left biblioblography: It's Written In The Stars - Or So It Is Said

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Written In The Stars - Or So It Is Said

Cross posted @ God Is for Suckers!aries-sham 

When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way -
Stevie Wonder

Yet another daft chapter of our species from the history books - there was a time that astrology was considered a relevant 'science'. And no, I'm not talking about the Oracle of Delphi. Much closer to our own time period, in fact.

The 1640s and 1650s marked a heyday in the history of astrology in Britain. Astrologers were openly consulted by prince and pauper, and such was their influence on daily life that on the 29th March 1652 it was reported "hardly any would work, none would stir out of their houses" because of an impending solar eclipse.[1] The excitement generated by the astrologers' predictions of doom led to reports of the rich fleeing from London, farmers driving their cattle under cover, and markets being postponed.[2] Astrology at this time was part of everyone's life, inherent in the language and prevalent in the customs of the period. The massive sale of astrological almanacs, which during this period outsold all publications except for the Bible, indicates the widespread accessibility and acceptance of astrological philosophy.

Sound familiar?

By the 1670s however, astrology began to fall into a serious decline. Astrologers were stripped of their right to make political statements affecting the Church or State and the public seemed to be losing interest. The educated and influential classes started to look upon astrology as, at worst, superstitious nonsense and dangerous propaganda, and at best, a study in dire need of research and refinement. Almanac sales slumped, and many previously successful and busy astrologers were noting a fall in the number of their clients.

I think much of that can be tracked down to the 'science' not working at all. But evidently it rang a few bells:

Astrology and the Ecclesiastical Authorities often had a somewhat uncomfortable relationship. In general terms the Church was prepared to go along with a 'natural', or philosophical astrology, accepting Heaven's influence in a broad, cultural sense, but 'judicial' astrology, which dealt with individual predictions, met with staunch opposition; this was felt to undermine the supreme power of the Creator and the freewill of the individual to make the best of his circumstances. The Body of the Church held considerable power and wealth, so any tenet of faith that conflicted with their dogma exposed itself as a theological opponent and threat to the political scheme. Matters were hardly facilitated when, in 1631, an ambitious astrologer predicted the death of Pope Urban VIII, the effect being that many cardinals met to discuss who should succeed him whilst he was still alive and well. A Papal Bull condemning astrology was issued by the exasperated Pope, and the Church's tolerance with astrology fell to an all-time low. The monopoly of almanac publication had been renewed to the Company of Stationers by James I in 1603, and under the auspices of the government, they ensured that all published predictions were kept relatively tame and harmless.

The prediction, of course, failed. The consequences were predictable.

The article linked is an apologetic written by and for other believers. It tries to paint the picture of persecution - 'awww, those poor little dears! Why, there must be something to it, if people are against it!"

No, there isn't. It's all superstitious dreck. How on earth would someone prove that it was the invisible tentacles of electro-magnetism stemming from Mars that results in the need for anger management? Can't be done. Or that somehow, the feeblest of gravimetric motes from Venus makes one a superior lover? Can't be done.

In short, how can it be proven that just one planet (not the planet earth, I might note) has any impact whatsoever on an individual? How does one measure this sans the century-old tomes that claim it? How do you winnow out this ephemeral influence, put a yardstick to it, lick the thumb and take aim with one eye at it?

I will, upon my return from a well-deserved vacation, take an ample swing at the folks who claim there is such evidence.

So stay tuned, true un-believers.

Till the next post, then.

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