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Marilynn Lawrence Casts the Chart

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In this continued interview we chat about a whole bunch of things, including:

  • The Middle Platonist idea of multiple Providences as a way of accounting for the presence of evils while preserving god’s goodness and free choice for human souls, and the ways in which such a model largely plays out in later Platonism as well, with Plotinus’ take on the question being something of an odd one out,
  • The doctrine of the descent of the soul into the body understood as a process of progressive accretion of astral influences, which then govern the embodied soul, discussed in some Hermetic texts, in Numenius, Porphyry, and later in Macrobius and others, brought into dialogue with Plotinus’ thought,
  • In which Plotinus doesn’t seem to support such a doctrine (or if he does, he doesn’t attach much importance to it), although he does speak of the soul gaining an ‘astral body’ of sorts,
  • The question of how some astrologers seem to ‘get it right’, although there doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to explain this (since they can’t even agree on techniques or which zodiac is the right one to use),
  • The ways in which astrology plays out in later theurgic practice and the philosophy of Iamblichus (stay tuned for more on this in later episodes),
  • The ‘Jungian turn’ in astrology since the ‘sixties, allowing for continued use of the geocentric models of the past in today’s non-Hellenistic cosmos through a process of ‘symbolification’,
  • The work of Michel Gauquelin on the ‘Mars effect’, which claimed to show a statistically-significant link between athletic success and a prominent Mars in the birth-chart,
  • A discussion of all the different approaches to astrology that are out there nowadays,
  • And a short coda, looking at the levels of providence in Plotinus.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • Iamblichus on astrology: Response to Porphyry/De mysteriis 7.3, 8.4, 9.3-4.
  • Plotinus on the ‘astral body’: IV.3[27]15.1-4: a number of different types of body that the soul can put on once she has ‘peeped out’ from the noetic realm. The first of these is acquires in heaven, which in the context would seem to refer to the ‘periphery’, the realm of the stars and planets Plotinus has been discussing in our various astronomical texts. Cf. II.2[14]2.21-22, a possible reference to the pneuma being a kind of pneumatic soul-vehicle, which moves in a circle like the heavenly bodies, and III.6[26]5.28-29, where the soul ‘rides on pneuma’ (ὡς ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ ὀχεῖσθαι), which recalls the ὄχημα or vehicle of the soul which is of great importance to later Platonist theories of embodiment, serving as a medium between matter and the soul.


  • The ‘Geoffrey Cornelius school of astrology’: see e.g. Geoffrey Cornelius. The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination. Wessex Astrologer, Bournemouth, 2003.
  • Michel Gauquelin: see e.g. The Truth about Astrology. Hutchinson, London, 1984.
  • Project Hindsight.

Recommended Reading:

  • Claude Benski. The “Mars Effect”: A French Test of Over 1,000 Sports Champions. Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y., 1996.
  • E. R. Dodds. Proclus: The Elements of Theology. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1963, Appendix II on the theory of the ‘vehicle of the soul’ in Platonism.