A Seafood Dinner in Lost R’lyeh

I find the stories of H.P. Lovecraft delightfully funny. Yes, I know that wasn’t the literary effect that he was hoping to achieve with his tales of supernatural horror, but there it is. To me, Lovecraft’s fiction has a sort of earnest absurdity I can only compare with the less frantically giddy products of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and it never fails to summon a smile.

Now of course part of that is his prose style. Lovecraft has been unfairly criticized as a bad writer; he was in fact quite a capable wordsmith, but his prose belongs to a school that has been out of fashion in our language for a very long time. Like most other arts in the Western world, the art of writing has its romantic and classical schools, which cycle slowly in and out of fashion over decades and centuries.  The romantic school, of which Lovecraft was a passionate devotee and a more than usually competent practitioner, gets its effect by building textures of sound and emotion through lush vocabulary and ornate grammar rather than by explaining what’s happening in clear language and letting the reader fill in the rest, as the classical school does.

To the romantic eye, classical prose seems bleak and barren; to the classical eye, in turn, the romantic style seems overblown to the point of goofiness—and yes, my taste is pretty consistently classical. Still, there’s more to it than that, and that’s why I’ve brought Lovecraft into the discussion here.

Lovecraft revolutionized the horror genre by putting the worldview of contemporary science at the center of his literary effort, in place of the medieval trappings that had dominated the genre since Horace Walpole finished penning The Castle of Otranto. The fears Lovecraft tried to evoke, with quite a bit of success, were utterly modern fears, and the particular terror from which he got the most mileage in his stories also happens to be the mainspring of the modern rejection of magic and religion. Tracking how those fears shape the collective imagination of contemporary humanity will make it a good deal easier to make sense of one of the most challenging dimensions of occult philosophy.

We can start with a passage from The Necronomicon, an imaginary volume of frightful lore from the darkling abysses of the past that features in a good many of Lovecraft’s stories:

“Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen…They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath?…Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.”

That’s from “The Dunwich Horror,” one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, and it’s utterly typical of the man’s prose as well as the vein of human emotion that he mined so systematically. The best of his tales start with a faint murmur of something weird moving through the background of ordinary life, and then zero in on that troubling presence until “the spaces we know” become the thinnest of facades over a universe swarming with vast, cold, unhuman intelligences, scaled, winged, and tentacled, whose interest in our concerns is roughly on a par with our interest in the concerns of dust mites. Many other writers have explored the horrors of infinite empty space, but what made Lovecraft’s universe appalling to most of his readers was precisely that it wasn’t empty:  it was all too thickly populated, and its inhabitants were not merely superhuman but serenely uninterested in humanity’s loudly repeated claim to be the pinnacle of evolution, the conqueror of nature, and so on through the rest of the pompous twaddle so heavily featured in our species collective self-image in his time as in ours.

As I suspect some of my readers will have guessed already, that’s exactly why I find Lovecraft so funny.  The pompous twaddle just mentioned strikes me as, well, pompous twaddle, and while I’m understandably a little more concerned with the species of social primates to which I happen to belong than I am with some other species, I suffer from no delusion that Homo sapiens is of any greater importance in the grand scheme of things than any other species of megafauna. What’s more, I’m not horrified by the thought of a cosmos crammed with intelligent beings, some of whom are as far beyond us in terms of sentience as we are beyond blue-green algae, and most of whom are not particularly concerned with our species’ nature and destiny at all. I’m used to that idea, and indeed entirely comfortable with it—since that’s the cosmos as portrayed by magical philosophy.

Lovecraft, as it happens, was perfectly well aware of that. He knew a great deal about occultism, and used to sprinkle references to authentic occult texts and important figures in the history of magic in his stories. That was fairly common among fantasy writers in his time, especially in the circle that wrote for Weird Tales magazine—Robert Howard set the two-fisted tales of Conan of Cimmeria in an imaginary post-Atlantean past largely lifted from Theosophy, for example, while Clark Ashton Smith raided the same source for a dizzying array of settings ranging from lost Atlantis to Zothique, the last continent of Earth’s twilight age beneath a coal-red sun. Lovecraft took more than exotic local color from the occult teachings of his time, though; some of his most famous stories get their effect by taking the standard worldview of early 20th century pop occultism and standing them on their heads.

It’s worth taking a moment to trace the parallels. Lovecraft lived during one of those periods—another is ending around us right now—when some watered-down version of occult philosophy and practice got sucked into the vacuum nozzle of pop culture and sprayed out the other end in an assortment of gaudy fragments. In an post here one of these days, we’ll talk about how the pop occultism of Lovecraft’s day got started, as the story has no small relevance to the present time; still, the point that’s relevant to the current discussion is that Lovecraft’s cosmology is the cosmology of the popular occult schools of his era seen through the funhouse mirror of deliberate satire. The sinister cults that play a central role in some of his most famous stories are clever parodies of the pop-occult scene of his day, and the tentacled horrors that the cultists worship are equally parodic reworkings of the powers and potencies with which occultists then and now commune.

It’s the way he wove that parody into the contemporary scientific worldview that shows the brilliance of the man. Central to the rhetoric of modern industrial civilization, after all, is a vision of the cosmos as black emptiness reaching out forever in all directions, mindless, lifeless, and utterly inimical to human existence, except where man the allegedly heroic conqueror of nature has hacked out a defensible space in it. The writers and philosophers of the generations preceding Lovecraft had explored the harrowing sense of isolation and terror that comes from staring up at the stars at night and seeing nothing but an infinite cold void thinly spattered with the prolonged thermonuclear explosions we call stars. Lovecraft took the same standpoint, and implicitly asked his readers: what’s the one thing that could make that vision even more frightening?

The answer, of course, is finding out that when you look up and see the infinite void, the infinite void is looking back and seeing you.

It’s a remarkably common source of terror these days. I’ve long since lost track of the conversations I’ve had with atheists in the peak oil scene, who are curious about Druidry until they find out that most Druids cheerfully accept the existence of disembodied intelligences of various kinds; that’s when they back away, sometimes quite literally, with an expression of horror on their faces that would do credit to a Lovecraft story. For that matter, I can’t be the only person who’s noticed how many atheists won’t write the simple English noun “God,” but insist on euphemisms such as “Gawd” or “Ghod” when they don’t restrict themselves to snide comments about “sky fairies” or the like; from my admittedly unsympathetic viewpoint, that evasion seems uncommonly like an expression of superstitious fear.

The aversion just described has even found a foothold in some corners of contemporary magic. On the avant-garde end of the occult scene these days, there’s a movement called chaos magic; it’s a lively phenomenon that’s produced some very creative work, and it’s also one of the few branches of practical occultism these days that’s more diverse than Druidry, which certainly took some work. Most versions of chaos magic that I’ve seen start from the presupposition that the universe is basically whatever we want it to be, a random inkblot that’s assembled into meaningful patterns by the human mind—I haven’t seen anybody in the chaos magic scene borrow Barfield’s term “figuration” for that process, but the idea’s much the same—and so, the logic goes, we might as well learn how to assemble it the way we want to, using the tools of will and imagination central to magic.

So far, so good; that’s not my view, but it’s a philosophically coherent account. What interests me, though, is that most versions of chaos magic that I’ve seen go on to insist that gods, angels, spirits, demons, and so on don’t actually exist—that by definition they’re constructions of the human imagination, projected by us onto a lifeless and mindless cosmos. It’s a curious and rather one-sided insistence. If in fact the universe is whatever we want it to be, then aren’t those who make this claim simply choosing to formulate a universe that’s empty of other intelligences, because that’s the kind of universe they prefer? Wouldn’t it then be just as reasonable for me to make the opposite choice, and say that the universe is crammed to the bursting point with gods, angels, spirits, demons, and the like, because that’s the kind of universe I prefer—as indeed it is?

Now of course to some extent this is simply a reminder that these days, the term “avant-garde” has a reliable meaning: it means that the movement thus labeled has capitulated to the conventional wisdom of modern society, and abandoned some idea or other that contradicts the notions that people these days are taught to think. As I noted in my other blog a while back, and more recently as well, it’s among the standard maneuvers of contemporary culture to use labels like “avant-garde” and “innovative” to describe dogmatic adherence to the most hackneyed clichés of our time, while ideas that don’t kowtow to the conventional wisdom are assailed as rigid and old-fashioned. A lot of very clever people routinely fall for that particular bait-and-switch routine, so it’s probably not a surprise that the chaos magicians haven’t been immune to it.

Still, there’s more going on here than this. I’d like to return to H.P. Lovecraft for a moment, and note that his eldritch horrors from three whole weeks before the beginning of time have another feature worth noting: they are biological, almost overwhelmingly so. Consider Cthulhu, the most famous of his theological creations. Cthulhu is a gigantic being who came to Earth from some other corner of space in the distant past; he currently resides, “dead yet dreaming,” in the drowned city of R’lyeh, which occasionally surfaces and can be found—if you’re very, very unlucky—in a distant corner of the south Pacific. As described by Lovecraft, he has a huge, vaguely humanoid body covered with scales, a head that looks like a titanic octopus, and vast batlike wings.

This is supposed to be so terrifying an appearance that people who encounter him literally go mad with fear. One of the reasons I find Lovecraft so funny is that I find that reaction utterly implausible. I used to keep lizards and snakes as pets when I was young, so things with scales don’t bother me; I find octopi charming, and bats even more so—anything that eats twice its body weight in mosquitoes in a night is a friend of mine by definition. Now of course any living thing on Cthulhu’s scale deserves the same sort of cautious respect I’d extend to any really big creature, such as an elephant, but if I were someday to be invited to a seafood dinner in lost R’lyeh, I don’t think gibbering terror would be my most likely reaction.

That is to say, I don’t share the pervasive biophobia and noophobia, the terrified loathing of  life and consciousness, that plays so large and so rarely discussed a role in the modern popular imagination. It was probably inevitable that a culture as obsessed with machines as ours would end up longing for a universe as clean, lifeless, mindless and obedient as a well-oiled mechanism. That longing has deep historical roots, which we’re going to need to explore shortly, and it also plays a huge role in the popular insistence that human beings are the only intelligent beings in the cosmos, or its extreme form—the claim, perennially popular among a certain subset of atheists, that consciousness does not exist at all, and human beings are merely one variety of “meat robots” that like to delude themselves into thinking that they have minds, wills, and so on.

It’s an interesting detail of philosophy that this claim can be neither proved nor disproved using the tools of logic. Arthur Schopenhauer, whose philosophy I’m going to discuss at some length further on down the road, noted trenchantly that logic only relates to objects of experience, and won’t work when turned inward and applied to experiencing subjects. You, dear reader, can read these words, and by an act of introspection, watch yourself experiencing the words and their meaning; by that act, you can know yourself to be a conscious being; and the more often you engage in that sort of introspection, the clearer a sense you’ll get of the nature, functions, and potentials of consciousness—a sense that over time opens up in some remarkably interesting directions.

Under ordinary conditions, though, you can’t do that with anyone else’s consciousness, because you can only know them as an object of experience; you can’t know them as an experiencing subject, the way you know yourself. Logically speaking, as a result, you can’t prove that there’s anyone home in any of the apparently conscious beings that you encounter. They might be meat robots programmed to act like conscious beings. I’ve occasionally considered suggesting that those atheists who deny the reality of consciousness might actually be meat robots who are telling the truth about themselves—after all, they have no more power to detect the presence of consciousness outside themselves than the rest of us do, so they have no way of knowing that their unfortunate state isn’t universal.

It’s worth noting, though, that in significant ways, most humans behave more like conscious beings than like meat robots. In particular, if you act as though they’re conscious beings, and take their consciousness into account as a factor in their behavior, you’ll get better results than if you treat them as meat robots who can be made to follow orders if you just apply the right manipulations. It’s largely because modern industrial society is so prone to try the latter approach—to try to push people around by mechanical manipulations, rather than finding ways to enlist their conscious cooperation—that it’s facing a shattering crisis of legitimacy now and in the future.

That much isn’t controversial, at least outside of those circles that are too deeply invested in meat robot fantasies. I’d like to suggest, though, that the same logic can be taken at least two steps further. Most of  the problems contemporary industrial civilization is having with nonhuman nature can be described in exactly the same terms: we’ve tried to treat nature as a mere machine or, worse, as a wholly passive phenomenon that will just lie there and do nothing while we make free with its prostrate body. That hasn’t worked too well. There are various ways to talk about the blowback from the last three centuries of frankly brainless tampering with nature’s cycles and processes, but one of the most useful is to compare that blowback to the way that conscious beings—for example, other human beings—tend to react when they’re treated like mere objects.

Yes, I’m quite aware that it’s raw intellectual heresy these days to suggest that the Earth’s biosphere  acts much more like a community of conscious beings than like, shall we say, a “dirt robot.” It’s even wilder heresy to suggest that the Earth’s biosphere might actually be a community of conscious beings, and that the logic that leads us to recognize consciousness and will in other people might usefully be applied to natural systems. Take it one step further and suggest that there are other phenomena that might reasonably be approached in the same way, and that the gods, angels, spirits, et al. of magical tradition are among them, and you’ve just gone zooming off beyond mere heresy into the sort of statement that causes characters in a Lovecraft story to be hauled off to Arkham Asylum babbling “The socks! The socks were of no human shape!”

Those of my readers who want to start gibbering may as well do that now, because I’m prepared to affirm all those unspeakable notions. One of the central concepts of traditional occultism is precisely that the universe is not a vast and empty echo chamber for the human ego, but an immense living thing in which countless other living, conscious things live, move, and have their being. Like the existence of consciousness in the people you meet every day, that vision of the cosmos can neither be proved nor disproved. Operative mages of the old-fashioned sort, though, like to point out that whether that vision is true or not, treating it as true quite consistently gets better practical results.

For what it’s worth, I’ve come to think that in the decades and centuries ahead of us, the heresies just mentioned will be considerably less controversial than they’ve been in the recent past. I’m far from the only person these days who finds Cthulhu more charming than terrifying—you can get stuffed plush Cthulhu dolls from a number of manufacturers—and a visit to the kind of internet site that features cute animal photos will turn up pictures of adorable little lizards, octopi, and bats right in there with the puppies and kittens. I’ve written elsewhere at some length about the role of religious sensibilities in shaping attitudes toward biological existence, among other things; it’s among the ironies of our time that the fading out of the religious sensibility of biophobia that’s dominated Western thinking since the last few centuries before the common era can be tracked in the fortunes of the plush Cthulhu doll industry.

The sensibility now waning has other dimensions, though, and some of them bear more closely on the theme of this blog than they do on the issues discussed in The Archdruid Report. In particular, we need to talk about why it was that, a little over two thousand years ago, people over much of the world stopped worshipping the gods of nature and started revering dead human beings instead. We’ll begin that discussion next month.

206 Comments

  1. I've started reading Algernon Blackwood recently, and have long been a fan of Arthur Machen. Such a pity that genre of fiction is no longer widely published.

    I have found it interesting how many magical practitioners one comes across who have spent years rigging some sort of phsychology/psuedoscience based work around for traditional magical philosophy so that they can still work with its systems without have to give up their modern world view.
    Once one makes the transition from soft polytheism to hard polytheism, everything is just works so much better. It's remarkably liberating.

  2. Hi JMG,

    You know, I was always more partial to Cugel's saga of a devious and adventurous bloke who exists at a time near the end of the Earth's ability to maintain life – due to old age and a dying star of course.

    He existed in a landscape inhabited by people, strange creatures and unidentified spirits and demons. None were there for his pleasure and most were indeed baleful. Only through sheer luck, knavery and ability to push the consequences onto others did he survive as he was thrown from one adventure to another and pushed in all sorts of directions.

    The lesson wasn't lost on me that the fairies of old by and large generally meant you no good, regardless of their supplications.

    That is the reason for my question to you last month as I'm asking both the why and what's the price that has to be paid? I still have no clear idea at all about what happened, so perhaps like Cugel, I’ll get knocked from pillar to post with only my wits as a defence?

    I like nature and revel in it. What is interesting about nature is that human concerns are from central – if in fact they are even noticed at all. Perhaps it is the lack of control over nature and natural events which makes people fear it so?

    Last night I came across a wallaby ripping into one of the apple trees here. That wallaby was doing some serious damage to the apple tree. So I did my scariest monster impression (Cthulhu?) and the wallaby merely bounced away a couple of metres, stopped and glared at me as if to say “What?” I'm sure the naughty marsupial went straight back to the apple tree too after I departed. Yes indeed, nature can make some people feel very small. I however, feel connected and there is a place for the rest of nature here.

    Honestly, I was always annoyed with the philosophical question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” as it places human thoughts at the centre of the world and implies that if it ain't observed then it doesn't matter. It is a silly and conceited business to be sure, because plenty of things go on everyday unobserved by humans.

    I'm in awe of 2 blog posts in one day! Well done.

    Cheers

    Chris

  3. Perhaps now is the time to relate an experience I have never shared before. One of most powerful experiences of my life, even more powerful than people trying to kill me during the Vietnam conflict.

    The night Gwen, my wife and companion of 20 years died in 1996. After the chaos of that day had settled down and I went to bed, laying there wondering what I was going to do with my life from here out without her, the room slowly became filled with a swirling mass of dark colors. Increasing in intensity until it first became a Maelstrom and eventually resolved into a massive vortex. Eyes opened, eyes closed made no difference in what I saw.

    At the other end of this whirling tunnel of dark colors there was a presence. Something Very Powerful. It was certainly intelligent and it felt male but mostly I was aware of how incredibly Powerful it seemed.

    Then this presence seemed to make me an offer. There were no words but a non verbal offer that I felt with absolute certainty. If I wanted to be with Gwen all I had to do was will that to be the case and it would happen.

    My reaction to this was TERROR to be honest. I curled up in a ball in bed and wished this thing away and gradually over about 10 minutes or so this phenomena went away.

    Now what would have happened if I had accepted what was offered I have no idea. But at the time I had the absolute conviction that I would have been removed, translated, whatever from this plane of existence.

    My sister-in-law had been staying with us helping during Gwens last days and hours. When I saw her in the morning I could tell from the way she looked at me that something had occurred with her as well. I asked her “Did something happen with you last night?” and all she said was “You too?”. And that is all we ever said and never spoke of it again.

  4. Excellent post!

    Over the last decade I've traveled extensively around Asia. Primarily Japan, Taiwan, Nepal and India. What you wrote today wouldn't really be alien to a lot of people in those societies, the exception being the Japanese who are educated in a secular rationalist system (though they still are generally very cautious with respect to kami shrines).

    As a westerner, I initially found it intriguing seeing Naga worship, kami shrines, offerings made to local earth gods in Taiwan… but then I subsequently felt a sort of organic attraction to it.

    Unfortunately, when Asian traditions get transferred to the west, people unconsciously sanitize everything of these elements, so you end up with a very different product suited to the modern materialist mindset. There's no gods in western versions of Buddhism, yoga, Daoism and so on. There's even knee-jerk reactions to be seen when you suggest even the Buddha had his unseen guardians who came to be venerated in their own right for the last 2500 years (and maybe we should carry on with this tradition). So, the process you're talking about is to be seen in this development as well.

    Thanks especially for this post by the way. Very insightful.

    Jeffrey Kotyk aka Indrajala

  5. I remember well how it felt as I gradually over the years comprehended that these other consciousnesses and intelligences in the Meatless world are indeed not human, not necessarily very much like us, some in fact extremely unlike us, and certainly not necessarily concerned with us and our well-being in any way that might make sense to us. It is a little (OK, a lot more than a little…) unnerving when you really understand this to the bottom of your gut. You can bellow “WHY???” to the entire universe as loudly as you care, to every plane of existence you feel like you can reach… and the Universe hears “Grbleduk” and responds to you with a chorus of “Hfgjk! Nnfbed! Krashtatartaklack!” And you finally accept that is all the answer you will ever get.

    It's an extremely important thing to understand, too. As an analogy in the Meat world, many people view the dogs that share their household as much like furry four-legged people with limited intelligence. But if you never look in to those big brown loving eyes, and really understand that what is gazing back at you is not human at all, you could be in trouble. Because it's not a person. It's a wolf. And sharing your home with a wolf is very different than sharing it with a human. Even a “domesticated” wolf. Confusing the two… that way lies trouble.

    The entities I described last month as “dead vikings,” well, that's just a convenient shorthand for my mind to use. Sure they seem kind of humanish, are connected to a defensive/protective vibe, and a rune may have been involved in their arrival, or at least my awareness of their presence. But, imagine, even if they actually are some of my dead ancestors come to help out one of their (many!!!) 34G-Great-Grandsons. Even if there really is an unbroken thread connecting these consciousnesses now in the 21st Century to living humans in the 9th Century… that is an awfully long time and a lot of intervening experience in the Meatless realm. They and I are VERY different beasts at present, with dramatically different conceptions of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Or, maybe, this is just the way that some utterly inhuman consciousness has decided to present itself to me, to help bridge the comprehension gap between us. Or an image I concocted, for the same reason. Who can really know?

    On another note, I hope we return to this thought more:

    “There are various ways to talk about the blowback from the last three centuries of frankly brainless tampering with nature’s cycles and processes, but one of the most useful is to compare that blowback to the way that conscious beings—for example, other human beings—tend to react when they’re treated like mere objects.”

    I have been concerned lately about something that I might call “angry fey,” or even “unhealthy fey” as a result of our depredations of the biosphere (and yes I know I am mixing my Scandinavian and British mythologies in one single blog comment). I am constantly negotiating with them as part of a sensible rural life, and I don't like the thought of a world in which they become unwilling or unable to play along.

  6. “I’ve occasionally considered suggesting that those atheists who deny the reality of consciousness might actually be meat robots who are telling the truth about themselves.”

    I've thought the same about the ones who confidently say that there is no afterlife, and humans simply disappear into the void. Well, maybe that is actually what happens to them.

  7. Reuliuilbride, agreed — I've been renewing my acquaintance with Clark Ashton Smith recently, and enjoying it a great deal. As for hard polytheism, well, if you're at all familiar with my book A World Full of Gods you know we're on the same page there.

    Cherokee, well, not all spiritual beings are like the ones Vance liked to inflict on his protagonists! Vance's stories, btw, were written about a decade after Clark Ashton Smith launched his Zothique tales, which were also set in the far future on the last inhabited continent of Earth — they're very different authors, but you might like Smith if you haven't read him.

    As for the philosophical question, oh, granted, it's idiotic — even if no human being's around to hear it, what about the birds, squirrels, insects, etc., all of whom have ears and nervous systems?

    Gardener, I suspect if you'd said yes, they'd have found you dead in bed the next morning. Odd experiences on the death of a loved one are among the most common paranormal events, though what you experienced isn't one of the more common types.

    Indrajala, exactly — I find the sort of Asian Religion Lite that gets practiced so often here in the US embarrassingly shallow, since it panders to our local phobla about gods and spirits. Bring 'em on, I say! 😉

  8. This one was a good one, but next week's sounds far more interesting.

    JMG you've done a lot of things for me over the years. A couple of them relevant to this post: you said with practice alone (and a bit of an open mind) a person could commune with deities. Second, you raised the possibility that rather than just one god or one set of gods existing (as so many religions claim for some reason which I'm sure you'll get into in the more advanced stages of this blog), all the known gods do exist and interact with humanity in various ways. So instead of living in some narrow theistic or atheistic world, we might be living in a lush polytheistic world where in a sense, gods are there to be interacted with or avoided. As far as other entities like dharani buddhas, angels, etc. this would imply the same. You built up so much credibility with me via your writing on mundane stuff that I became willing to first try out, and then believe your far out stuff.

    Nowadays I have a small Guanyin practice but avoid most deities 😉 .

  9. Bill, as long as the answer you get back isn't Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fthagn… 😉 As for angry nature spirits, that's something that's come up in some of my work over the last year or so, and yes, it'll have to be discussed as we proceed.

    YCS, possibly, though I tend to doubt as a rule that the universe is so charitable.

    Merle, thank you for being willing to follow this strange journey! As for deities, just remember that your attempts to avoid them don't necessarily induce them to avoid you. More on this as we proceed!

  10. JMG — if by “some of my work” you mean your own reecent personal experiences in these realms, I can only say, “Oy, veh.” It's not necessarily good to hear that maybe you really aren't just paranoid, maybe there really is something bigger going on…

    On that cheery note, off to bed…

  11. To an extent, I am grateful to atheism for giving me “permission” in my 20's to leave the “dead person” worship you refer to. I perceived the worship as antagonistic to the living of life.

    It was a liberation, if of a negative kind. But, for me, it has always been about learning to live WITH and IN life, not to conquer “death” (deathlessness & decaylessness is not life)…

    I don't fear the “teemingness” of life on any plane… I suspect any deities I will personally interact with are the sort that might hang out in the compost heap…

  12. Another fine blog entry. Any effort that reminds us that the pretty-much-best way to find joy in this world is through cultivating a humble heart is a worthwhile effort. Humility enables us to keep our eyes open, to duck when we have to, and to learn from our biological and/or spiritual betters, and even to gain by giving! Vaguely tangentially, I'm continually amazed to learn how much Vajrayana works with the attitude you're so lucidly expressing: Recently, I read that Vajrayana, as a set of practices for attaining realization, might even predate Buddhism, if we think of Buddhism as a formal institution. It's a world full of conscious intelligence, seen and unseen, and I'm pleased that Tantric Buddhism has somehow kept a way open into that world.

  13. On biophobia,animals and gods:
    -My 3 years old nephew has a bat doll for sleeping well every night, he can't sleep well without his bat…His father gift him as a private joke, and now dad and mom are a bit terrified by this friendship. the boy says now that every night some bats visit he and his hairy and winged friend. Very cute…
    -Islamic “ortodox” wahabbites think that Allah is sitting eternally in a throne, and ¿He¿She/IT? has two legs, one of them over the hell. This belief has been continously discarded as silly and non-based-in-Quran by nearly all religious scholars in islamic books…I wonder if ISIS boys worship Allah as a huge octous with bat wings…

  14. JMG, It's of interest to me your emphasis on “gawd” as a snarly word. I've heard and seen many chaos magicians, pagans and radical faeries use this iteration of the world to sneer at mainstream religions. The things is, these same people are often have a deep religious feeling that they share freely. When they use that term they are sneering at the worship of the Christ, and are crudely expressing a difference in their religious sensibility.

    It is, often, the same people who openly talk about the Astral Plane being filled with beings, who also claim atheism. Not true atheism, mind you, but atheism in the same way how, from the perspective of Roman polytheism Christianity was viewed as radical and militant atheism. My take is that they don't yet have words for their identity and so simply define themselves in the negative of the prevailing mythos.

    On a related note: amongst the people in my age group I've seen a remarkable shift away from atheism and towards a diverse array of incipient spiritualities. five years ago atheism was much more fashionable than it is now. I've had wonderful conversations with Pagans, Christians, Muslims and fellow Jews about our faiths and the ways in which we're different, and have left feeling deeply affirmed in our differences in inner feeling, while still really liking them. Of course our values are usually nearly identical whereas our ideas about the Divine diverge wildly.

    The most heartening example of this is when I said to a friend and gentle anarchist “I mean no offense, but what you are talking about is the second coming of Christiantity” and he said “yes exactly!” and went to his room to get me a copy of Tolstoy's the kingdom of good is within you. I haven't read it yet, having a full reading list, but has impressed by his willingness to acknowledge the mythological foundation for his political beliefs.

    More generally where I used to see a more prevailing attitude of “that must be WRONG WRONG WRONG” coming from my peer group, I now see a much more considered “well, I haven't experienced that personally but I can see you have and it's certainly valid for you if nothing else” I think I'm seeing a collective shift from a negative definition of belief towards a positive one: ie an anarchist Christian today was likely an angry atheist anarchist yesterday. It may, though, be too early in the game to really be able to tell.

  15. Dear John,

    Thanks for doing this new blog. It is really a wonderful contribution and (I think) helps to balance out the Archdruid Report in terms of giving attention to both the horizontal and vertical dimensions of being.

    Unlike one of the other commenters here, I found you first through seeing your books in the New Age section at a Borders years ago and being rather struck by the high quality of your thinking in some of those books. At a time when I was personally wrestling with whether or not we lived in a Lovecraftian nightmare world or, perhaps worse, a fundamentalist religious one, I found your works to be a finger pointing at a healthier range of options that I didn't know existed. I now own several of your writings, many of which have been collecting dust (mostly becuase I just wrapped up a five year long doctoral psychology program that didn't leave much room for extracurricular studies). I think the “Paths of Wisdom” book is probably the more serious of ones I own. However, I found out later that your “Circles of Power” was something of a first volume to be read prior to that one, no?

    Anyway, I bring this up to ask you: If you had to recommend just one of your books to really chew on and work with to develop some relationship with the unseen – to a person who really wants to get the ball rolling as quickly and straightforwardly as possible – which one might you recommend? I see that Circles of Power has been republished with Salamander & Sons and, as I've wanted it for quite some time, I'm considering getting it – but if you have something you would recommend first for a spiritually hungry person like myself, I'd love to know.

    Thank you!

  16. JMG wrote:
    “to try to push people around by mechanical manipulations, rather than finding ways to enlist their conscious cooperation”

    This struck me as it encapsulates a vague but deep feeling of unease as it relates to communication technology and applications such as text messaging. I feel like I have witnessed a curious mindset among people who are able practitioners of these devices, which is a very conscious attempt at punching in the right combination of keys and scripts to get a desired reaction from the recipient on the other end. It sort of reminds me of the dating scene, where insecure men seem preoccupied with finding the magical set of one liners and canned behaviors that will seduce women, but taken to a more generalized and technological extreme.

    I lack the wisdom or foresight to imagine the broader implications of this, though with your post, I can see it now. As we have behaved toward the natural world when it became objectified and mechanical, devoid of consciousness, so we will behave toward one another. I wonder if this mindset is one that advances in a fractal and recursive pattern, and the end point is inevitable once the logic is set in motion.

  17. I once read somewhere – something theosophical if I remember right – about atheists in the afterlife. They resolutely conclude that that the Earth plane was nothing more than a dream; doesn't really exist; and that nothing exists outside the immediate phenomenology of whatever locality they've come to inhabit.

    You can't keep a fool and his money together at gunpoint.

  18. the claim, perennially popular among a certain subset of atheists, that consciousness does not exist at all, and human beings are merely one variety of “meat robots” that like to delude themselves into thinking that they have minds, wills, and so on.

    I've encountered only a very few atheists who would aver that “consciousness does not exist at all” and rather more who might aver “consciousness is an illusion” — which, although superficially similar, is a very different sort of claim. Specifically, illusions do exist but they are in some sense “deceptive”. “Free will is an illusion” is certainly a common sentiment among atheists, but even Dennett has said something like “free will exists…but it's not what you think it is.”

    As I read Against Method, I've been playing with the notion that (some) materialists and naturalists are trying to do something that Feyerabend contents is essential to the occurrence of paradigm shifts in science. Feyerabend argues that those advocating for a new paradigm must necessarily engage in language games that sound like nonsense from the perspective of existing paradigms, and that these games need to achieve some unknown degree of complexity before they can become the basis of a new paradigm.

    I suspect that these materialists and naturalists have some intuitive sense of what they're trying to say but that they lack an established observation language in which their ideas can be stated precisely. That's certainly how I feel when I try to explain to myself how a materialist model of the mind might be possible.

    I realize you're not very sympathetic to such a project, but I do think pluralism among worldviews is itself a worthwhile goal and as you yourself note, there's no way to establish objectively that materialism is false. I'd prefer to look at it as a different perspective on the world and that there is some utility to be able to switch between such perspectives (just as there is some utility to be gained from being able to switch between mechanistic/reductionist views of the natural world and ecological/holistic views of the natural world). And I do think such perspectives can supplement the humanistic sorts of worldviews you advocate without displacing them.

    Anyway, just a plea for charity for those of us who are interested in exploring the possibilities of materialist and naturalist philosophies without engaging in the sort of intellectual imperialism that is distressingly common among those with a scientific worldview. I think there needs to be some room to make assertions that are “obviously” nonsense from existing worldviews if people are going to be able to explore new worldviews.

  19. Hi JMG,

    I want to thank you on your work with eschatology, because it has inspired me to work though the various and sometimes subtle ways that it infuses my own thinking, that of those closest to me, and of those I work with. The process of deconstructing the myth of progress has been long in the works for me, that of apocalypse has been more recent and is much more elusive/evasive…

    I am curious about inkling eschatology – particularly in the differences between that of Lewis and Barfield. As you note, Barfield's eschatology is a continuation of the myth of progress. I do know Lewis and Barfield debated quite a bit – especially regarding the latter's pursuit of Anthroposophy. I'm not as well read in Steiner's cosmology/eschatology as I should be but, what from what I have gathered, it seems it might not be too critical of the myth of progress as “man's evolution of consciousness”, though his philosophy is very critical of materialism…

    I'm currently reading Gareth Knight's 'The Magical World of the Inklings' in tandem with listening to/reviewing Lewis' Space Trilogy & Chronicles while I'm at work. Lewis, through the Chronicles has had a long and deep role in my psyche – I entered his magical lands and lived in them in both child and adulthood. In 'Out of the Silent Planet' Lewis gives a strong critique of the mythic narrative of man expanding to the stars while both he and Tolkien have apocalyptic narratives in their epics.

    On the other hand I know Barfield is not considered by some as a 'mainstream anthroposophist'… did he develop his eschatology out of his study of Steiner or in divergence from it? While Lewis critiqued the esoteric pursuits of the anthroposophists, he betrayed a fondness and yearning for such things (for example in the fallen/reincarnating stars at the end of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader who could have stepped right out of Rudolf's cosmology). Lewis might have found that anthroposophists' airy esoteric pursuits could be labrinthine or pedantic (as one might still find today), but in practice their biodynamic astrological/agricultural magic can be profound and grounded.

    If I'm not mistaken, the 'fields of arbol' in the Inklings' work did much to foster environmental visions and ethics culturally (just as biodynamics contributed to develop organics) – how do they fit into descent? Is there a ternary element to their progress/apocalypse binary?

  20. JMG

    “Gardener, I suspect if you'd said yes, they'd have found you dead in bed the next morning. Odd experiences on the death of a loved one are among the most common paranormal events, though what you experienced isn't one of the more common types.”

    I suspect you are right. Until recently I had not given that experience much thought. I was to busy putting a shattered life back together. Only since taking up this path have I reflected on that night.

    I am coming to believe I had a narrow escape. I think I was being conned by an entity who’s interest was harvesting a human essence or soul for it’s own purpose with Gwen's death providing the opening between the seen and unseen realms. Had there been a softer or a feminine touch, or even the slightest sense of Gwen in this experience I probably would have gone willingly.

  21. Excellent post. I really enjoyed the discussions of consciousness and atheist meat robots, as well as the problem of applying logic to subjects.

    I feel I should recommend Grant Morrison's graphic novel The Invisibles. He is a chaos magician, who seems a bit more ambivalent on the nature of the entities he has encountered. But I also think The Invisibles would make a good parallel to Lovecraft. He has entities in the comic that have some similarities with The Old Ones. But they are clearly more influenced by the time we live in, as well as the Archons of gnostic mythology. Instead of being biological, they are extra-dimensional beings. It also places some of the more colorful conspiracy theories in a comic where they really belong. It might be worth checking out if you can find it in a library. I would definitely describe the style as romantic (to the extent one can call a comic romantic). In fact I believe he has Shelley in there somewhere as a character.

    He is now one of the top comic writers, but he wrote this after encountering what he describes as aliens/extra-dimensional beings (another stand in for these entities amongst atheists etc.) after climbing to the top of the Swayambhunath stupa. He claims to have gotten sick after making a character based on him sick with a similar ailment. He then wrote his character into health and decided to give his character good experiences from then on.

    Anyway, your critique of chaos magic gets to some of my problems with it.

    Finally, some people would even like to see Cthulu run for office.

    http://www.redbubble.com/people/emilypwnsyou/works/7896552-cthulhu-for-president?p=sticker

  22. I'd be really interested to hear your take on Isaac Bonewits' work in the light of this post, and the uncomfortable conjunctions of materialist science with the occult. I have a copy of his Real Magic that I picked up back when I was in college, and at the time I remember thinking it was “refreshing” in its insistence on testable results and scientific connections…. but re-reading it again lately was a much less pleasurable experience. It felt like an attempt to treat magical concepts as straightforwardly knowable (and thus capable of being suborned to the mastery of Man's Intellect(TM)).

    Also I have a chaos magician on my regular blog reading list who is there mostly because he so enthusiastically believes in EVERYTHING except official versions of events (ALL the conspiracy theories, aliens, visitations from saints, secret lost civilizations, hauntings, the works) — it becomes an interesting mental exercise, seeing where my worldview stretches to meet his and where I can't follow.

  23. I have the same problems with Chaos Magic.

    Additionally some of the methods used (especially for activating sigils) seem to disrespect the subconscious more than I believe is necessary.

    I've never found it necessary to use distraction or trick the subconscious into accepting a sigil or working.

    Some of the methods are hilariously childish. Holding one's breath until the universe gives you what you want may work when you're looking for minimal and expedient results but what does that do to your relationship with the wholeness?

    Consciousness is a fundamental force along with gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak forces.

    The effect that observation has on the behavior of light is enough evidence to convince me.

    Thanks for busting your pooper to get two great posts out in a day.

  24. JMG said:
    most Druids cheerfully accept the existence of disembodied intelligences of various kinds

    You say “most” – so are there actually any druids who don't?
    (genuine question)

  25. I've had a hard time accepting the possibility of something like a holy guardian angel or other spiritual guide, although the tales of shamans and others who go into other realms frequently refer to them. I'm currently reading Jung's Red Book, and even his psychological characters seem remote from any experience of mine.

    My own experience reflects more an idea that I live in consciousness and learn from it as I work my way through it. Even when I was four days on the edge of death, my awareness was of my place here, and that it was not time to go, although I was comfortable with going, just not the time. Many times I've questioned myself and realized there is no where I'd rather be than right here, right now, experiencing where I am. For me, the idea that life is a progression through states of greater unbalance to states of greater balance, Karma, and each life is a strategic self-positioning to further that effort, has appeal.

    When I was young, I thought about the hawk and the hummingbird, both great warriors. The hummingbird could not kill the hawk, and as witnessed quite recently in my front yard, proof that the hawk could not kill the hummingbird. So, two great warriors, each bringing a world of flora and fauna necessary to support it, collaborating in one living sphere.

    Taking that idea a step further, the world is made up of families, each comprising an integrated ecology, all interwoven here on earth. My thought progresses to a realization that we never operate outside of the family/world ecology that we are part of. In other words, whomever I may kill, whomever I may befriend, whomever I share my meaningful experiences with, is part of my family or the greater me.

    Learning something about the sympathies within realms, animal, vegetable, mineral, adds another layer or different type of family association, integrating a vast web of complexity.

    Recently, I went from understanding that nature seeks balance to a realization that it is never out of balance. When Robin Williams took his life, it came to me that one who is so spontaneously comedic is at the same time correspondingly depressed.

    As humans, we can only expand our consciousness within the limits that our minds are ultimately capable. Your post today helped me integrate the concept of hierarchies of families extending from consciousnesses/beings existing far beyond the limitations of the human realm into our realm and through us. Although I've been, I guess, prejudiced against the idea of spirit guides, it seems to make sense in my greater conception of something greater. Thanks for that!

  26. Two thoughts:

    1: In cultures with rich spiritual traditions tied to regular experience of spiritual realities, relationship between people and spirits often take on a mortal gravity. Some spirits are helpful but others are dangerous and those dangers can sometimes affect people in tangible ways. Outside the well-lit grooved paths filled with old familiar allies there are deep places where ancient and dangerous things lurk. But for someone who doesn’t inhabit that realm at all, this just doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems as though magical practice attracts attention from the other side whether it’s welcome or not. Does a noophobic person shielding themselves from the spirit realm by ignoring it succeed in shielding them from potential dangers? Or does it simply act as a blinder?

    2: I’ve been noticing a certain hesitance in today’s occult scene to question and explore the nature of the spirit realm (how the spirits that inhabit that plane come to be, how spirits can be arranged and classified, what the laws seem to govern the astral realms, what is the relationship between similar deities across cultures, how are gods born, etcetera). One thing magic does is build common, shared worlds, but the worlds we share now are very different from the worlds that forged the paths and alliances mapped by mythology (though myth does open the door to those worn lit paths mentioned in question one). They’re also more collective than allowed in concepts like “UPG” that treat all spiritual experience as purely individual and often uses that to disregard it as useful on any but the personal level. It’s hard to find people who approach the spirit realm the same way as would a renaissance or early modern occultists, synthesizing established lore with contemporary experience into taxonomies, demonologies, bestiaries, and cosmologies all filled with elementals, faeries, daemons, devils, angels, and assorted other spirits and realms. Is that another sign of the dragonization of today’s occult philosophies? What can be done to breathe that exploratory spirit back into the tradition?

  27. I'm currently trying to describe my religion to the Obamacare exemption form, and I'm having a great deal of trouble doing so without incriminating myself. I thought that might amuse you.

  28. A few days back, a friend of mine in her mid 30s called me. When she called, she sounded as if she was trying to talk through a mouthful of marbles. She told me that she'd woken up that morning with a numb leg. I've mentioned before I trust my intuition … well, my intuition was screaming “stroke.” I told her she needed to get off the phone and call 911 and tell them she might be having a stroke. Of course she didn't want to believe me. As a result my usual self intervened, so I softened it up by telling her to at least call her doctor. She said she'd call her doctor and we hung up. About an hour later, I felt I'd better check on her. She sounded a little better and said she'd called her doctor, who thought she was having an allergic reaction to a drug she was taking. We talked again later that afternoon and she was talking still better. I didn't hear from her again till 4:30 am the next morning, when she called from the emergency room. Turned out what I'd said about stroke and how I'd said it affected her enough that she called 911 around 6pm. It took awhile and a number of tests to confirm it, but yes, she'd had a stroke (she said none of the doctors could understand how I'd managed to guess that and why she listened to me). She's back home, with no aftereffects except for a number of new medications to take and the knowledge she has to change her life to avoid having a repeat experience.

    Intuition already violates the strict-materialist paradigm. I don't have any medical training but this isn't the first time I've had intuitions about diagnoses that proved out. But intuition only needs human beings; it's perhaps one of those things that allows us to catch something about someone else's consciousness under not-ordinary conditions, to borrow your phrase. The more-complex conscious beings you are discussing seem to me a whole 'nother thing. I used to call myself agnostic because I never felt it was right to dismiss other peoples' experiences of such beings even though I had had no experiences of anything that required me to accept their existence. Now that I'm starting to get a feeling about those beings “seeing” me and the consequences, it's unnerving. But it does make for a much more colorful universe when it includes other beings who relate to me something like the way I relate to my parakeet, or those dust mites you mentioned. It clearly requires me to understand and follow appropriate etiquette for relating to such beings, part of which includes not trashing their homes and bodies. One can hardly blame them for being angry with us.

  29. As my magical training slowly progresses, I'm aware that some will be unaccepting of it. A good friend who I work with on occasion went off on a minor rant about this guy he knows who's very astrologically oriented. I pointed out that most cultures have religion and systems of magic, so that at the very least, they would seem to have evolutionary advantage. My friend became agitated and grumpy and threatened to bury me standing under a barrel of stones. It was in jest, I'm sure, but it struck me how like ritual magic his threat was, even while saying he had only contempt for the concept.

    Well, what do you expect from a Red Sox fan?

    Anyway, this post is a step in the direction of answering my question: How do I find a balanced pantheon that works for me? I do wish this blog was published more than once a month.

  30. Hi John,
    this month's post's substance would imply that even if you ignore “meatless” entities, they will not necessarily ignore you, right ?
    If that is so, then it would mean that “meatless” beings have been interacting constantly with humankind for a looong time… And signs of it would have come to sight in Historical records. Does that suggest you have been veering towards some sort of a revisionnist view of History ? Somebody would have ended up noticing after all.

    As for the future, it also means that “meatless” beings are affecting our present and future History ? What do you make of that, and how would it relate to your broader vision of History (the Long Descent, Ecotechnic, etc…) ?

    Last question, how comes the meatless realm would be separate from the meatsome realm, with no gradiation ? And would the Meatless world be structured like the Meatful world, with a gradiation in consciousness/information integration (objetcs, animals, plants, some conscious animals…) ?

    My questions are placed in the realm of pure speculation, which for me this blog is entirely. But this is my world view, and I do not claim it to be superior to others'.

  31. Bill, for what it's worth, my experience is that there's still plenty of room for negotiation, and for the other traditional ways to maintain a healthy relationship with the beings in question. It's those members of our species who refuse that, and insist on treating nature in the standard industrial mode, who are potentially in very deep trouble indeed.

    Scotlyn, next time you take something out to the compost heap, formally offer it to the earth spirits. See what kind of response you get. If your experience is like mine, you'll find it worth doing.

    Disposium, the techniques of vajrayana almost certainly predate the historical Buddha, and are shared with a great many similar traditions from other sources. If that's the tradition that works for you, of course, by all means!

    Spanish Fly, that's charming! Your nephew has excellent taste — bats are amazing, elegant creatures. As for what IS worships, well, one of the drawbacks of monotheism is that people think that whatever they worship must be the same deity; I've encountered some Christians who I'm quite convinced worship a demonic being they call “Jesus,” and others who apply the same name to a much more beneficent power.

    Violet, that's fascinating to hear! If history follows the usual cycle, the next great wave of mainstream American religion will be socially liberal rather than conservative, so your friends may be on the leading edge of the shift.

    Halo, it depends on whether you work well with Judeo-Christian symbolism or not. If so, the book of mine I'd recommend is “Learning Ritual Magic” — it's a solid practical introduction. If not, and you're comfortable with Celtic traditions, “The Celtic Golden Dawn” would probably be best.

    Justin, I've noticed that as well. I'm not sure whether it unfolds automatically, or if it's just that we happen to have passed through a historical period in which machine-thinking could go about as far as possible due to the temporary consequences of fossil-fueled industrialism.

    Angelus, I could see that!

    Raven, yes, and a very minor one.

    Dan, you're certainly free to explore any worldview you like! Still, I'm not sure in what way materialism can be thought of as a new paradigm, as it's been the bog-standard mainstream view in the Western world for some centuries now. People have been trying to formulate a purely materialist account of mind for most of that time, and I have to wonder whether the fact that those accounts still consistently sound like nonsense might not result from the effect Feyerabend discusses, but rather reflects fatal problems with the presuppositions that frame any such account.

    Harvester, those questions cover a great deal of ground! I haven't explored Steiner's apocalyptic thought in any detail — the writings of his that interest me most are The Philosophy of Freedom and his works on Goethean science — so can't really address that. Barfield, to me, reads like third-rate Teilhard de Chardin, with the same casual manhandling of scientific concepts but less impressive prose. As for Lewis, he's a much more interesting cat to my mind — the guy was in some ways the last of the red-hot medieval Christian Platonists, and a huge number of the concepts in his adult and children's fiction are lifted straight from medieval and Renaissance sources, with good effect; insofar as he sounds like an anthroposophist on occasion, it's as much because he and Steiner were getting things from the same sources as anything else. But a thorough exploration of these points would take a post, if not an entire book!

  32. The principal difference I seem to discern between Chaos magic as you describe it and a traditional system like that of the Golden Dawn is that in order to practice the latter with any credibility, the element of discipline is required. You've got to do that Middle Pillar Exercise every day, at a minimum. I personally find HOGD rituals to be very complicated and difficult to remember; I fluff them quite a lot. But when you've mastered one, you feel like you've done something. Also it seems that, once acquired, that system is pretty flexible, allowing one to design rituals as needed.

    I also find much more congenial the conception of a universe that is filled with consciousness of various kinds, and that taken as a whole is one great living being – much more, that is, than a universe in which everything is presumed dead and devoid of awareness until proven otherwise by scientific validation. The latter strikes me as a kind of Cartesian hell.

    I'd still be interested to learn the relationship between the divine light (as in “Let the Divine Light descend!”) and the astral light, if you feel disposed to touch upon the topic.

  33. Gardener, these things happen. I'm glad you got through it in one piece.

    Greg, thanks for the recommendation — I don't do graphic novels often, but will consider this one. As for the Cthulhu for President campaign, I like the slogan: “Why Settle for the Lesser Evil?”

    Laylah, I'll have to reread Real Magic. I haven't looked at it in decades, having been less than impressed with it when I originally read it.

    Saturnboy, thank you!

    Shawn, you know, I'd never thought of that bit of Austin Osman Spare technique in quite the same two-year-old tantrum terms, but of course you're quite right!

    Stunned, there are indeed. You can probably find a Druid somewhere who believes anything you can imagine, and some things you can't. We don't do orthodoxy!

    Carlo, you're welcome! The concept of family connections reaching out beyond the human is common to a lot of traditions, and if it helps you get past the unhelpful ways that spiritual entities have been defined by some people, all the better.

    Eric, my take is that ignorance is not a source of safety. Watch the way that self-destructive patterns of thought and emotion move through society — and then watch it again with a mage's eyes. You're seeing the activity of malign powers who are free to act unhindered because nobody notices their presence. As for taxonomies, I think it's mostly that nobody's taken the plunge and done the thing. Have you considered it?

    Angelus, it does indeed.

    SLClaire, I'm glad to hear your friend is fine. Yes, intuition's powerful stuff. It's a pity that the medical-pharmaceutical monopoly prevents medical intuitives from practicing, even under the supervision of a nurse practitioner or MD; you might otherwise be able to help a lot of people.

    Dan, as your magical training progresses, you can expect reactions far more hysterical than that one! As for the blog, well, we'll see; time's in too short supply right now for more than one post here a month.

  34. One thing that has always filled me with a deep sense of awe and wonder is how vast and diverse the universe is compared to the tiny corner in which we live. The latest astronomical research claims that the observable universe is approximately 93 billion light years in diameter. The researchers who arrived at this result, based on the latest observations, measurements and calculations, also claim that the observable universe is probably only the tiniest fraction of all that is out there. One cosmologist puts it like this: the difference in the size of the observable universe compared to the total universe is comparable to the difference in size between the size of an atom and the size of the observable universe. I find this totally mindblowing. The universe is far vaster than the scientists of Lovecraft’s day could have possibly imagined.

    At the same time, evidence suggests that our universe is probably only one of many, perhaps one of an infinite number of universes and that those universes go through an infinite cycle of creation, evolution, destruction and creation. It also likely that there are many dimensions beyond those we can perceive, according modern cosmological theories and we now know that planets are very common within our universe. One astronomer recently calculated that there is probably at least one planet with intelligent life within 20 or 30 light years of our solar system, just based on what we know so far and calculating the probabilities.

    I also have no doubt whatsoever that non-corporeal beings exist, some of which are far more powerful and intelligent than we can possibly imagine and that there are other planes or realms of existence beyond the physical universe. This realization, based partly on personal experience, and the cosmological discoveries mentioned above fill me not with fear and terror but with a deep sense of awe and reverence and a desire to know more. It’s the notion that we humans are somehow the only intelligent life in the universe and that we are somehow the pinnacle of life in the universe that I find depressing and unbelievable.

  35. Jean-Vivien, good! Of course spirits have been interacting with human beings since there were human beings to interact with; you'll find the records, in great detail, in the religious and magical literature of our species. Those interactions are continuing, and will continue. As for gradation, of course there are intermediary states and conditions; we'll be getting to that in a future post or two.

    Val, exactly; the point of classical magical training, difficult as it is, is that once you've done the work and gotten to the point that you can do the rituals cleanly and powerfully from memory, with good results, you can whip up a ceremony for any imaginable purpose and make things happen, no matter what. As for the different levels of being and forms of light, we'll get to that, but it's going to take some more posts to set out the presuppositions involved.

  36. Every time you mention biophobia, I get the sense of knowing exactly what you mean. But when I sit down to think about it, I can't recall any specific instances where I've encountered it.

    I'm certain I've come across it, though, and I've never found an explanation for this preference for sterility and barrenness.

    I've had no personal experiences with gods or other entities, but what I can speak to is this – when I go back to my childhood home in the mountains of Colorado, the landscape feels alive and vital and significant. I come away from those trips feeling replenished.

    But here in Phoenix, the landscape feels dead, and I find myself getting pulled into unreality, or a sort of disconnected existence.

  37. D.H Lawrence – ” Apocalypse “
    “An escape from the tight little cage of our universe: tight, in spite of all the astronomist’s vast and unthinkable stretches of space: tight, because it is only a continuous extension, a dreary on and on, without any meaning: an escape from this into the vital cosmos, to a sun who has a great wild life, and who looks back at us for strength or withering, marvellous, as he goes his way. Who says the sun cannot speak to me! The sun has a great blazing consciousness, and I have a little blazing consciousness. When I can strip myself of the trash of personal feelings and ideas, and get down to my naked sun-self, then the sun and I can commune by the hour, the blazing interchange, and he gives me life, sun-life, and I send him a little new brightness from the world of the bright blood. The great sun, like an angry dragon, hater of the nervous and personal consciousness in us. All these modern sunbathers must realize, for they become disintegrated by the very sun that bronzes them. But the sun, like a lion, loves the bright red blood of life, and can give it an infinite enrichment if we know how to receive it. But we don’t. We have lost the sun.And he only falls on us and destroys us, decomposing something in us: the dragon of destruction instead of the life-bringer.
    And we have lost the moon, the cool, bright, ever-varying moon. It is she who would caress our nerves, smooth them with the silky hand of her glowing, soothe them into serentiy again with her cool presence. For the moon is the mistress and mother of our watery bodies, the pale body of our nervous consciousness and our moist flesh. Oh, the moon could soothe us and heal us like a cool great Artemis between her arms. But we have lost her, in our stupidity we ignore her, and angry she stares down on us and whips us with nervous whips. Oh, beware of the angry Artemis of the night heavens, beware of the spite of Cybele, beware of the vindictiveness of horned Astarte. […]
    Now this may sound nonsense, but that is merely because we are fools. There is an eternal vital correspondence between our blood and the sun: there is an eternal vital correspondence between our nerves and the moon. If we get out of contact and harmony with the sun and the moon, then both turn into great dragons of destruction against us. The sun is a great source of blood-vitality, it streams strength to us. But once we resist the sun, and say: It is a mere ball of gas! – then the very streaming vitality of sunshine turns into subtle disintegrative force in us, and undoes us. The same with the moon, the planets, the great stars. They are either our makers or our unmakers. There is no escape.
    We and the cosmos are one. The cosmos is a vast living body, of which we are still parts. The sun is a great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great gleaming nerve-centre from which we quiver forever. Who knows the power that Saturn has over us, or Venus? But it is a vital power, rippling exquisitely through us all the time. […]
    Now all this is literally true, as men knew in the great past, and as they will know again.

  38. For ornate, classical writing, it doesn't get better than Henry Fielding's Tom Jones.

    But your example wasn't much like it…so maybe I misunderstand.

  39. Kaitain, to my mind, that marks you as a participant in the new religious sensibility, rather than the old one. A high comfort level with humanity's insignificance is one of the common signs thereof…

    Cliff, it's so pervasive it's hard to separate from the background — like water to fish. Think about the way people react to dirt, or “germs,” or for that matter bats, snakes, and octopi; think about the way people respond to death — death isn't the opposite of life, it's the natural completion of life. Pay attention to what people want around them and what they fear and hate, and watch their fantasies about the future and the afterlife. Once you learn to see the biophobia, it's impossible to miss, but it's so deeply entrenched in our culture that most people have to learn to see it at all.

    Kutamun, okay, clearly I need to read the rest of that Lawrence book. Fascinating stuff.

    Onething, that's because Fielding is ornate classical writing and Lovecraft was ornate romantic writing. There's a difference, as I tried to point out!

  40. Hi JMG,
    The most common uncanny experience that I have had in my life is deja vu. How does that phenomena fit into the worldview of astral light etc. assuming that it is not just a psychological trick of the brain as described by skeptics?

  41. JMG,
    I've enjoyed this series of posts so far, but I'm troubled by something.
    I grew up in the dualistic Christian faith that you've written about before, and one of the things I jettisoned over time (but did not totally abandon) were beliefs in spiritual beings that can influence human behavior.

    I have a relative who believes that certain sexual behaviors,for example, are caused by “demonic spirits.” I disagree with her and find the attitude presumptuous, but I'm not sure how I can acknowledge the reality of spiritual entities without allowing for the possibility that some of those entities can lead people to engage in actions that some people find morally repugnant. I think many people, including liberal or progressive Christians, have abandoned beliefs in these entities because they got tired of hearing people say “The devil made me do it” to excuse their actions or seeing people cite “powers and principalities” to bolster their bigotry. The same goes for issues such as mental illness or physical disabilities. They instead look for biological/neurological causes versus spiritual.

    I'm not trying to open a hornet's nest hear, but I'd appreciate your thoughts.

  42. JMG–

    I smiled when I saw the title of this month's post. “At the Mountains of Madness” was always my favorite (followed closely by “A Shadow over Innsmouth”). When I was in college, I had a “Campus Crusade for Cthulhu” pin on my backpack…received some strange looks. (It was a campus in the Deep South and so I stood out even more than usual.)

    As to your broader point of the earth (Gaia) or even the universe as a conscious entity, I have previously often wondered (from a materialistic standpoint, admittedly): if my consciousness is made up of the interconnections and interactions of the many neurons in my brain, is a given neuron “aware” in any way that it is a part of this larger being? How do I know that I am not the equivalent of a neuron in yet a larger (ecological) system that we might call Gaia?

  43. Hmmm. I've now broken one of my new year's rezzies: “DON'T comment on JMG's other blog because I'll probably regret it”. So now I might as well go on.

    JMG replied to me:
    there are indeed [druids who don't accept the existence of disembodied intelligences of various kinds]

    … does that mean I could be an agnostic druid? (it's pretty non-binary after all 🙂

    Given that I might describe myself as a sort of paleo-sceptic (like the late Martin Gardner), I'm surprised by how far I go along with you in many matters.

    Comparative religion has long interested me because while religious/spiritual experiences are a large and widespread natural fact about human life, my own personal experience is not compelling. So muted, in fact, as to be quite consistent with the more subtle and intelligent of the psychological explanations which don't get any air-time on the internet shouting-match.

    In other words, my experiences seem like my own imagination. But, I hear people say, how do imaginings come about, or where do they come from, eh? Well, yes, I do take the point. I find the matter wholly undecideable. But I am comfortable with this radical uncertainty as it makes little (if any) practical difference.

  44. JMG,

    I just finished David Lewis-Williams book The Mind in the Cave, which adopts a shamanistic interpretation of the famous cave paintings of southern France and northern Spain. He is a solid materialist, but has some interesting observations. The Neanderthals probably were as “intelligent” as the Cro Magnons, but what seemed to distinguish our ancestors from them was the ability to remember our dreams, and from this came the origins of our sense of spirituality. Even dogs can dream, but simply do not remember their dreams so they cannot be inspired by them or act on them. H e argues that the Neanderthals did not remember their dreams either, hence had no need for adornment or art of any kind. They were, however, able to copy much of the Cro Magnon technology, i.e., were capable of planning to some degree, just that they did not have an appreciation for style, art, and may have even had an imperfect understanding of function.

    Anyway, I found the association between the ability to remember our dreams and spirituality interesting, although I have not worked my way through the implications of all this. Certainly it suggests that our ability to remain connected by memory to the subtler influences matters enormously in our spiritual development.

  45. John,

    I've always had a soft spot for Lovecraft as well. Reading his work when I was a teenager was like discovering a long lost world, one that I found fascinating. Despite his baroque manner of writing (which I'm actually quite fond of), his stories have a way of getting into you're head, and sticking to things. Cthulhu aside, I think “Herbert West, Reanimator” would be a perfect description of the quest for a “meat robot”.

    I myself was an atheist when I was a young man, though not of the angry variety, owing to the fact that I wasn't raised in any religious fashion, and had nothing to rebel against. Oddly, it wasn't religion that snapped me out of it; instead, it was one of the world's great skeptics, Martin Gardner. I recall reading one of his essays, where he claimed not to be an atheist, because (and I'm paraphrasing) there were things in the universe that we could no more understand than a cat could understand calculus. Sort of took the wind out of all the so-called philosophical defenses for atheism for me.

    I often wonder what Lovecraft would have made of how his work is perceived now, never being that popular in his own time. All the merchandise aside, the evocation of some of his mythos into various forms of chaos and ceremonial magic would, I think, be something that he would thoroughly detest. But, like all great works, these things tend to take on a life of their own.

  46. I actually think your own “Monsters” makes a good foray in the “old fashioned bestiary” direction and covers some of that taboo ground. My own thought is something more akin to a field guide, and I’ve definitely considered it. The field work for that, though, would at least partly involve some skills and practices I’m not quite to yet. I did try to do some really deep journeying once, and crossed a line into territory that was more terrifyingly “real” feeling than I was used to or comfortable with at the time. I found myself lost and alone in one of those lovecraftian voids surrounded by unwelcoming presences unable to do anything to protect myself. I eventually found my way out and the experience ended with one of the most profound and moving encounters with deity I’ve had, but it opened my eyes to how flippant I was towards everything at the time. It was a powerful motivator to buckle down, but also left me more cautious. I was struck by the way friends in the community I talked to either got uncomfortable, or tried to deconstruct the experience as though it were a dream. It was much harder for people to discuss the experience as an event on its own terms. When I read older magical works, or studies of indigenous magical traditions in action, there’s a sense of urgency about it… even beneficial spirits can be treacherous, journeys out of body carry a possibility of not making it back returning with an unwelcome guests both of which have serious psychological consequences. I can see how the tendency to treat spiritual experience as wholly internal can be an effective defense against the lack of discernment in some flightier ends of pop paganism or from people undeservedly claiming spiritual authority, but it seems like developing organized methods of discernment is a more effective approach. Especially since it does leave people unprepared for that moment when something happens that has more substance, presence, and consequence than the images that float across the mind when reading a novel.

  47. I am just imagining one thing that would be very funny (at least if you are into these things) : let's imagine that the progress of neuroscience goes far enough before the whole shebangs goes down the dumoster with the rest of daily life as we know it… far enough to *almost* get to the point of being able to understand how consciousness works. And then… they find out that what makes humans (and other primates) so special is actually the ability to act as a “transceiver/receiver” for other… beings' activity. Instead of working like a very complex machine ! And then the whole thing goes out of hands, and Science takes really new weird directions…
    This is daydreaming, and yet… the idea of memes goes towards the sense of the humain consciousness working as an ecologgy or at least as interaction of many distinct phenomena/systems. Maybe bacteria, or viruses, like schizophreny could possibly work.
    In this regard, I have always found the AI field very unimaginative : trying to reproduce human intelligence one bit at a time, instead of exploiting the nature of computers to create completely new forms of conscious entities by using the power of computers to deal with symbols. The latest developments in AI are to be found in artificial vision : a set of new techniques called deep learning is hailed for emulating the neocortex's visual functions in the human brain.
    It is probably no accident that the acronym AI means Artificial intelligence, instead of Alternative intelligence.

  48. @ All: First.. let's raise a glass to the first time JMG scored his first “D-Day” (double day). Cheers!

    @ JMG: Just wanted to say it.. I guess, after a glass, I may. ^^ Thank you for posting your thoughts. We may not always agree, or at least not on all topics, but your brilliance earned you my respect. I hopy I don't come across as slimy (and what would I have to gain?!), it's just honest. Every Thursday (Berlin time zone) on the way home, I feel pleasant anticipation, as well as on every 22nd of a moth. Your blog is the only one I read. I have read all of your posts in the other blog – it was not work for me. I was rather a bit sad when I had read back all of it since that meant that from then on, I would have to wait a week before I could read another article.

    Hmm.. ok I guess I have a medal for you: It was by you that I got to Spengler. A US American who makes a German read Spengler, now that's brilliance! (:

    @ Cherokee: The price you have to pay isn't that much, just sanity. That seems only much until you've grasped that common sense is not much more than another kind of madness. Or maybe that insight is the receipt. (;

    @ JMG/Gardener: Probably, death would have been the consequence, but that's not the important point since that's only the perspective from this world. I guess I would have asked whether the offer is me moving to her or the other way round. And accepted anyway, unless I would have some very important task left to fulfil.

    @ JMG: I don't quote share your critisicm on chaos magic, though you made your point in your usual brilliant way. IMHO, it is just pragmatic to assume that the universe is void – it is easier to fill it up that way. Just like starting to draw a picture is easier if your canvas is blank initially. That just doesn't apply to you because you are not in the situation of starting to draw, you as a master of Druidry have a full-blown image and are constantly refining it.

    In that lies quite a different criticism of perpetual chaos magic: if you blank your screen over and over, you can draw many different images, yes.. but you'll never finish one. If I may make a criticism here, the reason is that those chaos magicians want to be able to start over and over, always have a blank page. A blank page in their book of life. It gives them the illusion of being always young. It moves death away.

  49. Well, I have been working with a certain entity for about 15 years now. For the moment being, I won't tell which one; maybe later. But although I work with runes, it is none of the Northern ways. I think, in a way, we have made friends. Though its “friendship” doesn't always feel comfy, quite the opposite. But I trust it. It has given me much over the years. Not in mundane terms, but that's not what I ask for. Instead, it has shown me a little bit of its universe.

    The funny thing is that I've started from the atheist corner, coming to C.G. Jung and his archetypes, and by now, I don't care any longer whether this entity is a part of my Higher Self, of the collective unconscious or of whatever. I treat it as an entity because it feels that way. But it took me long years to be able to do this. I can talk with it, though it insists that it doesn't talk, it communicates ideas, and it is me who renders them into words, and that's not a fault free process. Plus that from time to time, my thoughts are too limited to understand.

    One night, I had a dream I still remember, where I met it. No vision of it since I'm the auditive type, we communicate via thoughts, feelings, images, associations, melodies, and sometimes words.

    It tried to explain something to me, but I didn't understand. It occured to me that the problem was the distance between us, and that communicating just emphasised that distance because it takes two to talk. So I allowed something to it that I never before or after allowed to anything else: I told it to push away my personality, to become me, and then to think again what it was trying to explain. Such a possession is dangerous, and I know how defend myself even in dreams (the Algiz thing..), but I had known it for 10 years by then, and it could have harmed me long since.

    It was fantastic. I saw a vision of blue, like some proto-stellar mass. I knew it was depicting my consciousness. In the center, it became ever denser and hotter, until the fusion set in. A star was born! The white light expanded more and more until it filled out my whole vision, and then I became that light. From there on, I don't keep much because what happened then had so little to do with my ego that my ego can't remember. But I was glad I had allowed it to take me over, I never would have understood what it tried to give me.

  50. @Mojoglo: See, those are really good points too. There is definitely a mental aspect to some phenomena, I grew up in a church environment filled with “thus sayeth the lords” and showy demonic exorcisms and it was hard to take anyone seriously. We get lots of that in the occult community too, I’ve had to grit my teeth through more than my share of New Age Malarkey. At the same time, there are times when something that’s going on with someone really does seem to reach beyond the purely physical or neurological. Many people I know in occult circles right now tend to tread extremely lightly with spiritual experience to the point that they treat almost everything as though it is either a dream or a manifestation of an individual’s subconscious. That works most of the time but one thing the entire rich history of human spirituality suggests is that the spirit world, as beautiful and fascinating as it may be is a big, wild, dangerous place, and even the most secular-minded humans straddle the veil. I definitely see the dangers of taking a purely spiritist approach to human inner workings, but a wholly psychological approach seems like it leaves people scrambling when blindsided by something that falls firmly outside of that realm of understanding. There are a few good systems of discernment in occultism I’m familiar with. Dion Fortune talks about “confounding the planes” (treating spiritual phenomena as though they were physical phenomena). But the closest thing to a system of discernment I know about for distinguishing between spiritual phenomena that have a mental origin from those that have an Otherworldly origin is the concept of “UPG” or unverified personal gnosis, in which something is seen as purely mental until it is verified independently by multiple people in a group. That doesn’t provide a method for learning individual discernment though, and it usually results in almost everything that happens being treated as imaginary even if it is having a tangible effect on someone. Right now, most people who figure out how to make that distinction get there by experience, lots of embarrassment, and a few bad burns.

  51. Born, raised and living in the Caribbean, with ancestors from Bavaria, North England, Scotland, Ireland and a touch of Philidelphia Jewish blood (my great, great, grandmother) in my veins, my spiritual searching has been convoluted. Except for my paternal grandfather who was interested in Theosophy those of his generation that I met were of various Protestant faiths, my parents are agnostic. So, I have,since coming of age, described my evolving worldview as: feminist, macrobiotic, Tantric, Rastafarian, Orisha and presently bioregional animist. My quandry remains, is it appropriate to be adopting the rituals and invoking the powers identified by cultures that arose in far off bioregions in their languages?
    (” How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?”) Or do I continue my researches into the practices and world views of the first peoples of my home in the Orinoco Watershed?

  52. Scotlyn said “To an extent, I am grateful to atheism for giving me “permission” in my 20's to leave the “dead person” worship you refer to”

    I'm pretty sure that atheism can serve as a clearinghouse and waystation point for people who need to recover from overbearing forms of religion, change direction and/or take on an upgraded spiritual understanding.
    It is often not short, as in your case, but can be a stopover lasting a lifetime, and the religious expression from which they run may have been in a previous life.

    +++++++++++++++

    Jean-Vivien said, “If that is so, then it would mean that “meatless” beings have been interacting constantly with humankind for a looong time…”

    Weeeell…something I've been thinking about for a while is that Christianity, to my mind, has the seeds or teachings of a very uplifting view of things, and yet increasingly over the centuries has fallen into unbelievably negative theologies. There has been an increasing emphasis on hell, and increasing degradation of the human being.
    And, I think there has been a sort of progression of this negativity simply because it would be difficult to pull it all off in one fell swoop. I imagine various thinkers, preachers and theologians minds being fed thoughts by the mischievous entities, and these get written down and talked about, and then augmented bit by bit.
    I have little doubt that our minds are contacted in subtle ways by other beings. It is almost seamless, but many inspirational ideas I do believe are given to us. At least, it is so for me; my main path is that of contemplation, so that is probably a way that I can be contacted.

    “Last question, how comes the meatless realm would be separate from the meatsome realm, with no gradiation?”

    Were it not so, we would have beings on a spectrum, slowly fading like the Cheshire cat! I think of it somewhat like the scientific “phase change” which relates to things like water becoming ice or steam at a certain temperature. I think there is a kind of phase change between us and the next, inner dimension, which really is not all that far from us. That is why we can contact it and sometimes even see within it.

  53. This is a fascinating post, and great comments.

    When I was younger I had no spiritual practice and I was very antagonistic toward Christianity. But I could not be an “atheist” as such because it seemed obvious to me that, if my thoughts and my awareness were “nothing but” the movement of matter and energy, then I had no basis on which to deny thought, or at least awareness, to anything in the universe. When I found out that that idea is called “panpsychism” and is generally despised by academics, well, that greatly reduced the credibility of the “Science” crowd to my mind…

    @ Somewhatstunned re. Druid agnosticism. I think you'll find, if you explore the occult and alternative spirituality scenes, that agnosticism is quite common. I personally think there is good reason to believe in both the “God of classic theism” and in the independent existence of spirits, gods, angels, and the like. But the thing is, it doesn't really matter whether they exist “out there” or just “in here.” If materialism is correct, then the character “Steve Thomas” is just a fiction; all that “really” exists is matter and energy. That being the case, I don't see any reason I shouldn't share my headspace with other “fictional characters,” like Hermes or Jesus. It's not all that bad a thing, to have the same ontoogical status as a God.

    @ Val re. Divine Light – I'd like to take a stab at answering your question, to see if I understand what JMG is saying… If I understand JMG correctly, he's using the term “Astral Light” to refer to the entire range of unseen phenomena. What this means in terms of the hexagram ritual is that every component of the ritual is done in the Astral Light– the hexagrams themselves, the Hebrew letters, the archangels you visualized in the pentagram ritual before hand, and the light that you visualize when you call the Divine Light. Meanwhile, if you used the hexagram ritual to establish a circle into which you could invoke a Goetic demon, the demon would also appear in the Astral Light. Of course, most schools of occultism (including all of JMG's works) draw a distinction between the phenomenon we call qi or prana; the astral per se; and higher spiritual levels. If I understand JMG correctly, he's simplifying things for pedagogical purposes. Either that, or I'm wrong.

    @ JMG & Spanish Fly re. Jesus and Jesus. I guess I find this idea kind of unnerving. It raises the question, how can you know the God you're talking to is the God you think you're talking to? And how distinct are different versions of the same God– Is the Jesus Catholics worship the same as the Jesus Orthodox Christians, Evangelicals, or Mormons worship? How can we know? (For that matter, is the happy, smiling guy on the post-Vatican II crucifixes the same as the tortured sacrifice on the pre-Vatican II crosses?) And of course, this also raises questions about those dead humans we worship. It's commonly known that many members of the patnheon of Catholic saints began their career as pagan Gods. Meanwhile, in the last 500 years existing saints have been equated with the gods of indigenous peoples as Catholicism has spread. What is happening here?

    @ Eric S. – Apropos of this month's blog post… The first thing that came to mind when I read your tale of astral travel (which I think you're right to take very seriously, of course) — Have you ever read the story “Hypnos” (http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/hy.aspx) by Lovecraft?

  54. @ JMG, Eric, Mojoglo, et al Re. The spiritual basis of patterns of thought and emotion that spread through society… I think I have some insight on this. Many years ago I dated a woman (let's call her “Miranda” that treated me very badly.) She lied, she manipulated, she stole, she cheated, she was always drunk, and when she'd sucked me dry financially and emotionally, she kicked me to the curb.

    She was, in other words, exactly what is meant by the term “psychic vampire.” I feel certain that that term accurately describes a real spiritual phenomenon and that people like “Miranda” can be seen as either literal vampires or carriers for a vampire spirit. Because the other thing is– just like in all the vampire legends, her behavior was infectious. After we broke up, I adopted all of her behavior patterns. I started drinking every day, spending all of my time in shallow bars, mooching off anyone I could when I ran out of money. I treated my romantic partners and basically everyone around me as a sponge to be squeezed when I needed money or sex. I became a vampire– And I did it all without *ever being aware of it!*

    Now, all of this was a while ago. I'm different now, or so I like to think– I don't drink, I'm in a stable, loving relationship with an awesome woman. But it took a lot of work. My path toward wholeness started with a spontaneous spiritual experience after 5 weeks in the wilderness, but it didn't solidify until I adopted a daily spiritual practice, started to develop self-awareness and began making amends for my past behaviors. But I know I still have these vampiric tendencies in me. And you could say that I did all along, but it wasn't until Miranda that I really started acting them out. And here's the thing– As I've been thinking about it, I've remembered that Miranda talked sometimes about an old boyfriend she'd had, who beat her, tormented her, and in many other ways treated her exactly the way she treated me. Sometimes the behaviors were identical right down to the details, though I'd rather not get into it.

    I think a lot of people have experiences like this. Add the thing is– in response to Mojoglo– acknowledging the spiritual/”paranormal” dimensions of all this **in no way** absolves me or the other human beings insolved of our responsibilities. Actually, it reinforces them– because “evil spirits” are able to do their work when we're not aware of them, and it takes self-awareness and personal responsibility to overcome them..

  55. JMG: It's an amusing irony that materialists insist on defining matter solely in quantitative terms, when this requires us to define what is not quantitative — such as our qualia or intentionality — as immaterial; or as non-existent, but that's not coherent XP.

    Interestingly, on alternative analyses of matter, such as an Aristotelian account, philosophical zombies don't seem possible: to have the 'matter' of a human being just is to have the form of humanity, which involves the sensitive powers of animality and the rational powers of rationality.

  56. PhysicsDoc, that's going to take a lot of explanation, as it unfolds from dimensions of occult philosophy we haven't discussed yet. The very short form, though, is that human consciousness is not wholly submerged in linear time, and the parts of you that are outside of time already know everything that you have ever and will ever experienced. When you brush against that part of yourself, which can happen in any number of ways, things you experience trigger that flash of recollection. More on this as we proceed!

    Mojoglo, occult philosophy holds that some spiritual entities can and do lead people to behave in repugnant ways, but those entities can't force people to behave this way or that — and neither can the entities, which also exist, who can and do lead people to behave in more positive ways. Your choice of thoughts, words, and deeds determines which kind of entity you attract, and whose promptings you follow. When people say “the devil made me do it,” the proper response is “If so, that shows what kind of spiritual company you keep,” and if someone insists that the spiritual beings they hang out with incite them to bigotry, well, that says quite a bit about the nature of those spirits, doesn't it?

    David, that seems like a perfectly good way of thinking about human existence to me!

    Stunned, if you're an agnostic Druid, you won't be anything like the first. AODA has rationalist atheist druids, agnostic druids, Christian druids, Jewish druids, Buddhist druids, Taoist druids, Neopagan druids of at least 37 varieties, and some who never do explain — and, yes, agnostic druids. We never saw the point in getting hung up on who has what opinions.

    Steve, how on earth does he know for a fact that dogs don't remember their dreams?

    Redmachus, it's been too long since I've read much of Martin Gardner — I'll have to remedy that. As for Lovecraft, he'd be apoplectic; still, to my mind, that just adds to the fun.

    Eric, oh, granted — there are far too many people in the current pop-occult subculture for whom this is all basically a roleplaying game. It's been said, unkindly but not inaccurately, that the reason many Neopagans worship in the nude is so that if the deities they worship ever actually put in an appearance, there'll be less laundry to wash — but of course the same thing applies to just as many people in other corners of the scene.

    Jean-Vivien, I've seen a good case made that a meme is simply the body, on the appropriate plane of being, of a particular kind of spiritual entity — so you're by no means alone in suggesting such things!

    Daelach, the interesting thing there is that a very large proportion of my thinking is shaped by 19th and early 20th century Dichter und Denker — lacking Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Spengler, Steiner, Jung, and Hesse, just for starters, I'd be without most of the foundations of my thinking. So recommending Spengler to a German is all in a day's work. 😉 As for attitudes toward chaos magic, well, of course; if you find a void to your taste, by all means have one. (But, as you point out, it may not be useful to get stuck in one.)

    As for your experience, that's a classic account — and as you know, that sort of thing is one of the benefits of working with a beneficent spirit.

    John John, only you can answer that question. Some people are called to the work of the land where they live, some to the work of one or another set of ancestors, some to something else entirely different; reflection, meditation, and introspection will settle which path you should follow.

  57. Steve, that disproof of atheism is a keeper, and earns you tonight's gold star with Lovecraftian tentacles. As for Jesus and Jesus, well, as the guy himself said, “By their fruits ye shall know them;” on that basis, it's pretty clear that the folks at Westboro Baptist worship an unusually noxious demon of hatred and spiritual pride, while plenty of other Christians show by their behavior that they worship a far more beneficent being.

    Of all people, the Church of the Sub-Genius got this one right, or close enough. Somewhere in their giddy theology is the claim that in the Last Days, or something like that, the world will be afflicted with a Plague of False Jesii — yes, that's the Texas plural of Jesus — in which all sorts of bogus Jesuses will go rampaging across the landscape. It's the one apocalyptic prophecy I know of that's come solidly true — well, though I've yet to encounter the Vampire Jesus who Gave His Blood for you and Wants It Back. 😉

    As for your psychic vampire — yes, a lot of people have experiences like that, most of them without ever knowing it. Patterns like that get transmitted in families, by sexual contact, and in a variety of other ways. One of the advantages of magic is that it can be an effective way of breaking the grip of the obsessing entities in question. More on this as we proceed.

    Steven, amusing indeed.

  58. @Steve Thomas said”…how can you know the God you're talking to is the God you think you're talking to? And how distinct are different versions of the same God– Is the Jesus Catholics worship the same as the Jesus Orthodox Christians, Evangelicals, or Mormons worship? How can we know: “…

    IMHO Steve, you can know the God you're talking to by definition. The real problem can be knowing what God is talking back to you.

    For example, you could want to talk to the Great God of the Universe. Now and again, if you take a bit of time to dwell on Who that Great God is, attributes of that Being, then you know who it is you are talking to. It becomes a matter of faith that any God who is really THAT Great is able to hear your prayers.
    But if you hear a message coming back, purporting to be from the Great God– Well, that's the real difficulty, IMHO. How can a person really know that (in this example) it's really THAT Great God answering back? And for that matter, what if one is wrong, maybe even far wrong, about the identity of the Great God? There might be a good faith answer back, just from a being that does not exactly fit one's definition of “Great God” as the real nature of [Its] being is very different from what we think….

  59. Dear JM et al:

    Finally, the Bob Dobbsian truth crawls out of the Sea of Time on this blog and slithers, gibbers and cavorts over the 'Net. Well done!

    Some decades ago Logical Postivists tried to invent a language (Loglan) where nothing untrue can be said. I think that included all emotional content, including the existence of a reporter with feelings. That more or less nails the sort of Cosmos that Clarke and Asimov seem to have described and inhabited. Asimov once wrote an essay on biofeedback and meditation where he suggested that the whole package could be reduced to some sort of electrical/computer device, freeing a person from needing to ever experience their own carnate/incarnate self.

    I have spent this week meditating on whether or not “Regula Falsi”, a self-correcting equation used to derive a root of any number should be considered self-aware using the criteria espoused by AI/CS (Cognition Simulation) enthusiasts. And if not, why not. Slime molds can “solve” maze puzzles, some bacteria seem to make something like “choice” under certain conditions.

    Most Western Atheists recognize the reality of some non-human intelligences. Some of them have been known to discuss “Corporations” or “Real Science” or some other construct that (by some standard) is an arbitrarily ephemeral construct and placate it with hours of prayer in exchange for shiny tokens that can be exchanged for goods and services.

    “Real Magic” was leading in interesting directions, with the notion of switching circuitry that grouped living organisms into networks. Isaac saw it as purely mechanical, at least at the time, putting it down to an EM pulse phenomenon, following Kogan–telepathy is simply human neural radio.

    A fair amount of Clark Ashton Smith and Algernon Blackwood, along with Robert W. Chambers and Arthur Machen is available on the site archive.org as text or audio books, or as radio drama. “The Horror!” or “Horror Theatre” websites provide 24/7 streaming of many of these stories, as well as horror classics in a 4th wall breaking cosmic vein by Arch Obler, Ian Martin and others.

  60. I hate to chime in with an irrelevant experience but I wonder if you'll get around to avolitional movement as a spiritual/magical experience? I've experienced this maybe twice in my life, the first time it actually led me to your blog. To me the sensation of not being in control of my body was far weirder than any kind of internal vision or astral light sensation.

  61. @ JMG shortly after I read your reply I cut my finger in the kitchen… Unusual for me. I let the cut bleed for a few moments over the compost bucket. I then used that bucket in an offering ceremony to the guardians of soil, earth & compost. As it happened I was closing one & starting a new one, so the timing was good. We'll see what happens…

    @ Onething & others discussing atheism… Well I'm reaching for words that may not quite say what I want, but…

    What made it impossible to pursue the faith I was raised in were these impediments… I could not learn to hate the world, I could not learn to hate the flesh, I could not learn to see death and decay as the enemies of life, in fact it seemed to me that “eternal life” (ie decayless deathless persistence) was nothing to do with life at all. Atheism seemed a good way for me to go the other way and love life, live the world, love the flesh (and with thanks to jean-vivien), live my meatsome self.

    Possibly I was never a GOOD atheist, in that meatsomeness never seemed to me to be a barren or sterile thing, quite the contrary! I find contentment in knowing my self is a complex composition of gathered sunlight acting upon organic matter. And that my eventual DEcomposition will recycle my component parts throughout the bioshpere. That, as I eat, so will I be eaten. I remain agnostic as to whether some important component of myself will endure this DEcomposition and retain “my” signature & pattern upon another plane. My self as I know it is abundantly alive in the meatsome sense. And I wish only to live in a connected way with the whole meatsome biosphere I share this earth with.

    I suppose I'm saying, if my path is spiritual, or can be said to be so, it will only be if this possibility opens THROUGH the meatsome world of living flesh & not by abandoning it.

  62. Steven Dillon,

    “It's an amusing irony that materialists insist on defining matter solely in quantitative terms, when this requires us to define what is not quantitative — such as our qualia or intentionality — as immaterial; or as non-existent, but that's not coherent XP. “

    Spotting inconsistencies like this is what Bernardo Kastrup has become good at.

  63. Steve Thomas,
    1. “re. Jesus and Jesus. I guess…It raises the question, how can you know the God you're talking to is the God you think you're talking to? And how distinct are different versions of the same God– Is the Jesus Catholics worship the same as the Jesus Orthodox Christians, Evangelicals, or Mormons worship? How can we know?”

    I've thought about this. I answer it in two ways. First, I've come to the same conclusion as JMG, that people are often in contact, (even if only in their imaginations!) with a variety of entities, many not good. It is easy enough to say “God” or “Jesus” and it is easy enough when someone says “Hey, God?” to answer “Yes, it is I.” Therefore, it is the attributes that are important. For example, if Jesus says the Father forgives debt for the asking and is not interested in sacrifice, who is this God that Billy Graham said “demanded a death” in retribution for Adam's sin? And if the debt was paid, then when were we forgiven?

    It's like Shakespeare said, a rose by another name will smell the same. If you're blindfolded and someone puts a lily under your nose, and calls it a rose, you should not be confused.

    On the other hand, it is not always a matter of imposter entities. If we have a collective idea of God we nonetheless will have imperfect understanding and fall short in differing ways among different people. Our inaccuracies do not mean we aren't involved with the correct being. But when the sermons revolve around threats and anger and inciting to hatred, well, we're in demon territory.

    2. “(For that matter, is the happy, smiling guy on the post-Vatican II crucifixes the same as the tortured sacrifice on the pre-Vatican II crosses?)”

    I was not aware they had changed their crucifixes. If so, it's a good sign. In the Eastern Orthodox church, the crucifix is always empty, perhaps with the crown of thorns hanging on top, sometimes with a dove. That is because they say the the cross is a symbol of resurrection, and why remain perpetually mired in the suffering, which was temporary? It might seem like a little thing, but is very telling. Because your inner world really does make a difference to what you attract and its hold over you. For this reason, I do not think it is good that so much of TV and movies are in the realm of sick crime drama and horror. I would never watch a film like The Passion of Christ (or whatever it was called) because torture porn is most unhealthy.

    3. “It's commonly known that many members of the pantheon of Catholic saints began their career as pagan Gods. Meanwhile, in the last 500 years existing saints have been equated with the gods of indigenous peoples as Catholicism has spread. “

    Are you saying that many Catholic saints were not historic people but made over versions of pagan myths?

  64. @Cliff, concerning what is a biophobe, I'd direct you to a comment I made two years ago, in JMG's Archdruid Report. I will paste it here for you.

    “JMG, I am a biophobe, I can see that now, and I admit it. I do not like “wet and sticky”, not even in females; few things are more abhorrent to me than menstruation and childbirth. I even wonder how females can stand those organic processes, and more, such as breastfeeding. I'm always cleaning my house and the room I am currently in. All my electronics are properly wiped with alcohol at least once a week. I wash my apples (and any other fruit I care to eat) twice, cut them in half and remove the seeds before I eat them. I never ever pet animals (specially dogs), and I hate bugs – all bugs, of every kind, size and color. I am obsessed by polished and clean metal objects (such as an iPad or MacBook Pro), full of square angles and cold to the touch. My chosen field of occupation is as sterile and lifeless as possible (business law). I detest body waste products, but have no problem – no problem at all – having to clean with my own hands the insides of my electronics, or of an engine. Getting grease on my hands from my scalp makes me feel dirty, and in need of a bath, but getting my hands full of motor oil doesn't even register.
    That is how I feel. I would love that this “progress” thing could go on forever, but it probably won't. I guess I will have to adapt. I may never be as fond of the natural world as you are, JMG.”

    If you feel like I do, or did (I've changed quite a bit), then you have some degree of biophobia.

  65. Hi
    regarding the comments on non-linear time, another way of looking at this is that all the so called past, present and future is already 'out-there'.
    That is, we live in a thought/spirit sphere which encompasses all of this, not just of humans, but animals, plants, etc, etc.
    Over the ages, Shamans, sundry magic men and women, folk with 'different' neuro-wired circuitry have tapped into this and have journeyed 'out-there'.
    Time as in yesterday, today and tomorrow is seen as an arbitrary communication tool.
    In effect for the Shaman/Magic (wo)man there is no time because everything that has ever happened,or can happen is already 'out-there'. All one needs to do is tap into the relevant facets of the sphere.

  66. John John

    “So, I have,since coming of age, described my evolving worldview as: feminist, macrobiotic, Tantric, Rastafarian, Orisha and presently bioregional animist.”

    I had to look up bioregional animist and got a bit of a shock. You see, I've got these several acres that I love, and I think about my forest and its health, and things to do for it, and I think about the creatures we bring, like the chickens and how entertaining they are, and my long project of creating a walking trail all around it, which involves switchbacks to get to the top of the “mountain,” and it was just yesterday that my husband and I were up on that top, him cutting dead wood and me trying to roll it down, and I was trying to form a thought or an idea, that was being born, and it had to do with the way this place and everything in it, I mean the dogs were so thrilled to be part of what we were doing, the way we learn from it, and watch it, and listen to the frogs in the pond on a summer evening while trying to catch the opening of the datura with the insects' holy racket in the background, how we feed the birds in winter and have a book to identify them, how we let the black snakes live but had to kill one once, how I regret that, the way we leave it mostly wild but also tame it and landscape it – how I want to spend the rest of my life making it beautiful, the whole thing is like a relationship with me, and I couldn't form the idea quite, it was a new idea…it has something to do with the wholeness of it, the whole thing and its relationship to me.

  67. Greetings ADJMG!
    I had a synchronicity concerning this post today.
    I discovered someone I have know attends a Pentecostal church. Not only does he speak in tongues directly to God, he also has had at least one demon cast out.
    So Lovecraft was wrong. It's not only “the other” who can see the in between world, but the adverage american too.
    So, If any of your readership has a demon they are tired of and want to get rid of, please feel,free to contact me for a good ole southern exorcism.

  68. @ JMG, who said to Bill, “…It's those members of our species who refuse that, and insist on treating nature in the standard industrial mode, who are potentially in very deep trouble indeed…”

    Implying that there may be a rather personal retribution or comeuppance of some sort???? Most likely I am misreading your answer.?

    Just want to share that I am now also one of the card-carrying (so to speak) members of the Druids. Joined OBOD (after looking at the options) and am contentedly chewing the Druidic cud with the first round of lessons. Not really that different from my long-time roots in mystical Christianity (which I probably would not have relinquished had I been able to find any last remaining practitioners of it in today's religious landscape).

    I'm enjoying the exploration. It's interesting, and expanding. And your posts are making even more sense now. Still not sure if I'm ready for the white-robe thing, though. My family'll freak. 😛

  69. And so, from the eye of the great whales, the passenger pigeon, the dodo, the bison, woolly mammoth, and all the other beings driven to the edge of extinction and beyond, from the eyes of mother earth, … we may seem, in the words of E. E. Cummings:

    pity this busy monster, manunkind,

    not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
    your victim (death and life safely beyond)

    plays with the bigness of his littleness
    — electrons deify one razorblade
    into a mountainrange; lenses extend
    unwish through curving wherewhen
    till unwish
    returns on its unself.
    A world of made
    is not a world of born —
    pity poor flesh

    and trees, poor stars and stones, but never this
    fine specimen of hypermagical

    ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

    a hopeless case if — listen: there's a hell
    of a good universe next door; let's go

    E. E. Cummings

    But perhaps we are not seen as a hopeless case; no doubt Gaia is a better meta-physician than any of us; perhaps we share a portion of her creativity, her … instability, and her destructiveness. Perhaps, when we are ready, she will welcome us back, her children.

  70. I have come to find it entirely plausible that the universe is teeming with various disembodied intelligences, and feel like I have no idea how to properly interact with such. I was raised Methodist, and that was pretty clear. You knew who to go to with the requests, and the thanks, and the “wow!”s- one stop spiritual shopping. You didn't actually even have to worry too much about whether you were forming the right intentions, since God in His wisdom would just say “no” to requests that were not actually in the requestor's best interests, and would eventually help you to become wiser about what you wished for.

    After a period of serious doubt and a reading of “A World Full of Gods”, my view of who and what are likely out there is vastly more complex, and I don't know quite how to start interacting consciously with the gods, powers, and spirits all around. I find human interactions frequently puzzling, overwhelming, and/or less than satisfactory; can't begin to fathom the politics of non-corporeal entities… I am beginning my study of Druidry and have thus far kept all my invocations abstract, avoiding naming names just because I feel like an awkward foreigner- how do I avoid rudeness, potentially dangerous mistakes as alluded to by the commenters above, and other missteps? I feel a bit like Frogger trying to cross the road.

    I found JMG's comment above that one's words, thoughts, and actions affect the entities one attracts- that's at least a place to start. But how does one introduce oneself to a god, and thereafter develop a relationship? I would guess in an analogous way to how human relationships are developed. There must be some differences, though? A hitchiker's guide sure would be nice.
    –Heather in CA

  71. JMG, since you've mentioned your book on Celtic Golden Dawn, I'll ask: has anyone published a book on Hellenic Golden Dawn? I've tried a search online, but all it seems to bring up is references to the contemporary right-wing Greek political party known as the Golden Dawn (a rather unsavory association, I gather).

    You've referred me before to a Hellenized version of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram by John Opsopaus, published on the Hermetic website. But that's just one relatively brief ritual. The Golden Dawn system seems to be based on quite a complex mythological structure – more than one, I believe – and the thought of trying to adapt its rituals to another structure, or vice-versa, seems daunting. If someone else has already done the job, I'd rather not have to reinvent the wheel. (Unless it proves to be fun, of course.)

  72. Some more D.H Lawrence from “Apocalypse “
    Reading this made me think of the Qabalist tenet that Kether is in Malkuth …or Heaven is right here on Earth .
    “What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his “soul.” Man wants his physical fulfillment first and foremost, since now, once and once only, he is in the flesh and potent. For man, the vast marvel is to be alive. For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and the dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh. The dead may look after the afterwards. But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours, and ours alone, and ours only for a time. We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation. In my own very self, I am part of my family. There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.”

  73. Angelus —

    ” atheists in the afterlife. They resolutely conclude that that the Earth plane was nothing more than a dream; doesn't really exist; and that nothing exists outside the immediate phenomenology of whatever locality they've come to inhabit.

    I believe one of the commonly reported forms of negative near-death experiences involves the sense that you never actually existed, your earthly life was a fantasy, the universe is nothing but an empty void.

  74. @jean-vivien

    The “transceiver” idea is one of the ways of understanding reincarnation, where that which reincarnates is what is important, and bodies are simply means to whatever its ends are.

  75. JMG, I've just found this transcript of your talk. http://www.necronomi.com/projects/manifesto/

    May I suggest adding it to this site resources/adding it as a separate post? As a novice I get few insight from it that are extremely useful..

    So, questions:
    First, about learning divination: are there any good book in english or german about tattwa(-ic?) tides and classical elements in astrology? Bardon mention it off-hand and refer to unspecific “other books” that are easy to come by. But I have trouble finding any.

    Second, if I wanted to pick some German occult books older than 100 years, which would you recommend?

    Ps. I hope my english is understandable, I am not native speaker and autodidact(-ish).

  76. Hi JMG,

    That humans experience a dead universe can at least partionally be explained psychologically as a consequence of human narcissism:

    Narcissists manipulate and objectify others. If one is succesful in manipulating nature one feels superior. Feeling superior to nature, one is more inclined to objectify nature. The more one objectifies nature, the more it is experienced as dead. The more nature is experienced as dead, the more humans feel entitled to manipulate and exploit it. The more one succeeds in manipulating and exploiting nature, the more hubristic one becomes. So the more nature is experienced as dead, the more civilisation exploits and manipulates nature,
    the more hubristic civilisation becomes.

    So looking at it in this way one obtains a positive feedback between hubris of human civilisation and deadness of experienced nature. This is a runaway process that only stops when Nemesis makes her appearance.

    It also does make me wonder about the relation between magic and hubris. People who claim to have special occult knowledge do not necessarily give an impression of being humble. Maybe I need to reconsider that somewhat.

  77. I have to admit, JMG, that the possibility that the demons my father has been ranting about for 40 years actually exist is frankly terrifying to me.

    I had come to suppose that people who claim to worship Jesus but are unkind, angry, intolerant individuals have twisted the Bible to their own selfish ends. It never occurred to me that they might be in contact with something “other.”

  78. My first Galabes gold star! I'm going to have to put it on the fridge, tentacles and all.

    Onething–

    “Are you saying that many Catholic saints were not historic people but made over versions of pagan myths?”

    Why, yes. All sorts of shady characters seem to have snuck into the church through the Saints' Door, including the Buddha.

    From my perspective, that's one of the Christian tradition's potential strengths, rather than a liability or a weakness… I agree with your comment to jean-vivian that Christianity “has the seeds or teachings of a very uplifting view of things” but I think that the quasi-polytheism of the Catholic Church is a part of this. In the Third Book of Occult Philosophy, Cornelius Agrippa– who was one of the Neoplatonist Renaissance magicians, all of whom thought of themselves as Christian — argued for venerating the planetary Gods the same way that saints are venerated (offering them “doulia” while “latria” is reserved for God alone). I like that idea quite a bit, and I think it makes perfect sense in a religious worldview that sees “God” as less of a proper noun and closer to something like “Tao,” or “Ain Soph.”

    I've only looked into Eastern Orthodoxy a little bit though, and I don't know how any of this fits into that tradition, though.

    “When people say 'the devil made me do it,' the proper response is 'If so, that shows what kind of spiritual company you keep'

    This is great.

    The other thing about the psychic vampires– In many versions of the vampire legend, the vampire cannot enter your home unless you invite it in!

    It's also funny to me that, while the hyper-sexual human vampire of contemporary fiction is almost completely unlike the predatory ghost vampyr of medieval legend, it tracks much more closely to the (far more common!) psychic vampire.

  79. @Onething – regarding you and your acres…. Yes! That's it! I have felt and reached for all those thoughts and impressions.

    There IS a relationship. The desire to “improve” the other (in this case the living land) can evolve into a less intrusive desire to appreciate the other and interact in a spirit of reciprocity that defines all the best relationships.

    Or perhaps, you simply realise that the controlling desire “to improve” mostly produces the opposite effect, that pushing the living land and its denizens “around by mechanical manipulations, rather than finding ways to enlist their conscious cooperation” (JMG post) leads to endless trouble & strife and nothing can thrive…

  80. Nwlorax, thank you! If you're feeling a need for a Clark Ashton Smith fix, btw, his complete oeuvre is online at this website.

    Merle, it'll be covered. There's quite a range of things that can cause that, btw.

    Scotlyn, that's certainly an old-fashioned approach!

    Naturebum, what that means depends entirely on what you mean by “out there.”

    DaShui, no doubt. I wonder what he'd do if he actually encountered a demonic entity…

    Janet, welcome to Druidry! As for personal comeuppance, why, yes, in one way or another. One of the reliable things about the world is that few really stupid deeds go unpunished for long.

    Mark, do you really think we ever left her?

    Heather, not to worry. A basic attitude of respect for nature and reverence toward what's beautiful and true will keep you from getting into trouble. You don't need to introduce yourself to gods or goddesses; they generally take care of that themselves, when they're ready to do so.

    Val, that I know of, nobody's done that. One of the reasons I wrote The Celtic Golden Dawn was because I was tired of endless uninventive rehashes of the same stuff, and wanted to show that it's possible to take the basic toolkit and do something new and lively with it.

    My book was also designed to be used as a template for other polytheist Golden Dawn spinoffs. If you need help figuring out how to do that, drop me an email — at my address if you have it, via the contact address on the AODA website if you don't — and I can walk you through the process.

    Kutamun, okay, that's moved Lawrence up a good notch or two on the to-read list.

  81. Changeling, your English is a good deal better than my German! Books on the tattvic tides — that would be Nature's Finer Forces by Rama Prasad, which is probably available in German translation. As for old German magical books, I don't have any recommendations — I'm still in the process of getting a solid reading knowledge of German, so haven't begun to sample the literature on the subject.

    Dadaharm, I think there are different kinds of narcissism, and it's especially the sort that's popular in industrial civilization that gets in the way of acknowledging spirits. Most other civilizations don't have that problem. As for magic and hubris, those who boast about occult powers generally don't have them, and vice versa.

    Maria, don't assume that your father knows the first thing about the subject; there's a fantastic amount of misinformation going around, especially in some traditional religious circles. Spiritual beings harmful to humanity do exist, just as sharks, venomous snakes, Ebola viruses, etc. — all of which have a place in the order of things, and become a problem to us mostly when we get stupid. Their power is limited to the ability to convince you to cooperate with them — and regular spiritual practices such as the Sphere of Protection or the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram spray you with a good thick coating of demon repellent, which is one of many good reasons why serious magical training begins with some such basic ritual.

  82. First comment here! The possibility of there being other sentient entities, using means of communication different to what we're used to, is something I have found myself becoming more open to over time. I believe I had one such experience last summer when swimming in a lake in Sweden. I was, in actual fact, doing my level best to open up some kind of channel for communication in my own amateurish way, and I was certainly surprised when something seemed to respond. It's like finding a hidden door and opening it onto another world.

    Since then, something weird has happened to me: dogs are strangely attracted to me. I can't go out for a walk without them running towards me as if I'm their long lost friend and then rolling around on the ground around me wagging their tails. Their owners often say things like 'That's strange, he's never done that before.' Last week I went for a walk on the beach and had several of them all at once leaping up on me. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I'm willing to entertain the possibility that I might just smell of sausages.

    I've had a number of other 'paranormal; experiences, but I won't go into them here.

    But seriously, perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by the esoteric, my mother had a NDE experience at the age of five when she contracted middle ear infection and ended up floating off into some other realm before being called back. She told me that some beings had told her the Bible had been heavily 'edited' and that much of it was untrue. My mother wasn't a Christian, BTW. I grew up with this story.

    Anyway, I need some advice. I have been studying the bardic grade with OBOD for some two years now. It has taken something of a back seat while I worked hard sorting out my woodland and doing writing projects. Now I am ready to proceed again but you've also now got me interested in ritual magic. I have your book on the subject but I'm wondering whether you would advise me to focus on the OBOD studies for the time being, or take on the learning and practice of ritual magic at the same time. Sometimes I end up getting my mental fingers in too many pies all at once and lose focus.

    Thanks for an excellent new blog — I am printing out the posts and storing them in a folder on my top shelf.

  83. Somebody mentioned Neanderthal dreams or lack of daytime memory thereof implying lack of art and, err … 'spirituality'.

    Well … they seem to have buried their dead with flowers. I wonder where they got that idea from?

    best
    Phil

  84. @JMG:
    After reading your 'Monsters', I was actually scared at the possibility that something like Stephen King's 'It' might actually exist and that eldritch powers could appear into the physical realm. Do you have any links to instructions for banishing/purifying rituals of sorts?

    Since this month's topic is the supernaturalhere's an interesting essay on science and religion and the varieties of scientific experience. What do you think of the author's arguments in the essay after reading it?

  85. The discussion has really impressed me this month. It’s covered some broad ground and delved deeply into some difficult concepts. I’ve been enjoying the ride. It’s also been opening up some good synchronicity as I’ve been going along. Yesterday’s lesson in my OBOD studies focused on balance in magical practice and the dangers of becoming overly lost in the “inner realms” at the expense of apparent reality or of developing over-inflated ideas of one’s importance and ability, and mentioned Fortune’s “Psychic Self Defense” which after far too long, I am finally beginning to read. And yesterday at my ADF grove during conversations over breakfast, several of us got into an in depth conversation about the way places that have a lot of spiritual work done can begin to concentrate spiritual energies and entities, both welcome and unwelcome. One of our clergy listed off what she saw as the four core daily essentials of any serious magical life: cleansing, banishing, offering, and meditation.

    On the “meat robot” end, someone passed this article my way yesterday: http://www.salon.com/2015/01/25/you_dont_have_a_soul_the_real_science_that_debunks_superstitious_charlatans/
    Since consciousness is key in magic, are you planning on exploring the specifics of the dualist/materialist debate in more detail at some point? My reading is that most arguments against dualism address other unrelated concepts. The argument from brain damage touches on the nature of identity. The argument from neuroscience and chemistry just address the way consciousness interacts with the brain and body, and the argument from evolution (http://aeon.co/magazine/philosophy/how-consciousness-works/) relates to behavior. Supposedly all these arguments together form as irrefutable an argument against consciousness as paleontology, biochemistry, comparative biology, etc. do for evolution and saying otherwise requires cherrypicking data, nitpicking details, and overlook the big picture in Young Earth Creationist style. But none of these arguments seem to even ask the question they’re supposedly answering.

  86. JMG, this blog and its subject matter interests me greatly, but it also makes me feel tongue-tied. I cannot seem to pin my thoughts down to language that matches them & I'm nowhere near fluent with esotericese, tho your presentations make the thought of learning it less formidable.

    Here is the thing: my personal Christian to atheist arc did not traverse a pathway along axes marked “spiritual” v “material”. Instead, the important distinction was “foreignness” v “familiarity.

    Christianity, as I learned it, seemed to stress that my “true” soul self could never be fully at home in this universe, world, body. That my true home is so “elsewhere” as to share no point of contact with this world, except, confusingly, me.

    What I came to know, by various means, was that I am, in fact, “a child of THIS universe, no less than the trees and the stars”… THIS is my true and only home. And that knowledge simply could not share head space with the belief that Christ died to rescue me and take me away from my home.

    I don't worry too much about whether I can know much, or anything, about all the strange creatures that might inhabit the nooks and crannies of my home, sure what can I know about the worms & critters working their magic in my compost heap?

    What I want to ask, or find a way to think about, is this… Is it the case that any entity on any plane of existence I might encounter also “a child of the universe” -ie, in some nonmaterial sense, still perfectly natural, like me and the worms and the stars and the trees? Or is there a possibility that some of these entities are truly alien, other, and have no place here?

    You see, the idea that mind, spirit, and much that is unseeable by us exists all around me in unimaginable forms does not surprise or disturb me.

    But the thought that some part of me could potentially connect, on any plane, to something alien, something NOT a child (or parent) of this universe)… Well,that does.

    re “old fashioned” – it may have been inspired by something Daelach said once… 🙂

  87. (Already tried posting this on last month's post, but since you no longer seem to be answering there, I'll try again here.)

    Hello JMG. I have two questions.

    1) Which one(s) of your book(s) is/are closest to the themes of this blog?
    2) For a while now, I've been wondering about the methods you use to keep focus to be able to do everything you do, to meet your deadlines, and keep from getting sucked into the endless vacuum of interesting information. From your writings one gets the sense that in addition to your regular blogs, your books and speeches, you also take a lot of time to read books and follow through the links that people drop here, and I imagine you do some random surfing around also? And on top of all that, one also gets the impression that you also have a life outside all this. So yeah, how do you manage your way around all this, and not get too drawn into random forms of procrastination? Of course this ability is connected to your practice in general, but I'd appreciate as much details on this particular area as possible.

    (Extra question: what's your logic regarding answering the questions that get posted here? Not answering after the first week or what?)

  88. I learned a lot about demons and monsters in my first weeks here. When I bought this place (a Victorian farmhouse with 40 acres) it had been vacant for a decade. A decade before that it had been rented to drug dealers. The land entities, material and otherwise, had thoroughly moved in. There was the remains of a Barn Owl nest in what is now our master bedroom. The first night I spent here the sounds of the fairies playing outside the window kept me up half the night.

    Over those next few weeks, I kept being startled by what appeared to be looming presences in various places in the house and surroundings. In every single case, it turned out that the “presence” was me. It was my reflection, my shadow, my coveralls hanging in the corner with my hat on the hook above them.

    Eventually, the meaning of this struck me. *I* was the demon. *I* was the monster. *I* was the alien invader with advanced technology threatening to obliterate the indigenous inhabitants.

    Was I evil? Well, not by human standards. But to some of them, well, kinda, yes. I was disruptive. I was going to do things that were indeed likely to be detrimental to some of them, even displace or obliterate them. I was going to hook the electricity back up. One thing many people agree on, electricity can be hugely disruptive to the “meatless” realm. In the material context, I was fixing the broken windows, which took a lot of habitat away from the bats, wasps, flying squirrels, and others who had been making their home in “my” upstairs for many generations. I was even going to directly kill some of them, purposefully or incidentally.

    Is a tornado “evil?” Is a flood a “demon?” Is a dragon “wicked,” or does it just have a set of needs, values, and objectives that are at odds with mine and potentially harmful to me?

    I try to always keep in mind that what is good for me is not necessarily good for everyone else here, those with physical bodies and those without. But I can't be “harmless” and remain alive. So I have to settle for respectful and considerate. And accept that sometimes they will step on me, or bite back. It's the way of things.

  89. All
    There was only one occasion somebody who figured in an internal waking (lucid?) scene of mine, looked back at me. I can remember the surprise in her face and eyes when she saw me. The ‘gateway’ to the scene was an arrangement of an English folk tune “By the banks of green willow” on the radio. The time of year by the river would have been later because the trees were not in green leaf. The striking looking lady was not contemporary.

    best
    Phil

  90. Jason, fascinating. As mysterious powers go, that one's remarkably winsome. As for OBOD, I'd very strongly encourage you to finish the Bardic Grade. The habit of finishing the studies you begin is very much worth cultivating in any form of occult study.

    Phil, good. Not that we have anything but circumstantial evidence to go by…

    Ellen, you can find instructions for the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram in almost any book on ceremonial magic; the Sphere of Protection is covered in my book The Druid Magic Handbook. I've put the essay on the get-to list, but it may be a bit.

    Eric, that's a very ADF set of practices! Not that that won't do the job, of course, but you'd probably get a different list from someone in another end of the Druid scene. As for the anti-soul crusaders, as usual, they're using bad logic: by the same arguments, you can prove that the music you hear from a radio receiver must come from within the receiver — after all, if you hit the receiver with a hammer hard enough, the music stops — and therefore broadcasts and transmitters are mythical.

    Scotlyn, you've actually done a very good job of describing the difference between the old religious sensibility I talked about on the other blog a while back, and the new one. As for whether there are things from outside the universe — er, by definition the universe is all there is, and everything that exists is part of it, just as you are part of it. Like many mages these days, I've come to see the word “supernatural” as a contradiction in terms — nothing can be outside of nature and still exist. Thus there are ecologies of gods and spirits just as there are more physical ecologies; perhaps someday people will write about the theota of a place or a world, the way they now write about its biota…

    Henry, nothing I've written yet is close to the theme of this blog, since the essays posted here are intended as raw material for a book I haven't written yet! The closest equivalents are probably A World Full of Gods and The Druid Magic Handbook, with some of The Blood of the Earth mixed in for due measure — but even so, there's only a modest overlap.

    As for how I have time to do all the things that I do, the answer is really very simple: I don't own a television, and haven't had one in my adult life. People used to do all kinds of things, all the time, in the days before television; it was routine to find shop clerks who sang in barbershop quartets and were active in local politics, housewives who helped run the local church and got together with friends all the time to do elaborate handicrafts together, and so on. Add television, and all that goes away, because people are spending four to six hours a day dully watching colored images on a screen, and much of the rest of the time in the numbed mental state TV leaves behind. Get rid of yours, and it won't take you long to see the difference.

    As for the extra question, if you read the paragraph above the comment box, you'll notice that it says “comments on the current post.” Once I put up a new post, comments on the old one go unanswered.

    Bill, fascinating. That makes perfect sense, of course.

    Phil, yes, we'll talk later about the cognitive imagination…

  91. Archdruid,

    I don't know which is more interesting ADR or WoG. Since I started doing a daily elemental shield ritual things have changed with me. I've had several manifestations and a rapid increase in my ability to acess different realms through my mental plane. It's trippy to say the least. The fear of the other has just disappeared since I went back to hard polytheism, it honestly seems familiar and welcoming. Funnily I realized that most of the fear was a product of Christian distrust of anything that isn't their God.

    I think the Buddhist practices really helped me make peace with other intelligence in the universe. There is literally nothing in Buddhism that denies those other beings a path to enlightenment. I look forward to reading your future explorations of the world.

    Regards,

    Varun

  92. The posts on The Archdruid Report a while back regarding religious sensibilities, the old sensibility and the new sensibilty, have been something I've thought a lot about since then, and am looking forward to any more posts on integrating the new sensibility with the spiritual dimensions of life. I personally identify with this new sensibility and see how some of the conflict I have had with others and society as a whole comes from those differences in deeply held values, but I also have recognized certain of the thought and emotional patterns associated with the old sensibility in myself as a source of inner conflict that I have been working on resolving.

    I guess I'm still looking at the options when it comes to a spirituality of the new sensibility. I'm having trouble finding a coherent philosophy based in the new sensibilty that also has room for such things as the astral light and nonphysical beings. I may just be looking in the wrong places so far, but it seems that most of the stuff I've read that seems solidly in the second sensibiilty is either basically materialist (albeit with much more of a holistic look at things than the typical materialist) or just frustratingly vague about spiritual realms. A couple of examples of the latter are Stephen Buhner and Martin Prechtel.

    I really like much of what the herbalist Stephen Buhner's has to say about creating a better relationship with the earth, and he describes his experiences as being deeply spiritual for him, but I really can't get a clear idea of what he's actually saying about spiritual realms.

    I recently read Martin Prechtel's “An Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic”, it's quite an interesting book on traditional Mayan spirituality that even though it's not new at all, seems to fit in well with your new sensibility, although the author's repeated rants about anything western or Christian got tiring to me after a while. Despite detail of a many of their practices, I still couldn't see how it all fits together. Maybe I just have too much dragon thinking, but I'm not looking for any dogma, just a coherent system such as you've described in your last couple of posts.

    There are plenty of coherent systems that I've come across, but they all seem to have at least some element of the old sensibility involved.

    I have looked into druidry and read some of your druidry books, I can identify with much of it but not sure whether it really fits. Maybe I'm not quite understanding the meaning you intend in your writing, but in my reading of your Druidry Handbook, the ideas of Abred, Gwynfyd and Ceugant still seem to have elements of the old sensibilty, with humans being at the outer part of the Abred circle, and the rest of nature in Abred seeming like something to be passed through on the way to gwynfyd and ceugant. You do mention in the book there are many way to interpret this, but I have trouble interpreting it in a way that doesn't remind me of the old sensibiilty and the myth of progress. I've found similar things in the past exploring other branches of paganism, places where the old sensibilty still seems to be sneaking in.

    I really enjoyed your book “A world Full of Gods”, it makes a lot of sense and brings more clarity to my mind about a lot of things. It's finding a specific system that I can identify with that's the challenge.

  93. Varun, well, there you are. Practice really is the key to all this stuff.

    Ozark, everything you find is going to have elements of the old sensibility in the mix, because that's what shaped human thinking in most of the world for the last two millennia or so. The trick is to figure out how to shift gears to the new sensibility. The Druid concepts of Abred, Gwynfydd, and Ceugant, for example, don't need to be understood as stages in an escape from the world; they work just as well as stages in the integration of consciousness with ever more subtle and complex modes of incarnate existence.

    That said, by all means take your time and scope out as many options as possible. With spirituality, at least, there's no need to rush.

  94. Scotlyn,

    I definitely think it is possible to improve the land without having a controlling desire and pushing it around. The key is doing it with love, taking all factors into consideration. Not wantonly destroying something for my convenience. It is, as you say, to enlist the cooperation of the place and its creatures and greenery. I want everyone here to have a good time and thrive.

    It is not a bad thing to alter a place. Animals do it. For example, beavers make major alterations. Land that is dotted with beaver dams is more resilient to both drought and flood. Beavers create ponds and meadows. These are habitats that are rich with life forms that wouldn't have a haven if not for the beavers' landscaping. Migratory birds stop to rest and feed, flowers and berries grow than cannot thrive under forest canopy, fish are far more plentiful in the deeper and more still waters than a shallow creek. Isn't that amazing?

    We are doing something similar here, and also, we bring love and appreciation. We admire the place and we watch the many dramas unfold, and sorrow over eggs that don't hatch after we've watched the nest or coax the box turtle with blackberries to stay at the pond. There's a particular row of trees that are very tall and sway in the wind and rain and I call them my friends.
    ******
    Yeah, Man is the terrestrial angel. I don't find the idea of multiple universes coherent.

    I never thought the Christian heaven was outside of the universe, although maybe on a different plane/dimension. I don't know why Christianity would be disparaging of the body and yet teach bodily resurrection.

    My take on the teachings in the gospels is that Yashua tried to uplift people to the level of unconditional love, which erases karma and takes you past the necessity to incarnate in forgetfulness. He gave people an understanding of the attributes of God that is one of perfection, so that we might have no fear whatsoever, as fear blocks love. So that we would be encouraged and inspired, he tried to give us the Holy Spirit so that our spiritual faculty, which is unborn, will be born. That is salvation.

    Tell me, Scotlyn, what could be outside of God?

  95. Thanks, JMG. You could probably hear me hyperventilating from where you are. Panic attack disabled. 🙂

    It's funny how I think I've walked away from the religion of my adolescence, I have come to believe in (to steal your phrase) a world full of Gods, and yet one word can bring all that fear rushing back. I look forward to reading more about who or what inhabits the astral light.

  96. JMG, thank you! It is truly fascinating book. As for languages: I am from Poland. I just get lots of German in school (instead of English ;-<) and pretty much can read it like my native language at this point. I started to read some Polish occult books from early early XX century too - I found collected protocols of scientific investigation of Stefan Ossowiecki's (most famous psychic of Interbellum Poland ) abilities. The mind, it boggles!

  97. Nothing wrong with a little bit of overacting, or faking it until you make it, at least in my opinion. Spiritual practice ought to be fun. And I'll choose to interpret your remarks about the laundry to be a commentary on just the sort of thing that mortals would want to get up to with your Inanna or your Pan once the initial shock wore off. :-p

  98. Part 1
    Sorry for two page post, but I wanted to toss some thoughts into the discussion on the circles of creation. Re the three circles of creation and religious sensibilities: There are certainly many ways to interpret the realms. The details of the teaching as relayed in AODA and other Druid Revival groups come from the writings of Iolo Morganwg, who rooted much of his interpretation of the wealth of literature that was just becoming available at his time within his own form of Christian eclecticism. Many of the early teachings of Druidry, though it has ties to literary traditions that reach much further back in time, were rooted in, and framed within Iolo’s own form of Christian eclecticism (he identified as a Unitarian Quaker), so it is firmly a part of the Western Tradition, which means it does have elements of the Western religious sensibilities. However, even with that in mind, it was being written at a time when there were still Blasphemy Laws at work in Britain, which made even Unitarianism illegal, not to mention Druidry, which forced early Druids to couch much of their philosophy in the language of the Church of England. On the surface, he’s turned Annwfn into Hell, Abred into the fallen world tainted by original sin, Gwynfed into salvation and heaven, and Ceugant into the throne of God, though there are complexities and clever linguistic tricks that get lost in translation when you read it in English. Looking into the meanings of certain words, and studying the medieval literature Iolo was familiar with and inspired by (which in their turn have roots reaching back into antiquity) and meditating on them can take you in interesting directions.

  99. Part 2
    Once you do that, you can tease out some less overtly Faustian ideas from it. A lot of people put the circles within the older pagan sensibilities it contains traces of. Pre-Christian European cultures divided the cosmos into an underworld where the dead and other infernal beings lived, an upperworld inhabited by the gods, and a midworld inhabited by humans and animals. Reading the poems of Taliesin, and the Mabinogion, there are other mysteries. Especially if you look at what the names of the realms mean. Annwfn translates to “the unfathomable depths.” At its center is the cauldron from which all existence flows. Though it has many functions analogue in various other mythic cauldrons, one simplified way of looking at it is as the cauldron through which Nwyfre, the cosmic vigour (or astral light as we’ve described it here), becomes Awen which is flowing spirit or breath in motion, the creative spark that gives drive and direction to all things in the realm of Abred, or the realm of necessity, which is the realm of matter. The realm of Gwynnfyd can mean the blessed realm, the Divine realm, or the Spirit realm. This is the place the gods and spirits inhabit, the place consciousness flows from, and the origin place of visions and prophecies. This is also where the chair above Caer Sidi, the fort of Illusion that reaches up out Annwfn. From there, it’s possible to straddle all realms and glimpse the outer realm of Ceugant, which fountains above the circles of Gwynnfyd but is also the abyss that stretches below Annwfn. All existences are fed below and above by the infinite abyss that gives birth to all things. Of course, those are really condensed versions of my own reflections based on my own interpretations of the literature. I’m sure other Druids here have their own interpretations. And of course, I, alas, know some Druids who are unashamedly, unabashedly Faustian. Don’t forget that Julian, Hypatia, and other pagans of late Antiquity embraced a fully Faustian sensibility, while many early Christians (check out Paul’s frustration with the Galacians, for instance) were still part of the old temple mindset.

  100. @ JMG-

    “My book was also designed to be used as a template for other polytheist Golden Dawn spinoffs. If you need help figuring out how to do that, drop me an email — “

    I'll take you up on that! Expect to hear from me in the next couple to few days.

  101. Scotlyn, it does have a certain je ne sais quoi, doesn't it? You might consider such additional bits of vocabulary as “theosphere” and “theoregion”…

    Maria, it takes time and work to get past whatever programming gets picked up in childhood, especially if — as normally happens in abusive religious settings — the programming is laced with double binds and other bits of nasty psychology. Still, it does go away eventually.

    Changeling, I wonder if you can find a book by Grigori Ossipovich Mebes, which was published in Polish as well as Russian after the First World War — it's tolerably well known in English language Hermetic circles, as “Mouni Sadhu” (that is, Dymitr Sudowski) used it as the basis for his book The Tarot. It's one of the few good publicly available sources for classic Martinist magical theory and practice, if that's of interest.

    Angelus, spiritual practice can be fun at times, but if you insist on it being fun all the time, it's as if you insisted that a relationship, or a creative project, was fun all the time. That's a great way to ensure that you don't get far, because all these things also require hard work, forbearance, self-discipline, and the willingness to tighten your belt and keep on going even when it hurts.

    Eric, other Druids do indeed have their own interpretations! I tend to see Annwn as the cauldron of unformed soul-stuff from which, as Iolo suggests, beings are constantly taking form, to rise through the circles of Abred; Abred as the realm of beings who have not yet achieved reflective self-consciousness and freedom of will, that is, plants and animals; Gwynfydd as the realm of beings who have achieved these things and are thus capable of entering into any aspect of nature freely, as they increase in wisdom, power and love; and Ceugant as that which cannot be traversed by any created being, the transcendent reality at the heart of the whole. Now of course that's one dollop of Iolo, one dollop of old-fashioned occult philosophy, and a good solid shake of Schopenhauer with the unnecessary pessimism scraped off first, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it. 😉

    Val, pleased to hear it. I've been hoping since the book was published that people who read it would be inspired to use the same basic approach to construct their own GD-style magical systems, using whatever tradition suits their fancy. It's not actually that hard, and most pantheons have ample materials for the purpose — I may someday work out one using the Iguvine Tablets and the Umbrian gods, just to show that it can be done.

  102. @ Onething
    Thank you for all your thoughts, there is much to consider. I am comforted by the thought that the theosphere (per JMG) is as much a part of this world as the biosphere… That the two are interwoven in a single natural ecology, even. And, turning around what you said… I know that love drives out fear. 🙂

    I love the way you describe your own interactions with the land, replete with wonder, respect, joy.

    I don't think it is a bad thing to alter the land, we also live and have our place here, after all. But, whether it actually improves anything may not be knowable.

    On the other hand, I wonder if we might take another step further than JMG's “enlistment of co-operation” and permit ourselves in turn to BE enlisted by the land (biosphere+theosohere) to fulfill ITS purposes – reciprocity of a deep kind.

  103. Dear JMG,

    Sorry if this is a repeat, but I think blogger ate my first attempt.

    I have been looking forward to this post. I read of others experiences of other intelligences with great interest, but mine are not similar at all. I imagined I heard a voice during my initiation, but at other times what I unreliably get is tingling sensation and my hair standing on end. And sometimes quite intense, even ecstatic emotional states, but it doesn't feel like any kind of intelligent presence.

    Can anyone shed any light on what this means? Does the contact with other beings come later, is this just one of the aspects where we should expect varying mileage?

    Apropos to this post I think, with inspiration from E.F. Schumacher, I've made a bit of an exploration of how the planes and their denizens could look from within a scientific worldview over at my blog. From this standpoint, Annwn is the physical world, Abred is the experienced world, Gwynfydd is some kind of enlightened state?

    Cheers,
    Graeme (GuRan)

  104. Love this post!

    Chaos magic sounds a lot like the post-modern, post-structuralist, deconstructionist theorists it was my privilege to read in school. Also, it seems to me that the empty universe must be peculiarly urban and lit with electric light: all you have to do is spend time out of doors away from people and buildings (or camp out at night in a wilderness area), and, if moderately attentive, you'll very soon understand the sense of presence and consciousness all around.

    BTW, have taken up practicing the Sphere of Protection and so far am finding it lives up to its name. Also, here is how I kept the Solstice:

    http://www.humansandnature.org/blog/private-solstice-celebration

    I wouldn't mention my post except I believe it relates to the discussion here.

    Of course Gaia! And if I were a nature spirit, I'd certainly be absolutely fuming. Does anyone else here feel pushed to act and live in certain ways, as though pushed by an inner sense of outer requirements? Does that sound crazy?

  105. @Cliff,
    re biophobia, here are some of my experiences: I've had students tell me they “hate nature,” and don't want to go on whatever minor field trip I've planned. When I've assigned an exercise of visiting an outdoor spot weekly and writing about it, I've had students refuse, insisting they could only do the exercise if they could sit indoors somewhere and look out the window. Outdoors is too alien, too hot/cold/wet/full of other living creatures. Plus there is “green blindness.”

    I think biophobia derives in part from bio-ignorance.

    Re Phoenix, as a woodland savanna person, I, too, have had a hard time with desert areas when I've visited them. Yet the people I know who live in New Mexico gain great sustenance from their home landscape.

  106. I’ve definitely worked with a similar model to that when working with the circles of creation within the context of transmigration. I just never really worked with it as a progression. The movement between various hazy forms of consciousness, the wild raging dance of life and death moving through the mineral, animal, and plant realms, all interspersed with occasional moments of bright lucidity as a self-aware being and even the prospect of being unformed and springing anew from the cauldron of Annwfn all offer their own gifts and are worth cycling through. I usually picture the movement of transmigration through them as something more akin to Yeats’ concentric gyres rather than a steady outward journey. The biggest difference with what you said is my picture of Ceugant. My idea is that the precise reason that Ceugant is unfathomable and unreachable is because it is the ocean of unformed substances that feeds the process of creation in Annwfn. Thus, to enter that realm is to dissociate and become unformed, beginning the entire process over again. The image that always comes to my mind is Lleu rising up above the world oak tree and beginning to decay, while a white sow from Annwfn comes to consume the rotting pieces that fall from him. I also think about Taliesin’s boast of rising from the cauldron up through the prisons of Arianhrod (the circles of Abred), and sitting in the perilous seat above Caer Sidi and making a decision to stay within the circles of existence, rather than passing beyond it. Later, he describes himself as having a complete place within Caer Sidi, fully embodied within the illusions of existence while fully and lucidly aware of the deeper realities that lie behind them (similar to your interpretation of Gwynfyd). Of course the beauty of the richness of the teachings is that there’s so much that can be drawn from them. I’m sure a year from now I’ll have a completely different understanding.

  107. JMG
    I warm to your Umbrian project. I once stood on the rock platform believed to be the place for augury above the town. As I approached I did indeed see a Hoopoe – close by, and watched from the rock a Green Woodpecker fly below me.

    There are some good people live in the area – I hope they are still there. I heard of one man who could recite from memory the augural song.

    best
    Phil H

  108. On the subject of knowing if you are being answered by He whom you intended to speak with, I would think the content you get would be important. If addressing He who said “Love thy neighbor as thyself” and you get a response that says “Kill thy neighbor,” I would submit your communications are not coming from He whom you addressed.
    (Perhaps a bit of knowledge of the relationship between the Jew and the Samaritan is required to fully understand the definition of 'neighbor' Jesus then offered. In brief, you can think of the Samaritan being that heretic cousin you're feuding with.)
    We are told to test the spirits, so we needn't feel guilty for doing just that, either. (I know a good many Christians use “God told me to tell you to do such-and-thus” and try guilt-tripping a person who doesn't immediately and promptly comply.)

  109. JMG, thanks for another excellent suggestion. I've found it – published under title “Tajemna wiedza duchowa” ( roughly: secret spiritual knowledge) in 1921. I will add it to the list of “books to read”.

  110. JMG,

    Upon reflection, I think I was also making the mistake of believing that because I personally have never run across a demon on my spiritual path, they don't exist. I was stuck in a binary: either demons are what fundamentalists say they are or it's all a lie. I really never stopped to think they might be… well, any number of other things.

    One of my favorite things about these essays is that they are helping me to notice my bad mental habits and work on changing them.

  111. @Jose Coces:
    What I meant with my comment was more this:

    While I've been aware since childhood of the possibility for interacting with nature, and how that interaction can rejuvenate me, lots of other people in my acquaintance seem to be not just ambivalent towards, but horrified by these notions.
    It's just that when I tried to come up with specific names or instances, I couldn't remember any.

    @Adrian Ayres Fisher:
    I think it may also be due to the urge to dominate, which is foundational in our society.
    Nature that is not owned and controlled is not worth anything, in many people's estimation.

    Also, I can see that there's beauty in the Mojave/Sonoran desert. It's not my favorite place to be, but I've learned to enjoy hiking in the mountains out here.

    Instead, it's the urban landscape itself that leaves me feeling disconnected and drained.

  112. @Bill,

    From your comment of 1/22:
    As an analogy in the Meat world, many people view the dogs that share their household as much like furry four-legged people with limited intelligence. But if you never look in to those big brown loving eyes, and really understand that what is gazing back at you is not human at all, you could be in trouble. Because it's not a person. It's a wolf. And sharing your home with a wolf is very different than sharing it with a human. Even a “domesticated” wolf. Confusing the two… that way lies trouble.

    Loren Eisely contemplated that same “landscape” in an essay called The Angry Winter. It was published in the book “The Unexpected Universe”; the dedication in the book is “To Wolf, who sleeps forever with an ice age bone across his heart, from one who loved him”.

  113. JMG, thanks for the reply. I think it's now been ten years since I owned a television. I do imagine the endless stream of information from the internet plays a similar role up to some extent, even if the quality of information is of a higher rate. I'm wondering if there are particular techniques you use to avoid getting sucked into endless wandering around the virtual land.

    My question is not as much “how would I achieve that” as “how do you achieve it” – I do find myself quite a creative, productive, active person. But I do get carried away with the endlesslly interesting opportunities of high quality information, and find myself curious about the way other people deal with this.

    Btw, I think the unanswered post that I mentioned was posted while it still was the latest Galabes post. Or does “current post” count both this blog and The Archdruid Report?

  114. Sorry for lenght, I hope it is all relevant to topic.

    I have come across interesting fragment of Ossowski' talk about “spiritual world” that (I think) is highly relevant to previous post about Astral Light and upcoming post about new religious sensibility. It is also quite logical implication of everything JGM talked here, that I somehow missed. So, in spirit that it might help someone or cause insight, I present my humble translation:

    “In everyday life we constantly are exposed to various vibrations that influence our organism and psyche. They are part of every human' aura, in climate* of given location. Everything vibrates, it is creating emanations that impact our organism and psyche in positive or negative way.
    (…)
    We might say that everything is alive , even seemingly inanimate object exhale in space, they are emiting unique vibrations. In light of this, it is of utmost importance to direct kindness and good will to everything that surround us.
    Every current of anger, hate or spite in dealing not only with humans, but also in interactions with objects, is cause of disharmony and severe resistance from our environment. In this way we are bringing on real failures, which causes lies in world of invisible vibrations.
    Every bit of good will and harmonious, benevolent thought directed toward our surroundings is repaid hundredfold. We are reciving the same harmonious energy, but flowing from all places.
    We are permeated by what we radiate. “

    It also remind me of some things that I picked reading texts of various anthropologists. In many, many so called “primitve” societies every craft (hunting, fishing, gardening) and many other activities (like courtship) have spells and magic, which is routinely used and commonly know, associated with it. Bronislaw Malinowski even discribed household magic as “ritualization of optimism”.

    But here is my question: how it interact with secrecy that is part of many western systems (i.e. Baron's). What are purposes of secrecy? And am I breaking this particular requirement of silence by even discussing magic on anonymous forum like this?

    Second, I was thinking about magical dimensions of kindness, ethics, karma (in most literal way -what you sow is what you reap ). But, how it is that anthropologist like Malinowski** describe shamans (conjurers? ) in traditional societies that cast curses, make people sick and might even cause deadly accidents? Malinowski's description of Trobriand' tribes left no doubt that famous sorcerers are second only to chieftans in status and wealth. How can it be viable magically and how it mesh with karma?

    *this word “klimat” has double meaning in Polish – not only physical characteristics (temperature ect.), also something like discribed here “vibe”.

    **Bronislaw Malinowski (wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronis%C5%82aw_Malinowski)

  115. Scotlyn,

    “I don't think it is a bad thing to alter the land, we also live and have our place here, after all. But, whether it actually improves anything may not be knowable.

    On the other hand, I wonder if we might take another step further than JMG's “enlistment of co-operation” and permit ourselves in turn to BE enlisted by the land (biosphere+theosohere) to fulfill ITS purposes – reciprocity of a deep kind”

    About that word “improving.” Often, it may be to our human point of view, to be sure. But as humans, that is what we do – we like to beautify. The pond provides a nice ecosystem, but our trails simply give us access in difficult terrain, although to me a modification that is natural looking is lovely and fits in. I'm talking about using stones for steps up the hill rather than buying manufactured ones, and so forth. We planted a few bamboo, and it turns out the chickens love to hang out there. Also have a patch of neglected raspberries that it looks like the chickens are going to help out with, as it gets choked with weeds. Turns out the chickens love to hang out there and are trampling the under growth. I'd like more and more to observe ways that “we” various creatures can all be part of a thriving and cooperative group of friends. We progressive types are used to a lot of guilt, calling our species a cancer and so forth, but I like to think that we humans add something rare and precious, an overseeing intelligence that can assess and perform actions, add beauty and a consciousness that appreciates.

  116. Henry,

    This week, JMG had two blogs due on the same day, and he has been more than usually busy. Why not just reask your question? And no, the two blogs don't end at the same time.

  117. I think maybe the gods and spirits don’t like me. Not that they mistreat me, but they do seem to have a profound indifference for my life. So much so, that I cannot say I have ever had anything like a spiritual experience, at least as far as I can understand what that might be like from the descriptions here at Galabes. That said, I deeply respect our most excellent Archdruid and fellow readers like Bill, Odin, Chris, to name just a few, and I’ve decided to just take it on faith that these experiences are legit even if I remain blind to them. Every day I speak to the chickadees, soil microbes, oaks and pines, granites, and babbling brooks, to the point I’m pretty sure they are convinced I am not an intelligent being at all. Surely any witness (this excellent crew aside) would conclude that I’ve completely lost my marbles. But chickadees are very cool forest spirits, and I want to be there when they decide to share something more from their world. So I’m going to keep it up… and reading Galabes!

  118. As I said I would do by the end of the month, I just sent off my application and fee to AODA. I’ve been drawn to the order, but a little intimidated by it for a long time. A few years ago, I felt that it demanded too much for me to be able to realistically do, now, the curriculum seems like just what the doctor ordered. I’ve also been rebuilding my OBOD practice and entering into the Ovate rhythm over the last few months and made a wide open space for AODA’s moon path practices in the early mornings before work.

    I had an interesting conversation with someone at the grove last night while we were working on a craft night for Imbolc about regular practice in ritual magic that I think might be interesting to put up for discussion here. I was talking about how I was at a critical point in rebuilding my magical practice, and was very glad to have pushed through a barrier of doing my evening meditations and rituals even though that night I felt like doing anything but. The person I was talking with asked if doing ritual has any real benefits if you don’t want to do it… and asked if forcing it could lead to an empty, rote practice. I feel like building that discipline has benefits of its own, and ritual magic is designed to get beyond the conscious mind and reach into deeper levels of the self. But it did leave an interesting question: how does one avoid falling into an empty, rote practice? How does one tell the difference between the sort of tediousness that comes with practicing anything worthwhile and falling into an empty husk of ritual that has no benefits?

    On the spirit entity front, I’ve finally cleared out the toothed snake-slug creatures that started filling my meditations and eating away at my visualizations after my slump last year, but they’re still hanging around the edges of the awareness. They aren’t bothering me anymore, and aren’t coming too near me, but they’re still hanging around. It’ll be interesting seeing what happens with that sensation once I start working with the sphere of protection daily.

  119. redoak, if it makes you feel any better, all but one of my supernatural experiences have involved prophetic dreams (which can be a lot less useful then they sound). I've had exactly one experience of hearing God's voice.
    I lived in a haunted dorm in college, the ghost high-tailed it when I came up the stairs, I'm told. I practiced in a haunted music building. The ghosts stayed away. Last year my husband and I went on a Hallowe'en tour of our town, visiting all the haunted spots (my town recently made national news for one of the high school ghosts) and not a single appearance to anyone on our tour. (I'm using ghosts as a colloquialism, I don't think the beings so classed are usually spirits of dead people.)
    But I've got the testimony of plenty of people I trust that they have seen and experienced such things. So maybe our perfume stinks or some non-corporeal equivalent. And maybe we just need to learn how to not wear that scent. Maybe that's what the practice of magic is good for.
    Speaking of, the time I get quiet is late at night, after kids are asleep, and I keep dozing off in the middle. Advice?

  120. @Redoak .. I feel the same way most of the time. A lot of people here are sharing quite interesting (and sometimes scary) experiences while I feel like I am beating on the door and no one will answer.

    Not that things aren't happening, they seem to be happening all the time. Example: I have Neuropathy in my feet and calves. Walking is difficult but I walk most everyday. Periodically I do a longer than normal walk to kind of “push it” so to speak. The other day I decided to walk to the library, about 10 country blocks. By the time I neared the library my feet and legs were really tiring out. I thought “Boy it is going to take a long time to walk home” followed by the thought “Maybe someone I know will be there and I can get a ride home with them”. So I get the books I wanted and am resting up for the walk home. In walks a woman who is a good friend. I wave and she waves back. I finally go over and ask if I can catch a ride with her. “Happy to” she says.

    I don't feel like they are anything I “will” to happen or that I am a causeative agent or anything like that. It is more like “Gee; it would be nice if…. and suddenly there it is.

    I work with 1 of JMG's books: Celtic Golden Dawn. Anyway I do the rite of the lesser pentagram 3 or 4 times a day. I try and feel some difference between Invoking and Banishing and can't say I have noticed any difference in my experience.

    About the only thing that seems to be happening is when I turn in at night. I take a little time to see if I can feel any energies around me, usually not. Then close my eyes and watch the faint swirls or pulses of color that I see when my eyes are closed which helps me get to sleep. But occasionally something else occurs. One night I saw a vast array of strange symbols. Like an alphabet in a language I don't know. They kept shifting and changing so fast I couldn't keep up with them. Another night there was a vast array again of tight wound spirals. No Clue.

    Maybe something or someone is trying to communicate in language I don't understand. In any event all I can think to do is keep going.

  121. @Onething and Scotlyn,

    Have been reading with interest your posts vis a vis the land and our relations therewith. This is a question I've been engaging with most of my life and haven't come up with an answer, since the more I learn about my home ecosystem, the more I understand I don't know about it.

    To summarize what would be a very long list, I'm influenced by experience, as well as (besides our host JMG) writers such as Gary Snyder, Aldo Leopold, Robin Wall Kimmerer and learning about such American Indian concepts as reciprocity and the honorable harvest, and the agroecological idea of farming as a regenerative activity, and ecologist friends and mentors.

    Right now I believe that humans should and can be good citizens of a given ecosystem. When making changes, it is wise to step carefully, and always be aware of possible unintended consequences. For example, could the non-native plant you are considering using become an invasive bully, or how will the structure you propose building affect water flow patterns, drainage, animal habitat, etc.

    And then there is the whole being sensitive to the local presences, the gestalt of the land as it were. When I say land, I mean it in Leopold's or an Indian's sense of the living soil, rocks, plants, animals, water, weather patterns, microclimates, terrain, spirit of place: the whole thing, not in the sense of real estate or property.

    And what various people have said about saying thanks to the spirits of place–I've found that if one is in relationship with some land then reciprocity of necessity follows. Some of this is being open to what the land wants of one. Some of this is such simple habits as, for example, greeting the chickadees when they show up and start singing in late January or early February, or thanking the bees for pollinating the zucchini.

    Well, this is getting long. Just letting you know I'm following your thread.

  122. I think some spiritual experiences are not of other beings, but something else. For example,

    Gardener Green,
    I don't think you caused your friend to show up, rather the part of your mind that knows the future, informed you that it was going to happen.

    On the other hand…one time my son, who had been building a house in the mountains outside Los Angeles and using his van as a work vehicle, had to go down into the city for a meeting, and as he was driving down the country highway, he realized that the back of his van was a mess, and he was embarrassed, and he was thinking, Man, I wish I had a broom so I could sweep it out! Well, in the next MOMENT, he saw a beat up old broom lying on the side of the road!

    Since we are relating experiences, I got this email from my daughter a couple of days ago:
    I am in Hong Kong and enjoying it very much as it is a modern city and has some amazing views. Yesterday I saw an old temple (I am pretty sure it was Taoist) which was incredible. Lots of incense and colorful temple buildings and statues. I am not sure why but I became immediately extremely emotional there and could not stop crying the whole visit. Not certain if the Buddhas and incense reminded me of Elias or if he is now in such a temple somewhere or came from one, but it was quite a powerful feeling, not really sadness though I did think of him. I thought it quite strange as I have been to other places of worship, even beautiful Orthodox churches in Greece without a stitch of such emotion.
    +++++
    Boys Mom,
    Do tell us about hearing the voice of God.

  123. @Adrian
    Re: New Mexico's landscape
    While I never expected it, I find the high desert landscape of northern New Mexico (specifically Santa Fe) enchanting. The state's nickname is actually “the land of enchantment,” which many locals parody as “the land of enTRAPment” since so many people who are born there can't seem to leave, and so many of those who try to pass through end up staying.
    I am in this latter camp: as I was traveling home to my mother's house I stopped in Santa Fe for a night and ended up staying for nearly a year and haven't stayed away for very long since. Stories like mine are well known in Santa Fe, and so common they fail to surprise.
    I attribute this phenomenon to the spiritus loci of Santa Fe, as the city seems to “want” people to stay there.

  124. Redoak, Gardener, about “nothing is happening” – remember that the world is made in your mind. A technique that works for many people, including me… when you feel like there is no answer, no information, no vision, just make something up. If you talk to the chickadee, just imagine something that the chickadee might say in response, off the top of your head. If you seek a vision yet none appears, just imagine what a vision might look like. Whatever, wherever, anything. You may find yourself surprised at what you come up with. A lot of this is learning “tricks” to get things from your subconscious subliminal awareness into your conscious mind. And there are a gazillion ways to try to facilitate this.

    I remember early on in my more “serious” pursuit of going in to trances, meeting with entities, and seeking guidance from them, I was always troubled by the thought, “I am just making all this up. They only tell me what I want them to say.” So, one time, I challenged one of them to tell me something I really did not want to know. There was much resistance, but in the end, he told me something unexpected that indeed I really did not want to know. And over the coming year in the “ordinary world,” it was proven that he was entirely correct. I've never challenged one of them like that again. I don't necessarily recommend that approach; that would be a very personal choice. It depends on whether you are the sort of person who really wants to know everything, even the stuff you don't want to know. “The truth will set you free; but it will make you miserable first.”

  125. The following comment may be incomprehensible to those who do not typically think in visual/spatial/geometric analogies…

    JMG — you discuss the three spheres of the Druidic cosmology, I think about the 5 or 7 or whatever it is planes of the traditional occult schools, and a thought occurred to me (I know, dangerous words)…

    Different traditions often agree in broad outline about the properties of the non-material planes/spheres/realms and the ways in which they interact with each other and the physical. But they rarely agree in detail on their number and the exact differentiation between them.

    So an image and associated concept came to me. Rather than a defined number of discrete planes, I pictured a continuum. Imagine the physical plane as an actual 2-dimensional plane. Now instead of there just being other discrete planes positioned parallel to it above and below, imagine instead a continuous three dimensional space surrounding this plane. Or if you prefer spheres, rather than discrete concentric spheres, you have a continuous 3d polar coordinate space.

    Ah, but we know the planes are discrete not continuous, right? Otherwise, how would they even be different from each other?

    So here is the maybe-novel thought I had. Sticking with the “stacked planes” idea, because of some intrinsic properties of the universe, influences and interactions propagate easily in the horizontal dimensions. But they propagate only much more weakly and diffusely in the vertical dimension. So, for simplified conceptual understanding, you could slice the “planes” (or “spheres”) into as many or as few as you like. And in every case, things within any one plane would interact most freely with other things in that plane, but only weakly (and differently) with things in other planes.

    Of course in metaphysical systems with more than three planes, they are not necessarily stacked neatly, so that you cannot necessarily line the planes up closest to farthest. Easy enough, just add another dimension to your spatial analogy, and parallel planes can be arranged in all sorts of ways yet still not intersect (and still be able to be sliced in many different ways while preserving the same basic properties of interaction).

    A bit heavy for a comment on an introductory blog, I know.

  126. Bill et al.

    speaking about planes and geometrical analogies, here is something that occured to me:

    In geometry, there are many ways to describe things. Carthesian geometry is an orthonormal grid (i.e. axis that are at square angles and point in the 3 directions of space). It allows to describe the entrie space with respect to a specific point, the center of the grid, and three coordinates.

    There is spherical geometry, that considers a center, two angles, and a distance from the center. It allows also to describe the entire space.

    Yet, the center in spherical geometry usually leads to mathematical divergences that do not exist in carthesian geometry.

    On the other hand, carthesian geometry makes it hellishly difficult to treat some problems that are easily solved in spherical geometry.

    They both have a “center” and yet this center (arbitrary) has different properties. And even more: I can build a carthesian AND a sperical coordinate system centered on the exact same point.

    I have found those ideas fruitful when thinking about the same points you raised, and thought you might like to hear about them.

    Seb

  127. @Bill Pulliam,

    Your model makes sense to me: would that account for apparent emergent properties as we move “up” the continuum? (If I'm understanding what you are describing, that is.)

  128. @Cliff,
    “Instead, it's the urban landscape itself that leaves me feeling disconnected and drained.”

    Oh, yes, that is another issue entirely. I completely understand. Don't have any answers. Perhaps you have read some of the comments posted (last month) about what being in modern subdivisions does to some people? (Like me and others). I work part time in a somewhat dispiriting place and find I must get to a natural area as often as possible.

    But other commenters might have good explanations for why Phoenix affects you that way.

    @Alexander Marcus,
    I get what you are saying. That's what happened to the people I know in NM. Went for a temporary stay and it became lifelong. I wonder if the spiritus loci of a place calls to different, specific people? I've visited NM and beautiful and stirring as it is, it only reinforced for me my spiritual and physical “at-homeness” in the upper great lakes ecosystem.

  129. Bill, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    First, what keeps coming to mind regarding the chickadees is a thick Yankee accented “Oy, wee man, youse gonna shake out some more of them sunflower seeds or what not, sure ain’t gettin’ warmer over here!,” and associated banter. They are a saucy bunch.

    You wrote, “A lot of this is learning “tricks” to get things from your subconscious subliminal awareness into your conscious mind. And there are a gazillion ways to try to facilitate this.” Understood! I just had never made the connection between this activity and spiritualism, likely because I probably had a bit of a straw man in mind regarding gods and spirits: supernatural beings messing around with human experience with miracles and so forth. Since I have not experienced anything supernatural or miraculous I kind of felt left out of the show.

    Instead, what I think you are suggesting is that we can access the miraculous by attending to the full depths of our ordinary experience. At that depth ordinary experience is quite extraordinary, in fact completely miraculous, and so of course totally stuffed full of gods and spirits. So I’m quite comfortable calling a chickadee a miracle and a forest spirit. This has in fact been my daily practice for years, a disciplined approach to being open and loving toward the astonishing wonderment of ordinary experience. Thanks for rattling my brains a bit!

  130. Redoak — Oh, that sounds SO MUCH like a chickadee!! Our Carolina Chickadee down here has a similar attitude, but of course a different accent. If you ever hear them saying “Are youse gonne get more o' them seeds from the store? There's a big snow comin' dontcha know?” I'd pay attention and stock up!

    As for the subconscious and the miraculous, many of us feel that the thing JMG has dubbed the astral light communicates with us most clearly through our subconscious. It can be hard to perceive directly with the rational conscious mind. But if you learn to give your subconscious a voice, as it were, you give the astral light a voice as well and your conscious mind can hear (see, feel, etc.) it also.

  131. @ Bill – Your model of the planes of being taking the form of concentric spheres is highly congenial to my way of thinking, mainly due to my interest in curvilinear perspective, which involves the projection of images upon a sphere using a centrally located origin of projection. It also seems to fit in nicely with the Ptolemaic system of the universe, which appears to be standard in the Hermetic world-view. So I think I'll go with it.

    I've recently discovered a book by R.J. Stewart entitled “The Sphere of Art,” in which the author discusses something called “the two sensitive points.” I have yet to read or fully grok the ideas therein, but if these two sensitive points turn out to be related conceptually or spatially to the spherical perspective system's vanishing points (cardinal points, zenith & nadir), then it might provide me with the basis of a workable personal system, structured as suggested above. I'm hoping it'll turn out to be something like that, but it could of course be something completely different. I'll have to get the book to find out.

    Lately I've been paying attention not so much to the vibes of the places around me, but those that I myself am putting out. Sometimes while walking down the street I find myself focusing on the Sephiroth within & about me, or on the sphere of protection I've projected around myself, trying to strengthen it and to ensure that any influence it may have on others around me will be positive.

    I still find it hard to separate my impression about the vibes of a place from my feelings about its physical appearance. For me, beauty or its absence has a great deal to do with how I feel about, and in, a given locale. The vibes of people encountered there are another, rapidly changing set of dynamics.

    JMG, I've noticed that the superimposition of the Tree of Life upon the human body for ritual magical purposes, as in the HOGD, generally involves the magician standing upright. But what happens to one's Yesod and Malkuth centers when sitting down? Where do they go in that case – the same place your lap goes when you stand up?

  132. Bill, as I was reading your discussion on the planes I thought of a scientific analog for what you're talking about. It's called a coupling constant. Think of a coupling constant as the intensity of a connection between two things. What you are saying is that phenomena on the same (occult) plane are strongly coupled to each other, but they are only weakly coupled to the other planes. That may not make sense to anyone else, but it seems to help me.

    JMG, that reminds me of something else. You've described the solar current as going everywhere the sun's light [electromagnetic radiation] does, even a bit into the soil, just as the sun's light does. I was wondering if the solar current “piggybacks” on the sun's light, as if coupled to it in some way?

  133. Graeme, one thing to keep in mind is that the universe of magical experience is at least as complex as the universe of material experience. You're perceiving the former universe in one way — that may be the set of parasensory perceptions that are awakening first in your case — but these are simply one set of perceptions, which will gradually be filled out by many, many others. (Provided that you keep up with your practices, of course!)

    Adrian, delighted to hear it. To my mind — and of course I'm an old-fashioned occultist, so biased — is that regular practice of some basic ritual such as the Sphere of Protection is as essential as bathing and brushing your teeth. Belated happy solstice, btw!

    Eric, oddly enough, I also use Yeats' gyres as a model; given that there was a pantacle of his in the recent Irish museum exhibit with writing on it in Iolo's Coelbren of the Bards, this may not be as large a leap as it sounds. The Thirteenth Sphere is the passage from Abred to Gwynfydd, the lunar to the solar gyres. But again, your mileage may vary!

    Harvester, I wish I could help — I don't read either language and know less than nothing about the magical traditions of the countries in question.

    Phil, nice. I was a member of the Druid organization ADF for a while, and they make room for anything Indo-European; thus I researched the Umbrian material with the thought of doing a version of the ADF Order of Ritual in Umbrian, invoking the gods of Iguvium. Now of course part of that was Avram Davidson's raucous use of the same material in Peregrine: Secundus, but hey, you take inspiration where you can find it… 😉

    Changeling, delighted to hear it! On the off chance that this is of interest, a readable English translation of that book would be snapped up by one of the more serious British or American occult publishers, if you happen to be up for that.

    Maria, just one of the services I offer. 😉 Seriously, that's a huge problem these days: too many people think that the only choice they've got is between scientific atheism and whatever more or less distorted set of religious beliefs might have been pounded into them in childhood. There are many other choices.

    Henry, information as such doesn't interest me that much — after a certain point, it's just noise — and what does interest me, “the patterns that connect” in Gregory Bateson's phrase, I find more often in books by dead people than in current online chatter. That keeps me from wasting much time on the internet, and the work I do is interesting enough to me that I don't have to talk myself into doing it. As for the timing of your question, I stand corrected; it's just that I can't always get to every comment, and the earlier in the cycle something gets posted, the more likely I am to get to answering it.

    Changeling, secrecy is a tool, and it can be used or misused. In old-fashioned initiatory orders, it was a way of teaching the student to pay attention at all times to his thoughts and actions — once you swear to keep something secret, you have to watch your mouth 24/7, and that means you start to pay attention to the sort of half-conscious blabbering that most of us do all the time. Until and unless you choose to use it as a tool, or enroll in a magical lodge that asks you to do that, you can certainly discuss magic here!

    As for the ethics of magic, well, like everything else, magic is used ethically by some people and unethically by others. I'll be discussing the issues involved in a future post, or more likely a series of them.

    Redoak, an enormous number of people in today's industrial cultures have been taught as children to deafen themselves to the voices of spirits and gods. We'll be talking down the road a bit about how that's done and how to reverse it. For now, keep in mind that they may be talking to you as loudly as they can — you may have been trained, with as much brutality as necessary, not to be able to hear them.

  134. Eric, glad to hear it. As for doing magic when you don't feel like it, well, tell me this. If we were talking about playing the guitar or practicing a martial art, would your friend's argument apply? Of course not — and in fact it's the guitarist who puts in an hour a day whether he feels like it or not, and the martial artist who goes to the dojo three nights a week no matter what her mood, that actually master their art. Magic works the same way.

    Bill, and since we're having this discussion in a post that started with Lovecraft references, perhaps we can work in some sinister non-Euclidean geometries! (Insert sinister laugh here.) Seriously, yes, that would work fairly well.

    Val, no, the Yesod center remains at the genitals, and the Malkuth center is centered on the point where the midline of the body intersects the ground. Yes, that means that in some positions they overlap; some Asian traditions use that deliberately, while most Western traditions avoid it by having students meditate while sitting in chairs.

    SLClaire, that's a fascinating question which I have no idea how to answer. It depends in large part on exactly what the “solar current” of the tradition amounts to in physical terms, and though there's some material related to the lore that overlaps with physics — the solar current appears to be attracted to paramagnetic substances, for example, and the telluric current to diamagnetic substances — the physical substrate, if such there is, remains unknown, at least to me. You could certainly use the idea of coupling as a metaphor, though.

  135. @JMG
    Re: position of energy centers relative to body position

    What are the other ways that human energy centers re-arrange based on body positioning? I assume at least part of it is relative to the system in question, since (for example) not all systems have a center in Malkuth's position, but are there any general rules? From your response to Val it seems the midline of the body is important, and that being the case, what happens to the centers when one is laying flat on the ground?

  136. Hi John,

    I wanted to articulate a few answers of mine prompted by this month's post :

    – about Lovecraft, I have never read his personal epistolary correspondance. But I have heard that he had a phobia of sea and anything living in it… So you can definitely make the case that his work was shaped by a biophobic worldview. And yet… I think what drew me to his work was not biophobia, but actually an attraction for an alternative reality, whose monstruosity made it more stimulating and accepting than the physical world around me. The horrors he describes are often easier to understand than the complexities of an actual living world around you. Not sure I would have become pal with a Great Ancient if I had one in the backyard though ! But unlike other fantastical litterature like ghost stories or classical monster tales, the power emanating from Lovecraft's work stems from the willingness he and several other authors have had in their time, to step away from the classical morality monster figures inherited from Christianity (devils, vampires, werewolves…), which often felt like taking human shapes and only distorting them a little to impose a value judgement. Whereas Ctuhlu or other self-respecting Lovecraftian Gods were obtained by twisting the very laws of physics. It is no coincidence that a non-Euclidian space is the scariest place you could end up in ! You are right actually, this sense of cosmic horror bent on twisting the laws of materialism was in no small part shaped by the positivist worldview of the time, which I guess is the point you were trying to get across. Mix science, romanticism and horror together and you get the perfect escapism for a positivist post-modern audience 🙂

    – once again, as to the core subject of this blog, magic : I seem to repeatedly hit a wall there, because what bothers me with all the stuff you describe is not that it is far-fetched. Theoretical astrophysics have nothing to envy to occultism when it comes to cobbling together gigantic theories… No, my concern is just what I perceive to be a lack of method. Take this example, which works inside a Christian framework of angels and spirits :
    http://www.esotericarchives.com/tritheim/trchryst.htm
    The art of drawing spirits into crystals. Okay, so you can draw spirits into crystals… I could buy that, you know. But once again, and I have the same quibble about most of the otherwise excellent comments here… what bothers me is that a great deal of detail is given regarding the method, which may have been empirically worked out, I can also grant that. While there is almost no effort given into sketching out the results you could expect from crystal practice. It is as if you were supposed to cherrypick whatever evidence is convenient on the spot to justify your beliefs. The methods focus a lot on the benefits you can get from magickal interactions, and yet remain pretty vague as to what experience you get from those interactions. I would be more interested in just discovering a non-material realm, as deriving advantages from it is pretty secondary to me. If, as your worldview puts it, we are surrounded with immaterial beings interacting with us, we should get somewhat broad aspects common to most manifestations of worship. Whenever I try out a new practical or social skill, my approach is to do it a little and if I get some measure of the expected results after a while, I know I can add it to my personal set of practiced skills. It is a bit hard for me to venture into a skillset where a lot of people tell you what to do, what you want to obtain from it, but not how you are supposed to experience it. Maybe that is a point you could address ?

  137. JMG, let me say it diplomatically: I need to have few more years of practice in both magic and English to attempt such translation. But it is something I will consider down the road if circumstances allow for it.

    As for secrecy and ethics I will wait for posts about this dimension of study. I have no problem with keeping my new “hobby” private, yet I am glad I have this one place to talk about it. 🙂

  138. Alexander, when you're lying flat on the ground, the energy centers are in a horizontal line, like your physical body. If you stand on your head, they're upside down — which is also something that some Asian traditions use for specific purposes. The energy centers are linked spatially to specific points in your physical body, and move with the latter.

    Jean-Vivien, it's not a lack of method, it's an attempt to keep people from faking it, or half-consciously manufacturing experiences to fit a preconceived idea of what they should be. One problem with all this work is that it was originally taught by a master to pupils, or by the adepts of a magical lodge to initiates, so the instructional papers didn't have to specify such details as what students see when they look into a crystal; the teachers knew, and could assign students the exercise and assess the results, while the students had no idea what to expect and so weren't in a position to fake results. The shift to mostly self-instruction has brought a lot of challenges, and that's one of them.

    Changeling, your English is already better than than of some American writers in the occult field. I mean that quite seriously — I've had editors tell me horror stories about what it took to turn a book manuscript into readable English. Still, the choice is yours, of course.

  139. JMG & SL Claire
    Telluric currents exist within the earth – knowledge of them allows measurement for instance of sedimentary basins – via measurement of resistivity.

    I am informed that:
    “Faraday's Law of Induction: changing magnetic fields produce alternating currents.
    Changes in the Earth's magnetic field produce alternating electric currents just below the Earth's surface called Telluric currents.”

    We do indeed live in a charged environment, whatever its direct effects might be on us.

    For what it is worth I read this:
    “1. In diamagnetic substances, small magnetic fields produced by particle motions are randomly oriented and cancel each other out, leaving atoms and ions with no net magnetic field.
    Examples: salt, gypsum, marble, quartz, graphite

    2. In paramagnetic substances (which include most substances), the small fields don't cancel each other out but leave the atoms or ions with net magnetic fields.
    However, since the atoms are randomly arranged, the substance as a whole has no net magnetic field.

    3. In ferromagnetic substances, the atoms have net magnetic fields and the atoms are arranged in regions called domains in such a way that each domain has a magetic field.
    (Domains can only be explained by using quantum theory.)
    However, normally the domains are randomly oriented and there is no net magnetic field in the substance.
    Examples: iron (which is technically ferrimagnetic), magnetite, hematite (technically counted anti-ferrimagnetic), ilmenite, pyrrhotite, goethite, many other iron compounds

    When each of these kinds of substances is placed in an external magnetic field (like the Earth's field, for example), additional small magnetic fields are induced.”

    The last paragraph might be relevant if living forms not only sense but respond to signals on carrier frequencies, but I have no idea!

    Sorry!
    Phil

  140. You've been discussing people falling in love with the desert, but I'm going to back up to those who (to your dismay) found nature hostile and uninviting, and preferred to be in an urban environment. As a former San Franciscan who has lived in New Mexico for the past 50 years, let me say I found it very hard to come to terms with nature out here. Nature was hard, hot, scratchy, and itchy – with cockroaches!Very dismaying to someone acclimated to the gentle and much-praised Nature around Northern California! A nice air-conditioned place place in the city felt very good, confronted with that.

    It was only on a recent trip to San Francisco this Yule that I realized I am no longer a San Franciscan, largely due to the area being wall-to-wall cars. Even so, New Mexico is not easy to get in touch with, and the land spirits may not like Anglos particularly much. Though, try approaching them through Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, the Lady of the Americas.

    But it did come to me that maybe your biophobic city dwellers are simply living in the wrong bioregion?

  141. Beannachtaí Lá Fhéle Bhríde! Happy Brigid's Day to ye all!

    Today is locally celebrated making the distinctive St Brigid's cross out of fresh green rushes, hanging the fresh ones in byres and sheds with specific prayers to bring her blessing to the flocks and herds for the year…

  142. @Onething I can hear the love with which u speak of the land to which you connect. I sense we have no disagreement at all, except that we may have got ourselves a wee bit snagged on the meaning of the word “improve”…

    You said: “I definitely think it is possible to improve the land without having a controlling desire and pushing it around. The key is doing it with love, taking all factors into consideration.”

    But, if I said: “I definitely think it is possible to improve my beloved, without having a controlling desire and pushing him around”? Even with love the word “improve” would seem inappropriate, would it not?

    What I have been reaching for, I suppose (and am finding a way to think about if “land” = “land+” ie the complex of land with its resident biota and resident theota) is how to relate TO it, as a I would to a beloved and a helpmeet, and to hope this relationship might, in time, be reciprocated.

  143. @ Onething …one more thought… It is certainly the case that if I cook a meal, feed the fire, take out the rubbish, etc that I am “improving” the local conditions under which my beloved can be happy (and vice versa – a happy reciprocity)… So using the word in that sense would not be at all inappropriate to being in relationship with the land+.

  144. As I picked up bits of plastic along the 600mx2 of public roadside verges running through these beloved acres, I did sense the lightest breathed “thank you” or perhaps a feeling of relief.

    And here's a thought that came with it… That nowadays it's not iron so much as ubiquitous plastic that is antithetical to magical beings…

    And perhaps that the common denominator between those two materials (despite their rather different physical properties) is their association with human conceit of invincibility…

  145. Hi, John. Since this is the first time I'm leaving a comment, I thought I'd introduce myself first. I am a student of Druidry with OBOD (though just a Bard for the time being), and I've also been a reader of your blog for a few years now as well as your books on magic and spirituality. The Celtic Golden Dawn, The Druid Magic Handbook and Monsters are the ones I cherish most. This months post touched directly on something I've been grappling with for a long time, and it can neatly be summed up with the question: Why in the name of Cthulu does absolutely every movement of ordinary human thought and perception seem to come out of the need to reinforce the noophobic insistence that the Universe must be exactly the big, empty, life- and mindless “echo chamber for the human ego”? I simply do not understand it, and I have been trying rather hard for a rather long time to understand. I don't experience the Universe that way, I don't want to experience the Universe that way, and I honestly don't believe I could pull it off if I decided to try. Why do all these angry, talking heads insist that I must, and react in horror and resentment when I don't. What exactly is it that they themselves are getting out of it? I've never managed to find a satisfying answer to that question…

    Yesterday I had a rather unnerving experience (thanks to reuliulibride for bringing it up in the very first comment). I sat down to chat with an acquaintance whom had been delighted to learn through her husband that I was into the occult. She apparently was a G.D. adept and a leader of the local temple for many years and what not, so I let the conversation flow into juicy things like for example the similarities between certain nasty Mesoamerican practices I had recently learned of through reading (the kind that involves etheric revenants) and the purpose of ancient Egyptian burial practices. She blinked and said something about the local vampire subculture. We went on to discuss spiritual transformation of the self, and I stated that I found that to best come about through contemplation, and that ritual was something I do either as a seasonal celebration, or to raise and direct Nwyfre in various practical ways. The response? “Dude!!! Magick (I'm quite sure she, as opposed myself, spells it with a 'k') is just a way of talking about aspects of our own personalities! So that we can become a better version of ourselves! We're not superstitious!!! We don't believe in powers of stars or the moon and stuff like that.” It is at this point a bit unclear exactly whom “we” referred to, but anyway I politely excused myself and left.

    I'd really like your thoughts on this, John, because Druidry and the occult are my great passions, and what continuously makes me unable to get off my ass and actually practice is that I'm not entirely able to cope with the sheer amount of confusion and frustration instilled by the hemorrhage of narrative constantly imposed by the angry echo chamber egos on one hand, and on the other the various breeds of not-occultists sporting some construct of psychology and pseudoscience dolled up in bucketloads of mythological drag, passing it around for magical philosophy.

  146. Phil, that's all entirely relevant. Quite a bit of experimentation in the more unconventional ends of the organic-agriculture scene has gone into figuring out how paramagnetism and diamagnetism affect plant growth, and some remarkably weird effects have surfaced; more about this in a future post.

    Patricia, that's possible. The thing is, I know people who are perfectly comfortable with nature and biological existence in the city — depending on where you are, there can be quite a bit of it there. Biophobia isn't simply a matter of preferring city to countryside, but of fear and hatred toward biological life in general.

    Scotlyn, and likewise! We'll be talking about the magical implications of iron in a later post, but you're right that plastics have their own noxious qualities on a nonphysical as well as a physical plane.

    Sven, first of all, if you're letting other people's opinions keep you from practicing magic, you need to slap yourself hard and wake up. Other people's opinions are worth exactly what you pay for them, or perhaps slightly less. If magic is ever going to become something more for you than a source of daydreams, or the stickier equivalent, that will happen only and precisely because you, personally, choose to ignore everybody and everything else long enough to put in the half hour or so of daily practice that is the non-negotiable requirement.

    That said, what is it that makes so many people in and out of the magical community insist that the whole universe is nothing more than an echo chamber? The same thing that makes spoiled children fling themselves to the floor and scream at the top of their lungs while pounding their fists and feet on the carpeting: first, a highly overdeveloped sense of entitlement; second, a constant state of baffled rage that the universe serenely refuses to play along with that unproductive attitude; and third, the cultivation of fantasies of omnipotence to coddle the bruised and tender ego. That syndrome isn't unique to mages — quite the contrary, it pervades modern industrial culture, especially where that culture has to confront the nonhuman world, and it's unfortunately not surprising that many people in today's pop occult scene haven't been able to see through it.

  147. Scotlyn,

    Yeah, it will take a lot of pondering to find where my own preferences stop and real improvement might begin. I am coming from the idea, though, that human consciousness is something of value, and so if an area incites admiration, who is to say that the land+ is not pleased?

    I think that people do improve their beloveds – the resistance to the idea comes from the control freaks and the many disappointments people get in relationships, in which someone's hopes to change someone do not come about. But think of the many times when someone praises their beloved for what they have brought to their lives and made them a better person.

    Mine has improved me just by being there and making me feel more relaxed because I have a partner and am not alone. He is also less selfish than me, and this has slowly worked at my mind, and slightly chipped away at my natural tendencies. He has never said a word and I doubt he notices or even thinks it is so, and yet it is and I have noticed it. I can remember a time when my father led by example, showing me that he is personally honest without ever lecturing in the slightest. It had a profound effect of making me value honesty and my improvement was completely voluntary. The mode of goodness does not use force, but it has power.

  148. The idea that biophobia is similar to or even related to a generalized fear of consciousness is quite interesting, as like Sven, I have spent a long time trying to grok what certain types of atheists get out of their outlook. I have made a certain amount of progress, too.

    I find the idea of an empty universe absolutely chilling, and depressing.

    In some ways I wonder if the modern extreme form of bio/noo phobia is an extension of the Christian one, in which the universe is far from dead, but is greatly reduced, what with thinking there is life only on one planet, you live only once, and the animals don't have souls.

    Sven, from the gospel of Thomas #75:

    “There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the bridal suite.”

    Since there are many standing around, what can it mean to be alone?
    I believe it means those with spiritual confidence, whose connection to the spirit is real enough that the opinions or fads of society don't alter them.

  149. JMG, – there is one more problem with translating this book – I've found English book by Mouni Sadhu called ” The Tarot, you've mentioned earlier. It is not as much “inspired” by Grigori Ossipovich Mebes work, it is rather straightforward translation, down to paragraphs and individual sentences. :-<

  150. Small correction to previous post: with exception of introduction. It also not true that what Mouni Sadhu said about Mebes' work:
    “It was never for sale on the open market as a book and only a few
    initiated circles of students were lucky enough to get a copy.”

    In fact, it was published and for sale when he was in Poland.

  151. Hey hey all,

    Since we finally got around to talking about what bill calls 'the meatless' I'd like to ask a question of anyone who is in touch with them. Could one of you ask your meatless friends what star the nearest civilization that has radio astronomy is circling?

    Thanks,
    Tim

  152. I think the comments on biophobia are fascinating, and they prompt this great anecdote on the subject of the blog.

    Magic and anti-magic

    There is a cruel trick, spell, or incantation that you can play on anyone to tease out their biophobic tendencies. These days, it's more of a friendly practical joke, but I'm always surprised by how well it works and the negative reactions I get “casting” it. The incantation goes like this:

    “You are now breathing manually!”

    Without fail, the target will be unable to segue back into automatic breathing. This on its own isn't too surprising. What's surprising is how frightened people act when experiencing this! It's as if they're terrified by their biological processes and want to shove them off into the realm of the unseen, unheard, unknown. Inevitably, they'll get distracted by something and start breathing automatically again.

    The defense against this basic curse is the most basic of spiritual practices: meditation. Many practitioners of meditation focus and control their breath, sometimes for hours on end. Merely meditating for fifteen minutes a day will make one more comfortable with breathing manually. I recently had the joke curse cast on me by a friend, and much to their surprise, I found it a relaxing and joyous experience, and I was able to segue back into automatic breathing on my own time.

    I've practiced no magic beyond the basic Druid protection ritual, but it was good to have an example of magic working in real life, especially in such a poetic and traditional way.

  153. Hello JMG

    You said to Heather:

    A basic attitude of respect for nature and reverence toward what's beautiful and true will keep you from getting into trouble.

    How do you decide what is beautiful and true? I would think beauty has no absolute, so do you just go by your own subjective values? And what about what's true, do you again go by your values? I'm cross referencing to your post on values, of course.

    SMJ

  154. Sven, delighted to hear it.

    Onething, yes, and we'll be discussing that in this month's post. Do you recall the discussion of religious sensibilities a while back on The Archdruid Report? That's basically what we're dealing with here.

    Changeling, thank you for that bit of information — there's been a certain amount of curiosity among American occultists about just how much of Mouni Sadhu's book comes from Mebes. Still, that's not an obstacle to a translation — plagiarism doesn't establish any copyright claim to the original.

    Bruno, there are scores of introductory books for beginners; mine include Learning Ritual Magic, for those who are comfortable with Judeo-Christian traditions, and The Druid Magic Handbook and The Celtic Golden Dawn, for those who prefer a nature-centered polytheism. Pick up one of those and follow the instructions for practice, step by step, without skipping anything or jumping ahead, and you'll have a basic practical understanding of magic within a couple of years.

    Adrian, thank you, and likewise!

    Tim, why should the meatless have any more information about that than the meatsome do?

    Carnegie, funny. That's one form of magic, the strictly psychological form; it's effective, but of course there are other forms of magic less dependent on the thinking of the target.

    SMJ, of course you go by your own values. It's that or go by someone else's values, after all.

  155. I saw this quote the other day. It sounds familiar and corroborates what you've said.

    “If you spend a long period of time in study and self-cultivation, you will enter Tao.
    By doing so, you also enter a world of extraordinary perceptions.
    You experience unimaginable things, receive thoughts and learning as if from nowhere, perceive things that could be classified as prescient.
    Yet if you try to communicate what you experience, there is no one to understand you, no one who will believe you.
    The more you walk this road, the farther you are from the ordinary ways of society.
    You may see the truth, but you will find that people would rather listen to politicians, performers, and charlatans.”
    -Deng Ming-Dao

  156. I am speaking without using magic-related jargon, but…
    it seems to me that manual activities have a lot to teach in terms of occult meaning.
    I have been stitching the bottom of some trousers, and I realized that knitting (a very simple practice) is very potent with images. For example, the thread can represent action or life story, and knitting provides you with the realization that you actually do have some measure of control over your life. You keep intertwining one part of fabric with another, one part being plainly visible and the other laying hidden behind.
    I suppose this is how most rituals are constructed, using concrete physical acts to intuitively derive a deeper meaning and actually experience it on a sensory level. This is how I prefer to function myself.

    It would be interesting to take mundane practical “chores” and to show how one can derive a wealth of meaning from it. A useful mental tool to help drive people towards acting now. I also suspect many folks will be more than happy to get back to a level of complexity where they actually get to experience their tools rather than the dry, sterile use of computers we make for a lot of the production of goods and services.

  157. Good Morning. Just a few thoughts on mutuality and compost. I do from time to time read some poetry to my compost, usually when I am adding or turning. It's usually Mary Oliver, she has a reverence for the sun and capital 'N' nature that seems appropriate. I am following along with the discussion here despite spotty internet and catch-up reading. That is a lot of planes to introduce all at once!

    I have been trying to figure out if my resistance to ritual is mostly a remnant of childhood hours spent in the Lutheran Church and/or lack of knowledge. As mentioned earlier in the comments, structures set in place very early in life are often hard to identify, let alone banish. But at what point do everyday acts, done with an open heart in all kinds of weather, become ritual? I am curious how others think about and experience ritual in their day to day.

    As much as post-modernism has been lambasted here; I have found Helene Cixous' writing on how to approach “the other” quite fruitful: “Through the same opening that is her danger, she comes out of herself to go to the other, a traveler in unexplored places; she does not refuse, she approaches, not to do away with the space between, but to see it, to experience what she is not, what she is, what she can be.”

    How this translates into everyday interactions with not just other people but other-others is just good manners – ” Hi, I see you there; what is it like to be you?” While Animism is an open question for me, approaching rocks, and the less-meaty, with good manners is more than an act of whimsy.

    I found the sock joke hilarious. I wonder what a handkerchief meant for a tree or a newt would look like! It's worth thinking about where your own sense of horror crops up.

    Stacey

  158. Onething,
    I've taken a couple days to think about how to put it into words.
    I was in my mid-teens, and, you know how you have polytheists, monotheists, agnostics, and atheists? I'd submit there's a place for another category: antitheist. One of my parents falls very firmly into that category. You can probably imagine how that situation plays out: like any subject a parent and teen feel strongly about on opposite directions. Except, of course, it's not about something as trivial as tastes in music or fashion. My other parent was on my side of the disagreement, so the antitheist saved the attacks for when the other parent was not around.
    So, one summer morning, very early, before anyone else was awake I woke up. Being a kid with a penchant for astronomy, this was extremely unusual. And He spoke to me. Told me I was His child, and that He was happy with me. He spoke in the still, small voice Isaiah refers to.
    That gave me a confidence that probably drove my parent nuts over the next few years. But I think it also kept me from doing anything very self-destructive over the next several years. It didn't matter so much when my parent told me I was stupid since I was good enough for Him.

  159. @ Dan the Farmer, who quoted: “The more you walk this road, the farther you are from the ordinary ways of society.
    You may see the truth, but you will find that people would rather listen to politicians, performers, and charlatans.”
    -Deng Ming-Dao

    Love this quote! I definitely am getting further & further out of society.

    @JMG. So I'm starting to work through The Celtic Golden Dawn, but I am also awaiting my first full package of lessons from OBOD (did the intro pack already). It struck me this morning that perhaps I shouldn't do both at the same time as perhaps it would get confusing? I realize there are no “Thou shalt nots” in Druidry, but what are your thoughts?

  160. Jean-vivien and Stacy-
    To me your comments about chores and rituals, finding and infusing meaning in every day actions and interactions, are at the heart of how I'm working on transforming my life. Jean-vivien, I loved your reflection on knitting. In an example from my life, I love the physical work in the garden, digging and hoeing, hauling and pulling out old plants, and, especially, weeding. I used to see these chores in purely physical ways, as good exercise or as a place to take out my frustrations. But I've come to realize that the garden is not a gym or a dumping grounds for my negative energy, but its own Place, filled with intelligences, and my agenda is only one of many there, and I need to approach the Others with respect and kindness. I now talk to the soil, and the weeds (actually I've stopped calling them that), and the rocks, and the seedlings, explaining what I'm doing and requesting their cooperation, and trying hard to actually listen to what they say as well. I'm thinking about air, fire, water, and earth, about how energy is flowing and collecting, how spirit is moving and resting… Gardening has become a deeply spiritual activity for me.

    Now for the laundry… 🙂

    I would love to hear from others about where they recognize other intelligences (I am new to this way of thinking and don't really have the language yet) as you go about your daily lives. I am working to become less blind and reading the stories here really helps. As Dan and Janet pointed out, I don't really have anyone in real life around me to talk to about these things.

    –Heather in CA

  161. Related to my comment above, does anyone know of sources for songs or chants to accompany farm or garden work? Songs for planting, for harvesting, for watering, etc.? I tried composing a song for my compost (I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly), but clearly songwriting is not my artistic gift. JMG's writing elsewhere about the need for “re-enchantment” of our world, while perhaps not meant quite so literally, has had me thinking about this for months.

    I think this topic, a spiritual approach to everyday chores, with prayers or songs or meditations or whatever to accompany them, would make a great book. I'm hoping someone has already written it…?

    –Heather in CA

  162. JGM, well, I I have already decided to translate this book, seeing how useful it could be as exercise in both English and magic (study, study, study…). ;->

    I am still highly sceptical about sending it to publishers on the other side of the ocean, but it is way to early to fret about it.

  163. Heather, I don't know of any book of songs, but we often sing out in the garden. Two favorites are White Choral Bells and The Ash Grove.
    This is the former: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE5QrWks1e8

    Don't know why the internet is convinced the second word is coral, but I'm sure it's properly choral.

    I cannot find the version of The Ash Grove that we sing. It is similar to what wikipedia calls the oliphant lyrics, but goes as so:
    Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander as twilight is fading I pensively roam,
    or at the bright noontide in solitude wander amidst the dark shades of the lonely ash grove.
    'Tis there where the blackbird is cheerfully singing, each lark doth enchant with its voice from a tree.
    Ah, then little think I of sorrow and sadness, the ash grove's enchantment spells beauty to me.

    The tune's easy to find: try a hymnal, there are several hymns that use it. Most of what we sing are hymns. Come, Ye Thankful People, Come is particularly appropriate for harvest I find.

  164. Ritual is deliberate action, preordained, a form of communication and a way of developing a desired frame of mind. It is a way of being present in the moment but because you are doing prearranged words or actions, you do not have to think much and it frees your mind, your self, to immerse in the thing, the thing which has meaning and import to you.

    They said the gods were immortal, but for us books or oral tradition, and ritual are ways of keeping up a living stream. Take philosophy. People have thought of profound questions and pondered answers, and someone makes a splash and then others, both during their lifetime and after they die, respond, trying to correct or add to it. It is an ongoing conversation in the west (and a different one in the east) that spans millenia!

    The deliberate creation of beauty.
    *********************************
    My contacts with the Others has not been nature sylphs or sprites. I'd like to learn more about this possibility.

    I had a tremendous amount of communication with my mother after she passed away.

    My guardian angel has come to me twice.
    But he also tells my mind things, but in such a way that I don't know if I figured it out myself or was given it. I become suspicious only later.

  165. Hi Heather,

    thank you, I was trying to convey how manual work could form useful images for grasping more metaphysical insights. But your angle is also pretty valid, when you say you are trying to figure out the intelligences or systemic phenomena at work inside even the most mundane things like a compost pile. As for singing prayers, I had not thought of that aspect at all, and literally feeling presences can be as important as explaining in words. One of the point this blog is trying to get across is that there are many different forms of knowing, and I concur that experiencing presences can complement the process of explaining, as long as one can grasp that the two approaches do not fulfill the same needs. I guess it is just like people experience their faith, either on a core, emotional level, or on a more intellectual level as in exegesis or theology in general.
    Again, it would be worth defining how “emotional” and “intellectual” do differ, maybe they are the wrong terms here.
    Anyway, thanks for getting me out of my mental box.

  166. For songs, I like Colin John Rudd's blues songs, they are very engaging… You can find them on Youtube, and that same style is an excellent support for spiritual songs.

  167. @Stacey Armstrong,

    “Through the same opening…”

    That is a lovely quote. When I mentioned post-modernists upthread, I was not really dissing; more making a joke because of the emphasis on uncertainty: deconstructing the idea of “the author” and “the text,” for example.

    After all, deconstructionists, post-structuralists, post-modernists et al. started by and continue on critiquing the whole modernist project (albeit in often opaque prose) and that is what JMG has been up to lo these many years, in clear, readable (classic) prose. Modernism is another name for progress, and is a direct outgrowth of the industrial revolution.

    Also, very briefly, my opinion re ritual: as a practicing Quaker, I have come to understand ritual is what you make of it. Historic Friends started out by discarding “empty forms,” or ways of behaving that have no meaning for the practitioners. However, that I sit in silence with others on first day mornings and that the presence of god is felt to enter the meeting is just as much a ritual, I believe, as practicing the sphere of protection; or saying certain things when you plant; or greeting the river near your house and promising to help it every time you cross over. All of these I do. One of the things that counts is, as you point out, the practitioner's attitude and intent. Thus genuine good manners, thus altruism.

  168. @ Heather and others following the thread.

    Ha…yah it was a little harrowing admitting that poetry reading is happening out at the compost. But as I continue to take up residence in my own life some eccentricities are definitely emerging. I have been looking for some old field songs as well. You may consider looking at some Waldorf school songs which I have had some exposure to in the last year and they made me really think about how music can turn grumbling drudgery into something else…a dedication? An offering?

    I hear you about the laundry. One of my current projects is the re-enchantment of the hearth. This may be a fancy way of saying infusing value into tasks that have been undervalued, exported, disappeared and sterilized. It hasn't escaped my notice recently that there are some deities who do laundry, sometimes in a very fierce way!

    @ Adrian. As for post-modernism, I have criticized it myself in an earlier comment on this very blog, I am still ambivalent. I think like any theory or poetry it can become a parody of itself, especially under the pressures of professionalisation. Thank-you for talking more about how you take up ritual in your life.

    Stacey

  169. Hi JMG,
    I just read, on your other blog, your response to AngelusCruentus asking about UFO technology and so on. It brought up a question for me that I figured is better suited for this blog.

    You explained the planes are discrete, and you can't, for instance, coerce nature spirits into doing physical work in machines.
    On the other hand, a few months ago you discussed homeopathy, which does create changes in the physical world – specifically, our bodies.

    So does this mean that our bodies and/or minds are not just confined to the physical plane, but are bridges of some sort to other planes?

    Or is there some distinction that I'm not picking up?

  170. I wanted to thank JMG and the commentators for corroborating experiences I have had and giving me the vision to understand.
    I have always had strong feelings of place and of the land that are beyond sensory or anything practical. I do not have the language or spiritual education to explain how a place can speak to me, and any attempts to broach this topic are usually met with a wall of rational analysis or polite silence.
    For example, on long backpacking trips I learned to listen to my intuitions when choosing a campsite. Of course there were the usual concerns like water, exposure to wind, dead “widowmaker” tree limbs above, concealment, etc. to consider, but beyond that, a place has to feel right, like I am welcome there. After some wretched nights of feeling very out of place, very uninvited, I learned to listen to the vibes of a place and camp only where I belonged.
    The most interesting part is that I always knew this as a child, from my sojourns in the woods, and then perhaps I was educated out of my own experience. Then I lost my confidence for several years until I could relearn this over the objections of our rational industrial era. The world is “re-enchanted,” as our host would say.
    Again, my gratitude for this forum where I can talk about this.

  171. SMJ, yes, that's part of the process.

    Dan, I'd be the last person to argue with that quote!

    Jean-Vivien, good! Yes, that's something that plays a large role in some traditions of magic and mysticism, and could play a larger one in those that haven't made use of it.

    Stacey, well, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but for me, action becomes ritual when it's done with intention, expressed according to some mode of symbolism. That's something we should probably discuss in a later post.

    Janet, I'd encourage you to do the practices at different times of day — for example, the OBOD work in the morning and the Celtic Golden Dawn work in the evening. They're actually compatible — as you may know, I've done the full OBOD course — but should be kept separate until you've gotten a good grasp of each, so you get the full benefit from both.

    Heather, I don't know of a book like that. You might consider being the person who writes it!

    Changeling, I'm delighted to hear it! When you're mostly finished, drop me a note here, marked “not for comment,” with your email, and I'll be in touch about publishers in the US who would snap up something like that.

    Onething, I'm pleased that this blog has created a space where you can talk about such experiences!

    Cliff, excellent! Exactly — our physical bodies are on the physical plane, while other aspects of ourselves are on other planes, and the connections between them are subtle linkages of the sort that can bridge the gap between one plane and another. We'll be getting into the distribution of the whole person across the planes in a future post, or possibly several posts.

    Other Tom, I'm just as glad that this is a place where I can talk about such things! I've had similar experiences out in nature: different places have different energies, and it's wise to know where you're welcome.

  172. It's interesting that folks have brought up everyday chores. A few months ago, I was scrubbing the hard water stains off the tub surround and I noticed that I was enjoying myself. I wasn't just rushing through it to get to something “more interesting” or doing it merely because it was on my list of things that needed to be done, I was actually content in the moment and enjoying myself. And let me tell you, if I can enjoy scrubbing hard water stains, something has shifted.

    I think to our modern Western minds, it seems unlikely that an esoteric (and maybe even a little odd) thing like practicing magic would create that kind of change. But I find as I continue to do the daily practices, I become more patient with others and myself, more focused, more content, and more grounded in my own life. Is it turning me into a saint? Gosh, no. The only saintly thing about me is my name. But I don't aspire to sainthood — I aspire to be the best human I can be in whatever circumstances life throws at me.

    So for those who worry that magical practice will make you like other spiritual people you may have known who were “so heavenly minded they're no earthly good,” I've found that the opposite is true. Over time, I am more and more able to be present for others and to bounce back from whatever hassles life hands me because inside I am … and I can't think of another way to put this… deeply okay.

  173. JMG & Cliff
    It is interesting to see our humanity (interior life?) as being distributed in physical structures as well as connected to other planes. That sounds about right to me.

    A couple of thoughts / ideas occur to me. Homeostasis at the cellular biochemical level keeps physical conditions within bounds – a kind of restoration to default values or back-to 'factory settings' – smile. If sleep every night allowed complete re-setting of 'everything' we presumably would wake each morning remembering nothing. So some non-pathological 'alterations' are clearly 'allowed' to remain, (yes pathological changes can accumulate as well); though I gather that when 'revisited', memories are then reconstructed, and often subtly altered by connections to mood etc. ; thus reconstruction builds an active mental ‘event’ presumably from some primordial physical traces /structures derived from earlier experience and residing in the networks. I wonder though if the altered physical content of networks related to mental activity is the whole story for memory, or if ‘memories’ exist additionally elsewhere, in ‘the cloud’ as it were? I rather prefer the notion that ‘subtle influence’ from the ‘properties’ of other ‘planes’ plays a significant part in revisiting memory, rather than there being some central record library in the sky to refer to.

    Some birds as well as living as long as we do, have exceptionally good memories – corvids being one example. They can also it seems do planning for future action – something our brains do not arrive at much before the age of four. Perhaps we can infer something of the more general nature of mental activity and connection from both the physical structure of creatures and the planes that ‘hover’ round the properties of networks and the latter enormous possibility for rearrangement? (I almost wrote ‘unlimited possibilities’, but of course the physical nature of the networks imposes its own set of limitations.)

    Now I must stop writing and make the bread from the ‘sponge’ I set up last night before bed: more to look forward to!

    best
    Phil H

  174. After reading Stephen Harrod Buhner's books on healing lyme disease, anti-biotics and anti-virals I was not only informed, I was also touched by his worldview and magnanimous, compassionate spirit.

    Hungry for more, I found his website, Gaian Studies, and through that a lecture series he did on connecting one's heart to the greater world.

    The material he goes into is broadly relevant to this blog, and he specifically helps to elucidate the connection between bio and noophobia. Added to that he is an amazing speaker, has really great energy, incredible insights and a delightful sense of humor.

    I'm through the 4th video and am eager to move through the 5th. Highly recommended for people who have 10 hours to spare (approximately 2 hours per video) to hang out with Mr. Buhner and hear his take on nature, humanity, and healing from the spiritual wounds of Western Culture while developing relationships with nature spirits and the astral light.

    Day One: http://youtu.be/8J85CDqMS6g
    Day Two: http://youtu.be/tMZvh1TqvV8
    Day Three: http://youtu.be/nhD7d6q7FkA
    Day Four: http://youtu.be/spAYQY0GB80
    Day Five: http://youtu.be/dFQrkVFqKoU

  175. Would it be also possible to follow both courses, Learning Ritual Magic and The Celtic Golden Dawn?
    From reading the first lesson of both books, I find the method and the Tarot on Ritual more appealing to me, but I'm not very comfortable with Judeo-Christian symbolism.
    On the Golden side, I'm not being able to convince myself I'm doing vibration properly. The buzzing never seems to get too far from the throat region, even if using the instructions on the Vibratory Formula by Scarborough.

  176. “Watch the way that self-destructive patterns of thought and emotion move through society — and then watch it again with a mage's eyes. You're seeing the activity of malign powers who are free to act unhindered because nobody notices their presence.”

    What are the practical limits – particularly for an individual mage – of identifying and opposing such malign powers? What are the ethical boundaries? Is it, properly speaking, simply a matter of self-protection, or can one legitimately attempt to influence the spiritual complexion of one's community, one's culture?

    I wonder if the term “zeitgeist” might be more than a metaphor.

  177. Val, these malign powers may be, let's call them Gaia, reacting to stop human destruction. A proper course would be opposing them changing human ways. These powers only germinate because of the fertile soil.
    I would not hold my breath expecting society to change its course. There's no way to save them all, the only thing that will stop this train is lack of fuel. Concentrate on trying to save your neighbors.

  178. Phil Harris' comment about “memories” perhaps existing in the “cloud” reminded me of a passage in Anathem (which novel has come up a time or three over on the “other” blog). In it, one of the characters outlines a many-worlds account of consciousness in which our “mental model” of the world is actually “out there” distributed across parallel worldtracks (with “crosstalk” between the “closer” or more similar worldtracks). This is supposed to handily eliminate the credibility-straining requirement that our neural hardware have the capacity to construct and update such a model entirely “internally.”

    Over the course of the book that account is expanded to include the notion that our perceptions of Platonic forms, especially mathematic/geometric ones, result from emanations or “crosstalk” between similar worldtracks.

    From there, it's a quick hop to JMG's note about memes being particular kinds of spiritual bodies on the appropriate planes of being. In this sense, could the golden mean and the Archangel Michael be all of an ilk?

    JMG, have you seen any attempts to work out a theoretical correspondence between many-worlds cosmologies and occult multiple planes of being? Any you found persuasive?

  179. Two off-topic questions:
    in your forthcoming edition of Israel – -Regardie's Golden Dawn, are you going to include his kabbalistic text Sky ring under the tree of life ?
    Since it is one of the strongest focus of your other blog, how about writing a post or two about the thermodynamics of immaterial phenomena? Not sure I would buy any of it, but it could at least make for interesting speculation.

  180. Adrian,

    Interestingly, after spending my life up to that point in the Eastern Orthodox church, (which is almost entirely ritual) when I moved to the south and those ethnicities did not exist in any great numbers there, I visited a number of different churches either by myself or with friends, but the only one that seemed familiar and somewhat assuaged my loneliness, was the Quaker meeting, which I guess you could say is the most opposite.

    The reason, I think, is this: In a true Orthodox church there are no pews. Without pews, everything changes. The space and how it is filled is undefined. The exact layout of the worshipers is never exactly repeated, and you can also come and go at will without disturbing the service. It is also more participatory that way, as you are not an audience.

    In the Quaker meeting, the meeting and what will be said and how and when and by whom things will move, is undefined and unrepeatable.

  181. @ Old Guy – Thanks for your response. No, I was not referring to Gaia. I'll take an example or two from history. Supposing you live at a time & place that is characterized by witch hunts or Inquisitions. Is it better to sit on one's duff and let affairs take what course they will, or to take what admittedly limited action one can to oppose such activities?

    At any given time, assorted persecutions and gross exploitation of various kinds are being committed by humans against one another all over the world – to say nothing of environmental destruction. It's not always feasible for an individual to take direct political action against these things on the material plane. I imagine that magic might be a good tool or at any rate a handy adjunct in such a case. That's what my question was about.

  182. @Violet thanks for the Buhner links. I watched the first one & have had some interesting meditations on his point about the sacramental aspects of food. “Breaking bread with yourself” And also, perhaps, the receiving of messages from the living world where all food originates, however circuitous its route, by ingesting them.

  183. I'm also intrigued by Stephen Buhner's suggestion that what JMG has called our sense of “our destiny to metastasise across the stars” is not our human destiny, but Gaia's. And that we have now fulfilled that purpose by using carefully accumulated stores of energy to build and launch seed pods full of versatile & practically unkillable bacteria & microcritters (despite our intentions) out into the winds of space, where millions or billions of years may be no bar at all to an eventual successful germination.

    When you think of it that way, then it becomes possible to consider that the coming shift of religious sensibility will occur because it CAN, because the relentless nature of Gaia's own drive to reproduce (along with much of the resource base she lavished on the effort) will be spent, relinquishing its grip on our sensibilities… and in the chilled planetary “afterglow”, we will be free to just BE a part of everything that is…

  184. Maria, glad to hear it!

    Phil, good. Now factor in the idea, which we'll be discussing at length as we proceed, that just as the universe has many planes of being, you have many bodies, one per plane, and can (and constantly do) take actions with these other bodies just as you do with your physical body. How does that reshape your idea of memory?

    Violet, thanks for the recommendation.

    Old Guy, I don't recommend it. It's best to learn one system at a time, so you don't get them muddled together. As for vibration, that takes practice — as in months and years of practice.

    Val, any one of those questions would be an adequate topic for a book!

    Changeling, it takes as long as it takes. That's been the first law of writing since somebody first tried scratching little pictures on the wall of a cave!

    Foxhole, I haven't seen any, but that's probably because I don't keep up with the avant-garde end of magical theory. Classical Neoplatonism and old-fashioned occultism are more my style.

    Jean-Vivien, I haven't added or subtracted any material from the book — just cleaned it up. As for the thermodynamics of magic, that's a fascinating topic, about which I'll have to think at quite some length.

    Scotlyn, I confess that that claim of Buhner's seems dubious to me. As I see it, the fixation of industrial society on endlessly propagating itself across infinite emptiness is simply a reflection of our own cultural forms, as Spengler among others has sketched out. Current evidence suggests that biospheres don't reproduce at all — they come into being naturally wherever conditions permit — and since there's no evidence for a process of inheritance that would allow Darwinian selection to work on planets, where would a “drive to reproduce” come from? My guess is that there's no such thing, and planets simply move through their life cycles in comfortable solitude.

  185. JMG wrote
    “Phil, good. Now factor in the idea, which we'll be discussing at length as we proceed, that just as the universe has many planes of being, you have many bodies, one per plane, and can (and constantly do) take actions with these other bodies just as you do with your physical body. How does that reshape your idea of memory?”

    JMG
    Thanks for suggestion re ideas about memory (and memories). We are coming to the end of the month but I will keep turning that one over.

    I think I have very briefly a few times ‘seen’ living people in an extra-bodily form – constellated if that is the right description, within their physical appearance when the latter was in plain sight. A few times I sensed that I had been ‘seen’ the same way by another. I guess also I have been conscious of perhaps comparable but non-visible sensation – a different cluster of sense responses – to some other person usually in close proximity. OK, these things are memorable enough in the same way some dreams can be. An interesting bit can be when two persons have a memory of the same mental recognition event (extra-corporeal) occurring at the same time between them. There could be then two sets of primordial physical traces of ‘sight’ of an extra-corporeal ‘body’ to return to? Hmmm … mutual memory recovery …?
    (I am by the way trying to absorb the trustworthy Alasdair Macintyre After Virtue. I have got to a reference to the thesis about there being no private language.)

    best
    Phil

  186. This was fascinating, partly because it addressed a question I've been struggling with off and on lately; why people who believe in a god aren't disturbed by the notion. (Well, modern people. Some of the ancient gods seem pretty grim.) Putting it in a, “yeah, there are large animals that might eat you in nature, and there also are in the spirit realm” context makes much better sense of things.
    Thank you for that.
    -Adding Lovecraft to the reading list. After I tackle the 198 preceding comments.

  187. The sky fairies comment was interesting, too; hadn't thought of the superstitious fear angle, despite possessing said fear. Or maybe because of possessing it?
    But at any rate, I read it as an extension of my own irritation with a perception that so many people today seem to conceive of god, or the universe, depending, as some sort of automated wish machine.

  188. Reading this post reminded me of the evil Urqhuan from the computer game Star Control, not so much because they were lovecraftian horror's but more for there motivation. The Urqhuan were motivated to either enslave/exterminate all other intelligent life in the galaxy because of their fear that if any other intelligent life were allowed to exist outside of their control could potentially be a threat to them. It occurred to me that part of the disembodied beings comes from a basic fear of there being anything out there which could possibly be outside the control of humanity, because of the (quite correct) understanding that anything outside of our direct control/understanding could potentially lead to our destruction, for example, in all likelihood at right this moment there is large meteor which, will at sometime impact the Earth, and whatever human civilization, if any, which is upon the Earth at that time will find themselves destroyed by something over which they themselves had absolutely no control and were in all likelihood caused by events which were set in motion before the first human appeared on this planet. Such is the fate of those who do not have God-like mastery over all matter. This of course overlooks the destruction we heap upon our selves in our mad quest for progress.

    Also on chaos magic, not that I know much about it, but doesn't the idea that the universe is whatever we want it to be somewhat solipsistic? After all if everyone can choose for the world to be exactly what they want it to be, that would suggest that everyone is inhabiting separate universes. In that sense I would imagine the desire for there to be no disembodied intelligences would at it's root be about the desire for there to be no other being with there own independent desires which might interfere with our own, or indeed we might need to take into account as we go about our business.

  189. Phil, the ability to perceive the nonphysical bodies — either by vision or by touch — is something that's much cultivated in some schools of magic. You're ahead of the game, in other words. More on this as we proceed!

    N Montesano, old-fashioned religions generally include a healthy respect for the dangerous sides of their deities: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” is a very widely recognized truth. It's mostly among the religions of the privileged that this fades out, and is replaced by something embarrassingly like Santa Claus or Victorian flower-fairies, an invisible being whose sole job is to scurry around making you happy: the wish-machine notion you critique, and with good reason.

    Scotlyn, dissensus as usual!

    Dagnarus, yes, I think the frantic craving for control over the cosmos has a lot to do with the equally frantic insistence that there can't be anything with more power over it than we've got. As for the solipsism of chaos magic, well, yes, that would follow, wouldn't it? 😉

  190. A follow up on work songs:
    Last weekend, when we were planting in the garden, my seven-year-old son, out of the blue (I haven't discussed the idea with him, or been singing more than usual, or anything else), said, “Mom, we should make up a planting song.” Umm, right, I said, sounds good, where should we start? Whereupon he, in about a minute, came up with a rhyming verse about soil and water and sun and seeds growing, set to an almost-familiar tune.
    Out of the mouths of babes…

    This whole work song thing may be a lot easier than I thought!

    I still am pondering how his thinking and my thinking and the garden's thinking, (or Whoever Else's) may have been intertwining… Of course singing is a natural human form of expression, and I've been over-thinking instead of just creating, but still, the synchronicity was something I'm choosing to savor as a little, mysterious gift.
    –Heather in CA

  191. @onething,

    Thanks for your comment re Friends and the Orthodox church. I didn't know that about your form of worship. It does show some commonality at what could be a profound conceptual level. I have heard that the Patriarch has long been speaking for a more earth/creation-centric form of Christianity. Perhaps he has had some influence on Pope Francis?

    A few years ago I heard the Patriarch talking on the radio about the Book of Revelations and his comments sounded radically earth-centered compared to what was being voiced by Evangelicals and Catholics at the time. As in (paraphrased), “It is our duty as Christians to care for nature and Revelations is partly talking about what will happen to us if we don't take care of the earth.” I never forgot that. It was so moving to hear the leader of such an ancient form of Christianity talking about nature and the environment in this way. (My Southern Baptist relatives certainly never spoke of Revelations that way. :))

    Perhaps this is all part of what JMG has discussed regarding a new, nature-focused religious sensibility.

  192. Chaos magic does indeed provide a wide umbrella beneath which lurk a variety of not entirely mutually consistent experimental paradigms. Hooray for that. In the recent EPOCH http://www.esotericon.org/ we have attempted to present a Necronomicon based on Radical Materialism. Due to the very high probability that this universe contains incarnate aliens with extraordinary powers and knowledge, it seems possible that such knowledge may remain available to us, if through a glass somewhat darkly, because of quantum non-locality.

    Regards, Pete Carroll.

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