Michel de Nostredame, a.k.a. Nostradamus, has become quite the renowned character because of various references to his writings in many modern TV shows and movies. As an astrologer in his day, he took the opportunity to write many books containing his prophesies for the future. These mysterious writings have become quite good fodder for modern day action/adventure shows.
Nostredame was born in the south of France in 1503. While early on he went by his French name, he later Latinised it to Nostradamus. Nostradamus, was originally a French apothecary (the pharmacists of the day). But later he became more well known as a seer who published collections of prophecies. He is best known for his book Les Propheties (“The Prophecies”), which first appeared in 1555.
Early in life Nostradamus had hoped to become a doctor and even began medical training. However, when the school found out that he was involved in the apothecary trade, they kicked him out. At some point, he began to move away from the practice of medicine and became interested in the occult.
Based on his occult interest, he wrote an almanac for the year 1550. The almanac was a financial success, so he decided to write one each year. As his notoriety grew, he began being asked by those in nobility to prepare horoscopes and to give “psychic” advice. It seems that his ability with horoscopes was rather poor, but he remained a popular figure in spite of that.
Of course, even in his own day, he was quite a controversial figure. Some people thought he was a servant of evil, a fake, or even insane. Others considered him to be a true source of understanding. Believers in his writings have tried to assert that many of Nostradamus’s prophesies have come true over the past several centuries. In reality, though, most of the events that people tend to point to do not align with actual fact. Much of his writing was done in verse, and many of the claims are wrong due to misinterpretations and mistranslations of his writings. In reality, he was a fraud, as are all astrologers.
His death came about in 1566 at the age of 63 after his gout, which he had suffered with for many years, turned into dropsy. He was buried in his home country of France.
While Nostradamus is, historically, a very famous astrologer, he is by no means a unique character. Astrology can be traced back many centuries and continues even today as a popular belief system.
Astrology can be traced back to ancient Babylon. In those days, Astrology and astronomy overlapped. It was the purview of the academic scholars (mostly priests) to study the sky to try and understand the workings of the heavens. Since academia and religion were basically under the same leadership in those days, pagan myths, deities and magic were naturally incorporated into their explanations.
These early “scientists” believed that the sun, moon and stars were gods who controlled the fate of humanity. They felt that if they could understand and predict the movements of the heavenly bodies, they could use that knowledge to control their own destiny.
Early Astrology focused on trying to forecast the destiny of the nation. But when Babylon was conquered by Persia, a form emerged which focused on the individual.
In the late Persian period, the twelve signs of the zodiac were formulated. This translated into a belt that is 16 to 18 degrees wide and is divided into twelve equal sections. Later the signs were given names and made to correspond to the constellations contained within them. In the 4th century BC, Greece conquered Persia and the Stoic philosophers made even more refinements. They divided the signs into four groups representing fire, earth, air and water.
The present common form of Astrology came into being in the 2nd century A.D. when the Alexandrian astronomer Ptolemy declared that the earth was at the center of the universe and that the moon and planets revolved around it. In its modern form, Astrology tends to no longer be based on the worship of the stars and planets as gods, but has adopted impersonal energy to substitute as the source of the power.
In modern times, Astrology is hugely popular. Books on the subject abound and there is hardly a newspaper published which doesn’t feature an astrological section. This phenomenon is found throughout the world. It is estimated that between 32 million and 150 million Americans read their horoscopes every day. Horoscopes are found in over 2000 daily newspapers as well as scores of magazines, websites and other locations. The Astrology business brings in several hundred million dollars per year.
Basic Beliefs and Practices
Astrology is essentially an Animistic belief system which asserts that the positions of the planets and the stars have a direct influence on the lives of individuals and on events that happen in the world. In addition to their natural properties, the planets and stars are seen as god-like bodies from which mysterious rays radiate. These rays are believed to influence, or cause, all of the events on earth.
Adherents of Astrology believe that all of the events in the cosmos are linked by an invisible magic bond. Based on this mysterious magical connection, Astrology asserts that the stars affect the course of our lives. Over the centuries, astrologers have developed charts which are said to show the entire course of an individual’s life. These charts are based on the position of the stars and planets in relationship to earth at the time of a person’s birth.
Astrology asserts that the planets and stars act as huge “space lenses” that send forth very powerful energy beams which penetrate people’s bodies – similar to radiation. These energy beams are believed to be extremely powerful and create a huge “space cloud.” As the earth rotates in its orbit and crosses these “clouds,” all biological objects which pass through its energy flow receive a dose of the magical power and are affected in particular ways which can be predicted.
Even though Astrology is not strictly a nature religion in the same way as, say, Voodoo, it is closely related in that it uses the same underlying Animistic concept that all of nature is bonded together. And like the nature religions, Astrology is governed by magical powers (and in some systems, by demons, and gods).
In most modern understandings of Astrology there is typically no god, as such. Rather, impersonal forces of the universe exert influence on people based on the position and movement of the stars and planets. In many forms of Astrology, heavenly bodies are associated with various gods – but even here the concept of god is typically not personal.
Astrology asserts that man is simply an element of the cosmos. There is no attempt to explain his nature except to affirm that he is able to be influenced by the powers of the heavenly bodies.
In Astrology, salvation is nothing more than the ability to understand the predictions of the horoscope and to use that information to make a better life.
Specific answers to worldview questions in Astrology are highly influenced by the belief systems of the individuals who are engaged in reading the horoscopes. For many astrologers, belief in the tenets of astrology are not their only source of authority. As such, the expressions of Astrology often end up carrying some kind of hybrid belief, even though the system itself is not really a hybrid. Interestingly, there are astrologers who claim to come from almost every belief system there is.
Some of the worldview questions, thus, cannot easily be dealt with in Astrology in the same way as with most other belief systems. While virtually every astrologer will have a sense of what is right and wrong, Astrology itself does not try to define morality. Rather it merely tries to determine how energy is flowing to affect individual lives. What an individual does with that energy is up to him or her. While we can answer the seven worldview questions based on Astrology, we have to be a bit more general when dealing with some elements of this faith foundation.
1. What is the most fundamental reality? (Ultimate reality) & 2. What is the nature of our material reality? (Material reality)
In Astrology’s teachings, there is basically only one reality and it is expressed both as non-material and material. That reality is expressed as a force that emerges from the non-material, and is expressed through the various cosmic bodies in a way which affects the earth and all who live on it.
3. What is a human being? (Humanity)
Human beings are simply material creatures who inhabit the earth and are the beneficiaries of the cosmic powers that come from the heavens. There is no attempt to understand where humanity came from or any transcendent reason for his existence.
4. What happens to a person at death? (Death)
Astrology doesn’t generalize answers about the nature of death and the afterlife. Every astrologer assumes some stance based on his or her own personal belief system. (Unless this belief system is Animistic in nature, an automatic contradiction is inserted into the mix.)
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? (Knowledge)
Knowledge is merely assumed to exist and is known based on observation and experience.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong? (Morality)
Astrology doesn’t address issues of morality. Every astrologer evaluates morality from his or her own personal belief system and determines morals based on that. (Once again, unless this belief system is Animistic in nature, an automatic contradiction is inserted into the mix.)
7. What is the meaning of human history? (History)
Human history is not thought of in terms of having meaning. It is simply a linear succession of events that began with the advent of man’s existence on earth. The evaluation of meaning will vary based on the individual astrologer’s other beliefs. (Here again, unless this belief system is Animistic in nature, an automatic contradiction is inserted into the mix.)
The primary authorities for Astrology are the various star charts and horoscope tables which have been developed to compute a person’s destiny. There are many different charts that can generate very different results.
Evidence for the Authority
There is nothing to give validity to any system of Astrology. Each chart and table is merely assumed to be valid by the practitioners who use them. There is no independent referee who is able to discern between the various conflicting systems. As regards specific evidence, Astrology is full of very tangible and serious credibility problems. These include such issues as:
1. Authority – There is no authoritative basis for any form of astrological belief. It is based on polytheism, mysticism and divination, with many of the various authorities contradicting one another.
2. Conflict – There are several conflicting systems of Astrology including Chinese, Hindu and Occidental forms. Each uses entirely different methods of generating their horoscopes. There are also conflicts related to how many signs ought to be included in the system.
3. Earth Centered Universe – The astrological systems were created using information which assumes that the earth is the center of the universe with the stars and planets revolving around it. This does not represent reality as we now understand it.
4. Shifting Constellations – Early astrologers were not aware that there is an ongoing transition regarding where the stars are to be found in the sky. The twelve signs of the zodiac originally matched up with the twelve constellations associated with them. But in the last 2000 years there has been a shift of about 30 degrees and they are now in different places. For instance, a person born on September 1 would be considered a Virgo, but the sun is now actually in the constellation Leo.
5. Missing Planets – Astrology is based on a belief that there are only five planets. This is all that were known during the time the systems were created. We now know of several more, and there is evidence that there may be others still.
6. Influential Forces – Scientists have studied forces such as gravity and various kinds of radiation, but have yet to find any evidence of the kinds of forces which astrologers say are able to exert influence on the destiny of mankind.
7. Lack of a Horoscope – There are many people born in places which prevent them from having a genuine horoscope (ex. above the Arctic Circle).
8. Twins – Twins have the same horoscope and yet their destinies often end up being radically different from one another.
9. Mass Deaths – Astrologers claim to be able to predict people’s fate and the manner of their deaths. But this breaks down when a catastrophic event occurs, such as a giant tsunami or a war which kills many people at one time.
10. Statistics – Astrologers use statistical calculations to support their claims, but the calculations often do not hold up. For instance, the horoscopes of large groups of scientists and artists do not show significant variations from the general population.
11. Conception – All hereditary factors of a person are determined at conception, not at birth. This is not accounted for at all.
12. Missed Predictions – Events often do not happen as predicted. Whenever a prediction fails, astrologers use all kinds of excuses to justify their misses. In making predictions, they also use very broad generalizations which could apply to virtually anyone in any situation.
13. Contradictions – Different astrologers give different readings from the same chart. Also, different source books have different interpretations of the same information.
Astrology falls firmly into the camp of Animism and, thus, falls prey to all of the problems associated with this worldview as truth system. In addition to more generic worldview problems associated with Astrology, there are numerous special problems and contradictions which also come into play based on its own specific beliefs. On top of that, various internal contradictions also become problematic as various astrologers mingle elements of their own personal belief systems into their interpretations. While literally millions of people read their horoscopes daily, it can be stated with absolute certainty that Astrology does not represent the truth about the nature of reality.
© 2010 Freddy Davis