It is easy — let alone relatively common — for the sceptic to be dismissive. The astronomer and mathematician Ptolemy Claudius Ptolemeus, c. In , however, Nicholas Copernicus proved that the sun is stationary in relation to the planets — including the earth — that revolve around it. With the recognition of the heliocentric structure of our universe and the further understandings contributed by Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler , Ptolemaic astrology began its historic decline. But of course, astrology has not only had to fend itself against the advances of modern science, it also fell under the anathema of Augustine who claimed all pagan divination to be the work of the devil.
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With the triumph of the Church, astrological practices, their treatises and use of the birth chart as a form of predicting the future were condemned. When Justinian closed the philosophical schools of Athens in , Hellenic scholars took shelter in the Pahlavi empire of Persia. There they translated Greek texts that eventually reached India but, more importantly for the West, became foundational for the subsequent development of Arabic astrology.
Nevertheless, astrology also suffered further in the West through the polarisation between Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation and Enlightenment periods. But it was the advocacy of scientific methodology and modern philology that destroyed astrology as representing a priscia theologia or pure knowledge of God that reputedly stemmed from the origins of the world.
Inasmuch as contemporary astrology is a theosophical derivative, it follows a transcendental format, that is, it is essentially an a priori prognostic system developed out of its own internal logic and balancing of patterns.
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This does not preclude the possibility of subjecting astrology to empirical confirmation. But at the same time, it is important to recognise astrology as something more than merely a system of divination. Metaphorically, as it has been traditionally, divination is the attempt by people to discern the will of the gods or God in relation to a human desire. Instead of working with presentiments or standardised expectations, astrology as a comprehensive system is one that seeks its informing patterns among the planets, luminaries and constellations of the heavens.
Overtime, and despite their being superseded by more sophisticated and predictable systems of explanation, the symbols and terms of astrology have entered into and become part of the cultural register. In the surfeit of choice that has come to characterize the contemporary West, the familiar and methodological are becoming supplemented and sometimes replaced by the exotic and superstitious. Many are turning to forgotten and discarded spiritual vernaculars in an attempt that might be interpreted as stemming from a desire for more colourful and mystically laden symbols and notions.
Astrology, science, and society : historical essays
Astrology is at the forefront of this popular interest — combining as it does the familiar with the obscure. In , astrology ceased to be studied at the University of Zaragoza. In general, the discipline faded along with the medieval curricula. Academic interest in the subject ostensibly ceased until when the Sophia Trust in Britain sponsored the Research Group for the Critical Study of Astrology at Southampton University. The Trust subsequently has funded a Research Fellowship at the Warburg Institute in London and cosmology and divination modules as part of the M.
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In , the Sophia Trust launched a full post-graduate programme at Bath Spa University College with the establishment of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cultural Astronomy and Astrology — definitively closing a hiatus in objective investigation of the astrological discipline as a legitimate focus of research. This methodology has sought to distance value-neutral investigation of religion — any religion — from traditional, Christian theological-oriented religious studies that follow essentially an apologetic approach incorporating religious bias.
The Sophia Programme at Bath Spa, accordingly, endeavours to investigate the cultural aspects of astrology without passing judgment on the validity or invalidity of the subject itself. In addition to the British initiatives — including the development of an M.
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In the academic year , the course was expanded from six credits to nine. For the Sophia Centre in Britain, the interest remains with the culture and history of astrology or, more broadly, cultural astronomy in which astrology is one area along with archaeoastronomy, calendrical science, stellar religion and cosmology among others.
The programme looks specifically at human behaviour as it is influenced by belief concerning the stars and heavens. Consequently, rather than understanding astrology as exclusively or even principally a matter of divination, the undertaking at the Bath Spa University College considers astrology as a cultural narrative that is concerned with the cosmos as a whole and dynamics of interaction that permeate this cosmos between all its various components — especially humanity.
If there is a single area with which astrology in the twenty-first century is concerned, it would have to be with how and why people assign and determine value — perhaps in this case the projection of worth against the unavoidable awe concerning the firmament and our place within it. Fundamentalism … is a kind of infantilism. Just as fairy tales simplify moral choices, and religions codify them, so fundamentalism discounts liberal democracy and human rights.
In contemporary society it also provides an identity: look, I have discovered the truth and certainty, while you are still groping about in a kind of moral swamp. And from this certainty, as history has shown, consequences inevitably follow. Confronted by the magnitude of the universe, the astrological inclination is almost invariably away from the elementary certainties of fundamentalism and toward the open-ended doubts and perpetual exchange embedded in cosmopolitanism. Today, astrological language is used and interpreted more in line with psychological understandings such as we see in the work of Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas.
By manufacturing a multiverse of virtual realities, simulation can end the world simply by throwing the stability of all worlds into permanent crisis.
As with all space, there are inherent dangers, but the possibilities of the experiential in the realms of virtual reality are increasingly being suggested by the likes of the currently popular Matrix films as well as pervasive employment of youth culture trance techniques from rave dance, psychedelics and pagan ritual.
In both reflective entertainment and psychotropic experimentation, the basic thrust is to breakdown ontological barriers between cosmic reality, the psychologically real and the hyperreal to explore dimensional interdependence.
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At the same time, contemporary explorations of trance tend to transform aspects of the imaginary into the hyperreal or imaginal, perhaps as a means to interact with the supernatural or preternatural itself and thereby re-enchant an overly rational and secularised world. Astrology is the study of the cosmos — both the macrocosm and microcosm — in terms of human value and meaning.
It anchors the psychological against stellar signposts in order to explore the vagaries of human emotion and fortune along with the expanding possibilities of nanotechnology and hyperreality. Against the astral and the cyber, it works with the libido of attraction — whether the physical attraction between people or the stellar attraction and influence of heavenly bodies. In short, astrology is concerned with the cosmos in its fullest sense. This is not a concern with a static cosmos but rather with the attraction and influence within and throughout a dynamic cosmos.
In short, whether we are concerned with the principle of order that gives shape to the nuclear, the molecular, the organic, the human or the cosmic, whether the technical or the natural, we are concerned with the ordering principle of nature itself. The magnetic impetus toward order behind both the most infinitesimal and the vast cosmos as well as the social drives of humanity are the concerns of astrology as a discipline that has re-entered the scrutiny of scholarly investigation.
Campion, Nicholas. New York: Arkana, Cartwright, Justin. Curry, Patrick. Tackling its rich and controversial history, its problematic relationship to Jungian theory, and attempts to prove its grounding in objective reality, this book not only persuasively demonstrates that astrology is far more than a superstitious relic of years gone by, but that it enables a fundamental critique of the scientism of its opponents. Groundbreaking in its reconciliation of astrologys ancient traditions and its modern day usage, this book impressively unites philosophy, science, anthropology, and history, to produce a powerful exploration of astrology, past and present.