The Planets

Panelists: Robert Schmidt, Benjamin Dykes, Ernst Wilhelm, Ken Johnson

Re: The Planets

Postby Robert_Schmidt on Sat Jul 18, 2009 2:45 pm

Mr. Johnson has just raised a point about the lamentable lack of theoretical statements/justifications in Indian astrological texts. I must say the same is true of the surviving Hellenistic texts as well, especially from the founding era. With the exception of Ptolemy, who is in no way representative of the early tradition and appears to be going off on a tangent, all we have are practical texts and manuals.

However, I believe that the underlying principles can be ferreted out of the practical texts by paying careful attention to the technical vocabulary and the overall organization of the Hellenistic system. I wonder if you harbor the same hope.

And while we are on the subject, perhaps either you or Mr. Wilhelm could inform us of the concrete meaning of the various Sanskrit words for the planets and fixed stars in general.

Regarding the subject of zodiacal fixed stars versus extra-zodiacal ones, I have a strong suspicion that the Hellenistic astrologers regarded the extra-zodiacal stars as higher in deific rank than the ecliptic ones, as opposed to your statement about the Indian texts, although perhaps not quite so immediately useful or relevant in the study of natal charts.

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Re: The Planets

Postby Kenneth_Johnson on Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:08 am

The concept of reconstructing early astrological doctrines through a careful analysis of the practical texts is probably easier in the Hellenistic tradition than it is in Jyotish. The situation in India is enormously complicated by 1) the fact that India received practical rather than philosophical Hellenistic sources and therefore extrapolated their own cultural premises onto material wherein the philosophical basis was not spelled out, and 2) Hellenistic notions are mixed with indigenous Hindu astrological material which had already survived for a very, very long time. I suspect that any original conceptual or philosophical basis for astrology is more likely to come from Greek rather than Sanskrit sources, and I am hopeful that Mr. Schmidt is correct.

Later, I shall try to give a word-for-word translation of planetary names, though any attempt to do so for the twenty-seven nakshatras (the fixed stars) would be complicated by various issues. In any case, I shall have to wait until I return from California in early August, because there are often a variety of "common" names for the planets, so it takes some dictionary time. (Example: "Common" names for Mars are Kuja, Skandha, Karttikeya and Mangala.)

The greater importance of zodiacal fixed stars in the Hindu tradition as opposed to the Greek may be attributed to the fact that India had an extremely early "zodiac" of fixed stars, the nakshatras, which in its present form -- and even by the most conservative academic standards -- cannot be later than 800 BCE, though there is abundant evidence that the nakshatras have been present, though perhaps in somewhat different form, for much longer.
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