|Can the stars guide our
I - THE DARK SECRETS OF ASTROLOGY
II - FROM THE POLAR STAR TO THE STAR OF THE WISE MEN
Our contemporaries consult their horoscope in order to learn their chances of success at the horse races, in business or love, in politics or even in science.
The newspapers are full of horoscopes! These are predictions (or so they say) that apply to each person according to the period of the year in which they were born. The division of the annual zodiacal belt into twelve signs constitutes what we call the signs of the zodiac: Pisces, Virgo, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Libra, etc.
To what do these signs correspond? They are actually points in the sky, made up of a group of stars called a "constellation". Each constellation is represented by a figure or imaginary form, for instance, the fish (Pisces) or the scales (Libra). They are located on a belt of the sky, named the ecliptic belt, which marks the apparent annual course of the sun in the starry dome. All the planets that revolve around the sun, with the exception of Pluto, are also seen within this zodiacal belt. Thus, depending on the season, the morning sun will rise within a certain constellation of the zodiac.
The ancient "astrologers", in Babylon for example, who observed celestial phenomena like the sun, the moon and the stars, developed a method for "predicting the future" of a person. They studied the position of the sun and the planets within the signs of the zodiac at the moment of birth. The horoscope or "birth chart" describes the position of the above mentioned stars at the time of birth.
So the attempt is made to characterize a person by defining him according to his horoscope : if you are born at a certain period of the year, for instance, under the sign of Pisces, you will necessarily have a corresponding type of character. It has even become a way of speaking in some countries : "You mustn't put a fish and a bull together!" as the saying goes in French. Even if it doesn't make sense, when we talk about it and write it down, we end up by believing it.
Just as astrology gives us a method of determining people's character, it also gives us a way of predicting our "chances" for having a love encounter, in gambling or having succes in work or politics, etc.
The horoscope, is in part due to real observation, and in part due to one of the oldest and most prosperous kinds of charlatanism in the world. A few real stars are made to glimmer in order to sell you the fake ones at a higher price.
The signs of the zodiac are constellations of stars that really exist. The earth revolves around the sun in one year on a certain plane very close to the planes of the other planets. Thus, astronomers, from the Babylonians to Copernicus in the 16th century, thought that the Sun and the planets rotated around the Earth. But in reality, only the moon revolves around the Earth. And the Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn revolve around the Sun on the ecliptic belt (which looks like a disc). Hence the Sun and the planets can be observed within the different constellations of the zodiac.
The system of the astrologers is not exact. As time passes, the Sun no longer rises in the same signs of the zodiac. There is a shift of one sign (or one month) every 2000 years. So it is impossible to say that a certain constellation of stars or sign of the zodiac has, for thousands of years, determined the characters of people. It is a mistake to base astrological interpretations upon alignments of stars which slowly but continually change position.
Secondly, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are visible to the naked eye. They were the only known planets 3000 years ago. Since then, the following planets have been discovered: Uranus (in 1781), Neptune (in 1846) and Pluto (in 1930) There are as well the satellites of Jupiter, asteroid belts, small stars or parts of planets, that number several thousand, and revolve around the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
But the astrology of horoscopes has nothing to say about the influence of all these stars. If you do not mention them, astrologers don't care. If you ask them about this, they assure you that they take them into account but in reality this is not true. These constellations of stars are composed of stars that appear to be in the same place, but some of them are only a few light years away while others are thousands and thousands of light years from us. They are not grouped so as to have an "effect" upon us. They are only apparent constellations. Thus it is evident that a constellation is quite unable to have a collective influence, contrary to the belief held by ancient astronomers.
True, according to the laws of universal attraction, all the celestial bodies have an influence on each another : the planets revolve around the Sun and the Sun is drawn by its galaxy, etc.
But, concerning the realm capable of influencing individuals, Stéphanie RUPHY and Jean-Marc HURE, in the French scientific magazine called La Recherche, dated December 1996, calculated the following: "The gravitational influence exerted by Mars on an inhabitant of the center of Paris is 100 times lighter than that of the Eiffel Tower." You might ask yourself what effect the Eiffel Tower has upon you at some location in Paris where you can't see it ?
In reality, only the sun, and, to a lesser degree, the moon, have tangible effects upon the earth : light, heat, and energy from the Sun cause the seasons, the growth of plants, etc. on the earth. There are also solar winds, composed of particules ejected by the sun that can cause the aurora borealis or magnetic storms. These storms may perturb radio communications with their static.
As for the moon, it causes the tides in a combined influence of the sun. The moon also maintains the rhythm of the seasons by preventing the extreme variations of the inclination of the earth's axes, as in the case of Mercury or Mars. If the moon did indeed exert an influence upon our characters, it would cause the same character in all people in one place, not only people born at the same date.
We can answer astrologers today by saying, "You affirm the influence of the stars; but the only influence is that which you are trying to exercise over me in virtue of the knowledge that you claim is scientific."
Astrologers, in fact, even the most astute, are quite incapable of verifying the precise location of the stars and planets at our birthdate, even if we were to give them the exact minute of birth.
The Babylonians, perhaps even people who lived in the 16th century, might have been able to believe in the importance of someone's date of birth and in the influence of the stars and planets at that moment! However, birth intervenes nine months after conception. Today we know that our genetic patrimony which makes up our identity, is formed at conception and is unique. Genetic tests allow us to identify a person more precisely than finger prints.
How is it possible to imagine that stars and planets have an influence upon me only at my birth and not during the nine preceeding months? Similarly, is it plausible to think, if for some reason or other, a birth has to be induced a day earlier (for the health of the mother or to save a child's life) that the child's character will be completely different ?
Sometimes we may be astonished by the accuracy of a horoscope, or by the prediction of an astrologer. The explanation is simple : they just happen to be lucky. Scientific studies have been conducted on the subject by Shawn Carlson from Berkley University in the USA, in association with the National Council for Geocosmic Research, an association of astrologers.
These astrologers did a psychological portrait of a certain number of people based on their horoscopes. Afterwards, the same people were subjected to scientific personality tests. The astrologers were then asked to identify the individuals by looking at their scientific tests. The individuals themselves were asked to select from out of three astrological portraits, the one based on their own horoscope.
The results of the study were published in 1985 in the scientific magazine Nature. The astrologers were wrong two times out of three when trying to identify the person whose psychological portrait they had done according to astrology. And the individuals were mistaken two times out of three when trying to identify their astrological portrait. If the answers are chosen at random, the results would be the same.
True, sometimes astrologers are right : just as often as chance, as shown by the scientific experiment already mentioned, and in certain cases even more often.
Let us study these cases. The astrologers most apt are those who tell you "something true". That is to say, they know how to listen to you and make you feel confident. They make you feel well and say what you want to hear or something that reassures you for a while, that calms your anxiety. Very often, they have gathered information about you, using methods known to specialists. The secret doesn't depend upon age; old gypsies succeed just as often as young well-dressed, very attentive astrologer-psychologists.
“I haven't seen Guillemette for a long time. It seems to me that she isn't doing too well at the moment. Tell her to come and see me." says an elegant astrologer from the upperclass to Guillemette's friend, a single person who is going to spend Christmas alone. And Gullemette says when she hears about it, "He thought of me. And it's true. I'm not very well right now. I think I'll go and see him." Of course, if the astrologer had learnt from her friend that Guillemette was engaged, he would have said something different, and he would have sought some other client with ups and downs.
Mr. and Mrs. B., journalists, were contacted by a newsagency: "Could you do the horoscope chronical for a certain weekly? The person who was to do it has fallen ill." Quickly the couple set to work, cutting out some horoscopes from other magazines. They noticed that every weekly prediction for a sign of the zodiac contained just as many happy elements as unhappy. So they mixed the various predictions in order to obtain a prediction that was sufficiently vague. Their work was a success. They were complimented by the editor and the readers were very pleased. There was even a woman on the staff of the paper who claimed she got married thanks to the horoscope. For the good of the couple, we hope they never learn how the prediction was concocted.
The real question that must be asked by those who believe in a certain astrologer is whether his knowledge really comes from his study of the stars or from the influence that he has been able to gain over me ?
If I need to find a way of easing my anxiety over the future, about my health or that of my near relations, about my fears concerning an exam or my job, or if I want to inquire about the affection of a certain person for me, astrologers are, in theory, just as competent as others to comfort me and give me hope. But this is on condition that the person who gives me hope is disinterested and does not take advantage of my situation. Otherwise, the price to pay is very high. And it is not only monetary.
Those who give real consolation do not take control over me. On the contrary, they help me to become free. What better way to exert influence over me than to make me think that he has the power to read the stars? In the end, it is not the stars that guide my life, but the astrologer.
The contact with soothsayers and astrologers may also have harmful effects on our lives. Among these are :
• spiritual blindness,
• lack of hope,
• doubt concerning God's love.
• giving up these practices,
• and going to Confession,
• asking for liberation and joy in the Lord,
• and adoring Jesus Christ ,true God and true man, in the Blessed Sacrement.
Yes, something new and attractive may take place in our lives. The stars bring hope, on the condition that we turn in the direction that they really point to. We will see this in the second part.
The stars, in reality, do not determine the course of a person's life, but they can help him to get his bearings. The best known reference point is the sun. We 'orientate' ourselves by looking at the sun which rises in the east and sets in the west. If I raise my right arm to the east, my left arm is on the west; north is in front of me and south behind me. At night, the polar star allows me to find the north.
We can, of course, make more advanced calculations: until recently when boats crossed the oceans, they calculated at which longitude they were positioned, that is to say the distance to the east or west, and their latitude, the distance from the poles or the equator, using calculations based on the sun and the stars. (Today the stars are replaced by satellites in a new system of calculation.)
In this regard, stars are useful in guiding my life. But they do not determine it. No more than a road sign at a crossroad does. For instance, if the sign says "40 miles to Chicago, I don't have to go to Chicago, but it helps me to know where I am.
In the same way, science teaches us a lot of things about the universe and the physical world. Not only the stars and the planets, but about the physics of the atom, of liquids, geology, geography, etc.
Certain kinds of forecasting are possible thanks to science: meterology, for instance. It has a certain margin of error and is applicable to a short period of time.
Biology and medicine also teach us a lot about ourselves and about the means of governing our lives. Yet science never says that the stars or the winds, the earth or the atoms determine our lives or make up the goal of our life.
In reality, all these laws and their causes leave undetermined areas in our existence which are in the realm of our freedom. In other words, we are able to predict the results statistically, but not individually.
Human freedom is, in fact, at the height of nature. A certain kind of liberty also exists in nature, but man's freedom is far above this. Using his freedom and looking at the stars, man can direct his life by seeking, beyond the stars, the purpose of his life.
For this reason, 150 years before the birth of Christ, a wise person voiced this thought (The Book of Wisdom 13, 1-9) :
|"For all men who were ignorant of
God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things
that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman
while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire
or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water,
or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.
And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
(…) For perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him. For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?"
What about the star that guided the wise men? Why does the Gospel use them as an example if they acted like astrologers in being guided by a star.
The question is an interesting one. We have already outlined the elements that will allow us to make a conclusion.
First of all, we observe that the popular tradition speaks of "kings" but the Gospel says "wise men". This is of little importance. The wise men were scholars of their time, both astronomers and astrologers. They read old historical manuscripts and also interpreted dreams. It can be supposed that these wise men were particularly attentive to the stars, and that one of these stars attracted their attention in a particular way.
Why? Was it brighter? Was it out of place? Was it a planet? a comet? an asteroid? a star? a supernova? The text of the Bible says it was "a star". We will see later on what science today says about the subject.
|Science and the Star of the Wise Men.
|According to some astologers of the time, Saturn was the symbolic star of Israel and Jupiter was a royal planet. And there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on two occasions in the year 6 BC, which might have prompted the research of the astrologers. In the text, the "star" disappears for a moment. The conjunction Jupiter-Saturn has been studied by David Hughes of Sheffield University and Philippe Veron from the Observatory of Paris. There was also a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in 2 AD, on the 8th of December and in the year 1 BC on the 17th of June. And last of all, there is also the hypothesis of an eclipse of Jupiter by the moon in 6 BC. We know that the date of the birth of Christ is situated by historical references between 6 BC and 1 AD.
In the meantime, let us observe the step taken by the wise men. They associate the noteworthy star with an ancient prophecy, probably the prophecy of Balaam (Book of Numbers 24: 17): "a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel…". But nothing is certain except that they associate this intriguing star with the birth of a king of the Jews.
So they go to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jews, and question Herod, the king, who had been put into power by the Romans. Herod feels threatened: Is this a rival? Even more dangerous is the fact that Herod is not a Jew himself and fears that a descendant of David, of the ancient royal family of the Jews, might rally the people. Hypocritically, he pretends to be interested in the event. Specialists of the scriptures and the doctors of the law are called in. They know where the descendant of David is to be born: in Bethlehem. The wise men set out again for Bethlehem where they find the child. They bowed to the ground in homage and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They went away without returning to see Herod. Then Herod fell into a rage and ordered the massacre of all the children in Bethlehem under the age of two.
Is it plausible? This question has been widely debated. Is the story only an imaginary one to underscore the royalty of the Christ Child?
It is difficult to say what happened exactly, but the story is not improbable. As stated above, astronomers are interested in studying the possibility of the phenonemon and they have found several possibilities (see Le Figaro, December 26th, 1996, "The mysterious brightness of the star of Bethlehem").
As for Herod's cruelty, it is a historically proven fact. Even if we disregared the massacre of Bethlehem, we know that Herod massacred others, beginning with the massacre of his own sons for fear that they might take over his power. From the history of the period, we also know about an Armenian astrologer named Tiridate, who went to Rome in the year 66 AD to tell Nero that he had seen in the stars that Nero was a God. The astrologer-astronomers used to address themselves to men in power in order to obtain rewards. Thus the story of the wise men is perfectly plausible even if it cannot be verified entirely. But as an explanation it is more important. It shows us what attitude one can have towards the world and the stars.
Indeed, if we compare scientists today with the astrologers of Bethlehem, we can understand something about the search for God.
It is not destiny. The stars do not determine our future, but they cause us to raise questions.
In the presence of an unknown star which is a new cosmic phenomenon, the wise men set out on a search. This search led to a much greater discovery. They came across the Christ Child. Looking beyond the world of science, their minds were opened to God. They permitted Him to tell them who He was. So they found not only a child, but an Infant God.
Herod himself was concerned only with the fact of the child being king in order to do away with him.
The doctors of the Jewish law knew the scriptures and could tell where the king of the Jews was to be born. But they did not set out to seek him. They were not searching for him, so they do not find him.
So it is with each one of us, if with our hearts, we do not desire to know God, we will be unable to see him despite the brillance of the stars that bear witness to him. They are signs pointing to God, and there are many other signs for those who seek him.
But the world is not only the object of scientific knowledge. It is also the object of our wonder. It raises questions. Science shows us the regularity and order of the cosmos. But what causes this order?
At present, scholars describe what are called the "constants of the universe". And they have discovered that if these "constants" were not present precisely as they are, life would not be able to exist on earth. Thus, man would not have been able to appear in a world incompatible with life.
Who could have conceived this? Who could have ordered the world in this way?
In using science, man does not prove that God exists. Science searches to discover the constants of the universe.
But a scientist today who studies these constants can marvel in the same way as the wise men of Bethlehem when they came across a star. The history of the wise men reveals the kind of attitude we too can have towards the world and the stars.
This star does not force us to go and adore the Christ child in Bethlehem, no more than it forced the scholarly doctors of the law or the powerful king Herod. But whoever begins to wonder and to seek, finds.
Yes, the stars can guide my life. They do not imprison it within an absurd network of good or bad luck. In my life, there are thousands of tiny stars which God uses to reach out to me: a person I meet, the birth of a child, the pain of a separation give rise in me to questions about eternity…
The star of Bethlehem leads the astrologers to a poor king, a tiny frail God. They were probably more astonished about this king in a stable, than about their unknown star.
What if God is, in reality, quite different from the image I have of Him?
What a great mystery of love this child reveals, a child in whom the almighty God makes himself little in order to reach out to me!
Why should I refuse to consider this strange revelation : God does not wish to make a slave of me. He does not come as a child to do away with my liberty, to make me suffer or to prevent me from being happy.
The star leads to Bethlehem. It does not speak. It lets me be free.
As we have already explained before, a lot of events in my life are perhaps stars that glimmer, if only faintly. I am free to notice them or not. Perhaps this article will help me to recognize them.
Why does God approach me by way of these stars in my night?
Because He loves me. He promises me a future in which I will be loved (See our article Life after Death). The stars of astrologers and horoscopes promise a future of fortune - a fortune that is always ambiguous, in order to justify any ill fortune that might take place.
But Jesus Christ is not ambiguous. He addresses himself to us who suffer, (Matthew 11, 29) :
|“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Do the signs of the zodiac and their good fortune/ill fortune help to bear your burden. Do the constellations or planets have a heart, a heart that is gentle and humble?
And this is what God says about life after death, here is His answer to our anguish and our desire for happiness :
|“ Behold, the dwelling of God is with
men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God
himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their
eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning
nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.
(Book of Revelation 21, 3-4)
L’Apocalypse de saint Jean est le dernier livre de ce qu’on appelle, avec les Evangiles, le Nouveau Testament.