The Decline of Astrology and The Christian Cult
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The Decline of Astrology and The Christian Cult
Edmond H. Wollmann
Kepler College: Astrology in Medieval Civilizations
Lee Lehman advising
Second Term, March 16, 2001
Astrologers and scientists are virtually opposed in their beliefs about the validity and testability of astrological principles. The Christian religion has long opposed astrology simply because of its pagan associations and the "Magical" interpretation of the material world it imparts. Because of this split between the pagan origins of science, and the Christian demand for adherence to canonized interpretations of the Bible, science was born from the natural sciences continued efforts to understand the physical world, and Christianity's rejection of the philosophical interpretation of that knowledge. Christianity insisted on interpretation of the evidence, hence a schizophrenic split in the collective sociological psyche was the result. Astrology fell into disfavor not because of any scientific evidence, but because of the rejection of any interpretation of physical phenomena by the Church powers. However, coherence theory in philosophy demands that paradigms fit together in a cogent way and are only valid if they do so. Discussed are the ramifications of these historical developments and their effect on academia.
No two belief systems have had a larger effect on the history of the world than Christianity and Astrology. However, before the start of the Christian era, the entire world saw itself reflected in, and supported by, nature. This was the primary thrust of paganism which understood the animation of matter by spirit and included astrology as one way to "read" that spirit. Hence, the astral religions of the Babylonians and Mesoamericans were based on the idea that one could communicate with spirit through the spirit's own manifestations--the physical world. Christianity one the other side of the coin evolved into the cult of denying and discounting physicality (1) in its zeal to defeat paganism. Hence, the development of science was the direct result of the need to understand physicality without offending the power of the church. Most myths around the world share archetypal references such as the astral religion and nature worship, and there are few if any myths of origin and ancestry throughout the world that do not contain the elements of astral divination and reverence for the heavens. There are also fewer myths than this that do not contain the concept of transcendence or resurrection from death. We can see through historical developments that as the power of the church increased, the fear of making physical phenomenon connections to spiritual understandings increased. Is it this concept then, that created the conflict that remains to this day between what were once companion concepts in the human understanding of the power of spirit and soul e.g., science and myth? Is the dichotomy of science and religion the result? Why, as a collective consciousness, does the populace of earth maintain two separate belief systems so fervently defended, so profoundly contradictory and polarized as religion and science? What happened historically that allowed a populace to be blinded by the glitter of a version of reality likened to Oz, via an obvious collective fantasy that coherency theory (2) clearly refutes? The most coherent merging of the two constructs is astrology, it is both the parent of the dichotomy and orphaned paradigm of the divorce.
By why did the Christian cult need to embrace theories that placed God above and apart from the created world? Early on Christianity allowed astrology to co-exist with it because it was a rising cult and needed support from whatever believers it could get. Astrology was pervasive. We see the original belief in astral religion and the remnants of this acceptance in Genesis 1, 14:
God said let them be for signs, and yet we are later instructed not to do so by clergy. It would take 300 years before the "authorities" of the Christian cult could reverse this statement; 300 years before they could garner enough support for redefining the original document and intent. In the first two centuries of the early church, there is little if any mention of astrology, and no attitude or attack on astrology at all. (4) Christianity survived and triumphed partly because of the power issues and condition of the Roman empire in the third and forth centuries. The other mystery religions of Mithraism and Manichaeism did not appeal to women and lower classes.(5) Christianity allowed women and lower classes a seductive and continued appeal, because the life of its founder in poverty and persecution. These are appeals using psychology for control of the hopes of the disenfranchised and powerless for something beyond their hopeless conditions of the present.
The first real condemnation of astrology by the church comes in the Council of Laodicea between 364-67 C.E.; it makes a distinction between mathematici and astrologi, implying a need to separate the real astrologers from the frauds based on horoscopic calculation methods. (6) Here we see the beginnings of the branching of science, because of the need to investigate truths about physicality while not challenging dogmatic beliefs. The primary condemnation that arose eventually from the Christian perspective was in terms of astrology's implication of fate and that astrology was incompatible with Christian doctrines of free will and moral autonomy (7) in the judicial aspect of astrology, or the exact prediction of human behavior. This also would appeal to those with little power, as it gave them hope of liberation from their situation rather than being born under a "bad sign or star". But we have already determined that the pagan idea was communication with the spirit or the attempt to divine messages from it, not define it as unalterable fated circumstance. It is the psychological implication of the locus of control that is what truly incites this incompatibility and contains the objectionable power, not the technique. Many aspects of the Arabic philosophical contributions throughout history are also rejected by the Christians, but curiously, we see here in the Zoroastrian perspective once again, the Christian cult embracing aspects of certain beliefs systems throughout history that reinforce control by the cult:
This "good and evil" (9) aspect of Zoroastrianism is embraced by the Christians and incorporated into the religion as one of its central features. (10) But who determines what is "good and bad"? Do we need psychology degrees to assume that most individuals would not wish to be "cast into a realm of darkness and torment"? Now instead of choices generated through communication with spirit (divination), we enter a "battle" with dark and light. So where does free will choice enter in? There is none. This is a false choice illusion, a creation of a psychosocial element in history that amounts to of a new chain schedule (11) of reinforcement for social control by "spiritual leaders" who are assumed to have privileged knowledge by which we are guided to the "proper" behavior. The idea here is a very simple one, the introduction of guilt and doubt in one's own personal actions and essential beingness as a control factor for use by those in "authority." No longer can we consult the world around us, but must consult those in authority who hold special places in an imagined battle of hierarchies between "good and bad".(12) Rome is recognized historically for its highly developed propensity for political and social control, and it was Rome that solidified the Christian cult's control and power by making it equal in power to governmental hierarchies--to their own eventual regret. So obvious is the need for control in the Christian cult, that Popes vied with Emperors for control of the Roman empire, and so pervasive is the remnant of this idea today that we still refer to the idea of discussing religion or politics as taboo if we wish to remain friendly with others or to maintain groupthink.(13)
But how did these social structures of Christianity move from the intent by the Christ to illuminate other-worldly awareness without discounting the physical world, to motives of social control? Heinrich Zimmer (1890-1943) said it well: "The best things can't be told: The second best are misunderstood." The second best are misunderstood because, as metaphors and poetic symbols of concepts that cannot be told, they are misread prosaically as referring to tangible facts. The connotated messages are lost in the symbols, the elementary ideas in local "ethnic" inflections.(14) In this particular case, there was a purposeful misinterpretation of the entire concept of divination behind the astrological premise by the Christian cult, in effect cutting off the individual from the power or personal responsibility to be able to communicate with the divine in order to ascertain the divine's wishes and intentions -- or in psychological terms -- now telling the individual what they must be and how they must be it. This power was now secured and in the hands of the clergy. The disingenuousness of any theological or political premise is in the degree of following it encourages. Quite simply, because to the degree the following is encouraged is equally the degree of disempowerment experienced by the populace under that dogma. Hence, those who subscribe to the Christian cult groupthink, allow others -- in hierarchical fashion -- to take responsibility for their own creative introspection and discount their own interconnectedness with the ALL. In this sense both astrology and the Christian cult were being leveled to the status of literal from the metaphorical which is what allows divination, insight, and communication with the ALL to occur:
This literalness would generate conflict after conflict in first the Aristotelian cosmology, and then the Platonic. Leading up to these philosophical confrontations was the expansion and spread of Christianity. Because the Christians were originally a sect of the Judaism, they were tolerated more by the Romans, but as they differentiated their religion in search of converts, they took themselves out of the protection of this revered older religion. This also turned into a competition for converts with the Jews which accelerated animosity between them, with the Christians vilifying the Jews for not accepting Christ when he came. The Jews became more and more separated from the Christian cult and found it easier to exist without conflict in the east and the Islamic society that was tolerant of monotheistic religions. Astrology in the east survived with the Arabic cultures, and in the west Aristotelian views and Christian views evolved with the establishment of the first Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge in the 12th Century. The Arabic and Jewish philosophers in the east held that stars were very strong concentrations of ether and reflected the light of the sun, so these considerations remained strong in the minds of Medieval cultures.
By 1118 C.E. the birth of Manuel Komnenos ran concurrent with the first translations of the Arabic astrological works leading up to his being chosen by his father through "signs and tokens" that he would be the best choice to be crowned Emperor of the east with an astrological chart as record for that coronation. (16) His use of astrology is evident, even making sure an astrologer was present during his wife's labor of one of his son's birth to ensure an accurate recording of the birth data. His arguments in defense of astrology against a letter from a monk of the imperial Pantokrator monastery in Constantinople is evidence that it was never science that sought the demise of astrology, but religious dogma and need for control that spawned a more separate science out of necessity to account for the continued exploration and understanding of the physical universe while side-stepping condemnation from those with the power of the church.
At this time in history we see astrology being defined as an art and science without hesitation. We also see the same problems then as in modern times, of the ignorant seeking to denounce astrology from simple superstition rather than any thorough working knowledge of the subject. The authoritative writings Manuel references are the revered Greek texts on astrology of then and now. He points out that God created the art of astrology as a tool to understand the workings of the creation and not a superstitious belief of the stars having souls and therefore used for making "charms and invocations" which he points out is unholy. The very fact that he has to defend anything as holy or unholy is a very powerful indication of the hold Christianity had over the value judgments of the culture in which we read these documents. Likewise, the fact that the church preoccupies itself over the centuries condemning astrology (and Aristotelianism 1210, 1215, 1231, 1245, 1270, 1277) by itself indicates that astrology was alive and well and powerful enough to evoke such condemnations. The church seeks to be the gatekeeper: Everything must pass inspection by those in "authority." During this timing the accumulated and revered Greek classical knowledge is now being superstitiously denigrated simply for the sake of control over the rubes, who, because of the deterioration of the education levels over the centuries were more gullible than ever to accept such punishment and limitation from a few in authority.
The early Roman empire occupied a special place in Christianity because both Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom there. Rome was were supposedly where Christ told Peter (Petra in Greek means rock) "on this rock I will build my church", hence, the Bishop of Rome was head of the Catholic church because this passage was argued to mean that Jesus chose Peter as his successor. The contortions that the Christ's supposed words are spun into to gain control and power still are used to this day, and demonstrate the danger of allowing those with less than spiritual concerns on their mind to determine just what metaphor means. But the interpretations of the New Testament are undergoing new and challenging tests.
THE WORLD IN FRONT OF THE TEXT: OUR CULTURE
In 1277 Thomas Aquinas was condemned in Paris along with 219 propositions of Aristotelian cosmological precepts. The abuse of power in the church would not go unnoticed, and there would be consequences for each attempt by the church to usurp power, so that by 1517 the wholesale rejection of the Catholic church in much of northern Europe coincided with Marsilio Ficino's translation of Platonic and Hermetic teachings and reaffirmation of Hellenistic astrology. This along with the concept of humanism (the proper study of man is man) would be key factors in the ignition of the Renaissance and the development of science.
The 12th century was the main phase of translations of Arabic material (as the Greek was disappearing) which added greatly to the scientific revolution that would occur later. One of the precursors of empirical science was Roger Bacon (1215-1292) who logically presented powerful arguments against the notion that astrology was necessarily deterministic. He argued that men's natural dispositions can be affected by the heavenly bodies as they are in climactic conditions; but it does not follow that all of their actions are determined.(24)
And so, even the precursors of "empiricism" must look for moral and mental qualities that would pacify the church to justify speculation. These conflicts rooted in power were to continue for centuries. The sharpest conflict was during the century after reformation,(26) a time when the church itself was being reconstructed from the lingering effects of the abuse of power. The astrological conflict with the church stemmed from the contradictions between astrological and Christian explanations of phenomena such as storms and earthquakes. Seen by the Christian perspective as manifestations of God's secret purposes allowed control of collective and personal perspective to remain with the religious leaders. These events were seen by astrologers as fated "good or bad" luck events based on astrological configurations, and detracted from the locus of psychological control by the church assigning power to the astrologer rather than the clergy.
But the Churches own abuse of sacraments by devising all sorts of "rules" in order to separate the money and possessions from its faithful acted as a catalyst in the sixteenth century where another shift occurred with the new readings of biblical literature proposed by the Protestant reformers. These reformers sought to strip away many of the institutionalized interpretations that had grown up as the effect of the power of the clergy in the previous centuries, reading instead for an understanding of personal salvation. Hence, the reformation.
Now the Renaissance followed once the power of the church had been shaken. The core philosophy now moved to humanism with a resurgence in the interest of the Greek classical literature, wherein the human individual development is treasured--as it should be. Marsilio Ficino translates Plato, Plotinus, and the Corpus Hermeticum at the request of Cosimo Medici, and immediately the fear of control recently perpetrated by the church with its influence, triggers the same rash of criticisms of astrology. But the astrologers affected by this would be the authors of the Astronomical revolution. Inspired by the resurgence and introduction of Plato, Hermeticism and Plotinus, Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler and Galileo would develop a new cosmology driven by the astrological Greek notions. But still, we see these great logicians and astrologers cowering before the church while rebirthing the search for truth:
To His Holiness, Pope Paul III, Nicholas Copernicus' Preface to His Books on the Revolutions
If we see this much fear generated simply by the suggestion of the difference in mechanics of physical motions, what would be the response to the questioning of theological position and interpretations of the Bible? Astrology was an integral part of the Astronomical Revolution, and yet academicians today purposely exclude these facts from the education process.
And yet, based on the rebirth of the classical knowledge, steeped in astrological foundation from the beginning of history and beyond, the fear of disrupting the status quo of the Christian cult, foster parent of the classical literature, perpetrators of the crusades---remains. Universities typically leave out any notion of the profound place of astrology in the history of the world, in cultural developments, plays, dance, music. Had the Greeks been so threatened by Babylonian astrology? No, it was refined and enhanced by the Greeks. Had the Arabic world been so threatened when it translated the ancient works? No, it advanced and improved and invented new methods of application. Did the Chinese--who could cover the earth with their populace develop a belief system of dominance and intolerance? Has any cult in recorded history been so ruthless as to destroy the entire history of a people such as the Spanish invasion of Mesoamerica in 1500?, destroy and overtake the entire populace of native Americans in North America?
All of this historical evidence presented lends credence to the psychological recognition of the split of religious doctrine and earthly physics into what we now define as the polarized dogma of both "science and religion" -- the direct result of the fear still present in this Renaissance. Still present, was the power of the church to punish those whose discoveries challenged the cannons of the church. Such a threat to open discovery and blossoming of intellect was not present in classical Greece. Hence, the decline of astrology was not the result of scientific debunking, for science in the classical sense never had such rigid dogma and power structures behind it to do so. Nor does the true skeptic (32) hold such rigid and incoherent dictates that drive his discovery of new knowledge. The reality of our present day level of intellect and cosmological theological quest for insight, is that no rebirth has fully occurred, hence no Renaissance has been completed, because the notion outlined in the first paragraph of this work regarding coherency theorists' recognition that "An empirical belief is true if and only if it coheres with a system of other beliefs, which together form a comprehensive account of reality" has not been yet reached. The level of science has so outstripped the awareness of cosmological purpose and the journey of humanity into inner space, that we live in an endless parade of marketing and economic manipulation laden with emotive fallaciousness designed to lure us from one economic decision to another. Where has the awe filled examination of a summer sky that drove the query to begin with gone? It can now be viewed in a few clicks on your computer minus the fresh air. Academia and financiers drive this collective reality.
Driven by the zeal of Christian dogma and the need for control through the centuries, the discounting and disregarding of astrology by academia as the integral part of that comprehensive reality that ties the polarities and dichotomies together to bring us back to full exploration with a coherent classical level in the modern era, is no less ludicrous than accepting the advice of the wizard of "Oz" to "ignore that man behind the curtain". Because until we do acknowledge it and advance the spiritual to meet the technological, none of us will ever truly find our way home.
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1). This was not the perspective of the Christ according to accounts of his life. The identity known as Jesus acted with trust in the physical environs as a part of "God." For example in the Gospel of Matthew we find: "Look at the birds of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" Matthew 6:26. And in the gospel of Thomas: "The kingdom of heaven will not come through expectation--it is spread across the land but men do not see it." The Gospel of Thomas
2). Coherence theory in philosophy is; "An empirical belief is true if and only if it coheres with a system of other beliefs, which together form a comprehensive account of reality." ( definition taken from "Philosophy, The Power of Ideas, second edition, Moore and Bruder, Mayfield Publishing, 1993"). The widely separated existence of the constructs of religion and science in their present day form do not form a comprehensive account of reality. Quite the opposite, if the collective perspective regarding this idea were present in the psyche of an individual, the diagnoses would be closer to schizophrenia.
3). Astrology, History and Apocalypse, Part One: The History of Astrology, page 7.
4). Tester, A History of Western Astrology, page 55.
5). Patterson, Gordon M. (2000). Essentials of Ancient History, chapter 10, page 103.
6). Meaning the astrology that was mathematically developed and geometrically enhanced by the Greeks.
7). Religion and The Decline of Magic, Astrology and Religion, page 361.
8). Perry, Western Civilization, A Brief History, The Ancient Near East, The First Civilizations, page 22.
9). This concept is an illusion and deceptive, because good and bad are extreme value judgments.
10). Nicholas Campion in Astrology, History and Apocalypse states that evidence of this idea can be found in the Egyptian religion, but entered the Christian religion via Persia.
11). In behavioral psychology, reinforcement is any procedure that increases the probability of a response. A schedule of reinforcement is the schedule by which a particular desired response is reinforced. A chain schedule is a sequence of reinforcement schedules in which primary reinforcement is delivered only upon completion of the last schedule. A stimulus (cue) indicates the schedule in force.
12). Good and bad are extreme subjective value judgments and tell us little about the integrity or positiveness of psychic energies, or personal intent.
13). A deterioration of mental efficiency or critical thinking skills, reality testing and moral judgment in a group that results from an excessive desire to reach consensus.
14). Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, page 21.
15). Joseph Campbell, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, page 30-31.
16). Demetra George lecture, Kepler symposium notes, January 15, 2001, Bastyr University, Seattle, Washington.
17). The words astronomia and astrologia were used interchangeably until the Middle Ages to designate the astrological art, which was considered by the ancients as applied astronomy. In another treatise, Michael Glykas distinguishes the differences between the two terms.
18). has a specialized meaning, "a passage quoted as an authority from some special usage" LSJ.
19). During Manuel's reign there were some educated monks living at the Pantokrator Monastery. See Marin, Les Moins de Constantinople, 1897, 403 as cited by Cumont, 107.
20). The making of charms and invocations to compel the elemental spirits associated with the planets to effect a particular action is the basis of astral magic. This was a misuse or misunderstanding of the practices associated with theurgy, a larger body of doctrine advocated by later Neoplatonists such as Iamblichus in On The Mysteries. Theurgy attracted the interests of Michael Psellus, an eleventh century Byzantine Neoplatonist, and it may have been from this tradition that Manuel and his contemporaries were aware of the practice. See also E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational, 1951. However magic and sorcery were not uncommon in the twelfth century. Choniates describes several men who were convicted of sorcery by Manuel (Chon.2.4.144-50). See also Henry Maguire, ed., Byzantine Magic (Washington, DC.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1995).
21). The supposition that everything that God makes has a purpose and is not to be rejected was articulated by Basil, "not a single thing has been created without a reason; not a single thing is useless" ( Hex. 6.4).
22). Manuel Komnenos' defense of Astrology and Michael Glykas refutation, Kepler document, Week 4, Astrology and Christianity, December 2000.
23). The New Testament Story, Barr, Wadsworth Publishing, 1995.
24). This concept is the foundation of this author's entire cosmology. Using a physics example: Knowing the trajectory of an object increases our ability to redirect it, not necessarily implying the trajectory cannot be changed simply because we are able to more clearly define it. It does not follow, and Bacon--in my view is correct.
25). Bacon tried to dissociate astrology from determinism. Men's natural dispositions, he argues, can be affected by the heavenly bodies, as they are by climatic conditions; but it does not follow that all their actions are determined, A History of Medieval Philosophy, page, 171.
26). 1517 as the official date of reformation.
27). The Works of the Rev. William Bridge (1845), I, p. 438.
28). Religion and The Decline of Magic, Astrology and Religion, page 359.
29). On The Revolutions of The Heavenly Spheres, anonymous forward by Andreas Osiander.
30). Kepler focused heavily on planetary aspects, which he thought were most important.
31). Reform of The Heavens, "Kepler Breaks The Spell of Circularity", by Owen Gingrich, page, 189.
32). True skepticism is the recognition that all knowledge is tentative at best. That perfect knowledge is not possible.
"I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.
Edmond H. Wollmann P.M.A.F.A.