Astronomy and astrology were often practiced together

The odd thing is that modern science actually developed out of astrology and a few other related disciplines of the ancient and medieval world.

As recently as years ago, many astronomers knew a good deal about astrology. Four hundred years ago many astronomers practiced astrology. Five hundred years ago every astronomer was, more or less, also an astrologer. We've sure fallen a long way since then! Let's look back at some famous scientists, big names in all the science textbooks, and see what their stance was in regard to astrology. LMT, in Torun, Poland. Nicolaus Copernicus was born in what is now Poland. He studied liberal arts, medicine, and law in Krakow, as well as Bologna and Padua in Italy.

He was a classic Renaissance man who did just about everything, including building his own astronomical instruments and designing his own astronomical system. He wasn't much of an observational astronomer, but he was a good mathematician who made his contribution to astronomy by reorganizing existing facts and data. Near the end of his life, in , he published the results of his mathematical manipulations under the title Of the Revolving Celestial Orbs. His ideas preoccupied astronomers for the next years. Many historians set the beginnings of the scientific revolution, and certainly the astronomical revolution, with Copernicus.

He proposed a model of the solar system with the Sun in the center and his model was considerably simpler than previous models, specifically the Ptolemaic model with its 80 epicycles to explain retrogradation. For decades after his death, his ideas were debated and commented upon. His work, along with the appearance of the supernova of , was instrumental in undermining the reigning scientific paradigms of the times, the Ptolemaic and Aristotelian models of the cosmos.

For years, the astronomy of Ptolemy and the cosmology of Aristotle held together a scientific world view, one that was inclusive of astrology. These two thinkers from the ancient world had described nature in such a way that the astrological influence of the stars and planets was absolutely logical. Ptolemy's earth-centered model of the solar system, as bizarre as it seems to us today, worked well enough to be used to create ephemerides of the planets.

Ptolemy also wrote "the book" on astrology, his Tetrabiblos. Aristotle's layered heavens, in which the higher levels of the planets could influence the earth at the center, were an obvious rationale for astrology. In the Ptolemaic model, the earth was stationary and the stars whooshed around it every 24 hours. Copernicus's astronomical revolution reduced the number of epicycles that the planets make in their orbits and allowed the earth to rotate, something that made the movement of the stars more comprehensible. His third revolutionary idea was to put the Sun in the center of the solar system - well, almost.

It turns out that in his system, the Sun is not exactly at the center of the earth's orbit. The Sun stands just to the side, which must have bothered Copernicus, as we shall see. To my knowledge, Copernicus was no more into astrology than anyone else of his time. However, astrology was part of one larger body of knowledge called science. Therefore, he had to know something about it, but he may not have practiced it directly in the sense of casting charts for people. The most learned men of the time couldn't be bothered with horoscopes; they had more important things to do, like understanding the design of the solar system itself.

By the mid 16th century, the actual practice of astrology had definitely become a low-class business for many reasons. Two of these were Pico della Mirandola's extreme attack on astrology published in , Disputationes Adversus Astrologiam Disputations Against Astrology , and the world flood predictions, which were a fiasco for the field. The existing tables used to calculate planets' places were not working so well anymore - in fact, they were terrible. The tables would give a position for Mars, but when you looked in the sky for it, it wasn't there.

Ptolemy's system was showing its weaknesses. How could any self respecting Renaissance man cast a horoscope when he knew that the tables were faulty? Copernicus, like Brahe and Kepler after him, set to work on this problem, an astronomical problem that didn't hinge at all on whether astrology was real or false. So to what extent was Copernicus an astrologer? There is one aspect of his writings that shows him to have been at least somewhat astrologically motivated. He put the Sun in the center of his system.

He was, again like many others of his age, influenced by Pythagorean and Hermetic ideas, and the enthroning of the Sun in the center of things made perfect sense. In his own words: "But in the midst of all stands the sun. For who could in this most beautiful temple place this lamp in another or better place than that from which it can at the same time illuminate the whole?

Which some not unsuitably call the light of the world, others the soul or the ruler. Trismegistus calls it the visible God, the Electra of Sophocles the all seeing. So indeed the sun, sitting on the royal throne, steers the revolving family of stars. These thinkers were still en vogue, but not for long. The irony here is that, in justifying the Sun as center, the old doctrines pointed the way to their own destruction. Brahe got an early start in the starry sciences and was reading Ptolemy by age At 17, he was making his own astronomical observations and found that the ephemerides of his day, the Alphonsine Tables, were off by a month in regard to Jupiter and Saturn.

He apparently was interested in astrology because he kept a book of his friends' horoscopes during his early years. In , a new star appeared in the sky, one that set Brahe's career in motion. The supernova of had only one known precedent in the West, and that had occurred in B. Brahe meticulously observed and measured the star and published an astrological report on it. This report, called The New Star, contained 27 pages of precise measurements, followed by an analysis of its astrological effects.

Brahe thought the star to be related to the preceding New Moon of November 5, , which, he believed, was ruled by Mars. He also thought that, since the new star was related by its pole to the sign Aries, the Martian influence was reiterated. His astrological analysis suggested that the star was a forerunner of vast changes in politics and religion and that its influence would begin nine years after the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction in Pisces.

This conjunction was the conclusion of a cycle of conjunctions of these two planets, which he interpreted as an indication of the impending birth of a new age. Brahe also predicted that someone born in would bring great changes that would reach a peak in He specified that the area near Finland would be a source of change. It is interesting to note that some of Brahe's predictions seem to have been fulfilled by the greatest champion of Protestantism in the 17th century. Gustavus Adolphus was born in and reached his glory in Finnish regiments were noteworthy for their support of him on the battlefield.

There is no question about it, Brahe did astrology, but he was frustrated by the lack of good ephemerides. He set out to do something about this problem and eventually accumulated the best set of astronomical records ever made in the West up to that time. Along the way, he published a number of astrological predictions and calendars, lectured on astrology at the University of Copenhagen, and regularly gave astrological readings to his patron, King Frederick II. In , a comet appeared and Brahe published a detailed astronomical and astrological account of it.

In it, he stated that he "did not consider astrology a delusive science when it is kept within bounds and not abused by ignorant people. It was here, in his later years, that he worked with Johannes Kepler. Tycho Brahe was a classic transitional astronomer of high birth, knowledgeable of astrology, but disgusted with the low levels on which most of its practitioners operated.

Brahe spoke for the rational exercise of free will. He believed that taking action could moderate or control astrological effects, a very mature view, astrologically speaking. LMT, in Pisa, Italy. According to Nick Kollerstrom's book, Interface: Astronomical Essays for Astrologers, several charts are available for Galileo, ranging from the 14th to the 16th of February.

Galileo's own notebooks suggest that he was rectifying his chart and seemed to have settled on the 16th at about p. LMT, B data. The Blackwell Collection shows a birth time of p. When I was studying physics and the history of science as an undergraduate in the early s, there was only one way that Galileo was presented - as the first modern scientist. He appeared to be perfect for the role. He used scientific gadgets telescopes , did experiments dropped balls from towers , and applied math to nature acceleration. He was so modern that the Church threatened to torture him unless he abandoned his support for the Copernican model of the solar system.

Somewhere, though, I read that he once calculated a horoscope or two. This was downplayed by the science writers who said that he did this early in his career and then got over it. Among other things he gave us a rule for predicting sex and another rule for predicting intelligence, both of which he claimed were correct in 60 percent of cases.

But when applied to our set of horoscopes, the predictions were respectively 47 and 50 percent correct, which offers no advantage over pure guessing or tossing a coin. Of the twenty-seven astrologers who participated, not all provided personal details, but fifteen were hobbyists, eight were professionals, nine had up to ten years of experience, and seventeen had more than ten years of experience. So they clearly formed a competent group. Their average experience was fourteen years. In fact the highest score was of twenty-four hits by a single astrologer followed by twenty-two hits by two astrologers.

The remaining twenty-four astrologers all scored twenty hits or less, including one professional astrologer who found thirty-seven intelligent and three undecided so none were mentally handicapped! The average for all twenty-seven astrologers was So much for the benefits of their average fourteen years of experience! Certainly no scientific theory would survive such a poor success rate! The institution whose team of astrologers had judged all horoscopes got hits, of which fifty-one were bright and fifty-one were mentally handicapped, so their judgments were, again, no better than tossing a coin.

Tragically, our statistician, Sudhakar Kunte, died in an accident in , and the security he imposed on data storage has so far made it difficult for us to perform further tests, such as whether the astrologers agreed on their judgments, whether they could pick high IQ better than low, and whether the three astrological methods used Nirayan, Sayan, Krishnamurty differed in success rate. We hope that the access to this data will eventually be possible.

In Clark twenty astrologers averaged 72 percent hits for ten cases of high IQ paired with cerebral palsy, but this famous result could not be replicated by Joseph , where twenty-three astrologers averaged only 53 percent hits for ten cases of high IQ when paired with the severely mentally handicapped.

It is also consistent with the few tests of Western astrologers who practice Vedic astrology, for example Dudley Our experiment with twenty-seven Indian astrologers judging forty horoscopes each, and a team of astrologers judging horoscopes, showed that none were able to tell bright children from mentally handicapped children better than chance.

Our results contradict the claims of Indian astrologers and are consistent with the many tests of Western astrologers. In summary, our results are firmly against Indian astrology being considered as a science. The Department of Statistics, Pune University, and the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, provided infrastructural support while this experiment was being conducted.

Astronomy - Planetary Position

A brief account appeared in Current Science 96 5 , —, My special thanks to Geoffrey Dean of Perth, Western Australia, for providing information on tests of Western astrology as well as giving me a general background of astrology in the West versus the East. Babylonian omen ideas arrived in India around BC during the Persian occupation, followed, around AD, by Greek astrological ideas based on planets. To these were added new ideas to suit Indian culture.

The end result was largely the Indian astrology still in use today, which exists in numerous schools disagreeing over details most schools of astrology, Indian or Western, disagree over details. The main differences from Western astrology are a preoccupation with reincarnation and karma, use of the sidereal zodiac instead of the tropical zodiac they now differ by nearly one sign due to precession , exclusion of the non-classical planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in favor of the two lunar nodes Rahu and Ketu, use of twenty-seven lunar mansions or nakshatras, and progressively smaller and smaller subdivisions of the signs Stein and Rao Braha , xiii warns that the complexity can be dealt with only by intuition and experience, so Indian astrology cannot be properly learnt from books.

But tests of Western astrologers have found that neither self-rated use of intuition nor experience raise their success rate above chance Dean and Kelly So why should Indian astrologers be any different? At one time Rao ran a computer horoscope service but without predictions. According to ancient Hindu texts, each believer has 8,, rebirths from which they are released only by attaining enlightenment.

At say, fifty years per birth, and no change over time, the allocated rebirths span more than million years, roughly the age of the earliest hominids. But some come close. For example Rakesh Anand used astrology to make several important decisions in his life, but the results were disastrous.

So he prepared horoscopes for twenty-four celebrities and nine personal friends, changed their names, and was able to get astrologers from everywhere in far northern India to predict their life and events. But none succeeded. For example, they predicted no political career from the horoscope of George Bush and no big money from the horoscope of Bill Gates. For details, visit www. The above chapter accused me of venturing into areas I had not investigated and was therefore ignorant of.

For example, I had made the supposedly inexcusable mistake of declaring that astrology was not a science. I hope the present investigation can set the record straight. Braha, J. Miami: Hermetician Press. Dean, G. The case for and against astrology. Farha ed. Is astrology relevant to consciousness and psi? Journal of Consciousness Studies 10 6—7 : — Mather, and I. Stein, editor, Encyclopedia of the Paranormal , Prometheus Books. Dudley, J. The combination of Pythagorean theory, such as the supralunary realm influencing the sublunar, Platonic ensouled planets moving on the circle of the Different, Stoic determinism and cosmic sympathy, and the emergence of a Hermetic tradition, comprised the intellectual context for the systematic structuring of astrology, its classifications of the signs, planets, and their placements in a horoscope, and the numerological calculations used for predicting all sorts of events in one's life.

Besides being a prolific writer on a variety of subjects, Plutarch was, philosophically speaking, a Platonist, as defined by his era, that is, one influenced by Aristotelian, Stoic, and Neopythagorean notions. In Plutarch's case this includes ideas culled from his study of Persian and Egyptian traditions. By his time late first century C. Cramer, 99 ff. Plutarch's own form of Platonism did not then directly contribute to the technical development of astrology, but it does add a Middle Platonic contribution to an explanation of how astrology gained some credibility and much popularity in the first three centuries of the common era.

He also borrowed some astrological concepts and metaphors for his own philosophy. First of all, as a priest of Apollo, Plutarch saw all other deities as symbolic aspects of One God that is invisible and unintelligible. He gained impetus for this from an etymology of "Apollo," which is explained as an alpha-privative a-pollos , or "not many" De E apud Delphos , b.

He resists a pure identification of the Sun with Apollo De pythiae oraculis c-d , because the One God is Invisible, and the Sun an intelligible copy. He likens the Sun to one aspect, that of the Nous, the heart of the cosmos. The Moon is then associated with the cosmic Soul and spleen , and the earth with the bowels. Taking cue from Plato's suggestion in the Laws The malevolent or irrational soul preexisted the demiurge's creation. It is not pure evil, but the cause of evil operating in the sublunary realm, mixing with the good to create cosmic tension.

Plutarch maintains the distinction of Ocellus between the generating supralunary realm and the generated sublunary realm, but he offers more detail about operations in the sublunary world of change. He posits two opposing principles or powers of good and evil that offer a right-handed straight path and a reversed, backwards path for souls De Isis.

Individual souls are microcosms of a world soul based on Timaeus , 30b , and the parts of the soul reflect this cosmic tension. The "young gods", the planetary gods in the Timaeus 42d-e that steer souls, Plutarch designates as the province of the irrational soul.

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With the emphasis of the irrational soul and the mixture of forces in the sublunary realm, Plutarch's cosmology allows for the possibility of astrology. Life is linked to Motion through the activity of the Invisible, through the Monad; Motion is linked to Generation through the Mind Nous ; and Generation is linked to Decay through the Soul. The three Fates Moirai are also linked to this cycle as Clotho seated in the Sun presided over the first process, Atropo, seated in the Moon, over the second, and Lachesis over the third on Earth cf. De facie in orbe lunae , c-d. At death the soul of a person leaves the body and goes to Moon, the mind leaves the soul and goes to Sun.

The reverse process happens at birth. Plutarch is not rigid with his use of planetary symbolism, for in another place, he associates the Sun with the demiurge, and the young gods with the Moon, emphasizing the rational and irrational souls De E apud Delphos , a. Plutarch's own opinion about astrology as a practice of prediction is ambiguous at best. He supported the probability of divination by human beings, although dimmed by the interference of the body, as evident in his arguments for it in On the E at Delphi and in De defectu oraculorum e ff.

However, he complains about generals who rely more heavily on divination than on counselors experienced in military affairs Marius, In his accounts of astrologers, his attitude appears to be more skeptical. In Romulus 12 , he discusses the claims made by an astrologer named Taroutios, namely, of discovering the exact birth date and hour of Romulus as well as the time in which he lay the first stone of his city, by working backwards from his character to his birth chart. Plutarch considered astrologers' claims that cities are subject to fate accessible by a chart cast for the beginning of their foundation to be extravagant.

He also wrote about how Sulla, having consulted Chaldaeans, was able to foretell his own death in his memoirs Sulla , However, Plutarch finds himself at a loss at explaining why Marius would be successful in his reliance on divination while Octavius was not so fortunate accepting the forecasts of Chaldaeans. Cicero's account in On Divination of Eudoxus' rejection of Chaldaean astrological predictions points to Greek awareness of Babylonian astrology as early as the third century B.

Another account about Theophrastus' awareness of Chaldaean horoscopic astrology predicting for individuals rather than weather and general events is given to us by Proclus In Platonis Timaeum commentaria , 3. Technical manuals by Greek-speaking astrologers used for casting and interpreting horoscopic natal charts date as early as the late second century B. In addition to natal astrology, many of the fragments exemplify the practice of katarchical astrology, or the selection of the most auspicious moment for a given activity.

Fragments attributed to Thrasyllus, the philosopher-astrology include such methods. This use of astrology implies that the astrologers themselves did not prescribe to strict fatalism, at least the kind that dictates that knowledge from signs of the heavens cannot influence events. Perhaps like Plutarch, they believed in a combination of fate, chance, and free will.

Given the pervasiveness of cosmic sympathy and a unified cosmic order, astrology pertaining to proper moments of time and to natural occurrences was less controversial than that pertaining to the soul of human beings. However, the texts of the next few centuries focus primarily on natal rather than katarchic astrology. Methods to ascertain controversial matters such as one's length of life would proliferate and play a significant part in Roman politics cf. Such fascination with either the fate or predisposition of individuals reflects a stronger concern in the late Hellenistic world for the life of the individual in a period of rapid political and social change.

The earliest Hermetic writings, the technical Hermetica dated second century B. Fowden, p. As mentioned by Clement, Stromata , 6. These topics in the early Hermetica do not reflect much technical sophistication in comparison to the complicated techniques of prediction that we find in the katarchic and natal astrology texts of other astrological writers. The astronomical measurements that appear to be used for these topics are most likely for the purpose of katarchic astrology and ritual because they do not contain the apparatus for casting natal charts.

An exception to the technical sparsity of astrology considered to be in the lineage of Hermes Trismegistus are the works attributed to Nechepso and Petosiris typically dated around B. Combined, they are considered a major source for many later astrologers, and are said by Firmicus Maternus to be in line with the Hermetic tradition, handed down by way of other Hermetic figures such as Aesclepius and Anubio, from Hermes himself.

It is impossible to say to what extent the writers of these texts had organized existing techniques or invented new ones, but based on the frequency with which Nechepso and Petosiris are quoted by later authors, we can be certain that they were important conveyers of technical Hellenistic astrology. More about the astral theories in the later philosophical Hermeticism and Gnosticism will be discussed below.

Additional fragments are preserved of real and pseudepigraphical astrologers of the first centuries B. E and C. Only a few representative writers will be highlighted below. For most of the early astrological writers, we can only speculate about their theoretical justification for the practice, two exceptions being first century B. Roman Stoic Manilius, from whom we have the Latin didactic poem, Astronomica , and Thrasyllus, whose work is described above. Manilius was also associated with the Roman imperial circle, dedicating his work to either Augustus or Tiberius see Cramer, p.

While his poetic account of astrology contains much technical material, there is little evidence to show that he himself practiced astrological prediction. Some scholars speculated that he intended to avoid the political dangers of the practice in his day with the poetic writing style and the exclusion of astrological doctrine about the planets, which is necessary for the practice or his work could simply be incomplete. His Stoic philosophy is one in which Fate is immutable, and astrology is a means of understanding the cosmic and natural order of all things, but not of changing events.

However fated we are, he says, is no excuse for bad behavior such as crime, for crime is still wicked and punishable no matter what its origin in the sequence of causal determinism 4. He used the regularity of the rising of the fixed stars and the courses of the Sun and Moon as proof against the Epicureans that nothing is left to chance and that the universe is commanded by a divine will 1.

Nature apportions to the stars the responsibility over the destinies of individuals 3. Nature is not thought to be separate from reason, but is the agent of Fate — one orchestrated by a material god for reasons not readily accessible to the mortals who experience apparent injustices and turns of events that defy normal expectations 4. The purpose of the deity is simply to maintain order and harmony in its cosmos 1.

An Indian Test of Indian Astrology

Astrology demonstrates cosmic sympathy among all things and can be used to predict events insofar as it grants access to the predestined order. In addition to the use of astrology for psychological acceptance of one's fate, Manilius emphasizes the aesthetic and religious benefits of its study, for he considers it a gift to mortals from the god Hermes for the sake of inducing reverence and piety of the cosmic deity. Astrology had increased in popularity in the second century C.

Ptolemy is an exception among the astrological authors because first and foremost he is an empirical scientist, and one who, like his philosophical and scientific contemporaries, is concerned with theories of knowledge. His works include those on astronomy, epistemology, music, geography, optics, and astrology. He is best known as an astronomer for his work Syntaxis mathematica Almagest , but from the middle ages to present day, his astrological work, Apotelesmatica or Tetrabiblos as it is more commonly known , has been considered the key representative of Greek astrology, primarily due to its prominence in textual transmission.

Scholars have claimed Ptolemy's main philosophical influences to be either Peripatetic , Middle Stoic Posidonius , Middle Platonist Albinus or Skeptic sharing a possible connection with Sextus Empiricus. Any attempts to tie him to a single school would be futile. His eclecticism, though, is by no means an arbitrary amalgam of different schools, but a search for agreements rather than disagreements sought by the Pyrrhonian Skeptics and a scientist's harmony of rationalism and empiricism cf.

Because Ptolemy deviates significantly from other astrologers in theory and technique, some have doubted that he was a practicing astrologer at all. It is difficult to support this claim when in the Tetrabiblos he makes a long argument in favor of astrology and he claims to have better methods than offered by the tradition. It seems best to call him a "revisionist" rather than a "non-astrologer. Lots were points in the chart typically calculated from the positions of two planets and the degree of the ascending sign.

He also rejects various subdivisions of the zodiac and nearly all numerologically based methods. He considered these methods to be disreputable and arbitrary because they are removed from the actual observations of planets and stars. It might be noted here that he also rejects Pythagorean musicology on empirical grounds in his work Harmonica. He notes that the difficulty of the art of astrological prediction has made critics believe it to be useless, and he argues in favor of its helpfulness and usefulness.

He blames bad and false practitioners for the failing of astrology. The rest of the argument involves the natural cosmic sympathy popularized by Posidonius. The influence of the Sun, Moon, and stars on natural phenomena, weather and seasons brings the possibility than men can likewise be affected in temperament due to this natural ambience ton periekhon.

The surrounding conditions of the time and place of birth contribute a factor to character and temperament as we find earlier in Ocellus. While the supralunary movements are perfect and destined, the sublunary are imperfect, changeable, and subject to additional causes. Natural events such as weather and seasons are less complicated by additional causes than events in the lives of human beings. Rearing, custom, and culture are additional accidental causes that contribute to the destiny of an individual.

He seems to encourage critics to allow astrologers to start their predictions with knowledge of these factors rather than do what is called a "cold reading" in modern astrology. The criticism he counters is that of Skeptics such as Sextus Empiricus, who elaborated on earlier arguments from the New Academy, and who argue that an astrologer does not know if they are making predictions for a human or a pack-ass Adversus mathematicos , 5. Ptolemy's arguments that astrology is useful and beneficial are the following: 1 One gains knowledge of things human and divine.

This is knowledge for its own sake rather than for the purpose of gains such as wealth or fame. This is a basic argument from Stoic ethics. Bodies in the heavens are destined and regular, but on earth are changeable in spite of receiving "first causes" from above. This corresponds again to the Neopythagorean Platonism found in Ocellus.


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These first causes can override secondary causes and can subsume the fate of an individual in the cases of natural disasters. Ptolemy's attribution of the nature of planets and stars, which is the basis of their benefic or malefic nature, is that, like Ocellus before him, of heating, drying, moistening, and cooling. Geometrical aspects between signs, which are the basis of planetary relations, are also based on "familiarity" determined by music theory and the masculine or feminine assignment to the signs. He considers the sextile and trine aspects to be harmonious, and the quadrangle and opposition to be disharmonious.

Book 2 of Tetrabiblos includes material on astrological significations for weather, ethnology and astro-chorography. Ptolemy is not the first to delineate an astrological chorography geographical regions assigned to signs of the zodiac , and his assignments differ significantly from those found in Dorotheus, Teukros, Manilius, and Paulus Alexandrinus. Book 3 and 4 consist of methods of prediction of various topics in natal astrology.

Absent in his work is the katarchical astrology found in earlier writers. Ptolemy is the first astrologer to employ Hipparchus' zodiac modified to account for the "precession of the equinox," that is, the changing seasonal reference point against the background of the stars. This zodiac uses the vernal equinox as the beginning point rather than the beginning of one of the twelve constellations. This "tropical" zodiac would become the standard in the Western practice of astrology up to present day.

Modern opponents of astrology typically utilize precession — pointing out the fact that zodiac "signs" no longer match with the star constellations. Other astrologers, including those shortly following Ptolemy, were either not aware of Hipparchus' observation or did not find it important to make this adjustment. Valens claims to use another method of Hipparchus, but it is debatable whether or not he adjusted his zodiac to the vernal point.

Ptolemy had no impact on other astrologers of the second century, likely because his texts were not yet in circulation. We do not find in Ptolemy's work the language of signs and astral divination, but a causal language — the relationships between the planets cause natural activity on earth, from weather to seasons to human temperament.

Astrology and astronomy

However, Ptolemy argues for the fallibility of prediction, and cannot be considered a strict astral determinist for this reason, though he believed that astrology as a tool of knowledge could be made more accurate with improved techniques, closing the gap of fallibility. The idea that stars are causes is not original with Ptolemy, being an acceptable idea to Peripatetic thinkers cued by Aristotle's eternal circular motions of the heavens as the cause of perpetual generation On Generation and Corruption b15 ff.

For Ptolemy, though, this idea as a justification for the practice of astrology was probably filtered through the Peripatetic influenced Neopythagoreans such as Ocellus. Ptolemy's arguments may have been the target of subsequent attacks by Alexander of Aphrodisias, Plotinus and early Church Fathers. It contains fragments of earlier writers such as Nechepso and Critodemus, and numerous horoscopes important for the study of the history of astronomy.

He is also an astrological writer who best exemplifies the details of the practice and the mind of the practitioner. Having traveled widely in search of teachers, he exhibits techniques unavailable in other astrological texts, indicating much regional variety. Valens claimed to have tested the methods and to have the advantage of making judgments about the methods through much toil and experience cf. He occasionally interjects the technical material with reflections about his philosophical convictions.

His philosophical leaning is far less complicated than Ptolemy's, for it is primarily based on Stoic ethics. His association of the Sun with Nous 1. Valens argues that we cannot change immutable fate, but we can control how we play the role we are given 5. He quotes Cleanthes, Euripides, and Homer on Fate 6. Valens maintains a sense of "astral piety," treating astrology as a religious practice, exemplified in the oath of secrecy upon the Sun, Moon, planets and signs of the zodiac in his introduction to Book 7.

In Book 5. While other places, Valens gives techniques for katarchical astrology 5. He also considers the time of birth to account for dissimilar natures in two children born of the same parents. In keeping with his religious approach to astrology, he treats it as "a sacred and venerable learning as something handed over to men by god so they may share in immortality. Ptolemy and Valens stand as representatives of astrology in the second century, but their works were not the most prominent. Astrological concepts were also used in magic, Hermeticism, Gnosticism , Gnostic Christian sects such as the Ophites, and by the author of the Chaldaean Oracles.

Other known astrologers of the second century include Antiochus of Athens and Manetho not to be confused with the Egyptian historian. One additional astrologer will be treated for his philosophical position, Firmicus Maternus. Though because he was influenced by Neoplatonic theories, he will be included below in the section on Neoplatonism. Already mentioned is Pliny's acceptance of some methods of astrology and rejection of others based on numerology. Similarly mentioned was Ptolemy's rejection of various methods based on subdivisions of the zodiac and manipulations based on planetary numbers.

Both he and Valens, as astrologers, criticized other practitioners for either shoddy methods or deliberate deception, posing their forms of divination as astrology. Valens went so far as to admonish those who dress up their "Barbaric" teachings in calculations as though they were Greek, perhaps in reference to the frequently maligned "Chaldaeans" Anthologiarum , 2.

Geminus of Rhodes, an astronomer of the mid-first century B. Midde Stoic Panaetius is also known to have rejected astrology, most likely under the influence of his astronomer friend Scylax, who like other astronomers of the time, attempted to set the practice of astrology apart from astronomy. Arguments against astrology can be grouped into one of two categories though there are other ways to classify them : ones that deny the efficacy of astrology or astrologers; and ones that admit that astrology "works" but question the morality of the practice.

Arguments of the latter type include those that see astrology as a type of practice of living that assumes a strict fatalism. Some of the earliest arguments against astrology were launched by the skeptical New Academy in the second century B. Arguments against astrology on moral or ethical grounds would proliferate in Christian theologians such as Origen of Alexandria and other Church Fathers.

Astrology would become an important issue for Neoplatonists, with some rejecting it and others embracing it, though not within a context of strict fatalism. The earliest arguments against the efficacy of astrology have been traced to the fourth head of the skeptical New Academy, Carneades c. As an advocate of free will, primarily against Stoic determinism, Carneades is likely to have influenced other philosophers who have argued against astrology. The arguments by Carneades, who left no writings, have been reconstructed as the following:.

Astrology and Astronomy | Astronomy

Astrologers would respond to the last argument with the incorporation of astro-geography or astro-chorography perhaps as early as Posidonius , indicating an astral typology of a people, and used for the purpose of "mundane" astrology, predictions for entire nations, which would also account for the second argument. Astro-chorography can be found as early as Teukros of Babylon and Manilius, but might be traced to Posidonius' predecessor Cratos of Mallos.

He first outlines the procedure of drawing a birth chart, and the basic elements of astrology, the places topoi , the benefic and malefic nature of the planets, and the criteria for determining the power of the planets. He also notes the disagreements among astrologers, particularly regarding subdivisions of the signs, a disagreement also noted by Ptolemy. Sextus first notes typical arguments against astrology: 1 earthly things do not really sympathize with celestial.

If as he says, these are arguments by the majority, then there was an attack on the theory of cosmic sympathy and on the use of prediction any form of divination on events determined by any or all of the three causes. This precludes the possibility that the planets and stars are causes that determine necessity in the sublunary realm, and it presents astrology as a form of strict determinism. Sextus continues by offering a more specific set of criticisms, including the five thought to originate with Carneades.

He especially focuses on the inaccuracy of instruments and measurements used for determining either the time of birth or conception. He also ridicules physiognomic descriptions, such that those who have Virgo ascending are straight-haired, bright-eyed, white-skinned; he wonders if there are no Ethiopian Virgos. Sextus adds the argument that predictions from the alignment of planets cannot be based on empirical observation since the same configurations do not repeat for years one calculation of the Great Year.

Many such calculations exist in the Hellenistic and Late Hellenistic eras, for the exact length of the cycle was debated. The "philosophical" Hermetica, texts in the Hermetic tradition that are typically of later origin than the "technical" astronomical and magical fragments, share astrological imagery in common with another heterogeneous group of texts known as "Gnostic. A factor present in both collections is the role planets and stars play in the cosmologies and eschatologies, one in which the planets and other celestial entities are seen as oppressive forces or binding powers from which the soul, by nature divine and exalted above the cosmo, must break free.

The planets are said to be subservient to Fate and Necessity, which are subordinate powers to God's providence pronoia. In the Poimandres text, God made man in his own image, but also made a creator god demiurge who made seven administrators the planets whose government is Fate. Man being two-fold, is both immortal, and above the celestial government, and mortal, so also a slave within the system, for he shares a bit of the nature of each of the planets. Heraclitus , Fr. Arriving at the eighth zone, the soul is clothed in its own power perhaps meaning its own astral body , while it is deified in God in the zone above the eighth some Gnostic texts also refer to a tenth realm.

Astrological fatalism, then, is modified by the Platonic immortal soul whose proper place is above the cosmic order. Astrology affects the temperament and life while in the mortal body, but not ultimately the soul. Here the life-bearing zodiac is responsible for creating twelve torments or passions that mislead human beings. These twelve are overcome by ten powers of God, such as self-control, joy and light. In Excerpt XXIII of the Stobaei Hermetica , the zodiac is again thought responsible for giving life to animals while each planet contributes part of their nature to human being.

https://quethasdoctreca.tk In this instance, as well as in Excerpt XXIX, what the planets contribute is not all vice, but both good and bad in a way that corresponds with the nature of each planet in astrological theory. The Discourses from Hermes to Tat is a discussion of the thirty-six decans, a remnant of Egyptian religion, which was incorporated into Hellenistic astrology. The decans are guardian gods who dwell above the zodiac, and added by servants and soldiers that dwell in the aether, they affect collective events such as earthquakes, famines and political upheaval.

Furthermore, the decans are said to rule over the planets and to sow good and bad daimons on earth. Although Fate is an integral part of these Hermetic writings, it seems that the transmission of the Hermetic knowledge, which intends to aid the soul to overcome Fate, is for the elect, because most men, inclining towards evil, would deny their own responsibility for evil and injustice Excerpt VI. This is a rehashing of the Lazy Man Argument used against Stoic determinism, though cast in the light of astral fatalism. Hippolytus, being mostly informed by Irenaeus, tells us that the Christian Marcion and his followers used Pythagorean numerology and astrology symbolism in their sect, and that they further divided the world into twelve regions using astro-geography 6.

They may have used a table of astro-numerology like that found in Teukros of Babylon. Some Gnostic sects such as the Phibionites, as did the Christian Marcionites associated each degree of the zodiac with a particular god or daimon. Single degrees of the zodiac monomoiria were governed by each planets. The astrologers assigned each degree to a planet by various methods as outlined in the compilation of Paul of Alexandria.

For the Gnostics, the degrees were hypostatized as beings that did the dirty work of the planets, who themselves are governed by higher beings on the ontological scale as produced by the Ogdoad, and Decade, and Dodecade, and ultimately leading to a cosmic ruler or demiurge, typically called Ialdabaoth, though varying based on the specific version of the cosmo-mythology of each sect. It is likely that the astrologers and the Gnostics did not use these divisions in the zodiac in the same way. Assignment of planets to divisions of the zodiac is typically used in astrology for determining the relative strength of the planets, and in the case of Critodemus cited in Valens, 8.

In the Chaldaean Oracles , a text of the second century and thought to bear the influence of Numenius, one finds a view of the cosmos similar to that found in the Hermetic corpus. However, the divine influences from above are mediated by Hecate, who separates the divine from the earthly realm and governs Fate.

Fate is a force of Nature and the irrational soul of a human being is bound to it, but the theurgic practices of bodily and mental purification, utilizing the rational soul, is preparation for the ascent through the spheres, the dwelling place of the intelligible soul and the Father God. The Oracles share with the Gnostic and Hermetic texts a hierarchy of powers including the zodiac, planets and daimons.

Neoplatonism is typically thought to have originated with Plotinus ; though his philosophy, like every Late Hellenistic philosophy and religion, did not develop in a vacuum. Numenius fl. The qualities of the planets are again astrological, but vary by degree based on the distance from the intelligible realm — at the highest planetary sphere, Saturn confers reason and understanding, while at the lowest, the Moon contributes growth of the physical body.

During the ascent, judges are placed at each planetary sphere; if the soul is found wanting, it returns to Hades above the waters between the Moon and Earth, then is reincarnated for ages until it is set right in virtue based on the Myth of Er in Plato's Republic The cosmological schemes, particularly the ontological hierarchies, in Middle Platonic, Gnostic and Neopythagorean thinkers typically allows for the place of astrology, if not in a strictly deterministic way for the entire human being, for the transcendent soul descends and ascends through the cosmos and one's own actions determine future ontological status.


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  • This context places Neoplatonic philosophy in a difficult relationship with astrology and fatalism. Plotinus is unique in that he reverses the ontological status of the soul and the cosmos, for the All-Soul World-Soul, Nous is the creator and governor of the cosmos, but not a part of it. His philosophy, which exalts the soul above the cosmos and above the ordinance of time, forms the basis for some of his arguments against astrology. Plotinus C. In the first text, Plotinus points out that some hold the belief that the heavenly circuit rules over everything, and the configurations of the planets and stars determine all events within this whole fated structure 3.

    He then elaborates upon an astrology based on Stoic cosmic sympathy theory sumpnoia , in which animals and plants are also under sympathetic influence of the heavenly bodies, and regions of the earth are likewise influenced 3. Many astrologers divided countries into astrological zones corresponding to zodiac signs cf. Manilius Astronomica , 4. Plotinus briefly presents the arguments that for one, this strict determinism leaves nothing up to us, and leaves us to be "rolling stones" lithous pheromenois - this recalls the rolling cylinder example in Stoicism.

    Secondly, he says the influence of the parents is stronger on disposition and appearance than the stars. Thirdly, recounting the New Academy argument, he says that people born at the same time ought to share the same fate but do not. Given this, he does argue that planets can be used for predictive purposes, because they can be used for divination like bird omens 3. The diviner, however, has no place in calling them causes since it would take a superhuman effort to unravel the series of concomitant causes in the organism of the living cosmos, in which each part participates in the whole.

    In Ennead 2. In the first set of arguments, Plotinus displays more intimate familiarity with the language of technical astrology. He turns around the perspective of this language from the observer to the view from the planets themselves. He finds it absurd, for instance, that planets affect one another when they "see" one another and that a pair of planets could have opposite affections for one another when in the region of the other 2.

    Another example of the switched perspective is his criticism of planetary "hairesis" doctrine, such that each planet is naturally diurnal or nocturnal and rejoices in its chosen domain. He counters that it is always day for the planets. More pertinent to his philosophy, Plotinus then poses questions about the ontological status of the planets and stars.

    If planets are not ensouled, they could only affect the bodily nature. If they are ensouled, their effects would be minor, not simply due to the great distance from earth, but because their effects would reach the earth as a mixture, for there are many stars and one earth 2. Plotinus does think planets are ensouled because they are gods 3. Furthermore, there are no bad planets as astrologers claim of Mars and Saturn because they are divine 2.