Astrology by Hand Week 20
Astrology and Magic: Differences
Last week I began to show the ways in which astrology and magic are linked. But there is no question that the various subjects classified as magic and the various subjects classified as astrology have different thrusts. Astrology seems more diagnostic (i.e., divinatory) and magic more proactive, but this, I suggest, is a difference more apparent than real.
The most casual perusal of the literature of the Golden Dawn, or the writings of Cornelius Agrippa, will disclose that at least these people thought that divination, including astrology, was part of magic. And those who are familiar with modern Hindu astrology must be aware that there are a number of practices prescribing gems, rituals, etc. to mitigate astrological effects that are clearly magical. And this is not confined to Eastern astrology. Marsilio Ficino’s Three Books on Life involves a great deal of much the same thing under the heading of natural magic. And then we have the passages in Cornelius Agrippa that we referred to a couple of weeks ago in which astrology may be used to time a blatantly magical operation.
Astrology and Ritual
Another apparent difference between astrology and magic is in the use of ritual. Of course, not all magic is based on ritual. Some of it is simply the use of raw psychic ability with a clear and strong intention, but not a lot of magical ritual. But there does appear to be more ritual involved in magic than in astrology.
This I think is true if you use a narrow definition of ”ritual.” But if you expand the notion of ritual to include all forms of repeated behavior the purpose of which is to focus the will or consciousness of the practitioner, then astrology contains ritual. It may vary from one astrologer to another, but it is there nonetheless. Just about every astrological practitioner has a procedure for ”getting in touch with a chart.” I know that I am often very poor at just jumping into a chart and ”reading” it. Sometimes I am very good at it. But then something else has heightened my awareness about the issues involved, and the focusing of my attention that I would normally bring about through my getting-in-touch-with-the-chart process has already happened.
Then there is electional astrology, the art of choosing times. Many people think that horary is the most magic-like form of astrology. I think electional astrology is, precisely because when we choose a time for action, we are speaking or transmitting the nature of our intentions in astrological language, and then we take an action at a specific time to declare that the election of the time has taken place. We open for business; we send a letter; we make a phone call; we have a meeting, etc. These are not rituals in the usual sense one might say, but sometimes they are quite ritualistic in that the actions are not fully actions in the real world. (It has been my experience, however, that the more the actions at an election are actions in the ”real world,” the better the results are likely to be.)
And of course we have the Agrippa type of magical elections. I would like to suggest that the essence of ritual is not that everyone dress up in costumes and do things that are a bit different, but that the essence of ritual is that it consists of a series of actions designed to focus one’s intention or will. This definitely happens in electional astrology.
Is It Okay for Astrology to be Magical?
This is not a question that I can answer for anyone but myself. From every point of view I can take, the answer is yes. As long as one has not declared that magic is bogus by definition as Lawrence Jerome did, it is okay for astrology to be connected to magic from the point of view of intellectual respectability. Is magic okay morally? I think that any action must be justified or condemned entirely according to what it seeks to accomplish and by what in fact it accomplishes. If we apply these criteria to technology and science, we might find them actually quite problematical. The benefits of these are obvious, but so also are the dangers and the actual costs we have experienced.
Again, which is more dangerous, astrology and magic on one hand, or nuclear physics on the other? The spiritual awareness, the wisdom of the practitioner, these are key features of both astrology-magic and science-technology. Without these, both are dangerous to the practitioners, to their souls and to the lives of those around them.
But where is the language of nature coming from? We begin with this next week.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob Hand, author of Planets in Transit and other works, is now involved in the translation and publication of texts regarding ancient and medieval astrology through ARHAT Media Inc.