As I have mentioned Agrippa's work has a general structure in which the first chapter introduces a topic and subsequent chapters develop it, thus the section on Occult Virtues:
Here is the general structure of Book One. If we make an index which first gives these broad categories and then when each of these main topic chapters is introduced create a sub-index for the other individual chapters, that might be a good way to organize the material.
One of the most important and misunderstood aspects of traditional magic is that of "Occult Virtues". Agrippa introduces them here:
Of the Occult vertues of Things
Developed in Chapters 10-21, of which chapters 10-14 are of critical importance.
In the Nineteenth Century when Magic was being revived there were not many people who really understood how Occult Virtues fit into the philosophy and worldview of the Renaissance. When I was first reading Agrippa's first Book back in 1972-74, these chapters were to have a very strong influence on me developing a totally different view of magic and its practice than I had developed from my reading of late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century authors.
First I would like to quote from Thomas Kuhn, the man whose book, The Structure of Scienfific Revolutions, introduced the concept of the paradigms and their shifts:
“...historians confront growing difficulties in distinguishing the ‘scientific’ component of past observations and beliefs from what their predecessors had readily labeled ‘error’ and ‘superstition.’ The more carefully they study, say, Aristotelian dynamics, phlogistic chemistry, or caloric thermodynamics, the more certain they feel that those once current views of nature were, as a whole neither less scientific nor more the product of human idiosyncrasy than those current today. If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths, then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific knowledge. If on the other hand, they are to be called science, then science has included bodies of belief quite incompatible with the ones we hold today. Given these alternatives, the historian must choose the latter. Out-of-date theories are not in principle unscientific because they have been discarded.” (My emphasis, Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 2)
After finishing his discussion of the elements with a discussion of the Virtues dependent upon the elements in Chapter 9, Agrippa introduces the Occult Virtues in the following way:
There are also other vertues in things, which are not from any Element, as to expell poyson [poison], to drive away the noxious vapours of Minerals, to attract Iron, or any thing else; and these vertues are a sequell of the species, and form of this or that thing; whence also they being little in quantity, are of great efficacy; which is not granted to any Elementary quality. For these vertues having much form, and litle matter, can do very much; but an Elementary vertue, because it hath more materiality, requires much matter for its acting. And they are called occult qualities, because their Causes lie hid, and mans intellect cannot in any way reach, and find them out. Wherefore Philosophers have attained to the greatest part of them by long experience, rather then by the search of reason . . . (Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book 1, Chapter 10)
to attract Iron: the attraction of iron to a lodestone was one of the primary illustrations of occult virtues, while we now explain this in a certain way, there is no rational reason why considering it also a manifestation of the "virtues" or "powers" inherent in lodestone and iron is not valid and an example of looking at things in the context of a different paradigm.
these vertues are a sequell of the species, and form of this or that thing: Though I was not completely familiar with Aristotle's Four Causes at this time, I was reading texts in alchemy in which Aristotelian terminology was used and in which the medicinal "virtue" of an herb could be viewed as the result of extracting its "form" through "spirit of wine", i.e. alcohol. I will examine the most important of these texts as I go along and this idea will make more sense after the second post in this series.
these vertues having much form, and litle matter, can do very much: It is a matter of learning to extract the virtue or power or to enhance the activity of the virtue through appropriate action. Again more in the next post.
they are called occult qualities, because their Causes lie hid, and mans intellect cannot in any way reach, and find them out. Wherefore Philosophers have attained to the greatest part of them by long experience, rather then by the search of reason: They are "occult" because hidden and unlike elemental virtues, which can be deduced from the qualities of the elements and the proportion of their compound, the occult or "hidden" virtues must be found out by experience.
Those who were following my discussion of Aristotle's Four causes may now realize why in a humorous response to Descartes criticism of Formal Causes I said:
their defenders admit that they are occult: Gosh, I wonder what this is leading to . . ., could it be Occult Philosophy?
Agrippa outlines the cosmological setting for this in Chapter 11:
Chap. xi. How Occult Vertues are infused into the severall kinds of things by Idea's, through the help of the Soul of the World, and rayes of the Stars: and what things abound most with this Vertue.
Platonists say that all inferiour bodies are exemplified by the superiour Ideas. Now they define an Idea to be a form, above bodies, souls, minds, and to be one, simple, pure, immutable, indivisible, incorporeal, and eternall: and that the nature of all Idea's is the same. Now they place Idea's in the first place in very goodness it self (i.e.) God, by way of cause; and that they are distinguished amongst themselves by some relative considerations only, least whatsoever is in the world, should be but one thing without any variety, and that they agree in essence, least God should be a compound substance. In the second place, they place them in the very intelligible it self (i.e.) in the Soul of the world, differing the one from the other by absolute forms, so that all the Idea's in God indeed are but one form: but in the Soul of the world they are many. They are placed in the minds of all other things, whether they be joyned to the body, or separated from the body, by a certain participation, and now by degrees are distinguished more, and more. They place them in nature, as certain small seed of forms infused by the Idea's, and lastly they place them in matter, as Shadows. Hereunto may be added, that in the Soul of the world there be as many Seminal Forms of things, as Idea's in the mind of God, by which forms she did in the Heavens above the Stars frame to her self shapes also, and stamped upon all these some properties; on these Stars therefore, shapes, and properties, all vertues of inferiour species, as also their properties do depend; so that every species hath its Celestiall shape, or figure that is sutable [suitable] to it from which also proceeds a wonderfull power of operating, which proper gift it receives from its own Idea, through the Seminal forms of the Soul of the world. For Idea's are not only essential causes of every species, but are also the causes of every vertue, (Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book 1, Chapter 11)
Platonists say that all inferiour bodies are exemplified by the superiour Ideas: At the top is "God" or "The One", depending on ones ontological commitments, the ideas as conceived of by Plato, are rooted in this one and then they exert an influence all the way down, through the forms as envisioned by Aristotle and into our world, where they manifest as the occult virtues or "hidden powers" of natural things. Ideas in this sense are active and creative powers, not mere abstractions present in our consciousness.
they define an Idea to be a form, above bodies, souls, minds, and to be one, simple, pure, immutable, indivisible, incorporeal, and eternall: On the highest level they are simple, but as they descend they mix with each other and become more complex.
they place Idea's in the first place in very goodness it self (i.e.) God: While Agrippa my mean God in a circa 1500 Roman Catholic sense, this is not to be confused with god as thought of by your local neighborhood fundamentalist yahoo and it can also be separated from any taint of Abrahamic revelation by being conceived of as Plotinus' One, or even the Dao.
In the second place, they place them in the very intelligible it self (i.e.) in the Soul of the world: Here they are on a lower level and are a part of the animating power of the Universe. It must be remembered that a Platonic world is a living soul, filled with souls, not a mechanical universe consisting of dead matter.
They place them in nature, as certain small seed of forms infused by the Idea's: Here we start to get closer to our own world and this idea of a seed of forms was to prove “fruitful” as I began to look at them as “seeds of power” which the Platonic Magician learned to cultivate, both in him or herself, but also in the external world.
For Idea's are not only essential causes of every species, but are also the causes of every vertue: This simply reaffirms what I said before, the causal efficacy of the “ideas” is manifest all the way down to our world, where they manifest as “power” that can be harvested and harnessed.
This cosmological structure going from ideas in the “Mind of God” to their manifestations as physical objects here on earth, is called “the Great Chain of Being" and was the fundamental idea of how the Cosmos functioned from the Hellenistic period to about 1800. Its History and development have been admirably chronicled by A. O. Lovejoy in his book of the same name, The Great Chain of Being.
For the moment skipping over chapter 12, we will quote from Chapter 13, where the Great Chain of Being is further examined:
Therefore Plato, and his Schollers [scholars] attribute these vertues to Idea's, the formers of things. But Avicen reduceth these kinds of operations to Intelligencies, Hermes to the Stars, Albertus to the specificall forms of things. And although these Authors seem to thwart one the other, yet none of them, if they be rightly understood, goes beside the truth: since all their sayings are the same in effect in most things. For God in the first place is the end, and begining of all Vertues, he gives the seal of the Idea's to his servants the Intelligencies; who as faithfull officers sign all things intrusted [entrusted] to them with an Ideall Vertue, the Heavens, and Stars, as instruments, disposing the matter in the mean while for the receiving of those forms which reside in Divine Majesty (as saith Plato in Timeus) and to be conveyed by Stars; and the Giver of forms distributes them by the Ministry of his Intelligencies, which he hath set as Rulers, and Controllers over his Works, to whom such a power is intrusted in things committed to them, that so all Vertues of Stones, Hearbs [herbs], Metals, and all other things may come from the Intelligencies, the Governours. The Form therefore, and Vertue of things comes first from the Idea's, then from the ruling, and governing Intelligencies, then from the aspects of the Heavens disposing, and lastly from the tempers of the Elements disposed, answering the influencies of the Heavens, by which the Elements themselves are ordered, or disposed.
There is therefore no other cause of the necessity of effects, then the connexion [connection] of all things with the first Cause, and their correspondency with those Divine patterns, and eternall Idea's, whence every thing hath its determinate, and particular place in the exemplary world, from whence it lives, and receives its originall being; And every vertue of Hearbs [herbs], Stones, Metals, Animals, Words, and Speeches,(Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book 1, Chapter 13)
Therefore Plato, and his Schollers [scholars] attribute these vertues to Idea's, the formers of things.: Again affirming the causal power of the ideas.
The Form therefore, and Vertue of things comes first from the Idea's: The form in the Aristotelian sense is the idea manifesting as a "formal" cause.
There is therefore no other cause of the necessity of effects, then the connexion [connection] of all things with the first Cause, and their correspondency with those Divine patterns, and eternall Idea's, whence every thing hath its determinate, and particular place in the exemplary world: Again the Great Chain of Being. At the top is the One, which differentiates on down the Hierarchy to manifest in our world.
And every vertue of Hearbs [herbs], Stones, Metals, Animals, Words, and Speeches: It is noteworthy that Agrippa includes words and speeches as a potential manifestation of “hidden powers”. He ends his First Book on the subject of "Words, and Speeches" and then expands on it in later books.
These two sections are Agrippa's basic exposition of a cosmological structure that occurs in other places in the Three Books and is an important part of his “theory of the practice”, the base cosmic circuit board, you might say, of Platonic Engineering.
All cited references to Agrippa's Occult Philosophy are from Joseph Peterson's Twilight Grotto, a very useful site.
Edit: Changed humerous to humorous, the spelling being something of a bone of contention.
Edited by Zhongyongdaoist, 28 January 2015 - 02:23 PM.