The Planets as Gods?

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The Planets as Gods?

Postby Tiberius Publicius Gracchus » Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:46 pm

Are the planets Gods? They are certainly named after them, and they have astrological significance. Just as rivers and bodies of water have Gods associated with them it makes sense that the planets do too. But are they literally the same Gods they are named after? Cicero seems to be arguing that the regularity of the planets'orbits proove that they are Gods. What do you think?
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:51 am

For me, personally they are only planets named after the Gods, not the Gods themselves. But that's just me. Even Cicero's argument isnt convincing since regularity of orbit hardly seems to me to be a mark of being any specific god. I surely believe these planets ARE Gods, but only in the same sense that Tellus is a goddess (Mother Earth). Not that they are the Gods they are named after.
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Mon Nov 14, 2016 10:40 am

Salvete!
They are meant to be celestial manifestations of the gods. By the way it is a common feature of most of the ancient civilizations to associate similar gods to the planets.
The supreme god of the Babylonians was Marduk, so this was the name of Jupiter. The goddess of love (and war) was Ishtar. So it was also their name of the planet Venus.
There is a certain pattern here among many ancient civilizations. So there is more to it than it appears at first sight.
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Mon Nov 14, 2016 4:23 pm

For those who believe that the rivers, forests, mountains, and plains all have spirits (Gods), then I would say from my very small experience with such, that planets would have spirits or Gods as well. However, considering that aspect, the Earth would have a spirit or God too, perhaps Jupiter or Zeus or even someone bigger and more powerful. Now, the sun comes into the picture, and considering the importance of the sun to life on earth, it must also have a God (one of the Egyptian pharohs worshipped a sun god, I believe). Since we do not know about life on any of the planets, we would have to say, at the moment, that each planet to our knowledge, would only have one God, unless minor Gods for each planet were designated for things like the rings, ice explosions, storms, fire storms, lava pools, clouds, and other physical things that we do know about the planets.

Then we can reach to the stars, and each one must also have a God, together with the minor Gods of each of the planets found with that star, together with each planetoid, moon, and comet in our present Solar System and the systems of other stars! Then, since galaxies are creations as well, which encompass stars, planets and all the rest, so they all must have Gods as well! Then we can look to the universe to decide a 'command structure" for these Gods and Goddesses. Who is in charge of the universe, who started it and when will it be over? Each galaxy God, and so one down the line to the spirits of bridges, streams, roads and even smaller things? Truly, the idea of the God's shadows on a wall, as to what they do, who they are, and why they are here, is a very, very, great mystery!

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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Tue Nov 15, 2016 5:01 pm

Thank you for mentioning the sun, Marce Audens! This is a good example regarding the topic that I totally forgot. Sol Invictus was an important god of the late principate that later merged with Iesus Nazarenus under Constantine. So in some way even Christianity became the worship of a planet (The sun was considered one of the seven planets in antiquity due to the geocentric model of the universe.). Dies Natalis Solis Invicti became Dies Natalis Christi, i.e. Christmas. Dies Solis (Sunday) became Dies Domini (Day of the Lord).
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:46 pm

Salvete,

As for the spirits of the planets, I totally agree - Earth certainly has one (Gaia, for example), so why not the other planets?
As we know, the planet names are derived from Roman and Greek mythology. The five planets easily visible with the eye (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) have been observed for all human history, and they were called different things by different cultures. Of course, the Romans named these planets according to their movements and appearence.
So, the names were relative to the time and culture - but the Roman names were adopted and became the dominant name, with the one exception of Earth (Gaia is not the common name, and the word earth is Germanic). Astronomers in societies that have other traditional names for the planets may use those names in scientific discourse. For example, IAU does not disapprove of astronomers discussing Jupiter in Arabic using the traditional Arabic name for the planet, المشتري and who knows what other life in the universe may call them!
But the tradition of naming the planets after Greek and Roman gods and goddesses was carried on for the other planets discovered as well. We must also consider that Neptune and Uranus were not discovered until the 18-19th century, and Pluto was even later! These planets were simply sticking to the tradition of naming them after Roman and Greek figures.
While I agree that the planets and celestial bodies have spirits, they may have names that are not even known to us. The gods were honored when we named the planets after them - but I will disagree when one says that the god is embodied in the planet. Since there are so many names for any one planet, one god cannot simply push out other cultures and names - so to say. And Cicero may agree with me! In my opinion, the planets are not gods in themselves - but entirely different beings, spirits, or entities of their own.
And of course, no one may be in charge of the Universe - not even the gods as we understand. I have a deep background in Stoic philosophy, so I absolutely agree with the Harmony and Balance of the Universe (and Fate, too) - wherein the Universe is likened to a "god," in a sense. You can even say that just as atoms make up our bodies, the planets and stars are like the atoms that make up the Universe. The planets, the gods - even us - we are part of the whole picture that is the Universe.

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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Tiberius Publicius Gracchus » Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:23 am

I absolutely agree with the Harmony and Balance of the Universe (and Fate, too) - wherein the Universe is likened to a "god," in a sense.
When Cicero is talking about "god" in the singular sense I assume he is not referring to a monotheistic God. The Stoic portion on his work is much more confusing to me and I am not sure if I am following. What does Cicero mean when he writes about "God" in a singular sense. I have seen this in other authors. At first I thought something was not coming through in translation, but I have seen it quite often. Do you know of a good modern source that explains the stoic understanding of the Universe, that explains the jargon?
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Gaia Cassia Longina » Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:50 am

Salve, Gracche,

Tiberius Publicius Gracchus wrote:When Cicero is talking about "god" in the singular sense I assume he is not referring to a monotheistic God. The Stoic portion on his work is much more confusing to me and I am not sure if I am following. What does Cicero mean when he writes about "God" in a singular sense. I have seen this in other authors. At first I thought something was not coming through in translation, but I have seen it quite often. Do you know of a good modern source that explains the stoic understanding of the Universe, that explains the jargon?


I quote Cicero:
The universe itself is God and the universal outpouring of its soul; it is this same world's guiding principle, operating in mind and reason, together with the common nature of things and the totality that embraces all existence; then the foreordained might and necessity of the future; then fire and the principle of aether; then those elements whose natural state is one of flux and transition, such as water, earth, and air; then the sun, the moon, the stars; and the universal existence in which all things are contained. (Cicero, De Natura Deorum, i.39)


When the Stoics refer to the Universe as a "god," it is certainly not in the sense that monotheistic religions use today. Since the Universe is made of different parts, it is not a singular thing - you could say the same for our own bodies - made up of different parts - but yet, still one. Cicero did not really speak of "God" in the sense that modern day terms can understand.

This soul that Cicero mentions is an energy, a force, that every living thing has. This of course, makes the Universe alive, this makes it closer to a god - would you disagree? It is alive, has a soul, etc. The only thing that makes the Universe different is that it is not personified like other gods. It has no body, no face, no name.

The Stoic Harmony is simply "living according to Nature" and not fighting Fate, so to say. Balance is when all things are in line and "working properly," quite like a scale, weighing objects. In order for it to be "right," it needs to be equal - and therefore, adding things to one side is not harmonious, and therefore, could be harmful. It is a balance between cosmic determination and our own freedom and it is virtuous to live according to the Fate given to you by the Universe. The Universe, to put it in simple terms, was like a force that balanced (therefore, creating harmony) and "controlled" everything according to Fate. It is not personified like that idea can be with monotheistic religions (e.g. God is the force and power in the Universe - meaning, he IS the Stoic idea of the Universe). Anyway, before my philosophy takes over more and I digress, the Universe is not a "god" in modern terms. It is not the ONE god - it is a holy force, almost. Just as I believe that the gods are more forces and energies rather than some people sitting on top of Olympus! It is rather a sacred idea, not necessarily a person, like today.

This website is a good start to check out: http://www.iep.utm.edu/stoicism/
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Fri Nov 18, 2016 11:14 am

We have to be careful with translations. Latin has no articles, they are implied in the noun and there is therefore no distinction between definite and indefinite.
When Cicero is quoted "The universe itself is God", then it is a monotheist mistranslation. The correct translation is " The universe itself is a god." By committing the corresponding article the monotheists want the noun "god" appear as a proper name, which are in English used without an article. However for Cicero "deus" is a noun, not a name. It is therefore an incorrect translation, even if it is grammatically correct, because the translation "God" with capital letter and without article changes the meaning in an unintended way.
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Re: The Planets as Gods?

Postby Publius Iulius Albinus » Mon Nov 21, 2016 7:44 am

It depends. Gaia, or Terra Mater, is depicted in Graeco-Roman mythology and religion as being the literal Earth herself. Not merely the personification of the Earth, but the physical land from which life springs was venerated as the primordial goddess. But other planets are barren and lifeless; the reason Earth was seen as the primordial goddess that mothered the other primordial gods, titans, and nymphs, is because the world around us is so vibrantly full of life. The biological environment surrounds us. That is also why Earth abounds with animistic spirits of the streams and forests and mountains--these are all living places. And aside from di inferi or the spirits of the dead, gods and spirits generally do not dwell where there is no life.

Ultimately, our understanding of the other planets of the Solar System is radically different from the understanding the ancients had of the heavens and its stellar and planetary bodies. It is not necessarily wise to place too much weight in the musings of ancient philosophers when it comes to subjects in which there is such a disparity between ancient and modern knowledge of the natural sciences.
These being the words of Publius Iulius Albinus Alexander.
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