Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/850

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trology continued to exert over the minds of people during so many centuries, and whose traces are still observable in greater or less degree, not only in the minds of the masses, but also in men of acute understanding, is suggested in the pithy remark of Kepler: "The failures of astrological predictions are soon forgotten, because they are of little consequence; their fulfillments are retained with the greatest tenacity; hence, the astrologer remains in veneration."

In fact, such teachings did not receive, at first, unhesitating acceptance; and it was not until individual chance successes were attained, that the belief in the positions of the stars as affecting human destiny found so deep root in inclined minds as to render the prophecies themselves instrumental in bringing to pass predicted events, so that for centuries no doubt to the contrary found popular recognition. When the first teachings of astrology thus founded by the priesthood, and more or less designed to promote its interests, became the possession of philosophers, as of the Greek astronomers of the Alexandrian school, they then gradually assumed a certain scientific character. The force which the moon exerts upon the waters of the earth, in causing the ebb and flow of the tides, was regarded by Ptolemy as chief scientific proof that other heavenly bodies besides the sun exercise a direct influence upon terrestrial life.

Moreover, it was held that the moon exerted a disturbing influence upon sleep, its monthly recurrence affecting the nervous system. On the basis, therefore, of these general predictions, it was then sought to determine the influence upon life and destiny which the various positions of the moon and planets among the constellations of the zodiac exerted, and to discover, partly by astronomical calculation, partly by tradition, what positions the planets had assumed at the time of the birth, as well of striking events in the lives, of distinguished men; or, in general, during the time of a series of important events.

A seeming uniformity in the casual coincidence of celestial phenomena with certain fortunate and unfortunate events was thus derived from this knowledge of the past, and formed the foundation of the methods for forecasting the future.

Naturally, this teaching had to embody a certain number of apparently verified prophecies, which were not derived from conclusions concerning the past, but were purely conceived, or which were associated with the mythical character of individual heavenly divinities.

Thus the planet Saturn, or Cronos, was universally regarded as destroying and harmful, as the powerful, all-consuming god of time whose name he bore; the planet Jupiter, on the contrary, indicated universal fortune, majesty, and beauty.

The planet Mars represented by its omens the dangerous and violent; Venus the mild and pleasant; Mercury the ambiguous and deceptive. Each of the planets had, however, somewhat varying