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The Four Virtues. . .Origin?

 
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spirlhelix



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 250
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:16 pm    Post subject: The Four Virtues. . .Origin? Reply with quote

Greetings, Skyscripters!

I've been studying Richard Saunders' _Astrological Judgment of Physick_ (published in 1677) for about a year and a half now. He makes use of the Four Virtues, which correspond with the Four Humours. I thought someone on this great forum might know who originated the concept of the Four Virtues. Can anyone tell me more about their history?

The Four Virtues

Retentive ruled by Saturn; humour: melancholy
Digestive ruled by Jupiter; humour: blood
Attractive ruled by Venus; humour: choler
Expulsive ruled by Moon; humour: flegm

Saunders does very little with the natal astrology related to the humours. His techniques focus on the momentary and more severe conditions or humoral imbalances revealed by the decumbiture chart. He is able to use the decumbiture chart to reveal which part(s) or organ(s) of the body is (are) experiencing an imbalance at the time of illness. The second part of his book shows how to treat illnesses by rebalancing the humours using herbal remedies, prepared at elected times, to treat the patient at elected times.

His work is very complex and minutely detailed; but this is what intrigues me most about his approach to medicine. The whole body and its parts with their relationships to one another are all accounted for.

I would be most grateful for any information regarding the origins of the Four Virutes.

Warmest regards,

Pam
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Kim Farnell



Joined: 18 Dec 2003
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Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2006 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know about origin, but this is a very old concept. It appears in Galen ( http://art-bin.com/art/ogalen_faculty.html ) and Hippocrates (can't find a reference at moment)

Kim
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spirlhelix



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 250
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 12:20 pm    Post subject: Thanks, Kim! And the Semen Morbificum? Reply with quote

Hi, Kim

Thanks for your contribution. I have enjoyed reading Saunders on the Four Virtues and applying them to decumbitures; it's good to know this concept has such a long tradition. The concept seems well-suited to a form of healing based primarily on restoring the humoral balance of the body using herbs and foods. I wish modern doctors would pay so much attention to how well our sick bodies are able to make use of the medicines they give us! As anyone who's been treated with modern medicine knows, the doctor pulls a magic act and transforms each of us into guinea pigs when he pulls out the prescription pad.

I'll have to give Galen a thorough reading-over. Thanks for the link!

Perhaps you (or someone here) can also tell me about the Semen Morbificum; Saunders introduces it as a traditional term, but he does not quote his sources on it that I recall. In decumbitures, so far I have found it to correspond to the underlying condition (present-day doctors would say the primary condition) causing the symptoms experienced by the patient.

Not too surprisingly, the Semen Morbificum seems to be located at a distance from the place where the patient feels the symptoms in the decumbitures I have read. So dizziness can be caused by "disease" (humours out of balance) in the neck; pains in the arms can be caused by "disease" in the kidneys, etc.

It is fascinating to see how these charts work out.

Thanks again for the information!

Warmly,

Pam
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Deb
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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
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Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Pam

I've enjoyed reading your posts. Semen Morbificum sounds like a term used to describe the seeds or root of the illness. I could be wrong but in the context you describe, it's probably something akin to that.

BTW, there will be a bit more decumbiture material on the site over the next few months as I'll be running Dylan Warren-Davis's series of articles "An Introduction to Decumbiture".

Deb
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Sue



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
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Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is exactly what it means. It's Latin - semen - seed, root, source, etc., and morbificum means illness or morbidus - diseased, unhealthy. It's where morbid comes from.
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spirlhelix



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 250
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Posted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 10:38 pm    Post subject: Thanks for the responses! Reply with quote

How nice to hear from you, Deb and Sue!

This is a really remarkable site and forum. Congratulations on your success here!

I'm glad to hear you will be introducing Dylan Warren-Davis' series of articles soon. I look forward to seeing them. I have read the excerpts posted on his site about herbology and the humours; it's a pleasure to read the work of someone who has hands-on experience with these ancient healing techniques.

Yes, I agree with both of you about the translation of the term "Semen Morbificum". It's quite fascinating to me that Saunders was enough of a medical adept to insist on monitoring and treating the cause of the disease and not just the symptoms. Again, treatment of the symptoms without regard to their cause seems to be one of our most common complaints about the practice of modern medicine.

Saunders, in fact, seems to fill in several areas which are often characterized by gaps in modern medicine. Like many astrologers, he starts off by examining the chart to see if the patient will survive the illness. Amazingly astute, when you think of the ethical or moral dilemmas posed in the current day medical field surrounding death and dying. This raises the question of whether traditional astrology is "too fatalistic"; but that the ancient doctors and astrologers typically studied decumbitures for this information before attempting to treat the patient is a historical fact of astrology for all of us to ponder.

Then Saunders checks the chart to see whether the patient will take his advice, or appreciate him as a doctor. In my experience as a patient, "You need to see a different doctor" is one of the most useful facts I can gather in managing an illness.

Saunders then goes on to show how to elect a time to see the patient that will ensure that the patient is most cooperative and appreciative of the doctor's direction.

No wonder Saunders enjoyed the highest possible reputation as a doctor in his day! If our current-day doctors knew this kind of information before meeting new patients, would we (here in the States, anyway) see so many malpractice suits and the accompanying inevitable increase in medical expenses? Obviously, that's a rhetorical question. Smile.

Out of curiousity, has either of you heard the phrase "Semen Morbificum" used by any authors prior to Saunders? I'd be very interested to know who might have originated the term.

Thank you again for your attention, your terrific site, and this great forum!

Warmly,

Pam
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borealis



Joined: 05 Nov 2005
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Posted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do not really have any concrete answers here but the subject is facsinating. When I was first introduced to the concept of the humors, I was surprised to find out that, a friend of mine, who practices natural healing has been using ancient techniques of alchemists for years.

He treated me for terrible cramps through a type of chiropractic massage and the purpose was to 'balance the humours'. Apparantly my hips were out of balance? All I have to say is his 3 weeks was more remidial that the 4 years of doctors visits!

I am suggesting that Geber, or even more likely the works of Galen (130-circa 205) and Paracelsus (1493-1541) contain original references to these ideas.

"whatever man has found by the light of Nature.... Such, then, is the condition of man, that, out of the great universe he needs both elements and stars, seeing that he himself is constituted in that way."
The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of PARACELSUS,
ed. by A. E. WAITE (1894), vol. ii. pp. 289-291.

A look at their their work:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/etc/bb/bb04.htm
GALEN'S (130-circa 205) theory of disease was largely based upon that of the four humours in man -- bile, blood, phlegm, and black bile, -- which were regarded as related to (but not identical with) the four elements -- fire, air, water, and earth, -- being supposed to have characters similar to these. Thus, to bile, as to fire, were attributed the properties of hotness and dryness; to blood and air those of hotness and moistness; to phlegm and water those of coldness and moistness; and, finally, black bile, like earth, was said to be cold and dry. GALEN supposed that an alteration in the due proportion of these humours gives rise to disease, though he did not consider this to be its only cause; thus, cancer, it was thought, might result from an excess of black bile, and rheumatism from an excess of phlegm.
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spirlhelix



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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Posted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 11:07 pm    Post subject: Choler: Modern Knowledge Contributes to our Understanding Reply with quote

Hi, Borealis

Nice to hear from you! I'm fascinated by the virtues, too. I get a little confused when I think of the virtues strictly in thermal terms, since I know that Galen and Hippocrates did not mean "cold" exactly as I mean it, or describe "air" precisely as I am accustomed to doing. So I have been looking for parallels to what I can find in modern medicine to see what similarities the two conceptual systems have.

The first thing we have to keep in mind is that when we talk about the virutes, we are talking about a healthy body system working under ideal conditions. All the humours involved wear white hats and are "good" ones, even melancholy (corresponding to black bile). As soon as we start to study disease, however, we would be talking about imbalanced states and humours gone amok. But for now, the good guys.

Modern science likes to break things down into pieces as small as possible (possibly a contribution of the microscope to our view of the world). If we talk about the human body, modern science wants us to think of cells. Yet we as astrologers know that as above, so below. The tiniest parts of the body will reflect the same principles of operation as the whole body, and the whole body will respond to the positions of the planets in the heavens.

All these things can be true without being contradictory.

It's my feeling that one of the great things about learning medical astrology is that we can learn about the humours from modern medicine, and learn about modern medicine from the humours.

Two humours Modern Science Learned about Long Ago

In biology, we learned that in order to live, a cell needs to have oxygen and nourishment, provided by blood, reflecting the sanguine humour/digestive virtue/Jupiter/air.

We also learned that a cell must eject wastes, an activity which reflects the flegmatic humour/the expulsive virtue/Moon/water. These two functions of a cell (or the body or any part of it, for that matter) are quite comparable in both conceptual systems: humoral medicine and modern science.

Biology goes on to emphasize reproduction of the cell, which is not assigned its own humour in traditional astrology. As fascinating as it is, we can skip that, then. Grin.

Two humours that Modern Science Learned about Recently

To jump ahead so that modern science can catch up to humoral medicine (smile)--within our most recent decade, medical science has begun to discover more about the cell's mechanisms for the other two humoral virtues.

Humoral medicine says that it is necessary for any part of the body or cell to be able to distinguish itself from all other cells, and to hold on to what makes it a unique cell and keeps it healthy (for example, holding on to the food in your stomach long enough to digest it). This reflects the melancholic humour/retentive virtue/Saturn/earth.

Humoral medicine also says that it is necessary for any part of the body or cell to be able to act in accord with the larger structure (the other part/s of the body) that contain/s it. Such an ability would allow us to move, or permit parts of the body that are distant from one another to act in concert or in response to one another. This reflects the choleric humour/attractive virtue/Venus (some say Mars)/fire.

Here is an article that describes gates/valves and ion channels, two recent concepts of modern medicine which closely parallel the virtues of retention and attraction:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/03282/229389.stm

Note that ion channels are activated by an exchange of electrons (electrical charge) and usually form chains of like ions being exchanged along a linked structure of cells. This description suits the fiery nature of the choleric virtue well; in a similar way, "gates" in the cell holding in its contents correspond well to the earthy Saturnine virtue of retention.

These descriptions are not so inclusive as to entirely exhaust the concept of the virtues. There is plenty more to describe and discover for ourselves about the virtues. But it is interesting, and I find it somehow reassuring, to realize that these concepts are not entirely incompatible with modern medical concepts.

As above, so below.

Warmest regards,

Pam
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spirlhelix



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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Posted: Tue Jan 31, 2006 12:59 am    Post subject: Saunders on the Four Virtues Reply with quote

To balance the comparisons to modern medical concepts discussed in the post above, here is Richard Saunders on the Four Virtues, AJP Vol.1 p. 81:

"In the Bodies of Natural Men are four Radial Virutes, holding a due proportion by Nature, by the which the Health and Strength of the Body is always maintained, and when any of these four do predominate and get dominion over the other, then doth the body wax sick, and languisheth in pain, or else is utterly frustrate of the Radical Humidity, and so surprised, and overcome by Death. The first of these four Virtues is Digestion, the second Retention, the third Attraction, and the fourth Expulsion; and these four Virtues are always sustained by the four Principal and Radical or Natural humours.

1. Digestion hath its operation, and is maintained by Blood, making his operation in the Stomahc by the Liver, for so long as the Liver keepeth his natural proportion, by heat and moisture and good blood, so long shall the Body be in Health; and if the Party distemper himself by his Diet or otherwise, whereby the Liver isoppressed with much Moisture, Drowth, Heat, or Cold, then the meat in the stomach for want of Decoction, by too much cold, or overmuch heat, fouleth and corrupteth the Blood, proceeding unnaturally from the excess of Choler, Melancholy, Blood or Flegm. . .

. . . The second of the four Virtues aforesaid is Attraction, this operation is performed by natural Heat and Choler, which is ingendered by good digestion, of the Liver, and hath its principal residence in the Gall, and if this Humour become adust or abound, the Blood is infected thereby, and many distempers and infirmities are caused, as shall be shewed more plainly when we come to treat of Choler.

The third of these Virtues is Retention, which conserveth the Nutriment in the Body till it be Digested, and it is maintained by Melancholy, naturally cold and dry, and hath its proper residence in the Milt or Spleen, as shall be seen hereafter.

The fourth and last is natural Flegm, which is expulsive and partly mixeth in the Veins with the Blood, is cold and moist, and thereby is maintained the Expulsive faculty, whose office is to expell the Excrements that annoy the Body, as after will farther appear. . ."
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borealis



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Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I realize that you are studying decumbitures and analyzing illness and such but if there is truth to all of this than it is safe to say that 'balance' of the virtues should be sought at all times right?

Can you apply these techniques to a chart that does not exactly speak about the onset of an illness or time of a test. For example could you draw a chart about overall health?

Just curious Laughing
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Sue



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Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There needs to be a differentiation between the humours as a constitutional concept and the humours as an acute concept. The original concept of the humours was attributed to the writer of 'On The Nature of Man', either Hippocrates or Polybus (son-in-law of Hippocrates), according to Galen. The date for this has been put at around 400BCE. Of course, Plato writes of something very similar in Timaeus, written in 360BCE, when he speaks of illness as being a result of imbalances between the elements.

The concept of the humours as constitutional types as well as physical did not fully develop until about 200CE. One of the earliest examples can be found in a very interesting piece of work called Problemata, particularly Book XXX.1. Originally believed to be written by Aristotle, it is now credited to someone of unknown identity called Pseudo-Aristotle. Melancholy was the first humour to be thought of as more than just a physical condition.

As a constitutional type it would be very rare, if not impossible, to have a balance of all humours. Most people have a predominance of one or two. As a physical condition, generally one humour will predominate, giving vital information on how to treat the patient. My understanding and knowledge of humoral types came not from my astrological studies but from my degree in homoeopathy twenty years ago. This sort of information is crucial in homoeopathic diagonosis as well as an understanding of an individual's 'constitutional type'.

If you're interested in the history of the humours, a particularly good book to seek out is 'Saturn & Melancholy' by Klibansky, Panofsky & Saxl. I think I have that right. It might be difficult to find an English copy,(it was originally written in German) but it is well worth a read.
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spirlhelix



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:47 pm    Post subject: What Sue Said Reply with quote

Yes, that was well put, Sue.

I would add that if you are interested in maintaining a healthy balance of the humours, your birth chart can be analyzed in such a way as to show your humoral constitution. You could then learn which foods are considered healthful in order for you to maintain a good balance of the humours by relying upon them in your diet. I have not made use of this form of astrology, since I'm rarely concerned about health in people who claim to be perfectly well--and usually, neither are they!

But that just may show that my constitutional temperament is more crisis-driven than yours, Borealis!

Certain conditions must be met for the chart to be considered a decumbiture: the rules of time of decumbiture are strict. I don't know what would happen if you took an ordinary horary and interpreted it as a decumbiture, but I would not expect the effects to be particularly beneficial--just as it would not be especially useful to run a horary chart for a time when a question had not been asked.

Warmest regards,

Pam
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