"Just out of curiosity, what is the best planetary grouping ever? My reading and research have turned up two remarkable events. On the morning of February 24th, 1953 BC, all five naked eye planets were within 4 degrees of each other just before dawn. By March 2nd, the grouping wasn't as tight, but the crescent moon joined the show. History doesn't contain any record of anyone having observed this remarkable grouping, but it must have been breathtaking for anyone who was paying attention.
The other "best ever" planetary grouping hasn't happened yet, but odds are at least better that you'll live to see it. On the evening of September 8th, 2040, all five naked eye planets and the crescent moon will be in a grouping just 9 degrees wide low in the western sky. While not quite as tight as the 1953 BC event, it will be quite memorable. I've got it marked on my calendar. How about you?"
As it turns out, this astronomer was wrong - not in his calculations, but concerning the historical moment of 1953 B.C. Chronology is hard to calculate for ancient times, but a while ago I did research on the book of Jasher, a lost book of the Bible (which I covered in my previous blog - there is a link to an online version in my profile), which happens to contain a very accurate chronology. One thing I discovered in my calculations that it was in the year 1953 B.C. that Abraham was born - the father of the three main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And guess what? The astrologers of Babylonia took notice of the grand conjunction in that year - I will quote the story in full:
- And it was in the night that Abram was born, that all the servants of Terah, and all the wise men of Nimrod, and his conjurors came and ate and drank in the house of Terah, and they rejoiced with him on that night.
- And when all the wise men and conjurors went out from the house of Terah, they lifted up their eyes toward heaven that night to look at the stars, and they saw, and behold one very large star came from the east and ran in the heavens, and he swallowed up the four stars from the four sides of the heavens.
- And all the wise men of the king and his conjurors were astonished at the sight, and the sages understood this matter, and they knew its import.
- And they said to each other, This only betokens the child that has been born to Terah this night, who will grow up and be fruitful, and multiply, and possess all the earth, he and his children for ever, and he and his seed will slay great kings, and inherit their lands. (Jasher 8:1-4)
Later in the year of 1953 B.C., there was a triple conjunction between the planets of Jupiter and Saturn. Conjunctions between these two planets occur every 20 years, but triple conjunctions are rare - they occur every 973 years. And it seems that every other time this occurs it marks a significant event in history. In 7 B.C. there was a triple conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. Many consider this to be the "star of Bethlehem" that the three Magi sought out to find the baby Jesus. As king Herod slaughtered the children of Bethlehem hoping to kill Jesus before he had grown, so the story of Jasher describes how the king of Babylonia sought to kill Abram due to the presage of astrologers. There is much speculation on what exactly was the star of Bethlehem, but this parallel suggest this was it.
If we look at the event before 1953 B.C., we come to the year 3899 B.C. in which a triple conjunction occurred. Again, using the book of Jasher the chronology indicates that the "creation" of Adam occurred in the year 3901 B.C. - two years within this date. In the New Testament Jesus is known as the "second Adam", as he came to restore the spiritual nature to humanity.
If we look beyond the year 7 B.C., another triple conjunction occurred in the years 1940-41, with the central conjunction occurring on Oct. 20, 1940. Just out of curiosity, was anyone significant born on this particular date? This is where this line of thought gets a little strange. I did a lookup of famous people, and it just so happens that this was the birthdate of Robert Pinsky. Who is Robert Pinsky? According to the wikipedia:
Robert Pinsky (born October 20, 1940) is a leading American poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 – 2000, he served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (popularly known as the Poet Laureate of the United States).
So we have Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and now...Robert Pinsky, a poet? That just seems a little anti-climactic. The odd thing here is Robert Pinsky happens to be an Orthodox Jew - in the same family line as Adam, Abraham and Jesus. Here is a summary of critics' views on his poetry:
"Pinsky is often praised for "his grasp of traditional metrical forms and his ability to evoke timeless meaning within the strictures of contemporary idioms." Critics applaud, "his ability to imbue simple images—a Brownie troop square dance, cold weather, the music of Fats Waller—with underlying meaning to create order out of the accidental events people encounter in their lives." Commentators admire Pinsky's, "ambitiousness, his juxtaposition of the personal with the universal, the present with the past, the simple with the complex, and it has been noted that his intellectual style presents challenges to readers, obliging them to unravel the complexity behind the clarity of language and imagery."
About Robert Pinsky's first book of poems Robert Lowell wrote, "It is refreshing to find a poet who is intellectually interesting and technically first-rate. Robert Pinsky belongs to that rarest category of talent, a poet-critic." Writing in the Times Literary Supplement, William Pritchard called "Sadness and Happiness", "the best work by any younger poet within recent memory." Louis Martz wrote of Pinsky "the most exhilarating new poet that I have read since A. R. Ammons entered upon the scene. In his peculiar and original combination of abstract utterance and vivid image Pinsky points the way toward the future of poetry." "The Inferno of Dante" has been celebrated by Stephen Greenblatt as, "the premier modern text for English-language readers to experience Dante's power." Hugh Kenner has described Pinsky's ambition as "nothing less than the recovery for language of a whole domain of mute and familiar experience," (http://www.bu.edu/favoritepoem/contact/rp_bio.html, 2). "In his poems Pinsky talks, with democratic warmth and intimacy, to the common things of this world. His extraordinary poems remind us that he has always embodied the very ideal he proposes for what a poet can do," (Lloyd Schwarz, The Boston Phoenix). "Among the many writers who have come of age in our fin de siècle, none has succeeded more completely as a poet, critic and translator than Robert Pinsky," (James Longenbach, The Nation). (http://www.bu.edu/favoritepoem/contact/rp_bio.html, 2)
"Robert Pinsky's poetry is noted for its combination of vivid imagery and clear, discursive language that explores such themes as truth, the history of nations and individuals, and the transcendent aspects of simple acts. Pinsky strives to create an organized view of the world, often confronting and trying to explain the past to bring order to the present. Recurring subjects in his work include the Holocaust, religion, and childhood. Pinsky's moral tone and mastery of poetic meter often are compared to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English poets, and the insights conveyed in his analytical works on poetry have led critics to place him in the tradition of other poet-critics such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Matthew Arnold, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden."
Time will only tell if this assessment is correct. If anyone else knows someone significant that was born on Oct. 19-20, 1940, or perhaps on another date close to the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, I would like to know. The other two conjunctions were on Aug. 8, 1940, and Feb. 15, 1941. One wonders if the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews is a historical parallel to the slaughter of innocents in Bethlehem. If so, who is that individual that escaped?