skyscript.co.uk
   

home articles forum events
glossary horary quiz consultations links more

Read this before using the forum
Register
FAQ
Search
View memberlist
View/edit your user profile
Log in to check your private messages
Log in
Recent additions:
Can assassinations be prevented? by Elsbeth Ebertin
translated by Jenn Zahrt PhD
A Guide to Interpreting The Great American Eclipse
by Wade Caves
The Astrology of Depression
by Judith Hill
Understanding the mean conjunctions of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle
by Benjamin Dykes
Understanding the zodiac: and why there really ARE 12 signs of the zodiac, not 13
by Deborah Houlding

Skyscript Astrology Forum

The doctrine of discrete degrees

 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Forum Index -> Traditional (& Ancient) Techniques
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Martin Gansten
Moderator


Joined: 05 Jul 2008
Posts: 1268
Location: Malmö, Sweden

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 7:00 am    Post subject: The doctrine of discrete degrees Reply with quote

There is a view, often repeated, that Hellenistic astrologers viewed degrees of longitude as discrete units, so that, for instance, a planet conjunct the Sun within 10 or 20 seconds of arc but in a different degree (say, with the Sun at 7°50' and the planet at 8°10') would not be considered to be conjunct it within one degree (the condition later called cazimi). I have often wondered what textual support there is for this view, and would be grateful for any quotations from Hellenistic (or even later) authors.

What prompted my question at this time was a post by Larxene in this thread, where he makes the position very clear (I've underlined some parts):

Quote:
Note that the closeness of aspects and conjunction were mostly determined using degrees. Smaller units like minutes or seconds were not present in most the literature I've read (Dorotheus, Valens, Maternus, and a bit of Ptolemy, Hephaistio and Paulus). [...]

Therefore, for all intents and purposes, a planet within one degree from the Sun is considered to be 'in its heart', as every minute within that degree belongs to the same space.

In light of the idea of "discrete spaces", however, this sentence construction is potentially misleading, because it leads the modern mind to translate it like this: "a planet within SIXTY MINUTES from the Sun is 'in the heart' of the Sun."

This is NOT what is meant
. A better sentence construction would be this. "A planet within the SAME DEGREE as the Sun is 'in the heart' of the Sun."

Actually, however, Paul[us] does say explicitly in chapter 14 that a distance of under sixty minutes is exactly what is meant. Here is Holden's translation (p. 22 f):

Quote:
They become conjunct whenever they happen to be in the same degree as the Sun in the same sign, not being distant from it by more than approximately 59 minutes.

And here is Greenbaum's translation (p. 21):

Quote:
And they become conjunct whenever they happen to be in the same degree as the Sun in the same zōidia, not being away from it by more or less than 59 minutes.

Holden's version seems more reasonable to me, but in either case, we are definitely dealing with a degree in the sense of 60 consecutive minutes of arc, not a discrete unit. So -- are there any counter-examples in the classical texts?
_________________
http://www.martingansten.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Konrad



Joined: 01 Nov 2009
Posts: 681

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martin,

I would read those translations as supporting discrete units. What does the Greek say?
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Martin Gansten
Moderator


Joined: 05 Jul 2008
Posts: 1268
Location: Malmö, Sweden

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If Paul had had discrete degrees in mind, the latter part of the sentence would be completely superfluous (as a planet in the same discrete degree as the Sun is necessarily 0-59 minutes of arc away). The Greek says, in simplified transliteration: sunodikoi de ginontai, hotan kata to auto zōidion isomoiroi tōi Hēliōi tuchōsi mē apechontes ap' autou pleion ē elatton leptōn 59.

I'll revise my earlier opinion slightly and say that Greenbaum's 'not ... by more or less' is truer to the original, now that I've looked it up. But that only strengthens my case: Paul is saying that a planet becomes 'synodic' or conjunct the Sun exactly when the distance between them becomes 59 minutes (he doesn't mention seconds, but obviously the idea is as soon as the distance goes under a degree or 60 minutes). Only very rarely will this happen while the planet and the Sun are in the same discrete degree.

I really don't think this can be plausibly read any other way.
_________________
http://www.martingansten.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Konrad



Joined: 01 Nov 2009
Posts: 681

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for looking that up.

I don't really have anything helpful to add. I looked up the Arabic authors, but, as can be expected from their astrology, they spoke of minutes. As you know, a lot of them counted a planet being in Cazimi as being 17 minutes from the Sun's own degree and minute.

Like Larxene, I don't recall seeing much of a mention of minutes of arc from the Hellensitic authors I have read.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Martin Gansten
Moderator


Joined: 05 Jul 2008
Posts: 1268
Location: Malmö, Sweden

Posted: Sun Nov 23, 2014 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd be interested in any evidence at all that degrees were conceived as discrete units by at least some Greek astrological authors, not just in relation to cazimi. I mean unambiguous statements or examples, not just expressions like 'in the same degree', because, as we have seen, such phrases can be interpreted in different ways.

My sneaking suspicion is that the doctrine of discrete degrees began as a hypothesis put forward by the two Roberts in the 1990s and was subsequently turned into a supposed fact by parts of the astrological community. But I could be wrong.
_________________
http://www.martingansten.com


Last edited by Martin Gansten on Mon Nov 24, 2014 5:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Larxene



Joined: 22 Sep 2012
Posts: 312

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Martin,

Thanks for starting this thread. Indeed, most of what I have read about this degree/portion/moira concept was written by Schmidt and/or Hand. I do not have evidence that this was explicitly mentioned in the texts I have (mostly Maternus, Valens and Dorotheus). Also note that I've only read 3 or 4 sections in Paulus, so I did not see that quote.

For me, what convinced me of their interpretation partly has to do with the various quotes spread in different places. But before that, a caveat: my memory for specifics isn't that good, and I have a habit of seeing patterns when there may be none. An example would be like, I see a silhouette of a dragon among the clouds in the sky. This is perhaps a condition called Apophenia. So maybe it's just me.

Anyway, there were many quotes spread in various places along the lines of "if A is in one degree with B...". The delineation seemed to indicate that the effects become more intense. But this alone doesn't support discrete units. The issue is that "A in one degree with B" can also be interpreted as "A in the SAME degree as B". Of course, it may simply mean 60 minutes, as Paulus explicitly stated.

Another reason I find that interpretation appropriate has to do with Greek arithmetics. When calculating the Lots, they seem to count in degrees, disregarding the minutes. With the Lots of Acquisition and Exaltation, they seem to count by signs, seemingly disregarding the smaller units. Then of course, we have the whole signs houses, where house=sign. These things hint at a Platonic perfection underlying their works.

Of course, maybe they simply didn't want to obscure their students with specific and tedious calculation of degrees and minutes. Perhaps they simply wanted their students to focus on the concepts rather than the math.

What we have is an incomplete corpus of occult works, where some things are simply undefinitive.



Larxene Xenohart
_________________
Interested in Hellenistic astrology? Visit my blog.

The appearance changes, but the essence remains.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Larxene



Joined: 22 Sep 2012
Posts: 312

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Note: When I listed the authors I've gone through, I actually meant that I have read:

- Dorotheus, Valens and Maternus
- A little bit of Ptolemy, a little bit of Hephaistio and a little bit of Paulus.

I knew there was an ambiguity there, but I didn't think I needed to clarify. Looks like I was wrong. :3

So it isn't that I ignored the quote from Paulus, or that I didn't notice it, but rather because I have only read a small portion of The Introduction, so I have not seen that quote.



Larxene Xenohart
_________________
Interested in Hellenistic astrology? Visit my blog.

The appearance changes, but the essence remains.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
pankajdubey



Joined: 17 Nov 2006
Posts: 1215
Location: Delhi

Posted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martin Gansten wrote:
I'd be interested in any evidence at all that degrees were conceived as discrete units by at least some Greek astrological authors, not just in relation to cazimi. I mean unambiguous statements or examples, not just expressions like 'in the same degree', because, as we have seen, such phrases can be interpreted in different ways.

My sneaking suspicion is that the doctrine of discrete degrees began as a hypothesis put forward by the two Roberts in the 1990s and was subsequently turned into a supposed fact by parts of the astrological community. But I could be wrong.


I had a brain wave !!

This will be the thin end of the wedge - if the discrete degree boundary doesn't hold then there would be no boundaries that can not be broken .The VOC sign boundary is already broken and we are dealing with a circle - so we will just go round and round Smile

I would be reading Alan Leo again.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Larxene



Joined: 22 Sep 2012
Posts: 312

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pankaj,

Well, we still have boundaries. The question is whether the boundaries are fixed (as with discrete degrees) or moving (as with continuous degrees).



Larxene Xenohart
_________________
Interested in Hellenistic astrology? Visit my blog.

The appearance changes, but the essence remains.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
Posts: 929
Location: Canada

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martin, I may have to eat my words with evidence to the contrary, but it is hard to see how Hellenistic astrologers would have finely divided degrees or distinguished much between them because their time-keeping was so inaccurate. Many birth times had to be guesstimated.

When I cast some of Valens's charts based on corrected dates from Neugebauer and Van Hoesen (Greek Horoscopes,) for this thread http://skyscript.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8120 I found that Valens didn't actually calculate the part of fortune by degree, but simply by counting houses (aka signs, since he also seemed to be using whole signs houses.)
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
pankajdubey



Joined: 17 Nov 2006
Posts: 1215
Location: Delhi

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Larxene wrote:
Pankaj,

Well, we still have boundaries. The question is whether the boundaries are fixed (as with discrete degrees) or moving (as with continuous degrees).



Larxene Xenohart


In that case the fixity will have to come from houses, whereas, signs and degrees will all be fluid.The only dignity will be accidental because in degrees things will just flow.
The next fixed thing will be an aspect.
Houses and aspect combined will be neo modern traditional astrology of Alan Leo.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Martin Gansten
Moderator


Joined: 05 Jul 2008
Posts: 1268
Location: Malmö, Sweden

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Martin, I may have to eat my words with evidence to the contrary, but it is hard to see how Hellenistic astrologers would have finely divided degrees or distinguished much between them because their time-keeping was so inaccurate. Many birth times had to be guesstimated.

You're right about the problems of time-keeping, of course, and we may add inexact formulae for calculating planetary positions. But I think you're conflating theory and practice. Hellenistic authors certainly did have sophisticated theories based on minute divisions of the zodiac (just look at the doctrine of myriogenesis mentioned by Firmicus!), even if from a modern perspective their calculations were often off, and even if practising astrologers fudged or eye-balled things a lot of the time.

In any case, whether you look at degrees as discrete units or as units of 60 consecutive minutes of arc, you need the same level of precision, so for the purposes of the present discussion, inexact practices aren't that relevant.
_________________
http://www.martingansten.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Levente Laszlo



Joined: 03 Nov 2006
Posts: 182
Location: Budapest, Hungary

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Martin,

I think you're right supposing that the conceptualization of moira by Schmidt and Hand led to the notion that degrees were used as discrete units, but besides their philosophical assumptions there is virtually no textual evidence in favour of this. The only exception I know about where individual degrees are really regarded as discrete units is the monomoiria of Paulus, but I think this is an isolated case.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Martin Gansten
Moderator


Joined: 05 Jul 2008
Posts: 1268
Location: Malmö, Sweden

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Levente. Knowing your familiarity with the Hellenistic astrological corpus, I'm happy to take your word for it. And yes, the monomoiria would be a special case, of course.
_________________
http://www.martingansten.com
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
waybread



Joined: 05 Mar 2009
Posts: 929
Location: Canada

Posted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 9:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martin, I don't conflate theory and practice. They are clearly different. And to affirm LL's point, we just don't see a lot of textual evidence for the latter.

Speaking of Firmicus Maternus (Bram transl.), in I:iii he challenges astrology's critics who argue that "no one can get definite results because of the smallness of the degrees and minutes...." But he doesn't actually refute the "impossibility of definitive measurements"-- he sidesteps this issue to assail the critics on other grounds.

In 2:iv he talks about fine divisions of the decans, supposedly influential in sudden accidents and illnesses, but then leaves it by saying "But of this part of the doctrine, we must of necessity pass over in this book. The Greeks also, who tried to reach the secrets of that theory, stopped at the first stage and left the subject with a certain reluctance." Bram (note 27) thought the source was a Hermetic writing.

This may be too slender a straw, but FM's comment reminded me of Valens's obvious impatience with some writings attributed to Petosiris as too cryptic and mystical to be of much use in chart interpretations.

In the myriogenesis section VIII: xviii (attributed to the Chaldean Sphaera Barbarica) we learn about somebody using individual minutes, but it wouldn't seem to be Firmicus Maternus.

Then we get into some tricky problems, because the predictions based on rising degree alone are apt to contradict the interpretations of the native's life based upon other calculations. Probably this is why FM concludes VIII:xxxii that we have to look at the chart as a whole.

The lengthy section on specific degrees rising and setting is based upon fixed star positions (VIII:iv,) including stars off the ecliptic. Interestingly, FM clusters 2-3 degrees within particular parts of constellations, and attributes this system to Nechepso. This material echoes the II:iv section on using specific degrees to identify illnesses.

What also shines throughout FM and particularly in his conclusion to book 8, is that this is sacred knowledge, not to be divulged to the profane "In this way we shall not pollute the revered theories of the ancients...."

I'd conclude that astrology cookbook authors indeed took some material as theoretical-- and of a religious nature; and some material as having practical utility for chart interpretations. The individual degree meanings most likely to have been in use were those associated with particular fixed stars.

Of course, the ephemeris would have served FM well for planetary degree positions.

It would be interesting to go through FM's 4 charts, which indicate outcomes for the person's life, to see whether they hook up with plausible degrees and their given Chaldean degree meanings.

I realize that my above comments do not address the question of where a particular degree stops and starts; but I hope I've indicated that Firmicus Maternus and Vettius Valens, at least, as practitioners, weren't really occupied with this question.
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Forum Index -> Traditional (& Ancient) Techniques All times are GMT
Page 1 of 1

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
. Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group

       
Contact Deborah Houlding  | terms and conditions  
All rights on all text and images reserved. Reproduction by any means is not permitted without the express
agreement of Deborah Houlding or in the case of articles by guest astrologers, the copyright owner indictated