Saturday, March 25, 2006

Astrology is not Inherently Esoteric

One of the ideas floating around the astrological community is not merely the idea that astrology is intrinsically esoteric, but that this is a good thing. Part of my problem with this idea no doubt revolves around definitions, but I think this idea also masks a couple of other underlying assumptions which are not terribly benign.

Esoteric knowledge is hidden knowledge. Ok, easy enough. But that raises the questions: hidden by whom? Hidden from whom? And what is knowledge, anyway? If your cosmology is that astrology was created by and maintained by the Divine, whoever and whatever that is, and that primary knowledge does not and cannot reside in human beings, then, yes – astrology must have and does have an esoteric component, if only because Divine knowledge and Divine will is rarely if ever transparent to mere mortals. However, if this is true of astrology, wouldn’t it be equally true of every other form of knowledge which relates to the divine? Why should astrology be unique?

Most of what we call astrology in either the West or India either originated with or was strongly influenced by the Babylonians. Francesca Rochberg, in her 2004 book which is listed in my bibliography post, addressed this issue of what divination meant to the Babylonians in great detail. Simplifying somewhat, in the Babylonian cosmology, all people were slaves of the gods. The king might be way up the ladder from everybody else, but even he was at best an overseer. But ho do you know what your masters want? The Babylonians believed that the gods spoke to humans through omens. Anything that happened that was out of the ordinary was potentially an omen, hence a message from the gods. At first, these omens might be seen as applying primarily or exclusively to the king, as it was his job to relay these commands. But eventually, omens that happened to you and to you alone could be seen as your personal message. Among the possible omens were the celestial omens. And eventually, the birth itself could be seen as a personal omen.

If interpreting the omens is at heart what astrology is, then why would those gods not want us to be able to decipher the message???

I believe that a lot (I won’t say all) of what gets touted as esoteric has a lot more to do with human power games than with anything divine. There’s good communication and teaching, and bad communication and teaching. If I acquire a skill and then I either cannot or won’t teach it to others, what good did it do for the human race for me to have gotten it in the first place? Where’s the divine logic in that? Now, it’s one thing to say that the acquisition of knowledge requires sequencing. That’s like saying that in order to understand radioactive decay, I first have to understand atomic theory. Fine. But if I understand decay, and you have only gotten as far as atomic theory, I am not “better” or “more evolved” than you are. I’m simply further along the learning curve, which is not a value judgment at all.

Get a grip. Learn what you can. Teach others. Have fun. Move on.

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