Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT). Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination. Last time, we talked about reading the large hexangular figure as the Great Dial and how to use “option-whittling” to determine the specific details of a situation, including especially matters of time. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!
※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “Second Supplement” and “Third Supplement”.
And now we get to the part of the ZT discussion that had me scratching my head (and banging it against my desk) for the longest time, and one of the reasons why I got so obsessed with trying to figure ZT out. This is about to get messy, so strap in, dear readers.
We’ve covered a lot of ZT up until this point, it’s true; while I’m not following the order of ZT’s “Steps” or “Supplements”, I have covered the majority of the actual divinatory technique itself (barring the process of divination, refinements to query and tool, etc.), and even part (but only a very small part) of the spirituality, theology, cosmology, and anthropology of the ZT. And, up until this point, much of the technique-related stuff is surprisingly simple: sure, there’s definitely a lot to it and damn-near countless ways to plot out various arrangements of things in the Great Mirror, but the bulk of the system isn’t a whole lot more than “there are some primary general concepts, we can combine and permute them in these ways, and now we have all these secondary specific concepts”. This very approach is what got us all the meanings of the 99 Number tiles and the meanings of the 37 houses of the Great Mirror, and even the “option-whittling” approach used to simplistically determine time or other details of situations isn’t too complicated to figure out at a high level and apply in a variety of different ways. This is why, given all the complexity and specificity that ZT can allow as a divination system, I think ZT is a masterpiece of elegance by means of extrapolation from simplicity.
Take a look, dear reader, at the plate called “The Urn”, which gives ZT’s own depiction of the various tiles to be used for divination, embellished with all relevant information for amateurs to more easily pick up and run with as they learn the system of ZT:
Each of the Number tiles has the number in the center in the middle, the planet (more accurately, the planetary intelligence) it’s associated with on the left, and the Zodiac sign it’s associated with on the right. Each tile also has a name in the banner underneath the number; tiles 1 through 9, the primitive Numbers, get the names of their respective Intelligences, but each of the other tiles has the name of what appears to be an angel: Gabriel, Kiriel, Barbiel, Dirachiel, and so forth. Moreover, some of these angel names are repeated across multiple tiles, e.g. Dirachiel has tiles 15, 60, and 87.
Thus do we come to the “Second Supplement”. This chapter opens up with a lengthy and passionate introduction to how the method of ZT is but the foundation of a much grander system of theurgy and divinity—the layer of stone that gives way to marble, marble to crystal, crystal to diamond, diamond by heavenly brilliance itself—and that we shouldn’t be surprised that humans are but one type of entity throughout a dazzlingly diverse cosmos of entities of all kinds both corporeal and incorporeal, and how humans have the ability to see visions of spirits or who are taught about matters of the future or of God by means of spirits. Immediately after this, we are introduced to the notion of a particular set of angels relevant for our studies in ZT (although, admittedly, nowhere referenced in any earlier part of the book). I’m just gonna quote what ZT says on this point:
The Great Cabala recognizes, as we have seen, nine Intelligences. However, the two solar Intelligences and the two lunar Intelligences answer only to one planet each per pair, even if the Intelligence presiding over the material aspect subject to its Planet is not, somehow, a first Satellite of the spiritual Intelligence, rather than an Intelligence of the first order itself. On these grounds, the totality of Intelligences has only seven bases, which are the seven Planets. Each of these planets has four Messengers—Angels, in other words, which are according to the Greek etymology Αγγελος, this word meaning “messenger” in this beautiful language. These Angels, or Messengers of the Planets, are therefore 28 in number. There are as many boxes in the Great Mirror, allowing for each Angel to have their own fixed abode. Each Planet lodges in its orbit the Angels attached to it. Recall that some boxes are common to two Planets; the Angel who dwells in such a box is at the service, then, of its two corresponding Intelligences.
We will present a Table below where all the Cabalistic Angels are named and, next to each, as many mysterious Stars as they govern in the celestial regions. Following these, their names will be specified, as well as their Planets and the box that each Angel occupies in the Great Mirror, along with the three or four numbers assigned to it among the 99 with which the Table of Intelligences is provided. The Angels that rule four numbers each are those that occupy the six corner boxes of the Great Mirror; three of these are solar and three of these are lunar, as the column of signs in the table will show.
Each of the Stars that we will shortly name is, by its own account, a natal Star. It is common enough to hear that “so-and-so was born under a lucky (or unlucky) star”; however trivial this manner of speaking has become, it is still of cabalistic origin. Indeed, each of the allegorical Stars (which we will make known) influences all humans born under it, for each star’s reign is 13 days, 61 minutes, and 25 seconds per year. The total of the reigns of the 28 natal Stars anticipates the six hours per year on the totality of 365 days, with the 366th day of the leap year included in the net total of the days of four years. The domain of the 28 Stars thus starts again from the same instant every four years to complete a new period at the end of the same duration. This calculation can be verified by the Candidate arithmetically.
But let us first provide the promised Table, after which an easy-to-use dial shall be presented to put the Amateur within reach of recognizing, without fear of error, under which Star one is born, of what quality it is, what it allows to hope for, what it threatens, and whether this natal Star is friend or foe to the planet which governed in particular the hour in which the birth took place. It is thus for all the events of life, there not being a single thing however arbitrary or futile it might seem, which is not influenced by the circumstances of Heaven.*
* We do not wish in the slightest to bring the reader back to judicial astrology, for judicial astrology sprang from the Cabala and corrupted it. […]
We are then treated to the following two-page table, where the columns are “Influencing Stars”, “Governing Angels”, “Planets”, “Houses”, and “Numbers Influenced”, respectively:
My rendition of the table, for easier reading:
Alright, let’s cut the crap: this is just a table of the 28 mansions of the Moon with their angels, and the description preceding the table is clearly describing the same thing. By saying that “each star’s reign is 13 days, 61 minutes, and 25 seconds per year”, it’s basically giving the calendrical equivalent of saying that each mansion’s span of the ecliptic is 12°15’26” (the average daily ecliptic motion of the Moon). And, to those who are familiar with Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, the names of the mansions (delightfully corrupted as many Arabic names and words always are in any European text) are still basically the same as those given in book II, chapter 33, and ditto for the names of the angels of the mansions from book III, chapter 24. For a text that so vehemently denies any connection with “judicial astrology”, debased and corrupted as ZT claims it to be, there’s a delicious sting of irony in seeing how far that’s really true.
Let’s take a closer look at the table. What we have here is:
- An index of the names of the 28 lunar mansions (what ZT calls “natal stars”) along with the presiding angel of each
- Each mansion/angel’s corresponding planetary association (more on that in a bit)
- Which house of the Great Mirror the mansion/angel is associated with (marked with a ✠ if it’s a corner house)
- What Number tiles are associated with the mansion/angel (three for non-corner houses, four for corner houses along with what that extra Number’s specific planetary association is)
ZT goes on to note, immediately after the table, a few things that would appear to be missing from the table:
- The primitive Numbers (1 through 9) are direct representatives of their respective planetary Intelligences, so they don’t get associated to any angel; only compound Numbers get associated with angels.
- Houses 1, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19 in the Great Mirror are already taken up by the seven planets themselves, so those don’t get associated with any angel.
- Because there are 37 houses in the Great Mirror, if we take away 7 for the seven planets, that leaves us with 30—two too many for the angels of the lunar mansions. To this end, all nine of the planetary intelligences get associated a house: all the non-luminary Intelligences just get their planet’s own house, but the Sun and Moon are split, such that Psykelia gets house 1 (the Sun’s proper house in the Great Mirror), Genhelia gets house 3 (between Psykelia and Erosia/Venus), Seleno gets house 11 (the Moon’s proper house in the Great Mirror), and Psykomena gets house 6 (between Psykelia and Seleno).
Based on this—as well as a lengthy description—ZT also gives us Plate VI, illustrating the Great Mirror with all the angels associated with it. It breaks this diagram out into a “Drum” (the large hexangular figure with the names of the Intelligences and angels in it) and “Border” (the zodiacal and lunar mansion divisions along the ecliptic, along with the 13-ish days per lunar mansion). The Arabic numeral in each house is the house’s rank in the Great Mirror, while the Roman numerals in the non-Intelligence houses indicate the rank of the lunar mansion of those particular angels.
Now, tell me, dear reader, if you so kindly would oblige me: what about any of this makes any goddamn sense I swear to god. How on Earth is ZT fitting any of this together, when so little of it makes any sense?
- If you look at the order of the mansions/angels associated with the houses of the Great Mirror, what exactly is happening? Why does mansion I get put in house 4, II to 20, III to 24, and so forth?
- While the names of the mansions themselves are basically correct, and most of the angels seem right, there are a few that aren’t. Comparing with Agrippa’s list, while ZT makes use of the three archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, these appear nowhere in Agrippa’s list, and instead appear to replace the angels Anediel, Gabiel, and Amnixiel.
- Further, while most of the mansions in ZT have the same angels in the same order as in Agrippa, some aren’t; mansions 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 28 don’t have the right angel names (either being swapped out with an archangel name or just using an existing name in the wrong order, e.g. ZT giving mansion II to Amixiel but Agrippa gives Amixiel to mansion III.
- The Numbers assigned to each angel/mansion are all over the place. They tend to be related to the planetary associations of each angel/mansion, but so many of them have ones associated with the Sun or Moon (of either intelligence) as well.
- What happened to the ✠ mark for mansion XI/house 25 for Neziel? That’s a corner house, so it should have that mark, because it has four Numbers associated with it.
- For the most part, whatever angel gets whatever planets in that table, it has at least one tile of those planets associated with it, and not others (except for the solar and lunar tiles getting scattered all over the place). In that light, why does Raphael—an angel in the exclusive orbit of Mars—get a Number associated with Venus (39)?
- Why does Kiriel—an angel in the orbit of Mars and Saturn—get a Number associated with Mercury (94)? For that matter, while Kiriel has a Number of Mars associated with it (25), it lacks one for Saturn. Where’d it go?
Perhaps the biggest question I have about any of this is this notion of planetary associations with the lunar mansions, which just isn’t…like, a Thing. Like, I’ve spoken with a number of professional astrologers about this, and the lunar mansions don’t—and shouldn’t—get planetary associations, beyond possibly linking the nature of particular fixed stars found within those mansions to planets and from there to the mansions itself, but this just isn’t done. None other than Chris Warnock (of Renaissance Astrology) touched on this once upon a time on his blog:
In Vedic astrology the 27 nakshatra do have planetary rulers, but this is based on a planetary period sequence, similarly to firdaria. The sequence is Sun, Moon, Mars, North Node, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, South Node and Venus. A number of traditional Western sources do give planetary rulerships for the Mansions, but each one is different, some use the Chaldean Order, some the days of the week order.
A majority of traditional sources on the Mansions do not provide planetary rulerships and those sources that do, don’t agree on the system. The Liber Lunae, Sloane Ms 3826, a mid-Sixteenth Century English source gives a strange sequence of planetary rulerships, that doesn’t follow the Chaldean Order or the days of the week. The Liber Lunae Mansions are contained in my Mansions of the Moon Book.
I would have to ask why logically the Mansions of the MOON would even have planetary rulers? Aren’t these the Moon’s Mansions? This reminds me of the confusion over planetary rulership of fixed stars. Because Ptolemy in Tetrabiblos says that fixed stars “have the nature of” various planets, this has been taken as meaning that the planets rule these fixed stars. Again, logically the fixed stars are in a higher sphere and in fact the fixed stars “rule” the planets.
My view is that having planetary rulerships for everything is like the modern Aries = Mars = 1st house. It is collapsing the nuances of traditional astrology and losing the underlying structure.
Still, there is some support in traditional sources, the problem is which source do you choose and then what does it mean if Mars, for example, “rules” the first mansion? I can see that the designers of Solar Fire were confused because they insist on giving the location of all the planets in Mansions. We can therefore puzzle over the meaning or to my mind, the lack of meaning, of Saturn in the 5th Mansion.
And in a comment to someone else on that post, he said:
But why would a particular planet be stronger in a particular Mansion of the MOON? What does any planet, except the Moon, have to do with the Mansions? Other than “we always use the planets for everything” that is?
Like, we can consider the signs of the Zodiac and the mansions of the Moon to both be divisions of the ecliptic, sure, but if the signs of the Zodiac get assigned planetary rulerships, then why not the mansions of the Moon? The difference lies in the conceptual backing of each: for the signs of the Zodiac, they are based on the Sun and Moon together (one solar year is an approximation of twelve synodic lunations, so we divide the ecliptic into twelve equal segments), and then we assign planetary rulerships to the signs based on their aspectual relationship to the Sun and Moon…
…but the 28 mansions of the Moon are a division based only on the daily average ecliptic motion of the Moon. Moreover, the lunar mansions are meant exclusively for the Moon, and are used for other purposes than the 12 signs of the Zodiac are. To give them planetary assignments or affiliations just isn’t something that’s really done, much less done commonly or in any standard approach, and as Warnock notes (and as I’ve seen myself), in the handful of texts that do attempt it—because why not, there are 28 = 7 × 4, so just give each planet four mansions—none of them seem to do it in the same way. The other planets just don’t matter for the lunar mansions, not whether what planet is in whichever mansion, nor wherever the Moon is in any of the mansions; if we wanted to know the Moon’s strength or weakness according to other planets, that’s what the usual signs of the Zodiac are for, not the mansions.
Even if we ignore the planetary stuff, still, nothing about the rest of Plate VI or the angel/house/tile assignments makes sense. And that’s the really frustrating bit, isn’t it? It’s clear from everything else we’ve seen in ZT that this is a system that is built on extrapolating from principles, building up from smaller things into larger things; this system is not randomly thrown together, but is clearly something that was intentionally and explicitly designed. And then we have this system of lunar mansions (disguised as “natal stars”, repurposed as quasi-Zodiac signs to determine someone’s ruling star/angel by seeing what mansion the Sun is in at the time they were born) which uses a system of angel associations which are mostly the same as those used in (damn near, or indeed actually) every other text but which uses some weird variation in it, and just…what?
It was even getting to the point that I was thinking that this might be a blind for something else—and I hate the notion of blinds in occult texts.
Here’s my take: yes, there are some occult and spiritual texts that do legitimately make use of blinds, i.e. ways to encrypt, encode, or otherwise obfuscate information with the use of keys or secrets that only a select subset of people would know, but throwing other people people not in the know off the trail. It does happen, sure—but it happens so infrequently that anyone claiming that blinds are anything but rare don’t know much about the texts themselves, and are mislead by both romantic notions of secret chiefs encoding ancient wisdom in simple texts as well as the famousness of particular instances of blinds or keyword-translations that have entered the public imagination. Across the vast majority of texts, when someone says X, it means X. It is far, far more common to simply present a variation in technique than to present a difference with a wink and a nudge to mean something else—and it’s also even more common to just have typos in any given text.
Like, let’s be honest: unless you’re a legitimate spy (or spymaster) or professional cryptographer (like John Dee or Johannes Trithemius), you’re probably not gonna make a good blind or encryption worth your time, and you risk so much by putting out such a blinded text anyway. Consider: if you put out a manual that proposes to teach stuff, and you deliberately put misleading information in with the intended goal that the manual should only be used by people worthy of possessing it, then you run into the ethical problem of giving people bad or incorrect processes that can cause severe issues, even irreparable harm. If that’s the case, if such a book comes into the hands of someone exceptionally crafty who can manage to break such an encryption, then all your work just fell to naught and has entered the hands of someone you don’t know and don’t trust and didn’t want to have the information to begin with—which might be even worse than the previous situation, depending on the nature of such information. If you want to keep information secure, then the best way to go about it is to just not publish it. And let’s be honest: publication is expensive! Between the sheer cost of the supplies and the process of setting type and printing text and binding it into pamphlets or books, to say nothing of making multiple copies thereof? If you want to keep information limited, the best way is to just not commit it to paper—especially one that has to go through a publisher who can always make more such books on their own.
In that light, let’s consider the method and approach of ZT. ZT claims to have this ancient teaching of wisdom, divination, and theurgy that allows people to rise and perfect themselves in harmony with celestial intelligences, and it says that the text it provides is a key—granted, it is only a key and not a full treatise that explains the whole system, but it is a key which it claims can unlock anything. It then provides the most rudimentary basics of its systems and methods tells the reader to use them the rest of the way, and if the “Pure Spirit” guides them, they’ll figure the rest out on their own by using the information in ZT. Beyond that, it fully expects that this information should be limited, which is why the book was limited to only 50 copies (it claims) and expects most people to disdain it and the author for it. The approach of ZT here is so completely against the notion of using encryption or encoding or blinding at all: rather than trying to hide something, it just either doesn’t say it or it gives the basics of something and tells the reader to figure out the rest.
All of which is to explain my sheer frustration with this particular instance of assigning angels to the houses or tiles to the angels: everything else in this system just seems so elegant, well-put, and intentional, and then there’s this seemingly random thing, seemingly tacked-on in a later chapter with stuff that is never—not once—mentioned anywhere earlier in the text, and which doesn’t even seem necessary for the actual process of divination? And then, in the Epilogue, the messages from the Redactor go on about how they only mentioned “the good angels, not betraying the evil ones”, and that how they “[at first] refrained from mentioning anything relating to the angels”? And how ZT basically forces us to reinvent computus by, instead of just looking up in an ephemeris the Sun’s location along the ecliptic, making us do calendrical math to figure out under what natal star one is born under while also factoring in leap years?
This is the only part of the system of ZT that seems nonsensical, and the more I looked at it from any and every conceivable angle, the more nonsensical it became. In that light, we have a few options:
- This part is really just arbitrary and made up with no real rhyme or reason.
- This part has some sort of pattern, but which is not clearly stated in the text and which may have as much noise as it does standardization.
- This part is based on some other source that ZT does not explicitly reference, which may itself have its own reasoning and method explainable in another way that isn’t dependent on or related to ZT.
- This part is a blind.
Option 1 (it’s arbitrary), while it can’t be ruled out, seems to fly so far into the face of ZT’s method and approach that it’s almost an insult. Option 2 (it’s an incomplete pattern) is what I was trying to figure out, but not making heads or tails of it and being unable to reverse engineer it is itself a problem, so that’d lead to a dead end. Option 3 (it’s based on some other system)…well, not knowing what other system that might be, it’s a possibility that would require further research. Option 4 (it’s a blind)…like, I hate the idea, but this may well be a case of it. Like, in my bitching about this and saying how tacked-on this whole bit feels to ZT, Nick Chapel from Hermeticulture (the lovable asshole who got me started on all of this) said:
It also sounds like the author wanted to include that supplemental material in the print run of 50, but needed to get it in to the publisher and so settled for an abbreviated explanation. It’s possible that the author might have chosen to blind the information because they knew they wouldn’t be able to lay out an adequately complete explanation in the time or space given, and wanted to ensure that anyone who was going to be using it understood the principles behind it. At least enough to see “hey, this doesn’t make sense” and have enough sense themselves not to use it until they figured it out.
…as both a puzzle designer and solver, you know that the puzzle wants to be solved. Even if it’s an intentional blind.
Like, it was this specific problem that got me to translate ZT from the original French version of it to begin with, to make absolutely sure that I wasn’t missing anything and that I could go through every section and line with a fine-tooth comb and make sure that there was nothing amiss. And, while I definitely learned quite a bit more from FZT than I did KZT/OZT, I still found nothing in FZT that helped this particular situation.
But then, acting on a weird hunch, I did—and I’ll talk about that next time. In the meantime, see if you can figure anything out about this particularly puzzling system, and if you can pick up on any interesting patterns or parallels with other texts, do say so in the comments!