The Evolution of Astrology
I often wonder if the rudimentary astrological systems practiced in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Sumeria, and China were based on childlike superstition or on an evolved system of information from an earlier unrecorded time lost to us today. There appears to be no answer. We do know that throughout antiquity astrology and astronomy were given equal scientific weight.
Some say that Thoth/Hermes, the ancient ibis-headed priest, brought astrology to Egypt from Atlantis. He was venerated as the messenger of the gods, and was said to have written forty-two books of sacred learning, four of which were on astrology. These books were destroyed in Alexandria twice, first by the Romans and then the Christians. No matter how it is presented, the Hermetic wisdom that has come down through the ages signifies mastery through the regeneration of the body, the illumination of the mind, and the transmutation of the emotions.
Astrology is one of our oldest and most treasured heritages. In ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, the written sign for God was a star. From the top of ziggurats Babylonian astrologer-priests observed the stars and recorded their findings on clay tablets. In Britain great astronomer-mathematicians constructed Stonehenge and other stone monuments to track celestial movements. The early Mayans, whose culture dominated the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico from 3113 B.C. until the Spaniards came in the fifteenth century A.D., observed the heavenly bodies from their pyramids and developed a circular astrology chart with animal symbols.
One of the best-known references to astrology is recorded in the New Testament. The Book of Matthew tells of three magi (learned astrologer-priests) who followed a large star to find the newborn Jesus. Priests and astronomers in ancient times were educated in astrology and predicted events from the placement of the stars. Their religious practices were centered around solar and lunar movements, and most of their temples were built with this in mind. The word magus means "master." Astrologers today think the magi knew about the convergence of Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus on that night, easily seen by the naked eye and so close together that they looked like one huge star in the night sky. They interpreted its meaning as the reincarnation of a great soul and came with presents to honor the child.
Many people in the Western Hemisphere today are not familiar with the Eastern philosophy of reincarnation, the rebirth of the soul into a new body over many lifetimes. According to this belief, we are reborn by God's grace and given many opportunities to overcome the ignorance and confusion that tripped us up in other lifetimes. This is called self-mastery.
Certain beings, after living many lifetimes, attain an evolved state of consciousness and come back to earth to help others. In the sixth century, the Nicene Council in Constantinople banned the theory of reincarnation, so this ancient and meaningful tradition is overlooked in the West. There are many theories as to why it was deleted from the dogma of the church, but it is interesting to note that the concept of reincarnation was alive at the time of the early Christian disciples.
In Asia it is not unusual to hear of great beings -- people advanced in spiritual studies -- visiting a great soul at birth. There was a star at Krishna's birth, and he was visited by the Great Ones. When the last Dalai Lama died, three Tibetan lamas, or monks, one of whom was an astrologer, followed particular portents and signs that ultimately revealed to them the identity of the newly reincarnated Dalai Lama.
The origins of astrology are lost in prehistory. It almost seems as though astrology came into the world fully formed. There are differences from culture to culture, but they are slight. Astrology may have come to us from an ancient age that the Egyptians call the First Time. This was when great beings or sages walked the earth and taught people how to live in their time realm, the eternal present. Perhaps astrology was a part of the teachings of these godlike beings. Astrology was brought to the West when Alexander the Great conquered Sumeria and Chaldea in 280 s.c. The astronomers of Alexandria discovered an enormous number of ancient clay tablets that we are still interpreting today. Alexander's military exploits gave birth to a civilization that was part Greek and part Asian. He always had Hindu yogis as part of his entourage and many were astrologers. The Hindu system of astrology is said to be at least five thousand years old.
The Chaldeans had been recording lunar and solar eclipses and the movement of the planets from ancient times -- for "four hundred thousand years," according to their tradition. Their ability to track astral movements far exceeded their scientific understanding. It was the Greeks who fine-tuned the daily movements of the planets with their own expert calculations and added their mystical panorama of gods (which they had "borrowed" from the Egyptians) to create the charts we have today. Mythology is probably based on the lives of important people in prediluvian times. If our world were wiped out by some great catastrophe, would people living far in the future cast Madonna as Venus and Sylvester Stallone as Mars? We can only wonder.
The Chaldeans did charts only for the king or when important events occurred. The Greeks saw every reason to chart the birth of individuals (very democratic!). To this day, astrology is primarily lunar in the East and solar in the West. A lunar chart is based on the position of the Moon at birth, whereas a solar chart is derived from the position of the Sun. Again, this difference comes to us from the Greeks, who, perhaps influenced by Alexander and his sojourns into Egypt where the sun god was prominent, saw the individualistic and dynamic symbol of the Sun as the empowering body.
Baghdad, the largest seat of learning in the Middle Ages, linked astrologer-priests in India, China, Babylon, and Persia with the scholars of Spain, Italy, and Greece, preserving the teachings of the early Chaldeans and Greeks. This confluence of knowledge created a rich heritage of spiritual, philosophic, and intellectual truths we can still draw on today.
Many famous people have used astrology as a tool. In ancient Persia, Zoroaster, a priest who flourished 258 years before the conquest of Alexander the Great, became renowned for his practice of astrology. A reformer and prophet, he created a religion that influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In China, emperors were chosen because of their astrological knowledge. In Greece, astrology flourished at the highest period of its culture and power, a period that most influences our culture today.
Astrologers in ancient times were great mathematicians and astronomers. Most of them were also occultists or alchemists who had the benefit of manuscripts that have been destroyed or just dropped out of sight. Tragically, much of their knowledge was never recorded and has been forgotten.
Great thinkers such as Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle used astrological principles in their philosophies. Pythagoras created an intellectual tradition of mystical wisdom that deeply influenced the development of classical Greek philosophy and medieval European thought. He was particularly interested in the influence of astrology and numbers as they affected all human endeavors. Copernicus acknowledged Pythagorean concepts in his hypothesis that the earth and the other planets rotate in orbits around the sun.
The philosopher Plato, who lived in Greece around 360 B.C., saw the universe as a celestial sphere composed of a single substance, a composite of Sameness and Difference, mixed with Existence. Hippocrates, a contemporary of Plato and traditionally regarded as the father of medicine, declared that a doctor who did not use astrology to aid him in making a diagnosis and prescribing a remedy deserved to be called a fool! Aristotle, influenced by Plato, added cause and effect, a more rational approach to heavenly cycles. These ideas formed the basis for astrology until psychology took the reins in the twentieth century.
In medieval times, Arabic scientific texts and Greek manuscripts were translated into Latin; among these were astrology texts from ancient times. The Renaissance poet Dante, author of The Divine Comedy, credited his Sun sign, Gemini, for his eloquence. Two centuries later, Nostradamus, physician and astrologer to three French kings, wrote predictions for the future disguised in verses that are still being unraveled today. His projections were based on the movements of the planets and visions he saw emanating from a fiery pot. John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, picked the date for her coronation according to the alignment of the stars. Her powerful reign of forty-four years proved his expertise at selecting a propitious time.
Most astrologers in Europe were members of secret societies: the Masons, the Knights Templar, the Rosicrucians, and the Golden Dawn Society. The early American statesmen who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were also members of secret societies.
Powerful people have always sought help from the stars, though they often prefer not to make that information public. Royalty, heads of government, clergy, and presidents of the United States often have their own personal astrologers. Yet the profession of astrology is not without its disadvantages and the probability of falling from grace. An ancient clay tablet from Mesopotamia tells of an eminent astrologer to the king who failed to predict an eclipse and was banished to make bricks in the hot sun. Hitler had many astrologers. If he didn't like their predictions, he had them shot.
Napoleon's astrologer was a monk named LeClerc. One wonders if LeClerc told Napoleon the whole story. Perhaps Napoleon, being a Leo and overly positive, heard only what he wanted to -- a typical Leo trait!
Although the Catholic church did much to discredit astrology, the popes had astrologers at their disposal, and the Vatican still has the most extensive collection of astrology books in the world.
After the Renaissance, astrology was not taken seriously until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Albert Einstein was interested in metaphysics. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, based his theory of personality types on the knowledge he gained from the ancient metaphysical arts. He had an astrologer do charts of all his patients, which he used to get a preliminary take on their basic nature before beginning treatment. Even now, with our extraordinary breakthroughs in science, astrology is being acknowledged as an irreplaceable tool for self-knowledge and personal growth.
As we enter a new century, we are about to make a great transition into an Aquarian age. It is one of twelve successive 2,160-year periods, each of which corresponds to one of the signs of the zodiac. A complete cycle of 25,920 years is based on a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. Due to a very gradual wobble of the Earth around its own polar axis, the Sun gradually moves backward through the zodiac.
Great ages are dominated by the influences of their ruling sign in the same way in which individuals born with different Sun signs are influenced by the principals of each sign. During these great cosmic ages, the dominant constellation influences all processes of life on Earth, including the symbols of art and the ceremonies of religious expression. Each sign highlights specific functions, and as you read history with a sharp eye you can relate it to the consecutive ages.
The great age of Taurus colored all religions with the symbol of the bull. Then, circa 2000 B.C., the Taurean age was succeeded by the Arian, and the ram-headed god Amen-Ra became the perfect symbol for cosmic spirit. In the next age, starting in the first century A.D., the fish became the symbol for the now-ending Pisces age. As we enter this new century, we are about to make a transition into the influences of Aquarius. During the last Aquarian age, approximately twenty-six thousand years ago, the lost civilizations of Lemuria and Atlantis flourished. Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet, said in his trances that these ancient people had achieved a level of science much higher than we have today. These people were natural conservationists; the sexes were equal in opportunity and status; they used all their brain power; and until the end of their civilization they lived their spiritual beliefs daily. Perhaps the influences of the new age will bring the advances we need to attain such heights again.
A Man-Made System
Astrology is a combination of science and esoteric theory. The science of astronomy is used to set up a chart, but the interpretation is an art based on the wisdom of the interpreter. It is a man-made system designed to help us understand the complexities of life. The complete zodiac of twelve signs behaves as a single rational unit, and a well-trained astrologer can decode this creative intelligence.
Since astrology is a system, it can be used very simply or very abstractly. Compare astrology to playing the piano: you can play with one finger and pick out a simple tune or you can play with both hands and accompany an orchestra.
The Sun signs are based on the constellations, which are imaginative groupings of fixed stars that lie along an ecliptic belt encircling the Earth. The Sun goes through many constellations -- Orion, Delphinus (the dolphin), and Cygnus (the swan) -- that are not included in the present zodiac. The Babylonians listed eighteen constellations; as astrology evolved, this number was simplified to ten, then eleven, signs with varying degrees of power. Finally, in the second century A.D., the Greek astrologer Ptolemy gave us what we know today as a balanced zodiac with twelve houses. His theories of astrology were written in a book called the Tetrabiblos, and his knowledge greatly affected the growth of astrology.
The East continued to develop an astrology that was primarily fatalistic. We can thank the Greeks for adding the element of logic and the possibility of individualizing the Sun signs through personal participation with the chart.
The word zodiac means "animal circle." The zodiac circle that we use in the West is divided into twelve equal sections, called houses. All of the signs have animal rulers except the air signs Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius and the Earth sign Virgo. These four Sun signs are gifted in thinking and communicating, so a mute animal symbol wouldn't be appropriate.
arA particular Sun sign rules each of the twelve houses and is named for the shape of the stars in that constellation. For example, the first sign is Aries; if you really use your imagination, you can see the shape of a ram in the stats that form the Aries constellation. Leo is the easiest to imagine: the body and tail are plainly drawn by the stars, and the head needs only a little conjecture.
Early astrological charts were called horoscopes, meaning "look at the hour." The circle of the chart is a map of the sky. The seven visible heavenly bodies -- the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn -- and the four more recently discovered planets -- Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Chiron -- are included. This is called a natal chart. It shows the ascendant, or rising sign, position of the Moon, and the houses in which all the planets fell at the time of birth. It is with this information that an interpretation of a person's life is done.
Until the latter part of the eighteenth century, our solar system consisted of seven celestial bodies: the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets. Although the telescope was discovered in 1608, it took many years until the discovery of Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846), and Pluto (1930). Astrology continues to evolve. Chiron, the latest addition to the zodiac, was discovered in 1977, and astronomers are still not sure if it is a planetoid or a comet. Astrologers are observing it to assess its influences.
The discovery of these new bodies coincides with changes in world knowledge and advancement. As we have evolved scientifically and developed large enough telescopes to find more planets in our solar system, we are synchronistically ready to step forward into new states of consciousness. For example, in contemporary astrology, Uranus brings in new ideas and technical advances. When Uranus was discovered, the people living at that time awakened to the idea that they had the right to be free. New machines such as the cotton gin and the steam engine were invented in the late eighteenth century, and today many uses of electricity are ruled by Uranus. Sometimes called the awakener, this vibrant planet brings cultural changes, spiritual revelations, and political revolutions. The revolutions began first in America, then in France and Russia, and still continue today.
Uranus is still emanating freedom as it orbits the Sun every eighty-four years. It has not yet completed three cycles around the Sun since its discovery, but the world has changed appreciably in that time. We are encapsulated in the Uranian world of computers and information in the 1990s; we can only guess at what new inventions, revolutions, and revelations await. Whenever Uranus fills in a natal chart, there will be change and liberation.
Neptune is a planet of mystery, never visible to the naked eye. Neptune brought into human consciousness the existence of realms smaller than the eye can see. We live in a world of illusions and delusions. Neptune rules the subconscious, where our dreams are born and where we are free to create without the restrictions of earthbound reality. When Neptune was discovered in the middle of the nineteenth century it was a time of great suffering and idealism. In 1846 the Irish potato famine was underway; Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto was published in 1848; Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1851; and in 1859, John Brown made his famous raid on Harpers Ferry.
With the founding of the Theosophical Society and Christian Science, spiritualism flourished in England and the United States. Important new products -- ether used for painless surgery, plastics made from oil products, and the first color photo images -- were developed. In a natal chart Neptune indicates idealism and fantasy.
Pluto is a tiny planet at the edge of our solar system. Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, which governs sex, other people's money, and death. With Pluto's discovery in 1930 came the Great Depression, the rise of the Nazis, and World War II, with its atomic devastation. The cyclotron was developed in 1931, followed by the positron in 1932 and nuclear fusion in 1938. The computer was discovered about this time. A new level of technology had been reached -- powerful enough to destroy us.
Until that time the average person had little hope of transformation on a physical or emotional level. If you were sick, little could be done. Pluto's transformational power was made available through psychoanalysis and new medical techniques. Human beings could change right down to the cellular level. Pluto in the natal chart represents transformation and regeneration.
Chiron is the celestial body whose placement shows your life quest and soul purpose. It is considered to be an important indicator of your role in the new Aquarian age. The astrological logo for Chiron is the letter K over a small circle. It looks like a key and symbolizes Chiron's power to open doors to higher consciousness. Its orbit, between Saturn and Uranus, symbolizes a bridge between the personality, which involves the Sun, the Moon, and the five near planets, and the soul, which involves the outermost three planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.
A mythological being, Chiron was a centaur (half man, half horse). He was teacher to the gods, goddesses, and important mortals. Chiron is said to rule herbs and healing as well as astrology and other mystical disciplines. Through Chiron's influence, the study of metaphysical subjects has grown into a cultural movement. For example, when I started studying astrology in 1972, I had to order all my books through the mail; now I can buy them at any bookstore and even some drugstores.
Chiron's position between Saturn, which rules time, and Uranus, which rules transpersonal experiences, brings a new concept: the eternal now. We can gain from these timeless experiences by getting in touch with our soul and starting anew on a path of continued growth. With Chiron in our universal consciousness we can all seek out our part in healing a wounded world.
People often ask me why astrology works and how the planets in our solar system can affect us. This is an age-old mystery that has never been completely explained, but there are many theories. The most logical explanation to me is the holographic theory.
A hologram is a three-dimensional photograph shot with a laser beam. The print of the photograph is illuminated by another laser beam and a realistic three-dimensional image of the original object appears. When the print is cut in two, each half holds the complete image. This process can be carried on as long as the print can be halved.
The universal holographic theory I speak of indicates an image of wholeness or completeness, much like the zodiac itself. You can take the zodiac apart sign by sign or planet by planet and derive separate meaning from individual parts, but each part still holds the basic wholeness of the complete zodiac.
According to this theory, a deeper level of reality, a more complex dimension beyond our own, a superhologram of the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously. This theory also suggests that time is an illusion, that given the proper tools, we can reach into this level of reality and perceive scenes from the past or the future.
I think astrology is one of these tools. The effects of the Sun signs and the planets are very real. Their subtle vibrations are felt by the emotional body. Each sign has its own special essence and message that stimulates different responses. As certain aspects in the heavens are formed, we become aware of uneasiness, anxiety, and fear; other aspects bring a sense of power and joy.
A counseling session with an astrologer often leads the way into a feeling of resolution and hope. You may find that an astrological reading confirms and validates what you are already feeling, and the information encourages your self-awareness as well as your emotional and spiritual growth.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines astrology as "a type of divination that consists of interpreting the influence of planets and stars on earthly affairs in order to predict the destinies of individuals, groups, or nations." Although astrology is an excellent vehicle for prognostication, I am not concerned with divination or the future at this time. I want to focus on our Sun signs in the present moment. The present is much more stimulating than the future or the past.
Many of my clients come in for future forecasts, but I feel we must be in the present moment to create the future. The forecasts I give support the time my clients are living in, right now. The present is a point of balance between past and future, and our lives are a constant process of evaluating the interplay between them. We can calculate the positions of the planets and the signs for any given moment, and decode their meanings, but as co-creators with God we have a choice in how we react in any given moment as we play out the events of our lives.
In the last twenty years the tendency to deny the connections between the heavens and human events has decreased.
We are increasingly aware of powerful magnetic fields that exist throughout the solar system. The Earth's atmosphere is constantly bombarded by a solar wind and a stream of subatomic particles from the Sun emanating from the big bang of universal creation. The argument that no scientific evidence can account for the influence the heavens have on human lives is less convincing all the time. Studies of fish, birds, and other life forms show that they have the ability to navigate by these fields, indicating that the nervous systems of living organisms are sensitive to electromagnetic forces. Also, theories of how the planets influence each other in subtle ways are little understood at this time.
Only as we enter the twenty-first century do we understand that physical distances are not so important as we thought. It doesn't matter whether subatomic particles such as electrons are five feet or five billion miles apart; they still communicate with each other.
In The Case for Astrology, John Anthony West covers all the pros and cons of astrology. He writes in summary: "Not only is the factual evidence supporting astrology commanding, but it is also now possible to develop a plausible theory for the manner in which astrological effects manifest themselves within the framework of the known physical world. Modern physics and astronomy both make it clear that the ancient concept of the Harmony of the Spheres is no longer a poetic metaphor but a legitimate analogy drawn upon a unified solar system in which each part affects every other part via the well understood phenomenon of resonance."
To me, one of the most reassuring illustrations of universal love or a loving God, however you see it, is that our Sun and Moon appear to be the same size from Earth. Although there is a tremendous difference in their mass, from our position in space, they are perfectly balanced. I find great meaning in that. Out of chaos comes perfect symmetry. No wonder the ancients were so taken with the heavens.
Celestial phenomena have great practical significance today as in ancient times. If Adam created astrology through God's direction, as ancient philosophers attest, he was wise in his choice of the stars as celestial messengers. Among the objects of nature, none is so appropriate as the stars to convey to all ages God's sacred message of inspiration, wholeness, and liberation.