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Mysticism

Last updated: January 26, 2017

Mercury retrograde, explained without astrology

The science buried under the pseudoscience.

Channel: Vox

How to Squash a Paranormal Claim

The James Randi Educational Foundation has never met a "psychic" it couldn't discredit—easily. Still, Randi understands why such frauds appeal to people. Question: What does the JREF consider a legitimate test of paranormal claims? A test of any...

Channel: Big Think

Homeopathy, quackery and fraud | James Randi

Legendary skeptic James Randi takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs. He throws out a challenge to the world's psychics: Prove what you do is real, and I'll give you a million dollars. (No...

Channel: TED

Why the World Is Still Fascinated with Astrology

In the third episode of The Chosen Ones, host Gavin Haynes dives into the world of horoscope-obsessed astrologists based in his London hometown. No matter how developed a society becomes, no matter how much they give rights to...

Channel: VICE

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8.3. The Maya pseudo-prophecy and the year 2012

8.3. THE MAYA PSEUDO-PROPHECY AND THE YEAR 2012

After the failure of the year 2000 the interest in apocalypticism was quickly invigorated through the pseudo-prophecy of the Maya calendar for the year 2012. Once again, an army of astrologers, journalists, writers, contactees, mediums and spiritual healers begged for attention screaming that in 2012 something extraordinary was about to happen with Earth and its inhabitants. Unfortunately, their efforts were mercilessly amplified by the mass media and the Internet, both flooded by prophetic clichés such as the “turning point in the history of humanity,” “year of great changes” or “the special significance of the year 2012.”

The 2012 phenomenon was by far the most widespread apocalyptic phenomenon. It shattered the cultural, social and religious barriers and it manifested itself within nations that have nothing to do with Christianity or with Maya culture. Hundreds of books, articles, video documentaries and websites discussed and analyzed this subject. A virtual domain owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration received more than 5,000 questions from the public on

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8.2. The New Age movement

8.2. THE NEW AGE MOVEMENT

Even though it is a hundreds-year-old concept, the Age of Aquarius is currently closely connected with the hippie and the New Age tendencies of the 1960s and 1970s. The New Age movement is a sociocultural phenomenon that seeks universal truth by combining elements of spirituality, cosmology, esotericism, science and alternative medicine. It aims to create great spiritual and material changes, being at the same time the harbinger and the initiator of the Age of Aquarius. New Age supports on monism (“everything is one”) and pantheism (“everything is God”). The movement is not a group; in order to become a New Age adept no formality, such as vows or confessing certain religious beliefs, is required. It is a very diverse and malleable system, which can be defined neither as a cult nor as a religion, although it is frequently described in this way. Nobody can speak in the name of the entire community. Nevertheless, it incorporates a particular species of self-proclaimed prophets and visionaries who behave like the contactees, but they claim to be the modern successors of the biblical prophets.

Depending on the astrological, anthropological or psychological perspective, the beginning of the movement varies from Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century until the end of the Maya calendar on December 21, 2012. One of the important moments of the movement came to pass in 1875, at a time when spirituality was put under question by Darwinism and scientific progress. Henry Scott, William Judge and Helena Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in New York. The beginning of New Age can also be associated with the years 1920-1930s, after the sequelae caused by the First World War, when the disciple in theosophy Alice Bailey proclaimed the return of Christ and the necessity to form groups of spiritualization. The pseudo-prophet Edgar Cayce

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8.1. The Age of Aquarius

8. THE REBIRTH OF MYSTICISM

8.1. THE AGE OF AQUARIUS

Contemporary society offers a paradoxical image: governments and space agencies make huge efforts to send probes to Mars, but at the same time the planet Mars influences our health, how we spend our money or the relations with our work colleagues. Science apathetically states that celestial bodies (planets, stars, galaxies) cannot influence the choices of the human individual, while on the other hand our destiny is violated on a daily basis by cheap horoscopes. Common sense says that technological advancement has the power to eradicate the medieval magical beliefs. Yet, space programs and the ordinary fortune-teller survive in the same world and they are both successful. The development of physics and chemistry wiped out the gods that dwell in the clouds or the celestial spheres that surround the earth, but modern man still feels the need to escape the monotonous reality by turning toward the supernatural, the extraordinary, exotic beliefs and mysticism.

Currently, astrological apocalyptic prophecies are non-existent, with a single exception: the entrance in the Age of Aquarius. This is present in many fatalistic and religious theories, archeological and historical

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6.6. Isaac Newton and the decline of astrology

6.6. ISAAC NEWTON AND THE DECLINE OF ASTROLOGY

The separation between science and superstition was a process that lasted more than three centuries. The increasingly accepted mechanical theory of causality and the image of a tridimensional Universe, in which neither Earth nor the Sun is in its center, were the main causes of the decline of astrology. At the beginning of the 16th century the Polish Nicolaus Copernicus issued the heliocentric theory, but he was ignored. Then, the Italian Giordano Bruno dared to say that the Sun is only a star among an infinity of other stars, but the Inquisition burned him at the stake. Galileo Galilei reaffirmed heliocentrism and decisively contributed to the determinist and infinite conception of the Universe.791 Finally, the German Johannes Kepler believed that he discovered God’s universal geometrical plan; in Mysterium cosmographicum from 1596 and Harmonices mundi from 1619 he said that the geometrical figures were the primordial models of the Creator in the decoration of the entire world.792 The world was created after an intelligible plan that is accessible through the natural light of reason. The “heavenly physics” – as Kepler named it – is that part of mathematics which studies the divine architecture and the connection between the physical and spiritual layers of Creation. The Universe itself was believed to be an image of God, with the Sun corresponding to the Father, the stellar sphere corresponding to the Son, and the space between them corresponding to the Holy Spirit.793

By applying quantitative measurements to terrestrial and celestial phenomena, the elites began to make a distinction between science, superstition and pseudoscience. Indeed, in the 17th century the separation

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5.4. The numerological apocalypses

5.4. THE NUMEROLOGICAL APOCALYPSES

Numerology is a domain that relies on the existence of a mystical or esoteric connection between numbers on the one hand, and the material objects and beings on the other hand. Numerology, numerological divination and isopsephy were popular in the ancient teachings of Babylonia, Greek philosophy, Gnosticism and in the Hebrew system of Kabbalah.558 This is why the early Christians condemned the philosophical systems with exclusive numerical bases (such as Pythagoreanism and Gnosticism), being perceived as a pagan legacy. But Christianity did not reject numerology, because Revelation 13:18 and the mystery of the number 666 did not allow this thing. The calculations regarding 666 and the age of the world show that numbers were seen as holy messages full of hidden meanings, numerology becoming an important branch of biblical exegesis. The difference between the Pythagorean approach and the Christian one consisted in the fact that the latter understood numbers as inseparable from the divine will.559 Saint Ambrose, commenting on the days of the Creation and the Sabbath, remarks: “The number seven is good, but we do not explain it after the doctrine of Pythagoras and the other philosophers, but rather according to the manifestation and division of the grace of the Spirit; for the prophet Isaias has enumerated the principal gifts of the Holy Spirit as seven.”560 Instead, Augustine adopted a reserved attitude, criticizing Tyconius the Donatist because he had based his doctrine excessively on numerology: “if Tichonius had said that these mystical rules open out some of the hidden recesses of the law, instead of saying that they reveal all the mysteries of the law, he would

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5.3.3. The eternal and controversial Nostradamus

5.3.3. The eternal and controversial Nostradamus

In the 16th century European society was confused, violent, chaotic, filthy and desperate for answers and solutions to the problems of the moment. Due to the Reformation, mysticism burst in all its palettes, celebrities and idiots alike pretending that they were able to unravel God’s plans by exploring different aspects of reality. In addition to the Parisian elites who created Tabulae Alphonsinae or personalities such as d’Ailly, De Bruges and Turrel, the French territories were sprinkled with a multitude of petty astrologers who combined the reading of the stars with visions, magic, alchemy and mathematics. But, surprisingly, of the multitude of mystics, the best-known today is not a personality of the time, but a certain Michel de Nostredame, better known after his Latinized name “Nostradamus.”

Even though he is often brought into question and he is the subject of hundreds of studies, little is known about the life of Nostradamus. Of Jewish origins, Nostradamus was born in 1503 in Southern France, being one of the approximately nine children of Renée de Saint-Rémy and the notary Jaume de Nostredame. Following the trend of the time, Nostradamus was a polymath: he learned several languages, studied history, mathematics, human nature, sought to predict the future and to understand the Bible, traveled frequently and managed to obtain a doctorate in medicine, although he unsuccessfully tried to cure plague.505 In 1547 he married the wealthy widow Anne Ponsard, who gave him six children. The new financial status introduced Nostradamus in high circles and allowed him to give up medicine and turn to the study of mysticism. He modestly began his life of astrologer, publishing an almanac for the year 1550 in natural astrology, on the cover appearing for the first time his Latinized name. The subject of the almanac was the meteorological anticipation on astrological bases. Encouraged by the confirmation of a small number of predictions, he began to publish almanacs in series, two or three every year, with previsions of varied complexity. These were composed of one quatrain for every year, a quatrain

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5.3.2. The evilness of eclipses

5.3.2. The evilness of eclipses

Eclipses are overwhelming phenomena, and it is no wonder that they were an integral part of many ancient cultures, being considered markers of disasters or even the end of the world. The (Romanized) Greek word ékleipsis – the root of the word “eclipse” – means “to cease existence,” “to disappear.” Eclipses, especially the solar ones, significantly altered the course of history. In ancient China eclipses were signs that revealed the emperor’s fate; their prediction was of crucial importance for the welfare of the state. The Chinese explained the phenomenon through the fact that a mythical dragon begins to devour the Sun or the Moon. In reaction, they beat drums or made noise during eclipses in order to scare and chase away the dragon.492 The Babylonians and the Egyptians noticed the movements of the Sun, the Moon and the planets and recorded on clay tablets the important celestial events.493 The Greek Herodotus relates about how the battle between the Lydians and the Medes was stopped by a solar eclipse on May 28, 585 BC, predicted in advance by the philosopher Thales of Miletus.494 The Romans however took advantage of the eclipses to win battles.495 The solar eclipse occurred on January 27, 632, coincided with the death of Ibrahim, Muhammad’s younger son. Yet, the Prophet stated that eclipses are not ominous signs, but cosmic spectacles that show Allah’s might and power.496

Eclipses had a special place in European astrology, mostly due to the psychological impact they have upon population. The rotation of the eighth sphere and the planetary conjunctions and cycles require thorough calculations and trained eyes. Instead, solar and lunar eclipses are visible to everyone, as an extraordinary divine spectacle through which God reminds mortals that their fate is in his hands. Eclipses have always been seen as bad omens. The set of solar

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5.3.1. The planetary conjunctions and the movements of the eighth sphere

5.3. THE ASTROLOGICAL APOGEE

5.3.1. The planetary conjunctions and the movements of the eighth sphere

In no other historical period has astrology gained greater power and influence than in the 16th and the 17th centuries. After hundreds of years of constant development, in Luther’s time astrology came to a very interesting status: theoretically condemned by the church, practically treated as the queen of sciences. Thus, amid the spiritual dissatisfaction offered by the ecclesiastical teachings and the confusion caused by the Protestant Reformation, conjunctions, eclipses, heavenly appearances and planetary movements became subjects that swallowed countless hours of observations and calculations, caused fierce debates and generated rivers of ink.

Astrology was considered capable of offering explanations about the birth, the development and the decline of all things that are part of the material world. For mystics it was the door toward a universe filled with beauty and harmony, in which the spiritual correspondences unite all the existing things. Pierre d’Ailly named astrology “natural theology” because he saw the firmament as a map through which God informs mankind about the type and the time of certain future events. The heavenly events were believed to be in direct relation with the earthly events according to the relation macrocosm-microcosm depicted by the followers of Paracelsus.

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4.2.6. The astrological ascension

4.2.6. The astrological ascension

Astrology can be understood only if we understand how the people from the past imagined the Universe. Our prehistoric ancestors had no clue where we came from, who we are, how our Universe came to be and how it works. But, compared to animals, they had an advantage in the struggle for survival: intelligence, especially our gift for pattern recognition. Man has always been covered by a blanket of stars, and the first people used this gift of pattern recognition for reading the heavenly calendar. The messages written in the stars told our forefathers when to camp, how much time to sit in one place, when to move on, when rain, cold or the migratory animals would come. Thus, when they observed the connection between the motions of the stars and the seasonal cycles of life on Earth, they concluded, naturally, that what happens up there must be directed at us down here. The problem is that the human ability to recognize patterns is like a double-edged sword; the mind also sees patterns where there are none (a psychological phenomenon called “pareidolia”). In addition to the regular movements of celestial bodies, our ancestors also saw in the position of the stars figures of animals, of mythical creatures or plants. Long before the invention of the telescope, ancient human cultures from around the globe looked up at the same stars and they made the same mistake: they believed that the sky is an extraordinary providential spectacle. The only difference among them was how they interpreted celestial phenomena. This is how astrology began.

Astrology incommensurably influenced the development of ancient civilizations and undoubtedly played a major role in the history of mankind. It is an immemorial practice that, in a sense, helped our ancestor organize chaos and make the Universe intelligible. Unlike the other forms of divination, astrology has been the most used form of divination because the opening of the sky is accessible to all people; it is widely practiced even today, in the age of the Internet. Yet, interestingly, the Mosaic Law prohibited the astrological practices, associating them with the pagan traditions of the neighboring nations. The ancient Israelites feared

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