Can astrology be disproved? Literally thousands of volumes have been written on the subject over the ages, attacks and defenses, apologies and interpretations. Proponents have claimed astrology as a “science” and an “art,” a true interpretation of the inner workings of the universe. Opponents have mostly attacked astrology on physical grounds, citing the old classical arguments: the question of twins, the time of birth versus time of conception, the immense distances to the planets and stars, and so on.
But very few writers have come to the nub of the matter: astrology is false because it is a system of magic, based on the magical “principle of correspondences.” In fact, astrology–or at least its prehistoric predecessor–probably arose concurrently with the magical world view of early civilized man, astrology and magic adding to each other and being developed and used by the priests to lend “cohesiveness” to the evolving city-states. By the time cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing had been developed, astrology in some form or other was already a part of man’s culture.
Thus, several thousand years have gone into the development of astrology, into its theory and practice. Astrology proper began in Babylonia as a system of omen-reading to foretell the fate of kings and realms. More or less simultaneously, the Egyptians developed their system of Places, based on “planetary aspects.” Then the Greeks took over both the Babylonian and Egyptian systems, combining them into a complex mathematical cosmology. Under the Greeks, astrology became available to the common man; astrologers today use virtually the same system as the Greeks, or endless variations thereof.
As a result of astrology’s long history, confused development, and obscured theoretical bases, it is common for writers and astrologers to state that the ancient “art” cannot be disproved, that modern man lacks the necessary “cosmic insights” to grasp its truths. Even the great humanist Petrarch attacked astrology only by making fun of astrologers, leaving the cosmological arguments relatively untouched. Very few writers indeed have associated astrology with its magical bases; a reasonable search reveals that only Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, and recently Richard Cavendish, in The Black Arts, have properly identified astrology as magic.
This confused state of affairs is precisely the astrologers’ aim: as long as they can obscure the fact that astrology is nothing more nor less than magic and totally unrelated to physical science, they can continue to find customers willing to part with hard-earned funds. For, after all, astrology is a practical “art”; it has provided many an astrologer with a lifelong living.
Prehistoric man–and specifically the Upper Paleolithic cultures –painted images of animals on the walls of caves; he also carved and formed similar hand-held images, often in conjunction with carved notations, a series of nicks and lines. In “Lunar Notations on Upper Paleolithic Remains” and later in The Roots of Civilization, Marshack introduced the revolutionary idea that such Upper Paleolithic notations do not represent “hunting tallies” but rather lunar observations, a seasonal timekeeping that aided prehistoric man in keeping track of the seasonal activities of his prey.
Certainly, such seasonal timekeeping would have been of great selective value, permitting man to use his rapidly evolving cognitive powers to anticipate and prepare for the coming hunts. While Marshack tends to place religious and ritual significance on such seasonal notations, one might suggest that the rituals were more in the form of learning and preparation experiences than religious in nature, particularly at first. Play-learning is very common in mammals, especially among the primates; hence, one suspects that ritual play-learning came first and that it was only with the rise of civilization that religion and the magical world view came into being.
Marshack’s sequences of lunar notation then further suggest that the traditionally accepted view that astronomy arose from astrology is wrong. It would seem that prehistoric man was making careful observations of the night sky long before astrology entered the picture; plus, he was putting those astronomical observations to a practical use: keeping track of the seasonal comings and goings of the plants and animals that were important to him. In that sense, prehistoric man was far more scientific than the modern astrologer.
Marshack’s thesis concerning prehistoric man’s use of lunar notation has been generally accepted by anthropologists. The Paleolithic use of linear notation in conjunction with artistic representation goes far toward paving the way for the civilized development of cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing.
Similarly, the use of such linear notations to keep track of the phases of the moon goes far toward explaining why astrology, in one form or other, arose nearly simultaneously all over the globe ( China, India, Egypt, Babylonia, Central America). Prehistoric man had been used to watching the comings and goings of the heavenly bodies, and when the magical world picture arose with the advent of civilization, astrology was a natural consequence.
The association of lunar notations with the seasonal advent of certain plants and animals also helps explain why abstractly shaped constellations have animals’ names: there was a long history of associating celestial objects with animal life. A similar idea is expressed by Rupert Gleadow in The Origin of the Zodiac.
One may well ask, Why would magic develop along with civilization? As in the case of lunar notation and seasonal timekeeping, one can only suggest that magic arose because it was of selective advantage. Perhaps magic gave the burgeoning citystates cohesiveness; one could easily make a case for magic being the power yielded by the priests to keep the citizens in line, convincing them that only by working for the good of the state could they keep the “powers of nature” in check.
This interpretation would further suggest to a hard-core skeptic that civilization does not have a rational basis, but rather an irrational basis of selective value–irrational at least in terms of the twentieth century. For magic is based on the “principle of analogies,” or the “law of correspondences,” as it is generally called in astrology. As we shall see, this “principle of correspondences” is merely a product of the human mind and has no physical basis in fact.
Astrology persisted as the most successful intellectual movement of all epochs. it infected every culture, no matter what the prevailing religion; it infiltrated all levels of education. It penetrated into dying Egyptian civilization and into the vital, mature life of the Greeks, the Hindus, and the Chinese, into the flowering Arabic culture and the budding culture of the Occident during the Middle Ages.
Believers in Christ and Mohammed, in the Platonic Eros and the wisdom of Confucius, paid tribute to it. It affected equally those whose goal was Buddhistic contemplation and Roman organization. It captured the minds of superstitious fellahin and sophisticated mandarins, mystics in monks’ cowls and Stoics in togas, Caesars of the second century and popes of the sixteenth, the visionary who wrote the Apocalypse and the mathematical genius Ptolemy.
lts conquest of the Greeks was swiftest and most complete of all. That this should have been so runs exactly contrary to one’s notions.· The Greeks of all people would seem to have been immune to such beliefs. They were a daylight people who saw all things concretely, who cast abstract ideas into tangible form.
So humanized were their gods that a savage fetish would arouse mystical ideas more easily than such gods. Their cult of heroes erased the boundaries between god and man, and ended by building temples for the living. Nothing could have been further from the minds of the Greeks, it would seem, than viewing the night sky as ruler of man’s soul and destiny.
Of course, the Greeks shared the universal human dread of the wrath of Heaven, which comets and eclipses patently proclaimed. But Pericles showed his soldiers that they had nothing to fear from an eclipse by giving them a scientific explanation; he held a cloak in front of a lamp to demonstrate what happened during an eclipse. General Nieias was despised by the public for abandoning a siege because of an ill omen. Aristophanes called the Moon and Sun “gods of the barbarians.” And yet these very same Greeks developed astrology into a rigid system of dogma. The stages by which this earthiest of cultures paradoxically arrived at a form of celestial mysticism can be traced step by step. It began with Plato.
His universal spirit was open to all suggestions from other realms of the mind. Plato had one Chaldean as a friend, and one as a disciple. Perhaps influenced by them, he took up the idea that hitherto had only been hinted at in the Orphic mysteries: that the stars possessed a divine nature. The stars, Plato went on to teach, consisted of the four elements plus a soul. This wholly un-Greek conception opened wide the gates to Babylonian astrology. Aristotle, ordinarily so critical, spoke with enthusiasm about the stars as animate beings. The Stoic philosophers, in their turn, attributed to them emotion, understanding, and will.
Babylonian astrology became a second celestial religion; but it was quite unlike the first, that of ancient China. In China the stars became gods; in Babylon the gods became stars. To the Chinese the mysteries of the cosmos were so sublime that they degraded their traditional popular divinities to demons and created a cult of the stars without priests, myths, or dogmas.
The Babylonians, on the other hand, placed their native divinities one after another in the heavens, and transferred the mythic traits of these divinities to the stars. Here was an amazing evolution: for the first and only time a civilized religion rendered the divine beings visible and calculable by identifying them with the seven wandering stars.
The cuneiform script itself expressed that impulse, for its sign of divinity was a star. An age-old Babylonian legend related that the lord of the Earth, Bel, appointed the three gods Shamash, Sin, and Ishtar guardians of the firmament, which they thereafter patrolled as the Sun, the Moon, and Venus. When four more wandering stars were found in the firmament, the Babylonians made bold to repeat the act of Bel.
The city-god of Babylon, Marduk, became the planet Jupiter; the god of death, Nergal, became the planet Mars; the god of war, Ninurta, became Saturn; and the god of knowledge, Nabu, became Mercury. Mars was called Star of Judgment upon the De ad. The Tower of Babel, which was simultaneously a sanctuary and observatory, was called tersely the Temple of the Seven Transmitters of Commands from Heaven to Earth.
Thus in Babylon divine worship became equivalent to astronomy, astronomy equivalent to searching out the will of the gods. In observing the movements of the planets and their relationships to one another, the priest was performing the highest rite of his religion. That fact accounted for the enormous power of the priestly class. They did not pray to invisible beings; they associated with them face to face, so to speak.
Out of this belief sprang the extraordinarily frank reports of the astronomer-priests to the king, and the king’s meek queries as to whether he might end his fast. Moreover, these priests prophesied with a sense of absolute certainty-for they did not read the future from deceptive signs; they read it in the eyes of the gods themselves.
The light rays sent forth from the planets were magical glances by which the gods guided activities on Earth. Their influence was predetermined beyond the possibility of doubt by the special traits of the particular god. The system of interpreting the stars no longer depended upon observation and empirical rules amassed in the course of centuries; interpretation flowed simply and directly from the very names of the planets. Each planet’s name carried with it the entire body of legend which the old religion had attached to the god…
The transposition of divine characteristics to the wandering planets is the essence of astrology. That is why the position of the planets was held to influence the destiny of individuals. If a child were born while the Moon was rising, his life would be resplendent, long, and happy. if a child were born while Mars was rising, he would be sickly and soon die. if two planets wielded their influence simultaneously, the rising planet operated with greater force. Thus, if Jupiter were rising and Venus setting at birth, a man would have luck in later life, but would abandon his wife. If Venus were rising and Jupiter setting, the man would be ruled by his wife.
Thus the astrological rule was early established that opposition of the planets mutually weakened their influence. Contrarily, in conjunction they strengthened one another, with the higher of the two planets being the stronger. Soon further refinements were added: angles of 60 and 120 degrees, triangles, and hexagons, were considered favorable, squares unfavorable. These various “aspects,” multiplied by seven, yielded a complicated doctrinal system which laid the groundwork for a comprehensive craft of prophecy. The aspect of the planets could be consulted for any event in life, for births and the founding of cities, business negotiations, travels, political treaties, battles, harvests, sickness.
Elaborations were added by the Greeks, and in the Middle Ages the Book of One Hundred Rules spread knowledge of the arcane science far and _wide. Everyone knew his ruling planet. Those who were born under Jupiter presumably possessed a “jovial” character. The children of Mars considered themselves hot-tempered, bold, bellicose, destined for evil deeds.
Even physical appearance was supposed to be governed by the planet. Every planet also had certain natural objects attributed to it, and special periods of influence. Fire, iron, hematite, jasper, the color red, the taste of bitterness, the male sex, the liver, gall, kidneys, veins, and the left ear-all belonged to Mars. Mars also dominated the years of life from 42 to 57, Tuesdays, and the night from Thursday to Friday.
Some of these rules go all the way back to the Babylonians, but most of them only to the Greek astrologers. Like the Chinese, the Greeks connected the principal aspects of thought with the stars. But the relationship which was, for the Chinese, an intellectual pattern, a magnificent synthesis of ideas, became in the West a web work of tangible causes and effects. The difference can be strikingly demonstrated by two quotations.
The Chinese Book of Changes declares: “The heavens reveal ideas; the holy man takes them as his model.” The other conception is formulated in the Talmud: “Everything that is found upon Earth is found also in the heavens; nothing is so trivial that it does not have its correlation in the sky.” According to this latter view, it was necessary only to read the celestial sign aright in order to unravel all earthly mysteries.
Such readings, however, would have called for .a highly developed craft in observation, which the Middle Ages lacked. But the Greeks apparently foresaw this and established a dogmatic scheme which could be applied in lieu of observation. Every hour of the day was placed under the dominion of a planet. In fixed succession the seven governors of the hours followed one another through an entire week, and then repeated their turns. The system was primitive, but practical. An individual’s birth-planet could be determined without consultation with an astronomer.
This arbitrary method also went back to a Babylonian model: the planetary week. Originally the week had had five days because five divided neatly into the thirty-day month. But once the seven planets had been discovered, the number seven became sacred. Babylonian observatories were made seven stories high; state documents were sealed with seven seals. There were seven colors, seven musical notes, seven parts of the body; human lives were supposed to consist of seven-year periods.
In the sky, Orion and the two Bears had seven stars; the Pleiades were called the Seven Sisters, though with the best will in the world only six tiny dots of light could be distinguished. The week was given seven days, awkward as this unit was. And each day was named after and presumably dominated by a single planet.
To this day the names of the days retain the system: Sun-day, Moon-day, Tiu/ Mars-day, Woden/Mercury-day, Thor/ Jupiter-day, Freya/Venus-day, Saturn-day. Although the names of our days derive mainly from Norse mythology, the system can be considered a gift from Babylon, reminding us of the eyes of the gods which once governed the days, the hours, and human destinies with their magical glances.
The first new moon of the year marks the start of the Chinese calendar.
Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Tibet, and is in countries such as Singapore, with significant Chinese populations. Christopher Livaccari of the Asia Society, told Yahoo! Shine it used to be widely celebrated in Japan, but now most Japanese consider first the residence in January will be the main New Year.
Lunar This year, new year begins on January 23, which is the first day of the first new moon of the year. It ends 15 days before the full moon. The Chinese calendar is divided into 12 cycles, each represented by a special animal. According to Chinese astrology, this year is the Year of the Dragon, the only mythical animal in the zodiac. People born in the Year of the Dragon is said to be energetic, charismatic, and natural born leaders. Some famous “dragons” include Joan of Arc, Vladimir Putin, and John Lennon.
Lunar New Year Traditions
Celebrations of the coming year begins on the eve of the first new moon with a festival and fireworks. Families clean their homes to symbolize a new beginning and buy flowers and plants, representing rebirth. Often, monetary gifts or money in new red and gold envelopes are exchanged to bring good fortune. Livaccari Shine said, “I think some people tend to think of these festivals and celebrations as something very exotic, but most people in contemporary East Asia sees this time as an opportunity to take a break from the school and work and reconnect with family, much as we would have Thanksgiving or Christmas. ”
Lucky foods include dumplings and other delicacies that symbolize small packets of good fortune, oranges, in which sound like the Chinese word for “omen”, and apples that look like “peace”. Fireworks explode to ward off evil spirits. Boisterous dragon dances are also performed to scare the spirits away.
A tradition that children love, is that parents are not supposed to scold their children for the Lunar New Year. Livaccari also points out that, as in the West, “Your average 14 years in Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and is probably more focused on this as a chance to get more time to play video games or interact with their friends online. ”
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