University of Amsterdam, July 26-28, 2004
With maybe 100 other astrologers/sholars and scientists I participated in a rather unique event a 3-day conference on Horoscopes and History which was held in the University of Amsterdam from July 26-28. The University of Amsterdam (Uva) is the only university in the world to offer an educational programm in the field of western esoterics. This minor is part of the Studies in Religions and apparently started in 1999. Historical developments and the cultural influence of alternative religious thought is the subject of study. Part of this is what is called "occult science", meaning astrology, alchemy and magic. Other subjects of study are hermetic philosophy, Paracelsus, Rosicrucians, Freemasonry, Theosophy and the rise of New Age thought. Meantime there also are Master's programmes in mysticism and Western esotericism (www.amsterdamhermetica.com).
The subdept. "history of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents" organized a three day conference on Horoscopes and History. It was not about the history of Horoscopes but it was about Horoscopes as they appeared in history (and its influence).
Papers were read by a variety of scholars which for the most part could even be termed pretty boring in themselves from an astrological point of view. Maybe, for historians studying all kinds of details in literature and history, I could just imagine however that some of the findings were exciting and stimulating to further research. However, in spite of me wondering half the time about the relevance of the subjects presented, I was enthralled from beginning to end by this entire exercise! In itself there was a kind of magic involved bringing back memories (maybe) of long forgotten times when these subjects were discussed at an academic level, where scholars did share each other's findings and stimulated discourse on these topics.
On Monday we were treated on 4 papers under the general theme of Horoscopes as Historical Sources. The first paper was read by Dr. Peter Schiller, a German art historian and archeologist, and author of History of Himmelskunde, a methodological approach to the technique of astrological calculations for historial applications. He said that horoscopes are historical sources and showed three carved horoscopes of certain buildings which in fact where the charts of the laying of the foundation of the specific building. He proceeded to show that all of these three encarved charts showed some grave errors, one of them even showing the signs of Capricorn and Cancer after Aquarius and Leo instead of before. Often planetary positions were taken roughly from the ephemeris and rounded off at the first digit. Apparently an engraved "Bauhoroskop" in Freiburg, depicted in a capsule of lead of 8 cm in diameter, shows planetary positions which do not even exist in the given combination according to his research. Yes, horoscopes can be used as historical source, but they need to be recalculated was his conclusion.
James Herschel Holden, M.A., who is actually an astrologer, (Researchdirector of AFA) presented the next paper on this track. His premise was that basically all variations of horoscopereadings belong to the realm of horary astrology in reality, even when reading a natal chart, since (so he said) it still addresses the question: What will happen next (to this individual, i.e. what will his charactertraits be and so on), He then gave a very eloquent overview of courtastrologers in the past and mentioned that since 1700 there no longer were any courtastrologers, the first one of sorts since then being Joan Quigley who advised Nancy Reagan in the timing for specific appointments for Ronald Reagan. (And well, there is of course Princess Diana who employed an astrologer, but he did not mention her).
Dr. Rudiger Plantiko studied mathematics, physics and Egyptology in Bonn and Zuerich and talked about the development of house systems in relation to primary directons He mentioned that Ptolemy never stated which housesystem he used. In the Tetrabiblos there is mention of the fact that the Ascendant starts to work 5 degrees prior to the actual ascendant, something which was given the name "Ptolemaeic Shift" and apparently taken to read as that each housecusp should be drawn as being 5 degrees earlier than it's actual degree. To my mind: it is common experience that cusps exert their influence strongest on both sides of a cusp, and should not be confused with really drawing different cusps, but apparently the historical viewpoint is using/calculating and drawing cusps including a "Ptolemaic Shift".
Originally the horoscope was just a circle divided by 4 quadrants (ref The Neugebauer Collection with the Horoscope from the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus), and houses were the same as signs, i.e. a whole sign was a whole house. (Called the Whole Sign House system by contemporary astrologers). The housesystem attributed to Porphyry apparently in reality was from Vettius Valens and another thing I learned: the house system called Placidus, never was invented by Placidus but was from Magian - Placidus just published them (same as for Koch, Koch was the publisher).
Prior to Placidus we get the development in housesystems via Alcabitius to Campanus and Regiomontanus. Plantiko: Campanus is the most harmonious housesystem frrom the point of view of position and not from time divisions. Plantiko also mentioned the housesystem from Haly Abenragel: and this is nothing other than the APC system used only in Holland by a few astrologers. Plantiko's diagrams of how excactly Placidus (and Campanus and Regiomontanus) is calculated were interesting, but came too fast for us to really follow let alone study.
The last paper on this first day was presented by Dr. Patrick Curry, not an unknown person in astrology, and currently a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University College. In his paper he wished to `suggest that the social history of astrology would at the very least greatly benefit from complementing its diachronic emphasis on tradition with a anthropologist´s synchronic grasp of ritual` Curry was juggling with words to such an extent that for the first half of his talk it left me wondering what exactly it was that he was trying to say. My feeling was in the end that it had to do something with the fact that to study somehing one needs to be a participant in the object of study.
The 2nd panel on the 2nd day presented papers on the theme of Horoscopes in Antiquity and started with a presentation from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hubner, a professor of Latin in Munster, Germany. This was a very interesting presentation for an astrologer as it was about `horoscope hunting´.
In antiquity it was forbidden to publish the horoscopes of emperors. Two charts used by Firmicus Maternus were already identified in the early 1900´s to be those of Ceionius Rufus Albinus and the emperor Hadrian. In his Mathesis 6,31,1 a chart is mentioned with planetary positions which turn out to match closely those of May 23, 139 BC at 1600 pm or, questionmark, those of May 22, 138 BC at 1600 pm, taking Rome as the birthplace, data which were transmitted to Firrmicus Maternus in the 4th Century. Using current computercalculations it seems impossible to totally match a date to the mentioned planetary positions as especially Saturn seems to be 16 degrees different from what Firm. Maternus mentioned, but it seems that it is quite possible that this chart he was using was the one of emperor Sulla. This would make this the oldest horoscope which is identified. It is certain that Firmicus Maternus used tables for calculating horoscopes, but they all perished and to date we have no idea which tables exactly were used nor of course how accurate they were.
Prof. Josephe Henriette Abry, senior lecturer at the university of Lyon in France, and author of various studies on Manilus and astrology in antiquity presented a paper in where she suggested that it was possibly due to astrology that Agrippina, on the night of Claudius death´ prevented the news from being spread until noon the next day when the doors opened and Nero, the next emperor appeared. The court astrologers were present. I.e. was this an astrologer´s manipulation or not? The time of appearance of Nero to the puiblic marked the beginning of his reign and its chart would have been important. Nero was 17 years old at the time (born December 15, 37 AD, in Antium about Sunrise) with a too weak chart maybe for an emperor (Asc and Sun 23 Sg, Moon 9 Leo, Saturn 27 Virgo, Jupiter 14 Scorpio, Venus 24 Capricorn, Mars 27 Taurus ) The chart of the start of his reign however, apparently showed succes: Oct 13, 54, in Rome, at 12h or 12.10 pm) (Asc 24 Sg, Sun 18 Libra, Moon 27/26 Cancer, Saturn 4 Ar oppositie Mercury in Libra, Jupiter 15 Aries, Mars 17 Scorpio..... and Venus at 17 Libra conjunct the Sun and this favourable conjunction was on the midheaven). (P. Brind' Amour, l'horoscope de l'avenement de Neron, Cahiers des Etudes Anciennes 25,19991, pp 145-151) - Referenceworks: Vettius Valens, Anthologiae V, II,4 and Neugebauer: Greek Horoscopes, and Mathesis of Firm. Mat, III, 6,21, III, 5,34, VI 25,1 and VI 16,2) We were treated on a lot of latin during this (and some other talks too) as if spoken on a daily basis, but for me, the last time I used Latin, was at highschool and that was more than a few Jupiter-returns ago:-)
Dr. Stephan Heilen, assistant professor in Classics in Munster, Germany, discussed the three horoscopes mentioned in a long excerpt from the lost astrological work of Antionus of Nicaea (2nd century AD), preserved in the Apotelesmatika from Hephaestio Thebanus (5th century AD). For the first chart the astronomical data given in the text are Sun 8 Aq, Moon/Jup/Asc all conjunct at 1 Aq, Saturn 5 Cp, Merc at 12 Cp, Venus at 12 Pisces, Mars at 22 Pisces and the Midheaven at 22 Scorpio, and this clearly would be the chart of the emperor Hadrian (January 24, 76 AD). The 2nd set of data given in the text are Sun 19 Aries, Moon 15 Gemini, Saturn 20 Libra, Jupiter 6 Aquarius, Mars 15 Aries, Venus 5 Aries, Mercury 6 Aries, Asc 24 Cancer, MC 10 Aries, and the last New Moon before birth having been in Aries. This gives a date of April 5, 40 AD and Neugebauer apparently thought of Hadrian's father, but the speaker thought it may have been the chart of Julius Servianus. For the 3rd chart mentioned he thinks this belongs to Pedanius Fuscus, born April 5/6 113 AD, who was Hadrian's grandnephew, and the only possible successor at first. However, Hadrian adopted another successor, Antoninus Pius February 25 138 AD, and not long after that, Pedianius died.. The data given in the text are Sun/Asc in Aries, Moon in Taurus, Saturn and Mercury in Aries, Jupiter and Venus in Pisces and Mars in Aquarius. One other interesting thing Stephan Heilen remarked was that in the mentioned sourcetext the Ascendant was used as an indicator for profession (see lesson 10 / III of the CHTA course for emailstudents!)
Nicholas Campion, also from Bath Spa College and also not unknown to the astrological community then presented a "paper in progress" in where he attempted to show how Babylonian astrology was used rather than Greek horoscopic methods as late as 475 and 484 AD, by looking at the (electional?) charts of the proclamations of two rebel emperors, Leontius and Basiliscus.
Basiliscus Jan 12, 0475 0900 LMT in Istanbul and Leontius on July 18 0484 in Tarsus (36N55, 34E54, at 5.04.47LMT). His presentation was not entirely conclusive yet, but was a work in progress in his own words.
After lunch we were treated on a paper read by Prof. David E. Pingree, professor of history of mathematics at Brown University and well published on issues of Arabic and Indian astrology. In his presentation which was based on Masha'allah 's works he gave a hugely interesting account how in antiquity the Jupiter/Saturn conjunctions were used to calculate cycles in time, 51 mean conjunctions being one millennium, and a Jupiter/Saturn conjunction at 0 Aries being the beginning and end of a yuga to the Indians. A Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in Capricorn marking the beginning and end of the universe, and a cycle of time ending with a great Fire with a Jup/Sat conjunction in Cancer and with great Floods when in Capricorn (although astrologers changed this around to make it conform to astrological symbolism).
The first Jupiter/Saturn conjunction in a Watersign at 24 Scorpio in 3380 BC and the 2nd one after this in 3360 BC at 3.49 Cancer (exaltation degree of Jupiter) apparently being the one preceding the Flood. This was about the extent of what I wrote down (S.E.&.O.) , because unfortunately it was a bit difficult to follow from just reading this paper and not having it in front of us, this work will however be published by David Pingree, and that should be highly interesting material!
The 3rd panel presented papers on the topic of Medieval and Renaissance Horoscopes and started with a paper by Dr. Josefina Rodriguez from Spain, and Visiting Fellow of the dept. of Near Eastern Languages at Harvard. She talked about 3 astrological writers from the past, Abraham bar Hiyya, Abraham ibn Ezra and Yosef ben Eliezer, and how they applied astrology to explain certain biblical episodes such as the deluge, amongst other events. According to the latter the sky at the beginning of the deluge showed Sun in Aries rising and Moon in Scorpio. Her talk and slides unfortunately went a bit too fast for me as a layperson to this subject to follow properly
Robert Zoller (USA/Canada) was next and another astrologer not unknown in our field. He used the chart of Heinrich Rantzau, born March 11 1526 at 10.27 pm LAT, rectified by Robert Zoller (and giving an Ascendant at 15.28 Scorpio, which was rectified from 16.22 Scorpio) at Arce Steinborch, Holsatia, 9E34, 53N51. He used Regiomontanus housecusps and medieaval practices in delineations with the goal to uncover things which are unknown about his life. For lack of time Zoller could not show us the techniques used but came to the conclusion that he must have had a son or child of which nothing is known in history (yet). He was doing so in the full expectation that it will be found to be true still in the future but he was met with some critical remarks about the unscientific nature of such attempts. (I.e. to hold up something for proof which he hopes will be proven in the future). These critical remarks on their turn met with Campion's remark that that was old fashioned (in relation to Popper's falsification theories). But let's face it, what's the point of trying to proof something that has to be discovered still in the future, and relates to an event from the 1500's (however clever it is done) in this context? One interesting thing which Zoller mentioned in his paper as an aside and interesting enough to add here was that he thinks Ptolemaeus, the founder of modern astrology, never was a practising astrologer himself!
The public eveninglecture was given by Dr.Gunther Oestmann on the historical figure of J.W.A. Pfaff, considered to be the last person to have taught astrology at a university (see Wilhelm Knappich's Geschichte der Astrologie). At the end of the 18th Century astrology was no longer tolerated by astronomers who were hunting for comets and asteroids, and held a by then mechanistic view of the cosmos, in a new Age of Enlightenment. J.W.Pfaff was born in 1774 in Stuttgart. He started studying astrology in the Ptolemaeic tradition in 1806 and published a 242 page book "Astrology" in 1826, in 12 chapters, which was met with quite some resistance amongst the already enlightened students of his time. He also had the audacity to write against Champollion on Egyptian matters by the way in 1825 and his scientific reputation was ruined because of all of this. Pfaff did teach astrology at the Realinstitut in Nueremberg, (also physics and mathematics) but fewer and fewer students signed up for lack of interest in these things and he would have been forgotten about if Wilhelm Knappich had not commemorated him in 1920 (the hayday of German Astrology in the last century).
Wednesday's theme was on Horoscopes in Early Modern Discourse and started with the reading of a paper by Dr. H. Darrel Rutkin who published on Pico della Mirandola. In this paper the variety of astrological practices of Kepler, Galilei, Bacon, Campanella and Morandi were revealed. Kepler was educated in the school of Melanchton and used horoscopes for personal as well as professional purposes. For personal ends he used horoscopes to understand himself and his family and used the technique of revolutions. These charts were not published. For professional purposes (almanac publications) he used revolutions to prognosticate about the weather, health and politics. He wished to reform astronomy and astrology, and rejected the use of the signs of the zodiac and planetary rulerships. He retained the function of the planets and their aspects though.
Galileo was a practitioner of the art but had no interest in reforming astrology. He also used astrology personally to understand the psychodynamics for instance of his two daughters, the charts of which are published. For a mathematician it was quite a normal thing to practice astrology. One of the techniques Galileo used was rectification.
Francis Bacon did propose astrological reform, namely to make astrology conform to nature, as a part of natural philosophy (planetary periods, revolutions, birthcharts and elections, but he rejected horaries).
Pope Urban VIII used astrology to look at the horoscopes of his cardinals figuring out when they would die. During the eclipse periods of 1628-1630 he himself was the subject of deathpredictions. In 1630 he died, and this date was published by Morandi, but already before that, on May 18 1630 it was predicted by Galileo.
Dr. Steven Vandenbroecke then demonstrated in a very interesting talk how Cardano published the first horoscope collections somewhere around 1540 actually using them to instruct readers in the art of chart reading. These publications were quite succesful and although it was not clear to me during the talk itself, the published abstract on this paper mentions how the author wonders whether these public horoscope collections were symptomatic for a shift in the status of astrology, from a scientific one to a pseudo scientific one, from a revaluation of construction over truth, of therapy over theory?
These are very interesting questions posed in this abstract because these questions may very well touch the essence of what the scientific papers in this conference are about: science is about facts, discovering historical data, accuracy in calculation, pseudo science is interpretation of these elements.
Dr.phil.habil. Kocku von Stuckrad, author of the History of Astrology and organizer of this conference then treated us on his entertaining paper dealing with the fact that Cardano, Goethe and others used their birthcharts to elucidate events in their lives when writing biographies and that this practice became quite a literary fashion since then.
In conclusion, for me, attending this conference was a fascinating experience. I did learn a few things unknown to me before, however, what fascinated me most was to experience how the minds of these scholars work when approaching the subject of horoscopes from a variety of angles. To me as an astrologer, the facts of calculations, methods used, and horoscopes are tools for interpretations. Science studies the tools apparently, astrologers use them.