Astrology by Hand Week 19
Language and Nature, Magic and Astrology
In the last weeks I have been showing how language seems to be inherent in consciousness, and how we also see signs of language in nature. Now, in connection with this, let me refer again to natural magic, which I discussed several weeks ago. In that column, I said that natural magic, the ”study of the magical effects of natural things,” was perhaps not supernatural.
While I stand by what I said there, natural magic could be a manifestation of a language of nature. By this I mean that the occult properties, or virtues, of natural objects such as stones and minerals, plants and other natural objects, are not so much physical properties like mass, density, color, size, etc. as they are vehicles through which something is communicated to us by nature, whatever nature may be. (This is in fact one of the issues that I am working on here, what nature is.)
And here is the kicker. Insofar as astrology is only the reading of the virtues of the planets as they are combined in a natal chart (and astrology properly done is more than that), astrology can be considered a form of natural magic. And when one goes beyhond simply ”reading” and works with the virtues of the planets in the chart, and the soul of the individual whose chart is being read, one may be considered as moving from something that is purely natural magic to something that is more like magic in general, the art of bringing about changes in consciousness in conformity with the will.
Language, Active and Passive
In language, we have two ways of being involved: we can receive (read or listen) and we can transmit (write or speak). Usually it’s a mix. Often, astrology is used merely to receive or listen: ”What do the planets say?” Again, when we delineate a natal chart or simply read a horary chart, we are reading-receiving. When magic is performed, the practitioner not only to some extent reads or listens, he or she speaks or writes. The practitioner in some manner transmits virtues in a language of some kind and attempts to bring about change through the transmission.
This difference between active transmission and passive reception is one of the apparent differences between magic and astrology. But is it? Is astrology purely a passive reading? We have already seen that it isn’t. We give our clients advice on how to deal with the circumstances that astrology signifies in their lives. We may give them advice on timing to make things work out in the best possible manner, and we may give advice on what persons to associate with, or not, that will best bring out a growth-oriented experience of the times. And we may even suggest changes in the client’s awareness that will cause him or her to experience the situation very differently than he or she might otherwise, and in a manner calculated to bring about growth and self-realization. Is this not bringing about change both in consciousness and in conformity with the will?
How is this, in the best sense of the term magic, different from magic? Astrology may even be abused like magic. Several times in the history of astrology astrologers have been persecuted, not because what they did was considered charlatanry, but because they gave people advice on how to overthrow a king, emperor, pope, etc. by the use of astrological timing. It was a crime against the state for unauthorized persons to cast charts of a Roman emperor.
Astrology’s Survival and Magic’s Downfall
This heading is of course a bit bogus because schools of magic are alive and well, but it is true that astrology has survived much more nearly intact, and as a continuous tradition, than most schools of magic. Perhaps it is because astrology managed to create for itself the illusion that it was different from magic and purely a passive receiver of the information that was read in the chart. If this is true, which I think it is (but that is another argument for another time), then the modern practice of assisting the client to become more self-determining through the use of astrological timing and understanding may actually be a return to the combination of astrology and magic that was so much more the case in olden times.
If the reader objects that psychology is being used and not magic, I ask the reader to consider again Dion Fortune’s definition of magic. Except for the crudest and most mechanistic types of psychology, such as behaviorism, the connections between psychology and traditional forms of magic and occult practice have long been noted, especially by Jung. And, yes, I do know that there are differences between psychology and traditional forms of magic, but I would like the reader to entertain the similarities for the moment. There are two most important ones: Magic and psychology are both methods for changing consciousness in conformity with the will, and they have both explored and come to similar conclusions about symbolism and how different things are connected through symbolism. This is especially apparent in Jung.
Next week, we will examine some of the differences between astrology and magic.
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.