Historical Interest

Lilly’s “Epistle to the Student in Astrology”

William Lilly

To the Student in Astrology.

My Friend, whoever thou art, that with so much ease shalt receive the benefit of my hard studies, and doest intend to proceed in this heavenly knowledge of the stars; wherein the great and admirable works of the invisible and all-glorious God are so manifestly apparent. In the first place, consider and admire thy Creator, and be thankful unto him, be thou humble, and let no natural knowledge, how profound or transcendent soever it be, elate thy mind to neglect that Divine Providence, by whose all-seeing order and appointment, all things heavenly and earthly have their constant motion: the more thy knowledge is enlarged, the more do thou magnify the power and wisdom of Almighty God, and strive to preserve thyself in his favour; for the more holy thou art, and more near to God, the purer judgment thou shalt give. Beware of pride and self-conceit: and remember how that long ago, no irrational creature durst offend Man the Microcosm, but did faithfully serve and obey him; so long as he was Mr. of his own reason and passions, or until he subjected his Will to the unreasonable part. But, alas! when iniquity abounded, and man gave the reins to his own affection, and deserted reason, then every beast, creature, and outward harmful thing, became rebellious to his command. Stand fast oh, man! to thy God: then consider thy own nobleness; how all created things, both present and to come, were for thy sake created; nay, for thy sake God became man: thou art that creature, who, being conversant with Christ, livest and reignest above the heavens, and sits above all power and authority. How many pre-eminences, privileges, advantages, hath God bestowed on thee? thou rangest above the heavens by contemplation, conceivest the motion and magnitude of the stars: thou talkest with angels, yea, with God himself: thou hast all creatures within thy dominion, and keepest the devils in subjection. Do not, then, for shame deface thy nature, or make thyself unworthy of such gifts, or deprive thyself of that great power, glory, and blessedness God hath allotted thee, by casting from thee his favour for possession of a few imperfect pleasures. Having considered thy God, and what thyself art, during thy being God’s servant; now receive instruction how in thy practice I would have thee carry thy self: As thou daily conversest with the heavens, so instruct and form thy mind according to the image of Divinity: learn all the ornaments of virtue, be sufficiently instructed therein: be humane, curteous, familiar to all, easy of access, afflict not the miserable with terror of harsh judgment; in such cases, let them know their hard fate by degrees; direct them to call on God to divert his judgments impending over them: be modest, conversant with the learned, civil, sober man, covet not an estate; give freely to the poor, both money and judgment: let no worldly wealth procure an erroneous judgment from you, or such that may dishonour the Art, or this divine Science: Love good men, cherish those honest men that cordially Study this Art: Be sparing in delivering Judgment against the Common-wealth thou livest in. Give not judgment of the death of your Prince; yet I know experimentally, that Reges subjacent legibus Stellarum [trans.: “Kings are subject to the rule of the stars”] : marry a wife of thy own, rejoice in the number of thy friends, avoid law and controversy: in your study be totus in illis [trans.: “all you can be”] that you may be singulus in arte [trans.: “singular in art”], be not extravagant or desirous to learn every Science, be not aliquid in omnibus [trans.: “knowing little of everything”]; be faithfull, tenacious, betray no one’s secrets, no, no I charge you never divulge either friend or enemies trust committed to thy faith. Instruct all men to live well: be a good example thyself; avoid the fashion of the times, love thy own native country; exprobrate no man, no not an enemy: be not dismaid, if ill spoken of, Conscientia mille testes [trans.: “Conscience has a thousand witnesses”]; God suffers no sin unpunished, no lie unrevenged.

William Lilly, 1647

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