Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ruse of the Stars

Astronomy has to do with whatever is known of the heavenly bodies. The word comes from two Greek words meaning law or science of heavenly bodies. It is the most ancient of all the sciences. The Chinese, Hindus, Chaldeans, Egyptians and Greeks studied the heavens long before the time of Christ. In China, for example, astronomers had to foretell every eclipse under pain of death. The people thought that an eclipse was an evil monster, having evil designs on the sun, and it was usually to make a big noise by shouting, beating gongs, etc., to frighten it away. The Greeks first made astronomy something more than a tradition. Thales (640 B.C.), its founder, first taught that the earth was a sphere. He pointed out to sailors the Lesser Bear, which was a much better guide than the Great Bear, which they had been accustomed to follow as their north star. Pythagoras (500 B.C.), was far ahead of his time. He taught that the sun is the center of the world, and the earth circulates around it. He also showed that the morning and evening star are the same.

With Hipparchus (190-120 B.C.), begins the written history of astronomy. He was a great observer having observed 1,081 stars. Ptolemy (130-150 A.D.) followed him and explained what is called the Ptolemaic system in his book, the Almagest. His system was accepted as true until Copernicus showed its falsity. It placed the earth immovable in the center of the world making the heavens revolve around it every twenty-four hours. Copernicus (1473-1543), taught a system which was in a measure the same as the opinions which Pythagoras held 2,000 years before him. It makes the sun the immovable center of the world, around which the planets revolve. At the same time lived Tycho Brahe, a great observer, but who did not accept the system of Copernicus. This was not wonderful, as the Copernicus system was at that time a mere theory, and there was no means of proving it. Kepler, with his famous laws, and Galileo who first used the telescope in studying the heavens, came next. Newton's (New 10) fame rests on the discovery of gravitation, which is perhaps the greatest effort of human genius. This discovery gave men power to reduce to order the wanderings of the moon and planets. Laplace, whose observations on Jupiter's satellites and Saturn's ring, as well as his great work, Mecanique Celeste, were very important, brings us down to the nineteenth century. A great deal has been done in the present century in the line of accurate observation, made possible by the continued improvement of the telescope.

With astronomy the system of Freemasonry is intimately connected. From that science many of their most significant emblems are borrowed. The Lodge itself is a representation of the world; it is adorned with the image of the sun and moon, whose regularity and precision furnish a lesson of wisdom and prudence; its pillars of strength and establishment have been compared to the two columns which the ancients placed at the equinoctial points as supporters of the arc of heaven; the blazing star, which was among the Egyptians a symbol of Anubis, or the dog star, whose rising foretold the overflowing of the Nile, shines in the east; while the clouded canopy is decorated with the beautiful Pleiades. Astronomy has three branches: practical astronomy, which observes the heavenly bodies; theoretical astronomy, which treats of their motions; and physical astronomy, which treats of their physical state - how they are made up and the form of their surfaces.

Astrology on the other hand is a science demanding the respect of the scholar, notwithstanding its designation as a "black art," and, in a reflective sense, an occult science; a system of divination foretelling results by the relative positions of the planets and other heavenly bodies toward the earth. Men of eminence have adhered to the doctrine of astrology as a science. It is a study well considered in, forming an important part of the ceremonies of the "Philosophus," or fourth grade of the First Order of the Society of Rosicrucians. Astrology has been deemed the twin science of astronomy, grasping knowledge from the heavenly bodies, and granting a proper understanding of many of the startling forces in nature. It is claimed that the constellations of the zodiac (The Plan) govern the earthly animals, and that every star has a peculiar nature, property, and function, the seal and character of which it impresses through its rays upon plants, minerals, and animal life. This science was known to the ancients as the "divine art," also known as magic which brings us back to the usual culprits, the Persians.