View Full Version : Francesco Sizzi and Correlative Cosmologies

07-05-2005, 05:52
Galileo had numerous critics, as we all know, and one of them was the astrologer Francesco Sizzi, author of Dianoia Astronomica. When Galileo announced his discovery of Jupiter's four big moons, Sizzi responded:
Just as in the microcosm there are seven `windows' in the head (two nostrils, two eyes, two ears, and a mouth), so in the macrocosm God has placed two beneficent stars (Jupiter, Venus), two maleficent stars (Mars, Saturn), two luminaries (sun and moon), and one indifferent star (Mercury). The seven days of the week follow from these. Finally, since ancient times the alchemists had made each of the seven metals correspond to one of the planets; gold to the sun, silver to the moon, copper to Venus, quicksilver to Mercury, iron to Mars, tin to Jupiter, lead to Saturn.

From these and many other similar phenomena of nature such as the seven metals, etc., which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the number of planets is necessarily seven... Besides, the Jews and other ancient nations as well as modern Europeans, have adopted the division of the week into seven days, and have named them from the seven planets; now if we increase the number of planets, this whole system falls to the ground... Moreover, the satellites are invisible to the naked eye and therefore can have no influence on the earth, and therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist.
At first thought, it might seem like there were eight "windows" in Sizzi's head, but there is more to be said. The correspondences that Sizzi mentioned were a common belief in medieval and Renaissance astrology; as explained in this astrology page (http://www.renaissanceastrology.com/albiruniplanetsbodydisease.html), for example. Not only did planets correspond to various body parts, but also signs of the Zodiac, from Aries = head to Pisces = feet. The traditional four elements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_Element), earth, air, fire, and water, also corresponded to body parts, or more precisely, body fluids or humors: black bile, blood, yellow bile, and phlegm, respectively. And also personality types, whose names we still use: melancholic, sanguine, choleric, and phlegmatic.

Such correspondence systems were also developed in China, where the traditional five elements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Elements) (earth, wood, metal, water, and fire) were related to colors, directions, planets, seasons, senses, internal organs, fingers, etc.

Steve Farmer (http://www.safarmer.com/) has discussed such "correlative cosmologies" in detail, notably in Neurobiology, Layered Texts, and Correlative Cosmologies: A Cross-Cultural Framework for Premodern History (http://www.safarmer.com/neuro-correlative.pdf). Such systems reached their height in early modern times, only to collapse under their own weight. Sizzi's argument illustrates the difficulty such systems had in assimilating new information, and better paradigms eventually came along. It is entirely possible that some imaginative correlative cosmologist would have been able to "discover" what the Galilean satellites correspond to, but I'm not aware of anyone who has claimed any such correspondences.

Some correspondence systems were later developed, like the Periodic Table of Elements, but these differ from earlier ones in being internal to some category (chemical elements) as opposed to being between different categories. Furthermore, such correspondence systems have typically been explainable in terms of theoretical paradigms devised later, like quantum chemistry.

Finally, the planet-weekday correspondence is real because the seven-day week had likely been invented to make each day correspond to a planet.

Hugo Holbling
07-05-2005, 12:03
Sizzi's objections to Galileo were Scriptural in origin, based on there being seven arms to the candelabra in the temple of Jerusalem, but had more to do with the hermetic injunction "as above, so below" (explained here (http://www.galilean-library.org/hermeticism.html)). Even so, it is simplistic to assert (without argument) that "such systems ... collapse[d] under their own weight", with Galenic humoral theory surviving the attacks of Paracelsians, Helmontians and even Harvey's demonstration of the circulation of the blood, even as the failure to provide alternatives to Aristotelian ideas on place (http://www.galilean-library.org/academy/viewtopic.php?t=120), motion and other areas ensured their survival. This occurred precisely because the Aristotelian framework, buttressed by neoplatonic ideas, had such explanatory power. Meanwhile, Sizzi was one of Galileo's greatest supporters following the latter's discussion of floating bodies and the resulting controversy with Aristotelians like Collombe.

In any case, what point are you trying to make? What is a "better paradigm" and what does it have to do with Sizzi or Galileo?

09-05-2005, 06:28
My point is that Francesco Sizzi had used a type of theorizing that had been common before modern times -- correlative cosmology. "As above, so below" was taken to much greater lengths than what that phrase might suggest. And the seven arms of the candelabra was only one out of several notable sevens that Sizzi mentioned. And this wasn't a biblical argument; the Bible contains only a little bit of correlative cosmology, and not very explicit correlative cosmology at that. The most I can think of are notable twelves, like the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve apostles, the twelve kinds of precious stones in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21, and the 144,000 virgin men who will get to that city first (12,000 from each tribe). I don't think that the Bible has a lot of notable sevens, however; the most I can think of are the seven days of the first creation story in Genesis, and that is IMO a rather obvious charter myth for the Sabbath (six days of work, then one day of rest).

And it was correlative cosmologies that collapsed under their own weight, not the four-humors theory. HH, you might find Steve Farmer's work interesting and relevant; it's right up your alley.

Hugo Holbling
09-05-2005, 06:39
Galenic theory was far more than the four humous and i didn't say it collapsed, Loren. In any case, if you are going to characterise it thus or make claims about correlative cosmologies then kindly provide arguments for your assertions when posting here.

Thanks for the Farmer suggestion.