Book Club Post

April 2018 Book Club

This week’s post is the tenth of a monthly series of open-discussion posts focusing on books I’ve written. Our theme for the present is Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, and this week we’re discussing “The Spiritual Ecology of Initiation” (pp.101-118). I’d like to ask readers to keep their questions and comments focused on that chapter and the ideas it contains; I’m currently hosting a weekly Ask Me Anything post on Mondays on my Dreamwidth journal at https://ecosophia.dreamwidth.org, and there’ll be a more general open post here in due time, so comments on other subjects should go there instead.

The chapter covers a fair amount of material, but the central theme can be summed up simply enough. The work of the mystery schools we’ve been discussing for the last nine months centers on the process of initiation; while there’s been more nonsense written about that subject than about any other detail of occult philosophy, with the sole exception of the lost continent of Atlantis, there’s a vitally important reality behind all the pompous blather and handwaving. Every human being has the capacity for some form of greatness; most human beings never get around to awakening that capacity; but the experience of the mystery schools down through the centuries has been that certain specific disciplines reliably help trigger the inner changes that enable the awakening of the potentials hidden in the individual person.

What are these disciplines? Ritual, either performed by trained practitioners or practiced repeatedly by the initiate for himself or herself, starts the process; meditation, study, and certain other practices build on the foundation of ritual, and foster the ripening of individual capacity. It’s not fast and it’s not foolproof—quite the contrary, it requires steady labor over a period of many years—but it works remarkably well.

Questions? Comments? Discussions? Have at it—subject, of course, to the usual rules.

***********

Next month’s book club post will finish up our study of Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth. After that, we’ll be going on to an important work of occult philosophy, one of the most influential such works in today’s occult field: The Cosmic Doctrine by Dion Fortune. Please note that there are two different editions of this work in circulation these days. The currently available edition, published by Weiser, reproduces the original 1924 privately printed edition; the edition most often found in the used book market, published by Helios in hardback and Aquarian in paperback, is the revised 1966 edition. I personally prefer the revised edition, because that’s the one I used in my original study of the text, and the revisions to my mind sharply improved the clarity of the presentation; the same material is covered in both editions, though. I own copies of both and will give citations from both for those who are prepared to read along and study this extremely useful manual of magical philosophy.

118 Comments

  1. “Every human being has the capacity for some form of greatness…”

    “What are these disciplines? Ritual, either performed by trained practitioners or practiced repeatedly by the initiate for himself or herself, starts the process…”

    What about people for which ritual magic is counterindicated? How can they achieve greatness?

  2. Ah, Atlantis. I apologize for instantly sidetracking here (though you did bring it up). There’s doubtlessly book-long discussions to be had about lost continents, but let me ask just this short question: Where do you think it was located?

  3. Rationalist, ritual magic isn’t necessary for initiation. Not all ritual is magical, and there are quite a few initiatory systems that don’t use magic at all.

    SpiceIsNice, normally I’d delete your comment for being off topic, but you’re right, I did mention it, My bad. 😉

    Plato — the original source for the Atlantis story — says that Atlantis was in the Atlantic Ocean, “in front of” the straits of Gibraltar, not far from the continent on the far side of the Atlantic, and he gives a date for its sinking that works out to roughly 9600 BC. That’s a fairly exact description, and it’s a source of wry amusement to me to watch people try to claim that Atlantis was literally anywhere in the world other than where Plato said it was.

    Take the man at his word, on the other hand, and the pieces fall into place promptly. Are there land masses near the coast of North America, more or less “in front of” the Straits of Gibraltar, that were dry land in 9600 BC and are under the water now? You bet. The most likely candidate is one of the major banks in the Bahamas, east of the strait between Florida and Cuba. You’ll find a detailed discussion in my book on the subject, somewhat unimaginatively titled Atlantis.

  4. “Every human being has the capacity for some form of greatness”

    This would seem to imply that different people will, upon exposure to these schools, achieve different types of greatness. This would seem to fit very, very well with the Druid teachings. Might it also be the case that different mystery schools awaken different capabilities?

    Additional question on the topic, at the risk of going off on a very large tangent: might this also depend on the phase of development the soul is at? In other words, would exposing a soul on the first trip through human existence work as well as exposing a soul who has been here for quite a while? I suppose this might be hard to prove one way or the other, but it seems plausible to me that this could be the case.

  5. Are there any self-initiatory, book-based systems that don’t use magic, or at least the types of magic which are contraindicated for individuals with mental illness?

  6. Before I got married, a friend who was divorced told me it would change me whether I wanted it to or not. He said that going into it, he did not take the ceremony serious. Even so, it was transformative and he could acknowledge that even after getting divorce. He couldn’t really describe it beyond that. For my own marriage ceremony, the clearest memory I have is of watching a hawk outside the window. When I was growing up, I had the experience of not taking rituals seriously and being emotionally affected by them anyway – boy scout ceremonies, graduations. And of them have this fog around them mixed with very vivid moments that are indescribable to others.

    This being my closest contact between initiation, how do these rituals affects differ from when chosen by the participants and prepared for with the means you are speaking of?

  7. Will O, that depends on the specifics of the initiatory work.

    Will J, yes, yes, and yes.

    Rationalist, quite a few of them. One I’ve had good results with is presented in Manly P. Hall’s book Self-Unfoldment through Disciplines of Realization, which is wholly meditative in its focus.

    Thomas, take those moments indescribable to others, and the effects those had on you; now imagine that instead of moments, you had an indescribable hour or two, all at that same level of intensity. That’ll give you some sense of what can be done with initiatory ritual.

  8. I have begun an intense and private study of the Yi Ching for 20 years. Only now do i reveal my work. Especially in the last 5 years. I use it arrogantly with a client and learned never to do that again a bitter lesson that still haunts me. Now I use judiciously and quietly and to the best of my ability humbly. I have meditated around the Yi Ching for 20 years as well. Now I am steeped in my shrine room where I consult very day sometimes more in a day.

    Would you consider this a ritual.

    I have only come to your work recently. I marvel at the clarity of your written word and I constantly refer to your Ingress astrology chart as I navigate the blogs re Trump Syria and Cia et al.

  9. Edgar, it can certainly function as one. Sustained, intensive study of a wisdom text — and the I Ching is a good example of that — can serve as the foundation for self-initiation.

    Bruno, yes, and it’s usually best to stay away from them, especially in the first decade or two of your initiatory work. Since each of us has different potentials for magnificence or, to put the same point in other words, each of us has potentials for different kinds of magnificence, it takes a fair amount of self-knowledge to figure out which capacities you’ve got and can develop, which ones are best left to develop on their own as part of a more general initiatory process, and which ones you simply don’t have at all.

  10. JMG, are you familiar with any form of initiation ritual, study, or practice centered around an art or craft, or can you comment on the idea of artistic practice as a form of self-initiation? Is that even a thing?

  11. When you talk about “initiation” in this context, is it a one-time thing, like getting a driver’s license or marriage? Or a set of several graduated steps, like getting ham radio licenses (technician, general, extra)? Or perhaps an annual event, moving steadily from one degree to another? (Annual, that is, if the initiate makes sufficient progress.)

    Speaking of ham radio, I have noticed that I (having a license) am much more likely to assume a “likelihood of friendship” with another licensed ham, as compared with another licensed driver. While I’ve heard a few hams on the air that I hope never to meet in person, there’s a vague sense of “we’ve been through that together”, even if we’ve never met. It’s almost magical… 😉

  12. Some days ago a curious thought came to me.

    Its implications were wide, so i’ll try to be perntinent and concise to this week subject.

    The thing is, sometimes the needs and wants of our true being, our share of “Spiritual activity”, as you put it, and the human we inhabit difer so much.

    In our society we’re educated to prioritize and explore one over the other, and so most people seems to end up unable to perceive they true, most profound yearnings.

    And yet im tempted to think that without trying to manifest the things the higher self whants to acomplish,
    There is no true happiness.

    The problem arises when your talent, or the path that leads to that talent doesn’t fit with the decadent ideals of the society around us. It so easy anyway, since it narrows day by day!

    I think i knowed this unconsciously during all my life, but it took two months of training on your book and your magic mondays to be able to sintetize in the above text.Im still amazed that a short sentence like
    “the hidden spirit of life that creates all things” could help me so much.

    Sorry for the bad English, And many thanks to you JMG

    Guillem.

  13. In my experience, the work connected with initiation includes a good hard look at what’s in your subconscious. In one of my recent journals I likened it to childbirth. The divination and meditation has offered some very important clues as to when and where to look, and when to drop it and focus on the mundane. Or in several instances, to sing, dance, play, giggle, and be silly – or even run wild. (The friends of this Capricorn have been very ready to help me with that, and encourage me to do more of it.)

  14. Jen, it’s a thing, though it’s not something that’s well developed in modern Western traditions. Freemasonry is descended from a set of initiations originally practiced by working craftsmen in the building trades, and all the other craft guilds used to have something similar. In Japan, where the same logic has been taken a good deal further, a great many traditional arts and crafts are passed on in an initiatory setting, as often as not strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism or by Shinto. So if you want to pursue an art or craft as an initiatory path, you’re in good company.

    Lathechuck, it varies from system to system. In some traditions you get one initiation ritual, which you proceed to unpack at increasing depth for years to come, using the tools of study, meditation, and so on. In most western occult schools, there are a series of degrees or grades of initiation; you go through a ritual (or some other means of setting the process in motion), do the work that follows up on that, and then go on to the next one. In the last few centuries of Pagan Greece, the mysteries were an annual event — if you were an initiate of the Eleusinian mysteries, let’s say, every September you would either attend them at Eleusis or you’d participate in a reenactment of them where you live; each year’s newcomers to the mystery rite were called mystai, “initiates,” but those who came back again and again were epoptai, “observers,” and they were the ones who got the most out of it.

    I know what you mean about ham radio licensure! I think it’s a matter of choice — you have to go out of your way to become a ham, just as you have to go out of your way to become a Freemason or an occultist or what have you.(You don’t have to go out of your way to get a driver’s license; take it from me, you have to make a real effort to stay out of it.) I have the same presumption of friendship with other occultists — there’s a sense of being “on the bus” together.

    Guillem, excellent. That’s one of the basic realizations of the spiritual path: what makes us truly happy and fulfilled as human beings is not what our society holds out to us as what’s supposed to make us feel happy and fulfilled. Yes, it has immense implications.

    Patricia M., some initiatory traditions include specific practices that focus on the kind of self-knowledge that gives you a look at the difference between your conscious self-concept and what you really think, feel, do, and are. In others, it just happens along the way — but you’re right, it’s always part of the work.

    We don’t know who we really are. That’s another side of the realization Guillem described in his comment. We don’t know who we really are, and so we constantly make decisions based on a false assessment of our nature and our needs. Getting past that is one of the tasks we have to take up as we go through the work of initiation.

  15. John—

    I don’t really have a question, but would like to say that my own beginnings on this path of self-discovery, however stuttered and halting they may be, have cracked open doors I didn’t even knew existed. So, thank you for introducing these possibilities. I can’t say that I’m not intimidated by the vastness of these new worlds (of which I’ve caught the merest glimpses at this point), but the compulsion to explore carries me forward.

  16. JMG, @Guillem, and @Patricia, yes, indeed, learning who we really are is a necessary part of the process of maturing. And it is never finished, never fully accomplished. I wonder if the rites of passage typical of traditional societies help with that.

  17. Related to your response to Jen,

    Are you aware of any initiatory practice centered on blacksmithing? Or any books that might lead in that direction?

    I’ve had ‘The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structure of Alchemy’ by Mircea Eliade recommended to me but haven’t had the chance to read it yet.

  18. I use wood for heating and cooking, and I began laying fires and bringing the thought of purifying my stream of consciousness to the match that I strike, or at least when I put the match to the tinder, and in the past 6 months have found it much easier to see through my own ….. ah, poop.

    Which has had also the effect of decreasing my fears. Recently too, creativity has increased; I began a notebook of “Bad Ideas” ala Rube Goldburg.

    No greatness on the horizon however. 😀

  19. Re: ” We don’t know who we really are.” When I was very young -early grade school, I read about the tomb of the unknown soldier, and was struck by the inscription “known but to God”. I have always identified myself in this way, to some extent. I truly don’t know who I really am.

  20. Always challenging and aspiring and pushing others to engender the process of human initiation to higher level in the realm of spiritual ecology. We are both subject and object as they are demonstrated by our ( I ) and our ( me ) the tools of our initiation through the reflective I on the me where the faith plays the emotional main role in the process of initiation through the effective placement of its intention and attention. I already have referred to the Koranic tools in the world of initiation which materialize into being through the spiritual contact between the lower self and the higher self, epistemologically speaking . The alphabetical vibration formation that activates the process of drawing down the divine wise knowledge to the human sphere. It is Aleph Laam Meem, doubt not, is the way of knowledge descent in the human abode of silence and meditation. Nothing gained without hard honest work. It is the great that wants the human to be great because he is already great that all his instruction is to mobilizes the human to greatness in the spiritual realm without forgetting their share of the material world that is to refrain themselves from immersions in the one sidedness of our opposites patterns of ourselves and our world. It is as you said a question of exploration. Personally I found their contributions in the enhancement of consciousness. All languages can produce such alphabetical rhythmic formations that can be used in this process of initiation. It is a net of alphabetical sounds that produce all manifestations physical and non-physical which are also are subjected to the frequencies of the cycle of birth and death. It is fine tuning our frequencies to the cosmic frequencies. Language is not only a descriptive too but basically an initiative disclosing tool. it is synchronicity of sounds. Thank Greer for your corrective inspirational work.

  21. Onething, the Druid teacher Ross Nichols defined ritual neatly in a way that helps explain this: “Ritual is poetry in the world of acts.” Less gnomically, ritual is symbolic action; when you perform a ritual, you take a pattern of symbolism and bring it to life with your own actions, making it far more vivid, and entering into it in a way that less physical ways of encountering symbolism don’t accomplish.

    David, you’re welcome. I know the feeling!

    Bruno, my guess is that they do; certainly my participation in the nearest thing we’ve got in the modern US, the initiations of Freemasonry and other fraternal orders, have had very substantial positive effects.

    Jason, the Eliade book is the one resource I know of that might help. With any craft in a modern Western society, you’re basically on your own — not even dim memories exist of the old craft initiations. That said, one has to start somewhere…

    Mark, excellent. Even a simple task like lighting a fire, approached with conscious attention and intention, becomes a vehicle for initiation.

    Michael, excellent! That’s the first step in finding out, of course.

    Abdulmunem, alphabetic symbolism and spiritual practices are found in a good many traditions — I’m glad to hear that they’re alive and well in Islam. We’re in the very early stages of recovering an equivalent tradition in the Druid Revival.

  22. Never mind, I found it for 10 bucks. I’ll give it a read over the next few days. I doubt I’ll have much in the way of comments. I’m a bit slow on the learning curve these days. Getting old isn’t easy. Testing lots of limits

  23. no way I can speed read this thing and grok it. good grief man, I will try, but it will take time. ten words at a time. one benefit of old age is patience.

  24. Having been reared in an extremely “low church” way, I have long been wary of ritual. According to the teachings that transmitted to me in my rearing, the Catholic church that our protestant tradition had rebelled against was characterised by “empty ritual” and we should simply eschew the candles, the incense, the images, and the rote prayers and responses and instead we should read and study our bibles and commune directly with our God. That was what our “protest” (as Protestants) or rebellion was about.

    I have found myself almost unknowingly resistant to the concept of ritual, although I have begun to practice the SOP on a daily basis, and have become conversant with it to the degree that I DO very much miss it if a day occurs when I cannot perform it.

    I am bound to an AODA candidacy which I have not completed over the course of several years because I have not, as yet, been able to fully enter into the year’s cycle of seasonal ritual observances. However the other day, I was getting ready for a formal meeting organised at my house, and my tidying and preparing food came naturally to the process. And I suddenly thought, why would I not wish to put the same preparatory work into “setting the table” for a gathering of imaginal beings, and invite them to spend time with me in a formal way.

    Anyway, so does an initiation become a process…

  25. In the training you advocate, individual motivation and discipline is really important to keep doing the practices every day for years. But in some places rituals are part of family, school, community and work life. People there don’t have much choice about taking part in them. How much difference does this make in the outcome?

    On a related note, how ritualistic is the organisational life of American trade unions?

  26. JMG
    I keep going in circles. Mum and Dad got old, and now it’s my turn. When I stood three decades ago on the turfed-over ‘lazy beds’ of a Hebridean island, I briefly heard in the inner ear the work, the click of spades that had been the constant on the crofts. I am not unfamiliar with hard manual work and all that work gone-by filled my mind and I could sense the hopes and fears of those families beside the shore. Darn it, history is so short to put enough words to. (OK, history next month!)

    Is our religion, whatever it is, up to all this? With some reluctance I renewed my subscription to a science journal this year – not the most expensive one, I must add. There is much of interest still that I can share: the archaeology, the origins of species, deep time and its sediments and climates and the inferences for this civilisation that has learned something of the use of the word ‘evolution’. Your chapter quotes parallels between spiritual evolution after initiation (from the mystery schools), and evolution in our individual lives and in our species. Even when I separate out church (plural) from religion (plural) I am not sure I understand enough. What should be a good thing? AAAS (Science) feels threatened these days and promotes a belief system as a rightful cause. Hmm … So, which religion should it be in a circular world full of fantastic secrets? Secrets? I found a secret word the other year, ordinary enough, but I should keep to myself, that enabled me to breathe easier in the night. So I guess there are more.

    Thanks by the way for sharing SOP so widely. Smile

    best
    Phil H

  27. Hi John Michael,

    Your comment above that ‘We don’t know who we really are’, sort of resonates with me, and I heard you many years ago talking on a podcast about the French dude Joséphin Péladan, who clearly expressed the other sides of your comment. In some respects I’ve often felt that society does have a weird sort of initiation which is reinforced by rituals, and life markers, and mate I tell ya, it is really hard to shake loose from those stories – you mentioned the vehicle pressures you get.

    The thing is, I see people putting themselves under enormous strains and taking on burdens just to live up to those stories, which are basically someone else’s idea for an ideal life. And I wonder if you see those strains too? And then, what happens to the people who cannot substitute their own stories as an alternative to the dominant narrative? To me they look like they flounder, but that may be a harsh judgement on my part.

    It is a bit heretical, but I pick and choose which stories are useful and which aren’t. There was something to be said about growing up often unsupervised by adults. 😀 It is not for everyone though and it didn’t work out so well for my siblings.

    Cheers

    Chris

  28. Your words brought back my own memories of rituals experienced. In one I’m standing in the midst of a midnight circle of men, near a bonfire, shouting to the night, and to my ancestors “Menato! My name is Menato”. Being overwhelmed by a feeling of being out of space/time, a part of the great infinite.

    Then I recall that ritual involves first and foremost preparation. Personal preparation (fasting, and the sweat lodge before my vision quest, for one), and preparation of the ritual space itself – deliberately staking out the liminal boundaries, creating “sacred space”. Ritual seems to require a deliberate participation in developing a space for altered states of consciousness, and that’s where magic happens.

    This week I also listened to Australian author Tim Winton’s touching exhortation to consider the plight of boys, and how the shallowness (or absence) of ritual in modern society is evidence of a general disinterest and lack of awareness of the inherent, embryonic greatness present in each. Or as you beautifully stated: “Every human being has the capacity for some form of greatness.” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/09/about-the-boys-tim-winton-on-how-toxic-masculinity-is-shackling-men-to-misogyny

    I think ecosophia is virtual ritual space. My deep thanks for your willingness to create, and steward this process.

  29. Hi John Michael,

    Please indulge me for a brief moment as this is way off topic, but I understand the topic I’m about to discuss is of considerable personal interest to you.

    So I’m reading an article on: Sydney’s extended summer ‘confusing’ plants and keeping lifesavers on their toes.

    Hang with me, as it all sounds a bit nothing to see here other than the usual climate craziness, until you get to this quote:

    Dr Zvi Hochman from CSIRO Agriculture and Food said wheat farmers were sowing their yields earlier to avoid losing crops.

    “In the last 28 years, the trend has been a stagnant yield,” Dr Hochman said.

    Previously, wheat yields increased year by year in a 90-year trend before stagnation.

    While yield potential has gone down, “the only reason we’re not seeing lower yields is because of the adaptations farmers have made to cope with those changes,” he said.

    Incidentally, CSIRO is the government science and reasearch body so it has a degree of credibility.

    Anyway, that curve sounds remarkably similar to another inverted bell shaped curve don’t you reckon? And having to pedal harder just to stay at the same point also has a familiar ring to it. But the thing is, what the heck has happened to the wheat during that time?

    Cheers

    Chris

  30. Guillem (and JMG), the considerable differences between what we truly need and what it is believed in contemporary society about what we need is the cause of a not inconsiderable part of the stresses of living in modern society. In my case, too, it is not that long ago, that I have come to a better understanding what makes me truly happy and what not.

  31. Since this week’s topic is on initiation, I suppose a personal experience might be appropriate. This isn’t something I would even have called an initiation, but it seems to fit the criteria.

    The Michael Teaching contains a frequently neglected section called the Nine Needs. These are nine topics that supposedly wired into the nature of Sentience, and that every sentient will express at some level. The one I’m going to talk about here is Security.

    As you might guess, there are 7 levels: blind faith, false hope, tradition, theory, reliable sources, experience and intuition, and Tao.

    Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’ve been functioning at level 4: theory, for most of my life. For the last couple of decades, though, I’ve been more concerned with vetting information sources for whether they’re right or wrong and, more importantly, how they’re biased. I don’t think I’m fully there yet, but I think I’m getting there.

    As far as the next levels are concerned, I’m beginning to realize that I have a lot less expertise than I used to think. I suppose that’s progress.

  32. Jen there are so many examples. Dance, particularly, but suppose carving church altars, paintings, stained glass, architecture. Indians would make beaded accessories to ritual, and carve masks or totems of wood. Even certain ad hoc things like sweatlodges were probably assembled by ritual rules. Tipis for example, were sewn by the secret scociety of women, who were the only holders of the method and pattern. Once made, they are erected (by the women I think) with symbolic 13 poles, twisted with a same number of wraps like a maypole, always facing symbolic (and practical) east, always in rings that are representational of clan, importance, and so on. And so do others, in a kiva or a viking hall.

    The odd part is the opposite: that we alone of cultures do NOT have any spiritual root to our actions and objects, then wonder why we feel empty. There are examples in the west, but they will have roots way back, like mistletoe, or are from other cultures, like Mary candles.

  33. As I read and re-read this chapter and reflected on it it occurred to me that an initiate who worked through the 7 laws presented in this book would indeed be initiated into the self knowledge of their part and participation in the whole that is our natural world along with a lot of other useful self knowledge. I think someone said that the examined life is the only life worth living.

  34. Ritual is poetry in the world of action – You must have stated that before because I recall liking it very much. I see it, but I was wondering how it changes a person. I am supposing, based upon what you said, that it brings things into the subconscious mind. This is something I’ve been looking at lately, how we all tend to have a lot of programming in the subconscious mind. And while that is often a negative, it can certainly be a positive. The subconscious mind is very different and learns differently than the conscious mind.

    I am used to a highly ritualized church service filled with symbolism, with deliberate creation of beauty and inspiration, and outside of that the rather dull and lifeless (to me) other churches and with the general Protestant attitude being one of sneering at ritual.

    I think that is the reason that Protestant sermons often tend toward a kind of emotionalism with effort, because in the Orthodox Church, your emotions are provoked merely by walking inside the thing. The sounds, the sights, and most of all the smells immediately take you into an uplifted and prayerful mood.

  35. I think that our need for ritual is demonstrated in the fact that without proper rituals constructed by elders we end up with fraternity hazings, motorcycle club initiations, kids daring each other to do stupid and dangerous things. One holdover from old time craft initiations that I can think of is the sailors’ ritual for first crossing of the equator. It is pretty much mockery and fun nowadays but I wonder what the actual origins were like.

    Of course many activities and rituals surrounding serious life changes have been taken over by commercial interests. Weddings are a prime example, but I understand that Bar and Bat Mitzvahs can suffer the same fate. High school and college graduation ceremonies have also been devalued by repetition. Someone who had a cap and gown for the transition from preschool to kindergarten is not likely to be impressed by the time real graduations roll around. And when graduating classes number in the 100s the whole event becomes a prolonged exercise in tedium. There is, however, still a stomach clenching quality to a dissertation defense and the wait in the hall for the result of the deliberations.

    When my youngest daughter studied taekwando I saw how the rewarding of belts had become just another opportunity for profit. You see there is an extra charge to test for the belt. So every addition to the rainbow from white to black is a way to make money. Some dojos even break it down further by adding stripes to the belts. So test for yellow, then test for one stripe, test for second stripe, test for orange.

  36. A little late to the party, but here’s my metaphoric bottle of single malt.
    Ram Dass tells the story of his early lectures after his return from extended study with sadus and lsd in India. No doubt ritual in many and various forms led him far along a path. He tells how, as his lecture progressed, he would push further and further into descriptions of higher and higher states of consciousness, but that fewer and fewer in the audience would be able to follow him, evidenced by fewer and fewer nodding heads. Except for one older lady. She clearly understood him, and the places and experiences he described, gently nodding along. At the end of the lecture he asked her ‘Ma’am I can see you understand me – what are your techniques, who have you studied with?’
    ‘Oh yes. I crochet.’
    Great to remember as I paint a wall, or dig a hole!

  37. @Onething – thank you for describing, and praising, the highly ritualised church service filled with symbolism that is precisely the kind I was “deep taught” to treat with suspicion. When I say “deep taught” I mean that the lesson was not taught in words, or in any sense overtly, but subtly, with cues that reached directly, as you say, to my sub-conscious mind, totally by-passing my conscious awareness or agreement.

    JMG said in this chapter: “Once the countless small messages passing through the social web are made conscious, they can be read, shaped and directed by the initiate in a purposeful way…”

    He was discussing the effects that the simple act of keeping a secret can bring about, but in my case, it has been the simple act of lighting a candle, a stick of incense, and proceeding to repeat a memorised set of words and set of actions, turning “rote” to “rite”… that revealed to me the layers and layers of “countless small messages” that had succeeded in making me so wary of ritual, and so uneasy in its presence.

    And, of course, in college, the study of symbol and ritual was an emphatic topic of interest in my anthropology degree… so there was an attraction even then… 🙂

  38. @Booklover In my case, i always have been the weird and unfitting, and carrying a lot of guilt for it.

    Some years ago, it dawn on me that after all, compared to many people who has followed the social aproved way, my life wasn’t bad at all, and i could say i was happy.

    That was very liberating, in more than one sense. It also made me aware of how delusional the concept of “Freedom” is in the West.

  39. Pharmacy is a trade for making medicines that is currently in the process of losing its way–However, there are still rituals and initiations.
    In the first few of Pharmacy School, several of the labs involved making very difficult, messy or disgusting compounds. Older students and some faculty would ask us if we really felt we were up to the training, and some quit under the bad conditions. But there came the day of the Jacketing Ceremony. We had to buy the jackets, but we were not allowed to see or wear them until the ceremony. They were distributed in complete silence, and we were allowed to put them on. When I looked at my old pharmaceutics professor, I was surprised to see tears coming from his eyes as he looked at us. Then we took the Pharmacists’ Oath (a lot like the Hippocratic Oath) and did a few more ceremonial activities.

    It was extremely meaningful for me, and seemed to have hit all my classmates the same way, even the guys who consistently behaved like jerks on all other occasions. It was like we were taking our place in a procession of pharmacists stretching into the past and future, now including us.

    Other activities in Pharmacy, like the required hand-washings, robing, masking and gloving to enter a sterile clean room (where we make IV preparations) feels to me like an extension of that original ceremony. It results in heightened clarity of concentration and to me, feels like being in a Holy Place where I must, absolutely must, follow every good practice for sterile technique and proper dosing.

    I am not sure if other Pharmacists have the experience of entering a Holy Place when they make sterile preps, but that’s how it works for me. And like Scotlyn and Onething, I was raised in a Protestant church that was very much against ritual of any kind. Odd how it worked its way in there…

  40. Darkest Yorkshire:

    “On a related note, how ritualistic is the organisational life of American trade unions?”

    My husband is a long-time member of the IBEW (electrician’s union), as was his father before him. While there is a sense of brotherhood among members and different stages of membership based on expertise (first- through fifth-year apprentices, journeymen), there really isn’t anything that might otherwise be considered ritualistic. That’s not to say that there may have been a point in the past when it was otherwise.

    Nick P:

    There is much to be said for various forms of needlework and their ability to focus the mind. Among other things, I make bobbin lace, which demands constant attention while working and which requires the lace maker to learn to see many steps ahead – one small mistake may not be apparent until many rows later when I realize that the bobbin I need here has ended up somewhere over there. Seeing ahead is something my dad felt playing chess taught him, but I never had the patience for chess. I can carry on a conversation or even multi-task while knitting, but lace making is a far more consuming task.

  41. Mike, it’s not intended to be read in a hurry. That’s why I do one chapter every month.

    Scotlyn, while it’s a couple of generations back for me, my family was old-fashioned Scots Presbyterian with a very similar attitude, and I had to overcome very modest resistances of the same kind, remnants of the old religious heritage. It’s worth pushing through that — but it’s also worth keeping the simpler methods to hand. It can be a matter of both/and, not either/or!

    Yorkshire, as I understand it, you don’t benefit much unless you engage your own will, imagination, and awareness in the work. Many people who grow up with traditional community or church rituals do end up investing their own will, imagination, and awareness in them, and benefiting that way. As for American labor unions, they used to have quite a bit — I have a ritual for lodges of the ladies’ auxiliary of the International Transit Workers’ Union (“international” here meaning the US and Canada) from the early 20th century, and it’s a full-blown lodge ritual with an initiation ceremony — but how much of that still survives today, I don’t happen to know.

    Phil H., it’s one of the common teachings of occultists that religions start out with excellent intentions, and gradually sink into the swamp of ordinary human failings. That’s just as true of the religion of science as it is of any other.

    Chris, learning to take on personal ownership of your own power to tell stories is a crucial step in becoming a human being and not a cabbage or something. 😉 We’ll be discussing that in much more detail as the current series of posts continues.

    Marco, I had similar experiences in the somewhat quieter settings of old lodge halls, and I’ve watched even very basic initiations make a great difference in the lives of men and women, so I find Winton’s claim valid — though if anything too narrow! You don’t have to be a boy to benefit from initiation; I was 31 when I received the Initiatory Degree in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, my first lodge initiation, and I can trace a cascade of positive changes in my life from that moment onward. So it’s something from which all of us can benefit.

    Chris, why, yes, it’s very familiar. The end of progress is staring us in the face…

    Booklover, an important point.

    John, fair enough. Knowing what you don’t know, as Socrates pointed out, is the only foundation for actual wisdom!

    Kay, excellent. Yes, that’s one of the core purposes of the book.

    Onething, exactly. Regular participation in the sacraments of a church that understands ritual work, combined with personal prayer, study, and meditation, can be a very effective way of initiation — and yes, it’s the subconscious mind that forms the matrix in which the living symbols of ritual do their work.

    Rita, no argument there. When I graduated from high school the ceremony was an exercise in timewasting; when I got my BA — even though it involved a lot of hard work, and was earned magna cum laude — I didn’t even attend the ceremony. I’m pleased to say that not all martial arts have fallen into the test-for-profit trap, though — when I received my teacher’s certificate in taijiquan, it was something I’d worked for very hard, and it meant quite a bit to me.

    Nick, thanks for this!

    E. Goldstein, thank you for this! I’m glad to hear that the ritual remains in place.

  42. I found my copy of the book today– it always seems to go missing when the book post rolls around– and sat down with the chapter at the coffeeshop this afternoon. I think I may have read it before, but, if so, I got a lot more out of it this time. The entire thing seems to me a very profound meditation on the nature of initiation.

    The first thing that came to mind were my personal experiences with initiations prior to studying magic:

    1. I want to second Mark G’s thoughts above on firemaking as initiatory experience. I grew up in a cold part of the country, and we heated our home in part with a fireplace in the winter. My grandfather taught me how to build a fire, and at the time– I was probably 9 or 10– this felt felt like a kind of minor initiation into manhood.

    Later, as a teenager, I did most of the fire making in the winter. I had read that Einstein had discovered that energy and matter are the same thing and interpreted it to mean that, by applying the energy of my body to bringing in the wood, chopping it, stacking it to dry, carrying it up the stairs and, finally, arranging it in the fireplace just so and striking the match, I was myself, therefore a part of the fire I had created and of the warmth I had brought to the home. A physicist can tell you if that’s literally correct; it doesn’t really matter, though. I also, from a very early age, experienced the fire itself as a living being in its own right; the fireplace, then, became a kind of altar. And so the entire process of making a fire became a sort of sacred circle, in which the energy I gave returned back to me and to my family. This was the earliest religion that I discovered for myself.

    2. The religion that was discovered for me was Roman Catholicism, which has its own series of initiations. These are, of course, the sacraments, of which I’ve received 4– Baptism, Confession, Communion and Confirmation. I do not remember my Baptism, of course. The second two took place in early childhood, and these stand out rather more profoundly in my mind. My first communion was a big deal, as it is in many Catholic households; I got a party, a crucifix, a scapular, and a rosary blessed by a priest. I’m afraid I don’t remember much of it otherwise. My first Confession stands out, though, in rather greater detail. I remember walking out of the confessional feeling as if I were surrounded with a glowing golden light, floating 2 feet off the ground.

    At Confirmation, however, the church really dropped the ball. The sacrament itself could, and in former times probably was, quite powerful– the choosing of a new name is a big deal. When I was a teenager, though, the rather secularized post-Vatican II nuns who prepared us for the sacrament weren’t really interested in this sort of thing. We were encouraged to just pick the names we were born with, and what, precisely, we were expected to do as Confirmed Catholics never really came up. We were at one point told that, in times past, the church was called the “Church Militant” and we would have been considered “soldiers of Christ.” It was made clear to us, though, that those days were over. “We’re not fighting anybody,” Sister Mary said with a bit of a contemptuous sneer. As a pro-tip to anyone developing ceremonies of religious initiation– having women sneer at the idea of considering oneself a warrior is probably not the best way to recruit young men to your faith. Either way, I went through with the rather powerless ceremony, and afterward attended mass whenever it could not be avoided. I wonder, how could the ritual have been structured better so as to achieve a lasting change in consciousness, and to encourage the kind of regular practices of ritual, study and meditation that might have helped it have a lasting impact?

    3. Some years later, at the age of 25, I found myself at a rather difficult period of my life. Three years prior, I had gone through a series of traumatic events including a brutal mugging and a profoundly abusive romantic relationship, and I’d spent the years that followed trying to overcome these things by dedicating myself to drinking alcohol and trying to be an urbane hipster. I had a job as a grantwriter that I hated and that I was terrible at, and a relationship that was going nowhere. On a whim, I googled “Conservation Corps Northwest”– I was living in Oregon at the time. There are, for those who don’t know, a number of conservation corps organizations in the US. Most are private nonprofits, descended in fact or in spirit from the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s. I had never had any experience with one before, but had heard of them here and there. I sent my resume to the first one I discovered, expecting nothing, and was surprised when I heard back from them a few days later. I interviewed, was accepted into their “leadership development program,” and sent to the backcountry in Arizona to spend 6 weeks digging trails.

    As I said, there are a number of conservation corps-type organizations in the US. Many are run in a rather slipshod fashion, or as summer camps. Not so this particular organization. The organization itself is very hierarchical and regimented in almost military fashion. Since a great number of its members are hippie anarchists of the Pacific Northwest standard, this probably says something funny about the return of the repressed. Either way, in Arizona we spent 9 hours a day every day swinging tools, and still more time hiking into and out of our work area, preparing for the next day, and so forth. It was about as different an experience from being stuck in an office during the day and pretending to be a sophisticate by night as you could find. The experience itself had, I think, true initiatory value, and it culminated– for me at least– in a profound spiritual experience.

    Our last day in Arizona consisted of 24 hours alone in the backcountry. Our crewleader picked a spot for each of us along the length of a dried riverbed that wound through a canyon, and we agreed to meet there the next day. I did not practice any religion at the time, but upon my arrival at my chosen spot, I did a little ceremony where I turned to each of the four quarters and explained in turn my purpose for being there and asked for guidance in learning what I might. It looked like it might rain, so I immediately set to building a debris shelter for myself. I had brought nothing to read and only a little food, and so now, with nothing left to do, I decided to climb up the mountainside. What I experienced as I climbed is very hard to put into words. It felt as though I had, for years, been outside of my body, and that I was now entering back into it. It felt as if this experience was a kind of compact, distilled, expontentialized re-creation of the previous 6 weeks of sleeping outside and working in the woods. I found myself speaking, saying thank you to every part of myself for the work it was doing. Thank you to my legs for carrying me up the hillside, thank you to my lungs for breathing the air, my heart for pumping my blood. Eventually I found myself sitting on a rock, waving a stick around in the air and preaching, a kind of wild and rambling sermon that flowed through me from the sky and the trees and back out through my voice. Then I ran back down the mountainside, heedless of where I was going, and arrived right back at my camp. I promptly wrote down everything that I could remember of what I had said.

    This experience changed me and my entire life profoundly. When I returned back to the city I was living in, I was utterly changed. I stood taller, and I was happier, prouder, stronger. But it wasn’t in every way a change for the better. Instead of living a more balanced life, I used the newfound strength that I’d acquired to throw myself into my vices. I could now drink twice as much, and I no longer cared even slightly what the people who had been my friends thought of me. I got a new group of friends, guys who were as dedicated to insanity as I was, and dedicated myself to causing trouble and starting fights. In later years, I wondered why this should have been. The spiritual experience I had had in Arizona was real, profound, and healing, and at no point in my mountainside sermon did I had the gods said to me “Now go get wasted and punch somebody in the face.”

    I think this chapter provides the answer. JMG, you write, “After each ceremony is performed, the new initiate faces the task of building on the results. This is done using the standard tools of the mystery teachings; such tools may include meditating on the symbols that play important roles in the initiation, performing rituals that reinforce the changes in consciousness set in motion by the ceremony, and studying books of spiritual philosophy that provide the context and background of that stage in the initiatory path.”

    And of course, following this experience of semi-spontaneous initiation, I did absolutely none of these things. I did study books, but these were largely from an eco-anarchist perspective and did I now think, more harm than good. But my main response to the experience was to decide that, since I was now enlightened, no ordinary rules of human conduct applied to me. I certainly had no idea that such an experience needed to be unpacked in meditation, or even how I could do such a thing. Five years after the experience in Arizona, I had another experience as profound– only this one took place in my own bedroom. It was my first ever experience of practicing ritual magic, and it actually did have a long-term positive effect on my life– precisely because it wasn’t just a one-time blast of spiritual empowerment, but the beginning of a daily practice.

  43. Hi JMG,

    I was thinking along similar lines as Guillem after reading this chapter: how easy it is to get distracted by worldly pursuits and forget about the work of initiation. How this work has the potential to create powerful changes in the self, but how it also often doesn’t do that.

    In the past, I would start out with the best of intentions, pursue some aspects of the work of initiation, but then have it all fall by the wayside as I got sucked back in to various things in the world that seemed more important at the time.

    It wasn’t until I set up a few things in my life that I found I was able to focus more on the work of initiation and have it actually start to take on a life of its own – that is, I finally realized how important it really was for me, and how badly I needed to dedicate more time to it. For me, those things were my personal practice of ritual and meditation, my work with other people in a school of sorts, and the work that I came to see as my service in the world, if you will. I found having those three things in place hugely helpful in actually sticking to it, to doing what I said I was going to do. They also kept me from forgetting about it, because if I slacked off in one area for a while, some aspect of the work in another area would pop up and remind me to get back to the things I had let drop off. Once I finally figured out how to do that, it was like the whole work became much more meaningful and important, and I was able to see a little more clearly – enough to let go of some of the other worldly things that had seemed important before.

    Not to say that I’ve got everything all figured out, because it’s far from that! Just one step along a very long road which will hopefully last for the rest of my life.

  44. Regarding the use of Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth as a guide for self initiation; that’s exactly how I used it. After a year of following the first-degree curriculum of the Ancient Order of Druids in America as given on their website (which develops new lifestyle habits gradually, as opposed to being a course that one simply completes) I did a series of twenty one meditations on the seven laws.

    I still struggle with deriving a sense of profundity from ritual. My daily cleansing/balancing ritual feels akin to calisthenics and a shower. Completing that set of meditations was a different matter. Part of it was the sense of accomplishment you get from setting your mind to something and seeing it through, but that was secondary to the insights gained.

    The twenty first meditation held a surprise. I have a few different mental landscapes and constructs I go to for meditations, depending on purpose and whim. The particular construct I used for my initiation is fairly complex. I always had to navigate it in sections. When I approached it for that twenty first meditation not only was the entire place clear in my mind, but the central portion, which had previously been blank and unused, was now a fully formed brand new section, blazing in silver-white.

    That was the day I became a druid.

  45. JMG, thank you for your response. I am indeed thinking of doing something of the sort with watercolor, if I can figure out how.

    Yesterday was my birthday, and I began a watercolor practice and did the Elemental Cross for the first time in a long while. I did both again today. I am simultaneously enthused about the watercoloring and depressed by the fear that it may become another in a long line of pursuits that I seem unable to sustain (with what looks like it may become my AODA Candidate half-decade being among them, to my regret and shame). At the risk of being seen to throw myself a pity party, I seem forever unable to overcome a sad want of discipline–the very practices, such as meditation, that seem most able to foster discipline, I lack the discipline to maintain long enough to benefit from them, or I unaccountably drop them despite conscious resolution and the clearly beneficial results I am experiencing. It is a blight on my whole life, and makes it feel as if I can never achieve anything worthwhile, which in turn makes all effort seem futile. This, somehow, despite the fact that I am not generally a gloomy person–but my curiosity and enthusiasm seem to work against me, leading me always to try something new, believe that I have found something that genuinely suits me, and then to abandon it (bitterly or blithely, depending) when the shine wears off or a new fancy supercedes it. I am wondering if approaching painting in a very deliberate, ritualized, process-oriented, perhaps initiatory way might help me overcome this tendency–unless it is merely my newest unsustainable idea, in which case I will go eat worms. It is very lowering to be painfully aware of such a character flaw without being able to remedy it. It often seems that the more consciously resolute I am, the more quickly and disastrously I fall off the wagon.

  46. On initiatory practices related to blacksmithing (and other smithcrafts):

    A young woman I know, who used to live in the Greater Boston area, but is now on the West Coast, studied blacksmithing here in New England with Carl at Prospect Hill Forge in Waltham. If I remember rightly what she told me, there was something that smacked of a simple initiation early on in her studies. After safety instruction and basic technique, one of the earliest projects a student did was to make a small dragon head on the end of a steel bar with a square cross-section. Another was to make the student’s first pair of blacksmith’s tongs. (You can see photos of these things on the Forge’s website, among the photos of student work for 2007 and 2008.)

    In connection with these two projects, the students were told an actual legend from blacksmith lore, The Legend of the Tongs. The gist of that legend is that blacksmiths can (and should) make most of the tools they will be using, using other tools that they have already made. And that was what the first blacksmith did, back in the mists of time. But there is one essential tool that a blacksmith cannot make for himself without already having the use of that same tool to make it. That tool is the blacksmith’s tongs. The very first blacksmith of them all could not make the very first tongs of them all for himself: no one could have done it; it was just not possible. So the very first tongs of them all were given as a gift to the very first blacksmith of them all–given to him by a God! Smithcraft was [a] God’s craft eons before it was any man’s (or woman’s) craft, and it is only by that God’s gift and permission that men (and women) were made able to practice it.

    If that’s not an initiatory legend, I don’t know what would be. But the initiation itself was was the careful instruction in the Forge that gave each student the rudiments of the craft.

    There is a book that records blacksmith lore. It is by Frederick W. Robins, _The Smith: The Traditions and Lore of an Ancient Craft_ (London: Rider, 1953). But the Legend of the Tongs is not in it, and I have not found it in print anywhere.

    I should add, that I am an amateur at another smithcraft, locksmithing, which I have practiced as a hobby since my ‘teen years. One part of locksmithing is lockpicking, and picking difficult locks can result in the same sort of knowledge as crocheting gave that older lady in Ram Dass’s story (retold by Nick P. above). When a padlock won’t yield to your best efforts in ordinary head-space, you can slip instead into a state where your mind — and especially your eyes — are wholly disengaged from what your fingers are doing, and then the lock will almost pop open of itself at the touch of your lockpicks. (Also, locksmithing is one of the last crafts with very many, very closely held craft secrets that are found in no book. You need to win the trust of a teacher, and even when you do, mostly he won’t volunteer any secrets; you have to ask him very specific questions to get very specific answers. Also, you can get the locks themselves to teach you what you have occasion to learn.) — I have learned so much about magic, too, from developing skill at that ancient craft, even though my own skills are far, far below those of a master locksmith. The names of some of the greatest of those master locksmiths of the past are still remembered within the craft.

    We get in our own way so very often when we try to do some rare work: in such a work, your worst enemies can be your mind and your five mundane senses.

  47. @Chris at Fernglade

    Not only does the yield of crops seem to be declining, of at best kept stagnant by changes in methods of growing them, but also the nutritional value of the crop, ton for ton, appears to be declining as well. Scientists aren’t sure what has caused this. One theory is that it is not simply the result of soil depletion, but that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have impacted the metabolism of plants in ways that diminish their nutritional value for humans (or, perhaps, for mammals or animals in general). See a summary of one interesting research program on this at:
    http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511

  48. Some old trade union rituals:

    http://www.stichtingargus.nl/vrijmetselarij/r/mbu_r.html

    http://www.historyhome.co.uk/peel/trade-us/gnctu.htm

    http://www.gompers.umd.edu/KOL%20ritual.pdf

    Thanks to reading Inside a Magical Lodge I now know what I’m looking at. I also found some interesting books – Early Trade Unionism: Fraternity, Skill and the Politics of Labour by Malcolm Chase, The Ritual of May Day in Western Europe edited by Abby Peterson and Herbert Reiter, and The Art and Ideology of the Trade Union Emblem 1850-1925 by Annie Ravenhill-Johnson. They go into the ritual and symbolism in a big way. I think I’m going to dig into those 18th and 19th century social organisations like the friendly societies, mutual improvement societies, trade unions, Masons, magic lodges, gentlemen’s clubs, and things like the Lunar Society and Manchester Literature and Philosophical Society, and see what there is to be found.

    One thing I did find is the Devonshire Club used to have its own on-site Masonic temple. Were any of the people in the Golden Dawn and Druid Revival also involved in the London clubs? Since you’ve probably read every obscure book there is on these subjects are there any you’d particularly recommend?

  49. Steve T., it’s by no means uncommon for a first initiation, especially one that happens in a relatively unstructured way, to be followed by a period of plunging into sensation. There may be a balancing function, or it may be that it’s not quite time for the serious work to begin.What shows you that the initiation is real is that eventually you go back to it and pick up where it left off. As for the nuns — um, yeah. The Catholic church in the US has done an astonishingly effective job of stripping its rituals and sacraments of the power they once had. My wife, who’s a former Catholic, has talked to me about the way the supposedly progressive reforms of the late 1960s and early 1970s turned the once-vivid experience of attending Mass into a dead mockery of itself. (I’ve commented before that the post-Vatican II changes had the effect of killing traditional Satanism; how on Earth can you parody a guitar mass?)

    Stefania, excellent. No question, after a certain point the path of initiation becomes relatively self-correcting.

    Ynnothir, delighted to hear it. The book served one of its intended functions, then.

    Jen, if you don’t mind a personal question, how old are you? Exploration’s a good thing up to a certain range of ages, and makes the work that follows considerably more effective.

    Robert, many thanks for this! The material on blacksmithing in particular was completely unknown to me.

    Yorkshire, not at all — there are in particular vast numbers of books on the subject published in Britain that never got across the water, and about which I know precisely nothing. My study of obscure books on initiatory orders has focused on American fraternal lodges on the one hand, and a handful of significant magical lodges on the other. Whether or not the Druid and Golden Dawn scenes had significant overlap with the London club scene is a fascinating question, the answer to which I also don’t know; both the GD and Druid scenes had significant overlaps with Freemasonry and with the broader magical lodge scene, but beyond that, the sources at my disposal on this side of the pond don’t say.

  50. Mark Grable and Steve T: Fire is the oldest ritual we have, and the knowledge of how to use and control fire were the foundation of the cycle of civilization we live through today. The fire we build reflects the fire within us, the fire that transforms the food we eat and the air we breathe, into life.
    For over twenty years I have been part of WaterFire here in Providence, a modern ritual developed by the artist Barnaby Evans, and celebrated regularly from May to November (and in several other locations around the US). We light the fires floating in braziers on the water at sunset, and feed them through the evening. The volunteers who feed the flames represent each of the people who add their work to build our community. The flames represent the flame within and the water, the water we breathe out. The ritual obviously calls to people, as tens of thousands will come down of a summer evening to spend the time with us and their fellows.
    Fire is so important to man that it is no wonder that Prometheus was punished for teaching us to use it.

  51. On workplace rituals that circumvent a resistance to ritual:

    I, like Scotlyn, have that deep-conditioned resistance to ritual magic: spirits, no problem; formal procedures to get something done, no problem, but together, I’m not comfortable with it.

    But I warmed up right away to a practice suggested to me by a respected mentor on the occasion of my first teaching gig. He suggested making an informal ritual of greeting all my students as we gathered for class. The magic part of it was to address that individual’s ‘divine inner being’, and as one said ‘good morning!’ to have in mind something like, “May this day bring you closer to what you were born to do and be.”

    That was pretty easy, fit into the normal social ritual I would be practicing anyway, and didn’t require doing anything that felt obsessive-compulsive. If nothing else, it kept me connected to some worthwhile purpose.

    That unobtrusive morning ritual seemed worthwhile enough that I have retained the practice. Especially in the factory I worked in for 29 years, I saw a great improvement in the social environment from when I first came in. In some departments it had been downright vicious, but as time went on, the problem-children fell away and they were replaced with new employees who were more civil and cheerful. The improvement really took hold when it extended to the supervisory level. The factory wasn’t heaven by any means, but I know that for some their work-day was a haven from family problems.

    So, morning greetings can be as ninja-ritual.

  52. JMG, I am thirty as of two day ago. While I never want to give up exploration entirely, I have felt for some years that I would like to dedicate myself to something more seriously, but seem to have difficulty both in finding whatever that thing may be, and in breaking my dilettantish habits.

  53. Dear Mr Greer

    Please forgive me for writing something that is off subject, but I feel quite tense about the situation in Syria and would be interested to hear your take on it. I am shocked at how casual our leaders are at the prospect of getting involved in a conflict with Russia. Things seem particularly strange this side of the pond. Theresa May has stated that she is prepared to go to war without a vote in parliament. There is a poll out showing that only 22% of people in this country support military action. This is the lowest level of support for military action that I can ever think of.

    What is even more interesting in the public reaction to the to the attempted murder of the ex Russian agent with a chemical agent in Salisbury. If you listen to the main stream media you would think that every one over here is convinced it was the Russians who did it. However when I listen to phone in radio stations like LBC it is surprising how many people think that the British government is lying and that the Russians didn’t do it. There are also plenty of people like me who think that the Russians probably did it, but are not going to be convinced of that until we see solid evidence. Just saying its the Russians simply isn’t enough. There is a real distrust for the political establishment out there and if we get into a war and it goes wrong, then the politicians are going to have hell to pay. The British public has already made it clear during the Brexit vote and last years election that nearly put Corbyn in power that they’re prepared to tell the establishment get stuffed. Theresa May is playing with fire.

    My biggest fear is that history of the cold war shows that during a crisis there is a real danger of a nuclear exchange occurring as a result of misunderstanding or miscalculation. here is a link below to 5 examples:

    https://www.history.com/news/history-lists/5-cold-war-close-calls

    I have a feeling that we have lost our fear of nuclear war and that is dangerous. I have written to my MP, 10 Downing Street, and newspapers etc about this. If we want to do something about the chemical attack and Russian involvement in Syria, then there are things that we can do that do not involve military intervention such as sanctions and containment. During the cold war the West was able to pursue a successful policy of deterrence and containment towards the Soviet Union, which was a far greater threat to us than Russia is today. One of the reasons why that policy was successful and we weren’t all killed in a nuclear holocaust is that the West tried to avoid any direct military conflict with the Soviet Union.If we have to do something, why can we do what we did in the cold war. Our politicians are going mad.

    Anyway I apologise for being off subject and getting a bit emotional

  54. There is a marvelous short story about Initiation, and how rough a road it can be, and the real reward is. It’s called “Advice from a young witch to an old priestess,” by Rosemary Edghill, first published in a mass market paperback called “Maiden, Matron, Crone”, now in her anthology “A Failure of Moonlight.”

  55. OT but related to Jasmine’s comment:

    Both sides appear to be dialing back on the rhetoric and looking for a face saving way out of the confrontation in Syria. Trump has even back peddled and is now claiming he never threatened to fire missiles at Syria.

    “A tweet from President Trump backtracking from his Wednesday outburst
    that missiles soon would be heading toward Syria further contributed,
    however, to the sense that the threat of a conflagration was receding.
    “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place,” he tweeted.
    “Could be very soon or not so soon at all!””

    My own suspicion is that once US officials realized that the Russians were not bluffing and that war with Russia, including the possibility of nuclear escalation, was a very likely outcome if American missiles were fired at Syrian targets, they started looking for ways to de-escalate in a hurry.

    I personally think this could be a turning point. A major part of an empire’s power comes from its ability to bully and intimidate other nations into submission. It appears the Russians successfully stood up to the American Empire and the Americans were forced to back down in front of the entire world. You know the neocons have got to be spitting mad. To me, this shows just how quickly the American Empire is going down hill. The US has gotten used to being able to beat up on opponents who have no effective way of fighting back, but as we saw with this incident and an earlier incident in 2016 between the American and Iranian navies, the US doesn’t dare start a war with countries that can fight back. Other countries, including China and North Korea, are no doubt looking very closely at what happened and drawing their own conclusions.

  56. I long had a set of short rituals I practiced alone, even before coming to Japan, that helped me connect with the divine, like the misogi that I continue to practice alone due to it being too physically demanding for most people. The first time I was involved in a daily shrine ritual with a group of people, I was so emotionally overwhelmed I cried afterwards. There is a synergy involved in a well-practiced group, the feeling is completely different and very worthwhile. I was just very lucky to have been allowed to participate. There must be ways for the average foreigner to participate in rituals in Japan through traditional crafts, as you say, but in the course of twenty years here I never encountered them. I offer anybody in Japan with an interest in Shinto and a sufficient commitment to the language and culture of Japan the chance to participate as I have. I would recommend them to get involved with the Asakawa Kompira shrine in western Tokyo for a while first, attending the ceremonies. Quinn Arbeitman (who is probably listening in–are you coming in May?) would know of ways to become acquainted with Shinto in the Kansai area.

  57. @Jasmine King, I’m glad JMG let your comment through, because probably everyone reading this feels like you do. I comfort myself by thinking it’s just part of the “Art of the Deal” mode by which Trump gets his way, but I feel deeply critical of him because it is Sofa King scary for all the white-knuckled backseat drivers of the bus skirting the cliff in amazing zigzags. It doesn’t help that there are a certain number of elites who seem to be trying to convince themselves that a nuclear war is winnable, buying bunkers in New Zealand. Yet I’ll put my faith in JMG’s astrological prediction a couple weeks ago, and go tend my vegetables.

  58. “The initiates of the mysteries, by contrast, practice the art of living deliberately, and they learn how to choose their actions and reactions, rather than to have them chosen by the power of habit or the social pressures exerted by other people.”

    Greer, John Michael (2012-04-01). Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth: An Introduction to Spiritual Ecology (p. 108). Red Wheel Weiser. Kindle Edition.

    This is exactly what I don’t get about Bardon’s Initiation into Hermetics. The entire book is supposed to be a 10-step initiation, and yet, right in Step 2, he asks the reader to achieve an elemental equilibrium in the astral body:

    “The purpose of this step is to achieve an equilibrium of the elements in the soul. The aspiring student magician should therefore endeavor to quickly and confidently eliminate those passions that hinder him the most if he wishes to be successful in the magic arts. Under no circumstances should the exercises of Step III be undertaken unless those of Step II are completely mastered, especially the equilibration of the elements.”

    Bardon, Franz (2014-06-01). Initiation Into Hermetics (Kindle Locations 1205-1208). Merkur Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    Woudln’t the person with an elemental equilbrium be able to choose their actions and reactions, and therefore be already considered be initiate?

  59. JMG, Lathchuck,
    Re Amateur Radio (aka Ham Radio)
    One of the few “initiations” I remember was my Technician Class Exam. Took a whole day. Drove from Pueblo, Colorado to Denver and back. The Test was at the FCC offices and administered by an FCC Examiner. Just missed the 13wpm for General – the examiner encourage every one to try. Never could get Code fluency. Now I’m a NoCode Extra. Don’t remember the Novice test in High School. Was never really active on the air. But very active with TAPR and the early years of Packet radio. Also a lot of active work with AMSAT and building the Phase III satellites. There have been only a handful of Hams I didn’t care for.

  60. Dear JMG,

    @ Jasmine King beat me to it. I just saw President Trump’s speech on youtube about going into Syria; my first thought was President Weed anyone? (From JMG’s book Twilight’s Last Gleaming, it’s a great read if anyone here hasn’t read it.) Is Trump being played into taking us into Syria by the deep state? He said all but two weeks ago he would be taking us out of Syria… The chemical weapons attack seems a little to well timed after such a statement.

  61. KKA, nicely done. Rituals don’t need to be obvious!

    Jen, happy slightly belated birthday. If you’re just now out of your twenties, you’ll probably find yourself buckling down to serious work in the years immediately ahead — it’s typically sometime between 25 and 35 that that cuts in, in my experience.

    Jasmine, I trust you’ve heard the news of the missile strikes — or, more precisely, the latest childish tantrum via missile. If not, the latest report is that the US, UK, and France just lobbed some cruise missiles at some Syrian targets, having given the Syrian government and the Russian military plenty of time to get everything out of harm’s way. This is standard military theater; back when your country was the arrogant global hyperpower, the Royal Navy used to sail into a port or two and lob some cannonballs at randomly chosen targets to show that Her Majesty’s government was unhappy about something or other.

    As for May’s behavior, Jeremy Corbyn called it, as he usually does — May did what she was told. I’m sorry to say that Britain has been a vassal state of the US since our forces occupied your island during the Second World War. I hope that Britain can extract itself from that awkward situation, but that’s unlikely to happen until the US crashes and burns.

    Patricia M., hmm! I’ll put that on the get-to list.

    Felix, well, as we’ve just seen, Trump sent some missiles instead, so you may be a little ahead of schedule. It’ll be interesting to see what the Russian and Syrian governments do next.

    Patricia, I wish I could show up and participate! When I lived in the Seattle area I’d go up now and again to the Shinto shrine at Granite Falls, WA, and took part several times in misogi shuho with the kannushi there. (We also had some great talks about the similarities between Shinto and Druidry.) Unfortunately I haven’t lived within range of a jinja since…

    Rationalist, that’s one of the many reasons why I don’t recommend Bardon as a manual for training. Too many of his steps mix together beginner’s work and very advanced work.

    Janitor, I remember each of my exams vividly — I had Novice and then Technician back in the 1970s via a Boy Scout group — WB7BFS was my call sign then — and then, of course, I went back to it a dozen years ago and passed Technician, General, and Extra in a single intense afternoon (which involved a lot of slide rule action) to get my current license and call sign, AD7VI. No question, it was an initiatory ordeal (especially for someone who’s not naturally good at math…)

    Austin, he didn’t send any troops into Syria, he just told our forces and those of our lapdogs, er, allies to lob some random missiles at some random targets. No further strikes are apparently planned. This is military theater, and may well be followed by a troop drawdown.

  62. I feel this line Every human being has the capacity for some form of greatness really struck a chord with many of the readership, myself included. Who would not want to achieve some form of greatness if that idea was presented to them? And there-in I feel is a huge part of the problem. Many people are not initiated with the idea that within them is some form of greatness. Sure, they may have be told that, but as with many compliments, we shrug them off as something meaningless.

    I was reading an article this evening from Wait But Why entitled How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You). Much of what he said really resonated with me, I think precisely because we have lost the art of initiation. As was mentioned by a commenter earlier, marriage changes you. There is a bit of an initiation for that. For many things there are small initiations. But something that has been lost, not only in the USA, is an initiation for life. Many people wander around, not only without a life’s’ purpose, but also without a meaning or satisfaction for what they are doing. Initiation is a great tool for better helping a person to realize their meaning and potential. I’m grateful for this being brought to attention in this post.

  63. As a slight aside, I’ve been encouraged from your posts, JMG, to learn more about Freemasonry. Ironically, or through the acts of the great spirit of the universe, one of my close friends who has stayed in my home region has independently developed an interest in and joined the ranks of Freemasons. Now that I have returned to the USA, I’ve been assisted by him in learning more about the Freemasons and likely will have the opportunity to experience an initiation myself in the months ahead and am greatly looking forward to it. I’d be interested in hearing how my experiences with the brotherhood of the Iron Range of Northeastern Minnesota compare with your experiences.

  64. JMG, Jasmine, Britain & the Empire
    If it was British navy submarines fired some cruise missiles into Syria, we bought the missiles from USA some while back apparently. This is a repeat of similar missiles fired in support of US policy in Afghanistan, Serbia, Iraq 2003, & Libya. So it goes.
    Btw, RAF seems fairly quiet about the first F35s we bought back in 2016 to the delight of the Daily Mail’s “Lightning roars through the rainbow” – “touch down tonight” – story, 29th June. The headline did say it was 2 years late. I gather no Anglo American planes in action in the sky over Syria last night? Just as well I guess.

    best
    Phil H

  65. Two things: first, in response to the off topic discussion on Trump and war, I find it amusing to watch what appears to be Trump withdrawing from the empire (not in as deliberate a fashion as I’d like), while the democrats double down on it and then shriek about Trump being a warmonger.

    With regards to Guillem’s observation, I note it has a rather intense corollary: what society says makes us unhappy does not necessarily make us unhappy. The implications of this seems rather immense, but it’s interesting to note that lots of things that terrify other people I either find enjoyable or don’t find unpleasant.

    I’ll have to mull this over, since it seems quite important.

  66. Woah, I am quite surprised to find an accomplished magician who doesn’t recommend Bardon’s IIH as a manual for training. Still, it makes sense – how many people are truly capable of accomplishing everything that Bardon writes about? (more of a rhetorical question)

    Another thing – when I was reading this chapter in the book, one word came to my mind, and that word was “excellence”. It seems to me that a major part of becoming an initiate is becoming excellent at something. And I think this is one of the reasons why you don’t recommend that people modify a magical system before they master it – you want them to become initiates by becoming excellent at that particular magical system, and it’s hard to become excellent if they are unable to do it exactly as written.

    Am I way off base here?

  67. A bit off topic; I wonder if you chose your AD7VI call or was it “just random.” Pretty cool that it starts with ArchDruid! I’m also an extra class but not very active. I think the idea of ham radio is more interesting right now than the actual practice. It could get interesting if the internet and cell service went away.

  68. Please forgive my previous stupid question re ham call signs. My own call begins with “AC” so I surely should have been able to figure out the answer for myself. But this is more serious. I was following Jen’s perplexity and feel sympathetic to it, although I am much older and clearly past the stage of life where I still should be dabbling about here and there. Content with it or not, my practice for the last 11 years has been Zen. The center where I practice emphasizes ritual, chanting, and especially kensho more than some Zen centers, or at least so I’ve been led to believe. What is initiation in Zen? I think kensho is/are the real initiation(s), though there have been small formal “initiations” like becoming a formal student of the Roshi and getting a Rakasu. There are the precepts ceremonies, too, which are also important. I have noticed that many members at my center also practice Chi Kung and I once heard a senior student of the Roshi’s say that he didn’t see how anyone could solve “Mu” (ie get to a first kensho) without having done serious work on one’s “hara” or “tan tien” that is to say the navel center. So, like it or not, Zen is my path for this life and I’d best get serious. Still, the relation between Zen and druidry, etc. interests me which is why I’m following this blog and reading these books.

  69. I’m not quite sure how to ask this question, but I have been interested in mystery schools and initiation my whole life and I wasn’t even certain they existed. It wasn’t until I was seriously into middle age that I finally found one I thought I could trust and signed up (OBOD, three years ago).

    The point is that I don’t actually know what I am looking for, it is just like something within me – possibly my higher self – yearns for something more, some more depth to existence, a sense of wholeness. It’s difficult to describe in words. The more I continue with the course material, the more I am convinced that I have made the right choice; it just feels right.

    However, I can’t get past the feeling – hence the question – that I should be going in to this with a clear goal, that I should know what it is I’m after. My instinct tells me I’m doing the right thing, I’m just not sure where it’s taking me. Also, at my age, my professional career is nearing it’s end and wonder (worry) whether I’m going to ‘find my greatness’ when I am already too old to make use of it.

    I would very much appreciate your opinion.

  70. Re: Syrian attack

    It seem fom me that the skipral case and the Goutha “gas attack” were part of the same trap to Trump, because after the tariffs and the retreat from Syria the Deep State are in a hurry to get rid of Trump as a “russian puppet”, and I am sure Trump was aware of the trap

    I would like to have seen the meetings between Trump and Bolton-Mad Dog about the response to Syria and Russia, and then Trump askig to give a “hard lesson” to the “ruskies”, “real men march on Moscow” he would have said (every military in the world know the Montgomery phrase about “march on Moscow”), pretending to be a macho-crazy-lunatic-trigger-happy, and then Mattis and Bolton nervously trying to calm him and proposing him a “hard but less dangerous” solution

    After the “cr**py” attack he is tweeting the “very professional” and “Mission Accomplished” jokes about it

    I think this men know well some kind of people and, in fact, he is a joker

  71. Hi John

    Your comments regarding Atlantis fascinate me… I do have your book at home which I intend to read at some point when I have time. Having visited Mexico it is clear to me that ancient trans-Atlantic trade links existed which is something that the guides at the Mayan sites thought a perfectly reasonable proposition.

    How a ancient Atlantis interacted with other ancient societies in the deep past is a fascinating question and definitely worth exploring.

    Regarding Trump, I think “Spengler” in the Asian Times got it spot on.

    http://www.atimes.com/article/syrian-reality-show/

    This is reality television and Trump is dis-engaging from the Middle East despite all the fury, missiles and tweets being circulated. My own take is that Trump, besieged by a neo-con war party within Washington, is playing a smart game in fending them of with a limited strike against Syria whilst progressing with his medium term plan of partially withdrawing from the overseas empire business.

    Most British people are skeptical of military intervention but I think a very limited, one-off, strike is fine with most people. Corbyn has damaged himself recently with his weak handling of anti-Semitic cases within the Labour party and a perceived poor performance on Russia.*

    * On this point I would note that whilst I think Corbyn makes some valid and reasonable criticisms of the UK/US government he is handicapped by a historic legacy of being pro-Soviet which brings into question the ideological motive behind his attacks on Western foreign policy. This is a chap who went motor cycling in the former East Germany in the 1970’s when brave men and woman were being shot trying to escape into West Germany.

    Quite frankly, that disgusts me and many other British citizens.

  72. I just pressed “post comment” by accident; I meant to type something somewhat longer.

    ” it’s by no means uncommon for a first initiation, especially one that happens in a relatively unstructured way, to be followed by a period of plunging into sensation. There may be a balancing function, or it may be that it’s not quite time for the serious work to begin.”

    This makes a lot of sense to me. It might be worth noting that I was 25 at the time of the initiation I described, which was basically followed by a 4 year long debauch. The only step toward higher accomplishment I took in that time was in the area of music: The very day I got back from Arizona, my roommate of the time was moving out. He packed his things, left, got an hour down the road; turned around, drove back to our apartment, and gave me his guitar, telling me that “I had an inspiration from God that you would need this.” I had never played a guitar before that.

    My first magical ritual took place when I was 29, deep in the middle of deservedly intense Saturn Return. I have, with occasionally setbacks, hard times and gaps, been able to maintain my practice consistently since then. I’ve also been able to maintain other kinds of practices– martial arts, for example– which have greatly improved my quality of life.

  73. Does spontaneous spiritual initiation occur?

    I ask because about a year ago I dreamed I was in my living room lighting a fire in my fireplace, across the room a second fire place appeared, I was drawn to it and it spontaneously burst into just one small flame (like a candle size). The power of that one small flame felt like it ripped through me with such force, it roared and I felt thrown into my body and woke in defense still feeling physically shaken from the force of the energy radiating off it.

    It left me profoundly humbled, and thinking no wonder people believed in gods, if I met an entity with energy like that I don’t know that I would survive the experience! It left me feeling that our world was just a small layer to something much larger than us and that there were forces much greater than us small fry in deeper realms.

    Since that experience my life has completely changed in very positive ways, it is now in a stable form (I’ve been transient my entire life) I feel grounded and secure which is a new experience for me, I have a home, my family is doing well, and an entirely new energy has entered my life, it hasn’t finished transforming entirely yet but in retrospect I can see how that dream marked the beginning of my life changes.

  74. I don’t know why, but I found that this chapter affected me more than any other part of the book. I didn’t have a pen when I was re-reading it, and so I dog-eared pages that contained bits I wanted to remember. Going back through it, it looks like I dog-eared every page!

    A couple of other things I wanted to talk about…

    1. You talk about the benefits of the “slow and laborious” process of spiritual evolution, as opposed to faster methods which either don’t work or have serious drawbacks. The other day as I was leaving the cafe at which I do most of my reading I ran into a young man I hadn’t seen in several years. He used to be a regular participant in the qigong/Taoist magic group that I was part of at the time, that I’ve talked about here before. All of us hated when he turned up, because he’s an extremely unpleasant person and his energy feels very toxic. In fact he claims to be possessed by demons. This came about, he once told me, following a series of very intense and unguided peyote trips. Like many, many people in this part of the world, he saw hallucinogenic drugs as a short-cut to spiritual enlightenment. And they do seem to have had the effect of introducing him to spiritual worlds and entities rather more quickly than the practice of daily ritual, study, and meditation. And he’s also insane.

    At our meeting the other day he told me that the demon situation had “gotten worse.” I asked him what happened. He said that he did a series of acid trips which introduced him to “The Void,” which is “the thing that eats both God and the Devil.” As a result of this, he now has “self-knowledge.” I thought I might lecture him into giving up this stupidity. “Self-knowledge comes about through spiritual practice and meditation, not the use of drugs.” He got angry: “Spiritual practice and meditation got me possessed in the first place,” he insisted, and then told me he didn’t want to hear it. “If I seem like an a–hole it’s because I’m under the control of a parasitic entity and I wasn’t that nice of a guy in the first place,” he said, and stalked off.

    When I was in my early 20s I also experimented with hallucinogens, under the impression that they were the best way, or possibly the only real way, to contact higher realities. Thank you, Terrance McKenna. This ended rather quickly with a series of bad trips… for which I’m now immensely grateful. If I’d kept going with it I might easily have ended up like that guy.

    2. There are, of course, other short cuts besides drugs. The qigong group I mentioned above was one such shortcut. I found that, doing the practices I learned in that group, my capacities to experience both “energy” and psychic phenomena expanded greatly and very quickly. And I also started experiencing the classic symptoms of a kundalini awakening gone wrong. I’ve talked about this more than once here and so I won’t go into it again, but it’s worth noting that my teacher in that system encouraged us to do 3 hours of practice a day as a minimum. On the other hand, I remember that upon joining the Druidical Golden Dawn I was encouraged to do considerably LESS magic in a day than I wanted to do in a day. This was a bit frustrating early on, but the results speak for themselves.

    3. It seems to me that there are at least 2 different results, or fruits, of the type of spiritual training you write about in this chapter. There is the capacity for living deliberately. There is the awakening of the various human capacities that are called “psychic abilities.” I think that these are different things. Different sorts of psychic abilities awaken in different degrees in individuals as a result of spiritual practice. These are the things that Hinduism and Buddhism calls siddhis and Christianity calls gifts of the Holy Ghost. I may be wrong, but it seems like these appear or do not appear all on their own, more as side-effects of the awakening process than anything else. And they also occur in unawakened individuals, and often do a great deal of harm. Or is it really the case that they are there all along, but that until we gain the capacity for stillness and attention, we don’t realize it? This view makes a lot of sense to me… I remember the first time I realized that I was feeling an emotion that wasn’t mine. It included the realization that I had probably always felt other peoples’ emotions, and acted upon them, without realizing it. Of course, this may not be an either/or.

    Living deliberately seems to be the goal and the great fruit of the process. There is something I’ve been thinking about along this line. A Taoist meditation manual, the Secret of the Golden Flower, says “As long as the mind has not reached supreme quiet, it cannot act. Action caused by momentum is random action, not essential action.” I read that, and I thought of the way that God appears in the proofs of Saint Thomas Aquinas, as the unmoved mover and the non-contingent being. From this perspective, it seems to me, the fruit of spiritual practice is the ability to think your own thoughts, not to have them thought for you by the television, Facebook, or the contents of your last meal, and, thus, to choose your own actions… and thus to become Godlike, or an image of God, or united with God (choose your language). From my reading, this idea occurs in different forms in a number of different traditions, including both the Western Occult and Christian mystical traditions (both Catholic and Orthodox), and the Taoist, Buddhist and Vedanta traditions. You’ve written against the idea that all religions are “different paths up the same mountain,” and I think that you are right. But at the same time this basic idea does seem to be either universal or nearly universal, if I understand it right.

  75. John—

    Slightly askew from the topic of initiation, but what, in your experience and understanding, makes for effective ritual? Particularly from the perspective of a solo practitioner? Obviously, traditional forms long-used and passed down are good, but as one is also working to build one’s own toolbox, as it were, are there particular elements or components that you’ve found work consistently well?

  76. Hi John Michael,

    I like cabbages, but alas the cabbage moth puts an end to most of the Brassica species during the growing months here. Fortunately I can grow that family of plants during the winter when there are no moths around, but there is just not enough energy in the winter sun to form a proper heart in the cabbage. I did enjoy your joke! 😀

    Hey, you already know that you can do the same trick with technology and just pick and choose whatever suits you and discard the rest. I do that, although people sometimes don’t realise that that is a valid option for them. Still the pressures to stick to the dominant narrative are immense and I can see why people tend to conform.

    Speaking of conforming, I had an ‘Ashland’ moment a few days ago when I was in Melbourne visiting the Queen Victoria Market and have written about that story for next weeks blog. I could not believe what my eyes were seeing…

    Cheers

    Chris

  77. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for the link, and I have read that theory. I’m not observing that theory playing out in the crops here, but it is always a possibility, no doubts about that.

    Most plants require a huge diversity of minerals in order to grow. Industrial agriculture tends to fertilise with only a few minerals such as: NPK. Plants still consume the other minerals from the soil, and Boron is a good example of such. Who puts boron onto their fields? Incidentally a good source of boron is cardboard. Eventually one of the lesser known minerals – and knowledge is far from complete in this area – gets played out in the soils. The plants still grow, but they are stunted, more pest and disease prone, and the produce displays signs of mineral deficiencies. That is sort of how it looks to me.

    The thing is, we have the opportunity to build up our soils now for the future, but are we doing that on an industrial scale? Not really, we tend to want to do things on the cheap so that we can keep prices down, and building soil fertility is an expensive business, sorry to say.

    Incidentally, when you remove produce from a farm and sell it on, then the minerals contained in that produce get relocated and are no longer available on the farm. They usually get dumped in the oceans. Soils are a finite resource and there is no way around that story.

    Cheers

    Chris

  78. Onething- Re: Protestant Ritual Deficiency – Methodist as a child, and now Lutheran, I’ve seen both less-ritual and more-ritual forms of Protestantism. As I recall it, Methodists celebrate Communion only a few times a year, but with great solemnity. I particularly remember one Maundy Thursday Communion service held after dark, in a mostly darkened church, where we were simply encouraged to pray until we felt ready to receive the bread and grape juice (no alcohol for Methodists). My Lutheran church, though, offers Communion almost every Sunday, and with lay members assisting the pastor, it’s meaningful in a different way. (Our practice is to bake whole-wheat pita loaves, which the pastor will tear off a chunk of as she gives it to each person by name, then the assistants follow with wine in a common chalice, or a small pitcher to pour into your empty cup, OR a pre-filled cup of non-alcoholic wine.) When I asked a wise old Lutheran pastor what was the difference between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, he said “They have a Pope. We don’t. That’s the only thing that really matters.” We read the Bible for ourselves, and talk directly to God, without the assistance of a Pope. We don’t reject Catholic practices reflexively.

    As for “guitar mass”, I much prefer organ music and four-part harmony hymns, but in an emergency, I’ve played my guitar for the singing, and that was special in its own way. (Fortunately for everyone, that’s only happened once in 20 years.)

  79. In a nice piece of synchronicity this week, after reading your post on initiation I came across a Twitter thread that describes a journey to a sacred place in the woods. The writers description sounds to me like an initiatory process that he discovers almost accidentally.

    You *should* be able to read his thread without a Twitter account

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Enjoy

  80. @Chris at Fernglade, for brassica, we use a net with a small enough mesh not to let adult cabbage butterflies in. Inside the nets we sometimes get cutworm damage, but it is not nearly as extensive. Without a net, all brassica species get ravaged, stunted and bitter if they survive, but with a net, they are so nice and juicy that the average person who is acquainted with conventional methods will swear we had to have used a ton of pesticides. It’s extra work but worth it.

  81. Dear Forecasting Intelligence

    I did vote for Corbyn at the last election because he is better than the alternative and does speak some sense. However I agree with some of what you are saying about Corbyn. I am old enough to remember some people on the left who used to defend the old soviet Union back in the 80’s. This is why I have always had a bit of a problem with the left. It is important to remember that there is a universe of difference between the democratic socialism represented by the labour party after 1945 and the soviet union under Stalin. The 1945 labour government introduced many reforms that benefited ordinary people. However in the 1970’s there seemed to be some on the left and in the trade union movement who seemed intent on undermining the labour government. They seemed to prefer Moscow to London. Their attempts were so successful that they succeeded in getting Thatcher into power and put us on course for 40 years of neoliberal policies.

    I think it is easy to get stuck in a binary where you end up thinking that because our side must be bad the other side must be good. You can see this at play in the Syrian crisis. There are liberals in the main stream who think that the west is the embodiment of goodness and Russia the embodiment of evil. Then you get others who thinks that because the West is bad, then the West is the embodiment of evil and that Russia is the embodiment of good. The truth is that both sides are bad and what is going on here is international power politics and a battle for hegemony and morality has nothing to do with it. I don’t recall the West getting all that upset when Iraq used poison gas in against the Iranians and Kurds in the 80’s. I prefer Britain to Russia because you can criticise our government with out getting Polonium in your tea, but I have no illusions. I just prefer to have my tea with milk. It tastes better and is healthier.

    Saying all this I will vote Corbyn at the next.election. He is a democratic socialist and we need some of that after 40 years of neoliberalism. Socialism and capitalism are both ideologies of the industrial age and won’t do much to prepare us for the coming crash with the limits to growth. However Corbyn’s Democratic socialism is better than Neoliberalism. I say this as a small C conservative. The Tories are like revolutionary Maoists who have contempt for all the institutions of this country like the welfare state. Neoliberalism is like the mirror image of communism. The only difference is that they think they can lead the people to Utopia through free markets. Compared to this Corbyn is a return to traditional values.

  82. Prizm, it’s not just that we lack an initiation into life; it’s that our society actively discourages most of us from pursuing our own capacity for greatness. There’s plenty of lip service given to “talent” — a hugely overused concept — but when you begin pursuing your capacity for greatness, whatever that happens to be, you can count on facing pushback from most of the people you know, and from the structures of the society in which you live. Josephin Peladan put it best: “Society is an anonymous enterprise for living a life of secondhand emotions.” To achieve greatness of any kind is to stand apart from that enterprise.

    Delighted to hear that you’re considering Freemasonry, by the way! I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it.

    Phil, we’re going to see the most elaborate possible set of excuses in years to come for why the supposedly invincible F-35 somehow isn’t going to find its way into action. Those planes will sit on airfields looking threatening, perform toothless flybys, and generally go through the motions of being military aircraft, the way that a mime pretends to be stuck inside a phone booth, because none of the governments in question want to risk having it demonstrated that they’ve spent all those godzillions of dollars, pounds, etc. on a flying lemon.

    Will, it’s very important. Follow it as far as it goes.

    Rationalist, Bardon’s works are worth having, but to my mind, not at all suited to beginners, and not necessarily suited to use as a standalone system. As for excellence, no, that’s not why I suggest that students learn a magical system as is, without modifications, as a first step in their training. If you don’t know how to do magic — and if you haven’t studied and practiced it for a good long time, you don’t — how can you possibly construct a balanced and effective system of training in it? What happens when beginners insist on coming up with their own magical system is that they assemble a grab-bag of practices and theories that strike their fancy, and these inevitably amplify whatever personality imbalances and bad habits they happen to have, while yielding inferior results; the outcome is rarely good, and can sometimes be really messy indeed. Learning an established, proven system, on the other hand, forces you to do the things you don’t find easy along with the things you do, gets you past the beginner’s egotism of insisting that you already know all about a subject you’ve only just begun to study, and leaves you with a set of effective practices and a meaningful philosophy to go with them.

    Phutatorius, I haven’t had any practical experience of Zen, so can’t answer questions about how it works! Fortunately you have a roshi and a group of experienced students close at hand to do that… 😉

    Hereward, it’s actually counterproductive to have a clear goal in mind as you proceed on the spiritual path. The goals of spiritual practice cannot be understood by the ordinary conscious mind, because they involve the awakening of capacities of awareness that are dormant in most of us. The yearning and the “feeling right” are better guides in this work than any conscious goal or concept. As for your age, don’t worry about that; the work you put into developing your capacity for greatness in this life will have plenty of room to bear fruit in your next life.

    DFC, what I most want to know is whether the Russians and Syrians are right that only 30 of the more than a hundred cruise missiles actually made it to their targets. If even the relatively old-fashioned Syrian air defense system could take down 2/3 of the incoming missiles, then the US could be in deep trouble the next time it goes head to head with a serious opponent.

    Forecastingintelligence, the entire question of civilizations in the distant past is one that deserves much more attention than it’s gotten. As for Corbyn, I gather that British society is just as deeply divided along partisan lines as ours; what he did on a summer vacation forty years ago no doubt is red meat to Tories but doesn’t seem to mean much to those of my correspondents who are left of center.

    Jen, you’re most welcome.

    Steve, that’s a very common pattern — a first burst of awakening, followed by doing other things, followed by a return to the work and the development of some kind of systematic practice. That’s basically what I experienced, for whatever that’s worth.

    Rose, it happens tolerably often, and your description sounds classic. In occult philosophy, the standard idea is that you’ll have done a lot of spiritual practice in a previous life, and the benefits of that are now popping up in this one. Very likely you had some karma to work off first, and now that that’s dealt with, you can move on into better places.

    Steve, I’ve known people like the guy you describe. To my mind they provide the best possible reason for not following the path they did. I have a friend who knew Terry McKenna, by the way, and although he was apparently a fascinating guy, my friend would laugh heartily at the thought that anybody should take him as a spiritual guide!

    Living deliberately is an important part of the goal of this work, but that and psychic capacities aren’t the whole of it by any means. Can an acorn understand its future as an oak tree? That’s the kind of transformation we’re talking about…

    David, that’s like asking what makes for an effective piece of music. To a massive degree, it depends on personal needs and tastes; what makes for a really good string concerto doesn’t do much for rock, and vice versa. If you pay attention to your own experience and let that guide you, you’ll come up with a mode of ritual practice that works for you, which is what matters in this work.

    Chris, I’ll look forward to the blog!

    Darren, thanks for this! Initiation is hardwired into our blood and our bones, and pops up in unexpected places…

    Gnat, yes, I saw that! I’ll be discussing it in an upcoming post, either here or on Dreamwidth.

  83. As Patricia Ormsby has suggested, if anyone reading here happens to be in or planning to travel through the general area of Kansai in Japan, I am quite happy to introduce them to Shinto and direct experience of Shinto ritual, to whatever degree interests them. You can reach me by searching for my name on Facebook, or by sending a mail to an address consisting of the words “quin”, “the”, and “mighty” strung together without spaces in that order, followed by the usual “at” mark and gmail.com suffix.

  84. Regarding watercoloring as an potentially initiatory path, some notes on what I’m trying:

    Performing my Sphere of Protection before painting seems to reinforce both habits, and make me slightly less neurotic while painting (less of the specter of JMW Turner laughing derisively over my shoulder at the hubris of me even bothering to touch brush to paper, for one).

    Treating the laying out of my tools and the cleaning and care of them after painting with deliberate ceremony seems helpful to the spirit in which I approach the task, and also seems to circumvent procrastination via the power of habit (I say with all the wisdom of five days’ practice).

    It seems to me that many of the Japanese arts and crafts (and apprenticeships more generally) involve an element of restriction, that one must pay ones dues or master one thing before moving to the next, so I have been limiting myself to a palette of only three paints, and getting to know them very carefully before even attempting “paintings” as such, or allowing myself to indulge in the purchase of more paints and supplies.

    One delightful discovery today was that if a mixture of two paints is touched to wet paper, the heavier pigment will settle out first, while the less heavy pigment is carried onward by the water, causing the parent colors to separate on the paper–just like sediment deposition in a river or creek!

  85. Archdruid,

    Life itself throws initiation rituals at us, and those initiations are normally very unpleasant. Taking to unpack and reflect on those experiences and then engage in studies is part of the process of growing up. For example if you get jumped and your butt kicked, then you have to decided how to respond – learn to fight, learn diplomacy, learn to run, become pacifist, or a myriad of other choices? Failing to accept the initiation and deal with it constructively is a recipe for further unpleasantness. What I really like about the mystery school methods is they allow us to preempt the universe to some degree.

    There’s an old saying that you either learn to chew humility or get served plates full of humiliation. The initiate must be able to humbly accept the universes lessons, no matter how unpleasant, and thus gets spared most of the humiliation.

    All,

    It’s weirdly good to know that I’m not the only one stumbling through my occult practices.

    Regards,

    Varun

  86. Archdruid,

    I’m still working out the whole secrets part of the chapter. It’s probably the most interesting thing to me given my background.

    Regards,

    Varun

  87. There is an article on the Atlantic Monthly website about how scientists could detect evidence of a pre-human civilization. Also touches on what traces our own civilization will leave.

  88. Not particularly on topic, but goes a bit with @gant’s comment.
    Over at LostArt Press a short bit about a 7000 year old well https://blog.lostartpress.com/2018/04/15/woodworking-from-the-bone-age/. Read the article it links to.

    Can’t locate where I read it today but it stuck with me. “Don’t think your smarter than your ancestors just because you know more.” Might have been in ‘Winter Tide’ by Ruthanna Emery. I just finished it for the second time.

  89. Jen, this sounds very promising indeed.

    Varun, yep. You can learn life’s lessons willingly or unwillingly, but either way, you’re going to learn them. I forget which famous psychologist used to have a sign in his office that said; “Either Way It Hurts.” As for the section on secrets, it’s a much-condensed version of the chapter on secrecy in Inside a Magical Lodge, which you might also find useful.

    Rita, yep — that’ll be part of the raw material for an upcoming post.

    Janitor, the thing I’d add to that is that we don’t know more than our ancestors — we just know different things. How many of us know one per cent as much about the properties of different woods as firewood, say, as our ancestors did? How many of us know how to tune into the countless messages being passed by the living things on a spring morning in the forest, the way hunter-gatherers routinely do? We know more abstractions than our ancestors did, sure — but what did we trade away to get those?

    Will. most societies do. Every so often a society encourages greatness for a little while, and then you have minor little events like the Renaissance.

  90. Greetings all

    The chapter in question makes reference to the “awakening of the soul’s hidden potentials”.

    (1) Can we have some examples of such powers?

    (2) Is ritual a mode of communication between the conscious self and the unconscious self?

    Thanks

  91. JMG,
    I wonder if we actually do collectively know more than our ancestors all thing considered. And the ancestors don’t need to be that far back. The abstractions don’t always make up for forgetting the practical hard realities. We no longer have the technology/skills needed to build a Saturn V or a Pullman Streamliner rail coach. And those just a couple of things I’ve seen.

    Dougie MacLean (‘Caledonia’) has a good take on the subject in the song ‘Rite of Passage’. Here’s a small snip.
    Show the children to the master, put the tools into their hands
    Show them how to work the grain and how to hold the ever moving sand
    Place with them the knowledge of the far and of the near
    And lead them through the waiting storms that will never ever clear

    You need that rite of passage before you can continue on
    That brave self understanding you can lean your dreams upon
    You may want for children, you may crave for man and wife
    But you need that rite of passage to the summer of your life

    Coop Janitor (NJ0C)

  92. Good to know that that’s why I was wondering: I was thinking of the Renaissance as a society that might have encouraged greatness. It seemed like a very odd period of history though, so I figured it might be an anomaly.

  93. Archdruid,

    Cool I’ll see if the local library has a copy. By the way, will there ever be a slightly cheaper copy of your translation of Bruno’s the art of memory available?

    Regarda,

    Varun

  94. @JMG

    I am not 100% sure of the russian claim that 71 tomahawks have been shot-down by the “syrian” air defense, but it is quite probable (I think more than 90%)

    Normally in the past, the firs action of an US air attack is to take down the air defense of the adversary, in the way the IAF made in the Bekaa Valley in June 1982, using a combination of EW (jamming), extensive use of drones, and an overhelming surprise attack on the radars, command and control post and communication networks made by aircraft with a lot of countermeasures (flares, jamming, radar decoy,etc…), none of this method have been used by the FUKUS’ military (The Triple Alliance), so with the air defense intact and with a huge amount of information about the incoming attack tracking by russian satellites, long range radars, early warning planes, fighters and drones, the defenders could mount a well synchronized operation against the incoming missiles using muti-layered air defense all well orchestrated and guided by the russian military (advisers), and the result would have been the same of the IAF in Yon Kipur (1973) instead of that of the Bekaa Valley (1982)

    As far as I know the Tomahawk missile, with a relatively low speed of 800 Km/h and without any embedded countermeasures (IR or radar) is not a very hard target even for the old soviet missiles (Gary Powers was a much difficult target in the 50’s), only overhelming by number can save the day in this case, but with high losses

    But as everybody knows, to make an attack that take down all the “syrio-russian” air defense means war with the Russian Federation because it requires not less that flattening the two russian bases in Syria and kill scores of russian adviser embedded with the syrian military, and probably increase even more the operation theater (after all the Russian Federation is not so far away from Syria and much closer than US , and it seems that there were some dozens of russian strategic bomber fully loaded with antiship missiles flying in the South of Russia awaiting orders and with permission to access the iranian air space)

    The other proof of the shot-down of the Tomahawks is the relatively low level of damages of the Barzah “Chemical Center” that was allegedly hit by 76 missiles (there were only normal buildings not bunkers, after hit by 76 missile it should be only a huge “hole” after the explosion of 34.200 Kg of high explosive in such an small place)

  95. Helllo Jen & JMG,

    Very cool! I hope Mr. Turner & company become more helpful guides in future 🙂

    That sounds similar to what I currently do. My studio and bench room are where I do all my magical work. I light a candle, cense the space, and do a 3 Rays rite before beginning to carve or sketch, which helps me to be less distracted and more focused on the work. The channel of communication between the piece and myself seems to be clearer as well. The influence has been very positive!

    I too have drawn a circle around what medium in which I am choosing to restrict my expression: small scale carving and inlay in wood, bone, horn, and a variety of other natural materials. I was doing silversmithing and other non-ferrous metalwork for a time, and also a year of bladesmithing on top of beadwork and drawing. It was all wonderful (I can make my own carving blades now!), but I too felt the need to settle in and go deeper in one medium.

    I’ve been contemplating writing a set of seasonal rituals, 4 to start with, that go along with different stages of the making and relate to the natural origins of the materials and the tools. But I’ve only just started to ponder that.

    Unifying my art and magical practice has been something I have been drawn to do for a long time, and the progress has been very slow. I don’t want to make the mistake of trying to make them be the same thing (they aren’t), but the overlap area is large, and the skills developed for one can support and energize the other. Figuring out the relationship is an ongoing task!

    In terms of initiation, I find it funny that the resurgence of my drive to make artwork happened only after I decided to leave the Order in which the last initiation appropriate to my stage of development and my path, as far as I can tell, was a couple of initiations prior to the last one I actually took before leaving. That last -appropriate- initiation was one that is commonly most identified with the creative arts, personal sovereignty, and divine creation generally.

    That all being said, I had better get back to it!
    Bonnie

  96. Jen, I am also pursuing a path in the arts, and am also a Candidate in AODA. Just a few thoughts: first of all you might benefit from Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I did, and do. Second, in my opinion your enthusiasm at starting new things and your predilection for not finishing them something that is hard wired into some people – I am the same. I personally do not think its something to regret or feel shame about – you have a spark in you that responds to many different enthusiasms, be thankful for that, its a gift. I think you will find that there are a few pursuits that you just keep coming back too, that you just don’t let go – those are your special ones. You can use the other short term pursuits that come and go as inputs into your arts practice. Last thing is that creating a painting is a magical act – we artists start something. but then it takes its own way – doesn’t it? So the act of painting, for you, can act as both ritual, and a practice of magic.You are taking considerable time to go through your Candidate year of AODA – maybe that’s exactly what you need.And by the way, thirty years old is still very young.
    Best wishes on your Artist’s path

  97. JMG,

    The topic of initiation and rituals has been mostly a binary experience in my life. People apparently don’t take into account the aspect of the time and effort involved to achieve “greatness” in baby steps. One extreme might be a Christian who becomes born-again, and frames that experience with their faith in the sense the major milestone has been passed, and sometimes leaving them with a smug attitude of superiority – and a relatively un-Christ-like persona. At the other end of the spectrum are people more like myself, who never have experienced an event of inner awakening, and fall back on a materialistic view of the universe to explain everything, without putting in the necessary effort to explore the necessary prerequisites of mental training.

    As a side note, this week I’m visiting my father in Florida (who’s in his 80s) and mentioned your writings and blog as something very worthwhile to follow. He shocked me when he told me he had been in the masons many years ago, and was encouraged to become a “master” of some sort, tossing around terms like blue lodge, Scottish rite, and so on. I had never heard him mention it before, and for some reason he had gone down a different path in life and left it behind him.

    I felt a sense of missed opportunity.

  98. One significant element in craft is the materials: often, they don’t cooperate very well, or we might entertain mistaken ideas as to what we might do with them.

    In bookbinding, for instance, every skin of leather is different, and this can result in quite a struggle; and in gilding leather, sometimes one is defeated = Humility, even for someone who has attained mastery.

    Also, in some crafts materials have to season and mature: in the great classic ‘The Wheelwright’s Shop’ one can read about this.

    In that book, the author recalls (he was writing during the Great War, when everything had fallen apart and old woods had been felled for the war effort) a particular stand of oaks which was traditionally known in his county -despite being very fine trees – to be no good as a source of timber to work with. Felling, sawing, and seasoning would be wasted effort.

    Again, Humility: Nature is All.

  99. Dear Jasmine,

    Thanks for your comments.

    My view of Corbyn is similar to my view of Trump – outside the hard-core base who have a quasi-religious worship of the leaders, the majority of people who voted for both candidates did it knowing their weaknesses/flaws but decided that overall that their respective change agenda would make a real difference to their day-to-day life.

    In Mr Corbyn’s case, this is focused on his economic populist agenda, promising relief on student debt for young people, higher spending on public services and an end of fiscal austerity. For these voters, the prospect of meaningful change from the neo-liberal consensus in political and economic policy is the key issue at stake.

    My view of the Tories, coming from the centre-right, is that the current administration is clearly politically and intellectually exhausted with the odd exception like Michael Gove. Like New Labour, who were shown up in the 2015 Labour leadership election as having no vision or policies (other then the continuation of the status quo) the same neo-liberal dead end has arrived for the Tory party.

    It is striking that the only thing that excites the Labour PLP is trying to soften/reverse Brexit. In other words, going back to the pre-2016 status quo. However, whilst there are a few good and exciting new policies within Labour, the thrust is the return to a pre-1979 status quo and the return to statist social democracy.

    I personally find the prospect of reverting back to a statist world where the bureaucrat knew best a grim one and find Greer’s third way of democratic syndicalism a far more appealing economic model to explore in the coming decades.

    The Tory party is at heart a party dedicated to power and has adapted to various economic models. Lets not forget that the Tory party was comfortable with social democracy (think Macmillan and Edward Heath) until the mid-70’s when the Thatcherite insurgency took over the party in 1976.

    The Tories are not ideologically committed to “neo-liberalism” in the way that elements of the old Labour party were to socialism. Right now, the bulk of the Tory party thinks that there is no alternative, like their cousins within the Labour and other mainstream political parties across the developed world.

    Back in 2016, after PM May had taken over with talk of ending burning injustice and taking on the free market and the vested elites, I wrote that the Tories were shifting, slowly, away from the neo-liberal consensus of the last 30 years.

    I was wrong and right.

    Whilst May’s instincts are interventionist, the bulk of the Tory party, including the chancellor, remain stuck within a neo-liberal intellectual framework. Once the public, who had thought that May wasn’t a typical Tory, decided that she actually had nothing new to say to the working/lower-middle classes, they deserted her for Corbyn at the May general election.

    https://forecastingintelligence.org/2016/10/09/the-may-falle/

    Whether the Tories realise that defending the neo-liberal settlement is doomed remains to be seen. The two most promising candidates within the party, Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson, have recently joined up in a new think tank to to create popular parties for the under 45’s.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/16160500.Davidson_and_Gove_team_up_to_front_new_Tory_think_tank_Onward/

    My own view is that Ruth Davidson is the only Tory who “gets” the struggling middle and the need for fresh thinking in economic policy. Whether she can take power or not remains to be seen.

    If she doesn’t, I imagine Mr Corbyn will be our next prime minister.

  100. JMG wrote

    “DFC, what I most want to know is whether the Russians and Syrians are right that only 30 of the more than a hundred cruise missiles actually made it to their targets. If even the relatively old-fashioned Syrian air defense system could take down 2/3 of the incoming missiles, then the US could be in deep trouble the next time it goes head to head with a serious opponent.”

    There are certainly conflicting accounts about what exactly happened in Syria and how many F.UK.US missiles got through and how many were intercepted by Syrian air defenses.

    The Moon of Alabama and Sic Semper Tyrannis are taking the Russian and Syrian claims seriously and have concluded the Russians and Syrians are probably telling the truth. Both have their biases but are operated by experienced former intelligence officers who still have lots of contacts in the business. MoA is run by a retired German intelligence officer who worked for the BND (German counterpart of the CIA), while SST is run by a retired Green Beret colonel and former senior DIA official, while his guest contributors are mainly people with military and/or intelligence backgrounds.

    http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/04/syria-pentagon-hides-attack-failure-70-cruise-missiles-shot-down-.html/

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2018/04/yet-another-mission-accomplished.html

    http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2018/04/trumps-big-flop-in-syria-by-publius-tacitus.html

    One SST’s regular contributors wrote the following

    “Any air defense engineer with a security clearance that isn’t lying through his teeth will admit that Russia’s air defense technology surpassed us in the 1950’s and we’ve never been able to catch up. The systems they have in place surrounding Moscow make our Patriot 3’s look like f*cking nerf guns.”

    And

    “All of the knowledgeable aircraft commanders are usually scared sh*tless about the prospect of a legitimate air-to-air skirmish with a SU-30 or any Russian air superiority fighter.”

    Here is the Russian MOD briefing, courtesy of the Saker, including a detailed breakdown of Syrian facilities the Russians are claiming US, British and French forces attacked, number of missiles per target, number shot down per target and the success rate of each type of Russian made Syrian air defense system.

    https://thesaker.is/sitrep-us-missile-attack-on-syria-russian-statistics/

    An analysis by an American blogger based on official US sources, with a detailed breakdown of targets attacked according to the Pentagon, numbers and types of missiles used per target and the number of missiles fired by each ship or type of aircraft.

    https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2018/04/syrian-anti-chemical-weapons-strike.html

    https://navy-matters.blogspot.com/2018/04/syrian-anti-chemical-weapons-strike_14.html

    Moon of Alabama, Sic Semper Tyrannis, Vineyard of the Saker and Navy Matters are all blogs I follow closely. I try to get a wide range of sources and perspectives, particularly when there are conflicting accounts and especially when there is good reason to believe one or both sides are being less than honest about what actually happened.

  101. Regarding whether or not formal rituals associated with traditional religions are empty, or not, I believe that at any particular ritual or ceremony you will find individuals just going through the motions alongside those for whom the same ritual is a deep spiritual experience. I certainly saw that in the formal religion I practiced for many years.
    So I think its more than just the specific mode of ritual that makes it empty or rich. In Islam you have Al-Ghazali writing on the Inner Dimensions of Worship, in Christianity you have Saint Theresa of Avila and her inner castle. And of course there are many other examples.
    Perhaps the problem is that our religions in our current form have made these inner dimensions almost inaccessible.
    But for those individuals firmly committed to a traditional mainstream religion, I do believe you can find depth in your religions rituals – but you will have to work at it, and you may have to go outside your religions typical modes of instruction to find it.

  102. An example of a very simple ritual, called the morning pages, is recommended in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. As soon as you wake up you sit down and write three pages of stream of consciousness reflections – just whatever comes to mind, without trying to write well, or compose – just write whatever is there. Then you save those pages in an envelope, and do not look at them for several months.
    I actually discovered a lot about myself doing this, and over time it became a very deep experience for me.

  103. Karim, (a) we’ll get to that at some point, (b) that’s one way to think about it.

    Janitor, I’ll have to chase down the MacLean song! Thank you.

    Will, there have been other equivalent periods. Every civilization has one of them!

    Varun, once the fine and oh my God editions have sold out, I’ll be discussing that with the publisher.

    DFC, that makes a good deal of sense. Still, I simply don’t know who’s lying how much, so my working assumption is that everyone’s shoveling smoke.

    Bonnie, fascinating. It sounds as though you’re doing some very solid work.

    Drhooves, our culture is obsessed with the fallacy that the two ends of every spectrum are the only possible options, so that’s not surprising. You know, if you can honestly say that you believe in a Supreme Being, you could pick up what your father dropped, and try Masonry yourself…

    Xabier, that’s a useful lesson in the Law of Limits.

    Armata, thanks for this. The point that matters, to my mind, is that however many missiles got through, they didn’t accomplish much. I’ll be referring to that tomorrow…

    Bear, that’s true even in many alternative religious traditions! It took me quite a bit of work, and a lot of reading, study, and practice outside Druidry, to put Druid ritualism into context and make it work as a magical path.

  104. Dear Forecasting Intelligence

    I totally agree with your first paragraph. I will be voting or Corbyn because he is the least worst option, not because I believe that he is the second coming. Take defence for example. Corbyn is a pacifist and I am not and I believe in strong defences to deter any potential enemy. I recognise that we live in a nasty world and that if you want world peace, you had better move to another planet. However I also think that war is evil and that we need to stop getting involved in stupid unwinnable wars that are none of our business. However the Tories and the Blarite wing of the labour party seem to be quite happy to get us involved in a potential war with a nuclear armed Russia over a civil war that is none of our business. They are also doing this at the same time that they have cut our armed forces back to the bone. The army is now smaller than at any time since the 18th century. It has often been said that labour would not have attempted to bring in such huge cuts as the popular press would have savaged them. Therefore Corbyn would seem to be the better option as he would try to keep us out of a war with Russia. As for any cuts he might make to our armed forces. Well that already happened under the Tories.

    The other thing I like Corbyn for is the fact that he has broken the neoliberal consensus that existed between labour and Tories before he was elected. He has broadened the overton window. It has been said that Nixon was more left wing than Clinton or Obama and brought is some valuable environmental measures. The reason for this is because he was afraid of the left. If there is a serious challenger to the consensus of the political establishment then there is room for other voices to be heard. I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why the environmental movement was more effective in the 1970’s. In a society with only one story other voices have to confirm to that story or they get frozen out.

    By the way I do look at your website. It looks good.

  105. Exactly, JMG: the Law of Limits – a bad craftsman, proverbially, blames his tools (although they are in fact getting worse) , but even the best craftsman can be beaten by a tough piece of leather, itself the result of the way the animal grew, etc…….

    There is a good reason for the Sufis, among others, having chosen craft work as the basis of The Work.

  106. PS I’m still chuckling at the thought of Satanists finding that the ‘guitar ‘Mass couldn’t be parodied. The Church of England, as I see from the banner outside our 12th century church, now offers ‘messy’ services – another defeat, I imagine, for the forces of Darkness. 🙂

  107. Thanks, JMG

    It’s been a long road that keeps changing shape. It’s badly in need of an update and overhaul since my health-related hiatus, but my Jackbird Arts journal shows some of what I do. It’s at jackbirdarts dot com.

    Bonnie

  108. Nick P. Loved your story about the old lady and her form of meditation – crocheting! How true and humbling. We forget how important ALL hand-crafts are!!!

Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss . Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG

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