Book by Chris Brennan
OPA Review by Arlan Wise
This introduction to Hellenistic astrology is a valuable gift to astrologers who do not have the language skills to read the manuscripts in the original Greek. Chris Brennan does have those skills and has given us the foundation of the astrology we use daily and an explanation for the basis of the knowledge that we take for granted. The book encompasses a thorough history of astrology, a discussion of the philosophy that was in the minds of the early astrologers, and an introduction to the techniques they used.
Chris says in his introduction:
My goal is to present, to the best of my understanding, both, (1.) A narrative that describes what Hellenistic astrology was, where it came from, and how it was practiced, and (2.) A demonstration of how it can be used again today.
Hellenistic astrology is defined as a tradition of Greco-Roman horoscopic astrology that was practiced in the Mediterranean region from approximately the first century BCE until the seventh century CE.
His challenge came in reconstructing the surviving texts, many of which are in fragments. Another challenge was in finding modern words for the technical terms in Greek which don’t have equivalents in today’s language. He also had to reconcile the deterministic Stoic philosophy underlying the techniques with the concept of free will. He finds that the Time Lord system can outline the narrative of a person’s life in great detail and with stunning accuracy and ponders the ethics of revealing this information to a client.
He begins the book with the history that starts in the 7th century BCE in Mesopotamia where astrology was seen as one of the languages the Gods used to communicate their intentions to humans. He then moves on to describe the Egyptian astrological influences on Hellenistic authors. He mentions each author in order of when they lived and describes their work. He includes some literal translations which are fascinating to read.
In the second part of the book Chris describes the basics of astrology, i.e., planets, signs, houses, from the Hellenistic perspective and also describes techniques, some of which are in use today and those which did not survive, such as sect. As you read on you learn concepts that can become useful additions to your astrological repertoire, such as overcoming and lots. He promotes the use of the whole sign system, saying:
Part of the purpose of this book, then, is to demonstrate the efficacy of the whole sign house system and to teach the reader how to use that approach in practice.
Hellenistic astrology is rich in language. The Domicile Lord of the Hour Marker sounds more expressive than saying the planet that rules the rising sign. The Master of the Nativity rather than the overall ruler of the chart. There are conditions of bonification and maltreatment and Time Lord techniques. Through the translations, Chris gives us a vivid picture of how the ancient Greek astrologers thought and how they talked.
This book equals any college textbook. Chris’s writing is clear, full of details but no excess. He documents his work with footnotes on every page. Chris is a good teacher and this shows in the book when you read “…the important part here is…” or “In summary….”. Chris never assumes that the reader knows any of this information and takes the time to explain every term, clearly and precisely. He illustrates the techniques with many charts so that the reader can get a visual understanding of the text.
This is a serious book. It is a scholarly work with a sophisticated vocabulary. It is a big book, 600 pages, and well worth the effort to read since by the end of the book you will understand Hellenistic astrology and be able to try out some of the concepts. It is rich in information and written from a place of true love for the topic. It’s thrilling to hear that he’s not finished, that there will be more books on Hellenistic astrology to look forward to and more techniques to learn. As Chris says “I believe that by looking back into the past we can and will create a better astrology for the future.”
Read this book. You’ll be glad you did. It deserves five plus plus stars!