Thursday, 23 December 2010

The REAL Meaning of Christmas

As you walk through the bustling shopping malls listening to carol music or tune in to the talking heads of radio and television yapping about the "meaning of Christmas", you can't help but be struck by one inescapable fact - if the meaning of this allegedly monumental event of two millennia ago is what they say it is, then... frankly... who cares?

"Peace on earth?"  Fat chance.  And if the birth of Jesus was about putting an end to armed conflict, then it wasn't such a great success.  "Being surrounded by family and friends?"  Heck, most of us look forward to a vacation where we can get away from our relatives.  And we won't even discuss Santa, Rudolph, or - worse still - snow and sleigh bells.  

So what is it about?  Well, as it turns out, the ancient Christian tradition has some much needed light to shed on the event.  And when you consider what this tradition really says about Christmas, it's actually breathtaking... and totally different than the dumbed down and distorted perspectives that most Christians have dancing in their heads.

Prepared to be challenged?  Then read on!  Just know that this is not "light reading" or fluff...

And I've tossed in a bit of the ancient tradition's Christmas music for your enjoyment too, some in Byzantine chant and some in Slavic melodies, sung in English and other languages.

Jesus Who?

The ancient liturgical texts of the Christian East unambiguously affirm that the one born in Bethlehem is a divine person, and "older than ancient Adam."  Yet he is also fully human, "not merely in appearance, but in reality."  So he is divine and uncreated, yet he has or takes on human flesh, a human mind and a human soul.  The ancient hymns put these words into the mouth of Jesus: "I who fashioned Adam's form, now willingly put it on."  

And because he is divine, yet adopts a human nature, he is just one person, one single identity: "The person of your divinity and of your flesh was one." 

What does this all mean?  For the first time in all history, the Uncreated, the Absolute being entered into the created and mortal flesh of humanity, transmitting to that flesh a life-creating power it had not known since the dawn of time.  And since man is the microcosm and mediator of creation, whatever happens to his flesh, his organism, is transmitted to all of creation:

"Hearken O heaven and give ear O earth.  Let the foundations be shaken and let trembling lay hold of the nethermost parts of the world, for our God and Creator has clothed himself in created flesh."  

This is why the ancient texts refer to the human body of Jesus as "the double-natured seed giving life in the furrows of the earth."  

Why Did God Become Man?  

Nine hundred years ago, a so-called theologian in Canterbury named Anselm wrote a small book with that title.  Called Cur Deus Homo? in Latin, Anselm's answer to this question would forever distort Western perceptions of Christmas, help reduce Western Christianity to juridical moralism and sever the bond between humanity and the cosmos.  Good thing he was totally wrong!

The answer to our question is simple.  "I have come openly," says Christ in the ancient hymns, "to restore and to glorify with myself the fallen nature of mortal man."  The "restore" part relates to the idea of salvation.  It's the negative part, the recovery from the undesirable condition of mortality.  

But the "glorify" part is a whole other story and equates to a concept that was erased from Western Christianity a millennium ago, the concept of "deification" (theosis in Greek).  This means that by joining the human organism to its uncreated prototype through the birth of Jesus Christ, God not only repaired the damage of the fall, but also opened up the possibility for each person to unite him or herself with the divine.  

We're not talking about some sort of fruitcake, pseudo-mystical experience here, not about something produced by emotional frenzy or drugs or whatever.  You see, the ancient tradition maintained that you could have direct, intimate contact with God even here, now in this lifetime.  Yet if you examine Western theology closely, you'll notice it denies that is even possible.  Disagree?  Got news for you - it's an open and shut case and easy to prove.  However, no time to do it here.

The Day the Universe Changed

The ancient texts go on to explain in detail, if in metaphorical language, how the birth of Christ has in itself opened the path to the true life of deification for every person:

"Come, let us greatly rejoice in the Lord, as we sing of this present mystery.  The middle wall of partition has been destroyed.  The flaming sword turns back.  The Cherubim withdraw from the Tree of Life.  And I partake of the delights of paradise from which I had been cast out through disobedience.  For the express image of the Father, the imprint of his eternity, takes on the form of a servant..."

And this miraculous rebirth extends to all of creation so that, in a real and physical sense (and everything in the ancient tradition is very "physical"), all of creation - rocks and trees, mountains and streams, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea - all of it "becomes" divine, filled with divine energy (a technical term in the ancient tradition) and supremely important.  If you're looking for a "green-friendly" theology, look no further.

It's Not About Salvation

As you may have noticed above, the birth of Jesus isn't just about salvation, but about something much greater.  And this fact, which the ancient Christian mystics and their modern successors have verified through their own spiritual experience, led them to a startling conclusion...

...God did not become man just to "save us from our sins".  God would have become man even if the fall had never happened and we didn't need help to escape our mortality.  In the words of the great mystic and theologian, St. Maximos the Confessor:

"This is the great hidden mystery.  This is the purpose for which all things were created.  It was with a view to this (God becoming man) that God brought forth all beings."  

In the words of the 14th century writer, Gregory Palamas, who successfully defended the ancient tradition from the the dualistic, body-hating tendencies (1) inherent in the emerging Western theology of his time:  "Hence the original creation of the human being, which was formed in the image of God, was for the sake of Christ, so that the human being should be able one day to make room for its archetype."  

What's the Big Deal?

Well, if you know anything at all about the conventional view of Christianity, you don't need to read this part, because the foregoing has just blown the doors off your world.  I guess what it comes down to is this.  Here we have the original, ancient version of Christianity, which claims:

  • Jesus Christ is a divine person
  • By taking on a human body and soul, he transmitted divine, vivifying power to all humanity and through humanity to all of creation
  • So on the original Christmas day, the whole universe actually experienced a dramatic change 
  • By joining the divine and human organisms together, human beings were given the possibility of "becoming god" 
  • Joining the two natures together was the purpose for which everything was created 

It blows the mind....

Wishing you and yours a most blessed Christmas!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Do YOU Know This NEW Lifesaving Method?

With the holidays nearly in full swing, crowds everywhere, frenetic activity and lots of over-indulgence in food and alcohol going on around you, it's more important than ever to be equipped to save a life when cardiac arrest hits.

And it can hit, anywhere, anytime.  Any number of factors can lead to SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest), including numerous physical traumas, anaphylactic shock due to severe allergic reaction, and more.  In fact, about 35% of all SCA events are unrelated to heart disease of any kind.  

Two medical researchers from Arizona have recently developed a new form of Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), called Continuous Chest Compression CPR, that seems to double the SCA victim's chances of survival.  Best of all, it's actually simpler than the older protocols and doesn't require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

To learn how to apply this life-saving technique yourself, just watch this short video:

PLEASE NOTE: as the video says, this form of CPR is not for use with infants, young children or drowning victims.  

Happy holidays and I sincerely hope you never have to use this technique!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Saying NO to GMO...

As you know, one of the biggest factors in attaining personal resilience, in optimizing your health and immunity, is the chemical and energetic quality of what you put into your system.  Unfortunately that's infinitely a more complex question for us than it was for our grandparents and in some ways the situation is deteriorating.

For example, for those of us living in North America, it's becoming increasingly difficult to figure out if the food your eating is truly natural or whether it has been genetically altered.  

To help you sort this out, we're reprinting with permission an article by my colleague Michael Morningstar.  For those of you who don't know Michael, he's an internationally known health coach and speaker living in Texas.  Here's his article on GMO:

Just Say No to GMO (by Michael Morningstar)

What can you do to protect your health from the consequences and dangers of Genetically Engineered (GE) foods? This newsletter provides a simple message for you to share with your family, friends and the federal government, which is to “Just say no to GMO”. 

Unlike in the European Union (EU) and other areas of the world many people in the US and abroad are somewhat shocked when they learn that there is no required disclosure on ingredient labels for Genetically Engineered (GE) or Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) components in foods packaged in the US. This is a frightening situation because without full disclosure on the label it is very difiicult for consumers to make an educated choice about foods and whether any ingredients come from a GE or GMO source. Right now there are thousands of food items in restaurants and stores that contain GE canola, corn and soy. Biotechnology compaines have also been heavily promoting GE alfalfa, papaya, potatoes, sugar beets, squash and trees.

Recently a request was made to the USDA and FDA to approve Genetically Engineered (GE) salmon in the US. While the FDA still needs to do an Environmental Assessment before approving the GE salmon there are serious concerns regarding this attempt to deliver another “Frankenfood” which has not been thoroughly analyzed, researched and tested in order to protect human health as well as our delicate ecosystem and environment. Unfortunately the FDA Environmental Assessment will only allow a 30 day public comment period which is not nearly sufficient time to educate the population on the hidden consequences and potential dangers.

Fortunately the Organic Consumers Association is one of many opponents that have spoken out against this push to contaminate our food supply with more GE foods. Please do your homework and research the risks and then invest a few minutes in your long term health and wellbeing to voice your concerns and reservations regarding this serious health issue.

Most people are not aware this is going on since it does not usually appear in the main media or news networks. Without strong opposition this GE product like others before it could end up in the food system in the near future. It is essential for you to do your own research and read the recent articles or watch video news to understand the harmful long term consequesnces from allowing these companies and scientists to manipulate Mother Nature and unleashing “Pandora’s Box” of unknown consequesnces. Once the GE fish or any GE food is in production there is no way to control what will happen or recall those genes Only time will reveal the harmful consequences and health issues caused by the affects and chain reactions they will cause to other organisms.

The best recent article and resource for learning the inside story about GMO risks is by Dr Mercola which sites Jeffrey M Smith one of the top experts concerning GE and GMO in our food system. He feels by educating people quickly we will reach enough consumers to reach the tipping point and reverse the trends away from fake foods and back towards natural nutrition and whole foods. When consumers vote for healthy foods with their money and shfit their buying patterns the market will respond to reduce and eventually elimnate those unhealthy choices seen as a financial liability. You can learn more about the 65 serious health risks assocaited with GE and GMO in the books by Jeffrey Smith. It will be a great education and investment in your happiness and health to read Genetic Roulette and Seeds of Deception and also to check out his website .

Mastery Action Plan: Watch the video with Jeffrey Smith talking to concerned citizens regarding the risks of GMO and how to create a better global future:

Everything You HAVE TO KNOW about Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods from Jeffrey Smith on Vimeo.

Next week the Great NEWS Letter will share: More Magic Moments with Meditation 

Please share the site with your friends and families to spread the message of great nutrition, emotions, wellness and success 

My Wish for You is Health, Love, Abundance and Time to Enjoy Them. 

To Your Perfect Health
Michael Morningstar

 ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger  

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Can Leadership Be Taught?

Turn up your speakers... or just read on!

MP3 File

Before you begin reading this post or listening to the audio version, I must warn you it is not for everyone.  If you are someone who cannot bear a politically incorrect word or if you live life well within your own comfort zone, what you’re about to hear may very well offend you. 

The words of this post will test your dedication to becoming a RESILIENT person.  What is a resilient person?  Quite simply, it’s someone who is on the way to becoming a true human being, to exploring and living out the full potential of a being created in the divine image.  And every resilient person is, in fact, a warrior, because no one can overcome the barriers that stand between mediocrity and resilience without great courage. 

Every resilient person is also a leader.  First and foremost they are leaders of their own lives – they know who they are, what they stand for and where they’re going.   And it's because and only because they know these things, that they’re fit to lead others. 

Why is leadership so critically important for you?  Because it’s impossible to become a resilient person or to help others attain resilience otherwise.  Until you develop the qualities of a leader – on fire with an inspiring vision, living by noble principles, genuinely caring for others and dedicated to brutal honesty in all things – you’re as handicapped in your pursuit of a better life as a three-legged horse would be at the Kentucky Derby. 

The Few:

How do we recognize such people?  If you personally know even one or two such people, you’re truly blessed, because they are very few and far between.  You’ll recognize them because they will inspire and motivate you without even trying.  They’ll make you feel glad to be alive and enthusiastic about the challenges to come.  You’ll notice they serve a purpose far greater than their own self-interest, they live by principles rather than their own convenience and they can be relied upon one hundred percent of the time to give and demand brutal honesty and truth.  That’s why the cowards who surround them call them disruptive and “loose cannons”, considering them dangerous and inconvenient.

At least, that’s what they said about people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and many others.    

Of course, the few are “dangerous”.  You see, the few have no interest in the artificial rules or the polite lies that all of society wallows in.  They’re completely committed to what’s real.  They have no interest in comfort, in playing it safe, or in avoiding the tough decisions.  No, they’ll jump in with both feet, knowing that audacity will always rule the day and snatch the victory. 

The few don’t waste their energy trying to perpetuate ossified institutions or obsolete social structures and decorum.  Gandhi didn't have the social standing to lead India to independence, nor did he have any interest in perpetuating the social evil  of untouchability.  The few are far too focused on the magnificent possibility they see in their mind’s eye to bother with such things.  And this passion that enflames their very souls is contagious – you can’t talk to one of these people about their passion without coming away with some of that flame yourself… if, of course, they think you’re worthy to hear about it.    

The Many:

The many are quite different.  Why do we call them “the many”?  Simply because at least ninety-five percent of the people around you fall into this category.  Now don’t get me wrong – the “many” can be perfectly nice people.  They can be your neighbors, your colleagues, members of your church and community and you can be very happy with them.  Yet however pleasant your social interactions with them may be, they are not leaders, no matter how prominent they may appear.

Despite this, they constitute well over ninety-five percent of the so-called “leaders” in our society – our politicians, our managers and bosses, and the leaders of our religious institutions.  And that’s only natural since, unlike true leaders, they actively seek the limelight. 

Why is that?  Ultimately, it’s because they live for themselves, not for any higher purpose (despite any claims they might make to the contrary).  They’re not dedicated to any great and inspiring vision, which explains why, as “leaders”, they’re totally unable to inspire their subordinates to follow them.  Part of the reason is because they consider themselves superior to their underlings, they value control over collaboration and stability over results.  They’re really just functionaries, rather than leaders and, to them, the process is the product. 

They live well within their comfort zones and see preserving the status quo as a sacred duty, even when the status quo is a total betrayal of the principles they make such a fuss about adhering to.  But that’s something they’ll never admit to themselves, let alone to you.  So life among the many leaves you swimming in a sea of lies and half-truths so bewildering it will have you questioning your own sanity.

The Crisis:

In the life of every institution, community, group or team there always comes a crisis.  And crisis is most useful because it lays bare for all to see who is willing to call a spade a spade, to stand up and be counted, rather than cower in the corner and submit to a lie for the sake of personal convenience.

That’s why it’s so often said that you only know who your real friends are when things go wrong. 

That’s what makes crisis such a great gift – it sorts out who’s who with all the accuracy of the “sorting hat” in Harry Potter.  It also explains why the literal translation of the word “crisis” is so bang on – you see, the ancient Greek word “Krisis” means “judgment”, and every crisis is precisely that.  It divides the resilient from the weak, the courageous from the cowards, the leaders from the functionaries and the visionaries from those who play it safe.  

Of course, in rare cases a crisis can be the catalyst that propels a person to leave the many and join the few.  The Lord of the Rings is a tale about exactly that: Frodo and his fellow Hobbits did not have to take the one ring back to Mordor at great personal risk, and we watch their inner debates unfold as they're tempted to rejoin the "many" by giving up and going back to the Shire.  Perhaps it's the sure and certain knowledge that there won't be an Shire left unless they persevere that saves them.  

The Myth:

Of course, our governments, corporations and educational systems don’t want you to know all that and the reason is quite simple.  Just ask yourself who runs those institutions…  Instead, they tell you that anyone can become a leader through training, by acquiring the right “skill sets”. 

In fact, that’s totally erroneous.  The many are not the many because they lack certain life skills.  The many are the many because on a level deep enough to remain hidden from the world and usually from themselves, the many are unwilling to put their well-being, their livelihood and ultimately their lives on the line.  They have settled down to live with the mediocrity, the political correctness and the polite lies that pervade our everyday experience.  Yes, they may be raising fine children, donating to charity and volunteering their time, but when the crisis comes, you’ll see them for who they are.  And no amount of training will change that.  

Take the typical corporate manager.  Training in leadership, change management, team building or whatever else can no more turn this person into a leader than it can change their racial DNA from Caucasian to Negro or Oriental to Caucasian.  You see, leadership, like resilience itself, is not primarily a skill set.  The “many” can never become leaders by learning “skills”; they can only become leaders by doing one thing…

Repenting.  That’s right.  Until such a person decides that personal integrity means more to them than life itself, they cannot be taught.  You see, the fundamental dividing line between the few and the many, between the leaders and the functionaries, is precisely a matter of character, of virtue. 

The many can think of lots of things to live for, but only the few believe that there are some things worth dying for. 

In the words of Star Trek’s fictional Klingon general Chang, so ably portrayed by the great Shakespearean actor Christopher Plumber, as he addresses a group of elite recruits:

“You have surpassed your peers to earn a place within this distinguished hall.  Yet I tell you now, this is not enough.  In the days to come, you will be tested, well beyond your current limitations.  I am not interested in the names of your fathers, nor in your family’s lineage.  What I am interested in is your breaking point.  How will you conduct yourselves in battle?  How far will you go to preserve your honor, to fulfill your duty?  These are simple questions that will decide the fate of our empire.”

The crises you will inevitably face in daily life - at home, at work, in the society around you – these will test you beyond what you think you can handle.  And every one of these crises will reveal one thing – whether you belong to the few or the many.  Your social status, your previous achievements are irrelevant.  Will you live with integrity or won’t you?  Will you boldly proclaim the truth or indulge the lies of the many around you?  Which will it be?  You can’t fudge this – it’s one or the other.  This is the battle.  Will you preserve your honor and fulfill your duty to yourself and those who depend on you or will you not? 

And it is not only your own fate on the line, it is ultimately the fate of your country and your whole civilization as well. 

The Challenge:

Several years ago, a great financial scandal broke out in my Church, engulfing hundreds of communities throughout the United States and Canada.  My bishop here in Canada had the temerity to stand in front of his people week after week and proclaim that nothing was wrong, that there were simply some “administrative difficulties”.  By doing so he willingly participated in the cover up of a felony – the embezzlement of some two million dollars that had been earmarked for victims of 9/11, the Beslan massacre, the Armenian earthquake and similar tragic events.  He also publicly besmirched the reputations of several people who were demanding an open investigation into the financial scandal, calling them “trouble-makers”.

Yet the majority of our people were not outraged or overly concerned.  The “many” never are until it’s much too late.  The “many” are like sheep that an unscrupulous “leader” can lead straight over a cliff.  Only the “few” took action, often risking their status, their reputations and their livelihoods to tell the truth in the midst of endless lies, to demand openness in the midst of a cover-up and justice in the midst of criminality at the highest levels.  As for myself, I was only marginalized and effectively booted out of my own parish for speaking out.  Others suffered much more and for much longer.  In the end we were vindicated, though not necessarily reinstated or recompensed. 

Events like this are distressingly common – they’re taking place all around you and you have a choice to make.  Will you tell the truth, live by your principles, and dedicate yourself and your energies to working toward a noble, inspiring and better future, or will you choose the easy way out? 

Only you can answer that question.  Behold, I have laid the challenge before you.  Or rather, the challenge is constantly before you; I’ve simply brought it to your attention.  Time to make a decision…

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Transforming Tai Chi into a Powerful Health Practice

Okay, the title might seem like a bit of an oxymoron - you've been told that Tai Chi in itself is already a powerful health-creating practice.  In fact, that's not quite true...

You see, Tai Chi Chuan or "Grand Ultimate Fist" was developed primarily as a martial art and has long been considered one of the two or three most dangerous martial arts ever devised.  Of course, its health benefits have not been lost on the people who've practiced it down through the centuries.  The catch is this - to make Tai Chi work for you as a health practice, there are some things you need to know.  Otherwise, you risk spending a lot of time just waving your arms and, yes, probably feeling a bit calmer for it all, but leaving a lot of "health profit" on the table.

I'm often asked if practicing Qi Gong is "better than" practicing Tai Chi or vice versa.  While there's no simple answer to that question, I can tell you this:

You can used Tai Chi itself as a world class Qi Gong system in itself... if you know how.  And only a small percentage of Tai Chi instructors have any idea how to do that. 

Styles of Tai Chi:

While nobody can prove much about the real origins of Tai Chi, many say the original style comes from the Chen village in Hunan province.  Chen is certainly an amazing style - it's characterized by both spherical and helix movements, a sophisticated use of energy and changes in tempo punctuated by sudden explosions of power.

I admit Chen is far and away my favorite style, and I've studied it and Yang style intensively, and Wu style to some extent.  Here's a quick look at a Chen style form - note however, this is an advanced form and you can use Chen as a powerful health practice without any of the more difficult moves:

Later on came the Yang family style, derived directly from Chen.  And the original Yang style, which is pretty hard to find these days, did look an awful lot like Chen, whereas the modern Yang style - the most popular style worldwide - looks quite different.  Full of soft, circular movements that are less complex than those of Chen, this style is characterized by an even pace and moves a bit more slowly.  Here's a quick look:

Later still you get the Wu and Sun styles, both derived from Yang.  I freely admit I don't like Wu very much - I find its postures a bit weird and impractical.  Just don't tell my Tai Chi partner - he's a Wu style man and loves it!  Sun is the most recent style and quite beautiful to watch.  Unfortunately, I've never had a chance to experience it personally.  

How to Practice Tai Chi for Incredible Health:

Granted, this could easily be the subject of a book rather than this short blog post!  That said, I hope to give you some indications you can use right away if you already know any Tai Chi form or even part of one.  

First, a word about "forms" or routines.  A form is a series of movements strung together, and that's what you see people doing when they're practicing Tai Chi.  Typically, each Tai Chi style has a "slow" form - the  one you learn first - and a "fast" form that tends to be more combat oriented.  

Chen's traditional slow form is 88 movements, while Yang's is 108.  Now there are shorter ones available and I'd highly recommend learning a shorter form to start with, especially if your goal is health and not martial skill.  After all, it takes about 30-40 minutes to do the Yang slow form, and about half that long to do the Chen slow form, if you're using the longest version in each case.  For health purposes, you don't necessarily need that.

So how do you transform your Tai Chi into a super health-creation machine?  Here are the basics:

  1. Keep in mind that Tai Chi is SO sophisticated that you can only focus your mind on one element of practice as you go through the form.  This fact will actually help you a whole lot!
  2. Practice the form once through, focusing only on performing the movements as smoothly as possible.  Don't obsess about whether each movement is perfect and correct - some of the precision is only necessary for martial applications.  For now, just focus on making your practice smooth, harmonious and calm.
  3. Now go through the form again, but this time make sure that each movement begins in and issues from your lower Dantian, just below your navel.  You'll want to really slow things down for this!
  4. Then, next time you practice, focus on matching the movements to your breathing.  Typically, you inhale on movements the rise or move toward your body and exhale when going the other direction.  Obviously, it's intended that you exhale when doing striking movements.  You'll need to breathe abdominally, of course, though it doesn't matter if you use Normal Abdominal Breathing or Reverse Abdominal Breathing.
  5. After that, go through the form again, but this time make sure it's your spine that originates each movement.  Link your mental attention to your spine so you can "watch" and feel each movement as your vertebrae open, close and rotate.
  6. This time, stay acutely aware of your lower Dantian and of packing energy into it as you go through the form.  You may feel like you're a giant ball of energy by the time you're done.  Every time you inhale, feel the breath sink into your Dantian and every time you exhale, feel that same energy push out from the Dantian in all directions, forming a sphere of energy around you.
  7. Finally, this time you'll focus on nothing but "rooting".  Rooting is like sinking into the ground, it's what keeps you stable and, for martial purposes, it's what lets you upset your opponent's balance while keeping your own.  Rooting has health advantages in that it drains tension and excess energy from your torso down into your lower body, leaving you calmer, more centered and less stressed.  So with each step, feel as if that foot is sinking right into the ground and carefully observe each time you transfer your weight from one leg to the other.
Do this regularly and you'll be amazed not only at how great you feel, but at what your practice is revealing to you.  Tai Chi is like a vast ocean - you can swim in it all your life and still learn something new every time.

In conclusion, here's a wonderful video on Tai Chi at the Chen village today, where many people from all over the world gather and even live in order to be "close to the source":

Have you practiced Tai Chi before?  Please share your comments here!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Is Astrology for Real? Is it USEFUL?

Just last night I was teaching at the university, and our comparative religion course had advanced from dimmest antiquity to the 21st century.  In the context of talking about New Age thought, one of the topics I cover is very, very old - astrology.

To do this I used a very special book, Richard Tarnas' Cosmos and Psyche:

Tarnas is a philosopher and cultural historian who originally followed the standard academic mindset of dismissing astrology out of hand as an old wives tale.  Fortunately, Tarnas has intellectual integrity and eventually realized he couldn't just dismiss astrology without proving it wrong.  Yet, to his shock and surprise, his decades of research on the matter have totally convinced him that our "modern" idea (of the last few hundred years only) that there's no relation between the heavens - the great "out there" - and the mind - the great "in here" - is totally wrong.

As he points out, modern man has been the victim of a historical process to deny the sacred aspect of the cosmos and reduce it to balls of dirt or fire floating in space.  Copernicus' discovery that the earth orbits the sun and not the reverse had this curious side effect, possibly because Catholic and Protestant leaders alike opposed his views.  

Before that you had St. Anselm's pseudo-theology in which the created world has zero importance (so much for ancient Christianity!), and later Descartes' declaration "I think, therefore I am", Newton's mechanical view of the cosmos, Darwin's reduction of life to biological accident and other developments that have conspired to affect how we see the universe and ourselves.

Perhaps, in the end, this will all be seen as just a long historical hiccup of sorts.  For his part, Tarnas goes over in detail countless examples of how astrological configurations have coincided with historical events and the lives of individuals.  

How Astrology Works:

One of the easiest ways to find out the basics on the Western astrological system is to watch this short video:

From the video you'll pick up at least two interesting tidbits:  the first is that there's a whole lot more to this system than the video could explain, and the second is that, given the complexity of the cosmos and the nearly infinite combinations of individual birth times with planetary orbits, ascendants, midheaven points and the rest, astrology considers you to be totally unique.  And if you're that unique, those horoscope columns in your local paper that pretend you and everyone in your sun sign will have a similar day are total garbage.  According to the rules of astrology itself, they're nothing more than meaningless entertainment for the masses.  

My Experience of Astrology:

In my late teens and early twenties I had much the same reaction as Tarnas toward astrology - the only way to find out if it was for real or nonsense was to learn how it works.  So I learned it to the point where I could cast a horoscope accurately and interpret it reasonably well.  My conclusions?

I found that as a predictor or analysis of character traits, a properly done horoscope was astoundingly accurate.  As a predictor of future events, though, it was less useful.  How come?  Probably because we always have 20/20 hindsight - we can look at an event, look at the astrological data and say, "no wonder!"  But if we try to guess how a particular piece of astrological data will manifest itself concretely in our own lives or the life of the nation, for example, we don't necessarily have much to go on.  

Of course, there are really two sets of objectors to astrology.  One set are those who consider it bunk simply because their culture has taught them to say that and they repeat the party line mindlessly.  The other objectors are chiefly Christians of various types, who may be more than a little thin on the history of astrology in Christianity and on ancient Christian cosmology too.

Several years ago I had an unusual conversation about astrology with an Orthodox Christian monk from Mt. Athos.  His reaction was something like, "That the cosmos has inherent order and that it affects us shouldn't come as any surprise.  Yet to say it affects our thoughts and actions is not the same as saying it determines our thoughts and actions.  That we would reject."

And the idea that astrology teaches that the cosmos controls your destiny is surprisingly widespread among people who know nothing about astrology.  In point of fact, it doesn't teach that at all.  It purports merely to show tendencies.  

Astrology and Personal Resilience:  Is It USEFUL?

That's a harder question to answer.  Can we understand ourselves better by having our horoscope done?  Probably.  Can we understand the people around us better by knowing the proclivities of their sun sign?  Yes, no doubt true in many cases.  

Can we use astrology to anticipate and avoid bumps in the road of life?  Maybe, but the jury's out on this one.  And the real question is how much effort would the average person have to put into understanding astrology and for how much of a "return on investment".  

So it may come down to this: how practical is astrology as a resilience tool?  Can it be made more practical?  

If you have thoughts or comments on this, feel free to jump right in!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger