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History of Western Astrology

Today, the average person in Western society knows their Sun Sign placement (i.e. Hey baby! What's your sign?) and many read their daily horoscope as a source of momentary entertainment and amusement. And heck! Who knows? Maybe today will be your lucky day, and you'll finally meet that tall, dark stranger your horoscope is bragging about.

From the very dawn of humanity (until today), people have looked to the heavens and the planets for guidance. Thousands of years ago astrology was, generally speaking, reserved only for members of royalty. There were good points to astrology being embraced by royalty, and there were several bad points. One of the best advantages was that an astrologer could look forward to a nice, comfortable, civil service job in the palace. One of the worst "difficulties" was when the astrologer inevitably made the royal benefactor angry. That was when the court astrologer generally lost his/her head over the matter. And I am speaking literally regarding the losing of heads.

The Roots/Greek Thought

The roots of Western Tropical astrology (the type of astrology most Westerners are familiar with today) date all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia (2300 BC). From there, perhaps as early as 600 BC, astrology made its way into ancient Greece. Astrology's entrance into Greece coincided with the beginning of the first great Greek philosophers and with the rise of the Greek state and culture.

Socrates - 469 to 399 BC

Plato - 427 to 347 BC

Aristotle - 384 to 322 BC

Then Alexander the Great burst into the picture by beginning his famous conquests over much of the entire (then known) world. Alexander's conquests began and then lasted between the years of 336-323 BC. Due to Alexander's powerful influence and control - and his having been tutored by the master philosopher Aristotle - Greek culture and thought was then spread throughout Alexander's vast conquered domain. In this process of "hellenizing" the world - Alexandria, Egypt became the established cultural center of ancient Hellenistic Greek thought and philosophy between the years of 323-31 BC. It was during this 300 year period of time that the study, development, and acceptance of astrology flourished among the prominent thinkers of the day... and it was during this period of time, when horoscopic, zodiacal, individualized astrology - much as we recognize it today - first came into existence.

Later ancient Hellenistic sky watchers such as the famous Ptolemy (85-165 AD) served in dual roles as both the scientifically minded mathematical astronomer searching out the skies and as the metaphysically minded astrologer divining the purposes of the heavens.

The Quiet Period

After a several hundred year "heyday" in ancient Greek and then Roman culture - astrology in the West, while never totally dying out, became rather quiet during the period of time now called the Middle Ages. In fourth century AD, the Christian Church was busily at work getting ready to establish itself as the predominant Western world power and belief system for the next several hundred years, and astrologers of the day were not keen on losing their heads (as mentioned above). So out of necessity and wishing to avoid possible persecution, those continuing the practice of Western astrology went underground and kept a low profile. During the next several hundred years of the Church's rule, the Church in Rome vacillated back and forth over its official viewpoint of astrology. At times Christian church leaders condemned astrology as being heretical, while at other times church leaders sought out the guidance of astrologers.

Renaissance/Age of Enlightenment

For the most part, in the Western world, astrology stayed quietly underground until its reemergence during the European Renaissance (ranging in date anywhere from 1453 - 1598 to as late as the 1670s). Spurred on in Italy by the Medicis, alchemist/astrologer Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), and the revival of Greek neo-Platonic philosophies.- astrology once again gained prominence among many of the scholastics of the day. One of the more notable astrologers during the latter Renaissance period, William Lilly (1602-1681), remonikered astrology as being "Christian Astrology" in order to keep the still rather powerful (and vacillating) Christian church leadership at bay.

The, all too brief, European Renaissance was then followed by the bright rationalistic light of the Age of Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution of the 17th century AD, with the scholastic world finally determining, once and for all, that the Earth was not the center of the universe.

Ideological Earthquake

What we today take for granted, knowing the Earth to be a small cog in the greater wheel of the universe, was - for the peoples of that time and age - a huge shift in consciousness. It's literally impossible for us to imagine how chaotic and devastating this paradigm shift and "ideological earthquake" was to become or how effective it would be in rocking the religious world of the day.

Astrology was only one among a much larger group of metaphysical aftershock casualties of this mind bending paradigm shift. As a result of this "ideological earthquake," the physical science of astronomy and the metaphysical art of astrology were then split off from one another - and, for the first time, they became separate, often contrary disciplines. While Astronomy blossomed under the watchful eye and blessing of the new Age of Enlightenment - mystically minded astrology was cursed and cast aside under its disdainful, disapproving glare... Once again, Western astrology disappeared into the mist, shadows, and darkness.

Modern Revival

Then, around 100 years ago at the beginning of the 20th century, astrology in Western society rose up once more into public favor, imagination, and consciousness. This final revival of astrology was due almost solely to the efforts of the charismatic, enigmatic astrologers, Sepharial (1864 - 1929) and Alan Leo (1860-1917), who became the founding fathers of the Astrological Lodge of the Theosophical Society in Great Britain. Since Sepharial and Leo's time, Western culture's fascination with astrology has continued on with us and grown through the years.

It was during this final pop revival of Western astrology that Sun Sign Astrology (Hey baby! What's your sign?), ideas on karma and reincarnation, and the reading of daily horoscopes first began coming into vogue. According to astrologer, Dane Rudhyar, at the beginning of the 1930's, astrologer Paul Clancy decided that popularizing astrology was to be his life mission. When Clancy's magazine "American Astrology" became a huge success in 1934, it started a new "epoch" in astrology. It was primarily Clancy's venture in "American Astrology" that brought about the popularity of daily and/or weekly astrological horoscope columns, with readings of the twelve signs, to appear in the newspapers and periodicals throughout the United States and Europe. (from the preface of Astrology, The Divine Science by written by Marcia Moore and Mark Douglas)

What the esteemed and quite respected astrologer, Dane Rudhyar, failed to mention in this preface is that it was none other than he, Dane Rudhyar, who was the original writer of these popular "American Astrology" horoscopes.