ASTROLOGY AND RELIGION: ARE THEY COMPATIBLE? By Johanne Bibeau
Five thousand years ago, astrology and religion were connected. Iraq was called Sumer and a very sophisticated civilization flourished there. Sumer was the birthplace of writing and astrology. Through the centuries this association has brought about various monetary gains and sources of success. Does this combination still exist today?
The clarity and limpidity of the skies gave the inhabitants of Sumer the facility to see the movement of the planets (with good training) with naked eyes. Mathematics was born from this practice of astronomy. A distant ancestor from Sumer, witnessing this celestial order, believed it to be the manifestation of divinity. His religion spurred him to investigate the secret will of the Gods, always thinking that the answers lie in the planetary circle, and believing that these cycles were the expression of the will of the Gods (invisible to mortal man). The Gods were not guiding or controlling the cosmos (Kramer). At that time,“ziggurats”(a kind of pyramid) were used as temples and observatories.
The Sumerians merged with a branch of Semites who were fervently practicing the cult of Astral Divinities with whom they felt connected while traveling though the desert. Astrology and religion were then indissociable.
It was an astrologer-priest (Berose) from Chaldea, who spread Astrology throughout Greece and Egypt in the third century before Christ. These countries welcomed with open arms this discipline or “religion” as their own philosophy and mysticism.
Greek mythology carried the truth of psychology, rapidly uniting mythology with the stars and planets. Therefore, they named the planets after the Gods of Greek mythology (Neptune, Mercury, Venus, etc.) The 2nd century after Christ, Ptolemey, astronomer/astrologer, published an important manuscript on traditional astrology. It contributed to the new direction of astrology and was free from a certain form of Chaldean fatalism. It focused more on the terrestrial context of mankind.
The Roman Empire, at the time of its conquests, brought back astrology in their luggage. They sold it in the public markets. The Romans who were not mystical, but were very skeptical, made a kind of recreation out of astrology as a source of amusement. The emperors become astrologers. This art was no longer used to discover the secrets of the Universe, but to dominate others. Unfortunately, many crimes were committed in order for people to believe in the dictates of the Romans. A lot falseness and bad information were told by the Romans in order to maintain their control over others.
With the rise of Christianity, the new priests fought with vigor the belief of the Roman Empire who denied the providence and possibility of the intervention of Christ. The Romans’ steadfastness brought about a surpassing of the former belief of the study of the stars. So, it was not that the Christians were incompatible with astrology! In fact, one part of the dogma (strict principles) of the Christian religion (Jewish also) saw in astrology a threat for their image of absolute power of the Roman God…and their church. On the other hand, there was the mystical, Gnostic (knowledge of the mysteries by intellect), and esoteric (reserved secret doctrine for certain adepts) aspects of Christianity, which were far from excluding astrology. On the contrary, the adepts promoted astrology with the level of wisdom and the revealing of the great secrets of the world. This aspect occurred in the religious festivals practiced at that time.
Many of us celebrate Christmas, without knowing that it also about the return of the day after the longest night of the winter solstice. Day is often correlated with hope, which replaces the night-desperate. Was not Christ named the new sun? The striking analogy here is between the arrival of the Messiah and the rebirth of the light. However, the Egyptians, long before the birth of Christ, celebrated the winter solstice by the mourning of the Sun. The sun reappeared a few days later on the entrails of Isis (Goddess-Mother). The phenomenon astronomical-astrological was thus directly related to religion. It is also reported that the three Wise Men, also king-astrologers, knew that a remarkable planetary configuration (the famous star!) was an exceptional occurrence. Without speaking about the twelve tribes of Israel, and the twelve Disciples of Christ…does that bring something to mind? The cathedrals remain, being the witnesses of the astrological impregnation of Christianity; stained glasses of Chartres with a figure of the sign of Pisces, symbol of Christ. In the walls of Amiens we can see carvings of the signs of the zodiac: the form of a Bull (Taurus), a lion (Leo), an eagle (Scorpio) and an angel (Aquarius), the four evangelists surrounding the Christ sitting in the middle of a cosmic kind of wheel in Chartres and also on several churches.
By the 13th Century, the church found itself in an ambiguous situation with respect to astrology. The church allowed the monks to study astrology, but rejected the popular notion of astrology as known by the horoscope. In this situation, mankind must be able to control himself and feel responsible for his actions. Saint-Thomas of Acquinis, theologist, declared that stars vigorously influence one’s life, but they are not the ultimate determination. The wise one controls his star, the ignorant reacts to it. The poet-theologist, Dante, stated, “The stars are the first cause of our actions, but we have the free will to triumph over them if it is well directed.” During the Renaissance a score of popes were surrounded by astrologers or became astrologers, themselves. In parallel, it is written that in Provence and Spain, famous Kabbalists (Jewish) were inspired by esoteric texts of the Talmud and Torah. The Jews had an immediate interest in astrology, even when their official religion condemned it.
It was also during the Middle Ages that secret societies were born from the Rosicrucian Brotherhood and the Frankly-Masons, which were founded on Christian esoteric knowledge. Nowadays, astrology is a support system to help mankind find its unity.
During the Renaissance, all members of society, even kings, used astrology as a necessary instrument. We know that Catherine de Medici was surrounded by astrologers. The famous astronomers (Copernicus, Ticho Brae, and Kepler) were at the same time professional astrologers. The Church then saw a rival in astrology. The Council (the assembly which decided questions of doctrines among the catholic religion) of Thirty struck the inclusion of predictions; however, it accepted astrology as a natural influence regarding your zodiac sign (personality/temperament).