Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Pond

Last week I attended an evening lecture at the Astrological Lodge of London (founded by Alan Leo in 1915). The lecturer was talking about 4th house and ancestors in a natal chart, and was mainly focused on family matters (type of family, internal relationship, etc).

But there is yet another meaning of 4th house, and I was more interested in learning about that – the real estate and immovable property of an individual.

When the lecturer asked people in the audience to give her examples of their natal 4th houses, and at the end, one lady mentioned her cusp of 4th house in Cancer with Jupiter placed there, the lecturer started explaining what kind of attached relationship with family she had, etc.

I was thinking… Jupiter in Cancer on the cusp of 4th house… There should be really huge property there, with some large (Jupiter) sentimental (Cancer) reservoir (watery sign)… And I asked the lady directly in the lecture hall, with apologies to the lecturer for interrupting for a moment, “Do you have some pond in your home estate?”

“My God”, said the lady, “yes, we do have a large pond in our garden…”

And the public turned around to look at me sitting in the last row…

This was an example of very simple and straightforward astrology, but such cases often look as if you take a rabbit from your hat, a kind of weird and suspicious magic (and this is why the Church disliked astrology so much during the history, which inevitably influenced the public opinion) – although astrology is as rigorous as any other branch of human knowledge. The problem is that those who criticise it usually have no idea about its basics and how it works. They just deny and ridicule it. As Newton said to sceptical Edmond Halley, “I have studied it”, – whereas most of the sceptics did not.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always dislike when use false quotes to promote their speculation. If Newton did study astrology, he never wrote a word about it. Strange for a man that studied the subject. His library had four books of astrology. See link below.

The studies into Newton’s unpublished papers mentioned above have revealed that during the greater part of his scientific career, his secret passions in fact lay in alchemy and matters of theology (such as the nature of the Holy Trinity, the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple, biblical prophecies and biblical chronology).

It will therefore not come as a surprise that the true source for our anecdote in fact derives from Newton’s latter interests. More than 50 years ago the American historian of science I. Bernard Cohen was able to trace it back to the highly regarded Newton biographies by the English physicist David Brewster (1781-1868) in which it is cited in full as:

‘... when Dr. Halley ventured to say anything disrespectful to religion, he invariably checked him, with the remark, “I have studied these things – you have not”.’

The fact that Halley and Newton often quarreled on theological matters is confirmed by another remark recorded by John Conduitt, who in turn heard it from his wife (and Newton’s niece) Catherine Conduitt (née Barton; 1679-1739). However, these altercations were never so intense as to cause a rift between these two great scientists.

http://www.phys.uu.nl/~vgent/astrology/newton.htm

Valerie Livina said...

Dear Anonymous,

I always dislike when use paltry criticism of details and loose the whole idea behind the quotes and references.

If Newton had four books on astrology, from your point of view it does not mean he studied it. Well, probably you do not read books that you have in your library, but I think Newton did.

If Newton studied alchemy, from your point of view it has nothing to do with astrology. But if you were a little familiar with the topic, you would know that astrology is an integral part of alchemy as well.

Did you want to prove Newton did not study either of them? Did you want to prove he did not defend either or both of them when discussing with Halley?

And what do you call "promote their speculations" - the fact that I said about the pond in public (30 people around) to the woman I had never met in my life, being based only on her natal Jupiter? Is that what you call "speculation"? Do you have some knowledge that allows you to make similar public "speculations" and get them right?

What exactly do you dislike - that astrology does work indeed?

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

I was so enjoying your writing, when I was pulled up short at the Newton pseudo-quote. I too dislike an intelligent astrologer using this canard. There is no excuse for continually copying this since it has been refuted several times in astrology books and journals. I know it is very attractive, and it would have been nice if Newton had said it, but to keep repeating it only gives ammunition to our critics. Nor does it show due rigour!

Valerie Livina said...

Dear Chris,

I have two question regarding the things that Newton "studied".

1) If this quote is about religion, what exactly one should "study" in religion to become a believer?

I am asking this because one thing is a quote of Newton's words, and another thing is how people interpret them. Do you really think that Newton "studied" matters of religion and said this as an argument for Halley? So, when exactly the anecdote was created?

2) Do you think it is possible to study alchemy without studying astrology? The traditional alchemical processes had the following steps:

1. calcinatio (solidification by fire, ruled by Mercury),
2. putrefactio or mortificatio (purification by decay of the impure components, ruled by Saturn),
3. sublimatio (sublimation of the materia into volatile form, symbolized by a chalice or a raven's head on which a little white bird is sitting, ruled by Jupiter)
4. solutio (symbolized by the "silver queen" riding a griffin, ruled by the Moon)
5. distillatio (ruled by Venus)
6. coagulatio (symbolized by hieros gamos, by an androgynous figure or a combination of a unicorn and a stag, ruled by Mars)
7. extractio (ruled by the Sun)
8. digestio
9. ceratio
10. fermentatio
11. multiplicatio
12. projectio, the final transmutation of the base metal into gold.

(H. Biedermann, Lexikon der magischen Künste (1998), p. 407.)

I am asking your opinion, do you think Newton, with his passion for alchemy, did not study astrology and planetary symbolism?

Thanks for the comment, anyway.

VNL

Chris said...

I don't know of this quote being about religion. What is known is that the supposed quote about astrology has been copied from astrology book to astrology book - but when any astrologer-historian has attempted to find the source they have failed. It is a nice apocryphal story - but apocryphal is not enough when we are presenting this as evidence.

Yes of course Newton studied alchemy and to do so would certainly have had knowledge of astrological factors. But this does not mean that he accepted astrology as valid, or that he defended astrology when Halley was critical. I, for example, might study crop circles, ufos or fairies, but that does not mean that I accept their validity. To say that Newton read about astrology is not to say that he believed in it. As far as I am aware there is no evidence that he did believe in it.
But my point is not whether he believed in astrology or not. My point is that it is counter productive to use an apocryphal quotation as evidence. If you employ wishful thinking in your quotations might you not also be equally imaginative with the truth when presenting other evidence? That is the suspicion that must occur to the sceptic Valerie.

Valerie Livina said...

Dear Chris,

> I don't know of this quote being about religion.

This is what Anonymous claims in his comment above, based on the biography by Brewster and witness of Conduitt family. It is accepted that Newton did say this - the issue is about the topic on which he said this.

> What is known is that the supposed quote about astrology has been copied from astrology book to astrology book - but when any astrologer-historian has attempted to find the source they have failed.

We have a Newton's quote without clear explanation of the particular controversial topic that Newton studied and tried to defend in front of Halley. Those who do not like astrology try to prove that it is about theology. Those who like astrology, try to prove that it is, in particular, about astrology. Something that Halley did not like but Newton did and, moreover, studied. Anonymous thinks it is theology. I think it is astrology.

Unfortunately, we cannot go back for several centuries and ask Newton what exactly he meant, although we value his opinion high enough to use in support of our views.

> Yes of course Newton studied alchemy and to do so would certainly have had knowledge of astrological factors. But this does not mean that he accepted astrology as valid, or that he defended astrology when Halley was critical. I, for example, might study crop circles, ufos or fairies, but that does not mean that I accept their validity.

As far as I know, people study those things that they believe to be correct and important. Unless they do it to earn their living (which was not the case of Newton).

> To say that Newton read about astrology is not to say that he believed in it.

I cannot agree with this. People who do not believe in astrology would not even read a newspaper column about it - not to mention study it.

> As far as I am aware there is no evidence that he did believe in it.

Astrology was an integral part of knowledge (including philosophy and science) - how could he spend his time doing, for instance, his alchemical experiments, if he did not accept the whole body of knowledge including astrology?

> My point is that it is counter productive to use an apocryphal quotation as evidence.

I did not write a post saying that Newton was an astrologer, and hence everybody should be the same. I used this quote as a figure of speech after a concrete example of astrology in work.

> If you employ wishful thinking in your quotations might you not also be equally imaginative with the truth when presenting other evidence? That is the suspicion that must occur to the sceptic Valerie.

When I am presenting evidence, I give facts and charts. Sceptics would find me guilty of all sins with or without Newton, anyway.

VNL

Chris said...

OK, we'll agree to differ. Good luck.

Valerie Livina said...

Dear Chris,

Good luck to you, too.

VNL

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