The Third Heaven: Biblical Arguments for Astrology,
as Presented by King Vakht’ang VI and by the
Anonymous Author of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (Q-867)
Timothy P. Grove, Biola University
Published in A Collection of Scientific Papers Dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the Academician Roin Metreveli
(Tbilisi: Artanuji Publishers, 2010).
Timothy P. Grove, Biola University, La Mirada, California, U.S.A. firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Grove is an Assistant Professor, and has taught English at Biola’s English Language Studies Program and Talbot School of Theology since 1997. He has also taught English in Myanmar and has conducted graduate research in the Republic of Georgia. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Intercultural Studies under Dr. Douglas Hayward. His research interests include Neo-Latin literature, the Western astrological tradition, and the history, literature, culture, and folklore of Georgia and the Caucasus (17th-18th centuries).
The Third Heaven: Biblical Arguments for Astrology, as Presented by King Vakht’ang VI and by the Anonymous Author of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (Q-867)
An examination of the prefaces to two Georgian astrological texts, Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (circa 1670) and Vakht’ang VI’s Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni (1721) reveals both similarities and differences in their use of the Scriptures to validate the study of astrology. A comparison of these texts to various contemporary Western defenses of astrology demonstrates some interesting parallels, suggesting that these Georgian texts fit within a larger rhetorical tradition.
The opening section of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia cites six different biblical passages in support of chiromancy and various astrological and cosmological ideas; one of these (II Corinthians 12:2, “such a man was caught up to the third heaven”) is cited in a similar context in the Cursus Philosophicus of the Jesuit Rodrigo de Arriaga (1632), an author whom the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia mentions twice by name and whose discussion of the nature of the heavens he briefly summarizes. This is just one of numerous indications that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was compiled using a variety of Western European sources, perhaps with the collaboration of Italian missionaries.
Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni is a translation of the Risala fi’l-Hay’a of ‘Ali Qushji of Samarqand (1393/94-1474), and provides a detailed description of the Ptolemaic system used in erecting horoscopes. The present paper includes an English translation of Vakht’ang VI’s preface to this work, including three biblical references which the king uses to develop an argument for the study of astrology.
Both of these works begin with an appeal to scriptural authority, and both writers are clearly seeking an accommodation between Christian doctrine and the practice of astrology.
These texts were products of a period of national revitalization which involved the incorporation into the Georgian Weltanschauung of an array of cultural influences from both East and West.
The Third Heaven: Biblical Arguments for Astrology, as Presented by King Vakht’ang VI and by the Anonymous Author of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (Q-867)
Timothy P. Grove, Biola University, La Mirada, California, U.S.A.
This paper examines how two Georgian astrological texts from the early modern period seek to resolve the tension between Christianity and the practice of astrology.
The first of these is the anonymous manuscript known as Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (Q867, also known as the “Star Book”), which appears to have been written around 1670; the other work considered here is Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni, printed by king Vakht’ang VI in 1721.
These two texts differ markedly in their contents and in their concerns, yet both fall squarely within the same rhetorical tradition. Each of these works begins with a highly interesting preface which makes use of scriptural passages to establish the validity of astrological ideas.
Astrology and the Church
Throughout the history of the church, astrology has been highly controversial—sometimes condemned as a form of sorcery, idolatry, or fatalism; sometimes condoned as a legitimate science and an essential part of God’s natural revelation to mankind. While the Scriptures themselves nowhere explicitly forbid the practice of astrology, the Church Fathers were nearly unanimous in their condemnation of it. The Didache (which may well be the earliest extant Christian text apart from the New Testament) forbids astrology in clear and explicit terms: “My child, do not be a diviner, for that leads to idolatry. Do not be an enchanter or an astrologer [mathematikos] or a magician. Moreover, have no wish to observe or heed such practices, for all this breeds idolatry” (3:4).
The Synod of Laodicea (circa 365) decreed that “They who are of the priesthood, or of the clergy, shall not be magicians, enchanters, mathematici or astrologi, nor shall they make what are called amulets, which are chains for their own souls. And those who wear such, we command to be cast out of the Church.” (Canon 36). The use here of two different terms for astrologers is highly interesting; possibly the term mathematici was used to designate learned professional astrologers, while the astrologi were common fortune tellers.
As a consequence of this, astrology was driven underground, and its practitioners were frequently prosecuted as sorcerers. In Western Europe, technical knowledge of astrology practically disappeared; in the Byzantine Empire, however, Hellenistic astrology managed to survive and was eventually transmitted to the Arabs. Astrology flourished among the Arabs, who not only translated and preserved several important Hellenistic treatises on the subject, but also produced many original astrological works of their own.
Ironically, it was the Scriptures themselves (especially the account of the Magi in Matthew 2—a passage which contains several technical astrological expressions and has been construed by some as a validation of astrology) that kept the idea of astrology alive in the West, as demonstrated by Tertullian’s comments on that passage: Sed magi et astrologi ab Oriente venerunt. Scimus magiae et astrologiae inter se societatem. Primi igitur stellarum interpretes natum Christum annuntiaverunt, primi munaverunt. . . . At enim scientia ista usque ad Evangelium fuit concessa, ut, Christo edito, nemo exinde nativitatem alicujus de caelo interpretaretur (De idolatria 9.1). [“But the magi and the astrologers came from the East, and we know that magic and astrology were closely associated. Now it was these interpreters of the stars who were the first to proclaim the new-born Christ, and the first to bring Him gifts. . . . But this science was permitted up to the time of the Gospel, so that once Christ was proclaimed, no one should thenceforth subject anyone’s birth to astrological analysis.”] As Jim Tester observes, “there is here no suggestion that astrology is mistaken, that it does not work, that it is empty superstition: only that it is no longer allowed. . . . The idea, at least, of a potentially valid science of astrology was kept alive by the very authorities who condemned it.”
The 12th century was the age of the Arabists—a small group of translators who used Arabic sources to produce Latin versions of many works from classical antiquity. In its way, this was an intellectual revolution of equal significance to the Renaissance of classical learning which occurred a couple of centuries later. The translations of the Arabists included a number of astrological works, culminating in Gerard of Cremona’s translation of the Almagest (1176). These translations led to a revival of astrology in the West. During the Renaissance, astrology was regarded as a legitimate and creditable field of study. Major universities had chairs of astrology, and no necessary conflict was perceived to exist between astrology and Christian faith. Indeed, the period from 1450 to 1650 may be characterized as the Golden Age of Astrology. This was the age of the great astrologers, including Cardanus, Gauricus, Naibod, Junctinus, Argolus, Montulmo, and Nostradamus, to name just a few. The reformer Philipp Melancthon (1497-1550) occupied the chair of astrology at the University of Wittenburg. Joachim Camerarius (1500-1574), also an famous astrologer, was a professor at Tubingen and later at Leipzig. The annotations of Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) to his edition of the Astronomica of Manilius (1579) are justly regarded as one of the greatest achievements in the history of classical scholarship. The astrologer John Dee set the date and time for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation based on astrological considerations. Both Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler cast and interpreted horoscopes for kings and statesmen. The autobiography of Diego de Torres Villarroel (1743), who taught astrology for many years at the University of Salamanca, demonstrates that astrology was still held in high regard during the 18th century.
Numerous astrological treatises, manuals, almanacs, ephemerides, and collections of nativities were published. These works very often began with some sort of Defense or Apology—a collection of scriptural, theological, and philosophical arguments seeking to justify astrology as a Christian practice. Among the more notable defenses were those published in works by Junctinus (Speculum Astrologiae, 1583), Sir Christopher Heydon (A Defence of Judiciall Astrologie, 1603), William Ramesey (Astrologia Restaurata, 1653), and Morinus (Astrologia Gallica, 1661). Among the biblical texts most commonly cited in defense of astrology were Genesis 1:14, Psalm 19:1, and Romans 1:18-20. Ramesey, in his Astrologia Restaurata (1653), presents the following very interesting argument: “for as [God] hath made the Heavens for the ordinary administration of nature, so he can whensoever it is his good pleasure, as in the days of Joshuah [sic], Hezekiah, and at the death of our Saviour Jesus Christ, alter their course; but since these were miracles, and thus to do were miraculous, and that we read but of these three times he thus did work since the Creation, it is not therefore to be ordinarily or frequently seen, neither ought it then to be objected, since as long as God doth continue the order of nature, it must needs follow that the effects of the Stars, by which nature is upheld, have very much of certainty and truth, . . . and [God] leaveth the effecting of all things to the influence of the Heavens and Stars, which [are] . . . next under him the sole cause of all mutations and blessings here on earth, . . . (I.10, pp. 21-22). Making use of a simple argumentum ad absurdum, John Partridge seeks to dispose of the alleged scriptural condemnations of astrology: “And whatever your Assertions are of its being forbidden in Sacred Writ, they are really false, and do not any more prohibit that, than the Command given to the Prophet Hosea to Marry a Whore, did justify Whoredom; for what is said there against it, doth only reprove the Pretenders abuse of it and the Peoples superstitious dependance [sic] thereon” (Opus Reformatum, “To the Readers,” viii-ix).
The Opening Chapter of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (circa 1670)
Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (Q 867), a unique manuscript at the National Centre of Manuscripts (Xelnac’erta Erovnuli Cent’ri) in Tbilisi, presents a fascinating miscellany of information on a number of subjects. The manuscript comprises 126 quarto leaves, beautifully written in black and red ink, and contains numerous hand-drawn illustrations which successfully employ shading and characterization. The work has been described and its contents discussed by Irakli Simonia. The title Saet’lo Xiromant’ia ("horoscope chiromancy") was assigned to the work by its cataloguers, and was apparently suggested by the first illustration (on page 10 verso), of a human hand labeled with the principal lines used in palmistry, along with their planetary associations; indeed, the third chapter (10r – 13v) is a short treatise on astrological chiromancy. Since no title appears either on the binding or at the beginning of the text, and since most of its chapters discuss astronomical and astrological topics, Dr. Simonia prefers to designate this manuscript as the “Star Book.”
Internal evidence suggests that this manuscript was compiled around 1670 with the collaboration of an Italian speaker (perhaps one of the Capuchin missionaries who were dispatched to Georgia in 1661). It appears that several sources from Western Europe were used in this compilation, most notably the Almanacco Perpetuo of Ottavio Beltrano (first published at Naples in 1639, and itself based upon the earlier Almanacco Perpetuo di Rutilio Benincaso (1593). The text and illustrations of several sections of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia are drawn directly from Beltrano’s work, including the series of eclipses (31r – 35r), the Tables of Houses (48v – 54r), the horoscope for 21 June 1635 (58v – 59r), and the Perpetual Almanac (60v – 74r). The Perpetual Almanac section was updated twice by gluing strips of paper over the original dates, suggesting that the book was in constant use throughout the eighteenth century and probably into the nineteenth.
The opening chapter of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (1r – 5r) begins with an allusion to Job 37:7 (“He seals the hand of every man”), which the author connects to the practice of palmistry—codinaroba romelsa ec’odebis latinurad k’iromancia (“the knowledge which is called Chiromancy in Latin”). Here we have the first indication that parts of this work are based on Western sources.
The writer goes on to argue that the birth of every human being is marked by unique planetary influences, a fact which should lead us to examine the correlation between celestial phenomena and human affairs.
The writer now proceeds to a very interesting discussion of the structure of the heavens. He quotes three biblical passages in support of the plurality of the heavens: Psalm 148:4-5 (“Praise Him, highest heavens, and the waters that are above the heavens, let them praise the name of the Lord”); Ephesians 4:10 (“He who ascended far above all the heavens”); and II Corinthians 12:2 (“such a man was caught up to the third heaven”). From these testimonies, he concludes that the heavens are indeed manifold.
The writer next (1v) cites a certain “astrologer” (munajibi) named “Ariaga,” who he says was “of Arabian race” (romeli iq’o arabi guarita), and who is supposed to have addressed various questions as to the number, nature, and composition of the heavens. This person was none other than the Jesuit Rodrigo de Arriaga Mendo (1592-1662), a professor at Valladolid and Salamanca, and at Prague from 1625. In light of this, the Georgian writer’s comment that he was “of Arabian race” is quite puzzling. Arriaga’s Cursus Philosophicus (Antwerp, 1632) was extremely influential. Arriaga was one of the first philosophers to take cognizance of Galileo’s telescopic discoveries and to examine their philosophical implications: non multis autem ab hinc annis propter quorumdam Mathematicorum & Astronomorum diligentes observationes, quas, novis exquisitisque instrumentis adiuti, invenerunt, & praecipue tubi optici subsidio, caelorum structura penitus a nonnullis inverti coepit. (Disputatio Unica Caelestis, sectio iii). (“not many years ago, because of the careful observations of a number of astrologers and astronomers which they made with the aid of excellent new instruments, especially the telescope, some began to completely overturn the structure of the heavens”). This statement accords very well with the known concerns of the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, who makes reference to Galileo’s telescopic discoveries in chapter eight (21v). Arriaga refers to a number of recent scientific discoveries, including the four satellites of Jupiter (iii.3.25), sunspots (iii.3.28), and the diurnal visibility of stars from the bottom of a mineshaft (vi.68). In the 5th edition of his Cursus Philosophicus (1669), Arriaga describes how he replicated Galileo’s experiments with falling bodies by dropping heavy objects from the cupola of the Prague Cathedral and from the parapets of Karlstein Castle.
The specific passage referenced by the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is the Disputatio Unica Caelestis, found on pages 497-508 of the 1632 edition of Arriaga’s Cursus Philosophicus. Here, Arriaga addresses a number of questions: the composition and uniformity of the heavens, their number and their motions, whether the heavens are animate or inanimate, whether they are corruptible or incorruptible, and whether they are solid or fluid. These correspond more or less to the questions inventoried in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia and attributed to “Ariaga”: whether the heavens are composed of four elements, whether they are spiritual, whether they are perfect, whether they are solid, whether they are self-illuminated, and whether they are manifold.
Both Arriaga and the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia frequently quote the Scriptures to support their ideas. One of the verses cited in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia (II Cor. 12:2) is also cited by Arriaga in the section entitled De numero caelorum (iv.1.48), in connection with the opinion of St. Ambrose and others that there are three heavens. Arriaga ends by rejecting this opinion, concluding that the heavens number not three or eleven, but nine (iv.2.52). Still, it seems likely that the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was following Arriaga in bringing this passage to bear on the same question.
After this reference to Arriaga comes a fascinating but difficult passage, in which the writer seems to be stating that the celestial spheres are self-similar in the same way as an object and its reflection in a mirror. Thus, the earth is like a mirror which reflects the heavens, and hell lies in the depths of this same mirror. Hell is located at the center of the earth, and comprises four concentric circles, the outermost circle being designated as Abraham’s Bosom (abrahamis c’iaghi, cf. Luke 16:22-23), the second as Limbo (limbo, the abode of unbaptized infants—a Roman Catholic idea which again suggests Western influence), the third as the Mercy Seat (salxinebuli, cf. Ex. 25:17) or Purgatory (gansac’mendeli), and the innermost circle as Eternal Hell (sauk’uno jojoxeti). The writer proceeds to delineate the precise diameters of each of these circles in Georgian leagues (aghaji), beginning with Eternal Hell and measuring outward from the center of the earth. He then gives the diameter of the earth itself, according to “the earth-measurers who in Latin are called Cosmographers” (kueq’nis mzomelni romelsa ec’odebis latinurad k’ozmograpini).
There follows a discussion of the spheres of the four elements. The author argues that the sphere of water lies at the root (dziri) of the other three, citing two passages from the Psalms in support of this idea: Psalm 103:10 (104:10) (“[the waters] flow between the mountains”); and Psalm 135:6 (136:6) (“Him who spread out the earth above the waters”). Again, he gives precise measurements for the diameter of the sphere of fire (the uppermost of the four elements). Next comes a discussion of the dimensions of the sphere of the moon, which, again, is likened to a mirror. For this the writer suggests several alternate values, “but we concur with Ariaga the Arab that the moon is one-third the size of the earth.” (3v: magram chven vimoc’mebt ariaga arabsa rom mtovare ars kueq’anis mesamedis odeni). In fact, while Arriaga does touch briefly on this idea, which arises from the apparent size of the earth’s shadow during a lunar eclipse (v.55), he considers it highly problematical, and leaves the question open.
This opening chapter concludes with a discussion of the dimensions of the spheres of Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (3v-5r). There is no indication of how or by whom all these curious measurements were derived.
It will be seen that this preface incorporates six different quotations from the Scriptures. However, unlike the defenses of astrology current in Western Europe, Saet’lo Xiromant’ia shows little interest in engaging in a polemic about astrology; rather, it cites biblical texts to support specific claims and ideas as they arise. In this sense, the Georgian writer’s use of the Scriptures is very similar to Arriaga’s. The writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia apparently saw no need to justify the fundamental assumptions of astrology, nor did he recognize any conflict between astrology and Christian thought. It is in his opening remarks about chiromancy that this writer comes closest to the approach of the Western defenders of astrology—here, a single passage from the book of Job is used to legitimate the highly dubious practice of palmistry, an argument which is then immediately generalized to include astrology as well.
Vakht’ang VI’s Preface to Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni (1721)
Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni (“Book of knowledge of creation”), a treatise on spherical geometry and geocentric astronomy, was published by Vakh’tang VI in 1721. It was one of only 17 titles printed on the press brought from Wallachia by Mihail Isvanovici (known in Georgia as Mikheil St’epaneshvili). These were the first books printed in Tbilisi, and were published between 1709 and 1723, when a Turkish invasion put an end to the king’s publishing operation. They included portions of the Georgian Bible, as well as the first printed edition of Vepxis T’q’aosani (1712). Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni must have been seen as a valuable and important book, to be found in such select company!
Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni is a translation of the Risala fi’l-Hay’a (“Treatise on Geometry”) of ‘Ali Qushji of Samarqand (1393/94-1474), and includes a preface written by Vakht’ang VI. Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni (note how the king has Christianized the work’s title) was translated from the Persian by the king himself with the aid of Persian scholars, including one Mirza Abduriza Tavrizeli. Between 200 and 300 copies of this book were printed. Its contents have been discussed by Tamar Abuladze and by Irakli Simonia.
Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni is a long and difficult text. Its complex scientific language has been carefully analyzed by Tamar Abuladze. The work begins by explaining the most fundamental concepts of geometry (the point, the line, the plane), and proceeds from there to explain the principles of celestial mechanics, especially the complex cycles of the Moon and its nodes. As far as I have been able to discover, Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni contains no material pertaining specifically to prognostication or horoscopic interpretation.
Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni is 151 pages in length, and is illustrated with 29 hand-drawn diagrams in red and black ink; in several cases, one can still see the hole left by the illustrator’s compass! I have examined two copies of this work at the National Parliamentary Library (Sakartvelos P’arlament’is Erovnuli Biblioteka) in Tbilisi—one of them hand-illustrated, the other with spaces left for illustrations which were never added.
Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni presents a geocentric model of the universe, the same as that described by Claudius Ptolemy in the second century A.D. Was this because Vakht’ang VI was unaware of the Copernican revolution? Not at all—it was because calculations based on a geocentric model were (and still are) used to cast horoscopes. Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni presents in compact form a geocentric but phenomenologically accurate description of the motions of the heavenly bodies, with a view to its practical use in casting horoscopes. Thus, while its emphasis is more upon the pure mathematics of erecting a horoscope, Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni is still an astrological work.
I here provide a transcription and translation of the king’s preface, which as far as I know has never before appeared in English.
It'q'vis c'inasc'armet'q'veli davit: me tkvi gank'virvebisa chemsa rame tu q’oveli k’aci cru ars: da tvit upali brdzanebs aravin ars saxier garna mxolo ghia: ara tu amistvis ars brdzaneba ese vitarmed q'ia k’aci cru ars nu iq’opin: aramed vervis malucs tvinier mis mier movlinebulta: sc’orebit cnobad sakmeta uplisata: da arca vin ars ch’eshmarit’ebit mcnobel amisa romel ara ip’ova ama shina sicrue: aramed ravdenta misca sibrdzne da gulisxmis q’opa: da mat c’q’aloba igi p’at’iosani up’at’iota zeda sakmeta ara ishromes: da raodenta dzalumles misve kmnulta mic’domad dashures: da gamchart’nes pilosoposta mraval mecnierebani da matni sc’avlani: da eseca varsk’ulavt rac xva erti matganive ars: da sakartvelo mravl gzis mt’ertagan mok’rebul iq’o da arghara da shtomil iq’o kartulsa enasa zeda sc’avla ese pilasopta: da sxvata enisa k’acni kartvelta ek’icxoden: da ac’ me mepeman mepetaman vaxt’ang es sp’arsuli aiati romel ars kmnulebis codnis c’igni: ziji tala masala da sxva okmebis c’ignebi vtargmne: mirza abduriza tavrizelis c’ignis k’itxvita da tana shec’evnita: da st’rolabic kartulad gamovighe: nu uk’ue isc’avon da c’adier iq’vnen pilosoposobisad: da inebon da sheasrulon kartulisa enita pilaposoba da gamoighon: da chemtvisac shendobis mokene var rametu sakmetagan sacnaurars vitarmed mravalni ch’irni misaxvan ama c’ignta zeda: da arca tu mepobisa msaxureba damik’lies.
“The prophet David says, ‘I said in my alarm that every man is a liar,’ and the Lord himself says, ‘Nobody is good except God alone.’ This is why there is a command—since every man is a liar, do not separate. But nobody except those He has chosen can correctly recognize the deeds of the Lord, and neither can anyone recognize the truth, without finding the lie in it. But to many He gave wisdom and understanding, and He who is honorable gave them mercy, that they might not do dishonorable deeds, and they worked hard, and made haste to understand what He created, and discerned the many sciences and studies of philosophers—and the study of the stars is one of these.
Now Georgia has been ravaged by enemies many times, so there has been no study of philosophical learning in the Georgian language, and for this reason Georgians have been ridiculed by those who spoke other languages.
And now, I, Vakht’ang, King of Kings, have translated this Persian “Aiati,” which is the Book of the Knowledge of Creation, and the Zij-i Tala material, and books of other documents, using Mirza Abduriza Tavrizeli’s analysis of the book and his collaboration. And I have also explained the (use of the) astrolabe in Georgian.
Should not those who wish to do so read and study philosophical subjects, and freely pursue and discourse upon philosophy in the Georgian language?
As for me, I too am in need of forgiveness, as these endeavors make clear—for I have faced many troubles because of these books, though I have tried my best to be a good king.”
The king’s preface is an austere and beautiful literary work in its own right. In marked contrast to the discursive energy of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia, Vakht’ang VI holds himself aloof from any discussion of disputed details, opinions, or philosophical alternatives. He makes no direct reference at all to the theological or philosophical difficulties associated with astrology. Instead, the king approaches the question deductively, confining himself to the presentation of a single elegant argument founded upon the Scriptures. That is part of the king’s genius—he manages to establish his position without even entering into the debate, by means of a deductive argument which all but compels assent! His reasoning may be summarized as follows: since “every man is a liar,” it follows that all human sciences are a mixture of truth and error. This is true of astrology as it is of other philosophical subjects. However, with God’s help we may hope to distinguish truth from lies. Therefore, we are justified in studying this subject as long as we look to God for the wisdom to make these distinctions. The king concludes with true Christian humility, acknowledging the possibility that he himself may have strayed from the truth in preparing this treatise.
Vakht’ang VI clearly recognized that astrology was problematical, but was willing to concede that there might be truth in it. Indeed, it appears that the king had a very high regard for this “mixed” science, since it was one of only two secular works that he published (the other being his edition of Vepxis T’q’aosani). It is interesting to note that, of the three references to Magi (magoi) which appear in the New Testament, the Magi (“Wise Men”) of Matthew 2 are described very positively, while the other two (Acts 8, Acts 13) were heretics and sorcerers. In light of this, the king’s reasoning closely parallels that of John Gadbury: “Abusum non tollit usum, is the Lawyer’s Rule: The abuse of a thing ought not to abrogate or impeach the lawful use thereof” (Genethlialogia, 1658, “To the Reader”).
Several passages in the king’s preface raise interesting questions. When he states that “there has been no study of philosophical learning in the Georgian language, and for this reason Georgians have been ridiculed by those who spoke other languages,” could this be a veiled reference to the earlier Saet’lo Xiromant’ia? It is my hypothesis that Saet’lo Xiromant’ia was prepared in collaboration with Roman Catholic missionaries, using sources in Latin and Italian. Moreover, its tables of houses (48v-54r) were copied directly from those found in Ottavio Beltrano’s Almanacco Perpetuo, and while they are more or less accurate for latitudes in the Caucasus, the tables in Saet’lo Xiromant’ia are characterized by a number of grievous mistakes which Vakht’ang VI (who himself compiled such tables based on his own astronomical observations) would have recognized immediately if he had ever perused that work.
It is also interesting to speculate as to the nature of the “troubles” which the king experienced because of these books—did the Persians object to his publishing Christian books despite his nominal conversion to Islam? Was he referring to difficulties associated with the task of publishing them? Or does this statement pertain specifically to the king’s work with astronomical and astrological books?
There is a close verbal similarity between the openings of these two works: Saet’lo Xiromant’ia begins with the words c’mida iob bdzanebs (“Blessed Job says”), while the preface to Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni begins with the words it’q’vis c’inasc’armet’q’veli davit (“The prophet David says”). Clearly, these works share in a common rhetorical tradition in which the opening appeal to Scripture is of the greatest importance to all that follows.
Apart from Saet’lo Xiromant’ia’s citation of II Corinthians 12:2, which closely parallels Arriaga’s use of the same passage, the Scriptures cited by these Georgian writers are different from those typically used by the Western defenders of astrology, and are used to construct unique and highly original arguments.
The procedure of the writer of Saet’lo Xiromant’ia is similar to Arriaga’s, using biblical passages inductively to validate various specific philosophical and cosmological ideas; in contrast, Vakht’ang VI uses the Scriptures very cautiously as the basis of a deductive argument, avoiding any discussion of specific details.
These texts were products of a period of national revitalization which involved the incorporation into the Georgian Weltanschauung of an array of cultural influences from both East and West. A study of these books and the sources they used reveals several lines of cultural transmission, a process closely associated with the phenomenon of cultural revitalization. Vakht’ang VI alludes to the fact that “Georgia has been ravaged by enemies,” and it is paradoxically this same intercultural dynamic which gave rise to the “Silver Age” of Georgian culture during the closing years of Georgia’s national independence.
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Bjornstad, James, and Shildes Johnson. Star Signs & Salvation in the Age of Aquarius. Minneapolis: Dimension Books, 1971.
Dear, Peter Robert. Discipline & Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Gadbury, John. Genethlialogia or, The Doctrine of Nativities, Containing the Whole Art of Directions and Annual Revolutions. London: Printed by James Cottrell for Giles Calvert, William Larnar, and Daniel White, 1658. Paolo Alexandre Silva. Astrologia Medieval. http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/John_Partridge_Opus_Reformatum.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).
Grant, Edward. Planets, Stars and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos 1200-1687. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Karloutsos, Father Alexander. “Astrology is Astrolatry.” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2009. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7066 (accessed January 15, 2009).
Lake, Kirsopp, trans. The Apostolic Fathers, volume 1. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977.
Migne, Jacques-Paul, ed. Patrologiae cursus completus: omnium SS. patrum, doctorum scriptorumque ecclesiasticorum; sive latinorum, sive graecorum. Patrologia Latina, vol. 1. Turnhout, 1844.
New Advent. “Synod of Laodicea (4th Century).” http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3806.htm (accessed March 19, 2009).
Partridge, John. Opus Reformatum: or, a Treatise of Astrology. London: Awnsham and John Churchill, 1693). Paolo Alexandre Silva. Astrologia Medieval. http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/John_Partridge_Opus_Reformatum.pdf (accessed October 18, 2008).
Ramesey, William. Astrologia Restaurata; or, Astrologie Restored: Being an Introduction to the General and Chief Part of the Language of the Stars. London: Robert White, 1653. Paolo Alexandre Silva. Astrologia Medieval. http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/Astrology_Restored_by_William_R msey.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).
Simonia, Irakli. “Little Known Aspects of the History of Georgian Astronomy.” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 4(1) (2001): 59-73.
Spruit, Leen. Species Intelligibilis: From Perception to Knowledge. Leiden: Brill, 1995.
Tester, Jim. A History of Western Astrology. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1987.
Torres Villarroel, Diego de. The Remarkable Life of Don Diego; being the Autobiography of Diego de Torres Villarroel. Translated by William C. Atkinson. London: The Folio Society, 1958.
Torres Villarroel, Diego de. Vida de Diego de Torres Villarroel. Edited by Russell P. Sebold. Madrid: Taurus Ediciones, 1985.
Toumanoff, Cyril. “Georgia, Church in Ancient.” The New Catholic Encyclopedia,
2d ed. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2003.
Kirsopp Lake, trans., The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 1 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977), 312-13.
Jim Tester, A History of Western Astrology (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1987), 55. It is interesting to note that this canon is now interpreted by the Eastern Orthodox Church as necessitating the excommunication of “people who make, sell, buy or wear the zodiac signs” (Father Alexander Karloutsos, “Astrology is Astrolatry,” Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 2009, ¶6, http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7066 (accessed January 15, 2009).
Migne, Patrologia Latina I.672
James Bjornstad and Shildes Johnson, Star Signs & Salvation in the Age of Aquarius (Minneapolis: Dimension Books, 1971), 87.
Diego de Torres Villarroel, Vida de Diego de Torres Villarroel, ed. Russell P. Sebold (Madrid: Taurus Ediciones, 1985). This work is available in English as The Remarkable Life of Don Diego; being the Autobiography of Diego de Torres Villarroel, trans. William C. Atkinson (London: The Folio Society, 1958).
William Ramesey, Astrologia Restaurata; or, Astrologie Restored: Being an Introduction to the General and Chief Part of the Language of the Stars (London: Robert White, 1653), 21-22. Paolo Alexandre Silva, Astrologia Medieval, http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/Astrology_Restored_by_William_Ramsey.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).
John Partridge, Opus Reformatum: or, a Treatise of Astrology (London: Awnsham and John Churchill, 1693), viii-ix. Paolo Alexandre Silva, Astrologia Medieval, http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/John_Partridge_Opus_Reformatum.pdf (accessed October 18, 2008).
I am extremely grateful to Dr. Buba Kudava, Director of the National Centre of Manuscripts, for allowing me to study this manuscript, and providing me with digital reproductions of substantial parts of it.
Irakli Simonia, “Little Known Aspects of the History of Georgian Astronomy,” Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 4(1) (2001), 59-73.
Cyril Toumanoff, “Georgia, Church in Ancient,” in The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2d ed.
Leen Spruit, Species Intelligibilis: From Perception to Knowledge (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 327-30.
Rodrigo de Arriaga, Cursus Philosophicus (Antverpiae: Ex Officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti, 1632), 499. Universidad de La Rioja. Biblioteca Digital de Derecho. http://biblioteca.unirioja.es/digibur/obras/228826_0.html (accessed March 14, 2009).
Peter Robert Dear, Discipline & Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 85.
Arriaga’s cosmological ideas are discussed by Edward Grant in Planets, Stars and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos 1200-1687 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 349-52.
Tamar Abuladze, Vaxt’ang Meekvsis Mtargmnelobiti Moghvasheoba (Tbilisi: Mecniereba, 1998), 29-35.
Abuladze, op. cit.
I am indebted to Nino Khonelidze for substantial parts of this translation.
Psalm 115:2 (116:11): “I said in my alarm, “All men are liars.’”
Mark 10:18b; also Luke 18:19b: “No one is good except God alone.”
This is perhaps an allusion to Matthew 13:28-29: “The slaves said to him, `Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, `No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.’”
This curious word is simply a Georgian transliteration of the Arabic hay’a(t), meaning “geometry,” as Tamar Abuladze kindly pointed out to me. Because the bulk of the text and illustrations of Kmnulebis Codnis C’igni pertain to the motions and cycles of the Moon, I first assumed that the work was a translation of ‘Ali Qushji’s Hall ashkal al-Qamar (“Explanation of Lunar Phenomena”). For ‘Ali Qushji’s works, see The Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1979), I.393.
Persian zīj-i ṭāli‘ (“table of ascension”); tables of houses.
One of Vakhtang VI's astrolabes may still be seen at the Georgian History Museum, Tbilisi (Simonia, 71).
John Gadbury, Genethlialogia or, The Doctrine of Nativities, Containing the Whole Art of Directions and Annual Revolutions (London: Printed by James Cottrell for Giles Calvert, William Larnar, and Daniel White, 1658). Paolo Alexandre Silva. Astrologia Medieval. http://www.astrologiamedieval.com/tabelas/John_Partridge_Opus_Reformatum.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).