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An Excerpt from Celestial Magic: Joscelyn Godwin, ‘Astral Ascent in the Occult Revival’

The following is an extract from Joscelyn Godwin’s paper in ‘Celestial Magic’, the latest issue of Culture and Cosmos. Godwin, who is Emeritus Professor of Music at Colgate University and one of the most distinguished scholars of Western esoteric and occult ideas and practices, takes as his theme ‘Astral Ascent in the Occult Revival’. In this article he discusses how the occult revival of the later nineteenth century inherited Neoplatonic and Hermetic ideas of astral ascent and commerce with the planetary spirits, but felt obliged to square these with contemporary discoveries in astronomy. In this work, Godwin covers Swedenborgian ideas into a semi-scientific cosmology to the works of Emma Hardinge Britten, H. P. Blavatsky, and the Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, and on to the lesser known teachings of Cyrus Teed, known as Koresh, who taught that the earth is a concave sphere with the heavenly bodies at the center. Please enjoy this excerpt:



Astral Ascent in the Occult Revival
by Joscelyn Godwin

The ascent of the soul through the planetary spheres is one of the archetypal images of the Western esoteric tradition. The classic account is in the Poimandres, the first book of the Corpus Hermeticum, where the divine Mind explains to Hermes Trismegistus what happens to the human being before birth and after death.1 The Hermetic ascent takes for granted the ‘Standard Model’ of how the cosmos is put together: a model that unites astronomy, psychology (the science of psyche, the soul), and metaphysics. Louis Rougier calls it the ‘astral religion of the antique world’, that wasREAD MORE

Luis Rodolfo Vilhena, author of The World of Astrology, in Memoriam

Last week, May 29, 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Luis Rodolfo Vilhena at the age of 33 in a motorcycle accident. O Mundo da Astrologia, published in English translation by the Sophia Press in 2014 as The World of Astrology, was his first book, based on his 1988 Master’s thesis at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

An influential book describing the work of his Doctoral thesis on the history of the Brazilian Folklorist movement, Projeto e Missao: O Movimento Folklorico Brasileiro 1947–64 was published posthumously, and reviewed by Elizabeth Travassos in the journal Mana.1 More biographical information, and a full list of his publications can be found (in Portuguese) on a website set up by his colleagues.2 A whole day conference was held on May 24th this year at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, to discuss his work in Folklore Studies and Social Research, including his study of astrologers. Over 100 people were in attendance.


Mundane Astrology Key Concept webinar with Nicholas Campion at the University of Wales

On Monday, May 8, BBC presenter Andrew Marr began his regular Monday radio show with the statement, ‘These feel like wild and disorientating times’. One way to get a sense of perspective, he said, is to go back to the old epics.

This weekend, Nicholas Campion will consider one of the grand epics of the ancient world, the use of astrology to measure and manage politics and historical change in his online Key Concept lecture from the University of Wales. These lectures are open to the public and draw on material in the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s programme in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.READ MORE

Defining Skyscape

The term skyscape was first used within the remit of cultural astronomy in 2006 by Jan Harding and collaborators in an article published in the Archaeoastronomy journal,1 and established in a session of the Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting of 2012, organized by myself and Nicholas Campion, director of the Sophia Centre. But it was not until 2015 that it reached a wider academic audience.

Three significant events galvanized the term in 2015: Oxbow Books published a collection of papers delivered in that formative TAG session, titled Skyscapes: The Role and Importance of the Sky in Archaeology. Meanwhile, the Archaeoastronomy module offered by the Sophia Centre as part of its MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology was retitled Skyscapes, Cosmology and Archaeology and its curriculum redesigned to fall in line with this theme. And last but not least, that very same year, the Journal of Skyscape Archaeology, co-founded and co-edited by myself and Liz Henty, published its first two issues.READ MORE

Book Review: Luís Rodolfo Vilhena, The World of Astrology

Luís Rodolfo Vilhena
The World of Astrology:
An Ethnography of Astrology in Contemporary Brazil

translated by Graham Douglas
(Ceredigion: Sophia Centre Press, 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-907767-04-3
244 pp.


The author of this book, Luís Rodolfo Vilhena, was a promising Brazilian anthropologist who died tragically young in 1997 at the age of thirty-three. The World of Astrology, based upon his research for a Masters degree at the University of Rio de Janeiro, was originally published in Portuguese in 1990. Its chance discovery (as we say) by Graham Douglas in a Lisbon bookshop inspired him to produce this excellent translation, and both he and the Sophia Centre Press are to be congratulated for the resulting new addition to the Anglophone world of scholarship and research into modern astrology.


Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales, speaks at Sophia Centre Press book launch

The Press was delighted to host the former National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke, at the launch of Ada Blair’s book, Sark in the Dark on the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Lampeter campus on 6 December. This was a double celebration for the Press – 3 December was our seventh birthday. Clarke is also one of our distinguished Press authors: her paper ‘Man, Mystery, Myth and Metaphor: Poetry and the Heavens’ is published in Heavenly Discourses. Gillian’s first poetry was published in 1971 and her escalating reputation resulted in her appointment as third National Poet of Wales in 2008, a post she held until 2016.READ MORE