The Fated Sky: Astrology in History

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In a horoscope he cast in 1647 for Charles I, William Lilly, a noted English astrologer, made the following judgment: "Luna is with Antares, a violent fixed star, which is said to denote violent death, and Mars is approaching Caput Algol, which is said to denote beheading." Two years later the king's head fell on the block. "Astrology must be right," wrote the American astrologer Evangeline Adams, a claimed descendant of President John Quincy Adams, in a challenge to skeptics in 1929. "There can be no appeal from the Infinite."
The Fated Sky explores both the history of astrology and the controversial subject of its influence in history. It is the first serious book to fully engage astrology in this way.
Astrology is the oldest of the occult sciences. It is also the origin of science itself. Astronomy, mathematics, and other disciplines arose in part to make possible the calculations necessary in casting horoscopes. For five thousand years, from the ancient Near East to the modern world, the influence of the stars has been viewed as shaping the course and destiny of human affairs. According to recent polls, at least 30 percent of the American public believes in astrology, though, as Bobrick reveals, modern astrology is also utterly different from the doctrine of the stars that won the respect and allegiance of the greatest thinkers, scientists, and writers -- Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Arab, and Persian -- of an earlier day. Statesmen, popes, and kings once embraced it, and no less a figure than St. Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian, thought it not incompatible with Christian faith. There are some two hundred astrological allusions in Shakespeare's plays, and not one of their astrological predictions goes unfulfilled. The great astronomers of the scientific revolution -- Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Kepler -- were adherents. Isaac Newton's appetite for mathematics was first whetted by an astrological text. In more recent times, prominent figures such as Churchill, de Gaulle, and Reagan have consulted astrologers and sometimes heeded their advice. Today universities as diverse as Oxford in England and the University of Zaragoza in Spain offer courses in the subject, fulfilling Carl Jung's prediction decades ago that astrology would again become the subject of serious discourse.
Whether astrology actually has the powers that have been ascribed to it is, of course, open to debate. But there is no doubt that it maintains an unshakeable hold on the human mind. In The Fated Sky, Benson Bobrick has written an absolutely captivating and comprehensive account of this engrossing subject and its enduring influence on history and the history of ideas.
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About the author

Benson Bobrick earned his doctorate from Columbia University and is the author of several critically acclaimed works, including Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired and Angel in the Whirlwind: The Triumph of the American Revolution. In 2002 he received the Literature Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He and his wife, Hilary, live in Vermont.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Nov 8, 2005
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780743281942
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Language
English
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Genres
Body, Mind & Spirit / General
History / General
History / World
Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Next to the Bible itself, the English Bible was -- and is -- the most influential book ever published. The most famous of all English Bibles, the King James Version, was the culmination of centuries of work by various translators, from John Wycliffe, the fourteenth-century catalyst of English Bible translation, to the committee of scholars who collaborated on the King James translation. Wide as the Waters examines the life and work of Wycliffe and recounts the tribulations of his successors, including William Tyndale, who was martyred, Miles Coverdale, and others who came to bitter ends. It traces the story of the English Bible through the tumultuous reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I, a time of fierce contest between Catholics and Protes-tants in England, as the struggle to establish a vernacular Bible was fought among competing factions. In the course of that struggle, Sir Thomas More, later made a Catholic saint, helped orchestrate the assault on the English Bible, only to find his own true faith the plaything of his king.

In 1604, a committee of fifty-four scholars, the flower of Oxford and Cambridge, collaborated on the new translation for King James. Their collective expertise in biblical languages and related fields has probably never been matched, and the translation they produced -- substantially based on the earlier work of Wycliffe, Tyndale, and others -- would shape English literature and speech for centuries. As the great English historian Macaulay wrote of their version, "If everything else in our language should perish, it alone would suffice to show the extent of its beauty and power." To this day its common expressions, such as "labor of love," "lick the dust," "a thorn in the flesh," "the root of all evil," "the fat of the land," "the sweat of thy brow," "to cast pearls before swine," and "the shadow of death," are heard in everyday speech.

The impact of the English Bible on law and society was profound. It gave every literate person access to the sacred text, which helped to foster the spirit of inquiry through reading and reflection. This, in turn, accelerated the growth of commercial printing and the proliferation of books. Once people were free to interpret the word of God according to the light of their own understanding, they began to question the authority of their inherited institutions, both religious and secular. This led to reformation within the Church, and to the rise of constitutional government in England and the end of the divine right of kings. England fought a Civil War in the light (and shadow) of such concepts, and by them confirmed the Glorious Revolution of 1688. In time, the new world of ideas that the English Bible helped inspire spread across the Atlantic to America, and eventually, like Wycliffe's sea-borne scattered ashes, all the world over, "as wide as the waters be."

Wide as the Waters is a story about a crucial epoch in the history of Christianity, about the English language and society, and about a book that changed the course of human events.
New York Times Bestseller

A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg

From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?

Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.

Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?

Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.

In this revelatory, dynamic biography, one of our finest historians, Benson Bobrick, profiles George H. Thomas, arguing that he was the greatest and most successful general of the Civil War. Because Thomas didn't live to write his memoirs, his reputation has been largely shaped by others, most notably Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, two generals with whom Thomas served and who, Bobrick says, diminished his successes in their favor in their own memoirs.

Born in Virginia, Thomas survived Nat Turner's rebellion as a boy, then studied at West Point, where Sherman was a classmate. Thomas distinguished himself in the Mexican War and then returned to West Point as an instructor. When the Civil War broke out, Thomas remained loyal to the Union, unlike fellow Virginia-born officer Robert E. Lee (among others). He compiled an outstanding record as an officer in battles at Mill Springs, Perryville, and Stones River. At the Battle of Chickamauga, Thomas, at the time a corps commander, held the center of the Union line under a ferocious assault, then rallied the troops on Horseshoe Ridge to prevent a Confederate rout of the Union army. His extraordinary performance there earned him the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga."

Promoted to command of the Army of the Cumberland, he led his army in a stunning Union victory at the Battle of Chattanooga. Thomas supported Sherman on his march through Georgia in the spring of 1864, winning an important victory at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. As Sherman continued on his March to the Sea, Thomas returned to Tennessee and in the battle of Nashville destroyed the army of Confederate General John Bell Hood. It was one of the most decisive victories of the war, and Thomas won it even as Grant was on his way to remove Thomas from his command. (When Grant discovered the magnitude of Thomas's victory, he quickly changed his mind.) Thomas died of a stroke in 1870 while still on active duty. In the entire Civil War, he never lost a battle or a movement.

Throughout his career, Thomas was methodical and careful, and always prepared. Unlike Grant at Shiloh, he was never surprised by an enemy. Unlike Sherman, he never panicked in battle but always remained calm and focused. He was derided by both men as "Slow Trot Thomas," but as Bobrick shows in this brilliant biography, he was quick to analyze every situation and always knew what to do and when to do it. He was not colorful like Grant and Sherman, but he was widely admired by his peers, and some, such as Grant's favorite cavalry commander, General James H. Wilson, thought Thomas the peer of any general in either army. He was the only Union commander to destroy two Confederate armies in the field.

Although historians of the Civil War have always regarded Thomas highly, he has never captured the public imagination, perhaps because he has lacked an outstanding biographer -- until now. This informed, judicious, and lucid biography at last gives Thomas his due.
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