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The Modern Romans (part 5)

Suddenly — in America and Britain — there is a dramatic upsurge in astrology.
It's big business. Even witchcraft has become respectable.
Why — in this age of the computer?


"SAY, BOB, did you see your boss about that great new idea you have on how to save the company money?" "Oh, no — not today, Frank! My boss seemed a bit upset. And I'm Aquarius, you know. My astrological forecast said to avoid the executive in an angry mood."

Or take this conversation between two women — "Jane, I think I've decided — I want to marry George. He's perfect for me. We're both Aries.

And he's just like the horoscope says — romantic, attentive, gallant, chivalrous, passionate — and everything."

Unbelievable? No, it's becoming commonplace. Astrology, spiritualism and the occult have taken firm foot in sophisticated, modern nations.


"Mystic Revolution"

Ours is the age of marijuana, "speed," LSD and other mind-scrambling drugs — of psychedelic music, bizarre art and fashions. Now we have the "mystic revolution."

Many who have found little solace in conventional Christianity are now seeking spiritual enlightenment by attempting to "expand the mind," explore the unusual, or experience some psychic thrill or sensation.

Reports the U.S. business daily, Wall Street Journal, a newspaper not given to sensationalism: "The practice of witchcraft is casting its spell on thousands of men and women . . . in the country. And Americans are turning not only to witchcraft but also to astrology, spiritualism, all kinds of psychic phenomena and even devil worship."

One weekly U.S. news magazine estimates that 10 million Americans are "hard-core adherents" to astrological forecasting. Another 40 million, it reported, dabble in the subject. Said the magazine: "It appears clear that what was once regarded as an offshoot of the occult is a rapidly evolving popular creed."

It was the same among the Romans shortly before the empire collapsed.

"Predictive astrology, like divination and occultism generally tends to take hold in times of confusion, uncertainty and the breakdown of religious belief. Astrologers and assorted sorcerers were busy in Rome while the empire was declining and prevalent throughout Europe during the great 17th century waves of plague. Today's young stargazers claim to be responding to a similar sense of disintegration and disenchantment. . ." (Time, March 21, 1969)


"Biggest Revival Since Fall of Babylon"

In Canada, the story is much the same. Robert Thomas Allen writes in the October, 1969, issue of Maclean's magazine:

". . . Canadians are going in for what is probably the biggest revival of astrology since the fall of Babylon. . .

"Nobody even looks at you out of the corner of an eye now if you say your moon is in Pisces. Horoscopes now appear regularly in most women's magazines, like recipes or fashions. . . A course in astrology packed night classes at Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto last fall and is scheduled again for this fall. . .

"On top of all this," continues Allen, "there is sharply increased interest in tarot cards, numerology, teacup reading and palmistry. . ."

But few seem to understand why this trend has developed.


"Colossal Increase" in Britain

In Britain, the new "psychic" age is perhaps more entrenched than anywhere else in the Western world. A leading London consultant in psychosomatic medicine says: "There is undoubtedly a colossal increase in interest in mysticism of all kinds. . . The unmistakable trend is for more professional people to pursue a search for a glimpse into the future."

The respected Sunday Times in Britain estimates that over two thirds of Britain's adults read their horoscopes. Of these about a fifth — or seven million — take them seriously.

Again we ask, why?

Some estimate that over a third of the adult British public believes in fortune telling and nearly half in telepathy.

The five reasons for Rome's fall deduced from the writings of noted historians of the Roman world:

(1) The breakdown of the family and the rapid increase of divorce.

(2) The spiraling rise of taxes and extravagant spending.

(3) The mounting craze for pleasure and the brutalization of sports.

(4) The expanding production of armaments to fight ever-increasing threats of enemy attacks — when the real enemy was the decay of the society from within.

(5) The decay of religion into myriad and confusing forms, leaving the people without a uniform guide.

"Astonishingly," reported the Times, "14 percent claim to have experienced telepathy themselves."

In Britain, one study indicates that as many as 20,000 witches may be in active practice. Since 1951, when the last law against witches was erased from the law books, Britain has experienced a veritable epidemic of black magic. The nation's witches have even appeared on television. They have adopted Madison Avenue techniques to bolster their public image. As do members of any reputable organization, they hold conventions, press conferences, write books, and give lectures.

Public Demand Soaring

You can get an indication of how fast "stargazing" has increased by a few shocking facts. Twenty years ago, barely 10 newspapers in the United States carried daily astrological forecasts. Today, 1200 out of 1750 dailies carry the daily plot-your-life-by-the-stars column.

One American magazine publisher puts out some 30 separate horoscope magazines. During 1968 it sold 8 million copies of its purse-size editions.

Today, the finest bookstores in any town have racks reserved for books on astrology and the occult.

There are horoscope cookbooks, books on how to diet by the stars, astrological guides to beauty and, of course, love and marriage. Other books delve much deeper into the field. According to the New York Times Book Review of August 11, 1968:

"American publishers have discovered of late that there is a great deal of money to be made in convincing readers that the fault is not in themselves but in their stars. Books on parapsychology, mysticism and the subjects that seem to follow inexorably from them — yoga, ESP, clairvoyance, precognition, telepathy, astrology, witches, mediums, ghosts, Atlantis, psycho-kinesis, prophecy, and most of all, reincarnation — are flourishing."

The review continues:

" 'The public interest has been way ahead of the publishers' response,' says LeBaron R. Barker, executive editor of Doubleday & Co. 'People in general want to read about these things. After all, there's the possibility of discovering the meaning of life. We can't get enough good books on the subject.' "