Zoltan asked Lucy Jane Freeman Little to translate book 21 on determinations, but that text is now out of print and, in my opinion, is not as good as the Baldwin translation. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. The Astrology Podcast is a weekly show featuring discussions on technical, historical, and philosophical topics related to astrology, hosted by professional astrologer Chris Brennan.
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- Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhi.
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Comments Ally Soobratty says. August 9, at pm. Anthony Louis says. August 11, at am. Chris Brennan says. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos , ed. Plotinus, The Enneads , trans. Proclus, The Elements of Theology , trans. Iamblichus, On the Mysteries , trans. Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon and Jackson P. I, 17, p. I, Chapter 4, p. Ibn Hibinta, Al-Mughni fi ahkam al-nujum , ed. Fuat Sezgin, 2 vols.
Al-Qabisi, Introduction to Astrology , ed. George F. Benjamin N. In addressing them, he really has no argu- ment to offer, except to say that they ought to know better than to admire wealth without realizing that its possession is unrelated to knowledge; indeed, the ignorant might become wealthy by the grace of God alone. The final subgroup was composed of those who rejected astrology because of the errors made by practicing astrologers. Abu Ma'shar's response to this group is that it is not the fault of astrology if astrologers make mistakes.
Here, it is the astrologers who ought to know better. The second broad category comprised those groups that Abii Ma'shar believed should be sympathetic to astrology, but were not. By this, he means people associated with the foreign sciences, such as the philoso- phers-ill-defined as they were at this time-making up groups one and two, who either did not believe that the planets had any influence, as in the case of group one, or considered their influence to be limited, as in the case of the second group.
Abii Ma'shar also includes the physicians, who formed group eight, and criticizes them for not wishing to under- stand the foundations of their own discipline better, arguing that they practiced their profession solely for monetary gain. The group that remains is the most interesting one and the subject of the greatest part of this chapter; namely, group three, whom Abu Ma'shar calls ah1 al-nazar wal-jadal people of speculation and disputa- tion.
The amount of discussion devoted to this group indicates, in an indirect manner, the serious challenge that their argument must have represented. Ah1 al-nazav wal-jadal The Mu'tazilites Although the terms na?duwoollufi.ga
Introductions to Traditional Astrology: Abu Ma'shar & al-Qabisi
We are also told by Aba Ma'shar that the same group denied the very existence of the possible in the first place. The main thrust of his argument against them is to attempt to estab- lish the existence of the 'possible' and then to assert that the planets do indeed influence it. As a n example of the possible versus the impossible, he includes the actions of human beings, saying that it is possible for a man to become a writer or not, but impossible for him to fly.
Once he chooses to become a writer, then a writing man becomes necessary and is no longer merely possible.
But no matter what happens, a man cannot fly, so the act of flying remains impossible. He goes on to assert that astrology concerns itself with determining whether the possible act of writing would indeed take place in the future and not the impossible act of flying.
(PDF) Abu Ma'shar's defense of astrology | George Saliba - saltmisplopacsu.cf
This argument helps us to understand Abii Ma'shar's probable point of contention with the Mu'tazilites. For, if the possible is to be under- stood in the fashion just described, there can be no question that the Mu'tazilites would deny any planetary influence and reserve such actions and choices to the will of the individual performing them; this is in line with their belief in free will qadar. Becoming a writer in the future or not is like becoming a criminal, or a sinner, or what have you; all such choices are made by the agent himself and not by any outside agency.
Only then is the agent empowered to commit his own sin, for instance, without being able to shift responsibility to another agency, be that the planets or even God. Here, too, Abi?. Ma'shar manipulates the argument, for he fails to demonstrate how actions that might be actualized in the future may be categorized as already existent, that is, necessary in the mode of having previously been actualized. What he really means-and here lies the artifice-is that such actions may be necessary in the future, when they would fall under the influence of the planets, as the Mu'tazilites could agree.
But for the astrologer to predict actions that might become neces- sary, he would have to have some knowledge of the future, thus tres- passing into a domain reserved only to God; namely, the domain of 'ilm al-ghayb knowledge of the unknown that even prophets were not per- mitted to have. Moreover, Mu'tazilites may well have agreed with Aristotle about the action of the planets upon the things that come into being-that is, that actualize or do not actualize-in speaking about objects ready to receive such actions and, thus, to actualize under the influence of the planets, and objects that were not.
But Aristotle nowhere asserts that such conditions apply to the actions of human beings and certainly not those that are only possible and have not yet been actualized. It is immaterial whether Abii Ma'shar might have won such an argu- ment against the Mu'tazilites or not.
I only cite it here in some detail to indicate the level of discord that astrologers faced during the first half of the ninth century and to indicate, as well, the alienation that those same astrologers must have felt, even from groups that might have been expected to support them. In my opinion, Abii Ma'shar's diatribe against all of these groups indicates, first and foremost, how the various groups of philosophers, physicians, mathematicians, mutakalliman such as the Mu'tazilites and, most importantly, astronomers found themselves pressured into a reorientation toward astrology, which had apparently emerged as the focus of assaults against the foreign sciences.
It is not surprising that the Mu'tazilites argued against astrology for the specific reason given by Abii Ma'shar since, as was just demon- strated, the issue of qudra empowerment to commit one's own acts was a sensitive point for them. But the fact that they also attacked it on other grounds and demonstrated a negative attitude toward propo- nents of the foreign sciences in general is somewhat unexpected, given that their main doctrines have usually been associated with a reliance upon these same foreign sciences. Indeed, if one did not know beforehand that he was a distin- guished Mu'tazilite in his own right, one might believe that he was one of the most vehement enemies of the foreign sciences, especially the Greek ones.
His opposition to the foreign sciences was mitigated, how- ever, by the fact that he had to use Greek philosophical and logical arguments to support his own kalnm doctrines against his detractors, presumably the traditionalists. Consequently, he had to position him- self as a critic of the foreign sciences, sifting through the received Greek corpus to accept some aspects of it, while rejecting others. Needless to say, the main features of this alternative astronomy resulted in the production of the new 'dm al-hay'a, which ulti- mately led to the reformulation of Greek planetary theories-the most brilliant achievement of medieval Arabic astronomy.
For the purposes of this paper, however, the discussion that follows will focus upon those aspects of 'Abd al- JabbZr's arguments that bear directly upon the issue of distinguishing astronomy from astrology and that were an integral part of the intellec- tual environment that facilitated the creation of 'ilm al-hay'a and pre- pared the grounds for its eventual acceptance by society at large.
Just like Abu Ma'shar before him, 'Abd al-JabbZr was quite aware of the fact that astrologers defended the doctrines of their discipline by relying heavily upon Aristotelian thought and even, at times, stretched its interpretation somewhat to fit their own purposes. For example, as we have already seen, Abii Ma'shar used this very technique in his response to the Mu'tazilites. In a remarkable passage that touches the very core of Aristotelian thought on the planets, 'Abd al-JabbZr makes these observations: As for Aristotle, no one should pay heed to what he says.
His followers may have accepted his doctrines, but he was not endowed with complete intellect ghyr kzmil al-'aql , for they reported him as saying that the celestial bodies, such as the sun, the moon and the rest of the planets, could not be divided, nor split into parts, nor cleft into pieces; that the sun is not hot and that it is impossible for it to be hot, since such [celes- tial] bodies could not possibly be hot or cold, humid or dry, heavy or light, subtle or rough; that it is impossible for these planets to be more than they are by one planet or less by one; and that it is impossible for the sun to be more than what it is, or less, or to have colour, smell, or taste.
All of the impossibilities that this man enumerated are quite possible to the mind, known to anyone who has reason, whether that person be learned 'lilim or ignorant, sighted or not. And if he [Aristotle] was ratio- nal and could yet attain such arrogance and denial in matters that are at the very foundation of natural intellects tar al-'uqnl , who would then pay heed to him or to what he says, or even mention him in his dispu- tations or follow his defects 'awrzt , since he himself is a defect from beginning to end? Nay, if this ignorance were to be distributed amongst the people of the earth, from beginning to end, they would all be so greatly diminished in rank and stature that no one would consider [any of] them worthy of a response.
How much more so, when you can also find that he [Aristotle]held other trivial denigrating opinions such as these, which might easily be located by anyone who cares to seek them. Such was his ignorance that he believed that the heavens, the sun, the moon and the planets, were rational, discerning, hearing, seeing, harm- ful and beneficent, and could bestow life and cause death, and that all that comes to be in this world is due to their action and influence. In fact, one may easily document doctrines holding that the planets are rational, discerning and so on in the statements of the Aristotelian philosophers and astrologers who were Abii Ma'shar's contemporaries, such as al-Kindi, for instance, and against whom 'Abd al-Jabbiir seems to be arguing.
More importantly, astronomers, whose discipline was also part of the Greek philosophical tradition, were supposed to hold the same opinions. Considering the intellectual environment, it is not difficult to sympa- thize with the theoretical astronomers who would eventually create 'ilm al-hay'a in an attempt to dissociate themselves from such beliefs. As for folk astrology, the kind that did not articulate its philosophi- cal connections with Aristotelian foundations-and had no intellectual pretensions in any case-that, too, was attacked by 'Abd al-Jabbiir in several places in his works.
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But his attacks against it are on virtually the same level: dogmatic, unsophisticated and rhetorically folksy in nature. In the Tathbif, for example, he relates that a book attributed to the astrologer of Chosrau, the king of Persia, included statements about a prophet who would appear among the Arabs and whose reign would last so many years. As a result, the astrologers were enchanted by it and thought that their profession was indeed validated and that it could lead to some sure knowledge 'ilm.
In it, he invites the astrologer to tell of past events, saying that it is surely an easier task than foretelling the future. He asks the astrologer to tell him what is hidden in a closet or what has taken place in Baghdad or Basra the night before, to prove that they really have a special kind of knowledge. Not only do the astrologers fail to do so, he continues, but the Shi'ite imcims are unable to tell of forthcoming events despite the claims of their followers.
In this last instance, 'Abd al-Jabba uses evi- dence taken from history to demonstrate that even 'Ali himself did not know what was going to befall him. He offers a stronger argument against astrology upon the authority of AbB al-Fad1 Ja'far ibn Harb,30who purportedly asked the astrologers why, if they really knew the location of hidden treasures and what the future will bring, they failed to take the money themselves or use their knowledge to advance their own lots, instead of deceiving and begging for their living.
He believed, for example, that the skies were filled with shooting stars on the night that the Qur'sn was revealed to the Prophet and that the event was one of the s i p indicat- ing the truth of the prophetic mission, as was the splitting of the moon and many other examples given in the Tathbit. AD , who is reported to have disputed it. In his appeals to popular sentiment, 'Abd al-JabbSr even goes so far as to accuse the translators of Greek philosophical and scientific books of being unbelievers and enemies of Islam.
Although he levels this accusa- tion against them in several places in the Tathbit," one example suffices. It accompanies his discussion of the astrologers' practice of inventing books attributed to their predecessors into which they have inserted information about historical events, 'proving' that these events had been foreseen and, thus, the validity of their discipline. After making this charge, 'Abd al-JabbZr goes on to say that [tlhis method is followed in the books that are attributed to the Greeks, such as Plato, Aristotle and others, which were translated in Islamic times and whose translators, as well as those who teach them, are com- pletely unknown, singly and collectively.
Nay, they are, moreover, vehement enemies of the Prophet, peace and prayers be upon him, and meticulous in raising doubts against Islam and making it unattractive, even to those who believe in it. They take cover in Christianity, although the Christians themselves disapprove of them and accuse them of athe- ism ilhad , denying religion ta'til al-skarii'i' and raising doubts against the Godhead al-ta'nfi al-rubllbiyya and all of the prophecies.
And the priest, John," who used to teach Euclid and the Almagest, as well as others, used to say: "Those who translated these books have already omitted many of their follies and plain errors-all in order to protect them, on account of their zeal for them-and have attributed to them a great many Islamic con- cepts. P' Conclusion Now that we have seen how a Mu'tazilite, such as 'Abd al-JabbSr, eval- uated the Greek tradition of the foreign sciences, sifting it so carefully in order to make it fit into an Islamic environment, it is clear that attacks upon astrology played a very important role in this strategy.
Indeed, most other Mu'tazilites also seem to have seen astrological doctrines as the Achilles' heel of Greek philosophy. To return to Abii Macshar and the various groups against which he defended astrology, it is difficult to escape the impression that, on purely intellectual grounds, the astrologers had an uphill battle to fight.