Astrology Essay Research Paper The basic astrological — страница 4

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wife by diagnosing infidelity; and Lilly was accused of starting family quarrels’ by pronouncing ‘elder brothers childless and younger brothers certain heirs o f their estates’. Astrologers were accused of upsetting projected marriages in aristocratic families and persuading unsuitable clients to marry each other. But when one considers practitioners like John Booker, who conducted his huge business in the heart of London for over thirty years, it seems clear that the astrologer could usually count on a good deal of public tolerance. In many cases the practitioner was positively encouraged. If astrology was discharging so many useful functions, why did it nevertheless rapidly decline in status towards the end of the seventeenth century? Simply put, the solutions which they

offered came to appear less convincing. Astrology, thought Bacons needed to be reformed, but not abolished. The mid-seventeenth century saw a determined effort to bring the subject up to date fired by such taunts as George Gerbert’s remark that astrology is true, but the astrologers cannot find it’. Serious astronomers had ceased to make any contributions to astrology, even if they were reluctant to abandon it. By the end of the seventeenth century, astrology had lost its scientific prestige; of course many of astrology’s defects had been pointed out before the corning of the new science. Astrology, it was observed was rigid and arbitrary. The zodiac and twelve horses had no reality. Astrology lacked the essential quality of a science – the capacity for demonstration.

Among the population at large the movement of opinion on astrology is impossible to chart with any accuracy. Most people despised ‘astronomers’ said the almanac-maker, John Securis, in 1568. They saw astrology as an entertaining recreation rather than a genuine science. Despite his thriving practice, Lilly complained of the small conceit and shocking judgment the English nation have of astrology’. The truth seems to be that astrology had ceased, in all but the most unsophisticated circles, to be regarded as either a science or a crime. After 1700 the volume of astrological writing appears to have fallen off sharply. The almanacs continued although their prognostications were vaguer and emptier than ever. In the nineteenth century, and after astrology was to undergo several

revivals but the intellectual vitality the subject had once possessed was gone forever. The relations between astrology and religion had been colored by mutual suspicion since the early Christian era. During the century after the Reformation the two systems of belief came into sharp conflict. Many of the English clergy denounced judicial astrology as an impious art whose teachings were fundamentally incompatible with those of the basic tenets of Christianity. The first line of attack was to point out that religion and astrology frequently offered conflicting explanations for the same phenomena. Whereas the Christian was taught to regard storms, famines or earthquakes as the manifestations of God’s secret purposes, the astrologer made them subject to the movement of the

celestial bodies and therefore predictable by his art. This attribution of good or bad luck to the stars was a direct threat to Christian dogma: as Calvin said, it ‘put . . . clouds before our eyes to drive us away from the providence of God.’ Long life was the reward for godliness, not the legacy of the planets. Much of the war against astrology was fought at this basic level of causation. As the Presbyterian Thomas Gataker declared in 1653, it was essential that Christians should regard all events’ ‘not with an astrological, but a theological eye’. The astrologers caused the deepest offence by offering a secular explanation on some of the most delicate matters in religious history. They did not hesitate to offer astral reasons for the dominance of different religions

in different parts of the worlds. The origin of the theological attack on astrology was the conviction that the astrologers taught an astral determinism which was incompatible with Christian doctrines of free will and moral autonomy. What they found intolerable was the judicial side of the art – the exact predictions, not just of the weather, but of human behavior, whether of people in the mass or as individuals. The more specific the prediction the more it offended the belief in free will. The astrologer could never infallibly tell how any particular man would behave because the will and the intellect remained free. A practitioner who claimed certainty for his predictions was no more than a heretic. Yet the whole point of astrological diagnosis was to widen human freedom of