The Attack on Astrology and Academic Freedom in Spain

A recent article in El Confidencial, News of Galicia, reported that a Spanish university, UNED, had cancelled an astrology course due to pressure from a group of skeptics, expressed through social media.  At first the university lied about its motives, stating that the cancellation was due to technical problems.  Later, perhaps feeling guilty about abandoning the principle of academic freedom, the university officials admitted doing so to appease a group of skeptics whose belief system denigrates astrology.  All of this smacks of the Spanish Inquisition which suppressed beliefs that ran counter to the prevailing religious dogma of the time.

el-confidencial

The doctrinal argument of the skeptics, Spanish astronomers, and Galician association of communicators of scientific culture is that “astrology is a superstition and as such lacks rational elements that justify its whimsical and always misleading claims”.  Obviously, this dogma of the skeptics would apply to all the world’s religions, for which there is no scientific evidence and which make unverifiable claims.  Therefore, UNED should also cease offering courses on world religions.  In addition, UNED should stop their offerings about mathematics because, as Gödel demonstrated in his incompleteness theorems in mathematical logic, there are inherent rational limitations of every formal axiomatic system containing basic arithmetic.  Courses in the fine arts should also be eliminated because, as everyone knows, the visual arts are merely pseudo-photography and do not portray reality as it really is.  Studies in ancient Latin and Greek should also be abandoned because many of the original texts are treatises on astrology and cannot be understood without systematic knowledge of astrology.

This incident is reminiscent of the 1975 doctrinal attack on astrology in the Humanist by a group of scientists who sought to curb interest in astrology because they were “eminent” scientists and therefore knew best what the rest of the human race ought to study.  The brilliant astronomer Carl Sagan refused to sign this manifesto because of its authoritarian tone and the fact that those scientists who did sign it had never studied astrology and were speaking simply out of their dogmatic beliefs and prejudices rather than hard evidence.  Sagan also pointed out that simply because scientists can’t explain something does not mean that an explanation will never be found.

In addition, Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994), Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Berkeley noted the marked similarities between the attack on astrology and the notorious Malleus Maleficarum published by the Roman Catholic Church published in 1484, outlining how to deal with witchcraft.  It appears that the skeptics of Spain are reviving the intolerance of the Spanish Inquisition.

In my opinion, in a free and open society, it is dangerous to allow a small group of believers in a philosophical position (in this case, the skeptics) to determine what the rest of the society is allowed to study and learn, based on the particular dogma which the skeptics happen to subscribe to.  Those of us who study astrology appreciate its beauty as a highly sophisticated and intricate philosophical system with an internal logical consistency.  A knowledge of astrology is fundamental to the study of the humanities and the symbolic nature of the human mind.  I doubt that any of the skeptics or astronomers who pressured UNED to abandon the astrology course have ever studied the subject but instead are simply expressing their beliefs and prejudices, which are based on their own unverifiable presuppositions about the nature of reality.  An article in The Local in 2014 reported that Spain’s brain drain is the worst in Western Europe.  With such attacks on academic freedom in Spain, is it any wonder that the brightest young minds of Spain are fleeing their country to work abroad?


The original manifesto from The Humanist of 1975 is worth reading, so I have reproduced it below with the compelling responses of Carl Sagan and Paul Feyerabend, who clearly demonstrate the ignorance of the “eminent” scientists who signed the document, which merely states their beliefs and prejudices against astrology and asks us to believe them because they know best what is valuable for the human race.


Objections to Astrology
A Statement by 186 Leading Scientists
(The following statement first appeared in The Humanist of September/October 1975.)

Scientists in a variety of fields have become concerned about the increased acceptance of astrology in many parts of the world. We, the undersigned – astronomers, astrophysicists, and scientists in other fields – wish to caution the public against the unquestioning acceptance of the predictions and advice given privately and publicly by astrologers. Those who wish to believe in astrology should realize that there is no scientific foundation for its tenets.In ancient times people believed in the predictions and advice of astrologers because astrology was part and parcel of their magical world view. They looked upon celestial objects as abodes or omens of the gods and, thus, intimately connected with events here on earth; they had no concept of the vast distances from the earth to the planets and stars. Now that these distances can and have been calculated, we can see how infinitesimally small are the gravitational and other effects produced by the distant planets and the far more distant stars. It is simply a mistake to imagine that the forces exerted by stars and planets at the moment of birth can in any way shape our futures. Neither is it true that the position of distant heavenly bodies make certain days or periods more favorable to particular kinds of action, or that the sign under which one was born determines one’s compatibility or incompatibility with other people.Why do people believe in astrology? In these uncertain times many long for the comfort of having guidance in making decisions. They would like to believe in a destiny predetermined by astral forces beyond their control. However, we must all face the world, and we must realize that our futures lie in ourselves, and not in the stars.One would imagine, in this day of widespread enlightenment and education, that it would be unnecessary to debunk beliefs based on magic and superstition. Yet, acceptance of astrology pervades modern society. We are especially disturbed by the continued uncritical dissemination of astrological charts, forecasts, and horoscopes by the media and by otherwise reputable newspapers, magazines, and book publishers. This can only contribute to the growth of irrationalism and obscurantism. We believe that the time has come to challenge directly, and forcefully, the pretentious claims of astrological charlatans.It should be apparent that those individuals who continue to have faith in astrology do so in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary.Sponsoring Committee(Affiliations, as of 1975, given for identification only.)

Bart J. Bok, emeritus
Professor of Astronomy
University of ArizonaLawrence E. Jerome
Science Writer
Santa Clara, CaliforniaPaul Kurtz

Professor of Philosophy
SUNY at Buffalo

Signed by 183 others, including 18 Nobel Prizewinners


Response from Astronomer, Carl Sagan (1934-1996), who was invited to sign the statement:

“In the middle 1970s an astronomer I admire put together a modest manifesto called ‘Objections to Astrology’ and asked me to endorse it. I struggled with his wording, and in the end found myself unable to sign, not because I thought astrology has any validity whatever, but because I felt (and still feel) that the tone of the statement was authoritarian. It criticized astrology for having origins shrouded in superstition. But this is true as well for religion, chemistry, medicine and astronomy, to mention only four. The issue is not what faltering and rudimentary knowledge astrology came from, but what is its present validity. Then there was speculation on the psychological motivations of those who believe in astrology. These motivations – for example, the feeling of powerlessness in a complex, troublesome and unpredictable world – might explain why astrology is not generally given the sceptical scrutiny it deserves, but is quite peripheral to whether it works.

The statement stressed that we can think of no mechanism by which astrology could work. This is certainly a relevant point but by itself it’s unconvincing. No mechanism was known for continental drift (now subsumed in plate tectonics) when it was proposed by Alfred Wegener in the first quarter of the twentieth century to explain a range of puzzling data in geology and palaeontology. (Ore-bearing veins of rocks and fossils seemed to run continuously from eastern South America to West Africa; were the two continents once touching and the Atlantic Ocean new to our planet?) The notion was roundly dismissed by all the great geophysicists, who were certain that continents were fixed, not floating on anything, and therefore unable to ‘drift’. Instead, the key twentieth-century idea in geophysics turns out to be plate tectonics; we now understand that continental plates do indeed float and ‘drift’ (or better, are carried by a kind of conveyor belt driven by the great heat engine of the Earth’s interior), and all those great geophysicists were simply wrong. Objections to pseudoscience on the grounds of unavailable mechanism can be mistaken – although if the contentions violate well-established laws of physics, such objections of course carry great weight.”
~ Carl Sagan, “Objections to Astrology” (letter to the editor), The Humanist, vol.36, no 1 (January/February 1976) p.2 reprinted in The Demon-Haunted World pp.302-303 (1995)


Response from Paul Feyerabend (1924 – 1994), Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Berkeley

“Now what surprises the reader whose image of science has been formed by the customary eulogies which emphasize rationality, objectivity, impartiality and so on is the religious tone of the document, the illiteracy of the ‘arguments’ and the authoritarian manner in which the arguments are being presented. The learned gentlemen have strong convictions, they use their authority to spread these convictions (why 186 signatures if one has arguments?), they know a few phrases which sound like arguments, but they certainly do not know what they are talking about.1

Take the first sentence of the ‘Statement.’ It reads: ‘Scientists in a variety of fields have become concerned about the increased acceptance of astrology in many parts of the world.’

In 1484 the Roman Catholic Church published the Malleus Maleficarum, the outstanding textbook on witchcraft. The Malleus is a very interesting book. It has four parts: phenomena, aetiology, legal aspects, theological aspects of witchcraft. …”

“The book has an introduction, a bull by Pope Innocent VIII, issued in 1484. The bull reads ‘It has indeed come to our ears, not without afflicting us with bitter sorrow, that in …’ – and now comes the long list of countries and counties – ‘many persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation have strayed from the Catholic Faith and have abandoned themselves to devils… ‘ and so on. The words are almost the same as gthe words in the beginning of the ‘Statement,’ and so are the sentiments expressed. Both the Pope and ‘the 186 leading scientists’ deplore the increasing popularity of what they think are disreputable views. But what a difference in literacy and scholarship!

Comparing the Malleus with accounts of contemporary knowledge the reader can easily verify that the Pope and his learned authors knew what they were talking about. This cannot be said of the scientists. They neither know the subject they attack, astrology, nor those parts of their own science that they undermine their attack. …

We see: the judgement of the ‘186 leading scientists’ rests on the antedeluvian anthropology, on ignorance of more recent results in their own fields (astronomy, biology, and the connection between the two) as well as failure to percieve the implications of the result they do know. It shows the extent to which scientists are prepared to assert their authority even in areas in which they have no knowledge whatsoever.”

    Feyerabend critiques the content:
  1. The poor use of English with expressions like “… dealt a serious death blow”. Is there any other kind of death blow?
  2. The criticism of the dictum that the stars incline, but do not compel overlooks modern hereditary theory (for example).
  3. The statement claims that “Psychologists find no evidence that astrology is of any value” and that a horoscope is a substitute for “honest and sustained thinking”. What about the reliance upon psychological tests which long ago have become a substitute for “honest and sustained thinking” in evaluation of all people of all ages?
  4. “As regards the magical origin of astrology one need only remark that science once was very closely connected with magic and must be rejected on these grounds.”

Feyeraband is also critical of astrology and concludes “… It is interesting to see how closely both parties approach each other in ignorance, conceit and the wish for easy power over minds.”

Reference

1. This is quite literally true. When a representative of the BBC wanted to interview some of the Nobel Prize Winners, they declined with the remark that they had never studied astrology and had no idea of its details.

From Philosophy of Science and the Occult (1982) edited by Patrick Grim, Suny Press. pp.19-23  The Strange Case of Astrology quoted from Science in a Free Society (1978) Paul Feyerabend, published by NLB, London

 

 

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Mystery Solved: the USA Gemini Rising Chart

For years I have used a Gemini rising chart for the July 4, 1776 birth of the nation.  I learned this technique many years ago from astrologer Don Jacobs (“Moby Dick the Astrologer”).  Don’s son Jayj worked with his dad in making predictions based on this 7 Gemini 35 rising chart and reported a remarkable accuracy rate: “Don ´Moby Dick` The Astrologer Jacobs- my dad- and I, and all my subsequent partners have used 7 Gemini 35 for the US Ascendant on July 4, 1776. Our media measured accuracy rate of >95% validates that chart & Asc.”

When I first got interested in astrology back in the 1950s, I read the books by Evangeline Adams in the public library.  I was particularly struck by her 1930 prediction that America would enter into another war when Uranus returned to Gemini in the early 1940’s.  She was using a Gemini rising chart for 3:03 a.m. as the basis of this prediction.  This chart has 20 degrees of Gemini rising with Mars on the ASC.  Over the years I have puzzled about the origin of this chart because it does not match the historical events of the day.  It occurred to me that it must be a symbolic chart rather than the horoscope of a particular event which occurred on July 4, 1776.

In mundane astrology, the common practice for centuries has been to use eclipses and ingress charts to predict world events.  It turns out that Evangeline Adam’s USA chart with 20 Gemini 26 rising has virtually the exact Ascendant and MC as the Solar Eclipse of August 14, 1776 in Philadelphia. In the following graphic the chart is calculated for maximum eclipse time.

eclipse-and-303-gemini

It seems clear that Adams took the house cusps from the partial solar eclipse in Philadelphia at the end of the summer of 1776 and used the 3:03 AM time on July 4, 1776 to produce a USA birth chart with the same house structure.  Most likely she chose the August eclipse because the Declaration of Independence was still in the process of being signed by all the states at that time.  The eclipse chart has 20 Gemini 34 rising; Adam’s chart has 20 Gemini 26 rising, but she appears to have rounded the time to the nearest minute.  The difference between the Ascendants of the two charts is a mere 08′ of arc.

What about the Don Jacobs 7 Gemini 35 rising chart for the USA?  Again, I have puzzled about this chart for many years.  After realizing that Adams used the August solar eclipse of 1776 to generate her 20 Gemini 26 USA chart, I wondered if the originator of the 7 Gemini 39 USA chart had also used either an eclipse or an ingress.  A little investigation revealed that the Summer Solstice Ingress in June of 1776, just three weeks before the July 4th date, has an uncanny resemblance to the Jacobs’ Gemini rising chart, except that it has the opposite sign Sagittarius rising in the same degree of that sign.  See the following graphic.

ingress-usa-gem

It appears that the person who originated this version of the Gemini rising chart for the USA took the Descendant of the June 20, 1776 Summer Solstice (Cancer Ingress) and used it as the Ascendant of the July 4, 1776 chart for the birth of the nation. The Cancer Ingress chart for Philadelphia on June 20, 1776 has 7 Sagittarius 39 rising whereas the USA chart used by Don and Jayj Jacobs has 7 Gemini 35 rising.  Perhaps the symbolism is that the ASC of the Cancer Ingress represents the old nation (a British colony) and the Descendant of this chart becomes the “equal but opposite” 7th house independent new nation, the United States of America.

So the mystery of the USA Gemini rising chart may finally be solved.  The one used by Evangeline Adams is based on the Solar Eclipse of August 14, 1776; and the other common chart, used by Don Jacobs is based on the Cancer Ingress chart of June 20, 1776 in Philadelphia whose Descendant becomes the Ascendant of the new nation.  Like Don and Jayj Jacobs, I have found the 7 Gemini 35 chart to be extremely reliable in making predictions about the USA.  Given the long tradition of using solar ingresses into cardinal signs and solar eclipses to predict events in mundane astrology, it is not surprising that both these charts yield impressive results.

The Gemini rising chart that most closely matches the horizon of the June 20th Cancer Ingress in Philadelphia would be for 2:14:29 AM, which has an ASC of a tiny 04′ of arc more than the Don Jacobs’ chart.  My own preference has been an ASC of 7 Gemini 27, based on my own experience with this chart.

usa-gemini-2-14-29

Interestingly, the famous Sibly chart, which the British astrologer set for roughly 10 PM in the UK, has 19 Aquarius 49 rising in London.  This is equivalent to a time of 21:53 UT or 4:53 PM LMT in Philadelphia.  At 4:47 PM LMT in Philadelphia the Ascendant was at 7 Sagittarius 39, as it was in the Cancer ingress chart.  Here is an image of the Sibly chart cast for London with an ASC fo 19 AQ 49 from the page www.astrology.co.uk/news/sibly.htm:

sibly-chart

If you try to reproduce Sibly’s chart, it becomes clear that his calculations were not very accurate.  For example, his planetary positions are different from those in a modern ephemeris.  He indicates that it is a 10 PM chart, but the ASC he uses is for 9:53 PM in the UK.  We cannot rule out the idea that Sibly chose an Ascendant for this mundane chart from the Cancer Ingress.  If he were using the ASC of the Summer Solstice in London, the ASC would have been 17 Aquarius 00, which corresponds to 9:47 PM LMT on July 4, 1776 in London.  There is only a difference of 6 minutes between these two Ascendants, which leads me to suspect that Sibly was taking the horizon of the Cancer Ingress and using it to erect a chart for the Declaration of Independence.

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Hillary’s loss, Trump’s win, and the Importance of an Accurate Birth Time

In July of this year I posted an astrological analysis of the election in which I wrote the following:
Hillary Clinton is more likely than Donald Trump to be our next president, though she will have some tough times in late summer/early fall during the height of the campaign. Trump is extremely popular and has tapped powerfully into the public mood, so a Trump win is not out of the question.”

This last statement was based on the fact that “Trump’s natal Moon falls  exactly on the USA progressed Ascendant, an indication that Trump’s sense of the public mood of the America people is exactly in accord with the emotional state of the populace.”

My reasoning about Hillary’s victory being more likely was based on an 8:02 AM time of birth, which was in wide use among astrologers.  We do not have a copy of her birth certificate, but I later learned that Chris Brennan had asked Hillary her birth time at a book signing, to which she replied 8 PM (a full 12 hours later). About 30 minutes into his Podcast about Hillary’s birth time, Chris also reports having a 1993 article from the Chicago Sun Times which states that Hillary’s mother went into the hospital in the morning and that Hillary was born after a 12-hour labor, which is consistent with a PM birth time.

Astrologer Al Mackenzie looked at my analysis of the 8 AM chart and wrote: “Trump’s progressed Ascendant ruler (himself) is well-dignified and conjunct the progressed US MC…to me that speaks better of his chances than the ill-dignified Saturn ruling her chart which falls in the US eighth.”  In other words, Al looked at the same information and concluded that Trump would win the presidency. Al was right, I was wrong.  But the 8 PM chart tells a different story.

The crux of my prediction was that, despite the negative factors which Al Mackenzie was alluding to, in Hillary’s secondary progressed chart (8:02 AM birth time), her progressed Mercury and Sun were in a cazimi configuration in mid-October of 2016 just weeks before the November election. To the Arab astrologers a planet in cazimi was “in the heart of the Sun” and therefore shone with the brilliance of the Sun.  In Hillary’s 8 AM chart, Mercury rules her career and public status, so I concluded that this was the determining factor which would take her to the White House since it occurred so close to the election.

If we consider the 8 PM time, which Hillary says is her true birth time, the situation charges significantly.  In this case, the Mercury/Sun cazimi configuration took place in mid-April of 2016 during the primary season and indicated her defeating Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic candidate.  By November 8 of 2016, progressed Mercury and the progressed Sun were 21′ of arc apart, well beyond the 17′ of arc limit of cazimi. Here Mercury is combust the Sun, totally obscured and “burnt” by the Sun’s rays — a symbol of  invisibility, inactivity and a lack of prominence.  Maybe it’s just Monday morning quarterbacking, but had I used the 8 PM time, I would have predicted that Trump was more likely than Hillary to win the election.

hillary-usa-prg-nov-8

In this graphic, the central wheel is is USA Gemini rising chart progressed to November 8, 2016. The out wheel is Hillary’s 8 PM birth time chart progressed to the same date.

Mercury rules the Whole Sign 10th house of the USA progressed chart. Hillary’s Mercury/Sun conjunction in Capricorn is a combust configuration which squares her progressed Neptune as well as the progressed USA MC.  This is an aspect of discouragement and dissolution.  In addition, Hillary’s progressed Ascendant lies in Leo (ruled by the Sun) in the 8th house of death, where the ASC conjoins the malefic Saturn in the sign of its detriment.  A comparison of these progressed charts (USA and Hillary for an 8 PM birth) suggests that she will lose the election.

Fortunately, I stated in the July post that my prediction at that time was predicated on a speculative birth time of 8:02 AM and that a different birth time could result in a different outcome. The 8 PM time suggests a loss for Hillary in the 2016 election.

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Hillary’s Wobble

The big news this week in the presidential campaign has been Hillary Clinton’s wobble at the 9-11 ceremony and the revelation of her diagnosis of pneumonia.  According to news reports:

“Clinton, who was here and only about 20 feet away from Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, was listening along with Trump to the reading of the names lost in the terror attacks on this tragic day 15 years ago. Trump appeared at the ceremony around 8:20 a.m. receiving applause when he arrived, while Clinton arrived shortly before the first bell rang at 8:46 a.m. which is a citywide moment of silence in observance of time the first plane struck the North Tower. Shortly before 9:37 a.m.–the time marked for a moment of silence in observance of the flight that struck the Pentagon down just outside Washington, D.C.–Clinton was seen leaving the ceremony with her press corps in tow. Clinton was leaving through a back entrance, quietly.”

Here are Hillary’s transits for the day:

Hillary.JPG

The non-lunar aspects are all favorable, so she should weather this controversy without too much difficulty.  The Moon, however, began the day with a square to Neptune in her 12th Whole Sign house and went on to quincunx Mars (ruler of her 6th of illness) and Pluto in the 10th Whole Sign house of career and public reputation.  The Moon ended with a sextile to Venus in the afternoon when she was seen leaving her daughter’s Manhattan apartment in good spirits and apparently reasonably healthy. Here is her chart with Whole Sign houses:

hillary-cht

Since taking Chris Brennan’s course on Hellenistic astrology, I’ve been experimenting a lot with zodiacal releasing from the Lot of Spirit.  Here is the printout from Solar Fire for Hillary’s ZR in this time period:

hillary-zr2

On Level 3 she is going though a Cancer period (27 July 2016 – 28 September 2016).  Cancer is the derived 4th house of her part of Fortune, so it is an important career time.  On September 9th she entered a “loosing of the bond” in Capricorn on Level 4, which lasts until September 15, 2016. During these seven days her Level 4 time lord is Saturn (ruler of Capricorn).  Saturn occupies her 10th Whole Sign house of career where it conjoins Pluto and Mars, so the emphasis should be on professional matters, public reputation, and the significations of Mars in her chart.  Mars is ruler of her 6th of illness and 1st of the body’s vitality, and is also the out-of-sect malefic thus capable of signifying significant difficulties and health issues coming to public view.

 

 

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The Eclipse Strikes

There has been much discussion recently among astrologers about tomorrow’s eclipse in the 10th degree of Virgo.  People with a significant natal point or planet around the 10th degree of mutable signs are most likely to feel the effects.  Part of what makes this September 1st eclipse at 9 Virgo 21 so significant is that Saturn made a station (turning direct) at 9 Virgo 46 on August 13, 2016.  At the same time transiting Mars is traveling close to Saturn in the heavens.  In addition, at the moment of the eclipse, transiting Neptune will be across the zodiac at 10 Pisces 39.

Ebertin notes that Saturn/Neptune contacts tend to undermine the structure of an organism, leading to states of infirmity or malfunction.  With Mars in the mix, there is the possibility of problems with bones, teeth or skin, or with toxins in the body.

Such was the case for a friend of mine with his natal Mars at 11 Virgo 37 with Scorpio on the cusp of his Placidus 6th house of bodily infirmities.  He was on vacation in Maine and walking down a rocky path along the seashore when around 10 AM on Sunday 28 August 2016, just five days before the eclipse and 15 days after the Saturn station, he slipped and broke a bone in his foot.  To make matters worse, when he and his wife went to drive home from the vacation a couple hours after the accident their car broke down and they had to spend several hours getting it repaired.  Furthermore, when he saw the doctor the next day, he was told that the fracture was serious and he would need to wear a cast and stay off his feet for a couple on months (a very Saturnian outcome).  Here is his natal chart with the eclipse (at this birthplace) superimposed.

Allen-2

Man with fractured bone in foot (inside chart). September 1, 2016 Solar Eclipse at his birthplace (outside chart).

Note the solar eclipse conjunct his natal Mars in the 4th house, with Mars ruling Scorpio on the natal 6th cusp (health problems).  Interestingly, at his birthplace eclipse Uranus (accidents) is on the MC and squares his natal Saturn.  The transiting Mars/Saturn conjunction in his natal 6th square his natal Mars (and the eclipse).  Transiting Neptune opposes his natal Mars (and the eclipse).

It is always fascinating to see how astrological symbolism plays out in real life.

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The Origin of the Via Combusta (Burned Path)?

Horary astrologers learn about the Via Combusta or Burned Path as a place of detriment of the Moon.  For example Dorotheus writes in Book V-5 on electional astrology and The Corruption of the Moon: “… a commencement is not to be made in an action or anything when you find this, until the condition of the Moon and its Lord is ameliorated.” He then goes on to give several conditions which corrupt the Moon including:
“If the Moon in its motion is in the path which the learned call “the burned path” (the burned path is the middle of the equator, which is Libra and Scorpio)  and if the Moon is in the last degrees of a sign, then it is according to this in the term of Saturn or Mars, and none of the terms which are at the end of the signs are harder than the terms of these two” (Pingree translation).

Abraham Ibn Ezra, writing about Electional Astrology, says: “Be careful not to place the Moon from 9 degrees of Libra to its end… in the burnt path (which is the end of Libra and the beginning of Scorpio) and this is the worst that there is of the impediments of the Moon.”

In Christian Astrology William Lilly wrote: “It’s not safe to judge when the Moon is in the later degrees of a Sign, especially in Gemini, Scorpio or Capricorn; or as some say, when she is in Via Combusta, which is, when she is in the last 15 degrees of Libra, or the first 15 degrees of Scorpio.”

Modern astrologers have speculated that the malefic nature of this “burnt” Libra-Scorpio region derives from the presence of malefic fix stars here in Babylonian antiquity, where the designation “burned path” originated long before the Hellenistic era.

Al Biruni regarded this region as unfortunate because Libra is the fall of the Sun (which is exalted in Aries) and Scorpio is the fall of the Moon (which is exalted in Taurus) — the Sun and the Moon being the two principal Lights in the sky.

In the early Christian tradition there is a reference to a “path” or “river” passing across the zodiac belt from the constellations Taurus/Gemini to the constellations Sagittarius/Scorpio, which is quite analogous to the path traced by the Via Combusta. In the Book of Revelation, one can find :

Revelation 22:1-2

  • “22 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
  • 2 “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (King James Bible)

This passage appears to be a reference to the Milky Way which comes down from heaven and crosses the zodiac belt from Taurus across to Scorpio, dividing the zodiac into two semi-circles of six constellation each — the tree of life with its 12 fruits, one for each month of the year.

In a fascinating study of the import of the the Milky Way in ancient philosophy, Lynda Harris notes that in many ancient cultures the Milky Way was views as a vertical axis or tree and a path leading to the heavens. She further notes that Aristotle, writing the the 4th century BCE, did not regard the Milky Way as containing the flow of a milk-like substance but rather that “the Milky Way was ‘a low and steady burning of dry exhalation’, located below the sphere of the moon.”  In other words, the route traced by the Milky Way through the zodiac belt was, in Aristotle’s view, a burned path formed by the steady burning of dry exhalation.

Other philosophers of the ancient Greek period, influenced by apparent the circular path of the planets around the Earth began to view the Milky Way as a circle rather than as a vertical axis, as it was originally conceived.  Lynda Harris traces the evolution of these ideas as follows:

“But whatever its shape, the cloudy, white colour of the Milky Way (or Milky Circle, as it came to be called in the Greco-Roman world) needed to be accounted for.  Many ancient mythologies had associated it with the milk of the goddess identified with the great tree. The mythological connection with the milk (‘gala’) of a great goddess continued among many Greeks, accounting for the Milky Way’s other name, ‘Galaxy’.  Another view, especially common in the later Greco-Roman world, pictured it as containing ashes. These marked a scorched path which had been burnt into the sky by a falling star, or the path of the sun.” (italics mine)

In summary, it may be that the so-called “burned path” or Via Combusta of ancient astrology was to the Babylonians the path of the Milky Way as it traversed the circle of zodiacal constellations.  With the adoption of the tropical zodiac and its use of season-based zodiac signs, the dimensions (in ecliptic longitude) given to the Via Combusta by the Hellenistic astrologers may well have corresponded to the original dimensions used by the Babylonians to the traversing of the zodiac circle by the Milky River, corrected for precession from Babylonian times.

The next image from the site www.astronomy.com shows the Milky Way passing through the constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius, as it might have appeared to the ancient Babylonian astrologers.  Taking precession into account, could this intersection of the Mikly Way and the zodiac constellations be the origin of the “burned way” of of the tropical zodiac in Hellenistic astrology?

sagittarius-chart

 

Addendum, 29 August 2016:

I found a better image online at http://www.smokymtnastro.org/Seasons/Autumn/Autumn%20Sky%20Tour%20The%20Zodiac.htm  and have copied it below.

Zodiac

The left foot of the constellation Ophiuchus makes contact with the burned path near the ecliptic.

In this image you can see where the Milky Way (“burned way”) crosses the ecliptic in the sidereal zodiac.  Since Babylonian astrology began during the 2nd millennium BCE, if the  this region were transferred to the tropical zodiac at a rate of about one degree to the right every 72 years, the tropical position would cover parts of tropical Libra and Scorpio at the time Hellenistic astrology was invented.

Consider, for example, the fixed star ANTARES, the “Heart of the Scorpion” which in the year 2000 CE had an ecliptic longitude of 09 SAG 46, but in 1900 had an ecliptic longitude of 08 SAG 22.

Projecting backward at this rate (~ 28 degrees per 2000 years), Antares had an ecliptic longitude in the year 0000 CE of 11 Scorpio 46 and 2000 years earlier, at the beginning of Babylonian astrology (~ 2000 BCE) Antares had an ecliptic longitude of 13 Libra 46 — the approximate starting point of the Via Combusta in many classical texts.

scorpio

The constellation Scorpio with Antares at its heart.

The following spreadsheet shows the approximate tropical positions of the stars of the constellation Scorpio every 2000 years starting in Babylonian times.  Considering the various definitions of the Via Combusta in the literature, it may be that different authors were citing texts from different periods of time.  For example, Ibn Ezra speaks of the burnt path as running from “9 degrees of Libra to its end” — a period consistent with the extent of Scorpio around 2000 BCE in Babylonian times.

Scorpio precession

Addendum 2, 31 August 2016:

In a discussion on Facebook there was mention of a book by Kim Farnell about the via combusta (The Fiery Travels: Via Combusta).  I was not familiar with this book, but the author kindly responded to the post with this quote from her chapter about the Milky Way:

“To find their final resting place, souls needed to travel along the road marked by the Milky Way, using the gates at either end. If they instead take a path brightened by a temporary light they could be led directly to hell. That is, if they took the path marked by the Via Combusta. Perhaps they should have remembered that milk is traditionally an antidote for the sting of the scorpion.” — Kim Farnell

Thus, in Kim’s view the Milky Way and the Via Combusta are distinct paths.

The question I am raising is whether the notion of the Via Combusta predates the idea of a milky way in the history of Western civilization, since according the Lynda Harris the idea of a milky way was a much later development.  Even the Hellenistic astrologer Manilius, writing the in the 1st century, can’t quite decide which view to adopt. For example, C.T. Cruttwell in his History of Roman Literature says of Manilius:

“Passing on to the milky way, he [Manilius] gives two fanciful theories of its origin, one that it is the rent burnt by Phaethon through the firmament, the other that it is milk from the breast of Juno. As to its consistency, he wavers between the view that it is a closely packed company of stars, and the more poetical one that it is formed by the white-robed souls of the just.”

Phaeton was the son of the Sun-god Helios.  One day he took his father’s chariot for a spin.  Unable to control the fire-breathing horses, he let go of the reins burning a path across the heavens.  To save the Earth from destruction by the out-of-control blazing chariot of Helios, Zeus struck and killed Phaeton with a thunderbolt.  Most likely the scorched path caused by Phaeton’s uncontrolled chariot was the origin of the idea of a Burnt Way or Via Combusta, but it appears that Manilius views the Milky Way as also traveling along this path carved out by Phaeton.

 

 

 

 

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La Liberación Zodiacal

For those who may be interested, Campus Astrología of Barcelona recently published a brief article I wrote about zodiacal releasing. Click on the following image to see it:

liberation-2

Zodiacal Releasing

 

complete tarot book

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