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Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos (Kodansha Globe) Paperback – June, 1994


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Product Details

  • Series: Kodansha Globe
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Globe (June 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568360215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568360218
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.8 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,644,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Aveni, a professor of astronomy and anthropology at Colgate University, seeks here to integrate--in his view, reintegrate--the rational universe with a more comforting model that takes into account "the interrelationship between matter and spirit." Such ancient astronomically inclined peoples as the Babylonians and the Mayans, he argues, made direct connections between events in the night sky and those on earth, and hence between nature and culture. The Mayans, for example, used their observations of the path of Venus to create a culturally useful myth about planting. While attempting "to dispel some of the misconceptions we have about our ancient predecessors," Aveni the anthropologist ( Empires of Time ) leads Aveni the astronomer ( The Sky in Mayan Literature ) into giving these ancient pre-scientists what seems like more credit than is their due. In the end, his thesis spins out of orbit into deep New Age space; for a more balanced work of comparative astronomy, see E. C. Krupp's Beyond the Blue Horizon .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Aveni, a specialist in the interconnection between anthropology and astronomy who teaches at Colgate University, devotes much of his attention in this book to ancient astrology, especially that of the Mayans and the peoples of the Middle East. He emphasizes that the way they viewed the sky was closely integrated with their religious beliefs and with the structure of their societies. He pleads for an understanding of their astrological systems that takes into account their context and that does not insist upon applying modern criteria for scientific work. Unfortunately, the last few pages of the book contain a superficial pastiche of current antiscientific fads, which does little to support the main thesis of the volume. Recommended with some reservations.
- Jack W. Weigel, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence G Coatney on February 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A brilliant book! Aveni draws you deep into history, researching a variety of cultures and their views on the planets and what they meant to the peoples of those ages. He does this not so much in the way of a history lesson, but with a passion for who those people were, and to show that they wern't so dumb or barbaric as they are so often labeled.
Instead of doing what we modern humans do, researching just for the sake of knowledge, finding the laws that govern the universe, and thinking that our way is the only way, Aveni shows these old cultures watching the planets and using them to tie into their natural surroundings.
He then goes on to show the slow changes in human conciousness as we slowly started seeing ourselves not as a part of the natural world, but something alone and seperate from our surroundings, slowly destroying our spiritual connection with the physical world.
Looking at the world we live in and how we relate to it, one can see that the change hasn't been total though. We still base most of our calender systems upon ancient observations, such as our years being based upon our circling the Sun, and our months are still (losely) based on the moon doing the same with our own Earth. Even our days of the week still show the names of celestial objects. Sunday obviously is named after our very own star, while Monday is derived from the moon. Harder to see (at least for english speaking people) is Tuesday, from the Nordic word for Mars, Tiw. Wendsday comes from Woden, another name for Mercury, while Thursday is from Thor, or Jupiter. Friday or Fria, is our Venus, and finally Saturday is much easier to see as Saturn.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By I am a landscape architect on June 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
The book is great for one who is looking to learn a little astronomy, ancient history (Mayan, Babylonian, etc.), and ancient polytheistic religion. Furthermore, the book dwells on how the ancient people's customs, religion, and astronomy all tremendously interrelated. Any high school level reader can read, understand, and enjoy the book. However, even a person, who has multiple university degrees, can find this book intriguing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. A Michaud on September 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
In this articulate work, Aveni tries to show that the way people live has profoundly affected the way they create their understanding of the natural world, particularly the sky. Arguing that knowing the sky has always been important, he cites examples of how several ancient societies perceived the heavens, particularly in Mesoamerica and the Near East. Aveni, an expert on ancient astronomy, warns against believing that any ways other than our own of understanding and explaining nature have no value. In effect, he questions the primacy of the modern scientific method. Aveni seems to agree with those who suggest that there may be many answers, each valid in an appropriately understood framework, to the question of how nature works. Many readers may find this perspective too relativist or New Age. Dare one say politically correct? The book includes black and white illustrations.
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