On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Münster Cathedral’s astronomical clock. Detail.

I have written quite extensively about the importance of the stars and astrological practise in Judaism and Islam as well as in non-Abrahamic religions, such as Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. Here, I examine many of the same themes from the point of view of Christianity. I’ve been pondering this for a while now because authentic astrology has been under attack by both theologians and scientists for centuries, yet neither has taken the time to discover what astrology actually is. This makes this task a difficult one in which there is always the chance I will end up preaching to the converted.

To begin, I would like to distance myself from the various strands of the Zeitgeist Movement, that effectively attempts to destroy Christianity by discrediting it, claiming it is just one more Solar cult meant to deceives its followers for the benefit of an elite group. The gist is that a Solar cult was projected onto Christianity, rendering events such as the birth of Jesus as well as his Resurrection to be fabrications. Having said that, even people that are usually wrong can sometimes be right. It is nevertheless not a fruitful manner of investigating the relevance of stars in scripture or how they may have been read.

At any rate, I do not believe that astrology is for everyone, which, other than air, shelter, water and food, is true of everything else. Astrology is a kind of consciousness, one that engages in the language of the stars, from which we came, to explain and reveal certain realities. The stars do not make people do anything, any more than a clock makes time.  For those attuned to the Uranian Muse, the message of the stars is an inexhaustible mine of wisdom.

Very often the most difficult thing to communicate effectively is that which others think they already know –  even though they do not. The idea that astrology is inherently incompatible not only with Christianity but also with reason and science is taken for granted as if someone had proven it very long time ago,  I suggest a willing suspension of disbelief be maintained while the subject is examined.

The worst obstacle to grasping the essence of true astrology is dished up every day, in virtually every newspaper. The Sun sign column is pure fraud and meant only to entertain and thereby sell more newspapers. It really has nothing in common with authentic astrology except that it refers to the signs of the zodiac.

Scientists such as Richard Dawkins dismiss astrology with spectacular arrogance and utter scorn as if they had had actually disproved it. Dawkins is a well-respected scientist and obviously well versed in the procedures of the scientific method. Nevertheless, he claimed he had discredited astrology for all time by conducting the following mockery of the same scientific method. He cut out the Capricorn entry from the Sun Sign column in the Manchester Guardian and read it to less than 20 passers-by. He asked people at random if the column was accurate, although only a few of the people were actually Sun sign Capricorns.

Now, as we all know, Sun sign columns are deliberately vague. If they were not, then nobody with anything better to do would read them. Readers want the horoscope to apply to them to cater to a need to imagine that virtually no information can explain things. She wants those new shoes. He wants that girl on the bus to notice him. Let’s examine this entry for Capricorn in the Guardian:

★ CAPRICORN 22 Dec-19 Jan “Saturn, Capricorn’s ruler, represents the ability to survive and prosper regardless of circumstance, through stoicism or ruthlessness (delete as applicable). With the ringed planet now at the apex of your scope, new professional phase dawn, one where you can seize control rather than be buffeted about by circumstance. Scheme on. Short term, you’re in a busy, profitable phase where commerce and good company overlap. Enjoy.”

Not only is this vague enough to apply to anyone, but the writer actually invites the reader to delete as applicable.”

Dawkins received mostly luke-warm responses, the majority of which were uncertain. As a result of this travesty of the scientific method, Dawkins claims himself triumphant and moves on to discredit homoeopaths. I’m quite familiar with negative opinions of astrology ranging from sceptical to scathing, but I’m particularly disappointed when a scientist refuses to employ their own methods to arrive at a conclusion, rather than falling into the pit of prejudicial opinion. I believe Dawkins in spite of his intelligence is not so different from fundamentalist religionists – both believe that their understanding and perception are the only viable ones available and all other beliefs are the subject of contempt. Sometimes the belief is so strong that the contempt can afford to be polite.

The seven planets with their associated symbols, within the four winds. – 15th-century astrological woodcut.

Most religious people are opposed to Astrology because they don’t know what it is, yet believe it to be forbidden in scripture. I wonder what these people make of the cathedrals of Europe, so frequently and lavishly decorated with astrological symbolism. I have to assume that when even Catholics are persuaded that it is forbidden, that they have not read the Church Fathers or the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas. I also have to wonder why they never asked why most of the Popes, until recent times, had astrologers.

In the history of astrology, particularly in Christian Europe,  particularly prior to the 18th Century, the formula was simple “the stars impel, they do not compel.” England’s most celebrated Astrologer, William Lilly, wrote his most complete work on astrology with the title “Christian Astrology.” Into the 18th century, we find Isaac Newton as comfortable with astrology as with mathematics and physics, theology and alchemy. His good friend Edmund Halley wondered how could believe in astrology. The rather saturnine Newton replied, “because I have studied the subject and you have not.”

Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass – Bay (Labours of the Months / Signs of the Zodiac)

In the words of, the writer at Fish Eaters, ” no Catholic is bound to believe in astrology — i.e., no Catholic must believe the that the Heavenly bodies can and do influence us. A Catholic can consider it to be complete hokum; all of that is a question of fact and, ultimately, a matter of science, not of eternal Truths or dogma that we need to know to save our souls. But a Catholic may believe that “the stars” influence us, and he can be perfectly orthodox while doing so. It is perfectly licit to cast a natal chart to try to determine the planetary influences that may affect your inclinations. What is forbidden is the casting of charts to foretell the future as if it’s cast in stone by the stars (a form of divination), or to believe in any form of astrology that denies free will.”

Chartres Cathedral Stained Glass

This is what we find in scripture regarding the stars and signs. “God created the stars (Gen. 1:16) and positioned them in their precise position in the universe (Ps. 8:3). Stars were, “for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years, in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:14, 15).  It’s very personal. The stars all have names: ” He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” (Ps. 147:4). The Tanakh is replete with astrological references, as demonstrated in the work of Yaakov Kronenberg.

Although Christianity as we know it takes a myriad of forms, the single best generalization is that is in fact, Pauline theology.  Most of the references to astrology are found in what Christian refer to as the “Old Testament.” In the New Testament,  Paul is offered as a key source of the condemnation of astrology. But even here, the names give – such as fortune teller, sorcerer and so on, betray a degree of superstition beyond what could be said about what Paul fears. The theme is “God wouldn’t like that because it’s his job.” The case against astrology in the NT is exceedingly weak and based on misinterpretations. To place an astrologer with sources and necromancers is both silly and lazy.

To be fair to Paul, most of what he is said to have written about astrology is more in the imagination of the reader. For example, I found this listed as the main source of the prohibition against astrology:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; …”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-13.)

This is among the most beautiful prose written by Paul and it takes quite a leap to imagine he is discussing astrology. As it happens I agree with him on all points.

Nevertheless, the crux of the matter is that Paul and his ilk were responsible for a great deal of destruction in the Pagan world, including the destruction of the Temple of Artemis. Frankly, he isn’t a very reliable source and the apostles, Peter and James among them, were disturbed at his interpretations of a teacher he had never met, that had been a companion to them for several years. Be that as he may. Paul tells us he is “all things to all men” which ought to prepare anyone before reading his Epistles. There is an enormous amount of scholarship which answers to these very reasonable questions.

Let’s get to the core of the issue. I for one would never refer to myself as a “fortune teller” and most certainly, not a sorcerer. Seasoned astrologers with an understanding of the basis of astrology, do not pretend to predict the future of anyone.  We deal with what the Tibetan Buddhists refer to as “causes and conditions.” This is precisely what we read in the Nativity. To indicate medical predispositions, forms of creativity and particular interests, strengths and weaknesses. Imagine that you have a collection of seeds and you have been trained by guidance and experience to identify them. With that knowledge, we can infer how the seed will grow and in what kind of soil. Imagine again, that you are a meteorologist. Predicting weather is not considered as “fortune telling.” The use of this word in an attempt to discredit astrology, say much more about the accuser. It shows that he has no real idea about which they speak.

medieval astrological medicinal chart

Astrology has several forms. We have Electional Astrology. This is extremely difficult for a number of reasons, but it can provide the most auspicious moment to do something. I agree that this has a spiritual dimension, but in essence, this isn’t much different than consulting the meteorologist to find a sunny day for the wedding.  What we do is much more detailed, but again this is not fortune telling.

Medical Astrology is particularly useful. It tells us what kind of vessel we have to navigate through our lives. It also shows weakness and therefore allows for the avoidance of some kinds of food or activity.  astrology and Medicine have worked for hand in hand since the earliest times.

Mundane Astrology requires not only mastery of astrology, but plenty of associated knowledge, such as geography, history and politics. Mundane astrology was considered the jewel in the crown of all the available forms. It has also been used since the earliest of times, in no small part because it was useful to the governing and survival of states. Reason tells us that if what Mundane did was provide absolute knowledge of future events, with little or no interest in the season, the climate, the current political reality and so on. it would likely fail – and it has. If however, we look at the same issue as did the writer of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.

The desire to know which season fits which purpose is a pursuit of wisdom.  This can be known by way of consulting the stars. However, one of the greatest challenges facing ancient astrologers was whether it was better to tell the ruler what she wanted to hear or risk execution by telling an inconvenient truth,

Zodiac floor. Basilica of St Denis, Paris, France

Modern Mundane astrology takes different forms, depending on which tradition is being utilized. I believe a great deal of humility is required lest we become Icarus, falling from the heights of hubris.

This leaves us with Horary Astrology. This is a most peculiar beast. It allowed William Lily to find out who had stolen his fish and Portuguese onion. Horary is good for finding things and it responds best to yes, no or were questions.  It might be compared to hiring a cosmic private investigator – but it isn’t fortune telling.

The tragedy of the misunderstanding of what astrology actually is therefore found in the Epistles of Paul and in the popularization of the newspaper horoscopes.  None of the forms I have discussed above would be any more evil than meteorology, medicine or  But the illusion persists. What little souls don’t understand, they call evil or simply “unscientific.” even though a rigorous, scientific enquiry has never been conducted. Moreover, it may never take place because of the essential elements of astrological practise are ignored or misunderstood. One would think it would be obvious that no intelligent person is likely to believe that space rocks determine human destiny.  Sadly, such is not the case.

2 thoughts on “On Earth As It Is In Heaven

  1. wonderful and useful post – thanks

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