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Saturday, January 15, 2011

From Astrology to MLK

This week I was greeted by unwelcome news that I’ve been reclassified from Scorpio to Virgo. Everyone who knows me will immediately see the falsehood of this. If anyone is a classic Scorpio (or INTJ), I am.

Press reports this week didn’t mention that astrology has always been fractured, rather like Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant). I’ll stand with tropical astrology that continues to call me a Scorpio against sidereal or the neo-classical IAU astrology that calls me a Virgo.

It goes to show, of course, how ridiculous astrology is. I’ve always been fascinated by how much money is made in astrology. All those newspaper inserts, magazine pages, and so on generate income for somebody. Back when I was traveling so often that I read every issue of American Airlines’ bimonthly American Way magazine, I remember the ruckus when the astrology page was dropped.

Astrology is akin to alchemy. They have recreational value, but they serve as warnings of how misguided the human intellect can be.

Not all myth is bad myth. That’s an assertion that hard-bitten scientists would disagree with, but I believe Joseph Campbell was onto something important. I’m not uncomfortable with calling Christianity a myth in the highest sense of the word. I argue that Christianity is good myth, in contrast to astrology. (This blog is not the place to launch a discussion of the veracity of incarnation and resurrection, but I’ll add that I assent to their veracity without shunning the terminology of myth.)

Time is the test of myths. Roman and Greek myths didn’t turn out to have lasting relevance. On this the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I’m thinking of equality and other myths that have accrued to the United States of America. MLK reminded us, gracefully, that the essential problem in the USA is not that our foundational myths are bad (many of them, at least); it's that we don't allow them to inform our daily lives.