Limits of early knowledge
Babylonian Astrology in its earliest stage
was marked by three characteristic limitations:
- General nature
The first limitation
was that the movements and position of the heavenly bodies
were interpreted to occurrences that were
of public import affecting the general welfare.
The individual's interests were not in any way involved. It
took many centuries past the confines of
Babylonia and Assyria before the phase which, in
medieval and modern Astrology is almost exclusively dwelt
upon - the individual horoscope. In Babylonia and
Assyria the attention centered almost exclusively on
the public welfare and the person of the king. Because, in
accordance with the ancient conception of kingship, it was
on the king's well-being and favor with the gods that
the fortunes of the country were dependent.
limitation was that the astronomical knowledge
accompanying early Babylonian Astrology was
limited as it was derived from experiment and
For example, the theory of the ecliptic as representing the
course of the sun through the year, divided among
twelve constellations with a measurement of 30° to
each division, is of Babylonian origin. But,
it does not appear to have been perfected until
after the fall of the Babylonian empire in 539 BCE.
Similarly, other accomplishments of Babylonian
astronomers, such as their system of moon
calculations and the drawing of planetary
tablets, belong to this later period. Therefore,
the golden age of Babylonian astronomy belongs not
only to the remote past, but to the Seleucid period
or after the arrival of the Greeks in the
From certain indicators used in astrological
texts prior to 700 BCE, it would appear that at
least the beginnings of the calculation of sun
and moon eclipses belong to the earlier period.
However, they were improved considerably after 400
In a general way, the reign of law and order in
the movements of the heavenly bodies was
recognized. That recognition
undoubtedly exercised an influence, at an
early period, leading to the rise of a
methodical divination of a much higher order
than the examination of an animal's liver.
Unfortunately, the importance assigned
to the endless variations in the form of the
phenomena, and the equally numerous apparent
deviations from what were regarded as normal
conditions, prevented the rise of any serious
study, beyond what was needed for purely practical
purposes, for some time.
The third limitation was
that there is little evidence that the signs of the
Zodiac that we now recognize, were
used in Babylonian Astronomy prior to 700 BCE. However,
probably from as early as the days of Hammurabi,
Babylonian astrologers did develop the idea of
constellations by depicting prominent groups of stars
with outlines of images derived from their mythology and religion. The earliest
irrefutable evidence for the use of constellations can
be found in a variety of lexical star-lists dating to
the Old Babylonian Period.
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achieve inwardly will change outer reality."
"What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain
the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which
is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third
by experience, which is the bitterest."
"When I investigate and when I discover that
the forces of the heavens and the planets are within ourselves,
then truly I seem to be living among the gods."