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St Augustine fervently arguec against astrology.

about 160ce and perhaps the most influential of early Christian theologians, argued that it was the fallen angels who had taught man astrology. But the most prominent of early Christian antagonists of astrology was St Augustine (345-430) who argued against it in his books Christian Doctrine and The City of God.

Like many churchmen, Augustine did not study the subject, but simply regurgitated old arguments from pre-Christian eras. His objections were founded on a misconception of the nature of astrological theory, even as practised in his own time. When, for instance, he argued that astrology is ridiculous because a cow and a human baby born at the same instant do not have precisely the same life, he simply displayed his own ignorance of what astrology claimed, proportionately weakening his stronger arguments.

astrology's defenders

Other early theologians took different positions. Julius Firmicus Maternus, a contemporary of St Augustine, was the author of a lengthy treatise on astrology. His Matheseos (c354) accepts the doctrine of free will but finds it strange that man should think of stars and planets as mere decorations of the heavens. Producing the chief anti-astrological arguments one by one, he demolishes them with ease, demonstrating clearly that the critics had for the most part simply not tried to understand the nature or technique of the theory they attacked. He admits freely that some astrologers are rogues and others fools, and certainly admits the difficulty of the subject. However, he claims that the human mind is as competent to cope with astrology as with the mapping of the heavens and the prediction of the planets' courses.

St Augustine fervently arguec against astrology.

In a brilliantly presented and enormously complex argument, Firmicus scathingly demolishes superstition and its practitioners -"magicians" who only want to frighten people. He violently opposes secrecy, and demands that astrologers, rather than shrinking from public view as though ashamed, should place themselves under the protection of God, praying that He grant them "grace to attempt the explanation of the courses of the stars". The Matheseos is an important book, and was to be quoted again and again in following centuries by Christian astrologers and theologians who wanted to assuage the fears of laymen when the Church authorities condemned astrology.

a time of persecution

It was in 358ce that major persecution of astrologers began. Emperor Constantine, a convert, began a campaign against the so-called "superstitious" practice of claiming that the heavenly bodies had something to do with affairs on Earth, and astrologers fell under the death penalty. This was in a sense part of the coming battle between Christianity and science. Ptolemy and others believed that astrology was based on scientific cause and effect and that its use in treating medical conditions, for example, was entirely rational. The Church, however, was more interested in faith. Many early Christian theologians asserted that in the past there had been room for astrology, but that - as Clement of Alexandria (cl50-215) had written -the 12 apostles had now replaced the 12 zodiac signs as ultimate authorities on the conduct of human life.

The break away from astrology was neither abrupt nor complete. The fact that astrology grew somewhat faded during the first l,000 years after the

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The Art Of Astrology

The Art Of Astrology

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