Digest of terms


the identification and interpretation of the supposed influence of cosmic forces - the movement of sun, moon and other celestial bodies - on human life. There is an implicit sense of fortune or luck, which may or may not have a moral face. Historically astrology was a highly elaborated discipline in Babylonian, Chinese, Greco-Roman, Indian and Medieval European versions. Its persistence today is visible in popular charts, which appear in newspapers and magazines, or in some countries the inclusion of birth dates in the adverts for marital partners. In scientific perspective, astrology is regarded as a pseudo-science, one which is properly succeeded by the entirely legitimate astronomy. Certainly, the discovery of the multiplicity of galaxies and universes warns against a selective focus on single planetary components of any one of them. Does this not now entail an even mightier presumption in claiming that a certain constellational coincidence somehow determines an individual's fate?

Astrology is, it seems, a way of coming to terms with one's fate, or of seeking to gain some measure of control over one's circumstances by acting in accordance with insight gained. Horoscopes may be amusing distractions or suggestive invitations, but they only take on any determining force if we co-operate in granting them that authority, as happens, for example, in popular Hindu culture, where marriages are often arranged for 'auspicious' days, as identified by astrologers. More disturbing, from a critic's point of view, are reports that Indian and American Presidents (Reagan) took astrological advice over whether or not to go to war.

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