Morin, Jean-Baptiste

Morin, Jean-Baptiste (Morinus)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Jean-Baptiste Morin (Morinus), the French astrologer and physician, was born in Villefranche, France, in 1583. He received his doctor of medicine degree at Avignon in 1613. Over the next several years, he was a physician to a bishop, an abbot, and the duke of Luxemburg. In 1630, Morin became royal professor of mathematics. He was appointed to draw up the horoscope of the newborn Louis XIV.

Morin developed a method of determining longitudes at sea using the distance of the Moon from a fixed star. He divided the universe into elemental, ethereal, and celestial matter and proposed three layers of earth, which corresponded in reverse order to the three regions of the air. He criticized Ptolemy, rejected Cardan and Kepler, and denied the existence of a vacuum and Toricelli’s proof thereof. He advocated the medicine of Paracelsus and opposed the heliocentric astronomy of Copernicus.

As a young child, when both his parents were sick, Morin was asked by his older brother which parent he would prefer to survive. His preference was his father (who eventually recovered), although he loved both parents. When his brother told his mother what he had said, she hated him for the next two days before she died and left him the minimum required by law.

It is not likely that his mother could have given him much even had she wanted to, as his parents had been reduced to poverty by the civil wars, plunder, pillage, lawsuits, and calamities that marked the era of his birth. Because of trying times, his education was interrupted for 10 years.

In Astrologia Gallica, Morin wrote: “Each planet in the XII house [he had five if Venus was included, a mere 2° into the XIth] portends a prison cell.” Further, “Of this, the course of my youth alone could hardly give more striking confirmation, due to my love of vengeance and pleasures of the flesh.” Yet his “prison cells” were metaphorical, he was not imprisoned, but he did suffer servitude. From age of 16 to 46, he worked for 16 masters and had poor relations with them all. Morin characterized his relations with his employers as, “thankless servitude and injurious masters.” Even though he saved the life of one of them by performing an operation no other doctor would have attempted, his employer showed him “monstrous ingratitude.” He complained that his life was a litany of blasphemy against him by an army of detractors.

Just as his parents seem to have been poor, so was Morin. He wrote that he suffered repeated bouts of chronic illness and faced violent death more than 16 times. In spite of ill health, he lived to 73 years of age. Notwithstanding the enmity he faced, several times in his life he had the love and support of eminent persons, including kings, queens, princes, and cardinals. From 1635 to 1654, he had to fight to offset his detractors’ assaults. During this period he developed a method of determining longitudes as sea using the distance of the Moon from a fixed star.

Religiously, Morin was an avid Roman Catholic. He defended Catholicism against the Hussites, Lutherans, and Calvinists. Yet Cardinal Richelieu treated him shamefully, he complained. Morin did not like atheists. He attacked the humanist Pico della Mirandola, who had attacked astrology in his Disputationes contra astrologiam divinatricem (1496).

By his own admission, Morinus was fond of “the pleasures of the flesh.” His adventures occasionally led to danger, as, for instance, in 1605. In a fight over a woman, he was wounded just below the heart and in the thigh. In true French style, he lost a great deal of blood and only avoided fainting by drinking six cups of wine.

Morin was the author of a number of books. His astrological doctrine is most fully set forth in his monumental 850-page Astrologia Gallica which was not published until five years after his death. It is in that book that a great deal of autobiographical information about Morin appears.

Astrologia Gallica is divided into 26 books. After an autobiographical preface and another preface advocating astrology, the books cover the following topics:

Book I: the true cognition of God from the light of Nature
Book II: creation
Book III: the division of the world into three regions—elementary, aetherial, and celestial
Book IV: the extension and continuous quantity of created beings
Book V: space, place, and the vacuum
Book VI: motion and time
Book VII: the efficient cause
Book VIII: treats of the alteration of physical bodies
Book IX: mixed bodies
Book X: the experiences, sects, and principles of astrology
Book XI: the simple and primary powers of acting of the celestial
Book XII: the elemental and influential qualities of the celestial bodies
Book XIII: the proper natures and powers of the individual planets and fixed stars
Book XIV: the first physical cause
Book XV: the essential dignities of the planets
Book XVI: the rays and aspects of the stars
Book XVII: the astrological houses
Book XVIII: the fortitudes and debilities of the planets
Book XIX: the elements of astrology
Book XX: the universal action of the celestial bodies with respect to themselves and to sublunary things
Book XXI: the active determination of the celestial bodies and the passive determination of sublunary things
Book XXII: directions
Book XXIII: revolutions of nativities
Book XXIV: progressions and transits
Book XXV: the universal constitutions of heaven
Book XXVI: interrogations and elections

Morin’s astrology is based upon Aristotle’s philosophy and metaphysics. It is geocentric. His work belongs to a period in Western astrology during which the practitioners of astrology fell over themselves in order to appear rational and scientific. Much space in Astrologia Gallica is given to the purging of astrology of what Morin deemed irrational and erroneous procedures. He objected to the Arabic usage of triplicity rulers and replaced it with another of his own devising. He objected to the promiscuous and unregulated use of the universal significations of the planets and introduced his own doctrine of local determination of the Primum Mobile, which he felt enabled the astrologer to make accurate predictions. He stressed the importance of understanding the nature, analogy, and zodiacal state of the planets along with their local determination by the astrological houses in order to get an accurate understanding of their influence on sublunary things. Without such an accurate understanding, correct delineation and prediction is impossible.

For Morin, the natures of the planets were essentially the same as what other astrologers had long believed, but they were not recognized as being as distinct as they were in reality. Aside from their natures, the planets had analogy with specific kinds of manifestation. This analogy was an important factor in delineation.

By zodiacal state, Morin understod the planet’s interaction with the sign it is in, its dignity (he recognized rulership, exaltation, and triplicity) or debility (he recognized detriment and fall). He supposed peregrine was a kind of frontier between dignity and debility. His understanding of dignity of triplicity was that a planet in a sign of the same element as the one it rules is in dignity (or honor) of triplicity in that sign (e.g. Mars, who rules the fire sign Aries, in Leo or Sagittarius; Venus, who rules the air sign Libra, in Aquarius or Gemini). Zodiacal state also entailed the planet’s relationship with its dispositor (the ruler of the sign it was in), as well as the aspects it received. Zodiacal state modulated the qualitative manifestation of the one planetary nature (Mars, Venus, etc.) giving it a hierarchy of expression from pure to corrupt. The purer a planet’s influence, the easier it produced what it promised. Local determination specified the field of action a planet might have, limiting it to the affairs of life corresponding to the house it was in (hence “local”) or the one(s) it ruled, or to the affairs of those houses and rulers to whom it was linked by aspect.

Morin regarded astrology as a divine art. Bad astrology was the work of the devil intended to discredit it and to remove it from man’s use. He strongly objected to the medieval astrology, which he saw as corrupted by “Arabisms.” He questioned the astrological doctrine of combustion, which held that combust planets cease to act on the sublunary world. He favored Regiomontanus houses over equal houses. But he developed his own house system described in Astrologicarum domorum cabala detecta (1623). Morin taught that benefic planets could accidentally work evil (“accidental malefics”) and malefics could accidentally work good (accidental benefics).

Morin presented the claim that he was reforming astrology. Actually, his reforms were more like rearticulations of the very astrologers he objected to most: Guido Bonatti, Abū Ma’shar, Massa’allah, and Cardanus. Yet upon close study, his assertion that he had improved upon the medieval astrology derived from Arabic and Persian astrologers appeared to amount to his making explicit what was either implicit in the teachings of Bonatti, the thirteenth-century Italian astrologer who resumed the practices of the Arabic astrologers.

For instance, Morin’s rule in delineation, “The good or bad signified by a house emanates from the ruler of the house” (Book XXI Astrologia Gallica), is found in Bonatti’s Liber astronomiae and attributed to Abū Ma’shar. So, too, the idea that benefic planets can accidentally work evil and malefics can accidentally work good. In Book XXII, which deals with primary directions, his teaching that the significator indicates the kind of event and the promittor (promissor), the quality is implicit in the earlier medieval and Arabic astrological practice. It can be seen by analyzing the effects of transits. In the final analysis, although Morin’s “Rational System of Horoscope Analysis” is of great practical benefit to the practicing astrologer, much of it is not new, nor even Morin’s.

It was common to “borrow” the work of one’s predecessors in astrology in the seventeenth century and use it without attribution. Indeed, the practice continues in the contemporary astrological scene and related fields. One suspects, reading early modern books on magic, that at least some of the “fathers” of modern science and “inventors” merely published technologies and theories previously handed down secretly within networks of those interested in the occult arts. Certainly a number of astrological doctrines Morin claimed as his own contributions were known to Bonatti and his Arabic sources.

Nevertheless, in most cases Morin made explicit what was implicit or easily missed by Bonatti. For this he deserves the practicing astrologer’s respect and gratitude. Also to his credit is his provision of a philosophical and metaphysical context to his astrology, something generally missing in medieval and ancient astrological texts. Morin died in Paris in 1656.

—Robert Zoller

Sources:

Morin, Jean-Baptiste (Morinus). Astrologia Gallica. The Hague, 1661.
Morin. Astrosynthesis. Translated by Lucy Little. New York: Emerald Books, 1974.
Morin. La Vie Devant les Asters. Translated by Jean Hieroz. Nice, 1943.
Morin. My Life Before the Stars, by J.-B. Morin de Villefranche. Translated by Michael Edwards. In Astrology, the Astrological Quarterly, the Journal of the Astrological Lodge of London. Vol. 60, no. 2, Summer 1986, pp. 65–75.
The Morinus System of Horoscope Interpretation. Translated by Richard S. Baldwin. Washington, DC: American Federation of Astrologers, 1974.