In ancient times Sidereal Theology referred to worship of the heavens; it began with the early Assyrian religions, and the study of astronomy by the Chaldean priests. Many old civilizations studied the stars in accord with their religious beliefs. As a state religion we last hear of it in Rome, established by Emperor Aurelian in 274 AD. The worship of “Sol Invictus” rose to the highest level in the pantheon of Roman gods, and became the protector of the empire. With the death of Aurelian, and the rise of Christianity, many old festivals of the pagan gods became incorporated into Christian holidays; Sunday had been a weekly festival in honor of the sun.
Sidereal Theology in its early religious form, in contrast to its modern philosophical development, is probably the oldest in recorded history. Its origin stems from nature, and developed according to what seemed self-evident by observation of the world and the heavens that surround it. What they saw spoke largely for what they came to believe. The best account of how this theology came into being in its purest form, and subsequently degraded into its worst, was researched and written by the noted author Washington Irving in his book: “Mahomet and his Successors.” What follows is an excerpt from this work.
“In religion the Arabs . . . partook largely of the two faiths, the Sabean and the Magian, which at that time prevailed over the eastern world. The Sabean, however, was the one to which they most adhered. They pretended to derive it from Sabi the son of Seth, who, with his father and his brother Enoch, they supposed to be buried in the pyramids. Others derive the name from the Hebrew word, Saba, or the Stars, and trace the origin of the faith to the Assyrian shepherds, who as they watched their flocks by night on their level plains, and beneath their cloudless skies, noted the aspects and movements of the heavenly bodies, and formed theories of their good and evil influences on human affairs; vague notions which the Chaldean philosophers and priests reduced to a system, supposed to be more ancient even than that of the Egyptians.
By others it is derived from still higher authority, and claimed to be the religion of the antediluvian world. It survived, say they, the deluge, and was continued among the patriarchs. It was taught by Abraham, adopted by his descendants, the children of Israel, and sanctified and confirmed in the tablets of the law delivered unto Moses amid the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai.
In its original state the Sabean faith was pure and spiritual; inculcating a belief in the unity of God, the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, and the necessity of a virtuous and holy life to obtain a happy immortality. So profound was the reverence of the Sabeans for the Supreme Being, that they never mentioned his name, nor did they venture to approach him, but through intermediate intelligences or angels. These were supposed to inhabit and animate the heavenly bodies, in the same way as the human body is inhabited and animated by a soul. They were placed in their respective spheres to supervise and govern the universe in subservience to the Most High. In addressing themselves to the stars and other celestial luminaries, therefore, the Sabeans did not worship them as deities, but sought only to propitiate their angelic occupants as intercessors with the Supreme Being; looking up through these created things to God the great Creator.
By degrees this religion lost its original simplicity and purity, and became obscured by mysteries, and degraded by idolatries. The Sabeans, instead of regarding the heavenly bodies as the habitations of intermediate agents, worshipped them as deities; set up graven images in honor of them, in sacred groves and in the gloom of forests; and at length enshrined these idols in temples and worshipped them as if instinct with divinity. The Sabean faith too underwent changes and modifications in the various countries through which it was diffused. Egypt has long been accused of reducing it to the most abject state of degradation; the statues, hieroglyphics, and painted sepulchers of that mysterious country, being considered records of the worship, not merely of celestial intelligences, but of the lowest order of created beings, and even of inanimate objects. Modern investigation and research, however, are gradually rescuing the most intellectual nation of antiquity from this aspersion, and as they slowly lift the veil of mystery which hangs over the tombs of Egypt, are discovering that all these apparent objects of adoration were but symbols of the varied attributes of the one Supreme Being, whose name was too sacred to be pronounced by mortals. Among the Arabs the Sabean faith became mingled with wild superstitions, and degraded by gross idolatry. Each tribe worshipped its particular star or planet, or set up its particular idol. Infanticide mingled its horrors with their religious rites. Among the nomadic tribes the birth of a daughter was considered a misfortune, her sex rendering her of little service in a wandering and predatory life, while she might bring disgrace upon her family by misconduct or captivity. Motives of unnatural policy, therefore, may have mingled with their religious feelings, in offering up female infants as sacrifices to their idols, or in burying them alive.
The rival sect of Magians or Guebres (fire worshippers), which, as we have said, divided the religious empire of the East, took its rise in Persia, where, after a while, its oral doctrines were reduced to writing by its great prophet and teacher Zoroaster, in his volume of the Zendavesta. The simple and spiritual, inculcating a belief in one supreme and eternal God, in whom and by whom the universe exists: that he produced, through his creating word, two active principles, Ormusd, and principle or angel of light or good, and Ahriman, the principle or angel of darkness or evil: that these formed the world out of a mixture of their opposite elements, and were engaged in a perpetual contest in the regulation of its affairs. Hence the vicissitudes of good and evil, accordingly as the angel of light or darkness has the upper hand: this contest would continue until the end of the world, when there would be a general resurrection and a day of judgment; the angel of darkness and his disciples would then be banished to an abode of woeful gloom, and their opponents would enter the blissful realms of everduring light.
The primitive rites of this religion were extremely simple. The Magians had neither temples, altars, nor religious symbols of any kind, but addressed their prayers and hymns directly to the Deity, in what they conceived to be his residence, the sun. They reverenced this luminary as being his abode, and as the source of the light and heat of which all the other heavenly bodies were composed; and they kindled fires upon the mountain tops to supply light during its absence. Zoroaster first introduced the use of temples, wherein sacred fire, pretended to be derived from heaven was kept perpetually alive through the guardianship of priests, who maintained a watch over it night and day.
In process of time this sect, like that of the Sabeans, lost sight of the divine principle in the symbol, and came to worship light or fire, as the real deity, and to abhor darkness as Satan or the devil. In their fanatic zeal the Magians would seize upon unbelievers and offer them up in the flames to propitiate their fiery deity.
To the tenets of these two sects reference is made in that beautiful text of the Wisdom of Solomon. “Surely vain are all men by nature who are ignorant of God, and could not, by considering the work, acknowledge the work master; but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be gods, which govern the world.”
Of these two faiths the Sabean, as we have before observed, was much the most prevalent among the Arabs; but in an extremely degraded form, mingled with all kinds of abuses, and varying among the various tribes which, from their frontier position, had frequent intercourse with Persia; while other tribes partook of the superstitions and idolatries of the nations on which they bordered. . . .” 27
This state of religious affairs aroused and irked Mahomet the most. The temples in his early life were over-crowded with idols and icons, with pilgrims praying and giving homage in extravagant rites and rituals. His most important maxim was: “There is but one God, and one God only, and Mahomet is his prophet.” Later in his life he began to believe that all the previous prophets had failed, and that Allah had put the sword in his hand so as not to fail. And so it began.
In its contemporary sense, Sidereal Theology bears no significance or relationship to worship of objects in the heavens, nor would it be appropriate. The meaning now refers to a spiritual structure understood today in terms of the physical framework of the universe itself. This has been worked out, and with careful study will become apparent; there is nothing supercilious, or superstitious about it.