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An Introduction to Medieval Cosmology

Islamic World 2

Short Course

Date: 22-Mar-22


Duration: 2 hrs

Admission: £150

Location: ZOOM/Moodle

Event Overview

An online short course organised by the Sophia Centre Press in partnership with the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, the Harmony Institute and the University’s distance-learning Masters Programme (MA) in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.

The Medieval Cosmos was full of meaning. It was pervaded with divine will, while the stars and planets were signs of coming events and spread their influence throughout the natural world. This was a world where magic was part of everyday experience and, through knowledge of the powers and forces of the cosmos, one could free one’s self from fate.

This five-week short course explores the cosmology of the mediaeval era, from the eighth century to the 13th century. We will introduce three key features of humanity’s relationship with the stars and planets: one is the relationship with the divine and the care of the soul, the second is astrology, the analysis of planetary movements and patterns in order to identify their significance, meaning or influence; the third is the notion of Harmony, and the idea that human beings should actively strive to maintain harmony between Heaven and Earth. We will spend two weeks looking at the Islamic world and three weeks at the Christian and Jewish European world.

The topics will include the structure of the cosmos, theories of fate and free will, attitudes to the stars and astrology in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, key examples of astrological technique and horoscopes and how astrology was used to look at history.

Teaching Staff

Dr. Nicholas Campion

Director of the Harmony Institute, Associate Professor in Cosmology and Culture, Principal Lecturer in the Institute of Education and Humanities and Director of the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He is Programme Director of the University’s MAs in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, and Ecology and Spirituality. His books include the two-volume History of Western Astrology (Bloomsbury 2008/9), and Astrology and Cosmology in the World’s Religions (New York University Press, 2012).

Dr. Chris Mitchell

Awarded his PhD by the University of Leicester on ‘Roger of Hereford’s Judicial Astrology: England’s First Astrology Book?’, a study of Roger of Hereford, the twelfth-century translator and astrologer. Chris is a graduate of the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and currently teaches on the programme at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He also teaches at the University of Leicester. He holds a diploma in Medieval Astrology from Astrologos and has given talks to groups and conferences in Europe and the US. He is the author of England’s First Astrology Book (Almuten Figuris Press, 2021), which is based on his PhD.

Terms and Conditions

Fees and Refunds – Fees must be paid in full before the commencement of the course. Refunds will be made if a student withdraws from the course before it commences. There are no refunds after student logs into the Course Moodle page which is opened up two days before the course begins.

Forum conduct – All students are expected to follow the netiquette guide and be respectful of other students and the tutor in their forum posts. The course tutor will remove any postings they consider to be inappropriate. The course tutor also reserves the right to block a student from posting on the forums if the student disregards a request by the tutor to revise their forum conduct.

Zoom conduct – Students attending the Zoom lectures live are expected to be focused on these lectures and only use the chat box for question directed at the lecture material. Students who misuse the chat box will be removed from the lecture.

Technology – It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that they have sufficient broadband and sufficient skills in operating their computer or tablet to enable them to engage with this online course.

Sophia Centre Short Courses are taught as part of our outreach programme from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. If you would like to take your studies further, you may apply for our unique, on-line, fully accredited Master’s programme in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, the only academic programme in the world to look explore our relationship with the sky, and the history, philosophy and culture of astrology.

Course Topics

(These may change a little as we go through the course).

Week 1 – Islamic World 1
We will begin with general introductions and orientation, and instructions on using Moodle and the online forum. We will then look at the general historical context and the main astrologers of the Islamic world, the concept of Harmony between Heaven and Earth, the Qur’an on God and the stars and signs and Aristotle, a favoured classical philosopher on natural influences and causes. We will then look at the Arabic parts in astrology.

Week 2 – Islamic World 2
We will introduce horary astrology through the work of Sahl ibn Bishr and historical astrology and the use of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions through Masha’allah and Abu Ma’shar. We will include the built environment: Islamic patterns, mosques, the qibla, horoscope of Baghdad and the legacy of the astrology of the Islamic world.

Week 3 – Europe 1 After setting the historical context we will introduce the work of St Augustine and Isidore of Seville, who defined Christian attitudes to astrology, and look at the state of astrology in Europe up to 1100. We will then go on to introduce computus and methods for the calculation of Easter, the Christian cosmos and its structure and meaning. We will conclude by looking at the translation of Arabic texts into Latin, al Qabisi, Adelard of Bath, and the complexities of horoscope calculation.

Week 4 – Europe 2 We will begin by looking at the claims and philosophy of Claudius Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, the most influential astrological text book, and then move on to look at the work of Roger of Hereford, England’s first astrologer, including his horary astrology, and debates concerning the soul, the stars and free will.

Week 5 – Europe 3
This week we look at Judaism and Astrology, astrological magic and Levi ben Gerson’s predictions for 1345. We will then wind up with general thoughts, discussion and conclusion.

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