Astrology’s subject has excited the interest of and exercised a significant influence over the minds of a particular order of thinking men. With its countless adherents in the East and the ever-increasing number of advocates in the West, there is no faith which has universal application than the belief in the importance of the heavenly bodies over the destinies of human beings.
The practice of observing the stars began in Egypt in Ammon’s reign (about a thousand years before the Christian era). It was spread by conquest in the reign of his successor into the other parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. It seems to have been taught in the earliest ages by oral tradition only, for there is no good evidence of its being subdued to written rules before some years. After the first century of the Christian era, Claudius Ptolemy (born and educated in Alexandria) created a work called Tetra-biblos, or Quadripartite, being four books of the influences of the stars. In this treatise (translated into English by John Whalley—Professor of Astrology—in the year of 1786), Ptolemy appears to have collected all that which seemed of importance in the science. Another translation of the Tetra-biblos, translated into English from the Greek paraphrase that works by Proclus, made in 1822 by J. M. Ashmand. Somewhere between 1647 and 1657, Placidus de Titus, a Spanish monk, published a system of astrology, established, to a great extent, upon Ptolemy’s calculations. This work was printed in Latin and is called the Primum Mobile, or First Mover, and was translated by John Cooper in 1816; other translations have appeared, but this is the best among them.
The planetary orbs, which the ancients recognized as having the most potent influence, were seven in number (now known under the Latin names of the principal deities of the heathen mythology), viz.: Jupiter, Saturn, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars and the Moon.
The Claims of Astrology then are, that it offers first and foremost a means of general character-study entirely surpassing the combined advantages of ordinary anthropological methods, being at once more comprehensive and more subtle. Secondly, this is pre-eminently its most significant, divine use, a means for the unbiased examination of one’s character, and the most effective method of strengthening it. Thirdly, a knowledge of times and seasons appropriate for particular works, and a means of testing one’s development of character. Lastly and least, though unfortunately by many made firstly and solely, a means to some extent—indeed, with those specially fitted, to a very remarkable area—of forecasting future events.
The antiquity of Indian Astrology is as remote as the Vedas is a fact which it is difficult to disprove. It forms one of the Angas of the Atharva*Veda. The Jyotish Shastra, as mentioned in the Atharva-Veda, consists of one hundred and sixty-five verses only. The whole of the Jyotish Shastra then consisted of observing the Sun’s movements, the Moon, their passage through the constellations (Nakshatras), and assigning a particular significance to them. It was then made more applicable to n mundane Astrology than to a judicial one. It will, therefore, be seen that the origin of modern Astrology is to be found in the Atharva-Veda-Jyotish, the presumably date of which, according to Dixit and others, is 900 to 1500 B.C. No mention is made in it of the Signs of the Zodiac (Rashi). Rashis had no existence then. It must not be supposed, however, that the division of the Zodiac into twelve parts was not known to the Hindus in those times, but different names then knew the twelve pieces. The ancients wholly depended on the Nakshatras and their qualities. Owing to the invasions of Iahomedans and Greeks, their association with our people; their science mixed up with ours. Modern Astrology, as it is studied and practiced, is a combination of Chaldean, Grecian, and Egyptian Astrology.
The origins of astrology that would later develop in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East are found among the ancient Babylonians and their system of celestial omens that began to be compiled around the middle of the 2nd millennium BCE. This system later spread either directly or indirectly through the Babylonians to other areas such as China and Greece, merging with pre-existing indigenous forms of astrology. It came to Greece initially as early as the middle of the 4th century BCE. Then around the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE after the Alexandrian conquests, this Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decanic astrology to create horoscopic astrology. This system is labeled as “horoscopic astrology” because, unlike the previous traditions, it employed the use of the ascendant, otherwise known as the horoskopos (“hour marker”) in Greek, and the twelve celestial houses which are derived from it. The focus on the natal chart of the individual, as derived from the position of the planets and stars at the time of birth, represents the most significant contribution and shift of emphasis that was made during the Hellenistic tradition of astrology. This new form of astrology quickly spread across the ancient world into Europe, and the Middle East.
The conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great exposed the Greeks to the cultures and cosmological ideas of Syria, Babylon, Persia, and central Asia. Greek overtook cuneiform script as the international language of intellectual communication, and part of this process was the transmission of astrology from Cuneiform to Greek. Sometime around 280 BCE, Berossus, a priest of Bel from Babylon, moved to the Greek island of Kos to teach astrology and Babylonian culture to the Greeks. With this, what Campion calls, ‘the innovative energy’ in astrology moved west to the Hellenistic world of Greece and Egypt. According to Campion, the astrology arrived from the East was marked by its complexity, with different forms of astrology emerging. By the 1st century BCE, two varieties of astrology were in existence, one that required the reading of horoscopes to establish precise details about the past, present and future, the other being theurgic, meaning literally ‘god-work’, and emphasized the soul’s ascent to the stars. While they were not mutually exclusive, the former sought information about life, while the latter was concerned with personal transformation, where astrology served as a form of dialogue with the divine.
Western astrology is the system of astrology most popular in Western countries. Western astrology is historically based on Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (2nd century C.E.), which was a continuation of Hellenistic and, ultimately, Babylonian traditions.
Western astrology is horoscopic, mainly a form of divination based on the construction of a horoscope for an exact moment. Such as a person’s birth and location (since time zones may or may not affect a person’s birth chart), various cosmic bodies are said to have an influence. Astrology in western popular culture is often reduced to sun sign astrology, which considers only the individual’s date of birth (i.e., the “position of the Sun” at that date).
A central principle of astrology is integration within the cosmos. The individual, Earth, and its environment are viewed as a single organism, parts which are correlated with each other. Cycles of change observed in the heavens are, therefore, reflective (not causative) of similar cycles of change found on Earth and within the individual. This relationship is expressed in Hermetic maxim “as above, so below; as below, so above”, which postulates symmetry between the individual as microcosm and the celestial environment as macrocosm.
At the heart of astrology is the metaphysical principle that mathematical relationships express qualities or ‘tones’ of energy which manifest in numbers, visual angles, shapes, and sounds – all connected within a pattern of proportion. Pythagoras first identified that the pitch of a musical note is in proportion to the length of the string that produces it, and that intervals between harmonious sound frequencies form pure numerical ratios. In theory, known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their unique hum based on their orbital revolution. The quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds that are physically undetectable to the human ear. Subsequently, Plato described astronomy and music as “twinned” studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions.
Later, philosophers retained the close association between astronomy, optics, music, and astrology, including Ptolemy, who wrote influential texts on all these topics. Al-Kindi, in the 9th century, developed Ptolemy’s ideas in De Aspectibus, which explores many points of relevance to astrology and the use of planetary aspects.
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