Kabbalistic Theory for Ars Magica

by Chris Lehrich

I am trying to work Grigori along historically sensible magical theory lines, rather than the idiotic system set up by Ars Magica, but at the same time I don't want him to be talking an entirely different language. This being the case, I carefully read the information on magic theory in AM3, and have come up with some of Grigori solutions/explanations. These things should go some way towards explaining his low scores in various things, not to mention his absolute null in Terram.

AM3 states that magic cannot affect the Celestial; it is confined to the Sublunary (which they call the Mortal or Mundane, incorrectly). Anyone who's read Plato, Aristotle, Iamblichus, Porphyry, Al-Kindi, or Dionysius could tell you that this is raving bullshit. The effects and the basic structure of the system necessitate a connection with the Celestial. The proof is the distinction between Corporem and Animal -- there is _no_ difference in the Sublunary; human bodies are only different insofar as Man is a microcosm of the universe, and thus his body is necessarily linked to his pneuma/spirit and his soul, i.e. to the Celestial and the Divine. While we're at it, the human mind is NOT a sublunary phenomenon -- it is certainly _mortal_, but it is not sublunary. Celestial is what it is. That's why astrology matters.

If we structure the universe by a neoplatonic/kabbalistic version of the AM system (using only 7th C. Kabbalah, of course), we get:


	Sefirot      I	Zodiac	  VIM	 1.Life		I Theurgic
		     I			 2.Poison	I   Soul
		     I			 3.Magnetism	I---------------
		     I			 4.Vapor	
		     I		----------------------
	Seraphim     I	Mars/   I IGNEM	   ANIMAL    I	  Intellect
	Authorities  I    Sun	I		     I
	Powers	     I		I		     I
		     I		I            	     I------------------
		     I          I
	Dominions    I  Jupiter	I AURAM	   HERBAM	  Reason
	Principali-  I   Venus  I			  (MENTEM)
	  ties	     I		I
		     I		I
		     I		I
	Thrones	     I  Saturn/ I AQUAM	   Metals	  Imagination
	Archangels   I	Mercury I 			  (IMAGONEM)
		     I		I
		     I		I
	Cherubim     I	Moon	I TERRAM   Stones	  Body
		     I    Earth I			  (CORPOREM)
		     I		I

Note that there are three "zones" delineated, one in the bottom right, one in the top left, one in between. These represent, from top left to bottom right, the Divine, Celestial, and Sublunary Spheres.

Thus there are five horizontal strata, here divided into 5 vertical categories (Angelic, Planetary, Elemental, Mixtions, Man). This tabular correspondence system has certain advantages--for one thing, the five horizontal strata relate to the five techniques:

    CREO	Sefirot	 Zodiac 	VIM	Life, etc.	Theu.Soul
    INTELLEGO	Seraph.	 Mars/Sun	IGNEM	ANIMAL		Intellect
    REGO	Domin.	 Jup./Venus	AURAM	HERBAM		Reason
    MUTO	Thrones	 Sat./Merc.	AQUAM	Metal		Imaginat.
    PERDO	Cherub.	 Moon/Earth	TERRAM	Stones		Body

The exciting thing about this system, for Grigori, is that it makes clear the importance of the techniques: they are related to the powers of Man, in his compound nature as both mortal and created in the Divine image.

Now this may all seem like weird mental masturbation to you, but this system is perfectly sensible (if a bit idiosyncratic) within the context of real magical traditions of the West.

Where character/game stuff is concerned, it should now be clear the main reason why Grigori has trouble with Terram: AM Terram is both rocks and metals. Metals, so far as Grigori is concerned, are a mixtion which is fundamentally watery, not earthy. Similarly, most rocks are mixtions of earth, not Terram in its semi-elemental form. This is clearly incorrect, and confuses Grigori every time he tries to use Terram. Besides, it's so _base_, so low on the hierarchy. Grigori's hierarchy of important things to study goes (from top down):

Creo, Vim, Intellego, Rego, Mentem, Muto, Imagonem, Perdo, Corporem, Ignem, Auram, Aquam, Animal, Herbam, Terram.

This might seem a bit confused, but the basic theory is that Techniques and Man the microcosm are first, then the Elements, stratum by stratum. Mixtions are not terribly important, and confused unworkable notions like Terram are last.

By the way, I should note that this business about the Intellect being Celestial has ramifications where memory is concerned. If the Magus constructs a perfect microcosmic universe in his mind (mentem), perfectly controlled (rego), with things placed there in perfect understanding (intellego), then the product is a celestial object of occult power (vim). The ramifications of this should make reasonably clear why Grigori believes that the "proper" way to read Criamon's book is to do it via the art of memory, creating the images perfectly clearly in his mind rather than using paper.

[Chris goes on with his assumptions concerning the book he took from Bonisagus' sanctuary, the correctness of which I will not comment upon at this time.]


Joseph John Franecki

To go on about the differences in Grigori's worldview vs. the AM magic system: AM magic is by no means intended as a definitive or particularly defining statement about how magic works, and that's even from the AM2 rulebook. How magic works is, of course, ultimately up to the individual storyguide, but rules (and other readings) make clear that the grammatical magic system is highly regarded for how convenient it is, not how profound, or how true. Dividing all creation (mostly sublunary, some not) into 10 categories (or combinations thereof), and all actions into 5 categories (or combinations thereof) is a pedagogical masterpiece, not a thaumaturgic one. Each category is inclusive enough to be broadly applicable, yet narrow enough that a meaningful amount of information on the subject can be learned in a relatively short period of time (e.g. a season). Note that not everything fits into a category; no form encompases time, or the celestial spheres, or the stars themselves (some would say stars are Ignem; however, fire, when left to its own devices, tends to rise (head upward from its fuel source), while stars have a circular motion (appearing in the same position after a year)) or writing (the Wizard's Grimoire (an AM3 supplement -- the only one of which I am even vaguely fond) classifies writing as "thoughts on paper", and therefore Mentem -- to which I respond "And what about what its written on, or with? What about symbols copied by an illustrator who does not understand their meaning? What about a collection of symbols which has no meaning?" etc.). The point is the 15 arts are by no means complete; but in most cases of applied magic (i.e. I need to use my gift to produce an effect right now), it's a good enough model to use.

It's already clear there are more things on heaven and earth than fit in this philosophy (forgive the misquote); the Fae have to be scattered among four forms instead of one unto itself, protection and motion somehow got shoehorned into one technique, no distinction is made between continuous motion through space and teleportation, etc. And what is the Enigma, anyway? Magic is very much an art and not a science, and many magi already have distinctive takes on the practice of it (some variations are so minor they count as virtues and flaws, but still deal with the basic AM system; some are so huge they use entirely different scores & numbers to gauge how magic works).

My point is, the field is wide open. Can a new model be made up that combines magic on the bodies of man and beast? Of course! As a student, it would be harder to learn than either Corporem or Animal, but certain spells (shapechanging comes to mind) would be much easier to cast. Could Grigori "remake" hermetic theory so that metal has its own form, more closely aligned to Aquam than Terram (and easier than both to learn)? Sure! Could you divide creation into 3 forms, the Divine, the Celestial, and the Subluminary? Yes -- but Divine spells wouldn't work, and the other two would be a real pain to learn, encompassing as much as they do.

In all these cases, certain steps are necessary: first, the character has to have a metaphor for how the universe works that encompasses almost all of creation, is self consistent, and has no contradictions with how the world actually works (and the player must explain it to me). Then, the character (a magus) must explore this metaphor thoroughly, searching constantly for holes in the theory and finding explanations which protect the theory (translation: a *truly* bodak magic theory score, and an equally bodak skill in the new theory, which will be harder to learn since there are fewer sources -- the latter will probably take *years*). Then, the character can begin practicing this new form of magic; if it is a sufficiently dramatic change from the old magic system, he must abandon his old completely. If he's merely tacked on another form (merely?), or achieved some significant twist on theoretical thought that doesn't completely redefine most of the categories of AM magic, he's probably still using AM magic, although with a new form or new "Hermetic" virtues and flaws which reflect this new outcome (these new virtues/flaws needn't work out to a total of +0). A warning: these fundamental changes often require the course of a campaign to bring about and fully enjoy, and sometimes a campaign is not enough time (I believe Craig once wrote up rules on major thaumaturgic projects (such as the ones discussed above) to answer the question of whether PCs might achieve same. The players in that campaign, reading over the rules, concluded he could've saved himself effort by just writing "No." I don't want to make it that hard, but I can't promise it won't feel that way).

I hope this answers (some of) your questions about how written in stone AM magic is: not very. Most of the changes I outline above involve a variation on the grammatical magic system (redefining forms and techniques, etc.), but only because I'm fond of that format -- and, all in all your characters are much too intelligent to fall into a "memorized spell" or "spell point" paradigm (you were raised better than that!). Feel free to post this to the rest of the arsmagica players if so inclined, as my answer to your Hermetic System question -- I avoid doing so myself because only you (so far) are so interested as to patiently read through this reply (and the party has more pressing matters to deal with).

Reply on Reworking the Magic System

by Christopher Ian Lehrich

I'm working on it. A few suggestive points that I don't want to go into a hell of a lot of detail about at this very moment:

Last modified: Sun Mar 31 00:30:08 2002