Astrology and Cosmology in the Worlds Religions

Astrology and Cosmology in the Worlds Religions

Nicholas Campion
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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    Astrology and Cosmology in the Worlds Religions
    Book Description:

    When you think of astrology, you may think of the horoscope section in your local paper, or of Nancy Reagan's consultations with an astrologer in the White House in the 1980s. Yet almost every religion uses some form of astrology: some way of thinking about the sun, moon, stars, and planets and how they hold significance for human lives on earth. Astrology and Cosmology in the World's Religionsoffers an accessible overview of the astrologies of the world's religions, placing them into context within theories of how the wider universe came into being and operates. Campion traces beliefs about the heavens among peoples ranging from ancient Egypt and China, to Australia and Polynesia, and India and the Islamic world. Addressing each religion in a separate chapter, Campion outlines how, by observing the celestial bodies, people have engaged with the divine, managed the future, and attempted to understand events here on earth. This fascinating text offers a unique way to delve into comparative religions and will also appeal to those intrigued by New Age topics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4445-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Cosmology and Religion: Measurement and Meaning
    (pp. 1-10)

    There is no human society that does not somehow, in some way, relate its fears, concerns, hopes, and wishes to the sky, and to the organizing principle behind it, the cosmos. Neither is there any society that does not express at least some fascination with the sky and its mysteries. This is as true of modern culture as of ancient culture—witness the media attention given to recent revelations, via the Hubble and Herschel telescopes, of strange and wonderful visions of far-distant parts of the universe, millions of light-years from our own planet. It is still the case that “Like...

  5. 2 Astrology: The Celestial Mirror
    (pp. 11-23)

    Astrology assumes that there is a significant relationship between the stars or planets and affairs on earth. From this simple principle have developed all the many forms of astrology practiced or studied across the world. The word is derived from the Greekastron(star) andlogos. Logosis simply translated as “word,” so astrology is, then, the “word” of the stars: The stars “speak.” However, in the context of classical thought, we may also consider that the stars possess reason, or a kind of logic, that can provide important information. Until the 17th century the word was frequently interchangeable with...

  6. 3 Australia: The Dreaming
    (pp. 24-32)

    The ancient culture of Australia presents us with a living picture of a religious cosmology that may date back tens of thousands of years in a continuous tradition. It has been said that the aboriginal Australians were arguably the world’s first astronomers, a view proposed by Roslyn Haynes.² Actually, however, it’s more likely that the first astronomers were Africans, for Africa is where all the current evidence indicates human life began. That said, the Aborigines certainly have a sky-based culture of considerable antiquity. There is some datable, material evidence for this claim in the form of artifacts such as a...

  7. 4 Oceania: Navigating the Sky
    (pp. 33-40)

    Oceania is a vast geographical region consisting primarily of ocean populated by (mainly) very small islands that extends over the Pacific in a vast triangle from Hawaii at the apex to New Zealand and Easter Island at the southwestern–southeastern extremes respectively, an area of around 25 million square kilometers. Within this area are identified the three zones of Polynesia; the majority of the region, Micronesia, to the west; and Melanesia, the smallest in terms of overall area, reaching from New Guinea in the west to Fiji in the east. The entire region was settled by migrants from Asia, with...

  8. 5 North America: The Great Spirit
    (pp. 41-53)

    In the traditional societies of pre-colonial North America, the sky and earth are a single part of the same life-world, containing all visible and invisible things. The stars, as much as people, are part of the natural world, full of life and endowed with meaning, and the natural world is indistinguishable from the supernatural.

    The study of Native American cosmology, as with the study of all things Native American, is beset by political problems. While there is an abundance of literature, much of it intelligent and sympathetic, most of it is by Westerners who, perhaps inevitably, cannot possess an insider’s...

  9. 6 South and Central America: Salvation and Sacrifice
    (pp. 54-68)

    The best-known cultures of Mesoamerica, those of the Maya and Aztecs, and, in the Andes, that of the Inca, are well known for the attention they paid to the harmonization of their societies with the celestial realms. The civilizations of Central and South America were prime examples of “cosmic states,” in which political and astronomical matters were intended to match each other in meticulous detail. Their cosmogonies were “chaotic” in that the universe came into being through a series of ad hoc, unplanned stages. Whatever interpretative, predictive astrology may have been practiced by the Inca has disappeared, but the astrology...

  10. 7 Sub-Saharan Africa: Heaven on Earth
    (pp. 69-81)

    Traditional African cosmology accords a huge importance to the belief that the entire cosmos is alive, populated by invisible living beings, including spirits and ancestors, and animated by soul. Among many peoples, even the individual has a “double,” who may animate him or her but is separate and may also walk away.² For these reasons, while engagement with the entire cosmos is vibrant, astrology is “chaotic” in the sense that, while the sun, moon, and stars may be important as calendar markers or sources of meaning, there is little indication of codified systems of astral divination except in areas heavily...

  11. 8 Egypt: The Solar Society
    (pp. 82-93)

    Egyptian cosmology is significant both as a study in itself and in view of its significant impact on later Western worldviews, especially in relation to its notions of a cosmos struggle between light and darkness, and elaborate views on the soul’s ascent to the stars, including a judgment of the dead.² Merged with Babylonian astral divination and Greek philosophy, Egyptian spirituality gave rise to the Western-Islamic-Indian tradition of astrology. If there is a single theme that lies at the heart of Egyptian spiritual astronomy, it is of the sun in its splendor as an image of monarchy and, in its...

  12. 9 China: The Celestial Offices
    (pp. 94-109)

    China, as we have noted, was the focus of one of the three major technically complex and philosophically sophisticated systems of astrology, along with the Near Eastern form that spread across Europe, North Africa, and India, and the Meso-American. All three share a fundamental similarity—that celestial patterns can, often in great detail, record the future and hence assist in management of the present. Chinese astrology, which is still practiced in an unbroken tradition (even if interrupted on the mainland by the communist regime) going back for several thousand years, possesses a number of core qualities. First, it has distinct,...

  13. 10 India: Ancient Traditions and Modern Practice
    (pp. 110-123)

    India is home to a living tradition of technical astrology that extends back in an unbroken lineage for around 2,000 years, has roots that may be traced to the first or second millennia BCE, and is firmly based in Hindu religion. Traditionally, astronomy and astrology are known together asjyotish,orjyotisha,translated as the “science of light,” and constitute one of the sixvedangas,the topics necessary for the correct understanding and application of theVedas,the sacred texts. In Vedic learning,jyotishis primarily concerned with the selection of auspicious dates and moments for sacrifice and ritual. Technical...

  14. 11 Babylon: Signs in the Sky
    (pp. 124-134)

    Mesopotamia, equating roughly to present-day Iraq, was once revered as the “cradle of civilization.” As archaeological discoveries have progressed, though, the origins of art, agriculture, and astronomy have been pushed back by many thousands of years and located in other areas. However, the civilization that emerged in Sumer, to the south of the country, in the third millennium BCE was remarkable in its sophistication. Thanks to its invention of writing, we also know more about the minds of early Mesopotamians than about any other people of the time, with the possible exception of the Egyptians. The Mesopotamians’ cosmogony influenced Greek...

  15. 12 Judaism: Myth, Magic, and Transcendence
    (pp. 135-147)

    Jewish religion emerged as a result of a remarkable combination of circumstances and events, most of which are focused on the first millennium BCE, and few of which, if any, are well understood. The only point we can make with any certainty is that the consequences have been utterly profound for the history of human thought over much of the world, both directly through the creative impact of Jewish thought down to the present day, and indirectly through its derivatives, Christianity and Islam. With the exception of physical cosmology—the flat earth envisaged in the Torah—the rest of scriptural...

  16. 13 Classical Greece: Ascent to the Stars
    (pp. 148-160)

    The civilization of classical Greece was remarkable in its achievements and, in some respects, unique. It has bequeathed us an astonishing legacy of written material in mathematics, astronomy, political thought, and speculative philosophy, as well as a tradition of architecture that still mesmerizes the modern West. However, while we can admire and respect the work of the Greek schools, their nature has been mytholigized and distorted in the service of a particular form of modern Western thought that prides itself on its supposed rationalism. According to this myth, as Greek rationalism emerged, self-contained, from deep within the innate genius of...

  17. 14 Christianity: Influence and Transcendence
    (pp. 161-172)

    Christianity is one of the great trinity of Near Eastern religions, along with Judaism and Islam. It occurs in many forms, many of which have historically been mutually antagonistic and some of which don’t recognize one another as Christian. Yet there are broad and shared cosmological themes, such as the belief in Christ’s political role as heavenly king.² Even then, there are a range of opinions from the Arian and Unitarian belief that Christ was solely human, to the Gnostic belief that Christ offered salvation from a world ruled by the evil God of the Old Testament, and the New...

  18. 15 Islam: Faith and Reason
    (pp. 173-187)

    The term “Islamic cosmology” carries with it a certain ambiguity and a question that nobody has yet answered satisfactorily: Are we to consider Islamic cosmology in the sense of theories of the cosmos that arise out of Islamic teachings, or should we consider the cosmologies that have flourished in the Islamic world? To an extent we have to do both, just as long as we are aware of the difference, as well as of the frequent difficulties in distinguishing among them. The astrologers and astronomers of the medieval Islamic world might themselves be Jews or Christians as much as Muslims....

  19. 16 Theosophical, New Age, and Pagan Cosmologies: Nature and Transformations
    (pp. 188-200)

    The religious culture of the modern West is distinguished by the institutional decline of the Christian church in all its forms. Only the United States bucks the trend, with high levels of regular churchgoing and vigorous participation by Christian groups in politics. Even in the United States, though, the religious climate outside established organized Christian groups is distinguished by a plurality of voices.

    This phenomenon is explained by secularization theory, which assumes that the fall in church attendance is evidence of a drop in religiosity as a whole. This conclusion is challenged by advocates of privatization, who argue that, far...

  20. Notes
    (pp. 201-234)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-260)
  22. Index
    (pp. 261-272)
  23. About the Author
    (pp. 273-273)