Taming the Prophets: Astrology, Orthodoxy and the Word of God in Early Modern Sweden

Project: Dissertation

Layman's description

When the Finnish astrologer Sigfridus Aronus Forsius in a prognostication for 1619 complained that his art had become despised, and was respected no more than ”an old, long remaining rotten fish”, this is corresponding to an actual tendency in the sources. In my thesis I am studying these hardening attitudes towards astrology among the Swedish clergy at the turn of the seventeenth century.

A main purpose of the thesis is to challenge the view of how the Reformation, regarded as a preliminary stage to the Enlightenment and modern rationalism, contributed to the so-called 'disenchantment of the world', thus driving astrology and other 'occult sciences' out of the fields of established science.

Throughout the sixteenth century, astrology had been accepted and even used as a prophetic method in Lutheran preaching. Since the 1580s, Swedish clergymen and intellectuals had issued astrological almanacs, and in a prognostication for 1598, Laurentius Paulinus Gothus, at the time professor of astronomy in Uppsala, had in strong terms defended astrology. However, twenty years later, Paulinus would lead a clergy that completely condemned astrology as superstition and pagan divination.

To explain this tendency in my thesis, I will try to present a few central factors. As bishop, Paulinus had more than before become responsible for keeping knowledge and learning in the tight reins of religion. The division of responsibilities between worldly and clerical authorities, and the new position of the clergy, had lessened the need of astrology as a prophetic tool. Through the agency of the book printers, astrological literature had in the meantime become accessible to the common man. Hereby old arguments against astrology were reused in order to maintain the clerical monopoly of knowledge to the very last.
Effective start/end date2001/09/012010/12/31