ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
CHAPTER FIVE: THE RISE OF MODERN SCIENCE, AND GNOSTICISM
The Geocentric Cosmos
As mentioned earlier, during late classical and medieval times all learned people knew perfectly well that the earth was round. Philosophers such as Aristotle argued that everything that moved had a mover, just as everything that happened had a cause. This indeed was his chief argument for the existence of God, as the unmoved mover and the uncaused cause. Since Sumerian times, the learned had observed that certain “stars” which the Greeks called planets moved through the heavens. They called those which didn’t move “fixed stars.” Aristotle reasoned that the planets moved because they were pushed by gods; he held that the sun and moon moved for the same reasons. In the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmos, the globe-shaped earth was the center of the universe. Surrounding it were nine crystalline spheres, each of which contained the movable heavenly bodies. The ninth sphere was the unmoved mover which operated the system. The high gods dwelt beyond, but, though normally invisible, constantly intervened in the cosmos.
Early Christians took over the Aristotelean/ Ptolemaic paradigm and adapted it to Christian theology. The Genesis model, incidentally, was then already obsolete, and was rejected. In the latter scheme, which is based on the ancient Babylonian, a flat or concave earth is surrounded by waters above and below. Thus:
“And God said. Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.” (The Holy Scriptures: Revised in Accordance with Jewish Tradition and Modern Biblical Scholarship)
The Aristotelean/Ptolemaic cosmos was thus completely different from the Biblical model. This, however, caused no problems for the Church Fathers and the medieval Catholic Scholastic Philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas. They were not literalists, or, as we say today, fundamentalists. This latter position appeared only very recently, a defensive stance of very conservative American Protestants who reject the scientific world view. The ancient and medieval Christians accepted Greek science completely, and revised their concepts of the cosmos accordingly.
Essentially, the Aristotelean/Ptolemaic schema is precisely what the naïve observer would conclude from observation. If one stands under the starry sky on