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    Current Planets
    25-Jan-2015, 14:52 UT/GMT
    Sun5Aquarius18'23"18s56
    Moon15Aries5'14"5n44
    Mercury15Aquarius35'26"r13s50
    Venus27Aquarius30' 4"13s49
    Mars10Pisces18'44"8s31
    Jupiter19Leo13' 9"r15n57
    Saturn3Sagittarius3'11"18s50
    Uranus13Aries4'51"4n34
    Neptune6Pisces6'40"9s57
    Pluto14Capricorn0'38"20s35
    TrueNode12Libra26'59"4s55
    Chiron14Pisces50'27"1s48
    Explanations of the symbols
    Chart of the moment
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University of Wales, Lampeter
The Sophia Centre
Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture

The Sophia Centre was established at Bath Spa University in 2002, where it achieved an international reputation for its groundbreaking MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. In 2007 the Centre transferred to the University of Wales, Lampeter, in order to achieve a greater international reach and teach the MA as a distance-learning programme.

The Centre's academic goals are 'to pursue research, scholarship and teaching in the relationship between astrological, astronomical and cosmological beliefs and theories, and society, politics, religion and the arts, past and present' and to 'to undertake the academic and critical examination of astrology and its practice'.

The Centre's wider goal is stated in its title – to 'study cosmology in culture'. This enables us to tackle a wide range of topics, from Egyptian sky religion and Babylonian astrology, to astronomy in surrealist painting, astrology in contemporary culture, UFO abduction and the politics of the space race.

The Centre promotes research in the subject area, holds seminars and conferences, including an annual graduate conference, is associated with the publication 'Culture and Cosmos', teaches the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and supervises PhD students.

We define Cultural Astronomy as the 'study of the application of beliefs about the stars to all aspects of human culture, from religion and science to the arts and literature. It includes the new discipline of archaeoastronomy - the study of astronomical alignments, orientation and symbolism in architecture, ancient and modern'. Astrology is 'the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and events on earth, and the tradition that has thus been generated'. We take our cue from Michael Hoskin, editor of the 'Journal on the History of Astronomy', who posed the question, 'what astronomy is not an astronomy in culture?'

Cultural astronomy is an emerging discipline attracting an increasing number of scholars who are aware of the sky's importance to humanity. The importance of astrology in the history of ideas was established by Lynn Thorndike in 1905 in 'The Place of Magic in the Intellectual History of Europe'. Astrology's role in contemporary culture tends to be mentioned briefly by sociologists, often in a New Age context, but is rarely investigated in detail.

The words astronomy and astrology have distinct meanings in modern English. Astronomy is the scientific study of the physical universe. Astrology is more akin to a study of the psychic universe. But the split between the two is a feature of the modern west. Both words are of Greek origin; astronomy means the 'law' of the stars, while astrology is best translated as the 'word', or 'reason', of the stars. In the classical world, their meanings overlapped. To the Greek scholar Claudius Ptolemy, writing in the 2nd century, there were two forms of astronomy, one which dealt with the movement of the stars, the other (which we would call astrology) with their effects or significance. From then until the seventeenth century, the two words were interchangeable. In 'King Lear', Shakespeare had Edgar refer to his brother Edmund, who had been posing as an astrologer, as a 'sectary astronomical'. Other terms Shakespeare might have used include mathematician (the astronomer Johannes Kepler studied astrology as part of his duties as 'Imperial Mathematician') or Chaldean (both astrology and astronomy were commonly traced to Mesopotamia). Neither do most non-western countries employ different words to distinguish traditional astronomy from astrology. In India both are jyotish, the 'science of light'. In Japan they are onmyodo, the 'yin-yang way'. The title of the MA, whose subject matter includes the beliefs and practices of pre-modern and non-western cultures, as well as contemporary worlds, is therefore necessarily 'Cultural Astronomy ANDAstrology'.

The Centre's purpose is to understand the cultural role and function of beliefs about the sky, rather than mathematical astronomy or technical astrology. We work from a humanities/social science perspective and encompass research styles and methodologies from anthropology, history, religious studies and sociology. The focus is on astronomy and astrology as systems of story-telling about the cosmos, or the location of meaning in the heavens.

Work undertaken by students has included such diverse topics as classical theories of the ascent of the soul, Christian critiques of astrology, modern pagan calendar rituals, children's perceptions of the sky, the use of astrology in business, the tarot as a cosmological model in the nineteenth century 'occult revival', astrology and enchantment, astrology in surrealist painting, the naming of planets, the nature of the astrological consultation, and cinema as cosmology. We aim to publish the best student work.

We welcome inquiries from prospective students around the world. We maintain international links with other institutions pursuing similar programmes and are always ready to consider offers of collaboration.

Alice Ekrek, Administrator

More Information about the Sophia Centre

Current Planets
25-Jan-2015, 14:52 UT/GMT
Sun5Aquarius18'23"18s56
Moon15Aries5'14"5n44
Mercury15Aquarius35'26"r13s50
Venus27Aquarius30' 4"13s49
Mars10Pisces18'44"8s31
Jupiter19Leo13' 9"r15n57
Saturn3Sagittarius3'11"18s50
Uranus13Aries4'51"4n34
Neptune6Pisces6'40"9s57
Pluto14Capricorn0'38"20s35
TrueNode12Libra26'59"4s55
Chiron14Pisces50'27"1s48
Explanations of the symbols
Chart of the moment
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