Posted: January 2nd, 2014 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Buddhism, Meditation | No Comments »
The English language is really crappy for talking about the mind. It’s a very materialistic language. I think this is why people have dozens of different activities for describing what the act of “meditation” is. In this post, I want to talk about one of the most important forms of meditation in the Theravada tradition. I think I wrote about this in the past a little, but I want this to be a mini primer for this upcoming blogging project.
Yeah, so I’m not really “pagan” per se, but this is still a magic blog. It’ll also get me to write more often. So, this week’s topic needs to start with A, so I’ll be talking about anapanasati or “mindfulness of inhalation and exhalation” for long. The word “sati” means mindfulness. By mindfulness, I mean “bringing up to the mind again and again.” It’s related to the Sanskrit word “smriti”.
Meditation on the breath is the Swiss army knife of Buddhist meditation. It can be used both for the development of concentration and for the development of insight. In this post I’ll be approaching it from the concentration side.
If you have to ask this question, you haven’t seriously meditated for a few months. At its core, anapanasati is a practice of purification. In order to make progress at it you need to learn to let go of particular states of mind. When this is practiced, you’ll be able to drop the same states in your daily life. You’ll be able to drop the five hinderances: sensual desire, ill-will, sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and skeptical doubt.
Also, if you get really good at it and sharpen your concentration enough, you can enter particular states called jhanas. These are extremely focused states of awareness that are highly blissful. They fulfill the factor of “right concentration” in the noble eight-fold path, the path of practice that Buddhists follow. By being able to focus the mind so sharply, they can then turn that mind toward the observation of reality to see it as it really is.
From a magician’s point of view, meditation allows you focus all your attention on your rituals. It also helps you to get to know your mind very well. This is extremely important for diviners and anyone who works with spirits. Being able to discern your own thoughts vs. the communications of a spirit is crucial to get accurate information. It’s very easy to delude yourself otherwise.
It’s easiest for most people to sit. Find a comfortable sitting position you can sustain for at least 15 minutes while keeping the back erect, unless your body prevents you from doing this. It’s important to move as little as possible while you are meditating. I like to sit Burmese style with one leg in front of the other. I also use a zafu and a zabuton. If you use a zafu, remember to sit on just the front edge of it. Your hips are supposed to tilt forward if at all possible. This puts a curve in the back that assists with staying upright.
Your hands can rest palms down on your thighs at a comfortable position. Keep your head erect comfortably. Relax and close your eyes. Breathe in and out through your nose, or your mouth if you’re sick and can’t breathe through it.
Place your attention where you feel the breath coming in and out of your nostrils (or your lips if you’re using the mouth). Gently place it there as if you were reading an interesting book. Get curious about it. When you notice your mind wandering away from the breath, gently bring it back and relax. Repeat this over and over again. Each time you bring it back you’re developing the skill of dropping a thought that you don’t want out of the mind. You’re also building mental muscle. This is the “keeping in mind” that we’re talking about.
Every time that you have a thought that pulls you away, give it a quick one-word label, then return to the breath. Labeling thoughts allows you to objectify them. This makes it easier to drop them. In time you may not need to do this.
If there’s a sensation like pain that comes up, keep labeling and dropping. If it’s so intense that you can’t stand it, take the pain as a mediation object for a while. Investigate it. See what happens. Drop any thoughts about the pain and just watch the pain. Try not to move unless absolutely necessary.
When the 15 minutes are up, open your eyes. Over time, work up to a minimum of a half hour regularly every day. If you can keep it up for a few months, you’ll notice quite a qualitative difference in your mind.
Got questions about using the breath in concentration meditation? Ask in the comments. This was just a very brief introduction. For more information, you can also consult these links:
Posted: December 18th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »
I don’t know how versed my readers might be in astrology, so I’m going to start from the bare basics. In this post, we’ll be taking a look at the basic structure of a natal chart.
So let’s take a look at a sample natal chart. This is the chart of the famed dancer and actor Gene Kelly:
So what are we looking at here? First, an astronomy lesson. The thick black line going from the left to the right is the horizon. Left is east and right is west. Now imagine you’re facing south. The thick line going at the top stretches from where you’re standing and extends up to the highest point in the planet’s arc across the sky. The planets rise in in the east, travel the arc up to that top, then arc back down to set. They continue around the other side of the planet on the same arc until they hit the lowest point of the arc, then start rising again.
These lines also have particular names:
- Left-pointing line: Ascendant or ASC (where the sun rises)
- Right-pointing line: Descendant (where the sun sets)
- Up-pointing line: Medium Coeli or MC (where the sun reaches its peak, hottest part of the day)
- Down-pointing line: Imum Coeli (opposite point from the MC)
Now let’s look at this chart from the outside-in. The two black lines of text outside of the circle are talking about special stars that the planets are meeting. We can ignore that for now. Take a look at the first outer ring. This ring shows the zodiac signs using their symbols:
The signs start at Aries and travel counterclockwise around the ring. Each sign covers a 30 degree arc the circle that the planets travel along. 12 signs of 30 degrees equals the familiar 360 degrees in the circle. As the day passes, this ring rotates in a clockwise motion at a rate of 1 degree ever 4 minutes. This is why it is so important to have an accurate birth time when doing a chart. A lot can change in a very short time!
Now in the next ring down you see 12 pie-shaped slices. These are the houses. Each house represents a specific domain of human life. Starting with the Ascendant line, the houses travel in a counter-clockwise motion. As the planets and signs pass through these houses they cause different effects in creation. Here are the basic traditional meanings (taken from Ben Dykes):
- 1st: Life and body
- 2nd: Assets
- 3rd: Siblings and kin
- 4th: Parents and real estate
- 5th: Children and pleasure
- 6th: Slaves and illness
- 7th: Spouses and contention
- 8th: Death and fear
- 9th: Religion and travel
- 10th: Work and fame
- 11th: Friends and hopes
- 12th: Enemies and sorrow
These may be very different from what you know if you’ve studied modern astrology. When I do the post on the houses, we’ll go into these in more detail. The houses don’t have any special symbols. They’re just numbered. My program does label the four strongest houses (1, 4, 7, 10) with roman numerals.
Finally, we have the planets, those colored bits floating around inside the houses. Here are the symbols:
Now this is a traditional chart, so the symbols for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto won’t be found in there. There’s also another symbol that looks like a circle with an X in it. That is the Part of Fortune, a special point which we’ll get into much later.
Those tiny numbers next to the planets show the locations of the planets in the sign in degrees and minutes.
One thing you’ll also notice if you’ve looked at other charts is the lack of lines running between the planets that show aspects. Aspects are important but don’t have nearly the weight that they do in modern astrology. Planet and sign placement in relation to the houses has much more prominence. We will be getting into aspect though in a later post.
If you have some familiarity with Geomancy or medieval charts, you may be familiar with square charts. They have their uses, but for precision I prefer the round ones when doing astrology.
The next few posts are going to go into the signs, planets, and houses in more detail. Astrology has a lot of grammar that must be learned before things can fit together into an interpretation. Relax. Enjoy the ride.
Posted: December 17th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »
When I first got back into the occult many years ago, my gateway was through traditional astrology. I’m a graduate of Robert Zoller’s Diploma of Medieval Astrology course, but after completing it I decided that I didn’t want to keep my studies going to become a professional reader. Over the past month or so, the urge to dive back into the practice again has grown.
After doing the first part of this Agrippa project, I think it’s important for people working in this tradition of magic to pick up some astrology. However, astrology is a discipline all in its own. You could spend a lifetime just studying astrology and not touch magic at all. However, the study of astrology is important for magicians for several reasons:
First, it tells you what you’ve got to work with in this life. Magicians work to change themselves and their world, but astrology can show you what to focus on, what’s coming over the horizon, and how you can prepare for it.
Second, paying attention to the astral weather can make your magic much much easier. I’ve done very complex and layered rituals, and I’ve done very simple ones. The better the astral weather the more efficacious my magic was, regardless of technique. Agrippa is all about timing in his talismanic creation rites, and there is really something to it.
Third, it can tell you how well you’re advancing in your magic. In the traditional world-view, the natal chart is like a cage and a blueprint all rolled into one. The interplay between free will and astrological influence has gone through several permutations over time, but my perspective runs something like this. Most people think they are using their “free will”, but are instead being influenced by a host of factors that push their free will around. Magic, ideally, should help you free you from these patterns. It adds a certain amount of flex into your life that wouldn’t otherwise be there. We can use astrological magic to boost the naturally powerful parts in our chart and dampen the negative parts in our lives.
For the non-magician, having a grasp of their chart can help them to direct their energies to useful endeavors and to gain peace of mind. It can be a relief to know that your problems might be foreshadowed in your chart. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do intense work to get over those problems, but it can help a person to drop the guilt that can build up. It’s a lot like receiving a disease diagnosis. It gives it a name and a possible approach to overcome it.
I think that anyone working with the planets in magic needs to examine astrology as well. The next few posts are going to go into some of the basic techniques and mind-set that goes into traditional astrology so you can get a glimpse into this fascinating art.
Posted: October 22nd, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 2 Comments »
Finally, the last two chapters!
Speech expresses thought and declares will. However, speech is impermanent. Writing is a way of crystallizing the voice and thoughts into something that is more stable and can be passed around to other people. Agrippa declares that writing is just as efficacious as voice. Moreover, he says that there’s nothing that can be thought that can’t be spoken, and anything that can be spoken can be written. And this is why, whenever we work with magic, we both speak and write what we are doing. If we are collecting an herb, we speak as to why we are collecting it. If we are making a talismanic picture, we write down on the picture and say what it is we want it to do.
Finally, in the last chapter, he talks about languages. Agrippa believes that God gave us our languages and our writing systems. These languages and writing systems agree in various ways with the celestial order. Agrippa doesn’t believe that humans could come up with language or orthography on our own. Millions of conlangers would disagree, but that’s a debate for another time.
Agrippa then goes on to say that Hebrew is the language par excellance for magical work, because its language is closest to the celestial order and because of the skills of those who practice various qabalistic letter transformation systems. He also likes it because of how neatly it ties up to the Neoplatonic system. Three “mothers” represent three of the elements, 7 “doubles” that represent the planets, and 12 “simples” that represent the zodiac signs. Note that the Mothers in the text are not the actual mother letters. See the note in Esoteric Archives. The Hebrews don’t consider Air to be an element, but a sort of glue that holds the other three together.
He then states that going back to the original language is important because translation of a language into another robs the original potency of the language. Gotta find Greek versions of the Orphic Hymns.
The rest of the chapter divides out various languages amongst the celestial divisions he’s talked about. The languages that he chooses to focus on are Hebrew, Chaldean, Greek, and Latin. You can look at the link and get the chart to see how each of the letters correspond.
And that’s the end of Book 1! I’m going to collect my thoughts, and then write a wrap-up.
Posted: October 20th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 2 Comments »
In the home stretch now! This set of chapters is on the power of speech. Magic words have been around for a long long time. Even more potent according to the text are entire speeches. We excel beyond the animals, among other reasons, in that we are able to speak and transmit the thoughts of our mind and bring them forth into the world through the power of speech.
When Agrippa is referring to speech, he means the spoken word. The spoken word has the ability to carry not just meaning but also virtues from the speaker to the listener and effect a change in them. It even works for inanimate objects. Different words also have different potencies. Words that represent holy things or higher things (intellectual, celestial, etc), are more efficacious. Certain languages which are considered holy or more “worthy” are also deemed to have a higher magical effect.
Agrippa then goes into “proper names” or true names. Finding the name of something is a very common theme in magical literature. Know the true name of something and you can control it. Why is this though? There’s a smaller form of the chain of being that is used to explain this. Object -> Sense data -> Imagination -> Mind, then Mind expresses it back through Word. In the beginning was the Word and all that. With the Word, you have a link back down to the object, if it is the right one. Because you have the name, you have a measure of control over things, just like how you’ll turn your head suddenly if someone calls out your name.
In fact Agrippa goes so far as to state that our power of speech has an equivalency to the creative power of God. We can name things, and this gives us power over them. However, if we can combine our speech with the appropriate celestial virtues that the object was created under, then our speech becomes even more efficacious. By this, I interpret to mean that if you say the right things at the right time when the celestials are correct, then they carry far more weight.
In the next Chapter, Agrippa goes further to explain how names and words properly combined into sentences have even more power than just a word alone. He also gives valuable clues in the creation of spells:
“Therefore in composing verses, and orations, for attracting the vertue of any Star, or Deity, you must diligently consider what vertues any Star contains, as also what effects, and operations, and to infer them in verses, by praising, extolling, amplifying, and setting forth those things which such a kind of Star is wont to cause by way of its influence, and by vilifying, and dispraising those things which it is wont to destroy, and hinder, and by supplicating, and begging for that which we desire to get, and by condemning, and detesting that which we would have destroyed, & hindered: and after the same manner to make an elegant oration, and duly distinct by Articles, with competent numbers, and proportions. ”
“Moreover Magicians command that we call upon, and pray by the names of the same Star, or name, to them to whom such a verse belongs, by their wonderfull things, or miracles, by their courses, and wayes in their sphear [sphere], by their light, by the dignity of their Kingdome, by the beauty, and brightness that is in it, by their strong, and powerfull vertues, and by such like as these.”
“Besides, with the divers sorts of the names of the Stars, they command us to call upon them by the names of the Intelligencies, ruling over the Stars themselves, of which we shall speak more at large in their proper place.” (This is the whole archangel/intelligence/spirit thing that’s talked about in Book 2)
Agrippa then states, rather curiously, that the Orphic hymns are the most efficacious in natural magic operations when spoken at the correct time. I and many other magicians have used them to awesome effect, though I cannot say if they are the “best” of all or not. A simple Google search will find them all. They’re not any great secret.
Agrippa asserts that the spoken word is even more efficacious than any incense you might burn, if you speak everything correctly at the right time and with enough passion. It is also important to speak things the correct number of times as well and in the proper “proportions”. I’m not quite sure what he means by proportions in this matter. But when speech is performed correctly, your very breath will fill with virtue, which is why many magicians blow onto objects after they’ve charged up their breath, or breath spells over them.
The last chapter in this block is a list of various successful enchantments found through the ancient texts. Descriptions, not actual verses.
So when doing your magic, fire up that imagination and speak your will when the time is right!
Posted: October 18th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | No Comments »
http://esotericarchives.com/agrippa/agripp1c.htm#chap61 and following.
I may be biting off more than I can chew here, but I want to get through this. This section is another one where he seems to make a lot of assumptions and unclear explanations. I’m going to do my best to unravel it. This may seem very dry at first. Don’t worry, it gets much better toward the end.
So, now that we’ve looked at everything else in the world, it’s time to look at humans and their own internal divisions. First thing to remember is that Agrippa really loves his triple divisions, and we’ve got that whole superior/inferior reflection business going on. The cosmos has an intellectual world full of ideas, a celestial world full of spirit and motion, and a elemental/physical world full of gross matter. There is also an exemplary world which he has mostly been mostly mum on.
This section is one of those sections that makes far more sense when you read ahead into book 2, but it’s still pretty confusing. We’re not used to thinking of ourselves in this way. So, if you want to skip ahead to Book 2 and read the chapter on the Scale of Four, you can if you like. I’m going to explain the important bits here.
In the Scale of Four, a division of reality into partitions of four, we see that humans are divided into four chunks:
- Mind – corresponding to fire
- Spirit – corresponding to air
- Soul – corresponding to water
- Body – corresponding to earth
Now, Catholic theology believes that it is our souls that make up our essential human-ness. I think the Neoplatonic stuff that Agrippa is following is turning that on its ear here, but I’m really not sure. I am not a theologian. Here, Mind and Spirit are seen to be “higher” on the chain than mere souls. So then, what ARE these things?
Body is easy enough. Fleshy stuff. Your inner goo. Great for Earth. It’s a lump of stuff.
Spirit is also pretty easy. Spirit is that part that animates you. It impels motions both physically and mentally. Perfect fit for the air element. It’s also like a binding element gathering the other three together. So your triple division is mind, soul, and body, with spirit acting as an interface between all the bits.
But what falls into soul and what falls into mind and why is this all important in the first place? That’s what this is about. The mind, I believe, is our divine part if we’re following Neoplatonism. That creative divine ideal that seeks reunification with Nous and enables us to work wonders in the first place. If you wanted to throw it into an Eastern mold, it is our Self.
That means the soul is every other messy thing in our experience, and Agrippa gives it many different functions. He has a three-fold division of the soul with various different powers. Sometimes they work on their own and sometimes they interface with each other in different ways. So let’s look at these divisions.
This is where the senses all hang out. He lays out some arguments about showing which senses are superior to others and yadda yadda. Not quite so vital to our purposes right now, but here’s a sense correspondence chart to the elements:
- eyes – fire
- ears – air
- smell – air and water
- taste – water
- touch- earth
Agrippa tries to claim that our senses of touch and taste are superior to all other animals, but science as clearly shown that to be false. This is not the fleshy organ, but the capacity to use the sense in question. These are the soul’s interfaces with the world of matter, the sensual elemental world.
Agrippa also adds in several things that we would consider mental capacities to the physical body as well by giving them portions of the brain. The sections of brain really don’t really matter. What matters more is that these are the soul’s interfaces with our spirit. These are the things that move us to action:
- Common sense – This takes the sense data from the senses and puts it in a sort of “mind sense”. It’s “common” because you don’t need to have developed higher reasoning or education. All the information you need can be taken in by the senses. You touch a rock and you feel cold. Common sense says the rock is cold.
- Imaginative power – The ability to hold an image we’ve received from our senses or memory in the mind. Picture an apple in your mind. That’s the imaginative sense. Picture the layout of the LBRP. That’s also the imaginative sense. Anything that you think about is displayed by the imaginative sense. The reasoning comes elsewhere. This imaginative sense presents these images to another part of the brain, the fantasy, which we’ll get to in a moment.
- Memory – Pretty cut and dry. No real confusion here. If something makes a strong enough impression on our fantasy (wait for it), positive or negative, we’ll be more inclined to remember it.
The Fantasy is where all the magic happens, quite literally, from the mental perspective. It is the Grand Central Station between the parts of the soul. It has the power to judge perceptions delivered into the imaginative sense. Say we imagine an apple again. This is the part that recognizes that the apple is red, is tasty, won’t kill you, and all the rest. It perceives what kind of thing the imaginative sense is displaying. It is the part that also decides what gets stored into memory. If the perception is strong enough to stir Fantasy then it will keep the impression for later reference in memory. It is also the seat for our emotions.
It is also where we ultimately stir ourselves into action. It is the repository of our disposition, our fancies and our fears, our dreams of all kinds, the things that stir us up into action, and all of our opinions about the world. It is also where we bring down things from the intellectual part of the brain for processing. Here is where we understand the virtues of things. It’s also what shows us the future through things. If we’re doing a working to bring a virtue down into ourselves, this is where it gets lodged and turned into action.
Not only does it receive impressions, but it can also send out perceptions from itself and cause the body and mind to act in particular ways. More on that in a bit. Needless to say, if you’re wanting to affect yourself or another person with magic directly, this is where it happens. All of this taken as a whole is Fantasy, and it’s very very important.
Finally, above all this, there are parts of the soul which do not correspond to physical body parts (according to Agrippa anyway.) This is the incorporeal mind, which is divided two-fold:
- Contemplative intellect: The part of our mind that inquires into nature’s processes, properties, and causes. It contemplates truth.
- Active intellect: The part of our mind that discerns, consults, and decides how to act. You could call this our reasoning. It can abstract. It’s the part of your being that pushes you to avoid the chocolate cake when you’re trying to diet, even while fantasy is yelling at you to eat the whole thing from a gut level.
These intellects are still part of the soul. The higher Mind is beyond all this stuff.
There’s also the organs of speech, but they’re kinda in their own group. Speech will come up in a later chapter.
Appetites of the Soul
Our Fantasy is always looking for new things to “eat” so to speak. It has an appetite for perceptions. So, there are three different kinds of “appetites” for the soul:
Natural appetite: Consuming sense impressions and expressing actions that follow natural functions. You just follow along with common sense.
Animal appetite: Consuming the by-products of fantasy. It manifests in two ways, in an irascible (I don’t like this) appetite, and a concupiscible (I like this) appetite. It takes natural appetite a step further and sorts it out, then pushes you toward going after the good and fighting the bad.
Intellectual appetite: This is the will. It’s similar to the natural appetite, in that it wants to comprehend the sensible world. However, the will can go one step further. It can imagine things beyond the sensory world because it is free, and so you can try for impossible dreams. If the will desires too much and becomes “depraved”, the will can get deranged in different ways. He gives four examples of passions (emotions) that can arise in a will that is too greedy:
- Oblectation: This is a fancy word for “to delight in” or “to be overwhelmed by allure”. This is the “oooh shiny” weakness of will. Something pretty appears and our will doesn’t take the time to look at the pleasure to see if it is worth having or not. The will isn’t overwhelmed. It’s just not speaking up.
- Effusion: This is the next step beyond oblectation. Your will is overcome with your desire to have something, even if you know that it isn’t good for you. Think of an addict going after something they think is pleasurable.
- Vaunting/Loftiness: This is when you think you’ve achieved something great, and the enjoyment of it causes pride and vainglory.
- Envy: Pleasure or delight at someone else’s harm without any advantage out of it for yourself.
Passions, or Emotions
Now passions, or emotions in our language, are described as reactions to the perceptions of particular things. We can perceive things as good or evil, and these perceptions can come in three main forms:
When we let our minds dwell in sensual perceptions, the mind is moved toward ideas of whether something is profitable or unprofitable, delightful or offensive, pretty or ugly. It’s completely based on our perceptions of the physical world. The rational perceptions are a little higher. These are perceptions of good and evil, virtue and vice, praise or disgrace, socially profitable or unprofitable, honest or dishonest. These perceptions come mostly from the active intellect and the fantasy. Intellectual perceptions are thoughts of justice and injustice, truth or falsehood. Perceiving universal principles of truth and ethics. Your philosophy class stuff that comes from the contemplative intellect.
Now, when you start combining this stuff all together you get a base set of passions that humans tend fall into. We have a perception of some kind. Let’s take a visual one. Let’s say an apple again. The apple perception enters the eye and gets transmitted to the imaginative sense, then to the sense of fantasy. Now, what kind of feelings can arise about this apple?
Agrippa lists out eleven main Passions. Love, Hatred, Desire, Horror, Joy, and Grief come up in response the the “I like it” drive and its contact with different things. Hope, Despair, Boldness, Fear, and Anger come up from the “I don’t like it” drive. He divides their arising depending on whether we see goodness or evil in something and whether we desire those feelings or want to fight against it. I must admit that I really don’t follow Agrippa’s language here of as present, as absent, and his use of the word “respect”. If you can piece it out, more power to you.
What’s important is that these 11 passions are the main reactions that we have to the perceptions that we encounter, in Agrippa’s thinking. When these passions come up in us they cause our spirit to respond, affecting our intellect and our bodies in different ways. The body is easy enough to see. Emotional reactions show up in our body language all the time. Chapter 63 goes into different examples.
Chapter 64 seems to expand the meaning of “passions” to also include the perceptions that go along with them due to imitation. For example, if we see someone eat something sour, our bodies will respond by puckering up. Imagining that we are being burned in a dream may make our bodies feel like they’re being burned even though they’re not on fire. Shocks to the mind can cause physical changes, such as people’s hair suddenly going white, and other examples (some fantastical) as listed.
A strong emotional response can move people into doing actions they wouldn’t normally do. If we bring something into our imagination very strongly over time, our bodies and minds will start to conform to it. It appears that there is a combination both the passion and the perception that cause the effect. For the passion to arise, the perception needs to be present, and will condition the effect.
Chapter 65 talks about how people with strong passions can “rub off” on other people, and can transmit the passion/imagination from one person to another. Here’s your psy-vamp stuff, and talk about how it’s important to hang around with the right crowd. There is also mention of special types of passion that are generated through the intellect that involve religion, which is talked about in Book 3. If your intellectual passion is strong enough you can work miracles, especially if that passion is upon God.
Chapter 66 gets more into the nitty-gritty of magic, and is another one of those super-important chapters. The passions of the mind are helped along when they agree with the heavens, either by natural disposition (birth) or by election (choosing the right time to do it). If we want to draw down the virtues of heaven, it is exceedingly important that we fill the fantasy up with perceptions related to those virtues. The passions generated by the fantasy and the perception of appropriate objects stir our spirits into becoming resonant with the thing we are seeking. “For our minds can through imaginations, or reason by a kind of imitation, be so conformed to any Star, as suddenly to be filled with the virtues of that Star…”
Agrippa says that when we contemplate the planet, we’re not seeking a sort of concentration meditation upon it, unless we’re working in the sphere of Saturn. We’re not to “meditate” upon the planet and become one with it that way. He’s going after a much different effect. He’s talking about faith. Faith is “a firm adhesion, a fixt intention, and a vehement application of the worker, or receiver, to him that cooperates in any thing, and gives power to the work…”
To steal a line from Parrapa, “You gotta believe!”
We must, in every work, imagine, hope, and believe strongly, vehemently, that it will help. Your mind may be screaming “so, placebo effect?” Agrippa says hell yeah! “And it is verified amongst physicians that a strong belief, and an undoubted hope, and love toward the physician, and medicine, conduce much to health, yea more sometimes than the medicine itself. For the same that the efficacy, and virtue, of the medicine works, the same doth the strong imagination of the physician work, being able to change the qualities in the body of the sick, especially when the patient placeth much confidence int he physician, by that means disposing himself for receiving the virtue of the physician, and the physic (medicine)”
“Therefore he that works in Magick, must be of a constant belief, be credulous, and not at all doubt of obtaining the effect. For as a firm, and strong belief doth work wonderfull things, although it be in false works, so distrust and doubting doth dissipate, and break the virtue of the mind of the worker, which is the medium betwixt both extremes, whence it happens, that he is frustrated of the desired influence of the superiors, which could not be joined, and united to our labors without a firm, and solid virtue of our mind.”
So, for this magic, if you want it to work you gotta have at least some faith in it. If you can have a lot of faith it in, so much the better. If you can make yourself fanatical and swept up with the spirit, even better! A mind filled with belief in what you’re doing can smooth over errors in your rites. On the other hand, if you don’t believe that what your’e doing will work, you’re wasting time.
Now in chapter 67, there’s some interesting caveats put into this. Let’s say we stir up our minds heavily and link them with the stars, then make a working. Our working is amazingly awesome and we share that ritual with others. Say we discover some seals or an image or some kind of enchantment. Unless we can align our passions to the passions that were there during the creation of the working, it’s probably not going to work for us. If some lusty fellow makes a lust grimoire, then we too have to get our minds into that state for it to be effective. Generally, the more you want the thing during the working, the more the spirit will be moved.
This is another reason why astrology is so important in this system. Astrology will tell you which sort of workings you’re best inclined for. If your natural passions run toward joy, or sorrow, or what have you, doing magic in these areas will probably be far more effective for you.
Finally in chapter 68, there is discussion about how an excess of particular kinds of passions can change and bind the passions of others in particular ways. If you can make your passion superior by strength and by celestial alignment, you can overcome the resistance of other things and people and bind them to you depending on what you’ve drawn.
- Excess sun brings admiration and obedience
- Excess moon brings servitude and infirmities
- Excess Saturn brings sadness and quietude
- Excess Jupiter brings worship
- Excess Mars brings fear and discord
- Excess Venus brings love and joy
- Excess Mercury brings persuasion
The reason this can happen is because souls have an affinity with each other. Resonance and all that. If you want to counter someone who is trying these things, find the correct planetary enemy and apply that.
I know I covered way too many things in this post. Comment and I’ll try to overcome any confusion, if I can get it all wrapped around in my head myself. Basically, if you want to make your magic really efficacious, you must believe it in strongly enough that it shows up in your demeanor. Use the placebo effect in your favor. If you want to do a Jupiter working, don’t be a wuss. Fill your mind with Jupiterian thoughts. Act out that image. Be the change that you want to be in the world. Act like someone worthy of worship and honor. The rest is details.
Posted: October 16th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | No Comments »
Now we get to the highest forms of divination described in this book, that of divine inspiration. He says that this happens because of the power of the melancholic humor. Recall that this humor is the one that is associated with the element of Earth. They are very earnest and receive external impressions very easily, much like earth easily receives impressions. Melancholy is also associated with angst, madness, depression, and other dark and heavy (earthy) emotional states.
He differentiates between two different types of choleric humor that can cause this. There’s black choler, which is the normal medical one and causes evil madness and evil spirits to impress themselves onto people. For this higher kind of divination, Agrippa posits a white choler that, when active, causes divine inspiration and oracular madness, especially if Saturn is involved.
Saturn may be known as the greater malefic, but he is also the key to higher wisdom, secret contemplation, and above all the other planets. He’s the planet closest to God, and due to his earthy nature (cold and dry) is excellently suited to receiving the divine impressions from the Intellectual world for transmission. People with strong and well disposed Saturn can become divinatory poets and scientists fixated on finding higher knowledge. There are also saturnine men who were very rude and uncouth who get overcome with divine madness on occasion and speak truth, even if they didn’t understand it when they came out of it.
When someone is affected heavily by this white choler, they also open themselves up to possession and inspiration by celestial spirits of various types. It depends on how much he can overcome his body and mind with the madness that determines what sorts of knowledge that comes in. We’ll be getting into the divisions of the human mind shortly, but in this chapter he divides it thusly
Body overcome, spirit fills the imagination: Knowledge of manual arts and of future events relating to the elements and changes of time.
Body overcome, imagination transcended, spirit fills reason: Knowledge of natural and humane things, knowledge relating to kingdoms and the changing of ages.
Body overcome, imagination and reason transcended, spirit fills understanding: Secrets of divine things. Godly prophecy.
Finally, he also says that people near death can prophecy this way because their spirits and souls start to become free from their body, and thus are able to receive higher impressions more easily.
From this, I would say that if you were interested in becoming a seer or developing as one, I wouldn’t just work with the Moon. I would also work with the earth element and with Saturn to develop the art.
Posted: October 14th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | 1 Comment »
*cackles happily* Throw away your store-bought dream divination books. Agrippa says they’re useless. In this short chapter he describes how to do dream divination. A dream, in this instance, only means the dreams that happen while you’re sleeping at night and happen during proper celestial time periods. When the body and mind are in a receptive state, the imagery can come through.
However, even though Agrippa loves astrology as much as he does, he says that astrological interpretations of dreams are not sufficient. Everyone dreams of different “phantastikal spirits”, which I interpret to mean that each of us has our own symbol set when we dream. Therefore, there is not a common symbol set. Instead, he suggests that we study our waking world carefully and notice what happens after we observe the same things we might see in our dreams. If we can remember what happened and remember our dreams, then we can use the likeness to arrive at a unique answer that is true for us. Little by little, the symbol set is built.
Agrippa prefers this type of divination to what came before because it depends on celestial influences and not on natural ones. He also says dream divination is best when one of three things occurs:
You dream when the moon is in the sign that rules your 9th house.
You dream when the moon is in the sign that rules your 9th house in a revolution chart.
You dream when it is in the 9th sign from the sign of perfection (I’m not quite sure on this one).
I won’t get into the specifics of setting up a revolution chart. Perhaps if I do a future post series on astrology?
Posted: October 12th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | No Comments »
Okay, now we’re getting into more esoteric stuff again. We’ve got a few more posts on divination and then we’ll be getting into “medieval psychology.” This chapter is about bringing people back from the dead or from death-like states. Again, this is more of a catalog chapter, but I find it fascinating to read Agrippa trying to describe certain states without biological or modern medical knowledge.
Agrippa starts by sharing that Arabic philosophers believe that if a man perfects his soul then he can receive a sort of divine vigor that can be transmitted by the breath to bring the recently deceased back to life, then cites some animals that seem to have this ability naturally due to their nobility. Again, he uses a superior/inferior virtue transmission and the law of similarity to explain this. Agrippa’s system falls apart if these presuppositions aren’t there.
He then goes on to talk about magical confections like the ashes of a phoenix or the skin of a snake having the ability to restore life. He seems skeptical that these will work, but because they’re cited in previous authors he feels compelled to include them by a “historical faith.” He believes that for this to occur at all, there must be states where the soul is still locked in the body but free from the actions of the body. The soul/spirit isn’t able to make the body work, but the body hasn’t let it go completely yet. From a medical standpoint, Agrippa seems to be describing states like shock and coma, where the body is senseless but life has not left. Of course, without modern medical technology, most of these people died rather quickly. He calls these states ecstacies, which now has a different meaning. It literally means “to stand outside oneself.”
However, he posits that in some rare cases the state can last a long time, as in hibernating creatures, then cites several examples of people who suddenly sleep for a very long period of time. He thinks that this can be due to natural causes. There is a syndrome called Kleine Levin syndrome that makes people sleep for very long periods of time, and these could be descriptions of that rare disorder.
Agrippa wraps up the chapter with descriptions of people who go without food (“meat” back then was food in general) for long periods of time. No description of how to do it, just saying “authors said this happened.”
As an observation, it’s almost like this book can be divided into two buckets. In one bucket is this Neoplatonic system he’s letting out in drips and drabs, and in the other is every description of ever other magical practice he’s ever ran into. Deliberate blind?
Posted: October 10th, 2013 | Author: Harry Coburn | Filed under: Agrippa Project | No Comments »
http://esotericarchives.com/agrippa/agripp1c.htm#chap56 and onward
Chapter 56 is a rather funny chapter. The first paragraph is on interpreting thunder and lightning where he says “go read this author” and drops the subject. The rest of the chapter is about very unusual omens, which he calls monstrous or prodigious. These are highly unusual omens that really, according to Agrippa, only appear for rulers and high-ranked people. These presage the futures of royalty, of peoples, and of cities and provinces. Surprisingly, Agrippa takes a historical argument here and says these are important to learn what these were in the past and how they affected things so that if they’re encountered later we can see what will happen. Of course, he takes a like-for-like argument like a good medieval. If it was thus, it was always thus.
Chapter 57 describes divination by the four elements, Geomancy, Hydromancy, Aeromancy, and Pyromancy. Note to geomancers that he’s not talking about the style that is currently getting a revival! He mentions it but he says we’ll talk about it later. This is about actually watching the elements for signs. So for Geomancy it’s earthquakes, the smell coming from a cave, and other movements of earth. Hydromancy is about the motion and flow of water, or putting particular plates into water and letting the water distort them to reveal images, or pouring molten lead or wax into water and interpreting the shape. Fishes and fountains were also potential sources of information.
Aeromancy is about the movement of winds and clouds, rainbows, and the like. “Red sky at night, etc.” is a type of Aeromancy. Pyromancy involves both fire and smoke. Maddeningly he doesn’t give much to go on for any of these arts. I don’t know if it is because he couldn’t find more detailed information on them, or thought them unimportant compared to astrology and geomancy. I know there’s a later chapter on the superiority of astrology so it could be the latter, but he still had to include them for completeness.