Saturday, September 12, 2009

Talismans: Charged or Ensouled or Both?


I had a recent post on my discussion group, Spiritus Mundi explaining the creation of talismans as, if I can characterize the post, charging them like a battery.

Certainly the creation of talismans can be conceptualized as "charging" them with impersonal forces. The analogy of the magnet was a common metaphor among Renaissance astrologers and magicians who termed their practice as natural magic, ie not using invocation and in fact not involving spirits and spiritual beings at all.

While this is certainly a valid conceptualization, there were two forces at work that also impelled the use of the terminology and ideology of natural magic, that is magic without spiritual beings. First, was the concern from, in Catholic countries, the Inquisition and in Protestant countries from church and other authorities concerned about witchcraft, heresy and the conjuration of evil spirits.

Secondly, by the 17th century, was the influence of the mechanistic philosophy, believed to be epitomized by scientists like Newton and Copernicus. In fact, Newton was a practicing alchemist and Copernicus cited Hermes Trismegistus in support of his heliocentric thesis. Nevertheless, the move towards atheistic materialism pushed talisman makers to conceive of the operation of talismans as the operation of impersonal forces rather than spiritual personalities.

In fact, traditional astrology has always been characterized by two strands of thought, the first "scientific" because it saw the casual links involved in astrology as consisting of impersonal forces, and the second the "magical" strand, which saw astrology and magic as involving spiritual beings and personalities. These strands co-existed as the "scientific" astrologers never denied the existence of the spiritual and the "magical" astrologers were happy to make use of the science of astronomy as the basis of their practice.

So, the natural magic/"scientific" school of astrology dovetails very nicely with modern New Age thinking, based as it is unconsciously, but ultimately, in the modern materialistic/atheistic world view.

However, as we can see from Picatrix, the "magical" school predominates in traditional astrological magic. Picatrix says that the creation of talismans involves the action of spirit on body, that is to say, the talismans involve the ensoulment of the material body of the talisman. Picatrix, Bk I, ch 13, (slightly different translation in Greer and Warnock at 13). The discussions of the creation of living, talismanic statues in Asclepius in the Corpus Hermeticum are a similar, early discussion of the primacy of spritual beings in talismanic magic.

My experience has been that the spiritual is like light. Light has the paradoxical quality of displaying both particle and wave characteristics simultaneously. The spiritual appears to be both impersonal forces and spiritual personalities simultaneously.

Charging talismans like a battery is an easier way to explain the process to moderns, but in my personal practice I have found that approaching the astrological spirits as persons with distinct personalities is a very powerful approach.

2 comments:

freysson said...

There is a problem with the "Charge like a battery" concept. Batteries have a finite amount of enery and once drained need to be recharged. If you think of a spirit, it may need to be fed sometimes and may be busy already, but there is no "drained and useless" idea in the background.

Christopher Warnock, Esq said...

I am not partial to the talisman = battery concept either, but following up on that metaphor, it is not the spirit that is being analogized to the a battery. Spirit is to talisman as electricity is to a battery. Thus it is possible to have a talisman without a spirit just like a battery without a charge.