In the Middle Ages astrology was a respectable part of the philosophical world view. Albert the Great was well-known as an astrologer and magician. Albert, especially, saw astrology as a legitimate part of knowledge. Thomas Aquinas was more sceptical despite being Albert’s pupil. He thought it was all a waste of time. Let’s think about it for a while.

As a theist I am inclined to think that the world as we observe it does reflect what God intends. Science can proceed according to its own rules and discover truth. Despite all the uncertainty and doubt in contemporary physics I regard it as the best practice we have to uncover what is the case about the world. Quantum physics and general relativity, whatever their incompatibility, are the best accounts available of what is there. I am fascinated by the wave function and four-dimensional space-time with its curvature. I have recently been finding out a bit about inflation theory. Cosmology is an active and endlessly interesting field.

In the Middle Ages astrology was at the cutting edge. Nowadays the cutting edge lies somewhere in the contradictions between quantum theory and general relativity. Poor old astrology. It has been left far behind. No modern scientist thinks astrological influence is a real thing. In the Middle Ages there was no better account of how things were. Now we have good theories about how stars and galaxies form. Inflation theory traces the origins of the universe way, way back. Astrology takes the universe as it is and tries to predict the future.

To think about astrology is to think about an old science. Astrology used to be part of ‘let’s call it science’ but now it’s not. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the Middle Ages and science was different then. Roger Bacon is often thought of as the originator of science. I am inclined to disagree. Bacon was less scientific and Bacon’s time more scientific than this indicates. I’m more of an admirer of Thomas Aquinas. Thomas’ views on all sorts of things accord less well with modern views than do those of Roger but I quite like Thomas’ loyalty to the Church. I am inclined to regard the Roman Church with hostility but I still admire Thomas’ loyalty.

Getting back to astrology, let’s distinguish our attitude to medieval astrology and modern astrology. The former, medieval astrology, was a good thing, the latter, modern astrology, is a bad thing. In studying astrology medieval scholars like Roger and Albert advanced knowledge, by promoting astrology, modern enthusiasts block advance. Advancing knowledge is taken as a good thing, blocking advance is taken as a bad thing. I find that I must be a progressive, what a shock.


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