It's finally Epiphany! The day that we celebrate the Magi's journey to baby Jesus and the presentation of their aromatic gifts. It's also the most exciting celebration for Christian astrologers like me, and perhaps, the one laden with the most angst, so forgive my lengthy post. Indeed, many people maintain that Christian astrologers should not and cannot exist, and that means I have a lot to say.
And those manger scenes... Sometimes I'm peeved by them. "How are they going to deal with the hypocrisy this year? Who is going to reverently put up a manger scene and shamelessly bash astrology this season?" It is sincerely illogical and wrong headed to me.
I generally lightly peruse Catholic and Christian articles about the Magi around this time of year in a tongue in cheek sort of way, ready to roll my eyes more than I have in a long time. Are the authors going to be bold enough to honor the fact that the Magi are widely believed to have been Zoroastrian astrologer priests? Or, are they going to grow faint at the mere mention of the word "astrology" and adroitly sidestep it? Admittedly, some writers don't know or care what controversy gently lies behind the Three Wise Men, beneath the tinsel and celebrations.
One well-known Catholic columnist wrote a piece that was pretty thorough in describing some aspects of the Magi from a historical context, which initially gained some trust and respect from me. He honored the fact that the Magi practiced astrology. However, he blundered by skipping over the distinguished people who used astrology way after the time of the Magi, like St. Albert the Great, several popes, and monks. As usual per the fundamentalist crowds, he wants us to believe that the Church and its most prominent decision makers and influencers have always unilaterally condemned astrology and had no use for this "pagan" concept after the birth of Christ whatsoever. False.
What really gets to me about this particular piece I read is his cowardly personal attack directed at any Christian who uses astrology. A quick search showed me that he has published that same sort of thing elsewhere. Any experienced debater knows that ad hominem attacks, especially when unprovoked, tend to weaken arguments. Who resorts to bullying the person next to them as a means of winning and overpowering if they can adequately defend their position with citations and intelligent reasoning? Of course, no committed Christian astrologers were interviewed to explain what their practice actually is and is not.
Which leads me to the whole concept of bearing false witness. One astrologer known as Moby Dick wrote a very interesting book entitled, “Astrology’s Pew in the Church.” He called this common bullying routine against astrologers "bearing false witness," partly because the attacks tend to radically and unfairly mischaracterize and malign Christians who use astrology. He as a Methodist minister had integrated his faith with astrology, done some amazing research, and grew tired of people judging him.
I always wonder if these supremely judgmental writers ever stop to consider that if their God sent the Magi to discover their savior in human flesh, how can they honestly believe with such unyielding certitude that they have God's blessing and mandate when they intentionally take time out of their day to malign astrology and astrologers in ugly ways?
I saw one conservative connection on Facebook highlight the fact that the Magi were indeed astrologers AND astronomers, and challenged readers to think about what signs the Lord places in their lives. Good. The lack of specificity could confuse rather than empower, but it was nice.
A priest wrote a blog post that mentioned a beautiful personal story of a meaningful star he encountered in his life and said that he thought "the heavens proclaim the glory of God." That was very nice.
As far as TV goes, it looks like EWTN is running "Star of the Bethlehem," a documentary that features a Protestant man who did extensive research into the star. I watched it some time ago and chuckled as the guy was forced to admit some astrological connotations to the discovery of Christ. He was so uncomfortable with it because his family had raised him to believe that astrology was evil. He was finally able to calm his nerves though and allow for astrology's role in the Magi's mission, explaining some theories behind the star. Yes, sometimes we've really got to shed old prejudices in order to see the truth! As a priest friend of mine said to me recently, "Let God be God." Everything is easier when we live that way.
That's pretty much what I gleaned from the religious camp for the 2014-2015 Christmas season, though more could come out this week. Oh, one other article I saw defended the birth of Christ as Dec. 25 without any astronomical or astrological basis. Blunder! I have seen so much speculation on this topic. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but rationally speaking, I don't think it's safe ground to run amuck on without some heavenly acknowledgement.
The best thing I saw was "Search for the Star of Bethlehem" on the Science Channel in which modern-day astronomers bravely and unapologetically step into the role of astrological interpretation regarding the Magi's activities. According to them, astrology and astronomy used to be the same, so what of it? Slam dunk. They seemed unhampered by religious guilt or prejudices regarding astrology. Further, they speculated that there were more than three Magi who journeyed to Christ. These scientists acknowledged reality with ease and candor. Their total absence of agitation made me think, "Geeze, this religious thing has really hindered people in their studies." It makes me think twice about Catholic education for my children, though we might have some luck with the super brainy Jesuits!
So how does a Catholic author get into surveying the land for astrological insights at Epiphany? I decided to openly practice astrology in 2013. It was something I was raised with and forced to give up when I converted to Christianity as a college student. At the time of my conversion, I was pretty well brainwashed in my vulnerable moment and couldn't see what my dad told me - that the Magi were astrologers and Catholic clerics in old Europe also had mad stargazing skills - so this fear of astrology was on very shaky ground. As a history and short-time theology major, my teachers weren't any help as I tried to make sense of all of this. I honestly think they had a gap in their education about the history of astronomy and astrology and had nothing to offer since it is now a rather obscure topic.
Thankfully, I had the fortitude, introspection, social support and divine intervention to reclaim astrology for myself and to use it to help others, but the road is rocky. When other astrologers see my chart, they wonder if I have been in the military, and the reality is that anyone called to Christian astrology is going to have to fight hard for truth. Self-identifying as highly religious, spiritual or otherwise in tune with creation is not enough for this work. No, you have to stand up to a lot of misinformation.
Facts can pierce like a sword. I'm going to try to publish the best of my latest research finds in the first part of 2015. My hope is that these gold nuggets will be available to anyone else who is researching the intersection between astrology and religion, and that the facts will help them formulate a reasonable conclusion that makes sense. If I meet my goals, internet surfers will have a lot more than I had 15-20 years ago! The standard conclusions found in Catholic and Christian apologetics material have not held water for me, but that tends to be what you get when you search for Christian perspectives on astrology, and so....from my point of view, there is a genuine need for more diverse resources. People have a right to more complete historical records and accounts.
After many years of experience and study, my own life changing epiphany is this:
If the Lord wanted to give astrology to the Magi and other people in the Bible, and if He also chose to employ astrology for the birth and discovery of His Son, I don't see how real astrology (not newspaper horoscopes!) could be anything but a genuine and sacred gift from God.