Traditional and modern astrology: a philosophical exploration (part 4)

How does Greek Philosophy Relate to Astrology?

Horoscopic astrology developed alongside the ideas of classical Greek philosophy. It could be said that the observation of the sky and planetary motions inspired much philosophical musing. In the past there was little separation between science and philosophy, between religion and astrology or between mathematics and magic. The world was understood to be idealistic; that is that idea or mind came before matter, matter being a result of idea.

From this perspective spirit and matter were considered equally real and important. The interplay and mutual relationship between God and humans or the planets and the affairs of the earthly realm was a given. The axiom “as above so below” rang true in every sense of the words; what occurred here on Earth was naturally to be reflected in the movement of the cosmos. This was not perceived as magical, but rather as logical.

It is only when our focus began to shift from a spiritual perspective of life to a biological one that matter became the ultimate reality and soul a construct of the human mind. This shift had a profound effect on our world. Mechanical science and technology has changed life on this planet as well as our human consciousness. No longer are we part of a tribe, no longer do we accept the concept of a predetermined fate, no longer do we see the movement of the planet and stars as evidence of their soul or ours, and no longer do we accept magic as being natural. For the most part we now see ourselves as a collection of individuals jostling to be and to find our purpose; our bodies and the rest of the material world is a manifest proof of chemical reactions that adhere to the laws that govern the physical universe. We elevate logical and rational thought based on sensible evidence over and above magical thinking that is dismissed as flights of the imagination, not based in rational reality.

Astrology has reflected this change by becoming primarily focused on the individual and his inner processes of realization. The natal chart has been elevated to being a tool to help in the individuation of the native. Astrology’s recent focus on the psychology of the individual is an illustration of this shift.

The Roots of Traditional Astrology

To really understand traditional astrology we need to shift our focus from the modern paradigm and reset it on how the world and cosmos were understood around 2500 years ago, when horoscopic astrology first began to appear. One of the first problems we encounter is the modern notion of evolution and progress, which has ingrained itself so firmly into our psyche that it is difficult for us to accept that where we find ourselves is anything but a higher more evolved level than what came before. We need to perceive the past not through the prism of the present, nor through the romantic notion of a past golden age, but rather from the neutral position of a novice or student eager to learn.

We need to let go of our preconceived ideas about astrology and accept that there is much we can learn from the ancients. This can be a very uncomfortable process as cherished notions and ideas need to be relinquished or at least re-examined. At the same time, it is immensely freeing to open our minds to other possibilities. Our understanding of concepts such as: god, soul, evolution, knowledge and information are different to what they were in the past and it is important to appreciate these differences.

Much of the rational for astrology can be found in the philosophical ideas and principles of ancient Greek philosophers including Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle as well as the Stoic school. Having even a cursory understanding of these can be immensely informing to the astrologer.

part 5

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