Astrology and the History of Human Consciousness
Since the 60’s many of us have spoken, heard or read about the dawning ‘Age of Aquarius’. Astrologically and astronomically speaking, our current Piscean Age is soon to be replaced by Aquarius as the zodiacal sign that houses the Sun during the spring equinox of the northern hemisphere 1. Each astrological age lasts about 2160 years and brings to earth a new impulse, the birth of new archetypes and a different stage in consciousness development.
The turning of the Cosmic wheel and the study of the cycle of the Great Ages known as the ‘Precession of the Equinoxes’ has fascinated civilizations and cultures many thousands of years ago. In Neolithic times stone age people watched the sky and the movement of the stars for agricultural purposes, essential for the survival of their families and tribes. The Sumerians began their time counting in the age of Taurus, which began about 4400 BC and recorded in their astronomical lists the previous precessional shifts to Gemini, about 6500 BC, Cancer circa 8700 BC and Leo about 10,900 BC. Events on Earth were related to the precessional wheel. For example, the lion-like Sphinx in Egypt is believed to be built in the age of Leo, facing east at the Spring Equinox about 13,000 years ago 2.
The epoch of the Great Mother worship is associated with the Age of Cancer, when people made their ‘home’ on Earth and started to gather in protected settlements. Nature was in the first stage of domestication. Life was experienced to flow with the changes of the seasons, waxing and waning like the phases of the moon. People were embedded in the universality of tribal consciousness. The periodicity of all life-processes were seen as being controlled by the Great Goddess and the moon as the fertility providers. 3 Life was perceived as cyclic, contained in and sustained by the will of nature and instinctual forces, the eternal round of birth, death and renewal of life. Feeling was not yet separated from thinking.
In the next epoch, the Age of Gemini, the earliest development of the discerning mind began. Written or drawn language started to emerge. According to esoteric teachings people’s senses opened to perceive the outside world. Individualized desire began to manifest. The fear of the cosmos as being chaotic was born. Thus the earliest development of the rational mind or frontal lobe growth brings a new level of experience to humankind. Existence was perceived as split in two. The ancient Sumerian myth of the solar hero Gilgamesh and his mortal friend Enkidu describes the ambivalence between life and death, light and darkness, the earliest reflection on human mortality.
The epoch to follow was the Age of Taurus, which is partly coinciding with the Indian Kali Yuga and the Age of Darkness. The simple farming villages of the Cancerian Age had been transformed into the sophisticated civilizations of Egypt, Sumer, the Indus valley, the Minoan civilization in Crete and Stonehenge was being built in England. The fertile bull (Taurus) was imagined as the consort of the Great Goddess, the male principle necessary for the cycle of birth and growth to continue. However, eventually the bull became associated with kinship and the building of power 4. The pharaoh was perceived as the personification of the Sun God. Consciousness shifted from instinctual knowing based on collective cyclic experiences of natural life-processes to the formation of mythological images and creation stories.
Besides conducting fertility rites for agricultural purposes, Egyptian culture was greatly occupied with the afterlife and death. Powerful priest-kings were overseeing the many religious ceremonies and became the mediators between the spirit world and the world of matter. In the later phases theological systems were developed which replaced most forms of nature religion. Monotheism, an important concept in religious thought was briefly introduced by Echnaton around 1500 BC but was highly unpopular and soon banned by the priesthood.
With Echnaton we already have entered the Age of Aries which dates back to 2200 BC and ends about 1 AD. The symbolic shifted from the bull to the ram, implying the development of the head, the brain and the dawn of rationality. While the bull was symbolizing fertility, communal wealth and abundance, the ram is standing for the pioneering spirit of the individual, idealism, personal courage and training of the will force which can be used either way to create or to destroy. It required the development of the ability to make value judgements based on ethical consideration, which found expression in the work of the Greek thinkers and philosophers. We finally have reached the mental phase in human development, during which the picture consciousness with its mythological images was replaced by abstract terms. The Greek idealism of Pythagoras, Sokrates and Plato maintained that the material world had formed out of the spiritual ideas, that ideas were more real than their physical manifestations. However, already Aristoteles’ work was about rationalizing and measuring physical processes and understanding physical laws. 5 Matter and spirit were now seen as separate, and thinking became separate from feeling. Materialism was developing as the leading philosophy. The heroic dragon slayer (ego consciousness) had won his battle over instinctual forces (tribal consciousness), asserting his will over nature.
“Divide and rule” was the slogan of the Roman Emperors, the highly materialistic orientated God-kings. Yesterday’s myth became rationalized and codified into historical facts. 6 Institutionalised moral codes and dogma were replacing intuition and demanded strict obedience with clear exclusion and brutal persecution of those who were regarded as enemies or inferiors. Near the end of the Age of Aries life had become worthless and was turned into a bloodbath through ongoing wars and rivalries as well as the countless killings in the many Roman arenas. Humankind was waiting for a new impulse.
The next phase in human consciousness development leads to the age of Pisces, of which humanity is now experiencing its end phase. It has been an age of artistic and religious inspiration, with the great religious leaders – Christ, Mohammed and Buddha. The message of Pisces has been about the discovery of the ‘inner kingdom’, the soul-field, concerned with the individual sacrifice for the greater good 7. It entails the injunction to love impersonally, to care and feel compassion for those who do not belong to our family, tribe or nation. However, the last 2000 years have been marked by emotionally charged religious wars, exploitation of the planet and suppression and demonizing of minorities by materialistic-patriarchal power structures.
Esoterically, the Age of Pisces coincides with the birth of the Christ, the descent of the Sun spirit into matter. Allegorically the birth of Jesus is placed at the 25th December, three days after the winter solstice on the northern hemisphere, the day when the light is returning and the vital forces of the sun are on the increase in the yearly cycle.
Historically, the Christ impulse led to the forming of early Christian communities, based on collective living, compassion, sharing and seeking equality amongst its people. Nevertheless, Pisces is a dual sign and while the Jesus message might have encouraged unconditional love and non-violence, (similar to Buddha’s), the uncompromising patriarchal-monotheistic notion of the ‘one God and his chosen people’ – stemming from the previous world age(s) – was still very alive at the time and has been up to the present day, where fundamentalist Christians and Jews are warring with fundamentalist Muslims, exactly in that part of the Earth were our western cultural development began about 10,000 years ago!
At the end of this age and the dawn of the next humanity is asked to develop a new consciousness, that is based on freedom and self-initiation. The great shift will be from believing (Pisces) to knowing (Aquarius). By using and continuously refining our senses, a new relationship to life and its processes is developing, which has the power to create the ‘divine marriage’ between the world of ideas and a new social reality.
What can be expected from the age of Aquarius on whose threshold humanity is now standing? Aquarius is a mental energy field, the sign of knowledge, scientific breakthroughs, new discoveries and collective ideals. Aquarius appreciates individual differences of cultures, is emotionally detached, friend rather than family oriented. The Internet and the information revolution are part of the Aquarian energy expression. However, the great challenge will be for all of us to become involved in creating a global world of peace and freedom based on sustainable living for the good of all humanity.