Rev. Pamela A.F. Crane
To the vast majority of people, a "Christian astrologer" is a contradiction in terms. Astrology, seen by the ill-informed either as trivial nonsense or dangerously manipulative, is even considered anti-Christian; Christians therefore cannot possibly embrace such a mischief, and were astrology indeed a body of truth, surely it must only reflect an aspect of Man's fallen state, the world's essentially evil nature, now triumphantly redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ and rendered powerless and irrelevant. Astrologers themselves, meanwhile, are now often too busy wooing the statistician, the businessman and the scientist, too in love with the technicalities and politics of their discipline, to reflect upon and redevelop its profound spiritual rôle.
But this gulf between the two results from a divorce, not from a primary incompatibility. The material evidence can be seen by anyone in many of our churches; no less than four English cathedrals - Chichester, Carlisle, Lincoln and Canterbury itself - incorporate the zodiac symbols, and so do at least 19 parish churches from Kent to the Isle of Man. Written evidence is found throughout Christian history, beginning with admittedly apocryphal works such as the arabic "Gospel of the Infancy" attributed to St. James, in which Jesus is presented as lecturing the temple priests on "the number of the spheres and heavenly bodies, as also their triangular, square and sextile aspects, their progressive and retrograde motion; their 24ths, and 60ths of the 24ths, and other things which the reason of man had never discovered... " and from the 1st or 2nd century "The Clementine Recognitions". Here Clement describes to James the brother of Jesus the status of astrology as mathesis - a mental exercise to gain knowledge. Through such study and comprehension of the stars Abraham came to recognise his Creator, while the rest of mankind were yet in ignorance. Clement recognised the complexity and difficulty of the planetary patterns and their interpretation, and how easy it was to misread them; also that the possession of free will leads man sometimes to resist and sometimes to yield to the desires patterned in his heavens. He called the twelve apostles "the Twelve Months of Christ", who was thus "the Year of Our Lord".
Early Church fathers probably shared St. Jerome's acknowledgement of the Magi as wise and skilled astrologers who were thus alert to Jesus' Nativity, and with Plotinus would have taken the celestial patterns as signs, as symbols, not as causes - nor as the work of demons as St. Augustine (a previous adherent of astrology) would have it, nor as an evil block to the soul's progress from heaven to earth and back again as the Gnostics saw it. Synesius of Cyrene "considered the study of astrology to be a preparation for the more elevated study of theology", seeing the universe as a whole, its parts all bound together by sympathy. In the 20th century this view was to be echoed and developed by Carl Gustav Jung, and it is all the more valid today when the scientist can show the minute and subtle interdependence of all natural phenomena on the microcosmic and the macrocosmic scale. More and more of our physicists are reaching a point in their understanding where laws of material energy, however rarefied, break down and only the restoration of Mind - spiritual intelligence, God - can ultimately make sense of the universal equations.
The materialist who tries to force astrology into a causative mould, who will only allow it to work in the context of the "natural" world (of weather, of agriculture, the earth's flora and fauna, Man's bodily constitution and health) is completely missing the point; and as this was the prevalent view during the Middle Ages in Europe, for a long time actively supported by the Church and its Popes and continuing for centuries among the unlearned populace, "western" society inherits today a massive backlog of astrological misunderstanding and prejudice.
In trying to correct this as far as I can, let me briefly describe the working basis of astrology.
First of all, it depends on the wisdom, "As above, so below"; meaning is an essential property of the universe, therefore "whatever is born, or done, in this moment of time, has the qualities of this moment of time." (C.G. Jung - "Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle".) Secondly, astrology depends on the qualitative significance of number and pattern, as found in the varying geometrical interrelationships of Sun, Moon and planets in our solar system and the observable stars, both with each other and with the Earth, at a given moment and birthplace. We know that the geometries of sacred architecture generate natural musical resonances within their structure; so, I consider, does the cosmic geometry resonate within its energy-structures. This may constitute the real Music of the Spheres; and all music is eloquent of meaning.
So the patterns of lives and events unfolding on the earth in synchrony with the patterns of the embracing macrocosm reflect its meaning, make the same music. The is a Composer of all this music; and His orchestra is infinite. We, and the Sun, planets, moons, asteroids and stars, are all part of the same orchestra; the more we allow the Composer also to conduct us in our individual themes, the clearer becomes His intention, and the more perfect the universal symphony. The French in fact know the birth-chart as the "thème".
What is this chart?
It can be understood in terms of a stopped clock, or a slice of Time. The astrologer presents the heavenly patterns on a dial with twelve figures - not numbers, however, but the symbolic sequence of zodiacal images - whose "hands" are the momentary positions of the Sun, Moon and planets in the sky around the Earth, centre of our experience, and the same moment's local horizon and meridian. The latter, known as the Ascendant-Descendant and the MC-IC (Medium and Imum Coeli) form the basis of four major and twelve minor divisions of the encompassing sky, called respectively the Quadrants and the Houses. Broadly, each luminary or planetary body represents a different archetypal energy at work in the world and humankind, the twelve Signs illustrate a series of archetypal modes of behaviour through which these energies are channelled, and the twelve Houses present those fundamental areas of life most strongly in focus at the time and place at which a seminal event occurs - such as a human birth, a meeting, a marriage, a commitment, a treaty - and for which the chart of the heavens is erected. The astrologer understands from the balance of planets above and below the horizon and East and West of the meridian, also by their grouping in particular Signs and Houses to the exclusion of others, and by their geometrical interrelationships from the viewpoint of Earth, the character and possibilities for growth of the life begun in that moment. The astrologer is able to see where, for example, Fire and Water Signs bring an excess of passion, too much Air or Earth holds the risk of coldness and bureaucracy, a badly placed Saturn highlights the issue of discipline, a difficult Mars shows fear and aggression ... and so on. The subtleties of the eternally-changing pattern are continually realised in the complex human condition and its every experience; the capacity for joy, misery, greed and selfishness, sacrifice, cruelty, cowardice or heroism, generosity, doubt, sloth and tirelessness, friendship, creativity. showmanship, spirituality, dependency, skill, bluntness and tenderness - all are there.
Thus informed, the old astrologers would make predictions; and there are plenty around today who still do, creating therewith the dangers of the self-fulfilling prophecy, the dependent client, the abdication of personal responsibility through an encouraged fatalism. The Christian astrologer will not do this. Elements of our destiny can not be changed, any more than we can change our genes; we cannot alter our past - that long past of our evolution from an undifferentiated spark of Godhead to our current stage of individual growth, whose fruits are mirrored in the horoscopic pattern - and each of us has to start from the point which we had reached prior to this incarnation, accepting our true nature with its chiaroscuro of spiritual victory and failure; also we must stand by the commitments made on re-entry to this world, and work in our allotted or chosen field. The Christian astrologer knows we may do all this well or badly, and will show the seeker the strengths on which he may choose to build, the weaknesses he must still overcome, where debts from the past may yet have to be paid, and where spiritual refreshment will always be found.
More than this, the Christian astrologer will read the chart on two, three or four levels. In addition to the geocentric (Earth-centred) circle of twelve Houses and the familiar Tropical Signs relating to the personal life, there is also the Sidereal zodiac linked to the visible constellations and concerned with our wider cultural rôles, plus the deeper truth of their Heliocentric (Sun-centred) perspectives, as well as another very important zodiac known as the Draconic, which begins its own sequence of twelve Signs at the current intersection of the Moon and Earth orbits, and describes the belief-system, the guiding principles brought by the soul from its past experience into the current life.
Every 25,800 years, the Spring Equinox aligns with the beginning of the Sidereal, constellational zodiac; this last happened close to the time of the Christ's presence in the world as Jesus, at that mighty outreach to bind the will of mankind to the Will of God. The Gospels are rich with the symbolism of the cusp of Aries/Pisces, the first and last Signs, the Alpha and Omega of the heavens, the passing Age and the Age beginning. Aries the Ram is the Lamb of God and the Good Shepherd of the flock; the Fishes, Pisces, are the disciples, the Fishers of Men. The net is cast upon the waters, the fish are multiplied to feed the hungry, the Lord is Ichthus the Fish whose secret symbol graces the catacombs; competitive gods and ritual slaughter give way to the Holy Trinity and the mission of Divine Love. We can look at the relationship between our Sidereal and Tropical levels and learn something of how our little human will clashes or blends with a larger Self and a far higher Will.
But it is the Draconic zodiac which provides the crucial missing link for the person in spiritual pain; astrology for the Christian is essentially healing work, and most of those who come for help are at a crossroads in their life, utterly bewildered. To varying degrees they feel lost, fearful, inadequate, unhappy, often lonely and sometimes ill. For such people a thorough exploration of their bodily drives and psyche in the Tropical chart is useless if they have no strength or motivation to act, and may leave them feeling even more impotent. But the message of the Draconic zodiac, especially the Signs of the Luminaries - Sun and Moon - and those contacts made to axes of the Tropical chart, is that behind every human life lies a higher purpose transcending personal desire, and it is this that once rekindled enables the lost soul to go forth again in joy and vigour and hope. The astrologer who is thus able to awaken what lies in the seeker's heart of hearts puts him or her back in touch with the long past that built a Conscience out of these cherished principles, lights again the flame of spiritual longing, and gives meaning back to what had seemed an empty life. With the Christ, the astrologer encourages, "Be thou perfect, even as thy Father in Heaven is Perfect." The seeker responds.
The Sidereal zodiac challenges us to the vast stars across the gulfs of space; how worthless and small we can feel compared to God's greatness, even though each of us has an indispensible part to play in the history of His universe. The Tropical zodiac holds the mirror up to our common humanity, saying "Man, know thyself!" The twelve Houses tie us even more tightly to our individual interests and environment. These three levels in one pattern might suffice for the non-Catholic, or for the man who expects only one life, one judgement, one heaven or hell - but not for the man or woman whose soul is alive in the body and begins to quicken its journey. Not for nothing does the Catholic Church honour and love Mary, Our Lady, Star of the Sea, crowned with the twelve stars, poised on the Moon; it is she who from God brings us the Christ to live in our opening hearts, it is the Moon which is symbol of Soul, of Spirit taking form, of births, of histories, of the Mother who joins her wandering children back to their Father through the Son. It is the zodiac of the Moon, the Draconic, which helps the Christian astrologer to show those suffering on the cross of matter that it is neither endless nor meaningless.
The revelation and reconnection of all these vital but hidden layers of worldly and heavenly self restores in even the most dejected and hopeless the will to live and the will to love. Through Christian astrology, the human instrument can be wholly re-tuned, its true voice and conscious purpose given back again. Beauty of life becomes possible, centred in love, integrity and unselfishness; as the Path of the soul is re-opened. The astrologer should at this point no longer be needed, and quietly step aside, having taught "This above all, to thine own self be true; thus it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man"... nor, therefore, to Christ, nor to God our source and destiny, who in His heavens has given us the keys to His Kingdom.