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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/46

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ASTROLOGY


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ASTROLOGY


is a ■witness (vii, 18; xix, 13; xliv, 17-19, 25). Co- incident with the spread of astrologj' in old Israel and the decline of the nation was the diffusion of demonologj'. 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 tliese prayers special angels and demons are as- signed to the different planets; the greatest and most powerful planet Saturn, having only one angel, Kte- toel, and one demon, Beelzebub. These planetary demons regulated the destiny of men.

The most notable witness for astrological super- stitions 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 cosmolog- ical and purely astronomical problems in the Hel- lenic East. The author of "Henoch" is said by a Samaritan -nTiter to be the discoverer of astronomy, and the book contains valuable explanations in regard to astronomy and astrology at the time of the Machabean djmasty. The evidences for astro- logic demonologj' 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 archetj'pe of Dante's "Divine Comedy". According to the "Book of Henoch" the human race derived its knowledge of astrolog)' 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 ascend- ancy of Hellenism in any such degree as do the verses of the "Sibylline Oracles", which were re- corded in the old tonic dialect during the reign of Ptolemy Physcon (145-112 B. c.) by Jewish scholars in Egj-pt, and probably at a later date in the Holy Land itself.

The astrological demonology of the Jews was continually fed from Egj'ptian and Babylonian sources, and formed in its turn the basis for the astrology of certain neo-Platonic sects. Together with the Parseeastrology.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 honour paid by the Sabeans to the seven planetary gods who regulate the fate of man. According to the belief of the Sabeans even,' 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 wTiter on astrologj-, the Byzantine court- astrologer, Hepha^stion of Thebes. The didactic astrological poem of Johannes Kamateros (about the middle of the twelfth century), which was dedi- cated to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I, appears to have been drawn from Judeeo-Gnostic soiirces. It is a striking fact that as "demonized astrologj-" gained ground in ancient Israel — and this was a branch of astrology in great favoiu- among the Jewish scholars of the age of the Ptolemies, and much practised by them — the worship of the stars ven- tured once more to show it.self openly. It was not until the appearance of Christianity that 'the preposterous and, in part, pathologically degener-


ate, teachings of late Judaic astrology were swept away.

The lower the Jewish nation sank in the scale of religion and ciWlization the greater was the power gained by the erratic doctrines of astrology and the accompanying belief in demonologj*. The earthly labours of the Sa\'iour purified this noxious atmos- phere. The New Testament is the opponent of astrology, which, by encoiu-aging 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, ac- cording to Ideler (Handbuch der mathemat. imd techn. Chron.), the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn is meant. But tliis hj-pothesis, 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 Kcre 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 be- came 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 pre- served in the Bible, is onlj- one more proof of the propensity of Semitic nations for fatalistic super- stitions and of the purifying and victorious power of the ethics of Cliristianity.

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 astrologv' which was zealously cultivated in Baby- lon was medical astrologj', or the astrological prog- nosis of disease." Medical astrology is important in regard to the question of astrologj' in the Bible. It was greatly favoured bj' the spread of empirical treatment of disease among the astrologers. The Bible itself gives verj' 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 astrologj-. derived from Arabo-Judaic sources, flourished again at the time of the Renaissance. Its professional representatives were then called "latromathema- ticians", after the mathematical mode of arriving at conclusions in their "art of healing". [Cf. Karl Sudhoff, Jatromathematiker, vornehml. des XV. und XVI. Jalirhund., 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 Babj-lonians, chiefly in relation to medical astrologj', distinguished between a spherical method of calculation (from the point of view of the observer to the stars, i. e. subjectivelj-). and a cosmical method (from the relative position of the stars, i. e. objec- tively). The former was used in the prognosis de- duced from the observation of the twelve houses