4.2.6. The astrological ascension
Astrology can be understood only if we understand how the people from the past imagined the Universe. Our prehistoric ancestors had no clue where we came from, who we are, how our Universe came to be and how it works. But, compared to animals, they had an advantage in the struggle for survival: intelligence, especially our gift for pattern recognition. Man has always been covered by a blanket of stars, and the first people used this gift of pattern recognition for reading the heavenly calendar. The messages written in the stars told our forefathers when to camp, how much time to sit in one place, when to move on, when rain, cold or the migratory animals would come. Thus, when they observed the connection between the motions of the stars and the seasonal cycles of life on Earth, they concluded, naturally, that what happens up there must be directed at us down here. The problem is that the human ability to recognize patterns is like a double-edged sword; the mind also sees patterns where there are none (a psychological phenomenon called “pareidolia”). In addition to the regular movements of celestial bodies, our ancestors also saw in the position of the stars figures of animals, of mythical creatures or plants. Long before the invention of the telescope, ancient human cultures from around the globe looked up at the same stars and they made the same mistake: they believed that the sky is an extraordinary providential spectacle. The only difference among them was how they interpreted celestial phenomena. This is how astrology began.
Astrology incommensurably influenced the development of ancient civilizations and undoubtedly played a major role in the history of mankind. It is an immemorial practice that, in a sense, helped our ancestor organize chaos and make the Universe intelligible. Unlike the other forms of divination, astrology has been the most used form of divination because the opening of the sky is accessible to all people; it is widely practiced even today, in the age of the Internet. Yet, interestingly, the Mosaic Law prohibited the astrological practices, associating them with the pagan traditions of the neighboring nations. The ancient Israelites feared that astrology might be a cause for committing sins:
There shall not be found with thee any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, one that useth divination, one that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whosoever doeth these things is an abomination unto Jehovah (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).370
Hence, the early Christians adopted the same position. Unlike numerology, which was encouraged by the mystery of the number 666, astrology was condemned alongside all the other forms of divinations. Augustine said that astrology is a great delusion,371 Lactantius saw it as a creation of the fallen angels,372 Hippolytus said that only madmen practice it373 and Tertullian saw it as idolatry.374 Astrology was rejected indeed, but it did not die. As the Christian religion suffered interpretations and schisms, the informational gaps were filled with mystical elements. In this way astrology and numerology became alternative ways in searching for God, enjoying a constant spreading and development. In the 14th century prelates, princes and commoners together were large consumers of astrology, and if they did not practice it themselves, they used the services of astrologers.
The European astrological system was based on the cosmological model of Aristotle375 and the work Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy; the latter was a continuation of the Hellenistic and Babylonian traditions. From a spiritual point of view, at the core of the astrological system sits the metaphysical principle of the integration in the totality of the cosmos. The individual, the earth and the environment are seen as a single organism, all part of a whole, in a relation of interdependence. Mathematical relations express qualities and “tones” of energy that manifest themselves through numbers, angles, forms and sounds, all connected to a divine pattern of proportions. From a geometrical point of view, in the Middle Ages people had a bidimensional (two-dimensional) representation of heaven, a context in which astrology makes sense. But in a tridimensional Universe, as it has been seen since the 18th century, astrology is an absurdity.
In Genesis, God created man as the center of all things, the “crown of Creation.” Hence, the medieval thinkers thought that man is not only in the center of the spiritual plans of God, but also in the geometrical center of Creation. From the ground all celestial bodies seem to revolve around Earth, and thus all Creation relates to man. To explain this movement, Earth was believed to be surrounded by eight invisible spheres, with celestial bodies positioned on each of them: the spheres that contain the planets (the Sun and the Moon were considered planets as well), and the sphere of the fixed stars, of the constellations and of the mobile stars – all arranged according to a divine plan. The last celestial sphere was divided into 12 constellations, symbolized through the 12 signs of the zodiac. Subsequently, each planet has its own energies and features, which can be affected in a unique way by every zodiacal sign.376 Likewise, every zodiacal sign is associated with one of the basic elements of the material world: fire, water, earth and air; it is enclosed in one of the three basic qualities: cardinal, fixed or mutable; and it is associated with a coverage area: personal, social and universal.377
According to the famous Hermetic maxim “as above, so below,” there is a symmetry between the individual as microcosm and the celestial environment as macrocosm.378 The image of heaven mirrored the image of the earth, and vice versa. This view had two major implications. First, the image of a spherical Universe induced the image of a spherical Earth. There had to be a proportion and a beauty between the macro-elements of Creation. And second, the magical connection between heaven and the earth made the astral manifestations be seen as encoded divine messages about past, present and future earthly events. In fact, the connection between luminaries and the world was hard, if not impossible, to ignore, given the fact that the divine legitimacy of astrology was supported by the Christian scriptures as well. The gospels depict how the birth of the Savior was accompanied by a grandiose celestial event, apparently a conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, while the Book of Revelation abounds in signs of astrological nature: the Sun turns dark, the Moon turns red, and the stars fall from the sky. So, it was believed that those who succeed to understand and to decipher the evolution of celestial bodies come to know God’s plans for mankind.
The medieval scholars also believed that God literally resides behind the clouds and the last celestial sphere; for them, “heaven” (firmament) and “Heaven” (Paradise) was one and the same thing. Christ physically ascended to Heaven – a miracle interpreted as an actual movement behind the last sphere. By contrast, inside this simple-structured universe the devil had a very ambiguous positioning. The medieval mentality was built around the struggle between the supernatural and opposite forces of good and evil, which were spiritually and materially symmetrical. Each of these forces had to have a realm of their own, the earth being the battleground between the two. And if God was already placed up in heaven, from where he watches everything, the geometrical place of the devil had to be down, inside the earth. This is why Hell was placed in the depths and it has been usually depicted as a complex of caverns filled with fire.
Apocalyptic astrology was mainly based on ... (This text is incomplete. If you wish to read it in full, please purchase the book)
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