Supposed science which determines the influence of the stars and planets on the fate of man
Astrology, the supposed science which determines the influence of the stars, especially of the five older planets, on the fate of man (astrologia judiciaria; mundane, or judicial astrology) or on the changes of the weather (astrologia naturalis; natural astrology) according to certain fixed rules dependent upon the controlling position of the stars (constellations and aspects) at the time under consideration. Judicial astrology—the more important branch of this occult art—depended for its predictions upon the position of the planets in the “twelve houses” at the moment of the birth of a human being. The calculations necessary to settle these positions were called casting the horoscope or the diagram of the heavens (thema calf) at the nativity. Starting with the point that was rising just at the moment of birth, the celestial equator was divided into twelve equal parts, six above and six below the horizon, and circles were drawn through these points and the intersecting points of the horizon and the meridian. Thus the heavens were divided into twelve houses. The first house (horoscopus) begins with the point of the ecliptic that is just rising (ascendens). The twelve houses are divided into cardinal houses, also called succeeding houses (succedentes, anaphora), and declining or cadent houses (cadentes, cataphora). The houses symbolize respectively: life, personal property, consanguinity, riches, children and jewels, health, marriage and course of life, manner of death and inheritance, intellect and disposition (also long journeys), position in life and dignities, friends and enemies and misfortune. In the horoscope symbolism of the most ancient cuneiform texts of all these symbolic meanings are considered in their relation to the newly born. A Latin hexameter thus sums up the meaning of the twelve houses:
Vita, lucrum, fratres, genitor, nati, valetudo,
Uxor, mors, sapiens, regnans, benefactaque, daemon.
The position of the planets and the sun and moon in the twelve houses at the moment of birth is decisive. The planets vary as to meaning. They are divided into day-stars (Saturn, Jupiter, and also the sun), and night-stars (the moon, Mars, and Venus); Mercury belongs both to day and night. The sun, Jupiter, and Mars are masculine; the moon and Venus are feminine, Mercury belonging again to both classes. Jupiter (fortuna major) and Venus (fortuna minor) are good planets; Saturn (infortuna major) and Mars (infortuna minor) are malignant planets. The sun, moon, and Mercury have a mixed character. Each and of the planets known to antiquity, including sun and moon, ruled a day of the week; hence the names still used to designate the various days. Judicial astrology also took into consideration the position of the sun in the zodiac at the moment of birth; the signs of the zodiac also had a special astrological the significance in respect to the weal and woe of the newborn, particularly his bodily health. In medical astrology every sign of the zodiac ruled some special part of the body, as for example: Aries, the Ram, the head and its diseases; Libra, the Balance, the intestines. Judicial astrology postulates the acceptance of the earth as the center of the solar system. Natural astrology predicts the weather from the positions of the planets, especially the moon. Many of its theories are not to be rejected a priori, since the question of the moon’s meteorological influence still awaits a solution which must depend upon the progress of human knowledge as to ether waves and cognate matters.
HISTORY.—The history of astrology is an important part of the history of the development of civilization; it goes back to the early days of the human race. The unchangeable, harmonious course of the heavenly bodies, the profound impression made on the soul of man by the power of such heavenly phenomena as eclipses, the feeling of dependence on the sun, the giver of daylight—all these probably suggested, in the early ages of the human race, the question whether the fate of man was not dependent on these majestic manifestations of Divine power. Astrology was, therefore, the foster-sister of astronomy, the science of the investigation of the heavens. From the start astrology was employed for the needs and benefit of daily life; the astrologers were astronomers only incidentally and in so far as astronomy assisted astrology in the functions which the latter had to perform in connection with religious worship. According to the belief of the early civilized races of the East, the stars were the source and at the same time the heralds of everything that happened, and the right to study the “godlike science” of astrology was a privilege of the priesthood. This was the case in Mesopotamia and Egypt, the oldest centers of civilization known to us in the East. The most ancient dwellers on the Euphrates the Akkado-Sumerians were believers in judicial astrology which was closely interwoven with their worship of the stars. The same is true of their successors, the Babylonians and Assyrians, who were the chief exponents of astrology in antiquity. The Babylonians and Assyrians developed astrology, especially judicial, to the status of a science, and thus advanced in pure astronomical knowledge by a circuitous course through the labyrinth of astrological predictions. The Assyro-Babylonian priests (Chaldeans) were the professional astrologers of classic antiquity. In its origin Chaldaic astrology also goes back to the worship of the stars; this is proved by the religious success, the zodiac. The oldest astrological document extant is the work called “Namar-Beli” (Illumination of Bel) composed for King Sargon I (end of the third millennium B.C.) and contained in the cuneiform library of King Asurbanipal (668-626 B.C.). It includes astronomical observations and calculations of solar and lunar eclipses combined with astrological predictions, to which the interpretation of dreams already belonged. Even in the time of Chaldean, which should be called Assyrian, astrology, the five planets, together with the sun and moon, were divided according to their character and their position in the zodiac as well as according to their position in the twelve houses. As star of the sun, Saturn was the great planet and ruler of the heavens. The weather, as far back as this time, was predicted from the color of the planets and from their rising and setting. Classical antiquity looked upon Berosus, priest of the temple of Bel at Babylon, as the oldest writer on astrology; and according to Vitruvius Berosus founded a school of astrology at Cos. Seneca says that a Greek translation, made by Berosus, of “Namar-Beli” from the library of Asurbanipal was known to classical antiquity. The Egyptians and Hindus were as zealous astrologers as the nations on the Euphrates and Tigris. The dependence of the early Egyptian star (sun) worship (the basis of the worship of Osiris) upon early Chaldaic influences belongs to the still unsettled questtion of the origin of early Egyptian civilization. But undoubtedly the priests of the Pharaohs were the docile pupils in astrology of the old Chaldean priests. The mysterious Taauth (Thoth), the Hermes Trismegistus of antiquity, was regarded as the earliest teacher of astrology in Egypt. He is reputed to have laid the foundation of astrology in the “Hermetic Books”; the division of the zodiac into the twelve signs is also due to him. In classic antiquity many works on astrology or on occult sciences in general were ascribed to this mythical founder of Egyptian astrology. The astrological rule of reckoning named after him “Trutina Hermetis” made it possible to calculate the position of the stars at the time of conception from the diagram of the heavens at the time of birth. The Egyptians developed astrology to a condition from which it varies but little today. The hours of the day and night received special planets as their rulers, and high and low stood under the determinative influence of the stars which proclaimed through the priestly caste the coming fate of the land and its inhabitants. It is significant that in ancient Egypt astronomy, as well as astrology, was brought to an undoubtedly high state of cultivation. The astoundingly daring theories of the world found in the Egyptian texts, which permit us to infer that their authors were even acquainted with the heliocentric conception of the universe, are based entirely on astrologico-theosophic views. The astrology of the ancient inhabitants of India was similar, though hardly so completely developed; they also regarded the planets as the rulers of the different hours. Their division of the zodiac into twenty-eight houses of the moon is worthy of notice; this conception, like the rest of the fundamental beliefs of Hindu astrology, is to be found in the Rig-Veda. In India both astrology and the worship of the gods go back to the worship of the stars. Even today, the Hindus especially the Brahmins, are considered the best authorities on astrology and the most skillful casters of horoscopes.
India influenced and aided the development of astrology in ancient China; both India and Mesopotamia that of the Medes and Persians. The Assyro-Babylonian and Egyptian priests were the teachers of the Greek astrologers. Both of these priestly castes were called Chaldeans, and this name remained the designation of all astrologers and astronomers in classic antiquity and in the period following. It speaks well for the sound sense of the early Grecian philosophers that they separated the genuine astronomic hypotheses and facts from the confused mass of erroneous astrological teaching which the Egyptian priests had confided to them. At the same time it was through the old Hellenic philosophers that the astrological secrets of the Oriental priestly castes reached the profane world. The earliest mention of the art of astrological prediction in early classical literature is found in the “Prornetheus Vinctus” of Aeschylus (line 486 sqq.)—a comparatively late date. The often quoted lines of the Odyssey (Bk. XVIII, 136 sqq.) have nothing to do with astrology. Astrology was probably cultivated as an occult science by the Pythagorean school which maintained the exclusiveness of a caste. The teaching of Pythagoras on the “harmony of the spheres” points to certain astrological hypotheses of the Egyptian priests. It is a striking fact that Greek astrology began to flourish when the glory of the early classical civilization had begun to wane. It was in the age of Euripides, who refers to astrological predictions in a little comedy, that the belief in astrology began to grow popular in Greece. After the overthrow of the Assyro-Babylonian Empire, the priests of those regions found refuge in Greece and spread their astrological teachings by word of mouth and writing. In this way astrology lost the character of occult science. Astronomy and astrology remained closely united, and both sciences were represented by the so-called Chaldeans, Mathematici, and Genethliacs. Astrology proper, from the time of Posidonius, was called apotelesmatika (rendered into English, “apotelesmatics” in order to indicate more clearly the influence of the stars upon man’s final destiny; ato “from”, and telos, “end”). Astrology soon permeated the entire philosophical conception of nature among the Greeks, and rapidly attained a commanding position in religious worship. Plato was obliged to take astrology into consideration as a “philosophical doctrine”, and his greatest disciple, Aristotle, was the first to separate the science of astrology from that of meteorology, which was reserved for the phenomena of the atmosphere. The Stoics who encouraged all forms of divination were active promoters of astrology. The more plainly the influence of Oriental teaching manifested itself in Greek civilization, and the more confused the political conditions and religious ideas of the Greek States became, the greater was the influence of astrologers in public, and the more mischievous their activity in private, life. Every professional astronomer was at the same time an astrologer. Eudoxus of Cnidus, the author of the theory of concentric spheres, was perhaps the first to write in Greek on purely astrological topics, being led to select this subject by his studies in Egypt. Most of the Greek astronomers known to us followed in his footsteps, as, for instance, Geminus of Rhodes whose most important work treating of astronomy and astrology—Eisagoge eis ta thainomena (Introduction to Phaenomena) was commented on even by Hipparchus. About 270 B.C. the poet Aratus of Soli in his didactic poem, “Phaenomena”, explained the system of Eudoxus, and in a poem called “Diosemeia”, which was appended to the former, he interprets the rules of judicial and natural astrology that refer to the various changes of the stars. The poem of Aratus was greatly admired by both the Greeks and the Romans; Cicero translated it into Latin, and Hyginus, Ovid’s friend, wrote a commentary on it. In this age astrology was as highly developed as in its second period of prosperity, at the Renaissance. Medical astrology had also at this date secured a definite position. Hippocrates of Cos in his work “De Aere, Aqua et Locis”, which shows the influence of the Pythagoreans, discusses at length the value of astrology and its prognostications for the whole domain of medicine. In the Alexandrine school of medicine, astrological prognosis, diagnosis, and hygiene soon covered with their rank growths the inherited scientific teachings that had been tested by practice. In this way “astrological” cures grew in favor. These forms of the art of healing are not without interest both for the history of suggestion and for that of human error. The diseases of the more important bodily organs were diagnosed according to the influence of the sign of the zodiac at the time, and a medicine applied which either acted by suggestion, or was wholly inoperative. In the division of the zodiac according to its medical effect on the different parts of the body the first sign taken was the Ram (Aries), which ruled the head, and the last of the series was the Fishes (Pisces), which controlled the health or ailments of the feet. As the appetite of the Greeks for the mysterious wisdom of astrology grew keener, the Egyptian and Chaldean astrologers continually drew out still more mystical, but, at the same time, more dubious treasures from their inexhaustible storehouse. The newly founded city of Alexandria, where the later Hellenic culture flourished, was a center for all astrologers and practitioners of the occult arts. From time to time books appeared here, professing to have had their origin in the early days of Egyptian civilization, which contained the secret knowledge pertaining to astrological and mystical subjects. These writings seemed to meet the aspirations of ordinary men for the ideal, but all they offered was a chaotic mass of theories concerning astrology and divination, and the less they were understood the more they were applauded. In the Renaissance these pseudo-scientific works of antiquity were eagerly studied. It suffices here to mention the books of Nechepso-Petosiris which were believed by the neo-Platonists to be the most ancient Egyptian authority on astrology but which probably, were written in Alexandria about 150 B.C. About this same time, in all probability, Manetho, an Egyptian priest and traveller repeatedly mentioned by Ptolemy, wrote on astrology. In order to meet the exigencies which arose, each degree of the heavens in late Egyptian astrology was assigned to some special human activity and some one disease. Besides this, the “heavenly spheres”, which play so important a part in the history of astronomy, were increased to 54, and even a higher number, and from astrological calculations made from the complicated movements of these spheres the fate both of men and nations was predicted. Thus arose in late classic times the sphcera barbarica (foreign sphere) which in the Middle Ages also had a controlling influence over astrology.
It was to be expected that the sober-minded, practical Romans would soon be dissatisfied with the mystical and enigmatical doctrines of Alexandrian astrology. Cato uttered warnings against the mischievous activity of the Chaldeans who had entered Italy along with Greek culture. In the year 139 B.C. the Praetor Cneius Cornelius Hispallus drove all astrologers out of Italy; but they returned, for even the Roman people could not begin an important undertaking without the aid and advice of augurs and auspices. It is only necessary to recall the greatest man of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar. Cicero, who in his younger days had busied himself with astrology, protested vigorously, but without success, against it in his work “De Divinatione”. The Emperor Augustus, on the other hand, believed in astrology and protected it. The first Roman work on astrology was dedicated to him; it was the “Astronomica” written about 45 B.C. by Marcus Manilius, who was probably a Chaldean by birth. In five books this poem gives an outline of the astrology of the zodiac and constellations. The fifth book is devoted to the sphcera barbarica. It is a curious fact that the poem does not take up the astrology of the planets. In spite of repeated attempts to suppress it, as in the reigns of Claudius and Vespasian, astrology maintained itself in the Roman Empire as one of the leading forms of culture. The lower the Romans sank in religion and morals the more astrology became entwined with all action and belief. Under Tiberius and Nero the two astrologers named Thrasyllus, who were father and son, held high political positions. The most distinguished astronomer of antiquity, Claudius Ptolemus, was also a zealous astrologer. His “Opus Quadripartitum, seu de apotelesmatibus et judiciis astrorum, libri IV” is one of the chief treatises on astrology of earlier times and is a detailed account of astrological teachings. This work occupied in astrology as important a position as that which the same author’s Megale Suntaksis (also called “Almagest”), held in the science of astronomy before the appearance of the Copernican theory. It is a striking fact that Ptolemy sought, in the second book of the “Opus Quadripartitum”, to bring the psychical and bodily differences of the various nations into relation with the physical conditions of their native lands, and to make these conditions, in their turn, depend on the positions of the stars. The Roman astrologers wrote their manuals in imitation of Ptolemy, but with the addition of mystic phantasies and predictions. After the death of Marcus Aurelius, the Chaldeans were always important personages at the imperial court. As late as the time of Constantine the Great the imperial notary Julius Firmicus Maternus, who later became a Christian, wrote on “Mathematics, or the power and the influence of the stars” eight books which were the chief authority in astrology until the Renaissance. With the overthrow of the old Roman Empire and the victory of Christianity, astrology lost its importance in the centers of Christian civilization in the West. The last known astrologer of the old world was Johannes Laurentius (sometimes called Lydus), of Philadelphia in Lydia, who lived A.D. 490-565.
Astrology under Christianity
From the start the Christian Church strongly opposed the false teachings of astrology. The Fathers energetically demanded the expulsion of the Chaldeans who did so much harm to the State and the citizens by employing a fantastic mysticism to play upon the enlightened impulses of the common people, keeping their heathen conceptions alive, and fostering a soul-perplexing cult which, with its fatalistic tendencies, created difficulties in the discernment of right and wrong and weakened the moral foundations of all human conduct. There was no room in the early Christian Church for followers of this pseudo-science. The noted mathematician Aquila Ponticus was expelled from the Christian communion, about the year 120, on account of his astrological heresies. The early Christians of Rome, therefore, regarded the astrologers as their bitterest and, unfortunately, their too powerful enemies; and the astrologers probably Aid their part in stirring up the cruel persecutions of the Christians. As Christianity spread, the astrologers lost their influence and reputation, and gradually sank to the position of mere quacks. The conversion of Constantine the Great put an end to the importance of this so-called science, which for five hundred years had ruled the public life of Rome. In 321 Constantine issued an edict threatening all Chaldeans, Magi, and their followers with death. Astrology now disappeared for centuries from the Christian parts of Western Europe. Only the Arabic schools of learning, especially those in Spain after the Moors had conquered the Iberian peninsula, accepted this dubious inheritance from the wisdom of classic times, and among the Arabs it became an incentive to pure astronomical research. Arabian and Jewish scholars were the representatives of astrology in the Middle Ages, while both Church and State in Christian countries rejected and persecuted this false doctrine and its heathen tendencies. Unfortunately, at the same time the development of astronomy was checked, excepting so far as it was needed to establish certain necessary astronomic principles and to calculate the date of Easter. Yet early Christian legend distinguished between astronomy and astrology by ascribing the introduction of the former to the good angels and to Abraham, while the latter was ascribed to Cham. In particular, St. Augustine (“De civitate Dei”, VIII, xix, and in other places) fought against astrology and sought to prevent its amalgamation with pure natural science. Once more the East prepared a second period of prosperity for astrology. The Jews, very soon after they were driven into Western Europe, busied themselves with astrological questions, being stimulated thereto by the Talmud. Jewish scholars had, moreover, a knowledge of the most important works of classic times on astrology and they became the teachers of the Arabs. These latter, after the rapid spread of Mohammedanism in Western Asia and North Africa, and their defeat in Western Europe by Charles Martel, began to develop a civilization of their own. The mystical books which appeared in Jewish literature after the time of the Talmud, that is, the books called the “Sefer Zohar” and the “Sefer Yezirah” (Book of Creation), are full of rules of divination dealing especially with astrological meanings and calculations. The high reputation of the Talmud and the Cabbala among the Jews in the Middle Ages explains their fondness for astrological speculations; but at a very early date, it should be noted, they distinguished between astronomy, “the science of reading the stars”, and astrology, “the science of divination”.
Caliph Al-Mansur, the builder of Bagdad, was, like his son, the famous Harun-al-Rashid, a promoter of learning. He was the first caliph to call Jewish scholars around him in order to develop the study of the mathematical sciences, especially astronomy, in his empire. In the year 777 the learned Jew Jacob ben Tarik founded at Bagdad a school for the study of astronomy and astrology which soon had a high reputation; among those trained here was Alchindi (Alkendi), a noted astronomer. It was one of Alchindi’s pupils, Abumassar (Abu Mashar), from Balkh in Chorassan, born about the year 805, whom the Middle Ages regarded as the greatest of Arabian astrologers. Astrology being regarded by the caliphs as the practical application of astronomy, all the more important Arabic and Jewish astronomers who were attached to that court, or who taught in the Moorish schools were also astrologers. Among the noteworthy Jewish astrologers may be mentioned Sahl ben Bishr al-Israel (about 820); Rabban al-Taban, the well-known cabbalist and Talmudic scholar; Shabbethai Donalo (913-970), who wrote a commentary on the astrology of the “Sefer Yezirah” which Western Europe later regarded as a standard work; and, lastly, the Jewish lyric poet and mathematician Abraham ibn Ezrah. Among the noted Arabic astronomers were Massah Allah Albategnius, Alpetragius, and others. The Arabo-Judaic astrology of the Middle Ages pursued the path indicated by Ptolemy, and his teachings were apparently the immovable foundation of all astronomical and astrological activity. At the same time the “Opus Quadripartitum” of the great Alexandrian was corrupted with Talmudic subtleties and overlaid with mystical and allegorical meanings, which were taken chiefly from the Jewish post-Talmudic belief concerning demons. This deterioration of astrology is not surprising if we bear in mind the strong tendency of all Semitic races to fatalism and their blind belief in an inevitable destiny, a belief which entails spiritual demoralization. The result was that every conceivable pursuit of mankind, every disease, and indeed every nation had a special “heavenly regent”, a constellation of definitely assigned position from the course of which the most daring prophecies were deduced.
Up to the time of the Crusades, Christian countries in general were spared any trouble from a degenerate astrology. Only natural astrology, the correctness of which the peasant thought he had recognized by experience, secured a firm footing in spite of the prohibition of Church and State. But the gradually increasing influence of Arabic learning upon the civilization of the West, which reached its highest point at the time of the crusades, was unavoidably followed by the spread of the false theories of astrology. This was a natural result of the amalgamation of the teachings of pure astronomy with astrology at the Mohammedan seats of learning. The spread of astrology was also furthered by the Jewish scholars living in Christian lands, for they considered astrology as a necessary part of their cabalistic and Talmudic studies. The celebrated didactic poem, “Imago Mundi”, written by Gautier of Metz in 1245, has a whole chapter on astrology. Pierre d’Ailly, the noted French theologian and astronomer, wrote several treatises on the subject. The public importance of astrology grew as the internal disorders of the Church increased and the papal and imperial power declined. Towards the close of the Middle Ages nearly every petty prince, as well as every ruler of importance, had his court astrologer, upon whose ambiguous utterances the weal and woe of the whole country often depended. Such a person was Angelo Catto, the astrologer of Louis XI of France. The revival of classical learning brought with it a second period of prosperity for astrology. Among the civilized peoples of the Renaissance period, so profoundly stirred by the all-prevailing religious, social, and political ferment, the astrological teachings which had come to light with other treasures of ancient Hellenic learning found many ardent disciples. The romantic trend of the age and its highly cultivated sensuality were conditions which contributed to place this art in a position far higher than any it had attained in its former period of prosperity. The forerunners of Humanism busied themselves with astrology, and but few of them perceived the dangerous psychical effect of its teachings upon the masses. Towards the end of the thirteenth century the Florentines employed Guido Bonatti as their official astrologer, and, although Florence then stood alone in this repect, it was scarcely a hundred years later when astrology had entered in earnest upon its triumphant course, and a Cecco d’Ascoli was already its devoted adherent. In Petrarch’s day the questionable activity of the astrologers at the Italian courts had made such progress that this clear-sighted Humanist (De remed. utr. fortun. I, iii, sqq; Epist. rer. famil.. III, 8, etc.) again and again attacked astrology and its representatives with the keenest weapons of his wit, though without success, and even without any following except the weak objections of Villani and the still more ineffectual polemics of Salutato in his didactic poem “De fato et fortunes”. Emperors and popes became votaries of astrology—the Emperors Charles IV and V, and Popes Sixtus IV, Julius II, Leo X, and Paul III. When these rulers lived astrology was, so to say, the regulator of official life; it is a fact characteristic of the age, that at the papal and imperial courts ambassadors were not received in audience until the court astrologer had been consulted. Regiomontanus, the distinguished Bavarian mathematician, practiced astrology, which from that time on assumed the character of a bread-winning profession, and as such was not beneath the dignity of so lofty an intellect as Kepler. Thus had astrology once more become the foster-mother of all astronomers. In the judgment of the men of the Renaissance—and this was the age of a Nicholas Copernicus—the most profound astronomical researches and theories were only profitable in so far as they aided in the development of astrology. Among the zealous patrons of the art were the Medici. Catharine de’ Medici made astrology popular in France. She erected an astrological observatory for herself near Paris, and her court astrologer was the celebrated “magician” Michel de Notredame (Nostradamus) who in 1555 published his principal work on astrology—a work still regarded as authoritative among the followers of his art. Another well-known man was Lucas Gauricus, the court astrologer of Popes Leo X and Clement VII, who published a large number of astrological treatises. In Germany Johann Stoffier, professor of mathematics at Tubingen, Matthias Landenberg, and, above all, Philip Melanchthon were zealous and distinguished defenders of astrology In Pico della Mirandola (Adversus Astrologos libri XII) and Paolo Toscanelli astrology encountered its’ first successful antagonists; later in the Renaissance Johann Fischart and the Franciscan Nas were among its opponents. (Cf. Philognesius, Practica Practicarum, Ingolstadt, 1571.)
Gabotto’s charming essay, “L’astrologia nel quattrocento”, in “Rivista di filosofia scientifica”, VIII, 378, sq., gives much information concerning astrology in the fifteenth century. A. Graf’s “La fatality, nelle credenze del medio evo” (in “Nuovo Antologia”, 3d series, XXVIII, 201, sqq.) is also of value for astrology at the turning point of the Middle Ages. Some of the late Roman astrologers, among whom was probably Firmicus Maternus, thought to reform astrology by idealizing it and raising its moral tone. The same purpose animated Paolo Toscanelli, called Maestro Pagollo, a physician greatly respected for the piety of his life, who belonged to the learned and artistic circle which gathered around Brother Ambrosius Camaldulensis in the Monastery of The Angels. There were special professors of astrology, besides those for astronomy, at the Universities of Pavia, Bologna, and even at the Sapienza during the pontificate of Leo X, while at times these astrologers outranked the astronomers. The three intellectual centers of astrology in the most brilliant period of the Renaissance were Bologna, Milan, and Mantua. The work of J. A. Campanus, published at Rome in 1495, and often commented on, namely, “Oratio initio studii Perugiae habita”, throws a clear light on the lack of comprehension shown by the Church Fathers in their attitude towards pagan fatalism. Among other things it is here said: “Quanquam Augustinus, sanctissimus ille vir quidem ac doctissimus, sed fortassis ad fidem religionemque propensior, negat quicquam vel boni vel mali astrorum necessitate contingere”.
In the Renaissance, religion, also, was subordinated to the dictation of astrology. The hypothesis of an astrological epoch of the world for each religion was widely believed by Italian astrologers of the time, who obtained the theory from Arabo-Judaic sources. Thus it was said that the conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn permitted the rise of the Hebrew faith; that of Jupiter with Mars, the appearance of the Chaldaic religion; of Jupiter with the sun, the Egyptian religion; of Jupiter with Venus, Mohammedanism; and of Jupiter with Mercury, Christianity. At some future day the religion of Antichrist was to appear upon the conjunction of Jupiter with the moon. Extraordinary examples of the glorification of astrology in Italy during the Renaissance are the frescoes painted by Miretto in the Sala della Ragione at Pavia, and the frescoes in Borso’s summer palace at Florence. Petrarch, as well, notwithstanding his public antagonism to astrology, was not, until his prime, entirely free from its taint. In this connection his relations with the famous astrologer, Mayno de Mayneri, are significant. (Cf. Rajna, Giorn. stor., X, 101, sq.)
Even the victorious progress of the Copernican system could not at once destroy confidence in astrology. The greatest astronomers were still obliged to devote their time to making astrological predictions at princely courts for the sake of gain; Tycho Brahe made such calculations for the Emperor Rudolph II, and Kepler himself, the most distinguished astronomer of the age, was the imperial court astrologer. Kepler was also obliged to cast horoscopes for Wallenstein, who later came completely under the influence of the alchemist and astrologer Giambattista Zenno of Genoa, the Seni of Schiller’s “Wallenstein”. The influence of the Copernican theory, the war of enlightened minds against pseudo-prophetic wisdom, and the increasing perception of the moral and psychical damage wrought by astrological humbug at last brought about a decline in the fortunes of astrology, and that precisely in Wallenstein’s time. At the same period astrological tracts were still being written by the most celebrated of English astrologers, William Lilly of Diseworth, Leicestershire, who received a pension of £100 from Cromwell’s council of state, and who, in spite of some awkward incidents, had no little political influence with Charles II. Among his works was a frequently republished “Christian Astrology”. Shakespeare (in King Lear) and Milton were acquainted with and advocated astrological theories, and Robert Fludd was a representative of the art at the royal court. Francis Bacon, it is true, sought to win adherents for a purified and reformed astrology in order to destroy the existing form of the art. It was Jonathan Swift who in his clever satire, “Prediction for the Year 1708 by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.”, which deserves to be read even at the present day, gave the deathblow to the belief of English society in astrology. The last astrologer of importance on the Continent was Jean-Baptiste Marin, who issued “Astrologia Gallica” (1661). The greatly misunderstood Swiss naturalist Theophrastus Paracelsus was an opponent of astrology, and not its advocate, as was formerly inferred from writings erroneously attributed to him. The rapid growth of experimental investigation in the natural sciences in those countries which had been almost ruined, socially and politically, by the Thirty Years War completely banished the astrological parasites from society. Once more astrology fell to the level of a vulgar superstition, cutting a sorry figure among the classes that still had faith in the occult arts. The peasant held fast to his belief in natural astrology, and to this belief the progress of the art of printing and the spread of popular education contributed largely. For not only were there disseminated among the rural poor “farmer’s almanacs”, which contained information substantiated by the peasant’s own experience, but the printing-presses also supplied the peasant with a great mass of cheap and easily understood books containing much fantastic astrological nonsense.
The remarkable physical discoveries of recent decades, in combination with the growing desire for an elevated philosophico-religious conception of the world and the intensified sensitiveness of the modern cultured man—all these together have caused astrology to emerge from its hiding place among paltry superstitions. The growth of occultistic ideas, which should, perhaps, not be entirely rejected, is reintroducing astrology into society. This is especially true of judicial astrology, which, however, by its constant encouragement of fatalistic views unsettles the belief in a Divine Providence. At present judicial astrology is not justified by any scientific facts. To put forward the theory of ether waves as an argument for astrological assertions is not in accord with the methods of sober science. Judicial astrology, therefore, can claim a place only in the history of human error, while, however, as an historical fact. it reflects much light upon the shadowy labyrinth of the human soul.
ASTROLOGY AMONG THE ANCIENT JEWS.—The Bible is free from any base admixture of astrological delusions. There is no reason for dragging the passage Josue x, 12, into historico-astrological discussions; the facts there related—the standing still of the sun in the valley of Gabaon and of the moon in the valley of Ajalon—are of purely astronomical interest. Only a few indications in the Old Testament suggest that, notwithstanding the Divine prohibition (Ex., xxii, 18; Deut., xviii, 10, etc.), the Jews, especially after they were exposed to the influence of Egyptian and Babylonian errors, may have practiced astrology in secret, along with other superstitions. The Prophets warned the people against the pernicious ascendancy of soothsayers and diviners of dreams (Jer., xxix, 8; Zach., x, 1-2), among whom astrologers were included. Thus in the Book of Wisdom (xiii, 1-2) it is said: “All men are vain … who . have imagined either … the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world.” The Book of Job, a writing of importance in the history of astronomy and star nomenclature, is also free from astrological fatalism. But to this fatalism the Jews had a natural predisposition, and when Hellenism gained a footing in the Holy Land it was accompanied by the spread of astrology, largely among the learned, the “philosophers”, at whom even in an earlier age the passage in Wisdom had probably been aimed. Again, Isaias (xlvii, 13-14) derides the Babylonian astrologers (“Let now the astrologers stand and save thee, they that gazed at the stars . Behold they are as stubble, fire hath burnt them”), and Jeremias exclaims (x, 2): “Be not afraid of the signs of heaven, which the heathen fear”.
After the Exile, however, astrology spread so rapidly, above all among the educated classes of Israel, that as early as the Hellenistic era a Jewish astrological literature existed, which showed a strong Persico-Chaldean influence. The prophets had been keen opponents of astrology and of a relapse into fatalism. If, when they were prophesying of the great events to come, the contemplation of nature, and especially of the stars, filled them with sympathetic enthusiasm, by reason of their poetic inspiration and power of divination, this had nothing to do with astrology. On the other hand it does not appear impossible that in Daniel‘s time some exiled Jews practiced astrology. Judging from Daniel, v, 7, 11, it is possible that the prophet himself held a high rank among the astrologers of the Babylonian court. After the Exile an attempt was made to separate astrology from sorcery and forbidden magical arts, by denying a direct Biblical prohibition of astrology and by pretending to find encouragement for such speculations in Genesis, i, 14. It is a characteristic fact that in ancient Israel astrology received no direct encouragement, but that its spread was associated with the relapse of many Jews into the old Semitic star-worship which was aided by Persico-Chaldean influence. For this Jeremias is a witness (vii, 18; xix, 13; xliv, 17-19, 25). Coincident with the spread of astrology in old Israel and the decline of the nation was the diffusion of demonology. The Jewish prayers to the planets, in the form in which they are preserved with others in Codex Paris, 2419 (folio 277r), came into existence at the time when Hellenism first flourished in the East, namely, the third and second centuries B.C. In these prayers special angels and demons are assigned to the different planets; the greatest and most powerful planet Saturn. having only one angel, Ktetoel, and one demon, Beelzebub. These planetary demons regulated the destiny of men.
The most notable witness for astrological superstitions in the era of the decadence of Israel is the apocryphal “Book of the Secrets of Henoch“, which, notwithstanding its perplexing phantasies, is a rich treasure-house of information concerning cosmological and purely astronomical problems in the Hellenic East. The author of “Henoch” is said by a Samaritan writer to be the discoverer of astronomy, and the book contains valuable explanations in regard to astronomy and astrology at the time of the Machabean dynasty. The evidences for astrologic demonology in ancient Israel, when the nation was affected by Hellenism and Babylonian decadence, are found in the latter part of the “Book of the Secrets of Henoch“—the “Book of the Course of the Lights of Heaven“—as also previously in the fourth section which treats of Henoch‘s wanderings “through the secret places of the world”. This latter is perhaps the archetype of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. According to the “Book of Henoch” the human race derived its knowledge of astrology and “lunar sorceries”, together with all other forms of magic, from the seven or eight spirits from whom come the chief sins of mankind (Henoch, i, 8). It is, moreover, worthy of note that the “Book of Henoch” must be regarded as a witness to Jewish national prophecy. It does not betray the ascendancy of Hellenism in any such degree as do the verses of the “Sibylline Oracles“, which were recorded in the old Ionic dialect during the reign of Ptolemy Physcon (145-112 B.C.) by Jewish scholars in Egypt, and probably at a later date in the Holy Land itself.
The astrological demonology of the Jews was continually fed from Egyptian and Babylonian sources, and formed in its turn the basis for the astrology of certain neo-Platonic sects. Together with the Parsee astrology, it was the foundation of the astrological demonology of the Gnostics and Priscillianists. The influence of Hellenistic Judaism is also plainly visible in the philosophic system of the Harranites, or Sabeans. It is only necessary to mention here the high honor paid by the Sabeans to the seven planetary gods who regulate the fate of man. According to the belief of the Sabeans every planet is inhabited by a spirit as star-soul, and the deciphering of the figures of the conjunction and opposition of the planets made the prediction of future destiny possible. Other elements of late Judaic astrology were adopted by the earliest known Christian writer on astrology, the Byzantine court-astrologer, Hephaestion of Thebes. The didactic astrological poem of Johannes Kamateros (about the middle of the twelfth century), which was dedicated to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I, appears to have been drawn from Judo-Gnostic sources. It is a striking fact that as “demonized astrology” gained ground in ancient Israel—and this was a branch of astrology in great favor among the Jewish scholars of the age of the Ptolemies, and much practiced by them—the worship of the stars ventured once more to show itself openly. It was not until the appearance of Christianity that the preposterous and, in part, pathologically degenerate, teachings of late Judaic astrology were swept away.
The lower the Jewish nation sank in the scale of religion and civilization the greater was the power gained by the erratic doctrines of astrology and the accompanying belief in demonology. The earthly labors of the Savior purified this noxious atmosphere. The New Testament is the opponent of astrology, which, by encouraging an apathetic fatalism, prevents the development of an elevating and strengthening trust in a Divine Providence. The “Star of the Wise Men” (Matt., ii, 2, 7, 9, sq.) cannot be identified by astronomy; perhaps, according to Ideler (Handbuch der mathemat. and techn. Chron.), the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn is meant. But this hypothesis, which would be of decisive importance in settling the year of the birth of Christ, still lacks convincing proof. It finds a curious support in Abrabanel’s comment that, according to Jewish astrologers, a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn was a sign of the Messias. It must, however, remain questionable whether and to what extent a prediction of Jewish astrologers, or Kere schamajim, is to be considered as realized in the “Star of the Wise Men” (Matt., ii, 2, etc.). The first heralds of Christianity, the Twelve Apostles, at once began a bold war against the rank growths of superstition. They also battled with the propensity of the people for astrology and in its stead planted in the hearts of men a belief in the power and goodness of God. Supported by the teachings of the Scriptures, the Church Fathers became powerful opponents of astrology and attacked with determination the bewildering and demoralizing ascendancy of its devotees. The assertion is therefore justified that the Book of Books remained free from the taint of astrological delusion. The passion for astrology evinced by decadent Judaism, and preserved in the Bible, is only one more proof of the propensity of Semitic nations for fatalistic superstitions and of the purifying and victorious power of the ethics of Christianity.
Campbell Thompson‘s monumental work, “The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon” (London, 1902), may be consulted for the valuable facts which throw light upon the dependence of the astrology of the ancient Jews on that of Babylon. “A special branch of astrology which was zealously cultivated in Babylon was medical astrology, or the astrological prognosis of disease.” Medical astrology is important in regard to the question of astrology in the Bible. It was greatly favored by the spread of empirical treatment of disease among the astrologers. The Bible itself gives very little information concerning this form of the science, but subordinate Jewish sources, above all the Talmud, allow conclusions to be drawn as to its importance. Medical astrology, derived from Arabo-Judaic sources, flourished again at the time of the Renaissance. Its professional representatives were then called “Iatromathematicians”, after the mathematical mode of arriving at conclusions in their “art of healing”. [Cf. Karl Sudhoff, Jatromathematiker, vornehml. des XV. and XVI. Jahrhund., in Abhand. zur Gesch. der Medizin (Breslau, 1902), pt. II; Wilh. Ebstein, Die Medizin im Alten Testament (Stuttgart, 1901); Gideon Precher, Das Tranzendentale, Magie im Talmud (Vienna, 1850); Trasen, Sitten der alten Hebraer (Breslau, 1853).]
The Babylonians, chiefly in relation to medical astrology, distinguished between a spherical method of calculation (from the point of view of the observer to the stars, i.e. subjectively), and a comical method (from the relative position of the stars, i.e. objectively). The former was used in the prognosis deduced from the observation of the twelve houses of the heavens; the latter in that drawn from the twelve signs of the Zodiac.