The Origin of the Horoscope
The decisive turn in the history of astrology occurred Iate in the Greek era, paralleling the metamorphosis of the human spirit in general. The Orient al redemptionist religions began to flourish. There arose profound conceptions of god and devil, good and evil, paradise and hell. A feeling of portenteus changes impending was expressed in apocalyptic visions of the end of all things, of Last Judgments, of coming Messiahs, and in the concept that history had a deep meaning; and represented a process of salvation for all humanity.
Persians, Jews, and Chaldeans were the peoples who promulgated this new kind of religion. The Chaldeans, carriers and heirs of Babylonian culture, contributed their astrological beliefs to the new amalgam. Astrology now parted company entirely with its astronomical base, and became mystical speculation. Thus a third and most highly systematized type of astrology came to the fore around A.D. 300.
To determine the full influence upon human beings of the planets and the signs of the zodiac, the astrologer must obviously consider more than the rising and setting planet or constellation at birth. Rather, he must take into account the total radiation impinging upon the newbom child. The Chaldeans thought to accomplish this by introducing a unique device: the twelve zones of influence.
How they hit upon this we do not know. The scherne no longer had the slightest connection with astronomy, nar with any empirical facts. As far as we know, intermediate stages of the idea did not exist. It was simply there one fine day, all complete-a flash of mystical insight.
A circle was conceived, carved into twelve equal zones of influence: a zone for death and a zone for health, for martiage and money, friends and foes, religion and travelin short, for all the subjects concerning which a person might wish to ask a fortuneteller. This division had no reference to anything in the heavens or on earth; it was purely geometrical, without any demonstrable relatianship te anything real.
The planets and the signs of the zodiac radiated upon these twelve zones. The constellation at the hour of birth, the “nativity,” could be represented pictorially if the position of every planet were entered on a celestial circle, and the eircle depicting the twelve zones were placed underneath.
Thus the celestial disc was superimposed on an immovable circle divided into twelve compartments. The Greeks gaye this contrivance a thoroughly geometrical twist. The angles the planets formed with one another were of prime importance. The signs of the zodiac each occupied thirty degrees of are, no matter what their true extension in the sky-which happens to be different for every signand in spite of their long-since-recognized movement due to the wavering of the Earth’s axis.
These paper circles constituted the horoscope, the crown of all the astrologers’ efforts. Out of the ominous signs, the roaming eyes of the gods, and the picture writing in the sky, there ultimately evolved this abstract scheme, a pure geometry of fate. it provided the Greeks with endless opportunities for profound speculations. In the horoscope influences and counterinfluences erossed one another to such an extent that there was ample room for interpretation. ‘A science developed which could rival any theological system in its complications. Schools with. sharply opposed doctrines sprang up. it was centuries before a unified dogma crystallized out of the conflicting tenets.
A prime subject for controversy was whether the horoscope at the time of conception rather than the horoscope of birth was the true one. Moreover, the Greeks took a view of the zones of influence which dillered radically from that of the Chaldeans. They divided the signs into regions, each of which belonged to a. specific planet. Even the orbits of the planets were divided into wet, warm, dry, and hot sectors.
Two dillerent types of more precise fortunetelling were derived from the horoscope-the so-called “directions.” One of these was so difficult that it was scarcely ever applied in practice, and even the other system could be mastered only by formidable mathematicians.
A historical incident suggests how strongly the Greeks believed in their geometry of fate. The tale is that the doctor and astrologer Nektanebos took steps to delay artificially the birth of Alexander the Great until an especially favorable constellation of the planets had come about.