What Value the Zodiac?
Was Leo shining on the night I was born?
Or southern stars only, who ruled before Dawn?
Capricorn may be where I now dwell
But does it hold sway over me? I cannot tell.
Of late I have been giving some thought to the whole concept of Astrology from the point of view of the constellations that we are so used to seeing in our daily papers, magazines and through various other mediums (Excuse the pun, please)
When Europe and the surrounding lands were the only world my Celtic and Viking ancestors knew of, it went without saying that people born there would look to the skies and see the northern stars that the ancient Britons, Babylonians, Egyptians and Norse also beheld with wonder.
Then, when the New World of (North) America was discovered by the Europeans, they found that the same stars lit up the heavens. They might have read them differently in China but they were still the same heavenly bodies. But, as they moved to southern climes, it became more and more obvious that the stars were changing. The Animals, People and heroic signs of the past were fading into a new darkness.
The fixed Northern Star of Polaris vanished below the wakes of the southern facing ships and new, strange constellations appeared to confuse the already bemused explorers until they crossed the equator and the seasons reversed themselves and spoke new wonders to the human heart. But, for some reason, we took the northern constellations with us and, to this day, people even in the southern continents place their trust in the stars that the ancient Indo-Europeans gained guidance from.
But consider: If I was born in England or France or Scandinavia: even North America, I would have been born under the sign of Leo (August 19th) with all the associated myths, legends, truths and possibilities. If, however, I was born in Australia or South Africa or South America, why, then, I would have been born under the twin signs of the Microscope - a modern constellation and the Southern Fish which was known in classical times. If I place my trust in Leo I find my character is determined in one way, but should I look to the Microscope another, or the Southern Fish yet another.
What, then, of the attributes or potential futures that I may believe I derive from my birth stars? Do I look to the southern heavens and see my destiny in Leo or is it in the Magellanic Clouds or the Southern Cross? Even the known stars are odd - what magic reveals itself to me when I survey Andromeda from a different angle?
If I believe in the stars - which stars are they?
Do I believe in destiny?
ANOTHER SHORT STOP IN THE STAR TREK UNIVERSE With apologies to paramount
The Gods of Star Trek: some thoughts about the theology of the Star Trek Universe.
The first issue to deal with, in my view, is that of Q. The creature known as Q is a nearly Omniscient & Omnipotent creature with few moral scruples and a dangerous sense of humour met by the crew of the USS Enterprise (Star Trek: The Next Generation) on several occasions. His pranks usually are aimed at showing humans how flawed they are and often involve the death of a number of crew members)
Is Q a God? Well obviously he likes to think so. You might recall the episode of Deep Space Nine where someone reminds Q that there are races in the “Gamma Quadrant” who know him as the ‘god of lies’ Remember, too, the episode of TNG where Picard goes back in time after a near death experience? He meets Q who says something to the effect of "You're dead and I'm God"
A momentary hesitation and then Picard laughs at him "You're not God"
So what makes Picard so sure?
Think it through. He's dead. He knew that his heart was giving out and that the odds of his survival were low. He goes into a place which is vaguely like that "other" place we don't want to think about (The halfway place seen in soooooo many movies before the decision to send you Up or Out is made) He knows the power of Q, how absolutely limitless it appears to be. How does he know that Q is not the Creator, the big Cheese, the Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe? Even if Q is not the Judeau/Christian God - and in the humanistic 24th century how could he be? - he is obviously several levels of being more advanced than a mere mortal.
What makes Picard so sure?
Well, for one thing, Picard is a product of his environment and history. There are several references - especially in the classic Trek - to the one God who is obviously the same one who talked with Moses and St Paul. This would be a sop by Roddenberry (a well known unbeliever) to the censors of his day and their worldview: that is - American and Christian. The episode where Kirk meets the Greek God Apollo and that the demigod demands worship. Kirk simply tells him that the 23rd century has no room for gods. For "the One will do"
I also have a suspicion that Roddenberry’s fertile and well-read imagination was poking fun at what he would have seen as fundamentalist dogma. The expression “The One” may appease Jews and Moslems, but is a backhand against the Christian Trinity which they probably wouldn't have noticed. “The One” is also an occult expression regarding the creator who is usually - in witchcraft - female. ie the goddess. Although Tolkein (A Catholic) “ uses the expression “The One” in Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillian when he speaks of the obviously male Creator of the (Tolkeinian) Universe.
Q is also obviously male. Although, if you read the very good novel "Q in Law" He does reveal to Picard what it would have been like if he (Q that is) had decided to appear as an absolutely stunning woman.
"Think about a night of passion and then waking up next to me as you now see me (a male)" [Paraphrased] ............................ But I digress).
How does Picard know that Q is not a god?
First possible answer, the God of the Christian / Jewish Biblical Tradition is still well known by the human race (at least the westerners as demonstrated by Picard) and his character reasonably assumed and He might be a tough character but He is certainly not the capricious imp that Q is.
Second possible point: Picard, throughout the entire series of TNG, has the Roddenberry respect and tolerance for almost every kind of creature (with the possible exception of the Borg)
Picard and the others - being products of the Star Trek ethos - probably have no real belief in a Supreme Being as such. Picard certainly believes in himself and his crew. He never gives Data a straight answer on these matters. He does believe in Starfleet and the beliefs of the Federation - whatever they are. He has also historical proof of vastly superior intelligences from the encounters of the original Enterprise with races like the Organians, the Metrons and the race of which the Squire of Gothos was a child (Was this Q in an earlier manifestation?)
He's met quite a few himself. There is that Cat-like creature that wanted to use humans to explain what death meant. Picard’s firm belief in science and the humanistic nature of the Universe probably means he doesn't really believe in gods, as such. Therefore, Q cannot possibly be a god, never mind The God. So when Q claims to be God, Picard doesn't believe him. Thank God (!)
Think about the Fifth Star Trek Movie: The Final Frontier. Kirk and the team get to find God in the centre of the Galaxy. We find out, of course, that it isn't the Good Guy after all, it's a very powerful someone with an extremely nasty attitude. Obviously an advanced demon of some kind. The question no one seems to have asked is, "Who put the barrier there that keeps the demon trapped?" Doesn't seem the sort of thing that Q would do. Perhaps the Organians did it (Wherever they have gone to) Or perhaps the demon's greatest enemy Who is, of course, God.
And then, of course, there is that tiny little comment in Dianne Duane’s marvelous book "Spock's World" when Spock mentions in passing that all Vulcans are constantly aware of the "Other" who Kirk realises is God. Scary.
And we haven’t even considered the theology or otherwise of the other races: Klingons with their pseudo-Valhalla, the Great Exchequer of the Ferengi, the Celestial Temple of the Bajorans and so forth. Forget about going into other Universes. The Krypton of Superman and the all powerful Rao! The various Gods of Babylon 5 (Interesting use of a Biblical name)
So what is the point of this little essay?
Basically, that there is a definite problem in the structure of the Star Trek Universe.
On the one hand we have creatures roaming around the universe with apparently limitless powers and intellect who interact with humans and others for their own purposes and believe themselves to be, at the least, godlike. Assuming He exists in the way that some of us believe, then I can't imagine the God of the Ten Commandments allowing that - to be quite honest. You know, "Thou shalt have no other gods but me" Yep, Him.
I also have this strong personal suspicion that there really couldn't be more than One Omnipotent Person in the Universe, regardless of the amusement we derive from the Q Continuum. They would (a) clash as they followed their own different purposes and Universes would die in the conflict, or (b) they would be so Omnipotent, Omniscient etc they would always come to the same conclusions at the same time (*) as the Other and therefore be so alike they could even be seen as the same person. What would three be like? (Whoops: I nearly fell into the trap of describing the Christian Trinity then)
(*I ignore the possibility of non-linear existence for the purposes of this exercise)
What it does do, is let us roam around and ask the hard questions in a context that doesn't threaten and an environment that we can enjoy.
On the other hand, despite the historical references to God, the Ten Commandments (It's written on the wall in Star Fleet HQ) and the Bible ("The Apple" TOS) the overall consensus in the 24th Century is that we still don't know if there is a God and if there is, well Kirk met Him once and it wasn't that big a deal.
So, we didn't get very far in our journey of the spirit even if we did break the Light Barrier. We still aren't sure if there is a God or not, or what sort of Person He (or She) is. So, what do we know?
1 The vast religious literature of Planet Earth survives to the 24th Century although, with all due respect, Moslems seem in short supply.
2 Picard has a frame of reference to be able to refute Q's claim to be God.
3 Q himself has the attributes more commonly associated with the other person (you know - tall, devishly cunning and holds a grudge against the good guys) than with God.
4 Q has also let us know on several occasions that he is but one of many, so he is more like one of the ancient gods of Greece or Scandinavia than the Supreme Being.
5 Insert your own thoughts.
Of course, bringing things into perspective, Star Trek is, all said and done, a Science Fiction programme, the emphasis being on Fiction. It doesn't have to make sense to be fun. It doesn't have to answer the questions to life, the Universe and Everything that aren't explained by the number 42. It doesn't replace the search in us all or fill the emptiness of the usual human condition.
Live Long and Prosper. ( 3rd book of St John verse 2 the Christian Scriptures)