The seminars included in this fascinating volume deal with the theme of astrology’s use as a tool of global prediction over the centuries especially as part of a religious vision of the “end of days”. Human beings have always been preoccupied with whether and when the world will end, now no less than in Babylonian and medieval times.
In its earliest form, astrology was employed not for the individual, but for the state and its ruler, indicating times of triumph and defeat, flowering and disaster. The millennarian world-view has not left us, and the fascination and panic surrounding the eclipse of August 1999, the dawn of the year 2000, and the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in May 2000 reflect our continuing preoccupation with celestial events and their portents. Every student of astrology can benefit from an understanding of astrology’s application to historical cycles, and its inextricable links with those visions of the destiny of the world which still dominate, albeit unconsciously, the ways in which we approach the future.
Review by Mary Plumb- The Mountain Astrologer
Part One of Nick Campion’s new book, Astrology, History and Apocalypse, was presented as a seminar in 1992. The History of Astrology covers 4,000 years and is (luckily) the longest section in the book. Writing about astrology’s beginnings, Campion notes that conditions were very unstable in in Mesopotamia (the geographic region of the Babylonian empires); the Tigris and Euphrates flooded erratically, and the region had no natural defences. The future was therefore uncertain. Many forms of divination arose in Babylon as a way to find out what the future held in store, and by 800 B.C.E., astrology was the most important of these.
The author recounts astrology’s history from Mesopotamia through classical Greece, Rome, medieval times, the Renaissance, and the modern world, in a highly engaging discourse. There are stories and anecdotes throughout, and the author demonstrates the true historian’s view that “…when we look at the history of astrology, we are very much talking about matters which are directly relevant to the present.”
The question of free will is one astrological theme that Campion traces throughout time. He writes “Astrology has always been very much to do with developing freedom of choice.” The medieval astrologer, for instance (perhaps surprisingly), understood the concept of choice; medieval astrology was not at all fatalistic. (Duns Scotus, who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries, wrote: “The stars incline the will but in no wise necessitate it.”)
Astrologers can gain a great deal from understanding our history. Nick Campion’s seminar is accessible as well as educational. A wonderful historian himself, he also recommends many other books for study.
“Part Two: Apocalypse” is a seminar he presented in 1996. The topic here is primarily ‘millenarianism’ from the Greek word millennium, meaning ‘one thousand years’. The author takes a serious look at the role that apocalyptic and millenarian ideas have played in history – and astrology’s relationship to those ideas. A main feature of millenarianism is the presence of of powerful cultural myths that, simply stated, support an imminent period of darkness and the subsequent dawn of a golden age. There are many worthwhile ideas for astrologers to consider here, such as questioning the function of predictions and astrology’s relationship to salvation.
As a specific example of how the world of millenarian belief relates to astrology, the author notes that the idea of a coming Aquarian Age was supported by Alan Leo, Dane Rudhyar and Alice Bailey – all greatly influential in modern astrological thought.
Readers who are familiar with Nick Campion’s 1994 book, The Great Year, will know the territory of this material. He is a scholarly writer, and this section is not light reading. (A few times when I was about to lose the thread, someone from the audience broke in with a helpful question.)
“Part Three: The Age of Aquarius – A Modern Myth” is a revised version of a paper that was originally published in The Astrology of the Macrocosm: New Directions in Mundane Astrology (Llewellyn, 1990). In this erudite essay, the author deconstructs the view that the world is entering the Age of Aquarius, that long-sought time when, as he quotes Cyril Fagan, “…the whole world will be just one big happy family.”
One theme of this debunking is that astrologers (and their critics) have misunderstood and overemphasised the importance of the precession of the equinoxes. Campion cites the work of Charles Carter, Walter Koch and Robert Hand to support this argument.
This essay also revisits the theme of astrology and millenarianism; Campion seems to be saying that a misunderstanding of technical astrology has helped give false weight to millenarian ideas. Although the myth of millenarianism can motivate people towards self-improvement or ‘good works’ on behalf of society, it can also be exploited for a darker political motive; this has led to human atrocities, such as the brutality of Stalinism, Fascism and distorted ‘New Age’ cults like that of Jim Jones. The author suggests that looking at history and becoming awake to cultural myths is a prudent course – especially for astrologers.
Astrology, History and Apocalypse is a wonderful book from Nick Campion; it is an essential and delightful read for those who are interested in astrology’s history and its application to historical cycles.
© Copyright 1999 The Mountain Astrologer
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