Astrology and Cosmology

Article excerpt

ASTROLOGY AND COSMOLOGY Astrology and Cosmology in the World's Religions. Nicholas Campion (New York University Press, New York, 2012). Pp. x+ 273. $23 (paperback). ISBN 978-08147-1714-1.

Campion's Astrology and cosmology is an ambitious examination of cosmologies and astrologies from around the world. The diversity of cultures Campion includes is impressive. He gives equal consideration to such diverse regions as Oceania, the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, and contemporary New Age and Pagan groups. For the purposes of the book, he treats cosmology as a meaning-system, related to if not inextricable from religion, and astrology as human beings' practical implementation of cosmological ideas. Campion favours Ninian Smart's account of the seven dimensions of religion, that emphasize both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This dual emphasis on belief and practice pervades the book.

Given the book's broad scope, it is not surprising that Campion includes little original research beyond his work on New Age and Pagan groups. His contribution is the encyclopedic presentation of diverse cosmologies and astrologies along with an evaluation of primary and secondary sources. Each chapter is devoted to a distinct region or religious tradition, and, for the most part, the chapters stand alone. Campion occasionally articulates historical connections among the traditions - as is inevitable in the chapters on the Mediterranean world, for instance - and at times he indicates that stories, such as the pursuit of the Pleiades by Orion (p. 29) or of the hare and the Moon (p. 78), may have originated in the Paleolithic period before the human migration out of Africa.

Although he does not impose an overarching narrative on the compilation, Campion is concerned with classification. He adapts Mircea Eliade's categorization of cosmogonies as either chaotic or cosmic to his own classification of cosmologies and astrologies. When Campion labels a cosmology "chaotic" or "cosmic", he appeals to the nature of the cosmogony, where the world either emanated in a disorganized manner from an original, formless state or was created by a deliberate act of organization. This one-to-one correspondence in the classification of cosmogonies and cosmologies, however, is problematic. It is entirely possible for a chaotic cosmogony to produce a cosmic cosmology. In the case of Indian cosmology, Campion labels the cosmology "chaotic" and the astrology "cosmic", noting that the astrology is codified rather than flexible and spontaneous (p. 123), but a cosmic astrology is impossible in a chaotic cosmology, although consistent with a chaotic cosmogony. For this reason, Campion's classification system would have benefited from a more careful distinction between cosmogonies and cosmologies.

Similarly, Campion's distinction between cosmology and astrology sometimes blurs. Several traditions he discusses, including the Australian, Pueblo, and Sufi, emphasize the responsibility of human beings not only to live in a certain way in the cosmos but also to maintain it. …