“My Study of Astrology”

by James E. Talmage

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    (James E. Talmage, extracted from an article entitled, “My Study of Astrology,” which appeared in The Contributor in 1893.)

    “Years ago, while a … schoolboy in far-off England, I … [made] acquaintance with an aged sage who placed implicit trust in the … stars. … He devoted himself with great energy to instruct me in the mysteries of [astrology]. I drank at this fountain of error with increasing thirst, and trusted his words with all the power of a child’s simple faith. … Before I was ten years old, I had learned to cast the horoscope. …

    “Among my schoolmates was a big blustering fellow, who ruled … the playground … by force of animal might. We all acknowledged his supremacy, and paid him tribute of our property. … Further, he compelled us to work his sums for him, to draw his maps, and write his essays. … If any boy appeared to doubt his authority, … a severe drubbing was applied to bring the rebel to a sense of his duty.

    “Worse than this, our oppressor … was the [son] of a [wealthy] family, and the subject of the teacher’s favor. …

    I consulted the stars, and determined to break the [chains] that bound us and to set myself and my school-fellows free. … I managed to find from [the bully’s sister] the date and exact hour of Ben’s birth. With this information I hurried home, and at once proceded to compute his [horoscope]. Ah! I might have known it: … He was a son of Saturn, born when the planet was in ill conjunction: what wonder then that he was untrustworthy, mean, and cruel? Then I cast the horoscope of the future, and found that at a convenient hour, five o’clock in the afternoon [a week from] Wednesday, his star would be declining, and mine would be in the ascendency. … Surely the day of our deliverance was near at hand: the stars had promised to help me in my dangerous enterprise, and victory was assured. … Force should be subdued by the power of superior knowledge.

    “So on the morning of the appointed day I confronted his saturnine majesty on the playground, and challenged him to meet me that evening at five o’clock, boldly expressing my determination to show him who would be master from that time forth. … He indulged in a loud laugh and cuffed my ears; but this I bore, … for the time of revenge had not yet come. … During the day I received many a hearty wish for success. …

    “At five o’clock we were at the appointed place; a score of boys were there to see fair play done. My antagonist was nearly a foot taller, and fully a stone [14 pounds] heavier than I, but these were trifles below notice; had I not the happy assurance of the stars that I should win? I made a speech to the burly fellow, setting forth a few of his many acts of oppression and cruelty, and closed with a … flourish, declaring that henceforth we would be free. This was received with a laugh of derision by my opponent, and the hostilities began.

    “The conflict, though fierce, was … brief. I [gradually recovered consciousness, and found myself] lying on the ground, cheek cut, eyes bruised, nose smashed, a couple of teeth loosened, and a quantity of hair gone. The bully retired without a scratch.

    “As I slowly made my way homeward, I was in an unusually thoughtful state. I began for the first time in my life to have serious doubts [about astrology]. Amongst my family my appearance created considerable consternation; then my [father] reminded me of his oft repeated injunctions against fighting; and to impress the lesson firmly upon my mind, he proceded to illustrate his lecture by sundry strokes with the buckle end of a stout strap.

    “This was convincing. My doubts vanished, and with them all my confidence in the horoscope. I knew that astrology was a fraud.”