The Gospel and the Zodiac

Who was Jesus Christ? Did he exist?

For millennia the world has been driven by the differences between the great patriarchal religions. Western civilization–or Christendom, as it was once called–received its values and its confidence from a belief in God, the Father, and Jesus, his only son. But what if this conviction were founded on an error?

Who is the man in the factually inconsistent Gospel stories? And who is the man who makes a brief appearance carrying a jar of water? This extraordinary study by a Unitarian minister suggests that Jesus never existed historically; he was simply a representation of an astrological theology–a representation, simply put, of the zodiac sign of Aquarius. In The Gospel and the Zodiac, Reverend Bill Darlison demonstrates that all the other signs are present too, in perfect zodiacal order. The Gospel story is not the product of historians or eyewitnesses, but an older, mystical text produced by an ancient, esoteric school as a guide to the Age of Pisces.

Every bit as revelatory and controversial as it sounds, The Gospel and the Zodiac will shake up the religious status quo, and in doing so, provide both a new look at a religious icon and a deeper understanding of the faith that binds millions together.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “The Gospel and the Zodiac

  1. Review

    Book Review: The Gospel and the Zodiac:  The Secret Truth about Jesus by Bill Darlison (Duckworth Overlook London, 2007)

    The author is a Unitarian minister of religion who displays a keen interest in both the origins and early development of Christianity back in the first century and its status and value to Christians and spirituality-seekers in the present 21st century.

    His focus on the gospel of Mark has led him to explore its structure, themes and original purpose, including this Gospel’s three story-lines or Triple Parallel Narratives: the celestial above, the terrestrial below and the depths of the soul or the spiritual within.

    The stories which are set in the celestial, heavenly or astronomical realm includes epiphanies, a transfiguration, a Son of God,  a Son of Man, constellations and sky-bodies such as the sun, moon and planets. These are presented in activities over a period of twelve months within the annual journey of the deified sun along the ecliptic and through the twelve constellations of the Zodiac from Aries in March to Pisces in February.

    The matching stories are set in the terrestrial or earthly realm of  Galilee and Judea and they involve familiar locations and characters who are both human and divine, including  Jesus, which is “Joshua” in Hebrew, meaning “the salvation of Yahweh” (p.10) and who performs exorcisms, cures ailments and displays supernatural power over nature.

    Within the spiritual realm, the author then interprets these persons, beings, places and events over a period of twelve months in these two realms of Astronomical Sky and Planet Earth as metaphors for the Christian’s inner, spiritual journey (p.50), as dramatizations of internal processes (p.9) and as “spiritual guidance for the coming ‘new age’, the Age of Pisces” (p.24).

    Darlison accepts that Mark was the first Gospel to be written and that Matthew and Luke not only used but also made many changes, additions and deletions to Mark’s text. However, he does not view Mark’s Gospel as a historically reliable or infallible account of one year in the life of Jesus the Christ or Messiah.  “What matters is the ‘Christ principle’, the spirit of illumination, God-consciousness, which Jesus is portrayed as embodying, but which we can discover and embody ourselves” (p. 19) .

    In contrast to the students of Mark, who refer to his Gospel’s coarseness, its lack of structure and chronology and who view its contents as unsophisticated, Darlison views Mark as a “highly sophisticated document”  (p.5), which presents the annual and seasonal agricultural and zodiacal  journey of the sun (Helios, Sol) through the four seasons and twelve constellations of the Zodiac.

    He refers to the earlier work of Philip Carrington, who in 1952 published The Primitive Christian Calendar: A Study of the Making of the Marcan Gospel (p.25), which analysed Mark in the context of the Jewish solar cycle from March to February (p.26) and as an annual series of lectionaries.

    Darlison then comments that, when the star-gazers and sky-viewers in the first century looked up at the brilliant night-sky, they also were aware of the traditionally-constructed constellations and  zodiacal signs, which were enriched through poetic imagination with a “sophisticated mythology, a rudimentary psychology and fatalistic prophecy” (p.28). This could be called symbolical astronomy, in which the sky was alive with the sight of heroic beings, celestial places and mythological events. Although we still have astronomers and physicists today who are engaged in scientific astronomy and cosmology, for most 21st century humans, the first century’s language of the stars has been forgotten.

    After reminding readers that the sun moves backwards in precession into a new sign of the Zodiac at the March or Spring equinox, every 2,160 years, this produced the Age of Taurus the Bull from 4,302 to 2,160 BCE; the Age of Aries the Lamb from 2,160 BCE to 1CE and the Age of Pisces the Fish from 1CE – 2,160 (p.40). The Gospels contain 28 fish references relating to Jesus.  The complete cycle of the Ages or the Great Year takes 25,920 years to complete.

    After informing readers that he has drawn on early astronomical and astrological works, such as the Phaenomena of Aratos (c.300 BCE), the Astronomica of Manilius (1st century CE) and the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy (2nd century CE), Darlison presents the journey of the sun through the twelve signs of the Zodiac as they appeared in the Age of Aries the Lamb. Each sign is presented with its references to features and themes in Mark’s Gospel, to other related constellations and to spiritual lessons which can be drawn from each zodiac sign, thus creating triple parallel narratives in the sky, on earth and within the human soul.

    In the northern hemisphere, the months, the seasons, the zodiacal signs, their assigned sections in Mark’s Gospel and their themes are as follows:                      

    1.  In March/April, Spring, Aries the Ram in Mark 1:1-3:35, with the theme of Initiation.                                             

    2.  In April/May, Spring, Taurus the Bull in Mark 4:1-4.34, Production/Ploughing.                  

    3.  In May/June, Summer, Gemini the Twins in Mark 4:35-6:29, Duality.       

    4.  In June/July, Summer, Cancer the Crab in Mark 6:30-8:26, Nourishment.      

    5.  In July/August, Summer, Leo the Lion in Mark 8:27-9:29, with theme of Kingship.

    6.  In August/September, Autumn, Virgo the Virgin in Mark 9:30-9:50, Service.

    7.  In September/October, Autumn, Libra the Scales in Mark 10:1-10:31, Partnerships.

    8.  In October/November, Winter, Scorpio in Mark 10:32-10:52, Death/Transformation.

    9.  In November/December, Winter, Sagittarius in Mark 11:11-11:26, Religious Quest.

    10. In December/January, Winter, Capricorn in Mark 11:27-12:44, Authority.

    11. In January/February, Winter, Aquarius the Waterman in Mark 13:1-14:16, Future Hopes.

    12. In February/March, Spring, Pisces the Fish in Mark 14:17-16:18, Suffering.

    These twelve stages and themes form the outline for most of this challenging book.

    The annual solar pattern places the hot sun or heavenly Son of God northwards in Galilee during Spring and Summer and moves the dying sun or Suffering Son of Man southwards  into Judea and Jerusalem in autumn and winter. It is here where both the sun and the Son of Man die on 21 December, but are reborn on 25 December, after three days in the tomb. After the Spring equinox in March, sunlight again increases and the Son of God or the sun returns north to Galilee to repeat the cycle, just as Jesus returned to Galilee in order to appear to  his disciples, presumably in a mountain-top solar epiphany like that of St Paul and which could be visible to over 500 people at one time.

    Darlison therefore aims to show that Mark’s Gospel presents both a heavenly and an earthly narrative or story. Naturally, many readers of Mark notice his supernatural nature miracles, his healing miracles, exorcisms and his hyperbole and exaggeration.  Mark often writes that all the people living in a wide area flocked to hear Jesus and his message and that Jesus even had an impact on the rulers of the land. Readers also wonder why no contemporary records of such influential events as these were ever made.

    The author thus studies the heavenly and earthly stories as mythological, symbolical literary creations, which can act as metaphors for the soul’s spiritual journey during any given year and indeed throughout the whole of life. Such stories and myths are true to life, even if the astronomy, geography and history in these stories are fallible and often fanciful.

    At the third, inner and spiritual level, the author highlights Mark’s many valuable spiritual lessons and textually, he offers solutions to many of Mark’s character puzzles, metaphor-based mysteries and the other allegorical and symbolical meanings hidden deeply beneath the surface story, narrative, parable, persons or events. Mark’s Gospel is an enigmatic text, still in need of full comprehension and understanding. The following journey of twelve stages along the sun’s annual ecliptic path should help to unlock some of Mark’s mysteries.            

    1.   Initiation is a theme for March and Aries the Lamb, which initiates and leads into a life of self-discovery and self-transformation. Darlison indicates that this initiation requires both an urgency and a commitment, two factors in both the calling by Jesus and the immediate response of the disciples to being called, as well as in the invitation to enter  into the “Kingdom of God”, which is viewed as a “state of being” (p.62). Adopting what is new involves rejecting the old, which can be a real problem for a person attached to dogmas and doctrines now deemed to be scientifically, geographically and historically fallible. Clearly, the author’s required rejection of a literalistic analysis and appropriation of Mark’s Gospel in favour of its metaphorical nature, will create such a problem for the literalistically-minded reader.

    2.  In Spring, the task of Taurus the Bull is to plough the ground and plant the seed.  The spiritual challenge is to keep our desire for material possessions in check, while still valuing the material world and physical body as the vehicle for our enlightenment. Our spirituality increases as we go about our normal affairs (p.84).  Of interest is that the constellation Orion, which is located near Taurus and is mentioned  Job 38:31-33,  means “The Light of Heaven” (p.78).

    3. Castor and Pollux, the patrons of seafarers, were viewed as the Gemini Twins, who gave their name to the ship which took St Paul from Malta to Syracuse in Acts 28:11. The Twins calmed the oceans during severe storms at sea (p.88), as did Jesus in Mark 4:39. Jesus also sent out his disciples “two by two” (Mark 6:7). Darlison advises that the spiritual task here requires that, in the midst of spiritual turbulence in our lives, we seek calm to foster the “Divine Self” and  to seek to transform Legion or The Many into Union or The One (p.93).

    4.    At the mid-summer solstice in June, Cancer the Crab once acted as the gate of the incarnation of the soul, as it descended to earth. Its theme of Nourishment through the rich supply of ripe summer produce is explored in the feeding of the hungry 5,000 Israelite and the 4,000 Gentile followers, indicated in the numbers 12, 7 and 4. Eating the fish also hinted at communing with Christ as Pisces the Fish in the new Age of Pisces (p.106). These feeding events also revealed the breaking down of racial barriers and prejudices and Jesus’ widening of his “circle of compassion” (p.114).  The nearby constellation of the ship Argo, which “conquered the water”, was matched by the repeat of this feat by Jesus (p.107) and the zigzag journey of Jesus from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee via Sidon and Decapolis in Mark 7:31 is seen as a playful reference to a scuttling crab (p.111).

    5.   Peter declares Jesus to be the Messiah, the Anointed One or the Christ in summer’s Leo the Lion sign in Mark 8:29, with the theme of Kingship and Individuality. The sun is golden and at its point of maximum power and heat. In this mid-summer context,  Mark 9 and Matthew 17 depict the Transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain-top in terms of  his clothes becoming dazzling white  and his face shining like the sun. Mark depicts Jesus as the miracle-working Son of God while the sun is high over Galilee in the north. However, Mark depicts Jesus as the Suffering Son of Man and as the Crucified Christ when the sun moves south to Judea and Jerusalem in its annual decline, its longer periods of darkness and its eventual death on 21 December. Darlison understands “son of” as meaning “one who exhibits the nature of”. The spiritual task in Leo is to personally seek our authentic identity in the tradition of Jesus and to spiritually assume the Messiah/Christ, the divine centre, the Divine ground of Being within. Such identity involves mature, self-derived authority in the tradition of the heart of the Lion or Regulus, the principle star in Leo (p.126).

    6.   Service and practical religion are themes in August of Virgo the Virgin, who as the Zodiacal sign, is close to Coma the Infant and to Bootes, the shepherd and husband of Virgo. A mature, discriminating and critical faith, rather than a naive and simple faith, is required for a mature spiritual life (p.136). At the same time, self-emptying, suffering and self-denial is needed for appropriate humility and freshness in appreciating reality. Being child-like is not being childish and naiveté is not humility.

    7.   Partnerships feature in Libra the Scales in September so Mark 10 deals with divorce, where a couple “become one flesh” and the man to rich to share his wealth with other. Spiritually, this involves seeking to balance the polarities in our lives and relationships and to exhibit integrity in our intimate life (p. 149). The nearby constellations of the Southern Cross, the Crown and the slaughtered wolf as the victim of the Centaur support the Son of Man’s rather obvious predictions of his suffering and death (p.155).

    8.   With winter approaching, along with its increasing darkness and icy-cold winds, Scorpio the Scorpion has depicted transformations and power to both recreate and to destroy. Vegetation dies and returns to the earth while human lower nature needs to be redeemed through suffering (p. 159). Mark’s Scorpio section hosts the text from Secret Mark relating to the raising of the young man in a linen cloth by Jesus at Bethany. This appears to be a ritualistic symbolical death and burial in a cave, as an allegory for spiritual rebirth into the Promised Land through initiation. (p. 164). This is followed by the request by the Sons of Thunder James and John to sit next to the heavenly throne when the kingdom comes (Mark10:32-34).

    9.   Sagittarius the Bowman in November involves a Centaur, who is divided as both horse/strength and human/intelligence (p.172) and who has his bow and arrow loaded for a religious quest for wisdom and truth. Not surprisingly, Jesus enters Jerusalem in Mark 11 as a type of Centaur, the Son of Man riding on a colt. When he entered the Temple on the following day, he tipped over the tables of the money-changers and drove them out of the temple.  Spiritually, our lower, animal self needs the beneficial influence of our higher, intellectual, human self (p.174).

    10.  Authority is a concern of both Capricorn the Goat-fish in December and of Jesus in Mark 11:27-33. Paying taxes, the greatest commandment and the nature of the Messiah also come up, as well as criticism of the claimed authority of the Jewish leaders. Darlison reminds readers that spiritually, we all have some Pharisaism in us because it is “endemic to the human condition” (p.186) In December, the Northern Hemisphere people experience a time of maximum darkness and the death of Nature and of the Sun. Slow rebirth however takes place on 25 December as day-light begins to increase and Spring approaches as the next season. 

    11.  A man carrying a jar of water in Mark 14:13 is taken by Darlison as a clue to relating this figure to January’s Aquarius, the celestial Water-carrier. The Aquarius themes in first century symbolical astronomy involve images of social upheaval, threatening signs in the clouds of heaven and the coming of the Son of Man to judge the Earth. The biblical story of Samson, meaning the Sun or Hebrew “shemesh” and Delilah, meaning a water-bucket or Hebrew “deliy”, clearly shows what can happen when the sun enters Aquarius in January. Mythologically, the sun has its rays (hair) cut off and it loses its strength (p. 190). Samson then dies in the temple of Dagon, the Philistine fish god Pisces. Spiritually, in Aquarius, the outer images of social and cosmic chaos need to be anagogically appropriated in an interior transformation, similar to that of Paul’s blinding flash during his solar epiphany on the Damascus road, possibly in Galilee. Two positive images of such transformation include the woman who anointed Jesus feet with expensive oil and the water-bearer, who “pours out the Water of Life in the form of knowledge and revelation of truth” (p.203).

    12.  The themes of suffering, death, resurrection and ascension emerge as aspects of February’s Pisces the Fish. In Mark 14:17-16:8, this involves the betrayal by Judas, the denial by Peter, Jesus arrest and the fleeing of the young man in a linen cloth (possible a symbol of the Son of Man), a trial before the Jewish High Priest and before Pilate, the crucifixion, and an empty tomb and instructions to meet Jesus  in Galilee. The “Passover” indicated the date when the sun on the ecliptic passed over the sun on the equator in mid-March, hence the interest in setting festivals based on this March equinox and in the rebirth of Nature in spring.

    There is a theory that this Passion Story set in Jerusalem in the early first century may be a typical Jewish “suffering righteous victim” saga. This theme has been very relevant throughout Jewish history, as the Jews must have wondered why they had to experience one defeat, destruction or captivity after another, mainly by the empires like the Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires, which surrounded and continually threatened them.  Some say that the Passion Story began as an independent unit and that Mark in Rome added the rest of his zodiacal Gospel to this Passion story. Certainly Rome was a convenient location for Mark’s blending of Hellenistic and Hebrew sources, as well as Peter’s input, in order to create this sophisticated literary work.

    Darlison concludes his book by reaffirming Mark’s “Way of the Cross” as an appropriate spirituality for today. This “Way” involves a negative aspect: the painful crucifixion of the carnal self, the ego and excessive appetites. However, another name could be “The Way of the Cross and the Crown”.  Jesus shows that a new start is on the horizon when he  indicates that he will return to Galilee and will meet the disciples there, probably as Yahweh Shemesh, Yahweh Helios or Yahweh Sol, after enacting the role on earth of Jesus/Yehoshua (meaning “Yahweh saves”).  Positive aspects then emerge of awakening from the sleep of the unlived life, of  the return to a new beginning  and  of the birthing of the Christ-spirit within the mind and soul (p.216).

    Looking ahead to the new Passover of the “Great Year”, the sun at the Spring/March equinox in 2160 CE will move from the sign and Age of Pisces and  into the sign and Age of Aquarius.  Yeats then wonders “What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

    A list of the signs of the Zodiac and their decans or nearby constellations, a lengthy bibliography and a useful general index conclude this thought-provoking and challenging book.                                                                                        

or, use the form below to post a comment or a review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>