Thursday 15 March 2007
The host of heaven
The modern world is a very different place from the one our forefathers and foremothers lived in. If you had to put a single person at the fulcrum of change it might well be Copernicus. After him, the planet was demoted from center of the universe to one more sphere orbiting an unspectacular sun.
One of the significant casualties of 'modernity' is astrology. For thousands of years our ancestors looked up to the skies with awe, and read purpose and prophecy in the motion of the heavens. Paul imagined he had been "caught up to the third heaven" (2 Cor 12:2), the clockwork motions of the stars were thought to determine human destiny, and even those giants of the Enlightenment were keen on divining meaning from the firmament.
Copernicus made no distinction... between astronomy and astrology, referring to them jointly as “the head of all liberal arts.” ... Kepler was his era's foremost astrological theoretician... Even Galileo, like most Renaissance astronomers, routinely calculated astrological birth charts... Newton reported that it was his own early interest in astrology that stimulated his epochal researches in mathematics... (Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, p.294-295.)
Given the universal interest in such things, it's no wonder that many commentators have searched for astrological references in the Bible. If the rest of us find that a curiously antiquarian quest, perhaps it indicates that we have a blindness to the subject that marks our own more rational age. After all, one of the pivotal New Testament stories has three Magi following a star which leads them to Jesus. Three centuries later the upstart emperor Constantine was to legitimate his bloody campaign for the imperial purple by a heavenly sign of his own, a portent that coincidently elevated a form of Christianity to the heart of Roman power.
No post-WCG figure has made a stronger case for astronomical references in the scriptures than former pastor Dennis Diehl. Dennis recommends a site called Solar Mythology and the Bible, and has a couple of articles on the subject, one on Isaiah 14, and another on “the original Sun of God.”
Is he on to something? That's for you to decide. Sophisticated liberal theologians are loathe to see these superstitions in their urbane analyses. Fundamentalists are too blinkered to look beyond their treasure trove of proof-texted dogmas. Maybe we've been missing a very real layer of pure nonsense parading as profundity.
There's a reading list linked from the Solar Mythology site, and for those with a thirst for a deeper understanding of just how different the modern/post-modern world-view really is, you could do worse than tackling Richard Tarnas' powerful book The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped Our World View.
For myself, I'm one Piscean who is delighted to be on this side of the Copernican divide.