« AnteriorContinua »
Others have ascribed the invention of this deception to the Arabs;-be this as it may, Judicial Astrology* has been too much used by the priests and physicians of all nations to encrease their own power and emolument. They maintain that the heavens are one great book, in which God has written the history of the world; and in which every man may read his own fortune and the transactions of his time. In this department of astrology (judicial) we meet with all the idle conceits about the horary reign of planets, the doctrine of horoscopes, the distribution of the houses, the calculation of nativities, fortunes, lucky and unlucky hours, and other ominous fatalities. They assert that it had its rise from the same hands as astronomy itself;-that while the ancient Assyrians, whose serene unclouded sky favoured their celestial ob
*This conjectural science is divided into natural and judicial. The first is confined to the study of exploring natural effects, as change of weather, winds and stormshurricanes, thunder, floods, earthquakes, and the like. In this sense it is admitted to be a part of natural philosophy. It was under this view that Mr. Good, Mr. Boyle, and Dr. Mead pleaded for its use. The first endeavours to account for the diversity of seasons from the situations, habitudes, and motions of the planets; and to explain an infinity of phenomena by the contemplation of the stars. The honourable Mr. Boyle admitted, that all physical bodies are influenced by the heavenly bodies; and the doctor's opinion, in his treatise concerning the power of the sun and moon, etc. is in favour of the doctrine. But these predictions and influence are ridiculed, and entirely exploded by the most esteemed modern philosophers, of which the reader may have a learned specimen in Rohault's Tract. Physic. pt. 11. c 27.
servations, were intent on tracing the paths and periods of the heavenly bodies, they discovered a constant settled relation or analogy between them and things below; hence they were led to conclude these to be the fates or destinies (Parca) so much talked of, which preside at our birth, and dispose of our future state.
The Egyptians, who derived their astrological superstitions from the Chaldeans, becoming ignorant of the astronomical hieroglyphics, by degrees looked upon the names of the signs as expressing certain powers with which they were invested, and as indications of their several offices. The sun, on account of its splendour and enlivening influence, was imagined to be the great mover of nature; the moon held the second rank of powers, and each sign and constellation a certain share in the government of the world.
The ram, (Aries ) had a strong influence over the young of the flocks and herds; the balance, (Libra ) could inspire nothing but inclinations to good order and justice; and the scorpion, (Scorpio m) to excite only evil dispositions. In short, each sign produced the good or evil intimated by its
Thus, if a child happened to be born at the instant when the first star of the ram rose above the horizon, (when, in order to give this nonsense the air of a science, the star was supposed to have its greatest influence,) he would be rich in cattle; and he who should enter the world under the crab, would meet with nothing but disappointments, and all his affairs go backwards and downwards.
The people were to be happy whose king entered the world under the sign Libra; but completely wretched if he should light under the horrid sign scorpion. Persons born under capricorn (b) especially if the sun at the same time ascended the horizon, were sure to meet with success, and rise upwards like the wild goat and the sun which then ascends for six months together. The lion, (Leo) was to produce heroes; and the virgin (Virgo my) with her ear of corn to inspire chastity, and to unite virtue with abundance. Could anything be more extravagant and ridiculous!
The case was exactly the same with respect to the planets, whose influence is only founded on the wild supposition of their being the habitations of the pretended deities, whose names they bear, and the fabulous characters the poets have given them. Thus, to Saturn, they gave languid and even destructive influences, for no other reason but because they had been pleased to make this planet the residence of Saturn, who was painted with grey hairs and a scythe. To Jupiter 4 they gave the power of bestowing crowns and distributing long life, wealth, and grandeur, merely because it bears the name of the father of life. Mars was supposed to inspire a strong inclination for war, because it was believed to be the residence of the god of war. Venus had the power of rendering men voluptuous and fond of pleasure, because they had been pleased to give it the name of one who by some was thought to be the mother of pleasure. Mercury, though almost always invisible, would never have been thought to superintend the property of states, and the affairs of
wit and commerce, had not men, without the least reason, given it the name of one who was supposed to be the inventor of civil polity.
According to Astrologers, the power of the ascending planet is greatly increased by that of an ascending sign; then the benign influences are all united, and fall together on the head of all the happy infants who at that moment enter the world; yet can anything be more contrary to experience, which shews us, that the characters and events produced by persons born under the same aspect of the stars, are so far from being alike, that they are directly opposite.
What completes the ridicule," says the Abbé La Pluche, to whom we are obliged for these judicious observations, is, that what astronomers call the first degree of the ram, the balance, or of sagitarius, is no longer the first sign, which gives fruitfulness to the flocks, inspires men with a love of justice, or forms the hero. It has been found that all the celestial signs have, by degrees, receded from the vernal equinox, and drawn back to the East : notwithstanding this, the point of the zodiac that cuts the equator is still called the first degree of the ram, though the first star of the ram be thirty degrees beyond it, and all the other signs in the same proportion. When, therefore, any one is said to be born under the first degree of the ram, it was in reality one of the degrees of pisces that then came above the horizon: and when another is said to be born with a royal soul and heroic disposition, because at his birth the planet Jupiter ascended the horizon, in conjunction with the first star of sagitary,
Jupiter was indeed at that time in conjunction with a star thirty degrees eastward of sagitary, and in good truth it was the pernicious scorpion that presided at the birth of this happy, this incomparable child." And so it would, as Shakspeare says, "if my mother's cat had kittened. This," says our sagacious bard, "is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, (after the surfeit of our own behaviour) we make guilt of our disasters, the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity; fools, by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers, (traitors) by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting on; an admirable evasion of a whoremaster to lay his goatish tricks to the charge of a star! My father compounded with my mother under the dragon's tail; and my nativity was under Ursa major; so that it follows I am rough and treacherous.-Tut! I should have been that I am, had the maidenliest star in the firmament twinkled at my bastardizing.” Thus it is evident, that astrology is built upon no principles, . that it is founded on fables, and on influences void of reality. Yet absurd as it is, and even was, it obtained credit; and the more it spread, the greater injury was done to the cause of virtue. Instead of the exercise of prudence and wise precautions, it substituted superstitious forms and childish practices; it enervated the courage of the brave by apprehensions grounded on puns, and encouraged the wicked, by making them lay to the charge of a planet