Friendship, Companionship, Grief, Love

Column by Kevin G. Thew Forrester, Ph.D. on 26 January 2023 0 Comments

I lost a very dear friend the day after Christmas.

I look, out of habit, out of longing, out of love, really, but he is not there. It is as if his singular space – the very soft shape of kindness within my world – has been cut out.

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“What’s a progressive Christian understanding of things like astrology, tarot cards, or dream-work? Can one be a Christian and engage with those things?”


Dear Reader,

A growing number of people are asking these sorts of questions. I’m especially aware of many young adults and teens who aren’t (and are!) involved in churches, but do dabble with these things – with quite a few taking them quite seriously. Within Christianity there’s been a teaching that these things are either inferior or wayward – if not outright wrong, dangerous, sinful,
and/or of the occult. St. John of Damascus wrote, ”Some pagans believe that the stars and the study of the rising and setting of the Sun or Moon guide the destinies of men, and this is what is called 'astrology'. But we Christians know well that the stars indicate rain, drought, humidity, seasonal cycles, winds and all things of this kind, but they are not signals for our life, since we are created free by the Creator and we are factors of our own destiny. We can truly say that the Sun, the Moon and the stars produce various temperaments, habits, predispositions, but nothing can win over our free will."  (On the Orthodox Faith, book II, chap. VII – around 730 AD)

Progressive Christianity freely questions supposedly established Christian traditional teachings – often going back to far earlier perspectives and focuses on what actually works to help humans connect to the Divine and each other, and be at our best. With this in mind, we can remember the story told about magi from the east who came to visit the infant Jesus (Matthew chapter 2). They noticed an unusual phenomenon (perhaps a comet, or an unusual planetary alignment) in the night sky looking west. They were likely Zoroastrian priests from Persia. They were warned in a dream not to go back to King Herod, and similarly, Jesus’ father Joseph had a dream warning him to get his family away from Bethlehem ASAP and to do so in a way to avoid King Herod – so they went back to Nazareth travelling far out of the way through Egypt. The Church celebrates how those pagan, gentile magi (the root of magicians) practiced their astrology and imbued meaning in what they saw in the sky – “a new king has been born in the world!” The Church celebrates how Spirit spoke to both the magi and to Joseph through dreams. The Church looks foolish to recognize and honor astrology and dreams during Christmas/Epiphany while rejecting them the rest of the year.

A familiarity of astrology (solar sign, rising sign, lunar sign, Chiron return, etc.) seems to be rather insightful and helpful to many people. And many Hindu families consult astrology as part of how they name their children. It isn’t “just a thing of the past.” When and where a person is born is part of the Human Design modality which some people find quite helpful in life. One doesn’t have to view astrology as “determining our destinies.” One can simply view it as a tool that can offer some insight, but we can hold that tool loosely, and still be primarily people of prayer (which progressive Christians tend to have a wide perspective about as well).

I view tarot as being between helpful and innocuous – perhaps akin to looking at clouds and noticing what shapes you see; or like noticing images in Rorschach ink blots, etc. “I see an elephant. I see an angry father.” What does an elephant mean to you in your life? What does an angry father mean to you?... With this perspective, one simply brings to what they see in the tarot cards they drew – what is already on their mind – or at least in their subconscious mind. Examples, “How am I feeling abundance in life? How am I feeling desolation or defeat? How am I experiencing a death? What challenges and obstacles are in my life?”  They invite an inner conversation and some soul searching. The world needs more of that.

I delve into these matters more deeply in “Discovering Fire: Spiritual Practices that Transform Lives” (out in April, 2023, Quoir publishing).

~ Rev. Roger Wolsey




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