Astronomy and astrology were often practiced together
In doing so, he showed that the same laws that make, say, an apple fall from a tree, also apply to the motions of the celestial sphere. Since then, astronomy has evolved into a completely separate field, where predictions about celestial phenomena are made and tested using the scientific method.
In contrast, astrology is now regarded as a pastime and a pseudoscience — though thousands of people around the world still invoke advice from astrologers and astrology publications in making important professional, medical, and personal experiences. This, despite the fact that current horoscopes rely on outdated information! Planets have nothing to do with it. But that's not the point. If you want to get through to your believing sister-in-law or your uncle in Cincinatti, the way to do it is not to argue physics or astronomy, but to explain why astrology works. I tell this with my own story.
When I was in elementary school, I practiced a form of divination that you could call bazookamancy. Back then, Bazooka Joe bubble gum was popular. It came wrapped in a little comic strip about Bazooka Joe and his gang. The wrappers were on the ground wherever kids littered. As everyone knew, when you saw one, you stopped and asked it a question.
Then you picked it up and read it. The comic was a parable that answered your question. Often you had to look mighty hard to find your answer. The mathematical framework can consist of formulae, graphs, or statistics. All sorts of information can then be organized and placed in a hierarchy or other arrangement.
The results obtained from this belief system and methodology have been spectacular, and the human race has experienced material progress at a rate never before seen in history. But science gets more complicated when you bring in the social dimension. Scientists are hominids, and, like other primates, they form pecking orders. Some scientists, like many religious leaders of our culture, think they have a monopoly on truth. Truth is, their social pyramid and its official ideology are a real obstacle in the way of human spiritual progress. Today, scientists have been known to attack astrology vehemently.
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The odd thing is that modern science actually developed out of astrology and a few other related disciplines of the ancient and medieval world. As recently as years ago, many astronomers knew a good deal about astrology. Four hundred years ago many astronomers practiced astrology. Five hundred years ago every astronomer was, more or less, also an astrologer.
We've sure fallen a long way since then! Let's look back at some famous scientists, big names in all the science textbooks, and see what their stance was in regard to astrology. LMT, in Torun, Poland. Nicolaus Copernicus was born in what is now Poland. He studied liberal arts, medicine, and law in Krakow, as well as Bologna and Padua in Italy. He was a classic Renaissance man who did just about everything, including building his own astronomical instruments and designing his own astronomical system.
He wasn't much of an observational astronomer, but he was a good mathematician who made his contribution to astronomy by reorganizing existing facts and data.
Near the end of his life, in , he published the results of his mathematical manipulations under the title Of the Revolving Celestial Orbs. His ideas preoccupied astronomers for the next years. Many historians set the beginnings of the scientific revolution, and certainly the astronomical revolution, with Copernicus.
He proposed a model of the solar system with the Sun in the center and his model was considerably simpler than previous models, specifically the Ptolemaic model with its 80 epicycles to explain retrogradation.
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For decades after his death, his ideas were debated and commented upon. His work, along with the appearance of the supernova of , was instrumental in undermining the reigning scientific paradigms of the times, the Ptolemaic and Aristotelian models of the cosmos. For years, the astronomy of Ptolemy and the cosmology of Aristotle held together a scientific world view, one that was inclusive of astrology. These two thinkers from the ancient world had described nature in such a way that the astrological influence of the stars and planets was absolutely logical. Ptolemy's earth-centered model of the solar system, as bizarre as it seems to us today, worked well enough to be used to create ephemerides of the planets.
Ptolemy also wrote "the book" on astrology, his Tetrabiblos. Aristotle's layered heavens, in which the higher levels of the planets could influence the earth at the center, were an obvious rationale for astrology.
In the Ptolemaic model, the earth was stationary and the stars whooshed around it every 24 hours. Copernicus's astronomical revolution reduced the number of epicycles that the planets make in their orbits and allowed the earth to rotate, something that made the movement of the stars more comprehensible. His third revolutionary idea was to put the Sun in the center of the solar system - well, almost.
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It turns out that in his system, the Sun is not exactly at the center of the earth's orbit. The Sun stands just to the side, which must have bothered Copernicus, as we shall see. To my knowledge, Copernicus was no more into astrology than anyone else of his time. However, astrology was part of one larger body of knowledge called science. Therefore, he had to know something about it, but he may not have practiced it directly in the sense of casting charts for people.
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The most learned men of the time couldn't be bothered with horoscopes; they had more important things to do, like understanding the design of the solar system itself. By the mid 16th century, the actual practice of astrology had definitely become a low-class business for many reasons. Two of these were Pico della Mirandola's extreme attack on astrology published in , Disputationes Adversus Astrologiam Disputations Against Astrology , and the world flood predictions, which were a fiasco for the field.
The existing tables used to calculate planets' places were not working so well anymore - in fact, they were terrible. The tables would give a position for Mars, but when you looked in the sky for it, it wasn't there. Ptolemy's system was showing its weaknesses. How could any self respecting Renaissance man cast a horoscope when he knew that the tables were faulty? Copernicus, like Brahe and Kepler after him, set to work on this problem, an astronomical problem that didn't hinge at all on whether astrology was real or false.
So to what extent was Copernicus an astrologer? There is one aspect of his writings that shows him to have been at least somewhat astrologically motivated. He put the Sun in the center of his system.
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He was, again like many others of his age, influenced by Pythagorean and Hermetic ideas, and the enthroning of the Sun in the center of things made perfect sense. In his own words: "But in the midst of all stands the sun. For who could in this most beautiful temple place this lamp in another or better place than that from which it can at the same time illuminate the whole?
Which some not unsuitably call the light of the world, others the soul or the ruler. Trismegistus calls it the visible God, the Electra of Sophocles the all seeing. So indeed the sun, sitting on the royal throne, steers the revolving family of stars. These thinkers were still en vogue, but not for long. The irony here is that, in justifying the Sun as center, the old doctrines pointed the way to their own destruction. Brahe got an early start in the starry sciences and was reading Ptolemy by age At 17, he was making his own astronomical observations and found that the ephemerides of his day, the Alphonsine Tables, were off by a month in regard to Jupiter and Saturn.
He apparently was interested in astrology because he kept a book of his friends' horoscopes during his early years. In , a new star appeared in the sky, one that set Brahe's career in motion. The supernova of had only one known precedent in the West, and that had occurred in B. Brahe meticulously observed and measured the star and published an astrological report on it. This report, called The New Star, contained 27 pages of precise measurements, followed by an analysis of its astrological effects.
Brahe thought the star to be related to the preceding New Moon of November 5, , which, he believed, was ruled by Mars. He also thought that, since the new star was related by its pole to the sign Aries, the Martian influence was reiterated. His astrological analysis suggested that the star was a forerunner of vast changes in politics and religion and that its influence would begin nine years after the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Pisces.
This conjunction was the conclusion of a cycle of conjunctions of these two planets, which he interpreted as an indication of the impending birth of a new age. Brahe also predicted that someone born in would bring great changes that would reach a peak in He specified that the area near Finland would be a source of change. It is interesting to note that some of Brahe's predictions seem to have been fulfilled by the greatest champion of Protestantism in the 17th century. Gustavus Adolphus was born in and reached his glory in Finnish regiments were noteworthy for their support of him on the battlefield.
There is no question about it, Brahe did astrology, but he was frustrated by the lack of good ephemerides. He set out to do something about this problem and eventually accumulated the best set of astronomical records ever made in the West up to that time. Along the way, he published a number of astrological predictions and calendars, lectured on astrology at the University of Copenhagen, and regularly gave astrological readings to his patron, King Frederick II. In , a comet appeared and Brahe published a detailed astronomical and astrological account of it.
In it, he stated that he "did not consider astrology a delusive science when it is kept within bounds and not abused by ignorant people. It was here, in his later years, that he worked with Johannes Kepler. Tycho Brahe was a classic transitional astronomer of high birth, knowledgeable of astrology, but disgusted with the low levels on which most of its practitioners operated. Brahe spoke for the rational exercise of free will. He believed that taking action could moderate or control astrological effects, a very mature view, astrologically speaking.
LMT, in Pisa, Italy. According to Nick Kollerstrom's book, Interface: Astronomical Essays for Astrologers, several charts are available for Galileo, ranging from the 14th to the 16th of February. Galileo's own notebooks suggest that he was rectifying his chart and seemed to have settled on the 16th at about p. LMT, B data. The Blackwell Collection shows a birth time of p. When I was studying physics and the history of science as an undergraduate in the early s, there was only one way that Galileo was presented - as the first modern scientist.
He appeared to be perfect for the role. He used scientific gadgets telescopes , did experiments dropped balls from towers , and applied math to nature acceleration. He was so modern that the Church threatened to torture him unless he abandoned his support for the Copernican model of the solar system. Somewhere, though, I read that he once calculated a horoscope or two.
This was downplayed by the science writers who said that he did this early in his career and then got over it. Recently, a different view has emerged. Apparently Galileo was indeed knowledgeable of astrology. He cast many horoscopes, and he even worked at rectifying his own chart. This new information about Galileo comes via the research of Italian astrologer, Grazia Mirti, who presented her findings at the Astrological Association Conference and later published them in an Italian journal.
The evidence suggests that Galileo was involved with astrology for a long time, probably most of his life. In , he was accused of practicing "astral determinism" on his wealthy clients. Also in , he published a short work that included an astrological delineation of Jupiter in the Midheaven of Cosimo de Medici's horoscope.
In , he drew up charts for his daughters. What he saw must have caused some consternation, for he then placed the daughters in a monastery for life. It turns out that one of the major characters in the dialogue was, in real life, a friend of Galileo's who would consult with him about primary directions. The last horoscope cast by Galileo is dated , when he was Finally, the contents of Galileo's library reveal 14 books on astrology and many others on occult philosophy. His copy of Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos was apparently annotated, but has unfortunately been lost.
So much for the "Mister Clean" of modern science.
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Kollerstrom notes in his book, Interface, that Kepler himself cited this time of birth. Kepler is a great embarrassment to the scientific community, though they cover this up with smoke and mirrors. There is no denying that this great scientist - the man who gave Newton the clues he needed - not only practiced astrology, he liked it. In fact, Kepler's motivations were so cosmologically astrological that historians paint him as having one foot in the Middle Ages and one foot in the modern world.
Science textbooks sanitize this image and focus almost entirely on his scientific achievements. There's a famous quote from Kepler that we've all heard in one form or another. In his publication, Third Party Intervening, in which he discussed the conflicts between astrology and astronomy, he advised readers critical of astrology "not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Johannes Kepler came from a family of degenerates and psychopaths. His father was a mercenary adventurer and his mother was accused of consorting with the devil. This low background probably made it easier for Kepler to practice astrology in an age when aristocrats kept their hands clean of it. He worked his way out of his birth predicament by studying in seminary, and at 23 he was offered a teaching post in Graz, Austria. There he taught math and astronomy, but he was also required to publish astrological annuals. Clearly, math, astronomy, and astrology were so closely linked then that anyone knowledgeable of one would, of necessity, have to know something of the others.
This was my point in regard to Copernicus. Of course he knew about astrology - any astronomer of his time did. He just didn't care to lower himself into the world of horoscope readers. In , Kepler published his first book, The Mysterious Cosmos. In it, he established the framework of what was to be his life's work: a metaphysical interpretation of the cosmos in the tradition of Pythagorean mysticism. He introduced his ideas about the relationships between the orbits of the planets, the tones of the musical scale, and the properties of the five perfect geometric solids.
In brief, he attempted to show mathematically that the orbits of the planets could be inscribed within the limits established by the five perfect solids, and that these corresponded to the astrological properties of the planets and the proportions of the musical scale. For example, the perfect solid of Saturn is the cube.