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History of Astrology in the Western World
the average person raised in any Western world culture knows their
Tropical Western Zodiac Sun Sign placement (i.e. Hey baby! What’s
your sign?) and millions read their daily horoscope as a source
of momentary entertainment and amusement.
heck! Who knows? Maybe today will be your lucky day, and you'll
finally meet that tall, dark stranger that your horoscope is bragging
Reserved For Royalty
From the very dawn of humanity (until today), people have oddly
enough looked to the heavens and the planets for guidance and inspiration.
of years ago astrology was, generally speaking, reserved only for
members of royalty. There were good points to astrology being embraced
by those in political power, and there were sadly enough several
bad points. One of the best advantages was that an astrologer could
often look forward to a nice, comfortable, civil service job in
of the worst "difficulties" was when the astrologer inevitably
made his/her royal benefactor angry. That was when the court astrologer
most often (literally) lost his/her head over the matter.
The roots of Western Tropical astrology (the type of astrology most
Westerners are familiar with today) date all the way back to ancient
Mesopotamia (2300 BC). From there, perhaps as early as 600 BC, it's
generally thought that astrology began making its way into ancient
entrance into Greece coincided with the beginning of the first great
Greek philosophers and with the rise of the Greek state and culture.
Socrates - 469 to 399 BC
Plato - 427 to 347 BC
Aristotle - 384 to 322 BC
Alexander the Great burst onto the scene beginning his famous conquests
over much of the entire (then known) world. Alexander's conquests
lasted between the years of 336-323 BC. Due to Alexander's powerful
influence and control - and his having been tutored by the master
philosopher Aristotle - Greek culture and thought was then spread
throughout much of Alexander's vast conquered domain.
In this process of "hellenizing" the world - Alexandria,
Egypt became the established cultural center of ancient Hellenistic
Greek thought and philosophy between the years of 323 - 31 BC.
was during this 300 year period of time that the study, development,
and acceptance of astrology flourished among many of the prominent
thinkers of the day... and it was during this period of time, when
the roots of horoscopic, zodiacal, individualized astrology (much
as we recognize it today) first came into existence.
this Hellenistic Greek atmosphere, astrology was no longer reserved
for royalty. Later ancient Hellenistic sky watchers such as the
famous Ptolemy (85-165 AD) served in dual roles as both the scientifically
minded mathematical astronomer searching out the skies and as the
metaphysically minded astrologer divining the purposes of the heavens.
Quiet Period In The West
After a several hundred year “heyday” in ancient Greek
and then Roman culture - astrology in the Western world, while
totally dying out, became rather quiet during the dark period of
time now called the Middle Ages.
this time, astrology continued
to flourish and evolve in other cultural environments. However...
in Western world cultures, in fourth century AD, the Christian
was busily at work establishing itself as the predominant Western
world political power and belief system during the next several
to say that during the Christian Church's rule in the medieval period,
the Church in Rome vacillated back and forth over its official viewpoint
and level of tolerance regarding astrology. At times Christian church
leaders condemned astrology and astrologers as being heretical,
while at other times church leaders sought out the guidance of astrologers.
to historian Valerie Flint (The Rise of Magic In Early Medieval
Europe), in the early Middle Ages, some Christian church leaders
actually encouraged a belief in astrology in order to keep believers
away from what seemed to be more dangerous magical practices. Some
church officials during this very large span of time, such as French
Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly (1350-1420), were practicing astrologers.
For the most part, in the Western world, astrology kept its low
profile until a reemergence and renewal during the European Renaissance
(ranging in date anywhere from 1453 - 1598 to as late as the 1670s).
on in Italy by the Medicis, the philosopher, astrologer, and Catholic
priest Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), along with the revival of Greek
neo-Platonic philosophies - astrology once again began gaining prominence
among many of the scholastics of the day.
the European Renaissance (ranging from 1453 - 1670) the vast majority
of Western astrologers were practicing Christians. In fact, one
of the more notable English astrologers during the latter Renaissance
period, William Lilly (1602-1681), remonikered astrology as being
"Christian Astrology," although it's thought by some that
this naming was to keep the still rather powerful (and vacillating)
Christian church leadership at bay.
all too brief, European Renaissance was then followed by the bright
rationalistic light of the Age of Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution
of the 17th century AD, with the scholastic world finally determining,
once and for all, that the Earth was not the center of the universe.
What we today take for granted, knowing the Earth to be a very small
cog in the greater wheel of the universe, was - for the peoples
of that time and age - a huge shift in consciousness. It’s
literally impossible for us to imagine how chaotic and devastating
this paradigm shift and “ideological earthquake” was
to become or how effective it would be in rocking the religious
world of the day.
was only one among a much larger group of metaphysical aftershock
casualties of this mind bending paradigm shift. As a result of this
“ideological earthquake,” the physical science of astronomy
and the metaphysical art of astrology began the slow process of
being split off from one another - and, for the first time, they
became separate, often contrary disciplines.
astronomy blossomed under the watchful eye and blessing of the new
Age of Enlightenment - mystically minded astrology was cursed and
cast aside under its disdainful, disapproving glare... Once again,
Western astrology began disappearing into the mist, shadows, and
darkness. At the same time, it would be a mistake to say that the
practice of astrology totally died out as a result of the Age of
Revival of Astrology
Around 150-180 years ago, astrology in Western culture slowly began
rising up from the ashes once more and back into public favor, imagination,
the beginning of the 20th century, a final grand revival of astrology
came about owing much to the efforts of the charismatic, enigmatic,
and controversial astrologers, Sepharial (1864 - 1929) and Alan
Leo (1860-1917), who became the founding fathers of the Astrological
Lodge of the Theosophical Society in Great Britain. Since Sepharial
and Leo’s time, Western culture’s fascination with astrology
has continued on with us and grown and evolved through the years.
Baby! What's Your Sign?
It was during this final 20th century pop revival of Western astrology
that Sun Sign Astrology, ideas on karma and reincarnation, and the
reading of daily horoscopes first began coming back into vogue.
to esteemed astrologer, Dane Rudhyar, at the beginning of the 1930's,
astrologer Paul Clancy decided that popularizing astrology was to
be his life mission. When Clancy's magazine "American Astrology"
became a huge success in 1934, it started a new "epoch"
was primarily Clancy's venture in "American Astrology"
that brought about the popularity of daily and/or weekly astrological
horoscope columns, with readings of the twelve signs, to appear
in the newspapers and periodicals throughout the United States and
Europe. (from the preface of Astrology, The Divine Science
by written by Marcia Moore and Mark Douglas)
the esteemed and quite respected astrologer, Dane Rudhyar, failed
to mention in his preface is that it was none other than he, Dane
Rudhyar, who was the original writer of these popular "American
Out Of Their Metaphysical Closets
In recent years... many otherwise reasonable, rational people from
all walks of life have (so to speak) "come out of their metaphysical
closets" in defense of astrology.
Here are just a couple of examples of scientific community renegades:
visionary English astrophysicist and astronomer Dr Percy Seymour
"threw his hat into the ring" by publishing Astrology:
The Evidence of Science, appearing in April 1989. In his groundbreaking
book – Dr Seymour, a chartered member of the Institute
of Physics and Fellow member of the Royal Astronomical Society,
explained his revolutionary theories of "celestial harmonics"
in regard to why he felt astrology may work in the first place.
there's the late Victor Mansfield (b.1941-d.2008), astrophysicist
and author of Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making
in 1995. In 1997, when Dr Mansfield was a featured speaker at
a major astrology conference (the Cycles and Symbols Conference
San Francisco 1997), he caused quite a stir.
in Norwalk, CT, Mansfield attended Dartmouth College and completed
his Ph.D. at Cornell University, leading to a thirty-five year
career of teaching physics, astrophysics, and popular cross-disciplinary
courses at Colgate University. His course, Core: Tibet, was
particularly loved by his students. His gifts as a teacher culminated
in April 2008 when he received the Sidney J. and Florence Felten
French Prize for inspirational teaching.
His other two books are Head and Heart: A Personal Exploration
of Science and the Sacred (Quest, 2002), and Tibetan
Buddhism & Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge
In the forward to Dr. Mansfield last book, Tibetan Buddhism
& Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge,
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama described him as “someone
who has reconciled his professional involvement with science
with a deep interest in spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism in
It appears that in our modern world... while one needn't be a rocket
scientist to believe astrology works, it doesn't hurt.
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