Welcome to the Astrology and Religion Section of AstrologyClub.org! This site will challenge your views on both Astrology and Religion with evidence from many years of extensive research and study.
Featured here are several articles which tackle questions you may have about putting Astrology and Religion together. They will answer – really answer – related questions beginning with the Wise Men and the Bethlehem star to current talk about the possibility of Second Advent and Millenium.
The author, Rollan McCleary, is a published author in religion and philosophy, who is currently engaged in a doctorate for the Studies in Religion Dept of Queensland University, Australia. Rollan is also a qualified astrologer who has contributed to various astrological journals.
When it first comes into view astrology is something in the hands of Babylonian priests and is considered an aspect of religion, a fatalistic one. Later on astrology is secularized by the sceptical Greeks, the real originators of our western astrology.
Today some of the best, cutting edge astrology is in the hands of practitioners for whom it is an aspect of psychology, practitioners who acknowledge free will as much as fate.
But old beliefs and impressions die hard. To many religious people, especially Christians, astrology is still a rival religion, a doctrine of pure fate, a form of divination or even magic. And if there is one thing that can unite an atheist scientist and a Christian fundamentalist it will be in opposition to the “superstition” of astrology.
Christian Astrology was William Lilly’s title for one of the most influential books on astrology ever writtten. That’s not my subject and anyway Lilly wasn’t notable for persuading anyone there was anything particularly Christian about his art. He didn’t really try. The title was only designed to allay the fears of seventeenth century Englishmen that he was dealing in dangerous and forbidden knowledge.
But Lilly’s title prompts the question: Is there a Christian astrology? Or, put another way: Can and should astrology ever be an aspect of religion?
For many the answer is a resounding, “NO!”. A “Christian astrology” cannot exist; the very idea is a contradiction in terms (oxymoron is the fashionable word). Yet Christianity begins with signs in the heavens and the visit of Wise Men or Magi (literally, astrologers) to the Christ child.
The Bible itself states in its first chapter (Gen.1.14) that the lights in the heavens were put there as “signs” and signs exist to be interpreted. In his answer to Job, God asks him if he can “bring out the signs of the zodiac in their seasons” (Job 38.32). Only centuries-old suspicion of astrology among bible translators has worked against mazzaroth being rendered “the zodiac” as it is in the New English Bible. Yet divine mention of this sector of the heavens is surely intended to point to what has traditionally and universally been considered its special significance for signs and symbols in relation to the spiritual.
The verses just mentioned and others in the Bible imply that study of the stars does have something to tell us about Christ, history, our beliefs and ourselves. So it is a sad fact that ever since the second century when the Church Father, Origen, proposed the Magi were merely devil worshippers, many believers have put more energy into vilifying astrology and astrologers than in trying to learn whatever the heavens might have to tell them. Christianity is often referred to as a mystery but it is not realized the extent to which the Wise Men and the signs they studied represent an essential part of the religion’s mystery and are even fundamental to its symbolism.
The sign of Pisces, the fishes, at the end of whose era we are now living, is a water sign associated, bodily, with the feet. Astrologers therefore cannot fail to notice that we read of Jesus calling fishermen to be his disciples, disciples whose feet he will wash and who he will instruct to go and baptize, a water ritual, in his name. This and much more in the teachings and deeds of Jesus, links him to the symbolism of the Piscean era which, if we have understood ancient astrology aright, the Magi would have regarded as beginning at Christ’s nativity – without, however, necessarily implying by that that Jesus himself was born under Pisces (See the article The Star of Bethlehem)
Astrology is the ongoing interpretation of the regular cycles of heaven, based upon the observation and deduction of centuries. As such it has much in common with meteorological forecasting based on cloud patterns and temperature cycles. It is not and cannot be (unless the astrologer bends the rules) fortune-telling or a psychic art, i.e. it can tell you of certain life trends like the time(s) you are most likely to fall in love but it will not attempt, like fortune telling, to inform you with whom or where you will fall in love or what the person will look like.
Despite the claims of some Christian interpreters to the effect that astrology belongs with practices forbidden by Jewish Law like “divination and witchcraft” (Lev. 19.26) logically it cannot belong with these. These are attempts to perceive or manipulate events through practices involving sheer chance or spirit- influenced magic. Judaism acknowledges as much. It has a long-standing rabbinical tradition of astrological lore some idea of which is given in Rabbi Joel Dobbin’s Astrological Secrets of the Hebrew Sages (1977).
The origins of Hebrew astrology are popularly attributed to Abraham or even Noah though it is more likely they should be traced to the Jewish exile in Babylon. Possibly at that time the subject entered through the influence of biblical figures like Daniel, who had access to the pagan wisdom, or Ezekiel whose vision of the four creatures around the throne has profound relations to the astrology of the elements and the four fixed signs.
Modern Israel has issued stamps with the zodiac signs identified with the twelve tribes of Israel and this looks back to an ancient tradition about the tribes well established by New Testament times as witness Josephus who refers some of the symbolism of Herod’s Temple to astrological concepts. If there were twelve tribes in harmony with the twelve signs of the zodiac then it is logical that the twelve disciples of Christ (who are identified with the twelve tribes in the book of Revelation) themselves represent the twelve signs of the zodiac. This in turn has been a belief of the Church from very early times emanating from Greece, the home of western astrology. It has had a controversial modern endorsement in alleged visions of the Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, who was shown the zodiac circle beginning with Peter as Aries and ending with Judas as Pisces.
Astrology Is A Pagan Wisdom?
No matter how much one tries to link it to the Judaeo-Christian tradition there is no denying astrology is a pagan wisdom, at least in the sense of being originated by Gentiles rather than Jews. But if the Bible and the Rabbis have had any objection to the study of heavenly signs it is only in its potential for encouraging idolatry through worship of the stars as planetary deities, not its knowledge as such.
And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under heaven.(Deut. 4.19)
The last words of this verse possibly imply the heavenly signs are given to the Gentiles as the basis of a natural religion in contrast to Israel’s religion of revelations. Be that as it may, it is generally agreed there is something of natural religion in the Wisdom books of the Bible and in one of these, Ecclesiastes, one reads the famous verses about “to everything there is a season” (Eccl 3.1-10). This poem has often been considered identical with, or at least akin to, the astrological world-view. The visit of the Magi to Jesus was traditionally seen as a specifically Gentile and pagan acknowledgement of the Jewish Messiah.
Mistranslation and Disinformation
An influential fourth century Greek Bishop, St John Chysostom, considered astrology so evil he thought it would have been better if the Magi had never visited the Christ child. Even so, only in modern times has a combination of scientific rationalism and fundamentalist biblical interpretations tended to deprecate the traditional signifiicance and even awe surrounding the Magi and their star-based wisdom. Modern Christians opposed to astrology are to some extent victims of inacccurate translations touching the subject.
For example, The Amplified Bible, popular among evangelicals, amplifies “augery and witchcraft” in the mentioned Leviticus verse to: “neither shall you use magic, omens or witchcraft (or predict events by horoscope)”. This is truly absurd seeing that at whatever date Leviticus was composed, it was before personal horoscopes as we know them even existed. Any astrology was still pretty basic and its limitations are well suggested by the prophet Isaiah’s condemnations of those who predict the fortunes of nations by the New Moons.
Let them stand forth and save you Those who divide the heavens Who gaze at the stars Who at the new moons predict What shall befall you. (Is.47.13)
If you are going to put a text like this alongside mistranslations of the Jewish Laws then obviously astrology won’t stand a chance with you. Nevertheless, as said, the Jews have not made this mistake and dismissed astrology as “divination” in the manner of some Christians. Isaiah is only properly warning against bad sign reading and over-expectation concerning any signs.
Even with computer calculations helping to prevent errors with the basics of the art – historically, even noted astrologers have not been guiltless of these – errors of interpretation occur and astrologers should be guarded in their forecasts. They should acknowledge that in many cases they can only offer indications of significant public and personal trends rather than detailed forecasts of specific events.
Notoriously, certain patterns regularly feature in earthquakes but not every time they form will there be a quake – there might be some more psychological crisis in the nation. What appears like indications of death in a personal horoscope may only indicate radical and difficult life-change. (No responsible astrologer should ever predict death unless where exceptionally it might be helpful – such as with those needing to face the inevitable regarding a sick, elderly relative who can never outlive the weight of negative indications – and false, sensationalist predictions of death have, down the centuries, sullied the reputation of astrology with many).
As to the lunations (New Moons) mentioned by Isaiah, although they are a factor in mundane (political) astrology they are only an aspect of it and it would be impossible to predict human affairs by the moon alone as those Isaiah condemns appear to have been doing for the gullible.
Astrology is not a religion any more than any study of life, like physics or psychology. Nevertheless, because it deals in archetypal truths, shows unvarying cycles and can register major events in individual lives and national history astrology is closer than other disciplines to describing “the will of God”. Its potential depth of meaning and essential sacredness is lost today when it is reduced to nothing but sun sign columns and party gossip, and it may be high time it regained something like of its original priestly function. It may also be that only new insights of the religious mind can help astrology resolve the eternal problems it presents with regard to fate and freewill – which are perhaps two sides of the same thing.
Astrology is not fatalism. At the very least an implied negative fate can be modified by mental attitude and spiritual means like prayer. On the other hand the general outlines of individual fortune do appear to be fixed and no amount of mere wishing can make hard indications easy. So at this level astrology remains a mystery of life even to its practitioners and continues to invite the interpretations of religion and philosophy.
Astrology does not claim to be the answer to everything but it can provide striking insights and clues to many things and there are few aspects of life to which it cannot be applied. Whether or not the next Millenium, which will be the age of Aquarius, will turn out to be the biblical Millenium itself is an open question. But since Uranus, the planet of astrology and astrologers, rules Aquarius it can be expected that astrology will finally be understood and vindicated in the next century.
In the Aquarian age we must suppose religion and astrology will finally reconcile and at a more enlightened plane than in ancient Babylon. That prospect may be as hard for Christian believers to assimilate as the symbolic workings of astrology generally. If they have difficulty with it they should perhaps remember the words of St Paul that “we see through a glass darkly.” In astrology we often do that, yet we definitely see something and that something can prove illuminating and meaningful not the least in relation to religion in ways other articles on this site will be showing you.
Rollan McCleary (c) 2000