Survey the circling stars as though you yourself were in mid- course with them…. Visions of this kind purge away the dross of our earth-bound life.The civilization of classical Greece was remarkable in its achievements and, in some respects, unique. It has bequeathed us an astonishing legacy of written material in mathematics, astronomy, political thought, and speculative philosophy, as well as a tradition of architecture that still mesmerizes the modern West. However, while we can admire and respect the work of the Greek schools, their nature has been mythologized and distorted in the service of a particular form of modern Western thought that prides itself on its supposed rationalism.
According to this myth, as Greek rationalism emerged, self-contained, from deep within the innate genius of the Greek character and in opposition to the superstitious cultures of Egypt and Babylon, so its descendant, Western rationalism, now exists in a state of inherent purity and antagonism with those forces of superstition that survive in the modern world. This view, borne of a particular form of dualistic cosmology, with its belief in the struggle, and eventual triumph, of light/truth/good against darkness/falsehood/evil, remains remarkably resilient in the popular and academic imagination, although it has been comprehensively demolished by scholars in various specialist areas.
David Pingree, for example, criticized the distorting effects of Hellenophilia, love of all things Greek, while Peter Kingsley has demonstrated that the first wave of Greek philosophers were priest-kings; and, even though a skeptical tradition eventually emerged, much Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, retained a profound initiatory, revelatory quality until the close of the Platonic Academy in Athens in 529 CE.
Recently, it has been argued in great detail that early Greek cosmology emerged seamlessly out of Near Eastern philosophy and religion.This is of undoubted importance if we are to understand the pervasive religious significance of one important strand of Greek cosmology: the Platonic. Until around the 7th century BCE, Greek cosmology appears to have been mainly terrestrial, more concerned with sacred springs and mountains than with stars, while the main gods and goddesses were more likely to be found in the immediate environment than in the sky. By the 5th century BCE Greek cosmology had begun to diversify, following radically different paths. These included four major speculative attempts to create major explanatory or descriptive models. Three of these shared the notion that the cosmos is alive and purposeful, came to dominate the cosmology of the entire classical world, and exerted a huge influence on Islamic and Christian thought. These were the three philosophical schools founded by Plato (428/427–348/347 BCE), Aristotle (384–322 BCE), and Zeno of Citium (334–262 BCE).
The fourth school, founded by Leucippus (first half of the 5th century BCE) and his student Democritus (c.460–370 BCE), developed the theory of Atomism, according to which the world is constructed from tiny particles and the cosmos is materialistic and purposeless. In this chapter we focus on the first three and leave Atomism aside on the grounds that it was not concerned with the nature of divinity and had no consequences for astrology. Last, we should consider the vernacular cosmology represented by belief in the pantheon of gods and goddesses and the use of astrology, magic, and ritual to engage with the cosmos. Classical astrology was also diverse in its philosophical context and technical implementation. It could be located within a naturalistic perspective, seeing the planets as sources of physical influence, or as gods and goddesses; might be concerned with daily matters such as wealth and health, or the salvation of the soul; and could allow for different ways of negotiating fate through direct action, magic, or ritual. The classical period is sometimes narrowly defined as extending from the supposed emergence of the philosophical tradition in the early 6th century BCE until the conquests of Alexander in the 330s BCE.
Loosely, though, the classical period extends from the poets Homer and Hesiod in the 8th century BCE, until pagan teaching was prohibited in the Roman empire in the early 6th century CE. The sources on Greek cosmology are extensive, so it becomes necessary to select a few. Many of the primary texts are lost and survive only in fragments, a problem that afflicts many ancient philosophers, from all the pre-Socratic thinkers of the 4th century and earlier, to important later philosophers such as Posidonius, who is credited with making astrology respectable among the Roman intellectual elite in the 1st century BCE. Fortunately the works of Plato and Aristotle survive almost in their entirety, and between them, these two men, master and student, encompassed a substantial range of philosophical positions in later Western culture—in outline if not in detail. While all Plato’s works deal with the question of correct living in the ideal cosmos, two contain explicitly cosmological material:
The Timaeus includes his cosmogony, and the Republic details the soul’s origin in, and return to, the stars.Cornford’s Plato’s Cosmology remains the only substantial commentary on Plato’s theories.Aristotle’s works are far more mechanical and a great deal less inspirational than Plato’s, and there is no single passage in which he sets out his theories with clarity; his ideas are spread over four books, Physics, Meteorologica, Metaphysics, and De Caelo (On the Heavens).One result of the interaction of Greek, Babylonian, and Egyptian culture in the Hellenistic period was the creation of a technical astrology that was then disseminated throughout the Roman world and across Asia to India and eventually to China and Japan. The key texts include the Corpus Hermeticum, which deals with the soul’s relationship with the heavens, and Claudius Ptolemy’s 2nd-century CE compilation of rules for reading horoscopes, the Tetrabiblos, significant because of the importance it was accorded in the Islamic worlds and in Medieval and Renaissance Europe.
Other primary astrological sources are also available, in English translation, ranging from works by the Latin poet Marcus Manilius and the Syrian Dorotheus of Sidon in the 1st century CE to Vettius Valens in the 2nd and, last among the great classical astrological authors, Julius Firmicus Maternus in the 4th.There are also a number of histories of classical astrology by Tamsyn Barton, Roger Beck, and George Noonan. Wright’s book on cosmology is a reasonable introduction, Dreyer’s work on astronomy provides a reliable foundation, Kahn’s work on the philosopher Anaximander is important, and recent works by Daryn Lehoux and John Steele have provided new insights into the calendar.The first volume of my own History of Western Astrology deals in some detail with the development of the zodiac and the framework of technical astrology.
There is an extensive literature on Greek religion, but the volumes by Richard Buxton and by Louise Zaidman and Pauline Schmitt Pantel give a sound introduction, emphasising the deep interrelationship between daily ritual and routine life.Very little is known about Greek attitudes toward the stars before the first millennium, though there is, naturally enough, plenty of speculation. For example, Jane Harrison in the early 20th century identified a pure strain of ethical, archaic celestial-seasonal religion, the worship of the eniautos daimon, the god who died and was reborn every year, which she believed predated the degenerate deities of the Olympian pantheon. The familiar cosmology recorded in Greek myths, with its emergence of order out of chaos and generations of capricious, humanlike deities, finds its written form in the 8th century BCE, probably influenced by the similar scheme in the Mesopotamian cosmogony, the Enuma Elish.
The earliest extant account was given in Hesiod’s Theogony and, although details were added over the centuries, the basic form remained the same: The cosmos emerged from a primeval chaos—open, unbounded space—which gave birth to three entities; Earth, Eros, and Night. From Night was born Air and Day and from Earth, Ouranos, the “Starry Heaven,” which was to be the home of the gods (with their earthly base, Mount Olympus), even though planetary deities themselves were not yet identified.This scheme, dealing in metaphor and imagery, was elaborated upon by generations of later poets and playrights.
In the words of the comic writer Aristophanes (ca. 446–ca. 386 BCE), “Firstly, black-winged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Erebus … and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.” Two features of Hesiod’s creation myth are of interest. One is the notion of an original chaos that is, in its nature, without limit, and the other is a certain naturalism expressed in the generation of Air and Earth. Neither is an unusual characteristic of myth. However, both are used by advocates of Hellenic exceptionalism to argue that Greek philosophy represented a clean break with the past. Two examples are Thales’ (624 bc–c. 546 BC) claim that the arche, the fundamental substance of which the universe is made, is water, and his student Anaximander’s (c. 601–c.546 BCE) argument for the existence of the apeiron, the “Unlimited,” a boundless reservoir, from which all things come and to which all things return.16 The former is supposedly the first sign of materialistic inquiry and the latter that of abstract thought.
Such claims are fictions, even though they are deeply embedded in the academic literature, and, rather than the clean break with a supposedly superstitious past, classical philosophy emerged very gradually from its religious origins: As the original source of all things, Anaximander’s apeiron is a development from Hesiod’s chaos. In some cases, such as Platonism, classical philosophy continued to serve an overt religious function in that its goal was reconciliation between humanity and the divine. Hesiod’s tract Works and Days is also the first surviving literary evidence of a stellar farming calendar in Greece, probably recording practices that date back to the early days of agriculture: “[W]hen Orion and Sirius are come into Midheaven,” he wrote, “and rosy fingered Dawn sees Arcturus, then cut off all grape clusters … and bring them home.”This tradition, we might say, was naturalistic, but then nature was the domain of the divine pantheon, so the distinction between natural and divine worlds is irrelevant.
The medical profession, itself frequently temple-based, also saw the movement of the heavenly bodies as integral to the individual’s psychic and physical condition. In the 5th century BCE, Hippocrates, whose writings form the foundation of classical medicine, stated unequivocally that “the contribution of astronomy to medicine is not a very small one, but a very great one indeed. For with the seasons man’s diseases, like other objective organs, suffer change.”The earliest, most substantial surviving contribution to Greek cosmology was made in the 4th century by Plato, along with Aristotle perhaps the most important philosopher in Western history.
Plato borrowed many of his theories from his predecessors, including Heraclitus, who believed that knowledge of the physical world is impossible because the physical world is always changing; Pythagoras, who claimed that the world was constructed from numbers and geometry; and the Orphics, religious reformers who believed that each individual contains a spark of the divine.Plato’s cosmology, as set out primarily in the Timaeus and the Republic, pervaded the religious climate of the classical world, was incorporated into Christianity, with the exception of awkward teachings (such as reincarnation), and has continued to exert a powerful impact in the modern world, from Marxism to New Age culture and abstract art. In the 4th century CE Platonic thought experienced a revival in the hands of a series of philosophers—Plotinus, Iamblichus, Proclus, and Porpyhry—one of whose primary concerns was the return of the soul to the divine, located in or beyond the stars, through virtuous living, scholarship, and magical practices known as theurgy (literally God-work).
Collectively these men are now known as Neoplatonists and, after them, it is common to refer to the subsequent strand of Platonism in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic worlds as Neoplatonic.In Plato’s cosmogony the cosmos emanates out of a single creator, envisaged as a supreme consciousness, more akin to Anaximander’s apeiron than to a personal God, and therefore permeated by divinity, even when at its most material and corrupt.The entire cosmos is therefore divine, conscious, intelligent, and a single living creature, and all physical form emerges from the soul: Matter is dependent on consciousness. The “world soul” (Latin anima mundi) may be considered the organizing principle of the cosmos and is the source of each individual soul. The cosmos is divided into two modes of existence, Being and Becoming. “Being,” which is eternal, timeless, and unchanging, contains the “Ideas,” later known as archetypes, that were the perfect models of everything in existence. “Becoming,” which is where our physical world exists, is characterized by change and the passage of time.
True knowledge is available only from Being, the home of eternity, whereas in Becoming, constant change means that, as soon as a truth-claim has been made, circumstances change and what was briefly true is now false. Platonic philosophy is therefore one source of the Western skeptical tradition and is the basis of a view that, even when the principle of astrology is firmly accepted, it can speak in generalized terms, never in exact detail. Physically, the Platonic cosmos was structured in concentric spheres with the earth at the middle and the planets then orbiting around it on seven spheres beginning with that of the moon, the fastest moving, and then rising to Saturn and beyond that the fixed stars, a model that prevailed in Europe and much of Asia until the 17th century.
In spatial terms, the realm of the divine is beyond the stars, even though it also underpins the entire scheme. Platonic cosmology had a number of important consequences for astrology. First, as already noted, all physical phenomena are subject to change and cannot yield truth. Platonism contributed to a significant strand of skepticism which taught that only pure mathematics and abstract thought could assist an understanding of the cosmos, while observing the physical movements of the planets was likely to lead to error. The only useful astrology should therefore be based on abstract principles. Plato himself didn’t actually say this, but his successors did. Even though Plato had little to say about astrology, his other statements about the stars were to become the foundation of the Western tradition. First he claimed that the planets “as a consequence of this reasoning and design on the part of God … came into existence for the determining and preserving of the numbers of Time….”
The clear conclusion, then, is that astrology can be used to peer into the consciousness and intentions of the creator. The creator being best seen as “Mind,” though, rather than a personal God, using astrology in this way became a means to develop one’s reason, and so draw close to the Reason, with a capital “R,” of God. Second, he argued that individual souls originate in the stars and descend to the earth via the planetary spheres as they incarnate, leaving divinity behind, and as they do so the three Moirae,or Fates, spin the web of necessity within which each soul must live out its life.While fate is evident in the repetitive, unavoidable order of celestial motions, choice is still apparent in the legacy of the soul’s initial decision to incarnate at a particular moment, and in each person’s use of reason in order to alter their lives.
Fate itself was then later conceptualized in different forms, such as heimamene, a fate that could be negotiated, or ananke, inevitable events (such as death) to which all people are subject. Even chance, the unexpected, was considered to be a form of fate. The added feature of the Platonic system was the soul’s return to the stars after death, which provided the foundation for theurgic and magical practices, including the mysteries of Mithras, which either used the soul’s journey to manipulate the cosmos during life or prepared for its ascent to the stars after death. This single notion, that the soul and stars were inextricably linked, and that it is therefore possible for the individual to connect with the heavenly realms, underpins the whole of classical astrology.
The entire Platonic scheme was arranged according to musical harmonies and perfect geometrical forms, and it was both innately good and inherently beautiful: It was the Greeks who gave us the notion of kosmos as a perfect, beautiful, order. One additional feature of Plato’s theory of soul that has been largely forgotten but was to be critically important for classical astrology was his division of the individual soul into three functions. In his Phaedrus Plato attributed this three-fold structure to Socrates and represented it metaphorically as a charioteer and his two horses.The highest part was the charioteer himself, the rational soul, mind, or intellect that discerns what is true, judges what is real, and makes rational decisions.
An astrology that serves these purposes must be, as the word suggests, logical. Next was the spirited soul, the active part, the will, whose function was to carry out what reason has decided. Last, and lowest, was the appetitive soul, the seat of emotion and desire, the source of love and anger, which needs to be restrained by the higher, rational soul if the individual is to be saved from self-destructive behavior. This tripartite division of soul was then adapted by Aristotle, whose definition of “soul” was broadly that it is the animating force in the cosmos, that which enables change, movement, and action. What he actually said was, “Soul is substance in the sense of being the form of a natural body, which potentially has life.
And substance in this sense is actuality. The soul, then, is the actuality of the kind of body we have described.”He envisaged three stages to the soul: the animal, which governs physical life; the emotional, which enables people to love; and the rational, which enables people to think. The rational soul is then divided into two: The passive is fully embedded in nature and dies with the body, but the active, the true embodiment of reason, enables people to make genuine free choices, and survives death. Combining the Platonic and Aristotelian systems then enabled astrologers to analyze individual destiny in order to understand and amend it.
The following is from Claudius Ptolemy, writing in the 2nd century CE: Of the qualities of the soul, those which concern the reason and the mind are apprehended by means of the condition of Mercury … and the qualities of the sensory and irrational part are discovered from the one of the luminaries which is the more corporeal, that is, the moon.Ptolemy provided a form of simple psychology in which the location of the moon at one’s birth indicated a person’s physical and emotional drives, while the intellect was represented by Mercury’s position in the zodiac and relationship to the other planets.He added that the Egyptian astrologers would never have forecast the future unless they thought that it could be changed.
There was no point in astrology unless destiny could be negotiated, and the precondition for amending it was a proper understanding of the condition of the soul as expressed in the moment of birth. Ptolemy’s method became the basis for a system of what we may describe as astronomical psychology, or psychological astronomy, which was widely used until the 17th century.Aristotle added to classical cosmology a set of mechanisms by which the intentions of the creator might be transmitted to humanity. As far as we know he was the first person ever to do this in a systematic manner, so his work really does mark a break with the past and the beginning of a new way of thinking. He disagreed with those who claimed that the stars might be gods but did say that they are living beings.
“The fact is,” he wrote, that we are inclined to think of the stars as mere bodies or units, occurring in a certain order but completely lifeless, whereas we ought to think of them as partaking of life and initiative. Once we do this, the events will no longer be “surprising.” They were not surprising because the universe ran like clockwork. It was controlled by the prime-mover, the Aristotelian equivalent of God, the character who initiated all motion in the cosmos. Movement then rippled through the planetary spheres, setting up series of influences, including celestial motion (motus), which transmitted light and heat; celestial light (lumen), which produced day and night; and influential, intended to explain otherwise inexplicable phenomena, such as magnetism, and the tides.
Aristotle presented humanity as embodied in a natural world that was real and solid in itself, not resting in consciousness, as Plato claimed, or subordinate to the celestial deities of vernacular religion. Yet the consequences for religion were profound: For a Jewish, Christian, or Muslim follower of Aristotle, such natural influences could be seen as a means by which God’s plan could be implemented.To the matrix of natural influences Aristotle added four kinds of cause that could provide a universal explanatory model.These were the material (the matter from which an object is made), the formal (the essential nature of a thing), the efficient (the object’s maker), and the final (the object or purpose).
The efficient cause, in which the maker of an object acts in the world, is closest to the modern notion of cause and effect. The other three causes, though, introduce firm concepts of order into Greek cosmology.For example, if the formal cause represents essential nature and the final cause its purpose, then the particular configuration of planets under which one is born represents both who one is and what one might become, embodying a simultaneous subjection to fate and potential escape from fate that lay at the heart of the Platonic paradox:There is no choice, but choice is essential. Aristotle’s physics became the foundation of medieval learning and what came to be known as “scholastic” philosophy. Modern Western astrology remains largely “scholastic,” in other words purposive, explaining phenomena by their function and nature in terms of Aristotle’s causes.
Plato and Aristotle polarized Greek cosmology between one form that gave such a sophisticated expression to the concept of a divinely created and inspired cosmos that it was adopted wholesale by the early church fathers, and another that was effectively atheist. What they shared, though, was an assumption that human beings inhabited an ordered cosmos in which they were directly connected with the stars and planets either psychically, or physically, or both. Elements of the two schools were combined in Zeno of Citium’s philosophy, Stoicism, in which God, soul, and nature were identical, the entire cosmos was alive, and human beings, as in the Platonic scheme, were simultaneously subject to an unbending fate and able to alter their lives through a virtuous, clean-living lifestyle, education, and self-awareness.
The Stoics were to be among astrology’s keenest advocates in the classical world. Like Aristotelians, they could be considered atheist, for they denied the existence of a personal creator God, but they had no problem with the existence of individual gods and goddesses as characters in the natural world. The distinctions between Platonic spirituality and Aristotelian and Stoic atheism may be substantial when their philosophical writings are compared, but their similarities were such that they were generally blended into a single worldview in which the celestial bodies represented an unfolding order to which all are subject, that might send influences to which people might respond (exactly as they shelter from the noon heat, or go out in the cool of the evening), or that might dispatch omens that act as signs of the times. We add to this the worship of planetary deities, which was introduced from Babylon and Syria in the 4th century BCE, and we have the foundations for an astrology that might be naturalistic or religious, scholarly or simple, and elite or popular. It appears that, until Plato, the Greeks paid little attention to the planets.
In the Epinomis (most likely written by his student Philip of Opus), he first addressed the problem that the planets have no names. It is with Plato’s work that the pantheon of capricious gods and goddesses begins to be attached to the stars, developing secondary personalities as pure astrological principles rather than as squabbling human like figures. Divinity begins to be idealized as something pure and noble, introducing a paradox into the development of the planets as astrological characters. On the one hand they had inherited the capricious personalities of their presiding deities. The planet Venus, for example, was sacred to Aphrodite, goddess of love, and so could be seductive and lustful. Yet we could also see the planet as a principle from which a range of meaning and activities are derived, from erotic love to priestly rites, the playing of sweet music and the wearing of gold.
Every planet had its own set of meanings that played out in different ways depending on its location in the zodiac, relationship to the other planets, or position in the twelve “houses” (which governed different areas of life such as wealth, home, or marriage). Predictive techniques of various kinds allowed for a daily assessment of likely events and possible actions. The encounter between Greek theory; Babylonian astrology, with its twelve zodiac signs and planetary gods and goddesses; and Egyptian astral theology in Hellenistic Egypt in the 1st and 2nd centuries CE was responsible for the formulation of the kind of complex rules for the calculation and interpretation of horoscopes that were set out by Ptolemy and that could deal with great precision with every area of life. One might, as we have seen, then gain insights into the condition of one’s current incarnation.
The question raised by Ptolemy is, though, having embarked on a voyage of self-analysis, what does the thinking person do next? One option was to obtain a talisman that relied for its operation on the power of the word, or the manipulation of what the Stoics called sympatheia, the inner relationships which connected all things that exist—or might be imagined. Another was to seek advice from a god, perhaps by attending a temple sacred to Serapis, where one’s horoscope could be laid out on a board, with appropriate gems representing the planets, and an oracular answer obtained to a question. This account of such an incident gives the flavor:
A voice come to you speaking.Let the stars be set upon the board in accordance with their nature except for the Sun and the Moon.And let the Sun be golden,the Moon silver,Kronos of obsidian,Ares of reddish onyx,Aphrodite lapis lazuli veined with gold,Hermes turquoise:let Zeus be of whitish?stone crystalline?and the horoscope,in accordance with nature.Some people went further and joined a mystery cult with the intent of uniting their individual souls with creator.Such ideas,inspired, by Plato,were explained in the Corpus Hermeticum, composed in the 2nd-and -1st century BCE.
Egypt,and the closest along with some passages in the Gnostic Gospels,that astrology comes to a sacred text, and were institutionalized in the mysteries of Mithraism was soteriological-concerned with individual salvation and was a formalized, ritual adaption of the Hermetic belief that the sou abandoned its earthly vices as it as it ascended through the planetary spheres at death.Mithraism was essentially practical Platonism,the philosophy’s most overly religious application.
The central iconography was the Tauroctony,in which the divine hero Mithras was shown killing a bull, representing Taurus, surrounded by other constellational images,including Canis, the dog; Hydra,the serpent;Crater, the cup;and Corvus,the raven.Last was a scorpion, representing Scorpio,the opposite of Taurus,and these two therefore framed the entire celestial mystery.Members of the cult were initiated through a series of levels represented by the planets culminating in the Pater (father), represented by Saturn.We can get an idea of the purpose of the Mithraic ascent from the Hermetic texts,which talk of the souls return to God via the planetary spheres.As it passes each sphere,the souls discards the vices associated with that planet.As the souls passes the Moon, it abandons the natural processes of growth and decay-Mercury trickery,Venus deceit,the sun authority, Mars daring and recklessness, Jupiter greed ,and Saturn falsehood.At the eighth sphere,that of the stars,the soul praises God,and having passed beyond t is reunited with God.One could even say it becomes God.
The planets,themselves,were celestial administrators, conveying a bureaucratic function not unlike that which they exercised in the Chinese state.The Hermetic texts sets out the predicament of humanity, born with an immortal soul but a frail body: Man had got from the structure of the heavens the character of the seven Administrators…He is mortal by reason of his body;he is immortal by reason of the Man of eternal substance.He is immortal and has all things of his power;yest he suffers the lot of a mortal,being subject to Destiny.He is exalted above the structure of the havens;yest he is born a slave of destiny.
It is precisely such a content that allows astrology to be widely interpreted by some classical scholars as a form of divination.Not all astrology, though, dealt with departure from this world.Most dealt with the here and now with such brutal matters as life,disease, and death and such profane concerns as ones wealth,marriage and runaway slaves.The key feature of all, classical astrology was the notion of relationship.Each planet and zodiac sign was tied to the rest in a series of relationships that developed as they moved through space and time (Mars liked Aries but not Libra;Libra liked Aquarius but not Capricorn),which extended to everything known in the cosmos,including people.Thus the sun liked Leo,gold Kings, and according to Ptolemy,Italians,but the moon favored women,watery places, and Mondays (the moons day).
These relationships existed in an ideal state equivalent to the Platonic world of Being, but were constantly shifting so that anytime and place one set of connections and possibilities might be more auspicious than another.The astrological texts set out in a great detail the rules of engaging with these shifting spatial and temporal potentialities, enabling kings to found cities, the sick to be healed, and lovers to elope.No detail was too small, to be considered and no aspect of human life was not covered.From a 4th century text we read about the person born when Jupiter and Saturn were separated by three zodiac signs and favorably related to Mercury:Such an individual “will be involved in obscure religious rites, will often( head a famous legation…(will) lose sons and are forced to raise the offspring’s of others.This might sound trivial,and to classical critics of astrology it was.However,for the majority, this was sacred literature,providing a profound means of establishing the nature of the choices made by the soul before incarnation.On a immediate level the goal was personal advantage,but it was widely known that this was possible only if the gods and goddesses of the sky were respected and life as lived according to the harmonies laid out by the creator.
Classical Greek cosmology was not necessarily religious in intent.However,a significant strand-the Platonic,Aristotelian, and Stoic- preserved the notion of the interdependence of all things, psychic and physical, terrestrial and celestial, along with notions of destiny based on a purposeful,unfolding order.It had different functions, from analysis and prediction of individual destinies,arranging auspicious times to conduct important enterprises, managing the state, manipulating the future, and ascending to the stars. We should also remember,in spite of my distinction, between the sacred and the profane,that such distinctions blur in the context in which gods and goddesses are ever-present and watching every action, and that divinity is part of the material world ,not separate from it.
To invoke the supernatural was completely natural.This is why there was no contradiction between using astrology to gain material advantage and using it to save ones soul. And even when questions were asked concerning the location of escaped slaves or the best time to attack ones enemy, a solution was possible only because of the web of psychic relationships that connected people to plants, animals, and stones,as well as to planets, stars, and God.
The distinctive features of Greek cosmology were its variety and its speculative models.It therefore offered a range of solutions to the problems of human existence and change.Previous cultures had explicitly attributed most change to the actions of gods and goddesses, although we can sometimes infer the existence of concepts of fate or time that acted as contexts for human activity.With the Greeks,though, such models became explicit, and human beings were located in a cosmos that could be governed by the Olympian pantheon but was equally subject to the ordered, mathematical unfolding of the time; the notion of the cosmos as alive, conscious, and rational;concepts of fate that required different kinds of action, and natural influences transmitted to earth from the planets.
Astrology then served a variety of functions, and even though there were arguments about what it might or might not be bale to achieve, everybody was able to accept on of these propositions: that the stars and planets influenced human life,that were like hands on a clock indicating the changing qualities of time,or that they were divine in themselves or served the interests of the gods and goddesses.
Greek religion was diverse.It included the formal procedures of the civic cults, the ecstatic rites of the mystery teachings, and the contemplative rationality of the philosophers.Possibly more than in any other culture,this diversity requires the use of the term “worldview”. If there is one generalization that we can make about the Greek classical worldview,it is that,whatever of its varieties we are examining, we cannot make sense of it independently of an understanding of theories of the origin of the cosmos and the practical application of the stars to the problems of human existence.
Campion, Nicholas (2012-06-11). Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions (p. 93). NYU Press short.