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Astrology, Astronomy And Reason.

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Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

If not for its huge impact on our people, Astrology could be dismissed as a harmless indulgence.

It is popularly understood as being based on the precise Science of Astronomy. The main manifestation that impacts on us is the Horoscope on which many things depend. Three key factors are considered in their casting and use. These are (i) Time of birth (ii) Positions of the planets at that moment and (iii) The interpretation of the resulting Chart. There are inexactitudes regarding all three.

Time of Birth.

How does one define Birth? Is it the time of emergence of the head, the whole body or the severance of the placenta? Or, could it be the moment of conception? How precise need the timepiece be, and was it calibrated for accuracy and is it GMT or time at location?

Planetary positions at that moment.

One assumes that the cosmic space is divided into twelve to represent the twelve “Houses”. The Sun and Moon although strictly not planets, are also positioned on the chart. Is there a justification for considering only our Solar system from among the 30,000,000 or so Galaxies thought to exist? Since even a small error in recording time, may allow the drift from one House to another, there must be very clear boundaries and light must travel in a straight line through cosmic distances. Does light “bend” and what has Relativity Theory to say?

In determining Zodiac signs, there appear to be different systems. For example in “Western” style, the intervals between relate to dates of each month. For example the governing sign for all born between the 21 of January and 20 February would be same. Those from 21 February to 20 March belong to another and so on. “Eastern” systems are more complex with a single day possibly covering several signs. How to select which system or reconciling one with the other would be complex and puzzling.

One is given to understand that some countries (including ours) possess their individual horoscopes. How are they determined? Obviously they cannot be according to their believed or uncertain times of creation. Are our earth centered times and dates of relevance to other planets as well?

Whatever the system, there are embarrassing features. With a World population of seven billion, if one considers a likely degree of symmetry, one twelfth or approximately 585 million, come under the same sign and therefore should have similar futures. It is quite amusing to see the foretelling of the day’s predictions in newspapers with their repetitive or ambiguous words, and wonderment that newspapers see fit to use valuable column space and newsprint for the purpose! I have tested this for a week under my Zodiacal sign and the predictions were striking in their repetition day to day and their ambiguity and inanity! Amuse yourself for a week for predictions under your sign before writing to the Editor to use this column space for something less useless !

The Chart and its interpretation.

In casting a horoscope based on the foregoing, a two- dimensional chart is drawn, assigning position to each of nine “grahas”. It is in the interpretation that the most problems arise. The readings rely on existing treatises (Panchanga Litha) and on the skill of the reader – there supposedly being “good” readers and “not so good” ones. Coincidence of some predictions and events, is insufficient as proof.

What particular positions or associations of planets mean are most complicated. Does planetary influence depend on mass or distance (as they would, if they relate to Gravity)? How do planetary positions offset or augment each other’s influences? Only those skilled in the art of Astrology could venture answers to these and many other questions. Astrology relies greatly on its antiquity and on local traditions.

On balance, a reasonable conclusion is that Astrology cannot justly claim legitimacy from a link to Astronomy, mathematics or other Sciences. It must seek inspiration from elsewhere. If not for its impact on many – especially the poor, disadvantaged and gullible, it could be dismissed as a harmless diversion.

The previous President, (among others) was so reliant on the occult, that we were possibly in imminent danger of installing an “Astrologer Royal”. Fortunately, a dramatically “misread” electoral outcome has helped to save us from such a predicament. Nonetheless, Talismans, bracelets, miniature maces, conch shells, gem-studded rings and similar amulets are very much in fashion. Many people may even be intimidated into purchasing such embellishments rather than court predicted disaster.

When a Nation begins to rely on Auspicious Times, Lucky Directions and other “Feng Shui” type ones (which I am told, declare among other things, that if you leave you toilet lid open, wealth will be flushed away from you!), we begin to look rather silly. Each occasion, mainly the New Year ordains the times for each (lighting of the hearth, and the colour of clothes to be worn, the time for the first meal etc.) The Nonagathe is claimed to be the time of orbit of the transit of the Sun from one “House” to the next. Anointing the head with oil in the New Year is almost a State Duty. All of these solemn observances do not match with the claim that even the Nations’ Cabinet is selected “scientifically”. It also challenges the relevance of so much effort being expended on Education in the Sciences.

One of the most harmful uses of the Horoscope is in matters matrimonial. Glance at the Sunday Matrimonial columns, and you will be amazed by statements like “Copy of the Horoscope essential with the first response”, or “Those with malefics or Kethu in the seventh house need not apply”. “Both parents are professionals” indicates that education or social class does not matter. Sinhala and Tamil papers may be worse. Lots of people in other countries who have no belief (or even a copy of a horoscope) may still enjoy a happy marriage. One shudders to think how many of our youth have been denied of a chance to select a temperamentally suited partner or enjoy a happy marriage, because a suitable “horoscopic match” could not be found. Data relating to the success or otherwise of marriages with and without Zodiacal assistance, would be revealing.

When poor people in distress seek some remedy, they are ready clients for soothsayers who recommend various practices including expensive “Poojas” and other costly rituals. This amounts to at least intimidation or exploitation, possibly even fraud.

If anyone takes refuge in the Supernatural, it is certainly a matter of individual choice. But when important persons do so repeatedly, at State expense and poor people are intimidated to engage in expensive rituals, under threat of deadly outcomes, it is quite another matter, bordering on the criminal. Are for instance, our home-grown deities inferior to those exotics, as to warrant political panjandrums repeatedly visiting overseas shrines with “good” anecdotal reputations?

When otherwise sane people believe that the Gods could be appeased by dashing coconuts (to curse their opponents) or a basket of fruits, it is time for a “reality check” by their Psychologist.

It is not my intention to stir discord but to stimulate discussion (or even demolition) by a reasoned debate, in addition to falsification or ignorance displayed by this plunge into an unfamiliar area.

In any event, I stand to be corrected (hopefully) in civil language.



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Features

Encouraging signs, indeed!

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Derek and Manilal

Local entertainers can now breathe a sigh of relief…as the showbiz scene is showing signs of improving

Yes, it’s good to see Manilal Perera, the legendary singer, and Derek Wikramanayake, teaming up, as a duo, to oblige music lovers…during this pandemic era.

They will be seen in action, every Friday, at the Irish Pub, and on Sundays at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby.

The Irish Pub scene will be from 7.00 pm onwards, while at the Cinnamon Grand Lobby, action will also be from 7.00 pm onwards.

On November 1st, they are scheduled to do the roof top (25th floor) of the Movenpik hotel, in Colpetty, and, thereafter, at the same venue, every Saturday evening.

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Constructive dialogue beyond international community

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by Jehan Perera

Even as the country appears to be getting embroiled in more and more conflict, internally, where dialogue has broken down or not taken place at all, there has been the appearance of success, internationally. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be leading a delegation this week to Scotland to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). Both the President, at the UN General Assembly in New York, and Foreign Minister Prof G L Peiris, at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva seem to have made positive impacts on their audiences and, especially amongst the diplomatic community, with speeches that gave importance to national reconciliation, based on dialogue and international norms.

In a recent interview to the media Prof Peiris affirmed the value of dialogue in rebuilding international relations that have soured. He said, “The core message is that we believe in engagement at all times. There may be areas of disagreement from time to time. That is natural in bilateral relations, but our effort should always be to ascertain the areas of consensus and agreement. There are always areas where we could collaborate to the mutual advantage of both countries. And even if there are reservations with regard to particular methods, there are still abundant opportunities that are available for the enhancement of trade relations for investment opportunities, tourism, all of this. And I think this is succeeding because we are establishing a rapport and there is reciprocity. Countries are reaching out to us.”

Prof Peiris also said that upon his return from London, the President would engage in talks locally with opposition parties, the TNA and NGOs. He spoke positively about this dialogue, saying “The NGOs can certainly make a contribution. We like to benefit from their ideas. We will speak to opposition political parties. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is going to meet the Tamil National Alliance on his return from COP26, which we will attend at the invitation of the British Prime Minister. So be it the NGO community or the foreign diaspora or the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka. We want to engage with all of them and that is very much the way forward”

INTERNAL FRAGMENTATION

The concept of a whole-of-government approach is indicative of a more cohesive approach to governance by government ministries, the public administration and state apparatus in general to deal with problems. It suggests that the government should not be acting in one way with the international community and another way with the national community when it seeks to resolve problems. It is consistency that builds trust and the international community will trust the government to the extent that the national community trusts it. Dialogue may slow down decision making at a time when the country is facing major problems and is in a hurry to overcome them. However, the failure to engage in dialogue can cause further delays due to misunderstanding and a refusal to cooperate by those who are being sidelined.

There are signs of fragmentation within the government as a result of failure to dialogue within it. A senior minister, Susil Premajayantha, has been openly critical of the ongoing constitutional reform process. He has compared it to the past process undertaken by the previous government in which there was consultations at multiple levels. There is a need to change the present constitutional framework which is overly centralised and unsuitable to a multi ethnic, multi religious and plural society. More than four decades have passed since the present constitution was enacted. But the two major attempts that were made in the period 1997-2000 and again in 2016-2019 failed.

President Rajapaksa, who has confidence in his ability to stick to his goals despite all obstacles, has announced that a new constitution will be in place next year. The President is well situated to obtain success in his endeavours but he needs to be take the rest of his government along with him. Apart from being determined to achieve his goals, the President has won the trust of most people, and continues to have it, though it is getting eroded by the multiple problems that are facing the country and not seeing a resolution. The teachers’ strike, which is affecting hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, is now in its fourth month, with no sign of resolution. The crisis over the halting of the import of chemical fertiliser is undermining the position of farmers and consumers at the present time.

EARLY WARNING

An immediate cause for the complaints against the government is the lack of dialogue and consultation on all the burning issues that confront the country. This problem is accentuated by the appointment of persons with military experience to decision-making positions. The ethos of the military is to take decisions fast and to issue orders which have to be carried out by subordinates. The President’s early assertion that his spoken words should be taken as written circulars reflects this ethos. However, democratic governance is about getting the views of the people who are not subordinates but equals. When Minister Premajayantha lamented that he did not know about the direction of constitutional change, he was not alone as neither does the general public or academicians which is evidenced by the complete absence of discussion on the subject in the mass media.

The past two attempts at constitutional reform focused on the resolution of the ethnic conflict and assuaging the discontent of the ethnic and religious minorities. The constitutional change of 1997-2000 was for the purpose of providing a political solution that could end the war. The constitutional change of 2016-19 was to ensure that a war should not happen again. Constitutional reform is important to people as they believe that it will impact on how they are governed, their place within society and their equality as citizens. The ethnic and religious minorities will tend to prefer decentralised government as it will give them more power in those parts of the country in which they are predominant. On the other hand, that very fact can cause apprehension in the minds of the ethnic and religious majority that their place in the country will be undermined.

Unless the general public is brought aboard on the issue of constitutional change, it is unlikely they will support it. We all need to know what the main purpose of the proposed constitutional reform is. If the confidence of the different ethnic and religious communities is not obtained, the political support for constitutional change will also not be forthcoming as politicians tend to stand for causes that win them votes. Minister Premajayantha has usefully lit an early warning light when he said that politicians are not like lamp posts to agree to anything that the government puts before them. Even though the government has a 2/3 majority, this cannot be taken for granted. There needs to be buy in for constitutional reform from elected politicians and the general public, both from the majority community and minorities, if President Rajapaksa is to succeed where previous leaders failed.

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Features

JAYASRI twins…in action in Europe

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The world over, the music scene has been pretty quiet, and we all know why. This pandemic has created untold hardships for, practically, everyone, and, the disturbing news is that, this kind of scene has been predicted for a good part of 2022, as well,

 

The band JAYASRI, however, based in Europe, and fronted by the brothers Rohitha and Rohan, say they are fortunate to find work coming their way.

Over the past few months, they have been performing at some of the festivals, held in Europe, during the summer season.

Says Rohitha: “As usual, we did one of the biggest African festivals in Europe, AfrikaTage, and some other summer events, from July up to now. Some were not that big, as they used to be, due to the pandemic, health precautions, etc.”

For the month of October, JAYASRI did some concerts in Italy, with shows in the city of Verona, Napoli, Rome, Padova and Milano.

The twins with the
late Sunil Perera

On November, 12th, the JAYASRI twins, Rohitha and Rohan, will be at EXPO Dubai 2020 and will be performing live in Dubai.

Rohitha also indicated that they have released their new single ‘SARANGANA,’ describing it as a Roots Reggae song, in audio form, to all download platforms, and as a music video to their YouTube channel – www.youtube.com/user/jayasri

According to Rohitha, this song will be featured in an action drama.

The lyrics for ‘SARANGANA,’ were created by Thushani Bulumulle, music by JAYASRI, and video direction by Chamara Janaraj Pieris.

There will be two audio versions, says Rohitha – a Radio Mix and a DUB Mix by Parvez.

The JAYASRI twins Rohitha and Rohan

After their Italian tour, Rohitha and Rohan are planning to come to Sri Lanka, to oblige their many fans, and they are hoping that the showbiz scene would keep on improving so that music lovers could experience a whole lot of entertainment, during the forthcoming festive season.

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