In episode 316 of the podcast Dr. Justin Sledge and Chris Brennan talk about the relationship between astrology, philosophy, and religion in the ancient world.
Our main focus is on discussing the ways in which astrology influenced some of the different philosophical and religious schools in the Greco-Roman world, from the Hellenistic era through the time of the Roman Empire and into the early Medieval period.
We also discuss questions like what was the philosophy underlying the practice of astrology in antiquity? To what extent did ancient astrologers articulate a personal philosophy? What was the purpose of practicing astrology in the ancient world?
During the course of the discussion we ended up touching on topics such as what is the mechanism underlying astrology (whether it works through signs or causes), issues surrounding fate, free-will, determinism, as well as the role of various schools such as Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Christianity, and more.
This was originally an interview for Justin’s Esoterica YouTube channel, where he interviewed Chris based on his book Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, but afterward we agreed to release the discussion as an episode of The Astrology Podcast simultaneously because it ended up being such a fantastic discussion that is very relevant to both of our audiences.
Find many more videos on ancient philosophy and mysticism on Justin’s channel:
This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.
Here are some timestamps for topics covered at different points in the episode:
00:05:50 The Hellenistic World
00:07:50 Astrology and coping philosophies
00:08:50 Mundane astrology
00:09:18 First birth charts dating to 410 BCE
00:13:57 How a Hellenistic astrologer would define astrology
00:19:00 Fate in the Hellenistic world
00:21:33 Stoic philosophy and Hellenistic astrology
00:29:02 Internal and External Fate in Astrology
00:32:20 Impact of Plato’s Timaeus and Myth of Er on astrology
00:39:20 Names of gods applied to planets
00:47:21 Astrology of causes: Aristotle and Ptolemy
00:56:00 Stoic eternal recurrence model of the universe
00:58:16 Ptolemy and determinism
01:02:55 Backlash against determinism from Christianity
01:16:10 How Justin would teach Greek philosophy
01:18:10 How astrology was used to justify the birth of Jesus
01:20:00 The birth chart of Jesus controversy
01:21:30 Length of life technique
01:24:10 Astrological magic tradition
01:28:05 Increase in popularity of astrology
01:33:24 St. Augustine’s criticism of astrology
01:38:12 Different levels of astrology in society
01:39:38 Ronald Reagan’s astrologer
01:40:40 Levels of magic in society
01:43:30 Technical Hellenistic manuals translated into verse
01:44:55 Lost 1st century BCE source texts
01:47:33 Astrological texts in verse
01:53:34 Dorotheus verse example
01:55:10 Origins of horary astrology
02:02:15 Astrology straddling line between science and religion
02:05:03 Astrology a practical technology
02:06:40 Future discussion: philosophical challenges to astrology
02:07:29 21st century practice of astrology
02:08:11 Addressing ancient skeptical critiques of astrology
02:14:20 Closing Remarks
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A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 316 transcript
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