Astrology by Hand Week 13
Last week, I presented the case that even natal astrology has its magical aspect. But of course this statement doesn’t mean much if we don’t have some kind of working definition of magic. This is a subject area that could easily turn into a swamp if we are not careful, given the loaded nature of the word.
Certainly, in many circles, the idea of magic is only slightly removed from devil worship, even being considered in these same circles as trafficking in demons. (And lest this seem extreme to some of you, I would like to remind our readers that there are those who consider even astrology to involve trafficking with demons.) Even I, myself, not too many years ago regarded any kind of magic (except stage magic, of course) to be highly dubious and risky. I never thought of magic as intrinsically evil, but I did believe that it required a high degree of spiritual awareness to transcend the temptations that might be involved. So as a matter of course, I steered clear of it, without, I might add, having clearly defined it myself.
So what is magic, assuming that there is one all-encompassing definition? And let’s assume also for the moment that there is such a thing as magic, because until we have given it definition, we can’t really talk about whether it exists or not. Let’s also be clear that we are not talking about stage magic, or legerdemain, also known as ”sleight of hand.” Stage magic is simply a form of deception for the purposes of entertainment.
Has real magic, whatever it may be, ever involved sleight of hand? Almost certainly! People who have attempted to master magic have also mastered other technologies, and that has made various forms of ”sleight of hand” quite easily doable. But I am not talking about that. I am talking about something else that may have existed besides that.
It is often said that magic involves the supernatural, meaning that it is some violation of natural law as it is understood. I have no problem with the idea of a violation of natural law ”as it is understood,” but that is only because natural law as it is understood at any particular time, and in any particular culture, has never been, and never will be, a complete understanding of the truth. All systems of natural law have been, and will continue to be, only approximations of the truth, and there will always be phenomena that do not fit the current system. Thus we may get an appearance of the supernatural, but the real thing is unlikely.
There is, however, a possible way in which there could be genuinely supernatural phenomena, but it requires a view of things that is even more at variance with the prevailing reality system than magic. This ”view” is not unfamiliar to people who study the so-called occult. It simply states that in addition to this world of nature and physical phenomena, there are other worlds that may lie within this one, outside of this one, all around this one or whatever.
Is There a Supernature?
One often hears almost casual references to the ”astral” or ”etheric” planes, alternate realms of being that have some particular relationship to the physical world. The nature of the relationship varies from system to system. In Kabbalah one speaks of Atziluth, Beriah, Yetzirah and Assiah. In Neoplatonism there is the One, Nous, Soul and Cosmos. The basic idea is simple. In addition to the realm of nature or cosmos in which we live, there are other ”natures” that are usually considered to be ”higher” than this one, supernatures, as it were. (The quotation marks used in the previous sentences should be understood as my questioning the validity of the words in quotation. The marks mean that I am using the word without having a clear sense of exactly what it means.)
With this kind of multiple-worlds view, the concept of the supernatural is not self-contradictory. We can take the view that almost all phenomena that we encounter can be accounted for by referring to the laws of nature as we understand them, and insofar as they are complete. But occasionally, we might encounter phenomena that are the result of things operating in another one of these worlds that leads to a chain of events that somehow impinge on this world, the world of nature, without having originated within this world.
The problem with this hypothesis is that modern science does not recognize any sort of multiple-world theory of the nature of existence. For modern scientists, the concept of supernatural is indeed self-contradictory because there is nothing beyond nature, and therefore, anything ”supernatural” must either be a violation of natural law, or an indication that our understanding of natural law is inadequate. Here we are right back to the original problem of astrology as stated at the beginning of these articles. Is astrology the result of some kind of comprehensible natural law that simply has not been discovered yet, or is astrology an indication that the universe is much different from what we have thought it to be?
Next week: More on this problem and magic.