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Re: VMs: Demons, Daimones, Daemones...
Yes, Robert Zoller is very knowledgeable of the
history of astrology. I can't discount your reference
to his name; in fact, as I hold a Certificate of
Medieval Astrology awarded by him.
Here's what Zoller has to say about Ficino and the
"Marsilio Ficino's De vita coelitus comparanda2
(chapter 23) provides support for some of Hillman's
remarks. Ficino, a 15th century Hellenist and
philosopher was adviser to the renowned and powerful
Medici family of Florence. He was an astrologer and a
physician. His translations of Plato, Plotinus and the
Corpus hermeticum3 were immensely influential in
Renaissance Art, philosophy and religious thought.
In his De vita coelitus comparanda he expands upon the
importance of astrology in harmonising the soul and
attaining spiritual felicity and psychological
balance. In the said chapter he states that each
person born with a sound mind has a heaven sent task
to perform in life. Referring to the daemon he
explains that it was Platonic doctrine (in which all
antiquity concurred) that to each person there is
given at birth a certain daemon which acts as a
guardian and is assigned to a star. Ficino means by
"star" a celestial body in the broad sense (e.g.
planet, constellation or fixed star). He openly and
deliberately equates this daemon with the guardian
You can read more here, if you like:
But I really don't know why you equate Ficino with
"modern psychological astrology". Nothing like
"modern psychological astrology" emerged until the
late nineteenth century.
The dividing line most traditional astrologers use for
"modern" astrology is after Lilly and Saunders, when
the Age of Reason discredited the use of astrology by
scientists; roughly, the 1700's. Physicians regularly
used astrology to practice medicine up until this
time. Astrologers after this time did not bother to
equate their teachings to those of the ancients, and
in fact, rarely read the ancient works, which remained
mostly untranslated from the original Latin.
Astrology began to be taught as a rule more as an aid
to "psychic" revelations as taught by Mard Edmund
Jones, or, eventually, as an aid to the study of
Jungian archetypes--and here is where "modern
psychological astrology" comes in.
Please let me know how Ficino, who wrote in the
fifteenth century, can be considered a "modern
I am interested in your statement:
> There really was a cataclysmic change of
> astrological ideology and
> practice circa 1480-1520
Would you care to elaborate on what this difference
was? Evidently you believe it equates to some
historical event or events; what were these, then, and
what caused astrologers after these dates to stop
looking at more ancient sources? Because it is clear
that the teachings of the ancients were still held in
high regard after the dates you name.
I think I must not have been clear about Iamblicus.
He wrote an entire section of his book on the subject
of the natal daemon: this would be a daemon assigned
to the individual from birth, and would not be the
same from one nativity (a person's birth chart) to
another. So in that sense, it was very much an
individual matter. It was not that he "mentioned the
fixed stars" in passing. He devoted quite a section
of his work to the daemon. I could quote more of it,
but the translation I found is a gauaranteed cure for
insomnia for non-astrologers and since the translator
evidently did not practice astrology, it's a little
unclear even to those who do practice astrology.
Please let me know if you would like to hear more.
The demise of astrology is a very interesting subject,
and one which is perhaps somehow bound up in the VMs.
If this is what you are saying, then we are in
When I mention the fact that it was discredited as a
science, I certainly don't mean to imply that
astrology no longer has importance to historians.
What I am saying is that most scientists of our era
would not even consider studying astrology or the VMs
or any other subject by drawing up a chart for the
moment they asked the question, "What was the purpose
of the Voynich Manuscript?" and examining the figure
of the heavens to see what the positions of the stars
indicated in response.
This is the practical use of astrology many eminent
scientists would have engaged in, prior to the Age of
Enlightenment and the focus it brought on emperical
data, and prior to what I am calling the "discrediting
of astrology as a science."
There is no such art as "planetology" Nick, but not
because astrologers disregard the planets.
Traditionally, the planets were referred to as
"stars". So the historical practice of astrology
certainly includes both the "wandering stars"
(planets) as well as the "fixed stars". In fact,
astrologers tend to rely upon the wandering stars more
heavily for prediction, etc., while the fixed stars
are used more for descriptive purposes. But I feel
the subject matter of the VMs is probably bound up
with the fixed stars, because of the numerous visual
references to stars, and the repetition of the number
eight (the sphere of the fixed stars). If we saw
seven stars, then planets would be indicated.
Hundreds? Thousands? Those are the fixed stars.
--- Nick Pelling <nickpelling@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Hi Pamela,
> Perhaps I'm wrong, but ISTM that we may be sitting
> either side of the
> fault-line that runs through the history of
> astrology: on one side, the
> idea that astrology as practised today arises from a
> continuous tradition
> going back millennia - and on the other, the idea
> that modern psychological
> astrology (essentially, Ficinian astrology) is a
> quite different beast from
> the pre-1500 stuff.
> Even though, just like you, I have read plenty of
> primary sources from all
> eras, it should be clear that my sympathies lie with
> the latter position
> rather than the former - basically, I'm with Bob
> Zoller all the way on this
> one. , and I think you have to
> make a judgment call as
> to whether you think the VMs pre-dates, is
> concurrent with, or post-dates
> that time - I believe that's a question any
> historian of astrology looking
> at the VMs shouldn't try to fudge around. My own
> answer is (as you know)
> that what little there is of the VMs' astrology
> seems to be based firmly in
> the Middle Ages, but doubtless there is plenty of
> room for other answers. :-)
> AFA the whole fixed-stars-thread goes: "astrology"
> is (literally) "the
> study of the (fixed) stars" (as opposed to, say,
> "planetology"), so you
> really don't have to scratch the surface long to get
> back to primary
> sources' (say, Iamblichus talking about Egyptian
> astrology) mentioning the
> fixed stars. However, I don't think any of your
> quotes so far - though
> moderately suggestive - do directly link individual
> demons with individual
> fixed stars as convincingly as you would wish them
> to, especially on a
> careful re-reading. The names of fixed stars remain
> angelic or
> astronomical, while the names of demons remain
> necromantic: two quite
> separate traditions AFAICT.
> FWIW, I think your assertion that astrology is a
> discredited science is
> perhaps a little out-of-date: one has only to look
> at the brilliant insight
> of people like Owen Gingerich, David Pingree, etc to
> see that a powerful
> comprehension of astrology (both practically and
> conceptually) can add a
> vital dimension to historians' work. Really, my
> opinion is that any view of
> pre-1600 European history uninformed by astrology is
> probably foolish: it
> should be clear that my particular interest in
> astrology here is trying to
> understand the intellectual & social context that
> gave birth to the VMs.
> Sorry for yet another slightly disjointed email, but
> "time eludes us" etc. :-o
> Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
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"I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing, than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance."
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