Religion

Christmas Stories

Is the story about a baby named Jesus born to a virgin named Mary on the 25th December in a manger in Bethlehem literally true?

Doubtful.

Even the Bible provides plainly conflicting nativity narratives. In the Gospel of Matthew we have a magnificent star and three wise men bearing gifts. Yet, nowhere in that text do we encounter a manger. For that we require the story as told in the Gospel of Luke. But there, unfortunately, the gift-bearing wise men have been replaced by shepherds and that magnificent star morphed into an angel. Although some gloss over this inconsistency, academically minded theologians do not. They have always accepted that where these stories conflict, then at least one of them cannot be literally true.

Realising that understanding the Word of God requires more than the literality of the texts, early and medieval Christian scholars developed the allegorical method of reading scripture.

By the time of Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, the four levels of hermeneutic, by which scripture is still interpreted had become widely accepted:

  • The letter teaches you the facts,
  • Allegory what you should believe,
  • Morality how you should act,
  • Anagoge what to hope for.

The idea was to bring the Old and New Laws (Testaments) into unity through a double structure of prophecy.

Since the events of the Old Testament prefigure the mission of Christ, the Old Law is a prophecy of the New (allegory). In turn, the New Law is a prophecy of the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth at the Second Coming (anagoge). Understanding the allegories of the Bible is also the gateway to the moral meaning of the various stories and a guide to Christian conduct (tropological or moral image of the ‘Truth’). For ordinary priests, who might find the four levels hermeneutic unduly challenging, standard interpretations of Bible stories were devised to aid with the anagogic (mystery interpretations).

But this was does not mean that you need to accept these standard stories as the ‘gospel truth’.

For example, the facts pertaining to the life of Jesus as we know them could be interpreted as a patchwork of events in the lives of those who came before him: born to a carpenter and a virgin, like Krishna; born on the 25th December, like Mithras: announced by a star in the East, like Horus: walking on water and feeding five thousand from a small basket, like Buddha; performing miracles, like Pythagoras; raising the dead, like Elisha; executed on a tree, like Adonis; and ascending to Heaven like Hercules, Enoch, and Elijah.

Looking at the Nativity through a similar lens, then in Mary we might sense the presence of Isis; in Joseph, we might see Osiris, the patriarch with the crooked staff. How about finding the luminous babe in the manger to be like Krishna? We can even find the ox in the zodiac sign of Taurus and the ass in the zodiac sign of Aires, both ages leading to the, then, new Age of Pisces. 

What if the guiding star of the wise men is the spirit of Zarathustra or the angel announcing the birth, the spirit of the Buddha? What if one of the wise men was Pythagoras reincarnated? What if the wise men had been initiated by the prophet, Daniel? What if instead of one Jesus, there were two as depicted in the Leonardo Cartoon in London’s National Gallery as well as on the north portal at Chartres?

What if…, well, I think that you get the idea.

May peace be with you this holiday season and may hermeneutics take you as far as you’re willing to go.

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part IV)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations. 


Previously

A few days ago, we investigated the messianic biblical prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24.17) and how it may be connected, through the Magi, to one of the strongest contenders, a triple Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces in 06/07 BC. 

Yet, because such conjunctions are not really all that rare, the question then became whether or not something else might have been going on. There was and it had to do with how the Magi referred to only as an amorphous group became three. Not only that, but these three magi, or wise men brought gifts. They also saved the baby Jesus from the clutches of blood-thirsty Kind Herod.

But just when the political machinations of this story found in the Gospel of Matthew reached its peak, we had to consider a completely different version, that found in the Gospel of Luke. Gone now is all reference to the magi, their gifts, Herod, and even our Christmas Star. We are instead presented with shepherds, an angel, and a ‘concerned’ Mary and Joseph.

Veering away from astrological interpretations, early Christian writers steered followers toward seeing the Christmas star as a miracle, free from any heavenly signs and accompanying ideas of fate or destiny. This naturally led to the suggestion that the heavenly event in question was a comet, for which there seemed sufficient historical and biblical evidence.

Yet this interpretation created its own set of problems, not the least of which involved the symbol of the virgin Mary giving birth with the crescent moon under her feet (as described in Revelations). Add to that no one had yet managed to fit the pericope of Luke, with the shepherds and an angel rather than Magi and a star into the picture, and everything seems a right muddle.


Although tempting, it would be a mistake to view this through a modern lens.


Hellenistic thinking

There is significant evidence that along with the rest of the New Testament, both the Gospel of Matthew and Luke were originally penned in Greek. This suggests that Hellenistic thinking, including Hellenistic astrology, itself laden with anthropomorphic Mesopotamian sky narratives, probably influenced these biblical texts.

This is important.

Not only were the constellations comprising the Mesopotamian zodiac different from those of our modern zodiac,  but celestial prophecy regarding that zodiac was not only prevalent, but also taken seriously.

In his book, Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings, Hermann Hunger, an Austrian authority on Babylonian astrology and celestial omens, provides several relevant examples:

  • ‘If the stars of Orion [known to the Babylonians as The Shepherd of Anu] keep gaining radiance: an important person will become too mighty and commit evil. – Venus stands in front of Orion.”
  • The priest Bullutu records a bright Venus in the ‘Crook’, known later as Auriga, the Charioteer and writes of this combination, ‘the foundation of the throne will become stable.’
  • ‘If Orion [known to the Babylonians as The Shepherd of Anu] comes close to the moon; the days of the reign of the king will become long…’
  • ‘If Ada thunders in the middle of Taurus [the Cosmic Bull], the king will conquer a country not belonging to him.’

Putting it all together

On 1 May 7 BC, there was a new moon along with the first of the three Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions.
  • Immediately afterwards, the planet Venus, as the evening star, was just above the crescent moon, in the stars of the Shepherd of Anu,
  • While the Sun, the king, was in Taurus just setting at the horizon, close by.
  • We now have all the elements central to the nativity pericope in Luke: shepherds, cattle, and a stable (as foundation of the throne).


In Venus, the evening star, we may also have found the ‘woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet’ as noted in Revelations 12:1-5 (RSV).

Could it be that in some sense, both the apparently conflicting bible versions (Luke and Matthew) of the birth of could be true, as sky narratives, recording through visual celestial symbolism the story of the birth of the Christ and the attendant Christmas Star?

Better yet, should any or all of this be considered as having fulfilled the prophecy of Balaam:

…a star shall come for out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel…

Numbers 24:17 (RSV)

Interesting, the word ‘sceptre’ originally meant a rod or staff. In the Old Testament, it was thus specifically applied to the shepherd’s crook, which was considered an insignia of supreme power:

And all the tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the Lord.

Leviticus 27:32 (RSV)

Shepherd thy people with thy staff, the flock of thy inheritance…

Micah 7:14 (RSV)

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Genesis 49:10 (RSV)

Conclusion

As it is impossible to reach any definitive inclusions about the real nature of the Christmas Star, I invite you to consider what has been presented over this four-part series of posts and make up your own minds as how best to interpret all the possibilities and the evidence. Also, when you next sing about shepherds who watch their flocks or three kings bearing gifts, I invite you to consider the cultural role that such celestial symbolism still plays 2,000 years after the historical event that it depicts.

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part III)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations. 


A few days ago, we investigated the messianic biblical prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24.17) and how it may be connected, through the Magi, to one of the strongest contenders, a triple Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces in 06/07 BC. 

Yet, because such conjunctions are not really all that rare, the question then became whether or not something else might have been going on. Turns out that there was and it had to do with how the Magi, once an amorphous group of wise men, became only three. Not only that, but these three magi brought important gifts to the new born king. They also saved the baby Jesus from the clutches of yet another king, the blood-thirsty Herod.

But just as it was all beginning to fit together nicely, we had to consider a completely different version of the story, as found in the Gospel of Luke. With this, all reference to the magi, their gifts, Herod, and even our Christmas Star have disappeared. Instead, we are presented with shepherds and a harking angel.

What would the early Christian writers make of this muddle and how might it effect our thinking about the Christmas Star?

_________________

Until Ignatius of Antioch ( c. 35 or 50 CE – 89-117 CE), there was no Christmas Star, at least not in its current incarnation. It was with his Letter to Ephesians that the star as we now know it first appeared in an early marketing campaign for Christianity. In the view of Ignatius, the ‘star’ in question was a miracle not a predictable planetary configuration, a sign from the heavens that with the birth of Christ, mankind was set free from the historical bonds of magic and (astrologically inspired) fate.

A star shone forth in the heaven about all the stars: and its light was unutterable, and its strangeness caused amazement; and all the rest of the constellations with the sun and moon formed themselves into a chorus about the star…

From that time forward every sorcery and every spell was dissolved, the ignorance of wickedness vanished away…

Letter to Ephesians (19:2-3) – Lightfoot Translation

Following the lead of Ignatius, Origen (184 -253 AD), another early Christian writer, introduced the idea that the inspirational heavenly event in question was indeed not planetary in nature but instead a comet.

We consider that the star that was seen ‘at its rising’ was a new star, and not like any of the normal celestial bodies…

We have read in the book called Concerning Comets by Chaeremon the Stoic that at times comets have appeared when good events were about to occur.

Why would it be a great surprise that a star should have appeared at the birth of one who was going to introduce new ideas to the human race and to reveal his teaching not only to Jews, but also to Greeks, and to many barbarian nations in addition?

Now I would point out with respect to comets that there is no prophecy about comets in circulation stating that such and such a comet would appear at the rise of a particular kingdom or at a particular time. However, the star which appeared at Jesus’ birth had been prophesied by Balaam, recorded by Moses, when he said ‘A star shall appear out of Jacob, and a man shall rise up out of Israel.’

Contra Celsum 1:58-59

With this, both Balaam and the pericope of Matthew are covered. Even better, in 5BC, well within the required time frame, astronomers in China, had recorded a bright comet constellation of Capricorn in 5BC.

Here’s additional Biblical support for the comet theory:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars: she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven: behold a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.

Revelations 12: 1-5 (RSV)

The argument is that only a comet could appear as herein described. Indeed, Balaam’s mysterious reference to a ‘star’ and ‘scepter’ also fits to the appearance of a comet in the sense that at a key state of its apparition, a comet would look like a scepter.

Yet another biblical passage adds support:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

Isaiah 9: 2 (RSV)

Probably no one has done more to promote the comet hypothesis than Giotto di Bondone (1266/17 – 1337), the medieval Italian artist. His fresco entitled ‘the Adoration of the Magi’ in Padua portrayed the Christmas Star as a comet.


But if we are to embrace the comet theory, it appears we must also forgo the pericope in Luke with its shepherds and announcing angel. Indeed, might that not be what Ignatius wanted? And quite how are we to accommodate, the mother of Jesus, giving birth with the moon under her feet as described in Revelations?

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part II)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations.


Yesterday, we investigated the messianic biblical prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24.17) and how it may be connected, through the Magi, to one of the strongest contenders, a triple Saturn/Jupiter conjunction in Pisces in 06/07 BC.

Yet, because such conjunctions are not really all that rare, the question then became whether or not something else might have been going on.

____________

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) suggested that there was.

After witnessing a conjunction of the three superior planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in 1603, Kepler calculated that this event also occurred in 06/07 BC. Given that this happens only once in 796.4 years, it seems a better fit to the long-awaited ‘star’ prophesied by Balaam. Better yet, it provides evidence for the Western tradition that there were three magi who visited Jesus after his birth.

Interestingly, nowhere in the Bible does it specifically state that there were three magi. This notion must, however, have come from someplace and Hellenistic astrological thinking of the time might provide a clue.

Not only was there a triple conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter but now we have three powerful planets involved in what Ptolemy (c. 87-150) called a doryphory, or a train of important planetary attendants in service to one of the two luminaries (i.e. the sun or the moon). The very nature of the planets comprising a doryphory is that they bring useful gifts to the luminary, and, in the case of our magi, the gifts brought to the luminary (the son or Sun), Jesus, the new king, were three: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy: and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:9-11 (RSV)

With the Matthean pericope, featuring the gift-bearing magi, the plot thickens as we now must account for King Herod.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.’

Matthew 2: 1-3 (RSV)

Historically, it is accepted that Christ was born during the lifetime of Herod, which is generally acknowledged to have died around 04 BC. So far, so good because the conjunction of the three superior planets that so impressed Johannes Kepler, occurred prior to the death of Herod in 06-07 BC. This would also seem to support theory of the triple conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn that otherwise fit in with Balaam’s prophecy. If we recall, that triple conjunction is clearly noted to have also occurred in 07-06 BC.

Yet when we delve deeper, we also learn that prior to visiting Bethlehem, our wise men, or Magi, first visited Herod. Doubtless when Herod asked them to locate the child and then return with the news so that he too could worship the child, they were pleased. But after having paid homage to the child and delivered their gifts, they ‘departed to their own country by another way’, having been tipped off ‘in a dream not to return to Herod’. Later, according to the Matthean pericope, Herod was not best pleased with this turn of events and ordered the death of ‘all male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under’.

Clearly the Magi and Herod are key players in the story as reported by Matthew although there is little or no historical evidence that Herod actually ordered the reported infanticide. Furthermore, there is even a suggestion that Herod and the Magi (three or not) do not form part of this picture at all. Not only that but, the star seems to have disappeared altogether, potentially replaced by a shining angel.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and their were filled with fear.

And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to a all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to another ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this this that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

Luke 2:8-20 (RSV)

These two biblical accounts could not be more different. Luke’s is humble, peaceful, and low-key in direct contrast to that of Matthew which is driven by the high political stakes tension of Herod’s reaction to the new born child.

What will early Christian writers make of all this?

The plot thickens more.

Astrology

The Christmas Star (Part I)

The Christmas Star is one of the holiday season’s most fascinating and enduring stories. Yet even today, astronomers remain uncertain as to the precise nature of the heavenly event that inspired it.

In a series of several blog posts, I’ll be reviewing some key pieces of evidence supporting several of the most likely contenders along with some traditional and not so traditional interpretations.


Let’s get started:

‘… a star shall come forth out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel…’

Numbers 24.17 (RSV)

This is the messianic prophecy of Balaam (a diviner in the Torah) who, according to Ambrose of Milan (330-397) and Origen of Adamantius (184/5-253/4), was an ancestor of the race of Magi, an ancient priestly caste flourishing on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire.

Evidence suggests the Magi had long awaited the fulfillment of their ancestor’s prophecy. According to the writings of Strabo (43 or 63 BC – c 24 CE), just prior to the birth of Christ the official duties of the Magi included the election of the king of the Parthian empire (a major political power in ancient Iran). Hence not only were Balaam’s Magi sky-watching priests (experts in Mesopotamian astrology) but they also had considerable experience in the business of kingmaking.

Since the Sumerian period ( 3500-2300 BC) planetary tables recorded on clay tablets predicted the future movements of the planets and one such tablet dated from 08 BCE listed a forthcoming Jupiter/Saturn conjunction.

For Balaam’s star prophecy to be fulfilled, the birth of Christ needed to be at night even though at the time, all divine births (i.e. Augustus and Nero) were linked with solar deities and needed to occur at either sunrise or noon. The triple conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn in 07-06 BC was a highly anticipated sky event the fit the bill. Both planets were easily seen by the naked eye in the night sky yet in Mesopotamian astrology,  both Jupiter and Saturn were associated with powerful solar deities  (Marduk and Ninib, accordingly).

Not only that, but this conjunction occurred in the constellation of Pisces, the one of the most ancient of the twelve zodiac signs (first appearing on an Egyptian coffin lid dated c. 2,300 BC) which has since become most closely associated with the Christ.


If one looks closely at the glyph of Pisces, you’ll find that one fish is moving upwards whilst the other is moving parallel with the earth plane.


The symbolism here has been characterized as a formal embodiment of spirit, the penetration and materialization of spirit into the world of duality and form.

And the Word [of God] became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

John 1: 14 (RSV)

As you can see, this all is quite tempting.

Yet conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn are of themselves not really so rare, occurring every 20 years. True, a triple conjunction makes it a bit more rare and adding in that it would happen in Pisces would make it even more rare. But then Balaam doesn’t seem to have stipulated the necessity of Pisces any more more than he specified that Jupiter/Saturn had to be involved.

So was this particular celestial the subject of Balaam’s ancient prophecy?

Or was something else going on?

Astrology

A Day of Thanksgiving & the Pilgrim’s Pride

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving – a day to give thanks – as well a day to remember the pilgrims who arrived there in 1620. This small band of men and women endured many hardships in order that they might practice their own religion without persecution and for that, we continue to applaud them.

Whilst you’re digesting your turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie, might you be interested in delving deeper?

Sure, why not – let’s give it a try.


I think it no accident that the pilgrims in question set out from England with the start of a new Jupiter/Pluto cycle:

  • Pluto = fanaticism, obsession, compulsion, and power.
  • Jupiter = relaxed liberalism, tolerance and good will.

Jupiter most certainly can be taken to suggest the strongly-held religious beliefs of the Pilgrims with Pluto representing the Church of England, which after many gyrations (Catholic/Protestant and back again), they found to be impossibly corrupt.

Little wonder.


With the death of Elizabeth I (who had restored the country to Protestantism after the death of her Catholic half-sister, Mary I), James I of England (James VI of Scotland) took the throne. He had been baptized Roman Catholic but was a practicing Protestant and so the Catholic/Protestant conflict raged on.

Initially, Elizabeth I had taken the position of Moderate Protestantism, a comprise that took the middle ground and allowed the Catholics to practice their religion, as long as they kept their heads down. This was too much for some but not enough for others and so eventually after 1580, the noose around the necks of the Catholics was tightened by the government, whether Elizabeth liked it or not.

Willingly or otherwise, James took the same approach, reinforcing ever more strict penalties against the Catholics whilst at the same time seeking a Spanish wife for his son, Charles, which understandably fueled fears that Catholicism would be the state religion again. By 1620, the situation had become impossible. If the Catholics were too bold and brash and mystical for some tastes, Luther and Calvin and the religions they’d spawned were too mean and harsh for others. The government was expected to intervene (again), and it did effectively becoming, at least in regards to religion, a police state.


This is the essence of the Jupiter/Pluto cycle, political power struggles, intense beliefs, and fundamentalism, as a response to fear and uncertainty.

The last Jupiter/Pluto cycle that commenced in 2007 is drawing now to a close. Consider any and all similarities between that time and that experienced by those pilgrims when in 1620, they’d finally had enough.

Next consider that the next Jupiter/Pluto cycle commences in March 2020 in addition to a heavy-hitter conjunction between Pluto/Saturn (the need for endings) in Capricorn in January 2020. The pilgrims did not have to deal with Pluto/Saturn but we will. To give you a taste of what that might entail, consider that a Pluto/Saturn cycle in Capricorn has not occurred since January 1518, just two months after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Thus began the Protestant Revolution that not only radically changed the face of world politics but also fueled those pilgrims to leave home.


Can we expect to see another wave of pilgrims, setting off from regimes they find too intolerant for their taste? Your guess is as good as mine but I’m willing to bet that we’re already seeing the beginning of it with immigrants fleeing…ah, but then you don’t necessarily want to reflect on that on a day of thanks giving do you or, then again, maybe you do?!

Alchemy

The Daemon of Carl Jung

In Plato’s Republic(The Myth of Ur), souls cue up to choose their next life and are assigned a daemon – an overseer for that life. In classic astrology, daemon could be determined using one’s natal chart and as the result, it was incumbent upon the individual to establish contact with (or invoke) his or her daemon. In many respects, this was exactly what Jung was doing whilst writing and illustrating the Red Book, which he considered to the ‘prima materia’ for his life’s work.

Daemon can be understood as fate – but not fate in the sense that it comes from outside us. Instead, daemon is our personal unconscious pushing through the creative impulse to encourage us to accomplish that which we are meant to do. Naturally, you may choose to reject or ignore Daemon (or your fate) but there is a price to be paid. Equally, following Daemon (either eagerly or begrudgingly) does not guarantee you an easy ride.

Carl Jung had Aquarius rising. This means that Saturn, the ruler of Aquarius was his daemon, or at least it was in his eyes although not all astrologers (classical or modern) might agree.

When it comes to daemon, it isn’t so much that Saturn the planet was running the show but instead the symbolism surrounding Saturn. According to the 3rd century Neo-Platonist, Iamblichus, symbols are the footprints of the gods, wondrous tokens sent down from above. In this sense, a symbol can never be a man-made design. Symbols pre-exist and hence carry energy that exerts power over us not unlike Jung’s archetypes.

Jung

Jung believed it was vital that he understand his daemon – no, more than that – he was determined to establish a personal relationship with his daemon and it is highly likely this was accomplished through magical ritual.

To that end, the Red Book, Jung communicates with several different Saturnian figures (Elijah, The Old Scholar, The Anchorite, The Librarian, and the Professor) that culminate with Philemon (whose name, Jung always wrote in Greek, most probably for magical reasons).

Several key points are of significant interest regarding these Saturnian figures and as ought to be expected in many respects they are all deeply paradoxical.

  • The Saturnian figures in Red Book are all associated with rocks and stones – imperishable – belonging to and of the earth – present in the beginning of time on earth and presumably present at the end. It is not surprising that this stone/rock motif comes up often in Jung’s writings. He had been fascinated with them since youth.
  • Jung’s Saturnian images are all old men – SENEX – they are also thinkers –seekers of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge). Philosophers. They are magicians, too. This is in keeping with the writings of Marsilio Ficino, a 15thcentury Italian scholar who appears to have heavily influenced Jung’s work.
  • All Jung’s Saturnian images are recluses and sad. These are in keeping with traditional associations with Saturn.
  • Several of Jung’s Saturnian images are associated with religion and more specifically, religious experience. Not all of them are complimentary or supportive of religion. Indeed, Philemon is always shown as lame and this might well be suggesting a connection with the devil. Philemon, after all, did always have a serpent hanging around.
  • Philemon was also connected with Mercury, the hermetic figure and the philosopher stone. Hermes Trismegistus, who controlled both the sun and the moon was semi-divine and he is, in essential ways, very much like Philemon (who was also a magician – possessing his own grimoire). This highlights the importance of the ancient art of alchemy. Saturn is lead, the metal of transformation and redemption.

In The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus, Dr Liz Greene suggests that because Philemon drew together Saturnian ideas and images from a number of ancient disciplines and cosmologies, he allowed Jung to build a workable bridge between the pagan and Christian aspects of his own world view.

Those  of us who are interested in similarly understanding the complexity of our own daemon, or chosen ‘fate’, might be well-advised to perform similar invocations and explorations. Dr Greene reminds us that during that difficult period in Jung’s life, his work with Philemon and predecessors gave Jung a connecting thread of meaning that helped him to understand his situation. Likewise, we may also turn to our daemons for help when things get tough.

Never forget, however, that working with daemons is not for the faint of heart. Jung’s daughter reported that things ‘went bump in the dark’ in the house when Jung was working with Philemon – things that we might well call supernatural.

Religion

Finding the Lost Spirit of Christmas

Traditionally, Boxing Day was the day when those who ‘have’ gave something to those who ‘have not’ – like coins dropped in the special alms box at church or presents given to the servants. This might sound condescending to modern minds, but perhaps in earlier times the gesture was better received than we imagine.

Boxing DayNow, Boxing Day means nothing more than beginning of the famous after – Christmas sales.  In other words, not only do those who ‘have not’ continue on their sad trajectory of ‘not having’, but those who already ‘have’ acquire even more.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love a sale as much as the next person.  But I can’t help thinking that somehow, as a society, by focusing so much on our consumerism, we’ve lost the true spirit of Christmas.

Because of its association with the Christ (and hence Christmas), reflection on the meaning of Tiphareth, the 6th sephirah of the Kabbalistic Tree, may help us to address the problem.

According to the occultist, Dion Fortune, Tiphareth is associated with the tarot sixes – victory (wands), joy (cups), earned success (swords), and material success (pentacles).

There’s nothing wrong with money.  It’s what we do with it that matters.

In Hebrew, Tiphareth signifies Beauty.  True beauty consists in the relationship of harmonious forms, on both the material and moral planes.  Yet all too often our focus gets stuck on the material plane. Given the media hype to which we’re exposed every day, that’s no surprise.

Yet morality has always had a key role in a functioning society.  Without it, we could take no man for his word and that would spell disaster for commerce.

Tiphareth also called the Sphere of the Sun; because of its central location on the Kabbalistic Tree, it holds the same place in human lives, as does the Sun in our solar system.

As such, a strong sense of self is indispensible with Tiphareth.

Yet  Tiphareth requires  more.  It it requires the simultaneous centrality of self and communion with others.  Perhaps this why the gift-giving traditions of Christmas arose.

Tiphareth also is associated with the sacrificed God, the Crucified Christ, the Divine Redeemer who having, incarnated is fated to die.  Dion Fortune reminds us we can never understand Tiphareth unless we understand of the real meaning of sacrifice.

Whatever that is,  I suspect it has hasn’t much to do with the Boxing Day sales unless one counts the running up of more credit card debt (for which at some point in the future when it comes time to pay it off, real sacrifice may be necessary.

Politics

Elizabethan Protestantism – every day life in the realm

The moderate Protestantism of Elizabeth I was a compromise not only between the Protestant and Catholic faiths but also between the various competing factions in the Protestant movement (i.e. Calvin vs. Luther and Zwingli).

During her long reign, Elizabeth’s religious policy made life easier for some and harder for others but, overall, at least initially, it set the nation-state on a more even keel than it had enjoyed in years. If avoiding civil disorder was one of Elizabeth’s general political aims, then her religious policy was more of the same.

For certain individuals like John Shakespeare, this doubtless caused considerable consternation. As a Catholic, how should he fulfil his job to remove the trappings of Catholic pomp and circumstance from Stratford’s Guild Hall?  Although we do not know how he personally felt about this responsibility, we can imagine that it was difficult to part with something so culturally endemic and visually rich as the wall paintings that on his orders, were white-washed.

Similar sentiments may lay at the heart of Roger Martyn’s lamentations regarding required changes in his parish church. Like John, Roger was forced to part with an entire way of life (i.e. celebrations and festive meals) to which he had developed an emotional bond. Interestingly, for whatever reason, Roger’s accounts highlighted the impact of these changes not on his personal religious feelings and beliefs, but on the outward trappings of such. Not everyone believed such destruction to be wrong. Iconoclasm, such as forced upon Roger and John had biblical roots. For religious men like John Jewel (Apologica Ecclesia Englicanae), such lush and vibrant Catholic imagery was proof positive that, at least according to the scriptures, the Roman Catholics were the heretics, not the Protestants.

For many Catholics, Elizabeth’s policy may well have been welcomed, at least at first. Not only did it allow men like John Donne and Ben Jonson to publicly switch their religious allegiance, but it also provided Catholics with a cover under which to carry on (quietly) as before. If they were willing to superficially comply with the requirements demanded by Elizabeth’s religious policy, the Catholics were, for the most part ignored. Elizabeth had no desire to meddle with her subject’s inner beliefs – i.e. the windows to their souls. However, later in her reign, when fears over the claims of Mary Queen of Scots to the English throne were rampant and religious fighting in Europe accelerated, Elizabeth cracked down on those Catholics who stuck their heads above the proverbial parapet. Doubtless, towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign, it again became uncomfortably obvious for Protestants and Catholics alike, that their religious futures were uncertain.

In conclusion, although Elizabeth’s moderate religious policy had initially stabilised England’s political situation (for better or for worse), but the end of her reign another big and unsettling change was in the cards. Who would know if perhaps if would not be of the same magnitude as that suffered under the auspices of her father, Henry VIII, with the Reformation?

Astrology

What is Spirituality? I’m sure that I should know…

A client asked for astrological insight on her spirituality. But what she meant by that, she wasn’t too sure. I told her she wasn’t alone in her confusion and suggested that we explore this together. She wasn’t too keen on that, however. For her, spiritualty was too personal.

OK – so I decided to come up with something by myself. It couldn’t be that hard, could it? After all, I do have an MA in the Study of Mystical and Religious Experience (University of Kent, at Canterbury). Revisiting my work from that course, I realised that it’s harder than I’d anticipated – at least hard in the sense of pinning down anything specific about the definition of spirituality.

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For the record, here’s my shortlist:

  • Finding purpose or meaning,
  • Tuning in to soul or psyche,
  • Giving over to a ‘higher self’,
  • Connecting with deity or the divine.

Granted, I may not know exactly for what I’m looking, but at least, as an astrologer, ought I not know where to look? Astrologically, traces of spirituality (however defined) are bound to show up in one’s natal chart. But where exactly should I start?

Jupiter is the most likely culprit, you say? Sure, why not. As long as you realise that Jupiter looks for meaning in your life – not mine – he is, after all a personal planet.

How about Neptune then? There’s a distinct possibility. Astrological Neptune most certainly has been ascribed spiritual qualities. But if you’re looking for some ‘truth’, then Neptune will be problematic, as I’m sure you can imagine. If it’s one thing about viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses that you can definitely say, it’s that what you see is not what you’ll get.

How about Saturn, then? At least he doesn’t lie. Not only that, but he’s hugely practical and possibly good for my bank account. However, upon further reflection I’m forced to admit that Saturn’s brand of spirituality probably won’t be as uplifting as I’d like. Not only is he dark and dreary, but also associated with death and misfortune. Even if I were willing to overlook that, Saturn is much too keen to point out my weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

If I’m really serious about my spirituality, then maybe I should go for organised religion. After all, they have been established by minds greater than mine. But after consideration, I’ve decided that I’m not that much into the suffering and sacrifice of Christianity and even if I were, I don’t see the worth of a paternalistic god. If He is only going to help those who help themselves, then of what worth is He? Besides I know that ‘believing’ can be dangerous and suspect that it isn’t very spiritual either. I mean, look at the Crusades – they were all about belief – and how ‘enlightened’ were they?

How about Buddhism? That sounds like my cup of tea. Not only have I pretty much given up consumerism but I’m also into yoga and meditation. Yet all that stuff about non-attachment and ego-surrender doesn’t really work that well in the western world, at least not unless I no longer have a mortgage, which unfortunately, I still do.Unknown.jpeg

It’s been awhile since I’ve done much with the ancient mystery religions. Definitely time to revisit those! Whilst I’m at it, modern mystery ‘religions’ like the Golden Dawn have always fascinated me and then – there’s alchemy and the kabbalah!

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