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Chapter III.—The Horoscope the Foundation of Astrology; Indiscoverability of the Horoscope; Therefore the Futility of the Chaldean Art.

The originating principle,151151    This passage occurs in Sextus Empiricus. and, as it were, foundation, of the entire art, is fixing152152    Or, “the knowledge of.” the horo25scope.153153    Horoscope (from ὥρα σκοπός) is the act of observing the aspect of the heavens at the moment of any particular birth. Hereby the astrologer alleged his ability of foretelling the future career of the person so born. The most important part of the sky for the astrologer’s consideration was that sign of the Zodiac which rose above the horizon at the moment of parturition. This was the “horoscope ascendant,” or “first house.” The circuit of the heavens was divided into twelve “houses,” or zodiacal signs. For from this are derived the rest of the cardinal points, as well as the declinations and ascensions, the triangles and squares, and the configurations of the stars in accordance with these; and from all these the predictions are taken. Whence, if the horoscope be removed, it necessarily follows that neither any celestial object is recognisable in the meridian, or at the horizon, or in the point of the heavens opposite the meridian; but if these be not comprehended, the entire system of the Chaldeans vanishes along with (them). But that the sign of the horoscope is indiscoverable by them, we may show by a variety of arguments. For in order that this (horoscope) may be found, it is first requisite that the (time of) birth of the person falling under inspection should be firmly fixed; and secondly, that the horoscope which is to signify this should be infallible; and thirdly, that the ascension154154    Or, “difference.” of the zodiacal sign should be observed with accuracy. For from155155    Or, “during.” (the moment) of birth156156    ἀποτέξεως; some would read ἀποτάξεως. the ascension of the zodiacal sign rising in the heaven should be closely watched,157157    The passage is given more explicitly in Sextus Empiricus. (See Adversus Astrol., v. 53.) since the Chaldeans, determining (from this) the horoscope, frame the configuration of the stars in accordance with the ascension (of the sign); and they term this—disposition, in accordance with which they devise their predictions. But neither is it possible to take the birth of persons, falling under consideration, as I shall explain, nor is the horoscope infallible, nor is the rising zodiacal sign apprehended with accuracy.

How it is, then, that the system of the Chaldeans158158    Sextus uses almost these words. is unstable, let us now declare. Having, then, previously marked it out for investigation, they draw the birth of persons falling under consideration from, unquestionably, the depositing of the seed, and (from) conception or from parturition. And if one will attempt to take (the horoscope) from conception, the accurate account of this is incomprehensible, the time (occupied) passing quickly, and naturally (so). For we are not able to say whether conception takes place upon the transference159159    Or “lodgment” (Sextus), or “deposition.” of the seed or not. For this can happen even as quick as thought, just also as leaven, when put into heated jars, immediately is reduced to a glutinous state. But conception can also (take place) after a lapse of duration. For there being an interval from the mouth of the womb to the fundament, where physicians160160    Or, “attendants of physicians.” say conceptions take place, it is altogether the nature of the seed deposited to occupy some time in traversing161161    Or, “make.” this interval.  The Chaldeans, therefore, being ignorant of the quantity of duration to a nicety, never will comprehend the (moment of) conception; the seed at one time being injected straight forward, and falling at one spot upon actual parts of the womb well disposed for conception, and at another time dropping into it dispersedly, and being collected into one place by uterine energies. Now, while these matters are unknown, (namely), as to when the first takes place, and when the second, and how much time is spent in that particular conception, and how much in this; while, I say, ignorance on these points prevails on the part of these (astrologers), an accurate comprehension of conception is put out of the question.162162    Or, “vanishes.” And if, as some natural philosophers have asserted, the seed, remaining stationary first, and undergoing alteration in the womb, then enters the (womb’s) opened blood-vessels, as the seeds of the earth163163    Not in Sextus Empiricus. sink into the ground; from this it will follow, that those who are not acquainted with the quantity of time occupied by the change, will not be aware of the precise moment of conception either. And, moreover, as women164164    The passage is more clearly given in Sextus. differ from one another in the other parts of the body, both as regards energy and in other respects, so also (it is reasonable to suppose that they differ from one another) in respect of energy of womb, some conceiving quicker, and others slower.  And this is not strange, since also women, when themselves compared with themselves, at times are observed having a strong disposition towards conception, but at times with no such tendency. And when this is so, it is impossible to say with accuracy when the deposited seed coalesces, in order that from this time the Chaldeans may fix the horoscope of the birth.

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