The universe is alive with reciprocal harmony And is driven by the motion of Reason; one spirit Inhabits all its parts and animates the orb Throughout and shapes and ensouls its body.[Manilius Astronomica 2.60–66]
The Stoic view is that the Cosmos is alive, conscious, ordered, highly interconnected, purposeful, and governed by (it’s own) Reason (λόγος). Faint, scattered echoes of this ancient Pagan world-view continue to haunt the modern psyche under various guises such as “pantheism”, “panpsychism”, “teleology”, as well as the dreaded “argument by design”, in which Christians pathetically attempt to hijack Pagan Theology in order to provide some philosophical window dressing for their slack-jawed rejection of the science of biology (which was founded by Aristotle).
But (if it even needs to be pointed out) the conceptual framework of the ancient Pagan view of the Cosmos is by its very nature “holistic,” but without any of the trendy new-ageiness associated with that word (for we are clearly talking about “old-age” ideas — very old). Obviously, any attempt to isolate any given strand of such a holistic view from the rest is nothing short of theological sabotage. It is not unlike T.H. Huxley’s grim (and more than half in earnest) jest about his “scieintific” search for the soul of a frog: having sliced the frog open and poked around inside, that is, having killed the frog, Huxley happily reports that, just as he had suspected, he could find no such thing as a soul among the now lifeless pieces of what was left of the poor creature.
Added to this view of the Macrocosm (as a vital, rational, integrated, purposeful whole) was a distinctly Stoic view of the microcosm, that is, humanity, and in particular, the power of the human psyche.
Ancient Stoics cultivated a decidedly optimistic view of the capacity of the human psyche to obtain knowledge about the Cosmos. This optimism was based first on the idea that the Cosmos is orderly and governed by reason (and, therefore, comprehensible), and, secondly, on the idea that the reasoning power of the human psyche is of a piece, and, in fact, seamlessly connected with, the Reason/Logos of the Cosmos itself. Manilius sums this up very nicely when he says:
What wonder if humans are able to understand the Cosmos, since they have a cosmos in themselves, and each is a miniature likeness of the Divine?
In addition, it must be emphasized that among the basic characteristics imputed to the Cosmos is what Thomas G. Rosenmeyer calls “the Stoic doctrine of cosmic cohesiveness,” in his Senecan Drama and Stoic Cosmology (p. 113, see this previous post for full citation and link). Rosenmeyer also quotes Chrysippus, who wrote that “A drop of wine penetrates the whole ocean,” and then explains that “it is not just the case that there is not a single molecule of sea water that is not bonded with wine, but the reverse is also true: every particle of wine is mixed with water.”
Chrysippus’ “drop of wine in the ocean” parable illustrates a point that is second nature to modern Pagans: that nothing in the Cosmos is truly separate from anything else. From this point of view, there are no hard and fast boundaries anywhere, only liminality everywhere throughout the Universe. According to Rosenmeyer, the Stoic view is that everything in the Cosmos interacts with everything else “through mixture and interpenetration”.
In other words, Stoicism is a perfect match for the Ancient Art of Astrology!
Below are several indispensable resources for anyone who really wants to get to the interpenetrated heart of this matter. There are both primary sources and also modern scholarship.
Also included here are three ongoing projects by practitioners and teachers of the ancient art and science of Astrology: Project Hindsight, Renaissance Astrology, and the ARHAT website. These have been included because of their emphasis on ancient sources, and because they provide (some of it free) a wealth of relevant materials of great use to anyone interested in the intersection of Pagan philosophy and the divinatory arts.
Lastly (before getting to the Resources themselves), this subsection could be viewed as a supplement to or as a specialized “advanced” section of the Stoic Theology Resource Guide. But, as I believe the words of Manilius at the top of this post reveal, the profoundly religious dimension of Stoicism, and of ancient Pagan philosophy generally, truly comes alive when we see how easily and eagerly Stoicism embraces Divination and Astrology. I don’t believe the material here should be seen as marginal, nor should familiarity with it be put off for the indefinite future.
W.A. Falconer English translation (from Loeb) at Lacus Curtius
David Wardle’s translation with commentary of Book 1 at googlebooks
Xenophon states that Socrates encouraged his friends and students to consult oracles, and that Socrates would then help them to interpret the answers given. In fact it was Socrates’ lifelong friend, Chaerephon, who consulted the famous Oracle at Deplhi and asked “Is anyone wiser than Socrates?” to which the oracle simply answered “No.” As he explained at his trial, Socrates devoted himself thereafter to investigating what this answer meant.
Diogenes Laertius reports that Zeno, the Stoic founder, upheld all forms of divination (7.149). However, none of Zeno’s writings on divination survive. According to Cicero’s De Natura Deorum, Cleanthes incorporated divination into his own arguments about the existence and nature of the Gods. Chrysippus is known to have written a two-volume work On Divination, as well as a separate work On Oracles and one On Dreams which does not survive.
But more than any other source, it is Cicero’s On Divination that gives us our most complete picture of the Stoic view of divination. In addition, Cicero also presents arguments drawn from Plato and Aristotle as well.
Below is an excerpt of a review of David Wardle’s translation with commentary of Book 1 of On Divination. The review is by Stephen Bedard, and it originally appeared in the May 5, 2010 issue of the Review of Biblical Literature (you can download it at their website here):
On Divination is written as a dialogue between Cicero and his brother Quintus Tullius Cicero. The first book is the argument for the existence of divination that Cicero puts on the lips of Quintus. This fits very well with Quintus’s own Stoic belief system, which accepted divination as an important way in which the gods communicated with humanity. In this presentation, both inspired divination such as dreams, and skilled divination that required training, such as haruspicy, extispicy, augury, and astrology, is dealt with. Cicero, in presenting the case for divination, relied heavily on two authors: Cratippus and Posidonius. While Cicero drew on both of these as existing treatments of divination, he also used a multitude of other literary, philosophical, and historical texts. Although Cicero himself denied divination (as presented in book 2), he did a masterful job of presenting the position supporting divination. Cicero was not afraid to allow Quintus to bring in Plato and Aristotle as support for divination, even though these two philosophers were Cicero’s most important influences. Of course, the most powerful argument for divination was the existence of the gods. If the gods exist and have any interest in the welfare of humanity, it seems logical that they would communicate with humanity in some way. In fact, the strongest critics of divination were the Epicureans, who denied the active presence of the gods. Therefore, Cicero allowed Quintus to paint Cicero with an Epicurean brush, even though Cicero strongly disagreed with their other beliefs, especially when it came to the gods. That Cicero would allow Quintus to have such strong arguments rather than presenting a straw-man argument speaks to the confidence he had in his own case in book 2.
The importance of On Divination goes far beyond an interest in the practice of divination. Cicero’s work provides a window into a multitude of Greco-Roman religious beliefs. Beyond this, it also gives a glimpse of Roman attitudes toward Greek traditions. The Romans drew heavily from the Greeks but at the same time had a desire to feel superior. This put Cicero in an interesting position. Cicero had a great respect for Greek traditions, especially in terms of philosophy, and much of his work was in bridging the gap between Greece and Rome. At the same time, writing to a Roman audience, Cicero had to be sensitive to Roman attitudes. Therefore, Cicero offered many Greek examples but then presented Roman examples as the better evidence.
Complete Latin text online
The Loeb edition of Manilius’ Astronomica is a masterpiece in itself. The translator, G.P. Goold, was a renowned classicist who held Chairs in Classics and/or Latin on three continents and was also the editor at Loeb from 1974 to 1999 (see his obituary in the Feb. 21, 2002 edition of The Independent). Goold’s lavishly illustrated 100+ page introduction is itself a mini-course in ancient astronomy, astrology and Latin poetics.
As Strange Attractors go, Manilius’ 4500 line Latin hexameter poem on Astrology and Stoic Philosophy is one of the strangest. Very few have been drawn to it, but these few have included some of the greatest Classical scholars of the last five centuries: Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), who claimed to have mastered Homeric Greek in a span of just 21 days when he was 19 years old, and who has been called “the most learned man of his time, a time of massively learned men”; Richard Bentley (1662-1742), whose 1902 Encyclopedia Britannica entry (see link) matter-of-factly states that he was “the first, perhaps the only Englishman who can be ranked with the great heroes of classical learning”; A.E. Housman (1859-1936), a noted classicist who was also a successfull poet in his native English, references to whose poetry pops up in the writings of E.M. Forster, Tom Stoppard, P.D. James, Arthur C. Clarke, Jon Dos Passos, Alan Watts, Roger Zelazny, and others. These three are in addition, of course, to Goold who has already been mentioned, and others as well.
Here are two excerpts (as prose translations by Katharian Vogel) from Manilius’ Astronomica:
Who would be able to understand the cosmos unless through the gift of the cosmos or to find god unless he had a place among the gods himself? Or who could see and encompass in his narrow chest the mass of infinitely vaulted sphere, the dances of the stars, the flaming roofs of the universe , and the eternal war of the planets against constellations, (and the land and sea beneath the sky and what is beneath both,) unless nature had given sacred eyes to the soul and turned the cognate mind toward herself and dictated such a great work, and unless there came from heaven something to call us into heaven for a sacred exchange of things?
Since I desire to carry these things to the stars with inspired breath, I shall compose my songs neither in the crowd nor for the crowd; but alone — carried, as it were, in an empty orbit — I shall freely drive my chariot with no one steering me or steering a friendly course along the same route; and I shall sing for the sky to hear, with the stars marvelling and heaven taking joy in the songs of its poet, or for those whom they have not begrudged knowledge of the sacred motions and of themselves, which is the smallest crowd on earth . . . . This too is fated: to learn the law of fate.
[2.136-44 and 149]
The translations are taken from Volk’s The Poetics of Latin Didactic. Notice the tension between the universalistic claim in the first passage, to the effect that the ability to “understand the cosmos” is a trait shared by all human beings, and the unabashed elitism of the second passage, to the effect that only “the smallest crowd on earth” is “begrudged knowledge of the sacred motions and of themselves.”
Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy)
Frank Egleston Robbins’ 1940 English translation at Lacus Curtius
Claudius Ptolemaeus wrote four major works that come down to us today intact, and which have been extremely influential throughout the intervening centuries, although little is known with certainty about his life, including even when he was born or when he died. It is interesting to contrast this situation with that of Socrates (who lived over half a millennium earlier), about whom we have a great deal of detailed biographical information, although Socrates himself left us no writings of his own.
Ptolemy’s four major suriviving works are on the subjects of Astronomy (Almagest), Geography (Geographia), Harmonics (Harmonics), and Astrology (Tetrabiblos). He also produced an important treatise on Optics which does not survive except in fragments, and these only in Arabic.
Ptolemy wrote the Tetrabiblos sometime around 150 AD. It is considered quite possibly the single most important work on Hellenistic Astrology.
The following publisher’s blurb for a modern edition of part of Ptolemy’s Geographia gives some idea of the man’s importance the history of science:
Ptolemy’s Geography is the only book on cartography to have survived from the classical period and one of the most influential scientific works of all time. Written in the second century AD, for more than fifteen centuries it was the most detailed topography of Europe and Asia available and the best reference on how to gather data and draw maps. Ptolemy championed the use of astronomical observation and applied mathematics in determining geographical locations. But more importantly, he introduced the practice of writing down coordinates of latitude and longitude for every feature drawn on a world map, so that someone else possessing only the text of the Geography could reproduce Ptolemy’s map at any time, in whole or in part, at any scale.
[Ptolemy’s Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters, Berggren and Jones, text taken from the Princeton University Press website]
And here is an excerpt from a review of a modern translation of Ptolemy’s Almagest (by G.J. Toomer):
In the long history of science very few books have been more influential than Ptolemy’s Almagest. Its very title has resounded through the ages and for 1500 years its style and contents were more or less normative for any comprehensive exposition of astronomy. Even the De Revolutionibus of Copernicus aimed at nothing more than re-writing teh Almagest from a heliocentric point of view, following the logical order of its subject matter: the brief cosmological introduction, the necessary mathematical presuppositions, and the acount of spherical astronomy, planetary theory, and the general survey of the starry heavens, which form the substantial part of both works . . . . [T]he Almagest was a truly seminal work, on par with Newton’s Principia, but with very few others.
[review by Olaf Pederson, in Journ. History of Astronomy, v.18, no.1, 1987]
Matheseos Libri VIII
Julius Firmicus Maternus
Jean Rhys Bram’s English translation at googlebooks
Below are some excerpts from an essay on Julius Firmicus Maternus: Profile of a Roman Astrology, by modern British Astrologer David McCann. The essay was first published in 1994 in Traditional Astrologer magazine. It can currently be found online at the skyscript website, as part of their extensive collection of historical biographies of Illustrious Names in the History of Astrology.
In the bibliography of Christian Astrology, William Lilly listed over 200 works, but only three were by ancient authors: Marcus Manilius, Claudius Ptolemy, and Julius Firmicus Maternus. Of these, that of Firmicus was the longest and the most representative of ancient practice. But who was Firmicus?
He came, he tells us, from Sicily. At first he pursued a career in law, where he often defended the rights of those oppressed by what sound like the ancient equivalents of mafiosi. Eventually, tired of the confrontations and enmities involved, he retired to devote himself to learning and literature. The manuscripts of his books give him the titles Vir Clarissimus and Vir Consularis, showing him to belong to the upper nobility – the senatorial order. His book on astrology is dedicated to an even more aristocratic friend, the consul Lollianus Mavortius, whom he met when Mavortius was governor of Campania. The two men discussed philosophy and science, Mavortius being particularly interested in astronomy. Of astrology he knew less, and he seems to have felt that an adequate account of the subject in Latin was lacking. Firmicus boldly volunteered to fill the gap and, after some years and a great deal of encouragement, produced the Matheseos Libri Octo – ‘Eight Books of Astrology’. From a reference to an eclipse, we can date it to around 330 AD . . . .
By the time of Firmicus, Italy, and the West in general, was becoming a backwater as Greeks and Romans drifted apart. The Italian aristocrats were often men of vast wealth but few played any part in public affairs outside their own region. Many of the senatorial order occupied themselves with the arts and sciences, at not too demanding a level, and the discussions of Firmicus and Mavortius are typical of such activities.
Although the empire was now officially Christian, many remained pagan – including Firmicus. Most educated pagans were Platonists in their philosophy, but Firmicus was a Stoic . . . .
The contents of the Mathesis are drawn from many sources. Some of these are now lost, but the descriptions of the constellations are clearly based upon the text of Manilius and the interpretations of the aspects are translated from Dorotheus of Sidon. In his fascination with ‘ancient lore’, Firmicus occasionally includes material which seems to have been as mysterious to him as it is to us; though most of the work is concerned with the basic elements of the horoscope and things which are assumed by the more philosophic work of Ptolemy are presented here in detail . . . .
Despite his lapses into court-room rhetoric and his occasional chilly determinism, Firmicus is rather an endearing author. Above all, he had enthusiasm and a real love of his subject. For him, as for Ptolemy, astrology was a ‘holy doctrine’ in which we ‘contemplate the most beautiful fabric of divine creation’. His advice on time lifestyle suitable to the astrologer will he familiar to many, since it was adapted by William Lilly in his famous Epistle to the Student of Astrology; both alike surely sought to ‘learn all the ornaments of virtue’.
Ancient Greek Divination
Sarah Iles Johnston
Publisher’s website (with downloadable chapter summaries)
Excerpt from BMCR review:
In this contribution to the Blackwell Ancient Religions series, Sarah Iles Johnston explores the primary archaeological, literary, and documentary sources for ancient Greek divination. The introduction argues for the central significance of divination in Greek religion, and it summarizes relevant ancient and modern scholarship. The remaining four chapters are organized around the ancient evidence: two consider “the divine experience” at specific oracles, and two “freelance divination” professionals and their practices. Delphi, Dodona, Claros and Didyma receive special attention, and are set in the context of some other attested oracles. Johnston then explores the societal role and techniques of the mantis, largely as presented in ancient Greek literature. Finally, the last chapter focuses on the evidence of the Greek magical papyri, the links between magic and divination, and (at last) the evolution of ancient Greek religion during the later Roman empire. Each chapter concludes with a three-page bibliography of secondary scholarship; the book ends with indices of primary sources and subjects.
Johnston has made a fine exposition and analysis of a wide variety of ancient evidence, well-supported by current scholarship and her own careful interpretations. It is wonderful to read a synthetic work by a single author on a broad topic in ancient religion, rather than another volume of disparate collected essays. Yet the high cost of this slim book, its omission of Roman divination (on which more below), and its frequent deployment of technical Greek terms could hinder its use as an undergraduate textbook, or by “general readers” (p. 29). For the scholar, whom Johnston also explicitly addresses (p. 29), an enormous amount of regional and chronological variation is glossed over, while the lack of footnotes places academic debates awkwardly into the text alongside the frequent parenthetical citations. However, Johnston does contribute actively and sensitively to these debates, making this book an important contribution to the study of ancient Greek religion.
Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World
edited by Scott Noegel
Prayer, Magic, and the Stars at googlebooks
From the publishers website:
In the religious systems of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Mediterranean, gods and demigods were neither abstract nor distant, but communicated with mankind through signs and active intervention. Men and women were thus eager to interpret, appeal to, and even control the gods and their agents. In Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World, a distinguished array of scholars explores the many ways in which people in the ancient world sought to gain access to—or, in some cases, to bind or escape from—the divine powers of heaven and earth.
Grounded in a variety of disciplines, including Assyriology, Classics, and early Islamic history, the fifteen essays in this volume cover a broad geographic area: Greece, Egypt, Syria-Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Persia. Topics include celestial divination in early Mesopotamia, the civic festivals of classical Athens, and Christian magical papyri from Coptic Egypt. Moving forward to Late Antiquity, we see how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each incorporated many aspects of ancient Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman religion into their own prayers, rituals, and conceptions. Even if they no longer conceived of the sun, moon, and the stars as eternal or divine, Christians, Jews, and Muslims often continued to study the movements of the heavens as a map on which divine power could be read.
Excerpt from the Introduction:
[R]ecent work has provided compelling documentation for the broad area of overlap between ‘religion’ and ‘magic’ in the Graeco-Roman world. From the courtrooms of classical Athens, there is ample evidence for the deployment of magical rituals, objects, and words. These written, spoken, or sung words–whether we call them spells, incantations, or charms–draw upon a ritual and conceptual vocabulary closely linked to the ‘official’ forms of civic and public prayer. In contrast to earlier scholarship, which tended to see such shared elements as evidence for magicians’ surreptitious appropriation of public religion, recent scholarship has preferred to view ‘magical’ and ‘religious’ practices as part of a continuum that encompassed both individual and communal forms of piety.
Ancient Pathways and Hidden Pursuits
by George Luck
Ancient Pathways at googlebooks
George Luck’s anthology, Ancient Pathways, is included here, among other reasons, because of his chapter A Stoic Cosmogony of Manilius. The book also has a great deal to say more broadly about Pagan Theology, not all of which is directly connection to the topics of Divination and Astrology.
Here is an excerpt from Luck’s chapter on Vergil and the Mystery Traditions (as previously discussed in this old post):
In his Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated on the Principles of a Religious Deist (2 vols [1737-1741]) Bishop Warburton proposed an interpretation of the sixth book of Virgil’s Aeneid which seems to be almost completely forgotten today. None of the handbooks, none of the recent books on Virgil, none of the commentaries (not even Norden) seem to know of it, and yet this theory may provide the key to the understanding of Aeneas’ descent into the underworld. One of the reasons for this curious damnatio memoriae could be the character of Warburton’s book. It is full of bold and controversial ideas which are presented with considerable learning, but also in a dogmatic and sometimes presumptuous way manner. This manner obviously annoyed Gibbon, the historian, who published in his youth a scathing review which he did not care to sign with his name. It must have made a certain impression on the scholars of that time, for C.G. Heyne, the well-known editor and commentator of Virgil praises the anonymous author as doctor … et elegantissimus Britannus. In later years Gibbon himself admitted that he had treated a man who deserved his esteem with contempt and regretted the “cowardly concealment” of his name in a personal attack.
The time has come for a fresh examination of Warburton’s views. It should be said that he seems to have taken most of his material from the Eleusinia of Ioannes Meursius (1579-1639), and this was held against him at the time. But the idea which electrified the whole mass of evidence was his own, and we are concerned with the idea. It is also true that many of his arguments are specious. On the other hand, material which he could not have known seems to support his view.
In the sixth book of the Aeneid Virgil’s hero, led by the Sibyl of Cumae, descends into the underworld to consult his father, Anchises. The ceremonial of his entrance is elaborate, and as we follow him on his path the geography of Hades with its inhabitants unfolds before our eyes ….
There were two main sources of light: Platonism and the mystery religions. Both forces are so complex that they cannot be defined here. Even in Virgil’s time there was no general agreement as to what Plato said, and central message as well as the ritual of the various mystery religions was still a well-kept secret, though certain allusions which would mean nothing to ordinary people were apparently tolerated. We find such allusions in Pindar, in Sophocles, in Isocrates, in Cicero, in Apuleius, and though they are deliberately obscure and ambiguous, they all seem to point to a message of hope beyond extinction and a promise of life everlasting. Such a message can also be found in the sixth book of the Aeneid.
Pindar, for instance, praises in a famous fragment (137 Snell) the man who has “seen those things” before he descends into the underworld, for he “knows the end of life, and he knows its beginning, given by Zeus.”
…. A passage from one of Sophocles’ lost plays (fr. 719 Dindorf = 837 Pearson) provides a parallel and a commentary: “Thrice happy are those mortals who, having seen these rites, go to Hades; for they alone are allowed to live there; to the rest all there is bad.”
Manilius And His Intellectual Background
Vogel’s book at googlebooks
From the publisher:
This is the first English-language monograph on Marcus Manilius, a Roman poet of the first century AD, whose Astronomica is our earliest extant comprehensive treatment of astrology. Katharina Volk brings Manilius and his world alive for modern readers by exploring the manifold intellectual traditions that have gone into shaping the Astronomica: ancient astronomy and cosmology, the history and practice of astrology, the historical and political situation at the poem’s composition, the poetic and generic conventions that inform it, and the philosophical underpinnings of Manilius’ world-view. What emerges is a panoroma of the cultural imagination of the Early Empire, a fascinating picture of the ways in which educated Greeks and Romans were accustomed to think and speak about the cosmos and man’s place in it.
Excerpt from the book:
In Book 18 of Homer’s Iliad, the crafstman God Hephaestus creates a shield for the hero Achilles. Made of precious metals and decorated with elaborate images, this piece of armour is an amazing work of art. It is also a representation of the universe: being round, the shield is framed by an image of the stream Okeanos, attesting to the belief that the flat and circular earth is surrounded by such a body of water; it also contains depictions of the earth, sky, and sea, the Sun and Moon, and all the constellations, of which Pleiades, Hyades, Orian and Ursa Major are named specifically. In addition, the shield exhibits numerous scenes of human life, involving such archetypal concerns as agriculture, warfare, and marriage . . . .
[N]early all classical authors agree that the cosmos — in particular the heavens with the Sun, Moon, and stars — is both beautiful and, like an artefact devised by a rational being, extremely well designed.
This view of the universe finds its expression in the very word ‘cosmos’, Greek κόσμος. The two primary meanings of the noun are ‘order’ and ‘ornament, decoration’, attesting to an inherent understanding that that which is orderly is also beautiful and decorative, and vice versa. Beginning with the Presocratics, the word came to be used also for the ‘cosmos’ in the modern sense — that is, both the ‘universe’, meaning ‘the whole world’, and, more specifically, the realm of the heavens with the heavenly bodies. Apparently this semantic extension was based on a widespread perception that the universe is arranged both beautifully and in an orderly fashion, as is clear, for example, from the following quotation from Aetius, a doxographer of the first century AD, who ascribes the first use of kosmos, ‘universe’, to Pythagoras: “Pythagoras was the first to call the sum of all things kosmos, on account of its inherent order.”
The Latin equivalent of kosmos is mundus, a noun who semantic development, if somewhat less clear, shows interesting parallels to the Greek. The Oxford Latin Dictionary lists four different words mundus, the first an adjective meaning ‘clean’ or ‘refined’, the second a noun referring to female adornment, the third our word for universe, and the fourth a religious term for a subterranean vault or sacrificial pit. The connections among these words are controversial. One likely scenario is that the first two are related to each other, which is semantically plausible, and that the third and fourth are in fact the same word, with the assumption being that the original meaning is something like ‘cavity’, which could equally well apply to the vaults of heaven and to a hole in the ground.
Once the Romans became aware of Greek views of the cosmos and of the very word kosmos and its connotations, they, too, made the mental connection between beauty and adornment, on the one hand, and the universe, on the other, and thus came to see a link between their own two — accidentally homophonous — words mundus. Witness, for example, the following etymological explanation by Pliny the Elder [23-79 AD]: ‘For the Greeks named it [the universe] with their word for ornament, kosmos, and we named it mundus because of its perfect and absolute elegance.’
Project Hindsight is currently working on translations of four major ancient astrological texts, including two already mentioned above. The four texts are (click the links for very nice summaries of each text):
Vettius Valens: The Anthology
Firmicus Maternus: The Mathesis
Hephaistio of Thebes: Apotelesmatics
In addition to the ongoing translation projects listed above, the good folks at Project Hindsight have recently released a major new work on Definitions and Foundations by Robert Schmidt, who is also teaching a series of intensive courses on Hellenistic Astrology.
From their website:
Project Hindsight was begun in 1993 to translate and interpret the surviving texts of the Western astrological tradition. As such, it is the continuation of the work of The Golden Hind Press, a publishing company founded by Ellen Black, Clifford Martin, and Robert Schmidt in 1985. The Golden Hind Press was originally devoted to the translation of relatively unfamiliar works in the history of mathematics, science, and logic. The name Project Hindsight is an adaptation of the name of the mathematical journal, Hindsight, an earlier publication of The Golden Hind Press. Project Hindsight is a trademark of The Golden Hind Press. Consult the Archives for a record of our colorful history.
The geometrical diagram at the upper right of our logo as seen on our Home page is a legacy from the mathematical era of The Golden Hind Press. It is actually a diagram from an ancient Greek geometrical treatise. Over the years, its meaning was the subject of considerable speculation on the part of our readers. To some it looked like an iceberg; to others, a prism or a crystal; still others thought it resembled a star, or a star pouring itself out. Little did we know at the time how prophetic that last view would turn out to be.
The translations of Project Hindsight™ and other educational aids are published by The Golden Hind Press. Ongoing research and analysis of the foundations of astrology based on these translations continues to be conducted under the auspices of The Phaser Foundation, Inc.
The Renaissance Astrology website is a beautiful oasis on teh internets, a real treat for the mind and the eyes. You can read about the Orphic Hymns, the Picatrix, Hermetic Philosophy, etc. Or you can buy a book or a poster, sign up for a class, get your own astrological reading, etc. Just go and explore!!
Here is just a small sample, taken from the section on Giordano Bruno:
The Italian philosopher and mage Giordano Bruno was born in Nola, near Naples, in 1548. He became a Dominican friar in 1563, but was forced to leave the order after accusations of heresy in 1576. From 1576 to 1585 lived in Paris where his book De Umbris Idearum, “the Shadows of Ideas” published in 1582 and lectures on the Art of Memory attracted the attention of the French King Henry III. Bruno took the ars memoria or Art of Memory, a classical technique of mnemonic coding using the measured placement of visual images to new heights exploiting its philosophical and magical possibilities. Here is a translation by Nigel Jackson of forty nine of Bruno’s planetary images from De Umbris Idearum.
From 1583 to 1585 he lived under the protection of the French ambassador, Michel de Castelnau. While in England he published a number of works including Cena de le Ceneri, “The Ash Wednesday Supper”, Spaccio della bestia trinofante, “The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast” and De l’Infinito, Universo e Mondi, “On the Infinite Universe and Worlds”. The latter work and his support of a Copernican heliocentric astronomy earned Bruno an entirely undeserved reputation as an early “scientist” and “modern” thinker. In fact, Bruno was clearly a figure of the late medieval and Renaissance, a mage who sought what he saw as the restoration of the true religion, that of Egyptian Hermeticism.
Bruno lived and lectured throughout Germany from 1586 to 1591 when he made the mistake of going to Venice where he was arrested by the Inquisition. After initially recanting his views, after being sent to Rome he abjured his recantation and was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600.
A number of Bruno’s works are available on-line at Jonathan Peterson’s excellent web site, Esoteric Archives though many are in Latin. The Ash Wednesday Supper and the Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast are available in English translation as is “On Magic” and “A General Account of Bonding” which appear in Cause, Principle and Unity edited by Blackwell and De Lucca (Cambridge, 1998). Two excellent secondary sources on Bruno are Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition by Frances Yates (Chicago, 1964) and Eros and Magic in the Renaissance by Ioan Coulianu (Chicago, 1987).
ARHAT Publications was created in 1997 to continue and extend Robert Hand’s lifelong work on the history of the science of astrology. The name ARHAT stands for Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts. The website includes a bookstore, classes and schools, online libraries of astrological books, and much more.
Here is Robert Hand’s biography, from the website:
Robert Hand, began his work in astrology at the age of 17, learning from his father, Wilfred Hand, who successfully applied the astrological techniques of his day to forecasting the stock market. Rob began his astrology practice in 1972 and after publishing his best seller, Planets in Transit, he began traveling world wide as a full-time professional astrolger. Rob is an honor graduate from Brandeis University, with honors in history, and he completed some graduate work in the History of Science at Princeton. Rob holds an MA in history from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he is currently working towards his Ph.D.
In his professional practice Rob uses tropical, heliocentric, sidereal, uranian, cosmobiological and in mundo techniques with ancient and medieval methods discovered anew in the Hebrew translations by Meira Epstein, the classical Arabic by Dr. Charles Burnett, and the classical Greek by Dr. Dorian Greenbaum — as well as Rob’s own Latin translations. ARHAT. In 1997 a formal archive, library and publishing company was established for continuing Robert Hand’s lifelong work in the history and science of astrology.
Robert Hand’s library now houses the original texts and translations of over two dozen ancient and medieval astrologers. Books that he has authored to date include: Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living, Planets in Composite: Analyzing Human Relationships, Planets in Youth: Patterns of Early Development, Essays on Astrology and Night and Day: Planetary Sect in Astrology.
Robert Hand is a Patron of the Faculty of Astrological Studies in London, a former Chairman of the National Council for Geocosmic Research, and is a member of AFAN and ISAR. Rob lectures in conferences, seminars and workshops, and offers professional astrology services to clients worldwide. He can be reached at ARHAT Media Inc. (703) 758-7150 USA or through using our Contact Form.
[The cartoon of Chaldean Astrologers is from bemyastrologer.com. The photo of starlings is from the website of Caelestia: A research initiative for unidentified aerial phenomena. The beautiful Tarot card image is from Julia Turk’s amazing Navigators Tarot of the Mystic SEA. The painting below “Tlingit Cosmos” is by Alaskan Native artist Celeste Worl.]