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Astrology and Its Mysterious Origins

Nature is filled with mysterious questions, and it can also provide answers to life’s mysteries. Every ancient culture explored systems with which they hoped to the mysteries of life, by deciphering patterns in the world around them. Perhaps the most obvious natural subject material is that found in the heavens above, the fascinating stars in the night sky. Given their heavenly and unworldly appearance, it is hardly surprising that people sensed mystical qualities in them. Indeed, no other form of divination has acquired such an extensive history, with such a widespread popularity that continues to the present day, as Astrology.

Astrology Dates Back Over 7,000 Years

Records indicate that as far back as 7,000 years ago the Sumerians were producing complex astronomical charts. Experts theorize that the primary purpose of early Astrology was as a means for agricultural planning. These systems spread to subsequent cultures of the Middle East, most notably the Chaldeans, whose influence was so profound that for centuries star diviners were frequently referred to as “Chaldeans” regardless of their actual nationalities. Gradually more metaphysical interpretations were introduced, moving from the every day issues to more spiritual concerns.

 Astrology and The Greeks

When Alexander the Great conquered Chaldea in 331 B.C.E. one of his acquisitions was that culture’s astrological know-how, which was brought back to Greece. The Greeks brought new distinctions into the system, differentiating between “fixed stars” and “wandering stars.” The latter are now called planets, from the Greek word planetai, meaning “wanderers.” The professional Greek forecaster would make use of an ephemeris (from the Greek epi, meaning “on,” and hemera, meaning “day”), an extended set of charts showing the positions of the planets for every day of the year. With this detailed information, by 70 B.C.E. it was possible for a good astrologer to generate a horoscope (from the Greek bora, meaning “hour/’ and skopos, meaning “viewing instrument”), a chart calculated from the mapped positions of the stars and planets according to the specific time and place of an individual’s birth, from which the conditions of that person’s life were determined.

 Indian Astrology

It was also through Alexander that the basic system was brought to India, where it was integrated with the existing body of astronomical knowledge and it flourished, particularly during the Gupta Dynasty in the fifth century, during which a domestic ephemeris called the Siddbartha, a Buddhist phrase loosely meaning “achiever of one’s goal,” was produced.

 Roman and Egyptian Astrology

Astrology came to Rome around 100 B.C. The practice of Astrology became popular, and is shown by the fact that when Augustus Caesar became emperor he had special medallions cast that depicted the star patterns of his birthdate. Although the early Egyptians were certainly familiar with the patterns of the planets and stars, which figured prominently in their theological beliefs, they did not make much use of the study of astrology until the legendary Greek scholar Claudius Ptolemy began to teach in Alexandria. He wrote extensively on the subject, combining astronomical data with metaphysics and sophisticated mathematics. His most famous work was the Tetrabiblios (Four Books), containing virtually all of the pertinent information known to that point in time.

Astrology and The Christian World

Unlike various other forms of divination, astrology generally met with little resistance from the Christian world, largely because of its relevant application in the biblical account of the Three Wise Men who were led to the birthplace of Jesus by a directional star sign. Too, the statement in the Book of Genesis, “Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven, and let them be for signs” was often cited by astrologers as proof that astrology was without theological conflict.

 Astrology and Nostradamus

Although the thirteenth-century scholar Saint Thomas Aquinas protested against many types of occult systems, he gave his approval to the mystical study of the stars. In his Summa Tbeologica the German philosopher Albertus Magnus devised doctrinal correlations that endeavored to provide a comfortable coexistence between Christianity and astrology. Astrology continued to thrive across Europe. One of its most famous practitioners was Michel de Notredame, the French occultist better known as Nostradamus. In 1547 he read a translation of a book called De Mysteriis Egyptorum (Of Egyptian Mysteries) written by the Greek occultist lamblichus in the fourth century. Nostradamus’ explorations eventually resulted in his famous book of predictions, Centuries, that was published in 1555. He wrote that it contained “the things which the Divine Essence has revealed to me by astronomical revelations.” That astrology was a commonly recognized topic at that time is also evidenced by the numerous references to it in the plays of Shakespeare.

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