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Sibley, Manoah (1757-1840)

Sibley, Manoah (1757-1840)

Swedenborgian minister and astrologer, born in Bristol, England, on August 20, 1757, the younger brother of astrologer Ebenezer Sibley. Unlike his college-educated brother, Manoah Sibley had to study on his own from age 11, but through his teens he mastered several languages, which, along with shorthand, he taught through the 1760s and 1770s. He married in 1780 and opened a bookshop, which he and his wife managed. Sibley dropped his own work to align with the church that had been established in London by Robert Hindmarsh. Swedenborg's teachings were received as the end of his spiritual quest and by Easter of the next year he began preaching. He was ordained in 1790. Hindmarsh, a former Methodist, modeled his church on that which was familiar to him. Sibley found his approach too restrictive and in 1793 he left to found his own Swedenborgian congregation. He preached weekly for the next forty years.

Apart from pioneering the beliefs of Emanuel Swedenborg in England, Sibley is most remembered today for his publication of translations of the writings of Claudius Ptolemy and Placidus. Sibley's translation of the Tetrabiblos (four books) of Ptolemy, the major work from which Western astrology developed, appeared in 1786, and the writings of Placidus, whose system of arranging the astrological houses would come to dominate astrology in the next century, appeared in several volumes in 1789 and 1790.

Astrologers hail Sibley for making these works available and note their importance in directing the astrological revival in England in the nineteenth century. Critics have charged Sibley with theft, first of Whalley's earlier translation of the Tetrabiblos, and then of a manuscript of a translation of the writing of Placidus. All of his books are full of errors that, in spite of his linguistic accomplishments, he could not correct because he did not have copies of the Latin originals.

Whatever the problems with the translations, Sibley went on to an even more prestigious career with the Bank of England, beginning in 1797, and was appointed principal of the Chancery Office in 1815.

Sibley died in December 1840 in London.

Sources:

Astronomy and Elementary Philosophy, Translated from the Latin of Placidus de Titus. London: W. Justins, 1789.

Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Holden, James H., and Robert A. Hughes. Astrological Pioneers of America. Tempe, Ariz.: American Federation of Astrologers, 1988.

Ptolemy, Claudius. The Quadripatite, or Four Books. Translated by J. Whalley. Edited by Manoah Sibley and J. Browne. London, 1786.

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