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Book Review: Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions

July 21, 2012

By Anonymous   

Dr. Nicholas Campion’s latest book, Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions is the first book to consider astrology’s role in global cultures. Taking issue with some narrow academic perspectives of astrology as peculiarly western or Greek in origin , he argues that, broadly defined as the search for meaning in the sky, it occurs in all human cultures. In some forms it may be highly organized and codified, in others more spontaneous.

Adapting theories of origin of the universe proposed by the historian of religion Mircea Eliade, Campion identifies such astrologies as ‘cosmic’ or ‘chaotic’ respectively.

There is no established definition of what a religion is in modern academia, and notions such as religion and secularity are actually surprisingly difficult to separate. Campion therefore concludes that some forms of astrology can be described as religion in some circumstances, but to talk of all astrology as religion as some commentators (and astrologers) have done, is misleading. Instead he takes as his cue the use of astrology in the world’s religions, religion loosely understood as engagement with divinity, or some concept of super-natural power.

While Campion understands that the definition of religions is problematic, the word still has to be used. In sixteen chapters ranging from Australia to Mesoamerica and from Chinese cosmology to Christianity and Judaism, Campion explores the source material, deals with uncertain evidence, and examines the meanings people have attributed to the sky and their uses. Along with astrology, Campion is concerned with cosmology, seen as the ways in which people describe their place within the cosmos. Astrology, he claims, is then a kind of practical, vernacular, cosmology. There is much more research to be done by historians and anthropologists, but Campion has made a valuable start.

Dr Campion is Senior Lecturer in the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, and Director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK. He is course director of the University’s MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. His books include the two-volume History of Western Astrology (Continum 2009), and Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions (New York University Press 2011).

Campion’s blog can be read on the Huffington Post.

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