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PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2012 1:37 am 
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Is Astrotheology Just Astrology?

No. Astrotheology is the study of how observation of the natural cosmos informs mythology in the past and the present. Unlike astrology, astrotheology is completely scientific.

Ancient religion was intimately linked to observation of natural cycles to inform such decisions as the time to sow and the time to reap, and for associated festivals. Ancient calendars were often based on the phases of the moon to define months and weeks. And the sun was revered as the stable source of light and life. Many ancient schools of thought believed that life on earth is part of the bigger whole of the visible cosmos, and that events on earth reflected the patterns seen in the sky, on the principle ‘as above so below’. Indeed, this principle of cosmic unity found its way into the Christian Bible, with the Lord’s Prayer saying ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.

Astrotheology seeks to analyse these mythic themes without accepting the unscientific speculation that the folk tradition of astrology has built upon them. Taking a purely scientific approach to evidence, astrotheology seeks to understand how supernatural religion is grounded in observation of nature, both explicitly and implicitly, and how religious faiths have evolved into a degraded and corrupted shadow of original enlightened methods.

Some readers wrongly assume that astrotheology accepts the contemporary magical ideas seen in astrology. It does not. However, astrotheology recognises that Christianity originated in a social context that was suffused with astrological belief, and that the writers of the Gospels, and especially he writers of the Revelation attributed to John of Patmos, used these astrological beliefs to invent the myth of Jesus Christ as the anointed saviour.

Two millennia of fallacious Christian dogma have sought to suppress and deny the natural origins of Christianity, making it rather shocking to believers when this material is uncovered and discussed. Believers in a historical Jesus, and many atheists, think they can deflect analysis of astrotheology by condemning it as irrational and linking it to astrology. But the believers are the irrational ones, because astrotheology provides an elegant explanation of the evidence about how Christianity started as a cosmic myth.

Clear proof of the astrological framework of ancient belief is provided by the extensive use of zodiac themes in ancient art, especially with mosaics depicting Jesus and the twelve disciples as the sun and twelve signs of the zodiac. Acharya used this image for the cover of her book The Christ Conspiracy, not to argue for astrology, but to recognise how important this material is for coherent understanding.

The most renowned ancient historian of Israel was the Jewish general Josephus. In The Jewish War, Josephus explains that the holiest symbols of Judaism incorporate astrological themes. Josephus says the seven branches of the Jewish candlestick represent the sun, moon and planets, the twelve loaves of bread in the temple at the holiest festivals represent the twelve months of the year, and the breastplate of the high priest has twelve jewels that represent the twelve signs of the zodiac. All this material shows we cannot hope to understand the Christian use of such symbols if we divorce them from their original astrological meaning.

But that does not mean we should accept astrological speculation about use of the stars to predict events on earth. Such speculation is pre-scientific, and extensive scientific study has failed to find any persuasive statistical evidence of correlation between star signs or planetary positions and events on earth. For example, no researchers have found any measurable differences in personality traits based on sun signs, so it appears that newspaper horoscopes are based on fantasy, not on facts.

Despite this lack of hard evidence for astrology, that does not mean we should simply condemn astrology as baseless. Influences that are sub-statistical can still be real in some way, even if very weak. Future science may yet find some scientific basis for folk beliefs. But this is not helped by the arrogant and ignorant condemnation of everything to do with astrology that we see from scientific and religious quarters. For example, the sun signs are based on the seasons, not on some mystical emanation from distant stars. It may yet be possible for more sensitive scientific tests to find evidence for a twelve-fold cycle of the year matching the signs. We should keep an open mind about such topics by recognising their claims are often unproven but not refuted.

So why the intense hostility to astrology? Modern astronomy grew out of astrology, for example with great scientists such as Kepler having a strong interest in the topic. But as science developed, it compared the objective evidence of Newtonian mechanics against the subjective speculation of astrologers, and found that astrology lacked scientific method. So astrology was banished from universities. For religion, the condemnation goes back to a strand in Jewish religion, with the book of Deuteronomy condemning worship of the sun and moon and stars. Such reverence for nature is also regarded as incompatible with the Christian moral doctrine of the freedom of the will, through the assumption that astrology involves a fatalistic view that our decisions are written in the stars.

A big part of the problem in reconstructing how natural observation may have informed Christian origins is that the church quite early formed a militant opposition to such natural thinking, and explicitly sought to destroy all evidence of it. Perhaps that is why we have no early Christian texts, because they were unacceptable to the supernatural dogma. So rather than present Jesus Christ as allegory for the sun, the church insisted he was the supernatural miraculous Son of the creator of the universe. Any texts that differed from the orthodox view were targeted for burning. Indeed, the only reason we have any Gnostic texts at all is that priests in a far-flung corner of the empire, at Nag Hammadi in Southern Egypt, secretly buried them in jars in the desert to save them from destruction by an advancing Roman army coming to burn them. These late texts were only found in 1945, and provide illuminating insight into the ferment of ideas of the ancient world.

But even these Gnostic texts only provide fragmentary clues into a possible coherent astral worldview that informed the Gospels. The biggest problem here is that ancient mystery religions insisted on strict secrecy, with main teachings only conveyed by mouth rather than in writing. So we have almost nothing about the views of major ancient astral religions such as Mithraism, just tantalising clues in their artwork such as the Tauroctony, which is directly based on observation of the stars.

The scale of Christian indifference and hostility to ancient learning is shown by the fact that Egyptian hieroglyphics were completely lost to understanding for more than a thousand years. Only in the last two centuries have we begun to again recognise how the Egyptians may have used the stars as the basis of their religion, a theme covered in some depth by Acharya in Christ in Egypt. And still, Egyptian star lore remains highly controversial, often rejected and ignored by academic Egyptology, although studied in depth by great scientists such as Norman Lockyer.

The scale of ancient war is another factor that makes this cosmic material hard to reconstruct. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, they violently suppressed cultural traditions that had strong astral elements. Even though the Roman Gods give us the names of our planets, it seems that the evolution of Christianity in the common era was traumatised by the conflicts with Rome, and astral culture was a casualty of the upheaval.

One of the big hidden themes of ancient religion is the astronomical movement known as precession of the equinox, whereby the stars rotate slowly against the seasons by one degree every 71.6 years. The spring point enters a new zodiac constellation every 2148 years, and the entire heavens rotate over a long time period known as the Great Year, every 25,765 years. The traditional estimate of the Great Year, 25920 years, is the longest period in the sexagesimal sixty-based counting method for time that we have inherited from ancient Babylon, with 259200 seconds making exactly three days.

There is considerable evidence that the creators of Christianity used precession as their template to understand the structure of time. For example, the spring point moved against the stars from Aries to Pisces in 21AD, providing the ‘as above’ which Christianity used to invent the ‘so below’ of the story of Jesus, whose mythology is redolent with Piscean fish symbolism from this alpha-omega moment. As Acharya notes in Christ in Egypt, Jesus has been seen as the avatar, or spiritual founder, of the Age of Pisces, the two thousand year period when the spring equinox has occurred each year with the sun in the constellation of Pisces.

We do not need to accept any unproven astrological claims to see that this theme of zodiac ages provides a coherent organising principle for the Christian story of Jesus, and indeed for the old eschatological end times vision of the history of the world as seven thousand years from Adam to the holy city. There are many threads at Free Thought Nation where the likely details of this original Christian cosmology are analysed in depth, primarily aimed at reconstructing the most probable story of how the ancients themselves actually thought about these matters.

It is difficult to thread a path between scientific and religious hostility to natural theology on the one hand, and the irrationality of magical folk traditions such as astrology on the other hand. Astrotheology seeks to find this narrow path of the way of life in truth, not through the comforting fantasy of a miraculous saviour, but through logical analysis of evidence.

PostPosted: Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:49 pm 
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Good job as per usual, Robert.

Feel free to edit your post to add more if you feel it necessary.

Here are some books published by Brill on astrology.

While I'm on it, let me know if there's anything you'd like to add to the "New Ager" FAQ as well. Don't forget that Acharya provided quite a bit on "astrology" from the Catholic Encyclopedia in her article: Astrotheology of the Ancients.

When you're sure you're finished go ahead and copy/paste it and post it in the FAQ thread and include a link to here for further discussion.

It's very important to understand the differences between astrotheology and astrology. I prefer to avoid "astrology" as much as possible but, far too many get confused and assume they're one and the same so, it's helpful to have further explanation such as the below:

"astrology as we know it today and astrotheology are two completely different things..." ... 461#p26461

2013 Astrotheology Calendar
The Mythicist Position
Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection
Stellar House Publishing at Youtube

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