Come, Mephistopheles, let us dispute again

Doctor Faustus. By Christopher Marlowe

“He that is grounded in astrology,
Enriched with tongues, well seen in minerals,
Hath all the principles magic doth require.
Then doubt not, Faustus, but to be renowned
And more frequented for this mystery
Than henceforth the Delphian oracle.”


“I am resolv’d; Faustus shall ne’er repent.—
Come, Mephistophilis, let us dispute again,
And argue of divine astrology.
Tell me, are there many heavens above the moon
Are all celestial bodies but one globe,
As is the substance of this centric earth?

MEPHIST. As are the elements, such are the spheres,
Mutually folded in each other’s orb,
And, Faustus,
All jointly move upon one axletree,
Whose terminine is term’d the world’s wide pole;
Nor are the names of Saturn, Mars, or Jupiter
Feign’d, but are erring stars.

FAUSTUS. But, tell me, have they all one motion, both situ et

MEPHIST. All jointly move from east to west in twenty-four hours
upon the poles of the world; but differ in their motion upon
the poles of the zodiac.

These slender trifles Wagner can decide:
Hath Mephistophilis no greater skill?
Who knows not the double motion of the planets?
The first is finish’d in a natural day;
The second thus; as Saturn in thirty years; Jupiter in twelve;
Mars in four; the Sun, Venus, and Mercury in a year; the Moon in
twenty-eight days. Tush, these are freshmen’s suppositions.
But, tell me, hath every sphere a dominion or intelligentia?


FAUSTUS. How many heavens or spheres are there?

MEPHIST. Nine; the seven planets, the firmament, and the empyreal

FAUSTUS. Well, resolve me in this question; why have we not
conjunctions, oppositions, aspects, eclipses, all at one time,
but in some years we have more, in some less?

MEPHIST. Per inoequalem motum respectu totius.

FAUSTUS. Well, I am answered. Tell me who made the world?

MEPHIST. I will not.”

The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, by Christoper Marlowe.

The historical Faust was an educated astrologer….

The historical Faust was an educated astrologer. Properly done, Astrology was a difficult application taught as part of a higher education and requiring mathematical skills and discipline.

“But an indisputable record of Faust has been recently discovered, which proves him to have ‘flourished’ as early as 1520, five years before the supposed date of his visit to Auerbach’s Cellar. In the accounts for that ear of Hans Miiller, Chamberlain (Kammermeister) of George von Limburg Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, J. Mayerhoffer has found an entry purporting that by the orders of Reverendissimus ten florins were on the Sunday after Scholastica (whose festival falls on February loth) paid to Doctor Faust, pho [=philosopho], as a gratuity, he having cast a nativity or indicium to his lordship. The bishop, a patron of the New Learning and friend of Luther, died 31 May 1522; and it seems probable that the consultation took place at the castle of Altenburg,the bishop’s favourite residence.”

Marlowe’s Tragical History of Doctor Faustus: Greene: Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Clarendon Press series. Christopher Marlowe. Edition 2. Clarendon Press, 1887.

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Doctor Faustus, being no longer able to obtain answers

The Faust Book, based on the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript:

Historia and Tale of Doctor Johannes Faustus. Ch. XII

Doctor Faustus, being no longer able to obtain answers from his spirit concerning godly matters, now had to rest content and desist from this purpose. It was in those days that he set about making almanacs and became a good astronomus and astrologus. He gained so much learning and experience from the spirit concerning horoscopes that all which he did contrive and write won the highest praise among all the mathematici of that day (as is, after all, common knowledge by now). His horoscopes, which he sent to great lords and princes, always were correct, for he contrived them according to the advice of his spirit as to what would come to pass in the future, all such matters falling duly out even as he had presaged them.

His tables and almanacs were praised above others because he set down naught in them but what did indeed come to pass. When he forecast fogs, wind, snow, precipitation, etc., these things were all quite certain. His almanacs were not as those of some unskilled astrologi who know of course that it gets cold in the winter, and hence forecast freezes, or that it will be hot in the summer, and predict thunderstorms. Doctor Faustus always calculated his tables in the manner described above, setting what should come to pass, specifying the day and the hour and especially warning the particular districts–this one with famine, that one with war, another with pestilence, and so forth.

Historia and Tale of Doctor Johannes Faustus. Ch. XII. The Faust Book, based on the Wolfenbüttel Manuscript

We’re not the centre of the Universe

We’re not the centre of the Universe:

Number of stars in the visible universe = 30 billion trillion (3×10²²)

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There are over two billion seconds in a 75-year lifetime. If that is your lifespan, then there are 12 trillion stars for every second of your life.

30,000,000,000,000 billion stars visible (there are more).
2.366820000 billion seconds = 75 years.

12,675,235,125,611.58 stars/second.

There are 12,675,235,125,612 stars per second (12.6 trillion) of a life. Each star could have a host of planets and other large bodies. In the Middle Ages, the model of the Universe had the lone Earth enclosed in spheres with God looking down from the heavens above. The Bible said that the Sun revolved around us.

The first planets outside of our solar system, while presumed to be there, were not discovered until very recently – in 1992. We’ve since discovered about 2,000. Applying estimates for our Milky Way, we might assume there are as many planets as stars. With 2,000 discovered, there are still about 30 billion trillion more. The number we have discovered is so small it has no impact on the number remaining – although finding the first was a big deal.

If God is not perched overhead, looking down on His special children, and if we are not the centre of the Universe, then what are we? What does it mean about God’s previously “revealed” truth? These were the sorts of questions faced by learned people of the time – and still. It shook their relationship with God and with the Church. Because of the import of these early discoveries, the Church was forced to act harshly in suppressing them as “errors.” They were errors because they contradicted God. To suggest that God, as reported in the Bible and as received by the Church, was wrong (or that the Church was misled and fallible) was heretical and earned death by burning.

A man peeks into the heavens
Flammarion engraving. Man peeks between heaven and the Earth to the cosmos (1888).

(If you tried to count the 12 trillion stars represented by the first second of your birth, and could count 5 per second, it would take you 80,331 years to count that first second’s stars.)

The telescope appeared to prove that a multitude of life

Developing observations in Europe seemed to show that there were worlds beyond our own Earth. While this was an idea that pre-dated Christianity, the idea that there was only one world – in accordance with Christian teachings – had been supported by the Church. Growing evidence that there must be more worlds damaged the credibility of the Church, and all ancient knowledge, including Biblical “truth.”

Cosmic pluralism, the plurality of worlds, or simply pluralism, describes the philosophical belief in numerous “worlds” in addition to Earth (possibly an infinite number), which may harbour extraterrestrial life.

The debate over pluralism began as early as the time of Anaximander (c. 610 – c. 546 BC) as an abstract metaphysical argument, long predating the scientific Copernican conception that the Earth is one of numerous planets. It has continued, in a variety of forms, until the modern era.

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The telescope appeared to prove that a multitude of life was reasonable and an expression of God’s creative omnipotence; still powerful theological opponents, meanwhile, continued to insist that although the Earth may have been displaced from the center of the cosmos, it was still the unique focus of God’s creation. Thinkers such as Johannes Kepler were willing to admit the possibility of pluralism without truly supporting it.

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Cosmic pluralism was a corollary to notions of infinity and the purported multitude of life-bearing worlds were more akin to parallel universes (either contemporaneously in space or infinitely recurring in time) than to different solar systems. After Thales and his student Anaximander opened the door to an infinite universe, a strong pluralist stance was adopted by the atomists, notably Leucippus, Democritus, and Epicurus. While these were prominent thinkers, their opponents—Plato and Aristotle—had greater effect. They argued that the Earth is unique and that there can be no other systems of worlds.This stance neatly dovetailed with later Christian ideas and pluralism was effectively suppressed for approximately a millennium.

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Deism is a theological/philosophical position that combines the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge with the conclusion that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.
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While many believe the United States to be founded as a Christian society, many of the leaders of the American revolution were actually influenced by deism. Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine are all identified as deists.

An ancient Greek and Christianity-influenced 17th-century Europe Humanist Enlightenment era faith of nature, reason, and free-thought, Deists rejected the unreliable word of man, including the miracles and supernaturalism of the Judeo-Christian tradition in favour of their own relationship with God.

Hermetica Part 1:

Hermetica Part 1: The Ancient Greek and Latin Writings Which Contain …
By Walter Scott

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3. But if thou wouldst see Him, bethink thee of the sun, bethink thee of moon’s course, bethink thee of the order of the stars. Who is the One who watcheth o’er that order? For every order hath its boundaries marked out by place and number.
The suns the greatest god of gods in heaven; to whom all of the heavenly gods give place as unto king and master. And he, this so-great one, he greater than the earth and sea, endures to have above him circling smaller stars than him. Out of respect to Whom, or out of fear of Whom, my son, [doth he do this]?
Nor like nor equal is the course each of these stars describes in heaven. Who [then] is He who marketh out the manner of their course and its extent?
4. The Bear up there that turneth round itself, and carries round the whole cosmos with it—Who is the owner of this instrument? Who He who hath set round the sea its bounds? Who He who hath set on its seat the earth?

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Selections from the Catholic Encyclopedia on Astrology

Selections from the Catholic Encyclopedia on Astrology:

“Up to the time of the Crusades, Christian countries in general were spared any trouble from a degenerate astrology. Only natural astrology, the correctness of which the peasant thought he had recognized by experience secured a firm footing in spite of the prohibition of Church and State. But the gradually increasing influence of Arabic learning upon the civilization of the West, which reached its highest point at the time of the Crusades was unavoidably followed by the spread of the false theories of astrology. This was a natural result of the amalgamation of the teachings of pure astronomy with astrology at the Mohammedan seats of learning. The spread of astrology was also furthered by the Jewish scholars living in Christian lands, for they considered astrology as a necessary part of their cabalistic and Talmudic studies.”
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“The public importance of astrology grew as the internal disorders of the Church increased and the papal and imperial power declined. Towards the close of the Middle Ages nearly every petty prince, as well as every ruler of importance, had his court astrologer upon whose ambiguous utterances the weal and the woe of the whole country often depended.”>

“The revival of classical learning brought with it a second period of prosperity for astrology. Among the civilized peoples of the Renaissance period, so profoundly stirred by the all-prevailing religious, social and political ferment, the astrological teaching which had come to light with other treasures of ancient Hellenic learning found many ardent disciples. The romantic trend of the age and its highly cultivated sensuality were conditions which contributed to place this art in a position far higher than any it had attained in its former period of prosperity. The forerunners of Humanism busied themselves with astrology, and but few of them perceived the dangerous psychical effect of its teachings upon the masses.”
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“Emperors and popes became votaries of astrology– the Emperors Charles IV and V, and Popes Sixtus IV, Julius II, Leo X, and Paul III. When these rulers lived astrology was, so to say, the regulator of official life; it is a fact characteristic of the age, that at the papal and imperial courts ambassadors were not received in audience until the court astrologer had been consulted.”
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“The influence of the Copernican theory, the war of enlightened minds against pseudo-prophetic wisdom and the increasing perception of the moral and psychical damage wrought by astrological humbug at last brought about a decline in the fortunes of astrology, and that precisely in Wallenstein’s time. At the same period astrological tracts were stil being written by the most celebrated of English astrologers, William Lilly of Diseworth, Leicestershire, who received a pension of 100 pounds from Cromwell’s council of state, and who, in spite of some awkward incidents, had no little political influence with Charles II. Among his works was a frequently republished “Christian Astrology”. Shakespeare (in King Lear) and Milton were acquainted with and advocated astrological theories, and Robert Fludd was a representative of the art at the royal court. Francis Bacon, it is true, sought to win adherents for a purified and reformed astrology in order to destroy the existing form of the art. It was Jonathan Swift who in his clever satire, “Prediction for the Year 1708 by Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq”, which deserves to be read even at the present day, gave the deathblow to the belief of English society in astrology. The last astrologer of importance on the Continent was Jean-Baptiste Marin, who issued “Astrologia Gallica” (1661). The greatly misunderstood Swiss naturalist Theophrastus Paracelsus was an opponent of astrology, and not its advocate, as was formerly inferred from writings erroneously attributed to him. The rapid growth of experimental investigation in the natural sciences in those countries which had been almost ruined, socially and politically; by the Thirty Years War completely banished the astrological parasites from society. Once more astrology fell to the level of a vulgar superstition, cutting a sorry figure among the classes that still had faith in the occult arts. The peasant held fast to his belief in natural astrologist and to this belief the progress of the art of printing and the spread of popular education contributed largely. For not only were there disseminated among the rural poor “farmer’s almanacs”, which contained information substantiated by the peasant’s own experience, but the printing-presses also supplied the peasant with a great mass of cheap and easily understood books containing much fantastic astrological nonsense.”
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“The remarkable physical discoveries of recent decades, in combination with the growing desire for an elevated philosophico-religious conception of the world and the intensified sensitiveness of the modern cultured man — all these together have caused astrology to emerge from its hiding place among paltry superstitions. The growth of occultistic ideas, which should, perhaps, not be entirely rejected, is reintroducing astrology into society. This is especially true of judicial astrology, which, however, by its constant encouragement of fatalistic views unsettles the belief in a Divine Providence. At present Judicial astrology is not justified by any scientific facts.”
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“Co-incident with the spread of old astrology in old Israel and the decline of the nation was the diffusion of demonology. The Jewish prayers to the planets, in the form in which they are preserved with others in Codex Paris, 2419 (folio 277r), came into existence at the time when Hellenism first flourished in the East, namely, the third and second centuries B.C. In these prayers special angels and demons are assigned to the different planets; the greatest and most powerful planet Saturn having only one angel, Ktetoel, and one demon, Beelzebub. These planetary demons regulated the destiny of men.”
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“The lower the Jewish nation sank in the scale of religion and civilization the greater was the power gained by the erratic doctrines of astrology and the accompanying belief in demonology. The earthly labours of the Saviour purified this noxious atmosphere. The New Testament is the opponent of astrology, which, by encouraging an apathetic fatalism, prevents the development of and elevating and strengthening trust in a Divine Providence.”
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Jacobi, M. (1907). Astrology. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 17, 2012 from New Advent:

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Church & Despots

Church & Despots

“Though Guizot’s [François Guizot (1787–1874)] affirmation that the Church has always sided with despotism is only too true, it must be remembered that in the policy she follows there is much of political necessity. She is urged on by the pressure of nineteen centuries. But, if the irresistible indicates itself in her action, the inevitable manifests itself in her life. For it is with the papacy as with a man. It has passed through the struggles of infancy, it has displayed the energies of maturity, and, its work completed, it must sink into the feebleness and querulousness of old age. Its youth can never be renewed. The influence of its souvenirs alone will remain. As pagan Rome threw her departing shadow over the empire and tinctured all its thoughts, so Christian Rome casts her parting shadow over Europe.”

History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. By John William Draper. Published 1875 by D. Appleton and company, New York.. Ch. XI.

Protestant Response to Newton

Protestant Response to Newton

“In the century preceding the epoch of Newton, a great religious and political revolution had taken place—the Reformation. Though its effect had not been the securing of complete liberty for thought, it had weakened many of the old ecclesiastical bonds. In the reformed countries there was no power to express a condemnation of Newton’s works, and among the clergy there was no disposition to give themselves any concern about the matter.

At first the attention of the Protestant was engrossed by the movements of his great enemy the Catholic, and when that source of disquietude ceased, and the inevitable partitions of the Reformation arose, that attention was fastened upon the rival and antagonistic Churches. The Lutheran, the Calvinist, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, had something more urgent on hand than Newton’s mathematical demonstrations.

So, uncondemned, and indeed unobserved, in this clamor of fighting sects, Newton’s grand theory solidly established itself. Its philosophical significance was infinitely more momentous than the dogmas that these persons were quarreling about. It not only accepted the heliocentric theory and the laws discovered by Kepler, but it proved that, no matter what might be the weight of opposing ecclesiastical authority, the sun MUST be the centre of our system, and that Kepler’s laws are the result of a mathematical necessity. It is impossible that they should be other than they are.”

History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. By John William Draper. Published 1875 by D. Appleton and company, New York.. Ch. IX.

Kepler Confounds Clergy, Clergy Condemn Kepler.

Kepler Confounds Clergy

“When Kepler announced his three laws, they were received with condemnation by the spiritual authorities, not because of any error they were supposed to present or to contain, but partly because they gave support to the Copernican system, and partly because it was judged inexpedient to admit the prevalence of law of any kind as opposed to providential intervention. The world was regarded as the theatre in which the divine will was daily displayed; it was considered derogatory to the majesty of God that that will should be fettered in any way.

The power of the clergy was chiefly manifested in the influence they were alleged to possess in changing his arbitrary determinations. It was thus that they could abate the baleful action of comets, secure fine weather or rain, prevent eclipses, and, arresting the course of Nature, work all manner of miracles; it was thus that the shadow had been made to go back on the dial, and the sun and the moon stopped in mid-career.”

History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. By John William Draper. Published 1875 by D. Appleton and company, New York.. Ch. IX.