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Morin's Reputation

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Joined: 11 Oct 2003
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Location: New Jersey, USA

Posted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:38 pm    Post subject: Morin's Reputation Reply with quote

On another thread concerning Blackledge's book on Lilly, Mark Cullen asked a question that I sort of answered but wanted to continue the idea a bit, and add to it. That would have been off topic over there, so I'm starting a new thread.

Mark asked:

Did Morin ever put his reputation on the line in this way?

I tried to find some more information in my own library, and re-read what I downloaded from Robert Corre's site years ago. It was from Lynn Thornidikes A History of Magic and Experimental Science Volume VII and it discussed Morin. There is not a lot available about him in English, or at least I'm not aware of all that much.

So I re-read this portion of Thorndike and realized, this time, first that the author's grasp of astrology didn't appear to be too deep based on his explanation of Morin's work. I do realize that trying to synthesize an 800+ page tome into a few pages is a massive task, but there were statements that revealed a shakiness of understanding. But second, I found a paragraph that I thought had real insight.

As for astrology alone, he [Morin] found so much fault with that of everyone else, that it is doubtful whether he himself would find any followers. It is equally dubious whether his own destructive criticism would not counteract his detailed rebuttal of other critics of the art and even outbalance his own effort to reconstruct it.

There are several factors at play why Morin's astrology did not catch on - not the least of which is that the book under discussion wasn't published until 5 years after his death. Mostly, though, astrology itself was completely falling out of favor on the European Continent and within 50 years of the publication of Astrologia Gallica it would fall out of favor in Great Britain. So his timing stunk.

But Thorndike has a point. Morin's criticism was so heavy handed that it was off putting to potential adherents, and that his remarks could easily be taken to attack astrology itself. That's a double whammy creating obstacles that didn't have to be there.

I'm not so sure that the criticism of astrologers by astrologers was all that unusual in Morin's day. The "war" between Cardan and Guarico went on until Guarico's death in 1558. And the Lilly-Gadbury attacks went on for some time. However no one wrote an 800 page book so full of haughty criticism of so many regarding so much before Morin or after him. And to my knowledge, no one ever tried to do so much with astrology in one work. So it is kind of easy to dismiss him as a long winded crank rather than dispassionately look at what he was trying to do.

Astrologia Gallica was published more than 350 years ago. We no longer have to be concerned with the feelings of Cardano, who died 7 years before Morin was born, much less Ptolemy, and we can read Morin and still respect both as well as all the others he criticized. And from our distant vantage point we can also ask ourselves, "Is Ptolemy above criticism? Is Cardano?" "Is anyone?" All were men, not gods, and the most revered of the lot, Ptolemy, was probably not even an astrologer, so why not look at what they said critically? Then we can look at Morin's ideas, try to put them into practice and check the results. In other words ignore the ad hominem attacks and look at the ideas.

Can we obtain greater precision by narrowing the use of general significators? Are solar returns as important as he claims? Are primary directions the most divine of all techniques? Or maybe they're just really useful. In other words let's ignore the personal idiosyncrasies of the author and look at what he is saying and judge his astrology on its own terms. Put in even simpler terms, "Does any of it work consistently?"

If it does work well, it doesn't matter if he was a blow-hard, or hyper critical, or an ego maniac. What matters is that we have something of value to put into use for everyone's benefit.

Accepting any or all of Morin is not the same as dismissing everyone who came before him. There are a few ideas in his work that might be considered radical. For example, it is common to distinguish essential dignity from accidental dignity. He blends them in an effort to be more consistent with his natural philosophy. He doesn't, however, abandon the more common concepts. He uses them differently. Does that help? Hurt? Or is it neutral? We won't know unless we try.

He hated horary astrology possibly because he couldn't work it into his system of natural philosophy. That doesn't mean a contemporary astrologer can't use Morin's methods and use horary via Lilly. In fact that is probably a good idea.

I'm straying from the point. Morin's reputation as a critic of so much and so many is well deserved. We know he practiced astrology, but we don't have a written record of that practice like we do from Lilly. If Thorndike is right, and I think he is, his hyper-criticism affected his legacy more than his reputation while alive. But if he represents a potential for improvement, why ignore him?

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