The History of Astrology



The science of astrology is the oldest science on Earth. It began with the observation of the movement of the Sun, Moon, fixed stars and visible planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These movements provided ancient man with a calendar.

Back in 3000BC, the Chaldeans of Mesopotamia built their famous ziggurats or watch towers, some of which were 300 feet tall. From this, the Chaldean astrologer-priests observed the movements of the planets. The Chaldeans then divided the sky into twelve sections, reflecting the calendrical relationship between the Sun and Moon, and they based a profound and beautiful mythology upon the sky. Venus was Ishtar. Jupiter was Marduk, the King of the Gods. Reddish Mars was Nerval, the God of war. Saturn was the enigmatic Ninurta, the icy God of death, and Mercury was Nabu, the trickster, because it was so hard to observe.

The earliest records show that astrology was born in Mesopotamia. The ancient plain lies between two great slow moving rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Here is modern Iraq, and although the vast area may look drab and uninspiring, this is one of the earliest cradles of civilised man. The entire region might be looked on as a gigantic and mysterious palimpsest of civilisations. Each one flourished as if it must reign forever, and observed what had gone before, only to be replaced and shrouded in its turn. Here dwelt the Sumerians, Persians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians and Seleucids. Read the Old Testament, and you will recognise some of the people, kingdoms and cities of Mesopotamia. The tower of Babel that provoked God’s wrath, Babylon, the city of the Israelite’s captivity where Daniel bested not only the lions, but also King Nebuchadnezzar’s astrologers, stargazers, Chaldeans, and priests in the skill of dream interpretation, and Ur of the Chalders, the alleged birthplace of the patriarch Abraham.

Now ancient stones and fragments of artefacts are of interest because their ideas are still the foundations of astrology practised in the western world. Mesopotamia was the ideal birthplace for astronomy and astrology because the Egyptians and Babylonians resided in a vast plain where no mountains obstructed the view of the entire hemisphere, and so they applied themselves to the divination of astrology. By studying the heavens the priest-astrologer scientists were not only communing with the heavenly bodies, but also measuring the movement of time. The seasons had to be marked carefully if the religious rituals were to be performed at the correct times, and agriculture obviously depended on accurate predictions of the rising and flooding of the two great rivers. The most famous Sumerian invention was cuneiform, the earliest form of writing which consisted of wedge shaped symbols scratched onto soft clay tablets with a pointed stick or stylus. Thus, Sumerian is the first recorded language, but unrelated to any other, and in time it died out. However the ancient cuneiform texts were preserved and copied for religious and educational purposes for successive civilisations, until the beginning of the Christian era.

In 2350BC the Akkadians overran Sumer and ruled all Mesopotamia. They worshipped the Sun, Moon and Venus, but they regarded the Sun as female, while the other two were male. The Sumerians had worshipped a whole pantheon of Gods, but with the intermingling of both religion and culture, they changed the Sun into a male deity called Shamash. He was the son of the Moon, Sin; an old man rowing a boat across the heavens. The beautiful star Venus was assigned a duel role; in the evening it was the female Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, and in the morning the male Ishtar, the God of war. Babylon was the chief city of Babylonia, the next great Semitic state to build upon Sumerian roots. This civilisation had the most pronounced influence upon early astrology. The first Babylonian dynasty flourished between 1830BC and 1530BC, and its most renowned king, King Hammurabi reigned between 1728BC and 1686BC. Tempted by Babylonian’s power and wealth, the Hittites and Kassites constantly attacked until the fourteenth century BC when the Assyrians conquered Babylonia. Although the Assyrians were fierce, they did not erase existing astrological practices, instead they continued to develop them. One of Assyria’s famous kings, the antiquarian Ashurbanipal, (668BC – 626 BC), collected and stored contemporary records and copied those which by then were ancient history. It is from this host of cuneiform tablets that we have acquired much of our knowledge of Babylonian law, medicine, religion, astronomy and astrology.

Around 600 BC, after a series of independent rulers had helped the Medes and Persians to overthrow Assyrian supremacy, a new Babylon arose – the Chaldean Empire, with its king, Nebuchadnezzar. Judging from the “Book of Daniel”, the writer did not think too highly of King Nebuchadnezzar’s stargazing advisors. Daniel was raised above them through his God-inspired powers, and he could solve problems far beyond the reach of their lesser talents. In Isaiah, the Hebrew prophet, proclaiming God’s judgement on the lady Babylon, showed no admiration for the astrologers skills, and they were denigrated, but those much maligned stargazers certainly warrant our admiration when we learn that around 380BC Kidinnu, a Chaldean astronomer, calculated the length of a lunar month as twenty-nine days, twelve hours, forty-four minutes and three point three seconds. Modern science sets it at twenty-nine days, twelve hours, forty-four minutes and two point eight seven seconds; this was remarkable on the part of the Babylonians who had no equipment more sophisticated than the clepsydra and gnomon.

Between 538BC and 330BC the Persians dominated the ancient world. In the fifth century BC, Chaldean astrology reached Greece. The Greeks had long been watching the skies to gather information pertaining to their livelihoods, but their mathematical astronomy had none of the precision of Babylon, or its centuries of recorded phenomena. However, the brilliance and complexity of Greek astrological thought had a great deal of influence in the west, where, for many centuries, Greek astrology was regarded as almost sacrosanct, and this had a paradoxical effect on the knowledge of the heavens. It retarded astronomy and popularised astrology. The great Greek thinkers who influenced astrology were Pythagoras, (572BC – 500 BC) who saw the universe in much the same way as the Babylonians; a whole made up of interrelating parts. He believed it to be spherical, and he declared it to be geocentric, (Earth centred). Plato, (428BC – 348BC) upheld the Pythagorean view of the order of things that control earthly existence. In his work “Timaeus” which is concerned with cosmology, he points out the eight powers as being the Sun, the Moon, the fixed stars and the five planets. For Plato there were vibrations and harmonies between souls on Earth and what took place in the sky in which they originated. Aristotle, (384BC – 322BC) was a pupil of Plato’s, and a tutor to Alexander the Great, he further emphasised the ideas of Plato, for he claimed that our world must be connected to that which transpired in the upper world, therefore all terrestrial power was controlled by these movements. Alexander the Great (356BC – 323BC) had been taught by Aristotle, and he had some interest in astrology. He was the King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire, and he brought in the Greek influence. He became the shaping spirit and the most influential person in the ancient world, and he initiated what was proven to be an era of scholarship and scientific achievement in the city he founded on the Nile delta, Alexandria. He brought home ideas from Mesopotamia and elsewhere which fell on fertile Greek soil and flourished, and finally, the combination of mathematics and astrology led to the invention of regular zodiacal degrees. After his death, Babylonian astrology began to spread among the Greeks.

“The Babylonica”, written in Greek around 280BC by Berosus, a Chaldean priest from the temple of Marduk in Babylon was probably the book that contributed most to the rise of astrology. In three volumes he narrated the history of his people, and devoted a large section of it to describing their astrological traditions. Being a priest meant that Berosus was also an astronomer-astrologer, so he understood his subject, which resulted in a vast and detailed source of celestial data from Babylonian archives. He set up an astrology school on the Greek island of Kos, this was the first such school to be established within the boarders of Greece itself. Kos was probably chosen for its strategic location, being an important crossing point for the trade routes connecting Greece with Egypt and Mesopotamia. He is credited with one of the earliest known theories to account for the phases of the Moon, and he achieved such fame that the Athenians built a statue in his honour. The last three centuries of the pre-Christian era saw an acceleration of learning, based initially around the cities of Alexandria and Athens. This acceleration was stimulated by the first two Ptolemaic kings of Egypt who built the famous museum and library as adjuncts to the royal complex within the city of Alexandria.

During this time (third century BC) but working in Athens, was astronomer Aristarchos. He produced a treatise suggesting that the Moon received its light from the Sun, a remarkable thesis for the time, especially since it was so superior to the thesis of Berosus, who was then just opening his school on Kos. Aristarchos also produced a study of the relative sizes and distances of the Earth, Moon and Sun, and although they were inaccurate, the importance of his work was in its soundness of method. Later in his life, Aristarchos produced the revolutionary theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun. However he was accused of impiety for suggesting such a theory. Approximately eighteen hundred years later Polish astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) reintroduced Aristarchos’s idea which he proved to be correct. Hipparchus of Nicaea (190BC – 120BC) was one of the most famous of the Greek astronomers and mathematicians of the ancient world. Among his many achievements was the discovery of trigonometry, a catalogue of star positions and the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes. He produced an accurate measurement of this movement, and determined the annual precession to be around 46 seconds of arc behind its last position – the true measurement of the annual precession is 50 seconds of arc behind its last position. It was Hipparchus who drew a distinction between the sidereal year, the annual time taken for the Sun to return to a given fixed star (which was originally Aldebaran) and the tropical year, the annual time taken for the Sun to return to the slowly retrograding vernal equinox. Following his discovery (around 139BC) Hipparchus proceeded to make an accurate measurement of the tropical year, and from this he invented the modern form of the tropical zodiac. Around 380BC, Kidinnu had placed the beginning of the tropical zodiac in spring at 8 degrees Aries, but with the new discovery, Hipparchus changed it to 0 degrees Aries. This system has been used by western astrologers ever since.

Astrology began to influence Roman life at the turn of the last century BC. Astrologers were known collectively as Chaldeans, derived from an old name for Mesopotamia, which suggests that most of the astrologers in Rome were Babylonians or Syrians who had travelled to Rome as scholars, or who had perhaps been brought to Rome as captives, or attendants in the wake of the legions. At this time the intellectual climate in Rome had become more favourable to astrology, especially through the spread of the Greek Stoic philosophy. One key figure was the great Stoic teacher Posidonius (135BC – 51BC) who headed a school on Rhodes, now second to Alexandria as a scholastic centre – where he taught philosophy and astrology. Posidonius had a great admiration for the teachings of Plato and Pythagoras, and he considered the astrological “Timaeus” as central to Platonic thought. Posidonius combined elements of both the Platonic and Aristotelean traditions into one philosophy. This synthesis is a crucial element of what later became known as “Neo-Platonism”, the philosophy which now underlies astrology and modern science. Nigidius Figidius and his friend Marcus Tullius Cicero (106BC – 43BC) studied together in Rhodes. The young student Nigidius Figulus carried Posidonius’ “Neo Platonic” philosophy to Rome and predicted the defeat of Pompey. Posidonius eventually moved to Rome and became a friend and teacher to Cicero, however, Cicero, despite his friendship with Nigidius Figidius and Posidonius eventually became disenchanted with astrology. Around 44BC, after the death of Posidonius, Cicero made a point of attacking belief in astrology, especially in his damming work “De Divinatione” in which he refutes all forms of divination, and especially astrology. The reasons for his hostility appear to lie within the turmoil of the civil war which erupted between Pompey and Caesar in 49BC. Cicero supported Pompey, and following Pompey’s defeat, he was exiled for a short while. Although Cicero was a distinguished Roman statesman and orator, and he had previously held high government posts, he detested Caesar, and he never actively participated in the new regime. After Caesar’s assassination in 44BC, Cicero returned to politics. Hoping to see a restoration of the Republic, he supported Caesar’s great nephew, Octavian in a power struggle with the Roman consul, Mark Antony. However, Octavian and Antony were reconciled and Cicero was proscribed and murdered in 43BC.

Guias Julius Caesar (102BC – 44BC) was born into the ranks of Roman aristocracy. He was interested in astrology and astronomy and he wrote a treatise on the stars, “De Astris”. He was a soldier of unsurpassed ability who could see through the corruption of the Roman government. He saw the need for a strong central power to save Rome from decay, and he felt himself to be the man to bring about that change. He formed a political alliance with the two most powerful men in Rome, Crassus and Pompey, and his election as Consul in 59BC was the result. During the five years of civil war Caesar put down rebellions in Spain, decisively defeated Pompey at Pharsalus (Greece), and was successful in overthrowing his opponents in North Africa and Asia Minor. He became the founder of the Roman Empire, and master of the Roman world. He made himself Dictator for life, and took the title of Imperator. He assumed power over all the leading offices of the state, and he started many far-reaching and much-needed reforms. He established the Julian calendar in 46BC. There were many senators who could not tolerate the idea of a one man rule, and they plotted to take his life. The senate was to hold a meeting on 15 March, called by the Romans, the Ides of March, and the plotters determined that the dictator should die on that day. Amongst the conspirators was Caesar's friend, Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to beware the Ides of March, but he attended the meeting. As soon as Caesar was in the Senate chamber he was surrounded. At a signal, the conspirators drew their daggers, Caesar saw his friend Brutus with a dagger in hand, he gave up the struggle, and with the words “You too, Brutus” (Et tu, Brute!), he fell at the foot of the statue of Pompey. Thus Rome lost its greatest statesman and soldier, while the “would be saviours” of the republic did not accomplish their purpose.

Seventeen years later, Caesar’s great nephew, Guias Julius Octavian (63BC – 14AD) became the first emperor of Rome and changed his name to Augustus. He was such a great believer in the validity of astrology that he had coins stamped with his sun-sign, Capricorn. The Imperial era was a period of great expansion to Rome, particularly in the east where a rapid increase in the use of astrology occurred, especially for political predictions. Astrology became a part of the Roman culture, and the first emperors became strong supporters of the eastern ways of thought. During the last years of the reign of Augustus, Manilius, a Roman poet and author, completed a poem written in five books called the “Astronomica”. The author is not quoted or mentioned by any ancient writer, and his name is uncertain, but it is probably Marcus Manilius. His work “Astronomica” is the earliest treatise we have on astrology and it contains the most advanced views of the ancients on astronomy and astrology. Manilius was a man of great knowledge, and “Astronomica” offers everything from chart construction to lists of stellar magnitudes. During this period, astrology was not a subject to be taken lightly in Rome. Political predictions were taken seriously and Roman astrologers could be exiled, or sentenced to death for little margin of error.

The astrological stage was set by Tiberius, heir to Augustus and emperor of Rome from 14AD to his death in 37AD. Prior to his reign, he visited Rhodes, and became impressed by the skill of an astrologer known as Thrasyllus. When he became emperor of Rome, he employed Thrasyllus as his official court astrologer and a member of the Imperial court. Thrasyllus held considerable power and influence over Tiberius throughout his reign. It was due to the rise in status of favoured astrologers, that other astrologers were persecuted at the emperor’s command. Balbillus, the son of Thrasyllus became astrologer and confidante to three Roman emperors: Claudius, Nero and Vespasian. Claudius (10BC – 54AD) invaded Britain in 43AD and later became the patron saint of Colchester, Essex, England. He was poisoned by his fourth wife Agrippina in 54AD. Nero (37AD – 68AD) was noted for his cruelty and executions. He was alleged to have started the fire (64AD) that destroyed a large part of Rome. It was Vespasian (9AD – 78AD) who consolidated Roman rule, especially in Britain and Germany, and began building the Colosseum. Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian worked closely with astrologers and they became accomplished astrologers themselves. However, Domitian had a highly unethical use for astrology, he would cast the charts of all the prominent men who were considered rivals in Rome, and all those whose charts suggested power or success were immediately executed, whether they showed interest in positions of power or not. During the first century, the Romans used astrology as a tool of power, while the Greeks provided scientific discoveries necessary to advance the subject.

The Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (100AD – 170AD) lived and worked around Alexandria; he delivered the greatest astronomical work of the ancient world in the “Almagest”, which appeared shortly after 151AD. This work describes forty-eight constellations, and establishes the geocentric theory of the Solar System, which was later to be proven incorrect. After writing the “Almagest”, Claudius Ptolemy wrote its companion piece, the “Tetrabiblos”. In this work, Ptolemy, for the first time ordered and structured the study of the heavens into clearly defined areas. Astrology was separated from astronomy, and astrology was subdivided into mundane and natal categories. Ptolemy was the last great astrologer to emerge from the empires of Greece and Rome, and it was Claudius Ptolemy, more than any other astrologer, who ensured the survival of astrology through the political and religious upheavals of the Christian era during the reign of Constantine (288AD – 337AD). Constantine came from a Christian background, so he was favourably disposed towards Christianity before his victory over Maxentius in 312AD. In the following year (313AD) his famous “Edict of Milan” gave the Christians the right to practise their religion openly. In the year 323AD Constantine defeated Licinius, the eastern Roman Emperor, and gained control of the whole Roman Empire. In 325AD he called together a meeting at Nicaca, and formed the first general Church council to settle the Arian-Athanasian controversy over Church doctrines. This resulted in the “Nicene Creed”. He then decided to change the capital from Rome to the ancient city Byzantium, on the shores of the Bosporus. This he enlarged, and renamed Constantinople (city of Constantine). During the next seven years he ruled in comparative peace, building palaces and churches.

He died at Nicodemia in Asia Minor in 337AD.

St. Augustine (354AD – 430AD) was one of the fathers of the Christian Church, and bishop of Hippo in North Africa (396AD – 430AD). He profoundly influenced Catholic and Protestant theology, and he was a formidable opponent of many things that he regarded as heretical, including astrology.

His most famous works are, “Confessions”, a spiritual autobiography and “De Civitate Del”, a vindication of the Christian Church. In 400AD, the Great library of Alexandria was dispersed, with the loss of many astrological texts. In 476AD the last Roman Emperor was deposed by Italian ruler, Odoacer the Hun, bringing to an end the Western Roman Empire. With the fall of Rome, and the rise to power of the Church, astrology was condemned as a tool of the devil, and it virtually disappeared from Europe during the Dark Ages. The focus of astrological research was to shift back to its land of birth, to the Persian empire of the Sasanians, which stretched from Mesopotamia to the Indus valley. Intellectually, the west was beginning to decline. Its great mathematicians and scholars were becoming crippled by the ever increasing problems between the doctrines of Christianity, and the practice of astrology. The church considered that astrology bordered on heresy, and its study was frequently condemned and discouraged.

Meanwhile, Greek astrology and science found fertile soil in the east during the third century AD under the Sasanian King Shapur 1, who was liberal in the arts, and tolerant in his religion. Shapur was a great patron of the Greek philosophers and scholars, and with his encouragement, many works were translated into Persian. Some centuries later, the texts were again translated, this time into Arabic by the Islamic scholars. Islam, which traditionally dates itself from 622AD precipitated an expansion in learning and embraced a wide range of different cultures; a major contributing group were the Jewish scholars who flourished under the tolerant Arab Caliphs. The greatest achievements of learning followed the establishment of the “Abbasid” dynasty in 750AD. However, the second Abbasid Caliph, Abu Jafar al Mansur left the old Arab capital of Damascus for a new city, Baghdad, which he founded on the east bank of the Tigris in 762AD. This city was built on geomantic principles; it was circular, and bounded by three concentric walls pierced by four gates. Through these four gates, the four great highways connected the Caliph’s Palace, and the Grand Marquee with the four corners of the empire. During the eighth and ninth centuries AD, Baghdad became a vast economic network of trade routes between east and west which brought unprecedented wealth to the city. Its many impressive buildings and exquisite gardens gave it the reputation of being the richest and most beautiful city in the world, with a population nearing one million.

Finally, the Renaissance blossomed forth from the ashes of the Dark Ages, with men such as St. Thomas of Aquinas (1225 – 1274), whose work endeavoured to reconcile the Christian faith with all that was currently understood about the natural world, and astrology made a comeback in popularity. Not only did some of the great families of Europe support it, the papal courts had staff astrologers. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) was the founder of modern astronomy, and his book “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium”, concerning the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, negated the Ptolemaic concept of a geocentric universe. He proved the Earth was not the centre of the universe around which the Sun, Moon and stars revolved. He showed the Earth as one of several heavenly bodies that revolve around the Sun. The idea was published in his “On the revolution of the Celestial Orbs”. Nicolaus Copernicus was the son of a Polish trader who died when Nocolaus was a child. His uncle, who became bishop of Ermeland in 1489, looked after Nicolaus while he studied mathematics at the University of Cracow, in Poland.

He then went to Bologna, Italy, where he varied his studies between church law, and astronomy. A few years later he studied medicine at the University of Padua; then he went back to Poland as his uncle’s physician. On his uncle’s death, he went to Frauenburg, where he was made a canon of the cathedral at age 24. He divided his duties between his office, his medical service to the rich and poor, and the intensive study of astronomy. In 1531, he finished his life work, a great book setting forth the proofs that the Sun is the centre of the universe. At first he would not publish it, but one of his pupils persuaded him to give his book to the world, and a printed copy of it was given to him just a few hours before his death.

Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601) built and equipped the large observatory, “Uranienborg”, on the island of Hven, where he devised highly accurate maps of the stars, and motions of the planets. He was one of the first important observational astronomers. He did not accept the heliocentric theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and while he believed that the stars influenced the individual’s life and personality, he did not think very highly of astrologers. Brahe made a remarkable star catalogue of over one thousand stars. This was not the biggest catalogue in the number of stars, but the most accurate. His improvement of methods and accuracy in observations was very significant, and he proved that comets are not objects in the atmosphere. He also showed irregularities in the Moon’s orbit. Brahe’s most outstanding astrological prediction arose from a comet that appeared in 1572. The comet was in fact a “nova”, a new star exploding in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Through its influence, Brahe forecast that a male child would be born in Finland in 1592, and, although destined for a great career, would die in religious strife in 1632. The great fighter for Protestantism, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was actually born in 1594, and died at the battle of Lutzen in 1632. Finland was then part of Sweden, and apart from being two years out, Brahe’s prophecy must be regarded with some respect.

Johann Kepler (1571 – 1630), the son of a German soldier of fortune, was brought up in poverty and neglect. He was a delicate child. From childhood, he was crippled in his hands so that manual dexterity with instruments was impossible, and he was too dim-sighted to make keen observations. He was educated at the University of Tubingen for the ministry, but it was with his appointment to the chair of mathematics and astronomy at Graz, Austria, that his life work began. Astronomers of the day were mostly astrologers and fortune-telling charlatans, but Kepler put all his energy into extracting a real knowledge of the universe. During that period, two other great men, Galileo, and Tycho Brahe were seriously studying the heavens. Kepler became acquainted with them through correspondence, and in 1600 accepted an invitation to become Tycho Brahe’s assistant in his observatory near Prague, Bohemia. One year later (1601) Brahe died, and Kepler succeeded him as mathematician and astronomer to the Emperor Rudolph 11. He worked on Brahe’s already collected material, and constructed his three famous laws of planetary motion. His three laws of planetary motion are (1): the planets move in elliptical orbits, the Sun being situated at one focus of the ellipse, while the other focus is empty; (2): the radius vector, or imaginary line joining the centre of the planet to the centre of the Sun, sweeps out equal areas in equal times: and (3): the square of the sidereal periods of the planets are proportioned to the cubes of their mean distances from the Sun (harmonic law). These laws were his greatest contribution to science, which paved the way for Issac Newton’s discovery of the law of gravitation.

Italian mathematician, astronomer and physicist, Galileo (1564 – 1642) was the first astronomer to use a telescope for examining the Sun, Moon and stars. He discovered the pendulum’s laws, and he was the founder of modern physics. He was born in Pisa, Italy, and in his youth he saw a lamp in the Cathedral at Pisa, swinging regularly. He realised that a pendulum swinging too and fro could be used to measure time, so he laid the foundation for the invention of the modern clock. He dropped objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and proved that falling bodies, however heavy or light, fall at the same rate (this observation was later to be used in the law of gravitation). He held the professorship of mathematics in the universities of Pisa and Padua; in 1610 he left Padua for Florence, where he lived. Galileo made his first telescope with a piece of organ pipe, placing a lens at either end. It magnified only three times, but later he made a telescope that magnified thirty times. With this he saw the mountains on the Moon’s surface, found that the Milky Way was a mass of very faint stars, discovered the four largest satellites of the planet Jupiter, and the peculiar appearance of Saturn, later shown to be due to its rings. He also discovered that the planet Venus showed phases like those of the Moon. What he observed convinced him that Copernicus’s theory was correct; the Earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the Sun. Galileo’s support for this theory rocked the foundations of Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s official geocentric view of the universe. Galileo taught his views, which created conflict in the Church. In 1632 he aroused the anger of the Church authorities by publishing a book entitled “Dialogue of the Two Great Systems of the Universe”. He was summonsed before the Spanish Inquisition and compelled to live apart from everyone for the rest of his life. During this time he published, what was perhaps his most valuable book, “Dialogue of the New Sciences”, which is a summary of his lifelong studies on the principles of mechanics. Galileo was the first to have any concrete idea of force as a mechanical agent, and in this he did much to clear the ground for Issac Newton, who was born in England in 1642, the year Galileo died.

Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo had prepared the way for Issac Newton to demonstrate the theory of gravitation which showed that the universe was regulated by simple mathematical laws, and not mystical ones as had been previously believed. The English philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626), while not being an astronomer, helped to lay the foundation for Newton’s mode of reasoning, when he set aside Aristotelian deductive logic in favour of the inductive method. His writings were instrumental in bringing about the creation of the Royal Society in 1662.

The English astronomer William Herschel (1738 – 1822) discovered Uranus in 1781; this planet was declared to be the ruler of Aquarius. Not surprisingly, new planets became associated with events or inventions occurring after their discovery. Uranus was linked with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and machinery. In 1846, astrologer Johann Gottfried Galle, born in Saxony, Germany (1812 – 1910), together with Heinrich Louis d’Arrest discovered the even more distant planet Neptune from the Berlin Observatory on September 18, 1846. Its existence had previously been predicted by John Adams and Urbain Le Verrier based on small perturbations in the orbit of Uranus. Since the God of Neptune is traditionally the guardian of the oceans, astrologers chose to connect this planet with the sea, and made it rule over Pisces. On February 18, 1930, Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh (1906 – 1997), in a location predicted by apparent perturbations in the orbit of Neptune. Its existence had previously been predicted by Percival Lowell (1855 – 1916). Astrologers relate Pluto to Scorpio, and they see its influence as malign, especially in connection with the age of nuclear weapons.

During the Age of Reason, devotees of astrology, particularly in England, were trying to keep the belief in astrology alive. By the late eighteenth century, astrology’s reputation was very suspect indeed. Beyond Europe, astrology continued to flourish. In India, Persia and Egypt, English travellers saw people’s lives swayed by the dictates of the planets; perhaps this gave the European rationalists a sense of superiority, in that they were no longer subject to the superstition governing non-Christians. Yet all this scientific rationalism produced a reaction among a cultivated minority, in rather the same way as our technological age is witnessing a resurgence of interest in matters paranormal.

The Swiss psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) used astrology primarily as a tool to uncover the depths of the psyche; he spent his life focused on the study of the human psyche, both the unconscious and the conscious minds, and its integration within the personality. Jung’s childhood exposed him to the teachings of the occult and orthodox religions. His openness to philosophy and theosophy, as well as eastern and western religious beliefs, played a significant role in the development of his psychological theories which he practised. He believed that personal growth resulted from the integration of both the unconscious and conscious mind. The individual must reconcile the opposing sides within the personality where neither function was repressed, and each fulfilled the other within the larger fulfilment of one’s potential. There were many parallels between astrology and Jung’s psychological theories. Jung correlated the two main psychological types – extrovert and introvert, to four main functions – intuition, sensation, thinking and feeling – these functions can be associated with the four elements – fire, earth, air and water, respectively. Jung described his use of astrology to acquire a deeper understanding of a client’s unconscious motivations. He was particularly interested in the information a horoscope gave in certain complications in the character. In difficult psychological diagnosis, he analysed a horoscope to gain deeper insight from an entirely different angle. He very often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which he would otherwise not have understood. From such experiences, he formed the opinion that astrology was an asset to the psychologist, because it contains a projected psychology. He ascertained that the underlying psychological projections were in the constellations. Jung also understood that astrology could be used to identify periods of crisis and challenge, because human behaviour correlates to planetary motion. He stated, “I have observed many cases where a well defined psychological phase of an analogous event has been accompanied by a transit, particularly when Saturn and Uranus were affected”. This observation must have been a breakthrough for Jung, because it provided insight into the deeper psychological manifestations of the psyche. He said, “Astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity”, also, “We are born at a given moment in a given place, and like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season to which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything else”.

Madame Helena Blavatsky (1831 – 1891) was born to a noble Russian family and founded the Theosophical Society in New York. Theosophy comes from the term “Theosophia” and was used by the Neo-Platonists. It means literally “knowledge of the divine”. Helena Blavatsky became instrumental in giving astrology a renewed respectability. Theosophy turned away from traditional western religious thought to embrace the mystical doctrines of the east, particularly India, which led back to the idea of viewing the stars as divinities that were the cause, rather than the sign of events. Through its lively propaganda and display of arcane wisdom, Theosophy became socially acceptable, and it gave astrology a re-introduction into the polite drawing rooms that allowed all sorts of highly respected and educated people to re-examine the subject. In her difficult work, “The secret doctrine” written in 1888, Madame Blavatsky says positively, “Yes, our destiny is written in the stars, this is not superstition, least of all is it fatalism”.

Theosophical astrologer, Alan Leo (1860 – 1917) believed that everyone derives willpower from a planetary sphere of influence which can be used or abused, by which evil tendencies can be transformed and the animal instincts can be controlled. Hence astrology teaches that character is destiny, the wise person rules the stars while the fool obeys them. Around 1903, Alan Leo published two magazines, “The Astrologer’s Magazine” and “Modern Astrology”. These publications were designed to enable people to learn how to draw up their own birth charts; this did not put the professional astrologer out of business, instead, it stimulated popular interest. By about 1915, Alan Leo had authored, or produced some thirty books involving, “Natal Astrology”, “The Progressed Horoscope” and “Esoteric Astrology”. He rendered astrology to be more effective as a tool to character analysis rather than forecasting. In 1915, Alan Leo founded the Astrological Lodge of the Theosophical Society, and it is to him that we owe the revival of astrology in the twentieth century.


Considering the history of astrology, it must be said that astrology is not based on fiction. The magnetic fields of the Sun, Moon, planets, stars and constellations have now been proven to influence the individual character and collective patterns of human behaviour on Earth.