God can reveal our future to us, if he so chooses. For him this is not a problem because he is outside the reality of time and space as we understand it.
If you still believe astrology is a worthwhile practice then read the following quotes from a recent article in The Daily Telegraph in which Jeannette Kupfermann obtained the following quotes.
Firstly from Dr Allan Chapman , an Oxford historian :
"Astrology is harmful. I know of many who rule their lives by it and wouldn't do anything without consulting their astrologer. It's dangerous on two levels: for those people using it to make decisions on world affairs, and for the ordinary person who feels a slave to the planets. It plays to the most vulnerable and fatalistic."
Secondly, from Jonathan Cainer, one of the country's leading astrologers :
"I wouldn't take any of it too seriously. There are two possibilities : either it works because people want it to work - and we are very good at phrasing it so it has a universal application - or there really is a little magic in it."
[The article appeared in the Daily Telegraph, page 19, Wednesday October 11th 1995. The author, Jeannette Kupfermann, is a social anthropologist. She is a former lecturer at LSE and is now a freelance journalist and author. The quotes are reproduced with her kind permission.]
Clearly someone involved in it has his doubts about it. Yet despite this so many people place their belief in it. Many people I know acknowledge its futility and yet they still read it just in case. It is a bit like the national lottery - you keep trying because one day your numbers may come up.
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