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Marriage and Divorce of Astronomy and Astrology, A History of Astral Prediction from Antiquity to Newton
ISBN 978 - 1 -41 16- 8326 -6

Gordon Fisher

Contents Chapter 1. Some Sources of Astral Beliefs Chapter 2. From Astral Beliefs to Kepler, Fludd and Newton
Appendix to Chapter 2: Newton’s Laws

Chapter 3. Some Astrological Techniques Chapter 4. From Babylon to Copernicus Chapter 5. Stoics, Kepler, and Evaluations
Appendix to Chapter 4: Diodorus Siculus (of Sicily), Bibliotheca Historica, Book II, 28:29-31

Chapter 6. Earlier Christians and Astrology Chapter 7. From Ptolemy to Newton
Appendix to Chapter 7: Pierre d'Ailly, and Newton Again

Updates and Addenda


Chapter 1. Some Sources of Astral Beliefs Even a god cannot change the past. Agathon, born c. 445 B.C.E It has been said that though God cannot alter the past, historians can; it is perhaps because they can be useful to Him in this respect that He tolerates their existence. Samuel Butler, Erewhon Revisited, 1901 Who says there’s a past? Show me where it is!

1. The heavens, the ones where the stars and other assorted celestial objects are, were for a long time regarded as the place where the gods are, and the place from which directions are given and powers exerted for what takes place on earth. Aristotle said there is something beyond the bodies which are on earth, different and separate from them, and that the glory of this something grows greater as its distance from this world of ours increases. The primary body, he says, the one at the greatest distance from earth, is eternal and unchanging. For, Aristotle says confidently, surely there are gods, and they are immortal, and everyone agrees they are located in the highest place in the universe. He avers that the evidence of our senses tells us, at least with the certainty attainable by humans, that in the past, as far as our records reach (meaning as far as the records he looked at seemed to him to reach) no change has taken place in the outermost heavens. So he concluded that the primary body is something beyond earth, air, fire and water, which, he believed, make up the sort of things and activities we find on earth. This primary body is called the aether, Aristotle says, because it runs forever. 1 2. Aristotle based his theory on the evidence of our senses. He says phenomena confirm his theory. He also says his theory confirms the phenomena. That is, predictions made with his

Aristotle (384 -322 B.C.), De caelo (On the Heavens), 269b12- 16, 270b1-23, translated by J. L. Stocks.

In classical Greek, transliterated into Roman letters (more or less), aei thein means “to go on forever”. On the other hand, aither (often transliterated aether for some reason) means “upper air” or “the sky”, which suggests an origin of aither from the notion that the upper air or the sky goes on forever, as distinguished from the lower air, called by the Greeks aer (e = eta, not epsilon). One may be struck by the similarity of theo (o = omega, not omicron), “I run” to theos (o = omicron, not omega), “god”, but that may be accidental. On the other hand, Cicero says in his De natura deorum (On the Nature of the Gods) that “Zeno declares that the aether is god - if there is any meaning in a god without sensation, a form of deity that never presents itself to us when we offer up our prayers and supplications and make our vows.” (That’s the Stoic, Zeno of Citium, not Zeno of Elea, he of the paradoxes.) Plato stated in his Timaeus that the aither is a fifth element, and was quite taken with the analogy betweenfive elements and the five regular solids, as was Johannes Kepler much later. As shown in Euclid’s Elements, there are five and only five regular solids, the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the dodecahedron, and the icosahedron.


theory were verified by observation. He had an empirically based procedure, contrary to what some have said. Generously speaking, his failures appear often to have been due to lack of information, or incorrect interpretation of it; or to phenomena unnoticed or not examined closely enough; or to new stars (if any were known to him) and comets being regarded as being relatively near to our earth, perhaps because they showed change; or to insufficient knowledge of the chemical constitution of matter; and so on. That celestial objects are alive wasn't a bad conjecture in the context of what was known, since they appear to be self-moving. It seemed obvious that this is a characteristic of living entities, although there are some quite sessile creatures. Other motions, then, such as flight of spears or running water, must be caused by some entity or entities, or forces, acting on them from outside of themselves. This suggests that birds and caterpillars, for example, can move themselves, without external motivation or incitement, when they are alive and in a mobile condition. 3. That the celestial objects are divine wasn't too bad a conjecture, either, given the overall regularity and permanence of many of them visible without instrumental aids, over periods of time which are long relative to human lives. When Aristotle associates the divine with the outer heavens, he doesn't actually say the outer heavens or the stars are gods. He says they are like gods by virtue of their unchanging nature.2 On earth, change is everywhere. The living are born or sprout or otherwise come to be, are transformed or transform themselves, and eventually die or pass away or otherwise cease to exist. 3 Ores in the earth can be changed to metals, metals rust. Mountains explode or wear down. Waters flood or dry up, spring from the earth or fall from above; when boiled (usingfire) water turns into air and when frozen water turns into a transparent form of earth (the four basic elements in the theory of Empedocles and Aristotle are water, earth, fire and air). Only the stars appear permanent and unchanging, he says. But, he asks, are there any bodies which last forever in one form? Those who believe there are immortal gods, says Aristotle, may be prepared to believe this too, and that the planets and stars are such bodies.

4. The divinity and regularity of the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars were taken by many ancients as evidence that these celestial objects regulated or at least influenced various kinds of changes on earth. The objects were considered by some to be quite tyrannical, and to dictate events on earth. This extraterrestrial autocracy was taken to mean that one can make predictions about events on earth. If everything, or at least something, is dictated in advance, then it is reasonable to try to find out in advance what will happen. Success of prediction depends on events being completely or at least partly determined in advance of their happening. There was an association of the divinity and the regularity of celestial objects with what we may rather pedantically call astral determinism, the doctrine that some, at least, of the myriad changes on earth are dictated by stars and planets. 4 This, in turn, is associated with the

2 We can get around a potential contradiction here to the fact that Aristotle says stars are like gods, rather than that they are gods, by considering divine here as indicating that stars partake in someway of the gods, or by regarding them as permanent instruments of the gods, or in various other ways. 3 Aristotle also wrote a book called Peri geneseos kaiphthoras, otherwise known as De generatione et corruptione, often rather euphemistically translated into English as On coming- to- be and passing- away. 4 In ancient times, the planets were commonly taken to include our earth’s sun and moon, as well as the planets (in today’s sense of the term) which were visible to unassisted eyes, viz. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The word planet traces back to the Greek word planasthai, to wander, since these five celestial beings, together with


ancient but perennial (and frustrating) problem of determinism in general. Crudely, the problem is to decide whether or not everything that happens is in some way determined in advance, and if so to find out as much as one can about how this happens and what will happen. This is notoriously possible in connection with movements of celestial objects themselves. The question is, how many and what kind of changes on earth are determined in advance, and who or what determines them? One may conjecture that that really big and bright object, the sun, together with that smaller and not as bright one, the moon, and the (other) quite tiny five planets known to the ancient Greeks, are among the entities responsible, or at least executors under the command of some superior council or executor? 5. Connections between religion, astronomy, astrology and prediction are very ancient, no doubt prehistoric. In The Etruscans Begin to Speak, Zaharie Mayani describes a relatively late ceremony5 which unites the three. His description is based on a fresco on the wall of a tomb, known as the Tomb of the Augurs, which dates from 530 B.C.E. Two priests are seen marking out the bounds of a holy area consisting of a square in which two medians were marked, one running from north to south and the other from east to west. The quarters of the square are also subdivided, and each resulting section is assigned to a particular deity. The square is a kind of mirror of the heavens, since the divisions of the square correspond to a conceptual division of the sky. A priest could stand in the center of the square and with the help of a speci al staff determine in which zone of the square the direction of a celestial omen fell, hence which deity was sending the omen. Thus the holy area or templum constituted an observatory for determining positions of omens which could be used for predicting future events. The observations were a means of learning the will of the gods. 6

6. David Chandler writes: "In the mid-1970s …. Eleanor Moron began studying the dimensions of the temple7 in detail, convinced that these might contain the key to the way the temple had been encoded by the savants who designed it. After determining that the Cambodian measurement used at Angkor, the hat, was equivalent to approximately 0.4 meters (1.3 feet), Moron went on to ask how many hat were involved in significant dimensions of the temple, such as the distance between the western entrance (the only one equipped with its own causeway) and the central tower. The distance came to 1,728 hat, and three other components of this axis measured, respectively, 1,296,867, and 439 hat. Moron then argued that these figures correlated to the four ‘ages’, or yugas, of Indian thought. The first of these, the Krita Yuga, was a supposedly golden age, lasting 1,728,000 years. The next three ages lasted for 1,296,000, 864,000, and 432,000 years, respectively. The earliest age, therefore, was four times longer than the latest, the second earliest, twice as long. The last age is the Kali Yuga, in which we are living today. At the end of this era, it is believed, the universe will be destroyed, to be rebuilt by Brahman along similar lines, beginning with another golden age. The fact that the length of these four eras correlates exactly with particular distances along the east-west axis of Angkor Wat suggests that the “code” for the temple is in fact a kind of pun that can be read in terms of time
our sun and moon, appear to wander, albeit with notable regularity, among the stars (not including one being, our sun). 5 I.e., relative to prehistory, or for that matter to the beginning of historical records, or at least those which have been or are still known to historians or other recorders. 6 Zaharie Mayani, The Etruscans Begin to Speak, translation by Patrick Evans, 1962, of Les Étrusques commen çent parler, 1961, p. 222- 224. 7 at Angkor Wat in present -day Cambodia, built 12 th century C.E.


and space. The distances that a person entering the temple will traverse coincide with the eras that the visitor is metaphorically living through en route to the statue of Vishnu in the central tower. Walking forward and away from the west, which is the direction of death, the visitor moves backward into time, approaching the moment when the Indians proposed that time began. In her research, Moron also discovered astronomical correlations for ten of the most frequently occurring distances at Angkor Wat. Astronomers working with her found that the siting of the temple was related to the fact that its western gate aligned at sunrise with a small hill to the northeast, Phnom Bok. Moreover, at the summer solstice ‘an observer …. standing just in front of the western entrance can see the sunrise directly over the central tower of Angkor Wat’. This day, June 21, marked the beginning of the solar year for Indian astronomers and was sacred to a king whose name, Suryavarman, means ‘protected by the sun’ and who was a devotee of Vishnu. 8 The close fit of these spatial relationships to notions of cosmic time, and the extraordinary accuracy and symmetry of all the measurements at Angkor, combine to confirm the notion that the temple was in fact a coded religious text that could be read by experts moving along the walkways from one dimension to the next. The learned pan dits who determined the dimensions of Angkor Wat would have been aware of and would have reveled in its multiplicity of meanings. To those lower down in the society, perhaps, fewer and fewer meanings would be clear. We can assume, however, that even the poorest slaves were astonished to see this enormous temple, probably with gilded towers rising 60 meters (200 feet) above the ground and above the thatched huts of the people who had built it.” 9

7. This lining up of temples could serve utilitarian purposes. Ernst Zimmer reports that temples were aligned by the ancient Egyptians so they could be used as star clocks. Sun clocks were used for daytime measurement, and the Egyptians had water clocks which could be used day or night. However, they also determined the hours of the night by noting when certain constellations reached their highest point in the sky. In order to determine these zeniths, it was necessary to known where the meridian was. "This presented no difficulty for the Egyptians," says Zimmer, "since the determination of the north-south and east-west directions at the laying of the foundation-stone of a temple was among the most important functions of the king. The process of determining these directions was depicted in exactly the same way on reliefs from the 4th millennium up to the birth of Christ." 10 The measuring apparatus used by the king consisted of a straight edge (an alignment stick) bent upward at one end and with a plumb line attached, together with the split rib of a palm leaf. There are tables found in the burial chambers of the Egyptian pharaohs Ramses VI and IX dating from between about 1160 and 1120 B.C.E. which list what constellations correspond to what hour of the night, and show a picture of a sitting man. The process of observing the passage of the hours of the night required two such observers, aligned along the meridian.

8. These examples show ways stars were connected to prediction and time -keeping. People have tried to predict the future in many ways besides observing stars. Seneca says of the
8 Suryavarman commissioned the building of Angkor Wat. Vishnu, in the Hindu triad of main gods, is, among other things, the preserver of the universe. The other two members of the triad are Brahma, the creator, and Shiva, the destroyer. 9 David Chandler, A History of Cambodia, Westview Press (HarperCollins), 2nd edn updated, 1996, p. 5 1 -52. And then, of course, there are Stonehenge and other European stone circles and the like, the alleged alignment of the Egyptian pyramids, and so on and on. 10 Ernst Zimmer, Die Geschichte der Sternkunde, von den ersten Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, 1931, p. 12.


Etruscans that they were consummately skilled in foretelling future events by interpreting lightning. We (the Romans), Seneca says, think that because clouds collide, lightning is emitted; they (the Etruscans) think the clouds collide so lightning will be emitted. In this way, they say, the gods can send messages to humans about what is destined to happen. 11 9. Sometimes visions of the future were read in bowls of water. E. R. Dodds speaks of this use of scrying, as it is sometimes called, for precognition. This is future-telling carried out by staring into a translucent or shining object, called a speculum, until a moving vision or hallucination is produced which seems to come from within the object. It is said that only a small proportion of people will be able to see such pictures. In modern times, the process is best known as crystal-gazing, but it can be carried out with other objects besides crystals. Crystals don't seem to have been used as specula before Byzantine times, but the practice of scrying is much older. In one ancient method, a mirror was used as a speculum (presumably this would guarantee pictures could be seen). Catoptromancy is divination using a mirror or other reflecting object. 12 10. In another ancient method, used more frequently as time went on, the speculum was simply a bowl of water. Sometimes a film of oil (occasionally, flour) was spread on the surface of the water. This method was known as lecanomancy, meaning "divination by bowl". The Greeks and Romans got this method from the Middle East, where it had a long history. It appears to have developed from a method in which events were foretold by spreading oil on water, and interpreting the moving shapes formed by the oil. Evidently prolonged staring at the shapes led to visions in some seers, and eventually the visions in the seers became more important than the shapes in the oil. It was later realized that visions could be induced just by staring into the water, without the oil. However, the oil was sometimes still used, presumably because it was traditional or because it increased luminosity. The Greeks and Romans took up the practice in the 1 st century B.C.E. or earlier, probably importing it from Egypt. By this time, the use of oil seems to have been abandoned. 13

11. A more direct way to know the future is by means of revelation. Among the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians (and others), this was often taken to happen in dreams. A god appeared in a "night vision" and sometimes clearly predicted the future or gave clear commands. Sometimes, though, the dream was mysterious, and had to be interpreted. Besides interpretation of dreams, there were methods of divination based on observations of the births of humans, sheep and other animals, especially abnormal and monstrous births. There were techniques based on observations of involuntary facial movements of people, and on physiognomy, the features of people's faces and skulls. In another popular method, the diviner read the entrails of animals killed or sacrificed. With entrails in general, the method was known as extispicy or haruspicy, and with livers, hepatoscopy.14

11 Seneca, Questiones naturales (about 62 A.D.), II.32, translated by Thomas Corcoran, 1971, v. 1, p. 150-151. 12 A. Delatte, La catoptromancie grecque et ses derivés, 1932. 13 E. R. Dodds, "Supernormal Phenomena in Classical Antiquity", in The Ancient Concept of Progress, and other Essays on Greek Literature and Belief, 1973, p. 186- 188. 14 ~douard Dhorme, Les Religions de Babylonie et d'Assyrie, 1949, p. 276- 28 1.


12. Divination no doubt has its sources in basic features of animal behavior and learning. Specific expectations are linked to specific observations. Signs are recognized. Among humans, signs of future events or processes may be described with language, and transmitted from person to person. The use of such signs can be very helpful in making decisions, and for overcoming indecisiveness. In favorable cases, such signs are always or at least frequently followed by the signified, and may indicate caused events. Occasional failures may be attributed to faulty observation or interpretation of the sign, to intervention of external powers, to chance, etc. A preponderance of failures may, or may not, lead to alteration in interpretation of the signs, or even abandonment of a project to use such signs for predictions and projections of future events. 13. Certain decisions based on chance are a kind of limiting case of decisions based on signs. Gamblers, for example, read thrown dice, flipped coins, dealt cards, etc., and make decisions based on their readings about who gets to possess certain amounts of money. The signs in this case—the numbers on the dice, etc.—cause money to be distributed in this or that way in some sense of "cause", but not, it seems, in the sense we use when we say, for example, that the earth causes an eclipse of the moon when it gets between the moon and the earth. A person who makes investments on the stock market according to hunches (which are kinds of signs) may or may not be gambling in the same way as people who play roulette, depending on the source of the hunches. If the hunches are based in some way, perhaps unconsciously, on actual economic trends, the investor's chances of profiting are customarily considered by many to be better than if they are not so based. Inside traders (those who use information about future financial transactions illegally) read signs of a kind which reduces their chances of loss considerably—unless, perhaps, if they're caught at it. We can only conjecture about how many important political, military and business decisions have been made by flipping a coin or an equivalent, or—sometimes reducing the chances of failure to some degree—on the basis of probabilities drawn up by statisticians, engineers or managers.

14. One motive for wanting to predict the future is the removal of anxiety, temporary though it may be. It can be very consoling to decide one knows in advance what an outcome will be. Even if the decision proves to have been wrong, the previous peace of mind will not be taken away. Nancy Reagan, wife of the former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, says in her memoirs, regarding her use of astrology to make schedules for the president: "Astrology was simply one of the ways I coped with the fear I felt after my husband almost died" (referring to the assassination attempt of March 30, 1981). Speaking of an astrologer she consulted, Joan Quigley, Nancy says: "Joan's recommendations had nothing to do with policy or politics—ever. Her advice was confined to timing—to Ronnie's schedule, and to what days were good or bad, especially with regard to his out-of-town trips." (Of course, timing is a part of politics.) "While I was never certain," says Nancy, "that Joan's astrological advice was helping to protect Ronnie, the fact is that nothing like March 30 ever happened again. Was astrology one of the reasons? I don't really believe it was, but I don't really believe it wasn't. But I do know this: it didn't hurt, and I'm not sorry I did it." 1 5

15. One can, of course, have faith in signs of this sort without attributing religious significance to them. But, as Walter Burkert tells us, in ancient cultures signs about the future—

Nancy Reagan, with William Novak, M y T u r n , T h e M e m o i r s o f N a n c y R e a g a n , 1989, p. 44,47,49.


omens—were often considered to come from gods. The gods use signs, clear or crypti c, to give orders and guidance to men. Among the classical Greeks and Romans, who had no written scriptures, signs were a principal way for gods to communicate with men. Thus among the Greeks, someone who doubted the efficacy of divination was liable to be suspected of impiety or godlessness. All of the Greek gods dispense signs, and especially the king of them all, Zeus. The ability to interpret divine signs requires special inspiration, and this ability is dispensed by Apollo, the son of Zeus. 16. Among the classical Greeks, a specialist in interpreting signs was a seer, a mantis, someone who makes contact with the gods. The word for god, theos, is closely related to the art of the seer. A seer is a theopropos, one able to sense—see or hear—the gods. An uninterpreted sign is a thesphaton, a saying or command of the gods. What a seer performs is a theiazein or entheazein, an act inspired by the gods. In the Iliad, the seer Kalchas is the son of Thestor. In the Odyssey, the seer with second sight is Theoklymenos, and the tribe which guards the Oracle of the Dead in Epirus is called the Thesprotoi, those who see the gods, the see-ers of the gods. A seer may speak in an abnormal state 16 so a specially endowed interpreter of the words of a seer, a prop hetes, may be required. Thus the art of interpretation becomes a more or less rational technique, even when the words of the seer—hence of the gods—are cryptic.17 17. Any abnormal occurrence which can't be manipulated could become a sign for the ancient seers: a dream, a sudden sneeze, a stumble, a twitch, a chance encounter, the sound of a name caught in passing, celestial phenomena such as lightning, comets, shooting stars, eclipses of sun or moon, even a drop of rain. We see here a kind of border zone between divination, and scientific psychology, meteorology and astronomy. The observation of the flight of birds played a special role in Greek prediction, perhaps from a prehistoric Indo-European tradition. In sacrifices, everything is a sign: whether the animal goes willingly to the altar and bleeds to death quickly; whether or not the fire flares swiftly, what happens when parts of the animal are burned in the fire; how the tail curls and the bladder bursts. The inspection of the livers of the victims developed into a special art. How the various lobes are formed and colored was evaluated at every stage of slaughter. This technique appears to have been transmitted from Mesopotamia, probably in the 8 t h or 7th century B.C.E. There is an allusion to the practice by Homer. The Etruscans obtained their much more detailed haruspicina (as these gut omens were called) from the same source, not via the Greeks. The inspection of entrails was the prime task of the seers who accompanied armies into battle. Herds of sacrificial victims were driven along with the armies, although the animals were also used for food. Without favorable signs no battle was joined. Before the battle of Plataea (479 B.C.E.), the Greeks and Persians stayed encamped opposite each other for ten days because the omens didn't advise either side to attack.18

18. The philosophical question as to how omens, predetermination, and so-called freedom of the will can be reconciled began to be discussed extensively in Hellenistic times. The discovery of natural laws in the sphere of astronomy acted as a catalyst in this discussion,
16 The word mantis for seer is related to the English term “mania”, but also to the term “mentor”.

17 Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, translation of Griechische Religion der archaischen und klasischen Epoche, 1977, by John Raffan, 1985, p. 111- 1 14. 18 Burkert, l.c.


and at the same time produced a new and very influential form of divination in the shapes and forms of astrology. Earlier, one could always try to avoid the outcomes predicted by unfavorable signs by waiting and hoping the outcome would not occur after all, or by acting or not acting in ways which lead to circumvention, or by performing purification, or by praying, etc. But according to some astrological beliefs, outcomes necessarily follow their astrological signs, at least for events of some kinds. In other methods of prediction, it was frequently important that even favorable omens be accepted wi th an approving word or vow to the gods in order for them to achieve their fullest efficacy, but it was often believed that in the case of astrological signs, whether or not they were of divine origin, appeals were useless. 19 19. In classical Greece, seers or priests or priestesses, called oracles, were attached to particular localities where they could be asked to consult with the gods. The localities were also known as oracles, and cults were attached to them. The gods were especially disposed to give signs in these places. Success in the interpretation of such signs led, from the 8 t h century B.C.E. onward, to the fame and importance of certain places which extended beyond the region of the oracle, sometimes becoming international. The Greeks called a place of this kind a chresterion (place where chresmos is performed, i.e. where needed answers are provided) or manteion (place of divination, of contact with gods). The Romans called such a place an oraculum. It appears that preservation of oracular utterances was one of the earliest applications of writing in Greece, starting about 750 B.C.E. Thus the utterances were freed from the context of question and answer sessions with the gods, and could become important at other places at other times. Age inspires respect, sometimes, so ancient sayings were collected in writing and thus were always more or less readily at hand. However, about the same time as actual sayings began to be recorded, forged sayings also appeared. 20

20. Revelation is customarily considered to be the basis of Biblical prophecy, both in the sense in which prophets of the Bible predicted the future, and in the sense in which people up to our own time have interpreted the Bible as providing knowledge of their own futures. It is always arresting to remember that the arch-scientist Sir Isaac Newton was a life -long student of biblical prophecy, and that his last work, published posthumously, was Observations on the Prophecies in Daniel and Revelation (1732). The kind of revelation which is at the root of biblical prophecy is often direct communication from an omniscient deity. It is only occasionally communicated in dreams. In general, no inspection and interpretation of natural events and no inferential reason ing are required. The content, nature and validity of biblical prophecy is, of course, a vast subject which we will not broach here.

21. For some, the age of Biblical prophecy did not end with the prophets of the Old Testament and apostles of the New Test ament. For example, there was Nostradamus (15031566), who has played an extraordinary role in people's attempts to know the future. Richard Popkin reports that Nostradamus first asserted that he was a prophet in the Biblical sense, and that God had reveal ed future events to him, despite the fact that the prevailing view of the Church was that prophecy of this kind terminated with the death of the apostles. Nostradamus told King Henri II of France that he was a member of one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, the
B u rk e rt , l . c . 20Burkert,l.c.,p. 114,117.


Issachar, which had been given the gift of prophecy.21 Nostradamus was the grandson of two prominent rabbis who converted to Christianity shortly before his birth. He became a court physician, astrologer and advisor. At some point, says Richard Popkin, he abandoned his stance as a prophet in the biblical sense, and told his son that God had revealed future events to him by means of astronomical cycles, i.e. astrology. However, it seems that Nostradamus left no indication of the astrological techniques he used. We have only his completed predictions, in verse form, in his Centuries (1555).
22. Among all the techniques devised by people to predict the future, the concentration here will be mainly on ones based on observations of celestial objects. This includes what we now call astronomy and astrology. For many centuries the terms astronomy and astrology (or their equivalents in various languages) were widely used as synonyms. It has been suggested that astronomy originally referred merely to the connection of meteorological phenomena with the risings and settings of certain stars and constellations. An astronomer, in this sense, was someone who assigned individual stars or whole constellations roles in prognosticating or even determining weather, presumably on the basis of accumulated observations. By the 5 t h century B.C.E., however, a more extended meaning had been given to the term. Socrates, according to Plato in his dialogue Theaetetus, defined astronomy as the discipline devoted to investigating the movements of the stars, including the sun and moon, and the relations of their speeds. This term did not find favor with the next generation, and Aristotle customarily used the term astrology (astrologia) where Plato and others had used astronomy (astronomia). Aristotle's influence lent a long life span to this use of astrology. The development of astrology as understood in most present-day senses of the word led to a separate term for astronomy in our sense of the word: the term was mathematics (mathematike). This term in turn was in time usurped to apply to mathematics in our sense of the word. Near the end of antiquity, the circle closed. Once again astronomy (astronomia) came to denote, as it still does, people's scientific endeavors to find rational explanations for the nature and motions of the stars. But not until the 17 th century of our era did this readopted term come to definitely exclude astrology. 22

23. Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) distinguished in his Etymologiae between natural and superstitious astrology. The former, he says, is just another name for astronomy, while the latter "is that science which is practised by the mathematici, who read prophecies in the heavens, and who place the twelve constellations as rulers over the members of man's body and soul, and who predict the nativities and dispositions of men by the courses of the stars." 23 In the Etymologiae, the mathematici and genethliaci (casters of natal horoscopes) appear in company with many other representatives of magic. However, Laura Smoller reports that Isidore in his Etymologiae distinguishes between astronomia which deals with the motions of the heavens and astrologia which deals with their effects. But she goes on to say: "The neat distinction between the two words did not persist, however, and the terms were blurred, jumbled, and sometimes reversed throughout the Middle Ages. Pierre d'Ailly, for example, fairly consistently used astronomia for
21 Richard Popkin, "Predicting, Prophecying, Divining and Foretelling from Nostradamus to Hume", History of European Ideas,v. 5, 1984, p. 117-135. 22 Frederick Cramer, Astrology in Roman Law and Politics, 1954, p.3. 23 Quoted by Theodore Otto Wedel in The Mediaeval Attitude toward Astrology, Particularly in England, 1920, p. 27.


"astrology" and astrologia for "astronomy." (p. 27). Presumably the reason she uses the quotation marks in to indicate that "astrology" and "astronomy" are here used in some presentday senses. 2 4 24. Lynn Thorndike reports that John of Salisbury (1 120(?)-1 180)uses magica, mathematica and maleficium almost synonymously. Thorndike doesn't translate, but I take these to mean magical art, mathematical art and sorcery, respectively Furthermore, John explains that the word mathesis, when it has a short "e", denotes learning in general, but when it has a long "e", it signifies the "figments of divination, whose varieties are many and diverse". 25 Wedel remarks: "Although John of Salisbury was unusually sane and enlightened in the matter of medieval superstitions, he subscribed fully to the patristic doctrine of demonology. The Church Fathers, he says, rightly denounced all forms of magic—species mathematicae —inasmuch as all of these 26 pestiferous arts spring from an illicit pact with the devil." Albertus Magnus (Albert the Great; 1193-1280) distinguishes two kinds of mathematics. One is the abstract science in our sense of the word. The other, more probably called mathesis (with a long "e”, this time) is divination by the stars, which may be either good or bad, superstitious or scientific. 27 25. Richard Lemay tells us that John of Salisbury also distinguished between the mathematicus, concerned with mathesis, and the physicus, concerned with the philosophy of nature. The former, according to John, studies abstract figures extracted from nature, while the latter studies processes concretely embedded in nature. The mathematici are therefore concerned with stable, unchanging objects, while the physici depend on evidence of the senses. Both, however, try to discover the courses of nature, and the extent of their regularity or irregularity. In John's view, physica had absorbed much of what had long been considered as the proper object of mathematica. In particular, foreknowledge of the future, formerly the concern of the mathematicus, he considered to have become a domain of the physicus. However, in making his distinction between mathematics and physics, John was embarassed by the ancient strictures placed on mathesis by the Church Fathers, because much that had been linked with mathesis had become the proper concern of aphysicus. 28 Thus John indicates not a union of mathematica and physica, not a mathematical physics, but a movement from investigations based on mathema tical abstractions to investigations based on the human senses.

26. Michael Scot (early 13th century) often used astronomia to denote what today would usually be called astrology and "distinguishes between mathesis, or knowledge, and matesis (without an “h”), or divination, and between mathematica (with an "h"), which may be taught freely and publicly, and matematica (without an "h"), which is forbidden to Christians".29 Thorndike states that by the time of Peter of Abano (1250-131 8(?)), the words "astronomy" and "astrology" were beginning to be used in about their present meaning. 30 This
24Laura Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars, 1995. 25Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 1923-1958, v. 2, 1923, p. 158. 26Wedel, ibid., p. 37. 27Thorndike, ibid., p. 580. 28Richard Lemay, Abu Ma'shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century, The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology 1962, p. 300-307. 29Lemay, ibid., p. 319. 30Tho rndike, ibid., p. 890.


may be compared with the claim of Frederick Cramer, referred to above, that it was not until the 1 7 t h century that this occurred—more precisely, Cramer places the distinction in the "Age of Newton". Perhaps it is a matter of who was using the terms—philosophers (natural or otherwise), poets, educated or uneducated people, etc. In any case, Peter himself sought to establish, against various theologians and scholastics who had distinguished between the two, that they were actually the same. 31 27. Astrology, as formerly practiced, was intertwined with other methods of prediction, with various kinds of magic, and with alchemy. There were many links between astrology, magic, sorcery and witchcraft. Astrology sometimes provided a coherent justification for such methods of prediction as geomancy, palmistry, physiognomy and similar activities. Cornelius Agrippa, author of a famous work on magic in the early 16 th century, declared that all these skills of divination are rooted and grounded upon astrology. Palmists and physiognomists, for example, assigned different parts of the hand or head to different signs of the zodiac according to correspondences postulated between heavenly bodies and earthly substances. 28. Geomancy was especially linked to astrology. The word geomancy is somewhat elastic in meaning, but in a narrow sense it is a method of divination in which a set of 16 patterns is obtained by getting someone (a child, perhaps) to draw lines in sand or on a slate or paper, or obtaining other presumably random outcomes, such as by spinning wheels in such a way that exactly two outcomes are possible, or flipping a coin, or grasping a number of beans and seeing whether there are an odd or even number, etc. Each of the sixteen patterns consists of 4 choices of "even" and "odd" depending on whether the number of lines or beans drawn is even or odd, or whether the coin comes up head or tails, etc. Each of the 16 patterns is a house, and the set of patterns are interpreted according to various rules. Geomancy, as customarily practiced, also employed the astrological hou ses, often taken to be 12 in number. Analogies were drawn between the astrological houses and the geomantic houses. According to a leading textbook of the time on the subject (1591), geomancy was "none other than astrology". 32 29. Until relatively recently, astronomy/astrology was commonly compounded with alchemy, magic, medicine, divination and weather prediction by many people. Some people still do associate some or all of these. 30. It has often been conjectured that astrology/astronomy originated in a marriage of religion and science. Apparently it was born in Babylonia and reached an apex in the Hellenistic era. Here Babylonia is taken to be synonymous with Chaldea and Mesopotamia, and to include lands occupied at various times by Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians and Iraqis. In Hellenistic times, Egypt, and especially Alexandria, was a renowned center for astrological and astronomical studies. In a narrow sense, the Hellenistic period ran roughly from the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.E.) to the 1 st century B.C.E., when the Romans under Augustys conquered Egypt in 30 B.C.E. This conquest culminated in the battle of Actium at which the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by the forces of Octavian. Others
31 Graziella Vescovini, "Peter of Abano and Astrology", in Astrology, Science and Astrology, Historical Essays, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 23-24. 32 See J. D. North, Chaucer's Universe, 1988, p. 234-243.


make the Hellenistic era run from the time of Alexander the Great to the end of the ancient world, often taken to be marked by the victory of Christianity in the 4 t h century C.E., the age of Constantine the Great. 31. The first extant horoscope is said to date from 410 B.C.E. However personal or judicial astrology, requiring the casting of individual horoscopes, developed later than omen astrology, the prediction of events involving kings and kingdoms on the basis of planetary positions and appearances, and on various meteorological phenomena. Personal astrology was based on investigation of planetary positions (including the sun and moon) at the time of birth or conception, and seems to have been founded on a thoroughly deterministic conception of the cosmos. Side by side with it flourished catarchic astrology, which only assumed non-fatalistic influences on mundane enterprises like travel, marriage and business. Some have suggested that the two kinds of astrology, fatalistic and non -fatalistic, have conflicting bases. Either stars exert an immutable or merely an avoidable influence on affairs, although this distinction might not have been clearly made by individual users of astrology. However, it is not inconsistent to believe that stars exert an immutable influence on some affairs and not on others, nor even to believe that stars exert mutuable influences. 32. Although the origin of omen astrology is usually attributed to the ancient Babylonians,judicial (personal, horoscopic) astrology appears to have arisen in Egypt, during the Hellenistic era. This is what most people understand by the unmodified word "astrology" today. The originators of judicial astrology may actually have been Greeks living in Egypt, rather than native Egyptians (whoever they might have been). W. and H. G. Gundel have recorded numerous indications of the Egyptian origin of judicial astrology in Hellenistic texts, including numerous writings in the collection called the Hermetica, other writings in a handbook attributed to King Nechepso (reigned 677-672 B.C.E.) and his high priest Petosiris, and other

sources. 33. As to the Mesopotamians, the Gundels say: "The investigation of the sources leads to the result that for the Seleucid era in Mesopotamia [312-65 B.C.E.] the later much-praised ideological-philosophical foundations of a 'Babylonian' system cannot be established. The assertion that the 'Babylonians' had considered the grandiose idea of cosmic sympathies as the essence of astrology, and expressed this conception in systematic and technical works and books of oracles, must be regarded as a fantasy of later authors who do not attain real value as sources." 34 For example, in their omen astrology, the Babylonians might base a prediction on whether or not such and such a planet was visible at some position in the sky, located by means of a nearby constellation, but there appears to have been nothing corresponding to a systematic interpretation of the positions of the planets (including the sun and moon) in a zodiac or system of decans. (Decans are, roughly speaking, subdivisions of the zodiac, with 3 decans to a zodiac sign).

33 (W. and H. G. Gundel, Astrologumena, Die astrologische Literatur in der Antike und ihre Geschichte, 1966, p. 40.) 34 Gundel and Gundel, ibid., p. 51.


34. According to Otto Neugebauer: "Before the fifth century B.C. celestial o min a probably did not include predictions for individuals, based on planetary positions in the signs of the zodiac and on their mutual configurations. In this latest and most significant modification astrology became known to the Greeks in the hellenistic period. But with the exception of some typical Mesopotamian relics the doctrine was changed in Greek hands to a universal system in which form alone it could spread all over the world. Hence astrology in the modern sense of the term, with its vastly expanded set of "methods" is a truly Greek creation, in many respects parallel to the development of Christian theology a few centuries later." 3 5

35. What was it that made fatalistic astrology-astronomy survive in the face of persistent onslaughts from the best minds of the Greek world? One answer, proposed by Frederick Cramer, is a faith which was as deep as the skepticism of their enemies—a faith in reason. Astrologer/astronomers and their followers believed that descending through the ages since the creation of the world, there have been unending chains of cause and effect relations which have obeyed immutable laws of nature which not even a deity can contravene. They believed, like later scientists have, that the cosmos functions like a supremely well-designed machine constructed on rational principles and governed entirely by rational nature laws. 36. Certain philosophers of the Hellenistic era found in rational fatalism the faith in reason which scientists of all ages have hoped for: assurance that their concepts of the nature of things possess cosmic validity in space and time. Ancient scientists became supporters of fatalism, and many of them championed fatalistic astrology/astronomy. Their logic seemed sound. That stars—for instance, the sun—have some powerful influence on people is unquestionable. Five other "stars" besides the sun and moon were known whose orbits wandered among the fixed stars—the five then-known planets of our solar system. Weren't these also likely to influence mundane affairs? The zodiac can be used to trace the wandering of the sun among the other stars. Wasn't the zodiac therefore to be reckoned with?36

37. The fallibility of astrologers was in many cases obvious but instead of probing to see if the axiomatic foundations of astrology were at fault, many people were inclined to blame failures on human fallibility. Astrologers were compared to physicians. Who condemns medical science as a whole because a physician occasionally makes a wrong diagnosis, and fails to be able to cure all diseases? It may seem inconceivable to modern minds that highly cultured Greeks and Romans succumbed to the spell of what to some of us seems a monstrous web of truth and fiction. Yet unless we try to place ourselves as best we can into the spirit of a given historical period, we cannot hope to understand it from a point of view which resembles to some extent how a person who lived during that period might have understood it. The two premises on which the fascination of astrology for many of the best minds of the time was based, according to Cramer, were these: (1) by the use of the proper techniques the future can be ascertained; (2) astrology alone is a truly scientific method for doing this. Today many no longer subscribe to these tenets, but many still believe that anything rationally possible is at least theoretically attainable by scientific means. When condemning beliefs and actions of the ancient astrologers, one should in fairness remember their glowing faith in reason.37 It can be sobering to realize that
35 Otto Neugebauer, A Hi sto ry of Ancien t Math ema tical A strono my, 1975, Part Two, p. 613. 36 Cramer, ibid. 37 Cramer, ibid., p. 28 1- 283.


people who lived in past times had as many varieties and degrees of certainty and uncertainty about their knowledge of the world as we do today. Furthermore, today we can only work with what fragments of their writings or other material traces have survived up to our present times, and each of us must interpret such traces as we come in contact with according to our own lights, and must likewise interpret reports and interpretations of others more recent than the people of the historical period under consideration. 38. The stars move according to patterns, accessible to reason. Do our lives move according to patterns accessible to reason? Astrologers of all epochs have believed they do, and that the patterns of our lives and the patterns of the stars are related in some way. The underlying argument may be based on analogy. The gods, or God, rules the stars systematically, likewise he rules us. And—a crucial assumption for astrologers—our movements and the movements of the stars—by which astrologers customarily meant the planets, taken to include the sun and moon— are somehow correlated, since they must obey the same commands or laws. From this point of view, astrologers may fail because they postulate over-simple relationships. As Einstein is reputed to have once said, everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
39. The Stoics were prime supporters of astrology. Stoicism was one of the foremost philosophical doctrines of the Hellenistic era. The Stoics as a whole tried to base their views on what they took to be the best physical science of their time, and they did a fair bit of theorizing about the nature of things. The physics of the Stoics has been viewed as a kind of deterministic thermodynamics. According to S. Sambursky, the cornerstone of Stoic physics is the concept of a continu um in all of its aspects. Among the later Stoics, a revolutionary advance was made when the dynamic functions of fire and air were extended to cover all natural phenomena. "From a certain standpoint," he says, "this may be called a first tentative approach to the conception of thermodynamic processes in the inorganic world, a conception which began to percolate through into the scientific view of later generations." In addition to the continuum itself, the Stoics had the concept of pn euma, that which binds matter together. The most significant quality of the pneuma is a kind of tension "by the force of which", Sambursky says, "it becomes an entity not altogether unlike the concept of a physical field in contemporary science". 3 8

40. It appears, however, that the Stoics differed among themselves as to the constitution of nature. According to David Hahm, Zeno, one of the three heads of the heads of the Stoa in the 3 rd century B.C.E., defined nature as "a craftsmanlike fire, proceeding methodically [literally, by a path] to genesis." Hahm emphasizes that Zeno means that nature is fire, one of the four basic elements in the Aristotelian theory of the constitution of nature. 39 Zeno's dynamic "fire" suggests the concept of energy as used in present-day science. Here Zeno differs sharply from Aristotle, for whom fire or heat was the most active and important element in nature, but still only a tool that nature uses to accomplish its ends, and not nature itself. 40

38 S. Sambursky, The Physical World of the Greeks, translated from the Hebrew by Merton Dagut, 1960, p. 132-133, 135. 39 David Hahm, The Origins of Stoic Cosmology, 1977, p. 200. 40 Hahm, ibid., p. 207.


41. One of the other heads of the Stoa, Cleanthes, held a similar view, although he seems to have spoken of "vital heat" rather than fire as the substance that holds together the cosmos. 41 Hahm comments that "the most striking thing about the three functions of heat in Cleanthes is that they correspond exactly to the three functions of soul in Aristotle"—the nutritive, perceptive and rational faculties of the soul. (Hahm, l.c., p. 146-7.) What for Aristotle is caused by soul, for Cleanthes is caused by the vital heat. Finally, Chrysippus, the third of the heads of the Stoa, held the theory of pneuma which Sambursky refers to. The pneuma according to Chrysippus is a kind of mixture of fire and air, and it is what the "world-soul" is made out of—for the Stoics believed that the universe has a soul, albeit a material one. In Chrysippus' view, it is this pneuma which holds everything together. 42 42. Some of the Stoics were as strict, or stricter, determinists than Laplace. Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827) is a symbol of belief in the usefulness of Newton's laws of classical mechanics for predicting the future and retrodicting the past, on the basis that the future and past are completely determined, and completely describable by means of these laws. According to Newton's prescription, this is to be done by setting up differential equations using his laws of motion, and solving them to find expressions from which quantitative predictions and retrodictions can be derived. In his works on celestial mechanics and theory of probabilities, Laplace asserts that all events, no matter how momentous or insignificant, follow certain mathematically formulable laws of nature just as surely, he says, as the revolutions of the planets follow from Newton's laws of motion and gravitation. When people don't know what links events to the rest of the universe, they may attribute them to final causes, goals to which they tend, or to divine purpose, or to sheer chance. But, he says, these are only expressions of our ignorance of true causes. An event can't occur without a cause. We make choices only when we are caused to. Otherwise our choices would be the result of blind chance, which Laplace rejects. We should regard the present state of the world as the effect of its previous states, and the cause of its subsequent states. An intelligence who could know at a given instant values for all the forces or momenta which propel nature, and values for the positions of all the bodies in it, could enter these values into statements of the laws of mechanics and calculate future or past momenta and positions. However much of nature is determined by forces and positions—Laplace evidently believed this to be all of nature—could be predicted or retrodicted in this way. However, Laplace says, the human mind offers only a weak idea of such an intelligence, as seen in the perfection which it has been able to bring to astronomy and mechanics. By way of comparison, for the Stoics everything comes to pass in the world according to an unbroken causal connection, according to a law of fate, in which not even a god can change something.43 Manilius' line, fata regunt orbem, certa stant omnia lege (the fates rule the world, all things exist by law), may be regarded as pure Stoicism. 44

43. Aristotle thought there were two kinds of physics, one for the sublunary world, and one for the heavens. Some hold that the Stoics invented astrophysics, in a manner of speaking,

Hahm, ibid., p. 142.

43 42

Cf. Max Pohlenz, Die Stoa, Geschichte einer geistigen Bewegung, 1948, v. 1, p. 102. Manilius, Astronomica, between 9 and 15 A.D.

Hahm, ibid., p. 158, 165.


because they believed that the same physical laws apply throughout the universe. They believed that such laws determine everything that happens. Nevertheless, they maintained we are still free in the sense that we can always choose to accept what is going to happen as Fate and Nature decree, or not. This constitutes living according to nature. Whether or not we do live according to Nature makes no difference to what happens. What is bound to happen will happen anyway. But how we choose makes a great difference to the quality of our lives. We can act in conflict with Nature, and suffer disappointment and pain and grief. Or we can walk with Fate, and achieve peace. Furthermore, according to the Stoics, since all things are constituted of one and the same stuff, and subject in every respect to the same laws, there is a kind of universal "cosmic sympathy" among things, which is what makes divination and astrology work.45
44. H. Rackham says: "The Stoics ... held that the universe is controlled by God, and in the last resort is God. The sole ultimate reality is the divine Mind, which expresses itself in the world-process. But only matter exists, for only matter can act and be acted upon; mind therefore is matter in its subtlest form, Fire or Breath or Aether. The primal fiery Spirit creates out of itself the world that we know, persists in it as its heat or soul or 'tension,' is the cause of all movement and all life, and ultimately by a universal conflagration will reabsorb the world into itself. But there will be no pause: at once the process will begin again, unity will again pluralize itself, and all will repeat the same course as before. Existence goes on for ever in endlessly recurring cycles, following a fixed law or formula (logos); this law is Fate or Providence, ordained by God: the Stoics even said that the 'Logos' is God. And the universe is perfectly good: badness is only apparent, evil only means the necessary imperfection of the parts viewed separately from the whole. The Stoic system then was determinist: but in it nevertheless they found room for freedom of the will. Man's acts like all other occurrences are the necessary effects of causes; yet man's will is free, for it rests with him either willingly to obey necessity, the divine ordinance, or to submit to it with reluctance. His happiness lies in using his divine intellect to understand the laws of the world, and in submitting his will thereto." 4 6

45. Auguste Bouch ª-Leclercq says of Stoic attitudes toward astrology: "That which especially predisposed the Stoics to declare themselves guarantors of astrological speculations, and to look for demonstrable reasons for them, was their unshakable faith in the legitimacy of divination, of which astrology is only one particular form. They never wanted to depart from a kind of reasoning that their adversaries considered a vicious circle and which can be summarized like this: ‘If the gods exist, they speak; in fact they speak, therefore they exist.’ 47 The conception of beings of superior intelligence that would be forbidden to communicate with man appeared to them to be nonsense." However, Bouch ª-Leclercq says, an ordinary person wants to know the future in order to avoid predicted dangers. On the face of it, this involves the person in a contradiction. For he or she wants to be able to modify what has been predicted to be certain to happen. Some of the Stoics "exhaust themselves in vain efforts to reconcile logic, which leads

45 Cf. Jim Tester,A History of Western Astrology, 1987, p. 30, 32, 68-69. 46 H. Rackham, Introduction to edition and translation (1933, 1951) of De natura deorum (On the Nature of the Gods) by Cicero (106-43 B.C.), p. viii- ix. 47 This employs the fallacy of affirming the consequent, or assuming the converse, but Bouch ª-Leclercq says in a note that it is "the citadel" of the Stoics —this is hard to believe, given the acuteness of some Stoics.


straight to fatalism, with practical common sense, which demands of divination some usable warnings."
46. It appears, though, that we can escape from this contradiction by holding that when we divine the will of the gods, we find what will happen if such and such conditions aren't met— a sacrifice or other offering is not made, or the like. Bouché-Leclercq argues against this. He says: "If the future is conditional, it cannot be foreseen, since the conditions could be too, in which case there would be no more place among them for free acts, with freedom escaping by definition because of the necessity of arriving at a decision set down in advance." That is, if some future outcomes depend on and can be influenced by actions previous to the outcomes, then the outcomes cannot be predicted. For if they could be predicted, then what previous actions will be taken could also be predicted, since the previous actions are themselves future outcomes. Thus there is no real choice possible among previous actions to be taken. 4 8

47. However, Bouch ª-Leclercq assumes here unrestricted divination. The Stoic Epictetus (1 st century A.D.) says: "What can the diviner see more than death or danger or disease or generally things of that sort? Does he know what is expedient, does he know what is good, has he learnt signs to distinguish between good things and bad, like the signs in the flesh of victims [animals sacrificed]? Therefore that is a good answer that the lady made who wished to send the shipload of supplies to Gratilla in exile, when one said, 'Domitian will take them away': 'I would rather', she said, 'that Domitian should take them away than that I should not send them.' What then leads us to consult diviners so constantly? Cowardice, fear of events. That is why we flatter the diviners. 'Master, shall I inherit from my father?' "Let us see; let us offer sacrifice.' 'Yes, master, as fortune wills.' When he says, 'You shall inherit', we give thanks to him as though we had received the inheritance from him. That is why they go on deluding us." 49 Epictetus seems to be suggesting that a diviner can see some things which will happen in the future (death, danger, disease), but not others (what is good or bad). To this extent, he doesn't admit unrestricted divination. No matter what diviners say is portended, we should do what is good, not what is bad. Presumably, then, we are free to choose our moral attitudes to what is inevitable.

48. Bouch ª-Leclercq continues: "The Stoics valiantly accepted the consequences of their own principles. They used them to demonstrate the reality of Providence, the certainty of divination,and they went into ecstasies at every turn about the beautiful order of the world, due to the punctual carrying out of a divine plan, as immutable as it is wise. But they were no less decisive in rejecting the moral consequences of fatalism, above all the 'lazy reasoning', which always ends by letting inevitable destiny alone. Chrysippus turned out prodigies of ingenuity to loosen, without breaking, the links with Necessity, distinguishing between necessity properly socalled, and predestination, between 'perfect and principal' causes and 'adjuvant' [auxiliary, catalytic] causes, between things fated in themselves and things "cofated" or fated by association; trying to distinguish, from the point of view of fatality, between the past, of which the contrary is in reality impossible, and the future, of which the contrary is also impossible, but
Auguste Bouch ª- Leclerq, L'Astrologie grecque, 1899, reprinted 1963, p. 3 1- 32. Discourses of Epictetus, II.47; translated by P. E. Matheson, in The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers, 1940, edited by Whitney Oates, p. 293.



which can be conceived as possible. All things considered, the Stoic school succeeded in saving only the freedom of the Sage, which consists in freely wanting what the universal Intelligence wants. The Sage exercises this freedom better, the better and longer in advance he knows the divine plan."50 49. Here is how it appeared in the 2 n d century A.D. to a Stoic astrologer, Vettius Valens: "Fate has decreed for every human being the unalterable realization of his horoscope, fortifying it with many causes of good and bad things to come. Because of them, two self-begotten goddesses, Hope and Chance, act as the servants of Destiny. They rule our lives. By compulsion and deception they make us accept what has been decreed. One of them [Chance] manifests herself to all through the outcome of the horoscope, showing herself sometimes as good and kind, sometimes as dark and cruel The other [Hope] is neither dark nor serene; she hides herself and goes around in disguise and smiles at everyone like a flatterer and points out to them many attractive prospects that are impossible to attain. By such deceit she rules most people, and they, though tricked by her and dependent on pleasure, let themselves be pulled back to her, and full of hope they believe that their wishes will be fulfilled; and then they experience what they do not expect Those who are not familiar with astrological forecasts and have no wish to study them are driven away and enslaved by the goddesses mentioned above; they undergo every kind of punishment and suffer gladly But those who make truth and the forecasting of the future their profession acquire a soul that is free and not subject to slavery. They despise Chance, do not persist in hoping, are not afraid of death, and live unperturbed. They have trained their souls to be brave and are not puffed up by prosperity nor depressed by adversity but accept contentedly what comes their way. Since they have renounced all kinds of pleasure and flattery, they have become good soldiers of Fate. For it is impossible by prayers or sacrifice to overcome the foundation that was laid in the beginning and substitute another more to one's liking. Whatever is in store for us will happen even if we do not pray for it; what is not fated will not happen, despite our prayers. Like actors on the stage who change their masks according to the poet's text and calmly play kings or robbers or farmers or common folk or gods, so, too, we must act the characters that Fate has assigned to us and adapt ourselves to what happens in any given situation, even if we do not agree. For if one refuses, "he will suffer anyway and get no credit" [Cleanthes]."51

50. Tamsyn Barton is somewhat skeptical about considering Stoics to have been as much devoted to astrology as has been claimed by some. She says, in connection with the flourishing of astrology in Late Republican Rome: "Much has been attributed to the influence of the Stoic Posidonius on Rome on elite Romans in the generation before Cicero and Caesar in making astrology intellectually respectable. But, as A. A. Long (1982) observes, the older authorities who formed this consensus, such as Cumont, were writing at a time when it was fashionable to see Posidonius’ tademark everywhere. Long rightly casts a skeptical eye over the evidence for Stoic enthusiasn for astrology in the earlu period. It is true that in Stoicism the existence of the gods required divination and that astrology would suit the Stoic search for natural signs revealing
50 Bouch ª-Leclercq, l.c. 51 Vettius Valens, Anthologiae, quoted and translated by Georg Luck in Arcana Mundi, Magic and the Occult in the Greekand Roman Worlds, 1985, p. 349-350.


the order of the universe, but the evidence is scanty. … This is the period in which horoscopic astrology takes off in the Hellenistic world, and it could be seen as a natural move from other sorts of divination. He concludes, however, that astrology was at most a subordinate feature of Stoic interest in divination." On the other hand, Barton says "Long is surely right to recognize that the Stoics cannot be convincingly isolated as the determining factor in the rise to prominence of astrology in Rome, though he overstates the case against their interest, in this period. It seems clear that Stoic ideas, as generally diffused among the ruling elite, did lend themselves to the support of astrology, and that their concept of cosmic sympatheia (harmony) binding together the heavens and the earth became the first axiom of philosophical astrology. "5 2 51. Laplace's deterministic methods of prediction might well have been welcomed by Hellenistic astrologers, since his methods, derived from those of Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Euler and other scientists of their time, would have enabled them to calculate the past and future positions of the stars with techniques in some ways superior to those of Ptolemy. Such calculations are the basis of astrology, in most any way the term is properly defined. Frederick Cramer says that in republican Rome from 140 B.C.E. to the death of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E., the more a person adhered to Stoicism, the more liable he or she would be to accept fatalistic astrology. The 96 years from the consulate of Laelius (140 B.C.E.) to the death of Julius Caesar encompassed a crucial period in the history of astrology in the Roman republic. In 139 B.C.E. astrologers had been summarily expelled as undesirable foreigners. By the time of Julius Caesar's death, the majority of Rome's upper class had been converted to a belief in it. To a humanist who believed in rationalism and the governance of nature by immutable laws linking cause and effect, astrology was scientific, and it linked mundane causality with the cosmic laws which regulated the movements of the stars and ruled the universe. 53

52. Tamsyn Barton says that "It is striking that astrology in any form was marginal to Roman elite politics until the late Republic." 54 Barton is especially concerned with relations of astrologers and astrological practices (as well as physiognomy and medicine) to political power. It seems sure that knowledge of the future is often related to desire for or use of power, from political power on a large scale down to power of individuals over some parts of their daily lives. What is wanted or expected or declared to be in a future will give, for non-fatalists, opportunities to change outcomes, and for strict fatalists, opportunities to accommodate to them. In studying this question for high-level political power in the Late Roman Republic, Barton distinguishes three kinds of forecasting or divination. "First, there was the college of augurs, who were originally concerned with interpreting the movements and cries of birds, though by the first century B.C. and probably for some time before that the auspices were generally taken by feeding the sacred fowl. … Second, there the XV viri sacrisfaciundis (literally, the Fifteen Men for Doing Sa cred Things), the keepers of the Sibylline Books, a set of poems in Greek supposedly bought from a prophetess by the last king of Rome … The third group is more confusing. The name haruspices, traditionally associated with Etruria, is used to describe interpreters of both prodigies and the entrails of sacrificial animals. … The keynote of roman
52 Tamsyn Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine under the Roman Empire, 1994, p. 37-3 8. The reference to Long is A. A. Long, "Astrology: arguments pro and contra" in Science and Speculation: Studies in Hellenistic Theory and Practice, ed. J. Barnes et al., 165 -92, 1982. 53 Cramer, ibid., p. 58, 80. 54 Barton, ibid., p. 33.


divination remains clear, however. It was a matter of establishing and maintaining the pax deorum (peace of the gods) in relation to the city. Divination, like other religious activity, is closely implicated in political activity; indeed, it is an integral part of it." 55 53. A reverent attitude toward the stars was not universal in the Hellenistic era. However, for the Stoics, the starry sky was the "purest embodiment of reason in the cosmic hierarchy, the paradigm of intelligibility, and therefore of the divine aspect of the sensible realm."56 Marcus Aurelius tells us that we should watch the stars in their courses as if we were running along with them, and that we should continually think about how the elements change into one another, for such thoughts wash away the foulness of life on earth.57 But this view of the world was turned upside down by some of the so-called Gnostics. Here I refer to Gnosticism in a sense intended to cover certain variant forms of Christianity, such as that of Origen (c. 185-255 C.E.).58 54. "On the other hand," E. R. Dodds says, "some modern scholars apply the term to any system which preaches a way of escape from the world by means of a special enlightenment not available to all, and not dependent on reason." Dodds calls St. Paul a Gnostic in this latter sense, citing Corinthians 1:2.14-15, and observes that the Hermetica , the liturgy of the Mithraists and the obscure Chaldean Oracles have been called "pagan gnosis." 59

55. Simon Magus, Simon the Magician, self-styled messiah, a rival of Jesus, is often counted as a Gnostic. Many believe he is the Simon who appears in the New Testament: "But there was a man named Simon who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the nation of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great." 60 Simon professed conversion to Christianity, but when he saw the apostles Peter and John laid hands on people of Samaria so they could receive the Holy Spirit, he offered them money for this power. Peter stingingly rebuked him, telling Simon that his heart was not right before God, and that he was in the bond of iniquity.61 The contrast here is presumably between the truly religious, who strive to be without sin and submit to God's will, and magicians, who strive for power over men, nature and even the gods themselves. Simon sometimes used the nickname Faustus, "the favored one". Jonas says: "...this in connection with his permanent cognomen "the Magician" and the fact that he was accompanied by a Helena [whom he said he had found in a brothel in Tyre and] whom he claimed to be the reborn Helen of Troy shows clearly that we have here one of the sources of the Faust legend of the early Renaissance. Surely few admirers of Marlowe's and Goethe's plays have an inkling that their hero is the descendant of a Gnostic sectary, and that the beautiful Helen called up by his art was once the fallen Thought of God through whose raising mankind was to be saved."62

55 Barton, ibid., p. 33- 34. 56 Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 2 nd edition, 1963, p. 254. 57 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VII.47 58 Cf. Michael A. Williams, Rethinking "Gnosticism ”: An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category, 1996. 59 E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age ofAnxiety, Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine, 1968, p. 18. 60 Acts 8.9, Revised Standard Version. 61 Acts 8.9 -24. 62 Jonas, ibid., p. 111, 104.


56. Gnosticism, in one of its major forms, is a kind of extreme cosmic pessimism which splits the world into a divine part completely unknowable by man, and a physical part, including man, which is totally separated from the divine, and was created not by the unknown God, but by an inferior spirit, a demiurge, a perversion of the divine, whose main traits are domination and power. Gnostic beliefs were considered blasphemous by many among both the classical Greeks and the early Christians. For these Greeks, Gnosticism ran counter to the conceptions of the divinity of the cosmos, the ordered, animated and intelligent world, in which man, though not perfect, could aspire to the greater perfection of the stars. This perfection is a harmony, a fitting together of the parts of the world into a unified whole, which according to mathematicians in the tradition of Pythagoras (c. 500 B.C.E.) produced a "music of the spheres", inaudible to humans, but within the range of human reason (as Kepler so fervently believed), and therefore audible within, like music remembered. Many Christians could not accept the doctrine of the creation of world by an inferior spirit, nor the severance of God from the government of the physical world and man. The rule of the Gnostic demiurge who controls the physical world was taken to be a kind of tyranny, not a kind of providence.

57. Gnostics opposed the deification of the chief heavenly bodies, as found in most of the religions of antiquity. The world-view of astrology had evolved among the Stoics from Babylonian star worship into a religion in which the cosmic is identified with the divine. This played into the hands of Gnostics. The astrological beliefs of the Stoics required a passive subjection to a rigid necessity. Hence no value could be attached to the cosmos. The aim of the majority of Stoics was to maintain a neutral attitude toward good and evil, and to submit to what must be. Gnostics looked at and evaluated the world of the Stoics from outside of it, and the experience of the cosmos for them changed from a worshipful to a terrifying one. 58. "We can imagine," Jonas says, "with what feelings gnostic men must have looked up to the starry sky. How evil its brilliance must have looked to them, how alarming its vastness and the rigid immutability of its courses, how cruel its muteness! The music of the spheres was no longer heard, and the admiration for the perfect spherical form gave place to the terror of so much perfection directed at the enslavement of man .... Here we can discern the profound connection which exists between the discovery of the self, the despiritualizing of the world, and the positing of the transcendental God." 63

59. Lynn Thorndike reports on a sect, the Mandaeans, derived from or having sources in common with Gnosticism which seems to still exist, or at least did in the late 19 th century. Their adherents represent the planets as evil beings, and Jesus Christ as a false prophet and magician produced by the planet Mercury. They had great affection for numerology. Thorndike says: "A peculiarity of Mandaean astronomy and astrology is that the heavenly bodies are all believed to rotate about the polar star. Mandaeans always face it when praying; their sanctuaries are built so that persons entering it face it; and even the dying man is placed so that his feet point and eyes gaze in its direction." 64 In the Northern Hemisphere, it certainly looks like most of the heavenly bodies rotate about the polar star.
63 Jonas, ibid., p. 261, 263. 64 Thorndike, A H i s t o r y o f M a g ic a n d E x p e r i me n t a l M e d i c i n e , 1923-1958, v. 1, 1923, p. 383-384.


60. Tamshyn Barton remarks that an "indication of the subversive potential that led to the repression of astrology [by various Christian authorities] is the fact that the Fathers [of the Church] also discuss it in connection with heretical doctrines. Indeed, it is the Gnostics who seem to spark off the first direct attacks on astrology … Hippolytis of Rome (martyred 235) attacked the Gnostics with particular emphasis on their astrology in his Refu ta tion o fAll Heresies, taking his detailed argumentation from Sextus Empiricus. He justifies this excursus, having carefully disclaimed any knowledge of the art: “But since, estimating the astrological art as a powerful one, and availing 'themselves of the testimonies adduced by its patrons, they wish to gain reliance for their own attempted conclusions, we shall at present, as it has seemed expedient, prove the astrological art to be untenable, as out intention is to invalidate the Peratic system [of certain Gnostics], as a branch growing out of an unstable root.'"65 61. Among the philosophical views of the Hellenistic era, it is the Stoic, with its reverence for an orderly cosmos, which is closest to that of the physical cosmology of our own day, even given the uncertainties and indeterminacies of quantum mechanics. The views of the Gnostics are compared by Jonas to those of our recent past in which people declare, with Nietzsche, that God is dead. 66 Gnostics declare that the God of the cosmos is dead. Still, Gnostics believe they can achieve a kind of freedom by coming to know the fix we are in --hence their name, from gnosis, knowledge. Gnosticism resembles nihilism of a Nietzschean kind, being based on a view of nature in which there is no reference to ends or purpose, in which values and meanings can no longer be found, but must be willed by us, when we can. This at least makes our wills free. Dreadful freedom, the existentialists called it. An estrangement of Man and Nature can arise from believing that nature, like the Gnostic God, is indifferent to man. However, even estranged from nature, we can find value in nature's orderliness, experienced as beauty, and satisfaction in understanding and manipulating what we can of it. 62. One of the other great philosophical doctrines of antiquity was Epicureanism. Rackham says: "Epicurus [based] his main theory of nature ... upon the atomism of Democritus, holding that the real universe consists in innumerable atoms of matter moving by the force of gravity through an infinity of empty space. Our world and all its contents, and also innumerable other worlds, are temporary clusters of atoms fortuitously collected together in the void; they are constantly forming and constantly dissolving, without plan or purpose ... The gods (like everything else) consist of fortuitous clusters of atoms ... But it is impious to fancy that gods are burdened with the labour of upholding or guiding the universe; the worlds go on of themselves, by purely mechanical causation; the gods live a life of undisturbed bliss in the intermundia, the empty regions of space between the worlds."67

63. Broadly speaking, the contrast is between a universe in which there are irreducible chance, disorder, probabilities, and unpredictability, compared with a universe in which there are order, law, regularity and certainties, perhaps to the point of complete determinism. It is possible to have it both ways. For example, a number of American Indian groups maintained myths which combined chance and order. For example, Ray Williamson says that the hogan , the
65 Thorndike, ibid., p. 63. 66 Jonas, ibid., Chapter 13. 67 Rackham, ibid., p. viii.


prototype of the traditional Navaho dwelling, appears in Navaho creations myths as the home of many different creatures, and also as a place of creation. The stars, for example, are created there. "The story of the creation of the stars is central to the Navajo conception of the universe," says Williamson, "a universe that is essentially ordered just as the hogan is ordered but which also contains mischievous forces of disorder. In this story, Coyote, the trickster, introduces disorder into the heavens by upsetting the intended orderly arrangement of the stars." 68 64. According to Gladys Reichard, Coyote is an exponent of irresponsibility and lack of direction. He seems to be an uncontrolled aspect of either Sun himself, or as the child of Sun or Sky, Coyote represents lust on earth, thus matching Sun's promiscuity as a celestial being. Reichard says: "Coyote, however, observes no rules. Sun, though reluctant and protesting, assumes responsibility for his childred; Coyote sates his desire and leaves confusion or worse behind him. Any good that Coyote accomplishes is fortuitous; Sun's good deeds, though forced, result in control. Coyote does all the daring things Sun would like to do—in fact, once did; Sun secretly gloats over them, but of necessity appears to disapprove Order, the foundation of Navaho ritual, is reversed in Coyote's character. He threw the stars into the sky in a haphazard manner, he defied hunting rules, he vacillated between evil and good in the ceremonial assembly, he chose October, a changeable and uncertain month, to be his. Plants representing him in the rites are unselected, as are his arrow feathers, and his songs are not grouped in order. After the Bats had killed him, they ground up his skin with soil from undesignated places and scattered the mixture in every direction." 69 65. Williamson says of the Chumash Indians of California: "For the Chumash the entire universe and the supernatural powers within it were constantly in flux. Without supernatural intervention from humans, the powers of the world could readily produce events with cataclysmic results. The astronomers of the 'antap cult ... had within their province the duty to seek out the necessary knowledge from the celestial beings, to foresee the future, and to take the proper steps to alter the upcoming course of events for the well-being of their fellow Chumash For the native Californian, the celestial realm was a place of power and danger. By carefully timing their intercessions with the beings who peopled the Upper World, the shamans who understood the movements of the sky could wrest some of the celestial power to their own uses. Because that power could also be highly dangerous, the shamans had to be especially careful to watch for just the right moment, lest they bring ill to the people for whom they strove to understand and use the power of the cosmos." 70

66. None of us, it seems, is important on the scale of galaxies or electrons, at least if importance is to be judged by size. Some believe we have not evolved according to a master plan. Many biologists nowadays subscribe to a lack of premeditated design. One might say that among Darwinists, or rather neo-Darwinists, there are few Stoics, many Epicureans. Epicurean Darwinists, if they are consistent, appear to be left in a world without plan, subject to vicissitudes of fortune, though they tend to call it randomness, since fortune has an overtone of outside influence. Many wish to be saved from such a world. Mircea Eliade says:. "It could be said that
68 Ray Williamson, L i v i n g t h e S k y , 1984, p. 162. 69 Gladys Reichard, N a v a h o R e l i g i o n , 1950, p. 79, 183. 70 Williamson, ibid., p. 279, 297.


the promise of salvation attempts to exorcise the redoubtable power of the goddess Tyche (Chance; Latin, Fo rtu na ). Capricious and unpredictable, Tyche indifferently brings good or evil ...............[To overcome this] Destiny ends by being associated with astral fatalism. The existence of individuals as well as the duration of cities and states is determined by the stars. This doctrine and, with it, astrology—the technique that applies its principles—develop under the impulse given by the Babylonians' observations of the heavenly bodies. To be sure, the theory of micromacrocosmic correspondences had long been known in Mesopotamia ... and elsewhere in the Asian world. However, this time man not only feels that he shares in the cosmic rhythms but discovers that his life is determined by the motions of the stars."71 67. Notions of a regular universe are intimately tied to motions of the stars. Pliny says: "For all over the world, in all places, and at all times, Fortune is the only God whom every one invokes; she alone is spoken of, she alone is accused and is supposed to be guilty; she alone is in our thoughts, is praised and blamed, and is loaded with reproaches wavering as she is, conceived by the generality of mankind to be blind, wandering, inconstant, uncertain, variable, and often favouring the unworthy. To her are referred all our losses and all our gains, and in casting up the accounts of mortals she alone balances the two pages of our sheet. We are so much in the power of chance, that chance itself is considered as a God, and the existence of God becomes doubtful. But there are others who reject this principle and assign events to the influence of the stars, and to the laws of our nativity; they suppose that God, once for all, issues his decrees and never afterwards interferes. This opinion begins to gain ground, and both the learned and unlearned vulgar are falling into it." 72 68. In the Hellenistic Age, Michael Grant reports, "tens of thousands of people were gripped by an unreasonable, dismal, desperate conviction that everything in the world was under the total control of Tyche: Fortune, Chance or Luck. There was a deep-seated feeling that men and women were adrift in an uncaring universe, and that everything was hazardous, beyond human control or understanding or prediction. And so the cult of Chance swept conqueringly over the Mediterranean " To many it seemed that Chance and Fortune were beyond the comprehension of human beings. 69. The historian Polybius of Megalopolis (c. 200 -- after 118) placed Tyche at the center of the world he was depicting because he felt that the taking over of the Mediterranean area by the Romans was an event that could only be explained in this way. "However," says Grant, "his interpretations of what 'Fortune' actually means are varied and shifting, like most people's views on the subject. Sometimes he sees Tyche as everything that lies beyond human control, or displays no rational causes. Sometimes her name is his label to describe purely haphazard coincidences— or to reflect the fact that anything can happen to anyone at any time. Occasionally there is a hint of a purposive Providence, or of the old Greek idea, so familiar from
71 Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas, 1978; translation by Willard Trask of Histoire des croyances et des id ªes religieuses, 1976, v. 1, p. 69, 83. 72 Pliny, Natural History, 77 A.D., II.v.22 -24, Latin edited by H. Rackham, 1938, p. 182, 184, translation to English by John Bostock and H. T. Riley, 1855, p. 23-24. From Rackham's preface, p. vii -viii: “[Pliny's] interest in science finally cost him his life, at the age of 56. He was in command of the fleet at Misenum on the Bay of Naples in A.D. 79 when the famous eruption of Vesuvius took place on August23 and 24, overwhelming the little towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Pliny as a man of science sailed across the bay to obtain a nearer view; he landed at Stabiae, and there was killed by poisonous fumes."


the tragic drama, that it is Fortune's task to see that mortal wickedness, or even excessive prosperity, is penalized. Yet Polybius also views Tyche as basically amoral, and just as likely to hurt the virtuous. But it is in large-scale operations that his Tyche really comes into play: when huge and capricious events upset the balance of history, and the fortunes of nations are abruptly and sensationally reversed. However, when another, rational cause is perceptible, he prefers to invoke that instead, calling upon Tyche only when no such rational cause can be detected." 73 70. During the centuries immediately before and after the beginning of the Christian era, people started to speak less about Fortune and more about Fate and Destiny: "Fate was often viewed as a general scheme ruling the world and creating a chain of remorseless mechanical causation. Certainly, there wasn't always much difference, in people's minds, between 'chance would have it so' and 'it was fated to be so'. But some writers, realizing that it is illogical to believe in them both at one and the same time, tried to distinguish between them." For example, Zeno the Stoic (d. 263 B.C.E.) saw belief in Fate and causation as the more respectable, and his follower Cleanthes coupled Destiny with Zeus himself. The Stoics identified Fate with Divine Reason, which determines everything and demands our acceptance. Epicurus, however, believed it was worse to serve such Fate than to serve even the useless popular gods. The wise, said Epicurus, scorn Fate. Many others felt oppressed by the inescapable and boring despotism of Fate, which appeared to ruthlessly restrict the value of human behavior. Nevertheless, millions accepted its tyranny.74 71. "A clear proof that what happens above affects what happens below seemed to be provided by the visible influence that the heavenly bodies exert on the world: the sun makes the vegetation grow and die, and causes animals to sleep and go on heat; storms and floods come and go according to the rise and fall of constellations; and the moon appears to control the tides like a magnet—the laws of tide-generating gravitation being unknown, this relationship (in so far as it interested the dwellers round an almost tideless sea) was explained by cosmic sympathy between a supposedly watery planet and the element of water in earth. So the whole doctrine seemed to hang together neatly, completely, and rationally, in coherence with the sciences. Yet it is based on a complete fallacy. The generalization that links all human activities, as well as the physical properties of the earth, to the heavenly bodies is quite without foundation. The pedigree of this set of beliefs had been antique and complex. The Greek tragic poets described sun, moon and stars as deities, and Plato accepted this belief, weaving an elaborate astral theology into the fabric of his ideal state. Aristotle, too, far from hostile to a relationship between earth and stars, regarded the latter as intelligent, divine beings—an interpretation that almost all Hellenistic writers shared. People were learning with fascinated interest about the star-worship and astrological practices of the Babylonians, for example from Eudoxus of Cnidus (c. 390-340); and once Alexander the Great had absorbed Babylonia into the world of the Greeks, professional astrologers began to transmit and adapt its traditions to the west." 75

72. "The moon,” Pierre Duhem says, plays a preponderant role in the astrology ultimately based on this principle, and "the laws of the tides prove, with evidence, the reality of this lunar action and consequently of all the influences which emanate from celestial bodies." Duhem
73 Michael Grant, From Alexander to Cleopatra, The Hellenistic World, 1982, p. 2 14- 222. 74 Grant, ibid. 75 Grant, ibid.


shows how one of the most influential of the early Stoic astrologers, Posidonius (c. 135-50 B.C.E.), was also much interested in explaining tides. Also, the 9t h century Arabian astrologer Abu Ma'shar (Albumasar) devoted 6 chapters of his Introductorium to a theory of tides, from which Duhem quotes extensively. 76 This work by Abu Ma'shar was very influential on European scholars during the European Middle Ages, as a source of both astrology and of the works of Aristotle on nature. 73. The Eudoxus of Cnidus referred to by Grant was one of the great mathematicians and cosmologists of classic Greece. Otto Neugebauer refers to the "oft -quoted remark of Cicero that Eudoxus has written that one should not believe the Chaldean practice of predicting the fate of a person from the day of his birth", which appears to say that Eudoxus rejected horoscopic astrology. 77 However, Neugebauer goes on to observe that "from the day of birth" may not refer to astronomical prediction, but to a practice like that attested to by Herodotus (II, 82), who says that the Egyptians "assign each month and each day" to a god and that "they can tell what fortune, what end, and what disposition a man shall have according to the day of his birth."78 74. This view of Neugebauer seems to have been misunderstood by P. M. Fraser who says flatly of astrology (in general) that "Eudoxus is the first to reveal familiarity with it, even though he rejects its doctrines." 79 Fraser's chief source for this evaluation appears to be the remark made by Cicero. He also refers to Neugebauer's evaluation, saying that Neugebauer "questions whether this is necessarily a reference to astronomical prediction," without noticing that this leaves open the possibility that Eudoxus may have approved of some of the astrological doctrines of the Chaldeans. Fraser, like Grant, is eager to separate the scientific from the pseudoscientific achievements of the Ptolemaic Alexandrians, according to what scientists of Fraser's time considered scientific and pseudo-scientific. Astrology, along with alchemy and astrological medicine, he counts among the "corrupted" sciences, "superstitions" which have "encroached on scientific thought". "There is indeed," he says, "scarcely a branch of science which did not, in the course of time, produce its own bastard—the fruit of a decline in scientific originality, combined with superstition and philosophical fatalism." 80 There is reminiscent of trying to decide whether viruses are forerunners of cells or bacteria, or degenerate cells or bacteria, or something else.

75. Grant and Fraser are hard on believers in astrology. Presumably they mean people who believe in judicial or horoscopic astrology of the kind introduced in Hellenistic Egypt, versions of which are still prevalent today. Perhaps, though, they are condemning astral fatalism in general. They may be objecting to an overextended determinism which so many people find morally repugnant or instinctively incredible. But in former times a kind of compound of astronomy and astrology was the rule, and separating the two by today's criteria may distort both the motivation and the legacy of the achievements of the astronomer/astrologers of the past.

76 Pierre Duhem, Le Syst ©me du Monde, 1913, v. 2, p. 280286, 377-386, 390. 77 Cicero, De divinatione II, 42, 87. 78 Otto Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, 1957, p. 88. 1 79 P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, 1972, v. 1, p. 435, and 2, p. 629, of the reprint of 1984. v. 80 Fraser, ibid.


76. One of the great goals of mathematicians, astronomers, physicists and other natural philosophers has been to discover and describe quantitative constancy, invariance, pattern, and order in nature, and, on the other hand, to find quantitative ways to deal with variability, turbulence, randomness and chance. The first of these aims tends to lead them to determinism, and the second tends to leads them to limitations of determinism. In favorable cases, scientists of this kind find laws or other devices for predicting future and retrodicting past behavior of physical systems with some acceptable degree of accuracy. In cases even more favorable, they find laws which require only small amounts of information and time, relative to human lifetimes, for useful or revealing applications of predicting and retrodicting. Such laws are especially useful when they are mathematical in nature. 77. "I will not go so far as to say," A. N. Whitehead once said, "that to construct a history of thought without profound study of the mathematical ideas of successive epochs is like omitting Hamlet from the play which is named after him. That would be claiming too much. But it is certainly analogous to cutting out the part of Ophelia. This simile is singularly exact. For Ophelia is quite essential to the play, she is very charming—and a little mad."81 78. One may conjecture that development of mathematical thought beyond mere counting was initiated, or at least strongly accelerated, by consideration of celestial objects. Archeoastronomers have found increasing evidence that many ancient peoples in parts of the world from Scotland to south of the Sahara desert, from pre- Hispanic Mexico to the Egypt of the Pharaohs, had a fairly sophisticated understanding of celestial phenomena, to some extent mathematical in nature.82 79. Development of mathematics went hand-in-hand with development of astronomy. In contrast with unpredictable and capricious gods of nature, there arose, in connection, it seems, with consciousness of time, a vision of the divine manifesting itself in a temporal dominion over the precise and apparently unvarying cyclic paths of the sun, moon, planets and stars. Such thoughts are found in Plato's E pi n omis. Plato asks how we are to get wisdom. He runs through a number of domains of knowledge—farming, the useful and fine arts, sciences of war, medicine and transportation, and says that none of them constitute wisdom. He asks what single science there is which, if it were taken away from mankind or never had made its appearance, people would become thoughtless and foolish creatures. Answer: mathematics, the knowledge of number. And, Plato says, our knowledge of mathematics comes to us from Ouranos, the god of the heavens. Call him Ouranos, Cosmos, or whatever you please, he is the source of all good things, such as the seasons and our food. And with the sequence of whole numbers, Ouranos gives us understanding. This, says Plato, is the greatest gift of all, if people will only accept it, and let their minds range over the heavens. 83

80. Similar thoughts are found in Plato's dialogue Timaeu s: "Sight, then, in my judgment is the cause of the highest benefits to us in that no word of our present discourse about the universe could ever have been spoken, had we never seen stars, Sun, and sky. But as it is, the
81 Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, 1928, p. 26-27. 82 See, e.g., James Cornell, The First Stargazers, An Introduction to the Origins ofAstronomy, 1981. 83 Plato, translation by Raymond Klibansky in Philebus and Epinomis, 1956, reprinted in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, 1961, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, p. 1519-1520.


sight of day and night, of months and the revolving years, of equinox and solstice, has caused the invention of number and bestowed on us the notion of time and the study of the nature of the world; whence have derived all philosophy, than which no greater boon has ever come or shall come to mortal man as a gift from heaven." 84 Plato evidently took philosophy to include what many today would classify as science and mathematics. 81. Of the Demiurge, the Creator, Plato says in the cosmological myth in the Timaeus, that "he took thought to make, as it were, a moving likeness of eternity; and, at the same time that he ordered the Heaven, he made, of eternity that abides in unity, an everlasting likeness moving according to number—that to which we have given the name Time."85 The phrase "at the same time" may be confusing. Benjamin Jowett translates: "Wherefore he resolved to have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he made this image eternal but moving according to number, but eternity itself rests in unity, and this image we call time."86 A little later Plato says: "Time came into being together with the Heaven, in order that, as they were brought into being together, so they may be dissolved together, if ever their dissolution should come to pass." 87 82. But consciousness of time brings consciousness of aging and death. This incites countermeasures, such as a paradise lost in the past, or a heaven and hell to go to, or an end of time, or attempts to preserve the present with all its blemishes, or a changeless world of ideas, or a better or worse world to come on earth. The ancient Iranians, for example, developed a religion, Zoroastrianism, in which it was held that the world was created in a year, and each subsequent year was a repetition of the year of creation. Yet they also envisaged a continual struggle between forces of good and evil, represented by the gods Ahura Mazda (later, Ormazd) and Ahriman, which would eventually be decided in favor of good. Inasmuch as each year repeats the year of creation, the time of the Iranians was periodic. The world eternally returns to its beginning, and starts anew. But inasmuch as the battle between good and evil will eventually end with the victory of good, the time of the Iranians was pointed along a line toward a future goal.

83. It appears, then, that ideas of time have been intimately related to ideas about celestial motions, and hence to views of determinism. There were various ideas about time in the ancient world. The ancient Jews tended to concentrate on a future which would bring new things. This may be taken to imply a time line, rather than a time circle of the sort one needs for periodicity and cycles and repetition of the same events over and over. The prophet Isaiah says in the Bible: "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing." 88 And later: "The sun shall be no more your lig ht by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land for ever, the shoot of my planting, the work of my
84 Plato, Timaeus, 47a- b, translated by Francis Cornford, Plato's Cosmology, 1937, p. 157- 158 of 1957 edition.) 85 Plato, Timaeus, 37d, translated by Francis Cornford in Plato's Cosmology, 1937, p. 98 of 1957 reprint. 86 p. 1167 of The Collected Dialogues of Plato, edited by Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, 1961. 87 Timaeus, 38b. 88 Isaiah, 43.18, Revised Standard Version.


hands, that I might be glorified. The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it." 89 Thus the periodic and repetitious movements of celestial objects will cease, and time will flow only forward—or cease altogether. In the meantime, we will go forward in time and history to approach the consummation—no turning back. 84. This looking into the future by the Jewish prophets is quite unlike the astrological prediction which grew up in Babylonia and other nearby cultures. In astronomy, the future is calculated, or based on calculations, as when an equinox or eclipse or sunrise or tide is predicted. In astrology, predictions of the future are based on astronomical calculations. But in biblical prophecy, the future is beheld, proclaimed, believed in. Furthermore, the prophets looked forward in a kind of linear time. The tacit use of a linear rather than a circular time generated a looking backward as well as forward, to see when it all began. Certain ancient Jews settled on the date October 7, 3761 B.C.E. of the Christian calendar for the beginning of the world. The official calendar of present-day Israel is built around this date. Today's scientific cosmologists put the date of creation (the so-called "big bang") earlier, at around 15 thousand million years ago, give or take 5 million years or so The time intervals are different, but the principle is the same. 85. We hear of an Eden far off in time, and ancient Greeks spoke of an island of the blessed far off in the western sea and of hyperboreans who live far to the north in a region of sunshine and everlasting spring, beyond the northern wind. The tendency of ancient Greeks toward spatialization of ideas, and limitation of time as far as possible to the present, point to a preference for the constant and enduring, and for order and harmony. Rudolf Wendorff says that in thinking about how change occurs and has to be overcome, the Greek philosophers generally took one or more of the following approaches: (1) they looked the other way, or didn't take time seriously; (2) they contrasted temporal becoming with timeless being so time becomes secondary and derived; (3) they tried to keep change under control by means of unvarying laws or principles that don't allow for accidents and arbitrariness; 4) they tamed time, up to a point, by concentrating on cyclical repetition of processes that allow motion in time but preclude a "goingbeyond-the banks" onto a linear time going to infinity, in which there are always completely new and unpredictable possibilities.90 86. For Parmenides (early 500's B.C.E.), time is an illusion. Only in myths, he wrote, is there an origin of the universe in time, and a genesis of being. For reason (logos), the very question about such an origin loses its meaning. Being, the material of reason (so to speak), is unborn, unchanging, immovable, eternal. Being never was or will be. It is totally present now, one and indivisible. 87. I propose to take astrology seriously here. Patrick Curry says that until quite recently, "Astrology was customarily regarded an inseparable mixture of what is now distinguished between as 'science' and 'mathematics' on the one hand, and 'magic' on the other. The former elements makes it difficult for historians of science to avoid completely; but the latter, equally, makes it (along with alchemy) uniquely irritating. This reaction undoubtedly
8 9 I s a i a h 6 0 . 1 9- 2 0 . 9 0 R u d o l f W e n d o r f f, Z e i t u n d K u l t u r , 1 9 8 0 , p . 5 6 .


stems from an often uncritical loyalty of historians of science to modern science. To put it another way, the efforts of early modern science to define itself against magic and neo-Aristotelianism has rubbed off on many of its historians—an attitude aggravated by the continued existence of astrology, in defiance of scientific enlightenment. This is quite evident in the literature, beginning with the doyen of history of science, George Sarton, who was unable to mention astrology (in relation to early Greek science) without descending into abusive caricature, explicitly to his feelings about modern astrologers. For this he was reproved by Otto Neugebauer, in a short but powerful paper entitled 'The Study of Wretched Subjects', which defended against such destructiveness 'the very foundations of our studies: the recovery and study of the texts, regardless of our own tastes and prejudices.'" 91 88. "The great discovery of the sacerdotal astronomers of Babylonia," says David Amand, "was that of the immutable constancy of the sidereal revolutions, whose periodicity allows us to predict the return at fixed dates of astronomical phenomena. By accumulating observations, these priests were naturally led to the notion of a necessity, which was conceived either as resulting from the will of the gods, or as being superior to them. It was in Chaldea that the idea was born of a Fatality related to the regular movements of the sun, moon and planets distributing good and evil to people. However, this determinism was not pushed to its ultimate logical consequences. The priests believed in the arbitrary intervention of a divine will in the order of nature. They predicted the future by the stars. But by purifications, sacrifices and incantations, they claimed to remove the evils and to obtain more surely the announced benefits. In the Alexandrian epoch, certain schools of astronomer priests, very probably under the influence of Stoicism, professed a more rigorous doctrine. Fatality became the sovereign mistress; it governed God himself, that is, the living universe, and with the stars as intermediaries produced all physical, intellectual and moral phenomena."92

89. Thus was born a religious science or scientific religion compounded of astronomy, astrology, and astrolatry, or, as the Germans say, Sternkunde, Sterndeutung, and Sternglaube, which etymologically suggest star information (or more poetically, tidings from the stars), explanation of the stars, and star-faith. Astrolatry I take to include astral religion of all kinds— worship of celestial objects as gods or goddesses or powers or angels or souls of the dead, and so on. By astrology, concerned with prediction using the stars, I often mean, according to context, something broader than generally understood today. 93 In particular, in what follows, when I say astrology, unqualified, I will oftem be referring to something more general than horoscopic astrology, which is also known as judicial astrology because it is used to make judgments on the basis of celestial objects. Furthermore, it should be kept in mind that astrology is not a fixed body of knowledge which has always stayed the same. Its techniques and visions of the world have evolved, sometimes progressively and sometimes retrogressively. Its principal aim has always been to establish and define relations between humanity and the heavens, and to discover

91 Patrick Curry, Astrology, Science and Society, Historical Essays, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 2. 92 David Amand, Fatalisme et liberté dans l'antiquité grecque, Recherches sur la survivance de l'argumentation morale antifataliste de Carnéade chez les philosophes grecs et les théologiens chrétiens des quatre premiers siècles, 1945, p. 1-2. 93 If it weren't for custom and awkwardness, it might be better to say deterministic astralism rather than astrology.


laws which rule them both. But during its long history, astrology, in its broadest sense, has assumed numerous forms, and has been a part of many different cultures.94 90. Astrologe rs and astronomers have long been among the foremost promoters and defenders of kinds of determinism. In his capacity as a classicist (which is how he made his living), the poet A. E. Housman edited the Astronomica, a long poem on astrology written by Manilius in the 1 st century A.D. Manilius was a strict determinist, or fatalist, who believed we are ruled by the stars. Housman once said that his elaborate work on Manilius's poem would be remembered long after his own poems were forgotten. However this may be, while Housman bowed to a kind of determinism, some part of him was free, to judge from this poem by him: The laws of God, the laws of man, He may keep that will and can; Not I: let God and man decree Laws for themselves and not for me; And if my ways are not as theirs Let them mind their own afairs. Their deeds Ijudge and much condemn, But when didI make laws for them? Please yourselves, say I, and they Need only look the other way. But no, they will not; they must still Wrest their neighbor to their will, And make me dance as they desire With jail and gallows and hellfire. And how am I to face the odds Of Man's bedevilment and God's? I, a stranger and afraid In a world I never made. They will be master, right or wrong: Though both are foolish, both are strong. And since, my soul, we cannot fly To Saturn nor to Mercury, Keep we must, if we can, These foreign laws of God and man. 9 5 91. For many years, astrology and astral religions, as well as other studies such as alchemy and theology, were entangled with astronomy. This is the major reason I am in the present context taking astrology and star worship as seriously as I take astronomy and mathematics. There are, of course, many who feel that a study of the history of astrology is a waste of time, as well as quite a number who do not. However, I agree with Patrick Curry who, in his study of astrology in 17th and 18th century England, rejects the idea of considering astrology to be "simply one of history's 'losers' ".96 In my view, we distort history if we
94 Cf. Jacques Halbronn, Le Monde Ju if et l'Astrologie, Histoire d'un vieux couple, 1979, p. 8. 95 A. E. Housman, The Collected Poems of A. E. Housman, 1939, from Last Poems, 1922, XII. 96 Patrick Curry, Prophecy and Power, Astrology in Early Modern England, 1989, p. 3.


separate the star worship and astrology of the past from the history of astronomy as presently practiced. 92. Fortunately, I will not be concerned with truth or falsity or probability of astrological claims. Those interested in such matters may wish to consult the works of the psychologist Michel Gauquelin. For more than 30 years, he made a series of statistical studies of birth data in an attempt to prove or disprove that there is a positive correlation between the positions of planets in the sky at birth, and subsequent characteristics of the person born, as indicated by his or her success in various professions.97 In the process, he has cast considerable doubt on the efficacy of traditional astrological practices. Some consider that he has definitively refuted the claims of horoscopic astrologers with solid statistical evidence. However, he also claims to have found statistical evidence for some influence of planets on people's character, that is, on their professional success. 93. As far as I know, no satisfactory explanation of the effect apparently detected by Gauqelin has yet been given. Many proposals have been made, including some offered tentatively by Gauquelin himself. For example, Percy Seymour, an astronomer (not astrologer in a modern sense!), described in 1988 "how the planets control the overall direction of the solar magnetic field near the poles, and how conjunctions, oppositions and squares of the planets as seen from the Sun control the onset of violent storms on the Sun," and "how solar activity is linked to geomagnetic activity, the northern and southern lights, short-term terrestrial weather and longterm climate." From this, Seymour proceeds to a very briefly stated and (I think) largely unsupported hypothesis according to which "it is possible for post-natal fluctuations of the geomagnetic field to recall, via its own 'machine code' [as in computers], some of the pre-natal programming which it fed into the brain of the developing foetus, and thus influence its behaviour in certain circumstances."98 94. On the other hand Gauquelin himself says: "Astrology has always remained enigmatic and, to the perfectly proper question, 'Should one believe it?', I can only answer by rejecting both the unconditional opponents and the confirmed upholders .... My ideas on astral influence have changed continually, swinging back and forth like a pendulum Though I am so full of my subject, so determined to defend it, so proud of my discoveries, I am still tormented by two asserting demons. The first is the fear of having been mistaken in asserting that astral influence is real; the second is the agonizing thought of all that I have been unable to discover or explain."99 95. Gérard Simon, in his study of the influence of astrology on the work of the great astronomer Kepler, is concerned, among other things, to reveal the categories of thought which were available to Kepler. He says: "We start from the idea that before we study the way which a man in a particular epoch conceptually elaborates the facts available for him to reflect on, it's a good idea to ask ourselves at the outset about the norms he obeys when he conceptualizes in general; and therefore an analysis of what was thinkable for him ought to precede an analysis of
97 See, for example, Michel Gauquelin Dreams and Illusions of Astrology, 1979, and Birth -Times, 1983, both translated from French; the latter is called The Truth about Astrology in the British edition. 98 Percy Seymour, Astrology, the Evidence of Science, 1988, p. 140, 149. 99 Michael Gauqelin, Birth- Times, 1983, p. 180- 181.


what was th o u g h t by him."100 We can ask how much of what was thinkable and sensible for our predecessors, but has become unthinkable or nonsensical for us, is well forgotten, and how much should be preserved or revived, or at least commemorated. 96. Astrology thus has narrow and broad meanings. In a narrow sense, it has to do with predicting character, fate and events on the basis of zodiacal signs and houses, planetary aspects and the like. In a broad sense, it is study and knowledge of an y influences of celestial objects on human affairs, on the basis of which predictions can be made. This might include gravitational influences of the moon on the earth, on the basis of which we can predict (for example) tides, which influence human affairs in certain ways. Perhaps this is too broad a definition of astrology. But where do we draw the line? Planets and stars certainly have so me detectable effects on us. Otherwise we couldn't see them. Furthermore, quite aside from physical interactions, the orderly movement of celestial objects has served, at times, as a paradigm for priests, statesmen, philosophers, poets and a multitude of others. Who really knows—for sure— what the limits of such effects are? 97. Some have maintained that the non-astronomical content of astrology belongs to psychology. Such a position allied was taken by the psychologist (or psychoanalyst) Carl Jung, who made proposals along this line to explain the prevalence and what he considered to be occasional successes of horoscopic astrology.101 If today's physical cosmologists are right in holding that people have ultimately evolved from stars, our brains and minds may respond to them, at conception or birth, or later on, in ways we have not yet discovered. A more exact astrology may yet be found, based not on horoscopes but on some other quantitative correspondences of celestial with human activity. Or maybe not. 98. Jacques Halbronn has advanced the idea that astronomers are not, by virtue of their profession, entitled to pronounce on the validity or invalidity of astrology. "If man is related to the stars," he says, "this is not the fault of the stars, it is the fault of man .... It is a neurophysiological problem more than a cosmobiological or astrophysical problem. It is not a question of asking if the stars emit but if men receive " It is one thing, Halbronn says, if the relation between men and the stars posited by astrologers is a regrettable aberration, and another if it has turned out not to be real. In some ancient religions, bulls were worshipped. Do we have to ask a zoologist or agriculturalist if such a practice has any rationale, or if it is part of the nature of bulls to be worshipped? Do we have to ask an astronomer if there is any rationale in star worship, or if it is in the nature of a planet called Jupiter to play the role it has played in astrology? Is it in the nature of tobacco, Halbronn asks, to be a habit for millions of human beings?102 99. While this may be true for astrology and astronomy as these terms are now general ly understood, the fact remains that the two disciplines were in most people's minds linked together for much of their history, for several thousand years or more, until they began to separate about
100 Gérard Simon, Kepler astronome astrologue, 1979, p. 11.

101 See, e.g., the article on "synchronicity" in Naturerklärung und Psyche by Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli 1952, English translation by Priscilla Silz, The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche, 1955. 102 Jacques Halbronn and Serge Hutin, Histoire de l'Astrologie, 1986, p. 145.


three or four hundred years ago. This interrelationship has left traces on both the astronomy and astrology of today. Astrologers, for example, often take into account new discoveries of astronomers, such as the new planets discovered since antiquity, including the asteroids. Some astrologers, more conservative, maintain that for astrological purposes one can consider the sun and moon as planets, along with the five other planets known to the ancients, and that the new planets are irrelevant. Such astrologers only use old astronomy. 100. Astronomers, on the other hand, often feel it their duty to try to prove there is nothing worthwhile in astrology. To that extent at least astronomers are still concerned with astrology. More generally, while astronomers may become enthusiastic about the wonders of heaven and earth as explained by their theories and tested by their observations, they are usually constrained in their professional work to express this wonder in non-religious as well as nonastrological ways. Individual astronomers may write articles and books connecting or disconnecting their professional beliefs from religious beliefs. But this is not considered as part of their astronomy. It is something added on, dispensable as far as the practice of their profession is concerned.


Chapter 2. From Astral Beliefs to Kepler, Fludd and Newton 1. In the Chinese Co mmen ta ry o n th e Ch u a n g T zu by Kuo Hsiang (4th century A.D.) we find: "The principles of things are from the very start correct. None can escape from them. Therefore a person is never born by mistake, and what he is born with is never an error. Although heaven and earth are vast and the myriad things are many, the fact that I happen to be here is not something that spiritual beings of heaven and earth, sages and worthies of the land, and people of supreme strength or perfect knowledge can violate Therefore if we realize that our nature and destiny are what they should be, we will have no anxiety and will be at ease with ourselves in the face of life or death, prominence or obscurity, or an infinite amount of changes and variations, and will be in accord with principle.”103 2. In a charming although perhaps not authoritative book, Peter Lum says: "The Chinese believed that the world of stars was exactly similar to that of men. It was perforce a happier land, without flood or famine, but it was subject to the same laws as China, and its immortal inhabitants were very similar to the Chinese. The familiar world known to mankind, with its obvious imperfections, was rather like a reflection in troubled waters of that ideal world which existed above. And the Chinese believed that as long as life on earth followed the pattern of the star world in every detail, there would be peace and happiness. It was only when, owing either to insufficient knowledge or else to lack of skill in carrying out their instructions, the earth got out of step with the sky world that discontent and war and suffering followed. If there was a famine, or rebellion, or civil war, it must be because the astronomers were held responsible. It was a theory which certainly led to a rapid development of astronomical knowledge, especially when the unfortunate astronomers discovered that if they made a mistake, or even failed to predict an eclipse, they might lose not only their jobs but their heads as well."104

3. Another version is given by Evan Hadingham, based on the annals of the Formal Han Dynasty (202 B.C.E. -8 C.E.). The Chinese Emperor's rule was sanctioned, Hadingham says, by a blending of earthly and cosmic forces. The King was said to have Heaven for father and Earth for mother. The main task of the state astronomers was to detect imbalances in this relationship by watching for portents such as eclipses, meteors, comets and other unusual celestial phenomena. This responsibility placed them in a position of immense power in the Han bureaucracy. An examination of the annals shows that the scribes edited them, making additions, deletions, and alterations. Certain omens, such as eclipses, were reported on dates which were astronomically impossible, which suggests that the importance of obtaining a sign overrode the Han astronomers' concern for facts.105 4. Some native Americans simply attributed errors of their astronomers to incompetence. Ray Williamson speaks about the su n- wa tch e r s, or sun priests, functionaries of the Pueblo Indians, the Hopi and Zuni, who maintained a kind of solar horizon calendar by monitoring positions of the sun from day to day, and correlated them with various ceremonies, e.g., at the solstices. He reports a journal entry for April 18, 1921, made by Crow Wing, a Hopi Indian:
103 104

A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, 1963, translated and compiled by Wing-Tsit Chan, p. 332. Peter Lum,The Stars in our Heaven, Myths and Fables, 1948, p. 16- 17.


Evan Hadingham, Early Man and the Cosmos (1984), p. 247; Hadingham cites W. Eberhard, "The Political Function of Astronomy and Astronomers in Han China" in Chinese Thought and Institutions, 1957, p. 38.


"We think the Sun-Watcher is not a very good man. He missed some places, he was wrong last year. All the people think that is why we had so much cold this winter and no snow." 106 5. We see why star-watchers, who were often also weather -watchers, were in demand. We have a flourishing weather prediction industry today, also not as reliable as we might like, but no doubt better than once upon a time. One can find reports in newspapers of summer and winter solstices and equinoxes, eclipses, comets, meteor showers, and so on. Supernovae are reported, and are especially valued by our cosmologist/astronomers, who make use of them when they make predictions about the future and past of the whole universe. Just as people have done for thousands of years, we teach our young how to read and use calendars, what solstices and equinoxes are, at least in terms of change of seasons, and how such things are related to predicting future changes in daily sunlight and weather. We may teach them current theories of how eclipses work, and what meteors and comets are thought to be. We also find in our newspapers predictions about the affairs of individuals, in daily horo scopes written (one supposes) by astrologers. And we hear of officials who consult astrologers about propitious times for taking actions, although it is rather rare to find officials who admit this publicly. 6. Edward Schafer says of the role of astronomy and astrology in China during the T'ang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) that astronomical and calendrical affairs were a monopoly of the court. This was because astronomical activities had a ritualistic and religious component which involved the sovereign, the Son of Heaven, who was the link between celestial energy flowing from above and terrestrial responsibility flowing from below. Only the Son of Heaven could possess true knowledge of the stars. Prying into such affairs could be treasonable. To understand the workings and readings of the armillary sphere and star chart was to approach dangerously close to state secrets. Thus ordinary citizens of the T'ang empire were forbidden to dabble in such matters. Officials maintained that this taboo was intended prevent inexpert interpreters and charlatans from misleading and defrauding the ignorant masses. There were stringent penalties for the possession and use of most implements and books which could be used to obtain exact astrological of what the T'ang code called "our occult counterparts in the sky". 107

7. "The 'star gods' of ancient China were not mere ensouled stars," says Schafer, "exce pt, perhaps, to the vulgar. They were inconceivable beings whose masks and costumes were always hanging in the Vestry or Green Room of the sky, ready for occasional use when the formless powers who owned them chose to show themselves more closely to advanced students of the Highest Clarity than they ever did to mortals whose vision was more clouded by the obsessive fogs of ordinary careers and mundane preoccupations The beginnings of official Chinese worship and propitiation of these remote and sublime intelligences are lost in the roots of Chinese history. In Han times [25-220 A.D.], however, when we begin to have some clear idea of official cult practices and beliefs, star-worship was already firmly established. A prominent place was given to it in the state rituals connected with the worship of heaven carried out in the capital city. An example, under the date of A.D. 26, was the great imperial sacrifice to Heaven, with offerings of oxen to the sky-gods, inaugurated in the southern suburb of Lo-yang. The rite was conducted on a central round "altar" (i.e., ceremonial platform) and external altars to the five paramount gods of the directions. The place of sacrifice was furnished with representations of
106 111. 107 Ray Williamson, Living the Sky, The Cosmos of the American Indian, 1984, chapter on sun-watchers and p. Edward Schafer, Pacing the Void, T'ang Approaches to the Stars, 1977, p. 11-12.


the purple palace of the pole and with blazons representing the positions of the sun in the east, the moon in the west, and of the Northern Dipper. There were also lesser altars for the planets. These celestial deities were always paramount in the state cult, since they had a special relationship with the imperial house, the earthly nexus of the power that radiated from them." 108 8. Schafer goes on to say that state ceremonies conducted by the Son of Heaven himself, or by his surrogates, were momentous and complex affairs in which numerous potent spirits were invoked. At the winter solstice, in the most honorable position on a great round platform -- the northern one, facing south --the imperial court worshipped the ritual presence of the "Supreme Theocrat of the Heaven of Primal Light". This epithet refers to "the white radiance of the eternal breath which pervades the cosmos". Schafer emphasizes that we should not regard Taoist star worship merely as worship of the stars. If we do so, we misunderstand their faith as much as if we regarded the adoration of St. Michael and St. Gabriel as bird worship because these creatures of pure spirit are often represented with wings. To the Taoists, the stars were not gods but tokens and guises of cosmic beings, who might assume other guises and reveal themselves in other symbols. "They were deities whose location was nowhere, who existed simultaneously in the brain and in outer space, and could exhibit their numinous presence in any manner or place that seemed desirable." Taoist priests and initiates wore special costumes which symbolized their spiritual advancement and embodied mana which was revealed outwardly by magical diagrams and talismans. Their divinites were often described as wearing costumes just like those of their earthly hierophants. Most prominent of these vestments was the "star hat", referred to very often in T'ang poetry. A westerner might imagine this as the conical hat of an Arabian Nights' sorcerer, or whitebearded Merlin, or a fairy godmother, or a wicked witch. However, it appears that no graphic representation of a Taoist star-hat has survived from T'ang times.109

9. According to the B o o k o f T'a n g astrology was unnecessary in the golden ages of China's remotest past: "In the Grand Tranquillity of antiquity, the sun was not eroded and the stars did not explode." Is this a reference to sun spots, comets and meteors? to supernovae? In any case, after the rule of godlike supermen in the earliest times came to an end, Schafer says, "the skies over the Middle Kingdom were soon flashing with warnings from the All Highest." Interpretation was needed. The earliest Chinese astrology, like the earliest Mesopotamian astrology, was an omen or portent astrology, whose function was to predict on behalf of the monarch and nation. The fate of individuals was only of interest as far as it bore on the fate of the empire. Astrologers were officers of the kingdom, "devoted to the interpretation of strange lights and movements in the heavens, and the timely anticipation of disasters".

10. Apparently not long before the beginning of the Han dynasty, the body of lore associated with such startling phenomena acquired a theoretical framework, chiefly the cosmic dualism of yin and yang, along with the doctrine of the Five Activities, which could be made to correspond with the five visible planets. Along with these, there was a fundamental "theory of correspondences". Schafer says: "Celestial events are the "counterparts" or "simulacra" of terrestrial events, sky things have doppelgangers below, with which they are closely attuned The germinal essences of the Myriad Creatures in every case have counterparts up in the sky." They form shapes or contours under the sky. "Correspondence" has been defined as the relation
108 109 S cha fer, ibid ., p . 222- 225. S cha fer, ibid .


between the cosmic and political realms, and between the natural and human worlds, between macrocosm and microcosm. The emperor, the Son of Heaven, is a critical nexus between them all, "dedicated to maintaining the exactness of the correspondences by means of ritual observances". As a consequence, the early Chinese philosophers pondered relationships rather than substance, a matter which preoccupied the Eleatics. However, Schafer observes, there were always skeptics. 110 11. Among the earliest of the Chinese philosophical skeptics was Wang Chhung [sic, 2 h’s; 27-97 A.D.], said by Joseph Needham and Wang Ling to have been "one of the greatest men of his nation in any age ..." They say: "[He] made a frontal attack upon the Chinese State 'religion' by an uncompromising resistance to anthropocentrism of any kind. Again and again he returns to the charge that man lives on the earth's surface like lice in the folds of a garment. At the same time, he admits that among the 300 (or 360) naked creatures, man is the noblest and most intelligent. But if fleas, he said, desirous of learning man's opinions, emitted sounds close to his ear, he would not even hear them; how absurd then it is to imagine that Heaven and Earth could understand the words of Man or acquaint themselves with his wishes. This position once gained, the whole weight of Wang Chhung's attack on superstition was deployed. Heaven, being incorporeal, and Earth inert, can on no account be said to speak or act; they cannot be affected by anything man does; they do not listen to prayers; they do not reply to questions." 111
12. Still, paradoxically, Wang Chhung favored individual or horoscopic astrology, and may even have introduced it into China. He believed "that among the most important of all influences acting upon men during the formative period of their lives were those of the stars The paradox lies in the probability that it was precisely Wang Chhung's scientific naturalism which pushed him into this theory. as a means of escaping from the arbitrary endowments of local gods and spirits and other 'supernatural' agencies. The stars were at least regular in their motions." 1 1 2

13. Astral religion may be an important ingredient in a religion as a whole. Charles Dupuis (1742-1809) went so far as to claim that all religions have grown out of astral religions. Dupuis was a scholar who became a member of the revolutionary government in France in 1792, and also served briefly in Napoleon's government. However, he soon retired from politics, and devoted the rest of his life to his studies. In 1795 he published an extensive work called Origine de tous les cultes, ou la religion universelle in which he propounded his theory of the astral origin of all religions, and futhermore that the place where all organized religion originated was northern Egypt. The work stirred up considerable controversy, and is said to have led to the expedition organized by Napoleon for the exploration of Egypt, an invasion which had enormous political and archeological consequences. 14. Few believe at present that all religion originated in Upper Egypt, or that all religion grew out of worship of celestial objects. However, that astrolatry had a considerable influence on the development of many religions is undeniable, as shown by Dupuis's own impressive
110 Schafer, ibid., p. 55-57. 111 Joseph Needham and Wang Ling, S ci ence and Civ ili sation in Ch ina, v. 2, "History of Scientific Thought, 1969, p. 368, 374- 375 112 Needham and Ling, ibid, p. 384.


scholarship which covers a multitude of times and places and peoples. He begins by asserting that in the beginning all religion was pantheistic. Of the early idea of God, he says: "When man began to reason upon the causes of his existence and preservation, also upon those of the multiplied effects, which are born and die around him, where else but in this vast and admirable Whole could he have placed at first that sovereignly powerful cause, which brings forth everything, and in the bosom of which all reenters, in order to issue again by a succession of new generations and under different forms. This power being that of the World itself, it was therefore the World, which was considered as God, or as the supreme and universal cause of all the effects produced by it, of which mankind forms a part. This is that great God, the first or rather the only God, who has manifested himself to man through the veil of the matter which he animates and which forms the immensity of the Deity." 15. Dupuis goes on: "Although this God was everywhere and was all, which bears a character of grandeur and perpetuity in this eternal World, yet did man prefer to look for him in those elevated regions, where that mighty and radiant luminary seems to travel through space, overflowing the Universe with the waves of its light, and through which the most beautiful as well as the most beneficent action of the Deity is enacted on Earth. It would seem as if the Almighty had established his throne above that splendid azure vault, sown with brilliant lights, that from the summit of the heavens he held the reins of the World, that he directed the movements of its vast body, and contemplated himself in forms as varied as they are admirable, wherein he modifies himself incessantly." Dupuis quotes Pliny the Elder (Natural History, II.1): "The World, says Pliny, or what we otherwise call Heaven, which comprises in its immensity the whole creation, is an eternal, an infinite God, which has never been created, and which shall never come to an end. To look for something else beyond it, is useless labor for man, and out of his reach. Behold that truly sacred Being, eternal and immense, which includes within itself everything; it is All in All, or rather itself is All. It is the work of Nature, and itself is Nature.”113

16. Later, Dupuis says: "It would be a mistaken idea to believe, that [the Ancients] considered the World merely as a machine, without life and intelligence, moved by a blind and necessary force As the World seemed animated by a principle of life, which circulates in all its parts, holding it in eternal activity, it was believed that the Universe lived as man did and the other animals, or rather that these lived only because the Universe, being essentially animated, communicated them for a few instants an infinitesimal portion of its immortal life, which it infused into the coarse and inert matter of sublunary bodies. Was it restored back to itself? Man and beast died and the Universe alone, always alive, circulated around the remains of their bodies by its perpetual motion, and organized new beings, The active Fire or the subtle substance, which animated it, by incorporating itself in its immense mass, was the universal soul

Charles Dupuis, T h e Or i g i n o f a l l R e l i g i o u s W o r s h i p , 1871, p. 15- 16, anonymous translation of material from Dupuis' work. It is difficult to trace the exact provenance of the material. Dupuis's work of 1795 was revised by P. R. Auguis and published in 1822, 10th edition, 1835-1836. An abridgement by Count M. de Tracy was published in 1804. While the content, roughly speaking, of the anonymous translation into English can be found in the edition of 1835-1 836, the semantically equivalent passages are quite different linguistically.


of it. This is the doctrine, which is embodied in the system of the Chinese, on Yang and Yin, one of which is the celestial matter, moveable and luminous, and the other the terrestrial one, inert and gloomy, of which all bodies are composed." 17. "This is the dogma of Pythagoras," Dupuis continues, "contained in those beautiful verses in the sixth book of the Aeneid [of Virgil], where Anchises reveals to his son [Aeneas] the origin of the souls and their fate after death. 'You must know, my son, he said, that Heaven and Earth, the Sea, the luminous globe of the Moon and all the Stars, are moved by a principle of eternal life, which perpetuates their existence; that there is a great intelligent Spirit extended in all the parts of the vast body of the Universe, which, while mixing itself in All, is agitating it by an eternal motion. It is this soul, which is the source of life of man, of the beasts, of the birds and all the monsters living within the bosom of the Ocean. The vital force, which animates them, emanates from that eternal Fire, which shines in the Heavens, and which while it is held captive in the raw material of the bodies, is only developed as much, as the various mortal organizations permit it, which subdue its power and activity. At the death of each creature, these germs of a particular life, these portions of an universal breath, return to their principle and to their source of life, which circulates in the starred sphere.'" 18. Matching lives of men with lives of stars is nearly universal. In Africa, according to Harold Courlander, the following cosmogony is told among the Yoruba people of Nigeria. "In ancient days, at the beginning of time, there was no solid land here where people now dwell. There was only outer space and the sky, and, far below, an endless stretch of water and wild marshes. Supreme in the domain of the sky was the orisha, or god, called Olorun, also known as Olodumare and designated by many praise names. Also living in that place were numerous other orishas, each having attributes of his own, but none of whom had knowledge or powers equal to those of Olorun. Among them was Orunmila, also called Ifa, the eldest son of Olorun. To this orisha Olorun had given the power to read the future, to understand the secret of existence and to divine the processes of fate. There was the orisha Obatala, King of the White Cloth, whom Olorun trusted as though he also were a son. There was the orisha Eshu, whose character was neither good nor bad. He was compounded out of the elements of chance and accident, and his nature was unpredictability. He understood the principles of speech and language, and because of this gift he was Olorun's linguist "

19. "Down below, it was the female deity Olokun who ruled over the vast expanses of water and wild marshes, a grey region with no living things in it " The two worlds were separate, and the orishas of the sky took no notice of what went on below, except for Obatala, King of the White Cloth. In order to overcome the monotony of what lay below, he went to Orunmila to ask how land could be introduced below. By casting palm nuts in his divining tray, Orunmila determined that Obatala should make a golden chain with which to descend to the water with sand, to make land with. This Obatala did. He planted a palm nut, and there was vegetation in the land, but no people, so Obatala decided to make people out of clay. After making a number, he got thirsty and began to drink palm wine. He drank so much that he got drunk, and some of the people he made after that were misshapen. A city called Ife was founded. Olokun, the orisha of the sea, angry that water had been covered with land, flooded it, and many people were drowned. After a while, Orunmila, the deity of divination, whose name means "The Sky Knows Who Will Prosper", came down from the sky and turned back the sea.


He also taught certain orishas who had come to live below on the land, and certain men, the arts of controlling unseen forces, and others the art of divining the future, "which is to say the knowledge of how to ascertain the wishes and intentions of the Sky God ....... Earthly order -- the understanding of relationships between people and the physical world, and between people and the orishas was beginning to take shape." 114 20. Peter Lum relates that in the myths of Britain, the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major, the Big Dipper) is interwoven with the story of King Arthur and the Round Table. His name was alleged to have come from the words "Arth" and "Uthyr", meaning "bear" and "wonderful". Some of his followers are said to have claimed that he was an incarnation of the spirit of the Great Bear. The Round Table may have referred to the circle made by the swinging of the Great Bear's tail each night when it swept the northern sky. "Fiona Macleod tells an old story," Lum says, "of how Arthur once fell asleep on the seashore, long before he had any thought of being king, and in his sleep a spirit came to him and guided him far up to the north where the stars of the Great Bear were bright. There he found the knights of heaven seated at a great circular table, resplendent as the shining stars, and they spoke to him and gave him wise counsel. They told him that his name should be Arthur, that he would be king, and that he must pattern his life and the rule of his kingdom on that of the kingdom of heaven." 115 21. Gene Weltfish tells how some Native Americans who lived along the Missouri River saw the connection of the heavens with the affairs of men: "The Pawnees had many tasks to accomplish in the early spring before the time of planting. Some of them were practical and some ceremonial, but to the Pawnees who believed that nothing on earth could move without the heavens, no practical task could be undertaken unless the appropriate ceremony had preceded it The round of spring renewal ceremonies was heralded by the appearance of two small twinkling stars known as the Swimming Ducks in the northeastern horizon near the Milky Way. They notified the animals that they must awaken from their winter sleep, break through the ice, and come out into the world again."116 And Ray Williamson relates that according to Pawnee stories, they received from of their ritual direction from the stars. They claimed that at one time they organized their villages according to patterns of the stars, and each village possessed a sacred bundle given to it by one of the stars. When the different villages assembled for a communal ceremony, they arranged themselves in a way which reflected the celestial positions of the stars whose bundles they possessed. There were 18 Skidi Pawnee villages, each associated with a different star." 117

22. The Oglala Dakota, a branch of the Sioux Indians, were among those who defeated Custer at the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. (Cf. Evan S. Connell, Son of the Mo rn ing Sta r, 1984) Their chief god, great spirit, creator and chief executive was (is?) Wakan Tanka, who is sixteen individuals in one, each of the four categories containing four individuals. As great spirit, he is sky. Paul Radin says of this religion: "The sky is an immaterial god whose
A Treasury of African Folklore, edited by Harold Courlander, 1975, p. 189-193; this story is from his own Yoruba Gods and Heroes, 1973. 115 Lum, ibid., p. 38-39. 116 Gene Weltfish, The Lost Universe: Pawnee Life and Culture, 1965, p. 79. 117 Ray Williamson, Living the Sky, 1984, p. 229.


substance is never visible. His titles given by the people are taku skan-skan and nagi tanka or the great spirit, and those given by the priests are skan and to, blue. The concept expressed by the term taka-skan-skan is that which gives motion to anything that moves. That expressed by the shamans by the word skan is a vague concept of force or energy and by the word to is the immaterial blue of the sky, which symbolizes the presence of the great spirit. His domain is all above the world, beginning at the ground. He is the source of all power and motion and is the patron of directions and trails and of encampment. He imparts to each of mankind at birth a spirit, a ghost, and a sicun [an invisible god] and at the death of each of mankind he hears the testimony of the ghost and adjudges the spirit. His word is unalterable except by himself. He alone can undo that which is done. His people are the stars and the feminine is his daughter." 118 23. Plato speaks in many places of the workings of the stars. For example, there is the myth of Er in the 10th book of Plato's meditation on the nature ofjustice, the Republic. Er, the son of Armenius, is killed in battle, but comes to life again just before he is to be burnt on a funeral pyre. He describes what he has seen in the other world. This includes a vision of the structure of the universe, described like this by Francis Cornford in his translation of the Republic: "What the souls actually see in their vision is not the universe itself, but a model, a primitive orrery in a form roughly resembling a spindle, with its shaft round which at the lower end is fastened a solid hemispherical whorl. In the orrery the shaft represents the axis of the universe and the whorl consists of 8 hollow concentric hemispheres, fitted into one another 'like a nest of bowls,' and capable of moving separately. It is as if the upper halves of 8 concentric spheres had been cut away so that the internal 'works' might be seen. The rims of the bowls appear as forming a continuous flat surface; they represent the equator of the sphere of fixed stars and, inside that, the orbits of the 7 planets. The souls see the Spindle resting on the knees of Necessity. The whole mechanism is turned by the Fates, Clotho (the Spinner), Lachesis (She who allots), and Atropos (the Inflexible). Sirens sing eight notes on consonant intervals forming the structure of a scale (harmonia) which represents the Pythagorean 'music of the spheres.'" 119

24. "All this imagery," Cornford concludes, "is, of course, mythical and symbolic. The underlying doctrine is that in human life there is an element of necessity or chance, but also an element of free choice, which makes us, and not Heaven, responsible for the good and evil in our lives." In the myth, after the souls have completed their journey to the Spindle resting on the knees of Necessity (probably the Milky Way) Lachesis, daughter of Necessity, distributor of human fates, says: "Souls of a day, here shall begin a new round of earthly life, to end in death. No guardian spirit will cast lots for you, but you shall choose your own destiny." (Cornford's translation, p. 355). The dead souls are shown a large number of sample lives to choose from. The man who had drawn the first lot chose, in thoughtless greed, to be reborn as a tyrant. He did not see the many evils this life contained, and that he was fated to devour his own children. Plato attributes his choice to innocence and ignorance: "He was once of those," Plato says, "who had come down from heaven, having spent his former life in a well -ordered commonwealth and become virtuous from habit without pursuing wisdom. It might indeed be said that not the least part of those who were caught in this way were of the company which had come from heaven,
Paul Radin, Primitive Man as Philosopher, English translation 1927, p. 329-332, quoting James Walker, "The Sun Dance of the Oglala Divison of the Dakota," Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, XVI, Part II, p. 72-92. 119 Republic, translated by Francis Cornford, 1941, p. 350.


because they were not disciplined by suffering; whereas most of those who had come up out of earth, having suffered themselves and seen others suffer, were not hasty in making their choice." (ibid., p. 357). Cornford draws attention to Plato's intention that such stories be taken as myth. By this means Plato synthesizes older speculative interpretations in the manner of Pythagoreans with newer ideas of rational philosophy. Plato's visions still exerted great cultural force near the close of the 16th century, just before the advent of new cosmologies based on the works of such people as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Descartes, unified by Newton in his system of the world. At Florence, in 1589, an elaborate theatrical production known as the intermezzi was presented at the Medici court in honor of the marriage of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Here is the opening scene, as described by Roy Strong: "On May 2nd 1589 the front curtain on the Teatro Mediceo parted to reveal a Doric temple and above it a cloud, surrounded by rays of light, which slowly descended to the ground. On this rode the Doric Harmony, singing of her descent to mortals The initial statement of the Doric Harmony was carried to fruition in the first intermezzo which took the form of a representation of the Harmony of the Spheres according to Plato's cosmology, and in particular as described in the tenth book of Plato's Republic. The prospettiva [a view of the city of Pisa in perspective] was suddenly covered with star-spangled clouds. Eight Platonic sirens plus two more of the ninth and tenth sphere sat on clouds telling how they had forsaken the heavens to sing the praises of the bride. On a central cloud sat Necessity on a throne with a diamond spindle of the cosmos between her knees. She was attended by the three Parcae or Fates and they in turn were flanked by clouds bearing the seven planets and Astraea, whose advent on earth signalled the return of the Golden Age Above were twelve heroes and heroines, each pair embodying virtues attributed to the onlooking couple [the Duke and his bride]. Both the sirens and the planets joined in a dialogue describing the joy of the cosmos at so auspicious an alliance and as the clouds arose from the lower part of the stage sunlight streamed in, while above night approached. A concluding madrigal expressed hopes of 'glorious heroes' as a result of the match. As the cloud vision faded the stage was filled with sunlight, revealing the prospettiva of the city of Pisa " 120

26. The Renaissance court festival, says Roy Strong, "unlike its medieval forebearers, stemmed from a philosophy which believed that truth could be apprehended in images Our guide to it is a vast tract of literature, books of emblems and imprese and mythological manuals. These compilations were an extension and elaboration, under the impact of Florentine Neoplatonism, of the inherited tradition of hidden meanings Although these texts were known to the middle ages, they were studied with renewed fervour during the renaissance, when scholars examined them to recover a lost history or secret wisdom, pre-dating the Christian revelation, that was passed down through Moses and the Egyptian priests by way of Hermes Trismegistus to the Greeks The acceptance of a pagan theology that descended from Zoroaster through Hermes Trismegistus to Orpheus, Pythagoras and Plato enabled Renaissance man to assimilate the whole heritage of classical mythology and history."121

120 121

Roy Strong, Arts and Festivals, Renaissance Festivals 1450-1 650, 1973 (1984); p. 137 and 23-24. Strong, ibid.


27. Goethe (1749-1832) wrote: Wie an dem Tag, der dich der Welt verliehen, Die Sonne stand zum Grusse der Planeten, Bist alsobald und fort und fort gediehen Nach dem Gesetz, wonach du angetreten. So musst du sein, dir kannst du nicht entfliehen, So sagten schon Sibyllen, so Propheten; Und keine Zeit und keine Macht zerstückelt Geprägte Form, die lebend sich entwickelt .............................. Das Liebste wird vom Herzen weggescholten, Dem harten Muss bequemt sich Will und Grille. So sind wir scheinfrei denn, nach manchen Jahren Nur enger dran, als wir am Anfang waren. The way the sun stood at the planets' greeting, The way it stood the day the world endowed you, You were from that time on developed According to the law by which you entered. Thus must you be, and you can't escape, The sybils and the seers have said it; No time nor force can disassemble Imprinted form that grows itself in living ................ What's loved is kept away from hearts that want it, Will and whim are shaped to a Must unyielding. We only seem free, and after many years, We're more bound than when we started. 1 2 2

28. We have said that Stoics were devoted to astrology in the Hellenistic era. There were others in that era who embraced astrology. There were, for example, the Hermeticists. The works called Hermetica, or the Corpus Hermeticum, are Greek and Latin writings of uncertain origin, evidently composed from about 200 to 500 A.D., which contain religious or philosophic teachings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, the "thricegreatest" Hermes, perhaps a mythical person or god. Some say this Hermes is not the Greek Hermes, but the Egyptian god Thoth, perhaps identified with Hermes by Alexandrian Greeks. However this is uncertain. William Grese says that "the predominant view is that the Hermetica are a Hellenistic development of Greek (especially Platonic and Stoic) philosophy, and the leading exponent of this position has been André-Jean Festugière."12 3 However, as Grese observes, in addition to the religious and philosophic elements in the Hermetica, there are also magical and astrological elements. These writings are to this day an important part of the so-called occult tradition.
From "Urworte, Orphisch",German text taken from German Poetry from 1750 -1900, 1984, edited by Robert Browning, p. 66, 68, my translation.

(William Grese, "Magic in Hellenistic Hermeticism, in Hermeticism and the Renaissance, Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, edited by Ingred Merkel and Allen Debus, 1988, p. 45.)


29. A definition of occult, in this sense, is given by Edward A. Tiryakian: "I understand intentional practices, techniques, or procedures which: a) draw upon hidden or concealed forces in nature or the cosmos that cannot be measured or recognized by the instruments of modern science, and b) which have as their desired or intended consequences empirical results, such as either obtaining knowledge of the empirical course of events or altering them from what they would have been without this intervention ......To go on further, in so far as the subject of occult activity is not just any actor, but one who has acquired specialized knowledge and skills nevessary for the practices in question, and insofar as these skills are learned and transmitted in socially (but not publicly available) organized, routinized, and ritualized fashion, we can speak of these practices as occult sciences or occult arts." 124 The word esoteric is also used in this connection, and Tiryakian says "esoteric" systems are the "religio -philosophic belief systems which underlie occult techniques and practices; that is, it [the word "esoteric"] refers to the more comprehensive cognitive mappings of nature and the cosmos, the epistemological and ontological reflections of ultimate reality, which mappings constitute a stock of knowledge that provides the ground for occult procedures."125

30. F. L. Peters observes that Hermeticism was an extremely complex phenomenon. The theoretical and speculative works of the Corpus Hermeticum were accompanied by an immense variety of tracts on practical Hermeticism, which is to say, on the manipulation of natural substances. Hermeticism had a considerable influence on Muslim culture. With the assistance, it seems, of Iranian astrologers, Hermes Trismegistus was incorporated into Islamic learning a generation before Plato or Aristotle found a firm base there. Many Muslims believed in the influence of stars on individuals. One of the greatest of the early Muslim scientists was al-B iruni (11th century a.D.). Among his many works was an Instruction on the Elements of Astrology, which became a standard work on the subject. Peters says: "Once again, even in Biruni, one can see the two faces of Islamic science; the secular tradition of trigonometric functions, astronomical tables and schemes of world chronology was accompanied and contaminated by a parallel tradition of horo scopes, astral influences and elaborate theories of the descent of occult wisdom from the hoary past into the bosom of Islam ... Each discipline had authentic credentials that established it as a science; and if astrology was somewhat less exact in its predictions, as Ptolemy willingly conceded, it was not more so than ethics, for example, with respect to geometry." 126

31. An Hermeticist, Joannes Stobaeus (c. 500 A.D.), says: "For the stars are the instrument of destiny; in acccordance with this they bring to pass all things for nature and for men." 127 A passage from the Latin Hermetic work known as the Asclepius reads: "Asclepius: But tell me, Trismegistus, what part of the government of the universe is administered by Destiny?."

Edward A.Tiryakian, "Toward the Sociology of Esoteric Culture", American Journal of Sociology 78, 1972, p. 491-512; quoted by Mircea Eliade, Occultism, Witchcraft and Cultural Fashions, 1976, p. 48. 1 2 5 Quoted by Eliade, l.c.


F. L. Peters, Allah 's Commonwealth, A History of Islam in the Near East 600-1100 A.D., 1973, p. 270, 274, 351. Quoted in Hermetica, edited by Walter Scott, 1924, v. 1, p. 434.



"Trismegistus: That which we name Destiny, Asclepius, is the force by which all events are brought to pass; for all events are bound together in a never-broken chain by the bonds of necessity. Destiny then is either God himself, or else it is the force which ranks next after God; it is the power which, in conjunction with Necessity, orders all things in heaven and earth according to God's law. Thus Destiny and Necessity are inseparably linked together and cemented to each other. Destiny generates the beginnings of things; Necessity compels the results to follow. And in the train of Destiny and Necessity goes Order, that is, the interweaving of events, and their arrangement in temporal succession. There is nothing that is not arranged in order; it is by order above all else that the Kosmos itself is borne upon its course; nay, the Kosmos consists wholly of order. Of these three, the first is Destiny, which sows the seed, as it were, and thereby gives rise to all that is to issue from the seed thereafter; the second is Necessity, by which all results are inevitably compelled to follow; and the third is Order, which maintains the interconnexion of the events which Destiny and Necessity determine. But Destiny, Necessity, and Order, all three together, are wrought by the decree of God, who governs the Kosmos by this law and by his holy ordinance. Hence all will to do or not to do is by God's ruling wholly alien from them. They are neither disturbed by anger nor swayed by favour; they obey the compulsion of God's eternal ordinance, which is inflexible, immutable, indissoluble. Yet chance or contingency also exists in the Kosmos, being intermingled with all material things...... "1 2 8 32. In the Lord's Prayer of the Christian New Testament we have: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 1 2 9

33. The influence of Hermeticism in the European Renaissance, and on the origins of modern science has been much debated. There can be no doubt that its influence was considerable in some ways. A translation and publication of the Corpus hermeticum was completed in 1471 by Marsilio Ficino, and this and subsequent translations and related works were in considerable demand. An ancient pedigree was sought for Hermes Trismegistus. The pedigree according to Ficino runs from Plato (who, Ficino claims, couldn't have thought up all his wisdom by himself) to Philolaus, then to Pythagoras (said to have obtained his wisdom in Egypt), and so on, back to Hermes. What about Hermes' source? "Here," says Wayne Shumaker, "we pass out of the world altogether. Mercury 'puts aside the fogs of sense and of fancy, bringing himself thus to an approach to mind; and presently Pimander, that is, the divine mind, flows into him, whereupon he contemplates the order of all things.' The pedigree of the pimander [divine intelligence] terminates in God Himself, whose word must perforce be accepted."130 What emerges, says Shumaker, is una priscae theologiae ubique sibi consona secta, "a system of aboriginal theology everywhere harmonious with itself". That is, a certain
128 Translated by Walter Scott in Hermetica, 1924, v. 1, p. 362-364.

129 Mark, 6.7-12,Revised Standard Version, 1952, revision of American Standard Version, 1881-1885, 1901, in turn a revision of King James Version, 1611. 130 Wayne Shumaker, Occult Sciences in the Renaissance, A Study in Intellectual Patterns, 1972, p. 204.

group of Renaissance scholars and their followers sought in the Hermetic writings a pattern which would allow the reconciliation of any pagan system with Christianity. It was a kind of structuralism. Shumaker remarks that a vestige of it is found in George Eliot's Middlemarch, in which Mr. Casaubon is attempting to work out a "Key to All the Mythologies". The aim of Renaissance syncretists like Ficino (who was an enthusiastic astrologer) was not to contrast mythologies, nor to criticize them, but to unite them in a harmonious concordance. 34. In her Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964) and subsequent works, Frances Yates tried to show that Hermeticism was a major influence on the development of modern science. "The Renaissance magus," she says, "was the immediate ancestor of the seventeenth century scientist." 131 Karin Johannisson summarizes this point of view. The Hermetic tradition in the Renaissance, she says, started in the 15th century with the translation of Neoplatonic writings by Marsilio Ficino and his circle in Florence, Italy. This included the Corpus Hermeticum. "Here," says Johannisson, "the proud notion of a pristine knowledge was depicted, a gift from God to Adam and an exhortation to Man to complete the work of creation by unlocking it and decoding its underlying structure ... Nature has its own language, and the means of interpreting it was a secret alphabet, derived from Greek number mysticism and the cabala, accessible only to the chosen." This Hermetic tradition was carried further by Paracelsus and his followers, and such people as Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), John Dee (1527-1608) and Robert Fludd (1574-1637). These traditions, according to Johannisson, were transformed into a concrete program in two renowned Rosicrucian manifestos, the Famafraternitas (1614) and the Confessiofraternitas (1615). Johannisson takes these to have made a positive contribution to the development of early modern science.

35. "They maintained," Johannisson says, "the idea that knowledge cannot be limited by given methods, and that against rationality, objectivity, and critical doubt as the cardinal virtues of science must be polace proud hope that the boundaries of science can always be transcended, the dream of a perfectible science in the service of mankind." Johannisson takes the story to the end of the 18th century, when during the years around the French Revolution, "the concepts of magic and science once again seem to merge in the intense mystical activity of the orders, and when the scientific academy and the secret society fulfill similar functions as platforms for scientific activity and propaganda."132 36. Johan nisson asserts that a 16th and 17th magus considered himself to be a natural philosopher in the same way, say, as Kepler, Galileo and Newton were natural philosophers. (The terms "scientist" and "physicist" were not yet in common use.) "The magus," she says, "understands nature as an animate and active network of ultimately spiritual forces, the scientists sees it as a "machine," a manifestation of the universal laws of nature." Thus Johannisson regards laws of nature as antithetical to spirituality, rather than as rules complementary to spirituality, or perhaps rules which even spirits must obey. "The magus believes that because

Frances Yates, "The Hermetic Tradition in Renaissance Science", in Art, Science and History in the Renaissance, 1968, edited by C. S. Singleton, p.258.


Karin Johannisson, "Magic, Science, and Institutionalization in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries", in


Hermeticism and the Renaissance, Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, 1988, based on a 1982 meeting, edited by Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus, p. 251- 261.


nature is animate -- not completed and finished -- he can enter into it, operate on it, and manipulate it." 37. But a magus is himself a part of nature, and had no choice about entering it. And to say that nature is not complete is not to say that it doesn't obey natural laws, be they only laws of probability. Johannisson says: "The scientist on the other hand would not attempt to exceed nature; his task is to understand and to describe it, to come as close as possible to its unassailable mechanism; for him the laws of nature are inexorable and unbreakable, absolute criteria for what is natural and supernatural. For the magus, the supernatural simply coincides with the unusual, the marvelous, the artificial; the laws of nature are not regarded as absolute and can be exceeded by art Magic and science work with different methods. Whereas science is based on the conviction that experience and reason are valid instruments of knowledge, magic is based on the conviction that such values cannot be fixed, and the aim is continually set far beyond the boundaries of what is empirically and rationally verifiable. The theories of science are dictated by logic, those of magic by analogy. In opposition to rationality and understanding (episteme) stand irrational hope and use (techne). At its most general, then, magic can be characterized as the utilization of art in order to attain specific desired ends, not in order to attain knowledge and understanding Magic strove to transcend the laws of nature, science to decode them, but also to accept subordination to them." 133

38. But there isn't, and never has been, a clear demarcation between science as knowledge and understanding, and technology as use of science and other practical arts. Scientists, on the whole, must use and create or rely indirectly on technology in their pursuit of understanding, and technicians must use and create scientific understanding in realizing their goals. There is, however, a clear demarcation between technology as use limited by natural laws, and magic as use not limited by natural laws. 39. "To summarize," Johannisson says, "magic as a scientific activity builds on a defined conception of knowledge -- derived from the Hermetic tradition-- stressing experiments and rationality in a mathematical sense, together with a visionary utopianism aiming at practical results." The Hermetic tradition, however, shows few signs of appreciating what applied mathematics is like, as understood by such people as Archimedes, Newton, and mathematicians today. On the contrary, Hermeticists are prone to engage in numerology, number mysticism and number magic, which are not applied mathematics in the same sense.

40. Number mysticism and numerology go back to ancient times. The Hellenistic era, the period of the Hermeticists, the Gnostics, the Stoics, the Epicureans, the Academics, and early Christianity, was also the period of the Neoplatonists, who looked back not only to Plato but to the Pythagoreans, some of whom have customarily been taken to have been among the great mathematicians of ancient Greece, and some of whom (not necessarily the best mathematicians) were devoted to a kind of numerology. How much of classical Greek mathematics was due to Pythagoras or his immediate followers, and how much to other pre-Socratic or later Greeks has been for a long time a difficult and debated question.


J ohanni s s on, ib id.

41. Pythagoras himself appears to have been a kind of shaman, "the wisest of men", a miracle-worker who founded a secret society in which he taught metempsychosis (the reincarnation or migration of souls), the music or harmony of the heavens or spheres, immortality of souls among the stars, and various magical rituals and practices. Walter Burkert holds that the general belief in the Pythagorean origin of mathematics (mathematics, say, as Aristotle and Euclid understood it) stems from no earlier than the Neoplatonic and neo-Pythagorean scholastic traditions of late antiquity, many hundreds of years after the introduction of mathematical science in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.E. 42. It is questionable, says Burkert, that Greek mathematics originated in the revelation of a guru, within a secret society founded to do mathematics, since it arose in close connection with the development of Greek naturalistic views of the world by Pythagoreans and nonPythagoreans alike. Geometry was an important component of astronomy among the classical Greeks, and some of the geometers were not Pythagoreans. Earlier than in other fields, geometry and astronomy became the domain of specialists because their increasing complexity required special talent, and the existence of such talent is independent of membership in any particular school. The Sophists, who were not mathematically inclined, were detached from the natural philosophers, and the exactness of the mathematical parts of natural philosophy contrasted more and more with the uncertainty of other kinds of philosophy. By Plato's time, mathematics was already the model science. Individual Pythagoreans had some part in this development, but the mathematics of the classical Greeks was Greek, not merely Pythagorean.134 43. Some early Pythagoreans, perhaps including Pythagoras himself, were devoted to numerology, which Burkert takes to be of pre-historic origin. Indeed, number dominates the Pythagoreans' general view of the world. But devotion to number in the form of number mysticism and number symbolism is quite different from devotion to mathematics as a science. Burkert gives this as another reason that Greek mathematics in the manner of Euclid or Archimedes didn't arise from the Pythagoreans. He says: "It has long been known that conscious and unconscious, rational and irrational impulses, logic and mysticism, interpenetrate in a complicated and nearly inextricable fashion. As Kepler discovered his second planetary law in 'Pythagorean' manipulation of regular polyhedra, so one might find it obvious that precisely the pre-philosophical lore of Pythagoras provided the stimulus for Pythagorean science. But not only does the cosmic significance of number [as in numerology] come from pre-logical number symbolism, but, even in that which Aristotle presents as the philosophy of the Pythagoreans, there emerges again and again a spirit and method directly opposite to that of exact mathematics, so that the latter cannot have arisen from the activities of the Pythagoreans. It is not an unbroken unit of science and religious-ethical teaching that we find in the Pythagorean tradition, but a groping attempt to mediate between two levels, to transpose an ancient interpretation of the world into the language of the recently founded philosophia." 135

44. It appears, then, that the contrast of numerology with mathematics related to experience is found already among the pre-Socratic Greeks. In the early 17th century, in the

Walter Burkert, Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism, translation with authorized revisions by Edwin L. Minar, Jr., 1972, of Weisheit and Wissenschaft: Studien zu Pythagoras, Philolaus und Platon, 1962, p. 406, 426-


427. 1 3 5 Burkert, ibid., p. 466, 479-480.

52 S c ott , ibid ., 167 .


work of people like Johannes Kepler and Robert Fludd, heirs of a neo-Pythagorean revival in the European Renaissance of a neo-Pythagorean upsurge in Hellenistic times in North Africa, we find a mixture of the two, with mathematics and its relation to experience having mostly the upper hand in Kepler, and numerology and magic having mostly the upper hand in Fludd. 136 45. Burkert concludes that the Pythagorean philosophy synthesized scientifically valid mathematics with scientifically invalid numerology. He regards this synthesis as largely the the work of Philolaus, following some prodomal attempts by Hippasus. He says: "The tradition of Pythagoras as a philosopher and scientist is, from the historical point of view, a mistake. But the fascination that surrounded, and still surrounds, the name of Pythagoras does not come, basically, from specific scientific connotations, or from the rational method of mathematics, and certainly not from the success of mathematical physics. More important is the feeling that there is a kind of knowing which penetrates to the very core of the universe, which offers truth as something at once beatific and comforting, and presents the human being as cradled in a universal harmony. In the figure of Pythagoras an element of pre-scientific cosmic unity lives on into an age in which the Greeks were beginning, with their newly acquired method of rational thought, to make themselves masters of their world, to call tradition into question, and to abandon long-cherished beliefs. The price of the new knowledge and frreedom was a loss in inner security; the paths of rational thought lead further and further in different directions, and into the Boundless. There the figure of the ancient Sage, who seemed still to possess the secret of unity, seemed more and more refulgent. Thus after all, there lived on, in the image of Pythagoras, the great Wizard whom even an advanced age, though it be unwilling to admit the fact, cannot entirely dismiss."137

46. Nicomachus and Iamblichus and other neo-Pythagoreans of the 2nd through 4th centuries A.D. (part of the Hellenistic era, in the extended sense) associated numbers with ethical and social entities, taking themselves to be following a tradition established long before by the Pythagoreans themselves. To take one case, justice was associated with square numbers, perhaps because there are two "balanced" factors in a square (4 = 2·2, 9 = 3·3 etc.). One of Aristotle's commentators, Alexander of Aphrodisias, reports that some took the number 4 to represent justice, or even to b e justice, since it is the lea st square of a whole number (not counting 1). Others took 9 to represent justice, perhaps because (as a guess) it is the square of the "balanced" number 3 which has a beginning, middle and end. The number 2 might be considered as balanced, but some Pythagoreans took odd numbers to be "limited" and even numbers to be "unlimited", and perhaps 3, as the least of the limited numbers, was considered more appropriate for justice. Or maybe this wasn't the way it happened at all. W.K.C. Guthrie observes, thus complicating matters, that some late commentators took 3, 5 or 8 for justice. 138

47. To take another example, marriage is associated with 5, or is 5, because it is the union of ma le, associated with odd numbers (in particular 3), and femal e, associated with even numbers (in particular 2), and, of course, 3 + 2 = 5. Again, opportunity, or "fit and proper" time was identified with 7 "because in nature the times of fulfilment with respect to birth and maturity go in sevens." A man, for example, can be born after 7 months, cut teeth after another 7, reach
I will give details about the contrast and clash between Kepler and Fludd later. Burkert, ibid., p. 480, 482. 1 3 8 W.K.C. Guthrie, Hi stor y of Gr eek Philo sophy , 1967, v. 1, p. 303 -304.



puberty after the second period of 7 years, grow a beard after the third period of 7 years, etc. As inaccurate as this sounds, the reckoning of human lives in multiples of 7 is said by Guthrie to have been a commonplace of Greek thought. 48. Aristotle severely criticized theories of this kind in his Metaphysics. Nevertheless, so me of the followers of Pythagoras were so me of those who initially developed the classical Greek mathematics which culminated with the works of such mathematicians and astronomers as Eudoxus, Euclid, Eratosthenes, Apollonius and Archimedes. Many of these works are theoretically sound and of practical value to this day. Mathematics, especially, has the peculiar property, among sciences, that while there continue to be new developments in it, often the old developments remain useful, or even essential. On the whole, good mathematics may be forgotten, ignored, re-invented, re-formed or reformed, extended, placed in more general contexts, placed on new foundations, and so on -- but not shown to be mistaken. 49. Edward Strong argues against such authors as E. A. Burtt 139 that the triumphs of mathematical philosophy in the work of people like Galileo, Descartes and Newton did not descend from the mathematical philosophy of the neo-Platonists and neo-Pythagoreans which had been elaborated by a number of Italian philosophers in the 15th and 16th centuries. "The Florentine Platonism of the fifteenth century and the Pythagorean-Platonic metamathematics of the sixteenth century are not historically eligible for the honor of having instructed men to turn from classification to measurement."140 50. The "classification" which Strong refers to is a kind of numerology, and the measurement a kind of applied mathematics. In Platonic philosophy, numbers, as such, have an intermediate existence between what can be sensed and the eternal ideas of which they are instances. Among the neo-Platonists, this led to a kind of theological mathematics, as Strong calls it. This is found in such neo-Platonists as Nicomachus and Theon. "Neither one," Strong says, "attempts to deduce mathematical or 'scientific' truths from the mystery of numbers; rather we see them treating number as possessing properties which they insist is other than that of their arithmetical work. Both recognize that arithmetic is a self-contained science, but they also consider it as the way of initiation into realities which lie beyond the limited procedures of the mathematicians."141

51. In theological arithmetic, properties of the soul, society, ethics, the elements, and so on, are identified with numbers by a succession of analogies. "Numbers provide a symbolism and method of classification -- a symbolism of unity and multiplicity in explaining creation, and a classification of hierarchical relationships and essential virtues by means of triadity and triangularity, and so forth. Number as a kind of 'universal and exemplary plan' in the mind of God has its fundamental meaning not so much in the notion of law as in the notion of efficacy or power Efficacy and creation rather than law and quantitative relations, divinity rather than demonstration, divine numbers as transcending the physical and mathematical rather than a
139 Edwin A. Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science, 1925, revised edition, 1954.

140 Edward W. Strong, Procedures and Metaphysics, A Study in the Philosophy of Mathematical- Physical Science in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century, 1936, p. 10. 141 Strong, ibid., p. 28.


vision of mathematical order 'saving' appearances: these contrasts emphasize the transformation which mathematics undergoes in its elevation to the status of divine arithmetic." 142
52. In ancient Hebrew, Greek and Arabic, numerals are letters of the alphabet, though perhaps specially marked in some way. It appears to have been this that gave rise to the view that hidden meanings and correspondences of written words can be found by adding together the numerical values of their letters. Among the Jewish cabalists, this was known as gem atria, among the Greeks isopsephia, among the Muslims, hisab al-jumal. 143 Various Christian writers also use the technique. Such techniques are still practiced today, here and there. Idries Shah gives a number of examples in one of his works on the Sufi mysticism of the Muslims, which began to spread with the advent of Islam in the 7th century of the Christian calendar, and which still lives today. Shah regards the Sufis to have means of contacting the underlying wisdom of humanity, and to "correspond to the inner reality of Islam, as with the equivalent aspect of every other religion and genuine tradition. " 1 4 4

53. Unfortunately, this wisdom seems to exist largely in cryptic or secret form, and illogicality is said by Shah to be a key feature of Sufism. In any case, in Arabic, most words can be assigned roots consisting of 3 consonants. Many words will then have the same root. Furthermore, there is a standard way of associating letters of the Arabic alphabet with numbers (given on p. 174 of The Sufis). The Hisab el-Jamal (different transliteration of the hisab al-jumal of Ifrah) is said to be the "standard rearrangement of letters and numbers". 145 With these things in mind, Shah says, in a comment on the significance of "dots" to Sufis: "Among the Sufis, NQT -"dot," "point," sometimes "abbreviation" -- has an important value in conveying teachings. In one aspect this is connected with the mathematical part of Sufism. The Arabic word for "geometrician" or "architect" is muhandis. It is composed of the letters M, H, N, D, S, which are equivalent to the numbers 40, 5, 50, 4, 60. These total 159. These numbers, resplit conventionally into tens, hundreds and units, yield 100 = Q, 50 = N, 9 = T. These three consonants, combined in the order 2,1,3, provide the root NQT. This root means "dot," "point." In certain ceremonial usages, therefore, the word "point" is used to convey the concealed word which is its parent -- the word muhandis, the Prime Builder."146

54. Gershom Scholem describes a short Jewish work called the Sefer Yesirah or Book of Creation which seems to date from the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. It circulated widely in many lands during the European Middle Ages, and is found today even outside of academies, especially among occultists. Scholem considers that it probably originated from neo-Pythagorean sources such as the writings of Nichomachus of Gerasa (c. 140 A.D.), together with the idea of "letters by means of which heaven and earth were created" which may have come from within Judaism. 55. The basic thesis of the work, accoording to Scholem, is that: "All reality is consituted in the three levels of the cosmos -- the world, time, and the human body, which are the fundamental realm of all being -- and comes into existence through the
142 Strong, ibid., p. 33.

143 Cf. George Ifrah, From One to Zero, A Universal History of Numbers. 1985, translation by Lowell Bair of Histoire Universelle de Chifres, 1981, Part IV, Ch. 16-21. 144 Idries Shah, The Sufis, 1964, p. 28. 145 Shah, ibid., p.110. 146 Shah, ibid., p. 372.


combination of the twenty-two consonants [of the Hebrew alphabet], and especially by way of the '231' gates, that is, the combinations of the letters into groups of two (the author apparently held the view that the root of Hebrew were based not on three but on two consonants)." The 22 consonants are divided into 3 groups according to a peculiar phonetic system. The groups contain 3, 7 and 12 letters. The group of three consists of "matrices" (sometimes translated "mothers"), corresponding to ether (or spirit), water and fire. From these everything else came into being, and correspond also to the 3 seasons of the year (3 rather than 4 was an ancient Greek partitioning), and the 3 parts of the body: head, torso and stomach. The letters in the group of 7 correspond especially to the 7 planets, 7 heavens, t days of the week and 7 orifices of the body. They also represent 7 fundamental opposites: life and death, peace and disaster, wisdom and folly, wealth and poverty, charm (or beauty) and ugliness, sowing (or fruitfulness) and devastation, domination and servitude. And they correspond to the six directions of heaven: above (or height), below (or depth), east, west, north and south [presumably the 7th is earth, or an observer?] The 12 remaining consonants correspond to the 12 principal activities of man, the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 months of the years, and the 12 chief limbs of the human body. Scholem observers that the scheme of the Sefer Yesirah betrays its relationship with astrology, although it is based on language mysticism. From such ideas, says Scholem, "direct paths lead to the magical conception of the creative power of letters and words".147

55. There have been numerous other species of number magic and mysticism. Examples are beliefs in special values of certain numbers, such as a belief that 7 must be especially significant since in Genesis God is said to have created the universe in 7 days, and there are many other places in the Bible where the number 7 appears. The connection with the Bible is stressed in an unusually elaborate and worked out treatment of the religious significance of small integers in two volumes by the Christian writer Paul Lacuria. 148 The number 7 is especially considered in Chapters XV-XVIII. Sample: the 7 divine attributes Life, Liberty, Light, Holiness, Wisdom-Justice (linked) and Eternity correspond (in these orders) to the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue indigo and violet, to the musical notes do, re, mi, fa, sol -la (linked), ti (v. 1, p. 196-197), and the integers 1 through 7. Of course there are also 7 days in a week, according to the ancients 7 "planets" (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), etc. 56. Henry Corbin describes the "science of the balance" ('ilm al-M ¯z £n) associated with the Muslim writer J£bir ibn Hayy £n, as described by the Muslim Sh ¯-ite writer Haydar Amli (8th century A.D., 14th century A.H.), and said by him to have been originated by Pythagoras. Haydar Am µli explains that 1 is the cause of number, 2 is the number of the First Intelligence as second existence; 3 is the number of the universal Soul; 4 is the number of nature; 5 of "prime matter"; 6 of space ("corporeal volume"); 7 of the celestial Sphere; 8 of the Elements; 9 of the 3 natural kingdoms, mineral corresponding to 10's, vegetable corresponding to 100's, animal corresponding to 1000's. "Each number carries by itself an esoteric secret which is not found in any other number."

147 Gershom Scholem, p. 24-35 of Origins of the Kabbalah, 1987, translation of Ursprung undAnfänge der Kabbala, 1962; there is an English translation of the Sefer Yesirah by Knut Stenring under the title The Book of Formation or Sepher Yetzirah, 1923, and another in The Qabala Trilogy, unattributed, called the "The Sepher Yetsira", based on the French translation by Carlo Suarès, 1968. 148 Paul Lacuria, Les Harmonies de l' «tre, exprim ª e par les nombres, 1899.


57. There are "balances" of 7 and 12, "correspondences b etween the astronomy of the visible [exterior] Heaven and the astronomy of the spiritual [interior] Heaven, between the esoteric hierarchy and its cosmic correspondences." The 7 divine attributes as given here are Life, Knowledge, Power, Will, Word, Hearing and Sight, to which correspond 7 names called the "Imams of the divine Names". In the spiritual world, there are 7 prophets who are manifestations of the 7 "ecstatic Angels of love": Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus and Mohammad. There are 7 planets, 7 climates corresponding to them, 7 Earths and 7 peoples who inhabit them, and 7 degrees of hell. One has the 12 primordially created angels, the 12 Imams who are the 12 friends of God, and the 12 signs of the zodiac. There is also a "balance" of 19, which is of greatest importance, "for the system of the world is ordered according to the number 19." This is because "the whole universe is in the image of God." There are 7 planets and 12 signs of the zodiac: total 19. There are the Intelligence and Soul of the universe, 9 celestial spheres, 4 elements, 3 natural kingdoms, and Man: total 19. There are 7 great prophets and 12 Imams belonging to them: total 19. The 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are reduced to 19 "degrees" of letters by a rather complicated process. And so on. There is a balance of 28, and other balances. Corbin ends his treatment of this numerological system with a description, derived from Ibn 'Arab ¯ of the "knights of the invisible", the Sages who, it is said in the Koran, understand the true meaning of certain parables: "it is thanks to them that we can have in this world a 'science of correspondences'." 1 4 9

59. Another familiar kind of numerology is a belief in magical properties of square matrices of numbers, "magic squares", in which the entries are the integers from 1 to n 2 for some n, and the sums are the same in rows, columns and main diagonals. For example, if the 4 rows 1-1514-4, 12-6-7-9, 8-10-11-5, 13-3-2-16 are arranged into a square in this order, the sums are all 34. This particular example appears in a work called Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652) by Athanasius Kircher, a noted 17th century Jesuit "Hermetic pseudo-Egyptologist" 150

60. Such correspondences fail to be applied mathematics, as mathematicians today understand this term, because the mathematical structures don't correspond naturally to anything in the events or things they are purported to apply to. Gematria, the association of numbers with qualities like justice or institutions like marriage are examples of what I call appliqu ªed mathematics. This is an attempt to attribute a mathematical structure to something which doesn't have a mathematical structure, or at least has no interesting or revealing mathematical structure. One may be trying to quantify the unquantifiable. Examples might be attempts to apply partial differential equations to political movements in ways in which such equations are applied to physical phenomena (although statistical sampling methods as used in polls might be applicable), or to the movements of Beethoven's symphonies (which isn't as wild an idea as it might seem, since timed sounds can in a certain sense be specified by such equations). Natural philosophers and their descendants, the natural scientists, must submit to the mathematics which is in the cosmos; magicians and astrologers try to force some mathematics on it which doesn't belong to it.
149 Henry Corbin, Temple et Contemplation, Essais sur l'Islam Iranien, 1980, "La science de la balance et les correspondences entre les mondes en gnose islamique, p. 67- 141. 150 So characterized by Frances Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 1972, p. 230; the square is given by Hans Biedermann, Handlexikon der magischen K½nste, 2nd edition, 1973, p. 316.


61. Edward Strong warns that the cabalistic and numerological maneuvers of such Florentine Platonists and Hermeticists as Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico did not provide a metaphysical foundation for the 16th and 17th century mathematical philosophers. These Platonists were neither mathematically nor empirically minded. They were concerned with such problems as comparing the views of Plato and Aristotle on knowledge and being, and with the reconciliation of neo-Platonism and Hermeticism with orthodox Christianity. They did not engage in a mathematical realism, but in a mystical number symbolism. "Through love and through the knowledge of superior numbers, one penetrates into the inner mysteries. The way upward yields to spiritual love; but if one would know the workings of the creative spirit in the created things, he should consider symbolic number. As in Proclus, the divine numbers are defined in respect to their status and function: their status is to symbolize and classify the incorporeal and incorruptible beings, and their function is to create copies in matter. Upon its own showing, the doctrine does not display the universe as a structure of mathematical order and relations. Rather, a religious and mystical system borrows number as a useful symbol of incorporeality and turns arithmetic into arithmology. The divine appropriates the arithmetic, and arithmetic the divine, in the 'divine arithmetic' of these Neo-Platonists." 151

62. The distinction between applied and appliqu ªed mathematics was made by Kepler (not in these terms) in his controversy with the physician, Robert Fludd, who was also an alchemist, astrologer and Hermeticist.152 It appears to have been Kepler's harmony theory which led to the controversy with Fludd, who also had propounded a theory of musical correspondences in his Utriusque Cosmi ... historia (1617-1618). In Kepler's appendix to his Harmonice mundi (1619 -- sometimes called Harmonices mundi), Kepler compares his own work with that of Ptolemy in the 3rd book of Ptolemy's Harmonica, and also with the work of Fludd. As to Fludd, Kepler objects that whereas he (Kepler) develops musical theory in considerable detail and then demonstrates a celestial counterpart, Fludd gives a condensed version of a textbook for musicians, and then deals with practical matters of music-making. Kepler says: "... he differs from me as a practitioner from a theoretician. For while he considers [musical] instruments themselves, I investigate causes or consonances in nature, and when he teaches how one can compose a tune with many voices, I produce instead many mathematical demonstrations, that are in songs formed by nature as well as choral pieces."153

63. Furthermore, Kepler observes that Fludd derives his harmonies purely from properties of numbers, whereas he (Kepler) finds his from astronomical measurements. Indeed,
151 Strong, ibid., p. 196-197.

152 This interchange is described by (among others) Max Caspar in Kepler, 1946, translated from German by C. Doris Hellman, 1959, p. 290-293; by the Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli, "The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler", in Naturerkl¥ rung und Psyche by Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, 1952, English translation by Priscilla Silz in The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche, 1955; by Frances Yates in Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, 1964, p. 440-444; by Robert Westman, "Nature, art, and psyche", in Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance, 1984, p. 177-229; and by Judith V. Field in Kepler's Geometrical Cosmology, 1988, p. 179-187. 153 Johannes Kepler, Harmonice mundi, 1619, vol. 6 of Gesammelte Werke, p. 374; cf. the translation into German by Max Caspar, Weltharmonik, 1939, reprinted 1971, which has something like this, translated into English (p. 362): "For while he [Fludd] considers the instruments, I investigate the causes of nature or consonances, and when he teaches how one composes a song with many voices, I produce instead of this mathematical proofs for very many laws that are valid for choral as well as the many-voiced singing out of nature."


Fludd never makes any reference in his theories to an observed astronomical quantity. Kepler remarks that Fludd's Hermetic analogies 'are dragged in by the hair'. Field says: "The crucial difference between Kepler and Fludd seems ... to be that Kepler demanded that his cosmological theories should be in good numerical agreement with measured properties of the observable Universe." 154 That is, the mathematics should be applied, not appliquéed. 64. In Fludd's opinion Kepler's science refers only to the "outside of things", whereas he (Fludd) penetrates to the inner, invisible depths and holiness of things. Fludd distinguished between formal mathematics (his own kind) and vulgar mathematics (Kepler's kind). The mathematics of Fludd was, in fact, largely numerology -- a kind of purely verbal manipulation of numbers. These verbal manipulations were, in turn, often extracted from or references to elaborate engravings which were basic in Fludd's system. This has been emphasized by Westman who says we must look at Fludd's engravings "not as illustrations but rather as ways of knowing, demonstrating, and remembering."155 Fludd's pictures, however, do not function in the way geometrical diagrams do for Kepler. "It is as though Fludd's pictures," Westman says, which appear to be about nature, are really pictures of psychic states; they are visualizations of intuitions and feelings projected onto the world, but lacking any sufficient criterion of correspondence to an external reality." 156 65. The mathematics of Kepler (1571-1630) was awakened in him by the cosmos, tested by way of observations, and found not to be purely a matter of words. "The divine voice," he says in the Astronomia nova (1609), "which commands men to learn astronomy, expresses itself in the world, not in words and syllables, but through things themselves and through the agreement of the 157 human intellect and senses with the entirety of celestial bodies and phenomena." Kepler's pictures -- geometric diagrams --were projections of correspondences between geometrical relations and images in his mind and geometrical relations realized outside him. Kepler's view in his Ha rmonice mund i of the relationship between the human mind and the Divine Mind -- based on an analogy with the center, circumference and radii of a circle -- fits in very well, as Pauli observes, with an interpretation of knowledge as a "matching" of external impressions with preexistent inner images. 158

66. Kepler says: "For, to know is to compare that which is externally perceived with inner ideas and to judge that it agrees with them, a process which Proclus expressed very beautifully by the word "awakening," as from sleep. For, as the perceptible things which appear in the outside world make us remember what we knew before, so do sensory experiences, when consciously realized, call forth intellectual notions that were already present inwardly; so that that which formerly was hidden in the soul, as under the veil of potentiality, now shines therein in actuality. How, then, did they [the intellectual notions] find ingress? I answer: All ideas or formal concepts of the harmonies, as I have just discussed them, lie in those beings that possess the faculty of rational cognition, and they are not at all received within by discursive reasoning;
154 Field, ibid., p. 187.

155 Westman, ibid., p. 181. 156 Westman, ibid., p.211. 157 Quoted by Alexandre Koyr ª, Astronomical Revolutions, 1973, p. 163, translation by R. E. W. Maddison of La rªvolution astronomique, 1961. 158 Pauli, ibid., p. 162.


rather they are derived from a natural instinct and are inborn in those beings as the number (an intellectual thing) of petals in a flower or the number of seed cells in a fruit is innate in the forms of the plants. " 1 5 9 67. Kepler's cosmic harmonies are given by proportions. For example, Kepler asserted in the Harmonices mundi that the slowest angular velocity of a planet at aphelion (position on the planet's elliptical orbit furthest from the sun) is to the largest angular velocity of the planet at perihelion (position nearest the sun) as one small whole number is to another. Stated in another way, the ratio of the angular velocities equals the ratio of two whole numbers. One of the ratios in this proportion (a proportion is an equality of ratios) is between two whole numbers, but the other is between two quantities (the velocities) which can be represented by geometrical magnitudes. Furthermore, Kepler calculated that the ratios of the small whole numbers were ratios corresponding to consonant musical intervals, such as a fifth, or a major or minor third, and thus, for example, equal to the ratios of the lengths of a string (or strings) which would produce the sounds of these intervals. For example, for Mars, he found a fifth, and for Earth, a minor semitone.160 68. When tw o geometric magnitudes, or magnitudes which can be represented by geometric magnitudes (such as velocities or weights) are compared in a ratio, the terms in the ratio must be in the same units -- for velocities, both feet per second, or both kilometers per hour, etc. Kepler's third law of planetary motion maintains that the squares of the periods (times taken for one revolution around the sun) of two planets are to each other as the cubes of the semi-major axes of the elliptical orbits on which they move (approximately) -- provided the the two periods are in the same units, and the two lengths of the semi-major axes are in the same units. The periods, or the lengths of the semi-major axes, might be incommensurable (in the mathematical sense, related to the difference between rational and irrational numbers) with some unit of measure, but the ratios could still be equal to a ratio of small whole numbers. For example, in modern terms, the ratio of 3 times pi to 2 times pi equals the ratio of 3 to 2.

69. Kepler took geometry to be fundamental to God's creation, and God's geometrical relationships to be basic features of the cosmos which can be awakened in us by our sensory contacts with the world outside us. He criticized the algebraists of his time for their lack of depth and their utilitarian attitudes. When it is a question of the foundations of mathematics, he said, it is necessary to return to geometry. 161 The cosmic harmonies which he derived he considered to be characteristic of the cosmos by virtue of the fact that they arose from taking ratios of geometrical magnitudes which appear in nature, and in us. That the magnitudes which appear in us do indeed correspond to the ones outside of us can be verified by making measurements outside of us to see if the proposed ratios of these magnitudes do indeed obtain. However, he says in the Ha rmonice mund i that we are born with archetypal harmonies in our soul which are not images of harmonies, but the harmonies themselves -- indeed, these harmonies a re the soul.162 Fludd also was much concerned with cosmic harmonies, but Kepler
Quoted by Pauli, ibid., p. 162-163. Alexandre Koyr ª, The Astronomical Revolution, 1973, p. 335; translation by R. E. W. Maddison of La rªvolution astronomique, 1961. 161 Cf. Gª rard Simon, Kepler astronome astrologue, 1979, p. 149-153. 162 Simon, ibid., p. 141.



complained that Fludd's ratios did not arise from taking ratios of objective geometrical magnitudes, but from subjective and arbitrary assignments of numbers to various pictures which Fludd carried around in his mind. Fludd's ratios were ratios of small whole numbers not connected with actual cosmological magnitudes, except in the case of musical intervals. 70. Pauli remarks on Fludd's aversion to the quantitative, in the sense in which physicists take this word. In Fludd's system, there are two polar fundamental principles, form as a principle of light, coming from above, and matter, a dark principle, dwelling in the earth. Pauli says: "Fludd's depreciation of everything quantitative, which in his opinion belongs, like all division and multiplicity, to the dark principle (matter, devil), resulted in a further essential difference between Fludd's and Kepler's views concerning the position of the soul in nature. The sensitivity of the soul to proportions, so essential according to Kepler, in in Fludd's opinion only the result of its entanglement in the (dark) corporeal world, whereas its imaginative faculties, that recognize unit, spring from its true nature originating in the light principle (fo rma ). While Kepler represents the point of view that the soul is a part of nature, Fludd even protests against the concept "part" to the human soul, since the soul, being freed from the laws of the physical world, that is, in so far as it belongs to the light principle, is inseparable from the whole worldsoul."163 It appears that Fludd used the wordfo rma rather as we commonly use the word symbol today.

71. Pauli says: "Fludd's attitude, however, seems to us somewhat easier to understand when it is viewed in the perspective of a more general differentiation between two types of mind, a differentiation that can be traced throughout history, the one type considering the quantitative relations of the parts to be essential, the other the qualitative visibility of the whole. We already find this contrast, for example, in antiquity in the two corresponding definitions of beauty: in the one it is the proper agreement of the parts with each other and with the whole, in the other (going back to Plotinus) there is no reference to parts but beauty is the eternal radiance of the "One" shining through the material phenomenon. An analogous contrast can also be found later in the well-known quarrel between Goethe and Newton concerni ng the theory of colours: Goethe had a similar aversion to "parts" and always emphasized the disturbing influence of instruments on the 'natural' phenomena."164

72. Kepler's mathematical images didn't always participate in correspondences in the way Kepler thought they would to begin with -- as comparison with nature external to him revealed to him at times -- but in his view, they were intended to be used to establish correspondences of something implanted in him with something outside of him. Furthermore, his mathematics was based on the works of great mathematicians of antiquity such as Euclid, Apollonius and Archimedes, augmented by the work of numerous later "vulgar" mathematicians of the same kind (to use Fludd's pejorative designation), including himself. Most of this mathematics is as valid today as it ever was, and much of it is still widely applicable, though often buried in complex mathematical systems and traditions elaborated since Kepler's time.


Pauli, ibid., p. 198-199.


Pauli, ibid., p. 205 -206.


73. Kepler was sometimes extravagant in his correspondences, by today's standards. For example, there was his proposal in the Mysterium cosmographium 165 that the number and distance of the planets follow a priori from properties of the five regular solids. However, he devoted incredible labor to testing this proposition against Tycho Brahe's observations. In his last major work, the Harmonices mundi (1619), this proposition had evolved into Kepler's third law of planetary motion, that the squares of the periods of the planets are proportional to the to the cubes of the semi-major axes of the ellipses in which they move. This law still stands, to a first approximation. Kepler's theory of the connection of musical harmony with the motions of the solar system, a quantitative theory of the Pythagorean "music of the spheres", elaborated in the Harmonices Mundi, hasn't fared as well as his laws of planetary motion. But it was not occult philosophy. "I hate all cabalists," said Kepler. 74. Pauli commented on the difference between people like Kepler, who are concerned with the quantitative relations between parts of things, and people like Fludd, who are concerned with qualitative visibility of wholes of things. There are other contrasts between the viewpoints of Fludd and Kepler. One lies in the use of language. In Chapter V of his work De stella nova (On the new star) (1606), Kepler argues at some length that the names of the signs of the zodiac are arbitrary, and don't have any occult significance. Gªrard Simon observes that these pages are characteristic of Kepler's attitude, and show that Kepler grasped the fact that traditional judicial astrology is based on a lack of distinction between the thing and the symbol, between the symbol and the name, between the name and the meaning. "It is a question," Simon says, "of knowing if words conform to things."166 75. In the appendix to the Harmonices mundi, Kepler accuses both Ptolemy and Fludd of concocting cosmic harmonies which are "pure symbolisms ... poetical and rhetorical". It's an old story: the debate about the relation of language to the rest of reality, which goes back at least to Plato's Cratylus. The example of the zodiac doesn't reveal the profundity of the question. It is quite easy to believe that the names of the signs of the zodiac are named after quite arbitrary shapes assigned to certain constellations, and that, for example, Libra, the Scales, has no particular connection with justice or fair-mindedness (although astrologers believe otherwise). But is all use of language arbitrary in this way? 76. In the De stella nova, Kepler ridicules the cabalists for regarding language as a direct gift of God, and for extracting extravagant hidden meanings from words and phrases by transposing their characters. It must be remembered, though, that on the basis of the book of Genesis, the cabalists believed, as do many others, that God spoke the world into existence. And, as Robert Westman brings out, Fludd's major works are of the genre of commentaries on Genesis, and while "Fludd had a strong interest in the created world of nature -- perhaps much more so than preceding commentators on Genesis -- his ultimate concern was still with Genesis itself." 167

165 1st edition, 1597; 2nd edition with extensive added notes, 1621. 166 G ªrard Simon, ibid., p. 102. 167 Robert Westman, "Nature, Art and Psyche" in Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance, 1984, p. 125-229, especially p. 191 -200; Westman cites Arnold Williams, The Common Expositor: An Account of the Commentaries on Genesis, 1527- 1 633, 1948.


77. Brian Vickers examines the distinction between analogy and identity, and between literal and metaphorical language. He says: "In the scientific tradition, I hold, a clear distinction is made between words and things and between literal and metaphorical language. The occult tradition does not recognize this distinction: Words are treated as if they are equivalent to things and can be substituted for them. Manipulate the one and you manipulate the other. Analogies, instead of being, as they are in the scientific tradition, explanatory devices subordinate to argument and proof, or heuristic tools to make models that can be tested, corrected, and abandoned if necessary, are, instead, modes of conceiving relationships in the universe that reify, rigidify, and ultimately come to dominate thought. One no longer uses analogies: One is used by them. They become the only way in which one can think or experience the world." 168 78. Vickers considers such exemplars of occult attitudes toward language as Boehme, Ficino, Agrippa, Paracelsus, Comenius and John Webster, and critics (as least by implication) of such attitudes like Francis Bacon, Galileo, Seth Ward, John Wilkins, Daniel Sennert, Johann Van Helmont, Robert Boyle and John Locke. For example, there is Galileo's remark in "The Assayer", addressed to Lothario Sarsi, a pseudonymn of a Jesuit priest, Horatio Grassi: "I am not so sure that in order to make a comet a quasi-planet, and as such to deck it out in the attributes of other planets, it is sufficient for Sarsi or his teacher to regard it as one and so name it. If their opinions and their voices have the power of calling into existence the things they name, then I beg them to do me the favor of naming a lot of old hardware I have about my house, "gold." 169 Later in the same work, we find: "To excite in us tastes, odors, and sounds I believe that nothing is required in external bodies except shapes, numbers, and slow or rapid movements. I think that if ears, tongues, and noses were removed, shapes and numbers and motions would remain, but not odors or tastes or sounds. The latter, I believe, are nothing more than names when separated from living beings, just as tickling and titillation are nothing but names in the absence of such things as noses and armpits."170 79. Isaac Newton had similar views. In a letter to Richard Bentley of 25 February 1692/1693, he complains about a statement of Bentley's "representing it as absurd as that there should be positively an infinite arithmetical summ or number wch is a contradiction in terminis: but you do not prove it as absurd. Neither do you prove that what men mean by an infinite summ or number is a contradiction in nature. For a contradiction in terminis argues nothing more then an improperty of speech. Those things wch men understand by improper and contradictious phrases may be sometimes really in nature wthout any contradiction at all. A silver inkhorn a paper Lanthorn an iron whetstone are absurd phrases & yet ye things signified are really in nature."171 80. Vickers also refers to the controversy between Kepler and Fludd. Kepler's attitude toward analogy is illustrated by a quotation from a letter of Kepler to Maestlin of 1605: "Every

168 Brian Vickers, "Analogy versus identity: the rejection of occult symbolism, 1580-1680", in Occult and scientific mentalities in the Renaissance, 1984, p. 95. 169 Galileo, "The Assayer" (Il Saggiatore), 1623, in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, 1957, translations and notes by Stillman Drake. 170 Galileo, ibid., p. 277. 171 The Correspondence of Isaac Newton, edited by H. W. Turnbull, v. 3, 1961, p. 254.


planetary body must be regarded as being magnetic, or quasi-magnetic; in fact, I suggest a similarity, and do not declare an identity."172 In short, Kepler understood the limitations of mathematical models. 81. Vickers quotes a 1968 Malinowski lecture of S. J. Tambiah, "The Magical Power of Words", concerning the effect of "sacred words" which are "thought to possess a special kind of power not normally associated with ordinary language", derived from the widespread "ancient belief in the creative power of the word". Examples are found in the Vedic hymns of the Hindus, in certain Buddhist doctrines, in the Iranian Parsi religion, in the religions of the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians and Semites who believed that the world and its objects were created by the word of God, and among the Greeks whose doctrine concerning logos postulated that the essence of things lies in their names. In the Bible, for example, we find: "So shall my word be that goeth forth out 173 of my mouth; it shall not reutrn unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please." 82. In fact, the 3rd verse of the first book of Genesis reads in the Revised Standard Version: "God said let there be light."—"God said let there be light." A little later, in Genesis 2.19-20, it is said of the first man Adam: "So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field " In the Christian Gospel of John, we have "in the beginning was the Word" and "the Word was God" and "the Word made flesh". Here "Word" is a translation of logos, whose meaning is rather elastic, but which many agree in this context refers to the "word of God" as understood in the Old Testament. Perhaps John also intended the word to carry its connotation of reason, and of order, as opposed to chaos. In any case, a great many Jewish, Muslim and Christian commentators stress the fact that God created by speaking. Occasionally, a commentator will say that it is as if God created by commanding orally, so creation would be analogous to language acts. But many hold that God's acts of creation, as described in Genesis, were language acts. As a consequence, they regard language as a most powerful and holy instrument. God gave this gift to Adam and, it is said, when God let Adam name the creatures, he gave them dominion—power—over them. 83. Questions of divinity aside, language is, of course, a most powerful instrument. Who would deny the power of command, promise, entreaty, description, lying, literature, and all the other effective acts of language? In Plato's Cratylus, Socrates calls Pan the declarer and mover of all things, and says he is speech, or the brother of speech. Who can conceive of human society, civilization, culture, not founded on the motive power of language? But mover of all things? Of the sun and planets, and the particles or waves or wavicles that compose them? 84. The limits of language a re under constant review. Suffice it here to quote two opposed points of view. "Learning to speak," says Han-Georg Gadamer, "does not mean to use a preexistent tool for designating a world already somehow familiar to us; it means acquiring a familiarity and acquaintance with the world itself and how it confronts us Language is not a delimited realm of the speakable, over against which other realms that are unspeakable might
172 173 Ko yr ª , loc . ci t., p. 252 . Isa iah 55 :11 .


stand. Rather, language is all-encompassing. There is nothing that is fundamentally excluded from being said, to the extent that our act of meaning intends it."174 85. Contrarily, Alfred North Whitehead says: "Language was developed in response to the excitements of practical actions. It is concerned with the prominent facts But the prominent facts are the superficial facts .......There are other elements in our experience, on the fringe of consciousness, and yet massively qualifying our experience ....... Language is incomplete and fragmentary, and merely registers a stage in the average advance beyond ape-mentality. But all men enjoy flashes of insight beyond meanings already stabilized in etymology and grammar. Hence the r µle of literature, the r µle of the special sciences, and the rµle of philosophy: -- in their various ways engaged in finding expressions for meanings as yet unexpressed." 175 86. Kepler made the point that naming a sign of the zodiac Scorpio after a tenuous resemblance of a constellation to a scorpion does not give the sign, or planets in the sign, any capacity to instill in humans any of the characteristics of scorpions. This is a false conclusion based on an invalid analogy. But Kepler didn't reject the usefulness of analogy in general. Alexandre Koyrª observes that in Kepler's Astronomia nova, when Kepler was concerned with the nature of the force which causes the planets to revolve around the sun, he says we can only proceed by analogy with other more usual, better known emanations, notably light and magnetic force. Kepler commented that if we proceed in this way, our knowledge of the motive force of the sun will be vague and incomplete. But it gives some idea of the kind of reality we are dealing with. 176 87. Kepler's attitude toward analogy resembles to a degree (is analogous to!) Galileo's attitude toward idealization, about which Koyré wrote so eloquently in his ~tudes galil ªennes. Galileo conceived of bodies falling in vacuums, frictionless surfaces, undisturbed objects moving forever with constant velocities equal to their initial velocities (in circles, to be sure), the orbits of cannonballs being perfect parabolas (just as the ancients had conceived of the paths of the stars as being perfect circles -- but the cannonballs are sublunary), simple pendulums being isochronous (a little off, but nearly right for small oscillations). As we would say today, Galileo produced mathematical models for various physical states or processes, and such models capture only certain quantitative aspects of phenomena. Kepler was also much given to making geometric models, and he was especially fond of his exotic model of the solar system based on the regular and starshaped polyhedra.

88. Neither Kepler's nor Galileo's models agreed exactly or completely with reality. Mathematical models seldom do. They are idealizations or abstractions, and, in the case of quantities conceived of as continuous, inevitably introduce some degree of approximation. Galileo's treatise in which he founds the science of strength of materials contains drawings of unidealized wooden beams, with knots in the wood visible, and showing plants growing out of

174 Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Man and Language" (1966), in Philosophical Hermeneutics, 1976, p. 63, 67, translated by David Linge from Gadamer's Kleine Schriften. 175 Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures in Ideas, 1933, p. 166-167, p. 227- 228. 176 Koyr ª, ibid, p. 199.


crevices in the stone wall in which the beam is anchored.177 Galileo's geometrical idealizations and abstractions obviously don't capture all the properties of such objects, but only certain essential properties -- essential for Galileo's purpose. 89. As for Kepler, he realized in the long run that his lovely model with inscriptions and circumscriptions of the regular solids in the planetary spheres didn't match reality, and that not even the introduction of the star-shaped semi-regular polyhedra would give an exact model. But the model served to guide him to the discovery of his three planetary laws, which have endured. They too, however, apply only to idealized systems, such as the pair consisting of one planet and the sun, with the sun fixed, in which the effects of other planets and objects are ignored. And even here one often considers the planet and the sun as mere points, rather than extended bodies. Thus the laws yield only good approximations to certain behavior of planets. It isn't too easy to give a precise meaning to the "good" in "good approximations", but it is clear to many who compare the predictions of the laws with actual measurements that the approximations given by the laws are not subjective assignments of numbers to the phenomena: the laws can be used to estimate something which is happening outside their users. 90. We have seen something of the gulf between number mysticism and applied mathematics. Johannisson's assertion that the Hermetic tradition stressed "rationality in a mathematical sense" must not be taken as support for the contention that natural philosophers were led by Hermeticists to realize the place or importance of mathematics in such sciences as astronomy and physics. People applying mathematics to nature on the whole have had to struggle against the influence of Hermeticists. This judgement is not a new one. For example, Robert Westman concludes in a study of the supposed contributions of Hermeticism to the Scientific Revolution: "Kepler and Galileo provide specific criteria for allowing us to weight one theory above another in terms of their mathematical intelligibility and their empirical adequacy. This the Hermeticists failed to do because they either separated mathematics from natural philosophy or could not see how they were connected or totally subordinated mathematical statements to physical ones What significant physical and mathematical insights Bruno and other alleged Hermeticists arrived at came from their individual, creative intuitions, often under the influence of doctrines first formulated in medieval natural philosophy, and in spite of their adherence to Hermetic doctrines."178

91. Johannisson also discusses the role of Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism in early modern science. "The Rosicrucians," she says, "-- whether existing as an actual society or not -integrated in their program an open view of the world and a rejection of the Church's authority together with a passionate belief in science as the way to progress." (ibid.) Their science was based on Hermeticism and Paracelsianism, and comprised chiefly magic, cabala and alchemy. To these, Johannisson adds "mathematics, physics, cosmology, and a medicine that stressed humanitarian ends." However, the mathematics and physics were more in the manner of Fludd
177 Galileo Galilei, Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche intorno … due nuove scienze, 1638; the drawings are on p. 116 and 119 of the translation into English by Henry Crew and Alfonso de Salvio, Dialogues concerning Two New Sciences, 1914. 178 Robert Westman, "Magical Reform and Astronomical Reform: The Yates Thesis Reconsidered", in Hermeticism and the Scientific Revolution, 1977, p. 71, his italics.


than of Kepler, and show little trace of the tradition of Euclid, Apollonius, Archimedes or the quantitative natural philosophers of the Middle Ages who studied the motions of physical objects. 92. A number of the theses of Frances Yates, especially those having to do with Rosicrucianism have been toned done by most of her followers -- Johannisson, it seems, is one of the more faithful. In 1979, Brian Vickers went so far as to argue at length that in her book The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, "Yate's proposed rewriting of Renaissance history is an edifice built not on sand but on air." 179 Still, Merkel and Debus say in 1988 that "there are few who would now dispute that, taken in context, the Rosicrucian tracts were of great concern to seventeenth -century scientists and physicians representing many schools of thought." 93. Newton wrote a few comments on a Hermetic tract, described by Betty JoTeeter 180 181 Dobbs. Newton carried out extensive alchemical studies. Alchemy is of an age and nature comparable to astrology, and connections between the two are ancient. For example, the basic metals were associated with planets (as always, including the sun and moon), and astrological and alchemical significances of the planets and the metals were interwoven. 94. The psychologist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung argued at length that much of the symbolism of such studies, especially of alchemy, arose from projections of changes of the personality of the investigators onto their material. The older alchemy, according to Jung, never had as its central aim the investigation of the nature of matter and its combinations. Such maneuvers as it undertook that we would be willing to today to admit as bonafide chemistry were secondary to the work of psychological transformation which was performed by way of alchemical operations. In this view, only during the course of the 17th century did a kind of rationalistic and materialistic alchemy precipitate out of the older alchemy, by way of corpuscular and mechanical theories of matter, in whi ch matter was conceived to be made of tiny particles moving according to regular patterns.

95. It should be kept in mind that in our concentration on the heavens, on astral religion and astrology, and later, on mathematical cosmology and the initiation of celestial mechanics, we must guard against a distortion of the attitudes of the people who have pursued these subjects. Although of course there were individual differences, such people were often also very interested in the transformations of matter on earth, and didn't always try to live with their heads above the lunar sphere. Whatever the merit of Jung's theories about the psychological burden of alchemy, many natural philosophers were concerned with what we would call chemical reactions, although to be sure until the 17th century these were usually presented in a context of some four or five element theory (fire, air, earth, water, and "fifth essence" —quintessence or aether) inherited from antiquity.

179 Brian Vicker, "Frances Yates and the Writing of History", Journal of Modern History, v. 51, no. 2, 1979, p. 287 -316. 180 "Newton's Commentary on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus: Its Scientific and Theological Significance", 1988, in Hermeticism and the Renaissance, Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, 1988, based on a 1982 meeting, edited by Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus, p. 182-191. The remark in the previous paragraph is from the introduction, by Merkel and Debus. 181 Betty Jo TeeterDobbs, The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy, or "The Hunting of the Greene Lyon ", 1975.


96. During the late 16th and early 17th century in Europe there was a kind of flowering of alchemy, analogous to the flowering of astrology in that period. Dobbs says: "In their rejection of the pagan accounts of natural phenomena offered by Aristotle and Galen, Renaissance Hermeticists had come to emphasize anew the importance of the first chapter of the book of Genesis. In Genesis was a divine account of the creation of the world, one which could not be disputed, and one which could lend itself to interpretation as a divine chemical separation. If the act of creation itself was to be understood chemically, then all of nature was to be understood similarly. In short, chemistry was the key to all nature, the key to all the macrocosmicmicrocosmic relationships sought by Robert Fludd and others. A study of chemistry was a study of God as He had Himself written out His word in the Book of Nature. Such a study could only lead one closer to God and was conceived as having moral value as well as contributing to the better grasp of the workings of nature and to the providing of better medicines for the relief of man's illnesses."182 97. In the 17th century, it was a common assumption of the "corpuscularians" -- of whom Robert Boyle (1627-169 1) is perhaps the most famous -- that everything natural is made of elementary corpuscles or particles, all made of the same kind of matter. Dobbs says: "The primitive particles might differ in figure and magnitude, as did the letters of the alphabet; larger units, like words, were formed by the combinations of the primitive particles in different orders, groups, and positions. The alphabet analogy was quite commonly drawn upon to explain chemical changes. Yet however the particles might differ in size, shape, and arrangement, they were all made from the same basic substance." 183 Thus we are tempted to make a link between Jewish kabbalism and the alphabetical notation of our own chemistry. 98. Newt on spent considerable time and effort on alchemy, but it remains difficult to say exactly how alchemy and Hermeticism influenced his work in mechanics. J. E. McGuire has argued that "Newton's intellectual orientation embodies a framework of concepts that largely emerge from the Neoplatonism developed by his Cambridge contemporaries" and that "traditions of magic and alchemy did not play a significant role in shaping Newton's conception of nature." Hermeticism played a limited role in Cambridge natural philosophy, he says, because the Cambridge Platonists sought a restoration of Neoplatonism, which they tried to legitimize by relating their writings to Christian Hermeticism. "For a short time in the early 1 690s," McGuire says, "Newton explicitly accepted this ideology, but, like his Cambridge contemporaries, he did not accept any specific Hermetic doctrines." 184

99. On the other hand, Richard Westfall argues: "I am seeking the source of the Newtonian concept of forces of attraction and repulsion between particles of matter, the concept that fundamentally altered the prevailing philosophy of nature and ushered in the intellectual world of modern science, I am offering the argument that alchemy, Newton's involvement in which a vast corpus of papers establishes, offered him a stimulus to consider concepts beyond the bare ontology of the mechanical philosophy. It appears to me that the Newtonian concept of


Dobbs, ibid., 1975, p. 61.

Dobbs, ibid., p. 46. J. E. McGuire, "Neoplatonism and Active Principles: Newton and the Corpus Hermeticum", in Hermeticism and the Scientific Revolution, 1977, p. 13 1-133.



force embodies the enduring influence of alchemy upon his scientific thought."185 Westfall says he sees no necessary opposition between his views and McGuire's. He takes McGuire to have shown that the Platonism of Newton's teachers at Cambridge, in which one finds a concept of "active principles", influenced Newton's conception of force. Westfall agrees, and says that alchemy influenced Newton's conception of force, too. He observes that: "... for every page in Newton's papers of direct reference to [the Cambridge Platonists] More and Cudworth there are well over a hundred on alchemy. I cannot make those papers disappear." 186 100. Dobbs, Westfall and others, have said that Newton's concept of force, one of the central and more mysterious concepts in Newton's mechanics (his theory of how pieces of matter behave), descended at least partly from his alchemical ideas. There has been an enormous debate over the ontological status of Newton's forces. Newton himself indicates at the beginning of his Principia that there are three kinds of forces: resistive force, or inertia; impressed force, which tends to change the state of a body from rest or uniform (constant velocity) motion, and of which he mentions the three kinds, from percussion, from pressure and centripetal; and attracting force, such as gravity (repelling force is not mentioned here, although presumably a centripetal force might be interpreted as repelling -- Newton does speak of repelling forces elsewhere in the Principia.187 Procedures for quantitatively measuring forces are provided by Newton's three laws of motion 188 , especially the second law which, in our terms, asserts that a force on body is to be measured by the rate of change in momentum of the body it produces, where the momentum of a body is to be found by measuring the mass and velocity of the body, and multiplying these together.189 Thus, in the case of a mass constant in time, a quantity of force acting on a body is proportional to the acceleration of the body, the rate at which its velocity changes. 101. The question has often been asked, do Newton's definitions and axioms constitute a definition of force? Is "force" just a word we use for rates of changes of momentum, or is there something in addition to this which constitutes the force, a "power" or "cause" or "activity"? 190 A number of physicists and philosophers have taken the attitude that Newton's statements should be interpreted as defining the word "force", and felt that to postulate any additional underlying properties would be to introduce non-existent or useless or nonsensical "metaphysical" principles. The only way we know a force to be present, in this view, is to make physical measurements, and interpret them according to Newton's laws. For a fixed mass, if an acceleration is found by measurement, then a force has acted, and not otherwise. 102. In the earlier years of the debate, beginning in Newton's own lifetime, the word "occult" rather than "metaphysical" was often used. Many natural philosophers, especially Descartes and his followers, wished to eliminate "occult properties" from physical science. This indeed was one of the most revolutionary aspects of the Cartesian philosophy, and one which
185 Richard Westfall, "Newton and alchemy", p. 330 in Occult and scientific mentalities in the Renaissance, 1984, p. 3 15-335. 186 Westfall, ibid., p. 331. 187 Isaac Newton, Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (MathematicalPrinciples of Natural Philosophy, familiarly known as the Principia), 1687, Motte's translation revised by Cajori, 1934, p. 2. 188 ibid., p. 13; see Appendix to this chapter. 189 Newton's definition, ibid., p. 1. 1 9 0 See, for example, Ernst Nagel, The Structure of Science, 1961, Chapter 7, esp. p. 186- 192.


goes a long way toward explaining its enormous success in connection with physics, even though Descartes' detailed physical theories were often faulty, and also the considerable opposition it provoked among theologians, despite Descartes' care to avoid controversy with ecclesiastical authorities. Descartes argued for a sharp separation between matter and spirit, and to a large extent reduced matter to mere extension, something amenable to mathematical description. In the astrological, alchemical and theological contexts of the time, this must have seemed to some like an infusion of pure oxygen, and to others like an intrusion of poison gas. In either case, it was not something philosophers could take lightly. 103. Descartes’ views were not wholly agreeable to Newton and some of his teachers and followers for a number of both physical and theological reasons, and a considerable debate grew up around this question. One of the reasons Newton wrote the Principia was to make a contribution to the overthrow of certain aspects of the Cartesian philosophy, as Euclid's motive in the Elements may have been to introduce people to the theory of regular polyhedra -- both works turned out to be monumentally more applicable. Part of the continuing debate hinged on whether or not there are spiritual components of forces. Questions like these were asked: are the planets held in their courses by continual divine action, or were they set in motion by divine action and left to run on their own, or were they set in motion by purely physical actions, or have they simply been running forever? 104. The arguments of later philosophers, especially a host of positivists from Comte to the present, over whether or not Newtonian forces can only be recognized by making physical measurements and seeing whether or not they satisfy Newton's laws leave out the way Newton arrived at the concept of force. Some positivists have said about this, roughly speaking, that they are only interested in reconstructing mechanics on a sound logical basis, and not in how the discoveries were made. Some years ago, reference was prevalent to a "context of discovery" versus a "context of verification". It is certainly true that physicists since the 17 th century C.E. have paid little serious attention to the astrological and alchemical background of classical mechanics, and seem in many ways to have been the better for it. Still, we may enquire whether or not a knowledge of the background might lead to the re-introduction, suitable refined and modified, of some of the older notions which are excluded by a positivistic point of view. Indeed, we may go further and ask whether or not many physicists still harbor and frequently make use of thoughts about forces and energy which go beyond measurements interpreted according to mathematical equations. For one thing, with the advent of quantum mechanics, observers have catapulted back into a prominence which they formerly had. If Carl Jung and his followers are right, one of the great differences between alchemy and chemistry as we know understand lies in the amount to which the minds and emotions of observers is present within the practice of alchemy itself, and absent from our practice of chemistry -- at least officially.

105. The physicist Paul Davies says: "In daily life we see the activity of forces all around us. The force of gravity guides the planets in their motion and raises the ocean tides. Electrical forces display themselves in thunderstorms. Mechanical forces drive our machines and our own bodies. Everywhere we look, matter is subjected to forces of some sort, arising from a multitude of agencies The world is full of objects -- people, planets, clouds, atoms, flowers -- and full of motion. Things happen when moving objects act collectively. How do objects know about each other? How do they respond to the presence and activities of other


objects? ..... Although uniform motion is natural and needs no explanation, changes in motion require the action of some external agency. Because the state of uniform motion is regarded as natural, we say that when a body is disturbed from this state it is beingforced. The agencies which produce forced motion are called forces. It is the action of forces which enriches the activity of our universe, and which enables different parts of the world to be aware of each other's existence. Without forces, nothing could act on or influence anything else, and all the matter in the universe would disintegrate into its elementary constituents, each subatomic particle moving independently of all the others." 191 106. Just so: agencies, actions, influences. Davies goes on: "The effect of a force on a material body is to bring about an acceleration. This is described by Newton's second law To determine how a body responds to a given force F, which may be varying from time to time and place to place in both magnitude and direction, it is necessary to solve [ F = ma] for the position of the body."192 The force is there before the acceleration, and before the equation, and it takes a brave philosopher to maintain this is only manner of speaking. 107. The physicist James Trefil remarks that the Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman once said, in the witty way he had, that in pre-Newtonian theories of planetary motion, "you have to have angels following the planets along, flapping their wings to move them." He added that in Newton's explanation, "the angels flapped their wings to push each planet toward the sun, rather than along its orbit."193 I don't know if this was a pure joke, or if Feynman was revealing a knowledge of how theories of planetary motion actually developed. We will see later that the theory that angels control the planets was a popular one in the European Middle Ages. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas held a version of it. 108. At one stage in his work, up through the 1670's, Newton postulated a kind of "universal subtle matter" or "aether", which could be used to explain the attractive force of gravity and other forces.194 It was, so to speak, a kind of "unified field theory", or GTE (Grand Theory of Everything). Newton never could quite make this theory work, but he didn't abandon the idea of a universal aether entirely. In what appear to have been his last ruminations about the mechanism of the world, in the Queries at the end of his Opticks195 , he speculates on a very thin, exceedingly "elastick and active" aetherial medium -- definitely not a fluid -- which conveys light and heat, and "pervades all Bodies", and is "(by its elastick force) expanded through all the Heavens", and can also be used to account for the mechanism of vision.196 109. Newton goes so far as to ask: "Are not gross Bodies and Light convertible into one another, and may not Bodies receive much of their Activity from the Particles of Light which enter their Composition?"197 There is considerable speculation in the Queries on the nature of
191 192 193 194 195 196

Paul Davies, The Forces of Nature, 2nd edition, 1986, p. 1-2. Davies, ibid., p. 3. James Trefil, Reading the Mind of God, 1989, p. 8. Shades of Plato’s aether! 4th edition, 1730. Isaac Newton, Opticks, 1730, Dover edition, 1952, p. 339-406.

Newton, ibid., p. 374.


chemical interactions, based on a corpuscular theory of matter. And in the very last sentence of the Opticks, he takes a swipe at astral religion: "And no doubt, if the Worship of false Gods had not blinded the Heathen, their moral philosophy would have gone farther than to the four Cardinal Virtues; and instead of teaching the Transmigration of Souls and to worship the Sun and Moon, and dead Heroes, they would have taught us to worship our true Author and Benefactor, as their Ancestors did under the Government of Noah and his Sons before they corrupted themselves." (ibid., p. 406.) 110. While Newton failed to make his unified aether theory work in general, he certainly made his theory of forces work in the domains to which he applied them. In Dobb's words: "The universe lived again as Newton's thoughts swung on toward the Principia in the 1680's, for forces and active principles were everywhere. Not only was there the attractive force of gravity binding the planets into a vibrant whole, there was also activity in the sub-structure of matter. Gone, in Newton's mind, were the inert particles of Cartesian matter resting quiescently together between impacts. In their place were structured corpuscles of increasing complexity, held together upon occasion by attractive forces of their own, but also capable upon other occasions of repelling each other. Change was the order of the day in the little world and matter matured and decayed and was constantly replenished by active principles."198 Newton's universe did not run like a clock. An untellable number of writers have referred to Newton's system of the world as a clockwork or machine-like universe, but as far as Newton himself is concerned -- aside from various of his followers -- the accusation is not just. It might be better attributed to Descartes or even Leibniz, with whom Newton was frequently at odds.

111. In his Introduction to the Principia, Newton defines rational mechanics (as distinguished from practical mechanics) to be "the science of motions resulting from any forces whatever, and of the forces required to produce any motions, accurately proposed and demonstrated." He offers his work as "the mathematical principles of philosophy", and says that this philosophy consists in this -- "from the phenomena of motions to investigate the forces of nature, and then from these forces to demonstrate the other phenomena; and to this end the general propositions in the first and second Books are directed." Newton continues: "In the third book I give an example of this in the explication of the System of the World; for by the propositions mathematically demonstrated in the former Books, in the third I derive from celestial phenomena the forces of gravity with which bodies tend to the sun and several planets. Then from these forces, by other propositions which are also mathematical, I deduce the motions of the planets, the comets, the moon, and the sea. I wish we could derive the rest of the phenomena of Nature by the same kind of reasoning from mechanical principles, for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they may all depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards one another, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from one another. These forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the seach of Nature in vain; but I hope the principles here laid down will afford some light either to this or some truer method of philosophy."199 It appears from this that he had even greater goals in mind than those he
Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy, or "The Hunting of the Greene Lyon", 1975., p. 212. 199 Newton, ibid., p. xvii- xviii.


achieved in the Principia, and that the Queries in the Opticks are as close as he came to reaching them. Do you suppose Newton thought he had failed in what he wanted to do? 112. Paul Davies wrote a second version of his The Forces of Nature, he says, to take account of new theories that there is a single "superforce" in which all forces have their origin. (Davies, ibid., p. vii.) There has been great hope among certain physicists that a GUT (Grand Unified Theory) of this kind will be generally accepted in the near future. But even if this doesn't come to pass, the success that Newton had with his forces remains, suitably altered to meet the demands of relativity and quantum theory. 113. James Trefil says of his book Reading the Mind of God:: "This book is about an idea, one of the most astonishing and least appreciated ideas in modern science. I call it the principle of universality. It says that the laws of nature we discover here and now in our 200 laboratories are true everywhere in the universe and have been in force for all time." Trefil goes on to say that has found in lecturing to a wide variety of audiences that those not made up of university scientists give evidence of not knowing about this kind of universality. His explanation is: "The principle of universality is so important that it is never explicitly taught. We [scientists] learn about it almost by osmosis. It pervades our work, particularly in fields like astronomy, but is seldom explicitly stated." 201 If Trefil is right, many people even today assume unless taught otherwise that celestial objects play according to different rules than material things on earth. 114. This doesn't, though, in itself exclude theories in which angels control planets, unless angelic control is confined to a kind of perfect celestial matter, different in kind from terrestrial matter. One need only extend angelic control to everything that moves. Furthermore, Newton's idea of universality had precedents. Some of the Stoics, for example, believed that the universe, the Divine Mind and ordinary matter everywhere, is made of one kind of stuff, such as Chrysippus'pneuma, and they had the idea that Fate rules the world with the orderliness of the heavens, akin to the idea that there are natural laws which are the same throughout the physical world. Some of the pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece had ideas of the same genre, concerning elements or atoms, and logos or cosmos. A number of them had systems in which there was more than one kind of stuff, but most of these postulated the same several kinds of stuff everywhere. There were also the long-lived theories, popular among astrologers and poets, of man, a microcosm, correlated with the universe, the macrocosm. All of these are kinds of physical universality.

115. What was different about Newton's kind of universality? Newton had a concept of momentum, which can be very simply measured by multiplying inertial mass times velocity, and a concept offorce as a rate at which momentum is changed. And he had a mathematical technique, the calculus, which could be used, in some important cases, to find mathematical expressions for determining the motion of a body when mathematical expressions for the forces acting on the body are known. His law of gravity gave an expression for one force, the inverse square expression for gravity. That there is something reasonable about the way matter moves was not a novel idea in the time of Newton, nor was the idea that there are quantitative
200 201 J am es Trefi l, R e a d i n g t h e M i n d o f Go d , 1989, p . 1. Trefi l, ibid. , p. 2.


expressions describing such motions, nor was the idea that matter is made of the same kind of stuff everywhere. But who would have thought, until Newton, that a program for deriving mathematical expressions giving the successive of moving objects could be laid down with three such simp le laws, which can be stated in three sentences? Such a simple program! Alas, finding expressions for all the relevant forces acting on an object is seldom easy and probably sometimes impossible, and even when such expressions have been found, carrying out the program has turned out in many important cases to be mathematically very difficult, and most likely sometimes impossible in any deterministic or at least determinable (or, as some say, computable) way. But when Newton's method works, it works like magic!


Appendix to Chapter 2: Newton’s Laws A1. In the latter part of the 17th century, Isaac Newton, building on the work of many predecessors, formulated a small number of laws from which quantitative predictions about the movements of objects in the heavens can be made. It was soon realized that some movements of terrestrial objects could also be predicted with Newton's laws. While celestial objects are nowadays seen to change, and even in a certain sense to be born, live and die, the Newtonian laws according to which they change seem to be permanent, although they have been extended in various ways. Newton's laws and the myriad of consequences which have been drawn from them make up classical or Newtonian mechanics, sometimes called rational or analytical mechanics. The part of classical mechanics which applies to the motions of objects in the heavens is commonly called celestial mechanics. A2. In his textbook on classical mechanics (1985), Laurence Taff observes that classical mechanics rests on Newton's three Laws of Motion, and he states them as they are in Newton's Principia, 1687 (translated from Latin): Newton's First Law. "Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it." Uniform motion of a body is motion with a constant velocity, that is, with unchanging speed and direction. A right line is what we now call a straight line. Newton's Second Law. "The change of motion is proportional to the motive force impressed and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed." The motion of a body is defined by Newton to be the product of a quantity called the mass of the body, which measures its reluctance to change its state, with the velocity of the body, which measures the rate at which its distance from some reference point is changing, and also specifies a direction in which the change is taking place. This is called momentum today. The velocity and/or direction may change at each instant of time. The change in motion is actually the rate of change of momentum. Except in a few simple cases a quantitative statement tha t this rate of change of momentum is proportional to impressed forces requires the techniques of the mathematical discipline known as calculus. To say the rate of change of momentum is proportional to the impressed forces is to say that it is some fixed nu mber multiplied by the quantity which measures the force at each point of space and instant of time. The particular fixed number or constant to be used is different for different units of measurement for time, distances and forces (second or years, meters or feet or miles, pounds or dynes, etc.). Often impressed forces are different at each point of space, but at any one given point are the same for each instant of time.

Newton's Second Law is the most dominant of the three laws of motion since it gives a recipe for forming differential equations. These are statements made using concepts of calculus. In many cases they can be solved using methods of calculus, in one or another sense of the word solved (including approximate solutions), to give quantitative descriptions of the behavior of a great number of physical, chemical, biological, geological, statistical, and other kinds of systems. It can be shown that the first law can be derived as the special


case of the second law in which the magnitude of the impressed forces is zero. When the word motion in the second law is interpreted as momentum, and this meaning is used in the first law, the statement in the first law that a body tends to continue in a state of uniform motion in a straight line can be interp reted to mean that the momentum of a body in such a state will stay the same as it moves, so Newton's First Law contains a law of conservation of linear momentum. Newton's Third Law. "To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal and directed to contrary parts." This should not be taken to mean that objects never move. If I push on you, thus exerting a force, and you move backwards, an explanation according to Newton’s Third Law is that your reaction push was at the instant of contact equal in magnitude to my push, though in the opposite direction (along a straight line). This diminished the magnitude of my push in an amount equal to the magnitude of the push you exerted. Howe ver, although my push was weakened, there was still some more of my push it left over, so to speak, so you were subjected to an acceleration in the direction of my push –-- and you moved. To do celestial mechanics, Taff observes, one supplements these postulates with Newton's Law of Gravitation: Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. "Every particle in the Universe attracts every other particle in the Universe with a force that varies directly as the product of their masses and inversely as the square of the distance between them; furthermore, this force acts along the line joining the two particles." Thus the force of gravity exerted by one particle on another particle can be measured by finding numbers measuring their masses in some way, and multiplying these together; then finding the distance between the particles in some way and squaring it and dividing the result into the product of the masses; and finally, multiplying by a fixed number determined by the units of measurement being used. (Laurence G. Taf f, Celestial Mechanics, A Computational Guide for the Practitioner, 1985, p. 1-2; Taff's quotations from Newton's Principia are from the translation by Florian Cajori, 1934, p. 13-14, and Newton's definitions of motion, mass (or quantity of matter and vis insita), impressed force, etc., are given on p. 16.) The gravitational forces which bodies exert on other bodies are determined by regarding bodies as made up of particles in some way, and using techniques of calculus. This is not a very easy task, on the whole. Its study is known as potential theory (for reasons we won't go into here). A3. Having stated these laws of classical mechanics, and supplemented it with Newton's Law of Gravitation in order to do celestial mechanics, Taff observes that there i s essentially no more physics in his book -- the rest is mathematics. In effect, Taff defines classical mechanics to consist of the consequences of Newton's three laws of motion, as worked out using methods of mathematics, and celestial mechanics to consist of the consequences of the laws of motion together with the law of gravitation. From this point of


view, the "impressed forces" spoken of in Newton's Second Law are confined to gravitational forces when doing what one might call “pure” celestial mechanics. A4. The word mechanistic is open to conflicting interpretations. Some have taken it to be opposed to animistic, so a mechanistic universe is one in which planets and the like have no internal principles of change, as they did for Aristotle and countless others. In particular, for some, divine guidance is precluded in a mechanistic universe. The attitude is captured in a story about Laplace. Napoleon is supposed to have asked Laplace why he never mentioned the Creator in his work on celestial mechanics, and Laplace is supposed to have replied: "Sire, j'ai pu me passer de cette hypothèse" -- "Sir, I have been able to dispense with that hypothesis." A5. Others have taken a mechanistic universe to be one made out of gear wheels, pulleys, levers, springs and the like, in the manner of a machine, which runs and has run forever on its own. However, the author of the Laws of Motion, Newton, believed that a Creator was involved in the working of the world. Aside from divine guidance, he also speaks in Definition III of the Principia of bodies having inertia or vis insita (innate force), an internal power of resisting change in motion, tending to make it continue in whatever state it is in. This attributes to machines something beyond their mere extension in space and time. Because of this proposal, and because he was not able to find a satisfactory mechanical model for his theory of gravity (although he made a few conjectures), Newton was accused by followers of Descartes of introducing so-called "occult powers" into natural philosophy of the kind which had been popular among medieval scholastic philosophers, and which Descartes had been at great pains to banish. Descartes himself had tried to base a theory of gravity on the motion of vortices -- little whirlpools, so to speak. An important part of Newton's purpose in writing his Principia was to show that Descartes's model doesn't work as an explanation of gravitation.

A6. Thus the connection of classical mechanics with machines is not as close as some have thought. There is also the question of mathematics. E. J. Diksterhuis made a study of the transition to "classical science" which took place during the 17th century, and came to this conclusion: "The mechanization of the world-picture during the transition from ancient to classical science meant the introduction of a description of nature with the aid of the mathematical concepts of classical mechanics; it marks the beginning of the mathematization of science, which continues at an ever-increasing pace in the twentieth century." (E. J. Dijksterhuis, The Mechanization of the World Picture, 1961, p. 501, translation by C. Dikshoorn of De Mechanisering van het Werelbeeld, 1950.) That is, according to Dijksterhuis, the transition to a mechanized universe was characterized not merely by the use of machine-like models, but by the introduction of mathematically based descriptions and theories. However, mathematical descriptions are sometimes more than descriptions of machines. Or so I believe -- there are those who have maintained otherwise.


Chapter 3. Some Astrological Techniques 1. We have discussed astrology, and in particular judicial or horoscopic astrology, as a method of prediction, but we haven't yet gone into much detail about its techniques. In fact, the details and methods have undergone much change over the course of centuries. However, in Europe, at the time of the Renaissance, the basic procedures of that branch of predictive astrology concerned with casting horoscopes were roughly as they are now. The process of casting a horoscope (or "figure" or "scheme") begins with locating the positions of various celestial objects. For birth horoscopes (nativities or genitures), one starts with as exact a value as one can determine of the day, hour and minute of birth of a person, together with the longitude and latitude of the place of birth. Using tables calculated by astronomers for a fixed time, longitude and latitude (different astrologers may use different tables), the positions of the planets (taken to include the sun and moon), and perhaps certain stars, are calculated using the local time and geographical coordinates, and located in one of the signs of the zodiac. The sun and moon are considered as planets for this purpose, and the sun is considered as the most important of the planets.

2. The zodiac, which is an imaginary band centered on the ecliptic, the yearly path of the sun among the stars (equivalent to the earth's yearly motion around the sun), is defined in different ways by different astrologers, but in a popular and ancient version, the zodiac is 17o wide (or so) and is divided into 12 zones or "signs", named and symbolized according to constellations found in them. Ancient Egyptian astrologers used 36 decans of 10o each rather than 12 sections of 30 o each, each assigned a name and symbol. Versions of these were used by numerous astrologers during the Middle Ages and later, but appear to play only a small role in present-day astrology.202 The "sun sign" of a person is the zone of the zodiac in which the sun is located when a person is born, or in some systems, conceived. When someone is said to be a "Libra" or to have been born "with the sun in Libra", it means the sun was in the Libra zone of the zodiac when he or she was born. Similarly, each person has a moon sign, and since the positions in the zodiac of all the known planets are customarily taken into consideration, one could also speak of a "Venus sign", "Mars sign", etc., although this isn't often done.

3. The ascendant of a person may be defined as the sign of the zodiac which was rising in the east at the instant the person was born. This is determined by the daily motion of the stars in the sky (equivalent to the earth's rotation on its axis). The sun sign and other planetary signs of a person are determined by the year, month and day of birth, but for the ascendant one needs the hour and place (determined by latitude and longitude). Most astrologers have considered the ascendant to be at least as important a determinant as the sun sign. Just as the zodiac is divided into 12 signs, the apparent daily movement of the stars is divided into 12 houses. There are numerous ancient and modern ways of doing this. Each house is considered to govern a different sector of human life. Usually the zones of the houses are identified by numbers, and in one method, these are assigned in the direction opposite to the movement of the stars, starting from the ascendant (more precisely, from the degree of the ecliptic which was rising at the instant of birth, which is a position in one of the signs of the zodiac).
C f. Wi lh elm Gund el, Dekane und Dekanstern, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Sternbilder der Kulturv ·lker, 1936.


4. In relatively recent times, a circular diagram has been used to record this data, with the zodiac represented in a relatively narrow band between the outer circumference of the circle and the circumference of an inner circle, and the houses represented as sectors of the inner circle. The positions of the planets are recorded in these sectors. Formerly (apparently into the 18th century), a square diagram was used, with the houses represented by triangles, 4 on the sides of an inner square, and 8 upside down with respect to these, 2 for each side of an outer square. The positions of the planets are recorded in the triangles. In either case, casting a horoscope consists of determining and recording this data, and the resulting diagram is called a horoscope. Often certain angles, or approximate angles, which planets make with each other as views from earth are noted on horoscopes. These are called aspects, and they include conjunction, opposition, trine, square or quartile, and sestile or sextile, corresponding to angles of separation of 0, 180, 90 and 60 degrees. The calculations needed to cast a horoscope are fairly complicated, and numerous different techniques have been proposed. 5. Besides the significance attached to planetary positions in zodiacal signs, to the positions of planets in the houses, and to planetary aspects, there were a number of other astrological interpretations. A number of the these are summarized by J. D. North in his study of the extensive role of astronomy/astrology in the works of Chaucer 203
6. The planets themselves are assigned various characteristics, regardless of their positions in the sky. Saturn, for example, is on the whole intrinsically evil, and detailed descriptions of its (or his) particular evils are given. The Sun is associated with brightness, intelligence, understanding, etc. And so on. The zodiacal signs and constellations which determine them are also assigned various characterics of their own. Besides these intrinsic or essential properties of planets and signs, there are additional accidental properties of the planets (besides the signs, houses and aspects), due to their positions. For example, there are the five dignities, namely: domiciles, exaltations, triplicities, terms and faces. These dignities, which are of Hellenistic origin or earlier, are explained by the Arabian astrologer Alkabucius in a treatise widely used in the Middle Ages and later. 2 0 4

7. A domicile (or domus) of a planet is a sign of the zodiac regarded as a home for a planet. The domiciles of Mercury, for example, are Gemini and Virgo, with Gemini being the gaudium of Mercury, the sign in which it "rejoices". Two planets have only one domicile --there are 12 signs and 7 planets. A sign opposite to a domicile of a planet is a detriment, which is especially alien to the planet. An exaltation is a sign in which a planet is especially powerful. A sign opposite to an exaltation is a dejection. A triplicity is a triple of signs forming an equilateral triangle in a horoscopic diagram. The terms arise from a subdivision of each zodiacal sign into five unequal parts, and the faces from a subdivision of each zodiacal sign into ten equal parts (so the ecliptic is subdivided into 360 parts, the number of days in an ancient Egyptian year). The faces derive from the ancient Egyptian decans. Three different ways of determining the terms are given by Ptolemy, two which he identifies as Egyptian and Chaldean, and one of his own.



J. D. North, Chaucer's Universe (1988); Chapter 5, "Some Generall Rewles of Theorike in Astrologie". Alkabucius (al- Qabisi; fl. 950 A.D.), Introductorium ad scienciam astrologiejudicialis.


8. In addition to these dignities, there were the notions of hyleg (pronounced "high ledge") and alcochoden (or alchocoden), to be used in determining how long a person could be expected to live. The hyleg was one of four specific places in the ecliptic assigned to a person on the basis of his natal horoscope by means of complicated and inscrutable rules. The alcochoden was the planet which had most dignity in the place of the hyleg. There was also an elaborate system of lunar mansions, arising from a subdivision of the ecliptic into 27 or 28 equal parts --the mansions -- corresponding to the number of days in a lunar month (about 27 and a half solar days). The moon's status (waxing, waning, full, new, etc.) in each mansion, and its position in the zodiac, were all involved. 9. There is more. But this should be enough to show how complex and intricate a discipline astrology can be. The assignment of positions of planets and houses and aspects in horoscopes is a kind of applied observational astronomy, in the modern sense of the word "astronomy". An interpretation of these positions is the special province of astrology. A basic assumption of astrologers is that the planets exert influences on characters and fates of individuals. The positions of the sun, moon and other planets at birth indicate determining influences. Each of the houses in a person's horoscope is taken to govern some department of life. The various dignities and virtues and powers of the planets are taken into consideration. The aspects are good or bad indicators, depending on which approximate angle and which planets are involved. 10. On the basis of birth horoscopes, astrologers make determinations of both the characters and the fates of individuals. In addition to these nativities, there are also hour or horary horoscopes, which are cast to show the positions of the planets at a given time so they can be used to answer questions about what will happen after that time. These can be correlated in various ways with the birth horoscopes of questioners. The result can be used for determining predictions, or "elections", which are courses of action or non-action which questioners are advised to follow, or "interrogations", in which the answers to specific questions of many kinds are obtained. And so on. Horoscopic astrology is a complicated subject.

11. Judicial astrology is used not only to predict the future, but also to read character. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, speaking from the standpoint of modern Islam, says: "Human types can also be divided astrologically, here astrology being understood in its cosmological and symbolic rather than its predictive sense. Astrological classifications, which are in fact related to traditional medical and physical typologies, concern the cosmic correspondences of the various aspects of the human soul and unveil the refraction of the archetype of man in the cosmic mirror in such a way as to bring out the diversity of this refraction with reference to the qualities associated with the zodiacal signs and the planets. Traditional astrology, in a sense, concerns man on the angelic level of his being but also unveils, if understood in its symbolic significance, a typology of man which reveals yet another facet of the differentiation of the human species. The correspondence between various parts of the body as well as man's mental powers to astrological signs and the intricate rapport created between the motion of the heavens, various "aspects" and relations between planets and human activity are also a means of portraying the inward link that binds man as the microcosm to the cosmos."205
S e y ye d H o s s ei n Na s r, K n o w l e d g e a n d t h e S a c r e d , 1 9 8 1 , p . 1 7 8 - 1 7 9 .



12. An essence of some people's reaction to judicial astrology, particularly in the face of its complexity, is captured by Stephen Leacock: "I was born at Swanmoor, Hants, England, on December 30, 1869. I am not aware that there was any particular conjunction of the planets at the time, but should think it extremely likely."206 13. I have two pieces of antique computer software called LodeStar and HoroScopics, put out for astronomical hobbyists by a company called Zephyr Services. 207 The Lodestar program will show a diagram of the sky for any date from 9999 BC to 9999 AD, giving the locations of over 9000 stars, planets and galaxies, and the sun and moon. The HoroScopics program will give a birth horoscope, with houses and aspects. I don't have the source code for these programs, but it appears that the HoroScopics program consists basically of part of the computer code for the LodeStar program extended by some code which graphs a horoscope instead of a diagram of the sky, and which assigns interpretations to classes of positions of the basic planets of astrology (including the sun and moon). Naturally, only a part of the code for LodeStar is needed for HoroScopics, since the influence of only a few celestial objects are needed for casting horoscopes. This illustrates rather vividly how astronomy, as we now understand it, is fundamental to astrology, but is nowadays quite sharply separable from it. 14. The sun, moon and planet signs are different for different people on account of the sun's motions through the zodiac, which are equivalent to the earth's approximately elliptical (nearly circular) revolutions around the sun. The astrological houses are different for different persons on account of the daily motions of the heavens, equivalent to the earth's rotations on its axis. There is another motion of the earth, the precession of the equinoxes, equivalent to a revolution in a circle of the earth's axis around a central line, a so-called "wobble", so that the positions of the axis trace out a right circular cone. This causes observers on earth to see a movement with respect to the constellations in the zodiac of the places where the ecliptic, the central circle of the zodiac and apparent path of the sun through the sky, crosses the celestial equator, which is the imaginary extension of the earth's equator into the heavens. These two places are called the spring and autumn equinoxes, and their motion is called the precession of the equinoxes. The precession is slow compared to human lifetimes, taking about 25920 years for a complete circuit. Taking this motion of the earth -- or the heavens as viewed from earth -into account has caused many serious astrologers considerable trouble.

15. The precession of the equinoxes may seem to moderns to be something of interest only to astronomers and perhaps people concerned with long range calendars. However, there is evidence that when it was first discovered, it had a powerful effect on some people. There was a religion in the ancient Roman world known as Mithraism which has often attracted historians because, among other things, it was one of Christianity's major competitors in the Roman Empire. Ernest Renan once declared that "if Christianity had been stopped at its birth by some mortal illness, the world would have become Mithraic."208 Mithraism was one of the mystery or secret religions, and has been difficult to interpret. For some 75 years or so, the dominant interpretation was that of Franz Cumont, who traced it to a Roman importation of an Iranian (Persian) cult based a god Mithra. This interpretation has come into question. It seems now that
206 207 208 Stephen Leacock, preface to Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, 1912, p. vii. On 5 1/4" floppies, if you remember those. Ernest Renan, Marc-Aur ©le et lafin du monde antique, 1923, p. 579.


the Roman god Mithras may have corresponded to the Iranian god Mithra in name only, and that Iranian names and details were attached to Mithraism chiefly to give it an exotic and esoteric coloring. David Ulansey has proposed that the Mithraic religion originated in an interpretation of the discovery of the precession of the equinoxes by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus about 128 B.C.E.209 16. A prominent characteristic of the Mithraic religion is its basic symbol of a man killing a bull. Roughly speaking, this symbol is to Mithraism what the cross is to Christianity. The symbol normally contains other items besides Mithras and a bull -- a scorpion, a dog, a snake, a raven, a lion and a cup. In 1869, a German scholar named K. B. Stark suggested that the symbol could be interpreted as a star map, with Mithras being identified with the constellation named after Perseus -- who was commonly associated with Persia -- and the bull being identified with the constellation Taurus (which, of course, means "bull"). This interpretation was not accepted by Cumont, but various scholars have recently revived it. What the killing of the bull signifies, according to Ulansey, is the heliacal setting of Taurus (last day it is visible on the horizon just after sunset), symbolized as a killing of Taurus by the constellation just above it -- Perseus, or Mithras. This had been for some hundreds of years before the discovery of the precession been associated with the spring equinox which occurred about the same time, although by the time of Hipparchus the heliacal setting of Taurus was occurring later than the spring equinox by a couple of weeks. 17. How could the discovery of precession have had such a powerful effect? As viewed from earth, regarded as fixed by most ancient astronomers, the precession of the equinoxes can be taken as evidence for a gradual rotation of the entire heavens, as the equinoctial points slowly move along the celestial equator. Only a very powerful god could move the entire heavens. Ulansey says: "I have argued that Mithraic iconography was a cosmological code created by a circle of religious-minded philosophers and scientists to symbolize their possession of secret knowledge: namely, the knowledge of a newly discovered god so powerful that the entire cosmos was completely under his control. It is not difficult to understand how such knowledge could have come to form the core of an authentic religious movement. For the possession of carefully guarded secret knowledge concerning such a mighty divinity would naturally have been experienced as assuring privileged access to the favors which this god could grant, such as deliverance from the forces of fate residing in the stars and protection for the soul after death during its journey through the planetary spheres. If we understand salvation to be a divinely bestowed promise of safety in the deepest sense, both during life and after death, then the god whose presence we have discerned beneath the veils of Mithraic iconography was well suited to perform the role of savior."210 From this beginning, Mithraism evolved into a religion based on an ideology of power and hierarchy, especially attractive to the military and militant.

18. The place of horoscopic astrology in the past is difficult to understand for a 20th century reader whose knowledge of this kind of astrology is chiefly based on newspaper and magazine articles dealing only with sun signs. The system seems too simple for anyone to have taken seriously. But in fact serious casters of horoscopes both past and present base their character analysis and forecasting on more complex considerations, as the above sketch shows.
209 1989. 210 Ulan s ey, ibid ., p . 125. Da vid Ulans ey, The Origins of theMithraic Mysteries, Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World,


Furthermore, their methods are based not only on astronomical observations but on information and proposed correlations gathered over long periods of time. Thus astrology has many of the characteristics of a science, and has been taken by numerous intelligent and thoughtful people to be a science, according to their definitions of "science" (or a natural philosophy in earlier times). 19. In understanding the place of astrology in the past, it has been thought useful for a long time to distinguish between judicial astrology, as we have just described it, and natural astrology. Hugh Dick says: "The chief source of confusion in virtually all modern discussions of the place of astrology [during the Renaissance] has arisen from the failure to define terms and to distinguish between the various kinds of belief. During the Renaissance, the two basic divisions of the pseudo science were natural and judicial astrology. According to the doctrines of the former, the heavenly bodies exercised certain powers upon the earth, but not all these were what we should call occult. To believe that the sun gives heat and the moon affects tides was to accept the teachings of natural astrology, though before the conception of the macro-microcosm was destroyed m ost believers went further than this. Judicial astrology, on the other hand, concerned not merely the influence of the stars but also the prognostication of events or tendencies through knowledge gained by this study."211 20. Dick quotes John Ferne, a writer on heraldry who conveyed conventional ideas on the subject: "The third of the Mathematicals is Astronomy or Astrologie... Astronomy (as I have been taught) comprehendeth the revolution of the Heavens, the rising, going downe, and motion of Starres. But Astrologie is divided into two members, the one is called naturall, and the other superstitious [i.e., judicial]. That part which is naturall, noteth the stations of times, the courses of the Moone and Starres, but that which is called superstitious ... teacheth, by the judicials of the Starres and heavenly bodies, to give a prediction of seasons of the yeere, of nativities, and the manners of men: of fates, and fortunes future, to kingdomes, provinces, and townes, to the states and conditions of people."2 12

21. Dick notes that the doctrines of the two branches of astrology overlapped, and that it is not always easy to draw a line of demarcation between them, yet he says that to men of the time the dichotomy was apparent. This may be so, but the distinction needn't have been of much help in deciding what should part of astrology should be rejected. It wasn't possible to simply accept all natural astrology and reject all judicial astrology. For example, according to the doctrines of natural astrology, the heavenly bodies exercise certain powers on the earth and its inhabitants. These included the sun's heating and the moon's action on bodies of water, along with influences we now longer allow, such as certain actions on the human body which physicians had to take into account. Now, to say that the sun heats us seems unobjectionable by any criterion. Can we make reliable predictions about the sun's heating? Yes, we can. Not as reliable as we would like, but predictions of temperature changes and precipitation as made in today's weather reports are a useful guide. Physicists and cosmologists also make long range predictions about the sun's heating, on the basis of thermodynamics and the evolution of stars. As to the moon's influence,

From the Introduction by Hugh G. Dick to Albumazar: A Comedy (1615) by Thomas Tomkis, edited by Dick, 1944, p. 18-19.


John Ferne, The Blazon of Gentrie, 1586, quoted by Hugh Dick, loc. cit., p. 19; I have modernized some though not all spellings.


predictions of low and high tides can be found today in newspapers and television weather reports. 22. In these two prototypical cases, the natural and judicial components are intertwined, and both can claim successes. We no longer say that weather and tide predictions are applications of astrology, but this is what they were taken to be by most people during the Renaissance. Alleged planetary influences on the fates and fortunes of individuals, and the special branch of judicial astrology concerned with the casting of horoscopes, have not been verified in this way. This seems to be true even in the case of the reformed astrology based on planetary aspects, as recommended by Kepler, although, as noted earlier, the results of Michel Gauquelin in relatively recent years raised some questions about the total failure of this kind of astrology. In this case, the underlying planetary influence, the natural astrology component, has not been found, nor have the predictions, the judicial component, been very successful. In the case of the sun's heat and the moon's tides, the influences, the natural component, are granted today in the form of gravitation, and meteorological and nuclear processes, and the predictions, the judicial component, are made using mathematics as well as elaborate observations.

23. Corresponding to the distinction between judicial and natural astrology, a more general distinction can be made between magical and naturalistic beliefs. William Hine has argued that in studying magical and astrological beliefs in the 17th century, and how they may have arisen out of Renaissance ideas, we should make a distinction between magic proper, as dealt with by certain prominent Renaissance figures, and a Renaissance naturalism independent of magic, which is not yet the naturalism of Galileo or Francis Bacon. Hine bases his argument on work of Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), a prominent scientist and churchman, friend of Descartes, who maintained a wide correspondence with other scientists of his time. In his Quaestiones celeberrime in Genesim, 1623, Mersenne distinguishes between magicians and atheists, the latter corresponding to Renaissance naturalists who were not magicians. The naturalists or atheists deny God's role in the world and "attribute everything to nature alone", while the magicians "worship demons" and attribute many activities to evils. On the one hand, Mersenne was concerned to limit the claims of magicians without undermining the authenticity of Christian miracles, which he felt were a guarantee of the authenticity of Christianity itself. On the other hand, he was concerned to show that the atheists were wrong to try to explain everything by nature alone, since, among other things, the Christian miracles are authentic, in his view.

24. As an example, Mersenne analyzes the work of Giulio Cesare Vanini who had been convicted of atheism and burned at the stake in Toulouse. Mersenne felt that the execution of Vanini was justifiable because Vanini would not acknowledge the existence of God, nor of angels and demons. He "attributed all things to fate, and adored Nature as the bounteous mother and source of all being." Vanini claimed there were people who had a natural power to cure diseases, analogous to magnetism. Magicians also drew analogies with magnetism, but related their powers to the influence of angels and demons, or heavenly influences of an astrological nature. Thus, Hines concludes, "it may well be that later scientists such as Newton, for example,


saw in attraction a representation not of a hidden magical power, but of an occult, natural power." 213 25. As to the place of astrology in this classification, Hine says: "For both naturalists and magicians the stars played a significant role in influencing the terrestrial world. For the former, however, the influence of the stars amounted to a form of determin ism, providing a source and guarantee of regularity and order in the universe .... In contrast to the naturalist view, which emphasized natural law and ran the risk of determinism, magic was based on a certain conception of human freedom .... In magic the question is not whether man's destiny is determined for him by his stars, but whether he can discover the stellar influences on his life and take steps to counteract 214 them, if necessary, or direct them for his own benefit." Mersenne mounted a considerable attack on astrology in his Quaestiones celeberrime in Genesim. 26. There was during the European Renaissance a kind of flowering of astrology. Wayne Shumaker describes some of the most notable writings on astrology and magic during this era.215 He gives, for example, an analysis of the influential work by the physician Marsilio Ficino, De vita coelitus comparanda, 1489 (On Guiding One's Life by the Stars, or perhaps On Obtaining Life from the Heavens; third part of De vita triplici). Ficino, like all physicians of his time, was versed in astrology, and this work, by a physician for physicians, is saturated with astrological lore. For example, Ficino describes "how tones, or compositions of tones, can be discovered which belong to specific heavenly bodies. The method requires, first, that we find out the power or effects of a star, a constellation, or even an aspect and what things are repelled by it, or attracted. The next step is to consider what star dominates what place and what men, and to observe the tones and songs used there so that you will be able to use the same ones and the meanings implicit within them Finally, we must study the daily positions and aspects of the stars, and, under these, find out the speeches, songs, motions, and leapings (saltus), together with the customs and actions, to which men are moved by them so that we may be able to imitate these in the songs which we will address to a given part of the sky." 216 And: "The occult virtues of things have not an elemental source but a celestial one. Stellar and planetary rays are alive; they shine, as it were, from the eyes of living bodies, and offer wonderful gifts from the imaginations and minds of celestial beings." 217 Nevertheless, Ficino was not an astrological fundamentalist, and in his later writings pointed up a number of deficiencies in the astrological practices of his time. Don Allen Cameron remarks that Ficino said in later life "that he has no patience with those who trust the stars instead of God, but in some forms of business it is wise to consult the heavens." 218

27. Ernst Cassirer describes the work of Pietro Pomponazzi on fate, free will and predestination, Defato, libero arbitrio etpraedestinatione (1520): [For Pomponazzi] divine
213 William L. Hine, "Mersenne: naturalism and magic", in Occult and scientific mentalities in the Renaissance, 1984, edited by Brian Vickers, p. 165-176. 214 Hine, ibid., p. 168. 215 Wayne Shumaker, The Occult Sciences in the Renaissance, A Study in Intellectual Patterns, 1972. 216 Shumaker, ibid., p. 133. 217 Shumaker, ibid.,, p. 129 218 Don Cameron Allen, The Star - Crossed Renaissance, The Quarrel about Astrology and Its Influence in England, 1941,p. 11.


foreknowledge does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of human action .... Man grasps the past and present according to its 'that', but grasps the future only according to his knowledge of the 'why', because the future is not immediately given to him, but is rather only deducible through its causes. But this difference between an immediate and mediate, between given and deduced knowledge, is not valid for divine knowledge. For in divine knowledge all temporal differences, so necessary for our conception of the world, disappear. To know the future divine knowledge needs no mediation, no discursive succession of the conditions by virtue of which the future comes to be." 28. As to another problem, that of "the compatibility of divine omnipotence with human freedom and responsibility", Cassirer says of Pompanazzi: "Although he does not quite dare to express himself unambiguously on this point, Pomponazzi's judgment tends unmistakably towards a strict determinism. In his work on natural philosophy, De naturalium efectuum admirandorum causis, the causality of events is interpreted in a strictly astrological sense. The world of history and the world of nature are both viewed as necessary results of the influence of the heavenly bodies. And elsewhere too, whenever he is speaking freely, Pomponazzi considers Fate in the Stoic sense the relatively most satisfactory and rational solution. What makes the acceptance of this solution difficult are not so much logical as ethical objections. A substantial part of the work is dedicated to the removal of these objections [W]ith an energetic blow, Pomponazzi severs the bond that had hitherto conjoined metaphysics and ethics. In principle, each is completely independent of the other. Our judgment concerning the value of human life is not dependent on our ideas concerning the continuation of life or the immortality of the human soul; and similarly the question of the value or non-value of our actions must be considered from a point of view other than what caused these actions. No matter how we may decide this latter question, the ethical-practical judgment remains free. This freedom is what we need, not some chimerical causelessness."219

29. Eugenio Garin says that Pomponazzi had "no doubts concerning the celestial connection, and therefore the determination on the part of the stars, of all human events." Pompanazzi believed that the whole world rises and falls in successive cycles. Pomponazzi says in Defato: "And as we see that the earth which is now fertile will be barren, and the great and the rich will become humble and wretched, so the course of history is determined. We have seen the Greeks dominate the Barbarians, now the Barbarians dominate the Greeks, and so everything goes on and changes. So it is probable that he who is now a king will one day be a slave, and vice versa If then someone asks you, what kind of game is this? You would be well advised to reply that it is the game of God." Garin says: "Having established this eternal and universal vicissitude of things, this perennial cycle of ascent and descent, the revival of astrology with all its great themes follows logically from it." But Pomponazzi separated astrology and magic from the supernatural. "What matters to Pomponazzi," Garin says, is to bring every apparently abnormal phenomenon back into the sphere of rational interpretation and natural causes. Not demons nor miracles, but nervous tension, force of the imagination, powers and qualities which

Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, 1963, p. 82-83 of the translation by Mario Domandi of Individuum und Kosmos in der Philosophie der Renaissance, 1927.


are occult not because they are supernatural but because they have not yet been understood: these are the causes of miraculous events."220 30. The most elaborate and famous of the Renaissance compendia of magic is no doubt the De occultaphilosophia libri tres (1531) of Henry Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim. Shumaker describes the contents of the first of these three books, which is concerned with "natural magic": "It discusses the elements; the occult virtues in things; sympathies and antipathies; the dominance of superiora over inferiora; the powers and influences of the planets, the signs, and certain fixed stars; how to attract 'the divinities who rule the world, and their ministers the daemons'; poisons; fumigations; unguents and philters; rings; lights and colors; fascination; divination and auguries; presages and prodigies; geomancy, hydromancy, aeromancy, and pyro mancy (one divinatory skill for each of the elements); the revival of the dead; dreams; passions and their effects on the body; the virtues of words, including proper names; incantations and enchantments; the relations of letters in several languages (Hebrew, 'Chaldaean,' Greek, and Latin) to signs and planets; and much else."
31. The subject of numbers is brought up in the first book. Shumaker says that in Book I: "... we are informed that the order, the numbers, and the shapes of letters 'are not arranged by chance or accident (non fortuito, nec casu) or by the caprice of men, but are formed divinely, so that they relate to and accord with the heavenly bodies, the divine bodies, and their virtues.' Of all languages Hebrew is sacratissima not only in its shapes (figuris) but also in its vowel points and accents, ;as if consisting in matter, form, and spirit, having been produced in God's seat, which is Heaven, by the positions of the stars.' Briefly, the letters are not, as is understood today, conventional symbols chosen from an almost unlimited range of possibility but are so representative of the actual structure of the universe, or its parts, that manipulations of them have intrinsic power. The belief requires no explanation. It is still common among illiterate people and among children, who, if told that 'eau' means 'water,' may say, 'But it's really 'water,' isn't it?' With what degree of seriousness I do not know, C. S. Lewis plays with a similar idea in his cosmic trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, in which the 'Old Solar' spoken beyond the sphere of the moon not merely expresses but contains the real nature of things.' The 22 Hebrew character "are like secrets or sacraments and are vehicles, as it were, of their material referenda and of the 'essences' and powers these contain For this reason Origen believed that Hebrew names lost their force when translated. 'Accordingly the twenty-two letters are the basis of the world and of all the creatures which exist and are named by them.'" 2 2 1

32. Numerology is especially developed in the second of the three books of Cornelius Agrippa, which is concerned with "celestial magic". Numbers, Shumaker remarks, are the basis of the entire quadrivium of the universities: arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and music. (This could be misleading, since astronomical theories and observations, geometric abstractions and diagrams, and melodic and harmonious sounds are more basic than numbers in astronomy, geometry and music, respectively). And Book II of Agrippa's occult philosophy opens with a praise of mathematics and a claim that "everything which is done in terrestrial affairs by natural

Pietro Pomponazzi, quoted by Eugenio Garin, Astrology in the Renaissance, 1983, p. 98-101, translation of Lo Zodiaco della Vita, 1976. 2 2 1 Shumaker, ibid., p. 135 -137.


energies is accomplished, led, or governed by number, weight, measure, harmony, movement, and light." 33. The mathematics of Agrippa, like the mathematics of Fludd, is largely numerology. Shumaker reproduces a number of elaborate drawings by Fludd and others which illustrate such matters as cosmic harmonies and the relations of numbers to the heavens. An example of Agrippa's numerology reproduced by Shumaker consists of a matrix called scala novenarii (the scale of nines) with 6 rows and 11 columns, showing significances of the number 9. We have such things as the names of God in 9 letters, the 9 choirs of angels and 9 angels who preside over heaven, the 9 moving sphers, the 9 orders of bad daemons, and so on. Many numbers are considered by Agrippa. We learn, for example, that "the human foetus becomes a perfect body, ready to receive a reasonable soul, on the fortieth day; women require forty days to recover from a birth; an infant does not smile for forty days; Christ preached forty months, was in the tomb forty hours, mounted into the sky forty hours after his Resurrection." There is a consideration of "geometrical figures, musical and other sounds, and similar harmonies and proportions in the human body and soul." We find that the geometrical figures "have no less power than the numbers themselves." The pentagram, which has five acute and five obtuse angles, along with five triangles, has all the qualities of the number five, and has wonderful force against demons. Other regular polygons have other qualities and virtues. We hear again about celestial harmonies, and how the "proportions, measure, and harmony of the human body resemble those of the universe." "Every part or member of man," we are told, "corresponds to 'some sign, some star, some intelligence, some divine name." 222

34. Book III of Agrippa's Occultaphilosophia is concerned with "religious magic". There is an extensive treatment of the names of God and their use in magic, along cabalistic lines. God's members are discussed, and God's ministers: spirits, daemons, and angels, including those which govern the signs, stars, winds, the 4 elements, and those formerly called fauns, satyrs, Pans, nymphs, naiads, nereids, dryads, muses, genii, and lemurs. The names of these spirits and daemons are elaborated upon. There are instructions for attracting good daemons and repelling bad ones. There is material on the divinity of kings, princes, and pontiffs; how the seven planets act as instruments for bestowing virtues on man; why man has mastery over all other living creatures; and how to carry out various purifications, expiations, adorations, vows, sacrifices and oblations.

35. It should not be thought that astrology enchanted all scholars during the Renaissance. Shumaker analyzes the refutation of astrology, Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1495 -- Agrippa's Occultaphilosophia was 1531). Pico seems to have started as a believer in magic who was working toward a summa of the kind achieved by Cornelius Agrippa. But Pico underwent a passionate about-face. A story was told by Tycho Brahe, the astronomer and mentor of Kepler, that Pico was moved to his attack on astrology when three Italian astrologers predicted his death at a certain time in his 33rd year. According to Brahe, the prediction came true even though Pico shut himself up in his room when the time approached. However, Shumaker says that Pico actually died at age 31. Another possible motive for the attack is Pico's admiration for Savonarola, who regarded astrology as a superstition unworthy of Christians.

Shumak er, ib id., p. 137 -146.


36. Pico's treatise is long, and is characterized by Shumaker as being full and wellinformed. Its gist is summarized by Shumaker: "For a cosmic universe which was conceived animistically, in which planets 'rejoiced' and were 'dejected,' 'looked at' each other with friendly or unfriendly feeling, and varied from 'benevolence' to 'malevolence' in their attitudes toward men, Pico wanted to substitute one in which the heavenly bodies performed quite dispassionately and without consciousness roles assigned them at the beginning by a Creator-God who allowed the evil initiated by men to cause suffering but did not place in the skies forces which would dispose them to act well or badly As an example let us take Aristotle. His soul did not come from the stars because, as he himself proved, it was immortal and incorporeal. His body, fit to serve his soul, did not come from the sky ... but from his parents. As a result of the power of choice inherent in his mind and body he elected to philosophize. His progress came from his plan and his industry, and that it was especially great was a consequence of his teacher's doctrine and the good fortune of his age, when a good beginning had been made and materials were at hand to bring philosophy to perfection. He was superior to his disciples because he had not a better star but a greater genius, the source of which was God. Similarly, the greatest of all philosophers, Socrates, ascribed his wisdom not to the luminaries but to a god or daemon who kept him company."223

37. However, Thorndike says of Pico that his work against astrology on the whole "is rambling and ineffective as far as orderly presentation and cumulative argument are concerned." Furthermore, Thorndike says of the first part: "This effort to give the impression that most of the great minds of the past have condemned astrology is weak and unconvincing to anyone at all acquainted with the past history of the subject. Pico selects only those persons and data that support his contention, suppressing the evidence to the contrary, or misrepresents the attitude of other personages On the whole, his citations are about as unconvincing as those of the astrologers in favor of their art. He had a wide, if not exhaustive, acquaintance with the past literature germane to his theme, but the use he makes of it is that of the advocate and dialectical disputant, almost at times that of invective, rather than that of the impartial historian of ideas." In general, according to Thorndike, "One cannot but feel that the importance of Pico della Mirandola in the history of thought has often been grossly exaggerated." 224

38. Still, the historian Jacob Burckhardt called Pico's piece Oratio de hominis dignitate one of the noblest bequests of the Renaissance. Here Pico speaks on the question of free will. Of God, he says: "He formed man according to a general image that contained no particularities, and, setting him in the centre of the world, said to him: 'We have given you, Adam, no definite place, no form proper only to you, no special inheritance, so that you may have as your own whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may choose, according to your wish and your judgment. All other beings have received a rigidly determined nature, and will be compelled by us to follow strictly determined laws. You alone are bound by no limit, unless it be one prescribed by your will, which I have given you. I have placed you at the centre of the world, so that you may more easily look around you and see everything that is in it. I created you as a being neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal, so that you may freely make and master yourself, and take on any form you choose for yourself. You can degenerate to animality

Shumaker, ibid., p. 16-27. Lynn Thorndike, A Histo ry of Magic and E xper imental S cien ce, 1923- 1958, v. IV, 1934, p. 532, 529- 530, 485.



or be reborn towards divinity ...... Animals bring forth ... from the bodies of their mothers everything they ought to have. The higher spirits are, from the beginning or soon afterwards, everything they will be for eternity. But on man, the Father conferred, at the moment of birth, the seeds and germ of every form of life. Those which he cultivates will grow in him and bear fruit. If they are the plant seeds, he will vegetate; if he follows the senses, he will become an animal; if he cultivates the power of reason within him, he will become a celestial creature; if he follows intelligence, he will become an angel and a son of God.'" 225 39. Here Pico attributes magical powers to man. Only man has no strictly determined nature and is subject to no strictly deterministic laws, contrary to what some Stoics and astrologers have claimed. A person can do anything he or she wants to. This illustrates a fundamental distinction between astrology and magic, or astrology and other kinds of magic. Magic, generally speaking, concentrates on giving power and understanding to people, aims which magic shares with science. Astrology seeks to understand certain powers of nature over people, so they can accommodate to it, or take steps to deal with it. No astrologer or astronomer undertakes to change the stars. 40. Despite the refutations of Pico della Mirandola and others, people continued to put stock in astrology. Shumaker quotes Paul Kocher226 who observed that "of the six full-scale polemics published in England against astrology in the Elizabethan age, five -- those by William Fulke, John Calvin, William Perkins, John Chamber, and George Carleton -- came from ecclesiastics."227 In addition to these, Dick lists Thomas Cranmer, James Pilkington, Roger Hutchinson, and Andrew Willett and remarks that he could give many more. (Dick, loc. cit., p. 23-25.) Furthermore, the State issued various proclamations and statutes against sorcery, taken to include astrological prediction. It was recognized that such prognostications could be a cause of disorder in the Commonwealth. In the same treatise in which he revealed his belief in witches, his Daemono lg ies in Fo rme of a Dialogue (1597), King James attacked judicial astrology.

41. But after discussing opposition to astrology, Kocher goes on: "And who, on the other side, spoke up for astrology? To the bewilderment of the modern analyst, chiefly the foremost scientific men of the age ... an almost solid front of physicians, astronomers, and other natural philosophers, renowned for their achievements." This seems to be overstated, since many of the natural philosophers were skeptical about various kinds of astrology, and tended only to think there was something in it. This too is understandable, since scientists took it that there are laws which are independent of human will, and of chance. "Were a choice necessary," Shumaker says, "causation might, after all, be better laid to physical rays emanating from planets and stars, which at least were subject to observation, than to mystical numbers, cabalistic verbal formulas, and devils." 228 Physicians in those days were especially prone to accept astrological theories. They were a part of their standard repertoire.

Pico della Mirandola, quoted by Ernst Cassirer in The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy (1927, 1963), p. 85-86. 226 Paul Kocher, Science and Religion in Elizabethan England, 1953. 227 Kocher, p.202; the work by Carleton is called Astrologomania: The Madnesse of Astrologers, 1624. 228 Kocher, ibid., p. 54.)


42. Keith Thomas discusses the practice, role and relations with religion of astrology in England in the 16th and 17th centuries. In connection with religion, he says: "Committed to the belief that the will was necessarily free, the clergy therefore reasoned that it was impossible to predict future human behaviour. If the astrologers did so, it could only mean that they were in league with the Devil. Charms and spells, said Bishop Carleton [in 1624], were the Devil's rudiments, but judicial astrology was the Devil's university. Astrologers in tacit league with Satan deserved the fate prescribed for every other kind of witch. They were also suspect because of their mathematical calculations. The memory of Roger Bacon had been much besmirched by the assumption that mathematics was part of the black art, and it was notorious that the Edwardian reformers had destroyed mathematical books at Oxford under the delusion that they were conjuring books. 'Where a red letter or a mathematical diagram appeared, they were sufficient to entitled the book to be Popish or diabolical.' (This may account for the disappearance at this period of nearly all the works of the fourteenth-century Merton College school of astronomers.)"

"Modern historians tend to think that few genuine Elizabethan scientists were liable to be accused of witchcraft. Yet both John Dee and Thomas Hariot suffered from such suspicions and in the seventeenth century John Aubrey recalled how the Elizabethan astrologer, Thomas Allen, was maligned by the belief, 'in those dark times', that astrologer, mathematician and conjurer were all the same thing. During the reign of Mary, a clergyman, William Living, was arrested by an ignorant constable who found among his books a copy of the astronomical textbook, John de Sacrobosco's S p h ere, exclaiming, 'It is no marvel the Queen be sick, seeing there be such conjurers in privy corners; but now, I trust, he shall conjure no more.' The Elizabethan surveyor, Edward Worsop, also commented on the popular assumption that books with crosses, circles and Greek geometrical terms were likely to be works of conjuration. Such prejudices lasted well into the seventeenth century, and were fanned by the widespread conviction that anything mysterious must have a diabolical origin The sequestrators who seized the papers of the mathematician Walter Warner in 1644 were reported to be 'much troubled at the sight of so many crosses and circles in the superstitious algebra and that black art of geometry.'" 2 2 9

44. Don Cameron Allen discusses many defenders and detractors of astrology in Europe during the 250 years or so from about 1450 to 1700. Among the early works by writers in Italy, along with those of Ficino, who was rather ambiguous about the powers of astrology, and Pico della Mirandola, who made a thorough and influential attack on its powers (after having published a favorable description earlier), Allen analyzes the work of an early staunch defender, Giovanni Pontano. In his Defo rtu n a (1501), Pontano was much concerned with the relation ship of chance or fortune to stellar influences. He held that stellar influences incline us this or that way, but that they can be overcome, for example by prudence and reason. (This is a very old idea, going back at least to Ptolemy of Alexandria). 45. Our fo rtu n e comes from the stars, but reason and prudence are sometimes useful in perfecting fortune. Allen says: "The arch stone of Pontano's theory is his notion of the fortunate. Nature, he says, begets certain men who are the children of fortune and others who are not. The

Ke i t h Th o m a s , R e l i g i o n a nd t h e De c l i n e o f M a g i c , 1 9 7 1 , p . 3 6 2 -3 6 3 .


fortunate man, unlike the virtuous man, does not need to follow a code of conduct; he has only to follow his natural impulses, and he will be carried to the highest goals. Pontano admits that he does not know why this is so; reason can no more explain it than it can explain why one man wins at dice and another man loses. The fortunate are like prophets, sybils, and poets; they are agitated by a divine power. Reason and study have nothing to do with their successful careers; in fact, the fortunate often lose their occult power when they try to reason or begin to study."230 When a learned friar complained that Pontano had not given enough place to providence in his views, Pontano found an answer in the stars. "God, he says, created the stars and gave them power over everything below save the wills of men; therefore, fate is a sort of partner of men's wills in the governing of earthly business."231 46. In England, the practice of astrology reached an apex of influence and respectability during the Elizabethan and Stuart eras, that is, in the late 16th century and during the first three quarters or so of the 17th century, and yet at the same time came under attack from many quarters. In his biography of William Lilly, the leading astrologer during the middle two quarters of the 17th century, Derek Parker uses Shakespeare as a source from which we can get an idea of the place of astrology in the minds of most English people during Elizabethan times. Shakespeare makes many allusions to astrology in his plays and sonnets. For example, in Julius Caesar, Cassius says to Brutus: Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves that we are underlings. 2 3 2 These lines, says Parker, have often been misunderstood. The meaning is that there are times when men are best able to master their fates -- which a competent astrologer could calculate for them -- and that a man is an underling if he doesn't act at a moment when the planetary positions are propitious for him. To say that the fault is not in the stars of the conspirators is to say that the planetary positions are propitious for the assassination of Caesar. There is something compelling about this interpretation, given the context of the whole play, and it indicates a faith in astrology, together with a view that the stars incline but do not compel.233 Numerous other passages from Shakespeare's writings show a similar attitude toward astrology. Prospero, in The Tempest, says in the manner of Cassius: ... by my prescience Ifind my zenith doth depend upon A most auspicious star, whose influence If I now court not but omit, my fortunes 234 Will ever after droop.

Don Cameron Allen, The Star- Crossed Renaissance, The Quarrel About Astrology and Its Influencein England, p. 42. 2 3 1 Allen, ibid., p. 43. 2 3 2 J u l i u s C a e s a r , I.ii, 140- 141. 2 3 3 Derek Parker, Familiar to All, William Lilly and Astrology in the Seventeenth Century, 1975, p. 47-54.
230 234

The Tempest, I.ii, 180-184.


One may take it that Shakespeare could expect such beliefs to be common in his audiences. 47. Parker cites a speech of Ulysses from Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida as showing "more vividly than any other easily accessible quotation the Elizabethan vision of a parallel system of heavenly and earthly order, and ... of the palpable connection between them":

The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre, Observe degree, priority, and place, Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, Ofice, and custom, in all line of order: And therefore is the glorious planet Sol In noble eminence enthron'd and spher'd Amidst the other; whose med'cinable eye Corrects the ill aspects ofplanets evil, And posts, like the commandment of a king, Sans check, to good and bad: but when the planets In evil mixture, to disorder wander, What plagues and what portents! what mutiny! What raging of the sea! shaking of earth! Commotion in the winds!frights, changes, horrors, Divert and crack, rend and deracinate The unity and married calm of states Quite from their fixture! 2 3 5


The History of Troilus and Cressida, I, iii, 85- 10 1.


Chapter 4. From Babylon to Copernicus 1. Among the most famous of past astrologers have been the Babylonians.236 The religion and science of the ancient Babylonians, especially of their soothsayers, worshippers of Bel (Marduk), were bound to the stars. There was much concern with the foretelling of human destiny. The notion of a connection between astral bodies and human destinies appears to have been part of a central concept that the cosmos contains nothing fundamentally dead or inimical. The observations made by Babylonian astronomer-priests reflect a longing to establish precisely the interdependence between stars and earth and man. S. Giedion says: "In an often retold dream of that great figure of the early period, Gudea of Lugash, the goddess Nisibis appeared to him not only as the goddess of intelligence, wisdom, mathematics, and writing; she also 'bore the tablet of the good star' -- in other words, she was simultaneously goddess of astrology."237 2. Édouard Dhorme says of the early Mesopotamians: "For the Sumerians and Akkadians, the sky was, in effect, a great map on which their destiny was inscribed. Men called the constellations 'the writing of heaven' or 'the writing of the firmament'." The experience of the night side of life, and the feeling of being utterly at the mercy of destiny, permeated Mesopotamian existence. Later, the Greeks took over the idea of destiny, without being led into the deep pessimism already revealed in the depressing adventures of Gilgamesh, around 2600 B.C. This interest in destiny was closely linked with a desire to fathom in advance the will of the gods. The stars were identical with the deities. They influenced all happenings and were thus guides to man's fate. Everything depended on whether the initiate was able to read the decisions of the gods from the movements of the stars. It has not been clearly proven just when this sort of belief in the stars arose. But it must be closely linked with an anthropomorphization of the universe, and thus it must have found its form shortly before or at the beginnng of historical times .... " 238 3. The Mesopotamians built awe-inspiring structures called ziggurats, towers composed of series of terraces joined by steps, with temples on top, probably containing places for making sacrifices. "Both ziggurat and pyramid derive their existence," says Giedion, "from man's awakened urge toward the vertical as a symbol of contact with the deity, contact with the sky... The notion of a ladder between heaven and earth was marvelously portrayed." 239 The tower of Babel in the Bible is probably the great ziggurat at Babylon. The word "Babel" means "gate of the God" in Akkadian. There is a similar-sounding word in Hebrew which means "confusion." There appears to be a pun in the Biblical story of the tower of Babel. 4. Relatively late in their history, certain Babylonians were also pioneers in mathematical astronomy. However, they made accurate celestial observations for a long time before they developed their mathematical astronomy. Simplicius, for example, in his commentary on Aristotle's De caelo (6th century C.E.) speaks of a sequence of observations sent

236 See Appendix to this Chapter for the description of Babylonian (Chaldean) astrologers by Diodorus of Sicily (100-30 B.C.E.), Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.), and Flavius Josephus (37-98 C.E.) 237 S. Giedion, The Beginnings of Architecture, 1964, p. 9, 19, 138- 139. 238 ~douard Dhorme, Les Religions de Babylonie et d'Assyrie, 2nd edition, 1949, p. 282, p. 138-140. 239 Dhorme, ibid., p. 219, 225.


by Callisthenes to Aristotle (4th century B.C.E.) which had extended over 1903 years. 2 4 0 We may take with a grain of salt, Rutten says, the assertion of Iamblichus (c. 250-330 A.D.) that the Babylonians had observed the stars for 72,000 years. 5. Did the Babylonians' astronomy grow out of their astrology, or vice versa --or did they grow up together? Otto Neugebauer says, comparing astronomy and astrology: "It has often been said that astronomy originated from astrology. I see no evidence for this theory The best description of the true situation might be the statement that we know equally little about the origin of astrology or astronomy and that the relative influence of these two disciplines on one another is largely a matter of conjecture."241 6. Rutten quotes Strabo, the geographer (c. 60 B.C.E.-20 C.E.): "There is in Babylonia a caste or colony of indigenous philosophers called "Chaldeans" who concern themselves chiefly with astronomy. Some also specialize in casting horoscopes, but they do not have the approval of the others." 242 According to Rutten, this proves that alongside the astrologer-diviners there were true astronomers, in the modern sense of the word. Unfortunately, one can construe Strabo's statement to mean that some of the philosophers frowned on personal astrology concerning individuals, as contrasted with omen astrology, concerning nations or peoples, or natural phenomena. 7. Neugebauer saw no evidence that astronomy grew out of astrology, but ~douard Dhorme did. He says: "It was inevitable that a close relationship be established between observation of the stars and the calendar, which gives measurements of the celestial vault. The astrologers were in this way led to study the lives of the gods not only in space, but also in time. It was necessary for them to take note of the celestial phenomena which gave to each day of the month and of the year its peculiar physiognomy. The necessity of avoiding errors and giving a mathematical precision to the results obtained quickly caused the synthesis of astrological observations to be transformed into an exact science. In this way, astronomy detached itself from astrology. The religious apparatus which surrounded the calculations of the diviners ended by passing into the background. The divination tables were only empirical findings, but they continued to answer to the need of the human soul to probe into the darkness of the future. Astrology acquired a new expansive force by separating itself from its indigenous culture. It is in this way that it penetrated into Asia Minor, in particular among the Hittites, and from there as far as Greece and Rome, where the Chaldeans distinguished themselves as drawers of horo scopes and fortune-tellers."243

8. Despite the fact that the Babylonian astrologer/ astronomers are customarily said to have been priests (Herodotus called them this), some Babylonians may have taken a relatively secular attitude toward the stars. A. Laurent says: "In Egypt, most of the books which treated science were considered sacred books, composed and revealed by the gods themselves. The Chaldeans, and later their disciples the Assyrians, attributed a less elevated origin to their similar books. For them, they were simply the fruit of the experience of educated men and of
240 Referred to by Marguerite Rutten in La Science des Chaldªens, 1970, p. 8 9 -90. 241 Otto Neugebauer, The Exact Sciences in Antiquity, 1957, p. 168. 242 Rutten, ibid., p. 89. 2 4 3 Dhorme, ibid., p. 288-289.


generations of patient observers. In particular, the treatises on divination (astrology, the science of omens, haruspicy, etc.) appear to us, in fact, quite like the work of a number of scholars who, through the centuries, have recorded from day to day the relations which seemed to them to exist between the events of political or private life and different sidereal or terrestrial phenomena. Neither the Chaldeans nor the Assyrians did anything to obscure the human origins of these treatises." 244 9. Observations of the stars have long been connected with determination and maintenance of calendars. Dhorme, speaking of this relation, attributes to the Babylonians a calendar having a year of 12 months with 30 days each, plus a 5-day intercalary period. This calendar, however, appears to have originated with the Egyptians. Plutarch (c. 46-120 A.D.) says: "They say that the Sun, when he became aware of Rhea's intercourse with Cronus, invoked a curse upon her that she should not give birth to a child in any month or any year; but Hermes, being enamoured of the goddess, consorted with her. Later, playing at draughts with the moon, he won from her the seventieth part of her illumination, and from all the winnings he composed five days, and intercalated them as an addition to the three hundred and sixty days. The Egyptians even now call these five days intercalated and celebrate them as the birthdays of the gods."245 10. Neugebauer says of the Egyptian calendar of 12 30-day months plus 5 intercalated days that "this calendar is, indeed, the only intelligent calendar which ever existed in human history."246 He thus goes further than Herodotus (c. 485-425 B.C.E.), who says that the priests of Egypt with whom he talked "all agreed in saying that the Egyptians by their study of astronomy discovered the solar year and were the first to divide it into twelve parts --and in my opinion their method of calculation is better than the Greek; for the Greeks, to make the seasons work out properly, intercalate a whole month every other year, while the Egyptians make the year consist of twelve months of thirty days each and every year intercalate five additional days, and so complete the regular circle of the seasons." 247 It may be that Dhorme confuses this Egyptian calendar with the Babylonian lunar calendar in which some years have 12 months and others 13 months of 30 days each. This was at first done irregularly, and later with 7 13-month years every 19 years 2 4 8 Such a 13th month of 30 days can be considered to be an intercalation. Dhorme, indeed, speaks of intercalating a month of 30 days into a 12 month calendar of 30 days each.

11. Did the Sumerians already have astrology in early Mesopotamian culture? O. R. Gurney says: "The only clear evidence that the Sumerians already practised astrology comes from the cylinder of Gudea (c. 2 143-2124 BC). In his first dream this ruler saw the goddess Nisaba studying 'a tablet of the star (or stars) of heaven', which was interpreted to mean that she was proclaiming 'the pure star for the building of the temple'. In what way the star was thought to give such a sign is not explained. From Mari, of the time of Hammurapi (c. 1780 BC), there is a letter from the b a r û [professional omen inspector, a priest] Asqudum, which is very revealing. The diviner reports an eclipse of the moon; he knows that this is a bad omen, but no more,
244 245 246 247 248 A. Laurent, La Magie et la Divination chez les Chaldeo- Assyriens, 1894, p. 58. Plutarch, "Isis and Osiris", in Plutarch's Moralia, translated by Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936, v. 5, p. 31. Otto Neugebauer, Exact Sciences in Antiquity, 1957, p. 81. Herodotus, The Histories, ii.4, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt, 1954, p. 130. Neugebauer, ibid., p. 102.


proceeds to check the findings by haruspicy, and declares that after all the outlook is favourable. Evidently at this time haruspicy was the only reliable form of divination...... It seems that it was not till much later that astrology rose to prominence as a rival to haruspicy. That it eventually did so is seen in some 600 reports on ominous events sent in to the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (680669 BC) from scholars posted in widely distributed centres throughout the empire. The great majority of these are astrological in character and are often in response to an enquiry from the king as to the meaning of an ominous event. Like the extispicy reports, they quote the relevant omens from the handbook, here complete with the prediction, and a conclusion is drawn regarding the general significance of the omen for the king, but never in relation to a particular matter of policy. Astrology could not be used, as extispicy was, to answer specific questions. The officials who write these reports are not barû priests but scholars with various professional designations. One is called 'scribe of "When Anu and Enlil"'. A special title which does not occur elsewhere is 'Chief of the team often'." 12. "Horoscopic astrology, the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the doctrine of the hypsomata were a still later development. The earliest horoscope (now in Oxford) dates from 410 BC. Two astrological manuals show drawings of the hypsomata, or positions of greatest astrological influence: the moon in Taurus, Jupiter in Cancer, Mercury in Virgo. They date from the Seleucid period (after 300 BC). The texts attached to these drawings have by now reached the refinement of dividing each sign of the zodiac into twelve 'microzodiacs' of 2 1/2 days each. This sophisticated astrology, for which the 'Chaldeans' were renowned in the Roman world, was only developed after the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 BC." 249
13. Samuel Angus makes the claim that astrology made the Greek and Roman methods of inquiry into the future antiquated. Augury and haruspicy were practically abandoned. Official oracles, like the one at Delphi, though revived under the empire, had stiff competition, he says, from the Chaldaei and mathematici, as well as from Christian and Gnostic apocalypses. 2 5 0

14. Prominent Greek scientists such as the astronomer and mathematician Eudoxus (c. 390-340 B.C.E.) and Theophrastus (c. 372 -286 B.C.E.), student and successor of Aristotle, studied the star-worship and astrological practices of the Babylonians. According to Proclus (c. 412-485 B.C.E.) in his commentary on Plato's Timaeus, Theophrastus, in his book On Signs, credited the Chaldeans of his time with a theory with which they could predict "every event, and the life and death of every person." 251 Near the end of the 3rd century B.C.E., professional astrologers from Babylonia set up business among the Greeks. Michael Grant tells us: "The first of these practitioners was said to be the Babylonian priest Berossus, translator of The Eye of Bel, who moved to Cos and founded an astrological school on the island (c. 280 [B.C.E.]). But it was not until after 200 that the movement reached the proportions of a flood. This was the time when Bolus of Mendes in Egypt (a country that had learnt its astrology from Mesopotamia) compiled a treatise On Sympathies andAntipathies which explained and justified the fictitious correspondence between heavenly bodies and human beings. His book became one of the most
249 O. R. Gurney, in Oracles and Divination, 1981, edited by Michael Loewe and Carmen Blacker, p. 160- 162.

250 Samuel Angus, The Mystery-Religions and Christianity, A Study in the Religious Background of Early Christianity, 1925,p. 167. 251 Pierre Duhem, Le Syst ©me du Monde, 1913, v. 2, p. 275.


influential best-sellers of all time. Another successful work was an astrological textbook, probably written c. 150-120, which went under the probably fictitious Egyptian names of Nechepso and Petosiris."252 15. These beliefs fit easily into Stoic doctrines, and the Stoics maintained astrological doctrines from early on. It was, as we said earlier, an understandable outgrowth of dismay at a world which seemed to be rules by chance and fickle fortune. One of the leaders of the Stoic school, Diogenes 'the Babylonian' from Seleucia on the Tigris (d. 152 B.C.E.), maintained that the souls of men and women contain a spark of the power that rules the heavens. Grant says of this Diogenes: "Building on his forerunner Cleanthes' veneration of the sun and the celestial bodies, [he] became the traitor withing the gates who welcomed astrology for its apparently convincing proof of this 'Sympathy of all Creation'." Another Stoic, Panaetius of Rhodes (c. 185-109 B.C.E.) rejected the idea that the sun, moon and stars causally affect the affairs of the world, although he was willing to accept the validity of divination. But soon afterwards an influential Stoic, Posidonius of Apamea in Syria (c. 135-50 B.C.E.), welcomed the basic astrological principles as keys to the harmony of the universe. 16. Some believers in such principles allowed a limited scope for free will, but nevertheless considered themselves to be ruled by the unchanging and inescapable heavenly spheres, which predestine all that happens. Others revolted against a pitiless mechanical inevitability and sought means to circumvent or reduce the oppressiveness of the astral powers. This required finding out what the powers had in store, and how to arrange one's activities to avoid their most hostile intentions. For this, experts were needed: professional astrologer/astronomers. These became an influential group, who provided numberless believers with a principal interest, consolation and excitement. They cast horoscopes, in which the future destiny of a person was worked out from the positions of heavenly bodies at the time of his or her birth. The astrologer/ astronomers not only prophesied future destinies, but also counseled people on how to outwit what had been destined. They mixed a kind of science with a kind of magic. 17. In science, as in religion, a kind of submission seems to be required to some degree to what there is and must be, while with magic a there is customarily intent to dominate, to manipulate the gods, or the way nature works, or to interfere with fate. With technology, including applications of science, we often try to manipulate nature. But with magic, we try to change the will of the gods, or the laws of nature. Magic rests on the assumption that we are not underlings in ways that science or religion profess. Not even the sky is the limit. Belief in the power of magical manipulations was widespread in Hellenistic times. There were some who investigated the laws by which the stars move, without trying to alter either the laws or the stars, but a man might be at the same time an astronomer and an astrologer, and maybe a magician, too. 18. The Babylonians were known to the Greeks and Romans not only as astrologers, astronomers and magicians, but as diviners by other methods. Writing about 161 or 162 C.E., the satirist Lucian tells how Menippus makes a descent into Hades to find out the right way to live. He finds that the good life is not that of the rich and powerful, nor that of a philosopher,

M i c h a e l Gra n t , From Alexander to Cleopatra, TheHellenistic World, 1 9 8 2 , p . 2 1 4 -2 2 2 .


but the ordinary life of one who lives in the present and laughs a lot. To make his descent into Hades, Menippus says: "... I resolved to go to Babylon and address myself to one of the Magi, the disciples and successors of Zoroaster, as I had heard that with certain charms and ceremonials they could open the gates of Hades, taking down in safety anyone they would and guiding him back again ............................Well, springing to my feet, I made straight for Babylon as fast as I could go. On my arrival, I conversed with one of the Chaldeans, a wise man of miraculous skill, with grey hair and a very majestic beard; his name was Mithrobarzanes. By dint of supplications and entreaties, I secured his reluctant consent to be my guide on the journey at whatever price he would. So the man took me in charge, and first of all, for twenty-nine days [approximately a lunar month], beginning with the new moon, he took me down to the Euphrates in the early morning toward sunrise, and bathed me; after which he would make a long address which I could not follow very well, for like an incompetent announcer at the games, he spoke rapidly and indistinctly. It is likely, however, that he was invoking certain spirits." 19. "Anyhow, after the incantation he would spit in my face thrice and then go back again without looking at anyone whom he met. We ate nuts, drank milk, mead, and the water of the Coaspes, and slept out of doors on the grass. When he considered the preliminary course of dieting satisfactory, taking me to the Tigris river at midnight he purged me, cleansed me, and consecrated me with torches and squills and many other things, murmuring his incantation as he did so. Then after he had be charmed me from head to foot and walked all about me, that I might not be harmed by phantoms, he took me home again, just as I was, walking backward. After that, we made ready for the journey. He himself put on a magician's gown very like the Median dress, and speedily costumed me in these things which you see -- the cap, the lion's skin, and the lyre besides; and he urged me, if anyone should ask my name, not to say Menippus, but Heracles or Odysseus or 253 Orpheus."

20. The ancient Chinese, on the whole, seem not to have become as secular-minded as the Babylonians about the stars. Edward Schafer says that for most early Chinese, even for the most advanced authorities, astronomy was indistinguishable from astrology. As understanding of stellar motions was refined, and more and more aspects of the starry firmament were removed from the realm of conjecture, doubt and fear into the realm of the known and predictable, this identification remained. Comets, meteors and supernovae remained terrible signals from the powers in space, and it would be wrong to suppose that the inclusion of quite reliable ephemerides in a medieval Chinese almanac means that movements of celestial objects had become accepted as merely physical transits of the sky. Schafer says: "There were certainly skeptics, but it appears that most men, even well-educated men, continued to believe that a predictable Jupiter remained an awful Jupiter." Moreover, the Chinese devoted little energy to making geometrical models of the physical universe which would account for their observations and arithmetical calculations. "Indeed," says Schafer, "cosmology languished close to the borderlands of mythology, and for many, perhaps most people, the two were identical." The obliquity of the ecliptic, the precession of the equinoxes, and the true length of the tropical year were discovered quite early, but this didn't put the diviners out of work. 254

253 254

Lucian, Lucian, v. 4, “Menippus”, translated by A. M. Harmon, 1925, p. 83- 87. Edward Schafer, Pacing the Void, T'ang Approaches to the Stars, 1977, p. 9 -10.


21. According to Schafer, a remarkable feature of T'ang astronomy/astrology was the extent of Indian influences on it. A similar condition prevailed centuries later, Schafer remarks, during the Mongol domination of China, when Islamic science prevailed in the office of the Astronomer Royal at Peking. Schafer says: "The extent of western influences on Chinese astronomical and cosmological thought in early antiquity is uncertain. Speculation on the matter has in the past tended to resemble the lush growth of the hot-house or the tropical forest: jungly tangles of colorful lianes and rattans whose stems are confused and whose roots are doubtful. A sober hypothesis by a professional Assyriologist of our own century [E. Bezold] seems as fair as any other: native Chinese astronomy/astrology was probably modified by the Babylonian by at least the sixth century B.C." 255 22. When did astronomy proper begin to develop, as we understand the term? It depends on what you count as astronomy. People must have known a fair bit about the repeating movements and appearances of sun, moon, planets and stars long before they were able to leave written records. Very likely they made use of observations of the skies to predict -- or try to predict -- when the seasons would change, when was a good time to plant or harvest, when floods and other natural catastrophes were liable to occur, where they would land when they set out to sea, and so on. 23. On the antiquity of astronomy, Mircea Eliade says: "Alexander Marshak [sic] has recently been able to demonstrate the existence, in the Upper Paleolithic, of a symbolic system of temporal notations, based on observations of the moon's phases. These notations, which the author terms 'time-factored', that is, accumulated over a long period, permit the supposition that certain seasonal or periodic ceremonies were fixed long in advance, as is the case in our day among Siberians and North American Indians. This systems of notations remained in force for more than 25,000 years, from the early Aurignacians to the late Magdalenian. According to Marshak, writing, arithmetic, and the calendar properly speaking, which make their appearance in the first civilizations, are probably connected with the symbolism with which the system of notations used during the Paleolithic is impregnated. Whatever may be thought of Marshak's general theory concerning the development of civilization, the fact remains that the lunar cycle was analyzed, memorized, and used for practical purposes some 15,000 years before the discovery of agriculture. This makes more comprehensible the considerable role of the moon in archaic mythology, and especially the fact that lunar symbolism was integrated into a single system comprising such different realities as woman, the waters, vegetation, the serpent, fertility, death, "rebirth," etc." 256

24. No one knows when gods first appeared among men. Nobody knows when people began to try to find out their wills. Who knows which ideas about gods were derived from ideas about the sun, moon and stars? Sextus Empiricus says: "And Aristotle said that the conception of Gods arose amongst mankind from two originating causes, namely from events which concern the soul and from celestial phenomena. It arose from events which concern the soul because of the inspired states of the soul which occur in sleep and because of prophecies. For, says he, when the soul is by itself in sleep, then it takes on its true nature and prophecies and predicts the

Schafer, ibid.


Mircea Eliade, A History of Religious Ideas, 1978, French 1976, v. 1, p. 22- 23; cf. Alexander Marshack, 1972, The Roots of Civilization: The Cognitive Beginnings of Man's First Art, Symbol, and Notation, p. 81 ff.


future. And it is in this state also when it is being separated from bodies at death........Moreover (they derived this conception) from celestial phenomena also; for when they beheld the sun circling around in the day-time, and by night the orderly motion of the other stars, they supposed some God to be the cause of such motion and orderliness."257 25. Cicero reports that the Stoic Cleanthes (c. 300-220 B.C.E.) gave four reasons to account for the formation in men's minds of their ideas of gods: "He put first the argument ... arising from our foreknowledge of future events; second, the one drawn from the magnitude of the benefits we derive from our temperate climate, from the earth's fertility, and from a vast abundance of other blessings; third, the awe inspired by lightning, storms, rain, snow, hail, floods, pestilences, earthquakes, and occasionally subterranean rumblings, showers of stones and raindrops the colour of blood, also landslips and chasms suddenly opening in the ground, also unnatural monstrosities human and animal, and also the appearance of meteoric lights and what are called by the Greeks 'comets,' and in our language 'long-haired stars,' all of which alarming portents have suggested to mankind the idea of the existence of some celestial and divine power. And the fourth and most potent cause of the belief he said was the uniform motion and revolution of the heavens, and the varied groupings and ordered beauty of the sun, moon and stars, the very sight of which was in itself enough to prove that these things are not the mere effect of chance. When a man goes into a house, a wrestling-school or a public assembly and observes in all that goes on arrangement, regularity and system, he cannot possibly suppose that these things come about without a cause: he realizes that there is someone who presides and controls. Far more therefore with the vast movements and phases of the heavenly bodies, and these ordered processes of a multitude of enormous masses of matter, which throughout the countless ages of the infinite past have never in the smallest degree played false, is he compelled to infer that these mighty world motions are regulated by some Mind."258

26. It is, then, small wonder that celestial objects came to be regarded as having power over our affairs. In omen or porten t astrology, attempts are made to use such objects to predict events of importance to a country and its rulers. Omen astrology seems to have been indigenous to Babylonia, although the Chinese may have developed their own version independently. Bartel van der Waerden assigns the beginning of omen astrology to before the reign of Hammurabi in Babylonia (about 1800 B.C.), and perhaps much earlier. 2 5 9

27. Here's a sample: "When Scorpio approaches the front of the Moon and stands, the reign of the king will be long; the enemy will come, but his defeat will be accomplished." 260 Another example: "The month of Elul, 15th day, eclipse [of the moon]: the son of the king kills his father and seizes the throne, and the enemy advances and destroys the country. The 16th day, eclipse of the moon: the king of a foreign country the same [i.e., is killed by his son], the king of the country of Hâti advances and seizes the throne. Rains in the sky, abundance of water in the
257 Sextus Empiricus, c. 200 A.D., Against the Physicists, i.20-22, also known as Adversus Dogmaticos, iii, and Adversus Mathematicos, ix.; translation by R. G. Bury, 1936, p. 11, 13 258 Cicero, De natura deorum, translated by H. Rackham, 1933, p. 137-139. 259 Bartel van der Waerden, Science Awakening I, The Birth of Astronomy, 1974, p. 49.

R. Campbell Thompson, T he Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers ofNineveh and Babylon in the British Museum, the original texts, printed in cuneiform characters, edited with translations, notes, vocabulary, index and an introduction, 1900, v. 2, p. lxxi.


canals. "261 Another: "If Mars is visible in the month of Tammuz (June-July), the beds of the soldiers will be empty." That is, there will be a military expedition. 2 6 2 28. Although there may have been secular attitudes among Chaldean diviners, we may suppose they were to some degree influenced by the prevailing religion. In ancient Babylonia, the sun deity Marduk, the greatest of the Babylonian gods and successor to the moon deity of the Sumerians, set the celestial beings to moving and determined their courses. Marduk articulated time into units, and the regularity of celestial motions became a model for the life of men in society, and a powerful force on the development of their government, work and cities. The highest duty of the highest officials of Babylon, the priests, was to observe and interpret the movements of the sun, moon and other celestial objects.263 29. At the head of the Babylonian and Assyrian panoply of gods is Anu. "Anu," we are told, "was the son of Anshar and Kishar. His name signified 'sky' and he reigned over the heavens... Aided by his companion, the goddess Antu, he presided from above over the fates of the universe and hardly occupied himself with human affairs. Thus, although he never ceased to be universally venerated, other gods finally supplanted him and took over certain of his prerogatives. But the great god's prestige remained such that the power of these usurper gods was never firmly established until they, too, assumed the name Anu The entire course of human life was ... regulated by the sovereign will of the gods, whose chief attribute was deciding the fates of men. We have already seen how highly the gods valued this privilege which fell successively to Anu, Enlil, Ea and Marduk. Although it was the supreme god who made the final decision, all could discuss it. At the beginning of every year, while on earth the festival of Zagmuk was being celebrated, the gods assembled in the Upshukina, the Sanctuary of Fates. The king of the gods in the later Babylonian period, B«l-Marduk, took his place on the throne. The other gods knelt with fear and respect before him. Removing from his bosom the Tablet of Fates, B «l-Marduk confided it to his son Nabu, who wrote down on it what the gods had decided. Thus the fate of the country was fixed for the coming year."264 30. If Anu is the chief god, what was the status of his parents Anshar and Kishar? The
Larousse has it that Apsu (sweet water) and Tiamat (salt water) were the fount of all things. The

first offspring of these were Lakhmu and Lakhamu, "rather vague gods" who "seem to be a pair of monstrous serpents. They gave birth to Anshar, the male principle, and to Kishar, the female principle, who represented respectively, so some think, the celestial and terrestrial worlds. In the same way the Greek gods were born of the union of Uranus, the sky, and Gaea, the earth. But while in Greek mythology Gaea played an important role, Kishar does not appear again in the story. " 2 6 5
A. Laurent, La Magie et la Divination chez les Chaldªo-Assyriens, 1894, p. 60.



Marguerite Rutten, La Science des Chaldªens, 1970, p. 95. Babylon, in the time of Nebuchadnezzar (died 562 B.C.E.), was probably the greatest and most well organized city in the world, estimated to support between 250,000 and 300,000 inhabitants. It was Nebuchadnezzar who is reputed to have built the "tower of Babel", and to have destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. In Greece, this was about the time of Anaximander, one of the pre- Socratic philosophers, perhaps the first person to ever make a geometric model of the universe, or at any rate this appears to be the earliest we know about.

Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology , 1959, p. 52-5 3, 63. ibid, p. 49- 50.


31. Thorkild Jacobsen tells the same story like this, based on Old Babylonian copies of Sumerian texts from the third millenium B.C. "An ranked highest among the gods. His name, borrowed by the Akkadians as Anum, is the Sumerian word for "sky" and inherently An is the numinous power in the sky, the source of rain and the basis for the calendar since it heralds through its changing constellations the times of the year with their different works and celebrations An's spouse was the earth, Ki, on whom he engendered trees, reeds, and all other vegetation .......There also seems to have been a tradition that saw the power in the sky as both male and female and distinguished the god An (Akkadian Anum) from the goddess An (Akkadian Antum) to whom he was married. According to that view the rains flowed from the sky goddess' breasts, or (since she was usually envisaged in cow shape) her udder -- that is from the clouds ....... An had not only engendered vegetation, he was the father and ancestor of all of the gods, and he likewise fathered innumerable demons and evil spirits. Frequently he was envisaged as a huge bull ....... The view of An as a major source of fertility, the "father who makes the seed sprout," engenderer of vegetation, demons, and all the gods, led naturally to the attribution of paternal authority to him..... With the developing of social differentiation and the attitudes of growing respect and awe before the ruler, a new sensitivity to the potential in the vast sky for inducing feelings of numinous awe seems to have come into being. The sky can, at moments when man is in a religiously receptive mood, act as vehicle for a profound experience of numinous awe, as may be instanced in our own culture." 32. Jacobsen quotes a passage from William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience: "I remember the night, and almost the very spot on the hilltop, where my soul opened out, as it were, into the Infinite, and there was a rushing together of the two worlds, the inner and the outer. It was deep calling unto deep,-- the deep that my own struggle had opened up within being answered by the unfathomable deep without, reaching beyond the stars. I stood alone with Him who had made me, and all the beauty of the world, and love, and sorrow, and even temptation."

33. Jacobsen continues: "To the ancient Mesopotamians what the sky might reveal was An, its own inner essence of absolute authority and majesty -- might reveal, but would not necessarily reveal, for in everyday moods the sky would be experienced apart from the numinous power in it and would recede into the category of mere things Since human society is not the only structure based on authority and command (the natural world is as well), all things and forces in the polity that is the universe conform to An's will. He is the power that lifts existence out of chaos and anarchy and makes it an organized whole. As a building is supported by and reveals in its structure the lines of its foundation, so the ancient Mesopotamian universe was upheld by and reflected An's ordering will. His command is "the foundation of heaven and earth." As the ultimate source of all authority An was closely associated with the highest authority on earth, that of kingship. The royal insignia lie before An in heaven for him to bestow, and with them he conveys not only the general powers of kingship but duties linked to his own cosmic functions: responsibility for the calendar and for carrying out his calendric rites. For example, his new moon festivals ... were celebrated in all temples, and the New Year festival at which the year seems to have been named from one of the king's accomplishments. Through


this mandate, accordingly, the king becomes An's instrument for seeing to it that the times do not get out ofjoint." 266 Thus the source and model of authority and order was the heavens. 34. Since the seasons and other important events are to some degree related to movements of the moon, sun and stars, it's reasonable to try to correlate as many events as we can with these movements. For example, the approximate time for the flooding of the Nile in ancient Egypt was correlated with movements of the sun and stars. Certain kinds of weather are correlated with the appearances of constellations, including not only their positions but also atmospheric effects. Martin Nilsson says that the most widely read of all Hellenistic poems was the Phainomena of Aratus, which was a book containing rules for predicting the weather in this way. (Martin Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, 1950, v. 2, p. 56.) 35. The process goes on today. Here is an excerpt, entitled "Weather Prognosticator, from the Hagers -town Town and Country Almanackfor the year of our Lord 1989, p. 9: "This table and the accompanying remarks are the result of many years' actual observation; the whole being constructed on a due consideration of the Sun and Moon, in their several positions respecting the earth; and will, by simple inspection, show the observer what kind of weather will most probably follow the entrance of the Moon into any of her quarters, and that so near the truth as to be seldom or never found to fail." 36. Beliefs that our father is in heaven, and that it is on earth as it is in the heavens, are widespread. Claude Lévi-Strauss argues that among Indians of central Brazil, certain myths which on the surface may seem to have no connection with astronomy, are in fact concerned with the alternation of seasons, and therefore a kind of year. In particular, he considers the story of Asare, told among the Sherente people, concerning the rape of a mother by her own sons (the youngest of whom is Asare), thrashing of the sons by their father, the sons setting fire to their parents who escape by turning into falcons, a journey by the sons which includes the digging of a well which gushes so much water that it forms the sea, and three or so escapes from an alligator with th e help of woodpeckers, partridges, fruit rinds and a skunk. The myth concludes: "When the sea was formed, Asare's brothers had at once tried to bathe. Even today, toward the close of the rainy season, one hears in the west the sound of their splashing in t he water. Then they appear in the heavens, new and clean, as Sururu, the Seven Stars (the Pleiades)." 267 Lévi-Strauss quotes J. F. Oliveira to the effect that among the Sherente, the year begins with the appearance of the Pleiades, which coincides roughly with the beginning of the dry season. 268

37. According to Lévi-Strauss: "Classical antiquity associated Orion with rain and storms. Now we have seen that in central Brazil, Orion is also associated with water -- but terrestrial, not celestial water. In Greek and Roman mythology Orion caused rain to fall. As Asare, the thirsty hero, Orion makes water rise up from the depths of the earth. It is easy to understand, since it is an obvious cosmographical fact, that the same constellation that casues rain to fall in the northern hemisphere should be a harbinger of drought in the southern hemisphere: in the inland areas between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn, the rainy season corresponds approximately to
266 Thorkild Jacobsen, The Treasures of Darkness, A History ofMesopotamian Religion, 1976, p. 95-97.

267 Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, 1969, translation by P. and D. Weightman of Le cru et le cuit, 1964, p. 199- 200, v. 1 of Mythologiques (Introduction to a Science of Mythology). 268 ibid., p. 217.


our autumn and winter, the dry season to our spring and summer. The Asare myth faithfully presents the "southern" version of this factual truth, since the Pleiades and Orion which follows closely in their wake, are said to herald the beginning of the dry season."269 38. There is a problem here, since in "in one hemisphere Orion is associated with celestial water in accordance with meteorological experience, while in the other hemisphere, without there being any possibility of establishing a connection with experience, symmetry is preserved by means of an apparently incomprehensible link between Orion and water which is chthonic in origin --that is, celestial water conceived of, as it were, upside down." (p. 227) Lévi-Strauss traces this opposition by way of a transformation of a key myth of the Bororo people. He says: "It is therefore clear that the two myths, the one belonging to the Ancient World [of European classical antiquity] and the other to the New [Bororo of central Brazil], are, as I postulated, reflections of each other. The apparent inversions arise simply from the fact that while both are concerned with the dry season, one myth refers to the beginning (after the rains) and the other to the end (before the rains)." (ibid., p. 239). 39. The point is that myths which superficially are about incest, rape, arduous and dangerous journeys, people turning into birds or other creatures, and the like, may turn out to be descriptions of astronomical and associated seasonal phenomena. However, in the view of Lévi Strauss: "In granting that myths have an astronomical significance, I do not propose to revert in any way to the mistaken ideas characteristic of the solar mythography of the nineteenth century. In my view, the astronomical context does not provide any absolute point of reference; we cannot claim to have interpreted the myths simply by relating them to this context. The truth of the myth does not lie in any special content. It consists in logical relations which are devoid of content or, more precisely, whose invariant properties exhaust their operative value, since comparable relations can be established among the elements of a large number of different contents."

40. "For instance, I have shown that one particular theme, such as the origin of man's mortality, occurs in myths that appear quite different from each other in subject matter, but that in the last analysis these differences can be reduced to a variety of codes, evolved on the basis of the different sense categories -- taste, hearing, smell, feel, and sight In the preceding pages, I have been solely concerned [in interpeting the myths astronomically] to establish the existence of a different code, also a visual one, but whose lexical material consists of contrasted pairs drawn from a stable periodicity of the year and, on the other, of the synchronic arrangement of the stars in the sky. This cosmographic code is no truer than any other; and it is no better, except from the methodological point of view, as far as its operations can be checked from without. But it is not impossible that advances in biochemistry may one day provide objective references of the same degree of accuracy as a check on the precision and coherence of the codes formulated in the language of the senses. Myths are constructed on the basis of a certain logicality of tangible qualities which makes no clear-cut distinction between subjective states and the properties of the cosmos." 270 Thus different "codes" are different realizations of structures of human physiology, and Lévi- Strauss weights the different codes equally.
269 270 Lévi -S raus s, ibid. , p. 226 - 227. ibid ., p . 240.


41. We can wonder, however, whether or not an astronomical code has a kind of priority. According to many cosmologies, the stars and their ways precede the living and their ways. To what extent have we developed in consonance with celestial objects and movements? To what extent are our physiology and thoughts tied to the stars? As described by Lévi-Strauss, among Indians of Brazil, fire for cooking food is related to the sun: "The mediatory function of cooking fire therefore operates between the sun and humanity in two ways. By its presence, cooking fire averts total disjunction, since it unites the sun and the earth and saves man from the world of rottenness in which he would find himself if the sun really disappeared; but its presence is also interposed; that is to say, it obviates the risk of a total conjunction, which would would result in a burned world. Incest and cannibalism in the myths are linked with eclipses, and the origin of diseases.271 42. "Starting from the problem of the mythic origin of cooking," says Lévi-Strauss, "I have been led to verify my interpretation of domestic fire as a mediatory agent between sky and earth by reference to the myth describing incest between blood relatives as the origin of the eclipse A myth about the origin of storms and rain [the one Lévi-Strauss started with] led me to myths about the origin of fire and the cooking of foodstuffs... I was able to establish that all these myths belong to one and the same set " 272 Which explains which? Do analogous actions of sun, moon and other stars explain or describe the origin of cooking fires? Or does the analogy of the origin of cooking fires explain or describe actions of the sun, moon and stars? Are these interchangeable? If not, which takes precedence? Recall Seneca on the Etruscans: "Since they attribute everything to divine agency, they are of the opinion that things do not reveal the future because they have occurred, but that they occur because they are meant to reveal the future." 43. Besides some roughly correct season and even (at times) weather forecasting, there were no doubt successes in predicting such events as attacks by enemies, since, for example, rulers probably tended to attack after harvests, when their troops were well-supplied with food, and harvests are correlated with the seasons. However, prediction by consulting objects in the sky of such things as who would be victorious in a war was likely to have been more chancy, unless, of course, the objects were arrows and spears. Isaiah, it seems, spoke sarcastically when he said: Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon............................ You are wearied with your many counsels; let them stand forth and save you, those who divide the heavens, who gaze at the stars, who at the new moons predict what shall befall you ...................................... they cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame. 2 7 3

271 272

Lévi-Strauss, ibid., p. 293, 297. ibid., p. 298, 300. Isa iah 47, Rev is ed Standa rd Ve rs ion.


44. The mathematical astronomy of the Babylonians underwent a considerable development between about 539 and 331 B.C.E., during the reign of the Persians in Babylonia. It is during this period, perhaps about 450 B.C.E., that personal astrology, the casting of horoscopes according to birth dates, developed. There is an old tradition that horoscopy was introduced to the Greeks by Berossos, a Babylonian priest who founded the first Greek school of astrology on the island of Kos about 300 B.C.E. However, it appears that we have Greek horo scopes from about 150 years earlier. On the task of personal astrology, Auguste Bouché-Leclercq, says: "The calculation of the length of life, with an indication of the kind of death pre - assigned by the stars, is the great work of astrology, the operation judged the most difficult by its adepts, the most dangerous and damnable by its enemies." 274 45. Van der Waerden summarizes the development of astrology in this part of the world in the 6th century B.C.E. as follows: "We have seen that, after the fall of the Assyrian empire (-611) the old polytheism was being pushed aside by a new religious movement which flooded in two mighty waves from Iran to the West. The first wave was that of Zervanism, which reached Greece about - 550. The second was the worship of Ahura Mazda, which was proclaimed around - 500 B.C.E. as the official religion of the Persian empire. Connected with this was the doctrine of the celestial origin and immortality of the soul. We have also seen that the old Omen astrology was replaced, about the same time or somewhat later, by a new zodiacal astrology, within which we have to distinguish two further stages: primitive zodiacal astrology and horoscopy. The first is connected in the sources with Orphism, which in its turn is most closely tied up with Zervanism. On the other hand, horoscopy is closely connected with the doctrine of the celestial origin of the soul; its existence can be demonstrated in Babylon about - 450 and in Greece about - 440."275 The name of the god Zervan Akarana means "boundless time." The Zervanists, whose sect appears to have been formed about the 4th century B.C.E., were astral fatalists who believed that "all fortune, good and ill, that befalls man, comes from the twelve [zodiacal signs] and the seven [planets]".276

46. By about 300 B.C.E., the Babylonians had constructed tables, based on centuries of observations, with which they could successfully predict lunar eclipses, and with which they could at times rule out solar eclipses. A basic underlying problem they were trying to solve is a form of one which haunts mathematical astronomy to this day. From one point of view, this is the problem of predicting the day on which a new moon will occur. The days are determined by the movement of Earth with respect to the sun (or vice versa), while new moons are determined by the movement of the moon with respect to Earth. Thus the combined motions of sun, moon, and Earth are involved. The problem of predicting the movements of the sun, moon and Earth with respect to one another, starting from Newton's laws of mechanics and gravitation, is known today as the 3-body problem. In some important respects, the 3-body problem is still unsolved, although a great deal is known about some basic special cases, and there are elaborate techniques for approximating solutions. The Babylonian methods were a kind of approximation technique,
274 275

Auguste Bouché-Leclerq, L'Astrologie grecque, 1899, p. 404.

Bartel van der Waerden, Science Awakening I, The Birth of Astronomy, 1974, p. 183. This quotation is given by van der Waerden (p. 162) from a Persian book called Mainog-i Khirad or Menok i Khrat, written sometime between 220 and 650 C.E.


based on interpolation, inserting calculated values between observed values in systematic ways. As far as seems to be known at present, the first attempts to use geometry to model the movements of celestial objects and relations between them were made by the ancient Greeks in the 6th century B.C.E. The Babylonians seem not to have made geometrical models for this purpose, or at least none have been found. 47. We have fragments of a geometric cosmology put forward by the philosopher Anaximander in the 6th century B.C.E. Anaximander may have been the first to undertake a project of this kind. He appears to have pictured the sky as a complete sphere rather than an inverted bowl or hemisphere. Spheres were to become the basis of geometric cosmology for many centuries. However, for some unknown reason, if we can trust the fragment we have from so long ago, Anaximander seems to have proposed that the earth is a right circular cylinder with the greatest curvature in the north-south direction.277 48. The arithmetical predictions of the Babylonians and the geometric construction of the heavens by the classical Greek philosophers contrast in a startling way with other cosmologies of that era in the Near East, and with other ancient Greek cosmologies, in which the heavens are peopled with gods who often act unpredictably and capriciously. Geometric cosmologies were developed extensively by astronomers and philosophers of nature during the next several centuries after the time of Anaximander. Plato and Aristotle, in the 4th century B.C.E., made use of the work of these pre-Socratic thinkers in developing their own cosmologies. We find in the works of Plato and Aristotle the first extended and detailed reports, which we still have today, of cosmologies based on geometry, as developed by Eudoxus of Cnidus and other mathematical astronomers of the time. They had enormous influence on the development of Western cosmologies from the time they were composed. The special kind of certainty which geometric models seem to reveal about the movements of the heavens, blended with an older personification and deification of heavenly objects, were, it appears, instrumental in the development of astrology.

49. Geometric models in astronomy developed hand in hand with geometry itself. Eudoxus of Cnidus (4th century B.C.E.) is said to have been a student of Plato. He was one of the great astronomers, and also one of the great geometers, of his time. Besides being the source of the mathematical astronomy of Aristotle, he was, as we mentioned earlier, a possible supporter of astrology. In astronomy, he developed an elaborate cosmology based on spheres moving on spheres. In geometry, he developed a theoretical and logically satisfying theory of magnitudes corresponding to our real numbers. This theory, which has been preserved in Euclid's geometry book, the Elements (c. 300 B.C.E.) is much like one developed by the German mathematician Richard Dedekind about the middle of the 19th century (as Dedekind himself stated). This system is in use today. Eudoxus seems also to have invented the method of exhaustion for finding areas and volumes, a method which is much like an application of the definite integrals of calculus we use today for this purpose, although not formulated as generally. With this method, he found an equivalent of our formulas for the area of a circle, and the volumes of a right circular cylinder, sphere and cone.

"It was Henry Ibsen who said that the value of a truth lasted about fifteen years, then it rotted into error." James Huneker, Ol d F o g y , 1913, quoted in A N e w Di c t i o n a r y o f Qu o t a t i o n s , 1942, edited by H. L. Mencken, p. 1226.


50. The Elements of Euclid was (or were) the principal introduction to geometry for over 2000 years, and the geometry it contained has had, and continues to have, many terrestrial as well as celestial applications. More than that, the Elements has served as a model of a kind of attainment of certainty -–given the initial assumptions, the axioms and postulates -- which people have often tried to extend to other domains besides geometry. Euclid's method, commonly known today as the axiomatic method, was described, in one form, by Aristotle in his works on logic, especially in the Posterior Analytics. It appears that Eudoxus originated the self-conscious and explicit use of this method, and so was one of the founders of a philosophical tradition of thinking about thinking, and reasoning about reasoning. The science of deductive logic founded by Plato, and even more Aristotle, was based in important respects on extrapolation from this method of the mathematicians. 51. It is curious, and rather sobering, to notice that versions of Euclid's Elements quite faithful to the original, or at least to parts of it, were used in elementary instruction for over 2000 years, but that this practice has been discontinued in the course of the past two centuries. The change began after the French Revolution of 1789, and appear to have been motivated (or condoned) as part of a general rejection of learning of the past. Some distance into the 20th century, textbooks in the United States still bore considerable resemblance to Euclid's Elements, despite the alleged reforms of the previous century, but today this is no longer so. It appears that Euclid's Elements, in forms faithful to the originals, have gone the way of Newton's Principia in forms faithful to the originals. They are structures of the past, antiques, no longer functional except indirectly, by way of their influences. And yet, it's not a bad idea, at any rate in the case of Euclid if not Newton, to study a translation of Euclid into a modern language as part of one’s mathematical education, especially if one is training to be a mathematician or natural scientist.

52. There are modern versions of Euclid's Elements in which certain logical deficiencies of Euclid's _Elements have been removed. A central one has been the Grundlagen der Geometrie (Foundations of Geometry) of David Hilbert.278 However, the spirit of Euclid maintained by Hilbert has given way to a large extent to the use of numerical coordinates, based on the analytic (or algebraic) geometry associated with the name of Descartes. We no longer make children associate how they see with how they reason in the direct way Euclid did, but rather with how they count, and this is usually presented in books in colorful language and with colorful pictures. Stephen Leacock may have had an explanation for the way elementary geometry books in schools look today, when he said: "To make education attractive! There it is! To call in the help of poetry, of music, of grand opera, if need be, to aid in the teaching of the dry subjects of the college class room Here, for example, you have Euclid writing in a perfectly prosaic way all in small type such an item as the following: "A perpendicular is let fall on a line BC so as to bisect it at the point C, etc., etc.," just as if it were the most ordinary occurrence in the world. Every newspaper man will see at once that it ought to be set up thus:


1st edition, 1899; last edition during Hilbert's lifetime, 1930; there have been two translations into English.


"AWFUL CATASTROPHE PERPENDICULAR FALLS HEADLONG ON A GIVEN POINT The Line at C said to be completely bisected President of the Line makes Statement etc., etc., etc." 2 7 9 The best translation into English of Euclid's Elements is by Thomas Heath. Heath provides copious notes to guide one in studying the work. 280 53. To apply the axiomatic method found in Euclid's geometry, one starts from basic statements usually called axioms or postulates (although hypotheses or assumptions would amount to about the same), taken as true for purposes of reasoning (though in some applications, they may not be true, or true enough), and using some rules of logic, derives chains of statements linking the axioms to other statements, called theorems, which are then also taken to be true, and then may be regarded, if one chooses, as axioms themselves. These chains of statements make up proofs of the theorems. Sometimes the term propositions is used instead of theorems, but often propositions are taken to be statements to be proved, if possible, rather than statements already proved. Thus a proposition may turn out to be true or false or undecided or even undecidable in a certain sense, depending on whether or not a proof or counterexample or neither has been found, and on whether or not a proof or counterexample can be found within the given axiomatic system. Since axioms are not proved, but taken as a basis for application of the method, problems arise of deciding on the validity of the axioms and their theorems when making applications. If the axioms or theorems are meant to be applied to the movements of physical objects, on Earth or in the heavens, one way to test their validity is by using them to make predictions about the places and shapes of physical objects, and seeing whether or not the predictions come true, at least to within some margin of error taken to be allowable. From this point of view, geometry is an empirical science, perhaps the earliest such science. However, some philosophers have held that the axioms of geometry are statements about the way people, or their minds or brains, are constituted, and especially about the way we are constrained to see the world with our eyes. It is from this, one may maintain, that many of the axioms of geometry get the peculiar certainty they have.

54. From another point of view, the Elements of Euclid is a treatise on the five regular solids: the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron. The last "book" or chapter of the Elements treats these solids, and a good deal of what went before in the Elements is used in this last chapter. The regular solids are solids in which all of the faces of any one of them are congruent plane figures with equal sides and angles. The 4 faces of the tetrahedron, the 8 faces of the octahedron and the 20 faces of the icosahedron are equilateral triangles, the 6 faces of a cube are squares, and the 12 faces of a dodecahedron are regular pentagons. In the _Elements_, Euclid shows how to construct these solids, establishing along the way theorems which have many other applications. He also shows that these five are the only regular solids which can be theoretically constructed in a way consistent with his axioms and postulates. These regular solids were discovered before the time of Euclid, and even before the time of Plato.
279 Stephen Leacock, "Education Made Agreeable", from M o o n b e a m s f r o m t h e L a r g e r L u n a c y _ 1915, p. 155, 159. 280 1925, reprinted by Dover, 1956 and later.


Plato used them as an important component of his cosmology in his dialogue Timaeus. Kepler used them in a vital way later, near the end of the 16th century A.D., in his cosmology of our solar system. 55. Another famous astronomer and geometer of ancient Greece was Apollonius, who worked in the early part of the 3rd century B.C. Apollonius had a major influence on the development of astronomy by virtue of his mathematical model of the solar system based on eccentric and epicyclic motions. An eccentric motion is one which takes place with a constant speed on a circle, but is referred to a point inside the circle other than the center of the circle. An epicyclic motion is one which takes place on a circle rotating at a constant speed about its center, with this center on another circle also rotating at a constant speed. Among other things, Apollonius seems to have shown that any eccentric motion can be interpreted as an epicyclic motion, and conversely. The major mathematical work of Apollonius concerned the mathematical figures known as conic sections, which had been discovered by earlier mathematicians. The conic sections are cut out when a plane is passed through a complete right circular cone. Aside from certain special cases, known as degenerate conics, the conic sections comprise the ellipses (including the circles), the para bolas, and the hyperbolas. One of the songs of Gilbert and Sullivan is about the practicality of conic sections: "I am the very model of a modern Major-General; .... I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical, I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical, About the binomial theorem, I'm teeming with a lot of news, With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse ........................ I quote, in Elegiacs, all the crimes of Heliogabalus! In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous. 2 8 1 An easy way to generate ellipses is to shine a flashlight on a flat surface like a desk or table, and tilt the flashlight back and forth. The cone in this case is the light generated by the flashlight, and the plane being passed through the cone is the desk top. The lighted spot is then in the form of an ellipse (to a good approximation), though sometimes just the boundary of the lighted spot is called an ellipse. You can also generate the beginnings of an hyperbola by holding a flashlight lengthways on a wall. 73. In considering the changes in astronomy brought about by Copernicus (1473-1543), it is well to keep in mind the evaluation of his work made by N. M. Smerdlow and Otto Neugebauer in their detailed study of the major work of Copernicus, the De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543). They say: "Copernicus made one fundamental innovation in planetary theory [making the sun as center of coordinates], the consequences of which only became evident in the work of Kepler and Newton. In the remainder of his astronomy, he was one of the last representatives of a tradition extending from Hipparchus, or better Ptolemy, to his most direct predecessor, Regiomontanus [1436-1476], whose Epitome of the Almagest was his
W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, The Pirates of Penzance, 1880, Act 1.



guide to the astronomy of Ptolemy, and may have provided the crucial step to the heliocentric theory." 74. "The tradition of Ptolemaic astronomy received, in the course of nearly fourteen centuries, many additions and modifications, of non-Ptolemaic Greek, Indian, Arabic, and last of all, European origin. Copernicus was heir to some fraction of these, but fundamentally his astronomy, in common with the most sophisticated astronomy of the intervening period, rests upon the work of Ptolemy. And even the principal ways in which he differs from Ptolemy --except for the heliocentric theory -- are part of an Arabic tradition concerned more with internal problems in Ptolemy's work than with new descriptions of the motions of the planets, something that did not occur until the observational and theoretical innovations of Tycho and Kepler. The background to Copernicus's astronomy is of course the entire accumulation of observations, procedures, models, and parameters since the time of Ptolemy, in so far as they were transmitted to Copernicus. But out of this large and diverse body of material, what is the most important to consider here are the general principles of Ptolemy's mathematical and physical astronomy, the interesting modifications in the latter made by the astronomers of Maragha in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the rebirth of a true understanding of Ptolemaic astronomy in Europe through the work of Regiomontanus."282

75. "Copernicus," said Kepler, "ignorant of his own riches, took it upon himself for the most part to represent Ptolemy, not nature, to which he had nevertheless come the closest of all." This is cited by Smerdlow and Neugebauer as a famous and just assessment of Copernicus.283 76. It has often been said that the Copernican heliocentric theory was superior to the Ptolemaic theory because it was simpler. However, Smerdlow and Neugebauer observe: "Anyone who thinks that Copernican theory is "simpler" than Ptolemaic theory has never looked at Book III of De revolutionibus. In a geocentric system the earth is at rest -- as indeed it appears to be -- and any apparent motions in the heavens that we know to result from its motions are distributed among a number of objects, i.e. the sun, the individual planets, the sphere of the fixed stars, everything in its proper place as it actually appears. But when Copernicus worked through the consequences of his own theory, he had to attribute to the earth no less than three fundamental motions and a number of secondary motions. That all these compounded motions forced upon a single and, to all appearances, quiescent body seemed implausible to his contemporaries is not to be wondered at, especially because the end result was nothing other than reproducing the same apparent motions in the heavens that had been accounted for all along (and without making assumptions that contradicted contemporary natural philosophy, common sense, and the most casual or most meticulous observations then possible of the behavior of the earth and of objects on or near its surface)." 284

77. Copernicus's belief in the superiority of his own theory was based on such facts as these: In his system, the order and distances of the planets could be unambiguously determined, and shown to form a single harmonious whole. In the geocentric theory, only relative radii of

N. M. Smerdlow and Otto Neugebauer, Mathematical Astronomy in Copernicus 's De Revolutionibus, 1984, v. 1, p. 33. 283 ibid., p. 483. 284 ibid., p. 127.


eccentrics and epicycles were known, and for one planet at a time -- there were no relations between radii for different planets. Using the heliocentric theory, it was possible to explain a number of other puzzling features of the Ptolemaic theory, such as why the centers of the epicycles of the inferior planets (Mercury and Venus) lie in the direction of the sun, why the radii of the epicycles of the superior planets (the other known planets) stay parallel to the direction from the earth to the sun, and so on. 78. In connection with why Copernicus chose to adopt a heliocentric system for the planets, Smerdlow and Neugebauer remark: "Some rather far-fetched answers have been given, with a lot of hand-waving in the direction of Neoplatonism, Hermes Trismegistus, and ... sun-worshipping. Although one could perhaps say that anyone in 1510 who was capable of believing that the earth moved was capable of believing anything -- and there is no telling what strange things Copernicus believed -- it seems to us that there is no foundation for these claims. Among other reasons, they are based on the highly anachronistic belief that the heliocentric theory and the motion of the earth were entirely obvious and there for the taking if only one had the correct metaphysical or mystical faith. But this is simply untrue. Copernicus arrived at the heliocentric theory by a careful analysis of planetary models -- and as far as is known, he was the only person of his age to do so -and if he chose to adopt it, he did so one the basis of an equally careful analysis." 285
79. As to why Copernicus was so reluctant to publish his results, Smerdlow and Neugebauer observe that Copernicus undoubtedly realized "that he had not been able to prove the motion of the earth, but only argue with greater or lesser persuasiveness for its plausibility, a distinction that is crucial to understanding his difficulty. Copernicus was no fool. He knew what he could and could not do, and little service has been done to his reputation by the common biographical tradition that he had thoroughly proved his case and merely feared that the rest of the rold would be too stupid to understand. He was in the situation -- not infrequent in the sciences, in scholarship, in law -- of being certain that he was right, but lacking conclusive proof. And to make matters worse, he believed he was right about something so unusual that others would find it, not merely uncertain or doubtful, but impossible and even absurd, This was the difficulty for his reluctance to publish, and for the controversial solution that accompanied the published book. " 2 8 6

80. The "controversial solution" is a reference to a preface by a Lutheran minister, Andreas Osiander (1498-1552) to the first edition of the De revolutionibus, in which Osiander "pretty much said that astronomy is filled with absurdities, that it is essentially impossible for astronomical hypotheses to reach true causes -- unless they are divinely revealed -- and that anyone who takes them as true will depart from astronomy a greater fool than when he entered." (ibid., p. 29.) It is of some interest to note that Georg Rheticus (1514-1574), who seems to have been Copernicus's only disciple and the person who finally convinced Copernicus to publish his principal work, was an ardent astrologer.287

285 286 287

Smerdlow and Neugebauer, ibid., p. 59. ibid., p. 20. cf. Smerdlow and Neugebauer, ibid., p. 23.


81. Many conclusions about the reception and effects of Copernican's heliocentric theory have been made by people comfortably ignorant of the vast mathematical and observational difficulties involved in it, and its close connection, as far as astronomers were concerned, with the geocentric theories of Ptolemy and later astronomers. It may be argued that it is not necessary to understand or even be aware of these complexities in order to gauge the effect of the theory on nonastronomers of the time, who themselves were unaware of these complexities. Still, it is easy to misevaluate the influence of a theory if one doesn't understand very much of the theory. 82. For example, it is often said that one effect of the placing of the sun at the center of the solar system by Copernicus in the 16th century caused men to stop thinking of themselves as being the most important of creatures since they no longer could think of themselves as the center of the universe. However, while Ptolemy placed Earth at the center of the universe, he made Earth a mere point at the center, in comparison with the immensity of the heavens. This, together with widespread beliefs about the corruptibility of Earth, as compared with the incorruptibility of the heavens, didn't leave Earth in a very enviable position. 83. An example from as late as Renaissance England of how the place of Earth was viewed before heliocentrism is given by Francis Johnson: "In preparing English minds for the rejection of Aristotle's scientific doctrines, the _ Zodiacus vitae_ of Marcellus Palingenius Stellatus played a very significant part this extremely popular little book [was] first printed at Venice about 1531. In England no other Latin poem of the Renaissance, except perhaps the eclogues of Mantuan, was so well known or so universally admired As early as 1560 an English translation, by Barnaby Googe, of the first three books was published ... and in 1565 Googe's translation of the entire poem was published ... under the title of The Zodiake of life The many references to Palingenius in Elizabethan literature, together with the fact that most schoolboys had been required to study it and that many unlearned Englishmen had read it in Googe's popular translation, prove that his influence on contemporary thought must have been very great. Like most long poems of the Renaissance, the Zodiacus vitae was intended by its author as a summary of all learning, and a wide variety of philosophic and scientific ideas of the past were introduced and discussed .... Palingenius, although conceiving the stars to be attached to the eighth sphere, maintains that they are innumerable, that they are not of the same size (many of them being too small to be seen), and that the stars are many times the size of the earth. He also mentions, in passing, the idea of certain early Greek philosophers, especially Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Leucippus, that every star was a world, and our earth merely one of the stars, and states:

... some have thoughtyt euery starre a worlde we well may call, The earth they count a darkened starre, whereas the least of all. 2 8 8 Along these lines, S. K. Heninger, Jr., remarks that in the Somnium Scipionis (Dream of Scipio), Cicero (105-43 B.C.)) reports how Scipio, looking down from heaven, is struck by the triviality of the earth compared to the vastness of the panorama spread beneath him. When Macrobius (c. 400 A.D.) came to this passage in his commentary on the Somnium, he confirmed this sentiment that denigrated man and his habitation. This is the same image presented by Ptolemy in a more scientific context. J. D. North refers to the remarks of Cicero and Macrobius

Fra nc is J ohn s on, As trono mical Thought in Renai s sance England , 1968, p. 145 -147.


as being possibly the source of a similar comment by Boethius (c. 475-524) in his De consolationephilosophiae (On the Consolations of Philosophy), which in turn has an echo in some lines from the poem The Parliament of Fowls [Fools] of Chaucer (c. 1345-1400): Thanne shewede he hym the lytel Erthe, that here is, /At regard of the hevenes quantite ... And there are these lines from Chaucers's Troilus and Criseyde: And down from thennesfaste he gan avyse This litel spot of erthe, that with the see Embraced us, and fully gan despise This wretched world, and held al vanite To respect ofthepleynfelicite That is in hevene above ... 2 8 9 85. The view of Earth as infinitesimal and wretched (so different from the view from the moon relayed by astronauts) continued to be a commonplace in the Renaissance. It was solemnly cited by the English educator Robert Recorde, in his address in 1556 to students encouraging them to be diligent. For Recorde, Henninger says, the study of cosmography --which Recorde took to include astronomy, astrology and geography -- is a kind of moral choice. "We may grovel as groundlings among the brutes, or we may turn our attention up the scale of being and aspire after angels in the empyrean." 290 86. Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote his essays (published 1580-1595) in the years in which the impact of Copernicanism was just beginning to be felt, and Montaigne appears to have had little interest in it, except to implicitly resist its implications. In his Apology For Raimond Sebond, he quotes Manilius: "And, what is more, God himself does not begrudge the world the shape of the heavens; he shows his face and body always revolving; and he impresses and presents himself so he can be better known, and teach us by seeing what he is, and teach us to attend to his laws." 291 87. Montaigne goes on: "Now, our human reasonings and arguments are [like] lumpish and sterile matter; the grace of God is [what fashions them]; it is that which gives them shape and value Let us, then, consider now man by himself, without external aid, armed only with his own weapons, and deprived of divine favour and recognition .......Let us see how much support he has in that fine equipment ........What has made him believe that the wonderful motions of the celestial vault, the eternal light of those luminaries revolving so proudly above his head, and the terrifying motions of the infinite sea were established and continued for many ages for his pleasure and for his service? Is it possible to imagine any thing so ridiculous as this wretched, paltry creature, who, being not even his own master, exposed to the offences of all
289 290 J. D. North, Chaucer's Universe (1988), p. 11- 12. S. K. Henninger, Jr., The Cosmographical Glass, Renaissance Diagrams of the Universe, 1977, p. 11-12.

291 Manilius, Astronomica (1st century A.D.), IV, 907; text on p. 1806 of A Handbook to the Essays ofMichel de Montaigne containing notes by George Ives to his translation of the essays, and comments by Grace Norton on the essays; the quotation by Montaigne is on p. 591-592 of v. 1 of Ives's translation (1925) as republished in 1946; the handbook is v. 3 of this edition; this is my translation of the passage by Manilius, not Ives's.


things, declares himself master and ruler of the universe of which it is not in his power to understand the smallest fragment, far less to govern it? And this prerogative that he attributes to himself, of being the only creature in this great structure who has the ability to recognize beauty and its part, the only one who can render thanks to the architect, and keep account of the income and outlay of the world -- who has set the seal of this prerogative upon him?." 292 88. "But, poor wretch, what has he in himself worthy of such a privilege? When we consider the incorruptible life of the heavenly bodies, their beauty, their grandeur, their continual motion by so exact a rule; 'when we gaze up at the celestial expanse of the great heaven, at the aether above us set with twinkling stars, and when we remember the courses of the sun and moon', 293 when we consider the domination and power that those bodies have, not only over our lives and the conditions of our fortunes, -- 'For the actions and the lives of men depend on the stars' 294 but even over our inclinations, our judgments, our wills, which they govern, impel, and stir, at the mercy of their influences, as our reason teaches us and discovers, -- 'and perceives that the stars, beheld from afar, govern us by their silent commanding laws, and the whole universe to be moved by changing relations, and successive destinies run through fixed signs'; 295 when we see that only a man, not only a king, but monarchies, empires, and this lower world move with the changes of the slightest celestial motion; 'And what great changes are made by small movements ... so great is this power that rules even kings'296 .... if we hold from the disposition of heaven such share of reason as we have, how can reason make us equal to that? Presumption is our natural and original malady. The most unfortunate and frail of all creatures is man, and at the same time the most vain-glorious, this creature feels and sees that it is lodged here amid the mire and filth of the world, fast bound and riveted to the worst, the most lifeless and debased part of the universe, on the lowest story of the lodging and the farthest removed from the celestial vault, with these other living beings of the worst condition of the three [among those who crawl, rather than swim or fly]; and it establishes itself in imagination above the circle of the moon, and brings heaven under its feet." 297

89. So we see the post-Copernican Montaigne securely imbedded in a pre-Copernican universe, and complaining of the vain-glorious pride of men who presume to understand the ways of the heavens. "Ho w limited a re o u r min ds," he says (his emphasis). "Are not these fancies of human vanity, to make of the moon a celestial earth, to dream, like Anaxagoras, of mountains and valleys there, and to plant colonies there for our convenience, as Plato does, and Plutarch?" 298 What is more -- and quite remarkably -- he asks us to mitigate our pride on the grounds of a rigorous astrological interpretation of the influence of the heavens. We are at the mercy of the motions of the stars, he says, and this should make us humble. Men, it appears, are not over-proud when they attribute such powers to celestial objects -- this is an act of pious acquiescence. Of the heavenly bodies, he says: "Why do we deprive them of soul and of life and


Montaigne, Ives's translation, ibid., p. 592, 595 -6. 293 Lucretius, d e r e r u m n a t u r a , V, 1204; translated by Russel Geer (1965). 294 Manilius, ibid, III, 58. 295 ibid. I, 60. 296 ibid., I, 55 and IV, 93. 297 Montaigne, ibid., p. 596-599. 298 ibid, p. 598.


of reason? Have we perceived in them some settled and senseless stupidity, we who have no commerce with them except that of obedience?"299 90. In the face of views like those reflected in the works of Palingenius and Montaigne, it appears that the more likely effect of Copernicanism on some was not to make men humble because they had been displaced from the center of the universe, but to make them proud that Copernicus and his adherents -- Kepler, Galileo, and the rest -- had revealed a part of God's handiwork, and proud of the handiwork itself. To o p ro u d says Montaigne. But why not a little pride? Speaking of his system, Copernicus himself said: "So we find in this admirable arrangement a harmony of the Universe, as well as a certain relationship between the motion and the size of the spheres, such as can be discovered in no other way Verily, so perfect is this divine work of the Great and Supreme Architect." 300 91. Koyré comments that the great advantage of the system from the point of view of Copernicus lies in its revelation of the systematic structure of the Universe, and not in its providing the best agreement with observational data and ease of computation. "History has proved him to be right", says Koyré.301 92. Whatever its effect on human pride, the work of Copernicus inaugurated a new era in astronomy, to be worked out by people like Kepler and Newton, which was to bring Ptolemy's supremacy to an end. For some, the Copernican system remains upsetting. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke describes in a fanciful way one such person: "Later, Nikolai Kuzmitch always used to give his word of honor that, although he was understandably in a very depressed mood that Sunday evening, he hadn't had a thing to drink. He was therefore perfectly sober when the following incident occurred, as far as one can tell what actually happened I have been meddling with numbers, he said to himself. All right, I don't understand the first thing about numbers. But it's obvious they shouldn't be granted too much importance; they are, after all, just a kind of arrangement created by the government for the sake of public order. No one had every seen them anywhere but on paper. It was impossible, for example, to meet a Seven or a Twenty-five at a party. There simply weren't any there "

93. "'Let it nevertheless...,' he was just about to think, when something bizarre happened. He suddenly felt a breath on his face; it moved past his ears; it was on his hands now. And as he sat there in the dark, with eyes wide open, he began to realize that what he was feeling now was rea l time, as it passed by. He recognized, with absolute clarity, all these tiny seconds, all equally tepid, each one exactly like the others, but fast, but fast He jumped up, but the surprises were not yet over. Beneath his feet too there was something moving; not just one emotion, but several, which strangely shook in and against one another. He stiffened with terror: could that be the earth? Of course it was. The earth did, after all, move. He had heard about that in school; but it was passed over rather quickly, and later on was completely hushed up; it

Quoted from the _De revolutionibus orbium coelestium_ (1543) of Copernicus 2 99 Montaigne, ibid., p. 598. 300 by Alexandre Koyré in The Astronomical Revolution, Copernicus - Kepler – Borelli, 1973, p. 53- 54; translation of La révolution astronomique 1961. 301 Koyré. ibid., p. 108.


was considered not a proper subject for discussion. But now that he had become more sensitive, he was able to feel this too .......... " 94. "Unfortunately he then remembered something else, about the oblique position of the earth's axis. No, he couldn't endure all these motions. He felt sick. Lying down and keeping quiet were the best remedy, he had once read somewhere. And since that day Nikolai Kuzmitsch had been lying in bed. He lay there and kept his eyes closed. And there were times, during the less shaken days, so to speak, when it was quite bearable. And then he had devised this routine with the poems. It was unbelievable how much that helped. When you recited a poem slowly, with a regular emphasis on the rhyme words, then something more or less stable existed, which you could keep a steady gaze on, inwardly of course. It was lucky he knew all these poems by heart He didn't complain about his situation... But in the course of time an exaggerated admiration had developed in him for those who, like the student, managed to walk around and endured the motion of the earth."302 95. In the novel Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo (1976), there is a astronomer and speculative scientist named Endor who lives in a hole. Endor has become exasperated. "Science requires us to deny the evidence of the senses," he says. "We see the sun moving across the sky, and we say no, no, no, the sun is not moving, it's we who move, we move, we. Science teaches us this. The earth moves around the sun, we say. Nevertheless every morning we open our eyes and there's the sun moving across the sky, east to west, every single day. It moves. We see it. I'm tired of denying such evidence. The earth doesn't move. It's the sun that moves around the earth It's the wind that causes tides. If the earth moved we'd get dizzy and fall off. If the moon and sun cause tides in oceans, why don't they cause tides in swimming pools and glasses of water? There's no variation in the microwave backgrounds. Why is this? Because we're at the center of the universe, that's why this is."303 96. In their humorous ways, the characters created by Rilke and DeLillo illustrate the reluctance of people to give up their belief, based solidly on the evidence of their senses, that the earth is at rest. The matter was not so humorous to some of the natural philosophers of the early 17th century who were concerned that the Copernican theory be accepted. The most notorious ecclesiastical condemnation of a promoter of the Copernican theory was that of Galileo in 1633, when Galileo was 70 and one of the most accomplished and renowned scientists in the world. The sentence followed the publication in 1632 of his dialogue on the "two chief world systems", that is, the Ptolemaic and Copernican.

97. The story has been exhaustively studied on all sides ever since, but the essence of it has remained the same. Galileo was forced by the Inquisition to publicly renounce, on his knees, hi s opinions on the validity and superiority of the Copernican system. The official sentence reads: "We say, pronounce, sentence, declare that you, the said Galileo, by reason of the matters adduced in trial, and by you confessed as above, have rendered yourself in the judgment of this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely of having believed and held the doctrine --which is false and contrary to the sacred and divine Scriptures -- that the Sun is the center of the
302 from Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910, translation from German to English, The Notebooks of MalteLaurids Brigge, 1982, by Stephen Mitchell, p. 172-175. 303 Don DeLillo, Ratner's Star, 1976, p. 87-88.


world and does not move from east to west, and that the Earth moves and is not the center of the world; and that an opinion may be held and defended as probable after it has been declared and defined to be contrary to Holy Scripture; and that consequently you have incurred all the censures and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents. From which we are content that you be absolved, provided that first, with a sincere heart, and unfeigned faith, you abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies, and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church in the form to be prescribed by us." 304 Galileo duly recanted, and was placed under a kind of benign house arrest for the rest of his life. The Index of the Church was subsequently made to forbid "all writings which affirm the motion of the earth." 305 98. White says: "Doubtless many will exclaim against the Roman Catholic Church for this: but the simple truth is that Protestantism was no less zealous against the new scientific doctrine. All branches of the Protestant Church -- Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican --vied with each other in denouncing the Copernican doctrine as contrary to Scripture; and, at a later period, the Puritans showed the same tendency. Said Martin Luther [for example]: "People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth." White concludes that such consequences are to be expected when "the Church alone is empowered to promulgate scientific truth or direct university instruction." 306 99. Andrew White assisted Ezra Cornell in founding Cornell University, and White explains: "We had especially determined that the institution should be under the control of no political party and of no single religious sect, and with Mr. Cornell's approval I embodied stringent provisions to this effect in the charter."307 In this day of widespread non-sectarian colleges and universities, it is largely forgotten now many of our institutions of higher learning formerly were denominational, and how closely others were tied to their state legislatures. The plan of Cornell and White led to a bitter struggle with numerous ecclesiastical authorities and members of the State Legislature of New York, some of whom accused White and Cornell of atheism, then of infidelity, then (backing off) of "indifferentism". It was this struggle which impelled White to compose his work on the warfare of science with theology. White was himself a Christian, and attributed the conflict between science and theology to the ineptitude of theologians in scientific matters, rather than to some deficiency in the Christian religion. We have seen and are still seeing in our own day in some places in the U.S.A. similar conflicts over the teaching of Darwinian evolutionary theory in public schools and in some denominational colleges.

100. Ptolemy, who believed that the earth stands still at the center of the universe on physical rather than theological grounds, wrote on geography as well as astronomy. His
304 Quoted by Giorgio de Santillana on p. xlvii-xlviii of the preface to his version, Dialogue on the Great World Systems, 1953, of the Thomas Salusbury translation (1661) of Galileo's Dialogo dei Massimi Sistemi, 1632. 305 Andrew White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1896, p. 144. 306 ibid., p. 126, 133. 307 ibid., p. vi.


Geographia was very influential in antiquity. Ptolemy also wrote on astrology. In the European Middle Ages, Ptolemy was perhaps most widely known for his work on astrology called Mat hematikes tetrabiblou syntaxeos, or simply the Tetrabiblos or Quadripartitum; that is, The fourbook mathematical treatise, or The Four Books. In Book II, Ptolemy says that astronomical prediction (meaning what we would call astrological prediction) is divided into two great parts, and: "... since the first and more universal is that which relates to whole races, countries, and cities, which is called general, and the second is that which relates to individual men, which is called genethlialogical, we believe it fitting to treat first of the general division, because such matters are naturally swayed by greater and more powerful causes than are particular events. And since weaker natures always yield to the stronger, and the particular always falls under the general, it would by all means be necessary for those who purpose an inquiry about a single individual long before to have comprehended the more general considerations."308 Thus Ptolemy held what we have called omen astrology, and what he calls general astrology, to be primary. This kind of astrology was old in his own time. On the other hand, he may be regarded as the first great systematizer of individual or personal astrology. He was, as it were, the Newton of horoscopic astrology.

101. It is hard for many modern astronomers to understand how Ptolemy could write a work on astronomy which even by modern standards is a tremendous scientific achievement, and also, later, a book on personal astrology which elaborates on the influence of the positions of the planets, moon and sun at the birth of a person on the person's character and fate, as well as the astrologically based Harmonica, which had a great influence on Kepler's work. Here, chosen not quite at random (based on horoscopes of myself), is a sample from Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos: "Jupiter allied with Mercury in honourable positions makes his subjects learned, fond of discussion, geometricians, mathematicians, poets, orators, gifted, sober, of good intellect, good in counsel, statesmen, benefactors, managers, good-natured, generous, lovers of the mob, shrewd, successful, leaders, reverent, religious, skillful in business, affectionate, lovers of their own kin, well brought up, philosophical, dignified. In the opposite positions he makes them simple, garrulous, prone to make mistakes, contemptible, fanatical, religious enthusiasts, speakers of folly, inclined to bitterness, pretenders to wisdom, fools, boasters, students, magicians, somewhat deranged, but well informed, of good memory, teachers, and pure in their desires."309

102. On the question of free will, Ptolemy says: "... we should not believe that separate events attend mankind as the result of the heavenly cause as if they had been originally ordained for each person by some irrevocable divine command and destined to take place by necessity without the possibility of any other cause whatever interfering. Rather is it true that the movement of the heavenly bodies, to be sure, is eternally performed in accordance with divine, unchangeable destiny, while the change of earthly things is subject to a natural and mutable fate, and in drawing its first causes from above it is governed by chance and natural sequence." (ibid., p. 23.) Lynn Thorndike, evidently commenting on this passage, observes that for Ptolemy, "not all predictions are inevitable and immutable; this is true only of the motion of the sky itself and events in which it is exclusively concerned."31 0 Ptolemy is quite precise about it: what is strictly
308 309 310 Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos (c. 150 A.D.), translated by F. H. Robbins, 1940, p. 117, 119. ibid., p. 351, 353. I leave you, the reader, to decide which of these is applicable. Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 1923 -1958, v. 1, 1923, p. 112.


deterministic in astrology is the motions of celestial objects. Predictions about anything else are not infallibly correct, but nevertheless may be very useful. He says: "I think, just as with prognostication, even if it be not entirely infallible, at least its possibilities have appeared worthy of the highest regard, so too in the case of defensive practice [acts meant to contravene predictions], even though it does not furnish a remedy for everything, its authority in some instances at least, however few or unimportant, should be welcomed and prized and regarded as profitable in no ordinary sense." 311

103. Neugebauer notes that Ptolemy used the older Babylonian methods of interpolation for computing positions of the planets, sun and moon in the Tetrabiblos_, rather than the better trigonometric methods which he had already given in the Almagest. About judicial astrology in general, Neugebauer observes that after the time of Ptolemy: "While the scientific astronomical literature became increasingly sterile the astrological interest remained as active as ever. For astronomy proper this had no beneficial effect. Astrology is a dogmatic discipline, following a strict ritual in combining certain data without worrying how reliable these data were. This attitude is reflected in the fact that astrologers for centuries used arithmetical methods, e.g. for planetary positions or for determining the length of daylight, which were long superseded by more accurate procedures. No astrologer cared about the reliability of the basic parameters of his planetary tables. ... Hence one may well say that at no stage in the development of astronomy did astrology have any direct influence, beneficial or otherwise, on astronomy beyond the fact that it provided a secure market for treatises and tables and this contributed to the survival of works which otherwise would hardly have reached us." 312 This may be true of astrology in the narrow sense, horoscopic astrology, but it has been one of our principal contentions that in the larger sense of astrology, as we have more or less defined it earlier, astrology d id influence astronomy, and indeed one must exert caution in speaking of the two as separate before the 17th century. For example, it would be difficult, I think, to support contentions that Ptolemy did astrology just for the money, or that he wasn't very bright in dealing with planets and stars, or that he was merely superstitious, or for some other such summary reasons.



Ptolemy, ibid., p.31. Otto Neugebauer, A History of Ancient Astronomy, 1975, Part Two, p. 942-943.


Appendix to Chapter 4 Diodorus Siculus (of Sicily), Bibliotheca Historica, Book II, 28:29-31 Translated by C. H. Oldfather, 1985 (Loeb Classics) Diodorus lived c.100- 30 B.C.E. But to us it seems not inappropriate to speak briefly of the Chaldeans of Babylon and of their antiquity, that we may omit nothing which is worthy of record. Now the Chaldeans, belonging as they do to the most ancient inhabitants of Babylonia, have about the same position among the divisions of the state as that occupied by the priests of Egypt; for being assigned to the service of the gods they spend their entire life in study, their greatest renown being in the field of astrology. But they occupy themselves largely with soothsaying as well, making predictions about future events, and in some cases by purifications, in others by sacrifices, and in others by some other charms they attempt to effect the averting of evil things and the fulfillment of the good. They are also skilled in the soothsaying by the flight of birds, and they give out interpretations of both dreams and portents. They also show marked ability in making divinations from the observations of the entrails of animals, deeming that in this branch they are eminently successful. The training which they receive in all these matters is not the same as that of the Greeks who follow such practices. For among the Chaldeans the scientific study of these subjects is passed down in the family, and son takes it over from father, being relieved of all other services in the state. Since, therefore, they have their parents for teachers, they not only are taught everything ungrudgingly but also at the same time they give heed to the precepts of their teachers with a more unwavering trust. Furthermore, since they are bred in these teachings from childhood up, they attain a great skill in them, both because of the ease with which youth is taught and because of the great amount of time which is devoted to this study.

Among the Greeks, on the contrary, the student who takes up a large number of subjects without preparation turns to the higher studies only quite late, and then, after labouring upon them to some extent, gives them up, being distract ed by the necessity of earning a livelihood; and but a few here and there really strip for the higher studies and continue in the pursuit of them as a profit-making business, and these are always trying to make innovations in connection with the most important doctrines instead of following the in the path of their predecessors. The result of this is that the barbarians, by sticking to the same things always, keep a firm hold on every detail, while the Greeks, on the other hand, aiming at the profit to be m ade out of the business, keep founding new schools and wrangling with each other over the most important matters of speculation, bring it about that their pupils hold conflicting views, and that their minds, vacillating throughout their lives and unable to believe anything at all with firm conviction, simply wander in confusion. It is at any rate true that, if a man were to examine carefully the most famous schools of the philosophers, he would find them differing from one another to the uttermost degree and maintaining opposite opinions regarding the most fundamental tenets.

30. Now, as the Chaldeans say, the word is by its nature eternal, and neither had a first beginning nor will at a later term suffer destruction; furthermore, both the disposition and the orderly arrangement of the universe have come about by virtue of a divine providence, and today whatever takes place in the heavens is in every instance brought to pass, not a haphazard nor by virtue of any spontaneous action, but by some fixed and firmly determined divine decision. And since they have observed the stars over a long period of time and have noted both the movements and the influences of each of them with greater precision than any other men, they foretell to mankind many things that will take place in the future. But above all in importance, they say, is the study of the influence of the five stars known as planets, which they call "Interpreters" when speaking of them as a group, but if referring to them singly, the one named Cronus by the Greeks, which is the most conspicuous and presages more events an d such as are greater in importance than the others, they call the star Helios [Sun], whereas the other four they designate as the star of Ares [Mars], Aphrodite [Venus], Hermes [Mercury], and Zeus [Jupiter], as do our astrologers. The reason why they call them "Interpreters" is that whereas all other stars are fixed and follow a single circuit in a regular course, these alone, by virtue of following each its own course, point out future events, thus interpreting to mankind the design of the gods. For sometimes by their risings, sometimes by their settings, and again by their colour, the Chaldeans say, they give signs of coming events to such a are willing to observe them closely; for at one time they show forth mighty storms of winds, at another excessive rains or heat, at times the appearance of comets, also eclipses of both sun and moon, and earthquakes, and in a word all the condition which owe their origin to the atmosphere and work both benefits and harm, not only to whole peoples or regions, but also to kings and to persons of private station.

Under the course in which these planets move are situated, according to them, thirty stars, which they designate as "counseling gods"; of these one half oversee the regions above the earth and the other half those beneath the earth, having under their purview the affairs of mankind and likewise those of the heavens; and every ten days one of the stars above is sent as a messenger, so to speak, to the stars below, and again in like manner of the stars below the earth to those above, and this movement of their is fixed and determined by means of an orbit which is unchanging for ever. Twelve of these gods, they say, hold chief authority, and to each of these the Chaldeans assign a month and one of the signs of the zodiac, as they are called. And through the midst of these signs, they say, both the sun and moon and the five planets make their course, the sun completing his cycle in a year and the moon traversing her circuit in a month. 31. Each of the planets, according to them, has its own particular course, and its velocities and periods of time are subject to change and variation. These stars it is which exert the greatest influence for both good and evil upon the nativity of men; and it is chiefly from the nature of these planets and the study of them that they known what is in store for mankind. And they have made predictions, they say, not only to numerous other kings, but also to Alexander, who defeated Darius, and to Antigonus and Sel eucus Nicator who afterwards became kings, and in all their prophecies they are thought to have hit the truth. But of these things we shall write in detail on a more appropriate occasion. Moreover, they also foretell to men in private station what will befall them, and with such accuracy that those who have made trial of them marvel at the feat and believe that it transcends the power of man.


Beyond the circle of the zodiac they designate twenty-for other stars, of which one half, they say, are situated in the northern parts and one half in the southern, and of these those which are visible they assign to the world of the living, while those which are invisible they regard as being adjacent to the dead, and so they call them "Judges of the Universe." And under all the stars hitherto mentioned the moon, according to them, takes her way, being nearest the earth because of her weight and completing her course in a very brief period of time, not by reason of her great velocity, but because her orbit is so short. They also agree with the Greeks in saying that her light is reflected and that her eclipses are due to the shadow of the earth. Regarding the eclipse of the sun, however, they offer the weakest kind of explanation, and do not presume to predict it or to define the times of its occurrence with any precision. Again, in connection with the earth they make assertions entirely peculiar to themselves, saying that it is shaped like a boat and hollow, and they offer many plausible arguments about both the earth and al other bodies in the firmament, a full discussion of which we feel would be alien to our history. This point, however, a man may fittingly maintain, that the Chaldeans have of all men the greatest grasp of astrology, and that they have bestowed the greatest diligence upon the study of it. But as to the number of years which, according to their statements, the order of the Chaldeans has spent on the study of the bodies of the universe, a man can scarcely believe them; for they reckon that, down Alexander’s crossing over into Asia, it has been four hundred and seventy-three thousand years, since they began in early times to make their observations of the stars.

Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C.E. – 50 C.E.), De Abrahamo, 68-71 Translated by F. H. Colson, 1984 (Loeb Classics) The Chaldeans appear beyond all other men to have devoted themselves to the study of astronomy and of genealogies; adapting things on earth to things sublime, an d also adapting things of heaven to things on earth, and like people who, availing themselves of the principles of music, exhibit a most perfect symphony as existing in the universe by the common union and sympathy of the parts for another, which through s eparated as to place, are not disunited in regard of kindred. These men, then, imagined that this world which we behold was the only world in the existing universe, and was either God himself, or else that it contained within itself God, that is, the soul of the universe. Then, having erected fate and necessity into gods, they filled human life with excessive impiety, teaching men that with the exception of those things which are apparent there is no other cause whatever of anything, but that it is the periodical revolutions of the sun, and moon, and other stars, which distribute good and evil to all existing beings.

Flavius Josephus (37-98 C. E.), Antiquities of the J ews


Excerpts from Book 1 Translated by William Whiston, 1737 Chapter 2, 67-71. Now Adam, who was the first man, and made out of the earth, (for our discourse must now be about him,) after Abel was slain, and Cain fled away, on account of his murder, was solicitous for posterity, and had a vehement desire of children , he being two hundred and thirty years old; after which time he lived other seven hundred, and then died. He had indeed many other children, but Seth in particular. As for the rest, it would be tedious to name them; I will therefore only endeavor to give an account of those that proceeded from Seth. Now this Seth, when he was brought up, and came to those years in which he could discern what was good, became a virtuous man; and as he was himself of an excellent character, so did he leave children behind hi m who imitated his virtues. All these proved to be of good dispositions. They also inhabited the same country without dissensions, and in a happy condition, without any misfortunes falling upon them, till they died. They also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone mi ght remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day.

Chapter 3, 104-108. Now when Noah had lived three hundred and fifty years after the Flood, and that all that time happily, he died, having lived the number of nine hundred and fifty years. But let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument, that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life, for those ancients were beloved of God, and [lately] made by G od himself; and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years: and besides, God afforded them a longer time of life on account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries, which would not have afforded the time of foretelling [the periods of the stars] unless they had lived six hundred years; for the great year is completed in that interval. Now I have for witnesses to what I have said, all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians; for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian History, and Berosus, who collected the Chaldean Monuments, and Mochus, and Hestieus, and, besides these, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician History, agree to what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecatseus, Hellanicus, and Acusilaus; and, besides these, Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years. But as to these matters, let every one look upon them as he thinks fit.

Chapter 8, 166-168. For whereas the Egyptians were formerly addicted to different


customs, and despised one another's sacred and accustomed rites, and were very angry one with another on that account, Abram conferred with each of them, a nd, confuting the

Flavius Josephus (37-98 C. E.), Antiquities of the J ews


reason ings they made use of, every one for their own practices, demonstrated that such reasonings were vain and void of truth: whereupon he was admired by them in those conferences as a very wise man, and one of great sagacity, when he discoursed on any subject he undertook; and this not only in understanding it, but in persuading other men also to assent to him. He communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for before Abram came into Egypt they were unacquainted with those parts of learning; for that science came from the Chaldeans into Egypt, and from thence to the Greeks also.


Chapter 5. Stoics, Kepler, and Evaluations 1. Even Kepler, who lived from 1571 to 1630, and indisputably was one of the founders of modern astronomy and physics, even he cast horoscopes, although he was opposed to much of the astrology of his time. He called popular astrology "a dreadful superstition" and "a sortilegious monkey-play". (Sortilege is prophesying by randomly casting or drawing "lots", using pebbles, dice, etc., and interpreting the results.) Many have tried to apologize for Kepler's astrology. For example, Arthur Koestler, the novelist and essayist, claims that Kepler "started his career with the publication of astrological calendars and ended it as Court Astrologer to the Duke of Wallenstein. He did it for a living, with his tongue in his cheek." "In a typical outburst," Koestler says, "he wrote: 'A mind accustomed to mathematical deduction, when confronted with the faulty foundations [of astrology] resists a long, long time, like an obstinate mule, until compelled by beating and curses to put its foot into that dirty puddle.'" Still, as Koestler continues, while Kepler "despised these crude practices, and despised himself for having to resort to them, he at the same time believed in the possibility of a new and true astrology as an exact empirical science".313

2. Kepler wanted not to abolish astrology, but to reform it. He wrote several short treatises specifically on astrology, and referred to it, sometimes extensively, in his large major works. As Gerard Simon emphasizes, Kepler regarded astrology -- a reformed astrology -- as a legitimate branch of his science. Simon says: "Kepler did not consider his astrological theories as less important or less true than those which he announced in optics, astronomy or cosmology: in his eyes, each of these are dedicated to the investigation of a perfectly homogeneous field of reality, that of the secrets of nature." 314 Judith V. Field, in her evaluation of Kepler's astrology says: "Astrological harmony is ... an integral part of Kepler's work as it is of Ptolemy's .... Kepler's concern with astrology is not peripheral to his cosmological theories, and there can be no doubt that it grossly misrepresents his attitude to astrology to suggest that he saw it primarily as a way of making money."315 One of Kepler's treatises on astrology carries the motto "A warning to certain Theologians, Physicians and Philosophers ... that, while justly rejecting the stargazers' superstitions, they should not throw out the child with the bathwater". Elsewhere Kepler says: "That the sky does something to man is obvious enough; but what it does specifically remains hidden."

3. An outline of Kepler's reformed astrology has been given by the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. According to Kepler, individual souls have the ability to react to certain harmonious proportions which correspond to specific rational divisions of a circle. In music, this ability is revealed in our perception of euphony or consonance in certain musical intervals. Our souls are said to be able to react similarly to harmonious proportions of angles which rays of stellar light make with each other when they strike the earth. In the case of planets, these are the aspects of traditional astrology, considered already by Ptolemy. In Kepler's view, these are what astrology should be based on. For Kepler, the effective angles between two rays coming from different planets are those that are found in the regular polygons, such as equilateral triangles, squares or
313 Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, 1959, p. 243.

314 Gerard Simon, Kepler astronome astrologue, 1979, p. 33. 315 J.V.Field, "A Lutheran Astrologer: Johannes Kepler", Archive for History of Exact Sciences, v. 31, no. 3, p. 189-272.


hexagons, with which a plane surface can be covered without gaps ("tilings"), or in the "star" polygons developed by him in his Harmonice mundi. 4. Kepler holds that it is the light which comes from the other planets which produce certain effects in our souls, and therefore in our bodies.316 Furthermore, the earth itself has a soul, and the planets act on this soul as well. The earth, for Kepler, is a living thing. Pauli describes Kepler's analogies: "As living bodies have hair, so does the earth have grass and trees, the cicadas being its dandruff; as living creatures secrete urine in a bladder, so do the mountains make springs; sulphur and volcanic products correspond to excrement, metals and rainwater to blood and sweat; the sea water is the earth's nourishment ... At the same time the anima terrae [soul of the earth] is also a formative power (facultasformatrix) in the earth's interior and expresses, for example, the five regular bodies in precious stones and fossils It is important that in Kepler's view the anima terrae is responsible for the weather and also for meteoric phenomena. Too much rain, for instance, is an illness of the earth."317 5. Judith Field reports that Kepler believed that the theory that the weather was affected by planetary aspects was amply confirmed by observation. He himself made many observations to this effect. Field says: "Kepler's success in obtaining observational confirmation of his belief in the efficacy of Aspects may be partly due to the subjectivity of the data, but another explanation also presents itself: Aspects are so numerous that for any given change one could almost certainly find an appropriate recent Aspect. This objection in fact occurred to one of Kepler's regular correspondents, the physician Johann Georg Brengger, who mentioned it in a letter to Kepler dated 7 March 1608."318 6. As Pauli says, Keple r offers light as a physical cause for the effects of the planets on human beings, and indeed on other living creatures. Furthermore, he argues that properly speaking we should not say that the planets cause the effects they have on us, but rather that it is the constitution of our souls, in their ability to respond to the planetary light, which causes these effects. Pauli notes what he takes to be a serious objection to Kepler's astrological theory, that artificial light ought to produce astrological effects. 3 1 9 But of course one can think up reasons for distinguishing between artificial and planetary light. Or maybe Kepler would have agreed that artificial light can produce astrological effects? 7. Gérard Simon observes that according to Kepler, it is possible to predict the future from what takes place in the sky for three different reasons, one physical, another psychological, and a third metaphysical. The physical reason concerns the effect of light. Simon says these are for the most part meteorological according to Kepler, whereas Pauli emphasizes Kepler's belief in the effect of light on living beings. The psychological reason results from emotions stirred in the souls of living beings by the aspects and in the soul of the Earth by the planetary aspects. This also has an effect on weather changes, but also on the actions of nations and their leaders, and on
316 The doctrine that light is a kind of force is an old idea, found, for example, among the neo-Platonists of

antiquity. 317 Wolfgang Pauli, "The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler", especially p. 176 and p. 179- 190, in The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche, 1955, by Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli, translation by Priscilla Silz of Naturerklrung und Psyche, 1952. 318 J. V. Field, Kepler's Geometrical Cosmology, 1988, p. 128- 129. 319 Pauli, ibid., p. 190.


the destinies of individuals. Finally, the metaphysical reason, which Kepler allows is much more conjectural, arises from the value of certain rare celestial phenomena as signs -- not as causes. Appearance of a comet, or above all of a new star, are phenomena of this kind. In the case of a new star, one may be in the presence of an indication of a mutation in universal history. 8. Kepler takes the psychological reason, based on planetary aspects, to be in the realm of nature to the same degree as the physical reason is. The physical and psychological reasons authorize forecasting much more than prophecy, Simon says, and although Kepler reshaped the foundations of such prediction, he never seems to have doubted the fundamental soundness of his technique based on aspects. On the other hand, he wondered about the possibility of interpreting signs which, if they are sent by God, can be understood only by prophets. Kepler doesn't exclude the possibility that there are providential signs in they heavens. Indeed, he observes that they are attested to in the Bible and other ancient writers. But he is skeptical about men being able to interpret these signs correctly unless they are divinely inspired prophets. Kepler wanted to substitute, as far as he could, an astrology of causes for an astrology of signs. Astrology would then become, he hoped, what it should never have ceased being, an applied branch of natural science. The astrological aspects result from the normal periodic motions of the planets. From time to time, however, events occur in the heavens which are not periodic, and which therefore appear to be unpredictable. If they can be considered as signs addressed to mankind, then an astrologer who undertakes to interpret them can no longer limit himself to describing their physical and psychological effects, but is led to trying to decipher their meaning. Thus the physical problem becomes metaphysical or theological. With the metaphysical problem, Kepler proceeds with caution, but proceeds nevertheless. 320

9. In his work on the "new star" of 1604, De stella nova (1606), Kepler speculates on whether or not the occurrence of a new star can be assigned to chance. Furthermore, in the same year, there was a "fiery trigon", that is, a conjunction of the three superior planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Was it also a matter of chance that the new star appeared in the same year as this "grand conjunction"? For those of an Epicurean turn of mind, this was so. It was like a throw of two dice, one of which had the aggregation of the atoms of the new star on a face, and the other of which had the grand conjunction on a face. Throw the dice enough times, and this pair of faces will come up. The Aristotelians had a similar view. The formation of the atoms into a new star was not a matter of chance for them, but the causes of the star and the causes of the grand conjunction had no connection with each other. The two causal series leading to these events were considered to be independent. But then they coincided by chance. Kepler opposed both of these views. He argues that neither the individual events nor their coincidence were the result of chance. This would be unworthy of God.321

10. Kepler could not abide chance events. He says: "What then is chance? It is the most detestable idol, which is nothing else than mistrust of the supreme and omnipotent God, and also of what he has created, the absolutely perfect World, in which in place of a soul one takes a blind and unconsidered motion, and in place of a body an infinite chaos. It is impious to attribute to chance what belongs to God."322 Kepler will not admit a cosmology founded on chance, in
320 Gérard Simon, ibid., p. 35, 52- 55, 79-80.

321 ibid., p. 52-80.) 322 Johannes Kepler, De s tella nova , quoted by Simon, ibid., p. 62.


which the creation would have no goal or beauty, and would lose all meaning. Here is a source of Kepler's concern for astrology. To radically separate what happens in the heavens from what happens on earth is to forget the perfection of the work of God and his solicitude for people. It is to make the world silent, and to prevent us from witnessing its source. 3 2 3
1 1 . Kepler never stopped believing that the Earth has a Soul. Still, Ernst Cassirer recalls Kepler's debate with Patrizzi over the motions of the planets: "[Patrizzi] declared that any attempt on the part of mathematical astronomy to determine the course of the planets by interlocking orbits, cycles, and epicycles was vain because in reality the planets were nothing other than animate beings, endowed with reason, who, just as appearance indicates, describe the most diverse, strangely tortuous paths through the liquid ether. It is characteristic of Kepler's manner of thinking that he countered this conception primarily by a methodological argument --an argument he himself characterized as 'philosophical.' To resolve all seeming disorder into order, in every irregularity to seek the hidden rule: precisely this -- he stressed in opposing Patrizzi -- is the basic principle of 'philosophical astronomy.'" 3 2 4

12. Cassirer quotes Kepler: "Among the adherents of a sound philosophy there is none who is not of this opinion, who would not congratulate himself and astronomy if he succeeded in disclosing the causes of error and distinguishing the true movements of the planets from their accidental orbits which rest only on sensory illusion, and in thus proving the simplicity and ordered regularity of their orbits." Cassirer concludes: In these simple and profound words from Kepler's pamphlet in defense of Tycho Brahe, and in the concrete confirmation they soon received through Kepler's treatise on the movements of Mars, the planets were dethroned as the ancient gods of time and fate, and the general view of time and of the temporal process was transferred from the image-world of the mythical-religious imagination to the exact conceptual world of scientific cognition." Nevertheless, Kepler believed that the planets, including the sun and earth, have souls, and are alive. A dissolution of this apparent discrepancy between Cassirer's analysis and Kepler's belief follows from the doctrine, espoused by Kepler, that the souls of planets are guided not by caprice or will or chance, but by laws or "hidden rules". Simon admirably and enthusiastically summarizes the outlook of Kepler: "Nothing is left to chance in this world which forms a perfectly coherent system. It is through and through crossed by a tightly woven network of proportions which are the mark of the worker on his work; which are thus the enchantment by which he gives to himself the spectacle of his own glory. The cosmic harmonies make up the true hymn which the psalmist in his prescience lent to the universe, and which one beautiful day an inspired mathematician deciphered in the course of his astronomical contemplation Mathematical ratios are then the privileged and universal language which the stars, people and God simultaneously speak and understand. This is not astonishing since 'geometry before the birth of things was co-eternal with the divine spirit .... '"325 14. "An immense play of mirrors thus exists in an immemorial way between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the creation and the creature, the creation and the Creator, the
323 Simon, ibid., p. 61-63.

324 Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 1953- 1957, translation by Ralph Manheim of Die Philosophie der Symbolischen Formen, 1923 -1929, v. 2 (1955, 1925), p. 139-140. 325Johannes Kepler, quoted by Simon from Harmonice mundi , IV, 1.


creature and the Creator; and it is made possible by mathematics, because this is at the same time their common essence and their common reason. It is the only natural language, because it is the only one in which Nature expresses itself. And it is necessary to take literally this idea of expression: Nature is not only full of meaning, but full of a meaning which is not hidden, which on the contrary announces itself openly in the spectacle of the heavens each hour, each day, provided one knows the language in which it manifests itself. Far from being contingent like the languages of man, mathematics conceals and reveals the secret necessity of things. Because of this, it is a sacred although natural language, or rather sacred because natural; perhaps even the only truly sacred language, because it is the only one which escapes from the cultural arbitrariness of the sign." 15. "Thus the heavens," Simon continues, "by the equilibrium of their proportions and the harmony of their motions, write a revelation as important and as worthy of confidence as that of the Bible. God speaks there his own language rather than putting himself within reach of man; and whoever knows how to understand it, has no need of any interpretation or any tradition to penetrate their [the heavens'] secret perfection. Far from being a profane curiosity, the desire to probe the Mystery of the World arises from religious concern and religious quest; and when little by little its secrets reveal themselves, the meditation which they inspire led to prayer and the actions of grace. Nothing is more foreign to the spirit of Kepler than to place, as we do today, astronomy among the positive sciences stripped of all mystical connotation; on the contrary, it is for him a science of the sacred." 16. One understands better by means of this, as Simon observes, Kepler's attitude with regard to astrology. Simon says: "For its status had nothing in common with what we confer on it today, we who have a tendency to place it rather in the sphere of magico-religious productions. What he reproaches the popular astrology of his time for is its lending to Nature, and therefore to God, one of the arbitrary languages with which people express their passions, their interests and their anxieties; that is why he criticizes at length the traditional encodings, dominations of the planets, divisions of the zodiac, and above all domifications of the themes by which one has sought to make the world speak according to artificial and naively anthropomorphic symbols. To this art of the charlatan, he opposes the science which results from mathematical knowledge of the harmonies and of the effect of the celestial configurations on terrestrial faculties and human souls, both in their immediate activities and their later developments. It is not in projecting into the world the cares and words of people, but in grasping the causal relations which are established between the sublunary and the supralunary that one can understand the effects of stars on earthly things."326 17. Simon goes on to describe Kepler's aversion to applying astrology to profane activities -- harvests expected, projects under way, ambitions thwarted -- rather than for contemplating the work of the Creator. This was one of Kepler's objections to judicial astrology, that it was a utilitarian and basely positivistic science, which usurped the place of a higher and purer discipline which concerned the sacred. 18. Kepler never gave up hope that astrology could be reformed and made into a genuine science. "No man," he says, "should hold it to be incredible that out of the astrologers'

Géra rd Si m on, ibid. , p. 440 - 442.


foolishness and blasphemies some useful and sacred knowledge may come, that out of the unclean slime may come a little snail or mussel or oyster or eel, all useful nourishments; that out of a big heap of lowly worms may come a silk worm, and lastly that in the evil-smelling dung, a busy hen may find a decent corn, nay, a pearl or a golden corn, if she but searches and scratches long enough." 327 19. Simon says: "We can in no way compare Kepler's intellectual reactions with our own. Unlike us, Kepler could not but take astrology seriously, because if it is the mirror image of astronomy it consequently has the same level of plausibility. Far from being completely resolved, the question of whether astrology was valid was then still quite a pertinent one. Again, unlike us, who would be inclined to associate astrology with magico -religious thought, and astronomy with positivism, for Kepler it is astrology that is the profane utilitarian activity, while astronomy is the science of the sacred, the science of Creation the idea of a language of the World, of a book of Nature, is, as we see, found in all the systems of thought of the time, and reveal a very archaic type of reasoning. With a Kepler, with a Galileo, this language is transformed and becomes mathematical: nothing seems to be changed, but nevertheless everything is about to change." 328 20. The less mystical Francis Bacon also thought that astrology was reclaimable. In the De augmentis scientarum (The Advancement of Learning) (1623), he says: "As for Astrology, it is so full of superstition, that scarce anything sound can be discovered in it. Notwithstanding, I would rather have it purified than altogether rejected." He goes on to speak of a "Sane Astrology", with which one will be able to predict with a great degree of accuracy "floods, droughts, heats, frosts, earthquakes, irruptions of water, eruptions of fire, great winds and rains, the various seasons of the year, plagues, epidemics, diseases, plenty and dearth of grain, wars, seditions, schisms, transmigrations of peoples, and in short of all commotions or greater revolutions of things, natural as well as evil." 329 Cameron goes on to observe that Bacon announces that once the foundations of "Sane Astrology" are established, one will be able to predict such things as what seasons will be especially dangerous for monks and courtiers, or more ominous for scholars than soldiers. The idea of reforming astrology is not new: "So it is with all astrologers (says the Talmud): they see something but do not understand what they see. "3 3 0 21. The physicist Paul Davies says: "Practical science proceeds apace, on the basis that the influence of, say, Jupiter on the motion of a motor car is less than any instrument could conceivably measure. However, when it comes to making observations, it is precisely these minute forces which play the vital role. If it were not for the fact that some influence from Jupiter had a detectable effect we could never know of its existence. The inescapable conclusion is that all observation requires interaction, of some sort. When we see Jupiter, photons of sunlight reflected from atoms in the Jovian atmosphere traverse the Earth's atmosphere and
327 Quoted by Koestler, The Sleepwalkers, 1959, p. 245. 328 Gérard Simon, "Kepler's Astrology: The Direction of a Reform", in Kepler, Four Hundred Years, 1975, edited by Arthur Beer and Peter Beer, p. 447-448. 329 Quoted from Bacon's De augmentis scientarum, 1623, by Don Allen Cameron in The Star- Crossed Renaissance, 1941,p. 152.

Rashi, Commentaries on the Pentateuch, Numbers, quoted in Leo Rosten's Treasury of Jewish Quotations, 1971, p. 106.


impinge on cells in the retina where they dislodge electrons from the atoms therein. This merest brush of a disturbance sets up a tiny electric signal which, when amplified and propagated to the brain, delivers the sensation 'Jupiter'. It follows that, through this chain, our brain cells are linked by electromagnetic forces to the atmosphere of Jupiter. If the chain of interaction is extended by incorporating telescopes, our brains can couple to the surfaces of stars billions of light years away." Interactions are not one-way. 22. Davies continues: "An important feature of all types of interaction is that if one system disturbs another, thereby registering its existence, then there will be an inevitable reaction back on the first system, which in turn disturbs it in order to get any information at all [about a physical system], some sort of influence must pass from object to observer, though its reaction may be utterly negligible for practical purposes. In the case of Jupiter, it would be invisible if it were not for its illumination by sunlight. This same sunlight which, when reflected, stimulates our retinas, also reacts on Jupiter by exerting a tiny pressure on its surface. (Sunlight pressure leads to a noticeable and spectacular effect by producing the tails of comets.) Thus, we do not, strictly, see the 'real' Jupiter, but one disturbed by light pressure. Similar reasoning can be applied to all our observations of the world about us. We can never, even in principle, observe things, only the interaction between things. Nothing can be seen in isolation, for the very act of observation must involve coupling of some sort."331 As far as I know, astrologers do not cast horoscopes for the planets themselves. 23. But what about Kepler's belief that the planets (including the sun and moon) have souls? This too is ancient idea, as is the idea that the universe itself has a soul. In the third section of the second of his Enn ead s, the philosopher Plotinus (205-270 A.D.) begins by ridiculing the idea that the stars _cause_ events to come to pass. Countless myriads of living beings continue to be born, he says. How can one think that the stars can minister to every single one of these people -- to make them famous or obscure, rich or poor, lascivious or chaste? "What kind of life is this for the stars," he says, "how could they possibly handle a task so huge?"

24. Still, Plotinus says, stars do announce the future, evidently taking this to be a fact attested to by experience. How can this happen? Plotinus's answer is that the stars are sig ns, by virtue of the fact that everything is related to everything else. He says: "We may think of the stars as letters perpetually being inscribed on the heavens or inscribed once for all and yet moving as they pursue the other tasks allotted to them: upon these main tasks will follow the quality of signifying, just as the one principle underlying any living unit enables us to reason from member to member, so that for example we may judge of character and even of perils and safeguards by indications in the eyes or in some other part of the body. If these parts of us are members of a whole, so are we: in different ways the one law applies. All teems with symbol; the wise man is the one who in any one thing can read another, a process familiar to all of us in not a few examples of everyday experience. But what is the comprehensive principle of co-ordination? Establish this and we have a reasonable basis for the divination, not only by stars but also by birds and other animals, from which we derive guidance in our varied concerns." 332

331 332

Paul Davies, O t h e r W o r l d s , 1980, p. 56-7. Plotinus, T h e S i x E n n e a d s , translated by Stephen MacKenna, 1921-1930, reprinted 1952, p. 44.


25. Plotinus describes "the comprehensive principle of coordination" as follows: "All things must be joined to one another, not only must there be in each individual part what is well called a single united breath of life but before them, and still more, in the All. One principle must make the universe a single complex living creature, one from all; and just as in individual organisms each member undertakes its own particular task, so the members of the All, each individual one of them, have their individual work to do; this applies even more to the All than to particular organisms, in so far as the members of it are not merely members but wholes, and more important than the members of particular things. Each one goes forth from one single principle and does its own work, but they also co-operate one with another; for they are not cut off from the whole. They act on and are affected by others; one comes up to another, bringing it pain or pleasure. Their going out has nothing random or casual about it. Something else proceeds again from these; and something else in succession from that, according to the order of nature."333 E. R. Dodds says of this passage: "Plotinus wrote an essay to show that while in virtue of the universal _sympatheia_ the stars may indicate the future, they cannot determine it --and when shortly afterwards he died of an unpleasant disease, the astrologers saw in it the vengeance of the offended star-demons." 334

26 James Lovelock expounded a theory of Earth as a living being, regulated by the lives on it. 335 Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan say: "Gaia, the superorganismic system of all life on Earth, hypothetically maintains the composition of the air and the temperature of the planet's surface, regulating conditions for the continuation of life ....................On earth the environment has been made and monitored by life as much as life has been made and influenced by the environment."336 For Plotinus, as for others in antiquity, the whole universe is a living being, although, to be sure, the number of scientific details of certain kinds encompassed in their theories was much smaller than nowadays. 27. Earlier than Plotinus, Plato had said in his Timaeus: "All this, then, was the plan of the god who is for ever [the Demiurge, the Creator] for the god who was sometime to be [the Universe]. According to this plan he made it smooth and uniform, everywhere equidistant from its centre, a body whole and complete, with complete bodies for its parts. And in the centre he set a soul and caused it to extend throughout the whole and further wrapped the body round with soul on the outseide; and so he established one world alone, round and revolving in a circle, solitary but able by means of reason of its excellence to bear itself company, needing no other acquaintance or friend but sufficient to itself. On all these accounts the world which he brought into being was a blessed god."337 28. On the basis of the Timaeus, the Laws and other writings of Plato, Cornford comments: "The visible universe is a living creature, having soul (psyche) in body and reason (nous) in soul. It is called a god in the same sense in which the term is applied to the stars, planets, and Earth --the 'heavenly gods'. All these gods are everlasting, coeval with time itself; though theoretically

Plotinus, translation by A. H. Armstrong of the Enneads, 1966, v. 2, p. 71.


E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety, Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine, 1968, p. 15. 335 James lovelock, Ages of Gaia, A Biography of Our Living Earth, 1988 336 Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, Micro-cosmos, Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our MicrobialAncestors, 1986, p. 265. 337 Plato, Timaeus, translated by Francis Cornford in Plato's Cosmology, 1937, p. 58 of reprint of 1957.


dissoluble, because composite of reason, soul, and body, they will never actually be dissolved. Man is also composed of reason, soul, and body; but his soul will be dissolved back into the elements, and the two lower parts of his soul are also mortal. Only the divine reason in him is imperishable. Thus there is a contrast between macrocosm and microcosm, but also an analogy, which runs all though the discourse. The world itself, like the heavenly gods and man, is divine because it contains the divine element, reason....... There is, then, in the soul and body of the universe a divine Reason analogous to man's; and we shall find that the unchanging movement of its thought is symbolised, or even visibly embodies, in the circular revolutions of the heavenly gods and of the universe as a whole." 338 29. Thus according to Plato, not only is the whole universe alive, but so are Earth, Sun, Moon and the other planets. However, this doctrine is also older than Plato, probably much older. Still, according to Pliny, "Hipparchus can never be sufficiently praised for having better than anyone else proved the kinship of the stars with man and that our souls are part of the heavens." Hipparchus flourished about 160-1 25 B.C.E. He was one of the great astronomers of antiquity. He is credited, among other things, with having discovered the precession of the equinoxes; with having compiled the first catalog of stars using a system of coordinates; with having compiled a table of chords of circles (not the musical kind), thus advancing trigonometry; and with having established a system of latitude and longitude for locating positions on earth. 30. The Stoics too believed that the universe is a living being. They extrapolated their biological theories to the whole cosmos. David Hahm comments: "This procedure rests on the deep conviction that the cosmos is a living animal. This idea cannot be traced to a specific philosophical predecessor, but was a conviction rooted in the consciousness of the Greek people, as well as of other ancient peoples. Though philosophy, especially in the late fourth century, shunned this idea in its literal sense, it could not, or would not, uproot this fundamental outlook from the Greek mind."339 Plato develops the idea in the Timaeus, but treats it as an explanatory myth rather than a scientific theory in the sense, say, of Aristotle. Aristotle himself treats such ideas as kinds of analogy, or metaphor. Some of the Stoics, it appears, took the conception for literal truth: the universe is alive, sensitive, intelligent, and has a material soul. 31. Samuel Angus says: "Because [for Stoics] one spirit pulsated in the whole life of the universe there obtained a mysterious 'sympatheia of the whole,' by means of which man could enter into fellowship with the cosmic process. The soul was a fragment of the celestial fires with which it maintained its kinship and to which it would return. Men are not merely members of one another, but of the whole cosmic order. The world is the image of God and man the image of the world. Man as part of the cosmos is sympathetic with it as a whole This cosmic harmony and universal sympathy were dear to the adherents of astral religion ...... It takes an effort of the imagination fully to realize how this science-religion evoked such exalted feeling and moulded to virtue and beauty the lives of its adherents .... Cosmic emotion was not a torrent

338 339

Francis Cornford, Plato's Cosmology, 1937, p. 3 8-39 of the reprint of 1957. David Hahm, The Origins of Stoic Cosmology, 1977, p. 210.


picturesquely rolling over precipices of ecstasy and exaltation: it was harnessed to moral life. 'The love of heaven makes us heavenly,' was its credo ." 340 32.The Stoics were apt to identify the soul of the universe with God. The Stoic Cornutus says: "Just as we ourselves are controlled by a soul, so the world possesses a soul holding it together, and the soul is designated God, primordially and ever-living and the source of all life." According to the Stoic Marcus Aurelius: "The world is one living organism with one substance and one soul." Cleanthes maintains "there is one soul interpenetrating the whole cosmos, by participation in which we too become endowed with soul." Angus reports that the modern Platonist T. Taylor says: "I confess that I am wholly at a loss to conceive what could induce the moderns to controvert the dogma that the stars and the whole world are animated, as it is an opinion of infinite antiquity, and is friendly to the most unperverted, spontaneous, and accurate conceptions of the human mind. Indeed the rejection of it appears to me to be just as absurd as it would be in a maggot, if it were capable of syllogizing, to infer that man is a machine impelled by some external force when he walks, because it never saw any animated reptile so large." 341 33. Cicero presents arguments of the Stoics for the divinity of the universe, hence for the universe being alive and having a rational soul. This divinity is extended to the stars. Cicero says: "Having thus perceived the divinity of the world, we must also assign the same divinity to the stars, which are formed from the most mobile and the purest part of the aether, and are not compounded of any other element besides; they are of a fiery heat and translucent throughout. Hence they too have the fullest right to be pronounced to be living beings endowed with sensation and intelligence .... Again the consciousness and intelligence of the stars is most clearly evinced by their order and regularity; for regular and rhythmic motion is impossible without design, which contains no trace of causal or accidental variation; now the order and eternal regularity of the constellations indicates neither a process of nature, for it is highly rational, nor chance, for chance loves variation and abhors regularity; it follows therefore that the stars move of their own free-will and because of their intelligence and divinity .... The regularity therefore in the stars, this exact punctuality throughout all eternity notwithstanding the great variety of their courses, is to me incomprehensible without rational intelligence and purpose. And if we observe these attributes in the planets, we cannot fail to enroll even them among the number of gods."342

34. Earlier, Aristotle put it this way: "On all these grounds, therefore, we may infer with confidence that there is something beyond the bodies that are about us on this earth, different and separate from them; and that the superior glory of its nature is proportionate to its distance from this world of ours The reasons why the primary body is eternal and not subject to increase or diminution, but unaging and unalterable and unmodified, will be clear from what has been said to any one who believes in our assumptions. Our theory seems to confirm the phenomena and to be confirmed by them. For all men have some conception of the nature of the gods, and all who believe in the existence of gods at all, whether barbarian or Greek, agree in allotting the highest place to the deity, surely because they suppose that immortal is linked with immortal and
340 Samuel Angus, The Religious Quests of the Graeco -Roman World, A Study in the Historical Background of Early Christianity, 1929, p. 263-264, 270. 341 ibid., p. 264-266. 342 Cicero, De natura deorum, translated by H. Rackham, 1933, p. 161, 163, 175.


regard any other supposition as impossible. If then there is, as there certainly is, anything divine, what we have just said about the primary bodily substance was well said. The mere evidence of the senses is enough to convince us of this, at least with human certainty. For in the whole range of time past, so far as our inherited records reach, no change appears to have taken place either in the whole scheme of the outermost heaven or in any of its proper parts. The name, too, of that body seems to have been handed down right to our own day from our distant ancestors who conceived of it in the fashion we have been expressing. The same ideas, one must believe, recur in men's minds not once or twice but again and again. And so, implying that the primary body is something else beyond earth, fire, air, and water, they gave the highest place the name of aet her, derived from the fact that it 'runs always' for an eternity of time." 343 35. Richard Lemay tells us: "The notion that the whole Universe was one single body animated with a living soul was an essential part of the Platonic tradition of early medieval times, and still received much attention during William of Conches' lifetime." Among the 12th century writers who accepted this theory in some form, besides William of Conches, were Adelard of Bath, Ablard, Thierry of Chartres, Bernard Silvester amd Raymond of Marseilles. Some went so far as to identify the World-Soul with the Holy Ghost. This was one of the opinions which Adelard and William of Conches were forced to recant, as being sacrilegious and heretical, although evidently Raymond of Marseilles and Bernard Silvester held the view unscathed. "Theologians and mystics," Lemay says, are always opposed in principle to any non-theological or non-mystical Weltan schauun g", and William of Thierry's attacks on William of Conches are said by Lemay to have "opened an important phase of the conflict of Natural Philosophy against Theology which 34 4 raged during the entire course of Scholasticism in the next three or four centuries."

36. All of these authors were strongly influenced by a work of the Arabian astrologer Abu Ma'shar (Albumasar) written in the 9th century C.E. in Baghdad, and translated into Latin in the 12th century by European scholars. For Abu Ma'shar, the sky and planets are alive and govern the world below. Abu Ma'shar, in turn, based his theory of animation of the planets and the existence on certain works of Aristotle. For William of Conches, the animation of the sky and planets is explained as a result of an act of God's Intelligence and Will, but for Abu Ma'shar, it is a consequence of observed fact. Raymond of Marseilles, in the spirit of Aristotle, argued that the planets move by themselves, what moves by itself must be alive, hence the planets are alive. Even in William of Conches' work, there is a tendency toward a more physical and astrological interpretation of the World-Soul, even an identification of it with our Sun, although William of Conches himself didn't accept this identification. More radical was the view of Raymond of Marseilles. Lemay says: "To him the divine vigor infused in the World-Soul and animating the whole Universe resided principally in the heavenly bodies. Astrology thus received a divine


Aristotle, De caelo (Peri ouranos, On the Heavens), translated by J. L. Stocks, 269b12-16, 270b1-23.

344 Richard Lemay, Abu Ma 'shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century, The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology, 1962, p. 188, 193-194. Lemay recommends for a good account of this conflict the work of Andrew D. White, _A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1896.


sanction and an edifying character on which Raymond of Marseilles tarries with confidence and a sense of satisfaction."345 37. Such ideas were also prevalent among certain writers during the European Renaissance, who had been inspired by the works of Plato, the Stoics, Plotinus, the Hermeticists, the Kabbalists, and such medieval writers as Abu Ma'shar and Raymond of Marseilles. For example, Wayne Shumaker says that for Marsilio Ficino, "the whole world is in fact alive and filled with soul."346 Also, the Hermeticists tell us again and again that the whole world is alive. From the Hermetic work Asclepius: "If therefore the world is always a living animal -- was, and is, and will be -- nothing in the world is mortal. Since every single part, such as it is, is always living and is in a world which is always one and always a living animal, there is no place in the world for death."347 38. Today, of course, the stars are considered by physicists and astronomers to be no more alive than, say, hydrogen atoms or electrons (however alive they may be). Correspondingly, while there is no lack today of astrologers and people who consult them, few astronomers now believe there is anything worthwhile in astrology. Here are the concluding words of a book on astrology by two astronomers (not astrologers!): "We suspect the reasons for the current return to astrology, as well as other occult systems, range from simple curiosity to a desperate groping for miracle solutions so the real problems of life and society may be avoided. Any such massive rejection of rationality stemming from ignorance of the facts, however, should be a matter of grave concern. A scan of human history reveals that when a society begins to embrace such irrational and fatalistic views, the end is close at hand. ... [We] propose that the rise of astrology in a culture does not cause that culture's undoing, but rather is a sign or symptom of the conditions in a culture which betrays its inner weakness at that moment in history. So it was with classical Greece, imperial Rome, and medieval Christianity. Ironically, it is perhaps the ultimate astrological synchronicity of all, and, in light of the current astrological renaissance in the West, represents a most chilling correspondence indeed. There was once a time in the younger and more carefree days of human history when we could afford the luxury of an astrological dalliance. But now, faced with the awesome powers and problems of our technological adulthood, we can afford it no longer."348

39. Nancy Reagan, wife of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, says in her memoirs, concerning her attachment to astrology: "I should say, too, that the idea of consulting an astrologer never struck me as particularly strange. I used to look at my horoscope every morning as I read the paper, although fifteen minutes later I usually forgot what it said. And although I'm far from a true believer, I do think there are certain characteristics that tend to be true of individuals born under a particular sign I was born on July 6, which makes me a Cancer. It is often said that people born under the sign of Cancer are above all homemakers and nesters, which is exactly how I would define myself. Cancers also tend to be intuitive, vulnerable,

Lemay, ibid., p. 149- 157, 188 -195.


Marsilio Ficino, De vita coelitus comparanda (Guiding One's Life by the Stars, or perhaps On Obtaining Life from the Heavens), 1489. 347 Wayne Shumaker, The Occult Sciences in the Renaissance, A Study in Intellectual Patterns, 1972, p. 122 and 225. 348 Rober B. Culver and Philip A. Ianna, The Gemini Syndrome, Star Wars of the Oldest Kind, 1979.


sensitive, and fearful of ridicule -- all, of which, like it or not, I am. The Cancer symbol is the crab shell! Cancers often present a hard exterior to the world. When they're hurt, Cancers respond by withdrawing into themselves. That's me, all right."349 Of course, all of these are common human characteristics, not confined to people born under a particular sign of the zodiac. 40. We may compare this with the description given by E. R. Dodds: "The real vogue of astrology appears to have begun in the second century B.C Why did it occur then and not sooner? The idea was by then no novelty, and the intellectual ground for its reception had long been prepared in the astral theology which was taught alike by Platonists, Aristotelians, and Stoics, though Epicurus warned the world of its dangers. One may guess that its spread was favoured by political conditions: in the troubled half-century that preceded the Roman conquest of Greece it was particularly important to know what was going to happen. One may guess also that the Babylonian Greek who at this time occupied the Chair of Zeno [the Stoic] encouraged a sort of "trahison des clercs" (the Stoa had already used its influence to kill the heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus which, if accepted, would have upset the foundations of astrology and of Stoic religion). But behind such immediate causes we may perhaps suspect something deeper and less conscious: for a century of more the individual had been face to face with his own intellectual freedom, and not he turned tail and bolted from the horrid prospect -- better the rigid determinism of the astrological Fate than that terrifying burden of daily responsibility. Rational men like Panaetius and Cicero tried to check the retreat by argument, as Plotinus was to do later, but without perceptible effect; certain motives are beyond the reach of argument." 350 This brings to mind this quip: "When asked why he doesn't believe in astrology, the logician Raymond Smullyan responds that he's a Gemini, and Geminis never believe in astrology." 351

41. Of course, we still have defenders of astrology. For example, Rupert Gleadow says: "Usually astrology is thought by astronomers to be a delusion, but obviously it is not possible to recount the history of a subject while affecting towards it an attitude of superior disbelief. It will be necessary therefore to assume that the claims of both astronomy and astrology deserve to be taken seriouslyThe study of the future is a perfectly normal human practice, and has been almost universal on earth. Only the current fashion for materialism has decreed that predictions of the future must be impossible It is argued that a man cannot 'know' the future because it has not yet happened. This may appear to be good logic, yet the trend of the future is often regrettably plain. It is sometimes quite easy to foresee the future, without needing to call on any special faculties [A] possible explanation of how there could be a correspondence between events in the zodiac and events on earth might be 'synchronicity'. By this word, coined by C. G. Jung, is meant that every event -- in so far as it is produced not by one urgently over-riding force, but by various approximately equal but not quite constant or calculable forces -- is characteristic of the moment at which it occurs and of the interacting forces then in play." 352

42 . Underlying a rejection of astrology, there is a fundamental historical question we have already touched on. If astrology is a farrago of mistakes and nonsense, how is that some people of considerable intelligence (along with many not so gifted) have believed in it fo r mo re than
Nancy Reagan, My Turn, The Memoirs of Nancy Reagan, 1989, with William Novak, p. 50. E. R. Dodds, Greeks and the Irrational, 1951, p. 245-246. 3 5 1 Reported by John Paulos in his book Innumeracy 1988, p. 49. 352 Rupert Gleadow, Origin of the Zodiac, 1969, p. 15, 21,24.



2000 years (or maybe more than 4000, starting from omen astrology), or at least thought there's

something in it if we could only find out what that something is? Pico della Mirandola, writing in 1495, offered the following explanation: "How many people are immersed in a theory, are used to reducing everything to it, and not because of a desire to explain everything by it, but because things really seem like that to them. What happens to them is like someone who walks immersed in snow and to whom everything ends up appearing white....... like someone who loves in vain and sees the face of his beloved in everything ....... So he who is a theologian, and nothing but a theologian, takes everything back to divine causes; he who is a doctor takes everything back to corporal states, the physician [physicist?] to the natural principles of things, the mathematician to numbers and figures, like the Pythagoreans. In the same way, as the Chaldeans were entirely occupied with the measurement of celestial movements and the observation of the positions of the stars ... all things were stars to them, and they willingly took everything back to the stars." 353 43. Part of the force behind astrology stems from the astral religion which developed in antiquity, especially on the basis of works of Plato. Walter Burkert maintains that in Plato's later work, after the Repub lic, a double change can be detected. There is a strain of logical selfcriticism which shakes the foundations of the theory of ideas. There is also a turning toward nature and natural philosophy. From this change there developed a formative force in the history of religion. The religion of transcendence finds a complement in the perceivable world, in visible gods. This holds for the cosmos as a whole, and especially for the stars. The cosmos, according to the later Plato, obeys unchangeable intelligible laws that are mathematically formulated. 44. Two bold conclusions resulted, says Burkert. First, the cosmos is eternal, since in many centuries of observation no change has been detected. Nor do the mathematical laws admit change. The old cosmogonic hypothesis that the cosmos arose at some time and will decay at some time in the future must be false. Secondly, mathematically exact movements are rational, hence the cosmos is rational. In the La ws the Athenian who speaks for Plato himself asserts that he learned this "not as a young man nor a long time ago." Plato had earlier criticized the system of Anaxagoras on the grounds that although Anaxagoras introduced n ou s intelligence) as an agent which moves the cosmos, he embraced a mindless materialism in all the details. But later natural philosophy gained an intellectual, mathematical dimension in Plato's work. Thus natural philosophy enters into a surprising alliance with piety. The concept of the soul which had previously been confined to the individual, as the subject of knowledge and moral decisions, received a new, cosmic status. The movement of the cosmos became of a psychic nature. Soul is defined in a general way as that which moves itself. The living are distinguished by their ability to move themselves, in contrast to what is dead and without souls. Soul as that which moves itself is primary in relation to all bodies which are moved by something else. This holds for the whole cosmos as well as for an individual's mortal body.

45. Plato in the La ws repeatedly emphasizes this important turn in the history of philosophy, says Burkert. Plato says: "The situation has been entirely reversed since the days when thinkers thought of the stars as without souls. Wonder, though, was awakened even then,
Quoted by Eugenio Garin in Astrology in the Renaissance, 1983, p. 89, translation ofLo Zodiaco della Vita, 1976.


and what now really holds was suspected by those who embarked on exactness: that in no way could the stars as soulless things keep so precisely to marvelous calculations, if they did not possess intelligence. Some even then were bold enough to venture this very proposition and they said that it was nous that had ordained everything in the sky. But these very men were deceived about the nature of the soul, namely that it is older than the bodies; they imagined it as younger and thus so to speak ruined everything, nay even more themselves. But now, as we have said, the situation is entirely reversed. It is no longer possible that any single mortal man will be godfearing for long if he has not grasped these two principles mentioned, that the soul is the oldest of everything which participates in coming-to-be (and that it is immortal, and that it rules over all bodies), and moreover (secondly) he must grasp, as has now been said many times, the intelligence of being which is in the stars, as mentioned, and in addition also the necessary preliminary mathematical sciences." 46. Thus, says Burkert, astronomy became the foundation of religion (shades of Charles Dupuis!). The Epinomis of Philippos of Opus (often attributed to Plato) expounded this even more energetically. It takes seriously what is already hinted at in the Laws, the stars have claim to a real cult with sacrifices, prayers, and festivals. The most powerful account of the new philosophical world view, fundamental to all subsequent cosmos piety, had been presented earlier by Plato in his Timaeus. This dialogue concerning the Universe, in which the spokesman is no longer Socrates but a fictitious Pythagorean from southern Italy, develops into a hymn on the animated, divine cosmos. Burkert says that for the later Plato: "The cosmos created after the model of the 'perfect living being' is itself a living being with soul and mind. Its soul, the 'world soul', is a harmony of mathematical proportions which are manifested in the movements of the stars. The stars are 'instruments of time'. Time itself, chronos, arose with the heavens in the image of ungenerated, timeless eternity, aion. The visible cosmos is perfect insofar as something corporeal can attain perfection. A second principle of necessity, the 'nurse of coming-to -be', also called space, is a determining agent in all that is corporeal .... Within this comprehensive god further visible gods are created in accordance with the perfect model, the stars in the heavens. The fixed stars are divine living beings which move for ever in the same way in the same place .... The earth around which they revolve is 'the first and oldest goddess within the heaven' In man himself Nous, the power of intellectual comprehension, is planted as something divine, a daimon in man .... The daimon's purpose is 'to direct us upward from earth to kinship with heaven': the upright posture distinguishes man, pointing him upwards; man is rooted in heaven, a 'plant of heaven' on earth."

47. "Returning to metempsychosis," Burkert continues, "it is said that each soul has its own star from which it has come and to which it will return." In the Timaeus, Plato says that the Demiurge created human souls "equal in number to the stars and assigned each soul to a star." The number of all souls remains constant. The Nous in the world stands against necessity, ananke; it can rationally persuade necessity but not annihilate it. In the Laws, however, an evil world soul appears which is engaged in an eternal struggle with the good world soul. "Since then," Burkert says, "monistic and dualistic tendencies have been competing with each other in Platonism. For all this, the Platonic project offers so much that is evident and intuitive that its enormous impact is not surprising. Never before had gods been presented in such manifest clarity .... Man is at home in a world which is the best possible; rigorous science and religious exaltation are the same. Cosmic religion and star religion are henceforth, especially in the


Hellenistic Age, the dominant form of enlightened piety ...... The Stoics in particular were responsible for carrying this out in a detailed way; many of their equations became the common property of all educated people down to the age of the Baroque: Zeus is the sky, Apollo the sun, Artemis the moon, Demeter the earth. The planets, which are less obvious to the layman, failed to attain a similar popularity; yet astrology, based on the calculation of their periods, became from the Late Hellenistic period onwards, a dominant spiritual force as a new kind of divination with scientific appeal. What was truly problematic about the success of cosmic religion, its connection with a specific stage of natural science that would later be superseded, led to an explosion only some two thousand years after Plato."354 48. Franz Strunz has written eloquently of the place of astrology and alchemy in human culture. Their activities are grounded in a religiously mystic attitude, and in them are hidden "the desire for a better world and the child's dream of the happiness of all mankind." In former times, especially in the Hellenistic era, astrology was astral or cosmic religion, and it encompassed what we now call astronomy, astrophysics, meteorology and geophysics. "It rules astronomy, it is not its maidservant." It permeated the forerunners of anthropology, medicine and chemistry, as well as many religious views. In those times, Strunk maintains, astrology, alchemy and mysticism were bound together and can only be understood as an organic whole. "Empirical astrology and alchemy are mysticism become practice and technology, although each imagines for itself world pictures or philosophical myths..." 49. Mysticism is not a religion in itself, but a mode of religious life. It is characteristic of mystic feeling that it flows into the measurelessness and boundlessness of the irrational and incomprehensible, where language and concepts become unsayable and ungraspable. Mystics consider with repugnance their earthly existence and their connections with the world and its reality. They consider our times on earth to consist of difficult, burdensome passages to the heights, journeys through death in order to arrive at life. Every mystic harbors a denial of the reality of this world, which is apt to foster a disconsolate skepticism and pessimism about it. It is in a mystic mode, says Strunk, that astrologers and alchemists customarily worked. "They do not work dispassionately toward pure knowledge, but obtain for themselves spiritual stability and irrationally established categories for making judgments such as thrive only in the atmosphere of the mystic .... Astrologers and alchemists want a supernatural world which does not exist." In a similar way, throughout the history of the natural sciences, up to our own day, we find an alternation of mythologizing with rational criticism, and an antagonism between revelation and experience permeating the natural sciences. "This is the key," Strunz says, "to an understanding of the history of human error. The spiritual power of sham miracles has always been greater than the dispassionate art of conceptual thought and proof, that leads men to a knowledge of things." 355

50. The historian Franz Cumont states beautifully how astrology came to enchant so many people in later antiquity: "Astral divination was often a visionary's discipline. The theology on which it rests has as a fundamental doctrine the idea of a kinship of a soul which warms and
354 Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985, p. 325-329, translation by John Raffan of Griechische Religion der archaischen und klassischen Epoche, 1977. 355 Franz Strunz, Astrologie, Alchemie, Mystik, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, 1928, p. 11, 12, 14, 21, 321-322, and generally, p. 287-328.


vivifies our mortal bodies with the eternal fires which illuminate the heavens. This conception, which, in all probability, was already held by the "Chaldeans", became that of their successors and, in the 2nd century B.C., found in Hipparchus a convinced defender. Only this affinity with the stars permits the human spirit, an ignited essence descended from the ether, to know the nature of the radiant beings from which he has issued. The contemplation of the heavens becomes therefore a communion. Leaving its material envelope, reason raises itself to the choir of the sidereal gods and receives from them a revelation of their character and the causes of their harmonious movements. It becomes the confidant of the stellar powers, who teach him the cosmic phenomena, the course and duration of their revolutions, which rule with numbers endowed with a suitable power .... But, above all, these mystics of the astral religion, who have divined the secrets of the celestial spheres, acquire the power to dissipate the obscurity of the future; they arrive at "the science of future things," they prophesy events to come, as if they were gods. Astrology flatters itself that it can foresee the phenomena of nature and the careers of humans with the same certainty as the recurrence of eclipses. This learned divination is for its adepts the queen of the sciences .... " 356

51. This doesn't mean that Cumont thinks that the astrologers' theories were verified, or verifiable. In another of his books, he says: "There is something tragic in this ceaseless attempt of man to penetrate the mysteries of the future, in this obstinate struggle of his faculties to lay hold on knowledge which evades his probe, and to satisfy his insatiable desire to foresee his destiny. The birth and evolution of astrology, that desperate error on which the intellectual labors of countless generations were spent, seems like the bitterest of disillusions. By establishing the unchangeable character of the celestial revolutions the Chaldeans imagined that they understood the mechanism of the universe, and had discovered the actual laws of life. The ancient beliefs in the influence of the stars upon the earth were concentrated into dogmas of absolute rigidity. But these dogmas were frequently contradicted by experience, which ought to have confirmed them. Unable to bring themselves to deny the influence of the divine stars on the affairs of this world, they invented new methods for the better determination of this influence, they complicated by irrelevant data the problem, of which the solution had proved false, and thus there was piled up, little by little in the course of ages a monstrous collection of complicated and often contradictory doctrines, which perplex the reason, and whose audacious unsubstantiality will remain a perpetual subject of astonishment. We should be confounded at the spectacle of the human mind losing itself so long in the maze of these errors, did we not know how medicine, physics, and chemistry have slowly groped their way before becoming experimental sciences, and what prolonged exertions they have had to make in order to free themselves from the tenacious grasp of old 357 superstitions".

52. Cumont speaks of our souls as ignited essences which have descended from the ether, and of this beautiful tradition (which was casually passed on to me by my mother when I was a child, on an occasion of her sweeping the living room rug): "The Pythagoreans already believed that the glittering particles of dust which danced ceaselessly in a sunbeam, were souls descending from the ether, borne on the wings of light. They added that this beam, passing though the air and through water down to its depths, gave life to all things on earth. This idea persisted under the Empire in the theology of the mysteries. Souls descended upon the earth, and

Franz Cumont, L'Égypt des Astrologues, 1937, p.156- 8. Franz Cumont, Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and Romans, 1912, reprinted 1960, p. xiv.


reascended after death toward the sky, thanks to the rays of the sun which served as the means of transport." 358 And Cumont says elsewhere "... according to the popular ideas of the ancients, man lives constantly surrounded by legions of spirits moving around him, tenuous demons or aerial souls, whose favor he can win over and whose enmity he should dread. One finds similar beliefs among all the Aryan people, in particular among the Hindus and Persians, and even among those of other races, such as the Semites. In our day still, the desert Bedouins consider that a host of djinns swarm and prowl around them, which intervene in the smallest incidents of their daily life and whose malignity must be disarmed by means of offerings." 359 Cumont closes his book L'Égypt des Astrologues (p. 206) by quoting an epigram often attributed to Ptolemy himself. It is said by Neugebauer3 60 to have followed the table of contents of copies of the Almagest from at least the 3rd century A.D. on. It can also be found in the collection of ancient Greek poems, sayings, and anecdotes known as the Greek Anthology. Neugebauer’s translation from the Greek runs:

Well do I know I am mortal, a creature of one day. But if my mind follows the winding path of the stars, Then my feet no longer rest on earth, but standing by Zeus himself, I take my fill of ambrosia, the divine dish.

35 8 359

Cumont, ibid., p. 103. Franz Cumont, Lux Perpetua, 1949, p. 79 Otto Neugebauer, A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, Part Two, 1975, p. 835.



Chapter 6. Earlier Christians and Astrology 1. Where do we go when we die? Wilhelm Gundel remarks in a chapter called "The Firmament as the Eternal Home of Mankind" that numerous myths about the stars support the idea that stars once were persons, and that everyone will someday go to heaven -- to an astronomical, not a metaphorical or theological heaven. He relates, for example, a myth of an unspecified African group. Once upon a time God forbade people to go up to heaven. Nevertheless some people again climbed up to heaven from a high mountain. Thereupon God made the mountain sink so they couldn't return. Now they lead eternal lives as star people. Thus the heavens are filled with former people, or creatures like people, but for later persons the way up to heaven is forever cut off. Gundel remarks also on the German folk belief that when a child dies, God makes a new star, and observes that Hellenistic astrologers repeatedly said that those who believed in their teachings wholeheartedly would become immortal after their earthly deaths, and live among the star gods.361 2. And where did the angels come from? In the New Bible Dictionary 362 , under the entry "Angel" we find the blunt statement that man's early thinking associated angels with stars. St. Thomas Aquinas dealt at length with doctrines about the motions and nature of the planets, and "throughout his many writings on these topics (Litt gives more than a hundred and thirty passages on celestial influence alone) his angelology is there, waiting in the wings, directing his thoughts, it seems to me." North remarks that while Aquinas's theories were rational and systematic, they were not, to some, in the best tradition of natural philosophy. "But this," North says, "is just another way of saying that one prefers light rays to angels."363

3. The notion of angels was for some asso ciated with the idea that all stars are of the same kind, and for some Jews and Christians, the stars are "angels of light" (Lichtengel), or, if the stars are not themselves angels, they are governed by angels. 364 Angels appear in the vision of Enoch, in which Enoch sees "the sons of angels step into flames of fire", their robes white and shining like snow. We read in the New Bible Dictionary that Enoch was the son of Jared and father of Methuselah, and a man of outstanding sanctity who enjoyed close fellowship with God. He became a popular figure in the period between the end of Old Testament prophecy and the coming of Jesus. It appears that the legend of Enoch was elaborated in the Babylonian diaspora as a counterpart to the antediluvian sages of Mesopotamian legend. "So Enoch became the initiator of the art of writing 365, and the first wise man, who received heavenly revelations of the secrets of the universe and transmitted them in writing to later generations. In the earlier tradition his scientific wisdom is prominent, acquired on journeys through the heavens with angelic guides, and including astronomical, cosmographical and meteorological lore, as well as the solar calendar used at Qumran. He was also God's prophet against the fallen angels. Later tradition (2nd century B.C.E.) emphasizes his ethical teaching and especially his apocalyptic revelations of the course of world history, down to the last judgment. In the Similitudes
361 Wilhelm Gundel, Sternglaube, Sternreligion und Sternorakel, 1959, p. 25-26.

362 1982, edited by J. D. Douglas et al. 363 J. D. North, "Medieval Concepts of Celestial Influence: A Survey", in Astrology, Science and Society, Historical Essays, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 13, 14; the work by T. Litt is Les Corps célestes dans l'univers de Thomas d'Aquin, 1963. 364 Gundel, ibid., p. 48. 3 6 5 Why is writing so often associated with the stars in ancient times?


(1 Enoch 37-71) he is identified with the Messianic Son of Man (71:14-17), and some later Jewish traditions identified him with the nearly divine figure Metatron... Early Christian apocalyptic writings frequently expect his return with Elijah before the End." 366 4. In the apocryphal scripture Ecclesiasticus, Enoch is mentioned in Chapter 44, the one which begins "Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us." Charles M. Laymon gives a conjectural reconstruction367 : "Few like Enoch have been created on earth, an example of knowledge to all generations. He walked with the Lord, and also he was taken up from the earth." In the New Testament, in Hebrews 11:5, we have: "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him." Genesis 5:21-24 has: "When Enoch had lived sixty-five years he became the father of Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." 368 365 days = 1 year, 365 years =? 5. Gundel, in describing the structure of the Paradiso of Dante's Divine Comedy remarks that in the European Middle Ages, Dante (1265-1321) above all made use of the residence of men's souls in the stars. Each of Dante's planets is a paradise of its own. The souls in each planet praise God and sing songs honoring the Virgin Mary. Pure light and flawless brilliance make up the nature of the souls dwelling in the stars. Their substance is described as being like shining cloud, but it is much thicker than cloud, and hard and polished like diamond. The souls are clothed in brilliant raiment, their faces shine radiantly, with the colors of the planets. Thus the souls on the Sun are like burning suns, and on Mars like rubies in which flaming sunbeams glow. In the Paradiso, Dante travels to the Empyrean realm through 9 spheres or heavens: the 7 planetary heavens, the heaven of the fixed stars containing the souls of the saints, and the primum mobile, the first moving heaven, containing the angels. 6. Gundel observes that prayers to the sun, moon and stars are found in the pyramid texts of the 3rd millenium before Christ, and are found in coffin and temple texts through the following millenia up to the end of antiquity. Probably prayers to heaven -- physical heaven, to start with - were among the earliest of prayers, and they are, of course, still to be found among Christians, as well as the members of many other religions. Moreover, the boundary between prayers and appeals for intercession to deities, on the one hand, and magical charms or incantations to spirits, on the other, is sometimes indistinct. 369 7. In these and other ways Christianity shows aspects of astral religion. Still, many Christians have been opposed to astrolatry and astrology from early on. One reason for this is that it can be considered to be forbidden by Scripture. In Genesis 1.14-18, we find: "And God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.' And it was so. And God made the two
366 New Bible Dictionary, 1982, under "Enoch".

367 This may be displaced from Chapter 49. The reconstruction is given on p. 575 of the Interpreter's OneVolume Commentary on the Bible, 1971, edited by Charles M. Laymon. I have slightly altered this quotation. 368 Revised Standard Version. 3 6 9 Gundel, ibid., p. 39, 55.


great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness."370 8. Bernhard Anderson, remarks on this passage: "The sun, moon, and stars are not divine powers that control man's destiny as was believed in antiquity, but are only lights. Implicitly worship of the heavenly host is forbidden."371 Indeed, we find explicit condemnation of this practice in Deuteronomy 4, 2, Kings 23, Jeremiah 8, and Zephaniah 1. In Deuteronomy 4.19, we read: "And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." This might be interpreted as forbidding both astrology and astronomy, in the modern senses of these words. Strictly speaking, it appears to forbid worship of celestial objects. One might use them for navigation, or to predict seasonal changes or individual destinies, for example, without worshiping them, unless one considers an intense devotion to the study of heavenly bodies for any purpose whatever a form of worship. 9. In the Bible, host of heaven may refer to celestial bodies, or to angelic beings. M. T. Fermer writes: "This phrase ... occurs about 15 times, in most cases implying the object of heathen worship (Dt. 4:19, etc.). The two meanings 'celestial bodies' and 'angelic beings' are inextricably intertwined No doubt to the Hebrew mind the distinction was superficial, and the celestial bodies were thought to be closely associated with heavenly beings ....... The Bible certainly suggests that angels of different ranks have charge of individuals, and of nations; no doubt in the light of modern cosmology this concept, if retained at all (as biblically it must be), ought properly to be extended, as the dual sense of the phrase 'host of heaven' suggests, to the oversight of the elements of the physical universe -- planets, stars and nebulae." Fermer goes on to say that the phrase Lord of hosts is used nearly 300 times: "It is a title of might and power, used frequently in a military or apocalyptic context .... It is thought by some to have arisen as a title of God associated with his lordship over the 'host' of Israel; but its usage, especially in the prophets, clearly implies a relationship to the 'host of heaven' in its angelic sense, and this could well be the original connotation."372

10. The reason given for not worshiping the stars in Deuteronomy 4.19 is that they aren't particular enough. One must worship the god of Israel, and not objects which belong to everyone. The next verse in Deuteronomy (4.20) reads: "But the Lord has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own possession, as at this day." Deuteronomy 17.2-5 prescribes strong punishment for sun, moon and star worship: "If there is found among you, within any of your towns which the Lord your God gives you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it; then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abominable thing has been done in

Revised Standard Version. Comment in the New OxfordAnnotated Bible (1973), p. 2. M. T. Fermer, article "host, host of heaven" in New Bible Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1982, edited by J. D. Douglas, et





Israel, then you shall bring forth to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones." 11. In 2 Kings 21:1-3, we are told about a phase in the struggle of the Jews to replace earlier religions and to resist imposition of alien religions. Manasseh became king of Judah when he was 12 and reigned for 55 years: "And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Ba'al, and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them." At which the Lord said by way of his prophets: "I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such evil that the ears of every one who hears of it will tingle ... and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down."(2 Kings 21:12-13). 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 adds that Manasseh prayed to the Lord, "and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers." God received his plea, and restored him to Jerusalem after a captivity in Babylon. "Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God." But Amon, the son of Manasseh, did the same as his father, and was killed by his servants. (2 Kings 21:19-26, 22:1-22; Chronicles 33:21-25, 34:1-2). The people of Judah killed the conspirators, and made Josiah, the son of Amon, king. Josiah "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord", and turned back to Yahweh.

12. In 2 Kings 23.4-5, we read that Josiah burned "all the vessels made for Ba'al, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven" and "deposed the idolatrous priests "who burned incense to Ba'al, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of heavens." Jeremiah 8.12 has: "At that time, says the Lord, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its princes, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs; and they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and they have sought and worshiped; and they shall not be gathered or buried; they shall be as dung on the surface of the ground." In the book of the prophet Zephaniah, doom is proclaimed for Judah, and in Zephaniah 1.2,5, we read: "I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth," says the Lord", and among the priests to be destroyed are "those who bow down on the roofs to the host of the heavens." These condemnations of astral religion seem to be made chiefly on behalf of eliminating competing gods, or at any rate competing priests and kings. 13. It appears that there was a migration of Hebrews from the north, perhaps from Palestine or the Syrian desert, to southern Arabia in the first millenium B.C. or maybe much earlier. This is the region now called Yemen, of which there are at present two separate political entities. During the first millenium, this region maintained a considerable trade in incense and spices. According to one tradition, the Queen of Sheba came from a section of this region called Saba. The people of this civilization were known as the Sabaeans, Minaeans, Qatabaneans and Hadramauteans. 14. "The evidence goes to prove," says James Montgomery, "that the ruling classes which made the South-Arabian civilization ca me from the north. There the Semitic genius produced in a land of unique natural possibilities an artificial civilization that compares with the civilization of Babylonia, only far more wholly Semitic, for in Babylonia the Semites built upon the alien


Sumerian civilization." The religion of this pre-Islamic culture was polytheistic. The gods, or els, were similar to the baals of Canaan. Pre-eminent among the gods was "a definite astral triad of highest deities", consisting of "Moon, Sun, and Morning (or Evening) Star, a family group of Father, Mother, and Son corresponding to the Babylonian trinity, Shamash, Sin, Ishtar." 373 15. What this "pure" Semitic religion of southern Arabia has do with religions further north is hard to say. There has been much progress in archeological research in this region since Montgomery wrote in 1934, but this hasn't resulted in much light being shed on the religious practices of this culture. The southern religion may have been related to that of the Canaanites of the Bible, who preceded the Israelites in Palestine. It may be that in some ways the Canaanite religion was a forerunner of the Hebrew religion. John Romer observes: "Just as the faith of biblical Israel was housed inside the traditional architecture of [Bronze Age] Canaan so some of the Old 374 Testaments's oldest passages, its liturgy and Psalms are also rooted in Canaanite literature." We may speculate that the astral component of Canaanite religion to which the Hebrews were so opposed was similar to that of the Semites of southern Arabia. Again, the correspondence of the the south Arabian trinity with that of the Babylonians suggests a link with ancient Mesopotamian religions. For our purposes, we need not involve ourselves in the intricate and frustrating history and pre-history of Palestine and Arabia. It is sufficient to know that there was a potent astral religion throughout the "Old Testament" regions before Israel became a nation.

1 6 . Theodore Wedel characterizes early and medieval Christian attitudes toward prediction by natural means in this way: "The Christians maintained, in general, that all divinatory arts, and, above all, astrology, were inventions of the devil, and could be carried on only by the aid of demons. This theory arose early, and remained throughout the Middle Ages the argument of last resort .... It was an easy saving of argument, therefore, to admit at the outset the possibility of astrological prediction, and, at the same time, to prohibit its use by asserting that it could only be accomplished through diabolic aid. But danger lurked in pushing this theory too far; for how could even demons read the future in the stars unless it was written there? 3 7 5

17. The early Christian theologian Origen was opposed to the art of casting horoscopes, and to the theory of the magnus annus, according to which, when the celestial bodies all return to their original positions after the lapse of some thousands of years, history will begin to repeat itself and the same events will occur and the same persons live over again. Both of these views were attributed to Celsus by Origen in his Contra Celsum (1st half of 3rd century C.E.). Origen rejects them on the grounds that to admit their truth is to annihilate free will. But, as Thorndike says, Origen is far from having freed himself from astrological attitudes toward the stars, and still shows vestiges of the pagan tendency to worship them as divinities. He grants reasoning faculties and a certain amount of prophetic powerr to the stars, but refuse to permit worship of them. Rather he believes that "the sun himself and moon and stars pray to the supreme God through his only begotten Son". Elsewhere Origen says that stars can even sin. In a fragment of a commentay on Genesis, he holds like Philo Judaeus that men were instructed in the meaning of the stars by the fallen angels. He argues at length that divine foreknowledge does not imply
373 374 375 James Montgomery, Arabia and the Bible, 1934, p. 15 1 -2. John Romer, Testament, 1988, p. 78. Theodore Otto Wedel, The Mediaeval Attitude toward Astrology, Particularly in England, 1920, p. 16- 17.


necessity. Nevertheless, God instituted the stars as signs of the future, but he only intended for angels to read them, and considered it best that people remain ignorant of their futures. Evil spirits, however, taught men the art of astrology. However, Origen believes that the art is so difficult and requires such superhuman accuracy that the predictions of astrologers are more likely to be wrong than right, "for it is a much greater task," he says, "than lies within human power to learn truly from the motion of the stars what each person will do and suffer." 376 18. Tamsyn Barton in her description of the the position of Origen says: "Origen (185/86 – 254/5 5), who remained immensely influential despite his later condemnation, illustrates the nature of the struggle between the astrologers and the church in his Commentary on Genesis. In his uneasy compromises he shows that astrology was a serious rival. Origen summarizes his arguments as follows: '1) How our freedom is safeguarded when God knows in advance for all eternity the acts that each man is judged to have accomplished. 2) How the stars are not agents, but signs. 3) That humans cannot have accurate knowledge of these signs, but that they are revealed for the sake of powers greater than humans. 4) The reason for which God has created these signs is in order to obtain knowledge for the powers will be examined.' (23.6.20-30) He elaborates a Christian version of astral fatalism with his notion of the divine writing. This moving writing, formed of letters and characters traced by God’s hand in the sky so that the dynameis theiae (divine powers) can read them, prefigures all cosmic events from creation to consummation. This is done to instruct the celestial powers and make them happy, in uncovering for them all dicine mysteries and all kind of knowledge and in some cases to intimate to them their precise orders for the missions entrusted to them (20.29-39). Interestingly, he also allows evil powers access to this knowledge, remarking explicitly that, if demons execute actions prefigured by the stars, they do not do so because they read the 'writing' to discover the will of God but only because they act maliciously of their own volition, as the good powers act freely when they follow orders (21.1-12). He also seems to admit that stars are not inert objects manipulated by the divine but, rather, animated, intelligent entities. Saint Pamphilus, in his work In Defense of Origen, affirms that this doctrine was not yet heretical." 377

19. Among the ancient Greeks, Carneades (c. 213-129 B.C.E.), founder of a school of philosophy called the New Academy, argued against fatalistic astrol ogy on a number of grounds. Although Carneades, like Socrates, wrote nothing, his oral arguments have been preserved by others. He used the familiar argument that twins, although born under the same signs, need not have the same destiny. It was noted early that the stars move very quickly around the earth, and twins are not in fact born under quite the same planetary influences. However, Carneades might have replied to this with another of his criticisms, that it is humanly impossible to fix the exact time of birth or conception. Carneades' argument based on the destruction of morality had an especially forceful and lasting influence on neo-Platonists and Christian theologians. He held that astrological fatalism must be wrong, since if it were right, it would be the ruin of morality and piety, of responsibility as well as irresponsibility, of laws and justice and punishment, of virtue as well as vice, of praise as well as blame, of modesty as well as shame. Since these exist, fatalism fails. One might reply to this with the argument of Zeno the Stoic: moral as well as immoral acts are preordained, and so are responsibility and irresponsibility, the passing and
376 Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 1923 -1958), v. 1, 1923, p. 456-458.

377 Tamsyn Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine under the Roman Empire, 1994


obeying and breaking of laws, justice and punishment, virtue and vice, praise and blame, modesty and shame. Nevertheless, Carneades' arguments against astrology were repeated by a legion of Christian theologians, as has been traced by David Amand. 378 20. In the early centuries of the Christian era, Amand says, following the blossoming of Stoicism, the heart-breaking nightmare of the heima rmen e -- the absolutely necessary and indissoluble succession of causes and effects in the past, present and future -- terrified masses of people devoted to the official polytheistic cults, and led them to seek deliverance in the mystery religions, and it terrified innumerable Christians who in the secrecy of their consciences were led to doubt their redemption by Christ. Many philosophers and theologians of antiquity, other than Stoics, were deeply committed to proving that our wills are free, and to refuting the demoralizing theory of sidereal fatalism. Christian doctors, in particular, defended with great vigor human freedom of choice as a most excellent -- but most perilous -- gift of God. "The cultural hist ory of antiquity in its decline would be incomplete," says Amand, "without a chapter entitled: 'The bad dream of the astrological h eima rmen e and the battle for moral freedom.'" 3 7 9 For Christians, the problem was complicated by the doctrine that while men may not know the future, God does.

21. St. Augustine, for example, says that when ordinary men hear the word 'fate' "ordinary usage leads them to think of nothing but the influence of the position of the stars at the moment when a child is born, or conceived." Augustine continues: "Those, however, who believe that the stars, apart from the will of God, determine what we do, what goods we have, or what evils we suffer, must be thrown out of court, not only by adherents of the true religion, but also by those who choose to worship gods of any sort, false gods though they be. For what is the effect of this belief except to persuade men not to worship or pray to any god at all? As against these rash assertions, blasphemous and irreligious as they are, we Christians declare both that God knows all things before they happen, and that it is by our own free will that we act, whenever we feel and know that a thing is done by us of our own volition. But we do not say that all things come to pass by fate. No indeed, we say that nothing comes to pass by fate. For the word fate is commonly used of the position of the stars at the moment of conception or birth, and we have shown that word means nothing, but is the frivolous assertion of an unreality .... It is not true, then, that there is no reality in our will just because God foresaw what would be in our will .... Therefore we are in no way compelled to abolish free will when we keep the foreknowledge of God, or blasphemously to deny that God foreknows the future because we keep free will. Instead we embrace both truths; with faith and trust we assert both. The former is required for correct belief, the latter for right living. And there is no right living if there is no correct belief in God. Far be it then, from us, in order to enjoy free will, to deny the foreknowledge of him by whose assistance alone we are free, or shall ever be free Nay, it is precisely because of foreknowledge that there is no doubt that man himself sins when he sins. For he whose foreknowledge cannot be mistaken foresaw that neither fate, nor fortune, nor anything else but the man himself would sin. If he chooses not to sin, he certainly does not sin,

D a vi d Am a n d , Fatalisme et liberté dans l'antiquité grecque, Recherches sur la survivance de l'argumentation morale antifataliste de Carnéade chez lesphilosophes grecs et les théologi ens chréti ens des quatres premiers siêcles, 1 9 4 5 . 378 379 i b i d . , p . 5 8 7- 5 8 8 a n d p . 7 .


and this choice not to sin was also foreseen by God."380 Thus while Augustine rejects astrological prediction in the name of free will, he embraces a doctrine of predestination and divine foreknowledge. 22. The limits of free will must be carefully observed, says Augustine. He writes in a letter to Hilarius: "... our free will is able to perform good works if it is helped from above, which happens as a result of humble petition and confession; whereas, if it is deprived of divine help, it may excel in knowledge of the Law, but it will have no solid foundation of justice, and will be puffed up with impious pride and deadly vanity This free will will be free in proportion as it is sound, and sound in proportion as it is submissive to divine mercy and grace. Therefore, it prays with faith and says: 'Direct my paths according to thy word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.' It prays, it does not promise; it confesses, it does not declare itself; it begs for the fullest liberty, it does not boast of its own power." 381 23. Mircea Eliade says: "Of course, astrology, the hope that one can know the future, has always been popular with the rich and powerful -- with kings, princes, popes, etc. -- particularly from the Renaissance on. One may add that the belief in the determination of destiny by the position of the planets illustrates, in the last analysis, another defeat of Christianity. Indeed, the Christian Fathers fiercely attacked the astrological fatalism dominant during the last centuries of the Roman Empire. 'We are above Fate,' wrote Tatian; 'the Sun and the Moon are made for us!' In spite of this theology of human freedom, astrology has never been extirpated in the Christian world. But never in the past did it reach the proportions and prestige it enjoys in our times." 382 It is doubtful that astrology, and astral religion, is as great a force right nowadays as it was in the Hellenistic era, but when Eliade was writing (mid 1970's) it was enjoying one of its recurrent upsurges.

24. Eliade speculates on reasons for the popularity of astrology: "... the discovery that your life is related to astral phenomena does confer a new meanng on your existence. You are no longer merely the anonymous individual described by Heidegger and Sartre, a stranger thrown into an absurd and meaningless world, condemned to be free, as Sartre used to say, with a freedom confined to your situation and conditioned by your historical moment. Rather, the horoscope reveals to you a new dignity: it shows how intimately you are related to the entire universe. It is true that your life is determined by the movements of the stars, but at least this determinant has an incomparable grandeur. Although, in the last analysis, a puppet pulled by invisible ropes and strings, you are nevertheless a part of the heavenly world. Besides, this cosmic predetermination of your existence constitutes a mystery: it means that the universe moves on according to a preestablished plan; that human life and history itself follow a pattern and advance progressively toward a goal. This ultimate goal is secret or beyond human understanding; but at least it gives meaning to a cosmos regarded by most scientists as the result of blind hazard, and it gives sense to the human existence declared by Sartre to be de trop. This parareligious dimension of astrology is even considered superior to the existing religions, because it does not imply any of the difficult theological problems: the existence of a personal or

Augustine, Civitate Dei contra paganos, City of God Against the Pagans, 413- 426 C.E., translation by William Green, 1963, of v. i, p. 134-135; v.ix, p. 174-175; v.x, p. 184 -187. 381 Augustine, Letters, translated by Sister Wilfrid Parsons, 1953, v. 3, p. 321, 323-324. 382 Mircea Eliade, Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions, 1976, p. 59.


transpersonal God, the enigma of Creation, the origin of evil, and so on. Following the instructions of your horoscope, you feel in harmony with the universe and do not have to bother with hard, tragic, or insoluble problems, At the same time, you admit, consciously or unconsciously, that a grand, through incomprehensible, cosmic drama displays itself and that you are a part of it; accordingly, you are not de trop ." 383 One may wonder to what extent resistance to notions or the existence of free will and indeterminism, especially in human affairs, is motivated by yearnings for security, or for being a part of an astral divine plan. 25. The Church continued to vigorously oppose astrology throughout the Middle Ages, and since astrology and astronomy were intertwined, the opposition sometimes spilled over to astronomy. Pierre Duhem says, speaking of medieval Italian astrologers: "To deny human freedom, to deny the miraculous action of Providence in the world, to use superstitious divinations and magical operations, was to contradict all Christian teaching and to contravene the most strict prescriptions of the Church. Among the adepts of astrology, then, and the ministers of Catholicism, a struggle was inevitable. Sometimes it was violent. The unbelieving astrologers who enlivened the spirit of the Court of Naples harshly attacked orthodox doctrine; and the mendicant monks, Dominicans and Franciscans, zealously defended dogma. The Church raged against impenitent error with the toughness which was the rule of the time, and over the history of Italian astronomy in the Middle Ages the flame of the stake sometimes threw its bloody gleam." 384 26. The prime example used by Duhem of such a Neapolitan astrologer is Guido Bonatti (born before 1223, died 1296 or 1297), who wrote a popular book on astrology, and was vigorously opposed by a celebrated preaching friar, John of Vincence (Jean de Vicence). One can't help noticing that Bonatti lived to an old age, unpunished by the Church. Pico della Mirandola later (1495) characterized Bonatti's work as puerile and only suitable for fools. However, Duhem describes Bonatti's arguments, meant to show that the possible, which lies between the necessary and the impossible, is not the contingent, as Aristotle and Abu Ma'shar had said, but something like the necessary while it is still potential. This may be wrong, but Bonatti's arguments, as quoted by Duhem, don't sound foolish. 27. Duhem himself speaks admiringly of the views of Avicenna (985-1036 C.E.) and Al Gazali (1058-1111 C.E.) in which a more subtle version of this idea is embedded in an elaborate philosophical and theological system, which was of paramount influence in the Muslim world, and had considerable effect in the Christian world. A basic motive of Avicenna and Al Gazali was to elucidate the relations between God, the celestial intelligences belonging to the heavenly spheres, and the bodies and souls of the sublunary world. Duhem says: "For Aristotle, in any substance of the sublunary world, there is a matter which exists potentially and a form which exists actually. For Avicenna and Al Gazali, in all being after the First Cause, there is an essence which is simply possible and an existence which a creative cause makes necessary." 385 28. In this last formulation, the First Cause and creative cause are allowed for, and a mechanism for turning the possible into the necessary is furnished, but the underlying intent to

Eliade, ibid., p. 61. Pierre Duhem, L e S y s t è me d u M o n d e , 1913, v. 4, p. 187-1 88. ibid., v. 4, p. 495.



show that everything has a cause (First Cause excepted) resembles that of Bonatti. Furthermore: "Like Peripatetism [Aristotelianism], like Stoicisn, like Hellenic Neoplatonism, the Arabic Neoplatonism makes all of its metaphysics lead to the justification of the principle which the astrologers claim for themselves. With what rigor Avicenna develops it! With what care he submits to it everything which happens in the world, even what seems to happen by chance, even the decisions of our wills." The principle, in brief, is that everything for which existence has been preceded by non-existence, including voluntary decisions, has a cause; and that terrestrial events arise from celestial ones, which in turn proceed in a necessary manner from the necessity of the divine will. 386 29. Despite Christian opposition to astrology, there were Christian writers who promoted it from early on. For example, there was Firmicus, more completely Julius Firmicus Maternus, who converted to Christianity in the time of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great (4th century C.E.). He wrote a work called Math esis, on the casting of horoscopes, which was wellknown throughout medieval times and later. As we would expect of a Christian, he was not a fatalist, and he believed in one supreme God. According to Thorndike: "Firmicus provides not only for divine government of the universe and creation of the world and man, but also for prayer to God and for human free will, since by the divinity of the soul we are able to resist in some measure the decrees of the stars. He also holds that human laws and moral standards are not rendered of no avail by the force of the stars but are very useful to the soul in its struggle by the power of the divine mind against the vices of the body." Thorndike remarks that the astrologer Hephaestion of Thebes, who wrote later in the fourth century, seems also to have been a Christian, so Firmicus seems not to have been a solitary case or an anomaly.387

30. Firmicus makes specific predictions which Thorndike takes to be revealing of the state of the society around Firmicus. For example, the evidence of the Mathesis suggests that most people in what we see to have been declining Rome were not conscious of the the intellectual decadence and lack of interest in science generally imputed to them.388 It seems that mathematics and medicine were important factors in 4th century culture, along with the rhetorical studies whose role may have been over- estimated in recent times, perhaps by scholars uninterested in the sciences.

31. During the flowering of Arabian culture in the couple of hundred years after the rise of Islam, there were many Arabian astrologers, and some of their writings strongly influenced Christians during the European Middle Ages, chiefly starting from around 1100. Alkindi and Albumasar (Abu Ma'shar) (9th century C.E.) are two especially famous names. Another, somewhat lesser known, was Thebit ben Corat (or Thabit ibn Kurrah, Abu Al Hasan, etc., etc.), (also 9th century C.E.). Roger Bacon (c. 12 14-1292) alludes to him as "the supreme philosopher among all Christians [!], who has added in many respects, speculative as well as practical, to the work of Ptolemy." However, Thorndike says he was not a Mohammedan, but a heathen or pagan, a member of the sect of Sabians, whose chief seat was at his birth-place, Harran. These are presumably descendants of the Sabaeans of southern Arabia we mentioned earlier.


Duhem, ibid., p. 493 -494. 387 Lynn Thorndike, ibid., v. 1, p. 531, 535. 388 ibid., p. 538.


32. The Sabians, Thorndike says, appear to have continued the paganism and astrology of Babylonia, but also to have accepted Hermetic traditions from Egypt, and some Gnostic and Neo Platonic doctrines. They laid special stress on the spirits of the planets, to whom they prayed and made sacrifices and suffumigations. Days on which planets reached their culminating points were celebrated as festivals. They observed houses and stations of the planets, their risings and setting, conjunctions and oppositions, and their rule over certain hours of the day and night. Some planets were masculine, others feminine, some lucky, others unlucky. They were related to different metals, and different members of the human body were placed under different signs of the zodiac. Each planet had its own appropriate figures and forms, and ruled over specified climates, regions and things in nature. Most of this, however, is astrological commonplace, whether of pagans, Mohammedans or Christians. It was only in worshiping the spirits of the planets and denying the existence of one God, and in their practice of sacrificial divination, that the Sabians could be distinguished as heathen or pagan. Thebit became one of the Caliph's astronomers in Bagdad, where he founded his Sabian community. He was famed above all as a philosopher, but most of his philosophical works are lost. Some geometrical treatises by him are extant, also a work on weights, and four astronomical treatises, evidently of no great originality. He was also the author of a work cited by numerous medieval authorities, on the construction of astronomical or astrological images for various ends. This was said by Thebit, on the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy, to be the "acme of astrology". 389

33. Theodore Wedel observes that in the astrological treatises of such Arabian writers as Albumasar, Abenragel and Alchabitius, judicial astrology as Ptolemy had described it occupied a position of minor importance. Instead, emphasis was on interrogationes and electiones. For the interrogationes, rules were given with which an astrologer could answer questions about such matters as identifying a thief, the location of missing objects or persons, trustworthiness of an associate, or the wealth of a prospective marriage partner. For the electiones, rules were given for determining propitious moments for actions. These might be applied to even small details, such as the proper time for boarding a ship, writing a letter, or cutting one's fingernails.390

34. Richard Lemay has argued that a work of Albumasar, whose name more accurately and completely was Abu Ma'shar Ja'far ben Muhammad ben 'Umar al-Balkhi, was very likely the single most important original source of Aristotle's theories of nature for European scholars, starting a little before the middle of the 12th century.391 It was not until later in the 12th century that the original books of Aristotle on nature began to become available in Latin. The works of Aristotle on logic had been known earlier, and Aristotle was generally recognized as "the master of logic". But during the course of the 12th century, Aristotle was transformed into the "master of those who know", and in particular a master of natural philosophy, or the scientific theory of natural things. It is especially interesting that the work of Abu Ma'shar in question is a treatise on astrology. Its Latin title is Introductorium in Astronmiam, a translation of the Arabic Kitab almudkhal al-kabir ila 'ilm ahkam an-nujum, written in Baghdad in the year 848 A.D. It was translated into Latin first by John of Seville in 1133, and again, less literally and abridged, by Hermann of Carinthia in 1140.

Thorndike, ibid., v. 1, p. 66 1-662.


Wedel, ibid., p. 53- 54. Richard Lemay, Abu Ma 'shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century, The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology, 1962.


35. Lemay says: "Genuine peripatetic [i.e., Aristotelian] doctrines in the Introductorium are hopelessly mingled together with empirical notions common among psychologists, physicians and other popular practitioners of Oriental society while, on the other hand, an Aristotelian 'scientific' basis is very cleverly set up in support of astrology." (Lemay, ibid., p. xxix.) Thus, to begin with, the Christian scholars of Europe associated the natural science of Aristotle with astrology. This sheds light on the nature of the condemnations of Aristotle by Church authorities early in the 13th century, which emphasized pernicious doctrines of astrological fatalism and pantheistic cosmology, and on the later integration of Aristotle into Christian doctrine made by such scholars as Robert Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. Lemay goes so far as to say that "during the thirteenth century, the authority of Abu Ma'shar on astronomy-astrology, and on cosmology, disputed the first place with Aristotle himself", and quotes a marginal note in a medieval manuscript to the effect that Ptolemy in the Almagest is the authority for the courses of the planets, and Alfraganus for their geometry, but on the nature of the planets and their influence on the lower world, Abu Ma'shar is set above Aristotle. 392

36. During the course of the 12th century, most of the translations into Latin from Arabic made by European scholars were of astrological material. As a result, says Lemay: "Astrology became a superior branch of physics, a sort of provisional metaphysics to be modified and displaced only in the thirteenth century at the time of the full adoption of Aristotle's Metaphysics and Physics. The twelfth century intellectual effervescence stirred up by Arabic learning opened a transitional period in natural philosophy based principally on the premisses of astrology." 393 The kind of basic premise Lemay has in mind is the one derived by Abu Ma'shar from the works of Aristotle, to the effect that every motion in the physical universe depends strictly and deterministically on the motion of celestial objects, especially the planets (including the sun and moon), which are alive and act as agents of God.

37. It appears, then, that the partisans of natural science in the 12th century, Christians included, were saturated with astrology. Lemay says: "The names of Adelard of Bath, John of Seville, Hermann of Carinthia, William of Conches, Bernard Silvester, Roger of Hereford, Daniel of Morley, Raymond of Marseilles, Robert of Chester, Alfred of Sareshel, Alanus de Insulis and Raoul of Longchamp. are all associated one way or another with the rising interest in the natural Aristotle; all were firm believers as well in the validity of astrological science. Twelfth century scholars have long been studied with the conviction that they were entirely absorbed in logical disputes, or bent on finding in nature a preordained imitation of biblical or theological concepts. Dispassionate examination of the rich manuscript materials remaining from this period has resulted in nothing less than a re-discovery of some major aspects of twelfth century intellectual life. Whether in astrology or alchemy, in medicine or mathematics, in geometry, botany or mineralogy, etc., the intellectual pursuits of twelfth century scholars appear to have ranged well beyond the pale of religious thought; theirs were the permanent interests which men of all times have shown in the physical laws of their natural habitat. The dedication of astrologers to their discipline represented a far more serious preoccupation than the mere mention of their science would incline modern historians to imagine. It has always been a great


Lem a y, ib id., p. xxxv. ibid., p .8 .


mistake of historians of medieval thought to minimize or totally to overlook this field of inquiry as of nor importance or having negligible bearing upon the intellectual outlook of the time." 3 9 4 38. In the 8 volumes of his A History of Magic and Experimental Science (1923 -1958), Thorndike discusses the attitudes toward astrology of a host of medieval writers and leaders. For example, there is Saint Hildegard (1098-1179) of Bingen. At first sight, she is a strong opponent of astrology. She calls the mat hematici "deadly instructors", and warns that men "should not seek signs of the future in either stars or fire or birds or any other creature". On the other hand, she emphasizes the influence of the moon on natural phenomena, and also the passions of men via their "humors" (fluids), which determine to some fair extent their character and even something of their fates. There is, in her Causae et curae, a list of predictions for each day of the moon of the type of person who will be conceived on that day. 395 39. John of Salisbury (1 120?-1 180) was thoroughly opposed to astrology, but got into some difficulty trying to reconcile God's omniscience and foreknowledge with fatal necessity. 396 Of the Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135-1204), Thorndike says: "That Maimonides was well acquainted with the art of astrology may be inferred from his assertion that he has read every book in Arabic on the subject. Maimonides not only believed the stars were living, animated beings and that there were as many pure intelligences as there were spheres, but he states twice in the Guide for the Perplexed that all philosophers agree that this inferior world of generation and corruption is ruled by the virtues and influences of the celestial spheres. While their influence is diffused through all things, each star or planet also has particular species especially under its influence."397 For some reason, Maimonides identified the control of human destinies by the constellations with the rule of blind chance. Maimonides also believed that God has planned all things in advance, and that this is incompatible with things occurring fortuitously. John of Salisbury, on the other hand, attacked both Epicureans and Stoics on the ground that the former believe in blind chance and the latter in strict necessity, and both are wrong. It's not clear from Thorndike's description whether he was talking about everything happening by chance for Epicureans, and by necessity for Stoics, or just about some things for each.

40. Robert Grosseteste (1 168?-1253) was Bishop of Lincoln. A Franciscan chronicler, Salimbene, regarded him as one of the greatest clerics in the world. Matthew Paris, a Benedictine chronicler, even though he was in some ways not well disposed to Grosseteste, referred to him as a saint, and Grosseteste was indeed put forward for canonization. Some say the nomination was unsuccessful because of the way Grosseteste had fearlessly criticized the temporal organization of the Church, especially in connection with awarding benefices to unsuitable office seekers. Roger Bacon, sometimes acclaimed as a scientific thinker of great originality, praised him as the most illustrious scientist and translator of the Schools, and even ranked him with Solomon, Aristotle and Avicenna. For Grosseteste "mathematics" includes astronomy, and astronomy includes astrology.


Lemay, ibid., p. xxiv -xxv. 395 Thorndike, l.c., v. 2, 1923, p. 148- 151. 396 ibid., p. 164- 167. 397 ibid., p211.


41. Thorndike says of Grossesteste's De artibus liberalis: "Grosseteste accepts astronomy or astrology as the supreme science and says in his treatise on the liberal arts that natural philosophy needs its aid more than that of the others. There is scarcely any operation whethe r of nature or of man, such as the planting of vegetables, or transmutation of minerals, or cure of diseases, which can dispense with astronomical assistance. For inferior nature does not act except as celestial virtue moves and directs it. He then goes on to detail the effects of the moon, Saturn, and Mars on the hour of planting, and then to emphasize the importance of selecting the favorable hours astrologically in medical practive and in alchemy where he associates the seven planets with seven metals. He also argues that the harmony of the movements of the celestial spheres is found also in their effects upon the inferior world. Therefore he who knows the due proportion of the elements in the human body and the concord of the soul with the body, can rest ore any lack of harmony in the same to its proper state. In other words, diseases and even wounds and deafness should be curable by music based upon a knowledge of astrology and mathematics, and one should also be able to control such emotions as joy, grief, and wrath."398

42. In another treatise, De impressionibus aeris seu deprognosticatione, on weather prediction, Grosseteste discusses such things as the power of the zodiacal signs and planets, including such technical matters as house, exaltation and aspect. On the question of free will, he holds that the human body is subject to two forces: "as part of the world of cause it is changed in many ways by the movements of the stars, but it is also subject to the control of the mind especially in voluntary actions." (idem, p. 446.) He follows Augustine in The City of God in denying that all our actions which seem freely willed are predictable from the stars. J. D. North says: "In his Hexameron [commentary on the first 6 books of the Bible], Grosseteste's final position on astrological belief is stated at some length. Superficially it is hostile -- astrology books are written at the dictation of the devil, and should be burned --but his hostility has to do with the issue of determinism, free will, and theological values. His belief in celestial influence was as strong as ever. He thought that the science of the astrologers must fail because the influences they sought are so precisely focussed in accordance with the momentary stellar configuration, that even the most accurate astronomer would not find them. They were real enough, in Grosseteste's view." 399 43. Grosseteste was a great supporter of the use of geometry in explaining natural phenomena. Thorndike observes that in his treatise De lineis, angulis etfiguris, Grosseteste holds that not only light but every natural agent sends forth its virtue to the object affected and acts on sense or matter along geometrical straight lines. This doctrine of radiation or emanation of force seems to date back at least to Plotinus, and Alkindi among the Arabs in his treatise on Stellar Rays says that the stars and all objects in the world of the four elements e mit rays of this sort. 400 44. James McEvoy considers Grosseteste's masterpiece, and most original work, to be his De luce (On Light). McEvoy says that according to Grosseteste: "The entire world -machine was created in the beginning from first form and first matter. Light multiplied itself from a single
398 Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 445.

399 J. D. North, "Medieval Concepts of Celestial Influence: A Survey", in Astrology, Science and Society, Historical Essays, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 11. 400 Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 443.


point infinitely and equally on all sides to form a sphere, and extended matter into the dimensions of the actual universe ........................... Though the propagation of light and the consequent expansion of matter, beginning from the primordial point, takes place equally in every direction, of necessity the outermost reaches of extended matter are more sparse and rarefied than are the inner, which remain capable of further rarefaction. The farthest limit of extension is reached when no further rarefaction of matter is possible; the ultimate capacity of matter being realized, the area immediately bounded by the outer spherical surface is incapable of further physical change. A perfect body had come into being, the firmament having in its composition only first matter and form. The most simple body in essence, it is the greatest in quantity and the container of all subsequent bodies."401 Shades of the Big Bang, and Expanding Universe! 45. McEvoy concludes from his examination of the De luce that Grosseteste "aimed consciously at producing a synthesis of the cosmogony of Genesis and the cosmology of the De Caelo [of Aristotle]." As to Grosseteste's place in the history of science, McEvoy says: "His intuition led him to the conviction that mathematics, far from being an abstraction from aspects of the physically real, is the very internal texture of the natural world, presiding over its coming to be and controlling its functioning; that, in the words of Kepler, 'Ubi materia, ibi geometria' ['Where there's matter, there's geometry']. Of course, this faith was metaphysical; but then so too was much of the high-level inspiration of scientists in the seventeenth century. It was abstract, because the mathematical structure of reality is not given to the senses, but intuited or believed in by the mind. What it afforded was not so much scientific results as delight in the pure understanding of the essence of things, and, what Grosseteste valued most of all, a glimpse beyond the beauty of the harmoniuous textura of things to the mind of the primus numerator ['prime calculator'], the lux prima et inaccessibilis ['primal and inaccessible light'] The novel aspect of Grosseteste's world-system goes back entirely to this conception of God as the great calculator. For the first time, it would appear, in the history of Christian belief, God is addressed as a mathematician whose ideas for creation are mathematical operations realizable in matter and form. " 4 0 2 46. Here Grosseteste employs a mathematics different in kind from the numerology found at times among the Church Fathers. McEvoy suggests that the patristic numerology might have been pursued with the expectation that it would reveal a coherence and harmony in creation. However, Grosseteste's idea of God as Numerator generates expectations of a more mathematical type, the kind of expectations which fulfil themselves in the sciences. This happens, McEvoy says, "... when an inner need for meaning and form sharpens the eye and encourages it to read upon the screen of ideal reality the after-image of the programme that determined the innermost structure of things. In scientific inquiry, evidence turns up to answer inner needs of the questioning mind, if they are insistent enough and sufficiently clear and coherent; for in this respect nature is not parsimonious or ungenerous; she is ample enough to suit different tastes." 403 McEvoy is making a distinction similar to the one I made earlier between applied and appliqued mathematics.

James McEvoy, The Philosophy of Robert Grosseteste, 1982, p. 152, 154. McEvoy, ibid., p. 167,210- 211,214. 4 0 3 ibid., p. 2 14-215.



47. However, Grosseteste also indulged in numerology at times. McEvoy describes Grosseteste's proof that the universe is a complete and harmonious thing: "In the most simple body there are four things to be found: form, matter, composition, and the composite. Form is totally simple and corresponds to the mathematical unity. Matter is the dyad, due to its binary qualities of receptivity and divisibility. Composition corresponds to the number three, for in it are informed matter, immattered form, and the property itself of composition. 'Four' comprehends whatever the composite is beyond these three. The aggregate of these numbers is ten, contained in the quaternity of the first body (which virtually contains all the others), and mirrored in the number of bodies in the world -- for the four elements form together a single terrestrial body. Manifestly, ten is the perfect number of the universe and is possessed by every whole and perfect thing. Clearly, too, only the five proportions found in the first four numbers are adequate for the composition and harmony that sustain every composite being; they are the foundation of harmony in musical sound, gesture, and rhythm."404 48. With Grosseteste, we have in the same person an understanding of an intrinsic mathematical nature of nature, and an imposition on nature of some numerology. We also have in the same person a devotion to astrology, and a cosmogony and cosmology based on light which bears a faint resemblance to current cosmologies of the "big bang" type. McEvoy says: "In the rational and scientific cosmology of De luce two basic ideas are enthroned, namely, the continuity of nature and action through the material world, and the ultimate unity of matter. Both of these bear some resonance of the half-magical world of astrology and alchemy The influence of astrology and alchemy made it natural for Grosseteste in the earlier stages of his philosophical itinerary to look for continuity of nature and action between the heavens and the earth."405 It appears that we have here an example of the confluence of influences out of which the European scientific revolution of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was eventually to grow. 49. Wedel argues that the most decisive factor in the development of the doctrines on astrology of many university scholars -- scholastics -- was the works of Aristotle, whose complete canon had been made accessible in Latin translations in the first quarter of the 13th century. In his De generatione et corruptione (On growth and decay), Aristotle had taught that the processes of earthly growth and change depend on the stellar spheres. These were the "crystalline" spheres in which the stars and planets were said to be embedded, a theory proposed, it seems, by Eudoxus, presumably to explain why these objects had such regular motions. Wedel says: "And astrological theory had, since the days of Ptolemy, become so inseparable a part of Aristotelian cosmology that the Christian theologians, in welcoming the one, were inevitably compelled to offer a favorable reception to the other. A modification of such importance in the traditional doctrine of the Church could not take place without a struggle In effecting a compromise between the verdict of the early Church and the new astrology, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas faced a problem of no slight difficulty."406

50. Thomas Bradwardine (1290(?)-1349) was a Christian theologian of Oxford who published in 1344 a work called De causa Dei (God's Cause), and was archbishop of Canterbury at the end of his life (victim of the Black Plague). Gordon Leff says that De causa Dei was a

McEvoy, ibid., p. 157- 158. 405 ibid., p. 182, 187; cf. also p. 165 - 166. 406 Theodore Otto Wedel in The Mediaeval Attitude toward Astrology, Particularly in England, 1920, p. 64.


response of faith to scepticism, notably that of William of Ockham (d. 1349, victim of the Black Plague). It came from a person for whom theology was the apex of the sciences (in the general sense of the word), and was meant to cut away at outlooks which start from men rather than from God. There are, Bradwardine says, two views of fate. One is fate as inevitable necessity, in general due to the heavenly bodies, and more specifically due to individual celestial objects, ruling those born under their influences. The other view of fate is as a certain disposition, and guidance from above. The first view, according to Bradwardine, cannot be accepted by Christians at all. If, however, the necessity is withdrawn, and fate governed by the stars is seen rather as a disposition and inclination in man, then the fate of the stars need not be rejected -- for divine fate must be recognized. Is it not written, Bradwardine says, "He spake and it was done?" We only call things fortuitous when we don't know their causes. In fact, just as with fate, God is the cause of everything. But Providence, God's active governance, has nothing in common with necessity imposed by the stars, or with pure chance. 51. In Leff's view: "... with Bradwardine, God's will is not to be regarded in the way the Arab philosophers saw it, as a universal and impersonal first cause acting implacably through a hierarchy of secondary causes, such as planets and celestial spheres. Bradwardine's God is essentially personal and immediate; the whole of his view of divine participation flows from His direct presence ... Bradwardine's view of creation may be likened to a precise machine devoid in itself of any direction or movement. Its workings are beyond its own knowledge and power. It needs the constant current of God's will to infuse it with life and purpose. It cannot, therefore, be judged in itself, for without God's impulsion it is like a propeller without an engine. Nothing can be left to its own resources."407 52. But there were also Christians who tried to square fatalistic astralism with Christian doctrine. Before the time of Bradwardine, Bernard Silvester, a Christian university teacher, in his poem Cosmographia (c. 1145), said: "The heavens ... write by means of the stars and prefigure everything which is able to arise by means of the law of fate. They presignify by what mode or tenor the sidereal motion impels the passage of history. The order of events lies hidden in the stars; a longer and more ordered succession of time will explain it." 408 53. Stock comments: "This view, it should be noted, is not a complete acquiescence to determinism It is a position in which God's effective power is translated into causal terms as Bernard understood them ........It indicates that God is placed beyond the universe which magnifies his spirit and suggests as well, as do Firmicus and Abu Ma'shar, that history is entirely predictable from the stars........ [It is part of Bernard's position that:] The heavens reveal in their motions and changes the pattern of human cultural and social history. Thus the unfolding of creation, including Noys' part in it, is to be understood as the revelation of a pre-existing order." 409 Noys is "God's providence" (p. 14), evidently not to be confused with nous, intelligence, although this is what Thorndike takes noys to be in another work by Bernard. 410
407 Gordon Leff, Bradwardine and the Pelagians, A study of his 'De causa Dei'and its opponents, 1957, p. 11, 53-54, 95. 408 Quoted by Brian Stock in his Myth and Science in the Twelfth Century, A Study of Bernard Silvester, 1972, p. 131. 409 ibid., p. 131-132. 410 Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, v. 2, p. 105.


Bernard also wrote a narrative poem called Mathematicus, in which a Roman knight and lady consult a mathematicus (astrologer) "who could learn from the stars ... the intentions of the gods, the mind of the fates, and the plan of Jove, and discover the hidden causes and secrets of nature."411
54. Such views are not unlike those of certain physicists (now, it appears, in a minority) who contend that nothing is really left to chance, although human limitations may require us to describe phenomena probabilistically. Abraham Pais says in his biography of Einstein: "Everyone familiar with modern physics knows that Einstein's attitude regarding quantum mechanics was one of skepticism. No biography of him fails to mention his saying that God does not throw dice. He was indeed given to such utterances (as I know from experience), and stronger ones, such as 'It seems hard to look in God's cards. But I cannot for a moment believe that He plays dice and makes use of "telepathic" means (as the current quantum theory alleges He does)' [Einstein's] was not a life of prayer and worship. Yet he lived by a deep faith -- a faith not capable of a rational foundation -- that there are laws of Nature to be discovered. His lifelong pursuit was to discover them. His realism and his optimism are illuminated by his remark: 'Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not' ('Rafiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht') "4 1 2

55. Einstein, in the early years of the 20th century, was the foremost creator of relativistic mechanics. Kepler, in the early years of the 17th century, was one of the foremost creators of classical mechanics. Kepler, it turns out, had already said much the same as Einstein about God playing dice: Richard Westfall says: "When we turn to Kepler's natural philosophy, we find a conception of nature that directly supported his religious position. Of foremost importance is the fact that the universe remained for him a cosmos. It is well known that much of Kepler's significance in the history of science stems from the impulse he gave to causal analyses of phenomena and to the concept of mathematical laws. Kepler's laws were never impersonal laws, however, and the universe in which they worked was not for him the chance product of their blind operation. It was an ordered cosmos consciously contrived. Giordano Bruno's speculative system, "that dreadful philosophy," represented to him the blind operation of impersonal causes. He feared the very idea and fled from it. Where means are adapted to definite purposes, Kepler insisted, "there order exists, not chance; there is pure mind and pure Reason." "The Creator," he informed Maestlin, "does nothing by chance." 413

56. To return to the European Middle Ages, and in particular to the compromise of scholastics with astrology: Thorndike points out that a number of passages in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas ascribe an important place to astrological theory in natural science. Aquinas refused to explain magic as worked by the stars, but he accounted for occult works of nature and natural divination by astral influence. He grants nobility and incorruptibility to the heavenly bodies, but regards them as made of material substance, even though Plato and Aristotle

Quoted by Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 106. Abraham Pais, 'Subtle is the Lord ... ', 1982, p. 440 and p. vi.


Richard S. Westfall, "The Rise of Science and the Decline of Orthodox Christianity: A Study of Kepler, Descartes, and Newton," in God and Nature, Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, 1986, p. 221; the quotations from Kepler come from Kepler's Conversation with Galileo's Sidereal Messenger, The SixCornered Snowflake, and a letter to Maestlin, 2 Aug 1595 in Johannes Kepler, Werke 13:27.


attributed souls and intelligence to them. But he regards the stars as media between angelic intelligences and us. He is inclined to answer affirmatively the question, do the angels move the stars? He frequently affirms that God rules inferior creatures through superior ones, and earthly bodies by heavenly ones. According to Aquinas, no wise man doubts that all natural motions of inferior bodies are caused by the movement of the celestial bodies. Reason and experience, saints and philosophers, have proved it over and over again. 57. In this connection, Aquinas cites two passages from Augustine and Dionysius which don't seem as sweeping as his own assertion. Augustine affirms merely that "grosser and inferior bodies are ruled by subtler and superior ones according to a certain order," and Dionysius simply says that the rays of the sun aid in the generation of life and nourish and increase and perfect it. Indeed, says Thorndike, throughout his arguments for astrology, Aquinas, like his teacher Albert, seems to stretch authorities on a Procrustean bed of citation and to make church fathers who are famous for their attacks on astrologers seem to favor a limited rule of the stars over all nature. Aquinas further considers an art of judicial astrology possible. He asserts that besides the crude prognostications which sailors and farmers make from the sky, it is feasible "by some other more occult observations of the stars to employ judicial astrology concerning corporeal effects." 414 58. Nevertheless, Aquinas declares that the human will is free and that the soul -- being an intellectual rather than a material substance, cannot be coerced by corporeal substances, and in particular by celestial objects. He also is of the opinion that many occurences are purely accidental, "as when a man digging a grave finds buried treasure." And he says "no natural agent can incline one to that which happens accidentally." Aquinas is also aware, however, that the astrologers themselves agree that the wise man rules the stars. Conversely, he recognizes that man is not purely an intellectual being, that he often obeys sensual appetites, and that even the mind derives its knowledge from the senses and in a condition disturbed by phantasy, and that therefore the stars may indirectly affect the human intellect to a considerable extent.415 59. Thomas Litt gives this summary of Thomas Aquinas's views on astrology: "(1) He affirms as absolutely certain the entirely general principle of a universal influence of celestial bodies on all corporeal events on earth, including physiological events involving animals and people. This is for him an absolute philosophical certainty; besides that, it is a common sense truth and it is also a truth taught by the "authority of the saints"; he cites notably Denis [Dionysius] and St. Augustine. (2) He affirms with just as much certainty that the influence of the celestial bodies on human acts is indirect and never necessitating. He very often adds that the contrary opinion is heretical, since it excludes human free will. (3) He never asks once if the fundamental astrological axiom or postulate is well founded or not: the decisive importance on the whole future of a person of the configuration of the heaven at the moment of birth (the topic of geniture). We have found only once in St. Thomas the word nativitas in the sense of the topic of geniture: in the citation of the Centiloquium [of
414 415 Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 609-610. Thorndike, l.c.


Ptolemy] which we presented [earlier]. This citation is moreover the only concrete astrological prediction which we have encountered and it it introduced with a formula expressing much doubt. He does mention one other time the stellar patrons of the seven days of the week, but this is in order to observe that one can, without peril to the faith, adopt or reject this theory. (4) He admits that in principle astrologers correctly predict the future of people .... [Litt summarizes 10 references showing this] (5) On the licitness of astrological divination, we have six texts, in which the teaching remains constant throughout the career of St. Thomas, without one being able to discern an evolution to either greater or less severity. The doctrine amounts to this: It is not superstitious or illicit to try to predict by the stars droughts, rains, etc. It is superstitious and illicit to try to predict by the stars free human actions and, according to the authority of St. Augustine, the devil often involves himself in this kind of consultation, which becomes by way of this a pact with the devil."416 60. The Albert referred to above as a teacher of Aquinas is Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great (1193-1280), the leading figure in Latin learning and natural science in the 13th century.. The Speculum astronomiae (Mirror ofAstrology) is usually attributed to Albert, and is said by Thorndike "to be one of the most important single treatises in the history of medieval astrology". (ibid, p. 692.) The book is chiefly concerned with judicial astrology, which is distinguished from astronomy proper as "the science of the judgements of the stars". Thorndike quotes the author: "He declares that [astrology] turns man's thoughts toward God, revealing as it does the great Source of all things. Furthermore, it is the bond between natural philosophy and mathematics. 'For if the most high God in His Supreme wisdom so ordained this world that He, who is the living God of a lifeless heaven, wills to work in created things which are found in these four inferior elements through deaf and dumb stars as instruments, and if concerning these we have one science, namely, mathematics which teaches us in things caused to consider their Creator, and another natural science which teaches us to find by experience in created things the Creator of creatures; what is more desirable for the investigator than to have a third science to instruct him how this and that change of things mundane is brought to pass by the change of things celestial? '" 417 61. Of the termjudicial astrology, Richard Lemay says: "... beginning in the twelfth century, and stabilizing in the thirteenth, we find newly invented labels to designate various sciences to study the heavens. There is a general 'science of the stars' (scientia stellarum) as the discipline dealing with the knowledge of the whole heavens, and then the 'science of the movements' (scientia motuum) for astronomy, together with a 'science of the judgments' (scientia iudiciorum / judicial astrology) for astrology."418 62. Lemay observes that in the Speculum astronomiae of Albertus Magnus, there is a distinction between astronomy, which is "mathematical", and astrology, which is "judicial",
416 Thomas Litt, Les corps cèleste dans l'univers de Saint Thomas d'Aquin (1963), p. 240- 241.

417 Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 697. 418 Richard Lemay, "The True Place of Astrology in Medieval Science and Philosophy", in Astrology, Science and Society, Historical Essays, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 64.


although the two are inseparable parts of one science of the stars. This distinction can be traced backed to Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, but according to Lemay, Albertus Magnus took it directly from the Introductorium Maius in Astronomiam of Abu Ma'shar (786-866), which had been translated from Arabic to Latin during the first half of the 12th century. Abu Ma'shar (or Albumasar) was a leading authority in astrology in medieval times, and according to Lemay translations of his works were a main source of the new interest in astronomy/astrology in the Latin world at the beginning of the 12th century. Using the term "judicial astrology" to designate the kind of astronomy/astrology which prognosticates is traced by Lemay to the Latin translation by John of Seville in 1133 of a word in the Arabic title of Abu Ma'shar's Introductorium Maius. An Arabic word signifying something like "authoritative pronouncements by a learned person" was translated by a word which could mean "authoritative pronouncements by a judge". 419 Of Roger Bacon (c. 12 14-1292), Thorndike says: "Bacon believed that by means of astrology not only could the future be in large measure foretold, but also marvelous operations and great alterations could be effected throughout the whole world, especially by choosing favorable hours and by employing astronomical amulets and characters -- in other words, by the arts of elections and of images. As the babe at birth receives from the stars that fundamental physical constitution which lasts it through life, so any new-made object is permanently affected by the disposition of the constellations at the moment of its making." (Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 673.) Bacon also connected astrology to the power of words. Thorndike says that for Bacon: "Words are the soul's most appropriate instrument and almost every miracle since the beginning of the world has been performed by using them The rational soul influences the voice, which in turn affects the atmosphere and all objects contained therein. The physical constitution of the speaker also has some influence, and finally the position of the stars must by all means be taken into account. All this reasoining is equivalent to accepting the power of incantations, for as Bacon states [in the Opus Maius], 'They are words brought forth by the exertion of the rational soul, and receive the virtue of the sky as they are pronounced Although the efficacious employment of words is primarily the function of the rational soul,' nevertheless 'the astronomer can form words in elect times which will possess unspeakable power' of transforming natural onjects and even inclining human minds to obey him. Thus Bacon's 'astronomer' is really a magician and enchanter as well ..." 420

64. Thorndike observes further that hardly any class or group of men in the later middle ages were more given to astrology and even to some other occult arts and sciences than the friars. This is a noteworthy point, says Thorndike, because they furnished a majority of the theologians of the period and had a practical monopoly of the office of inquisitor, although inquisitors and theologians have often been regarded as the bitterest and most inveterate foes of astrology and related arts.421 Thus Thorndike's view may conflict with that of Duhem who speaks, as we saw above, of the Dominicans and Franciscans as zealously defending Catholic dogma against attacks by astrologers. Perhaps none of the friars Thorndike had in mind were of these orders. 65. Nicolas Oresme (1325-1382) delivered a number of extended attacks on astrology. One of his most fascinating works (to a mathematician) is concerned with whether or not the
419 420 421 Lemay, ibid., p. 67-68. Thorndike, ibid., v. 2, p. 665, 673, 674. Thorndike, ibid., v. 3 (1934), p. 213.


movements of the heavenly bodies are commensurable or incommensurable, in a treatise called De commensurabilitate [or, in some manuscripts, incommensurabilitate] motuum celestium. In the translation by Edward Grant, instead of one or the other, the title contains commensurabilitate vel incommensurabilitate, so the title may be translated as On the commensurability or incommensurability of celestial motions.422 In Part I of this work, Oresme gives 25 propositions which will be true if the celestial motions are commensurable, and in Part II, 12 propositions which will be true if they are incommensurable. He then asks which of these is the case. In more recent terms, it appears he was investigating whether or not the “motions” were all expressible as rational (in the sense of rational numbers, or fractions with integer numerator and denominator) – rational multiples of some unit (i.e., some length chosen to be standard, and corresponding to the number 1). This sounds tantalizingly to be related to some quite recent investigations in celestial mechanics in the light of nonlinear Newtonian-type dynamics, and its so-called “chaos” theory. 66. At this point, Oresme turns from mathematical demonstration to allegory. In a dream, the muse Arithmetic delivers an oration in favor of commensurability, and Geometry defends incommensurability, and the author wakes up before the debate is decided. According to Thorndike: "Arithmetic had contended with many citations of past authors that incommensurability and irrational proportion would detract from the perfection, beauty, and harmony of the universe, and be unendurable to the heavenly Intelligences that move the orbs. 'For if anyone should make a mechanical clock, would he not make all the wheels move as harmoniously as possible?' -- an interesting allusion to the then recent introduction of mechanical clockworks. Arithmetic further pointed out that if you deny numerical proportion to the velocities of the heaven and stars, it will be impossible to predict any aspect or conjunction of the planets, or to foresee their effects, and that astrology would have never been discovered, all the astronomical tables would be false, and the magnus annus of the philosophers and music of the spheres would be impossible fictions. Under such circumstances why did God let man look at the stars and walk with erect head?"423 Thus Arithmetic speaks for the strict periodicity and predictability of motions of the stars.

67. Thorndike goes on: "Geometry replies that irrationality of proportion will not rob the heavens of their beauty or be inconsistent with regularity of movement. Variety is better than uniformity of color; the song of changing cadence is sweeter than the noblest single strain. Geometry thinks it more pleasant, perfect, and congruent with Divinity not to have the same positions and effects repeated but ever to produce new and dissimilar effects from the prior constellations, Were all the celestial movements commensurable, the sun and moon would never meet throughout eternity exept in a few points of the sky, 'and similarly with the other aspects and remaining planets.' The music of the spheres is a matter of doubt anyway. but there might be proportion of sound without proportional velocities. There also is no agreement as to the magnus annus, and Geometry prefers that men should not be able to know all the future movements of the stars exactly and to predict all future events. But this conception that astrology lacks any precise basis in astronomy for its prediction of future events, because we cannot be sure even whether the movements of the heavens are or are not commensurable and in proportion, while if they are incommensurable and with disproportionate velocities, there is no basis for a system of
422 423 Edward Grant, Nicole Oresme and the Kinematics of Circular Motion, 1971. Thorndike, ibid., v. 3, p. 405-406.


forecasting from them, although one might still roughly date the coming occurrence of eclipses and conjunctions: -- this is a point against astrology to which Oresme adverts again in his other treatises." 424 Thus Geometry speaks against strict periodicity and predictability of the motions of the stars, on the grounds that the ratios of their velocities may not be rational numbers (to use present terminology). 68. Edward Grant describes two kinds of comparison of magnitudes Oresme used to determine commensurability or incommensurability between motions. 425 To illustrate one of them, consider two bodies A and B which are moving on concentric circles with unequal but uniform angular velocities. Let the motion be measured from some starting points p and p' which lie on a ray from the common center of both circles (and intersecting them to form overlapping radii). Let T(A) and T(B) stand for the times which the bodies take to move through angles A and B, respectively, when they start at the same instant from p and p'. If the measures of angles A and B (say, the lengths of arc traced out on their circles by the bodies A and B) are to each other as two whole numbers, then the velocities (or speeds, or motions) are commensurable, and otherwise they are incommensurable. That is, the velocities are commensurable if the ratio of the measures of A to B equals the ratio of m to n for some whole numbers m and n. Instead of the angles or arcs traversed, Oresme also uses (this is the second kind of comparison) the number of circulations made by two bodies C and D. A circulation is the first return of a body from a point on its circle, back to the same point. Let C and D make the same number of circulations on their circles, and let T(C) and T(D) be the times taken by the bodies to make this number of circulations. The velocities of C and D are commensurable if the ratio of T(C) to T(D) is as one integer to another, i.e. if T(C) / T(D) is a rational number; otherwise the velocities are incommensurable.

69. The basic idea of strict periodicity (or, as Grant puts it, "cyclical regularity") being precluded by incommensurability seems not to have been original with Oresme, although Oresme seems to have been the first to develop the idea to any extent. Grant discusses as predecessors Theodosius of Bythynia (or, of Tripoli; born c. 180 A.D.), Johannes de Muris (died c. 1350), Henry Bate (in 1281) and John Duns Scotus (about 1302 or 1303). 426 70. Despite Oresme's strictures against astrology, including a treatise of his against princes devoting themselves to astrology, his own patron, Charles V (Charles the Wise, reigned 13641380), employed many astrologers at his court. Thorndike says that in this period, the later 14th century, "wisdom and astrology were considered almost synonymous The Hundred Years war [1339-1453] provided the astrologers with as happy a predicting ground as did the Black Death [mid 14th century]." 427 71. About 1425, Curatus de Ziessele, presumably a curate from Ziessele near Bruges (Belgium) wrote a Compendium of Natural Theology Taken from Astrological Truth. According to Thorndike, the curate of Ziessele was not primarily interested in demonstrating the truth of Christianity from the natural universe (like, for example, Raymond of Sebonde), but rather in
424 425 426 427 Thorndike, ibid., v. 3, p. 406. Edward Grant, ibid., p. 7-8. ibid., Chapter 3. Thorndike, ibid., v. 3, p. 584.


showing that astrology and astronomy demonstrate the unit and harmony of the spiritual and material universe. Where previous writers (such as Jean Gerson) had tried to theologize astrology and make it acceptable to theologians, Curatus de Ziessele, tries to astrologize theology, and thus ma ke theologians accept astrology. 4 2 8 72. In a similar spirit, Giovanni Nanni of Viterbo (c. 1432-1502), a Dominican friar, tried to show that astrological science was in harmony with and confirmed scriptural revelation. He illustrates, Thorndike says, the connection of humanism with astrology as well as the association of astrology with theology. He is said to have been dear to popes Sixtus IV and Alexander VI, and became master of the sacred palace in 1499. The humanist Aeneas Sylvius who later became pope Pius II felt that some knowledge of astrology was essential for a ruler. According to Thorndike, "well certified instances of condemnations of astrologers as such by Christian authorities are exceedingly rare, even when they taught the doctrine that religious changes were forecast or produced by conjunctions of the planets."429 73. Paul III, who was pope from 1534 to 1549, was a believer in occult sciences, as was Pope Leo X, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent and often praised as a patron of the Renaissance. Except at Paris, where there was considerable theological opposition to astrology, "the practice of that art," Thorndike says, "seldom seems to have involved a learned man in difficulties with the law during the first half of the sixteenth century." Among Protestant leaders, Philip Melanchthon was very interested in various profane sciences and pseudo-sciences as well as in religious creeds and confessions, in the same way as learned men were in the circles of Pope Paul III. Thorndike observes: "There was no more reason for a Catholic and Protestant to disagree about herbs and gems, astrology and witchcraft, than there was for them to come to blows over Green grammar and prosody. These were neutral or rather universal territories open to men of every creed and country, and had been so since the day of Albertus Magnus and Albumasar. Luca Guarico, the Italian astrologer and Catholic bishop , had admirers at Wittenberg as well as at Rome. A favorable astrological moment, it may be noted in this connection, had been selected for the foundation of the university of Wittenberg, while its first rector, Martin Polich of Mellerstadt, was the author of numerous annual predictions."430

74. Of course there remained the question of free will. Among Protestant theologians, John Calvin, when speaking of predestination, recommends that we not press matters too far: "When we attribute foreknowledge to God, we mean that all things always were, and perpetually remain, under his eyes, so that to his knowledge there is nothing future or past, but all things are present .... We call predestination God's eternal decree, by which he determined with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others." But Calvin says of "certain men not otherwise bad": "... let them remember that when they inquire into predestination they are penetrating the sacred precincts of divine wisdom. If anyone with carefree assurance breaks into this place, he will not succeed in satisfying his curiosity and he will enter a labyrinth from which he can find no exit. For it is not right for man unrestrainedly to search out things that the Lord has willed to be hid in himself, and to unfold from eternity itself the sublimest wisdom, where he
428 429 430 Thorndike, ibid., v. 4, 1934, p. 258. ibid., p. 263, 393, 544. ibid., v. 5 (1941), p. 159, 251, 307, 378-379, 419.


would have us revere but not understand that through this also he should fill us with wonder. He has set forth by his Word the secrets of his will that he has decided to reveal to us. These he decided to reveal in so far as he foresaw that they would concern us and benefit us." 431 75. Calvin opposed some kinds of astrology. In 1561, a work by Calvin was translated into English under the title An Admonicion against Astrology Judiciall and other curiosities that raign now in the world. According to Calvin, astrology "hath been rejected by a common consent as pernicious by Mankind. [Yet] at this day it hath gotte the upper hand in such sorte that many whych thynk themselves witty men ... are at it were bewitched therewith'." However, it was not Calvin's purpose to reject astrology as a whole. Calvin says: "Now every man of soundjudgement well knows that Moses meant the same as what I have said above, about true astrology. If the stars are signs to show us the season for sowing or planting, for bleeding or giving medicines, for cutting wood, that is not to say that they are signs to show whether we should put on new clothes, or deal in goods on a Monday rather than a Tuesday, and so on, things which have no connection with the stars." 76. While Calvin deplored the archaisms, excesses and abuses of astrology, he could not bring himself to condemn astrology completely, nor could he deny that eclipses and comets are portents for the affairs of men. He said: "However, I do not deny that when God wishes to stretch out His hand to bring about some judgement worthy of memory by the world, he sometimes warns us by means of comets." In fact, Calvin had to proceed prudently. Since he stood for a kind of return to the Old Testament, he could not ignore the bond between God and the heavenly bodies. Calvin was concerned with the distinction between true and false astrology. The Arminians of this era rejected astrology on the grounds that men have free will, but the Calvinists, on account of their determinism, centered more on the impiety of prying into God's plans. 432 77. Keith Thomas observes that all post-Reformation theologians taught that nothing could happen in this world without God's permission. They denied the very possibility of chance or accident. "That which we call fortune," wrote the Elizabethan bishop, Thomas Cooper, "is nothing but the hand of God, working by causes and for causes that we know not. Chance or fortune are gods devised by man and made by our ignorance of the true, almighty and everlasting God." "Fortune and adventure,' declared John Knox, 'are the words of Paynims [pagans], the signification whereof ought in no wise to enter into the heart of the faithful .... That which ye scoffingly call Destiny and Stoical necessity ... we call God's eternal election and purpose immutable." 433 78. Thomas notes that Knox was echoing the words of St. Basil, for the denial of the heathen concept of Fortune or Destiny had always been a popular Christian theme. "Yet," says Thomas, "there is some reason for thinking that the Reformation period saw a new insistence on
431 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1559, translated by Ford Lewis Battles, 1960, xxi.3, v. 2, p. 926, 922-923. 432 Jacques Halbronn, "The Revealing Process of Translation and Criticism", in Astrology, Science and Society, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 205-207; also Hugh G. Dick, introduction to Albumazar: A Comedy (1615) by Thomas Tomkis, edited by Dick, 1944, p. 22-23; the quotations from Calvin are from Halbronn's article; the original sermon of Calvin is Admonitio adversus astrologiam, 1549. 433 Quoted by Thomas.


God's sovereignty. Whereas Aquinas had stressed that the notion of Divine Providence did not exclude the operation of chance or luck, a sixteenth-century writer like Bishop Pilkington could declare categorically that there was no such thing as chance. Medieval Christians from Boethius to Dante had maintained the pagan tradition of the goddess Fortuna side by side with a belief in God's omnipotence, but for Tudor theologians the very idea of Fortune was an insult to God's sovereignty .... Every Christian thus had the consolation of knowing that life was not a lottery, but reflected the working-out of God's purposes. If things went wrong he did not have to blame his luck but could be assured that God's hand was at work: the events of this world were not random but ordered." 434 79. Thomas explains the post-Reformation emphasis on God's omnipotence as founded on the universal reluctance to recognize that the rewards and punishments of this world don't always go to those that (we think) deserve them. The doctrine of Providence was an attempt to impose order on the apparent randomness of human fortunes. Thus Thomas' explanation of the turn toward determinism after the Reformation is the same as the explanation given from antiquity on of the rise of determinism among the Stoics. And in both cases, there was a turn toward astrology. The strictures of St. Augustine against astrology lost force among many. In his 20's, Augustine says, he consulted "those imposters, the astrologers, because I argued that they offered no sacrifices and said no prayers to any spirit to aid their divination." 80. Augustine goes on: "Nevertheless, true Christian piety rightly rejects and condemns what they do we must remember Our Lord's words to the cripple: You have recovered your strength. Do not sin any more, for fear that worse should befall you. This is our whole salvation, but the astrologers try to do away with it. They tell us that the cause of sin is determined in the heavens and we cannot escape it, and that this or that is the work of Venus or Saturn or Mars. They want us to believe that man is guiltless, flesh and blood though he is and doomed to die despite his pride. Instead they have it that the blame is to be laid on the Creator and Ruler of the heavens and the stars, none other than our God, himself the very source of justice, from whom its sweetness is derived -- on you, O God, who will award to every man what his acts have deserved, you who will never disdain a heart that is humble and contrite." 435 But one can maintain that if God is omnipotent and omniscient, then choices to sin or not are equally predestined, and those who will turn away from sin are elected in advance of their reform. And Christianity has devices of its own for the abatement of guilt.

81. In place of unacceptable moral chaos, Protestant theologians of the 17th century erected the edifice of God's omnipotent sovereignty. It was impossible for even the most optimistic exponent of the doctrine of Providence to maintain that virtue was always rewarded. Thus it was necessary to concede that only the justice of the next world would fully compensate for the apparent capriciousness of this one. All one could do was argue that there are many instances in which the link between morality and material success is too close to be ignored. By the later 17th century even this proposition seemed unconvincing to some. It had never been clear by what mechanism God's rewards and punishments in this world had been distributed. Miracles as such had been relegated by most Protestants to the days of the early Church. Under the influence of the mechanical philosophy even the Biblical miracles began to lose their
434 435 Keith Thomas, R e l i g i o n a n d th e De c l i n e o f M a g i c , 1971, p. 79. Augustine, C o n f e s s i o n s , Book IV, Ch 3, translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin, 1961, p. 73.


credibility. However, belief in God's immediate providences did not wither away altogether. Many intelligent people of the time found it impossible to believe that catastrophic events like the Great Plague of 1665 had only natural causes. 18th century epidemics, fires and earthquakes continued to be hailed as acts of God. Victorian clergymen sometimes regarded venereal disease as a punishment for fornication, and recognized in a cattle plague a retribution for the ill-treatment of farm labourers.436 82. The theologians of the post -Reformation period were imposing a doctrine of God's omnipotence on a populace long accustomed to other explanations. They had been able to explain misfortune in terms of the working of good and evil spirits, or as the result of neglecting omens and observances, or as random and capricious. The doctrine of providence was meant to override these other theories. It also drew a more direct connection between misfortune and guilt by holding there was an element of punishment for past offences in many of God's judgments. In the 17th century many writers on economic affairs taught that the poor had only themselves to blame. It was their idleness and improvidence which had landed them where they were. This was no doubt comfortable doctrine for the well-to-do, but it can hardly have appealed to the sizable proportion of the population which never had any hope of dragging itself above subsistence level. The clergy therefore tried to console the poor with the doctrine of divine providence, stressing that there was a purpose behind everything, even if an unknown one. "It was a gloomy philosophy," Thomas says, "teaching men how to suffer, and stressing the impenetrability of God's will." It is not surprising that many should have eventually turned to non-religious modes of thought -scientific, perhaps, or astrological -- which offered a more direct prospect of relief and a more convincing explanation of why it was that some men prospered while others literally perished by the wayside. 437

83. On the relation to astrology to religion, Franz Boll says that astrology wants to be religion and science at the same time, and that this is its very essence. In former times (Boll says pre-Kantian), the relation between religion and science appeared to many people as an advantage, not as objectionable or dangerous. Faith, for many, was confirmed by the scientific results of astrology. And, no matter how often he was disappointed, an honest searcher might have his hopes renewed by the strength of sp iritu al experience.438 In this view, astrology appears as a tool of reason, and the action of stars on lives of men is an action of reason, imposed in a world laced with chance and chaos.

84. But Jean de Meun, one of the two authors of the Roman de la Ro se, the secular allegorical poem about Love, written in the 13th century, says something different: "Men say that the fates had decreed such deaths for them and had set up such destinies from the times when they were conceived. And since they took their births under such constellations that by strict necessity, without any other possibility, they have no power to avoid such a death, however much it should grieve them, they must accept it. But I know very well that it is quite true that however the heavens work to give them those natural ways that incline them to do those things that drew them to this end, obedient to the material that goes about to bend their hearts in this
436 Thomas, ibid., p. 107,109- 110.

437 Thomas, ibid., p. 111-112. 438 Franz Boll, Sternglaube und Sterndeutung, Die Geschichte und das Wesen der Astrologie (Star Faith and Star Meaning, the History and Essence of Astrology, with Carl Bezold, 4th edition, 1931, p. 72 -73.


way, even so, they can, through teaching, through clean, pure nourishment, by following good company that is endowed with sense and virtues, or through certain remedies, provided that they are good and pure, and also through goodness of understanding, they can, I say, obtain another result, provided that, like intelligent people, they have bridled their natural ways. For when a man or woman wants to turn his spirit away from its own nature, against his good and against right, Reason can turn him back, provided that he believes in her alone. Then the situation will go another way. It can indeed be in another way, whatever the heavenly bodies do, and they certainly have very great power as long as they don't go against Reason, for every wise man knows that they are not the masters of Reason, nor did they bring her to birth." 439 Reason, the poet says, reason bridling the natural person, can overcome the dictates of the heavens, however reasonable they might be. 85. The idea that reason can overcome the power of the stars was an old one, much older than the Roman de la Rose. "Vir sapiens dominabitur astris" -- "A wise man will dominate (or rule) the stars" -- is a saying often quoted or paraphrased in the Middle Ages. It was frequently attributed to Ptolemy, and specifically to the Almagest, but is said by Wedel not to occur in the works of Ptolemy. With Thomas Aquinas, the phrase acquired an ethical significance, and Jean de Meun appears to have followed Aquinas. In any case, a whole literature grew around the idea expressed in the adage. Yet its original meaning was that a scientific astrologer or learned astronomer, or someone who takes the advice of such an expert, will dominate the stars, being able to use knowledge of the heavens for his own ends. With Aquinas, the saying acquired a new meaning. The "wise man" became a man of character who gains control over the influence of the stars by mastering the inclinations caused or indicated by them. In John Gower's Confessio Amantis (1390-1393), the wise man becomes not so much a man of character as a man of prayer, who only can come to rule the stars by the grace of God. 440 86. The Roman de la Rose was only one among many medieval romances from which we can extract attitudes toward astrology of people who were not university professors. Wedel says: "The attitude of the romances toward astrology hardly admits of logical analysis. A narrator was as little hampered in the Middle Ages by questions of science or of ethics as he is today. It may be said, in general, that astrology, to the popular mediaeval mind, was a wonderful science, vaguely defined, and seldom condemned, whose omnipotence was proverbial. It is spoken of everywhere as the chief of the seven arts, and was hardly distinguished from necromancy and magic. The reality of its power was never doubted. By reason of its being a learned foreign importation [from the "Orient", i.e. the Arabs] ... astrology could acquire a fame in popular literature even exceeding that which it held among the astronomers of the schools." 441

87. As the age of the scientific revolution (or evolution) of the 17th century approached, astrology took an experimental turn. Thorndike says that in the second half of the 16th century, there were noteworthy efforts to improve astrology and make it more scientific. Numerous attempts were made to gather data, collect large numbers of particular cases, and to establish dependable rules of prediction on the basis of them. This was done especially with natal
439 Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, T h e R o m a n c e o f t h e R o s e (de Lorris, 1230-35; de Meun, c. 1275), translated by Charles Dahlberg, 1971, lines 17059-17100, p. 286- 287. 440 Wedel, ibid., p. 135-142. 441 Wedel, ibid., p. 108.


horoscopes. However, annual predictions for society as a whole continued to be made, and conjunctions, eclipses and comets were still taken as a basis for social and political prognostication. 4 4 2 88. Thorndike observes that quite a number of the writers on astrology in this era were academics, or -- in the terminology of the time -- scholastics. Of course, there were many others. At the end of vol. 6 of his A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Thorndike notes that in his volumes 5 and 6 alone, which cover the 16th century, over 3000 people are discussed in connection with magic and astrology, including 1200 writers and scholars, 300 printers, and considerably over 300 "patrons, patients, princes, prelates and other lay figures and passive participants in the play of ideas." The general index to these 2 volumes also contains about 1700 topics and names of things, in addition to the names of the more than 3000 persons. Among these 3000 persons there are, in addition to writers of the 16th century, over 30 Jewish and Biblical authors, over 100 Greek and Byzantine, nearly 40 Latin classical writers, nearly 60 Arabic authors, a dozen church fathers, about 25 early medieval Latin writers and about 25 from the 12th century, about 70 each for the 13th and 14th centuries, and about 130 from the 15th, as well as some 140 writers of the later 17th and 18th centuries, 150 of the 19th century, and 190 of the 20th. 443 This gives some idea of the both the magnitude of Thorndike's work, and the prominence of magic and astrology during these periods.

89. Similar statements can be made about Pierre Duhem, and the 10 volumes of his historical work, Le Système du Monde 444 . Thorndike was concerned to show how modern science had been influenced by the practice of magic and divinatory arts such as astrology. Duhem was concerned to show how modern science had been influenced by Christian doctrines, and especially how from the 14th century on, the "grandiose edifice" of Aristotelian physics was doomed to be destroyed, since "the Christian faith had undermined its essential principles", and observational astronomy had rejected its consequences. 445

90. Still, Thorndike and Duhem to a large extent agree on the status and influence of astrology in the later Middle Ages. Duhem says, for example: "The most authoritative theologians one encounters in the 13th century all maintain the same attitude with respect to astrology. They all admit that the movements of the stars exert on the bodies on earth multiple actions and determine numerous changes. They all refuse any efficacy [of the stars] on reasoning souls whose wills remain, with regard to celestial phenomena, exempt from all constraints. Moreover, the free choice of our will would be a vain thing if, in the world of bodies, certain operations were not in our power. It is therefore necessary that even the world of inferior bodies escape in part from the necessary law imposed by the circulation of the heavenly sphere. It is necessary that there remain here some contingency. On the other hand, if it is true that our will does not undergo on the the part of the stars any influence which determines it directly, it is true also that the celestial movements modify the temperament and the constitution of our bodies and, by that, can incline our free will in one direction or another, without however reaching the point of imposing the choice which it makes. Such are the four theses that the

Thorndike, ibid., v. 6, p. 99.

ibid., v. 6,p. 574. Pierre Duhem, Le Système du Monde, Histoire des Doctrines Cosmologiques de Platon à Copernic, 1913. 4 4 5 Duhem, l. c., v. 7, p. 3.



theologians agree to support. They hardly distinguish themselves from one another except by nuances, according as astrological divination exercises on their reason a more or less strong attraction."446 91. After discussing the adversaries of astrology, especially Nicolas Oresme (c. 1325-1382) and Jean Gerson (1363-1429) in the 14th and early 15th centuries, Duhem says: "And now, the reader will perhaps pose this question: The most ardent adversaries of astrology never went so far as to deny all influence of the stars on things here below. Nicolas Oresme and Jean Gerson grant them at least a general influence. Isn't this a last and distressing concession to astrology? God forbid that they had repudiated all of astrology! For beneath its monstrous errors, it contained the germ of a great and fruitful truth. We have heard the scholastic doctors, from William of Auvergne to Themo the son of the Jew, compare the influence of the stars on things on earth to that which a lodestone exerts on iron to attract it. In fact, don't we also admit that the stars attract at a distance all the bodies on earth like a magnet attracts iron? The masters of the Middle Ages would no doubt hail our doctrine of universal gravitation as the ultimate consequence of their suppositions about the influence of the stars. This opinion, moreover, was indeed that of the first adversaries of gravitation. When Kepler sketched the first features of this hypothesis, when Newton made it emerge from his Mathematical Princles of Natural Philosophy, they heard people like Galileo, Huyghens and Fatio de Duillers reproach them for their recourse to those occult virtues, to those specific qualities which the scholastics used to explain magnetic attractions."

92. “It is therefore indeed true that relieved of an encumbering mass of dross, astrology was to leave at the bottom of the crucible an ingot of an infinitely precious metal, the doctrine of universal gravity. If, moreover, most of the manifestations of this gravity remained hidden from the eyes of the scholars of the Middle Ages. there is one they knew very well, that they studied with the most lively interest, that they cited with eagerness as an example which catches hold of the influence of the stars on things on earth. The astrologers found convincing proof of their assumptions in the phenomenon of the tides."447


Duhem, ibid., v. 8, p. 347. Duhem, ibid., v. 8, p. 500-501.


Chapter 7. From Ptolemy to Newton 1. In his book Spiritus Mundi Northrup Frye speaks of the relation of the Ptolemaic and Copernican world systems, and of astrology and astronomy, which he takes, as a literary critic, to be "a collision between two mythologies, two pictures or visions, not of reality, but of man's sense of the meaning of reality in relation to himself." 448 Frye contrasts the two visions: "The geocentric view had on its side the religious feeling that the moral and natural orders had been made by the same God, that man was the highest development of nature, that God had died and risen again for man, and that therefore the notion of a plurality of worlds could be dismissed." Moreover, the Ptolemaic view was also supported by the mythical analogy between the macrocosm, the Universe, and the microcosm, Man. The macrocosm was finite in both time and space. "Just as man lives for only seventy years, so the universe was created to last for seven thousand years, six thousand years of history and a thousand years of millennium, corresponding to the six days of creation and the Sabbath of rest. Creation took place four thousand years before the birth of Christ, who was born in 4 B.C.: therefore the millennium will begin in 1996. However the heliocentric view had some mythological trump-cards too. The sun is the source of light, and therefore the symbol of consciousness. And the Renaissance brought with it a new and expanded sense of consciousness, a feeling that consciousness represented something that tore man loose from the lower part of nature and united him with a higher destiny." But, Frye says, "of course, it happens to be true that the earth goes around the sun, and not true that the sun goes around the earth."

2. Is it false that the sun goes around the earth? Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld say: "Can we formulate physical laws so that they are valid for all CS [coordinate systems], not only those moving uniformly, but also those moving quite arbitrarily, relative to each other? If this can be done, our troubles will be over. We shall then be able to apply the laws of nature to any CS. The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, "the sun is at rest and the earth moves," or "the sun moves and the earth is at rest," would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS. Could we build a real relativistic physics valid in all CS; a physics in which there would be no place for absolute, but only for relative motion? This is indeed possible! [general relativity]." 449 3. Frye asserts that when mythologies collide, it is doubtless an advantage to have the truth, or more of the truth, on one's side -- but not a clinching advantage. "The words 'sunrise' and 'sunset' are as familiar to us as ever," he says. "We 'know' that what they describe is really an illusion, but they are metaphorically efficient, and man can live indefinitely with metaphor." Science only destroys the unscientific, and separates itself from mythology. "The autonomy of science," says Frye, "goes along with its reliance on mathematics, which can apparently penetrate much further into the external world than words can do." 450 4. As to mathematics and words, Galileo says: "Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood

Northrup Frye, Spi ritu s Mundi , 1976, p. 70- 89. 449 Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, The Evolu tion of Phy sic s 1938, p 212) 450 Frye, l.c.


unless one first learns to comprehend the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these one wanders about in a dark labyrinth."451 For Galileo as for Kepler, and for Euclid before them, geometry is at the core of mathematics -concepts of number, or at any rate numbers other than integers, depend on concepts of geometry. 5. It is one thing to say the heavens can be read like a book of words, and another to say that they can be comprehended with geometry. Marsilio Ficino wrote in his Theologia platonica (late 15th century): "The notions of divine beings are made clear by the disposition of the heavens, as if through letters." 452 Earlier still there is the statement of Bernard Silvester in his De mundi universitate (12th century), as reported by Thorndike: "Nous or Intelligence says to Nature, 'I would have you behold the sky, inscribed with a multiform variety of images, which, like a book with open pages, containing the future in cryptic letters, I have revealed to the eyes of the more learned.'"453 Ficino and Silvester were talking about astrology. 6. Galileo inherited his views of the importance of geometry from classical Greek antiquity, and the 16th and 17th century scientists were not the first to revive it. Robert Grosseteste (c. 1230 C.E.): "There is an immense usefulness in the consideration of lines, angles, and figures, because without them natural philosophy cannot be understood. They are applicable in the universe as a whole and in its parts, without restriction, and their validity extends to related properties, such as circular and rectilinear motion, nor does it stop at action and passion, whether as applied to matter or sense ... For all causes of natural effects can be discovered by lines, angles and figures, and in no other way can the reason for their action possibly be known."454 7. There is something in mathematics besides words and language, something more than algebra. There are the abstract pictures and visions of geometry. Beyond that, there are the intuitions of mathematicians, instituted, it appears, by basic structures and processes of our universe. In a narrow sense, mathematical "intuition" refers to geometric visualization. In a larger sense it refers to any mathematical knowledge which is not based --perhaps not base-able -- on formalized logic or language, and proofs formulated using them. There are some who appear to have direct insight into relations of numerical, spatial and temporal abstractions, both among the abstractions themselves and as they apply to other things. Formal proofs follow after, if they can be found at all. If this is so, mathematics is not merely a part of logic, as Bertrand Russell and other logicians have maintained. 8. What about Frye's view of mythology? Mythology, he holds, is not primarily an attempt to depict reality, not a primitive form of science or philosophy, but an attempt to articulate the greatest human concerns. However, mythology, he says, tends to project itself on the outer world and harness science with pseudo-scientific presuppositions. Then science has to
451 Galileo Galilei, Il Saggiatore (The Assayer), translated by Stillman Drake in Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, 1957, p. 237-23 8. 452 Quoted by Eugenio Garin in Astrology in the Renaissance (1983, o. 69), translation of Lo Zodiaco della Vita (1976). 453 Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 1923-1958, v. 2, p. 105. 454 Robert Grosseteste De lineis, angulis etfigures, c. 123 0;quoted by James McEvoy in The Philosophy ofRobert Grosseteste, 1982, p. 168.

destroy such mythological thinking in its own area. This doesn't mean that the mythological thinking should be destroyed in the areas to which it belongs. Mythology has its own spheres and functions, and what takes place is a separation of mythology and science. Frye quotes Bernard Shaw to the effect that if William the Conqueror had been told by a bishop that the moon was 77 miles from the earth, he would have thought that a very proper distance for the moon, inasmuch as 7 is a sacred number. As science destroyed the unscientific in its concerns, what Frye calls "symmetrical pattern-making" went underground into occult science, into alchemy, astrology, kabbalism and magic. But of course, theoretical physicists and cosmologists are makers of symmetrical patterns par excellence. Perhaps Frye has in mind some kind of Baconian "inductive" science, in which one collects pieces of information (probably dry and unexciting in themselves) and somehow extracts from them hypotheses and theories after the fact of gather ing the information. This is not the way of theoretical physics or mathematics. 9. As an example of the gradual separating of poetic and scientific modes of thinking, Frye takes astrology. Astrology is, he says, like the science of astronomy, a study of the stars, but it studies the stars from a geocentric point of view: it is interested mainly in the influences that the movements of stars are believed to have on human concerns. Geocentricity is not a necessary concomitant of astrology, as we have seen. Putting that aside, however, it is charming to think that while it seems the physical influence on our characters of the planet Mars is negligible, Mars may have a poetical influence on those who are told it occupies a special position in their horoscopes -- no matter what its position at their births. 10. Frye states that it is conceivable that astrology will eventually validate its claim to be a coherent subject, but in the meantime, the popularity of astrology (he was writing in the earlier 1970's) indicates a growing acceptance of a kind of thinking poets use. In this way, astrology would not be empty, no matter what its scientific status. In the scientific view of things, Frye says, the starry universe died during the course of the 16th century. In a metaphorical sense, this is contrary to the popular, and even the scientific works (if you know how to read them) of modern astronomers, cosmologists and physicists. But I suppose Frye means that current astronomers no longer consider celestial bodies to be alive in the way that, say, Plato and Aristotle did. Astrology preserves something of the view that the sky is the symbol of the divine order of a personal creator. By the time we get to the prologue to Goethe's Faust, says Frye, "the conception of God as the infinitely skillful juggler of planets is only a subject for parody." Frye cites Byron's early 19th century “Vision of the Last Judgement”: The angels all were singing out of tune, And hoarse with having little else to do, Excepting to wind up the sun and moon Or curb a runaway young star or two ... It was Darwin, Frye observes, who completed the revolution in perspective that Copernicus had begun. The doctrine of evolution, he considers, made time as huge and frightening as space. The past, after Darwin, was no more emotionally reassuring than the skies had come to be. Frye concludes that we live in more than one world. We live in an actual world, our physical environment in time and space, the world studied mainly by the natural or physical sciences. At the same time we live in worlds we want to live in, and worlds we are creating out of our


environment. "This world," Frye claims, "is always geocentric, always anthropocentric, always centered on man and man's concerns." 455 11. Frye proposes the following chronology, for astrology (presumably in England): 1473. Astrology and astronomy are much the same subject, and most of those who study the stars are interested primarily in astrology . 1573. The situation is not very diferent, despite Copernicus. There had always been theological reservations about astrology, mainly on the score of an implied fatalism, and these had been increased by the Reformation and Counter -Reformation. But still astrology was generally accepted as a reasonable hypothesis, and in the next generation Kepler was an energetic caster of horoscopes. 1673. This is the age of the Royal Society, and by now most of the star -gazers are interested only in astronomy .... 1773. With the discovery of Uranus imminent, belief and interest in astrology is abandoned by most educated people. 1873. Astrology is firmly consigned to the scrap-heap of exploded superstitions. 1973. Astrology is a major industry, with newspapers printing horoscopes, a large number of books expounding the subject, and a great many practicing astrologers plying their trade. At the same time astrology has separated from astronomy: the two studies are carried on by diferent people and their literatures are addressed to diferent publics. There are many who 'believe in' astrology, i.e. would like to feel that there is 'something in it', but Ishould imagine that relatively few of them are astronomers."

12. I suppose Frye doesn't mean us to take his chronology of astrology too soberly. A perhaps more soberly seriously chronology of the fortunes of astrology in England for the years 1642-1800 has been given by Patrick Curry. Briefly, astrology flourished in England in the middle years of the 17th century-- from about the beginning of the Puritan revolution in 1642 to the Restoration in 1660. In many respects, a decline began in 1660. During the course of the 18th century, omen astrology continued to decline, and "high" astrology, meant as serious cosmological or philosophical explanation by educated people, practically died out. However, "popular" astrology survived. Curry mentions the annual Moore's Vox Stellarum ("Voice of the Stars"), known as Moore's Almanack. As well as simple ephemerides, these provided yearly astrological guidance of the omen sort -- predictions about the weather, agriculture, politics, wars, and natural disasters. By 1738, this was outselling all its rivals at 25,000 copies a year. Its printings rose to 107,000 copies a year in 1768, 353,000 in 1800 and peaked at 560,000 in 1839. John Clare described in 1827 a typical farmer seated in a tavern and reading


Old Moore's annual prop hecies Offlooded fields and clouded skies; Whose Almanac's thumb'd pages swarm With frost and snow and many a storm, And wisdom, gossip 'dfrom the stars, Ofpolitics and bloody wars. He shakes his head, and still proceeds, Nor doubts the truth of what he reads. 4 5 6

13. Bernard Capp concludes from his study of English almanacs that, like astrology itself, they were at their peak in the Elizabethan and Stuart periods, and showed decay by the 18th century, at any rate among the educated. The decay was gradual. There was a lively debate on the validity of astrology in the mid 16th century. A similar debate in France at that time proved to be a decisive turning point for astrology there, leading to its devaluation. The English episode was less decisive. In the second half of the 16th century, no major scientist seriously devoted his efforts to astrology, and the Royal Society, the universities and the College of Physicians often displayed hostility toward it. Yet starting from the 1640's, interest in a reformed astrology increased dramatically. In the 17th century, belief in astrology was never extinguished, even in the upper classes of society, but scientists increasingly turned away from it. 457

14. Morris Jastrow asserts (in 1911) that in England, Jonathan Swift can fairly claim credit for having given the death-blow to astrology with his famous squib, the Prediction for the Year 1708, by Isaac Bickerstaf, Esq. Swift begins by professing profound belief in the art, but then points out the vagueness and absurdity of present practices. He then proceeds to describe a more excellent way: "My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I mention it to show how ignorant these sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns: it refers to Partridge the almanacmaker. I have consulted the star of his nativity by my own rules, and find he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next about eleven at night of raging fever. Therefore I advise him to consider of it and settle his affairs in time." There followed a letter giving an account of the death of Partridge on the very day and nearly at the hour mentioned. In vain, the astrologer protested that he was still alive, and got a literary friend to write a pamphlet to prove it. He also published his almanac for 1709. Swift, in his reply, abused him for his lack of manners in disagreeing with a gentleman like himself, and answered his arguments one by one. In particular, he declared that publication of another almanac was irrelevant as evidence for his continued existence, "for Gadbury, Poor Robin, Dove and Way do yearly publish their almanacs, though several of them have been dead since before the Revolution." Of course Swift was referring to almanacs being issued under the names of their first and former publishers. Jastrow concludes: "Nevertheless a field is found even to this day for almanacs of a similar type, and for popular belief in them." 458

456 Patrick Curry, Prophecy and Power, Astrology in Early Modern England, 1989, p. 101-102. Curry proposes that the survival of popular astrology was a class phenomenon. 457 Bernard Capp, English Almanacs, 1500-1800, Astrology and the Popular Press, 1979, p. 276-278. 458 cf. Morris Jastrow, Encyclopedia Britanica, 11th edition, 1910-1911, article "Astrology", v. 2, p. 799 - 800.
Frye, ibid.



15. Jacques Halbronn comme nts that in the late 17th and early18th century attacks on astrology often had a forbidding character which failed to undermine its appeal for large sectors of the population. Laughter, as prescribed by Swift, was often a more effective medicine. However, Halbronn notes that Swift had been preceded in this genre by, among others, Franois Rabelais. The latter's Pantagruline Prognostication was a sort of prognostication "for all years", which revealed the truisms and banalities of this kind of astrological discourse. 459 16. Among reasons long put forward for the decline in the hold of astrology over the educated classes, there are the discoveries of astronomers, with the telescope or otherwise, that the heavens are not perfect or unchanging (novae, sun spots, mountains on the moon), the discovery of new "planets" (which is what Galileo called the moons of Jupiter he had discovered with his telescope), and the realization that stellar distances are much greater than had been believed. Perhaps also involved was the transition from a belief in an Aristotelian-Ptolemaic universe of finite extent to a belief in a decentralized universe of infinite extent. 460 There was also a change in attitudes of churchmen toward astrology. 17. Capp says: "Robert Boyle and others were convinced that science could strengthen Christianity. From the harmony and splendour of the universe they felt able to prove the existence of a divine Creator. They depicted a universe which was regular and ordered, shaped by the hand of God but run according to the constant laws he had created In this current of religious thought, which by 1700 represented the orthodox view [in England], there was no place for a God repeatedly interfering in his own laws. Nor, by extension, could there be room for the stars as the instruments of such intervention, and still less for astrologers as the self-appointed interpreters of God's will."461 This no doubt applies to astrological predictions which could be overturned, but it would seem to strengthen a strictly deterministic astrology. Astrologers might discover rather than interpret God's immutable will by employing laws according to which the stars influence people -- if only they knew the l aws. However, the scientists were more successful at discovering laws in their domain than the astrologers were in theirs.

18. Patrick Curry says: "Often people wanted more specific and personal advice, on urgent matters, than was available from a book or almanac. Then they had recourse to the local 'wise' or 'cunning' man, or woman. While it is impossible to estimate numbers, it seems that this figure too had disappeared more from 'Books and Talk' than from 'the World'." 462 Such so-called cunning persons, Curry says, remained a recognized influence well into the nineteenth century, combining -- for the poor -- services of medicine, divination and magical protection, all with a strong though primitive astrological component. Of course, we still have our local fortune tellers in the United States today.

459 Jacques Halbronn, "The Revealing Process of Translation and Criticism", in Astrology, Science and Society, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 212. 460 As described by Alexander Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, 1957. Most physical cosmologists today believe the universe to be of finite extent, but expanding -- the old finite universe was of fixed size, once and for all. 461 Capp, ibid., p. 280. 462 Patrick Curry, Prophecy and Power, Astrology in Early Modern England, 1989, p. 102.) (Curry is referring to a remark made by Mrs. Hester Thrale in 1790: "Superstition is said to be driven out of the World -- no such Thing, it is only driven out of Books and Talk."


19. John Melton in his attack on astrology, Astrologaster or the Figure-Caster, 1620, describes how he consulted an astrological fortune -teller of this sort about a gold chain he had lost. He is admitted to the astrologer's house and led upstairs by a small boy. Then, Melston says: "Before a Square Table, covered with a greene Carpet, on which lay a huge Booke in Folio, wide open, full of strange Characters, such as the Aegyptians and Chaldaeans were never guiltie of, not farre from that, a silver Wand, a Surplus [surplice?], a Watering Pot, with all the superstitious or rather fayned Instruments of his cousening [cheating] Art. And to put a fairer colour on his black and foule Science, on his head hee had a foure-cornered Cap, on his backe a faire Gowne (but made of a strange fashion) in his right hand he held an Astrolabe, in his left a Mathematical Glasse [telescope?]. At the first view, there was no man that came to him (if hee were of any fashion) could offer him for his advice lesse than a Iacobus [a coin on the order of a pound or guinea], and the meanest halfe a Peece [half of a lesser coin], although hee peradventure (rather than have nothing) would be contented with a brace of Two-pences." 463 20. Nearly a century and a half later, Tobias Smollett, in his novel The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, 1762, gives a similar description of such a person, an astrologer consulted by Timothy Crab shaw, groom and squire to Sir Launcelot: "He was dragged upstairs like a bear to the stake, not without reluctance and terror, which did not at all abate at sight of the conjurer, with whom he was immediately shut up by his conductress, after she had told him in a whisper that he must deposit a shilling in a little black coffin, supported by a human skull and thigh-bones crossed, on a stoll covered with black baize, that stood in one corner of the apartment. The squire, having made this offer with fear and trembling, ventured to survey the objects around him, which were very well calculated to augment his confusion. He saw divers skeletons hung by the head, the stuffed skin of a young alligator, a calf with two heads, and several snakes suspended from the ceiling, with the jaws of a shark, and a starved weasel. On another funeral table he beheld two spheres, between which lay a book open, exhibiting outlandish characters and mathematical diagrams. On one side stood an ink-standish with paper, and behind this desk appeared the conjurer himself, in sable vestments, his head so overshadowed with hair that, far from contemplating his features, Timothy could distinguish nothing but a long white beard, which, for aught he knew, might have belonged to a four -legged goat, as well as to a two -legged astrologer "

21. "[The conjurer] exhorted him to sit down and compose himself till he should cast a figure; then he scrawled the paper, and waving his wand, repeated abundance of gibberish concerning the number, the names, the houses, and revolutions of the planets, with their conjunctions, oppositions, signs, circles, cycles, trines, and trigons. When he perceived that this artifice had its proper effect in dis turbing the brain of Crabshaw, he proceeded ..." The astrologer tells Crabshaw some things that Crabshaw had already told him, although Crabshaw seems to have forgotten this. Crab shaw is "thunderstruck to find the conjurer acquainted with all these circumstances," and wants to know if he can ask a question or two about his fortune, "The astrologer pointing to the little coffin, our squire understood the hint, and deposited another shilling. The sage had recourse to his book, erected another scheme, performed once more his airy evolutions with the wand, and having recited another mystical preamble, expounded the book of fate in these words: "You shall neither die by war nor water, by hunger or by thirst, nor be brought to the grave by an old age of distemper; but, let me see -- ay, the stars will have it so 463

Q u ot ed b y D on Al l e n C a m e r on i n The Star - Crossed Renaissance, 1 9 4 1 , p . 1 3 6 .


- you shall be -- exalted -- hah! -- ay, that is -- hanged, for horse-stealing." --"Oh, good my lord conjurer!" roared the squire, “I'd as lief give forty shillings as be hanged." --"Peace, sirrah!" cried the other; "would you contradict or reverse the immutable decrees of fate? Hanging is your destiny, and hanged you shall be -- and comfort yourself with the rejection, that as you are not the first, so neither will you be the last to swing on Tyburn tree." This comfortable assurance composed the mind of Timothy, and in a great measure reconciled him to the prediction." 464 22. Jacques Halbronn gives some details about the decline of astrology in France. The primary goal of the work of Abbé Pluche, especially the Histoire du Ciel, 1739, was to undermine the foundations of astrology by reawakening the world of gods and heroes that had been pushed aside. "The history of the birth of this supposed science," he wrote, "is its refutation, for all Astrology is no more than a false interpretation of certain signs that have been misunderstood." One of Pluche's major concerns was to distinguish sharply between astronomy and astrology, and Halbronn observes that "in this he was followed by all the historians of the Revolutionary period, from Bailly to La Lande and Delambre. Astronomers to some extent felt affected by the disfavor attached to astrology, and since approximately the time of Pluche, astronomers have been prime opponents of astrology. Historians of astronomy committed themselves to removing the stigmata of astrology by purifying their discourse of everything that might be a reminder of the link between the two activities. For a century and a half, roughly from 1730 to 1880, astrology was considered by many only in the past tense. Astrology came to be considered as no longer dangerous, but merely empty.465 23. The effect on astrology of the transition from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican view of the world has often been mis-evaluated. As many astrologers realized, Copernicanism and astrology are as consistent as Ptolemaicism and astrology, just as navigation by the stars as viewed from earth is consistent with navigation by the stars as viewed from the sun. Whatever influence the earth and sun have on one another doesn't depend which body is taken as a reference point. As far as positions of celestial objects are concerned, aside from the forces they exert on one another, it's just a matter of one's point of view. Given the general relativity of Einstein, this is so even taking forces into account. It's comparatively simple to transform positions with respect to our earth into positions with respect to our sun, and vice versa. Relating forces in the two systems is more difficult, but possible. Furthermore, while the effect of placing the sun rather than the earth at the center of the universe no doubt made some people feel less central (!), I suggest that a decline in belief in the power of magic, and in the power to predict personal and political matters by means of interpreting the stars, contributed more than the advent of Copernicanism to feelings that the universe was not made especially for us. This was perceived as a loss of power, or potential power, rather than of position.

24. A decline in belief in astrology was especially prevalent among well educated and scientifically oriented people. Formerly there were professors of astrology in universities, and astrologers were openly hired and consulted by temporal and spiritual leaders. For example, at the universities of Bologna, Padua and Milan in Italy, the list of professors of astrology is
464 Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves, 1762, Hutchinson edition of 1905, bound with Adventures of an Atom, p. 215- 217. 465 Jacques Halbronn, "The Revealing Process of Translation and Criticism", in Astrology, Science and Society, 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 213-215.


continuous from the early 13th to the 16th century, and includes such names as Pietro d'Abano, Giorgio Peurbach and Regiomontanus. 466 The latter two are often counted among the earliest modern astronomers. The chair in judicial astrology at the University of Salamanca was occupied until at least 1770.467 Professors of mathematics and medicine were often astrologers, and numerous officials of the State and Church up to kings and popes employed or favored astrology. Wedel speaks, for example, of Guido Bonatti, perhaps the most famous professional astrologer of the 13th century: "As an example of the kind of services he rendered his masters, Filippo Villani relates that while in the employ of Guido de Montefeltro, he would mount the campanile [bell tower] to observe the stars at the outbreak of any military expedition. At the first striking of the bell, the count and his men would put on their armor; at the second stroke, they would mount their horses; and at the third, spur their steeds to a gallop. Experience testifies, says Villani, that by this means the count won many a victory." 4 68 For a long time, astrology was a chief tool of medical doctors. This is no longer so (I think). Yet many people still to some degree believe in the efficacy of astrology, such is the deep longing many people have for the kind of power astrology is alleged to furnish. 25. I have depicted some large patterns a nd small bits of astronomy/astrology, the study of stars, as it was up to the transformation of science which began in the latter part of the 16th century. It was in this era that astronomy and astrology began to split apart to the extent we see today. Galileo was a prominent contributor to this separation. In his Dialogo sopra due massimi sistemi del mondo, tolemaico, e copernicano of 1632, Galileo has Salviati (representing himself) say: "Likewise it is completely idle to say (as is attributed to one of the ancient mathematicians) that the tides are caused by the conflict between the motion of the earth and the motion of the lunar sphere, not only because it is neither obvious nor has it been explained how this must follow, but because its glaring falsity is revealed by the rotation of the earth being not contrary to the motion of the moon, but in the same direction. Thus everything that has been previously conjectured by others seems to me completely invalid. But among all the great men who have philosophized about this remarkable effect, I am more astonished at Kepler than at any other. Despite his open and acute mind, and though he has at his fingertips the motions attributed to the earth, he has nevertheless lent his ear and his assent to the moon's dominion over the waters, to occult properties, and to such puerilities."469

26. From our point of view, as influenced by Newton's treatment of gravitational attraction, Kepler seems to have had the right idea after all. The moon does have a physical effect on our lives, as star-gazers first maintained so long ago, inasmuch as its gravitational attraction has an effect on our lives. This much of astronomy/astrology has been absorbed into astronomy. Galileo wanted to do away with even this much. 27. On the other hand, Galileo has Sagredo (representing an educated layman) say to Simplicio (representing an Aristotelian philosopher): "I have a little book, much briefer than Aristotle or Ovid, in which is contained the whole of science, and with very little study one may form from it the most complete ideas. It is the alphabet, and no doubt anyone who can properly
466 467 468 469 462. Theodore Otto Wedel in The Mediaeval Attitude toward Astrology, Particularly in England, 1920, p. 77. Thorndike, ibid., v. 6, p. 166. Wedel, ibid., p. 78- 79. Galileo, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, 1632, translated by Stillman Drake, 1962, p.


join and order this or that vowel and these or those consonants with one another can dig out of it the truest answers to every question, and draw from it the instruction in all the arts and sciences. Just so does a painter, from the various simple colors placed separately upon his palette, by gathering a little of this with a bit of that and a trifle of the other, depict men, plants, buildings, birds, fishes, and in a word represent every visible object, without any eyes or feathers or scales or leaves or stones being on his palette. Indeed, it is necessary that none of the things imitated nor parts of them should actually be among the colors, if you want to be able to represent everything; if there were feathers, for instance, these would not do to depict anything but birds or feather dusters This manner of 'containing' everything that can be known is similar to the sense in which a block of marble contains a beautiful statue, or rather thousands of them; but the whole point lies in being able to reveal them. Even better we might say that it is like the prophecies of Joachim or the answers of the heathen oracles, which are understood only after the events they have forecast have occurred." Salviati interjects: "And why do you leave out the prophecies of the astrologers, which are so clearly seen in horoscopes (or should we say in the configurations of the heavens) after their fulfillment?"470 This much of astronomy/astrology, attributed by Galileo to an unsupported use of language, is not found in our astronomy today.

28. Similarly, Thorndike relates of Descartes that in 1629: "... he wrote that he judged from the title of Gaffarel's recent Curiositez inouyes sur la sculpture des Persans, horoscope des patriarches et lecture des estoilles [Forgotten curiosities about the sculpture of the Persians, horoscopes of the patriarchs and reading of the stars] that it would contain only chimeras. Thus he already drew a sharp line between natural or mathematical magic, which could be effected or explained mechanically, and an immaterial magic based on the power of words, pictures and diagrams. " 4 7 1

29. It has been stated at times that a crucial blow to the validity of associating influences of celestial objects with human affairs was dealt when Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley discovered the regular orbits of comets. In this view, it was the unpredictability of comets that made them seem ominous, and when the unpredictability was removed, so was the ominousness. However, Simon Schaffer has argued that the work of Newton, Halley and some of their contemporaries on comets was part of a natural philosophy which still dealt with prophetic aspects of astronomical signs. In particular, Newton suggested that comets might be used by God to replenish materials on Earth, or, more ominously, to terminate life on Earth by crashing into the sun and defeating the stability of the solar system. At the same time, it follows from Schaffer's work that Newton attacked a basic tenet of astral religion, the divinity of celestial objects. Newton took this doctrine to be a form of idolatry, and also as the basis of astrology. Thus the work of Newton on comets, and work related to it, contained an attack on astrology. Schaffer's analysis of Newton's cometography (as Schaffer calls it, perhaps after a work Cometographia of 1668 by Seth Ward which Schaffer cites, in which Ward asserted that comets move in circles) can be used not only to reveal Newton's argument against astrology, but also to

470 471

Galileo, ibid., p. 109- 110 of Drake’s translation. Lynn Thorndike, A Hi s t o r y o f M a g i c a n d E x p e r i me n t a l S c i e n c e ,1923- 1958, v. 7 (1958), p. 557.


show a part of what we now call astronomy emerging from the astronomy/astrology which preceded it. 4 7 2 30. It was a comet of 1664 -1665 which aroused Newton's interest in comets, and perhaps in astronomy in general. In his work on comets (1619-1620), Kepler had distinguished between permanent celestial objects which move in closed orbits, and transient ones, such as comets, which move (he thought) in straight lines. By 1680, Newton had convinced himself that this classification was correct. However, certain events transformed his view. Among these was a heightened concern among astrologers and their opponents over the significance of comets in connection with a Catholic threat (the Popish Plot), and the fall of monarchies. This was of great concern to Newton. The comets of 1680-1681 and 1682 were to become prize specimens in a new cometography he developed. Robert Hooke had by this time argued that comets were more like planets than was generally thought at the time, and Edmond Halley had convinced himself that linear paths for comets could not explain observations. The astronomer Giovanni Cassini had identified the comet of 1680 with those of 1577 and 1665. Earlier, in 1677, the astronomer John Flamsteed had announced that comets "make their returns as in stated times & move about ye fixed stars at a vast distance." He pronounced this to be a powerful argument against astrological predictions based on appearances of comets, and even against judicial astrology in general. In 1681, Flamsteed argued for a cometary path which took a sharp bend near the sun, and suggested that it might be attracted by the sun in its approach and repelled from it afterwards. Between the spring of 1681 and the autumn of 1684, Newton decided that comets should be treated in the same manner as planets, and that both types of objects moved in elliptical orbits around the sun. He developed a method for calculating the parameters of the orbits of comets and their periods which appeared in Book 3 of the Principia in 1687. By the winter of 1695-1696, Halley and Newton had established at least two closed and periodic cometary paths, and on 3 June 1696 Halley told the Royal Society that the comet of 1682 and that of 1607 were the same, and that it had a period of about 75 years. This became known as Halley's comet. 473

31. According to Schaffer, this work of Newton and Halley on comets in the 1690's was intimately linked to their re-definition of the function of comets in the universe. There were a number of projects connected with these functions. These included an analysis of the stability of the solar system, the scriptural history of the Earth including the Biblical deluge and end of the world, an analysis of changes in mass of the planets and sun, and of the maintenance of vital activity throughout the cosmos. Newton held that comets were part of a divinely planned system. For example, in a letter to Richard Bentley, he says: "To your second Query I answer that ye motions wch ye Planets now have could not spring from any naturall cause alone but were imprest by an intelligent Agent. For since Comets descend into ye region of our Planets & here move all manner of ways going sometimes the same way wth the Planets sometimes the contrary way & sometimes in cross ways in planes inclined to ye plane of the Ecliptick at all kinds of angles: its plaine that there is no naturall cause wch could determin all ye Planets both primary and seconday to move ye same way & in ye same plane wthout any considerable

472 473

Simon Schaffer, "Newton's Comets and the Transformation of Astrology", in A st rology , Sci enc e and Schaffer, ibid.

Soci ety , 1987, edited by Patrick Curry, p. 2 19 -243.


variation. This must have been the effect of Counsel."474 And he is quoted by Gregory as saying: "that a continual miracle is needed to prevent the Sun and fixed stars from rushing together through gravity: that the great eccentricity in Comets in directions both different from and contrary to the planets indicates a divine hand: and implies that the Comets are destined for a use other than that of the planets."475 32. In 1687, Newton argued as follows in Book III of the Principia: "And it is not unlikely but that the vapor [from the tails of comets], thus continually rarefied and dilated, may be at last dissipated and scattered through the whole heavens, and by little and little be attracted towards the planets by its gravity, and mixed with their atmosphere; for as the seas are absolutely necessary to the constitution of our earth, that from them, the sun, by its heat, may exhale a sufficient quantity of vapors, which, being gathered together into clouds, may drop down in rain, for watering of the earth, and for the production and nourishment of vegetables; or being condensed with cold on the tops of mountains (as some philosophers with reason judge), may run down in springs and rivers; so for the conservation of the seas, and fluids of the planets, comets seem to be required, that, from their exhalations and vapors condensed, the wastes of the planetary fluids spent upon vegetation and putrefaction, and converted into dry earth, may be continually supplied and made up; for all vegetables entirely derive their growths from fluids, and afterwards, in great measure, are turned into dry earth by putrefaction; and a sort of slime is always found to settle at the bottom of putrefied fluids; and hence it is that the bulk of the solid earth is continually increased; and the fluids, if they are not supplied from without, must be in continual decrease, and quite fail at last. I suspect, moreover, that it is chiefly from the comets that spirit comes, which is indeed the smallest but most subtle and useful part of our air, and so much required to sustain the life of all things with us."476

33. In the early 1670's, Newton had written in a manuscript called "Of natures obvious laws & processes in vegetation" that "this Earth resembles a great animall or rather inanimate vegetable, draws in aethereall breath for its dayly refreshment & vitall ferment & transpires again the grosse exhalations". 477 These ideas were made a part of his cometography after 1687, and amplified in the final queries in his Optics of 1706. Thus comets served a divine office --the restoration of vegetative life.

34. Newton seems not to have been much attached to the idea that celestial objects are alive. The Earth, he says, resembles a large animal, or rather an "inanimate vegetable" (whatever that might be). Robert Westfall calls attention to an alchemical paper of Newton's which probes the distinction between vegetation and mechanical changes. Newton sometimes referred to a principle of vegetable action as a spirit, or "Powerfull agent". Sometimes he referred to it with a plural such as seeds or seminal virtues, which are nature's "only agents, her fire, her soule, her life." Westfall concludes: "That is, what he found in the world of alchemy was the conviction that nature cannot be reduced to the arrangement of inert particles of matter. Nature contains
474 Letter from Newton to Bentley, 10 Dec 1692, in The Correspondence of Newton, edited by H. W. Turnbull, J. F. Scott, A. R. Hall and L. Tilling, 1959-1977, v. 3 (1961), p. 234. 475 Gregory, memoranda of 5,6,7 May 1694, ibid., p. 336. 476 Isaac Newton, Philosophiae naturalisprincipia mathematica (1687), translated by Andrew Motte (1729), revised by Florian Cajori (1934) with the title Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and his System of the World, p. 529- 530. 477 Quoted by Schaffer, ibid., p. 235.


foci of activity, agents whose spontaneous working produces results that cannot be accounted for by the mechanical philosophy's only category of explanation: particles of matter in motion." 478 35. Westfall makes a case for concluding that Newton's alchemical studies stimulated Newton to introduce his concept of forces of attraction and repulsion acting between particles of matter. But the concept of a life force animating matter is quite different from the concept of a living planet with a soul. I have not been able to find any indication that Newton considered planets to have souls, or to be alive as an animal or person is alive, in the way Kepler did. 36. By 1698, Newton had concluded that the comet of 1680 was periodic, and in the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Principia (1713, 1726) said: "The comet which appeared in the year 1680 was in its perihelion less distant from th e sun than by a sixth part of the sun's diameter; and because of its extreme velocity in that proximity to the sun, and some density of the sun's atmosphere, it must have suffered some resistance and retardation; and therefore, being attracted somewhat nea rer to the sun in every revolution, will at last fall down upon the body of the sun. Nay, in its aphelion, where it moves the slowest, it may sometimes happen to be yet further retarded by the attractions of other comets, and in consequence of this retardation descend to the sun. So fixed stars, that have been gradually wasted by the light and vapors emitted from them for a long time, may be recruited by comets that fall upon them; and from this fresh supply of new fuel those old stars, acquiring new splendor, may pass for new stars. Of this kind are such fixed stars as appear on a sudden, and shine with a wonderfull brightness at first, and afterwards vanish little by little." 479 Thus Newton conjectures that a nova may be the result of an old star being struck by one of its comets. Furthermore, he predicts that the comet of 1680, belonging to our own solar system, may fall into our sun.

37. Newton never made public the fact that his own work involved correlation between divine functions of comets and ancien t prophecy. However, he drafted arguments in his System of the World in 1685 that a true system of the world had been known in ancient times, and later corrupted. A version of this appeared in English in 1728: "It was the ancient opinion of not a few, in the earliest ages of philosophy, that the fixed stars stood immovable in the highest parts of the world; that under the fixed stars the planets were carried about the sun; that the earth, as one of the planets, described an annual course about the sun, while by a diurnal motion it was in the meantime revolved about its own axis; and that the sun, as the common fire which served to warm the whole, was fixed in the centre of the universe. This was the philosophy taught of old by Philolaus, Aristarchus of Samos, Plato in his riper years, and the whole sect of the Pythagoreans; and this was the judgment of Anaximander, more ancient still; and of that wise king of the Romans, Numa Pompilius, who, as a symbol of the figure of the world with the sun in the centre, erected a round temple in honor of Vesta, and ordained perpetual fire to be kept in the middle of it."

38. "The Egyptians were early observers of the heavens; and from them, probably, this philosophy was spread abroad among other nations; for from them it was, and the nations about them, that the Greeks, a people more addicted to the study of philology than of Nature, derived
478 Robert S. Westfall, ”Newton and Alchemy” in Occult and scientific mentalities in the Renaissance, 1984, edited by Brian Vickers, p. 315 -335. 479 Newton, Principia, translation of Motte and Cajori, p. 540- 541.


their first, as well as soundest, notions of philosophy; and in the Vestal ceremonies we may yet trace the ancient spirit of the Egyptians; for it was their way to deliver their mysteries, that is, their philosophy of things above the common way of thinking, under the veil of religious rites and hieroglyphic symbols. It is not to be denied that Anaxagoras, Democritus, and others, did now and then start up, who would have it that the earth possessed the centre of the world, and that the stars were revolved towards the west about the earth quiescent in the centre, some at a swifter, others at a slower rate. However, it was agreed on both sides that the motions of the celestial bodies were performed in spaces altogether free and void of resistance. The whim of solid orbs was of a later date, introduced by Eudoxus, Calippus, and Aristotle, when the ancient philosophy began to decline, and to give place to the new prevailing fictions of the Greeks. But, above all things, the phenomena of comets can by no means tolerate the idea of solid orbits. The Chaldeans, the most learned astronomers of their time, looked upon the comets (which of ancient times before had been numbered among the celestial bodies) as a particular sort of planets, which, describing eccentric orbits, presented themselves to view only by turns, once in a revolution, when they descended into the lower parts of their orbits. And as it was the unavoidable consequence of the hypothesis of solid orbits, while it prevailed, that the comets should be thrust into spaces below the moon; so, when later observations of astronomers restored the comets to their ancient places in the higher heavens, these celestial spaces were necessarily cleared of the incumbrance of solid orbits." 480

39. In the years in which Newton was forming his theory of comets, he was also composing a fundamental study of ancient theology and natural philosophy, the Philosophical origins of gentile theology (begun 1683-1684; reworked 1694 and after). 481 Here he linked idolatry and false cometography. False cometography, he said, suffered from the worship of planetary souls as real divinities identified with temporal kings and heroes. In the mid 1680's, Newton argued that the natural philosophers of the ancients had been their priests. The Chaldeans in Babylon were an example. In the Philosophical origins, he explained that when "the stars were declared to move in their courses in the heavens by the force of their souls and seemed to all men to be heavenly deities", then "gentile Astrology and Theology were introduced by cunning Priests to promote the study of stars and the growth of the priesthood and at length spread through the world." Newton singled out Cabbalists, Gnostics and neo-Platonists as sharing a common idolatry and a common error which concealed the true system of the world. Thus around 1685, Newton had composed a treatise on ancient philosophy in which he charged that false worship of elements of what had been proper natural philosophy had destroyed a correct theory of comets, already known to certain ancient astronomers, and which he was undertaking to restore.

40. In Schaffer's view, Newton's interpretation of his work on comets affected astrology in two ways. First, it promoted the idea that the interpretation of comets should pass from popular divination to a theologically oriented natural philosophy: theologically oriented, since Newton regarded the activity of comets to be divinely directed, and believed that they could be used by God as His agents. This still gave comets a dramatic function and prophetic meaning. They could, for example, rejuvenate Earth and the planets, and they could terminate life on

480 550. 481

Probably translated by Andrew Motte, appended to the Motte and Cajori translation of the Princ ipia, p. 549 Quoted by Schaffer, ibid,, p. 242; "gentile" is used here with the obsolete meaning of "heathen" or "pagan".


Earth. Second, Newton challenged the idolatry which attributed the wrong kind of spiritual power to the heavens. That is, he attacked the idea that planets are divine. 482 41. Here we come to a crux. Mathematical celestial mechanics, of the sort largely founded by Newton, can be used to predict the motions of comets --they move pretty nearly in predictable ellipses (at least, most all of them do -- a few might move in hyperbolas or parabolas). Furthermore, mathematics of the kind introduced by Newton, and extended by many others by way of nonlinear dynamics, can be used to predict breakdowns of the stability of the solar system. Thus Newton's methods can be used to predict such things as the end of the world (quite aside from the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is another story). Therefore one might be entitled to call Newton's celestial mechanics a kind of reformed astrology. It achieves one of the aims of astrology by methods quite different from traditional astrology – Kepler’s announced program. Newton himself believed that with his methods he was restoring the system of the ancient Babylonian astronomers, which had been corrupted by priests and astrologers. "Astrologers, augurs, auruspicers &c are," he said, "such as pretend to ye art of divining ... without being able to do what they pretend to ... and to believe than man or woman can really divine ... is of the same nature with believing that the Idols of the Gentiles were not vanities but had spirits really seated in them." 483

42. Newton supplied u s with techniques for divining, for predicting what God intends (if one believes in this manner, as it appears Newton did), with which suitably equiped people can do what they pretend to be able to do in the way of certain kinds of predictions, or very nearly, in certain circumstances. And it has often been claimed that Newton's theory of gravity grew out of a theory of planetary influences, although Newton himself showed a noticeable reluctance to say so, protesting that his quantitative results were correct no matter what you attributed them to. He showed great reluctance to stand behind a mechanism for gravity, although at times he spoke of God as an agency for maintaining celestial objects in their courses. 43. Eugenio Garin observes: "The stages of so-called 'scientific progress' are anything but straightforward and unambiguous. In the middle of the eighteenth century, G. M. Bose, Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the University of Wittenburg, wrote, with regard to Newton and the Theory of Universal Attraction: ... 'Shall action at a distance be granted? Will you then prevent a star from acting [on] a Talisman at a distance? Rejoice Melanchthon, the horoscope returns, Haly, Almutec, Athacir, Alcecadenor, Hylec. Shall action at a distance be granted? Soon the Thessalian witch, horrid with wrinkles and bristles, raging, shall return." 484

44. In Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, one of his last works, published in 1733, a few years after his death, Newton says: "For understanding the Prophecies, we are, in the first place, to acquaint ourselves with the figurative language of the Prophets. This language is taken from the analogy between the world natural, and an empire or kingdom considered as a world polit ic. Accordingly, the whole world natural consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people, or so much of it as is considered in the Prophecy: and the things in that world signify the
482 Schaffer, ibid., p. 241 -242.

483 Quoted by Shaffer. 484 Eugenio Garin, Astrology in the Renaissance, 1983), translation of La Zodiaco della Vita, 1976), p. 5-6.


analogous things in this. For the heavens, and the things therein, signify thrones and dignities, and those who enjoy them; and the earth, with things thereon, the inferior people; and the lowest parts of the earth, called Hades or Hell, the lowest or most miserable part of them ....." 45. "In the heavens, the Sun and Moon are, by interpreters of dreams, put for the persons of Kings and Queens; but in sacred Prophecy, which regards not single persons, the Sun is put for the whole species and race of Kings, in the kingdom or kingdoms of the world politic, shining with regal power and glory; the Moon for the body of the common people, considered as the King's wife; the Stars for subordinate Princes and great men, or for Bishops and Rulers of the people of God, when the sun is Christ; light for the glory, truth, and knowledge, wherewith great and good men shine and illuminate others; darkness for obscurity of condition, and for error, blindness and ignorance; darkning, smiting, or setting of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, for the ceasing of a kingdom, or for the desolation thereof, proportional to the darkness; darkning the Sun, turning the Moon into blood, and falling of the Stars, for the same; new Moons, for the return of a dispersed people into a body politic or ecclesiastic." 485 After this, Newton gives interpretations of fire in various forms, various movements of clouds, winds, thunder, lighting, water in various forms, geological formations, animals, vegetables and plants, and so on. 46. This passage, in which Newton describes how he reads Biblical prophecies, puts light on his reference (cited above) to Chaldeans as "the most learned astronomers of their time", and his complaint (also cited above) that certain ancient Greeks and priests had corrupted previously known correct astronomy by declaring that the stars "move in their courses in the heavens by the force of their souls" and were deemed to be "heavenly deities", and that "gentile Astrology and Theology were introduced by cunning Priests to promote the study of stars and the growth of the priesthood and at length spread through the world." Newton speaks of the correspondences between natural objects and processes, on the one hand, and political entities and activities, on the other, as being a matter offigurative language, based on analogy between the two worlds. Yet he believes in the accuracy and indeed inevitability of the predictions made by the Biblical prophets. He says: "And the giving ear to the Prophets is a fundamental character of the true Church The authority of the Prophets is divine, and comprehends the sum of religion... Their writings contain the covenant between God and his people, with instructions for keeping this covenant And no power on earth is authorized to alter this covenant." Of Daniel in particular, he says: "The predictions of things to come relate to the state of the Church in all ages; and amongst the old Prophets, Daniel is most distinct in order of time, and easiest to be understood: and therefore in those things which relate to the last times, he must be made the key to the rest." 486

47. Thus according to Newton's description, Biblical prophecy can give results of the kind the Chaldeans expected from their omen astrology and other methods of prediction they used, before the invention of personal astrology with its horoscopes and houses. In Newton's view, as stated in the first part of the Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, Biblical prophecy furnishes "in figurative language" strictly determined predictions of political matters based on the interpretation of natural processes involving celestial and terrestrial natural objects. To be sure, he doesn't admit the divinity of such objects. The
485 486 Isaac Newton, Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733), p. 16-23. ibid., p. 14-15.


accuracy of the predictions is presumably guaranteed by the one God alone, who uses the natural objects "figuratively" (whatever that might mean) in order to communicate this foreknowledge. Newton's views on this question therefore resemble those of Calvin, but differ distinctly from those of Thomas Aquinas (to take just two examples). A widespread judgment today (as discussed earlier) is that the Chaldeans did attribute divinity to celestial objects. Newton seems to imply (although I don't know of a place where he says so outright) that the Chaldeans did not do so, and that such beliefs were introduced later by certain Greeks, to the detriment of true astronomy. Of course, Newton knew nothing of the many Babylonian writings which have been recovered after his time. 48. Pierre Duhem remarked that modern science was born on the day someone proclaimed the truth that the same mechanics and the same physical laws rule celestial and sublunary motions, the sun, the flow and ebb of the tides, the fall of bodies. This pertains to the universality I spoke of earlier. For such a thought to become possible, Duhem says, it was necessary that the stars fall from the divine rank in which antiquity had placed them, and for this it was necessary for a theological revolution to occur. This revolution, Duhem believed, was the the work of Christian theologians.487 The path to Duhem's conclusion is not clear, since denial of the divinity of celestial objects occurred in pre-Christian antiquity, and seems then and later to have had several sources. For example, we noted that Deuteronomy 4.19 forbids the worship of celestial objects, so it appears Jews began or continued the theological revolution (if it can be called this) before Christ appeared. Again, with Galileo and after, telescopes revealed irregular features of our moon, sun and some planets, some of which had counterparts on earth (mountains on the moon), and this made it difficult to believe any longer in the perfection and distinctiveness usually required of divine objects. But it would be characteristic of Newton to include a theological motive among the reasons for which he rejected the divinity of celestial objects.

49. Later in the Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, Newton deals with the Apocalypse of St. John, the book of Revelations of the Christian New Testament. Here it is said on the basis of Daniel 10.21 and 12.4,9 that Daniel sealed the book of Revelations "until the time of the end". Newton takes this to mean that "these prophecies of Daniel and John should not be understood till the time of the end: but then some should prophesy out of them in an afflicted and mournful state for a long time, and that but darkly, so as to convert but few. But in the very end, the Prophecy should be so far interpreted as to convince many But if the last age, the age of opening these things, be now approaching, as by the great successes of late Interpreters it seems to be, we have more encouragement than ever to look into these things. If the general preaching of the Gospel is approaching, it is to us and our posterity that those words mainly belong: In the time of the end the wise shall understand. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein." (Newton's italics.)

50. Newton continues: "The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretel times and things by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them Prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy also into contempt. The design of God was quite otherwise. He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men's curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own Providence, not the Interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the

P i er r e Du h em , L e S y s t è m e d u M o n d e , 1 9 1 3 , v. 2 , p . 4 5 3 .


world. For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence ....... The event [of Christ's second coming] will prove the Apocalypse; and this Prophecy, thus proved and understood, will open the old Prophets, and all together will make known the true religion, and establish it. For he that will understand the old Prophets, must begin with this; but the time is not yet come for understanding them perfectly, because the main revolution in them is not yet come to pass ..... " 51. "There is already so much of the Prophecy fulfilled, that as many as will take pains in this study, may see sufficient instances of God's providence: but then the signal revolutions predicted by all the holy Prophets, will at once both turn mens eyes upon considering the predictions, and plainly interpret them. Till then we must content ourselves with interpreting what hath been already fulfilled. Amongst the Interpreters of the last age there is scarce one of note who hath not made some discovery worth knowing; and thence I seem to gather that God is about opening these mysteries. The success of others put me upon considering it; and if I have done any thing which may be useful to following writers, I have my design." 488 52. Newton said in the passage I quoted earlier that the book of Daniel must be made the key to all the other prophecies about the end of time, which express what God will bring to pass, and from all he says in the first few pages of this work, we might expect that Biblical prophecy will enable to predict when the world will end. But this later passage is a kind of admission of defeat. We cannot securely extract prophecies from the Scriptures, he is saying -- we can only understand fully what the words mean retrospectively, and then see that the prophecies have been fulfilled. 53. So Newton's method for reading Biblical prophecy appears from his description, I suggest, as a kind of "purified" omen astrology, of the general sort Kepler envisioned, along with some purified divination of other kinds. Of course, Kepler influenced Newton in numerous other ways, amd in any case, as we have seen, astrology and astral worship in various forms were still intertwined with astronomy in the Europe of Newton’s time. We can say, I suggest, that in the Principia, with his celestial mechanics, Newton presented what can be, and may well have been taken in his time, to be a kind of purified astrology -- a mathematically based system with which one can in many cases predict with great accuracy the motions of natural objects when one knows mathematical expressions for the forces -- or influences -- acting on them. This can be described as a kind of natural astrology, a term which was used in Newton's time, cf. Natural Magic. There is a common objective underlying both of these works: to be able to predict the course of things. In interpreting Biblical prophecy for this purpose, Newton found the canonical scriptures too obscure, an obscurity which he attributed to God's design. In applying his laws of motion and gravitation, and their mathematical development, for this purpose, he may have taken himself to have had greater success in developing this objective.

54. In the preface to his biography of Newton, Robert Westfall observes: "It has been my privilege at various times to know a number of brilliant men, men whom I acknowledge without hesitation to be my intellectual superiors. I have never, however, met one against whom I was unwillng to measure myself, so that it seemed reasonable to say that I was half as able as the person in question, or a third or a fourth, but in every case a finite fraction. The end result of my

Is a a c Newt on, Ob s e r v a t i o n s u p o n t h e P r o p h e c i e s o f Da n i e l , p . 249 -253.


study of Newton [over a period of some 20 years] has served to convince me that with him there is no measure. He has become for me wholly other, one of the tiny handful of supreme geniuses who have shaped the categories of the human intellect, a man not finally reducible to the criteria by which we comprehend our fellow beings... "4 8 9 55. It may be that Westfall is right about the nature of Newton's genius, but I suggest that feelings of Newton's "otherness" may be alleviated to some extent by admitting Newton's attachment to, or obsession with, knowing the cou rse of things as broadly as possible, together with the fact that he was a firm believer in the truth of Biblical prophecy, and was in some degree dedicated to the a ims of omen or natural astrology, although not to the methods. This means that a certain distortion of Newton may be introduced by making too central in one’s interpretation of Newton’s life and works that part of Newton's work most people would nowadays characterize as “scientific”, and separating this from his interests in what we now call alchemy, to be distinguished from “genuine” chemistry, and astrology, to be distinguished from “genuine” astronomy. For example, Westfall says (on the next page of his preface): "Newton holds our attention only because he is a scientist of transcendant importance. Hence I tend to think of my work as a scientific biography, that is, a biography in which Newton's scientific career furnishes the central theme." (Westfall, ibid., p. x.) 56. We should allow for what Newton took to be scientific methods and subject matter, or rather what he took to be methods and subject matter of natural philosophy, since the term “scientific” was not used in his day in the ways we use it today (in English). He appears, for example, to have believed that determining the chronology of the world, and interpreting Biblical prophecy to predict the end of the world, were enterprises which could be undertaken scientifically. Newton wanted to find out about the course of things any way he could – using mathematics, alchemy, scriptures, whatever offered some prospect of working. This aim underlies bo th his scientific (in our sense) and religious works. Given a tolerant enough view of the intellectual, religious and political environment of his time, his interests and methods seem quite understandable. His speed, depth and scope of penetration are awesome -- but alien? I think they need not be. 57. I have dwelt more on the astrology than the astronomy in astronomy/astrology to set the stage for an appreciation of how astronomy, as we now understand it, grew from a complex mixture of astrolatry, astrology and astronomy. It seems likely to me that the positions of the planets and sun and moon at our births are of little or no significance in determining our characters and careers (unless Gauquelin and many present-day astrologers are right; see Preface). But there are subtler senses in which the stars can affect the way we are and act. For example, it is a familiar contention that our values and ideals aren't found, or shouldn't be found, in nature, in time and space. "Is" doesn't imply "ought", the slogan goes. But how have our values, desires, hopes and ideals evolved as we have interacted with the rest of the natural world -- in particular, with the heavens? To what degree have we been led by the stars, which are, according to most current physical cosmologies, our ultimate ancestors? 58. Gerald Hawkins comments: "Perhaps we shall never know the true significance of the sky in the lives of ancient peoples. Did a gossamer idea spread outward, transferred by contact

R ob ert Wes t fa ll, N e v e r A t R e s t , A B i o g r a p h y o f I s a a c N e w t o n , 1980, p. i x.


between cultures, and was this idea the critical step toward civilization, the emergence of man as that species with transcendental consciousness? Or was the awareness a natural response of different races, different cultures, to the unifying stimulus of the sky? We find evidence for this influence from before the time of writing, from deep prehistory, on the continents of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and on the Pacific Islands." 490 59. E.C. Krupp suggests that what takes place in the sky assists our brains in organizing its perceptions of the world. The idea that order is a fundamental aspect of the universe may be taken to be an assumption, having its ultimate origin in the interactions of humans with the skies and their contents. Without the sky, our brains might have sought symmetry and order and cyclical phenomena elsewhere -- crystals or flowers, perhaps. But the sky is an obvious repository of order. Its effects on our brains is shown by the antiquity of astronomy and the presence of celestial imagery everywhere in ancient times. "What we see in the lights overhead," Krupp says, "is the itinerary of cosmic order ... It defines what is sacred and makes the sky the domain of the gods." 491 60. "If we are seeking immortality," Krupp says, "the sky is a good place to start. We see endless repetition there. Although we know that we ourselves will die, we see the sun, moon and stars survive night after night, month after month, year after year. They may disappear, but their absences are only temporary We see a fundamental pattern in the celestial realm and frame from it what seems to be the cycle of cosmic order and the way of the world: creation-growthdeathrebirth. We seek our own past, present, and future in that cycle." Of course we also see the cycle of birth-growth-death-rebirth in vegetation, but this is seen to follow movements in the sky, which are more certain and superior. Contemplation and worship of celestial beings and their actions are an antidote to chaos."

61. "Celestial order," says Krupp, "generally was transfused into human society in ancient times through the sovereignty of the ruler. The mandate of heaven sanctified kingship. By invoking the sky, kings and their institutions gained special authority and meaning." The sky "is the door of perception to cosmic order." However, its cycles are not simple. This leads to complicated calendars. Dealing with this complexity was a duty of central authorities. Ultimate responsibility for the calendar might belong to the pharaoh, the king, the emperor. His power was thus enhanced because he was in league with the sky. Celebrations of celestial renewal allowed ancient peoples to participate in the rhythm of cosmic order, and also to promote terrestrial renewal and stability. Usually, a king acquired his authority through the mandate of heaven, the source of order. But the king and his people also had to re-energize the sky. Their temples were made sacred as metaphors of cosmic order. Entire cities and ritual centers were astronomically aligned and organized. Krupp says: "Beijing is the only world capital still laid out according to a sacred cosmological plan... the cosmological motive behind the city's layout is known and preserved. Even today, the monuments of the secular government of the People's Republic of China adhere to the ancient sacred plan. The flagpole in Tian an men Square, the Monument to the People's Heroes, and Mao Ze Dong's Mausoleum all occupy stations on the

490 491

Gerald Hawkins, Beyond Stonehenge, 1973, p. 282- 283. E. C. Krupp, Echoes of the Ancient Skies, The Astronomy ofLost Civilizations, 1983.


city's main axis, between the Tian an men and the Qian men, two great gates of old Imperial Beijing."492 62. From the 1st century C.E.: ...... stetit unus in arcem erectus cap itis victorque ad sidera mittit sidereos oculos propiusque aspectat Olympum inquiritque Iovem; nec solafronte deorum contentus manet, et caelum scrutator in alvo cognatumque sequens corpus se quaerit in astris. ...... perspice vires, quas ratio, non pondus, habet: ratio omnia vincit.

Only man stands on a hill with his head raised up, sending his starry eyes in triumph to the stars, looking more closely at the heavens, and searchingfor God. He isn't content with the outward God, but examines heaven's womb. Following bodies akin to his own, he looks for himself in the stars ..... consider the power which reason has and gravity doesn't: reason conquers everything.


63. From the late 20th century A.D.: "All of chemistry, beyond hydrogen and helium, and therefore, all of life has been formed by stellar evolution. In other words, with the exception of hydrogen, everything in our bodies and brains has been produced in the thermonuclear reactions within stars which later exploded in galactic space."494

492 493

Krupp, ibid., p. 15, 22, 63, 74 -75, 96, 141, 183, 196,259, 315.

Manilius, Astronomica, a treatise on astrology and simple astronomy written about 10 C.E., text edited by G. P. Goold, 1972, my translation. 4 9 4 Benjamin Gal- Or, Cosmology, Physics, and Philosophy, 1981, p. 352.


Appendix to Chapter 7: Pierre d'Ailly, and Newton Again 1. Some 1400 years later than Origen, another Christian of rank, wrestled with astrology in much the same way as Origen (see Chapter 8). This was Pierre d'Ailly, who lived from 1350 or 1351 to 1420. D'Ailly rose to be a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church during the time of the Schism, and the period in which there were two (at one point three) Popes, at Rome and Avignon, 1378 through 1414. D'Ailly's devotion to astrology has been investigated by Laura Ackerman Smoller in her work, History, Prophecy and the Stars (1994). In her introduction, Smoller observes that people who have studied the roles of astrology and astronomy in medieval times have been concerned mostly with the prevailing attitudes of people toward such practices and beliefs, and mostly the attitudes of theologians, rather than with practice of astrology. "While their studies nicely illuminate the Catholic church's response to astrology, they say little about the opinions of persons who actually consulted the stars." (p. 5) Smoller observes that d'Ailly's conversion to astrology late in life, and his extensive writings on the subject, offers an opportunity to study why and also how a person might become involved with astrology, and how one might go about such an involvement. "From d'Ailly's example, then," she says, "astrology emerges as an integral part of the rational view of the world in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The belief that the heavenly bodies had some fort of influence on the earth below was just as pervasive as the notion that God had a plan for the world's destiny. ... D'Ailly saw astrology not as a magical art by which he could manipulate the future course of the world but rather as a rational science by which he could discern the broad patterns of earthly events. The great numbers of people who used astrology in medicine, or making their business decisions, and for political advice must have believved , also, that they were turning to science for knowledge." (p. 7) In passing, I note Smoller's comments on the nature of d'Ailly's writing: ""Many of his works were little more than collages, composed of bits and pieces of other writers' prose. Through all his borrowings, however, d'Ailly generally managed to convey his own opinion, which was sometimes quite different from that of his source. ... On the whole, d'Ailly was a compiler and digester of others' thought. His later readership suggests that there was a vast need for this type of writing." (p. 10) The present work may be said to have been compiled in the same spirit, although I am not sanguine enough to believe that there is, or will be, a vast need for the present work. I do believe, though, that while enduring originality is precious, commentary also serves purposes of value.

2. In his later life, Pierre d'Ailly was much concerned with defending astrology/astronomy from charges that it was inconsistent with Christianity. As a basis, he took the attitude endorsed long before by Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636) that one can distinguish between natural astrology and superstitious astrology, and that it is the former which is consistent with Christianity, while the latter is not. Smoller reports that d'Ailly in his Vigintiloquium or Concordantia astronomie cum theologia (Concordance of astrology with theology; 1414) listed these components of superstitious or false astrology: "1. The belief that all future events precede by fatal necessity from the stars; 2. The mingling of superstitious magic arts with astrology; 3. The placing of free will and matters solely under divine or supernatural control within astrology's power." (p. 37) Smoller notes that 2. is apparently directed against the practice of engraving stones with astrological images. We have seen that 1. and 3. were also rejected by Origen, and indeed this had been the central


objection of Augustine to astrology. On the other hand, we have also seen that at least up to the Hellenistic era, the Babylonian astrologers did not take astrological omens to be irreversibly deterministic. One of the functions of priests was to counteract unfavorable omens by means of suitable rituals. In his attempts to reconcile free will and God's omnipotence with astrological influences, d'Ailly wrote a number of treatises. To take an example, in one late treatise, the Concordantia astronomie cum hystorica narratione (Concordance of astrology with historical narration; 1414), he asserted "God arranged 'to work naturally with causes, except where a miraculous operation intervenes.' thus astrological causality would apply to all earthly events save miracles." (Smoller, p. 38) In another treatise of 1414, the Apologetica defensio astronomice veritatis (Apologetic defense of astrological truth; contained in his Tractatus de imagine mundi), d'Ailly speculates on the role of the astral influences on the Virgin Mary as to the development of Christ in utero. Smoller says: "D'Ailly began with the cautious observation that the Christian faith did not compel one to exclude any stellar influence in Mary's birth, 'just as it does not compel one to say that the sun did not warm her.' ... By reserving for God a supernatural causality beyond that of the stars, d'Ailly placed astrology among the undeniable laws of nature and gave it a scope reaching as far as the human aspects of Christ." (p. 38)

3. In Chapter 4 of her book, Smoller has an analysis of how Pierre d'Ailly used astrology to aid in establishing a chronology consistent with and explanatory of that in the Bible. An important principle he used for trying to establish the date of the Creation of the world, the starting point of Biblical chronology, as well as for subsequent events he took to be of importance, was the fixing of the times of conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter. These are described by Smoller as follows (p. 16, 20- 23) "The seven planets all traveled along the path of the zodiac, and the twelve signs which made up that band were deemed to have their own characteristics. In one division of the zodiac, astrologers distributed the signs among four triplicities (triplicitates, also sometimes translated as trigons). The signs of each triplicity all shared the characteristics of one of the four elements (fire, earth, air, and water). The signs were assigned successively to one of the four triplicities, so that a planet in its path through the zodiac would pass first through a fiery sign, then through an earthy sign, then through an airy sign, and finally through a watery sign. There were three such series in any trip around the zodiac. The fiery triplicity consisted of the signs Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. It was under the rule of the sun by day and Jupiter by night. The earthly triplicity contained Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, under the rulership of Venus and the moon. Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius made up the airy triplicity, under Saturn and Mercury. Finally, the watery triplicity comprised Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, with Mars ruling both day and night. [Thus the progression counterclockwise through the zodiac, taking into account the alternation of the kinds of elements, can be represented on the circumference of a circle as Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Pisces, and back to Aries again.] ... As did his astrological sources, d'Ailly gave the greatest consideration to those conjunctions of the two superior [outermost] planets, Saturn and Jupiter. Their exalted positions and slow motions meant that their conjunctions were of more universal and enduring significance than those of the other planets. Astrologers classified these conjunctions according to the signs and triplicities in which they occurred. Saturn completes its course through the zodiac in roughly 30 years, and Jupiter takes around twelve years to make the same circuit. Hence, the time between any two conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter will


be approximately twenty years, during which time Saturn will have traveled a little more than two-thirds of the way through the zodiac. Thus, in the astrologers' customary example, if the first conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter occurs in Aries, the second will be in Sagittarius, the third in Leo, and the fourth in Aries again. But, because the two planets do not complete their course through the zodiac in exactly thirty or twelve years, they do not return to the same precise point in Aries for their fourth conjunction. Rather, they are joined some 2 º25' from the point of the initial conjunction, to take Albumasar's figyre. Hence a series of conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter will show a gradual progression like that in figure 3. Eventually, a conjunction will happen in Taurus,, the neighboring sign to Aries. Then the succession will begin again in another set of three signs. [Albumasar, also transliterated Abu-Ma'shar, was an Arabian astrologer of the 9th century A.D.] In all, d'Ailly delineated four types of Saturn-Jupiter conjunctions: the conjunctio maxima [greatest conjunction, occurring after four changes of triplicity, so the starting point is repeated, customarily taken to be the initial position of Saturn in Aries] (every 960 years), the conjunctio maior [greater conjunction, occurring with each change of triplicity] (every 240 years), the conjunctio magna [great conjunction, occurring with each change of zodiac sign in each triplicity] (every 60 years), and the conjunctio minor [lesser conjunction, occurring with each conjunction within a single zodiac sign] (every 20 years). D'Ailly located such conjunctions throughout history and related them to the growth of new kingdoms and the rise of new religions. He used astrology, then, as a coherent principle by which to explain and observe the course of the world's fate."

4. This brings to mind work of Isaac Newton which I discussed in Chapter 7 of the present work. I repeat here Sections 44-47 of that chapter:
44. In Newton's Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, one of his last works, published in 1733, a few years after his death, Newton says: "For understanding the Prophecies, we are, in the first place, to acquaint ourselves with the figurative language of the Prophets. This language is taken from the analogy between the world natural, and an empire or kingdom considered as a world politic. Accordingly, the whole world natural consisting of heaven and earth, signifies the whole world politic, consisting of thrones and people, or so much of it as is considered in the Prophecy: and the things in that world signify the analogous things in this. For the heavens, and the things therein, signify thrones and dignities, and those who enjoy them; and the earth, with things thereon, the inferior people; and the lowest parts of the earth, called Hades or Hell, the lowest or most miserable part of them "

45. "In the heavens, the Sun and Moon are, by interpreters of dreams, put for the persons of Kings and Queens; but in sacred Prophecy, which regards not single persons, the Sun is put for the whole species and race of Kings, in the kingdom or kingdoms of the world politic, shining with regal power and glory; the Moon for the body of the common people, considered as the King's wife; the Stars for subordinate Princes and great men, or for Bishops and Rulers of the people of God, when the sun is Christ; light for the glory, truth, and knowledge, wherewith great and good men shine and illuminate others; darkness for obscurity of condition, and for error, blindness and ignorance; darkning, smiting, or setting of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, for the ceasing of a kingdom, or for the desolation thereof, proportional to the darkness; darkning the Sun, turning the Moon into blood, and falling of the Stars, for the same; new Moons, for the return of a dispersed people into a body politic or ecclesiastic." (Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733), p. 1623.) After this, Newton gives interpretations of fire in various forms, various movements of clouds, winds, thunder, lighting, water in various forms, geological formations,


animals, vegetables and plants, and so on. 46. This passage, in which Newton describes how he reads Biblical prophecies, puts light on his reference (cited above) to Chaldeans as "the most learned astronomers of their time", and his complaint (also cited above) that certain ancient Greeks and priests had corrupted previously known correct astronomy by declaring that the stars "move in their courses in the heavens by the force of their souls" and were deemed to be "heavenly deities", and that "gentile Astrology and Theology were introduced by cunning Priests to promote the study of stars and the growth of the priesthood and at length spread through the world." Newton speaks of the correspondences between natural objects and processes, on the one hand, and political entities and activities, on the other, as being a matter of figurative language, based on analogy between the two worlds. Yet he believes in the accuracy and indeed inevitability of the predictions made by the Biblical prophets. He says: "And the giving ear to the Prophets is a fundamental character of the true Church The authority of the Prophets is divine, and comprehends the sum of religion... Their writings contain the covenant between God an d his people, with instructions for keeping this covenant And no power on earth is authorized to alter this covenant." Of Daniel in particular, he says: "The predictions of things to come relate to the state of the Church in all ages; and amongst the old Prophets, Daniel is most distinct in order of time, and easiest to be understood: and therefore in those things which relate to the last times, he must be made the key to the rest." (Newton, ibid., p. 14-15.)

47. Thus according to Newton's description, Biblical prophecy can give results of the kind the Chaldeans expected from their omen astrology and other methods of prediction they used, before the invention of personal astrology with its horoscopes and houses. In Newton's view, as stated in the first part of the Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, Biblical prophecy furnishes "in figurative language" strictly determined predictions of political matters based on the interpretation of natural processes involving celestial and terrestrial natural objects. To be sure, he doesn't admit the divinity of such objects. The accuracy of the predictions is presumably guaranteed by the one God alone, who uses the natural objects "figuratively" (whatever that might mean) in order to communicate this foreknowledge. Newton's views on this question therefore resemble those of Calvin, but differ distinctly from those of Thomas Aquinas (to take just two examples). A widespread judgment today (as discussed earlier) is that the Chaldeans did attribute divinity to celestial objects. Newton seems to imply (although I don't know of a place where he says so outright) that the Chaldeans did not do so, and that such beliefs were introduced later by certain Greeks, to the detriment of true astronomy. Of course, Newton knew nothing of the many Babylonian writings which have been recovered after his time.

5. These passages by Newton and my assessment may be compared with a statement by Smoller, speaking of d'Ailly's use of astrology (p. 122): "Why astrology? ... The answer lies, it seems, in d'Ailly's concordance of astrology and theology -- that is, first, in his insistence that astrology be considered a 'natural theology' and, second, in his implication, by the use he made of the stars, that astrology was also a valid science, useful because it lay outside of the realm of prophecy and revelation. That is, he established astral causality to be an essential component of the divine plan, one entirely in keeping with the central feature of his theology, the dialectic of God's absolute and ordained power. And yet, he relied upon astrology to interpret the apocalypse [as in the book of Revelations] precisely because it was nontheological. It offered him evidence drawn from sources other than prophecy and revelation, which, as he argued, could be contradictory, problematic, and even deceptive." D'Ailly was especially concerned in trying to reconcile and combine Christian doctrines with astrological ones to reject that idea of complete astral determinism or


fatalism, and the accompanying idea of the non-existence of human free will, other than as a kind of illusion. It strikes me now that what Newton may have had in mind when he spoke of corruption of astral prediction by ancient Greeks was the attribution to them of an introduction of the idea or principle of complete determinism to purely astral influences, including in all human affairs. While he would have known nothing of what is said on the clay tablets recovered in Mesopotamia since his time, he have known something about the non fatalistic elements of Babylonian omen astrology from classical sources, or even possibly that he interpreted Biblical passages in this way. 6. In her Chapter 5, Smoller discusses d'Ailly's concern for the advent of the apocalypse, as predicted in the Revelations of St. John. She says (p. 85): "With the outbreak of the Great Schism in 1378, Pierre d'Ailly and many of his contemporaries assumed that the apocalypse was at hand. They based this dismal conclusion both on their reading of Scripture and on a long medieval tradition of speculation about the end of time." This may be compared with the statement made by Newton: "The predictions of things to come relate to the state of the Church in all ages: and amongst the old Prophets, Daniel is most distinct in order of time, and easiest to be understood: and therefore in those things which relate to the last times, he must be made the key to the rest." (loc. cit., p. 15). Smoller says (p. 86): "Scripture was by far the most important source of information about the apocalypse for d'Ailly and his contemporaries. Passage in Daniel and Revelation spelled out, albeit in enigmatic form, God's plan for the world's end. Commentaries of these two books were key vehicles for eschatological speculation in the Middle Ages." Of course, Newton is not considered to have lived during the time of the European Middle Ages. Newton says in the section of this work devoted to Revelations (p. 250-251): "'Tis therefore a part of this Prophecy, that it should not be understood before the last age of the world; and therefore it makes for the credit of the Prophecy, that it is not yet understood. But if the last age, the age of opening these things, be now approaching, as by the great successes of late Interpreters it seems to be, we have more encouragement than ever to look into these things. In the general preaching of the Gospel be approaching, it is to use and our posterity that those words mainly belong: In the time of the end the wise shall understand, but none of the wicked shall understand. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein. The folly of Interpreters has been, to foretel times and things by this Prophecy, as if God designed to make them prophets. By this rashness they have not only exposed themselves, but brought the Prophecy into contempt. The design of God was much otherwise. He gave this and the Prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men's curiosities by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and his own Providence, not the Interpreters, be then manifested thereby to the world. For the event of things predicted many ages before, will then be a convincing argument that the world is governed by providence."

7. D'Ailly was much concerned with uses of astronomy/astrology in establishing a chronology of the world, consonant with Scripture, and with matching astronomical phenomena interpreted astrologically with crucial historical events. Newton spent much effort on a revision of chronology, based on astronomical phenomena on the one hand, and classical authors and Scripture on the other. This, too, involved matching astronomical phenomena with crucial historical events. In the case of Newton, however, there is an


absence of discussion of traditional influences of the sort considered by astrologers. On the other hand, there is an absence, so far as I have been able to determine, of refutation of or scorn for astrology as it was practiced in his own time, or earlier. Newton's major work on chronology, published posthumously in 1728, was The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended. In this work, there is a chapter called "Of the Empires of the Babylonians and Medes" in which Newton states (p. 328): "The Babylonians were extreamly addicted to Sorcery, Inchantments, astrology and Divi nations, Isa. xlvii. 9, 12, 13. Dab. ii. 2, & v. 11. and to the worship of Idols, Jer. l. 2, 40. and to feasting, wine and women." In the two works of Newton being considered here, this is the only passage I have noted in which Newton uses the word astrology. As far as I can determine, Newton never presented a refutation of astrology as practiced in his time. He was on the whole silent about astrology, though it was quite prominent in the England of his time. 8. Newton's work as a chronographer has been studied in detail, along with criticisms of it made in Newton's time, by Frank E. Manuel in his book Isaac Newton, Historian (1963). Manuel observes (p. 65, 68): "The astronomical proofs of Newton's revision of chronology center upon the determination of three ancient dates, among which the precise timing of the Argonautic expedition is the crucial one. It occupied Newton's interest for at least the last thirty or forty years of his life. The other astronomical proofs concerned the year of King Amenophis' [of Egypt] death and the period when Hesiod flourished. ... The astronomical dating of the Argonautic expedition was founded upon the insight that an accurately measured precession of the equinoxes could serve as the key to scientific chronology. ... to apply the idea of the precession to chronology with Newton's daring and persistence was revolutionary. The style of the man -- adapting scientific data that are already known to a new field-- is the same in the chronology as in the physics. Newton had a way of staking all upon a single idea." 9. Christian chronography goes back to early Christian times. This topic has been treated by William Adler in his Time Immemorial: Archaic History and its Sources in Christian Chronography from Julius African us to George Syncellus (1989). Such chronography had an elaborate development during the European Middle Ages, and we see from Smoller's study of d'Ailly's work that it was a lively field during the Renaissance. Indeed, there is some life in the field up to the present-day, although the field has grown old, and is not as active as it once was. What may be striking in placing Isaac Newton in this tradition is that he lived in the 17th and early 18th centuries, during the height of the period often said by historians to contain the Scientific Revolution. In Newton's work, one can see him engaged not in a Revolution but in an Evolution as far as a transition from the astronomy/astrology which had been prevalent up to his time to the separation of the fields of astronomy and astrology as we see them today. An examination of the work of central and peripheral figures who brought about the so-called Scientific Revolution in Europe might well reveal that one could better speak of an evolution during this period -- perhaps an instance of cultural punctuated evolution, in which a big change occurred in a relatively short time. Thus, if one wants to talk about paradigm shifts in the manner of Thomas Kuhn, one might be persuaded to think of them as occurring gradually rather than in some abrupt discontinuous manner, and as not leading to what Kuhn called incommensurability, but rather to kinds of reinterpretation in which the new retains something of the old.


Updates and Addenda U1. I spoke about Stoics in Chapter 1, Sections 39-50, and in Chapter 5, sections 30-33. Anthony Grafton contrasts what he takes to be characteristic of Stoic views of our physical universe with those of many astrologers.495 He says: “Philosophers who imagined themselves as looking down to earth from the dizzying vantage point of the heavens normally did so in order to distance themselves from trivial concerns, to master the deeper realities of the cosmic order. Marcus Aurelius – whom, as we have seen, Cardano tried to use as his guide into the moral life – laid special weight on this form of mental discipline. His constant efforts to show that things of the world and the body had no substantial worth, as Carlo Ginzburg has recently argued, represented an effort to make alienation from all everyday concerns the mark of wisdom. And the royal road to alienation lay through a consistent effort to contemplate the vast expanse of space and time in the universe – and thus to remove oneself from the momentary concernings, which were revealed, when they appeared before this immense backdrop, as worthless. Marcus Aurelius’ sometimes puzzling questions and riddles formed organic parts of a rationally conceived program of mental and spiritual exercises.”496 Grafton continues: “For Cardano and other astrologers, by contrast, the cosmic perspective that lent distance had a radically different value. It concentrated their attention on the local and ephemeral. Examining the stars that shone at a client’s birth, watching the movements of the planets during an illness, made the contours of the client’s permanent character, even the minor ones, and the details of his short-term case history, even its ephermeral fluctuations, stand out with a new clarity. Distance enhanced the astrologers’ promiscuous attention to the kinds of detail philosophers disdained. Their cosmic viewpoint focused and intensified their intimate contact with the emotional and the corporeal side of each individual life, as if a viewpoint on the celestial pole or at the mid-heaven actually magnified the minute details of individual life on earth. In the world of the astrologers, opposition might not be true friendship, but distance could be true intimacy.”497 U2. I note that what Grafton refers to as viewpoints of philosophers, presumably especially Stoic philosophers and perhaps numerous medieval Christian and other philosophers, fits in with what I’ve said in Chapter 4 in connection with a common view that a major influence of Copernican theory was to displace mankind from a central place in the universe in people’s minds, and to make people more humble if that’s taken to imply that they were overproud before. I note also that in trying to explain the extraordinary persistence of astrology over a couple of thousand years or more, in the face of philosophical, theological and other sorts of
495 496 15- 39. 497 Anthony Grafton, Cardano ’s Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer, 1999, p. 201. The reference to Carlo Ginzburg is to Occhiacci di legno: Nove riflessione sulla distanza, Milan, 1998, p. Grafton refers in this connection to R. Reisinger, Historische Horoskopie, Wiesbaden, 1997.


condemnations and prohibitions of it, one might look to the way astrologers concentrate on working out details of this-worldly affairs rather than on other -worldly affairs. U3. With regard to ancient Mesopotamia, some of whose astral interests I discussed in Chapter 4, a treatise on the subject was published in 1999 by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree called Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia. A major part of this work is devoted to detailed presentations and interpretations of astronomical data as recorded and mathematically manipulated by ancient Babylonians, based on a large but not exhaustive quantity of the clay tablets on which the records were inscribed, and which have been collected by various archeologists and stored in various locations. There is a resumé of what is known about the beginnings of Babylonian astrology and astronomy which agrees on the whole with what I presented in Chapter 4. Interest in such matters appears to have been connected early with interpretations of signs and omens. Hunger and Pingree say: 498 "People in Ancient Mesopotamia believed that the gods would indicate future events to mankind. These indications were called "signs", in Sumerian (g)iskim, in Akkadian ittu. Such signs could be of very different kinds. There were to be found in the entrails of sacrificial animals, in the shapes of oil spreading after being dropped into water, in phenomena observed in the sky, in strange occurrences in everyday life. We can classify omens into two trype: those that can be produced when they are wanted (e.g., to answer a question) and those that happen without human action provoking them. An example of the first type are omens from the inspection of the entrails of sheep; to the second type belong all omens observed in the sky. Omens can be classified according to their predictions: some omens concern the king, the country, or the city; others refer to private individuals and their fortunes."

U4. Hunger and Pingree go on to emphasize that neither of these types of omens seems to have been interpreted fatalistically. They say: "One thing is to be kept in mind: the gods send the signs, but what these signs announce is not unavoidable fate. A sign in a Babylonian text is not an absolute cause of a coming event, but a warning. By appropriate actions one can prevent the predicted event from happening. The idea of determinism is not inherent in this concept of sign. The knowledge of signs is however based on experience: once it was observed that a certain sign had been followed by a specific event, it is considered known that this sign, whenever it is observed again, will indicate the same future event. So while there is an empirical basis for assuming a connection between sign and following event, this does not imply a notion of causality."

U5. Eclipses were among the most dangerous omens. Hunger and Pingree describe an unusual method which was employed to avoid dangerous consequences of certain eclipses. They say: 499 "If an eclipse implied the death of the king of Assyria, some man was chosen to be put in his place, at least for all appearances. Usually someone whose life was not considered important, like a condemned criminal, seems to have been used for this purpose. He was clad like a king and made to sit on the throne, but of course he had no influence on government. In order to make it clear to everyone who was to suffer the impending evil, the bad portents were recited to the substitute king. The true king, in the meantime, had to behave as inconspicuously as possible, avoid being seen outside the palace, and undergo extensive purifying rites. In letters
498 499 Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, A s t ral Scien ce s in Me sopota mia , 1999, p. 1 ibid, p. 25.


written to him during such a period, the king was to be addressed as "farmer" in order to avoid any association with kingship. It was expected that the dire fate announced by the omen would fall on the substitute king. The assumed time of validity of such an omen was 100 days. If additional unfavorable portents were expected (e.g., other eclipses), the substitute would remain enthroned for most of this time. Otherwise, his "reign" could be rather short; it was neither convenient nor necessary to extend it. In any case, the substitute king had to die. It is unknown how his death was brought about, but it was the decision of the true king: in the letters, the advisers ask the "farmer" on which day the substitute king "should go to his fate". He was then buried and mourned like a king."500 They go on to say that "According to literary tradition, a substitute king was enthroned during the reign of Erra-imitti of Isin in the early part of the 2nd millennium [B.C.]; this case was atypical insofar as the true king died while the substite sat on the throne, and so the reign passed to the latter.501 U6. Hunter and Pingree state that "We do not know when this belief in omens originated; by the time when texts containing these omens are attested, it is already well established. That is about the last third of the third millennium B.C." (p. 6) They observe that "In the first millennium B.C., celestial omens are found organized in a series of tablets called En u ma An u En lil ("When Anu (and) Enlil") after the opening words of its mythological introduction. ... The mythological introduction (lines 1-8) traces the order of heaven and earth back to the gods Anu, Enlil, and Ea It comes in a Sumerian and an Akkadian version which are slightly different from each other. The Sumerian version mentions the Moon god, the Akkadian versian the Sun god, but in different functions."502

U7. With regard to horoscopic astrology, Hunger and Pingree say: "At the end of the 5th century B.C., the earliest examples (datable to -409) of what what has been called Babylonian horo scopes are attested." It is said that so far 32 such horoscopes are known. 503 "They begin with the date on which a child was born. Rarely is the name of the child mentioned. Then follow the positions of the planets, in the sequence Moon, Sun, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Mars. Their positions are more often given by zodiacal sign alone, less often by degree within a sign. Apart from these positions, other astronomical data are included in the horoscope. These can be more or less distant in time from the date of birth, but were probably considered as possibly significant. Such are the length of the month (whether 29 or 30 days), the time interval between sunrise and moonset just after full moon, and the time between moonrise and sunrise towards the end of the month. Further events are eclipses, including those that were not visible in Babylonia, equinoxes and solstices, and conjunctions of the moon with reference stars. ... Most of the horoscopes do not give any predictions about the future life of the child. Such predictions were probably to be found on different tablets. There exist a number of nativity omen texts which could have served this purpose ... Occasionally, such nativity omens are quoted in horoscopes. One could see in a horoscope a listing of the "signs" available for the date of birth, a kind of omen protasis [statement of the sort "if such and such happens"], for which the apodosis [following statement of the sort "then this-or-that will happen"] was to be found in the
500 Hunter and Pingree cite here S. Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, part II, 1983, p. xxii-xxxii. 501 l . c . ; the reference for this is A. K. Grayson, Assyrian and Babylonian Chronicles, 1975, p. 155. 502 ibid,p. 12,14. 5 0 3 F. Rochberg-Halton, "Babylonian Horoscopes and their Sources", Orientalia 58, 1989, p. 102- 123.


omen literature. Seen in this way, the horoscopes would be an expansion of the tradition omen procedure, and not a radical departure from them." 5 0 4

U8. According to Hunger and Pingree, one category of records pertaining to Babylonian astral concerns, in addition to the collections known as Enu ma Anu En lil, is called "Letters and Reports". These were sent to Assyrian kings, notably Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, most of them between 677 B.C. and 665 B.C. 5 0 5 Another category is known as the "Diaries ". These are said to be "records of observations and computations made during each period of half a year (six or seven months). The oldest so far was inscribed in -651, but the series probably began in the first year of Nabu-nasir, -746 ... while the latest securely dated Diary is from -60. This means that the tradition of keeping the Diaries persisted through seven centuries --- or even eight, if the Diaries continued to be kept till the end of cuneiform writing in the late first century A.D. During this time-span Babylonia was rules by native Dynasties, Achaemenid Persians, Hellenized Macedonians, and Parthiana, so it is unlikely that the supporting institution was the state. There is some evidence, from the late second century B.C., that the observers for the Diaries were employed by the Temple of Marduk in Babylon ... The purpose of the compilation of the Diaries has been much debated. Two recent studies take opposite stands: Swerdlow argues that they were intimately connected with the Mesopotamian practice of reading celestial omens506 , while Slotsky, following a suggestion by Pingree, interprets them as intended, as far as the celestial observations are concerned, for astronomical purposes. 507" Six reasons supporting the latter hypothesis are given. They are chiefly based on the notions of periodicity which are evident with regard to the data given in the Diaries. For example, the majority of the omens given in the Enuma Anu Enlil, and the Letters and Reports, are in no sense periodic, whereas the Diaries show a concentration on periodic phenomena. And, it is suggested, "The Diaries treat periodic phenomena as predictable; this deprives them of their meaning as omens. For omens, celestial or otherwise, are sent to man as warnings by the gods. They must be seen, not computed, and they must occur randomly. The scribes of the Diaries certainly continued to believe in omens since they report some, but they cannot be shown to believe that the celestial and and terrestrial phenomena they primarily revealed [in the Diaries] were ominous. The reason for the inclusion of non-periodic phenomena such as historical events in the Diaries remains unclear to us."508 The implication is that the Babylonian astral investigators of this period had latched onto the idea of making predictions of future astronomical phenomena based on observable period ic celestial phenomena, especially on the motions of celestial objects. Another factor is that the earlier omens often considered what we knowadays interpret as weather or meteorological phenomena, for which, as we know, predictability is uncertain at best, and perhaps impossible in the case of chaotic phenoma, i.e. those which at best we will only be able to attempt prediction by techniques based on nonlinear dynamics, and for which inductive reasoning (averages, probabilities) based on statistical analysis of past instances of weather phenomena are only rough guides.

Hunter and Pingree, ibid., p.26-27; references to F. Rochberg- Halton, loc. cit., p. 110, and F. Rochberg, "Babylonian Horoscopes", Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 88/1, 1998, p. 16. 5 0 5 Hunter and Pingree, ibid., p. 23-24. 506 N.M. Swerdlow, The Babylonian Theory of the Planets, 1998. 507 A.L. Slotsky,The Bourse of Babylon, 1997. 508 Hunter and Pingree, ibid., p. 13 9-140.


U9. The degree to which the Slotsky-Pingree evaluation is correct would be very significant in assigning provenance to the rise of mathematical and observational astronomy as independent, to some degree, from astrology in the sense of reading omens and, later, horoscopes from celestial phenomena. In fact, the dates of the earliest known personal horoscopes, reported above, and the earliest known indications of astronomical studies based on careful observations and mathematical techniques are roughly in the same periods. This suggests that the split of what we nowadays think of as astrology (in a broad sense) and astronomy (in recent senses of the term) began at roughly the same time, and that this was also perhaps when genethlialogical interpretations of celestial phenomena (i.e., predictions of the future based on times of birth of persons or data of origin of other entities) began to separate from the more general judicial astrology in which predictions were made for kingdoms and their rulers based directly on alignments of planets and stars without reference to birth dates. U10. A work by Ann Geneva509 is centered mainly on the astrological of one man, Lilly, described, as the author says, by Bernard Capp as "the most abused as well as the most celebrated astrologer of the seventeenth century."510 Geneva interprets astrology as a "symbolic language system".511 Her Chapter 6, called "'Ars Longa, Vita Brevis': The Starry Language Decoded" discusses Lilly's use of astrological techniques and terminology to "encrypt" his prognostications, which were generally political in nature, and especially concerned the struggles between the Parliamentarians and Royalists of the time of Charles I of England. Lilly was much devoted to the cause of the Parliamentarians. For example, she gives the following three methods of such "encryptment" by Lilly:: "1. SUBSTITUTION. Predicting the King's death using the individual geniture tradition by substituting aspects of the King's natal geniture to avoid explicit reference to either his name or his nativity. 2. CELESTIAL OMENS. The use of an ancient tradition linking naatural phenomena such as comets and eclipses to sublunar events, and specifically to major upheavals in government and the death of kings. 3. CONJUNCTIONS. The historiographical use of conjunctionist astrology, stemming from the eighth century Sasanian astrologers, to position the King's impending defeat and death within large periodic cycles of time, enhancing the sense of cosmic order an inevitability." 512 If I understand Geneva correctly, she means by calling Lilly's version of astrology a "symbolic language system" that he used connections between celestial phenomena as parallels to political phenomena, and especially to predict the course of political events in England leading up to the execution of Charles I, and took advantage of a parallel known to initiates between astrological names or symbols, and the names of prominent political and military figures. She downplays the role of astronomy and mathematical calculations in the work of an astrologer. She says: "While astrology shared some common ground with astronomy and mathematics, it had developed as a
509 1995. 510 511 512 ibid., p. 55; the reference is to Capp's English Almanacs 1500 -1800, 1979, p. 57. e . g . , the title of Chapter 9 is "The Decline of Astrology as a Symbolic Language System." ibid., p. 176 Ann Geneva, Astrology and the Seventeenth Century Mind: William Lilly and the Language of the Stars,


prognostic art within its own tradition, generating unique diagnostic categories and methodologies. Precise knowledge of geocentric astronomy was crucial in calculating the initial figure, but the true skill of the astrological practitioner resided in interpretation. And much like painters who hire others to paint their backgrounds, astrologers by the early modern period did not always bother to perform their own computations. Once the celestial paradigm had been accurately determined, the astrologer identified the meanings of literally scores of variables, from astrology's symbolic language into the vernacular. Early modern astrology as such thus had more in common with the art of medical diagnosis -- a comparison that also occurred to Ptolemy --than it did with astronomy or mathematics." 513 This view seems to make the astronomical and mathematical bases of astrology (in present-day senses of these terms) rather inessential to the kind of authority that astrological predictions were believed to have had by some, as compared with other methods of prognostication, such as crystal-gazing, use of Tarot cards, reading tea leaves, and so on. U11. Geneva proposes (p. 6) that "One need only consult Ptolemy's second century AD Tetrabiblos to see that astronomy and astrology constituted two quite separate, and often incompatible pursuits. While to Ptolemy astrology is 'prediction through astronomy', he makes the clearest possible distinction between the two by publishing his great work on astronomy, the Almagest, in a separate volume from the Tetrabiblos. Despite this, even the flap copy of the Loeb edition of the Tetrabiblos insists astrology from Ptolemy's day through the Renaissance was 'fused as a respectable science with astronomy." To my mind, this is rather like saying that psychology and biology are two quite separate pursuits, which they are in some respects. Still, the role of biology in psychology may be likened, in my view, to the role of astronomy in astrology, and historically psychology and biology (quite modern terms) were fused integrally for a long time, given due allowance to the fact that psychology and biology did not become separate, in some respects, from each other and from other kinds of study until comparatively recently. The extent to which psychology can be "reduced" to biology (and biology to chemistry, and chemistry to physics, and even, sometimes, physics to mathematics) is still a matter of lively debate. There is also the matter of the scope of the terms corresponding to our "astronomy" and "astrology" (e.g., in Latin, Greek and Akkadian) in past times, as compared to later usages, as discussed in Chapter I of the present work.

U12. Geneva asks" ... exactly what was Lilly so good at? ... some of his admirers had studied astrology for as long as Lilly had done. Yet despite their greater ability in subjects like astronomy, mathematics, Latin, physics, languages, geometry, theology, and philosophy, Lilly remained their acknowledged superior in judicial astrology. He obviously had a knack: but for what? If merely a combination of modern intellectual skills, such as historians often claim of astrology --- part psychology, religion, mathematics, physics, sociology, journalism, etc. --- had been required then surely others would have triumphed. If he were alive now, Lilly would be practicing in none of these professions. I finally decided that this was a genuinely obsolete category. Nothing in the twentieth century is comparable. The answer then became self-evident: Lilly was a genius in exactly the category of knowledge which he claimed as his own --- that of judicial astrology. What skills this comprised when stripped of distorting modern contexts was another matter, one which the remainder of this study will try to explicate." 514 If I
513 514

Geneva, ibid., p. 9 ibid ., p . 71.


understand this claim correctly, Geneva is attributing to Lilly possession of a lost art, and one which evidently stands alone, independent of other kinds of arts and sciences, such as those she listed. Does this mean that Lilly had some facility for some kind of direct revelation obtained from arranging and contemplating what Geneva calls the symbols, or symbolic language, of astrology, which presumably was a kind of medium for his prognostications? My reading of Geneva's work leads me to speculate that what she has shown is rather that Lilly's genius lay mainly in his ability to diagnose and predict major political movements of his time, based (as Geneva quotes him as saying) on careful study and attention to political events and processes, and communicated by him in a clever way by means of astrological concepts and terminology. I wonder, too, whether or not he was also a kind of genius at political propaganda, communicating in his symbolic or encrypted way in the face of strict censorship and extreme punishment for disloyalty to the king, and perhaps also influencing the outcomes which he predicted. U13. I don't find in Geneva's work a study of predictions of Lilly which failed, as compared to those which succeeded. She does note, however, that "when Lilly found the astrological tradition wanting, he did not hesitate to develop a new methodology using existing astrological formulations. He also expressed his intention of passing it on to his astrological inheritors, an ambition in keeping with his more respectable scientific contemporaries."515 And finally, there is Geneva's quotation of a statement by Lilly: "my arguments are not demonstrative, or can be made so: I acknowledge my Prognosticks to be only grounded upon conjectural probabilitie, and are not subject to the senses, or Geometricall demonstrations; thus I speak to avoyd carping."516

U14. It is interesting to compare the points of view of Ann Geneva described above, and those of Ulla Koch-Westenholz.517 Koch-Westenholz distinguishes between "artificial" and "natural" divination. Following Cicero (de divinatione 1.11, 2.26), she defines natural divination as "direct, inspired communications from the gods that 'the mind seizes from without', e.g. dreams and oracles." The point of view of Geneva seems to attribute to Lilly's practice of judicial astrology something of the nature of such natural divination, not essentially based on anything else than direct contacts with the future (whether from the "gods" or God or not). Perhaps this is more than Geneva wants to claim, but there is a tendency toward this, I think, in her proposals that Lilly didn't depend on astronomy, mathematics, etc., except as a mode of communicating what he "saw" for the future. "Artificial divination" is defined by Koch-Westerholz as including "everything where 'computation and constant observation' is necessary to ascertain the gods' will." She goes on to say that "While inspired divination certainly is attested in Ancient Mesopotamia, it appears to have been of minor importance, and the bulk of our sources, the omen compendia, concerns deductive divination." She distinguishes between two kinds of deductive divination, "provoked omens" such as found in induced examination of entrails or oil slicks in water basins, and "unprovoked omens" such as arise from interpretations of occurrences which "appear without being asked for, e.g. astrology." She observes that these two kinds of deductive divination were practiced by different kinds of experts: "the baru,


Geneva, ibid., p. 184.

516 ibid., p. 281. 517 Ulla Koch-Westenholz, Mesopotamian Astrology: An Introduction to Babylonian and Assyrian Celestial Divination, 1995.


diviner, whose main field was provoked omens" and "the tupsarru, scribe/scholar, whose expertise included unprovoked omens and exorcism." 518 U15. Geneva proposed a quite radical separation of astronomy and astrology, even in antiquity, whereas Koch-Westerholz states: "As a rule astronomy and astrology have always been treated separately, while in fact they were never regarded as separate before the end of the Renaissance -- and certainly not in Ancient Mesopotamia." This view is reflected in the title of the present work, The Marriage and Divorce ofAstronomy and Astrology. Koch-Westerholz refers to an article by F. Rochberg-Halton 519 in which it is recommended "that historians differentiate between the specific goals and method of ancient astronomy and astrology. ... But she also stresses that 'the training and interests of the scribes in both these areas very likely stemmed from one intellectual tradition.' A close link continued also during the evolution of mathematical astronomy. ... With the rise of mathematical astronomy in the 5th century B.C., by which it became possible to calculate the movements of the planets and predict eclipses, it is hard to understand how such events could be seen as portentous accidents or willed communications from the gods. In fact, the whole discipline of astrology became fundamentally changed, both as to basic principles, and its uses ... " 5 2 0 I suggest that Koch-Westerholz, when speaking of the rise of mathematical astronomy in the 5th century B.C., is referring to what I would call the rise of geometric astronomy. There is abundant evidence, e.g. in the works of Otto Neugebauer and his colleagues, that the ancient Babylonians practiced a kind of mathematical astronomy, albeit not based on geometric models. In modern terms, they practiced, for example, interpolation of values in tables of observations by various arithmetical schemes for purposes of making predictions of eclipses, which was and still is use of a kind of mathematics by most definitions of the term "mathematics". Cf. Chapter 4, section 46, of the present work. Still, it is still accurate, I expect, to say that the rise of geometric astronomy in the 5th century B .C. (or perhaps a bit earlier) transformed the practice of astral prediction.

U16. Koch -Westerholz observes that "The provoked omens are signs deliberately sought to answer specific questions formally addressed to the gods. By their very nature, such signs are always sent by gods. Unprovoked omens may likewise be regarded as willed divine communications, or they may be seen as "signs" (ittu) without any sender, like our black cat crossing the street or what we would call 'symptoms'. This ambivalence between a theistic and a mechanistic world view permeates much of Babylonian thought and is duly reflected in the astrological texts. ... the relation between ominous events and their interpretations could be regarded as part of a purely mechanical scheme of things." Also, it was possible to avert or mitigate a predicted bad event by means of special rituals, involving prayers and offerings. KochWesterholz says: "In fact, most bad omens could be averted mechanically by performing the appropriate namburbu [rituals]. This is a far cry from the gods ruling the universe by their immutable will." 521 This presumably applies to all kinds of Babylonian divination practices and theories. Thus there appears to have been no commitment, at least up to the Hellenistic period, to strict determinism or fatalism in connection with the observation and interpretation of omens.


ibid., p. 9- 10.

519 F. Rochberg-Halton, A me ri can Orienta l Se rie s, 1987, 67, p 327 ff. 520 Koch- Westerholz, ibid., p. 21-22. 5 2 1 ibid,p. 11- 12.


U17. On the origins of astrology as practiced by the Babylonians, Koch-Westerholz discusses a view attributed to P. J. Huber.522 Huber is said to have suggested that omen astrology arose by a process similar to that which has been atrributed to the rise of extispicy, predictions of future events based on examining and interpreting the entrails of sacrificed sheep, which KochWesterholz calls "the Babylonian divinatory discipline par excellence. According to this view, the "protasis", the ominous phenomenon "read" from a liver was linked to "apodasis", the signified event, by "circumstantial association." The procedure, presumably, was thus to link the state of the entrails with a near-contemporaneous event for the purpose of making future predictions. It was then a kind of causation concluded from correlation (perhaps by an inductive process in which more than one example was involved?). Then, says Koch-Westerholz, in this view of the origins of omen prognostication, "Closely following the empirical stage ... came the theoretical stage when the omina were written down in long tabular compendia on tablets. At the same time, the empirical findings were 'phrased in accordance with the code', i.e. a set of general rules or a theoretical system, and remaining blanks in the system, for which no empitical data were available, could be filled out by interpolation."523 Presumably Koch-Westerholz is not referring here to interpolation as a mathematical or arithmetical technique. P. J.Huber is said by KochWesterholz to have suggested an analogous origin for omen astrology, based to start with on lunar eclipses being associated with the deaths of certain Old Akkadian kings. Koch-Westerholz finds problems with Huber's arguments, as she discusses on p. 35-36. There seems to have been a biased selection of available evidence by Huber, and also doubts about the chronology used by Huber. 524

U18. Koch-Westerholz argues that various suggestions about the origins of Babylonian divinatory practices in general have overstressed the precedence in time of empirical data over theoretical hypotheses. She says "In my opinion, the idea of an empirical background of Babylonian divination is very difficult to uphold. ... It is generally agreed by modern philosophers of science that knowledge about the world is rarely obtained by purely empirical observation, without some pre-existing theory to integrate the observed data. In other words, the 'circumstantial association' assumed to be the fountainhead of the historical omens, is in itself unlikely." She cites as "modern philosophers of science" N. R. Hanson and Karl Popper 525, who are two of the early pioneers, along with many others (e.g. Alexander Koyré) in maintaining a primacy of theoretical and deductive methods over inductive methods based on empirical data gathered in advance, without any theoretical bases fixed in advance. The latter as a view of the way science proceeds is often attributed to Francis Bacon. Caricatures of the two positions are sometimes advanced. On one side, it is claimed that empirical data can be gathered without any particular plan as to what conclusions can be drawn from the data, and conclusions then drawn and hypotheses made and theories constructed afterwards by general methods which can be applied to any kind of empirical data thus obtained. On the other side, it may be claimed that any gathering of empirical data is guided from the start by some sort of hypotheses or theories held by the gatherers, perhaps without the gatherers being aware or fully aware of the theories

P. J. Huber, "Dating by Lunar Eclipse Omens with Speculations on the Birth of Omen Astrology", FS Asger Aaboe, Acta Historica Scientiarum Naturalium et Medicinalium, Vol. 39, 1987. 523 Koch- Westerholz, ibid., p. 14. 524 ibid. p. 35-36.

N. R. Hanson, Patterns of Discovery, 1965 and Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1959 (this was the English translation -- the original German version, Logik der Forschung, was published in 1935).

they have in mind. In my view, the actual state of affairs in such procedures is a continual interaction of gathering empirical data and theorizing on the basis of it, in which the primacy of one over the other changes over time and among different gatherers. To argue about which comes first seems to me unproductive, although in specific instances, it may be possible to point to one or the other as having come first in a specific endeavor to attain knowledge or probable knowledge of some sort. U19. Later in her work, Koch-Westerholz also speaks in such a way that she considers the empirical and theoretical to be in continual interaction, although she attributes a sort of primacy to the theoretical. She is concerned to consider what sorts of assumptions guided Babylonian astrologers in choosing what to observe and how to classify their observations. She says: "Babylonian astrology was the result of the interaction of practical observation and theoretical schematization well known from the other omen series. The crucial phenomena in divination: heliacal [first appearance just before sunrise, last setting just after sunset] and acronycial [last rising just after sunset] risings and settings, stationary points [as when a planet retrogrades], conjunctions [two or more bodies having the same celestial longitudes, i.e. one just "above" the other] and other positions in relation to a particular celestial body, eclipses, colours and other optical phenomena, all derive from actual observations rather than speculations. But it is obvious that practical experience was subordinate to theory or schematization: in order to fit the various schemata, also phenomena which never occur in reality were listed in the series, especially in the eclipse sections ... The schematization included binary oppositions like: left - right, above - below, in front of - behind, sunrise - sunset, bright - faint, on time - late/early; and qualifications like: colours: white, black, red and yellow; direction: the four quarters; time: month, day, watch, duratiion; location: path of Anu, Enlil or Ea (Footnote: The paths of Enlil, Anu and Ea were probably areas along the eastern horizon rather than bands in the sky parallel to the celestial equator as previously supposed ...) Furthermore, these opposites and qualifications do not have the same meaning in all contexts; astrology is very far from the neat generalizations striven for in ba ru tu [artificial omens], but there are some tendencies in that direction." Koch -Westerholz gives an interesting example of the application of the "bright - faint" distinction: "A simple rule that is common to all kinds of Babylonian divination is of almost mathematical rigour: within the same omen, a good sign with a good sign has a good prediction; good combined with bad means bad; bad combined with bad means good. Expressed algebraically, the rule is also familiar to us: ++ = +; +- = -; -- = +. An often quoted example of this rule is found in the astrological texts: if a wellportending planet is bright: favourable (++ = +); if it is faint: unfavourable (+- = -); of it is faint: favourable (- - = +). But the rule might also be illustrated from texts of extispicy or lecanomancy as early as Old Babylonian."526

U20. David Pingree gives numerous details which supplement my discussions of origins of astrology in Babylonia, Greece, and other parts of the world.527 In this work, Pingree doesn't add much to what has already been said here about origins of astrology in Babylonia itself. There are large gaps in what is known, and much of what is said about this remains conjectural. Of the origins of what we nowadays often refer to as horoscopic astrology, Pingree says: "The science of astrology was developed in, most probably the late 2nd or early 1st century B.C. as a means to predict, from horoscopic themata drawn up for the moment of an individual's birth (or

Koch-Westerholz, ibid., p. 97 -98, 11.



David Pingree, From Astral Omens to Astrology: From Babylon to Bikaner, 1997.


conception), the fate of that native. This form of astrology, called genethlialogy, is rooted in Aristotelian physics and Hellenistic astronomy, but also borrowed much from Mesopotamia and some elements from Egypt as well as developing many theories of its own. The adaptation of this form of astrology to determine the best time for initiating actions is known as catarchic astrology. These are the two main forms of astrology known in the West; interrogational astrology was developed in India in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. on the basis of Greek catarchic astrology, and historical astrology in Sasanian Iran in perhaps the 5th or 6th century A.D. on the basis of continuous forms of Greek genethlialogy. All of these types of astrology depend on the notion that the planets, in their eternal rotations about the earth, transmit motion (change) to the four elements and to the assemblages of elements, animate and inanimate, in the sublunar world. This theory is completely different from that of celestial omens, in which the gods, whose physicl manifestations are the constellations and planets, send messages concerning their intentions regarding kings and countries, by means of celestial phenomena. That these divine intentions can be altered by the use of propitiatory rituals (namburbis) in Mesopotamia, santis in India) emphasizes the fundamental conceptual difference between omens and astrology." Pingree goes on to say, however, that astrology does have a Mesopotamian background, and gives an example of this "pre-astrology" from "a 13th century B.C. Hittite tablet based on a translation from an Old Babylonian Akkadian text in which a brief prediction is made for a person depending on the month in which he was born." Based on an example used by the Stoic philosopher Chrysippus in analyzing the conditional "If someone is born when Canicula (Sirius) is rising, he will not die in the ocean", which appears to be related to a record in a Babylonian principal manual of instruction translated by Pingree (or perhaps by A. Sachs) as "The place of Cancer: death in the ocean". Pingree says "This correlation, if correct, shows that the Babylonian science of birth omens was known in the Greek world by the late 3rd century B.C." "But," says Pingree, "Babylonian birth omens were probably known in Greece long before these Stoic philosophers debated about their validity." Pingree cites Eudoxus, one of the great mathematicians of classical Greece, as one who, according to Cicero, recommended that "one should not at all believe 'the Chaldeaeans in their prediction and noting down of anyone's life from the day of birth." The theory in the 5th book of Euclid's Elements [of geometry] is attributed to Eudoxus (4th century B.C.E.), in which the first known treatment of what has become known as the real number system was presented, one which is still as sound today as it was in the 4th century B.C., and was in use in its original form until sometime in the 19th century A.D. In that century, several alternative versions were presented, e.g. those of Augustin Cauchy, Richard Dedekind and Georg Cantor, whose major differences from the development given by Eudoxus on matters of "existence" of real numbers other than rational numbers (ratios of whole numbers). Eudoxus is also credited by Archimedes with first rigorously proving formulas for volumes connected with spheres and cylinders, and perhaps most famously of all for presenting a geometrically based planetary theory, i.e. a geometrical model for the planets known in his time of what we now call our solar system On the other hand, Pingree observes that Proclus (5th century C.E.) cites Theophrastus (around 300 B.C.) as "praising the theory of the Chaldaeans in his day which 'predicts the lives and deaths of individuals.' " 5 2 8

U21. Pingree goes on to describe influences of what he calls Babylonian astronomy (rather than astrology, or interpretation of celestial omens -- ) in India, which he says are


P i n gr e e , p . 2 1 -2 4 .


"perceptible in Sanskrit texts of the first half of the last millennium B.C."529 In subsequent chapters, he describes further transmission of astral predictive material in India, Iran (Persia) and Byzantium. It appears that remaining records about Persian astrological practices are scarce, presumably because most of them were destroyed after the advent of Mohammed. In India, relevant Sanskrit records are more prevalent.
U22. The title of the book by Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars, 1991, doesn't indicate the scope of this work. The first two-thirds of the work is devoted to setting the stage for a presentation of Origen's views on astral influences. While Scott is primarily interested in implications for Christian theology, in my view Scott also sets a stage for showing influences on and influences of the marriage between astronomy and astrology as found in Europe and northern Africa and southwestern Asia in classical, Hellenistic and early medieval times. Scott opens with a consideration of the thought of pre-Socratic philosophers of classical Greece, and the thought of Plato on the nature of the stars and planets. He observes: "In contrast to many other pre-industrial societies, a formal cult of the stars was almost unknown in ancient Greece. Aristophanes, Plato, and Aristotle regarded their worship as either an archaic or foreign practice, but the veneration of heavenly bodies, particularly the sun and moon, was not unusual in popular piety. Common practices always affect intellectual life, and Greece was no exception; even in the Parthenon, the very symbol of classical Athens, the sun and moon appear as gods. ... And yet this common supposition tht the heavens were alive was increasingly examined, questioned, and even rejected as Greek astronomy began its scientific development on the other side of the Greek-speaking world among the Ionians. As a reult, belief in the divinity of the stars is conspicuously rare in Greek philosophy between Alcmaeon and Plato." Scott reviews some of the fragments we have left of the pre-Socratic philosophers, such as Thales, Anaximander, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Archelaos, Democritus, and Diogenes of Apollonia, as to speculations about the physical nature of the heavenly bodies. They were said to be "made of earth and fire", "fiery bodies", "rocks" or "red hot stones", "full of fire", and so on. Scott says: "The precise religious beliefs of the Ionian naturalists or of those who accepted their teachings on the heavens is not clear, but they were perceived as denying the gods, as Aristophanes' play The Clouds makes clear. ... Plutarch indicates the unpopularity of this naturalism with respect to the heavens, referring here to the teachings of Anaxagoras: 'It was still not talked about and spread only among a few, who received it with some caution rather than giving it much credence. They could not bear the natural philosophers and what were then called the 'star-gazers', because they frittered away divinity into irrational causes, unforeseen forces, and necessary occurrences.' "5 3 0

U23. Plato's views about the heavens and stars changed over the course of his lifetime. He appears to have been more concerned with their roles in the cosmos in his later life. In the Statesman, one of the later dialogues, he speaks of the planets, taken to include our sun and moon as well as the five planets (in our present-day sense) which are visible without instruments. He notes, as Scott puts it, that "in the first era of history God imparts his own motion to the universe, but that there is another era in which the universe begins to move in the opposite direction under its own power, since its Maker has made it both living and rational. Thus for the first time (if the usual chronologies of Plato's works can be trusted) Plato suggests that an independent rational power is at work in at least some of the heavenly bodies (i.e. the
529 ibid, p. 31; on p. 32, Pingree refers to "Babylonian astral sciences" in this connection.



Alan Scott, Or i g e n a n d t h e L i f e o f t h e S t a r s , 1991, p. 3-4, 5-6.


P i n gr e e , p . 2 1 -2 4 .


planets), and that this accounts for an observable phenomenon."531 The planets are thus endowed according to Plato's story, with a power belonging to themselves. U24. In the S tatesman, Plato is concerned about how the majority of celestial objects, the "fixed" stars, revolve every day one way, from East to West, but that a few prominent "stars", namely the five planets (though not the Sun and Moon), while they share in this diurnal rotation sometimes go the opposite way with respect to the fixed stars. Plato has the Stranger say, beginning at section 268, by way of telling a "pleasant story": "There is an era in which the god himself assists the universe on its way and helps it in its rotation. There is also an era in which he releases his control. He does this when its circuits have completed the due limit of the time thereto appointed. Thereupon it begins to revolve in the contrary sense under its own impulse -for it is a living creature and has been endowed with reason by him who framed it in the beginning." 5 3 2 In Plato's later very influential dialogue Timaeu s, his cosmology is more developed and detailed. In connection with how Plato's speculations about the natures of celestial bodies influenced the development and acceptance of astrological doctrines, it is suggestive that he assigns to stars two kinds of motion, the diurnal revolutions from East to West, and also axial rotations. In addition, the five planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, have a different kind of motion peculiar to them, retrograde motion from West to East with respect to the fixed stars. The movement from East to West of the fixed stars, shared by the planets (including the Sun and Moon) is, according to Plato's story, imparted to them and perhaps maintained by the Demiurge, Plato's name for the deity who creates and manages the physical universe as based on eternal models or Ideas established and managed by a superior deity. Thus celestial objects do not maintain this motion from within themselves, although they are said to be alive and have souls. The axial rotations of the celestial objects hypothesized by Plato are said to originate and be maintained from within the bodies, and thus can be said to be powers they themselves possess. In addition, the retrogradation of the five planets shows that they have an additional power, as do the annual spiral motions of the sun and moon with respect to the fixed stars. The upshot of all this, as applied to development of astrology, is that Plato assigns a certain power to all the stars, and additional powers to the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Our Earth is also said to be alive and to have a soul. Now, by way of relating the stars and their powers to people, Plato says that with the residue of that which the Demiurge had "mixed and blended the soul of the universe", a residue which was no longer as pure as it was before, the Demiurge "divided it into souls equal to number with the stars, and distributed them, each soul to its several star." 533

U25. Plato goes on: "And he who should live well for his due span of time should journey back to the habitation of his consort star and there live a happy and congenial life; but failing of this, he should shift at his second birth into a woman' and if in this condition he still did not cease from wickedness, then according to the character of his depravation, he should constantly be changed into some beast of a nature resembling the formation of that character, and should have no rest from the travail of these changes, until letting the revolution of the Same and uniform within himself draw into its train all that turmoil of fire and water and air and earth that had later grown about ir, he should control its irrational turbulence by discourse of reason and
531 532 533 edition. ibid., p. 10. Plato, S t a t e s ma n , translated by J. B. Skemp, 1952, p. 23 ff. of edition of 1957. Plato, T i ma e u s , 41D-E, translated by F. M. Cornford in his P l a t o ' s C o s mo l o g y , 1937, p. 142 of the 1957


return once more to the form of his first and best condition." Having created the souls of humans, each human corresponding to a star, the Demiurge "sowed them, some in the Earth, some in the Moon, some in all the other instruments of time." 534 For Plato identified the planets as "instruments of time". U26. Scott says: "Aside from the Epicureans, all the major philosophical schools in the Hellenistic era believed in the divinity of the stars. Even the notorious atheist Euhemerus (fl. 300 BC) acknowledged that they (at least) were gods. And yet an identificaion was not without its difficulties. A problem particularly vexing for Platonists was the visibility of the stars (since divinity was thought to be perceptible to the mind only and not to the senses), and this was a frequent topic of discussion in Platonic circles. ... One response was to say that in the case of the stars, soul was perfectly adapted to body and the lower and visible part to a higher intelligible part. The 'secondary' gods exist through the higher invisible gods, depending on them as the star's radiance depends on the star. In the star the divine soul exercises a perfect supremacy. Chaeremon does not seem particularly interested in any other gods besides the visible ones, but such a view was unusual in philosophers of the period, for if the supreme God is altogether simple and is in no way made of ruler and rules, it is difficult to undersstand how any visible (and therefore material) body could be truly divine. Recognizing this, Alexandrian astronomers began to refer to the planets by their appearance rather than using the names of gods, since the mythological associations of the older practice were plain to them. ... Philosophers of this period devised a wide variety of ways of referring to the astral gods which emphasized their intermediate divine nature which was superior to the human condition but inferior to the supremely divine. Most of these ways of talking about the heavenly bodies stemmed from Plato and from the Epinomis." 535 The Epinomis has been and sometimes still is ascribed to Plato, but some later scholars hold that while the Epinomis has something in common with Plato's later work, especially the Laws to which it is a kind of sequel, it appears to have been written by a follower of Plato, perhaps Philipp of Opus. Scott says that "Emphasis on the importance of the heavens is carried to its furthest extreme in the Epinomis ... the Epinomis declares the wise man to be, not the philosopher, but the astronomer". As discussed in Chapter 1 of the present work, the word translated here as "astronomer" in previous times customarily denoted a kind of combination of what nowadays we mean by "astronomer" and what we mean by "astrologer".536

U27. "One view which was frequent in Stoic and Platonic circles," says Scott, "was that as the stars were intermediate and subordinate gods, so they regulated an intermediate and subordinate providence. The idea as we have seen is implicit in Plato, Aristotle, and the Academy and, despite the ambiguity of the stars' relation to ether or God in Stoicism, it was taken over by Chrysippus, who believed that stars govern the world in accordance with providence. ... A common later expression of this is that there are different grades of providence, namely primary and secondary, and in some writers tertiary. Primary providence (that of the supreme God) sees to the beneficial arrangement of universals, while secondary providence operating through the stars sees to the generation and arrangement of that which is mortal and particular beneath the moon, and a tertiary providence is sometimes assigned to the daemons." Daemons, in this usage, refers to lesser deities, e.g. deified heroes, and not
534 535 536 ibid., 42B-42D, p. 144. Scott, ibid., p. 55, 57-58. Scott, ibid., p. 20- 22.


necessarily evil kinds of deities. At this point Scott comments on the relationship of philosophy and religion of the Hellenistic era to astrology. He says: "This concept of the stars' activity is in part shaped by older ideas on the place of heaven in controlling generation and daily occurrences such as the weather, and was strengthened by the growth in importance of astrology in the Hellenistic period. Much of what was said in older philosophy helped pave the way for astrology, and despite some vigorous protests, both Stoicism and Platonism were thought by many of their later representatives to be compatible with this discipline. The combination of philosophy with astrology reaches it height in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, but it is already present in philosophy before Origen in the view that the stars exercise control over destiny (eimarmene). Thus a variety of factors were at work causing the stars to be ascribed with important functions concerning terrestrial life. This in turn increased the pressure on philosophers to give some account of their religious importance."537 U28. Scott next, on his way to discussing works of Origen, comments on works of Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 B.C.E. - 40 C.E.), so far as they relate to opinions on the nature of stars and planets. His conclusion is: "He [Philo] follows the conventions of his day in honouring the stars but he is both too good a Jew and too good a Platonist to take this to its logical consequences. For all their glory, the stars are distinctly inferior to God, who is above heaven. The cosmological inconsistencies which were present individually in Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoa come to a crescendo in Philo, and this happens in part because he is not able to criticize and correct his teachers, and because he has sometimes combined his sources in a clumsy way, but it has also happened because of his philosophical and religious integrity: he refuses to put anything (even the stars) on the same level as God. His efforts are of great importance for students of Origen, because Origen will follow him both in attempting to present a scriptural cosmology, and in placing strict limitations on the usual pagan religious understanding of heaven. One idea, however, which Origen adopts and which is not present in Philo or any of the classical philosophical schools is the recognition of the possibility of evil in heaven. This view, which is of great importance for Origen in understanding the place of the stars in the divine economy, gradually developed in Hellenism, and exerted a great influence on early Christianity. That the heavenly bodies affected the lilfe below was a philosophical commonplace, but our sources in the early imperil era are sharply divided about the nature of this influence."538

U29. Here are some excerpts from the works of Philo to illustrate his beliefs about the stars, taken from the elegant Victorian translation of Philo's works by C. D. Yonge, first published in 1854-1855. First, from a work commonly known as On the Creation, although Yonge gives its complete title as A Treatise on the Account of the Creation of the World, as Given by Moses, we have: " X V I . (55) But the Creator having a regard to that idea of light perceptible only by the intellect, which has been spoken of in the mention made of the incorporeal world, created those stars which are perceptible by the external senses, those divine and superlatively beautiful images, which on many accounts he placed in the purest temple of corporeal substance, namely in heaven. One of the reasons for his so doing was that they might give light; another was that they might be signs; another had reference to their dividing the
537 538

S c ott, ibid. , p. 6 1 -62. ibid. , p. 7 4 - 7 5.


times of the seasons of the year, and above all dividing days and nights, of months and years, which are the measures of time; and which have given rise to the nature of number. (56) And how great is the use and how great the advantage derivable from each of the aforesaid things, isplainfrom their efect. But with a view to a more accurate comprehension of them, it may perhaps not be out ofplace to trace out the truth in a regular discussion. Now the whole of time being divided into two portions day and night, the sovereignty of the day the Father has assigned to the Sun, as a mighty monarch: and that of the night he has given to the moon and to the multitude of the other stars. (57) And the greatness of the power and sovereignty of the sun has its most conspicuous proof in what has been already said: for he, being one and single has been allotted for his own share and by himself one half portion of all time, namely day; and all the other lights in conjunction with the moon have the other portion, which is called night. And when the sun rises all the appearances of such numbers of stars are not only obscured but absolutely disappear from the efusion of his beams; and when he sets then they all assembled together, begin to display their own peculiar brilliancy and their separate qualities.

"XIX. (58) And they have been created, as Moses tells us, not only that they might send light upon the earth, but also that they might display signs offuture events. For either by their risings, or their settings, or their eclipses, or again by their appearances and occultations, or by the other variations observable in their motions, men oftentimes conjecture what is about to happen, the productiveness or unproductiveness of the crops, the birth or loss of their cattle, fine weather or cloudy weather, calm and violent storms of wind, floods in the rivers or droughts, a tranquil state of the sea and heavy waves, unusual changes in the seasons of the year when either the summer is cold like winter, or the winter warm, or when the spring assumes the temperature of autumn or the autumn that of spring. (59) And before now some men have conjecturally predicted disturbances and commotions of the earth from the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and innumerable other events which have turned out most exactly true: so that it is a most veracious saying that "the stars were created to act as signs, and moreover to mark the seasons. "And by the word seasons the divisions of the year are here intended. And why may not this be reasonably afirmed? For what other idea of opportunity can there be except that it is the time for success? And the seasons bring everything to perfection and set everything right; giving perfection to the sowing and planting offruits, and to the birth and growth of animals. (60) They were also created to serve as measure of time; for it is by the appointed periodical revolutions of the sun and moon and other stars, that days and months and years are determined. And moreover it is owing to them that the most useful of all things, the nature of number exists, time having displayed it;for from one day comes the limit, and from two the number two, and from three, three, and from the notion of a month is derived the number thirty, and from a year that number which is equal to the days of the twelve months, and from infinite time comes the notion of infinite number. (61) To such great and indispensable advantages do the natures of the heavenly bodies and the motions of the stars tend. And to how many other things might I also afirm that they contribute which are as yet unknown to us?for all things are not known to the will of man; but of the things which contribute towards the durability of the


universe, those which are established by laws and ordinances which God has appointed to be unalterable for ever, are accomplished in every instance and in every country." Here Philo says that astral or astrological prediction is feasible, inasmuch as one reason God created the stars and planets is to give us signs. U30. On the other hand, Philo maintains elsewhere, in effect, that while the stars and planets give us signs, they don't cause the events which the signs indicate will or may happen. In this view, the stars and planets are one way God communicates to humans. In an appendix to his translation of the works of Philo, Yonge translates a treatise not found in the now standard Loeb edition of Philo's works, with the title A Treatise Concerning the World, we read: "I. There is no existing thing equal in honour to God, but he is the one Ruler, and Governor, and King, to whom alone it is lawful to govern and regulate eve rything; for the verse- "A multitude of masters is not good, "Let there one sovereign be, one king of all, " {1}{Homer, Iliad: 2.204.} is not more appropriate to be said with respect to cities and men than to the world and God, for it follows inevitably that there must be one Creator and Master of one world; and this position having been laid down and conceded as a preliminary, it is only consistent with sense to connect with it what follows from it of necessity. Let us now, therefore, consider what inferences these are. God being one being, has two supreme powers of the greatest importance. By means of these powers the incorporeal world, appreciable only by the intellect, was put together, which is the archetypal model of this world which is visible to us, being formed in such a manner as to be perceptible to our invisible conceptions just as the other is to our eyes. Therefore some persons, marveling at the nature of both these worlds, have not only worshipped them in their entirety as gods, but have also deified the most beautiful parts of them, Imean for instance the sun, and the moon, and the whole heaven, which, without any fear or reverence, they called gods. And Moses, perceiving the ideas which they entertained, says, "O Lord, King of all gods, "{2} [Deuteronomy 10:17.] in order to point out the great superiority of the Ruler to his subjects. And the original founder of the Jewish nation was a Chaldaean [Babylonian] by birth, being the son of a father who was much devoted to the study of astronomy, and being among people who were great studiers of mathematical science, who think the stars, and the whole heaven, and the whole world gods; and they say that both good and evil result from their speculations and belief, since they do not believe in anything as a cause which is apart from those things which are visible to the outward senses. But what can be worse than this, or more calculated to display the want of true nobility existing in the soul, than the notion of causes in general being secondary and created causes, combined with an ignorance of the one first cause, the uncreated God, the Creator of the universe, who for these and innumerable other reasons is most excellent, reasons which because of their magnitude human intellect is unable to apprehend? but this founder of the Jewish nation having conceived an idea of him in his mind, and looking upon him as the true God, forsook his native country and his family, and his father’s house, knowing that if he remained, the deceits of the polytheistic doctrine also remaining in his soul would render his intellect incapable of discovering the nature of the one God, who is alone everlasting, and the father of everything else,


whether appreciable only by the intellect or perceptible to the outward senses ; but if he departed and emigrated, then he saw that deceit would also depart from his mind, which would then change its erroneous opinions into truth." U3 1. So far as astral prediction is concerned, a basic distinction has often been made, from ancient times to the present, between celestial bodies having various kinds of powers of their own over human affairs and destinies, and celestial bodies furnishing signs, presumably related to nonastral powers which affect human affairs and destinies. Astrologers and astronomers have long been concerning with predicting the future. As I have argued in this work, and as many others have maintained, often enough in the past one and the same person who did this, or believed it possible to do this, engaged in or made use of activities concerned with predicting the future which in today's usual meanings of the terms astrologer and astronomer would be identified as both an astronomer and an astrologer. One of the differences today between people who are classified as an astrologer or as an astronomer lies in how each interprets celestial events and processes which they both are engaged in interpreting for purposes of predicting something which will or may happen in the future; another difference concerns which celestial events and processes exist to be interpreted for such a purpose. A common example concerns our earth's moon. Astronomers agree that there are techniques for predicting where the moon will be in the sky in the future of a given time, and what phase it will be in, with great accuracy. They also agree that the moon has at least one prominent power of affecting human affairs, namely a still quite mysterious power known as gravity or gravitation which, for example, exerts influences on the tides of the oceans which have to be taken into account for various human affairs. Actually, few astronomers or physicists would use the English term power to refer to gravitation. In non-relativistic mechanics, the termforce is commonly used, and this is closely associated with what the term energy is used to denote. In relativistic mechanics, the situation is more complicated, one hears about such things as curvature of space, and the like. In what is often called classical celestial mechanics, Newton's Law of Gravity and Laws of Motion, along with an elaborate mathematical apparatus, are taken as the basis for predicting future positions and phases of the moon, as well as of the sun and other planets of our solar system, and many other celestial objects, from asteroids and comets up to constellations and galaxies. Gravitation, non-relativistically and relativistically interpreted, plays a major role in many other kinds of predictions by astronomers besides positions and phases of celestial objects, from what will happen tomorrow in connection with the energy output of our sun, energy which is of vital importance in human affairs, to what will happen tomorrow if you get too near a so-called black hole, and what will happen in the future to our solar system or to our universe as a whole which is even of some importance in connection with human affairs of tomorrow inasmuch as it may affect religious and philosophical beliefs which may in turn influence behavior of human and other kinds of individuals and groups, sometimes on a quite large scale.

U32. Astrologers, on the other hand, seldom pay attention to forces of gravity or curvature of space in making their predictions. A common complaint of present -day astronomers, physicists, cosmologists and the like is that astrologers can demonstrate no power of celestial objects and their processes which can account for what the astrologers claim are their influences

on terrestrial creatures and their affairs. It is maintained by most physical scientists of today that gravitation, electromagnetic effects, nuclear forces, and the like, exerted by celestial objects (presumably other than our earth) have never been demonstrated to have the kind of influences on terrestrial affairs that present-day astrologers maintain they have. Astrologers often reply to this by observing that such influences by powers whose existence is accepted by physical scientists haven't been shown not to exist, or by observing that there may be or are powers not known to or not accepted by physical scientists which do have influences on terrestrial affairs of the sort they deal with. Arguments and disagreements of this sort have gone on since antiquity, and it doesn't look like they will be settled soon, or indeed ever. A thesis of the present work has been that in past times, what we now call astronomy and astrology were more interwoven than they customarily are today, although they still share some basic assumptions, e.g. about predicting future positions of celestial objects and the like. One consequence of this thesis, if it be accepted, is that what has happened in the development of astral prediction over time is a kind of specialization in connection with astral prediction, an effect which has been dominant in connection with all kinds of human affairs. Another consequence is that one may expect to see a kind of punctuated evolution in connection with astral prediction, rather than some kind of revolution in such matters. This has bearing on a familiar theme in history and philosophy of science, that of so-called scientific revolutions, and especially alleged "incommensurability" between theories and interpretations accepted in different eras, to use the term made popular by Thomas Kuhn. If by "incommensurability", one means existence of basic differences of the sort common to presentday astronomers and astrologers, one can empirically verify that such incommensurability exists. If by "incommensurability", one means that the nature of what is true about our universe between what present-day astronomers and astrologers hold can't be decided, one can empirically verify that it hasn't yet been decided. But, as I said near the beginning of this work, I won't be concerned here with matters of truth and falsity of what astronomers and astrologers say. I have reviewed here something about the relationship of past and present astronomy and astrology, and their practitioners and customers, in order to make a setting for the next chapter in the book by Alan Scott, Origen and the Life of the Stars (1991) which I have been considering, and I will now return to it, and in particular to Chapter 6, "The Heavenly Powers".

U33. Nowadays, to maintain seriously that what philosophers sometimes call the "mindbody" problem is closely related to problems of the nature and powers of celestial bodies would, at least in academic settings, be considered to be a kind of crackpottery. However, Scott observes that in the Hellenistic era, theories of "astral bodies" served to make a relationship of this kind. Scott says: "...the existence of a substance which literally was on the boundary between the incorporeal noetic realm of God and the corporeal world of becoming helped explain how it was possible for the incorporeal soul to be joined to the corporeal body. The stars became a model for how humanity's divine rationality was related to the irrationality of the sublunary world. The belief began slowly to evolve that the soul was joined to the gody through the medium of an 'astral body'. ... Plato had written that corporeal vision occurs as a result of a fine, smooth, nondestructive fire which is emitted from the eye and combines with light, which is akin to it, forming a bond between the soul and that which is see, Light then is the medium between soul and the world. ... The later Platonic astral body theory suggests that the star which in the Phaedrus myth [presented by Plato in his dialogue of that name] acts as the soul's vehicle (schema) is in fact a reference to the luminous body which joins the soul and the physical body.


The gap between mind and matter is bridged by positing a body of pneuma or light which is somehow related to both, just as physical vision unites the mind to the world. ... Only after Origen, in the tradition of interpretation which begins with Porphyry and his student Iamblichus, does Platonism begin to clarify the precise nature of the astral body both in heaven and existing as the vehicle for the human soul. At this later point, the astral soul becomes a tenet in systematic, neo-Platonic philosophy. But in Origen's day, the concept of the soul's astral vehicle was still an intellectual experiment which could be developed in several different ways." 539 U34. Scott goes on to discuss the relationship of such theories of union between the divine and the human by way of the stars to astrology as it was generally practiced and theorized about in the Hellenistic era. He says (p. 79): "A particularly important development in this experiment is the theory of a planetary component in the structure of the soul. The growth of interest in astrology in the Hellenistic era led to a special emphasis on the influence of the planets on the soul, since astrology is very much concerned with the effects of the various planetary positions on all generation." There was considerable discussion and disagreement among philosophers and theologians who accepted some version of an astral body theory as to whether or not, or in what cases and to what extent, the influences of the planets (including the sun and moon) on humans was benevolent or malevolent, good or evil. Nowadays, some of the terms for various schools of thought on these issues are gnosticism, hermeticism (as put forth in the Corpus hermeticum), neoPlatonism or just Platonism, and Mithraism (which Scott describes as a cross between Platonism and astrology, p. 109).

U35. And now, finally, we come to Origen, Scott's destination. On p. xvi of his introduction, Scott had said: "The final part [of this book] will investigate astronomy and astrology, and the ambitious use he made of the concept of living heavenly bodies in his theology. Specifically, attention will be given to the importance of the stars in understanding Origen's cosmology, theodicy, doctrine of the Fall, and eschatology." At this point we pass from so-called pagan or Jewish philosophers of the Hellenistic period to an early Christian philosopher or theologian, one of the acknowledged Fathers of the Church. Origen lived 186-232 A.D., and is thus one of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, i.e. before promulgation in 325 A.D. of the Nicene Creed which affirmed that Jesus Christ is of the same substance as God, and not, as Arius had claimed, unbegotten and an inferior deity to God. Origen is known for having attempted to integrate some main doctrines of pagan philosophy, especially as derived from works of Plato and his developers, with Christian doctrines based on the Holy Scriptures. In particular, in connection with astral worship, he affirmed numerous times, in various forms, that the stars are alive and rational, based on the fact that they move, and in an orderly manner. On the other hand, he emphasized that the stars were created, and thus not divine in the way God is, who is uncreated. Some stars are described as having "fallen", in a theological sense, because they had sinned. Thus they were, unlike God, capable of sin. The stars thus were considered by Origen to be ontologically somewhere between God and man. However, he denied that the stars were causes of good or evil in human affairs, although he stated that they were causes of the seasons (see below). Scott says: "Origen is familiar with the tradition which makes the heavenly bodies wrongdoers, and strongly opposes it. ... The Gospel of Matthew itself links the moon with the demonic possession that causes epilepsy (17:15), but Origen, citing this passage, goes to great lengths to show that this is not in fact due to the heavenly body but to the cunning of demons

224 S c ott , p.

77, 78 , 79.

who observe the movements of the moon and also of the stars and plan their own evil deeds accordingly ... Origen thus denies the important contemporary belief that the planets or stars were malevolent. As part of the divine creation their nature is good." On the other hand, Origen believed that "There is a proper use for the signs of the heavens, and that is to refer to them in order to keep track of the change of seasons. In response to Celsus [a pagan philosopher], Origen defended the Stoic idea that the whole universe had been made for the benefit of humanity, and he thought that this was also true for the physical heavens. Along with earth, sea, winds, and rain, so too heaven, sun, moon, and stars were given by God to serve mankind. Like most of his pagan contemporaries, Origen assumed that the association of different stars in the sky with different seasons meant that the stars caysed the seasons and the changes in the weather that they brought. This also meant that the heavenly bodies produce all of the fruits of the earth for the human race to enjoy. Thus the stars had a central role in daily human affairs, though only in regulating the natural world and not in our moral and spiritual life." U36. Origen was, however, opposed to the viewpoints of astro logers, which he took to involve denial of free will. Scott says, in agreement with what I presented in Chapter 1 of this work: "Astronomy and astrology are of course sharply distinguished in modern thought, but in antiquity the two words were used interchangeably. Most experts in one tended to be experts in the other -- Ptolemy is the classic example. Thus it is not surprising that Origen, who shows an interest in astronomy, is also familiar with astrology, even though he was strongly opposed to it." (p.119) On the other hand, Scott says: "The stars, however, had too strong a position both in contemporary philosophy and in the popular imagination to play no role whatsoever in shaping the life below. Connections between the moon and the movements of tides, or between the positions of the stars and the seasons, had long since been made, and this lent much credibility to astrological claims. The belief that one could foretell the future by studying the heavens was common wisdom in Alexandria ... Among both intellectuals and the unlearned, complete disbelief in astrological theory was scarcely credible in the third century." A middle way was, as had been done before, to believe that the stars were created to give signs to humanity. "Origen believed," says Scott, that the stars could act as signs of future events without causing them. He Christianizes this view, saying that the stars were signs of all that happens, in accordance with Genesis 1:14, 'let them be for signs,' and Jeremiah 10:2 'be not dismayed at the signs of heaven.' This was combined with his conviction that all things in this world were traceable, not to Fate, but to free will or to the dictates of Providence. ... Astrology is the mistaken use of this correlation between heaven and earth; one which (following ! En och [of the Ap ro cryph a] and Clement [of Alexandria, another ante-Nicene Father of the Church] is abetted by fallen angels." 540.

U37. Scott concludes (p. 167): "The ancient assumption that the stars are living beings has now passed away, but just as the sea retains its fascination, even though Poseidon no longer dwells in it, so too the celestial regions without their ancient gods. Kant declared his awe at the starry heavens above and the moral law within, recognizing in each case that we are in the presence of something great. The modern age no longer believes that the stars have souls, but astronomical progress has not robbed them of their power. The farthest created things, our own nearest self, these two remain mysteries to us. Observing both we are indeed on the boundary of



S c ott, ibid. , p.143 - 146 .

226 S c ott , ibid ., 167 .


another land."541 One may dispute Scott's statement, or implication, that there are no people any longer who believe that the stars in some sense are alive and have souls, with "souls" defined suitably, although this is not so in the standard academies of our present-day world, at least in some regions of the world. Scott is certainly right to say that the farthest created things, or for that matter some of the nearer ones, too, remain in many ways mysterious, and that our selves, our conscious selves, likewise remain in many ways mysterious to all of us who are sufficiently open to mysteries.