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Using Whole Signs or Placidus for Natal
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Eddy



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Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

At least I’m glad that nobody here ever asked for my natal data to find an explanation why I disagree with them.
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GR



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Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eddy,

No one here is that crazy, usually anyway. Very Happy

Gabe
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Ed F



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Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eddy wrote:
At least I’m glad that nobody here ever asked for my natal data to find an explanation why I disagree with them.


At least you have the ancients to back your predilection! Laughing

- Ed
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Eddy



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Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2011 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gezellig
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Mark
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Posted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Chris,

I just wanted to say thanks for your extremely interesting and thorough response. You have made some good points. I dont want fire off a shallow ping pong type response to you. I would rather take my time and go over the texts properly before responding.

However, I do find your assertion that Robert Schmidt, or Robert Hand or yourself for that matter, has provided 'conclusive evidence' that Ptolemy was using whole sign houses somewhat dogmatic.

I will not have time to properly reply for a while due to personal commitments. Indeed this thread might be a bit cold by the time I have the opportunity to do so. However, I will defintely return on this topic when I get a chance.

best regards

Mark
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, I wasn't trying to come off as dogmatic, but I was just saying that I felt that the references to the signs as houses occurred frequently enough in the Tetrabiblos that I personally felt that the answer to the question was clear. Obviously we disagree about whether those references are really compelling or conclusive though, but such is the nature of these types of historical debates.

At some point in the not-to-distant future I will try to compile a list of those references in the Tetrabiblos and then maybe we can focus the discussion on that issue.
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 12:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I might pose a heretical notion to proponents of any house system, it would be that houses in the earliest extant Hellenistic sources do not seem to be either well worked-out or necessary to a lot of their astrological work. It looks like the Graeco-Roman astrologers invented houses so far as western astrology is concerned, so it would be understandable if they hadn't settled securely on a particular system during the "early" historical period.

I am going out on a limb here, but I would actually be happy if more knowledgeable members corrected any errors or infilled any important references for the following thesis.

It has been a long time since I read up on the research principles of historiography, but hopefully the following principles remain legitimate.

1. Author B's extant assertion about his astrological forerunner, Author A, whose work has been lost, is no guarantee that Author B quoted Author A correctly; or that Author A even existed-- at least as the person Author B claimed. For sure some material from lost sources can be reasonably well verified through cross-checking several extant sources that cite them. But if we get only (extant work) Author B asserting something about now-lost Author A's material, we just have to tread carefully. Author B may or may not be a credible witness.

2. Moreover, it can require a lot of careful textual analysis-- if it is even possible, to determine-- whether Authors B1, B2, &c. were copying from the same document, or whether we have independent observations. Unfortunately, in the case of the history of astrology, our extant documents are really thin on the ground. This suggests that we are better off discussing probabilities or individual Authors Bs' assertions, rather than purported facts.

For example, the idea that Egyptian "Authors A1 and A2" Nechpso and Petosiris were ancient founders of astrology falls into the problematic category. To quote Nicholas Campion, The Dawn of Astrology, p. 104:

"There is a school of thought which attributes the origins of all Western astrology to the Egyptians, and it is difficult to separate the idea that this was so from the belief that it should be so. There is a degree of confusion due to the fact that the Greeks and Romans believed that astrology was devised by the seventh century BCE Pharaoh Nechepso and his priest, Petosiris (who in fact lived much later), though the textbook which bears their name was probably composed around 150 BCE."

Campion indicates two actual kings upon whom Nechepso the astrologer might have been based, but there is no evidence that either of them actually knew any astrology.

2. One subtext on this thread seems to be a presentist project. This is fine if one's goal is to craft a functioning neo-Hellenistic astrology that is useable today. We have to set aside current ideas about house systems, however, if the goal is simply to figure out-- as best we can with limited primary sources-- what happened in the past.

Moreover, we have so few extant early Hellenistic sources on astrology that it makes no sense to me to discredit the "outliers" like Manilius or Ptolemy as not being true astrologers. Who is left? Even fewer sources upon which to trace the history of house systems!

Moreover, discrediting the "outliers" assumes that it is a good thing to erase all of the messiness with which history is replete, so that we can devise a coherent, streamlined narrative. The past was messy, however, and we had better get used to it!

3. Where did the whole idea of astrological houses come from to begin with? We can't trace it to the Babylonians. According to Francesca Rochberg, they didn't use houses. We can't trace it to the Egyptians. They don't seem to have practiced horoscopic astrology prior to the Hellenization of Egypt.

Although there is a reference (author B) to a second century BCE work (Salmeschioniaka, an Author A) that just might allude to houses (Campion, p.203-4) Author B doesn't write till many centuries later, which gets us back into Problem #1 territory. Also the propspective houses based on decans don't seem much like the ones that Hellenistic astrologers developed. Although there might be a Graeco-Roman/India house connection, I don't know what is the state of play on the debate about the proposed timing and direction of such a transfer.

Campion (p. 204) seems to argue that Hellenistic house division was built upon a Greek philosophical basis that predated the diffusion of horoscopic astrology to the Hellenistic world. If so, it might have taken a while to fit the square peg of Babylonian astrology into the round hole of Greek philosophy, or vice versa.

If the concept of house division originated with the Greeks, possibly sometime during the second or first century BCE, then it would be understandable if different authors had different ideas about houses, and it took a while to develop any semblance of norms-- which astrology has never fully managed anyway, given the emergence of competing house systems.

And we do see a lot of variation in the topical or thematic content of houses between the authors. They had different methods for calculating the ascendant and MC, and some authors decoupled the MC and AC from sign or house cusps. Yet we also see a lot of reliance on angles, angularity, and quadrants, with no reference to houses whatsoever. This would make sense if their use of houses hadn't yet solidified. We see a lot of techniques based upon inter-planetary relations, or planets-in-signs with no reference to houses; despite the fact that today houses cover off many of the same topics. And Porphyry houses are pretty early! So the evidence indicates that the early authors didn't agree on a lot of things about houses. But the assertion that, notwithstanding, they darn well all agreed on a whole sign house system to the last man Jack-- doesn't quite add up for me.

Most times, so far as I can make out, you can use the ancients' techniques independently of what house system you use.
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waybread



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Posted: Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris Brennan wrote:
Sorry, I wasn't trying to come off as dogmatic, but I was just saying that I felt that the references to the signs as houses occurred frequently enough in the Tetrabiblos that I personally felt that the answer to the question was clear. Obviously we disagree about whether those references are really compelling or conclusive though, but such is the nature of these types of historical debates.

At some point in the not-to-distant future I will try to compile a list of those references in the Tetrabiblos and then maybe we can focus the discussion on that issue.


Chris, I recently read through Tetrabiblos and concluded that Ptolemy says so little about houses that he ignored them deliberately.

I think we really have to consider the heresy that houses in the earlier Hellenistic period were not the underpinning of astrological practice that they became later on.

In chapter after chapter in this volume, Mr. Pt has a lot to say about how his system of astrology follows logically from the four elements of antiquity, solstices, equinoxes, the sun's daily motion, angles, or the geometric relationships between signs. I think one reason he largely ignored houses was that the topical or thematic content houses just did not fit into any of his "principles of astrology." Then to look at "dynamic" relationships between planets and angles, you don't necessarily need houses.

Ptolemy's project was apparently to put astrology onto a more rational, scientific footing, so he showed little interest in material that did not further this objective.

Ptolemy does not dismiss the whole notion of dividing the horoscope into sections based upon time or distance around the ecliptic. He uses "ordinary hours" or "seasonal hours" as well as "equinoctal hours." He accepts the spatial divisions of the heavens by means other than signs. Sometimes by "regions" [Robbins translation] Ptolemy means constellations, including some off the ecliptic. He also says a lot about quadrants.

When Ptolemy finally does mention houses in book 3, he mentions only 5 of them by name. He refers to the 6th house, but not by name or number.

This seems kind of odd for the great systematizer and compiler. I can only conclude that he didn't discuss houses very much because he didn't want to. Whatever basis houses had in his day for their thematic content or name, they just didn't fit into Ptolemy's rational or "scientific" (for the 2nd century AD) astrology.

Sometimes in book 3, Ptolemy discusses "the ascendant" or "midheaven" in the sense of divisions of the horoscope, not as specific degree points. But his meanings seem more "accidental" than fixed the way topical house meanings or dynamic house meanings (angular, succedant, cadent) would be.

Section III:10 contains the bit about calculating length of life with a technique of starting 5 degrees into the sign. But that's about all he says about it. It might be an argument for equal houses for this particular method, but I don't see where it extends to the rest of Tetrabiblos.

The houses that Ptolemy does name in this section do correspond with other astrologers' usage (the "house of the good daimon" and "the house of God.") So he appears to have been familiar with contemporary house information.

Then book 4 covers a lot of topics that I would ordinarily ascribe to houses, but not Mr. Pt. He pretty much describes methods based upon angles and planet combinations.

You haven't said so, and maybe nobody else on this thread will, but there are some astrologers who dismiss Ptolemy as not being a "real" astrologer, apparently because he doesn't mention particular clients. I think this argument is a red herring. Most university textbooks today are written by professors, not by the actual practitioners in industry, private practice, or government service. I could name modern astrologers who don't give specific examples of individuals in their books. Moreover, Ptolemy spends a lot of time on mundane, meteorological, and geographical astrology (what Robert Schmidt called "universal astrology") for which there are no possible client birth charts to explain.

I think we have to accept the diversity and "messy" nature of the astrological past so far as house systems are concerned.
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:

"If I might pose a heretical notion to proponents of any house system, it would be that houses in the earliest extant Hellenistic sources do not seem to be either well worked-out or necessary to a lot of their astrological work."

"I think we really have to consider the heresy that houses in the earlier Hellenistic period were not the underpinning of astrological practice that they became later on. "


It depends on what you mean by this. Thrasyllus wrote around the same time that Manilius did, and according to a summary of his work that survives he gave an account of the houses and their significations that has virtually all of the same major components as the later Hellenistic and Medieval tradition. This basically shows that the doctrine of the houses was already well worked out and indeed had become an intregal component of the tradition by the early 1st century CE.


waybread wrote:

"I think one reason he largely ignored houses was that the topical or thematic content houses just did not fit into any of his "principles of astrology." Then to look at "dynamic" relationships between planets and angles, you don't necessarily need houses."

...

"I can only conclude that he didn't discuss houses very much because he didn't want to. Whatever basis houses had in his day for their thematic content or name, they just didn't fit into Ptolemy's rational or "scientific" (for the 2nd century AD) astrology."


Yes, this may be true, although then it raises the question of to what extent Ptolemy was trying to present his own unique reconceptualization of astrology, versus how much he is actually representative of whatever the "mainstream" of the Hellenistic tradition was at that point in time.

You seem to acknowledge that Ptolemy was somewhat of a reformer, but then you still seem to be arguing that we should take Ptolemy's lack of reference to houses as indicative of the state of the tradition at that point in time. I think that that would be a mistake though, as this is one of the areas where Ptolemy seems to be somewhat unique in his approach. I would challenge you to read Dorotheus or Valens and then to say that "houses in the earlier Hellenistic period were not the underpinning of astrological practice that they became later on." That is simply not the case when it comes to either of those texts.

Holden is the main person that has made the argument, or the assertion rather, that Ptolemy wasn't an astrologer, partially because he views Ptolemy as deviating from the tradition, but also partially because his work contains no example charts. Other people like Schmidt or Cornelius have instead tended to focus on ways in which Ptolemy seems to have taken parts of the earlier tradition and then rejected some of it while reconceptualizing and streamlining others so that they formed more of a consistent system that made sense within the context of his broader philosophical worldview.

I'm really not interested in making a speculative argument like Holden's about whether or not Ptolemy was actually a practicing astrologer, however I do think that it is important to compare Ptolemy's approach to astrology to other astrologers from that time period in order to understand the degree to which he either deviated from or upheld the tradition in certain areas.

I agree with you that Ptolemy does seem to have a tendency to focus on planetary significatators for certain topics rather than houses, although he does reference the houses quite a bit when it comes to notions of angularity. I don't agree that Ptolemy's approach to the houses is necessarily representative of what most of the other sources were doing though, and so I don't view his work as evidence that the doctrine of the houses was not fully worked out yet in the early Hellenistic tradition.
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waybread



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Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2011 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, sorry I didn't make my points more clearly.

I have to defer to those of you who have worked more extensively with the Hellenistic sources than I ever have, notably if you are proficient in Latin and ancient Greek, which I am not. On the other hand, I sometimes feel (perhaps erroneously) that the neo-Hellenistic astrologers would benefit from more attention to basic principles of historiography.

BTW, a scholar whom I think is just excellent in this regard is Francesca Rochberg, in her work on Babylonian astrology (1998, 2004). She is so careful to say what can be known and what can be only speculation, based on the extant materials.

1. If we take the problem of Thrasyllus, we don't have his work in the original. So that is one problem. How reliable were the subsequent authors who cited him? This question requires unpacking those sources; and if we are lucky, we can look at more than small fragments and we might have sufficient indirect evidence to believe that what was said about him (by Valens, Pophyry, Haiphaistio? others?) was accurate. Just for example, if someone close to Thrasyllus either misinterpreted his work or inserted his own glosses, and then subsequent authors copied the corrupted text; we might erroneously assume that later authors independently agreed about Thrasyllus, when in actuality they might only have read the same corrupted copy.

2. Then if part of our interest in Thrasyllus is what he apparently said about earlier authors, there is a further question of how reliably he conveyed their work. This seems especially problematic with Greek and Roman astrologers claiming to cite ancient Egyptian authors (a) whose work actually was more recent than believed, (b) who were legendary (such as Nechepso and Petosiris,) or (c) who inserted fictional or mythical elements into their statements about their sources and authorship (cf. pseudepigraphical Hermetic materials, and the story of Thrasyllus in Campion, Dawn of Astrology, p. 235, which appears as a common plot-type. See also Tamsyn Barton, Ancient Astrology, 24-29.)

I am just starting to look up the scholarly literature on Hellenistic astrology as my time permits, but David Pingree would seem to be an example of a scholar who was well aware of the limitations and logical problems inherent in working with ancient astrological texts.

In "Antiochus and Rhetorius," Classical Philology 27 (1977): 203, Pingree stated,

"The manuscripts cannot be relied on to preserve the original compositions of ancient authors; Ptolemy... is virtually the only text that seems to have survived relatively unscathed by the "improvements" of scribes."

In "From Alexandria to Baghad to Byzantium: The Transmission of Astrology," International Journal of the Classical Tradition 8 (2001:3-37, Pingree goes into great detail about how he sorted through the various sources of sources of sources. He wrote (p. 3):

"The history of astrology offers its students two major challenges. The first is the complexity of its career in transmission from one cultural area to another and in transformation of its doctrines and methods to fit the interests and circumstances of its eager recipients. The second is the complexity of the transmission of the individual texts within a single culture. This second complexity is due to the fact that astrological texts tended to be copied by professionals interested more in gathering useful information than in preserving the verba ipsa of any author except the most authoritative."

3. Then we need to confirm your statement that because Thrasyllus allegedly said thus-and-so about houses, his alleged statements "basically [show] that the doctrine of the houses was already well worked out and indeed had become an intregal component of the tradition by the early 1st century CE." To do so, we need to consider yet further lines of evidence.

What happens if we can identify other early astrologers (oh, like Manilius) who were Mr. T's contemporaries or later, whose statements about houses vary from his? Why should we expect uniformity when the authors demonstrably varied widely on houses' thematic/topical content? Can we conclude uniformity only by discrediting or ignoring authors who do not fit the uniformitarian model?

To make a long story short, you could be 100% correct about Thrasyllus. I do not say that you are not. But above are the kinds of considerations and research needed in order to present more than speculation. If someone has done this for Thrasyllus's statements about houses, I would be grateful if you would post the reference.

(to be continued, re: Ptolemy and the "messiness" of the past)
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waybread



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Posted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi again, Chris--

Re: Ptolemy, I would put his project somewhat differently. Based on what I've read about him and my own reading of Tetrabiblos (and Almagest years ago) Ptolemy's goal was one that seems modern in many respects.

1. As the great compiler and systematizer, Ptolemy was trying to coordinate a lot of the extant astrological information of which he was aware. This is much like how a university author of an introductory textbook would write an overview of her discipline.

2. As a "scientist" (in a second-century AD sense, which differs somewhat from our meaning of "scientist" today) Ptolemy was trying to put astrological information on a rational footing. Among his materials to be addressed were the natural philosophy of Aristotle and Hellenistic traditions of writing about the cosmos more generally, as well as criticisms of astrology stating that the whole enterprise was irrational superstition.

3. Given these objectives, I think we find Ptolemy excluding astrological ideas that don't fit into his rational, more "scientific" pictures; and including material that does. I argue that most of the ancient material on thematic and even dynamic houses were among these misfit ideas.

However, we just cannot explain away Ptolemy's work as not belonging to some tiny body of astrological elite practitioners involving just a tiny number of extant sources. Ptolemy was entitled to his opinion, and it didn't have to agree with a Dorotheus or Valens; any more than Ron Paul today has to accept a Republican party platform in order to be a registered Republican.

4. Some of Tetrabiblos seems to be Ptolemy's more original grafting of Hellenistic natural philosophy upon older Babylonian and Egyptian astrologies, and vice versa. This type of synthesis is actually a process as old as syncretism itself, however; when the ideas of "culture A" or "text collection A" interface with "culture B" for the first time.

5. The whole notion of a self-evident "mainstream Hellenistic astrology" really has to be unpacked. I should be able to get to this (presentist, uniformitarian) meta-narrative later this evening or tomorrow.

6. Chris, you wrote to me: "You seem to acknowledge that Ptolemy was somewhat of a reformer, but then you still seem to be arguing that we should take Ptolemy's lack of reference to houses as indicative of the state of the tradition at that point in time." You further use the expression "the tradition" or "the early Hellenistic tradition" subsequently in your post, as well.

So yes, I acknowledge Ptolemy as a reformer, but I argue that concepts like "the state of the tradition at that time" have to be dissected further. If there were no unified tradition in the second century AD, then what is the yardstick against which any particular astrologer's work could be measured and found at variance? More on this point soon.

I am happy to go through Dorotheus (with or without the belief that his work was suspiciously corrupted by Islamic copyists??) and Valens, as I do not think they point to a single universal system of whole sign houses; but this would take some time and I probably couldn't post on it till next week (I'm out of town over the weekend.) But I fail to see how evidence from a small handful of Hellenistic sources permits the big leap of logic that whole sign houses were normed if not all-pervasive among a much wider group of astrologers than we can confidently typify, when we know next-to-nothing about them.

7. Surely it is time for us to discard the notion that we can overlook or even discredit Ptolemy because he wasn't a "real" astrologer. First of all, the only way this argument even makes sense is if we restrict the definition of the "real astrology" to genethliacal astrology with an actual client base. But if we do this, we then have to turf out Babylonian omen-based astrology, Egyptian spiritual astrology, Hellenistic electional astrology, astrological meteorology, mundane astrology, and geographical astrology; all of which flourished in ancient times.

Also, Vettius Valens is often elevated as an example of an astrologer who included (brief abstracts) of horoscopes in his Anthologies. Yet I will happily take anyone by the virtual hand and point out why a number of these "horoscopes" could not possibly have come from his own client base, but must have been copied from other sources. Just for example, judging from Valens's autobiographical material, he probably didn't start on his astrological career till he was around 40 years old, and he died in his 50s; yet the number of anonymous "governors" and other equally important people he mentions is staggering. Given the political divisions of the far-flung Roman empire, it stretches credulity to believe that all of these celebrities could have been Valens's own clients. Some of his horoscope extracts are too early to have been his own clients.

(to be continued, on the messy nature of the past, notably astrology's past.)
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eddy wrote:

Chris Brennan wrote:
At this point for me if someone wants to argue that Ptolemy was not using whole sign houses then they need to tally up every single instance in the Tetrabiblos in which Ptolemy uses the word zoidion to refer to a house and explain how exactly this does not demonstrate that he was using whole sign houses.


I’d say that the whole sign proponents should do this as well when demonstrating that he was using whole sign houses.



I just completed an article in which I highlight what I think are the most clear references to whole sign houses in the Tetrabiblos, and I posted it on the blog on the Hellenistic astrology website: http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/techniques/did-ptolemy-use-whole-sign-houses/
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Astraea



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Posted: Thu Dec 08, 2011 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, Chris, that is a most clear and helpful article.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Dec 09, 2011 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Recently I read Tetrabiblos cover-to-cover, so I look forward to interacting with your article. Thanks for posting it. Otherwise I read thoroughly the parts that interest me, but skip or scan the parts that don't (such as all of ridiculously dire ways one could die depending upon your horoscope.) Then it isn't a one-off process. When something else interests me, I return to some of the portions that I overlooked in the past. I think most people who digest a lot of print material do the same.

Just a brief comment on your new article and `a propos of my previous comments.

I think it is helpful occasionally to revisit intellectual orthodoxies with a fresh pair of eyes. Whole sign houses in antiquity seem to have become that kind of orthodoxy.

Where you (and others) argue for uniformity, I see real methodological problems in terms of how that uniformity gets created not observed: not so much by the primary sources, but by the secondary and tertiary (and so on) authors. Where you posit (in your article) a binary proposition (either whole signs or quadrants) I see something much more fluid and diverse that admits of other, additional possibilities.

I actually think you say this (and I agree!) in portions of your new article. We can hardly tell what Ptolemy thinks about houses in his books I & II. And we have to stress the point that not all ancient astrology was genethliacal! (cf. Schmidt's designation "universal" astrology.) This is one big place where I think we have to be careful.

Ptolemy avoids houses as much as possible, so far as I can tell. I think the reason is because quasi-spiritual or magical material about "good" and "bad" spirits, the god and goddess, or "the Gates of Hades" had no place in his scientific (for the 2nd century AD) astrology. He uses terms in common usage, but barely. He even has a scientific explanation for the bad rep attributed to the 12th house.

We have to be careful in terms of what we surmise about cusps when the author is silent. We can't assume that his silence is tacit support of our modern neo-Hellenistic interpretation, where having a coherent narrative of a unified tradition seems so important to some-- for reasons that I suspect have more to do with motives in the present than in the hard evidence from the past.

More soon.
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waybread



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Posted: Fri Dec 09, 2011 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just have to get something off my chest. I am not a card-carrying historian, but a lot of my research (prior to my retirement) dealt with my discipline's applications to the past. This post is really a plea for astrologers interested in the history of astrology for its own sake (vs. in crafting a neo-traditional astrology today, which is a present-oriented project) to consider some basic principles of historical methodology when we make assumptions about whole-sign houses.

The following points bear generally on the debate about whether whole-sign houses were ubiquitous during the early period of Hellenistic astrology. (So point #1, we have to define our time period.) Please forgive the length: the topic is huge.

The first issue deals with so called external criticisms, or the problem of ascertaining the reliability or trustworthiness of old texts, such as astrological treatises of the past. Here scholars face the fact that until printed copies of works were widely available, most texts were copied and recopied by hand, and thus subject to several kinds of errors. This is especially a problem for the history of astrology, as none of the principal Hellenistic texts survive in anything chronologically close to the originals' dates; with the exception of some archaeological finds. In the case of classical authors, the earliest surviving texts (so far as I know) date from at least 1000 years after the completion date of the original.

So scholars of the history of astrology have to consider whether a given surviving manuscript is is a trustworthy account. What do other witnesses from the past say about the topic? Are they independent observers or did they merely read from the same play-book? One way that scholars of ancient languages operate is to consider whether a given author writes in a style consistent with his time and place; or with the original authors. For example, a work presented as a piece of classical writing, loaded with 20th century slang, would be of doubtful authenticity. On the other hand, a primary source using archaic language for its time might be assumed to include a copy of much older material.

If an author was not an eye-witness we should exercise caution in what we attribute to him. For example, suppose Astrologer B cites earlier Astrologer A but couldn't have known him personally and none of Author A's own texts survive. Astrologer B would be considered potentially less reliable than another author closer to Astrologer A--if any. If no other relevant sources exist, we have to be even more cautious as to what we attribute to an author known only through what one other author attributed to him.

We also have to look at motives. Does Astrologer B have a bias in presenting material a certain way? If we determine that Author B had a bias in a certain direction, yet he writes in a neutral way or even in a way contrary to his own motives and biases, he scores points for reliability.

We might also look at the source Author B's expertise in his subject, whether we have sufficient other sources to see a majority opinion, and whether, even if he didn't know Author A personally, we can realistically posit a route by which he could have obtained the text of Author A.

Occam's Razor ("the principle requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct') has value; but of course, the truth is often complex!

The above overview precisely points to reasons why it is important to include Manilius and Ptolemy in discussions of early Hellenistic astrology. I am utterly bewildered by today's astrologers who argue otherwise. The"outlier" astrologers are actually enormously beneficial in positing the core of an astrological tradition.

None of the later astrologers cite Manilius, who wrote in Latin, not Greek. So he would appear to be a somewhat independent source. His and Ptolemy's projects are clearly different than astrologers' like Valens or Dorotheus. Yet if Mr. M, Mr. Pt, Mr. V, and Mr. D all come up with consistent versions of the same topic, it becomes more reasonable to assume that we are actually on the trail of a more widespread astrological tradition-- with respect to the points on which they agree. Only.

Let's look at motive. Ptolemy clearly had a motive in writing Tetrabiblos: to put astrology on a more scientific footing, as science was understood in his day. He excludes material with religious or magical overtones-- except when he can't. So if we find Ptolemy refering to houses of good and bad spirits (daemons), or to male and female signs, we have to assume that this material was sufficiently common-place that he couldn't ignore it, even though his own scientific motives ran contrary.

So rather than dismissing Ptolemy (as too many astrologers have done) as a "non-astrologer", apparently because he didn't load up Tetrabiblos with horoscope abstracts, we see how in certain instances he actually helps to solidify our understanding of some core astro-traditions.

(to be continued)
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