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BOOK III - Introduction
BOOK III - Introduction - from Tetrabiblos by Claudius Ptolemy
As in what precedes we have presented the theory of universal events, because this comes first and for the most part has power to control the predictions which concern the special nature of any individual, the prognostic part of which we call the genethlialogical art, we must believe that the two divisions have One and the same power both practicaUy and theoretically. For the cause both of universal and of particular events is the motion of the planets, sun, and moon; and the prognostic art is the scientific observation of precisely the change in the subject natures which corresponds to parallel movements of the heavenly bodies through the surrounding heavens, except that universal conditions are greater and independent, and particular Ones not similarly so. We must not, however, consider that both divisions employ the same starting points, from which, hy reckoning the disposition of the heavenly bodies, we attempt to foretell the events signified hy their aspects at that time. On the contrary, in the case of the universals we have to take many starting points, since we have no single one for the universe ; and these too are not always taken from the subjects themselves, but also from the elements that attend them and carry with them the causes; for we investigate practically all the starting-points presented by the more complete eclipses and the significant passages of the planets. In predictions affecting individual men, however, we have both one and many starting-points. The one is the beginning of the temperament itself, for this we have; and the many are the successive significances of the ambients which are relative to this first beginning, though to be sure the single starting-point is naturally in this case of greatest importance because it produces the others. As this is so, the general characteristics of the temperament are determined from the first startingpoint, while by means of the others we predict events that will come about at specific times and vary in degree, following the socalled ages of life.
Since the chronological starting-point of human nativities is naturally the very time of conception, but potentially and accidentally the moment of birth, in cases in which the very time of conception is known either by chance or by observation, it is more fitting that we should follow it in determining the special nature of body and soul, examining the effective power of the conflguration of the stars at that time. For to the seed is given once and for all at the beginning such and such qualities by the endowment of the ambient; and even though it may change as the body subsequently grows, since by natural process it mingles with itself in the process of growth only matter which is akin to itself, thus it resembles even more closely the type of its initial quality.
But if they do not know the time of conception, which is usually the case, we must follow the startingpoint furnished hy the moment of birth and give to this our attention, for it too is of great importance and falls abort of the former only in this respect that by the former it is possible to have foreknowledge also of events preceding birth. For if One should call the One "source" and the other, as it were, "beginning," its importance in time, indeed, is secondary, but it is equal or rather even more perfect in potentiality, and with reasonable propriety would the former be called the genesis of human seed and the latter the genesis of a man. For the child at birth and his bodily form take on many additional attributes which he did not have before, when he was in the womb, those very Ones indeed which belong to human nature alone; and even if it seems that the ambient at the time of birth contributes nothing toward his quality, at least his very coming forth into the light under the appropriate conformation of the heavens contributes, since nature, after the child is perfectly formed, gives the impulse to its birth under a configuration of similar type to that which governed the child's formation in detail in the first place. Accordingly one may with good reason believe that the position of the stars at the time of birth is significant of things of this sort, not, however, for the reason that it is causative in the full sense, but that of necessity and by nature it bas potentially very similar causative power.
Since it is our present purpose to treat of this division likewise systematically on the basis of the discussion, introduced at the beginning of this compendium, of the possibility of prediction of this kind, we shall decline to present the ancient method of prediction, which brings into comhination all or most of the stars, because it is manifold and well-nigh infinite, if One wishes to recount it with accuracy. Besides, it depends much more upon the particular attempts of those who make their inquiries directly from nature than of those who can theorize on the basis of the traditions; and furthermore we shall omit it on account of the diffieulty in using it and following it. Those very procedures through which each kind of thing is apprehended by the practical method, and the active influences of the stars, both special and general, we shall, as far as possible, consistently and briefly, in accordance with natural conjecture, set forth. Our preface shall be an account of the places in the heavens to which reference is made when particular human events are theoretically considered, a kind of mark at which One must aim before proceeding further; to this we shall add a general discussion of the active powers of the heavenly bodies that gain kinship with these places by dominating them - the loosing of the arrow, as it were; but the predicted result, summed up by the combination of many elements applied to the underlying form, we shall leave, as to a skilful archer, to the calculation of him who conducts the investigation. First, then, we shall discuss in proper sequence the general matters the consideration of which is accomplished through the time of birth taken as the starting-point, for, as we have said, this furnishes an explanation of all natural events, but, if One is willing to take the additional trouble, by the same reasoning the properties that fall at the time of conception will also be of aid toward ascertaining the peculiar qualities that apply directly to the combination.