Astrology & the Financial Markets

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to join a 90-minute Zoom presentation, Markets & Mundane Astrology. It was given by Gianni Di Poce, a financial astrologer based in the United States, and hosted by Astrology University.


The following is under no circumstances to taken as financial advice either from myself or Gianni. It is offered only in the spirit of exploring the effect the planets have on the markets. 

PlanetMarket Rulership
SunGold and business executives
MoonSilver & real estate
MercuryMedia, autos, and transportation
MarsSteel, weapons industry, defence, and irons (smelting)
Saturn Real estate (infrastructure), agriculture (equipment), commercial real estate, construction, and labour
UranusTechnology & the Internet
NeptuneCrude oil, pharmaceuticals, and drugs
PlutoBonds/debts (especially debt restructuring), the black market, taxes, and back-room deals
JupiterRefined oil, banks, airlines, and international commerce

Interest Rates & Inflation

A key indicator of overall market momentum is bond prices, which usually have an inverse relationship to interest rates: when interest rates fall, bond prices increase and vice versa. 

In tracking bond prices concentrate on 10-year US Treasury Notes as they are the least effected by actions taken by the American Federal Reserve Bank (‘the Fed’). Keep in mind that the Fed has always dominated the short-term American bond market. It also worth noting that globally, most central banks like the Fed have recently been engaged in Quantitative Easing (QE), a process by which they purchase predetermined amounts of government bonds and other financial assets to inject cash into the economic system. This means the Fed is now a major player in the long-term bond market.

For the Fed, this began in November 2008. But by the early 2010’s the Fed had commenced a tapering program (thereby acknowledging the dangers of inflation), whereby they began to ease of their QE plan. Will this continue as planned?  Quite possibly not. Watch what happens when Venus turns retrograde in mid-December 2021. 

Gianni reminds us that interest rates are basically a function of (1) inflation, (2) demand for money (i.e. people are willing to borrow to buy now to avoid higher future prices), and (3) risk premium faction (lenders charge higher interest rates for weaker borrowers).  It is worth noting that like many other central banks the Fed has been engaged in a Zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) following the Great Recession (2007-2009). This has affected both inflation and bond prices, leaving us currently with a steepening Yield Curve (longer-term bonds yield higher return) suggesting investors expect rising inflation and stronger economic growth in the near future. 

With the planet Jupiter coming into conjunction with Neptune in April 2022, inflation is most certainly in the cards. Also note that after deflation, necessarily comes inflation and the Saturn/Pluto cycle is a huge indicator of this. When the planetary pair were both in Capricorn (2018-2020), it was no accident that we experienced hyper deflation and just now we are coming out of this. Gianni anticipates that inflation will be on the rise from April 2022 perhaps all the way through 2024/25, when Jupiter enters Gemini.

Take away: in the coming months, we can expect interest rates and inflation to be on the rise. Pay attention to the bond markets to see how this will be received by investors. In general, as the price of bonds fall, the equity markets benefit and share prices rise. 

Geopolitical Instability & the US Dollar

With higher inflation, comes the danger of hyper-inflation, which could negatively impact the currency markets. One only has to look at what happened in Weimar Germany between 1921-1923 to see how much misery was created with an impossible rise in prices. Many have been predicting a similar fate for the US Dollar. After all, it was a mix of high inflation and huge national debt that brought Weimar Germany to its financial knees and the national debt of the United States is at an all-time high. 

Gianni acknowledges that the combination could be dangerous for the dollar but in his view, the fact that the dollar is currently the world reserve currency (i.e., it is the currency of choice for other central banks and major financial institutions for international transactions) precludes hyperinflation. However, reserve currency can be lost. It’s happened before. For example, the £UK lost its position as the world reserve currency to the $US as the result of the geopolitical instability that followed in the wake of WWI.

Naturally, this did not happen all at once. But as the rest of the world sought political and economic security, it became clear this was no longer to be found in troubled Europe. Could the $US be replaced? For example, might political and economic security be found instead in the Chinese CNY or RMB or even Bitcoin, over the next few years? Anything is possible. The Chinese economy is projected to overtake the American economy perhaps even in the current decade and Bitcoin (and other crypto currencies) do enough significant freedom from political strife.

Although Gianni admits there are many in Washington who would like to see the dollar no longer the world’s reserve currency, in his view, this isn’t likely to happen. The Americans would loose the way of life to which they’ve become accustomed and politically that won’t be easy to sell. None the less, if unplanned geopolitical and economic instability is truly a significant factor in loss of reserve currency status and/or hyperinflation, the $US may be coming up to a big surprise. Gianni agrees with many astrologers that between now and 2025-6, as a stable nation state, the United States is in for a rough ride.

Civil war is a realistic possibility.

During that period, the US will suffer its first Pluto return, 2nd Neptune opposition, and 4th Uranus return. Typically such transit bring significant disruption – if not utter chaos – to everyday life. Do not forget that when the United States first broke from Britain, it suffered an ugly bout of hyperinflation. Pluto (dealing with debt and debt restructuring) returning to the same place as it was when the United States was first formed in 1776. This is not to mention that Neptune will enter Aries in the spring of 2025, and of course the last time that happen (to the day) marked the start of the Civil War, which itself was marked by an intense period of hyperinflation.

Will history repeat and, if it does, will it bring down the US dollar in an extended period of hyperinflation? For now, the only answer is to watch this space.

Take away: there is a reasonable chance that civil unrest in the United States will do significant damage to the value of the US dollar sometime between 2022-2025. Hyper-inflation is the most likely result. Play close attention as to how the American government deals with its spiralling national debt as well as cultural disagreements within its own borders. We may see a taste of what is to come as early as mid-February 2022 (first hit of the Pluto return).

Market Momentum 

  • Except for the Corona Crash in March 2020, when the share markets lost 40% of their value almost overnight, the equity markets have been on a bullish trend since 2017. There is every reason to believe that there is still some upward play in this rally. However many believe that the rally is now in process of maturing and when it does, there will be between a 10-20% correction in equity prices. This may come as early as December December 2021 – January 2022, when Venus (which rules stock exchanges) turns retrograde. Venus retrogrades have a history of bringing sharp market reversals. Until then, there may be a significant amount of sideways movement in prices. Mercury goes retrograde 27 September through mid-October; this usually manifests in ‘frothiness’ (i.e. uncertainty/indecision) in the market during which shares tend to have false moves both up and down as well as sideways trading.
  • Crude oil prices hit a generational low in April 2020. Indeed 2020 was a year of many firsts. But now oil and gas prices are on the rise and for the foreseeable future (unless another ‘black swan’ event like Covid occurs), expect this upward trend to continue. 
  • Bitcoin and similar alternative currencies are here to stay. Prices are now beginning again to rally. This won’t go on forever and we might expect some market peaks as early as December 2021. As Pluto moves into Aquarius (as early as March 2023), we should look for digital currencies to overtake cash. Likewise, widespread adoption of block-chain technology, a digital form of record-keeping, which although mostly in the public domain is decentralised and so notoriously difficult to trace transactions.
  • Although interest rates are set to rise, this ought not to have a huge negative impact on house prices in the United States, at least not to the same extent it did in 2008-2009. 
  • Traditionally, gold and silver have been hedges against mounting government debt but at least with gold, that’s not lately proven the case. The market ahead looks better for silver than gold.
  • With three direct hits of Saturn square Uranus during 2021, we ought not to be surprised that the global ‘supply chain’ on many goods/commodities has been severely disrupted and because Saturn rules the labour market, shortages in labour ought to come as no surprise. We can expect a last hurrah with such disruptions for  Christmas 2021.
  • With Uranus moving through Taurus, we ought not to expect a settled market in anything (including cryptocurrencies) until at least June 2023, when Uranus enters the last decan of Taurus. 

Take away: expect continued disruptions in supply chain (including labour) at least until early 2022. Likewise, unsettled markets all around likely until 2023 and perhaps beyond. Watch what happens in the United States.

Finding Balance with the Cancer/Capricorn Polarity

According to Safron Rossi, astrologer and mythologist at Pacifica Graduate Institute, the psychologists James Hillman and Carl Jung were fascinated with the tension of opposites and the unions of ‘the same’. Astrology, this equates to zodiacal signs in opposition to each other. In this respect this duality provides essential information about the qualities you need to bring into balance in your life. 

At first, this seems an impossible task; after all opposites are, well, opposites, right? Do not underestimate the tension inherent in confronting that which we are not (i.e. the ‘other’). Keep in mind that the zodiac signs that play a prominent part in your charts format your perceptions of life. Yet another person will see things differently than do you. Can you both be right?

The short answer is yes and it is your job to constructively engage with this tension. When you do, you will have taken your first step toward psychological wholeness. This is because the themes inherent in the opposites of polarity not only highlight your blind spots but also offer you hidden gifts.

For example, I have Cancer rising and a whole lot of planet in my 4th natal house. This means that the following three essentially Cancerian themes significantly format the way I lead my life. 

  • Creativity – is a key theme for Cancer, especially feminine creativity relating to fecundity of the Great Goddess and the Moon’s monthly cycles of birth, becoming, and death. Think of the Greek goddess, Artemis, who although considered a virgin (i.e. sovereign unto herself), was closely associated with childbirth. Her associated myths suggest the daimon of Cancer is the need to make something manifest from the watery images of the lunar realm, which can occur in any number of ways. My preferred method is through writing fiction, which makes perfect sense considering that my personal Moon is in Gemini, the zodiac sign of journalists. My hidden gift in Capricorn is the ability to write in a way consistent with my own set of personal values as well as to keep faith and find the strength to persevere in the face of disappointment and rejection, which of course is an essential experience of all novelists. Capricorn brings his inspired visions into form through mastery.
  • Privacy – is another key theme for Cancer, which needs a solid and secure ‘home’ or ‘shell’ into which she can periodically retreat in order to rest and recuperate. The lunar cycle of constant change can make one weary. Little wonder then with all Cancerian and 4th house energy that I’ve spent a large part of my life searching for a place that ‘feels’ like home (Cancer is a water sign and so connected with feelings rather than thinking). This, no doubt, is how although born and raised American, I found myself rather happily living and working in England. I’ve been told that I’ve had many happy past lives here. I can believe it for it certainly feels like home. In Capricorn, I find the gift of securing a sturdy structure (bricks and mortar) that provides just the right balance of social integration and solitude. After all, writing good fiction is requires both an essential understanding of human nature and time spent with pen and paper.
  • Self-reflective consciousness – a final key theme for Cancer is to come to know herself as a differentiated individual. In this regard, this the natural progression from Aries (‘I am’) to Taurus (‘I ground’ the spark of Arian potential) to Gemini (‘I see’ through exploration and making of connections. The Moon is the planetary ruler of Cancer and the light of the Moon is reflected from the Sun. Thus the job of Cancer is to reflect make from her memories and experiences and come to know herself for the individual who has developed from those memories and experiences. This is not as easy it as may sound. The creativity of Cancer necessarily involves the constant giving of oneself. In this respect, Capricorn offers the ability to create boundaries – build walls – place restrictions on the how much Cancer gives away to ensure that Cancer has enough of herself for herself. How else is she to become a that differentiated individual? To this, I can relate. My 4th house planets are all in Libra and thus unless I call in the gifts of Capricorn, I’m all too likely to give everything I have to ‘others’ to keep the peace. Sometimes, you just need to say ‘no’.

The Astrology of September 2021

Summary

The beginning of the month starts off light and easy – harmonious and bright. Expect breakthroughs and moments of welcome illumination. If you’ve been feeling as if your life hasn’t been on the right track, this could be a time when it starts coming together. But as the month goes on, little cracks start to appear in the cement. The brightness and harmony may quickly go out the window – deals and agreements and understandings that you’d thought were sealed, start to unravel and there won’t be much you can do about it. We’re starting to see the set-up for the end of this year which, come December, will not be pretty.

Details

  • 1 September – Mars opposite Neptune  – this often has correlation with martyrs – i.e. dying/fighting and putting personal sacrifice into a cause into which one champions – there’s a sense of calling and/or purpose – consider this as the ‘Joan of Arc’ transit – alternatively, we might feel at a loss for finding a worthwhile cause or, even if we do, we feel helpless to achieve that which we’d like. Avoid manipulative manoeuvres – your own or being the ‘victim’ of those of others. 
  • 5 -7 September –  Venus trine Jupiter – this is great stuff – Venus is in good shape in Libra and as the evening star, is perfect for dealing with others. Expect harmony, benefit, prosperity, and abundance. Also excellent for business deals, social relationships, and even romance. With Jupiter in retrograde, there may be a feeling of reconciling or resolving troublesome issues from the past. A shift in momentum forward. Just, beware, however, of indulging (and or spending) too much. 
  • 13th September – Sun opposite Neptune – don’t be surprised if you’re faced with questions about where your life is headed – what do you want to achieve and how might you best achieve it? If it feels like you’ve been stagnant, this could be a time for breakthroughs and illuminations. You might even have a moment of illumination. Could be good stuff – again, however, ensure you don’t go overboard. Your mission is your mission but others may not be as inspired as are you.
  • 22 September – Mercury square Pluto – this is an important moment because soon Mercury will be turning retrograde (28th September) – This square goes back and forth (Mercury is stationing) into the beginning of October. The image is one of a bright morning star heralding day break and then stopping – and turning back, heading back into the underworld. Expect revelations – insight – something coming from a dark space – the unconscious – perhaps something you do not want to hear – or something that has been hidden – lies/deception exposed – this will play out over a couple of weeks. Stay as diplomatic as possible (Mercury is in Libra) – it might not be easy though because power games are definitely in play. 
  • 22 September – Sun moves into Libra – the key strength of Libra is social intelligence and this year using it to maximum advantage is more necessary than usual. No one lives in a vacuum so think and act like a team player and although the temptation may be to work solely for yourself, it actually is better for all involved if you work for the benefit of the team as a whole.
  • 23 September – Venus opposite Uranus – this could be a potential challenge for all relationships – tricky diplomacy – strategic, but stormy. Venus is debilitated in Scorpio. This might be a moment of destabilisation and change. This could happen in both the personal and political arenas it doesn’t come out of the blue however – look to where the fault-lines have already been shown. The point is that you might have thought you could cement them, but with this energy, this likely will not prove to be the case.

The Astrology of August 2021

Summary

Life may feel as if it’s getting better but beware, not all your problems have been solved. Maybe you’ll need to drop back a bit and regroup and rework the thing. If so, breakthroughs regarding here-to-fore thorny issues are seriously possible. The trick to getting this right is to be completely honest with yourself. And, by the way, if things are starting to really go your way, do yourself a favour and resist the temptation to ‘shout it from the rooftops’. Private celebrations of your personal achievements would be the better way.

Details

  • 1 August – Mercury is cazimi – seated on the throne of a very dignified sun – empowered thought and speech – getting special privileges – gaining a seal of approval. Just don’t let your ego steer the ship – for example, taking credit for doing something that you didn’t actually do. 
  • 2nd August – the Sun opposes Saturn – this can bring challenges to your personal authority – a moment of creative contraction – a serious challenge – resist kicking out in frustration – instead, stop – evaluate – the feedback you’re getting – how do you want to change this or that or even your entire life?!
  • 6th August – the Sun squares Uranus  – well, if during the last few days you have been feeling challenged, now is the time for a breakthrough – euphony – ‘now it all makes sense’ – with a little bit of luck, you can move forward again. 
  • 8th August – New moon in Leo – the tide of accelerated growth starts now – new beginnings on the horizon – if you’ve now got it right from earlier delays and constraints, it’s time to move forward and become all the best that you, personally, can be. Take pride in your accomplishments – and celebrate them and yourself as amazing. If ever there was a time to deserve it, it’s now. 
  • 9th August – Venus opposes Neptune – Venus is now in Virgo and not a happy bunny – and so if you’ve not kept up your health and your home, you might struggle. It that happens, it’s time to deconstruct – figure out what’s not quite the way it ought to be and do something now about it. Don’t be surprised that in the process, you confront a bit of a mess. Don’t lose heart, at least not yet. In a couple of weeks, it might look better. In the meantime, try to understand why and how it all happened. 
  • 10th August – Mercury opposes Jupiter – don’t get carried away here – don’t be tempted to announce the world how great you are – you might well be great (and this time might well be showing you how) – but now isn’t the time to make a big deal about it. Accept what happens for what it is and if it’s good, then wonderful! Celebrate in private.
  • 16th August – Venus moves into Libra – now Venusian things start to feel much better – and move more smoothly – creative projects, love affairs, public (and private) relationships. What’s not to love about this energy?
  • 18th August – Mars conjoins Mercury in Virgo – perfect time for coming to terms with something that is especially complicated –problem solving and learning new skills and making intellectual breakthroughs – finally you ‘get it’ and so can move forward with confidence. About time, right?
  • 19th August – Sun opposes Jupiter – who or what is being marginalised in order to feed your ego? Authority figures can challenge you now but are they right or wrong, virtuous or corrupt? Make your own decisions on this and follow through accordingly. 
  • 22nd  August – Full moon in Aquarius – this could be a moment where you can see the future more clearly – how can you move forward and meet the challenges ahead – does the collective agenda fit with your own or not? Are you ready, willing, and able to give up some of your personal freedom to achieve greater things for others? 
  • 24th August – Mercury opposes Neptune – expect otherworldly solutions and insights – but do beware you don’t get bogged down with conflicts between faith and science. What do you really believe and most importantly, why do you believe it? Intuition might serve you well right now but don’t expect everyone else to agree with it. Conflict is a serious possibility. 

The Astrology of July 2021

SUMMARY – The action-packed – and let’s face it – difficult T square with Mars/Uranus/Saturn colors the entire month, especially the first week.  If you play games with people, then don’t be surprised if they play games back and win! If this happens, you might well take it as a message that you don’t always need to win and that sometimes, the best approach is to drop back, give ground, and find another way to tackle the problem.

  • 1 July – Mars opposes Saturn – this is about the battle of wills and clashes of authority – me and my ideas and values are better than yours kind of thing – if you’re pushing too hard in any aspect of your life during this time, it can blow up. But if you’re careful and work diligently and ethically with the energies at hand, you can get much accomplished.
  • 3 – 4 July – Mars perfects his square with Uranus – breakthroughs are now possible where you’ve previously had only constraints. Thus this might be a most invigorating and action-oriented time. Just beware of macho releases of energy. Don’t deliver ultimatums with which you can’t afford to follow through. 
  • 5 – 6 July – Mercury squares Neptune one last time – this can be a romantic and fluid period – especially for creative pursuits – this can also be mystical and magical and don’t be surprised if you have special insights – weird synchronicities – that turn out to be spot on. Yet at the same time be extra vigilant of falling victim of deception and unclear thinking (your own and that of others). Remember that, more often than not, we hear and believe what we want to hear and believe whether it’s true or not.
  • 6 – 7 July – Venus opposes Saturn and then makes a square to Uranus – and if you’ve arrived at serious crossroads in love and friendships, it’s a time you can deepen them through mature thinking. This is also a great time for waking up the more erotic elements in our relationships. Equally, it could also be a time to get serious about also health and/or creative projects and endeavours. 
  • 13 – 14 July – Mars and Venus conjoin in the sign of Leo – during this time, we could be rewarded for all our hard work to date – this is perfect energy for mending that which has been broken especially with our romantic relationships. It’s also perfect for moving forward and finding solutions to other pressing problems – this is a very positive time. Enjoy!
  • 17 July – Sun opposes Pluto – perfect for releasing pent-up potential – I can see clearly now – major turning points – also perfect for starting new projects – dig new ground.
  • 22 July – Venus enters Virgo and remains there until the middle of August – during this time, all things Venusian take on a Mercurial air – it’s time to get rational and technical about our relationships and creative projects as well as mundane things like personal care products – thinking like this doesn’t always sit easily with the more sensual nature of Venus – but if you go with the flow, the end result is likely to be practical. However lovely your current shampoo smells, in the not helping if it leaves your hair feeling brittle and dry! 
  • 22 July – Sun moves into Leo where it is dignified and happy –it’s a great time to consider what you can do where you comfortably move into the spotlight and be appreciated for the special person that you are. If your life trajectory needs some adjustment to get back on that path, now is a great time to take actions to make it happen.
  • 22 July – Venus opposes Jupiter – OK, don’t get carried away here – you could spend too much money – eat and drink too much – even get carried away with a health regime. Sure enough with Venus now in Virgo, it’s a good time to get realistic but don’t go overboard. Think before you take action – this is always good advice but especially relevant today!   
  • 28 July – Jupiter slips back into Aquarius – OK, well, he’d been moving forward into Pisces from mid-May through now and we might have gotten our hopes up that we were well and truly on our way. Now, we will find ourselves back to where we were at the beginning of this calendar year. At first, this shift may feel constrictive – but over time, you’ll come to realise that you’re getting a second chance to get accomplish what you set out to do in January. The good news is that now have until the very end of this calendar year to do just that. Hard work and due diligence almost always pay off and they are especially likely to do so with Jupiter in Aquarius.

Man’s Relationship with his Gods

Reading Homer’s Iliad, it is clear that not only did the gods – or immortals – meddle in every aspect of the lives of important men and women – but that those men and women were quick to blame their misfortunes on the gods, often failing to take any personal responsibility for their lives, as we might be expected today.

So what might have might have been going on?

I suggest it’s all to do with man’s perceived relationship with his gods. Further, I suggest that this is nicely explained in Julian Jaynes’s book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. In that work, Jayne’s proposed that until about 3000 years ago, human consciousness consisted only of voices that, because the two hemispheres of the brain didn’t communicate, were perceived as coming from the gods.

In essence, these ancient men lacked self-consciousness as we know it today. They could not perceive themselves as separate from – and thus ‘in relationship with’ – the gods. Instead, they had a type of cosmic consciousness which gave them imaginal – almost telepathic – access to the greater cosmos. Everything they saw and heard was to them, objectively real.

Jaynes suggests that in effect these ancients were what we might call ‘signal-bound’, responding constantly in a stimulus -response manner, completely controlled by cues. To get a sense of what this means, we need only to look at artwork from this period. I am most struck by the early Cycladic art, which I suggests demonstrates these people had a symbiotic relationship with their divinity, the Great Goddess and Earth Mother. This was the Age of Taurus, one in which men and women moved with and through the flow of nature, at one with the natural world.

Jaynes suggests this bicameralism began to break down during 2nd millennium BCE  – about the time of that the Trojan War is thought to have occurred. This was the Age of Aries and so during this time, the focus shifts to individualised achievement and conquest. The world was no longer slow moving and rural, but hierarchically organised and maintained by brute force. This required a cold, hard, calculated response. The gods no longer spoke to every individual, so the truths of cosmic consciousness were expressed in the form of the great narrative epics and divine commandments, of which the Old Testament of the Bible and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are excellent examples.

After mankind’s ‘fall’ from the garden of Eden, which you might view as a loss of cosmic consciousness, men had to become increasingly devious in order to survive. Again, when we look at the early artwork of the ancient Middle East at the beginning of the period, we see kings standing side by side with their councillor gods effortlessly gaining divine wisdom. But by the end of that age – ‘after the fall’ – the kings were on their knees begging for guidance.

Thus consciousness of ‘I’ – as separate and ‘in relation with’ the gods developed and the rational problem-solving man, with which we are familiar, is born. It’s interesting that our familiarity with our humanity increased as our familiarity with the gods decreased.

Next, the distant imperial divinities were replaced the local gods and great mythic narratives. The old cosmic consciousness had nearly faded from memory, although it was revived from time to time by mystery religions.

Here we find the right brain intuition just starting to interact with the left brain thinking, although even today we can’t be sure of the degree of the quality of such interaction. It’s not surprising that this period produced such a diametrical divinity like Jesus Christ – a mortal man who died – but didn’t really die- and because of that, was worshipped like an immortal God. This was the Age of Pisces.

What might we expect next, in the coming Age of Aquarius? I suggest that man will reposition himself vis a vis God through scientific endeavours.  In essence, man reaches for the stars –  not so much by playing God – but through creating reality. It’s ideas that drive us. We’ve always known this. But until now, we’ve been held back by our mortality.

In the post-human era, characterised by artificial intelligence and uploaded consciousness (or the transfer of the human mind to an artificial substrate), we will eliminate these distinctions, which interestingly were all man made in the first place.[1] .

Hence in the post-human era, we will transcend our bodies and become immortal like the gods. Aquarius is all about communication and through it the three aspects of the mind, cautiousness, unconsciousness, and super-consciousness will seek simultaneous expression. If we look carefully at the glyph for Aquarius – two parallel WAVY lines – I suggest that represents our new status with God.[2]

Nor surprisingly, this idea has already been presented by Nietzsche in writings about the Ubermensch or overman, in which he suggested that ‘man is something that must be overcome’ and that the highest truth is being born within man through the self-creating power of the will. To accomplish this, man’s present limited ‘self’ must be destroyed. The truth isn’t to be proved or disproved but instead, to be created. Nietzsche believed that man’s striving toward the future will result in the birth of a new being who would incarnate the meaning of the universe and thus impose redemptive order on the chaos of a meaningless universe without the gods.


[1] At the beginning of the Piscean age, Plato first formatted the distinction between the sensory (the earth plane) and the eternal world (of ideas).

Early Christian theologians renamed this external world Heaven with its guiding principle as God. The Christians further borrowed from Aristotle the notion of God as the Prime Mover of the cosmos and the First Cause of everything that exists. Amazingly, those notions had never been seriously challenged until relatively recent by the modern philosophers. 

Take Descartes. When new scientific discoveries made him wonder ‘what can I know for certain’, he came to the famous conclusion ‘I think, therefore I am’. But his matrix still kept God as the first cause of – and the only link between – a bicameral universe where subjectivity – ‘I think’ –  was isolated from objectivity – ‘the world which I perceive’.

Next comes Hume who claims that the only thing that we can be certain of is the fact that there is an unbroken stream a subjective images and ideas. Under his ‘radical scepticism’, we can’t even be certain that there is something called the mind to contain these ideas because the mind is itself just another idea.

For Kant, one could only know the sensory world and only believe in any realm beyond that. Finally, Nietzsche came along and pronounced the ‘death of God’. This was a turning point where we could no longer legitimately argue that anything lies beyond the earth plane in which we live. This was the ‘dawning of the Age of Aquarius’.

[2] In Descartes’s matrix, which still underlies most modern thinking, the problem is due to the difference in kind between the mind and the body. While the non-spatial mind and the mechanistic body shouldn’t interact, they do so in the human body. In post-humanism, this problem is reworked and the distinction between subject and object is collapsed, with the mind considered to be no more than a material function of the body. Thus we will become both creator and the created.

The Astrology of June 2021

This is a big month with an eclipse, the summer solstice, a Mercury retrograde, and Saturn coming into square with Uranus. Overall, it’s a good time to make lemonade when life delivers you lemons – and if have the patience to do it well, you might discover that lemonade is tastier than ever you could have imagined.

  • 2 -3 June – Venus moves from into Cancer and almost immediately makes a potent trine with Jupiter. This is a very beneficial time. Perhaps you make a new friend or align yourself with a powerful ally. Expect positive social connections which means you will likely have an easier time than usual getting along with others. In need of some good news? This trine could bring it with you. But beware. There really can be too much of a good thing and with Jupiter involved, it’s easy for this to happen.
  • 5 June – Mars moves into opposition with Pluto. This could be a difficult time and coming off the good feelings of a couple of days ago, we may refuse to see it coming. Bad things coming into forefront – scandalous – exposure – volatile energies exploding. But to be honest, it’s now time to confront that which we’ve been avoiding – emotional catharsis is in the cards. At the same time, it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. Think of this period like experiencing a violent thunderstorm in mid-summer – scary and potentially dangerous – yet after it’s over, the air is clearer and everyone feels better.
  • 10 June – Solar eclipse – in Gemini on the same day that Mercury goes cazimi (i.e., Mercury’s centre moves with 17 minutes of arc of the centre – the heart – of the Sun) – this is big news for the Gemini area of your natal chart. It’s a moment of rebirthing – resetting – and moving forward again. With a new moon in Gemini, we can concentrate on starting anew –  especially with things involving technology and  communication – a new way of doing things – especially of doing business – use this time to launch new venture!
  • 11 June – Mars moves out of its fall In Cancer  (where it has been since the end of April 2021) and into Leo. This is a huge shift in energy – and especially for those with Leo rising. Nonetheless, all of us will benefit. This is a wiser Mars – like fine wine, Mars has been ageing well – lessons have been learned and processed. Now all things Mars (i.e., asserting yourself) go easier. When you stand your ground, you’ll make fewer (or less violent) waves. Just try to avoid taking self-aggrandising stands – and/or belabouring a point just to bask in the sun for little bit longer. Come from the heart in service to all, and you’ll do just fine.
  • 14 June – Stay cool – muster your patience – be flexible and curious – this could be the biggest event of the month. Saturn forms a challenging square to Uranus. If you’ve been feeling like every time you’re ready to really move ahead – make serious progress – break barriers and then out of the blue, someone or something comes along and you are held-back, know that’s exactly how it should be. This is because Saturn and Uranus are playing an unfriendly game of push and pull skittles on and off all calendar year: rebellious energy hits the conservative brick wall. It’s all around us and it’s also in our personal lives. The next time these two planets come together like this will be in December 2021. In that moment, you’ll finalise what began at the beginning of 2021 calendar year. Now is NOT the time to let your frustrations get the better of you. If you push through blockage regardless, you’re likely to break something that could have turned out to be quite valuable. Instead, consider that this ‘obstacle’ may be actually working in your behalf – delay now is a good – and not a bad – thing. You’ll find out how it plays out in December and so for now, the better you can roll with these punches, the better it will turn out and – here’s the really cool thing – it might well turn out to be much better than ever you  could have imagined.
  • 20 June – Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere – but even for those in southern hemisphere – know that the symbolic point here is that the Sun is crossing a major point of transition. This is the case for all of us – wherever we are geographically. The long and short of it is that this is a major turning point in the year. This is an excellent time to start something new – launch a new chapter in your life. Plan ahead and use this energy to your best advantage. 
  • 21 June – Jupiter turns retrograde and starts moving back toward Aquarius. OK, here’s the deal. We’ve been enjoying the happy fruits of Jupiter in Pisces (its home sign of rulership) since mid-May, which has functioned in large part as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. The energy will shift back again (until end of December 2021) – so take care. If during the past month you’ve been pushing your luck and getting away with it, that might now all come to a screaming halt! Forewarned is forearmed.
  • 23 -24 June – Venus now opposes Pluto just did Mars earlier in the month. Quite possibly some healing is now available – especially for women and/or the feminine. This also brings deep change (intensity) in our relationships – home, hearth, and family – potential catharsis yet also potential power plays. Tread lightly. A little goes a long way. Get out of the way of the steamroller well in advance and take extra care that you don’t unwittingly join forces with a steamroller.

The Western Esoteric Traditions (Part 5)

My summer reading: The Western Esoteric Traditions: a Historical Introduction by Nicholas Goodrick – Clarke (Oxford University Press – 2008).

In this series of blog posts, I’m tracing the Western Esoteric traditions through history, with special attention paid to the contribution of these traditions to the work of Carl Jung.


By the 16th century, the distinction between Ficino’s natural magic and demonic magic starts to blur. 

First stop, is the German humanist Johannes Reuchlin, who builds on Ficino’s magic and Pico’s work with the Kabbalah.  Now the power of words, figures, secret rites, and holy names comes to the fore and teachings in Hebrew become justified in the Christian community. 

Next up, is monastic abbot, Johannes Trithemius, who was a follower of Reuchlin and his work. Now, Christian humanists turned their attention to angelic magic, and Trithemius gives precise instructions on how to summon angels to gain knowledge from them as well as use them to send long distance messages.[1]  His 3 book treatise, Steganograhia, dealt with progressively more powerful spirits demonstrating how they are invoked by prayer, incantation, and precision timing:

  1. in his first book, he warns about the dangers of dealing with the spirits of air because they are both arrogant and rebellious,
  2. in his second book, he enumerates the spirits governing each hour and day,
  3. in his third book he connects all of the Angels and spirits with the seven (visible) planets.

Trithemius also dabbled in prediction and prohecy. His message was that each progressive age (measured in Platonic months of 2480 terrestrial years each with reference to the procession of the equinoxes through the 12 Zodiac signs), would be governed by a particular angel. Knowing his angels, as he did, this allowed him to envisage major currents in political and religious change throughout human history. His underlying thesis was that God, as the first intellect, had delegated these various angelic governors to oversee these fixed periods.

As far as history was concerned, Trithemius was unfortunate. In the end, his notoriety became confused with the legend of Doctor Faustus, which became world famous through the 17th century play (of the same name) by Christopher Marlowe.

Enter Henry Cornelius Agrippa, born in Cologne in 1486, who ushers in the 2nd Golden Age of Hermetic and Christian Kabbalistic practice. Not only does he spread the word through his travels and teachings, but having finally settled in Northern Italy, he is involved with the translation of more ancient works that become accepted into mainstream Christian thought and practice. In his mind, this was only right, convinced as he was that these writings would bring men back from intellectual pride and despair into humble acknowledgement of God’s goodness. The benefit of this approach is clear: with such mastery and revelation, men would regain the upper hand over nature, which had been lost with the antics of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

As Dr Liz Greene points out, Jung was familiar with Agrippa’s work on angels and it did influence his work with Philemon, his ‘daimon’, in Liber Novus. In this, Jung took the view from Jewish magic that ‘guardian angels’ could be pretty much the same thing as one’s daimon, which could be determined from one’s natal or birth chart.[2] This conclusion, however, was harder for him to reach than one might think, given that, as Dr Greene notes, guardian angels are usually understood to be ontologically separate from the human soul. The idea that one’s guardian angel may also be found within is on the fringe, although it is found in the work of Agrippa, where it was demonstrated that through appropriate theurgy (in keeping with the mundus imaginalis of Iamblichus) one is able to invoke his or her angelic ‘higher Self’.

Unfortunately for Agrippa, he (along with other adherents of this 2nd Golden Age) gets caught out in the crossfire of the Reformation, wherein with the new Protestant ideal, the focus is now on the frailty of man and no longer on his confident, hubristic Neoplatonist magic. Nonetheless, Agrippa’s legacy lives on, which leads us to the next link in the chain, England’s John Dee and Edward Kelly.

As advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee enjoyed support and great freedom. Hence, he was a major intellectual force in Elizabethan England. This makes perfect sense. He possessed a library of over 2,500 printed books and 170 manuscripts including the complete works of Marsilio Ficino an edition of the Corpus Hermeticm. As a result, there is no doubt  he was well versed in the current state of the hermetic and kabbalistic arts. Yet as his own major work, Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558), made clear is real interest lay Arabic and mediaeval Oxford natural science, suggesting as he did that the celestial influence on the everyday lives of men on earth was direct cause and effect rather than sympathetic.  “Whatever exists in actuality spherically projects into each part of the world rays, which fill up the universe to its limit.” 

Overtime , however, hermetic and kabbalistic thought did leave its mark on his work, most famously in Monas (1564) which scholar, Frances Yates, suggests was really a type of magical amulet infused with astrological power, its purpose to bring the human psyche into unity. It’s important to note that other scholars offer a similarly interesting yet competing analyses of that work. 

That his personal library included work by Johannes Trithemius about spiritual (angelic) planetary governors as noted above, did suggest that he was interested in Angel magic . But because he lacked the clairvoyant gifts, he needed intermediaries hence entered, Edward Kelly, a talented medium who most certainly had a reputation for walking on the dark side. There is evidence that the believed that the noises come of voices, operations, and even dreams that he had during the period of working with Kelly were indeed the good Angels bearing genuine messages from God. He felt confident in this given that his experience tallied with those recorded by Agrippa. Reuchlin, and Trithemius.

Interestingly, although the stigma of being a conjurer finally did stick to Dee, there’s little evidence that either he or Kelly attempted to command the angels with whom they were in contact, to do their personal bidding. Although there is plenty of evidence that Dee was much more interested in learning the secrets of creation through his angelic encounters than in obtaining spiritual illumination. This does, then, leave a suggestion that like Kelly, Dee had been drawn to the darker end of the occult spectrum.

(to be continued)


[1] The word angel is derived from the Greek aggelos, or ‘one going’ or ‘one sent’, a ‘messenger’. Aggelos is sometimes used in translation for the Hebrew mal’akh, or ‘messenger’. Biblical applications of the word, both in Hebrew and Greek, refer to certain heavenly intelligences. Whom God employs in the office of messengers to carry out his will amongst humanity. Not surprisingly, the Christian conception of angels stems from much earlier Jewish ideas of God enthroned in a celestial palace, with various coming and goings on heavenly journeys with chariots. For more, see, Angelomorphism and Magical Transformation in the Christian and Jewish Traditions by Alison Greig (pp 129-144); in Culture and Cosmos: A Journal of the History of Astrology and Cultural Astronomy, papers from the 2013 Sophia Centre conference, special double issue on Celestial Magic, vol. 19 , Number 1 and 2, Spring/ Summer and Autumn/Winter 2015

[2] Green, Liz; Jung’s Studies in Astrology: Prophecy, Magic, and the Qualities of Time. London: Routledge (2018), pp.104-105.

The Western Esoteric Traditions (Part 4)

My summer reading: The Western Esoteric Traditions: a Historical Introduction by Nicholas Goodrick – Clarke (Oxford University Press – 2008).

In this series of blog posts, I’m tracing the Western Esoteric traditions through history, with special attention paid to the contribution of these traditions to the work of Carl Jung.

Byzantine Legacy

After the fall of Rome in the 4th century AD, Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire, became the new centre of culture and learning and, as the result, the Alexandrian Hellenistic esoteric tradition got a facelift with an Arabic rendition of Hermes Trismegistus, The Emerald Tablet. As such, the words ‘so as above, so as below‘ became cemented into Western esoteric tradition and with them, the idea that the same forces work on earth exactly as they do throughout heaven.

As Peter Marshall observes, The Emerald Tablet is nuanced version of the creation myth of ancient Egypt with Ra symbolised by the sun and told the names of creation by Thoth, symbolised by the moon, who by uttering them brought them into existence in the single act of adaptation by reversing, as did the ancient Egyptians, the familiar Western notion of ‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Father Sky.’[1]

This opens the way for the alchemical allegory of the chemical wedding of the sun and the moon , Sol and Luna. More of alchemy in later posts, but for now it’s enough to set the scene for this development with a deep awareness of the beauty and magnificence of the creation as well as firmly cementing the four classical elements of earth, air, fire, and water into Western esoteric tradition.[2]

Marsilio Ficino and the Hermetic Revival

As the Byzantine Empire declined in the 15th century, the centre of culture and learning shifted westward, to the city of Florence where humanist thought paved the way for the revival of Platonism.[3] As wealth and patronage played such an important part in the advancement of learning in that time, it’s little wonder that with aid from Cosimo de’ Medici, the leading merchant-prince of the Florentine Republic, Marsilio Ficino now takes centre stage.

Ficino had been searching for a type of spirituality that fit his needs and in Plato’s work, he found it. With the backing of Cosimo, Ficino began to translate original Greek manuscripts into Latin. It was during this endeavour that he got his hands on a copy of the Corpus Hermeticum. At that time, it was believed the Hermeticum was much older that it has turned out to be. Thus Ficino and his followers regarded Hermes Trismegistus as a contemporary of Moses and as such, the work was seen as a philosophia perennis, which although predating Christianity, anticipated its arrival. Doubtless, this allowed the ideas in that work to be more palatable to the Church.

The result was an intriguing cosmology, or a psychologically spatial orientation of that which is ‘me’ as well as that which is other than ‘me’, that put God at the top of a hierarchy populated by orders of angels, the planets, and the elements as well as various types of plants, animals and minerals. 

But what made Ficino’s cosmology unique was the role to which he assigned to the human soul. In keeping with Plato’s Symposium, in which Socrates identifies love is an active force holding all things together, Ficino attributed this active influence of thought and love to the human soul, which he believed could reach out and embrace all things in the universe. More than just a formal intellectual model, this new cosmology acted as a map for the travels and ascent of man’s individual soul. In his own contemplative life, Ficino gave personal and practical slant to this idea and combined it seamlessly with his Christianity. 

For thus our soul becomes most like to God, who is wisdom itself. According to Plato, in this likeness consists the highest state of happiness. 

Ficino, a letter written to Cosimo de Medici 

Most importantly, in the hands of Ficino, the Hermetica offered the opportunity to gain power over nature, through what is now known as natural or sympathetic magic. For Ficino, this magic was most easily accomplished through astrology. He believed that the planets and all things celestial, sowed the seeds of God’s divine plan into the material world through archetypal energies resembling rays. Wisdom, one’s key to happiness, would come from judiciously absorbing as many different rays as possible.

By withdrawal from earthly things, by leisure, solitude, constancy, esoteric theology and philosophy, by superstition, magic, agriculture, and grief, we come under the influence of Saturn.”

Marsilio Ficino

As Dr Liz Greene reminds us, not only was Carl Jung very familiar with Ficino’s work, but he relied on it extensively in his own work in the Liber Novus. For example, the Old Scholar, with whom Jung communicated in that work, was a grief-stricken recluse, echoing the Ficino’s association of Saturn with grief and solitude.[4]  As noted in an earlier post, Jung’s most important spiritual guide in Liber Novus, who was known to him as Philemon, was a Saturnian figure with Aquarian leanings. As Dr Greene also reminds us, Philemon provided Jung with his wisdom, his insight, and his understanding of the workings of the psyche – in essence his own cosmology – which Jung then translated into his psychological theories. Philemon’s approach to all of this through astrology, is directly traceable to the work of Ficino. [5]

Pico della Mirandola and the Kabbala

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a contemporary of Ficino, upped the ante in developing an even more powerful variety of Renaissance magic by incorporating into Ficino’s approach, the Jewish Kabbalah, a mystical concept used by Kabbalists to signify the self-emptying aspect of the creator.

God (known as Ain Soph) withdraws his Light in order to create a vacuum allowing a single thread of his Light to traverse the darkness in a series of ten concentric circles called Sephiroth – collectively known as The Tree of Life.  Each Sephira, connected by twenty-two pathways, acts as a vessel containing some of His Light; thus each represents an aspect of God.

For the Kabbalist, the ‘Tree’ is not only a diagram of God’s unfolding creative impulse, but also a path for spiritual union with the Divine.  Legend has it that after the fall of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, angels brought the Kabbalah down from Heaven to teach Adam how to recover his primal bliss.

Although primarily a system of contemplation, the Kabbalah also has a magical side. As a means of approaching the Sephiroth, seventy-two angels could be invoked by one knowing their names and numbers as well as the appropriate arrangement of Hebrew words, letters, and/or signs.

According to Pico , Ficino’s natural or sympathetic magic was weak and ineffective unless used in combination with the Kabbalah. He said that whereas natural magic aims no higher than operating upon the material world and the stars, the Kabbalah can be used to operate beyond – to influence the super celestial spheres of angels, archangels and God (the first cause), Himself. Such practise however, could be dangerous and the ecstasy that results may cause the death of the body, a way of dying known as the “Death of the Kiss.”

Not surprisingly, Jung’s spirit guide, Philemon, was also knowledgeable with the Kabbalah. It was shortly before Jung’s kabbalistic vision of uniting the divine male and female, that he’d experienced a serious heart attack in 1944.[6] Indeed, the English occultist, Dion Fortune, attributed her well known book, The Mystical Qabalah, to the wisdom that Philemon had communicated to Jung.[7]

I would commence my mental rehearsal up the sacred names, and would suddenly find that I was aware of mental pictures only… I maintained my concentration on the images arising in consciousness, and did not allow it to wander… Out of the Sky over the water a vast angelic figure began to form, and I saw what I felt to be an archangel bent over me in a vast curve.

Dion Fortune

In his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man, Pico marked the change between the medieval mind and the modern mind; man alone has been given by God the freedom to make of himself what he will, and it should come as no surprise, drawing on the that overwhelming message of the Corpus Hermeticum, that in doing so he should strive to become like God, to know God as an equal – because only like understands like. The stage is now set for the develop of further invocational magic.

(to be continued)



[1] Marshall, Peter. The Philosopher’s Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy. London; Macmillan (2001).

[2] As Peter Marshall suggests, nothing stands more powerfully than the words of the Emerald Tablet themselves:

  1. True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of one thing. 
  2. And as all things were by the contemplation of the one, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.
  3. The father is therefore is the Sun, the mother the Moon. 
  4. The wind carried it in its womb, the Earth is the nurse thereof. 
  5. It is the father of all the works of wonder throughout the whole world. 
  6. The power therefore is perfect. 
  7. If it be cast on to the Earth, it will separate the elements of the Earth from that of Fire, the subtle from the gross. 
  8. With great sagacity it doth ascend gently from Earth to Heaven.
  9. Again it doth descend to the Earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior.
  10. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly from thee.
  11. This thing is the strong fortitude of all strength, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance. 
  12. Thus was the world created. 
  13. Hence there will be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this. 
  14. For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the whole world. 
  15. That which I had to say about the operation of the Sol  is completed.

[3] As Louis Dupre explains in his excellent book, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. P. 96-97 and 149), underlying the humanist movement in all its variations, is the idea of human responsibility for bringing all creation to its destined perfection. Since the 15th century humanists were focused on finding the right models for telling an essentially unchanging story, it’s not surprising that in their hands, ancient learning again takes centre stage in new form.

[4] For more on this, see discussion at pp. 75 in The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus, (Routledge, 2018) by Dr Liz Greene

[5] Ibid, p. 119.

[6] Ibid,  p. 99.

[7] Ibid, p. 101.

The Western Esoteric Traditions (Part 3)

My summer reading: The Western Esoteric Traditions: a Historical Introduction by Nicholas Goodrick – Clarke (Oxford University Press – 2008).

In this series of blog posts, I’m tracing the Western Esoteric traditions through history, with special attention paid to the contribution of these traditions to the work of Carl Jung.

As noted earlier, all western Traditions are based on the cosmology so as above so is below with a more or less direct connection between the divine reality (logos) and our human lives in the earthly realm. 

Hermeticism

As might be expected, it all began in ancient Egypt around the time that Alexander the Great (332BC) founded the city of Alexandra. Cultural change (urbanisation and the Greek rationalism which made gods too difficult for most people to relate to) brought in the first of these traditions, Alexandrian Hermeticism. 

The city of Alexander was a melting pot of cultures so it only makes sense that its spiritual tradition followed suit quickly becoming a clearing house for both Greek and Eastern ideas , myth, and religious practises and beliefs. The best known texts of this period are those attributed to Hermes Trismegistus – whose attributes were also a melting pot of the Egyptian god, Thoth and the Greek god Hermes (known as Mercury in ancient Rome). 

Thoth was a lunar deity in service to the solar god, Ra, and for the ancient Egyptians, everything lunar was vital not least because the moon was considered responsible for the periodic flooding of the River Nile. It’s little surprise then that Thoth was at the top of divinity heap, considered to be the supreme law giver especially regarding magical and occult powers. Likewise, Hermes, the psychopomp (the spiritual guide of a living person soul) was also a lunar deity and considered responsible for the timely functioning of everyday life.

Although both Thoth and Hermes had serious clout, they also had a lighter more playful side in the sense they were identified as trickster gods. This allowed people to relate with them more easily than they had been able with other gods.

In time, Hermes became associated with the concept of Logos, one of the most complex concepts of the Hellenistic world meaning nothing less than the natural order of things –  the very rhyme and reason of creation. Thus it was through Hermes that the people could find Logos, or divinity,  within themselves, as did Carl Jung through his connection with Philemon, his spirit guide in Liber Novus, who, as Dr Liz Greene reminds us, was also a hermetic figure. 

The primary text of Alexandrian Hermeticism is the Corpus Hermeticum, which itself is a collection of 17 different treatises written in Greek in 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Throughout most of these treaties, the character Hermes Trismegistus, plays the role of initiator to various other characters into wisdom and mysteries. However in the famous first book Poimandres (The Divine Pymander), Hermes receives a lecture from the god Nous (Supreme intellect).

 “Because of this, unlike any other living thing on earth, mankind is twofold – in the body mortal but immortal in the essential man. Even though he is immortal and has authority over all things, mankind is affected by mortality because he is subject to fate; thus, although man is above the cosmic framework, he became a slave within it.”

(Book 1 (Discourse) of Hermes Trismegistus: Poimandres, [15].

The overwhelming message of Corpus Hermeticum is that it is the work of humans to become like God, to know God as an equal – because only like understands like.

This is to be accomplished through contemplation of the divinity that pervades the whole of nature. Look for symbols because all symbols point to God. Learn how to read the symbols, and you will know God.

Therefore according to the hermetic tradition, the purpose of esoteric (spiritual) practise is to find our own divinity, our own connection with God, through our intellect. This is achieved through discourse with the hierarchical entities (mundus imaginals). In essence, it is this initiation, development, and maintenance of bonds and relationships between revealed and concealed worlds that is known to us as magic.

It is this ‘essential man’ (or spirit) that Nous mentioned (see above) that we are attempting to reconnect. Eventually, by climbing that hierarchal ladder with help from the various entities, we will transmute the baseness of the material world and once again become one with God.[1]


Neoplatonism

Closely related to Hermeticism, is pagan Neoplatonism, which like Hermeticism, perceived the primary aim of man is to tread a spiritual path allowing him to ascend to his divine origins, from which he’d fallen into earthly existence. Neoplatonism flourished between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD and was especially popular with the wealthy inhabitants of the later Roman Empire.

According to Plotinus, a leading figure in this moment, the hierarchy of Hermeticism could be divided into three readily discernible parts: (1) the Higher Soul (World Soul and that of individuals), (2) Intellect, and (3) Lower Soul or Nature. Each level was a constituent part of living, breathing Logos and each consisted of exactly the same stuff, albeit the lower down the ladder, the more imperfect that would be.

As with Hermeticism, Plotinus believed the point of all esoteric practice (i.e. magic) was the purification and ascent of the soul into unity with the Divine through use of correspondence, or sumpatheia (sympathy). As Dr Liz Greene explains, sumpatheia means ‘happening with’, or ‘experiencing with’; ‘two apparently unrelated events, conditions, or objects that occur simultaneously and reflect a shared hidden meaning, root, pattern, or divinity. According to Dr Greene, this is precisely what Jung meant when he coined the new term ‘synchronicity’, in order to make the old magical ideas more palatable to the scientific community. [2]

Porphyry, a disciple of Plotinus, added the flourish of strict asceticism to the process whilst Iamblichus, a disciple of Porphyry, streamlined and formalised the process with formulaic (theurgical) manipulation of symbolic objects as well as methodology to achieve ‘divine possession’ of the gods through mediumship.

According to Iamblichus, ‘the eyes of the body’ cannot tolerate a vision of the gods except through the mediation of perceptible symbols such as gemstones. As Dr Greene also reminds us, although we still do not understand why humans respond psychologically to certain gemstones (and in particular to their colours), nevertheless, we do. Like all symbols, gemstones have potency and consumers are more willing than ever to accept this at face value. [3

Proclus, the last major pagan Neoplatonist strengthen the connection between spiritual ascent and properly focused theurgy, thus laying the groundwork for Renaissance magicians like Ficino.

Gnosticism

A major current in Christian thought, Gnosticism follows a game plan of achieving spiritual knowledge (gnosis) of God and the higher realities (archangels, cherubim, seraphim, guardians, et al) that operate in the same plane as God.

But although one may aspire to know God, God remains always unknown and unknowable. Gnosis is as close as you’ll get, and for some Gnostics, that could only be achieved through redemption through Jesus Christ.

Also in contrast to Hermeticism, wherein there was no duality in the sense that everything in the world is recognised as of divine origin, with the Gnostics comes the concept of good vs. evil.

For the Gnostics, the material world (one of illusion) populated by humans was not a creation of God, but instead of an inferior (or perhaps even evil) being known as the demiurge.

Overall, Gnosticism is a pessimistic view of the fallen nature of man and a rejection of the fundamental good of all God’s creation.

(to be continued)


[1] It is worth nothing that in this sense, spiritual, unlike the common English usage, refers to a material substance, the Stoic conception of a higher, finer matter that sustains life, movement, and thought. See Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a new English translation with notes and introduction by Brian P. Copenhaver (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p 99, note 1.5.

[2] See The God in the Stone: Gemstone Talismans in the Western Magical Traditions by Liz Greene (pp 48); in Culture and Cosmos: A Journal of the History of Astrology and Cultural Astronomy, papers from the 2013 Sophia Centre conference, special double issue on Celestial Magic, vol. 19 , Number 1 and 2, Spring/ Summer and Autumn/Winter 2015.

[3] Greene, The God in the Stone, p. 51.