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.>.