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Agrippa's Doctrine of Occult Virtues, a core concept examined and explained

Cornelius Agrippa Agrippas Occult Philosophy Occult Virtues Plato in Western Magic Aristotle in Western Magic Natural Magi

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#1 Zhongyongdaoist

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Posted 28 January 2015 - 01:13 PM

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 If these out-of-date beliefs are to be called myths, then myths can be produced by the same sorts of methods and held for the same sorts of reasons that now lead to scientific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.

  • rex and RigdzinTrinley said thanks for this
Donald
aka Zhongyongdaoist


'It is better for us that there should be difference of judgment, if we keep charity: but it is most unmanly to quarrel because we differ'

'Nothing spoils human Nature more, than false Zeal ... because I may be Mistaken, I must not be dogmatical and confident, peremptory and imperious. I will not break the certain Laws of Charity, for a doubtful Doctrine or of uncertain Truth'

'... I oppose not rational to spiritual; for spiritual is most rational: But I contradistinquish rational to conceited, impotent , affected CANTING ...'

All by Benjamin Whichcote, 17th Century English Theologian, quoted from Ernst Cassirer's The Platonic Renaissance in England, a much neglected book of Wisdom.

All of that said it remains true that:

Only the man of virtue knows whom to love and whom to hate. Confucius, Analects 4.3

#2 Spotless

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Posted 29 January 2015 - 10:45 AM

Bone of contention - got it:)
Aaaah Plato!

Edited by Spotless, 29 January 2015 - 11:10 AM.


#3 Nikolai1

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 05:01 AM

Hi Donald,

The scholarship you show in your posts is seriously impressive. You often talk about the fact that the adoption of the materialistic scientific worldview does not constitute progress from former worldviews and here you quote Kuhn to that effect.

Do you consider that recognising the value of the older worldviews will lead to technological capabilities that we have forgotten about because they have no place in the modern scheme?

Or is the value of Kuhn's words more about liberating us from the modern constraints?

Or perhaps you feel that there are ancient worldviews that are 'higher' or more comprehensive and you would wish to see a return to them - a paradigm shift back in that direction?

Very interested to know your thoughts

Nikolai

Visit my commentary on the Tao Te Ching:

 

http://taotechingcom...apter-1_18.html

 

My article on Ramana Maharshi:

 

http://www.onreligio...amana-maharshi/


#4 Zhongyongdaoist

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 10:07 AM

Hi Donald,

The scholarship you show in your posts is seriously impressive. You often talk about the fact that the adoption of the materialistic scientific worldview does not constitute progress from former worldviews and here you quote Kuhn to that effect.

Do you consider that recognising the value of the older worldviews will lead to technological capabilities that we have forgotten about because they have no place in the modern scheme?

Or is the value of Kuhn's words more about liberating us from the modern constraints?

Or perhaps you feel that there are ancient worldviews that are 'higher' or more comprehensive and you would wish to see a return to them - a paradigm shift back in that direction?

Very interested to know your thoughts

Nikolai

(Emphasis mine, ZYD)

 

 

The scholarship you show in your posts is seriously impressive: Thank you, it was serious scholarship which I undertook in order to answer questions about the theory and practice of magic, so I am glad that it is impressive, because I want people to take it seriously.  By the early 1970s I was already somewhat dissatisfied with what I would later term neo-magic, I also realized that occultists were unreliable thinkers and researchers, whether analyzing their own work and procedures, or historical work.  I had always been more of an occult scientist than merely an occultist, always juxtaposing theoretical understanding and practical understanding, but I had to become my own intellectual historian also.

 

the materialistic scientific worldview does not constitute progress: While scientific methodology is very useful for exploring "natural" phenomena, the materialism that was adopted with it almost acts like an opportunistic parasite that poisons the whole system and clogs it with basically unscientific dogmas derived from unproven materialistic propositions, that are an affront to real reason and a constant hamper to progress.  Phrases like "rational scientific materialism" are not true and should at every point be countered, there is nothing essentially rational about materialism, nor is it the result of the application of scientific method.

 

I could give a qualified yes to each of your questions:

 

Do you consider that recognizing the value of the older worldviews will lead to technological capabilities that we have forgotten about because they have no place in the modern scheme? Yes, I think it could, could being the operative word, because as long as there is a dogmatic insistence that, such and such cant happen, or cant happen that way then forgotten technologies will remain forgotten.  An example is Alchemy.  Alchemy is part of a well formed worldview, the existence of a "physical" "philosopher's stone" is a strong implication of that worldview, but whether it is actually possible or not, has not been unequivocally demonstrated and it may in point of fact be impossible, but will never be investigated if it is thought impossible on apriori grounds.

 

Or is the value of Kuhn's words more about liberating us from the modern constraints?: Yes, to realize that there are many ways that one can look at things is important, for example I favor a revival of "formal" causes for future "science".  If one looks at consciousness as a formal cause that organizes information, that solves a lot of problems about knowledge and freewill.  Of course one needs to be careful about what one accepts as an irreducible "form", but the case for the irreducible nature of consciousness is very strong and is only denied because materialism requires that consciousness be reducible to a material explanation, but such explanations have never been satisfactory and there is no good reason to believe that they ever will.

 

(are) . . . there are ancient worldviews that are 'higher' or more comprehensive and you would wish to see a return to them - a paradigm shift back in that direction?: Back circa 1980 I decided that Platonism was the best overall worldview for a variety of reasons.  It is basically not dogmatic, Plato describes the cosmology of his Timaeus as a "likely story", thus in a sense anticipating Kuhn's discovery of "paradigms" by 2500 or so years.  If Plato were alive today he would be assimilating modern science and turning it into something that supports "spirituality" rather then something that denigrates it.  Platonism is also rational and intellectually rigorous, providing in Plato's Parmenides the outline of a "metaphysics of the One" which was explicated by his successors, in particular Plotinus, that provides a powerful framework for "mysticism" in a form that has been aptly described as "the Architecture of the Intelligible World".  Since that time I have found Platonism a satisfactory framework for rethinking science, practicing magic, and investigating "mysticism".  In all of these endeavors, it has been very fruitful.  By the way Platonism was, as I have pointed out elsewhere here on TTBs, definitely a hard sell, I was not at all inclined to it when I first started to investigate it, which I basically did for historical reasons.

 

That is the short and quick version of my thoughts, I hope that it is helpful.


  • rex and Nikolai1 said thanks for this
Donald
aka Zhongyongdaoist


'It is better for us that there should be difference of judgment, if we keep charity: but it is most unmanly to quarrel because we differ'

'Nothing spoils human Nature more, than false Zeal ... because I may be Mistaken, I must not be dogmatical and confident, peremptory and imperious. I will not break the certain Laws of Charity, for a doubtful Doctrine or of uncertain Truth'

'... I oppose not rational to spiritual; for spiritual is most rational: But I contradistinquish rational to conceited, impotent , affected CANTING ...'

All by Benjamin Whichcote, 17th Century English Theologian, quoted from Ernst Cassirer's The Platonic Renaissance in England, a much neglected book of Wisdom.

All of that said it remains true that:

Only the man of virtue knows whom to love and whom to hate. Confucius, Analects 4.3

#5 Nikolai1

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Posted 30 January 2015 - 10:25 AM

Really helpful thanks, and I agree with everything you're saying but no time now to say more!

Visit my commentary on the Tao Te Ching:

 

http://taotechingcom...apter-1_18.html

 

My article on Ramana Maharshi:

 

http://www.onreligio...amana-maharshi/


#6 Zhongyongdaoist

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Posted 13 July 2016 - 07:39 AM

I'm sorry to be so long in posting this, because what I am going to discuss in my next few posts is as important a part of the Doctrine of Occult Virtues as is the background in Aristotle's Four Causes, which I outlined in my opening post and have covered in detail in my posts on Aristotle and Agrippa. This important aspect is “the Spirit of the World”, one of the concepts that was to survive into neo-magical theory as Mesmer's animal magnetism, which was an important aspect of Nineteenth Century magical theory, but has receded into the deep background in the Twentieth. First Agrippa's quote and then a discussion of why it is neglected in the Twentieth Century:
 

Chap. xiv. Of the Spirit of the World, what it is, and how by way of medium it unites occult Vertues to their subjects.

Democritus and Orpheus, and many Pythagorians having most diligently searched into the vertues of Celestiall things, and natures of inferior things, said, That all things are full of God, and not without cause: For there is nothing of such transcending vertues, which being destitute of Divine assistance, is content with the nature of it self. Also they called those Divine Powers which are diffused in things, Gods: which Zoroaster called Divine allurements, Synesius Symbolicall inticements, others called them Lives, and some also Souls, saying, that the vertues of things did depend upon these; because it is the property of the Soul to be from one matter extended into divers things, about which it operates: So is a man, who extends his intellect unto intelligible things, and his imagination unto imaginable things; and this is that which they understood, when they said, viz. That the Soul of one thing went out, and went into another thing, altering it, and hindering the operations of it: As the Diamond hinders the operation of the Loadstone, that it cannot attract Iron. Now seeing the Soul is the first thing that is moveable, and as they say, is moved of it self; but the body, or the matter is of it self unable, and unfit for motion, and doth much degenerate from the Soul, therefore they say there is need of a more excellent Medium, viz. Such a one that may be as it were no body, but as it were a Soul, or as it were no Soul, but as it were a body, viz. by which the soul may be joyned to the body. Now they conceive such a medium to be the spirit of the World, viz. that which we call the quintessence: because it is not from the four Elements, but a certain first thing, having its being above, and besides them. There is therefore such a kind of spirit required to be, as it were the medium, whereby Celestiall Souls are joyned to gross bodies, and bestow upon them wonderfull gifts. This spirit is after the same manner in the body of the world, as ours is in the body of man. For as the powers of our soul are communicated to the members of the body by the spirit, so also the Vertue of the Soul of the World is diffused through all things by the quintessence: For there is nothing found in the whole world, that hath not a spark of the Vertue thereof. Yet it is more, nay most of all infused into those things which have received, or taken in most of this spirit: Now this spirit is received or taken in by the rayes of the Stars, so far forth as things render themselves conformable to them. By this spirit therefore every occult property is conveyed into Hearbs [herbs], Stones, Metals, and Animals, through the Sun, Moon, Planets, and through Stars higher then the Planets. Now this spirit may be more advantageous to us, if any one knew how to separate it from the Elements: or at least to use those things chiefly, which do most abound with this spirit. For these things, in which this spirit is less drowned in a body, and less checked by matter, do more powerfully, and perfectly act, and also more readily generate their like: for in it are all generative, & seminary Vertues. For which cause the Alchymists [alchemists] endeavour to separate this spirit from Gold, and Silver; which being rightly separated, and extracted, if thou shalt afterward project upon any matter of the same kind (i.e.) any Metall, presently will turn it into Gold, or Silver. And we know how to do that, and have seen it done: but we could make no more Gold, then the weight of that was, out of which we extracted the spirit. For seeing that is an extense form, and not intense, it cannot beyond its own bounds change and imperfect body into a perfect: which I deny not, but may be done by another way. (Esoteric Archives, Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book One, Chapter xiv, Emphasis mine, ZYD)


As can be seen from the number of passages that have been bolded above, there is a lot to talk about in this chapter and it is one of the key chapters to understanding and putting Classical Magic into practice, I will deal with the most important aspects here and comment on others in later discussions.

the vertues of things did depend upon these; because it is the property of the Soul to be from one matter extended into divers things, about which it operates: Agrippa has been recapitulating part of his discussion of the Great Chain of Being, which I dealt with in my first post of this series, and this principle follows directly from what was said just before it, that, “For there is nothing of such transcending vertues, which being destitute of Divine assistance, is content with the nature of it self”, in other words there is a constant outpouring of Virtue from the higher to the lower, as higher levels of Virtue are communicated to lower orders of being which are influenced by them. Remember that in all of this, Virtue means Power in other words the ability to effect or do something or affect something, and, as will become evident as we proceed, this power is conceived of as fundamentally a “generative” power, something which is closely modeled on the “generation” of plants and animals as will be made apparent as we go along.

the Soul of one thing went out, and went into another thing, altering it, and hindering the operations of it: I will return to this and the following example of the operation of an Occult Virtue in my post on Chapter xvi, where I will deal with this type of citation in more detail.

the Diamond hinders the operation of the Loadstone, that it cannot attract Iron: No of course diamonds don't hinder loadstones as was recognized shortly after Agrippa wrote, "a very old falsehood about the diamond, in speaking of a power contrary to that of the loadstone (WikiSource, On the Magnet, by William Gilbert, Book III. Chap. 13)". Gilbert attributes this discovery to Della Porta, who, however, makes the opposite mistake of making diamonds into something that will magnetize iron, but more about this later as noted above.

the Soul is the first thing that is moveable, and as they say, is moved of it self; but the body, or the matter is of it self unable, and unfit for motion, and doth much degenerate from the Soul, therefore they say there is need of a more excellent Medium, viz. Such a one that may be as it were no body, but as it were a Soul, or as it were no Soul, but as it were a body, viz. by which the soul may be joyned to the body: This is an extremely important passage because in the next century Descartes was to create the mind/body dualism which leaves this “medium” out of the picture completely and plagued Western Philosophy from the Seventeenth Century onward with this problematic model, but it has also permeated Western Culture to such an extent that the default worldview of Westerners and any person or society sufficiently influenced by Western thinking, is what I call “Closet Cartesianism”, which is usually stated informally in terms different from Decartes, but not free from the fundamental conception and its problems. It is commonly formulated these days as “a ghost in a machine”. There are two rarer worldviews which developed from this in the Eighteenth Century, the denial of the ghost and the consequent reduction of the world and its to contents to a machine filled with machines, and which developed into hard core materialism or the denial of the machine to preserve the ghost, as represented by Berkeley's “idealism”, which found a home in Romanticism, and the progenitors of “New Age” thinking and is responsible for the “the world is an illusion” idea.

they conceive such a medium to be the spirit of the World, viz. that which we call the quintessence: because it is not from the four Elements, but a certain first thing, having its being above, and besides them: This sense of quintessence is fundamentally Aristotelian and should be born in mind, but there is also another sense of a union of the five essences which is derived from alchemy. The Golden Dawn usage of spirit seems to be mostly influenced by the notion of Akasha derived from Indian traditions which was the extended by the alchemical usage, the sense in which Agrippa is using it does not seem to have survived, at least not explicitly in the Golden Dawn.

such a kind of spirit required to be, as it were the medium, whereby Celestiall Souls are joyned to gross bodies Note that in the older traditions, spirit as a medium is required, no dichotomy such as Descartes created was allowed, or even conceived of as possible.

This spirit is after the same manner in the body of the world, as ours is in the body of man. For as the powers of our soul are communicated to the members of the body by the spirit, so also the Vertue of the Soul of the World is diffused through all things by the quintessence: This is a very simple, but powerfully suggestive application of the Microcosm/Macrocosm and doctrine, and I will say more about it in a moment.

nothing found in the whole world, that hath not a spark of the Vertue thereof: In essence this means that there is no such thing as dead matter, as it was later envisioned during the Seventeenth Century. This is very important because a Closet Cartesian always thinks of matter as dead and “inanimate”, that is “soulless” and has a lot of trouble with thinking of Occult Virtues and using them as a real part of magic, but rather only as props for his show, or at best things which he can charge with his “Will Power” and intent, but do not and cannot contribute anything to the efficacy of the magic.

By this spirit therefore every occult property is conveyed into Hearbs [herbs], Stones, Metals, and Animals, through the Sun, Moon, Planets, and through Stars higher then the Planets: In the first part it is made clear that it is through this “spirit” that all of the magical powers inherent in the natural world are distributed by the higher powers, and in the second part is an anticipation of the possibility of an Astrological Magic, the Natural Magic aspect of which is developed further in Book One, and other aspects are developed in Book Two. It is this strong integration of the whole subject which is implied in Agrippa's original definition of Magic and is worked out in considerable detail throughout.

Now this spirit may be more advantageous to us, if any one knew how to separate it from the Elements: or at least to use those things chiefly, which do most abound with this spirit: To return to my discussion of the passage beginning “This spirit is after the same manner in the body of the world, as ours is in the body of man.”, I asked myself, “what would 'most abound with this spirit”, than the living image of the whole, the very Microcosm itself?” and this was part of my reason for pursing qigong and other forms of Chinese esoteric training. I wasn't all of it of course, I was already interested in and had been for a couple of years before I read Agrippa, because of quote from Dion Fortune, related to ectoplasm and evocation, but this passage certainly reinforced my interest in such practices. Jerry Alan Johnson also employs an ectoplasm theory in his discussions of spirit appearances and even includes pictures in his books which he claims are real ectoplasmic manifestations. Most of his references to ectoplasm can be found in Daoist Magical Transformation Skills (The Temple of the Celestial Cloud, 2012), for example p. 28 on shape-shifting and magic, a discussion of materialization on p.40, and a discussion of qi and ectoplasm on pgs. 67-68, with a picture of a purported spirit manifestation on p. 68.  This picture is also shown on p. 61, as part of an account of a magical summoning to "obtain a spirit helper".

For these things, in which this spirit is less drowned in a body, and less checked by matter, do more powerfully, and perfectly act, and also more readily generate their like: for in it are all generative, & seminary Vertues: This brings out clearly the “generative, & seminary” of the spirit. Internal alchemy, which I had started to study about year before I read Agrippa in Charles Luk's Taoist Yoga book, deals very much with extracting and harnessing the “generative, & seminary” powers of the body. Its relevance to external alchemy is emphasized in the next excerpt.

For which cause the Alchymists [alchemists] endeavour to separate this spirit from Gold, and Silver: In this case the effort is mistaken, but the idea is still there, that this “generative, & seminary” power is even present in the mineral kingdom. Which brings us back to the earlier excerpt, "nothing found in the whole world, that hath not a spark of the Vertue thereof", affirming that the Spirit of the World does indeed animate everything, and the whole world is "alive".

if thou shalt afterward project upon any matter of the same kind (i.e.) any Metall, presently will turn it into Gold, or Silver. And we know how to do that, and have seen it done: but we could make no more Gold, then the weight of that was, out of which we extracted the spirit. For seeing that is an extense form, and not intense, it cannot beyond its own bounds change and imperfect body into a perfect: which I deny not, but may be done by another way: Anyone familiar with basic modern chemistry will recognize this as an early description of techniques now used in plating which harness the electromotive force by exploiting what is called the electromotive series, but I can't get into more details on this, however, this extraction “may be done by another way”, but again this is not the place to describe such procedures, aside from noting that they are procedures of laboratory alchemy and involve the use of, and creation of actual substances, some of which I may describe later.

Well, that wasn't quite as long as I thought it might be, but it is still longer than I like posts to be, because such posts are a lot to chew on, but I couldn't see a good way to shorten it, however, I will try to expand on many of the points raised here.

 

 

 

 

 

Edit: Minor spelling


Edited by Zhongyongdaoist, 15 July 2016 - 05:39 AM.

  • rex, dawei and Eques Peregrinus said thanks for this
Donald
aka Zhongyongdaoist


'It is better for us that there should be difference of judgment, if we keep charity: but it is most unmanly to quarrel because we differ'

'Nothing spoils human Nature more, than false Zeal ... because I may be Mistaken, I must not be dogmatical and confident, peremptory and imperious. I will not break the certain Laws of Charity, for a doubtful Doctrine or of uncertain Truth'

'... I oppose not rational to spiritual; for spiritual is most rational: But I contradistinquish rational to conceited, impotent , affected CANTING ...'

All by Benjamin Whichcote, 17th Century English Theologian, quoted from Ernst Cassirer's The Platonic Renaissance in England, a much neglected book of Wisdom.

All of that said it remains true that:

Only the man of virtue knows whom to love and whom to hate. Confucius, Analects 4.3

#7 Zhongyongdaoist

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Posted 15 July 2016 - 06:04 AM

I said in my previous post that I wanted to deal with some aspects of it in my post on Chapter xvi, well it's that time. The aspects that I wished to deal with here were mostly the examples given in Chapter xivi for the operation of the property of the Soul that extends itself into other things. Now remember first of all that the agency of this extension is the Spirit of the World and that the Spirit of the World will be the agency by which the “Vertues pass from one thing to another” in the this discussion of Chapter xvi, but first let me remind you of what I said above about the example given in Chapter xiv:
 

the Soul of one thing went out, and went into another thing, altering it, and hindering the operations of it: I will return to this and the following example of the operation of an Occult Virtue in my post on Chapter xvi, where I will deal with this type of citation in more detail.

the Diamond hinders the operation of the Loadstone, that it cannot attract Iron: No of course diamonds don't hinder loadstones as was recognized shortly after Agrippa wrote, "a very old falsehood about the diamond, in speaking of a power contrary to that of the loadstone (WikiSource, On the Magnet, by William Gilbert, Book III. Chap. 13)". Gilbert attributes this discovery to Della Porta, who, however, makes the opposite mistake of making diamonds into something that will magnetize iron, but more about this later as noted above.


Just to clarify, Gilbert is not attributing to Della Porta the mistake of thinking that diamonds hinder loadstones, but rather the discovery that it is false. It is rather the false idea that one can rub iron or steel on diamonds and magnetize them that Gilbert is accusing Della Porta of doing. Della Porta is possibly confusing the static electrical attraction that can develop from rubbing certain things on stones, such as amber, with a true magnetic attraction, the differences between which, were only being clarified in the Seventeenth Century.

And now on to Chapter xvi:
 

Chap. xvi. How the operations of several Vertues pass from one thing into another, and are communicated one to the other.

Thou must know, that so great is the power of naturall things, that they not only work upon all things that are neer them, by their Vertue, but also besides this, they infuse into them a like power, through which by the same Vertue they also work upon other things, as we see in the Loadstone, which Stone indeed doth not only draw Iron Rings, but also infuseth a Vertue into the Rings themselves, whereby they can do the same, which Austin [Augustine] and Albertus [Magnus] say they saw. After this manner it is, as they say, that a common harlot, grounded in boldness, and impudence doth infect all that are neer her, by this property, whereby they are made like her self. Therefore they say that if any one shall put on the inward garment of an Harlot, or shall have about him that looking glass, which she daily looks into, he shall thereby become bold, confident, impudent, and wanton. In like manner they say, that a cloth that was about a dead Corpse hath received from thence the property of sadness, and melancholy; and that the halter wherewith a man was hanged hath certain wonderfull properties. The like story tels Pliny, if any shall put a green Lizard made blind, together with Iron, or Gold Rings into a glass-vessel, putting under them some earth, and then shutting the vessel, and when it appears that the Lizard hath received his sight, shall put him out of the glass, that those Rings shall help sore eyes. The same may be done with Rings, and a Weesel [weasel], whose eyes after they are with any kind of prick put out, it is certain are restored to sight again. Upon the same account Rings are put for a certain time in the nest of Sparrows, or Swallows, which afterwards are used to procure love, and favor. (Esoteric Archives, Agrippa, Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Book One, Chapter xvi, Emphasis mine, ZYD)


First I wish to emphasize the principle here which is that "souls" as the forms of things manifest "Occult Virtues" by which, ". . . they not only work upon all things that are neer them, by their Vertue . . . “, but also they, “. . . infuse into them a like power, through which by the same Vertue they also work upon other things . . .". So that whereas the previous chapter had spoken about a virtue of the diamond extend through the Spirit of the World interfering with the power of a loadstone to attract iron, this one puts forward another possibility founded in the Spirit of the World, that the virtue of one thing can be communicated to and infused into another thing, so that the second one now has the same power as the first, which is primarily illustrated by, “. . . the Loadstone, which Stone indeed doth not only draw Iron Rings, but also infuseth a Vertue into the Rings themselves . . .”. A very important pricinple for the practice of magic, and on that is called the “principle of contagion”, a principle mostly used as a means of connecting with someone or something that was once connected with them, to influence them, but as seen here can also be used to create an independent object with a power like that of the originating object.

This is a perfect place to remind people of what I said here:
 

I confess that Magick it self teacheth many superfluous things, and curious prodigies for ostentation; leave them as empty things, yet be not ignorant of their causes.: This piece of advice is excellent. Agrippa is writing a very comprehensive work which deals with both theory and practice. Much of what he writes would be well known to the educated of his day, that is one of the interesting things about it, and the theory which he introduces is as good now as it was the day he wrote it, but the material which he uses to illustrate these principles, while consisting of quotes from some of the most authoritative sources available to him, read like nonsense today. This make the importance of paying attention to the underlying principles and understanding them and then viewing his exposition as possibly outlandish examples, but examples nonetheless, and understanding them as attempts to illustrate those principles, is a good guide to getting more out of these books than would otherwise be the case. (Agrippa to the Reader, Emphasis on first sentence in my original citation, the rest is added for the sake of this post, ZYD)


So, bearing in mind what I said about the false doctrine of the diamond hindering the loadstone, let's look at Agrippa's “outlandish” supporting illustration for this chapter:
 

they say, that a common harlot, grounded in boldness, and impudence doth infect all that are neer her, by this property, whereby they are made like her self. Therefore they say that if any one shall put on the inward garment of an Harlot, or shall have about him that looking glass, which she daily looks into, he shall thereby become bold, confident, impudent, and wanton. (Empahsis mine, ZYD)


This illustration, with its recommendation of wearing a prostitutes panties, and its implications of kinky cross-dressing, is about as outlandish as it gets! And of course it is open to all sorts of modern and purely reductionist psychological interpretations. The more conservative recommendation to use the mirror of a prostitute, also has psychological interpretations, but as an illustration of something becoming charged up, albeit unconsciously by the prostitute, would be far more in line with even Nineteenth Century theories involving objects being charged with animal magnetism.

However, one needs to look at all of the illustrations and ask, what do these things have in common and how are they illustrative of the principles, what does a prostitutes panties have in common with, “. . . the halter wherewith a man was hanged . . ”, which would give either of them, “. . . certain wonderfull properties . . .”? Oh, and in case you are wondering "halter" in this case means the hangman's noose, and not another stylish garment with an implication of cross-dressing. Why did Agrippa chose these as illustrations of the principle that:
 

so great is the power of naturall things, that they not only work upon all things that are neer them, by their Vertue, but also besides this, they infuse into them a like power, through which by the same Vertue they also work upon other things, as we see in the Loadstone, which Stone indeed doth not only draw Iron Rings (Emphasis mine, ZYD)


Which, unlike the illustration of the diamond and the loadstone, is still an accepted part of science, though given a very different interpretation. A fact which needs careful consideration of another sort, such as, while it is obvious that it is a good illustration of the principle which Agrippa is putting forth, how would it be understood in terms of the worldview that Agrippa is assuming, and within that worldview, how would other aspects of it be understood, such as, “why don't copper rings become magnetized?”, or “is the fact that modern science explains the phenomena in a certain way fundamentally incompatible with Agrippa's worldview?”. It is only by asking yourself and answering questions like this, about those oddities of ancient learning that Agrippa uses to illustrate his principles, that you will be like Agrippa's judicious bee:
 

But you that come without prejudice to read it, if you have so much discretion of prudence, as Bees have in gathering honey, read securely, and believe that you shall receive no little profit, and much pleasure (Agrippa to the Reader, Emphasis mine, ZYD)

 
And can also receive "no little profit, and much pleasure".


  • rex and Eques Peregrinus said thanks for this
Donald
aka Zhongyongdaoist


'It is better for us that there should be difference of judgment, if we keep charity: but it is most unmanly to quarrel because we differ'

'Nothing spoils human Nature more, than false Zeal ... because I may be Mistaken, I must not be dogmatical and confident, peremptory and imperious. I will not break the certain Laws of Charity, for a doubtful Doctrine or of uncertain Truth'

'... I oppose not rational to spiritual; for spiritual is most rational: But I contradistinquish rational to conceited, impotent , affected CANTING ...'

All by Benjamin Whichcote, 17th Century English Theologian, quoted from Ernst Cassirer's The Platonic Renaissance in England, a much neglected book of Wisdom.

All of that said it remains true that:

Only the man of virtue knows whom to love and whom to hate. Confucius, Analects 4.3





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Cornelius Agrippa, Agrippas Occult Philosophy, Occult Virtues, Plato in Western Magic, Aristotle in Western Magic, Natural Magi

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