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Amongst practitioners of astrology William Lilly is well known for his Christian Astrology, which is still one of the best astrological textbooks available. A thorough study of this work may inform the reader about astrology, but does not reveal much about the author himself. To rectify this, one has to search for other publications available. One of those is Lilly’s autobiography which he wrote at the age of 66, mainly to satisfy his great friend, Elias Ashmole.
A facsimile or transcript of the original manuscript has never been published up to this date. Now, thanks to the painstaking work of Sue Ward, the transcript of the autograph, containing the margin- and footnotes, written by Lilly, Ashmole and an unknown proof-reader, is available for the first time. With additional annotations, commentaries and biographical notes, including Elias Ashmole’s addenda and nativities of some notable persons appended, this work clearly supersedes all previously printed, incomplete and mutilated versions in existence.
Readers wanting to delve deeper into the relationship between Lilly and Ashmole may want to download Sue’s study Beyond the Great Fire.
William Lilly did not only have great friends, he had enemies, too. After an initial discussion about the reason for the well known enmity between Lilly and Gadbury, Sue Ward and I decided to fully investigate this matter. The answer to this question, which may astound some readers, is to be found in our paper Monster of Ingratitude.
Both Sue and I hope that astrologers will benefit from the publication of these papers but we hope that readers, downloading these files, will also make use of the ‘Donation’ facility. All your donations will help save animals lives, so please think of it as:
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All the works mentioned may be downloaded from Sue Ward’s website:
The first title is Monster of Ingratitude written by Sue Ward and myself, it is a fully referenced investigation into and account of the well-known enmity between William Lilly and John Gadbury. The real reason for this is presented in detail; suffice it to say that it is not the reason most often given.
The second title is the much better known The Life of William Lilly, Student in Astrology, but this is my transcription from the autograph (his signed manuscript). Sue Ward has been faithful to this manuscript and has added biographical information of the various characters involved and other information. Where she has been able to find them, she has added relevant nativities andher presentation Beyond the Great Fire which looks at the relationship between Lilly and Ashmole among other things. It’s a bumper bundle!
Richard Saunders was a well known and respected medical practitioner and astrologer who practiced in London in the second half of the 17th century. M. H. Porter writes about the connection with Lilly in his ODNB entry about Saunders:
Saunders was a member of William Lilly’s circle, and acted as physician to Lilly and Elias Ashmole. He was referred to explicitly in condemnations and praises of astrologers alongside the more familiar names of Wharton, Gadbury, Booker, and Culpeper. Lilly once referred to him as ‘Philotheoros’. However, he seems to have been closest to Ashmole who, apart from being godfather to Richard’s son Charles, also bought some of Saunders’s books after he died. He stands out from the rest of Lilly’s circle in that he seems to have been the only one to have published on physiognomy.
He was probably best known for his almanac Apollo Anglicanus, which was published from 1654 until his death in 1675. In 1653 he published a lavishly illustrated folio entitled Physiognomie and Chiromancie, Metoposcopie. Saunders dedicated this work to Elias Ashmole and it contains appraisals by well known practitioners of the time amongst them William Lilly, John Booker and George Wharton.
What is of particular interest here is the part of Saunders’ work, dealing with the art of memory. Dame Frances Yates has traced the origins of Saunders’ interpretation of Lull’s art of memory:
The extremely magical art of memory of which Fludd has heard at Toulouse sounds like the ars notoria. Fludd might possibly be referring to Jean Belot who had been publishing in France earlier in the century works on chiromancy, physiognomy, and the art of memory … Belot’s highly magical artificial memory, in which he mentions Lull, Agrippa, and Bruno, is reprinted in the edition of his Oeuvres, Lyons, 1654, pp.329ff. The art of memory by R. Saunders (Physiognomie and Chiromancie … whereunto is added the Art of Memory, London, 1653, 1671) is based on that of Belot and repeats his mention of Bruno… (Yates, Art of Memory, p316n)
The Ars notoria, a Grimoire of the so called Salomonic cycle, was well known to William Lilly and his friends. Lilly himself owned a copy and used it in magical operations until he encountered problems and distanced himself from it.
Frances Yates explains the connection of the Ars notoria with the art of memory:
… appeared in the Middle Ages as the Ars notoria, a magical art of memory attributed to Apollonius or sometimes to Solomon. The practitioner of the Ars notoria gazed at figures or diagrams curiously marked and called notae whilst reciting magical prayers. He hoped to gain in this way knowledge, or memory, of all the arts and sciences, a different nota provided for each discipline. The Ars notoria is perhaps a bastard descendant of the classical art of memory, or of that difficult branch of it which used the shorthand notae. It was regarded as a particularly black kind of magic and was severely condemned by Thomas Aquinas. (Yates, Art of Memory, p56f)
Now follows the transcript of Saunders’ chapter on the art of memory from Physiognomie and Chiromancie … whereunto is added the Art of Memory, London, 1653, part 3, p33ff.
What Artificiall MEMORY is,
or the ART of RAYMUNDUS LULLIUS.
Artificiall Memory is nothing but an Art to assist the Naturall: for without the one the other cannot subsist: If there were not a Naturall Memory the Artificial would not avail much; but the Naturall having some inclination to an Art or Science, doubtlesse the Artificial is very serviceable to it, and by Artificial that may be shortned, which otherwise would take up a long time; and this is it wherein Raymundus Lullius hath bestowed his endeavours, and by his exquisite learning found out the perfection of this short Art and Artificiall Memory; which although he found out, yet did he conceal it under Riddles and Amphibologies; that the learned might be at the expense of some leasure to know and attain it. But I seeing how necessary this Art was to Preachers, Oratours, Advocates, or any who deal in Merchandise, am willing to explain it, and by the hand or Chiromancy much facilitate; and that so as the simple person that hath an inclination to anything shall attain to some perfection therein, by an Alphabet that comprehends all that we can imagine in our hand, as may be seen in the figure put thereafter to the purpose.
It is first to be noted that the more curious Ancients before Raymundus Lullius divided it in two, or else endeavoured to acquire it two manners of ways; The first was very dangerous, being by Medicaments and Medicines, which they took to purge out the more grosse humours, and so cleanse their minde, and consequently make it more fit to conceive all things. The second method which they followed was more apparent, which say they, had been revealed to Solomon by the Great God; of which Solomon the Scripture testifies that he knew all things, from the Hysop to the Cedar, that is to say, had all knowledge: Of this Science did write one Apellonius, whereof there is a Treatise inserted amongst the Works of Agrippa, full of Prayers, which for the most part consist of unknown words; yet hee hath come somewhat neer the truth; for in the figure which he puts for the secrets instead of making use of [Michael in Hebrew] i. e. Michael, if hee had made use of the name of ten letters after this forme, hee had arrived at the perfection.
Yet I finde the invention much more easie by the way of Chiromancy, having read Raymundus Lullius over and over again, and all those that have endeavoured to facilitate him, as Cornelius Agrippa, Jordanus, Brunus, Alstedius, Leuinkerus, and divers others, seeing they place and found all this Art in those ten letters A.B.C.D.E.F.G.H.I.K.
Thus also for our way of instruction we place them in the hand.
The Places where we are to imagine those letters thus posited.
You see in the foregoing figure, where we place for the foundation of this Art, A in the middle of the hand, which in Chiromancy call the Plain of Mars, how that that letter is the base and foundation of this Science whereto the other nine letters are referred: Which thing the Rabbins also had observed in the name of God consisting of ten letters, which begin with Aleph, as you may see in the foregoing figure. For if it be any matter whereof we would treat, we must place it upon the imaginary A. and the definition and distinction upon the other letters, as we shall hereafter clearly demonstrate. B. which is the first letter of the circle is placed under the thumb in the mount of Venus; C. under the Fore-finger or mount of Jupiter; D. under the middle-finger; E. under the fourth; F. under the little one; G. under that upon the beginning of the Table line, H. upon the mount of the Moon; I. at the root of the line of life near the wrist; K. at the beginning at the mount of Venus. Having thus imagined them, conceive in thy minde upon every letter that point which thou desirest to treat of or remember.
Why this Art is called the Short Art.
Raymundus Lullius a man consummate in all Arts and Sciences for the assistance of the naturall Memory found out this Art, for to shorten the Sciences, and cause all men to conceive them more compendiously, and render them in one moment able to discourse of those Arts and Sciences, and penetrate into their most secret principles, which they could not attain unto by ordinary labour and study all their life; nay if it were 80. Years, yet all their study could not to the one half, and therein be perfect; whereas this Art doth easily teach and enable a child of seven yeares of age to make all sorts of arguments. Those that are acquainted with it and have attained it, have given wonderfull effects thereof. Agrippa hath made it appeare , thou hee hath been pleased to abuse it as he did the other Sciences. But the true reason why he cryed down those Arts and Sciences, was to make appeare how well he understood them; for before ever he dispraised them, he said wonders of each of them. This spirit that had pierced into all things, would by that Ironie wipe out the blame which some tender and vain persons would impute to him. I have a resentment for the honour of Monsieur Beaulieu, Bonju, who hath offended both him and Ramus, in the Introduction of his Philosophy, for this offence is ever retorted on him that will offend such men.
The reason why he cannot by his dispraises quench their renown; is because they are immortall in the memory of learned men; but the Philosophy of the said Beaulieu was dead as soon as born. Agrippa was not the first that tasted that Science; but Simonides of Miletum, and the great and wise Captain Themistocles were all acquainted with it: And in these later ages, one Peter of Kavana, Francis Petrarch, and Hermannes Buschius, and since them Jordanus Brunus, that have done miracles in it. Yet it will be asked why Raymundus Lullius gave this Science the name of Short Art; he answers himself in his Prologue to the Art, briefly in these words: Ut ars magna facilius seiatur; nam scita ista arte supradicta’, etiam aliae artes de facili possunt seiri & adisci: Which is easily understood, for there is not any Science which is not abbreviated by the Memory; provided, that he who would attain it be disposed thereto by these ten letters; For as to Rhetorick, the definition is placed on B. the parts upon C. the three figures of Syllogisms, whereof each figure hath four manners, two concluding Universally, and two particularly , which are comprised in these two verses.
Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferio,
Caesare, Camestres, Festino, Baroco,
Darapti Felapton, &c.
All that is place upon D. The Sophism, Equivocations, Amphibologies, ignorance of the sophism, caption of the Antecedent upon the other letters.
Arithmetick; the definition upon B. which is a Science invented to teach how to number many unites. The first rule of it which is Numeration is placed divers other histories; you may imagine them by conceiving this configure of Multiplication.
For observe that he who knows Arithmetick, conceives and comprehends the numbers retained by another; as easily as he that is a lover of the Art can conceive, retain and learn all that he please upon these ten letters; nay may number without Addition, unlesse it be of the cipher, and thus is placed.
Somebody conceives in his minde one of these numbers, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. For to demonstrate it; cause him to treble the number which he hath conceived; divide the trebled number into two; but if upon the first meditation the trebled number be odde (which you must ask him whether it be or no) bid him make it even by the addition of a Unite, and then that he divide into two halfs.
Of this addition you shall take one, and bid him doe the like; but you shall keep two; and then bid him substract 9. as many times as he can out of his last number, and do you number so many times four, then if you have kept any thing you must adde it. As if one had thought on seaven, that trebled is twenty one, one added makes twenty two, the one half is eleventh, which being trebled makes thirty three, and that cannot be divided into halves without the addition of an unite, which being thirty four, whereof the half is seventeen, here cast away two, bid him substract nine as often as he can, which because it can be done but once, you shall gather four, then need look after what remains, if you have kept three, which added to four make 7. So also manage these letters, multiply them according to the numbers of words that you would advance. Take the pleasure first to place such words as these upon every letter so to exercise your memory.
B. Beauty, C. Charity, D. Deity, E. Excellency, F. Fortune, G. Greatnesse, H. Honour, K. Katherine; doe it backward and forward, and multiply them to increase your memory, B. Blesse, C. Christopher, D. Delight, E. Edisie, F. Fort, G. Glory, H. Honour, J. Jesus, K. Kalender, and argue upon every one of the words.
The first figure for B.
All goodnesse is commendable; Charity is goodnesse; Therefore, &c.
All virtue is commendable; Charity is a virtue; Therefore Charity is commendable.
Every good thing is commendable; Some pleasure is not good; Therfore, Some pleasure is not commendable.
So of the rest; but all thy arguments ought always to refer to the subject, whereof thou discoursest, the which is placed upon A. Thou being a Preacher, if thou wouldst discourse of Principles, or a Principle; place it upon A. in the hand, and then upon B. make this argument, if there be any priority in the Divinity, upon C. this Syllogisme.
Every Agent is before the Patient, the Father is Agent, and therefore Patient, Therefore, &c.
By this proceeding, placing on the other letters histories upon this subject, and not leaving in the memory these principall letters, of our science, they may do all. Nay a child of 7. years of age may in ten dayes by this Art be made capable and fit in all Sciences, if so be he is of himself enclined thereto; argue and form Syllogisms like an able Logitian, upon any point that shall be proposed to him; for this Art has wondrous effects I those that fervently embrace it. Let the Merchant also in the same manner make his advantage of it, whose memory should be preserved to Eternity. If thou art pleased with it, assure thy self that shortly I shall present therewith a large Treatise of all Divine Mathematicks; wherein thou shall be shewed the secrets of the Caball Ghematrie of the Jews, and besides that, what ever is curious in the works of all those who have anything of Occult Philosophy, take only these Notes for earnest, and esteem me thy friend.
The End of the Treatise of Artificiall Memory, or the Art of R. Lullius.
Sue Ward’s web log entry about the Primary Problem with Venus, which is supplemental to her recommended presentation God, the Universe and Everything, raised the important issue of the intrinsic interconnectedness between astrology and the glyph of the cabalistic Tree of Life. Some of the readers of my web log may know that this glyph was extensively used by magical orders of the 19th and 20th century, but what is of interest here is the importance of this knowledge to traditional astrologers and especially to William Lilly.
Ramon Lull (1232 – 1315) was the first writer and philosopher who introduced the Cabala to the West. He was followed by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463 – 1494), who studied the Cabala as well as the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus; they became known as the Hermetic Mysteries. Mirandola believed he could, through the revelations of the Cabala, unify Christianity with the teachings of Plato and Pythagoras.
John Dee (1527 – 1608), the famous astrologer and mathematician of the Renaissance condensed all his knowledge into one glyph, the Monas hieroglyph.
It is said that his writings on astrology, Cabala and the hermetic arts buildt the foundations of the 17th century Rosicrucian movement.
In 1614 a manuscript with the title Fama Fraternitatis: The Declaration of the Worthy Order of the Rosy Cross was anonymously published in Germany, followed by Confessio Fraternitatis and The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, in 1615 and 1616. These manuscripts were drawing their information from a range of sources, including John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica. His glyph was to be found on the front page of the Fama Fraternitatis. The publication of these books triggered the beginnings of a vast Rosicrucian movement in Europe. William Shakespeare was linked to the movement and important personalities like Robert Fludd and Elias Ashmole identified themselves as Rosicrucians.
We know that Ashmole and William Lilly were both deeply interested in all aspects of the hermetic arts and especially in the writings of John Dee. As Sue has so rightly pointed out in her presentation, it was this spiritual bond that made the friendship between these two men possible. But can we be sure that Lilly knew about these secrets and used them in his astrology? As in many cases, the thorough study of his masterpiece, Christian Astrology, provides us with an answer, as Lilly writes:
“It is a recieved, general Rule amongst those Artists that know the Cabalistic Key of Astrologie, that if one Planet be the Lord of the ascendant and twelfth house….” (CA, p464)
This quote shows that, at least in my opinion, Lilly knew about the cabalistic correspondences and used them in his daily work, if the necessity arose to do so. Another revealing piece of information can be found in Lilly’s Merlinus Anglicus Ephemeris for the year 1680, where he writes:
“But We must owne the assistance of our Friend Mr. Henry Coley herein; of him We have had experience for several Years past, and to him shall communicate many Secrets in Art, not know to the Vulgar Astrologer;…”
I hope I could outline how cabalistic teachings were integrated in the Western Mystery Tradition and became an intrinsic part of the lore. Astrologers like William Lilly were well versed in the symbolism through their studies of the hermetic arts. For them astrology was only one expression of the mysteries which enabled them to get closer to the Divine.
A depiction from the Syriac New Testament, Vienna 1555, illustrates this beautifully.