The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 16, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Christopher Warnock
Episode originally released on March 16, 2014
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released December 7th, 2019
Copyright © 2016 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, I’m Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is Friday, March 15, 2014, and this is the 16th episode of the show. You can find the show at theastrologypodcast.com and you can also listen to us on iTunes.
My guest today is Christopher Warnock of RenaissanceAstrology.com and our topic is Astrology, Magic and the Occult. So Christopher, welcome to the show.
CHRISTOPHER WARNOCK: Yeah, glad to be here, Chris.
CB: I’ve been wanting to talk to you for some time because part of the purpose of this show is to get different viewpoints on different approaches to astrology which is a very big field. But the approach that you specialize in is particularly interesting to me, and I’ve been wanting to explore for some time but don’t have a ton of familiarity with, so I thought it would be good to go to an actual authority.
So you actually specialize in the practice of astrology and magic and the unification between those two disciplines, correct?
CW: That’s right. It’s something that I came to through horary. I was a student of Lee Lehman’s…
CB: Okay. Yeah, she was one of my teachers as well.
CW: …Olivia Barclay’s lineage, basically. And so, I was introduced first to horary. My formal training as a traditional astrologer was in horary then I got interested in electional which is sort of the mirror of horary. Once you do electional that’s basically the prerequisite for astrological magic.
Astrological magic, it’s a weird crossover because you pick your times astrologically but then what you do at that particular time is magic–and manage to maybe offend both sides because the astrologers sometimes get nervous about magic, and the magicians hate to be told what time to do something.
CW: So finally, we can get it from both sides. But it combines both a magical approach and an astrological approach and was probably brought to its height with the Harranian Sabians. In the Middle Ages, they had actually survived–the pagan religion and pagan sciences–under the Christians, the Byzantines, and even under the Muslims. And so, that’s probably the highest height that we got with astrological magic.
And so, that’s been kind of my reason for being. My raison d’être has been to revive astrological magic, and so, I’m happy to be able to do that. And as you said, Renaissance Astrology, my website, is probably the premiere site for astrological magic.
CB: Yeah, easily, I would say you’re the leading practitioner of astrological magic in the field. Like you said, astrologers generally, over the past century, especially modern astrologers have not really had much interaction with the magical community and vice versa to some extent.
It seems like many people in the magical or modern magical traditions are not necessarily that into astrology. So in that way, what you’re doing is kind of trailblazing in some sense, at least in going back to some of the sources and the original traditions and seeing back when astrology and magic were a little bit more integrated.
CW: It’s interesting because I think it goes along with different types of personalities. Because if you look at the New Age, modern esoteric community, the astrologers–even modern astrologers–that’s hard. To actually sit down and even learn how to do a natal reading using a psychological method, which is what a lot of modern is, that’s not easy to do.
CW: It attracts the more serious, esoteric people. Then you get to traditional astrology where the techniques are even more complicated and that’s even more difficult. It’s interesting because astrologers, you look at the cycles of the heavens and you just sit back and you predict, so it’s essentially passive. The people that are drawn to that are more comfortable with the idea of maybe seeing your chart, your personality, or if traditional, maybe predicting.
The magicians, on the other hand, it’s about will. They want to accomplish things. Like I said, sometimes they get a little uptight about the idea of having to wait, but that isn’t even that new. If you look at something like The Greater Key of Solomon, they don’t use that much astrology. They’re basically stuck on planetary hours, planetary days, and maybe Moon phases. That’s all the astrology you’re going to get because it’s complicated.
I mean, that’s the big barrier to the ancient magician or Medieval magician. This stuff is hard to learn, and you have to sit there and do all these calculations, and so, it took a very specialized technique to do that. So I think a lot of it is just a question of, like I said, the type of personality that’s drawn to it and then also the difficulty.
Another problem for modern astrologers is that modern astrology is mostly natal. And then because it comes from psychological astrology, it’s upbeat. I mean, when you go to a psychologist, they don’t say, “Well, a third of my patients don’t get any benefit from this.” They want to give everyone a chance to benefit, right?
CW: So modern astrology tends to be very upbeat with the exception of void-of-course Moon and retrograde Mercury, which are just sort of apocalyptic, and so, they get to carry all the weight of the negative stuff of everything else.
In traditional astrology, if you have Saturn in Aries, you say, “Oh, it’s afflicted. It’s in fall.” But if you’re a modern astrologer, you say, “Well, Saturn in Aries means your sense of security is fiery,” or something like that.
CW: You know what I’m saying? Which is true. Again, if you do a natal, a delineation in traditional, the dignities have less importance; the quality maybe is more important. So it’s hard. I don’t know how people do modern electional because the rules–they’re almost ad hoc, whereas, the traditional, you have a set of rules for how you do it.
That’s another thing. You’d have to basically learn electional astrology because you have to figure out when is good and when is not good.
CW: That’s the key part. That’s what you’re getting as far as the power of astrological magic. For timing, you pick the right time. Now if there’s no wrong time, you can’t do it. So it’s just differences in technique and differences in personality have done it.
And so, to do astrological magic, you have to exert your will, you have to be willing to go out and make a change, then you have to be willing to wait till the right time to do it. And I have talismans that we can never make again in our lifetime. The astrological conditions will not recur.
Typically, for example, if you want to make a Sun talisman, you can say, well, let’s put the Sun in Leo, let’s put the Sun in Aries. You might get, say, four or five good elections in a year. This year, it’s interesting. There’s no good Sun elections with Sunday, Sun hour, Sun rising, with Sun in Leo or Aries. Every single one is blocked.
CB: Why? What’s it blocked by?
CW: Just a whole variety of stuff: the Moon is afflicted, the Sun is afflicted. I went through every single election. Sun-Aries is going to be March-April and then Sun-Leo is July-August. Every single Sunday.
CB: Oh, yeah, Saturn is in Scorpio, so we’re getting the square still for another few months, right?
CW: It gets blocked. So sometimes, even the easy ones, you can’t do. And so, with the magicians, I’ve heard them say, “Oh, I just do it anyway.” They say, “If I want a Jupiter talisman, I’ll just do it when Jupiter is retrograde.” And I’m like, “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”
So it’s just interesting. The people that are willing to do astrological magic, they’re willing to combine both of those fields that have up till now been separate. So it’s interesting. It’s a lot of fun to be doing it, particularly since we’re doing something that hasn’t been done for hundreds of years, and that’s a lot of fun.
CB: Yeah. And one of the things that’s interesting that you brought up is that modern astrology doesn’t really have a good tradition of electional astrology, and part of that seems to be the underlying–especially in natal astrology–philosophical push to reject this notion that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ planets, or benefic and malefic as categorical distinctions, or that you can have a ‘good’ chart or a ‘bad’ chart.
Whereas, in order to do electional astrology that’s a fundamental prerequisite, the notion that there are certain times that would be better to do certain things, and other times, it would be worse. And learning some of those rules seems to be one of the big breakthrough points once people get into traditional astrology; it’s getting past that modern attempt to reject that from a psychological perspective.
CW: Yeah, what’s interesting about it is that if you say ‘good’ or ‘bad’, people sometimes say, “Oh, traditional astrology has bad…” We talk about benefic and malefic, but ‘good’ for what and ‘bad’ for what? That’s really key.
For example, the Moon is combust; the Moon is within 8-1/2 degrees of the Sun. That’s considered to be an affliction, and a pretty serious affliction. However, if you want to do something that’s secret, that nobody finds out about, the traditional sources say do that when the Moon is dignified and going from combustion.
CW: In other words, leaving the Sun, so it’s still combust, or still under the Sun’s beams, but dignified and going away from it. So what that does is the combustion in that case is good because it covers things up. You can’t see the Moon if it’s right next to the Sun, right? But she’s going from combustion, which is better than going to combustion, and she’s dignified, so that’s the appropriate time to do something secret.
And so, that’s really the thing, that ‘good’ for what and ‘bad’ for what. We think of Venus and Jupiter as being good. But too much Venus, too much pleasure, that’s not good. They’re almost, in a sense, secret malefics. You can sure get yourself in trouble with too much wealth, too much indulgence with Jupiter. Same thing with Venus.
And so, at the same time, Mars and Saturn are considered to be malefic. People don’t like their effects for the most part, but what are you getting from Saturn? Wisdom. And what are you getting from Mars? You’re getting drive and that sort of stuff. So even in the traditional, there was a balance there. There’s a willingness to see that’s useful qualities of the malefics. In fact, everything is potentially useful. Any possible configuration is potentially useful.
So I think that it’s possible to take a more nuanced view of it. But you’re exactly right in that you have to be able to, in traditional astrology, look at any particular astrological configuration and assign it–whether it’s all the way from being black/negative to white/positive and every shade of gray in between, if you want to do it that way. That’s what, for example, the essential dignity system does. It allows us to get a very fine gradation of the strength or weakness of a planet.
But jumping to that, I think the ultimate problem that the modern astrologers have is the idea of fate. Again, that this is bad, that you’re condemned to bad if you have a bad chart. It’s funny because I taught for awhile for an online astrology program, and I was kind of like the French professor at the physics institute; I taught traditional.
And so, I had some students and we were talking about it. I asked about fate, and they said, “Oh, we don’t believe in fate.” I said, “Well, tell me this. I have in my chart Mars directly opposite to Mercury.” And they said, “Oh, well, that can express itself in a good way or a bad way.” I said, “Yeah, in a bad way, I debate people or I become abrasive. In a good way, it’s good, for example, if I go in front of the court of appeals or the Supreme Court. It’s great. I can stand up to three judges, ask any questions.”
And I said, “But I’m never going to be a wallflower. I’m never going to be a shrinking violet. Isn’t that fate?” And they got kind of upset because they’re right. If you could predict personality that has a quality of being fated. Yeah, I can express it in a good way or a bad way, so there’s maybe some free will in there, but even so, there’s that fated quality.
So one of the biggest problems that modern astrologers have with traditional astrology is accepting this idea of fate. And we don’t have a problem with that with the physical. For example, I’m 51-years-old. I’m 5’6”. I’m not going to be playing in the NBA.
CW: “That’s because you’re short and everything.” Well, they can accept a physical determiner of things. It’s not as if I just have good affirmations and a lot of positive thinking, I’ll be able to play in the NBA; everybody knows that’s impossible. But if you step beyond the physical, obviously, to a modern, they’d like to think that anything’s possible when it’s not.
CW: One of the things is that you have a limited ability. Again, I’m studying Japanese, but I know I’m never going to be fluent in Japanese. I can see it’s not going to happen and it’s because of where I am and where I’m coming from.
I have occasionally taught astrological magic to a bigger audience, and people are sort of interested and then they get a little queasy about it, and it’s because of these philosophical problems; and also the idea that in order to do astrological magic, you have to learn traditional astrology. It means putting aside a lot of the stuff you’ve learned as a modern astrologer and picking up a whole new area, and that’s a lot to ask of people too. So I think there’s definite barriers that people have.
At the same time, people are really fascinated with it and that’s been kind of fun too. People weren’t even aware that if you have a chart, well, let’s do something about it. Let’s look at your chart, let’s see what the problems are. When I do a natal reading, I always do natal talisman prescription and say, “Here’s some talismans you can try, this could help with this problem,” or, “This could enhance this or strengthen your chart,” and people are really excited about that opportunity and the ability to do that.
You can say the negative side is fate, but it also opens up the possibility of actually doing something about your fate astrologically.
CB: Yeah, that’s one of the biggest arguments you could make. There’s certainly a higher degree of focus on fate and what will actually happen in concrete terms in a person’s life in traditional astrology and a greater technical ability to deal with concrete issues. But then at the same time, the characterization of traditional astrology as being completely deterministic or entirely fatalistic in some sense, when you bring in astrological magic, that seems to be the part of the tradition where that’s evidently not true. To the extent that astrological magic is used and applied in an election, there is some sense that certain things perhaps might be negotiated or pushed in a certain direction through the exertion of the person’s will.
And I guess that brings me back–maybe we should back up a little bit. I wanted to ask you, how do you define magic, basically, or what’s your definition of magic?
CW: That’s a tricky one. I was looking at that. You know, the root word ‘magic’ comes from the Magi, who were the priests, the Zoroastrian priests of Persia; and so, they were wise men. And so, originally, magic is considered to be the wisdom of the East, and you think of the three astrologers that came to Jesus, the 3 Magi.
And so, I was looking at Agrippa. What does Agrippa say in Three Books of Occult Philosophy about magic? He says magic is the highest science; it understands these root realities. I define magic as working with the spiritual. And so, there’s this big debate in academia as to the difference between magic and religion, and it’s really, “What I do is religion and what you do is magic,” that’s almost what it comes down to.
I really do not see much of a difference or any difference between magic and spirituality and religion. I mean, I have been initiated as a layperson into both the Soto Zen Buddhist school and also the Shingon, which is a Tantric Buddhist school, and when I do a Buddhist ritual versus when I do astrological ritual, I don’t see much difference. In fact, what I’m working on now, to me, it’s almost difficult to do this, but I’m synthesizing. I don’t like to synthesize–I like to go back to the original stuff–but I’m doing a Western Tantric Buddhism.
So in other words, I’m taking astrological magic and fitting it into my Buddhist practice, which is what they do in Japan and China. I mean, the planets are very much part of their whole practice and they’re intermediate spirits. There’s the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and you can sort of slot in the gods and devas and planets in that range.
And that’s just really whacked. If people are interested in astrological magic, it would be the Renaissance, and people who are interested in Buddhism, they like the Zen, almost atheistic materialistic side of it, so putting those together weirds people out.
CW: I tend to like to weird people out. But it’s natural for me because, as I said, I don’t see a difference between magic and spirituality and religion. To me, they all blend together. They’re all essentially engaging with and working with the spiritual.
Again, you could look at astrology, the difference is sort of the difference between passively using these spiritual sympathies and interconnections and actively using them. So when we predict, we watch the cycles unfold and we predict based on that. And when we do magic, we actively take an effort and engage with those spiritual sympathies and interconnections.
CB: Okay. Yeah, there was a lecture here in Denver last weekend by a student of yours whose name is Eujenia Renfroe and she gave a talk on talismans. And I think one of the points that she made was that astrology and magic together, it posits that there might be some ability to alter the trajectory of your life through putting some sort of conscious intention behind things rather than just letting things work out the way that they would without any attempt to direct it.
Do you think that’s more or less accurate, for example, that you have the ability to, maybe not completely alter or change one’s fate, but is there some ability to manipulate or control, or to change things to some extent with astrological magic? Is that the purpose, or would you say not?
CW: Here’s the thing. You know, it’s interesting, as a lawyer–because I’m also an attorney–I deal with the great duality of justice and mercy. So that’s the duality that I’m going back and forth with, justice and mercy. As an astrologer, the duality that we deal with is fate and free will. And the interesting thing about that is reality itself transcends and combines simultaneously both those qualities.
So when we’re an astrologer, when we’re doing a prediction, we’re attempting to model reality, and that model of reality has to include a fate element and a free will element. They’re both operating at the same time. So somebody that insists on absolute fate, absolute determinism, it’s not an accurate model of reality. If somebody insists on free will a hundred percent is also not an accurate view of reality. They both interact at the same time.
So what we’re looking at is how much flex is there in the situation.
CW: Sometimes there’s a lot and sometimes there’s a little bit, and so, we have to figure out where we are in between. If I ask a horary question, “Will I be elected president of the United States?” it’s going to be a no.
CW: It’s not going to happen. And if I do a horary question, “Will I cross the street?” well, it’s probably going to be yes. Those situations are very different in terms of how much control we have over the situation. The other thing is what do we talk about when we say free will?
If I watch television and I see an ad for the new Mercedes, and I’m like, “I have to have that,” is that free will? Am I exercising my free choice, or is that punching my emotional buttons and manipulating me? You know what I’m saying?
CW: If I’m under the control of my passions, my desires, or if I’m under the control of an outside force, Plotinus says, no, that’s not free will. So I think most of us, myself included, we don’t exercise free will that often. For the most part, we’re just on automatic. Like when you drive, you don’t even have to think about it, you’re essentially executing an algorithm.
It’s like when you’re walking somewhere and you go, “How did I get here?” There’s not a whole lot of conscious free will going on. When you talk to somebody, so often they’ll spout something and I can tell they read it in The New York Times, or they saw an ad or something. You know what a meme is?
CW: Essentially, if the meme is inhabiting them that’s not free will. The other thing about it is that when you look at your chart, you’re seeing the pattern of your life. You’re seeing who you are, who you manifested, what you’ve manifested to accomplish, or what you’re all about. It’s very weird. The day of your birth, the very moment and location of your birth, where the heavens were, tells us who you are.
And so, to say, “I don’t want to be like my fate,” is like an acorn that doesn’t want to be an oak. “Oh, I’d rather be a pine tree.” Well, what’s the point of that? The wiser I get, the older I get, the more I look at my chart, I’m like, “This is who I am,” and so I don’t reject it. Now at the same time, I can look at it, like I said, with that Mars-Mercury thing and say, “Well, I’d rather express that intensity in a positive way than in a negative way.”
But in terms of changing your fate, the only real way to do that–Robert Zoller said this–is essentially by becoming enlightened. You have to no longer be yourself…
CW: …as long as you’re individually embodied, but you can transcend that. You become an enlightened being, you’re not just this individual existence anymore. If you become one with God, again, your individuality dissolves. Now that freaks most people out, but that’s the only way of escaping your fate.
Otherwise, they talk about fate is how we see it; fate is obstructing what we want. If we really were wise though we’d see it as providence; we’d see that we were being guided. For example, I used to work for the IRS. I hated it; I didn’t want to quit though, and I got fired. At the time, I thought it was a disaster, now it’s one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I’d still be working for them.
And so, it’s like a little kid who wants to get into the cupboard to eat 50 cookies. Well, he’s prevented from doing it, so he’s unhappy, but if he did, he’d be sick.
CW: What’s his free will in that case? Is his fate really that bad that he had to follow his fate? So a lot of these issues have come up. As moderns, the thrust of our thinking has been–Nietchze talked about “God is dead.” Well, God is the individual, ego-self, and that’s who we really worship. That’s our real God.
And so, if I don’t get what I want that does seem like a disaster. That does seem like a terrible thing, and it does seem really unfair that what I want I don’t have. That’s from the ego’s perspective, and it’s correct from that perspective. But the spiritual traditions of the past, also, we’re going through a Renaissance right now–hermeticism, spiritual ideas, and the New Age and everything–recognizing that the ego-self is maybe not the be-all-and-end-all of existence, and so, we’re having a different view about fate and free will.
But for most people, they do have a problem with that; there’s almost an instinctive dislike of the idea of fate. So that’s something that people–as astrologers or as astrological magicians–we have to deal with, with our customers. With my customers, certainly, I try to explain it to them to the best of my ability, and people sometimes get it and sometimes don’t in terms of that.
I remember talking to my mother who’s in her 70s. I said my clients think they can get everything they want, she just laughed because she’s 70 and she recognizes that. If you’re 30 or you’re 20, you’re going to think you can have anything you want…
CW: …and experience helps with that. So I think ultimately what I would say about this is that when people say to me, “Okay, I want to be rich,” and I look at their chart and the ruler of the 2nd house is Saturn and it’s in detriment, and their Jupiter is in detriment, and they’ve got Mars afflicted in the 2nd house, and they come from a poor family, I say, “Well, you’re probably not going to be able to make yourself rich no matter what you do, but we can certainly play the cards that have been dealt to you as best as possible. Let’s see what we can maximize within the ranges that are possible to you. Let’s see if we can maximize that a little bit. We can maybe help your income a little bit.”
CB: Okay, so maximizing what is within the range of what’s available to you, perhaps, is a concise definition of astrological magic?
CW: Yeah, I mean, you can do it, and I think that’s true of elections too. The funny thing about elections is that if you think about it, when you choose to do something is maybe the smallest cycle of fate because then you’ve got your chart, and then your family, and then your country, your city, the economy. I mean, if you had a really great chart in Poland in 1939, you might get to be a refugee instead of being dead…
CW: …because of the fact the whole world’s fate was negative at that point, right? Or George W. Bush’s chart, I looked at that awhile ago, and it’s not such a great chart, but he was a Bush, you know what I mean? So he’s boosted tremendously. He didn’t have to have an amazing chart because he was a Bush. And so, Lilly talks about that. He said the son of a king and the son of a peasant, they’re born at the same time, they’ll have a different fate because of their social stature. They’re starting from different levels.
CW: We can’t just look at one thing and expect that to overcome. We have to have a much more multivariate analysis of the situation. And it’s interesting too because, for example, with a love talisman, Venus, of course, is the planet for love. People come to me and say, “Well, I want this particular person. Will a love talisman get me this particular person?” I said, “I don’t know if that’s the best approach.” I prefer to do a talisman and ask for love in general and let the situation, or Venus, give me the right person as opposed to saying I have to have X.
Love magic can have the effect of making you obsessed with that person. It can make it worse for you. It’s funny how you set up this polarity of energy between you and that person and you can get sucked into it. It can make the situation worse.
CB: And since you brought that up that’s actually transition into talking about some of the different ways in which astrology can be applied to magic and vice versa. For example, one that you mentioned is talismans. Maybe we can talk a little bit about what that is and how it works. What is a talisman?
CW: Sure. Well, it’s interesting because even in the Renaissance and Middle Ages, there were different ideas about how it was operating. Now they weren’t completely independent of each other and people could kind of flip around. I tend to think that spiritual energy or spirituality is sort of like light.
I mean, light has the quality of being a particle and being a wave simultaneously, which is paradoxical. It shouldn’t be able to do that, but it does. And so, spiritual force, it can be thought of as energy. You can think of it as charging a battery, charging with Jupiter, but also, you can relate to it as being a personality. And so, what we would call ‘scientific’, it’s not scientific because it’s not using gravity, or magnetism, or something we’re used to.
Al-Kindi, for example, was a Medieval Arabic astrologer, and he wrote a book called On the Stellar Rays. So his theory was everything gives off these spiritual rays and that’s how it works, whereas, the more magical approach would be to say, well, each of these planets is a spirit, and you can have a personal relationship to them. And then when you make a talisman, if it’s the ‘ray’ theory, you’d be charging it like a battery. If it’s the magical-with-personality, you’re actually asking the spirit to take up residence in the talisman.
CW: Those are different ways of approaching it. I think they’re both true at the same time, oddly enough. It depends on how you want to approach it. My preference is for the personality stuff, and so that’s how I do it. So if you make a talisman, what you’re doing is you need to find an object that appeals–again, there’s multiple ways of doing this. The way I do it is you find an object that appeals to the spirit.
So for example, if you’re making a Venus talisman, you want to make it beautiful because Venus likes beautiful stuff. It’d be nice to make it out of a material that’s appropriate to Venus, for example, copper. That’s less important than people think. People get obsessed with the materials and forget about the other stuff. You would put designs on it that are appropriate for Venus. You could put a picture of Venus on it; that would be good. And then, you would choose a time when Venus is strong.
And so, the classic time for Venus being strong would be Friday as Venus’ day, the planetary hour of Venus, and you can do that at sunrise. So sunrise on Friday would be a Venus day, Venus hour. Then you want to put Venus in a sign where she’s strong like Libra or Taurus, or Pisces or exaltation, and it’s nice to have rising or culminating. If you find a time that all those qualities line up, that’s very strong for Venus.
And so, then what you do is you would have that object and you would call upon Venus to enter the talisman, or you’d charge it depending on how you’re conceptualizing it. And so, then it preserves the quality of that moment, so to speak. As long as you keep that connection going with Venus in the talisman–for example, you could reconsecrate it–then you keep the power going.
So that’s a hundred mile an hour explanation of talismans. And you can do anything you want; we think of pendants or rings, but basically anything. In the Renaissance, they did gardens, they did houses. Picatrix talks about a city, an entire city that’s built on astrological magic principles, so it really has incredible possible applications.
CB: Okay, so it’s kind of like a two-step process where you start with what sounds like the old hermetic idea of a chain of correspondences. You focus in on what planet you want to focus on and then you find some material or something that matches the property, or in modern terminology, the archetypal qualities of whatever it is that you’re trying to invoke. And then the second point is to pick a proper electional chart in which that planet is prominent and strong basically, right?
CW: Yeah. And then the third thing you do is you have to do the consecration. You have to actually do a ritual.
CB: And so, that’s at the very moment of the election, at the most auspicious moment in which that planet is at the height of its influence or power in some sense. Then you do a ritual in order to draw down or impress the energy of that planet in some sense into whatever material that you’ve picked.
CW: Yeah, that’s correct. And so, one thing that our sources are pretty adamant about is that it has to take on the form at that moment. Because people say, “Well, can’t I just make it anytime I want to and do a consecration at that time?” I’m like, it’s not going to have the same strength.
CW: You’re supposed to inscribe it or stamp it. You can print it out on the computer. You can have your color printer and just print it out if you want to do paper or something, or you could do a 3D printer. My jeweler in Boulder, he pours it. So he pours the metal into the mold at that point. You can stamp it.
Engraving is a little bit of a problem because that takes a long time. What traditional sources say is they’ll tell the engraver, “Well, if it’s a Jupiter talisman, you could do it in Jupiter hour.” So if it took you hours to do it, you can just say, “Do it Jupiter hour and then stop when it gets to the next hour.” So that is important. It needs to take on that final form at the elected time and then you consecrate it.
CW: But yeah, that basically lays it out. Now I had this idea, like wouldn’t it be amazing to do a concert? You could have everyone dressed in Mercury costumes and Mercury-style music, and then you can have the whole ritual and dance and everything at a Mercury time everyone could participate in. I mean, there’s all sorts of things you can do.
It’s alignment. We talk about orienting ourselves. Orienting literally means ‘east’, ‘oriental’. And so, astrology is a way of orienting ourselves in space and orienting ourselves in time, and then we can also take it further–we’re orienting ourselves spiritually. We’re putting ourselves back in tune with the cosmos, and by doing that, we can get in touch with these powers. The planets are obviously much stronger than us and much more powerful than us.
I have a kind of an interesting style. The style that I use of astrological magic is the Picatrix, the Arabic hermetic style that was more popular in the Middle Ages. Now what happened was the Solomonic style, The Greater Key of Solomon, the Goetia, that style which is more based on Christian ritual began to take over.
CB: And hence, less astrological magic in it?
CW: Well, yeah it does, but also, the ritual is different rather than being devotional. If you go to India right now, you can go to temples of Jupiter and they do have a very devotional practice. And so, it’s like a saint. You don’t invoke Saint Joseph and start ordering him around. You basically say, “You’re great. You’re fabulous. Could you please help me out? I’d really appreciate it.”
CW: Whereas the Solomonic magic, they do the magic circles and they wear this protective gear, and they call up all these different kinds of spirits–angels, demons, whatever–and they tell them what to do. I mean, they compel them. They order them around. And that’s, I think, workable, but it’s just never really appealed to me. And so, I follow the older style, like I said, that’s more devotional and more like a Vedic approach.
But it’s interesting because I thought that was modern, whereas I just read a book by a guy named Frank Klassen, and he was writing that in the Middle Ages, they had a similar process going on. There was a split. Even in astrological magic, everyone’s approach was not the same.
So my approach is not the only way to go. It’s the Picatrix style and the older style, but again, there’s other ways it can be done, and that’s what I really try to say with my students. Study with me. Just follow along with the way I do it till you figure out what I’m doing, and then when you graduate, you’ll change. You can do whatever you want.
CW: And I think it’s important to recognize that. Sometimes you’ll hear, “This is the only way to do it,” I’m like, no. It’s like what’s the best house system.
CW: If you do traditional astrology–this is like Medieval/Renaissance astrology–you can do Alcabitius, or Porphyry, or Placidus, or Regiomontanus. They’re fine as long as you don’t switch around. It’s picking one and sticking with it. And the idea that there’s one best house system, it’s, to me, like there’s one best language for poetry, “Oh, it has to be in French.” It’s like, no. These are systems and the meaning comes from the interaction of the pieces, not from the pieces themselves.
CW: Now what I find is when I deviate from traditional practice, it doesn’t work as well. It’s funny. In modern astrology, someone will invent a new technique and it’s always the greatest thing since sliced bread. It doesn’t work for anyone else, and then after awhile, it doesn’t work for the individual person.
CB: Yeah, there’s definitely an emphasis on innovation in the modern tradition, which is something that sets it apart from traditional astrology to a certain extent.
CW: And I’m not against it. The way I look at it is like if you go learn the blues, when you first learn it, you’re going to have to copy your teacher lick for lick. Every line you have to do exactly like them. After awhile, if you become a master, you can start doing your own style. But if you change too much, you’re not playing the blues anymore.
CW: That’s what I would say about the tradition is that there’s this tendency to either innovate immediately and never pick up the essence of the tradition, or to be just slavishly following every little detail. And you need to come down somewhere in between where you’re recognizably in the tradition, you’ve got the philosophy down.
One of the things I get into trouble with people is they say, “Well, it says you can only make Venus talismans out of copper.” And I said, “Well, the problem with copper is if you touch it, it turns green immediately. You get a green fingerprint on it.” It’s also a very soft metal. It’s not really something that you particularly want to make a talisman out of.
And Thabit Ibn Qurra who’s a pretty famous Iranian Sabian astrologer and astrological magician says make it out of anything you want. The key is making it the right time, and that’s kind of my attitude. But we live in a materialistic society. They can see the material and they get very obsessed with what particular material it’s made out of. My experience has been while that can be helpful, probably only 10-15% of the charge is coming from the material. Otherwise, you could just get a piece of copper and it would be powerful, right?
CW: You’re better off. I mean, if I make a paper talisman, and I make it on a Venus day, Venus hour, Venus rising, Venus in Libra, that’s going to be a lot more powerful than a piece of copper by itself.
CW: And so, that’s my experience. Now other people can have a different attitude about it, but that’s what I really come down to. Look, try it, do 10 years of practice, and if you differ from me, fine. But if you’ve just read it in The Greater Key of Solomon–I actually have a blog post that says The Greater Key of Solomon is wrong.
It’s funny because if you read that post, you can see the author knew almost nothing about astrological magic. They totally screw up the planetary hours. They got very confused about various things, but it’s not worth arguing with people about. A lot of this stuff is like trying to prove astrology.
CW: If someone’s insisting that you have to do it this way, I’m like, okay, fine. I don’t really want to argue with you about it because we won’t get anywhere. This is what I’ve done and this is what works for me, and I’ll tell you why I did it. I didn’t just make it up. But finding that innovation versus sticking to the tradition is something that we have to worry about as traditional astrologers because you don’t want to get stuck on either side of that. And so, I think I ran that tangent out.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s definitely something I’ve come to with other traditional astrologers. That seems to be the direction a lot of people are heading in is how to balance those two of sticking to the tradition, but then also understanding the spirit of the tradition and knowing when to deviate when necessary or when it makes sense to.
As a digression really quickly, when you mention the book of Solomon and that being a separate tradition of magic and some of the sigils in it, I was wondering is that what Joseph Smith was drawing on with some of his magical symbols that were associated with the early history of Mormonism? Do you happen to know offhand?
CW: Well, it’s actually on my website, I have the Joseph Smith Jupiter talisman, which is funny because apparently when he was killed–and he was killed by a mob…
CW: …in Missouri–he did the Grand Hailing Sign of Masonry–the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress–and they killed him anyway. But apparently, he’s carrying a Jupiter talisman, and the interesting thing about it is it’s straight out of The Magus, which is, again, straight out of Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. So it was just a Jupiter table talisman, a standard Jupiter table talisman.
And it looks to me as if most of the influences on Joseph Smith were from Masonry…
CW: …or Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. I haven’t seen anything in terms of him having access to the Solomonic grimoires. I mean, those didn’t become generally available until the 19th century. Mathers and the whole Golden Dawn really popularized them.
I mean, now it’s incredible. People have definitely heard of The Greater Key of Solomon, and in fact, that it’s attributed to Solomon has a lot of appeal to people. Solomon has a long history of having stuff attributed to him magically and astrologically.
CW: But what’s going to be available to Joseph Smith would be, like I said, Three Books of Occult Philosophy. That essentially never went out of availability. But the Solomonic grimoires were basically in manuscript form until the 19th century.
CB: Okay, that makes sense. I guess it was just a wild piece of history in terms of astrological magic that the founder of Mormonism basically had a talisman on him when he died and that somehow was involved in that history of astrological magic, or at least the practice of astrological magic.
CW: I had a funny email the other day from somebody and they said, “Obviously, this is all bogus because Joseph Smith had a Jupiter talisman on him, and yet he was killed. So obviously, astrology and astrological magic is all false.” I said, “Well, that’s like saying that someone took medicine and then they weren’t cured. Oh, my god, it must all be fake. It has to be a hundred percent effective or it’s fake.” And they didn’t have much of an answer for that.
CB: Well, he also founded a religion, which to many people’s surprise is still very wildly active and just had somebody run President who’s a part of that religion after 100-200 years. So that’s kind of striking also in and of itself.
CW: It’s interesting too because the whole talisman is taken to be somehow discrediting him. I’m like, no, wait a second. This is a guy who really knew what he was talking about in terms of esoteric spiritual stuff. I mean, he was very knowledgeable about Masonry and knew all about Three Books of Occult Philosophy and all that. I mean, that raised my estimation of Joseph Smith, it didn’t lower it.
CW: That’s the difference between my thinking and the modern. Again, the philosophy that most modern people have, they don’t even know they have a philosophy, but their unconscious view of reality is atheistic materialism, which is that there’s nothing but matter and energy. And so, when you talk about spirituality to a New Age person, it’s basically a fancy type of psychology. You ask about psychology, it’s like the brain. The brain thinks. It excretes thoughts like the gallbladder excretes bile. It’s all basically physical processes, and so, it’s hard to get around that kind of thinking with people.
And that’s one of the odd things about modern astrology because if you ask people how it works, they don’t have an explanation, or it’s Sun spots, or magnetism, or quantum theory, or something like that, which it’s definitely not. Astrology doesn’t work through quantum theory, or string theory, or whatever.
CB: Well, that’s a good transition point. Let’s talk about what your worldview is underlying the practice of astrology and how and why astrology works for you.
CW: Well, a worldview is a very interesting concept just to start with. Again, for most people, there’s just reality. I mean, a reality is a reality. How can it not be a reality? And the idea that other people can have a different reality, well, it’s just flat wrong. What we’re talking about is, just like you said, worldview, which is not just your conscious philosophy, but also your unconscious view of what reality is. That is very much different from modern people versus traditional societies in that modern people, for the most part, exclude spirituality.
CB: You’ve been a very vocal person who’s said that spirituality is a core component of astrology, and that the rise of what you call scientific atheism or materialism has been to the detriment of astrology, correct?
CW: Well, if astrology is a spiritual science and there’s nothing spiritual, obviously it’s garbage. I was reading this article the other day saying people think that astrology is scientific, and they were just shocked that a certain percentage of people in the population actually believed in astrology. “What’s happening to us? We’re going down the tubes.”
So for me, my worldview is one in which the spiritual underlies the material. And so, it follows a Neo-platonic or hermetic view that the spiritual archetypes, that’s what’s primary. The spiritual is primary and then the material is ordered based on the spiritual. So in other words, when we do magic, we deal with the spiritual directly, then we can cause material changes. In a way though, doing magic for material causes is kind of inefficient. The most effective thing you do with magic is cause a spiritual change.
One of the areas I’m interested in is psychological magic. So that’s the magic of marketing, advertising, things like that. And that’s very interesting. It’s useful for someone with a website and a business to understand that kind of magic. They’ll do it nowadays, but in a sort of practical way. They don’t really have a very good theory of how advertising and marketing work, so that’s something that’s always kind of fascinated me.
But ultimately, like I said, what I find very strange is to do a spiritual art or science like astrology and yet disbelieve in the spiritual. I think the problem with all the New Age stuff is that the underlying philosophy they’re working on is scientific materialism, and yet, scientific materialism says all this stuff is impossible.
And so, one of the things that really drew me to traditional astrology was that if you go back before 1700, the scientists weren’t in opposition to theologians. The spiritual was integrated throughout all knowledge; their scheme of knowledge hadn’t splintered. And so, if you go back to 1600, and if you went to college, you probably would be studying astrology at college. It was part of the curriculum, certainly if you were a doctor.
And so, that’s one of the things that attracted me to it because when I’m doing something, I like to understand what I’m doing and have a reasonable basis for it. And if the spiritual exists then astrology is possible.
CB: Sure. And it’s interesting, we were talking about the day how even some of the famous Renaissance philosophers and astrologers have been co-opted by the scientific movement as ‘martyrs of science’ is the phrase that you use. The most recent example was with Giordano Bruno in the Cosmos premiere just last week. And you actually had a post on your website where you had already addressed how it was inappropriate to use Bruno as a martyr of science before that episode even came out. I guess this is a long-running theme or something like that, right?
CW: Well, it’s interesting, Giordano Bruno. Here’s a guy who invented this whacked magic that was a combination of Raymond Lull’s combinatory art–which is this very complex structuring of reality; it’s very interesting; it’s almost like a pre-computer, binary thinking in a way–and then, also, image magic.
And so, he had this incredible, complex magical system that he had invented. And he also was apparently a real pain in the ass and went around pissing everybody off. He would always get into arguments with everybody. He came to Oxford and got into this huge argument with these English scholars, and everywhere he went, he was always getting thrown out.
And so, he goes to Italy–this is when there’s the Inquisition–and essentially he’s talking about overthrowing the Catholic Church and their view of reality. Like I said, he’s doing magic and everything. And so, that’s what he was burned at the stake for, which is terrible, it’s awful–but essentially, he’s a magician.
You can say he’s a scientist as well. He talked about infinite universes, in a cosmos that’s infinite. So maybe 1% of what he was talking about is in line with science, but 90%–I mean, I’ve got a couple of his books like The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast and books on memory and stuff.
He was the height of the Renaissance esoteric occult practitioner. To have him as the martyr of science is just absolutely ludicrous. It’s like having Merlin as the martyr of science. This is a guy who really focused almost all his energy and effort on magic, and to say,” Oh, he was burned at the stake.”
It’s also kind of funny with science–they run everything. They have the most prestige, and yet, they’re still acting like they’re under persecution. Who’s persecuting science? The idea that everyone doesn’t believe in what they believe in, that’s somehow a persecution for them, so it’s just interesting.
But I sympathize with atheists because everybody’s unconscious view of reality is atheistic materialism, yet, people at the same time will say they believe in God. It’s funny–I call it ‘the truce’. Because about 1700, the Enlightenment, what happens is atheistic materialism–which says there’s nothing except matter and energy, nothing exists except matter and energy, there’s no spiritual–they got to define reality, but in return for that they had to not call everybody else on being ridiculous in believing in God.
So people basically compartmentalize. If you asked anybody how things work, “Are there angels?” “No.” “Are there demons?” “No.” “Can you do spells?” “No, but I believe in God.” It doesn’t fit together. And so, I can understand why atheists get upset. They’re like everybody knows there’s no God, yet, all these people go around saying they believe in God and it really doesn’t make any sense, given people’s underlying philosophy, which they’re not even aware of.
But again, that was where I think I’m a little unusual. I like to be philosophically consistent and that was important to me and that drove me. Because of course I started off as an agnostic. I remember asking my parents, they were Presybterian, “Well, do you believe in God?” “Oh, yeah.” I said, “Well, do you pray?” And there’s just like, “Haha,” like that was such a joke.
Hold on a second. You go to church, you stand up, you say all this stuff that you totally don’t believe. I’m like, “Why do you say this stuff?” They’re like, “Well, we want to be part of the community.”
CW: So I said, “Forget it. I’m an atheist. I’m an agnostic.” And so, it was a long time for me to work through this. And so, doing astrology and magic for 10 years or 15 years now is a practical application of the spiritual. For example, I had an amazing horary the other day.
This person had emailed me about two years ago and said, “Should I buy this particular company?” And I said, “Well, it’s very obvious that there’s going to be problems. In particular, it looks like you’re going to have problems with the government,” because there was 10th house affliction to the 2nd house ruler. I said, “I wouldn’t buy it. It looks like you’re going to have problems with profits and definitely problems with the government.”
So they emailed me back about two weeks ago and they said, “We bought the company against your advice, and almost immediately afterwards, the government put a 30% tax on this company. Huge cash flow problems, and so, now we’re trying to sell the place.” I mean, the horary just absolutely nailed it.
And how does that work? Was it coincidence? Oh, yeah, 90% of the time, I coincidentally get the right answer when I do a horary, so you do it again and again. I’ve probably done about 3,500 horaries for clients. That’s a lot of practice, and you get good at it. If you think about it though, I can predict the future–that’s really whack. That should not be possible. I should not be able to accurately predict the future repeatedly.
And so, being able to do that tells me that if scientific materialism says that’s impossible and I can still do it, then obviously there’s something wrong with scientific materialism; I have in a sense proved that’s incorrect. They could say, “Well, your causality is ridiculous. You can’t do it in a laboratory experiment.” Everyone who does a horary wouldn’t necessarily get the same answer, blah, blah, blah. There’s lots of problems with that.
But science is not the only way of truth-telling. The other area I was trained in was–two other areas actually–history and law. Neither of them are scientific, but you wouldn’t say they’re false. I mean, a historian is essentially a literary form, but it’s true.
If I say, “Well, Hitler was overthrown in World War 2 because of electronics,” you would say, “Well, that’s obviously not true.” I can’t scientifically prove it, but I can do causality. I can figure out what’s going on and what’s not. I mean, historians have arguments and they can prove things, even though they don’t do it scientifically. And so, that’s another problem in terms of a scientist saying the only possible type is according to the scientific method.
CB: Sure. Different disciplines have their own inherent rules and structures and means of going about trying to determine the truth, I suppose.
CW: Exactly. So for me, astrology and magic have been great in a lot of ways. It’s been a wonderful learning process for me. It had a huge impact on my philosophy and my worldview. I mean, the way I think about it and the way I see reality is completely different 15 years after I started studying it.
And it’s also really great that I’ve been able to turn it into a business. I mean, if you’re serious about this–astrology or magic or any esoteric art–you can actually now make a living at it, and that’s a real change. I mean, the combination of internet and the fact that people are really open to this stuff now has really opened up a lot of opportunities. It’s great to have amateurs, but it’s also great to have professionals too.
And so, that’s been a really great thing to see someone like Ben Dykes who can now support himself doing wonderful translations; it’s really great to be able to have that. It’s like if I wanted to hire a lawyer, it’s one thing to get someone who’s just an amateur as opposed to getting a professional. It’s nice to be able to have a professional.
Same thing with astrologers. If you hire me as a horary astrologer, you’re getting a lot of expertise and knowledge, and also, the fact that I’m in a lineage. I mean, I’m a student of Lee Lehman’s who was a student of Olivia Barclay’s. So we were all taught by somebody who had lots of practical experience as well as that theoretical knowledge and that makes a big difference.
And so, it’s a really great time for anybody to be practicing astrology of any type, or magic. All of a sudden, they’re exploding with different types of translations, people are really interested in it. Essentially, I think we’re going through a hermetic renaissance.
And so, anytime the hermetic philosophy becomes part of the culture, it has a huge effect. It’s like yeast in the ferment. That happened during the Renaissance, and I think it’s happening again today. And the popularity of the hermetic arts–which are astrology, alchemy, and magic–are starting to come back, and I think it’s going to have a profound effect on society.
CB: Yeah, it’s happened a few times it seems, these revivals of these traditional forms of astrology, older forms of astrology, the most recent one growing out of the rediscovery of William Lilly in the 1980s with Barkley and some of the people around her, and then around the 1650s with Christian Astrology–when it was first written in Lilly’s time–and during the Renaissance with the rediscovery of the hermetic texts, and even the 12th century explosion of astrology or recovery of astrology in the West, the 8th century blossoming of astrology in the Medieval period. It just keeps going back further and further.
So you mentioned your business and you’ve done a lot. If you came into the field 15 or 20 years ago, there probably weren’t a lot of materials that were directly available for a person to study stuff like this, especially the Picatrix. I remember even 10 years ago, the Picatrix was something that was kind of known about but was not very well-explored.
But you, in the past decade, have really put a lot of effort into getting a translation of the Picatrix out with John Michael Greer, I believe. And that’s a huge turning point it seems in the practice of astrology and magic at this point, as one of the core source texts that you’ve made available again for use, right?
CW: Well, it’s funny because Robert Zoller, I studied with him. I didn’t study astrology with him, but he sort of started me on magic. We didn’t study practical magic but the philosophy. He oriented me. He helped my thinking and to get my worldview in line.
And so, he mentioned Picatrix to me, and I’m like, “You have a translation?” He’s like, “Oh, don’t worry about that,” and that was like 15 years ago.
CW: And so, it became sort of an obsession of mine. It was really hard to get a copy of the Latin Picatrix, so I had to send a money order in pounds to the Warburg Institute and it took months to get it.
CB: Oh, yeah, that big, thick, critical edition by Pingree.
CW: Yeah, in Latin. God, what do I do with this? So I started going line-by-line with a dictionary and that was all the Latin I had. Now I’m actually not bad at reading Medieval or Renaissance Latin magical texts, if it’s from Picatrix. And so, I’ve often thought once I got Picatrix translated there’s nothing more for me to do. It’s sort of like a drone; I can go off and I can die.
But Picatrix was very important because that’s the key text. The difference between Picatrix and a lot of the Solomonic grimoires is that it’s not just a recipe book. It has a lot of philosophy in it; it has a lot of explanation of how to do things. And right now, I’m actually working with Eric Perdue who’s a friend of mine and a student of mine on translating Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
Now there is a 17th century English translation, but there was recently a Latin critical edition that was done and Eric’s working from that. So he’s working from the Latin critical edition and then also doing a modern English translation. And so, that’s been really exciting to work on too because it’s even more encyclopedic and even more organized than Picatrix.
Picatrix is a little disjointed at times. I mean, it has a lot of material in it, but it doesn’t always follow as logically as Three Books of Occult Philosophy. And so, we’ve got Book I out, and hopefully, Eric will get the rest of those finished and we can publish it because that will be a real milestone as well, because what it’s helping people do is it’s a window into that world.
And certainly, when I started, essentially, I had to teach myself electional astrology, and then I had to teach myself astrological magic, and so, now we have Picatrix available. And the other thing that people have is they can study with me or study with my students and that’s much easier too because if you have someone to ask questions, it’s a lot easier than trying to figure it out on your own. And it took me a long time and a lot of work, so it’s nice to be able to pass that down.
I’m a strong believer in the teacher-student relationship, and I have a good number of students. There are two things that we need. We need to have Picatrix translated, and we need to have people that are trained, that have practical experience and are doing astrological magic, and those are the two things that are necessary for the revival.
And so, I’m really happy that I’ve been able to do that, and I think I still have some function to perform in terms of teaching more and more people. I think that’s a really important thing to do because it certainly was a very significant part of the astrological practice. Lilly, for example, he has a kind of oblique reference to talismans in Christian Astrology; he puts it in the 4th house section of Christian Astrology. He’s talking about houses that are cursed. And he says, “Don’t disbelieve in it,” and then he has a little Latin tag saying there’s talismans that can be used to essentially exorcise the house, so that’s his little tag.
And there’s references of Elias Ashmole who was a friend of his. He talks about getting two trunks full of talismans from Lilly, so they were definitely doing lots of astrological magic. In fact, there’s a copy of Picatrix in the British Library that was Lilly’s copy, I think.
CB: Oh, wow.
CW: So it’s definitely something that everyone had a copy of. I mean, Agrippa had a copy because you can see all the talismans right out of Picatrix in Three Books of Occult Philosophy. Ficino used it directly, and so, it really had a pretty seminal influence, so it’s exciting.
It’s funny because after awhile I’ll say, “Well, I don’t know if there’s anything new,” and I’ll discover something new. Like recently, I found two new, astrological texts that I hadn’t even really been aware before. And the academics, what they’ll do is they’ll publish this stuff in really obscure journals. Rather than translating it, they’ll typically talk about it and it’s sort of tantalizing.
But I actually found some critical editions. There’s a book that’s attributed to Ptolemy called The Book of Images.
CW: And that was in a really obscure, Italian academic journal. I had to go to the university library and track it down and copy it and everything. And so, if John Michael Greer has time, he’s actually working on translating some of that stuff. So it’s just exciting how much stuff is coming out on astrological magic, and it’s a really exciting time to be working in the area.
CB: Yeah, it’s definitely a great time to be an astrologer and a great time to be interested in the full astrological tradition, given how much of it is available. And that’s a really interesting point. That must have been one of the things we probably lost in the break at the end of the Renaissance and the Elizabethan period with the downfall of astrology in the 17th and 18th, and to some extent, the 19th centuries, the break in not just the practice of astrology but the student-teacher relationship and the transmission of astrology from teacher to student in this sort of lineage. But you’re right in that that’s has been reestablished now that we have that again in the past few decades.
CW: It’s interesting you mention that because in the Zen lineage that I’m in, when you become lay ordained or become a priest, one of the things they do is they give you this folded-up chart, and if you unfold it, it’s got all the names of all the teachers and students in a chain all the way back to the Buddha. Now probably at some point, it’s getting a little mythological. Certainly, since about 1250, when Dogen, who’s the founder of this school brought it to Japan, they have a direct lineage going back to 1250. And so, in the West, we were so foolish, we let those lapse.
In hermetic philosophy, astrology, alchemy, and magic were considered the preparatory studies that you would undertake as a hermetic student. But ultimately, what you were looking for was hermetic gnosis, the union with the One through this mystic experience. And the master would have had that experience and could initiate you into it. And so, without a master–that’s again why I turned to Buddhism because there’s a living spiritual lineage. And yet, the Western might be around, but I’ve never been able to find somebody who’s a true hermetic master.
Now people toss the word ‘hermetic’ around. It’s like, “Cool, Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn,” or whatever, when in fact, that’s kind of a Victorian synthesis of a lot of different elements. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s like the Wiccans that claim they have a 10,000-year-old tradition. It’s like, well, actually it looks like Gerald Gardner kind of put it together, which is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s good to have an understanding of historically that’s not the only way to look at the lineage.
But this idea we’re being taught now is you go to college, you take a class. The apprenticeship idea has been lost. And the odd thing about that is as an academic, you’re actually getting on-the-job training.
CW: If you’re going to teach history, and you take a history PhD, they’re going to teach you how to lecture and research and do everything that you can do on the job. But for a fireman or an emergency medical technician sitting in a class, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the best way to teach.
CW: It’s kind of been hijacked for everybody else. And the lawyers, for example, used to apprentice. You’d study, you’d read law with a lawyer, and then they’d give you the bar exam and that’s how you became a lawyer. And so, as a way of upping the social prestige of law, they started having law school. And I can tell you as a lawyer, I basically see law school as totally useless. So I’m really happy, in a way, that astrology still can be taught in the traditional way.
Now there certainly can be some benefits, because I know you’re a graduate of Kepler, right?
CW: There’s benefits to having that university model. At the same time, I’m happy that we can continue to also have the teacher-student, traditional relationship as well. And so, I don’t want to overlook that as a source of strength of traditional astrology as we continue to have that.
What’s interesting, Lee Lehman–and I do this for my students–even if they have a client, they can come to me, and I would charge them half-price like she did for me, and I would look at the chart. And it was amazing because you’d get this client asking a question and you’d freak, and you can have a teacher to look at the chart and help you out. And that was really helpful for me, and so, I continue to offer that for my students.
Not a lot of people will become professional because it’s hard. It’s not that easy to launch yourself as a professional astrologer. At the same time, it’s really great to have professionals. When someone comes to you as a client, you can’t just blow it off. If it’s on a blog or discussion group or something, you don’t have to answer the question. You can say, “Oh, that’s too difficult.”
With a client, here it is. It’s scheduled for Thursday. I got to get it done. I got to do it. And if I get it wrong, they’re going to come back to me and say, “Hey, you got it wrong.”
CW: So that puts a whole different complexion on it. And the other thing is when people pay, they ask the serious questions. I don’t get frivolous questions very often as a professional astrologer, it’s stuff that people care about. And if they care about it that’s really the way to get yourself a good horary chart is if people care deeply about it.
I had an interesting one happen to me today. We’re talking about astrological magic, but I actually have a pretty serious horary practice. I do a lot of horary questions. It’s probably my favorite style of astrology. I got 0 degrees rising; that’s the one thing that stops me from reading the chart. Because when I get 0 degrees rising, what that means to me in my practice is that either the situation hasn’t gelled yet or they’re not asking the root question.
CW: Somebody once came to me and said, “Should I move to Austin?” I got 0 degrees rising. I said, “Was that the root question?” They said, “Oh, should I even leave Ann Arbor?” and the answer to that was no. They got ahead of themselves.
This person emails me and she’s asking, “Oh, this breakup, what should I do about this breakup?” I got 0 degrees rising. I said, “Okay, is that the root question?” She said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to think.” I said, “Wait until you absolutely want to know the answer, so you can ask again.” She then emailed me today and said, “Oh, my boyfriend didn’t actually break up with me, now we’re back together again,” and she was just tripping out about that.
When I get 0 degrees rising, it’s almost as if the chart, the situation, the spirit of the moment is talking to us directly.
CB: Yeah, the notion of it being rushed or something premature.
CW: The dialogue though, it’s like it’s come back and said, “Okay, you’re not ready yet for this. You asked the wrong question.” And it’s really amazing the feeling that you get at that point, and that’s the oracle. So I’ve been thinking more and more about that recently that we’re oracles. An astrologer is an oracle and that’s a really awesome and incredible power. Hopefully, I’m taking a spiritual approach in my life; I’d like to think that I am. But I think this responsibility that we have as someone doing predictive astrology is a heavy one.
Like I said, again, it continually keeps opening these vistas to me. If you’re a thoughtful person, the implications of astrology working and the implications of magic working, it’s nice to be able to get stuff, it’s nice to be able to predict things. The practical results are interesting, but the theoretical, the philosophical implications I think are even more important. Because what does this tell us about the nature of reality? That’s a really, really deep and really, really important thing.
And so, like I said, it’s very important to keep our eye on the practical results, but for me, finding that this has become my spiritual path that’s probably in the end more valuable. I was just reading Proverbs 16:16: Wisdom is better than silver and gold.
CB: I like that. That’s good.
CW: It’s Bob Marley too. We could talk about some Bob Marley, he liked that as well.
CB: Yeah, I think, that’s a really good point and maybe a good point to end on. What are the philosophical implications and the cosmological implications of astrology working? Definitely for people like you and I, one of the big draws to astrology, I don’t know if there’s ever any point at which it stops blowing your mind that something like this works or is possible.
I mean, you’ve been doing it, for what, 20-something odd years now. It sounds like you’re still often impressed by it in that way, right?
CW: You have to be open to it, that’s the thing. If you start getting jaded about it, that’s the problem. I’m kind of a split between Pisces and Aquarius. I have Sun in Pisces and Jupiter in Pisces in the 1st, and then I have Aquarius rising, Saturn in Aquarius rising, Mercury in Aquarius rising, Moon in Aquarius rising, so I have a huge split between Pisces and Aquarius. And so, it gives me this tendency to go very deep with the Aquarian, with the Saturn stuff, but also then, like I said, with the Pisces, I think you never lose that sense of wonder with it, and I think that’s a nice mix if you can make it work.
Hopefully, no matter what kind of astrology that you do, they’re all valid. It’s so funny that I’m into traditional because when I do a natal chart, what I’m best at is psychological natal analysis. It’s really funny. I used to be really good at figuring out personality. And so, it’s funny. I would never say that modern astrology doesn’t work for that because it’s really, really good. If I was a social worker or a psychologist, every person that would come through my door, I would do their chart.
CW: But what’s happening is we’re living in a time where all these different styles are available, and we’re becoming more aware of the different styles, so we have a full toolbox. If you need a horary, you go to a horary astrologer. If you need a psychological analysis, you can go to a psychological astrologer.
And now, with astrological magic, you’re just basically adding another tool, another set of tools to our toolbox and it’s great for people to be aware of it. And now, you can think, “Hey, maybe I can make a talisman,” or “Maybe I can actually start working on this area.” Because another thing I didn’t mention with talismans is something called planetary charity; and so, you do this in India.
My practice is not to make a talisman of a planet afflicted in your chart. It’s just too unpredictable. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s just kind of unpredictable. For example, if Saturn was afflicted, you could go make a donation to a Saturn-ruled person–like a homeless person who’s ruled by Saturn–on Saturday, Saturn hour. I think Saturn is–I forget the number–like maybe three. You can do it three times in a row and then that would help with your problems with Saturn.
And so, talismans aren’t the only way to do it, but you can actively engage with these forces, and that’s, again, I think a really exciting idea for lots of different people. And so, hopefully, we’re going to continue this upward trajectory of astrology and magic because I think they’re connected.
What’s happening is the spiritual is coming back into people’s consciousness and coming back into people’s thinking and coming back into people’s reality. And I think it’s an exciting time, just like you said, to be doing what we do. And I think we’re really privileged that we can spend so much of our time doing it.
It’s funny for me. I mean, I’m an attorney, but it’s largely my hobby. People think that’s so bizarre, but I don’t make much money from it. I’m doing pro bono work right now. And astrology, I’m actually able to support myself as an astrologer and that’s really great. Everyday, I wake up and I don’t have to go to work at a job, I get to be an astrologer and I think that’s exciting.
CB: To do something that you’re actually passionate about versus something that you just do to make ends meet or what have you.
CW: I’d hate to have to have an astrology corporation and be working for them. I like being independent. So maybe in the future, you will have ‘AstroCorp’. You’ll have to get your PhD to work for AstroCorp and they’ll have the same thing, and you’ll have to go to work at nine o’clock and get performance reviews and everything.
CB: Yeah, that’s one of the great fears and debates about accreditation and the whole notion of schools for astrology and things like that.
CW: It has to be legit before it can get accredited.
CB: Yeah, which it never will be. Kepler did that and failed.
CW: It showed exactly what we’re up against. But it’s good. We’re in a really good zone right now because 50 years ago, I would get arrested for fraud.
CW: I couldn’t even do anything. Whereas, under Tiberius, the Roman emperor, or under the Elizabethans, if you did the chart of the king or the chart of the emperor, it was a capital offense. I mean, they believed in this stuff. So I don’t want the CIA or NSA coming to me and say, “Yeah, this is secret information we can use against Al-Qaeda.”
I mean, it’s sort of a joke. It’s amusing entertainment. It’s not illegal, but it’s also not taken too seriously. That’s perfect. That’s exactly where I want to be because all I want is to be left alone. We can do our thing, we can have clients, we can make talismans, but then I don’t have the government breathing down my neck and bothering me about it.
Iowa, there’s no state regulation of fortune-telling or astrology, thank goodness, and certainly not in Iowa City, so I don’t have to worry about that. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had any Iowa clients. It’s not a very big state, and so, all my clients are basically out of state. It’s funny. My income tax, you have to do a Schedule C, and I put my profession ‘astrologer’ and I had to find a code. It’s like profession ‘other’; they don’t have an astrology code for astrologers yet.
But so far, knock on wood, the IRS has been fine with it. I pay my taxes and they’re cool with it. Really, I’m happy with that. I have to be careful. It’s funny, when I go around, I have two sets of business cards: I have one as an astrologer, one as an attorney. When I meet people, I have to size them up.
CW: Are they cool? If they’re cool, I can give them an astrologer card. If they’re kind of, “I don’t know,” then I’ll give them the attorney one, so it’s just one of those things. And men over 50, you have to be a little careful with; you just have to watch it.
I was introduced to our state senator and talked about the legal work I was doing, and he was very interested. And then, at the end, in full disclosure, I mentioned I was an astrologer, and he almost went white. Whoa, that really kind of freaked him out. And I don’t know if he was negative about it, or he was just surprised, but it was kind of funny.
Now women, for the most part, are almost always open to astrology, no matter what the age or whatever, and certainly, men under 30. I think the acceptance of the esoteric arts is really high among young people. It’s exciting what Austin Coppock is doing with the Young Astrologers and everything.
Modern astrology has such a dominance by these aging baby-boomers. I think astrological magic is maybe something that’s exciting for younger people too. I mean, I’m getting old. I’m 51, so I’m not exactly a young astrologer. But I think it’s important to be open to everybody coming in and not just the type of people that have been attracted to it in the past.
CB: Yeah. Well, definitely your work in bridging the ‘occult’ or magical communities and the astrological communities is probably doing a lot to help that, to whatever extent that that’s helping to draw in some younger people like Austin who perhaps had some background or interest in occultism and then got into astrology.
CW: I emailed him, and he hasn’t gotten back to me, but I think we’re going to do a decan phase talisman promotion. I have a discussion group, a Yahoo group, and I have a Facebook page, and what I’ll do is I’ll pick a really good time for a talisman, and I’ll distribute for free images so that people can make paper talismans and then people do elections. So we’ll have maybe 50 people all throughout the whole world doing this particular talisman and contacting this spirit.
So that’s a lot of fun, the idea of doing almost a group ritual. It’d be even cooler to have a bunch of people in one place. But the idea of 50 people throughout the world doing it is really kind of exciting.
CB: This is through the Spiritus Mundi Yahoo Group?
CW: Yeah, Spiritus Mundi, and also, I have a Facebook page for Renaissance Astrology that I’ll also let people know about. In fact, I have one coming up, a Venus one; Venus rising in the 1 degree. That would be 0 degrees of Pisces in the 1 degree. It’s a very weird image too. It’s the image of a woman with the head of a bird and the feet of a bird. It looks really weird. And so, I have some ruminations about that in terms of what the meaning of it is.
And one of the things I was thinking about with that is that we don’t want to have a domesticated view of the powers that we’re dealing with. I mean, these are numinous. These are mysterious and these are really beyond us. And so, in a way, this weird picture that’s just so bizarre with the weird feet, bird feet, it helps us understand that this is something beyond our comprehension. Because it’s easy to think, okay, I’ve got it down. I understand all this stuff. But the spiritual is mysterious and that’s a lot of where its power comes from.
Again, I think there’s nothing wrong with doing a love talisman because you want love or some material result. But I also want to encourage people that this is something that can be done as a spiritual path. And so, I like the idea with this one coming up and saying, do this one, do this Venus talisman and just help build up your relationship with Venus.
For example, today’s Friday; it’s Venus’ day. I’ll light a candle and do a short invocation of Venus. Tomorrow’s Saturday; I’ll do Saturn. I’ve been doing a planet a day everyday for about 10 years now, so I have a really close relationship with the spirits of those planets because of this continuous devotional practice.
And again, that’s not the only way to fly. If you want wealth, you get a Jupiter talisman. But it is possible to go even further with it and use this as a spiritual practice and a spiritual path, and that’s an exciting thing as well.
CB: Yeah, and that’s really interesting to me from my perspective because it sounds like a return back to more of a practical form of spirituality that existed during the Roman Empire and prior to that period in ‘paganism’. It was much more practical and somewhat more devotional rather than just somewhere you go on Sundays for an hour and then you leave, and it’s not really a huge part of your life necessarily.
CW: You can see what happened in the Roman period. The traditional religions got somewhat decadent and people did get skeptical about it, and that brought the resurgence of these mystery religions, which Christianity was one of them. And so, our time period, we’re so much like the Romans. It’s really kind of incredible watching that. So what does that mean? Well, our civilization is going to fall eventually too. We have a natural ebb and flow.
And so, one of the things that I’ve been thinking about with that is how to make astrology without computers. You can do a calculator that’s made of discs or something for. You could probably do a house-based, physical computer, things like that. But just like having Picatrix, one of the reasons to get it printed now and get it distributed is so it’ll survive, so there will be enough copies out there that people we’ll be able to get a hold of.
Like I said, for me, it’s really been exciting. It’s been a long journey from where I started out. I grew up in a suburban, Midwestern background. To get where I am now, which is basically the leading astrological magician in the world–not that there’s that much competition. It’s a little easier to be the leading one if there’s not that many.
CW: But it’s kind of an exciting journey that I’ve been on, and I think there’s a lot more to go, so that’s what I’m looking forward to. Just when I think there’s nothing more to learn, there’s nothing more for me to experience something opens up. Another door opens, another window opens, and I find myself doing this exciting stuff. To communicate that excitement to my students and to my clients is one of the real joys of my practice.
And so, I’ve been really happy to be here and talk to you today. And I’m really happy to see that interest is growing in astrology and also in astrological magic.
CB: Yeah. Well, it was an honor to have you on the show. I’ve been following your work for over 10 years now through Spiritus Mundi, so I’m definitely a fan. And yeah, there’s a lot of different threads that we could have gone in, in this discussion. At some point, it’d be great to have you on again to talk about astrology as a profession or as a business, as well as other things, like astrology and the law. That was kind of an interesting discussion that you seem to have some interesting insights in that we might go in some future direction.
But for now, thank you for coming on to talk about astrology and magic. People should definitely check out your website, which is RenaissanceAstrology.com. Is there anything else I’m forgetting that I meant to mention, or anything that you’re doing right now that you wanted to mention?
CW: No, it’s the website, the Facebook page, the discussion group. I have a blog. It’s a wonderful use of modern technology to revitalize the traditional study. So I’m really happy to talk to you, and I’d be happy to come back and talk again.
CB: Okay, excellent. Then I look forward to that. So I guess that’s the end of the show. So thanks everyone for listening. This is The Astrology Podcast. If you enjoyed the show then please rate it on iTunes and be sure to subscribe, and we’ll see you next time.