I am in controversy, at worst, and debate, at best, with people in a closed group over a number of issues. [I’m sure that surprises no one. 😉 ] One of the topics under … discussion is Astrotheology.
Variously, Astrotheology has views relating asterisms (formerly: constellations) to mystical, religious, and “spiritual” ideas. Some hold that the stars were placed so one may play connect-the-dots, and a religious story is told. [Readers can probably infer my esteem for this. 😉 ]
Others posit that the stars, including anything that reflects the light of stars and that are in orbit around OUR star, Sol, i.e. planets, have influences, other than negligible effects of gravity, upon the developments of our characters, and the courses of our lives, and that all religions are merely this system of phenomena wrapped up in religious stories.
Yet others see that the same cognitive processes that produce religion, overactive pattern-matching, overactive theory of mind, confusion of dreams and hallucinations with Reality, and a bias for explanation, are the same that associate stars, and project meaning on to them. Some of the meanings projected have to do with the cycle of the cultivation of food and other issues of life, the seasons.
These categories do not, necessarily, exhaust the basic views of Astrotheologists, but the last one listed can be considered to be a subset of Anthropogenic Theology.
One HUGE problem with either view is that the stars in asterisms were imagined to be associated, to have some special, mystically effective, relationship with one another are NOT associated as imagined. The facts is that very few of the stars involved are any more related than with every other star in our Milky Way galaxy.
While SOME of the stars are in clusters, do to common ancestry, so to speak, in the supernovas of previous large stars, MOST of the stars are associated MERELY because of the relatively small angles between the vectors of lines of sight between our galactically insignificant rock and those stars, COMPLETELY accidental.
Another fatality to any REAL meaning in asterisms is the arbitrariness of the selection of the stars used to make up the constellation structures. Only the stars that are visible to the naked eyes were chosen. Many of the such stars in and around those chosen to be the dots to be connected are ignored.
AND, there are gazillions of stars that are not visible to the naked eye, for a few different causes. [Meditation on this, upon seeing today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, is what lead to the composition of this essay. See https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190201.html]
And yet another feature that should result in mystical or religious versions of Astrotheology being left in the library section of Mythology is that interpretations of the asterisms are COMPLETELY dependent upon the cultures of the interpreters, or, rather, projectors of meaning.
Astrotheology is an intriguing topic, but ought not to be considered ANY source of truth, except in the anthropological sense, in understanding the development of thought of humans, how our ancestors, and we, understand the world in which we live.
[originally composed as a post on Facebook]