Daimonion Arts Interview by Andrew Kessler
Christopher Warnock is a renowned astrological magician and teacher. Although he primarily focuses on consultation work, Christopher also translates and publishes astrological texts; creates and sells astrological talismans; and teaches numerous students the techniques of traditional astrology through his horary, electional, and natal courses. Christopher also runs the Spiritus Mundi Yahoo Group, which focuses on the astrology of the Renaissance (you can read his full bio here).
Christopher recently agreed to be interviewed, and here's how it went...
Greetings, Christopher. How long has renaissanceastrology.com been going? The sheer depth of information and amount of content that's featured on the site is extremely impressive. How did it all begin?
Ironically, I remember being anti-Internet when I started out doing astrology, but people kept telling me, "you should have a website." It's a good thing I paid attention, because my business is almost 100% Internet based.
I knew Cat Yronwode, who has a huge hoodoo site, LuckyMojo.com, and she encouraged me to learn HTML and do my own site. I studied HTML for about two weeks and then started designing the site. To this day I do all of the web design, SEO, and routine site maintenance. This is really key for any small business using the Internet. If you are totally dependent on an outside web designer, it is expensive and inefficient. I really do enjoy the design process, with the website, books, talismans, etc. One of the things I liked about LuckyMojo is that there is extensive interlinking of pages on the site, with major terms and areas linked so you can surf to them. I've tried to do that on renaissanceastrology.com.
Can you please tell us something about the nature of Renaissance astrology, and what differentiates it from modern, Medieval, Hindu systems, etc.?
There really isn't a huge difference between Renaissance and Medieval traditional astrology. They both originated in the earlier Arabic astrology of the 8th to 10th centuries and share the same philosophy and most of their techniques. The difference is that Renaissance astrology is simplified, relative to Medieval, as Medieval is simplified relative to the earlier Arabic astrology. In fact, there was a movement to get rid of "Arabic accretions" in the Renaissance, which is ironic, as Renaissance astrology really is Arabic astrology!
Vedic astrology is the astrology of India. It has a traditional philosophy which is spiritually based and integrated into traditional Hindu religion and culture, so in that way it is similar to traditional Western astrology. Plus, both Vedic and traditional Western astrology are focused on prediction. However, their techniques are quite dissimilar, and there really isn't much overlap with Western traditional astrology.
Modern Western astrology is predominately psychological and based on natal, i.e., birth charts. It has no conscious philosophy, and is unconsciously based on modern atheistic/materialistic thought. Here's an example — just ask a modern astrologer how astrology works. They will probably say something like magnetism; light; gravity; quantum mechanics; string theory — and offer some sort of "scientific" explanation. Or they might say synchronicity, which is not a true explanation, as Jung explained that synchronicity is an "acausal" cause.
What was it about Renaissance Astrology that apparently attracted you more than that of the Medieval and Hellenistic periods?
I have an M.A. in history from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland focusing on Renaissance history, so even before astrology, I was quite taken with the Early Modern period. I was taught Lilly-style horary and thus started off in Renaissance astrology. Really though, there is not much of a division between Renaissance and Medieval, and I tend to choose the Medieval methods, but when the later astrologers started changing them.
In my view, you've become fairly well known as a teacher, and are perhaps even better known for your magical and horary consultation work. Is there a particular branch of astrology you feel more at home with, or that you especially enjoy practicing?
I practice horary, natal, and electional. Mundane or geo/political astrology, I have not worked with. I like horary, natal, and electional, but horary is my favorite because it is so precise and so accurate.
Of what potential benefit could it be for someone to get an accurate forecast of the future, as in horary? Do you have any especially interesting stories regarding horaries you've done for clients?
The perceived value of an accurate prediction really depends on the client. Everybody thinks they want an accurate prediction, but unconsciously, a good number of my clients are looking for the "right" answer, for reassurance, or for comfort. Clients don't want to face the fact that every question can potentially have a yes or a no as an answer. I even discourage some questions. For example, when people ask me, "When will I get a job?" Note how this implicitly assumes that they are going to get a job — the only question is whether this will be in three weeks or six. So in such cases I ask them if a no answer is going to be useful to them, or worth paying $55. If it isn't, they shouldn't ask the question!
The best clients really do want to know the answer even if it is a no. They realize that being able to predict the future is priceless information.
How would you describe your spiritual path or philosophy?
I was a seeker for a long time. Looking, but not always sure what I was looking for. I've been initiated as a Sufi. I was led by astrology into Hermeticism and Neoplatonic thought. Currently, I am working within the Soto Zen tradition. My Zen teachers have been encouraging about my working with astrology and magic because although this is not strictly part of Zen, fundamentally they don't perceive the material world to be any more extant than the spiritual.
What role does astrology play in your personal spiritual practice?
I do an invocation of the planetary ruler of the day every day, and have been doing so for years. I am essentially a celestial priest, working with the astrological spirits. As I mentioned, I am working to synergize Western astrology and astrological spirits with Zen Buddhism.
If someone new to astrology wanted to begin learning, what advice would you have for them?
There is no such thing as "astrology" in general. If you want to learn modern astrology, just pick up a book or two or lurk on a discussion group for a few days and read a few websites. After about 15 minutes of study, you'll be an expert in modern astrology! Traditional astrology is a different matter. It is complex, difficult, and takes years to master. Get a teacher and take a course!
How would you define magic, and what led you to become a magician?
Magic, at least to me, is working with the spiritual world. The Catholic Mass seems like magic to me, in a good way. Perhaps magicians are more individualistic, more focused on personal goals. I'm more interested in doing magic than defining it.
How does astrology relate to magic and theurgy?
The philosophy that supports magic and astrology is the same, i.e. Hermetic and Neoplatonic, which holds that the Cosmos is one great unified being with all things tied together by spiritual bonds, sympathy, and correspondence. The astrologer watches these connections passively and uses them to predict. The magician uses the connections actively; the theurgist/magician uses the bonds to unite with the One.
What factors led to your translation of Picatrix into English with John Michael Greer and its subsequent publication? How is it doing?
I was first introduced to Picatrix by my magical teacher Robert Zoller in 1998. It was only available in Latin at the time. I'd been wanting a complete translation since then. So I tried to learn Latin the conventional way by learning grammar, etc., and couldn't. I just started trying to read Picatrix with a Latin dictionary. All the Latin I know now (and I'm OK with Medieval astrological or magical texts), I learned through Picatrix. It's very hard to find good translators. Generally, people get all excited, but you send them the text and then you never hear from them. John is an excellent Latinist, a magician, and a published esoteric author. He was very serious about getting Picatrix translated, but we needed to collaborate because of the heavy astrological content.
At this point we've sold about 300 to 400 copies. However, by being innovative about using print-on-demand and creating special cloth and leather-bound editions, we've been able to make a profit with so few copies. It's been fun combining the latest technology with ancient astrology and magic!
What are your views on modern astrology? To your mind, are there benefits to it at all?
Modern works fine for psychological insight using a natal chart. If I were a social worker or psychologist I would do all my clients' charts. I think it is valid to say that the psyche is a microcosm and can be accurately related to the macrocosm using the chart.
However, that being said, modern lost most of its nuance and technique in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is overwhelmingly positive. The loss of technique and loss of the ability to accurately reflect the negative side of reality means modern is pretty hopeless for accurate prediction. Modern can't do and doesn't like horary. Oddly, modern astrologers seem to say that there is no such thing as Fate, but then they look at a chart and use it for delineation.
Ultimately, the real problem with modern astrology is the lack of a coherent and internally consistent philosophy.
I am especially interested in techniques found in both modern and traditional systems that pertain to the nature of the soul. Could you describe any methods you use in order to discern this in a natal chart? Robert Zoller relates the Pars Hyleg to an individual's life's purpose, and the Almutem to the Guardian Angel. Any thoughts?
I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea that there is anything in the birth chart that does not relate to the soul of the native. I think the whole chart reflects the life purpose and that the "spiritual" houses, like the 9th or 12th are perhaps spiritual in a pragmatic way, i.e. what sort of religion we are part of or spiritual path we follow. Compartmentalizing the spiritual and material is a key problem, in my view, not just for astrological delineation, but in general.
Also it's difficult to define spiritual qualities and essences like the soul. Do we mean Agrippa's three-part physical body, intermediate spirit, and divine soul? These issues can be argued endlessly.
Part of the problem is that it is almost impossible for moderns to conceive of anything that is not material. The spiritual ends up being "energy" or "fields" or some sort of shadowy ghostly sort of thing. Yet the spiritual does not exist physically at all, or rather, everything that exists materially is also a spiritual manifestation.
In Sufi writings we come across the idea of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah. These are archetypal relationships. For example, Ar-Rabb, "Lord." But without subjects, there is no Lord, so in a real sense the Lord depends upon the subjects
So one way to consider the spiritual is as the underlying relationships that govern the material. Let's take an ecological example. We have a savanna with a set amount of sunlight and rainfall. A whole web of relationships is built in. It can support a maximum amount of plant biomass, say 100,000 tons. That can support, say, 1000 tons of herbivorous life, and the herbivorous life can support, say, 100 tons of carnivorous life. These relationships — ecological niches — are already built-in even before life appears on the scene. And similar niches produce similar life forms. If we look at Australia, we have a marsupial, the Tasmanian Devil, filling the large carnivore niche that a wolf or large cat — both placental mammals — would fill elsewhere in the world. It looks like a wolf, even though it is not related, because it fills the same niche.
But how do these niches exist? We can see their effects, but never the relationships in and of themselves apart from the material things whose relationships they arrange. This is, perhaps, a way to start working with the reality of the spiritual and some actual engagement with the reality of a soul.
Any views on the nature or virtues of monotheistic vs. kathenotheistic forms of spirituality (of which I consider Hermeticism to be a part).
I had to look these terms up because I'd never heard of kathenotheism, and I'm really not clear on what monotheism is.
Frankly, my view is that these are only useful to modern professors of religion who don't believe in any of this stuff and want some labels to stick on other people's foolish superstitions.
I don't know of any traditional society that only believes that there is one spiritual being. And I don't know of any traditional society that doesn't ultimately think that there is just one spiritual principle/being.
Only moderns, with no direct spiritual experience, could think that there are multiple gods with no underlying unity, or that they are directly praying to the ultimate principle of the Cosmos without an intermediary.
Do you have any new projects in the works? New talismans, courses, or books?
I'm getting together a new book by , my jeweler/mage, called, The Kabbalah of Planetary Magic. is much more of an expert on Kabbalah. In fact, I know very little about it, so this will be a very useful and interesting book!
What do you see as your life's work as a traditional astrologer?
I think getting Picatrix translated and published was probably the most important thing. Being an actual practicing traditional astrologer, particularly doing horary and mastering the area is another goal. I've done perhaps 3000 horaries for clients, so I've made a good start! Teaching and passing on the tradition is also very important.
What are your favorite astrology books, teachers, and authors? How about philosophical works?
I rely pretty heavily on Lilly's Christian Astrology for horary and natal, and Bonatti for natal and some horary. Ramesey for electional. Gadbury for natal. Agrippa and Picatrix for astrological magic.
Philosophical works? Ficino, Agrippa, Picatrix, the Corpus Hermeticum, Iamblichos.
Do you use the Ptolemaic or Chaldean terms instead of Egyptian? If so, why?
I have trouble keeping these straight! I had to look up which I use and I think I use Ptolemaic/Chaldean. You can see how much importance the choice of term system is for me. This is like house systems; in my view you can use any traditional house system: Campanus, Alcabitius, Porphyry, Placidus, Regiomontanus, etc., so long as you pick one and stick with it. That's my basic principle when the tradition offers us these choices.
I use Regiomontanus houses, not because these are the "best," but because my teacher, following Lilly, used them.
And this is another modern problem. Trained in accordance with a "scientific" view that there is one objective reality out there, and thus one "best" method that can be quantified, we begin thinking that there is one "best" method in traditional astrology. This is like assuming there's one "best" language for writing history. The meaning is not in the individual parts, but in the relationship between these parts; the patterning is the key, not the elements used to display the pattern.
Recently, we discovered that the British Museum in London had asked for samples of your Renaissance Astrology talismans for their collection. Congratulations! That is a remarkable achievement. How did this come about?
had been doing some research on talismans in the British Museum collection and started talking to a curator. They got interested in our work and requested two talismans for their permanent collection. Very gratifying, and a tribute, I think, to our relentless quest for authenticity and beauty in our talismans.
Thanks for taking the time to do this. Cheers!
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Specializing in Horary Astrology, Electional Astrology Astrological Magic and Astrological Talismans.
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