The Sources of Magical Power, Part Two

Last month’s survey of sources of magical power in the Western tradition covered a lot of ground, and it’s probably going to be helpful to summarize before we proceed. Until the middle years of the nineteenth century, there were broadly speaking two major theories among operative mages about how magic works and where the power comes from. There was the ancient and widespread belief that magic is about getting disembodied beings of various kinds to do things for you, and there was the not quite as ancient and not quite as widespread belief that magic is about tapping into the same flows of creative energy in the cosmos that astrologers track.

In the Middle Ages, scholars talked knowledgeably about goetia and magia, which were the respective Latin terms for these two approaches. You’ll find the same distinction in modern scholarly writings such as D.P. Walker’s Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella—Walker here meant “spiritual” and “demonic” in their precise Renaissance Latin senses, with spiritus meaning our old friend the Astral Light, and daemon any disembodied being who wasn’t either a ghost or a god. It’s almost impossible to make sense of the older works of magical philosophy unless you keep the distinction in mind: is magic a natural process that simply works with the flows of energy that sustain the world anyway, or is it a supernatural process that cajoles or coerces nonhuman intelligences into serving as your labor force? Depending on the specific book you’re reading, it could be either or both.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, certainly, both approaches were in common use all over the Western world. Now of course most people insisted loudly that magic couldn’t possibly work, that astrology was an exploded superstition, and as for angels, demons, and the like, whatever the Bible said about them—and of course it says a great deal on those subjects—they couldn’t possibly have the least bit of relevance to life in progressive, modern, up-to-date Europe and America. Yet it’s a matter of record that magic, astrology, and traditional ways of dealing with angels and demons were practiced all over progressive, modern, up-to-date Europe and America in those years. Magic is like sex; what’s socially acceptable to say about it need not have anything in common with what people actually do.

The main influence that a lack of public respectability has on magic is that fewer people talk about why it works. The Renaissance was one of the great eras of occult philosophy because the broad acceptance of astrology and astrological magic among intellectuals encouraged people to wonder about exactly how it functioned—how, let’s say, planting vegetables in the Moon’s first quarter, with the Moon in a watery or earthy Zodiacal sign and applying to a trine aspect with Venus, and free from hostile aspects with the malefic planets, could give you a great harvest three or four months later. The early nineteenth century was a barren period for occult philosophy because most intellectuals weren’t talking about such things; people just kept on watching the Moon through her phases and signs, and getting the bumper crops of vegetables as a result.

That’s roughly where magic was when one of the great figures of the tradition put in an appearance. His name was Alphonse Louis Constant, but most of my readers will know him better by his magical nom de plume, Eliphas Lévi.

Lévi, as we might as well call him, was a remarkable and many-sided thinker, but that’s a subject for another day. What matters here is the revolution in occult philosophy he launched with his first and most important book on magic, Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic). I’m glad to say this is in print in English; I’m sorry to say that the English translation is by Arthur Edward Waite, whose prose has all the grace and elegance of a constipated rhinoceros, and who packed the thing with long footnotes parading his own supposed knowledge and disparaging Lévi at every turn. (He also changed the title to Transcendental Magic; Waite could never be satisfied with a good title when a bad one was available.) A new translation without Waite’s dubious contributions would be a very helpful thing for today’s occultists.

The reason why such a translation would be very helpful, and why it’s worth wading through Lévi even at the cost of putting up with Waite, is that Lévi showed that it was possible to take the philosophy of astrological magic and make it work in a Copernican universe. What’s more, he did it by an act of decentering that more or less paralleled the one Einstein carried out in physics half a century later. In Lévi’s theory of magic, the currents of creative force don’t move in a single direction, cascading down from the throne of God past stars and planets and the circle of the Moon to yank around things here on Earth like so many puppet strings. The Astral Light, the unseen continuum that unites all things, communicates influences from everything to everything else—from the Earth to the planets and stars just as much as the other way around—and that was, in Lévi’s view, the basis on which magic rests.

One implication of this shift in focus deserves special attention. I noted at the end of last month’s post that all of the ways of thinking about the sources of magical power that were in circulation before the dawn of modern magic assumed, as a matter of course, that human beings didn’t have magical powers. If you wanted to practice magic, you either had to figure out how to direct and concentrate the powers of the stars, or you had to figure out how to obtain help from, or mastery over, spiritual beings. For Lévi, by contrast, human beings were capable of magical action in their own right. The Astral Light, the universal medium of magic, could be shaped directly by the power of human will guided by the human imagination, without any need to call on other forces.

To Lévi, in turn, that was how magic worked. The operative mage was an exceptional human being who developed the faculties of will and imagination beyond the norm, and could therefore set currents in motion in the Astral Light to accomplish marvelous effects. Lévi didn’t talk much about gods or spirits except as symbols through which the imagination could be directed; what interested him was the training of the individual human being.

In that orientation toward the individual,  Lévi was very much a man of his time. It’s indicative that he was born in 1810, three years before Arthur Schopenhauer wrote the first of his philosophical treatises, and died in 1875, three years after Friedrich Nietzsche did the same thing. Both these philosophers had the same focus as Lévi; what set them apart from their predecessors and most of their contemporaries was precisely that they rejected abstract theories about the cosmos in order to place human experience and the human condition, with all their paradoxes intact, at the center of the philosophical project. Both of them, in turn, came to see the unique, self-creating human individual as the only answer to the world’s perplexities that mattered—and so did Lévi.

In the process, he took a familiar trope from the traditions of occultism and reframed it in a new and explosive way.  From ancient times on, occult lore had included colorful tales about masters of the secret arts who pushed straight past the boundaries of ordinary humanity to wield marvelous powers. From Pythagoras and Apollonius of Tyana to the secretive adepts of Renaissance alchemy and the Unknown Superiors of the eighteenth-century Masonic fringe, such figures have always been popular. What made Lévi’s work revolutionary is that he set out to explain to his readers how they could become such a figure themselves.

For more than a century after Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie first saw print, as a direct result, that was what occultism was about: becoming such a figure. All across the Western world, people who were dissatisfied with the mainstream culture of their time flung themselves into the quest to become occult adepts. The law of supply and demand being what it is, schools claiming to offer the necessary training popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm.  Some of those schools were utterly forgettable, and have been duly forgotten; others were epic flops, and we’ll be talking about some of those down the road a bit; but a respectable number of them succeeded in putting together a workable collection of occult practices, infused the set with some variant of Lévi’s basic approach, and proceeded to turn out competent occultists, astrologers,  operative mages, or what have you.

Now of course one of those schools has gotten almost all the press in recent decades. That’s the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which was founded in 1887, blew itself to smithereens in a series of pointless political quarrels between 1900 and 1902, and managed to create the modern world’s  most influential system of operative magic in the interval. There’s plenty that can be said about the Golden Dawn system, and we’ll be considering its strengths, its weaknesses, and the reasons why too many of the people who take it up nowadays become competent mages but severely troubled human beings, in later posts. The crucial point for our present purposes, though, was the way the Golden Dawn teachings understood the sources of magical power, because that understanding—along with Lévi’s—became the standard theories of magic across most of the Western world during most of the twentieth century.

The core of the Golden Dawn approach was a return to something like the astrological theory of magic, but with a crucial difference. Where the old astrological mages had understood the different realms of being as separate in space—the elemental world below the Moon, the ethereal world above the Moon but below the stars, the empyrean world beyond the stars—the Golden Dawn interpreted them as planes or modes of being that were simultaneously present in every corner of space. In the order’s Cabalistic jargon, you’ve got the divine realm of Atziluth, the archangelic realm of Briah, the angelic realm of Yetzirah, and the material realm of Assiah; the latter was the only one human beings normally perceive, but all are present at every point in space and time.

Thus Golden Dawn initiates didn’t need to direct their attention to the realm beyond the stars, or wait for the planets to come into the right relative placements, in order to work magic. Instead, they had to open up contact with more exalted planes of being, using ornate ceremonial and an assortment of more or less intricate psychophysical techniques. They weren’t using their own wills and imaginations to transform the world directly; they were, like the astrological mages of old, tapping into the creative process that brought the world into being—but they were doing it in a way that wasn’t inconvenienced by the Copernican cosmos or dependent on the cycles of the heavels.  Notice also that the Golden Dawn model gives a more important role to the individual mage than the old astrological magic did; a Golden Dawn adept didn’t simply wait patiently for the influences to descend, he or she tore open the walls of the sky to summon down the influences needed for a particular working.

As the twentieth century got under way, therefore, operative mages in the Western world had access to two coherent theories of where magic gets its power. As a very rough generalization, mages in the English-speaking world used some variant of the Golden Dawn theory, while mages in continental Europe used some variant of Lévi’s theory; there were always exceptions, and plenty of people who combined the two in an assortment of ways. Still, a third approach was about to appear, courtesy of the immense intellectual earthquake being set in motion at the twentieth century’s dawn by a Viennese physician named Sigmund Freud.

The depth psychology revolution has transformed the Western world’s collective imagination so drastically over the last century or so, and become so much a part of our ordinary notions of ourselves, that it’s hard for many people to grasp just how explosive it was when it first emerged. In 1900 most psychologists believed that the phrase “unconscious thinking” was a flat contradiction in terms. The idea that people’s thoughts and perceptions could be distorted without their knowledge by the lingering aftermath of emotional trauma was profoundly unsettling to cultures that had spent many centuries treating thought and perception as simple, straightforward, and rational by definition. As Freud and his first generation of followers broke through into the buried vaults of the unconscious mind, though, their discoveries upended millennium-old certainties—and, in the process, provided operative mages with another way to understand their art.

Central to the depth psychology revolution was the discovery that the deeper strata of the mind think in symbols and symbolic relationships, rather than logical categories and logical relationships. Though Freud himself tried to turn his theories into a bulwark against occult ideas, plenty of his students and even more of the people who read his books weren’t anything like so squeamish. If the unconscious mind thought in symbolic terms, the reasoning went, and a very large part of magical practice makes use of symbols and symbolic actions, might that mean that magic was simply a richly developed and sophisticated way of working with the unconscious mind?

That’s why some of the leading lights of early 20th century occultism were trained depth psychologists. Violet Firth, better known by her magical pen name Dion Fortune, was a Freudian lay therapist; Israel Regardie was a Reichian therapist; and then there’s the most successful figure of the lot, who managed to become one of the century’s most influential occult philosophers while convincing nearly everyone that he really, truly was just a working psychotherapist—yes, that would be Carl Jung. He’s going to get at least one post of his own here one of these days.  For now, let’s just say that it was more or less a matter of happenstance, rather than any real difference of approach, that Violet Firth and Israel Regardie didn’t found Firthian psychology, a cutting-edge but more or less respectable school of post-Freudian psychotherapy, and Carl Jung and Hermann Hesse didn’t win lasting fame in occult circles as the leading adepts of that famous European magical order, the Ordo Peregrini Orientem.

By 1950, as a result, three theories of how magic worked were commonly held in the Western world. There was Lévi’s theory of the Astral Light, a subtle continuum that unites all things and can be shaped by the will and imagination; there was the Golden Dawn theory of higher planes of being from which currents of force could be drawn down by the right magical techniques; there was the psychological theory of unconscious forces in the psyche that could be influenced by symbols and symbolic action. You’ll notice that it’s not actually that hard to restate any one of these in terms of any of the others: to redefine the Astral Light as one of the higher planes of being or as the unconscious mind, to redefine the higher planes of being as modalities of the Astral Light or the unconscious, or to redefine the unconscious as a function of the Astral Light or one of those higher levels of being.

This sort of intellectual promiscuity was extremely common in occult circles all through the century. Dion Fortune herself made room for both the Astral Light and depth psychology in her own theory of magic, and she had plenty of company, some of whom took the process a good deal further than she did. It became widely recognized in occult circles in the 1960s and 1970s that all three of these descriptions could be seen as ways of talking about the same thing, and a great many intellectuals—not all of them part of the occult community—began probing the possibility that the other ways of thinking about the sources of magical power might also be ways of talking about that same thing.

It’s an unfortunate fact of the history of ideas that when such exercises get going, they almost always end up with a reductionist bias. The most restrictive of the models generally becomes the default option, and if any of the other models permit possibilities that go beyond what the most restrictive model will justify, those possibilities get ignored when they don’t get denounced or derided. That’s more or less what happened in the present case. Psychology, as the most restrictive model for magical practice, turned into the default model in many circles, and the possibility that magical action could affect things outside the limits of any one skull came in for the usual treatment—this despite the fact that the psychologists who worked most closely with occultism, Jung paramount among them, tried over and over again to draw attention to the fact that the limits of the skull are not the limits of mind.

Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, though, these movements toward a unified theory of magic suffered the usual fate when the Seventies gave way to the Eighties, The Tao of Physics was replaced by the Amazing Randi’s antics, and magic lost what shreds of respectability it had managed to attain in the two previous decades. As noted above, theories of magic tend to flourish when intellectuals are willing to think about such things, and tend to dry up and blow away when fashions change and intellectuals, being creatures of fashion despite their usual protestations to the contrary, go pay attention to something else instead.

This duly happened after 1980, and has only just begun to reverse itself. There’s been a great deal of magic practiced during these last few decades, but a great deal of it was very unimaginative and intellectually shallow. It also suffered, at least here in the US, from a weird sort of historical myopia. For quite a while, nearly everyone in the American occult scene acted as though magic, by definition, consisted solely of what had been invented in England between the founding of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the publication of Gerald Gardner’s The Meaning of Witchcraft.  If it wasn’t Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and her pupils, or the first generation or so of British Wiccan figures, most American occultists had never heard of it and weren’t interested.

Fortunately that’s breaking down at last. In the process, the three ways of thinking about the sources of magical power mentioned above have had to make room for a great many other ways of understanding magic. These days, the astrological magic of the Renaissance and the goetic magic of the grimoires are both widely practiced; so are magical systems and practices rooted in any number of non-European cultures, which come with their own distinctive understandings of the sources of magical power. Practitioners of hoodoo, kototama, qigong, and an assortment of left- and right-handed tantras, among many other things, are part of the occult conversations these days, and their contributions have much to offer just now.

What’s more, the pendulum of the collective imagination seems to be swinging back from its long stay in the realms of dogmatic materialism, so it’s not impossible that serious discussions of how and why magic works might be on the broader cultural agenda in the not too distant future. If that happens, I suspect that the discussions may head in some unexpected but profoundly important directions. We’ll talk about those next month


  1. When i suggest to my Jungian analyst friend that Jung was a magician and that “the Jungians ” as she herself refers to them are a magical order she stares at me blankly as though i am taking the Mickey out of her ! .. Having been through nearly six years of it myself after taking the good Dr Regardies advice , i have come to realise that much of it is directed toward cleaning up the paths around Yesod of the tree and establishing firm contact in Tiphareth . Much of the work is directed toward helping the analysand to see that there are never just two possibilities to consider but several more , and in this sense i have come to realise that we are on the same turf as quantum mechanics , which also drew me a blank stare , though sometimes these wise people know more than they care to let on . Interesting that Switzerland itself is divided into twelve Cantons ( jungs home ) .

    Many of ” the Jungians” i have met seem to be Christians , and they are extremely wary of the new age movement and all its crackpots , as they struggle to be recognised as professionally credible in the mainstream . In Australia they are still excluded from public health schemes , though there seems to be a healthy demand for their services . One of the limitations i have encountered with them is that they seem to be urban based , and there does not seem to be a strong correlation between consciousness and the biosphere , as far as i can tell ( maybe i am talking to the wrong ones ) . Jung himself began the work of linking psyche to nature , yet there seems to be a vacancy for the modern generation to develop this further . My friend seems surprised when i suggest that a lot of the anxiety and neurosis about would be caused by and aggravated by modern urban living , and the holding out of awareness of global ecocide and thrird world slave labour countries she eyes me impassively . I have noticed that they love to jet about to their various conferences and meetings all over the world .

    I read a great PHD thesis recently by a bloke called Lloyd Keane , from the university of essex ( a very “jungian ” institution ) entitled “Jungian and Post Jungian Dialogues upon the western esoteric tree of life ” , linking magic to jungian theory . Once again , the elephant in the room ( for mine ) was the link between consciousness and biosphere , but still a very good read .

    Close Hatches
    Prepare to Dive , five degrees down bubble
    Sound the Klaxon , collision stations !

  2. Kutamun
    Gday JMG , will be fascinated to hear the pitfalls of the wildly popular GD system ,
    Seems Rupert Murdoch and his flunkies are avid occultists … His daughter married Freuds grandson Matthew ! , but i guess many of the thaumaturgic aspects of the philosophy has been in widespread use from the time of the big ideological wars right up to the present day , so its not at all a thing of the fringe , but mainstream .
    cheers …

  3. I have begun working my way through Learning Ritual Magic, and as I work with the tarot cards and read through Ladder of Lights (the first of my three books I am studying) I have thought a lot about the source of magic as I have come square up against something I thought I left behind with my Catholic upbringing–Archangels. I am struggling with my own way of understanding the source of magic as I overcome skepticism of working with other beings while incorporating my own learning about psychology and what I learned about planes of consciousness as a literal child of the sixties growing up in the 60s and 70s. The experiences which changed my worldview from monotheist to polytheist are also mixed up in there with some of the language and rituals of hermetic magic. But the magic is there, and contemplating the source of magic will help to make the study more enriching. Thanks for this series of posts. I appreciate that I never know where you are going next, but it is a pleasure walking along the way with you and exploring the deeper meaning behind the path I have chosen.

  4. One guess I'm going to make is that when magic begins to be discussed seriously by our culture again, it by and large won't be called “magic.” Homeopathy, divination, energy healing, spiritual power, telepathy, etc. will all be up for discussion. Just not “magic.” That term has too many unhelpful connotations: demons, superstition, and of course D&D/Harry Potter-style light shows.

    A second guess is that alternative healing modalities will be on the leading edge of the cultural thaw. They provide benefits of great practical importance to people, many forms have a body of largely-ignored evidence behind them, and skeptics are already going absolutely bananas over the fact that they just can't get people to stop believing in them.

    As Nicholaus Klein put it, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.” Alternative healing is well into the third phase, while most other occult subjects remain in the first or second.

  5. “Ordo Peregrini Orientem”–the Order of Eastern Exiles, if my rudimentary understanding of Latin hasn't led me astray. I checked Google and you appear to be the first person to have used the phrase on the searchable Internet. If you weren't already the leader of a religious order, you should copyright or trademark it. Otherwise, I'd be tempted to poach the term. Of all the names you mentioned, the one I would find most compatible with my vocation as a teacher of science would be Jung, so my participation in a magical school based on his teachings would cause me the least cognitive dissonance. In fact, I've dabbled in both the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is very much based on an interpretation of Jung's personality types, and the Enneagram, which is more loosely based on Jung with a good helping of Gurdjieff. The MBTI masquerades as science to improve its respectability, while the Enneagram appears to be more honest with itself as a form of magical training.

    “[T]he psychologists who worked most closely with occultism, Jung paramount among them, tried over and over again to draw attention to the fact that the limits of the skull are not the limits of mind.” The concept of the collective unconscious seems to be one of his attempts to do so, although the idea of a shared unconscious outside of culture does not seem to hold with psychologists who are Monists (the mind is an emergent property of the brain and doesn't exist separate from it); they can't imagine a mechanism for it that fits with their paradigm, so they dismiss it.

    If I had been more in tune with Jung when I did cartomancy, I'd probably have been a much better Tarot reader. Its symbolism would have made much more sense. It probably didn't help that the deck I got for my birthday 28 years ago was a Thoth deck. That thing was true to its creator; it was best at getting women and drinks, not gaining enlightenment. If I ever take up the Tarot again, I'd use a Rider-Waite deck, as generic as it seems. This would be despite what you wrote about Waite being such a poor translator and writer.

  6. Even within the occult scene you find people talking about majic, magick, magiks, or any other spelling to avoid the dreaded 'magic'.

    Jung is who got me into Alchemy, the magical system I'm currently studying (I'm also dabbling in hoodoo, after realizing that what I thought were weird family habits are actually a robust tradition). And one of my daily routines is to use Jungian dream analysis on my own dreams.

  7. I imagine that eventually you will get around to discussing the 900-lb. gorilla of Aleister Crowley in more detail. It seems to me that the OTO and the Thelemic groups took the GD material and went in a somewhat different direction. Since we were speaking of RPGs last month, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out TheRPGPundit. While he is occasionally highly political (in a generally curmudgeonly-libertarian direction), he also includes a useful ongoing series regarding “Real Magick in RPGs” (the spelling should give some hint that he is, himself, a practicing Thelemic magician). The most recent of these posts was today, but the more interesting one in the regard of Thelema was this one earlier this month. Obviously, he has a bias which needs to be taken into account, but it's interesting to see how a Thelemite sees his own religion.

  8. Talk about synchronicity! At a small church meeting last night, our Ministerial Resident (one step above Ministerial Intern) wanted to talk about the shadow. After the expectable chorus of “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men — the Shadow knows!” it turned out he meant the Jungian shadow, and he didn't seem to know much about it himself.

    Then I get home, check to see if the new post is up a day early, and what do I find? A discussion of Carl Jung.

  9. It's amazing that this is the topic this week as I have recently made my way through “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés (a profound book that I will be meditating on for the foreseeable future). I also just started reading one of depth psychologist Bill Plotkin's books, “Nature and the Human Soul”, which very much connects psychological development and soul work to the health of the biosphere. Silent Otta K might be interested in his works.

  10. I always thought it was interesting how in Wilhelm Reich's written works, he repeatedly denounces both religion and the occult. Yet occultists of various stripes have been some of the most ardent champions of his work.

  11. Hi John Michael Greer. I'm loving this new Well of Galabes blog. Also, thanks for years of insight in your Archdruid Report. You've been a big influence on me.

    I want to ask you about Jung's “active imagination” and Red Book. If I remember correctly, Jung was afraid that active imagination was powerful enough to be dangerous for the public to know about. I don't know a lot about these things, but can you compare active imagination to similar practices from other traditions? How would you describe active imagination.

    Thank you 🙂

  12. Silent Otto, oh, granted — the Jungian scene has been busy for most of a century now trying to pretend that what they're doing has nothing to do with occultism. I wonder how many of them cast their patients' horoscopes, as Jung did — he was by all accounts quite the capable astrologer.

    Kutamun, exactly — psychology is one of the means by which a debased form of magic has become central to modern marketing and public relations.

    Nano, mages are generally an independent-minded lot, and so all through the history of modern magic you find these individuals with idiosyncratic magical systems all their own, which sometimes get picked up by other people. Spare's one of those. I haven't studied his Zos Kia Cultus in any great detail, so can't say exactly where he falls in terms of the trichotomy I've offered.

    Cat, you're welcome and thank you. As for archangels, I think that's how you say “gods” if you happen to follow one of the Middle Eastern monotheisms…

    James, that's possible, but I propose to make a push for the M-word, for two reasons. First, as the prestige of scientific materialism collapses, things that are as distant from it as possible are likely to get a new and potentially enthusiastic hearing; second, it pleases me to be able to offend angry atheists and Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christians at the same time with a single word!

    Pinku-sensei, nah, it's “the Order of Journeyers to the East,” which features in some of Hesse's novels; “orientem” is “to or toward the east,” where “orientis” is “of the east.” As for Tarot decks, Pamela Coleman Smith was a very capable artist and occultist, and Waite couldn't write but knew his occult philosophy inside and out, thus the deck they created is one of the great esoteric decks of the last century, no question.

    Tasha, Jungian hoodoo sounds like a lot of fun!

    Faoladh, no doubt I'll have to, but part of that will involve pointing out that Crowley's status as a gorilla rather than a much smaller primate is purely a posthumous creation — he was one of many minor figures in the magical scene of his time, and far from the most interesting or original of them. I consider Grady McMurtry to be one of the really influential figures of 20th century occult history, and Crowley happened to be McMurtry's third degree granny, if you will

    John, synchronicity is just one of the services I offer. I'd point out, though, that the post wasn't a day early — the Sun entered Taurus yesterday.

    Mojoglo, thanks for the tip on Plotkin; I haven't read him yet, and clearly need to do so.

    Justin, granted — Reich was a Marxist in his early days, and adopted the usual Marxist rhetoric about religion and occultism, even though he was basically practicing the latter.

    Hari Capra, what Jung called “active imagination” is what the Golden Dawn called “scrying in the spirit vision” — it's a very common occult technique. I'm already planning to do a post on Henri Corbin's concept of the imaginal realm, which will cover active imagination, scrying, etc., so stay tuned.

  13. I’m noticing an interesting pattern with the approach you’re taking with the modern history of the occult. Most of A.E. Waite’s most well known work, including his translation (and thus popularization) of the writings of Eliphas Lévi’s writings came out of the period between 1885 and 1920, which was the time that the Theosophical society was at the height of its popular influence. It was also the time of the high profile antics of Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as the famous debunking efforts of Harry Houdini that have been re-inacted today down to the last syllable with the Amazing Randi you mention in the essay. Those waning years of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th were also the time that Crowley was making headlines, writing books a. On the other hand, Dion Fortune’s most influential works on magic began getting published well after she fled the collapsing Theosophical society in 1925 (with the Mystical Qabalah coming out in 1935). Much of the best known work done by Jung as well as Gerald Gardner, Ross Nichols, and the various first generation Wiccans you referenced was also done between 1930 and 1980. You cite 1980 as the date when there was a collapse in magical philosophy and a time when serious intellectuals by and large left for other pursuits. Something interesting also happened around that time. Marylin Ferguson published the Aquarian Conspiracy in 1980, Margot Adler wrote Drawing Down the Moon in 1979, Starhawk wrote The Spiral Dance in 1978… in your mind, then, was 1980 a return to something akin to the days of Crowley, Conan Doyle, A.E. Waite, and Harry Houdini? That seems to imply that there’s something of a push in occult traditions between popular influence and intellectual respectability. What reasons might there be for that sort of friction? There are a few other difficult to interpret breaks in the pattern… the 1950s, for instance, was something of a golden age for American Hoodoo, with most drug stores making at least some effort to cater to rootworkers and conjurers among their clientele and musicians like Muddy Waters publicly advocating for the practice. And then, of course, there are the 1960s, which almost has to be approached as its own entity.

  14. There was no other way to understand the mystery than to follow where it lead. It seemed like walking on the edge of a razor blade, until, after decades; the razor blade’s edge has become a four lane highway. During all of that time I had no interest in the occult, as I was unimpressed by the neo whatever pop silliness of the 60s/70s. That changed several years ago when I started reading the Arch Druid Report. I realized that I should learn more about occult teachings to help me interpret what I’ve been doing with the Art that so wonderfully, yet so demandingly, whisked me away.

    At first, I thought of the Art as a study in synchronicity. I have been fond of Carl Jung’s works from the outset. As the Art has progressed, I see it now as a study in destiny. One side of the work I’ve always referred to as a circuitry of meaning. It is a constantly evolving picture where over time all of the pieces that are meant to form the future image fall into place – exactly. All of the many causal chains are woven into place over days, months, and years. Any piece required by the work, throughout its career in being, is destined to arrive at that future completion.

    I’ve often used Tarot images. In a work based in symbolism, the Major Arcana are indispensable. I’m now learning Astrology and Tree of Life to understand how the occult knowledge behind the system works. I have no interest in contesting with any system of thought, only looking to see what helps me. It’s like arguments between religions, no matter what one believes and defends, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is after the smoke clears, who is left standing.

    That you have undertaken this task in “The Well of Galabes” to delve into the body of knowledge that resides behind the label “Occult” is important to me and, obviously, quite a few others. I have a hard time expressing what I think, so please forgive my ramblings.

  15. Eric, it's considerably more complex than that, as I see it. Basically, you've got cycles in pop culture, which bring occultism into and out of fashion at varying intervals; you've also got cycles in intellectual fashions, which are by no means coordinated with the pop culture cycles; you've also got cultures outside the pop mainstream — African-American culture is a good example — which have their own cycles of relative interest or disinterest in magic. That said, yes, there are some very close parallels between the Theosophical era and the Neopagan era; the latter hasn't quite reached its Krishnamurti moment, but it's probably close — and some of us are studying the ways that magical traditions survived the implosion of the Theosophical era, and applying the lessons.

    Carlo, understood — these things are difficult to discuss clearly. Welcome to the pilgrimage…

  16. Wow, this post really brought some things together. What I was thinking as I read along, was that those 3 systems are quite complementary, but then you said it. Regarding the two avenues of power, of course I'm going with both. And why shouldn't human beings be viable conduits of the powers of the ether? Are we not the terrestrial angel?

    That the unconscious and the collective unconscious are more than workings of the individual brain in a skull is also something that Bernardo Kastrup talks about in his theory of consciousness.

  17. >>That said, yes, there are some very close parallels between the Theosophical era and the Neopagan era; the latter hasn't quite reached its Krishnamurti moment, but it's probably close

    Do you have any thoughts on how a Krishnamurti moment might manifest in Neopaganism?

  18. I believe you are right about the Archangels–and not just them; I knew too many people in Catholicism who prayed to the saints rather than to God or Jesus and attributed much to them that we attribute to gods or goddesses. It is one of the observations that finally made me realize there are more polytheists among us than we realize.

    I just know that something powerful happened when I pushed aside my skepticism and called on the Archangels by name, realizing they are not necessarily the only names they go by. I felt a powerful invitation to learn more, realized I was not ready yet, but knowing one day I will take up that invitation.

    I realize after reading this and seeing other comments that I have much deeper to go in my study of Jung as well.

  19. JMG, glad to see you tackling this slippery topic. The history reminds me a bit of the blind wise men who each hold a different part of the elephant.

    I've long been curious about Jungian thought, but find the sheer volume of works published by him (and by others) intimidating. Is there an introductory work that you'd feel comfortable recommending?

  20. There could be many interpretations of magic, couldn't there? But each must be culturally specific and culturally relevant.

    I'm imagining (just for fun, you understand) a culture that practiced magic while officially disbelieving in magic. I'm imagining, further, that in this culture magical practice was strictly the domain of the young (21 and under). And in my imagination, the practice of ritual magic by the young occurred in hallowed places deep in the forest or some other natural setting, during the two months following the summer solstice. Music, drama, rites of passage, and roasted marshmallows made up the liturgy of this annual ceremonial, although every local set of rituals seemed to outsiders to be arcane gibberish.

    Even in my imagination, it is easy to see why the adults insist that all this is just for fun. There couldn't possibly be unseen energies at work in such conditions, could there? Any young person who experienced otherwise must have an overactive imagination.

    My question for you, JMG, as I head into a time of retreat and study, is this: could those young people having fun in the woods be exposed to some kind of goetic danger, without a map to the world of magic that their elders have flung them into? And if so, where is a would-be mapmaker to begin his (just for fun, of course) research?

  21. Onething, are we the terrestrial angel? Depends on your understanding of angels, I suspect…

    Yucca, heck of a good question. It might not even be a single event, just a series of circumstances that led most of the current Neopagans to decide that they'd rather do something else with their time, thank you.

    Cat, oh, granted — saints as well as angels play a very large role in Christian magic. I understand that many Christian mages consider St. Cyprian of Antioch to be the patron saint of magic.

    John, I wish there was. The introductory books on Jung's work I've read are basically sales brochures meant to convince you to hire a Jungian therapist — rather like all those old-fashioned occult books that were basically sales brochures for this or that magical order. The serious works are a plunge into the deep end of the pool. One of these days I'd like to write an introduction to Jung as an occultist, for other occultists, but it's a monumental job and would require a good publisher and a decent advance.

    Dylan, fortunately there wouldn't be much danger, because serious magical results take a great deal more hard work and commitment than you get from kids playing at ritual for a couple of months every summer. There might be some interesting phenomena — in fact, there almost certainly would be, because you're combining egregores built up by long custom with young people going through puberty, which releases a lot of energy — but things would have to get very far out of balance to run significant risks.

    If you want to make a map anyway — just for fun, of course — I'd encourage you to start by learning the ins and outs of at least one traditional school of occult philosophy. It doesn't really matter which one: pick one, study its texts, and get to the point that whenever you hear of someone whose overactive imagination has resulted in magical effects, you can identify what happened in terms of the traditional lore you're studying. Then explore other ways of making sense of the same experiences, until you get something that works even better than the school of traditional occult philosophy you studied. That ought to be several years of fun…

  22. I have a copy of the much vaunted Jung “red book ” , and it is nothing other than his own personal magical diary containing hand written notes , impressions , dreams and illustrations . Its purpose is to shame everyone who is too lazy to construct their own notes into getting started , rather than taking the shortcut of throwing oneself at the feet of a perceived master and looking for absolute truth.
    I have been drawn to the work of Marie Louise Von Franz in expanding upon Jung , with her pursuit of the active imagination , dream , myth and fairytale . She recognised the correlation between the structure of DNA and the IChing , and her words are very powerful and apt to initiate . I believe she also made some film interviews prior to shuffling off the coil .
    From an Australian spiritual persepective one cant go past Noted Junginarian David Tacey , who,has some fascinating insights through the prism of the racist patriarchal fascist aussie lens
    Despite their banging on about the collective unconscious ; it is in this area that i find most fault with the Jungians , ( despite loving them to death) .Where they are worth their weight in gold is when sifting through the demonic murky detritus of ones own personal unconscious , and for me this has been a life changing pursuit well worth the expense and effort .
    An interesting schism has arisen recently in the Zurich Jung mothership and i believe a breakaway faction has emerged . The ” traditionals ” turned out to be shocking money managers , and this gave the impetus for a breakaway group to form which is much more interested in retreating into art , myth , dream and fantasy rather than the eternal trench wardare of psychoanalysis , therapy , and integrating ones psyche into the mundane world . I think pinkola estes , james hillman and jean shinoda bolen are the pinups of ” the breakaways ” ; a classic squabble dust up golden dawn style , still, they did well to hang more or less together for eighty years !

  23. JMG, speaking of Jung and synchronicity we (readers of your's excellent blog) have more than one. I just finished “Personality Types”, where Jung discuss classification of cognition- thinking, sensing, feeling, intuition and ways to achieve psychic balance (because underdevelopment and/or overdependence on one of them is cause of various problems and easily avoidable errors),equilibrium between all four of them. It strikes me as similar to practice of balancing influences of four elements in hermetic practices.

  24. JMG
    I have appreciated your broad approach to maintaining sanity in those of us who pass for sane, and you are clearly a help for those of us with overactive imaginations. Smile – I think!

    What has Freud done for us? Or Jung? Advertising in the age of mass production was always going to import quasi scientific method – bean-counting the methods that competitively pulled the punters. American TV seems to have been the epitome of the result and become a global civilisation, but can we blame a Freudian-informed magic?

    Unfortunately in our civilisation we have little understanding of Public Mental Health along the lines we might claim for Public Health / Hygiene, clean water or washing our hands or vaccination, so you help fill a fairly serious gap. In modern times we moved a bit from Bedlam, and serious idiopathic mental distress and breakdown in individual intelligibility can be relieved to some extent – though Freud plays little role. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – which is I understand a kind of ‘talk therapy’, where it can reach from one person to another seems to play a useful role for transient mental ill-health, and for example seems to be favoured by our latter day British socialised health service . Otherwise trial and error use of pharmaceutical products can tide many over the worst symptoms, but that hardly amounts to a scientific understanding.

    The apparently bonkers Skinner behaviour theory that captured academic / experimental Psychology in the name of science when my friends studied at University in England in the 1960s seems to have largely gone. Brains are wonderful self-managing organs if we can put enough varied work into them – and we can even connect to good affect one to another and remain intelligible.

    Which ‘will’ and which ‘consciousness’ connects with vegetables and their burgeoning growth I do not know, but I do know gardening should be hard work. The new moon is in the first quarter and those potatoes and beans must go in anyway. So I better fulfil a bit of promised rapid digging. Our seed emmer wheat patch is through and thriving already and the first swallows arrived.

    There might be a connection of gardening and compost heaps with a Krishnamurti moment and a more realistic approach to world and individual salvation. So I had better get out there; one spade at a time as they used to say.


  25. Hi JMG,

    Wow, divisive internal politics, fads and dogma combine to form a colourful back drop to the realities of a practising mage.

    Yes, that psychology is a sort of watered down occult practice makes a great deal of sense. Oh yeah, I can see that. I’ve often wondered whether hypnosis is some form of deep meditation which leaves people in a receptive state?

    As you know, I've been meditating on such matters (relating to groups) for some time now and had the most awful insight today. What do they say, a burden shared, is a burden halved?

    Anyway, I was considering all of those problems and then undertook what appeared to be a thought experiment (which is related to the yet to be revealed Shaman story as well) to see how those problems looked when stacked against the day to day realities of our culture.

    That was about the time my mind recoiled in absolute horror from the supposedly simple and innocent thought experiment because the reality is that as a culture we are chasing the very abstract civil religion of progress – and it is a nonsensical goal. You can chase an abstract concept but it is a non goal.

    If you have a non goal, then you have non objectives and non strategies. Honestly my mind is still reeling a bit from the insight / vision. Sometimes it is not nice to pierce through the bubble of delusion. I had the very uncomfortable and mildly distressing view of no one actually being at the wheel of this big culture.

    It is little wonder to me that if the situation is wrong in the big picture, then only very grounded groups can actually avoid making the same mistake and that mistake permeates everything we do.

    At your suggestion I've been rereading the Great Crash 1929. It is good and I'm finding more humour in it on the second reading. Galbraith can do a good slam dunk on his opponents when required – he is an intellectual heavy weight.

    Yours sincerely (although mildly unsettled still),


  26. JMG said “Reich was a Marxist in his early days, and adopted the usual Marxist rhetoric about religion and occultism, even though he was basically practicing the latter.”

    Perhaps because his practices were basically occult was why Reich was thrown out of both the Socialist party and the Psychoanalytical society.

    Another interesting observation is how two of Freud's students, Reich & Jung, pursued occult paths, even if under different guises. Their paths also diverged. For Jung the source of power was in the active imagination and exploration of the unconscious -through interaction with the landscapes and numinous beings of the inner planes. Reich's main concern was the “astral light” that infuses our world, which he saw as orgone, or a psycho-physical energy worked with through breathing exercises, sexuality, and the different technologies or “magical tools” -orogone box, cloudbusters, he developed.

  27. JMG – As with John, I've noticed synchronicity with what you wrote about with some of the things I've been learning about in my OBOD Gwersi. Right now I'm on the 13th Bardic Gwers which is taking me into that next step of looking at the shadow and those deeper, wounded parts of myself and how they can open my heart and life up. Very appropriate for your mention of Jung (and the other comments).

    In my daily practice, I've been using the elemental cross and sphere of protection you describe in your Druid Magic Handbook (which I bought at Watkins bookstore in London – a wonderful esoteric bookstore!). The combination of using the Bardic Grove ceremony from OBOD with the elemental cross/sphere of protection and meditation is bringing up these sorts of things just as there about to be covered by yourself and my Gwersi! It ends up feeling like everything around me is working with me on my journey. Thank you!

    I was wondering as well about your book, the Blood of the Earth. Is that something I should wait to read as I get further into my OBOD Bardic training or is it something I can dig into as a nice read on the bus to work? I thought I’d get the signed copy I saw at Watkins as a birthday present to myself. 🙂

  28. I was once very ‘into’ Jung and his views on the occult. However as time has worn on while not necessarily actually disagreeing with much of what he says it does seem that he and his followers had/have a very marked tendency, as you mentioned, for talking up the psychology and down the magic.
    For instance Jung (and even more so his followers) looks at alchemy entirely psychologically and dismisses out of hand the practical operative aspects. Indeed many describe it as a psychic progress describing a Jungian analysis. Another of my bête noirs is the theory of archetypes, this has always struck me as essentially reductionist, never clearly defined, and an easy get out clause for sloppy thinking. However I think what I object to most is his theory of synchronicity. I find it profoundly ‘unmagical’. ill-defined, and ultimately not particularly useful.
    Don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting I have the answers to these questions, just that it strikes me that some of Jung’s formulations are just convenient catch alls that shut down other potentially more fruitful avenues of thought.

  29. Re: Krishnamurti moments in Neopaganism, etc. Another route Neopaganism could possibly take is something akin to what happened to the various esoteric movements that sprung up during the romantic Romantic era in Britain and the US. Some, like the transcendentalists faded out as their numbers dwindled but wound up producing ideas that had a huge influence on other subsequent movements. Others, like the British Druid orders, kept going with smaller numbers while the most popular elements of their rituals and symbolism got adopted by a variety of secular cultural organizations and festivals. A Few others, especially the fraternal orders that popped up during the 18th century, seem to have taken up a primarily public service role and made their initiatory and esoteric functions more secondary. There wasn’t really an explosion that brought any of them down, and most of them kept going and experienced later revivals or fed into other esoteric movements that followed, or became fixtures in secular culture.

  30. There does not seem to be any “Jung For Dummies.” (I checked.)

    As for Thelema and the associated motto “Do what thou will” I've been wondering if/when someone would connect it to Rabelais (it appears in “Gargantua & Pantagruel”. Rabelais didn't make it up, however. It came from some earlier source.

  31. I have to tell you that much of what you are writing about seems so “arcane” as to go sailing over my head (not an objection, by the way, I'll keep on swimming & see how it goes). But, I'm a simple person with simple ambitions, like an ability to converse with trees, birds, bees…

    I feel less out of my depth when you touch on morality and ethics at a couple of points (coercing magical beings to carry out your bidding?) and I find there is much to ponder on in the difference between “what I want” and “what I will”…

    Regardless of the source of any power, ethics will speak to how it is used. If I, and everyone else, use it simply to obtain “what I want” then I imagine any magical commons of which I am a part is just as threatened by that as a material one.

    I, for one, would like to find out what the trees, birds, bees, and their corresponding “theota” in this place want, too. Then, together, we might WILL a way to safeguard the commons that we share…

    Well, that may be a rough approximation of the thoughts bouncing around here, so I'll leave it there.

  32. John N: For a starting point with Jung I really like his autobiography, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections.” In the course of it, it discusses major works from his life and places them into context of his overall thought. And it is a much less dry read than some of the others.

  33. Otto, it's certainly a lively scene; I've read a little of Hillman, none of the other nouveau Jungians, and not much from the “traditionals” other than Jung himself and a certain amount of von Franz, so am not really qualified to speak on the recent history of the tradition.

    Changeling, good. It's not merely similar, it's quite simply Jung's mildly reworked version of that end of Hermetic theory and practice.

    Phil, one spade at a time is as good advice in psychology — or magic — as it is in gardening. Here, the asparagus and rhubarb are up, the overwintered leeks are getting plump, and the herb beds are well on their way to their traditional status as jungles through which the field mice stalk at will.

    Cherokee, excellent. “Things are in the saddle, and ride mankind,” Emerson wrote, and he was quite correct; by his stage in the historical process — and even more so in ours — what were once deliberate choices have become automatisms that overwhelm the capacity for choice, except in those who put in the effort needed to break free. That's why magic is so popular, and so important, at such times.

    Justin, true enough, though Jung included a very watered-down version of the astral light in his theory. I haven't read enough Reich to know if he had a watered-down version of active imagination; I tend to doubt it.

    MP, I've been to Watkins — one of my two favorite occult bookstores in London, the other of course being Aquarian Bookshop. I'm glad to hear that soembody else is combining the SoP with the OBOD grove ceremony — yes, I did that extensively at one point in my work, with good results. As for The Blood of the Earth, it's definitely the sort of thing you can read on the bus; I wanted to talk about the interface between peak oil and magic in terms that both sides could follow, and so it's a book of ideas, not a book of practices.

    Mr. O, fair enough. I agree that Jung's dismissal of practical alchemy was misguided; there have been all too many attempts to say “all alchemy is about X,” when in fact alchemy is a system of thought and practice that can be applied to any prima materia, whether that be minerals, herbs, the psyche, or what have you. As for archetypes and synchronicity, I find them useful when they're not used reductionistically; I know a lot of Jungians do in fact use them reductionistically, but I'm far from convinced that Jung did, or that they have to have that effect. More on this in a future post.

    Eric, possibly, but there are features in the Neopagan scene that make me think that it's very likely to end messily, leaving a few surviving traditions to morph into denominations on the cultural fringe. More on this later.

    Pantagruel, well, Augustine of Hippo said “Love, and do as thou wilt,” which iirc is generally considered Rabelais' original source.

    Scotlyn, good. We'll get into the nature of magical ethics in the fairly near future.

  34. JMG, I am thoroughly enjoying the education about magic you are providing. It's all new to me. I grew up within charismatic Christianity.

    While reading this post and the previous one I was struck by the idea that charismatic Christianity is the magical wing of the Protestant house. The religion of my youth is without question stuffed with snake oil sellers, but it is also rich with good people practicing practical magic. (These same good people would also be very happy to shoot me for the previous sentence.) For them, the Holy Spirit, within and without, is the Source.

    I think this is why charismatics – especially at the frothy prosperity gospel or spiritual warfare ends of the church – get so exercised about people outside their faith who practice magic. When you compare much charismatic literature with frothy new age literature, all that is required to make them identical is the substitution of a few words. Whenever there is a fierce rivalry, people viewing from a little distance tend to find it difficult to tell which side is which.

    I shall look forward to next month's instalment.

  35. “… you're combining egregores built up by long custom…”

    I've been running into that word off and on for a while, and have gotten some idea of what might be the referent; clearly, I'm fascinated. Could there be an upcoming post (or large part of one) devoted to egregores?

  36. On the origin of “do what thou wilt”, Augustine of Hippo seems to have been influenced by a passage in Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), 32:12, which reads, in the King James translation, “There take thy pastime, and do what thou wilt: but sin not by proud speech.”

  37. @ Scotlyn – I've never come across the word “theota” before. Google's never heard of it (I like that in a word) and even my 1939 Concise Oxford was little help. Could you define it for me?

    If I may, I'd say the best way to learn to converse with the trees, birds, bees, etc., is just to begin. Don't worry about whether what you experience is “imaginary”. The communications happen on a level that is very close to imagination, just not quite. It's a playful thing. Once the birds start coming to you (and they will) it leads to enormous fun.

  38. @ wildcucumber the coining of “theota” and its associated term “theome” should be credited to the archdruid, who used it in a reply to a comment of mime in an earlier post. It strongly resonates with me as an analogue of “biota” and “biome” to refer to the divine ecology of a time and place.

    I feel strongly that the focus of my personal energy and discipline should be on this place in which I find myself, and through this “here and now” learn from, converse with and cooperate with *whoever* I find there, to the benefit of the whole.

  39. @Changeling: A few years ago, when I was dedicating more time to MBTI I came on my own to the realization that each type has an associated element. My mapping of types to elements went as following:

    Idealists (NFs) are of Fire.
    Rationals (NTs) are of Air.
    Artisans (SPs) are of Water.
    Guardians (SJs) are of Earth.

    And since each type also has four sub-types, they also have a corresponding element. I only figured out the matching element for the Idealists, since I'm an INFP, my wife is ENFJ and I've friends on the other two NF sub-types.

    INFP: fire
    ENFP: water
    INFJ: air
    ENFJ: earth

    I also studied a bit of enneagram, though not as much but my main number, which makes me rara avis for my MBTI, is 7w6 (most INFPs fall on 4 for either wing).

  40. “…currents…”

    Where there are currents you will find a gradient. I believe this is a thermodynamic and esoteric truth.

    I'm eager to know your favorite methods of building gradients of will and intention to obtain the currents you write of!


    Shawn Aune

  41. @ Scotlyn – Lovely, thank you.

    And to the Archdruid as well, my thanks, sir. I often find myself trying to use words to explain concepts which have no words; these will be useful to me.

  42. This was a really good read, John. I've had feeling over the last months that you've been building a kind of momentum toward something like this, and I was indeed hoping for it. I think you lifted about a ton of confusion with this one, at least from my perspective. I've always found the biggest obstacle in training to be that gnawing sense that nobody around ever seems to be talking about even remotely the same thing, and now I know where that comes from. As for the point about the G.D. producing “brilliant mages, but troubled human beings”, could you please comment a little about the how and the why? I've always found myself right at home in the second of those “categories” you've sketched out above, and I've been working with your Celtic G.D. stuff for a good while now (with good results). In addition to that, I've always been prone to a certain heaviness of spirit that too often gets the better of me, so that particular bit of information would be much appreciated.


  43. JMG,
    It seems to me that when two or more frameworks accomplish the same task, such as different languages being able to convey a similar or identical message, then if I understand your post, this points to a deeper level. The conceptual levels of language symbols with logic and all that built atop point to a deeper level of patterns of symbols. This is was Jung and the other magical schools.
    Those those schools all produce results as an outcome of their theory points to a deeper level still. As language is to magic, so magic is to that level.

    If I understand the Buddhists correctly, all those levels of magic are makyo, and that gets to that deeper level of nirvana. But, in a similar vein, that so many practices and theories of meditative practice converge, that points to another beneath that of nirvananic experience. Rather, nirvanic experience, the ultimate experience of non-attached makyo, is still yet representational of a different reality. And it continues on in that line of thinking.

    I think there is a lot to think about here, thank you for this post. 🙂

  44. Funny you should mention The Tao of Physics. Back in 1977 I read this book, one of the required texts for a religion course, at the same time as I was learning quantum theory in physical chemistry. I remember speaking about the parallels in the religion class and getting very-highly-raised eyebrows in return from a physics major who also happened to be taking the course and didn't think much of the book. But it was an exciting time for me, the best time I had intellectually in college, when it seemed as if all the separate subjects were beginning to come together in a coherent way.

  45. @JMG: “'Pinku-sensei, nah, it's “the Order of Journeyers to the East,' which features in some of Hesse's novels; 'orientem' is 'to or toward the east,' where 'orientis' is 'of the east.'” Thank you, that makes much more sense than what I thought, which was the result of my poor understanding of Latin indeed leading me astray. Also, thank you for your supportive words about Smith and Waite's mutual creation; they reinforced my choice of deck should I ever work with the Tarot again.

    @Cherokee Organics: “Yes, that psychology is a sort of watered down occult practice makes a great deal of sense.” Some years back, our host wrote about an alternative history in which magic became the dominant cultural pursuit of our culture instead of science. In that world, people's understanding of science would involve using the scientific method and technology to cause the changes in consciousness actually accomplished by magic. In our timeline, clinical psychology is that very attempt to use science to change consciousness in a society where science is the dominant cultural project. It should be no surprise that it disguises magic as science and uses materialistic explanations taken from neuroscience research for its mechanisms. It was far easier to explain seeing my father after his death as a lucid dream than as an actual visit from his spirit, even though I have my suspicions that it was really the latter.

    @Nicolas Costa: “Idealists (NFs) are of Fire.
    Rationals (NTs) are of Air.
    Artisans (SPs) are of Water.
    Guardians (SJs) are of Earth.

    INFP: fire
    ENFP: water
    INFJ: air
    ENFJ: earth”

    I find your mapping of MBTI types to alchemical elements facinating. I assume that I could extend your second block of types for NTs, i.e., INTP fire, ENTP water, ENFJ air, and ENTJ earth. I'm an ENTJ, so I'd be air and earth if I read you correctly. I'm particularly intrigued by the earth part of it, as my sun sign in the western Zodiac is Virgo and my birth year in Chinese astrology is that of the Earth Pig. Both are earth signs and I'm a geologist. Now, what about the correspondences for SPs and SJs?

    Also, I too have an unusual combination of MBTI and Enneagram. I test out as 5w6, which usually corresponds to INTP and INTJ. ENTJs like myself are usually type 8, sometimes 1, 3, or 7, but almost never 5.

  46. Jeff, that's fascinating — I've had very little direct exposure to the charismatic end of Christianity, and wasn't aware that the parallels were so close. I was planning a post on the origins and relevance (such as it is) of the New Age movement; a look at the charismatics is clearly in order in that context.

    Dwig, there can and will indeed. It's an important concept, practically as well as theoretically.

    Faoladh, interesting. Yes, that would make sense; the patristic literature, if I understand correctly, is full of sidelong (as well as direct) quotes from the Bible.

    Dylan, delighted to hear it.

    Onething, we'll be getting to that.

    Shawn, all in good time — we've got a lot of material to cover first.

    Wildcucumber, you're most welcome. There's an entire vocabulary of spiritual ecology waiting to be created — theota, theomes, and the theosphere are first tentative movements in that direction.

    Sven, you're welcome and thank you. As for the GD's downsides, that's a complex issue, which (as I see it) has to do with a dimension of magical energetics I haven't discussed much yet — the distinction between what some Druid traditions call the solar and the telluric current, or more broadly magical influences descending to the Earth's surface from above, contrasted to those that rise to the Earth's surface from below. There are traditions that are primarily solar, traditions that are primarily telluric, and traditions that balance and fuse the two; each has its own common pathologies — and then certain features of the way the GD tradition has come to be practiced exacerbates certain of the usual solar-current pathologies. Much more on this as we proceed; in the meantime, daily meditation is essential.

    Princess, thank you! I'd read that article and then lost the link in a computer crash, and wasn't able to track it down.

    Justin, true enough. As with languages, though, however deep you go in search of the fundamental level, you've got to have at least one operating on that surface level so you can order a beer in a pub, say.

    SLClaire, I also had that book as required reading in a college class, in 1981, and remember the same sense of impending synthesis — one of many casualties of what came immediately after.

    Pinku-sensei, Latin's tricky that way! As for Waite, he was really at his worst in the Levi translation — pompous, blustering, arrogant. He had better days.

  47. >>There are traditions that are primarily solar, traditions that are primarily telluric, and traditions that balance and fuse the two

    I understand that you'll do a post on this later, so I'll hold back the numerous questions I'd like to ask, but would you be so kind as to indulge a quick sneak peak?

    I remember reading a similar thing in The Druid Magic Handbook. It's all too easy to name a list of primarily solar traditions, and the Druid Magic Handbook is describing a tradition that attempts to balance the two, but what are some examples of primarily telluric traditions?

  48. Sven Eriksen: It's worth noting, in relation to your mention of sometimes feeling a heaviness of spirit, that the Renaissance magicians made quite a big deal about the Melancholic Temperament, with some (as Walker points out in Spiritual and Demonic Magic, as I recall) going so far as to claim that the Melancholic Temperament makes for the best magicians. It has something to do with Saturnine energies and black bile, if I am remembering it correctly.

  49. Snowy Princess – I thought that synchronicity was happening to everyone else today but not to me, and then I read The Truth Wears Off article you linked: WOW! I had not an hour earlier finished writing up some musings on the nature of randomness. Maybe there's more to it than cognitive biases and poor statistics.
    Graeme (GuRan)

  50. I'm really enjoying this overview, JMG. I've said more than once recently that I need a Rosetta Stone because everything I read delves right into specific topics using a certain vocabulary and it all tends to wash over me. I found a couple of books that helped, but you're providing the framework on which to hang what I'm learning. Thank you.

    I'm also… well, I'm timid by nature, but I'm cautious approaching spiritual things because mental illness runs in my family and it often has religious overtones. I can certify that I'm as sane as I'm likely to get living in this modern age, but I don't want to be a casualty of my own dabbling. I'm grateful for the knowledge that will help me choose a healthy (for me) magical path.

    Regarding Fundamentalist Christianity, I've been convinced for many years now that when my father does his intercessory prayer, he's actually practicing malefic magic. On the other hand, I have a lovely Christian friend who I am convinced is a competent mage (although I'm pretty sure she wouldn't use that term). If I ever had a health crisis, I would ask her to lay hands on me in a heartbeat.

  51. Yes, I’m familiar with the ascending and descending currents. I would certainly look forward to a detailed discussion of their properties, including their potential nuisances sometime in the not too far off future. And yes, meditation is indeed indispensable, and even more enjoyable now that the last of the snow has finally melted in the outdoor grove…

  52. Pinku-Sensei, Nicolas Costa – Myers-Brigs is, IMHO, simplification of Jungian concepts. First, it is almost completly static, when Jung always assume dynamism in one’s personality. Jung is correct. Personality is always in flux. The person you are today isn’t who you were 2 years ago, nor the person you’ll be 2 years from now. There are traits and characteristics we may carry with us for a lifetime, but even these are subject to change depending upon circumstance or our actions (and you don't need high magic rituals to change your character – autosugestion will do). Second, M-B test plainly does not work very well, as controlled studies show. For example:

  53. JMG
    ‘Egregores’ sent me looking back and I found a 2010 ADR and much interesting stuff on being a member of a group – accepting the group’s authority being key. The egalitarian Quaker meeting with its authority of consensus, or the Masonic Lodge with its elective democracy, both tempered by tradition and core membership who have earned their place, were considered examples

    By the way I was much taken with one of your comments back then regarding future religious movements.
    JMG wrote: “The religious movements that pick up the pieces from a failing civilization are generally those that no properly enculturated member of that civilization would even think of joining. I think it was Tacitus who referred to the early Christians as “enemies of the human race;” he was a tolerant man, but the symbolic cannibalism of the Mass and the rejection of reverence for everything that, in his eyes, made human life worth living was more than he could tolerate.”

    There might be a way round Tacitus much as I appreciate him. I guess egregores can be recognised by more than the kind of hair, hat or the T-shirt they wear. I have been aware that some buildings can accumulate some sense of the lives that lived there – occasionally to powerful and welcome affect. The aim of a good life can be likened to the good husbandry that leaves the soil in better condition than we found it. And one can sense good soil and good lives in similar manner.


  54. @faoladh – as a Melancholic myself, I would really like to hear more about this! I'm still at the raw beginner stage is any sort of magic practice or theory, but pulled down that entire section of the (very Catholic-oriented) Medieval Personality test to paste in a notebook that should be useful as time goes on.

  55. @Pinku-Sensei:

    I'm a Sun Virgo and Wood Rat. Virgo might not be that direct when it comes to INFP (Fire of Fire) but in my complete natal chart I have 4 Fire signs, 3 Earth, 3 Water and 2 Air. And an overwhelming majority of those are Mutable signs.

    @changeling: I don't use the types as straitjackets, and one thing I've read from another enthusiast, who also happened to be a Shaman and wrote an interesting article in the group I was. The article was about the Journey through the Totems, where he mentioned that at a certain age, a person was given an animal totem representing their core personality. The goal of the Journey was to acquire the other remaining Totems by understanding them and incorporating their teachings to their lives. Since he was posting in an MBTI board, he of course wrote it on the context of the types and how we all need to acquire the other types (which would have an equivalent totem) by understanding them.

  56. Patricia Mathews: As I said, I don't really remember the details. You would probably be very well served to go to Walker's book and follow up on the sources he is discussing.

  57. Earth Tiger here; Innermost Personality totem, to my surprise, Badger; clan totem the Scottish Wildcat or Bobcat (Laird Robert the Catte?); and then there's one's progressed sun, now in Pisces.

    And Pluto in Leo, a.k.a. “The Silents who think they're Boomers.”

  58. Yucca, any tradition that raises power up rather than calling it down is telluric; among those you might be familiar with are some Neopagan traditions, RJ Stewart's magical teachings, and most forms of goetic magic.

    Maria, there's a lot of malefic magic passing as prayer these days. A few years back, there was a fad in fundamentalist Christian circles for creating “avenging angels” via visualization and whipped-up emotion, and unleashing them on Pagans and occultists. Nasty stuff if you don't know how to counter it!

    Sven, good. The GD tends toward some overfamiliar forms of the solar current's pathologies; it's partly balanced out by discursive meditation (which was taught in the original order, though not given enough focus, and has been badly neglected in most modern GD temples) and partly by appropriate telluric workings. Have you encountered the essay by Yeats where he discusses using herbs for dreamwork? There's a reason he stayed balanced while a lot of his peers went off various deep ends.

    Phil, yes, but it's more complex than that, of course. More as we proceed!

  59. As much as it pains me, I have to note that the concept of an unconscious realm permeated with influences human and other was fully in place by 1847, as taught by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, then a practicing medium.

    As Seale, his most prolific biographer cites Quimby on Mind–

    “… Every human mind is a blank to be written on or spoken to by invisibles, which invisibles are ideas. The devils who agitate us or the saints who guard us are, in the last analysis, but ideas that have engaged our fancy and imagery and led to our conviction. But when we do not know this, we project what we feel (but do not know) onto fantasms, ghosts, goblins and spirits. Then, because we create what we believe, we see “the spirits”.

  60. JMG said to Sven: Have you encountered the essay by Yeats where he discusses using herbs for dreamwork?

    JMG, the little hints you drop in your comments are jewels. I haven't found that particular essay yet, but I've been having a lot of fun looking for it. For anyone with a love for literature, I've found the essays (at least some of them) online here:

  61. Nwlorax, true enough. There were philosophers talking about the idea of unconscious mentation before Freud, though many more rejected the idea out of hand; it would be interesting to track down the history of the unconscious more generally.

    Wildcucumber, delighted to hear it! If you can't track it down, let me know and I'll name it.

  62. @Graeme: Apologies I followed your link on randomness and it said the post was gone?

    I do think there is something to “randomness” or rather causality that cannot be captured by scientific study of mere matter. Even before quantum mechanics Charles Sanders Pierce noted that while scientists averaged out their findings this didn't really explain the initial variation in nature. (He called this Tychism, though I don't know if he was really trying to give homage to the goddess of Luck?)

    It's interesting how an effect can be observed but then dismissed by replication, especially as this relates to Psi. When you look at the negative results that are worse than chance, you begin to wonder about Psi-missing.

    Sadly the acceptability of Psi – something supported by Einstein and Bohm among other physicists – has been dismissed by skeptical dishonesty. Even the nobel-prize winning physicist Brian Josephson is ignored when he says the evidence for Psi is sound.

  63. JMG said:

    “Maria, there's a lot of malefic magic passing as prayer these days. A few years back, there was a fad in fundamentalist Christian circles for creating “avenging angels” via visualization and whipped-up emotion, and unleashing them on Pagans and occultists. Nasty stuff if you don't know how to counter it!”

    I am not surprised in the least. Is there a way to counter this sort of thing so that it rebounds on the sender? That would be a great example of poetic justice, if nothing else. As my father, a retired naval officer, would have said in a situation like that, “countermeasure the bast***s!”

  64. Blueback, the standard trick in the magical community of the time was to construct an angel trap. Apparently the visualization being used by the teams of “prayer warriors” involved sending their avenging angels plunging through the middle of a pentagram to demolish whatever lay immediately beyond it; since a lot of people in the Pagan scene in those days wore pentagram necklaces and the like, that was a pretty blatant piece of death magic.

    So you'd take a piece of cloth and draw a pentagram on it, with some ornate but meaningless occult-looking symbols around it; you'd take a glass jar and coat the inside with kosher salt, using any of a variety of sticky things to make the salt adhere; and then you'd carefully put a very sharp steel nail or large needle, point up, in a blob of wax or clay at the bottom of the jar, cover the mouth of the jar with the pentagram-decorated cloth, and use a rubber band to fasten it into place. You'd pierce the cloth in the center of the pentagram with a pin, making a tiny hole, put it in the room where you practiced magic, and then you'd call the magical equivalent of “Here, kitty-kitty-kitty!” to the avenging angels.

    Since the avenging angels were nearly mindless artificial elementals — basically a blob of life force charged with a single image that defined their purpose — one pentagram was as good as another to them, and one that wasn't guarded with protective energies was more attractive than most. So they'd dive through the pentagram, hit the sharp iron, and pop like bubbles; the salt absorbed the spare energy, and that was the end of them. Everyone I knew who used an angel trap had to replace it every few months or so, because the salt would turn the most disgusting colors, take on an almost tangible psychic funk,and finally liquefy and turn slimy. I assume the “prayer warriors” were dumping a lot of overripe and rancid sexual energy into their angel-making activities.

    I know that didn't turn the spell back on the sender, but I'm not too fond of such exercises; among other things, the other guy can simply swat it back to you, and then you're playing astral badminton, which I find almost as dull as the physical kind. I find it much more entertaining to set things up so that the other guy knocks himself out, pouring more and more of his own vitality and will into the assault, and the result is a damp squeak and some discolored salt.

  65. Hi Snowy Princess,

    Sorry about that. I was trying to add some keywords and didn't realise it would take the whole post down 🙁

    Back up now, hopefully the link works again.

    Graeme (Guran)

  66. @JMG

    Yeats was certainly a man of many talents. I'll have a go at tracking down that essay. Should be fun. As for the angel traps, you've got to teach us more of this kind of stuff…


    Indeed. Thing is, though, what little I do know about the four humors tend to place me squarely in the sanguine crowd, which may account for why I tend to find heavy moods so disagreeable in the first place. Now, if I understand correctly, at least Ficino seems to regard melancholy not so much as a helpful trait, but more of a, shall we say, “occupational hazard”. In addition to the ambivalent saturnian influence that goes with “contemplative genius” (and it's rather hard to find many serious and passionate occultists around who don't happen to sport that particular characteristic), he points out the heavy toll taken on the aetherial body when said genius is exercised to the point of excess. And then there's the black bile, yes…

  67. Hi JMG, I'm thinking about purchasing the new Circles of Power and wanted to ask you some questions if you don't mind.

    Is Circles of Power: A Guide to Ceremonial Magic an updated version of the 1997 Circles of Power? The slight change in title kind of confuses me.

    Did you edit out all of the enochian elements from the rituals in this one aswell?


    (sorry if this is a double post, my computer is acting weird)

  68. Regarding Fundamentalist Avenging Angels,

    Is that the sort of low-level, scattershot thing something one ought to be concerned about, or is it the sort of thing that a daily Sphere of Protection will clear up?

  69. One of my favourite little protective charms, kept under the door mat at both front and back doors and renewed yearly, is as follows: On a slip of paper, one side, an eye with a six pointed star for the pupil, and around the eye, an ouroboros. On the other side, in any script takes my fancy at the time, “the serpent wise deals death to lies”. I believe it came from one of those paperback books on “witchcraft” bought at a grocery store, of all places. Nevertheless, quite effective. When I first began using it, over 20 years ago, the person it was aimed at just stopped coming by. But I also discovered I could tell no lies myself, (not that I'm prone to), not even a white lie. This unfortunate discovery was made when a neighbour showed up with a new hair-do and asked if I thought it suited her …

    All in all, this simple piece of paper has proved invaluable to keep undesirable types (and Jehovah's Witnesses) from my door and when my sons were teenagers the poor things couldn't even *try* to lie about where they'd been til all hours.

  70. JMG,

    Perhaps this is a little off topic, but I'd like to tell a cautionary tale about magic from another tradition.

    Back some 30 years ago, a certain celebrity guru blew the dust off a well know Indian magical text to apply his interpretation of its teachings on an industrial scale. Thousands of people practiced the magical techniques described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras according to the master's instructions.

    His student's attempted to develop powers, know as “siddhis”, such as invisibility, supernatural abilities of hearing and sight, and, most (in)famously, the power to levitate one's own body. The later power was demonstrated to the world media. Its proponents admitted that the initial stages of human flight without mechanical advantage were less than fully convincing: OK, it looked more like young men hopping about cross legged on thick foam cushions. Still the athletic feat of leaps over an obstacle course of stacked cushions while in full lotus did make an impression on the skeptical audience. “Just the beginning”, the giggling guru intoned. Certainly he had a great deal to be mirthful about.

    Ah, those were the days; heady with the expectation that the power to levitate (among other supernatural powers) would soon be developed more fully. Perhaps in only a few years people would be levitating all over town. The master assured his disciples that there would be no need for taxis in the near future, all one needed to do was levitate across town! What fun.

    And the time and, effort devoted to such practices at home or in the company of often hundreds of others faithful seekers at the master's own university in Iowa was breath taking. A domed (and suitably foamed) “flying” building was built to house the scores of beginning levitators. The confidence in great seer's teaching was truly impressive. Some people gave years of their lives practicing the techniques full time. They gave up the mundane pursuit of careers, sexual relationships, and families in the search for enlightenment and, as a special side benefit, supernatural, dare I say “magical”, powers.

    All that was required was the development of the appropriate level of personal and collective enlightenment. At most it would take nine years, the students were assured. What reason would they have to doubt him? His lineage was legitimate (the secretary of a Hindu “pope”), and the teaching themselves were ancient. And the teaching were entirely internally consistent. Yes, there was the small matter of actual results … but these would come. And he dressed the part. How could someone carrying flowers and dressed in sandals and a bed sheet not be one's spiritual superior?

    Like the more recent proponents of the western magical tradition you described in your last essay, the basis of the magical powers was the development of the person who was to wield these powers. Though the concept maybe new in the West, it is as old as the hills in the East.

    Now the careful reader may suspect an element of – well there is no way of being delicate about this so let me just be out with it – fraud. Specifically, there are the issues of deception and self-deception. The teacher bears the brunt of the responsibility, but the students also must accept some responsibility for willingly participating in their own deception. The problem for the student is knowing when to quit. How far down the rabbit hole do you go before you turn back? At what point does the student admit to him/herself that their trust was betrayed given the old trick of “demonstrable results are just a few years away”.

    I trust you will touch upon these delicate issues in future posts.

  71. Thanks for the info. Come to think of it, it does make more sense to cause them to waste their energy like that, especially since that limits their ability to do damage elsewhere while they are so preoccupied. Sounds like something Sun Tzu would advise.

    “Everyone I knew who used an angel trap had to replace it every few months or so, because the salt would turn the most disgusting colors, take on an almost tangible psychic funk, and finally liquefy and turn slimy. I assume the “prayer warriors” were dumping a lot of overripe and rancid sexual energy into their angel-making activities.”

    Again, no surprises, especially when you consider how many fundamentalist preachers, from Aimee McPherson to Ted Haggard, have gotten caught in engaging in the very same sexual behaviors they denounce on Sundays. What is it with fundamentalist Christians when it comes to sexual repression and hypocrisy? Clearly, there seem to be some very deeply rooted and destructive sexual pathologies going on under the surface.

    I wonder how much of that correlates to the biophobic worldview that you discussed in your posts on religious sensibilities and in what ways? We have discussed how the rise of biophobia and a negative attitude towards sexuality and life in general was part and parcel of the religious sensibility that emerged a few thousand years ago. The attitudes of Christian fundamentalists (and certain other religious traditions) towards sexuality, women and the natural environment seem to be spinoffs of that weltanschauung.

    Whether one looks at the sexual peccadilloes of Christian fundamentalist preachers, the witch hunts of the Burning Times or the misogynistic views of many (but certainly not all) Christians and Muslims, there seems to be an underlying hostility towards biological life, sexuality and women (perhaps because women and female sexuality are the symbols of new life being brought into the world and thus something that has be controlled and suppressed) that has had a truly toxic effect on the world around us and has been a major contributor to the global ecological crisis among other things. It will be very interesting to see how the new religious sensibility plays out and how religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam adapt to it.

  72. About a decade ago I was studying Jungian ideas and practices. The only two books that Jung wrote for non-psychologists were Memories, Dreams, Reflections and Man and His Symbols. This latter one he wrote specifically to introduce lay people to his ideas, so it is a good starting place.

    Another good way to investigate Jungian thought is through a small press called Inner City Books. It was founded by a Canadian, Daryl Sharp, who trained as an analyst in Zurich and then decided that his Jungian calling was to curate and publish contemporary Jungian thought. There are now hundreds of books,from a wide range of authors, and in my opinion are a very approachable way for anyone interested in Jung.

    Daryl Sharp's book Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life as an Elephant is also a great, and brief intro to Jung.

    Happy reading!

  73. When John Michael posted the first comment here about fundamentialist Christians practicing magic, I thought it a bit curious, but didn't take it too seriously. Now, with the descriptions of what sounds like “psychic cruise missiles”– pretty serious stuff — I have to wonder: after centuries of witch burning and general persecution of occultists, is the pendulum swinging back? In what other contexts, if any, are Christians practicing magic, in the sense of this blog?

    I've heard that there's an environmental movement among younger evangelist Christians that goes under the name “Creation Care”. I wonder if there might be some folks in that movement casting something like “environment healing spells” or other benificient magic.

  74. Hello all,

    last blog post here fielded a comment about some sort of smoke… then there is the comment on salt turning a weird color when you use it to craft a spirit trap.

    So far this project is very interesting for the angle it gives us on the History of ideas.

    But lately I can read inside comments about some hints of material manifestations caused by occult practices. Maybe it would be interesting to give us a few conceptual tools to understand what is playing out ? I can deal with the idea of a material manifestation not being reproductible at will, like in experiments etc… But unexplained material manifestations are quite a big claim, and if it had actually happened in a verifiable way, don't you think it would have been the object of intense scientific studies ?

    I am mostly preoccupied with how to discuss immaterial phenomena and yet still remain within a rational framework… I know many doors can be unlocked when you quit denying and instead start accepting some ideas. But it always deserves a coherent framework as a theoretical working tool. And it's safer too 😉

  75. JMG

    I have found the last two posts extremely helpful in triangulating my current and future studies.

    For those setting out to study Jung I can offer a few of my personal experiences of trying to wade in without all of the best ( and necessary) tools. The sort of auto-biography Memories, Dreams and Reflections is a good place to start as it is more personable than diving straight into his psychological writings. There is also a book by Robert Hopcke called A Guided Tour of The Collected Works, which if you wanted to start with some of the core concepts and work out tells you where in the source material you can find them and then also lists some secondary sources.
    One of my frustrations is that the closest copy of the collected works (with missing volumes) is easily a six-eight hour journey from where I currently reside. This makes me very thoughtful about Jung's long term chances in my neck of the woods. I was imagining my crumbling copy of the Red Book in a pair of hands five hundred years out. What a place to mark a beginning?!

    Also if you like to listen… has a series of lectures on Jung's the Red Book that were fascinating to me. They are given by E.R Doctor Lance Owens who has studied Jung for more than twenty years. He takes a very personal, scholarly and heart felt approach to his unpacking. He also places Jung firmly at a table with Dante, Goethe, Blake, and Nietzsche (and in another set of lectures Tolkien).

    All for now. Stacey

  76. I have greatly enjoyed these two posts.

    I'm interested to read more about solar and telluric currents. If I understand you correctly, much of the Christian magic I have worked with seems to prefer solar and caution against the telluric. I agree that each approach has biases, giving them both strengths and pathologies.

    For instance, I have read and applied a lot of Valentin Tomberg's work. Meditations on The Tarot cautions against meditating directly on the fifteenth arcanum, the devil. And in his Anthroposophical Study of The New Testament he uses the temptation in the desert to point to a prohibition to throwing oneself down off the mountain and into the subconscious. Catherine MacCoun also cautions against going into the lower vertical. But since as she points out we tend to find ourselves there from time to time, I find it useful to have some understanding of it.

    Working with Jodorowsky's Way of The Tarot gave me a good way of integrating another way of approaching the devil. In particular, the way he arranges the major arcana in a mandala helps me reconcile the devil, without meditating to directly on it. It also is nice to have the counter balance of a somewhat iconoclastic artist's approach with that of a Christian.

    Anyway, this has helped me come up with a good rule of thumb. One should not make a deal with the devil, but one has to deal with the devil. That is the fact that those libidinal forces exist. I think when Christian magic/thought ignores this it creates repression etc.

  77. Re solar v telluric.

    I practice Tai Chi standing meditation and have had the good fortune to have attended seminars with 19th generation Chen Grandmaster, Chen Xiao Wang and his son, Chen Ying Jun, and to receive their posture corrections and instruction.

    When getting into a standing posture I can often call to mind with great exactness the manner in which Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang will intone this resonant phrase: “Sky, Earth, Your Body” (his personal translation of the Mandarin words “Tian, Di, Ren”.)

    It seems to me that this practice aims to “tune” the human being into the energies from above and from below equally, and indeed this is the ideal placing of all living things that grow by transforming the sun's energy and the earth's substance into body, activity, intention.

  78. John, you mentioned an interest in getting “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie” retranslated. I might be interested in doing so. I am a professional translator (FR->ENG) with an interest in the occult. However, I have never translated occult works before, and I believe I would need to work in conjunction with an editor who is an expert in the occult such as yourself.

  79. All
    jean –vivien alerts us to changes in perhaps more than consciousness implicated in smoke & changes in chemical salts.

    We have a story of preposterous rituals by some alarming-sounding self-called Christian groups aimed at pagans / occultists – indeed a nasty story. I seem to remember similar “my magic is stronger than yours” contests in literature coming out of the Dark Ages. (Err… of course we are all still humans whether or not we live in an old or a modern Dark Age, though this active nastiness must stem from some peculiarly barking interpretations of the world.)

    Experiments in psychic phenomena are notoriously difficult and inconclusive but had all JMG’s acquaintance adopted a slightly different protocol, they might have attempted an experiment. (It might have been useful if they had been able first to verify the story that the so-called angels were indeed being called on? And though there seems no way to verify an answer, is there a half-life for such an entity? Smile) If then the acquaintance all had two identical jars and the only difference between each pair was an absence of a pentagram symbol – then the smell of the salt could have had a meaning; or perhaps not?

    Symbols and gesture and meaning and intention are fairly easily transferred among people, and these have biochemical consequences or correlates. Good counter measures are routinely required. But I admit I share j-v’s queries. These sound more like putative poltergeists potentially setting about the furniture of our biochemistry.

    Personally I have had cause to wonder at what we can rightly ‘see’ (retained within what we think of as plain sight) and ‘smoke’ might be of this kind, but, well… a smelly salt is a smelly salt! For what it’s worth I guess most of the real danger was always for the dotty Christians themselves.


  80. Re: Solar and Telluric Currents

    The two currents (and their balancing) are what drew me to my current path. The idea of the two currents and their interactions has become a centerpiece of my approach to magic and of my philosophy more generally. I am excited for what upcoming discussions there may be of the currents, and of their pathologies. For my part, I have noticed that in seeking balance I tend to assume that the middle ground, the equal and/or neutral, is always the best option, even though I know intellectually that that is not true. I feel also that my bias towards balance sometimes leads to inaction where action is called for. Or is it my tendency toward inaction that creates my bias toward balance? Either way, balance can be pursued in an unbalanced fashion. In any event, I find the two currents to be quite useful and meaningful, and look forward to learning more about them.


  81. If I may mull over what I've read so far, I understand that there are quite a few ways inwhich the existing occult traditions can differ.
    There is the solar vs telluric distinction, and there is also the demonic vs spiritual distinction. Is there a connection between those two divides ? Like, solar traditions favoring more the spiritual or energy aspect of occult manifestations, whereas the telluric traditions would feature more of the demonic kind of manifestations ? like those traditions dealing with elves and fairies…
    And then there is the 20th century which placed the realm of the occult mostly within the plane of the human mind…
    If they all hint at some subtly different aspect of the occult, is there some sort of unifying theory of magic, like what scientists are trying to achieve with the 4 forces and the sought-after superforce ?

  82. jean-vivien: There are a few other ways in which occult systems can differ, as well. For instance, my own tradition has it that there are three fundamental currents: the celestial (approximately equivalent to Mr. Greer's “solar”), the chthonic (more or less similar to parts of the “telluric”), and the oceanic (the other parts of the “telluric”, more or less). More properly, they are known as Neamh “Sky, Heaven”, Talamh “Earth”, and Muir “Sea”, respectively. They are described as glas “blue, green, wild”, céadfach “present, perceptible”, and maisiúil “beautiful, elegant”, again respectively.

  83. Scotlyn said:
    “When getting into a standing posture I can often call to mind with great exactness the manner in which Grandmaster Chen Xiao Wang will intone this resonant phrase: “Sky, Earth, Your Body” (his personal translation of the Mandarin words “Tian, Di, Ren”.)”

    Seeing Tian, Di & Ren, prompted a different thought path; while 'Di' isn't 'Du', the word association that popped into my mind on seeing what you wrote came out as 'dantian' (energy field), 'Di' made me think Du meridian, 'Ren' made me think of Ren meridian; put together in the meditation of using those channels (up the spine Du/governor & down the front of the body Ren/conception) as primary meditation to clear and balance energy before moving onto other aspects.

    JMG – the little I have read and studied of some of the taoist systems involves using both energies of earth and heaven with circulation through meridians and other centres and have long wondered how all this ties together with the idea that perhaps it is just a case that different systems have different interpretations and perceptions of how to access and associate with fundamental forces – one house many rooms? One person's enlightenment (for want of a better term) gets codified over time into a 'system'?

    Do druidic practices work on the different levels of being like some of the taoist practices? For example, like the idea of cultivating physical, soul and spirit bodies (all aspects of the same being but working on consciousness at different levels)?

    Also, unless I have it wrong, it seems that taoist practices separate out with multiple areas and students follow aspects that suit them – i.e. spiritual practice does not necessarily have to be accompanied by taoist magic. Does the revival of druidic practices work out in regards to what is done in a similar way?

  84. Hi JMG,

    It seems to me that the change in the sources of magical power as you describe it basically has two aspects. One is the change of location of the source. From above (i.e. the stars) and below (the gods/daemons of the underworld) to outside (the astral light/plane) and inside (the collective unconscious). This change of location became necessary because of a change in worldview.

    The other change is one of attitude towards the sources. The change of attitude seems to be into the direction of more human control. The change from the stars to the astral plane makes human beings capable of practicing magic using will and imagination by themselves as you mention.

    The ghosts, daemons and gods of the underworld are more wild and dangerous than the collective unconscious is supposed to be. The transition from the spirits of the underworld to the tamer realm of the collective unconscious again gives humans more control.

    So at first it looks like either humanity has finally succeeded in taming the gods or the collective unconscious must be somewhat more dangerous and wild than the psychologists say it is.

    But this latter transition could be more complicated. Christianity has influenced and distorted our attitude to gods and spirits. It has demonised the gods and spirits of the underworld and idolised a single perfect god. So it could be that by putting the gods and spirits in the collective unconscious we have actually normalised our relation with the gods. Meaning that our attitude towards this source of magical power has become more akin to that of the ancient greeks. Probably more normalisation is still required (in order to make the collective unconscious a little bit more dangerous and less tame/boring).

  85. Sven, I'll see what I can come up with.

    Anonymous, yes and yes. I'm not a great fan of the Enochian system.

    Yucca, your daily protective or banishing ritual ought to do as much as necessary.

    Wildcucumber, those grocery store spellbooks sometimes had some surprisingly good stuff in them — and as Levi points out, any charm carried out with focused intention will have its effect.

    Agent, that's definitely a matter for several future posts. The one point I'll make here is that claims about physical phenomena are generally a bad sign, at least in this age of the world. More on this later.

    Blueback, bingo. The tangled mess of festering energies created by the culture of biophobia is a huge issue, and one that deserves discussion.

    Goats and Roses, thanks for the recommendations!

    Dwig, good question. There have always been Christian occultists, people practicing various kinds of ceremonial and natural magic in the name of Christ, but that's been frowned on (and, when the legal climate permits, subject to savage persecution) by mainstream denominations. There's also been a great deal of “it's not magic, it's prayer” magic being done on the fringes of those same mainstream denominations. What might come of that as we proceed into the new sensibility is an interesting question.

    Jean-Vivien, whenever some physical manifestation of occult forces comes to light, scientists are generally too busy denouncing it to study it. My earlier post on impossible realities might be worth rereading in this context.

    Stacey, thanks for the recommendations!

    Greg, good. The Christian tradition used to be fairly good at handling the telluric current in creative ways, but lost much of that at the time of the Reformation and the rest in the last couple of centuries. Yes, I'll do a post on that later — though I also have a book in process that deals with it in some detail.

    Scotlyn, Taoism shares with most of the old Druid Revival traditions a predilection for working with both currents, so you'll get no argument from me!

  86. Mark, fair enough. If you'd like to pursue this, please make a comment marked “not for posting” with your email address, and I'll be in touch.

    Phil, it's an interesting question, but most of the people building angel traps had more pragmatic ends in mind. Trying to jump through hoops for the entertainment of scientists really isn't of that much interest to most operative mages, you know.

    Alexander, we'll certainly be discussing that!

    Jean-Vivien, the problem with any unified field theory of magic is that, since a theory is a pattern held in the mind, it influences what you're trying to study. Thus nearly any theory of magic works just fine, even if it contradicts every other theory of magic!

    Earthworm, the great difference between Taoism and Druidry is that the Taoists have had thousands of years of uninterrupted development, and we're piecing a tradition together out of fragments collected in the last three hundred years. Thus what you get in Druidry is less an extensive and coherent system, and more a collection of practices more or less laced together with tentative theories, and a fair amount of encouragement to add to the collection as you proceed. Different Druid orders have sharply different foci — thus, for example, the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn (DOGD) concentrates on magic, while OBOD doesn't teach magic at all.

    Dadaharm, good. Yes, both of those are involved — and I'll have some things to say about the supposed taming of magic as we proceed.

  87. I look forward to the post and possibly the book.

    Scotlyn, thank you. I recently started training in Bagua and find it interesting how the concepts of yang (heaven) energy and yin (earth) energy don't correlate with similar western concepts.

  88. Greg, as a person who, thru study of acupuncture and tai chi could be said to have dipped a small toe in Daoist theory, I'd hesitate to say that Yang = heavenly energy and Yin = earthly energy. It would (possibly) be more useful to think that if you consider the interaction of “Tian” (heavenly energy) with “Di” (earthly energy), that Tian is the more Yang member of that pairing and Di the more Yin member. Subtle perhaps, but many things can be considered, say, yang in one context/pairing and yin in another…

  89. @Changeling: “Myers-Brigs is, IMHO, simplification of Jungian concepts. First, it is almost completly static, when Jung always assume dynamism in one’s personality. Jung is correct. Personality is always in flux. The person you are today isn’t who you were 2 years ago, nor the person you’ll be 2 years from now. There are traits and characteristics we may carry with us for a lifetime, but even these are subject to change depending upon circumstance or our actions (and you don't need high magic rituals to change your character – autosuggestion will do).”

    It's both a simplification in the ways you point out and an elaboration. The elaboration comes from the addition of the Perceiving-Judging binary, which is not Jung. However, Keirsey's version of the MBTI uses Perceiving and Judging to extract Jung's eight types (Introverted vs. Extroverted
    Feeling, Thinking, Intuition, or Sensing) from the MBTI. Keirsey also retrieves Jung's concept of personality development by identifying the other three functions one uses besides the primary and then predicting when in the lifespan they will start coming to the fore. By doing so, Keirsey has rescued the subtleties of Jung from Myers-Briggs, even if the effort might be the equivalent of adding epicycles.

    As for changing personalities, that happens even when measured using the scheme the professional psychologists use, the Big Five, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Openness, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. These were thought to be stable throughout adulthood. However research has shown that psychotherapy significantly increases Conscientiousness and decreases Neuroticism. It works! On the other hand, it shows that even the most favored way of measuring personality indicates that it isn't stable. Oops.

    “Second, M-B test plainly does not work very well, as controlled studies show.”

    This is one of the reasons that I prefer the Enneagram. It appears to be more stable over the lifetime. Another is that it works very well as an exercise in ternary thinking in contrast to the binary thinking of the MBTI. Properly arranged in a 3 by 3 matrix, the nine personality types will fall into all the groupings of three that enneagram workers have discovered. When I discovered that, it was a Eureka moment that bordered on the transcendent.

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