W. John Murray
The Astor Lectures
Divine Science Publishing Assoc.
New York, 1917, 8th ed.

“Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators,
stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.”
— Isaiah 47:13.

[223] The subject of astrology, while it is tremendously fascinating, is one that must be approached with some degree of timidity by the ordinary mind. As far back as we can trace the history of the workings of the human mind we find the subject of astrology occupying thought. The remotest Egyptian, Hindu and Chinese history records the fact that astrology was the predominating science of those days and of those peoples. It is perhaps the most ancient of all sciences. There was a time when it seemed to dominate human thought to such an extent that nothing was done at all without consulting the stars. All prophecies were made upon the assumption that certain planets governed human life, individually and nationally. And this study of astrology went on with varying degrees of intensity on the one hand, and indifference on the other; some accounting for the great rise and fall of the different empires as a result of planetary [224] influence upon those empires, or, in other cases, the result of the belief in planetary influences upon the minds of the people of those days.

When the Israelites went into captivity they knew little if anything about astrology. It was in Egypt that the children of Israel learned the science and art of the ancient Egyptians. And it was with this advent of their captivity that there entered into the Hebrew mind a superstition which had never before been there. They now began to feel that they were the victims of certain planetary influences over which they had no personal or national control. If the planets said certain things concerning their welfare or destruction, it would be so, regardless of anything they might do individually. This went on for centuries. Occasionally a prophet like Daniel arose in the midst of the people and showed them that prophecy and promise all belong to and proceed from God–independent of planetary conditions; independent of the influence of stars upon human life.

But it was like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Whenever a Daniel arose, he arose in opposition to all the popular beliefs of the day. The astrologers had the chief seats at the tables of the kings, and not until the astrologers and wizards and necromancers exhausted all their skill and ingenuity and were utterly incapable of interpreting, was the prophet of God called in. It seems ever thus that we reserve the best for the last, howbeit, we do it somewhat [225] unconsciously; and so we are not surprised at the necromancers and astrologers of the court of Belshazzar having exhausted their ingenuity, and Daniel being brought in some mysterious way into the court of Belshazzar to interpret the handwriting for the King. But, I say again, it is only occasionally that we turn to a Daniel; we seem to be so easily inclined to the other methods and modes of interpretation, especially of the future. What a strange and unaccountable peradventure, beyond doubt, what is going to take place in our lives ten years or one hundred years hence!

For centuries people have been feeling a desire, a most intense desire at times, to know something of what is going to transpire next year, five years or fifty years hence. Because astrology in that day of superstition grew to be the most infallible guide for individuals and nations, it existed throughout all centuries until it invaded Rome itself. It was now accepted by the Court and now rejected by the Court; it was now accepted by the Senate and now rejected by the Senate. So it is not surprising that eventually astrology arrived simultaneously with the dawn of the Christian era. In fact, we would be very shallow, indeed, if we did not see the very close connection between astrology and primitive Christianity.

Was it not the Chaldeans, or the star-gazers of the Orient, who saw the star of Bethlehem and [226] knew what it portended? There was no collusion among these Wise Men of the East; they did not start from the same place or by common consent. Tradition tells us that they came from three very distant and remote points of the compass, each having seen the star in his own respective home, and that they followed it until they converged at a point just outside the Holy Land and then journeyed together into Palestine and thence to Jerusalem. This is very interesting, because it argues for the validity and genuineness of the science of astrology as it was understood by the eminent minds of that day.

In order to expose the fallacies of a system it is not necessary to uproot its fundamental principles; in order to show how little there is in some aspects of astrology it is not necessary that we enter into a detailed declamation against it. There is a great deal in astrology, it is true, especially when it bears relation to fundamental facts, to scientific discoveries; especially when it indicates certain well-defined normal conditions. Astrology, in a sense, is purely scientific, but the point to make clear is the point that astrology, as formerly studied and applied, has come into great disuse–or may I say, without fear of giving offense, misuse.

Scientific astrology flourished during the first three or four centuries of the Christian era, with the most eminent minds of the early Christian [227] Church differing in their opinions concerning it; some declaring that astrology was an exact science; others declaring that it was leading the people wrongly and disturbing the ignorant, causing people to interpret all their experiences as something that would disclose a future happiness distinct and separate from a present misery. When this did not come to pass, when the prophecies were not fulfilled, then there came a greater unhappiness and a tendency toward suicide. And so, I say, the church differed with regard to astrology just as the eminent laymen differed. The church finally decided to reject it, that is, to have its study and practice discontinued so far as the common people were concerned. This was done in something like the eleventh or twelfth century.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the study of astrology was again taken up by the priests so vigorously and energetically that two of the oldest universities of Europe instituted chairs for the scientific investigation and demonstration of astrology. For nearly a century it flourished without any real condemnation on the part of the church–it was tolerated, permitted. There was not a princely house in Europe that did not have its paid astrologer; there was not a community that did not have one or more persons who could foretell future events by their astrological science.

Savonarola and others of the school who felt that they saw the pernicious effect of a too generous [228] discussion of science on this age, and who felt it was having no small effect upon the prolongation of human misery, arrayed themselves against it. For a time the subject subsided, only to come into vogue again among the thoughtful, so that we find later a Kepler, a Wallenstein and a Napoleon Bonaparte strong in their advocacy of the effect of the planets upon the human system, upon human affairs, both individually and collectively. When Napoleon referred to his lucky star it was not done for mere effect, but because he actually believed in it, as so many others did.

Then there came the Copernican era, a revival of that science of astrology which has to a very large extent superseded astrology in scientific mentality, and with it came the upsetting of many of the theories of the ancient astrologers. The revelations due to astrology then brought about a declaration of the fact that the astrological discoveries were based on false premises, the premises being that the earth was a disk, an immovable orb, and that the celestial bodies were constantly in motion. This upset the whole fabrication and resulted in a certain amount of enlightenment. Nevertheless, astrology still existed, because, I say again, astrology is a science, and when it is not barbarously treated or used for ignoble purposes it may be studied with a great interest–at least a great intellectual interest.

The most profound astrologers tell us that astrology [229] is not an infallible guide; that many of its prognostications are based upon assumptions: one of the most sane and sensible assumptions being that if an individual has a tendency to go in a certain direction, and is not checking himself, he is quite apt to follow that direction to his own destruction. Therefore, the prognostication of that man’s individual destruction or individual future calamities may be safely indulged in by reason of his past performance.

This does not altogether mean that the astrologer does not feel that there is some influence of the planets upon human life and conduct; but the profound astrologers declare that there is, in addition to this influence of the stars upon the individual soul, a something within the soul, which is capable of resisting this influence; rising above its destructive effects, and developing character under pressure. This, I may add, was only an idea that came from Germany early in the nineteenth century: up to that time it was not so regarded. Up to a little over a hundred years ago it was thought by astrologers that no matter how strenuously the individual worked, he could not escape the consequences of having been born under an unfavorable star. So it remained for Bernard to discover in the mental domain what Copernicus had discovered in the physical domain, namely, a new order of things, a new power of the soul, which had been quite overlooked.

If we believe in astrology as it was taught anciently, [230] then, you see, there is very little credit due to the individual. He is little more or less than an automaton. If Judas was born under an unlucky star, communicating to him as a child a destructive, injurious and deceitful tendency, then we should not blame Judas. If Jesus, on the other hand, was born under a goodly star, a star which communicates to the child who is born under its influence nothing but the highest and the best and the sweetest and the noblest, I see no very good reason why we should ascribe any particular credit to the Master or why we should condemn Judas. If a man merely does what he is impelled to do by planetary conditions, if he merely follows out the line of least resistance, due to the fact that he was born under a certain star, then, whether he be a Judas or a Jesus, there is no condemnation for the one or praise for the other; they are merely following out the line of their respective destinies; they are merely following the pursuit laid out for them by the particular planet under which they were born.

I selected the subject of horoscopes because of a letter which came to me from one of the most brilliant men we have, a man who consulted an astrologer some time ago and was told that he was born under an unlucky star and that everything he touched would crumble to dust. He said: “At the time it impressed me very little, but lately since things have been going so very [231] badly I have gone over the period of my unusually active life, and I find the prognostications are not only true of things as they have subsequently happened since my interview, but I find that they are equally correct regarding affairs which had previously transpired. I find my whole life has been colored by the fact that I was born under Jupiter. Everything I have touched, which gave promise in the beginning, has disappeared even money which I, out of the goodness of my heart, have lent to friends without security; until I now find myself on the very threshold of a ‘panicky’ future.”

How do you account for it? Is it possible that planetary conditions are of such a character that lives are made or marred by them whether we will or no? Can you shed any light upon the perplexing situation of this man, which you know is not at all exaggerated? It is surely a well-defined one because it comes from a cultured mind, and it is an interesting one because it comes from a man of intense thought. It is merely one of hundreds of thousands of similar cases in which persons are laboring under the belief that they are the victims of certain planetary conditions over which they have no control. And this is pitiable. It is painfully pathetic, because so long as a man carries about with him the dread of his horoscope, so long as a man’s horoscope is disastrous and suggestive of impending evil, the man cannot be successful to the highest degree. It is painful, indeed, [232] to find a man of otherwise big heart constantly carrying about with him his horoscope like a disease. Do what he will, he says he cannot escape it. Is it not deplorable to think of a cultured man stumbling over his horoscope, unable to walk erect mentally or physically or financially, because of the terrible sense that he was born under Jupiter, and cannot be successful, believing he cannot break the claims and escape the results of that planetary influence? This, I say, is tragic. If a horoscope has such tremendous power, then most of us are miserable, because most of us have wretched horoscopes.

The prognosticator of evil may be sincere, and the stars may portend that evil conditions are about to ensue, but if the other side of the picture be not conveyed to the individual, the astrologer were sowing seeds of misery and death. If he does not reveal to the person who comes to him, that, despite planetary influences and despite heredity and despite environment, there is that something in the individual bigger than the stars, then he were an injury to the community. And so it was that these smatterers in astrology, these persons who profited by a little knowledge of a great and wonderful and dignified science became obnoxious to the early Church, destructive to the people of the middle centuries and injurious in our own time.

Think what you will of your horoscope, but always know that you are bigger than it! Always [233] realize that a live man is bigger than a dead one, and that a living, vitalizing principle is bigger than an ordinary planet; bigger, I say, morally; bigger, I say, mentally; bigger, I say spiritually; so big in fact that, when he understands the dominion which was given to him by God Almighty over the birds of the fields, and the fishes of the seas and the very stars that shine, he can have power over all conditions.

Next: Predestination

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