By Gustav-Adolf Schoener
Esoterica, Vol.9 (2007)
Introduction: What I would like to present to you here is a bit like a serial novel: at the ﬁrst Association for the Study of Esotericism conference in East Lansing, I discussed a group of astrological pamphlets that announced the “arrival of a ‘little prophet’” for the year 1484. This prediction was later taken to indicate Martin Luther and played an important role in the Reformation process.
This prediction was occasioned by a so-called “Grand Conjunction”, a conjunction of the slow planets Jupiter and Saturn in November 1484 in the sign of Scorpio. Italian and German astrologers took that as an indication of the Reformation and an aid in interpreting it. These “Grand Conjunctions” occurred (and still occur) every 20 years – each time in a different sign of the zodiac. But depending on the features, the Renaissance astrologers distinguished between important and less important “Grand Conjunctions.” The next very important “Grand Conjunction” after 1484 took place in 1524 in the sign of Pisces. All seven planets joined together in February of that year to a kind of super conjunction – and that did not augur well! This prediction has gone down in history as the “The Flood-Prediction.” And it inﬂamed passions all over Europe.
But before I get to this prediction, I would like to make a few remarks on the function of literature and journalism in the period around 1500. For it was not until literature assumed a journalistic function that a purely “scholarly” discussion of astrology could become a Europe-wide event, an event that for a short time overshadowed even the events surrounding Martin Luther.
Literature (and the entire culture of communication) went through a change in function around 1500, the effects of which can hardly be overestimated. The cause for this change was the development of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg. But that was only the trigger. Only the new printing technology could have brought about the change in function.