What is the zodiac? According to the dictionary, it is "an imaginary belt encircling the heavens, extending about eight degrees to either side of the ecliptic, and containing twelve constellations." Actually it is a mathematically arranged map of the sun's influence, including that of the planets, upon the earth and its inhabitants.
Before the birth of Judaism and its stepchild Christianity, the peoples of the world were sun worshipers. From India to Egypt in the East, knowledge of the sun and stars was the basis of religion; and in the then undiscovered West, from the Incas in the Andes to the Zunis in the American desert, all raised their voices in praise to the rising sun.
Not without reason the Persians and Chaldeans were called stargazers, for they knew the sun was Lord of the World and they looked upon the stars as living beings. Their knowledge of astronomy was astonishing, and their knowledge of astrology, which related humanity to the universe, was far-reaching and profound. Nearly every world religion shows the influence of astrology in both its spiritual and physical aspects.
Who were the authors of the Bible, this fine old book, known as The Book of God, or God's Word? What was their inspiration? From the confused accounts of the racial history of the Jewish people, little is known that can be considered reliable. It is speculated, with some reason, that they were migrants from a region of Afghanistan near the Hindu Kush, since Hebrew names and words are still common there. The Pentateuch itself marks its Brahmin origin. But whatever the history of the Jewish people before their captivity by Chaldeans and Egyptians, they had developed racial integrity and a strong sense of unity. Once they regained their freedom, they gathered together in an effort to rebuild their nation. Their aim was to have their own laws, their own scriptures, and their own God.
We know from the text of the Old Testament that it had more than one author and that its parts were written at different times and put together later. We read in Isis Unveiled, II, 470-1:
That, after the first copy of the Book of God has been edited and launched on the world by Hilkiah, this copy disappears, and Ezra has to make a new Bible, which Judas Maccabeus finishes; that when it was copied from the horned letters into square letters, it was corrupted beyond recognition; . . . finally, we have a text . . . abounding with omissions, interpolations, and premeditated perversions.
Whoever Hilkiah or Ezra were, however, we find that the Book of God is largely composed of stories of the zodiac, the sun, and the laws or principles of nature, as they were known to the hierophants and high priests of Egypt and Chaldea, who were well versed in the wisdom-religion taught to humanity in its first conscious state.
The wisdom-religion was expressed, whether by Hindu, Chaldean, or Jew, in the same way — through figures of speech, in myths, parables, or allegories. There are references to this in the New Testament, where Paul tells the Corinthians that the story of Moses is figurative — ". . . the veil over his face . . . is untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament" — and again where Paul tells the Galatians that the story of Abraham and his two wives is an allegory. Paul explains that this is the way it is told to those who do not know.
Whoever they were, the authors of the Old Testament were obviously scholars, presumably high priests, men well aware of the traditions and legends of other peoples all around them for distances of hundreds of miles. It is evident that they drew upon these traditions and legends in writing their scriptures, which were to set forth the alleged history and genealogy of the Jewish people.
It can be said that there is no actual history in the Old Testament, that the people in its pages are not real personages, but that most are symbolic of some phase of the zodiac — the sun, the twelve signs, or a natural law. Abraham, for instance, was not a Jew, though portrayed as the Father of the Jewish people. He was borrowed from the Chaldeans, inspired by the mighty prince Zeru-an, who was rich in gold and silver, as written in Chaldean annals, and who bears a resemblance to Saturn.
Neither Solomon nor David is historical. David is pure myth, as are the prophets. David was conceived to be the founder of the Jewish dynasty, which through Solomon, his son and successor, acquired identification with the solar deity, giving it preeminence over all mankind. It is possible that the patriarchs were real figures, but even this remains uncertain. Yet let it not be supposed that there is no truth in the Old Testament. The allegories it contains are as truthful and profound in meaning as they are numerous. Also, the Scribes made their allegorical figures into vivid personalities speaking ideas, as often a delight to ponder on as they are edifying.
Although most of the Old Testament has been accepted by fundamentalists as the gospel truth, even they have confessed to doubts about Jonah and the whale. For a man to be swallowed live by a whale and survive to tell the tale was either a Biblical miracle or a bit of fisherman's braggadocio. There have been many attempts to interpret the allegory. However, since most of the main characters in the Bible personify the sun, we can safely assume that Jonah also represents some aspect of the solar orb. Those three uncomfortable days and nights were the winter solstice. Between the twenty-first and twenty-fourth of December the nights are the darkest and longest of the entire year and were known to ancient astrologers as the Whale's Belly. No doubt this has reference to the winter constellation Cetus, the Whale, which is just above the horizon at that time. The 'whale' was, therefore, in a position to swallow Jonah when he, as the sun, plunged into the sea. Thus it was that Jonah, the sun, spent three days and nights in the Whale's Belly, where he meditated on the Lord.
The story of the birth of Moses was transposed from the legend of the Chaldean king, Sargon, one thousand years earlier. At Sargon's birth, his mother the queen placed him in a bitumen-lined basket and laid it among the river bulrushes where a water-carrier found him and took him home and brought him up. In his role as the Jewish lawmaker, Moses was endowed with the dignity and celestial powers of an Egyptian high priest, or hierophants as Thoth, or the Greek Hermes, embodying the mystical wisdom with the astrological and alchemical doctrines and formulae. It is nowhere recorded that anyone ever really saw Moses, yet he was so real to even his creators that his Laws were inexorably upheld, and his teachings unquestioned. All the sacred symbols and knowledge of the Kabbalah, as known to the Jewish high priests, were incorporated into the wisdom of Moses.
His tabernacle in the wilderness was built as a square representing the four cardinal points, as well as the four elements: earth, fire, air, and water. The idea originally was Egyptian, and the genii, or angels, of the elements were said to abide at the points. The lamp ordered "by the Lord" to burn on the tabernacle was an inexhaustible flame, representing the eternal light and life of the sun.
In writing their scriptures and presenting Moses as lawmaker, with Jehovah as the One-True-God, the Jews did not overlook the place the sun held among surrounding peoples. They honored the sun in the allegory of Solomon. To the Jews, Solomon was King of Israel and his temple was built on Mount Moriah, the highest point in Israel, but actually the allegory shows Solomon as Lord of the Universe. He sits on his golden throne in the center of his temple, which is the universe. He is attended by his craftsmen, the lords of the signs of the zodiac, and is instrumental in their activities. Attending him is Hiram, his agent of construction on earth — architect, master-builder, and beautifier, faithful administrator of the sun on earth. And the building of the temple is finished without hands or the sound of hammer or axe — the hammer of contention, the axe of division.
Our physical bodies are composed of millions of cells. The life of each cell comes directly from the sun. We are therefore a part of the sun, and we cannot in fact be separated from it. In the allegory of Solomon's temple, the little temple is the human body — "made in the image." The ancient wise men knew this and called the sun the Lord of the Temple.
The art of presenting and preserving esoteric philosophical principles and ancient truths in figures of speech, and through myths and allegories, was not confined to the Old Testament. The New Testament abounds with them; its most important allegory, basic to its purpose and to the Christian religion itself, is the story of the birth of Jesus. In his book The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hall writes:
Those who chronicled the life and acts of Jesus found it advisable to metamorphose him into a solar deity. The historical Jesus was forgotten; nearly all the salient incidents recorded in the four Gospels have their correlations in the movements, phases, or functions of the heavenly bodies.
In the third century, when the church fathers were consolidating the Christian church, they had no knowledge of the date of Jesus' birth. They chose the date celebrated by the pagans, the winter solstice, when the darkest days give way to the promise of brighter ones. This was incorporated in terms of the zodiac into the story of the birth of Jesus, or the sun. In the late hour of the twenty-fourth of December, the zodiacal sign Virgo, or the Virgin, rests on the horizon or ascendant. At the hour of midnight, the sun enters the sign of Capricorn — the manger and the goat. Thus is the sun — Jesus — born of a virgin, by an immaculate conception.
Later, as the story goes, the constellation of Orion rises in the East. The three bright stars in his belt are the three Wise Men who came from the East to offer gifts to the newborn King. These gifts were the new-old ideas incorporated into the teachings of Jesus, such as "love ye one another," "overcome evil with good," and "your Father and my Father are one," which replaced the old Jewish idea of "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." In the north are the two stars known to the Arabs as Martha and Mary. So are the starry heavens related to the great story. Later in the life of Jesus — the sun — the twelve signs of the zodiac become his disciples.
Thus does the zodiac continue in the New Testament, and the four points in the tabernacle of Moses and the four cherubs of Ezekiel's wheels are repeated in the four Gospels or Evangels of the New Testament. In fact, the book of Ezekiel is pure astrology. Ezekiel, in his vision, sees in sublime form the Lords of the signs of the zodiac, the revolving planets, the constellations, and the angels of the four points — the elements; in Aquarius, the man; Taurus, the ox; Leo, the lion; and Scorpio, the eagle.
Although several centuries had passed since the Jewish Scriptures were written, the presentation of astronomical and philosophical principles by means of the zodiac had not changed. Paul was a Jew, and he was familiar with the Jewish Kabbalah and the science of allegories. It is hardly possible to understand the Old Testament, or the New, without some knowledge of the Jewish Kabbalah, the codebook of symbology. From it one learns the esoteric meaning of the first ten numbers, the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the geometrical triangle, the square, and the circle — also the esoteric lore contained in the zodiac — and these are the elements which help one to solve some of the riddles of the Old Testament. Hidden indeed is the meaning of the stories in the Old Testament, even when they are translated into the terms of the zodiac.
Why are the truths of nature so concealed? As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, "We speak the wisdom of God in mystery!" To hide the truth, of course, does not change the truth. The sun still shines upon the world as it always has, and always will until the end of its own cycle. It remains the life-giver, supplying the vital energy to every atom, and giving to every human being the power to realize his full potential. We must keep aware of the supreme place of the sun in our lives, in order better to open the way to a greater realization of the truth.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 1974; copyright © 1974 Theosophical University Press)