Astrology: Sacred or Taboo?
Excerpts from A New Age Christian: My Spiritual Journey
by Nancy B. Detweiler
…. The more I investigate astrology, the more I wonder why people in the West view it with such disdain. After all, it is the most ancient of sciences. I can see how shallow the newspaper horoscopes are. Do people really believe these general predictions are the substance of astrology?
I am finding answers to my questions in astrology—persuasive answers. I am acquiring a way to understand people far superior to the psychological tests we use in the rehabilitation evaluations. The interpretations of these tests are too general. One after another, they all sound about the same. But alas, constructing the natal chart and interpreting it takes too long to be feasible in my work. Besides, in many cases, locating the exact birth time proves to be a problem.
Dreaming of the day I can study whole series of natal charts for particular disabilities, such as mental retardation and mental illness, I focus upon fine-tuning my interpretative skills. I find in astrology massive evidence for a God of love.
Dane Rudhyar calls the natal chart the individual’s "celestial name."8 It is a map of the soul that, if used correctly, guides the person in selecting the most beneficial ways to live out this earth plane existence. The whole spectrum of choices is visible in the natal chart. God’s overall divine plan is stamped on the chart. This divine plan represents the most positive way for the soul to unfold during its incarnation on planet Earth. A passage of Scripture comes to mind: "Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed."9
Is God’s book the natal chart? All of my life, I have heard and believed that God has a role for each of us in the divine plan. No one seems to know how we find out this role. "Ask God to guide you" is the answer I get whenever I question a minister or teacher. This is easier said than done. I can seek God’s guidance and believe I receive an answer, but I still want a sign of verification. Requesting and accepting God’s guidance is particularly difficult for the person who lacks ego strength and really has no clue as to the existing positive abilities. We all need outside help.
A God of love will not send us into a physical incarnation without also providing the means by which we can know the divine plan for our lives. Astrology is one of these means. It is a science of soul transformation. The natal chart reveals our unique positive and negative aspects. We utilize the chart correctly when we use our freewill to choose to focus on and develop the positive aspects. As we do so, the negative aspects act as lessons to be learned. If we choose to be lazy and simply allow life to happen to us, the negative aspects may become our predominant personality characteristics. We may never realize the positive aspects.
God’s love for us is evident in the configuration of the natal chart. I see some very difficult charts, but inevitably the positive aspects or influences of strength needed to overcome obstacles are always present. Having access to our natal chart gives us an overview of the possibilities in our lives. We can then freely choose the way in which we relate to these alternatives. We can live with our eyes open, rather than stumble around in the dark, wondering what purpose our lives have.
I can feel God’s love as I construct a chart. Astrology is based upon an intimate interconnection with the entire universe. This universal connection is mirrored to us in myriad intricate ways; the planets and stars in our universe are one of them. Just as the Moon affects the ebb and flow of the ocean waves, so the planets and stars in our universe affect us. I find it comforting to know that I am a vital part of the universe. I have a celestial name given to me by the universe in which I live. The young man with cerebral palsy has a celestial name. The quadriplegic college student has a celestial name. Even the small boy, locked in a distorted body without the ability to speak, has a celestial name. God does not allow those, born with deformities of body or minds challenged in their ability to comprehend, to enter this physical life without a means of learning their celestial name. And in that name can be found purpose and meaning in their present lives. Feel the difference it makes when we realize these young people have a celestial name.
God is love.
Why is our Western society ignoring this valuable healing tool—the natal chart? Part of the reason is that astrology is associated with the occult, a word that seems to conjure up all sorts of weird fantasies. Some people believe the occult is Satanism, black magic, witches, evil.
The word occult simply means "not revealed, secret, hidden from view." It deals with "matters regarded as involving the action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers or some secret knowledge of them."10 The miracles of Jesus can be termed "occult" because we cannot explain how they happen. Jesus’ miracles are evidence that he knows more about the supernatural world than we do. Does this make the occult a negative reality to be feared?
Yes and No. Humanity has, from time immemorial, sought to use all knowledge for its own selfish gain. Access to and knowledge of the supernatural is a temptation many seize upon for their personal gain. Jesus faces the temptation of using his knowledge of the supernatural for his own gain during his forty days in the wilderness. He knows he can transform the stones around him into bread; that angels are capable of preventing a fall from high places; that he can use his knowledge of the supernatural to seize nations and set up his own kingdom on Earth. Jesus can choose to misuse his understanding of the supernatural or the occult. The difference between Jesus and many human beings is that he has the spiritual strength and integrity to resist these temptations. Jesus chooses to use his knowledge of the occult in ways that bring healing to humanity. Personal gain is not Jesus’ agenda.
In the hands of Jesus, the occult is not a negative reality. In the hands of many human beings, it is used in negative ways. The occult itself is neutral. It is simply knowledge of the supernatural. How we humans choose to use our occult, or supernatural, knowledge determines whether or not it is a positive or negative reality.
Thus our human inclination to misuse all knowledge for our selfish gain is to be feared, not the occult. Occult knowledge, such as astrology, can be extremely helpful when used in beneficial ways.
Another frequent criticism of astrology is that it reduces human beings into puppets of the stars. This is one of the inherent dangers in the misuse made of astrology. God created humanity in God’s own image, with the gift of freewill. However, accepting the responsibility for our choices and the resulting consequences is not easy. Many of us would rather be puppets and place the blame for the circumstances in our lives upon something outside ourselves. Astrology can be an easy target. Instead of viewing the chart configuration as a map of the soul’s possibilities, it can be misused and read as "this is how things are." A road map offers a choice. We study the map and follow the route best suited to our travel plans. There is seldom only one way to reach a destination. Used correctly, astrology does not interfere with our freewill. It simply points out for us the range of options available. We are to use our freewill in defining the route we wish our lives to take. Examining our natal chart, then making informed decisions, we realize God’s divine plan for our lives. It is a gift from God. Our chart configuration reveals to each of us that we are an indispensable, unique member of God’s created order and plan. We belong. We have purpose. We are important ingredients in the whole scheme of creation.
Some say the Bible tells us not to use astrology. Before we can see what the Bible really says about astrology, we must define three words that tend to be used interchangeably.
1. Astrology is the study of the positions of the planets in relationship to each other and the vibrational influences these relationships have upon humanity. Astrology is both a science and an art. It is a science because constructing the chart is based upon exacting mathematical calculations of the planets’ positions at the time of birth. It is an art because it depends upon the skill and metaphysical knowledge used in the interpretation of these planetary positions. The Wise Men from the East, who come to pay homage to the baby Jesus, are astrologers.11
2. Magic is an attempt by human beings to compel a divinity, by the use of physical means, to do what they wish that divinity to do.12 Moses’ bronze serpent in the wilderness is an example of the use of magic.13 This definition of magic also applies to the traditional interpretation of Jesus’ death on the cross. "And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."14
3. Divination is an "attempt to secure information, also by the use of physical means, about matters and events that are currently hidden or that lie in the future. With divination, in contrast to magic, one does not seek to alter the course of events, only to learn about them."15 The Bible depicts numerous avenues of divination. Among them are oracles, signs, calling up the dead, dream interpretation, casting of lots, visions, and the ephods.16 An ephod is a method of divination, used by the priests to determine God’s response to a "yes" or "no" question asked by the leader of the people. These ephods are called Urim and Thummim. They are worn by the priest in a pouch over the heart."17
An example of divination by the ephod may be found in Numbers 27:21. "But he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the decision of the Urim before the Lord; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all Israelites with him, the whole congregation."
The knowledge of astrology, magic, and divination can also be misused for personal gain, to make puppets out of human beings, and to supplant faith in God. Isaiah 47:12-15 speaks to this misuse. "Stand fast in your enchantments and your many sorceries, with which you have labored from your youth; perhaps you may be able to succeed, perhaps you may inspire terror. You are wearied with your many consultations; let those who study the heavens stand up and save you, those who gaze at the stars, and at each new moon predict what shall befall you. See, they are like stubble, the fire consumes them; they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. No coal for warming oneself is this, no fire to sit before! Such to you are those with whom you have labored, who have trafficked with you from your youth; they all wander about in their own paths; there is no one to save you."
The individual character of the practitioner determines the level on which the Bible places astrology, magic, and divination. Three levels are evident. The astrologers (or Wise Men of Matthew 2) and the Chaldeans, who have priestly functions, (of Daniel 1 and 2) rank on the highest level.18 Daniel is among those highest ranked: "There is a man in your kingdom who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father he was found to have enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners."19
The second, or middle, level consists of sorcerers, enchanters, and charmers.20 Sorcerers use the power gained from the evil spirits in their work.21 Revelation 21:8 and 22:15 include sorcerers in the list of those who will not enter the kingdom of God.22
On the lowest level we find the "impostors" of II Timothy 3:13: "But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived."23 The magician in Acts 13:6-11 is an example of the impostor.24
According to the level on which we focus, we can verify that the Bible favors divination or that the Bible warns against it. Astrology is considered a form of divination. At its highest level, we have the Astrologers/Wise Men reading the planetary aspects and recognizing that the long-awaited Messiah has incarnated on earth plane. On the in-between and lower levels, we have definite prohibitions. These prohibitions are based on both the negative use of occult knowledge and the negative character of the practitioners.
I find only one biblical reference in which the higher forms of astrology, magic, and divination can possibly be prohibited. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 reads: "No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts spells, or one consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you." This one reference sits within a biblical milieu that supports a positive use of astrology, magic, and divination. The Bible warns against using the occult for personal aggrandizement.
The Old Testament does condemn bowing down to the stars and planets to worship them as gods.25 Worshipping the stars is one thing. Using our celestial name, the natal chart, as a guide to fulfill our highest potential as cherished individuals within God’s scheme of creation is another. Worshipping is misuse. Implementing the natal chart as a road map for the soul’s positive development is to accept one of God’s gifts to humanity.
In the West, we are also advocates of empirical science. If we cannot see it and prove it, we tend to dismiss it as non-existent or superstition. We say, "Only the uneducated fool would dabble in astrology, magic, or divination." We, then, lift our heads in a display of intellectual superiority.
When we do so, we ignore historical facts. Our Western history books have hidden the history of astrology under the category of astronomy. The heavenly configurations have fascinated humanity from its earliest beginning.
Astrology and astronomy were established as sciences around 5000 B.C.E. in Chaldea and Babylonia.26 Many of the great names in the history of our world civilization were astrologers. Our Western history books simply call them philosophers, astronomers, doctors of medicine, theologians, politicians, mathematicians—ignoring the fact that astrology played a major role in their lives and thinking.
Born in 572 B.C.E., Pythagoras, as a result of his study of the heavenly configurations, knew the Earth is round. Many of our history books ignore this fact. Through his study of the stars and their relationship to humanity (the science of astrology), Pythagoras developed his doctrine of the harmony existing between the heavens and our planet Earth, the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of humanity. After his murder, Empedocles, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle continued the study of this doctrine.27 Aristotle taught that our planet is inescapably linked to the motions of the cosmos of which it is a member.28
From the earliest times, doctors of medicine are fascinated by the science of astrology. Hippocrates, born around 460 B.C.E. and known as the "Father of Medicine," used astrology as the most scientific means of diagnosis available to the Greek physicians of his time. The Hippocratic School of Medicine focused on the study of the natal chart to determine the specific make-up of their parents.29 Galen, born in 30 C.E., is called the "Father of Experimental Physiology." His treatise Prognostication of Disease by Astrology resulted in widespread knowledge of astrological medicine. A synthesis of medical thought and astrological medical knowledge, Galen’s books dominated the field of medicine for 1500 years.30
Born around 100 C.E., Ptolemy had the reputation for being the greatest astrologer/astronomer of all times. During Ptolemy’s day, "astrologia" and "astronomia" meant the same thing.31 His Tetrabiblos marked the culmination of astrological thought in the Graeco-Roman world. This book marked the end of the controversy concerning astrology. Tetrabiblos laid the foundation for the modern science of astrology. From that point on to the 17th century, astrology and medicine were allies.32
The 13th century poet Dante taught that the primary moving force for both God and humanity is love. He believed the heavenly host of stars and planets turned under the radiating influence of love. For Dante, physical life is explained in terms of the spiritual.33
Roger Bacon, born in 1214, taught the stars are regulated by angelic intelligences. An individual’s personal nature is determined by the heavenly configurations at the time of birth. Medical astrology is valid because the functions of the physical body are determined by the influence of the stars.34
Born around 1224, Thomas Aquinas is still considered to be one the great Christian theologians. He placed importance upon the science of astrology in the study of natural science. According to Aquinas, God rules the inferior creatures—our earthly bodies—through superior creatures—the stars. Both Bacon and Aquinas believed the rational soul of humanity and the gift of freewill to be exempt from stellar influence.35
Paracelsus was the most renowned and controversial advocate of astrology during the 15th century. Paracelsus taught that activity within the cosmos affects all else. Though he recognized the influence of the stars, he did not believe they completely controlled the destinies of humanity. Instead, he felt that humanity has the capacity to transcend the astrological influence of the stars. The means by which humanity can transcend the stellar influence is wisdom, acquired by the direct study of nature.36
Jerome Cardan, born in 1501, was one of the best minds of his age. A great mathematician, physician, and astrologer, Cardan distinguished himself by the cautious way in which he approached his research, seeking to confirm his assertions with solid facts. Appointed professor of medicine at Pavia in 1547, his published works on algebra and astrology brought him fame throughout Europe.37
In the late 15th century, the Roman church condemned astrology. Yet astrology continued to influence the greatest of minds. Among these is Nostradamus, a physician and astrologer born in 1503. Two great English scientists and astrologers were Edmond Halley, born in 1656, and Isaac Newton, born around 1642. Their laws of motion provided a firm foundation for astrological computation. Francis Bacon, born in 1561, recognized the connection between celestial and terrestrial phenomena; however, he opposed the natal chart and consulting astrology for predictions. He declared astrology to be filled with superstition in his De Augmentis Scientiarum.38
The list of great minds continues. Shakespeare, an astrologer in addition to being a playwright, depicted his characters using astrology correctly. William Lilly, born in 1602, and Nicholas Culpepper, born in the early 1600’s, were physicians who used medical astrology. Though modern astronomers seek to ignore the fact, Copernicus, Kepler (the "founder of modern astronomy and astrology"), and Galileo were all astrologers.39
Galileo’s experience offers an excellent example of how the Church hierarchy has controlled the information available to the laity. Born in 1564, a great inventor, experimental philosopher, and astrologer, Galileo invented the telescope. As a result of the telescope, new scientific discoveries were made. Galileo attempted to reconcile these scientific discoveries with the Christian faith in a series of articles: "Letters of Sunspots," "Letter to Castelli," and "Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina." His work was to no avail. In 1615, a group of eleven theologians pronounced Galileo’s belief in heliocentric theories absurd, heretical, and contrary to the Scriptures. In 1633, a papal court sentenced Galileo to prison. Galileo recanted belief in the Copernican theory that the Earth moves around the Sun and was placed under house arrest in the custody of a friend.40
Born in 1596, Descartes believed it important to record the positions of the planets at the moment of birth because immediately after birth, the brain tissues set themselves and conserve throughout life the first impressions they received.41
During the four hundred years since Descartes, the empirically based scientific community has sought to deny the validity of astrology. However, it has been unable to prove any falsehoods in astrological beliefs. Instead, an increasing number of scientists are actually studying the impact of the stars and planets upon humanity. They are even willing to speak out for astrology.42 In fact, scientific evidence now demonstrates that astrology works.43
World renown psychiatrist Carl Jung believed that "synchronicity" explains how astrology works. Planets do not cause certain events. Instead, they are symbols of cosmic forces. The patterns they form synchronize with events on our planet Earth. In later life, Jung used the natal chart as a tool for working with his patients.44
Additional examples of scientists investigating and verifying cosmic influences are available. RCA has determined that the positions of planets affect radio disturbances. Others have verified that planetary positions influence the occurrence of earthquakes; recorded the influence of particular planetary relationships upon incidences of road accidents; shown that the position of planets alters the biological clocks of humans, animals, and plants; and verified that the phases of the Moon influences human behavior.45
The more I search, the more evidence I find of the tremendous role the science of astrology has played in the history of our western civilization. Now, more than ever, I have to ask, "Why does our society so firmly deny the positive effects of studying astrology?"
No justifiable answer comes to mind.
The Endnotes offer additional information.
8Dane Rudhyar, The Astrological Houses: The Spectrum of Individual Experience (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972) 57.
10Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
11Matthew 2:1. See the footnote in the Revised Standard Version.
12Stephen Benko, "Magic and Divination," Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1985 ed.
17Jeremiah Unterman, "Urim and Thummim," Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1985 ed.
21Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
22Revelations 21:8: "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." Revelations 22:15: "Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
24Acts 13:6-11: "When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand."
26Zohar, The History of Astrology (New York: Arco Publishing Co., Inc. 1972) 13-14.
31Zohar 76. Also see definition #1 for astrology on pg. 111 in Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
43Francis King, The Cosmic Influence (New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976) 43.