This material world, indeed, is like a book written by god.
Hugh of Saint Victor
In our days many skeptics think that astrologers are cheaters or strange persons who are deluded by strange beliefs, like that planets distant millions of kilometers from the Earth, can determine our life in a significant way according to their position; notwithstanding that the planets are no more than huge bulks of rocks and gases whose influence can’t be much greater than that exercised with their gravitational fields.
But believing this is obviously absurd, as absurd as believing that the thermometers are determining the environmental temperature.
Astrology is based upon a much different logic but now, in the eyes of many, not much better than that just outlined, because it is alien to the spirit of our time.
The main key that explains what is behind astrology and its working lie just in my quotation of Hugh of Saint Victor.
The material world is a book written by god and so everything is following his law and his will. It follows that every thing can give us important informations. This is behind the working of every divination method, every thing can reveal us the direction taken by the creation (or simply by our little life): how birds fly, how the holy chickens of ancient Rome eat or refuse their food, the insides of a sacrified animal and, also, the observation of the planets (that at least is a “cruelty free” system).
The current mentality
This way of thinking, at least in the western world, has been abandoned by the majority of the people, in favor of a more materialistic one where God is absent and everything is explained only by scientific and “rational” theories. If Pitagora and, it seems (at least partially) still Galileo saw the numbers as a mean to study the divine, now remains only the mere measurement, the study of the physical manifestation (a study excellently done I have to say), missing what these discoveries can say us on a spiritual level (even if it seems that something is moving in some sectors, mainly among the quantum physicists and the chemists).
For many, by now, the idea more similar to divination now conceivable is represented by the rebels of “The Matrix” that watch the code lines of Matrix to help their fellows that are operating inside the simulated reality created by the machines (the film, in truth, can be defined a fancy story inspired be a genial, even if a bit gloomy, re elaboration in a materialistic key of spiritual doctrines).
The analogy principle
Returning in topic we can say that in practice the stars, with their movements, are signaling us how the influences of different forces or, if we want, entities are combining themselves on the Earth. The english astrologer William Lilly (1602-1681), for example, describing the planets and giving anyone its field of influence, gives also an arcangel to each.
To investigate on what is influenced by the various planets has been combined together observation and the analogy and sympathy principles that for thousands years has influenced anyone studying natural sciences. They developed fascinating theories to explain the reality (even if sometimes can seem rather funny). For example Saturn, the farthest planet known in the ancient times, because of his distance from the Sun is considered much (too much) cold and dry, and so his influence is often harmful for life (to the point of receiving, also for other reasons, the name of “greater malefic”).
This system of thought in the past was obviously applied to everything so, for example, since the nuts have an appearance similar to the human brain, they are considered benefic for that organ. The idea now can sound strange, but the science of today, analyzing its nutritive properties, indeed concur with this idea. But now we can identify useful nutrients also in other foods like the meat (in fact meat has some nutrients more easily assimilable than those of the nuts), but probably the analogy principle could find principally the main action of the aliment, and for this reason to the meat were attributed other benefits of various nature according to the characteristics of the animal.
Elements of Astrology's history
Astrology is an ancient art, so ancient that even Greek astrologers had difficulties in explaining the origin of some facets handed down by the Egyptians (that also seem to be in debt from Babylonians or even Sumerians). However it has still been possible not only continuing to use it (like it is possible driving a car without being a mechanic), but even improve the techniques with time thanks to experience and new discoveries.
Astrology in fact hasn’t been damaged much by the oblivion of its origins, the aftermath of the Christianity or by the cultural decay following the fall of Roman Empire: Christendom accepted the mentality on which (among other things) this discipline was based upon and many sources temporarily lost with the fall of the Roman Empire has been recovered thanks to the translation of books written by Arabian astrologers, who probably also enriched the Greek-Roman doctrine with methods of the illustrious Persian tradition (the magis that could discover the birth of Jesus are a good example of the abilities reached in Persia).
It is the Enlightenment and its deification of the “reason” that marked a cultural cut with the past, that gave undoubtedly benefits, but also the decay of astrology since the conception on which it is based upon is no more part of the current way of thinking. So, even among those who continued to practice it, since they were thinking in a way much different from the astrologers of the past, felt the need to re elaborate their art (we can think in particular to Alan Leo). And so arise “modern astrology” that works in a different (usually simpler) way than the traditional one and it gives more priority to the psychological investigation, subject in which it has perhaps more depth than traditional astrology, so focusing mainly on the interpretation of birth charts, but neglecting many important influxes and symbolic relations acknowledged by traditional astrology.
If, like I said, traditional astrology follows a logic that in our time can be difficult to follow and to master, our modern mentality can give also advantages allowing us to see with an outside eye the logic of the past. So now we have less problems in taking the distance from the “authorities” of the ancient times when they exceed in their analogies and in their search for links between the reality of the earth and the motion of the planets, allowing us to fix some errors.
I conclude making note that even in the “superstitious” past skeptics about astrology have always existed.
But these skeptics, differently from today, had an idea of what they were opposing to since it was part of the arts of the quadrivium and teached in every university. So, even who didn’t believed in it, had learned some notion of it, even if perhaps unwillingly and in a defective way.
The today’s skeptics, instead, have no idea of what they do not believe, and exclude that it is even worth talking about it and this is a real pity (but I have to admit that it is also thanks to the bad press presently given by the horoscopes). Indeed well reasoned objections would give the opportunity for a fruitful debate and a reciprocal enrichment, allowing us to understand which part of the doctrine needs a fix and to the skeptics, at least, of trying a differend point of view and at the same time exercising their mind seeking the weak points of our thought.
Sadly this is nearly impossible because astrology is rather complex and no astrologer works in exactly the same way as another. This means that a skeptic that studies two or three books of astrology to debate with an astrologer risks of discovering that the person he is talking to doesn't follow many points of the doctrine adopted by the author of the books he has read, vanifying at least partially the efforts of the good willed skeptic.
- The Cat