ASTRAL RELIGION

Astral religion is a term forged by contemporary religiologists concerning ancient religions with planetary deities. Otherwise, there didn't exist any religio astralis in the antiquity, that is, religion with such name. When those ancient people looked at the sky, it seemed to them that they see living beings, who were also looking at them, took care about their lives and communicated with them. In those times, laws of astrology were also the customs of those planetary gods. Cult religions of dynastic Egypt saw the stars as ensouled beings, the same as religions of Sumerians and Chaldeans. In Chaldea there had been educated a special order of priests ('magi') for the interpretation of stars and their influence on the life of people. The belief into the living sky, as a kind of heavenly empire, was customary in Hellenic world, and also in Rome, in mystery religions like Mithraism. That religion has been taken over by ancient Rome, and it was at its peak in 2nd and 3rd century. Symbolism of Mithraism has been explicitly astrologic. Picturesque presentation of Mithras and bull in temples included symbols like serpent, dog, scorpio, and also of sun and the moon. Porphyry wrote that that scene represented the image of universe. In ancient Rome of the 3rd century, when the solar cult was established, there existed a belief that the moving force, which moves the whole cosmic organism comes from Sun, so he has been elevated to the rank of the highest deity. In the times of transition to Christianity, as it is well known, it happened that some elements of the astral religion has been taken over. It is manifested for instance in celebration of the Day of Invincible Sun as Christ's birthday. Christ was practically identified with solar deity (and it can be seen as such in some early presentations, on mosaics). His mother was, on the other hand, identified with goddess of Moon. In practice, Christianity replaced old pagan religion at very slow pace, and just because of that, such compromises had been necessary. Worship of old deities, including planetary gods, had been practiced in Byzant during the 7th century as well, and even later. One of the last strongholds of the pagan astral religion by the beginning of the Middle Ages became town Harran in Syria (then under the Persian rule). This town has been known of earlier for its unwavering devotion to pagan astral religion; so it was noted down that emperor Julian stopped in it, to make a worship, during his campaign to Persia. On the territory of Syria there were other pagan towns as well, but they all converted to Christianity, more by force then of their own will; by the order of the bishop Rabbula pagan temples were all destroyed. Harran paganism there survived longer than Christianity, because all the surrounding area was in the course of 7th century islamized. Harran pagans managed to survive by their astuteness, by calling themselves formally Sabians (religion allowed by Kuran). It is interesting that astral theology has been advanced later mostly by islamic theologians and philosophers, like Avicenna, al-Farabi or al-Ghazali, although Islam is probably the most rigid monotheistic religion. Those philosophers developed the idea that universum consists of triad – sphere of fixed stars, sphere of seven planets and Earth. According to these theologians, each lower sphere receives its power from that one immediatelly above it. They perceived planets as angels, that is, deities of the second degree. So, al-Ghazali will assert that "it [will] must know the consequences of the diversity of those relations which always arise anew through the movement, like trine and sextile, opposition and conjunction, to other such heavenly occurrences; and

all earthly occurrences depend on heavenly occurrences either directly, or through one intermediary, or through many". Under ‘intermediaries’ al-Ghazali understands archangels, that is rulers of planets. They are also identified with souls of heavenly spheres, and they rule as God’s representatives over everything that happens on Earth. So, one line of preservation of pagan astral theology went through Islam, and the other through Byzantine Christianity. In the period from 11th to 15th century, it seems that there existed whole range of generations of theologians and philosophers, by whom astral theology eventually came to the West, that is in Italy, after the fall of Byzant in 1453. Especially interesting in that regard is the work «Book of Law» by Georgios Gemistos Plethon. Unfortunatelly, it has been preserved just a summary1, but nevertheless it testify as well about the philosopher's belief into the superiority of pagan religion, in relation to monothistic ones. In the next several centuries astral religion has sank into oblivion. But then, in the voluminous work «Secret Doctrine» by the theosophist Helena P. Blavatsky, from the 19th century, there are several thoughts, which imply her wish for the rehabilitation of planetary deities. So she states that astral rulers of spheres or planets create souls from their very substance. Afterwards, she calls these planets our heavenly parents, and at same time gods. She doesn't see planets just as mere globes, that glimmer in the space, but as spheres inhabited by [spiritual] beings about whom profanes do not know anything. On the contrary, there's not anything that's profane in the universe, thinks Blavatsky. She remarked that «polytheism is really more philosophical and more correct, as to fact and nature, than anthropomorphic monotheism.» Plethon didn't succeed in renewal of the old pagan astral religion, and Blavatsky didn't even tried something in that sense. Instead, what we have today is the overwhelming prevalence of monotheistic religions, archaic religions that had to die out centuries ago. With great persistence people expect some avatar to come down to the Earth, no matter were he called Christ, Maitreya or Mahdi, or somehow else. Wouldn't it be much wiser to embrace some kind of new astral religion?

1

For Plethon, the supreme god is Zeus, father and creator of other gods. Of other gods, the most important ones are Poseidon, Helios and Chronos. Although Plethon don't associate explicitly those deities to planets, implicitly one could draw a conclusion that these deities are identical with Neptune (planet discovered three centuries later), and Sun and Saturn, two planets that were considered in ancient mythologies to be main deities. These deities Plethon consider deities of the second degree, and there exist deities of the third degree, too. Our soul, as it is of the sam equality as in those deities, it is immortal and it remains in the universe eternally. Good do exist in us owing to our connections with gods, in which it is the very purpose of life. Our happiness is in our immortal part, where the gods put it, the gods which unite our human species. That substance is at the same time the most important part of our being.