On the Relation of Astrology to the Apocalypse.
The Apocalypse has been branded by the enemies of revealed truth as a sacred fiction; and the very early Christians had to bear the charge of Pagans that on account of there being such a resemblance between it and the worship of the SUN, as Tertullian says, they (the Christians) were only looked upon as another sect of sun worshippers, and that the construction of the book, and the symbols employed, are but borrowed ideas from Pagan Mysteries.
The conditions under which the apostle received these unfoldings as to himself, and the manner of presentation -- by word and scenically portrayed -- are said to be after the same order and with the same formula as that used by the hierophant in his dealings with the aspirant as he goes through the ordeal of initiation into those mysteries.
But this, instead of being a difficulty, is really a help to the understanding of the book, when we take into account the conditions of the period at which it was written, and the purpose God had in view in making this the closing book of Inspiration; for it not only reflected upon the idolatry then prevailing, but looked onward to the great apostacy of the last days when that idolatry shall through Satanic energy again prevail and become the established religion of humanity.
There is such a thing as Divine irony. It is used with great effect when Elijah confronts the priests of Baal. So, here, the priests of Baal are once more to be met; and they are challenged with their own weapons.
When Jehovah was about to interfere on His people's behalf, and accomplish their deliverance from the tyranny of Pharaoh, He spake thus to Moses, that not only man and beast should suffer, but |against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I AM JEHOVAH| (Exodus xii.12). It will be seen that every plague what was sent pointed to some characteristic quality or attribute supposed to belong to their gods, or to prove their impotence in what they professed to control.
This but foreshadows the days in which John was to prophesy. When established religion will be set up in a more blasphemous and defiant form, it will not only be the worship of demons -- gods -- and departed heroes; but also a living MAN who shall declare that he is GOD; at the same time blaspheming the God of Heaven. Then it is that we see the very weapons of their false philosophy turned against the foe to their eternal shame.
God graciously gave to Moses the evidence of the power He was about to delegate to him and also to Aaron in the first sign before they went into Pharaoh, when the rod which was cast on the ground became a serpent.
This is a well-recognised performance of all magicians to the present day. When they both went into Pharaoh with the magicians, every man's rod did the same, but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods. To the King it was but the performance of another magician. This is an instance of the very weapons of the magicians' art being used against them. In the case of the sixth plague it is equally evident, for according to Gleig quoted in The Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation, |there were several altars upon which human sacrifices were occasionally offered when they desired to propitiate Typhon (the Serpent), the Evil Principle.| The victims were burned, their ashes gathered, and the priests cast them into the air in order that evil might be averted from every place to which they were wafted. Moses does the same; but affliction followed to King and people.
Then follows a blow against the worship of Osiris and Isis -- the Sun and the Moon -- who were supposed to control the elements. Jehovah strikes a blow against such wicked pretensions, and for three days the place is wrapped in |darkness that might be felt,| and in this way God again asserted His supremacy.
The great blow of all was reserved for the last. The worship of the Sun-God was the prevailing worship of Egypt, and human sacrifice was followed in its ritual.
|The sacrifice of the firstborn in honour of the Sun-god (Osiris) was one of the most notorious rites of the ancient Semitic worship. The first month of the year, and the first sign of the Zodiac referred to this sacrifice, called 'the Sacrifice of Bel.' It is to Accad, and not to Phoenicia, that we must look for the origin of human sacrifice in Western Asia. This inference is verified by two cuneiform texts in which mention is made of human sacrifice. We have clear indications in these of the sacrifice of children, such as took place in Carthage, in Phoenicia, and in Palestine -- also in the British Isles| (Trans. Bib. Arch., iv., p.25, taken from Trans. Victoria Inst., xiv. p.113).
This was the last and most staggering blow at their idolatry. This final plague brought down their whole system of religion at one blow, convincing both Pharaoh and the Egyptians that they had to deal with one who was above all gods, and declared his name, |I AM JEHOVAH.|
This review of Israel's history in their beginnings prepares us to look for the same analogies in their future deliverance which the Book of Revelation records, the circumstances being in a very large measure parallel; Idolatry, as we have stated, being restored and established as the |religion of humanity.| This shows why there is a very great similarity between the plagues of the one and the judgments of the other.
We have before us a book of 800 pages, in which the writer labours to prove that in this Revelation we have nothing more than an imitation of the mysteries or the revelations of Ceres. But as paganism will be again revived, and demon gods worshipped, and a greater than Pharaoh dispute God's title to deliver His people, the same procedure is adopted as when He fist brought them out of Egypt, and blow follows blow, growing in intensity, and the very ceremonies observed common to initiation.
Yea, with greater blows, and with judgments of greater intensity, will Jehovah assert His glory and His power. See Ex. xxxiv.10.
Extract from The Origin of Pagan Idolatry, by the Rev. George Stanley Faber, B.D., book vi. pp.642 and 643: --
|The whole machinery of the Apocalypse, from beginning to end, seems to me very plainly to have been borrowed from the machinery of the ancient Mysteries: and this, if we consider the nature of the subject, was done with the very strictest attention to poetical decorum.
|St. John himself is made to personate an aspirant about to be initiated: and, accordingly, the images presented to his mind's eye closely resemble the pageants of the Mysteries, both in nature, and in order of succession.
|The prophet first beholds a door opened in the magnificent temple of heaven: and into this he is invited to enter by the voice of one, who plays the hierophant. Here he witnesses the unsealing of a sacred book: and forthwith he is appalled by a troop of ghastly apparitions, which flit in horrid succession before his eyes.
|Among these are pre-eminently conspicuous a vast serpent, the well-known symbol of the great father; and two portentous wild beasts, which severally come up out of the sea and out of the earth.
|Such hideous figures correspond with the canine phantoms of the Orgies which seemed to rise out of the ground, and with the polymorphic images of the principal hero-god who was universally deemed the offspring of the sea.
|Passing these terrific monsters in safety, the prophet, constantly attended by his angel-heirophant who acts the part of an interpreter, is conducted into the presence of a female, who is described as closely resembling the great mother of pagan theology.
|Like Isis, emerging from the sea and exhibiting herself to the eyes of the aspirant Apuleius, this female divinity, upborne upon the marine wild-beast, appears to float upon the surface of many waters. She is said to be an open and systematical harlot; just as the mother was the declared female principle of the fecundity, and she was also propitiated by literal fornication reduced to a religious system: and, as the initiated were made to drink a prepared liquor out of a sacred goblet; so this harlot is represented as intoxicating the kings of the earth with the golden cup of her prostitution.
|On her forehead the very name of MYSTERY is inscribed: and the label teaches us that, in point of character, she is the great universal mother of idolatry.
|The nature of this Mystery the officiating hierophant undertakes to explain: and an important prophecy is most curiously and artfully veiled under the very language and imagery of the Orgies. To the sea-born great father was ascribed a three-fold state; he lived, he died, and he revived: and these changes of condition were duly exhibited in the Mysteries.
|To the sea-born wild beast is similarly ascribed a three-fold state; he lives, he dies, and he revives. While dead, he flies floating on the mighty ocean, just like Horus or Osirus or Siva or Vishnou: when he revives, again like those kindred deities, he emerges from the waves: and, whether dead or alive, he bears seven heads and ten horns, corresponding in number with the seven ark-preserved Rishis and the ten aboriginal patriarchs.
|Nor is this all: as the worshippers of the great father bore his special mark or stigma, and were distinguished by his name; so the worshippers of the maritime beast bear his mark, and are equally decorated by his appellation.
|At length, however, the first or doleful part of these sacred Mysteries draws to a close, and the last or joyful part is rapidly approaching. After the prophet has beheld the enemies of God plunged into a dreadful lake or inundation of liquid fire, which corresponds with the infernal lake or deluge of the Orgies, he is introduced into a splendidly illuminated region, expressly adorned with the characteristics of that Paradise which was the ultimate scope of the ancient aspirants: while, without the holy gate of admission, are the whole multitude of the profane, dogs and sorcerers and whoremongers and murderers and idolators and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
|The comparison might have been drawn out to a greater length; but these hints may suffice.|
He also remarks that:
|in the celebration of the mysteries, things were scenically and therefore literally exhibited| (Faber p.149, vol. iii.).
One great fact is clearly established -- for it was not many years after the writing of the Apocalypse, in the early centuries, that this book was discredited by the Fathers.
Jerome says that the Greek churches rejected it. When it first appeared it was not only attacked by the Eastern Christians, but, according to them, victoriously refuted: and it was looked upon by them as being at the best an obscure and bad poem on the SUN in spring. (Epist. xcciii. ad. Dard, quoted from Mankind: their Origin and Destiny, p.511).
This is taken from a work, the purpose of which is to prove that the Apocalypse is not a Divine Revelation at all. Many have arrived at this conclusion besides this author; that not only this book, but that the whole Bible is written and constructed from the mysteries of Paganism. Even that excellent and reverent writer (Mr. Faber) asserts that the Apostle John used the ideas and phraseology of the mysteries, the basis of them being Serpent and SUN worship with the host of heaven.
|Occulus, who was a pupil of Pythagoras, says, 'The universe considered as a whole, displays nothing to us which betrays a commencement, or which foretells destruction; no one has seen it created, or increased, or improved, or deteriorated, or decreased; it is ever the same, existing in the same way, always equal, or similar to itself!' | (cap. i. para.6, Origin and Destiny, p.394).
Further evidence is forthcoming to show that there was design in the figuration of the Constellations. This is from the Babylonian tablets known as the Creation Legend. It states that |some divine personage prepared the mansions... He fixed the stars. Even the Lumasi| (which word Prof. Sayce translates as meaning 'the Sheep of the Hero,' the Hero being the Sun). The conclusion arrived at is that the divine arranger fixed the constellations for each of the twelve months. (See Primitive Constellations, Robert Brown, Junr., vol. ii. p.1, 1900).
An interesting account is also given of a recent scene on the Euphrates. It is called a prayer meeting of Star worshippers. The writer says that |to the number of about four thousand they still survive in their native land, principally along the banks of the Euphrates. They call themselves Mandaites, possessors of the 'Word,' the 'LIVING WORD.' |
They erect their |MISHKNA| or tabernacle. |Towards midnight the Star worshippers, men and women, come slowly down to the Mishkna by the riverside... a signal is given, and a procession of priests moves to the Mishkna. One 'deacon' holds aloft the large wooden tau-cross... The sacred book SIDRA RABBA is laid upon the altar, folded back where the liturgy of the living is divided from the ritual of the dead. The high priest takes a live pigeon,| extends his hands towards the polar star, upon which he fixes his eyes, and lets the bird fly, calling aloud, |In the name of the living one, blessed be the primitive light, the ancient light, the Divinity self-created| (Ibid., pp.177-8).
|...Here, as so frequently, terrestrial ritual is based upon, and is a 'pattern' of 'things in the heaven.' | (Ibid., p.185).
|The stars near the Centaur permitted the introduction of a further figure, the Wild-beast, which, originally forming part of the constellation, showed the triumph of the Sun-god over the Beast of darkness, and over his own solar Lion| (p.241).
|... Such then were the principles which obtained in the formation of the primitive constellations. Religious and mythological ideas, already long current and venerated, were stamped upon the sky as sacred and celestial forms.|
|... The system so formulated in the Euphrates valley was accepted and adopted in Western Asia. The constellations of Israelite and Phoenecian were those of Babylonian and Assyrian, even as Bel reappeared as Baal, and Istar as Ashtoreth| (Ibid., pp.240-2).
|The southern heavens are a reduplication of the northern, and regarded as the watery region. In this region is Cetus, which tries to devour the child of the woman| (R. Brown, Junr., Law of Cosmic Order, Astrology in Apocalypse, p.81).
|He casts forth a river, it is there on the planisphere. It flows down below the horizon into the underworld. This Cetus is the beast rising out of the sea.
|The Beast upon whom sits the woman is Babylon.|
|In the planisphere she sits upon Hydra, the seven or many headed dragon, which issues from the Crater or Chaos. All the fowls were filled with her flesh. This is the crow devouring the Hydra| (p.91).
|The Tribes were considered parallel to the Zodiacal signs| (p.113).
|The Apocalypse is a magnificent dream of the final triumph of Christ over Antichrist, a glorious vision of the moral cosmos of God's world, wrought out in conflict with Anarchy, and practically a warning and a consolation to the people of God in the time of their persecution| (p.92).
Mr. Maunder refers to a great astronomical revolution that took place subsequent to the first naming of the signs. |Five thousand years ago, the Zodiac was planned, with the Bull of Taurus for its leader. Aries was then the last and least important of the twelve. The next view that we get of the state of Astronomy is some 2,000 years later. The Ram of Aries is now the prince of the Zodiac, Taurus has dropped to a second place, and the Zodiac itself has suffered an important change... How that revolution came about we have at present no means of knowing; but it has hitherto interposed a great barrier to our learning either from classical literature or from myths or monuments, anything trustworthy as to the true origin of the constellations, for the reason that the sources we have been consulting are, in consequence of that revolution, as ignorant of the matter as ourselves...| (XIX. Century, Sep., 1900, No.283, p.459. Article, |The Oldest Picture Book of All|).
All this evidence goes to show that there is more than meets the eye in this wonderful Book.
To the unenlightened reader there is much that is meaningless. But when we consider the grand scope of the Apocalypse we can understand why it should look backward to the beginning and onward to the end; writing folly on man's perversion of primitive truth, smiting with judgment those who will attempt to revive it; and showing that the God of heaven is high over the gods of the heathen. They will be unable to protect their worshippers when the living God shall arise to shake terribly the earth.