VI. TWO PSEUDO-SCIENCES—ALCHEMY AND ASTROLOGY
Again, "Anno 1157, in September, there were seen three Suns together, in as clear weather as could be: And a few days after, in the same month, three Moons, and, in the Moon that stood in the middle, a white Crosse. Sueno, King of Denmark, at a great Feast, killeth Canutus: Sueno is himself slain, in pursuit of Waldemar. The Order of Eremites, according to the rule of Saint Augustine, begun this year; and in the next, the Pope submits to the Emperour: (was not this miraculous?) Lombardy was also adjudged to the Emperour."
Continuing this list of peculiar phenomena he comes down to within a few years of his own time.
"Anno 1622, three Suns appeared at Heidelberg. The woful Calamities that have ever since fallen upon the Palatinate, we are all sensible of, and of the loss of it, for any thing I see, for ever, from the right Heir. Osman the great Turk is strangled that year; and Spinola besiegeth Bergen up Zoom, etc."
Fortified by the enumeration of these past events, he then proceeds to make his deductions. "Only this I must tell thee," he writes, "that the interpretation I write is, I conceive, grounded upon probable foundations; and who lives to see a few years over his head, will easily perceive I have unfolded as much as was fit to discover, and that my judgment was not a mile and a half from truth."
There is a great significance in this "as much as was fit to discover"—a mysterious something that Lilly thinks it expedient not to divulge. But, nevertheless, one would imagine that he was about to make some definite prediction about Charles I., since these three suns appeared upon his birthday and surely must portend something concerning him. But after rambling on through many pages of dissertations upon planets and prophecies, he finally makes his own indefinite prediction.
"O all you Emperors, Kings, Princes, Rulers and Magistrates of Europe, this unaccustomed Apparition is like the Handwriting in Daniel to some of you; it premonisheth you, above all other people, to make your peace with God in time. You shall every one of you smart, and every one of you taste (none excepted) the heavie hand of God, who will strengthen your subjects with invincible courage to suppress your misgovernments and Oppressions in Church or Common-wealth; . . . Those words are general: a word for my own country of England. . . . Look to yourselves; here's some monstrous death towards you. But to whom? wilt thou say. Herein we consider the Signe, Lord thereof, and the House; The Sun signifies in that Royal Signe, great ones; the House signifies captivity, poison, Treachery: From which is derived thus much, That some very great man, what King, Prince, Duke, or the like, I really affirm I perfectly know not, shall, I say, come to some such untimely end."
Here is shown a typical example of astrological prophecy, which seems to tell something or nothing, according to the point of view of the reader. According to a believer in astrology, after the execution of Charles I., five years later, this could be made to seem a direct and exact prophecy. For example, he says: "You Kings, Princes, etc., ... it premonisheth you ... to make your peace with God.... Look to yourselves; here's some monstrous death towards you. ... That some very great man, what King, Prince, . shall, I say, come to such untimely end."
But by the doubter the complete prophecy could be shown to be absolutely indefinite, and applicable as much to the king of France or Spain as to Charles I., or to any king in the future, since no definite time is stated. Furthermore, Lilly distinctly states, "What King, Prince, Duke, or the like, I really affirm I perfectly know not"—which last, at least, was a most truthful statement. The same ingenuity that made "Gen. Monk" the "dreadful dead man," could easily make such a prediction apply to the execution of Charles I. Such a definite statement that, on such and such a day a certain number of years in the future, the monarch of England would be beheaded—such an exact statement can scarcely be found in any of the works on astrology. It should be borne in mind, also, that Lilly was of the Cromwell party and opposed to the king.
After the death of Charles I., Lilly admitted that the monarch had given him a thousand pounds to cast his horoscope. "I advised him," says Lilly, "to proceed eastwards; he went west, and all the world knows the result." It is an unfortunate thing for the cause of astrology that Lilly failed to mention this until after the downfall of the monarch. In fact, the sudden death, or decline in power, of any monarch, even to-day, brings out the perennial post-mortem predictions of astrologers.
We see how Lilly, an opponent of the king, made his so-called prophecy of the disaster of the king and his army. At the same time another celebrated astrologer and rival of Lilly, George Wharton, also made some predictions about the outcome of the eventful march from Oxford. Wharton, unlike Lilly, was a follower of the king's party, but that, of course, should have had no influence in his "scientific" reading of the stars. Wharton's predictions are much less verbose than Lilly's, much more explicit, and, incidentally, much more incorrect in this particular instance. "The Moon Lady of the 12," he wrote, "and moving betwixt the 8 degree, 34 min., and 21 degree, 26 min. of Aquarius, gives us to understand that His Majesty shall receive much contentment by certain Messages brought him from foreign parts; and that he shall receive some sudden and unexpected supply of . . . by the means of some that assimilate the condition of his Enemies: And withal this comfort; that His Majesty shall be exceeding successful in Besieging Towns, Castles, or Forts, and in persuing the enemy.