Book Club Post

January 2018 Book Club

This week’s post is the seventh of a monthly series of open-discussion posts focusing on books I’ve written. Our theme for the present is Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, and this week we’re discussing “The Sixth Law: The Law of the Planes” (pp. 63-72). I’d like to ask readers to keep their questions and comments focused on that chapter and the ideas it contains; there’ll be other opportunities for general questions in due time.

Here’s the Sixth Law, as it appears in the book:

Everything in existence exists and functions on one of several planes of being or is composed of things from more than one plane acting together as a whole system. These planes are discrete, not continuous, and the passage of influences from one plane to another can take place only under conditions defined by the relationship of the planes involved.

The rest of this section of the book expands on the concept this definition sketches out. This is another challenging idea for a great many people these days, partly because the idea of multiple planes of being is foreign to our modern habits of thought, but partly also because one relationship between planes—the relationship between mind and matter—has been made far harder to understand than it should be by the pervasive influence of the superstitious modern belief in materialism. Questions? Comments? Discussions? Have at it—subject, of course, to the usual rules.


  1. Hey hey JMG,

    Would you mind flushing out the mind matter stuff by way of talking about the placebo effect? I think clarification would probably be helpful and the placebo effect is a suitably messy, complex, real, and interesting thing that western medicine acknowledges but doesn’t understand.


  2. John–

    I must admit that this is an area in which I do struggle. A lot. The underlying relationships between the planes is something I have yet to fully grasp (my Magic Monday question re my difficulty with _The Cosmic Doctrine_ was related to that; but I also understand that we’ll get to that text in due time). You’d mentioned in that reply that the planes could be envisioned as a spectrum, within which one could learn to “tune” to different wavelengths, but that imagery connotes a continuum rather than a set of discrete but inter-related planes. Could you elaborate on these inter-relationships briefly? I feel that I need to get this framework squared away in my mind before I’m going to make any progress here.

    And again, thank you for this work you are doing.

  3. In the famous correspondence between Descartes and Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Princess asks Descartes about how the mind affects the body and vice versa since Descartes had posited that the mind and the body are two separate substances. Descartes tries to explain this in various ways, but Elizabeth always manages to find gaps in his explanations. Eventually Descartes admits that he doesn’t understand how the mind interacts with the body. I think the problem was that he couldn’t fit this in a rationalist view of the world: he either had to give up rationalism (the principle of sufficient reason) and invoke a magical mechanism for the interaction, or give up mind/body dualism to preserve the possibility of a causal connection between mind and body. Descartes wouldn’t do either, so he never solved the mind-body problem. Later on, Spinoza would do whatever was necessary to preserve the principle of sufficient reason, and so he used the assertion that two distinct substances can’t be causally connected as a starting point to build his system which led him to monism. A lot of people think monism is ridiculous, but I’ve always felt that Spinoza was right in that the only possibility for rationalism to truly work was monism.

    I always thought it very interesting that the moment we accept there may be other substances, planes, realities; we have to give up a rationalist view of the world. It’s not only that things are mysterious and unknown, it seems that it’s truly impossible to build a multi-plane model of reality that produces a nice chain of causes and effects for us: if it was possible, then things would be causally connected which means they don’t really exist in different planes or are distinct substances. And this is not just the difference between determinism and indeterminism, we could have probabilistic models that imply causal connections like in Quantum Physics. This is deeper I think. This is the difference between being able to understand reality in some sense, or living in a world that is by nature beyond our understanding.

  4. Tim, sure. The placebo effect is a classic example of a way that phenomena of one plane affects another. One of the planes is the material plane, which most people understand fairly well. The other is the astral plane, the plane of concrete consciousness, which probably needs some explanation. Human beings experience the astral plane all the time in the form of mental images and other parasensory experience — what I mean by that latter phrase is mental acts that are perceived the way physical sensations are, for example, when you’ve got a bit of music stuck in your head, or when you remember what something smells or tastes like. We perceive the astral plane in dreams, too, and our emotional life is also a phenomenon of the astral plane.

    So what makes the placebo effect work is that an emotionally charged pattern of parasensory experiences (mental images, etc.) affects the physical body. (It doesn’t do so directly — there’s another plane, the etheric plane, in between, and that mediates the influence — but we can leave that out for now.) How come that works? Because the astral level of yourself is already connected to the physical level of yourself. You can decide to move your hand, and your hand moves; you can imagine that your hand is in a bucket of ice water, and instruments will show physiological reactions to the imagined ice water of the same kind, though not as intense, as you’d get if you actually dunked your hand into ice water. On the other hand — so to speak — you can think cold thoughts at a thermometer sitting there on the desk all you want, and the mercury won’t go down, because your astral body has no connection to the material body of the thermometer.

    The placebo effect simply takes this and uses it deliberately. If you believe that the sugar pill you’re taking, or the prayer you’re saying, or what have you, will have a favorable influence on your health, you’ll get a physiological reaction, just as you do by imagining your hand dunked into cold water.

    David C., I don’t have the least idea. I followed the less technical parts of A New Kind of Science with great interest, but I don’t claim to understand the technical end of computational theory at all. Perhaps you can help me out here.

    David BTL, a spectrum is actually a great metaphor here, because even though different sections of the spectrum fade off into one another at the edges, you can’t convert energy in one part of the spectrum to energy in another without special arrangements. The VHF radio waves that carry broadcast television signals through the air are electromagnetic energy, and so is the light that comes from the picture tube, but that doesn’t mean that you can see the program by looking at the VHF signal — you have to feed it into a receiver and a picture tube! In the same way, the material plane and the astral plane are two modes or expressions of the same underlying reality — the “One Thing” of the old alchemists — but they manifest in ways that are different enough that it makes sense to treat them as different planes, and to pay close attention to the ways that astral influences affect physical phenomena as though they’re not ultimately connected at all.

  5. Jose, yes, exactly. Descartes, and dualist rationalism generally, are engaged in a very specific kind of doubletalk, trying to create an account of the world that excludes consciousness while still finding some way to smuggle human consciousness back into it as a wholly detached observer of dead matter. (The eliminative materialists, who insist that consciousness does not exist, are less duplicitous even though it’s at the cost of self-defeating absurdity.) Once you admit that the existence of multiple planes of being provides the best account of the universe as we actually experience it, you give up any hope of claiming that the human mind can have a complete rational understanding of the universe, because the human mind stops being an anomaly observing material existence from outside; it’s a natural phenomenon fully embedded in the whole system of the universe, and thus incapable of the kind of external view that rationalism presupposes.

  6. Rupert Sheldrake conducted an interesting experiment — it must be 20 years ago — where he had one group of people work a crossword puzzle at the time it came out, and another do the same puzzle, which had been kept from them, 24 hours later. The early group always took longer to solve the problem than the later group. So the more people have solved it, the more people can solve it. I’ve actually experienced what I think is the same phenomenon myself. I try to work a very hard puzzle, and unable to complete it, but can do it the next day. To me this suggests that information is busy gathering somewhere other than the internet, and is somehow accessible and quite specific. I wish I understood how this all worked, but it does seem pretty reliably to work.

  7. Hi JMG,

    I’ll vouch for the difficulties around “the superstitious modern belief in materialism”. It’s quite a struggle to understand some of your concepts when thinking in the narrow confines of the material plane and prejudiced, narrow thought. Superstitious is an excellent adjective, though ‘foolish’ also comes to mind…:-)

    The concept of planes resonates with me in that I can “see” it in terms of math. I’m used to thinking of planes being continuous and/or infinite though, and when multiple and /or discrete layers are added into the mix, the interaction between the planes gets quite complex. The equation representing a lump of gold would be simple, compared to that which represents the field mouse. Thinking in terms of the material, astral, etheric, spiritual, mental, etc., brings one kind of understanding. In your book you mention the planes of matter, energy, and life and that brings a different understanding, at least for me.

    Is there an approach or method to help define these planes and their interactions? Is this an individually tailored process, as opposed to a “golden” structure which applies to all?

  8. In the quotation above you first list the case of a thing existing on a single plane of being, implying that things not occupying several planes simultaneously are common, or at least not rare. But in a comment last week you expressed a belief that no material things could exist without a corresponding existence in higher planes, and that material things would just fall apart if the corresponding etheric, astral, etc. forms went away. I can well believe that a living material thing would die if its etheric etc. levels were removed, but thinking that a table would dissolve into protoplasm (or whatever) strikes me as being awfully close to the “incompetent clockmaker god” view some monotheists have. Or perhaps you really mean to say that such a removal is impossible, since all material things have “higher” counterparts that can by no means be separated from them. But if there are things that exist only on “higher” planes, why shouldn’t there be things that exist only on lower planes?

  9. “…the existence of multiple planes of being provides the best account of the universe as we actually experience it…” Aha! So the concept of multiple planes is a MODEL and the appropriate questions are those used to evaluate any model: can it make accurate predictions, is it more tractable than the phenomena it models, what are its limits, etc. And using it involves the same danger as using any model in that one can easily confuse “this is useful” with “this is true.”

  10. Auntlili, yes, I’ve read Sheldrake’s books, and enjoyed the saliva-spattering denunciations of his work by dogmatic materialists. From an occult point of view, what he’s shown is easy to understand. First, on the astral plane, every mental-emotional experience leaves an enduring trace, and the more intense or repeated the experience, the stronger and more lasting the trace; thus the intent concentration of the people who solved the puzzle first laid down a track that helped guide the people working the next day. The longer the time lag between the first and second group, by the way, the weaker the effect should become, but there’ll still be some even after a fair amount of time.

    Drhooves, even on the material plane, a mouse is much more complex than a lump of gold, so their relation to the planes can’t help but differ in the same way. As for ways of understanding the planes, different traditions do it differently, for much the same reason that astronomers and television engineers chop up the electromagnetic spectrum into different chunks for their varying technical needs. Eliphas Levi wrote that the supreme secret of magic consists of the true understanding of how links are formed between different planes, and true to form, he expressed it only in symbolic form.

  11. “You can’t convert energy in one part of the spectrum to energy in another without special arrangements.” There are some pretty simple arrangements that do this in the physical realm. For example, a dark surface absorbs multiple wavelengths and converts them to long infrared (heat). Is there an analogous simple “thing” (mechanism, device, practice) that converts “energy” between the planes?

  12. Dewey, what should exist is an interesting but wholly arbitrary question. According to occult philosophy, the spiritual plane is the prime reality, and all other realities unfold from it, descending the planes as far as they happen to go. So whether purely material objects, say, should exist according to some human notion of what should be, they don’t.

    You’re also taking the statement in a sense that wasn’t intended. It’s possible to deal with a rock, say, as an entirely material object, without dealing with the factors on other planes that correspond to that rock. That’s all I’m implying by the comment in the text.

    RPC, exactly! You get today’s gold star for catching that crucial but often misunderstood point. As for simple ways of transferring energy from one plane to another, sure — you’ll find some of the details in any book on natural magic (that is, the kind of magic that uses herbs, stones, etc. to attract and direct magical influences).

  13. Regarding whether there is or is not causal connection between the planes. It seems obvious that there must be. Anything that is truly disconnected would be inaccessible. My rough analogy might be water and ice. There is a phase change, and they are very different and can be discreet from one another, but there is still a causal connection.

    There is a difference between something which operates on a continuum versus discrete planes of operation, without going overboard and thinking this means they are utterly remote from each other.

  14. I am very interested in the different ways the planes can be split up and categorized. If I take the metaphor of the light spectrum and run with it, we would see one one had a near continuum where there is the one electro-magnetic spectrum. Splitting light in two one has many many choices, for instance too low to interact with elemental matter (single atoms) and higher than that, or the divide could be not continuous on the spectrum, but bound by a shared property, such as light in the absorbency band of CO2 and light not in those sections. A three split that is particularly useful for humans is infrared, visible, and ultra violet. Depending on ones goals light can be split into any number of categories, but it never need be arbitrary, the categories can be judged by their relevance to a given goal. No matter how you divide it though, gaseous nitrogen simply will not absorb a significant amount of certain wavelengths. Lengths of metal with respond to some light and not other light, and will respond in distinct ways to distinct lights: in some case inducing a current, in other cases heating the metal slightly, in others by bending the light, or reflecting it; that piece of metal might, so to speak, categorize the planes of light as energizing, warming, and revealing… or some such.

    I had a feeling reading mtotle that this section was written with a very light touch, because the topic of planes is so very difficult in our era, it left me wanting more, to a greater degree than any of the other sections. I am excited for the comments this week!

    My current understanding is that the material planes and the etheric planes are very very close, to the extent that the distinction is debatable and etheric patterns seem to respond to material causes and the other way to. I’ve heard tell some etheric phenomena can be picked up though material means, though not quite pinned down firmly like a materialistic study would rather its phenomena be.

    In my own vague notions I tend to think of the planes as being the spectrum of causes; the different kinds of causes more or less; as broken up by what they seem to connect to or not.

  15. You said: “your astral body has no connection to the material body of the thermometer” and while I understand the point isn’t there now evidence that there are slight effects although some are not noticeable? I’m thinking of the quantum physics that shows the changes that can happen at a distance despite a lack of obvious connection. Dean Radin talks at length in his book Entangled Minds about this and various psi experiments over many decades.

  16. On the Placebo Effect– and its opposite– morphic resonance, and movement between the planes…

    I grew up in Appalachia. As a child I spent virtually every day in the woods; I camped with the boy scouts regularly; and most of my friends were hunters.

    I never heard the word “Giardia” until I moved to a city and started working with outdoor organizations.

    I was raised in the home of my (Silent Generation) grandparents. In my grandfather’s memoir– near the section in which he describes dozens of small businesses thriving in a coalmining region currently dominated by Walmart– he describes drinking out of streams on a daily basis. “We said that if the water was flowing over rocks it was okay, and so we drank it.” This was what I heard also, 50 years later.

    I don’t drink out of streams now, though. Working for wilderness organizations, everyone had a story about someone who got giardia or cryptosporidium doing that, and we only drank water after purifying it with bleach or iodine.

    I recently came across a story about this on another blog, here: . The writer describes an older military friend drinking out of a creek against his (the author)’s advice. The friend reasoned as we used to– the water was flowing over rocks, and so should be fine– and ended up violently ill. Now, the far-right author of the blog is using this story as a cudgel with which to beat stupid California hippies doing some stupid thing, with a kind of contempt prior to investigation that is almost universal among the self-righteous and conservative. Of course that isn’t my point. I have no doubt that the writer’s military friend regularly drank out of creeks, and never had a problem until he was told he should.

  17. JMG, I clearly need to read more about the Astral Plane. It sounds as if it might explain why writers with no apparent connection to each other in completely different fields suddenly start using the same obscure word within a few days of each other, and then just as suddenly stop.

  18. John,
    Do you think that science is a social process that connects the mental plane to the physical plane?

  19. About the crossword puzzle experiment – as one who does the daily puzzles for relaxation, I’ve noticed that people expect the puzzle that appears a day later to be harder. That might affect the experiment as well.

  20. It seems to me that the parts of the physical plane most easily influenced by other planes are the ones where events are seemingly ‘random’/ unfold from complex systems. Weather, tarot cards, crowds, animals, etc.

    I find the idea that existence unfolds from the spiritual to the physical plane odd, since it can also go the other way– seeing a physical object results in creating a mental image of it, for example. Perhaps the top down model is more relevant to ceremonial magic and that is why it is emphasized.

    I also find it interesting to imagine a purely physical existence in which other planes gradually evolved alongside the evolution of biological life.

  21. Hi John Michael,

    I have a gut feeling that people confuse the separation of planes because they are generally confused about limits. For example, over the years I have heard people recount how some clever folks have used a wood gasifier device to fuel a motor vehicle and then the same people make the spurious claim that everyone can and should be able to do that. What they miss is that wood is a good energy source for some things and not others (eg. not for producing motion in machines!) The same thing can be said about electricity generated from sunlight. I mean you can do these things, but each use outside of its best original use involves compromises and generally makes it worth the effort, but the effort is not a long term proposition.

    Mate, I have heard people claim that human ingenuity (one plane) is limitless and so more people is a good way to resolve any problems. Of course such claims ignore the physical plane of hard ecological realities.

    We sure do live in a very strange world!



  22. I’m glad natural magic was brought up. In trying to piece it together, I’ve thought that in the process of clarifying the intention of a natural magical working, selecting appropriate symbolism and correspondences, and performing the work itself, could be thought of as an act ‘through the planes’. The intention belonging to the mental plane, symbols to the astral (because symbolism works on an emotional level), and the actual materials to the material plane. Is that a fair analysis?

  23. Dion Fortune spoke of 4 worlds, and said that animals such as dogs and cats, exist only in assiah. My wife doesn’t believe it, and I suppose I don’t either. I ordered your book today from Amazon. So when you say planes, are you referring of something other than Dion’s worlds? They seem to match, though, Dion hasn’t spoken directly about an etheric mediator, at least for the little bit I have read.
    On a side note, I have been bothered by my apparent inability to visualize or even dream in color, since so much of the esoteric, seems keyed to color. I was reading, that those that watched TV in black and white as a young child appear to have this problem which is almost gone in these days of color sets. I was surprised that looking at a color does not allow me to see it in my imagination, but recently I stood in the midst of a very large number of green Christmas lights, and then I was able to visualize the color for a while. I wonder if there is a fix.


  24. AuntLili – Sheldrake’s experiment may be valid, but I don’t think your experience is relevant to it. Rather than an astral or whatever trace that is felt by separate people, you have already worked on the puzzle, and, aware of it or not, your mind has it still and may be subconsciously making connections you didn’t think of at first.

  25. Onething, of course cause and effect can operate from plane to plane, but it has to move through something in which the planes come into unusually close entanglement — say, a human being.

    Ray, the entire book was written with a very light touch. It’s a primer for the complete beginner — think of it as a kind of The Child’s First Book of The Way Things Actually Work..

    Auntlili, yep. The other thing to keep in mind is that human minds aren’t as separate as our current culture likes to think. Ideas routinely flow from mind to mind; some are as simple as obscure words, some much more complex — for good or ill.

    Jim, not exactly. The process that connects the mental plane to the physical plane is in individual human beings. Science is a social process that directs and interprets the experiences that result from that connection.

    Patricia, as always, there are a lot of variables, but as I recall, Sheldrake did a good job of controlling them.

    Bewilderness, if you don’t find traditional occult philosophy useful, then by all means try something else. I find that seeing the spiritual realm as the source of being, and all other realms as emanations from it, fits my experience of the cosmos very precisely.

    Chris, yep. The entire New Age insistence that spiritual causes can have direct material effects is part and parcel of the New Age insistence that limits don’t matter and therefore we can have all the goodies we want forever. Doesn’t work that way, but don’t try to tell your common or garden variety New Age believer that!

    Gandalfwhite, it’s rather more complex than that, but in a certain sense, yes, that’s one of their functions.

    JMA, yep, and in fact traditional schools of magic sometimes teach it that way.

    Ben, the relationship of the four Cabalistic worlds to the planes of being is a remarkably vexed question. Dion Fortune was also fallible, and in this case, I’d say she was quite simply wrong. As for learning to visualize in color, one thing to try is to stare for a long while at something that has a single clear color, and then try to imagine that color. Don’t try to “see it” as though it was actually before your eyes; the kind of imagery you’d use in a common or garden variety daydream is quite adequate.

  26. davidcreelman,

    (I assume you know enough that I don’t have to spell this out in the level of detail I do below, but I thought this could be of wider interest.)

    Not having read Wolfram’s book, the analogy that comes to mind for me is the way in which the various components of a computer interact. For example, each letter you see on the screen is only one byte of information in the computer’s main memory, but many times that in the video buffer: let’s conservatively (under)estimate that there are about 50 pixels in an average letter; then with 24-bit color, that’s 3 bytes per pixel for a total of 150 bytes for a single letter on the screen.

    Then there’s the fact that you need special hardware in the screen to translate the electrical pulses that code the bits in your computer to the electrical pulses that code the pixels on the screen. (And actually, it’s more complicated than that, because there’s also the signal that’s passed between the computer and the screen, which requires another layer of translation, albeit a fairly minor one).

    Similar kinds of of translation are necessary between the data held in main memory/storage and the various peripheral attachments that use that data (e.g. printers, speakers, microphones, webcams, etc.).

    So there’s one way to look at the concept of the planes in computing.

  27. I’m wondering if ‘plane’ is the most useful word for what we’re talking about here. It seems to conjure up images that are not always to the point…

  28. I’ve long thought that a source of great amusement would be to take Richard Dawkin’s concept of a meme and reinterpret it in classical occult terms, and sit back and watch the fireworks. His idea of a meme encapsulates perfectly the mental plane – thoughts that think themselves (to use one of your definitions).

  29. I would be inclined to think the brain itself qualifies as a planar frequency receiver/transmitter – I’ve noticed that if I listen to a song (i.e. the physical sound waves enter my ears), the song (or a related song, e.g. by the same artist) “sticks” in my head for a while as if it’s experiencing some kind of astral echo. Similarly, scenes from a movie I just watched unconsciously start playing back to me as I make my way out of the theater, even if I’m not consciously trying to think about the movie.

  30. I found this mornings meditation on planes very interesting. I decided to use a book as my subject and to review the other laws during the meditation as well. All seemed well through the first six laws, and I was beginning to get a sense of the laws as being a kind of increasing complication of the universe as expressed in my subject. In the process I was visualizing the book and all the things that went into making it and trying to get a sense of what planes may be attached to it. I suddenly thought about the information conveyed by the book and it was as if I had suddenly opened up a door into another very different but very interesting place. So interesting in fact I had to discontinue the meditation as my mind was jumping all over the place. Is information a conduit between planes or is it a plane in it’s own right? Or both? What connections are made to the author through the planes? I could see the information in a book causing mental connections and emotional ones, but the information itself seemed in a class by itself. Hope this is making sense.

  31. I tend to think of the planes in terms of the relationship between physical laws (or mathematical descriptions) and physical manifestation. Pi, for example, is an aspect of the universe that is eternal and independent of the existence of human minds to conceive it. Circles, on the other hand, exist in physical form. Whether I draw one with a compass or a meteor draws one on the face of the moon, they contain an expression of pi. A crater is concrete, whereas pi is fundamental.

    Between these is the astral plane, where I can imagine polka-dots, contemplate pi, or feel that those Flatlander circles are too big for their britches.

    I seem to recall JMG putting forth something along these lines in “Circles of Power”. I can see why he doesn’t do it anymore, as (among other problems) it leads the mind back toward the standard materialist worldview, but that’s what I was looking to break out of at the time and it really did the trick.

  32. Steve,

    “with a kind of contempt prior to investigation that is almost universal among the self-righteous and conservative.”

    I see commentary like this and just can’t help myself. I guess you would identify as not a conservative. I agree about the self righteous part, but oh my goodness, how I and some other fairly conservative types find liberals to not only be incapable of investigation, their bubble is so profound that the very concept that they might want to examine their assumptions simply doesn’t exist. Like fish that can’t see water.

  33. Sgage, no doubt other words could be used. “Plane” has been standard for well over a century, though, and will probably remain in use for some time to come.

    Peter, that sounds like fun. Care to give it a try?

    Barrigan, an occultist would say that you’re talking about the mind, not the brain!

    Kay, it’s making excellent sense, and the questions you ask would make very good themes for your next several meditations. 😉

    Ynnothir, I use that example when I’m teaching sacred geometry or one of the other branches of occult mathematics. In other contexts, other examples seem to be more generally understood, but it’s still a valid way of approaching the question.

  34. Onething,

    I am a conservative. I dislike self-righteousness, and the particular type of self-righteousness I see among right-wing people is the one exemplified on the blog I linked to. It goes like this: 1. See people doing something remotely interesting; 2. Point and sneer and call them hippies; 3. Congratulate yourself.

    Leftwing self-righteousness is more like 1. See people doing something remotely traditional; 2. Point and sneer and quote Judith Butler; 3. Congratulate yourself.

  35. It was not addressed in the book and likely for good reason, but can you name and briefly describe each of the planes?

  36. I wonder if Karl Popper’s theory of the three worlds (link on the Wiki) was inspired by occult philosophy about the planes. One of the things he was aiming at was the idea that e.g. works of art were nothing but their physical realization; otherwise there wouldn’t be better and worse performances of a piece of music, since there would be strictly speaking no idealized version to compare them to. (I’m not sure what I think of that argument, but there it is.)

    It wouldn’t be the first time an intellectual had cribbed ideas from occult philosophy; it might actually be more surprising if he reinvented the idea.

  37. To JMG: Thanks for writing Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth. I believe it is the finest primer ever written on spiritual ecology, plus it is written in language that miraculously manages to get through my thick skull. I’m currently reading it for the 2nd time.

    I have occasionally have out of body experiences. They are like dreams, except they don’t feel at all like dreams. The first one that I can remember occurred when I was six years old. They intensified severely when my grandparents started dying in my teens and when I went on anti-depressants from ages 16 – 22. Anti-depressants mess with the sleep/wake cycle, making it easier to slip in and out of episodes. They’re usually accompanied by a heavy feeling and an atmosphere of red-tinged darkness. Beings populate whatever realm OOBEs take place in. Some of them are scary and impersonate people I know, with a signature inability to maintain the shape they are trying to assume. I try to avoid OOBEs because they are difficult to snap out of and frightening. I had one about three months ago in my new house (no choice, it just happened) and I didn’t sense any of the usual nasty impersonator entities hanging around. Either I was lucky or my novice magic cleansing rituals worked. I’ve never known what the hell OOBEs actually are — for a while, when I was atheist, I told myself they were trans-dimensional bleed. Any ideas?

  38. Dear Mr. Greer et al,


    A few thoughts on the intersection of planes.

    Recording and playing music is one of the complicated processes used to convert plane phenomena.
    Imagery, emotions, ideas (and good technical skills) are invoked to imprint their effects on a physical (or electronic) recording. Then the physical record when played evokes imagery, emotions and if the music is good, a racing heart beat.

    As has already been mentioned in the comments above, human beings (along with other living beings presumably), are conduits, vehicles or “plane transformers” of inter-planary cause and effect.

    On a more personal note, I wanted to hear your thoughts on something.
    On my daily walks I pass by a little clearing of trees (with a dead stump as its focus), which I have come to perceive as conscious and holy. As it happens, I also use that place as one of my loci for my furtive attempts at training memory. Now, every time I visit it in my mind, I bow to it as I would on the physical plane, and the presence that I perceive in my imagination, is exactly the same as the one in the little clearing itself. So even though, I ‘created’ the imagery, the being of this clearing is present in both! I can only express this idea with something like “Whoaaa..” 🙂


  39. Kind Sir

    The material plane seems to become quite immaterial on closer examination as for instance in quantum mechanics.
    Some interpretations require mind to give matter its existence.
    Is this a case of planes interacting?
    Hope this is not a stupid question, but my background is scientific. My understanding of the occult is very limited.

  40. Might the effect, which made crosswords easier to solve by the second group in Sheldrake’s experiment be the cause, why, for example, printing was invented in China, Korea and Germany in the same millennium, or, why, after 1989, neoliberalism got implemented in so many countries at the same time?

    Regarding planes, if planes are a continuum, what comes, for example, between the material plane and the plane of energy? Are there even lower planes than matter?

    Thanks and belated Happy New Year!

  41. Hi JMG,

    as of late, I’ve started to see myself as something of a ‘recovering’ materialist. I’ve realized, to a certain extent, that for years I’ve been under a very deep enchantment. An enchantment with fairly ancient origins, perpetuated by the likes of Rene Descartes and Neil deGrasse Tyson, among many others. Almost like being cast into a very deep sleep, dreaming of the world as though the material plane was the only one that mattered – the only one that was real. And it’s not just me that is sleeping, of course, but almost everyone else around me, all dreaming the same dream. Making it so much harder to wake up…

    Luckily, though, the study and practice of magic can be a way of learning to break free from this enchantment. The beginnings of realizing that the material world is but one of several intertwined layers, or planes, which make up the world. That the experiences of those other planes are just as real, meaningful and powerful as what can be experienced on the material plane. And in many ways, even more real, as they are that much closer to the Divine.

  42. idk much about what is going on upstairs in cosmic terms…. I do meditate a lot, no where near as much as I’d like. These past ten years, since I was in 10th grade, I’ve been aware of this thing like an orb of honey inside me. I first felt it at the beaver pond behind my parents house. It has come to me sometimes in dreams and I’ve been able to see it in meditation. The first time I felt it intentionally was during a meditation session about seven months ago. I feel like there are memories, attached to it.

    I can’t say I remember any past lives right now but if I had to guess my last human incarnation was a while ago, 75+ years, and I maybe did a stint or two as a creature on four legs between then and now. I’m pretty sure I had a past human life because there is a weird part – The house where I grew up/was conceived etc. sits exactly 20 miles west of the Quabbin Reservoir. That is three towns in Massachusetts that don’t exist anymore because of the reservoir but I swear I knew them. I had a dream wrote it down, and knew it was a real place – Anyway I did a google Earth search and went to that point 20 miles east and it was exactly as it was in the dream. idk there are some other weird parts such as that point being exactly perpendicular to the two places I’ve lived in my life. I wish I knew more about geomancy, higher planes etc.

    The more and more I get in touch with it the higher I feel it sits inside me. Like the first time in tenth grade I felt it was above my heart but bellow my chin. And I was in a bad way then – and cleansing the orb, while basking in sunlight at the beaver pond was the most spiritual experience of my life. I know the heart and lower chin are two shockra points. When I feel it during mediation and sometimes while I’m writing I feel that it is higher, almost behind my eyes near the third eye point.

  43. JMG & All
    Chapter 6 makes a lot of good comprehensible points so I certainly do not expect to make any improvement, but I am going nevertheless to take a best shot a bit beyond my reach. I guess I am trying to cross a bridge to somewhere.

    I wrote elsewhere last year: “Given that Life (!) is essentially signalling, I wonder if we should consider information density and its continuity over evolutionary time? Sure, living signalling needs energy to run, but the need is surprisingly little given the colossal information stream and embedded memory.” Bill Everett wrote similarly and simultaneously. However, additionally, he was able to quote a useful study, see link below.

    To set the scene for my comment here, I reiterate some obvious points. ‘Change’ happens anyway to both animate and inanimate forms, (in any ‘open system’ which receives and loses energy) and all ‘changes’ share the context of direction, space, time, energy, and complexity of structure. So also does ‘volition’, except that this is a living property that will change its environment while surfing the physical energy & material inputs (I am thinking specifically here of food input). Life fueled by relatively ‘low information’ material apparently then can go ‘uphill’, enriching its environment with information and structure. Conversely, energy input in the inanimate system, though it creates structures, must always then go ‘downhill’ whatever complexity the energy has wrought at any one time. A result for life – over evolutionary time – is a vast flow of information, embodied in aggregate forms (your ‘meadow’) compared with the relatively tiny information flow available in the material energy and food inputs that are cycling through the physical system – sunshine and so on. (Link 1)

    I presume that all procedures (but particularly these living procedures and their volition), form or are formed by complex ‘information-structures’ – perhaps ‘spirits’ (see Shakespeare’s Tempest) – from the flow of ‘signals’. These ‘spirits’ can have a multitude of emergent properties at different levels (‘planes’). But eddies induced spontaneously by energy flow, for instance in water in river or in cloud, complex though they are, are quite trivial in content compared with the complexity induced by and within living structures. Although all these structures (be it in inanimate mountains, or living species) will tend ‘downhill’ and lose information’, (see Shakespeare again), life and the altered environment it maintains, persists and accrues ‘landscapes’ of flowing high density information signalling.

    Talking about ‘planes’, and with the above ‘landscapes’ in mind, I am trying to imagine which of the range [discontinuous planes] of configurations or ‘spirits’, inform, indeed ‘drive’, ‘our’ bodily and mental states and structure our perception. And how might they contrive comprehension, be it somatic, emotional or more overtly cognitive comprehension? And further, it seems reasonable that the totality of configurations persists in the whole system (the world and its connections) even when ‘we’ can only perceive a few of them. Most of ‘it’ must go over our heads or else our place in the world would have no normality? (By ‘we’ I guess I mean the whole ‘sentient’ continuum.)

    Perhaps ironically, as a child I could see and give an adequate account of such reality. As the man said “… unless you change and become like little children …” – which could be one take-home reminder!

    So I come back full circle. Such is life. It seems to me Chapter 6 is a helpful guide to typology. The Law of the Planes reminds me also that ‘mystery teachings’ recapitulate a world that long pre-dates humanity. (And there is Chapter 7 still to go. Smile)


    1. ‘The organizational levels of living systems do not depend on the external energy flows that the systems consume. Therefore, life itself can control environmental conditions,’

    2. [and in a specific comparison with existing computer information capacity] ‘…the information flows in the biota that determine its environment controlling potential are 20 orders of magnitude greater than the information flows in [computerised] human civilization.’

    Phil H

  44. John–

    re the spectrum metaphor

    Thank you for that explanation. It helps a good bit, actually.

  45. @ Steve:

    There’s a very old thread in the history of alternate religions in the US which claims that the material plane has no real existence at all. According to this view, matter and energy, time and space are nothing more than a mass toxic illusion created by dying fragments spun off from an immaterial and immortal Mind. This being so, any sort of miracle or magic is possible, for instance, any modern woman might conceive children without any sexual activity with men, or anyone might live forever — if only one’s own own mentation was skillfully enough directed to break the hold over one of the common illusion in which we all live out our lives from illusionary birth to illusionary death. (For historians of American religions, this is the New Thought Movement, including its most well-organized institutional variant, Christian Science.)

    I grew up in this world, and spent long hours in my ‘teens quietly experimenting with such possibilities as modifying the pull of gravity, changing the apparent movement of the stars in the heavens, or modifying the course of some chemical reaction — to no avail! Eventually I was compelled to admit to myself that the principles of physics and chemistry had a considerable measure of hard reality to them, and were very far from being subject to human will or desire– or even to large-scale, organized collective expressions of human will and desire. — And yet, occasionally something inexplicable on the basis of strict materialism would actually happen under my observation, or would seem to me to happen.

    And, in a far less mysterious manner, there did indeed exist such powerful things as the placebo effect and its deadly twin, the nocebo effect. One could even harness them for one’s own use and benefit. I have done so, to relieve pain during a time when I could not, for medical reasons, use NSAIDS at all.

    And there is more. My wife and I have been married for more than fifty years now. We have grown so close over those years that we can often finish one another’s sentences accurately (if we choose — but it is usually not polite to do so), or we discover that each of us, without communicating with one another, has suddenly decided at the same instant of time that we should go out for dinner at the same restaurant. To some extent, without relinquishing our own individualities or submerging them in one another’s, we have also developed an extra, shared individuality of our own. There is definitely something going on here not wholly unlike the way genetically separate organisms can pass parts of their DNA between themselves. (If you like the terminology, it is a matter of our sharing memetic material rather than genetic material.)

    So I cannot be a strict materialist, either. Tertium quid, as always!

    (And this is why I spend so much time and intellectual effort, in my old age, on the history of magic, and on theories explaining how it has actually worked in some cases, and seemed to work in other cases.)

    So — back to giardia. Indeed, the placebo/nocebo effect can produce in any given person the symptoms of an infestation of giardia, without that parasite actually being present in that person’s intestines, and could — now and then — even lead to that person’s death, once the symptoms have become severe enough. Of that bare fact no one should have any real doubt. But that bare fact does not rule out the existence of an actual giardia parasite in the biosphere.

    Nor does it rule out another consideration. Our increased ease of international travel means that intestinal parasites formerly confined to one region of the planet are now readily found almost everywhere. Also, a far greater number of people now venture into the backwoods and the mountains than ever before — and, of necessity, often relieve themselves there. So it stands to reason, even without any scientific or medical data, that giardia would actually be far more frequent now in the streams and creeks of North America, even in so-called wilderness, than it was before (say) World War 2.

    As for evidence, like your grandparents, my wife and I, too, could freely drank flowing water in the higher reaches of the mountains or the more remote backwoods, and have no ill effects. Like your grandparents, we are from the Silent Generation. Nowadays, if I drank that flowing water, I might get lucky; but more likely than not, I would get giardia instead of luck. And that would not necessarily be due to the nocebo effect. With the right sort of microscope and the requisite biological knowledge, I might actually be able to verify the hard reality of that parasite in the specific water that I drank, and also in the outflow of my intestines. In general, the giardia parasite can be observed in such waters far more widely now than it was observed there several generations ago.

    So the point that you raise demands a fairly complex response. One of my favorite quotes comes from the biologist J. B. S. Haldane: “The world is not only queerer than we think, but queerer than we CAN think.”

  46. I figured you would move away from politics. 😉

    So would a reasonably accurate alternative characterization of the sixth law be along the lines of: An ecosystem has different elements and aspects that relate to each other via complex biological and chemical relationships.

    I think a definition of “planes” would be in order.

  47. Just putting in my vote that you develop this theme further in the upcoming fifth Wednesday’s post. Thinking about the planes in relation to nature spirits (and all other non-material beings) is so intriguing to me.

    Either that or an astrology follow-up, as I saw someone else request last week!

  48. Davidcreelman and JMG,

    Years ago I put some effort into designing a seven-laws model of reality based on principles of computation, and I revisit the project from time to time. Two caveats: I have not yet arrived at a fully adequate formulation; and even if I claimed I had, I have no credentials to make such a claim.

    That said, the closest analogue to the Law of the Planes in my formulation is the Rule of Emergence. It’s a rule with complex implications, but after considering many different possible ways to express it, I ended up with the very simple: “All things compute.” That by itself seems to say little, but combined with part of the Rule of System, “All things are the result of computation,” it immediately suggests a hierarchy of computed things that themselves compute. Which is much like what we observe: quantum fields perform a computation that results in (among other things) molecules; organic molecules perform a different computation that results in (among other things) biochemistry; biochemicals performs a different computation (evolution) that results in (a. o. t.) brains; brains perform a different computation that results in (a. o. t.) minds; and so forth.

    From our perspective as minds we tend not to see two important things. One is that the layers of substrates of our own minds (which we see as concrete material things, or processes therein) aren’t just a pyramid sustaining our minds’ existence at the apex. Instead, all those “other things” quantum fields, organic molecules, living organisms, brains, etc. are also doing are also computations that have their own results. So for instance it’s foolish to assume that human minds, or indeed even animal minds, are the only minds currently in operation on this planet. The other is the “and so forth” left hanging at the end of the last paragraph. Minds, too, collectively perform a different computation (different, in this case, from individual conscious thought), and other things emerge from that computation that we see as abstract (such as perhaps myths or gods) but are no less real and no less capable of their own computations in turn. “We” are somewhere in the middle of it all.

    So, the idea of a computational hierarchy of planes ends up somewhat similar to esoteric models. One difference is that the computational planes seem to emerge “upward,” each being generated by the action of the substrate beneath, instead of being coaxed into existence by influences propagating “downward.” I blame that seeming contradiction on both models being too simple to capture the reality.

    Wolfram’s principle of Computational Equivalence, which states that “most” systems found in nature have an equivalent level of computational power (ignoring speed as a factor), is clearly related to and applicable to the Rule of Emergence. It also has implications related to the most directly comparable Hermetic Principle, the Principle of Correspondence. Wolfram’s principle of Computational Irreducibility is also related to the Rule of Emergence, but it’s more closely related to what I call the Rule of Thresholds, which is analogous to the MTotLE Law and Hermetic Principle of Cause and Effect.

  49. Darren, as mentioned in several other comments, there are various schemes for dividing the spectrum of existence, and they differ in the number of planes they identify and the specific aspects of the planes on which they focus. Here’s one taxonomy, which works relatively well for general use:

    Spiritual plane — the source of all being, incomprehensible to humans.

    Mental plane — the plane of abstract consciousness and timeless patterns of meaning.

    Astral plane — the plane of concrete consciousness, dreams, mental imagery, and emotion.

    Etheric plane — the plane of the life force and the patterns that structure matter.

    Material plane — the plane of matter and energy as understood by modern science.

    James, close! It was inspired by Plato’s taxonomy of being, which was an important influence on occultism as well as on Popper.

    Kimberly, in the occult tradition that’s called “astral projection.” It’s perfectly normal and relatively safe; some people do it naturally, others have to learn how to do it. What’s happening is that a portion of your astral body, including your center of consciousness, separates itself from your physical and etheric bodies for a while. When you do that, you experience whatever sub-plane of the astral plane your astral body resonates with; the heavy feeling, the red-tinged darkness, and the nasty entities who can’t quite hang onto a borrowed shape are typical of what’s called the lower astral, which isn’t a pleasant neighborhood to hang out in! One benefit of regularly practicing rituals such as the Sphere of Protection or the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram is that it tunes your astral body to higher sub-planes of the astral plane, so that when you project, you end up in a sub-plane where you can learn things worth learning and encounter helpful beings.

    Lordyburd, yep. The use of the imagination as a tool for perceiving and acting on the astral plane is one of the basic tools of magic.

    DropBear, yep. When you look closely at the phenomena of the material plane, you start to see the influences of the next plane up, because the material plane is the plane of effects, not of causes. Everything material is the result of a process that spans all the other planes, and the links back up the planes become hard to miss.

  50. Steve,

    Thanks for the humorous reply. I am hanging around too many clueless liberals, obviously. Really, human beings in general like to pick their little comfort zones, don’t they?

  51. @James Jensen
    Thanks for the Popper link. His Tanner lecture on the three worlds is a model of clarity. Actually, you prompted me to rediscover two papers by Eccles which endeavor to establish a full-blown mechanism for the causal interaction between thought processes and neuronal excitation:

    Do mental events cause neural events analogously to the probability fields of quantum mechanics?


    A unitary hypothesis of mind-brain interaction in the cerebral cortex.

    Eccles’ mechanisms didn’t convince me when I first read about the in the 1990s, and they convince me now even less, as I work myself on synaptic transmission! However, it is astonishing that such hypotheses were published in the biomedical literature at all.

    JMG would probably say that there is less reason to consider synaptic transmission real than to consider a thought real!

  52. Booklover, physical energy (light, heat, etc.) and physical matter exist on the same plane, which we call the material plane as a convenient label. The next plane up is the etheric plane, which shows itself in many apparently physical laws — for example, occult students of physics have been arguing for a long time that the nuclear strong force and weak force are both expressions of etheric patterns. According to most occult teachings, no, there’s nothing below matter — solid matter is the final gasp of the creative process that descends from spirit, the last, weakest, and most inert expression of the original creative Logos.

    Stefania, delighted to hear it. Welcome back to the real world!

    Austin, yes, that’s one not uncommon way of experiencing the soul. Btw, it’s chakra, not shockra, even though it’s pronounced the way you spelled it — it’s a Sanskrit word. (No prob, just something you might want to know for future reference.)

    Phil H., yes, of course. The language of “planes” is a convenient shorthand, and each plane and each sub-plane within a plane might better be perceived as a complex and inhabited landscape…

    David, glad to hear it.

    Dean, no, that wouldn’t be a reasonably accurate alternative characterization, because it leaves out everything the sixth law is trying to talk about. That’s a standard materialist dodge, btw — pretend that anything under discussion that can’t be accounted for by materialism was never under discussion in the first place.

    Dylan, so noted. Actually, you’ve reminded me of something I nearly forgot: we have yet another fifth Wednesday coming up this month, and so nominations for a fifth Wednesday post are in order.

    Walt, fascinating. Thank you.

  53. Re: Planes of existence

    My definition of planes comes somewhat from my background in computer software, which is always organized in layers that have defined interactions between the various layers.

    A more accessible view is that each layer of reality has different organizing principles, and that the organizing principles of one layer can’t easily be deduced from a consideration of the next layer down. Consider the quantum particle domain: electrons, quarks, gluons, mesons, etc. It’s not obvious that these things should organize into atoms, and it’s even less obvious that the various atoms should have the properties they have. Looking at the atoms (basic chemistry), it’s not obvious that one can build living cells from them. Looking at bacterial cells it’s not at all obvious that one can build multi-cellular organisms from them. Looking at that, it’s not obvious that one can have a multi-cellular organism that builds a world-spanning civilization.

    What’s the next level above that? There are a lot of opinions, but none of them agree all that much.

    Now, this is a bottom-up view. The definition JMG is giving is a top-down view: everything starts with the Spiritual plane, which is the top.

    Re: New Thought

    I ran across New Thought a few times; it was one of the results of the Third Great Awakening in the late 19th century, like New Age is one of the results of the Fourth Great Awakening or Consciousness Revolution (60s and 70s).

    It’s always seemed to me that they were trying to get from point A to point Z without going through the rest of the alphabet. It doesn’t mean you can’t get there – just that there are a lot of steps that have to be taken on the way, most of which we don’t know.

    Ritual magic is at least a step-by-step path to getting certain kinds of results.

  54. Stefania,

    To think of the material world as primary is indeed an enchantment, one that I had to work quite hard at reversing despite that I sort of “knew better” but the idea of materialism as the primary reality absolutely permeates our culture.

    And yet it makes no real sense. I always recommend Bernardo Kastrup for this. He’s got a blog called Metaphysical Speculations but his book Why Materialism is Baloney is very, very good.

  55. And by the way everybody, I found out about a trick you can use to find out and read, for example, what post JMG is replying to. Since I’m a complete idiot, it might be that everyone already knows this, but I do recall some discussion a while back about keeping track of the posts. Anyway, you input a CTRL F, and a little box pops up, into which you type what you want. For example, Onething. Or on another blog I type in the date to keep up with new commentary as that one is a hodge podge of replies all over the place. The little box will show how many instances of your word there are, and you can go up and down with the arrows. So if you’re in JMG’s responses, and you’d like to see what that person wrote, you put in their name, go up one or two arrows till you find it, and then just go back down with the arrows and you are right back in the place you started.

  56. How might I guide my meditation further towards remembering a past human life? I’m pretty sure it was a long time ago so I either: A – spent a long time out of human form or B – spent some time as another critter in the interim. Could an intermediate existence block memories of a human one that came before? Or do I simply have a lot more mediating to do towards remembrance? Are all a souls memories stored together in the same place on a higher plane? Is a soul the etheric body?

    I’m inclined to believe that the human life I’m remembering was a strongly influenced by christianity because several churches keep appearing in visions I have about it. And I don’t think I got along very well with the god that dwelt in them, despite trying very hard. I know christians believe in the pie in the sky, forever after out of body/gone to heaven deal. So that could account for the etheric body taking a while to die… or does personal belief have nothing to do with the death of an etheric body taking a long time? My jargon might be wrong.

  57. I know nothing re: magic, but will still query whether the ‘astral’ and ‘mental’ labels should be swapped… ? (OK…. I’ll just do it for me, in my private list 🙂

  58. Sorry, I haven’t read all the comments. just a few. This chapter seems much more dense with meaning than when I first read it a couple of years ago. Perhaps that’s because I’ve slogged through some of CosDoc. There’s some real teaching here, I think. My question, if I have one, is, as a pretty poor meditator, from what plane does concentration come?

  59. ohh 5th Wednesday! Can we please have a post about the failure of the dream of transcendence (from a Spenglerian perspective I mean)? Sorry to keep bugging you about that but seeing as there’s a fifth Wednesday…

    Just wondering if you had any encounters with Theta healing? Theta healing invokes the seven planes of existence (as it conceptualizes them). As i remember in theta healing they are, rocks and minerals (1), trees and vegetation (2) human and animal consciousness (3), ancestors (4) ascended masters (5) Laws (6) and ‘all that is’ (7). I remember this being my first encounter with the different planes (or rather my first conceptualized and conscious experience of the different planes)…

  60. In a recent post (or maybe in a comment on a recent post) you mentioned that different traditions divide up the planes in different ways. Some include an etheric plane, while others may include that in one of the other planes. If the planes are discreet, how can different traditions divide them differently?

  61. John, and that’s one of the reasons I rely on ritual magic — it’s a tradition that’s been built up by three thousand years of people who wanted results, and generally got them.

    Jacques, so noted!

    Onething, thanks for this.

    Austin, this is one of the places where it’s not really a good idea to push the river. The more pressure you put on yourself to come up with past life memories, the more likely you are to confabulate them, i.e., have your subconscious mind make one up to get you off its case. Just keep on meditating and let things ripen at their own pace.

    Nancy, nope. The mental plane isn’t the plane of what most people think of when they say mental, i.e., the kind of chatter that fills most people’s minds most of the time — that’s actually an astral phenomenon. The mental plane is the plane of pure meaning, and like the spiritual plane, it’s outside of space and time. The astral plane has its own space and its own time, which we experience in dreams; the etheric and material planes are in the kind of space and time we’re all used to.

    Phutatorius, everyone incarnate is a poor meditator. If you could do meditation the way it should be done, you’d already be enlightened! Concentration in its highest form is a function of the spiritual plane, because the spiritual plane is pure will, and concentration is a modality of will. Representations begin to take shape on the mental plane…

  62. Robert and Steve, per the giardia thread that got started here, it’s one of my pet peeves as an active outdoorsman that so many organizations, including the National Park Service for gosh sakes, use giardia as some sort of crazy scare-everybody-to-frothing-senselessness boogeyman. The reality is that at the fastest, a giaradia infection won’t manifest for AT LEAST a couple of days. More typically, if you ingest giardia cysts in excess of what your body can tolerate, the incubation time will be about TEN days. When people in the wilderness succumb to intestinal problems, it’s almost always due to bad hygiene (toilet or food.)

    Perhaps it’s because I can suss out the songs implicitit in the waters I travel next to, but I’ve been drinking untreated and unfiltered water on hikes short and long (longest has been twelve days) for decades in various locales across the American West with nary a hint of giardiasis or other intestinal ills. My wife, when we first got married a few years ago, was dubious, but she’s been symptom-free after lots of hikes with my guidance too.

    Untreated water, by numerous tests, is often LOADED with bacteria, but the disease-causing ones are not in water that passes the “yup, this is a good source” test. And also, when out hiking, I’m a stickler for good potty discipline (alcohol hand sanitizer is always in a bag next to my TP bag) and I ALWAYS wash my dinnerware with soap and hot water! As a Bio major from way back when, it astonishes me how so many folks will buy/use a $200 water filter and then share a spoon with eight other people around a campfire, or not wash their cook pot or spoon for a week…

  63. 5th Wednesday nomination–Why occultists talk about vibrations. The idea of planes resonating with each other seems like it could be the mechanism by which they interact while remaining discreet. But what is it that’s vibrating? On the material plane in particular? (I also wondered if “vibration” is the mechanism that allows us to communicate with nature spirits, gods, and such.

  64. JMG, I had not thought of a recent experience of mine in terms of planes, but perhaps it was all about planes after all. I’ll try to condense it:

    About a year ago, I read Dion Fortune’s “Psychic Self Defense.” There is a symbol she refers to that apparently calls the cops, if you will, should you find yourself in trouble on the astral plane.

    Well, being a curious sort of person, I briefly visualized it one night in bed. Just a few seconds, curiousity satisfied, went to sleep. Never visualized it again. Next night, lying in bed, heard a sound like a gunshot in my head. I was the only one who heard it. Husband was fast asleep. Rolled over, tried to go back to sleep, and heard it again. This time, a sort of portal opened, filled with a dim, but deep turquoise light. I swear I could feel a slight breeze, and smell a faintly cool but musty smell. The portal closed within seconds. It repeated a few minutes later.

    Next evening, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, I happened to glance out the sliding door to our patio, and sensed a presence there unlike anything I have ever experienced. It felt like raw power. Awesome in every sense of the word. I dared not move. Within seconds, it was gone.

    Did my visualizing that symbol cause this? Did I ignorantly do the equivalent of pulling the emergency cord on the train just to see what would happen, and got (rightly) busted?

    As always, your insight is greatly appreciated.

  65. I’ve had at least six experiences where I’ve just barely awaken from being asleep (but I’m able to see clearly) and I see a creature/entity in the room. Four times it was a cat sized spider, once it was a vague blur of a human shape standing next to my bed (real enough for me to jump out of bed attempting to tackle it), and just last night it was a tentacled creature that was just coming through my door when my vision cleared and it vanished.
    Are these visions likely to be part of the “lower astral” (“red-tinged darkness, and the nasty entities”)? I’d previously just passed them off as holdovers from a dream bleeding through into a wakeful state.

  66. After two false starts, here is correct comment

    Thanks for that taxonomy JMG.

    I note you identify five planes, not seven. Is that just for simplicity or are there planes that are not discussed with the uninitiated?

  67. For the 5th Wednesday post, I vote for something describing the beings that belong to the different planes and what kinds of experiences human beings might have with them. That there are different planes does make sense to me, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around what that means.

  68. Hi John Michael,

    Oh! You gave me a shock with your reply to Darren. Is it wise for folks (and you know who I am talking about) to mess around with the Mental Plane, given that it is the source of timeless patterns of meaning, with the blunt tool of thaumaturgy and abstractions? That seems to me to be irresponsible at best and very dangerous at worst. It had never occurred to me to view the situation that way as I hadn’t realised that those two concepts in your explanation were invariably linked… Ouch!

    Out of curiosity, we spoke several weeks ago about some minor manifestations of the fluidity of time. The context to that discussion was how sometimes patterns and events can emerge in the physical realm out of a preconception of those patterns and events. Being a pragmatist, I was discussing with you how I get ideas as to how this place can develop out of the blue – and then I implement those ideas. How does that effect work between the planes?

    My vote is for a Stormwatch post. I’m not sure what that says about me though! Hehe! Speaking of which, I do hope that yourself and Sara survived the recent bout of serious winter weather relatively unscathed? I honestly wouldn’t know how to cope with such weather. Mind you, I’m getting better at dealing with heat waves…



  69. John

    You mentioned earlier that natural magic is a good example of using tools to translate across planes. Aside from your own _Encyclopedia_, are there any other good references that might be useful in learning more about this?

  70. JMG:

    Wow. I could get super duper nerdy because of this week’s fine topic! I swear to keep my enthusiasm on a strong leash.

    Firstly, I advise your musically trained readers who find contemplating interactions of planes difficult to emphasize contemplation of musical harmony in their meditations.

    Here is a link to a book on musical harmony wrote in the late 1800s by a dude named Prout. I use it often.

    Secondly, I wish to share that complex waveforms that we among the hearing hear like sounds made by banjos and pianos are composed of interacting simple sine waves of different Hertz. Lots of them! In this I find a useful clue about the symmetry of planes and perhaps others will too. Apologies if I botched the physics but the spirit of the above is good and true I think.

    Thirdly, I come begging as a fanboy JMG. Lol. Would you list a folk melody or two that you and/or your wife like that I can use in my musical education and experiments in coming days? If not, np, but give a dog a bone!

    I’m personally hooked on the tune often called Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. That is a potent charm!

    Great topic this week. Take care Ecosophians. Screwtape is tricky and strong on our homeworld.

    Saturn’s Pet

  71. Re the Sheldrake experiment.

    Does that suggest a high school student struggling in maths could sit at an exam, give his classmates a head start and then follow in their astral footsteps for a better result?

  72. onething,

    thanks for the tip about Bernardo Kastrup! I definitely need all the help I can get to break free from the materialist enchantment. I took a quick look at his website and I’ll have to read more when I have a bit more free time later. I figure he’s definitely on to something with the idea that ‘Materialism is Baloney.’ I wonder, though, how he came to that conclusion? Did I notice he has a PhD in Computer Engineering? The brief bits of his work that I read seemed quite intellectual. If you’re a bit more familiar with his work, do you think he also has a more experiential kind of knowledge about that subject, ie. from a first-hand, personal gnosis of the world as something beyond just the material plane? Or is it more a product of his rational, everyday mind?

  73. Onething, now that you have shown everyone Control + F (Find) for names, I am embarrassed that I did not write the same paragraph long ago to help readers of this blog. That’s how I locate stuff on most web pages and I guess I just assumed everyone knew it and was already doing it.

    JMG, thanks for the information on the Lower Astral. What a relief! It all begins to make sense now. One of the reasons I went on psychiatrist-prescribed anti-depressants and anti-psychotics when I was in high school through age 22 is because of my astral projections. I suspected schizophrenia and/or a possible hereditary disease. As an adopted person, I had no connection to my genetic relatives. I went on drugs willingly, hoping they would help, ugh.

    I have been doing the Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram for a few months now and the Sphere of Protection every day since the turn of the year. In short: they improve nearly every aspect of mundane life. Discursive meditation also makes every day seem a bit brighter, or at least easier to deal with. I will report back and let you guys know if I am able to gain access to some better astral neighborhoods.

  74. I have to say that this law and the phenomenon (phenomena?) it relates to is utter obscurity to me. I haven’t chimed in yet, though I am reading every comment, because I don’t know where to start. So please accept the following as the question a child makes when first trying to get their head around the shape of something that the adults all seem to know their way around.

    Firstly, the word “planes” evokes nothing for me, not mentally, not emotionally, not physically – except for floors in a building. And I’m not sure how much use that is.

    You have mentioned the planes can be understood as having/being landscapes, and you have mentioned the following as a possible schema (out of many conceivable)

    “Spiritual plane — the source of all being, incomprehensible to humans.

    Mental plane — the plane of abstract consciousness and timeless patterns of meaning.

    Astral plane — the plane of concrete consciousness, dreams, mental imagery, and emotion.

    Etheric plane — the plane of the life force and the patterns that structure matter.

    Material plane — the plane of matter and energy as understood by modern science.”

    Now taking the first part of the law “everything in existence exists and functions on one of several planes of being or is composed of things from more than one plane acting together as a whole system”, I’d like to consider the whole system that is me. Using the above schema, would it be correct to say that “I” am a whole system that can “travel” in various landscapes simultaneously?

    Say I am sitting on a rock, face to the sun. I am thinking about why my wine hasn’t quite “worked” and I am feeling a certain indefinable something related to the approaching gathering that will take place at my house later. Would it be fair to say that in the material “landscape” my physical body is interacting with the rock, in the etheric “landscape” my etheric body is drinking sunshine and feeling its life force nourished, in the astral “landscape” people I love are already converging somehow “nearby”, in the mental “landscape” I am turning over a knotty problem and interacting with potential solutions, and (though less aware) in the spiritual “landscape” I am being a self-source generator?

    Then, considering that these planes, or “landscapes” are discrete, not continuous” is it fair to say, that, for example, some of the physical entities surrounding me in the physical “landscape” are not even present in the mental “landscape” where I am considering my problem batch (and where, very possibly, the mental forms of the yeast are also)? And vice versa in respect of each “landscape”?

    And finally, “and the passage of influence from one plane to another can take place only under conditions defined by the relationship of the planes involved.” The influence in this case being me, is it possible that I am capable of forging an influence from rock to sun to yeast to family to spiritual purpose? Is it the case that such an influence is not “fated” and may not happen, but is rendered possible because of the “bridge” that my own multi-plane self forms between the landscapes I am simultaneously wandering in?

    Well. Enough for now. My brain is hurting, but I am fascinated. I will now sit quietly and keep listening. Thank you.

  75. Tom, so noted, and no, I haven’t practiced (or previously heard of) Theta healing; there are a lot of modalities of spiritual healing on the market these days, and I haven’t tried to keep up with them all.

    llmaiwi, there are discrete divisions within planes, too — the lower astral, for example, and the upper astral don’t have much to do with one another. So it’s purely a matter of which boundaries a given system wants to emphasize, and that’s normally determined by the practices the system does. As for your fifth Wednesday suggestion, so noted.

    Ottergirl, yes, that’s basically what it was.

    David, since you perceive the astral in your dreams, there’s no difference between “astral experiences” and “holdovers from a dream bleeding through into a wakeful state”.

    Darren, different systems draw different divisions of the same continuum. A sevenfold division simply chops the spectrum into slightly smaller pieces.

    Housewife, so noted.

    Chris, well, you can’t really do anything to the mental plane, since it’s outside of space and time — nothing we do can change it — and we’re all at least potentially in contact with it anyway, so we might as well learn to be competent at it. 😉 It’s because the mental plane is outside space and time, and the astral plane has its own space and time that don’t necessarily mesh with the one we usually experience, that precognition and other bits of temporal fluidity happen from time to time. (So to speak!)

    The storm up here was overrated. We had a day of fairly heavy snow followed by a few days of very low temperatures, but nothing that far out of the ordinary; I’ve been through equivalent winter weather before. So we’re fine. I hope you’re holding out well in the heat!

    David, that’s the only one I recommend. (I wrote it because I was tired of really bad natural magic books!) Avoid books by Scott Cunningham; he simply compiled whatever he found, without doublechecking or doing independent research, and as a result his books are a dog’s breakfast of muddled facts and misinformation.

    Pet, funny you should mention “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star;” the main character in the novel I’m writing used it a few days ago to explain tonality to a friend! Folk melodies — well, do you consider Shaker music to be folk melodies? I’m a huge fan of the Shaker musical tradition, and pieces such as “Simple Gifts,” “I Will Walk With My Children,” and “Tree of Life” are faves of mine.

    Darren, it would take a very large class to have much of an effect, but Sheldrake’s experiments suggest that there would be some effect.

    Kimberly, delighted to hear it. Banishing rituals are as important on the inner planes as regular bathing is on the material plane; neglect either one and things get grimy and start to smell bad… 😉

  76. Scotlyn, exactly. You as a whole system are a composite of all the planes; in occult jargon, you have a material body that interacts with the material plane, an etheric body that interacts with the etheric plane, and so on right up the planes. The planes are connected in you — if you glimpse the solution of your knotty problem on the mental plane, for example, you can formulate the solution in words on the astral plane, and then direct your etheric body to move your physical body to write a note to yourself so you remember the solution later on. Each other thing you experience is similarly connected across planes — the rock you’re sitting on has its own etheric, astral, mental, and spiritual dimensions — but you can’t necessarily experience all of these, and you have to use special methods to use those connections for any particular purpose. Does that help make sense of it?

  77. Thanks a million. At least, in my child’s way, that tells me I’m on the right track, but have much more to learn. I’ll keep listening and paying attention.

  78. Fascinating discussion.

    I find that this system of ‘planes’ accords very well with what I have half-suspected to be the case, and occasionally experienced (not being an occultist).

    It may amuse commenters to learn that Sheldrake’s latest book got a rave review in the house journal of the British aristocracy, ‘Country Life’: clearly, wonders will never cease on this interesting planet of ours!

    And there’s more; a Conservative government minister, Gove, has embraced -apparently sincerely – soil-regeneration. Green wizards in government?

  79. John–

    Re natural magic references

    Much obliged for that. One of the reasons I asked was that there seemed to be a fair amount of stuff out there, but I had insufficient understanding to effectively separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

    If there are any “classical” works from back in the day that might be pertinent to the subject, I’ d be interested knowing that as well — just in case I stumble across an old text somewhere. Or Miskatonic Books publishes an edition 😉

  80. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Thank you for this post, and, as usual, the comments and your replies are most interesting.

    I would like to second GardenHouswife, who commented that, “For the 5th Wednesday post, I vote for something describing the beings that belong to the different planes and what kinds of experiences human beings might have with them.”

    However, I would be more interested in a narrower focus. Having read your excellent book about astral wildlife, MONSTERS, which is now more than a few years old, I would be interested in knowing what you might add to that were you to be writing it today.

  81. Thank you, JMG. No more visualizing of symbols for me, unless the reason to do so is a firm one. I now realize I was basically playing with matches. Pretty stupid, for a middle aged woman.

    On an intellectual level I think I understood symbols are important. That knowledge has now filtered to my gut. Big time. I signed on with BOTA a month ago. Am hopeful this will help curb my ignorant tendencies a bit.

    And, in further hopes of becoming a good deal wiser, I also cast a vote for a post on the planes and their inhabitants.

  82. @Kimberly: “I have been doing the Lesser Rituals of the Pentagram for a few months now and the Sphere of Protection every day since the turn of the year. In short: they improve nearly every aspect of mundane life. Discursive meditation also makes every day seem a bit brighter, or at least easier to deal with.”

    I’ve found likewise, though have not progressed to Sphere yet. (The one exception is that, for whatever reason, the LRP/QC bit seems to interfere with the communion-with-patron-deities I had going on pre-that, so on Wednesdays and Fridays I just skip to discursive meditation on something to do with them in particular.) I’ve found that I’ve become much better at letting both life setbacks and physical discomfort roll off my back (tested by a week when my socks scrunched up inside my galoshes every single day — petty as it is, this always used to drive me batty before, but now I can just shrug and deal with it), and also have had more willpower than I used to re: sticking to my post-holiday diet.

    I *am* tempted to experiment with trying to change elements of my physical form that are less conventionally subject to will, though that’s as much vanity as anything else. 😛

  83. Hi … as always enjoying the discussion. I have a question. How does a concept like money fit into the planes?

    My whole life I have really struggled with this concept. In one of my many attempts to get properly trained, I told my debt/finance counselor that money wasn’t real. And he told me, carefully, like he was talking to a crazy person (sigh), “I know money isn’t real, but we have to pretend like it’s real sometimes to make everybody happy.” Or something like that. And I took it to heart, but I still don’t understand. So maybe it only exists in a few planes and that’s why I just can’t take those numbers seriously? And don’t get me wrong – I love luxury. But the medium of exchange just baffles me. It’s so pretend.

  84. Scotlyn, that attitude is what Zen teachers call “beginner’s mind,” and it’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to learning anything at all.

    Xabier, okay, now that rattled my world good and proper. A conservative who actually thinks about conserving? What’s the world coming to? 😉

    David, the first of Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy, which is readily available in English translation, is the classic source for the philosophy of natural magic — though you’ll have some heavy philosophical wading to do to make sense of it. Any good old-fashioned collection of regional folk magic will include plenty of natural magic as practiced.

    Millicently, did you by any chance check out the tenth anniversary edition of Monsters, which appeared in 2011, and added chapters on chimeras and zombies?

    Ottergirl, delighted to hear it. The BOTA course — like all the old-fashioned correspondence schools — is a mixed bag, but you’re going to end up with an excellent understanding of the Tarot and its symbolism, and of a great many aspects of occultism that relate to it.

    Isabel (if I may), you might want to consider replacing the Qabalistic Cross and Hermetic Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram with their equivalents from my book The Celtic Golden Dawn, which invoke Welsh Druid deities instead of the Judeo-Christian one, and thus tend to get along better with Pagan patron deities. Alternatively, if there’s a specific pantheon you work with, it’s not actually that hard to construct an equivalent version of the Pentagram ritual et al. for that pantheon. I’d be happy to walk you and others through the process, if you like.

    Aron, it’s not really a matter of planes here — money exists on every plane. Its presence on the spiritual plane is its link to the source of existence that keeps it in being; its presence on the mental plane is the concept of abstract value; its presence on the astral plane is the tangled mess of emotions that make people want it and hate it at the same time; its presence on the etheric plane comprises the natural laws that support its material forms; its presence on the material plane includes coins, bills, magnetic charges in computer memory cores, and so on.

    What makes money imaginary is that it’s not wealth. It’s just a set of arbitrary tokens that we agree to use to represent wealth. It has no more inherent value than the chips in a poker game, and like the chips, its only meaning is that you can convert it into something you want. It’s all a complex, abstract social game — but it’s a game you pretty much have to play, and if you break the rules of the game a guy in a uniform will lock you up or shoot you dead. So it’s real and unreal at the same time…

  85. JMG, in your reply to Isabel you wrote, “. . . Alternatively, if there’s a specific pantheon you work with, it’s not actually that hard to construct an equivalent version of the Pentagram ritual et al. for that pantheon. I’d be happy to walk you and others through the process, if you like.”
    If it’s okay, I would be very much interested as well. For the past ten years or so, I’ve worked with what I guess would be called an animistic pantheon. A year or two ago, I began reading The Druid Magic Handbook and tried performing the Sphere of Protection and Elemental Cross. But, it felt very forced and rather out of place, like I was intruding or something.

  86. @Isabel I did a series of (ongoing) discursive meditations about the positive and negative elements of air, fire, water, and earth before I tried the Sphere of Protection. I recollected adages, bon mots, and sayings about the various elements and whether they were positive and negative. For instance, “She’s on fire!” is usually good, meaning she’s showing off a skill. “The depths of depression” alerted me to the vast associations of mood with water, and so on. Wet, squishy socks…that sounds like its own unique form of water torture!

    JMG mentioned the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Razor’s Edge in the other part of the Ecosophia blog. I read that one long ago and it is definitely on the Read It or Die Trying list. In my estimation, the Razor’s Edge is about the pursuit of the physical plane versus the pursuit of the spiritual plane and what kind of person you become as a result.

    The novel is told from the author’s point of view, which makes it a bit odd; don’t let that throw you off. A young American WWI veteran named Larry decides to chuck a lucrative future in the world of Chicago banking to live like a hobo doing occasional menial jobs in Europe. Larry is intent on searching for the meaning of life and “remedying his ignorance” (!!!) with lots of reading, deep thought, and gritty life experiences. His fiancée, Isabel, is the pampered daughter of an investment banker. She loves Larry, but when presented with the choice, she refuses to join him because she can’t handle the mere idea of becoming poor and living hand to mouth while her husband sits around and meditates. Isabel marries Gray, Larry’s best friend, who gives her the lifestyle she has become accustomed to while Larry goes off and wanders. Larry eventually goes to India, hangs out with a guru or two, and generally becomes an insightful, compassionate being. Isabel immerses herself in diamonds and furs and evolves into the epitome of Parisian chic, yet still convinces herself she can wrap Larry, whom she transparently lusts after despite being married with two children, around her finger.

    To those wanting JMG to do a post on astral beings: There’s a documentary on Netflix called The Nightmare about sleep paralysis. I felt it was true to what I experience. One of the most common apparitions that people see during sleep paralysis (the state in which my OOBEs/astral traveling occurs) is the shadow man. I’ve seen him. For me, it started as the voices of malevolent girls in the corner of my bedroom while I was pressed down into my bed. The feeling of being sat upon or held down is common. I would hear a buzzing noise or conversations being whispered. Or a million times, I would be fooled into thinking I was awake. In my most recent one, I thought I was awake, and then I realized I had NOT hung large pictures on my kitchen wall in the physical world, so that is what told me to wake myself up before I attracted the attention of an impersonator.

  87. Stefania,

    Kastrup’s arguments are almost entirely rational. I think he is interested, but as a latecomer, in things more like a personal gnosis. But in a way this is precisely why I find him so appealing. The book I mentioned contains arguments that are very hard to refute but that lead inexorably to us living in a conscious universe. I have long been interested in logical arguments for the existence of God and/or the spiritual realm. Even those with natural faith and intuition would benefit from a solid foundation, not only that they have personally experienced something or personally feel faith, but that the spiritual realm MUST be true. And I have watched Kastrup in video debates and he really is unshakable, and is always able to refute others’ arguments. The reason is that he really, really groks his own stuff. So, yeah, he is degreed in computer science or something, and I don’t know if he has a day job in it, but this is his calling and avocation.

  88. @JMG: Both terrific suggestions, and I’d be glad of the help–thanks!

    My patrons are Hermes and Aphrodite; the magical forms that resonate with me seem oddly split between Hellenic and angels/Kabbalah, with a sideline in runes. (My ancestors are pretty much all either German, English, or Irish, confusing things further, but Mom taught Latin and Greco-Roman mythology for most of my youth, so I suspect I imprinted on that early on. I was definitely the only student in my third grade class who could name most of Zeus’s liasons.)

  89. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Chimeras and zombies, oh my! I will look for the updated edition of MONSTERS, thank you for alerting me to that.

    I hereby recast my vote for a post about the nature of money on the various planes.

  90. I wonder if the descriptions of “compactification” in bosonic string theory, superstring theory, and M-theory are a differing theoretical description of planes? A lot of folks seem to be onto the idea that the four dimensions that we can directly experience aren’t up to fully describing reality. Ten, eleven, twenty-six, who cares about the number, there might well be mathematical descriptions of the planes out there.

    Another way to look at it is the Brane-World.

    Look, there is no way to prove any of this, but using tools developed in other disciplines is sometimes damned effective.

    for your viewing pleasure, take a look at this

  91. Will, when you say an “animistic pantheon,” what are the deities of that pantheon? That’s the first step in the process.

    Isabel, okay, the first step is to choose four deities, preferably two gods and two goddesses, whose names have four letters each. Those are assigned to the four quarters. You also need four other symbols that can be assigned to the four elements/directions — my immediate thought, in a Greek context, would be four classes of spiritual beings who are not gods, e.g., “before me the Dryads, behind me the Naiads, to my right hand the Dactyls, to my left hand the Oreads” — but your mileage may vary, and you could choose a set of heroes and/or heroines, in the strict Greek sense of that word, to fill the places of the archangels.

    Replacing the Cabalistic Cross is a little more complex. In The Celtic Golden Dawn I made use of the Three Rays of Light, the great symbol of the Druid Revival tradition, but that’s no more cross-cultural than the cross. I’m currently working on an equivalent that can be used to invoke one’s patron deity or deities irrespective of their cultural context; I’ll post that once I’ve worked out the last bugs.

    Millicently, so noted!

    Degringolade, I have quite precisely no idea what you’re talking about. High-quality magical incantation!

  92. @ Nancy

    Regarding the impulse to swap the labels of “astral” and “mental”. I had precisely the same impulse when I first encountered these ideas. That suggests a strong cultural influence. They say that language influences thought, and it looks like they’re right. I was taking in foreign ideas and trying to make them fit into familiar thought patterns.

    In those patterns, “mental” meant “real”, or “relatable to the material”, whereas “astral” meant “woo”, or “relatable to the magical”. I don’t recall how long I held on to this swapping of terms, but at some point the meaning of the occult terminology became clear. If you choose to pursue this way of seeing things, I’m sure the terms “astral” and “mental” will take on new meaning in fairly short order.

  93. JMG, aside from well known things like astral projection, spirit contact, clairvoyance and the like, are there any little known phenomena/abilities you would experience when you regularly work with non-material planes?

  94. On memes, it seems to me that memes would be better classified as objects of the astral plane rather than the mental plane? Memes after all are born, change, and die, while by definition mental plane objects are supposed to be eternal. If I understand it correctly, mathematical objects like pi, Euler’s number, magic squares and so on would be considered examples of mental plane objects while for example, memes like the Mandate of Heaven, the Divine Right of Kings and so on would be considered astral plane objects who are dead or at least dormant.

    A few years ago, I had this conception that spirits, at least as far as humans can perceive them, exist through “acts” rather than as forms of matter we can potentially perceive. The idea of them existing on the astral though, is more expansive.

    On a side note re: substitute deities for the LBRP, it struck me quite long ago that the Buddhas in the different directions of esoteric Buddhism (JMG might be familiar with this from exposure to Shingon) would be pretty well-suited substitutes for Buddhist-inclined practitioners, although for me personally it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to do it since I’m already practising Vajrayana Buddhism. I’m curous of the results of anyone attempting to create a Buddhist-themed Golden Dawn system; on a deeper level I am not sure if the philosophical differences (nominalism of Madhyamaka vs Neo-Platonic essentialism) would be concilable.

  95. IIRC, in your Encyclopedia of Natural Magic, you say that part of the reason natural magic works is because the plants, rocks, etc. also exist on more than one plane. Do they exist on all planes or only on some? Do plants, for example, communicate with entities on other planes? Is that why they are said to have a connection to certain planets (planetary spirits?) or zodiac signs?

    I’ve already seen some good results from the limited natural magic I’ve done with ingredients I already have on hand. It’s not earth-shattering, of course, but it has been helpful. I’m curious though about how it works.

  96. Ok, so I have just woken out of a disturbing dream, one which would normally have me spending a whole morning reassuring myself, not very effectively, that it was “only” a dream. This time it went slightly differently. In the dream a young man I care about was attacked and knifed and had to go to hospital. As I was waking enough to realise this was a dream, and I did not have to make plans to go to hospital, but still in a dreamish state, I noticed a knife was still visible, although there were no longer any persons evident. I picked up the knife and thought “better make this safe”. I instantly saw my kitchen drawer, full of knives which safely know themselves to be utensils, and I quickly popped this knife in among them, thinking it will learn to be safe. I then thought “better not leave a gap” and immediately saw myself filling a plate with cookies (I know, right?) and carefully placing them exactly where I had found the knife. All this took no “time” at all. Also, although it felt very much as if it was myself that was putting all this in order, it did not feel as if thinking was part of the process. Willing was. I then gave some actual thought to the person I had dreamed about, and to my worry that something might have happened to him, and I thought “protection”. And I “saw” my own sphere of protection bud off, and float away, looking like a white ball studded, like proteins in a cell membrane, with yellow, red, blue, green, orange and violet symbols, in a direction that “felt” like the direction in which he was. I immediately felt reassured. I don’t know what happened, but it felt “right” as if I had done the necessary. I’d like to point out that all this visualising would normally take a great deal of effort, especially to silence my mental chatter, but perhaps because I was in a “between” sleep and awake state, it all flowed very naturally with no distraction. But it also felt “properly done” and settled. Which is a new feeling for me.

  97. JMG:

    A literary druid lives in Rhode Island and likes Shaker music? That sounds like an all-American interaction of substances and accidents to me! Thanks for those titles. I will perform my musical lot in this life by exploring their strains via the idiom of homespun electronic music.

    “It would not be going too far to think of chance, synchronicity, and the unconscious mind as names for three of the familiar spirits of modern industrial society.”

    Who wrote those words? lol.

    It appears that we’re both COINCIDENTALLY touched by the same shiny tune.

    Shall we form the Cosmopolitan Academy of Tiny Twinkling Stars? CATTS is a pretty good acronym…

    Saturn’s Pet


  98. Degringolade – The “cutting-edge physics” concepts you reference are still just efforts to improve your understanding of the material plane. The concepts themselves occupy a separate plane, just as Newton’s Law of Gravitation is not a material substance, but I think it is probably a mistake to suggest that JMG’s “planes” are unsensed geometric dimensions of physical space.

    I don’t understand either system (magic or cutting-edge physics) well enough to produce practical effects, but I’m pretty sure that they’re not just different “things”, but that they fall into different categories (because they come from different intentions). However, I DO understand electromagnetics well enough to construct and employ effective radio antennas, so the difference between magic and established physics is quite clear to me.

  99. This discussion is fascinating.

    Related to your comment to Isabel about changing the pentagram ritual to suit another pantheon.

    I’ve been meaning to ask for awhile, do you know of any complete system that uses Norse deities and symbolism with this sort of magic?

  100. ” Alternatively, if there’s a specific pantheon you work with, it’s not actually that hard to construct an equivalent version of the Pentagram ritual et al. for that pantheon. I’d be happy to walk you and others through the process, if you like. ”

    How do you do these rituals with the Germanic pantheon?

  101. @ SaturnsPet, on Shakers and magic:

    At least one of the early exposes of the Shakers in North America claimed that Mother Ann Lee had supported herself and her small group of followers in the early days by acting as a cunning woman and fortune teller. I don’t know of any hard evidence either for or against this claim, but it’s not inherently improbable. There has always been a connection between “radical religions” and magic in the English-speaking world (and probably elsewhere, too).

    The first woman-led alternate religion created in British North America was birthed within that social milieu (namely, radical religion and magic), in Cumberland, Rhode Island, by Jemimah Wilkinson. As the usual story goes, Jemimah got typhoid fever and died, or seemed dead. Three days later, as she was on the point of being carried out to her grave for burial, she unexpectedly sat up in her coffin and declared that Jemimah Wilkinson had indeed died, but that her body was now enlivened by a non-human Being calling itself The Universal Public Friend, which was neither male nor female The religious movement that the Universal Friend founded had an extensive body of secret teachings, which only partly survive in the form of a microfilm of one set of papers, lent to a university library by one of the very last of the “Jemimakins” for use of a scholar. When their owner died, his daughter reclaimed the originals and burned them, but she never learned that the library had already made a microfilm.

  102. I should be more specific.

    I was thinking of starting the course in The Celtic Golden Dawn, but the runes and Norse God’s ‘speak to me’ quite a bit more forcefully than Celtic symbolism.

    I’m very interested in learning the sort of magic you’ve written about here and if there isn’t such a system with Norse imagery/God’s, I’ll probably go through the Celtic Golden Dawn and then try to put together something of my own.

    I’m aware of Thorsson’s Rune-Gild and the Nine Doors of Midgard coursework, but have heard negative things about it… I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it or how it differs.

    Anyway, I’d appreciate your insight.

  103. onething,

    interesting! I’m curious about the many different ways people come to the knowledge of the spiritual realm, or God/Mind, or what have you. I’ve had two very different experiences of knowledge – the first one would seem to be with my every day, regular mind, which feels like it was from the outside, looking in. Sort of just knowing ‘about’ a concept from the perspective of the material plane. But the second one comes through meditation, which starts off with regular mind, but with enough concentration, quickly changes to something different. It’s as though my thoughts almost catch fire and I’m in a different awareness, knowing and understanding the concept from the inside. Sometimes I can literally ‘see’ thoughts appearing before me like pages out of a book, and all I have to do is just quickly write them down on paper. I figure this must be a glimpse at the Mental plane, although I’m not really sure.

    Then again, I’ve had other experiences of knowledge which were not based on any kind of rational thinking, so to speak. These have been largely driven by things like dancing! (I realize that may set off some people’s flake radar, but I’m hoping it won’t be too many people.) Dance for me has always been a way of communicating with the spirits. It leads to a different kind of knowledge, which is based more on feeling and intuition. I suppose what we are talking about here as the Astral plane. I think this could be the other type of knowing which you referred to – just knowing that something must be true, without really being able to explain it to anyone. Often it just leads to a wordless feeling of love, which can sometimes be not much to go on in the midst of all the craziness of the world. Yet at the same time, it can be everything.

    I’ll definitely have to check into Kastrup’s work, as I could definitely benefit from being grounded in a more solid foundation in all of this!

  104. Thanks for your helpful explanation and also your suggestions for revisions to rituals that make them more comfortable for pagans – I was excited by the idea of finding 2 gods and 2 goddesses and after some research came up with Gaia,. Aion, Eros and Iris. What do you think?

  105. John Michael:

    Sorry. I got excited when I thought of this, so I blathered a bit. Please forgive.

    I was speaking of the implications of the different “string theories” I am taking the liberty of providing a link leading to the “for dummies” website and the link a reasonably good high level description of implications of the differing flavors of string theory. I won’t make an attempt at the math, because I am certain that I don’t quite get the math.

    I think that your sixth law may well fit in to the theory, but one would have a heck of a time convincing the physicists. Look what happened to Fritjof Capra.

  106. John Michael and Lathechuck:

    I happily take the “High quality mathematical incantation” comment because now I am pondering the idea of what is mathematics other than just that.

    As for the idea that planes are of a different “category” is kinda like debating the prosopon or hypostasis. I don’t diss your comment, but now I am thinking. Which is the whole purpose of this exercise. What is the nature of the planes and how do they interact?

    Gotta stop this, the Eagles are going to play soon and I gotta finish cleaning the place.

  107. JMG, for the fifth wednesday this month, may I suggest a post on egregors? This seems to be a subject with very wide applications, not just for magical practice but also for everyday life (i.e., the groups, organizations, even nations we are inevitably part of), and even for relationships, as I have learned from “Inside a Magical Lodge”. Besides, if one doesn’t read French, there seems to be precious little detailed information available as far as I can tell!

  108. J.L.Mc12, how many phenomena do you experience on the material plane? (Dogs, weather, junk mail, love affairs, etc., etc., etc….) There are roughly as many on each of the other planes.

    Alvin, yep. A meme is an attempt to express a phenomenon of the mental plane in the form of an astral plane phenomenon — an image, some words, an emotional state. So, yes, it lives and dies, while the insight behind it is more enduring — I’ve noted with amusement, for example, that ancient Roman jokes are still very funny. (Somebody recently announced the discovery of an ancient Roman dribble glass — a drinking vessel for wine so rigged that it squirts the wine into your lap. Some things don’t change much…)

    Spirits as acts — well, yes, certain kinds of spirits. As for an esoteric Buddhist Golden Dawn, that would be worth seeing, but somebody who was thoroughly initiated into one of the esoteric Buddhist systems would have to work it out, to avoid potential conflicts.

    Housewife, they exist on all planes. That’s why a stone or an herb can have effects on the astral plane, say — it’s not the material stone or herb but the astral influence it embodies that has that effect.

    Scotlyn, excellent. You may have done similar work in a previous life, you know.

    Pet, by all means! 😉

    Jason and Synthase, as far as I know that doesn’t exist yet. A reader of mine was working on that project for a while, but had to drop it and do something else after a personal crisis. Of all the systems out there, it would probably be the easiest to work out, since there’s so much material, but I lack the background in Norse and Germanic tradition to do it myself. If you want to make a start, come up with a list of names of gods and goddesses that are written with four runic letters each, and we’ll go from there.

    Aron, okay, fair enough. Do you have a personal patron deity, or any other divine power with whom you have a special relationship? That’s the next step.

    Degringolade, no worries; I was simply pointing out that you were way over my head. String theories mostly make me think of a product of my misspent youth called Silly String, anyway… 😉

    DrQwerty, so noted!

  109. JMG
    I was thinking about egregors a few hours ago for no apparent reason just this afternoon, so I guess I should go with DrQwerty’s suggestion for 5th post! Smile
    Phil H

  110. Robert Mathiesen:

    Re: Shakers. There is a terrific biography of Mother Ann Lee, “Ann the Word”, by Richard Francis. Due to the era, her common birth, and her illiteracy, there is not a lot of documentation of her early years, but the author does a great job of pulling together the available information. There’s nothing in there about her being a cunning woman, but that accusation may have come from her detractors and enemies, of which she had many. The first Shakers left England because of persecution, arrived in the Albany, New York area before the Revolutionary War and managed to attract as much distrust and persecution here, in large part because of their unusual interpretation of the Bible. If you are interested in the Shakers, this biography is worth reading and, if you live in the Northeast US (or Kentucky), a visit to one or more of the preserved Shaker villages is well worth the effort.

  111. Stefania – Bernardo Kastrup ventures well beyond his rationalist critique of materialism (brilliant as it is) to explore consciousness, myth and religion in ways that I find highly complementary to JMG’s work. Check out, in particular, the books ‘Dreamed up reality’ and ‘More than allegory.’

    I suppose I could say, in jest, that JMG is the most rational occult thinker I’ve encountered; Kastrup the most occult of the rationalist thinkers these days. (Not that occultism necessarily contradicts rationalism, but I think you can see what I mean.)

  112. Hello again, John Michael; I hope WordPress is being good to you. I like the new site, and in particular the name. There’s no shortage of eco-anoia going around; we can use a healthy dose of ecosophia.

    When I read the book (a while ago now), I skimmed over this law, partly because “plane” brought geometry too strongly to mind (as sgage mentions above). Your post and the contributions from the other folks here have helped considerably. I now see this as a worthy companion to the other laws.

    For the upcoming 5th Wednesday, I second Jacques’ suggestion for “Jung and the occult”. If I remember rightly, you mentioned several times in Galabes that you intended to tackle this topic.

    Re onething’s discovery of the browser “find” feature, and its application to relating questions to answers; I use it, and no doubt others do. However, I believe WordPress supports “threads”, or nesting of comments that answer previous comments. Here’s an example. I suggest looking into it.

    Question: do the occult systems you’re familiar with include a notion of evolution? If so, what’s its role?

  113. @JMG That would be Astarte. She came to me very clearly one time when I called out to her and told me to Stop Brooding. Her whole air was that of a school principal or army major having to deal with some struggling cadet. I’m humbled and grateful for her command and for her taking a mortal moment out of her divine unknowable business to give it.

    It’s a mix of Mediterranean and Greek, I know, but those are the divine beings around whom I was raised. Does that work? I also call the greatest spirit Mama but I couldn’t expect to know anything about that level. Officially, of course, there’s no gender up that way, but it eases my mind to use the female name.

  114. Egregors would be interesting for the fifth Wednesday. There are a number of phenomena in the Michael Teaching that I suspect may be egregors, but since I’ve only recently come across the term, I’m not at all sure.

  115. Extremely frivolous, but …. Marion Zimmer Bradley, who I am fairly sure had some magical training, possibly self-taught (though it assuredly didn’t do her that much good, considering her life and attitudes) kept writing of the astral plane as gray and formless. And chilly. It set me to wondering what sort of mind would see it that way. And if there is part of that plane that really fits that description.

  116. @onething

    Thanks for mentioning Bernardo Kastrup and Metaphysical Speculations. I’ve started reading the material on his website and his books look very inviting too.


    I join DrQwerty in voting for egregors. You mentioning them a few conversations was the first time I saw anyone talking positively about them and since then I feel like learning more about them. I just don’t know where to start.

  117. Hi John,

    What would you suggest for this. Like Isabel I have a mix of influences. The four gods i associate with the most are Athena,Zeus,Freya and Frey. I see The Olympic gods filling the role of the supernals and the Aesir representing something like the ruach and the Vanir the physical and etheric bodies.

    I’ve been following the coarse set out in Learning Ritual Magic, which you cowrote. I’m in the third month of it. My hardest problem in it has been the use of Abrahamic symbolism. Do you think there is a way to integrate what i explained in the paragraph above into that course. Other then that the book has been excellent.


  118. Aside from having picked up Simple Gifts as an earworm from this thread (I prefer the Lord of the Dance lyrics), thank you muchly, I was getting quite tired of The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, I have a possibly relevant question:

    Dreams being on the Astral plane, and dreaming futures running in my family line, how does that work? Not for sure and certain futures, as they can be changed, but futures as will be if everyone carries on as they are, down to precise conversations dreamed then had. Is time a feature only of the material plane? If so, how come these futures can be avoided?

  119. Matthias Gralle,

    Thank you for that.I have long since become sure of the salvation of all, whether in the Christian path or the reincarnational one. So you must have my number!

    Did you know I was raised in the Orthodox Church? My mother converted when I was two, but she herself was raised to be atheist. One day when I was 14, I came up to her as she was cleaning the stove and asked some sort of question about people going to hell, and she looked up and her face was shining and she said, “Did you know that some of the church fathers believed that everyone will be saved, and that the church therefore allows us ‘to legitimately hope’ that all will be saved. And wouldn’t that be a triumph for God!”

  120. Stefania,

    Ah, but the thing about Kastrup is that he CAN explain it, and does it so well. It’s an interesting thought though, since the experience of knowing is certainly more powerful and sure, yet this way he has of getting to it through logic and facts ultimately becomes a strong boost to a kind of faith that can take you very close to an experience of gnosis.

    As for dance, I have been known to say that dancing is the perfect prayer. One can have prayers of supplication and even prayers of praise, but dancing is joy and gratitude for life, which is the primary reason to love the creator. It is more than words, it is an action of gratefulness.

  121. Phil, so noted.

    Dwig, welcome to the new site! Your vote has been tallied. As for evolution, good heavens, yes — I can’t think of a significant occult writer since Blavatsky’s time who hasn’t made some form of evolution a central theme in their cosmology, and the particular system I tend to go to first — the Druid Revival teachings of Iolo Morganwg — were talking in detail about biological evolution before Darwin published The Origin of Species. Its role varies from system to system, but in most occult teachings these days, it’s the way that pretty much everything comes into being. It’s also the subject of the seventh law, which we’ll be talking about next month…

    Aron, fair enough. One more question: do you work with the four elements? Or are you at least comfortable enough with them to invoke them in a ritual?

    John, so noted.

    Patricia, that’s way down in the lower astral. If that’s what somebody experiences when they make contact with the astral, they really, really need to clean up their act.

    Ganesh, so noted.

    Darren, it’s very common in many forms of modern Paganism for people to develop personal relationships with individual deities. It’s equivalent to the traditional Christian concept of having a patron saint, or to the modern evangelical Christian concept of seeking a personal relationship with Christ. Your patron god or goddess is the one to whom you pray most often, with whom you cultivate a close relationship, from whom you receive guidance and blessings most often.

    Tmac, that’s not something I’d want to try to work with — it would be like trying to write a sentence in two different languages at the same time. You’d probably need to settle on one pantheon for your magical work.

    BoysMom, that’s a classic example of how time works on the astral plane, which is the plane of dreams. The astral plane has its own time, which is nonlinear and nondirectional, and it relates to the linear, directional time of the material and etheric planes in complex ways. So an event in the future on the material plane can be reflected into the astral, and perceived in a dream, and that process can send events on the material plane going a different direction, so the future that was reflected never happens! I know, it’s complicated, but it does seem to work that way.

  122. JMG-
    I seem to recall you commenting somewhere that a lot of what we experience (or misidentify?) as our own emotions are actually our experiences of other entities on the astral plane. You also mentioned at one time considering a series of posts on dealing with emotions. I’d like to suggest this as a Fifth Wednesday topic.

    I wonder about the role of emotion in our current society, as we see examples every day of problems in the public sphere that seem to be related to people handling emotions very badly (screaming, spit-flecked, contemptuous political diatribes; mass shootings, etc.) Are some of these related to unacknowledged but powerful emotions (grief, fear, shame) about the inevitable approaching end of our Western industrial way of life, and the suffering already underway? Or are there “things” moving around in the astral plane that are badly affecting many minds these days? Or are those different statements of the same question?

    Sources and nature of emotional experiences, emotional “hygiene” and self-defense, positive ways to make use of emotions- I’d be very interested to hear your take on these topics.

    –Heather in CA

  123. @jmg I’m comfortable enough with basic elemental work – I’ve spent time studying them through my tarot studies but I still have as my “homework” some discursive meditation on each one.

  124. An interesting suggestion I will have to take that on advisement. I have no idea what kind of “work” was involved, in any lifetime.

  125. Hmmm, I just woke up from sleeping for 16 hours in which I was dreaming almost the entire time. This has me thinking on astral experiences. In my life I’ve experienced about four types of dream, which I think might correlate to the planes:

    1) This a very specific type of low-resolution nightmare. There is vague action and a usually very evil feeling. The visual impression is misty or smokey, and the sound quality is “muttery”. Overall, things are messy and chaotic and obscure. Bad things happen senselessly and quickly. I would correlate this sort of dream with the lower astral. Interestingly, after I read a demanding book quickly, often there is a dream “recap” which is murky and low resolution, which I correlate with this plane. Perhaps that is another good thing that can be said about reading; it helps cleanse the lower astral, or at least make it more interesting than it’s usual fare of jump scares and ghouls!

    2) The most common type of dream; it is like waking, but quirkier. The visuals here are relatively clear, and the sounds are clear as well. There is a sense of interaction. There have been many times where I’ve confirmed that people I’ve dreamt of at this level were thinking of me intensely, or even were in the same dream with me! This level seems to be something of a meeting ground of self and selves. Often I learn about myself or other people vis-a-vis our relationships. When I make the time in my waking life to explore my imagination, it usually lands me in this sort of place, with somewhat mundane and somewhat fantastic beings and highly emotional logic. Sometimes there are ‘nightmares’ on this level but even when there are weird horrific things I feel safe for the most part, only rarely are the dreams upsetting. I would correlate this sort of dream with the mid Astral.

    3) This is rather uncommon level, where there are no sounds as such and no human figures, but rather many spheres in abstract arrangements, or investigations of the branchings of the the Tree of Causality or other high levels of abstraction. After these dreams I always feel distinctly that my soul is experiencing something more than my human consciousness can apprehend. It is as if my human consciousness got to sit in on one of the lessons my soul has on the astral plane. I would correlate these dreams with the upper Astral or perhaps even lower Mental planes since the visual imagery seemed to be somewhat of a post hoc addition. I had these dreams whilst in the middle of an intense fate/destiny experience during which I was intensively practicing a New Age teaching.

    4) This has happened just once in my life; a dream where the voice of a God come through. The one dream I had like this felt as if I were looking into a dark abyss and the abyss was also a mirror and then came the Voice of God like a trumpet and what was said utterly transformed my life when I was about 12 years old. This dream was awe-inspiring and frightening, and I believe correlates to the Mental plane.

    In terms of the 5th Wednesday vote; I would love to read what you have to say about the Astral plane, and in particular the lower Astral, since you mentioned on the first Magic Monday that the gutter is overflowing its banks and likely to discharge into this Plane.

  126. @Patricia on Marion Zimmer Bradley.

    At one time Bradley played a huge, huge role in the occult scene of the East Bay (that’s the inland side of the San Francisco Bay), especially in Berkeley. Together with Diana L. Paxson and Elizabeth Waters, she even incorporated a Center for the Study of Non-Traditional Religions to support Berkeley occult studies, and provided space for its meetings and rituals in a garage attached to her home, Greyhaven. She was almost entirely self-taught as an occultist, that is, she relied on books and correspondence courses instead of personal instruction from some specific teacher. She had started exploring occultism as a fairly young child, working her way through all twelve volumes (!) of Frazer’s _The Golden Bough_. She also discovered Ignatius Donnelly’s _Atlantis_ at that time. She came from a violent and sexually abusive rural family in upstate New York, so she took refuge in public libraries, starting at quite a young age, and quite sensibly she cut tons of school to do so. It’s not uncommon for abused children and ‘teens to gravitate to occultism as a means of survival. (Some of my own ancestors did just that.) Her history of abuse is, I think, reflected in the hungry formless grey horror — I picked up on it, too, Patricia — that underlies almost all of Bradley’s writing, though it is well masked by the fascinating stories that she knows how to tell. That grey horror is particularly visible, I think, in her “Satanic Witchcraft” series (_The Inheritor_, _Dark Satanic_, and _Witch Hill_) and in her four-volume “LIght” series (_Ghostlight_, _Witchlight_, _Gravelight_ and _Heartlight_, largely ghostwritten for her by Rosemary Edghill), but once you notice it there, you can spot it in her science fiction as well, and even in her _Mists of Avalon_.

  127. Dwig et al,

    I follow another delightful block (Dr. Malcolm Kendrick) which uses the nesting reply feature and I find it has some serious drawbacks. For one thing you can’t always reply as it only nests two or so iterations and then the reply feature disappears. But more importantly, it becomes impossible to know if you have read everything without constantly going more or less back to the beginning. It is nonlinear! The CTRL F does help with this but it still seems scattered.

  128. Thank you for your replay. Can you offer some advice on how to chose one pantheon? They both appeal to me in different ways. The Norse pantheon speaks to the primordial aspects of life, like the cycle of seasons and the struggle to survive in an often harsh world. Where the Olympic gods speak to the more rational and sublime aspects of life.

    This isn’t the only thing I’ve had trouble to find focus. My life has been full of sudden passions that often don’t mix well together. I have been finding much more focus in the last few years. My problem is the world is just so interesting and I want to know about all of its mysteries. This has lead to a really scattered base of knowledge.I think your right though, I’ll take your advice and focus on one pantheon over the other.


  129. JMG, Isabel, and Aron,

    I’m a Hellenic Polytheist currently working through the Dolmen Arch course, but with plans to do the Celtic Golden Dawn system at some point, so if there’s any development of a Hellenic Golden Dawn I’d like to help.

    As far as the gods with four letters, there are a lot of options, so what factors would go into choosing which to use? Personally, I’d pair Zeus and Gaia. Hera is the natural consort to Zeus–her name is four letters in English but only three in Greek–but I seem to remember Zeus and Gaia being mentioned together in a hymn as a “sky and land” concept. Demeter is also a goddess of the Earth and she’s a consort to Zeus, so there are reasons one might prefer that to mother-son relationship of Gaia and Zeus, and one of Demeter’s main cult titles is the four letter Sito (Σιτώ), so she would also be an option.

    Eros and Iris could work for the other two, but there are lots of options. Since Greek gods generally have a lot of cult titles, it actually wouldn’t be too hard to find historical four letter names for most of the gods, actually.

    Since Hermes is one of my patrons, and prominent in Hellenic magic generally, I’d want to include him, and technically the vocative form of his name has four letters in Greek (Ἑρμῆ), but most names lose a letter in the vocative form, so we’d end up playing fast and loose with grammar if we mixed nominative and vocative forms.

    There are so many options for four letter names in the Hellenic pantheon, that it might be better to start by thinking about what aspects need to balanced and go from there.

    ~Yucca glauca

  130. Patricia, Marion Zimmer Bradley was a very, very nasty person. She was abusive to her children. She insisted that her daughter, Moira, was a lesbian, and sexually abused her throughout her childhood, apparently in an attempt to make certain that she would be a lesbian. (She failed. Moira is still straight.) She was also aware that her husband, Walter Breen, sexually abused God only knows how many boys and girls, including raping Moira when she was only four years old. She did nothing to stop him. That’s not surprising, I guess, since she also was a child sexual abuser.

    Moira has written a book, The Last Closet, about it. I’ll be honest, I’ve read excerpts, but I can’t stomach the whole thing. I’ve got three children, and the thought of any child having the childhood that Moira did is horrifying.

    Anyway, I can well believe that MZB had experiences in a very bad astral neighborhood. Instead of indulging in astral tourism, she should have tried to use her occult knowledge to find and heal whatever was wrong inside herself so that she could have been a halfway decent mother. If she had, maybe her daughter wouldn’t have PTSD so severe she has seizures from it.

  131. Ah, yes, I’d like to second Heather in California’s suggestion for a post on dealing with emotions.

  132. JMG, one of my kids has been refusing to sleep with his light off, even with a nightlight on. When I questioned him about it, he told me that, when he was at a sleepover at my mom’s house, he saw a really scary creature with its insides coming out. No wonder he’s been having nightmares! He insisted that it was only his imagination, but I wonder. Does that sound like something from the astral plane that he saw as he was falling asleep or waking up?

    Last night, I put together two protection and banishing potpourris, I guess you could call them, one for each end of the house. We have a small house, so I thought that would cover everyone in the house. I used a round bowl to hold it, and arranged garlic clove halves in a circle around the onion half, because a circle seemed like completion and wholeness to me. I sprinkled dried rosemary and basil on top, because dried is what I had on hand. Then I arranged three sprigs of fresh dill in a circle around everything. The number three also makes me think of completion and wholeness. The waning moon, I’m sure, will help as well. I also had my husband carry a censer burning frankincense through every room of the house the past two nights. Hopefully, this will help!

    Also, thanks for the answer to my last question.

  133. I somewhat get uncomfortable whenever the subject of Astral travel comes up. In my dreams, I could recognize certain characters I had seen through my waking hours whether they are fictional or not. Characters ranging from strangers I met to TV shows. I wake up questioning myself whether that experience was real. Sometimes its the setting of the dream that just baffles me. What do you think of all this Mr. Greer?

  134. Hello JMG and all,

    This Sixth Law of the Planes has been difficult and fruitful to meditate on.

    I have in the past had a lot of trouble with what I can now identify as cloudy, turbulent emotion obscuring and hampering my attempts at gaining greater personal clarity on the astral and elsewhere. Woven in with that was an unhelpful counter-tendency to swing over to reliance on established pattern and structures to gain some stability (think endless playing of scales and exercises instead of playing an actual song, getting caught up in the blueprint of a thing an never proceeding on to building that thing).

    I got jerked around for a long while by these two without even knowing it until that blessed (and still fairly recent) time when I realized there were layers to my perceptions and being – planes! – and then BOOM! Improvement came quickly. Once I saw them, could think them, and feel them, they were very very real. And being very very real, I could express myself more clearly through them. But It took so so SO long to even conceive of it as more than a big energized mess.

    It’s a strange and wonderful sensation to have entire parts of the world suddenly come into existence in a way that is more than just reading about it and trying to guess and/or imagine what could be meant by “planes” (and other assorted occult terminology- I think this is what keeps me hooked all these years 🙂 )

    I’d like to “third” the request for some commentary on egregors. Having had some entanglement with such, I’m interested in your take on them.

    Thank you for all that you do!

  135. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s daughter, Moira Greyland, has written a book about her parents: The Last Closet. It’s out as an ebook now, will be in paper in Feb. Not a memoir, Moira has independent documentation of everything she possibly can in the references. I’ve managed a little less than half the book.

    The answer to your question, Patricia, is the mind of a person who was first a victim, then chose to prey on others.

  136. Heather, excellent. I’ll certainly consider that. In fact, it sounds as though a fifth Wednesday post on the astral plane, including some discussion of its inhabitants, its role in human emotions, and astral phenomena such as egregors, would pretty much fill the bill for everybody (well, except the people who want to hear about Jung, and I’m going to have to reread a couple of bios of his before I do that.)

    Aron, then we’re good. Here’s your ritual.

    1. Stand facing east. Imagine yourself expanding to immense size, until your feet rest upon the entire earth, the sun is at your heart, and your head is crowned with stars. Raise your hands from your sides in an arc until your palms join above your head, fingers pointing up. Draw your joined hands down to your forehead, visualizing light descending from infinite space to a point above your head, and say, “In the name of…”

    Draw your joined hands down to your heart, visualize a ray of light descending from above your head to the center of the earth, and vibrate the name ASTARTE. (Vibration? That’s the mode of chanting that produces a buzzing or tingling sensation in your body.)

    Now separate your hands, and touch your right shoulder with the fingertips of your left hand and your left shoulder with the fingertips of your right hand, the hands crossing at the wrist. Say:”…my patron goddess…”

    Now raise the elbows straight up and bring your hands up, out, and down in a circular motion, bringing them back together palm to palm in front of your lower abdomen or groin (depending on your body’s proportions). Visualize your fingertips tracing a circle of light. As you do this say: “..I place myself within the circle of Her presence…”

    Now bring the joined hands up to your heart again, fingertips pointing upwards. Visualize the shaft of light descending from infinite space to the center of the earth, the circle of light you drew with your hands, and your heart shining like a sun. Say: “…and protection.”

    This is called the Circle of Presence, and it can be used by any person who has a relationship with a patron deity, irrespective of tradition. It can also be used by those who don’t have such a relationship, by using the name of the high god or goddess who rules the pantheon of the tradition you follow.

    2. Go to the eastern quarter of the space, and trace a pentagram with the first two fingers of your right hand, beginning with the top point, and tracing counterclockwise to banish. (This is for the banishing ritual; you’d trace clockwise to summon.) Visualize the pentagram drawn in a line of light. Point to the center of the pentagram and vibrate the name AION.

    Trace a circle around to the south, draw the pentagram in the same way, point to the center, and vibrate the name IRIS.

    Repeat to the west, trace the pentagram, and vibrate the name EROS.

    Repeat to the north, trace the pentagram, and vibrate the name GAIA.

    Trace the line back around to the east and return to the center.

    3. Say: “Before me the powers of Air; behind me the powers of Water; to my right hand the powers of Fire; to my left hand, the powers of Earth. For about me stand the pentagrams, and upon me shines the blessing of ASTARTE.” Visualize the elements in the four directions when you say these words.

    4. Repeat the Circle of Presence. This completes the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram.

    Everyone else, you can do this just as well by swapping in the name of your patron deity, or the high god or goddess of the tradition you follow, in place of Astarte in the example, and using four four-letter names, two gods and two goddesses, in place of the names Aron uses. I’ve spent the last few days field-testing this with a variety of deities and traditions and it seems to work very well. Give it a try and let me know what results you get!

  137. @Patricia, BoysMom
    Re: The Last Closet

    I heard about it on Under the Ancient Oaks, who referred to the coverage at The Wild Hunt. I have no intention of reading it – there is enough nastiness in the world without taking it into your own head where it has to be detoxified. I find John Beckett’s advice on the mark: never let yourself be sucked into a cult of personality. A number of people I wouldn’t expect got sucked into that particular morass.

  138. Scotlyn, either a lot of meditation or a lot of magical practice and training, or both.

    Violet, that fits my experience fairly well, though it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve slept sixteen hours at a stretch! A long time ago I used to have nightmares very, very far down the astral — their distinctive quality was that everything was pitch black and menacing, and I was being attacked by a being who was invulnerable to any attempts I made to punch or kick it. I finally figured out how to fight it, and after a really gruesome dream where I dealt it repeated, serious, biologically realistic massive head trauma, the dreams stopped and have never come back. Other than that, your taxonomy seems pretty much in keeping with my dreams as well.

    Tmac, pray to them and ask them for their advice. You don’t have to give up your worship of them, you just have to settle which one you’re going to invoke while doing magic.

    Yucca, the usual approach is to use an old strong god and a young clever god, a bright goddess and a dark goddess. You put the gods facing each other and the goddesses facing each other — thus, for example, gods in east and west and goddesses in north and south, or vice versa. They don’t have to be paired in mythology, so Zeus would be fine for one god, and Hera and Gaia would both be suitable for goddesses — you could put Zeus in the east, Hera in the south, Gaia in the north, and a suitable god in the west. Don’t worry about grammatical case — you’re vibrating the names by themselves, not speaking invocations.

    Lydia, so noted.

    Housewife, very possibly yes. Good to hear that you’re putting natural magic to work!

    Johanna, remember that large parts of the astral are cluttered with the products of human (and nonhuman) imagination. When a few million people watch a TV show, the images and emotions from that show hover on the astral for a while. You also project imagery into your sphere of sensation — that’s the outer layer of your astral body, the layer with which you interact with the astral world — so what you see over the course of the day routinely gets muddled up with what’s going on in the astral outside you. It takes a lot of practice and regular banishings to get any sort of clarity in astral vision!

    Bonnie, delighted to hear it! The metaphor of planes really does help make sense of things. As for a post on egregors, so noted.

  139. On the astral and its various levels…

    A few years ago I was doing regular practice in a particular tradition of Chinese magic, and I started having very disturbing nightmares in which I was being attacked by spirits. The overall feel of the nightmares was strange and nauseating. One day, after a very intensive practice, I was walking around town and felt like everyone I encountered had either evil beings or very violent thoughts hovering about them. At the time, I took this very straightforwardly, as if I were seeing what was really there (and all of what was really there).

    Today I was walking around the same town after practicing the pentagram ritual as given in the Celtic Golden Dawn. Thinking of the discussion about gods and their bodies here a few months ago, it occurred to me that the warmth of the air was literally the physical presence of the goddess Sul, as goddess of the “threefold fire.” The air, the clouds, the ground I walked upon, and the sun overhead were also the bodies of the various deities. And as I thought this, it wasn’t an intellectual knowing, but a very profound experience of their presence. And I wasn’t in a wilderness either, but in an outdoor shopping mall in the middle of the city. The world seemed, briefly, to glow with divine presence.

    If I understand this right, the first set of experiences were of the lower astral, the latter of a higher layer of the astral. Which also tells me something about the practices in question.

  140. @ Robert and Bryan, re. giardia– Thank you for an interesting discussion of an odd topic! It actually hadn’t occurred to me that there might have been an increase in the number of actual intestinal parasites in North American waters in the last 50-odd years.

    Robert– “There’s a very old thread in the history of alternate religions in the US which claims that the material plane has no real existence at all. According to this view, matter and energy, time and space are nothing more than a mass toxic illusion created by dying fragments spun off from an immaterial and immortal Mind…” For what it’s worth, my view is that if matter is an illusion it’s a stubbornly persistent one… but I often wonder if the form that illusion takes doesn’t change from time to time. I remember hearing in college– I think it was an archaeology class– about mastodon skeletons discovered buried in coffins on an island in Greece. The professor claimed the local people had reasoned that the bones were those of heroes, since heroes were three times as tall as ordinary men, and thus given elaborate funeral rites. Now, of course, we know (“we” “know”) that they’re really the remains of extinct elephants. I wonder what people 2,000 years from now will know about the same skeletons.

    I doubt I’ve spent nearly as much time reading old manuscripts as you or our host, but it is at least a side hobby of mine. It always strikes me how matter-of-factly people of the past speak about things that strike us as fantastic. Lately I’ve been reading through St. Hildegard of Bingen’s book of medicine. The section on reptiles includes dragons and basilisks alongside lizards and toads, and treats them in just the same way– as a source of medicine for various common ailments. “A person who has a stone in him should take some dragon blood and put it in a damp place so that it gets a bit moist. He should then place the blood in pure water for a short time, until the water takes some heat in it. Having removed the blood, he should drink a moderate amount of that water on an empty stomach. He should then eat some food. He should do this with the blood and water for nine days, and the stone in him will be broken up by the strength of the blood, and he will be liberated.” From a modern perspective this all reads like nonsense, but it isn’t nonsense because of the dragon, because she has similar things to say about goats, cats, pigs and other common creatures, but because of the prescription. But even that might or might not be nonsense. I don’t actually happen to know whether dragon’s blood can help with gall stones, or (as she also claims) hare’s bile can cure leprosy. I do know a bit about herbal medicine, and there she gets some things right (fennel as a digestive aid) and some things wrong (oak trees as medicinally useless). Of course it might be that she is also sometimes right, sometimes wrong about whether her subjects actually exist. Still, I sometimes wonder if people like St. Hildegard (or Agrippa or countless others) didn’t write about these things because they were part of the world of their experiences, and we don’t write about them because they aren’t a part of ours.

  141. JMG, if the Astral world is cluttered with the fragments of human imagination, wouldn’t be useful to visit and observe it during times of great social and political turmoil, such as before and during a revolution? It might be a window for what’s really going on inside people’s hearts.

  142. @JMG: Thank you! That sounds great, and I’ll be trying it tonight. (Likely with Gaia — Hera and I either remain orthogonal to each other or do not get on well, for reasons likely obvious to anyone who knows me. :P) I also really like the crown-of-stars variant, as for some reason getting the sphere above my head to remain consistent in size has been the hardest part of the QC for me, but a crown seems like it has more of a referent. Plus, I like stars.

  143. “Scotlyn, either a lot of meditation or a lot of magical practice and training, or both.” Well, it would be encouraging to think I had already done some of this in a previous life, being as in the present life, I find it a perennial challenge to maintain a meditation practice, and as to magical practice, other than the SOP, I have not considered attempting it. I will accept this as the encouragement it is, and continue to fail gracefully as best I can.

    “a fifth Wednesday post on the astral plane, including some discussion of its inhabitants, its role in human emotions, and astral phenomena such as egregors, would pretty much fill the bill for everybody”… Yes, please.

  144. 1) Is the Mental plane ‘located’ above the Divided Line where Plato’s eidetic forms hang out, being chairish or squarish as their respective Forms constrain them to be? 2) Where might the ‘felt sense’ of Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing technique reside among the planes? Astral? 3) An mnemonic ordered acronym for these planes might be (M)aterial, (E)theric, (A)stral, (M)ental, and (S)piritual, or MEAMS. Is it pure accident that MEAMS is a homophone of memes? (joke) 4) Are ghosts etheric or astral or both or neither? If etheric plain and simple, how come some people can see them and others cannot?

  145. JMG,

    I am in my early 60’s and throughout my life I have had a variety of odd relationships (intimate relationships). Three in particular in which I would enter into relationship on what I am going to call the physical surface level of life. The actual relationship in form on the physical surface level of life would last relatively shortly, anywhere from six months to perhaps a couple of years (intermintently). But upon entering these relationship there began what I am going to call a deeper, subtler relationship with the individual involved. Literally, like I was meeting them on a deeper plane of existence. The clarity of this connection would increase with each new relationship, until with the third relationship it was clear and obvious what was occurring. I would (we would) meet and commune (the flavor of connection on these deeper levels of existence is innocently much more intimate) on a another level of existence (other than the surface physical, psychological, emotional level of life). Although the surface form relationship would last for a relatively short period, the deep internal relationship would last for 10 – 13 years for each relationship.

    Eventually the sense of immediate connection and relationship would fade but only after years of painful internal process. It often seemed that I was working out a certain form of binding (karma) to them. The pain often emerged from the innocent dynamic of my experience of deep connection with the other person (literally that I (we were) was still in intimate relationship with them and therefore innocently moved towards them)) and there not having the same experience themselves.

    A deep incongruency in the experience of the relationship, which was always seen and honored.
    I was generally stable enough that I did not act out from this deeper level of connection, often just holding the experience close and continually examining it for legitimacy.

    Throughout the years I have done my own work on my early childhood (egoic) wounding, gathering a clear understanding of functional versus non-functional dynamics of relationship. Certainly, I have inquired deeply into my own sanity (from the perspective of conventional consensus reality), doing an ongoing ‘reality check’.

    I certainly have learned a lot about these deeper plans of existence through this process and adventure.

    Curious if you have any feedback, thoughts.

    Thank you as always,

  146. Dear JMG,

    I wonder if you could help interpret two dreams:

    – I stand in a room full of mirrors to infinity. My self 20 years older appears, and I gather it is my “evil” self. Naively I think that I can simply overmuscle and destroy it, immediately the dream explodes into nightmarish chaos of the worst form, I wake up in panic. Something makes “bang!” in my sleeping room but I cannot find out what it is, and it probably was also one of those times where my computer started itself on its own after a bad dream.

    – I see the universe, cold, wide and dreary. Planets separate themselves into other planets into infinity. I feel I am caught up in the endless void, condemned to eternal loneliness and, well infinity.

  147. John–

    This might be more appropriate for Magic Monday but: Can one have a deeper relationship with more than one deity? Can/do patronages change over time? If one feels a tug towards a second, how does does that impact the relationship with the first?

  148. JMG,

    Thank you for your reply! I’ll also chime in to support the fifth Wednesday post on the astral plane.

    Regarding the ritual you wrote in your reply to Aron, I’m curious to give it a try, but as a current DA student, should I just stick to putting names into the SoP, or would it be appropriate to use this occasionally for a more direct attunement to a particular deity?

    ~Yucca glauca

  149. I guess this is not off-topic, since we are discussing planes.

    Is there any problem with The Great Work video documentary?

  150. JMG wrote in reply to “David Creelman:
    “I don’t have the least idea. I followed the less technical parts of A New Kind of Science with great interest, but I don’t claim to understand the technical end of computational theory at all. Perhaps you can help me out here.”

    I was intrigued (thanks David) so I went to Stephen Wolfram’s blog and read an accessible and rather wonderful presentation that Wolfram gave last October to a conference in Scotland on the life and work of D’Arcy Thompson; 1858-1948. Quote: “D’Arcy Thompson was in many ways a quintessential British Victorian academic, steeped in the classics, and writing books with titles like A Glossary of Greek Fishes (i.e. how were fish described in classical Greek texts). But he was also a diligent natural scientist, and he became a serious enthusiast of mathematics and physics.“

    On a personal note D’Arcy Thompson’s background in Natural History was much appreciated and the biographical notes moving.

    I found the story inspirational. Given that much of our knowledge will likely be lost in the next century or so, it is of interest that Aristotle for one stretched across millennia, and combined with observational studies to form a new enthusiasm and find a new legacy. Wolfram gives a good account. Quote: “And in a sense what I [Wolfram] found strongly supports a core idea of D’Arcy’s: that the forms of organisms are not so much determined by evolution, as by what it’s possible for processes to produce.” That will have to be sufficient for me just now.

    Phil H

  151. Visualization, another example of planes IMHO. A story circulated earlier about a prisoner who visualized playing golf while in his prison cell. When he regained freedom, he hit a perfect, well, you can guess. Visualization has been recommended more recently by several branches of the popular press.

  152. January1,

    thanks for the further endorsement of Bernardo Kastrup – he’s definitely on the reading list. I didn’t think it was humanly possible for there to be another thinker on a par with JMG 🙂


    that makes a lot of sense. I suppose rational thought is a gateway of sorts to the Spiritual plane, where words must ultimately fail us. And your description of dancing is amazing – that’s how I feel about it too.

  153. Steve, yep. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” as a very wise initiate once said…

    Bruno, indeed it is. Pay attention to dreams during times of social crisis, too, and you may just see what’s taking shape in the collective imagination; that’s what inspired Jung to write his 1936 essay “Wotan,” in which he grasped a great deal of what was coming down the planes in Germany just then.

    James, heck if I know. It just works better that way.

    Isabel, by all means adjust the divine names as needed!

    Scotlyn, regular performance of the SoP will take you very, very far.

    Gkb, 1) no, the mental plane is precisely where the Ideas are found; 2) I’m not familiar with the technique in question so can’t say; 3) hah, 4) depends on the ghost. My book Monsters goes into some detail on the subject.

    Bsfritz, nope. It sounds like you already have a clear sense of what it means to you.

    Patricia, that’d be Gaea or Rhea.

    Labor Case, nope. I don’t have the gift of dream interpretation.

    David, yes, yes, and it depends. Talk to both deities for advice on dealing with it.

    Yucca, one system of magic at a time! While you’re working with the Dolmen Arch system, please do work with the system exactly as given; as noted earlier, you run the risk of making a batch of cookies in which you’ve put a cup of salt instead of a cup of sugar…

    Packshaud, ironic you should ask that, as there are some extensive interviews with me in two of the disks. It didn’t do much for me, but I know people who think very highly of it.

    Phil, Wolfram’s studying D’Arcy Thompson? Good gods. I’ll have to start following him more closely. That’s of great interest, since DT’s Of Growth and Form has quite a bit of reference to some of my own work.

    Jenxyz, several martial arts teachers I studied under back in the day recommended intensive visualization of techniques as a very good way to help learn them, so this doesn’t surprise me at all. Yes, it’s a way of working with the planes.

  154. @philharris – Thanks for the pointer to Wolfram on D’Arcy Thompson. Very interesting fellow.
    Found an interesting quote on one of his typed reference card. Relates to recent discussions here.
    “Socialism is at its best and must be perfect in Termites, etc.” 🙂

  155. Does a natural object like a stone exist on more than one plane? Or does every material object at least have an etheric presence, too? If there are things that exist only on the material plane, do they have any value in natural magic? Could such things still be said to have an inner life within just the material plane?

  156. Re: Bernardo Kastrup .. here is one of his appearances on YT. At the end, starting at 45.6 is what I enjoyed most. Interviewer and interviewee had seemed to dance between the ‘rational’ (Bernardo’s earlier books) and his latest book “Beyond Allegory”, based on his ‘experience beyond words’ …and then agreed that they were both reaching a new ‘revelation’ 🙂

    Re: ”’visualization’, this book opened the amazing role that of suggestion, belief and expectations play in enabling our ‘brain’ (mind? astral plane?) to accomplish almost ‘magical’ things. ‘Suggestible You’ by Erik Vance… easy read 🙂

  157. JMG, sorry this is a late post in the game, but I hope you have time for a quick response. Aside from the magical terminology your presentation of the planes and their influence on us is remarkably compatible with Aristotle. For example, you wrote above:

    “According to most occult teachings, no, there’s nothing below matter — solid matter is the final gasp of the creative process that descends from spirit, the last, weakest, and most inert expression of the original creative Logos.”

    This is very much in keeping with Aristotle’s arrangement of physics and metaphysics. (Quick plug for McPhee’s Binding Curve of Energy, the most inert element would seem to be iron, great book!) You also wrote:

    “The planes are connected in you — if you glimpse the solution of your knotty problem on the mental plane, for example, you can formulate the solution in words on the astral plane, and then direct your etheric body to move your physical body to write a note to yourself so you remember the solution later on.”

    This is nearly identical with the core ethical and psychological teaching of the Nicomachean Ethics.

    I’m not surprised you keep such esteemed company, just curious what you make of those similarities.

  158. This is a bit late, but… as far as Sheldrake’s experiment goes… Freshman algebra [many lifetimes ago…] I witnessed and experienced a strange effect, in that whenever I had a question about a problem and would go up to ask the teacher…I had the answer as soon as I was within 5 feet of him. He didn’t need to say anything. I wouldn’t have thought about it but I saw it happen to other students time and again. The teacher even commented on it-‘I just radiate mathematical wisdom…’. Now if I could have moved my desk by his during exams…I invariably lost the answer as soon as I returned to my seat…

  159. I admit I’m just trying to keep up this week. While there is still plenty to learn about the other 6 laws, this one catches me the most ill-prepared. Thanks for all the brilliant discussion though. This really is an amazing place.

    My vote for 5th Wed will find itself far outnumbered at this point, but I am eager for a discussion of the pros and cons of collapsing in a metropolitan area vs. the suburbs vs. small towns vs. rural areas. Particularly where it applies to you, Loremaster, since you seem to have chosen an urban area. Am I right to pull some hints for this decision from the last chapter of “The Retro Future”? Libraries, and sidewalks, and the other trappings of civilization? Regardless of the positive feedback mechanisms of designed spaces? Was Cumberland too barbaric?

    I live in a place like that myself. And on top of that we collapsed 15 minutes by car from our small town, and hard, as close to ground as I’ve ever heard of for an American. Lived in a big wall tent for 2 years, no electricity at all for 4, and still no indoor plumbing after nearly 6. (Your comment about regular bathing being important hit rather closer to home than I’d like to admit…maybe I’ll have more luck with the banishing rituals once I get the BO banished??)

    Anyway, I knew it was time to reconsider our living arrangements when my 9 y.o. daughter looked at me the other day and said, “Dada, even adventure camp is subject to the law of diminishing returns, you know.” Hehehe.

    The good news is, the cabin we built up slowly with cash (i.e. we don’t owe anybody a cent for it) is actually worth something, even dry, and marginally solar-powered. We somehow picked a hot market and real estate is just stupid around here nowadays. For the time being anyway.

    So we are thinking about taking our earnings (and winnings) and moving to a small town, in town, or close enough to bike easily, where we have more family support and resources, using the lessons and new skills we’ve picked up along the way to get set back up more comfortably in a cheaper market, without wearing our radical ideology quite so far out on our shirtsleeves. With a switch like this we can take our business with us, and keep a chunk of money in reserve for the transition.

    I know it’s rather late in the piece to be shifting gears…but we barely have enough sun for garden or solar power where we are, our neighborhood is pretty meh, and my dad has offered his wide open sunny farm in the Ozarks to me to do my thing – nuts, fruit, cattle, (bathing) – and help him retrofit.

    I do like the idea of being in flyover country, and away from the flood of south Florida sea level rise refugees that has already begun (since Hurricane Irma).

    Would love to hear your, or anyone else’s, impressions on the matter.


  160. Dear JMG,

    I hope I am not too late to ask a couple of questions.

    Yesterday, I was contemplating how a billboard exists on different planes. The physical plane is probably the most understandable – here it consists of the canvas material and the paints that make up the image. Etherically, while it is essentially dead by the biological definition of life, it still has something that allows it to stay together for some time until it is replaced with the new one.

    From here on it got tougher. Would it be fair to say that it is the astral plane where an advertisement billboard sends its message to people it targets? Is it the imagery and the suggested links between the elements (like between a bottle of mineral water and a cosmopolitan-front-page-looking woman drinking it) that are the creatures of the astral. Or is it more from the mental level?

    And what about the existence of a billboard on the spiritual plane?

    With the best regards,

  161. Do you know any methods to clarify during the trip to the astral plane? I also want to mention a dream that affected me deeply. I was dreaming of being kidnapped right through my bedroom window. Man I woke up with my heart racing and locking my windows and doors. I’m just wondering what your take on this is.

  162. KMB – something like that used to happen to me regularly. I’d be totally stumped with something, whether problem, or something like getting a stuck jar lid to move. The minute I asked for help, the anser to the problem came to me, or the jar lid finally moved. Baffling!

  163. Dear JMG and all,

    Sorry I’m late to the party again – the text and comments are so idea dense that it typically takes nearly a week for me to have something to say.

    Like many, the idea of planes is something I struggle with.

    Drawing from the earlier discussions on will and representation – if the astral plane is the plane of consciousness, is that were all of our (represented) experiences exist? ie, smells, colours, the weight of a stone in my hand – are these the astral projections of corresponding physical realities? Or perhaps more accurately, some kind of intersection of the astral projection with our astral existence?


  164. I think I’m getting the hang of these planes (but I could be wrong). Astral plane is mental images, sensations, emotions. Etheric plane is life force and the forces that structure the physical plane. This is where I’m a bit confused though. If the forces that structure the universe are etheric, and mental imagery is part of the astral plane, what’s left for the material plane? After all, our experience of ‘matter’ is simply what you get when electron shells repell other electron shells, nothing is actually solid. Is the physical plane maybe just the intersection of the etheric and astral planes? Or are our observations of the physical plane somehow different from similar imagery found on the astral plane?

    On a different but also plane-related note, I read about vampires the other day in your book Monsters and the part about Egyption pharaohs turning themselves into etheric revenants got me thinking about modern ways the rich and mighty might try to achieve physical immortality. Cryonics is basically a form of mummification, though often only the head or brain is preserved so I imagine that’d mess with the etheric body.
    Also, android robots as well as the technology to keep a brain alive outside the body (in vitro) already exist, so basically cyborgs are already a possibility. What would life be like for such a cybernetic Frankenstein monster from a multi-planar point of view?

  165. @Patricia Matthews

    I am also firmily in the Roman / Latin camp and I am having a hard time finding suitable deities with four letter names, especially as I want to follow JMG’s advice of pairing them according to gender and possibly different ages.

    The Greek goddesses Gaia and Rhea, according to the interpretatio Graeca, are the Roman Tellus (Terra in imperial times) and Ops respectvely. They would be perfect for the North / Earth quarter, but are unsuitable as their names are made of three and five letters. For that role, I propose Anna (Perenna) an ancient fertility goddess of probable Etruscan origin, associated with the succession of the seasons.

    Opposing her in the South, I suggest Caca, a relatively minor fire goddess. She was the daughter of Vulcan (the forge fire god) and her cult was closely associated to Vesta (the hearth fire goddess). Being the ‘daughter’ of Vulcan probably makes her a younger deity than Anna Perenna.

    As for the male deities, things are decidedly more complicated.

    For the East, the only candidate i can think of is Juppiter (Jove). Being the sky god par excellence it would seem reasonable to associate him with the element Air, although whenever I think East, I see Minerva to be honest.

    For the West, I have no idea. Neptune would be the obvious candidate, but he doesn’t fit and I can’t find an alternative.


    On the subject of why four letter names. In the GD Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram the divine names have four letters, but they are not pronounced as such. In fact, with the exception of the Tetragrammaton, the letters are not vibrated individually but sounded together in three groups (i.e. A-do-nai, Eh-ei-eh, A-g-la). And this applies even for Agla, which is a notariqon, so one would assume that its individual letters would need to be spelled out individually for better effect.

    So, I am left wondering if chosing names with four and three syllables instead would be acceptable, especially if replicating a 4-3-3-3 pattern starting in the East like in the GD LRP ritual.

    Do you reckon experimenting with this would produce only attenuated (or no) results, or would there be risks involved? I’d be keen to test it and see if pronouncing 4/3 syllables works better for me.

    Oh, and by the way, thanks for the Circle of Presence. Replacing the Circle for the Cross has produced only goosebumps for now, but I am hopeful that regular practice will produce more positive results.

  166. @Gigoachef – I’m afraid that for someone who’s been living in what Joel Garreau called “MexAmerica” for 55 years, a goddess named “Caca” would have unwelcome consequences. Such as anyone with the least amount of Spanish or Spanglish bursting into helpless giggles and imagining the end products of a healthy child’s digestion! Sorry. But good try.

  167. @Patricia Matthews

    The less cacophonic 🙂 versions of her name such as Cacia (or Kakia) broke the four letter limit! I’ve found that the etymology of her name – and that of her giant brother Cacus – is thought to be related to the Latin verbs ‘caleo’ and ‘coquo’ from which we have the Spanish ‘calor’ or the Italian ‘cuoco’ (‘cook’).

    But I totally get your point, to our modern ears the name is difficult to take seriously.

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