[sacredlandscapelist] Re: Magic Square Numbers
- Mark Swaney wrote:
> The question is though, when and who and why did the magic squares getHere is a quote from page 377 of William Eisen's The Cabalah of Astrology (1986)
> assigned to the planets? An interesting point is that there is no planet
> with the number 1 or 2, (there is no magic square of two.) The best
> speculation is that the assignments were made by the Arabs, because it is
> known that the Arabs incorporated Magic Squares with their Astrological
> calculations. It is the classical position (such as has been researched -
> meaning NOT MUCH) that Magic Square esotericism passed to the West from the
> Arabs in about the 13th century.
"Eventually Ptolemys Tetrabiblos was translated into Arabic in the 8th century
by the Jewish astrologer Al Batrig Mashallah of Baghdad, and for the next 500
years, up until the middle of the 13th century, [Ralph William] Holden [in his
book The Elements of House Division, 1977,] traces the passing of the
astrological torch into the hands of the great Muslim astrologers. A renowned
school of astronomy and astrology was established in Baghdad and flourished for
many years. Among the most important literary works to be produced during this
period was the Elements of Astrology, written by Al Biruni in the 11th century.
This book carried the Equal House system of Ptolemy even further. These men
thoroughly understood the value of the Solar Houses (where the Sun is placed at
the ascendant, or at the East point in the chart), and they established a system
of Arabian Points, or Parts. The position of the Moon then became the Point of
Fortune, Mercury the Point of Commerce, Venus the Point of Love, etc. The
houses in which these sensitive points appeared, when compared with the actual
houses of the birth chart, thus enhanced the over-all interpretation of the
horoscope to a remarkable degree."
Mark wrote in his history summay:
"Al-Buni was an Arab mathematician that worked
on magic squares and also believed in the mystical properties of magic
squares, though no details on this number mysticism are available.
Al-Buni did his work on the squares about 1200 AD. Sources have also
referred to the Arabs using magic squares in making astrological
calculations and predictions, again no details are given. The
association of the squares with astrology and the heavens appears to be
original with the Arabs, but again, much is unknown concerning the
Is the Al Biruni mentioned by Eisen the Al-Buni Mark is referring to?
Maybe not if Al-Biruni worked in the 11th century (1000-1099) and Al-Buni worked
around 1200 AD.
1. The translation of the Tetrabiblos was done by a *Jewish* astrologer and we
know that later the rabbi of Damascus was deep into magic square Kabbalah
mysticism around 1500. Further the magic square references in Aggrippa's The
Occult Philosophy show associations with Hebrew, indicating a Jewish source. We
can conclude that even if the Arabs originally assigned the squares to the
planets, there was an interchange of ideas going on between Arab and Jewish
2. The place of this syncretism was probably in Baghdad. Now Baghdad is in
Mesopotamia, the site of the ancient civilizations of Sumeria and Babylonia
where the order of the planets used in assigning the magic squares was first
A quotation from John Opsopas:
4 9 2 Magic Square of 3
3 5 7
8 1 6
According to the Theory of Balance attributed to 8th century Muslim alchemist
Jabir ibn Hayyan (based on 3rd century works
by Zosimos and others), the Cosmos and everything in it is made from the numbers
1, 3, 5, 8, 17 and 28; they are the
foundation of all matter, of every science, and even of any possible language.
The first four numbers were assigned by the
Jabirian alchemists to the elements, 1=fire, 3=earth, 5=water, 8=air. The sum of
these is 17, which is the fifth number. The
Gnomon, which gives the larger square, sums to 4+9+2+7+6 = 28, the sixth number,
the second Perfect Number.
He also has some comments on the Chinese use of the Lo Shu square.
Chinese knowledge of the Saturn Square is shown by the ground plan of the
Ming-T'ang temple, which was built in A.D. 56.
However, as Stapleton (Antiq. Alch. 15) says, "a much greater antiquity for this
form of temple is indicated, firstly, by a temple
of this plan being essential for Imperial worship, and, secondly, that in the
7th century B.C., during the time of the warring
Lords, it was believed to have been used by Wu, the alleged founder of the Chou
dynasty in 1025 B.C., when sacrificing to his
ancestors. Moreover, if this tradition be correct, the Magic Square form of
temple may ultimately be of Scythian origin,
introduced at this time from Bactria, or ancient Iran, with the foreign
mercenaries from the West, to whose help Wu owed his
success in establishing a new dynasty." (From Bactria it may be traceable back
The Ming-T'ang had twelve stations for the monthly "Proclamation of Space and
Time." There is one station for each line
segment on the perimeter of the square, that is, two for each corner (even)
square, one for each side (odd)
square. The eight squares on the perimeter represent the eightfold year (3 =
vernal equinox, 9 = summer solstice, 7 = autumnal
equinox, 1 = winter solstice). The central square corresponds to the additional
days of the year beyond the twelve lunar months
represented by the twelve line segments of the outer squares. Thus the Son of
Heaven visited the central room of the temple
(numerically 5, the Emblem of the Center) at "the end of summer - a critical
period when the transition was made from the yang
seasons to the yin seasons" (Granet, Rel. Ch. 67). Alternately, the twelve line
segments of the perimeter can represent the solar
year and the zodiac. Thus the representation of Time; the temple also
represented Space by assigning 8+3 = east, 4+9 = south,
2+7 = west, 6+1 = north (the same four numbers as the elements, though not the
same pairs of squares); opposing directions
balance to 20, as do opposing elements. (Granet, Rel. Ch. 66-8; Stapleton,
Blofeld (I Ching, 218) says that mankind once understood how the Lo-Shu Square
is connected with the (apparently illogical)
Later Heaven Sequence of the I Ching, but that it has been forgotten and now
only the gods know it. I certainly have not been
able to find it. (The connection established by Hacker (41) seems to me to be
contrived, although it is remarkable enough that
any connection can be established at all.)
- Dan Washburn wrote:
> Mark Swaney wrote:Dan et al:
> "Al-Buni was an Arab mathematician that worked
> on magic squares and also believed in the mystical properties of magic
> squares, though no details on this number mysticism are available.
> Al-Buni did his work on the squares about 1200 AD. Sources have also
> referred to the Arabs using magic squares in making astrological
> calculations and predictions, again no details are given. The
> association of the squares with astrology and the heavens appears to be
> original with the Arabs, but again, much is unknown concerning the
> Indian tradition."
> Is the Al Biruni mentioned by Eisen the Al-Buni Mark is referring to?
> Maybe not if Al-Biruni worked in the 11th century (1000-1099) and Al-Buni worked
> around 1200 AD.
I forwarded this to my brother, Christopher, who is a medieval Islamic scholar. He
Biruni is famous. I'll send you a copy of the article from _The
Encyclopaedia of Islam_. Buni is not famous. One reference work I have
here in my office says that the name indicates origin in a town in Africa;
i.e., modern Tunisia. Several men by that name are mentioned but none that
would likely have worked with magical texts in Ethiopic languages.
From "Encyclopedia Iranica" 1985, here are a few things I gather:
Biruni - or al-Biruni [bee-roo-nee, accent on 2nd syllable] lived 973 - 1050. He was
from a region near the south end of the Aral Sea, but served in various courts in
Persia, eventually residing in what is now Afganistan. His learning was truly vast -
he wrote something like 180 books and treatises covering mathematics, astronomy,
history, language, pharmacology, minerology, geography, and Indology. He traveled to
India extensively during various invasions of that country. While there is no
mention of magic squares in the references my brother sent, he is credited with
advancing trigonometry, and was particularly known for his work calculating the
positions of planets.