HISTORY OF ASTROLOGY
Astrology developed just after the time humans had a direct clairvoyant experience of the Universe and its workings. In the early stages of evolution Astrology, as we know it, would not have been necessary. The workings of the spiritual beings connected with the stars and the planets in early evolution would have been immediately obvious to everyone. As the cosmic forces active in life on Earth would have streamed through them and been perceived unconsciously. The spiritual beings at this time were able to work more directly onto the 'Earth', as imaged in many early myths.
As Humanity densified and consciousness began to awaken this streaming of (un)consciousness became weaker. In correspondence to this, the spiritual beings (Gods) receded from the Earth back to the sphere of the planets and stars. This allowed humanity the freedom to develop their free will. Just after the Battle of Troy around 1500BC, has seemed to me to be the time of the changing of the guard 'The Gods' could from then on ( and still do ) only work onto Human destiny when the planetary configurations allow them to. ( E. Vreede - Astronomical letters ) Correspondingly as unconscious clairvoyance retreated, so the use of Astrology grew. Naturally the exact Astronomical calculations of the heavenly bodies were beyond the faculties of the 'normal' human. Astrology was the preserve of the Royal classes exercised by priests, and has remained that way until very recently. The spiritual beliefs of these old cultures naturally imbued the Astrology of the time with concepts of reincarnation, spiritual beings influence, destiny and fate. Its use in Agriculture was naturally to the fore in the agrarian cultures.
The form of Astrology in common use prior to Christ was mostly all constellational based, using the Aries >> Pisces, anti clockwise zodiac. The exact starting point of the zodiac was an issue for them as there appears to have been three slightly different positions for this. The most dominant zodiac of antiquity I understand, used the axis of the stars Alderbaran and Antares as the middle of the constellations Taurus and Scorpio respectively. It appears that the Egyptians did have a 'Signs' Zodiac in operation, however it seemed absent from the Persian and Greeks. It was not until Ptolemy in 200AD before it surfaced again.
Much of the Astrology from these times , which has made it to us, shows they were concerned with prediction of the fate of the kings, battles and weather. Naturally these things influenced the well being of the whole culture. Exact aspects between planets did not seem to be a common consideration. It was mostly the planets in one constellation, in aspect to some other constellation. So large orbs were the commonplace.
Part of the difficulty in really evaluating the Astrology of antiquity is that its translation has been carried out by non Astrologers, so many of the basic concepts have been lost. A project presently taking place in the USA called Project Noah is reinterpreting all of the ancient texts from many cultures by expert Astrologers. This will reveal many more insights into the Astrology of the past. (Project Noah is available on the internet)
Most of what has been available to western Astrology has come to us through the Greeks, as translations of Egyptian and Persian studies. Plato, Ptolemy and Hermes Tristguitus outlined how all of life was formed according to a formula based on the workings of the Stars, Planets, Elements and Modes. They showed there was indeed order in creation. Knowing and working with it could create order and further life.
The works of these times have only been partial translated. In contrast to this the Hindu scriptures have remained in tact over the last 5000 years and no doubt contain many methods and insights of great value. Sadly Eastern and Western Astrology have evolved along divergent streams. In very recent times there is a greater mixing of the ways.
Astrology through Roman times appeared to decline while during the following Dark Ages survived mostly in temples, monasteries and amongst royalty. It was not until the neo Platonist of the Renaissance that it went through a real resurgence in western culture. This showed itself in many ways and was the basis for the development of Alchemy which of course is the forerunner of our modern chemistry. The Platonist sense of cosmic order and harmonies was reinstated until the catholic church essential put an end to it, during the 1500s.
Astrology survived in the Protestant states of northern Europe after this, again mostly supported amongst the Aristocracy. The true essence of Astrology was maintained in a few spiritual groups, such as Rosicrucianism, the Golden Dawn, Masonry to some degree, Judaism and the Catholic church. Its influence and practice has never really ceased however over these several hundred years since the neo Platonists it is Astrology's predictive aspects of daily affairs which have survived the most. This is only one small part of Astrology. Detailed histories of the main personalities of Astrology through the ages are available in many common Astrology books.
With the advent of science since the mid 1700s there has been alot of challenge from this quarter, to the cosmic order Astrology presents. Materialistic science only allows for a physical body within its view of life and as such has difficulty comprehending concepts of reincarnation, spiritual beings and predetermined karma. As they look into smaller and smaller realities cut off from life they observe chaos and dead matter. Astrology works with the life processes and the big picture of our reality, which is the exactly opposite view of deductionist science.
Until the late 19 century there was still a lively interest in Astrology however through the 'scientific' wars and growing materialism of the 20th century there appears in western cultures, to have been an campaign to suppress Astrology. Astrology was carried forward into the West through the turn of the century mostly through the work of a Theosophist Alan Leo. While Theosophy had links to Hinduism it does not seem much of Leos techniques came from that source. His techniques are western however many of his interpretations are very fatalistic and concerned with the material realities of life. Free will did not seem to have much of a place, as seems to be also the tendency of eastern Astrology. This is due to either the lack of Ego development or to the high quality of their predictive techniques. I suspect it is a bit of both.
So by Steiners time, the Astrology available to the man in the street was very fatalistic, focusing on material aspects of survival, good fortune with highly moral Victorian materialistic judgements.
The depth of the Platonists was not present other than in the few occult schools which were practising in Europe at the time, of which RS was a member. Steiners negative astrological comments were correct at the time. There has however been many developments since that time. One of which is Steiners own work.
Today Astrology is still many things to many people however the expanse of expressions and experience of Astrology available to the human in the street are enormous. The magazine horoscopes are still there however the commerce commission has forced many magazines and papers to hire Astrologers to do the job. Hence the standard of these columns are as high as they can probably be at present.
Psychology has developed since RS and the work of Carl Jung has had an immense impact on deepening Astrology application for Human awareness and freedom. Many writers since RS including Alice Bailey, Max Hendel, Marc Edmund Jones, Dane Rudyar, Robert Hand, Liz Green, Steven Arroyo, Alexander Repurti, to mention a few all outline an Astrology which calls on the free will \ consciousness development of their reader. Fatalism has been banished from the Astrological vocabulary in the West since the early 70s. The focus is for consciousness and objectivity which in turn provides a starting place for free will to at least have the potential to become active.
Understandings such as reincarnation, destiny, karma, spiritual evolution, liberation from the material maya are all very much a part of basic Astrology 101 in the 1990s.
Along with the evolution of consciousness applied to Astrology there has been a revolution in the amount of information available to us as well. This has come through the introduction of computers. They have given even the elementary Astrologer access to an enormous wealth of correct and reliable information ,quickly and effectively. The number of techniques which can be applied to any situation has increased to an unprecedented level. Now the science of kings is available to 'everyone' for the first time in history. Good astrology programs are available free on the net. Of course this can have its downfalls. Too much information leads to confusion, arising from the ability to see the elephant from twenty different sides instead of one or two.
The more one really looks at Astrology today the more it becomes obvious, it is indeed a very appropriate tool for the development of conscious spiritual action in the present moment, through the objective perception of the astral influences present in any given circumstance.