Exegesis Volume 5 Issue #3

From: "William D. Tallman"
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #1

From: Janice & Dennis
Subject: Kepler on astrology

Exegesis Digest Mon, 17 Jan 2000

Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 01:24:08 -0800
From: "William D. Tallman"
To: Exegesis
Subject: Re: Exegesis Digest V5 #1

Dennis said:

 > I thought it was rather unkind to describe Ptolemy's cosmic spheres as
 > crystal. I don't recall him using that description. My understanding is
 > that he and the other ancients all imagined the spheres. Presumably this
 > was originally by extrapolation from the sky looking like a dome, although
 > Earth was known to be a sphere rotating on its axis by classical times.
 > Anyway these spheres were conceived as a model of heaven, much as modern
 > scientific theories are models.

I suspect that Ptolemy did indeed so describe his vision in this case. The sphere in question is the ninth sphere, which separates the planetary spheres from the Primum Mobile. There is supporting evidence for the citation you present here, and his description is not his own.

The source of the citation Dennis questions may be the Ashmand edition of the Proclus Paraphrase of the Tetrabiblos. This edition is probably the only one now available, though there are several translations directly from the original Greek texts, as well as from the Arabic. Ashmand cites another work in a footnote to the second paragraph of the second chapter of the first book, quoting a description of the ninth sphere as "called the crystalline or watery heaven...". The citation is of a medieval work on geography that Ashmand says follows the Ptolemaic rules. It's possible that the author had access to Ptolemy's specific work in this regard and, if so, probably described the sphere as Ptolemy himself did.

The Ptolemaic system is an extensive synthesis of his views on natural philosophy, and there are several other substantial works that are still extant, from which that description could have been taken. I regret to say that I do not have direct knowledge here and so cannot offer the particular work to support what must now be only conjecture on my part.

Another source for this description is DeVore's essay on Ptolemy.

Finally, as this citation appears to be common, it's most likely that those who do so use Ptolemy himself as the direct source.



Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 08:08:04 +1300
From: Janice & Dennis
To: Exegesis
Subject: Kepler on astrology

"Johannes Kepler, Keppler, Khepler, Kheppler or Keplerus was conceived on 16 May, AD 1571, at 4.37am, and was born on 27 December at 2.30pm.. The five different ways of spelling his name are all his own.. The contrast between his carelessness about his name and his extreme precision about dates reflects, from the very outset, a mind to whom all utimate reality, the essence of religion, of truth and beauty, was contained in the language of numbers." (p225)

Thus Koestler launches his epic account of the discovery of the laws of planetary motion, "The Watershed". A little misleading, since the variation of name spellings was normal to the various cultures of most prior centuries, and Kepler's precision was for time, not merely date. Data source is Joannis Kepleri Astronomi Opera Omnia (8 vols), 1858-1871 (autobiographical notes written by Kepler).

Kepler's rationale for the number archetypes was a pan-cultural religious tradition: "these figures pleased me because they are quantities, that is, something which existed before the skies. For quantities were created at the beginning, together with substance; but the sky was only created on the second day... The ideas of quantities have been and are in God from eternity, they are God himself; they are therefore also present as archetypes in all minds created in God's likeness. On this point both the pagan philosophers and the teachers of the Church agree." (p266) This quote is taken from his first book, Mysterium Cosmographicum*, which he published at the age of 25. [* The full title reads: A Forerunner to Cosmographical Treatises, containing the Cosmic Mystery of the admirable proportions between the Heavenly Orbits and the true and proper reasons for their Numbers, Magnitudes, and Periodic Motions, by Johannes Kepler, Mathematicus of the Illustrious Estates of Styria, Tuebingen, anno 1596.]

Koestler describes Kepler's post-graduate appointment as "Mathematicus of the Province", and his duties were primarily teaching in the provincial capital Gratz. This was in Austria, though Kepler was born in Weil, Germany. "A year after his arrival - more precisely on 9 July, 1595, for he has carefully recorded the date - he was drawing a figure on the blackboard for his class, when an idea struck him with such force that he felt he was holding the key to the secret of creation in his hand. "The delight that I took in my discovery," he wrote later, "I shall never be able to describe in words." It determined the course of his life, and remained his main inspiration throughout it. The idea was, that the universe is built around certain symmetrical figures - triangle, square, pentagon, etc. - which form its invisible skeleton, as it were.. the idea itself was completely false; yet it nevertheless led eventually to Kepler's Laws, the demolition of the antique universe on wheels, and the birth of modern cosmology." (p247)

Koestler's paradigmatic use of the word `completely' serves as a warning to the reader - a better-researched author would have made reference to Bode's law. The ideological blinkers of old science prevent even someone with Koestler's penetrating insight from noticing that the Pythagorean view corresponds more closely to the structure of the solar system than we have been led to believe. One wonders at the outcome were someone competent in spherical harmonics ever to realise Kepler's vision and complete his analysis!

In the preface to that book, Kepler agreed with Copernicus "that the sun must be in the centre of the universe "for physical, or if you prefer, for metaphysical reasons". He then began to wonder why there existed just six planets "instead of twenty or a hundred"." (p248) This was rather acutely audacious of Kepler. Why couldn't he just take the number for granted like everyone else? You won't find any scientist these days willing to address such a fundamental question, and I would predict that, if pressed, a capable scientist would acknowledge that such fundamentals lie outside the range of science, but most would take refuge in the line "the number is irrelevant, there could have been any number". If you were not satisfied with such an expression of faith in chaos, and asked why animals and other creatures had two eyes, and not three, one, or four, you ought probably to expect the authority figure to vacate the pedestal by way of changing the subject or leaving the room. We must recall that the term scientist was not invented till the mid-19th century, and Kepler lived before metaphysical reasoning became unfashionable.

The diagram that Kepler had put on the blackboard consisted of two concentric circles, plus an equilateral triangle enclosed between them, tangential to the inner and its points on the circumference of the outer. His eureka moment occurred via pattern recognition: "As he looked at the two circles, it suddenly struck him that their ratios were the same as those of the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter. The rest of the inspiration came in a flash." (p249)

A couple of British astrologers published a book a few years ago in which they had compiled a number of such key eureka moments in the history of science, but I can't recall the title and have yet to access it. The Uranian flash of intuition doesn't just happen to scientists making discoveries, of course, but accurate data of such moments would certainly be a high-quality database. Neptune is also involved, since some of these realisations have been catalysed by dreams and reveries. The trans-Saturnian nature of the psychic processes is evidenced by their out-of-bounds character, transcending the accepted reality and the norms of society.

"Another onerous duty, which he secretly enjoyed, during his four years in Gratz, was the publication of an annual calendar of astrological forecasts. This was a traditional obligation imposed on the official mathematicus in Styria and brought in additional remuneration of twenty florins per calendar - which Kepler direly needed at his miserable salary of a hundred and fifty florins per annum. With his first calendar, Kepler was decidedly lucky. He had prophesied, among other things, a cold spell and an invasion by the Turks." Six months later Kepler wrote this to his mentor: "By the way, so far the calendar's predictions are proving correct. There is an unheard-of cold in our land. In the Alpine farms people die of the cold ... As for the Turks, on January 1 they devastated the whole country from Vienna to Neustadt, setting everything on fire and carrying off men and plunder." (p242)

"As always in times of crisis, belief in astrology was again on the increase in the sixteenth century, not only among the ignorant, but among eminent scholars. It played an important, and at times a dominant part in Kepler's life. His attitude to it was typical of the contradictions in his character, and of an age of transition. He started his career with the publication of astrological calendars, and ended it as Court Astrologer to the Duke of Wallenstein. He did it for a living, with his tongue in his cheek, called astrology "the step-daughter of astronomy", popular prophecies "a dreadful superstition" and "a sortilegous monkey-play". In a typical outburst he wrote: "A mind accustomed to mathematical deduction, when confronted with the faulty foundations [of astrology] resists a long, long time, like an obstinate mule, until compelled by beating and curses to put its foot into that dirty puddle."" (p243)

"But while he despised these crude practices, and despised himself for having to resort to them, he at the same time believed in the possibility of a new and true astrology as an exact empirical science. He wrote a number of serious treatises on astrology as he would understand it, and the subject constantly intrudes even in his classic scientific works. One of these treatises carries, as a motto, "a warning to certain Theologians, Physicians and Philosophers . . . that, while justly rejecting the stargazers' superstitions, they should not throw out the child with the bathwater." For "nothing exists nor happens in the visible sky that is not sensed in some hidden manner by the faculties of Earth and Nature: [so that] these faculties of the spirit here on earth are as much affected as the sky itself." And again: "That the sky does something to man is obvious enough; but what it does specifically remains hidden." In other words, Kepler regarded the current astrological practices as quackery, but only to the extent to which a modern physician distrusts an unproven slimming diet, without doubting for a moment the influence of diet on health and figure. "The belief in the effect of the constellations derives in the first place from experience, which is so convincing that it can be denied only by people who have not examined it."" (p243/4)

It is indeed remarkable that things have changed so little since. Clearly we ought to learn something profound from this constancy, to do with group psychodynamics, collective reality, and perceived truths.

Kepler was married "on 27 April, 1597, "under a calamitous sky", as the horoscope indicated." His wife turned out to be of melancholy disposition, frequently ill, and died age 37. Koestler comments "in predicting disaster Kepler's horoscopes were nearly always right." (p272/4) We must remember that normally only royalty had sufficient prerogative to elect times to launch an enterprise in olden times. Social requirements normally dictate the timing of group events, even today. So if we are surprised that Kepler chose to marry under such a cloud, and resign himself in fatalism, we ought to reflect that he probably had little choice (it seems Kepler married her for her money).

Koestler: "in his self-analysis, in spite of its astoundingly modern introspective passages and acute characterizations of his family, all main events and character-attributes were derived from the planetary constellations. But on reflection, what other explanation was there available at the time? To a questing mind without an inkling of the processes by which heredity and environment shape a man's character, astrology, in one form or another, was the obvious means of relating the individual to the universal whole, by making him reflect the all-embracing constellation of the world, by establishing an intimate sympathy and correspondence between microcosmos and macrocosmos: "The natural soul of man is not larger in size than a single point, and on this point the form and character of the entire sky is potentially engraved, even if it were a hundred times larger." Unless predestination alone were to account for everything, making further inquiry into the Book of Nature pointless, it was only logical to assume that man's condition and fate were determined by the same celestial motions which determine the weather and the seasons, the quality of the harvest, the fertility of animal and plant. In a word, astrological determinism, to a scientific mind like Kepler's, was the forerunner of biological and psychological determinism." (p244)

"Already as a child he was fascinated by the problem why he had become what he had become. We remember the passage in his self-analysis: "In theology I started at once on predestination and fell into the Lutheran view of the absence of free will". But he quickly repudiated it. ... But if there was no predestination, how was one to explain the differences in character and personality, talent and worth, between members of the same race ..? Modern man has an explanation of sorts in terms of chromosomes and genes, adaptive responses and traumatic experiences; sixteenth-century man could only search for an explanation in the state of the universe as a whole at the moment of his conception or birth, as expressed by the constellation of earth, planets and stars. The difficulty was to find out how exactly this influence worked. That "the sky does something to man" was self-evident; but specifically what? "Truly in all my knowledge of astrology I know not enough with certainty that I should dare to predict with confidence any specific thing." Yet he never gave up hope: "No man should hold it to be incredible that out of the astrologers' foolishness and blasphemies some useful and sacred knowledge may come; that out of the unclean slime may come a little snail or mussel, or oyster or eel, all useful nourishments; that out of a big heap of lowly worms may come a silk worm, and lastly that in the evil-smelling dung a busy hen may find a decent corn, nay, a pearl or a golden corn if she but searches and scratches long enough."" (p244/5)

"There is hardly a page in Kepler's writings - some twenty solid volumes in folio - that is not alive and kicking. And gradually, a vision did indeed emerge out of the confusion. At twenty-four, he wrote to a correspondent: "In what manner does the countenance of the sky at the moment of a man's birth determine his character? It acts on the person during his life in the manner of the loops which a peasant ties at random around the pumpkins in his field: they do not cause the pumpkin to grow, but they determine its shape. The same applies to the sky: it does not endow man with his habits, history, happiness, children, riches or a wife, but it moulds his condition.." (p245)

"Thus only the pattern is cosmically determined, not any particular event; within that pattern, man is free. In his later years, this Gestalt concept of cosmic destiny became more abstract and purified from dross. The individual soul, which bears the potential imprint of the entire sky, reacts to the light coming from the planets according to the angles they form with each other, and the geometrical harmonies or disharmonies that result - just as the ear reacts to the mathematical harmonies of music, and the eye to the harmonies of colour. This capacity of the soul to act as a cosmic resonator has a mystic and a causal aspect: on the one hand it affirms the soul's affinity with the anima mundi, on the other, it makes it subject to strictly mathematical laws. At this point, Kepler's particular brand of astrology merges into his all-embracing and unifying Pythagorean vision of the Harmony of the Spheres." (p246)

[Quotes are from my hardcover first edition of "The Sleepwalkers"; to find a corresponding quote in the Penguin paperback add about 4 pages. This book includes "The Watershed", which was also published separately.]

I intend to post a report Kepler's cosmology. A detailed examination of Kepler's use of archetypes constitutes a chapter in my 1992 book "The Astrologer and the Paradigm Shift", with a focus on what the Nobel Prize-winning physicists Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg wrote in commentary on this topic. I have come across further such material since. I may have been first to postulate that archetypes of nature give rise to the qualitative structure of natural time cycles, but Kepler was first to assume that they inform holistic orbital relations. Some indication is given by the current Kepler bio available online from Encyclopaedia Brittannnica...

"Kepler was not alone in believing that nature was a book in which the divine plan was written. He differed, however, in the original manner and personal intensity with which he believed his ideas to be embodied in nature. One of the ideas to which he was most strongly attached--the image of the Christian Trinity as symbolized by a geometric sphere and, hence, the visible, created world--was literally a reflection of this divine mystery (God the Father:: centre; Christ the Son:: circumference; Holy Spirit:: intervening space). One of Kepler's favourite biblical passages came from John (1:14): "And the Word became flesh and lived among us." For him, this signified that the divine archetypes were literally made visible as geometric forms (straight and curved) that configured the spatial arrangement of tangible, corporeal entities. Moreover, Kepler's God was a dynamic, creative being whose presence in the world was symbolized by the Sun's body as the source of a dynamic force that continually moved the planets. The natural world was like a mirror that precisely reflected and embodied these divine ideas. Inspired by Platonic notions of innate ideas in the soul, Kepler believed that the human mind was ideally created to understand the world's structure."

Dennis Frank


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