Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Arbatel Spirits

In recent conversations with Fr. POS and Optimystic, the subject of where in the cosmology the Arbatel spirits belong has come up. They both place the spirits in the celestial or super-celestial realms. Personally, I think they're more like the Spirits of the planetary tables, that is, terrestrial reflections of the celestial governors.

Opti pointed out the Arbatel says: "They are called Olympick spirits, which do inhabit in the firmament, and in the stars of the firmament..." (from aphorism 15). He also pointed to Aphorism 16, which says:

There are seven different governments of the Spirits of Olympus, by whom God hath appointed the whole frame and universe of this world to be governed: and their visible stars are ARATRON, BETHOR, PHALEG, OCH, HAGITH, OPHIEL, PHUL, after the Olympick speech. Every one of these hath under him a mighty Militia in the firmament.

So that there are 186 [196]7 Olympick Provinces in the whole Universe. wherein the seven Governours do exercise their power: all which are elegantly set forth in Astronomy.
(From Joe Peterson's Twilit Grotto, The Arbatel.)
So the question remaining to my mind is "What is the Firmament?" Aphorism fifteen identifies their inhabitation as being both in the firmament and in the stars of the firmament. Why do both have to be mentioned? Opti interprets it as the super-celestial heavens. He could be right. He provided a dictionary definition that seemed to say the heavens. In Old Astronomy, the term meant "The orb of the fixed stars; the most remote of the celestial spheres."(1)  That would place these spirits clearly in the super celestial realm, thus ending the debate.

I'm stubbon though. I looked up the meaning of the word in more detail, and found from Easton's Bible dictionary this(2):
from the Vulgate firmamentum, which is used as the translation of the Hebrew _raki'a_. This word means simply "expansion." It denotes the space or expanse like an arch appearing immediately above us. They who rendered _raki'a_ by firmamentum regarded it as a solid body. The language of Scripture is not scientific but popular, and hence we read of the sun rising and setting, and also here the use of this particular word. It is plain that it was used to denote solidity as well as expansion. It formed a division between the waters above and the waters below (Gen. 1:7). The _raki'a_ supported the upper reservoir (Ps. 148:4). It was the support also of the heavenly bodies (Gen. 1:14), and is spoken of as having "windows" and "doors" (Gen. 7:11; Isa. 24:18; Mal. 3:10) through which the rain and snow might descend.
Based on this, and the very Biblical tone of the Arbatel, I believed the Arbatel spirits are within the realm of matter primarily. The physical planets and sphere of the physical stars is certainly not what is referenced by the spiritual spheres of the neoplatonists. If we travel to Mars for colonization, the martian settlers won't be considered to be in the sphere of the wandering stars, will they? All matter is within the sublunar realms, and the planets and stars serve as signifiers of their relative positionings in the divine or ideal realm. The actual spheres of the planets and fixed stars do not manifest physically.

Knowing I could be wrong, I performed some divinations that indicated I was partially right and partially wrong. The Arbatel spirits have qualities that make them both Super-Celestial entities, and terrestrial entities. They seem to be, based on divination, a combination of the Spirits and the Intelligences from the Kameas of the Planets in Agrippa's Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

So, based on the research, conversation, divination and meditation, I've decided I won't be ordering the spirits of the Arbatel around like servants. Instead, I'll keep my approach formal, as if  it were one Vice-President speaking to another within a corporation. By divine right, magicians are granted the abiltity to petition the spirits of the Arbatel, but there's no real authority over them provided in the grimoire. Instead, the only authority they are answerable to is God himself.

This rather helps explain why so much of the Arbatel focuses on your behavior. As a Christian saved by Grace, this behavioral thou-shaltism smacks of righteousness by works rather than by grace. That is, you do nice things and you get rewarded. I'm in Martin Luther's camp, that salvation is by grace through faith alone. Works, good deeds, being nice to animals and not splashing panhandlers in the rain while cackling gleefully at their misfortune... that's not going to get you anywhere with God, who says the righteousness of man is as menstrual rags before him. (mmmm, tasty.)

But we aren't talking about salvation, atonement or being in a right relationship with God. We're talking about magic petitions to spirits for direct intervention. Maybe you do have to be all righteous and pure to get anything out of the Arbatel spirits, and they don't see the Cross when they're measuring up whether you deserve their blessings or not.

hmmm. Well, it's something to think about, anyway. But like I said, I'll stick with the Goetic spirits for now. They recognize your position with God via the sacrifice of Christ readily enough.

1. "firmament." Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 29 Oct. 2008.>.
2. "firmament." Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary. 29 Oct. 2008.>.


  1. hrm. the blunt reference to menstrual rags makes me wonder if you've ever heard of Bob Thieme?

  2. Well since you brought it up...

    As one with ovaries, might I suggest to you that you are misreading that statement? Without the uhm underpinnings of mans good works, the process of life becomes very messy. As menstration is a training ground for the higher work of birth, so is man getting in tune with his fellow man. When we remove ourselves from anothers human suffering, we cut off our own path to the divine. Just my humble take on it.

    Also I am thinking that the boys of the Arbatal are much more along the lines of celestial entities with a creative force behind them. They are not coming from the same place as the Goets, nor would I expect them to move or function the same way. One size most definately does not fit all here.

    Again just my humble take. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

  3. Ummm... how 'bout the quote, "Faith without works is dead." ??

  4. As a matter of fact, that Faith without works bit is from the Book of James. Martin Luther removed the Book of James from the Bible because it seemed to contradict the vision of grace he received.

    However, I personally agree with the sentiment. Faith results in good deeds; but the point remains, works don't sanctify you. They are the result of faith. James explains it all pretty clearly, if you want to get into it.

    Last time I checked though, you're not a Christian. What does it matter to you?

  5. Kathy, it's not my fault the authors of the bible saw menstrual rags as filthy. In context it was a metaphor to drive home how gross it is to think that an offering of Works by human beings would be to a perfect and Holy god.

  6. Some more references I remembered later on:

    6th Sept, Aphor 36: "So also are words, which being pronounced, do forthwith cause creatures both visible and invisible to yield obedience, aswel creatures of this our world, as of the watry, aëry, subterranean, and Olympick supercelestial and infernal, and also the divine."

    That one was the most obvious to me.

    3rd Sept, Aphor 15: "...and the office of these spirits is to declare Destinies, and to administer fatal Charms, so far forth as God pleaseth to permit them: for nothing, neither evil spirit nor evil Destiny, shall be able to hurt him who hath the most High for his refuge. If therefore any of the Olympick spirits shall teach or declare that which his star to which he is appointed portendeth, nevertheless he can bring forth nothing into action, unless he be permitted by the Divine power."

    Destiny is usually equated with astrology in the old metaphysics, in the sense that it was the stars - fixed and wandering - that were the instruments and measures of the cycles of fate. The Gnostic aim is to elevate one's soul beyond the realm of the stars so that one is free to choose one's own fate instead of being subject to the archons - obviously or subtly. Being able to influence fate on this level places the Olypics at least on the planetary, if not the stellar level. Plus, while it is not explicit, the identification of them with stars also suggests a higher station.

    Aphor 17, precept 4:"In all the elements there are the seven Governours with their hosts, who do move with the equal motion of the firmament; and the inferiours do always depend upon the superiours, as it is taught in Philosophy."

    Equal motion = fixed stars. The elements are taking their queues from the 7; inferiors to superiors. Yet, they are present within them on the terrestrial level as well, which would satisfy your observations.

    Aphor 18: "There are other names of the Olympick spirits delivered by others... therefore they are called Constellations; and they seldome have any efficacie above 40 [*140] yeers."

    Constellations? Stars? Connection?

    There is also the fact that the Olympics rule ages of hundreds of years, can extend life up to at least 700 years with Divine permission, and have power 'over' different classes of terrestrial spirits (Aratron over subterra, Bethor over aerials, Phul over undines, etc). From an astrological viewpoint, this would far exceed even the power of Saturn's orbit of a little less than 29.5 years. (Uranus is 84.07 years)

    I think their alchemical power and their intimate connection to nature is what grounds them in the material world, but even being able to do the kind of alchemical thaumaturgy they do requires a gnosis of all 7 planetary energies, even with specialization.

    There is also the question as to what "Olympus" really is, and I believe based on my reading and research (The Saturn Myth being a good example) that all the earthly divine mountains are just symbols of the Heavenly Mountain that culminates at the North Celestial Pole and is guarded by the serpent/dragon Draco. That's where Hyperborea, Olympus, the Garden of Eden, and Santa Claus are really at, IMHO.

    The 7 Olympic spirits may well be the 7 Rishis of Hindu lore - the 7 spirits of the 7 stars of the Great Bear, Ursa Major.

  7. Opti,

    6:36 is missing a comma in the English. Check the Latin, and you can see it's a list of spirit classes, it should read " well creatures of this our world, as of the watry, aëry, subterranean, and Olympick, supercelestial and infernal, and also the divine." If they were supercelestial, why would they need a separate classification?

    3:15's mention of their Stars is referring to what is "portended." I take this the same way you mentioned, like they're of a planetary nature, reflecting the fate or destiny of the star through their planetary attribute. As terrestrial representatives of their Celestial counterparts, this could remain true.

    3:18's mention of being called constellations doesn't make much sense in context, so I assume you're right. Why would the fact that they give people temporary seals justify calling them constellations? Maybe because different cultures have connected the dots in different ways? I dunno. But yeah, I think it reflects their celestial nature.

    One of the things I've been meaning to do is check for the names of the spirits in actual star charts. Maybe they are the seven stars of Ursus Major.

    To my mind, though, I am satisfied that they are at least a little of both, celestial and terrestrial. A one-stop shop for whatever you need, from spiritual guidance to material gain. I'd like to know how my Pagan friends have worked with them, specifically the techniques they used. I know at least one very happy pagan who had success using the Venereal one.

    P.S. (I said Venereal.)


Thanks for your comments, your opinions are valued, even if I disagree with them. Please feel free to criticize my ideas and arguments, question my observations, and push back if you disagree.