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(II.) HISTORY - The Prestigious Planets

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Author Topic: (II.) HISTORY - The Prestigious Planets  (Read 622 times)
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« on: August 17, 2007, 02:12:37 pm »

Astrology had a part to play in formal religion, and sometimes a major one. Clement of Alexandria, a distinguished Christian writer born in about AD 150, describes an Egyptian religious procession of his own time, but with traditional and ancient elements:

First goes the Precentor carrying two of Hermes' books, one containing the Hymns of the Gods, the other directions for the kingly office. After him follows the Horoscopus, an expert in the four astrological books of Hermes. Then succeeds the Hierogrammateus, or sacred scribe, with feathers upon his head, and a book and rule in his hands, to whom it belongeth to be thoroughly acquainted with the hieroglyphics, as with cosmography, geography, the order of the Sun and Moon and five planets ...

'The four astrological books of Hermes' came from that legendary collection of ancient texts the Hermetic books. These were allegedly collected together by the Egyptian god Thoth, later known to the Greeks as Hermes Trismegistus, and still later to the Romans as Mercury. Some authorities believed that there were forty-two volumes of these texts; other historians were more adventurous Seleucus claimed that there were twenty thousand volumes, and Manethon was particular, having counted 36,525.

The texts, however many there were, enshrined traditional knowledge about religion, art, science, geometry, alchemy, astronomy, astrology and many other subjects. They were held to be sacred, and only the highest of Egyptian priests were allowed to touch them. Alas, no one has yet discovered the tomb of Alexander the Great, in which the Emperor Severus is supposed to have entombed the last complete set. It may be that the extreme veneration in which the texts were held was a major factor in their not surviving; they were so sacred that only a few people were permitted access to them, and perhaps there came a time when those few had all died without ensuring that their charge had been passed on to posterity. However, the absence of any real knowledge of the texts has not prevented an enormous literature growing up about them, and it has never been doubted that any large collection of traditional wisdom, however put together, would certainly have contained much ancient theory about astrology.
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