Thread: foci in MtA
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Old 09-25-2017, 10:55 AM   #24
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: foci in MtA

Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
If you want an old-fashioned theory of mental process from the real world, well, there's no real distinction between mind and soul until the 1700s, and it took a while to catch on. But from what I remember of the WW system it makes a very definite distinction between Spirit and Mind. So you're a bit stuffed, really.
Well, yes and no. WW does make that distinction. But what it means by Spirit seems to be, first, invisible and intangible entities that have awareness and volition but not bodies, and second, a realm inhabited by such entities. The second idea has overtones of "other dimensions," which certainly is not a medieval or Renaissance idea; Dante, for example, places spirits (devils and angels) either under the earth or in the heavens. I don't know when the idea of "other planes" was thought of. But I think a pre-1700 Hermetic could make perfect sense of the idea of a disembodied entity, as opposed to an embodied human mind.

Looking at Benedek Lang's Unlocked Books, I see that he talks about five varieties of magic—natural magic, which relies on the occult powers of natural substances; image magic, which uses signs to focus magical power into objects; alchemy; divination; and ritual magic, which involves calling up spirits and bargaining for their aid. (Ritual magic includes divination by crystal balls, mirrors, reflecting pools, and the like, and probably also talking with mediums, because there's thought to be an element of "bargaining with the devil" in this.) Divination in turn seems to have three subtypes: looking for natural signs, as in physiognomy; manipulating humanly created signs, as in sortilege, or casting lots to seek a sign (in a sense, dice-based RPGs are a form of this!); and an intermediate case, numerology, where you treat names (humanly created, but not primarily for magical purposes) as if they were natural signs.

Magic as defined in Ars Magica, one of the ancestral sources of Mage, seems not to be about "ritual magic" in this sense. Oh, you could call up spirits using Mentem, and perhaps command them, and send them on errands. But AM mages who want to start a fire don't usually seem to call on fire elementals to do it. A lot of their magic seems to be just directly acting on fire, or animals, or the human senses and their impressions. And I think that in the same way, while an OoH mage could call up a spirit that has the power to set things on fire, they could also just put together natural correspondences that increase the potential for fire, based perhaps on the affinities of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, and not involve spirits at all.

Anyway, gaining knowledge of other people's thoughts would seem to involve things like physiognomy, or numerology, or oneiromancy. In fact, just yesterday, C was talking about her art history course, which includes discussion of the canon, a scheme of ratios that's said to define the ideal human form for artists; and that made me think that this would fit in very well with numerology, on one hand, and with divination by facial features and bodily proportions, on the other. So physiognomy could be a basis for gaining knowledge of people's characters.

The thing that's problematic is that physiognomy doesn't seem to be a good way to cast spells on people. Short of plastic surgery, that is! But the cognitive use of signs, where X is a sign of A and you know A by seeing X, is hard to reconcile with the conative use of signs, where X is a sign of A and you bring about X to bring about A. it might be that a Hermetic mage needs one set of signs for divination, and a different set for thaumaturgy.
Bill Stoddard

A human being should know how to live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. Specialization is for insects.
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