Modern Astrology and Palmistry

PHILOSOPHERS tell us that man’s great advantage over the beasts of the field depends upon his power transmit the teachings of experience to his children and successors ; and they draw a cheerful picture of a race ever increasing in wisdom. Blessed be languages and books, they say.

It was only the other day that I picked up in a fine lady’s drawing-room one of these blessed books. It was a treatise on astrology, written, printed, and sold by thousands, in this the first year of the twentieth century. It was no shabby, ill-printed brochure, but a neat volume, fat and prosperous - looking. Very likely the brochure might have been found in the kitchen. It is certain that the fine lady, at any rate, felt that the stars foretold her destinies.

There are treatises on palmistry galore, and believers in them from the fine lady to the housemaid. Watch them inspecting “ the line of life ” ! It is long, — they will live to eighty; it is unbroken, — their years will pass peacefully ; here is a disease, there a sorrow. Perhaps it is short; alas, they have but a year to live. Logic is wasted on them. Let us try an argument based on money, which they both can understand. Has either of them stopped to reflect that a salary of five hundred thousand dollars a year is waiting for her at the office of any one of the great life insurance companies ? If all the accidents of flood and field, all perils, and the outcome of all diseases are integrated in this one line of life, why do the doctors waste time on the stethoscope ?

It is not so certain that languages and books are unmixed blessings, after all. They certainly transmit the delusions of our fathers along with their wisdom. Lord Monboddo declared that language was originally invented by a congress of learned men assembled for the purpose. While they were about it, they might have devised a touchstone for truth, a litmus that would turn red in the presence of a lie. In default of this, we must fall back on the criteria of common sense. It is a little discouraging, meanwhile, to find judicial astrology, palmistry, and quackeries of the sort still flourishing among us in fat and prosperous books, and especially to discover such books and beliefs in the most unexpected places.