Astrology by Hand Week 16
The Operation of Will
Last week, we explored the magical spell in very simple terms. We saw that the essence of the spell involved an act of will that attempted to channel psychic energy, or something like it, toward an intended end.
Now, once again we are stuck with our old problem. Does an intense will send some kind of unknown but basically natural energy out into the world, something like "rays?" There is one problem with this idea. Those who have experimented with these techniques have often found that they did not have to be intensely, or passionately, desirous of bringing about what they wanted. It would no doubt help, but obsession does not seem to be required. Simple curiosity about the experiment seems to be all that is required.
But whatever level of intensity may be required, are the results something that are really natural but merely not understood by science? Possibly, but again, I think that we are in the realm here of something that, if understood, would change science as we know it almost beyond recognition. I believe that Lawrence Jerome and company (see week 12) were right in thinking of magic as beyond the scientific pale. All they felt that what they had to do was to show that astrology was magical to debunk it. But let's put aside that question for a bit longer.
Dion Fortune was another student of ceremonial magic earlier in the twentieth century. She, it is alleged, took Crowley's definition of magic and added something to it that I believe does a great deal to improve the definition. She defined magic as "the art of bringing about changes in consciousness in conformity with the will." The part that distinguishes magic from technology is the change in consciousness, the channeling of will being one of the most common changes in consciousness that traditional magic has sought to bring about. The role of consciousness is very evident in what I described last week. The consciousness of the operator is saturated with the symbolism of the energy that he or she is trying to evoke.
What I particularly like about Dion Fortune's variant on Crowley's definition is that it includes all forms of working on one's own consciousness that are designed to increase one's level or awareness, and even one's closeness to the center-God, if you like. Magic is a technology of consciousness.
Are Astrology and Magic Dangerous?
Magic is not just something dark, primitive or barbaric. But it can be powerful and dangerous. And you think ordinary technology is not any of these things? The late John McCormick once asked the question in a lecture as to whether astrology was dangerous. He said that it was, and that anything worth doing like astrology (or magic, we might add) would be dangerous. But then he asked which thing most of us had greater reason to fear, astrology (or magic), or nuclear physics? Most of us do not understand most technology any better than scientists understand magic! All we can say for certain is that for a certain kind of "rational," materialistic mind, consciousness and its powers seem much more scary than H-bombs.
Consciousness and Nature
We are moving now to the center of the problem for both astrology and magic. Both of them seem to involve consciousness and its relationship to nature. What is that relationship? This is the central problem in any attempt to understand these issues. And while we are at it, what is consciousness? There is a gigantic problem, but gigantic as it may be, that is exactly the problem that we must answer at least somewhat, if we are to get anywhere with the question of what astrology really is.
While I am putting this in a rather extreme form, what I am about to say lurks in the scientific mind in its basic assumptions about consciousness and nature, and lies, I believe, at the heart of the problem. To the traditional scientific mind, whatever consciousness may be, it is not at the heart of existence. Consciousness, like life itself, is an epiphenomenon (basically a side-effect) of the laws of nature as understood by physics and chemistry. It is an accidental by-product of these, and need not even have come into existence. Now I am aware that this is not a point of view shared by all scientists, and I am especially aware that the role of consciousness in modern physics has become considered quite important. (See week 7.) Again, I say that this thinking is a tendency among scientists, sometimes conscious (heh-heh!), sometimes unconscious.
Next week, we will begin to try to define consciousness, at least at a primitive level suitable for our purposes.
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.