No, really, who was John Digges? Apparently he witnessed the supernova in 1572 and helped “shred” the “hidebound view of the universe” and championed the “skepticism about Bible-infused group-think in the Middle Ages” that was the Ptolemaic system. John Digges also viewed the supernova as proof that the fixed stars weren’t fixed on some “kind of inert cap over the world.”
Oh wait. There was no John Digges. There was a John Dee. There was a Thomas Digges. They both might have witnessed the supernova in 1572. But that supernova had nothing to do with the fixity of the stars or a “Bible-infused group-think” (it certainly raised questions about other issues, e.g., the perfection of the heavens).
It’s hard to take this polemic, “Was God Necessary for Creation? Science Says No,” seriously when it shreds history and seems to suffer from some rabid new-aethist-infused group-think. Most of the pseudo-history is totally pointless, adding nothing to the post.
The core bit of the author’s rant is:
today science is able to convincingly demonstrate by peering into the tiniest of realms that in an infinite cosmos something can actually—and naturally—explode into being. Out of—as far as can be divined—absolutely nothing.1
Millennia of claims about spontaneous generation (either from rotting matter or from assumed sterile conditions) suggest that we will likely realize that no, something did not, in fact, come from nothing.2
Even a cursory encounter with history would have helped the author avoid some rather obvious errors. But that would require recognizing that history is a domain of expertise, not something this author apparently acknowledges.
Maybe we can just all agree to leave the history to historians.3
Even John Digges would recognize the flaw in the logic that leads from this “finding” to the conclusion that science has proven that a god was not involved in the original creation of matter. ↩
I keep wanting this post to be sarcasm, to be a joke. But if it is, the author is so incredibly deadpan that I can’t detect the sarcasm. The egregiously erroneous history is not, alas, evidence of a joke—too many well educated, accomplished people regularly get history horribly and inexcusably wrong. ↩
Here are aphorisms 11–20 from the copy of Ptolemy’s “Ὁ Καρπός” in BnF gr. 2180. As to be expected, there are a number of idiosyncrasies here, some going well beyond the orthographic changes (which are unsurprising really). In some cases, this copy of the text includes additional clauses that raise interesting questions. For example, the “τοῦ παρόντοϲ ἔργου” at the end of aphorism 11. How are we to understand the distinction between the common “τοῦ προκειμένου πράγματοϲ” and the added “τοῦ παρόντοϲ ἔργου” in this copy? Did the copiest understand a semantic difference between “πράγματοϲ” and “ἔργου”? And why did the later reader who glossed so much of the text ignore aphorism 15?
The ascendent of the enemies of the king or the kingdom are the cadent signs from their ascendent, and the ascendent of their rulers are the cardinals, and the ascendents of those who dwell in them (what I read as ἀποστρεφομενων should probably be ἀναστρεφομενων) are the succedents. And the same thing in beliefs.
When the two luminaries [i.e., the sun and moon] are in a single minute, and also the benefic is the ascendent, the Native will be fortunate in all things that come his way. Just as also if they oppose each other from the ascendent and from the descendent. But if a malefic is on the ascendent, suspect the opposite.
Do not touch a part of the body with iron when the moon is in the sign that rules that part of the body.
As always, I reserve the right to change these translations when I learn that I made a mistake. For example, I might revise aphorism 9 because there is, apparently, some debate about the meaning of the term “οἱ στοιχειοματικοὶ” (see “Ὁ Καρπός, Aphorisms 6–10”). Relying on classical sources, Liddell and Scott translate “στοιχειοματικοὶ” as “casters of nativities.” According to C. Blum, later sources indicate a shift in meaning to one that implies a more magical practice. Something closer to “making amulets” or “making talismans.” I haven’t finished the article, so I don’t know yet if the arguments it persuasive.
In honor of aphorism 20, warning against bleeding when the moon is in the sign that rules that part of the body, here’s a zodiacal man from later in that same codex with the standard mapping of signs onto the body, starting with Aries at the top of the head and ending with Pisces at the feet.
Imagine my surprise when I found folded inside the back cover the following certificate:
This certifies that Miss Etta Clara Hoyt is a regularly approved member of the International Society of the Daughters of the Copernican Revolution in connection with the Wahwilaway Chapter having been admitted by the International Board of Management by virtue of her descent from a proto-scientist who with unfailing loyalty rendered material aid to the cause of the Heliocentric System during the Revolutionary Struggle between the benighted geocentrists (that uneasy alliance between Ptolemaics and Tychonics) and the visionary heliocentrists (our beloved Copernicans).
I hadn’t heard of this society before and despite my best efforts (that is, doing a handful of internet searches), I found nothing about it. It seems to have been formed in the late 1800s, perhaps in celebration of the 450th anniversary of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus. Judging from the text, the society was modeled after the Daughters of the American Revolution, but for reasons I can’t fathom. If you know anything about this organization, let me know.
As our reader continued to work through Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός he either was uninterested in the minor errors in the Greek or didn’t notice them (such as the τοῦ γενεθλίω which clearly should be τοῦ γενεθλίου). He did add a couple corrections, particularly when whole words were missing. And he continued adding Latin translations for nearly every Greek word.
Here is a transcription of these aphorisms. As in previous posts, I have not corrected the orthography or other mistakes.
Use the the malefics in the selection of days and of hours, just as the best physician uses poisons in moderation for cure.
Rather than continue posting every few aphorisms, as I work through Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός I will try to post a group of ten aphorisms every few days until I get to the end. Then I’ll go back and try to polish the translation. Why? Because it’s kinda fun in a totally nerdy way and a great way to avoid real work while doing something that feels more productive and useful than watching cat videos.
In working through these translations I came across an article that has prompted me to change at least for the moment my translation of στοιχειοματικοὶ from “casters of nativities” to “makers of talismans.” For more, see “Στοιχειωματικοί were casters of something.” ↩
I don’t watch cat videos. I am not judging people who have or who do, I just don’t enjoy cat videos. But I recognize they represent the quintessential work avoidance time suck. So what I’m trying to say is transcribing and translating Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός is also work avoidance but marginally less useless. ↩
Let’s follow our reader through a couple more aphorisms from Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός. Again he glosses most of the Greek with Latin translations and, once again, corrects a couple scribal errors by writing the correct Greek word above the mistake (though he seems to miss a couple other mistakes).
And here’s a transcription of these two aphorisms:
Our reader seemed to think the “τὰϲ συμπτώσεισ” in aphorism 5 should be “τῆς συμπτώσεως” and made the correction above the Greek. But he didn’t correct the “παρὰσκεβασαι,” which should have been “προπαρὰσκευασαι” (though he glossed it acceptably as “preparare”).
This copy of the text varies in different ways from other copies. Here, for comparison, are aphorisms 4 and 5 from two other manuscripts:
Comparison of Aphorisms δ’ and ε’ in Three Different Manuscripts