Celestial Magic

Post by Sue Lewis

The Papers of the 2013 Sophia Centre Conference on Celestial Magic, at which I gave a talk on “The Transformational Techniques of Huber Astrology” have finally been published in a double issue of Culture and Cosmos, which is available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Culture-Cosmos-Vol-19-Celestial/dp/1907767738

In his introduction, Nicholas Campion likens magical thinking to “awareness of the interrelatedness of all things” and quotes from one of my favourite astrology books of the late 1970s. In An Astrological Guide to Self-Awareness, the late Donna Cunningham writes that “The true usefulness of a chart… is to get a better perspective of yourself, to appreciate your own individuality and potential, and to work toward your most positive expression of self.” Few of us would, I think, quibble with this view of astrology.

The Renaissance magus, Cornelius Agrippa, divided magic into three sub-sections—natural magic of the sublunary world and elements, celestial magic of the zone rising from the Moon through the planets of the zodiac, and ceremonial magic of angels and demons beyond the fixed stars—so one might anticipate that papers of a conference on celestial magic would focus on the practice of astrology. On the other hand, magic falls into Wouter Hanegraaff’s category of “tainted terminologies” that may carry pejorative nuances, even if the intention is motivated by goodwill. Hence many astrologers remain wary of associating magic with their work. Mike Harding’s paper on “The Meanings of Magic” explores the philosophical approaches of Wittgenstein and Heidegger, while Liz Greene’s long and fascinating piece of illustrated research is on “Gemstone Talismans in Western Magical Traditions.” For my part, I was pleased to have the opportunity to draw attention to the transformational techniques of the astrological psychology of Bruno and Louise Huber, which make it such an effective tool for raising self-awareness and achieving self-reparation. Nevertheless, Campion’s question— “Is astral magic… distinct from astrology as an interpretative and predictive practice based on the use of horoscopes?”—is hardly addressed and, in summing up the key themes, he states that all thirteen papers “deal with the human relationship with the sky,” while the pervading practice they cover is alchemy, and the dominant process is transformation.

My contribution is one of five papers under the heading Transformation and Ascent and appears alongside erudite and illuminating papers on angelomorphism, the spiritual cosmology of Ibn ‘Arabi, Rosicrucianism, and astral ascent. Papers in the sections on Theory, Practice, and Ritual cover Plotinus, early Greek magic, alchemy, and Pagan and Indian ritual.

A rich variety of intellectually rigorous papers with comprehensive footnotes to help the student of cosmology lies beneath a bland journal cover that discloses few of its secrets. There are significant contributions from established academics of esoteric topics, like Joscelyn Godwin and M. E. Warlick, beside well-researched topics by recent MA graduates and independent scholars. Amazon offers potential readers an opportunity to see the list the contents before deciding to buy and, if one or two of the titles grab your imagination, you might be motivated to expand your horizons and explore a few more of the pathways to gnosis in this wide-ranging interpretation of celestial magic.