The Apple Of God's Eye

March 8, 2010

The Origin Of Astrology

Astrology is by far the biggest area of popular occult attention. Probably two thirds of books printed on occultism deal with the subject of astrology.

In the 1950’s, only about 100 papers carried horoscope columns. Twenty years later, over 1200 daily newspapers regularly catered to the subject. Statistics claimed that about 10,000 full-time and 175,000 part-time astrologers in the U. S. served some 40,000,000 in their American audience. Another 40 million dabbled in it. Shops carried astrological recordings, calendars, ashtrays, hairstyles, sweat shirts, and thousands of merchandise items linked to the zodiac. Astrology pulp magazines sold millions of copies monthly.

The popular musical Hair with its hit song of Aquarius and its own well-publicized company astrologist gave special impetus to the movement. In 1969 the Dell Publishing Company alone had some 49 horoscope publications in print and sold over 8,000,000 copies of its annual astrological dope sheet.

Today, the number of astrological adherents has increased exponentially. It has been estimated that up to 1 billion people on earth today believe in or follow astrology to some extent. The practice has gained appeal through public endorsement by a wide variety of celebrities who range from Hollywood stars to members of the political and intellectual communities.

What does all this really represent? Any meaningful discussion of astrology has to distinguish between different levels of astrological thought. On the one hand is the marketplace variety which is seen in the newspaper columns and at the grocery store check-out counters. On the other hand there is the serious level of astrological theory.

Drugstore Astrology

Popular or marketplace astrology is primarily concerned with prophecy. Here we find the newspaper horoscope which pretends to tell all those born under a certain sun-sign — all Cancers, all Leos, etc. — what the day or week holds in store for them. No “professional” astrologer would ever dabble in the popular variety which provide entertainment.  Horoscope forecasts in the form of advice come across as bland common sense that would be good general advice for anybody on any day.

And, in truth, polls indicate that very few among the multitudes of readers actually take such horoscopes very much to heart. In this light, the statement that “40,000,000 people” are involved in astrology is grossly exaggerated, to say the least. The statistic of 40,000,000 basically represents the potential readership of the 1200 daily newspapers which regularly carry an astrological column.

This area of astrology is purely a commercial phenomenon, a business venture, on the part of those who sell information. These days, as someone pointed out, occultism is spelled o¢¢ultis$m. But, why are people buying?

“The mass interest in astrological prophecy may be regarded in straightforward historical terms as the inevitable corollary of a society in the last throes of decline and degeneration” (John Anthony West and Jan Gerhard Toonder, The Case for Astrology, p. 201).

West and Toonder state that pop astrology, like over-emphasis on “future research” betrays an “incapacity to live in the present.” It proceeds “upon the assumption that by forecasting the future it [the future] can be acted upon with miraculous wisdom despite the chaos and blundering so evidently prevailing at the time the actual forecast is made.” Three centuries of materialism, rationalism and technology have proven so unconvincing and emotionally unsatisfactory.

Hard-sell astrology ads promise knowledge of the future, knowledge about the real you, social success, contentment, the realization of hidden potential, and financial well-being. People buy the sales pitch because they are willing to try many things in order to gain one or some of these goals. There is always the hope that it might work. Of course, astrology cannot deliver such goods — but neither can any of the many other gimmicks which make the same or similar promises.

People pay money for such promises because they are less interested in pursuing truth than they are in fulfilling certain emotional needs. “Professional astrologers would not be in business for long if the truth began creeping into their advertisements,” West and Toonder report. “Their clients are interested in other things.”

Three Typical Levels

One can generalize about three “typical levels” of involvement in astrology. The first two levels represent areas we have been discussing.

  • First is the most superficial level of involvement. The typical person here is the occasional reader of the newspaper and magazine astrology columns. He knows next to nothing about the “mechanics” of astrology — about the theory, terminology and mathematics of casting a horoscope. The overwhelming majority of those “involved” in astrology fall into this first level. Most of the over-35 population who follow astrology are in this category.
  • At the second level of involvement are those with some knowledge of astrological mechanics. These people usually have their own personal horoscopes cast. Ways of doing this range from personal visits with a consulting astrologer to a computer analysis of their horoscopes. They are able to talk shop astrologically. Like those in the first level, they are looking for advice and predictions. People in this level are primarily those of college age, and this level has had the greatest relative increase during the current revival.

Astrologer Dane Rudhyar, who was a prominent figure in the reformulation of astrological concepts in terms of contemporary psychology and philosophy, wrote, “The young people … hope to find in astrology not only answers to poignant personal problems, but even more some sort of inner security. Many of them … refusing to participate in a culture increasingly dominated by a de-humanized and de-natured approach to knowledge, long to discover their place and function in a more-than-human, universal or cosmic order.”

But he goes on to add, “Alas, the majority of astrologers are still too close to the fortune-telling category, too obsessed by telling ‘what will happen,’ to be able to answer the needs of the young …” (The Astrology of the Personality, pp. viii-ix).

What they really need is a true knowledge of what actually will happen, and what they should do about it. But they will never find this in astrology. Astrological prophecy is partly an attempt to escape the present by knowing (supposedly) the future. Astrology can also be an exercise in fatalism: the stars have determined your future, and there is not too much you can do about it. Most astrologers will deny that astrology is a means of prophecy, or that it teaches a predetermined future. Yet many of them go on acting as if it is and does. Certainly to the average astrology follower, prophecy is the focus of attention.

  • For those at a third level of involvement, astrology is a highly complex and symbolical structure which supposedly gives its believers a meaningful view of the universe and gives them an understanding of their place in it. Astrology, for them, has passed beyond either entertainment or superstition and has plainly become a religion. They see astrology as “the result of man’s attempt to understand the apparent confusion and chaos of his life-experiences by referring them to the ordered patterns of cyclic activity which he discovers in the sky” (Dane Rudhyar, The Practice of Astrology, p. 8).

Only a few thousand strong, these people have become really involved in the literature of the field and usually cast their own horoscopes. Until relatively recently, only a very small number of elderly people were involved — they now include many youthful advocates.

Roots of Astrology

Astrology as well as astronomy has its roots in the religion and science of the ancient Babylonians.

The Babylonians thought they could foretell the future by their observations of the stars. Five planets were considered especially fateful regarding the destinies of men. The names of the five most important Chaldean gods were applied to those planets.

A brief and concise description of the ancient Babylonian astrology and its origin is given in Langer’s Encyclopedia of World History. We read: “The most characteristic and influential features of Babylonian religion, aside from its mythology, were the elaborate systems of magical practices [incantations] and the interpretation of omens [divination], particularly the movements and position of the heavenly bodies [astrology], the actions of animals, and the characteristics of the liver of sacrificial victims” (page 26).

In the three centuries before Christ, Babylonian astrology developed into a pseudo-mathematical science which, however, still retained its religious orientation toward worship of the powers of the stars. The whole of this pseudo- and proto-science then spread westward over the Hellenistic realm and finally over the entire Roman world.

Later, astrologers built up a strong practice in Rome. The Babylonian names for the stars were altered to suit Roman tastes. Thus the planet Marduk became Jupiter, Nabu became Mercury, Ishtar (the Babylonian name for Semiramis) was changed to Venus (the “Queen of Heaven”).

Ultimately, as time went on, the objective, scientific part of the Babylonian study — the observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies — was put to good use. Man became able to predict eclipses. The general picture of the operation of the solar system, and of the earth’s place in it, began to come clear. Out of the later Middle Ages the modern science of astronomy finally developed.

But the religious and superstitious part of the tradition had not died. From the body of Babylonian ideas, the Greeks had derived the notion of the zodiac and the division into 12 parts of the band of the ecliptic (the relatively narrow region in the sky within which the sun, moon and planets appear to travel). The 12 signs of the zodiac which persist in astrology today were developed to identify these 12 regions of the sky.

What Is The Zodiac?

The whole structure of astrology revolves around the “zodiac” — an arbitrarily arranged belt in the heavens. It includes the paths of the moon and the principal planets. It has as its middle line the sun’s path — called the ecliptic. The zodiac, according to astrologers, has twelve divisions (or signs), each 30 degrees long, marked off eastward from the vernal equinox. The names of these divisions were originally the names of the constellations — groups of fixed stars — within them.

The signs of the zodiac were classified and used by ancient peoples thousands of years before the time of Christ. They were finally accurately established so that they would coincide with the twelve constellations in 100 B.C. But because of the precession of the earth’s rotational axis, the signs of the zodiac are today separated about 30 degrees from their corresponding constellations. The sign of Aries, for instance, would actually occur when the sun is in the constellation Pisces. So, today’s horoscopes actually represent the zodiac as it was 2000 years ago. In one very real sense, then, every horoscope is out of date!

The zodiac has also been used to describe the overall character of the particular age of history in which we find ourselves. Up to the time of Christ, astrologers tell us that we were in the age of Aries. For the next 2000 years the world supposedly experienced the Pisces, which typified sorrow. Sometime in the twentieth century the earth theoretically passed into “the dawning of the age of Aquarius” as the song goes. Aquarius is supposed to represent a time of new spiritual beginnings or universal brotherhood. However, present world conditions would indicate that the so-called age of Aquarius may be a bit premature.

And in any scientific understanding, what possible connection could there be between mythical orientation of stars, millions of light years apart, and the enormous complexity of human events here on earth?

Astrology and Biblical Revelation

However, as with other superstitions of man, there may at least be some element of truth amidst the mass of astrological mythology. Astrology’s contention that the universe influences human endeavors is perhaps not wholly erroneous. Recent scientific evidence suggests that certain astronomical relationships can affect living organisms on earth — e.g., some biological rhythms of plants and animals are regulated by phases of the moon, sunspot cycles, etc. Hitherto unknown influences — electromagnetic, gravitational, etc., from beyond the earth may even do the same. But any attempt to legitimize the wild claims of astrology is, to say the least, scientifically unprovable.

Certainly a God who could create both the astral bodies (Gen. 1:1) and the physical life on earth was able to have ordained many not so obvious interrelationships hitherto undiscovered by man. “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:4-5).

Furthermore, God did definitely intend that the stars should be studied by man and used for human purposes. Says the book of Genesis: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Gen. 1:14).

But the same God absolutely forbade astrology. Why?

Simply this: If a person looks to the stars for guidance — makes himself any form of astrological religion — he worships the created more than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). He sidetracks himself from the real meaning of the universe and of life. And he estranges himself from the very Source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).

Dependence on astrology for answers to life’s problems, therefore, breaks one of the basic Ten Commandments — that against idolatry: “I am the Lord thy God … Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2, 3).

For this reason Moses also wrote:

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves… lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship and serve them … (Deut. 4:15, 19).

Violation of this law carried the death penalty in the theocracy of Israel (Deut. 17:2-5). This was — and is — the Word of God.

No true believer in the Bible can regulate his life by astrology — and remain loyal to his Creator. On the other hand, dependence upon and obedience to God prevents the evil effects of idolatry and produces a more abundant life here and now and eternal life in the World Tomorrow.

Biblical History

As an example for us today (I Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4), biblical history records the apostasy of the ancient House of Israel. Those peoples failed to follow the laws God designed to bring them peace, prosperity and happiness. Instead “… They left all the commandments of the Lord their God … and worshipped all the host of heaven” (II Kings 17:16). The House of Judah later fell into this same idolatry. Manasseh, King of Judah, “… worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them” (II Kings 21:3).

The Hebrew prophet Zephaniah received this Word from God (Zeph. 1:1): “I will also stretch out mine hand unto Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests; and them that worship the host of heaven …” (verses 4-5).

This, and many other forms of idolatry, led to the captivity of both these nations.

Another Hebrew prophet, Isaiah, forecasts the ultimate penalty for stubborn continuance in the practice of astrology — at least in the biblical sense of the term.

Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold … they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame … (Isa. 47:13-14).

We, ourselves, may not always be able to exactly determine whether or not many who practice some forms of what is called astrology today actually come under the biblical condemnation. However, it is far safer to simply avoid those who practice such things altogether.

The Biblical Test

One additional cautionary note: The fact that astrological predictions do, in some cases, come to pass as forecast, is beside the point. Such is not the biblical test of a true prophet of God. And there do exist false seducing spirits who are willing to deliberately deceive mankind.

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods [the stars, sun, and moon have been directly and indirectly worshipped as other gods], which thou has not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him [for your good], and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; [Why?] because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God … (Deut. 13:1-5).

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